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  The North Newark UFO Case:
Anatomy of a Journalistic Investigation


I solicited your conclusions on this case and thank everyone who shared their thoughts--even those who did not want to go public with them. I am posting three of your conclusions, followed by my own summary that I prepared for Omni many years ago.

From Peter Sutherland:

The description by Mr. Gonzalez was so "cinematic" that it made me wonder if he had just been watching a rerun of Close Encounters, especially the bit about the object, black against the night sky, slowly, silently moving away--a la the mailbox encounter with Richard Dreyfus...

Sorry, but this one I don't buy.

From Charles R. Potnar:

Anyone who has any interest in UFOs and decides to do a little research will find out that this case is not out of the ordinary, in that other "second kind" incidents manifest electromagnetic disturbances, multiple witness of unidentifiable airborne phenomena and ground traces or other similar "imprintings" such as video recordings or photographs.

What I find surprising is with all the circumstantial evidence from thousands of cases addng weight to the argument for serious study, so little is done. With the advent of easily available handheld videorecorders, people all over the world are tracking anomalous aerial phenomena, putting an effective end to arguments about "wishful thinking," "mass hallucination," "religious fervor," and the like.

With some notable exceptions, such as the French government's efforts, overall, political and scientific organizations are mute.

Why we remain with our heads buried in the sand may say more about human psycholgical makeup than anything else.

Two intrepid bicycle mechanics, Wilbur and Orville Wright, had to persevere over much derision since it was clear to the best philosophical and scientific minds of the day that "no machine that was heavier than the volume of air it displaced could ever fly." Joseph Lister, the main figure in the advent of antiseptic medical practice, was considered a crackpot for his theories about microbial transmission of disease. The historical record is rife with similiar attitudes toward change.

Just two years ago, the Vatican formally exonerated Galileo Galilei from charges of heresey.

I suspect that we will have to be totally enslaved by some extraterrestrial civilization before we admit to their existence.

I am reminded of that popular phrase "denial ain't just a river in Egypt."

From "E":

Well, it doesn't seem like it's indicative of any real UFO activity. I feel that the primary witness is gilding what was basically an anomalous static charge event. These are not necessarily associated with normal weather fronts and patterns, but occur due to electron activity. Similar to ball lightning, a static burst would account for nearly all the documented related phenomena. The witness seems to have gotten carried away with his initial pronouncements, and likely has incorporated events shaded with his misunderstanding of what he was actually observing. Remember, the subconscious idea of monitoring for UFOs was already present before the event, and for that alone should probably be looked at in a very skeptical way.

My Conclusion:

At first glance, the underground cable failure appears to be a reasonable explanation for the strange events reported in North Newark, New Jersey on March 5th. However, the failure occurred at precisely 10: 37 P.M., according to PSE&G. This is seven minutes after John Gonzalez claims to have called 911 to report the "earthquake." His claim is supported by the fact that the Fire department received the alarm at 10:30 and the police got the call at 10:32. Since a cause cannot follow an event it is responsible for, the cable failure is not a likely explanation for what happened in Newark that night.

Of course, the utility company may not be telling all it knows. "Utility companies prefer to deny these kinds of incidents," say Jim Simons of the Newark Office of Emergency Management, "because if they blow up your TV set by putting a power surge through it, they don't want to have to pay for it. They're going to tell you it was a squirrel that nibbled the line and they're not responsible. This is the kind of thing they do."

The only other possible natural explanation is some type of unusual weather phenomena. It's true the weather was "clear" that night. But there is the testimony of the neighbor who thought the flash of light was lightning. And there is the report from the ham radio operator in Brooklyn who says he saw flashes, or columns, of light over New Jersey. Is there such a thing as lightning from a clear sky? There is, though admittedly, it's quite rare.

Such incidents have been reported in the scientific literature. An 1886 issue of Scientific American states that on April 27th of that year the captain of the British ship Siddartha saw a thunderstorm in a clear sky while on the northern edge of the Gulf Stream. The sky was clear, the sun was shining brightly, the only thing peculiar was a thin mist about the ship. Suddenly, there appeared a vivid flash of lightning accompanied by violent thunder. The ship's compass reportedly "vibrated" for a full 16 minutes. Similar events have been reported in Detroit on October 4, 1900 and in the Missoula National Forest in Montana on July 2, 1927, according to the Monthly Weather Review. Just how lightning can occur without the presence of clouds is not known, however.

So what really happened in North Newark on the night of March 5th? It was not an earthquake. It probably was not due to an underground cable failure. And only the slightest chance exists that it was caused by a lightning strike from a clear sky. John Gonzalez believes a low-flying alien craft was responsible. But no other witnesses have surfaced to support this conclusion, and you would expect many more people to have seen an object of this kind on a Saturday night in such a highly populated area. So doubts arise. And because some portions of the Gonzalez testimony are clearly inaccurate, such as the presence of Civil Defense personnel on the scene, it's possible that Gonzalez may be mistaken about "the object" as well. Nonetheless, I have no firm explanation for what happened that night, and something very clearly did happen.

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