John Greenewald wants to believe.
So he spent nearly two decades filing Freedom of Information Act requests to gain access to the federal government's files on UFOs and other mysterious phenomena, which he's compiled in a newly launched website where users can search and view thousands of declassified records.
Named Project Blue Book after the Air Force's scientific study to identify the origin of UFO sightings in the 1950s, the database offers 12,618 reports of strange sightings, of which 701 remain "unidentified."
The Air Force discontinued its UFO program in 1985, when it determined, with an air of finality, that "no UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security [and] there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as 'unidentified' are extraterrestrial vehicles."
They weren't always so confident. In 1952 the Pentagon actually considered classifying UFOs as a national security threat after a flurry of sights were reported in Washington, D.C. — an event known as the "Washington flap" or the "Washington National Airport Sightings." Notably, that case — as well as the famous sightings in Roswell — were not declassified to Greenewald's website, despite requests for all UFO sightings.
Still, the Project Blue Book does provide a bunch of other bizarre accounts of unidentified objects flying through the skies — enough to reawaken the average sci-fi fan's inner Fox Mulder. Here's a couple clips of sightings from the database, offering a sampling of what awaits you if you plunge into the reports.
This sighting, recorded in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico in May 1952, is of unknown origin. "It is the opinion or the investigator that all the observers are of sound judgment and integrity and not influenced by mass hysteria," reads the report.
"I am unable to give a logical explanation for this reported sighting," stated a military officer who bore witness to the event described below, which took place "60 miles east of St. Louis, Mo." For the record, that would roughly be around the town of Sandoval, Il.
Overall, these "unknown" origin designations for the sightings are the minority. Often, the reports are basically trolling the federal government.
Someone in the Air Force wrote "Crude hoax. India ink sketch," about the "photo" below , taken in El Mojan, Venezuela in 1952.
This photo of an eerie light over New York City in 1950 is presented without commentary from the Air Force:
And a report of a UFO that looked like a shooting star… and turned out to be a shooting star:
The documents also include inquiries from curious youths. In 1965, some of the boys saw “quite a few UFOs” and hoped the president would “find out if they’re friendly.”
Someone drafted a response, assuring the boys that the UFOs were not aliens, friendly or otherwise:
And then.. the birds.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.