Reporter Staff Report

Dozens of area witnesses reported seeing unidentified lights in the Texas sky over the last few weeks.

Accounts started trickling in on Tuesday, Oct. 21. But they poured in on Oct. 23, with dozens of people claiming to see unexplainable lights across the area Thursday night.

Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said dispatch received multiple calls from people claiming to see bright lights in the southern part of the county Thursday. Callers reported that the lights would flash and disappear, then reappeared a short time later.

Juli Gibson was riding her horse in the southwestern part of the county around 8 p.m. when she noticed the lights.

She said there were four white lights flashing on and off.

“It’s like they were talking to each other,” Gibson said. “It was just weird.”

The flashing lights spooked even her horses.

Ashleigh Cole was also working with her horses around 8:40 p.m. when she turned her attention to the night sky.

“It seemed like it was really close,” Cole said. “I’ve never believed anybody when they say they saw a UFO, but I saw one myself.”

She said there were three lights in a row that would move straight up in the sky and at an angle.

She was about 10 miles south of Dublin and thought the lights were flashing and moving around for about five minutes.

Stephenville resident John Darby and his daughter were driving on Highway 67 near the Seldon cutoff when they saw the lights around 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

“At first I thought it was my lights reflecting off the power lines,” Darby said.

But he quickly realized it was something more than a reflection.

The lights started out small and orange. They grew larger and began to display different colors in a beachball-like pattern. Then they disappeared.

His daughter jumped out of the vehicle trying to take a picture with her cell phone. The lights reappeared in the sky when she came back to the truck.

Darby said there were about nine jets traveling at a high rate of speed and headed for the Metroplex.

He is convinced they were not passenger airplanes.

“If it were my speculation, they were doing maneuvers with some kind of tracers,” Darby said.

D’Ann Wheeler is a Hico resident and a skeptic.

“I never had a personal experience until last night (Thursday),” Wheeler said.

She and a friend, who confirmed Wheeler’s story but did not want to be identified, were stargazing around 9 p.m. when they noticed a lot of activity in the sky.

“There were jets all around them (the lights) but you couldn’t hear the jets,” Wheeler said.

She saw two sets of lights that she described as a string of pearls. Then the lights just disappeared.

“I have never in my life seen anything like this before. I went in the house and shook my head and thought, what did I just see?” Wheeler said. “The lights disappeared and then came back on a second time. They stayed on for about a minute.”

The lights were large and white, and moved up and down with the jets close behind.

“I know they were big and far apart, but I couldn’t tell how big or far apart,” she said.

Wheeler said the sight unnerved her the rest of the night and she had a hard time sleeping. She even went back out around midnight to check the sky, but she didn’t see anything.

Nick Horn caught part of what he saw Thursday night on video.

He was at his house west of Stephenville talking on his phone outside. He saw on orange light above the house and went inside to get his family.

He said jets were flying across the sky coming out of nowhere. He grabbed his video camera and caught about 20 seconds of lights flashing across the sky.

Nick’s four-year-old brother Matthew was so excited that he tripped over a rock and bumped his head on the sidewalk.

“I saw four, five, six jets, then bam, hit my head,” Matthew said.

Unlike other witnesses, Nick said he got a good look at the lights above his house. It appeared to be a metal object hovering about 400 feet in the air.

He said it moved away from the house and disappeared before reappearing closer to Dublin.

At least one witness came forward to say she saw lights in the Stephenville skies on Oct. 21.

Sherry Sechrist was outside of her house in town when she and her family noticed the lights around 8:30 p.m.

She snapped a few pictures on her cell phone and her mom even caught video footage on her phone.

Sechrist said the lights would flash and move up and down and side to side. She could hear jets buzzing around the lights, but doesn’t think the jets produced the lights.

“I’d like to know what goes in reverse,” Sechrist said. “The lights would fly over and then they would stay still.”

United States Air Force Reserve Major Karl Lewis, public affairs officer at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, responded to the numerous sightings.

“Seven F-16s from the 457th fighter squadron flew from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth to the Brownwood Military Operation Area (MOA) for normal training operations, Thursday, 23 October 2008, from approximately 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time,” Lewis stated in an e-mail.

Similar sightings made national headlines 10 months ago after reporting unidentified flying objects in the southeastern county skies. And in January, MUFON held what was supposed to be a gathering of witnesses, but turned into a worldwide event.

Local reporter Whitney White-Ashley broke the latest story and coverage of recent sightings has already hit CNN and ABC.

A press release from MUFON said they dispatched an investigator to the area who took witness reports and collected video to be expertly analyzed.

Since the original story was published on Oct. 26, more witnesses from Cleburne, Waco, Allen, San Antonio, Hico and Morgan Mill have reported similar sightings.

Theories about the lights have ranged from military tests, to atmosphere phenomenon, to otherworldly visitors. But stories are starting to come in from across the state and from all types of people.

Lonnie Hammonds said he saw the lights in Hamilton County on Oct. 28 and 29.

“It was right on top of the mountains and it looked pretty close,” Hammonds said. “It has to be something military.”

Hammonds also said when the object started to move, it sounded like the sound barrier was broken.

“I’ve never seen anything like that and I’m 83,” said Jimmie Butler of Dublin, who saw the lights on Oct. 23. Butler doesn’t believe what she saw was any kind of plane.

Tarena Major, who has started watching the Stephenville skies since spotting the lights last week isn’t buying into the F-16 story either.

“You can see the fighter jets, but that’s not what we’re looking at,” Major said.

Keith Aikens lives in White Settlement, where he’s been busy deer hunting. He said he saw something while he was sitting in his deer stand that made him think he was crazy until a friend showed him reports in the news.

Aikens said the object hovered just above his stand. He was so frightened that he called 911.

“It was huge,” Aikens said. “I had no idea other people were seeing it too.”

He also saw a video on the WFAA Web site that he said looked like what he saw - and he doesn’t believe it was a plane.

“I live right next to Carswell (Air Force Base), about a block from the runway, and they weren’t planes. I’ve seen the stealth; I’ve seen the space shuttle land out here and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Aikens said.

Cody Miller of Dublin said he has seen something like it before, last fall. He was mowing on a “beautiful” and clear day when he noticed something metallic in the sky.

“It didn’t have any windows or propellers. I was that close to it,” Miller said.

He also didn’t hear any sound.

Janice, a Stephenville resident who asked to not have her last name included, said she has noticed the lights since 2006.

“I have been seeing these lights for a long time. They’re very prominent here,” she said.

Janice believes the lights are coming from otherworldly creatures.

“I think they’re looking for something and they haven’t found it,” Janice said.

She also said she doesn’t think people should be afraid of what they are seeing.

The military continues to explain the sightings as nothing more than F-16s moving from the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth to the Brownwood MOA.

Alejandro T. Rojas, MUFON director of public education, said they are continuing to evaluate the situation in Stephenville.

“We do have several witnesses,” Rojas said.

MUFON has also filed for copies of radar reports from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Naval Air Station in Fort Worth under the Freedom of Information Act.

To report a sighting or to read about other area sightings, go to www.mufon.com.