6 Strange UFO Sightings in Arizona and What We Know (and Don’t Know) About Them

An alien Sculpture sits outside the Center for New Age in Sedona Arizona, a spiritual tourist destination in Northern Arizona. (Shutterstock Photo/DBSOCAL)

By Teresa K. Traverse

April 11, 2023

More than 4,700 sightings have been reported on the National UFO Reporting Center’s website.

Arizona and unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings have a long history together. According to the Davenport, Washington-based National UFO Reporting Center (yes, this a real thing), Arizona is one of the top 10 places in North America where people report seeing UFOs.

The UFO Experience—an exhibit about all things UFOs that starts with the sightings in Roswell, New Mexico, and also includes props from alien-centric films like “ET” and “Men in Black”—is open at the Arizona Boardwalk in Scottsdale and landed (pun intended) in town back in December of 2022. 

You can read about more than 4,700 sightings reported on the center’s website in the Grand Canyon State using this link. But in the meantime, here are six times people reported seeing UFOs in the state. Whether you believe or not, “the truth is out there.” 

The Phoenix Lights

To kick things off, here’s a brief overview of what local news station ABC15 Arizona called “the most famous reported UFO sighting in the world.” Dubbed “The Phoenix Lights” event, thousands of individuals reported seeing unexplained lights strewn across the sky on March 13, 1997. The History Channel devoted an entire episode to the phenomena on its program “History’s Greatest Mysteries.” 

According to an article published in USA today on June 18, 1997, the first person to report the lights to the aforementioned UFO Reporting Center was a retired police officer who was in Paulden, Arizona. He said he saw five red lights in the night’s sky that were traveling south. Just a few minutes later, someone else based in Prescott called in to report one white light and four red ones. Minutes after that, people all throughout metro Phoenix were calling Luke Air Force Base and police departments. The lights were also spotted in Nevada. Witness descriptions of the lights varied, but most reported seeing lights in a V-shape. Even today, the entire thing remains a mystery. Former Arizona Governor Fife Symington eventually said he believed that the lights really were an alien spacecraft. 

A UFO in the clouds that blew up on TikTok

TikTok screenshot/@neshahiggins

We couldn’t leave this recent supposed sighting out of this list. A video taken in Tempe and posted to TikTok on July 15, 2022, shows a UFO-shaped object nestled in white clouds. In the video, you can hear someone ask: “What is that?” A viewer of the video commented “That, my friend, is a mothership,” according to an article published in The News & Observer. The video racked up millions of views. However, people pointed out that the UFO in question was probably just a lenticular cloud, which can resemble a UFO.

Something spotted north of Tucson 

In the afternoon of Feb. 24, 2018, pilots with the private company Phoenix Air Group reported spotting something when they were flying over southern Arizona. One of the pilots even joked that “it was a UFO,” according to a recording obtained by The Arizona Republic and posted on its site. What’s more is that an American Airlines pilot told an air traffic controller that an object passed by his plane, too. 

A UFO seen in a ghost town 

Way back in October of 1968, retired school teacher Pearl Christiansen of ghost town Gleeson, Arizona, reported seeing “a train of lights” that she thought could be from a UFO. She saw a shiny and gold object. She also said that the lights changed colors, according to an article published in the Tucson Citizen (now the Arizona Daily Star). In that article, you can see pictures of burned rocks and cacti on Brown’s Peak that could have been caused by a UFO—although some say those were fires started by a hippie camp. 

Nightly UFO sightings by a Show Low resident 

Mountain town Show Low resident Don Woodward has reported seeing nightly UFOs and has what he considers to be photographic evidence to back up his claims, according to a 2021 article published in White Mountain Central. The images were taken with a full-spectrum camera that can capture infrared light. One image dubbed the “Energy Field” captured what supposedly is a red orb. In the second image Woodward took, you can see what he describes as “a force field with a faint triangle of lights inside it.”

UFO spotted heading toward Winslow 

On Jan. 24, 2007, brother and sister Sean and Deanna Dover were driving from Flagstaff to Leupp—a city located on the Navajo Nation—when they saw an object above their car. Deanna said they saw lights in the sky that disappeared and then reappeared. “It was traveling too fast to be an airplane and not emitting any noises that a helicopter or plane would have made flying that high,” Sean said in an article published in the Navajo-Hopi Observer. According to that story, other witnesses reported seeing a triangular object with a pulsating light underneath in the sky.

READ MORE: 7 Ghost Towns That Bring Arizona’s History to Life

Author

  • Teresa K. Traverse

    Teresa K. Traverse is a Phoenix, Arizona-based writer and editor. Her work also has appeared in national print outlets including Weight Watchers, Bust and Parenting magazines and on sites like Tripadvisor, Wine Enthusiast, SFGate, Brides, Rachael Ray Every Day, Bustle, Racked, ForRent.com, WeddingWire, Refinery29, The Daily Meal, Oxygenmag.com, USA Today and Fast Company. She's the managing editor of Sedona Monthly. In her spare time, she loves hiking, reading magazines and spending quality time with her long-haired Chihuahua, Rocket. Visit teresaktraverse.com to check out more of her work.

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