Local History: ‘Aliens’ Menaced South Scranton In 1969
If you grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania, you’re likely familiar with the UFO sighting in Carbondale back in 1974.
But you might not be familiar with another group of “Aliens” in South Scranton just five years prior.
Investigators busted six members of a motorcycle gang called the Aliens in January 1969. A raid carried out in the rear of 637 Hemlock St. “netted a menacing collection of guns and knives” and led to the arrest of three women and four men, according to a Jan. 3, 1969, Scranton Times article. “Police said the seven, ranging in age from 18 to 25, were part of a gang of 20 to 25 men and women calling themselves the Aliens who had moved into an apartment rented by a local girl and refused to leave.”
The article described the seven arrested as hippies with “the usual long hair, blue jeans, Army khaki, leather jackets and one leopard skin short-sleeved sweater with matching hat band associated with the hippie movement. And unlike those portrayed in film, their faces were wan and pale and their appearance dirty. One girl with long blond tresses scratched determinedly the side of her body as she waited to be booked in the police muster room.”
Police confiscated five knives, a bayonet, small pistols, a sawed-off shotgun and “an ancient long-barreled rifle,”according to the newspaper article. The officers found no drugs or significant amounts of money, the article added, save a $5 bill in a suitcase and some “cold remedies.”
The six people charged — John Gale of Scranton, Rose A. Kilpatrick of Binghamton, Edward Tassey of Scranton, Martin Seiez of Luzerne , Geraldine Hackling of Wyoming and Catherine J. Finenko of Chenango Forks, New York — quickly struck a deal with authorities. Instead of taking the case to court, they paid $25 fines for disorderly conduct and agreed to leave town, according to a Jan. 19, 1969, Scranton Times story. A magistrate judge dismissed more serious charges of unlawful entry and possession of deadly weapons; police kept the weapons seized in the raid, according to the story.
It wasn’t the last time Scranton heard from the Aliens, though. On Jan. 22, 1969, police busted two men carrying a shotgun to a car in the 800 block of Ash Street. Detective Capt. James McDonnell said Billie Charles Fink and James J. Banellis, Pittston residents both affiliated with the motorcycle gang, “claimed a youth had slashed the tip of a car and were out to get even,” according to a Jan. 23, 1969, Scranton Times story.
A day later, The Scranton Times reported that Fink and Banellis were actually targeting another gang member, Harold Bishop, who was planning to testify against other Aliens in a burglary case. The Jan. 24, 1969, story also reported that the Aliens arrested during the early January raid had not kept their promise to leave town. Bishop was acting as an informant for police, providing information about Aliens distributing drugs.
“Bishop turned to police as a means of getting out of the gang, which is noted for its harsh disciplinary measures against members accused of violating gang rules,” The Scranton Times reported.
Meanwhile, the city health department condemned the Hemlock Street apartment and told the occupants they would be arrested if they remained. Neighbor complaints sparked disorderly conduct charges against many of the gang members, including Hackling, Finenko and Gale. Authorities ordered the gang members to pay a $5 fine and leave town.
News articles about the Aliens and their misdeeds seemed to disappear as quickly as they appeared, and little information about the outcome of the cases exists in The Times-Tribune archives.
ERIN L. NISSLEY is an assistant metro editor at The Times-Tribune. She has lived in the area for more than a decade.
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