10 of the Strangest UFO Sightings Ever Recorded

ufo-sightings (Image: CIA, public domain)

In 1947, one small town in New Mexico suddenly found itself thrust into the spotlight. After a supposed alien craft was discovered crashed outside a ranch, the world’s press went into hyperdrive. Here it was: final proof of beings from another world. At least, that was the story, until the military admitted the debris came from a crashed experimental weather balloon.

Since then, the Roswell Incident has become the stuff of UFO lore. Whole corners of the internet exist purely to fuel speculation. According to a Gallup survey, seventy one percent of Americans think the government knows more about flying saucers than it’s letting on. But Roswell is far from the best or most-interesting UFO ‘encounter’ to have happened. Look into the dim past and not-so-dim present, and you’ll uncover encounters that’ll make you wonder if we’re really alone.

The Westall Encounter (Australia)

westall-ufo-encounter-australia (Image: Westall High School)

If you’re one of those people who thinks aliens are only ever seen by lonely farmhands and drunken hillbillies, prepare to be unnerved. The 1966 Westall Encounter was witnessed by over 200 people and provoked a response from both the police and Australian air force.

On April 6th, pupils and teachers at two schools in a Melbourne suburb watched as a “low-flying, silver/grey shining object” drifted over an empty field before landing behind some trees. Witnesses described it as looking like “a cup turned upside down on a saucer.” While both schools were near an airport, staff were well-versed enough in aircraft to authoritatively state it was unlike anything ever seen before. When some pupils went to investigate, the craft abruptly took off again – speeding away into the sky. The only traces left were some unusual scorch marks in the forest.

What’s so truly disturbing about the Westall Encounter is the sheer number of witnesses, along with how spread out they were. For such a diverse group to have simultaneously had a mass-hallucination is almost as incredible an explanation as a flying saucer. And that’s before we get onto the involvement of the Australian government. So, did aliens come to visit Melbourne some 50-years ago? We’ll leave it to you to decide.

The Yangzhou Pearl (Ancient China)

ufo-sightings-2 (Image: Stahlkocher, cc-sa-3.0; above: lenticular cloud formation)

Not all alien sightings happen in the modern era. Look through the right historical records and you’ll come across unexplained sightings dating from hundreds, if not thousands of years ago. Sightings like the one at Yangzhou.

In his enormous book Dream Pool Essays, the ancient Chinese scientist and scholar Shen Kou recounts an incident that sounds worryingly like a UFO sighting. Taking place during the reign of Emperor Renzong (1022–1063), it describes a giant “pearl” that hung over Yangzhou at night, appearing so frequently that the locals built a shrine to it. Most-peculiar of all though, is a passage that describes it opening one night and flooding the countryside with a burning light, before vanishing into a lake.

To be clear, Shen Kou is about as reliable a witness as you can get. His other writings accurately record the effects of lightning, the discovery of fossils and contain some seriously accurate predictions about our solar system. And here he is, recounting a tale more like something from the X-Files than a serious scholar.

Chariots in the Sky (Ancient Jerusalem)

ufo-sightings-3 (Image: The National Archives UK, public domain)

Shen Kou isn’t the oldest accurate source for unexplained aircraft, however. Roman historian Josephus beat him to it back in the First Century, when he described an army of chariots flying over ancient Jerusalem.

Like Kou above him, Josephus is a scholar noted for his accuracy. His book The Jewish War is one of our primary sources on the first Roman-Jewish war, and most of what he says is backed up by other notable authors like Tacitus. Yet his chronicle also contains what seems to be an impossible moment, when he describes: “chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor… running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities.”

As far as we can tell, Josephus himself believed the rumour to be true, although he interpreted it as a sign of Jerusalem’s coming fall. For some modern readers, though, the passage has a different connotation – that in AD 70, swarms of alien ships may have descended outside Jerusalem, surrounding the city.

The Tehran Incident (Iran)

f4-phantom-ufo-sighting (Image: via Wikipedia, public domain; above, F-4D Phantom)

At midnight on September 19th 1976, the Iranian air force began receiving calls about a mysterious light shining above the streets of Tehran. Fearing an enemy aircraft, generals separately dispatched two pilots to investigate. What happened next would go down in UFO history.

As the first pilot approached the object, his aircraft’s systems completely failed. Aborting his mission, he turned back toward the city – only to have his plane return to full operational capacity. The second pilot suffered an even creepier fate. After picking the object up on radar, he prepared to shoot it down; only for the object to attack him instead.

Allegedly, a bright light launched itself at his craft, missing only when he executed an evasive manoeuvre. What followed was a chase across Tehran’s skies as the object knocked out communications systems, shorted out power supplies and generally caused mayhem on the ground, before finally disappearing.

Although no conclusive proof exists, today nearly all of those involved apparently believe they encountered a genuine UFO. However, we’ll never know if the Iranian government itself agreed: all records were destroyed or lost following the Islamic revolution a mere three years later.

The Maracaibo Incident (Venezuela)

Maracaibo-Incident-ufo-sightings (Image: Scientific American via Educating Humanity)

In October 1886, a family in the Venezuelan town of Maracaibo suffered a strange and hideous fate. During an intense lightning storm, their small hut suddenly became bathed in a dazzling white light. The air outside was reportedly humming and the inside of the hut filled with a smoky smell. Almost immediately, all nine family members were overcome by a fit of vomiting, as large lesions erupted on their skin. But the worst was yet to come.

