Betty Hill, this one's for you.

A lot of people consider UFO sightings a relatively modern phenomenon but documented reports of unidentified flying objects date as far back as ancient times. For the purposes of our discussion here, we're turning back the clock to when the Puritans first settled in the New World right in our own backyard, so to speak.

On March 1, 1639, John Winthrop, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote in his diary about a most unusual event that had recently caused worry and anxiety among the English immigrants. Winthrop described that three boatmen traveling the Muddy River had reported seeing a great light in the sky. They gave a clear picture of what they saw.

"When it stood still, it flamed up, and was about three yards square," Winthrop wrote. Over the course of several hours, the boatmen said that the mysterious light "ran as swift as an arrow," darting back and forth between them and the village of Charlestown, about two miles away. "Diverse other credible persons saw the same light."

In the nearly 400 years since Gov. Winthrop's account, reports of UFOs surged in the United States. In the 1940s, the U.S. government launched the first official military intelligence program to study the sightings. In 1952, UFOs flew over the White House. A year later, on November 23, 1953, an Air Force jet was scrambled to intercept a UFO but then disappeared. No sign of a crash or wreckage was ever found.

But one of my favorites happened on July 14, 2001. It takes a lot for thousands of motorists to stop alongside the highway to look toward the sky. For about 15 minutes, just past midnight on the New Jersey Turnpike, witnesses and police marveled at the orange-and-yellow lights in a V formation that could be seen from the Throgs Neck Bridge to Fort Lee, near the George Washington Bridge.

And as recently as last year, the Navy formalized its process for reporting "unexplained aerial phenomena."

Do you support that there's intelligent life out there? If we're the most sharp-witted beings in the cosmos, that would be demoralizing.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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