Weird, Wicked Weird: Lights in the sky, fictional and not

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Cathie Pelletier left Allagash in August 1976, right before four campers claimed to have a close encounter that would become known as the Allagash Abductions.

The author jokes that she was pretty wild back then. No one would have wanted to abduct her.

But those stories, she’s sure, were in the back of her mind, along with a handful of UFO sightings since moving back to her childhood home, when Pelletier penned “The Summer Experiment.”

The new book, her 10th, follows spicy 11-year-old Roberta McKinnon. She’s a genius and a narcissist, and she’ll freely admit to both. She’s also bored with life in small-town Allagash, lamenting, “We don’t even get any serial killers this far north. It’s just too far for them to travel.”

It’s the start of a dull summer — until a rash of lights appear in the sky.

“The Summer Experiment,” published by Jabberwocky in April, is Pelletier’s first for younger readers. Her novels frequently have been about the quirks and dramas in small Maine towns. Two have been turned into made-for-TV movies. She’s earned several book awards and once scored a million-dollar advance.

Five years ago, Pelletier moved back to Maine — into the house where she was born. Her 94-year-old father is the oldest citizen in Allagash. She’s the seventh generation of her family in the town.

Growing up, said Pelletier, 61, she was Roberta.

“There were two channels on TV; you were lucky to have a phone,” she said. “It was very isolated. We might get to Fort Kent once a month; that was a big city. I built a raft with my father’s shutters and we ran away — anything we could do to entertain ourselves.”

In the book, Roberta and her best friend hatch a plan: “We contact them and we become the second generation of Allagash Abductions. There will probably be a movie made. Katy Perry could play you, and Taylor Swift could play me.”

Pelletier had never written for the middle school set when she started “The Summer Experiment.”

“I just thought, ‘I’m going to remember what it was like to be a kid myself,'” she said. “That’s eternal, and I’m not going to use the ‘F’ word and we’ll see what happens.” 

In the final chapters, Roberta and her best friend reach out to whatever’s up there.

Pelletier said she’s had three weird sightings in the sky since moving back home. The longest sighting occurred on March 19, 2009, when she was out walking her dogs.

“I looked up and saw what looked like two Jupiters,” she said. “They were moving pretty fast across the sky and coming down, one on top of the other. I thought, ‘What the heck is that?’ It went onto the horizon and then stopped and leveled out. Then a light flashed red and I could see this huge shape.”

She ran to the house next door to get her brother, and they both stood outside and stared.

“It went up and as I thought it was going to continue going, it stopped and turned and came right over us,” Pelletier said. “I yelled to my brother, ‘How big is it?’ He said, ‘I can’t tell; I can’t tell how high up it is.’ It was completely rectangular-shaped and there were little amber lights on the belly of it, but there wasn’t a sound.”

The craft disappeared as it floated off toward Eagle Lake.

She is open to the idea of the unknown. In her book, adults blame the lights on secret goings-on by the Air Force at the former Loring Air Force Base.

“Are we that interesting that we would be studied that much? I don’t know,” Pelletier said. “I think you could take one look at us and that would be enough — just one of us, and then you kind of got it, you got the plan.”

She’s hoping the book sells well enough for more Roberta adventures. She has outlines for a haunted house mystery, a Bigfoot sighting at a local lumberjack camp and a Loch Ness sighting in Allagash Lake.

“I have so much fun with that stuff; I really do,” she said.

Growing up in Allagash, Pelletier had worried about ghosts, not aliens. Another house once stood where her family home now sits. Three children in that family died from the Spanish flu.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my god, I bet there are ghost kids here,'” Pelletier said. “There’s nothing scarier than a ghost kid.”

After quick consideration, she added, “A ghost dog is scarier.”

Pelletier’s 11th book, “A Year After Henry,” comes out Tuesday.

Weird, Wicked Weird is a monthly feature on the strange, unexplained and intriguing in Maine. Send photos, ideas and sightings to [email protected]

UFO conference in Maine

A man who claims to have been abducted in the Allagash nearly 40 years ago and a TV personality/ufologist who frequently appears on shows such as “UFO Chronicles” will be at the third annual Experiencers Speak UFO and Alien Abduction Conference in Portland next month.

The conference is organized by Audrey and Debbie Hewins, twin sisters in Western Maine who run the national alien abduction support group Starborn Support.

The event is being held Sept. 6 and 7 at the Clarion Hotel on Congress Street.

Stanton T. Friedman, a physicist, lecturer and frequent TV guest, and Jim Weiner, one of the Allagash Four, will close out the conference with talks on Sunday night, according to a press release from Audrey Hewins.

Other speakers include Kathleen Marden, who co-wrote “Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill Abduction Experience,” with Friedman, about her aunt and uncle’s abduction in New Hampshire; and Steve Bassett, a political activist and head of the Extraterrestrial Phenomena Political Action Committee.

Tickets are $75 for the weekend, $50 for one day and $20 for one speaker.

For more information, visit experiencersspeak.yolasite.com.

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