The Seeds Of Wider Interest: American UFO And Alien Encounters From The Later Years Of The 1980s

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
September 2, 2023
Last Updated
September 4, 2023
Estimated Reading Time
25 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Close Encounters

While the surge of interest in UFOs, alien beings, and the paranormal, in general, among the wider populace can arguably be pinned somewhere in the 1990s with such television shows as The X-Files, the previous decade was host to multiple UFO and alien encounters, many of which were reported on at the time, which almost certainly laid the groundwork for the spread of interest that would follow. In our first part of exploring the lesser-known sightings of the 1980s, we concentrated on the opening years of the decade. As 1985 began, with President Ronald Reagan still weeks away from his second inauguration and the eventual peace deals with Moscow still several years away, the United States began the second half of the 1980s with the Cold War still very much a backdrop to everyday events. Perhaps because of this, at least in part, many more people paid a little more attention to anything strange they might see or hear in the skies overhead, not least in case the constant warning of nuclear attack proved to be accurate. There was also a string of blockbuster movies dealing with the subject of UFOs (and science-fiction altogether) that were released during this time, perhaps opening peoples’ minds up to the possibility of visitation from intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Indeed, UFO and alien encounters in America during this time not only began to increase but were also beginning to be much more openly talked about in the wider public.

Oblong-Shaped Object Witnessed From A Lonely Road In Vermont

According to an article in the February 7th 1985 edition of the Windsor Chronicle, three women in Ascutney, Vermont witnessed strange lights in the sky while driving home to Springfield following a high school basketball game. [1] The witnesses – Myra Poland (who was driving), Judy Smiley, and Brena Boudro – first noticed the light in the south of the sky, noting that it appeared much brighter than a star, or an airplane or helicopter. They watched for several minutes, eventually realizing that whatever the object was, it wasn’t moving but was simply hovering in the same position. Then, without warning, the object suddenly went into motion, heading in their direction and passing directly over the top of their vehicle. As it headed away into the north, it appeared as though the glowing object was descending, eventually seeming to reach as low as 200 feet from the ground. The witnesses would later describe the object as being an oblong shape, and much brighter or larger than any aircraft they had previously seen. They further recalled that the object had flashing lights toward the rear of it, and what appeared to be a “halo of grayish-blue hue” around the middle of it. Then, even more remarkable, one of these lights – a white one – suddenly detached from the object and sped away into the distance. None of the witnesses could recall hearing a noise coming from the object as it passed over the car, and the car’s engine and headlights were seemingly unaffected by the craft’s presence. Eventually, the three women lost sight of the craft, and while they offered that a “reasonable explanation” was likely for what they had seen, no such explanation was forthcoming, and the sighting remains a complete mystery.

“I Know What I Saw, And They’re Real!” – The Multiple UFO Sightings Of Arthur Schindler

In the June 13th 1985 edition of the Lorain Journal, a story appeared documenting several UFO sightings by a resident of Amherst Ohio. [2] The person in question, Arthur Schindler, spoke to the newspaper about multiple sightings of strange aerial objects he had had, some of which dated back several years. As he spoke of his encounters to the newspaper, he offered that he was aware that “people call me nuts” but that he “knew what I saw and they’re real!” Arthur stated that he first witnessed one evening in early 1985 a UFO while and his wife, Eva, had just returned home from church when they noticed what looked like a “bright star” in the sky. However, the more the pair focused on the glow, they quickly realized they were looking at something a little more out of the ordinary. Interestingly, at least according to the report in the Lorain Journal, although he didn’t know it at the time, another man from Amherst also witnessed what would appear to be the same object later that evening. According to Steve Horosz, who worked for United States Steel, at around 2:30 am he was at work when he decided to take a quick break on the outside platform on the seventh floor of the plant. He too saw what he at first thought was a bright star in the night sky but soon realized it was something entirely different, stating that it hovered there for several minutes. Eventually, he returned inside, and when he ventured back out a short time later, it was no longer there (removing any lingering suggestion that the object was a celestial object of some kind).

“It Ain’t No Star!”

