I saw a UFO when I was a kid. One night I was laying in the back seat of my dad’s car while we were driving from Brunswick, Georgia back to Marietta. My brother had a college job where he worked for a semester in a paper mill in South Georgia and then went to school for a semester up at Tech. We were on the longest, darkest, most boring stretch of highway in the United States: I-16. Interstate 16 is unique in just how boring it is. The highway is a straight corridor of old trees interrupted by occasional patches of southern swampland. Thick pines are so dense that you can’t see into the forest at all. It’s just a green mess with boggy land that stretches on for almost two hours before you see any civilization.
For some reason we were stuck on that awful stretch of road around 9pm on a cold winter night. The back seat of our old suburban was large enough for me to stretch out and look up at the stars as we drove. Stars shine like diamonds out in the country. My rudimentary astronomy was too weak to make out any of the obscure constellations, but that didn’t bother me. Staring at jewels thrown across a black canopy was enough.
Then I noticed something. One of the stars started to move around. There was nothing remarkable about it. Just one of the shining lights moved in a parabolic path between the stars. Then it shifted direction and continued at a 90 degree turn to the right. Then it shifted again and went in the opposite direction. It stopped and then started moving in an arc to the left.
My view of the object only lasted for about a minute before the highway’s gradual northwestern direction pulled it out of view.
And that’s about it. It’s a fairly unremarkable story. I mentioned this in passing to my brother and father. Surprisingly, they took it seriously. My dad said, “Well, it sounds like you really saw an object in the sky you couldn’t identify. That’s basically the definition of a UFO.” That’s true. I can’t claim that I saw aliens. I can’t claim that I saw a flying saucer. What I saw was an object fluttering around in the sky that appeared to glow just like a star but moved around unlike anything else I’ve ever seen before or after.
This is about the most sober UFO story you’ll read on the Internet. I genuinely wish I could tell you that I was visited by little green men or that I had some psychic experience with telepathic grey aliens. Nope. No abductions. Just saw something pretty strange one night out in the Georgia low country.
So many memories that slip our mind. This one sticks with me for some reason. It was a pretty mundane event. It could have been a weather balloon jostling around with swamp gas released from the marshes. Perhaps the reason this episode sticks with me is because it’s just so unremarkable. I was just sitting there when suddenly there was something in the atmosphere doing some strange things. That doesn’t happen every day.
The UFO crowd is ridiculous. Every one of their websites was designed in Geocities circa 1997 and hasn’t been updated since the Clinton Presidency. Perhaps their website administrators were abducted. The YouTube videos are even worse. As if it’s not bad enough that nearly every UFO video is just a red flashing blob on someone’s piece of crap cell phone camera. No, they have to add the cheesy theme song from the X-Files or some substandard EDM song on top of it. The websites and videos are so terrible that I’m half convinced the government actually creates these things in an effort to discredit the entire movement.
That gives way too much credibility to the government.
Everything about the UFO crowd makes me cringe. The incessant conspiracy theories, the paranoia about people in power, and the straight up lunatic beliefs make it difficult to take anybody seriously. They are entertaining, though. Ancient Aliens deserves every Emmy in every category every single year. I love that show.
But Ancient Aliens, for all of its entertainment value, really is part of the problem. The show is insane. It purports that we were visited by extraterrestrial gods at some point in the past and that they gave us the technology to develop the pyramids. I have little time for aliens, ghosts, demons, and similar fluff. Yes, all of that is entertaining and provides countless hours of mindless enjoyment, but it’s all ridiculous.
The interesting thing about UFO sightings, as opposed to any other paranormal topic, is that there legitimately are some weird things out there. The old NASA videos that show objects floating in space and then mysteriously changing direction are really strange. The Phoenix Lights phenomenon was really hard to explain, and don’t give me that A-10 Warthog flares explanation. I’ve seen flares before. They don’t look like that. And flares don’t travel west across the United States and garner separate reports from people across the countryside.
Rational explanations go a long way toward explaining the last 1% of evidence. For example, in the 1950’s people in the southwest reported seeing giant batlike objects floating in the sky. A few decades later we unveiled stealth bombers. Modern stealth bombers could easily be described as batlike. So, there’s a good chance that a portion of the unexplained UFO videos can be attributed to the military.
Then you’ve got sightings like mine. My UFO sighting falls squarely into the 1% to which I’m referring. There was a thing in the sky that exhibited unusual characteristics. Humans are a naturally curious species. Our inquisitive nature spawned the entire field of science. There is nothing unnatural or ridiculous about wanting to know more about our universe.
So, what is a rational person to do with the UFO movement?
Unfortunately, not very much. The well has been contaminated to the point that it’s hard to make any sense out of anything in there. The sheer number of kooks, crazies, and weirdos renders rational discussion about unexplained celestial phenomena nearly impossible. Then people insist on throwing unrelated garbage into the discussion. Crop circles, for example, are one of the stupidest hoaxes to gain traction.
At the end of the day, I keep an open mind when I hear reports of UFOs. There are thousands of other people out there just like me. Thousands of other people camping, hiking through the woods, or driving down some lonesome highway saw something they did not understand. Their stories are mundane. Their stories are real. Above all else, their stories merit some consideration into our greater understanding of the world around us.