History's Greatest Mysteries (2020) s04e05 Episode Script

The Phoenix Lights Phenomenon

Tonight, a shocking event
sends the city of Phoenix
into a panic.
More than 100 witnesses
called the UFO hotline.
Some believe it's one of
the largest scale UFO sightings
in history.
They were about 3,000 feet high,
They looked as though
they were kind of hovering.
But the question is,
what the heck is it?
Now, we reveal the top theories
behind this phenomenon.
What we find out is this
isn't an isolated incident.
These phenomena happen
all the time.
Is the government
covering something up?
Is Phoenix in the crosshairs
of a possible interstellar war?
Are we being targeted
for some reason?
What could possibly account for
the mysterious Phoenix Lights?
New York, New York,
December 16th, 2017.
News breaks of a secret
Pentagon program
unidentified aerial phenomenon,
also known as UFOs.
The New York Times publishes
a bombshell report
that details the work
of the Advanced Aerospace
Threat Identification Program,
a shadowy government group
that has spent 10 years
military encounters
with strange unknown objects
in the sky.
Here is another UFO bulletin.
For years, people have
reported encounters with UFOs.
Roswell, Lubbock, Belgium
the list goes on and on,
and stretches
as far back as antiquity.
this program's existence
is huge, because up
to this point
the government's position
has been deny, deny, deny.
And now,
they're not only admitting
that these lights in the sky
really are something,
but that they are,
in fact, unidentified.
Within months the government
declassifies videos
of some of these encounters.
Look at that thing, dude.
Including one
captured by the Navy in 2004,
known as the "Tic Tac Video."
My gosh.
100 miles off the coast
of San Diego,
radar tracks the object
descending from 15 miles high
down to 50 feet
in about one second.
Whoa, got it!
No known object
can fly that fast.
Oh my gosh, dude.
- Wow.
- What is that, man?
Look at it fly!
When jets intercept it,
the cylindrical craft
drops down below the water
What the is that, man?
then flies up
into the air,
and then disappears.
When radar detects the object,
it's already 60 miles away.
The video causes a sensation
when it's released.
It's not only massive
international news,
it's also vindication
vindication for people
who have seen these craft
and have spent years
swearing that they exist.
Perhaps none
feel more vindicated
than the citizens
who witnessed a strange event
on March 13th, 1997.
On the night of March 13th,
reports come in from Phoenix,
as well as California,
Nevada, and New Mexico.
People are describing
a huge V-shaped craft
moving southeast
along the region.
Around sunset,
a man in Henderson, Nevada,
observed and reported
a triangular-shaped aircraft
with lights underneath it
hovering over the desert.
He moves in closer
to get a better look,
and the object starts to move.
Now, he doesn't know
what he's looking at,
but he does know
this is not an airplane.
The sighting
of the unidentified craft
is quickly confirmed by others.
Twenty minutes later,
a retired police officer
calls to report that he's seeing
the same object
200 miles south of Henderson.
He follows it with his car,
and he's never closer to it
than about a mile.
And yet, even from there,
he can tell it's gigantic.
Reports continue to flood in.
At 8:20, Prescott Valley,
20 minutes later,
downtown Phoenix.
I was kind of surprised
to see it on the news,
but at the same time,
I was excited,
because I thought
I would get some answers
to explain this strange thing
that I'd just seen.
These were
incredibly bright lights.
They were completely motionless,
made no sound,
and these lights just hung there
directly over me,
and I was awestruck.
I observed these lights for
a period of about 30 minutes,
went inside,
came back out later,
and 45 minutes later,
this string of lights
is still in the sky.
Also among the eyewitnesses,
Dr. Lynne Kitei.
On March 13th,
1997, the Hale-Bopp comet
was in clear view
on a beautiful spring night
in the northwest sky.
Thousands of people went outside
to catch a glimpse of it.
I go outside,
and suddenly I notice
three amber orbs.
