'Phoenix lights' spark variety of local UFO-related businesses

Phoenix Business Journal/May 2, 2008

The lights spotted in the night sky over Phoenix last month stoked the fires within UFO believers and further fueled speculation over the mysterious "Phoenix lights" phenomenon of 1997, a formation that some - including former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington - believe to have been UFOs.

The latest light show solidifies Phoenix's place in the UFO annals and helps drive Arizona's cottage industry of UFO researchers, businesses and authors.

Thanks to these sightings, the Valley is part of a golden triangle of the UFO community, along with Southwestern neighbors Roswell, N.M., and Nevada's Area 51.

Phoenix hosts UFO conferences and is home to a gaggle of UFO-related businesses, ranging from authors and researchers to artists and DVD producers.

Jeff Willes, a Glendale UFO hunter who sells DVDs related to the Phoenix lights and other Valley sightings, said he had 10,000 hits on his Web site, UFOs Over

Phoenix, after this latest episode. That is helping sales, said Willes, who has four DVDs on the market and has sold more than 2,000 to date.

Most of the UFO entrepreneurs are true believers who say they have seen UFOs and that the sightings can't be discredited by stories of military flares and weather balloons.

"They're real," said Bill McDonald, a Mesa artist who specializes in UFO and alien artwork for books and movies. McDonald, who said he saw a UFO in 2005, said interviews with military personnel about extraterrestrial activity in Roswell led him to change his career path from commercial illustration.

Roswell is the storied site of a 1947 UFO crash. The New Mexico town has linked its economy at the hip with aliens and UFOs, including festivals and a museum.

The secret Area 51 military installation sits in the Nevada desert 90 miles north of Las Vegas. The region spawns UFO-sitings.

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