“To Avoid Ridicule From Others”: 1961 Gnadenhutten UFO

Artist interpretation of the 1961 Gnadenhutten UFO encounter

Having gone through a number of the Project Blue Book files available online, I decided instead to look at local UFO sightings that have been reported to groups dedicated to documenting such occurrences. The following account of an encounter from 1961 was reported to one of these organizations by an anonymous individual I will call Joe.


Joe, a high school sophomore, was visiting his grandparents’ farm just a few miles outside of Gnadenhutten one evening in late August 1961. It was a cloudy and cool night, reminding everyone that fall was soon to arrive in the little valley that surrounded the farm. Joe’s parents were preparing to head back to town and asked him to go out and get the car started. Joe, eagerly anticipating when he would be able to drive, was more than happy to do so. Out of the corner of his eye Joe caught sight of a unusual bright light across the road and off in the distance. It looked like, and Joe assumed it was, a small fire.

Joe went back inside and reported what he saw to his grandfather. The rest of the family came out onto the porch to investigate the fire. Joe’s grandfather was worried about the fire potentially spreading into the forest, but after watching it not grow any larger or move, he assumed it was some hunters who had started a small fire on the cool late summer night. Joe’s family, and others, regularly hunted game in the small valley so it would not have been unusual to have hunters around. Joe’s grandfather called neighbors to verify that they could see the light and to see if they knew what the cause might be. They confirmed the light, but could not confirm the cause.

Aerial view of Gnadenhutten, c. 1970. (Source: ebay.com)

The family became more concerned when, after about 10 minutes, the light seemed to be moving towards the tree-line. They noticed something strange though. The original location of the light, that they thought was a fire, was no longer there and it now appeared as if this was not a fire but a bright light on the ground. One of Joe’s relatives noticed that as the light moved, and pulsated different colors, it was being projected down from a source above the trees. Following the light upwards, they noticed a blurry light source encircling something that appeared to be suspended or flying over the treetops.

The revelation that this pulsating light was coming from above the trees disturbed the family even more when they realized that the only sounds being heard were those of the usual night sounds of the valley. No airplane or unmistakable helicopter sounds were heard. The object seemed to be moving very slowly over the landscape, at perhaps 50 to 100 feet per minute. As the object moved, the witnesses (now including other neighbors), could see it more clearly as it was silhouetted against the hills behind it. The object appeared to be about the size of a two-story house and was suspended about 200 feet in the air, its pulsating light clearly lighting up the tree leaves and the forest floor. As it moved over a hay field, it appeared to the witnesses that the object had a dull, lighted band around the center of it with a pulsating, color changing, light emanating from the bottom of the object to the ground.

Report of meteor showers around the same time as the Gnadenhutten sighting.

Joe, his family, and neighbors watched as the object slowly began to change angles and, when it reached about a 45 degree angle from the ground, it quickly accelerated skyward until it was nothing more than a bright white spot in the late summer sky. Joe wrote that “everyone agreed this was unexplainable and we should not tell this story, to avoid ridicule from others.” No report was filed with the official Air Force investigative body, Project Blue Book, and it would take Joe over 50 years to report the sighting; and, only then after confirming the details with other living relatives and witnesses to the phenomena.

An examination of the local papers in and around the town of Gnadenhutten do not report any strange occurrences during the week of the sighting that might explain what the witnesses had experienced. The only astronomical event reported was a meteor shower that was visible to many in the middle part of the state of Ohio; however, that does not explain the details witnessed by Joe, his family, and their neighbors. There is also no way to confirm, or dismiss, the events reported by Joe about the case of the 1961 Gnadenhutten UFO.


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© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.

One thought on ““To Avoid Ridicule From Others”: 1961 Gnadenhutten UFO

  1. Fascinating! I lived in another state when this occurred. Never heard or read about this story. Even my parents, who lived in Gnaden, didn’t relate it to me. I had married on the 13th of August in the Moravian Church–my husband was in the Air Force so we made tracks for that area–out of state. Janet Gray Albrecht, Greensboro, NC

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