I have had an interest in flying saucers and UFOs ever since I saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” on Saturday Night at the Movies when I was in middle school.
It was made in 1951 and filmed in black and white. Recognized as the first adult science fiction movie, it was directed by Robert Wise, an Academy Award-winning director.
I was fascinated by the spaceman, Klaatu, portrayed by Michael Rennie, his robot, Gort, and his spaceship, which was a silver flying saucer. Also making an impression on me was the spaceman’s message which was, “He came in peace and he asked the nations of Earth to settle their petty differences and stop nuclear testing. If they refused and continued their ways, the Earth would have to be eliminated.”
From that moment on I was always looking up. I learned the constellations and locations of the various planets and stars.
Then there was what I thought was my first UFO sighting at age 14.
I was attending a night-time summer little league game, watching a friend play when I noticed the peculiar flight patterns of two red lights in the sky. They circled above Phoenix for about 15 minutes. Then they converged in the eastern sky with another larger white light. About five minutes passed when suddenly the white light doubled in size and then disappeared. That night, Channel 12 News reported it had received a number of calls from Valley residents about UFOs over Phoenix earlier that evening. I never heard any more about those sightings.
My next contact with UFO stories was right here at The Times.
It all began when former reporter Brian Griesbach took photos of a groundbreaking ceremony for an expansion of the Fountain HiIls Charter School.
The photos ran on Page 2A of the May 27, 1998, edition. Several days later, while reviewing the photos, Griesbach noticed an unusual-shaped object in the sky above the McDowell Mountains on the right side of one of the photos. One of the photos of the image had the appearance of being a stereotypical flying saucer, the kind used most by Hollywood over the years. (“Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”)
He did not see the object when selecting photos for the newspaper. He was concentrating more on the 60 kids and staff members in the photos. When he first saw the unusual image, he thought it was caused by either glare from the sun or maybe dust on the lens. Neither was the case. Next he looked at the possibility that it was a plane, a blimp, a weather balloon or a bird. Again, nothing.
He took the negative to ProPhoto in Fountain Hills, the firm that had processed the film. A 10-by-13 print was made.
The object appeared to be a silver saucer. The top was dome-shaped. The bottom was dark, almost black and it was wider than the top portion. To add to the validity of the image, a parent contacted our office after the story came out, and he had a similar UFO on one of his photos taken at the same event that day.
Next, UFO experts were contacted. Richard Motzer, a field investigator for MUFON, a national Mutual UFO Network, was assigned our case.
Motzer said he investigates about 10 cases each year of legitimate sightings. He also said he usually ends up disproving most cases.
But, he said he was excited about the Fountain Hills photo, He compared it to a NASA video taken from the Discovery space shuttle in September 1991.
We have contacted MUFON to see if they have records of past events. We will report the findings if we hear something.