In the Bible's Book of Ezekiel, a mysterious ship appears from the sky in Chaldea, modern-day Kuwait. The next wave of mysterious apparitions showed up in fourth-century China when a “moon boat” was documented floating over the country once every 12 years. More strange sightings were noted around Rome in 218 B.C., Germany in 1561, Hull, England, in 1801, and multiple times during World War II when allied pilots used the term “foo fighters” to describe the odd circles of light pilots noticed flanking their planes during combat.
The term “UFO,” short for “unidentified flying object,” was coined in 1953 by the United States Air Force as a bucket term for such reports as the foo fighters in WWII. Stateside sightings were hardly restricted to military flyover zones, however. Here, the first recorded UFO sighting is from 1639 when John Winthrop wrote in his diary about a large, strange light in the sky that shot back and forth long before the time of satellites or planes. By the time he and the other men on his boat got their wits about them, their boat was a mile from where it had been when they first spotted the light.
The first documented image of a UFO was captured in 1870 on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. More sightings were reported at Mount Rainier in Washington in 1947, and of course several in Roswell, N.M. Since then, countless numbers of unusual shapes in the sky—and their supposed inhabitants—have been exhaustively reported without sufficient explanations beyond the possible existence of extraterrestrial life.
A surge in eyewitness accounts begot even more sightings, and ways to guard against invasions and abductions—more than 40,000 Americans bought into alien protection insurance, which offers customers monetary relief should a loved one get carted away by little green men. As recently as last year, Texas reported a wave of UFO sightings even as overall sightings have declined. In spite of hundreds of thousands of sightings, reports, and claimed abductions (researchers of one Roper Poll in 1991 estimate 4 million Americans think they've been abducted by aliens) worldwide, the official position of the government thus far has been that such alien activity stems from hoaxes or simple cases of mistaking other objects like weather balloons for alien life. Of course, UFOs are simply that: unidentified objects, which are not necessarily the same things as evidence of extraterrestrial life.
Since its founding in 1974, the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) has documented around 90,000 UFO sightings, with almost 95% of those sightings supposedly easily explained away as military tests, weather balloons, or other terrestrial activity. Still, in December of 2017, the New York Times brought to light the Pentagon program Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), a $22 million investigation funded and carried out by the U.S. government into UFO reports from 2007 to 2012. This investigation came decades after more well-known programs such as the 1952 Project Blue Book, which inspired the 2019 History Channel series by the same name.
Using data from NUFORC's 24/7 hotline, which has been around since 1974, Stacker compiled a ranking of the states with the most reported UFO sightings. The website details not only the total number of sightings in each state, but also the odds of spotting a UFO for a resident in each. Of note is that almost three-quarters of all UFO sighting reports in the United States occur between 4 p.m. and midnight, and tend to peak between 9 and 10 p.m. Food for thought next time you're out scoping for alien life.
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2/ Bethany Beach, Delaware—PxHere
- Number of sightings since 1974: 134
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 3
Delaware may rank low on how many UFO sightings it gets, but where it falls short on sightings it makes up for with imagination. The state is home to two prefab, UFO-shaped structures created in the ‘60s by a Finnish architect who thought the design could provide a solution to the housing shortage on Earth. UFO sightings in the last decade center largely around odd light formations in the sky and, in February 2019, a possible spacecraft with multicolored lights being pushed out of the airspace by five (presumably terrestrial) planes.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 203
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 4.6
Today, your odds of seeing a UFO in Nevada are 1 in 69,600. But with the Cold War and McCarthyism at their height (and a smaller population to boot), odds of spying unexplained crafts in the 1950s—particularly in the proximity of the Nevada Test and Training Range and Area 51—were significantly higher.
Area 51 is the most well-known military site in the world that doesn't appear on any public U.S. government maps. Many believe the site was and is used for alien experimentation; conspiracy theorists unite around the theory that this is the spot where members of the military hid and eventually covered up evidence of the 1947 Roswell incident in New Mexico—and may even have served as the set for faking the moon landing.
Military personnel and aerospace company Lockheed Martin stand by their claims of using Area 51 purely for test flights of new aircraft, such as the maiden flight of the U-2 bomber, and for experiments during the top-secret Cold War Oxcart program, which sought to create a craft that could fly undetected. Programs and trials such as these easily explain away some—though not all—of the UFO reports at the time.
Near Area 51 is Rachel, Nev., which tourists can reach via the Extraterrestrial Highway and enjoy a bite to eat or place to rest at the motel and restaurant Little A'Le'Inn. If you can't make the trip, but have a hankering for other alien accounts in the state, check out former nuclear physicist and ex-military American weather specialist Charles Hall's book “Millennial Hospitality” about his alien encounters with aliens at Caesar's Palace in Vegas.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 302
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 6.9
2019's only official report so far of a UFO in South Dakota describes 12 orange lights traveling west to east across the sky in Sioux Falls. But even with such an anticlimactic sighting, the state remains your best bet for seeing a UFO, with odds of 1 in 11,200 accounting for reportings and population.
