The Unknowns: Mystifying UFO Cases

I’ve never paid much attention to UFO sightings. I’ve read about the occasional incident but my curiosity never really expanded beyond those few cases. I just find that far too often the focus of UFO stories is on the mystery itself as opposed to the resolution of that mystery. Plausible explanations take a backseat to fantastical embellishments. There’s a “documentary” on Netflix right now, and I’m using the term “documentary” very loosely, about a man who claims to be harassed and pursued by aliens. In one scene, he literally has someone bob one of those alien masks you’d get for Halloween outside a window and it is played completely straight. We, the audience, are supposed to believe that this is a close encounter of the third kind when it looks like a close encounter of the trick-or-treat kind.

Nevertheless, this “documentary” did peak my interest and so I began to learn more about the UFO phenomenon, immersing myself in this expansive mythos of which I only had a very limited understanding. From the very start I was taken down this convoluted path of alien abductions, government conspiracies, and alien experiments that read like rejected drafts of The X-Files. But every now and again, I came across something a bit more credible. Stories that were genuinely difficult to rationalize. Nothing that would convince me the Earth is a galactic resort but mystifying stories all the same.

To get you on the same page as me, we need to go back to the year 1947. In the summer of 1947, news and government agencies across North America were flooded with reports of strange objects in the sky. This UFO mania was provoked by a pilot named Kenneth Arnold. On June the 24th Arnold was flying over the Cascade Mountains in the state of Washington when he observed a formation of nine saucer-like objects zooming across the sky. Unbeknownst to Arnold, this innocent description would come to popularize the term flying saucer. The scintillating discoids appeared to be traveling at a speed of some 2000 km/h, a speed yet to be achieved by any man-made airplane in 1947. Arnold initially suspected he’d observed some secret military test flight but the US Air Force quickly denied responsibility and merely dismissed the sighting as some form of optical illusion. But it wasn’t quite that simple. Not only was Arnold an experienced pilot but his story was corroborated by a number of witnesses on the ground who all described a series of oval-shaped objects traveling at a tremendous rate of speed. Furthermore, other sightings had been reported days before and would continue for many days after.

More than 800 cases in less than a month, including the famous Roswell incident. Publicly the US Air Force dismissed the sightings as nothing more than a combination of overactive imaginations and misperceptions of natural phenomena but internally the Air Force was just as mystified as the public and actually quite concerned. Hundreds of unrelated persons from all walks of life including high ranking military officials, scientists, engineers, politicians, and professional pilots reported uncannily similar experiences in the span of a few weeks. Both the public and the intelligence community crew increasingly convinced that something was hiding amongst the clouds. In late June of 1947 the Air Force covertly launched a preliminary investigation into the sightings as they suspected that some UFOs could be vessels of foreign or celestial origin. By late September the existence of advanced aeronautic vehicles could not be eliminated. While the majority of cases could be ascribed to natural phenomena, the maneuverability and evasive behavior displayed by some UFOs defied all conventional explanations. It was speculated that these seemingly mechanical UFOs could be part of some top secret military project, either foreign or domestic.

It was feared that the Soviet Union had seized German technology after World War II and developed some advanced aircraft capable of covert infiltration of US airspace. This led to the formation of Project Sign. A classified investigation that would attempt to determine whether or not UFOs posed a threat to national security. While the project members entertained a number of plausible causes, by the summer of 1948, a minority of credible and well documented UFO cases could not be resolved.

These cases became known as the unknowns. By process of elimination, Project Sign therefore concluded that the most probable explanation for the most inexplicable of cases was the extraterrestrial hypothesis. In other words, the unknowns did not appear to be from this Earth. However, once this report reached the Pentagon, it was rejected. The interplanetary explanation was thought to be unsubstantiated and so the report was ultimately scrapped. Project Sign was dissolved soon thereafter and subsequent investigations ultimately failed to ascertain the nature of these unknowns. Project Sign’s successor, Project Blue Book, merely concluded that it was statistically improbable that UFOs represented technological capabilities beyond our own. As the vast majority of UFO sightings are misperceptions of natural phenomena the presumption was that all UFO sightings are likely to be misperceptions. As such, funding for UFO research could no longer be justified as the threat to national security was evidently nonexistent.

Government sanctioned UFO research officially ended with the dissolution of Project Blue Book in 1969 and the Air Force has since proclaimed the issue resolved. Out of the 12,618 UFO reports in its collection, 701 were marked unknown upon its conclusion. Although, some would argue that many cases were mischaracterized and that more than 1,700 cases should be regarded as unknowns. While the US government may dismiss these unknowns as mere statistical anomalies, the fundamental question remains. What did people see? What kind of natural phenomenon evades resolution despite decades of scrutiny? Late in the afternoon on May the 24th, 1949, six civilians were on a fishing trip on the Rogue River in the state of Oregon.

Suddenly, one of them observed a round and scintillating object in the sky. It barely moved as it silently hovered some 1,500 meters above. It was difficult to discern any details with the naked eye but fortunately one of them had brought a pair of binoculars with eight times magnification. The binoculars revealed a clearly distinguishable metallic craft of unfamiliar design. It was round and flat, about 10 meters in diameter, and had a rounded fin on the roof. It had a reflective silver-colored surface that appeared to be somewhat dirty. It lacked any conventional means of propulsion and made absolutely no sound. After some two minutes of observation, the UFO gradually moved in the opposite direction of the wind until it disappeared with the speed of a jet plane.

Besides the corroborating accounts and detailed sketches, what makes this case so interesting is that two of the civilian observers were also employed at an aeronautical research facility so they had ample knowledge of aeronautics. Furthermore, the story never reached the public. This is important because if this was a hoax one would expect the hoaxers to seek media attention, yet the witnesses refrained from speaking to the press.

The story never reached the public eye until many years later when ufologists uncovered the case files which revealed that Project Blue Book had rather dismissively concluded it must have been a misidentified airplane or a weather balloon. So all we need now is a plane shaped like a pancake or a self-propelled balloon unaffected by wind. If you spend some time reading about UFOs you will soon come across an explanation that is repeated time and time again. Weather balloons. This is certainly true for some of the more famous cases. The Battle of Los Angeles? Balloon. The Roswell Incident? Top secret balloon. The Mantell Incident? Once again, a balloon. Unfortunately for proponents of the extraterrestrial hypothesis, it is often a rather convincing explanation.

However, it is far less convincing when the witnesses of a UFO are themselves launching a balloon. On April the 24th, 1949, a group of five balloonists had just launched a weather balloon in the New Mexico desert and were tacking said balloon with a special telescope. Suddenly, the person operating the telescope sighted another object in the sky and alerted the rest of the group who could all see the UFO with the naked eye. It had an elliptical shape and was white-, silver-, and yellow-ish in color. It was impossible to accurately determine its altitude and size due to the lack of reference points but it appeared to be flying at an extremely high altitude and moved so quickly across the sky it was difficult to track with the telescope. It remained visible for about a minute until it suddenly stopped its horizontal motion and disappeared by near vertical ascension into the clear blue sky. It made no sound and traveled crosswind. A year prior a very similar incident had taken place on the 5th of April.

Three balloonists in the New Mexico desert were observing a weather balloon when they spotted a UFO moving at a very high rate of speed. It had a round shape and was white-, gray-, and gold-ish in color. It flew erratically across the sky and performed vertical loops for about 30 seconds until it disappeared. The desert was completely silent yet the UFO violently maneuvered without making a sound. Then on January the 16th, 1951, two balloonists and a number pilots and civilians in the New Mexico desert observed two UFOs in the vicinity of the balloon they were observing. The balloon had reached an altitude of 35 km and, even though it was about 30 meters in diameter, the two UFOs were about three to five times larger and appeared to be flying above the balloon.

They had an elliptical shape and were white and gray in color. They orbited the balloon for about 40 seconds until they disappeared into the distance at a terrific rate of speed. These are just three examples of many similar cases and despite the fact that the spectators involved could not have been more qualified to identify aerial phenomena, none could explain what they had seen. Just before midnight on July the 19th, 1952, radarscopes in and around Washington D. C. picked up a cluster of 5 to 10 unidentified targets. There were no scheduled flights in the area and the UFOs did not adhere to any established flight paths. The possibility of a malfunction was quickly eliminated as radarscopes at three separate airports displayed the same unidentifiable targets. Eventually, the objects could be visually confirmed as orbs of light slowly moving across the sky. After a while the objects began to fan out, zooming across the night sky of Washington D. C. They flew above the White House, the Capitol Building, and many other restricted areas in a disorganized and unpredictable fashion.

On numerous occasion the UFOs performed sharp 90 degree turns and some would completely reverse course in a matter of seconds. Radar operators were baffled. No man-made aircraft could perform such maneuvers. Air traffic controllers, radar operators, pilots, military personnel, and countless civilians all reported sightings of UFOs. One pilot remained in close proximity to the UFOs for about 14 minutes, describing them as white lights with no recognizable shape. While some lights flew in parallel to the plane, others appeared to be flying outside the Earths atmosphere. The sightings by the pilot also coincided with the radar detections suggesting that these were indeed physical flying objects as opposed to radar misidentifications of some kind. After more than three hours, two jet fighters were dispatched to intercept the UFOs but moments before they arrived, the objects accelerated to speeds in excess of 10,000 km/h and disappeared out of sight.

However, when the jets returned to refuel the UFOs returned to the skies. Some five hours after initial detection, the last UFO vanished from the radarscopes. But a week later, the UFOs returned once more. On the evening of July the 26th numerous UFOs were observed streaking across the skies above and around Washington D.C. They shared many similarities with the UFOs from the week before, appearing as orbs of light capable of extreme supersonic velocities.

