As some readers may know, I hail from Kent and grew up in the south east of the county in Folkestone. You may also realise I like Fortean things! So I thought, let's find something interesting and Fortean from Kent to write about today. I was thinking maybe some historical event, when my research found me looking at literally dozens of reports of orange lights over Kent, specifically in the last few months. There are quite few a comments regarding them on this BBC report about similar sightings in 2008. Now I don't mean to say these sightings are limited to Kent, but I'm limiting my focus there. The MoD, however, does suggest something strange is going on over Kent.
Below are a "few" more sightings, with links to the original witness report and more detail.
8th April 2009 - Sighting of three lights flying in a triangular formation over Kingsnorth, Ashford, Kent in a south westerly direction.
24th April 2009 - Kent, UK
4th May 2009 - 9 orange lights moving in formation of 3 rows of 3 spotted moving in south easterly direction. Reported from Benfleet, Essex and Brands Hatch, Kent
16th May 2009 - 3 orange lights in a row followed by a fourth over Margate, Kent heading east out over the sea. Described as looking a little like jellyfish.
30th May 2009 - A real clutch of sightings here: one fast moving orange object observed over various parts of south eastern UK, especially northern Kent. Other objects seen by some witnesses. One witness describes as being a little like a jellyfish.
30th May 2009 - Another report of two fast moving fireballs in Herne Bay, Kent
30th May 2009 - Two more orange balls in the sky, seen from Dover, Kent
9th - 12th June 2009 - Blinking orange lights seen rising over Romney Marsh three nights in a row.
13th June 2009 - Two bright orange objects seen rising into air near Maidstone, Kent. Looked like a jellyfish without the tendrils.
13th June 2009 - Two orange lights seen heading in south westerly direction over Maidstone, Kent
14th June 2009 - Three oranges light seen following each other over Paddock Wood, Kent
19th June 2009 - Yellow lights in the sky over Tonbridge, Kent
20th June 2009 - Three lights, at least one orange, reported rising into clouds over Ripple, Kent
21th June 2009 - Three bright orange lights seen rising into clouds over Welling, Kent
22nd June 2009 - Two orange lights seen in Snodland, Kent (famous for being the town of my birth, of course!) rising eventually extinguishing but visible dark object still seen.
26th June 2009 - Birchington, Kent
27th June 2009 - Rising orange light in Beckenham, Kent
30th June 2009 - More flashing orange lights over Romney Marsh, Kent
4th July 2009 - 7 bright orange lights seen over Stanford North, Kent
4th July 2008 - 3 orange lights seen over Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Described as very fast.
etc. etc. The two sites linked to multiple times during these sightings will provide many more similar things.
So what could they be?
Meteors: given the distances some were seen over within one hour (such as the 30th May sightings in northern Kent, down through to Dover) it is unlikely these can be explained by anything other than a meteor(s). Not only can meteors look like stable fireballs, some can also "flash" on and off.
Chinese Lanterns and "hoax" fire lit bags: I think the below video from Southampton shows the stunning effect that Chinese lanterns can have. The effect is amazingly similar to the reports described above. Also many descriptions indicate it looked like the top half of a jellyfish, which is again consistent with some sort of illuminated "bag". Do people really let off that many Chinese lanterns around the south east?? Erm... yes they do. This news story from Thanet last month indicates that not only are the emergency services being called about them more often "especially this summer" but also has comments from people stating they themselves have used them a number of times so far this year... just in Thanet! Also see this news story regarding video below.
Here's more videos from Kent this year which I think are very similar, if at a great a distance and filmed very badly, to the video above. The concept of them "rising" and also the Snodland report stating an object could still be seen rising even after the light extinguished again back up this theory.
Hot air balloons: You may think me mad, but Kent is well known for having hot air balloons up in the sky. Leeds Castle, near the centre of the county, has regular air balloon flights which travel for miles in all directions. As a kid in Snodland, we'd take great delight when we'd see one of these in trouble over the town as we knew they'd land over in the rec which meant we'd get to have a good look! At night it is difficult to see the outline of the balloons but easy to spot the flashing light caused by the fire inside the basket. I have, more than once, had to take a second look at the night sky before realising that "UFO" was in fact a hot air balloon.
Aliens/interdimensional beings/otherwise fortean explanation. This becomes difficult here... Of almost all the reports of the lights I can see no reason to believe they are intelligently controlled. Few make any abrupt turns, few seem to move at inexplicably fast speeds (check out the video above again, those lights are moving plenty fast and it doesn't seem that windy of a day!). Others say the lights "move at different speeds". Well yes aerodynamics and different wind speeds in different layers of air can explain that.
I think what we have here are many reports of Chinese lanterns, a few meteors, a couple of hot air balloons and a few sightings that remain "unexplained" but probably not "Fortean". If you really don't believe people can't tell the difference between Chinese Lanterns and "a craft" just check out this report from my hometown of Folkestone, Kent to see how easy a misidentification can be.
This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist