Beginning on Friday, January 30, 1998, numerous residents of Pensacola and Gulf Breeze on the Florida panhandle as well as residents of southern Alabama west to Mobile reported numerous night and daylight sightings of UFOs. In at least one instance, a clear daylight UFO was captured on videotape, and many still photos have been taken, including at least one by an internationally respected photographer for LIFE magazine.
In addition, tremendous unexplained booms or "sky quakes" have been heard in the region of Mobile, Alabama.
The Florida panhandle has been a hotbed of UFO activity since November 1987, when Gulf Breeze resident Ed Walters first photographed and reported what became widely known as "the Gulf Breeze sightings." Arguments over the authenticity of Walters' photos have not diminished the fact that numerous other residents have reported similar sightings on countless occasions since 1987.
The latest wave began on the evening of Friday, January 30, when at least twelve skywatchers on Pensacola Beach observed a peculiar red light as it moved slowly from near the northwest horizon to the zenith of the sky over a period of some eight minutes, starting at 6:29 pm. The light, described by several witnesses as "bright cherry-red" or "dramatic garnet red," seems to be the same kind of luminous object sighted so frequently in the Pensacola/Gulf Breeze area that it has been given the affectionate nick-name "Bubba."
Among the observers on this occasion were noted UFO author Whitley Strieber and his wife Anne, and LIFE magazine photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Strieber was in Pensacola with Greenfield-Sanders to complete work on a feature article for LIFE concerning UFO hotspots around the United States.
Strieber told CNI News that Greenfield-Sanders got at least one good photograph of the brilliant red object. Although Greenfield-Sanders has photographed many significant events around the globe, this was his first look at a UFO, according to Strieber.
Greenfield-Sanders had asked the group of local skywatchers to pose for him. He was just setting up a shot of the group gazing into the sky when the red object appeared, exactly where they were looking.
"The witnesses strongly felt... that this UFO appearance was more than just coincidence," wrote witness Art Hufford in an email message.
"It wasn't an airplane. There were many airplanes in the sky," Strieber told CNI News. "I also ruled out the possibility of it being a balloon. The red that was coming off it was so intense that it had to be generating that light itself. It wasn't a reflective color."
Strieber said the object did not move like any aircraft, helicopter or balloon. "It would move a distance, then stopped for a while, then took an angled turn, then moved another distance and stopped [overhead] for a long time," he said. At no time was any sound heard.
After at least three minutes hovering overhead, the bright object was obscured by what seemed to be the passage of a high, thin cloud. Moments later, when the cloud passed and the star-field reappeared, the red light was gone. It was nowhere to be seen, Strieber said.
According to Strieber, Greenfield-Sanders "was very awed. We both were. He didn't expect this. He'd been joking about the idea of seeing one with me, but he was rather awed by it."
Eyewitness Art Hufford also took photos of the object with his 35mm camera. On seven time-exposures, using a tripod, he got the red object as "a pulsing red line that moved up and out of the camera's field of view." These images show that the object was pulsing very rapidly, "probably in the 10-20 pulses per second range... something which the human eye cannot detect, but the film record clearly shows," Hufford said.
Again the following night, January 31, starting at 6:21 pm, at least eleven witnesses saw a similar red illumination from their vantage point on Pensacola Beach.
This time, the red object was not as bright, but it was visible for 25 and a half minutes, the longest such sighting any of the witnesses could recall, according to longtime skywatcher Vicki Lyons.
The sighting again began near the north-northwest horizon. However, the object moved only slightly upward and appeared to be gradually moving away from the observers on Pensacola Beach, finally fading from view in the distance.
Area residents Ray and Elise Pollock reported seeing the same red illumination from their own driveway during the same time period as the Pensacola Beach group.
Another eyewitness, Carole Baker, was driving toward Shoreline Park in Gulf Breeze that night when she saw not one but two bright red objects low on the horizon to the east of her position. Her sighting began at 6:35 pm and lasted about ninety seconds, she said.
The two red objects had a distinctive shape, according to Baker. "Each central, larger ruby red light had adjacent to it on either side one smaller red light... This was suggestive to me of a ring-type configuration which we have witnessed in this area many times before," she told CNI News.
