A Series of Articles on the 1st Anniversary of the Phoenix Lights !

Arizona Republic Column on Phoenix Lights
From: http://www.azcentral.com/news/digest.shtml

3-11-98 -- The Arizona Republic

'Phoenix Lights' witnesses credible, hard to dismiss
Steve Wilson - Republic Columnist -
e-mail: steve.wilson@pni.com

When the "Phoenix Lights" were reported last year, I yawned. I
didn't see them, and breathless TV broadcasts were underwhelming.
It seemed easy enough to dismiss the lights as flares or military
aircraft. UFOs? You've got to be kidding.

Still, as the March 13 anniversary of the sightings approached, I
was curious enough to seek out some witnesses. I suspected most
would turn out to be UFO devotees. My skepticism was heightened
by a New Times story last week that debunked the extraterrestrial
theorizing and discredited a leading local theorist, Jim
Dilettoso, as a "quack scientist."

I found several people with credible credentials who witnessed
the lights. At the least, their stories are interesting. Even if
you regard their accounts dubiously, as I do, they raise
legitimate questions.

Enough questions, says Peter Davenport, director of the National
UFO Reporting Center in Seattle, that what happened that night
"may rank as the most dramatic UFO event in the past 50 years."

First, a little background. The lights were spotted between 7:30
and 10:30 in the evening over a 300-mile corridor from the Nevada
line through Prescott Valley and Phoenix to the northern edge of
Tucson. Some reports indicate that a single "V" formation
traveled across the state, while others suggest multiple UFO
events. The lights were seen by hundreds of people.

Here are four:
Dr. Bradley Evans, 47, is a clinical psychiatrist from Tucson. He
and his wife, Kris, were driving north on Interstate 10 to a
swimming meet in Tempe. They watched the lights for 20 minutes or
so move slowly south in a diamond formation and pass over them at
an estimated 1,500 feet. Even then, with the car's moon roof
open, they heard not a sound from the sky. He was "awed" by the
experience and has no idea what he saw. Kris said she couldn't
explain it either and guesses it was "something military."

Trig Johnston, 50, is a retired commercial airline pilot who
lives in north Scottsdale. His 22-year-old son was looking for
Comet Hale-Bopp that night when he noticed the lights and told
his dad.

"I looked up and remember saying out loud, "I'm going to chalk
this up to an illusion.' It was the size of 25 airliners, moving
at about 100 knots at maybe 5,000 feet, and it didn't make a

I've flown 747s across oceans and not seen anything like I saw
that night," Johnston said.

"I don't expect anybody to take my word for it," he added.
"This was something you had to see for yourself to believe."

Max Saracen, 34, is a real estate consultant who lives in north
Phoenix. He and his wife, Shahla, were driving west on Deer
Valley Road when they saw a huge triangular craft. They pulled
off the road, got out and watched it pass overhead. "It was very
spooky -- this gigantic ship blocking out the stars and silently
creeping across the sky. I don't know of any aircraft with silent

Dr. X is a physician who lives near Squaw Peak in Phoenix and
asked to remain anonymous for fear of ridicule.

Her home has an elevated, panoramic view of the Valley, and she
has some of the best known videotape and photographs of the
lights. Though she had no prior interest in UFOs, the episode
prompted her to begin her own investigation.

"I think what happened is mind-boggling," she said. "I'm trying
to be as scientific as I can, and a number of things just don't
compute. "

I'm not given to an otherworldly answer. But neither do I think
these four people and so many others who saw the lights are all
exaggerating or delusional.
Of all the explanations, a U.S. military operation of some sort,
maybe testing experimental aircraft, seems most likely. Mitch
Stanley of Scottsdale said he could clearly see several planes
when he pointed his telescope at the lights. But if it was a
classified operation, why conduct it directly over the nation's
sixth-biggest city?

And if it wasn't, why hasn't the military simply acknowledged

You don't have to be a ufologist to be puzzled about what lit the
sky that night.
Steve Wilson - Republic Columnist - e-mail: steve.wilson@pni.com

Date: Tue, 10 Mar 1998 02:03:55 -0800
From: "K. Young" 
To: updates@globalserve.net

The recent article by Tony Ortega has brought about a new
round of debate concerning the Arizona sightings. A number of
UFO researchers have been opposed to the conclusions of the
article, and various writers have cited the 'massive V-shaped
craft' sighted by so many people to bolster their contentions.
One writer even states:

    "There were at least three massive V shaped craft, a
    solid triangle, and the amber orbs. The massive
    black/brown triangle came in from the EAST!"

