Small towns, and their undulating tributaries of generational convention, respond to shock much in the same way the human body does. Blood vessels constrict in order to preserve the functioning of the body’s most vital organs. Skin becomes cold and systems that once functioned normally become confused and the body loses its sense of self. In the rural corners of the world, the soul of familial populations relies on that same sense of congenital function. What is known is what is told and what is told is passed down through generations until it crystallizes. What is unknown is discarded, an outsider's epidemic. Small town culture can display similar habits to antibodies, eliminating new hosts before they can become part of the bloodstream. That is, until they are confronted by a similar systematic shock. An event that pounds at the door of America’s pastoral conventions. Like a late-night intruder, it makes its unwanted entry and forces the unwitting hosts to brave what had previously only existed beyond the fringes of their familiar tree lines.
Today, the Town of Great Barrington, located within the southwestern corner of Massachusetts, bordering New York and Connecticut, has become a trendy, quaint brick town with an artful undercurrent. It rests just below the dense, rolling woods of the Mount Washington State Forest and sits among the many small villages and townships that dot the Berkshires—a coveted vacation destination known for its outdoor activities, fall foliage, farm-to-table food culture, and thriving arts institutions. In 2012, Smithsonian Magazine even named it the “#1 Best Small Town in America.” Through the heart of Great Barrington runs the preeminent connection to its past, its pulsing pulmonary valve that links the former to present. The lazy Housatonic River zigzagges in tandem with Route 7, threading the undisturbed Village of Sheffield with Barrington. A river that flows silently, within the hollows and townships hemmed within the Berkshire Mountain range.
Before the would-be leaf peepers arrived, it was only the occasional train that turned the heads of children and the well rooted alike. Today it is they who resentfully chart the narrowing gap between New Yorkers, and their own. A re-forming and intrusion that once infringed on their summer of love,and still echoes today. It was on the evening of September 1, 1969, that Sheffield and Barrington would become bound by much more than the Housatonic. Police calls surged on that Indian summer evening, and the only radio station in town suddenly found itself inundated with phoned-in reports about a strange, disc-shape object seen in the skies performing bizarre maneuvers somewhere over Sheffield’s Old Covered Bridge. This unearthly event, witnessed by hundreds of residents, and which occurred in an area where sightings have been reported for decades, is now officially inducted into the annals of Massachusetts state history. The incident was covered in mainstream outlets including on the cover of the Boston Globe, ABC News NY, Fox Primetime and the Washington Post. The Great Barrington Historical Society’s January 2015 decision to archive the UFO incident as a “true and significant” event was a first for America. A 5,000 lb. “UFO monument” was erected on the banks of the Housatonic River, and it was done so in a very earthly commemoration on August 26th, 2015, and it was entirely thanks to locals. Etched into that monument, a descriptive plaque that commemorated that evening in 1969 and not far away, a 55-year-old man named Thom Reed stood on the verge of tears as he addressed an ample crowd. He dedicated that day to his family—who was witness to activity all those years ago—but especially to his late father and local politician, Dr. Howard Reed, who died under mysterious circumstances on Oct 2nd, 2006. Howard had the incident cited at the United Nations in support of GA 33/426 also on October 2nd. The crowd comprised both Sheffield and Great Barrington locals, tourists, local news affiliates, and eyewitnesses to that renowned sighting, including natives Gina Paul, and Ed Galata, who, among dozens of others, gave testimony to the Great Barrington Historical Society about what they saw that Labor Day evening in 1969. Folks who, if only for a moment, felt some vindication after decades of avoiding ridicule. However, perhaps none felt quite as vindicated as the Reed family, who found themselves at the center of that fateful night.
