Wednesday, November 28, 2012


On Chinese Lanterns reported as UFOs

There was an interesting case study on peoples’ observations and reporting of UFOs this month. There were 14 separate reports of numerous, orange objects flying over one specific city in southern Ontario, all on November 7, 2012. Such well-documented UFO flaps are relatively rare, and so the collection of UFO reports can give some insight into how people perceive and report observations of objects in the sky.

Most of the reports were emailed to Brian Vike’s UFO blog, The Vike Factor ( He had been posting the individual reports on his blog, and then received a tip about a probable explanation. Here’s what he wrote in his blog:
Orange Lights In The Sky Over Newmarket Ontario (40 Lanterns Released In Memory Of Ladies Son)
 On November 7, 2012 between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. a lot of folks filed sighting reports over unknown orange/red lights that were seen in the evening sky over Newmarket, Ontario. This morning (Tuesday, November 13, 2012) I received an email from a nice lady informing me what folks saw that night, which were Chinese/Wish lanterns. 40 lanterns were released in memory of her son at Fairy Lake on November 7, 2012, she noted that it was magical.
Links to the 13 reports reported to Vike are given in the blog post. One additional report was found on Peter Davenport’s National UFO Reporting Centre:

After looking through the reports, there is no doubt that the witnesses probably were indeed seeing paper Chinese Lanterns sent up as part of a memorial service in the Newmarket, Ontario, area.

A good example of the reports is the following:
Red Lights In The Sky Over Newmarket Ontario
 On November 7th, 2012 at approximately 7:00 p.m., in Newmarket Ontario Canada, I was driving home when my boyfriend called me and told me about the glowing red lights in the sky. He saw about 10-15 of them floating in a group in the sky (close together). When I pulled over to take a look, there were about 6 of them in the sky and they were bright red light, like a stop light. They were flying around, they were just floating in the northeast sky.
 Most of the other reports had similar descriptions, with slight variations.

All of the reports matched the time of the lanterns’ release, between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm. All were of orange objects. All were observations of multiple objects.

Most witnesses said the objects were moving towards the North, with some saying they were going Northeast and some saying Northwest, although one report said the objects were heading South.

The number of observed objects is interesting to analyze. Although about 40 lanterns were sent aloft, only one witness reported anything close to this number, and that was someone who thought there were “approximately 100” objects. The average number of objects seen was bout 15. One possible explanation is that as the lanterns dispersed, some descended out of sight behind trees and buildings, and some certainly climbed high enough that they quickly became lost to sight. And, depending on the time of observation, many lanterns would have burned out after several minutes of release.

Another important point about the many reports of the same set of objects is that the blog posts did not refer to the objects as UFOs, where the public normally associates such observations with alien spacecraft. Admittedly, however, the blog is called “Canada UFO” so the sightings were reported with this in mind. Some of the witnesses said that the objects were completely mysterious and unexplainable. One, in fact, noted: “Never thought this day would come, but now I believe in UFO's and nobody can tell me otherwise. I know what I saw.” The implication is that what the witness observed was a truly anomalous craft (or crafts) of some kind. The question could be asked: “What, exactly, do you ‘know’ you saw?”

It is worthwhile commenting on the fact that following the release of a myriad of Chinese lanterns, many people observed and reported seeing lights moving together in the sky. This attests to the possibility that reports of UFOs likely reflect observations of “real” objects that are physically in the sky. This reinforces “experiments” by skeptics who have sent lighted balloons aloft and then waited for reports of “spaceships” to be filed. In other words, if a witness reports seeing a UFO, it is probable that there was in fact a stimulus to make him or her believe something was there.

A few videos of what Chinese Lanterns look like after launch can be found here:
and a multiple launch: 

And, to be a true skeptic, one should also doubt the claim by the person who said that such a memorial service took place and that the Chinese lanterns actually existed. That, in itself, could be a hoax, designed as a “red herring” to throw UFO investigators off-track. Fortunately, the popular fad of launching Chinese lanterns to celebrate events is well-documented, and the claim is not improbable. Vike no doubt checked the details with the claimant before announcing the lantern explanation.

The Newmarket flap offers some insight into how flaps develop and how witnesses’ observations vary, especially with regard to actual objects known to have been in the sky.

The question is, if a witness reports a large, metallic, structured object at close range, instead of just distant, floating lights in the night sky, how does an understanding of witnesses’ observation capability effect the report in this instance?


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Yes, there have been a lot of "Chinese Lantern" type of UFO Sightings haven't there. There have also been a number of completely fabricated hoaxes posted to YouTube - where someone has used Adobe After Effects (usually poorly) to create the kind of glowing-orb graphics one might find in a late 1980's Sci-Fi Flick. Very irritating.

But great blog you have here. I came across you on Twitter, where I Followed you as well. I'm Robert Hughey. Nice to meet you.
Orange Lights In The Sky Over Newmarket Ontario (40 Lanterns Released In ...

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