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Weird, wild UFO sightings from throughout history

  • Weird, wild UFO sightings from throughout history

    If you’ve ever looked up at the sky and wondered if there’s life on other planets, you’re not alone. Countless people around the world have reported unidentified flying objects (UFOs) over the past few decades; in fact, sightings can be traced back millennia to drawings and references in ancient texts. While many sightings and encounters of the third kind may be explained through natural phenomena, weather balloons, or scientific experiments, there still remain reports that have not been completely discredited.

    Stacker has compiled a list of the authentic, the outrageous, and the out-of-this-world alleged abductions, interactions, and sightings that have shaped popular culture. Getting past the nitty-gritty, the list is based on the number of reports, the authenticity of data. and credibility of each story. Read on to see if these stories are believable or total hoaxes. 

    RELATED: States with the most UFO sightings

  • Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting

    Considered the catalyst for modern interest in UFO sightings, Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine strange objects flying around the Cascade Mountains to the East Oregonian. The ensuing article sparked national interest in the alleged UFOs that were described as flying in formation, between 9,500-10,000 feet in elevation and traveling about 1,200 miles per hour—far faster than any plane in use commercially or by the military.


  • Roswell UFO crash

    Farmer William Brazel found scraps of wreckage and debris on his ranch in the summer of 1947, and reported the occurrence to authorities. This prompted soldiers from a nearby military base to remove the materials. The army’s involvement, coupled with the nature of the wreckage, lead to news headlines alleging that the U.S. government was attempting to cover up a UFO wreck. It was revealed 50 years later that the debris was from a covert weather balloon constructed to spy on the USSR’s nuclear program.


  • Lubbock Lights

    On August 25, 1951, three professors from Texas Tech reported sightings of an unusual formation of lights over Lubbock, TX. Similar sightings were reported over the next few days in neighboring towns, and Texas Tech freshman Carl Hart Jr. managed to snap a few pictures of the phenomenon. Extensive studies from Project Blue Book determined these observations to be light from street lamps bouncing off the reflective feathers of birds in flight, but many dismissed this explanation, alleging that the lights were moving too fast to be birds.


  • Thomas Mantell

    Kentucky Air National Guard pilot Captain Thomas Mantell was sent to investigate a UFO sighted near Fort Knox on January 7, 1948. Mantell’s pursuit ended in flames—the pilot pursued the object at too high an altitude, blacked out from lack of oxygen and spiraled out of control. The government later revealed that the UFO was, in fact, another classified weather balloon from Project Skyhook. This explanation, however, did little to calm public nerves, and previous awe of the potential for extraterrestrial life began shifting to fear of an otherworldly hostile takeover.


  • 1952 Washington, D.C. UFO incident

    The 1952 Washington, D.C. UFO incident, otherwise known as the Invasion of Washington, was a cluster of UFO sighting reports to Project Blue Book and the U.S. Air Force. Occurring over consecutive weekends in July, unknown radar returns and visual sightings of unexplained aircraft produced mounting waves of public hysteria, leading to a demand for explanations from President Truman. The Air Force credited the reports as heat wave mirages, misidentified stars, satellites and asteroids, and hallucinations, but later created the Robertson Panel to closely examine all findings by Project Blue Book.


  • Kelly–Hopkinsville encounter

    The Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter is one of the first documented alleged encounters with extraterrestrial beings. Residents of a farmhouse arrived at a local police station on August 21, 1955, claiming that figures from a flying spaceship were attempting to gain access to their house. Police reported bullet holes in the sides of the home, but no evidence of the intruders. They ultimately credited meteors and Great Horned Owls as the alleged “little green men.”


  • The RB-47 UFO Encounter

    The RB-47 high-altitude strategic bomber jet possessed the most advanced electronic intelligence equipment at the time, but was unprepared for a fly-by with a passing saucer, culminating in one of the most-discussed UFO sightings of the last century. In the early morning of July 17, 1957, the radar of an RB-47 over the southern U.S. picked up an unexplained blip before both the pilot and crew of the plane witnessed a blinding blue light. Authorities were quick to dismiss the sighting as an airliner, a claim quickly ridiculed by the public.


  • Levelland

    If you’ve ever seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you’re familiar with the scene in which a passing UFO causes electronic equipment to go haywire in the cars below. This references a real-life report of extraterrestrial happenings in Levelland, TX, during which car engines and lights cut out as bright lights and rockets passed overhead. Investigating police officers experienced the same phenomenon, only to have Project Blue Book explain everything away as ball lightning during an electrical storm. Interestingly, there were no reports of either happening in that area at the time.


  • Betty and Barney Hill abduction

    Betty and Barney Hill were a couple from New Hampshire who claim to have been abducted by aliens on the night of September 19, 1961. They say they were taken by short gray men in uniforms onto a saucer-like aircraft, and examined. After their release, the Hills struggled to recall the event, turning to hypnosis to fill in the gaps in their memories. These events are some of the most widely referenced in pop culture, with details from their accounts used in episodes of “The X Files” and “American Horror Story.”


  • Charles Hall

    Charles Hall, a former nuclear physicist and ex-military American weather specialist, alleges that he encountered white, human-like figures who enjoyed attending shows at nearby Caesar’s Palace while serving as a weather observationalist on the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The base has since closed, but that hasn’t stopped Hall from writing a book about the experience, and launching a press tour.