What's that strange object in the sky | Klaas

On the same November evening, a couple of hours apart, witnesses on Auburn's West Hill and in Kent's downtown claimed they saw the same thing, something awfully peculiar, flashing and darting across the heavens.

A strange, low-flying object – a three-orange-red-light triangle – appeared for a moment, suddenly tipped upward, pivoted and zipped out of view. Witnesses had little time to record the visitor, yet they were willing to try to explain the unexplained.

As one of the Auburn witnesses described that night to the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON, one of the oldest and largest UFO investigative organizations in the country: "The lights pulsed repeatedly, but they looked nothing like anti-collision lights on aircraft we have seen thousands of times in our area."

The same "three-light triangular object" description came from two witnesses who reported such a formation moving silently across the sky in Spanaway a week before.

What gives? Was it just another in a series of unexplained UFOs, intriguing or confusing the stargazing public? Was it an unconventional aircraft, wayward satellite or NASA anomaly? Or was it something more than that? Little green men examining the Green River Valley?

It's James Clarkson's job to find out more about such occurrences. Clarkson, a career investigator and state employee, served as a Military Police investigator with the Army then 20 years as a police officer in Aberdeen before retiring. As a young man, he was drawn to the mystery behind UFOs, and in 1987, joined MUFON to devote his quest of the unknown as a volunteer investigator, author and lecturer. Today, he represents MUFON as its state director in charge of investigating UFO events in Washington.

Clarkson claims he is no kook, no conspiracy theorist, just a credible investigator who explores the UFO phenomenon and provides information to those who are interested. Clarkson has not had a sighting or an experience with a UFO but is convinced the universe is much more complex and richly endowed with intelligence than "we are aware or that we are willing to admit."

He accepts and understands those who consider ufology a complete hoax. He continues his work despite the frequent ridicule, the constant challenges from a skeptical public, uncooperative government agencies, even doubting scientists.

But the public has a right to know about the mystery, and Clarkson makes no apologies for the purpose of the network.

"It's the greatest story never told. There is something very important going on that defies conventional explanation, and our job is to try and address it," Clarkson said of his mission.

Clarkson points out that many people are seriously dedicated to this field. MUFON's purpose is to collect the most detailed data, capture and assess the soundness of the reports and look for "high strangeness combined with high witness credibility" in each logged sighting.

Many sighting are explained

Clarkson estimates there are about 15-20 reported sightings each month in the state but that seven or eight out of every 10 UFO events reported turn out to have a conventional or man-made explanation.

"Investigating UFOs is really a lot like what I imagine panning for gold is like: You spend a lot of time sloshing the mud and the gravel, but you do pick up the nuggets, and you always find something worthwhile or interesting," Clarkson said.

MUFON, as Clarkson says, takes a conservative, cautious approach. It is not out to convince the public that Earth is about to be invaded by alien forces. Yet there are those who think so.

"We keep it logical, and we don't make assumptions we cannot support," Clarkson said. "We try hard to be fair and objective."

Many people who report a UFO sighting have little understanding of the sky, Clarkson said. Witnesses come from all walks.

"Pilots I know have reported sightings that would make the hair stand up on the back on your neck," Clarkson said.

While mainstream media, aviation officials and scientists tend to shun the UFO phenomenon, there remain a significant number of curious and inquisitive people who support the belief that intelligent life might exist elsewhere in the universe.

In fact, many surveys over time suggest that a good portion of people remain convinced that some form of alien life does exist in the wide, wide cosmos.

Clarkson's belief?

"One way or another we are going to discover that life is just as abundant in the universe as it is here on Earth," he said. "I honestly have come to the conclusion – and I can't prove this objectively, I freely admit it – but if you ask me what I believe, I think that life is going to end up being the other force in the universe.

"... I mean, we keep stumbling over water everywhere we look (on other planets). It's not a big leap to think that where there is water, there could be some kind of life form."

But what about intelligent life? Steven Spielberg introduced us to the imaginary "E.T." 30 years ago. He went home, and hasn't come back.

Or has he?

"If you want me to commit – based upon my entire research and my experiences, etc. – I do think we've been visited by something that isn't human," Clarkson said.

Someday, Clarkson the ufologist insists, we will have that explanation.

Believe it, or not.

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