Steps in the Desert

By | Contactees, UFO | No Comments

65 years ago, a momentous event occurred.  The funny part is, very few people know it.

On November 20, 1952, a man named George Adamski set off alone into the rocks and scrub of the California desert.  There, he said later, he met a man from Venus.  Chances are, if you follow this blog, you’re already well-acquainted with the story, but in case you don’t, here is a quick primer.

1952 was a particularly interesting year for UFOlogy.  Flying saucers were the biggest meme of the day.  Perhaps most famously, the summer of 1952 came to be known as the “Summer of the Saucers” because it seemed everyone’s neighbor was seeing flying saucers in skies.   Shortly after the formation of Project Blue Book, the summer was capped by the particularly spectacular “Washington, D.C. UFO Incident”.

But until Adamski came forward with his story, flying saucers were little more than aerial curiosities.  Some people said they were little green men, or worried about alien invasions, but mostly, UFOs were lights in the sky.  The coming of Orthon changed all that–and gave humanity some skin in the game.  Contact experiences turned a one-way observation into a two-way conversation.   If one believes Adamski’s tale, and those of the legions of other Contactees that followed in his wake, we see that this interaction is what the Space Brothers were after all along.

This was huge.  First contact with alien beings has to be the single most important event in the history of mankind, right?  The giant statue of Adamski and Orthon in Desert Center speaks to that.

Except there is no statue, or even a plaque.  The closest thing is an Adopt-a-Highway sign down the road, but that’s the only indication you’d even have that the site had any significance whatsoever other than being a quick route between Parker, Arizona and the Salton Sea.

So what happened?  If mainstream UFOlogy believes that these things in the sky are aliens from another planet, and this guy George (actually, these guys George) claims to have met these aliens, why are they so roundly rejected?

This “Georgian Era” of Contacteeism lasted from 1952 until…well, it depends.  Was it 1978, when the last Giant Rock Spacecraft Convention expired with its founder, George Van Tassel?  Was it 1997, when George King passed away?  Or was it 1968, when the Condon Report came out and snuffed out the lights of UFO research and Project Blue Book?  I’d say the most likely candidate is 1965.  That was the year that John Fuller’s book The Interrupted Journeyabout the famous Betty and Barney Hill incident, first saw publication and created a new contact narrative that was, shall we say, “grittier.”  And, much like modern superhero movies, this somehow made the idea of alien contact more palatable for mainstream UFOlogists. But perhaps most significantly, it was also the year that George Adamski died.

That gives us 13 years of classical Contact stories, from Adamski to Van Tassel to Bethurum to Angelucci to Howard, and on and on and on.  If the history of UFOlogy starts in 1947 with the Kenneth Arnold incident, then that means the Contactees had been around for all but five years of the modern era of UFOs. The Contactees were not a fringe movement–they were a crucial to it.  Without the Contactees, would UFOlogy have managed to maintain any sort of public interest between the glory days of early ’50s sightings and the glory days of alien experimentation reports? Their stories were immensely popular, as evidenced by the numerous books written and the conventions attended.  But 65 years later, why aren’t we hearing stories of people meeting jumpsuited Venusians in the desert?

The cynics among us could invoke Occam’s Razor and say it’s because benevolent Brothers are no longer in vogue, and besides, those stories were all hogwash to begin with.   Students of Contacteeism would be quick to point out that the flag is still carried by the likes of the Aetherius Society and the Unarians.  New Agers might say that Contact has evolved toward more nuanced methods of interaction like light language activation, and the conspiratorial could say that we are being deliberately kept in the dark by sinister men and women in black.

I would argue that it’s far more complex than all that, and perhaps a dash of all of the above.

The world during the Georgian Era was ripe for the tales of space brothers: The ’50s found the United States on top of the world with unparalleled power and prosperity, which also made it the biggest target in the world.  The simmering fear in the back of everyone’s mind was that their nuclear family could vanish in a nuclear instant.  So…extreme hope on one side vs extreme fear on the other.

Here we are, six and a half decades down the line, and that power and prosperity has dimmed, along with the constant fear of nuclear destruction.   Our scientific understanding has grown, which cuts right to the heart of many Contact tales.  And most people are more interested in the latest iPhone than they are in spiritual evolution from cosmic sources.  The light at the end of the tunnel seems more distant than ever.  Ironically, this is again something the Contactees warned us about, all those years ago.

They told us to be wary of nuclear proliferation, yet now we’re getting treacherously close to a new cold war with a country formed out of the old one.  Fukushima and Chernobyl have shown us the perils of even the best intentions when it comes to nuclear energy.   Environmental devastation has led to widespread calamities like more potent hurricanes and droughts.  The unstoppable power of the military industrial complex has kept us locked in a semi-permanent state of war.  Intense focus on consumerism has created economic circumstances that threaten the very existence of the middle class, and perhaps most tragically, places us so firmly in the physical world that we have lost sight of the intangible joys of life.

