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

If U.S. government is tracking UFO sightings, Arizona is fertile ground

Editor's note: This story was originally published in January 2015, following the online publication of 130,000 declassified records on the Air Force's files on UFO sightings and investigations.The possibility that humans are not alone in the universe is something the U.S. government is preparing for — if recent headlines are any indication.Welcome to the real-life "X-Files."The New York Times, on Dec. 16, 2017, published a story detailing a mysterious Pentagon program tasked with tracking UFOs.Defense officials said the program, called Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, ended in 2012. But the Times reported that the program is still in operation in 2017, even if the Pentagon stopped funding it. PREVIOUSLY: 'Alien Ranch' west of Phoenix can be yours for $5M In response to the Times' story, Luis Elizondo, a former Pentagon official told CNN: "My personal belief is that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone."Is it any coincidence that NASA announced, in August, that it was hiring a "Planetary Protection Officer"?Meanwhile, Phoenix has a storied history of UFO sightings.Decades before the "Phoenix Lights," Arizona residents reported seeing V-shaped formations of UFOs hovering over Yuma and Phoenix.They reported reflective flying disks, glowing fireballs and swarms of starlike spheres streaming though the Arizona night skies.These sightings, and many more, come from a trove of nearly 130,000 pages of declassified records from Project Blue Book, the Air Force's files on UFO sightings and investigations. The records were released online in January 2015 thanks to UFO enthusiast John Greenewald. MORE: What's the story behind Phoenix's most famous UFO sighting?For Project Blue Book, the Air Force compiled 12,618 UFO sightings between 1947 and 1969 — some of which are from Arizona — but decided to discontinue investigations after finding no proof of national security threats or extraterrestrial Continue Reading

70 years ago at the Shore, UFOs filled the sky

Seventy years ago this summer, something crashed in southeastern New Mexico that has since become part of American folklore.Almost everyone knows the story of the farmers who in 1947 recovered pieces from “a flying disc” outside Roswell. That of course was how the Army itself in a news release described the unidentified flying object that appeared to have crash-landed at a ranch there in June or July of that year.In the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Defense revealed the material came from a high-altitude balloon that was part of Project Mogul — a top secret program in the late 1940s — that used such balloons to listen for Soviet nuclear weapons tests high in the atmosphere. But that, of course, didn’t end the conspiracy theories from those who believe — to paraphrase — that the truth is still out there.What almost no one knows about the events of June and July 1947, is that during those two months there had been a rash of UFO sightings all over the United States that had led to a kind of hysteria across the continent — including here at the Jersey Shore.“Flying Discs Cause Wonder,” read a July 5, 1947, headline in the Asbury Park Press; three days before the Roswell Daily Record reported its now famous headline: “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch In Roswell Region.”On July 5, the Press published dispatches from across the country – Philadelphia, Seattle,  eastern Michigan – of strange accounts of “flying discs” and “flying saucers” ranging from ordinary people to Coast Guard personnel.Indeed, almost every other day that July there was a story in the Press about this bizarre phenomena that had captured the zeitgeist of post-war America.On July 9, the first local account of a UFO sighting came from the Osbornville section of Brick Township.Cliff Carlson called the Press the night before to report that he had seen “one of 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

