The beginning of the modern wave of UFO sightings can be traced back to an incident during the summer of 1947 in Washington state. On June 24, a pilot reported a total of nine objects near Mt. Rainier that he said moved in a way that reminded him of a rock skipping over water. Kenneth Arnold, the pilot, said the objects were moving at 1000 mph. He was the first to use the name flying saucers, and his report wasn’t the only recorded on that day. Other sightings of a similar nature were reported throughout the northwest.
A phenomenon was beginning.
Though reports of strange objects in the sky had been received for years, many of wich being picked up by home surveillance cameras, the incident near Mt Rainier was like a door opening to a literal flood of reports of unidentified flying objects. Between Arnold’s report in late June and the end of July, officials received nearly 900 reports of sightings. Many were in the West, with states like California, Washington and Oregon receiving the most reports.
Perhaps the best known of all the UFO reports was received just a couple of weeks after Arnold’s sighting in Roswell, N.M. On July 2, a ranger heard an explosion during a violent storm and discovered unusual wreckage on a ranch the next day. The discovery was about 80 miles from the White Sands missile base, and the Air Force responded to calls. The story eventually become public and many people believe that a UFO craft did crash, dead aliens were recovered and the entire event was covered up by the Air Force. Military and government officials, meanwhile, maintained the unusual looking remains were part of a new type of weather balloon that was being tested. In fact, CIA officials have said they began looking into UFO reports as a way to debunk them, not to cover up any delicate discoveries.
The Roswell incident fueled the public’s fascination with that area of Nevada, known as Area 51. The Air Force base in the area, largely kept secret by the government, was mainly used to test experimental aircraft and other military systems. The general area has been the location of thousands of UFO sightings over the years, which military officials claim can be explained by the sometimes state-of-the-art military testing. At least one expert says most UFO reports from Area 51 and elsewhere are based on an illusion that something in the sky is moving. Still, serious doubts exist for many people. For example: the state highway closest to Area 51 in Nevada has been renamed “Extraterrestrial Highway.”
The interest in UFOs revived in the 1970s, as strange and complex designs in wheat fields in Britain suddenly began appearing. The complex geometric designs were the result of the wheat bent in half or more, making the areas where the wheat was lower than the rest of the field easily visible from the air. Many people were convinced that only extraterrestrials could leave such a design – either by alien spacecraft hovering over the fields or created intentionally as a message of sorts by extraterrestrials. In many cases, a field with no markings at the end of one day had a complex design that appeared by the next morning. In 1991, British residents Doug Bower and David Chorley admitted created hundreds of the crop circles by hand. Doubt still remains for many, however, especially with some of the more complex and larger designs that seem beyond the capability of two men to create in only a few hours.
Though UFO reports today are not received with the same intensity of the 1940s and 1950s, significant sightings have continued over the years. They include:
- The March 1997 incident in Phoenix in which a large number of witnesses reported seeing a slow-moving light pattern suddenly moving quickly across the sky. Pictures and videos were taken of the lights, which Arizona officials said were flares dropped as part of training exercises at nearby Luke Air Force Base.
- The July 1991 event in Mexico City. During a total eclipse in the sun, a silver, shiny object was seen in the sky. Several photos and videos exist, taken by people in several different locations in the city.
- The November 1987 report out of Gulf Breeze, Florida of a UFO, along with reports of contact with extraterrestrials, described as 4-feet tall and standing in a doorway of a local home. Photographs accompanied this report. This is during the approximate 30-year timeframe in which hundreds of reportssurfaced of people being abducted by aliens, though in this case, the couple did not claim to be spirited away.
Reports of UFOs continue to this day, and debate remains fierce over the possibility that life from elsewhere in the universe has visited Earth. In fact, a solid majority of Americans believe in the existence of extraterrestrials, which has led to a number of websites dedicated to one aspect or another of the UFO phenomena. By setting up a surveillance camera, you might be able to spot one flying over your home.
Here is just a sampling of sites dedicated to UFOs: Read about some of the more famous UFO sightings in the past 60 years.
Information, often detailed, from virtually all UFO reports in the country, as compiled by the UFO Reporting Center.
Another site dedicated to compiling evidence of UFOs, including pictures.