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Short Essay on the History of UFOs in the United States

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Humans have been reporting UFO sighting for centuries. Even some of the earliest recorded accounts of human existence contain references to UFOs flying across the sky or visiting Earth. From the beginning of the colonization of America, there have been reports of these objects in the United States. The sightings have steadily continued into present day as this sample essay will further discuss.

The first UFOs in the United States

The first recorded UFO sighting in America took place in Boston in 1639 over the Charles River. The governor, John Winthrop, made a journal entry recording this strange event.

In this year one James Everell, a sober, discreet man, and two others, saw a great light in the night at Muddy River.” (Top 10 Alien Sightings).

The object stretched to about nine feet long and quickly shot up and down the length of the river for a period of two to three hours. Several people witnessed this event and at the time, some thought it was a demonic spirit. 

The UFO of Muddy River was not the only UFO sighting experienced by early American settlers. One night in 1790, a great roar ripped through the Northern sky and a huge, shining light appeared. Witnesses stated that the light grew in intensity, rivaling that of the noonday sun. It sped across the sky before reaching a rise of tall trees, over which it lifted itself up and continued on above (Radford 2012).

The object, described as similar in shape to a welding iron, had previously remained rather close to the ground as it swept over the countryside. Reportedly, the light gave off an intense heat and the smell of burning tar that lingered into the next day. The account of this sighting can be found in the State of New York’s Historical and Philosophical Society.

More UFO sightings follow

The next century experienced many notable UFO sightings. One of the more famous ones took place over the Tennessee College campus on the first of June in 1853. As the sun rose, several students reportedly saw two luminous objects in the sky. According to reports, one object resembled a small moon while the other was shaped like a large star.

“The small object then vanished, while the bigger one changed shape, first into a globe and then into an elongated shape parallel with the horizon” (Kiger 2012).

The smaller of the object suddenly appeared again and grew quickly in size while the other shrank. For the next thirty minutes, the two objects continued to fluctuate in size and shape. To this day, there has been no explanation of this event.

A little more than a decade later, in 1865, an article was published in the St. Louis Democrat on October nineteenth. During the nineteenth century, UFO sightings were published in newspapers. This particular sighting was an account of a fur trapper from Montana. The man, James Lumley, said he saw a UFO fly over him in the forest before crashing into the trees and exploding. He reported that the craft had glass on the side and was decorated with hieroglyphs (“Pre-1900 UFO Cases” 2015). The same article was published two weeks later in the Cincinnati Commercial, garnering Lumley and his peculiar experience even more attention.

In 1878, a farmer by the name of John Martin experienced a close encounter of his own. The sighting took place at Martin’s home, which was six miles south of Denison, Texas. He was out hunting on his property one morning when he saw a dark object set high in the southern sky. When he first saw the object, it was from a distance, but the object was moving quickly towards him. Round in shape, it seemed to be lit from behind and proved to be of great size by the time it floated over him and onward in the opposite direction.

UFO sightings expand into alien abductions

Then, in 1896, more than sixty years before alien abduction claims would become popular, two people were nearly abducted in the town of Lodi, California. Colonel H. G. Shaw and his friend Camille Spooner were traveling by horse to Stockton when their horse suddenly froze. The two men’s eyes fell upon three tall beings with small, delicate hands and spindly arms. They had light fuzz all over their bodies, large eyes, and small ears and nose (“Attempted Alien Abduction- Lodi, California, 1896”).

Each being reportedly carried a bag attached to a hose from which they would breathe periodically and a glowing egg-shaped lamp. The beings were communicating in strange chants before attempting to abduct the men. When their attempts were unsuccessful, the beings suddenly moved quickly towards a bridge. The light in their lamps grew until it illuminated the bridge and a nearby craft, which was cigar-like in shape and hovered quietly over the water. The beings leapt off the bridge and floated down into the craft through an unseen entry before the object quickly sped away.

In November of 1896, a mysterious unidentified light was observed by hundreds of people as it moved slowly against the wind in Sacramento, California. The same object was seen one week later over San Fransisco. By January, there were hundreds of sightings reported all over the Pacific coast (“The Great California Airship of 1896-97”). After a two month absence, the craft (cigar-like in shape, similar to the one seen in Lodi, California in 1896) reappeared over the Midwest, where reports of its appearance spread from Nebraska to Texas to Minnesota. The object abruptly disappeared in April of 1897 and the media frenzy it had created slowly died down.

That same month the sighting died down, there was reportedly a UFO crash in Texas. At about six in the morning, citizens of the town of Aurora were awakened by an unidentified airship. The craft has reportedly malfunctioned and stalled before crashing into a windmill, scattering debris over several acres (Kiger 2012). Supposedly, there was only one passenger of the craft, the pilot, whose body was badly damaged by the crash but was intact enough for it to be clear that he was not from Earth.

Though the incident is often dismissed as a hoax, one town resident recalled her parents going to visit the site and telling her that the pilot has been buried in an unmarked grave in the town cemetery.

UFO's in the twentieth century

The early twentieth century did not see a plethora of well-known UFO reports, but that was certainly not true for the rest of it. On February twenty fifth in 1942, radar operators spotted an unidentified object a little more than one hundred miles west of Los Angeles. The object sped inland until it was a few miles from the California coast before it completely disappeared from their screens.