Thom, who was only nine years old at the time, his mother Nancy, his younger brother Matthew, and his grandmother Marian, all had front row seats to something shockingly awe-inspiring as they were driving home in their Station Wagon through the Old Covered Bridge. The wooden planks rumbled under the tires as they emerged on the other end, when suddenly a round self-contained white light ascended from the banks of the river darkness. The luminous sphere was one of three objects that were accompanied by an eerie, vacuous silence that fell over the woods as it moved in the direction of their car. As Thom recalls, “it was as if I had suddenly entered a vacuum of silence, as though I was trapped underwater.” Following the encounter, Nancy and Marian were found in opposite positions in the car, and were jarred to find that almost three hours had passed. The entire family would later reveal insightful details of that night to a crowded diner in 1969. It was an event and testimony that would consume and forever alter the fabric of the Berkshires forever. An entire county now divided by those who were witnesses, and those hell-bent on casting-out and burying the event and the Reed's forever. The atmosphere of the Berkshires, as it was in the 1960s, was already politically charged. It wasn’t due to what had been ravaging the rest of American culture like the Civil Rights Movement or Vietnam, but rather it was attributed to an underbelly of corruption, larceny and horse race fixing. Above all, the US’s insatiable need to eclipse the Soviets in space travel found several thorny roots in the Berkshires. After Sprague Electric purchased a plant on Beaver Street in North Adams, MA, in 1930, its conducive influence over the local economy along with its involvement with the NASA Space Program helped thrust the unusual inertia that had begun to consume local life. Just six weeks before the 1969 incident, Sprague announced they would be instrumental in the design of the famous Good Will Message to be placed on the moon by Apollo astronauts. The Great Barrington Fair was the last stop in the now nostalgic Massachusetts Fair Circuit, which prided itself on its small-town horse-racing culture, attracting families, rubes, and gamblers from all over the country. The Village Green Diner, which Nancy Reed owned and operated in the heart of Sheffield quickly became an unofficial public forum for the town to air both their fascinations and grievances about the strange goings-on. Feeling ostracized in a small town can be debilitating, especially if Howard Reed was considering a bright career in politics, the Reeds eventually moved away after tensions reached their height in the wake of the 1969 event.
The same tension still carries on to this day, like a burning fire that can't be put out, illustrated by the disappointing fact that within a few weeks of the commemoration, the UFO Monument fell prey to petty vandalism, being damaged and defaced with graffiti, including a big ‘X’ spray-painted across its plaque. Beyond their disheartening nature, such actions indicate a clear trepidation, and a festering denial of empirical evidence that something appeared over the Berkshire skies that night, and that this historic recognition is just the tip of a very preternatural iceberg. Confrontations with the unknow as those who have studied such cases can attest, are both something very real and cannot be caught in the net of rationality. The Reed family, as you’ll come to know them, were an upstanding family with plenty to lose from associating with such subject matter. In addition to Howard’s career in politics, as well as education, the family was very involved in the religious community and had no family members with interest in said subject matter. By the late 1960s, not even many UFO researchers were aware of things like inexplicable time losses being connected to these kinds of encounters. The Housatonic River, with its picturesque scenery, quite literally inspired the tranquil Americana visions of Norman Rockwell. The town and park now welcome foot traffic, the visiting tourists for the Reed nostalgic incident is now a staple in the Berkshires time capsule into a formidable and clandestine past. But it wasn’t always this way, after all, the human body can act unpredictably when faced with systemic shock.
Sample Chapter: Muzzled Silence
With the family hungry, coupled with a long day and the boys’ amusing backseat banter, the Meadows seemed to be the perfect place to unwind for their beleaguered, yet perfectly content Mother. Soon, their station wagon had the familiar restaurant in its sights. The optimistic twenty-nine-year-old slowed and veered onto the stony dirt parking lot. Redwood siding, shaded wood picnic benches and the prospect of grilled burgers, were not just welcoming, but an easy way to top off an extended summer holiday weekend. It was also conveniently on-route to their family diner where she still needed to open the safe, count the day’s earnings and make the nightly deposit. The two youngsters changed outfits, tossing their riding boots in the rear of the wagon. The local radio station was now off air, but the car remained alive in joyful play and laughter. The vehicle, now circling the vacant parking lot, rolled to a stop facing the restaurant. The open windows hailed dinner was near, and the bold aroma of grilled burgers and seasoned fries filled the air as a subtle symphony of crickets battled for the evening’s attention. The boys, sporting their fresh levies and black converse All-Stars, opened their doors in symphonic unison and dashed to the weather-worn picnic tables. Nancy, in lively fashion, drew open the stiff spring hinged screen door to place her order. But the estranged and expressionless welcome from within was a stark reminder of the callous tables of four who so often launched havoc in her Jukebox inspired diner. Nancy was a strong woman and she had to be, to endure the blank stares and the unspoken affliction that had burrowed its way into the fabric of this Norman Rockwell Community. After a brief attempt at small talk, her hopes of resolve were met with a complimentary side, and muzzled silence.
Sample Chapter : Impending Selection
It was about 7 pm, and there was still a lot to do before we’d feel the comfort of our beds. We needed to get to the diner and relieve our cook who was working late, and get the place ready for the following day. So, running late we tossed our leftovers into the outdoor trash can and piled into the car. As we pulled out, we noticed aloud how barren town felt, not another car on the road. Nor had there been a car at the Meadows restaurant, it was as if we were briefly living out the last days of our holiday weekend in a void. The evening was odd, even for a smaller township. We soon arrived and mom pulled into the narrow parking spot near the service entrance. She unlocked the door and turned on the overheads. We walked past the banana-seat bikes leaning against the walls and grandma began preparing the diner for the next day’s breakfast rush. Mom called me to the front register, and set change on the counter for the jukebox. I entered the corresponding numbers for the ‘45, Shakin' All Over— Mom liked it, then sat back at the counter and enjoyed a thick coffee shake with Matt. I reflected, as I was known to do. I talked about my near fall, my brother’s height marks on the rear door frame, and the countless songs we played on the Jukebox. I talked about the places and things which held meaning and how Mom tempered the starkness of the table of four. How autumn framed the Berkshires in an awakening, of reds, orange and yellow, but in the heart of winter, it slept.
I once showed Matt how to place a penny on the railroad tracks, and then watched how happy it made him to give the flattened penny to mom. I thought of how I rode Thunder deep in the woods, listening to the splashes and running water, the chirping of birds, and the excited barks of two dogs meeting for the first time. Recalling the rustling winds along those narrow paths, known to host bears, wild cats, and wolves. I remembered the snapping of nearby branches and having to remain watchful for its origin. And, my first kiss on the back of a fire truck, with the girl who lived upstairs over our diner.
The ‘45s were the reason Mom’s restarant was known as the jukebox-inspired diner. When the needle dropped that evening the place was again alive, with grandma attending to the needed cleaning, and mom filling out her bank deposit ticket. The tables were wiped down, and the sound of coins tumbling into the jukebox announced the impending selection. Mom took pride in everything she did, practiced quality over quantity, and ran her diner much the same. She would say the diner was a direct reflection of her, and brought with it an air of belonging to a community she loved. It was nights like this when she was at her best, tending to the diner with family over a milkshake and a song. She found solitude in her work and would often be seen sitting alone in the front window with a coffee. Her open heart and quiet commitment to each day warranted the diner’s identity—The Judgment free Diner.
Sample Chapter: He Could Choke
Dark now, mom turned off the final light as the jukebox lazily played its final song of the night. We walked out the back door and piled into the car Grandma in tow. We turned right on to the bumpy dirt road, heading towards the Old Covered Bridge. The oldest in the country and distinguished for its weather-beaten planks and wide-open gaps. A victim of abandonment, decay and vandalism. Ba-blump, ba-blump, ba-blump, blump, ba-blump was the familiar sound while driving through the lattice bridge. As the station wagon softly plodded along, the bridge broke the evening’s silence, moaning under the weight of each tire. As the typical shuffle of family banter carried on, a light, just beyond the fringe of attention, began to breach the narrow hollows of the bridge’s old boards — approaching the exit. My grandmother turned around from the passenger seat to remind me not to give my brother candy, “Don’t give Mathew a Fireball. He could choke,” she said while staring out the rear window.
Sealed Governors Citation
FOX Prime Time, Thom Reed UFO incident makes U.S. history
Thomas E. Reed is the original founder of the international model and artist group, Miami Models (South Beach FL), founded in 1994. His clients included Polo Black Label, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike and Ralph Lauren. He also represented the Miami Dolphin Cheerleaders. Until the age of two,Thom lived in Cherry Hills, Colorado, at the home of William Roosevelt, the grandson of President Roosevelt. His grandmother was the Governess for the household. Thom's family moved to New England in 1963. His Father, Dr. Howard Reed, was an attorney and town selectmen. His mother, Nancy, was a radio personality for WKZE 98.1 FM and owned a local diner, The Village Green, in Sheffield, MA. Thom attended Searle's Middle School and Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington, MA. where he was a member of the wresting team and the photography club. Thom's career began in Hartford, CT. where he worked as stage manager and photographer for North East Concerts and shot fashion runway for "Sage-Allen & Co". Thom's break came in the 1980's when he accepted the position of stage manager/photographer for Club Getaway (Club Med) where he met Dannell Gallo, an editor for Penthouse. In 1986, Gallo invited Reed to Omni-Penthouse in New York City. Gallo befriended Reed, coaching him on slide film, studio light-boxes and the inner workings of the industry. He subsequently moved to Boynton Beach, FL. and found opportunities in Miami Beach shooting fashion models and composite cards for renowned agencies, Michelle Pommier, Wilhelmina, The Greene Agency, Boca Talent, World of Kids and Click. In 1994, Miami Models was born, and by 1999, the Model Management Group was renowned for European print fashion and runway work. Reed has been the subject of numerous documentaries and feature films, with numerous guest appearances as himself. Reed was also an associate producer for the syndicated television series, "Today's Health", with Tennis Pro Chris Evert. If