In February of 1991, the Londonderry Historical Society hosted a “UFO Info Night” in the High School cafeteria. The guest speaker was Cheryl Powell, a local resident and member of the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON, an organization made up of civilian volunteers who study UFO sightings. During the early nineties, so many sightings were being reported that MUFON considered the state of a New Hampshire a “hotspot.” To understand the background of the phenomenon, we need to go back several decades to the 1960s, when the Space Race between the United States and Russia reached its peak.

In April of 1961, Russia put the very first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space. America responded less than a month later by launching the first pilot-controlled space flight. The pilot in question was none other than Derry’s own Alan Shepard, no doubt instilling into our local residents more than the usual amount of pride and interest in the subject. Each year of the decade brought a new achievement in the space program, culminating in the first human moon walk on July 20, 1969. With so much focus on the heavens, is it any wonder that reports of UFOs also reached a high point during the sixties?

From the Derry News, February 27, 1991
From the Derry News, February 27, 1991

Also in 1961, one of the nation’s most well-known and bizarre UFO stories came out of our state, that of the alleged abduction by aliens of Portsmouth residents Betty and Barney Hill. The Hills were traveling home from a vacation in Canada via a rural road in the White Mountains when they stopped to observe a strange light in the sky. After returning to their travels, they realized that they’d “lost” a couple of hours. Subsequent hypnosis of both individuals revealed extraordinary accounts of having been brought aboard a spaceship and subjected to medical examinations. In 1965, the “Exeter Incident” garnered much local and national attention. Although it was a teenaged hitchhiker who reported seeing a completely silent, 90-foot diameter object hovering over a farmhouse in the nearby town of Kensington in the middle of the night, the incident acquired credibility when two police officers also reported seeing the craft. Books have been written about both of these events.

Londonderry, itself, has had its share of sightings. In August of 1966, several residents observed a large red orb hovering in the area of routes 93 and 102. The object made no sound, and all of the witnesses, including a police officer, described the very same details. Some people observed the craft for a full 20 minutes. Witnesses included a Derry News reporter and several motorists who’d stopped on the side of the road to view the spectacle. One member of that group said that the thing “traveled up and down and across the sky in a crazy pattern.” In 1988, several witnesses reported a UFO in the sand pits near the airport. Although a report of an “object in the sky near the airport” shouldn’t raise any eyebrows, witnesses who lived nearby said that they know what an airplane looks like, thank you very much, but this was something different. Further investigation revealed that this was not an isolated incident. As the sightings became public, more people came out of the woodwork to admit that they, too, had seen “strange objects” in that same area. Witnesses to these phenomena always describe the objects as having lights and moving at unusually fast or slow speeds. Whether round, triangular, oval, or cylindrical, the entities consistently have two things in common – lights and silence.

The UFO craze seems to have simmered down, but in fact, sightings haven’t stopped. A 2014 WMUR news article stated that several reports, most anonymous, are investigated each month in the Granite State. It’s interesting to note that in the sixties, a UFO observer’s experience practically guaranteed him celebrity status, but by the eighties it was more of an embarrassment, thus accounting for the anonymous reports. Some attribute this change in attitude to the fact that the U.S. Air Force discontinued its study of UFOs, ending their “Blue Book” project in 1969. If the Government isn’t taking these things seriously, should we? MUFON, however, still exists, and you can report a UFO sighting on their website,, or, if you’re a real UFO enthusiast, you can even join their ranks.