What were those lights in the Phoenix sky?Researchers still sorting out hundreds of witness accounts
June 19, 1997
Web posted at: 11:58 a.m. EDT (1558 GMT)
PHOENIX (CNN) — When it appeared in the Arizona sky on the night of March 13, it was witnessed by hundreds of people. Neither researchers nor witnesses have yet figured out what Arizonans saw in the event now dubbed "the Phoenix Lights." But that hasn't stopped them from trying to puzzle it out.
Tim Ley and his family are among the hundreds of witnesses who have come forward to talk about the Phoenix Lights. They first saw the lights while looking north from their Phoenix home.
Now, their recollections of what they saw have been transformed into computer images, using a combination of digital photos of the landscape taken by Ley and computer drawings of the objects his family saw in the sky.
"When it finally got here and we realized this thing was coming right over us, we really started getting antsy," Ley said. Then, said he and his son Hal, it went directly overhead in complete silence. (53K/5 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Tim Ley said that when the right side of what appeared to be a giant V-shaped craft passed directly over him, the left side was a couple of blocks away.
His wife, Bobbi, who also saw the aerial light show, said the size of the craft they saw was overwhelming. But, she said, "It didn't seem threatening. ... When it was right overhead and we couldn't hear a sound, it was like you're just awestruck."
Jim Dilettoso of Village Labs, who has been researching UFOs for 20 years, is in the process of reconstructing the incident with a virtual reality model.
The Leys are among the hundreds of witnesses he interviewed about the Phoenix Lights. He said he considers the family to be "very reliable," and their data "very important," because by their account they were so close to the craft.
While nobody knows for sure what the Leys and hundreds of others saw, Tim Ley is sure his family will never forget that night. He said it has changed his outlook on the UFO movement, turning him from a "polite skeptic" to someone quite open to the experiences of UFO believers. (133K/12 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"We just re-experience it every time we tell it," said his wife. "It's like it was just yesterday. We've never seen anything like it."
Reporter John Hook of CNN affiliate KSAZ in Phoenix contributed to this report.
Phoenix Lights Chronology
These are the events that occurred on March 13, 1997 as uncovered by Michael Tanner and Bill Hamilton:
1. FORMATION OF HOVERING ORBS — First observed in a hexagram pattern at about 7:30 p.m. over the Superstition Mountains area east of Phoenix in the characteristic 8+1(or 2) formation of amber orbs and was next seen in two separate arc patterns with "trailing lights" over Gila River area at about 9:50 and again at 10:00 at the southern edge of Phoenix where they were seen by thousands and videotaped by a handful who had camcorders close enough at hand to catch the fleeting minutes of their displays. These amateur videos have immortalized the orb formations, becoming known around the world as The Phoenix Lights. These are the very same lights that started the controversy over "flares" and that will be taken up in the next chapter. The last appearance of the hovering orbs of the night was made over a now recognized "hot-spot" of Rainbow Valley arrayed in a "V" formation at about 2:00 a.m. on March 14th (and again appeared on January 14, 1998).
2. "V" FORMATION OF FLYING ORBS — First seen leaving the Henderson-Las Vegas area and entering Arizona at high speed, a V-formation of five to seven orbs, variously seen as bright blue-white to a yellow-white, came through the Prescott Valley area at low altitude by 7:50 p.m., turning south, where by 8:28, were videotaped (displaying their characteristic movement within the formation) at the north end of the valley that comprises the Phoenix metro area. In an apparent slower mode of flight, the orbs appeared at that point as amber in color as the formation moved along Interstate 10 angling toward Tucson after having been visually seen (not on radar) to intersect air traffic coming in on approach to Sky Harbor International Airport. After hovering for several minutes over a car full of witnesses driving north on I-10 at 65 mph, the formation was then picked up by observers in the Oracle area who reported the orbs' color as red to red-orange before the formation split up, going in separate directions while skirting the edges of the Tucson metropolitan area. At various points independent of this very specific formation, individual orbs were seen to shoot across the metro Phoenix valley with some moving away from and then re-docking with one or more of the Very Large Objects (VLOs) which came through later in the night.
