Monday, September 27, 2010

Aliens over Columbia Heights! That, or Chinese lanterns

Some unusual things were in the sky last night. Friends and I were sitting out on a back porch at about 8 pm and noticed a bunch of orange lights in the sky to the west floating slowly southwest. They appeared from behind some trees then gradually got farther away and faded out. Over maybe 10 minutes we saw about 20, sometimes in groups and sometimes solo. They weren't going in a straight line, more sort of wiggling their way through the sky. The (blurry) photo above was snapped from the porch and you see 6 or 7 of the lights.

It was hard to tell how far away the lights were or how high they were -- some of us thought they were a few blocks away, while others thought they were higher and farther. A few other Columbia Heights folks on Twitter saw them also.

A friend called the city's call center asking about the lights and was told "Federal authorities are looking for a suspect." Weird. Maybe the person who answered the phone was confused.

Dave Stroup at DCist and a few others think they were Chinese sky lanterns, but I think they were [REDACTED BY CIA]. Chinese lanterns are possible, but I wonder why? There weren't any Chinese holidays last night according to a cursory Google search, though a DCist commenter says it might have been the Chinese mid-autumn festival which was the 22nd. Another DCist commenter thinks they were launched from around 14th and Irving.

Anyone else see them? Where were you?

Here are a few artist renderings of the aliens.


  1. I saw them around 8 pm. I was standing at Irving & 16th bus shelter, and they floated in almost a straight line from 14th street towards Adams Morgan. They went right over head; they were definitely candle-powered, so I'd have to go with the Chinese Lantern theory. My guess at the time was that it was a memorial of some sort.

  2. Ah, cool. We were a few blocks to the east so it was tough to tell.

    I put tinfoil on my head anyway, just in case.

  3. Why do you consider it weird that the authories were looking for a suspect? With so much crime in this city, is it so hard to believe that helicopters were hovering around to look for someone? Yeah, I guess aliens are probably more likely...

  4. Federal authorities though, and a suspect? It's not like they were shooting guns in the air.

  5. Here are my theories as to call #1 to the mayor's office:
    A) As Andrew said, the dispatcher was just confused.
    B) She meant the lights were federal authorities literally looking for a suspect (Anon - these were neither helicopters, as they were flying too high and slow, nor airplanes).
    or C) The federal authorities were looking for the suspects that caused the lights.
    Either way, to witness what was [MESSAGE REDACTED]

  6. I was watching from Euclid between 15th and University and heard a slew of unlikely explanations. Least plausible? "Oh, they release those when the president is traveling, so you don't know which lights are his plane." A group also gathered at Columbia and 18th. The alien argument was, evidently, the preferred explanation.

  7. Actually, they were large lanterns released from a wedding reception on the roof of the Highland Park building at 1400 Irving...but the alien theory is much more entertaining.


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