Every other light
out there glared.
These did not.
The light did not extend
outside the edge.
It was self-contained.
They were very soothing,
very mesmerizing.
And then, the top orb
started to shrink
very, very slowly,
until it was pea-size,
and then disappeared.
But it felt like
it was still there.
As Dr. Kitei
watches the sky,
calls pour in to local police
and news stations.
We start tonight
with those strange dots of light
that were the talk of the town.
More than 100 witnesses
called the UFO hotline.
For answers,
authorities immediately
reach out to Luke
Air Force Base.
Luke Air Force Base is a base
right in the heart of Phoenix,
and they fly a lot
of advanced aircraft.
So, obviously, if anybody
knows what's going on,
they would be
someone you would call
to find out what the heck
this is.
So, police, reporters,
and even the governor
are calling the base
to find out what's going on.
Luke Air Force Base
indicated that they had
no planes
up in the air at the time,
and they didn't know
anything about it.
It was basically, "Nothing to
see here, move along."
But four months later,
the base offers an explanation.
They indicated
that a team of A-10 Warthogs
from the Maryland National Guard
had deployed flares
over the Estrella Mountains
at that time.
Footage from that night
seems to support this theory,
at first.
It's getting closer
and closer, and we're saying,
you know, that thing's
coming right at us!
When you look
at the witness video,
I guess it's possible
they do kinda look like flares.
And military activity
is pretty prevalent in the area.
In addition to Luke,
there's Davis-Monthan Base,
also in Arizona.
And then there's Kirtland
and the Holloman bases
not too far away in New Mexico.
But eyewitnesses
quickly raise doubts.
So, the Phoenix Light event
really had two phases.
One was the large V-shaped craft
flying across the state,
and the other was the lights
over the Estrella Mountains.
However, when you look
at the flare theory,
the flares might explain
the lights over the mountains,
but it doesn't explain
the V-shaped aircraft
witnessed by thousands
of people.
It was so awesome
and so mind-boggling.
Massive, massive craft
right over people's heads.
It was silent.
Took off at blank speed
without even dispersing the air.
If you're trying to tell me
that flares
that are dropped
from an aircraft on a parachute
that drop haphazardly
with the wind,
have huge smoke trails
that are illuminated
by the flare itself,
and illuminate
the area around it.
They're heat-seeking
for missiles
that are coming
towards aircraft.
And not one person described
any of that.
And there are other red flags.
The Air Force claims
that the A-10 Warthogs
deployed the flares over
the Estrella Mountains
around 10:00 p.m.,
which is not typically
standard operating procedure.
In addition to that,
those flares
the LUU-2B/B flare
falls at a rate
of about eight feet per second.
And from the time
the first flare was dropped
to the last flare,
those flares would have dropped
some 1,500 feet.
Yet the video shows those lights
in a stationary position
for about 30 minutes.
And these amazing amber orbs
were just mind-boggling,
so different than anything
you've ever seen,
different from any other
light out there.
It definitely wasn't flares.
The massive craft
also leaves no trace on radar.
Air traffic controllers at
Sky Harbor International Airport
check their call logs
and their radar,
and found no indication
of these aircraft.
And if that's not
the definition of a UFO,
I don't know what is.
To silence the skeptics,
the Air Force decides to conduct
a flare-drop demonstration
for the public.
We get a very
public announcement
that three Air National Guards
were coming into town
to show everyone
the Phoenix Lights,
and we were ready.
And a lot of people
felt that exercise
didn't look similar to what
they had seen on March 13th.
Talk about a joke.
They tried to make a triangle.
It was upside-down
and fell apart immediately.
One of them just fizzled out.
Had huge smoke trails,
just what flares do.
It really put
the nail in the coffin.
They had their shot.
To date, the Phoenix Lights
have never been recreated
or explained.
It's almost comical
that this is what
they expect us to believe.