However, I wish to state that there are certain problems with
such comments which should be discussed.

How can it be determined that the word "craft" is adequate to
describe a V-shaped formation of lights? The use of this leading
term may illustrates an intent to sway the opinion of the
unlearned reader.

There have been studies indicating that the lighted objects were
not connected, as per the recent article by Tony Ortega.

Contrary to the studies which have shown the objects to be
unconnected, there is NO evidence indicating that a 'craft' was
situated behind the lights that were observed. The witness
testimony promoting this claim is nebulous and non-specific,
and an objective researcher should remember that these claims
could be subject to and the result of honest visual
misinterpretation on the part of the confused observer.

If these researchers were to approach this situation with
investigative neutrality, then the term 'OBJECT' would be more
appropriate, rather than 'craft,' as the latter term implies
something of a structured design and intelligent creation.

The Ohio data from March 26, which duplicates the Arizona
incident, has been rejected by those seeking to propogate an
Arizona/ET scenario. The Ohio event, happening two weeks
after Arizona, was explained as military flares. This same
massive V-shaped object was spotted by witnesses, some of
whom recognized that they were flares being dispenced from
overflying military jets also traveling in a V-formation.

By and large, these details are not considered by those who
reject the flare explanation as they prefer a more
sensationalistic answer to the drama.

The need for some to maintain that a 'craft' was situated behind
the lighted objects only indicates a predisposition toward things
extraterrestrial. This predispostion, regrettably, constrains
these researchers within a certain mindset whereby they reject
data which is contrary to their position. In some instances, I
fear, some may support the use of the term 'craft,' regardless of
its baseless fortitude.

There is no evidence to indicate the V-shaped formations were
a sort of 'craft.' It is a deliberate, baseless claim, and
subsequent disinformation. Those who propogate such reckless
claims are guilty of disinformation. I would like to see the data
which would indicate otherwise.

Kenny Young
Cincinnati, Ohio
March 8, 1998
UFO Research

 Phoenix Lights Remain Bright One Year Later




Phoenix Lights remain bright one year later

Alien or not, they lit up some lives
Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic

Since witnessing the Phoenix Lights a year ago, Mike and Nannette
Fortson spend their nights together watching the skies, hoping for
another sighting.

By Richard Ruelas
The Arizona Republic
March 13, 1998

No one was abducted by the crafts that flew over Phoenix on March 13,
1997. The air ships didn't land in the Valley, blaze a pattern in the
desert grass, or even scrape a tree. The balls of lights that same
night didn't send out musical tones trying to communicate.

That could be, of course, because the crafts were most likely a
squadron of planes. And the balls of light were high-intensity flares
dropped during a training exercise.

But the "Phoenix Lights," which appeared a year ago today, had definite
impact, whether their origin was ordinary or out-of-this world.

Documentaries have been done, more are on the way; books and a CD-ROM
are in the works. The lights are on T-shirts and talk radio.

They've pushed a relatively unknown former Phoenix city councilwoman
into the national media spotlight. Two men who investigated the lights
say it cost them a business relationship with a Spam millionaire.
Another UFO investigator said the lights zapped him of energy to peer

The lights also rekindled at least one marriage.

Nannette and Mike Fortson happened to see the light formation from
their Chandler back yard. Since then, they've spent every night outside
looking for a repeat show.

"Other than the hand of God coming through space, nothing could have
been more profound," said Mike Fortson, a safety products salesman and
chili cook-off champion.

The Fortsons, both 45, now spend about three hours each night sitting
outside on their patio scanning the skies. They tore out a gazebo so
they have a clearer view. They have a $900 video camera at the ready,
and a high-beam flashlight in case any crafts want to communicate.

They've seen some objects they believe are alien craft, but nothing as
spectacular as the March 13 lights. The main benefit has been to their
25-year marriage, they say.

"To be able to shut the TV off and talk, that's a great thing," Fortson
said. "I think it's brought back some passion to us," he said before
his wife shushed him.

