Note-Having recently passed the 10th anniversary of the so-called "Phoenix Lights" of March 13, 1997, the following is a continuation of a series of interviews/articles with and by direct eye witnesses of this monumental event.
Although many who witnessed this huge "V-shaped craft" have come forward, there are a great deal more who haven't; research concerning this case is ongoing to this day, and it is our hope by highlighting the event(s) and the individuals who witnessed it, more people will come forward and share their experiences. Comments are always welcome, and if requested confidentiality will be honored-FW
FW: Mike we left off in "Part I" of this interview at the end of your narrative describing what you refer to as "your life-changing event," i.e., the sighting of a "huge" V-Shaped craft by you and your wife known as the "Phoenix Lights." This taking place almost ten years ago March 13, 1997.
I would like to begin the very next day, but first given what is now known about that night, calling it the "Phoenix Lights" certainly isn't accurate, to put it mildly; where and how did that name originate?
MF: Frank, that’s a really good question, and I don’t know if I have the right answer. I think several people will take the credit for the name, “Phoenix Lights”. The massive sighting occurred Thursday evening March 13, 1997. After I reported it to MUFONAZ, I was asked to be at Village Labs in Tempe, AZ., on Sunday March 16. There the “Strange Universe” crew met with us and videotaped our experience. I think the term was first used then. However, a few others may claim the term, I’m just not sure. Another, which I thought was first, was a producer from MSNBC. One fact does remain…I have argued this title since it’s creation as inaccurate. What was seen that night was witnessed nearly all over the state of Arizona. Today I equate the term “Phoenix Lights” to the 5 videos of a diversionary flare drop around 10 PM that night. These more than likely flares were dropped at around 16,000’ foot altitude and witnessed by a few people in Phoenix metro area. These “lights” weren’t over Phoenix. And truthfully, they weren’t even over Maricopa county. But the descriptive name for March 13th will forever be “Phoenix Lights”. Sad but true.
I do agree with the late Doc Barry; “The Massive UFO Flyover of Arizona March 13, 1997”, is the most accurate way to describe that wonderful night.
FW: In our private correspondence, you often refer to your experience as, "life changing" and "wonderful" etc., which by the way is a common theme amongst witnesses who saw this massive object "up close"; take us back to the "next day" after the event; when you woke up that morning, what was going through your mind?
MF: Since we both worked, we would have started the day doing the normal things to get ready for work. We had questioned each other wondering if anyone else had seen this massive V shaped object. Our questions were soon answered…yes, hundreds, maybe even thousands had seen it. We soon learned that Thursday evening the phones had lit up at various TV and radio stations. Talk radio was a buzz. There was, I guess the best word to describe the first day after the sighting…confusion. The most upsetting part of the early hours of the first day was the constant spinning by talk radio hosts of something explainable. They would laugh and tee-hee at some of the callers reports of what they had seen. Everyone was made fun of. People were told to rest assured that what was seen last night was explainable and probably a military exercise. They (talk radio) had no idea that there was more than one event Thursday evening. A few of the five (5) videos were being turned in to MUFONAZ and one or two were already on television news. It truly was the talk of the town.
I was listening to talk radio most of the day. I had yet decided to call in. Mainly because of the debunking that was already going on. They (radio) really made the callers feel ignorant and silly from the beginning. I was really getting upset. I have never experienced anything like this before. Without investigation…conclusions were being drawn. This was very frustrating. And this is why I believe so many that had seen this massive craft refused to call in or report their sighting. One so called expert said, “this is why people shouldn’t look up!”. Everyone laughed.
At one point I had to report in to my boss in California. After our conference, I told him what Nannette and I had witnessed Thursday evening. His response was just like the talk radio hosts…”no way, there has to be an explanation, probably military”.
The first day was terrible for the witnesses. Instead of trying to find out just how many witnesses there were state-wide, they would just ridicule and insult the intelligence of those who called in. I was really starting to boil….after seeing those late night videos time and time again…it was getting to me…for that was not what we had seen Thursday evening at 8:30 PM from our home in Chandler. And after taking just so much…I finally made the call. I searched ufo on the internet. After looking for a few seconds I found MUFON. I found Walter Andress’s phone number in Seguine, Texas. I made the call. He answered the phone, and the first words I said, was..”sir, my name is Mike Fortson. I live in Chandler, Arizona. I would like to ask you a question…has anyone from Arizona reported a mile-long ufo from last night?” I could hear him take a deep breath. He responded, “yes!” I then began to explain everything we had seen and felt. “You saw it?” he said. “Yes” I replied, “my wife and I both saw it for about 2 minutes”. “Call these people right away”, he said. I was then given the phone numbers to RM and BH of MUFONAZ. After several calls I finally got thru. I was asked to call back after lunch Saturday.
