Aug 19, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Strange Lights in the Sky: Secret Experiments or Living Beings?

Within the field of Ufology there are many kinds of what are known as "Balls of Light." And that's exactly what today's article is all about. We'll begin with a famous Contactee, a man who had face-to-face encounters with such balls of light. As we will see right now. It’s fair to say that Orfeo Angelucci was someone who very much rode on the coattails of the likes of Georges one, two and three: that’s Adamski, Van Tassel, and Williamson. Angelucci never reached the stratospheric heights of Adamski. He was, though, one of the key players in the Contactee arena of the 1950s. Little did Angelucci realize that he would one day attract the attention of government agents and the military; they were determined to uncover the truth of the man’s claims and connections. And, by fair means or foul. Mostly foul, as it turned out. In April 1952, Angelucci secured a good job with the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Burbank, California, specifically in the Plastics Unit. On May 23, 1952 Angelucci was working the late-shift at Lockheed. It wasn’t long after midnight when he finally hit the road, looking forward to seeing his wife. All was normal. That is, until it wasn’t. While he drove along Los Angeles’ Victory Boulevard things became strange; very strange. Out of the corner of his eye, Angelucci saw a bright, red light; it was moving low in the dark skies.

(Nick Redfern) Contactees: Aliens camouflaged as balls of light?

Puzzled, he slowed down his car and kept his eye on the whatever-it-was. It didn’t appear to be a solid, nuts-and-bolts aircraft of some sort. Rather, it was a ball of light, around five times the size of an average traffic light. Somewhat disturbingly, and as Angelucci continued his drive, the light appeared to be shadowing him. Feeling nervous, he decided to keep driving and hoped that the light would vanish. It did not. Shortly after crossing a bridge over the Los Angeles River, and at an intersection which Angelucci described as a “lonely, deserted stretch of road called Forest Lawn Drive,” a pair of small lights – maybe around two feet in diameter – shot out of the larger light, which soared into the dark skies. Angelucci brought his car to the proverbial screeching halt. He could only sit and stare as the pair of lights bobbed in the air, like floating beach-balls. Suddenly, there was a development; an astounding one.

As Angelucci looked on, a voice emanated from one of the balls. According to the man himself, it was “a masculine voice in strong, well-modulated tones and speaking perfect English.” The voice assured Angelucci that he should not afraid; no harm would come to him. Stressing to Angelucci that he was in the company of friends, the voice said, in a typical, know-it-all Space Brother fashion: “Man believes himself civilized, but often his thoughts are barbaric and his emotions lethal. We do not say this as criticism, but state it only as fact. Thus it is best to approach all planetary visitors with friendly, welcoming thoughts.” The lights shot away, leaving Angelucci amazed and excited. Two months later, he would have yet another encounter.

It was the night of July 23, 1952 Angelucci felt compelled to head out to the Glendale Hyperion Bridge, which crosses the Los Angeles River and Interstate 5. He did so on foot. In his own words, “dense, oblique shadows down below” transformed things into “a shadowed no-man’s land.” His breathing became shallow, his hands and legs tingled, and a rising panic-attack threatened to overwhelm him. Then, suddenly, a “huge, misty soap bubble squatting on the ground, emitting a fuzzy, pale glow” appeared before him. That soap bubble-type light suddenly transformed into what appeared to be a solid, metallic craft. Angelucci moved slowly towards it; entering the object through a small doorway and into a darkened room. It contained nothing but a chair. On sitting down, Angelucci soon felt unable to move; his body was suddenly weak and heavy. It was, he claimed, all due to the effects of G-forces: the craft was apparently high in the sky in no time at all. Peering out of a conveniently positioned window, Angelucci could see the bright lights of Los Angeles glowing far below him. The lights got fainter and fainter as the craft got progressively higher and higher: “I trembled as I realized I was actually looking upon a planet from somewhere out in space.”

A booming voice suddenly filled the room: “Orfeo, you are looking upon Earth – your home! From here, over a thousand miles away, in space, it appears as the most beautiful planet in the heavens and a haven of peace and tranquility. But you and your Earthly brothers know the true conditions there.” He was warned that an “hour of crisis” was looming; that the human race was in a state of major uncertainty that just might lead to a disastrous atomic war between East and West. Instantly, and as the Lord’s Prayer boomed out of unseen speakers, Angelucci knew he had to do the bidding of the invisible entities on-board the spaceship: spread the word of friendly aliens from a faraway world. In minutes, he was returned to the shadow-filled bridge and left to make his way home. Angelucci’s life – which was to be filled with further encounters of the peace and love type - would never be quite the same again. Like so many of the Contactees, Angelucci was soon on the lecture circuit, which included becoming a regular at George Van Tassel’s gigs out at Giant Rock, California. Angelucci also turned his attention to writing books; his most remembered one being 1955’s The Secret of the Saucers.

