2020 UFO sightings spike during lockdowns

UFO

MYSTERY WIRE — The year of the pandemic was also the year of the UFO. A massive statistical analysis shows that Americans in lockdown spent a lot of time eyeing the sky, resulting in an across-the-board spike in UFO sightings.

Covid-19 caused massive shifts in how Americans spend their time, and where. Millions of people lost jobs, millions more worked from home.

It meant that many had the time to gaze skyward. And what did we see? UFOs, of every shape and size and color.

Using data beginning in 2001, UFO researcher and author Cheryl Costa published the most detailed analysis of American UFO sighting reports ever assembled, the UFO Sightings Desk Reference.

During 2020 she expanded it, covering the next 20 years of sighting reports from almost every city, county, and state. Costa’s new project includes a ranking of which cities reported the highest numbers of odd objects.

Cheryl Costa, Author (Photo: Syracuse New Times)

“Phoenix is the number one city. Okay, second year in a row. New York City is number two,” Costa said. “I never used to count New York City’s five boroughs. I attended the counties. Now we’re counting them as a full city. Las Vegas is number three for sightings. Los Angeles is number number four. Number six is Portland. San Diego is number 10. Houston is number 11 in the country, Albuquerque 13. Sacramento number 21 in the country. 23 is San Francisco. Fresno was 43. And Lubbock is up to 75.”

Costa does not try to explain the sightings or claim they are alien craft, only that they are unidentified flying objects people have reported seeing.

Her soon-to-be released report breaks down the sightings by time of day, and other categories, and analyzes which cities are up and which are down.

She is also categorizing the sightings by shape. The shapes people are reporting also come and go by seasons according to Costa. “I was playing with the data and we were thinking of writing a shapes book at that time, when we started noticing when we started plotting like months. And then over many months, we started noticing there was a repeating pattern. Sometimes a particular shape would only show up in the fall going to show up in spring, or the spring and summer at everything. And we put the whole thing on hold until we correct all the city spelling situations. And so we do the shapes book, we’re going to be able to show you what seasons they are.”

Here are four shapes Cheryl Costa suggests are related to each other. “That Saturn ship is 1/2 mile wide (JAL 1980s event). The Teardrop shape is big enough to be a sizeable shuttle. Egg shapes appears to a be a small scout ship. The Changing shape I think may be a stealth observation craft. Note the very small numbers in yearly sightings- well under 200 sightings per year. When the mother ship-Saturn is here so are the others with similar activity.”

You can watch the complete interview with Cheryl Costa and George Knapp below along with read the transcript of the interview.

George Knapp  
So Cheryl, since we spoke to you last, you’ve embarked on this mega project, mega data project, can you describe it and describe where you are?

Cheryl Costa 
What we have done is we’ve compiled all of the UFO data from MUFON and NUFORC 2001 through 2020. And we’ve gone through, we’ve cleaned up the spelling on the cities, and correct any counties that had to be reassessed. And we’ve added latitude and longitude information, that kind of thing. And basically, what we can do is we’re going to generate a second edition of the UFO sightings desk reference with highlights from all the states in the United States. And then what we hope to do, we’ll have all the parts to do it, we’re going to go ahead and generate an individual book for every single state that literally drills down to the municipal level, the city level.

George Knapp 
Oh, my gosh.

Cheryl Costa 
And then we’re going to do five books on shapes. Okay, specializing shapes just discovered during doing some of this that the shapes seem to have seasons. Who knew that you know, and so we’ve got a lot of cool information to share.

George Knapp  
So when this is done, assuming you’re still alive, you have a reference for every city, every county, every state in the country?

Cheryl Costa 
3,100 counties represented or county entities, there’s a few counties not in there. Georgia was missing like four or five, they count like 150. We have 20,300 municipalities. That’s not everybody, but it’s a lot.

George Knapp  
And the input, the data, where is it all coming from, all these UFO cases?

Cheryl Costa  
National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) is about 60% of the data, and the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) is about 40% of the data.