UFO Festival slated in Cedar City

Cedar City is famous for its many festivals featuring everything from Shakespeare plays to sheep parades, earning it the nickname “Festival City.”Dallen Olcott, house manager at the Heritage Theater, confirmed that the theater will be host to the first Utah UFO Festival, slated June 15-18, featuring history of UFO sightings in Utah and Nevada, speakers who claim to have been abducted by aliens, and lectures from professionals studying UFO related topics.“Its always good to have new events featured at the Heritage Theater,” Olcott said.Event organizers Nathan and Joseph Cowlishaw said they originally planned to host the event last year but funding fell through.“This year the event will definitely take place,” Nathan said. “Cedar City is known as The Gateway to the National Parks — we would also like it to be known as The Gateway to Area 51.”To achieve those means, the Cowlishaw brothers have started a company called Anomaly Conservatory, with the motto “Life Levitated,” a play on words from Utah’s motto, “Life Elevated,” and plan on hosting tours from Cedar City to Rachel, Nevada.Along the way, tourists will get a glimpse of interesting sights such as ghost towns like Modena, petroglyph sights that are off the beaten path, and other historical locations.“We have tourism opportunities here that are not being taken advantage of,” Nathan said.“UFOs are just as much a part of the southwest culture as cowboys,” Joseph said.The brothers have already booked their first tour, March 18-20, for a venture to Area 51, approximately 2 hours west of Cedar City in Lincoln County, Nevada.“We are situated in a major corridor between major cities,” Nathan said. “The people out in the Area 51 area already come to Cedar City for supplies because it is closer than Las Vegas. Why not take our tourists out there?”The brothers said plans are already in Continue Reading

UFO Congress: ‘Phoenix Lights’ after 20 years, ‘Fire in the Sky’ and more finds for the serious and curious

Whether you're a believer or not, Phoenix was once the epicenter of UFO phenomena. It's been 20 years in March that the night sky caught the attention of those in Valley and world via the Phoenix Lights.The event continues to be the focus of a worldwide obsession and is a central focus on the 2017 International UFO Congress in Scottsdale. A free film festival kicks off the event on Tuesday, Feb. 14, and the conference runs Wednesday, Feb 15.-Sunday, Feb. 19."The Importance of the Phoenix Lights-Mass UFO Sighting," a panel discussion, will look at the March 13, 1997, hovering lights and large craft that were witnessed by thousands and later explained — although not to everyone's satisfaction — as military flares. UFO documentary filmmaker James Fox is moderating and will share his own Phoenix Lights investigation and never-before-seen video of former Gov. Fife Symington discussing his sighting that night. A second discussion led by Fox is a chance to hear from Valley witnesses to the lights.The explosion of TV shows — including History Channel's "Ancient Aliens" and "Hangar One," and Destination America's "Alien Mysteries" — depicting encounters with UFOs and extraterrestrials has both helped and hindered serious research, said Alejandro Rojas, conference organizer with Tempe-based OpenMinds.tv.RELATED: Did a UFO crash in Kingman? | The 2016 UFO Conference | 15 Arizona UFO tales | Phoenix's most famous UFO story"It helps in that it demonstrates there is large interest on what may be out there," Rojas said. "It hinders in that larger numbers of people gravitate toward the sensational, which lends to television shows deprioritizing accuracy and credibility."Those who watch the shows may recognize some of the conference speakers:The conference was listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records 2015" as the “world’s Continue Reading

5 surprising things about the ‘Phoenix Lights’ sighting we learned at UFO Congress

The "Phoenix Lights" incident remains a big deal to UFO researchers worldwide even 20 years later because thousands reported witnessing the phenomenon.We know the official explanation that the lights in the sky and possible craft were military flares left many, especially among UFO and extraterrestrial believers, unsatisfied. We know that the curiosity about it probably isn't going to go away anytime soon.Several hundred people attended "The Importance of the Phoenix Lights-Mass UFO Sighting" panel discussion earlier this week as part of the International UFO Congress in Scottsdale.Richard Dolan, a UFO writer and researcher, host of a weekly radio program and guest on the shows "Hangar One" and "Ancient Aliens";Dr. Lynne Kitei, a witness to the lights and author of "Phoenix Lights: A Skeptic's  Discovery That We Are Not Alone";Jim Mann, director of Arizona MUFON (Mutual UFO Network), an investigative and research organization.The panel was moderated by James Fox, a director of three UFO documentaries.Here are a few things you may not know about the lights, according to the panel:Two months before Phoenix became a hotbed of UFO interest, some reported seeing strange lights in the month before, including panelist Kitei.UFO researchers report that before the lights were seen over Phoenix, they were first spotted near Henderson, Nev. Afterward, they were spied in Mexico."We call it the Phoenix Lights, but it's really not completely accurate," said Richard Dolan, referencing the sightings hours earlier in Nevada. "... You're talking about two distinctive types of events. Could be related. Could be the same thing. Could be something different."The event happened in the middle of March, but it didn't become general knowledge until June 18, 1997, when USA TODAY put a brief headlined, "Skies, phone lines light up Ariz." on the front page."Do we have evidence that it was an extraterrestrial event? No," said MUFON Continue Reading