While Steve Horosz only saw the strange, glowing object one time, Arthur Schindler began regularly watching the skies – and in so doing, so many the strange craft many more times. And during the course of these sightings, he managed to put together a detailed description of the object. He would state that it appeared like a “huge dish with two sets of yellow lights around the rim”, and that on the top of the “dish” there appeared to be something that “looks like a castle, kind of like a pyramid”. He further stated there were “lights all over it”, and that “blue and white beams shoot out from the front of it”. Ultimately, he concluded, all anyone would have to do is “take one at it” and they would see “it ain’t no star!” Following one particular sighting, Arthur even contacted the police who sent an officer to the property to investigate. Although he could see the glowing object, he was, officially at least, unable to determine if it was just a star or a solid nuts-and-bolts craft. Despite his claims of having seen these objects on several occasions, he was unable to ever obtain any radar confirmation from any of the nearby airports. This could, if we assume for a moment that the objects he witnessed are undoubtedly real, be some kind of masking from the object itself, or, as Schindler suggested, that the government was simply suppressing and covering up any such evidence of visitors potentially from another world.

The Juneau UFO Sighting – A Case Of Alien Abduction?

According to a report made to the National UFO Reporting Center, in the early hours of September 5th, 1985 near Juneau, Alaska, the main witness, Tony, along with their brother, father, and their chief engineer were traveling by boat from Juneau, Alaska to Seattle, Washington when they encountered something that changed their lives forever. [3] After leaving the Gulf of Alaska, they entered an area named Cape St. Elis, a stretch of water that can be particularly bad. On this journey, Tony and his brother were sharing the shift on the bridge from midnight until 6 am. At a little after midnight, however, the witness noticed a suddenly bright light appear under their vessel which “lit up the whole ship underwater”. After maintaining pace with the boat for a few moments, the light then moved to the bow and then disappeared. Tony immediately informed his father – who was also the captain of the boat – but he was more than certain that what he had seen was nothing more than a whale, with the light being the phosphorus in the water. Although he wasn’t convinced, he accepted his father’s explanation, despite his immediate recollection of the military jets they had seen circling the area earlier in the day. Tony agreed to go to the galley and prepare some food for everyone. As he was switching on the grill in order to make grilled sandwiches, he happened to be looking out of one of the portholes. Although it didn’t register at first, he suddenly realized his view of the trees along the water’s edge was exceptionally clear – almost as if it were daylight. As he was contemplating this, he suddenly heard his brother’s voice on the radio telling him to come up to the bridge.

A Light As Bright As Day, Then Back To Darkness

When he arrived there, once more, as he scanned his surroundings, it appeared as though it was daylight. After his eyes adjusted, he could see that a bright light somewhere from outside was seemingly the source of this glow. Despite the intenseness of the glow, Tony could make out that the lights were part of a solid object that was round in shape and was of huge dimensions. Tony was just about to open the door to the bridge when his brother called out to him not to go outside. Then, without warning, the light suddenly went out and everything around them turned “back to darkness”. After a few moments, Tony turned on the light and immediately noticed that his brother’s face was burned slightly. When he looked at his own hands, he noticed that his right one was also burned in a similar way. Shortly after the incident, their boat left the passage and out into the open ocean. At this particular time of year, the weather, and consequently, the waters were notoriously bad. However, on this day, the was “flat calm”, with “not even a ripple” and no wind whatsoever. In fact, all the way back to Seattle was clear and sunny, which Tony recalled was “very unusual” for that time of year. One thing of interest is the fact that by the time the object disappeared, the time was close to 2 am. Even though the entire encounter had seemed to take only a few minutes, two hours had seemingly passed by. Was this a mere sighting, or might this be a case of alien abduction?

