The Phoenix Lights Myths and Misconceptions

Common myths and misconceptions. Get the facts straight and ask the obvious questions!

On March 13th 1997, an extraordinary event occurred across the state of Arizona that has become the subject of great debate in the UFO community. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands of witnesses from all walks of life reported seeing a large V-shaped craft, over a mile across with unusual lights, travel slowly and silently by at a very low altitude. Some witnesses who reported being directly underneath it as it passed, said it drifted right over the housetops, so close it seemed “they could almost touch it.” Witness accounts suggest that at least one unknown craft and possibly others passed directly over Phoenix and penetrated through Sky Harbor airspace, before drifting off to the south towards Tucson. At least one air traffic controller, who now refuses to be identified, admitted in a televised news interview that he saw the lights from the tower using binoculars, but did not see anything on radar.

Skeptics and debunkers dismiss the event as flares or a host of other manmade or natural explanations while thousands of witnesses insist that what they saw cannot be explained in any known terms. There are many facts, photos, witness accounts and notable circumstances that are attached to the event and similar events that have occurred all over the world that are largely ignored by the media and completely ignored by a few staunch skeptics and debunkers who get way more media attention than they deserve. First and very importantly, to avoid confusion we need to classify the Phoenix Lights Phenomenon into two categories:

LIGHTS ON MOVING CRAFT: These are the lights associated with the March 13th event (shortly after 8pm) that appeared to be fixed to a large V-shaped or triangular shaped craft. There are varying witness descriptions of different light arrays, patterns and number of lights which could suggest the possibility of multiple craft or a singular craft that changed as it flew across the Arizona skies. Witnesses all unanimously agree that the craft, or multiple craft, were completely silent and flew very close to the ground. One craft was over a mile wide according to hundreds of documented witness accounts.

ORBS: These are luminescent amber orbs that randomly appear individually, in pairs or groups. They can appear together in rigid formation or separated by miles. These orbs defy explanation and are the variety I personally witnessed on November 21st 2005. They do not flicker or emit any smoke trails and remain perfectly fixed in their position relative to each other and to the ground. Dr. Lynne Kitei, a well-respected Phoenix physician and key witness to the Phoenix Lights, personally observed these anomalous lights very close to her mountainside home in 1995. She had the unique opportunity to observe a trio of orbs in close proximity (less than 200 feet away) and described them as balls of amber light approximately 3 to 6 feet across. They did not glare, emit any beam of light or illuminate their adjacent surroundings. She could not identify what they were, but managed to capture them in a photograph. She said they dimmed out one by one “as if on a dimmer switch.”

The orbs are a separate phenomenon from what happened on March 13th 1997, which by all accounts was a massive UFO flyover. The orbs are fiercely argued to be flares dropped by the military due to their similar appearance. Skeptics have thrown out many explanations, none of which have been substantiated by any facts or witness accounts.

FLARE THEORY: By far the most common theory and the official theory given by the local Phoenix military. First let me point out that I am fully aware of the Barry Goldwater test range. I know where it is in proximity to Phoenix and I have an excellent understanding of the activity that takes place there based on numerous sources including military personnel. I know what flares look like, both from personal observation and analysis of video footage and photos, and I have personally spoken to military personnel who work with flares on a daily basis, including a highly qualified pyrotechnic expert. I don’t dispute that the military drops flares over the Barry Goldwater Range and that pilots often jettison their remaining flares before returning to base. I also agree that some, not all of the reported sightings of strange lights and a number of photos and videos that have been circulated around were indeed flares.

The big question here is; “If flares are routinely dropped over the Barry Goldwater Range and they have done so for many, many years, wouldn’t it be logical to assume that most Phoenicians would be used to seeing them and that any reports by people (i.e. newcomers and visitors) mistaking them for a UFO would be relatively few and far between? What would prompt thousands of people to suddenly call into local newspapers, police stations, news stations, radio stations and Luke Air Force base, all on the same night and all around the same time? It is plainly obvious that many people saw something very strange (not something as mundane and routine as a flare drop) and felt compelled to report it and find out what it was.

