As a child, I was fascinated by the phenomenon of UFOs. My best friend growing up (I will call her Melissa) and I would spend evenings staring at the sky at our homes and reporting to each other in class the next day if we had seen anything. The short answer was generally “no” most of the time, or an exited “yes” that was quickly turned to disappointment upon realizing that we had likely seen an airplane and that our imaginations had filled in the rest with what we were hoping to see. As we were kids around the age of nine or ten, sky-gazing was limited to summer nights without curfews or, once school started again, the winter months when the sun set earlier so that we could stare into the vastness of the universe for a glimpse of extraterrestrial technology before our bedtimes at 9:00.
We frequently watched The X-Files or the film Fire in the Sky, and Melissa was even convinced at one point that she had been abducted by aliens at least two times. Looking back, she had likely experienced nightmares or even sleep paralysis that had tinges of alien life influenced by subconscious memories of the shows we had been watching, and the plethora of paranormal reading material we subjected ourselves to in the Alien/Bigfoot Clubhouse that her father had built. Regardless, it was still a thrilling, but at times, frightening adventure for two fourth graders living in a small town in Central Massachusetts with the nearest city being the (still) dangerous Worcester, a bunch of semi-rural neighbouring towns, and a lot of nothing to do.
As I have previously stated when I began this folklore/paranormal section of my blog, I am (today) a skeptic and can safely rule out many encounters with the supernatural with scientific explanations, as misidentifications, or as flat our hoaxes. When the internet went ablaze with hype over the declassification of three UFO videos by the Pentagon, I still do not believe that the objects in the footage are alien. More than likely, the objects are aircraft or devices being tested by other outfits of the US military and the witnesses were not part of that operation and, therefore, not notified for security reasons. Militaries are complex machines, and when new technology is in development only those with the proper clearance for that particular project know what is going on, leaving other members of the armed services in the dark about what is likely new equipment that could become available for wider use in the years to come.
That being said, there was one night in grade school when my routine searches of the night sky actually produced something. It was quarter of 1:00 in the morning on a Sunday in the middle of winter. I woke up needing to use the bathroom which was a mere two metres from my bedroom and, when finished, decided to raise the shade and take a peek outside one last time before going back to sleep. That is when I saw this:
A perfect sphere of bright, white light surrounded by an opaque halo was slowly moving in a southbound direction towards Worcester from the north, from about the location of Lunenburg or Leominster. It made its way over the neighbouring streets silently. It had a small tail trailing from behind it that flickered outwards from the orb and retracted back into it at a steady rate of about 90 pulses per minute (I am using my metronome to calculate the pattern of the tail, as unscientific as that is). The light was so bright that it pierced through the thick fir trees that dotted the backyard of my childhood home at the time. The bathroom window faced westward at 284° and the object was moving from about 345° N to about 275° W before disappearing behind the trees, houses and hills (thank you, smartphone compass apps for more accuracy, but still less science). The entire event lasted less than a minute, but I never blinked or took my eyes off of the light as it made its journey into oblivion.
It was a UFO in the absolute strictest sense: an object in the sky with the appearance of flight that could not be identified.
I went back to sleep with a feeling of satisfaction to have finally witnessed something that I remember feeling the biggest smirk across my face as I nodded off. Of course Melissa was ecstatic that I had an actual sighting, but nobody else in our class believed me, and this was a story that I could not wait to share. I remember, when describing the motions of the tail, I was ridiculed by another kid who claimed that I was the one who had a tail “moving in and out.” That has no bearing on the story; I just find it amusing, especially now after 26 years have passed. (Also, your classmates were assholes.)
Now that nearly three decades have passed since that close encounter of the first kind, my skeptical brain has come to two conclusions that would explain what I had witnessed.
As a child, I suffered from anxiety induced insomnia that worsened around school, so my paediatrician had recommended that I take a Tylenol PM if I was having difficulty sleeping or became too nervous about attending the next day for my predictable ass whooping at the hands of the class bully. I was likely in a very drowsy state and just conscious enough to make my way to the bathroom to take a whiz, and upon looking out the window, saw what I had wanted to see. I was probably in a sort of sleepwalking state and all of the exposure to paranormal literature, The X-Files, and the desire to actually see something resulted in what was basically a hallucination.
The UFO was just an airplane or helicopter at an odd angle. The “tail” that I had seen could have been a light on the rear of an ordinary aircraft or life flight heading to the local hospital. The cold, dense air of winter could have played with the appearance of the lights and, combined with my drowsiness and imagination, became something extraordinary. At the time, there was an active military base in Devens and it could also have been a military aircraft performing exercises or other routine maneuvers.
I hate for a story like this to be anticlimactic, but I just cannot rule out misidentification, and the fact that I was taking medication at the time for insomnia does not make me a reliable source.