Multiple Sightings On The American East Coast

On the evening of January 7th, 1986, two separate sightings of strange, glowing objects unfolded in Pennsylvania. [4] In the town of Butler, a strange object was seen emitting six beams of light down to the ground. Only 20 minutes later in Pittsburgh, a “silver-gray disc” with “body lights” was witnessed hovering over the city. Even stranger, witnesses reported seeing a strange mist appear out of nowhere which then “formed around it”. After several moments, the object tilted slightly and then headed off into the distance. Two nights later, at around 9 pm on January 9th in Hartford, Connecticut, multiple motorists stopped their vehicles on Interstate 84 in order to view a “boomerang-shaped object” that was moving silently overhead. Witnesses stated that this curious craft was approximately the size of a Boeing 747 and had white, red, green, and blue lights along its exterior. The object then came to a temporary halt for around 15 seconds, before heading off into the distance. There were, however, several other sightings of what would appear to be the same object later that evening, in Hartford, New Britain, and Torrington. One of these sightings involved an entire family who claimed an object with 10 bright white lights along it hovered silently directly over the top of their house. When one of these lights shone down directly onto the property, the entire family ran downstairs to the basement in order to take cover in case of an attack. Three nights after that, at around 5 pm on January 12th in Valparaiso in Indiana, a local resident reported seeing a disc-shaped object hovering around 100 feet above the ground. The witness claimed the object was completely silent, and after around 10 seconds it made its way into the distance. Several weeks later in Lima, Ohio, two sightings of strange craft occurred only days apart. The first occurred at around 7 pm on February 8th when a young couple who were driving along State Route 117 noticed a “dark triangular” object with “three bright lights” on the underside hovering just above the treetops of a nearby farm. The witnesses recalled that the object remained completely silent and was approximately 50 feet long. After around five minutes the object disappeared into the distance. Four nights later, an almost identical object was witnessed by another local resident.

A Triangular Object Over The Sylva Highway – The Franklin UFO Encounter

At around 11 pm one evening in February 1986 in Franklin, North Carolina, an unnamed resident and his wife were riding along a quiet road on his motorcycle when the witness saw something that immediately caused them to bring the bike to a stop and remove his helmet. [5] A moment later, his wife removed her helmet, and the pair of them stared upwards at three red lights in a “perfect triangle” formation. They quickly realized that the lights were the tips of a huge triangular craft, not least as in between the lights (within the dimensions of the triangle) the stars were blotted out from view by its exterior. At this point, the witness shut off the bike’s engine, and both he and his wife were shocked by the absolute silence that greeted them. Despite this seemingly mammoth object being only 300 feet above them, not a single sound came from it. They estimated that there were approximately 300 feet in between each light along the edge of the triangular shape, although, despite its size, the object moved at a speed of barely 10 miles per hour. The exterior was nothing more than a dark mass, with the witnesses certain that no markings or other insignia were visible on it. The object, which had been heading to the north out of the south, suddenly rose slightly before coming to a sudden stop. It then “turned up on its axis and cart-wheeled off into the eastern sky”. As it moved, the lights on the underside began to spin so that the leading light (at the tip of the triangle) went from the front to the back and then back again. Whatever it was, the witness knew that it was intelligently guided – and that intelligence could have an extraterrestrial origin. The object eventually disappeared into the distance, leaving the witnesses both in awe and perplexed.

The USS Edenton Incident

Several months later, during the summer of 1986, at around 11 pm one evening off the coast of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, a lookout onboard the USS Edenton at his lookout position above the bridge. [6] The night was clear and had been, so far, uneventful. However, during one of the lookout’s scans of the night sky, four red circular lights appeared “out of nowhere” ahead of them. These lights formed a square in the night sky and were around 100 feet apart from each other. To begin with, the witness questioned if the lights belonged to helicopters. However, he quickly determined that they were simply too large to be helicopter lights and so dismissed this idea. Furthermore, he couldn’t see any green or white lights, which would have been the case with conventional aircraft lights. In fact, the witness estimated that each of the lights themselves was approximately the same size as a small plane, meaning they must have been of significant size and dimensions. At this point, realizing he was witnessing something completely out of the norm, the witness called down to the bridge, informing the officer of a “possible UFO sighting”. To begin with, the witness could hear laughter on the other side of the radio. However, when he repeated his words, in a clear, serious tone, this laughter quickly died down. Then, the two lower lights in the square darted toward the horizon “in a flash”, followed almost immediately by the two higher lights. As they moved, despite the obvious speed, not a single sound came from them. A moment later, all four of the lights “shot straight up into outer space” and disappeared “all within a split second”.

