Mass Sightings in Arizona
by William F. Hamilton, Field Investigator for MUFON
Frame of a video taken of black helicopters by Tom King during a UFO sighting. Frame capture courtesy of John Velez.
March 13th started like any other day. I had an incoming message in my e-mail box. The message was from Joe Trainor in the U.K. He had been retreiving messages from a man named Steve who lives in Awahatukee, Arizona just south of Phoenix and behind South Mountain. Steve reported that starting on March 10th, he and his family had noticed and were videotaping strange orange lights over the Gila River Indian Reservation. After I made contact with Steve and obtained directions to his house I met with Tom King according to a prior arrangement and asked him to join me that night. When we arrived at Steve's house we saw at least a dozen of Steve's neighbors traipsing in and out of the house, Steve met us cordially at the door and introduced us to his wife and children. The first words after that were "you're too late, they were here and gone again."
He proceeded to show us video segments he had taken that night and from previous nights. We asked him to show us his observation point which was a second-floor balcony off the master bedroom facing south. All of us went up the stairway and out to the balcony. Steve had reported that he had been seeing the lights between 9 and 10 P.M. That night we went up to the balcony at about 9:30 P.M. Steve and his neighbors pointed to the southwest in the direction of the Estrella Mountains on the reservation where they had most of their sightings, Shortly before I0 P.M. one of these brilliant lights just turned on. Within a minute we saw six globes or orbs of yellow-orange lights appearing near and in front of the Estrellas. They were extremely bright and formed a straight line at a slight slant. The light on the left of the formation was divided into two parts (or orbs). I personally observed these lights through a Celestron 500mm spotting scope. My videocam battery failed, but Tom King managed to tape over four minutes as we watched these orbs gradually extinguish one by one in the reverse sequence which was from right to left. Little did we know at that time that a primary object was sighted earlier that evening from various cities in the state, that, according to the time sequence of the sightings, moved from north to south down the state.
A man in Paulden, Arizona, called the Daily Courier and said he saw five diamond-shaped objects with wispy tails. That was around 8 P.M. Shortly after, calls poured into the National UFO Reporting Center from Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Dewey before reaching the Phoenix metropolitan area around 8:23 P.M. that night. The witnesses described the object as "huge," sporting five or six lights in a triangular formation and traveling at "blimp speed" according to several witnesses. This triangular formation was seen to accelerate and slow to a hover on several occasions and passed very low over the cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, and Chandler where witnesses observed some structure to the triangular object. Around 8:45 P.M. the object was sighted in the Tucson area. One of the lights attached to the front of the object would detach from the object and fly off and return.
Some mysterious military source suggested that the strange lights over Phoenix were explained as an anti-aircraft experiment in a military operating area over 50 miles from Phoenix. This experiment involved flares descending on parachutes. We are not sure how the flare story got started, but two witnesses we interviewed were demolition experts for the military and they stated that what they saw were not flares.
As we started collecting reports as they poured into MUFON Arizona field investigators, we leamed that the "orb" lights were seen as early as March 7th. One of our MUFON members, Herb Moran, reported he had a sighting between 9:10 P.M. and 9:30 P.M. on March 7th on a road which runs parallel to the Goodyear Airport. He observed at some distance directly ahead of him a large light the color of an amber sodium vapor lamp but with the intensity of landing lights on a heavy jet aircraft. The light was on a line of sight which would have placed it approximately five to eight miles south of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station which is 45 miles west at 250 degrees from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Puzzled by this light, different from any Herb had seen after 48 years as a private pilot and an aviation industry worker, he began to scan the sky just as the light blinked out. Unknown to Herb and the rest of us was the fact that a young man named Scott Montgomery was videotaping these strange lights in the same location and he and his wife came forth with some of their video on the Channel 10 local news after the reports of the March 13th sightings.
At about 8:.35 P.M. a resident of Phoenix was walking near 42nd Street and Ray Road when he glanced towards the northern skies and was surprised to see a group of lights in a triangular pattem. He estimated the number of lights as between five and seven. At first. he thought this was a solid triangular object much like a flying wing. He was nearly underneath the flight path which was from north to south. As he looked closely he saw relative movement between the lights as if moving toward and away from each other. The object(s) emitted no noise whatsoever. As it flew ahead, the lights appeared to get dimmer and dimmer. Strangely, these lights would disappear one by one until all the lights disappeared. As it flew above this witness, he could barely distinguish a triangular layout.