As of Friday March 14, the first day after the massive sighting, there was thought to be only one ufo event that occurred on March 13, 1997.
FW: SO understandably given the amount of witnesses who saw something, there was instantaneous feedback; had you ever called into a radio show before?
What you describe Mike, in my view, is a very interesting "social phenomenon"unto itself; that is a "can't be, so it isn't mentality! Obviously you took the ridicule that was bestowed on others personally--as anyone would since you shared a very significant experience.
Explain the difference between the "late night videos" being aired on television and what you witnessed for us.
MF: Frank, I’m thinking that if I had called into a radio station, it would have been to request a song. I listened to music rather than talk radio. I’m thinking the only time I turned to a talk station would be to check on traffic.
The 5 -10:00 PM., MST., videos are of distant lights. No one knows for sure just what they are, or aren’t. But it’s basically all the video evidence there is. This is where the term, “Phoenix Lights” began. The truth is the distant lights aren’t in Phoenix and probably aren’t even in Maricopa county! But like I said, it’s all they have. So every time a witness speaks of their sighting during a tv or documentary video…the distant lights video is shown in the background. And yes, the lights are more than likely flares. Or as I call it, the perfect diversion. This is one issue that will never be resolved. As of nine years and seven months after the fact…there are no witnesses that were close enough to the lights to accurately describe just what “they” were. (The sad part…99% of all the so-called investigation was on these lights videos…nearly all witnesses to the March 13, 1997 UFO Flyover were in the 8 o’clock hour!)
As I said earlier we all met at Village Labs Sunday, March 16 and were filmed by Strange Universe. There the videos were played before several witnesses and several MUFONAZ representatives. That’s when I first spoke up to them and said, “that’s not what we saw!” I described in front of all present and on film, for the very first time just what we saw at 8:30 PM., MST., not at 10 PM. Nannette and I saw a solid V shaped craft, not distant lights. We had no problem determining it was one object as it came thru the grey background of the city lights, the enormous black craft stuck out like a sore thumb. It was low and slow and it did not make any noise. And as I exclaimed during the sighting, “that son-of-a-bitch is a mile long!”
It was at that time the thoughts of multiple events first were considered. After the meeting at Village Labs ended, the entire film crew came to our home in Chandler and interviewed us and filmed from our vantage point. Clearly seeing that the city lights to the north west of our location did indeed give a grey background from the city lights.
What witnesses viewed in the 8 o’clock hour thru out Arizona on March 13, 1997, were not flares. The 5- 10 PM videos, more than likely are.
FW: In regards to what you call the "perfect diversion," didn't Dr. Bruce Maccabee (Optical Physicist) do an analysis of the 10:00 flares? Who was present at Village Labs on the 16th?
MF: Yes, Dr Bruce Maccabee came to Phoenix and examined all the videos, I believe thru a scientific method of triangulation he perceived them to be shot pretty close to the same time; app. 10 PM MST. I believe he calculated them to be a distance from Phoenix of about 30-36 miles and had to have been ignited around 16-17,000’. I would refer you to his conclusions he made that are on file at his website. Personally, I trust his conclusions because he was the only one who approached this from a scientific point of view. You see, the lights were just too far away
And there are no witnesses or videos close up to confirm just what they were. And in order for the lights or flares to be seen in the Phoenix metro area, they had to be very high up (16-17,000’). And keep in mind the only ones to see the 10 PM events were those with mountainside homes or elevated viewpoints.
Those present at the first get together at Village Labs on March 16, 1997 were: Jim Dellitoso (sp), Michael Tanner (both of Village Labs), Bill Hamilton (MUFONAZ), Tom King (shot 10 PM video from Mike Krysten’s home with Bill Hamilton), Richard Motzer, Tom Taylor (Both with MUFONAZ), Scott Montgomery and his wife (he shot video of F15’s chasing the orbs), Ozma Linderman and her boyfriend, both are 8:25 witnesses from Scottsdale), Mike Krysten and his wife Sue (he shot the famous footage at 10 PM), Mike Fortson and wife Nannette (8:30 PM witnesses), there were a couple radio people there, and Strange Universe filmed the entire meeting. There were probably others but my memory fails as this was nearly 10 years ago as to the rest of the visitors. MUFONAZ had acquired 4 or 5 videos and they were played for us. That’s when I stood up and said, “that’s not what we saw!”.
