Wednesday, June 22, 2011
The Tinley Park Lights UFO Mystery
Article by Leslie Fuller Knox.
This summer, some Tinley Park residents will be watching the night sky for Unexplained Flying Objects, and say others in the Southland should too.
After all, the communities of Tinley Park, Orland Park, Frankfort, and Mokena hold bragging rights for one of the most well-documented, unexplained UFO events in the nation: the "Tinley Park Lights."
Tinley Park Patch interviewed local eyewitnesses and experts about this phenomenon, which includes several sightings of three lights in a triangular pattern, dating from Aug. 21, 2004.
Sam Maranto, State Director of Illinois MUFON said the first in the series of the Tinley Park Lights events had optimum conditions for eyewitnesses.
"The night of the 21st was beautiful, people were outside, there were parties all over," said Maranto, who lives near Orland Park.
Traffic was jammed up outside Tinley's Tweeter Center (now known as First Midwest bank Amphitheater, where Ozzfest had just ended, and thousands of concertgoers were headed home.
"There were a lot of people outside that night, hundreds if not thousands," said Maranto. "People were able to see and record what was going on."
Tinley resident Bill Dooley, 48, said he recalls that evening vividly. He's the former owner of Alsip-based Fine Oak Furniture.
It was a great August evening, with a lot of people who were out in my neighborhood; we were watching the Bears preseason game on TV," Dooley said, noting that it was about 10 p.m. "My neighbor yelled to look up."
Dooley pulled his attention away from the game, and said he was stunned by what he saw. "If you can imagine three bright lights coming at you, in single file, for about 20 minutes."
Dooley said he and several others living near the Tinley Downs Shopping Center watched the mystery lights hover together in one place despite the wind, and made no audible sound.
"Our houses are backed up to each other, and they were coming right down the middle," he said. "They seemed to have stopped, they went to a single-file line to stacked up on top of each other, then they went into a triangle form," said Dooley.
"There was absolutely no sound. They formed their triangle and started to move away again, stacked on top of each other, they turned white and were gone," he said.
After they disappeared, about 45 minutes later, a single very bright light came by itself, said Dooley.
"Once they were gone, everybody was trying to figure out what we just saw," he said. "A red light came down the same path and did the same thing."
Eyewitness T.J. Japcon said he and his two young sons, Justin and Jake, were at a neighborhood block party that night on Dorothy Lane, not far from the 174th and Harlem intersection.
Justin, then 8, urged everyone to look up, recalled Japcon.
"I was just in awe, you've never seen anything like it before," he said. "It shuts you up. You know it's not a helicopter, you know it's not an airplane.
Like Dooley, Japcon recalled the event as quiet and still.
"You could hear dogs barking," he said. "There were three lights out of the southwest, moved northeast, stopped literally right above us in a triangle pattern," Japcon said.
At one point, a Tinley Park Polica officer in a marked squad drove by, and neighbors asked him about the lights, recalled Japcon.
"He just said he didn't know what was going on, but he was keeping his radio open because dispatch was getting calls," he said.
Japcon ran inside and grabbed his Samsung camcorder. The footage he shot that night would be shared with Sam Maranto of MUFON, and eventually featured on the History Channel in episode 201 of UFO Hunters: "Invasion Illinois."
Second Sighting that Halloween
Yet, the sightings weren't over.
About two months later on Halloween night, 2004, Japcon again saw the same set of lights, which were once again witnessed by many residents, from parents running errands to tardy trick-or-treaters.
"I thought it was pretty cool, it was something you thought you were never going to see it again, and all of a sudden, they're back," recalled Japcon.
As time goes by, this interesting chapter in Southland history is fading for some, said Japcon.
"It's falling through the cracks, just like all other sightings, it just fades like a ripple on a pond," said Japcon. "It's probably the neatest thing I've seen."
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