This is how the story goes: It’s 1966, and 6-year-old Thomas Reed is in his bedroom on his family’s horse farm in the Berkshires when the encounters begin.
Strange lights. Strange figures in the hallway. Suddenly, he’s in the woods near his home looking at a UFO. Then he and his younger brother, Matthew, are inside the craft. He’s shown a projection of a willow tree.
The following year, there is another incident at their home on Boardman Street in Sheffield. More strange lights. The sound of doors slamming. Then the boys are back inside the vessel. The next thing Thomas knows, he’s in his driveway being scooped up by his mother, who has been searching frantically for the boys on horseback.
Two years later, the family is driving on Route 7 when they see strange lights in the sky. Their car stalls, and then Thomas and his brother and mother and grandmother find themselves in a giant room. He is brought to meet two strange, ant-like figures, then placed in some sort of cage. Next thing, he’s back near the car.
Reed has told these stories many times, and it has not always gone well. But recently, his tale had found recognition in an unlikely place. The Great Barrington Historical Society & Museum has formally inducted the UFO story.
What does that mean? “It means that we believe it is true,” said Debbie Oppermann, the director of the society.
“I know we’re going to get a lot of backlash. We’re going to get hammered,” she said. “But we have given it an awful lot of thought, and, based on the evidence we’ve been given, we believe this is a significant and true event.”
The historical society believes it is the first time a “mainstream” historical society or museum in the United States has declared a UFO encounter to be historical fact. But the decision was far from unanimous; of the nine members of the historical society’s board, three were “strongly opposed” to the decision, Oppermann said, but “it passed with consensus.”
The Reed case already has its own display in the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, N.M.; now, it’s about to get one in Great Barrington, about 2 miles from where the alleged encounters took place.
What most interests the historical society is the 1969 encounter, because dozens of people in the area reported seeing an unidentified flying object around that time, typically described as a disk-shaped craft performing acrobatic maneuvers in the sky. Many of those eyewitnesses called the local radio station, WSBS, which covered the sightings. (The radio station has provided documentation to the historical society, which interviewed one of those eyewitnesses. They have also examined a polygraph test taken by Thomas Reed.)
The Reed abductions are well known in the world of UFO enthusiasts. Thomas Reed this month was a featured speaker at the International UFO Congress in Arizona, the world’s largest UFO convention. And the story has been the subject of television shows and radio programs through the years. But Reed, who now lives in Tennessee, said the recognition from the museum is historic.
Billy Baker GLOBE STAFF