CBS News Logo UFO reports spiked over the summer

According to an organization that tracks UFO reports, this summer has been an especially busy period for UFO sightings. The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) noted that sightings increased over the past six weeks, with some states more than doubling their normal numbers. Are we on the cusp of an alien invasion? Or maybe people just have more time on their hands to spot -- and report -- strange things in the sky? "It's pretty exciting," said Clifford Clift, the international director of MUFON. "When you average 500 a month [nationwide] and go to 1,013 in one month, that's an interesting spike in sighting reports." Clift told Life's Little Mysteries that he's not sure what to make of the data at this point. It could be the start of something big, or it could merely be a computer glitch that accidentally counted some reports twice. Another possibility is that we're simply in the midst of a "UFO flap," one of many periodic increases in sightings over the years. There are several reasons UFOs might appear in flaps, or clusters. One is that objects in the sky are usually seen by many people, especially when they appear over urban areas. UFOs typically don't hover close to Earth or in someone's back yard; instead, they are often sighted high in the sky -- just far enough away so that we can't see details or get sharp photos. Thus, whatever a particular UFO really is -- a plane, a comet, an extraterrestrial spacecraft, or something else -- that one object or strange light in the sky could trigger hundreds, or even thousands, of reports. And even reports of the same object will probably differ depending on the reporter's perspective. Thus, if there were hundreds of UFO reports in a state during a given period, it's important to know how those reports were categorized because it might mean hundreds of different UFOs were sighted by single individuals, or that one UFO was sighted by hundreds of people. There are also psychological and social explanations. Sightings are often Continue Reading

Pentagon’s mysterious project breathes new life into UFO research

WASHINGTON — “This is not a laughing matter.” That’s what investigative journalist and author Leslie Kean says of UFOs. “It’s completely rational to be interested and to try to figure out what’s going on with this,” she told WTOP. Kean co-authored a stunning article in The New York Times late last year that revealed the existence of the Pentagon’s secret project to investigate unidentified flying objects — the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). Months later, this is still earth-shaking news to those eager for the truth. That’s because the last known government program to investigate UFO encounters — the Air Force’s Project Blue Book — officially ended almost 50 years ago in 1969. “The researchers in this area have always speculated and wondered what is going on behind the scenes. Is there a government investigation into this? And now we know that the answer is yes,” Kean said. “It just establishes a credibility for the topic for people to know that our government takes it seriously enough to have put financial resources into it and to have studied it for all these years.” According to the Times, $22 million was spent on AATIP from 2007 through the end of 2011. And although the funding stopped, Kean says the project did not. “We know that this program existed, it still exists, and it investigated military cases and very significant cases of pilot encounters with these objects,” said Kean, who authored the 2010 New York Times best-selling book “UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on The Record.” Kean wants to make something clear: Unidentified flying objects are not necessarily spacecraft piloted by extraterrestrials. “You can’t take the leap of looking at something that’s unexplained and then assuming that it’s alien,” she said. But one of the encounters AATIP Continue Reading

UFO sightings used to be ‘better’ — what happened?

Written by Seth Shostak, SETI Institute UFOs: The Trail is Stale. One thing that strikes me about claims of alien visitation is that so much of the evidence is musty and fusty. Every day, I get stories and articles from people around the world who aggregate UFO news. But much of it is not news – it’s olds. The folks who think there’s good proof that Earth is a stomping ground for extraterrestrials are still hung up on the Roswell incident of 1947 or its British opposite number, the Rendlesham Forest event of 1980. They’re still citing the testimony of aging politicians, defense establishment types, and Apollo astronauts who “know something.” The few alternatives to this vintage archive are contemporary photos and videos of vague lights in the sky, low-resolution and low-confidence material that isn’t likely to sway many scientists. The good stuff seems to be the old stuff. To better judge if this is really true, I trawled the web for listings of “the best UFO cases.” I quickly collected nearly 100 events that were considered worthy, of which 60 were unique, in the sense of not being repeats (e.g., the Roswell incident appears on most of these lists). I then plotted up the year in which each of these unique events took place, virtually all since 1940. And guess what? By far the majority occurred in the first half of the last 76 years. The quality UFO evidence is getting long in the tooth. So what’s going on? Our technology for documenting alien spacecraft – if you assume they’re real – is substantially better than even a few decades ago. An Apple iPhone’s camera now boasts 8 megapixels, which I reckon is a hundred times as many as the 8 millimeter movie film we had in the 1960s. These fabulous cameras are in the hands of nearly two billion smartphone users world-wide. And yet the UFO photos are as blurry and muddy as ever. You’d think at least a few people could make snaps Continue Reading

