In July 1947 a powerful thunderstorm blew over Roswell, New Mexico – and with it came whispers of a mysterious object. Was it a weather balloon, like US military officials claimed? Was it a flying saucer from outer space, as many locals claimed?
What really crash landed from the inky desert skies that weekend has inspired countless conspiracy theories, journalistic investigations and pop culture hits from Forbidden Planet to Men in Black, from The Day the Earth Stood Still to The X-Files. It's turned UFO hunting into a cottage industry that attracts thousands to Roswell each year for events like the UFO Festival, and to on-theme attractions like the International UFO Museum & Research Center.
All that attention has garnered various responses from the US government in recent years, ranging from denials of extraterrestrial activity to recent declassifications of videos released to the public, along with fresh reports investigating the true nature of... well, whatever it is that's going on up there in the atmosphere.
No matter the results of the latest UFO investigations, the debate is sure to rage for years to come. After all, a lot of people feel strongly that the truth is out there. If you, too, just want to believe, you can see for yourself where extraterrestrials may have touched down on earth at these destinations around the world.
1. Roswell, New Mexico
Roswell, near the site of the alleged 1947 crash of an alien spaceship, is proud to be considered the "UFO capital of the world." The UFO Festival (this year from July 1 - 3, 2022), embraces everything associated with the extraterrestrial, with a costume contest (for both pets and humans) and a light parade. Enthusiasts and skeptics are welcome to come along and explore the unexplained. The schedule of speakers covers everything from abductions to ongoing secret government programs, from first-hand alien experiences to discussions of ancient aliens on the moon.
For something a little more earthlike, you can join the Alien Chase, a 5km or 10km race through Roswell's parks.
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2. Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada
Nevada State Route 375 has been officially named Extraterrestrial Highway due to the number of reported sightings of strange lights in the night sky. The road runs primarily through the uninhabited desert, adjacent to Area 51 and Nellis Air Force Base. Follow the tourist board's alien-themed road trip for the best chance to see something paranormal. The town of Rachel near the midpoint of the highway trades off the mysterious sightings, with UFO-hunters stopping at the Little A’Le’Inn hotel to chat all things alien with the staff there.
There’s so little light pollution in the desert here that if there’s anything unexplained flying around up there, chances are, you’ll be able to see it clearly.
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3. Hoia Baciu Forest, Romania
Hoia Baciu in Romania claims to be the world's most haunted forest – but does that necessarily mean aliens are involved? The forest's connection with UFO-sightings goes back to the late 1960s when a biologist took photos of some unexplained lights over the forest. Soon after, a military technician snapped some shots of flying orbs, and similar reports of flying objects over Hoia Baciu persisted through the 1970s. From "strange feelings" to missing children, mysterious voices and paranormal events, the forest has built a reputation as a very spooky place indeed.
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4. Nazca Lines, Peru
Mystery shrouds the Nazca Lines in Peru. It's thought they were made by a pre-Inca civilization around 450 to 600 CE, who removed earth and rocks from the Nazca plain to create vast etchings of a spider, a hummingbird and a monkey, among others. The lines can’t be easily seen at ground level, which makes them even more mysterious. Were they designed to attract aliens? Are they a giant message to life forms beyond earth? If you hang around here, will you get to see a UFO?
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5. Wycliffe Well, Australia
A quirky small town in the remote, rural Northwestern Territory near Alice Springs, Wycliff Well has a whimsical claim to fame as the self-professed UFO capital of Australia. The claims of extraterrestrial sightings have been pouring in since the 1940s, and neither the flat, dark-sky horizon, the presence of the Pine Gap US satellite surveillance station or the free-flowing roadhouse suds can quite explain them. Maybe it's all some clever roadside marketing by local entrepreneur Lew Farkas, who doubled down on the destination's eerie reputation by giving his hotel and restaurant the Rosewell treatment, with murals of aliens and other references to the area's supernatural aura. Or maybe this really is an intergalactic rest stop for flying saucers road tripping across solar systems.
