The Split Rock Incident
By Berthold Eric Schwarz, M.D.
Jerry H. Simons, a twenty-two-year-old forester of Newfoundland, New Jersey, revealed that on Saturday night, October 15, 1966, between 4.30 and 5.00 a.m., while camping and fishing at Split Rock Reservoir, in northern New Jersey, he had his first and only experience with a possible UFO. In an account, written the day after the experience, he stated: “I was traveling north on the road and noticed a very outstanding glow in the rear-view mirror. I thought at first that my brake light was stuck because it was a very dull glow at the time I first noticed it. I tried putting my foot under the brake pedal and pulling it up. It was at this point that I became aware of the orange-red glow becoming brighter. I did not know what to think. In fact, I don’t think it entered my thoughts [that it was] anything really out of the ordinary.”
“I stopped the car and lowered my window. I stuck my head out to get a clear view of the rear of my car. What I saw took me completely unawares and scared the living hell out of me. I’ve never been so startled in my life. It was something I could not understand. At first glance it seems to be nothing but a huge glowing light, but then I noticed a very distinct outline of what appeared to be some sort of a solid body.”
“I was in doubt of my sanity for a few seconds. I couldn’t accept what my eyes were seeing, but it only too a few seconds for all doubt to leave my mind and for me to understand that what I was seeing was very real. It was then that I decided to get out on the main road as fast as I could get my car over the cow path. The object was directly in back and above me and followed my car along the road. Then my car began to act abnormally. All at once the power started dying out. Then the worst thing that could have happened in my frame of mind happened. My headlights, dashlights and engine quit. I don’t believe I have ever been so frustrated in all my life. I noticed that this object was directly over the top of my car. Then it fell back and I could go on. Three times this happened, and three times my car refused to give any electrical response until this object either moved to the rear or to one side of the car. When it was right over the top of the car, all I could do was to lock my doors and hope. I can not, will not, try to explain what or why. I was still aware it was with me because of the glow in the trees and on the ground to the right and left of the car. The only time the glow was very distinctive in front of the car was when everything went dead and then it was all around me.”
“When I got t the Charlotttesburg Road, I took a split-second look, glancing up and behind me to see if it was still with me. Even though the glow was still to be seen on either side of the car, I had to be sure that the glow on the ground was not my imagination; and it wasn’t. The last good look I got of it was just before reaching the dam, when it was so bright in my mirror. Now I could not see anything in the sky. I did not waste any time looking for it because I was already running toward the house.”
Simons, who was working for a meteorologist at the Weather Bureau, Newark Airport, at the time of his experience at Split Rock Reservoir, drove to the home of Thomas P. Byrnes, Superintendent of the Newark Water Shed, Newfoundland, New Jersey. Upon interviewing Mr. Byrnes, who has been well known to the writer for several years, I found that he fully confirmed the forester’s experience. Mr. Byrnes recalled how he contacted the West Milford, New Jersey, police, and together with Simons they all drove to the site of the UFO experience. Nothing out of the ordinary was observed. Byrnes said, “He [Simons] woke my wife and was terribly excited, almost white.” Further questioning of several of the forester’s friends, fellow employees, and local police officers also confirmed Simon’s experience and reputation for truthfulness.
The West Milford Township Police report by Officers A. Hooper and V. Meyer at 5.54 a.m., October 15, 1966, further confirmed Simon’s account in all details.
In his original notes, Simons had sketched the alleged UFO as being an estimated 25 X 30 ft., and at tree height. The object made no noise, and there was no odor or other sensation. He estimated that the auto motor was unresponsive for less than a minute, and then when the lights came back on he started the engine again. Although in all the excitement the total time of exposure was not noted, a conservative estimate, based on driving this rocky wood road during optimal daylight conditions, would be at least ten to fifteen minutes.
Simons parked his car at the Reservoir Office and went inside. But when he came out again, he and the man on duty, Martin Shauger, were startled to find that the car had apparently started spontaneously even though in the off position. He switched the key back and forth between off and on, and the motor stopped. He later examined the motor and electrical system and found no explanation. A few weeks afterward, while Simons was driving his car, the motor exploded and was never right afterward. Simons, who had been a champion stock car racer and former employee of General Motors, was mystified.
A study of the forester’s past life, gleaned in several interviews lasting many hours, led me to believe that he had never had any previous experience like this. He had never had any emotional illness. Although he tried to enlist in the U.S. Navy, he was not accepted because of a history of duodenal ulcer. He had formerly been an Eagle Scout (Troop 8, Kingsport, Tennessee). He was an experienced outdoorsman who had camped in many of the states of the United States for some years. He was a high school graduate and had had two additional years of industrial arts. Simons did not use drugs and although he had used beer in the past, he had not taken any at the time of his experience.
Review of the Newark Evening News files revealed three different sightings of UFOs in the vicinity of Split Rock Reservoir on October 15, 1966. The West Milford Police files for October 14, 15, and 16, 1966, yielded no UFO reports other than the Simons experience. An interview with the meteorologist who was formerly Simons’ employer revealed that Simons mentioned the UFO experience shortly after it happened, and that although he was in good health at the time of the experience, he became ill shortly afterward.
