The mystery of the Phoenix Lights isn't so much "Why the heck would extraterrestrials want to visit Phoenix?" as much as "Were they actually here at all?"
One of the world's most documented UFO sightings, the Phoenix Lights appeared over the Valley on Thursday, March 13, 1997, and were also seen in parts of Nevada, the outskirts of Tucson, and in Sonora, Mexico. Lights of varying descriptions were witnessed by thousands of people between about 7:30 and 10:30 p.m.: a triangular formation of orbs and a series of stationary illuminations seen in the skies above Phoenix.
Witnesses far and wide claimed to have seen what looked like a huge, V-shaped aircraft containing five spherical lights that hovered for minutes at a time over various parts of the Valley. Caught on videotape by dozens of civilians, the lights became an overnight international news story, one that the U.S. Air Force and local politicians alike quickly got busy debunking. The Air Force tried to pass off the lights as flares dropped by military aircraft on training exercises at the Barry Goldwater Range in southwest Arizona, while Governor Fife Symington held a press conference during which he announced that the UFOs were simply civilian flares, then brought out an aide dressed in a Martian costume.
But after another sighting in 2007 of a similarly shaped craft was reported over Phoenix skies, Symington recanted his jolly take on the 1997 Phoenix Lights, saying he'd "witnessed a craft of unknown origin, bigger than anything that I've ever seen. It remains a great mystery. Other people saw it, responsible people. I don't know why people would ridicule it. And it couldn't have been flares because it was too symmetrical. It had a geometric outline, a constant shape."
So what were the Phoenix Lights, then? "We may never know," Phoenix City Councilwoman Frances Barwood said at the time. Barwood launched an investigation into the event shortly after it happened, and reported that of the more than 700 witnesses she spoke with, neither local nor national government ever interviewed a single one.