George Knapp 
Let’s talk about surprises so far. What, you know, we’ve discussed before, what the potential impact of COVID would be. Everybody’s at home. They’re sitting around smoking cigarettes, looking at the sky at night. Was there any big surprises from the demographic changes that have happened to our country over the last year?

Cheryl Costa  
It fit the model, I’ve always said leisure time was a major driver, okay. And to give you an example, we use January, February and May as an average there was an average of 875 per month, okay. March and April during the lockdown, March was 149%. And April was 183%. And when we started seeing the ramp up of, this is a little harder to see, but when we started seeing the ramp-up of COVID cases, in July, August, September, October out toward the fall, we look at the national baseline, we see the national baseline coming up a people a lot of people were probably they weren’t going into lockdown, but they were playing it closer to home. And we’re seeing that evidence as well.

George Knapp
Any surprises in terms of types of UFOs that you hadn’t seen as many before?

Cheryl Costa 
Yeah, we actually did. triangles have fallen off, they are at the bottom of the list. Triangle UFOs were down 135 from the previous shift from 2019. Okay. Cylinders, cigars, fireballs. They all were in the negative. They were low. They were better in 2018 than they were in 2020. On the other hand, circles, spheres, changing UFOs, disk UFOs, tic tac UFOs, teardrop, and Saturn type UFOs we’re all on the rise.

George Knapp  
Tic Tac UFOs?

Cheryl Costa
Yeah, the ones like the Navy saw?

George Knapp   
Yeah, they’re up?

Cheryl Costa  
They’re starting to show up in things.

George Knapp  
Did you have those before? I mean, in the years before Tic Tac was well known.

Cheryl Costa 
No, they only entered into the National UFO Reporting Center and put it in their list of shapes. In fact, I think I heard a lot of people were calling them up and insisting that they add it to the list of shapes. Another thing is connected to the national electronics magnetic anomaly thing called MADAR. They get automatic feeds at the National UFO Reporting Center from all the reporting sites, there’s like 200 out there. And they showed up over the last two years. So we got numbers for them.

George Knapp  
Can you give me some sort of general across the board conclusions what you’re seeing from the data? I mean, in terms of, is the number of sightings and reports up everywhere or there places where they’re down?

Cheryl Costa   
There’s places where they’re down. Top of my head, I guess I do not have who’s downwards. But your market. People for Mystery Wire, California was up 252 sightings from 2019, Oregon 131, Nevada 12, New Mexico was down 15, Texas was up 74, Utah was up 34, you don’t carry New York State but New York state was up 184. Washington State 165. They were some of the heavy hitters with the move into 2020.

George Knapp   
And did you tell me that the shapes themselves are seasonal?

Cheryl Costa 
Yes, yes. We started during the lockdown. I was playing with the data and we were thinking of writing a shapes book at that time, when we started noticing when we started plotting like months. And then over many months, we started noticing there was a repeating pattern. Sometimes a particular shape would only show up in the fall going to show up in spring, or the spring and summer at everything. And we put the whole thing on hold until we correct all the city spelling situations. And so we do the shapes book, we’re going to be able to show you what seasons they are.

George Knapp
And in winter, we’re in winter now. Is there a decrease in places where it’s really snowy and cold and people aren’t outside as much?

Cheryl Costa
Yes. If you’re in like a northern state, I’m not talking Alaska, Alaska, it’s its own animal. But if you’re in a northern state, June, July, and August are like this and the rest of the year, that just creates an amount of sightings. If you move to a middle level state, we’ll say Virginia, or the Carolinas, it starts coming up, peaks are coming down and the rest of the numbers start averaging out. Okay. And then when you get to deep south states, it’s basically flat. Okay, it looks like a picket fence. And it’s basically flat. except they’re really deep south state like Texas or Florida where it’s really really hot in the summertime there is actually a dip because it’s too uncomfortable to be outside. Now, we have a similar thing with Alaska. Everybody thinks, you know, they have daylight all year round. We found out that 60 to 75% of the sightings occur during hours of darkness. Though for the three months of all day, light nights, June, July, August timeframe. The sightings are inviting bottoming out.