But fortunately,
I and many others in Phoenix
who saw the Phoenix Lights
that night
weren't about to take
the Air Force's word
at face value.
We were ready to dig in
and get answers.
After thousands
witness unexplained lights
in the sky above
Phoenix, Arizona, in 1997,
the city is desperate
for answers.
The March 13th, 1997
Phoenix Lights incident
was probably the largest
UFO mass sighting
in UFO history.
But the question is,
what the heck is it?
The military says it's flares,
but almost nobody
in Phoenix believes it.
They know what they saw,
they know what flares look like,
and these weren't flares.
One of the things that
I think bothers people the most
is the behavior of our military.
Initially, the Air Force
denies having any involvement
with the event,
but four months later
they come out with
this flare story.
Why is that?
Even Governor
Fife Symington himself,
a former Air Force pilot,
tried to make inquiries
to the military
as to the identification
of this object, and he himself
got the runaround.
And he's the governor
of the state of Arizona.
Symington was also skeptical
of the flare explanation.
He claimed that, you know,
flares don't fly in formation.
Is it possible the military
has something to hide?
So, many people feel
that Luke Air Force Base
is not letting on
everything they know.
And the reason
they could be doing that
is because they're protecting
some secret military technology.
Located 20 miles
northwest of downtown Phoenix,
Luke Air Force Base is home
to the most advanced aircraft
in the U.S.
Luke Air Force Base
is affectionately called
"The Home of the Fighter Pilot."
It's where the 56th Fighter Wing
is based.
And this is
the Air Force's version
of what the Navy famously calls
Top Gun.
Back in '97, it was the F-15,
the F-16s were coming out.
There were a whole bunch
of other kinds of aircraft
that could potentially be seen
being flown out
of Luke Air Force Base.
any fixed-wing aircraft
in the U.S. arsenal
has flown at Luke,
plus a few that we don't
know about,
because they're top-secret.
We know for certain
that the U.S. military
has tested top-secret weapons
and aircraft
in this area for decades.
Among the
state-of-the-art aircraft
initially flown here,
the X-1, the X-15,
and the Blackbird.
Each test is classified
and top-secret,
and for some, that's a clue.
These are all aircraft
that were developed
and tested in total secrecy
up over the deserts here.
If you would ask the military
about any of these
back when they were still
being developed,
you would have heard
the same kind of subterfuge
and denial that we heard with
the Phoenix Lights incident.
There's a high presence
of the military
in the state of Arizona,
and perhaps they were testing
some secret technology.
So, it makes sense that people
might have mistaken
what they saw on the night
of March 13th, '97,
for a UFO.
It wouldn't be
the first time that's happened.
In the 1980s
there were many UFO reports
in the state of Arizona.
However, those reports
ended up being identified
as the F-117A and the B-2 Bomber
that were in development
at the time.
When you look at these aircraft,
what do you see?
You see V-shaped aircraft
that look similar
with what they reported
in the Phoenix Lights,
albeit smaller.
More recently,
we've had some UFO sightings
that actually turned out
to be advanced spy drones,
like the Air Force's
RQ-170 and RQ-180.
Engineers contracted
by the government
are currently at work
on a new stealth bomber,
the B-21, which is scheduled
to be operational
in the mid-2020s.
That project wasn't greenlit
until 2015,
so it's not responsible
for the Phoenix Lights.
But it just goes to show they're
always working on something.
If nothing else,
we know that the Southwest
is a hotbed for innovation
for aerospace
in the public
and private sector.
Even so, some doubt the military
has the advanced technology
witnesses say they observed
in Phoenix in 1997.
Witnesses describe something
out of a sci-fi movie.
They see this giant
V-shaped craft
which was hundreds
and hundreds of yards across.
By comparison, known aircraft
such as the B-2 Bomber,
the wingspan is only 172 feet.
Or the largest plane
known to be flown,
the Stratolaunch,
only had a wingspan
of 385 feet.
Our government has never flown
anything this big.