A “Hit Of 385 Roentgens” In Around 60 Seconds

By the time he reached the bridge, he could see several other crew members standing looking out in amazement. It was clear they had also seen the bizarre display. This was confirmed a short time later when the sighting was recorded in the ship’s log. There were, however, further twists still to come. Around 30 minutes after the lights had shot up into the sky and disappeared, the ship’s radiation detection system began to “click”, followed shortly by a “loud bell” which suggested increased levels of radiation. Eventually, the clicking and alarms ceased. However, the data suggested that the entire ship had “taken a hit of 385 roentgens” in a period of around 60 seconds. Realizing that this radiation hit could very well be connected to the strange lights they had witnessed earlier, a decision was made to wake the captain and inform him of the strange goings-on. When he arrived on the bridge, he took particular exception to the sighting of the lights being recorded in the log. Furthermore, he suggested that the increased radiation readings were simply the result of faulty equipment. However, it soon came to light that not only was the equipment in question serviced and tested only the day before, but that other equipment onboard had also detected increased radiation levels. Regardless of this, the captain insisted that no record was to be put into the log about the increased readings before promptly leaving the bridge and returning to his quarters. For the rest of the evening, although no further sightings occurred, there was an uneasy feeling among the crew. The witness believed that the radiation hit was likely left in the area by the UFO, as 30 minutes would have been approximately the amount of time to reach the area where the strange objects had been. Whatever did occur that evening, the incident remains unexplained. The following year, yet another UFO encounter unfolded in North Carolina. And it is to that incident where we will turn our attention to next.

The 1987 Farmville UFO Sighting

Although the exact date isn’t certain, in the early hours one night in 1987, a local resident, Rick, was driving home to Wilson, North Carolina from Greenville with his friend, Mike, after visiting a mutual friend there. [7] As they made their way down the otherwise quiet highway, however, somewhere near Farmville, a sudden bright light – like a spotlight from a helicopter – suddenly appeared from above and shined down on them from a distance of approximately 800 feet. As the two young men looked at the object, they could see that it was stationary, and, of more concern, whatever it was, it was getting brighter. Rick immediately brought the car to a stop at the side of the road and both men got out. Rick went to retrieve a pair of binoculars he kept in the trunk of the car and each of the men peered through them at the light. Although they could see the light itself, they couldn’t make out if it was part of a solid object. It was as they were looking at the object through the binoculars that a solid craft suddenly appeared – just above the trees to the right of where they were standing around 400 feet above the ground. And what’s more, the object was heading straight toward them. As it descended toward the ground, they realized it was completely silent, and, even stranger, its speed slowed dramatically. In fact, Rick later recalled that “no earthly aircraft could move as slowly without falling out of the air” – a detail that surfaces in many other close encounter sightings. Ultimately, both he and Mike agreed that the object was unlike anything either of them had ever seen before. At this point, Rick reached for the binoculars once more.

An “Almost” Contact Encounter

The more he viewed the object, the more details he took in. He could see, for example, that the strange craft had the shape and dimensions of an “ice-cream cone pointing upward” with the “flat part of the cone facing the earth”. Even stranger, on the back of the cone, was something that looked like a “small hut or house” from which a “faint blue light” came. Rick estimated that the craft was moving at around 15 miles per hour and passed directly over the top of where they were standing. As it did so, it banked slightly before coming to a stop hovering around 100 feet above the ground over a nearby field. From this angle, Rick estimated the object was approximately 60 feet high and around 30 feet wide at the bottom, or widest, part. He could now also see “other small lights” in various places on the object, some red, some blue, and some white. Then, without warning, a light shone down to the ground from the craft, very much like “a spotlight on a stage”. This light – which Rick recalled as “very earth-produced” – began to move, first heading to the nearby trees, revealing an old barn among them as it did so. It continued to move, and Rick quickly calculated that it would land on their position within moments if it continued in the direction it was going in. However, a moment later, another car came over a nearby hill. Almost immediately, all the lights on the craft went out – all except for the blue light that came from the hut-like part of it on the back of the cone. Rick and Mike watched as the object discreetly moved back, further away from the road and into the nearby trees, stopping just over the top of them, now only visible as a red light. It was as the two men were looking in that direction, that they suddenly noticed several other red lights, each of which was moving independently of the other, all heading roughly to the north. In a last twist to the affair, when Rick arrived home he contacted the nearby Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base to report the sighting. To begin with, the person at the other end of the phone listened for several moments before asking Rick if he could put him on hold. A moment later, another person – seemingly more senior – was on the phone. And Rick also had the distinct feeling that he was on speakerphone. Surprisingly, rather than issue statements of denial, or worse, threaten Rick into silence, this gentleman advised him that whatever the object was, it would have been too low to be picked up by their radar system. Furthermore, they had no military vehicles or activities in the area of the sighting. After that, Rick left his contact details with the base, but he didn’t hear anything back from them after making his report. Ultimately, the sighting remains a complete mystery. We can only contemplate what might have happened had the car not suddenly appeared over the hill and the light picked out the two witnesses.