Before the hippies, before the peace marches on Washington, before the Vietnam War, the Contactees were carrying the banners of all these causes, and because their banners said “spacemen” on them, they got a lot of attention at the time.  Sure, not all their prophecies were so successful…. Wayne Aho said the new age would be here by 1980, and George Van Tassel said the Space Brothers would never allow a hydrogen bomb to be detonated.  For his part, Adamski generally steered clear of such specifics, keeping focused on big picture ideals.

I think we need to remember the Contactees.  They were a big part of UFOlogy, regardless of what most UFOlogists would say, but even in the greater society, they deserve some credit for pushing the peace movement forward at a time when the US didn’t think it needed one.  The Contactees were both ahead of–and yet incredibly stuck in—their time.

A frame from the storyboards for the film, depicting Adamski and Orthon’s meeting.

Maybe we haven’t achieved the big-picture dreams that the Contactees conjured, but I think we’ve made some strides in the “first steps” category.  There’s a greater awareness of our responsibility to the planet; women and people of color have seen their statuses improve dramatically over the decades; we’ve started thinking in terms of global consequence, rather than limiting ourselves to the borders of our white picket fences.  There’s a long, long way to go, as evidenced by the current sludge pit that passes for political discourse at the moment, but at least the message of the Contactees hasn’t been completely lost, even if their names have come close.

Viewed from the 21st century, the 1952 worldview seems almost quaint, but to me that’s a refreshing contrast to the vitriol spewing out of our newsfeeds every day.  I’d like to think that eventually, we can achieve the Utopian society based on ideals set forth in messages from spacemen and women.   But to make these great strides, we need to start with small steps forward.  Steps like those Adamski took into the Mojave Desert 65 years ago.

The Memorable November Twentieth

By | Contactees, UFO | No Comments

I am George Adamski, philospher, student, teacher, saucer researcher. My home is Palomar Gardens, on the southern slopes of Mount Palomar, California, eleven miles from the big Hale Observatory, home of the 200-inch telescope–the world’s largest.

That’s how George Adamski begins his section of the book Flying Saucers Have Landed, which was mostly written by Desmond Leslie.  Where Leslie’s portion of the book was a rather dry accounting of ancient alien theories and UFOs throughout history, Adamski’s was a first hand account of what happened to him on the afternoon of November 20, 1952–the day, he said, he met a man from Venus named Orthon.

It was about 12:30 in the noon hour on Thursday, 20 November 1952, that I first made personal contact with a man from another world.  He came to Earth in his space craft, a flying saucer.  He called it a Scout Ship.

– Flying Saucers Have Landed, p. 185

Having achieved some notoriety for flying saucer photographs he’d taken at his home on Mt. Palomar, Adamski had made the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Bailey of Winslow, Arizona, as well as Dr. and Mrs. George Hunt Williamson of Prescott, Arizona.  (It should be noted that “Dr.” George Hunt Williamson was not in fact a doctor of any kind, and he later became a Contactee in his own right, going by the various names of Michael d’Obrenovic and Brother Philip).  In the wee hours of November 20, Adamski and his associates Alice K. Wells and Lucy McGinnis met up with the Williamsons and Baileys outside of Blythe, California.  They were hoping to spot a flying saucer landing in the desert.  George, it seems, had a feeling that something good might be happening that day.

They arrived at a spot 11 miles north of a town called Desert Center.  George had a feeling that they should stop, and so they did.  They wandered around for a while, and enjoyed a lunch along the side of the road, while some planes flew overhead.

Suddenly and simultaneously we all turned as one, looking again toward the closest mountain ridge where just a few minutes before the first plane had crossed.  Riding high, and without sound, there was a gigantic cigar-shaped silvery ship, without wings or appendages of any kind.  Slowly, almost as if it was drifting, it came in our direction; then it seemed to stop, hovering motionless.

– Flying Saucers Have Landed, p. 188

One of Adamski’s photos of the mothership over Desert Center, taken through his telescope.

The group was understandably excited.  George however, felt that something was missing.

And in spite of all the excitement, I knew this was not to the place; maybe not even the ship with which contact was to be made, if that was in the plan.  But I did feel this ship had a definite ‘something’ to do with it all.

– Flying Saucers Have Landed, p. 189

George felt convinced he was in mental contact with the occupants of that ship. He commanded to his friends “Someone take me down the road–quick!  That ship has come looking for me and I don’t want to keep them waiting!”  They drove down the road a ways until George told Lucy, his driver, to stop.  At that point, he jumped out of the car with his telescope and some camera gear, and headed out into the desert.  Al Bailey and Lucy McGinnis helped him set up his telescope, then George told them to get back to the others, as he had the gut feeling that this contact was to be with him and him only.  They returned to the group, who continued to watch George, now a speck in the distance.

