UFO sightings spike in Laredo
Residents of the south Texas border town, Laredo, have been spotting unidentified light orbs for years. Several sightings were reported at the end of 2012, with some videos of the lights going viral.
A local citizen's group, the Laredo Paranormal Research Society claim to have documented over two dozen sightings.
The repeated sightings have also drawn the attention of skeptics who resort to a default explanation of secret tests of "military stealth technology."
Roy Bragg filed this report for the San Antonio Press: -Editor
America's southern border has been a security nightmare for a century or more, creating tension over immigration and national security. But now a group of Laredo residents, aiming high-tech gadgets at the South Texas skies, says the Rio Grande isn't the only border being violated.
While no one from outer space has been taken to anyone's leader, Ishmael Cuellar and members of the Laredo Paranormal Research Society claim they have documented on video or in photos more than two dozen incidents of UFOs in the outskirts of this border town.
“A lot of this stuff is hard to explain,” says member Victoria Garcia. “I'm always asking (fellow members) for explanations. I don't think we have any.”
The Laredo organization's members aren't like members of other UFO or paranormal groups. They don't respond to reports and draw conclusions, preferring to rely on their own first-hand observations. None of them were “believers” who joined the group to support their personal theories; rather, they prefer the intellectual exercise of the hunt. They don't claim the UFOs are “extraterrestrial.” Instead, they rule out other options and leave questions unanswered.
The Laredo sightings have provided more fuel for the fireball of speculation about strange sightings in the skies south of San Antonio.
Last fall, roughnecks working a drilling site near Artesia Wells reported seeing orange disks in the skies that formed shapes as they floated over the horizon.
Within weeks of that event, a rancher nearby also reported similar mysteries over his ranch.
Landowners in Nixon and Cotulla claim motion-sensor wildlife cameras have taken photographs of disks floating over their ranches last fall.
Those reports dovetail nicely with a video Cuellar took, using a cellphone camera, of three disks flying over the brushland north of here in December from his street. His neighbors can be heard in background “oohhing” and “aahhing.”
That video went viral, picked up by the cable news networks. Other videos and images are just as compelling.
In one video, Cuellar says, a glowing object appears to take off from the ground and hover above the city. Then, it appears that two military aircraft approach the object, which abruptly disappears from sight.
Then there are the objects, says member Trinidad Soliz, similar to the Marfa Lights, that appear on the northern horizon just outside of town. The lights flicker, alternating among three, five and seven at various times. And the lights are always located in the same place and visible only in the infrared spectrum.
In another instance, several of the group's members watched a low-hanging cloud move over a stretch of mesquite brushland they were monitoring. It stopped. Then they saw two shafts of light stretching upward from it into the higher clouds. Like the Laredo Lights, they were visible only in the infrared spectrum.
This wasn't how Cueller, Soliz, Garcia and the group's other 18 members imagined they'd spend their nights.
Cueller, deputy warden at a local correctional facility, said he was part of a group of law enforcement officers making tactical training videos in an abandoned hospital in 2004.
After reviewing the video of one exercise, they noticed a streak of green light was caught on video recorded with a night-vision lens. No one saw it during the taping. A later session showed more unusual activity, again visible only via special lens.
Cuellar and friends undertook informal investigations into reports of supernatural incidents in the area. Within months, the group was chartered as a nonprofit entity. Membership includes photographers, teachers, medically trained personnel and computer techs.
The group operates out of a comic book store owned by Soliz's family, in a reading room lined by superhero posters.
Of 140 paranormal cases LPRS has investigated, Cuellar says, they've been able to debunk 105 of them. The rest remain unexplained.
Their interests expanded from haunted houses to suspicious skies in 2008 when a pair of stars caught Cuellar's attention. An amateur astronomer, he carries a pocket-sized book of star charts when he goes out at night. A check of the book indicated the stars weren't supposed to be there. When he turned to tell his daughter, Cuellar says the two stars vanished.
Soon, the society was making twice-weekly trips to the outskirts of town to watch the sky. Over the years, they invested in expensive digital cameras, lenses and computers to aid them. The group doesn't advertise or solicit donations, but allows anyone to join them on a nightly viewing session. “We let people watch what we're doing,” Cuellar says. “They see what we see.”
Sightings such as these will sometimes create a buzz about extraterrestrials, said Richard Shermer, executive director of the Altadena, Calif.-based Skeptics Society.
“It begins with something we can't explain,” he said. “Suddenly,” Shermer said, “you've got a full-blown case of extraterrestrials.”
The group's official position is that the sightings aren't traditional aircraft, weather balloons or low-flying satellites. In a detailed PowerPoint presentation, the group does the math, comparing the sizes and distances of each known object to some of the unexplained things they've recorded.
Unofficially, Cuellar believes their videos have captured different types of military stealth technology that's being tested in the area. He suspects the government-sponsored craft are being used in South Texas because of the sparse population and desert terrain and may eventually roll out on the Mexican border.
“We don't make decisions about what they are,” Cuellar said. “We just decide what they aren't. We act as a filter.”