Roswell is often considered the most infamous UFO incident of all time, but reports of unidentified flying objects certainly didn’t begin (or end) there. For thousands of years, people have described seeing strange flying structures of light, clouds, even fire. But as our cultural fascination grew with extraterrestrial life in the 20th century, so did the number of UFO sightings. As Josh Gates and the Expedition Unknown-Hunt for Extraterrestrials crew embark on their exploration of Roswell and other UFO incidents by talking to researchers, historians and eyewitnesses around the world, we’ll look back on some of the other most famous reported UFO sightings in history.
1. The Rendlesham Forest Incident
Sometimes referred to as “Britain’s Roswell,” the U.K.’s most well-known UFO sightings were reported in late 1980 on a Royal Air Force military base near England’s east coast. On Dec. 26 of that year, the first sighting occurred when two United States Air Force members reported seeing lights falling to Earth over nearby Rendlesham Forest at around 3 a.m.
According to an official Air Force memo that later documented the incident, the servicemen entered the forest to investigate and saw a metallic object giving off lights and moving around. When local police arrived, they reportedly didn’t see any lights other than the bright beacon of a nearby lighthouse, but later discovered markings near the site.
A few days later, more servicemen went to investigate the forest site and reported seeing three bright lights in the sky that shone for hours. Astronomers and researchers have disputed the sightings as bright stars and the site markings as indentations made by animals, while the lieutenant who wrote the memo and a few witnesses maintain what they reported in December 1980.