The Phoenix Lights craft
also moved slowly.
Estimates place it
at about 15 to 30 miles an hour,
and it was maybe 100 to 200 feet
off the ground at times.
He thinks that he said
if he had a tennis ball,
he could have hit it.
He could have thrown
a tennis ball at it,
- it was that close.
- It was very close.
I just could have nailed it.
Others report seeing the object
come to a stop
and hover in place.
Airplanes can't do that.
There's not enough airflow
to produce loft
with their wings.
Helicopters can,
but the Phoenix Lights craft
moved silently.
The flight characteristics
that they describe
are unlike any other machine
we have in the air today.
And keep in mind,
this is back in 1997,
so 25 years ago, they had
something this incredible,
and it still hasn't ever
seen the light of day?
But John Powell,
a private defense contractor
for JP Aerospace,
believes this capability exists,
and will soon be made public.
Powell and JP Aerospace
were awarded a grant in 2014
to develop slow-moving,
top-secret classified
triangular aircraft.
So, Powell believes that perhaps
what they saw
during the Phoenix Lights
was something similar
to what he's been developing.
The specs of these
are highly classified,
but JP Aerospace
was able to get a prototype
of this thing going.
Meanwhile, Arizona lawmakers
continue to press
the military for more answers.
So, Frances Emma Barwood
was a City of Phoenix
She launched an investigation
into the Phoenix Lights
because no one else would.
She interviewed
over 700 witnesses.
She offered to let the military
talk to those witnesses,
and they chose not to interview
a single person.
Then-Senator John McCain
put in a formal request
for more information,
but that request was denied.
If it's military, show me.
We have not seen anything
even close to what thousands saw
on March 13th, 1997,
right above their heads.
The technology
has never been seen.
If it was military
experimental aircraft, show me.
Until really
the government comes out
and says this was them,
and it is some sort
of classified project,
people just still aren't gonna
know what to believe in,
and it'll remain a mystery.
Phoenix, Arizona,
April 21st, 2008,
nearly 11 years
after an entire city
witnesses a strange UFO event,
it happens again.
So, on Monday
at about 8:05 p.m.,
again, you know, the police,
the Air Force,
authorities are being
inundated with reports
that there's another set of
lights hovering over the city.
It's unbelievable, or maybe
it's totally believable.
If it happened once,
why couldn't it happen again?
Live and late-breaking
right now, they're back.
Did you see them tonight?
Many people called our news room
about lights in the sky.
People reported that
there was a series
of four or five
orange-red lights
over the north valley.
It's like a repeat
of the 1997 incident.
People come out running out,
and they see
a V-shaped formation of lights.
Initially there was four lights.
They were about 3,000 feet high,
They looked as though they were
kind of hovering or floating.
But as it progresses,
this event plays out differently
from the 1997 sighting.
As this 2008 formation hovers,
the shape changes
from a triangle into a square.
The previous lights just
remained uniform
in their V-shape.
Lights in the sky,
did you see them tonight?
Many people were calling
our news room.
And if you missed it,
take a look.
One man in North Phoenix caught
the lights on home video,
15 minutes' worth.
Whatever you believe happened
back in 1997,
people are convinced
that it's happening again.
This time, they won't
have to wait long for answers.
Unlike the Phoenix Lights,
the mystery to this event
only lasted about 12 hours,
because the next day,
April 22nd,
a man called in admitting
that he was responsible.
It was all a hoax.
The whole thing was staged.
The man tied flares
to helium balloons,
and then let them go
one minute apart.
Is this a relief?
Is it disappointing?
Does it make people angry?
It's hard to know how to feel.
But one thing it does
is it makes people
look back at the real
Phoenix Lights event
11 years prior, and think,
"Well, wait, what if that
was a hoax too?"
Back in 1997 while they're
looking for answers
and people are going
to the government,
there are a lot of people
that think
the whole thing was just a gag.