One of the state's most famous UFO accounts is from 1953 in what has come to be known as the Ellsworth Case. On Aug. 6, 45 witnesses in Bismarck claimed to have seen a red light in the night sky that hovered for three hours in varying states of stillness and motion. A fighter pilot pursued the light, but was unable to catch it. The sightings continued throughout the night, with the addition of more lights, different movements, and multiple locations cited.
Tales of UFO sightings have continued since; a spate of reports in 1974 included Lake and Moody counties, where farm animals were found with their blood drained and organs precisely removed in cases that appeared almost identical to later reports in Nebraska and throughout the U.S.
Strange tales in the state don't end there: In 2014, a Sioux Tribe security officer came forward to report hundreds of lights encircling his vehicle while he drove. And in 2015, a diamond-shaped UFO was spotted in Egan, Neb.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 307
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 7
Throughout the month of July in 1952, a series of sightings known today as the “Big Flap” put Washington D.C. residents into a panic. It began July 19: Repeated radar blips and sightings of lights moving at speeds and trajectories (unusual enough to rule out shooting stars or aircraft) inspired the U.S. Air Force to send fighter jets into the sky to intercept what was assumed to be enemy aircraft and possibly a Soviet-led invasion. The radar signals disappeared each time jet fighters approached and reappeared when they moved away. The signals returned the following week, two more F-94 jets gave chase, and the blips again vanished. One jet pilot claimed to see a light in the distance, but couldn't close in on it. The government gave the official excuse of a “temperature inversion” to explain the mystery away.
More recent reports have been middling at best (with just one highly unsubstantiated report so far in 2019), however, independent research into alien activity continues in earnest and includes questions about underground holdouts in D.C. that may be tracking UFOs, potential UFO bases, and hundreds of eyewitness accounts from the last several years.
6/ Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming—PxHere
- Number of sightings since 1974: 314
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 7.1
Two triangular UFOs with three blue lights were spotted over Cheyenne's countryside on March 4, 2019, just a few weeks after almost a dozen multicolored lights were recorded traveling north over Riverton at various altitudes. Local residents' tendencies to look skyward is perhaps best illustrated in Green River: When a comet crashed into Jupiter in 1994, Wyoming's Green River city council turned its local airstrip into a refuge for potentially fleeing Jovians. The "Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport" has to date only shown evidence of terrestrial life.
7/ Sky Meadows State Park, Virginia—Aneta Kaluzna // Wikimedia Commons
- Number of sightings since 1974: 464
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 10.5
Two UFO sightings were reported to the National UFO Reporting Center in Virginia on April 4, 2019. At 6:48 a.m., an eyewitness claimed to have seen a light blue circular craft darting across the sky in Virginia Beach headed east. Seven minutes later, an eyewitness at the Norfolk Naval Station 23 miles northwest claimed to see what resembled a shooting star with a green glow that never faded and a short tail. The object moved without noise quickly across the sky and disappeared in 10 seconds. There were 2,348 UFO sightings reported throughout the state between 2001 and 2015, or about 27.9 sightings per 100,000 people.
8/ print57 // Flickr
- Number of sightings since 1974: 472
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 10.7
Two of the most iconic flying saucer photos of the ‘60s were snapped in 1967 in Woonsocket, R.I. The first, on June 10, was taken by Harold A. Trudel, who pulled his car over in East Woonsocket in order to wait for a UFO sighting (several of which he claimed to have already experienced in the area). The seven images he captured over the course of five minutes have long been disputed. The other photo was captured on June 18 and bears striking similarities to the craft George Adamski claimed to have captured on film in 1952 (which one German scientist said was nothing more than a faked photo using a surgical lamp).
Seven UFO sightings have been filed in 2019 so far in the Ocean State, ranging from run-of-the-mill colorful spheres and cigar-shaped craft to the unusual, like a sighting allegedly verified by multiple witnesses of a purple craft with yellow stripe seemingly floating unmoving in the Cranston sky.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 513
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 11.7
Two Harvard astronomers in 2017 released a draft paper about 'Oumuamua (Hawaiian for “scout” or “messenger”), a cigar-shaped UFO spotted with the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii in October of that year. The paper suggests the spinning craft—roughly a quarter-mile long and with no detectable tail—may indeed be a sign of alien life from well outside our solar system.
10/ Public Domain
- Number of sightings since 1974: 542
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 12.3
Two fishermen on Pascagoula River in 1975 claimed to have been abducted by aliens. While Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker's story was met with cynicism at the time, three more witnesses came forward this year to substantiate the claims. Parker, who died in 2011, at the time assumed the blue light on the water meant cops had shown up to kick the men off the property. Then, he said, he noticed the lights were coming from above. According to the story, three aliens without legs injected the men with a sedative, abducted them, and performed physical examinations aboard the spacecraft before releasing the men back along the river.
Other incidents in the state include a 1948 sighting by pilots Clarence S. Chiles and John B. Whitted (along with their passenger) as the former U.S. Air Force officers flew a propeller plane over Alabama on their way from Houston, Texas, to Atlanta, Ga. Their sighting—of a wingless craft emitting blue light from its hull—launched a top-secret investigation that was later destroyed.
