World UFO day is observed on June 24 to mark the day of the first UFO sighting by aviator Kenneth Arnold. UFO stands for unidentified flying object, most of which just happen to be defence aircraft of a country straying into the air territory of another. However, before it can be identified as such, the UFO alarms already start ringing, giving rise to modern-day urban UFO legends. However, 5-20 per cent of sightings go unexplained each year. Here are some of the most baffling — some unexplained — UFO sightings in history.
1. Roswell Incident (1947): The most popular of UFO-lore, it is the first recorded ‘UFO crash’ outside a ranch in Roswell, New Mexico. Speculation spread like wildfire for a pre-Internet time. Alien invasion theories floated around until the US military stepped in and clarified that the debris came from a crashed experimental weather balloon.
2. McMinnville incident, Oregon, Canada (1950): Evelyn Trent first spotted a silvery, metallic disk in the early evening sky when she was outside feeding her rabbits. Her farmer-husband watched for a couple of minutes and then decided to take two pictures before the UFO disappeared. The Trents shied away from all publicity and refused to sell the pictures to the media, preferring to keep the news private to avoid getting into trouble with the government. Only one local reporter got lucky. While attempts have been made to examine the photographs for any trickery, none has succeeded so far. Until their deaths in the 1990s, Evelyn and Paul Trent earnestly insisted that the photos were of an actual UFO.
3. Manbhum, Bihar, India (1957): At least 800 villagers of Kadori, Borsa and Mangalda came out of their huts to witness a sight very strange to them. A flying-saucer-like UFO descended to a height of 500ft above ground, whirring like a motorcar engine. It hovered mid-air for a few minutes and took off at an incredible speed, leaving behind a lot of smoke.
4. Barney and Betty Hill (1961): Barney and Betty Hill reported ‘symptoms’ of alien abduction after sighting strange lights on a trip back from Canada. Investigation — which also involved hypnosis — came to the conclusion that they were subject to various lab tests by the aliens. Both of them recounted experiences of being examined by grey aliens.
Also see: UFO sighting in Turkey (2008)
5. The Canary Islands sightings, Spain (1976): Residents of Las Rosas, Gran Canaria, reported seeing a gigantic, translucent blue sphere hovering just above ground level. They saw two figures in the gigantic sphere, measuring 30m in diameter. The figures looked like humanoids. The sphere grew larger and larger before ultimately disappearing into the sky. At 9.27pm on the same night, the Navy personnel reported a strange light travelling along the horizon that later split into two distinct objects.
6. Iranian UFO chase (1976): On September 19, 1976, the Iranian air force received frantic calls about a strange light shining in Tehran. Fearing an enemy attack, the Iranian air Force dispatched two F-4 pilots for initial investigation. The pilots reported strange technical activity upon return. The first pilot’s aircraft system began to fail as he approached the UFO. Deciding to abort the mission, the aircraft regained full functioning capacity as soon as he returned. It gets even bizarre with the second one. The UFO launched a defensive attack — a bright beam of light — on the aircraft, which missed due to an evasive manoeuvre executed by the pilot. Tehran was witness to the typical alien-invasion signs — knocked out communications systems, loss of power supply and widespread mayhem on the ground — as the UFO continued to chase the aircraft across Tehran’s skies.
7. Rendlesham forest UFO landing (1980): Jointly operating US-UK air bases at Bentwaters and Woodbridge in the UK were on alert upon being buzzed by a UFO for several nights in 1980. On 27 December, the UFO seemed to have closed in for an encounter at Rendlesham forest as the locals started reporting strange lights in the area. The security patrol on duty found a saucer-shaped craft hovering a short distance off the ground. Moreover, they even saw grey aliens who seemed to be working on it. Those who did approach closer to investigate reported experiencing symptoms of altered reality — such as time displacement, “reality bending” phenomena and bizarre atmospheric anomalies.
8. Hudson Valley, New York sightings (1981): What makes this one stand apart are the sheer number of people who reported them, and the fact the flying saucers in this case weren’t circular discs, but triangular in shape. What made it eerie was that these UFOs didn’t make any sound as they hovered over the city. Some of them were reportedly so large that witnesses described them as a “floating city”.
9. Japan Air Lines Flight 1628 (1986): The crew of the Tokyo-bound flight from Paris was accompanied by more than one UFO for almost an hour as the Boeing 747 cargo carrier transited the skies over Alaska. The UFOs made motions that suggested gravity had no effect on them whatsoever. Air traffic controllers were not able to detect any UFO activity around the Boeing despite repeated assurances by the crew. The pilot, Captain Kenju Terauchi, is as credible a source one could find as he had served as a fighter pilot and logged more than 10,000 hours in flight.
Also see: UFO sighting at Kolkata, India (2007)
10. Kolkata, India (2007): A straight-out-of-a-Sci-Fi-movie fireball terrorised the residents of Kolkata in 2007. At 3.30am on October 29, witnesses described the gigantic object as a shape-shifting, vanishing ball of fire streaking over the sky. Scientists tried to pin a natural-cosmic-phenomenon tag on it — including a meteor — but ultimately agreed the shape-shifting ability made it hard to identify its origins.