A 1997 press conference
held by Arizona's
then-governor, Fife Symington,
seems to bolster that theory.
We're initially excited
and think we're finally gonna
get a real investigation.
And Fife Symington saw it,
and he's one of us.
And now, I'll ask Officer Stein
and his colleagues
to escort the accused
into the room
so that we may all look
upon the guilty party.
Don't get him
too close to me, please.
It's you know.
In walks Governor Symington's
chief of staff, Jay Heiler,
dressed in an alien suit
and handcuffs.
It's met with
laughter and applause.
It really does the whole thing
a huge disservice.
The problem with
the press conference
was it made getting answers
so much harder.
If you ask
any questions about it,
you were labeled a crackpot.
Those kinds of things
are not helpful.
And for people
who are really interested
and they wanna find out
what's going on
Thank you.
You can't get
to the bottom of anything
because no one is taking
it seriously.
After that news conference,
the national media
picked up on that,
that it's a joke
and not a serious event,
and that became the story.
It's a story
some refuse to accept.
Most people who thought
it was a hoax and laughed at it
didn't actually see it happen.
But unfortunately,
I think that laughter
and skepticism was loud enough
that it kept many of us
from finding more answers.
It's unlikely that
the Phoenix Lights
could be explained as a hoax,
because you would need
someone to convince people
along a 400-mile length
of desert
that they're seeing an object
as large as a cruise ship
with lights on it
as large as swimming pools.
Then you would have to pull
a second stunt
and convince a population
of 2.5 million people
that, you know, this large
V-shaped group of lights
flew over the city.
That would be
awfully difficult to hoax.
Twenty-five years later,
if it was a hoax,
I would think that someone
would have come forward
now that it's become
That has not happened to date.
The individual
responsible for the 2008 prank
can't even hold his tongue
for 24 hours.
Saying it's a hoax
is really saying
that all of the witnesses
didn't understand what
they were seeing.
It's saying that
they were gullible rubes.
Then, 10 years
after the 1997 sighting,
Governor Symington
changes his story
and challenges the hoax theory.
So, in 2007, Governor Symington
came out to indicate
that not only was
the Phoenix Lights not a hoax,
but that he, in fact,
saw the craft himself.
Well, I saw a a huge craft
just kind of come
right over Squaw Peak
that was you know,
it was just breathtaking.
At the time people
in the city of Phoenix
reported a UFO sighting,
Symington was under
such political pressure
as governor of the state,
he did not want to add
to those political woes
by claiming to have seen
a UFO himself.
Thanks to him,
for about a decade
the Phoenix Lights is really
largely viewed as a hoax.
But his abrupt about-face
creates renewed interest
in the case.
It returns to the news cycle,
and it comes at a time
when people
are more willing to believe.
It's no longer a joke
or a source of embarrassment.
It's a genuine mystery.
After news of the Pentagon's
secret UFO monitoring program
makes headlines in 2022,
Congress vows
to investigate further.
That spring, the House holds
the first public hearing
on UFOS in more than 50 years.
Those who witnessed
the Phoenix Lights
hope it can finally
lead to answers.
Congress talks to dozens
of defense
and intelligence officials,
and collects thousands
and thousands of documents.
All of that research is compiled
into a House Committee report
about UFO encounters
like the one
that happened in Phoenix.
And while we know
that people have seen UFOs
from time to time,
what we didn't know
is that the military themselves
have had hundreds
of their own UFO encounters
which they've been keeping quiet
until now.
UAPs are unexplained, it's true,
but they are real.
They need to be investigated,
and many threats they pose
need to be mitigated.
This is huge.
This is the U.S. government
going on record
to say these things are real.
They've collected 144 incidents
about these UAPs.
Eighty of those
they have data on,
infrared, sensory,
and of course, video.
Well, describe what
we have seen in that.
What are we observing?
What you see here is aircraft
that is operating
in a U.S. Navy training range
that has observed
a spherical object in that area.
