Nov. 9, 1965 — Did UFOs Turn the Lights Off?

Columnist Cheryl Costa shares some of the forgotten lore of the Northeast blackout on Nov. 9, 1965.

The time was about quarter after 5 p.m. on the Nov. 9, 1965. I was upstairs in my room listening to my ham radio when my mother shouted up to me asking, “What was I doing.” I was a 13-year-old ham radio operator, so naturally if the house lights flickered it was usually blamed on me and my army surplus radio equipment. This time is wasn’t me, the lights in the house were browning out and it scared the heck out of my mother who was home alone with three kids.

She turned on the television to check the news and suddenly it was obvious something bad had happened. Of the 12 cable channels that we had, all of the New York City and greater Northeast channels were dark. Of course, this was the peak of the Cold War, so my mother feared the worst. “Perhaps the Soviets had launched a nuclear strike,” she said. After all, the October 1963 Cuban missile Crisis was still a recent memory.

One local channel turned out to still be operating, and a newscaster was reporting that there had been a wide spread electrical power failure in the Northeast. We still had electricity because a local generating facility had disconnected from the grid when it all started to fall apart.

In the days that followed, the scope of the disruption was reported and vast. New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and parts of Ontario, Canada, were largely in the dark. Over 30 million people were affected.

In the end, a technical task force blamed the whole thing on an over-current relay that had been set too low for normal operation.

But there’s another side of the story that usually gets hushed up: UFOs. There were reports all over the Northeast and right here in the Syracuse area that seemed to suggest that a formation of UFOs were seen over high tension wires and loitering around electrical sub-stations.

Here are some of those reports highlights:

Nov. 9, 1965: At 5 p.m. a Middletown, New York, resident reported seeing a ball of bright, green light in the sky.

Nov. 9, 1965: At 5 p.m. a Jersey City, New Jersey, resident reported seeing a bright object moving from north to south over Manhattan. Then over lower Manhattan, the object shot straight up at extreme velocity.

Nov. 9, 1965: At 5 p.m. a resident of Newton, Massachusetts, reported a bright fire ball traveling east to west.

Nov. 9, 1965: At 5 p.m. an Orchestra Conductor on a flight between Syracuse and Rochester observed a bright light descend toward Central New York.

Nov. 9, 1965: At 5 p.m. a Camillus, New York, house wife reported a huge, dome-shaped object near a local sub station about five minutes before the blackout.

Nov. 9, 1965: At 5 p.m. Cicero, New York, a local pilot in a small plane reported seeing a huge, bright light hover near the high tension wires crossing the Mohawk River.

Nov. 9, 1965: At 5 p.m. personnel from the Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Power Plant in Ontario, Canada, reported four strange lights over the power plant.

Nov. 9, 1965: At 5 p.m. residents near the Niagara Falls power station reported seeing a huge, glowing object hovering over the power station.

Coincidence? You decide.

If you are interested in joining a monthly UFO discussion group in the Onondaga County area, drop Cheryl an email If you have a UFO sighting to report, you can use either one of the two national database services: or Both services respect confidentiality.

Cheryl Costa would love to hear the when, where and what of your New York sighting. Email it to The names of witnesses will be omitted to protect their privacy.

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