At least two hundred to three hundred people saw an enormous unidentified flying object as it flew within five miles of downtown Pittsburgh, with some startled observers saying the UFO was as big as Three Rivers Stadium.
The stadium was in downtown Pittsburgh, just north of the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio River. It occupied nearly four hundred thousand square feet, was circular and had a diameter of about two hundred yards.
Fans of professional baseball and football flocked to the stadium to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers play there from 1970 until it was demolished in February 2001. The stadium was only eight years old when the unidentified object was seen on the night of March 1, 1978.
It was bigger than Three Rivers Stadium, said Glenn Ricci, then twenty two, who with his girlfriend Claire Gallery, seventeen, had a good look at the object.
Mrs. Marilyn Salsgiver saw it from a different part of the city and said: It was big, very big, like where they play the ball games, Three Rivers Stadium.
Robert Cowell, then director of the Pennsylvania Center for UFO Research in nearby Irwin, Pennsylvania, said the center received nearly a hundred and fifty phone calls about the UFO as a direct result of an unusual experiment conducted in cooperation with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, a morning newspaper.
Two days after the sightings, the newspaper published a story by science writer Henry W. Pierce saying an object had been seen but giving no details and stating that the center was interested in hearing from anyone who had seen it. As soon as the first edition hit the streets, the centers phone began ringing, Cowell said, adding:
The majority of these people had one or two witnesses with them so it could have been at least two hundred to three hundred people who saw this.
Glenn Ricci, then a home-remodeling salesman, and Miss Gallery not only got the closest look at the object, but they saw it twice and also saw a smaller object during the first sighting.
Claire and I were driving south on Fox Chapel Road and she pointed out a very bright light in the southern sky, Ricci said. It kept getting bigger and bigger, brighter and brighter, so we pulled over, stopped and shut the car off.
It crossed in front of us. It moved at a pretty good rate of speed. I could tell it had two front lights on it and it seemed to be a very, very large size. The lights were going side to side, scanning the air in front of it.
Right before it went over the hillside, from the opposite direction came another small, very fast vehicle. It was flashing red, white and blue lights in sequence. It came from the north, crossed directly over our car and did a hundred and eighty-degree turnaround in half a second, a complete turnaround, and started going toward the larger vehicle.
Ive never seen anything turn so fast in the skies. I dont think it even turned around, just reversed engines or something like that. It made just that one pass, down and immediately back in the other direction. It seemed like the smaller one was going toward the larger one and much faster.
They both disappeared over the hillside. They could have been a hundred feet or a hundred yards apart. They couldnt have been much more. They were pretty close.
Ricci and Miss Gallery then drove across the Allegheny River and up into Highland Park inside Pittsburgh and parked on the northern side of a large reservoir. It is the highest point in the area and overlooks downtown Pittsburgh.
We stopped for maybe a minute and we saw that large object come out of the downtown area, Ricci said. It just came at a steady pace. It came closer and closer and seemed to descend as it came closer. It came over the reservoir and just stopped. It was a big shock. I never expected to see anything like that.
Said Claire: I was frightened when it was right over us because I wasnt sure what might happen. I just didnt know what they might do.
Said Ricci: We saw a lot of things. The underbody appeared to be a dull gray color. It had several lights on the underside, just stationary white lights that were on, werent blinking. And it seemed to have a few panels that were lit up.
The middle of the object seemed to be a cylinder or a cone protruding from the base of this object. Recessed inside this cylinder were three triangular lights with their ends butted together forming a fourth triangle in the middle. They just kept going around in sequence, one on, two off, one on, two off.
The underbody appeared to have a steel grating, going up and down and across, checkerboard fashion. It wasnt exactly squares. They were more like rectangles. It had two red lights at the tail end, stationary lights. We noticed those as it pulled away.
The object shined a light down on them once. Said Claire: I said, If I was really seeing that, I wish theyd come closer so I could get a better look and it was as if they heard me. This light came shining down and it came right towards us.
