The Exeter Incident – What Did People See In The New Hampshire Skies?

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
April 19, 2017
Last Updated
October 14, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
13 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Cover-Ups

In the early hours of 3rd September 1965, numerous witnesses would make reports of strange activity in the skies of Exeter, New Hampshire. Even the police officer at the scene of one of the sightings would see for himself the strange craft. As would another several moments later, and a respected journalist after him.

Repeated requests for assistance and information regarding the strange craft made to the military went virtually unanswered, save for an eventual and much-delayed response stating the activity was nothing more than “natural aerial phenomena!”

Investigations that would follow however would suggest otherwise. Even the locations of the sightings drew possible connections by one researcher to the power blackout that hit the entire east coast of the United States only two months following the sighting.

Sighting On Route 101

Just after midnight, policeman, Eugene Bertrand, would receive a strange call at the Exeter police desk. A young woman, in an obvious state of distress, claimed to have been “chased by a flying object!” while driving. Scared for her life, she pulled the car to the side of the road on Route 101. The mysterious craft had now vanished in the distance, but she dare not move. [1]

Bertrand did his best to assure the frightened woman that she was in no danger. He strongly suspected it might some kind of prank by teenagers to waste his time. He would proceed out on his patrol duty, sure that the young woman had made a mistake. So much so that no official record of the call exists, and the young woman concerned remains unidentified. One interesting point to note here is that when Bertrand later spoke to UFO author, John Fuller, he would recall he came across the parked car of the woman in question while on patrol.

Just after 3 am, a call from main station came over the police radio that made Bertrand rethink the strange report. Another claim of a bizarre sighting in the sky had come in. And the witness sat at the station ready to tell his tale.

Norman Muscarello’s Encounter on Route 150

At around the same time as the above events were unfolding, 18-year-old Normal Muscarello was walking – while attempting to hitchhike, although no vehicles were on the road – back to Exeter after having visited his girlfriend in nearby Amesbury. His hitchhiking journey along Route 150 had taken a most bizarre and frightening turn. [2]

A strange glow in the distance caught his attention for a moment, causing the teenager to think a car was heading in his direction. However, he would soon realize that the light was something much more remarkable than a car. In next to no time, the light – which now had a more solid appearance – was almost over Muscarello. Overhead was an “enormous ball of red and blue light”.

He would later state that “this thing shot over the trees” and that it “scared me half to death”. He would further recall that the object was as “big as a house”. He also recalled that upon the arrival of the strange object he could hear the agitated barks of several of the dogs in the area, as well as disturbed cries of some of the horses in their stalls. Suddenly, though, a bizarre silence took over, as though everything had suddenly stopped.

Officers David Hunt and Eugene Bertrand.

Officers David Hunt and Eugene Bertrand.

Ultimately, the 18-year-old flung himself to the road and lay as flat as he could. The craft seemed to “swoop” over him but would change its course at the last second. He further noticed how its motion appeared to “wobble” as it cut through the night sky.

He couldn’t tell if the object was metallic or not, but it was most definitely solid. He also recalled that the lights were so bright that he couldn’t make out a definite shape. Suddenly, the craft shot off out of sight. Muscarello would compare it to “the light dimming out on an old TV”, becoming increasing smaller until it had vanished altogether.

After taking a few moments to gather his thoughts, he got himself to his feet and headed to the nearby Russell house. Although a light came on upstairs following his knocking on the door, nobody answered. Becoming a little more desperate to get away from the scene and to a police station so he could report the incident, he returned to the road and began waving his arm so that the next car that drove by would see him. To his relief, a vehicle did head up the road a short time later. When it pulled over, the driver knew Muscarello and so obligingly took him to the police station as per his request.

Second Wave Of Sightings

Reginald Toland would take the initial report from Muscarello. The shaken young man could think of no better way to describe the object than “the thing!” Seeing how frantic the Muscarello was, made Toland radio for Bertrand to return to the station. He felt it best that he hear the encounter for himself.

At this point, Muscarello was unaware of other reports that had been made of strange, flying objects that night.

Following the re-telling of the incident to Bertrand, the policeman got in his car with Muscarello and drove to where he had seen the monstrous object. It didn’t take long for them both to see the apparent spaceship again.

It was between 2:30 am and 3 am when Bertrand’s police car arrived at the field where Muscarello had witnessed the strange object. A moment after they had exited their vehicle, another patrolling police officer, David Hunt, pulled his car to the side of the road. As he was poking fun at Bertrand regarding the apparent UFO sightings he was following up, “the thing reappeared”.