11/ cappi thompson // Flickr
- Number of sightings since 1974: 545
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 12.4
Betty and Barney Hill's 1961 alien abduction along Route 3 in Lancaster, N.H., remains one of the most highly publicized stories of alien contact in the world. Under hypnosis, the couple independently recalled being kidnapped, medically examined, and released by bald-headed aliens with oblong eyes in a cigar-shaped, floating craft. Today, believers can visit a 50th-anniversary plaque commemorating the abduction along the roadside near Lincoln, N.H.
12/ Echo Bluff State Park, Missouri—GoodFreePhotos
- Number of sightings since 1974: 615
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 14
The Rev. William Huffman in April of 1941 was called by the local sheriff to the site of a plane crash between Cape Girardeau and Chaffee, Mo., to deliver last rites. When the reverend arrived, he discovered it was not a terrestrial plane crash at all, but rather a damaged flying saucer that had caused a fire in a neighbor's field and two alien bodies, one of which was already dead and the other dying and unable to breathe. Members of the local Army corps arrived, barricaded the area, and confiscated all film from snap-happy photographers on the scene. This well-publicized event came just six years before the famed incident involving a supposed alien crash in Roswell, N.M.
13/ Lapham Peak State Park, Wis.—GoodFreePhotos
- Number of sightings since 1974: 708
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 16.1
The 2,400-person town of Belleville, Wis., each year holds a UFO Day to memorialize multiple January 1987 sightings (including documented sightings by the local police force) of strange lights in the sky just outside town. Three hours from that site is Poland, Wis., where one Bob Tohak in 1994 constructed a self-described “U.F.O. Landing Port” atop a 14-yard fuel tank standing vertically on the property of Tohak & Son Welding.
The planet's biggest and oldest organization of civilian UFO investigation and research today is the Mutual UFO Network, an expanded version of the 1952 group Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) founded by Jim and Coral Lorenzen of Sturgeon Bay, Wis. APRO at the time was widely considered among the best civilian UFO groups out there, in spite of the group being monitored by the U.S. government for subversive activities. APRO's members made significant contributions to research into alien lifeforms and activity, and in 1969 voted to create a new organization serving a larger territory. That group—the Midwest UFO Network—is what eventually further grew to become today's Mutual UFO Network.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 787
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 17.9
Minor-league baseball team manager Nick Mariana in 1950 captured two silver crafts spinning in mid-air over Great Falls, Mont., on his 16-mm camera. When a governmental panel in January of 1953 was gathered to review Mariana's footage along with other U.S. Air Force UFO data and another short film of a sighting in Utah, conclusions stated the images were the result of sunlight reflecting off off Air Force interceptors (and claimed the Utah footage showed light glinting off seagulls in flight), according to CIA files.
On March 28, 2019, a couple reported in two separate accounts to the National UFO Reporting Center a disturbance of multicolored lights in the sky bright enough to fill a darkened room after midnight. The lights were accompanied by a feeling of dread and “rumbling sounds that were like distant thunder (but constant), and then a very loud zapping sound, as if from an electric wire snapping and what appeared to be flashes like sparks above the house.”
15/ Public Domain
- Number of sightings since 1974: 862
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 19.6
The home of the Jersey Devil and dozens of other celebrities from urban myths, the Garden State is hardly one to shy away from stories of extraterrestrial encounters. Fifty years after lights in V formations were widely recorded in 1951 in Lubbock, Texas, UFOs in a giant flying V were detected traveling along the New Jersey Turnpike on July 14, 2001, for roughly 15 minutes in plain sight of hundreds of motorists and other onlookers between Staten Island, N.Y., and Carteret, N.J. Witnesses included a Carteret police lieutenant, who described the sight as a collection of orange and yellow lights over the Arthur Kill Waterway.
In 1975, a UFO was sighted near an apartment building called Stonehenge in North Bergen, N.J. Multiple residents of Stonehenge claimed to see strange lights in the sky that evening. The Garden State has been home to 28 UFO sightings so far in 2019.
16/ Louisiana Museum // Wikimedia Commons
- Number of sightings since 1974: 907
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 20.6
Just two UFO reports have been filed to date in Louisiana for 2019; including an eyewitness account of a “green fireball” and another of a “craft(s) with a hugh [sic] bright light in front and the light wrapped around craft like a semi circle.” For visitors to the state with a hankering for supernatural encounters, the Abita Mystery House in Abita Springs, La., is a must-stop—particularly for its UFO crash site.
17/ Max Pixel
- Number of sightings since 1974: 910
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 20.7
Betty Andreasson was innocently spending time at home with her family in South Ashburnham, Mass., in January 1967 when gray aliens with oval-shaped heads and enormous eyes slipped her into a trance and abducted her. Aboard the craft, Andreasson claimed to have been examined before the alien disclosed to her the meaning of life and immediately erased her memory—all of which she recalled while under hypnosis. Her experiences were documented in Raymond Fowler's book “The Andreasson Affair.” Two years later, on Sept. 1, 1969, 9-year-old Thom Reed claimed to have been abducted by aliens from the car he was driving in with his brother, mother, and grandmother over the Old Covered Bridge in Sheffield, Mass. The Great Barrington Historical Society in 2015 officially recognized the account as a historic event.