A few minutes later, a flash in the sky attracted George’s attention.  He looked up to see a small flying saucer descending toward the hills nearby.  George snapped several photos of the craft, which he reproduced in the book.


Suddenly my reverie was broken as my attention was called to a man standing at the entrance of a ravine between two low hills, about a quarter of a mile away.  He was motioning to me to come to him, and I wondered who he was and where he had come from.  I was sure he had not been there before.  Nor had he walked past me from the road.  He could not have come from the side of the mountains on which we were.  And I wondered how he might have crossed over and descended any part of them without me having noticed him?

– Flying Saucers Have Landed, p. 194

Thinking it was a prospector or rock hound, George walked toward the man, in case he might be in need of help.  As he approached, he noticed two unusual things: His trousers resembled ski trousers, certainly odd apparel for the desert, and his hair was long and blond, falling to his shoulders.  Not exactly the style of the day in 1952.  Suddenly, a feeling of great peace and calm came over him: “Now, for the first time I fully realised I was in the presence of a man from space–A HUMAN BEING FROM ANOTHER WORLD!”

The man extended his hand, as if to shake.  George tried to do so, but the man rejected this with a “smile and slight shake of the head”.  He then demonstrated that beings from other worlds greet each other by placing their hands palm-to-palm, without grasping.

The man was slender, about 5’6″ tall, and appeared to be about 28 years old.  He had a round face and extremely high forehead, large but calm grey-green eyes, slightly slanted.  His skin was the shade of an even, medium suntan.  He wore a garment that appeared to be one-piece, chocolate brown, and with a wide belt about his middle, yet the fabric was of a fine weave not similar to any fabric on Earth.

A drawing of Orthon by Alice K. Wells, who claimed she could see Adamski speaking to this man in the distance through binoculars.

The man did not answer George’s questions verbally for the most part, but through sign language and some degree of what Adamski called “thought transfer”, he established that the man came from the second planet from the sun–Venus.  That was the only time the man spoke, to repeat George’s spoken question “Venus?”  The man replied “Venus.”

George asked the man why they’d come, and received mental impressions that suggested they came in peace, and were concerned about “radiations going out from Earth.”

I asked if this concern was due to the explosions of our bombs and their resultant vast radio-active clouds?

He understood this readily and nodded his head in the affirmative.

My next question was whether this was dangerous, and I pictured in my mind a scene of destruction.

To this, too, he nodded his head in the affirmative, but on his face was no trace of resentment or judgment.  His expression was one of understanding, and great compassion; as one would have toward a much loved child who had erred through ignorance and lack of understanding.

– Flying Saucers Have Landed, p. 198

After some more conversation in this manner, George asked if he’d come from that saucer he’d seen floating down.  The man turned and pointed into the distance, where George saw that very craft floating there, motionless over the desert floor.  He then got the impression that the large craft they’d seen earlier was a mothership, which carried these “scout ships” from Venus to the Earth.

Remembering a question that had often been asked of me by people with whom I had talked, I asked why they never land in populated places?

To this he made me understand that there would be a tremendous amount of fear on the part of the people, and probably the visitors would be torn to pieces by the Earth people, if such public landings were attempted.

I understood how right he was, and within my mind wondered if there ever would be a time when such a landing would be safe.

– Flying Saucers Have Landed, p. 202

They continued “speaking” for some time, discussing subjects ranging from whether Venusians believe in God (yes), whether the other planets in the solar system are inhabited (yes), and even whether their craft have ever crashed on Earth (also yes.)  For all the questions George asked, he forgot to ask one: the man’s name.  (Later, Adamski attributed the name “Orthon” to this man, but stressed that this was not the man’s actual name).

Orthon pointed toward his feet, particularly to his footprints, and it was at that point that Adamski noticed that the prints had unique markings.

Then they walked toward the scout craft, which was “translucent and of exquisite colour”, and he could discern other forms moving through it, as you might see people moving behind a wall made of glass bricks.  The sunlight glinted off the craft, giving off a prismatic effect.  Though Orthon warned him away, George stepped too close to the craft, and his right shoulder was caught in the “attraction-repulsion” effect of the engines, which threw his arm up, then down and back toward him.  He staggered away from the craft, his arm numb.

Orthon indicated the photographic plates that George had taken of the scout ship, and George gave him one.  Then he asked if he could take a ride in the ship, and Orthon shook his head, and that it was time for him to leave.  Orthon entered the ship, which lifted off, and disappeared into the sky.

The contact group on November 20, observing Orthon’s footprints in the sand.


The article which ran in the Nov. 24, 1952 edition of The Phoenix Gazette, with George’s photo of the scoutship rising above the knoll.

