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Flashback to the Stephenville Lights! - January 2008

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posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 03:20 PM

A small Texas dairy town is, arguably, the home to the last ‘classic’ UFO case to take place to date.

The so called “Stephenville Lights” event occurred during January 8th 2008 in the rural Texas town between 6:00pm and 7:30pm. Around thirty people reported seeing silent, exceedingly bright lights moving slowly at first, and then rapidly changing speed. A military pursuit of the lights was also reported by witnesses. The UFO supposedly even buzzed close to the Crawford Ranch owned by former President George H.W. Bush. Radar reports were retrieved with FOIA requests and the story was covered in the local, national and international media with an unusual degree of maturity. The military at first denied anything was in the skies over Texas. Then they changed their story!

Eight years later it stands as one of the very few major mass UFO sightings of the modern internet age and still not truly resolved nearly a decade later.

Was it all really nothing as the military claimed?

First Witness Reports

Initial sightings of a strange object were made in the skies of Texas on January 8th 2008. Angelia Joiner , then a local reporter for the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, broke the story in the newspaper on January 10th. This featured testimony from witnesses Steve Allen, Mike Odom and Lance Jones.

Freight company owner and veteran pilot Steve Allen (pictured) commented that the craft wasn’t really visible, but its lights stretched out about a mile long and a half a mile wide. The lights went from corner to corner and were completely silent. They moved directly above Highway 67 travelling towards Stephenville at an estimated speed of 3000 miles per hour. He also stated two military jets (possibly F16s), were in hot pursuit.

Mike Odom said, “The experience was unbelievable”, and Lance Jones said, “I’ve never seen anything like it before but it didn’t scare me.”
Allen went on to say the lights were not those of a normal aircraft but more like strobe lights. Then while they were all watching, the lights reconfigured themselves from a single horizontal line into two sets of vertical lights.

“The two sets were approximately one-quarter of a mile apart. Then they turned into dirty burning flames. The flames were not blue. They were white in colour. About two seconds later it disappeared completely.”

Allen claimed they were all puzzled by what they had just seen. Then, whilst still discussing it around 10 minutes later, the object came back from the west travelling east towards Glen Rose. "And it was about two or three miles south of 67, and two military jets, possibly F16s, were in pursuit.”

When contacted for comments Major Karl Lewis, Public affairs officer for the Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base at Carswell Field, stated there were no aircraft from the unit flying nearby that evening. Other nearby bases issued similar denials. Two weeks later, Major Lewis would have to revise his story by admitting the USAF had ten aircraft in the area that night.

On January 9th, Steve Allen called the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, searching for answers as to what was in the skies over Texas the previous night. Angelia Joiner had no answers but then ran with an article detailing Allen’s sighting in the January 10th 2008 edition of the paper. On his insistence the article included Steve Allen’s office phone number so other witnesses could contact him.

Three days after the incident, both Angelia Joiner and Steve Allen were being snowed under by the volume of witness testimony being provided. Local MUFON investigators also reported an increase in UFO reports over the same time period.

Another witness David Jaquess was quoted as saying :

“I live 4.6 miles out on Hwy. 67. About 6:15 p.m. I saw something as I was turning in my driveway. I won't say it was a UFO but I will say it was UFL, meaning it was unidentified flying lights. They were real bright yellow and I thought I must be seeing the sun reflecting off a plane. I'm guessing they were five miles away from me. But, they were unusually bright like a welding arc being struck - it was that bright. I don't discount UFOs but I don't necessarily believe in them either. I got a call this morning saying there was story about a UFO in today's paper and it was out where I live. I immediately said, ‘Yeah, I saw it.' I was looking west/southwest.”

Police Witnesses

Local police officers also witnessed the Stephenville lights. Some would go on the record whilst others chose not to.

Officer ‘Greg’ , who chose to remain anonymous, said he saw a large, rectangular, black object, slowly moving towards the Courthouse and then hovering about 200 feet above the ground directly over it.

It had two large headlights, like on a car. These headlights were about 35 feet in diameter. The brightness coming off of them was similar to a xenon headlight. Those lights were a couple hundred feet apart. The whole craft from the left to the right – I would call ‘wingtip to wingtip’ – was about 600 feet across. And it looked like it was longer back than that.....

... I proceeded up to Graham Street and made a left. At Graham Street, when I turned, I’m looking directly at this craft and it starts pivoting upward at a 35 to 40 degree angle off the left ‘wingtip.’ It rises there for about three seconds and then it goes completely 90 degrees and starts moving away from me, all without sound!.......

