Sam Maranto, an Orland Park resident and director of the Illinois Mutual UFO Network, will be among the speakers at the Heartland UFO Summit in Tinley Park this weekend. The event will include a discussion of alleged UFO sightings in Tinley Park and Orlan
Updated: November 26, 2013 6:08AM
Sam Maranto said he became interested in unidentified flying objects in the early 1960s and gave his first presentation on UFOs to classmates when he was in junior high school.
A UFO researcher from Orland Park who has spent nearly five decades studying the subject, Maranto will be among the presenters at this weekend’s Heartland UFO Summit in Tinley Park. The event, which is open to the public, will be held Friday through Sunday at the Hilton Garden Inn, 18335 LaGrange Road.
Maranto said the intent of the summit is to “promote serious conversation, information and thought” on a subject that fascinates anyone who’s ever looked at the night sky and spotted a light that doesn’t appear to be an airplane passing overhead or a satellite.
The three-day event, which will include talks by noted UFO researchers, will give “people who feel they have had a genuine encounter” with something otherworldly a forum to discuss their experience, Maranto said.
Many Southland residents think they may have had a close encounter with something extraterrestrial, and Maranto said that will be the subject of one of the talks.
In August 2004, people in Tinley Park and Orland Park reported seeing of a trio of red lights that appeared to travel across the sky noiselessly in a triangular formation. Similar sightings were reported around the same time in Minnesota, Texas, Canada and Australia.
The lights returned to the Southland on Halloween of that year, then again in September 2005. Thousands of people witnessed the lights and many recorded video images, making it one of the best “mass sighting” cases ever, Maranto believes.
The lights were the subject of a 2008 episode of Discovery Channel’s program “UFO Hunters.” Maranto said he hopes to some day write a book about the mysterious Southland lights.
While his full-time job is in insurance and financial services, he is also director of the Illinois Mutual UFO Network, a volunteer organization that investigates UFO sightings and promotes research on the subject.
During the summit, talks and other events are scheduled from 1 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door, and more information is available at www.heartlandufo.com or by emailing Maranto at email@example.com