by Andrew Arnett
Kurt Cobain killed himself in his Seattle home on April 5 but, three years later, in 1997, the Seattle music scene was still going strong. Sure, grunge music was in its death throes by that time, but the hype and media frenzy clung to the city like a virus.
People were obsessed with Seattle, as well they should have been. The 1990s were Seattle’s time. Home to Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft (across Lake Washington in Redmond), the city was a harbinger of things to come. It was the future, for good or ill.
Hollywood churned out Seattle based rom-coms like Singles and Sleepless in Seattle, offering the world a taste of the Seattle lifestyle: a herbal blend of flannel, commodified rebellion and espresso.
Heroin chic, exported from Seattle, was all the rage in the fashion world. Strung out emaciated waifs, epitomized by Kate Moss, displaced vibrant healthy models like Cindy Crawford from the front pages of Vogue. Seattle liked to wear its nihilism on its tattooed shoulders.
Heroin itself became a problem. Behind the glossy veneer, the city was strung out. Due to an increase in the drug’s strength and a decrease in its price, Seattle became known as a drug mecca, a place where dope was as easy to score as an iced latte.
Films like Trainspotting and Permanent Midnight popularized heroin use. Grunge musicians flaunted their addictions. No longer consigned to back alleys and ghettos, the opioid depressant replaced the stimulant cocaine as high society’s drug of choice.
I was 27 when I arrived in Seattle in ’92, with the singular aspiration of playing electric bass in a rock band. This was no passing whimsy. I began playing the trumpet in the school band at the age of 10 and played bass in various rock bands since 14. Upon graduation, I decided to become a full-time musician. Naturally, my parents were none too pleased by this decision, having invested plenty in my journalism degree at Arizona State University.
Before arriving in Seattle, I lived in Los Angeles, boning up on music theory at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. In late fall of ‘92, I packed my belongings into my Toyota Tercel and drove up the I-5 to Seattle. My dad gave me two thousand bucks and told me from here on out I was on my own. It was sink or swim time.
A couple of months after my arrival in the Emerald City, I joined Pitch Factor, a heavy metal outfit. Metal was not my musical genre of choice, but the opportunity got my chops up to speed and quickly put me in front of a live audience. We played dozens of shows in clubs like RKCNDY and OK Hotel but, later in 1993, I jumped ship.
I joined a group more suited to my tastes — a garage band called Satellite 23 who’s influences included the Flaming Lips, The Seeds and Sonic Youth. For the next couple of years we recorded numerous demo tapes and played hundreds of shows.
It was an exciting time as I found myself immersed in the Seattle rock milieu. I was invited to the recording sessions for Truly’s Fast Stories . . . From Kid Coma, rubbed shoulders with Mark Arm and suffered Tad heckling my band as we muscled our way through a sweaty beer soaked set at the Lake Union Pub.
In 1995, Satellite 23 broke up, fragmenting like a rocket in reentry. The next year, I formed my own band — Drag King, featuring Matt Calico on bass, Ward Reeder on skins, and me on guitar and lead vocal.
Drag King was a stripped down three piece band with a lean and clean hot rod sound. We played short adrenaline soaked songs about fast cars and women. We eschewed the heavy guitar distortion of grunge in favor of reverb drenched Mosrites. Our gods were Dick Dale, Link Wray and The Cramps. Our contemporaries were the Reverend Horton Heat, Man or Astroman? and the Primate 5.
By 1997 we had played over a hundred gigs around town, toured as far as Portland (OR), wrote and recorded dozens of songs and released a split single with Primate 5 on the Tombstone label. At a show, Dave Crider of Estrus Records approached us and gave us his card. He was interested.
It felt like the band was firing on all four cylinders. Things were really beginning to click. To pay the bills, I worked in tech support for an internet company in Seattle’s Capitol Hill section, whilst dating a girl named Lori, a manager at that company.
I offer this background information by way of a preamble. All too often, when one reads a report on a UFO sighting, the witness appears fictional, as unreal as the concept of UFOs itself. Perhaps this description can give the reader a sense of time and place, before the unusual occurs.
On the evening of November 14, 1997, I was on my way to Lori’s house, as we had plans to hang out and catch some live music downtown. Lori owned a house located in a nice suburban section of North Seattle. The road to get there, however, is a different story.
Aurora Avenue North (SR 99) is a seedy track dotted with cheap motels, strip malls and auto repair shops. At any time of day, one can find strung out prostitutes walking the strip, offering their questionable wares. The urban blight begins in earnest just as the road curves up past Green Lake.
It was at approximately this location, as I drove north on Aurora sometime after 8:00 pm, that something in the sky caught my attention. A formation of glowing yellow-orange-red lights flew across the horizon, from left to right of my field of vision.
At first, I tried to negotiate traffic while keeping an eye on this unusual sight. Moments later, I pulled into the first parking lot which presented itself. I jumped out of the car and stared in disbelief at this most astonishing spectacle.
The formation consisted of a half dozen or more glowing orbs, gracefully floating across the sky like giant amber dandelions. They moved in unison, some larger than others. They left no trail of exhaust, had no wings and emitted no sound. They were at approximately a 45 degree angle.
They were perhaps half a mile up or higher and their size difficult to calculate but, perhaps each were comparable to that of a house. Quite possibly, the orange light served as an energy field surrounding a smaller craft inside it. The orbs were located north, maybe over Everett.
As the road I was traveling on was pointed due north, and the objects were in front of me, the trajectory of the lights were, unquestionably, eastward. They crossed over Aurora Avenue then swiftly disappeared behind the Cascade Mountain range.