George Knapp
These numbers that you’re sharing with us, they seem to say a lot more about us than about whatever it is, is flying around in the sky.

Cheryl Costa 
Yes, it’s as much about human activity as it is, you know, the UFO. I tell people, I think it’s just a constant level of traffic up there. And we’re outside we’re up doing things at the leisure time thing. After work starts around 430 in the afternoon goes to about 10:30, 11 o’clock, and most of it’s happening around bedtime, 8:30 to 10:30. We found about a week, 76% of the states it’s Saturday. But with this deep south states start showing up on Wednesdays and Thursdays. One of our interns look at that data and said, “Well I’m from down there, it’s Bible study night.” So again, a leisure time thing somebody is coming up from study and you’re in your car.

George Knapp  
And again, as we’ve talked about before, you’re just dealing with the raw numbers, the reports that come in, you’re not saying these are aliens or anything like that?

Cheryl Costa 
No, no, nope. They’re unidentified flying objects. It does not equal alien spacecraft.

George Knapp  
So let’s talk about a couple of places. How’s Nevada and Las Vegas doing?

Cheryl Costa 
Las Vegas? Okay, Las Vegas. Oh, this is great. Okay, firstly, I think we should mention is Phoenix is the number one city. Okay, second year in a row. New York City is number two. Okay. I never used to count New York City’s five boroughs. I amended the counties. Now we’re counting them as a full city. Las Vegas is number three for sightings. Los Angeles is number number four. Number six is Portland. San Diego is number 10. Houston is number 11 in the country, Albuquerque 13. Sacramento number 21 in the country. 23 is San Francisco. Fresno was 43. And Lubbock is up to 75. 

George Knapp   
I’m kind of surprised about San Francisco ranking that low given how dense the population is there.

Cheryl Costa
Yes, but you compare it against. Again, we got Los Angeles County phenomena. And in it there’s a bunch of different things coming into play. We’ve determined that the drivers for all of this equity wrote our first book instead of its population, temperate weather, leisure time. In the 2018 timeframe, we figured up the hours of darkness. Another major driver now we’ve uncovered observer access to broadband. Okay. And secondary drivers, we have proximity to large bodies of work that makes a big difference. People say to me, Well, California has got a population. That’s why they got all the sightings. Well wait a minute, go to Florida and Texas, Texas has more population, Florida has almost twice the sightings. Why? They got more than five times the coastline of Texas. Okay. We’ve got geological faults, tactic ecosystems, high visibility of the media, whenever there’s like the big flap, like the thing you had a week or so ago over New Mexico with the airliner, and that thing that went by. There’s always a surge of sightings. What I saw a couple weeks ago, is a surge in that stuff. And then the last thing we have in the secondary drivers is the thing called generational effect. Go to a place like Phoenix. They had the Phoenix lights 20 years ago. Okay, you go to Los Angeles, they had the Battle of LA in February 1942. Okay. Things seem to think there’s this generational thing that wow, grandpa and mom told me about the stuff that happened back then, and if I look up regularly maybe I’ll see something, you know, and that’s what it seems to be. Also Los Angeles County, they’ve had UFOs up and down those canyons since the 1880s.

George Knapp  
Back to this thing about water, what are you suggesting there? What is the data telling us is? That these things are seeing more prevalent around water meaning maybe they’re in and out of water? That they live there? They hide there?

Cheryl Costa 
Okay, two things? Yes, perhaps. And we’re hearing that a lot from people who study USOs, undersea UFOs. The other thing happens here with the coastline things. Ocean coastline, and there’s Great Lakes coastline. I discovered this after the first book came out, I was doing a radio program one night, I had a book in my lap. And I’ve never really looked at the map that I had put in there really close. And I noticed that if the states were touching the Great Lakes, the numbers were in the many 1000s. 2001 to 2015. Move two states away in the low hundreds. Okay, now there’s probably a combination there, those states are serious farming states. Again, there’s a problem with not having rural broadband. Okay. And of course, and there not next to a big body of water and we think (inaudible) are they hiding in the water? Perhaps. The other thing seems to be is when you get around water, you’re to different darkness there. You don’t have as much light pollution, especially like that on a beach. Virginia Beach with its sightings up the wazoo. And Virginia Beach. I’ve been there before. Three, it’s all lit up city and then over here on the beach it’s all dark out there so it’s easier to see these things.

