Ancient aliens and UFOs, or “unidentified flying objects,” have been the stuff of legends for centuries. Modern “eyewitness” accounts began to surface as early as the latter part of the 19th century with reports of “mystery airships” appearing in U.S. newspapers. During WWII, allied airmen’s eerie tales of encountering mysterious “foo fighters” captured our collective imagination, but it was after the Cold War that UFO sightings really took off. While the U.S. government started monitoring the skies for evidence that the Soviets might be developing secret stealth aircraft, many people believed—and continue to believe—that unexplained flying phenomena were of extra terrestrial origin. Pictures of so-called UFOs were touted as proof that alien visitors had made their way to Earth but even in the dark ages before Photoshop, it was easy enough to manipulate photographic technology. The following stories tell of possible UFO sightings, with photographs that may—or may not—prove that real close encounters may be closer than you think.
Los Angeles, California; February 25, 1942
The legend: At 2:25 p.m, alarm sirens installed in the event of a Japanese air raidsounded as flying objects were spotted in the skies above Los Angeles. A blackout was declared and anxious, terrified citizens followed the instructions to extinguish all lights.
At 3:16 p.m., searchlights swept the skies and anti-aircraft guns opened fire on the unidentified flying objects over the Pacific. Witnesses recount the formation of small red or silver-plated objects high-speed flying at a high altitude was untouched by the anti-aircraft salvos. The larger craft pictured flew off without sustaining damage as well.
McMinnville, Oregon; May 8, 1950
The legend: Photographed by Paul Trent after his wife spotted a strange object in the sky, these images were published in a local newspaper in McMinnville, Oregon. The photos were later published in the June 26, 1950 edition of Life magazine. The rest is history.