Or more specifically, a bunch of sky lantern that caused much confusion.
In 2003, a friend got me and bunch of my other friends to buy several batches of sky lanterns or “UFO balloons” as they were sold as. They work like small hot air balloons that you assemble yourself and launch into the sky. The construction of a balloon was quite simple, made with one big light-weight plastic bag, two copper wires and a piece of paraffin. The assembly started with piercing the two wires through the paraffin perpendicular to form a cross. Then the ends of the wires were pierced through the plastic bag, near the opening, and bent and twisting to stay in place.
To launch them, one held the bag upside down and set the paraffin on fire. After a few seconds, the bag would fill up with hot air and be ready for release. Ideally this should be done after sunset and when there is no or very little wind.
They were cool to launch and neat to look at. It was not hard to understand why they were called “UFO balloons”. Seeing them slowly drifting off into the distance was like looking at something from a Sci-fi movie or UFO documentary.
I don’t remember how many times we released balloons or the exact dates. I just remember it was a bunch of times and that I did not participate in all of them.
The public’s reaction
When we first launched them, I had no idea if anyone would see them or what they would think. I thought that maybe one or two people would get fooled and that we would never hear of it. But I was wrong. Many people not only saw them, but contacted the police, emergency service and/or the local newspaper as well.
After one launch, the following was printed in the local newspaper.
Paraphrased translation: Sometimes strange things can be observed in the sky. Marianne and many others observed in the evening a light phenomenon, that neither the emergency service center or the airport traffic control can explain.
– You could see bright points in the sky that looked like yellow white stars, flying very slowly. No sound was heard and the lights didn’t blink as on a airplane. They moved east and disappeared, said Marianne.
The newspaper followed up the next day with another text.
Paraphrased translation: More people have come forward to tell us about the light phenomenon in the sky. Kristina saw, together with her boyfriend, something strange in the sky when they were in central Halmstad. It looked like the stars Marianne described.
– It was like a weird and unusual constellation, that move fairly quickly. My first thought was that it looked like an elongated Big dipper with six stars. They move completely synchronized. The real stars were out, but they look insignificant in comparison, said Kristina.
The lights move toward the city center and disappeared one by one. The last two lights disappeared in separate directions.
Around Saturday midnight, Diana also witnessed six lights that shined with a yellow light and moved slowly over the sky.
– We were at a wedding and everyone saw it. They didn’t move with constant speed and were grouped three and three.
These reports somehow got to the seller of the balloons, who then contacted the newspaper to explain the light phenomenon. The seller explains what they were and that they are not meant to cause confusion. The are were meant to be a beautiful light display and a soundless alternative to fireworks.
(Skipping translation as the article does not contain anything not already said)
This did not completely stop the confusion though. Three weeks later, after another launch of balloons, the newspaper once again had to publish the same explanation of the phenomenon.
Then, after yet another launch (one which I know I missed out on), the local TV news did a report.
Below is my Paraphrased transcript of the clip. (Spoken Swedish can be weird if directly translated to English and I have taken some liberties in translation to make it less weird, but it is still a bit awkward.)
Newsreader: Once again mysterious light have been seen above the county. Both the police and the organization “UFO Sweden” have received reports about lights that a witness managed to capture on camera.
Witness (man): When I was standing on the balcony and smoked, I saw a couple of lights in the sky. I yelled at my love to come and look.
Witness (woman): The first thing I though of, was to run home and grab the video camera as fast as possible. Which I did and went out and filmed it. And I thought, what is this?
Voice over: Yes, the Sunday night light phenomenon is still a mystery. On the video the lights are clearly visible on the night sky.
Voice over: And at the same time, two students at the university’s observatory also got to see something out of the ordinary.
Student 1: There was about 15 to 20 fire balls the came in from the side, from right to left.
Student 2: At first I thought that this can’t be something weird. But after a while, I got thinking that this is very peculiar. I were surprised by them to say the least.
Voice over: One that isn’t surprised is the chairman for “UFO Sweden”. He claims that the mysterious lights are so called “UFO balloons”.
Chairman for “UFO Sweden”: They are launched as an alternative to fireworks. They are sold in the thousands. We have contact with a retailer here in Sweden and he usually tell us when he has sold a large batch. He told us a while ago that he has sent a large batch to people in Halmstad.
Witness (woman): They didn’t move as balloons, so I don’t believe in that theory.
Reporter: But if we start talking about UFO here, what will people around you say?
Witness (woman): They will probably think I’m crazy and should be locked up, but I think there is something out there. I’m convinced of it.
It was fun to see the reactions to our launches, but after we saw this TV report, we felt it was time to go public. Personally I felt that when we made people believe in aliens despite being shown evidence of the opposite, our shenanigan had gone far enough.
The local newspaper, Hallandsposten, was contacted and invited to join a launch. They came, interviewed us and took a bunch of pictures. We got a small blurb on the front page and an article on page 6 the following day.
Paraphrased translation: “Mysterious lights uncovered”. For a month they have confused Halmstad and made people call the police and newspapers. It is a gang of 20 year old boys that is behind the mysterious lights in the sky. – It is exciting to see how people reacts. But it also looks cool when the balloons are in the sky, says Daniel. The UFO balloons that they launch originates from festivals in Thailand.
“Mysterious lights” in the sky
HP meets the boys that made the people of Halmstad curious
Six time have they launched their shining balloons and each time, have the police and newspapers received calls about “mysterious lights” in the sky.
Yesterday evening, HP tagged along with the UFO-boys that have confounded Halmstad the past month.
They launched, at nine in the evening, 16 balloons with burning paraffin as fuel. They sailed south for about 10 minutes, as long as the fuel lasted.
– It is a fun activity, says Rickard.
It is exiting to see how people reacts, Daniel adds. But is also a cool thing to see in the sky.
It is a gang of 6-7 boys that know each other since they started school about 15 years ago.
[Text continues with describing what the balloons are]
This was basically the end our launches of UFO balloons. I know we did at least one launch after this, but it was years later and didn’t get any attention as far as I know. The launch was in memory of a dear friend that had passed away and I used my last balloons for that launch.
I can’t help but to think of this experience whenever I hear of an UFO report. It has made me very skeptical of them (more than before). The whole thing has shown me that it takes very little to make people to think of UFO:s. I believe there is probably a lot of unexplained phenomenons out there, but I think it is very unlikely that they are caused by aliens or any other “higher beings”.