For the second installment of this new series, I figured I would cover another pretty well-known event that captured the public's attention and forced many to ask uncomfortable questions. "The Phoenix Lights" were seen by tens of thousands of people, making it one of the most interesting stories of alleged UFO sightings.
"It was astonishing, and a little frightening."
Artist's depiction of the alleged object.
Source: Wikipedia via USA Today
With clear blue skies and a high temperature around 85°F, March 13th 1997 was just another day for the citizens of Arizona. Once the sun set, though, tens of thousands of people would witness something that would make them question everything they knew about the world and cause them to remember that date for years to come.
It all started just before 7pm when a man in Henderson, Nevada reported seeing a "V-shaped object" in the sky with a cluster of 6 large lights on its leading edge. The unidentified caller stated the object was about the size of a Boeing-747 and made a sound like "rushing wind" as it traveled through the sky from the northwest and directly over his head, soon disappearing over the horizon to the south.
Roughly an hour later at 8:15 pm in the small town of Paulden, about 60 miles north of Phoenix, a retired police officer reported driving down the road and observing a cluster of 5 red lights in the sky heading south. 15 miles south and just two minutes later, a man in Prescott, Arizona saw the object through his telescope while out for a night of observing the stars. He made the following report:
"While doing astrophotography I observed five yellow-white lights in a "V" formation moving slowly from the northwest, across the sky to the northeast, then turn almost due south and continue until out of sight. The point of the "V" was in the direction of movement. The first three lights were in a fairly tight "V" while two of the lights were further back along the lines of the "V"'s legs. During the NW-NE transit, one of the trailing lights moved up and joined the three and then dropped back to the trailing position. I estimated the three-light "V" to cover about 0.5 degrees of sky and the whole group of five lights to cover about 1 degree of sky."
Over the next couple of hours, thousands of calls would be made to local police departments, the National UFO Reporting Center, and the nearby Luke Air Force Base reporting the object. Numerous people stated that the object was definitely solid, as it would block out the stars behind it as it silently glided across the skies above witnesses.
A second series of lights were witnessed a couple of hours later around 10 pm and some even caught what they had seen on film...
Source: High Tech Reviews
One report I found of interest was of a then-unidentified pilot flying into Sky Harbor International Airport. He called into the air traffic control tower during his approach to report 6 lights in a row over the airport. That man was allegedly American actor Kurt Russell who tells his story in the clip below:
Source: Jimmy Kimmel Live
A couple of months later in May, the Public Affairs Office for the nearby Luke Air Force Base announced that after an investigation into the matter, the lights were found to be flares from a squadron of A-10 Warthog aircraft over the Barry M. Goldwater Firing Range at approximately 10 pm. Even if this were the case, flares being dropped at 10 pm wouldn't come close to explaining what people had seen hours before...
One report I find weird was that of a man claiming to be an airman at the nearby Luke Air Force Base. The report was made to the National UFO Reporting Center at 3:20 am, hours after the event was "over". He stated that two US Air Force F-15 fighter jets were scrambled from Luke AFB and had intercepted one of the objects. Apparently, two days later, the same airman called again to report that he was being reassigned to Greenland, and the story goes that he was never heard from again.
In a 1997 Freedom of Information Act request, the Air Force was apparently perplexed by these explanations, stating:
"We are not an air defense base which maintains aircraft on "scramble" status. Instead, our pilots are instructors and trainees learning to fly the F-16 and employ it in the ground attack and aerial combat missions. While we routinely have aircraft airborne at night, their mission is not to investigate unusual aerial sightings, nor would they be asked to do so. On the night of 13 Mar 97, our aircraft were involved in normal training missions and had no involvement whatsoever with the lights observed over Phoenix."
"... our public affairs people acknowledged that callers reported seeing lights in the sky, but our staff did not state that the cause was aerial flares. In fact, we don't know where the question of aerial flares come from. There have been a number of accounts of the 13 Mar 97 incident that alleged Air Force involvement, and we have made every effort to ensure that callers understood that we were not involved in that incident."
Source: The Black Vault
We may never know what actually happened that night
Most media outlets, and Wikipedia, are quick to run with the story of flares despite the obvious conflicts that explanation poses. This object wasn't just seen by a few average Joes who can easily be written off. It was observed by people from all walks of life, including the Governor of the state, Fife Symington:
"It was enormous and inexplicable. Who knows where it came from? A lot of people saw it, and I saw it too. It was dramatic. And it couldn't have been flares because it was too symmetrical. It had a geometric outline, a constant shape."
"I'm a pilot and I know just about every machine that flies. It was bigger than anything that I've ever seen. It remains a great mystery. Other people saw it, responsible people. I don't know why people would ridicule it"
"As a pilot and a former Air Force Officer, I can definitively say that this craft did not resemble any man made object I'd ever seen. And it was certainly not high-altitude flares because flares don't fly in formation"
He allegedly requested information from the commander of Luke AFB, the general of the National Guard, and the head of the Department of Public Safety about what the lights were but was apparently given a "no comment" response. If even a standing Governor can't get answers, what hope do most of the rest of us have?
I'll end this with my very favorite quote about this even that comes from Bill Greiner, a cement truck driver who said:
"I'll never be the same. Before this, if anybody'd 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 just be a dumb truck driver, but I've seen something that don't belong here."