On the night of March 13, 1997, thousands of Arizonans reported seeing UFOs, the incident since becoming known as the Phoenix Lights. While the truth behind the event has yet to be proven, it has become the most notorious case of UFO sightings since Roswell. Whether the UFOs were of extraterrestrial origin or not, it is at this point hard to deny that people did see something. Today, we’ll examine the case of the Phoenix Lights and see if we can come to a logical conclusion regarding the lights’ origins.
March 13, 1997: Lights Over Phoenix
According to the National UFO Reporting Center, one of the few organizations that kept an official record of Phoenix Lights sightings, the first UFO report was made at 8:16pm. It came from a retired police officer in Paulden, Arizona, a town roughly two hours north of Phoenix.
The retired officer reported seeing a sky of reddish lights, arranged in a boomerang, or, “V” formation. Soon after, calls from south of Paulden began to flood in, suggesting that the lights were moving in a southeastern direction, towards Phoenix.
While these reports’ details had slight variations, there were several key consistencies. First, the lights covered an enormous mass, some describing them as spanning over a mile. They were, as previously stated, situated in a boomerang-like formation. And they made no sound as they moved at a languish pace.
Around 10pm the same night, another stream of reports began to pour in, these primarily coming from the Phoenix area. Hundreds reported a series of blinking orbs in the sky. The orbs slowly traversed Phoenix before vanishing once they reached the Estrella Mountain Range, located southwest of the city.
Enter Lynne Kitei, Spokesperson of the Phoenix Lights Sightings
One of the witnesses to the Phoenix Lights was a woman named Lynne Kitei. In addition to being a physician, Kitei was a former actress who even had a role in the Coen Brothers’ Raising Arizona. Because of her prestige as a medical professional/micro-celebrity, Kitei was soon regarded as the case’s expert witness.
To this day, Kitei’s story has not changed. She describes having seen a mile-wide formation of orbs hovering over downtown Phoenix. These orbs, she claims, then coalesced into a V-shape. She admits that she doesn’t know what the orbs were exactly and has never claimed that they were beyond a shadow of a doubt extraterrestrial in nature.
Kitei took four years leave from the medical profession to investigate the Phoenix Lights sighting. She even wrote a book and directed a documentary on the incident, both works propelling the incident to even greater notoriety within UFO circles.
Governor Fife Symington’s Antics
Arizona’s then-governor Fife Symington held a press conference regarding the Phoenix Lights sightings. In an effort to lighten the mood, he had one of his aides dress like an alien and crash the event. More paranoid attendees were not so keen on Symington’s sense of humor.
Surprisingly, roughly 10 years after this press conference, Symington would claim that he too witnessed the Phoenix Lights. He even said that he believed them to have been of otherworldly origin. The press conference, he claimed, was simply an attempt to calm down Arizona’s panicking citizens.
A Possible Explanation for the Phoenix Lights
With reports of the incident receiving worldwide attention, people demanded answers. And the Luke Air Force Base provided one: flares dropped from a high altitude as part of a routine test. The Tucson Weekly reported that the Maryland Air National Guard had been in Arizona for winter training.
They had apparently dropped flares from A10 fighter planes at the gunnery behind the Estrella Mountain Range. However, a spokesperson for the Air National Guard claimed that the planes never went north of Phoenix. Therefore, the initial sightings in Paulden were still unaccounted for.
Witnesses like Kitei didn’t buy the explanation. How, they wondered, could flares hold their V-shape formation in mid-air whilst traveling across an entire state for hours? Some aviation experts, however, believe such a thing to be possible.
According to a 12News article, “20 Years Later: What Were the Phoenix Lights?” former F-16 pilot Ty Groh “said flares in the sky react like hot-air balloons; they go where the wind takes them. A steady breeze could propel all of the flares at the same time, while keeping them at a uniform distance.”
At the end of the day, unless an experiment is done to prove that flares could act in such a way under the exact same weather conditions present that night, there is really no way to know whether or not this is a valid explanation. Is the government’s explanation a coverup? We’ll let you decide for yourself.
The Kurt Russell Connection
Before we conclude the story, it must be mentioned that actor Kurt Russell was one of the reporters of the Phoenix Lights. According to a recent BBC interview, Russell claimed, “I was flying [his son Oliver] to go see his girlfriend, and we were on approach,” Russell explained. “I saw six lights over the airport in absolute uniform in a V shape. Oliver said to me — I was just looking at him, I was coming in, we’re maybe a half a mile out — and Oliver said, ‘Pa, what are those lights?’
“Then I kind of came out of my reverie and I said, ‘I don’t know what they are.’ He said, ‘Are we okay here?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna call in,’ and I reported it.”
For the record, Russell, like many others, still believes that the lights were of “unidentified” origin, despite the government’s explanation.
Do you have a theory on the Phoenix Lights? Let us know in the comments!