Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Idaho tops national rate of UFO sightings

Staff Writer | June 28, 2020 1:40 AM

Idaho tops national rate of UFO sightings

For those who think living in Idaho has lately resembled living on another planet, you might be able to actually stumble across an objective third party to back up your claims.

A report released this past week announced that Idaho topped the nation in most UFO sightings per capita in 2019, just in case your world wasn’t strange enough.

The UFO — a colloquial acronym for Unidentified Flying Object — has long been the source of speculative evidence that intelligent alien life has finally traversed the vast expanse of space to reach Earth. While no more than conjecture and folklore once upon a time, UFOs have since captivated the collective imagination. A more interconnected world — aided by the internet — has led those who claim to have seen UFOs to share their experiences as they continue to look up to the skies. The matter has led to consortiums of believers, symposiums on alien contact and Project Blue Book, the United States Air Force studies that document encounters with UFOs, not to mention the inspiration for countless science fiction blockbusters, from “The Day The Earth Stood Still” to “Independence Day” to “Avengers: Endgame”.

But on 164 occasions in 2019, Idahoans claimed to have seen something not from our neighborhood.

The study, released by the marketing company, cites data collected by the National UFO Reporting Center, headquartered between the eastern Washington towns of Davenport and Harrington in — because why not? — a decommissioned Air Force ICBM base.

The study compared the number of sightings to U.S. Census Bureau data. Per capita, 9.18 out of every 100,000 Idahoans reported a UFO sighting, edging out neighboring Montana and its second-place 9.17 per 100,000 who claimed to have a close encounter of the whatever-eth kind.

While the head of the National UFO Reporting Center couldn’t comment on the Satellite Internet study — as he said he has not evaluated its methodology — he stressed that humanity’s connection to UFOs carries a deep, rich history, particularly with those who have witnessed them firsthand.

“It changes their lives,” said the Center’s Peter Davenport (no relation to the nearby town’s namesake) from his missile base. “We’re dealing with probably the most important scientific study in the history of mankind: Are we alone in this universe? And I would say the overwhelming evidence says, ‘We are not alone.’”

It’s a notion that nibbles at locals’ imaginations, as well. Of the 17 North Idahoans informally polled in the Hayden Super 1 parking lot for this story, none claimed to have seen a UFO. But 14 said it was possible we’ve been visited by an alien, and 12 said it was likely.

“I absolutely believe it,” said Renee Brookings of Coeur d’Alene. “Space is such a big place out there. There must be someone out there who’ve taken the adventure to come and see us.”

“Oh, I think it’s likely,” Samantha Ellisbury of Hayden agreed, smiling as she loaded up her cooler for a sunny weekend camping trip. “Who wouldn’t want to come here on a day like today?”

Americans reported 6,340 UFO sightings in 2019, an unsettling number on its own but even more so when you consider its leap from 3,456 in 2018. Whatever people are seeing, they’re seeing more of them these days.

Davenport said he couldn’t conclude one way or another if Idaho and Montana have more sightings per capita because of our darker night skies due to sparser populations. He did say, however, Idaho has been home to some dramatic sightings, including one not that far from home.

“Are you familiar with Beauty Bay?” Davenport asked. “Just on the eastern side of Lake Coeur d’Alene? A few years ago — in June of 2017 or 2018, I think — a man and wife were asleep on their sailboat on Beauty Bay, and they were awakened by a light that was streaming in from outside. The wife invited the husband to go topside to investigate.”

It was then, Davenport said, that the husband spotted the source of light: something in the air beyond explanation.

“People are always looking for the cause of UFO sightings,” Davenport said, “and I think that’s out of our ability to know or understand. But it’s something that definitely captures our imagination.”