Case 59

Lakeville, Conn.

January 1967

Investigators: Ayer, Wadsworth

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PLATE for this Case


Many unidentified sightings, principally of lights at night, were reported in the Lakeville area over several months. Most, including a photograph, came from a boys' prep school. Some of the sightings probably were aircraft lights, but no generally applicable explanation is apparent.


Various reports had indicated a wave of UFO sightings in the Lakeville area from about Thanksgiving Day 1966 into the spring of 1967; these emanated chiefly from a boys' prep school near Lakeville. On 20 September 1967, while the CU investigators were in that area, they visited the school and also obtained copies of State Police reports on some of the sightings.


From the police reports and investigators' interviews, 20 September 1967 at the school, it developed that a teacher and at least seven students had seen an unidentified object or objects on various nights from 12 to 23 January, and that one student had taken a photograph of it. The teacher described it as an elliptical object with two pulsating red lights on the sides, moving south in the western sky. His sighting was on 19 January, about 9:55 p.m. on a clear, cold night. The boys gave essentially the same description as the teacher, except one who reported erratic motion and hovering in various parts of the sky on several occasions.

The investigators learned also that a 12-yr.-old boy who lived near the school had made a Polaroid photo of a pattern of colored


lights that he had seen in the sky from the living room of his home on the evening of 24 January; but they were unable to interview the family or obtain the photo.

No practicable means of clarifying the visual sightings was available, so that the investigation reduced to examination of the photograph the student had made (Plate 64). The object was sighted about 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. on or about 23 January. According to the 17-yr.-old student, who was photographer for the school paper, others saw the object and called him; but it had disappeared when he arrived outside the dormitory with his camera equipment. He set up the camera on a heavy-duty tripod and aimed at the last observed position of the object. After about five minutes it reappeared, and he exposed the film for about seven seconds. The object was in view for about five seconds of the exposure, during which time it pulsated twice before it disappeared behind Indian Mountain. He immediately rewound the film, with only the one exposure on it, and developed. The exposed frame was torn in rewinding, apparently because it had become very cold and he did not wait for it to return to room temperature.

The object was seen in the western sky, north of Indian Mountain, moving south. The photographer described it as a "bright point of light" that blinked or pulsated irregularly. From his estimate of its location relative to the mountain, it was apparently a few hundred feet above the ground and at least 2.5 miles distant. The night was clear and very cold.

The camera was a Voightlander Ultramatic 35mm., with a 50 mm. Skopar f/2.8 lens. A Glanz-Samigon monocular was attached to the lens to give 7X magnification (the student photographer had prepared the combination after earlier sightings). The optical combination had a focal length of 350 mm., aperture f/8. The film was Kodak Tri-X, speed ASA 800; it was developed in D-76 diluted 1:1, at 68--70 deg for 14 min., agitated ten seconds each half-minute for maximum contrast.


The Photograph:

The edges of the image parallel to the direction of motion are sharp, as confirmed by densitometer traces, indicating that the object was accurately focussed. Measurement of its diameter, together with the known focal length of the camera system, gives an angular diameter of about 7' of arc, more than one-fifth the diameter of the moon. This observation conflicts with the photographer's description of it as a bright point. In explanation, he stated in a letter dated 22 October 1967: "Because of the relatively poor quality of the optical system I was using, the images on the film are rather crude representations of the UFO. It was actually a bright point of light. The lens and possibly the film have diffused the image somewhat into circular form." Nearly all of such diffuseness would have to be attributed to the lens system, as the film was capable of rendering detail well under 1' of arc; and such serious aberration does not seem likely for the equipment he was using, if it was properly focussed. The photographer's judgment of the visual appearance of the object would have been influenced by its brightness and his state of accommodation, as well as his visual acuity.

The fact that part of the film frame is missing raises obvious questions as to authenticity. However, the rather jagged tear, with emulsion pulled off the film base in a sawtooth pattern, is characteristic of Tri-X film torn at a temperature of around 0 deg F. At room temperature it tears smoothly, leaving a nearly straight edge on both film base and emulsion. This observation obviously supports the statement that the film was accidentally torn while being rewound at low temperature.

It should be mentioned that the State Police report 25 January 1967 on the sightings at the school listed as exhibits "two photos of UFO taken on Jan. 19, 1967," at approximately 9:00 p.m. and approximately 9:10 p.m., both with five seconds exposure. The student photographer told the CU investigators that he had made only the one exposure.


If the photograph is indeed the image of a moving luminous disk, then it is a time-exposure showing a disk that was not uniformly bright over its area, and was either moving erratically or changing in brightness erratically, or both. However, these unsophisticated observations offer little basis for speculation as to the identity of the object or the authenticity of the photograph.

Dr. William K. Hartmann notes that "the image bears a strong resemblance to a slitless spectrogram of an annular emission-line source."