Start looking skyward - July 2 is World UFO Day! Held on July 2 every year in commemoration of the infamous 1947 Roswell UFO Incident, World UFO Day turns a spotlight on the endless and ever-growing phenomenon of UFO sightings all over the world. Are these UFOs secret government aircrafts? Extraterrestrial visitations? A little of both? While the true identity of UFOs is still hotly under debate, it cannot be denied that for over a century - and quite possibly in many centuries past - people have been witnessing unidentified flying objects in the skies.
In celebration of raising awareness and pursuing disclosure on this World UFO Day, we’ve compiled a list of early, significant UFO sightings caught on camera. Each image was captured prior to 1960 and the onset of heated aerospace engineering era known as the Space Race, making the circumstances surrounding each picture even more mysterious and thought-provoking. Take an eye-opening look at this collection of 10 historic UFO photos taken around the world!
1) NEW HAMPSHIRE, USA, 1871: Taken in 1871, the oldest known UFO in existence was captured on film three decades before humanity achieved the power of flight! The image was taken by Amos F. Clough and Howard A. Kimball while on a meteorological expedition on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Clough and Kimball had been documenting the expedition through a compilation of stereo view photographs when the mysterious cigar-shaped object appeared clearly visible in a series of photos. This photo is significant not only because it is the first picture of a UFO in existence, but because it was taken during an era when both human flight and digital manipulation were unheard of, making the flying object truly seem to be something of extraterrestrial (or at least extraordinary) origin. Although no official report about the Mt. Washington UFO was ever filed, this first-ever image of a UFO set off many more encounters with cigar-shaped UFOs in the years that followed.
2) SOMEWHERE IN THE USA, EARLY 1920s: Very little is known about this early 1920s UFO photo, and at first glance the UFO in question looks like it could even be a simple dark scratch on the image. However, the claim remains that the photograph was taken somewhere in the rural, hilly United States (likely one of its coasts) and reveals a metallic UFO flying in the distance above acres of farmland. Although commercial and military flight was just starting to get off the ground (quite literally) around this time, common use of planes was still many years away, making it unlikely that the object in the photo is really a faraway airplane. The composition of the photograph is quite a juxtaposition, with the primitive horse-drawn cart struggling past cornfields as a metal object flies across the sky above them.
3) VANCOUVER, CANADA, 1937: One night in 1937, 21-year-old old Leonard Lamoureux and his brother Wilfred were photographing Christmas lights at Vancouver’s City Hall when they witnessed a large UFO in the sky. While observing the Christmas lights, the pair were suddenly astounded to see a “bright bright blue light” drop straight down from the sky. As the light descended, Leonard saw an object made out of “two saucers,” with the open ends facing each other and emanating the bright blue glow. It journeyed in a straight line cross the sky, drew even with the flagpole on the City Hall roof, and just after Leonard clicked the shutter on his camera, shot upward back into the sky and disappeared. Both men were so scared by the speed at which the object moved that they fled the scene. No negative image of the Vancouver City Hall UFO has been recovered, putting some of the photo’s authenticity in to question, and leading some critics to claim the “UFO” above the building could be a water mark created when the photo was developed. Recently, however, the photo took on new significance when someone on Reddit pointed out how closely the 1937 image resembles the images of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch in California in 2017 (click here to view a comparison photo). Did the Lamoureux brothers capture an early rocket launch on film, or is their unidentified flying object something more than manmade?
4) HOPEH PROVINCE, CHINA, 1942: Young Japanese student Masujiro Kiryu discovered a strange photograph in his father’s scrapbook, depicting what appears to be a rounded UFO flying above a street in China around the time of World War II. A sidewalk photographer snapped the image in a Tsientsien Street in the Hopeh Province of China in 1942 and then sold it. Masujiro Kiryu’s father purchased the photo as a souvenir to mark his visit to China, and it ended up concealed in his scrapbook until his son found it years later. The photo is intriguing because it appears to show several people pointing and looking toward the strange machine-like object in the sky, indicating that the UFO was witnessed by more than just the photographer and adding an air of authenticity to the subject matter.
5) CALIFORNIA, USA, 1942: Perhaps one of the most classic UFO photos of all time, the newspaper picture from “The Battle of Los Angeles” still evokes images of alien invasions, a chaotic fight in an American city, and so much mystery. On February 25, 1942, just a few months after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Los Angeles found itself thrown into a sudden and bizarre air attack - the perpetrator of which is still remains the subject of many a conspiracy theory. Initially, Naval Intelligence reported on February 24 that an attack on Los Angeles was expected within the next ten hours, only to lift the warning a few hours later. But only a few hours after that, an aerial barrage began above the city, with 1,400 shells of ammunition being fired at an unidentified target, forever immortalized in the famous 1942 photograph. Officially, the cause of the Battle of Los Angeles has been determined to be “heightened tensions with the Japanese” and an errant weather balloon that strongly resembled a UFO. However, there are a number of people, including a former FBI agent and UFO investigator, who believe the battle was in fact the first and best-documented case of an extraterrestrial visitation. Although the visually stunning image is not exactly evidence of an alien invasion, it bears noting that the “weather balloon” above Los Angeles on the night of February 25 took direct hits from ballistics, but never managed to be shot down from the sky.
6) OUTER HEBRIDES, SCOTLAND, 1947: Though the image is rather blurry and has no distinguishing landmarks, it does clearly contain a distinct, strange metallic object appearing to hover in the sky. The photo was allegedly captured in Outer Hebrides, Scotland in 1947. The UFO in question, very shiny and two-tiered, does not seem to match any kind of known aircraft of the era. Little else is known about the photograph, but to date is has not been disproved or revealed to be a hoax.