I challenge the debunkers who insist that ALL Phoenix Lights reports were actually flares, to consider looking at the real facts rather than dismiss the hundreds of verifiable witness reports, photos and investigative evidence out of hand. If there is conclusive evidence that can explain everything away and prove it was only flares, bring it to the table and let the public see it! The flare theory is a nice convenient way to explain glowing lights in the sky and seems like the most logical explanation for the Phoenix Lights until you consider all of the reasons why the theory doesn’t work:

FLARE THEORY DOESN’T FIT WITNESS TESTIMONIES: First you have to acknowledge the staggering number of witnesses that were out on the evening of March 13th 1997 hoping to catch a glimpse of the Halle-Bopp comet. It was a perfectly clear night and thousands of people from all walks of life, including doctors, police officers, little league coaches with their kids, people jogging, drivers on the road, all kinds of people were going about their business when suddenly, out of the blue, they look up and see an enormous V-shaped, semi-transparent craft with an array of lights, travel slowly and silently by, very low to the ground. Some witnesses said it went directly over their heads.

The shear number of matching witness accounts eliminates any possibility of a hoax, unless of course you are going to suggest that thousands of people got together and decided to make up some phony story, not only in Phoenix, but other countries that have reported seeing similar phenomenon, just so they could all have a good laugh. Frankly, I would sooner believe that we were being visited from beyond than buy into a mass hoax conspiracy theory. If there were only a handful of reports, coming only from a small group of people partying and drinking out in the desert, I would surely and quickly dismiss the whole thing.

According to witness accounts at least one large V-shaped craft and possibly other triangular craft, flew across the entire state of Arizona, starting from Paulden all the way down to Phoenix and Tucson. The timeline of verifiable reports suggest that something did in fact travel across the entire state, which brings me to my first argument against the coveted flare theory; Flares don’t travel hundreds of miles, and witnesses in southern and northern Arizona couldn’t possibly see flares over the Barry Goldwater Range! Also, witnesses describe a large semi-transparent craft with strange looking lights, not flares with smoke trails. Some witnesses were directly underneath as the craft flew over and swear that it was anything but flares!

DON’T INSULT THE WITNESSES’ INTELLIGENCE! Flare theorists seem to believe that witnesses can’t tell the difference between flares and something that by all accounts was completely out of this world. Many of the witnesses who came forward included active military personnel who work with flares on a daily basis. They were very adamant that what they saw were definitely not flares! You don’t have to be an expert on flares to tell what they look like. The burning magnesium from the flares illuminates the rising smoke above. They flicker and move about as they fall to the ground. The military staged a flare demo in 2000 hoping to convince everyone that what they actually saw were flares. The demonstration totally backfired as it gave witnesses an opportunity to make a fair comparison and conclude that there was no similarity at all to what they saw.

FLARES DON’T STAY FIXED IN ONE POSITION RELATIVE TO THE GROUND AND EACH OTHER: There has been extensive analysis of videos submitted by witnesses that clearly show that the true unknowns don’t budge at all. Mike Tanner, a witness and key investigator, viewed a series of light formations and at one point used a spotter scope to zoom in on one of the orbs. The orb faded in and out over twenty minutes without ever moving as it stayed fixed within the scope. Another military witness claims that he observed similar orbs from his home near Luke AFB. The orbs stayed fixed in one position for over twenty minutes. He says they definitely were not flares and he works with flares on a daily basis!

FLARES ARE NEVER DROPPED OVER POPULATED AREAS OR INDIAN RESERVATIONS DURING ROUTINE TRAINING MISSIONS: On November 21st 2005 I observed two amber orbs in a side-by-side formation from a Boeing 737 departing Sky Harbor Airport. They did not appear to be aircraft, flares or any natural phenomenon. What is most significant is that they appeared identically in two different locations. The first location was in front of the Estrella Mountain Range directly over the north end of the Gila Bend Indian Reservation. The second location was northwest of Glendale. I had an incredible bird’s-eye view on a perfectly clear night and I could easily see the horizon and topography.

They appeared in the same side-by-side formation, rigidly fixed in space and they were very bright and distinct from all other light sources. There were no visible military operations at either of the two locations, no visible aircraft deploying them and no sign of them being fired up into the air. The military would not deploy them over populated areas or Indian reservations. Flares are dropped over test ranges, military bases and oceans. Dropping flares over populated areas and Indian reservations is prohibited due to possible injury to civilians or unintentional ground fires and would expose the military to all kinds of law suits.

