Top 15 UFO Sightings of All Time

famous ufo sightings
The "Gimbal" UFO released by the Pentagon. Yes, the US government confirmed the existence of a UFO

As humans, we have always been fascinated with what lies beyond our planet. It has led us to the exploration of space and has given us leaps in mankind's progression as a species like the moon landing and the journey of Voyager 1 which has gone beyond our solar system.

As we look up at the night sky, sometimes we wonder if there's someone looking back. Since time immemorial there have been reports of “wheels” in the sky or “dancing fireballs” that have mystified and terrified people who have witnessed them. The following entries in this list are the most notorious ones. These are the top 15 UFO sightings of all time.

15. Japan Airlines Cargo Flight 1628 Incident

The captain of JAL 1628 drawing of the alleged mothership that followed two glowing square objects over the skies in Alaska

On the night of November 17, 1986, Captain Kenju Terauchi and his crew witnessed two unidentified objects to their left. The two objects with two rectangular structures of what appeared to be thrusters or nozzles started tailing their airplane. It got close enough to the cockpit that they felt the heat of the objects on their skin while the cabin was lit up with a bright light. 12 minutes after the object's arrival, the two crafts left.

Shortly after the first two anomalies, another ship followed. This was the alleged mothership of the two crafts that resembled a flying disk and, allegedly, was the size of two aircraft carriers. Captain Terauchi was subsequently grounded for talking about the sighting and was given a desk job in exchange for being a pilot.

Captain Terauchi was an ex fighter pilot with 10,000 hours of flight time logged, so what he saw on that night may not be an incorrect report.

14. 1976 Tehran UFO Incident

Editorial from US Air Force MIJI Newsletter reporting the incident

In the early morning of September 19, 1976 in Tehran, a shining object was reported to fly overhead the city. This was subsequently picked up by the Iranian air force as they had visual and radar lock of the UFO. Lieutenant Yaddi Naziri and a backseat weapons officer were dispatched to intercept the target in a F-4 Phantom Jet 11 Interceptor.

Once they reached Tehran, he reported to lose all necessary instruments and communications, prompting them to return to base, which then subsequently came back on as they landed.

Shortly after this, another fighter jet was dispatched to intercept the craft piloted by Major Parvis Jafari along with First Lieutenant Jalal Damirian. They eventually found the object on their radar with a size comparable to that of a Boeing Stratotanker. When visual confirmation was established on the object, Jafari described it as “flashing with intense red, green, orange, and blue lights so bright that I was not able to see its body”.

As he approached the craft, his communications systems shut down, same as the previous fighter jet. He attempted to fire at the UFO with his sidewinder missiles but as he confirmed a target lock, his systems shut down and only returned to normal as he went away from the craft.

Jafari later said that something came out of the craft and started trailing him “as if it were a missile” As he was going away he saw “the primary diamond-shaped thing up there, and another bright object came out of it and headed directly toward the ground”.

He observed the bright object slow down as it approached the ground and then emitted a bright light as it did. Residents near the landing site reported hearing a loud noise and a bright light at night. In short, something unknown was in the sky and on the ground that day in Tehran.

13. Ariel School UFO Incident

A drawing from a child who saw an unknown craft and entity land behind their school.

Usually when kids tell us stories about their imaginary friends or any other assortment of strange and whimsical beings, we usually just brush it off as a product of their young minds. But when more than a dozen children tell stories about the same thing that they saw, then maybe it's more than just tall tales.

On September 16, 1994 at the Ariel School outside Ruwa, Zimbabwe, 62 pupils aged between 6 to 12 witnessed one or more silver craft descend from the sky and land on a field near their school. One or two black-clad beings exited the craft and approached the children.

They then reportedly communicated with them telepathically and relayed a message with an environmental theme. After the encounter which lasted all in a span of 15 minutes, the crafts and beings left. The children went to tell the faculty what they saw but were immediately dismissed

Prior to the encounter, there were already reports of strange fireballs in the sky with which people in the area reported. After the incident, many reporters and professors came to visit the schoolchildren and the school to investigate the area and interview the children who have witnessed the event.

BBC correspondent Tim Leach went on to interview the children, and all of them relayed to her the exact same story with drawings that the children made depicting thebeings and craft that were reported, a disk shaped object with strange alien-looking beings.