The 1987 Interstate 84 Sighting

Without a doubt, one of the most interesting UFO sightings from the late 1980s in the United States comes to us from the case files of Philip Imbrogno. According to the account, beginning at 9:30 pm on the evening of May 26th on Interstate 84 near the towns of Newton and Southbury in Connecticut, multiple motorists and residents witnessed a bizarre boomerang-shaped object overhead. What’s more, over 200 of these witnesses would report the sighting to the state police. Interestingly, according to the witnesses, the response from the police switchboard was that the lights were actually a group of light aircraft flying in formation from Candlewood airport. Even stranger, they were told that the planes were hanging “colored lanterns” from their undersides and that they had been painted completely black so that only the lights would be visible to those on the ground. As we might imagine, many people, not least the witnesses themselves, found this explanation hard to believe. Just one of the witnesses that evening was Randy Etting, a commercial airline pilot with three decades of aviation experience. He offered that he was at his home in Newton when he first noticed the lights at around 9:45 am. He used a pair of binoculars to observe the lights as they passed overhead, recalling that there were eight different colored lights that remained in a tight formation. Furthermore, whatever they were, they remained completely silent. He further stated that the lights were part of a large, solid craft and that he witnessed strange “heat waves” coming from it, which “distorted” the lights somewhat. Etting wasn’t alone during the encounter, with his son and neighbors also viewing the bizarre aerial show. When they were later questioned by investigators and reporters alike, they not only corroborated Etting’s sighting but also confirmed that the lights were part of one large solid craft. In total, the group witnessed the curious craft for around 10 minutes before if finally disappeared out of sight. With regard to the official explanation from the police, Etting would state it was “the prattling of idiots”. Even more remarkable, Etting managed to capture a photograph of the object, and he seemingly did so several minutes before viewing the object from his home. It is to that picture that we will turn our attention to next.

One Of The Best UFO Pictures Ever Captured?

Although Etting would initially submit the photograph to investigators under the condition that his name was not mentioned, his image is perhaps one of the most intriguing and credible ever captured. [8] Although originally given the name “David” in the report, Etting claimed he was returning home driving along Interstate 84 when he first noticed the object overhead. Realizing he had his camera with him, he pulled to the side of the road and put the device into position. Due to oncoming traffic, Etting had to be quick to snap the picture, managing to do so before putting his vehicle in motion once more. You can see that picture below.

Does this photograph show a UFO?

Examinations of the photograph showed no obvious signs of a hoax or fraud, with some estimating the true size of the object to be anywhere from 600 to 1600 feet across. It also appeared that the lights were “reflecting off of some type of structure in the central part of the object”, and that they were in a “perfect half circle”.

“Like A Dark Mass Behind The Lights!” – The Account Of Charlie Tuperman

Randy Etting, of course, was one of many witnesses that evening. Around 15 minutes earlier, when the first reports started to come in, many motorists had brought their vehicles to a halt on Interstate 84 in order to view the aerial anomaly in front of them. One of them was Charlie Tuperman. He would recall that when he first noticed the lights, he thought that a “747 was going to land on the highway”. The more he looked, however, the more he realized he was seeing something a little more otherworldly than an airplane. He stated, like Etting, that the lights were part of a larger object that “had about 10 lights in kind of a half circle”. These lights, he elaborated, were “yellow, green, blue, white, and red” and the object moved at a particularly slow pace.