FW: In Dr. Maccabee's analysis seen here, he writes:
"the following analysis of March 13, 1997 sightings over Phoenix refers to the sightings by a few people of lights at about 10 PM. An earlier sighting by hundreds of people around 8:30 PM of a dark triangular object that blocked the stars was a UFO. It is not the subject of this analysis."
Seems he separated the "wheat from the chaff" right off the bat.Who initially "arranged the meeting" at "Village Labs," and for our readers, please define their function.
MF: Frank, I have no idea who set the first meeting up. I assume that there is a connection between someone at MUFONAZ and Village Labs. And it was Village Labs that got a hold of “Strange Universe”. Village Labs served as a meeting place and also as a source for witnesses and media to communicate with for several years.
FW: What did "Village Labs" do . . . their business?
MF: I’m really not sure. I’m assuming until they lost their funding and lease, they were looking for ET. They were a point of contact to analyze video tapes. And they had stuff from all over the world. There were videos I got to see from not only the US but Australia and Europe. That’s about all I know. I do know they opened their doors to all of us that were interested in updating the 3/13 stories as they came in. I could come in unannounced and they would see me and answer my questions and allow me to read new reports and see the videos anytime I wanted.
FW: So it would "seem" that prior to the "Phoenix Lights," Village Labs main activities were centered upon Ufology; when "exactly" to the best of your recollection did the media report a "flare-drop by the military?" Also, when did the "collective" of witnesses realize they might have seen different object(s)?
MF: The word probably started in April. I’m not sure when the Arizona Republic article came out, but it was an interview with then Captain Eileen Benze (sp) and the headline was something to the effect: “The Solution to the Phoenix Lights” something like that. This brings up the question, “that if you have a solution, you must have had a problem!” Anyway, this was one of the first. I remember flares being brought up among the first times as Bill Hamilton left MUFONAZ and became the Executive Director of Sky Watch International. As he did this, that’s when I remember Richard Motzer MUFONAZ beginning his attacks on the flare issue, trying to debunk Bill Hamilton’s theory on the issue of the 5- 10 PM videos.
Then, “lines were drawn in the sand”, so to speak. The rest is unfortunate history since there never really was an investigation of March 13, 1997. They just never got past those 10 PM videos.
Witness testimony of different objects from lights, to solid craft, to orbs, to triangles, to discs were immediately reported to media, Village Labs, local radio, television stations, etc. Problem was no one really listened to them since they did not have video of their events. That was the evil of the whole evening…unless you had video, it probably didn’t happen. This is why the so-called investigators nearly worshiped those 5- 10 PM videos. It was like their “holy grail”. It wasn’t until the USA Today article on June 18th, 1997, came out did people start listening to the 8 o’clock witnesses. At that point the national media got involved and people finally started listening. It was then most of my tv/radio interviews began.
FW: With the benefit of hindsight, if we could go back . . . what would you have liked to see happen?
MF: Well, first of all I would have liked to have seen my ass moving quickly and retrieving a video camera and taping the massive V shaped craft as it passed in front of us. I truly believe this would have ended and speculation that what we and thousands of other Arizonians witnessed that night was something other than flares, planes, blimps or balloons. I really apologize to the world that I did not think clearly and failed to react, as I should have. Instead I just stared and was somewhat paralyzed to the impossible craft I was witnessing.
Other than that, I would like to have seen the media react with a more keen awareness that something spectacular did happen. I would have liked to see them treat our fellow citizens with more respect and accept the fact that “they” (the media) are not the only ones with eyes and a brain.
FW: For those of us that "pay attention" Mike, two common traits for folks that witnessed the "huge craft," number one was "awe," the second was a sense of "warm wonderment" (opposed to fear). As you know, most "direct witnesses" stayed in their respective seats (so to speak) . . . no need to apologize.
This looks like a good place to conclude "Part II" . . . readers stay tuned for "Part III" with Mike Fortson.
See "Part I"
Eye Witness Mike Fortson's Original Report of The 'Phoenix Lights'
The Non-Investigation of the Phoenix Lights- My View
SHARE YOUR UFO EXPERIENCE