Chapter 1 - Major Sighting Here


“Look, there’s another one and another and another!”, my neighbor shouted as several orange orbs appeared in the southwest horizon. Over the course of the week we’d become used to seeing these otherworldly orbs. Unbeknownst to us at the time we were witnessing what would become the most documented UFO sighting in the United States that Thursday in March 1997.

It began on a Monday. I was relaxing on the second floor balcony patio overlooking the Gila River Indian Reservation just south of Phoenix smoking my oversized Hoya de Monterrey cigar. Lounging in my balcony chair staring out into the jeweled Arizona sky, I noticed a bright amber light in the distance competing with the sinking reds, oranges and purples of the setting sun. As it hung low on the horizon, I wondered if it was a helicopter or a small plane on its way into Sky Harbor Airport. The amber light hovered in the same spot in the sky for what seemed like 20 minutes. Suddenly the light dived down, creating a huge explosion of light in what I guessed must be a distant valley. Did a power station explode? Was there a plane crash? Not likely. The explosion of light had burst in what was surely pure desert. I took refuge in this logic to set aside my fears. Almost instantly a new set of questions blossomed as the amber light object hovered once again on the horizon near the Estrella Mountains.  

I called my wife, Suzi, out of the bedroom where she watched TV hoping she’d catch another explosion of light, something, anything, to reassure me I wasn’t hallucinating. No more light bombs appeared but she did catch sight of the object hovering in the same place. She suggested I might get a closer look through the video camera or binoculars. Much closer through the Panasonic Super 8, I caught sight of what appeared to be a vibrating orb of orange light. Rippling energy circulated counter-clockwise, suggesting the orb itself was the eye of a storm. The binoculars proved that this was no airplane but the exact details of what we were seeing were difficult to grasp. Neither Suzi nor I had any idea what this could be, so we called our neighbors Pete and Sandy for their opinions.  

Pete called me back after looking outside with his video camera. He and Sandy both saw the orb of amber light that had now taken to blinking on and off, on and off. We debated what, if anything, we should do about this “sighting” as we were beginning to collectively think of it. It wasn’t like anything any of us had ever seen. The behavior of the mystery light transcended the boundaries of the ordinary. Pete phoned the television news station to find out if anyone else reported seeing the object. For some reason he was transferred to the weather department. Maybe they thought he was seeing giant orange hail? They told Pete that he was most likely seeing the Hale-Bopp comet, which was scheduled to be visible in the sky locally during this time. Pete assured the station that the light we were witnessing was in the southwestern sky while the Hale-Bopp comet was slated to appear in the northeastern sky.  

When we played the film back a bit later, we were amazed at the close-up view it offered. The vibrating orange orb was spinning like some hypnotic device wielded by a kohl-eyed, goateed magician to attain power over his victims. Later I would stumble upon the Prophet Ezekiel’s description of his encounter with similar phenomena as fiery “wheels within wheels” or the Ofanim.”

That night, Suzi and I searched the Internet for mention of other orange orbs appearing in the evening sky. The “UFO Roundup” Web site posted similar stories of orange orbs low on the horizon in Australia. Witnesses there said the orbs of light were completely noiseless while blinking in and out. I decided to send a note to Joe Trainor, the site administrator. That just goes to show how eager I was to discuss what I’d witnessed and connect with any other witnesses in the Phoenix area. As carefully as I could, I described the color, the time, the direction, the behavior and the appearance of the lights both via the naked eye and through the camera’s magnification.

The next morning Trainor requested a bit more information and my permission for him to pass my e-mail along to the MUFON director in my area. MUFON stands for Mutual UFO Network. The idea of getting that involved set off warning sirens that I might be turning around a bend in the road that might forever label me as “one of those crazies” who give credence to the unexplainable. I feared this experience might lie beyond conventional wisdom that declares “everything has an explanation.” I threw caution to the wind – I’d talk to the MUFON guy if … I could keep my name out of it. I didn’t consider any degree of participation in a UFO sighting to be a career enhancer at IBM where I was hot in pursuit of an ascending career..

I found myself looking forward to an adventure with a real UFO hunter. What would he look like? Indiana Jones meets Fox Mulder? The sightings intensified over the next couple of nights as I waited to hear back from Trainor’s connection. On Tuesday two orbs arrived to light up and go dark, light up and go dark. Neighbors dropped by to see the light show appearing around 9:00 p.m. each evening. One orange orb became two orange orbs and then three. At one point a military jet flew right toward the blinking amber lights, causing them to disappear. By the time I ran to get my video camera, the intense spiraling lights reappeared once again.

I wrote another note to Joe Trainor at “UFO Roundup” to update him about the second night of sightings. Again similar reports come in from Australia. There, people were seeing these orbs actually moving close to the ground. That worried me a bit imagining swirling amber globes showing up on our balcony … but the fear was fleeting. Before long I snapped back to enjoying the moment and savoring the adventure drawing me in. We faced a long night of uncomfortable speculation before hearing back from Bill Hamilton, our local MUFON director on Wednesday, March 12.

Two notes Wednesday morning got my adrenaline pumping – One from Joe Trainor asking if I’d heard from Bill Hamilton and the other from Hamilton himself. Hamilton wanted to meet me that day and left me his phone number. I eventually reached him later that afternoon. Hamilton embodied a Joe Friday matter of factness but with a friendlier, warmer tone. He wanted all the specifics, the facts as I saw them. He wanted times, positions, descriptions, behavior, the same things Trainor requested but in even more detail. Apparently he was filling out some report over the phone. Hamilton asked if he could swing by the next day to review my videos.

”Sounds great,” I said with some surprise. I was surprised he wouldn’t want to show up at the house that evening, as we’d seen the orbs every night since Monday with no indication of them quitting.

On Wednesday, three orbs materialized in the same place in the sky in the same triangular pattern. On all occasions the lights were relatively low in the horizon, as you can see streetlights in my videos. The 9:00 p.m. show was becoming a regular neighborhood highlight as the word spread from one family to another. On the street neighbors began inviting other households to stop by my house to see some mysterious and interesting lights in the night sky. We got a kick out of watching our neighbors react when they saw the lights for the first time. Awe and puzzlement mingled with a creeping anger that none of the authorities seemed motivated to seriously investigate. Neighbor Pete called the UFO line again and left messages about the sightings. Again, I sent a nightly report to Joe Trainor. We all waited anxiously for someone “official” to show up and document these amazing lights and investigate their origin.

As good as his word, Hamilton called me Thursday morning requesting to drop by that evening with a friend and photographer, Tom King. Hamilton worried that he might arrive fairly late in the evening since he and Tom were meeting a famous UFO guy at the airport that night, Dr. Steven Greer, Director of the Disclosure Project.

That evening, I saw orbs all over the sky, and I thought the event was over by the time Hamilton and King arrived at the house. On prior evenings the sightings were earlier - around 9:00. The first night, I believe they appeared around 8:00 p.m.