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21 Eerie Facts About UFO Sightings

Are those little green men more fact than fiction?

Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs, have been the stuff of legends for centuries. People from coast to coast and continent to continent continue to claim that they've seen a saucer-like object in the sky or that their dog was absolutely abducted by aliens. Given all of the truly unbelievable information that surrounds UFOs, it can prove difficult to discern the facts in the sea of fiction. Thankfully, we're here to help you uncover all of the UFO facts out there once and for all. So strap in for some seriously spooky stuff!

The United States government had its own UFO task force.

air force, army facts
Asia Images/Shutterstock

Project Blue Book was a systematic study of UFOs by the United States Air Force, according to the National Archives. From 1947 to 1969, Project Blue Book did its best to investigate every UFO claim to determine if it posed a threat to national security. Though most of the 12,618 sightings could be explained by weather-related phenomenon, the government does admit that 701 cases were never solved by the task force, despite vigorous investigation.

An experienced pilot crashed and died after pursuing a UFO.

Captain Thomas Mantell, 25- year old USAF pilot, who died pursuing a UFO, now generally considered to have been a Skyhook weather balloon Date: 1948

Thomas Mantell, an experienced World War II fighter pilot and a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard, crashed and perished while pursuing a UFO in January 1948. When the incident occurred, a New York Times article on the pilot noted that there had previously been "reports of a 'flying saucer'" in the Kentucky area, which is what led Mantell on his "fruitless" and ultimately fatal chase.

To this day, the circumstances leading up to his crash are still disputed by the public and members of the military. Fellow members of the Kentucky National Guard who were also searching for the UFO that day have also never been able to properly identify what exactly it was that they were chasing. Some scholars suggest that it might have been a weather balloon, but the fact of the matter is that we'll never truly know.

One pilot claims to have seen a UFO traveling at 1,400 miles per hour.

ufos flying over city facts about ufo sightings

In 1947, American pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing very bright lights hovering near his plane while on a business trip to Yakima, Washington. Arnold told The Bellingham Herald that the nine points of light were flying in a V formation at speeds of around 1,400 miles per hour.

These impossibly fast-flying objects have never been explained, and it was actually Arnold's description of the encounter ("saucers skipping on water") that led to the term "flying saucer" in conjunction with UFOs.

Members of the United States Air Force have reported seeing a spaceship.

ufo spaceship in forest facts about ufo sightings

In 1980, members of the U.S. Air Force stationed just outside of London reported seeing a series of strange lights coming from nearby Rendlesham Forest. According to the BBC, a few of the servicemen reported coming across what they at first assumed was a downed aircraft in the forest. Upon getting closer, they discovered that it was an otherworldly craft that emitted light beams reaching across the forest.

In the days that followed, many other Air Force officers came forward to corroborate these claims, stating that the glow from this mysterious aircraft had put on an impressive light show for hours, without any clear sign that the lights could've come from another source. Ever since, this area just outside of London has become known as the Roswell of England.

The cause of an event involving green balls of fire in New Mexico is still unsolved.

green fire facts about ufo sightings

On the night of December 5, 1948, two separate plane crews, one from the United States Air Force, reported seeing a giant green ball of fire just east of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The unrelated crews each reported this mysterious ball of fire to the authorities. One crew reported that, at times, the ball of fire seemed to come straight for the aircraft, causing the pilot to swerve to avoid it, according to the Nuclear Connection Project.

Since that initial incident, numerous other green fireball incidents have been reported in the state of New Mexico and beyond, but none have ever been fully explained.

The incidents at Roswell remain a topic of debate among citizens and government officials alike.

ufo crash site near roswell new mexico facts about ufo sightings

The alleged UFO crash site situated just outside of Roswell, New Mexico, has attracted thousands of tourists to the area since the incident allegedly took place in the summer of 1947. However, the actual events surrounding the infamous Roswell UFO crash are still very much up for debate.

Despite the fact that foreman William Brazel described finding a disc-shaped UFO on his ranch, the military reported that what Brazen found was simply an experimental weather balloon. What's more, the official site of the city of Roswell notes that there was a "recovery of debris and bodies and [an]ensuing cover up by the military"—or at least that's what some people believe.

A "UFO" in Los Angeles caused five deaths.

