From the ever-elusive Bigfoot to the lesser-known but equally mysterious Mel’s Hole, Yakima County and its surrounding areas have never been short of supernatural stories.
The first, and most famous UFO sighting in Yakima, dates to the late 1940s. Known as the Kenneth Arnold UFO Sighting, this encounter of the unique objects spotted in the sky is credited for coining the term ‘flying saucer.’
On June 24, 1947, well-known pilot Kenneth Arnold was flying from Chehalis to Yakima. En route, Arnold claimed while near Mt. Rainier, he had seen “nine unusual objects flying in the skies.”
Landing in Yakima at around 4 p.m. that same afternoon, Arnold explained to the airport staff his incredible encounter of saucer-like objects that flew with amazing speed and rapid movements, unlike anything he had ever seen in the military.
On this day, it was particular to note that the skies had perfect weather and visibility. Arnold claimed his calculations had put these saucers flying at speeds of 1,200 miles per hour. However, later estimates claim that these saucers were flying at speeds up to 1,657 miles per hour—approximately three times faster than any aircraft ever produced during this era.
Later it was found out, around the exact same time Arnold was flying in the area, an unnamed Washington State Forest Service member reported, while inside a fire watch tower 20 miles away from Arnold’s approximate location, they had seen “flashes of light” moving in a straight line across the sky.
This encounter is also credited as the first ‘real’ UFO sighting in the United States, only a few weeks before the famous Roswell encounter.
Nearly 27 years later, and 22 miles away from the city, a phenomenon continuously observed to this day would drum up a report that explains nothing as to the origins of these strange appearances.
In 1973, a thirteen-page long study titled “Investigation of Nocturnal Lights Phenomena, 1973 Sightings Report from Toppenish, WA” would describe in detail multiple encounters of the same strange “balls of light” seen in the skies above the Yakama Nation Reservation. According to claims in the report, these lights, ranging in color from a bright white to blistering red, have been observed countlessly in the night skies and even twice in broad daylight. These lights were observed by residents long before these reports, to the current day.
While speaking with a current resident of Toppenish, he provided both a video of such observation taken on his cellphone and a small sketch of what he describes as “a ball of fire,” going on to say that he has seen these lights throughout his whole life living in the area and that these were nothing new.
Speaking to local podcast host Ami from Anomalous Waves, they state, “I had heard about the orb lights on and around the Yakama Nation reservation all my life. I had begun to research them for our podcast.”
“I had not heard any stories of abduction,” Ami states while on the subject of local encounters. The podcast host explains an encounter reported in 1964. A Toppenish resident said while observing these orbs lights, she knew if she were to examine her observation any further, she would not return home.
Among these stories and others, Yakima ranks the fourth highest city in the United States for the most UFO sightings between 1947 and 2005. Washington is the state with the fifth-highest reports of UFO sightings in the U.S., and of all places, The National UFO Center is located in Eastern Washington.
Whether you’re a skeptic or a hard-core enthusiast, these reports are certainly captivating. No doubt many have seen something strange in the Yakima skies at night.