Yikes, is there an alien in Shoreham? This startling headline drives the excitement in The Happy Hollisters and the Monster Mystery when a “flying saucer” is spotted over the lake in Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue’s own backyard. The Happy Hollisters may or may not encounter actual outer space visitors in this mystery, but Happy Hollisters author Andrew Svenson may have been inspired by a real-life sighting of an alleged alien spacecraft.
In the 1950s and 1960s, when Svenson wrote The Happy Hollisters series under the pseudonym Jerry West, sightings of “unidentified foreign objects” or UFOs were all the rage in the United States. Between 1949 and 1969, thousands of sightings of alien spacecrafts were reported across the country, becoming frequent enough that the Air Force started a top-secret study called Project Blue Book to learn more about UFOs. Project Blue Book concluded that most of the UFOs were other things, like weather balloons or spy planes during the Cold War, and that many alien sightings were actually the result of elaborate hoaxes. However, this didn’t stop stories of UFOs and aliens from captivating Americans, including Svenson.
One of the UFO sightings that might have inspired the plot of The Happy Hollisters and the Monster Mystery took place in 1965 in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania. The incident began when people across the northeastern North America, from Toronto to Virginia, reported seeing a fireball blasting across the sky. The burning UFO allegedly made landfall in Kecksburg in western Pennsylvania, where one local resident spotted a large, acorn-shaped object in the woods. First responders who arrived on the scene thought they were responding to a plane crash. Some witnesses claimed to have seen strange hieroglyphics on pieces of debris and reported that several official-looking men arrived quickly to cordon off the area and remove the mysterious item.
To this day, it’s unclear what the “Kecksburg acorn” really was, though many suspect that it was a downed Russian satellite. Others insist that it was an alien spacecraft, and that the mysterious men were government agents trying to cover up the incident. One thing we do know, though, is that Svenson’s wife hailed from a nearby town and the Svenson family vacationed in the area often, where they would have heard plenty of strange stories about what happened that day. The Kecksberg’s UFO definitely could have inspired the plot of The Happy Hollisters and the Monster Mystery.
What do you think: Was the Kecksburg UFO the real deal—or just a prank perpetrated by a Joey Brill-like troublemaker in Kecksburg?
by Libby Svenson Kennedy
Research notes, Andrew Svenson Archives of The Hollister Family Properties Trust