Podcast 286 – Vermont’s Abandoned UFO Base

On September 19, 1961, a UFO was spotted over North Concord Air Force Station on East Mountain in Vermont.

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In Episode 286 Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger hike up East Mountain in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom searching for the ruins of the North Concord Air Force Station, a massive Cold War-era radar base where a UFO was spotted on September 19, 1961. This UFO sighting was the precursor to New England’s most famous UFO case.

Read the episode transcript.


Produced and hosted by: Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger
Edited by: Ray Auger
Theme Music by: John Judd

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The ruins of the North Concord Air Force Station on East Mountain in Vermont.

The ruins of the North Concord Air Force Station on East Mountain in Vermont.

The abandoned North Concord Air Force Station on East Mountain in Vermont.

The abandoned North Concord Air Force Station on East Mountain in Vermont.

The North Concord Air Force Station when it was in operation. Circa 1960.

The North Concord Air Force Station when it was in operation. Circa 1960.

*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.

RAY: So we’re pretty far from everywhere, Jeff.
JEFF: That we are. We’re hiking up East Mountain in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. We’re just about 25 miles as the crow flies from the Canadian border… or maybe I should say as the UFO flies?
RAY: Ohhh are we chasing a UFO story this week?
JEFF: We are. But there’s so much more to see up here.
RAY: Woah… yeah there is! I see some huge structures up there near the top!
JEFF: Yeah, that’s where we’re heading.
RAY: They’re like giant, round metal silos. And I see the remains of some buildings over on that side of the road. This looks pretty huge.
JEFF: Ray, these are the remains of the North Concord Air Force Station. A Cold War-era military base with a connection to New England’s most famous UFO incident.
JEFF: Hello, I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Welcome to Episode 286 of the New England Legends podcast. Thanks for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. We can’t do it without you!
JEFF: No we can’t. We’re a community of legend-seekers always on the hunt for tales of ghosts, monsters, UFOs, true crime, roadside oddities, and all the other weirdness that makes New England special. We’re closing in on 5 million downloads of our episodes since we started. So thank you for being there. Great things happen when you share our podcast with your friends. We grow when more people share their local stories.
RAY: Before we go looking for UFOs and an old military base, we want to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals!
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RAY: It is.
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JEFF: Okay, Ray. Are you ready to explore some Cold War ruins?
RAY: I am. This place is really spooky.
JEFF: It is for sure. These giant, old and rusting metal silos and structures were once a radar installation. At its peak, the base held about 175 people.
RAY: Like we said. This place is huge. (BEAT) Okay, here’s a little more information on where we’re at. East Mountain is 3,439 feet tall and is remote. The North Concord Air Force Station opened in 1955. It took two years to build at a cost of $21 million dollars. The base was meant to serve as an early warning radar station should the Soviet Union try and launch a nuclear attack.
JEFF: Think about that. IF this station picked up signs of a missile attack, it meant the missiles were already launched from the Soviet Union. It takes those missiles about 30 minutes to get here, so if you’re sitting at the controls doing your job and you see the nukes, you have maybe 20 minutes to get word to the President, and the President can then launch a counter attack.
RAY: All within about 20 minutes.
JEFF: That’s right. And if those nukes were launched offshore from a submarine, you’re looking at ten to fifteen minutes to respond depending on the target. The counterattack of course pretty much ends the world because they blow us up, then we blow them up, and the nuclear fallout poisons just about everywhere else.
RAY: Mutual Assured Destruction is what kept us safe, I suppose.
JEFF: Right. So the only job here is to maintain the equipment and facility, and watch the radar 24×7.
RAY: I have to think that in the dead of winter, this is a pretty miserable place.
JEFF: It must have been. Bitterly cold. Epic snowstorms. It’s all here. But the job must go on no mater what.
RAY: I bet those soldiers stationed here had a lot of time to watch the skies as well.
JEFF: They did. They saw comets, meteorites, airplanes, and anything else that flew over this remote part of the United States.
