At Home in Pine Bush

Mary Prenon | September 2018

Pine Bush is a quiet, little hamlet located in the Town of Crawford in Orange County. It’s adjacent to the Town of Shawangunk in Ulster County, with the Shawangunk Kill, a small river, marking the boundary. New York State Routes 52 and 302 intersect the hamlet.

Area: 2.11 Square Miles
Population: 1,701
Median Home Price: $195,000

The community was one of the four early 19th century settlements within the town. It has previously been known as “Shawangunk,” “Crawford,” and “Bloomfield.”

Driving through Pine Bush today, one might think of the historic downtown as a modern-day “Mayberry,” with its small-town feel and friendly atmosphere. However, Pine Bush is way more than just a pint-sized piece of land in the Hudson Valley. Pine Bush is widely acclaimed as the UFO capital of New York—and some even say the whole East Coast!

In fact, town officials are at this moment putting the finishing touches on the Pine Bush UFO and Paranormal Museum, set to open this month. “The Travel Channel is actually coming here at the end of September to film a segment about the museum,” said Domanie Ragni, the director of community services for the Town of Crawford. “What’s even more bizarre is that the address is 51 Main Street—like ‘Area 51’.” (“Area 51” is a highly classified, remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base in Nevada. It gained worldwide attention as the place where the U.S. government has allegedly warehoused space alien aircraft and/or alien remains).

The museum is culmination of “all things alien,” in the community including a myriad of actual UFO sightings and the famous Pine Bush UFO Fair, which just celebrated its ninth year. “It was started by people who had experienced sightings and now it’s grown into a huge event with over 7,000 attending,” said Ragni. “This past spring, we even had people from as far away as Great Britain and Argentina.”

The day-long event consists of speakers, authors, music, food and merchandise vendors, an “Alien Stroll” parade and an “Alien Beauty Contest.”

“We have people dressing up like characters from Star Wars, Star Trek, all types of “aliens” and super heroes,” quipped Ragni. “We had some amazing costumes for the beauty contest and it’s open to both women and men. The winner took home $500.”

Other events included several rounds of “You Bet Your Asteroid Galactic Game Show,” a type of “Family Feud” with “alien” hosts and contestants. “Of course, we have our own Cup & Saucer Diner, which is a year-round attraction named for UFO sightings,” added Ragni.

According to the website, “Weird U.S.,” some Pine Bush locals have personal stories of alien sightings and encounters that date back to the 1960s. The town also gained a reputation during the 1980s as the hotbed of UFO activity. “Weird U.S.” bills itself as the “travel guide to America’s local legends and best kept secrets.”

Some of the alleged sightings included boomerang-shaped objects, hovering objects, balls or beams of light, and strange noises. In 1991, the book, “Silent Invasion: The Shocking Discoveries of a UFO Researcher” by Ellen Cyrstall, helped to identify Pine Bush as the focal point of UFO activity in New York. Some locals, known as “skywatchers” began meeting regularly at certain spots at night to track UFOs.

Richard J. Smith of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty in Pine Bush has been a part of the local community for many years. He traces his family roots back to 1720 and the house where he currently lives was built in 1806. While he admits the UFO craze did help put Pine Bush on the map, he believes the community itself is what sells the location.

Smith, who two years ago merged his former business, RJ Smith Real Estate, with Rand, finds people from all over who seem to love the small-town character of Pine Bush. “It’s both physically and aesthetically pleasing here,” he said. “It’s a close-knit community where people are supportive of each other and I think it has the ability to deliver that typical New England style of living environment.”

The Pine Bush landscape is still dotted with dairy farms, horse farms and acres of open space. It offers parks, walking trails, seasonal farmers markets, plus outdoor movies and concerts in the summer. There are two elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and a wide selection of sports and youth activities.

“While it’s a rural setting, we’re still within easy access to one of the largest metro areas in the world. We’re just 60 miles from the George Washington Bridge,” said Smith. The hamlet offers mostly single-family, detached homes, but very few rentals and no apartment complexes or large residential developments. Currently, there are only three homes listed for sale in Pine Bush, and the average sales price is more than $386,000.

“The majority of people looking to live in Pine Bush or the Town of Crawford seem to be employed within 30 to 40 miles away,” added Smith. “Some do commute to New York City, New Jersey or Westchester and some are relocating from different parts of the country.”

Wherever people are moving from, no doubt they’ll be soon made aware of the community’s unique attribute. One need only visit the Pine Bush UFO Fair Facebook page to get a taste of next year’s coming attractions.

“The new museum will probably make this place even more popular, but we already have such a cute downtown with restaurants, boutique shops, a spa and even wineries,” said Ragni. “The best part is that people living here tend to help each other in ways I haven’t seen before. It’s a great place to call home.”

Mary Prenon
HGAR, Director of Communications