The crew and passengers of some commercial flights could once again visually confirm the existence of many of the UFOs detected by radar. Four jets were dispatched during the night and two of the pilots did see something on two separate occasions. One pilot saw four white lights while the other saw a single white light. However, neither came close enough to make an accurate identification as the jets were easily outmaneuvered by the UFOs. Under mounting pressure from the public to explain this apparent invasion of the US capital, the Air Force held a press conference on July the 29th. At the conference they claimed that temperature inversions were to blame. It’s an atmospheric condition in which layers of warm air traps pockets of cold air which can result in false returns on a radarscope.

Conversely, the visual sightings were supposedly misperceptions of stars, meteors, or strange reflections of natural sources of light. In other words, it was all just a big misunderstanding and there was no cause for alarm. It’s a very odd explanation given that it completely disregards crucial pieces of information. For one thing, visual observations and radar detections were confirmed to be one and the same on numerous occasions. When pilots claimed they had visual contact with a UFO, ground personnel confirmed its existence and location on the radarscopes. When pilots claimed a UFO disappeared it simultaneously disappeared from the radarscopes.

Another glaring issue is that temperature inversions occurred on a daily basis throughout the summer of 1952 yet unidentified radar targets only appeared on the two nights in question. Personnel at Andrews Air Force Base were not quite sure as to what they had seen, claiming they may have seen meteors or other natural phenomena. But the senior air traffic controller at Washington National Airport was certain they had detected solid maneuvering objects while explicitly denying the possibility of weather related targets. Furthermore, none of the radar operators agreed with the Air Force’s conclusion. Everyone was certain that they had been tracking metallic flying objects. Even the National Weather Bureau disagreed with the temperature inversion theory claiming that such phenomena would appear as amorphous streaks across the radarscopes as opposed to sharp delineable dots. In spite of these glaring contradictions the Air Force concluded that temperature inversions were to blame and that nothing extraordinary had taken place. Though, somewhat paradoxically, the Project Blue Book files list the case as an unknown while simultaneously agreeing with the Air Force’s conclusion.

On April the 24th, 1964, police officer Lonnie Zamora was chasing a speeding car outside the city of Socorro in the New Mexico desert when he was alerted by loud noise and a bright flame in the sky. Believing it to be an explosion he broke off the chase and drove towards the light to investigate. The flame was blue and orange and appeared to be descending towards the ground about half a kilometer away. After a difficult drive through the rough terrain he noticed a white and silver-colored object about 200 meters distant.

It initially appeared to be an overturned car and he could see two men in white coveralls standing beside it. The two men seemed alarmed by Zamora’s presence and looked straight at him but after clearing a small hill, which momentarily obstructed his view, the two men had vanished. Zamora could now discern that it wasn’t a car but some kind of elliptical object, supported by four metallic legs. The white ellipsoid was about 5 meters in diameter and had a red insignia printed on the side.

He then proceeded on foot and was about 30 meters away when he heard loud thumps as if someone closed a door and then a smokeless flame, reminiscent of a welding torch, suddenly erupted beneath the craft. The flame was once again blue and orange in color and it produced a the same roaring sound that was increasing in frequency. Ever so slowly, the object began to rise. At this point, Zamora became frightened and the loud noise gave him the impression that the UFO was about to explode so he ran for cover behind his car. But after a while the UFO went completely silent and was now hovering some 6 meters above the ground. It’s speed gradually increased until it disappeared into the distance. While Zamora was the only person to observe the craft up close a number of witnesses had independently reported sightings of an oval-shaped UFO and a blueish flame before the story had reached the press. One particular witness had observed the descent of an oval-shaped UFO and a police car chasing after it.

A second police officer arrived within minutes and both the FBI and the Air Force would soon converge upon the site. The supposed landing site was thoroughly investigated and photographed. Grass and bushes had been burned and were still smoldering when the first officers arrived at the scene. Some of the burned plants were notoriously difficult to set aflame. The investigators also uncovered four wedge-shaped indentations in the ground and they appeared to be fresh as the dry topsoil had been pushed aside revealing the still moist subsoil.

A cluster of footprints were also discovered within the rectangular region of the indentations. No helicopters had been in the vicinity, the insignia on the craft could not be identified, the site was not radioactive, radar had not picked up any unusual activity, nor did the soil samples collected from the landing site reveal any evidence of chemical propellants. Some claim that vitrified sand had been collected which is when extreme heat melts sand into glass. However, others refute this claim so it’s difficult to know for certain. Nevertheless, none of the investigators believed it to be a hoax. The cluster of footprints were localized and did not lead away from the indentations. Assuming Zamora created the indentations himself and somehow managed to ignite the near-inflammable vegetation, he must’ve done so without leaving any evidence or footprints except for a small cluster near the center. Zamora was deemed highly reliable by everyone who knew him but more importantly by those who interrogated him. Despite plenty of opportunities to do so, he never capitalized on the sighting nor did he seem to appreciate the attention the story attracted.

