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The Phoenix Lights

On March 13, 1997, Arizonans played witness to what is perhaps the most intriguing UFO encounter ever reported. Passing through the night sky, an unmistakable pattern of lights drifted across the state and hovered for as much as 20 minutes above the state capital. Hundreds, if not thousands, of residents witnessed the event, some of whom captured the lights in video footage that's become a standard in UFO studies.

The National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle has said the sighting "may rank as the most dramatic UFO event in the past 50 years." Even a decade later, it remains one of the most publicized paranormal events on record.

According to reports, the lights first appeared shortly before 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time over Henderson, Nevada. A man there described a V-shaped object comprising six lights, which traveled southeast toward the Arizona border. About 20 minutes later, a former police officer saw a similar object fly over Paulden, Arizona, some 160 miles away. He observed the lights through binoculars for several minutes, describing them as reddish or orange in color, before they disappeared over the southern horizon toward Prescott.

At this point, calls started pouring into Seattle's NUFORC. Witnesses in Prescott and Prescott Valley offered accounts of a triangular craft moving silently across the sky. One caller, who had been driving along Highway 69 just south of Prescott, said the craft took up so much of the sky that he could hold out his fist at arm's length and still couldn't block it out. An experienced pilot, the caller estimated its altitude at only 1,000 feet and its speed as much slower than a conventional aircraft would fly.

The most dramatic observation was soon to follow. Just minutes later, at around 8:23, the lights arrived in Phoenix, where a family living about 2,000 feet up in the city's northern mountains received a spectacular, close-up view. Tim Ley, his wife, his 10-year-old son and his 13-year-old grandson all saw the lights approach from the north, which they said were arranged in an arc pattern. As the lights got closer, they appeared to slow down and assume the V shape described in previous reports. Interestingly, witnesses in Prescott had seen the V-shaped lights transform into an arc before speeding away toward Phoenix.

As the lights slowed down, they passed directly over the Ley family, only 100 to 150 feet above their heads. Tim Ley said the craft reminded him of a carpenter's square set at about 60 degrees. Though few details on the dark object were visible, the space between the lights blocked out the stars above, making the craft's two arms evident, each of which appeared at least a couple of blocks long. Ley said the area between the two arms — where one would find the horizontal bar in a capital letter A––gave the stars a sort of wavy appearance that he described as "almost like a video projection." At least one other witness would later describe the same phenomenon.

Heading south at what some called "blimp speed," the lights passed over the intersection of Indian School Road and Seventh Avenue, where they reportedly hovered for 4-5 minutes. Witnesses there described the craft's shape as like that of a rank stripe on a military uniform and said it displayed a faint glow along its trailing edge. In a call to NUFORC several hours later, a man identifying himself as a pilot at Luke Air Force Base said that two fighter planes had been dispatched and reached the object as it hovered over the intersection, at which point the pilots saw the lights dim and disappear from sight. Though the existence of the planes couldn't be corroborated, the apparently defensive action by the lights was later substantiated by witnesses on the ground.

The lights reappeared at Sky Harbor Airport, where a pilot preparing for takeoff spotted them overhead. According to a news report, the pilot radioed the control tower for confirmation, but he was informed that nothing could be seen on radar, even though personnel in the control tower reportedly saw the object, as well.

Around 8:30, the lights reached the southern edge of the city, where they were seen passing near the eastern edge of South Mountain Park. A witness near East Ray Road and South 44th Street spotted the lights, which continued to move south. He soon saw them grow dimmer, finally extinguishing one by one, as witnessed by others and as captured on videotape.

From here, the timeline becomes a bit confused. At 8:45, the lights were seen arriving in Tucson. Around 9:00, however, several witnesses saw them again in Phoenix, where the object allegedly flew low over a neighborhood and emitted a beam of light, which a 9-year-old girl told her mother had passed through her bedroom. At about the same time, lights were reported in Oracle, 30 miles northeast of Tucson.

The simultaneous sightings suggest that more than one object had been buzzing Arizona that night. Though far from proof, witnesses' varying descriptions of the lights' appearance and behavior support this inference. The number of lights reported by witnesses averages seven, though they vary from five to as much as 10. Also, while most people said the lights appeared to be in a locked formation, at least one observer said they moved slightly, relative to one another.

Others saw certain lights split in two or sets of lights separate and come back together. The lights near Oracle were said to scatter and head in different directions. A large object spotted near the Estrella Mountains later that night was seen deploying orbs. Moreover, the reported color of the lights varied from bright white to red, though most often they were yellowish, amber or orange. One group described the object with all its lights turned off, revealing a bluish-black surface and windows with humanoid silhouettes. Further sightings, both before and after March 13th, involved singular lights or large "discoid" objects.

Yet, the most prominent and remarkable display remains the string of lights witnessed directly above Phoenix. Perhaps that's why, in an attempt to squelch conjecture regarding their source, the U.S. Air Force organized a demonstration near Phoenix involving air-dropped military flares. The Air Force insisted that the lights people saw were simply the result of an aircraft training run in which parachute flares were released between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. over a bombing range southwest of the city. For some, the repeat exhibition closed the case. For most, however, the flares were a pathetic substitute that could never account for at least 2 hours of sightings across the state.

In a more transparent act of denial, spokesmen at Luke AFB insisted they heard nothing about the lights and received no calls from supposed witnesses. Many of the callers to the National UFO Reporting Center, though, said they were given the number for NUFORC after phoning the desk at Luke, and witnesses' phone records have shown that numerous calls were indeed made to the base. But what should one expect? Even the state government refused to take the sightings seriously. Governor Fife Symington announced his request for the Department of Public Safety to look into the incident on June 19, but held a press conference to announce their results just 4 hours later. Their "findings" were presented in the form of a DPS officer dressed up in a bug-eyed alien costume.

Independent researchers and UFO buffs, however, continue to delve into the intriguing episode. Plus, March 13 isn't the only day Arizona has been visited by unexplained lights; UFOs appear rather frequently according to witnesses, especially near the Superstition Mountains to the east of Phoenix. So, if we hope to find out just what the heck is going on up there, Arizonans need to keep their eyes on the skies. As a leading advocate for research on the Phoenix Lights put it, "I don't know what they are, but I know that they are."

UFOs in the Arizona Skies

I have been living in Arizona for a period of four weeks and let me tell you something, I have seen some pretty weird stuff in the sky. I have been working on the computer almost every night and one night when nobody was home, all the dogs in the area began barking at the same time.  

I stepped out of my front door to see what all the commotion was and there in the sky was an object. It must have been about one mile off and about five hundred feet or so from the ground. I watched as the object moved across the sky in a slow but steadily southern movement. It was round in diameter and it was totally red. It moved slowly across the night sky and then disappeared behind some mountains that are just south of us.

I don't know what it was and I am not  sure I want to know, but it did not have any blinking lights like an airplane, and there was no sound to speak of. I have had people tell me about the strange lights in the sky, but until you actually see one, you never quite believe it. I kind of hope to see another one soon, but not too soon.  –DarkDante

Weird Arizona


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