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Photographing the Tiny Upstate New York Town Obsessed with UFOs

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55 Main St: professional building with UFO statue on the porch. (All Photos: Kate Truisi

“Have you ever seen a UFO in the Pine Bush area?”

The question is printed in large type, on paper that has been stuck on the walls of the Pine Bush barbershop. In red pencil, the word “you” has been underlined. It forms part of the UFO ephemera collected by Butch, the barber and local UFO historian. Although Pine Bush is a small hamlet in upstate New York with a population of 1,780, it is big in the world of ufology. Pine Bush is, in fact, the UFO Capital of New York .

Pine Bush appears to have embraced this very distinct moniker. The local diner is called ‘Cups and Saucers’. There is an annual UFO Parade. Depictions of aliens peek from doorways, and are painted on windows. Photographer Kate Truisi was living in the Hudson Valley when she first heard about Pine Bush. Intrigued, spent time photographing Pine Bush and Butch’s collection of alien ephemera. We chatted to Truisi about her experiences, and the appeal of believing that something is out there. 

How did you hear about Pine Bush, the “UFO Capital of New York”?

I was living in the Hudson Valley at the time in a town about 45 minutes away from Pine Bush.  I had heard of sightings here and there from various people including friends that had lived in the area their whole lives.  Having always been interested in the paranormal I was instantly intrigued.  

Sign for Pine Bush diner, Cups & Saucers. 

A storefront on main street in Pine Bush, NY.  

What are the origins of Pine Bush’s UFO history?

The area has been host to activity since as early as the 1950s but not until the 1980s did it start gaining attention as a hot spot.  Between 1983 and 1987 about 2,000 sightings were reported and around this time a hotline was created for the public to call in sightings from all over the Hudson Valley.  The phenomenon was documented in 1991 with Ellen Crystall's book Silent Invasion: The Shocking Discoveries of a UFO Researcher.  Her research and investigation put Pine Bush on the map as it became an attraction for enthusiasts hoping to get a glimpse of the mysterious occurrences.  Today, the activity has died down but not gone away.  Residents of the area still claim seeing strange things in the sky. 

Ephemera on the walls of Butch's barber shop. 

Why did you choose to focus on the Pine Bush barber?

The first time I visited Pine Bush I had breakfast at the town diner Cups and Saucers.  Based on its name I figured it was a good place to start if I wanted to talk to the locals about the UFO stories I had been hearing.  I didn’t know what would come out of it but everyone I talked to seemed to mention Butch the barber. 

Later on, I found his barbershop and was amazed at what I saw.  The walls were covered with an array of news clippings, photographs, drawings and signs; all UFO themed.  

Butch, the Pine Bush barber, in his shop. 

Butch showing his UFO-related bulletin board.

What kinds of UFO stories did he share, and what was your favorite?

Butch has a lot of stories.  He is like an archivist/historian/spokesperson of the Pine Bush phenomenon.   He told me one story about a sighting that a friend of his had at a field just outside of town.  His friend saw a figure much taller than any of the brush in the already overgrown stretch of land.  This would put the figure at 9-10 feet tall.  It was nighttime and its silhouette stood out in the field.  After a few seconds it disappeared into the trees.  

Newspaper clippings and photos on Butch's wall.

Pine Bush seems to have a “UFO culture” – did you get the sense that locals believe in the sightings, or is there a dose of skepticism? 

I think there is a mix of both.  There are definitely those that do believe something is out there and actively search to experience it.  Then there are those that have never seen anything but don’t discount what they hear.  Either way I think most of Pine Bush has embraced the uniqueness of it; after all they do have a UFO parade every spring. 

Butch holding a drawing describing a UFO sighting.

Alien painted in the window of a store in town.

Did you hear any first-hand stories of the paranormal or of abductions?

I heard many different descriptions of odd lights and shapes in the sky but no one in Pine Bush told me about abductions.  I would love to talk to them though!

Did you do any skywatching yourself?

I would occasionally drive up in the mountains at night with friends to look at the stars or watch a meteor shower.  I’ve gone to spots in Pine Bush where there are reports of a lot of activity but only during the day- I’m too spooked to go at night.  

The field outside of town where many sightings take place in the sky and on land.