Strange floating objects and eerie bright lights were among the record number of Unidentified Flying Objects that Canadians spotted in the sky in 2008, according to Winnipeg-based Ufology Research.
The volunteer group of a half-dozen researchers said Canadians made a total of 1,004 UFO sightings in 2008 — up more than 25 per cent from the previous year and the highest number in the 20 years Ufology has been keeping track.
"It's astonishing to me that we had such a dramatic increase," spokesman Chris Rutkowski said.
"It could be an indication that there's actually something up there seen in greater numbers than ever before, it could be that there are perhaps more military flights, it could be … that people are more able to access websites where they can report the UFOs."
Stars, airplanes account for most sightings
Ufology combs official and unofficial sources for its data — everything from Defence Department reports to videos posted on YouTube. The majority of sightings turn out to be airplanes, stars or some other run-of-the-mill source.
But between one and 10 per cent of sightings every year remain mysterious and enticing to UFO fans.
"It doesn't necessarily mean that the aliens are here, but it suggests there is a real physical phenomenon that is being observed and should be taken a little more seriously by scientists and the lay public alike," said Rutkowski, who holds a degree in astronomy.
"It's not something that is necessarily out of this world, it could be something from this world, but at this point we simply don't know."
Floating car in Saskatchewan
One of the big mysteries from 2008 occurred near Wadena, Sask., last March, when people in two vehicles reported seeing an object the size of a car float quickly across a rural highway. Witnesses said the object never touched the ground, and no tracks were found.
"There was no cross-street or cross-road at that point, which really puzzled us, and the witnesses were absolutely flabbergasted by what they had seen," Rutkowski said.
More recently, Winnipegger Sheryl Ducharme, 39, saw some strange lights while out walking one cold night.
"It wasn't blinking like a plane, and it was so bright that it caught my eye," she said.
"I watched it for maybe 45 seconds, and then it shot up into the sky so fast. It just shot straight up and disappeared. And it was so striking that I gasped because it was just something I had never seen before."
Ducharme said she has always been open to the idea of extraterrestrials, and isn't sure what she saw.
"Perhaps it was some sort of spacecraft, or some sort of military [plane]. But there was absolutely no sound."
Ontario residents were the busiest sky-watchers in 2008, with 334 reported sightings. British Columbia placed second with 272 and Alberta was third with 157.