Earth to Bill
A UFO Skeptic's Beliefs are Challenged in the Wake of his Mother's Illness
It was 2013. I was now three and a half hours into a six-hour bus ride back to New York City from my hometown of Syracuse, NY. After an exciting, yet stressful visit with family, I wanted nothing more than to be back in my comfy little walk-in closet of an apartment. Instead, I sat motionless on a never-ending voyage on the river of pavement. I scanned the skies from my window as the evening sun had just about set. A passing sign indicated that we had just crossed into the Hudson Valley area. Snippets of such books as Dr. J Allen Hynek’s "Night Siege" and Ellen Crystall’s "Silent Invasion" began to trickle through my mind. I entertained the thought that perhaps a UFO sighting could cure my current state of boredom. I covered every angle of the sky I could, but the sun disappeared quickly and I was now left with an endless abyss of black. Any hope of seeing a structured craft soon faded with my patience for the incessant amount of elbowing from the woman sitting next to me. She noticed me peering intently through the smudged window and asked what I was doing. Three answers flashed through my mind:
1.) I’m trying everything in my power not to use her own arm as a weapon against her.
2.) I’m plotting my escape route from a moving vehicle via the emergency window.
3.) I’m searching for UFOs.
The third answer seemed simple enough. It was also the only answer that wouldn’t get me arrested if I actually went through with it. So I turned and began to speak. But to my surprise, she had beaten me to the punch.
“You know, there were a lot of strange things that happened in this area when I was your age. Flying saucers and whatnot,” she said.
She had caught my attention. I played naïve, letting her continue to explain what she knew of these strange encounters, relaying stories of friends who knew family members who knew a guy who was the cousin of a friend of someone who heard from a drug store owner (I think you get the idea) that they had seen an unidentified craft in the nighttime sky. This was going to be an interesting conversation, to say the least.
“Do you believe that what those people saw was a UFO?,” I asked.
Her reply was eloquent and precise. “What those people saw was certainly unidentified to them. Whether or not it was space creatures is another story.”
We continued our conversation. She asked me what I did in the city and I explained that I was both a playwright and freelance writer. We talked about a few Broadway plays she had seen throughout the years and she then asked what my freelance work focused on. Having just had a conversation about UFOs, the buffer was in place and the floodgates should have opened wide. I should have proclaimed that I wrote specifically about that very topic. But I hesitated, a thick wall of insecurity slowly building its way around me. Perhaps it was the stigma of the phenomenon. Or perhaps I just wasn’t ready to share this part of myself with a complete stranger. Either way, a silence lingered for what seemed like hours. I quickly changed the topic and we were soon back to playing our roles as silent passengers on a bus.
I stared out the window again. Not so much searching the skies, but searching my mind. I began to think about a recent interview I had heard on the radio about Bill Hussung, a documentarian who had just completed a film based on a sighting his own mother had witnessed in this exact area during the famous Hudson Valley UFO wave. Growing up, Bill never believed her. But as she lay in a hospital bed being treated for cancer, Bill did what any good son would do; he promised to take her story seriously and do his own investigation. Soon, he and his wife, Mishara, set out to begin filming. After the camera’s started rolling, Bill met people whose sincere stories began to shape a new perspective on his mother’s sighting.
As I sat there staring into the night sky, I knew I had to speak with Bill and hear not only his story but his mother’s as well. I would contact him when I returned to New York that week. After brief introductions and formal e-mail exchanges, Bill was generous enough to provide me with an advanced copy of his film. That’s when our dialogue would find its legs and he’d give me his personal thoughts on not only the film but how it would eventually alter his beliefs in the most extraordinary of ways.
Interview with Bill Hussung
(Mishara, Bill, and their pup)
What prompted you to make Adventures of an Earthling?
Bill: The genesis of the film is very personal. My mom had been saying for years that she and my aunt had been driven off the road by a giant UFO just outside of Pine Bush, NY, back in 1994. I viewed the whole thing as just the kind of craziness my family held dear. Fast-forward fifteen years and my mom is now in the hospital. During our daily visits, the story of her UFO encounter came up and she suggested I check out the local UFO scene near her country house in the Catskill Mountains. So we did. We didn’t initially have the idea of making a documentary. It was more about having something to talk about with my mom.
You mention your Aunt seeing the craft along with your mother. Has she told you her side of the story?
Bill: My aunt Georgia passed away before we began shooting, but I had spoken with her about the events of that night on several occasions. Her version matched my mom’s story 100%. They’d also written up their account of the sighting and signed it like a legal document, issuing their own version of a sworn statement while events were still fresh.