‘We’re not alone in the universe’: Man at Scottsdale UFO conference recalls alien abduction

If you get a rush from aliens, UFOs and hunting for any sign of paranormal evidence, Arizona is the place to be. That's at least according to Travis Walton, an Arizona resident and one of the speakers at a Saturday panel at the International UFO Congress in Scottsdale.Walton, whose story inspired the 1993 science-fiction film Fire in the Sky, said he was abducted by a UFO near Snowflake on Nov. 5, 1975.He was returning from a logging job at the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in a truck with coworkers when they saw a bright light hovering over a break in the trees.Once they got closer to the light, Walton said there was "no doubt of what we were seeing," and that one coworker exclaimed: It's a flying saucer.Walton said he had an "impulse to see it" and threw open the truck door, getting closer to the craft for a better look."It was kind of a foolish move in retrospect," Walton said in a remark that was met with laughter from the audience.Walton said his coworkers described him as being in a trance-like state as he made his way closer to the craft, but Walton said he felt like it was his own impulse that drew him there and not anything extraterrestrial. MORE: If U.S. government is tracking UFO sightings, Arizona is fertile groundUFO was both "frightening" and "beautiful"The closer he got to the craft, Walton said, the more frightened he and his coworkers, who were watching him from back in the truck, became.At one point, Walton stopped. He looked up. Staring at a 45-degree angle, he fixated on the craft."This was not only frightening but it was beautiful," Walton said."It just looked smooth as glass. It was glowing, it was shiny and metallic. The surface was so shiny that even though it was giving off light it was also reflecting its surroundings."After a few moments, Walton said the UFO began to move and the sound it was making got louder, filling the night air.Walton said he got down behind a log, but shortly after decided Continue Reading


Not long ago, I wrote about the resurgence of our government’s interest in unidentified flying objects and included an account by former Navy Commander David Fravor who in 2004 witnessed such a craft that fellow pilots photographed off the California coast during F-18 exercises. Working under the unpublicized Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, the project operated between 2007 and 2012 and some aspects of its mission continue, a Washington Post story said. That column sparked responses from readers who, like me, said they, too, had witnessed UFOs or were close to someone who had. One man said that in 1969 he “was getting my check ride for night-flight flying between a 100-mile round trip between Lincoln and Omaha.” His plane was a Piper that only flew about 85 mph, which provided plenty of time on a dark and starry night to see the horizon for miles. “The short story is that on the way back from Omaha I saw another ‘plane’ in front of me at the same altitude but it was off to my right about a half-mile,” he wrote. “I could tell it was a plane because of the red/green wing lights and white taillight facing me. “It kept the same pace in front for a while and then my instructor pulled my power and I had to make a simulated emergency landing at the Millard airport outside of Omaha.” After he’d landed then regained altitude to continue, “that same ‘airplane’ was ahead of me, only a little bit closer. I asked my instructor what I should do as we were flying under visual flight rules. He said just move off to his right a little, which I did.” That’s how they flew along for several more minutes. “Then, all of a sudden this ‘plane’ I was following for about an hour began flashing red with lights that blinked and moved around the outside of a disk shape,” he said. “The light increased in speed and movement. Then, from out of nowhere, Continue Reading

