Have you ever seen a UFO?
All right—even if you haven’t seen one, do you want to?
Ever since I was an X-Files-obsessed kid, I’ve wanted so badly to see a UFO—or at least visit some places that are famous for these sightings! One of my bucket list destinations is Roswell, New Mexico, and even though my husband isn’t into the same spooky stuff I like, I think I can convince him to go. It’s the subject of one of our favorite Futurama episodes, at least.
If you’re also curious about places where people have seen (allegedly) otherworldly craft, here are some very fun rabbit holes to go down!
1. Roswell, New Mexico
The famous Roswell Incident happened in July 1947, when New Mexico rancher Mac Brazel discovered strange debris scattered across his property. He wasn’t sure what to make of it, so he contacted local authorities, who then got in touch with the nearby Roswell Army Air Field.
Military personnel came by to collect the debris, and shortly after, officials at the Air Field announced they’d recovered bits of wreckage from a “flying disc.” The very next day, however, they retracted the statement, saying it was just a downed weather balloon.
The strange statements surrounding what actually happened—and the true nature of the object—spurred many conspiracy theories over the years, with UFOlogists researching the incident and interviewing eyewitnesses and experts, speculating that the craft was extraterrestrial in nature.
In the mid-90s, the US Air Force finally released “The Roswell Report: Fact vs. Fiction in the New Mexico Desert”, stating that the debris was really from a top-secret project—called “Project Mogul”—meant to monitor Soviet nuclear testing. They launched high-altitude, lightweight balloons fitted with listening devices, though one of them crashed during a test flight, scattering debris across Mac’s ranch and leading to confusion and conflicting statements from official sources.
Despite the Air Force’s best efforts, the lore around Roswell, New Mexico and its UFO sightings—including other subsequent reports of strange lights and objects in the skies—remains, and the area is said by UFO enthusiasts to be a hotspot for extraterrestrial activity.
Today, Roswell is a very popular destination for people interested in UFO sightings. A few attractions include:
- The International UFO Museum and Research Center: Located downtown, this museum collects and showcases materials related to the 1947 incident and educates visitors about unexplained phenomena
- The Roswell UFO Spacewalk: A fun walkthrough exhibit, the Spacewalk brings you through a trippy UFO-themed adventure with fun art and blacklights
- The UFO Festival: Held each summer, the UFO Festival commemorates the famous crash and has lots of events like parades, costume contests, live music, film screening, guest speakers, and more
2. Area 51, Nevada
This military installation has long been rumored to be the site of government research into extraterrestrial technology. Located at Groom Lake in southern Nevada, Area 51 is closed to the public, shrouded in mystery, and has been the subject of many conspiracy theories and alleged UFO sightings.
One of the most famous stories about UFOs here was shared in 1989 by Bob Lazar, who claimed that he’d worked with the US government at a top-secret facility close to Area 51. His job was to try to reverse-engineer the remains of an alien spacecraft that the government had come into possession of. He described it as a flying saucer that used something called element 115 to create a gravity field allowing it to fly.
Prior to Bob’s story, Area 51 already had a history of UFO sightings dating back at least to the 1950s and 1960s, when locals reported seeing unknown aircraft darting about at high speeds, performing maneuvers that seemed impossible.
The installation has been used for flight training and for testing experimental aircraft, with some details declassified by the CIA in 2013—so, while you can’t visit the Area 51 base, you can visit nearby towns and check out tourist attractions that provide some history about the area. You can also take day trips from Las Vegas to see the desert, and learn about the more creative and intriguing theories surrounding Area 51.
3. Phoenix, Arizona
On March 13, 1997, a series of lights were spotted over areas of Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico in two separate incidents that some believe were extraterrestrial in origin.
The first incident started around 7:30pm when witnesses reported seeing a V-shaped formation of lights passing very slowly over the Nevada border and into parts of Arizona, with some claiming that the lights came to a complete stop mid-air before continuing their course. These reddish-orange lights appeared to move in unison against a solid field blocking out the night sky, as though they were part of a single, silently-moving object. Accounts vary as to how large that object could have been—some witnesses say the area taken up by the lights was a bit larger than a football field, while others said it was up to a mile long. The formation disappeared around Tucson nearly two hours later.
Then, in the Phoenix area just after 10:00pm, a series of stationary lights were spotted hovering over the city until the early morning. These were bright white or yellowish lights that hovered in an arc shape over the city, with some witnesses reporting they could see a hazy cloud or halo around each light.
