- A drowsy mother in Carteret saw the flickering golden
lights in the sky and ran for her camera. A hard-boiled Navy veteran traveling
the New Jersey Turnpike spotted the slow-moving, bright-yellow V-formation
and pulled his car to the shoulder to get a better look.
- Police officers on patrol at 12:40 a.m. yesterday couldn't
believe their eyes.
- Within the hour, Carteret police dispatchers said they
heard from at least 15 callers reporting strange orange flares blazing
high above the Arthur Kill. The eerie glow had people at backyard barbecues
mesmerized, with heads upturned and mouths agape. Almost 75 vehicles pulled
over on the New Jersey Turnpike to watch the spectacle.
- But no one seems to know what caused the luminous vision.
- Police could not identify the source of the lights, and
Newark International Airport authorities reported no unusual flight patterns.
A meteorologist with the National Weather Service said nothing in the atmosphere
would have caused the bright disturbance, and an airman at McGuire Air
Force Base said none of their military planes were in the air at that
- Whatever it was that lit up the sky above Carteret was
by all accounts weird.
- "It wasn't fireworks, and it couldn't have been
a hot-air balloon, not at night near the airfield," said Steven Vannoy,
who pulled over on the turnpike with his girlfriend on their way home to
Perth Amboy. "What we saw last night qualifies as a UFO. It was an
unidentifiable flying object."
- A Carteret police sergeant on duty called the State Police
and neighboring departments in Linden and Woodbridge to find out what was
causing the strange glow, but he said none had received reports of the
- Bob Wanton, a National Weather Service meteorologist
in Mount Holly, had no explanation for the lights. "Weatherwise,
there was nothing that would have caused it," he said.
- The aurora borealis, a spectacular show of light high
in the northern hemisphere, is seldom visible in New Jersey, said Wanton.
The lights normally appear in the winter, he said.
- "It's very unusual for the northern lights to come
down this far, especially at this time of year," he said.
- On Staten Island, a spokeswoman for the 123rd precinct
in the Tottenville section suggested the display might have come from
a nightclub on Arthur Kill Road that frequently uses search lights for
promotions. The club had been ordered closed by a judge on July 11 and
its phone was disconnected yesterday.
- Airman First Class Andre Steverson said no planes from
McGuire Air Force Base were flying at that time.
- An operations manager at Newark International Airport
said there were no reports of unusual activity and said the lights "could
have been almost anything," from a group of military helicopters on
flight exercises to a blimp.
- Maybe, said David Stich, who saw the bursts of light
from his back yard in Carteret. But those flares didn't look to him like
spotlights or anything else he could recognize.
- "I never in my life saw anything like it,"
said Stich, a lifelong Carteret resident accustomed to the roar and flight
path of aircraft from Newark. He compared the lights to volleyballs, dwarfing
the surrounding stars, and said they clearly moved in formation.
- Around the corner, Pam Russell's husband woke her to
see the show. She saw a diamond-shaped pattern in the sky and noticed
smaller lights leading the pack and bringing up the rear.
- "I ran for my camera," said Russell. "But
they disappeared." Afterward, she said, the skies were dark and silent.