Ricky Hubbard comes rushing up the stairs to the bar with a TV set cradled in his arms. He pauses at the top to catch his breath. "You've got to see this, man!" he says, waving a hand and ordering a drink. He goes to a table in the corner near an electrical outlet. "The FBI, Homeland Security, nobody knows what this is."
He puts the TV/VCR combo on the table and plugs it in. The small screen flickers, then blue sky and fluffy jet trails appear. Charlie Bailey, a bartender at the second-floor bar, Lowell's at Pike Place Market, sits down. "He showed it to me earlier," she says. "It is weird."
OK, watch this, says Hubbard, 52, a Seattle cab driver and budding videographer. The day of the video is Aug. 8, Seafair's hydroplane Sunday. There's a break in the boat races on Lake Washington as the Blue Angels perform. The airspace over Seattle is restricted. The sky is supposedly empty except for the famous Navy aerobatic team.
"There, did you see it?" Hubbard says, excitedly tapping the screen.
I lean forward, squint, and shake my head. "It happens fast," says Bailey.
Hubbard runs the videotape again. He shot it from a home he was visiting that day atop Queen Anne Hill. The segment is about a minute long. Hubbard wanted to catch the Angels in flight and had missed the team's first two passes over the hill. So he held the camera on the sky, constantly recording the dissipating jet trails, waiting for the Navy jets to fly into his viewfinder.
"There!" Hubbard says. "See it that time?"
He doesn't tell me what to look for. But I think I see a white dot streak across the screen. The Angels, in a wedge formation, follow shortly.
"Yes, a white dot. You saw it? Oh man, thanks. I don't feel so nutty now," says Hubbard, who is African American. "Black people aren't supposed to see this freaky space shit. It's always hillbillies."
Hubbard puts the tape on slow motion, forward and reverse. The white dot of possible mass destruction flitters through the jet trails, splits in two, re-fuses, then flies out of the picture.
"That was no plane. It was no bird, no flaw on the tape. It was something out there chasing or flying along with the Blue Angels, man!" says Hubbard. He didn't notice the blip until viewing the tape in September and immediately decided to call the government.
"I told the [directory assistance] operator I need to talk to the Air Force because I got this thing on film chasing the Angels, and he starts laughing and says, 'No way, dude. They'll think you're crazy and lock you up!'"
But Hubbard reached an Air Force official who thought it was important enough to refer Hubbard to the Navy, home of the Angels. "I got the department in charge of the Blue Angels," Hubbard says. "And the guy tells me, 'If there was something up there, we would have seen it.'"
Hubbard wasn't going away that easy. "I said, man, forget this! I called the FBI and said, 'You guys need to see this.'" Come on down, they said. Hubbard went to the Federal Building on Second Avenue. He strolled toward security screeners with his TV set in a bag on wheels. "They see a brother in braids come in with a big-ass suitcase that looks like a bomb," says Hubbard, "and everybody wants to hit the floor."
To boot, he tells screeners he's got pictures of a UFO. He clears security nonetheless, only to learn the FBI is located in its own building a few blocks away. In federal headquarters already, he decided to stop at the offices of the Homeland Security Department.
"They watched the thing go back and forth, like 50 times. 'Just take it to the FBI,' they said. They didn't want to deal with it," Hubbard recalls.
Finally, at FBI offices, an agent watched the white dot go back and forth.
Maybe it's something, maybe not, said the agent. "I don't know what to tell you," Hubbard remembers her saying. She took his number and said they'd call.
A Seattle FBI spokesperson last week confirmed Hubbard brought in the film. "We watched it," he says. "It was inconclusive."
Still, Hubbard thinks he did the right thing. It was an eerie white blip in the edgy days of orange alerts. "I figured the government should know," he says, dragging a finger across the screen behind the dot. "Except, now I'm probably in their files."