The number of UFO sightings in Missouri has been on the rise since May 2011, and it's not slowing down. This is according to Margie Kay, a field investigator with the Missouri chapter of the Mutual UFO Network.
The group had their annual conference on Sunday and speakers discussed, among other things, the record number of sightings in Missouri in October -- 87 sightings with credible witnesses in a single month.
"There are a lot of theories," Kay said. "We do know that there were some stunt flying teams out on October 4 and October 31, and a B-52 for a game on the 31st."
Despite the fact that some of the 87 claims are explained by the stunt flyers and the B-52, there are still 37 "unexplained and unidentified" occurrences for that month.
Missouri had 233 UFO sightings reported in 2011, and this year there have been 74 reports so far. There weren't as many at this point last year.
Witnesses of some of the recent sightings reported round or oval crafts in the sky. Quite a few reported orbs or balls of light, some as small as softballs and some up to 50 feet in diameter.
These sightings are "very odd," said Kay. "People described white glowing balls of light and great orange balls of fire. Some were three feet off the ground, some were high in the sky. We can't figure out what it is."
When the UFO network hears reports of a sighting (usually through the national Mutual UFO Network website), an investigator is assigned to the case. The investigation involves witness interviews, site visits, and, if there was any contact or if the object was close to earth, samples are taken and sent off for analysis.
What's unusual about the recent sightings, said Kay, is the large number of witnesses. Some of the events have had as many as 13 separate witnesses. One sighting had 31. And the sightings are happening in well-lit, well-traveled areas.
"We have [sightings] probably more in cities than rural areas, as far as reports go," she said.
One unusual case is the one Kay's been investigating the past several nights in Blue Springs and the Lee's Summit area. White and red streaks were reportedly seen going across the sky. Glowing objects emitted different colors. They looked fluid, Kay said, and through binoculars they looked "incredible."
"At first I thought they were stars, but one disappeared and then reappeared in a different location. So I knew it wasn't a star," Kay said.
In another incident, a police officer reported that he and his family saw green beams of light shoot down from the sky onto the street in front of his house in Independence. The source of the green beams is undetermined.
Not surprisingly, the investigators come across their share of hoaxes. One just last week, said Kay. But she wasn't fooled.
"They reported it online. They used fake names, fake email addresses. You can pretty much tell who the hoaxers are."
But what about photo and video hoaxes?
This video actually offers a tutorial on how to create a fake UFO sighting video. The video below, from 2007, has more than 19 million YouTube views, likely because of the unusual non-blurriness of the footage.
The video's original poster later posted a bizarre follow-up video called "UFO Haiti: Hoaxer Comes Clean," apparently admitting that the video footage that inspired possibly millions of would-be skywatchers was a fake.
What with the advanced editing technology and all, Kay admits it is getting more difficult to distinguish doctored photos from the real thing. But they have their ways, she said.
"We look for date and time stamps. We look for information and details in the background of the image. We look to see if the the pictures are consistent and in sequence. We consult an expert photographer to tell if it's been Photoshopped," she said.
The real mystery here (well, a real mystery) is whether sightings have truly increased or if more people are reporting them online now than they used to. Whichever it is, the recent activity in the Missouri skies brings a new meaning to the term "flyover state."