And as they fly by it,
they take a video.
Several declassified
government videos
are released, all seeming proof
that extraterrestrial
encounters exist.
And suddenly,
we have all the evidence we need
about what happened in Phoenix.
Thanks to the hearings,
we find out
that these encounters
aren't isolated incidents.
They happen all the time.
I mean, how else
can you reconcile the facts?
A silently floating,
hovering craft
the size of several
football fields,
invisible to radar.
There's nothing on Earth
that fits that description.
Believers like Michael Carter
cite a 1997 call
made to AM radio show
Coast to Coast
as further evidence
of an alien encounter
over Phoenix.
The call is from a corpsman,
someone who actually works
at Luke Air Force Base.
He has an incredible story
about what happened on the base
when this object appeared
over the sky
of northern Arizona.
The corpsman said
the base gets a call about 8:15
about a large object moving out
of the sky in the northwest.
Soon afterwards,
an alarm goes off,
and all hell breaks loose.
Luke Air Force Base keeps
two F-15s on standby
for emergency use.
And on the evening
of March 13th, 1997,
allegedly they scrambled
those two F-15s
to intercept the object.
The radio caller
doesn't know what it is,
and to be frank, I don't think
the pilots do either.
The caller claims that the event
had scared the hell
out of the pilots,
but they had gotten
some gun camera footage
of the object.
If the caller
is telling the truth,
the Air Force may have
actually recorded
the Phoenix Lights UFO.
Which means,
possibly locked away
in some secret vault somewhere,
we may actually have footage.
We may have proof of what
these pilots actually saw.
if the video exists,
it's never released,
and the anonymous caller
has no additional information.
He isn't one
of the pilots sent out.
He's just on the base
when he hears all the commotion
and the base goes into lockdown,
so he can't say exactly
what the potential spacecraft
was doing in the area.
Some theorists believe
it's not there by coincidence.
Within a 500-mile radius
of the city of Phoenix,
there are several
secret military bases.
Area 51 to the north,
Edwards Air Force Base
to the west,
and White Sands
Missile Base to the east.
If aliens were scouting
Earth and its defenses,
this would be
a perfect place to go.
Arizona is also home
to several nuclear sites,
areas that recent evidence
suggests may attract
unidentified aircraft.
We're having more
and more sightings now,
and within those sightings
there are certain patterns.
And what we're seeing is that
there are more events
where these UFOs are hovering
over our nuclear
military instillations.
The phenomena isn't
limited to the United States.
There are sightings in Mexico,
Italy, and even Iran.
There's a series
of UFO-related events
that happen in
Iran in 2004 and 2005
over one of their secret
nuclear sites.
Several times during
that two-year period
pilots near the Bushehr
Nuclear Facility
have encounters with
large luminous cylinders
that look and sound similar to
the quote-unquote "Tic-Tac UFO"
that U.S. Navy pilots
saw in San Diego.
And in one of those encounters,
an Iranian pilot
actually engaged
with the object.
As news of such events
continues to spread,
more become convinced that
what happened in Phoenix
isn't an isolated incident.
Arizona's vast desert
has been home to humans
for many thousands of years.
And according to some,
there are signs
in the archeological record
that suggest
the Phoenix Lights incident
is far from unique.
When you look back
into the history of this region,
it dawns on you that before
we even had the technology
where we could take pictures
of this,
and videos, and what have you,
this part of the country
was always having
these kinds of sightings.
The Native Americans
who live in this part
of the Southwestern
United States
have a very complex mythology
in which we see numerous
references and stories
about the so-called
"star people."
These are powerful,
yet benevolent beings
arriving from other worlds.
Both the Hopi and the Zuni
trace their ancestry
back to beings
that they believe arrived
from the region of the Pleiades,
which is a star cluster
about 400 light years away
near the constellation
of Taurus.
We see myths and legends
about the star people,
a benevolent but powerful people
that these tribes
have interacted with.