3. CHEVRON VLO (narrow angle) — Observed first as a "V" formation of five white lights moving slowly and silently toward Prescott Valley from the northwest at about 8:15 p.m., the "chevron" was soon clearly seen as a single object. The huge craft made a pivot turn over the witnesses' home there while the lights shifted into an arc formation while the lights turned red and then it shot off at blinding speed toward Phoenix. At that time the next set of witnesses in central Phoenix saw the object coming directly toward them (estimated at Mach 2 or 3) while still in the "turbo" mode arc configuration, and then, as if to slow back down again, was seen to change back into a "V" whereupon it cruised silently and slowly right over their heads (only 100 to 200 feet above at 10 or 15 mph). The craft was later seen to zigzag through the valley, even changing altitude at various points and hovering for five minutes at the edge of Sky Harbor before proceeding south (right over the Village Lab building) to Interstate-10. After following I-10 several miles to Picacho Peak, the enormous craft (estimated at 900 feet or more on each leading edge and more than a mile in length to its "taillights") hovered once again for 10 to 15 minutes until there was no further track of it. According to Michael, this is a possible docking point for this craft and the giant triangle that followed it down I-10 some fifteen minutes later. This same "chevron" or similar craft was seen traveling east to west over north Phoenix at about 10:50 p.m.
4. BOOMERANG VLO (wide angle) — This "V" formation, consisting of five groups of three lights, was confirmed to be a single huge object by various Prescott-area witnesses, being equivalent to a formation of five 747s flying absolutely lock-step in formation toward Phoenix. The craft was seen to make a southerly turn at about 8:25, once again, in the Prescott Valley area, after first approaching from the northwest. This VLO was later seen (although not clearly enough to identify) by an America West pilot who called Sky Harbor tower wondering what "those nine lights were", and an amateur astronomer in Phoenix who wrote it off as a formation of conventional airplanes. It is possible that this craft was the same as the giant triangle(wide angle) described below.
5. TRIANGULAR VLO (narrow angle) — This is the one seen by the family in Chandler. It may be the same Triangle or Deltoid craft seen by others as a wide angle craft. It had definite structure complete with panels in a grid along with lights at each of the three corners and a larger center light. Multiple witnesses confirm its northwest to southeast flight path through the eastern part of the valley with some observers seeing one or more orbs leaving and then re-docking with this VLO at various points. This particular craft was seen to "split in two" by a resident in Gilbert, south of Chandler.
6. BIG BLACK TRIANGLE (wide angle) — By all accounts the largest of the VLOs in the March 13th parade of craft, this gigantic craft was first seen at close range over north Phoenix between 8:30 and 8:45 where the key witnesses (real estate people who subdivided the area) estimated its size to be as much as two miles wide as its wingtip lights fell over two parallel streets that are 1.8 miles apart. Its flight path brought it low to the ground at this point (less than 2,000 feet) where it was seen to not only have dozens of lights along its leading edges, but also a row of windows wherein the silhouettes of "people" were observed! At some point further south, other witnesses reported that they saw nothing but the row of windows with beings (also in silhouette) as all of the lights were turned off at that point. By the time the VLO was seen over I-10 south of Casa Grande, however, three large lights were seen to be turned on, one at each corner, with smaller lights on along with the leading headlight. The witnesses here reported that it took them one to two minutes to drive under this immense ship while they were driving at 80 mph! They estimated the width of this VLO to be at least two, possibly three miles wide and big enough for a C5-A Galaxy or "Condor" troop transport (the largest conventional aircraft known) to land upon it! The craft had definite structure to it and the family of witnesses described its color as a flat blue-black like the color of a shotgun barrel. They also reported seeing rectangular "panel-like" structures on the underside of this craft. Another large triangle was seen moving just north of Thunderbird Road at around 10:45 p.m., but the configuration of the triangle was different. That triangle had a V-cut into its trailing edge to give it a very distinctive look.
7. GIANT DISCOID VLO — Witnessed first by a retired airline pilot, his sons and a friend, and seen coming down Scottsdale Road at about 10:20 p.m., this huge circular craft, featuring amber lights around its perimeter (at an estimated one mile in diameter) was seen to make a purposeful turn toward Sky Harbor at about Camelback Road where it also intersected air traffic before disappearing from view over South Mountain. The corroborating central Phoenix witness, also a former pilot (Vietnam) and retired U.S. Marshal, described how the craft both reflected the city lights on its underbelly and blocked out the stars with its upper half, attesting to its being a single craft of spectacular "mile-wide" proportions. This witness also claimed to have videotaped what he saw from the roof of his apartment building, but his tapes mysteriously disappeared in what may amount to a genuine "men-in-black (MIB)" episode. This craft may also have docked with the "chevron" craft and cloaked in "visual stealth" mode in its earlier pass through Phoenix at about 8:20 to 8:30, but this is purest speculation. The two craft reappeared (or two similar ones) in June and were photographed together at high altitude over Phoenix by the same witnesses with a 35mm camera while also viewing them with binoculars. A separate set of unconnected witnesses also reported the sighting of a huge discoid craft (bigger than Sun Devil Stadium at ASU) hovering at treetop level right off of the west end of the Sky Harbor runways at between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. one morning about two weeks before March 13th.
