Selected UFO Sightings, 1970–1999
As hoaxers go about their business, other people experience honest UFO sightings. Here are some intriguing ones from a recent thirty-year span.
August 30, 1970
A seven-year-old Vincennes, Indiana, girl spies a UFO at 11:30 a.m. and fetches her father, who examines the object with binoculars. The man later describes the craft as some thirty feet in diameter, with a resemblance to “a garbage can lid with a piece of watermelon on top.”
June or July, 1971
While the carrier USS John F. Kennedy cruises the Bermuda Triangle at about 8:30 p.m., automatic teletypes in the communications center begin typing lines of gibberish. On deck, seamen witness a glowing, yellow-orange sphere of indeterminate size, hovering above the carrier. The engines of two combat-ready F-4 Phantoms will not turn over, so the sphere remains unmolested for as long as it is present.
Note: A bosun’s mate had to be sedated after this event. Although the sphere’s size could not be confirmed, witnesses intuited that it was very large. The ship’s communications teletypes functioned normally again after about twenty minutes.
March 8, 1972
Shortly after 9:00 p.m., Coast Guard personnel near Muskegon, Michigan, observe a bright, yellow-white UFO traverse the sky. Simultaneously, a UHF radio band used by the Coast Guard emits long, patterned strings of indecipherable code.
Note: The object was seen not just by CG personnel but by police officers, FAA officials, and ordinary citizens. Michigan State Police turned the investigation over to the USAF. Air Force personnel cautioned the Coast Guardsmen not to speak of the event.
August 23, 1974
Musician John Lennon and his secretary, May Pang, see a “large flattened cone” with “a large, brilliant red light” (Pang’s description) in New York City. The craft is bisected horizontally by a band of white lights.
Note: Pang called the police, who said numerous other people in the area had reported a similar object. Pang discussed the incident in some detail in her 1983 book Loving John.
September 15, 1977
While outside his home at 2:20 a.m. in Paciencia, Brazil, near Rio de Janeiro, bus driver Antonia La Rubia discovers a massive object some 250 feet in diameter sitting in his field. Suddenly frozen by a brilliant light, La Rubia is taken aboard the craft by a trio of four-foot-tall “robots” with elongated antennae. Inside, he sees numerous other robots, and is shown a series of still photos that appear on a mysterious piano-like “box.” Some of the images are of La Rubia himself, including one in which he is nude on an examination table.
Other photos show farm fields and everyday views of urban Brazil. Two photos are especially disturbing to La Rubia: an image of a barking dog causing a robot to “melt” and a panoramic view of an alien factory.
Note: For a month after the incident, La Rubia itched and suffered a fever, and had trouble breathing. He later recalled another photograph of himself, with smoke rising from his back.
December 26–27 and 28, 1980
USAF personnel stationed at the Woodbridge, England, RAF base report strange lights near the base, and above nearby Rendlesham Forest—setting off an investigation of what becomes one of the most celebrated stories in UFOlogy.
Note: For details of the Rendlesham Forest story, see chapter eleven.
December 29, 1980
Two women and a child witness twenty-three single-and dual-rotor military helicopters try and fail to encircle a fiery, diamond-shaped flying object above a forested area near Dayton, Texas. All three witnesses— Betty Cash, and Vickie Landrum and her grandson Colby—return home and subsequently suffer blistered skin, nausea, hair and weight loss, diarrhea, and other symptoms consistent with radiation poisoning.
Note: The Army denied having had any helicopters in the area on the night in question, and the women’s 1981 lawsuit against the U.S. government was dismissed five years later.
July 24, 1981
As many as ten million people see an oscillating, star-shaped object traverse the sky above fourteen Chinese provinces.
Note: In some accounts, the object is described as “spiral-shaped” rather than starlike. The claim of ten million witnesses has been credited to a U.S. Department of Defense report—though the number is so enormous (and tidy) that it suggests a mere guess. Other sources claim “thousands” of witnesses. 1981–1995: During spring and summer over a period of fourteen years, some seven thousand people (including police and local politicians) in New York’s Hudson Valley see neatly arrayed moving formations of lights in the night skies.
The lighted objects are silent, and described, in discrete accounts, as delta-or boomerang-shaped, disc-like, and cone-shaped. Many witnesses report having had the sense that the craft tried to “communicate.” One witness describes an object two hundred to three hundred feet across. In June 1984, people on the ground at and near the Indian Point nuclear complex at Buchanan, New York, witness UFOs overhead; inside, the plant’s security systems are temporarily disrupted.
Note: Some witnesses claimed to have been abducted, and/or struck by the “missing time” syndrome. In other instances, witnesses said they coaxed a lighted response from UFOs after signaling with flashlights. Those reports are compelling—as well as very similar to events in the 1977 feature film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
February 3, 1983
Pat Norris, a young woman living with her husband and children near Mobile, Alabama, pulls to a stop on a two-lane road off U.S.
Highway 90 when the engine of her car begins to act up. In a moment she sees a massive, brilliantly lit object, perhaps a half-mile distant, above a clay and gravel pit. Norris estimates the object to be seventy to eighty feet high and at least two hundred feet across. As the object slowly comes closer, Norris notes that a “chopping wind” lets up; by the time the object is very close, the wind is gone. The craft itself is silent. Through a window circumscribing what Norris later describes as an elevated “deck,” she plainly sees twenty to thirty slender, pale humanoids of average male adult height. An open “door” allows Norris to glimpse I-beams and “tubes” and other machinery inside the object.
Note: After the incident, Norris dreamed of being physically examined. In an intriguing flashback to old-school UFOs, she described the craft’s skin as studded with “rivets.” This case was investigated on-site by the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), which used altered names in its report; “Pat Norris” is a pseudonym.
July 11, 1991
While waiting to see a solar eclipse, many thousands of people in and around Mexico City observe a hovering metallic disc. Video shot by a pair of journalists on hand to cover the eclipse catches the flying object, which is a classic saucer shape with a domed top.
Note: Because public interest in the eclipse brought countless people outdoors, the Mexico City incident is often cited as the largest mass-witness UFO event to date. After the reporters’ video aired on Mexican television, videos shot by nonprofessionals surfaced; in one of those, the disc’s trailing edge emits something that appears to disturb the air— clear exhaust or, possibly, an electromagnetic pulse. Skeptics rightfully denounce spurious claims of hundreds of UFOs above the city, and attribute the sighting to optical anomalies caused by the eclipse, or (weakly) to the planets Venus or Jupiter. Contrarily, many enthusiasts make a tenuous connection between the UFO, the eclipse, and Mayan prophecy.
January 4, 1992
A Japanese farmer in Saga Prefecture discovers a pale, tentacled creature “floating” in his cow shed; one of the man’s cows is on the floor with a broken leg. Before the farmer can react, the uninvited creature floats out the door and disappears.
Note: The farmer had been awakened by a barking dog, and reasoned that if he had not arrived in time, his cow would have been mutilated.
March 30–31, 1993
UFOs are spotted by personnel of the Royal Air Force base at Cosford, Shropshire, England. The objects have white lights at the leading edge, and a red light at the trailing edge. Simultaneously, a meteorological officer at RAF Shawbury observes a UFO skim a nearby field, shooting a laser- like beam at the ground. Although the object is silent, the officer can “feel” it in his body, as if he stood next to a mammoth bass speaker.
Note: UFO researcher Nick Pope contacted the ballistic missile early warning system at RAF Flyingdales, and was informed that a Russian rocket that had placed a communications satellite had reentered the atmosphere very early in the morning of March 31. But because some of the UFO reports had come from military personnel, the rocket theory—though a reasonable explanation for some reports —could not account for every report.
September 16, 1994
Teachers and sixty-two students (age five to twelve) at Ruwa, Zimbabwe’s Ariel School witness three moving objects in the sky, and the subsequent landing of one in a nearby field, about a hundred yards from the school. A small humanoid steps into view and explores an area near the craft until noticing the schoolchildren. The creature retreats, and within moments the craft ascends and disappears.
Note: Leading South African UFOlogist Cynthia Hind visited the school later, to interview headmaster Colin Mackie and meet some of the children. Older students claimed that the “little man” communicated with them telepathically, to express sadness over Earth’s environmental problems.
March 30, 1995
A saucer-shaped craft sitting on a road near Groot Marico, western Transvaal, South Africa, is seen by Jan Pienaar, a farmer who rounds a curve during a morning errand and nearly hits the craft with his truck. Pienaar steps onto the road and is held fast by an invisible force. The craft is twenty-five to thirty-five feet high, resting on three pods and looking like “two inverted soup plates with a pudding bowl on top.” Pienaar is struck by the “translucent and lustrous” nature of the metallic skin. A dent and a two-foot hole are visible at a top seam, below “seven windows or portholes” that curve across the craft’s upper level. The hull coruscates with colors showing the entire visible spectrum.
After three or four minutes, the craft rises straight up before taking an oblique course and vanishing.
Note: Jan Pienaar felt that the craft had landed to effect repairs to its hull. After phoning the police, Pienaar and another farmer, Chap Smit, returned to the site to examine the superheated road surface. The air, Pienaar said, had a scent reminiscent of chloroform.
January 20, 1996
Three young women in Varginha, Brazil, come upon a squat, misshapen creature that they describe as having red eyes, three horns, and a liberal coating of a peculiar sticky fluid. The Brazilian army—already tipped by NORAD to UFO activity in the area—evaluates the women’s account and then invents an “explanation” that’s ludicrously inadequate.
Note: For more on this case, including its conspiracy elements, see chapter eleven.
December 11, 1996
Twenty-two witnesses along a 134-mile stretch of Yukon Territory, Canada, gape at a mammoth, diamond-shaped flying object that progresses across the evening sky and visits a campground, a lodge, a gravel pit, and various points above the towns of Pelly Crossing, Mayo, Dawson, Carmacks, and Watson Lake. The craft exhibits a wide, horizontal band of brightly illuminated windows, and sweeps the ground with a broad beam of bright light.
Note: Witnesses along the 134-mile route observed the object between 7:45 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. The distance and elapsed time suggest an average speed of 107 miles per hour, very slow by UFO standards, but too rapid for sustained flight by any man-made lighter-than-air ship. Triangulation done later suggested that the thing may have been a mile in length. Because of the time of year, some children thought the object must be Santa’s sleigh.
March 13, 1997
Shortly before 7:00 p.m., and continuing for the next two or three hours, thousands of ground witnesses in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada observe a massive, delta-shaped object soar majestically above towns and desert—sometimes slowly, other times very rapidly. Witnesses describe a horizontal array of six or seven bright lights on the craft’s narrow leading edge.
Note: This protracted incident is now known as “the Phoenix Lights.” Descriptions of the lights vary between red and orange; and yellow and white. Witnesses variously recalled the craft as shaped like “sergeant’s stripes,” a wedge, and a triangle. In 2007, former Arizona governor Fife Symington revealed that he had been among the witnesses.
October 19, 1998
A Chinese J-6 fighter jet is scrambled to intercept a UFO above a military flight-training school at Changzhou, Jiangsu Province. The J-6 (a Chinese variant of the Russian MiG-19) closes to about thirteen thousand feet before the object darts upward. This game of cat-and-mouse, which is instigated and controlled by the UFO, goes on until the jet runs low on fuel and returns to base. Between 100 and 150 ground witnesses see a mushroom-shaped object ringed along its flat bottom portion by revolving lights.
Note: A French news account published the following month quotes the jet pilot’s assertion that the UFO was “just like ones in foreign movies.”
February 25, 1999
Fourteen forestry workers in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, near Mount St. Helens, witness an elk invisibly lifted from the ground by a disc-shape object hovering above. The craft wobbles after taking the elk inside, and then rises, executes a 360-degree turn, and flies rapidly into the eastern sky, and out of sight.
Note: Less than a week after the elk abduction, forestry workers discovered the carcass of a pregnant elk, just a few miles from the site of the February 25 incident.