Reuniting with his friends, they examined the footprints that Orthon had left.  Williamson, being an anthropologist (or claiming to be one, anyway), had some plaster of paris in his trunk, and made casts of these footprints.  While they were doing this, they noticed military airplanes circling overhead.  Their presence was later confirmed in Project Blue Book, reporting on a sighting of a craft in the vicinity of the Salton Sea on November 20, 1952.  The group, with George’s permission, submitted an account of the experience to the Phoenix Gazette, which printed a report of it with photos, on November 24.

And the rest is history.

Take Me To Your Laughter

By | Movies, Ramblings, Reviews, Science Fiction, UFO, Video | No Comments

TV aliens have always been funny, which is not to say the shows were always very good.

We had My Favorite Martian, Mork and Mindy, and the Great Gazoo, and while they were entertaining to some degree, the aliens were little more than wish-fulfillment props that could just as easily have been genies, witches, or superheroes.

But I’m seeing a new trend: humorous aliens who could only be aliens.  No longer props for funny line delivery and wacky fish-out-of-water stories, they are specifically linked to the true-life tales of alien contact.  Take, for example, this short from Chris and Jack:


And then there’s People of Earth, an underrated show with a quiet brilliance.  The plot revolves around reporter Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac) as he travels to upstate New York to report on an alien abduction support group called StarCrossed.  At first, he is completely baffled by the stories the group tells him, until he starts to remember his own experiences.  Though not hilarious, the show is consistently charming.  The creators are clearly familiar with what actual Experiencers describe, exploring topics like screen memories, alien implants, multiple alien species, positive vs. negative encounters, and even the fact that “experiencer” is the preferred moniker, as opposed to “abductee.”

As Executive Producer David Jenkins says, it’s the Larry David version of The X-Files.  Here he is discussing his idea behind creating the show:

While The X-Files wasn’t (usually) humorous, it introduced pop culture to the Grays and alien abduction, giving aliens their own distinctive TV mythology.   Some credit is also due to Twin Peaks, with its explorations of Project Blue Book and the idea of screen memories.  The famous line “The owls are not what they seem” echoes stories Experiencers tell of seeing giant owls, deer, or rabbits after abduction encounters.  People of Earth uses a screen memory of a talking deer as a regular motif.

The aliens of PoE are not ethereal or otherworldly, but quite human in their tendencies to be deeply flawed and petty.  Jeff the Gray is all about procedure and getting things done.  Don the Nordic is innocent and loving. Jonathan the reptilian is manipulative and obsessed with his looks.  While these characterizations are funny on their own, they have their roots in typical abduction tales: grays are the worker bees, Nordics (as described my many Contactees) spread new age messages of peace and love, and reptilians are menacing shapeshifters who secretly control the world.

The Experiencers, ironically, are more alien; ostracized from society because of their bizarre beliefs in aliens, they struggle to maintain relationships in a world that doesn’t believe them.  The show portrays them sympathetically and never mocks them or trades compassion for cheap laughs.  PoE is unique in alien television in that it mines the real life stories of alien encounters for its humor, rather than just saying “aliens can do ANYTHING”.

Great show?  No, but eminently watchable.  I’d much rather watch this than a little green be-helmeted Martian granting wishes.  I am sure there are many who would argue that there are better comedies with aliens in them, but I feel this is the first one that stands on its own as an alien comedy.  Let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments.



Contact in the Desert and an Anti-Contact Conspiracy?

By | Contactees, Ramblings, UFO | 5 Comments

One feels that anything can happen in the Mojave Desert, making it the perfect setting for the increasingly popular UFO convention Contact in the Desert.

CITD is nestled between key landmarks in Contactee lore: 13 miles south of Giant Rock and the Integratron (the lands of George Van Tassel), and 70 miles northwest of Desert Center, the site of George Adamski’s famous encounter with the Venusian Orthon in 1952.  It’s also a who’s who of UFOlogy.  This year, I met Giorgio of Ancient Aliens, reconnected with Mike Bara and Kathleen Marden, spoke with Richard Dolan on the subject of Edward Ruppelt vs. the Contactees, and watched a couple of fascinating lectures by the legendary Jacques Vallee.

I’m not saying it’s Giorgio, but it’s Giorgio.

Jacques Vallee

But other than those Vallee lectures, I didn’t attend many of the talks.  I was more interested in meeting and talking with the researchers and with attendees who’ve had experiences.  However, I’ve noticed a pattern over the years that bothers me: Whatever happened to these guys?

George Adamski, George Hunt Williamson, George King, Orfeo Angelucci, Dana Howard

Contact in the Desert is, as the name suggests, a convention about making contact with ET intelligence.  Every year, there are lectures about the Annunaki creating the human race to mine gold; conspiracy theories discussing UFO coverups; the latest evidence of bases on the moon or Mars.  Generally, they’re great lectures, but at no point is there a mention of Adamski, King, or the other mid-century Contactees–save one: George Van Tassel.  His Giant Rock Spacecraft Convention of the 1950s-1970s provided a template for CITD, and his Integratron is a draw for many of the attendees.  But even then, Van Tassel is referred to only in relation to Giant Rock and the Integratron; no recognition is given to the messages he conveyed as a Contactee.

