What’s that in the sky? UFO report renews age-old clamor

Some claim they see more than stars in Lowcountry skies.

MOUNT PLEASANT — A large array of sparking in the sky, moving across Hamlin Sound. That’s what Karen Woodman saw Tuesday night as she walked her dog. She’s not the only Lowcountry resident who has spotted weird stuff up there.

On New Year’s Day, a bright orange disc flew slowly over Rivers Avenue in North Charleston, according to an unnamed witness report to the Mutual UFO Network. As observers watched, the orange light went out but the disc could still be seen for a minute.

An hour later, a glowing red object was spotted over the ocean off Myrtle Beach and remained in the sky for two hours.

Oh, it gets stranger. A month earlier, an observer in Mount Pleasant watched seven lights for 20 minutes.

“I witnessed the lights move up, down, side to side,” the MUFON witness said. “I also saw them disappear back and forth.”

The aliens are back. Project Blue Book has just been released, a compilation of about 130,000 pages of declassified Air Force files on unidentified flying object sightings — the rumored, denied and then uncovered Project Blue Book reports.

UFO enthusiasts and skeptics alike are now combing through them. It’s all spurred another clamor of hyper-interest in oddities in the sky, on the heels of the CIA acknowledgement last year of the fabled AREA 51 Nevada secret testing ground.

Among other reports received when The Post and Courier asked for reader input, Milton Finch, of St. Stephen, submitted two videos he shot recently. They can be seen at postandcourier.com.

Most people who bother to look up enough see something mysterious sooner or later. Patterned lights, geometrically moving objects, auras and glows evidently have been spotted as long as humans have had records. Add modern technology and there’s more to fixate on. Sooner or later, the mystery gets solved for many. But not all.

Three or four UFO sightings per month in South Carolina are reported to the MUFON or the National UFO Reporting Center — sightings the groups deem credible. A lot more get rejected — particularly around the Fourth of July.

Last year, MUFON state director Cheryl Ann Gilmore, of St. Matthews, took in some eight or nine reports for the holiday alone, she said — fireworks. But she herself saw something when she was younger that she still can’t explain, despite years researching and working with MUFON.

“Even the Air Force (investigators) themselves said some of these sightings could not be explained,” she said after her first look into the reports.

Then there are people like Woodman, a former flight attendant married to a pilot. She is as skeptical as they come. She didn’t make a MUFON report. She called the Air Force. It appeared to her as the sparks closed in, they were coming off a grey object that looked like the nose of a blimp.

They might have been a variation of Saint Elmo’s fire, she thinks, a luminous discharge off pointed objects in the sky in highly electrical fields like thunderstorms. She has seen them off the cockpits of jets she’s flown in. But if it was a blimp, it was a big one. There were no lights and it didn’t make noise.

“It really shook me. It was so low and it was right over our house,” she said. She left a message alerting Joint Base Charleston, but never heard back.

Alien as the sightings may be, they’re not aliens, Edward Sparkman maintains adamantly. A retired aerospace worker who served at the Army’s Ordnance Guided Missile Center, the Charleston resident said it’s a matter of fact. The nearest solar systems with even the slightest chance of having a planet that could sustain intelligent life are some 500 light years away.

“That means that if you could travel at the speed of light, it would take 500 years to get here,” he wrote The Post and Courier earlier. And when you arrived, you would have to slow down or be burned up, he re-affirmed to a reporter Thursday.

“When you start with that, you really have to come to the conclusion that ‘they’ didn’t make it,” he said. Asked about the 130,000 pages of Air Force documents, he chuckled and said, “I think there’s a lot of things in the military that don’t have a lot of stuff to them. The military sometimes does studies to satisfy political needs.”

And that’s that, except for Danielle Johnson.

At the end of last summer, Johnson sat listening to music with friends on the porch of her parents’ Goat Island house near Isle of Palms, when bright glowing lights emanated from something in the sky. She pointed it out to her friends who looked and got very quiet.

“It was coming down fast, then broke to our left at almost a 90-degree angle,” Johnson said. She grew up on Isle of Palms, and is familiar with strange lights and movements from aircraft up in the sky at night. This wasn’t that, she said.

“This thing was huge, with glowing yellow, red and white lighting, and could move like no other plane I have ever seen,” she said. “I immediately got goose bumps.”

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.