UFO group may reopen ‘Tinley Lights’ inquiry
By Frank Vaisvilas Correspondent January 16, 2014 10:10PM
Some books and tools used by MUFON members. | Frank Vaisvilas~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 18, 2014 6:04AM
It’s been nearly 10 years since Allison Nettles witnessed something strange over her Frankfort home.
Her husband had just put their three boys to bed on Oct. 31, 2004 when they noticed three big red lights in the night sky, evenly spaced from each other.
“The illumination was so big. ... It slowly headed south,” Nettles, 44, said, adding that she couldn’t tell if the lights were separate or part of one object.
The couple were far from alone in witnessing the lights, a UFO incident that became known as the “Tinley Park Lights” — actually a series of five sightings that night by hundreds of witnesses that attracted national interest.
Nettles was interviewed in 2008 by the makers of the History Channel show “UFO Hunters.” The sightings led her and many Southland residents to become interested in the field of UFO investigation.
Shortly after she reported the incident online, she was contacted by Sam Maranto, who’s now the director of the Illinois Mutual UFO Network. Nettles became intrigued by the investigation and joined MUFON.
“I like to come and learn,” she said. “Some people are looking for answers, not necessarily looking for aliens.”
At a meeting last Saturday at the Orland Park Library, Maranto told the audience of about 30 people that he would like to reopen the investigation for the 10-year anniversary of the Tinley Park Lights.
MUFON investigator Roger Laurella said 1,091 cases of Illinois UFO sightings have been reported to the organization since 2007. He said he has to prioritize a few cases that seem most compelling because MUFON only has three investigators. Maranto said that’s down from about 40 investigators during the several years following the Tinley Park Lights.
Laurella said the number of cases reported to MUFON was down about 45 percent in 2013, and he’s not sure why.
Maranto told the audience that groups such as MUFON still face some social stigma.
“Ridicule and sarcasm are the best form of censorship,” he said. “A lot of people in academia wouldn’t touch (UFO research) with a 10-foot pole. That’s best way to kicked out of a university and get called a ‘wacko.’”
He said MUFON investigators look to debunk claims of UFO sightings, and many are explained by natural phenomena and man-made aircraft, while a few are simply hoaxes.
“It’s not about believing, it’s about research,” Maranto said, adding that he’s trying to recruit more investigators who will go through training.
Despite declining membership, MUFON still attracts people with many different backgrounds who have an interest or belief in UFOs and the paranormal, he said.
Tahir Kamal, 21, of Orland Park, recently joined the group because of his interest in all things paranormal.
“It’s interesting,” Kamal said. “I’ve been reading about UFOs, cryptozoology (i.e., Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch) and the paranormal for a long time.”
He said he’s never seen a UFO but believes he may have seen ghosts. Kamal said he saw a man, woman and a dog who appeared to be transparent and later disappeared while he was in Aurora in 2005.
Mark Kuba, 53, of Villa Park, joined MUFON to seek answers after a disturbing confession from his mother several years before she died in 2005 that she had been abducted by aliens.
“It freaked me out,” Kuba said. “For years, I couldn’t believe it.”
During his mother’s funeral, he learned from her Lutheran pastor that she had sought counseling from him to help cope with the abduction experience, he said, and that made him wonder if his mother actually had been abducted.
Years later, he’s still looking for answers and believes MUFON can help him get closer to the truth.