Almost 30 reports of UFO activity have been filed so far in 2019 with the National UFO Reporting Center's State Report Index for Massachusetts.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 914
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 20.8
A quarter after 4 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2006, 12 United Airlines employees an multiple witnesses inside Chicago's O'Hare International Airport saw a dark gray aircraft floating around above gate C17 as Flight 446 prepped for departure. After roughly five minutes, the UFO darted into the sky, broke through clouds with enough pronouncement to reveal blue sky, and disappeared. No radar picked it up, leading the FAA to deem the sighting a “weather phenomenon.” The subsequent news report at the time was the Chicago Tribune's most-read story on the website.
19/ Jon Rawlinson // Flickr
- Number of sightings since 1974: 918
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 20.9
More than 3,000 UFO sightings in Arizona have been reported to the National UFO Reporting Center in the last 70 years. Some of the most notable cases include a 1953 incident when three Prescott residents saw eight UFOs at Del Rio Springs Creek; and another on Nov. 5, 1975, when 22-year-old Arizona logger Travis Walton got zapped by a beam of light from a UFO in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests new Snowflake, Ariz., that threw him 20 feet in front of six of his terrified crew members. The men thought Walton was dead and ran for help. Meanwhile, Walton claimed to have woken up in a room filled with aliens who kept him prisoner for five days while authorities conducted a search party for the missing man. Walton's experience—which he has defended to this day—was made into the 1993 movie “Fire in the Sky.”
The widespread UFO reports throughout the state have made it a premier destination for alien and UFO enthusiasts; most notably in Sedona, where visitors can hop on a UFO tour guided by alien abductee Melinda Leslie to spot unidentified flying objects in the clear, high desert sky (sightings guaranteed, military-grade night-vision goggles provided)—where hundreds of people, including former Gov. Fife Symington, say they have witnessed mysterious flying objects.
The most famous of the state's recent UFO sightings is easily the “Phoenix Lights” incident that took place March 13, 1997. Hundreds of witnesses reported seeing a V-shaped formation of lights in the sky that was so pronounced, they blotted out the stars overhead.
More recently, two pilots in airspace over the Arizona desert on Feb. 24, 2018, reported a UFO sighting overhead to the FAA airwaves. An air traffic controller checked with another pilot in the same airspace if he too could see the mysterious craft; that pilot confirmed the sighting.
20/ Max Pixel
- Number of sightings since 1974: 928
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 21.1
The Boeing B-47 Stratojet was a highly advanced long-range, six-engined bomber introduced in 1951 to fly at extremely high altitudes subsonic speeds in order to complete evade enemy aircraft—which is why it was so odd when, in 1957, an Air Force RB-47 was followed for 700 miles by an unidentified craft over Kansas and on through Missouri and Texas. Six years later, the radar of another RB-47 captured a radar blip followed by a bright blue light that was corroborated by the pilot and crew.
Two of the five documented UFO reports of 2019 came from Wichita, where onlookers observed in January a triangular object gliding at roughly 1,000 feet in the air and in February a black rectangular craft that moved in front of and then behind a cloud.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 967
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 22
Many of Idaho's most-documented accounts of UFO encounters in Idaho come from the state's police officers and southeast residents. These include claims of alien crafts following on-duty officers, unusual sightings, and a particular stretch of Idaho State Highway 30-E so notorious for UFO sightings it's been coined Idaho's UFO Highway. Should you stop there, or anywhere else in the state for that matter, your odds of seeing a UFO are roughly estimated at 1 in 133,600.
22/ Northern Lights above Bear Lake in Alaska—Public Domain
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,054
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 24
Eighteen-year-old Adonus Baugh on March 19, 2019, videotaped an as-of-yet unidentified glowing object apparently falling from the Anchorage, Alaska, sky. Another Anchorage resident captured photos of the same mysterious object, which a Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson spokeswoman said did not resemble any aircraft from the base.
Alaska is no stranger to UFO sightings. On Nov. 17, 1986, the crew of Japan Air Lines flight 1628 from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Anchorage, Alaska, at 5:11 p.m. sighted two UFOs to the left of the aircraft. The sighting—which lasted a full 50 minutes and ended as the plane approached Mount Denali—mentioned darkened crafts with glowing thrusters as well as a third, circular craft that appeared to follow the plane. An incoming United Airlines flight was unable to confirm the sightings.
Four additional UFO sightings have been reported in Alaska this year so far, according to the National UFO Reporting Center's most recently updated State Report Index for the state. Most UFO reports in Alaska occur during winter's peak darkness, while sightings are all but nonexistent during May, June, and July when daylight is at or near 24 hours.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,115
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 25.3
There are multiple first-person accounts of alien abductions throughout Utah in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Then there are the supposed 1967 images taken by the military of alien reproduction vehicles (ARVs), reverse-engineered flying saucers. Cases like these—along with the much-whispered-about “New Area 51” continue to be turned over by groups like The Utah UFO Hunters, a group of people based in Salt Lake City devoted to discovering evidence of alien life, UFO activities, and paranormal occurrences. If you're in the state and looking to see some evidence of alien life yourself, make a pit stop for some flying saucer folk art in Clawson, Utah, that includes a UFO landing site and UFO crash site.