Another witness, Bruce Gerboth, reported from Ahwatukee near the SE corner of South Mountain (a prominent mountain in Phoenix topped by television transmission towers). He had gone for a walk into the park at about 7:15 P.M. He walked to the foot of the hills which are closely aligned with Elliot and 40th street. That night at about 8:30 he saw something in the night sky he had never seen before. Cruising at high altitude were five amber lights in a triangular formation. He had the feeling that the lights were connected to a single structure. He observed those lights until they disappeared over the Gila River Indian Reservation. This places the primary object in the vicinity of the secondary objects that Tom and I viewed later. Bruce goes on to say that he stayed in the park until 9:30. As he walked home he observed seven bright amber lights (we could see six and others saw more depending on their unobstructed view) appear in the west-southwest. They were in an almost diagonal!
line and appeared to slowly set behind the Estrella Mountains near the sailport at the south foot of the mountains. He felt these were the same lights he had observed earlier.
Another witness reported seeing five lights in a V formation moving south along route 51 and a little to the east of it. They seemed to be moving in a straight line toward South Mountain which places them in the position that Bruce saw them a little later.
Another man, named Kelley, and his wife witnessed the sighting from the west end of the valley in the city of Glendale. At about 8:15 P.M, they were driving north on 67th Avenue. Kelley's wife saw the lights first and called his attention to them. They saw a perfect V-shaped formation of seven lights, a lead light with three trailing lights on each side of the V formation. He pulled the car off of 67th and shut off his motor so that they could exit the car and watch the formation more closely. It was difficult for Kelley to determine whether they were watching one object or a flight of smaller objects. They watched the event for several minutes. Kelley and his wife are both ex-Air Force and were well acquainted with aircraft and their characteristics. There were no navigation lights visible and no engine sounds detectable. He "guesstimated" this V to be no greater than five thousand feet, and no less than two thousand feet in altitude.
This accords well with other witnesses' estimates. He described the V as moving at "blimp" speed. As they continued to view the objects the third light back on the right broke formation and moved toward the lead light briefly. This is when they concluded that it wasn't a single large object. Kelley's is one of the reports that I have used to construct my four-event scenario that I will describe in summing up. While they were watching, the formation began to turn toward the east and then faded out as if it were climbing into some overcast. Kelley had heard the so-called "flare" explanation and dismissed it. He also stated that he was a former skeptic.
One of the triangles seem to be approaching Phoenix from the north on the eastern side and heading directly south toward South Mountain at around 8:30 P.M. This object returned at close to 10 P.M. that night and deployed "orbs" in the vicinity of the Estrella Mountains or appeared as an object in a wide configuration that from a distance of 25 miles had the appearance of an arc of ten lights spanning a mile across. The object moving southeast passed low over Scottsdale and was seen by a young woman, Ozma, and her friend in the military reserve, Willie. As the object descended to a low altitude it looked as if it were going to stop. Their description of the object as huge, three to four times the size of a Boeing 747, and silent, was consistent with other witnesses who had viewed the primary object.
Just west of Ozma's position in Scottsdale, Pete Fournier was coming home from a Neighborhood Association meeting a little after 8 P.M., walking west on Edgemont from 42nd Street in Phoenix when he observed five bright lights to his right as he looked between the houses. They appeared to be over Squaw Peak. The five lights appeared to be in a single row and hovering. As he walked he determined that the lights were moving to the southeast. As he arrived at his house, he called out to his wife and grabbed binoculars. The V-shaped formation passed over to the west of his home. The unit of lights was not making a sound. He continued to watch this formation move to the southeast when the light on the eastern leg of the triangle shifted slightly out of formation. There was no noise from rotors. Peter was familiar with aircraft and was definite that these were not part of a typical aircraft and all the lights appeared bright white. There were no conventional red and green running lights and no strobe lights.
This object crossed the approach and departure flight path of Phoenix Skyharbor Airport. Channel 15 local news reported that a pilot on takeoff from Skyharbor spotted the lights above him and called the tower operators to ask them if they picked up anything on radar above him. The tower operator reported that they had nothing on radar. Tom King has started the wheels rolling on attempting to get a record of tower communications or radar records for the night of the 13th.
One woman in Chandler just southeast of Phoenix reported that she did not see the lights that night, but that her 9-year old daughter reported that a traveling beam of light had moved through her bedroom and through the birdcage in her bedroom. This woman had neighbors who had a very good view of the primary object as it passed over their heads at a very low altitude. These neighbors drew sketches of what they saw at between 8:50 P.M. and 9:10 P.M.
The neighbor, Don, and his wife, Grace, could observe structure on the triangular object. Don and Grace both observed gray panels on the underside of this structure with seven orange lights on the forward section of the triangular structure. One of the orange lights detached and went out to the right and then returned and redocked with the primary object. Could this detached orange light be one of the "orbs" deployed into the environment and seen later?