My initial reaction was to jump back in the car and drive after them, but the reality of the situation made that impractical. The orbs had spanned the entire horizon in perhaps under a minute. It would take me at least 30 minutes to reach the Cascade foothills by car.
Regarding UFO sightings, the question often arises of whether or not the witness was “on drugs.” In my case, as strange as the situation was, I can unequivocally rule out the influence of any mind altering substances. Driving up to Lori’s house that night, I was stone cold sober.
Words can hardly describe the feeling I had standing there in that parking lot. I was awe struck. It was as if someone had pulled back a veil and, for a brief moment, gave me a glimpse behind the curtain. But what exactly did I see?
I saw something that appeared to have anti-gravity capability. There was no indication that the orbs were propelled by rocket fuel. This was far in advance of the space shuttle, Apollo missions or even Stealth (I had once seen a Stealth fighter jet fly low over the Puget Sound).
From this, I could draw a number of conclusions. It could have been advanced aerospace technology created by our own military-industrial complex. It could have been alien technology. It could also have been space junk.
I was enthralled but, being a sceptic, my mind rationalized the event. Most likely, I thought to myself, a satellite or rocket had come crashing down to earth; the glowing amber effect caused by heat generated in reentry.
Aside from this, there was nothing in my frame of reference I could compare the experience to.
But there were problems with this theory. For one thing, the objects maintained their integrity throughout their flight path and did not break up as space junk or shooting stars would do in reentry.
Secondly, the objects did not appear to have a downward trajectory but rather, maintained their altitude in flight, similar to how one would expect an aircraft to behave. Nonetheless, I would stick with the space junk theory. I had an open mind but was not ready to believe that aliens had landed.
When I arrived at Lori’s house, I could barely contain my excitement. I told her in detail what I had just witnessed, as well as my rationale for what it most likely was — space junk. Lori listened intently, asking for clarifications on the details. Then we went on our date.
The next morning, back at my house, around 8:00 am, I was awakened by a phone call. It was Lori. She was calling from her office.
“I was checking the internet this morning,” Lori said, “and it turns out your UFO sighting actually happened. A lot of reports came in last night describing lights in the sky, similar to what you saw. There’s even a story by the Associated Press.”
“Holy smokes,” I said. “That’s amazing. What does the article say?”
Lori began reading: “Some callers saw many lights in the night sky across the Northwest. Others said it was one broad streak of light. A few people even called a UFO group to report the sighting.
‘‘‘It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen,’ Dave Way of Keizer (OR), told the Statesman Journal in Salem (OR), ‘It looked like something out of Star Trek.’’’
“That’s it, that’s what I saw,” I said excitedly. “What else does it say?”
Lori continued reading: “What it was, was space junk, the body of an old Russian rocket burning up as it reentered the atmosphere, state and federal officials said.”
“Well there you have it,” I said. “Mystery solved. I told you that’s what I thought it was.”
“‘And whatever was left of it,’” she continued, “‘fell safely in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington,’ said Milt Maas at the National Weather Service in Spokane.”
“Now hold on a minute,” I said. “Did you just say that the rocket landed safely into the Pacific Ocean?”
“That’s what the article says,” said Lori.
“No, no, that’s not right at all,” I said. “That’s the exact opposite of what happened. Those lights came from the direction of the Pacific Ocean, traveling inland towards and over the mountains.”
I was perplexed by this turn of events. I didn’t know what to make of this “official” story which contradicted what I had seen with my own eyes. Later that day, the event was covered by local Seattle television news stations.
KOMO News opened up their 5 o’clock news broadcast with it. “Good evening, it’s one of the big topics of conversation tonight,” said anchor Eric Slocum.
“We’re talking about that strange light streaking across the sky,” said anchor Margo Myers, “ Thousands of people saw the orange fireball all the way from Oregon to British Columbia. Here at KOMO we were swamped with calls and email from people who wanted to know ‘what was that?’ Tonight we know.”
The broadcast then cut to reporter John Sharify, reporting from atop the KOMO News building. “Thousands and thousands of people saw it,” said Sharify, “and no, it wasn’t a bird up in the sky, it wasn’t a plane, it was what scientists are calling space junk.”
Sharify ended the broadcast saying, “And here’s another scary notion, the space junk landed in the Pacific Ocean, off the Washington coast and so, not very far from here.”
Over at King 5 News, Elisa Hahn reported that “Late word from the Pentagon said it was a Russian rocket that crashed into the Pacific Ocean.”
It was the same with all the media outlets. Everyone insisted that the “space junk” traveled westward and landed “safely” into the Pacific Ocean. I saw the opposite. I saw the orange lights travel inland, going over the Cascade Mountains and towards eastern Washington.
I would have been more than happy to put my “UFO” sighting behind me, chalk it up to an interesting experience but, now I was faced with a quandary. Why did official government sources feel the need to alter the facts? Was it a deliberate case of misinformation? If so, what was the government and media trying to hide? The incident stuck in my mind and really, never left me.
I kept my eyes open to any information on UFOs and specifically, incidents involving orange orbs. I have seen that, over time, cases of orange orb sightings have not diminished but rather, have become more and more common.
Sightings are happening all over the world and with the prevalence of smart phones, a lot of interesting photos and videos have been captured. In the reports to come, I will investigate this phenomenon and see if we can get some straight answers on this mystery of the orange orbs.
This story was originally published August 10, 2017 @ Medium