24/ OaklyOriginals // Flickr
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,120
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 25.5
A UFO is simply a craft or object that hasn't been identified yet. And is the case with many such sightings, the video of UFOs at the Oklahoma State Fair in 2017 turned out to be skydivers and not alien life. Still, accounts continue pouring in: There have already been 12 documented UFO sightings in Oklahoma in 2019. If you want to be sure of an encounter, stop in and see some alien yard art in along Route 66 in Stroud, Okla.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,257
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 28.6
When an electrical surge and explosion at a Con Ed substation in Queens lit up the sky in December of 2018, many were sure the blue haze was a sign of alien life. Less debunked than that, however, is New York's Hudson Valley UFO, a Dec. 31, 1982 sighting by hundreds of onlookers of a V-shaped collection of multicolored lights connected by a triangular fuselage moving deliberately and without a sound across the night sky.
26/ The National Guard flying over Louisville, KY—U.S. Air Force
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,297
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 29.5
A sting-ray-shaped hole in the clouds over Erlanger, Ky., last January made headlines as people mused over whether the sky markings were indicative of alien activity (spoiler alert: it was actually the result of a weather event called a fallstreak hole). Undeterred by the occasional wet blanket over conspiracy theories, about four hours southwest, residents are preparing to celebrate the ninth annual Kelly “Little Green Men” Days Festival Aug. 16 and 17 in Kelly, Ky., to commemorate the Aug. 21, 1955, alien invasion of the farm of Elmer Sutton. That ambush allegedly involved a small group of alien creatures descending from their spacecraft outside of Sutton's farmhouse to the horror of he and his family, which included five adults and seven children.
Family members described the dozen or so aliens as between 2 and 4 feet tall with clawed hands, spindly legs, and glowing eyes (green skin was attributed to the invaders at a later date). Guns were fired on the intruders through house windows for nearly four hours, to no apparent physical effect on the invaders. Officials dismissed the family's account as confusion between alien creatures and more common, terrestrial beings like owls. In 2017, the “Little Green Men” festival fell on the exact anniversary of the invasion—which just so happened to also be the date of a total solar eclipse.
27/ Max Pixel
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,331
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 30.3
On. Jan. 25, 2019, Bret Jones was outside in Greensboro, N.C., snapping pictures of birds like he normally does when he saw a bright flash in the sky near a plane flying overhead. Wondering if the mysterious shape was a balloon, he began recording the object until it disappeared after about 10 seconds. The odds of seeing a UFO in the state are just 1 in 205,900, although you wouldn't know it from the stories that stretch back to at least 1940 and have touched off a number of conspiracy theories about government cover-ups and experiments.
28/ View of Long Isalnd Sound from Connecticut—MarkMassellict // Wikimedia Commons
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,432
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 32.5
More than 100 UFO sightings were reported in Connecticut in 2018 alone, showing that the Constitution State's long tradition of odd encounters is still going strong. A series of 2012 reports described a still-unsolved incident of a mysterious falling object that allegedly vanished into Bantam Lake, and the internet all but exploded when almost 13,000 UFO documents—which included dozens of eyewitness accounts based in Connecticut stretching back to the 1940s—were released on The Black Vault website. These and other unexplained activities are covered each month at the Connecticut chapter of the Mutual UFO Network, an organization of alien enthusiasts who have made it their mission to verify or debunk stories of strange sightings and otherworldly encounters.
29/ supermoving // Wikimedia Commons
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,436
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 32.6
Fifteen official UFO sightings across 14 Maryland towns have been logged with NUFORC so far in 2019, including a Jan. 9 “fireball” that was reported by more than 575 people across 11 states to the American Meteor Society, which chalked the object up to a very bright meteor. The state's most famous UFO tale is likely that of Alvin Cohen and Phillip Small, who around midnight on Oct. 26, 1958, were driving past the Loch Raven Reservoir in Towson, Md. The men said they saw a giant, iridescent object floating over a bridge. The car, including the electrical system, died as the men pulled forward. The glowing, oval-shaped craft continued to float briefly before letting out a flash of light, burst of heat, and noise before shooting further up into the sky and vanishing. The state keeps stories like this alive with the annual Gambrills, Md., event, “Mysteries of Space and Sky,” which focuses on a science-based approach to investigating extraterrestrial activity.
30/ Pose Lake, Minnesota—R2718218 // English language Wikipedia
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,618
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 36.8
Deputy sheriff Val Johnson awoke 40 minutes after his squad car had been swallowed in a ball of light sometime around midnight on Aug. 27, 1979. His wristwatch and car's clock, both meticulously set, had stopped for a full 14 minutes and he was 1,000 feet from where the incident occurred. One hundred feet of skid marks scarred the highway, and cracks throughout the vehicle's windshield, according to an expert from Ford Motor Co., appeared to have been caused from simultaneous inward and outward forces. Johnson also suffered welder's burns and had scorched retinas upon medical inspection. A metal expert brought in to examine the car found bent antennas he could only explain as having been deformed by powerful bursts of air. The car can still be viewed at the Settler's Square Historical Museum in Warren, Minn.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,732
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 39.4
Bowman, S.C., hasn't been home to any credible UFO sightings—unless you count the homemade UFO constructed of garbage by one Jody Pendarvis, which he lovingly calls the UFO Welcome Center. Prominently featured on Roadside America, Pendarvis claims to have come up with the concept for the structure in the ‘90s, opening the spaceship's doors to the public by Memorial Day of 1999.