We do not know, but other reports that have come in from California indicate that these orbs have been seen leaving and re-merging with some primary object or light. Both Don and Grace reported hearing no sound from the triangle. They also saw a brilliant white ball of light followed by a red glow trail behind the object.
Witness Mike Fortson seems to have seen a different object that I identify with Event 1, the V-shaped formation of lights. Mike observed these from his Chandler home and was impressed by the sheer size of this object He believes that what he saw was a massive singular object that had a translucent surface which passed between him and the moon. When it did so, he said, the moon tumed from white to yellow. He could also make out a kind of "distortion field" around the object and between him and the lights that seemed to "ripple" like waves traveling through water. Anothe witness named Tim Ley also noticed this ripple effect. The object Mike saw passed his position going south down Alma School Road around 8:30 P.M.
A later witness, a truck driver named Bill Greiner gave one of the most impressive testimonies, but viewed a different event that I have labeled Event 4. He witnessed two orange lights for two hours while he was driving his truck south on Interstate 17 from Verde Valley to a cement/gravel plant near Luke AFB. When he arrived at his destination in the west valley, he witnessed three jets scramble from Luke to intercept the nearest of the two now seen hovering 1-2 miles away to the southwest while the other object hung at a position in the northwest. He described the objects as looking like toy tops or hot-air balloons without the gondolas, glowing a yellow-orange from within and engirdled with a pulsating red-glowing ring of light. As the jets approach the near object, the object shot straight up and disappeared with the jets passing through the spot where the object was hovering. A call to Luke AFB by Tom King received the answer that all jets had been bedded down for the night by
7 P.M. The witness has volunteered to take a lie-detector test as he said that despite the Air Force denials, he knows what he saw.
A report received from Tucson's MUFON Section Director, June Scherrer, reveals that a witness saw a diamond formation of slow-moving golden yellow lights at around 8:45 P.M. in Saddlebrook, north of Tucson and flying southward toward Tucson. It is difficult to determine whether the formation in Tucson was the same formation seen earlier over Phoenix.
Shortly after these reports started coming in, I went on a local radio station and requested more witnesses to come forward and have been doing so every Saturday night since the March 13 sighting. There was an additional report that was forwarded from Tucson of a sighting on March 22 of a formation of thirty lights seen at 5 A.M. moving northward. Isolated reports have been coming in up to April 14th when a smaller version of the Phoenix sightings took place over the cities of Chandler and Coolidge.
The sightings on March 13th were remarkable due to the wide range of sightings on that night, the sheer number of people calling in reports to local police and news stations, and the calls received by Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center, and the number of witnesses who recorded video images of their sighting. I have been able to discern in the Phoenix sightings four or five separate events.
Event 1 is generally described as a large V-formation of six or seven lights. Event 2 is generally described as a huge, dark black triangle with structural details. Event 3 is generally described as intensely glowing spheres or orbs of golden-yellow light. Event 4 is the description given by Bill Greiner of the large orbs hovering near Luke AFB. There may have been more than four events on that night, but there are at least four definitive ones.
Spokesmen from Luke AFB said: 1) They received no calls ftom residents about the strange lights on March 13. Peter Davenport reports that some of his callers obtained his hot line number by calling the desk out at Luke. 2) They report that they bedded the jets down at 7 P.M. on that night and generally do not fly jets at night. Witnesses have reported to me that they have seen jets fly out of Luke at night, and Bill Greiner stands by his testimony that he saw three jets sent out at 10 P.M. on March 13 on intercept of the UFOs he had under observation. It seems like the official statements made to members of the press and public by those representing our Air Force are, to put it delicately, on a course deviation from the truth.
The Govemor of the state had no comment to make about these sightings. The Arizona Republic published an article a full five days after the sightings took place. The mayor of Phoenix made a statement to one of the staff of Strange Universe when queried that no UFOs hovered above Phoenix, Even though wc were told by news stations of reports made by pilots, the FAA was not forthcoming with any official word about the sightings, or foreign flying objects crossing air traffic lanes, or any other encouraging or discouraging word.
Conventional explanations that were proffered included flares or a formation of airplanes, however, when all witness testimony is taken into account, such conventional explanations do not seem consonant with the facts.
Even though this summary report constitutes a fraction of witness testimony for the night of March 13, it conveys a fair idea of the remarkable series of mass sightings that have occurred over Arizona and further reports could be made at some future date. Meantime, we are continuing to collect reports and keep an ever-vigilant eye on those crowded skies.