Did you ever come across anyone having the same sighting as your mother on the same night or location?
Bill: We didn’t come across anyone with a similar sighting that night, but we did meet a few people with similar sightings during the same month and year and along the same stretch of road. There’s a monthly UFO support group just down the road from Pine Bush and we met a lot of people there with similar experiences in the area between the mid-80s and 90s.
When did you really start to think that there was indeed something to your mother’s claims?
Bill: I really started to take my mom seriously pretty early in our research when I came across what is known as the "Hudson Valley UFO film." Starting in the early 1980s, more than a thousand people in the areas north of New York City, including Pine Bush, claimed to have seen a giant low flying craft. And it turns out someone did get some pretty good footage of it. When I saw that film, I had to think people were seeing something.
During filming, you witnessed strange lights and perhaps something landing in the woods. Have you come to any conclusions since that night about what it may have been?
Bill: We certainly saw UFOs the night you are referring to. The excitement of that night leads me to speculate all sorts of crazy theories about what we saw. It almost felt as if the phenomenon was interacting with me, or even, that I was controlling it. There is a theory that UFOs might be projections of psychic energy, and certainly, at that point, I had some psychic and emotional investment in seeing something and being able to tell my mom about it.
You uncovered some interesting chambers in the woods while filming. What do you think they represented?
Bill: The Hudson Valley Stone Chambers are a wonderful part of this story because they give us something concrete to focus on. They really exist and there’s no agreement as to where they came from and who built them. I suspect, and it’s only a guess, that some earlier people built these structures to mark spots of high energy, places where, for whatever reason, there are increased levels of electromagnetic energy.
Do you find it more challenging to find distribution for a documentary of this nature?
Bill: We’ve been really lucky with this film because there are so many communities with an interest in the subject matter. It’s been easy to reach out to the UFO community through radio shows and websites and at this point, we really haven’t looked for a traditional distributor.
What was your favorite part of filming this documentary?
Bill: Going out under the night sky and looking for UFOs. Even if you’re a skeptic, it’s hard not to get caught up in the possibility you might see something. Particularly when you’re standing in a field where others have had plenty of sightings. In one sense it’s like you’re experiencing living folklore.
Besides the startling experiences you mention at the end of the film, have you had any more strange experiences?
Bill: An interesting epilogue, which is not in the film, was the discovery of some sketch pads my mother had hidden away at the country house. After my mother passed away we discovered the pads while cleaning out the house and they were filled with drawings of owls. What makes this spooky is that UFO abduction experts say that abductees have odd memories and dreams of owls.
What do you hope to accomplish with this film?
Bill: To tell an interesting and entertaining story. But beyond that, we hope that we’ve done our part of documenting the rich history of UFOs in New York. And hopefully, we can play some small role in furthering the discussion of this issue.
How much would you say your beliefs or opinions on the UFO phenomenon changed after this journey?
Bill: Making the documentary completely changed my understanding of the UFO issue. I went from being a skeptic to someone who believes the phenomenon is real. Even if you dismiss 99% of the sightings, that remaining 1% represents something we have to explore and investigate.
So why my personal story at the beginning on this article? Well, just as Bill had begun to open his mind to the UFO phenomenon, I had begun to open up to this woman on my bus. As we made our way through the Lincoln Tunnel, I turned to her, and told her that I was indeed a UFO journalist, writing specifically on the topic. She, in turn, began to tell me of a childhood sighting she experienced in her hometown of Binghamton, NY. We had confided in each other, and realized that it wasn’t about suppressing the phenomenon for fear of ridicule, but accepting that people all over the world are seeing and experiencing things that cannot be readily explained. After telling her about the magazine, I have no doubt that she will see this article. And because of Bill’s story, I had the courage to tell this woman of my beliefs. We pulled in to the bus station, said our goodbyes, and headed off into our respective directions.
Bill’s story doesn’t end with Adventures of an Earthling. As he continues to search for meaning behind his mother’s story, I continue to search for meaning in a field where there are thousands of questions and very few answers. But with stories such as Bill’s, we can continue our search, knowing that we do in fact have a purpose. To continue our research and studies. And perhaps one day, like Bill’s mother, we can all turn the head of a skeptic ourselves.
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Ryan Sprague is the author of 'Somewhere in the Skies: A Human Approach to an Alien Phenomenon' (Available on Amazon). Speaking on the UFO topic, he has been featured on ABC News, Fox News, and The Science Channel. He is also a regular on the Travel Channel's 'Mysteries at the Museum'. Ryan is the co-host for both the Into the Fray & UFOmodPOD podcasts. Learn more at: www.somewhereintheskies.com