These myths and artwork
suggest this area
has been a hub
for extraterrestrial activity,
and that the Phoenix Lights
is just part
of a repeating pattern,
that these star people
have been coming back
time and time again.
Some believe
the Phoenix Lights incident
is just one in a series of
extraterrestrial encounters
that have been going on
for a long time,
but started to increase in 1995.
The March of '97 event
was certainly seen
by the most people,
but some believe
there were several
previous fly-bys.
One of them was witnessed
by several people.
They stated
that on January 21st, 1995,
they saw a triangular formation
of large lights.
They weren't bright,
but they were really big.
They looked odd.
I step out on the balcony
and immediately notice
an eerie silence.
The entire object
turned against the wind,
elevated slowly, and then moved
in synchrony behind
South Mountain.
But it felt like
something was watching me.
According to the
National UFO Reporting Center,
the sightings in Arizona
grow increasingly frequent
in the two years before
the 1997 Phoenix event.
have found that coming up
to the 1997 event,
that there was an increase
of sightings
of triangular craft.
In fact, in January
and February of 1997
we have multiple reports
from multiple locations
of the same formation
of lights over Arizona.
Air traffic controllers
at Sky Harbor
International Airport
observed five
equidistance lights
that rose about 1,000 feet
above the deck,
they floated back
behind South Mountain,
and dropped out of sight.
They had no idea what they saw.
It wasn't on radar,
and they behaved in a way
that was unexplainable.
And right before
the Phoenix Lights,
a tiny Arizona town is treated
to an encounter of their own.
On March 12th, 1997,
the night before
the Phoenix Lights incident,
a group of people made reports
of UFOs
in a town called Leupp.
Leupp is 200 miles
north of Phoenix,
south of the Grand Canyon
and the Hopi Indian Reservation,
who as we've seen,
share a rich mythology
of alien visitation.
A large V-shaped aircraft
appeared in their valley
with about a dozen
other small craft,
and they began to float
and engage each other
almost like
an extraterrestrial ballet.
And these people pulled out
their lawn chairs
and watched it like
they were watching the fireworks
on the 4th of July.
But why did
these possible visits ramp up,
and why did they stop?
That's the real question.
Let's say Arizona has been
getting regular alien visitation
for millennia.
What's so special
about the mid '90s
that we start to get
a flurry of activity?
We go from a few visits
per century
to a few visits per year,
to several in the same month.
Then, absolutely nothing.
Can anybody explain that?
Despite the many
thousands of eyewitnesses
to the 1997 Phoenix event,
the cause of the incident
remains a mystery.
It's military flares,
it's an experimental aircraft,
it's a hoax, it's aliens.
Is the government
covering something up?
Are we being targeted
for some reason?
Each theory
has some arguments for it
and some against it,
and each by itself leaves a lot
of unanswered questions.
Many theorists say,
"Wait a minute,
"we've had these answers here
the whole time."
The events on March 13th, 1997,
isn't just about just one
of these theories.
It's about all of them.
It all begins
around 8:00 p.m.
This is the period when people
actually see the spacecraft.
The hull of it and the structure
of it is visible.
The silent movements,
the anti-gravity technology
it seems to exhibit.
Knowing what we now know
about the long history
of UFO contact
in the United States,
many are convinced that this
is an alien ship.
It does a low slow pass
across Nevada and Arizona,
sparking hundreds of reports
to authorities.
As we know from
the Luke Air Force Base
radio caller,
these UFO sightings
get the attention
of the military.
They scramble their jets
on a course to intercept.
According to that airman,
they actually see the craft,
and perhaps even film it.
Now, the airman
claims that F-15s
were sent out to investigate.
But simultaneous reports
here, here, and here
show that
that may not have been so.
Many don't believe
they sent F-15s
next to the alien ship.
People didn't see any F-15s,
radar didn't pick up any F-15s,
nobody heard any F-15s.