And it doesn’t seem to be an oversight.  I’ve heard several complaints from the representatives of the classic Contactees that they’ve been shut out of CITD: their requests for booths or lectures are rejected.  While it’s possible this is part of a larger trend, CITD is the only convention I’ve heard such complaints about, and perhaps that is because it is the most similar to the old Giant Rock Conventions.  If these allegations are true, one wonders why a contact convention that hearkens back to the original contact convention would shrug off any identification with the very individuals who started the movement.

Rejecting the Contactees is a well-worn tradition in UFOlogy, started by the likes of Edward Ruppelt of Project Bluebook, Donald Keyhoe of NICAP, and Isabel Davis of CSI.  Keyhoe was irritated by the lack of evidence from the Contactees, while Davis flat out accused them of being “mentally imbalanced.”  But many UFOlogists have a different take: Greg Bishop, host of Radio Misterioso and author of a number of books on the broader subject of UFOs and the paranormal, has made the point that the Contactees were an important movement in UFOlogy because they were mavericks who dared to think outside accepted UFOlogical dogma.  Richard Dolan said he was glad I was making this film because it is a subject of historical interest that has been largely ignored.

This year’s convention, as is the case every year, focused primarily on conspiracy theories, modern day contact/abduction encounters, and above all, Ancient Aliens (both the show and the concept).  This year, I got to meet this guy:

That’s Erich von Däniken, the man who created the ancient astronaut theory in 1968 with this book Chariots of the Gods?.  Except…wait a minute…

In the early 50s, George Van Tassel spoke of the “Adamic Race” of ETs who colonized the Earth and created modern humans.  George Hunt Williamson published Other Tongues–Other Flesh, focusing on his discoveries of ancient ET contact in 1957.  George King of the Aetherius Society claimed that our great religious figures, such as Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna were ETs sent to Earth to guide us through our spiritual evolution.  All of this happened years before von Däniken wrote a syllable on the subject of ancient astronauts.  As hundreds of people sat in the amphitheater listening to lectures about astral projection and channeling ETs, I imagine very few were thinking about King encountering the Logos of Mother Earth in his astral form, or his channeling of the Cosmic Master Aetherius.  At workshops on various conspiracy theories like government cover-ups, I imagine very few thought about Van Tassel’s concern that we were being kept in the dark about the impending catastrophic flip of Earth’s magnetic field.  And while the overall message of the conference was largely love one another, I suspect very few attendees were familiar with the principles of Universal Law espoused by George Adamski.  For all the love of the Giorgios, why no love for the Georges?

It certainly doesn’t appear that there is an objection to the original contactees based on content alone.  So what’s going on?  Is it just general ignorance of the subject matter?  How aware are people of the original contacts in the desert by Adamski and Van Tassel?  Contacts that allegedly occurred a short drive from this very conference.

So, I asked a number of attendees if they had heard of the Contactees of the ’50s.  A few people were savvy, but most had only a vague idea of “that guy in the desert”, or “the people who talked about Venus”.  No one had heard of George King, or Hunt Williamson, or Dana Howard, or Orfeo Angelucci, or Dan Fry, or any of the others who laid the groundwork for the very convention they were attending. Whether there is a concerted effort to pretend Adamski et al never happened, I cannot say.  But whatever the cause, it seems to justify one of the key reasons I’m making this film: to fill a gap in the popular awareness of UFO history, and to let people make up their own minds about the subject, instead of brushing the Contactees under the rug the way UFOlogy has been doing for decades.


Why I Prefer “Flying Saucers” to “UFOs”

By | Government, Ramblings, UFO | 2 Comments

Words are important.  In 1947, after pilot Kenneth Arnold claimed to have seen several crescent-shaped objects flying like saucers skipping on the surface of a pond, sensationalistic journalists coined the term “flying saucers.” (Notwithstanding the evidence that the term “flying saucers” was in use for years prior to that to describe clay pigeons used in skeet shooting) And a phenomenon was born.  Reports of flying saucers soared, leading up to the 1952 “summer of the saucers”, in which thousands of reports hit the news.

Despite journalists having originated the phrase, most journalists back in the day seemed unable to utter it unironically, and usually added “so called” before it, as in “Mr. Jones saw a so-called flying saucer over his house.”  The phrase rolls so easily off the tongue now, after sixty years of cultural programming, it’s easy to forget that it is actually conjuring an image of dishes soaring through the sky.  That said, it is usually said in reference to 1950s sci fi movies, because it’s not a term that people use much anymore.  It is, really, a silly term.

But the US government was compelled to investigate. Obviously they can’t investigate flying dishes, so they had to look at it from a more distanced and one could say distinguished perspective.  Thus, Edward Ruppelt, director of the USAF’s Project Bluebook, coined the term “UFO”, for Unidentified Flying Object.

Ruppelt sought a new term that could be used to describe objects that were of any shape and size (not just saucer-shaped), as well as to describe objects which were completely mundane but just not readily identifiable. After all, a weather balloon is a UFO if you don’t know what it is.  But if you hear someone use the term “UFO”, you know they are talking about a spacecraft that carries little green men.  It will still be a UFO if it’s on the ground, and it will still be a UFO if it’s ethereal and not a solid object.  Though the term UFO was intended to distance these sightings from the sensationalism and foregone conclusion that they were aliens from space, it now means exactly that.

To address this, the term UAP for Unexplained Aerial Phenomena has come into vogue. Even Hillary Clinton, on the Jimmy Kimmel show, corrected his usage of “UFO” by saying “You know there’s a new name….unexplained aerial phenomenon.”

So “flying saucers” was a joke, and “UFO” became saddled with cultural baggage.  Will “UAP” be any different, or will it too become a perjorative?

“UFO” does not describe the craft the Contactees saw.  UFO is (literally) a military term, a clinical way to describe some unknown other.  In the book pictured above, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, Ruppelt begins with a story of an F-86 fighter that opened fire on a UFO because the pilot didn’t know what else to do.  Consider how Ruppelt pronounced “UFO”, as well:  “You Foe.”  It means these things are to be feared, to looked at with suspicion.

In other words, precisely the opposite of the Contactees.  They regarded these craft and the beings within them as objects of wonder, things to be in awe of, things to revere.  They also knew that these things were not “unidentified” at all.  Adamski knew that the scoutship he saw was Venusian.  Menger’s similar, but slightly different scouts were Saturnian.  Aura Rhanes came to earth on a ship from the planet Clarion.

“Flying saucers” evoke a simpler time, and while it isn’t the most precise of descriptions (as it can be attributed to disks, crescents, triangular, or cigar-shaped craft), it doesn’t leave room for mystery.  These are vehicles that bring our alien visitors here.

Some UFOlogists could arguably be called saucerologists, as they’re more interested in proving that these phenomena are alien visitors, rather than coming up with other things they could be.  Stanton Friedman, for example, frequently uses the term “flying saucer”, presumably for similar reasons to mine.  I would argue that Friedman is the spiritual successor to Major Donald Keyhoe, the former head of NICAP, who used the term “saucers.”  Both of these men would be horrified to be lumped in with the Contactees, and that’s not what I’m attempting to do; rather, I’m just saying that, basically, if you know what something is, and you know it’s a spaceship, why would you call it “unidentified”?

I, for one, think it is time we bring this back into the lexicon.  When modern UFOlogists talk about “UFO disclosure”, aren’t they really talking about flying saucer disclosure?  They’re not looking for the government to release the secret files of weather inversions or swamp gas…they want acknowledgement of the existence of alien visitations.  The Secret of the Saucers, as Orfeo Angelucci put it.

Hanging out at Area 51

By | Filmmaking, Government, UFO | No Comments

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to doing the one thing that all UFO-interested folks must, at some point, do: make the pilgrimage to Area 51.

As this film is about the Contactees, Area 51 doesn’t factor directly into the main storyline, so it has always been a low priority for me.  And, honestly, I’m much less interested in top secret military aircraft than in silver flying discs bearing beautiful Venusians.  That said, this was a surprisingly fun trip.  Since you’re reading this blog, I will assume you already know what Area 51 is, and what it’s all about and won’t bore you with explanation.

Personally, I was excited to see the infamous “Black Mailbox”, despite knowing that it was only the mailbox for a nearby ranch, and was saddened to hear that it had been removed.  But lo and behold, some intrepid someone put up a replacement…this one being actually black. (The removed one was not).  I was somewhat surprised by the sheer amount of detritus left there; some of it was just trash, but most were offerings, turning this into a shrine: pleas for the aliens to abduct them and take them to a better planet, “Jack was here” along with drawings of aliens, pleas for the ETs to give their souls to Jesus, etc.


I didn’t know what to do next, really.  There’s not exactly a tourist center.  Well, OK, there is, and I went there, but I didn’t ask specific directions, because I thought it would be fairly obvious.  Turns out that when there’s only one road that dwindles into nothing on the horizon and you’re on a half tank of gas, complete knowledge of a situation is comforting.  Fortunately, that lone road was the right one.  And so, we plunged onward through a surprisingly dense Joshua Tree forest, dodging the occasional free-roaming cow.


And then we saw the sign, with the accompanying white pickup on top of the hill.  To this point, the trip was scenic, but uneventful.  Something about seeing that sign, with its dire warnings and legends of authorized lethal force, exhilarated me with the overall sense of menace.  Which was made more pointed by the imposing and silently watching pickup on the nearby hill.


I know, I’m a nerd.  But I love it.

