The 10 Best Documented UFO Cases

A UFO sighting in 1953 in modern-day Zimbabwe.
A UFO sighting in 1953 in modern-day Zimbabwe. Barney Wayne / Getty Images

In the last century, more than 100,000 UFO sightings have been reported worldwide. But are the sightings real events or just hoaxes? Discover the stories of the top UFO encounters over the decades.

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1897: The Aurora, Texas, UFO Crash

Occurring during the "Great Airship" wave of the late 1800s, the legend of a UFO crash and a dead alien have survived a century of debate. Allegedly, the dead alien pilot is buried in the local cemetery. The story of the crash was reported by local newspapers, UPI, and the Associated Press. The city received "historical site" status because of the incident.

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1947: The Roswell, New Mexico, UFO Crash

The most famous UFO case occurred when rancher Mac Brazel found strange crash debris on his morning rounds and reported his find to a local radio station. Soon, the military from Roswell Air Force Base was involved and issued a press statement that the Air Force had captured a UFO. This statement was soon recanted.

Runner-up sighting for the decade: the 1942 The Battle of Los Angeles. Shortly after the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor, the city of Los Angeles was invaded by a flying object of unknown origin. The U.S. military sent volley after volley of shells at the alleged flying saucer without damaging the intruder. Six people were killed during the attacks.

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1952: Washington, D.C., UFOs on Radar

UFOs buzzed around the White House, the Capitol building, and the Pentagon. Seemingly the unknown objects were defying the very governmental agencies sworn to protect the United States from foreign powers. Washington National Airport and Andrews Air Force Base picked up a number of UFOs on their radar screens on July 19, 1952, beginning a wave of sightings still unexplained to this day. Numerous photographs were taken of the unknown objects.

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1961: Betty and Barney Hill Abduction

This is the best-known case of alien abduction. While driving home from vacation, Betty Hill and her husband Barney lost two hours of time during an alien encounter. They reportedly underwent physical exams at the hands of their alien captors. This case was later the subject of a book and a movie.

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1975: The Travis Walton Abduction

While working on a government land-clearing project with six other crewmembers, Travis Walton approached a glowing UFO. He was hit with a blue-green beam. Thinking Walton was dead, the other crew members fled. Five days later Walton reappeared, not having eaten during his absence. He related that he was taken aboard a UFO and experimented on by alien beings.

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1976: Allagash Waterway Abductions

While night fishing on the Allagash Waterway in northern Maine, four art student friends saw a glowing object over the lake. The next thing they can remember was being back on shore and missing a chunk of time. A subsequent investigation revealed an alien abduction complete with physical experimentation.

In a 2016 interview, one of the alleged victims suggested that the abduction story was a hoax. He maintained, however, that the UFO sighting was real.

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1988: Coast Guard Encounters UFOs

In 1988, the United States Coast Guard had a close encounter with a UFO. They receive a report of a large object hovering over a frozen Lake Erie. After a close observation, they saw the object nearly resting on the ice, with smaller triangle-shaped UFOs hovering around the larger UFO. This one is truly an unsolved mystery.

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1997: The Phoenix Lights

Like a scene from a science fiction movie, a huge, circular object slowly moved over the city of Phoenix and surrounding areas. Numerous photographs and an abundance of video film made this one of the best-documented cases in UFO history. Many eyewitness accounts described a large, slow-moving, triangular-shaped UFO.

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2006: The O'Hare Airport UFO

On Nov. 7, 2006, one of the nation's busiest airports, O'Hare in Chicago, was visited by a UFO, which blasted an "eerie" hole in the cloud cover. The UFO was seen for several minutes, according to eyewitness accounts by airline employees.

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2013: Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, UFO Sightings

In 2013, a pilot cruising over the north coast of New Zealand reported seeing a star-shaped object flying 400 to 500 feet off his wingtip. In 2010, another object was spotted off Otaki Beach, also on the north coast of New Zealand. Indeed, The Hits, a New Zealand radio station, reported a spike in UFO sightings after that country's previously classified UFO files were unveiled in 2016.