SHEFFIELD — Elaborate porch decorations, sugary treats and creative costumes are Berkshire County Halloween traditions. But at least one Sheffield native would like UFOs to be a part of the mix, too.
Thomas E. Reed will appear today at the Thom Reed UFO Monument Park in Sheffield, where benches were added in late May to a monument area commemorating the Reed family's "off-world/UFO" incident on Sept. 1, 1969, in that location. Reed and another well-known figure to UFO enthusiasts, Travis Walton, will be a part of a meet-and-greet at the site from 3 to 5 p.m. in an informal environment that Reed hopes will become an annual ritual for community members.
"That Saturday or Sunday before Halloween, we're hoping to do something every year, and as this grows, bring in a couple more people to make this like a little Halloween event," said Reed, who no longer lives in the county, during a recent telephone interview. "I mean, it does have Halloween flavor."
UFOs can certainly have a haunting quality. The Reeds were driving when they approached the Old Covered Bridge in Sheffield on that late summer day in 1969.
"We saw what looked like a light coming up from the Housatonic River behind the Sheffield bridge and ... it really looked like an upside down Hershey's Kiss," Reed recalled.
Next, according to an account Reed gave The Eagle in 2013, he and his family were in a "huge hangar."
Reed, his brother, his mother and grandmother all later recalled "being in a different section of a spacecraft before the family members inexplicably ended up in the car," according to the article.
WSBS in Great Barrington took calls from listeners in surrounding areas who believed they had spotted a UFO as well that day. These stories added to the evidence that the Great Barrington Historical Society & Museum and Massachusetts Historical Society used to determine in 2015 that the Reeds' episode was historically significant and true. It was the first officially recognized "off-world" event in the United States.
Gov. Charlie Baker's office issued two citations recognizing the incident as historically significant and true in the fall of 2015, the first of which came on Oct. 27. Reed views the timing as another Halloween tie.
Associating the event with the holiday, however, concerns one of Reed's peers. Walton, whose own off-world experience inspired the book and film "Fire in the Sky," fears it will ascribe a supernatural quality to something he views as scientific fact.
"To me, I'd rather it wasn't that way," he said of the association during a telephone interview.
Reed and Walton are aware of the skeptics. But no matter what visitors' beliefs are in regards to UFOs and the park itself, the site is bound to draw some tourists to the area. The International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, N.M., has supported the park, according to a press release distributed by one of the park's proponents, Shawn Stowe. Both Stowe and Reed said that television series and movies set at the Sheffield landmark are currently being discussed.
"We're not talking about celebrating something horrible," Reed said. "We're talking about a little park that now represents a great deal, and it's going to offer a lot of opportunities down the road."
If you go ...
What: Meet-and-Greet with Thomas E. Reed and Travis Walton
When: 3-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Thom Reed UFO Monument Park, Upper Sheffield Covered Bridge, Covered Bridge Lane, Sheffield
Information: Free to the public; ufomonumentpark.com