It was a clear night lit by a full moon when William Nunn spotted a large triangular object, a pulsing red light at each of its three points, moving slowly across the sky.
As Nunn watched from his apartment window overlooking English Bay in Vancouver, two bright streaks of light suddenly darted across the sky. They moved at lightning speed and seemed to respond to the pulsing of the lights on the triangle, says Nunn.
After the object entered a cloud on the lower right side of the moon, Nunn lost sight of it. The whole scene lasted 15-20 minutes.
“As this thing is tracking across the sky and I’m following it with my binoculars, I’m thinking to myself, ‘Good God, they really do exist.’ This thing was floating across the sky, it was just amazing,” says Nunn.
Ufologists have classed Nunn’s experience as a UFO sighting. In 2007, Canadians reported seeing a record number of unidentified flying objects, according to a report by Ufology Research, a Winnipeg-based organization that has been documenting UFO sightings since 1989.
Of the 836 total sightings last year, the highest numbers were seen in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. This is a 12 percent increase over 2006. However, after a review by the researchers, only about 16 percent remained unexplained.
“Our reports document everything, from the classic flying saucer to the more triangular, rectangular and spherical — pretty well anything you can name. There have even been amorphous blobs appearing to fly through the sky,” says astronomer Chris Rutkowski, research coordinator for Ufology Research.
The reports had been filed with police, government and military agencies, civilian UFO organizations and online UFO websites and were compiled by Ufology Research. Witnesses ranged widely, and included farmhands, airline pilots, teachers and police officers.
Of the total sightings, only a handful was considered by the researchers to be “high quality unknowns,” including one in North Tryon, P.E.I., in which a couple videotaped a metallic, spherical object flying in a spiraling manner and emitting a trail of dark smoke.
While many sightings turn out to be the result of natural phenomena, some UFOs, such as the sighting in North Tryon and the triangular shape Nunn saw, defy explanation.
However, Rutkowski, who calls himself “the doubting Thomas of UFOs,” cautions against concluding that these unusual craft are operated by alien beings from other planets.
“We’re gathering the info and trying to understand what it is people are seeing, and very, very few are actually seeing something like creatures or anything like that,” he says.
But famed ufologist Stanton Friedman says the evidence is “overwhelming” that aliens are visiting Earth.
“There’s no question that some UFOs are intelligently controlled extraterrestrial spacecraft,” says Friedman from his home in New Brunswick, the day after appearing on a Larry King Live show about UFOs.
Friedman says it has been possible to gather evidence in situations where a UFO has been seen on or near the ground. After it leaves, physical traces remain including burn rings or circles (not the same thing as crop circles), landing gear marks and dried out soil.
“I’ve had laboratory tests done on the dried out soil and it had a much higher level of soluble minerals than nearby soil. It was too salty, probably from intense microwave irradiation produced by the saucer for whatever purpose — part of a propulsion system I presume.”
Ted Phillips, a UFO researcher in Missouri, has collected more than 5,000 physical trace cases from about 70 countries says Friedman, who has devoted the last 35 years to investigating the UFO phenomenon.
A nuclear physicist, Friedman was the original civilian investigator for the Roswell Incident in which an alleged alien craft crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.
While the U.S. military maintains that recovered debris was from a top-secret research balloon that had crashed, the incident has become the subject of intense speculation and questioning.
Friedman believes a flying saucer was recovered, saying Roswell was a “cover-up” and represents a “cosmic Watergate.”
The UFO phenomenon has been surrounded by official secrecy for decades. But Gord Heath of UFOBC, a non-profit society that gathers information on UFO sightings in B.C. and Yukon, says that may be changing — at least in some countries.
Heath says it appears the militaries and governments of some European and South American countries are becoming “more open” about admitting to the presence of UFO phenomena in their airspace. However, the same doesn’t hold true for North America.
“The official government response in Canada and the U.S. is one of silence and denial,” he says.
The Canadian government actually funded a UFO Observatory located at Shirley’s Bay near Ottawa from 1953-54. But after the observatory detected what was thought to be a UFO, the resulting media attention was so great that the funding was withdrawn.
In the last three decades, UFO reports began to include not just sightings of disc- or saucer-shaped objects but also other “unknowns” such as triangular-shaped objects.
Ufologists believe triangular UFOs were involved in the so-called “Phoenix lights wave” of 1997, in which a craft estimated to be a mile in length as well as some smaller UFOs moved over the state of Nevada and were witnessed by thousands.
Heath says electromagnetic disturbances from UFOs are sometimes observed on the ground and in the air, such as interference with ignition systems of vehicles, radio receivers and navigation instrumentation in aircraft.
Some “contactees” have reported being abducted by alien beings who they say conducted medical experiments on them. Others say they experienced a spiritual awakening after contact with extraterrestrials.
Various opinion polls conducted over the years in Canada and the U.S. have shown that many people believe UFOs are real and are most likely operated by intelligent beings from other dimensions or planets.
A 2002 poll by the Sci Fi Channel found that three-quarters of Americans claim they are at least somewhat psychologically prepared for the discovery of extraterrestrial life, and nearly half are very prepared.
With such widespread public acceptance, ufologists lament that UFOs are not taken more seriously by the media and the scientific community.
Mainstream science has for the most part scoffed at the existence of UFOs. Famous UFO debunker Carl Sagan, while interested in the phenomenon, said there was no “good evidence” that extraterrestrial life exists.
Richard Tortorella, vice president of UFOBC, says scientists in general refuse to apply the scientific method to anything paranormal.
“The term paranormal itself conjures up images of quacks and charlatans,” says Tortorella. “However, it should be those very things that are beyond normal that should pique any scientist’s interest. Sadly, it does not.”
Friedman maintains that by not investigating Roswell and UFOs the media are missing out on “the biggest story of the millennium.”
As for Nunn, he says since he saw that triangular object meander across the Vancouver night sky he has no doubt that UFOs are real.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” he says. “I am beginning to feel sorry people who have never had this experience—the wonderment of being able to see something that you always felt could exist, does.”