Artist’s impression of UFO over Interstate 84

At this point, Tuperman recalled, the sound of car brakes being applied could be heard as he, along with several other motorists, brought their respective vehicles to a sudden stop in order to view the surreal events unfolding before them. All of them watched as the object passed directly over the highway. Tuperman further recalled that there was no sound coming from the object and that as it passed it appeared like “a dark mass behind the lights”. After several moments, without warning, the lights suddenly “got about ten times brighter”, almost blindingly so. Then, after around 10 seconds, they suddenly dimmed to their previous level and continued on their way toward the west. After the object disappeared Tuperman set off on his way, eager to be off the highway and at home. He later tuned into local radio, though, certain there would be something about the sighting. However, he was more than surprised to find not even a mention of it. When we consider the explanation offered by the police, it is not that much of a stretch of the imagination to consider whether an order of sorts was issued not to mention the encounter on air.

Hints Of A Possible Abduction?

At around 10 pm, and west of Interstate 84 in New Milford (the direction the object was heading), Robert Nellis and his friend, Jeff, along with Jeff’s dog were returning home after spending the day on the Connecticut River. Suddenly, as they were driving down a side road off Route 7, Jeff’s dog began to bark urgently, causing Jeff to look in the direction of his pet. It was at this point that he noticed several bright lights that were hovering over nearby trees a short distance away. Jeff brought Robert’s attention to the lights, and after looking at them for several seconds, he brought the car to a stop. Almost as soon as he did so, static and interference suddenly took over the car’s radio. The next thing they realized, the lights were heading in their direction. With the dog continuing the bark, the two men recalled that the object was “larger than a football field” and appeared to be completely silent. Robert recalled how the object had a dark exterior of “dark grey material with very little reflect ability” and was so large that it “covered the sky and blocked out everything overhead”. Furthermore, it appeared to be a teardrop shape, and, similar to other accounts, the lights appeared to be in a half-circle formation. The object passed directly over their car at an altitude of around 500 feet. As it did so, they could see flashing lights on the underside before it changed direction and began to head to the north. In total, the object was visible for around 10 minutes before eventually disappearing into the distance. However, when they finally arrived home, they found that 40 minutes had passed. Whether this could have been a case of alien abduction or whether, as Imbrogno suggested, had simply viewed the object for longer than they realized is open to debate.

Signs Of A Cover-Up?

If we return to the explanation offered by the police and the subsequent investigation by Imbrogno, we can see how shaky it actually is. When Imbrogno asked the state police about this explanation they informed him that they had made a mistake in naming the airport, offering that it was, in fact, Stormville Airport where the light aircraft had taken off from. However, when investigators spoke to a flight instructor from Stormville Airport, he informed them that only one single light aircraft operated out of the facility, and even then, only during daylight hours. Furthermore, when Imbrogno contacted nearby Bradley International Airport to see if they had any radar data for aircraft in the Interstate 84 area, they informed him that no other aircraft was on their radar records on the night in question. They also informed him that unless the aircraft, or aircrafts, in question had transponders onboard, then their radar would not be able to pick them up below 2000 feet – and we should recall that almost all of the witnesses estimated the object was somewhere in the region of 500 to 1600 feet, ultimately, below the range of the radar. Perhaps of even more interest is the fact that many residents of the region contacted Imbrogno, not only with further reports of sightings of strange objects but also of military helicopters suddenly patrolling the skies above Connecticut. This would, of course, suggest that the military knew much more about what this strange object was that evening over the highway than they were willing to let on.