Artist's impression of the Exeter incident

Artist’s impression of the Exeter incident

On instinct, Bertrand began to get to his knee and reach for his gun. However, given the ultra-strange circumstances, he decided against this. He looked up at the object – which he would later recall looked to be “the size of a barn” – noting how it appeared to light up the entire field in which they stood. Around them, the sounds of the horses kicking against their stalls in agitation hit their ears and, like before, the sound of equally agitated barks and whines came from any dog that happened to be in the vicinity.

It remained overhead, performing magnificent maneuvers for several minutes before shooting off into the distance at an alarming speed. Muscarello would later recall that it was “like it was there and then it wasn’t”, elaborating that he was “glad” the officers had also witnessed the bizarre and unsettling craft.

More than a little shaken by what they had seen, the police officers, along with Muscarello with Bertrand, returned to the police station.

More calls would jam the police phone throughout the early hours of the morning from concerned and anxious residents. A reporter for a local newspaper the “Haverhill Gazette”, Virginia Hale, saw the huge craft at very close range, hovering for around five minutes over her neighbor’s house. Another caller claimed that a bizarre object with “red flashing lights” had followed his car. However, for reasons unknown, the caller hung up the call halfway through the report.

The ample number of witnesses convinced Bertrand that these people were seeing “something” – even if he hadn’t have seen it for himself. He also would remember the call he received from the young woman just after midnight. The idea that it might have been a prank, or she had made a mistake, no longer seemed valid.

The military would prove to be very uncooperative with requests for information. Consequently, the bulk of the investigations are due mainly to private UFO researchers.

Raymond Fowler’s Findings

One of those UFO researchers was Raymond Fowler. Fowler would later comment that the case was particularly interesting, not only as it involved police officers as witnesses, but due to the close range from which they witnessed it – remember, approximately 500 feet. At that time, many of the sightings UFO researchers had investigated were of disc-shaped objects in the sky at far distance.

The UFO investigator also discovered several other local residents who had also seen the strange aerial vehicle that night. One of these was a schoolteacher who was driving along Route 133 on her way to Ipswich from Exeter. According to the witness, all of a sudden they felt “static electricity” in the air around him. The next thing he knew, he was looking at a “round object with glowing ports”. In fact, such as his concentration on this bizarre and fascinating object that he drove his car slightly off the road.

Artist's impression of the Exeter incident

Artist’s impression of the Exeter incident

For Muscarello, though, the events were just getting started. The following morning when he returned home, his front door was constantly ringing out with the sounds of knocks from all manner of people wanting to know of his encounter. And these ranged from concerned neighbors to members of the press. One particular visitor stood out from the rest, however.

Muscarello would recall how two men from the United States Air Force arrived, one of them with “an attaché case handcuffed to his wrists”. According to the witness, the man with the case attached to his wrist informed him that he should “shut his mouth” and “not to say another word” about the incident, even going as far as to tell him, or try to convince, that he hadn’t seen what he thought he had.

When Muscarello’s mother offered the two military men coffee, they accepted, and the man unlocked the case and left it on the kitchen surface before heading back into the living room. While she was preparing the coffee, Mrs. Muscarello took a chance look inside the case, claiming it contained pictures of landing sights from previous UFO cases, as well as strange “imprints” discovered on the ground. Much to her dismay, the man returned to the kitchen unexpectedly and was more than displeased that she had snooped inside the case.

At this, the teenager lost his temper, and promptly told the two military officers to “get the hell out” of their house, informing them that he knew very well what he had seen. The two men left shortly after.

Evidence Of A Cover-Up?

The identity of the two men remains a mystery. However, Fowler’s research suggests that two officers from Pease Air Force Base did visit Exeter on the day in question, officially to speak with the local police about the reports. Further according to Fowler’s research, the two officers had made a request that the police not speak publicly of the case only to be informed that they had already spoken to the media who were about to run their stories. Some reports even suggest a half-hearted effort of the officers to purchase all of the newspapers they could find available (although this should perhaps be treated with a pinch of salt).

The military men, it would appear, also spent time speaking to local farmers. According to what some of these farmers later told Fowler, they asked several questions about their animals such as whether their cows were still producing milk in the same amount as usual, or whether chicken were producing the same number of eggs. This is perhaps interesting in that it shows the military seemingly had reason to think animals and livestock could be affected by these strange craft (and this was also several years before the cattle mutilation phenomenon began). Some sources even state that a circular, burned area was discovered in one of farmer’s fields.