George Knapp   
Let’s go back to Las Vegas. So you said Las Vegas ranks number three or three? What other conclusions have you drawn from the data? What kinds of things are being reported here?

Cheryl Costa 
In Las Vegas? It’s the classic thing, a lot of lights in the sky sort of thing. A lot of shapes are being reported. Okay, I don’t have the exact list of the shapes for Las Vegas, but it’s a lot of shapes. I’ve looked at it very carefully. One thing we did notice with the hours darkness chart we do, after one o’clock, after 12 o’clock, it falls off real, real steep. And then there’s bumps overnight. Most states the bump’s at five o’clock in the morning when people start to see it. Take the dog out, go out for a smoke, go out and clean snow off the car, you know, that kind of thing. But in Las Vegas, there’s a bump at one there’s a bump at two and a bump at four. A MUFON investigator told me, “Oh, that’s when the clubs and the shows let out.” Yeah. human activity again.

George Knapp  
What about Houston Texas?

Cheryl Costa  
Houston, Texas. Houston has definitely had a lot of sightings down there. Give an example. Houston had 606 sightings. The state itself, and this is the 2001 to 2020 timeframe. Texas had 9,408. Okay. And just in 2020 alone, Texas had 572, that’s a lot. It came in number three. Okay. And so it’s a big deal and Houston pulled their share.

George Knapp  
Did you see a jump, a bump for Houston during the pandemic, the lockdown?

Cheryl Costa  
I didn’t drill it out but the whole country showed a bump. There’s a couple of states that what I would call not the usual suspects for special stuff. I identified six this morning by accident that had more than their share in March. 

George Knapp  
Which ones?

Cheryl Costa  
Colorado, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, and West Virginia. Utah and West Virginia are places that are lucky to have one a week instead of like six or eight in a particular day. That’s a big deal. Okay, so we’re going to be looking. I got a another researcher Tom Conwell, I’m going to pass some of this off to him and see if he can make some sense of it.

George Knapp 
San Diego?

Cheryl Costa  
San Diego, San Diego had 636 sightings in the 20 year period. And we’re talking California hit 1,184, number one again in 2020. And their 20 year total was 21,013. That’s a lot. People point to California’s population. It’s unique to itself. It’s got nine lines of latitude. So you got like three or four different climates going there. Population variations and things. A lot of it centered around LA (and) San Francisco.

George Knapp 
And San Francisco, you said ranked where?

Cheryl Costa   
San Francisco, 23? They’re in the top 25 in the country.

George Knapp   
Are they consistently there?

Cheryl Costa  
Presently they’re there. San Francisco has always been in the top 30. 

George Knapp 
You mentioned about Utah. And I would guess that Salt Lake City was being where most of the sightings come from or not? 

Cheryl Costa 
Yeah, it dominates around there. (inaudible) Salt Lake City carries the load.

George Knapp  
Do you happen to remember offhand, I know it’s a lot of data, with the kinds of things that they’re seeing. Is there anything that jumps out at you?

Cheryl Costa   
It’s a smorgasbord, you know, one of the things we get a lot of everybody saw a light in the sky or star-like object, okay, those things dominate the charts. And then it gets real specific with a particular shape, then it breaks out. But usually a light in the sky. It’s doing funny things, dancing around all kinds of stuff like that. That’s what most people see.

George Knapp  
One of our broadcast affiliates or partners is in Portland. What do you see in Portland?

Cheryl Costa  
Portland was wild this year, Portland was number six. Last couple years it hit on the lower side like 10 or 12. Just the city alone carried 712 of Oregon’s 4,241 over 20 years. That’s that’s a big deal.

