Still the champ in UFO sightings Since 1975, North Bergen had most reports in USA

Editor’s Note: This is part of Our Creepy County, a series that looks at Hudson County’s mysteries, myths, macabre moments, and things that go bump in the night. It’s probably the most unknown fact about the township of North Bergen.

For some reason, this densely-populated town in northern Hudson County has had the highest number of reported sightings of aliens and unidentified flying objects (UFOs) over the last 30 years.

Most of them have been centered out of the southeastern end of North Hudson Braddock Park, a large park named after deceased boxer James “Cinderella Man” Braddock.

The North Bergen sightings have been documented and reported to several agencies, including the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle and the Center for UFO Studies in Chicago.

Since two people reported a major sighting to federal authorities back in 1975, there have been a total of 775 sightings or incidents involving North Bergen residents, easily the highest total of reported incidents in the United States, according to Marc Sodderstrom of the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle.

In the last 32 years, the reports far exceeded those of the more famous location of Roswell, N.M., or other popular UFO sighting spots like Hudson Valley, N.Y. and Gulf Breeze, Fla. – places that have had at least 500 sightings over the years.

So how did all of this start in the quiet but busy town of North Bergen?

Started with liquor store owner

The UFO craze in North Bergen began in earnest on Jan. 12, 1975, when a 72-year-old liquor store owner named George O’Barski was driving home through North Hudson Braddock Park at approximately 2:45 a.m.

He began to experience some heavy static on his car radio, then listened as the radio went dead.

O’Barski apparently heard a loud noise from above. When he glanced over his shoulder, he saw a round, flat object with glowing, rectangular windows that hovered behind his car, according to what he told authorities.

O’Barski told federal officials that the object came to a stop about 100 feet ahead of his car. It was hovering 10 feet off the ground and was about 30 feet wide, he said. It was flat at the bottom and brightly domed at the top.

O’Barski told the authorities that a ladder came from the object, and between eight and 11 identical creatures emerged.

He said they were three to four feet tall and all wore dark snow-suit like uniforms with helmets. Each had a small bag and a little shovel. They quickly scooped up soil samples, poured the samples into the little bags, and then immediately got back onto the craft.

So was this a Steven Spielberg film crew, or did it really happen?

O’Barski further told officials that the episode lasted like three minutes. At sunrise, he went back to North Hudson Braddock Park to make sure he wasn’t dreaming the incident. There were several holes in the soil where he witnessed the aliens allegedly digging, he said.

And O’Barski was not alone with his sighting.

A doorman who was working at the Stonehenge apartment complex across from the park on the other side of Boulevard East also noticed the glowing object hovering 100 feet over Braddock Park. The doorman, whose actual identity was never revealed, also told both local police and federal officials that when the object started its ascent, it forced windows to be shattered in the apartment complex and that a large tree adjacent to the complex was split in half.

“We might have thought he was a little crazy at first, but he was certain that he saw what he did,” said O’Barski’s son, George O’Barski Jr., on an A&E Network special about UFOs that aired for the first time in 2005. “It really bothered my father that people thought he was lying.”

It was also later revealed that O’Barski and the unnamed Stonehenge doorman did not know each other, and it was impossible for the two to collaborate on their stories.

The doorman at the Stonehenge also noticed another key point to his sighting. The creature he spotted was not wearing a coat, and the temperatures were in the teens that early morning.

Two investigators talk about it

The O’Barski case intrigued two people who are now linked in the world of UFO investigation.

Ted Bloecher, who currently lives in Secaucus, is an experienced stage actor, having performed in “Guys and Dolls,” “My Fair Lady” and “Oliver” on Broadway. But as a child, Bloecher was always fascinated with the study of UFOs (called ufology) and eventually became totally engulfed with O’Barski’s tale.

Bloecher, now a regular UFO investigator, went to interview O’Barski about his story in the late 1970s.

“Since I’m an experienced stage actor, I know very well what is a staged act and what is real,” Bloecher said last week. “The scene of them getting soil samples was fake. It was staged. Their real target was George O’Barski. They weren’t interested in soil samples. They wanted him.”

Another UFO researcher also intrigued by the O’Barski story was a writer named Budd Hopkins. In fact, both Bloecher and Hopkins were so intrigued by O’Barski’s saga – a story that both experts eventually believed to be real after interviewing O’Barski – that they have since teamed forces in the pursuit of other “close encounters.” The two currently conduct UFO sighting seminars throughout the country.

The reason Hopkins was so fascinated by the O’Barski sighting is that Hopkins had just visited a friend inside the Stonehenge apartments in North Bergen a week before the O’Barski sighting.

“It was more than a bizarre coincidence,” Hopkins would later say.

Newspaper reports were minimal after the O’Barski incident. Both the local dailies, the Jersey Journal and the now-defunct Hudson Dispatch, barely wrote of the incident, giving it only a few paragraphs each.

According to O’Barski’s son, his father went to his grave in 1979 thoroughly believing that what he saw that fateful evening did, in fact, take place.

