THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
Night sky off Pawleys Island lit by orange lights
By Charles Swenson
Tom Hale was reluctant to report what he and his brothers-in-law saw one night in June from the porch of their rental house on Pawleys Island.
“It was so out of the blue. It was so startling when it occurred,” he said.
But he could also imagine the headlines in the grocery-store tabloids about space aliens.
“I was conflicted about fanning any kind of media flame about it,” Hale said. “The last thing I would want is an influx of these people coming from all over the world to set up to watch these lights.”
Yet Tom Hale, a partner in a Birmingham, Ala., law firm and a vacationer at Pawleys Island for most of his 53 years, notified the National UFO Reporting Center.
“On the night of June 8th, 2011 at approximately 9:30 p.m., I was sitting on the front porch facing the ocean,” Hale wrote, marshaling his facts like a seasoned litigator. “Suddenly, above the horizon, four large, orange glowing fireballs appeared simultaneously, and in a perfect horizontal alignment. I do not startle easily, but the intensity and peculiarity of the apparently unnatural lights alarmed me.”
“I said, ‘Damn, Bob, what is that?’ ” he recalled in a phone interview. Bob is one of his two in-laws who were walking onto the porch at Caledonia, the house at 560 Myrtle Ave. He is also a pilot for Delta on its international routes.
The lights lasted about 30 seconds. They were about the width of an outstretched hand above the horizon. The light was the size of the fingernail on his outstretched pinky, Hale said.
They were unlike any flare or distress signal he’s seen. Unlike any lights his brother-in-law has seen from the cockpit.
The lights “suddenly and simultaneously ‘zipped’ below the horizon,” Hale reported. “There had been neither discernible ascending trail of vapor or accelerant when they first appeared. … Likewise, when they descended, they did not ‘fade and fail,’ but rather descended like the lights on a drag strip timed starter.”
His sister-in-law works for Scripps Media and told him about the UFO center. “I said, ‘What the hell,’ ” Hale explained.
He was particularly interested in whether anyone else saw the same lights.
According to the UFO center’s database, they did.
“Myrtle Beach seems to be an epicenter of these reports and sightings,” said Peter Davenport, the center’s director. “This phenomenon has been occurring regularly since June of last year.”
A woman whom Davenport described as “quite eloquent, serious minded and sincere,” also reported seeing orange lights off Pawleys Island on June 8.
Watching from outside a beach house, she saw one light glow and fade. Another appeared farther to the north and faded. Then there were more lights, up to 12 at one time.
“The lights appeared on and off again across about a 40 mile stretch of ocean,” the woman reported.
The UFO also received a report from someone staying at Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort. “We saw a round circular orange light over the ocean directly in front of us. It blinked twice and disappeared,” the report said. Another light appeared about 20 seconds later, blinked twice and was gone.
Neither of those witnesses was identified in the report. Davenport provided Hale’s name with Hale’s permission.
Another witness who Davenport said wanted to remain anonymous and didn’t provide him with contact information also reported seeing the lights from Pawleys Island. “This was the third night in a row I had witnessed the orange glowing lights,” the report said.
There were similar reports from Myrtle Beach and Holden Beach, N.C.
“This does not appear to be a phenomenon that can be explained away by the launching of Chinese lanterns,” Davenport said.
He has operated the center in Washington state since 1974. “We’re a serious-minded organization,” he said.
When he talks about UFOs, he doesn’t just mean things that haven’t been identified. He means extraterrestrial.
“The government, it appears from my seat, is clearly deceiving the American people on the subject of UFOs,” Davenport said.
Hale said he isn’t making any assumptions about the lights he saw. “Were they aliens? Hell, I don’t know,” he said.
He has watched two meteor showers from the beach at Pawleys Island. He’s also tracked the space station and satellites orbiting the Earth. He has a stargazing application on his iPhone.
“Nothing has ever remotely approached what this was,” Hale said.
And yet it’s almost what he’s come to expect from Pawleys Island. “You can absolutely enjoy the immense universe from grains of sand to the unlimited celestial ceiling,” Hale said. “I was blessed to see something like that.”