NEW FLARE TECHNOLOGY? – Someone once suggested that these flares are of a new type not yet known to the public. If this were true we would surely know about it by now, almost 10 years after the fact. Illumination flares are used to help troops see better at night and spoofing flares are used to divert heat seeking missiles. There is nothing top-secret about flares or their use, even a new type that somehow can appear, then disappear, then re-appear in the same spot and stay fixed in one position. If the military had this kind of technology, why wouldn’t they just admit it to the public and put an end to all of the endless speculation? Why wouldn’t they have done so back in 2000 when they staged their flare demonstration?

LARGE MILITARY BLIMP or TOP SECRET MILITARY PROJECT: Another common theory is that experimental government aircraft are responsible for the Phoenix Lights. Supporters of this theory believe that a very large, silent surveillance blimp or top-secret aircraft flew over Arizona and that diversionary flares were dropped by the military in an attempt to divert the attention of whoever was out on that clear evening gazing at Halle-Bopp comet.

Some skeptics may be referring to the Ascender project, which is not top-secret at all. The Ascender is a semi-autonomous V-shaped blimp that can hover in near space to perform high-altitude reconnaissance and relay battlefield communications. In 2004 (seven years after the event took place), John Powell, founder of JP Aerospace, told “The full-size station in our grand vision is 2 miles across, but that’s down the road a bit.” No such blimp existed in 1997 and the largest size to date is no bigger than a passenger jet, much smaller than witnesses described. It is important to note that a mile-wide blimp can only be deployed at sub-orbital altitudes where the air is extremely thin and the craft is virtually weightless. At lower altitudes, it would collapse under its own weight. You could never build such an enormous aircraft structure at ground level, let alone one that could fly extremely slow under its own power without making even the slightest noise.

When considering this implausible theory, one must also consider many obvious questions; Are we supposed to believe the military would fly an enormous blimp a mile or so across (the enormous size was a consistent descriptive in hundreds of eye-witness reports) right over the city at extremely low altitude, endangering millions of citizens on the ground and in the air, rather than fly a course somewhere over the thousands of square miles of uninhabited desert surrounding Phoenix, out of the public eye? If this was indeed a “top secret” blimp, why would they fly it at low altitude right over a city in full public view? If they flew it over uninhabited areas they wouldn’t have to bother with diversionary flares. Anyway, you could never fly a blimp of this size with accuracy at low altitude as it would by highly susceptible to winds and convective currents.

There are other holes to this theory. As a licensed private pilot with a complete understanding of air space regulations I can tell you that the military is subject to the same FAA rules as all other pilots, except in the case of a national emergency, such as what happened on September 11th 2001, when all non-military U.S. flights were grounded. On March 13th 1997, it was business as usual and no flights were grounded. The only other exception as far as FAA rules go are areas of restricted airspace designated exclusively to military operations that are off-limits to non-military aircraft. Sky Harbor Airport is surrounded by Class-B airspace and no aircraft, including military aircraft, can enter without communication and a clearance from the airspace controller. Minimal safe altitudes and obstacle clearance must also be complied with. #191 of Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) requires aircraft to fly at an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal distance of less than 2,000 feet in congested areas.

The bottom line is whatever flew over Phoenix that night severely violated Class-B airspace when it entered without communication and without an ATC clearance and flew right across the final approach course of Sky Harbor Airport, one of the busiest airports in the country. It also went undetected by radar which completely kills the blimp idea and all other conventional aircraft for that matter. If it was an aircraft that flew over Phoenix in 1997, top-secret or not, the public would have known about it a long time ago. The aircraft controller who was interviewed by a local news station would certainly have admitted that it was military in nature, but he didn’t. He said that he could see the lights, but he didn’t see anything on radar and had no idea what it was.

It is absurd to suggest that the military would intentionally fly an enormous aircraft through Sky Harbor airspace, without communication or clearance, violate minimum safe altitude requirements, publicly display their top-secret, invisible, mile-wide behemoth and then completely deny its existence. What happened to the mile-wide aircraft after the fact? How could the military hide such an enormous aircraft (or make it invisible) and how come we don’t know about its existence 10 years after the fact?