No evidence of a hoax has ever been uncovered and Zamora’s integrity remained intact until his death many decades later. The Project Blue Book investigation failed to reach a conclusion. The most plausible explanation seemed to be that Lonnie Zamora had witnessed some kind of classified experimental aircraft. An explanation favored by the local population as well as Zamora himself. Given that the highly secretive military testing range known as the White Sands Proving Grounds is located right next door, this is certainly a possibility.

However, the unusual design and advanced capabilities of the craft observed still makes it difficult to believe. Unsurprisingly, the military denied the existence of such a craft. Many years later, the Air Force Captain in charge of the investigation recalled a strange phone call he’d received at the time. A high ranking military official at the Pentagon had called and personally questioned him about the case which he found to be highly unusual. He thought it was unconventional for a Colonel to be making such a call and so he wondered: “Why in the world were they so interested?” Why is it that even though half the global population walks around with a high resolution camera in their pocket, high resolution footage of flying saucers seem to be nonexistent? I’ve seen variations of this line of reasoning before and at first glance it may seem quite decisive.

While it is true that cameras are more readily accessible and video quality has improved significantly over the past few decades, so has the quality of forgeries. Thanks to software like After Effects almost anyone can create a convincing forgery which means that videos like these will never be the definitive proof they likely would have been a few decades ago. Imagine an ideal situation for a moment. Imagine that a reliable individual with no background in visual effects and no previous interest in UFOs captures an actual unidentifiable aircraft on a high resolution camera. Not some blob of pixels as if it was filmed by a Japanese adult film studio, nor some indiscernible streak that requires CSI-esque enhancements, but an actual clearly distinguishable craft that defy all conventional explanations.

Even then, the authenticity of that footage would inevitably come into question and it would in all likelihood be impossible to prove that it actually happened. I remember back in 2011, a UFO in Jerusalem was captured on video by multiple people from multiple vantage points. The case attracted worldwide attention as the multiple locations lent credence to the sighting’s authenticity. However, some time later a team of journalists tracked down the cameramen responsible and found that one was a filmmaker and film teacher while the others just so happened to be students at the same school. Drones have also made it far too easy to stage UFO sightings. Strange lights in the dark night sky performing seemingly impossible maneuvers? Drones got you covered. What appears to be a solid craft in the clear blue sky that looks noting like a conventional drone? Drones got you covered.

It’s become next to impossible to eliminate conventional explanations as virtually every person on the planet has gained easy access to the heavens above. At this point, nothing short of a spaceship landing in the middle of times square should be deemed convincing. This is at least in part why I choose to focus my attention on older cases as none of these problems existed a few decades ago. The first director of Project Blue Book, Edward J. Ruppelt, would later go on to write a book about the cases he and his team investigated. In it, he describes a drastic shift in the attitude towards UFO research following the rejection of the extra terrestrial hypothesis. The Air Force no longer sought to understand the nature of UFOs but rather sought to debunk the phenomenon at large. In his own words: “Everything was being evaluated on the premise that UFOs could not exist.” “No matter what you see or hear, don’t believe it.” Following the aforementioned Washington D.C. incident in 1952 this predisposition was only reinforced. Investigators were instructed to focus on cases they could solve and to never discuss the unknowns in public.

The subject was to be debunked and ridiculed and so it was. What had initially been perceived as a potential treat to national security had now, through an orchestrated public relations campaign, been reduced to a socially unacceptable pseudoscience. Ruppelt writes in his book: “This change in the operating policy of the UFO project was so pronounced that I, like so many other people, wondered if there was a hidden reason for the change. Was it actually an attempt to go underground, to make the project more secretive? Was it an effort to cover up the fact that UFOs were proven to be interplanetary and that this should be withheld from the public at all cost to prevent a mass panic?” “Maybe I was just playing the front man to a big cover-up.” Ruppelt is of course just speculating but, given that he was the head of the operation, it does make you wonder if there may have been some truth behind those concerns. Assuming the military is lying then how does one distinguish a lie about alien spaceships from a lie about classified aircrafts? We know nothing of either so the two deceptions would appear identical.

I mean, I want to believe but I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to believe in. After working my way through a few hundred cases I feel even more conflicted than I did when I began. Things where just so much simpler then. I could just laugh at a man pretending to be scared of a Halloween mask. No grand conspiracies. No extraterrestrials. None of that. Just mortal fear and a piece of plastic. Simpler times.

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As found on Youtube

The Unexplained Phoenix Lights Phenomenon

– Tonight, something strange happened in the skies over Arizona that still hasn’t been fully explained. – An event now known as the Phoenix lights. – It is extraordinary. – No one knows for sure what happened that night in the skies over Arizona in March, but thousands of people saw something. – This week on Buzzfeed Unsolved, we investigate the Phoenix lights, a possible UFO sighting in Phoenix, Arizona. This case is regarded by many to be ^one of the bigger UFO cases of all time, ^mainly because of the amount of witnesses. ^You already look like you’re stoked. – I love it, I love it. (laughs) A lot of times, it’s like ooh, this person saw a lady get abducted by minions, but nobody had a camera.