It was a spectacular light show, no doubt, seen by thousands of Phoenix

Around 8:30 p.m. five lights swept down from Northern Arizona over
Phoenix in a boomerang formation. Some say it appeared to be a solid
black object; others said they could see stars between the lights. A
videotape shows that the lights seemed to move independently of each

An amateur astronomer pointed his powerful telescope at the lights and
said he saw airplanes.

The second light show happened closer to 10 p.m. Seven lights flashed
brilliantly, then slowly disappeared along the city's southwestern

An Air National Guard sergeant found that the Maryland Air Guard had
dropped a volley of flares during training exercises southwest of
Phoenix around 10 p.m.

But those explanations didn't satisfy some.

A hard-core group turned the tables, deciding they didn't need to prove
the lights were an alien craft, but rather demanded skeptics prove they

For the believers, a clubhouse emerged: Village Labs, a spacious,
mostly vacant office in Tempe.

The company was set up five years ago, with designs on enabling
companies to access a planned supercomputer in Nebraska.

The company was run by Jim Dilettoso and Michael Tanner, who spent the
'70s as touring rock musicians and part-time UFO researchers. They
convinced Spam magnate Geordie Hormel to pay their lease and lend the
company its considerable start-up costs, court records show.

But instead of finding investors, Dilettoso and Tanner said they spent
the bulk of their time investigating the lights.

Dilettoso said he was courting companies like TRW and US West, but they
backed off.

"When you're dealing with companies that big, you can't say, 'Sorry, I
missed the paperwork deadline because I was working on some UFO video
last night,' " he said.

Hormel recently yanked his funds from Village Labs, saying he couldn't
wait any longer for the computer project which was supposed to return
him millions of dollars. Village Labs got an eviction notice and must
be out in less than three weeks.

"It was all legit, there was nothing fake about it," said Hormel, who
estimated he put $2 million into Village Labs. "It just never got the
financing it needed."

Tanner said he spent countless hours interviewing more than 300
witnesses to the lights, dismissing only three of them as kooks.
Witness statements have put more objects in the sky that night.

Tanner has concluded there were at least two V-shaped craft, two solid
triangles, one giant disc and two hovering formations of orbs competing
for airspace that night.

Dilettoso became the media's expert on the lights. He began doing
optical analysis of the videotapes, saying he could prove by careful
spectral analysis of the amateur videotapes, that the objects weren't

But Paul Scowen, an astronomer at Arizona State University, isn't so
sure. He said it's impossible to tell anything about the origin of a
light source from a TV picture.

"The evidence seems a little bit shaky," Scowen said.

Richard Motzer, who heads up Arizona's Mutual UFO Network group, said
he's done chasing aliens.

"I can't afford it. I don't want another one of these things," he said.
Motzer said his self-started computing business suffered because of the
time he spent digging for the truth.

"You have to draw an ending point to this," he said.

The lights could signal a new beginning for another media darling
created during the year: Francis Emma Barwood.

The former Phoenix councilwoman was rebuked by everyone she asked to
look into the lights. She used the refusals as ammunition for her
secretary of state campaign, pledging to open up state records. One of
her campaign consultants is a national UFO expert.

"After talking to hundreds of people, it's just amazing how deeply they
feel about this, that something's there," she said.

Barwood said she doesn't aim to be known as the UFO candidate, but said
it follows her everywhere.

Except the one day she spoke to some UFO buffs at a metaphysical
bookstore in Phoenix.

"They didn't even ask me about UFO stuff," Barwood said. "They wanted
to learn where I stood on all the (political) issues."

That could be because the lights, for some, are simply a hobby.

"I definitely look up a lot more," said Trig Johnston, a former airline
pilot who saw the 8:30 p.m. lights. "I haven't been obsessed with it. I
think some people have."

Despite his time investment, Fortson said the lights are merely a
fascination for him as well.

"I don't go everywhere with my camera; I don't have an aluminum foil
hat," Fortson said.

But he does have a patio, a pair of binoculars and a low-light video

"If March 13 happens again," he said. "I'll be ready for it."


Richard Ruelas can be reached at 444-8473 or at richard.ruelas@pni.com
via e-mail.

March, 1998

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