The buzz over Wednesday night's sky phenomenon intensified Friday as more and more people reported their experiences. Accounts of strange, loud noises and mysterious lights in the sky were coming from a wider area.
And as the mystery gained more attention, the number of theories grew. An astronomer in Greene suggested meteor fragments burning up in the atmosphere were the likely cause. Another Greene man was convinced the military was at the root of the phenomenon. And two men, including one who used to work on military craft, spotted jet fighters in the sky the night of the event.
There also were plenty of people who said they had not ruled out the possibility of the presence of beings from another planet.
As the range of reports of the event widened, folks from Wayne and Litchfield contacted the newspaper to relate their experiences. Those accounts were consistent with those from all over Androscoggin County ó men and women, young and old told of a roar from the sky so loud it rattled their homes. Some reported bright flares of light that made the night look like daytime. Some were curious, many afraid.
"It sounded like it was right over my house, and it was loud," said 35-year-old Karen Kenbrous, who lives in East Auburn. "I didn't go outside. I was nervous. I was expecting something to explode."
A doctor who lives in Auburn reported his experience with the phenomenon in a few terse but ominous sentences.
"That sound made me consider the end of the world," said John Comis. "I am not glad I heard it. But I never would have believed in it had I not."
People were openly talking about UFOs and motherships. Some were joking, some not. Others scoffed. And some solid theories were emerging.
"I believe that your observers were treated to an especially fine display of some tardy Perseid meteors," said John Neal, an amateur astronomer in Greene.
The Perseid meteor shower peaked the weekend of August 11th and 12th. Neal explained that bolides and extremely bright meteors leftover from that shower ó may be the culprits responsible for Wednesday's display.
"These fireballs or bolides are in fact extremely common," Neal said. "But most of them occur over the oceans, and many occur during daylight hours and so are not usually seen."
The bolides "can be isolated phenomena or can occur when the earth's orbit crosses the orbit of a comet," Neal said. "And it is in fact this latter circumstance which I believe is the cause of the recent unexplained lights and noises in the sky."
Others suspect military officials are simply not talking about aircraft they had in the sky Wednesday night.
"A friend of mine down the road, he saw it. It was a KC135 cargo jet," said Arthur Gagne, who lives in Greene. "He said it went right over the trees."
The jet may have been revving its engines as it prepared to land, Gagne said. And he suggested the military would not likely admit it had some massive aircraft flying so low.
Maurice Gauthier of Greene used to work on F-106 jet fighters in the U.S. Air Force. On Wednesday night, he said, several fighters flew over Sabattus, headed toward Greene.
"If they're in stealth mode, they probably didn't even show up on the radar," Gauthier said.
He described a maneuver in which the jet engine's thrust and an "after burner" propels the craft at amazing speeds, fire blazing from the rear of the plane.
"You get a rumble, and it lights up quite a bit," Gauthier said.
He agreed with Gagne that military officials might not readily admit to having jets in the area even though they were asked after Wednesday night's reports. On Thursday military officials in Maine said they had no aircraft in the area at the time of the reports, about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.
A report from Chris Jordan, who lives in a remote area of Turner, backs up Gauthier's account. He said at about that time, his house was shaken. When he went outside, he saw two fighter jets flying side by side.
"They were humming right along," Jordan said. "They turned, they crossed paths and then they flew off in different directions."
In spite of those accounts, suggestions of other world visitors persisted among some on Friday.
Stephanie Kelley-Romano, a professor at Bates College in Lewiston, has interviewed people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. She is teaching a course on it. She has been to Roswell, N.M., the site of the notorious Area 51, a military base where many believe an alien spacecraft landed decades ago. And she believes there is something to reports of extraterrestrial craft visiting the planet.
"It's always worth keeping an open mind," she said.
But Kelley-Romano is not convinced what dozens of people saw Wednesday night was necessarily a visitor from another world.
"What was reported doesn't necessarily appear to be the result of something intelligent. It didn't have deliberate movement," she said. "What would excite me is a light that will go left or right and then back again."
In East Auburn, Keneborus' daughter was outside Friday looking for meteor fragments, or anything that might be left behind by whatever caused the sensation. Keneborus herself was not discounting beings from another planet. But she was expecting a more earthly explanation.
"Well, you know that's always a possibility. I'm open minded," she said. "But if I had to pick a side of that fence, I'd say it was something other than extraterrestrial. Either way, the people who heard it will never forget it. There's no closure."