– Well, not today, friend, not today, because spoiler alert, just take a little peek in there. It’s hot. – You didn’t even look. Ooh, there you go. – There’s so much heat in here. Let’s get into it. – Okay. – (laughs) Okay. ^On March 13th, 1997, around 7 PM, ^a string of about five lights in a V formation ^appeared in the sky above Phoenix, Arizona. The National UFO Reporting Center reported that the first call regarding the lights came in at PM from a retired police officer in Paulden, Arizona, which is about two hours north of Phoenix. The retired police officer reported he saw, quote, ^a cluster of red-orange lights ^arranged in a V formation, end quote. The National UFO Reporting Center reportedly began to get a flood of calls from south of Paulden suggesting the lights were moving in a south-eastern direction. Allegedly, there were over 700 witnesses, including pilots, police officers, and military officials that were lighting up the National UFO Reporting Center’s switchboards looking for an explanation. Some describe the lights as orbs, ^others said triangles. ^A large amount of witnesses describe the lights ^as part of a singular massive craft, ^a craft that made no noise.

– So some people saw a craft, I got a bubble, I got an air bubble in my throat right now, you hear that? You ever get that? This is scary, I don’t sound like myself. – Oh, you sound– – I sound like an alien. – You sound alien. – Yeah, I’m like a pod person. (grunts) Okay. Yeah, you know, that’s that thing, you look in the darkness long enough, you’re gonna see something. – Yeah, 700 people are gonna all hallucinate at the same time. – Yeah. – Okay. – I mean, some of them did, some of them didn’t. I mean, it’s not hallucinating, I’m saying some of the people looked up and said– – Misidentified. – Oh, I see something, I’m staring at the darkness, are those all connected, what’s my mind doing? – Here’s a crazy dot– – In March? – Though this may be, I may be going off the deep end here, but if 700 people say they saw something, what if they actually saw something? – No doubt they saw something, but what is that thing? – Don’t, what? – That’s the question.

– One man named Terry Proctor captured ^one of the only videos of this event. ^The grainy, low-quality video, which we can’t show you ^due to copyright, seemingly displays five lights in a V-like pattern in the sky. ^Around 10 PM, a second set of as many as nine lights ^appeared in the sky, seemingly hovering in the same spot. ^Whether these lights are related to or are in fact the same ^lights from the seven PM sighting, is unclear. However, it’s this set of lights that comprises most of eyewitness testimony, as it was later in the night after the buzz of the first sighting had people on alert.

– It seems like not the usual M.O. for aliens, right, to sort of do a little appetizer? – This is a weird case because there’s a possibility that one was legit and one actually was something normal, but was misidentified, so it confuses things. – Curious. – Or they were the same thing. I think either is just as likely. I think it’s possible that aliens knew they were gonna be seen, or didn’t know that they were gonna be seen, one of them fucked up, was asleep at the wheel, forgot to turn on the cloaking device or some crazy shit like that. – It’s just a button. – And now he’s fired and he’s looking for work. His wife divorced him, his little alien kids don’t have income to live off of, it’s a really bad situation for that alien father. – I don’t think aliens have money. – A laser printer technician named Dana Valentine witnessed the craft from his yard in Phoenix. ^Quote, we could see the outline of a mass ^behind the lights, but you couldn’t actually see the mass. ^It was more like a gray distortion of the night sky, wavy. ^I don’t know exactly what it was, ^but I know it’s not a technology the public ^has heard of before, end quote.

^Tim Ley, a management consultant, described the event ^saying, quote, it was astonishing and a little frightening. ^It was so big and so strange. ^You couldn’t actually see the object, all you could see was the outline, ^as though something was blotting out the stars. ^The lights looked like gas. ^There was a distortion on the surface. ^Also, the light didn’t spill out or shine. ^I’ve never seen a light like that, end quote. According to a USA Today article from the time, air traffic controllers could not see the lights on radar, despite seeing them with their own eyes in the sky. That’s pretty significant. – Yeah. – If there are planes, you would see them on the radar. – Yeah. – So it’s not a plane. – Unless it was stealth. – We’ll get into that later. Based off of reports, it appears that the mysterious spacecraft was enormous, made no sound, moved slowly, and on occasion, would hover over an area. Phoenix physician Dr. Lynne Kitei was a witness of these lights and states, quote, ^it was a mile-wide formation of these orbs ^and I caught them head-on turning into a V, end quote.

^Witness Sue Watson described the craft as, quote, ^a shopping mall flying over my home. ^It had these lights in front and then it was ^totally illuminated underneath, like a yellowish amber. ^It was a totally rounded boomerang shape, end quote. Videos of this second event showed the string of nine lights hovering in the sky. The lights illuminate off and on randomly over the course of a couple minutes while floating in what could be described as a loose, V-like formation. Other videos captured the events of March 13th, 1997 and according to a USA Today article, quote, ^computer analysis of the tapes puts the object ^at 6,000 feet long, or more than a mile, end quote. – With these things, I tend to, you know, I tend to put it first on spooky military activity more so than extraterrestrials.