8. MILITARY JET/UFO INTERCEPTION ATTEMPTS — We have to date identified four such events (there may be more) that clearly point to the conclusion that the Phoenix Lights UFO incident of March 13, 1997 was certainly no secret "black ops" or classified military exercise as many people would like to believe. A woman who lives next to Luke Air Force Base in the west part of the valley surfaced to report that at least 6 pairs of jets and as many as 8 were "scrambled" out of the base on the night of March 13th, something she could never recall witnessing before. One researcher called Luke AFB and asked someone who was out on the flight line if anything was seen by base personnel, and, unofficially, he answered that "they" were all over the place. The response from Luke spokesmen and their response to FOIA requests indicate that they were receiving phone calls about the lights, but never scrambled any jets to pursue them. Witnesses say different. Here are the witness reports:
A) Crown King at 5:30 p.m. — A formation of 3 huge "Vs" were seen hovering over this pine-topped mountain and were soon joined by a diamond-shaped or triangular craft which appeared "out of thin air" (at first seen as an amber light). As the four objects were hovering together, two jets were seen to come low from the south (from the direction of Luke AFB) at which point the UFOs went into a "stack", collapsed upon each other while going "into a ball", then totally disappeared! This would be called a case of high strangeness. Finding nothing there, the two jets circled the Crown King area and returned in the direction of the base. Similar disappearing acts of formations of "Vs", one over Lake Mead that afternoon and on March 27th over Elmont, New York were reported to Village Labs after seeing the article published in USA Today.
B) Central Phoenix at 8:15 p.m. — A pair of F-15s were dispatched from Luke AFB to attempt an interception of one or more of the Vs approaching or entering the valley at that time. This was reported to NUFORC by a ground crewman at Luke who stated that the aircraft were equipped with gun cameras and that one of the pilots had to be helped out of his plane because he was so shaken by his encounter. A cursory check revealed that Luke AFB no longer has F-15s in its inventory and only has the F-16 aircraft. However, at one time both were maintained at Luke. Could these F-15s have been visiting aircraft? There is still some attempt to locate the civilian witness who corroborated this story.
C) North Phoenix at 9:30 p.m. — One of the witnesses who had earlier witnesses with his wife the giant wide-angle triangle reported that when he was later at home, he saw in the distance what appeared to be the return of the triangle, this time with only three lights on, one at each corner. As the UFO hovered near the Deer Valley Airport in northwest Phoenix, he saw two military jets approach the triangle, with one jet seen to pass one side of it and the other seen to fly up under it, veering down at the last moment to avoid midair collision.
D) Luke AFB at 10:00 p.m. — (The original Event 4 — the first aircraft/UFO encounter to be reported). A truck driver who had been watching two unusual amber lights move ahead of him to the south for fully two hours as he drove down I-17 from Camp Verde, reported that as he neared his destination, a materials plant near Luke AFB, the two UFOs seemed to have stopped their movement and were hovering. Once at the plant, while waiting for his truck to be unloaded, he stood on a pile of materials to watch what were now seen as two identical, toy-top like amber orbs (like hot air balloons without hanging baskets) having a white iridescent sheen and a band of red pulsating light, with the nearest to him being one to two miles distant right near the runway at Luke. Suddenly, two F-16s, followed by a third, "blasted out of Luke with their afterburners on full", made a steep bank directly over the witness and headed straight for the nearest UFO. At the moment the lead jets were about to close on the UFO, it shot straight up and disappeared "in an instant" as the jets passed right through the very spot where the object had been hovering. The second UFO also vanished, as it was no longer hovering in the northwest. As you can see by Michael Tanner's event analysis and my own event analysis, there was a lot of activity on March 13th, yet the media chose to cover only 2 of these events. The Big Black Triangle has been virtually ignored by the journalists and is considered significant since these triangles have been reported more frequently throughout most of the world.
Bill Hamilton Executive Director
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