Of all the areas in the United States one can think of to be a potential hotbed of UFO sighting activity, Chicago would probably not have made your guess list. And yet, according to a new interactive map that plots the location and number of witnesses, the UFO sightings with the most credibility (the most witnesses) have come from the Chicago and surrounding environs in Illinois.
The Washington Post’s blog “Wonkblog” reported on the new interactive “UFO Sightings Map” June 5, noting that its creator, Max Galka, had taken over 90,000 UFO sighting reports from across the United States, reports that spanned a century, and produced a map that not only shows the sightings by relative size (number of witnesses) but, if clicked upon, will bring up the report data for the sightings themselves. The circles depicting the sightings are green if more than one person witnessed the particular event. All solo sightings are blue.
Galka notes in an analysis of his work posted to Metrocosm.com that of the top ten most-witnessed UFO sightings to date, six involved the state of Illinois. Three of those, including the top sighting (with 77 witnesses) were in Tinley Park, a suburb south of Chicago. All three events in 2004-2005 are known as the Tinley Park Lights and, surprisingly enough, are not all that well known, documented, or celebrated (the Post notes that there isn’t even a Wikipedia entry for the events), which presents as the exact opposite of the Phoenix Lights (No. 4 on the list with 65 witnesses), an episode that has been the source of much speculation — and explanation — since their sightings in 1997.
Max Galka’s research took him all the way back to 1905, making use the National UFO Reporting Center’s database, for the first sighting report. (For a quick rundown — in just seconds, in sequence — of the UFO sightings since 1933, check out the “UFO Sightings Map” visualization created by Michigan University MBA postgrad Christian Pearson.) However, as Galka explained to the Post, the further one goes back in history, the less data that can be found on the sightings. For instance, although there are a couple of reports of the 1947 Roswell “crash” in the database, perhaps the most famous UFO incident in history, the reports do not show up on the interactive map as a single event. Galka said that “the dates of the Roswell reports are spaced far apart, because most are not actually ‘sightings.’ They are just events that somehow relate to the alleged crash.”
The “UFO Sightings Map” shows that the the most witnessed sightings tend to be in urban areas. This may lead one to think that this flies in the face of the commonly held notion that most UFO sightings occur in rural areas. Galka says that the belief is backed by data on a per capita basis, but the sightings with the most witnesses have all occurred in urban areas. He notes that it only makes sense, considering that there are more people in urban areas.
According to analyses of UFO sightings in the past two years, Vermont, Arizona, and Maine had the most per capita of all the U.S. states in 2013, while Oregon, New Hampshire and New Mexiso led the list in 2014. Concerning the latter, a report from the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), it was noted that there were over a thousand more UFOs sighted and reported in 2014 than in 2013.
“Everyone hears ‘UFO’ and they think urban legends, like bigfoot,” Galka said. “But when you have these big sightings that were seen by thousands of people, you can debate what’s up there, but that’s not urban legend, that’s just a mystery.”