WATERTOWN, N.Y. - On the very night of a rare partial lunar eclipse, believers and non-believers alike came together on Friday night to pay tribute to Thompson Park’s so-called vortex, an urban legend of strange occurrences and disappearances that have occurred since the park opened in 1905.
Some 250 people converged near a series of trees on the eastern part of the park where people have supposedly disappeared and then reappeared a bit confused.
Over the years, the vortex, a portal that reportedly sends people into different time warps, has become the subject of published articles, included in a book about strange places in the United States and part of city lore.
On Friday night, about 20 minutes before a partial eclipse began, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and Watertown City Council members unveiled a large sign marking “Watertown’s Area 51,” a reference to the secret Nevada military base called Area 51, where UFOs were rumored to have been kept.
In August, the U.S. Government finally revealed that the code name for Area 51 was “Watertown,” called that for former CIA Director Allen W. Dulles, who was born in Watertown and spent his early years here.
When he came up with the idea several weeks ago, Mr. Graham acknowledged had no idea about the lunar eclipse until Friday night, although he was aware of a large asteroid that zipped by Earth during the month.
With the news of Watertown’s connection to Area 51, the mayor figured it was a good time to pay homage to the park’s mysterious spot.
Raechelle E. Davis, Carthage, came to the event because she was curious about all the stories. She admitted that she and her friends have looked for the exact spot where the vortex is supposed to be, but she’s never found it.
When asked about its existence, Miss Davis replied, “I don’t know, but I believe in possibilities.”
Apparently a lot of people do, too. A few people really got into the festivities and celebrated it with costumes. One couple, who wore a horse head and pigeon head with turtle shells on their backs, danced to hip-hop music blaring on a public address system.
And Michelle Glinski, 38, and a group of Army wives showed up together with antennas protruding from their heads with funny-looking eyes attached that she made.
They figured the “alien googly eyes” were just a way to have some fun at the event while getting together to support each during the time their husbands are deployed, said friend Melanie L. Brenenengen, 42.
They never heard about vortex until a couple of weeks ago when the city announced the sign unveiling, she said.
Watertown resident Patricia M. Conti said her husband, Clyde, was a vortex devotee until he died in June. He went looking for that special spot many times over the past 25 to 30 years, she said. So when this came up, she and son Francis D. Conti decided it would be a good way to remember him.
Self-described “Witch Queen” Gael Steele, the woman who started all the stories back in the 1970s, was there, too.
As she told the crowd Friday night, she was at the park with some friends, near the Watertown Golf Club 40 years ago. She and a guy were walking with each other in a large, open space when, suddenly, he just vanished, she said. About 20 minutes later, he reappeared, she recalled.
But she insisted the phenomenon is not a vortex at all — that’s the center of a tornado. Instead, the mysterious happenings in the park is caused by “a portal,” she corrected emcee Glenn Curry. Twice she became lost in it, she claimed.
She also refused to tell the crowd the exact spot. Well, she feared the worst.
“You don’t want to get caught up in it,” she said.
It’s not known whether anyone got lost in the portal in the park on Friday night, although a 911 dispatcher eerily reported at about 9:15 p.m. that a teen was missing from Watertown. Could that incident have a connection?
At the event, City Manager Sharon A. Addison’s two daughters, Kiara and Mckayla Weber, volunteered to go into the vortex. A few minutes later, they returned, accompanied by an alien.
Communicating by just shaking its head up and down for yes and no, the humanoid figure insisted it was not an Earthling dressed up in a Halloween costume. It would only say it came from outer space.
No matter where it originated from, the alien was a hit with crowd. Many vortex enthusiasts had their pictures taken with the extraterrestrial.