Introducing… The Phoenix Lights

A photo of the famous Phoenix Lights. Credit:

By Wes Annac

I wonder how many UFO enthusiasts have heard about the Phoenix Lights, which were a series of unidentified lights that appeared over the skies of Phoenix, AZ, as well as various other nearby cities and towns, in 1997. I’m sure most people who are even somewhat passionate about UFOs have heard of them, and like the Rendlesham Forest incident, this was one of many breathtaking sightings of something that people still can’t explain.

Of course, an ‘official’ explanation was given for at least one of the sets of lights that were seen, which is that they were from flares the Air Force fired off in the area that night. However, some witnesses are convinced that what they saw had nothing to do with flares or any other excuse that debunks the idea that the lights were explainable or could be attributed to coincidence.

Here, I’d like to examine at an account of the Phoenix Lights that comes from the popular UFO network ‘MUFON’. As MUFON’s report about the lights tells us, thousands of people saw them over Arizona, Nevada and even Mexico.

“The Phoenix Lights (sometimes called the “Lights over Phoenix”) were a series of widely sighted unidentified flying objects observed in the skies over Arizona, Nevada in the United States, and Sonora, Mexico on Thursday, March 13, 1997.

“Lights of varying descriptions were seen by thousands of people between 19:30 and 22:30 MST, in a space of about 300 miles (480 km), from the Nevada line, through Phoenix, to the edge of Tucson.” (1)

Snippet from a newspaper article about the lights. Credit: Wikipedia

Two different types of lights were seen; the first was a triangular formation, and the second was a series of lights that were attributed to flares.

“There were allegedly two distinct events involved in the incident: a triangular formation of lights seen to pass over the state, and a series of stationary lights seen in the Phoenix area. The United States Air Force identified the second group of lights as flares dropped by A-10 Warthog aircraft that were on training exercises at the Barry Goldwater Range in southwest Arizona.

“Witnesses claim to have observed a huge carpenter’s square-shaped UFO, containing five spherical lights or possibly light-emitting engines. Fife Symington, the governor at the time, was one witness to this incident; he later called the object ‘otherworldly.’” (2)

We’ll learn more about Gov. Symington later, but for now, it’s important to point out that he described the object as ‘otherworldly’. People who talk about this stuff are usually smeared as tin-foil hat wearing lunatics, but here we have a governor saying something pretty bold about what he witnessed.

I’ve said before that it’s unfortunate that these sightings aren’t taken more seriously, and while we don’t want to get carried away and claim something is of extraterrestrial or even military origin if it can indeed be debunked, we also don’t want to be so closed-minded that we ignore compelling evidence when it shows up at our doorstep.

According to MUFON, the first sighting occurred in Henderson, Nevada, and the second occurred in Paulden, Arizona.

“At about 18:55 PST (19:55 MST), a man reported seeing a V-shaped object above Henderson, Nevada. He said it was about the ‘size of a (Boeing) 747’, sounded like ‘rushing wind’, and had six lights on its leading edge. The lights reportedly traversed northwest to the southeast.

“An unidentified former police officer from Paulden, Arizona is claimed to have been the next person to report a sighting after leaving his house at about 20:15 MST. As he was driving north, he allegedly saw a cluster of reddish or orange lights in the sky, comprising four lights together and a fifth light trailing them. Each of the individual lights in the formation appeared to the witness to consist of two separate point sources of orange light. He returned home and through binoculars watched the lights until they disappeared south over the horizon.” (3)

People who saw the lights in Prescott and Prescott Valley reported that they belonged to a solid object.

“Lights were also reportedly seen in the areas of Prescott and Prescott Valley. At approximately 20:17 MST, callers began reporting the object was definitely solid, because it blocked out much of the starry sky as it passed over.” (4)

Another picture of the lights. Credit:

This alone makes it clear that these lights weren’t independent, as in the case of being flares or something else that could be debunked. From the witness accounts, they were clearly attached to something solid. Again, we can’t ignore things like this just for the sake of comfort, and the accounts of the people in the Prescott area alone has made the picture clearer.

Not only did the lights that were seen in the Prescott/Prescott Valley area appear to be a part of a solid object – they also made the shape of a V.

“John Kaiser was standing outside with his wife and sons in Prescott Valley when they noticed a cluster of lights to the west-northwest of their position. The lights formed a triangular pattern, but all of them appeared to be red, except the light at the nose of the object, which was distinctly white.

“The object, or objects, which had been observed for approximately 2 to 3 minutes with binoculars, then passed directly overhead the observers, they were seen to ‘Bank to the right’, and they then disappeared in the night sky to the southeast of Prescott Valley. The altitude could not be determined, however it was fairly low and made no sound whatsoever.” (5)

MUFON shares an account that was received from the Prescott area by The National UFO Reporting Center.

“The National UFO Reporting Center received the following report from the Prescott area:

While doing astrophotography I observed five yellow-white lights in a ‘V’ formation moving slowly from the northwest, across the sky to the northeast, then turn almost due south and continue until out of sight. The point of the ‘V’ was in the direction of movement.

The first three lights were in a fairly tight ‘V’ while two of the lights were further back along the lines of the ‘V’’s legs. During the NW-NE transit one of the trailing lights moved up and joined the three and then dropped back to the trailing position. I estimated the three light ‘V’ to cover about 0.5 degrees of sky and the whole group of five lights to cover about 1 degree of sky.” (6)

When Tim Ley and his family first saw the lights over Prescott Valley, the lights appeared to be separate. They quickly realized, however, that the lights were all moving together in a specific direction.

“Tim Ley and his wife Bobbi, his son Hal and his grandson Damien Turnidge first saw the lights when they were above Prescott Valley about 65 miles (100 km) away from them. At first they appeared to them as five separate and distinct lights in an arc-shape like they were on top of a balloon, but they soon realized the lights appeared to be moving towards them. Over the next ten or so minutes they appeared to be coming closer and the distance between the lights increased and they took on the shape of an upside down V.” (7)

It soon began to seem like the lights were actually traveling down their street.

“Eventually when the lights appeared to be a couple of miles away the witnesses could make out a shape that looked like a 60-degree carpenter’s square with the five lights set into it, with one at the front and two on each side. Soon the object with the embedded lights appeared to be coming right down the street where they lived about 100 to 150 feet (30 to 45 meters) above them, traveling so slowly it appeared to hover and was silent.” (8)

Can you imagine seeing a set of lights that look like they’re attached to a huge craft, just floating down your street? I’m sure it’d make a believer out of any average person, and at least some of the people who witnessed these lights had to have went on to research UFOs in an effort to understand just what they saw.

I know it’d have to do some research after something like that, and I’d more than likely want to spread the world so everyone else could know that something strange is happening.

Ironically, when the apparently V-shaped object hovered over the Ley family’s heads and away from their street, it hovered into a V-like opening in the Squaw Peak mountain range.

“The object then seemed to pass over their heads and went through a V opening in the peaks of the mountain range towards Squaw Peak Mountain and toward the direction of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Witnesses in Glendale, a suburb northwest of Phoenix, saw the object pass overhead at an altitude high enough to become obscured by the thin clouds; this was at approximately between 20:30 and 20:45 MST.” (9)

Bill Greiner, a cement truck driver who spotted the lights when they arrived in Phoenix, quickly became a believer.

“When the triangular formation entered the Phoenix area, Bill Greiner, a cement driver hauling a load down a mountain north of Phoenix, described the second group of lights: ‘I’ll never be the same. Before this, if anybody had told me they saw a UFO, I would’ve said, ‘Yeah and I believe in the Tooth Fairy.’ Now I’ve got a whole new view and I may be just a dumb truck driver, but I’ve seen something that don’t belong here.’ Greiner stated that the lights hovered over the area for more than two hours.” (10)

If you’re passionate about disclosure and you believe our governments and military institutions have been covering up the existence of extraterrestrials and advanced technology, such as the technology that could’ve been witnessed over Phoenix, then you could say that the rest of the world will one day have their minds blown as wide open as Bill Greiner.

He was fortunate enough to realize ahead of time that there’s something going on that’s shocking and undeniable, and while it’s unfortunate that it had to happen for him in such an unsettling way, the very same thing could happen to the rest of the world if and when some type of disclosure occurs.

Our understanding of reality would dramatically shift if revelations suddenly surfaced about the existence of extraterrestrials and advanced ET/government craft, and everything we thought we cared about would suddenly become irrelevant. This would inevitably become the biggest issue on everyone’s minds, and I’m sure people like Greiner already can’t stop thinking about it.

I’ve had a few interesting UFO sightings, but nothing that holds a candle to the Phoenix Lights or the Rendlesham Forest incident. You can bet I’ll be more passionate about researching UFOs than ever if I do, and I’m sure plenty of people have witnessed things that put them on a search for truth.

A shot of the lights with a close-up. Credit:

According to MUFON, the most frequently viewed sequence of the lights seen over Phoenix (which can be distinguished from the lights that were seen over the Prescott area) shows them appear and disappear one by one.

“The most frequently seen sequence shows what appears to be an arc of lights appearing one by one, then going out one by one. UFO advocates claim that these images show that the lights were some form of ‘running light’ or other aircraft illumination along the leading edge of a large craft — estimated to be as large as a mile (1.6 km) in diameter — hovering over the city of Phoenix.

“Other similar sequences reportedly taken over a half hour period show differing numbers of lights in a V or arrowhead array.” (11)

Thousands of people reported witnessing a V-shaped craft that flew pretty low, and their descriptions of the lights themselves are interesting to say the least.

“Thousands of witnesses throughout Arizona also reported a silent, mile wide V or boomerang shaped craft with varying numbers of huge orbs. A significant number of witnesses reported that the craft was silently gliding directly overhead at low altitude, but skeptics say that the lights were more distant than the witnesses (along with UFO enthusiasts) thought.

“The first-hand witnesses consistently reported that the lights appeared as ‘canisters of swimming light’, while the underbelly of the craft was undulating ‘like looking through water’. However, skeptics claim that the video is evidence that mountains not visible at night partially obstructed views from certain angles, thereby bolstering the claim that the lights were more distant than UFO advocates claim.” (12)

A UFO enthusiast did a ‘spectral analysis’ on the photos that were taken and claimed that the lights couldn’t have possibly been manmade, pointing instead to extraterrestrial origin.

“UFO advocate Jim Dilettoso claimed to have performed ‘spectral analysis’ of photographs and video imagery that proved the lights could not have been produced by a man-made source. Dilettoso claimed to have used software called ‘Image Pro Plus’ (exact version unknown) to determine the amount of red, green and blue in the various photographic and video images and construct histograms of the data, which were then compared to several photographs known to be of flares.” (13)

I don’t consider myself a skeptic when it comes to UFOs, but it might have been better to either have a skeptic or someone who’s completely unbiased do the ‘spectral analysis’. I’m not saying Jim Dilettoso was biased, but the chance of bias is always there if the person doing the analysis is considered an enthusiast on the subject.

I know that being enthusiastic about UFOs (or wanting to prove they exist) doesn’t automatically make a person biased, but we can get the clearest picture from someone who doesn’t have a specific interest or agenda.

It doesn’t matter anyway, because Jim’s claims were eventually debunked due to the limitations of the technology he used.

“Several sources have pointed out, however, that it is impossible to determine the spectral signature of a light source based solely on photographic or video imagery, as film and electronics inherently alter the spectral signature of a light source by shifting hue in the visible spectrum, and experts in spectroscopy have dismissed his claims as being scientifically invalid.

“Normal photographic equipment also eliminates light outside the visible spectrum — e.g., infrared and ultraviolet — that would be necessary for a complete spectral analysis. The maker of ‘Image Pro Plus’, Media Cybernetic, has stated that its software is incapable of performing spectroscopic analysis.” (14)

We might not have Dilettoso’s word to go by, but we still have the word of all of the people who reported witnessing a V-shaped craft with multiple lights. It still stands that something bold, bizarre and potentially paradigm-shattering happened in Phoenix, and I think we should seriously investigate these lights and any other phenomena that could potentially point to some kind of advanced technology – whether it belongs to extraterrestrials or our governments, who hide things from us every day.

Others tests of the pictures and videos were done – one by the video laboratory ‘Cognitech’, and the other by a local news station.

“Cognitech, an independent video laboratory, superimposed video imagery taken of the Phoenix Lights onto video imagery it shot during daytime from the same location. In the composite image, the lights are seen to extinguish at the moment they reach the Estrella mountain range, which is visible in the daytime, but invisible in the footage shot at night.

“A broadcast by local Fox Broadcasting Company affiliate KSAZ-TV claimed to have performed a similar test that showed the lights were in front of the mountain range and suggested that the Cognitech data might have been altered.

“Dr. Paul Scowen, visiting professor of Astronomy at Arizona State University, performed a third analysis using daytime imagery overlaid with video shot of the lights and his findings were consistent with Cognitech. The Phoenix New Times subsequently reported the television station had simply overlaid two video tracks on a video editing machine without using a computer to match the zoom and scale of the two images.” (15)

An airplane at night. Credit:

One explanation for the first event – the lights that were witnessed over Prescott – is that they were simply airplanes. This explanation comes from a man who used his telescope to look at the lights, only to see regular airplanes up in the sky. Some witnesses argue that he didn’t actually see the lights everyone else saw.

“Proponents of two separate events propose that the first event still has no provable explanation, but that some evidence exists that the lights were in fact airplanes. According to an article by reporter Janet Gonzales that appeared in the Phoenix New Times, videotape of the v shape shows the lights moving as separate entities, not as a single object; a phenomenon known as illusory contours can cause the human eye to see unconnected lines or dots as forming a single shape.

“Mitch Stanley, an amateur astronomer, observed high altitude lights flying in formation using a Dobsonian telescope giving 43× magnification. After observing the lights, he told his mother, who was present at the time, that the lights were aircraft. According to Stanley, the lights were quite clearly individual airplanes; a companion who was with him recalled asking Stanley at the time what the lights were, and he said, ‘Planes’.

“When Stanley first gave an account of his observation at the Discovery Channel Town Hall Meeting with all the witnesses there he was shouted down in his assertion that what he saw was what other witnesses saw.

“Some have claimed that Stanley was seeing the Maryland National Guard jets flying in formation during a routine training mission at the Barry M. Goldwater bombing range south of Phoenix. It is possible that the Phoenix Lights Vee is actually a group of planes based on the explanation of a similar sighting in South California.” (16)

Like I’ve said before, we have to be willing to consider every side of the story when it comes to things like this, and as much as I’d love to automatically believe the Phoenix Lights were from genuine ET or government craft, we have to remember Occam’s Razor.

Occam’s Razor is the practice of finding the simplest explanation before going wild with assumptions or explanations we want to be true. The simplest explanation is usually correct, and while it can be used as an excuse for closed-mindedness or unnecessary skepticism, it’s still helpful when it comes to investigating UFO sightings or anything else that, if proven genuine, would change the world overnight.

We have to consider Mitch Stanley’s theory just like we’d consider any theory that claims the lights were part of a large craft, and by getting the whole picture, we’ll come closer to understanding what truly happened that night.

I have to admit that the Air Force’s explanation of the second event really doesn’t resonate with me. They debunked the sighting in the same old tired way you’d expect by telling people that the lights were flares that quickly burned out, despite some of the witnesses’ amazing testimony.

“The second event was the set of nine lights appearing to ‘hover’ over the city of Phoenix at around 10 pm. The second event has been more thoroughly covered by the media, due in part to the numerous video images taken of the lights. This was also observed by numerous people who may have thought they were seeing the same lights as those reported earlier.

“The U.S. Air Force explained the second event as slow-falling, long-burning LUU-2B/B illumination flares dropped by a flight of four A-10 Warthog aircraft on a training exercise at the Barry Goldwater Range at Luke Air Force Base.

“According to this explanation, the flares would have been visible in Phoenix and appeared to hover due to rising heat from the burning flares creating a ‘balloon’ effect on their parachutes, which slowed the descent. The lights then appeared to wink out as they fell behind the Sierra Estrella, a mountain range to the southwest of Phoenix.” (17)

Lt. Col. Ed Jones claimed to have flown the craft that was responsible for the flares that were ‘mistaken’ as a UFO.

“A Maryland Air National Guard pilot, Lt. Col. Ed Jones, responding to a March 2007 media query, confirmed that he had flown one of the aircraft in the formation that dropped flares on the night in question. The squadron to which he belonged was in fact at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona on a training exercise at the time and flew training sorties to the Barry Goldwater Range on the night in question, according to the Maryland Air National Guard.

“A history of the Maryland Air National Guard published in 2000 asserted that the squadron, the 104th Fighter Squadron, was responsible for the incident. The first reports that members of the Maryland Air National Guard were responsible for the incident were published in The Arizona Republic newspaper in July 1997.” (18)

The government lies. Credit:

Personally, I trust the eyewitness accounts more than I trust the government or the Air Force. I think we should listen to the common man over the people who, in my opinion, want to keep us in the dark about a lot of things. I’m not saying I don’t believe the Air Force’s story, and I wasn’t there and couldn’t tell you for sure what happened. I am saying that these hurried explanations leave me convinced that some kind of cover-up is indeed taking place.

But again, we can’t ignore any of the evidence or the explanations that were given, and there were a few factors that support the idea that these lights were little more than flares.

“Military flares such as these can be seen from hundreds of miles given ideal environmental conditions. Later comparisons with known military flare drops were reported on local television stations, showing similarities between the known military flare drops and the Phoenix Lights. An analysis of the luminosity of LUU-2B/B illumination flares, the type which would have been in use by A-10 aircraft at the time, determined that the luminosity of such flares at a range of approximately 50–70 miles would fall well within the range of the lights viewed from Phoenix.” (19)

Fife Symington III, the aforementioned governor of Arizona at the time, publicly debunked but later supported the idea that the lights were not manmade. He made light of the whole thing by presenting his aide in an alien costume during the press conference where he said that the identity of the Air Force personnel responsible for the apparent flares were discovered, but he stated a few years later that he believed the lights were genuine UFOs.

“Shortly after the lights, Arizona Governor Fife Symington III held a press conference, stating that ‘they found who was responsible’. He proceeded to make light of the situation by bringing his aide on stage dressed in an alien costume. (Dateline, NBC).

“But in March 2007, Symington said that he had witnessed one of the ‘crafts of unknown origin’ during the 1997 event, although he did not go public with the information. In an interview with The Daily Courier in Prescott, Arizona, Symington said, ‘I’m a pilot and I know just about every machine that flies. It was bigger than anything that I’ve ever seen. It remains a great mystery. Other people saw it, responsible people. I don’t know why people would ridicule it’.

“Symington had earlier said, ‘it was enormous and inexplicable. Who knows where it came from? A lot of people saw it, and I saw it too. It was dramatic. And it couldn’t have been flares because it was too symmetrical. It had a geometric outline, a constant shape.’” (20)

I hope I’m not the only one who’s bothered by the fact that the same governor who later admitted he believed these sightings were genuine and “didn’t know why people would ridicule it” ridiculed it himself by having his aide dress up as an alien. This too reeks of the kind of government “make fun of it” propaganda that makes people feel silly or naïve for considering that something real could’ve happened, but at least he eventually came forward with his truth.

A still from a video that was taken of the lights. Credit:

I can’t tell you whether or not the Phoenix Lights were genuine, but I can say that they’re one of the most interesting potential UFO sightings in our recent history. I’m sure the truth will come out in time, but for now, all we can really do is research these subjects, draw our own conclusions, and share what we learn with everyone who wants to hear it.

Who knows – we could learn the truth about the lights in the near future, especially if disclosure really happens, and I look forward to seeing what other interesting phenomena we witness in the years ahead.


  1. “The Phoenix Lights – 1997”, MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) –—1997.html (all other references for this report come from here)
  2. Loc. cit.
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  6. Loc. cit.
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  13. Loc. cit.
  14. Loc. cit.
  15. Loc. cit.
  16. Loc. cit.
  17. Loc. cit.
  18. Loc. cit.
  19. Loc. cit.
  20. Loc. cit.

2 thoughts on “Introducing… The Phoenix Lights”

  1. I live in phoenix. Are you aware that the “phoenix lights” have returned NUMEROUS times since 1997?
    there are lots of YouTube videos of them. Here in phx we have so many UFOs visiting, TONS of daytime videos are avail for you to view. 🙂


    1. That’s awesome, Beverly! I’d heard about them returning a couple of times but I never looked into it. Phoenix must be a pretty active area for UFOs!

      Much love 🙂



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