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UFOs in the daily Press:

Sightings in Idaho, USA, 2003:

The article underneath was published in the local daily newspaper The Idaho Statesman, on November 25, 2003.

UFOs; Sightings in Salmon-Challis area

SALMON — The truth is out there, according to two longtime Salmon residents who say that unexplained lights have periodically flashed across the sky over the vast and remote Salmon-Challis National Forest.

UFO lore has hovered on Salmon's horizon for decades, with the majority of sightings occurring in the unpopulated backcountry.

Chester Rackham, 79, who manned half a dozen fire lookouts in the Salmon-Challis for more than three decades, recalls seeing what he described as "fuzzy blue lights." He never received a plausible explanation.

During the 10 years beginning in 1975 that he stood watch at Long Tom Lookout, some 35 miles northwest of Salmon, Rackham sometimes spotted the lights flying from the night sky into the forest.

"I didn't know what they were," said Rackham.

"I saw things from different lookouts over the years but I never paid much attention. Up at Long Tom, I could see these bluish lights, but they weren't very clear."

The vast majority of UFO sightings — tens of thousands around the world over the past 40 years — can be accounted for by natural phenomena, such as meteor showers, according to the Center for UFO Studies in Chicago.

Ted Roe, head of the nonprofit National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena in Vallejo, Calif., said only 1 percent of the thousands of UFO sightings each year are of real interest because they provide traces rather than merely anecdotal evidence.

But that statistic doesn't put a damper on the faithful.

Eva Miles, who lived adjacent to the forest about 12 miles south of Salmon from the early '70s to the early '90s, said she routinely saw bright lights traveling at warp speed across the sky.

"I was alone by the river out there and it wasn't heavily populated at that time," said Miles, 89. "I can't exactly say it was a UFO, but I saw bright lights that moved and traveled about the sky.

"I had a beautiful view of the sky from my deck, and no big trees to block my view. On a clear night, I would sit out on the deck and would sometimes see them. They would usually cross from one side of the sky to the other ina complete track. They moved rather rapidly, from one side of the horizon to the other."

Miles, who has since moved into town, said she considered the bright, white lights evidence of "the wonderful, mysterious things that happen on this Earth."

Both white and blue lights feature prominently in tales collected by UFO-ologists, according to literature from the Center for UFO Studies.

The same literature uses the term "nocturnal lights" to describe "small spots of light that move in strange patterns across the night sky," adding that these are the most commonly reported type of UFO.

Roe of The National Aviation Reporting Center said blue lights have been featured in sightings since at least 1944, when a blue ball of fire reportedly chased aircraft over Munich.

But for every believer, there is a skeptic. Veteran backcountry guide Bill Guth, with Flying Resort Ranches in Salmon, said he has spent countless nights in the forest without encountering anything odd.

"I haven't heard or seen anything in the backcountry that I couldn't explain," he said.

The U.S. Forest Service's Kenny Rodgers, who can claim decades of experience in the mountainous terrain surrounding Salmon, said people tend to believe that unfamiliar sights and sounds in the wilderness are otherworldly when, in fact, they are likely from down-to-Earth sources.

In remote areas, small noises become objects of curiosity or even fear among the uninitiated, said Rodgers, adding, "It might be a mouse or a grouse; it could be a bear.

You might see something in the sky and not know what it is, so you call it a UFO."

Still, a rational explanation cannot explain the timeless reportings of mysterious cosmic phenomena.

Robert McCarl, professor of anthropology at Boise State University, said two themes in mythology surface in the tales of UFOs in the Salmon-Challis.

"What you find is that the forest, particularly a forest contiguous to travel routes, which is true for the Salmon forest, is an area of anxiety and concern," he said.

"You have people being lost there and animals that may attack you. Thus the forest becomes a locus for mysterious and unsettling events."

In contemporary times, people were reporting UFOs long before ET was trying to phone home and Fox Mulder wanted to believe.

Roe, for one, believes that science eventually will solve the debate about UFOs.

In the meantime, he said, people who buy into the phenomenon will continue to be subject to ridicule, and their stories will continue to be seen as weird.

That doesn't faze Rackham, the retired Salmon-Challis lookout.

"I've heard different stories off and on," he said.

"I never got a very good idea of what it was I was seeing. I'd just look and then go about my business."

Edition Date: 11-25-2003

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