Was Buff Ledge Camp ‘alien abduction’ a summer camp activity?

In the strange and journalistically fast and loose world of websites that “document” UFO encounters, an alleged abduction at a summer camp in Vermont in August 1968 is regarded as an undisputed factual event that happened to two camp counselors.

The gist of the story, which you can find repeated on plenty of websites and in books with titles like UFOs, ETs and Alien Abductions, is that two teenage counselors encountered a series of strange lights hovering over the dock of the camp’s lake, Lake Champlain near Burlington, Vermont, and after seeing a light show were eventually abducted by alien beings. Naturally, the details of the abduction were only recalled years later through hypnosis.

Most of the articles I found seem to all draw from an out of print book published in 1993 by Walter Webb called Encounter at Buff Ledge. The description of the book on Amazon says the encounter is “unprecedented in that neither of the two witnesses spoke with each other for 11 years after the encounter,” a “fact” that “makes it difficult to label it a hoax or subjective fantasy.”

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But some photos (one is above) showing a staged alien abduction at the camp published by a blogger back in May draw the conclusion that the story was a hoax, after all. The blogger writes:

“Now, is it not remarkable that a UFO ABDUCTION HOAX was being performed in the exact time frame that a real ABDUCTION was going on? Or maybe the Aliens used the performance as a cover?”

This sort of thing – staging a fake alien abduction – sounds like a typical summer camp activity to me. In my years helping with programming at a summer camp, we’ve done this sort of thing more than once as an evening activity. Flash some lights in the woods, tell the kids a UFO has crashed, dress up some counselors as aliens to abduct them, etc. But could it be that time, misunderstanding and overactive imaginations turned a summer camp activity back in the late ’60s into a legend accepted as fact by the tin foil hat wearing brethren?

It’s hard to say, but what is impossible to dispute is the very real impact the camp has had on the lives of those who attended Buff Ledge and don’t have an abduction story to tell.

The camp, no longer in operation, has an active alumni group on Facebook of 120 former campers and staff who share photos and tell stories about their time at the camp. One poster to the group recently lamented the lack of information unrelated to the UFO encounter available in a Google search. “I am so saddened every time I google camp to only see the UFO stuff. That wasn’t camp – what we all know and remember, is camp.”

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

5 Comments

  1. A few points:

    The photos have no details that identify the location.

    The photos have no details that identify the era. For instance, the vehicles are obscured or washed out just enough to make identification impossible (plates, make, model).

    The photos have no details that identify the people.

    The pictures appear to be photos of photos. The second set of “originals” is of a suspiciously poor quality (see my second point).

    And, of course, there is no provenance of any kind.

    Unfortunately, that makes the photos — as we have them now — totally useless as evidence of anything, let alone a hoax.

    1. Good point. For the purposes of this blog I’m not really interested in the validity of either story, just that it’s a story that’s told about a summer camp and that at least one version of the events is that it may have had something to do with a planned activity or that an activity was planned paying homage to the story. Either way I think that’s cool.

  2. Encounter at Buff Ledge was a VERY real event. Webb was not privy to many details of the encounter but since I know “Michael” and after several years of knowing him, he one slow summer day started describing in vivid detail that day in 1968 and subsequent years leading up to today 2015. He until now had never mentioned anything of this event in fact I had not heard of it until today. Webb was not told some key details I am pressing my friend to write a book and set the record straight. He never wanted Webb to write of his experience ever and he did anyway against his express wishes.

    1. Karen, I’m not sure if you’ll receive this reply but I have been looking for others that, like me, have had an abduction experience while at Buff Ledge. I just happened to Google Buff Ledge Camp and up came the abduction headline and did it ever blow me away. I thought my experience was an isolated one. I’d like to connect with others that may have had experiences there also. Very hard to do…

  3. Karen, Thanks so MUCH for this post which I’m just now finding in 2016! I have scoured online for years, in hopes of some follow up from “Michael” after reading Webb’s book. Whatever may or may not need to be told today, I’m just glad to know that “Michael” is still around, and that there are friends, like you, who are willing to hear his story without judgment. Keeping in mind that there may be a ‘need to set the record straight’, I nevertheless have found Webb’s coverage of this extraordinary experience, one of the most compelling, and sadly, now all but forgotten…..

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