The Fischer Road UFO Sighting

According to a report by J.D. Adams, one evening in the fall of 1988 in Salem, Oregon, a husband and wife were driving home from the grocery store when they witnessed something that changed their view of the universe forever. As they made their way along Fischer Road (a residential road that runs parallel to Interstate 5), the main witness noticed something out of the corner of his high seemingly “hovering over the freeway. He would later recall how this object had an “unnatural stillness” about it, which is likely why it caught his attention in the first place. Even so, he at first thought the object must be a hovering traffic helicopter. However, the longer he looked at it, the more convinced he became that it was something altogether out of the ordinary. After several moments, in order to get a clear, prolonged view of the object, he pulled the car to the side of the road, switched off the engine, and got out onto the roadside. As he stood there, he listened for any sounds that might be heard coming from the object. All that greeted him was the quiet sounds of the nightly surroundings, meaning he could discount the idea that the object was a helicopter. Given that the object was only around 200 feet from where he was standing, if it had been a helicopter, he almost certainly would have heard its rotors. Despite the close proximity of the object, he couldn’t make out a definite shape or outline, other than it appeared to have several lights around its perimeter. At this point, he realized was also viewing the object from the passenger seat of the car. After several more moments, after the couple exchanged glances of bewilderment, the witness got back in the car and set off to their apartment. However, as they arrived and pulled into the parking lot, the night was about to take an even more dramatic turn. Although they hadn’t realized it, the object had seemingly followed them home and was now hovering directly over the apartment block. After bringing the car to a stop, the couple got out once more, looking up in amazement at the spectacle above them. They could now see that it was triangular in shape and approximately 30 feet across. Although there were lights on the underside, they didn’t shine down brightly, meaning that no one in the apartments would have been aware of its presence. Also at this point, with the object hovering only 70 feet from the ground, the couple could hear a “faint humming” sound which they presumed came from the object. They continued to watch it for approximately 30 seconds before walking toward their apartment building doors. Once there, they turned once more to view the craft again. Now, it was heading off toward the sound, eventually gathering speed before disappearing into the distance. The witnesses were left uncertain whether they had witnessed a vehicle from another world or a top-secret military aircraft, but they knew they had experienced something very strange.

“Burning Object” Passes Over Sullivan County

If we delve into the files of Kim Shaffer, we find an incident that unfolded around midnight one July evening in 1989 in Sullivan County in Tennessee. According to the report, two local residents – an elderly lady and her son – were sitting under the carport looking out at the night sky. However, the serenity was disturbed somewhat when the man noticed a “burning object” seemingly heading toward them out of the heavens. They both watched in awe as the objects – which they later described as wing-like – passed directly over the top of the house. As it passed, still with the appearance of burning, fire began to “drip” from it, looking similar to burning, melting plastic. The pair moved in order to see the object head off into the distance in the direction of Holston Mountain, fire still dripping from it towards the ground. It moved relatively slowly and remained in view for around a minute before finally disappearing. Then, a moment later, an intense, low rumbling sound was heard, which seemed to come from the direction the object had disappeared. Contemplating whether the object had crashed, the witness contacted local air authorities to see if they had seen anything unusual on radar. However, none of the radar operators had. When he contacted police, however, to report the sighting, he was informed that many other residents had reported what appeared to be the same thing, although they were at a loss as to what the object was. Just what the object was and what might have happened to it remains a complete mystery. Did it crash somewhere over the mountain? And if so, why was no wreckage recovered? Or might the rumbling sound have not been the sound of an explosion but of a portal that the otherworldly craft might have disappeared into? The mystery remains.

The Nashville UFO Photographs

Around the same time, at around 9 pm on the evening of July 14th, also in Tennessee in Nashville, a photographer was driving along a remote road when he saw a strange light appear behind the trees on top of a nearby mountain several miles away. Immediately curious as to what the light could be, he brought his vehicle to a stop, got out, and went immediately to the trunk to retrieve two of his cameras. After checking each was loaded with film, he slammed the trunk shut and began walking toward the strange glow. A moment or so later, the light emerged from over the mountain, and the witness began taking pictures of the aerial anomaly. Interestingly, as he was doing so, he noticed a “coronal discharge” around what appeared to be the edge of the object, almost as if it was “materializing and coming into his vision”. As the light continued toward him, he continued to snap picture after picture. He would later recall that he had “a feeling that the craft was behind the mountain waiting for me”, adding that “when it appeared it felt like I was in another world” and that “the sounds were far, far away”. He also recalled that during the sighting itself, the object was so bright that he simply couldn’t make out any shape or dimensions. As he continued to take photographs of the object, he became aware that other motorists had also stopped their cars, with some also taking pictures (although these other witnesses, it would seem, were not willing to make reports of what they had seen). In total, the witness estimated the craft was in sight for between five to 10 minutes before it disappeared into the distance. Some of the pictures, however, were fascinating. And while the witness wasn’t willing to supply his name, he was more than happy for UFO investigators to examine the pictures and have them analyzed.

