Published: 6:09 PM 6/12/2015
... no one has been able to account for what really happened
See the UFO Casebook file, The Phoenix Lights
By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
It was one of the most memorable moments in recent Arizona history. It’s still something many talk about today — some skeptically, others with certainty.
In March of 1997, Arizona skies lit up with lights many say they had never seen before. The event called the Phoenix Lights became national news, claiming the state had a UFO sighting.
Did You Know… up to date, no one has been able to account for what really happened?
“It was big. It’s still big. This was monumental. This is as big as Roswell as far as I’m concerned," said Jim Mann, the state director of the state Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON.
MUFON is an organization dedicated to investigating any reported unidentified flying objects in Arizona.
“So here we are, you know, 15 years later, 18 years later," Mann said. "People are still coming forward and telling us what they saw as it becomes more and more acceptable in society to talk about the UFO phenomenon.”
Sightings actually happened near the Nevada-Arizona border. A man said that in the early evening hours he saw a chevron-shaped object with six lights underneath it. Similar reports came from the Prescott area, followed by others in Phoenix and the rest of the Valley. People in Tucson and along the Sonora border also claimed they saw an unusually large V-shaped, translucent object.
“I think it was taken seriously at first," Mann said. "As the days went by, Governor Fife Symington made light of it on TV.”
During the press conference held by Governor Symington after the reported sightings, he poked fun at the reports claiming the one responsible for the event was caught. That’s when his chief of staff was brought into the room, dressed in a martian costume.
“Well, we didn’t need to lighten up," Mann said. "Something flew over this state, something flew over this city. We just simply wanted to know what it was.”
Weather experts say winds shifting directions that day may have kicked up objects like balloons. Others say the lights were military aircrafts flying in formation. And local military officials say those were illumination flares dropped by aircraft on a training exercise.
Mann said his agency continues to investigate the Phoenix Lights and talk to people who say they saw them that night in 1997. His local MUFON chapter also reports they receive about 300 cases a year of unusual sightings.
“We don’t immediately go to the alien, the E.T. side of the room," he said. "We always say, well, who knows what this thing is. Let us investigate it first.”
Since 1997, people have reported seeing the same lights on other occasions.
By the way, in the past several years, Governor Fife Symington has spoken publicly about seeing the Phoenix Lights himself back in ’97 and, at the time, keeping quiet about it.
The Arizona Historical Society is hosting an exhibit on the March 13, 1997, Phoenix Lights starting this weekend.