....then the craft starts pulling away. I reach up and grab my radar, swivel it up into the sky, turned it on and I got a hit. It showed 27 mph and accelerating. It got to about 33 mph and I lost my lock, which meant it was moving so far away I can’t get a good lock on it anymore. At this point, it accelerated very fast. It went all the way across town within two to three seconds. Then it veered to the left in the 90-degree angle, it just veered a little to the left and kept going. It got out of range where I could not see it anymore.

Source :

Constable Lee Roy Gaitan, was walking back to his home after retrieving some things from his car at around 7:15pm, when he spotted something in the sky. He reported it as a red glowing object suspended 3,000 feet in the air.
"It was so fast I couldn't track it with my binoculars”.

"First, I saw a yellow-red orb the colour of lava in a volcano," he said. "Then, instead of the red orbs, there were nine or 10 flashing lights, maybe 3000 ft in the air, bouncing and very bright. They hovered there, strobing for 2 or 3 minutes, bright like German auto headlights. Then they shot off at blazing speed like a school of fish, you know, when it's frightened." Later, Gaitan also noticed that two jets flew overhead as well.

continues below >>>>

edit on 29/3/16 by mirageman because: tidy up

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 03:20 PM
National & International Interest

Soon the national, and international, media picked up on the stories. The large number of witnesses and the fact that a mysterious object appeared to have flown near the restricted airspace above former President George H.W. Bush’s White Chapel Ranch garnered a lot of interest. This proximity was something the local reports seemed to have ignored at first.

Initially the US military had said there were no fighter jets in the air and suggested that the witnesses were simply seeing reflections of the sunset on commercial airliners.

"I'm 90 percent sure this was an airliner…..With the sun's angle, it can play tricks on you ."

USAF Major Karl Lewis - 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs, NAS Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base (Jan 14th 2008)

Then as the heat was turned up by the media and UFO investigators the USAF said that they originally had a communication problem and there were in fact up to 10 USAF aircraft involved in a ‘training exercise’ over the area. The times of this exercise coincided with the times residents had reported the lights in the sky.

“Ten F-16s from the 457th Fighter Squadron were performing training operations from 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesday January 8, 2008 in the Brownwood Military Operating Area (MOA), which includes the air space above Erath County ."

USAF Major Karl Lewis – (Jan 27th 2008)

Kenneth Cherry of the Mutual UFO Network expressed his doubts about the F-16 explanation and told the New York Times “This supports our story that there was U.F.O. activity in that area” , apparently referring to one witness’s claim that the fighter jets were there to chase the U.F.O.

CNN went ahead and reported it on Larry King Live

(Please note only the first couple of minutes are directly related to Stephenville the 2nd part can be seen here)

The Dallas Morning News printed the headline “Could 10 F-16’s, doing whatever they were doing, have been mistaken for something else?

A question to which Major Karl Lewis, unsurprisingly replied:

“What we do down there falls under operational procedures that cannot be released because of operations security for our mission”.

Ricky Sorrells - Witness Intimidation?

Amongst the UFO reports was a slightly more conspiratorial narrative. It came from a resident of Dublin, Texas - Ricky Sorrells. Sorrells had seen a large UFO while out hiking. He reported an extremely large, flat grey object, the size of 3 to 4 football fields without any visible seams or bolts. Although he did see some cone shaped indentions on the underside.

After giving several interviews Sorrells noticed military helicopters buzzing over his land and disturbing his livestock during hours of darkness. This was followed by a number of mysterious threatening phone calls and even personal encounters with individuals demanding his silence about what he saw. One encounter even allegedly involved someone stalking his property in the early hours of the morning and leaving a bullet behind.......

More :

Above CNN Interview with Ricky Sorrells

continues below >>>>

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 03:21 PM
The Radar Data

By the summer of 2008 the Freedom of Information Act had been used by MUFON to acquire the local radar data from the times surrounding the Stephenville sightings. The civilian authorities provided all the information promptly. The military were not quite as co-operative. They refused to release uncensored flight logs and also claimed some radar records from that night were missing.

Here is a video reconstruction of the radar data for those interested:

Video of recorded radar data, animated by the RADAR plot application.
Shows 2 hours (at approx x50 speed) of the data from the Stephenville 2008 incident

CNN also produced a follow up special on the Stephenville Sightings after the release of the radar data.