The aftermath of the encounter still resonates with the children until today. In 2014 in an interview in Mail & Guardian, one witness claims that she's afraid that the creatures will return someday and can even feel them when they are inside the atmosphere. With a staggering 62 witnesses for this encounter, one has to wonder that maybe it's more than just tall tales.

12. Shag Harbour UFO Incident

News report of the alleged crash of an unknown aerial craft off the waters of Nova Scotia

On the night of October 4, 1967, reports came in that something had crashed into the waters of Shag Harbour in Nova Scotia. At least 11 people saw a lit object crash into the waters. Witnesses reported to hear a whooshing sound like a bomb then a loud bang go off. The object itself was never fully identified which led to its classification as an unidentified flying object.

The first report of the incident was made by Laurie Wickens and his friends as they were driving near Shag Harbour. As they were driving, they spotted a large object descending into the harbor. As they found a better vantage point to witness the crash, Wickens and his friends saw an object floating 250m to 300m off the shore of the harbor.

They then reported this to the authorities as they believed they saw a crash of a small airplane.

As the authorities arrived they saw the unidentified object in the water starting to sink with its lights still showing as it slowly disappeared from view. The strange thing about this UFO report is that no missing aircraft or any aeronautical vehicle was reported as missing.

Every plane that was in the air at the time was accounted for and no reports of malfunctions and or distress signals were ever radioed out on the day of the crash. 

The head of the air force in Ottawa, Squadron Leader Bain, who recommended that the navy take up an underwater search to find the object was adamant that they would find something in the harbor. But as the search went one, the navy stated “not a trace, not a clue, not a bit of anything was ever found”

Questions are still left unanswered all these years since the incident. Why was there no wreckage found? If all aerial aircraft are accounted for, what fell in the harbor? Was the aircraft from this world or not?

11. Belgian UFO Wave

The black triangle UFO that was reportedly the culprit behind a wave of UFO sightings over Belgium in 1990

In November of 1989, the start of a  wave of UFO sightings were reported by the citizens of Belgium within which they described a giant black triangle hovering overhead but making no sound whatsoever.

The sightings restarted in March of 1990 when new sightings of new objects were reported which was confirmed by two separate military radar stations. Two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the targets and actually caught the anomalies on their radar lock which has been shown to the Belgian media after the events.

The object that was locked on the radar of the fighter jets seemed to defy the laws of physics as it performed several impossible maneuvers like a rapid descent that would kill any normal being to performing sharp left and right turns with no loss of speed or motion that is impossible to maneuver by any known human.

With a total number of witnesses amounting to a staggering 13,500 individuals who saw the UFO, it became one of the most widely known reports of UFO sightings to have ever been recorded. The Belgian Air Force had no explanation for what the strange events were but they have acknowledged that there was indeed an unknown aircraft that flew over the skies in Belgium.

One interesting thing to note about this wave of sightings is that  Belgium has one of the brightest cities in the world with their infrastructures and buildings always being lit up at night. This could even be seen by astronauts on the moon.

10. The Disappearance of Frederick Valentich

A photo taken by a local farmer that contains an unknown object at the top right taken hours before Frederick Valentich went missing

Frederick Valentich was an Australian pilot with 150 hours of flight time on record. He was also a member of the RAAF Training Corps and he was determined to pursue a career in aviation. But despite these qualifications that Valentich had, he suddenly disappeared without any trace while flying over the Bass Strait in Australia.

His last haunting words on record during his correspondence with air traffic control was “It’s hovering and it’s not an aircraft”.

His disappearance happened while he was on a training flight over the Bass Strait which separates the island of Tasmania to the mainland of Australia. As he was flying, he reported to Melbourne air traffic control that he was being followed by an unknown aircraft about 1000 feet above him.

He described the craft to be illuminated by four bright landing lights. He was unable to get an ID as to what the craft was but described its speed to go at “high speed”. 

Valentich then reported to air traffic control that the craft was orbiting near him and that it had a shiny metal surface while it emanated a green light from it. As this was happening, he then reported that he was suddenly experiencing engine problems.

When asked what kind of aircraft it was his reply was “it's not an aircraft”. His transmission to air traffic was cut off with an unidentified sound that was described as a “metallic, scraping sound”.