RAY: And not everything that flew over could be identified… which is why we’re here.
JEFF: Exactly. So let’s head back to September of 1961, and find out what happened.
RAY: It’s Tuesday, September 19th, 1961, here at the North Concord Air Force Station atop East Mountain in Vermont. John F. Kennedy is in the White House. The song “Take Good Care of My Baby” by Bobby Vee is Number One on the record charts. The weather today has been pleasant. Temps today reached a high of 73 degrees, no rain at all, barely any wind, and visibility is almost 8 miles.
RAY: As night falls, the temperatures drop, which is pretty typical for this time of year. Afterall, the first day of Autumn is just a couple of days away.
JEFF: Life here at the radar station is as lively as they can make it. In addition to these hug radar silos, there are living quarters a short ways down the mountain. The administration site has a mess hall, a store, a barber shop, a theater, AND….
JEFF: Even a bowling alley!
RAY: These guys have to keep themselves occupied when they’re living and working up here. Like we said, the only job is to make sure the facility is well-maintained so a couple of people can watch the radar screen all day and night.
JEFF: It’s still early evening when suddenly… something is spotted…
RAY: Oh man… is it nukes from the Soviet Union?!
JEFF: I don’t think so. Look. It’s just one dot on the radar. I would imagine we’d be more concerned about many dots coming in from the north or the east. Plus look at that…
RAY: Oh yeah. This dot doesn’t seem to be moving much at all. It’s just sitting there.
JEFF: Right. A missile wouldn’t do that.
RAY: Could it be some kind of glitch?
JEFF: Maybe?
JEFF: Out of an abundance of caution, the soldiers on duty alert the chain of command.
RAY: And now some of the men on duty are heading outside with binoculars.
JEFF: Do you see anything?
RAY: I see some strange lights over that way to our southeast. But maybe it could be a plane?
JEFF: Yeah, I see it too. It’s pretty far away.
RAY: But if it was a jet or some other kind of plane, you’d expect to see it continue moving on a straight path. Those lights look like they’re just sitting there.
JEFF: Maybe it’s our angle? I mean if it was heading for us or directly away from us it could appear stationary.
RAY: That’s true.
JEFF: 18 minutes. 18 minutes go by before these mysterious lights simply vanish.
[BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, of radar same as before]
JEFF: Unsure of what else to do… the soldiers on duty go back to their radar screens and watch for missiles. The event is logged, and life at this remote Vermont base goes on.
RAY: What else can you do, right?
JEFF: Right. But this isn’t the end of the UFO story. In fact… it’s just getting warmed up just across the border in New Hampshire. And that brings us back to today.
RAY: Okay… wait a minute… something is clicking now. New England’s most famous UFO case? Was this the precursor to Betty and Barney Hill’s UFO abduction?
JEFF: Yes it was! Shortly after this sighting near East Mountain, Vermont, around 10:30 at night, and just about 20 miles away to the southeast in Lancaster, New Hampshire, Betty and Barney Hill first spotted a strange craft in the sky while driving home to Portsmouth. In the car with them, is their dog, Delsey.
RAY: We covered this story way back in Episode 5 of our podcast. You can go back and listen to the whole episode in our archives if you like, but we thought it would be good to share a clip of their sighting. So without further ado, we’ll pick it up from Betty and Barney Hill’s experience.
JEFF: On September 19th, they were heading back home from a vacation to Niagara Falls and Montreal. Around 10:30 PM, Betty sees this strange light in the sky and asks her husband to stop the car so they can get a better look, and also let their dog out of the car for a minute to walk.
RAY: Good dog, Delsey!
JEFF: Betty pulls out a pair of binoculars and observes what she described as an odd-shaped craft with flashing multi-colored lights. Barney also took a look but he figured they were seeing a jet heading toward Montreal. But then the lights turned and started descending toward them. That’s when he changed his mind.
RAY: So the Hills jump back into their car and head toward Franconia Notch, which is a pretty narrow road in the White Mountains. The Hills say they watched this craft descend lower and lower until it passed over a restaurant and signal tower on top of Cannon Mountain until it came out near the Old Man of the Mountain cliff face. Betty estimated that the rotating craft was bigger than the cliff profile, which was about 40 feet.
