Famous UFO Incidents in History

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The acronym ‘UFO’ stands for ‘Unidentified Flying Object’ and is applied to any flying object which does not resemble any known object. Incidents of UFO sighting are on the earliest records of history, most of them being astronomical objects, while a few of them were some natural phenomena. Halley’s Comet, for example, was first discovered by Chinese astronomers and was considered by many as a UFO. Perihelion is an optical phenomenon applied to the bright and colored patches of light appearing to the left or right of the Sun. According to the Air Force Regulation 2002 issued in 1954,  an unidentified object UFO is ‘ ‘¦any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type, or which cannot be positively identified as a familiar object.’ Responding to two petitions in November, 2011, the White House issued a statement that ‘The U.S. Government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any number of the human race.’ The Condon Committee, which conducted research for the USAF in 1968, concluded negatively, and this ended the U.S. Government’s official investigation of UFOs.

1. UFO Sighting by Kenneth Arnold

UFO Sighting by Kenneth Arnold
Kenneth Arnold’s report

On June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold, a private pilot, observed a string of nine, shining, unidentified objects while he was flying past Mount Rainier. The incident was publicized highly in the U.S. The press coined the term ‘flying saucer,’ after knowing Arnold’s description of the object. Arnold was flying at an altitude of about 9,200 feet, when he first observed a flash. He thought of it being a reflection from the interior of his own plane but ruled that out after a few quick tests like tilting the plane a little. The object covered a distance of 50 miles from Mount Rainer to Mount Adams which, on his calculating later on, translated into a speed of 1700 miles per hour. This supersonic speed was unheard of in 1947.

2. Lt. Frank Shofield’s UFO Sighting

Lt. Frank Shofield's UFO Sighting
Lt. Frank Shofield

Frank Herman Schofield was born on January 4, 1869 and died on March 21, 1942. He was a decorated admiral in the United States Navy. About 20 years before becoming Commander in Chief of the Pacific Battle Fleet, while he was still a lieutenant, he reported sighting a UFO by three crew members of the USS Supply about 300 miles west of San Francisco. He reported the sighting of three, red, oval objects flying in a diagonal formation. The objects flew in changing modes up and down in the clouds. The largest object appeared six times the size of the Sun as seen by the naked eye. He wrote a letter which appeared in the March issue of Monthly Weather Review titled as ‘Remarkable Meteors.’ He wrote, ‘I have the honor to report that three somewhat remarkable meteors were observed from this ship at 6:10 AM (Greenwich Mean Time, 3 hours, 12 minutes) February 28, 1904, in Latitude 35 deg. 58 min. north, longitude 128 deg., 36 min. west.’

3. NASA STS-80 Mission UFO Incident

NASA STS-80 Mission UFO Incident
NASA STS-80 Mission UFO Incident

Clark C. McClelland reported in the publication Canadian Press a UFO incident. Dr. Story Musgrave, a crew member aboard the STS-80 mission, announced that an object, larger than an American spacecraft, appeared below the shuttle Columbia at an altitude of 190 nautical miles above Earth. Musgrave said, ‘I don’t know what it was. Whether it’s a washer, debris, ice particles, I don’t know. But it’s characteristic of the thousands of things which I’ve seen. What is not so characteristic is it appears to come from nowhere. You would think that if it’s facing the dark side or facing something there. It’s really impressive.’

4. The Roswell UFO Incident

The Roswell UFO Incident
The Roswell UFO Incident

Walter Haut, Public Information Officer of the Roswell Army Airfield, New Mexico issued a press release on July 8, 1947. According to the press release, the 509th Bomb Group crew found a crashed flying disc from a ranch near Roswell. It was later clarified by Roger M. Ramey of the Eighth Air Force that the said flying disk was a radar tracking balloon. The Armed Forces opined that it was the debris of an experimental, high-altitude surveillance balloon which belonged to the program ‘Mogul.’ The Roswell incident was so famous that it became synonymous with UFO.

