Last November 7th, a handful of United Airlines employees claimed to see a peculiar metallic gray object hovering over gate C17 of O’Hare’s United Terminal for several minutes. By the witnesses’ account, the object then shot upward through the overcast sky, leaving a “hole” in the clouds. The sighting has cheered ufologists. “The O’Hare case is one of the best because the witnesses are trained observers,” says Sam Maranto, state director of the Illinois Mutual UFO Network and a financial planner by day. “They know what’s supposed to be in the sky.” Hundreds of reports of UFO sightings are filed in Illinois every year; here are some of the more, um, plausible ones from the database-complete with Maranto’s insider take.

Case Study #1: The Rockford Orbs
When:  1999-2001
Where: Rockford
What happened?  A formation of orange orbs appeared repeatedly over the Rock River valley, each time floating lei­surely across the sky before
Maranto: “Of the 13 nights of sightings up there, I could substantiate the bulk of it as legitimate. It was like a used-car lot of UFOs up there.”
Creepy detail: Countless residents witnessed and videotaped the phenomenon; the Rockford Register Star printed photos on its front page.

Case Study #2: The Champaign Beams
When: February 2, 2002
Where: Urbana-Champaign
What happened?  Shortly before midnight, various students and residents of the college towns observed clusters of amber-hued lights flashing in a line across the sky, from southwest to northeast. The most convincing witness, a police officer, watched objects hover above Memorial Stadium and reported all kinds of chatter about unidentified objects on his scanner that night.
Maranto: Defers here to Victor Connor, an Illinois Mutual UFO Network field investigator who calls the case legit. “Nobody knows what it was,” Connor says. “It wasn’t planes; it wasn’t balloons. But it was pretty minor.”
Creepy detail: One witness said that some buildings had been lit up with spotlights originating from the objects.

Case Study #3: The Tinley Park Lights
When: August 21, 2004
Where: Tinley Park
What happened?  On a clear summer night, three red lights hovered in a triangular formation for almost half an hour and then flickered out, one by one. Call after call came in to the National UFO Reporting Center that night, each de­scribing the same three red lights. Several videotapes exist, including one that Maranto says shows objects flying in and out of the lights.
Maranto: “This is the case. A hell of a lot of people saw it. People leaving the Ozzy Os­bourne show at the Tweeter Center saw it from their cars.”
Creepy detail: Other UFO sightings were reported across the world that day-from Canada to Australia to the middle of the Aegean Sea.

Case Study #4: Return of the Tinley Park Lights
When: October 31, 2004
What happened?  Two months later, the “Tinley Park Lights” returned to the skies above the south suburbs-on an auspicious date. Hundreds of witnesses viewed the incident; accounts described entire blocks of trick-or-treaters gaping up at the sky.
Maranto: “The lights were visible by observers from at least 12 miles away-so that pretty much rules out a hoax. And this object was frigging massive. It was as big as the Tweeter Center.”
Creepy detail: Maranto claims that, in a video, what look like helicopters appear to be keeping planes away from the area.

Case Study #5: The St. Clair Triangle
When: January 5, 2000
Where: St. Clair County (across the Mississippi River from St. Louis)
What happened? Just after 4 a.m., police officers in five adjoining towns reported witnessing a massive triangular shape with bright lights moving silently across the sky at a low altitude with immense speed. Only one witness had the presence of mind to snap a photo-and it’s inconclusive (i.e., lousy).
Maranto: “This is a topnotch sighting. Because the area was mainly rural, light pollution wasn’t [as] prevalent as in Tinley Park. They all saw the object[s] maneuver like nothing prosaic.”
Creepy detail: “As it passed,” one witness claimed, “I . . . thought I saw someone move from the interior portion of the craft to look out the window.”