JEFF: About a mile south of Indian Head, the Hills say this craft quickly descends toward their car, forcing Barney to lock up the brakes, and stop in the middle of the highway. There’s no other cars around. And this craft is now less than 100 feet above their automobile. Barney has a pistol in his pocket, so he steps out of his car. He uses the binoculars to look up and there he says he spots several humanoid-looking figures gazing at him from the craft’s windows. All of the figures but one steps away, but one figure keeps looking right at Barney. Mr. Hill claimed the creature, or whatever it was, was telepathically telling him to stay where he was and to keep observing.
RAY: The craft drops even lower. Maybe 50 feet from the ground and less than a football field away from them. Barney runs back to his car and screams for his wife in a panic. “They’re going to capture us!” At this point the Hills reported hearing a buzzing sound followed by beeps, the car vibrates and they feel a tingling sensation in their bodies. And then…
JEFF: And then…
RAY: And then… the Hills hear those beeps and buzzing sounds again and realize they’re about 35 miles south of where they thought they were. They drive up to a road block, stop the car, and see a fiery ball of light in road. Both of their wristwatches have stopped working.
JEFF: The Hills arrived home in Portsmouth around dawn. They claim they were confused, Barney felt he needed to shower to remove any possible contamination. Betty put the dress and shoes she was wearing into her closet and noticed tears in the fabric, but she didn’t remember tearing her dress. She also saw some kind of pink powder on it. The trunk of their car had these concentric circles imprinted on it that wasn’t there before.
RAY: So they drew and wrote down what they remembered seeing, but they found their memories were fragmented. On September 21st, they phoned Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth to report what they had encountered. On September 22nd, Major Paul W. Henderson phoned back to ask for more details. In his official report, he determined the Hills had misidentified the planet Jupiter….
JEFF: Right. I can’t tell you how many times the planet Jupiter has chased my car down a desolate road and torn my clothes while setting fire to the road. I am curious, though, about their dog, Delsey, who was in the car the whole time.
RAY: No one interviewed the dog…
JEFF: In the coming days Betty claimed to have this reoccurring dream where she and Barney encountered a road block, their car was surrounded by men, and they were led up a ramp into a disc-shaped metallic craft. Once inside, she and Barney were separated in different rooms and examined. She remembers sitting down, a bright light, and then a physical examination of her skin, hands, feet, and body. Betty wrote all of the details of this dream down, and would later reveal it to people interested in UFOs including U.S. Air Force Captain Ben H. Swett. Swett also had an interest in hypnosis and he referred the Hills to Benjamin Simon in Boston who conducted several hypnotic regressions with Betty and Barney. It’s from those regressions that we get most of the details of their account.
RAY: This story really blew up in 1966 when author John G. Fuller wrote the book The Interrupted Journey, that propelled this experience from a regional story to an international one that people still talk about today.
JEFF: There’s a blast from our past.
RAY: And today there’s an official state marker near Indian Head Resort in Lincoln, New Hampshire, that marks the Hill’s UFO incident.
JEFF: But the remains of this radar base on East Mountain in Vermont are still here rusting away.
RAY: In 1962, North Concord Air Force Station changed its name to Lyndonville Air Force Station, and then closed for good in 1963. So it was only in operation for about 8 years.
JEFF: Once the United States and the Soviet Union started launching spy satellites, bases like these became obsolete. Also, it’s worth noting that the Cuban Missile Crisis was October 16-29, 1962. Just a year after this UFO incident. I’m sure that was a tense time up here.
RAY: Today the rusted ruins of this radar installation sit on private land on top of East Mountain. It’s a Cold War-era ghost, rusted and dangerous. But this ghost of a base reminds us that with all the turmoil in the world today, it still feels like we’re on the brink of destruction. Just a couple of maniacs with their fingers on the launch button of a fleet of nuclear weapons, and our cities will look as post-apocalyptic as the remains of this old Air Force base.
JEFF: Maybe our only hope is for some kind of intergalactic intervention from some advanced race of beings who fly here aboard ships to remind us that we’re just space dust floating on a rock hurling through space.
RAY: Maybe to the aliens we’re space dust. But you mean the world to us!
JEFF: You do. And that brings us to After the Legend where we take a deeper dive into this week’s story and sometimes fly off course.
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Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.

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