The Morristown UFO Hoax

On January 5, 2009, mysterious red lights appeared in the night sky above Morris County, New Jersey. They were seen by numerous people, who reported them to the police. The lights were seen again on several nights throughout January and February.

The police speculated that the lights were probably the work of a prankster. Nevertheless, the media gave extensive coverage to the theory that the lights were actually UFOs. In February the lights were featured on the History Channel series UFO Hunters.

On April 1, 2009 several young men, Joe Rudy and Chris Russo, admitted in the eSkeptic Newsletter, published by Skeptic Magazine, that they had created the lights as a hoax. They showed videos of themselves tying flares to helium balloons and launching them into the sky from an open field.

They explained that they perpetrated the hoax in order to demonstrate how "easily manipulated and dead wrong" both the media, UFO investigators, and the public can be when it comes to assessing evidence of UFOs.

Rudy and Russo were subsequently charged with disorderly conduct for perpetrating the hoax, fined, and sentenced to 50 hours of community service.

The hoax recalled the Worcester Aeroplane Hoax of 1909 in which a prankster created mysterious lights above Massachusetts by tying small lanterns to the leg of an owl.
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