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Lights in sky over Tinley Park have UFO believers looking up


- The past two years have seen autumn sightings of unidentified lights in the night sky over Tinley Park and the surrounding area, and a local UFO investigator says the truth is out there.

According to Sam Maranto of the Illinois chapter of the Mutual UFO Network, there have been more sightings recently. "The sightings in Tinley Park were very important, and we have had more (in recent weeks)," Maranto, of Orland Park, said.

The sightings of three red, silent, slow-moving lights in the sky over Tinley Park and Oak Park were first reported on Aug. 21, 2004, with subsequent sightings on Oct. 31, 2004, and Oct. 1, 2005. The National UFO Reporting Center was flooded with calls on each of those nights, with dozens of such reports at www.ufocenter.com.

"The Tinley Park sightings are among the most well-documented cases that we have seen," Peter Davenport, director of the center, said. "With (each event), you have multiple witnesses, multiple videotapes, eyewitness reports, and Federal Aviation Administration and law enforcement documentation."

The amount of footage -- particularly from Aug. 21, 2004 -- is striking. Three red lights are seen hanging in the air in various positions, seemingly indicating a form or structure.

There are numerous pieces of footage shot by area residents at the same time in different locations, which gives researchers much more data to work with than the usual isolated UFO sighting.

"I absolutely love mass sightings," Maranto said, "because you have such a cross section of (witnesses)."

According to T.J. Japcon, a former Tinley Park resident who now lives in Crestwood, the sightings are anything but over. Japcon said his family saw similar lights on Sept. 23 in both Crestwood and Tinley Park. "At about 8:20 (p.m.), I went outside and noticed what I first thought was a star," he said. "But when I looked at it closely, I noticed that it was flashing in the same pattern that (the lights) did the last few years."

Two hours later, Japcon received a call from his son. "He told me that he saw three of them, just like before (the previous sightings)," Japcon said.

With the influx of new reports comes an increased interest in finding an explanation for the sightings. Dr. Jerry Galloway of Georgia State University in Atlanta said he is not convinced that these lights are other-worldly in origin. "Lights in the sky are common yet mysterious things," he said. "Human nature seems to invent all sorts of supernatural, metaphysical and extraterrestrial explanations for almost anything not immediately understood."

Galloway added that the laws of physics are irrefutable. "It is important to recognize the scientific world and its physical limitations," he said.

Maranto said he welcomes serious scientific inquiry, but bristles at the dismissal of evidence that he has faced from some scientists. "We welcome anyone with a scientific background to examine the evidence," he said. "But for (a scientist) to claim that this is a hoax without looking at even a shred of evidence, that is just not good science. We have ruled out balloons. We have ruled out flares. This is not a hoax."

Maranto added that there was activity around the world at the same time as the Tinley Park sightings, particularly around the time of the Aug. 21, 2004, event. "There were reports from both Houston and Australia (on Aug. 23, 2004) that were very similar to what was seen here," he said.

According to Davenport, a mass sighting on Feb. 16, 2000, in Rockford featured similar, but orange, lights in the sky.

According to Brian Vike, director of HBCC UFO Research, the majority of the reports are explainable by conventional means. "It's the few really weird, really difficult ones that keep us going."

And Maranto said the Tinley Park sightings are exactly that.

"What we are looking at are three, possibly four, lights acting either in conjunction with each other or as part of a field of some sort," Maranto said. "They keep geometric form, and generally act as objects that are in some way connected to each other."

Maranto has more information that has not been released yet, but said his reasons for doing this are valid. "A few small pieces of information have to be kept so that you have something to be able to verify the credibility of a witness with," he said. "It is a practice that many UFO researchers have used in the process of vetting witness reports."

Sun-Times News Group Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2006

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