States with the most UFO sightings
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. They reported more sightings 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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- 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.
#49. South Dakota
- 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.
#48. District of Columbia
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
#45. Rhode Island
- 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.
- 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.
#42. New Hampshire
- 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.2018 All rights reserved.