Said Ricci: It lit up the car and it lit up the ground. You could see a circle of light off to my side.
Both said the object made a humming sound like a turbine as it hovered overhead. Ricci said it appeared to be about two thousand feet above them. They watched it for two or three minutes.
After that it started to move off slowly and then it just went! Ricci said. Out of sight! It was gone!
I just couldnt see how anything that large and especially that shape could fly. I dont think modern man has designed anything in that shape that will fly, and especially remain suspended in midair. All I know is I saw a very, very large alien craft, alien to my nature and to this mankind. It was something definitely not manmade. It was just too massive.
The Highland Park reservoir is approximately five miles northwest of Pittsburghs Golden Triangle downtown area. Mrs. Salsgivers sighting occurred about an hour earlier from her home three miles northeast of downtown Pittsburgh.
She was sitting in her dining room, part of which has been converted into a bedroom for her mother, who was confined to a bed because of a stroke. While talking with her mother, Mrs. Salsgiver noticed a very bright light through a curtain on the front door, which faces toward downtown Pittsburgh.
At first I thought maybe it was a spotlight on a taxi. Every once in a while it would glare right through the curtain. Finally it started getting to me and I went to the front window.
I could see this bright light. It seemed to be scanning, going back and forth. I thought, I wonder what the heck that is? In the meantime my daughter pulled in back of the house in her car. I knew she was back there but this light fascinated me. I couldnt move. I really couldnt. It was like something held me spellbound.
So I stayed there and all of a sudden it seemed like it was coming closer and I thought, My God! What is that? I never saw anything as bright. I didnt have any lights on in the living room and it was so bright it made a glow in here.
Then when it hit right over this house across the street, this thing came into view. It looked to me almost like the shape of a lampshade. And it was so brilliant. Really brilliant. And it just stayed stationary there.
Mrs. Salsgiver thought the object stopped in the air about a block beyond the house across the street.
I got scared. I got really scared. I was afraid it was going to fall. It just stayed like that in midair. Mom kept hollering, Whats wrong in there? And I said, Oh, my God, Ive never seen anything like that. And she said, Well, what is it? And I said, I dont know WHAT it is! I know its not an airplane. And then all of a sudden it went very slow, very slow.
She ran to the back of the house, looked out the window and watched it disappear to the northwest toward Bellvue.
Mrs. Salsgiver described an object very similar to the one seen later by Ricci and Miss Gallery but upside down from what they described, with the cone-shaped protrusion on top instead of the bottom.
The top part seemed to be concave, like something could hook into it. The panels seemed liked windows but you couldnt see in. They seemed like they were frosted. I can still see this thing in my mind.
She said she saw one big white light as it came toward her and two red lights as it went away from here, with panels on both sides. My heart was going BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM. I got sort of panicky and I thought, I wish Elaine would come in from out there.
Her daughter Elaine, then nineteen and a secretarial student at a business school, had just returned from a shopping trip.
I had some packages and one fell down on the floor and when I leaned over the seat I could see what appeared to be a plane, Elaine Salsgiver said. It looked sort of odd, like the lighting wasnt conventional. The more I looked the more I was thinking it couldnt have been a plane. The thing that was so strange was the speed it was moving. It was so slow.
I saw red lights along the back and it was like the whole thing was white on the one side. I saw it for two or three minutes. It was going away from me all the time, getting smaller, but it was moving at a fantastically slow speed.
The smaller object that Glenn Ricci and Claire Gallery saw apparently was also seen by a young couple driving home to Etna, a community on the north side of the Allegheny River opposite the Highland Park area.
We were coming down Mount Royal Boulevard from my mothers house and my wife started seeing things in the sky that she thinks is UFO, said Mark Dischner, then twenty two, a laborer in a steel mill.
