Looking back on a hoax

Written by: The Story Teller

Northerner reflects on creating a UFO 'sighting' 

What do you get when you mix a handful of mischievous university students with a cold winter night and a camera borrowed from the yearbook office?

"It was infantile and childish, but we enjoyed every minute of it. Jim Calarco, on creating an internationally-covered UFO hoax"

If you rewind to 1968, and zoom into the University of Sudbury residence at Laurentian University, you'd find Jim Calarco and a group of friends, creating a hoax of international proportions.

With nothing but their adventurous natures to guide them, Calarco and his gang decided to "do something to raise a little hell," hoping to pass the long, dreary nights of a Sudbury, Ont. winter.  They never could have imagined their harebrained idea would land them on the front page of several northern newspapers, including the Sudbury Star as well as in national and international publications. 

They were just looking for a little fun. 

Calarco, a native of North Bay, Ont., was the brainchild behind the hoax. He thought it would be a hoot to make a UFO, photograph it, and then claim it was the real deal.

UFO sightings were gaining popularity around the time; more and more accounts were being reported, and curiosity was at an unprecedented high.

The English literature student capitalized on what was happening elsewhere in the world, and was successful in convincing his friends to get excited about it too because his pals willingly agreed to join in the fun. Even his father (unknowingly) helped out.

Using a circular cut of plywood (made by the elder Mr. Calarco, who was told it was going to be used as a shield in a viking costume), a sugar container, a flashlight bulb and a white sheet, the boys were able to rig up a believable contraption. They then tied black wire to the "saucer," and two boys held in up against the blank night sky while another snapped a serious of photos on the golf course next to the school.

Once the prints were developed, the boys did the next logical thing; They all agreed upon a story, and brought the negatives to the newspaper. With no frame of reference, Calarco said it was impossible to tell the orb was so near the photographer. 

It was then the story "skyrocketed," garnering all sorts of attention. 

"It was infantile and childish, but we enjoyed every minute of it," Calarco said with a laugh. "We never felt guilty."

Not even when classmates gave him and his pals scornful looks for disappointing the serious university student persona; Not even when he was hassled for rolling with such an unfathomable fable. 

Still to this day, a lengthy teaching career and a professional acting gig away, he doesn't regret the ordeal. He also hasn't seen a real UFO, either.

"I would have liked to have, but I know damn well no one would believe me."

The original story, as it appeared in newspapers in 1968

Laurentian University students photograph white light in sky

SUDBURY (CP) - A disc-shaped white light was seen and photographed near Laurentian University, five students claimed Wednesday.

Jim Lockett; photo editor for the university year book, said he and four other students were setting up a camera Tuesday night for night pictures of the university for the student yearbook when the strange light appeared.

The other students, Jim Calarco, Larry Coutts, Stan Wallace and Dick Cybulski, verified Lockett's story.

They were on the golf course adjoining the campus at about 7:15 p.m. when Calarco saw the light coming slowly from the west.

The boys said the object seemed to hover over Nepahwin Lake to the west of their position for about four minutes. Lockett said he had time to snap a dozen pictures.

"Then it went away quick," said Calarco. "It just got smaller and smaller."

The students said they "didn't hear a thing," describing the object as "just a white diffuse light disc-shaped and tapered at the top."

A spokesman at the Falconbridge radar station was asked if anything appeared on the radar screen at this time. He said it is a service policy not to give information on such sightings.

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