March 13, 1997
Location: Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Phoenix Lights UFO incident is a complex series of events
that took place on March 13, 1997 over the states of Nevada,
Arizona, and possibly New Mexico, and which would quickly
become known as the "Phoenix Lights" sightings.
It involved sightings by tens, or perhaps even hundreds,
of thousands of witnesses on the ground, and it gave rise
to a storm of controversy over what had caused the event.
Witness Tim Ley's computer illustration of a large V-shaped
craft that flew over him.
Amateur video of the Phoenix Lights.
Ten years after the Arizona UFO incident known as the
'Phoenix Lights', former Arizona
Republican Governor Fife Symington, III, now says that
he himself was a witness to one of
the strange unidentified flying objects. "I witnessed
a massive delta-shaped craft silently
navigate over Squaw Peak.."
Peter B. Davenport, Director, National UFO Reporting Center
of Phoenix Lights Event
Peter B. Davenport, Director, National UFO Reporting Center
approximately 6:55 p.m. (Pacific) on Thursday, March 13,
1997, a young man in Henderson, Nevada, reportedly witnessed
a V-shaped object, with six large lights on its leading
edge, approach his position from the northwest and pass
overhead. In his subsequent written report to the National
UFO Reporting Center, he described it as appearing to
be quite large, approximately the "size of a (Boeing)
747", and said that it generated a sound which
he equated to that of "rushing wind."
It continued on a straight line toward the southeast and
disappeared from his view over the horizon.
sighting is perhaps the earliest of a complex series of
events that would take place during the next 2-3 hours
over the states of Nevada, Arizona, and possibly New Mexico,
and which would quickly become known as the "Phoenix
Lights" sightings. It involved sightings by tens,
or perhaps even hundreds, of thousands of witnesses on
the ground, and it gave rise to a storm of controversy
over what had caused the event.
next reported sighting was from a former police officer
in Paulden, AZ. He had just left his home at approximately
8:15 p.m. (Mountain), and was driving north, when he looked
out the drivers window of his car to the west and
witnessed a cluster of five reddish or orange lights.
The formation consisted of four lights together, with
a fifth light seemingly "trailing" the
other four. Each of the individual lights in the formation
appeared to the witness to consist of two separate point
sources of orange light.
witness immediately returned to his home, obtained a pair
of binoculars, and watched as the lights disappeared over
the horizon to the south. He watched the lights for an
estimated 2 minutes, and reported that they made no sound
that he could discern from his vantage point on the ground.
a matter of minutes of these first sightings, a "blitz"
of telephoned reports began pouring into the National
UFO Reporting Center, to other UFO organizations, to law
enforcement offices, to news media offices, and to Luke
Air Force Base. They were submitted from Chino Valley,
Prescott, Prescott Valley, Dewey, Cordes Junction, Wickenburg,
Cavecreek, and many other communities to the north and
west of Phoenix.
were reporting such markedly different objects and events
that night that it was difficult for investigators to
understand what was taking place. Some witnesses reported
five lights, others seven, or even more. Some reported
that the lights were distinctly orange or red, whereas
others reported distinctly white or yellow lights. Many
reported the lights were moving across the sky at seemingly
high speed, whereas others reported they moved at a slow
(angular) velocity, or they even hovered motionless for
apparent discrepancies, together with the large number
of communities from which sightings were being reported
in rapid sequence, raised early suspicions that multiple
objects were involved in the event, and that they perhaps
were traveling at high speed. These suspicions would be
borne out over subsequent months, following extensive
investigation by many individuals. The investigations
pointed to the fact that several objects, all markedly
different in appearance, and most of them almost unbelievably
large, passed over Arizona that night.
group of three witnesses, located just north of Phoenix,
reported seeing a huge, wedge-shaped craft with five lights
on its ventral surface pass overhead with an eerie "gliding"
type of flight. It coursed to the south and passed between
two mountain peaks to the south. The witnesses emphasized
how huge the object was, blocking out up to 70-90 degrees
of the sky.
second group of witnesses, a mother and four daughters
near the intersection of Indian School Road and 7th Avenue,
were shocked to witness an object, shaped somewhat like
a sergeants stripes, approach from over Camelback
Mountain to the north. They report that it stopped directly
above them, where it hovered for an estimated 5 minutes.
