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I was 14 and on a 5-day camp-out with about 20 other Boy Scouts in the foothills of Lookout Mtn in Alabama 20+ years ago. 4 of the 5 days were spent in a relatively safe & easygoing pasture of a scout-friendly citizen. We had some badge classes and spent a lot of our leisure time in fierce competitions of mumblety-peg.
But one night we went to camp in the "mountains," better described as large foothills. After dinner we broke off in pairs and cliques and explored the various trails leading to the top which I estimate to be around 600 ft and situated among many foothills of similar size.
Two scouts had remained at the top longer than the rest of us and it was rather late in the evening when I and a friend were meandering a trail and talking near the top when the two scouts up top called down to us in very excited voices to come up that they had just seen a ufo. We scrambled up to the top and the two scouts indicated an adjacent and taller mount and said they saw a big glowing orange ufo land there.
I was skeptical, but was intrigued by how excited they were, cutting each other off in their zealousness to describe what they saw. We settled in and continued talking all the while steadily looking at the adjacent mount top.
Maybe 20 minutes passed when there appeared a brilliant double-flash that emanated from and illuminated the top of the peak, a second of darkness, and then maybe 100 ft over the tree tops "it" pulsed into life. Perspective wise, I would say it was about high-moon size in appearance.
At full pulse it looked like liquid metal or 'plasma' swirling around inside. Then it would dim at about the same speed it lit. It would dim to nothing. We couldn't see anything and then a good bit higher in the sky it would pulse to light again a few seconds later. Not counting the double-flash of the apparent lift-off it lit and dimmed 6 times, each time higher in the sky and after the 6th nothing. We watched for a long time, but that amazing glimpse was over but for the heavy-duty questions it raised in me.
It was a clear night and a clear phenomena of some kind. I was an Air Force brat that never missed a Blue Angels show or an opportunity to witness various test-flights. I knew it wasn't flares and it doesn't fit with any description of ball lightning that I've come across. Conventional craft was out of the question because of characteristics and size.
Even at that age, I knew what we saw couldn't be easily explained. Since the internet came along, I've searched for folk who have seen the same thing and have now found quite a few.
It's too bad that chinese lanterns do cloud the issue up to a degree. Good thread, OP...I know there are others here at ATS that have seen what seems to be the same phenomenon.
Hawaii, Pacific Aug 12 1825
English naturalist Andrew Bloxam and others saw a large red luminous object rise, illuminating everything. It fell out of sight, rose and fell again: "About half past 3 o'clock this morning the middle watch on deck was astonished to find everything around them suddenly illuminated.
"Turning their eyes eastward they beheld a large, round, luminous body rising up about 7 degrees apparently from the water to the clouds, and falling again out of sight, and a second time rising and falling: it was the color of a red-hot [cannon] shot and appeared about the size of the Sun…It gave so great a light that a pin might be picked up on deck."
Hamburg, Germany Dec 15, 1547
Historian Simon Goulart…writes that on that day the sailors who were aboard ships in the harbor of Hamburg saw in the air, at midnight, a glistening globe as fiery as the Sun. It rolled towards the north, emitting much heat…
Paris, France Feb 1382
Before the Maillets uprising, a fiery flashing globe was seen for a period of eight days, "roaming from door to door above the city of Paris, without there being any wind agitation nor lightning or noise of thunder, and on the contrary, the weather never ceased to be serene.
Iena, Germany 13 Jun, 1554
A large number of spheres and disks flew over the city of Iena. They had sudden variations of speed and turned to a red color as they flew north.
Prague, Czechoslovakia 1619
The inhabitants of the village…[and] the village Priest was with them about 10 pm…looking up at the sky he could see a globe that resembled the moon, but fiery. It divided into two parts, and one of the parts divided into four smaller globes. (As the villagers and the Priest watched the globes would fade out gradually and then after a little bit some of the globes would pulse back into visibility.