I was fifteen the day the lights went out. I remember it well.
November 9, 1965, 5:28 pm. The whole North East, went black for 13 hours. The UFO craze accelerated.
For some unexplained reason, the power lines running from the colossal Sir Adam Beck Generating Station in Niagara Falls were disrupted by a massive unexpected power surge which flipped a circuit relay switch much like a circuit breaker in your home and shut the line down. The power that was being generated was sent to the other lines via the electrical power grid, which couldn't handle the surge and also shut down, creating a domino effect. As the surge of power was being diverted, one after the other circuits that couldn't handle the surge started shutting down. This all took place within three seconds. The whole Canadian-American northeastern power grid was out. Our world became black, instantaneously. Thirty million people spread out over 80,000 miles were left in the dark.
If something like that happened today, we'd all shrug our shoulders and carry-on with our daily lives as best as possible, but back then it was something odd and scary for a lot of people. It had never happened before. UFO reports and sightings began to circulate by the thousands.
At 4:30 pm, about 45 minutes before the black out, the first report came in of an unidentified flying object being chased by two jets, over Tidioute, Pennsylvania by a pilot (Jerry Whitaker) and a passenger (George Croninger).
At 5:22 pm, a car with six passengers driving from Syracuse airport to Rochester observed strange lights in the sky. At the same time, Pilot Robert C. Walsh was able to land his plane safely in Syracuse with no runway lights, once on the ground and talking to the other airport employees they witnessed a fire-ball, about 50 ft. in diameter rise up from the ground in the far distance, then vanish.
During the black-out many people in New York City, saw a UFO floating over the city which gave off a strange glow.
Again in Syracuse, near Hancock Airport. Shortly after Walsh's sighting another sighting occurred. A flight instructor (Weldon Ross) and his student (James Brookings) upon landing their craft noticed a fire on the ground, until it took off. It turned out to be a fire ball, believed to be about 100 ft. in diameter. It hovered over the nearby Clay Power Sub-station before disappearing.
What's strange about this story is that the authorities first claimed the black-out occurred at the American Clay Power Sub-station which transfers electrical power from Niagara Falls to New York City before they started to blame the Canadian Generating Station, Sir Adam Beck. Conspiracy theorists are still having a hey-day with this one. At the time, most major newspapers were talking about it.
On November 15, officials from the Federal Power Commission announced they had solved the mystery. A broken relay switch in the Canadian Generating Station. We Canadians accepted the blame.
With that, the UFO theory fizzled out and all discussion of a possible UFO involvement were squashed.
Why was attention refocused from the Clay sub-station to Sir Adam Beck? What actually were the UFO sightings and why was all talk about them stopped? A random fluctuation of power doesn't explain what caused the power surge in the first place. It's still a mystery.
Does Occam's Razor come into play here? That no more assumptions be made than are necessary to solve the problem, that the simplest explanation is likely to be the right one. Do we really need to blame aliens for a simple power surge caused by a faulty circuit breaker?
Maybe not, but we do need better explanations, after all who wants to be left in the dark?
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