It just seems like a big gamble for extraterrestrials to just, I mean, if they’re coming down at night in the first place, you know, clearly, and they’re trying to cloak themselves, well great. Maybe hang outside a few miles outside of town. – I mean, really it’s not that much of a gamble. What’s the gamble? They’re clearly more advanced than us, what’s gonna happen? Okay, we see them, we did see them. We’re not gonna attack them. – So pop on by around the afternoon. – Because maybe they– – Let’s get some peepers on that ship. – Maybe they saw us and they were like, hm, not interested. Swipe right, or left, or whatever the fuck Twitter is. Not Twitter, Tinder, just sounded like an 80-year-old man right there.

(laughs) – Whatever Twinder. – Whatever Twinder is. – Twinder. – Uh, yeah. I think maybe they saw, they came to check out resources. They didn’t like what they saw so they just left. While there are people who say the lights were part of one giant craft, there are others who believe the lights themselves were the crafts. ^A truck driver named Bill Greiner’s recollection ^of the event seems to suggest the latter. ^Greiner said that his truck route took him ^within a mile of Luke Air Force Base. ^He states that he witnessed two orbs, one of which was floating over the air force base. At that moment, three F-16s took off, after which the orb pursued one, but then shot up into the sky and disappeared. ^Quote, before this, if anybody had told me ^they saw a UFO, I would have said “yeah, ^”and I believe in the tooth fairy.” Now I’ve got a whole new view.

I may be just a dumb truck driver, but I’ve seen something that don’t belong here. I wish the government would just admit it. You know what it’s like in this city right now? It’s like having 50,000 people in a stadium watch a football game and then having someone tell us we weren’t there, end quote. – Love this guy. – Yeah, I love it. He’s like he realizes the first thing a skeptic is gonna say is “oh, it’s a fuckin’ truck driver.” Check that box. – Yeah. I was gonna say, oh, it’s a fuckin’ truck driver. He got me dead to rights.

– And then he gave a solid analogy of people watching a sporting event and then having people go “hey, you didn’t watch that.” – And he also gave the I was a skeptic until I saw this defense, which is great. Oh yeah, and I believe in the tooth fairy, go fuck yourself. – It was a three-pronged attack. – That’s pretty good. – This guy’s, uh, he’s a savant when it comes to rhetoric.

– Yeah. ^- On May sixth during a council meeting, ^city councilwoman Frances Barwood asks city manager ^Frank Fairbanks if there was going to be an investigation. ^Quote, I asked if anybody knew what this object was ^and could we check into it. ^I was met by a whole bunch of stares, end quote. ^She claims that following the meeting, a city manager approached her and said, quote, you shouldn’t have asked that question, end quote. Then the Arizona Republic published a cartoon of city councilwoman Barwood with a light switch on her forehead and a button on her jacket ^saying, quote, I love UFOs, end quote. Barwood continues, the mayor’s office put signs on my picture in the hallway and I found out afterwards they handed out business cards with my name on it that said speak into the tin foil. I will hear you, end quote.

Despite being ridiculed, Barwood began receiving phone calls from other witnesses all describing the same thing. Nonetheless, for a while, the case went unacknowledged until a USA Today article released three months later, on June 18th, 1997 described the event, effectively bringing the story into the national spotlight. From the article, quote, on March 13th, hundreds of people reported an enormous object or objects in the night sky. It’s the most confounding UFO report in 50 years.

So far, there is no explanation, but the government is not investigating. Local and federal agencies disagree over who should purse the report, end quote. – Yeah, I guess it didn’t, so there’s been almost no coverage of it up until here. – No, and this is three months after the sighting. – ‘Cause this is, this is before YouTube or– – Yeah, no one’s on Twitter going “holy shit.” – Yeah. – ‘Cause, you know, I mean for example, remember, what was it, a couple months ago when the SpaceX launch happened and it looked like the sky was breaking? If that happened in 1997 and we didn’t have Twitter. – Everyone would think it was an alien. – Everyone would think it’s an alien, they would lose their mind. – Yeah. – Of course, the government was, to their credit, able to give an explanation. They even announced it was gonna happen. They said this ship’s, it wasn’t a covert operation, so in that case, I don’t know if it’s too similar, but the internet is a tool of knowledge, I suppose.

– In some ways. – Yeah, or it could be a means of destruction, the end of us. – Just hang in there, everybody. – With the country hungry for answers, then-governor Fife Symington held a press conference ^where he claimed he knew who was responsible ^and brought out the accused. – And now I’ll ask Officer Stein and his colleagues to escort the accused into the room so that we may all look upon the guilty party. Don’t get him too close to me please. (audience laughs) – And it’s here that this story gets interesting, because despite making a joke of the event, Governor Symington would later publicly admit ^that he too had seen the craft.

