Islington GazettePEOPLE screamed and cars came to a halt when dozens of mysterious lights hovered thousands of feet above Archway.
The "squadron" of flying orange objects left passers-by staring skyward in disbelief at around 5.30pm last Thursday. Police received four calls within a matter of minutes.
Alix McAlister, 34, a market stall trader from Bredgar Road, Archway, said: "I just picked up my son from nursery in Bredgar Road. I had just come out of the door when I noticed what was going on in the sky.
"There were a group of them - 10 to 15 of them moving together. My first impression was that they reminded me of a squadron of aeroplanes in formation. But they didn't have a proper formation and they were all moving at the same speed.
"I thought for a while that something was happening in the centre of London. Bombs and planes crossed my mind. But I realised very quickly that they didn't look like any aircraft I'd seen before.
"They were coming from the north and moving south. And then they kind of stopped and they were hovering. There was no sound. They seemed to fade away and I saw more coming and then they stopped. It lasted about 10 minutes."
Designer James Zafar, of Palace Road, Crouch End, also watched the phenomena from Bredgar Road.
He said: "I parked the car and when I looked in the sky between the Little Angels nursery and the trees there were balls of light in the sky.
"They were all moving together. They stopped and then they came on again and there must have been about 12 of these things all moving across the sky.
Crowds also witnessed the spectacle from nearby Magdala Avenue and Highgate Hill.
Tom Cull, of Summerlee Gardens, Fortis Green, 27, a vision mixer, had just finished a guitar lesson when he noticed a crowd of people staring up at the sky in Magdala Avenue.
He said: "There were at least 30 people watching. Cars had stopped. It was kind of eerie.
"What I found strange about these things was the way they moved. The fact that they were so high would suggest they were quite big."
Mr Cull saw the lights again when he returned home to Summerlee Gardens.
Another witness, a 49-year-old company director who did not want to be named, was about to enter Archway Tube station in Highgate Hill when he saw the lights.
He said: "It was pretty spectacular. All I would say was that they were two to three thousand feet up and there was at least 30 or 40 people who would have seen this. There was screaming going on and everything. It was pretty weird."
Less than 30 minutes later similar "strange orange lights" were spotted miles away above Kings Lynn in East Anglia.
Reporter Charlotte Tamvakis tries to unravel the mystery of the 'Archway lights'
WHILE no one is in any doubt something happened in the sky above Archway last Thursday, experts are at odds over what caused the spooky sight.
The truth is out there - somewhere - and my search started with the account of eyewitness, James Zafar.
He said: "When I called 999 there was a big silence and then he came back on the phone and said we've tracked it by radar. Then he said, 'you are real really lucky, you've just seen a meteor or shooting star.'
"They definitely mentioned the radar and that leads me to think they know all about this."
But police would only confirm that they received a number of calls about the lights and that there was reference to radar and a meteor on their records. They could not say where this information came from.
And the Ministry of Defence (MOD) said it had had no reports of any "security incidents" - adding: "Unless there is evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom from an external source, and to date no 'UFO' report has revealed such evidence, MOD does not attempt to identify the precise nature of each reported sighting."
Time to speak to someone who knows all about what happens in the sky at night.
I contacted the Royal Astronomical Society - but it ruled out a cosmological explanation.
Press officer Peter Bond said: "It doesn't sound like aurora. Auroras are curtains of light and meteors last a few seconds and they leave a bright tail around them when they burn up. They won't last for 10 minutes.
"And it certainly couldn't be a comet either because comets don't move because they are so far away. They move position from night to night."
His conclusion was that the lights must be military aircraft or some sort of weather balloons.
Then a spokesman for the Meteorological Office ruled out weather balloons - along with any weather-related explanation.
He explained: "It's unlikely that it could have been anything to do with the weather. It was a pretty clear evening the whole night on Thursday. There were no storms or anything like that."
And astronomer and self proclaimed "UFO sceptic" Ian Ridpath also dismissed any astronomical or climatic explanations.
He believes the phenomenon was caused by "sky lanterns" or "UFO balloons" - one-off miniature hot air balloons that can be ordered online for use at parties.
Mr Ridpath said: "These things are always being reported. This very probably is the most likely explanation. What surprises me is that someone hasn't come along and said this is what they are."
And with Chinese New Year just around the corner, this certainly seems like a possible answer.
But witnesses and UFO researchers disagree.
Contact International UFO Research, based in Oxford, aims to "solve the enigma of UFOs - whether fact or fiction".
A spokesman said: "I'm not convinced by the argument. I asked witnesses if they thought there was a possibility it was lanterns and they said no."
He added: "What we try to do is get an explanation and at the moment we are still banging our heads against the wall."
Some people have even suggested the lights could be radio masts on top of Archway Tower.
But eyewitness Mr Zafar said: "They moved and then they stopped and then they moved again. They were under control. I totally disagree. I think someone is trying to dismiss the story."
And Mr Cull added: "I don't buy the balloon thing. When I first saw it, it was stationary and then it was moving above the hospital and then it moved towards the south."
For eyewitnesses of Thursday's extraordinary events at least, it seems the truth is still out there.