Did nation's first UFO report originate at Mt. Hope, West Virginia?

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Did nation's first UFO report originate at Mt. Hope, West Virginia?
The night's sky above the Bechtel Summit Reserve has traditionally been among the darkest in southern West Virginia.

The details are obscure, but it's possible that one of the first UFO sightings ever reported in the U.S. originated in West Virginia.

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The encounter allegedly occurred in Mount Hope, West Virginia, in the mountains of southern West Virginia, in January 1950. Only one reference appears online as of the publication of this story, though some local sources are available to corroborate the tale.

The following post requesting information, reportedly sourced from National UFO Reporting Center, appears at the website :

One of first sightings in U.S. — 1950s

"Apparently one of the earliest sightings in the U.S. was reported by the mayor of this small West Virginia city in the 1950s. The witness later built a memorial to the sighting, which has since been destroyed, and the event was recorded by a British author. Has anyone seen this information or the book in which the event was documented? ((NUFORC Note: Witness indicates that the date of the sighting is approximate. PD))"

To some extent, the reference is true. According to historian C. Lloyd Gibson, the mayor in question was Pat Garrett, who spotted the object on the skyline to the east of his home, which sits on a hill that overlooks the town.

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Before that era, mankind had reported strange aerial phenomena, but it wasn't until the launch of the Russian satellite into outer space in 1957 that the explanation for such began to take the form of an extra-terrestrial origin.

Gibson says the mayor erected a monument to the event and buried a time capsule somewhere on the property, both of which may have later been removed.

According to Gibson, Garrett spoke of the encounter with conviction and spent time pondering the matter. At one time a book that included notes on the encounter was shelved in the public library at Mount Hope but could no longer be found.

Tents extend across the Bechtel Summit Reserve during the World Scout Jamboree 2019. (Photo courtesy Gary Hartley)

However, Sam Duncan, a nephew of the mayor, says he questions the tale and wonders if the term "martian" might have been confused with the term "martin," as the mayor was an avid birder and fan of insect-eating , and had installed at least one purple-martin house near his home.

"He had all kinds of diagrams about the birds and their flights on a platform about this size," Duncan said, tracing a square about two-and-a-half-feet broad on a tabletop.
"I heard rumors about the UFOs, but I never knew anything about it, and I wonder if people just got the story mixed up over time."

Could the monument to an encounter really have been a diagram used to record bird flights? If so, how did news of the encounter reach a British author? And what happened to the monument?

The direction of the sighting would appear to be over, or possibly beyond, the wilderness west of Garden Grounds Mountain that is now home to the , the national home of scouting jamborees, which should increase interest in the incident among scouts.

Becky Sullivan, executive director of the , says she'll be happy to speak with anyone about the encounter, of which she had only heard recently.

"Mount Hope is a very interesting historical community, no less because the reserve is located there, but it's also at the gateway to the middle section of the New River Gorge National River," Sullivan said.

"I'd be very happy to speak with whoever could tell us more about this mystery."

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