The military officers would even call a last-minute press conference in the very field where the object was witnessed. They would claim that what had been seen was nothing more than the lights from Pease Air Force Base, even having those who had gathered there to turn their attention to the direction of the base and ordering the lights be switched on. When they were, no one could see them, and explanation fell rather flat.

Normal Muscarello (left) with police officers

Normal Muscarello (left) with police officers

Shortly after, the Air Force would set up an official investigation into the incident. And with the investigation came yet another apparent explanation. This time, the sighting was of an air force operation – Big Blast – which featured several aircraft, including five B-47-type aircraft that they claimed were flying in the area on the night in question. Several weeks later, yet another explanation was put forward, this time by Pentagon that what had been seen was a “refueling operation”.

Bertrand and Hunt would issue a letter in response to the official findings and explanation of the UFO over Exeter. One of the issues addressed in the letter was that Bertrand had spent four years in the Air Force, and ultimately rejected the idea that what they had seen was a refueling operation, elaborating that it was “impossible to mistake what we saw for any type of military operation”.

One UFO researcher and investigator, Peter Geremia, offered that most refueling operations take place at an altitude of around 30,000 feet, and is not something that would “cause a young man to duck because he’s afraid he’s going to get hit” by the tanker. The investigator would go even further, perhaps correctly suggesting that the “Air Force lost a great deal of credibility in proposing these ridiculous answers”.

In fact, according to Raymond Fowler, the public, in general, were “annoyed” at how the Air Force was seemingly conducting itself with not only the Exeter incident, but many other apparent sightings of UFOs, with many of them even complaining to members of Congress.

The Sighting Enters The Congressional Record

Fowler would even read the incident into the congressional record in April 1966. This was despite the military, and ultimately the Pentagon, dismissing claims of strange activity to investigate. Fowler would state that following this, “the Air Force back down and admitted the object was unidentified” and had been “from the very beginning”.

He would also draw comparisons to other recent UFO sightings. The East Coast power blackout of November 1965 (just two months following The Exeter Incident) was still fresh in everyone’s minds, perhaps not least due to the reports of UFO sightings at the same time.

Fowler went further, referencing the presence of water and power lines near to the sightings in Exeter. Even descriptions of the craft, the presence of lights on its underside and how they pulsed were similar, Fowler argued.

Was there a connection between the famous 1965 blackout and the UFO sightings in Exeter two months previously? If, as some speculate, the blackout was the result of some kind of “energy tapping” by the other-worldly objects, might the sightings in Exeter have also been an attempt to tap into the power or water reserves over which it was seen?

Much was also made of the credibility of the witnesses, in particular, the police officers. Just by making their reports they had “put their careers on the line!” And Fowler could think of no reason they would do so unless their accounts were accurate and true. As with many such cases, there are still many questions, waiting for many definitive answers.

The Following Weeks

Interest in the case – both overtly by investigators and discreetly by the military – continued for months after the sighting.

According to a Project Blue Book file on the incident (dated 15th October 1965), there had been an “unusually high number of reported sightings of unidentified flying objects in the Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire area”, adding that these sighting had been the “subject of much discussion and numerous newspaper, radio, and television reports”. The report would label the Exeter incident the “most interesting sighting” of all of the recent events, not least due to the fact that two police officers saw a strange object at “very close range”.

Writing in the book The Incident at Exeter, John Fuller describes meeting Bertrand and Hunt several weeks after the incident. Hunt recalled that for several weeks after the sighting, “three or four phone calls a night” would come into the station reporting similarly strange objects. He would add that most of those who made reports “were pretty sensible people”.

Bertrand would add that “a lot of people are really afraid to report seeing things”, which is something that continues around the world today, perhaps particularly so in the West. He would further recall that immediately after the bizarre object had raced off into the distance, an air force jet appeared overhead, which allowed both he and Hunt to do an immediate comparison between it and the object that had just disappeared. In short, there was “no comparison at all” between them in either “lighting or configuration, or sound, or anything else”. And given that the object was as low as the top of the trees it was impossible that they could have mistaken a plane for it.

A superimposed UFO over a field

UFO sightings have a long history in New Hampshire

Even more intriguing, Bertrand would inform Fuller of another sighting on the same road around three weeks after the initial encounter. The witness this time was another local teenager – Ron Smith – who was with his mother and aunty when they witnessed an almost identical craft.