He was never heard from or seen again.

9. Rendlesham Forest Incident

A sculpture of the UFO in Rendlesham Forest today that supposedly landed in 1980

Over 40 years ago, strange lights were sighted above and below the pine trees in Rendlesham Forest in the United Kingdom. What followed after these lights were reported have become one of the best documented UFO cases in history.

Sightings began on December 26, 1980 when three US military personnel spotted lights above Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk County and described that a triangular aircraft had landed in the forest. Two night safter this first sighting, the crafts returned to the forest. Deputy Base commander Charles Halt got news of the return of the crafts and immediately launched a search party to investigate.

Commander Halt described the object as a “red-orangey object. It was displacing sparks or molten metal”. After this, Commander Halt then described that the object silently exploded into white objects similar to fireworks then disappeared.

He couldn’t positively identify what he saw that night but he was sure that the object was under “intelligent control”.

After the sightings, investigations were conducted on the reported landing site of the UFO. Nick Pope of the UK Ministry of Defence came to investigate the area and found indentations in the ground that measured a perfect 9.8 meters on each side which formed a triangle. Burn marks were also found on the ground and on the trees surrounding the area with significantly high radiation levels detected on them.

The mystery of what landed on that December night in 1980 still endures today as there has been no definitive explanation to identify what it was. Whatever it was, it left evidence of its landing, and maybe even someday, might return.

8. Kecksburg UFO Incident

A sculpture depicting the crashed object that fell in the Kecksburg, Pennsylvania forest in 1965

On the evening of December 9, 1965, a large fireball fell into the forest of Kecksburg in Pennsylvania. Before it did, the fireball was seen streaking above the skies of Northeastern America. Sightings from Indiana, New York, Virginia, and Ontario described the same things that night. The unknown object left behind in its streakburning materials that caused small fires throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The object eventually landed in Kecksburg which was cordoned off by armed men as reported by the residents of the area. The armed men stopped the residents of Kecksburg from investigating the supposed crash site. But there have been eyewitnesses who managed to see the craft up close.

Bill Bulebush claims to have seen the object turn in the sky as if it was being controlled before crashing. He went to investigate the crashed craft and saw a smoldering 10 foot acorn shaped object. The object was glowing, cracking, and sparking which scared off Bulebush.

James Romansky was another resident who allegedly saw the object along with a group of volunteer firefighters as they thought it was a plane crash. Instead he and the group came upon a metallic acorn shaped object that was covered in a type of writing similar to hieroglyphics.

The Kecksburg UFO incident lives on today with the strange shape of the craft that was found and the events that came after. This event has turned Kecksburg into a tourist attraction for UFO enthusiasts and can see a model UFO placed outside the local fire station.

7. Trans-en-Provence Case

A circular indentation left on the ground by a supposed UFO landing with possible burn marks situated around the landing area

A little known UFO case but a well documented one and of the more intriguing cases as physical evidence has been left in the form of burn marks and indents on the ground is the Trans-en-Provence case that happened in the french department of Var in Southeastern France.

The event happened on January 8, 1981 when Renato Nicolai, a 55 year old farmer, heard a strange whistling sound while working on his property. He then saw a saucer shaped object 2.5 meters in diameter land 50 feet away. 

According to him "The device had the shape of two saucers, one inverted on top of the other. It must have measured about 1.5 meters in height. It was the color of lead. This device had a ridge all the way around its circumference. Under the machine I saw two kinds of pieces as it was lifting off. They could be reactors or feet. There were also two other circles which looked like trapdoors. The two reactors, or feet, extended about 20 cm below the body of the machine.

He then saw the object take off and departed to the northeast. As it did, it left burn marks on the ground and indentations where it landed.

The local police came the next day and took photos of the supposed landing site and took soil samples of the area which yielded results that the ground was pressed down by a mechanical pressure equivalent to 4 to 5 tons and heated in between 300 to 600 degrees celsius. Indeed indicating that something landed on that day.

6. Petrozavodsk Phenomenon

A copy of the lost photograph of the strange object seen above the skies of Petrozavodsk

Sightings of a strange luminous object appeared suddenly on the night sky of numerous areas which ranged from Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Vladivostok. The strange object was named after Petrozavodsk in Russia where a glowing object was reportedly seen that showered the city with rays of unexplained light.