These are pretty loud
fighter planes.
You know when an F-15
is flying overhead.
One thing that characterizes
this whole event
is how quiet
the whole thing was.
The military actually sends out
a top-secret experimental craft.
People over here
are seeing an alien ship,
while people over here
are seeing
a top-secret military aircraft.
Is it possible
that the U.S.
scrambled a top-secret
experimental craft
to intercept
the alleged alien vessel?
One thing is certain,
whatever is in the air
doesn't stay around long.
Why it leaves, we don't know.
Were they spooked
by the military intercept?
Are they trying
to gather intelligence
on our defense capabilities?
Whatever the reason,
they took off.
Now, if this theory is correct,
the military
has a problem on its hands.
They know a large amount
of the population
in the Phoenix area
has seen this alien spaceship.
But in 1997,
the government's policy on UFOs
is very clear
deny, deny, deny.
Thanks to recent
congressional hearings,
it's clear the military
has a long clandestine history
of encounters with UAPs,
as well as a history
of cover-ups.
Perhaps the Phoenix Lights
is one of them.
And Luke Air Force Base
is a possible ground zero.
So, the bigwigs
at Luke Air Force Base
speak to their superiors,
and they realize
they have precious little time
to figure out how to deal
with this situation.
Within a half hour or so,
they come up with a plan,
a subterfuge,
which is a little hoax
of their own.
They send up A-10 Warthogs
to drop a series of flares
right over Phoenix.
They choose a very visible place
where everyone will see.
So, if they were going to do
a secret quote-unquote
"training exercise,"
why would they drop these flares
in front of 2.5 million people
knowing they were gonna
freak out about it?
If it was what they say it was,
they would have done it
in seclusion.
They choose to drop the flares
in front of the whole city
on purpose,
because it's not
a training exercise,
it's a distraction.
Their explanation
works initially.
While 1,000 people
are seeing an alien spaceship,
a million-plus people are seeing
flares in the sky.
That's the story
the Air Force releases,
and they're able
to convince people for a while.
They at least confuse
enough people to create doubt.
They even convince the governor
to ignore what he saw
and call the whole thing
a joke on national television.
If it is just military flares
and I come out
screaming about aliens,
I'm gonna be a laughing stock.
Once you have people thinking
in that way, you've won.
So, there's an alien encounter.
Then it's the sighting of
a top-secret military aircraft.
Then it's flares
used to create a hoax
and then to cover up the truth.
Thanks to new
government transparency,
believers are optimistic
the truth
will someday be known.
Now that the armed forces
are more open
about UFO sightings,
there's renewed hope
that they might come out
with more information
about what actually
happened in Phoenix.
What did they encounter in 1997?
Did they actually
capture it on film?
As they continue to declassify
these files and videos,
maybe we'll find out.
As congressmen, senators,
and even presidents have said,
the focus of their research
is to determine
if UFOs pose
a threat to America.
Some people are curious,
and then there are some people
who are really scared.
Is Phoenix in the crosshairs
of a possible interstellar war?
Well, the public
would like to know that.
It's a hard thing to explain,
but a lot of people
who experienced this event
came away feeling something,
wondering if they were meant
to see it,
meant to feel it,
meant to experience
some sort of connection
with what they saw.
Some even describe feeling calm
or even being told
to not be afraid.
People were in awe
and in wonder, curious.
So many cars pulled over
to watch this amazing,
extraordinary sight.
In real time and in long term,
it affected the experiencers
very profoundly.
Who are you?
What are you?
Do you know that I'm here?
I'd love to meet you.
Today, the U.S. government's
and studying of UFOs
continues under the authority
of the Unidentified Aerial
Phenomenon Task Force.
There's even a new branch
of the military to assist
the United States Space Force.
And perhaps together
they'll gain insight
into what really happened
in Phoenix.
I'm Laurence Fishburne.
Thank you for watching
"History's Greatest Mysteries."
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