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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 sound. 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 engines." 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 it? You don't have to be a ufologist to be puzzled about what lit the sky that night. Steve Wilson - Republic Columnist - e-mail: email@example.com Date: Tue, 10 Mar 1998 02:03:55 -0800 From: "K. Young"
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: V-Object DISINFORMATION 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 http://home.fuse.net/task/ Phoenix Lights Remain Bright One Year Later URL: http://www.azcentral.com:80/news/0313phxlites.shtml ******* 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 anymore. 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 residents. 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 other. 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 horizon. 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 weren't. 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 flares. 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 camera. "If March 13 happens again," he said. "I'll be ready for it." *** Richard Ruelas can be reached at 444-8473 or at email@example.com via e-mail.
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