The incident happened on September 20, 1977 where eyewitnesses claimed to have seen an enormous “jellyfish” move slowly in the sky and stayed above the city of Petrozavodsk. The object spread over the sky and showered the city with extremely thin beams that resembled rain.

After being observed in the sky in a span of 10 to 12 minutes, the beams of light vanished and the jellyfish-like object transformed into a “bright semicircle” and moved in the direction of Lake Onega where it slowly dissipated.

The event was widely reported the next day. In Helsinki, eyewitnesses claimed to see a glowing ball in the sky. In Turku, two men reportedly saw a spinning object similar to a lifebuoy and in Denmark where pilots flying over Copenhagen saw a glowing object in the sky.

Theories as to what this phenomenon was ranges from atmospheric beasts to “space jellyfish” to missile tests that turned ethereal and otherworldly under specific circumstances in the atmosphere. Whatever the object was, it has managed to astonish and confound researchers 45 years after its sudden appearance.

5. Kenneth Arnold UFO Sighting

A sketch of the strange flying craft that aviator Kenneth Arnold saw over Mt. Rainier

Our use of the term “flying saucer” for UFOs came from this encounter in 1947. The incident happened on June 24, 1947 when Kenneth Arnold saw a string of nine, shiny flying unknown aircraft of unknown origin flying past Mt. Rainier at speeds that Arnold estimated to be flying at a speed of over 1200 mph.

This sighting was the first post World War II report in the United States that caught the attention of the nationwide media and is credited as the start of the modern era of UFO sightings. The description of the objects of what he saw led to the press coining the term flying saucer that has been the popular descriptive term for UFOs

The sighting happened when Kenneth Arnold flew over Mt. Rainier on a business trip. He describes the day of his sighting as a clear day with no clouds in the sky with a mild wind blowing. As he was flying, a bright glint that resembled the sun reflecting off a mirror caught his attention. He thought that it was a plane near him but saw nothing except for a commercial airline behind him 15 kilometers away.

After seeing the first glint, he then saw a series of bright flashes in the distance that came from unidentified flying objects that flew in a long chain. He looked for the tail of the strange aircraft but he was shocked when he saw none. The objects then flew past the mountain and went in front of his plane.

The objects were dark against the snow of the mountain but still pulsated bright lights as the objects flipped around erratically. He describes that the objects were so thin that when on their edge they almost looked invisible. The movement of the objects were reported to move like “saucers that skipped on water”.

People continue to see flying saucers today, 75 years after first sighting. There is no denying that his encounter is what started it all, despite the reported shapes of UFOs changing since then from saucers to delta-shaped craft to flying triangles and acorns.

4. Phoenix Lights

Home video still taken of the strange lights that hovered over Phoenix, Arizona in 1997

A string of sightings of a V-shaped or triangle shaped object or objects were reported by thousands of eyewitnesses over a span of 480 kilometers from Arizona through Nevada on March 13, 1997.

Dubbed as the Phoenix Lights or Lights over Phoenix, were observed from 7:30 pm to 10:30 PM that were backed up by hundreds of photo and video evidence with eyewitness reports from ordinary citizens to the state governor himself.

There were two significant events in the mass sighting: a triangular shaped formation seen to pass over the states, and a series of stationary lights seen over the city of Phoenix. The first event was described as being “otherworldly” as told by eyewitnesses. The size of the triangular craft was described to be as big as a commercial airplane.

One anonymous eyewitness described to KTAR News said that he saw a gigantic boomerang shaped object that he estimated to be a mile wide fly over the Granite Mountain.

He describes his encounter with the object to be “totally silent. I’ve never seen anything even close to the colors from the exhaust that propelled that thing. It was as big as downtown Prescott and completely blocked out the stars”. 

The second event was reported by an unidentified police officer who saw a series of stationary red and orange lights hanging over the valley. Governor Fife Symington treated this event as a joke at a press conference about the event but later retracted his statement as he admitted to have seen the lights himself and described his sighting as being “otherworldly”

Military flares were the official explanation by the military but numerous tests to try and copy the lights with the use of military flares only turned out to be false. Arizona itself has the highest concentration of UFO sightings in the USA, prompting a possibility that something was there on that night in 1997 and might have possibly kept returning as similar lights in the sky were also reported in 2007 and 2008.

