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Punk rock, aliens and Oregon’s seven-decade history of UFO sightings

Last year, the website 24/7 Wall Street ranked Oregon 2nd in sightings of unidentified flying objects in the entire country.

PORTLAND, Ore. — If UFO sightings were IPAs, then Oregon would be…well, actually Oregon would be just about the same.

Last year, the website 24/7 Wall Street ranked Oregon 2nd in sightings of unidentified flying objects in the entire country. The website analyzed data between the years 2001 and 2015 and found there were more than 73 sightings per 100,000 people, and 3,013 sightings total.

Oregon was ranked ahead of Washington and behind only Vermont. 

I personally thought Florida would be in 1st place but, alas, it was all the way back in 23rd place. Mississippi came in last.

All this talk of UFOs was spurred by three videos posted this week on a website called To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science purporting to show unidentified flying objects cruising across the sky and maneuvering in ways no normal aircraft can. The video gained a lot of attention for several reasons.

Editor's note: The language in this video might be offensive to some viewers. 

First, and most obviously, because it was a video of a UFO and people will always be drawn to the unknown the same way hipsters are drawn to exposed brick interiors. 

Secondly, after the videos were posted, a spokesman for the United States Navy decided to add fuel to the conspiracy-theory fire and confirm that the videos do, indeed, contain images of “unidentified aerial phenomena” taken in 2004 and in 2015. The military did not confirm, however, what the “phenomena” were. 

Third, and possibly most bizarrely, the videos were posted by Tom DeLonge, one of the members of pop-punk band Blink-182. It makes more sense than it initially sounds: DeLonge co-founded the To The Stars Academy. 

The story was a perfect trifecta of virality and it quickly went global, getting picked up by everybody from the Washington Post to the seedier pits of the conspiracy theory internet.

One of the innumerable things we’ve yet to learn about the videos is where they were actually recorded. The Navy only said the videos showed “incursions into [the Navy’s] military training ranges” but didn’t specify where those ranges were located. 

But as the 24/7 Wall Street data suggests, the Northwest wouldn’t be a bad bet. UFO sightings have a storied history in state pop culture lore. We found reports dated all the way back to 1947, when a private pilot named Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine “saucer-like aircraft flying in formation” between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. Arnold estimated the UFO was traveling at 1,200 miles per hour. Some consider that sighting to be the start of the modern era of UFO sightings. 

The most famous sighting in Oregon came three years later in 1950 when a farming couple named Evelyn and Paul Trent took a much-debated picture of an alleged flying saucer over McMinnville, considered by UFO hunters to be the most important photo of one ever taken. Real or not, the sighting inspired the famous annual UFO Fest in McMinnville which organizers claim is the second-largest event of its kind of America. Next year, it will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

In 1959, a police officer named Robert Dickerson reported seeing a bright object descend over Redmond before stopping suddenly and hovering 200 feet above the ground. He said it was so low and glowing so brightly, the treetops were lit up.

RELATED: Archive 1959: Fighter jets sent to intercept Redmond UFO

And from 1981 to 1998, there were numerous reports of everything from strange sights and sounds in St. Helens, cows mutilated with surgical precision in Vancouver, and mysterious crops circles in Hubbard.

I could literally sit at my desk for hours and list all of the reported UFO sightings in or around Oregon. The (admittedly sketchy) website The National UFO Reporting Center contains an exhaustive database of all UFO reports that you can peruse any number of ways, whether it’s by the date of the sighting, the state where it was seen, the shape of the object, or the date the report was posted. 

In Oregon alone, it lists 2,886 sightings with the most recent being an egg-shaped object spotted over Lake Oswego on August 31, and the earliest being a cigar-shaped object seen over Pendleton in 1999.

My gut tells me the list will never stop growing. And as Tom DeLonge wrote in the 1999 song Aliens Exist, “Hey Mom, there’s something in the backroom / Hope it’s not the creatures from above.”

RELATED: UFO videos posted by Blink-182 are real and never should have been released, Navy confirms