7) TEXAS, USA, 1951: What would a list of historic UFO photos be without the Lubbock Lights? Another well-known UFO sighting taking place in the United States, the Lubbock Lights were first spotted on August 25, 1951 near Lubbock, Texas, by three scientists who were stunned by what they witnessed. Sightings continued over several days, and on August 30, Texas Tech freshman Carl Hart, Jr. snapped the now-famous photos of multiple lighted UFOs flying in V-formation. After Hart sold the photos to a local newspaper, they soon became nationwide news, and the Lubbock Lights came to be regarded as one of the first great UFO cases in the country, because no one could say exactly what they were. Even decades later, the source of the lights remains a mystery. The Air Force investigated the sightings in 1951, initially (and inexplicably) stating they were caused by a small type of bird called a plover, before issuing a verdict that the lights "weren't birds... but they weren't spaceships...the [Lubbock Lights] have been positively identified as a very commonplace and easily explainable natural phenomenon." Unfortunately for the curious public, the Air Force has never released just what that very commonplace and easily explainable natural phenomenon really was.
8) PERU-BOLIVIA BORDER, 1952: In the afternoon of July 19, 1952, Customs Inspector Sr. Domingo Troncoso captured an image that is astonishing not just for its content, but also for the details he reported about it. Troncoso witnessed the cigar-shaped UFO in broad daylight near Puerto Maldonado, Peru close to the jungles of the Bolivian border. He described it as flying low in the sky and leaving a dense trail of some kind of whitish thick smoke or vapor in its wake. When its smoky trail settled to the ground, it left behind a mass of thin fibrous threads. The unidentified object clearly seemed to Troncoso to be a large unknown physical machine, estimated to be over 100 feet long! Troncoso was also not the only witness of the UFO. A newspaper article in Lima reported a “luminous disc” speeding over the same area on the same day, reading:
“The colour of the head or nucleus of this disc was an intense orange. The direction was south to north, was visible from 1 to 2 minutes, leaving a thick vaporous trail which floated for more than 15 minutes. The altitude was more or less 2500 to 3000 feet. It was seen in broad daylight. During its passage, the Peruvian Corporation of the Amazon radio went dead and wasn't able to transmit or receive any signals."
It was also revealed some years later that the aircraft was first seen by agricultural engineer Pedro Bardi at 4:30pm near the Madre de Dios section of Peru, before Domingo Troncoso took its photograph four minutes later in Puerto Maldonado - 120 kilometers away. To have crossed such a distance in only four minutes, the UFO was suspected to be flying at 1,117 miles per hour! By comparison, the fastest manned flight in 1952 was officially recorded as a North American F-86D Sabre piloted by J. Slade Nash and clocking in at 698.5 miles per hour. Air speed records would not surpass 1,000 miles per hour until four years later.
9) SICILY, ITALY, 1954: Although the date of this photo has been identified - December 10, 1954 - most of the circumstances surrounding it, and the objects themselves, have not. The image, taken in Sicily, shows four men looking skyward at what appear to be two UFOs, or at least some kind of unidentified sky anomaly. When questioned, the photographer claimed the objects were in fact present when he took the photo (rather than the result of film development or camera irregularities), and that they even stood still in the sky for several minutes. With so little information available, it could be easy to brush this particular photo aside, if not for the fact that not even two months earlier, UFOs in Tuscany, Italy brought an entire football stadium to a standstill. On October 27, 1954, ten thousand football fans were watching a match in the Stadio Artemi Franchi, when everyone - fans and players alike - observed multiple UFOs crossing the sky. Described as both cigar-shaped and egg-shaped, the objects stunned onlookers and suspended the game for several minutes. Multiple sightings of UFOs in Tuscany followed over the next several days, along with reports of “angel hair” falling from the sky - a strange, silvery, sticky substance that fell like snow before evaporating. Could the Sicily UFOs be the same as those seen in Tuscany?
10) DRAKENSBERG MOUNTAIN, SOUTH AFRICA, 1956: The Drakensberg Mountain UFO photo was taken in 1956 by Elizabeth Klarer, a respected South African meteorologist who claimed to have had lifelong contact with extraterrestrials. After reading George Adamski's Flying Saucers Have Landed and Inside the Space Ships, Klarer suddenly recalled that she herself had received telepathic messages, since her childhood, from a “friendly” space alien named Akon. The UFO photo taken by Klarer at Drakensberg Mountain is reported to be Akon’s ship, which was also seen by two witnesses Klarer brought with her to corroborate her account. As the story of the photo goes, Klarer was driving through the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountain with her witnesses, taking them to the place of her very first alien encounter, when she saw a flash of light between approaching thunderstorm clouds. She stopped the car, exited with her companions, and recognized a metallic disc coming toward them. Klarer raised her Brownie Box camera and snapped a series of seven photos before the UFO shot away from them. At the same moment, a shower of hail is reported to have fallen over the ground. Elizabeth Klarer went on to write an autobiography about her alien encounters, titled Beyond the Light Barrier, and was one of the first women on record to claim to have had a sexual relationship with an extraterrestrial. Though Elizabeth Klarer no doubt faced skepticism about her claims, she validated the authenticity of her photos in an notarized affidavit and stood by her story until her death in 1994.
What other UFO photos have sparked your interest and why? Share your favorite UFO theories, knowledge, and stories with us below!