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From: Kenny Young
 
Return of The Rockford Lights
 

Prankster balloonist behind night lights?

Feb. 14, 2001
By MARK BONNE
Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD -- The odd visions continue to baffle many, but a new
theory has begun to gel in response to the latest reports of
bright lights in the night sky.

Several sources speculated Tuesday that orange and gold glowing
orbs spotted Saturday night were helium balloons carrying flares
or candles, likely launched from someone's back yard as a
novelty or prank.

More than 40 people some from as far as Byron and Caledonia
contacted the Rockford Register Star to relate accounts of a
phenomenon that started New Year's Eve 1999 and returned twice
in as many months.

Lee Carlson said four amber-colored lights floated past his
Hillcrest Road home in a path from Gregory Elementary School,
across Newburg Road and past A.C. Thompson Elementary School.

"I heard them pop as they went by and saw them slowly burn out,"
said Carlson, who suspects the balloons landed near the U.S.
post office or Hamilton Sundstrand headquarters on Harrison
Avenue.

Duane Ingram, a physics and astronomy professor at Rock Valley
College, said he doubts from descriptions he's heard that people
are mistaking stars, constellations or planets as the phantom
lights.

Ingram said juvenile hijinks seems a more plausible explanation.

Such tricks could include lasers shot against low clouds on dry
nights or items attached to helium balloons, such as tiny
flashlights or flares.

"Let's see. Saturday night? Come on," he said.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Liz Isham Cory
confirmed Tuesday that nothing unusual showed up on radar
Saturday, including at the Greater Rockford Airport. But she
noted that operators in the Quad Cities control tower saw bright
lights that coincided with the Jan. 11 rash of reports in
Rockford.

Cory blamed weather.

"These lights seem to have a seasonal pattern," she said. "They
appear on cold, clear nights and have done so at the beginning
of the year."

Peter Davenport, director of the UFO Reporting Center in
Washington, a nonprofit organization that posts sightings from
across the country, including several from Rockford, said local
reports "don't appear to be consistent with extraterrestrial
crafts," mostly because of slow travel speed.

"I suspect some human being is behind these," he said.

Kathy Webb, wife of RVC theater director Mike Webb, said she
watched from campus Saturday as a dozen lights shifted position
to form the letters J, A, X and V.

"I think they're aliens," she said. "But I don't think they're
going to hurt us. I think they're just observing, to see what
our lives are like compared to theirs."

End of article
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