Two decades later, 'Phoenix Lights' remains a mystery

March 13, 1997.

It's a date many people will remember, as it is the night the so-called "Phoenix Lights" event took place 20 years ago. In the two decades since that mysterious night, there have been lots of theories over the light's origins.

Some say it was military flares. Some say it was hot air balloons.

Those who believe in the theory that extraterrestrial beings were behind the Phoenix Lights also endure ridicule from skeptics who say otherwise.

The sightings that night would become the subject of a book, as well as a documentary, by Phoenix physician Lynne Kitei. She was a witness to the Phoenix Lights. She saw the lights from her Paradise Valley home, and snapped some photographs.

"I have no idea what they were," said Kitei.

It took Kitei seven years to come forward. Those who first talked about the Phoenix Lights suffered because of it. Former Phoenix City Councilwoman Frances Barwood was the first public official to draw attention to the Phoenix Lights. Now living near Prescott, Barwood asked about the sights at a City Council meeting, weeks after the lights appeared.

"I asked if anybody knew what this object was and could we check into it," said Barwood. "I was met by a whole bunch of stares."

Barwood was puzzled by the reaction.

"After the meeting, one of the City Managers came over to me and said, 'you shouldn't have asked that question,'" recounted Barwood.

Hundreds of witnesses then began to call Barwood.

"I thought if this many people saw whatever this was first of all, what did they remember? They all described the exactly the same thing," Barwood said. "There was no doubt in my mind. You cant get that many people to agree on the same object."

The ridicule then began. A cartoon published by Arizona Republic showed Barwood with a light switch on her forehead, and a "I Love UFOs" button on her jacket. The cartoon read: "Those mysterious lights over Phoenix - They're on, but nobody's home".

"I got cartoons in the paper with rocket going in one ear and out ther other. One with Doctor Spock," recounted Barwood.

The ridicule didn't stop in the papers for Barwood. It continued at City Hall.

"The Mayor's Office put signs on my picture in the hallway," said Barwood. "And I found out afterwards, [they] handed out business cards with my name on it that said, 'speak into the tin foil. I will hear you.'"

Barwood, however, wouldn't give up.

"My dad was Chief Investigator for the City of New York under Mayor [Robert F. Wagner, Jr.], and he said you never let a case go unsolved," said Barwood.

Later that year, Fife Symington, who was Arizona's Governor at the time, held a news conference where an assistant dressed as an alien walked out, to the snickers of a few reporters in the room.

"This just goes to show you guys are entirely too serious," said Symington back then.

Barwood said after the treatment she received, she didn't blame Symington for his reaction.

"I would say it was probably safe for him," said Barwood.

Years later, Symington would admit that he too saw something that night.

"I saw a huge craft come right over Squaw Peak," said Symington, in an interview with FOX 10 news anchor John Hook. "It was just breathtaking."

Now, 20 years after the lights appeared over Phoenix, Barwood still doesn't know what the Phoenix Lights were. She would, however, like an answer.

"If other planets are inhabited, and are more advanced than we are because they didn't spend time fighting, then id like to know," said Barwood.

Meanwhile, investigators like Kitei said they will keep looking for answers.

"We need to address it," said Kitei. "Accept it and study it, so we can find out who is driving these things as well as move forward in our own evolution."

Kitei's documentary will be shown at the Harkins Shea theater on Sunday at 1:00 p.m., which is accompanied by a discussion panel on the lights that will include Barwood.

Additional Information

Phoenix Lights Event:


The Phoenix Lights Book

The Phoenix Lights Coloring Book