UFO Seen by Multiple Witnesses in Chicago

2007 got off to a flying start with the Chicago Tribune publishing a report on January 1st about multiple witnesses, including pilots and ground staff, of an unidentified object over Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

The sighting actually occurred on November 7th, 2006, and was first reported at Peter Davenport’s National UFO Reporting Centre (NUFORC)1 website on November 14th. It was the Chicago Tribune coverage that set the mainstream media alight, however, and for a few days it was the biggest UFO story on the internet with news sites giving the story extensive space. Not bad for a report with no photographs or video to back it up. That soon changed, however, as Davenport stated that photographs of the object do exist and that he is working to bring them into the public domain. Several alleged photographs appeared on the internet in late January, but a little more about that later.

At approximately 4:30pm on November 7th, 2006, a worker at Gate C17, on Concourse C at the airport, reported seeing a ‘perfectly round’ object that was metallic and ‘appeared to be spinning’ almost directly above his position. He was ‘pushing back’ an airliner (Flight 446 to Charlotte, North Carolina) at the time and contacted the flight deck of the aircraft about what he was witnessing. He also contacted his superiors and reported what he was looking at. The object was visible to him for about two minutes.

Two weeks later, an aircraft mechanic contacted NUFORC to confirm that he had also witnessed the object. He was taxiing a Boeing 747 from the International terminal to the Company Hangar on the north side of the airport when he heard the mention of the UFO over the radio. At first he laughed, but then he saw it for himself. He described it as a ‘dark, grey, hazy, round object’ and that it appeared to be ‘trying to stay close to the cloud cover’, which had a ceiling of about 1900 feet that day. He finished parking the jumbo jet and when he looked again, the object had gone, but a ‘perfect circle in the cloud layer where the craft had been’ was now evident. He said that the hole disappeared a few minutes later.

Peter Davenport was a guest on Jeff Rense’s radio show on December 12th, 2006, and he introduced a witness to the event.

The witness, who claimed to be an airport worker, whose job it was to relocate aircraft from one part of the airport to another, and saw the UFO from the cockpit as he waited to move the plane. He described hearing the radio chatter about the UFO and wondered what was going on. Then he saw it ‘plain as day’. He said it was grey and at least 700 feet above the ground and below the cloud base. He said that the top of the object was well-defined, but the edges appeared blurred, as though distorted by heat haze. He saw no lights on the ‘craft’. He was aware of the ridicule that surrounds the UFO subject, but he was sure of what he saw. He estimated that the object must have been visible for about twenty minutes, based on the first radio call to the time he parked the aircraft. He said that many pilots had come on the radio saying that they also saw the object. He also suggested that Air Traffic Control (ATC) controllers had to have seen it, although they never mentioned it beyond joking dryly with the ground staff.

When asked by Rense to estimate the size of the object, the witness calculated that it was probably about 20-40 feet in diameter, but probably closer to 30 feet across. He could not explain why the object was apparently not detected on radar, but he was certain that what he saw was a solid object and ‘some sort of craft’. He also said that the hole in the cloud layer was about the same size as the object itself, describing it as though ‘somebody had taken a cookie cutter’ to the cloud deck.

In conclusion, the witness agreed with Rense that a 30-foot object hovering over an airport is an impediment and a possible danger to local air traffic. He added the provision, though, that he believed that any intelligence controlling the craft would not allow any collision to occur.

On January 1st, 2007, John Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune2 wrote his piece that would capture the attention of the world’s media. Hilkevitch gathered quotes from several O’Hare employees:

O'Hare controller and union official Craig Burzych: “To fly 7 million light years to O'Hare and then have to turn around and go home because your gate was occupied is simply unacceptable.”

United Airlines (UA) mechanic, who was taxiing a Boeing 777 to the maintenance hangar at the time: “I tend to be scientific by nature, and I don't understand why aliens would hover over a busy airport, but I know that what I saw and what a lot of other people saw stood out very clearly, and it definitely was not an [Earth] aircraft.”

A UA manager heard the radio commotion and rushed outside his office in Concourse B: “I stood outside in the gate area not knowing what to think, just trying to figure out what it was. I knew no one would make a false call like that. But if somebody was bouncing a weather balloon or something else over O'Hare, we had to stop it because it was in very close proximity to our flight operations.”

Other witnesses were extremely affected by what they saw, with one being ‘very shaken’ and ‘experiencing some religious issues’ about the object.

The object was seen to accelerate upwards at great speed, ‘punching a hole’ through the cloud deck.