Three months after the UFO incident (January 17, 1967), Simons was admitted to Montclair Community Hospital for a “fascinating” illness of three months’ duration, characterized by fatigue, anorexia, generalized soreness, and weakness of the muscles, drowsiness, chills for three or four days, and a weight loss of thirty-five pounds. The symptoms had developed shortly after the UFO experience, and at that time the acute phase had lasted three to four days. A physician diagnosed the illness as “flu.” However, the acute symptoms recurred every month (three attacks) until he was hospitalized, as noted above.
Although Simons told a second physician about his UFO experience, his statement was not recorded in the hospital charts. Instead, his illness was connected to an experience which occurred a month before the UFO episode and lasted an estimated several hours over a period of one week. This experience involved cleaning a room that had been occupied by cats. At the time, five other people, in addition to Simons, were bitten, were scratched, and had contact with cat feces. DDT was sprayed in an enclosed area. Questioning of the other people who were exposed revealed that no one, including Simons, developed any difficulty. It can be supposed that Simons was in excellent health because of his roughing it while camping out and fishing during the night and early morning of October 15, 1966 – the time of his UFO experience. Furthermore, a pre-employment physical examination on September 19, 1966 (after exposure to cats and before the UFO episode) revealed no mention of any illness. In fact, Simons was listed as having good physical health.
After “recovering” from his illness of three to four day’s duration, Simons returned to work for six weeks. However, the recurrence of the soreness and weakness of his muscles and drowsiness necessitated hospitalization, and he was seen by his own physician and in consultation by a neurologist.
Physical examination revealed a young man who appeared chronically ill and who had “diffuse, moderate muscle weakness, more marked proximally and associated with cramps on contraction, and contraction fasciculations.” A posterior-anterior chest X-ray revealed no pathology. Laboratory studies revealed no abnormalities. These included: hemoglobin 15.2 gms./100 ml.: hematocrit 45 percent; white blood cell count of 8,500/cu. mm. with 51 percent neutrophils and 49 percent lymphocytes; erythrocyte sedimentation rate of 3 mm./hr.; LE clot test, negative; two urinalyses, negative. There was no evidence for myoglobinuria. The serum electrolyte concentrations were normal (sodium, 145 mEq/L, chlorides 107 mEq/L, carbon dioxide content, 29-8 mEq/L, calcium 5 mEq/L). The protein bound iodine was 3.3 microgm./100 ml.; the serum bilirubin 0.6 mgs. percent; 2 hr. postprandial blood glucose 110 mgs. percent; serum alkaline phosphatase 2.5 B.U., thymol turbidity 2.0 U./100 ml.; and the blood urea nitrogen 8.4 mgs. percent. The cerebrospinal fluid cell count was 2/cu. mm.; chloride, 122 mEq/L percent; glucose, 73 mgs. percent; colloidal gold curve negative; protein, 45 mgs. percent; and culture showed no growth. The VDRL was non-reactive; lactic dehydrogenase 580 U., and the serum glutamic oxalacetic transaminase (SGOT) was 16KU, and serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT) 16 U./ml.
Biopsy of three pieces of tissue from the biceps muscle, saphenous vein, and subcutaneous tissue, revealed no pathology. The patient had a provisional diagnosis of “diffuse inflammatory disease of muscle.” Because of the bizarre nature of his illness and the difficulty in relating his experiences with DDT and the cats, arrangements were made for his admission to the National Institute of Health for special study. He chose not to go. Gradually, over a period of several months, he made a complete recovery.
Although the family physician knew of the reputed UFO experience, he did not mention it to the neurologist. When the latter was told about it by the writer months later he vividly recalled the salient details of Simons’ illness as later corroborated in the hospital records and then asked the writer (a psychiatrist), “Is he (Simons) schizophrenic?”
An electroencephalogram of the forester taken six months after hospitalization was normal. He had a good work record and was well thought of by his associates. Retrospectively, his bizarre illness did not conform to any readily identifiable pattern, including various psychosomatic reactions.
Although there is not sufficient supporting data, it is conceivable that Simons’ overwhelming fear, associated with the strangeness of his UFO experience, could have precipitated a response similar to what is seen in animal hypnosis. Pavlov’s statement might be germane: “Little has been done toward the elucidation of the class of negative or inhibitory reflexes (instincts) which are evoked by any strong stimulus or even weak stimuli if unusual. Animal hypnosis, so-called, belong to this category.” (1)
(1) Schwarz, B. E.: Electroencephalographic Changes in Animals under the Influence of Hypnosis, Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, Vol. 124, 1956, pp. 433-439.
Editor’s Note: The above feature originally appeared in an article that the late Dr. Schwarz contributed to a journal entitled Medical Times (October 1968, 96, No. 10). The article, entitled “UFOs; Delusion or Dilemma?” appeared again in a special edition of the British magazine Flying Saucer Review’s Beyond Condon (Special Issue No. 2, June 1969).
Dr. Schwarz was a long time friend and had been a frequent contributor to Alternate Perceptions. Over the years, his many letters often contained very thought-provoking information and insights into various cases and aspects of the phenomenon. In October 1985, he wrote of this particular case: “When in New Jersey this past summer, I ran up again for the first time in more than fifteen years with the mountain man who had the close UFO experience at Split Rock Reservoir. This was the fellow who was supposed to go to the N.I.H. for special studies because of his grave illness following his encounter. In any event, he, like many others, claimed many psychic experiences since then, nightmares and, because of circumstances, we initiated hypnotic studies. He was an excellent subject and gave almost a textbook case – none of which can ever be proven unfortunately – of being ‘operated on while on board,’ implants, etc.”