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Washington is No. 1 in UFO sightings

Washington racks up more reports of mysterious objects in sky than any other state

By , Columbian staff writer
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3 Photos
Kenneth Arnold holds a movie camera in 1947 in front of his CallAir, after he reported seeing nine alleged UFOs near Mount Rainier. Arnold had no idea he would change the world when he told reporters in Pendleton, Ore., he saw nine strange objects flying along the Cascades.
Kenneth Arnold holds a movie camera in 1947 in front of his CallAir, after he reported seeing nine alleged UFOs near Mount Rainier. Arnold had no idea he would change the world when he told reporters in Pendleton, Ore., he saw nine strange objects flying along the Cascades. (Idaho Statesman) Photo Gallery

If you yearn for a quick escape from this troubled planet — or a glimpse of evidence that somebody up there is checking us out and considering options — don’t move. You’re already in the right place.

Washington ranks No. 1 in reports of mysterious objects in the sky, according to reporting data amassed by the National UFO Reporting Center and analyzed recently by Stacker, a data-crunching website.

Stacker calculated the astronomical rate of 100 UFO sightings per 100,000 population in Washington. That’s based on 6,812 reports from the state that have been filed with the National UFO Reporting Center, a small, independent outfit in the Eastern Washington city of Davenport.

Montana comes second, with 95 sightings per 100,000. Alaska and Vermont are tied for third at 90. Oregon is No. 5 at 87. New Hampshire, Maine, Idaho, New Mexico and Arizona are next.

Washington isn’t just No. 1 in UFO reports. We also get bragging rights about sparking modern UFO mania. It happened in June 1947, when a private pilot named Kenneth Arnold spotted a formation of flying discs zooming around Mount Rainier at speeds no known craft could possibly achieve. A handful of eyewitness reports on the ground corroborated Arnold’s strange sighting.

Local reports

Make of the following what you will. They’re recent UFO sightings in Clark County and nearby, drawn from the National UFO Reporting Center’s database, which keeps all reports anonymous.

• Sept. 5, 2018, Vancouver: “White star ‘fell To Earth,’ then became a golden glowing sphere. … This object glowed into a ‘golden entity’ that could possibly even have been some sort of a celestial being. … Reality seemed to ‘ripple’ around this object. … Felt good to watch it, as if I’d been waiting my whole life to see it.”

• Sept. 7, 2020, Brush Prairie: “Multiple white objects in the sky. … I’ve asked pilots and friends and no one has any ideas. I’m at a complete loss.”

• July 31, 2020, Vancouver: “Extraordinarily bright, metallic, cigar-shaped object moving with unchanging speed and direction disappears into trees. … During the sighting I noticed the truck behind me swerve onto the emergency lane, then re-enter traffic after the objects disappeared. I assume he was seeing the same thing we were.”

• Feb. 6, 2021, Vancouver: “A glowing orb … moved erratically left to right, forward and back then shot straight up. … My husband and I have almost 30 years each in the aviation business. Never seen anything like this.”

• Feb. 9, 2022, Battle Ground: A man awakened at 1 a.m. by a loud sound like a street sweeper saw 20-foot-wide disc hovering and shining a beam down the street. The man’s pet rabbit was also disturbed. The man reported that messages formed in his mind: “It’s OK. We’re not going to hurt you, we’re just taking some measurements. We will be gone soon.”

• March 8, 2022, Trout Lake: Navy pilots on a return trip from Boardman, Ore., airspace saw a “white glowing orb” that appeared to be on a collision course with their plane, and took evasive action. The orb dropped into cloud cover and disappeared.

—Scott Hewitt

There’s never been a conclusive explanation for that incident, which launched “flying saucer” as a term and as a sudden summertime craze in 1947 with hundreds of similar reports. That peaked in July, when a weather balloon crash in New Mexico launched a thousand conspiracy theories and established the town of Roswell as flying saucer central forevermore.

Last on the Stacker list are all the Southern states, in a row. Alabama is No. 46, Georgia No. 47, Mississippi No. 48, Louisiana No. 49 and Texas, with just 23 sightings per 100,000, No. 50.

Skeptical, but …

Why would Washington be UFOs’ favorite state? Do our signature cloudy skies provide handy hiding places? Or do the aliens share our understandable fondness for evergreen forests, Columbian River salmon and microbrews?

Or maybe it’s us. Maybe we spot them the most because our eyes are often on the sky, glaring at the gloom and sucking in all the light we can get?

Neither Stacker nor the National UFO Reporting Center — which The Columbian contacted with those probing questions — offered any speculation about reasons why UFOs are spotted more often in the upper-left coast, the desert and New England, but not Dixie.

The database of the National UFO Reporting Center is posted online for all to explore. While the Reporting Center is an independent, private project maintained by two UFO-minded volunteers, it’s also cited by government agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration as one legitimate place to bring your unexplainable aerial sightings.

The Reporting Center works to “receive, record and, to the greatest degree possible, corroborate and document reports from individuals” who have seen or even been visited by UFOs, its website says. It’s collected over 150,000 sightings since it started in 1974.

Staffers strive to eliminate obvious hoaxes and jokes, the website says, and its report-filing page urges skywatchers to be skeptical.

“If you are seeing a very bright, intensely silver-white, stationary object near the horizon, it is likely Venus, and not a UFO,” the National UFO Reporting Center cautions. Long, straight strings of light are probably Starlink satellites, of which there are at least 2,500 in orbit right now providing internet access to hundreds of thousands of people.

The site’s monthly post for June 2022 notes that a June 19 “mass sighting” of lights in the sky that generated a deluge of reports from across the country was probably a SpaceX launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

But many thousands of sightings are posted verbatim, without any debunking or explanation.

Don’t think UFOs are worth taking seriously? The U.S. government itself appears to disagree. In June 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a brief and utterly inconclusive analysis of 144 UFO sightings by military pilots, sorting them into “likely” explanation categories but offering virtually no hard answers.

In the year since then, according to various news sources, the government database of sighting reports by military pilots has jumped from 144 to more than 400.

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