George Knapp  
Albuquerque?

Cheryl Costa  
Albuquerque, New Mexico, was ranked number 13. And it’s in the top 15. And they had 541 for the 20 year period. But they were peaking. It all adds up.

George Knapp 
It’s all trending upward?

Cheryl Costa  
Yeah. For the most part.

George Knapp   
Let’s see, how about Fresno?

Cheryl Costa 
Fresno? That was interesting. They got their share of sightings. But nationally, they’re only ranking about number 43 in the country but they are in the top 50. They are in the top 50 which is a big deal because we’re talking 20,300 municipalities that we’ve logged here, so being in the top 50 it’s still kind of cool.

George Knapp 
We have a lot of friends in Lubbock. What about Lubbock?

Cheryl Costa   
Lubbock, they hold 77 over the last 20 years. Again, Texas has these really huge numbers. But Lubbock, they’re polling in the top 300 or nearly 275 in the ranking.

George Knapp 
Then you said Phoenix is number one again, the second year in a row, what’s going on there?

Cheryl Costa  
Same thing. We got the very, very clear weather most of the time there. That’s a big deal. Warm weather, people are out. It’s got a very large population. All those major drivers. No water. But they have other things going for them and we think the generational effect is people looking up a lot. That type of thing.

George Knapp  
So I know it’s one of the top 10 municipalities in terms of population. But is this out of whack even for their size?

Cheryl Costa 
Yeah, because if you look at it from the county, Maricopa County is huge. Okay. Maricopa County has had more sightings for the last 20 years. The 30 individual states, Los Angeles County, everybody tells me light pollution, how can they see things? But Los Angeles County, not the city, has more sightings than 39 individual cities. So there’s something really special going on.

George Knapp
Give me big picture, conclusions that you might draw from looking at all this data, you know, it kind of overwhelms you. It overwhelms me just hearing some of it. But what’s going on in the big picture in terms of if they are visitors from somewhere else? You thought they’re always here. And it just depends on us looking up and seeing them or is there anything else that’s going on?

Cheryl Costa
Okay, I have remarked to people at I believe, there’s regularly scheduled flights. Okay. There seems to be. Remember a couple years ago, there was a guy in Colorado using a special time lapse video camera. And he was photographing objects coming in and said like, every day, about one o’clock, he was just (inaudible) out of our frame of vision. You know, that’s what I’ve seen several evidences of that. And that suggested this idea that maybe casual flights, they look like us, and they visit us a lot like to watch the humans, you know. In that same context, bigger picture, (inaudible) six, eight year cycle goes up and goes down, goes up and goes down. And I had to push back on that issue. This time when we were gathering our data, we went back (and) pulled additional information. People kept saying, why didn’t you go back four years. Okay. The real citing numbers didn’t start till about 2001 because of access in most metropolitan areas to broadband. It tracks broadband availability. And we went back 40 years to 1960 and did a chart of 1960 to 2000. The numbers were considerably smaller, but that little humpty humpy thing with the little snake going across the graph was the same. And then as your role in 2001 2020, the numbers are much bigger, but it’s the same sort of a humpy thing. And back in the 2017-18 frame time parameter. They said, Oh, Cheryl, Space Force has chased the aliens away. The numbers are falling off, you know, and Davenport was saying, oh, the government or somebody shut off all the stuff coming to us. And I kept telling everybody, this is a natural cycle. Trust me. It’ll be back. And I took a hiatus during 1990 because nothing was going on. But you called me and told me in early 2020 something was going on. We got in there and it’s the best year … 2020’s the best year since 2014. And they’re coming back and we build a model. Right after you had me take a look at it, build a model. And we came out that we said there probably was going to be about 168,000 sightings plus or minus a small percentage. And our model worked out very well. It came up 167,632.

George Knapp
Wow, that’s pretty close to what you predicted. When you have an obvious answer to a UFO sighting report, say Starlink. You know, Elon Musk’s Starlink. We had a couple of weeks ago, a local TV station, not us, that was kind of freaking out. What the heck was this in the sky? And what they’re describing is Starlink is one of Elon Musk’s string of satellites. Are you getting those reports?

