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UFOs or paper lanterns?

A strange sighting in the sky above a Surrey gas station. -
A strange sighting in the sky above a Surrey gas station.
— image credit:

Was it a practice run for the Mayan calendar prediction? Was it E.T. phoning home?

Or was it a group of illuminated, floating paper lanterns, released into the skies over Cloverdale by some celebrant who got carried away by the spirit of the season?

We may never know for sure, but at least one Cloverdale resident who saw bright, moving lights in the skies on Dec. 22 (“Strange Lights Over Cloverdale,” Jan. 12) believes the sighting was really paper lanterns, which float on the air using candle power.

“That night my sons and I saw nearly 20 of these,” Jonas Lee Photography posted on the Reporter’s

Facebook Page after reading the story.

“We followed one and found where it crashed. It was a metre-diametre Chinese paper lantern! The wind was causing these to blow quite far.”

He didn’t get a photo, however. “The rice paper dissolves quickly,” he wrote, “leaving a wire frame and foam pad that the candle rests in.”

Another local eyewitness concurs with the lantern theory.

“I do believe what you saw was lanterns,” the witness told UFO expert Brian Vike, submitting a report to the Houston, B.C.,-based researcher’s blog, The Vike Factor.

This eyewitness has seen them floating in the skies here on Canada Day and other holidays.

“If you find out who let them go I would sure love to know the story.”

Flying Paper LanternThe lantern theorists are among dozens of Cloverdalians who reported seeing unusual lights in the sky on Dec. 22, and over the Christmas holidays as part of a Yuletide flood of UFO reports submitted to The Vike Factor from B.C., the U.S. and elsewhere.

[Image: Did you send a flotilla of paper lanterns aloft over Christmas? Inquiring minds in Cloverdale sure want to know.]

Vike found it curious that there were so many reports coming out of Surrey.

Among the reports was the story of a local man who posted video footage captured after he and his son pulled over on their drive home to watch the strange sight.

The lights – which were silent – didn’t appear to act like aircraft, according to the man who shot the footage. But he’s not yet convinced that what he and others saw that night were lanterns.

In coming forward with his sighting, the man is hoping someone will be able to identify what he – and the other people who stopped their cars along 60 Avenue to watch – saw that night.

“I hope someone has an explanation,” he said.

Since his story was featured in The Reporter, more Cloverdale residents have now reported seeing strange, bright lights over Cloverdale, snapping photos and shooting video, and posting their findings on Facebook pages.

A couple who were up late wrapping presents went out to their backyard after noticing a cluster of strange lights travelling across the sky on Dec. 22.

“It was eerie to say the least, and I wanted to notify someone but thought I would sound like a lunatic,” she said. “I was relieved to see the sighting in the paper yesterday, but it still leaves me with an uneasy feeling.”

Another witness was equally baffled, describing how, a few nights before Christmas, three orange lights could be seen moving very slowly, one at a time, very high in the sky. One seemed to stop, make a 90-degree turn and start moving east.

“I dragged my 17-year-old son outside onto the deck to watch, and he thought they were definitely not airplanes, especially given the extreme right turn they each made.”

Another person was also relieved after reading the story. “Unless you’ve seen them yourself, it really is a bizarre sighting.”

It’s hard not to conclude it’s all really part of a sneaky advertising scheme dedicated to stirring up that all-important buzz for a product.

“Don’t be surprised if your display makes front page news in your local paper!” A website that sells paper lanterns called FlyingLanterns.co.uk gushes. “Flying lanterns can easily be mistaken for UFOs!”

If so, then a lot of people will feel duped.

It’s worth noting the site carries this warning: Please ensure you contact the local coast guard if you intend releasing your lanterns on the beach or near the coast. This will avoid causing unnecessary alarm.

Vike, who’s investigated hundreds of UFO sightings, concedes the strange lights may turn out to be

lanterns but he doesn’t expect it will dampen the debate for now.

The time of year – the festive holiday season – may further underscore this theory.

“It would be the time of year that folks would let things like this go, and they are becoming a popular addition to fireworks. I just wish we [could hear from] the folks who know for a fact, the folks who let them go. This would be awesome.”

See related story: Strange Lights over Cloverdale



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