A fun story about helicopters and the UFO thought process.


New Member
I've lived near a US military base my whole life. I spent most of that time living on my parents farm, and before that, a different farm even closer to the army base. My whole life, I've been heard to the deafening sound of artillery and bombs going off on the bombing range, to seeing tracer rounds flying through the sky, illumination flares (oh man, those alone cause a LOT of local UFO stories from out-of-towners! but that's another story for another day). I could see tanks driving around on the other side of the valley outside my bedroom window as a child. The land I grew up on had undetonated ordnance that accidentally landed there decades prior and my parents didn't know about it until AFTER they bought the land and a guy came to their house and told them about it. Being a little boy growing up in a rural area, I did what little boys growing up out in the country do, and so of course, I unzipped and urinated all over them once. It's true. I peed on the bombs.

And then, of course, there are the helicopters. From a young age, my dad (he was a helicopter mechanic in Vietnam) taught me which was which. I can identify them by outline alone. I can tell a UH-60 Black Hawk from an AH-64 Apache by sound. I remember delivering pizza to an army guy at the barracks on post when I was in college and the backwash from a nearby CH-47 Chinook (the big twin rotor ones, unmistakable. some people call them "bananas") was just so deafeningly loud I couldn't even tell what he was saying. Helicopters are everywhere around here. It's because the pilots need a certain amount of time flying to get certified. Or something. I was never in the military, I just know what I know from talking to so many friends and acquaintances who were.

So this requirement causes the pilots to very often just... fly around seemingly aimlessly while they put in their hours. They get bored. They follow lone cars on the highway, shine their spotlight into a barn, scare wildlife, find a guy going fishing at the lake and hover in place and watch him. They have to be in there for thousands and thousands of hours, so they make the best of it. When I lived out in the countryside, I was followed home by helicopters at night on more than one occasion (a story that people who aren't from around here REFUSE to believe). It really happens.

One night, about fifteen years ago, my mother and I were driving home from town. I was in the passenger seat of her Suburban. We saw a military helicopter. (looked like a Black Hawk? I think? It's been a hot minute.), but it was... chasing something....

No, really! Out in front of the main lights of the helicopter (remember, it's a dark, moonless night. keep that in mind) was this... I can only describe it as an orb of white light. And sometimes the light would wink out and then fade back in again. Mom pulled over to the side of the road on top of a hill and we sat there watching it, trying to figure out what it was for the longest time. Eventually it flew off back towards the fort, still chasing that orb of light. I saw it again several more times over the next few years. Every time one of us (me or my parents) saw it, we'd come home and say "I saw it again!". We started calling it "The Orb".

A few years later, I was in college. I was talking to a retired soldier, non-traditional student in his 60s who had been a helicopter pilot in the army. Served in the Gulf War. He was one of the people who told me that the just like to screw around with hicks on the ground while they're bored flying however many hours they need. When I recounted the story of "The Orb" to him, he didn't really know what to make of it. He asked me a lot of questions, but said he didn't know of anything that they did that would look like the helicopter was chasing a ball of light!

Fast forward another couple years. I'm driving home at dusk. I see the same thing! Helicopter chasing a bright ball of light! But this time, the twilight was still bright enough that I could see what it really was: it was the spotlight on the front of the helicopter. In the dark, my eyes interpreted the end of the helicopter as back where the rear lights were, but in reality, the "ball of light" in front of it was actually CONNECTED to the rest of it! Mr Helicopter-Pilot in college wouldn't have known this view so he was stumped. He may have spent thousands and thousands of hours flying that vehicle, but he would have had no clue how it looked on the ground when he was using a spotlight. It didn't even cross his mind. Pilots are undoubtedly experts, but their expertise lies in operating their aircraft. They are doubtless highly trained, highly competent individuals, but they are, nevertheless, still just technicians in the grand scheme of things. Very fluent in a narrow field of knowledge, but not much else.

Now, besides the obvious lesson about why pilot testimony can't be counted for much when it comes to this topic (which I think everyone on these fora already knew...), I think the other lesson here is that I never stopped thinking there was a rational explanation for what I was seeing. Whenever I told people about The Orb, I would speak of it in a tone of curiosity rather than of awe (even though it was, admittedly, an awesome sight to see every time I saw it. It looked SO strange!). I would ASK if they knew what it might be, rather than insist it was unexplainable. Now, if I had jumped to conclusions and gone around telling the story the way UFO people do whenever they see something they can't explain, or whenever they find a blurry video of some optical phenomenon they've never had experience with (I'm an amateur photographer so all these diffraction spike videos are just... :rolleyes: eye-rollingly obvious to my eyes), I never would have continued my hunt to find the actual truth. The mundane, boring truth.

And yes, the truth was mundane and boring. But on that evening when I finally found out what it was after more than a decade of mystery, I didn't feel let down. I had kept an open mind (a TRULY open mind!) the whole time and always considered it to be something that was likely perfectly explainable. No, instead I felt a sense of closure. A mystery solved is a mystery solved. It's always satisfying no matter how mundane the answer may be.
Appreciate the background colour you give there. While this may be 'simply' an anecdotal account, I enjoyed the fact you jumped to the completely opposite conclusion, prior to closing the mystery, from many credulous folk who leap very much the other way with 'unexplained' observations. It helps that you had the chance to repeatedly see the phenomenon, until conditions were suitable to solve it. The vast majority of people will only get one encounter to base their judgements on...
Wow, that was amazing.

As I was reading I considered the spotlight as a possible answer, but your description of it as an orb threw me off.

It is interesting how the words used to describe something can make a mundane object appear as an unknown, mysterious event.

Great story, amazing lessons.
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