The sky is so much more than a sea of serene celestial bodies for Rotterdam resident James G. Bouck, Jr.
The recently retired state auditor admits he keeps at least one eye focused upward at all times, as he never knows when something out of the ordinary will wander into view.
The 58-year-old husband and father of four, after all, is more than an admirer of all things cosmic.
He has a strong hunch that we’re not alone.
“The thought of all those stars being out there and nobody using them but us has always been mind-boggling to me,” said the Schenectady County native, who serves as state director for the Mutual UFO Network, a worldwide organization of volunteer UFO enthusiasts, researchers and field investigators.
“The way I look at it, when God created the solar system and the many universes, why would he go through the trouble of creating those universes and go through the trouble of creating all those stars and planets if he was just going to settle on Earth alone? He’d sort of be limiting his own powers. I think there has to be life on other planets,” said Bouck.
He estimates about 100 such sightings are reported statewide each year.
When a report is made to MUFON, it is funneled directly to Bouck and is then sent to a section director for further investigation. The group’s goal is not necessarily to prove that UFOs are extraterrestrial, but to try to determine just what is out there.
Most sightings can be explained as a constellation, weather balloons, certain cloud formations, an airplane whizzing by or a shooting star or meteor streaking across the night, explained Bouck. On rare occasions, however, the phenomenon can’t be explained away that easily, even by experts sporting the most sophisticated tracking tools and uncommonly keen eyesight.
Bouck takes his work seriously, and though he’ll laugh with you, he doesn’t necessarily appreciate jokes about little green men and aluminum hats. His job as a ufologist is serious business; he is on a constant mission to help people make sense of the most mind-boggling experiences of their lives.
His passion for scrutinizing the sky can be traced back to his youth.
“I started with this interest in my junior high school years, and I finally saw my first UFO just five years ago. I was sitting in my backyard and thought I saw something unusual in the sky,” he said.
“I had no camera or binoculars to verify what it could be. So I always sat out there with them every time since. In a few weeks, I thought I saw it again and looked through the binoculars. I quickly took some pictures and it was an exact craft that a witness I had been working with had been able to see many times and had videotaped in Saratoga and Ticonderoga.
“We had that videotape analyzed, and the object has officially been declared unidentified.”
The same object has been reported as recently as last month.
Bouck said he enjoys being “on call” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Often, when a report comes in, he can get to the bottom of things just by studying a star map or consulting a sky-savvy friend. Other times, a call is so unusual and sounds so convincing, he is compelled to drive out and see for himself what all the commotion is about.
That was the case with a Stillwater sighting that took place in the mid-1990s.
It was late at night and a woman called Bouck at home complaining that a dozen lights were hovering over her house.
I got out there, and I said “Where are they?” he recalled.
She said, “There! There! There!”
Bouck saw some lights, and recognized Vega, one of the brightest stars, which was out that time of year. “I was ready to write it off, but there were so many witnesses,” he said. “I determined eight out of the 12 lights were stars,” he said.
As for why a total of 12 lights were reported, Bouck said, “Some people just get caught up in the moment. They see a few and suddenly they see many more.”
In a separate report last year, two children from Saratoga County saw an object above the trees that was disc-shaped and spinning with numerous blinking lights and colors.
“The technology around us went crazy. The lights flickered and the Internet went out. We were frightened, and a little surprised. After we noticed it, we ran inside to notify our parents,” said the witnesses. “We lost sight of the flying object when it passed the trees on the other side of the house. Nothing I know can go as fast as this thing did. We have no pictures, but we believe in what we saw,” they said.
Over the years, unidentified flying objects have been described variously as rapidly moving or hovering; disk-shaped, cigar-shaped or ball-shaped; moving noisily or silently; having a fiery exhaust or no exhaust; and accompanied by flashing lights or uniformly glowing with a silvery cast.
So little proof
Steven Russo, an astronomer at the Suits-Bueche Planetarium at the Schenectady Museum Planetarium, said during his 40 years gazing into the sky, he has spied a handful of unusual sights, and he makes no bones about the fact that he would love nothing more than to have an up-close and personal encounter with a space creature. But, he admits, the chances are quite unlikely.
Even though tens of thousands of UFO reports are made annually, Russo said about 95 percent of all such reports throughout recent history have been dubbed IFOs, or identified flying objects, noting that most all of the sightings are attributable to something utterly “earthly.”
Additionally, he said: “There is not so much as an inkling of proof that flying saucers exist, and there is absolutely no proof that anyone has ever been whisked away by aliens, either.”
Besides, he said, if a flying saucer and its other-worldly occupants were to reveal themselves to the common man, it would likely mean the end of existence as we know it.
“I’m not sure if the general public would be able to handle it if a spacecraft landed here. There would be huge mental, social, religious and psychological implications. It would just be more than we could deal with,” he said.
Still, Bouck remains committed.
“It’s exciting for me to know that there is something out there and we are capturing it somehow on film, but I also have to consider that it’s a little scary since we don’t have answers to many of our questions,” said Bouck of the UFO he spotted recently in his yard and still watches for every day.
“It’s like having a stalker or peeping Tom looking in at you, and you can’t catch him,” he said.
Yet, Bouck says with continued vigilance, he believes he will one day see a return on his efforts.
“That’s what keeps me going. I believe something will happen some day. One day, the number of witnesses and the credibility of witnesses will be so amazing, that nobody will be able to deny it,” he said.
Anyone wishing to report a UFO sighting may contact Bouck via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, starting Sept. 26, Bouck will be begin teaching a non-credit course on UFO history at Hudson Valley Community College.