The radar report claimed:

  • Several military aircraft were in the skies the evening of Jan. 8, 2008, and were conducting flights in the nearby military operating area (MOA).
  • Some of these military aircraft had transponders turned on and some had transponders turned off. Some of the military flights encroached into civilian airspace over the Stephenville region without any explanation.
  • It was suspected that an Airborne Warning and Command System (AWACS) aircraft was circling the area, based on radar data.
  • An unidentified object was detected on radar.
  • The location and direction of flight of this object correlated with the reports from reliable eyewitnesses on the ground.

“This object had no transponder and was tracked on radar for over an hour. Most of the time, the object was either stationary, or moving at speeds of less than 60 mph. At 7:32 pm, the object was tracked accelerating to 532 mph in 30 seconds and then slowing to 49 mph only 10 seconds later.”

There was an unknown object without any transponder beacon travelling along a path that began south of Dublin and that proceeded on a direct path to Crawford Ranch. This object was tracked by the FTW radar for over an hour. Military jets flew within a mile of this object on their way to the Brownwood MOA.

The F-16s had to have seen this object on their radar and the suspected AWACS that was circling this area must have detected and recorded this object on its state-of-the-art radar. This must have raised concerns, yet the radar tracks of the military jets, indicates that there was no reaction by them to this object during the hour of time in question..........

Source : MUFON Radar Report

Map of No fly zone over Crawford Ranch and MOA

MUFON Research Director Robert Powell and engineer and radar analysis expert Glen Schulze, who compiled the report, also concluded that as the data set they examined came to an end, an unknown object was just 10 miles from George Bush’s White Chapel Ranch. They could not confirm what this object was or what the witnesses might have seen.

The ‘Skeptical View’

The MUFON conclusions were countered by James McGaha, an astronomer and retired Air Force Major. He is best known as a hard-line debunker to many people in the UFO Community and there was no change of mood for this case.

McGaha claimed the military re-issued statements about aircraft in the area after a simple mistake was made. Apparently the F16s were flying training manoeuvres and dropping extraordinarily bright flares. The LUU/2B/B flare was used with an illumination in the region of two million candlepower.

“...MUFON’s radar analysis is nothing more than cherry picking the 187 targets out of 2.5 million points of noise and scatter to make a track moving forty-nine mph for over one hour .This analysis is absurd!”

Source :

McGaha, unusually, seems to be the only person mentioning the use of flares that night. Was he privy to information others weren’t? Or was he himself mistaken?

Tim Printy, astronomer and author of Sunlite magazine, also saw nothing in the data indicating something unusual had occurred. He does not mention military flares in his review of the case. Instead he dissects the MUFON evidence and suggests that MUFON are in error.

"To summarize the MUFON radar data, they found three events that they decided to make a big deal about. The first had to do with a target flying at least 2100 mph near Stephenville at the time of the 6-7PM sightings. The other had to do with non-transponding targets that were ignored by the USAF aircraft as they proceeded in their paths across Texas at very slow speeds.
These targets really had little to do with the sightings described around 6:00-7:00 PM. The jets ignored them and that indicates to me that the USAF radar knew what the targets were and simply ignored them as non-threatening.....

Looking at the initial plot that was arrived at from the witness data on page 7 in the MUFON Stephenville-Dublin report, the radar contacts do not agree with it. The radar report attempts to make them fit in their image 3 on page 36 of their report by redrawing this visual plot as a curved line and, apparently, not redrawing the radar targets path correctly....."

Full details :

continues below >>>>

edit on 29/3/16 by mirageman because: tidy up

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 03:21 PM
The Aftermath

Stealth airships, AA-1 (F-35) test aircraft and other secret operations have been put forward as explanations. Very few of the local people have proposed that the events were anything of an extra-terrestrial nature.

Angelia Joiner, feeling heavily under pressure to quit, resigned from the Empire-Tribune in February of 2008 but continued her interest in the case.
Other UFO sightings were made before Jan 8th 2008 and continued in and around the Stephenville area in November 2008. People were less reluctant to tell their stories and many reported seeing lights in the night skies like ‘arc welding or burning magnesium lights’.

The fallout from it all was that some of the earlier witnesses later reflected on what really happened with a rather bitter tone. Lee Roy Gaitan became concerned at the lack of credibility in some of these later witness stories and how they were casting doubt on his own account. Steve Allen came to resent the way he had been depicted saying "I made the mistake of saying it was as big as a Wal-Mart. People have been teasing me about it ever since."