I looked and I saw a flash and I stopped the truck right in the middle of the road and I looked again. It was a red and bluish, top-shaped object just streaking through the sky above the hills. It was there for a few seconds and then it was gone.
Id say it was within three hundred feet of us, kind of right in front of us... It was small, somewhat bigger than a Volkswagen van but it was shaped sort of like a top. It looked like a plane in distress but it didnt have the shape of a plane.
His wife Florence got a better look at it than he did. I saw this great big light up in the sky, she said. I kept telling my husband to look and he kept telling me I was crazy.
I said, Its too fast to be an airplane and then it started going back and forth. I kept telling him it was going back and forth and he kept saying, No way! I said, It keeps zipping itll zip one way and then go the opposite way. An airplane wont do that.
Mrs. Dischner said the object went back and forth four or five times before she finally got her husband to look at it.
I said, Hey, you gotta stop this truck and look and see what this is out there. And he stopped and looked and I kept saying, What is it? and he kept saying, I dont know. When I finally got him to look at it, it was moving, really fast and I said, Maybe it is an airplane and he said, No way! Then he started convincing me.
Another witness that evening was Elizabeth Grossman. She was driving a taxicab in the East Liberty area, about four miles northeast of downtown Pittsburgh and a little over a mile south of the Highland Park reservoir.
I was sitting at a traffic light and just happened to look and I saw this large thing of light, Mrs. Grossman said. It looked like a plane but it was rounder. On each end of it was a red light and it seemed like around the center a white light.
The underside of it was white lights. It was bigger than a plane and there were many more lights than you see on an airplane. It didnt seem to have wings.
Carl Sandulli, a nuclear lab technician at the University of Pittsburgh, spotted a cluster of lights as he was driving home from work about ten o'clock.
I was turning off onto my street and saw what seemed to be a pinkish glow of light, Sandulli said. He lived in Beechview in the high hills south of the Monongahela River and about three miles from downtown Pittsburgh.
I thought they had installed some new lights but as I turned the corner to get a better look, I could see they were nowhere near that close and they were unattached. They seemed, at a rough estimate, to be five to ten thousand feet above the ground and two or three miles away.
They werent doing anything. They were just sitting there. They did have quite an aurora around them. The thing that amazed me the most is that they werent attached to anything. I watched them for about five to ten minutes and it just sat there all that time.
William J. Carter, a locomotive engineer, and his wife Gertrude saw strange lights from their apartment high in the hills of Wilkinsburg six miles east of downtown.
We were watching TV in the living room and the set is near a big bay window and I said, Boy, is that a big star coming out there, Carter said. And I looked again and I said, Man, that cant be a star. It looked to be the size of a basketball.
It came sort of from Pittsburgh towards us and it looked like it had four lights on it. When it was coming towards us there were two lights shining and then it turned and went northeast out the Parkway toward Monroeville and in the back were two lights. I was just surprised. They were enormous lights as big as basketballs.
William Hammill Jr., twenty four, a real estate salesman, said he and his wife Nancy and her mother, Lucy Massaro, saw a big orange light outside Mrs. Massaros home in Penn Hills Township, about two miles east of Highland Park.
I looked up and saw a bright light shooting across the sky horizontally, Hammill said. I said, Look up! And my mother-in-law and my wife saw it. It went across the sky and it disappeared.
I said it was a shooting star and my mother-in-law said, No, they go downward. She jokingly said, Why dont you go and report it as a UFO?
HammiII said the light was orange-yellow and went west in the direction of Highland Park. It went out without going out of sight. It completely disappeared.
Interestingly, Hammills father and uncle and Mrs. Judi Herrington, a secretary at the real estate firm, saw a strange object the following night but he didnt learn about that until March 4 nor were they aware that he had seen something unusual.
None of the people that I interviewed were aware of any UFO sightings other than what had been reported in the newspaper. A second article was published the day after the first and it was this story that led Hammill to mention what he saw to Mrs. Herrington. That was when they discovered they had had similar experiences.
