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A brief history of UFO sightings in Minnesota

A brief history of UFO sightings in Minnesota
A brief history of UFO sightings in Minnesota 01:03

MINNEAPOLIS -- House lawmakers are holding a hearing Wednesday with the aim of pushing the executive branch to release more information about unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAPs, also known as UFOs.

Most everyone has or knows someone who has a UFO story - they're so common, in fact, that for nearly 50 years the National UFO Reporting Center has compiled reports from across the United States. The center's database contains tens of thousands of reported sightings.

It's important to note that anyone can submit a report, though before submitting, NUFORC's website advises people on things commonly mistaken for UFOs and lists other rules about submissions.

READ MORE: Harvard professor Avi Loeb believes he's found fragments of alien technology  

In Minnesota alone, more than 2,000 sightings have been reported. The most recent occurred on July 8 in South St. Paul, when a reporter "saw the same object 4 times over an hour."

The oldest sighting in the database is from 1932, though it was reported in 2018.

"My mother has told me this story a number of times in my life and wanted it to be reported, as it's a fairly early sighting," the report states. "In late fall of 1932, her parents were at their cabin at South Long Lake outside of Brainerd, MN. It was a nice, clear night so they were outside enjoying the weather. They suddenly saw a single light flash across the sky, which then paused and hovered over the lake for about 5 minutes before taking off. It made no noise at all. The other cabin dwellers had gone in for the night so they were the only witnesses, but both of them had seen it. Since there was very little airplane traffic in 1932, and no helicopters, there really wasn't much else it could have been."

Sightings in the database range from a simple "Saw something extraordinary" (Roseville, July 29, 1976) to lengthier stories about the sun changing shape and color (Minneapolis, Sept. 16, 1997).

NUFORC does follow up on some of the sightings, contacting the reporter when possible. The center also debunks some sightings. On Aug. 9, 2015, there were 18 reported sightings, all some variation of a circle of white lights. After investigating, NUFORC and other reporters determined these lights were from Mystic Lake Casino.

Unsurprisingly, there have been more sightings logged in the Twin Cities than any other cities in the state. The database contains more than 100 sightings in St. Paul and over 150 in Minneapolis. 

Val Johnson incident

Minnesota's most well-known extraterrestrial experience isn't logged in the database. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, Marshall County Deputy Sheriff Val Johnson's encounter in 1979 is "one of the most credible" in U.S. history.

Per the MNHS, Johnson was driving on State Highway 220 in Marshall County around 1:40 a.m. on Aug. 27, 1979, when he saw a light in the sky. Johnson said the light entered his car, and as it did, he heard glass breaking and lost consciousness.

When he woke up almost 40 minutes later, Johnson's car was more than 850 feet from where he stopped and severely damaged. The car is still on display at the Marshall County Historical Society in Warren.

Johnson suffered burns to his eyes, and his clock and wristwatch both lost 14 minutes, he said. 

Johnson became a national celebrity following the incident, and it has been referenced on TV shows such as "The X-Files" and "Fargo." In 2019, Newsweek called the Johnson incident the 10th most credible UFO sighting in history. 

WCCO looked back at Johnson's story in 2015, and while he declined to be interviewed, his supervisor at the time, now-retired Sheriff Dennis Brekke, said he still has no explanation for the incident.

"I don't know what happened," Brekke said. "I know in my own mind I did the best job we could, me and my department, to investigate and find out what went on. And all we found out is: We don't know."  

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