The Time I Saw a UFO

Drive-in movie theaters are almost obsolete. If you believe this article, then maybe they’re making a bit of a comeback, but there still aren’t very many of them around.

I’m lucky that I grew up near a drive-in theater and now live about forty minutes away. At least once or twice a summer we load up the family and make the trek to the 49er Drive-In, where they only charge eight bucks for a double feature for adults, and four bucks for kids. It’s a fun, inexpensive way to spend a summer evening.

I still remember most of the films I’ve seen there. They range from Home Alone, to Mission: Impossible 2 to Brave. That’s more than twenty years of filmmaking, and Brettgrowing.

However, not only have I seen a few dozen films there, but the 49er is also the site of one of the biggest unexplained events of my life.

Before I could drive, my sister—who’s five years older than me—would frequently load my friends up in her car for a trip to the drive in. Back then they used to charge by the car load, and the price was something ridiculous, like eight dollars for as many people as you could fit into a car.

One memorable evening my sister and her friend agreed to take me and my friends to the 49er. My sister’s friend drove a Chevrolet Chevette, and for some unknown reason we decided to take her car. Somehow twelve of us crammed into that tiny car and went to the drive-in. When we got there we scattered all over the grass, and the hood and roof of the car.

That’s not the Night of the Unexplained though. I wish I could remember the exact night, but I can’t. I know it was summer. I know it was in the early nineties. I wasn’t yet driving.

Since the movie can’t start until after sunset, there’s plenty of time to kill. Some kids play on the playground beneath the screen, some kids bring a ball to throw around, other kids stuff their faces with cheap French fries and nachos.

I always staked out a spot on the ground where I could lay down, talk to my friends, and have a good view of the lightning bugs putting on a show in the wooded area beyond the fence.

One particular night, after the sun set, but before old-time commercials for Pik mosquito repellant, and the car horn honking song, I saw a bright light above the wooded area where the lightning bugs were doing their thing. It was fluorescent green, oval, and bright.


In other words, nothing like a lightning bug. So don’t try telling me it was just a lightning bug, because it wasn’t.

I watched the light rise high above the woods and move farther away. Then it seemingly switched direction, lowered closer to the ground, and became a little brighter. I blinked a few times to make sure I was seeing what I was seeing. I looked around for someone to confirm what my eyes were telling me, but my friends were somewhere else.

The light moved to the left, which was east, held steady for a moment, and then rose higher into the sky again, while also moving farther away from me.

I worried that I might lose it—the light, not my mind—so I kept my eye on it. It continued to move farther away, but not higher, until at some point it disappeared behind some hills in the distance. I waited in stunned silence for a moment, half expecting to hear an explosion or see a flash of light as the aircraft crash landed, but I heard and saw nothing.

My friends returned and I asked them if they’d seen what I saw. They looked at me then the same way you’re thinking of me now. I told them what I’d seen, swore that I wasn’t imagining it, and asked them what they thought it might be.

Of course they had no answers. Nothing ever appeared in the local newspaper either. As far as I know, I’m the only one that saw it.

I’ve never been sure I should call it a UFO, or aliens, or anything like that. It was strange, it was a light, and I can’t explain it. Beyond that, I’m a loss.

However, as Jimmy Carter said after he saw a UFO in 1969, “I’ll never make fun of people who say they’ve seen unidentified objects in the sky.”

This was written for ChicagoNow's monthly writing exercise, Blogapalooz-hour, where we're given a prompt and then have one hour to publish a post on that prompt. This month's prompt: Write about a time you experienced a remarkable coincidence or witnessed something unexplainable.

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