In mid January, 2008 reports of a mass UFO sighting over Stephenville, Texas began to make national news. Much like the Phoenix Lights Case of 1997, the mysterious lights appearing in the Texas sky were seen by multiple witnesses including police officers. However, much of the interest was created by the proximity of the sightings to President Bush’s Texas ranch. Although the military initially stated that there were no jets flying in the area that night, they later recanted and stated that a training flight of 10 fighters was actually in the skies. The incident inspired one of the largest MUFON investigations to date and yielded radar information that is considered by many to confirm that an unknown object was flying over Texas. The incident was featured in a number of national news stories and by several television shows, including Larry King Live and UFO Hunters.
UFOs Over The Western White House
On the evening of Tuesday, January 8, 2008 some time between 6:00 and 7:00 PM local time, businessman and private pilot Steve Allen was enjoying the mild weather with others at a friend’s house. The men noticed a strange series of lights in the sky; they were very bright and moving very, very quickly. As the lights passed, Allen counted seven lights arranged in a vertical line at what he thought of as the rear of the object. It suddenly seemed to slow to a stop and as it did the seven lights appeared to take an arc formation. The lights then returned to a vertical arrangement, split into two groups of seven lights (each still in a vertical formation) and suddenly seemed to take on a flaming appearance and disappear. The event was so startling one of the men present simply left without a word. The others went inside to tell the homeowner’s wife what they had witnessed. They soon returned outside and saw the object again, this time being chased by two jets which Allen has described as F-16s flying at a high rate of speed.
The next day Allen called the local paper, the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, hoping to find out what had been in the skies over Texas. He was connected with reporter Angela Joiner who could not answer his questions and instead wrote an article of Allen’s sighting that appeared in the January 10 edition of the paper. The story included Allen’s office phone number, as he was sure others had seen the object. On the 11th both Joiner and Allen found themselves overwhelmed with calls from others who had witnessed the event. The Texas arm of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) also noted a large uptick in UFO sightings and prepared to investigate.
Perhaps because of the large number of witnesses or more probably because the mysterious flying object was very near the restricted airspace over President George HW Bush’s White Chapel Ranch, the reports were picked up by national news media. Soon video was being shown and the incident was being discussed on Good Morning America, Larry King Live and other mainstream shows. The History Channel television series UFO Hunters was in production at the time and visited Stephenville during the height of the excitement. Initially the military stated that there were no fighter jets in the air although they later recanted and said there was a training flight of ten fighters in the sky. A military spokesperson that dealt with local reported Angela Joiner suggested early on that the witnesses had merely seen reflections of the sunset on airplanes.
Stephenville Witnesses, The Investigation and Fallout
Scores of people claimed to see something on the night of January 8. A study of MUFON reportings revealed that there had been an elevated number of UFO reports in the area since December, 2007 that would continue throughout both January and February of 2008. Most people saw lights in the sky but a few reported seeing an incredibly large object in the sky. Among the witnesses were three area police officers, County Constable Lee Roy Gaitan (an elected law enforcement official), Steve Allen, who intially told his story to the press, and hiker Ricky Sorrells. Sorrells was among those who saw a large object while out hiking. He described the UFO as extremely large, flat gray and without any visible seems or bolts, although there were some cone shaped indentions on the underside. Sorrells gave several interviews and eventually reported telphone harrassment by someone claiming to be an Air Force officer.
In the weeks following the January 8 sighting residents noticed increased military aircraft in the area. Reporter Angela Joiner has stated that there were more flares dropped in the area by aircraft than she had ever seen in the past, even during drought related “no burn” periods. It seems likely that some of the later sightings on January and February were related to this increased traffic. Unfortunately, Joiner was fired or forced to resign from her newspaper position in early February after writing articles detailing Sorrells’ claims of harrassment.
Freedom of Information Act requests were made for the radar records for the hours shortly before and after the Allen sighting. Although it remains controversial, the MUFON analysis of the radar data from approximately 4:00 to 8:00 PM on the January 8 by MUFON Research Director Robert Powell and engineer and radar analysis expert Glen Schulze indicates that there was some type of unknown, transponderless object (possibly two) moving through the area in a path that seemed to corroborate witness accounts. The speeds calculated ranged greatly over the time period examined, sometimes as slow as 20 miles per hour while other times moving as much as 2000 MPH! The authors also concluded that although there were flights of military jets, they did not seem to “overtly react” to the unknown object. They also concluded that as the data set they examined came to an end, an unknown object was approximately 10 miles from Bush’s White Chapel Ranch. Analysis of witness video was performed for the televison program UFO Hunters by Dr. Bruce Maccabee indicated that the footage was merely a bright star with a combination of camera shake and a night-shooting setting cause strange effects. It should be noted, however, that this video was not taken on January 8 but on January 19, 2008 during a separate sighting.
For Further Information
The MUFON Journal, March and May 2008, both available in PDF form from www.blackvault.com
MUFON Special Report on Stephenville (by Glen Schulze and Robert Powell), available in PDF at
Texas UFO Tales: From Dennison 1878 to Stephenville 2008 by Mike Cox and Renee Roderick
UFO Hunters television show, first season episode “Invasion: Texas, 2008“