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People in Stephenville, Texas are calling it a life-changing experience. That experience was the sighting last week of a large unidentified flying object. They say the UFO hovered for several minutes and then flew off quickly.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn went to Stephenville to find out what folks think they saw.

WADE GOODWYN: On a Tuesday evening, police officer Leroy Gatin walked out his front door to his car and up in the sky he saw something glowing. It was a deep fiery red. The light reminded him of pictures he'd seen of a volcano erupting at night. The object was about 3,000 feet up and Gatin says it was close.

Mr. LEROY GATIN (Police Officer): From what I saw, the initial or two red glows, I'd say about five football fields.

GOODWYN: Gatin saw a red glow, and he says it was big. He watched it hover, disappear then reappear. Finally, it occurred to him to get his family. He ran back inside and yelled to come look. His wife on the couch rolled her eyes and ignored him but his 8-year-old son, Ryan(ph) came running.

Mr. RYAN GATIN (Son of Leroy Gatin): First, my dad saw some bright red lights. And then I came out there with him. We saw like some bright white lights flying around like dancing around. And then they just took off.

GOODWYN: Father and son were stunned at the speed the lights traveled. Within seconds, they were gone. Gatin decided to keep mostly quiet about what he'd seen but two days later, there was a story in the local paper.

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

Unidentified Woman: Empire-Tribune. I'm sorry she's currently in a meeting right now. Would you like to leave your name and number? About the UFO? Yes. That's correct. We did have some articles run on that.

GOODWYN: Stephenville is about 80 miles southwest of Fort Worth. When something unusual happens, people call the newspaper. That works well because there's only one fulltime reporter, Angela Joiner. Joiner says a lot of people saw the UFO that night.

Ms. ANGELA JOINER (Reporter, Stephenville Empire-Tribune): I would say several dozen. Now, I've gotten so many phone calls, I really (unintelligible) where to keep up with them all and so many e-mails.

GOODWYN: The descriptions were the same. It was big. It had bright, strobing white lights that flash in no pattern. It would hover silently and then when it did move…

Ms. JOINER: Yes, they said it was very, very fast. Once it started moving - one lady said, you couldn't have put your finger on it and followed it and kept your finger on it.

GOODWYN: Perhaps nobody had a better view than pilots Steve Allen. Allen and his two friends were clearing brush on this hilltop with views that extend 20 miles.

Mr. STEVE ALLEN (Pilot): Oh, we look off to the east towards the nuclear plant and see some flashing strobe lights coming at us. They had a erratic flash, I mean, it was very large and very bright - nothing we had ever seen before. Now, I asked the two gentlemen with me, Mike Odom and Lance Jones, if they were seeing it, and of course, they said, yes.

GOODWYN: Allen says the object slowed as it approached the outskirts of Stephenville.

Mr. ALLEN: It was probably about 2,500-3,000 foot above the ground. By the time it got to Stephenville, we could see the back end of it and the lights had reconfigured. It was just two in the back corners. And the several more lights come on into an arch.

GOODWYN: Allen says it took the aircraft just a few seconds to cross a section of sky that it takes him 20 minutes to fly in his Cessna. When the object disappeared, the three men ran into Michael Odom's house and got his wife Claudette.

Ms. CLAUDETTE ODOM (Wife of Michael Odom): And he goes, run outside right now. He said they're in the west. Look in the west and you can see what I'm talking about. So, I ran out there and I saw it.

GOODWYN: And then, what did you see?

Ms. ODOM: Just - they were like bright, bright yellow kind of like strobe lights, you know? What an airplane. I know it wasn't a airplane.

GOODWYN: And then Claudette and the men saw something several other witnesses reported seeing as well. Although the nearby Air Force base reported that it didn't have fighters in the area at the time. Claudette Odom says somebody gave chase.

Ms. ODOM: Yeah. They were fighter planes. It's exactly what they were. They - the military can say what they want to say. I don't know who was flying out here or where the jets were from whether they were from around here but they were two of them and they were following whatever the lights were and there was no way they were catching up.

(Soundbite of theme "The Twilight Zone")

GOODWYN: The large object that appears in the evening sky, every day, Americans witness something they can't explain and will never forget. Their eyes tell them they're still in Texas but looks can be deceiving because they've entered The Twilight Zone.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News.

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