Note: don’t miss the Part 2 of the top UFO sightings in the modern era!
People have had UFO encounters since the dawn of recorded history (if not before), but with the advent of airplanes, cars, cameras and binoculars, sightings became much more common. Here are some of the most remarkable sightings of the modern era.
Kenneth Arnold, Washington State
It started as a normal day for Kenneth Arnold in 1947. He was a private pilot, flying himself to Yakima, Washington for business. He took a small side trip, buzzing by Mt. Rainier to see if he could spot a U.S. Marine transport plane that had crashed recently—there was a $5,000 reward.
He didn’t find the plane, but what he did discover changed the world of ufology. During the flight, he saw several bright flashes. At first he thought they might just be reflections, but the “reflections” grew closer and larger, and he realized he was looking at flying objects. Geese? No, geese don’t fly at 1,200 MPH. A new type of jet? There were no contrails.
And, they were the wrong shape—they were, as Arnold put it, thin and convex. He later told reporters that the objects’ movement reminded him of saucers skipping across water, and thus was born the familiar term “flying saucers”.
The Battle of Los Angeles
It was 1942 and the United States was plunged into World War II. In February, only two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, anti-aircraft guns started firing over the city of Los Angeles. Lights had appeared in the sky, witnessed by thousands, and everyone’s first assumption was that the Japanese were staging another attack.
Strangely, the anti-aircraft fire brought nothing down, even though radar showed an “unidentifiable aerial target” over the city. Some witnesses said they saw a large object hovering in the air. Later, a journalist’s photo of the battle scene (at right) sparked controversy among UFO skeptics and only deepened the mystery—it appears to show a large black triangular craft.
UFO Crash at Roswell
Sure, you’ve heard of the Roswell Incident. Skeptics like to say it’s the “most thoroughly debunked UFO claim” in the world. We disagree. You can’t “debunk” something by making up explanations.
It was a hot day in July 1947 when New Mexico rancher Mac Brazel was out on a remote part of the Foster ranch, and when he came across strange wreckage, he wasn’t sure what to think of it. Maybe the guys at the local military base, the 509th airfield, would know something about it. When Brazel took some officers, including Intelligence Officer Jesse Marcel, to see for themselves, the military men were stunned. It was clear to them that this was indeed a crashed vehicle—and that it wasn’t from this planet.
The story hit the news wires, and calls came in from around the world. General Roger Ramey rushed to the 509th base and concocted a story about a downed weather balloon. The story stuck—”General Ramey Empties Roswell Saucer” read the headlines—and those involved were warned to never reveal what they actually saw.
Later, in old age, Jesse Marcel felt compelled to reveal the truth, and the story became the stuff of legend.
UFOs Buzz D.C.
It’s alarming enough for an air traffic controller to spot seven unknown objects on radar. But when Ed Nugent spotted them in Washington D.C. in July 1952, he realized they were headed toward the White House and the U.S. Capitol building—so he raised an alert. His radar unit checked out, not malfunctioning, and the blips showed up on other radar units as well. Then the objects were sighted by pilots in the area, moving at “an unbelievable speed”.
The objects vanished within 15 minutes, but a few days later, they were back. This time, strange flying lights were noticed by the flight crew on a commercial jet over D.C. They appeared yet again the next day. President Harry Truman was so shaken up by these events that he called the head of Project Blue Book, demanding an explanation. Soon after, a standing shoot-down order was given to Air Force pilots: if you see a UFO, fire on it immediately.
Don’t miss The Top UFO Sightings in Modern History, Part 2!