Finally, what’s so top secret about an enormous blimp compared to our stealth technology, which is already public knowledge? The X45, X47, Scramjet and DARPA’S Slingshot projects as well as other cutting edge projects are already in the public domain. While some of the capabilities of these new aircraft and weapon systems are still classified, they are certainly visible to the public.

CESSNAS FLYING IN FORMATION (STAGED HOAX): After the Phoenix Lights event, a young man came forward and claimed that he viewed the Phoenix Lights using a Celestron Telescope and saw they were a fleet of Cessnas flying in formation. Despite thousands of witness reports to the contrary, local media focused on this singular report. First of all, to suggest that you could follow a moving Cessna with a Telescope is ridiculous. I personally own a telescope and there is no way you could follow a moving aircraft and focus in on it, especially at night. Based on this statement alone I would seriously question anything this witness had to say.

First you have to convince me that a group of pilots would be stupid enough and brazen enough to think they could pull off such an elaborate hoax without being caught. Every pilot knows that penetrating Class B airspace (a 30-mile protective veil that surrounds every major airport in the country) without a proper ATC clearance, would get them into serious trouble. There is no way a fleet of Cessnas could fly silently, even with the engines running at idle, and avoid radar detection.

A fleet of aircraft entering Class B airspace without communication or clearance would be considered a serious threat and they most certainly would have been forced down by military pilots. Once on the ground the perpetrators would be arrested, heavily fined and face possible prosecution and prison time. The FAA would permanently suspend their licenses due to the magnitude of the crime. They would be thrashed by the media and lynched by the public.

Why would any pilot risk everything, believing that they could successfully pull off such an elaborate hoax, get away with it, go home, watch the 10’oclock news and have a nice laugh? Nobody ever got caught and nobody ever came forward to say “we did it.” Private pilots would never take such a risk, commercial pilots would never risk their flying careers, and airline pilots are constantly monitored by ATC. They would never attempt such a thing especially with a plane loaded with passengers. Obviously this guy concocted the entire story to get his mug on the six o’clock news!

HELICOPTERS IN FORMATION: All helicopters make noise. This theory doesn’t fit with the thousands of witness reports claiming that the craft was totally silent and most people are smart enough to tell what a helicopter looks like. For these reasons and all of the reasons described in the Cessna theory, this simply doesn’t fly!

STEALTH B2 BOMBER FLYOVER: Thousands of witnesses claim that they saw an enormous V-shaped craft over a mile wide, semi-transparent, with an array of large luminous lights attached. The stealth bomber is tiny by comparison. What is most significant is that every witness reported that the enormous craft was totally silent. This kills the stealth bomber theory. Stealth means that the aircraft is radar evasive, not sound evasive. It is anything but quiet. The military would never violate Class B airspace by entering without an ATC clearance and air traffic controllers would never vector an aircraft across the final approach course of a busy airport, especially at a dangerously low altitude! We interviewed a witness for the Phoenix Lights Documentary who says that she saw a stealth bomber fly over her house during the World Series, but it didn’t look anything like what she saw fly directly over her head on March 13th.

MILITARY HOAX: The military would never intentionally stage a UFO hoax. The last thing they want to deal with is placating public concerns. Why would military pilots attempt to stage such a hoax and seriously risk losing their coveted flying privilages they worked so hard to obtain? The upper military brass would not take such an action lightly and the consequences are far too severe to justify an elaborate hoax just for laughs.

It is interesting to note that in one case, a witness who called in to Luke Air Force Base to report strange lights was told that the phones were ringing off the hook. The woman who answered the phone admitted that she did not have any information at that time and suggested the witness call back the next day. Upon calling the next day, the same witness reported that a different person answered, and with a hostile attitude, denied that there were any reports at all. Other witnesses reported the same indifferent, hostile attitude and complete denial of any unusual activity.

As a final note, the government and military never denied the 8pm event took place and they never claimed that the 8pm event was flares. What they officially reported to the public was the following statement: “At no time was there ever a threat to our national security,” which means that whatever flew over Phoenix on March 13th 1997, was considered a “friendly.” There is a great likelihood that flares were dropped around 10pm, possibly as a diversionary tactic to confuse the facts and that many (not all) reported sightings at that time were of the flare drop.