The US Air Force later identified the Phoenix Lights as flares dropped by an A-10 Warthog aircraft during a training exercise at the Barry Goldwater Range—but witnesses dispute this explanation, pointing out that the lights appeared to move in a controlled formation, and that they did not behave like flares.
4. Rendlesham Forest, England
In December 1980, two US Air Force personnel stationed in Suffolk, England claimed to have witnessed strange lights that they believed to be of extraterrestrial origin.
The Rendlesham Forest incident, also known as the Bentwaters Incident, started in the early hours of December 26, when security personnel at RAF Woodbridge saw lights descending into the nearby forest. Initially thinking it was a downed aircraft, they investigated and reported finding a triangular, metallic object with colored lights on its underside. When they tried to approach it, it seemed to move through the forest, leaving behind broken branches and burn marks.
Over the following days, the witnesses reported further sightings and strange occurrences, including burn marks on the ground and trees—and on the 28th, the Deputy Base Commander led a team into the forest to investigate. They took radiation readings in the cleared area and reportedly found higher-than-normal levels.
The incident remains one of the country’s most well-documented UFO sightings, and it has been the subject of many investigations and debates. Some believe that the incident was caused by extraterrestrial activity, while others argue that it was the result of a secret military experiment, or just a misinterpretation of natural phenomena.
5. Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia
Another intriguing UFO sighting: on October 4, 1967, around 11:00pm, multiple witnesses reported seeing a strange, low-flying object heading toward the coast of Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia. It was described as something like an airplane or a flying saucer, about 60 feet long, with four bright lights flashing in sequence. The object took a sudden downward turn, traveled along the water’s surface, and then bobbed in the sea for several minutes before disappearing beneath the surface.
About 20 minutes after the incident, RCMP arrived and a rescue effort was mounted in conjunction with military personnel, assuming that an aircraft had indeed crashed into the water. No survivors or debris were ever found, even after underwater searches by divers from the navy. The Canadian government launched an official investigation into the incident, but no conclusive explanation for the object was ever found.
6. Hessdalen Valley, Norway
While the mysterious Hessdalen Lights gained popularity in the 1980s, they’ve been around since at least the 1940s—these are unexplained, brightly-colored nocturnal lights observed over the Hessdalen Valley in central Norway, usually described as bright white, yellow, or red orbs that move in random directions.
The lights were the most active for a few years starting in late 1981, sometimes with 15—20 sightings reported a week. The observations vary in detail, with some reporting a quick flash of light across the sky, while others describe more prolonged sightings lasting up to an hour. They can take the shape of a free-moving light blob, or even appear as light beams, illuminating the surrounding landscape.
In 1983, Project Hessdalen was created to conduct field investigations, and in 1988, the Hessdalen automated measurement station was set up in the valley to register and record the appearance of the lights. In 2000, the Italian National Research Council became involved, gathering evidence that the lights seem to be a form of plasma—though the source of this plasma and what causes its activation and deactivation remains unknown. Other theories suggest that the lights form from the combustion of airborne dust from mining in the area, while some sightings have been debunked as misidentified aircraft, mirages, and headlights.
Of course, the unknown nature of the lights has fueled speculation from UFO enthusiasts that the lights are extraterrestrial in nature, especially as witnesses report the lights moving in a manner that suggests intelligent control.
7. Bonnybridge, Scotland
The UFO Capital of Scotland, and part of the Falkirk Triangle, Bonnybridge is an area of high UFO activity! It’s a popular destination for UFO enthusiasts and researchers, and the subject of lots of investigations and studies into extraterrestrial activity since the first sightings in the 1990s.
Witnesses here have reported seeing flying objects of various sizes and shapes, ranging from traditional saucer-shaped objects, triangular crafts, and spheres of light that move at high speeds. Perhaps the most famous incident happened in 1992, when local man James Walker had to stop his car while driving along a country road, seeing what he described as a bright, starlike object blocking his way—the object took off at a high speed, disappearing into the air. Since then, hundreds of reports have been made of strange objects and lights in the area.
While many have tried to figure out what’s happening here, there hasn’t been a conclusion yet—theories range from natural phenomena from atmospheric conditions, secret military projects, to more fantastic ideas like a “thinning of the veil” between dimensions, or even time travelers from the future.
If you’re interested in reading more about the incidents mentioned above, have a look at these books: