UFO Sightings Put Texas in the Spotlight

"It was positively, absolutely nothing from these parts," Steve Allen, left, says during an interview with Mike Von Fremd of ABC News.

January 18, 2008-STEPHENVILLE, Texas -- "Dozens in Texas Town Report Seeing UFO," read an online headline for the Washington Post.

"Multiple reports of UFO-like sighting in Texas town," proclaimed Canada's CBC News.

UFO photos were among the top Yahoo searches Thursday morning, along with Katie Holmes and Prince William's girlfriend.

The reported sightings have become a catalyst on blogs and in chat rooms, triggering scientific and philosophical debates, religious inquiries, conspiracy charges and bad Texas jokes.

"It's amazing how this has taken on an international profile," said Kenneth Cherry, president of the Texas chapter of the Mutual UFO Network. "I've had calls from Japanese and British newspapers. I'm supposed to be doing 'Larry King Live' on Friday."

All this thanks to reports of a strange, silent object over Stephenville, Texas, a town about 70 miles southwest of Ft. Worth.

According to the Associated Press, several dozen people -- including a pilot, county constable and business owners -- insisted they've seen a large, silent object with bright lights flying low and fast. Some reported seeing fighter jets chasing it. Sightings were reported earlier this week.

While federal officials insist there's a logical explanation, locals swear that what they saw was larger, quieter, faster and lower to the ground than an airplane.

They also said the object's lights changed configuration, unlike those of a plane.

And apparently it's not something limited to Stephenville. People in several Texas towns who reported seeing it over several weeks have offered similar descriptions of the object.

But in Stephenville, a dairy town of 15,000, most people just thought the UFO sightings were fun.

A UFO is parked outside a Stephenville business.

City Secretary Cindy Stafford has been going about town in a green alien mask. Some high school students are making alien T-shirts. One automobile dealership put up a sign saying UFOs could be traded in there.

It's not that people are making fun of those who say they saw a UFO, said Sara Vanden Berge, managing editor of the Stephenville Empire-Tribune. With such a small population, the witnesses, including county Constable Leroy Gaitan, are too well-known.

"There are some people who are taking it very seriously," Vanden Berge said.

"But there is a large group of people having a good time with it. They are just having fun with the idea."

Not amused by the jokes is Dennis Balthaser, UFO researcher and former director of Roswell's International UFO Museum and Research Center.

"Once again the media is not taking this seriously, and that makes it difficult to investigate," Balthaser said.

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