Story originally published by: the newspaper "The Town Talk," Alexandria - Pineville, Louisiana USA, by Andrew Griffin - January 19, 2002.
UFO or flares? Boyce couple baffled by night lights
SHARP - Bright lights in the night sky have befuddled a Rapides Parish couple.
However, the eerie lights may have been nothing more than bombing range flares.
Raymond and Audrey Cupples were in their Sharp community home on La. Highway 8 at about 8 p.m. Wednesday [Jan 16] when Cupples noticed a "big, brilliant light" southeast of the residence. The light appeared just above a distant tree line, Cupples said.
"I said, 'Audrey, Audrey, come here and look at this,' " Cupples said. "It was strange. I'm 59 years old, and I've never seen anything like this."
Cupples said he stood in his front yard watching the light - "a brilliant pinkish and red color" - for nearly two hours. It would flash on and off at varying intervals, he said.
At the same time, higher in the sky, between six and 10 smaller lights were steadily blinking off and on, he said.
Cupples said the large light, which did not appear to be moving very much, was not round but more of an elongated oval shape.
Mrs. Cupples said she came out and "saw it twice. I didn't know what to make of it."
Her husband said the large light "did not illuminate the surrounding area." Rather, he said, it was creating the luminescence.
The other smaller lights were not near the large light, Cupples said. And they "moved around like a helicopter would," except there was no sound, he added.
By 10 p.m. the lights were gone. Coincidentally, Cupples said he also saw two brilliant "shooting stars" fly overhead during the sighting.
Dan Nance, a spokesman for Fort Polk and the Joint Readiness Training Center, confirmed that A-10 aircraft were flying over the Camp Claiborne range at approximately the same time as Cupples sighting.
"They did drop flares, as they are allowed to do, which could account for the lights seen in the sky in that vicinity," Nance said.
Patrick Thompson, air traffic manager for Alexandria International Airport, confirmed this. He said the range "was active with flare drops" and that "they light up the sky pretty good."
However, Thompson said the flare drops were scheduled to end at 7:45 p.m. Cupples' sighting lasted until about 10 p.m., more than two hours after the end of the flare run.
Cupples, who is a justice of the peace in Sharp, said he is not seeking publicity - he simply wants to know what it was he was seeing Wednesday night.
"I'd be surprised if more people didn't see this," Cupples said, adding that it was not light from the Boise Cascade plant or the Cleco plant but that it was more from the direction of Cotile Lake and Camp Claiborne.
Several people interviewed in the area said they did not see anything unusual Wednesday night.
On nearby Cleco Lake, resident John Pleasant said he did not see anything. He did say that if Cupples reported seeing something, he probably did.
"He's not the sort of person to make stuff up," Pleasant said. "He's a sensible person."
Strange lights in the sky are nothing new in Cenla.
In 1977, Dale Shexnaider and some friends claimed to have had a close encounter with a UFO near Cotile Lake.
And in 1980, Boyce resident Henry LaCour told The Town Talk that he had "seen hundreds" of UFOs in the area and that there was a "landing base for UFOs in the Red Dirt area."
There also have been sightings of UFOs over Iatt Lake in Grant Parish and in southwestern Winn Parish in recent years.
Cupples is convinced he saw something extraordinary.
"Something's happening," he said. "It's not a natural phenomenon, but then I'm not saying it was extraterrestrial either."