Cape Odd: Dutra’s Market UFO Abduction

October 29, 2020 — I was sitting one night in a cottage on the shore of Wellfleet Harbor on Cape Cod after a week of vacation trying to squeeze every bit of weirdness out of that ridiculously quaint peninsula. On a sudden tip from an OTIS reader, I started researching a nearby site I hadn’t come across in my original planning. It was the easiest research I’ve ever done. I just had to watch an episode of the original Unsolved Mysteries.

For this story, I need you to imagine me in an overcoat, banks of fake fog swirling around me, the night grainy and dark. My eyebrows don’t move as I stare at you, my voice deadpan as I speak.

The date was October 1, 1966. The time 8:45 pm. Nineteen-year-old Airman First Class Robert Matthews arrives by bus in the outer-cape town of North Truro. He was assigned to North Truro Air Force Station, two miles from the bust stop. Across the street was a two-story, nineteenth-century home that had been converted into a general store called Dutra’s Market. It was an extremely New England situation for the Philadelphia native. No one was around during that part of the season and at that time of the night, so he went to the payphone barnacled to the exterior of the market and called the base for a pickup.

That arranged, Matthews hung up to wait the few minutes it would take for a truck to arrive. But the lights he saw weren’t the headlights of a jeep. They hung in the sky strangely, a trio of them, doing things he didn’t think were possible despite his nascent air force career.

The lights freaked him out enough that he immediately fished a dime from his pocket and called the base back to let them know.

“Where were you?” asked the voice on the other end.

“What do you mean?” asked Matthews.

“We sent a truck for you an hour ago but you weren’t there.”

To Matthews, the time between his two payphone calls was less than four minutes. To his colleagues at North Truro Air Force Station, it had been an entire hour. The mystery went…unsolved.

Two decades later, Matthews ran across the work of Budd Hopkins, an artist turned UFO researcher who specialized in the phenomenon of “missing time,” in which UFO abductees would experience contractions of time similar to Matthews’s experience. Hopkins himself had seen a UFO in Truro in 1964, two years before Matthews’s experience.

Matthews contacted Hopkins, who used hypnosis to tease out Matthews’s memory of that night in 1966. Under hypnosis, the missing time was filled in. When Matthews saw the lights, one of them, a red light, zoomed toward him, manifesting into a ship that landing in the sandy flat space that was the parking lot of Dutra’s Market. A ramp extended, and Matthew found himself in what felt like a doctor’s office—cold, antiseptic, and surrounded by six “beings.”

It wasn’t Matthews first strange contact with the otherworldly. When he was five a diminutive being that glowed green entered his room and performed some unknown action on his chest. He’d always thought of it as a ghost, but after Dutra’s Market, he wondered if it was from beyond the stars instead of from beyond the grave.

Personally, all I really need to be interested is a weird story and somewhere to aim a camera. And a general store with a UFO landing site is perfect.

But the Dutra’s site gets even better than the UFO landing. The Unsolved Mysteries episode (Season 1, Episode 10, originally airing December 21, 1988) used the actual location to film one of its signature spooky reenactments. And then they brought Matthews himself back to Dutra’s to walk through what had happened on the spot where it happened.

It was like the site was thrice-blessed.

And all that led me to standing in the rain the next morning after detouring our exit from Cape Cod to take photos of a convenience store and a strip of parking and a bus stop, all while people watched me from their cars.

The site hasn’t really changed, except in two details. First, it’s not called Dutra’s Market anymore. It’s Salty Market now. Second, the payphone is long gone.

Nothing replaced it on the bare white siding of the market (save for an ironic sign), although the space really needs a historical plaque.

And you need to watch this episode of Unsolved Mysteries: