Jen Janik's third-graders at Big Hollow Elementary School in Ingleside asked, "Have there been any sightings of aliens in this area?"
A few months ago in March, many residents of Clintonville, Wis., awoke in the middle of the night to loud, earthshaking booms heard throughout the town.
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Check it outThe Lake Villa District Library suggests these titles on aliens:
• "The Kids' Guide to Aliens," by Barbara Davis
• "Alien Sightings in America," by Jennifer Bringle
• "UFOs: What Scientists Say May Shock You!," by N.B. Grace
• "Aliens Are Coming! The True Account of the 1938 War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast," by Meghan McCarthy
The noises, which residents said sounded like rattling pipes, thunder and fireworks, seemed to be coming from below ground. After a while, there was silence. Possible causes? Gas and sewer lines were ruled out. Maybe it was the result of earthquakes. The investigation is ongoing.
At about the same time, a man was fishing at a lake in the same area. He spotted four lights hovering over his head, which then moved across the sky in a rectangular pattern.
He thought he saw a flash and then an orange object appeared on a nearby island, and, suddenly, it disappeared.
Possible causes? Were the sounds and the lights related? Could it have been some sort of alien sighting or unidentified flying object phenomenon?
"This is a similar sighting to what others have reported in other incidences," said Sam Maranto, the Illinois state director for MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network. MUFON trains investigators to inspect suspected UFO cases.
The Illinois MUFON chapter has 15 investigators who have examined hundreds of cases in which there are reports of UFO or unexplained phenomena.
A routine part of the investigation includes contacting astronomers and meteorologists to see if they can provide scientific explanations for the occurrences. They'll interview witnesses and review photos or videos provided by those who experienced the phenomena. Investigators inspect the location for physical evidence to determine if it's possibly a true UFO sighting.
Sometimes unusual visuals in the twilight or pre-dawn sky are easily explained as sun angles reflecting off the shiny metal on airplanes. Other times it's much harder to find factual evidence for visual phenomena.
Maranto says in our area there are at least 30 requests each month for investigators to take on cases of UFO sightings.
Maranto's first brush with unexplained phenomena occurred when he was 5 years old.
"It was in Fox Lake. My own personal experience was seeing a luminescent object in a sphere shape that flew over my right shoulder and then behind a tree. I didn't talk about it until I was in my 20s."
Maranto's expertise as a UFO investigator has made him a frequent guest on TV shows, including the Travel Channel's "Paranormal Paparazzi," the History Channel's "UFO Hunters" and NBC Dateline's "10 Best UFO Encounters," as well as and n adviser for Hollywood movies.
MUFON will host its Fall Fest and State Symposium at Starved Rock State Park Saturday, Oct. 27. Members and nonmembers are welcome to attend. The $25 entrance fee includes lunch. For more information, visit mymufon.com.