An alleged "flying saucer" seen over Passaic, New Jersey in 1952

An unidentified flying object, or UFO, in its most general definition, is any apparent anomaly in the sky that is not identifiable as a known object or phenomenon. Culturally, UFOs are associated with claims of visitation by extraterrestrial life and have become popular subjects in fiction.

While UFOs are often later identified as an explainable object, sometimes identification may not be possible owing to the usually low quality of evidence related to UFO sightings which is generally anecdotal evidence and eyewitness accounts.

Stories of fantastical celestial apparitions have been told since antiquity, but the term "UFO" was officially created in 1953 by the United States Air Force (USAF) to serve as a catch-all for such reports. In its initial definition, the USAF stated that a UFO was "any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type, or which cannot be positively identified as a familiar object." Accordingly, the term was initially restricted to that fraction of cases which remained unidentified after investigation, as the USAF was interested in potential national security reasons and/or "technical aspects" (see Air Force Regulation 200-2).

During the late 1940s and through the 1950s, UFOs were often referred to popularly as "flying saucers" or "flying discs". The term UFO became more widespread during the 1950s, at first in technical literature, but later in popular use. UFOs garnered considerable interest during the Cold War, an era associated with a heightened concern for national security. Various studies have concluded that the phenomenon "does not represent a threat to national security nor does it contain anything worthy of scientific pursuit".

The term Ufology is used to describe the collective efforts of those who study reports and associated evidence of unidentified flying objects. UFOs have become a prevalent theme in modern culture, and the social phenomena has been the subject of academic research in sociology and psychology.


Studies have established that the majority of UFO observations are misidentified conventional objects or natural phenomena—most commonly aircraft, balloons, noctilucent clouds, nacreous clouds, or astronomical objects such as meteors or bright planets with a small percentage even being hoaxes. Between 5% and 20% of reported sightings are not explained, and therefore can be classified as unidentified in the strictest sense.

While proponents of "The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis" suggest that these unexplained reports are of alien spacecraft, the null hypothesis cannot be excluded that these reports are simply other more prosaic phenomena that cannot be identified due to lack of complete information or due to the necessary subjectivity of the reports.

There is also the "Interdimensional Hypothesis". UFOlogist John Keel wrote about interdimensional tricksters he called "Ultraterrestrials". John Keel thought that the possibility of UFOs being spaceships from another planet was not very likely. Keel said:

"[They] seemed like mischievous masses of energy playing simpleminded games with a simpleminded human. As a professional simpleton I have seen so many of these strange lights that I have actually lost count. The sheer quantity of [these] objects and the frequency of their appearances negates the extraterrestrial hypothesis".

Early History

Unexplained aerial observations have been reported throughout history. Some were undoubtedly astronomical in nature: comets, bright meteors, one or more of the five planets that can be seen with the naked eye, planetary conjunctions, or atmospheric optical phenomena such as parhelia and lenticular clouds.

An example is Halley's Comet, which was recorded first by Chinese astronomers in 240 BC and possibly as early as 467 BC. Such sightings throughout history often were treated as supernatural portents, angels, or other religious omens.

Some current-day UFO researchers have noticed similarities between some religious symbols in medieval paintings and UFO reports though the canonical and symbolic character of such images is documented by art historians placing more conventional religious interpretations on such images.

Waves / Flaps

Waves, or Flaps, as they are often called, is terminology used for a large amounts strange sightings being reported by witnesses in a specific area at a specific time. Its a way of describing a sudden influx of reports of the similar things in one concentrated area. Like a wave coming in from the ocean or a wave of physical letters and paper reports pouring into an office.

There is also the idea that a large amounts of sightings can be used as almost a form of statistical data to understand where an entity may occupy. This term is used for UFO sightings, monster sightings and pretty much any strange report.

Michigan’s UFO Flap, March 1966

In March of 1966, a wave, flurry or Flap, of UFO sightings across southeast Michigan aroused media interest, bringing the issue of the UFO back to popular attention.

Controversy arose when the Air Force's scientific consultant concluded that at least some of the sightings were the result of "Swamp Gas," an explanation summarily rejected by witnesses and other state citizens.

The ensuing public outcry was instrumental in bringing about the "Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects", the only academic assessment of the topic completed to date, and the last attempt on the part of the US Air Force to settle the unrelenting mystery of the UFO.

Ohio's UFO Chase, April 1966

On April 16th 1966, several police officers in Portage County, Ohio, pursued an unidentified flying object for half an hour before watching it disappear into the night sky. The media brought the story to public attention, and popular interest compelled the Air Force to conduct an investigation.

The Air Force's conclusion that the officers had misidentified ordinary occurrences opened the witnesses up to a torrent of ridicule. Some of the witnesses, already emotionally disturbed by what they'd seen, were so harshly scrutinized that they quit the force to escape the public eye.

West Virginia's UFO Flap 1966

John Keel was pushed into the flying-saucer field in 1966 by an editor who wanted a "definitive" article on the subject. As he attempted to find UFO experts and get the Air Force’s side of the story, Michigan’s 1966 UFO flurry seeped across Ohio into West Virginia, where began an eighteen-month series of reports of a flying objects.

When John Keel heard reports of The Scarberry and Mallette MothMan Sighting, he was interested and so he drove over 800 miles that December to Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Aside from his Mothman investigation, There had also been countless UFO sightings up and down the Ohio River all that year. Eerie diamond-brilliant lights passed over Point Pleasant every night at 8:30 on a regular schedule.

Keel decided to investigate the situation. He inspected mutilated animals in the farm fields of West Virginia, and spent many cold and scary nights on hilltops watching lights in the sky. When he signaled them with a flashlight in Morse code they actually seemed to respond. If he flashed the word "descend", they would drop downward in a falling leaf like motion.


'John Keel On Mothman' September 2007 FATE Magazine Article

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