ATMOSPHERIC PHENOMENON: The skies over Phoenix were perfectly clear and there is no known atmospheric phenomenon that could have manifested or looked anything like what witnesses saw. Auroras generally only appear near the Earth’s north and south poles. You are not likely to see them in the Arizona skies.

BALL LIGHTNING: We interviewed Robert Golka for the Phoenix Lights Documentary. He never made it into the final cut as we were desperate to reduce the running time down from 3+ hours to a nominal 75 minutes. He is one of the world’s foremost experts on ball lightning and famous for building the world’s largest Tesla coil at Wendover Air Force Base in 1973. He is one of the few people on the planet to create ball lightning in a lab environment. According to his expert testimony, ball lightning is a rare phenomenon that can occur near the ground and at higher altitudes and has on very rare occasions been observed by passengers in aircraft. Ball lightning requires a source with strong electromagnetic fields such as that present in storm clouds. It can burst out from high electromagnetic fields present in the Earth as well. The night the Phoenix Lights event occurred was totally clear with no storm clouds present. In his opinion ball lightning could not occur on such a clear night and would never manifest into an array of lights and travel low and slow, in formation, across the state of Arizona. The phenomenon does not match witness accounts.

SWAMP GAS: A completely ridiculous theory at best. There are no swamps anywhere in Phoenix or the State of Arizona for that matter and swamp gas does not look like what thousands of witnesses described.

METEORS: Meteors streak across the sky at very high altitude and burn up from the intense friction of passing through the Earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. Whatever doesn’t burn up falls to the ground and is referred to as a meteorite. Meteors don’t fly low and slow in perfect formation or resemble a large V-shaped craft. I never heard any witness say; “it looked like a meteor!”

MASS HALLUCINATION: I don’t believe in the concept of mass hallucination at all. To my knowledge this is an unproven concept with no verifiable historical evidence whatsoever. It is completely ridiculous to suggest that thousands of people stopped what they were doing, looked up in the sky and saw something that wasn’t there. Did somebody spike the Phoenix aqueducts with LSD? It is amazing anyone would sooner believe in such nonsense rather than believe witnesses actually saw something.

MASS HOAX CONSPIRACY: The mass hoax theory is another outrageous concept completely unfounded by any facts. What would motivate thousands of people from all walks of life to get together and secretly conjure up such a hoax? How would such a massive hoax be kept secret? How come nobody ever came forward to say, “we all made it upit was just a joke”? I believe the witnesses actually saw what they saw. You can’t dismiss the testimony of thousands of witnesses with matching descriptions.

FLOCK OF BIRDS: We interviewed a gentleman for the Phoenix Lights Documentary who was a student at Arizona State University in 1997. He and a group of other astronomy students were on the rooftop of the science building at ASU with telescopes and binoculars pointed at the Halle-Bopp comet. They were awestruck as they watched an enormous V-shape craft float silently by. They had a perfect, unobstructed view of the craft and watched it intently with their binoculars until it disappeared off in the distance.

The next morning he and his fellow students described the incredible sighting to their astronomy professor who was not on the rooftop that night. The professor shocked the students with a very negative response insisting that what they actually saw was nothing more than a “flock of birds.” This sparked a heated debate in the classroom. The students couldn’t believe he would have the audacity to tell them what they saw when he wasn’t even there to view the event himself. They were incredulous that he would insult their intelligence by suggesting that they couldn’t recognize a flock of birds.

This is the only account I know of where birds were suggested as an explanation. It’s hardly worth mentioning except that it shows the closed-minded nature of yet another astronomer who completely dismissed the event out-of-hand without any investigation or consideration at all.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS: Once you rule out all possible natural and manmade explanations for the Phoenix Lights there is only one explanation that, despite what the debunkers say, cannot be conclusively ruled out; Perhaps, WE ARE being visited by our cosmic neighbors, stopping by to check us out! If you consider that the universe is full of life, we are just another race of beings – nothing special. Other more advanced species of life could certainly observe us just as we observe most of the life forms on this planet.

