By Jason FreemanTo this day, no one can say with any certainty what they were or where they were going.
The Neighborhood Star
The Neighborhood Star
Sure, there are theories.
The wing lights of a commercial airliner, flares tied to balloons, mistaken planets and even mass hallucination have been suggested as possible explanations for the sightings of three unidentified red lights that passed over the skies of Tinley Park in a rough V formation on the nights of Aug 21 and Oct 31 in 2004.
But Sam Maranto, state director for the Illinois Mutual UFO Network, doesn't put much credence into those theories.
"We're pretty well convinced that they were not hoaxes," he said. "It was something definitively unusual. We're not saying they were from outer space, but they certainly were non-conventional."
Maranto, along with UFO author Don Schmitt and Dr. Mark Rodeghier, director of the Center for UFO Studies, talked about the "Tinley Lights" phenomena as well as other local and national UFO cases this weekend in Tinley Park during a nine-hour UFO Symposium.
During Maranto's presentation, he played a video of the 2004 Tinley sighting that was shot by Crestwood resident T.J. Japcon.
"It was a perfectly clear night," he said. "The sky was crystal clear; not a cloud in the sky, and people were out in droves having block parties. On weekends, when people are out on nice days, you're going to have higher incidents of sightings."
Maranto fully rejects the theory that the lights were merely road flares tied to balloons.
"A 30-minute flare weighs a pound," he said. "Do you know how many balloons you'd need to take that thing off? Quite a bit - 32 regular balloons. Also, a flare burns at 3,000 degrees. What kind of moron would put an incendiary device in the sky? We would have found evidence of it."
"You would have been able to see smoke, but you don't see any in the footage," he added.
Most witnesses claim the three lights moved silently across the night sky in a V formation before suddenly winking out of sight, said Maranto.
"This very well may be one craft," he said. "Very large, triangular, V-shaped craft, many miles long, have been reported. We're talking miles long. The interesting thing about (the Tinley Lights) is that they never break that configuration. They maintain that signature, at least that's what we've seen in the footage we've reviewed."
Participant Guy Richards, of Rockford, Ill., said many people who report seeing UFOs are regular people who have nothing to gain by going public.
"In the 30,000 documented observations of things in the sky, most people (who report them) are not foolish or trying to con you," he said. "They're ordinary people who have seen something, and they'd like to have somebody tell them it's OK or explain it to them. They're just looking for some closure."
Many symposium attendees, like one man who wished to remain anonymous, said the information discussed during the event was, at the very least, something to consider.
"It's different, that's for sure," he said. "I'm not sure what to make of all this. Most of that footage, I've never seen before."
Maranto said the Tinley Park case, which also included a sighting in 2005, will eventually become legendary in the UFO community.
"It takes a long time to compile all this stuff, but by the time we get done, the Tinley Park case will be one of the best documented mass sighting cases of all time, thanks to people in the community," he said.