Shortly after that, an artillery officer reported seeing twenty five aircrafts along the coast flying at twenty five thousand feet while other observers saw a large round object carrying what seemed to be flares over Santa Monica. Next, onlookers were terrified to see swarms of flying objects traveling at speeds of up to two hundred miles per hour (Kilger 2012). Thinking that the country was under attack from the Japanese, anti-aircraft batteries fired fourteen hundred rounds of ammunition at the objects, though no wreckage was ever found.

The Air-Force responds to UFO's

In early January of 1948, dozens of residents of the Madisonville, Kentucky area filed police reports stating that they had seen a circular object glowing and hovering in the sky. State police contacted the Air Force and the craft was spotted by the airfield’s tower crew fifteen minutes later (“History of UFOs”). Squadron fighters who were already in the air were asked to investigate.

Leader Captain Thomas Mantell Jr., a highly decorated expert pilot, reported that he was closing in on the object that he noted was “metallic [and] tremendous in size.” (Kilger 2012). Three minutes after that transmission, Mantell crashed his aircraft and was killed. Though the official conclusion is that he ran out of oxygen, many doubt the simplistic explanation.

Texas saw another UFO encounter on November second in 1957. Around eleven o’clock at night in the town of Levelland, police received fifteen phone calls from town citizens reporting a mysterious object in the sky. One witness, a Korean War veteran, described the object as a ball of light flying overhead in a rush of wind. It reportedly caused vehicle lights and engines to go dead. Others who saw the craft described it as a blue-green ball of light and sped across the sky before zooming straight upwards and disappearing.

On December ninth in 1965, a number of residents of the town of Kecksburg, Pennsylvania witnessed an object like green fire streaking across the sky before crashing into a field just before six in the evening. One witness described the object as being acorn-like in shape and approximately twice the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and says that it slowed down before making a U-turn and crashing.

Another witness, a local fireman, described the craft as being decorated with hieroglyphics around its bottom ring. He examined the craft for fifteen minutes before government and military officials arrives and removed everyone from the scene and posting armed guards in a perimeter around the craft (Kilger 2012). There was some speculation that the craft may have been a Soviet satellite but Soviet officials insist that the object did not belong to them. When a reporter filed a Freedom of Information Act suit against NASA in 2009, the government agency claimed that documentation for the case was missing. 

In the Hudson Valley on March twenty forth in 1983, witnesses saw the first of a series of five thousand UFO sightings that continued to plague the area for four years. On the first night, more than three hundred town citizens reported seeing a large v-shaped formation of lights moving slowly and silently through the sky (Stephey 2009). The seven lights were blinking red, blue, green, and white and the huge craft would hover for several minutes before moving on. Those who were able to get close enough to the craft described it as being big enough to be a ‘flying city’.

The last famous UFO sighting in the twentieth century occurred over Nevada and Arizona where thousands of people saw a similar object as the one seen in the Hudson Valley a decade before. Many reported the v-shaped craft with seven lights while more witnesses reported seeing orbs and triangles in the sky around the area as well. The official report is that the National Guard released diversionary flares during training, but that explanation is not widely accepted. 

Post-Twentieth Century Sightings

Since 2000, there have been two highly publicized UFO sightings in the United States. The first happened on July fourteenth in 2001 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Many witnesses saw an array of yellow lights flying in formation over suburban New Jersey. A police officer reported that his son called him and spoke of strange lights in the sky. When the boy went out to investigate, he found

“sixteen golden-orange colored lights, several in a V-type formation. Others were scattered around the V.” (Kilger 2012).

The lights flashed across the sky for about ten minutes before fading into the night sky one-by-one.

The second well-known sighting happened in January of 2008. Approximately forty citizens of Stephensville, Wisconsin reportedly witnessed a UFO hovering over the farming town for about five minutes before quickly streaking away. The object was described as luminous and huge, suspended about three thousand feet in the air. One witness described it as “bigger than a Wal-Mart.” (Kilger 2012).


Humans have always been fascinated with the idea of being visited by creatures from another planet. With countless sightings describing similar crafts and incidences, many feel that there is no way that UFOs do not exist. Some even credit their own existance to them, and worship UFO's and aliens as gods or creators. Nonetheless, for as long as we have been reporting UFO sightings, the visitors from the stars have remained cloaked in mystery, keeping many of us searching the stars for a close encounter of our own.

Work Cited

“Attempted Alien Abduction- Lodi, California, 1896”. Educating Humanity. Helium, 2 Feb. 2012. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.educatinghumanity.com/2012/02/alien-abduction-of-hg-shaw-in-1896-ufo.html>.

“History of UFOs”. History.com. A&E Networks, 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.history.com/topics/history-of-ufos>.

Losey, Stephen. “Air Force UFO files hit the Web.” USA Today. USA TODAY, 20 Jan. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/01/19/air-force-ufo-files/21985651>.

Radford, Benjamin. “UFO Sightings & News.” Live Science. Live Science, 30 May 2012. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.livescience.com/20645-ufo-sightings.html>.

Stephey, M.J. “A Brief History of UFOs”. TIME. Time Inc. 17 Dec. 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1948214,00.html>.

“The Great California Airship of 1896-97”. Educating Humanity. Helium, 4 Sept. 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.educatinghumanity.com/2011/09/ufo-great-california-ufo-of-1896-also.html>.

“Top 10 Alien Sightings”. Science Channel. Science Channel, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2016. <http://www.sciencechannel.com/topics/aliens-space/top-10-alien-sightings/10-alien-sightings/>.



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