There was no real danger, other than an uncomfortable talking to and hefty fine.  But the sheer drama of the signs and the razor wire and the hours of driving through nowhere to get to this point were exciting enough; it conjured a story in my head, full of aliens and spaceships.  Often, in the Mojave Desert, I’d felt a sense of magic laying just under the surface, a sense that anything could happen.  Here, in Groom Lake, I felt a similar sense of endless potential, but this time at the hands of dark but human forces.

And maybe that’s why people are endlessly fascinated with Area 51.  In a time when people are losing all sense of control over their daily lives, perhaps traveling to this zone of strangeness (to borrow Peter McCue’s phrase) and looking that lack of control in the face gives us comfort.  In that way, looking for secrets at Area 51 reflects our modern fears and concerns.  Much like how meeting beautiful Venusians reflected our fears and gave us hope in the mid-century.

Fear the Flying Saucers

By | Contactees, Ramblings, UFO, Video | One Comment

This past weekend, my California friends were peppering my Facebook feed with videos and photographs of a UFO in the sky.  It hit the national news as a comet-like object coursed over the skies of Los Angeles and beyond.  In the absence of any definite information, it was in fact an unidentified flying object.

You can hear the confusion in the video above:  “it’s a star or something” and “a blimp.”  A truck driver is concerned about a “bright light hovering in the area.”   Seeing something like this, without any context or expectation, is a terrifying thing.  I know this, because it happened to me a few years ago in Los Angeles, but back then, the fears were totally different.

It was 2001, not long after September 11.  For several days, the only airplanes in the sky were the fighter jets that occasionally flew over the city, and in the months following, the fear of the next attack was in the back of everyone’s mind.  And then one night, I heard a commotion outside my apartment, and stepped out into the courtyard to see what everyone was talking about. Then I saw it: an iridescent blob hanging in the western sky, slowly changing shape.  The group gathered there nervously threw ideas out there, much like the nervous voices in the video above.  “is it a gas attack?”  “What about a dirty bomb?”  Some of us wondered if it could have been a nuke out at sea.  Like those people in California this past weekend, we had no idea what it was, but we were fairly sure that the only reasonable explanation was that the terrorists had struck again. No one said anything about UFOs.

Then, as now, the military came out and said “Oh, uh, whoops, our bad.  That was just a missile test.  I guess we should have mentioned something.  Sorry guys!”  Sadly, I don’t have a photograph of this, because we were all too stunned to think of taking a photo.  (Which, interestingly, is a phenomenon often reported by UFO and bigfoot witnesses.)  However, I came across this article which has a photo that is somewhat similar (though far less dramatic) to what I saw all those years ago.

Now, while this new missile test looked a bit different, more comet-like and less cloud-like, it also reminded me of the “Norway spiral”, which people went nuts over in 2009.

Unexpected celestial events tend to highlight the sharp divisions between the various factions of believers:  the hopeful will say it is the opening of a new age; the fearful will say it’s an alien invasion; the conspiratorial will say it’s Project Bluebeam.  Some can’t seem to make up their minds and say it’s all of the above; but ultimately, the answer is almost always what would be exciting in any other context: A missile test, bolide, or other celestial phenomenon.

Our fears often dictate what conclusions we’ll jump to, and with time, narratives form.  In the wake of 9/11, strange lights in the sky meant that the terrorists were back, but 14 years later, the immediacy of the Twin Towers collapsing has diminished, and we look outward to the stars for our bogeymen.  A similar effect happened in the late ’40s through the ’60s.  Immediately after the war, strange lights in the sky signaled atomic bombs or secret Soviet weaponry.  But by the 50s and 60s, when the immediacy of the war had died down, the explanations deepened; strange lights became alien spacecraft.  As years went on, the logical progression followed, and narratives appeared around those alien spacecraft: Beings came from those craft to speak to humans on Earth.  The Contactees were born.

Whatever you think of the Contactees, whether you think they made it all up or they had real experiences or somewhere in between, their stories reflected the fears that people felt back in the day.  Or rather, their stories reflected the hopes that people had back in the day.  We as humans were on the brink of destroying ourselves, and the Contactees offered a narrative that there were powers far greater than our own that were here to help.  It’s a reassuring thought, much like the idea of the Norway Spiral being an announcement of the coming of Maitreya.  Even the theories that declare these lights in the sky to be the result of government conspiracies offer us a chance to seize our freedom.

These narratives, true or not, are reflections of our fears as human beings.  The Contactees, like the frightened teens uploading videos of this latest missile test to Youtube, were seeking comfort.

World UFO Day

By | Ramblings, UFO, Video | 3 Comments

Apologies for the long silence on this here blog.  I’m back in the saddle, and so these posts will come with better regularity now.

Today is World UFO day.  You can see a video summarizing the history of this day, as well as a summary of the UFO phenomenon in general here.