32/ Williams Island in the Tennessee River—Sesamehoneytart // Wikimedia Commons
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,774
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 40.3
Five separate witnesses from the Tennessee towns of Knoxville, Cleveland, Kingston, Coalfield, and Murfreesboro made a report on March 29, 2019, to the National UFO Reporting Center. Reports claim a fireball and various lights pass over the sky over the course of about 10 seconds. The state in 2018 ranked among the top six for UFO sightings featured in "UFO Cases of Interest: 2018 Edition.”
33/ Sunrise at West Virginia National Cemetery—Jeffrey Turner // Flickr
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,925
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 43.8
The Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, W.V. is a premier location for scientists who make it their work to study extraterrestrial life (OK, and star-mapping, supernovas, and other, more generalized scientific research) by documenting energy waves from hundreds of lightyears away into computers via giant radio telescope. With many signals so faint they're easily drowned out by any ambient noise, these scientists abide by the National Radio Quiet Zone, a code of science that bars normal everyday tech devices so they can conduct their work without interference.
34/ Don Graham // Wikimedia Commons
- Number of sightings since 1974: 1,951
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 44.3
Eight of the night extraterrestrial sightings this year in Iowa relate to mysterious lights in the sky, with just one report mentioning a long, sustained horn sound lasting six minutes. One of the most famous accounts of alien life in the state never actually happened: In the opening of Robert A. Heinlein's 1951 novel “The Puppet Masters,” government agents investigate an alien ship outside Grinnell, Iowa.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 2,041
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 46.4
One of Maine's most famous alien encounters is the Allagash Abduction of 1976. Four men on a camping trip in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway on Aug. 20, 1976, claimed they were abducted by aliens. Years after the incident, all four men were put under hypnosis and interviewed about the abduction. All four stories matched identically. Hundreds more encounters have been logged since 2000; with seven reported to NUFORC this year.
36/ chensiyuan // Wikimedia Commons
- Number of sightings since 1974: 2,058
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 46.8
Vermont's most famous UFO story is likely the Buff Ledge Abduction, in which, on Aug. 7, 1968, four UFOs appeared over Lake Champlain and abducted two camp counselors in Vermont. The lights from that encounter were reported by multiple witnesses. Two decidedly less glamorous UFO sightings in 2019 were limited to flashing lights in the sky over Stowe and Braintree in February and March, respectively.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 2,062
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 46.9
While governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter in 1973 filed a report with Oklahoma's UFO Bureau about a UFO he claimed to have seen in 1969. During that decade, Georgia's version of Area 51—a nuclear aircraft and radiation testing facility just north of Atlanta—was an area rich in tales and conspiracy theories about abductions, UFOs, and animal mutilation. This year, there have been just two such reports: On April 4, separate eyewitnesses reported a bright light falling from the sky.
38/ Shadow Rocks, Acoma Sky CIty Pueblo, N.M.—NewMexicophotographer1 // Wikimedia Commons
- Number of sightings since 1974: 2,189
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 49.8
In spite of being home to Roswell and myriad of other stories of alien contact and UFO sightings, New Mexico is more than a dozen spots away from #1 for UFO sightings in the U.S. today. Still, that does little to sway popular obsession with the state's history. In 1947, numerous eyewitnesses in Roswell claimed to have seen (or helped to cover up) a UFO crash site. Today, tourists can get their alien fixes at the International UFO Museum and Research Center, where for $5 they can learn about the most famous (and many obscure) claims of extraterrestrial activity and alien abduction in the U.S. and world.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 2,210
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 50.2
Two men claimed to be abducted in Mississippi in 1973 while fishing off a pier on the Pascagoula River. They claimed to have been released after being physically examined. There were 5,721 cases of abductions, UFO activity, or other mysterious sightings reported between 1940 and 2017, landing the state comfortably in the top 15 states for UFO sightings today.
40/ Rocky Mountains National Park—GoodFreePhotos
- Number of sightings since 1974: 2,408
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 54.7
A watchtower in Hooper, Colo., has been the site of multiple claims of UFO sightings in the same area where two multiple mysterious cattle mutations were reported in 2009. The attacks, reported by rancher Manuel Sanchez outside of San Luis, included precise removal of organs, no evidence of a struggle, and no pooling of blood. He found another calf in a similar state several weeks later, which led to Sanchez selling off the rest of his cattle before he lost any more. News reports noted the striking similarities between Sanchez's accounts and a similar string of mutilations in 1967 on the King ranch several miles from San Luis outside Alamosa.
- Number of sightings since 1974: 2,750
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 62.5
McMinnville, Ore., is home to the annual UFO Fest, a three-day affair inspired by the iconic 1950 photos of flying saucers shot by Evelyn and Paul Trent of a UFO over their farm outside town. The pictures made it into Life magazine and caused a national stir the town still celebrates today. 2019's UFO Fest, held May 16 to 18, features an “Alien Abduction Dash fun run” and “Alien Costume Ball,” among many other otherworldly activities. As for the Trent photographs? They have yet to be debunked.