After nine days had passed and the encounter already begun to grow dim in their minds, the family suddenly began to lose their hair. Whole sections of their skin sloughed off and all nine became covered in hideous sores. At the same time, the trees around their hut withered and died. The family were taken to a hospital, where no more is known of their fate.

However, we can hazard a guess: they almost certainly died. The symptoms above are more-or-less identical to those caused by a massive blast of radiation – described almost 50 years before anyone knew what radiation poisoning was. What caused the death of that Venezuelan family remains unknown. But some flying saucer enthusiasts have claimed that radiation from a space craft is the only plausible answer. Whatever the truth, there’s no denying that this story is the very definition of ‘unexplained phenomena’.

The Korean Lights (Korean Waters)

korea-ufo-sighting (Image: low res screenshot via YouTube)

In the dying days of the 19th century, a British warship off the coast of Korea had a strange encounter. About 17 miles off the coast of Jeju, the crew suddenly found themselves being followed by distant balls of fire. They hung in the sky, like Chinese lanterns, and seemed to swoop back and forth, changing shape and emitting clouds of smoke. But even as they swept across the sky, back and forth, they remained more or less parallel with the ship.

For two whole nights, the crew monitored the lights, before losing sight of them entirely. When they made port, they found that other ships had reported the mysterious lights – although they’d been unable to ascertain their origin either.

Today, it’s widely thought that the lights were nothing more than some form of St Elmo’s Fire. But that hasn’t stopped some from crediting the lights to alien intervention.

Livy’s Phantom Ships (Ancient Rome)

ghost-ship-2 (Image: B1bl1kal, cc-sa-3.0)

About one hundred years before Josephus reported his chariots over Jerusalem, Roman historian Livy noted what might be the first UFO encounter in history. Writing about a number of portents that troubled Rome in the cruel winter of 214 BC, he makes a fleeting reference to reports of “phantom ships, gleaming in the sky”.

Unlike Josephus’s account, Livy’s doesn’t stretch to more than a handful of words. After the very brief note mentioned above, he goes on to talk about lightning striking a temple and other unconnected facts. So to claim this as a verified UFO sighting may be stretching things a bit. But the fact remains that a large enough proportion of Ancient Rome claimed to see flying ships that winter for Livy to make mention of it, almost 200 years later. For ufologists, this is nothing short of proof of alien encounters, stretching far back through the mists of time. For the rest of us, it’s perhaps less clear cut. But what’s certain is that something strange happened in the winter of that year – although what that may be is harder to say.

The Canary Islands Sightings (Spain)

ufo-sightings-4 (Image: low res screenshot via YouTube)

The same year that Iran was chasing mysterious lights across the sky, the Canary Islands were having their own strange encounter. At 9:27pm on June 22nd, Navy personnel reportedly noticed a strange light travelling along the horizon that later split into two distinct objects. However, even this weird little tale has nothing compared to reports on the ground.

The residents of one street in Las Rosas, Gran Canaria reported seeing a gigantic, transluscent blue sphere hovering just above ground level. Roughly 30 metres in diameter, the sphere supposedly contained two humanoid creatures – vague shadows that could be seen against the stars. According to one eyewitness, things then got even crazier: with the sphere expanding to enormous dimensions before vanishing off into the night sky.

In the intervening years, several explanations have been put forward – ranging from meteor effects to a missile test. Yet to this day, people continue to swear they saw this strange orb; and the even stranger creatures inside it.

The Kolkata UFO (India)

kolkata-ufo-sighting (Image: low res screenshot via YouTube)

A shape-shifting, vanishing ball of fire streaking over a major population centre sounds like something out a Sci-Fi movie. But the Kolkata fireball was very real, terrifying the city’s 4.5m residents only 7 years ago in 2007.

At around 3.30am, the few souls unlucky enough to be awake saw a gigantic object streaking through the Indian sky. A national news report claimed that hundreds saw it pass, with one man even capturing it on camcorder.

According to Indian reports, scientists were completely flummoxed by the object, which seemed to “radiate a halo of colours” as it passed overhead. Although most observers assumed it was a meteorite, the object’s ability to change shape throws a particularly irksome spanner into that theory, leaving the possibility of an alien visit wide open…

The Shag Harbour Crash (Canada)

shag-harbour-ufo-sighting (Image: low res screenshot via YouTube)

In 1967, residents of Nova Scotia, Canada, awoke to a startling surprise. Something had crashed into the sea off Shag Harbour – and early reports indicated that it wasn’t human in origin.

Early that morning, several local residents reported being awoken by a mysterious bright light hovering over the town. Before long, a low whistling noise was heard across the harbour; followed by an almighty crash. According to eyewitnesses a mysterious light had plunged straight into the ocean by the coastline, vanishing in a plume of water.

Today, the region’s official tourist site lists the incident as “the only UFO crash recorded and recognized by the Canadian Government.” Witnesses are convinced a decayed alien ship lies out there, under the freezing Atlantic waters, although searches have so far turned up nothing. Is there a crashed alien craft waiting to be discovered off the coast of Canada? Who knows?

Keep reading – discover 9 Mythical Monsters that Remain Somewhat Mysterious


About the author: Morris M




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