The Truth Is Out There: 15 Arizona UFO tales

Editor's note: The story was originally published Jan. 1, 2015.Decades before the "Phoenix Lights," Arizona residents reported seeing V-shaped formations of UFOs hovering over Yuma and Phoenix. They reported reflective flying disks, glowing fireballs and swarms of starlike spheres streaming though the Arizona night skies. These sightings, and many more, come from a trove of nearly 130,000 pages of declassified records from Project Blue Book, the Air Force's files on UFO sightings and investigations. The records were released online in January thanks to UFO enthusiast John Greenewald. MORE: What's the story behind Phoenix's most famous UFO sighting? For Project Blue Book, the Air Force compiled 12,618 UFO sightings between 1947 and 1969 — some of which are from Arizona — but decided to discontinue investigations after finding no proof of national security threats or extraterrestrial vehicles. While the Air Force investigations may have stopped, the sightings never have. Arizona ranks No. 7 on a list of the top 10 states with the most UFO sightings, according to the National UFO reporting center. The more than 3,000 sightings in Arizona date back to 1950, the latest of which occurred Jan. 13, when an observer spotted orange lights south of Phoenix near the Estrella Mountains, according to the UFO reporting center's website. The Arizona Republic sifted through more than 100 reports from the Project Blue Book files, searching for the interesting, the bizarre and the unbelievable in stories of Arizona's UFO sightings. Many of the names and specific locations within the reports were redacted by the Air Force. Investigation of flying discs 4 p.m. July 7, 1947 The leaves rustled in the wake of a thunderstorm as Mr. Rhodes stepped out his backdoor and walked toward his workshop. From the east, he heard the approach of an incoming jet — possibly a P-80, according to the report.The 30-year-old Phoenix man looked, but Continue Reading

Phoenix Lights: The Valley’s most famous UFO story

July 2 is World UFO Day. To mark the day, azcentral is featuring a story about what many consider to be Arizona's most infamous UFO sighting. Editor's note: Originally published in The Arizona Republic on Feb. 27, 2007.On a mild springlike evening the string of amber orbs appeared as if by magic, a celestial sleight of hand that would in the coming weeks make headlines and video highlights across the nation.Although little more than an atmospheric curiosity at the time, the hovering and evenly spaced balls of light would soon become known as the Phoenix Lights.Those who accepted the explanation that it was military flares dismissed the controversy with logical precision, while people who saw it as an otherworldly encounter claim the truth has been shrouded in lies and disinformation.In the ensuing years, the Phoenix Lights would change outlooks, minds and even a few lives. What hasn't changed is this: The mystery that still hovers above March 13, 1997. RELATED: 15 Arizona UFO stories from the Project Blue Book The key witnessWhat she was seeing had barely registered when Lynne Kitei raced inside to fetch her video camera. Lights, six of them, evenly spaced in a direct line. They were -- floating? -- over Phoenix. Certainly not a plane. Or balloons.She had seen something like this before, but could these be like the amber orbs she saw in 1995 hovering in formation just 100 yards from the backyard of her Paradise Valley home? And she had seen orbs like that just two months ago. In each case she had snapped photos. This time she wanted video.By the time she was back on her patio, only three lights continued to shine. She pressed "Record," and those several seconds of tape would become one of the seminal recordings of the Phoenix Lights to be shown on the news, TV specials and, several years later, her own documentary.Since that night Kitei, a respected physician, has resigned from her position at the Arizona Heart Institute to devote herself full time to talk Continue Reading