Ok let me fill you in on a few things. I am from Utica but luckily not as a kid, i grew up north of here. I live near Utica now. There are worse places around, believe me, i've seen them in my travels. And i've heard about some of them (like Gary, Indiana...)
Utica actually has a very rich history. The Battle of Oriskany is only 6-7 miles east of downtown in the village of Oriskany.
My ancestor, Col. Peter Bellinger, held Fort Herkimer against the British and he and General Herkimer (his brother-in-law) went to the rescue of Fort Stanwix in Rome, NY, the later site of Woodstock '99. Together (Herkimer died shortly after the battle and Bellinger commanded the local forts except Stanwix until the war ended) they prevented Col. Barry St Leger from reinforcing Genral Burgoyne (St. Leger's camp was raided and stripped of ammunition and supplies by Ft. Stanwix men as he fought with Gen Herkimer at Oriskany) and so Burgoyne lost at the Battle of Saratoga. This was the end of the British western & northern campaign, we held the frontier. The funny thing is that the Continental Army never left the gates of Ft. Stanwix except that one time (they were under orders to only be a reserve force for Gen Gates against Burgoyne). Gen. Herkimer, a Militia General and his Militia Colonels and their militia farmer fighters were the sole protectors of the local families up and down the Mohawk Valley. Read Drums Along the Mohawk for the detailed story.
F.X. Matt Brewing Comany (makers of Saranac and the infamous Billy Beer) is the second oldest family owned brewery in America. (see the Utica wikipedia page). Matt brews a lot of craft beers that are sold regionally around the country because they make very high quality beer (except Billy Beer lol). Utica Club has always been an all natural beer, made by a process called krausening for natural carbonation, natural fermentation, not chemically accelerated fermentation such as Budweiser, ect use.
We have a true Ivy League College located in Clinton, Hamilton College (sorry UC). And Colgate is just down the road a few more miles in the town of Hamilton.
World famous Herkimer Diamonds are found nearby in Herkimer of course. They are actually quartz and can be dug in many spots around this general area including a place i know of in Vernon, a diner in fact.
A number of Hollywood personalities are from Utica or the close by area. Check wikipedia for an incomplete list. They missed the Oriskany native starred in a short lived 80's series about Elvis. Dick Clark was actually named Dick Clay, his father was a local radio DJ with the same name, so he changed his last name to Clark to avoid confusion. Both Fran Cosmo and Tommy DeCarlo of the current version of Boston are Uticans.
You mentioned the Simpsons. Well anyone who is familiar with Animal House or the National Lampoon knew or knew of Doug Kenney very well. Doug was born and raised in the Utica suburb of Sauquoit. All the writers on the Simpsons either knew Doug or were much aware his reputation.
Long before Doug Kenney became famous, Utica raised another comic genius by the name of Vaughn Bode. Vaughn Bode created a satirical comic strip the in the 1960's called Cheech Wizard. It ran in a skin magazine called Cavalier, which was one of the better Playboy imitations, in that it had some good writing as well as nude ladies between the pages.
Vaughn unfortunately died young, prior to the end of the sixties, but I knew someone who had attended Proctor High School with him, and i remember seeing Cheech Wizard in Cavalier. (search it on the web, it should be out there)
I've always wondered if Cheech from Cheech & Chong got his nickname from Vaughn Bode's character.
Currently, one of the interns on the Simpsons just happens to be another Utica area resident. I know this because I worked with his brother until two months ago, who told me all about it.
But there is something weird about Utica, and I agree it is true.
There is a local columnist name Joe Kelly who collects Stephen King's Utica references. He writes for the Boonville Herald, 30 miles north of Utica.
He says King has told a story that during a visit to Utica one time, he went into some weird shop and was so taken by it, that it was so weird in such a strange way that he has gotten story ideas from it. And that he has been there more than once on different visits. He never revealed what the place was or even what type of business it was.
A number of King's books have Utica references in them. The Utica wikipedia page mentions
The Tommyknockers character Bobbi (played by Marg Helgenberger) as a fictional Utica resident.
A UFO book abut the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome was written after it's closure
claiming a number of encounters with 'greys' by security personnel around the base perimeter over a period of many years. Griff was a nuke base and UFO's tend to be associated with nuclear installations.
Some people like myself think Woodstock 99 was not just a music festival, but may have also been another covert military social experiment. I think it's likely that a couple of people went missing that were probably never even reported.
Yeah Utica is weird.
Myself and others I know have seen things in skies around here that were not normal aircraft, but that is only someone's personal experience. However, there are lots of these stories, and i mean in great detail, and in some cases involving contact.
One of the famous UFO stories of the 1950's ended up in a tragedy jet aircraft crash in Westmorland, NY, in the hamlet of Walesville in 1954. The pilot was scrambled from Pa. to chase a cigar shaped metallic object headed north into NYS right into Oneida county and close to Griffis AFB. When he got a visual and closed in, the cockpit became superheated and he bailed out. The plane nosedived and hit a house and a station wagon and killed people in both, four people in all. There is a plaque with a small flagpole at that intersection to commemorate their memory.
Do you see why maybe the Tommyknockers reference comes in?
But New York has many weird places.
Pine Bush way downstate has it's own well known UFO-ghost waves.
Kinderhook south of Albany is known for it's bone chilling Sasquatch vistitations (read Monsters of the North Woods).
The Allegheny region has been the source of supposedly mythical Thunderbird sightings.
The most famous and probably best ever UFO-Creature author (The Mothman Prophecies, ect.) writer, John Keel, was from around the Buffalo outskirts are. He wrote about The Black River Monster sighted on the Black River between Boonville and Watertown in the 1930's. Every John Keel book is a masterpiece.
Author Ron Quinn who wrote Mysteries in the Mountains, Tucson Weekly (find THAT one! it will freak you out and it's on the web just search it) recently published a book on lepruchauns/ little people based on his childhood experience somewhere between Rochester and Buffalo of a foot tall 'little people' guy, dressed like one, who appeared on his window sill one summer morning at the family's New York camp in that region when Quinn was 10 years old. The little guy smiled and tipped his hat to the boy and left whereupon Quinn chased the little being into the woods where it promptly disappeared.
We have only scratched the surface...