'Unexplained Files' Explores UFOs, Moth Men and Alien Diseases

ufo-like aircraft
A new Science Channel series investigates UFOs and other mysterious phenomena. (Image credit: CleanEra, Delft University of Technology)

UFOs visit a small town in Argentina, a red-eyed winged beast terrorizes a town in West Virginia, and a bizarre disease afflicts people with inexplicable lesions. The Science Channel's "Unexplained Files," premiering tonight (Sept. 18) at 9 p.m. ET, explores the basis — if any — for these mysterious legends.

Joaquin V Gonzalez, a town in the Argentine Andes, seems to be a magnet for unidentified flying objects. In 2009, more than 30 people reportedly witnessed a long, bright, cigar-shaped light hovering in the sky. Meanwhile, the town lost power for several hours, with no apparent cause.

But it wasn't the first time residents of the South American town believed they had encountered a UFO. In 1995, residents reported feeling two explosions shake the ground. Suspecting a plane crash, a search party scoured the area from the ground and the air, but found no signs of an aircraft. Instead, searchers found a giant strip of ground full of uprooted trees and mysterious white dust. An investigative journalist theorized that a meteorite caused the damage, but analysis of the dust revealed no evidence of one. [7 Things Most Likely Mistaken for UFOs]

No alien UFO reports have been substantiated by science, however, and eyewitness testimony is notoriously flawed.

The show's next stop is the West Virginia town of Point Pleasant, where legend tells of a horrifying creature. On a November night in 1966, two young couples reported encountering a 6.5- to 7-foot-tall headless creature with wings and red eyes in its chest. More sightings of the "mothman" followed. Some think it was a mass illusion. But a husband and wife, both psychiatric nurses, claim they both saw it.

Soon after the sightings, the Silver Bridge collapsed into the Ohio River, killing 46 people. Mothman believers think the beast is a harbinger of tragedy, and it's rumored that similar creatures were seen before the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.

And in Austin, Texas, an outbreak of a peculiar disease has sufferers convinced it comes from outer space. Patients break out with lesions all over their bodies from which multicolored fibers sprout. More than 20,000 people worldwide claim they suffer from so-called Morgellon's Disease.

Several scientists claim in the show that the strange fibers don't match any known synthetic or organic materials, and they may be produced by the body itself. Alternatively, they could be made by an undiscovered bacterium, possibly carried by a meteorite, some say. But the disease seems to strike randomly, making a bacterial cause unlikely.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a multi-year investigation of the condition, but found no disease organisms. The agency suggested patients might be delusional and inflict the wounds by scratching themselves.

Despite the lack of scientific evidence behind these mysterious phenomena, they remain fodder for the imagination.

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Tanya Lewis
Staff Writer
Tanya was a staff writer for Live Science from 2013 to 2015, covering a wide array of topics, ranging from neuroscience to robotics to strange/cute animals. She received a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Brown University. She has previously written for Science News, Wired, The Santa Cruz Sentinel, the radio show Big Picture Science and other places. Tanya has lived on a tropical island, witnessed volcanic eruptions and flown in zero gravity (without losing her lunch!). To find out what her latest project is, you can visit her website.