History Channel sets sights on filming at Sheffield UFO memorial

A monument to a reported UFO incident in 1969 is located near the Upper Sheffield Covered Bridge.

SHEFFIELD — The UFO memorial by the Upper Sheffield Covered Bridge has caught the attention of the History Channel.

A film crew from the History Channel's "Ancient Aliens" is expected to film at the location next week.

According to Thomas Reed, one of the four family members who had a close encounter near the bridge Sept. 1, 1969, the crew is scheduled to film Monday.

Reed, who has been the most vocal about what happened that night, said he had been contacted by Prometheus Studios, the production team behind the show. Reed shared with The Eagle communications between himself and associate producer Miguel Bituin III, talking about the History Channel's interest. Select Board member Rene Wood confirmed that a film crew had approached the board during its June 4 meeting about shooting in town, but declined to comment further, noting that it is the Select Board's policy to have questions directed to the chairman. Calls to Select Board Chairman David Smith Jr. seeking comment were not returned.

Reed's 1969 sighting has been the subject of many television shows — Discovery Channel's "Alien Mysteries," Travel Channel's "Paranormal Paparazzi," "Our New England Legends" — and six documentaries/films.

The UFO memorial was slated for relocation by the end of May, but the testament to the "nation's first off-world/UFO incident" hasn't budged, and it's not clear why.

On Friday, Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard said she had no comment on the memorial, which she had sought to have removed.

In January, the Select Board gave LaBombard permission to send a notice to the memorial's owner(s) that the memorial, as well as the benches and lighting around it, would be moved by the town if they were not picked up before May. It is not clear who owns the memorial.

In a previous interview with The Eagle, LaBombard said the memorial should be moved because it is on a town right of way. The nature of the memorial's location became apparent to the town after a land survey. If anything is to be placed on town property, she said, it needs to be approved by town officials.

"The town has bylaws, and if we let one place put something up, then why can't someone else? I don't want that to happen," she said in April.

This isn't the first time the memorial's location has been an issue.

The memorial was installed in 2015 and moved a few weeks later, after town officials discovered that it had been placed on town property. Some people said the marker detracted from the beauty of the historical replica of the 180-year-old bridge. The marker was moved 30 feet, to Pine Island Farm, which abuts the Upper Sheffield Covered Bridge.

In 2017, two benches and light fixtures were added to the area.

The monument, which sits at the end of the Upper Sheffield Covered bridge, a replica of the historic Old Covered Bridge, is a 6-foot-tall, white concrete block bearing a plaque from Gov. Charlie Baker's office embedded on one side and the Massachusetts seal on the other. The plaque reads, in part, "This Governor's Citation [is] in recognition of the off-world incident on Sept. 1st, 1969, which engaged the Reed Family, which has been established."

The memorial is flanked by two benches: one donated by Reed and the International UFO Museum Research Center in Roswell, N.M.; the other donated by Ben Hansen of the "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files" and Travis Walton, the inspiration for the science-fiction movie "Fire in the Sky."

There are also two black lightposts. Roswell is renowned as the site of an alleged 1947 UFO crash.

Reed was 9 years old on that September night in 1969 when, he and others say, they had their close encounter.

He was riding in a station wagon with family — his mother, grandmother and brother — crossing the covered bridge on their way home when Reed said his grandmother looked back to see a "self-contained glow" behind them that seemed to move through the trees. Once the car was in a clearing, Reed said, it was flooded in light with an amber glow on both sides of the dirt road.

The car came to a stop and everything seemed "really calm," Reed said, and there was a shift in the barometric pressure. The dead silence was broken by a chorus of loud crickets and frogs.

After that, Reed isn't sure what happened. He has brief memories of being in something like a hangar with other people. The next thing he knew, Reed was back in the station wagon, but his mother and grandmother had switched spots and more than two hours had gone by.

The event was reported by WSBS radio as people called in with their accounts of witnessing strange lights that night. In all, 40 people came forward, including residents of Sheffield, Great Barrington, Stockbridge and South Egremont.

The Great Barrington Historical Society in 2015 deemed the account an "off-world incident ... historically significant and true," and voted to admit it into its archives. That decision has been viewed by some as the first officially recognized off-world case.

The Sheffield memorial is predated by the "Betty and Barney Hill Incident" historical marker, just outside the Indian Head Resort in Lincoln, N.H., which was officially recognized by the state of New Hampshire in 2011. It marks the location of the country's first publicly reported UFO encounter, Sept. 19, 1961. The couple filed an official report with the U.S. Air Force's Project Blue Book.

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com, @kristinpalpini on Twitter, and 413-629-4621.