UFO sightings date back to biblical times. In modern-day America, here are the most sightings by each state.
In the Bible's Book of Ezekiel, a mysterious ship is described as appearing from the sky in Chaldea (modern-day Kuwait). Strange sightings were recorded around Rome in 218 B.C. A wave of mysterious apparitions showed up in fourth-century China when a “moon boat” was documented floating over the country once every 12 years. A smattering of other, unfamiliar objects in the sky were noted in Germany in 1561, Hull, England, in 1801, and multiple times during World War II when Allied pilots used the term “foo fighters” to describe the odd circles of light pilots noticed flanking their planes during combat.
The term “UFO,” short for “unidentified flying object,” was coined in 1953 by the United States Air Force as a bucket term for unexplained sightings like these. Stateside sightings were hardly restricted to military flyover zones, however. The first recorded UFO sighting dates to 1639 when, long before the era of planes and satellites, John Winthrop wrote in his diary about a large, strange light in the sky that shot back and forth. By the time he and the other men on his boat got their wits about them, their vessel was a mile from where it had been when they first spotted the light.
The first documented image of a UFO was captured in 1870 on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. More sightings were reported at Mount Rainier in Washington in 1947, and of course several in Roswell, New Mexico. Since then, countless numbers of unusual shapes in the sky—and their supposed inhabitants—have been exhaustively reported without sufficient explanations beyond the possible existence of extraterrestrial life.
A surge in eyewitness accounts begot even more sightings along with attempts to protect against invasions and abductions. More than 40,000 Americans bought into alien protection insurance, which offers customers monetary relief should a loved one get carted away by little green men. One Roper Poll in 1991 suggests that around 4 million Americans believe they've been abducted by aliens.
The longstanding, official position of the U.S. government has been that claims of alien life stem from hoaxes or mistaking other objects like weather balloons for UFOs or alien life. A highly anticipated U.S. intelligence report on UFOs, due to Congress on June 25, is unlikely to change that position: Leaks ahead of its release suggest the official ruling will be that no evidence of alien life has been found—but conveniently can’t be ruled out.
Since its founding in 1974, the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) has documented around 90,000 UFO sightings, with almost 95% of those sightings supposedly easily explained away as military tests, weather balloons, or other terrestrial activity. Using data from NUFORC's 24/7 hotline, which has been around since 1974, Stacker compiled a ranking of the states with the most reported UFO sightings. NUFORC’s dataset includes reports dating back to 1400.