42/ Fort Robinson, Nebraska—Max Pixel
- Number of sightings since 1974: 2,845
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 64.7
One of Nebraska's most well-known UFO experiences was turned into a comic book this year, fittingly titled “An Alien Encounter.” The book illustrates a 1967 eyewitness account from Nebraska State Patrolman Herbert Schirmer, who saw what he assumed to be a tractor-trailer that turned out to be a UFO. Under hypnosis, Schirmer recalled being abducted and shown how the spacecraft worked.
43/ Lake Michigan—PxHere
- Number of sightings since 1974: 2,923
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 66.4
U.S. Air Force Pilot and First Lieutenant Felix Eugene Moncla Jr. in 1953 was conducting an air defense intercept over Lake Superior near the Soo Locks in Michigan when he—and his plane—disappeared. In what is today known as the Kinross Incident (Moncla was on temporary assignment at Kinross Air Force Base), Air Defense Command radar found a UFO traveling 500 miles per hour in the airspace. Moncla took off in an F-89C all-weather jet interceptor after the craft, but as his radar blip connected with the UFO's, communication went dark in what has been assumed to be a crash. Moncla and his plane have never been located, although the U.S. Air Force claimed Moncla had in fact crashed into a Royal Canadian Air Force (FCAF) vessel. The pilot of that supposed craft claimed to have not seen nor been aware of an intercepting plane; and the RCAF in multiple instances denied any incidents in the air on that day.
Twenty years later in 1975, another UFO was found floating over restricted airspace of Wurtsmith Air Force in Michigan. The craft was pursued by a KC-135, but was never found or explained.
44/ Alum Creek State Park, Ohio—Yinan Chen // Wikimedia Commons
- Number of sightings since 1974: 3,466
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 78.8
The Center for UFO Studies was founded by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a professor of astronomy at Ohio State University who went on to become chairman of the astronomy department at Northwestern University. Hynek served during the 1950s and 1960s as the astronomical consultant to the United States Air Force's Project Blue Book, a project tasked with investigating and explaining UFO phenomena. Hynek sought to determine wherever possible an astronomical explanation for UFOs.
45/ Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore—Public Domain
- Number of sightings since 1974: 3,519
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 80
The most commonly reported traits of UFO sightings in the Hoosier State are multicolored and white lights, orange fireballs or balls of light, disks spotted during daylight hours, and triangular shapes documented after dark, according to the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) of Indiana, which will host its 2019 spring Indiana MUFON State Symposium May 4 in Indianapolis.
Some sightings in the state are ongoing, such as the happenings out at Lucky Point near Vincennes in southwest Indiana. There, a specific spot of land has hosted strange, unexplained happenings over the last several decades—including almost 100 between 1971 and 1986. Those sightings included a farmer spotting lights over his cattle paddock the night before finding a young cow with its brain painstakingly removed with surgeonlike precision. Other witnesses include a sheriff's deputy who saw a craft 100 feet long with creatures looking out through windows; and almost a dozen calls about a rounded disc with three distinct orange lights forming a triangular shape.
46/ Max Pixel
- Number of sightings since 1974: 3,785
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 86
Pennsylvania's own version of the Roswell incident came about in 1965 when a fireball witnessed by thousands of onlookers across six states that caused sonic booms around Pittsburgh crashed into Kecksburg, Penn., only to be recovered—or covered up—by the U.S. military. A legal battle followed that continued with Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta pushing for the release of the Kecksburg documents since 2002.
47/ Mount Magazine State Park, Arkansas—Public Domain
- Number of sightings since 1974: 3,925
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 89.2
The National UFO Reporting Center's State Report Index for Arkansas lists 10 separate UFO incidents for 2019 so far, with what may be two distinct reports Feb. 6 of the same “loud roaring sound and lights.” The state's history with UFOs goes back at least to 1897, when on April 20 Capt. James Hooton in Homan, Ark., chatted with the pilot of a vessel that had landed where Hooton was hunting. That vessel—described as cylindrical, with wheels and a horizontal blade above it that moved by compressed air, was manned by a bespectacled pilot.
Three days later, Judge Lawrence A. Byrne of Texarkana was out surveying land when he ran into three men speaking a foreign language while standing next to a peculiar craft. And on May 6 of that year in Hot Springs, two cops saw a light overhead that arced toward the ground. Out from a strange craft roughly 65 feet long emerged several strange beings who invited the policemen to join them on board.
48/ Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota—GoodFreePhotos
- Number of sightings since 1974: 4,576
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 104
A 27-minute sky encounter between veteran World War II B-25 fighter pilot George F. Gorman and a white ball of light over Fargo, N.D., has captured the public's imagination since it first occurred on Oct. 1, 1948. Known as the “Gorman Dogfight,” Gorman saw what he described as a flying disk with clear edges and many bright lights that he pursued for the better part of half an hour. The pilot attempted to make contact with the craft, which successfully dodged Gorman's advances at speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour. His story was verified by two air traffic controllers and another pilot who was flying in Fargo that night.