It’s always interesting to see what happens when the UFO subject goes public, as it were, beyond the realm of the specialty blogs and into the mainstream media.  Generally, there is X-files music and lots of puns about things being out of this world.  That’s why today, when I saw this article, I was pleasantly surprised.

In that article, Cambridge University Professor Simon Conway Morris suggests what I was postulating in an earlier post myself.  Namely, that the concept of humanoid aliens isn’t necessarily all that far fetched, because evolution works via principles of efficiency and physics.  When you take that into consideration, a lot of the same patterns come up over and over again.  He puts it well when he says:

Certainly it’s not the case that every Earth-like planet will have life let alone humanoids. But if you want a sophisticated plant it will look awfully like a flower. If you want a fly there’s only a few ways you can do that. If you want to swim, like a shark, there’s only a few ways you can do that. If you want to invent warm-bloodedness, like birds and mammals, there’s only a few ways to do that.

In other words, if a creature is evolving the ability to fly, odds are likely that it will evolve a symmetrical wing system.  There are other possibilities, of course, but the point is that we shouldn’t be surprised when we see it.  This is a phenomenon called convergent evolution; the idea that various complex characteristics can evolve independently and in a nearly identical form in different species.

Contrast this with Carl Sagan, famed astronomer and author of the book Cosmos, in which he says:

But the Darwinian message is clear: There will be no humans elsewhere.  Only here. Only on this small planet. We are a rare as well as an endangered species.  Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious.  If a human disagrees with you, let him live.  In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.

An amazing sentiment from an amazing thinker.  And curiously close in many ways to the Contactee message, which I think is fascinating because he is in that short quote rebuking the notion that humanoid aliens could exist elsewhere in the universe while simultaneously saying something that could have come out of Orthon’s mouth.

So who is right?  I don’t think it’s important if there is a convergent line of human evolution somewhere out there in the cosmos.  What is important is that wherever it is and whatever it is, it is precious.

Contact in the Desert, again

By | Contactees, UFO | No Comments

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog long enough to attend TWO Contact in the Desert conferences, but it’s true.  Granted, this year’s conference was moved up a few months to avoid the searing August heat in the Mojave, but it’s still been nearly a year.  I saw a lot of lectures, met a lot of people, including Travis Walton and Mike Bara of Ancient Aliens.

2015-05-30 13.36.39

The highlight of this year’s conference for me was the excursion out to Giant Rock with Barbara Harris, who runs the Giant Rock Project.  She’s a knowledgeable lady with fascinating tidbits from the area, and about the incredible history of Giant Rock specifically.  But what happened that night at Giant Rock was what made the night for me.

After hiking up Crystal Hill (a large mound made entirely of quartz crystal), we stood under the blaring desert stars looking skyward.  According to Glenn Steckling, director of the Adamski Foundation and co-host of the tour this year, as the terminator (the delineation between night and day) moves around the earth, it causes the magnetic field of the earth to shift in such a way as to be useful to alien craft that sail those fields like ships in the wind.  So, about an hour after sunset, it is not uncommon to see a number of craft moving in a north-south direction.

Indeed, there were a number of points of light moving due north.  My immediate thought was that they were satellites, and it is quite likely that they were.  What is interesting, however, is that there were at least two of them in relatively close formation.  I’ve seen many satellites in the night sky, but never so close to one another.  They moved at the same rate of speed, which suggested to me they were at comparable altitudes.  And they faded into visibility, and then back out within the space of thirty seconds or so.

But then all of a sudden, and with a shout from many of us in the group, there came a brilliant, large, completely silent light blazing out of the west.  It shot over us, at an angle of about 60 degrees, and flew in a wobbly pattern toward the distant mountains, where it stopped, and then faded to invisibility.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

But Glenn knew.

To my surprise, he informed us that it was the International Space Station.  After a quick search, I verified that he was in fact correct.  I think this was an important lesson for me and others who seek flying saucers in the night sky.  Perceptions cannot always be trusted.

What I perceived was a moderate sized disc-shaped craft at a relatively low altitude, perhaps 4000 feet.  It wobbled in its path, perhaps because it was following lines of magnetic force.  It stopped in the distance, because it was at that point over a marine base and was observing the military exercises that we could hear taking place.  Or something.

But, my perceptions were completely wrong.  What I actually saw was indeed a spacecraft, but one of human design, flying in a razor-straight orbit several hundred miles straight up.  Since it was up so high, it was still catching sunlight, which reflected brilliantly down to us in the dark desert skies.  As for the wobbling…anyone who’s ever looked at an LED alarm clock in a darkened bedroom is familiar with the effect in which the brain, lacking the detail to “ground” the image of the lighted numbers, gets confused and interprets the saccadic motion of the eyes as motion of the object being observed.  That is effectively what was happening there.  The apparent stop and fade was just the ISS getting so far away that any further motion was imperceptible.

In the moment, many of the people in the group, myself included, were convinced we were seeing something amazing.  And we were, just not in the way we thought.