Navy UFO Sighting: Alien Object Spotted With Infrared Sensor In Secret Pentagon Program

Earlier this month, the New York Times released an elaborate report detailing a secret Pentagon-led program that focused on unidentified flying objects. Videos from the program released along with the report show official images of what seem to be UFOs. The clips were captured by Raytheon's infrared sensors, the company said. The Times report detailed a 2004 incident near the coast of San Diego in which three F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets encountered a UFO. The video, released by the group To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, shows the American pilots astonished of what they were seeing. The video can be seen here: Raytheon, an aerospace and defense company based in Massachusetts, said it was its own Advanced Targeting Forward Look Infrared sensor located under one of the fighter jets that captured the UFO. The Pentagon UFO program, called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, analyzed UAP imagery and data, including images from Raytheon’s ATFLIR. “We might be the system that caught the first evidence of E.T. out there,” Aaron Maestas, the director of engineering and chief engineer for Surveillance and Targeting Systems at the company’s Space and Airborne Systems business, said in a statement this month. “But I’m not surprised we were able to see it. ATFLIR is designed to operate on targets that are traveling in excess of Mach 1. It’s a very agile optical system with a sensitive detector that can distinguish between the cold sky and the hot moving target quite easily.” Raytheon describes the ATFLIR as a “single pod pod that combines mid-wave infrared targeting and navigation FLIRs, an electro-optical, or visual light, sensor, a laser rangefinder and target designator, and a laser spot-tracker.” ATFLIR can spot and designate targets during the day or at night. It can locate targets at ranges surpassing 40 nautical miles and altitudes past 50,000 feet. While the video Continue Reading

Whether it’s CIA, Mafia, LBJ or even aliens, JFK assassination conspiracy theories never die

It's one of the enduring mysteries to come out of the latter half of the 20th Century: who shot JFK, and why? Fifty years after his death, a scant 25% of Americans believe the official version of John F. Kennedy’s death, according to a recent poll. The government’s story, promulgated by the Warren Commission — an investigatory body created a week after the assassination — said that a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, fired three shots, two of which fatally struck Kennedy. Oswald acted alone, the Warren Commission said, and so did Jack Ruby, the man who shot and killed Oswald two days later. RELATED: CRONKITE LOOKS BACK ON ASSASSINATION IN PBS SPECIAL In the decades since, advances in criminal forensics and technology have upheld some of the Warren Commission’s findings and cast doubt on others. In 1976, the U.S. Congress authorized another investigation into Kennedy’s death. This one, done by the House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations, took three years and was largely done in secret. It concluded that Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy — but it eliminated as suspects many of the groups most Americans felt were likely culprits. What is known is that the 35th U.S. president was fatally shot at 12:30 p.m. central time on Nov. 22, 1963. Kennedy, about to launch a re-election bid, was traveling in his motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas. Two bullets struck the charismatic 46-year-old. One entered his back and exited from his throat. RELATED: NURSE CLAIMS JFK HAD ANOTHER BULLET LODGED IN BODY The other hit Kennedy on the left side of his head and exited out the right side. It sprayed blood and gray matter across the pink suit of his vivacious wife, Jackie Kennedy, and through the interior of the car. Those shots were fired from the sixth floor window of the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository building. Continue Reading

Former members of Congress hold weird faux UFO hearing in Washington, after the price is right