James Huse, who had spotted two red orbs in the sky on the night of Jan 8th 2008 commented

"I didn't call them flying saucers or extraterrestrials. All I said was that it was unidentified flying objects, and I'm sticking to that. I couldn't identify them. People in Erath County aren't nuts or hicks. We are just ordinary people who happened to look up."

The ‘Stephenville Lights’ case contains all the main elements of a classic UFO incident:

1) Puzzling initial UFO reports
2) Official denials from the military
3) Separate witnesses stepping forward as the case began to unfold
4) Witness intimidation
5) Hard, but inconclusive, evidence in the radar data made available

Despite happening in living memory of all but junior school children many people remain oblivious to this story.

This was nothing but a training exercise’ remains the official position of the US military and is largely accepted by debunkers.

But to others this is not a satisfactory answer and there is a feeling that something is still being concealed by the military. Perhaps one day new information will come to light?

However , like many other UFO cases before it, ‘The Stephenville Lights’, simply reached a stalemate and has remained that way ever since.


References and Further Information Sources

UFO Chronicles

Ricky Sorrells Interview May 2008 (Audio)

Tim Printy – Stephenville UFO Case

UFO Casebook

Angelia Joiner on Binall of America (Audio)

Black Vault

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 03:27 PM
posting to come back later

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 03:34 PM
Reminds me of those stories of airships traveling across the USA in the 1880's. The underside looked like a rail carriage, while the airship fabric looked like tar. There was one bright xenon lamp at the front that pointed downwards at the front.

Interesting bit about the conical indentations. That would suggest the use of rocket fuel or jet fuel but with the rocket engines built inside the frame. There have been previous sightings of craft that were made from one large rocket engine in the center and a circular ring of smaller rocket engines on the edge.

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 03:51 PM
a reply to: mirageman

A fascinating case and one I haven't truly gotten involved in for reasons you've highlighted. Some of the multiple witness reports seem to have a tangle of conflicting testimonies and people who make us reluctant to trust. The extraneous agencies get involved and promote one aspect above another to push their perspectives.

Steve Volk went back in there and interviewed a few of the witnesses and townsfolk for his book a couple of years ago. He seemed to find witnesses who stood by their claims/memories and yet it's still hard to know for sure what happened due to all the discordian voices and media editorials.

Shhhhh....what's that?

I hear an ex-NASA guy approaching*

* warm-hearted humour

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 04:00 PM
a reply to: mirageman

I just read Printy's article which tries to debunk the Stephenville sightings. It's weak. I honestly hate to say it, but it is, frankly, a little embarrassing. I actually winced a few times, in a way I haven't winced since watching some old episodes of 'The Office" a few weeks ago.

Printy's article is filled with reasoning such as this:

"Considering the distance from the radar to the target and the probable size of the target (if it were a small civilian aircraft), it seems likely the answer has to do more with data error than the target actually speeding up to 532 mph. Therefore, it is still possible, and likely, that the target was a small civilian aircraft."

He may as well have just typed this: "given that the UFO was most likely a small civilian aircraft, we can conclude that the UFO was most likely just a small civilian aircraft."

Because that's basically what his sentence means.

Start with a conclusion, then 'reason' your way back to that conclusion by using it as an assumption. It's hard to argue with logic like that!
edit on 29-3-2016 by TeaAndStrumpets because: typos

edit on 29-3-2016 by TeaAndStrumpets because: .

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 04:21 PM
a reply to: Kandinsky

It seems like a good case on the face of it. But then it seems like everyone and anyone starts to get involved. It wasn't just one day it becomes months and then years and even people linking it back to the 1890s.........

I've completely left out the "UFO Hunters" investigation and the accompanying videos that various people came forward with. These videos show nothing of real interest just an out focus blurry light show. I don't even think they were made on the night in question.

In one of her interviews Angelia Joiner said she felt that Major Karl Lewis had been having his strings pulled from above and was being told what to say. She in turn was very diplomatic about her time at the Empire-Tribune but felt that her superiors were forcing her to ignore the case in her private life as well as her professional life. Her desk was cleared and her PC removed before she'd worked her notice. It all become a little unsavoury less than a month after the case first broke.

Whether the Bush residence has anything to do with it all I don't know either.

It's all in the mix and it often comes out sounding very discordant when you try to take it all in.

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 04:38 PM
Refreshing to see a thread of substance in the UFO forum. Nice job.

It's interesting to note how the official response changes once the media coverage picks up steam. The same kind of thing happened with the O'Hare Airport reports. Initially the FAA denied knowing anything about the incident, only later changing its tune when denial became untenable.

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 04:41 PM
a reply to: TeaAndStrumpets

Tim Printy has offered up some good sceptical arguments on other cases. I am not sure he does with Stephenville as you point out. Its all rather conclusion led from the mass of data presented.

I also think McGaha's argument about flares is peculiar. Why does he come up with that? Did he leak information that he shouldn't have done? Is he confused? Or is he just making up stuff to debunk the case.

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 04:45 PM
a reply to: BiffWellington

It's interesting to note how the official response changes once the media coverage picks up steam....

That's been going on since July 1947. The question is why?

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 04:45 PM
The power (these shadowy figures who cover up these sightings ) hold, must be awesome....
I have a tough time imagining just how deep the cover up has grown since the thirties.....
I can see why they now refer to a breakaway society that's been formed in the deep black of UFO investigation by the PTB....
If we don't crack this open to the world well be left behind while a small part of humanity reaps the benefits of recovered technology as well as escaping into space with it.....
edit on 29-3-2016 by bandersnatch because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 07:22 PM

originally posted by: mirageman
Tim Printy has offered up some good sceptical arguments on other cases. I am not sure he does with Stephenville as you point out. Its all rather conclusion led from the mass of data presented.

He does exactly what I pointed out. As to his "conclusion [being] led from the mass of data," well... this is kinda the point. The 'mass' is the sum of all the individual bits of data, and if so many individual bits are tainted by the kind of shoddy reasoning seen here, then how strong can his conclusion actually be? A wall built with crumbling and deficient bricks isn't going to hold up long to the winds of close scrutiny.

I also think McGaha's argument about flares is peculiar. Why does he come up with that? Did he leak information that he shouldn't have done? Is he confused? Or is he just making up stuff to debunk the case.

Using the word 'peculiar' to describe McGaha's flare explanation is very generous of you! I personally think it's pretty clear that he's either making things up, or (more likely) that his breadth of thought and imagination actually is so narrow that he only knows what the unidentified Stephenville object could not possibly be, and he then 'reasons' from there. You see this all the time. Just go look at the badufos blog, for example. When you already know what the unidentified object can't be, there's no huge risk in tossing yet another prosaic explanation out there, since one of 'em (in their minds) must be plausible enough that it will eventually stick.

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 07:41 PM
I can't figure out why anyone would even allow McGaha on their show, news, forum, anymore since he is such an obvious shill and likely counter-Intel, but the quality of his debunking is so extremely beggarly poor that it doesn't make a bit of sense.... He believes himself to be better qualified to tell others what they see, as opposed to someone just saying what they see. Giving McGaha the floor in any venue is like asking Peewee Herman to help NASA build their next space rocket.....

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 10:36 PM
I'm gonna reference this.

might be of interest

posted on Mar, 29 2016 @ 11:56 PM
Low quality video, but includes most the major players if you want to hear them give accounts with an attempt by the show to recreate what they saw. You would like to assume the witnesses saw the re-enactment and agreed with it, the UFO hunters would often show this kind of info on their shows, something often left off of others like this one.

Not sure why I cant get the youtube link to work, so here is the standard link

Being a late ufo siting, who knows what the military has in its hangars by this date. Still you got to wonder, if it was ours, why isnt it being tested somewhere like area51?

Interesting Robert Powell gives this sighting such high marks in the CNN video.
edit on 30-3-2016 by 111DPKING111 because: youtube link no worky

posted on Mar, 30 2016 @ 03:03 PM
a reply to: TeaAndStrumpets

a reply to: NoCorruptionAllowed

Unfortunately there are people who peddle their crap on both sides of the fence. It's important to keep a critical eye on them all.

posted on Mar, 30 2016 @ 03:13 PM
a reply to: 111DPKING111

There you go with the video. I'll catch up with it later in the week and let you know what I think.

I am not sure what to make of this case. The 'skeptics' explanations are weak and it feels like the military were up to something. Although why they were doing it over Stephenville I don't know. I was hoping maybe someone who was in the area might remember something & pipe up.

But not too many people seem to be bothered about this case looking at the few responses to the thread.

So I might have to leave it there for now.

posted on Mar, 30 2016 @ 04:41 PM

originally posted by: grey580
I'm gonna reference this.

might be of interest

Yes it might!

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