49/ Big Bend National Park, Texas—Public Domain
- Number of sightings since 1974: 4,846
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 110
Several of Texas' most famous recordings of UFO activity had multiple witnesses, garnering more credibility than other, one-off documentation and raising additional questions that remain unanswered. Such was the case when dozens of residents in the tiny town of Stephenville, Texas, in January of 2008 reported white lights floating over Highway 67 in a single arc that then moved silently into vertical, parallel lines. Although the U.S. Air Force claimed F-16s had been flying in that proximity at the time, eyewitnesses disputed those claims, saying the lights were far too advanced for such a simple explanation.
More than a century earlier, in May of 1897, multiple eyewitnesses in Aurora (90 minutes northeast of Stephenville) watched a cigar-shaped ship blow into a windmill on the property of a local judge. The dead pilot was supposedly buried in Aurora's cemetery, and the grave decorated with etchings depicting the ship. The ship was never found, leading some to claim the crash was made up to draw tourists and money to Aurora during a tough year for farmers. The grave marker was stolen in 1972 and replaced; that replacement was robbed in 2002. A lawyer in 2018 offered a $1,000 reward for anyone who turned over the original marker, but no updates have been made available.
From Aug. 25 to 30, 1951, students and teachers watched lights dance quickly across the skies of Lubbock in a V formation; and in 1957, multiple witnesses in and near Levelland reported seeing an oval-shaped object in the sky that coincided with almost a dozen cars experiencing total electrical failure until the UFO disappeared from view. Investigators assigned to Project Blue Book (the gold standard in government investigation into unexplained activity) dismissed the lights as those from street lamps bouncing off the reflective feathers of birds in flight. Witnesses denied this explanation, noting the lights were moving far faster than any bird could.
And finally, the famous Cash-Landrum incident in 1980 from Dayton, Texas, involved a diamond-shaped UFO that burst into flames overhead in front of three witnesses who all suffered radiation burns and other related health issues. The eyewitnesses sued the government for $20 million in one of only a handful of UFO cases that led to court proceedings. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence.
In Athens, Texas, in 2013, a retired pilot and former fighter pilot noticed a fireball in the sky while sitting outside with his family after dark, looking up. Three more fireballs followed silently behind the first, and two more after that. Despite efforts to capture the lights on their iPhones, the video quality was too low to show anything definitively.
50/ Jeffery Hayes // Wikimedia Commons
- Number of sightings since 1974: 5,766
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 131
Home to the first filmed evidence of a UFO, Washington is no stranger to close encounters of the third kind. On June 21 in 1947, Harold A. Dahl reported to authorities that his son had been injured and his dog killed by flying debris from four to six circular objects in what became known as the Maury Island Incident. A witness was also apparently threatened by characters wearing all black, which became the inspiration for the popular “Men in Black” movies decades later.
Just three days after Dahl's sighting, private pilot Kenneth Arnold reported witnessing nine individual crafts flying in excess of 1,000 miles per hour while he was out searching for a downed plane. Multiple witnesses came forward of that event, including air traffic controllers and military and civilian pilots throughout the U.S. The ensuing mayhem and media reports are credited with coining the first use of the term “flying saucer.” The publicity also inspired Air Force Gen. Nathan Twining, head of the Air Technical Service Command, in 1948 to create Project SAUCER (later changed to Project SIGN) to investigate all such sightings and reports as they might relate to national security.
51/ Max Pixel
- Number of sightings since 1974: 6,293
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 143
The National UFO Reporting Center has already logged 72 accounts of alien activity in Florida for 2019, so continuing a long history of unexplained sightings and experiences surrounding potential extraterrestrial life. Floridians count many believers among them; and hundreds of folks have come forward with tales of holograms, abductions, odd spacecraft, lights in the sky, and everything in between over the years. Several UFO sightings have been debunked (who can forget the 2018 incidents of a butterfly mistaken for alien craft over a Floridian swamp; or Tallahassee parachuters who got confused with UFOs?), but many still stand.
On July 9, 1952, Ralph Mayher captured UFO photographs in Miami that were confiscated by government officials. Less than a month later, scoutmaster received burns from what he described as a fireball shot from an alien spacecraft that children he was with also witnessed. And the 1987 “Gulf Breeze sightings” remain among the most famous and unexplained phenomenons in Florida history and involved dozens of people who claimed to see UFOs.
52/ Pedro Szekely // Wikimedia Commons
- Number of sightings since 1974: 13,248
- Average sightings per year since 1974: 301
It's no surprise that the state with the most UFO sightings is also home to the annual Contact in the Desert, the world's “largest UFO conference,” held this year from May 31 to June 3, 2019. The event features speakers, panel discussions, lots of opportunities for stargazing, and a steady stream of believers ready to share their experiences—many of which have been captured on camera.
Cameraman Leman Hanson in 1966 filmed 10 full seconds in full 16-mm color of a UFO flying over Catalina Island. One of the most exciting UFO sightings of the 21st century in California was caught on camera in 2004 and shows two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets and a UFO. And as recently as 2018, mysterious lights filmed by a string of eyewitnesses brought a UFO encounter to the mainstream media's attention.