The Cleveland Lights: Investigating the Mysterious UFOs over the ‘Mistake by the Lake’

The Cleveland Lights: Investigating the Mysterious UFOs over the ‘Mistake by the Lake’

Cleveland Lights

Cleveland is known for some pretty weird things. The city is the home of the Torso Murders, investigated by Elliot Ness himself, and just north of the childhood home of Jeffrey Dahmer (who drank with several people I’ve met before who described him as a “nice, quiet guy”). And strangest of all, the Cuyahoga River earned its nickname “the Burning River” from the dozen or so times it literally caught fire from being so polluted. Perhaps this is why some of us locals lovingly refer to it as the “Mistake by the Lake”.

Yet there’s another strange local oddity that keeps appearing and still mystifies those who are fortunate enough to see it. Known as the Lake Erie Lights, or Cleveland Lights, strange colored balls of light appear at irregular times in the night sky near the city. While many colors are reported—even color-changing lights—it seems the most common experience is seeing red or orange lights (sometimes described as fireballs). Sometimes flying solo, sometimes in a triangular pattern or even appearing in clusters of over a dozen, the Cleveland Lights.

To give you a better idea, here is a partial list of some recent sightings in the Greater Cleveland Area, beginning with the most recent:

  • January 12, 2014ClevelandFifteen red balls of light were seen moving very fast in the western sky, crossing paths of inbound planes landing at Hopkins and disappearing over Lake Erie. They were witnessed from a 6th floor apartment window for approximately four minutes.
  • November 23, 2013ParmaAn “orange fireball…dripping smaller balls” moving slowly from east to west, disappearing and reappearing along a straight path, suddenly shot off and vanished.
  • October 27, 2013LorainEight deep red objects (described as looking like “Christmas ornaments”, possibly round in shape) traveled west to east across Lake Erie moving in synchronized speed as pairs of twos following a cluster of four.
  • October 19, 2013BrecksvilleA school teacher observed “20 large red spherical shapes” traveling east and getting closer together as they neared Wallings Road and I-77.
  • July 27, 2013Seven HillsA Jasmine Drive resident observed four “round orange-red balls” heading north approximately a mile above Pleasant Valley Road. They were followed by two pairs of similar lights following behind them. And unidentifiable aircraft was following to the west of the lights.
  • June 28, 2013Cleveland HeightsAt least six people witnessed five bright orange-red “dime-sized orbs” in the night sky to the east. At different times, they hovered, grew brighter, and moved west. Three of the lights traveled in a triangular formation. The lights were observed for around 20 minutes.
  • July 11, 2012Valley ViewA woman in a movie theater parking lot watched a red pulsating light heading south from the northeast sky. As it approached her location, it stopped and turned southwest, again at a slow constant speed. A “red pointy tail of light” appeared off the rear of the light as it stopped and “blinked out”.
  • November 29, 2011LakewoodA “fireball looking object” traveling straight south to north below the cloud layer crossed in front of the path of a descending commercial aircraft and disappeared over Lake Erie. A similar object, taking a similar path, was observed by the witness’ brother 3-4 weeks prior.
  • October 8, 2010Bath TownshipA pilot observed a bright orange “disc shaped craft”cross the sky from west to east at an estimated altitude of 3,000 to 4,000 feet MSL (above sea level) traveling approximately 250-300 knots. The object, estimated to be 2-4 miles away, emitted no noise and had no marker lights.

What exactly are people seeing in the night sky over Cleveland? Low-temperature ball lightning? Model airplanes? Alien spacecraft? Maybe even the disembodied souls of Cleveland meteorologists trying desperately to understand Ohio’s unpredictable weather? Or could it be top secret aerospace technology being tested over the Great Lakes?

A 2011 still from footage of the Lake Erie Lights filmed by Michael Lee Hill of Cleveland.

A still frame from footage of the Lake Erie Lights filmed by Michael Lee Hill of Cleveland in 2011.

