UFOs and Phoenix Lights: Who knows?

UFOs and Phoenix Lights: Who knows?
March 10, 2011
Clay Thompson

The Phoenix Lights. Few things, aside maybe from the Legislature, have so tested the credulity of Arizonans, especially Valley residents.

On the night of March 13, 1997, when many people were outdoors hoping to catch a glimpse of the Hale Bopp comet, a series of bright lights - sometimes in a V formation, sometimes stretched out in a line - moved silently across the Valley skies.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people witnessed the lights and many recorded videotapes. Sightings also were reported in Kingman, Prescott and Dewey, as well as Henderson, Nev.

Air-traffic controllers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Luke Air Force Base, police departments and media outlets were swamped with calls.

The lights caused a sensation. Ufologists had a field day, trumpeting various ideas about the lights' alien origin.

A truck driver traveling north of Phoenix told reporters, "I'll never be the same. Before this, if anybody had told me they saw a UFO, I would've 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 (sic) belong here."

Frances Emma Barwood, a member of the Phoenix City Council who was vice mayor in 1977, called without success on her fellow council members to launch an investigation of the lights.

Dr. Lynne D. Kitei, a physician and health educator who saw the lights, wrote a book titled "Phoenix Lights: A Skeptic's Discovery That We Are Not Alone" and produced and directed a documentary film on the subject, "Phoenix Lights: Beyond Top Secret."

Then-Gov. Fife Symington called the lights "otherworldy," but later mocked them at a press conference during which he trotted out an aide dressed in an alien costume.

In 2007, Symington told Larry King on CNN, "I decided to lighten the mood of the state by calling a press conference where my chief of staff arrived in an alien costume. We managed to lessen the sense of panic but, at the same time, upset many of my constituents."

Symington told King that on that night in 1997 he saw "massive delta-shaped craft silently navigate" over the Valley. He said the incident "defied logic and challenged my reality" and called on the federal government for an investigation.

So what did people see over the Valley that night?

An extraterrestrial space vehicle? Why didn't the aliens land? Or did they?

Were the lights airborne flares? A top-secret experimental plane? Some bizarre trick of the eye? An elaborate hoax?

We may never know, but this is for sure: The Phoenix Lights are a memorable chunk of Arizona history.

Similar sightings were reported in 2007 and 2008.

The 2007 incident was attributed to Air Force planes dropping flares during training exercises at the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

The 2008 incident seems to have been a hoax perpetrated by a Phoenix man who released a series of big helium balloons connected with fishing line and equipped with flares.

Comments: 0