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6. Khao Kala, Thailand
There have been reports of mysterious objects flying through the sky over Thailand since the late 1300s, but most recently it's a hill called Khao Kala near Nakhon Sawan that's become known as the Area 51 of Asia. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported an uptick in sightings – so many, in fact, that a statue of Buddha on Khao Kala had become the gathering point for dozens of believers certain they'd found a portal to another world. Those who flocked to Khao Kala told CNN and other news outlets that they had been contacted by beings from Pluto, as well as a mysterious planet somewhere in the Milky Way known as Loku.
Your mileage may vary when it comes to alien encounters – some think the increased UFO activity is more likely the result of more Thai families logging onto the Internet and watching TV shows about extraterrestrials in recent years. But don't worry about the trek from Bangkok being a waste of time – Nakhon Sawan has earned a reputation as a destination for foodies, too.
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7. Varginha, Brazil
Nestled in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, you'll find all sorts of unusual critters who call the Serra do Espinhaço biosphere reserve home. There are maned wolves and woolly spider monkeys and... aliens? Back in 1996, UFO believers around the world perked up when local residents claimed they found a dead extraterrestrial in a field outside their town.
Like many destinations that have become UFO hotspots, there's an army base near Varginha, and rumors spun wild that the Brazilian military covered up the crash which killed the aliens initially spotted by three women walking home that winter weekend. But the city itself has taken a very open approach to its new-found claim to fame, embracing terrestrial tourists curious about the possibility of intergalactic visitors and constructing the Nave Espacial de Varginha, a huge flying saucer-shaped water tower in 2001.
Three years later, Varginha was even the meeting place for a national UFO research conference, ostensibly to look into not only what happened nearly a decade prior, but a whole host of other incidents reported from throughout the region around Varginha long before the supposed crash coverup. Will you see some discos voadores yourself? That's up to the extraterrestres themselves.
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8. Emilcin, Poland
About 25 miles outside Lublin, the village of Emilcin was the site of an unusual occurrence in May of 1978. Jan Wolski, a local man in his 70s, was allegedly driving a cart when he encountered a pair of extraterrestrial beings who took him to their space ship, invited him aboard and performed a harmless examination of his body. Wolski's tale of his "alien abduction" captivated the imaginations of everyone from fellow UFOlogists to documentary filmmakers to psychologists and even comic book artists.
Other residents claimed sightings of their own, not of the little green men themselves, but of curious craft flying through the sky. Was it all a Cold War-era fantasy to liven up life behind the Iron Curtain, or was Wolski telling the truth? One thing's for sure – you can see a monument to Wolski's experience in Emilcin, which was erected in 2005 and reads "The truth will still amaze us."
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9. Stonehenge, Great Britain
Stonehenge is one of Britain's great archaeological mysteries. Archaeologists have dated the site to around 2500 BCE, when somehow ancient engineers moved huge sarsen stones weighing up to 30 tons and smaller blue stones of around 2 to 5 tons into a circular formation aligned with the stars.
These smaller bluestones are believed to be from southwest Wales, over 150 miles away, while the sarsen stones were likely quarried nearer by at West Woods in Wiltshire – in both cases, it would have taken great effort to move the materials all the way to England’s Salisbury Plain. While it's generally accepted that Stonehenge is a temple designed to follow the movements of the sun, it's a persistent conspiracy theory that the sophisticated building techniques are clear signs of alien involvement.
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10. Bermuda Triangle, Atlantic Ocean
The Bermuda Triangle is one place given over to UFO conspiracy theories. This large expanse of water extends roughly from the tip of Florida out northeast to Bermuda and down to Puerto Rico. It's also the site of several unexplained ship and airplane disappearances over the decades, a phenomenon that's caused many an imagination to run wild.
Scientists and researchers believe these vanishings are the result of human error or caused by issues with instruments or even are the fault of severe storms. Experts have insisted that there’s nothing unusual about the frequency of reports for a high-traffic area of this size. That hasn't dampened the convictions of paranormal believers who are certain something else is happening here – whether that’s UFOs, time portals in the sky or whatever was happening on Lost.