Mrs. Herrington, William Hammill Sr. and his brother, Howard Hammill, had been at the Four Star Realty company office in Penn Hills Township late on the night of Thursday, March 2, and left the office about nine fifty p.m.
In the parking lot I looked up and I saw this big orange-yellow light, a single light, coming from the direction of the city of Pittsburgh, Mrs. Herrington said. We all three stood and watched it, and then two smaller lights came on like on the side of it, and then all three lights went totally off, and all you could hear was this humming noise.
It was just a very weird thing because you couldnt see it. You could hear it. This noise was like around us yet you couldnt see anything.
To William Hammill Sr., vice president of the realty company, it was sort of weird, this thing buzzing up there. It was just a droning sound. It didnt seem to be very high. I guess a thousand feet or so but we couldnt see anything. There was something strange up there.
About five minutes earlier that evening, physician Edward Pesyna saw something unusual as he stood in the parking lot of a high school seven miles northwest of Highland Park.
It was approximately nine forty five p.m., Dr. Pesyna, twenty seven, said. My wife had an evening class until ten oclock and I drove over to pick her up. I was standing in a darkened parking lot waiting for her and I am sort of an amateur astronomer, so Im always looking up in the sky. And I saw what looked to me like a peculiar set of plane lights.
I just shrugged and started to walk into the building. Then it struck me that this is not a pattern of lights that is typical. I came back and reinvestigated. It seemed to be comprised of three lights, this object.
There seemed to be two huge white lights on either side of a red light. If these were landing lights on a plane, at this distance they would have had to have been the size of a twelve-by-twelve-foot room, because these were really large lights.
What really attracted my attention was the beam, the spotting beam. There seemed to be a ray coming down from the undersurface of these lights, just sort of scanning in a random fashion. Pilots dont do this when they have landing lights on.
This object was moving too slowly to be an airplane. I watched it for about five minutes. It moved slowly from the west to the east until it moved behind the glare of lights from a hospital.
I didnt say anything to anybody, not even my wife. I was just starting practice in North Hills and I didnt want people saying, Look at the nutty doctor. But as far as Im concerned, Im a scientist and an observer and I report what I see.
So, in summary, what it was was a cluster of lights, two white and one red, with a spotting beam moving slowly, forty to fifty miles an hour at the fastest. It would have been the size almost of a football field, two hundred feet across, and this was seen at a distance of two to three miles.
What I did the next day was go back out there with a map and I stood in the school yard exactly where I was standing, picked out the landmarks and marked then off on the map and scored the line out, and, believe it or not, the line went through Highland Park.
Then, two days later my wife said something about did you see those reports about a UFO, and as I read the article I got a very chilled feeling, scary feeling, because, I said, this wasnt the same night but darn it, this was the same damned thing I saw.
Regarding the experiment with the newspaper, Robert Cowell, director of the Pennsylvania Center for UFO Research, said: The paper usually comes out on the newsstand about ten o'clock the night before. We started receiving calls that night and up until five oclock the following night we had received more than thirty calls concerning this object.
I would say ninety percent of them had the same general description. From five p.m. March 3 through the weekend, March 6, we received over one hundred phone calls. The majority of the calls were accurate as far as time and description of the object.
Dr. Paul Johnson, then a research chemist at Duquesne University and assistant director of the UFO organization, said: The majority of the sightings were probably between the hours of nine thirty and eleven oclock that evening and within probably a five or six-mile radius of downtown Pittsburgh.
Most of the reports were of lights in the sky but some of them had what would be considered close encounters of the first kind. It was definitely a very large object in the sky.
Apparently this object moved around and spent a large amount of its time very high. We had a lot of reports of a large star in the sky, a bright object very high, an unusual looking star in the sky.
So, there is a very good chance that between seven and eleven that night, this object was there but that it spent the majority of its time very high and at certain times it came down.