Los Angeles at Night

In February 1942, soldiers stationed around 120 miles from Los Angeles spotted an unidentified flying vessel zipping in and out of view. Thinking that it might be an enemy aircraft—it was the middle of World War II, after all—the United States military plunged the entire city of Los Angeles into darkness to be better able to spot the aircraft, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

As the blackout ensued, police were inundated with reports of unidentified flying objects spotted around the city. Due to the stress of the event, five people died from heart attacks and car crashes. After the city returned to its normal state, authorities claimed that what the soldiers saw was a meteorological balloon—and not an enemy fighter or a UFO.

The Pentagon once studied "Exotic UFO Tech."

pentagon facts about ufo sightings

In 2009, a top-secret mission began at the Pentagon, called the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program. Until it ended in 2012, a few government officials, including then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, were tasked with poring over previous claims of UFO encounters, according to Politico.

When it was formed, the project's main intent was to debunk these claims of extraterrestrial life, and instead, investigate whether or not these mysterious sightings could be attributed to secret Soviet activity or other potential threats to the safety of Americans. All of the information regarding this top-secret investigation was revealed by Luis Elizondo, the career intelligence officer who ran the initiative, upon his resignation. To date, the exact findings of their investigations haven't been made clear to the public.

Numerous scientists stationed in Antarctica have reported seeing UFOs.

korean antarctica science station facts about ufo sightings

Yes, that's right—even the most sparsely populated continent in the world has reportedly caught glimpses of extraterrestrial life. In 1965, military officials from three different countries—Argentina, Great Britain, and Chile—reported seeing red, blue, and green lights flicker and dart across a remote stretch of sky, according to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena.

Troops also recorded major magnetic changes in their geomagnetic instruments, leading them to question what else could possibly be doing this in such remote parts of the world. To this day, officials still can't explain the source of these supposed UFOs.

The Heaven's Gate mass suicide was caused by the anticipation of a UFO sighting.


Founded in 1974, Heaven's Gate was an American UFO religious millenarian cult based near San Diego, California. In 1997, police discovered the bodies of 39 members of the cult who had all taken their own lives to leave this world and travel to another that they believed contained extraterrestrial life. They timed their suicides to take place after the rare viewing of the Comet Hale–Bopp, as they allegedly believed that a UFO would be trailing the comet in order to bring them to a higher level of existence, according to The New York Times.

Many ancient paintings have been "photobombed" by UFOs.

D99497 The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius 1486, Carlo Crivelli

Since the 14th century, many ancient paintings have contained objects that can be compared to modern UFOs. Over the centuries, scholars have noted the presence of flying saucers in paintings, such as The Annunciation with Saint Emidius from 1486 (pictured above) and the Crucifixion of Christ from 1350, in which apparent flying UFOs are hovering next to Jesus' head, according to The Sun.

The Bible might contain an anecdote about a UFO sighting.

ufo facts about ufo sightings

Though the Bible includes several references to potential UFOs, it's the one in the Book of Ezekiel that has piqued the most interest. The tale is recounted in Chapter One, Verse Four: "And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire." And the source of that so-called "whirlwind" has been debated ever since.

Ancient Roman scholars once wrote about flying ghostly ships.

titus livius

In Ancient Rome, philosopher and historian Titus Livius once claimed in his historical text Ab Urbe Condita that many people saw "ghostly ships" haunting the skies of the city for years on end. Though it is a rather vague sighting, many historians believe that this is the first official UFO sighting in recorded history.

People report being abducted by aliens with stunning regularity.

alien abduction facts about ufo sightings

Since the first widely publicized report of an alien abduction in 1961, in which a New Hampshire couple named Barney and Betty Hill claimed to have been kidnapped by aliens, those who claim they've been abducted have been met with a heavy dose of skepticism.

Still, it happens on a regular basis. Nicolas Dumont, a French psychologist who specializes in people who believe they might have been abducted by aliens, told Vice he's treated about 100 patients, all French, "who have shown signs of an abduction." "Often these people tell me they were awoken in the middle of the night and found themselves paralyzed. They saw non-human beings around them, whether they were at home or in an external place that might have been a spaceship," Dumont said. "Sometimes they were in both. Some hadn't experienced anything until they woke up at home thinking it was morning before realizing 48 hours had just gone by. We call that 'missing time'—it's very common."

Even Christopher Columbus recalled seeing a UFO dart across the sky.

