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Mysterious light show over Martin City remains unexplained

Daily Inter Lake | November 15, 2023 11:00 PM

When O’Brien Byrd woke up to a strange light coming through his bedroom window in Martin City early Wednesday morning, he knew something odd was going on.

It was about 4:30 a.m. when the large stationary light caught Byrd’s attention, prompting him to get out of bed and venture onto his deck for a better look.

“When I got outside and had an unobstructed view, I saw that it was exactly what I thought it was. It was four points of light — a top, bottom, left and right — that were grouped tightly together and hovering in the sky surrounded by a bright pulsing light. The points were about the size of the stars or a bit larger. Altogether, with the pulsing light, it was about 10 times the size of the largest star in the sky,” Byrd said. “This was definitely not a star and it was not the moon. You could tell it was inside our atmosphere. There was no sound and it did not move, while the stars around it did. I just kept thinking ‘What could this possibly be?’”

Byrd watched the object hover above at what he estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000 feet for more than 20 minutes before deciding to find a way to get a closer look. While Byrd does not own a telescope, as a self-described “classic Montana redneck hunting machine,” he grabbed his spotting scope and tripod and ran back downstairs to get a better look at the object in the sky.

The still images and video he captured through the scope only added to the mystery. 

Through the scope, Byrd confirmed his earlier observations of a spherical object with four lights inside, only now he could see that the rapid pulsating light was changing colors, from red to blue to green and more, just as quickly. 

After continuing to watch for several more minutes, Byrd decided to go inside and warm himself up. That’s when the encounter got even stranger.

“As I turned around, there off to the south, there was another one,” he said. “I blinked a couple of times and noticed a third one to the south that was a little bit west, further away and faint. This was not some weird reflection, this was absolutely a third object.”

Byrd continued inside to grab his coffee. When he returned outside, the strange lights had disappeared.

    An unknown object photographed in the skies west of Martin City early Wednesday morning, Nov. 8. (O'Brien Byrd photo)

WHILE SOME might write Byrd’s sighting off as an atmospheric anomaly or a misidentified sighting of a planet in the night sky, the phenomenon of mysterious lights in the sky over the Flathead is not a new one.

According to records kept by the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), Flathead Valley residents have reported other unidentified objects flying overhead in the past decade, with several reports nearly identical to the one described by Byrd.

A Feb. 5, 2014 report to CUFOS from Columbia Falls described an “extremely bright light southwest of Columbia Falls. It looked like a very bright star, or distant white sun. It slowly moved behind the horizon, and was pure white and flickered like a star, but was way too bright.”

Montana is no stranger to unidentified aerial phenomenon, with one of the more famous cases in history occurring at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls in the spring of 1967. In that incident, several witnesses reported an unidentified object hovering above the base’s nuclear missile silos before more than two dozen of the missiles went offline for several minutes. 

According to Kalispell resident Mikki Radabah, the mysterious lights over the valley are a near nightly occurrence.

“I have been seeing these things for years and I have been wondering why nobody has been talking about it,” Radabah said. “After my husband passed away, I would find myself outside at night often just watching the stars. One night, something caught my eye that I couldn’t explain and I have been seeing them ever since. You can see them almost every night, if you know where to look. They are colorful and they spin very fast. I am not a conspiracy theorist or anything, but I have no idea what they are.”

According to Radabah, the mysterious lights can be seen rising up from both the east and west and can even be seen on nights with complete cloud cover, ruling out satellites and stars as possible explanations.

“I don’t know what they are. Maybe they are satellites, but I don’t think that is how satellites work. Besides, you can even see them below the cloud cover some nights. It’s just not normal, and I have enjoyed watching the skies my whole life,” she said. “My husband was always interested in aliens and all of that, but I wasn’t interested. I didn’t want to hear about it and then I started seeing these things for myself. I still don’t think we are being visited by aliens or anything like that, but I do think it is something.”

Inquiries to NASA, NORAD and the FAA about the Byrd sighting have gone unanswered so far, leaving the question unanswered — just what are people seeing in the skies over the Flathead Valley?

While MUFON did not respond to questions about the sighting, CUFOS Scientific Director Mark Rodeghier was quick to dismiss the incidents in the Flathead Valley.

“This happened very recently and reports have not reached us yet, but I would suspect this is a simple case of misidentification,” he said. “When we get reports of an object hovering for a prolonged amount of time, that is usually the case. Venus is nearing its brightest point in the sky right now and it would be easy to mistake it for a large, bright and unmoving object. It happens all the time.”

While that explanation might satisfy some, Byrd and Radabah insist what they saw was no planet.

“I was really happy to see that somebody else was looking and had noticed these things. Even if it is satellites or whatever it is, I want to know what they are doing up there over our town,” Radabah said.

“Does it look like a classic UFO from the movies? I would say not really, but then again I have never seen a UFO before now,” Byrd said. “I’m not blind. I know what stars look like. I know what comets look like and I know what StarLink satellites look like. I have seen the northern lights my whole life. This was not any of those. Someone had to have been monitoring the skies last night. Someone has to know what these things are.”

Reporter Jeremy Weber can be reached at