They described how it filled at least 30-40 degrees of
sky, and how it exhibited a faint glow along its trailing
edge. The witnesses felt they could see individual features
on the ventral surface of the object, and they were certain
that they were looking at a very large, solid object.
object began moving slowly to the south, at which time
it appeared to "fire" a white beam of
light at the ground. At about the same time, the seven
lights on the objects leading edge suddenly dimmed
and disappeared from the witnesses sight. The object
moved off in the general direction of Sky Harbor International
Airport, a few miles to the south, where it was witnessed
by two air traffic controllers in the airport tower, and
reportedly by several pilots, both on the ground and on
final approach from the east.
this point in the sighting, the facts are somewhat less
clear to investigators. It is known that at least one
object continued generally to the south and southeast,
passing over the communities of Scottsdale, Glendale,
and Gilbert. One of the witnesses in Scottsdale, a former
airline pilot with 13,700 hours of flight time, reported
seeing the object execute a distinct turn as it approached
his position on the ground. He noted that he witnessed
many lights on the object as it approached him, but that
the number of lights appeared to diminish as it got closer
to overhead. Many other witnesses in those communities
reported seeing the object pass overhead as it made its
way toward the mountains to the south of Phoenix.
sightings occurred shortly afterward along Interstate
10 in the vicinity of Casa Grande. One family of five,
who were driving from Tucson to Phoenix, reported that
the object that passed over their station wagon was so
large that they could see one "wing tip"
of the object out one side of their car, and the other
"wing tip" out the other side. They estimated
they were driving toward Phoenix at approximately 80 miles
per hour, and they remained underneath the object for
between one and two minutes as it moved in the opposite
direction. They emphasized how incredibly huge the object
appeared to be as it blocked out the sky above their car.
witnessed, located throughout the Phoenix basin, allegedly
continued to witness objects and peculiar clusters of
lights for several hours following the initial sightings.
One group of witnesses reported witnessing a large disc
streak to the west over Phoenix at very high speed. Others
reported peculiar orange "fireballs,"
which appeared to hover in the sky even hours after the
of the more intriguing reports was submitted by a young
man who claimed to be an Airman in the Air Force, stationed
at Luke Air Force Base, located to the west of Phoenix
in Litchfield Park. He telephoned the National UFO Reporting
Center at 3:20 a.m. on Friday, some eight hours after
the sightings on the previous night, and reported that
two USAF F-15c fighters had been "scrambled"
from Luke AFB, and had intercepted one of the objects.
Although the presence of F-15s could never be confirmed,
the airman provided detailed information which proved
to be highly accurate, based on what investigators would
reconstruct from witnesses over subsequent weeks and months.
Two days after his first telephone call, the airman called
to report that he had just been informed by his commander
that he was being transferred to an assignment in Greenland.
He has never been heard from again since that telephone
of the controversy that arose from the incident centers
around a cluster of lights that was seen, and videotaped,
to the south of Phoenix at between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m.
on the same night as the sightings. In May 1997, the Public
Affairs Office at Luke AFB announced that their personnel
had investigated these lights, and had established that
they were flares launched from A-10 "Warthog"
aircraft over the Gila Bend "Barry M. Goldwater"
Firing Range at approximately 10:00 p.m. Even the most
implacable UFO skeptics admit, however, that irrespective
of whether such flares had in fact been launched or not,
they cannot serve as an explanation for the objects that
had been witnessed by many individuals some 1-2 hours
interesting aspect of the case is the virtual absence
of coverage in the print media, save for a handful of
articles in local newspapers. The Prescott Daily Courier
carried an article on March 14, but the Pheonix newspapers,
and the national wire services, provided no early coverage
of the event, even though they had been apprised of it.
It was not until mid-June, almost ten weeks later, that
the national press took any interest in the incident with
the appearance of a front-page article in USA Today on
June 18, 1997.
may never be able to re-assemble all of the facts surrounding
the events that took place over Arizona on the night of
March 13, 1997. However, there is no doubt in the minds
of most that what occurred was extraordinarily bizarre
in nature, and that many thousands of witnesses can attest
to the events.