The first time I went to Girl Scout Camp Lakota in California's Frazier Park (about 100 miles north of L.A.), in late August 1965 when I was 9 years old, I and easily a hundred other scouts saw a UFO.

We slept under the stars. The night in question was cloudless, moonless, and pristinely clear — we could see the Milky Way. We had all just gone to bed and were talking while watching the heavens for shooting stars, when all at once an enormous, brilliant white disk streaked by overhead. It filled most of the visible sky as it passed. And as with one voice, practically the entire camp exclaimed, "Did you see THAT?!"

At the time, I didn't even know the term UFO. The Perseid meteor shower had long since occurred. I've never read nor heard of anything that could satisfactorily explain what we'd seen. Swamp gas? No way (no swamps in that dry place). Some kind of secret USAF aircraft from one of the desert bases not too far away? ... Implausible, given the size of the thing. Ball lightning? Nah.

Note, however, that I have not drawn any conclusions about the possible "alien origins" of this UFO. I am perfectly happy to believe that there may be other inhabited worlds and that, à la Star Trek, there may be extraterrestrials that possess the technology to visit our little planet. But "my" UFO remains a mystery, even if the memory of it passing over the tops of the pine trees (silhouettes clearly visible against its brilliant light) remains vivid to this day.

PS: My paternal grandmother (along with hundreds of others) saw a cigar-shaped UFO over Cincinnati (I believe) in the 1920s.

My grandma (left) looking at a UFO?

And one of my brothers and his friend as teenagers saw a UFO apparently "siphoning off" from a high tension tower behind our house in L.A. (they had just returned from dropping their dates off following a dance at a Mormon church — so no, they weren't drunk nor high). My brother was scared sh*tless and to this day does not speak of it.

PPS: I would love to see another such phenomenon. Perhaps I already have: driving homeward after nightfall from BYU on I-15 in the mid-1970s (or possibly during grad school in the early 1980s), I saw a large array of brilliant round lights over the cliffs somewhere between Beaver and Cedar City). I remember trying to figure out what they were at the time.

—What I'd really like to have, of course, is a Close Encounter of the Third Kind, minus the National Enquirer-style "kidnapped by aliens" experience.