Are we being visited by intelligent life forms from another world? Photo: Jim Rice (Illustration)
Have the people in Cardwell been munching on too many sunflower seeds?
Or like the fictional FBI agent with a penchant for the floral snack believed, is the truth really out there?
Sheryl Gottschall, a clinical hypnotherapist and the president of UFO Research Queensland, an organisation dating back to 1956, firmly believes it to be the latter.
“We receive on average about 100 sightings per year in Queensland, during the '90s, we were a lot busier, we used to get between 500 and 800 per year,” the Jindalee resident said.
“But there are more avenues now for people to report their experiences.”
There have been at least two reports in the northern Queensland of Cardwell, about 165 kilometres north of Townsville, of mysterious lights flying in the evening sky.
The lights were seen at least two months ago, but witnesses have just come forward.
One witness told the Townsville Bulletin he saw “two orange lights” with “no beam and no noise” moving north-west across the sky, which he didn't believe to come from a man-made earthly craft.
Another couple reported seeing the unidentified lights on two nights and the Bulletin reported a witness as claiming he knew seven people who had seen the lights.
A video of the two lights moving side by side was provided to the media by one witness.
Ms Gottschall said in her 25 years experience with the UFO Research society, which meets monthly at the Kenmore Library, Queenslanders tended to report more sightings than in other Australian states.
“I do think we get more reports in Queensland, purely because, well in Western Australia it is a much bigger state, you are looking at population compared to size and there is more of the Australian population on the eastern coast,” she said.
“So in Queensland and New South Wales, that is where you tend to get a lot of sightings from but it is here, in Queensland, where it seems to be that people report them. I don't hear of as many reports in other states as you do here in Queensland.
“At times, there have been a lot of reports from the Northern Territory, particularly from the central part of that area [as well].”
In terms of Queensland sightings, Ms Gottschall said it was not unusual for certain areas to become “hotspots”.
“Those hotspots have been located in Gympie [north of the Sunshine Coast] and they've been located in the Brisbane Valley and up around the Tully [about 210 kilometres north of Townsville] area, there have been a lot of landing traces in the Tully area and there is documented evidence of that,” she said.
“We don't know why they are hot spots, we don't know why it happens, it just does. Some locations just become very popular.”
Those sightings tend to follow a familiar pattern – unidentified lights in the sky that are behaving in a way their viewers don't believe to be normal.
But it is the close sightings the group are particularly interested in, Ms Gottschall said, as those experiences which offer the most clues.
“People can give very good descriptions and then we can discern whether that is man-made or not,” she said.
“And typically, we are looking for things in relation to the craft, whether there are any seams or not, which is something we do here on earth, but there are people who report craft that are seamless, or they can actually touch them in some cases and they won't feel like any sort of metal, they might seem like a living thing.”
As for the Cardwell sightings, Ms Gottschall said she can only comment from what she has seen and heard in the media; but she wasn't ruling anything out.
“Just looking at the objects in the video clip, we just see two lights, moving along, seemingly silently and pacing each other. The could be two lights on one larger object or two separate lights,” she said.
“I believe one of the witnesses I heard interviewed said the lights, as they went away, he could see that there was one on top of the other.
“So they could be anything. It is too hard to discern exactly what that was, but that doesn't discount the fact that they may have seen some extraterrestrial vehicle.”