The Nation's Pulse

Sightings

The hoax is out there.

By 4.21.11

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I have never seen a UFO, but I do work with several people who have. And no I don't work for the Air Force, the FBI, or the Dennis Kucinich campaign. I toil at a dying newspaper where the dour employees are mostly sane, except when on deadline.

One of my colleagues -- we'll call her "Crazy Laura" -- saw a UFO about 15 years ago. After some coaxing ("You'll think I'm nuts…") she described the incident: "My dog was barking at something in the back yard. Outside, about 40 yards from my back door, I saw three white lights hovering noiselessly just above the ground. Suddenly -- whoosh! -- the lights shot away at the speed of light."

I was curious. "What size were the lights?"

Laura picked up something from my desk. "Like this."

"They were the size of a dirty pie plate? That must have been some tiny spaceship, piloted by --"

"I didn't see any little green men!" Laura snapped. "And since when are you an expert in the dimensions of extraterrestrial spacecraft?"

Undeterred, I decided to take an impromptu survey. It turned out about one in eight of my coworkers had seen UFOs. None, however, had been abducted and "probed" by aliens. Or would admit to it anyway.

Most of the reporters had interviewed people, mostly cops, who claimed to have seen UFOs. Ask the reporters if they believe the cops, and they say, "I believe they saw something. Course we live next to a Boeing plant, an airport and Scott Air Force Base, so who knows what's flying around out there."

The UFO spotters are in good company. At least two American presidents saw unidentified flying objects. Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter came from opposite sides of the political fence too. Other than the presidential campaign of 1980, their close encounters are probably the only things they had in common.

Not surprisingly, the (possibly apocryphal) story of the Great Communicator's sighting is more interesting. Carter could be spooked by a dog-paddling bunny rabbit, but Reagan ordered his pilot to chase a UFO all the way to Bakersfield: Recalled The Gipper:

I was in a plane… when I looked out the window and saw this white light. It was zigzagging around. I went up to the pilot and said, "Have you ever seen anything like that?" He was shocked and he said, "Nope." And I said to him: "Let's follow it!" We followed it for several minutes. It was a bright white light. We followed it to Bakersfield, and all of a sudden to our utter amazement it went straight up into the heavens. When I got off the plane I told Nancy all about it.

So not only did Reagan defeat the Evil Empire, he may have saved us from a Martian attack, too.

WHEN I WAS a kid, I was obsessed with paranormal phenomenon. The only reading material I owned, besides stacks of Mad magazines, were stranger than fiction books with titles like Chariots of the Gods, Limbo of the Lost, and others of that genre that overly mystified everything from Big Foot to the Loch Ness Monster.

Even today, I remain intrigued by stories about UFOs. So my ears pricked up when the FBI recently declassified documents about the legendary Roswell Incident. According to one memo sent to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1950, investigators had recovered three downed flying saucers and nine dead aliens. The aliens were humanlike, wore metallic suits, and were only three-foot tall.

The story went viral. At long last here was the smoking gun that proved what conspiracy theorists had long believed -- that there was indeed a government cover-up of a UFO crash near Roswell, N.M. in 1947.

Only the "facts" in the memo don't sound anything like the Roswell Incident. The report doesn't even mention Roswell. Oh, and it turns out the memo is likely a hoax.

Yeah, conspiracy nuts will say, a hoax perpetrated by the federal government to discredit UFologists.

Okay, but if it's not a hoax then the world's governments have been incredibly successful at covering up evidence of alien visitations. And that would suggest these governments are highly competent, at least in this respect. History and common sense would argue otherwise.

It's still fun to read stories about UFOs, but to really believe in them we would have to believe in a world of highly competent government officials. And not even Crazy Laura would buy that.

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About the Author
Christopher Orlet writes from St. Louis.