A few days later, skyquakes and daylight UFOs were reported in nearby southern Alabama.
The Mobile (Alabama) Press Register newspaper reported two tremendous booms heard all over the Mobile area shortly after noon on Thursday, February 5. The first boom occurred at 12:05 pm, and the second at 12:20 pm. They were so loud, the paper said, that they "shook bottles off shelves in downtown Mobile, caused walls to tremble... and flooded 911 phone lines... Homes and businesses were actually shaking from Grand Bay in southern Mobile County to Citronelle in the north." (These two towns are more than 45 miles apart.)
Local authorities could not explain the booms. Officials of the National Weather Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, Keesler and Eglin Air Force Bases and the Pensacola Naval Air Station all denied any knowledge of what had happened. The military denials appeared to rule out sonic booms from exotic aircraft that sometimes fly in the area.
On the afternoon of February 5, only hours after the mysterious booms in Mobile, Pensacola resident Vicki Lyons got in her car to drive to a meeting in southern Alabama. She had planned to leave an hour later, she told CNI News, but "at 2:30, I suddenly without any real reason began to think I needed to leave earlier. I actually was not finished with the work I was doing, but I left my house at 3:35."
Driving west on highway I-10, about 20 minutes outside of Pensacola, "all of a sudden I noticed through my windshield to the southwest a perfectly round silver ball, so silver it looked like a sterling silver perfect 'marble' hanging in the sky," Lyons said.
She told CNI News that the object did not appear to be moving when she first sighted it, although she was traveling at 70 miles per hour down the freeway. She said it looked the size of "an aspirin at arm's length" and was probably about one mile away. It contrasted sharply against the cloudless blue sky.
A weather balloon reflecting the afternoon sunlight could look like that. But what happened next clearly rules out a balloon.
"As I was looking at it and pondering pulling off the interstate, it suddenly took off at a tremendously fast speed and crossed in front of me, over the interstate and off to the north. The speed of the object was indescribable!" In an instant, the object was gone, Lyons said.
"It was so spectacular that I screamed in excitement in my car when it blurred across in front of me," she told CNI News. She noted that she passed mile marker 63 on I-10 moments after the sighting.
On Saturday, February 7, a woman named Christie Edwards in Robertsdale, Alabama, some 40 miles west-northwest of Pensacola, videotaped a daylight object very similar in appearance to the object that Vicki Lyons reported near the same area two days earlier. The brief video was aired on the local Fox Channel 10 news in Mobile on Monday evening, February 9. According to the news report, Edwards had seen the same object again that Monday morning.
"It looks like just a bright light, but it's real big. And it's nothing I've ever seen before," she told Fox news.
A copy of the Fox news video sent to CNI News by Project Awareness clearly shows a small circular-looking silver object against a blue sky. Jerky movement of the object appears caused by the motion of the hand-held camcorder rather than the object itself.
Capping nearly two weeks of activity, on Wednesday, February 11, at 5:10 in the afternoon, another area resident also saw a bright silver object in the daylight sky. Pat Crumbley was driving with her husband Buddy eastward on I-10 near Milton, Florida, just east of Pensacola, when something caught the corner of her eye and she looked up.
"About 15 degrees off the horizon, I saw a silver ball-shaped object about 1/2 inch in diameter at arm's length," she told CNI News. "I was so stunned, it took a couple of seconds to say, 'Buddy, look!' As he turned to look, it just disappeared. It didn't appear to move, just disappeared. The sky was completely cloudless and bright."
Crumbley said that an airplane entered her field of view at the moment the silver object disappeared. She could not discern if the plane was commercial or military, but she thought it appeared to be heading for the spot where the silver object was last visible.
"I have seen red lights, [and] a tremendously large white light, so bright that it left Buddy and me with a headache, but this is the first silver object I have seen," Crumbley said. "After the sighting, I had absolutely no doubt that I had seen a UFO. I had a feeling of certainty."
Further updates on sightings in the Pensacola region will be posted on the Project Awareness website, http://www.projectawareness.com. A still frame from the Robertsdale video is also posted on the CNI News web site at http://www.cninews.com/CNI_New.html.
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