Interestingly enough, while most people focus on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as being the government installation for space and UFO weirdness, people completely forget about NASA’s Glenn Research Center (formerly known as Lewis Research Center) south of downtown Cleveland in Brook Park, Ohio. Not only is it in close proximity to many “red light” sightings, it’s also where rockets and specialty aircraft are tested and where the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project was headquartered (think antigravity propulsion and ruminating on the idea of a “warp drive”). Then, or course, there’s the interesting fact that only 30 miles south, there’s a Lockheed Martin facility in Akron, Ohio.

Just another day at NASA Glenn. Nothing to see here, folks!

Just another day at NASA Glenn. Nothing to see here, folks!

This does not mean that NASA Glenn is harboring some form of Roswell wreckage or reverse engineering alien technologies. According to the Coast Guard, what people are seeing are the red flashing aircraft warning lamps on radio towers and wind turbines near the shores. Yet this doesn’t account for the heights and movements sometimes experienced by witnesses. Even beacon lights on aircraft aren’t always a suitable explanation, as these lights blink regularly and are seen on takeoff and landing from nearby Hopkins International Airport on a nightly basis. Most Clevelanders are quite familiar with seeing airplane lights in the sky, though we can’t rule out this misidentification in all cases. And yes, there have been people who’ve captured the lights on video:

Strange red lights flying around Ohio might not be such a new phenomenon after all, though. As early as 1867, reports of “Wizard Lights” appearing like a “vessel on fire” over Lake Erie were reportedHaunted Ohio series author Chris Woodyard recently wrote on her blog about an unexplained red light witnessed in northwest Ohio known as the “Phantom Light of Deakin’s Woods” (a two-part post). Though believed to be a ghost or phantom, the reports sound somewhat similar to modern-day red light sightings in some aspects… except for the fact that they occurred in 1924. Could those bright red lights above the trees 90 years ago be somehow related to modern-day sightings around Lake Erie?

Have you witnessed strange red lights in the skies over Cleveland? We want to hear about it! Share your experiences on FacebookTwitter, or leave your story in the comments below.


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Ken Summers
Ken Summers is a historical researcher and purveyor of strange tales and forgotten hauntings. An explorer of haunted sites since 1995 and the apologetic creator of the "orb color chart," he has always endeavored to balance eager curiosity with logical questioning in the pursuit of truth. Ken is reluctant to call himself either a skeptic or a believer, yet throughout his life, he has had strange experiences that fall under the category of "unexplained". His last book, Queer Hauntings, was published in 2009.
Ken Summers
Ken Summers

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FYI, the locals don’t “lovingly” call Cleveland the “Mistake On The Lake”. Only ignorant buffoons who have never been there and listen to others talk about call it that.

Chris Savia

Have they ruled out fata morgana?

The Whole Mistake by The Lake Theme Was Unnecessary. There Is An International Airport In Cleveland and an Airstrip Right Behind Cleveland Browns Stadium. Air Traffic Is Non-Stop 24/7 In That Area……..Also I Refuse To Tweet This Article Because Of The Negative Pot Shot You Took At The City Of Cleveland, Ohio

Four of us witnessed the lights on Saturday, July 19, 2014. Standing outside our lakefront home in Euclid, several (at least a dozen,)red balls traveled north-easterly over the lake, all in the same trajectory before dissipating into a cloudless sky. We assumed they were luminary balloons, but we did not witness a launching pattern.

Most of these sightings of red or orange balls or orbs are probably Chinese lanterns.

Of course, Dick Goddard is an alien!

April 20th, 2014 at approximately 2100 I witnessed something strange in the sky northwest of North Ridgeville. At a glance I thought it was mars but the object made me do a double take. Upon closer observation I found the object to be approximately three times the size of what Mars would be normally seen by the naked eye. I would describe the object as being a pulsating fireball. After observing the object for approximately two minutes, it disappeared. I am a man of science and would expect there to be a logical explanation for the sighting.

