23 Far-Out Facts About UFOs, From Weird Sightings to Government Investigations

This is flying at you. What do you do?
This is flying at you. What do you do? / MN84/Shutterstock

An early Air Force definition for the term UFO from the 1950s characterizes it as “any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type, or which cannot be positively identified as a familiar object.”

That doesn’t mean “alien spaceship.” But it doesn’t not mean “alien spaceship,” either. History is teeming with stories of eerie phenomena in the sky—not to mention all the conspiracy theories that often accompany them. On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is talking about all things UFO, from some of the strangest happenings from centuries past to what the government wishes you’d call UFOs instead of “UFOs.”

In ancient Rome, thousands of people once spotted a massive silver spectacle of flames shaped like a wine jar. In 1630s New England, Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop reported that a bunch of colonists witnessed a 3-square-yard light that “ran” and “was contracted into the figure of a swine.”

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