Published: 4:01 PM 8/9/2013
By JESSIE STENSLAND, Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
An Oak Harbor couple watched an object they could not identify in the night sky above Puget Sound two weeks ago.
Isha Hendricks reported the very unusual object to the Mutual UFO Network, known as MUFON, becoming one of a growing list of Whidbey Island residents to describe unexplained lights in the sky.
“There are things you can’t explain,” Hendricks said. “It makes the universe an interesting place to me.”
James Clarkson, the Washington state director of MUFON, said the sighting was not considered “a close encounter” because of its height in the sky.
“If it’s further than 500 feet away, it’s considered a light in the sky,” he said. “A high-altitude event could be any number of things.”
Still, he said Hendricks is very credible witness and the details were very interesting. He said the sighting was categorized simply as “unknown.”
Hendricks said she and her husband, James, were camping in a yurt at the Cliffside RV Park on the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station on July 19. They sat outside on a bench swing that night, stargazing, when they noticed something unusual.
Hendricks said they both saw a white light similar in appearance to a star move across the sky from the southwest. She said it tracked like a satellite at first, but then make some impossible course changes.
“All of a sudden it made a horseshoe-shaped, 30-degree maneuver,” she said. “Then it dimmed and went dark.”
She said the object reappeared, hovered, and then starting moving. It suddenly made another dramatic course change and left a flame trail before appearing to leave the atmosphere.
Hendricks said she leaped from the swing bench in surprise. Then she and her husband watched in stunned silence as the object reappeared.
She explained that the light changed directions again. Most surprising of all, she said, the object started to pulse brightly. She said it was about half the brightness of the moon.
The light dimmed to nothing again, but reappeared about 10 seconds later and once again changed course and pulsed light. Hendricks said the light disappeared and reappeared four times.
“That was a hoot,” she said, adding that her husband half-jokingly said it “must have been swamp gas.”
Hendricks said she’s completely convinced that the light was UFO, with all its implications. She said she’s very familiar with satellites and meteorites; her husband, a Navy man, known about aircraft. The light wasn’t any of those things, she said.
It was at least five miles up, she said.
“It fascinated me,” she added. “Completely fascinated me.”
Hendricks said she told her mother about it. Her mother’s friend advised her to report it to MUFON. She had never heard of such a group and wasn’t interested in UFOs previously — she doesn’t even have a TV — but she made the report.
An investigator from MUFON called her to confirm the account. Clarkson said the state organization received 197 reports of UFOs from June 30, 2012, to July 1, 2013, most of them from Western Washington.
Of those, 60 were categorized as “unknown aerial vehicles.” He said Hendricks’ report will not make the cut next year.
Of the 60, Clarkson said he was excited by about a half dozen on them.
“I would say, ‘yeah, those are really awesome cases,’” he said.
He said an amazing case, for example, occurred June 15 near Bellingham. “A very credible witness” saw an aerial vehicle land in a vacant field in complete silence, he explained.
He said the witness drew a diagram of an unconventional “structured vehicle.”
A MUFON investigator found a “swirl mark in the grass.”
In March, a South Whidbey man and a woman in Marysville reported seeing mysterious orange lights in the sky.
As for Hendricks, she’s convinced that the light she saw was something otherworldly, or at least very much out of the ordinary. Her husband, on the other hand, believes there’s a rational explanation for the unusual light.
“He’s completely stubborn,” she said with a laugh. “He’s a sweetheart. He’s from Oklahoma.”