WASHINGTON — What are a former U.S. senator — and five former House members — doing in a place like this? The former lawmakers, including former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), listened with “open” minds and full pockets for several hours Tuesday at a simulated congressional hearing taking testimony that extraterrestrials “are here.” “I came here being very skeptical, but I also recognize that I don’t know much about it,” said former Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-Ore.) The six are being paid $20,000 each, plus expenses, by a group called the Paradigm Research Group, which insists UFOs are real and the government has been covering up their existence. The group’s executive director, Stephen Bassett, told the Daily News that he initially contacted 55 former members of Congress with an offer of $10,000, among them former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who famously recounted a UFO citing. After few responded, Bassett said he doubled the pay. That helped, he said. The six former lawmakers are not exactly grilling witnesses in the faux hearing, being held at the National Press Club building. They spent the first two days of testimony asking questions that assumed accounts of UFO sightings from panel witnesses were true. Witnesses Tuesday included retired U.S. Air Force members recounting first- or second-hand experiences with unidentified objects between the late 1960s through 1980 at U.S. nuclear facilities in England and western states. The sightings are cited by believers as evidence of alien interest in nuclear arms. The members "swear-in" witness, announce "recesses" and assume other trappings of actual congressional hearings, minus staff and power. In the process they effectively act in a film produced by Bassett's nonprofit, Paradigm Research, that will use the footage to mimic an actual hearing. The result is a motley crew. Gravel is best known for a long-shot Continue Reading

Tempe history: City gets its first UFO sighting

Mysterious objects in the sky have been observed ever since man began looking up to the heavens.It wasn’t until the late 1940s, however, that witnesses really began to equate these baffling sightings with something extra-terrestrial. Because some resembled “saucer-like” objects, the novel term flying saucer entered into the vocabulary.Although its origin is inexact, in about 1953, according to the Old Oxford Dictionary, the phrase "Unidentified Flying Object," or UFO. became a more acceptable definition for enigmatic observances.Long before people were connecting sightings to alien visitations, they were looking for explanations for the strange occurrences.The first documented report in Tempe dates to July 7, 1907.The Arizona Republican recounted the event with the bold headline “A Strange Sight In Western Sky.”Rather than trying to figure out what it was, the paper was more concerned about finding other eyewitnesses. “A man who saw it would like to know if it was observed by anyone else,” the article asked.“Clerk W.E. Thomas of the board of supervisors is curious to know how many persons, if any,” a reporter wrote, “saw what he saw or thought he saw on Sunday evening.“It was either a phenomenon or what is still stranger, something that may be called a co-incidental ocular illusion for two persons saw it.”It seems Mr. Thomas was watching a magnificent “blood red” sunset, when “he next noticed a blue disk floating in the heavens apparently close to the sun and next it floated in front of it completely obscuring it.“Then he saw another disk and then another until there were seven of them.”Believing his eyes might be fooling him, Thomas asked his wife to confirm what he was observing. And indeed she did.Both agreed they were observing the same spectacle — “the disks were constantly in motion.”Their description of the event is Continue Reading

WITCHES’ BREW-HAHAS. Predict Mets to win Series, Trump ‘ego’ biz

A NEW YORK-BASED group that polls witches for predictions has whipped up a strange brew of what may happen - but probably won't - in 2006. The annual list compiled by the New York Center for the Strange declares that Donald Trump will start peddling "ego-boosting" accessories; that Donald Rumsfeld will KO a younger man in a barroom brawl and that the Yankees will reach the World Series and lose - to the Mets. "We certainly want it to be taken seriously," said Lewis Scott, an associate director at the center, "or our work would be for naught." More than 350 practicing witches submitted their sometimes wacky forecasts for the annual survey. The predictions making the final list, Scott said, had to be submitted by at least two witches. So at least a pair of true believers out there somewhere envision the following actually occurring this year: Katie Couric teaming with Ted Koppel on the CBS anchor desk. A series of UFO sightings and landings in the Midwest. Comic Rodney Dangerfield finally getting some respect - in the form of a postage stamp. Nationwide shortages of king-size beds, bowling balls and Vidalia onions. "Maybe some of the witches are from Georgia, where they grow Vidalia onions," Scott said. "Maybe some of them are bowlers." The annual predictions list owns a 28% accuracy rate, Scott said, with dead-on calls that forecast the success of eBay and "The Sopranos." That also leaves a lot of room for picks that turned out to be stinkers, such as the prediction that the Rolling Stones would quit in 1997 and that nude tap-dancing and rectangular bagels would turn into national crazes. [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading