While not as many unidentified flying objects are reported in the twenty-first century, UFOs have captured the American imagination for decades. The term UFO was coined in 1953 by the United States Air Force. Before then, unidentified objects were called “flying saucers,” “flying discs,” and even “flying flapjacks.” Titusville and the surrounding areas have had their fair share of UFO sightings. Most sightings occurred between 1952 and 1979. A national UFO research group even took an interest in Titusville in 1964 due to its high number of reports.
The Fall of 1964 saw a slew of UFO reports in Titusville. On September 15, seven youngsters in Townville reported seeing a UFO glide across their airspace. Another report was filed on September 24 by nineteen-year-old Charles Stevenson and his fifteen-year-old brother, Edward, who lived on Brook Street. At 10:30pm the brothers saw a round object with a cone-shaped top and red and white lights in the front and back soaring toward the north of Titusville. (TH 9/24/1964)
By October 5, 1964, there had been four sightings and a fifth was about to be logged. That night, two sixteen-year-old fox hunters near the Titusville Airport claimed they saw a light tracing along the horizon, blinking at irregular intervals around 5:15am. (TH 10/5/1964)
Just after Christmas in 1965, a falling UFO was reported in the Breedtown-Cherrytree area by Joseph Stefaniszyn and his daughter around 10:50pm. Stefaniszyn was certain it was not a shooting star and adamant he witnessed a falling UFO. (TH 12/27/1965)
The next year, a group of Pleasantville residents reported that a flashing light was advancing and retreating. The object’s lights were red, green, white, and yellow and spinning in circles. (TH 9/9/1966)
After this rash of reports, UFO sightings tapered off until the late-1970s when in November 1978 two objects were seen in one week. One object featured “revolving white lights, not flashing such as an airplane. The object also made a sharp, right angle turn in the skies, something which would be impossible for an airplane to accomplish.” Earlier that week, an orange, green, and white craft was seen around 10:50pm in Centerville. (TH 11/15/1978) Early the next spring, another large light, half the size of the moon, was observed by multiple residents of Hatchtown. (TH 3/27/1979)
Most of the UFO sightings both in Titusville and nationwide were reported by teenagers. However, one sensational local report came from an adult man who happened to also be the editor of the Titusville Herald.
Editor Frank S. Holowach described his unforgettable encounter with a flying saucer on August 24, 1952 in the Titusville Herald. The paper was clear about the fact that this account of an “aerial phenomenon was written by a trained newspaperman who is a careful observer and accurate recorder of events.” Holowach said that he was not sure what he saw, but that he was not ready to joke about it either because it made him a “jittery fellow.”
At 4:30am on August 24, 1952, Holowach was driving down Route 408 five miles southeast of Cambridge Springs after playing golf, having dinner, and helping his friend put his children to bed in Edinboro earlier that evening. As he was meandering down the highway, he “saw a light turn on in the sky low over the horizon” to his left. The light was bright and suddenly went out. Seconds later, it reappeared directly ahead of him on the horizon. Startled, he stopped the car and turned off the headlights. After waiting, nothing happened, so he continued on his way.
Suddenly, the light reappeared and Holowach again shut off his car. He began taking notes on that clear, cold night. He wrote that the light flickered on and off repeatedly in the distance. “The light skated around the horizon. I was on rather an elevation, looking to the northeast across a low valley. The light appeared to be just above the next ridge (Brown hill, north of Little Cooley).”
Holowach assumed the light was coming from traffic on a road near the ridge, but could hear no traffic. In his head, he ran through the options. Not a plane. Not a meteor. Not a shooting star. What could it be?
The longer he stood there, the more Holowach observed. While watching his original light, he also noticed a reddish light down the valley that seemed to be moving before his eyes. When he next looked at his watch it was already 5:30am. “O.K. you darn light,” Holowach said, “You’re robbing me of some sleep and you might as well take some more. I’m sticking here until it’s real daylight and I can see the house you’re attached to. You can’t fool me.” Or so he thought. (TH 8/25/1952)
Holowach continued to stare at the light, trying to win the waiting game. Then, he began to feel his car vibrate. “Cut this out. You’re thinking things. Nothing’s going to hurt you,” he said to try and calm himself. “I looked at the light in the valley. It stared at me. It seemed some force was pulling me through the open window. It felt like a giant magnet was drawing my flesh.” That was enough for Mr. Holowach. He immediately started his car and got out of dodge. No one was ever able to identify either light.