I am finally, publicly, coming out of the closet. The UFO closet.
I’ll say this as simply as I know how: in 1972, when I was 16-year-old high school student in Orono, Maine, I saw a UFO. I’ve occasionally told friends what I saw that night, but I haven’t spoken about it much because, well, I worried people would roll their eyes. I didn’t want people thinking I was delusional or had watched too many episodes of the “The X-Files.”
Of course I did watch Mulder and Scully a fair amount in the ‘90s, but I was most definitely not delusional. I saw what I saw: an unidentified flying object.
My story doesn’t have anything to do with little green men, alien abduction or anything terrifying. Actually, it’s rather astounding and mundane at the same time. There was a sense of wonder and awe, but no overt drama or panic. And it was all over in about 10 seconds.
The prompt to tell my tale now? Events that have recently crashed mainstream news media, namely a piece on “60 Minutes” in mid-May and a massive, investigative story in the New Yorker by Gideon Lewis-Kraus: “How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.’s Seriously.
The subhead of that New Yorker piece reads, “For decades, flying saucers were a punch line. Then the U.S. government got over the taboo.” And it’s that tag line, about the U.S. government’s recognition, that’s key here. For years, it’s been denial and obfuscation, the implicit suggestion that anyone reporting such phenomena was crazy. Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid has talked about how “the government has, for all these years, covered up everything. It’s very, very bad for our country.”
Now the government has rebranded UFOs as UAPs — unidentified aerial phenomena — because, no doubt, of the decades-long connotations UFOs have. But the New Yorker and “60 Minutes” reporting feature top-level military and government personnel attempting to describe the inexplicable. Particularly powerful is former Navy Lieutenant Ryan Graves talking about how all four crew members witnessed a UFO — err UAP — simply disappearing. That resonated with me.
And then there are the videos.
My story: Carrying a freshly minted driver’s license, I was picking up my parents at our local church. I parked my car in a driveway at the side of the building, the car slightly angled up. Through the windshield, I could see the University of Maine police station.
As I was gazing absently out the window, a saucer-shaped object with an array of multi-colored lights circling the bottom of the craft appeared. When I say appeared, I mean appeared. Not descended. It hovered directly over the police station’s dome and antenna. I didn’t freak out, oddly. Instead, I sort of said, “huh,” before thinking it’d be logical to count the number of seconds it was there. I got to 10 and it disappeared. Not ascended, disappeared. And that was it.
As I was gazing absently out the window, a saucer-shaped object with an array of multi-colored lights circling the bottom of the craft appeared.
It did not profoundly change my life, but it certainly kicked open the doors of curiosity and a lifetime of off-and-on rumination, balancing my inherent skepticism about the paranormal with what I know I saw. It certainly clarified my willingness to believe there are things we observe that are beyond rational explanation. But, I suppose I wanted validation, too.
When a UFO-denier claimed that various reported sightings didn’t conform to the laws of physics — their hyper-rapid movement, their ability to appear and disappear — I’d think, “That’s true, but perhaps our laws of physics don’t apply to this super-intelligent life, or the creations thereof.”
I read a few books on the matter. “The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist who brokered no hooey. Although he initially harrumphed the notion of UFOs, he turned around later in life. “I know UFOs are real,” he told astronomer and ufologist Dr. J. Allen Hynek in 1984. Hynek was one of the first scientists to take UFOs seriously and was an adviser to the U.S. government’s Project Blue Book study in the 1960s.
Sagan published the novel “Contact” in 1985; 12 years later it was made into a popular, transfixing film starring Jodie Foster.
I discovered an enormous amount of evidence pointing to the possibility that we have been visited, at least once, in the past century. At the very least, there have been multiple cover ups involving UFO events at places such as Roswell, New Mexico and Rendelsham Forest in the UK.
There's footage and records of objects in the skies, that we don't know exactly what they are. We can't explain how they moved, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern. And so, you know, I think that people still take seriously trying to investigate and figure out what that is.
I’m partial to scientist/novelist Jacques Vallee’s theory that these sightings may involve visitations from other dimensions that coexist separately alongside our own. I also tend to think these visitors do not have hostile intents. As minds greater than mine have hypothesized, if they’re thousands of times more advanced than we are, chances are they’d be able to wipe us out in an instant should they desire to. Or, that we are to them as ants are to us: An organized society to be studied.
Regardless, an unclassified Pentagon report about what the government knows about all this is expected as early as this month. According to reporting in New York Magazine, it’ll be the most direct and substantive account of unidentified aerial phenomena ever made public by the U.S. government.