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An agnostic view of Boca Grande’s alien visits over the years

August 10, 2023
By Garland Pollard

In the wake of the recent explosive hearings in the U.S. Congress on UFOs, now called Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, the sole report of a 1999 UFO hovering near the causeway to Boca Grande still remains a mystery.

The report was from Dec. 18, 1999, when an unknown couple is alleged to have come onto the island and seen a “football-field-sized saucer with blinking white lights, that made no sound as it traveled across the sky.”

The report is one of over 8,000 sightings of mysterious things in the air over Florida, according to the National UFO Reporting Center. 

“We haven’t archived any at the Historical Society,” said Boca Grande Historical Society and History Center   Administrative Director Kim Kyle. She looked through clippings files and all of their history archives and could find nothing that indicated anything alien on that date – or any date, for that matter.

The Dec. 24, 1999 edition of the Boca Beacon made no mention of the UFO either. The big news that week was a planned meeting on golf carts. There was no odd weather that week, except for rain. That Saturday, Dec. 18 had 1.1 inches, with a low of 63 degrees and a high of 66.

The newspaper’s calendar had no special events that Saturday in the previous edition. It was all, according to the Island Happenings column, “holiday preoccupations.” The Ballyhoo column did state that Boca Grande Outfitters was offering a fly-casting clinic that day. It could not have been Santa arriving early, for St. Nick had come to the Boca Grande Child Care Center a few days earlier on Thursday, saying hello to Nan and the staff. 

Reached at the Gasparilla Island and Bridge Authority, director Kathy Banson had no idea either, and graciously replied to a question as to whether there were any reports:

“We have no idea where this story came from.”

Floridians Look to Heavens

No matter the inability to confirm the Boca Grande report, one might reasonably expect that the state with 8,090 NUFORC reports, second only to California’s 15,901 sightings, would be a good bet for UFO activity. Florida is, after all, the world capital of space launches. 

Florida is also home to 21 military bases including Air Force bases such as Eglin, Patrick, Tyndall, MacDill and Homestead, and places like the Avon Park Air Force Range in Sebring, whose unofficial slogan is “Birds and Bombs” owing to its natural beauty, and target ranges.

Just this spring, Florida’s Patrick Air Force Base near Cocoa Beach was selected as the home for the U.S. Space Force Training and Readiness Command headquarters. Nicknamed STARCOM, it is also the home of Space Launch Delta 45. Add to that the sky and weather phenomena  above Florida and its sometimes spectacular sunsets, and there is much to see in the air.

Serious Congress

While the documentation for the Boca Grande sighting may be thin, the national security and defense issues that surround UFOs are very much real.

On July 26, the House Oversight’s Subcommittee on National Security, the Border and Foreign Affairs held a bipartisan hearing on unidentified aerial phenomena. Florida was well represented at the hearing, including Democrat Rep. Jared Moskowitz and Republican Reps. Anna Paulina Luna and Matt Gaetz. 

The issue was not whether UFOs were real, but whether the operations of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), were being properly reported to Congress. Speakers were David Grusch, a former U.S. intelligence official, and Navy officers and pilots David Fravor and Ryan Graves.

It followed on a winter publication of the 2022 Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence 

(DNI).The report stated that UAP sightings are increasing, not only enabling a better awareness of our airspace, but a better review of what has been reported. 

The report made no reference to whether these sightings were alien, only that better reporting would help to weed out situations where weather, illumination and atmospheric effects may have played a part.

The report stated that there had been 133 UAP incidents in the first 17 years of reporting from the DNI, but recently there have been 247 new reports and another 119 that were discovered after preliminary assessments. This made for a total of 510 UAP reports from U.S. Navy and Air Force aviators, who “witnessed the events during the course of their operational duties.”

The discussion has spawned the lobby group Americans for Safe Aerospace, an effort to better protect commercial and military pilots who see things in the sky that they do not understand, and take no position on what individuals are seeing.

“We are origin agnostic,” said Haley Morris, spokesman. “We are not making any hypotheses.” She said that the group is pushing to better protect pilots who see things, and have the observations reviewed scientifically. The issues are not always about sightings. This year, the Chinese balloon in U.S. airspace brought the issue to the nation as one of safety.

“People are very curious, and understandably so,” said Morris. “Let’s identify what is in our sky.

Circus in the Sky

Boca Grande, and indeed the entire Gulf of Mexico coast in Florida, are subject to all sorts of aerial phenomena. Last year in Cape Coral, local TV stations were flooded with calls about a UFO, which turned out to be a stratospheric balloon called Gryphon 24, which crossed the U.S. from its Spaceport Grand Canyon base at 10 mph.

A March 2002 incident over Bokeelia involved “two orb-like objects.” Online reports at nuforc.org have not been vetted, and they make no representations as to their accuracy. There are hundreds of them.

Reports include a sighting in Englewood on Jan. 2, 2019 that was “one formation of three white objects and another of four objects seen during the day at 500 to 1,000 feet.”

The reporter for the NUFORC database is not afraid to question its own information, as a report from Oct. 19, 2017 reads, “((HOAX??)) Large dark rectangular object gliding through sky. Kind of transparent. Saw at Englewood Beach. (anonymous report)).”

For those hoping for more sizzle, many of the sightings in the database are not claiming that it was some sort of alien craft, only a report of interesting things people saw in the sky. There were no green flashes, but fireballs are commonly seen. On June 19, 2014 a report of a fireball was labeled by NUFORC as a “possible meteor.” A report on August 8, 2015 stated that something, “obviously not an airplane or meteor” was spotted in Englewood. 

One report from April 9, 2016 in Englewood stated, “We were having dinner in Englewood, when my wife said what is that? I turned and looked and saw a fireball.” A June 19, 2014 report of a fireball was labeled by NUFORC as a “possible meteor.” A report on August 8, 2015 reported that something “Obviously not an airplane or meteor” was spotted in Englewood. One report from April 9, 2016 in Englewood stated, “We were having dinner in Englewood, when my wife said what is that? I turned and looked and saw a fireball.”

Kyle, of the Boca Grande Historical Society, did have some ideas on where one might find information on sightings, though it might be difficult this time of year. You can’t come in the Temptation Bar and ask, because it’s closed,” said Kyle.