Quote, I saw a huge craft come right over Squall Peak. It was just breathtaking. As a pilot and a former Air Force officer, I can definitively say that this craft did not resemble any man-made object that I’d ever seen. ^It was certainly not high altitude flares, ^because I’ve never seen flares fly in formation. ^Unquestionably, it was a UFO, end quote. Another interesting fact from Governor Symington ^was the fact that his office did inquire about the object, ^but they never received an answer, ^and if a governor can’t receive an explanation from the powers that be, what could they be hiding? – There’s probably a lot of things they don’t tell governors. – Sure, but not when the governor in question has a state full of people that are pressing him for answers. You would think that they would be like, “hey, I know a lot of people are on you right now. “You’re under a lot of heat. “This is what you do,” but instead they ostracize him, they keep him on the outside to think oh, I wonder what he’s gonna do? Maybe he’ll run his mouth. – I would be more concerned if he did know something.

– I’m just saying that if they had talked to him, he wouldn’t have said anything ever, I think. Because he would have had the fear of god in him. – But then he’s still, he’s still like a loose cannon. – Not necessarily. – They can’t know for sure that if they tell him something, he’s going to, he could go nuts, they don’t know. – Yeah you can, because it’s your job. I’m just saying that by keeping someone in the dark, you’re giving them the liberty to say whatever they really want. – With no basis for it, though. So if anyone hears it, they’re not gonna– – It has a little bit of basis. He’s a governor saying something, so that already inherently has a little bit of basis.

– But he doesn’t know more than anyone else in town. – I know. – Is the thing. – But it just makes it look more suspicious. – I don’t think it does. – I think it does. – Well, agree to disagree here. – All right. With that, let’s get into the theories, of which there are only two. The first theory is the official explanation ^from the Air Force that the lights witnessed in the sky ^were merely flares dropped in a training exercise ^from high altitude that night. ^The military states that the flares were dropped ^over the Barry M. Goldwater range near Gila Bend, Arizona, ^though it’s worth noting that Tuscon’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the base that allegedly carried out the training exercise originally stated that it had no planes in the air at the time.

Former F-16 pilot Ty Groh believes that the lights ^may well have been military flares. He says that flares go where the wind takes them. A breeze may have been able to carry all of them at an equal distance. In June of that year, a local news anchor taped another flare drop by the military, and skeptics suggest it bared a striking resemblance to the Phoenix lights. One important detail is what time the military reportedly dropped flares on the night of the Phoenix lights. The flare drop apparently occurred around 10 PM, ^aka the same time sightings of the second ^set of lights were reported, ^but while that possibly explains those lights, ^that still offers no explanation for the first set ^of lights that were seen nearly three hours earlier.

^One man named Mitch Stanley claims that during the time ^of the first sighting, he happened to be using ^a high-powered telescope capable of seeing ^1,500 times more light than the human eye. When he looked at the first set of lights, he claims they were planes. While compelling, this story seems odd ^when you consider the fact that no planes were reported ^in the air during the time of the first sighting, ^and since it wasn’t just one light, but rather five lights, ^it seems odd that there would be five unaccounted-for ^planes flying in tight formation. – My gut tells me it’s just some shady military activity. Could have been flares, could have been stealths. You know, who knows? – They’ve only given one explanation for the second set of lights, and even that explanation to me is shit, I would say. (laughs) I think it’s a shit explanation.

– This one’s shit. – I just think the flares, even if you do buy the flares, sure, the first set of lights still unexplained, except for one dude with a telescope who’s competing against 700 witnesses. And why the fuck is this guy with a telescope, he just happens to be using a telescope at the exact time of one of the craziest events of all time? – You gotta be honest, telescope people are weird. – (laughs) Yeah, I know, ’cause he’s actually– – We don’t wanna be one of those. – He’s a favorite among skeptics, they’re like “see, this guy’s using a high power telescope with his mama” which he was, he was using, he was in the back– – No, I don’t doubt that he was, that him and his mama were out with their telescope.

I’m just saying telescope people, I mean, how much are they spending on these telescopes? They’re gonna be out there every single night with like a margarita like let’s see what I find. – Yeah that’s true. – Oh, empty sky again, wow what a night. Well, that’s been eight hours, guess I’ll go to sleep ’cause the sun’s coming up. They’re basically vampires. – Then he says to his mom “good scoping.” She goes “good scoping, son” and then they go back to bed. – When are you gonna move out? (laughs) – Which brings us to our next theory, that the lights were not flares, but actual UFOs, ^and perhaps proof of extraterrestrial life.

^On the third year anniversary of the lights, ^another flare demonstration was performed ^to attempt to mimic the lights, ^this time by the National Guard, ^but people remained unconvinced ^that this was what they witnessed three years earlier. ^The flares, quote, flickered and moved erratically, ^end quote, and not in the bizarre grouped fashion ^of the Phoenix lights. Jim Dilettosa, a special effects expert, analyzed videos ^of the lights and said, quote, I have no idea ^what they were, end quote. ^Him and his team detail the orbs as, quote, ^a perfectly uniform light with no variation ^from one edge to the other and no glow.