5. Mantell UFO Incident

Mantell UFO Incident
Captain Thomas F. Mantell

Mantell UFO Incident is considered one of the top three classic UFO incidents in 1948. The incident caused the death of 25-year-old Captain Thomas F. Mantell on January 7, 1948. He was pilot of the Kentucky Air National Guard. The Kentucky State Highway Patrol sighted an unusual aerial object near Maysville, Kentucky and reported it to the Godman Army Airfield at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Four already flying P-51 Mustangs of C Flight were told to chase the object. Mantell was flying one of these planes. An assumption is that he suffered from a lack of oxygen and blacked out causing the tragedy. The plane crashed at a farm near Franklin, Kentucky. His body was recovered from the wreckage of the plane.

6. The Chiles-Whitted UFO Incident

The Chiles-Whitted UFO Incident
The Chiles-Whitted UFO Incident

Two American commercial pilots, Clarence Chiles and John Whitted, reported on July 24, 1948 that their DC-3 had a narrow escape from colliding with a torpedo or cigar-shaped object.  Pilot Clarence Chiles and co-pilot John Whitted were flying an Eastern Airlines Douglas DC-3 at an altitude of 5,000 ft., from Mobile, Alabama to Montgomery. Both had seen the object for about 10-15 seconds, describing it as a torpedo or cigar-shaped object about 100 ft. long and thrice the diameter of a B-29 bomber. A bright, red-orange light emanating from the rear was seen.

7. West Freugh UFO Incident

West Freugh UFO Incident
West Freugh UFO Incident

The incident is named after West Freugh, Scotland the involved military base. On April 4, 1957, radar operators of the Ministry of Supply Bombing Trials Unit, headquartered at the RAF West Freugh, observed a large object above the Irish Sea. The Balscalloch Unit reported that there were several targets moving at an extraordinary speed of thousands of miles per hour with unseen or unheard echoes. The size of the object was reported to be like that of a ship. RAF intelligence put all the radar stations on 24-hour alert.  Commander of the RAF, West Freugh, made an official statement: ‘I have been ordered by the Air Ministry to say nothing about the object. I am not allowed to reveal its position, course, and speed.’

8. Kecksburg UFO Incident

Kecksburg UFO Incident
Kecksburg UFO Incident

On December 9, 1965, an object resembling a fireball was seen by thousands of the population of Detroit, Michigan and in six states of America and Ontario, Canada. It was reported that hot, metal fragments were dropped over Michigan and Ontario which caused a grass fire. After ruling out the possibilities of a plane crash, remains of a test missile, or re-entering satellite debris, it was generally assumed that the object was a meteor, the visible path of a meteoroid on entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

9. Rendlesham Forest Incident

Rendlesham Forest Incident
Letter from Lt. Col. Charles Halt

Rendlesham Forest Incident is considered the most famous UFO incident in Britain and one of the most famous in the world. The incident was observed during two or three days outside RAF Woodridge. Many inexplicable lights and the landing of one or more unidentifiable aircraft in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk were reported at the end of December, 1980. The incident was made public on October 2, 1983 after being published in the newspaper News of the World. The Ministry of Defense stated that the incident was not any security threat; therefore, did not require any investigation. On the other hand, the media considered it comparable with the Roswell U.S. incident in the U.S. and, at times, referred to it as Britain’s Roswell.

10. Phoenix Lights UFO

Phoenix Lights UFO
Phoenix Lights UFO

On March 13, 1997 thousands of people from American states Arizona and Nevada and from the Mexican state of Sonora saw UFOs in the form of V-shaped objects with six lights and moving with the point of a ‘V’ in the forward position. The lights were reported as red and white. There was another set of lights in a different form, and these lights were identified as flares dropped by an A-10 Warthog Aircraft during a training session. The other V-shaped object with six lights remains a mystery.


All human beings are blessed with the invaluable, potent, and boundless faculty of imagination. However, not all of them are capable of translating it in the form of a known literary genre or form like poetry, prose, music, or any regular art form. As such, most of these people tend to express their imagination in the form of observations, and UFOs are similarly perceived objects expressed as observed objects. An inverse relationship seems to exist between the development of science fiction and incidents of UFOs. With the appearance of movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the reporting of UFO incidents has increased notably.

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