Close encounter…

This incident was classified as a “close encounter of the second kind” because of physical evidence found at the scene, and also as one “of the third kind,” just like in the famed 1978 movie starring Richard Dreyfuss, because witnesses describe observing UFO’s.

UFO researcher Jerome Clark cites the O’Barski-North Bergen incident as one of the best-documented of its kind, because the core story was corroborated by numerous independent witnesses.

Later sightings

As it turned out, O’Barski wasn’t alone.

In 1979, North Bergen resident Harold Stith was also driving through North Hudson Braddock Park in almost the same exact location that O’Barski traveled four years prior. Again, it was at night.

“My father was driving home from work, driving on Boulevard East, and he turned into the [Braddock] park,” said Secaucus resident Robert Stith, the son of Harold, who is now deceased. “As soon as he turned off into the park, his car just stopped dead. Then the radio went dead. A bright light came on top of the car and then my father heard some strange things on the radio, some language that he didn’t understand. He then noticed it was some sort of spaceship. The doors of the ship opened and these little grey men with big eyes came out. The next thing my father knew was that the door shut and they flew off. He thought it was like 10 minutes, but as it turned out, it was like three hours. My mother said that my father came home three hours late.”

Hopkins, who also investigated the Stith case, believes that Stith was abducted.

“He believed that he was abducted,” Robert Stith said. “We all thought he was crazy. He didn’t want the story to come out because other people would have thought he was nuts.”

Two days after Stith had his close encounter, he told his family that he had a dream about the Miss America pageant.

“My father named the winner, what she wore, what she performed, where she was from,” Robert Stith said. “No one took it seriously. We didn’t have an affiliation with the pageant and we had no idea why he would pick the Miss America winner.”

Sure enough, Harold Stith’s prediction came true. Two weeks later, it all happened just like Stith said it would. Cheryl Prewitt of Mississippi, the one Stith named after his dream, was crowned the Miss America of 1980.

“I don’t think he ever had a theory as to why he could have done that,” Robert Stith said.

The elder Stith never predicted the future ever again.

Again, there was a small article written in the Hudson Dispatch about several people spotting a glowing object in North Hudson Braddock Park that evening.

Racing blips’ in 1985

The reported sightings came to a halt for a few years, until 1985, when Ron Lee reported seeing three stationary sets of lights in the area, all oval in shape. Then, the lights took off into the sky. Ninetta Nappi reported the same lights as “racing blips.”

In 1988, two different North Bergen residents reported seeing shapes that looked like “white and green diamonds” flying over Braddock Park.

In 1993, a North Bergen schoolteacher, Ann Barlovich, reported seeing a “large elliptical light with an eerie glow, a blimp-like object.”

“I know what I saw and it wasn’t like anything else I’d ever seen before,” Barlovich said in the 2005 A&E special.

In 1999, a resident of the Parker Imperial condominium complex said that he was standing on his balcony and was ready to take a picture of the sunset, when he noticed something peculiar. The man took the picture, then downloaded the picture to his computer and noticed three weird orbs in the photo.

“I really didn’t see the orbs when I took the picture,” Marc Taylor said. “Only when I reviewed it later.”

Finally, on Nov. 3, 2003, the last two sightings reported to the National UFO Reporting Center, both spotted near Braddock Park.

At 5:40 p.m. that day, two North Bergen residents reported seeing something in the dusk sky. One witness saw something that looked like a star, but then it moved in circles, then in a zig-zag motion. It moved for about five seconds, stopped for a bit, then continued the circular and zigzagging routine. Another witness saw the same exact thing.

“At first I thought that my vision was playing with me, or may be the clouds, but I tried looking at other stars, and they did not move at all,” the report reads on the National UFO Reporting Center board. “After an hour, the light became steady and stopped moving. I do not know if what I saw was a UFO, but it was too high to be a plane or a helicopter.”

Peter Jennings weighs in

The late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings did a special report on UFOs in November of 2004 and he hinted at the number of sightings in North Bergen, wondering if it was just coincidence or fact-based.

The A&E special report also focused an entire hour on the North Bergen sightings, especially the famed O’Barski sighting. The A&E special aired for the first time in 2005 and has been often repeated.

In the Peter Jennings report, ABC claimed that almost 50 percent of Americans believe that UFOs are real, not to mention millions of individuals in other countries. Whether these cases happened remain between those who reported the sightings. Federal records of the reports have never been released to the public.

Police chief remembers

North Bergen Police Chief William Galvin, a native of the township, remembers the craze as a 21-year-old who had yet to become a police officer.

“I just remember the hype and then I just saw the (A&E) special on TV and it reminded me,” Galvin said. “We laugh about it. No one has ever received a call reporting a UFO to the Police Department. It is a mind-boggling number to think so many have been reported here. But as far as I know, I don’t remember anyone calling the police with these cases. We might have got a call or two about strange objects, but no one ever made a big deal about it. I can’t believe we’re number 1 on that list. It amazes me.”

But obviously, the cases existed and were reported and remain on file. Incredibly, since The North Bergen Reporter last wrote about the sightings in 2005, the article has been posted on several different UFO websites throughout the country.

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either or


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