^They have ruled out lasers, flares, holograms, ^and aircraft lights as sources, end quote. To gain further insight on this case, ^we sat down with ancient alien expert Giorgio A. Tsoukalos. What do you think the plausibility of this event actually happening is? – Well, we know it happened. (laughing) – We do know what happened. Ryan and I agree, we don’t know what it was exactly. – What it was, yes, correct, and what I think is fascinating is that something similar happened seven years earlier in Belgium, which was also seen by thousands upon thousands of people.

Same triangle formation and then also the individual lights. So I think it’s fascinating. – Have you seen anything that could maybe be an early version of what we saw in the Phoenix lights? – Sure, what’s interesting is that Alexander the Great and also in some accounts of ancient Constantinople, there are references of giant flying shields. Giant shields that are glowing in the sky and just crossed, you know, over the lands. So when you have these accounts of ancient flying shields up in the sky that are witnessed by armies, you have to wonder, well, were they all drunk? (laughing) Were they all smoking, or did they actually see something? – Even if the lights were misidentified flares ^or planes, this still doesn’t explain numerous witnesses ^describing a massive craft that the lights were attached to.

^Piggybacking off that, on March 14th, 1997, ^the morning after the Phoenix lights, ^an airman from Luke Air Force Base ^detailed a disturbing story from the day prior. ^He claimed that the base got a call from Prescott Valley ^Airport, quote, reporting an object that had a near-miss with a small Cessna, end quote. He claimed this call came at, quote, ^approximately PM, that they encountered something ^over Phoenix, Arizona, end quote.

^As a result, the airman claims that Luke Air Force Base ^sent two F-15s to investigate. Upon their return to base, here’s how the airman described the pilot of one of the F-15s. Quote, the command pilot of this particular flight, I’ve never seen this man scared, and he was scared to death. He’s not sure what it was. His statement was that they followed this aircraft, it went on a straight-line course. He saw five distinct lights in a triangular pattern. How often would this happen where the military has stealth planes out that they don’t tell Air Force bases about? – It’s possible. – That seems wildly counterproductive to me. You don’t wanna be sending out a bunch of planes to investigate things when you could easily be like “oh yeah, that’s one of ours.” – Yeah, I just feel like the military, you know, it’s hard to pin down. Hard to pin down what they might do. – I think I just made a good point.

– I mean, certainly, certainly a good point for you. – After this revelation, the airman claimed ^the Air Force base, quote, had a complete lockdown. ^All hell broke loose basically ^and the facility was closed, end quote. Noteworthy is that this encounter occurred around PM at the time of the first sighting, about an hour and a half before the military claims they dropped flares.

In response, the Air Force has denied this encounter ever took place. Classic. – I love that, yeah. – Classic, do you think they just have a dartboard that they throw whether or not they’re gonna, they’re gonna deny? – Just spin a wheel. – What should we tell them this time? – Yeah. – I think it would be a fun job to be the person who makes up fake stories that the military leaks. – Spin doctor. – Ooh, a spin doctor. – Yeah. – And then he spins his wheel– – Oh, he spins a wheel! – That has topics on it– – It’s all very literal. – And it has topics on it. – We’re going with flares, unfortunately. – And everyone in the office who had flares in their pool is like “yeah!” – They choke Alf a little bit more. (Ryan laughs) – It makes sense that the Air Force would deny this story, since denying interest in UFOs is something that the government has already done. ^In December 2017, it was found that the nation’s defense department had used $22 million of their annual $600 billion budget for an advanced aerospace threat identification program. ^Defense department officials admitted that for years, ^the program had been investigating ^unidentified flying objects.

^Here’s a quote from a New York Times article on a 60-minute documentary on this topic detailing documents provided in the documentary. Quote, documents that describe sightings of aircraft that seem to move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift, end quote. Why do you think the government approaches the topic of UFOs with such trepidation? Why do you think they’re so against it? – That’s a great question because as we now know, ever since the ’50s and the ’60s, you know, open-minded people like the three of us and our great audience, we’ve always been laughed at and oh, you know, those are the kooks, those are the crazies. And then there’s reports coming out, well, we’ve been studying this, you know, files and files with hundreds of thousands of documents, world-wide, not just by the US government, but by governments from Brazil, England, all over the place, that ultimately, this stuff has been investigated and the fact that the Pentagon in December of 2017 released a statement saying “hey, we’re investigating UFOs,” that to me indicates that we’ve passed, or we are experiencing a paradigm shift, which is great.

– In the end, neither skeptics nor believers can concretely prove what happened that night. Despite hundreds of witnesses across an entire state, the world seems content to leave what transpired that night as a mystery. Perhaps one day we’ll have an answer, but for now, the case remains unsolved. (mysterious music) .

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