The night of September 3, 1965, forever changed the lives of several individuals in Exeter, New Hampshire. What started as a routine hitchhiking journey for 18-year-old Norman Muscarello quickly turned into a chilling encounter with the unknown. Alongside two police officers, Muscarello witnessed a series of strange events that would go on to captivate the nation. This is the story of the Exeter Incident, an extraordinary UFO sighting that left witnesses and skeptics alike questioning the nature of the universe.

In the weeks leading up to the Exeter Incident, numerous witnesses in the area reported separate UFO sightings. However, it was the events of September 3 that gained the most attention. Muscarello, hitchhiking his way home, noticed five flashing bright red lights in the distance. As he got closer, he realized the lights were hovering in the air above the trees, illuminating a nearby field and two houses with their brilliant red glow. The object, estimated to be 80 to 90 feet in diameter, moved silently towards Muscarello, causing him to panic and seek refuge in a nearby ditch.

Terrified, Muscarello ran to a nearby house seeking help, but no one answered the door. As the object moved away and disappeared into the woods, Muscarello flagged down a passing car and was taken to the Exeter police station. There, he recounted his encounter to officer Reginald Toland, who recognized Muscarello’s genuine fear and agitation. Toland then contacted officer Eugene Bertrand Jr., who had encountered a distressed woman earlier that evening, reporting a similar sighting. Bertrand agreed to join Toland in investigating the field where Muscarello had seen the lights.

Arriving at the field, Bertrand and Muscarello initially saw nothing unusual from their patrol car. However, upon venturing into the field, they noticed agitated horses and barking dogs. Suddenly, an object began to rise from the trees beyond the corral. Described as a huge, dark object with red flashing lights, the UFO moved silently toward them, swaying back and forth. Bertrand instinctively drew his revolver but decided against shooting. Instead, he grabbed Muscarello, and both ran back to the patrol car, where they continued to observe the object until officer David Hunt arrived.

The Exeter police chief reported the sighting to Pease Air Force Base, leading to an investigation by Major David Griffin and Lieutenant Alan Brandt. Despite the witnesses being asked not to report their sighting to the press, a reporter had already interviewed them. The Air Force issued an explanation, attributing the sighting to temperature inversion causing stars and planets to twinkle. Project Blue Book, the Air Force research group, also suggested the presence of military aircraft and an ongoing training mission, Operation Big Blast, as a possible explanation.

Muscarello, Bertrand, and Hunt vehemently disagreed with the Air Force’s explanation, arguing that what they witnessed was not an ordinary object. The witnesses received support from journalist John G. Fuller, who had his own encounter near Exeter. Raymond Fowler, an investigator for the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), also disputed the Air Force explanation. The controversy surrounding the Exeter Incident prompted Lieutenant Colonel John Spaulding to admit the inability to identify the observed object.

The Exeter UFO sightings, particularly the initial encounter involving Muscarello and the two police officers, remain among the most well-documented and widely publicized in the history of UFO sightings. In 1966, John G. Fuller published “Incident at Exeter,” a book detailing his investigation into the case. The book quickly became a bestseller and brought national attention to the incident.


Norman Muscarello, who stood by his belief that what he witnessed was a genuine encounter with an unidentified object, passed away in April 2003. Officer Eugene Bertrand Jr. and officer David Hunt also maintained their accounts of the sighting throughout their lives. Bertrand passed away in 1998, and Hunt in 2011.

In an attempt to commemorate the Exeter Incident and raise funds for children’s charities in the area, the Exeter Kiwanis Club initiated the annual “Exeter UFO Festival” in 2010. The festival continues to this day, attracting enthusiasts, researchers, and curious individuals from all over.

The Exeter Incident of September 3, 1965, stands as one of the most notable UFO sightings in American history. The encounters experienced by Norman Muscarello, officer Eugene Bertrand Jr., and officer David Hunt captivated the public and sparked extensive discussions about extraterrestrial life and the mysteries of the universe. Although explanations and debates persist, the Exeter Incident remains an enduring symbol of the unexplained and continues to pique the interest of UFO enthusiasts and researchers worldwide.

For more in-depth information about the Exeter Incident, you can read the book ‘Incident at Exeter’ by John G. Fuller, which provides a detailed account of the investigation and the eyewitness testimonies.

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