[UPDATE BELOW] Yesterday afternoon we received this shocking photographic evidence of people looking up at a UFO in Chelsea. The tipster who sent it told us bystanders "saw two white dots that were just hovering. This seemed to convince them that it was a UFO because they were absolutely still. They were pointing east almost straight down 23rd. Myself and a number of other people were straining our eyes to see something, anything but no luck. One guy was like 'How can you not see it? It's right there!' While walking back to my work (and scanning the skies) I saw a white object hovering near the Empire State building but it looked like a balloon maybe catching the sun just right? I don't know. I want to believe."
We declined to publish the photo, out of concern that we might set off a War of the Worlds-type panic. (Also, Jake said it was probably a viral marketing stunt.) Other publications were not so responsible, and today one local tabloid went to press with photos of what appears to be a silvery alien space craft. Or some balloons. Actually, when you watch this video, it's pretty obvious these are balloons. Or maybe that's just what we want you to think, because we're in on it.
On the other hand, area man Tim Powell described the objects as "the most bizarre thing I've ever seen," telling the Post, "It looked like a jellyfish made of lights that just hovered in the sky like it wanted to be seen. I was half expecting the aliens to beam down and introduce themselves." ABC has a pretty persuasive segment on it, and here's a compendium of sightings from around the world yesterday. But FAA spokesman Jim Peters says, "We re-ran radar to see if there was anything there that we can't account for but there is nothing in the area. There was some helicopter traffic over the river at that time and we checked with LaGuardia Tower. And they said they had nothing going low at that time."
As we noted in our weather report yesterday, a retired NORAD officer predicted that UFOs would visit the earth's major cities on Oct. 13th. Oddly enough, he's promoting a book! But that's probably just a weird coincidence unrelated to yesterday's close encounter.
UPDATE 12 p.m.: Photographer Katie Sokoler writes in to say, "Just so you know...I can tell you exactly what those ufo things are you just posted about. Yellow balloons! I was in Times Square yesterday afternoon and there was a marketing stunt going on where people were handing out hundreds and hundreds of yellow balloons with some company name on it. When they handed them out people would let go of them and let them fly away so the sky was totally filled with them (it looked exactly the like video you posted). Some people would let go of huge bundles of balloons which are of the pictures you posted."
But these balloons, released into our environment to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Madrid's Gran Via Avenue, were yellow, not silver! We asked Sokoler—who also doubles as Gothamist's resident UFO expert—how she explains that, and she says, "They just look like that because the sun was shining through them. When they got up high they just sort of bobbed around in the sky. I was going to take a picture but I refused! They were doing this whole big stunt just so that people would take pictures of it and then their company or event gets promoted all over the internet. I didn't want to give in to their sneaky advertising."
Sounds like a perfectly reasonable explanation... Almost too perfect, when you think about it.