PORTLAND, Maine — A recent story we published about the rising numbers of UFO sightings in Maine drew a hearty number of reader responses.

Some folks wanted to make pithy retorts deriding the singular tales. Others sought to explain them away. Most wanted to chime in with their own first-hand accounts of strange aerial phenomena occurring high over the Pine Tree State.

“It went from here to Topsham in the blink of an eye. No kidding. It was fast,” wrote Kathleen McKechnie in Bowdoinham. “It was so fast, I couldn’t be more positive. I saw a UFO.”

Deb Doherty of Steep Falls also saw something: “I was driving on Route 114 from Gorham to Sebago Lake Village with my sister in law, back in the 90s, and as we crested a hill there was a bright orange thing streaking across the sky.”

They both witnessed it.

“She responded with, ‘People already think we’re nuts. Don’t tell anyone,” Doherty said. “We laughed but I have always wondered.”

A few other readers had laughs, too.

“Maine has a high rate of Allen’s Coffee Brandy drinkers too,” wrote one commenter. “Any connection?”

Scott Simcock of South Paris also had a chuckle: “I believe it by the high numbers of anal probes left on the ground in the parking lot by the pond.”

But the majority of people who got in touch just told their own UFO stories. Here are three of them.

Kathleen Thurnau, 73, was an 18-year-old English major at the University of Southern Maine in 1965 when she saw something she still can’t explain.

One night, in early winter, Thurnau awoke to an odd noise coming from outside. It was a roaring, with a high-pitched squeak. She got up and looked out the Robie-Andrew girls dormitory window atop the hill in Gorham. Looking down, toward Campus Avenue, Thurnau saw lights through the swirling flakes.

The lights cycled between three points, as if they were attached to a dark, triangular shape. But she still thought it was a snowplow, until they moved.

“There’s no way a truck could move that fast,” Thurnau said.

The lights then shot down Campus Avenue and out of sight. Thurnau moved to another window with a better view and then watched the orbs racing up the hill toward the boys dormitory.

“No drugs were involved — as I never did them, amazingly,” Thurnau said.

The next day, she called the police but they had no explanation for her. Thurnau didn’t call them a UFO when talking to the police. She thought they would laugh at her.

“I’ve never forgotten, and it’s probably why I am such a sci-fi nut,” said Thurnau, who grew up in Southwest Harbor and now lives in Missouri. “We cannot be the only beings in this vast universe. We are regular church-goers and my faith is extremely important to me, as I believe it guides my life, but I also believe I saw a UFO when I was 18.”

Another reader told a more recent tale. The Portland resident asked to remain anonymous.

“I can hear the pot jokes now,” he said. “Happy to help but I’m just not the one that needs to move the ball forward on Martians.”

The summer before last, he and his partner were driving west on Route 302 in Windham when the encounter occurred. Just above their car, a UFO appeared for no more than a second.

“It was oval-ish, with a red light that could have been part of a propulsion system, as it moved in the opposite direction of the light,” he said. “I didn’t know what the hell it was.”

Judging by its size, he reckons it was huge, or flying very low, or both.

At the next red light, a dump truck pulled up beside them.

“I rolled down my window and asked him if he just saw that,” the man said.

The driver nodded and said that he had.

“Whoa, that’s uncanny,” he said back to the driver, “Pretty trippy.”

The man said he’s not sure what he saw that night but can neither rule out aliens or a government conspiracy to make the public believe in extraterrestrial visitors. But he wonders, if there really are aliens, why can’t they make direct contact — or at least be better at hiding themselves?

Christine Morrill and her husband Allan, of Waterboro, had an experience in 1978 but never told anyone about it until now. They were 19- and 22-year-old newlyweds at the time. It happened near Ross Corner, near the Wells town line, as they made their way home from a barbecue in Newfield.

“Allan was driving, when all of a sudden a blinding light shone down on the back of the car,” she said. “The next second, it was in front of the car. Then, a second later, it was gone. The road and sky were dark again.”

They never got a look at where the light was coming from. It was too bright. At first, they thought it was a friend, playing a trick, driving up behind them with a spotlight.

“Then we quickly realized there was no sound,” Morrill said. “Our windows were down. It was a warm night.”

Stunned, they drove home in silence, each turning the experience over in their minds.

A week later, Allan was talking to a friend, who was also a York County Deputy Sheriff. He told of a busy night, a week before, when his office received multiple calls about unexplained lights in the sky over that same neck of the woods.

Still, the Morrills kept silent about what happened for the next 43 years.

“We knew people would laugh,” Christine said. “Even today I think of it like a scene right out of a movie — except it really happened.”

Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.