Christopher Columbus facts about ufo sightings

On an early voyage, Christopher Columbus and members of his crew claim to have spotted mysterious lights in the sky. According to Swarthmore College, Columbus wrote about this encounter in his journal, describing the mysterious lights as "a small wax candle that rose and lifted up, which to few seemed to be an indication of land."

In the years since the 1492 journal entry was discovered, many scholars have attempted to explain the sighting, claiming that the lights could have been attributed to bioluminescence and nearby fires from fishermen or indigenous peoples—though the supposed windy conditions that night have indicated to many that these explanations are not possible.

And the first European settlers in America reported seeing UFOs, too.

john winthrop facts about ufo sightings

In 1639, the governor of the Massachusetts colony, John Winthrop, reported that members of the colony were kidnapped by a mysterious light. According to the History Channel, Winthrop wrote about this event in his personal journal, detailing an experience in which numerous inexplicable light sources filled up the sky.

In his journal, Winthrop wrote: "When it stood still, it flamed up, and was about three yards square. When it ran, it was contracted into the figure of a swine." While these mysterious points of light filled the sky, Winthrop claimed that the settlers lost of track of time, and that three men who were "sober" and "discreet" disappeared after attempting to follow these sources of light that "ran as swift as an arrow," darting back and forth between them and the other nearby village.

The appearance of numerous "ghost rockets" in Sweden was kept secret for years.

Ufos Scandinavian Rocket. Image shot 1946. Exact date unknown.

In 1946, more than 2,000 people in Sweden reported seeing ghost rockets, or Spökraketer, in Swedish, between the months of May and December (that's a photo of one of them, above). Not only that, but around 200 unidentified flying objects were spotted on radar in Sweden and neighboring countries, according to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena.

After the incident, the Swedish Army instructed newspapers to refrain from revealing specific details of the case, and in the years since the mysterious objects were spotted, the government has remained mostly quiet about the event.

A "UFO" encounter at the International Space Station was caught on camera.

International Space Station facts about ufo sightings

During a live transmission from space in 2016, a number of unidentified flying objects were spotted around the International Space Station, according to Fox News. What's more, one video even cut out exactly when an object was front and center on the feed. Though scientists explained that the objects were likely planets or moons and NASA said the system cut out due to normal signal loss, some folks are still not convinced.

Certain events in Close Encounters of the Third Kind actually happened.

close encounters of the third kind
Youtube/Columbia Pictures

That's right: Some aspects of the 1977 science-fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind are actually based on sightings of UFOs. According to The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry by Joseph Allen Hynek, one of the more memorable scenes of the movie, in which UFOs cause motorists to lose power in their cars, happened in Levelland, Texas, in 1957.

The real-life Levelland case had 15 witnesses, including police officers, who reported seeing bright lights and objects zooming around the landscape. Every witness reported that when the lights got close to motorists, the cars lost power on the road. Many scientists and skeptics blamed the occurrence on ball lightning or an electrical storm.

And Men in Black is partially based off real people.

men in black 97
Youtube/Columbia Pictures

According to the History Channel, the Men in Black film series was partially based off real events. In 1947, Harold Dahl reported seeing six donut-shaped obstacles hovering over Puget Sound in Washington state. Dahl claimed that the mysterious objects came close enough to harm his son and kill his dog.

After the strange event, Dahl said that a man in black came to visit him and told him the event could be attributed to extraterrestrial life. The man told Dahl to never breathe a word of their conversation to the outside world. Of course, Dahl eventually did. From that early account of a "man in black" came the science-fiction comedy thriller Men in Black, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

Thousands of Americans have taken out insurance against being abducted by aliens.

the dream interpretation of alien abduction facts about ufo sightings

If you've read this far, you might be starting to get concerned. Fear not! For $19.95 you can get alien abduction insurance from the Saint Lawrence Agency in Altamonte Springs, Florida. The unique company has sold more than 6,000 policies to date, for a total of $10 million worth of coverage, according to the Miami Herald.

Unfortunately, the fine print is a little dicey. In order to qualify for a claim, you'll have to make your way back to Earth and produce the signature of an "authorized, on-board alien." And for more on the murkier aspects of history, find out Why Stonehenge Exists—and More of History's Greatest Mysteries.

Ashley Moor
Ashley hails from Dayton, Ohio, and has more than six years of experience in print and digital media. Read more
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