By Richard Motzer
Field Investigator for Arizona MUFON
© July, 1997 / 2015
Editor’s Note-March 13th is the anniversary of one of the most significant UFO events in history; The UFO Chronicles will underscore the event with various articles both past & present, throughout the month-FW
. . . At about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, the 13th of March, Peter Davenport at the UFO Reporting Center in Seattle, WA, started receiving calls, first from the northwest part of Arizona, of a formation of lights moving south toward Prescott, AZ. These lights formed a basic triangle with as many as six or seven lights per side with two red lights trailing.
The real time line for this event is somewhere around 8:00 p.m. MST. As the calls kept flowing in, the description changed as to how many lights were involved. Some even said there were no lights at all, but they could see a black mass blocking out the stars as it passed between the viewer and the sky. The general description was of a “V,” but it also resembled a crown with lights that formed an upward triangle. These lights were not like aircraft landing lights but more like stars. This description would change as the objects moved into the Phoenix area. The only consistent properties of the object(s) would be that there were no sound and very slow movement. However, if there was only one object, it could not have covered that distance in such a short time. This is a real “Catch-22,” but may be the key to the solution. I know of three V formations that night and there may be more.
As the readers may know, all of this was broadcast worldwide at 11:00 PST on Art Bell’s Coast-to-Coast talk radio program. I knew it would be a very busy day for me the next morning, so I retired. I was involved with the videos of this event even before it happened. I received a call from Tom Taylor, our state director for MUFON, that a person in Paradise Valley had been taping lights west of the TV towers on South Mountain for over two years, suggesting that I make contact with her to view the footage. I did so and set the next Wednesday, the 12th at 9:00 a.m., for her to come to my home to view the tapes. Due to the death of Mr. Taylor’s mother, I changed the meeting date to the 14th, Friday, the day after the events of the 13th. While talking to her on the phone, I discussed the idea that she might be seeing flares from the Gila Bend Gunnery Range. She felt this was not the case, so we met Friday around 10:15 a.m. Even before her arrival, the news media were at my house getting my reaction to the events of the night before. I had only seen one video, the formation shot by Chuck Rairden from Apache Junction. I told them that in a few minutes I would have a second video for all of us to see, because this lady had caught the event, too. The news programs broke the story with their 4:30 p.m. edition. From that time on, the phones never stopped ringing and the news people kept coming.
I started to collect all the videos I could find and interviewed other witnesses. The first videos I obtained were of lights that appeared to be over the city of Phoenix and it was those videos that made the news programs. It would be some days later before I could obtain the only video of five lights flying to the south taken at 56th Street and Carefree Highway. I have been involved in the collection of data, returning calls, and doing the interviews, which now number over seventy witnesses, of which I found 53 to be credible. The real investigating doesn’t start until the last reports come in. One of the best investigation tools was a two-hour talk show I did with Bill Strauss on KTAR radio. Mr. Strauss is a very fair talk show host and allows the callers to tell their stories.
It was during that show that I realized that the people who saw the V formations flying overhead out-numbered the people who saw the lights near the Estrella Mountains by a very high ratio. The V formation lights looked like stars with the brightness of Sirius, whereas the lights over the Estrella Mountains appeared as super bright landing lights. This was very puzzling, because I had the video of the flying V formation where the lights are barely noticeable. So, why did 98% of the sightings pertain to the V formation? Four things are responsible for this:
1. People were outside looking to the northwest to see the Hale-Bopp Comet.
2. The best time to view Hale-Bopp was between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m. MST.
3. It was in motion flying toward them.
4. The altitude didn’t matter as long as you were outside. You had to be at a higher elevation and have a clear view to the southwest to see the lights above and behind the Estrellas.
We will come back to the V formation again. Now we needed to find out why we had seven videos of the Estrella lights, but only a few witnesses.
At this point, all of the TV stations were running the same video clips. People were being confused and thought the videos showed the V formation, which they didn’t, but instead showed the lights to be over the city of Phoenix and that is what I mistakenly thought, too.
I don’t know how many times I looked at those tapes and couldn’t find the common thread. I received a call from a family far to the west of Phoenix where they, too, had taped the lights the night of the 13th and many other times. I made the long drive out to 222nd Avenue and Jackrabbit Blvd to view the tape. The tape did not impress me but the people did. They said that the lights appear between 8:00 and 10:00 pm were always in the same place and would drift laterally. They also said that a lot of helicopter and fighter aircraft traffic was observed at times when these lights appeared. The highest activity was in the mid-part of the month and the most common days were Monday through Thursday. The other key item was that a large area of Bureau of Land Management land had been cordoned off in the direction of the lights. The woman’s future son-in-law could see the land below the lights being illuminated like daylight. This was one of the keys, but I couldn’t see how it would fit into the puzzle at that time. . . .