"Something very strange has been going on along the Chestnut Ridge for many, many years," says Stan Gordon, UFO investigator, at the beginning of Invasion on Chestnut Ridge, the fifth documentary from Small Town Monsters. In the film, director Seth Breedlove uses firsthand accounts to explore the history of alien encounters, Bigfoot sightings and other paranormal activity in the Laurel Highlands.
If you're unfamiliar with UFO lore, the film begins by recapping the most famous mysterious event to purportedly happen in the Laurel Highlands, the Kecksburg UFO incident. A rural town an hour outside of Pittsburgh, Kecksburg was a hotbed of activity during and after Dec. 9, 1965, when witnesses say a fireball streaked through the sky and an object crashed in the nearby woods. A large military presence soon followed and conspiracy theories abound to this day as to what really happened. The film does a great job of focusing on reporting from local newspapers, eyewitness testimony and the research Gordon has done on the case (the same case that made him a household name in the UFO community).
But where Invasion on Chestnut Ridge really succeeds is when it delves even deeper into Laurel Highlands lore, showing that our area is no stranger to unexplained events. All of the tales are unique, from Bigfoot and government agents in Superior to ghouls haunting Sleepy Hollow on Route 30. But the story that made my arm hairs stand on end is titled Fayette County Occurrence, where a farmer and two boys encounter a ball of light and two unidentifiable humanoid creatures. An audio-only interview, Invasion on Chestnut Ridge fills the visual gap with some truly menacing CGI that made this segment my favorite.
There's also something to be said for making the people of the Laurel Highlands the forefront of the film. Being able to see the emotion on their faces such as fear as they remember a key detail made each interview subject candid and memorable. It was also fascinating to see how these subjects dealt with these paranormal encounters later in life, and responses ranged from loved ones telling them to forget the event ever occurred to acceptance that this event happened whether or not anyone believed them.
Today, the Laurel Highlands celebrates its paranormal past with a variety of events. The town of Kecksburg hosts a UFO Festival every year with guest speakers, bed races and plenty of costumes. Benner's Meadow Run Camping & Campgrounds goes out looking for creatures with their annual Pennsylania Bigfoot Camping Adventure. Plus, if you're into the spookier side of things, there's more ghost tours and haunted houses popping up every year in our area.
I want to tell you more about the dogmen and thunderbirds also sighted in the Laurel Highlands, but you're just going to have to check the film out to learn the rest of the lore for yourself. Invasion on Chestnut Ridge is available for purchase on Oct. 20 from their online store. Until then, as my favorite paranormal investigator, Fox Mulder would say, "the truth is out there."