3. McMinnville UFO Photographs

An alleged flying saucer taken by farmer Paul Trent on his farm in Oregon

The Mcminnville UFO photographs or the Trent UFO photos, were taken by Paul and Evelyn Trent near Mcminnville, Oregon on May 11, 1950. The photos gained nationwide notoriety as they were printed in Life magazine and on newspapers across the nation.

The images of the UFO have become one of the most recognizable and famous photographs to have ever been taken of a UFO and have never been fully discounted as a hoax or otherwise as analysis of the subject in the images depicted a genuine three-dimensional object in the sky.

The sighting of the UFOs started when Evelyn Trent was walking back to her house after feeding their rabbits. As she was walking, she noticed a slow-moving, metallic disc shaped object heading to her direction from the northeast. She called for her husband, Paul, and as he went outside their house,he also saw the strange flying object.

After he and his wife observed the object for a certain time, he went back inside their house to grab their camera and managed to take two photographs of the craft before it suddenly flew away westward. Paul Trent’s father also claimed to have seen the flying object. 

The photos were examined by a local news reporter named Bill Powell. He found no evidence of tampering or any evidence that they were faked. On June 8, 1950, Powell’s story accompanied with the two photos were published on the front page of the Mcminnville Telephone-Register with the headline: “At Long Last - Authentic Photographs of Flying Saucer”

2. Miracle of the Sun

Onlookers at Fatima, Portugal in 1917 looking up at an unknown apparition seen in the sky

A prophecy was made by three shepherd children, Lucia Santos and Francisco and Jacinta Marto, where they claimed that the Virgin Mary would appear and perform miracles on October 13, 1917 in Fatima, Portugal which was taken as a miracle by the onlookers.

Newspapers published the events that were seen by the onlookers and said that the “Sun” performed extraordinary maneuvers and actions, such as reports of it“dancing” or doing zig-zags, appearing to crash into the ground, and emit radiant multicolored light. These events lasted for about 10 minutes.

Eyewitness described the start of the “miracle” when after a period of rain, the dark clouds broke and a strange apparition which the onlookers only described as being the sun itself appearing but as a spinning opaque disk in the sky. It was said to be significantly duller than normal and was casting multicolored lights that illuminated the landscape, the onlookers, and the clouds.

The "Sun" then suddenly careened down to Earth but stopped abruptly and zig-zagged its way back to its original position. The witnesses who were previously wet by the rain suddenly had dry clothes and the surrounding area and mud had all dried up. The “Sun” then continued to “dance” in the sky.

Whatever the events that happened in 1917 in Fatima were, whether it was a miracle or an otherworldly visit, its mystery endures to this day.

1.Roswell Incident

Parts of the reported unidentified object that crashed into Roswell, New Mexico in 1947

Described as “the world’s most famous, most exhaustively investigated, and most thoroughly debunked UFO claim” of all time is the Roswell Crash of 1947. In the whole history of UFO lore and sightings, the one in Roswell is the one that inspires the most fascination and speculation 75 years after its occurrence.

Sometime between mid June and early July of 1947, rancher W.W. Brazel found a strange wreckage on his property in Lincoln County, New Mexico, 75 miles north of Roswell. With several stories of flying saucers already appearing in the newspapers, Brazel believed that whatever wrecked on his property was something similar to what people were reporting to see in the sky.

The next day, the RAAF released a statement that stated they have gained the undeniable proof and possession of a flying disc that had crashed in a ranch on Roswell. This statement was later retracted stating that it wasn’t a flying saucer but rather a mundane weather balloon.

The question that lingers on people's minds up until now is, why the retraction after already stating that what was found was undeniable proof of an extraterrestrial vehicle?

Major Jesse Marcel, who was one of the first people to investigate the crash site, took some pieces of the debris home so as to share them with his family as he believed that what crashed on that day would be world changing.

The material looked similar in appearance to tin foil but when crumpled up into a ball would bounce back to its original state. The material was also cut with a knife but it seemed to heal after and was hit with a hammer but the hammer bounced back as it was not able to make a dent on the strange material.

UFO sightings are still prevalent today and will probably never stop until definitive proof is found of their existence.

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