Now, onto something equally fascinting, but very different. It’s a little known fact that when the U.S. Air Force began its UFO investigations in the late 1940s, it quietly farmed out some of the work to companies that had pre-existing, working relationships with the military. As the now-declassified files of Project Grudge show, one program in particular was handed over to the Weather Bureau. The Air Force wanted the bureau’s staff to find out all that it could on a mysterious, rare, weather-based phenomenon. It is known as ball lightning. As for what, exactly, ball lightning is, there’s this from the EarthSky website: “The orbs are typically about the size of a grapefruit, moving slowly over the ground. They have been seen during electrical storms, hence the early theories that they were simply a different form of lightning. They usually disappear after 10 seconds, quietly, but sometimes a bang sound can be heard. They have even been observed to pass through closed windows!”

(U.S. Government) Secret research into balls of light. One page of many.

A 1949 U.S. Air Force Project Grudge document contains the results of the Weather Bureau’s investigation into ball lightning. The bureau recorded that the mystifying phenomenon was “spherical, roughly globular, egg-shaped, or pear-shaped; many times with projecting streamers; or flame-like irregular ‘masses of light.’ Luminous in appearance, described in individual cases by different colours but mostly reported as deep red and often as glaring white.” Bureau staff continued: “Some of the cases of ‘ball lightning’ observed have displayed excrescences of the appearance of little flames emanating from the main body of the luminous mass, or luminous streamers have developed from it and propagated slant-wise toward the ground. In rare instances, it has been reported that the luminous body may break up into a number of smaller balls which may appear to fall towards the earth like a rain of sparks. It has even been reported that the ball has suddenly ejected a whole bundle of many luminous, radiating streamers toward the earth, and then disappeared. There have been reports by observers of ‘ball lightning’ to the effect that the phenomenon appeared to float through a room or other space for a brief interval of time without making contact with or being attracted by objects.”

Located in the Piney Woods area of East Texas, the Big Thicket has a most apt moniker: it is a huge, 83,000-acre area of woodland. “Dense” barely begins to describe the massive, forested environment, which is home to numerous wild animals, including alligators and bobcats – as well as to other creatures of a very odd kind, as we’ll soon see. Running through the heart of the Big Thicket is a long, thin, and incredibly sandy old road called Bragg Road. That’s not what the locals call it, though. To them, it is known as Ghost Light Road. There is a very good reason for this: for at least three centuries, people have reported seeing weird, small balls of light flitting through the trees late at night. But, we’re not talking about anything quite as down to earth as fireflies. These particular lights vary in size from – approximately – a tennis ball to a beach ball. They also exhibit evidence of intelligence: witnesses describe the lights approaching them, even circling them, in what is occasionally perceived as a playful fashion. Such is the interest that the lights provoke in the people that live there, and in visitors too, a historical marker has been erected at the start of Bragg Road and which details the strange story of the lights.

The late Rob Riggs was one of the most learned figures in the Bigfoot research field and someone who spent a significant portion of his life living in the Big Thicket area. Riggs collected numerous reports of the mysterious ghost lights, dating back to the 1800s. But, Riggs did far more than that: he also catalogued an astonishing number of reports of what seemed to be Bigfoot and large, black leopards. I say “seemed to be” for a very good reason. While most people who have reported seeing large black cats, and who have had hairy wild-man type encounters in the Big Thicket, the vast majority are content to conclude they encountered animals of the type that very few ever get to encounter. But, not all of them. A small body of individuals have sworn that the large cats and the hairy humanoids – when spotted by the astonished and sometimes terrified onlookers – vanished before their eyes. We’re not talking about them making hasty getaways into the woods. Rather, we are talking about the “animals” – in an instant – changing form from big cat and Bigfoot to a small, brightly-lit globe of light. The ghost lights that have been staple parts of the area for centuries, of course.

Three such reports surfaced in 1977, and from entirely unconnected people: two encountered the Big Thicket man-beast, and one the paranormal panther. All three witnesses – whose accounts were collected by Ernie Sears, a now-deceased UFO researcher, swore that, in barely a couple of blinks of the eye, and as the creatures realized they had been seen, they became as still as statues. Then, rather incredibly, they shrunk in size and transformed into small balls of light that vanished into the trees. A near-identical incident occurred on Bragg Road itself in 1998, when a group of campers encountered an immense Bigfoot – in excess of eight-feet in height – which vanished in a flash of light and that left just one tell-tale card: a golf ball-sized globe of light that hovered around the immediate area for around twenty or seconds and which then fizzled out of existence, and amid what was described as an electrical crackling noise. I had the good fortune to meet one of the campers at the June 11, 2005 Texas Ghost Lights Conference in Austin, Texas.

(Nick Redfern) Texas' mysterious Big Thicket

Finally, in 2007, one of the mysterious big cats was seen by a wildlife officer, as it drank from a small pool of water deep in the Thicket. The woman – who I met on a 2009 trip to the Big Thicket and who prefers anonymity - knew all the stories of the area’s resident “black panther,” but didn’t really put much faith in the accounts. That is, until she saw it for herself. And she saw much more than that: as she stood, transfixed to the spot, the immense cat turned nonchalantly in her direction, and was suddenly reduced to a glowing ball that melted into the pool, amid a great deal of steam – suggesting the light was extremely hot. In view of all the above, it’s no wonder that the Big Thicket has developed a reputation as one of the most paranormal places in all of the Lone Star State. What this all demonstrates is that mysterious balls of light come in multiple ways. My view? We haven't come close yet to the Ball of Light phenomenon.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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