Richard Haines, of the National Aviation Reporting Centre on Anomalous Phenomena (NARCAP), was quoted as saying: “There have been documented cases where safety appears to have been implicated, and more and more we are coming to the point of view that we are dealing with an intelligent phenomenon. We must be proactive before an aircraft goes down.” His preliminary research concluded that no weather balloons were launched over O’Hare that day and stated, “It's absurd that the military would be conducting aerial test flights.”

Hilkevitch then went on to document the authorities’ reactions to the event:

A United spokeswoman said there is no record of the UFO report. She said United officials do not recall discussion of any such incident.

"There's nothing in the duty manager log, which is used to report unusual incidents," said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy. "I checked around. There's no record of anything."

United employees contradicted this statement by saying that UA officers instructed them to write down what they saw and draw pictures of the object. They were also told not to discuss the incident.

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) initially told Hilkevitch that they had no information about the incident, but soon backtracked when he filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. FAA spokeswoman, Elizabeth Isham Cory told the reporter:

“Our theory on this is that it was a weather phenomenon. That night was a perfect atmospheric condition in terms of low [cloud] ceiling and a lot of airport lights. When the lights shine up into the clouds, sometimes you can see funny things. That's our take on it.”

Later that day, Hilkevitch was interviewed by Melissa Block on National Public Radio3. In a staggering display of arrogance, Ms. Block asked if Hilkevitch found it odd to be working with NUFORC. Hilkevitch replied: “Yeah, I mean, they kept wanting me to say this was a visit from some other world and further proof that, uh, we, on this planet are visited regularly by other beings…”

Peter Davenport has refuted this statement on his website.

After the Tribune story broke, the internet became abuzz with similarly-themed accounts of the O’Hare incident.

On January 2nd, Alan Boyle, in MSNBC’s Cosmic Log website4, reported arch-sceptic James Oberg’s response to the incident. The space analyst and UFO debunker said, “It's just sad that we keep getting these reports which are of zero evidential value. It's sad because there's a lot of strange stuff in the air that we do need to know.”

Oberg went on to maintain that aviation professionals are not reliable UFO witnesses because ‘they tend to favour flight-related explanations for what they see’. He went on, “NTSB investigators say that the worst observers of an aviation accident are aviation personnel. It's because a pilot will usually want to understand what happened, and in his initial perceptions and later retellings will stress the facts that support his initial interpretation.”

If that’s the case, I’m never flying again!

On January 4th, MSNBC published an interview by Jessica Bennett with Davenport5. Peter was astonished that it took so long (almost two months) for the story to break in the media:

Jessica Bennett: “Do you think there has been an effort to downplay it?”

Peter Davenport: “My strong suspicion is that this case showed up on the 8th of November—the day after it happened—in the intelligence briefing document that the president apparently reads every morning. Are we to believe that a UFO can appear over a major U.S. airport and the American intelligence community is not informed of it? That proposition is absurd.”

Jessica Bennett: “If that's the case, why would the federal government keep those findings from the public?”

Peter Davenport: “You've got to go directly to the government or to United Airlines [for the answer to that question]. I'm shocked by their response to this, except for the fact that we've seen this kind of response—certainly on behalf of the government—for the past 59 and a half years.”

Jessica Bennett: “And you think [the witnesses in the O’Hare case are] credible?”

Peter Davenport: “The witnesses [in this case] are not only responsible but they're qualified by virtue of the fact that they've worked in the aviation industry for decades—each one of them. They're familiar with aircraft, they're familiar with weather phenomena. United Airlines and the FAA have apparently taken the position that it either didn't happen, or if it did happen it was a weather aberration. Well, the written communications that I have in my possession clearly belie that position.”

Jessica Bennett: “Why is there so little debate on this subject?”

Peter Davenport: “People think that UFOs are strange. But in my opinion, the reaction of the American press to the UFO phenomenon is stranger still. They're not interested in what I consider to be the greatest scientific question of man's existence of all times: are we alone in this galaxy or are we not? From my vantage point, the clear answer to that is that we're not. And it appears that these objects visit our planet on a regular basis.”

On January 11th, the Daily Herald published an editorial entitled Internet needs less Saddam and Britney, more UFOs6. The author, Burt Constable, found it inconceivable that no photographic or video evidence of the O’Hare UFO was forthcoming:

“Saddam Hussein can’t drop dead without a cell phone camera recording his demise and a post-mortem sequel for distribution on the Internet.

“Britney Spears can’t totter through one night as a trollop without photographic evidence popping up the Internet.

“YouTube.com has video of a costumed Tigger appearing to punch a teen in the face at Walt Disney World.

“Little kids can’t drink from hoses, fat people can’t sit in spindly chairs, old ladies can’t get off poorly docked boats, and dads holding pinatas can’t get hit in the crotch without cameras capturing the hilarity for TV’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

“You can’t even go to work without a camera recording you filling up with gas, buying coffee, running a yellow light, zipping through a toll booth or entering your office.

“But search the Internet for a clip of the UFO reported hovering Nov. 7 above O’Hare International Airport, and you come up empty.”

Constable goes on to pour scorn on UFO footage from other cases that are posted on website such as mufon.org and nuforc.org, describing them as ‘Bright lights, shaky video and fast-moving specks in the sky [that] just don’t impress a generation accustomed to the movie UFOs of War of the Worlds, Independence Day or even the 30-year-old footage from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.’

Sam Maranto, of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) told him, “I think most people are so mesmerized, they don’t want to take their eyes off it for one second. Anything that is genuine is emitting a frequency, and it looks more like a distortion. So you are never going to get a perfect picture. If you have one that is a perfect picture, you have to wonder if it is a hoax.”

The Herald reporter also contacted Peter Davenport:

““I’m not in the mood to take criticism,” growls Peter B. Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center in the state of Washington. A month after he posted the O’Hare sighting on his Web site, an exasperated Davenport finally tipped off the Tribune’s Hilkevitch, who says it took him a while to win the confidence of witnesses, find additional sources and get the goods for his story.

““It’s frustrating for me, too,” says Davenport, who doesn’t have the resources or power of the mainstream media. “I can do nothing about your disappointment. Give us a budget, give us a staff. Tell the government to open their records.”

“Davenport says photos of the O’Hare event do exist, and (along with all the other UFO work he does every day), he’s trying to get them made public.”

In late January, the Above Top Secret website, one of the world’s most popular ‘alternative’ forums, hosted several images allegedly taken on camera phones during the O’Hare incident7. Award-winning journalist, Linda Moulton-Howe, interviewed co-owner of abovetopsecret.com, Mark Allin, for her website, earthfiles.com8. The interview also appeared on Whitley Strieber’s Dreamland Radio Show on Saturday, 27th January, 2007.


Allin stated that two photographs posted by anonymous members of his forum had been analysed by professional image analysts. They discovered that the images appeared to be genuine i.e. they are not fabricated in, say, PhotoShop. That said, they did admit that the second image had been cropped, perhaps to hide a reflection of the photographer in the window in front of the camera.

Mr Allin said: “The absence of artefacts, the absence of obvious edit points, the absence of typical hoaxer manipulations of images. And it's the inclusion of things you would expect to see of something in the atmosphere. You would expect in certain channels - you can kind of see interaction with the atmosphere. They are there.”

Moulton-Howe updated her website by claiming that the digital experts now believed the second image was a hoax. The shot of the airport was apparently lifted from another website and the UFO inserted later. It just shows that even the experts can be fooled9.

At least two obviously-hoaxed images purporting to be the O’Hare UFO have appeared on the internet, but that is to be expected, one might suppose.


On the UFO Casebook website, two photographs were published, again claiming to be taken by an employee at O’Hare10. The photographer submitted them, saying: “You can believe them or not, but I am washing my hands of them and never want to see another UFO again! I do not need the hassle.”

We will keep an eye out for developments in this case and if anything new, particularly those photographs, crops up, we will let our readers know through the magazine. Of course you can always keep up to date, 24-hours a day, through the website and forum. (www.ufodata.co.uk)

Steve Johnson


1 - http://www.nuforc.org/ - National UFO Reporting Centre

2 - http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0701010141jan01,1,3957154.column?coll=chi-news-hed&vote27156872=1 - Chicago Tribune, 1st January, 2007 (free registration required)

3 - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6707250 - National Public Radio, 1st January, 2007

4 - http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/01/02/25212.aspx - MSNBC Cosmic Log, 2nd January, 2007

5 - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16472286/site/newsweek/page/2/ - MSNBC, 4th January, 2007

6 - http://www.dailyherald.com/opinion/constable.asp?id=268393 - Daily Herald, 11th January, 2007

7 - http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread236709/pg27#pid2898150 – Above Top Secret, 23rd January, 2007

8 - http://www.earthfiles.com/news/news.cfm?ID=1200&category=Environment – Earthfiles, 26th January, 2007

9 - http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread264473/pg5#pid2907421 - Above Top Secret, 27th January, 2007

9 - http://www.earthfiles.com/ - Earthfiles, 28th January, 2007

10 - http://www.ufocasebook.com/twomoreohare.html - UFO Casebook, 28th January, 2007


Back to Articles Index 


Updated 16th August, 2012