On May 2,2014 I saw a red orange fireball traveling from west to east at 9:45 p.m.It was low in the sky and was gone after about 30 seconds when it disappeared over my Parma.I know what planes and helicopters look like in the sky and this was not that.It made no noise.I am 62 yrs old and have never seen anything like this before.

Tonight, approx. 10:30 pm, my son and I saw the same red ball of light in the skies. I live in Lorain, off of East Erie Ave. Standing in my back yard, the lake is to my West. The light was approx. off the coast of Sheffield Lake, so it was to my north east. My son and I watched the light for a few minutes, it was moving slowly, no particular direction and no noise. After a few minutes it disappeared. As we turned to go back in the house, we were facing south west, we saw the light… Read more »
In the sky, during sun set, on the western horizon of the Cleveland sky, I witnessed a three orange lights formation that was first close to each other and then in perfect formation created a triagular points formation that accelerated outwardly in to a large triangular formation. In the center of the triangle a similar orange “fireball sphere” appeared and then multiple smaller round lights flew out of it and flew in speeds and agles and stopping in and instant. Some spheres flew towards the earth and others flews sideways. This lasted ten minutes or so, then all lights lined… Read more »

July 4th 2014…. in Gatineau area Quebec … we saw two red orange lights in the sky at around 10pm and they were about 5 minutes appart…. very weird

After seeing strange erratic lights moving in a incredibly fast, close, triangular pattern around 10:00pm on July 15, 2014 over the waters of Lake Erie over the city of Norteast, PA., I was brought to this link immediately after googling, “erratic lights over Lake Erie”. This wasn’t a continuously illuminated orb as the Lake Erie Lights described, rather were pulsating in a triangular pattern and continuously appeared and disappeared in Eastern, Western and Central parts of the sky. I could not describe it as a satellite, commet or conventional aircraft by these observations so I looked it up online. I… Read more »

I saw 3 of these last night 9/12/14 at approximately 9:30 PM
The first appeared off to the south east and went towards the west and then two more appeared in the eastern sky and followed the same path

At 2:00 am until 3:00 am on 7/23/15, I watched for an hour as 5 separate orange/red orbs traveled from east to west over Lake Erie, west of Cleveland. Each maintained a similar flight path and made no sound. I called Bay Village police and the dispatcher confirmed that he could actually see them on their north-facing web cam. I’m a licensed pilot and these were not any type of conventional aircraft or ground-based lighting. They were moving against the prevailing wind at about 100 to 200 knots. I have video and photos as proof.

Saw a burning red spherical object moving across the sky laterally, heading towards lake Erie in Wickliffe Ohio. Tonight at approximately 830 pm. It was not an aircraft. It looked like a hot air balloon but they don’t move that fast or at night. Seemed like it just disappeared into the sky.

I have over a hundred and twenty still photos and one night and one dusk video of a strange light that appears in my nieghborhood atleast twice a week and hovers silently changes shape and color. If you live on the west side keep an eye on the sky at the denison and ridge area, dont be surprised if you spot it. I,ve been watching it for about 4 months. Very strange????

I had no idea Cleveland was such a center of weirdness. Looks like I’ll have to take a visit sometime in the future.

In any case, I’m surprised no one’s started yelling out “SWAMP GAS” for this one, especially considering how polluted the Cuyahoga River seems to be.

Actually the river is quite cleaner than it was in the sixties and seventies, so there’s not much of a chance of swamp gas claims anymore! Definitely put this place on the map to visit. Also don’t miss out on: The area home to the urban legend of the Melonheads (Kirtland, Chardon), the Gore Orphanage (if you’re into haunts) and my absolute favorite, Helltown, in Boston Township (not too close to CLE but worth the drive). Helltown may really be the scariest and weirdest of all things strange in Ohio, though some say it’s all BS. All I know is,… Read more »