Cheryl Costa 
We saw them in the NUFORC data for sure.

George Knapp 
And what to do with that when you know what it is? Do you exclude it or you include it?

Cheryl Costa 
I talked to a lot of people at MUFON and we just rolled into the overall baseline of data. And we accept the fact that some smaller percentage of these things are really more what we should be interested in. Dr. Belay says maybe 20%, move on, people take out 30%, we should be serious about other people say maybe 10%. I’ve done calculations. But the deal is that some smaller percentages will need to be looking at.

George Knapp
So tell us again, when the big project will be ready to relaunch the expanded updated version of your book, The Desk Reference, and then tell us who will use this data who can use it and how?

Cheryl Costa 
Okay, the 2020 edition of the UFO Sightings Desk Reference, United States of America 2001 to 2020 we refer to as Project Pink Book, kind of a salute Project Blue Book, so to speak. And it’s coming out in late April, maybe, probably in early May. I built the project around that. So I’m working towards schedule. So that would be the big one. It will be like a really good analysis of material for but all these numbers have taught us over the years. I’m being a big journalistic write-up in there with charts and graphs to illustrate all that stuff. And then we’ll be doing numbers for the United States like up 25, top 15 numbers type of thing. And then we’ll do a summary for each date with a drill down to every county in the country.

George Knapp 
So any journalists who want to report on UFO sightings in their area is broken down by city, county, state, shapes, types and sizes, time of day, all that data, right?

Cheryl Costa
I’ve offered it to a couple of people and they laughed me off the phone. You would think with all the stuff that’s happened with the Navy, we got Senator Rubio’s clock ticking on the secret agencies, you know, we’re going to know something here in a couple of months. In fact we’re racing to get this thing done before that happens, you know, and it’s troubling that so many of our journalistic colleagues are still drinking the Kool Aid from the CIA from the 60s. And that’s what it seems to be. They don’t want to talk about it. A local paper here, I offered them a really cool story, I gave them New York State down to the county level, I even gave them a PDF brown drilling down to the municipal level in New York State. Okay, and they ignored me and their own reporter, just pulled some NUFORC numbers up there and put it up and that’s the article, and it only killed about a third of the story. And the thing about all of this is, when you look at the charts, maybe they don’t want to scare the readership. Because we had some pretty incredible numbers going down the thruway in New York City or to the middle of the state. And it was interesting. Even with a couple of NPR stations that did all the talk, Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean back during December of 2017 and offered them a thing, crickets.

George Knapp 
Well, sometimes my colleagues have to be dragged kicking and screaming to pay attention to this topic and the data. But the kind of project that you’re putting together, I think it’s going to be a great resource. And when they eventually get their heads together, it’ll be there waiting for,

Cheryl Costa 
We had a joke with somebody the other day, if we had published all this data we’ve got, especially in a format right down to the city level, we did it as the Desk Reference, it would have been the size of a couple of Oxford Dictionaries, it would have been almost 6000 pages, too big to (inaudible). And so that’s why we decided to break it down to the individual states. But the fact that this will be the largest collection of both analyzed UFO data in human history, and (inaudible) the attitude of some college give us a PhD for our work. The other thing, too, has been academics. We’ve reached out to a number of academics here in New York state, and Galileo syndrome. They don’t want to look at it. They don’t want to even take a presentation. Oh, my God, if we chose to present that we might have to believe in this stuff. No, we can’t talk to you. And that’s what it has been. And I’ve been beating my head against the wall for two years trying to get any academics to allow me to come give a presentation like at the UFO conferences, not interested.

George Knapp
It does feel the world is changing a little bit on this subject matter of which as you mentioned, the US senators expressing an interest in the UAP task force being created. Who knows what else might be just around the corner, but I appreciate all the work you’ve done. We’ll talk to you soon when it’s ready to go. And thanks. Thanks as always.

Cheryl Costa
Anytime, George.

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