How many times have you heard someone say; “There’s no such thing as aliens!” Skeptics say this with conviction as if they were stating known fact, like “There’s no such thing as the boogie man or the tooth fairy.” In the mind of a hard-core skeptic, you are crazy to believe in “little green men.” My response is; “How do you know there’s no such thing as extraterrestrials?-Prove to me they don’t exist!” The skeptic then replies “I don’t have to prove anything!-The burden of proof is on you, the believer!” My rebuttal is, it is easy to prove the existence of something or someone. All you really need is one piece of solid evidence. If there is any burden at all, it is getting the skeptic to look at any evidence or data that does exist with an open, objective mind.

While it is relatively easy to prove something exists, conversely, it is impossible to disprove anything. Who knows what exists on other planets or in other dimensional realities? We have no way of knowing for sure unless we personally explore the entire universe and all of the realities contained within it to confirm or deny the existence of anything. Tell that to a hard-core skeptic and they will either laugh at you or storm off muttering to themselves in obvious defeat.

As for the existence of ETs and spacecraft, there are enough witnesses to fill several football stadiums and enough physical and photographic evidence to substantially prove their existence, including numerous references in religious writings, historical documents and paintings, even ancient cave paintings. Despite all of the tangible evidence and credible witness reports, skeptics would rather dismiss everything out-of-hand and follow the mantra; “Nothing exists except what has already been proven scientifically” or “Absence of evidence is evidence of absence.” Another common misconception is the belief that if ETs were visiting Earth, they would land in full public view and make themselves known. Nobody knows for sure what their agenda is, but they obviously have their reasons for remaining obscure in their presence.

Some people argue that it is impossible for anyone to travel the vast distances in space and come to our remote planet. The scientific minds insist that you can’t travel anywhere near the speed of light and that it would take lifetimes to reach our closest neighboring stars. While this seems like a valid point, the truth is (as far as space travel goes) we are like infants taking our first steps. Our first manned space flight was in 1961, which was only 46 years ago and a blip in human history. To date, we have only traveled to the moon and sent out a few probes. That hardly qualifies us as “space travelers.” Perhaps our ET friends are traveling inter-dimensionally, intra-dimensionally or bending space and time by generating high-level gravitational fields. Physical beings may not be able to travel at light speed, but what about light beings? Who knows what short cuts may exist out there that we haven’t discovered yet?

I believe the Earth is a micro-cosmic example of the diversity of life in the universe. Life flourishes everywhere on the surface of our planet, even in environments that would be lethal to humans. Go to the highest, deepest, coldest and hottest places on Earth, even solid rock, and you will find life forms, some as big as whales and others far too small to be seen with the naked eye.

Utilizing NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists scanned a galaxy 12 million light-years away and detected a large amount of nitrogen containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PANHs), molecules critical to all known forms of life. According to Doug Hudgins of Ames Research Center, PANHs carry information for DNA and RNA and are an important component of hemoglobin, the molecule that transports oxygen through the body. They also make chlorophyll, the main molecule responsible for photosynthesis in plants. PANHs are formed in the winds of dying stars and spread all over interstellar space. “This stuff contains the building blocks of life, and now we can say they’re abundant in space,” Hudgins said. “And wherever there’s a planet out there, we know that these things are going to be raining down on it. It did here and it does elsewhere.” (Science Tuesday Oct 2005, ‘Life’s Building Blocks Abundant In Space’ by Bjorn Carey).

Considering the trillions of planets in our own galaxy, the hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe and how rugged, diverse and adaptive life is, there is virtually no scientific or logical probability that we are alone. In fact, there could be civilizations out there millions or even billions of years ahead of us! Is it possible that Earth has been, and continues to be, visited by extraterrestrial beings? The answer to this question is; of course it’s possible, because there is no way to prove otherwise! We don’t know who is really out there or what their capabilities are and that is an indisputable fact! Anything is possible! It’s not crazy to be open minded about such things, what is crazy is proclaiming something doesn’t exist without having even the slightest thread of evidence to back it up. It’s time for us to stop pretending we are the be-all, end-all “masters of the universe” and accept the possibility that we are not alone. For many people seeing is believing, but until we have open contact, there’s nothing wrong with keeping an open mind.

Keep your eyes open to the skies!