Curious skeptics and dedicated ufologists alike will gather at the ninth annual Exeter UFO Festival on Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2, at the Exeter Town Hall (10 Front St., Exeter).
“Last year was my first year in the club, and I couldn’t believe how many people came out. The town hall was packed,” said Brian Wahl, vice president of Exeter Area Kiwanis Club.
There’s a reason the festival is held in Exeter every year. On Sept. 3, 1965, a UFO sighting now known as the “Incident at Exeter” took place in the neighboring town of Kensington.
According to the Exeter Historical Society, a teenager named Norman Muscarello claimed to have been chased by a large, flying object flashing bright red lights. Muscarello led police officer David Hunt back to the scene, where Hunt was startled to see the same object the teen had described. Area residents came forward to report similar sightings after the news was reported in the local newspaper.
Wahl said the Exeter Area Chamber of Commerce will offer cash-only trolley rides to the UFO site, which will cost $5 for adults and $3 for children. The ride will include a retelling of what happened at the site over 50 years ago.
Along with trekking to the spot that started it all, attendees can attend lectures at the town hall from local and national speakers on a variety of extraterrestrial topics. Wahl highlighted a special lecture on Disney’s impact on the public perception of alien encounters. He added that the club is also selling limited tickets to a “meet the speakers” event on Saturday night.
“The speakers really bring out people who are passionate about this field, and boy are they passionate,” said Wahl. “We try to mix it up and bring new ideas and presentations every year.”
Kathleen Marden, director of experiencer research for the Mutual UFO Network and Betty Hill’s niece, will present a special lecture called “The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Story and Its Far-Reaching Impact.” This is the first time Marden will present a lecture at the Exeter UFO Festival on the Hill story, which she was able to witness firsthand from the moment Betty called her mother to describe what she’d experienced.
Outside the town hall in downtown Exeter will be vendors and activities for all ages. Kids activities will include face painting an a chance to make UFOs and aliens out of recycled materials. There will also be alien-themed costume contests for both kids and pets.
Among the vendors at the festival will be Mitchell Comics from Tilton. Husband-wife team Michael and Michelle Mitchell create retro action, adventure and educational comics for all ages, including a comic about the Incident at Exeter.
“We’ve always loved B-movies and anything off the beaten path, and we think these kinds of stories are interesting ” said Michael Mitchell. “We put a lot of effort into researching each story, and all the drawing, lettering and coloring are done by hand.”
Matthew Thomas, president of the Fremont Historical Society, said the event was particularly significant due not only to multiple eyewitnesses, but the fact that one of them was a police officer. He added that these sightings were common in the area at the time and even became a nocturnal pastime in Fremont.
“People would line Route 17 in their PJs and hope to see a UFO over the power lines,” said Thomas. “There would be upwards of 200 people on some nights.”
These sightings might be dated, but they’re hardly the last UFO sightings in the Granite State. As of press time, the National UFO Reporting Center has received 871 sighting reports from New Hampshire, with some as recent as August of this year. The objects reported come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and some witnesses even claim to have been abducted as well.
UFO researchers like Charles Creteau welcome skepticism of these kinds of sightings, but also encourage people to keep an open mind. Creteau is a licensed social worker and co-founder of Seacoast Saucers of New England in Rollinsford, which provides support services for individuals and families in the region who have had abduction and encounter experiences. He said it’s important to support people who claim to have experienced these kinds of potentially traumatic events.
“When we do lectures, we see a lot of hands when we ask how many people who’ve seen UFOs and significantly fewer when we ask who reported their experience,” said Creteau. “A lot of people who have experience don’t know where to go or don’t even feel comfortable talking to their loved ones about it because of social stigma.”
The cost is $20 for both days, with proceeds benefiting the Exeter Area Kiwanis Club’s charitable efforts. Visit exeterufofestival.org.
— Scott Murphy
*Featured photo: Supernatural action from the 2017 Exeter UFO Festival. Courtesy photo.