When Fuller would interview Smith, he claimed the sighting occurred around 11:30 pm as he was driving his car with his mother and aunt inside. All of a sudden, his aunt alerted them to something strange in the sky. He looked upward and saw it too, bringing the car to a stop a moment later. Above them was a spinning object with a glowing white bottom half and a red light on the top. The object passed over their parked car several times before suddenly coming to a complete stop in midair. Then, the object sped off into the distance.

Initially, Smith set out back toward Exeter, however, he turned the car around when he was halfway in order to see if the object was still there in the distance – just to check he had not been seeing things. Much to his surprise – and unsettlement – it was. It once more moved over their car before this time disappearing into the distance. Although the object was mostly silent, he did think he could hear a “humming noise”.

Fuller would later learn from police that they had over a dozen reports from witnesses that night, most of whom wished to remain out of the public domain. Furthermore, many more people had volunteered their sightings to officers “off the record” when they had bumped into them around the town.

Another Sighting At Nearby Hampton Beach

Yet another encounter that Fuller would uncover came from Sgt. Joe Farnsworth of the Hampton Beach police station. He would state that the encounter was not on the official police records as they had simply “turned the whole thing over the to the Coast Guard station”.

Although he wasn’t certain of the date, it was definitely early-September or late-August – essentially, around the same time as the Exeter incident of 3rd September. Farnsworth would state how he was patrolling the area at around 4 am when he noticed a parked car at the side of the road. He made the decision to pull over and investigate.

He would find two teenage boys in the car. What’s more, as soon as they noticed him, they jumped out of their vehicle and approached him, obviously extremely frightened by something. One of the exclaimed that he was “never going to believe” what he was about to say. After he checked the two young men were not drunk, they relayed their bizarre and disturbing tale.

Superimposed UFO over a lake

There were many other UFO sightings following the Exeter incident

They claimed they had been driving down the stretch of road when they noticed a “thing come out of the ocean” and pass right over their vehicle. Then, it stopped and hovered directly over them. The driver suddenly pressed down on the pedal in an attempt to leave the area, and the UFO behind. However, as they went, it followed, eventually swooping down on them causing them to pull the car to the side of the road. The object pulled up at the last second and then disappeared into the distance with immense speed.

In part because the incident had happened near the coast and involved a strange object seeming “coming out of the ocean”, Farnsworth simply turned the incident, and the two teenagers, over to the Coast Guard station. Once there, the pair were asked to write a statement of what they had witnessed and were seemingly interviewed by “someone from the air base”.

What’s more, this account was just one of several that Farnsworth was aware of in the area. And like in Exeter, many of these accounts were told to him off the record by people who wished to avoid any publicity and were simply interested in finding out what they had seen.

One Of The Most Credible Close Proximity Sightings In History

While the admission from the Air Force that the object witnessed by Muscarello and the two police officers was indeed unidentified and not the result of a military operation vindicated both the witnesses and UFO investigators, it did little for the witnesses themselves, especially Muscarello.

Muscarello would state that, while there were several times while he served in Vietnam where he believed he was in imminent mortal danger, the fear he felt then was not “half as much as what happened that one night in Exeter. I’m not lying to you. That scared the living hell right out of me”.

In fact, in the book Sightings: UFOs, Susan Michaels wrote (in 1997) that Muscarello was “still having nightmares” about the incident in Exeter decades later. And, according to Michaels, wrote frightened him the most and drove those nightmares, was “the unknown” – the fact that he will likely never know what he witnessed that evening, where it came from, or why.

He would further state how both he and Bertrand “still get heckled” from many people in the area about the incident. Like many who find themselves at the center of such bizarre UFO encounters, he would further claim that he wished “it had never happened”, adding that it has “been too much trouble and too much heckling and problems and waking up at night”.

Whatever the teenager and the two police officers witnessed that night in Exeter, it is certain that it was something unlike anything any of them had seen before. And the fact that so many other people reported an almost identical object at the same time around the area shows that something out of the ordinary was most definitely in the New Hampshire skies during the early hours of the September night. The case remains one of the most credible of close encounter incidents on record, and still requires an explanation.

The video below features a recent in-depth discussion about The Exeter Incident. It makes for interesting listening.


1 Exeter UFO Sighting: An Unsolved Mystery, 46 Years Later, Lee Speigel, HuffPost
2 Norman Muscarello Recalls His UFO Incident at Exeter, Seacoast New Hampshire

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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