Intriguing Photographs With Great Details

Upon examination, there were several intriguing details highlighted about the pictures. For example, it was clear that they showed colors not normally witnessed in a lighted object, which indicates a coronal discharge, exactly as described by the witness. Furthermore, the pictures showed “strong columns of light” coming from the craft and shining toward the ground. However, instead of reaching the ground or fading away, they stopped suddenly in midair, something that terrestrial spotlights wouldn’t do. Different photographs also show that the object had 32 different lights around its edge. It was also determined that these lights seemingly changed colors, with some pictures showing them to be red, some white, and some blue. They would further estimate from the photographs that the object – which was decidedly disc or oval-shaped – was approximately 100 feet across, with panels of approximately 20 feet – which also lit – around the outside. Perhaps of further interest, it was noted that on the center underside of the object was either a crystal or lights that appeared like crystals. Whether this has something to do with the object’s propulsion system is unknown. According to an investigator who knew the photographer, he is a reliable and credible witness and not a person who would attempt to create forgeries. Ultimately, the sighting and subsequent photographs remain unexplained and a complete mystery. Some of the details, however, such as the spotlights stopping dead instead of reaching the ground, or of the witness anticipating that the object was waiting for him some kind of telepathic communication, as strange as it sounds, is something that is often mentioned by other close encounter witnesses.

The Cooper City “Arrowhead” Sighting

Although it wasn’t reported until the mid-2000s, a sighting of a UFO from late in the decade is of interest to us here. According to the report, the witness and his wife were at their home in their backyard in Cooper City, Florida on the evening of November 22nd, 1989, hoping to witness the glow of the shuttle launch at Cape Kennedy in nearby Fort Lauderdale. [9] Although they couldn’t understand why, they failed to spot the shuttle launch, and were preparing to head back inside. As they were doing so, however, the witness’s wife noticed something unusual in the sky. The witness looked to where his wife’s focus was and immediately noticed a strange object approaching them from the Fort Lauderdale area (essentially, heading west from the east). The witness recalled that the object was moving quickly but at a low altitude. It was triangular or arrowhead-shaped and appeared to be “surrounded by a haze”. There were also seven white lights evenly spaced out on the underside, starting at the tip. Furthermore, as it moved, despite its low altitude, neither the witness nor his wife could hear a sound come from the object. They both watched in amazement as the object disappeared in the direction of the Everglades. Although the pair mentioned what they had seen to their neighbors (none of whom had seen anything unusual), they opted not to make an official report until the summer of 2005 after seeing a television program about UFOs, which prompted them to finally put their encounter on record.

Unknown Motives For Such Purposeful Displays?

As we can see, then, UFO sightings in the second half of the 1980s in America were simply rife. And one more, it is important to hammer home the point that the cases we have looked at here are but a tiny number that unfolded during these years. And as we will undoubtedly examine in a future article, these sightings in the United States, as well as around the world, would simply explode during the final decade of the twentieth century, as interest and knowledge in the subject of ufology and the paranormal surged. Perhaps one thing of note is the number of multi-witness encounters during this time. Once more, we might ask, is this a consequence of more people looking skyward, or did the intelligence of these craft wish to be seen for reasons unknown to us? Were these purposeful displays, ones that were designed to prime humanity to the existence of extraterrestrial life and its presence here on Earth? And if that is the case, just who exactly was behind these very public displays – an alien race from elsewhere in the universe, or the military using highly advanced, possibly even recovered alien technology? One thing is certain, the 1980s was an important time in the history of ufology and is likely to still have many sightings and encounters to reveal over the coming years. The video below looks at some of the most fascinating UFO cases in history.


1 Oblong shaped flying object witnessed by 3 women near Ascutney, VT UFO Evidence
2 Man sees unusual object with lights in night sky over Amherst, Ohio, UFO Evidence
3 White Lights In Juneau, Alaska, National UFO Reporting Center
4 The 1986 UFO Chronology, NICAP
5 Large Triangular Craft Doing Unusual Maneuvers, UFO Evidence
6 1986 – UFO Seen from Bridge of USS Edenton, UFO Casebook
7 Cone-shaped object with light beam in Farmville, NC UFO Evidence
8 Examining some of Connecticut’s most spectacular UFO sightings, CT Insider
9 Couple Witness Arrowhead Triangle, National UFO Reporting Center

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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