Whatever happened to Kenneth Arnold?
Time for a change of pace. I’ve been researching more into my pet topic – the surveillance society – and have thoroughly depressed myself (watch out for a post soon on my findings). So I needed some light relief. I’ve been reading a great book – Andrew Chaikin’s A Man on the Moon, and have just polished off the first authorised biography of Neil Armstrong, so I’m obviously in some sort of space travel frame of mind. Beam me up Scotty!
I started thinking about whether astronauts have seen UFOs on their space voyages and this led me to thinking about the history of UFO sightings, and the ultimate question: whatever happened to Kenneth Arnold, the salesman and pilot who reported way back in 1947 that he’d spotted nine objects flying in a V formation that tipped their wings like “a saucer if you skip it across water”. And so the term ‘flying saucer’ entered the lexicon.
I am a sucker for a good conspiracy theory and as I was growing up, I was convinced that aliens were amongst us (well, I still think that in some organisations I’ve worked in, aliens have been present!). I was obsessed with UFOs; I watched Star Trek episodes repeatedly to the frustration of my parents; I could name the planets in order by the time I hit kindergarten (easier to recite now that poor old Pluto has been vanquished); I was precocious enough to blurt out to my teachers that the two moons of Mars are Deimos and Phobos, doesn’t everyone know this?; I dreamed of being an astronaut (I wasn’t astute enough at such a young age to figure out that only men reached the moon until the Shuttle programme gave women a ticket to ride). By the time I reached high school, I could recite any fact you needed to know about Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the Moon. I still marvel at the feat of the Powered Descent in Eagle, using primitive 1960s computers.
When I was about 14 years, I was waiting outside the house for my parents – we were off to dinner – I was gazing at the night sky and saw two UFOs. They were probably satellites, but I was convinced. Surely my father would understand – he’d been an air force fighter pilot and must have seen white lights dancing around the sky or UFOs tracking him – but he just looked at me with a perplexed expression. He stared skyward but could see no UFOs.
Somewhere in my 20s, I lost interest. Studying law tends to do that to you – there’s no “Alien Rights Bill” or Alien Discrimination Act to learn about! But recently, I’ve been drawn to the space travel section of my favourite bookstore and bought 5 books on the Apollo programme…and then…in came an article from Wired on 60 years of UFO sightings that really piqued my interest.
But first, whatever happened to Kenneth Arnold, the man who sparked off the whole Roswell conspiracy theory? A quick dive into Wikipedia tells us he died in 1984 and, following his 1947 UFO sighting, he seems to have spent the rest of his life interviewing UFO witnesses and even wrote a book (mmm…missed that one).
Now, I’ve always wondered why contactees of aliens seem to come across them as the aliens wander through the desert. The most famous contactee was George Adamski, who allegedly met an alien called Orthon in the California desert on November 20, 1952. These “friendly” space people warned of the dangers of scientific progress and gave spiritual messages for humanity. Did Orthon lose his GPS and couldn’t find the bright lights of LA? And what’s with the strange monikers aliens seem to be labelled with: Orthon and Eloha.
Eloha is an interesting alien sighting. I didn’t know about the International Raelian Movement, founded in 1974 by Rael, aka Claude Vorilhon, a former French motor-racing writer. Apparently, Rael encountered Eloha (probably in the desert) and Eloha told him that humans are the product of a cunning DNA experiment and that the Bible and other religious texts refer to encounters with aliens, not God or His angels.
This Rael dude thinks he is related to Jesus and Mohammad and has managed to attract several thousand followers who are planning to make their headquarters in Las Vegas. Las Vegas?? How perfect if you ask me. Las Vegas: the venue for the 2007 UFO Conference and the place where Prophet Yahweh, Seer of Yahweh, called down UFOs and spaceships for the media to photograph. Seems the aliens and their spaceships missed the glossy photo shoot as they never appeared.
I ended up thinking that the hysteria over UFOs, alien abductions, aliens with dire prophecies for mankind and so on, was the result of too many people in the 1960s taking magic mushroom trips or perhaps was a result of the jet and space age following WWII. With jet planes, military and weather balloons, satellites and meteor showers whizzing through the atmosphere, our imaginations were bound to leap to the extraordinary.
But maybe not: approximately half the US population currently believe the media is conditioning them for an alien encounter. As recently as 2002, a Roper Poll found that one in seven people in the US claim to have spotted a UFO or have been a contactee (no word on whether all alien encounters occurred in the desert). I haven’t looked into whether Australians believe the same but we do of course have our very own UFO capital – Wycliffe Well, near Tennant Creek in Central Australia (the Outback, the desert – is there a pattern here?)
I remember being caught up in the Roswell thing – that some poor aliens crashed their spacecraft in Roswell, US and the US Government recovered the technology and conducted autopsies on the alien bodies. I think somewhere I even read the suggestion that what the US Government recovered allowed the Americans to build the lunar landing vehicles or Apollo spacecraft. And then of course we had Alien Autopsy in 1995 – supposedly genuine footage of an autopsy of one of the Roswell aliens, obtained from an old US cameraman. This was around the time of the X-Files, a TV series said to have been inspired by Roswell (and great TV viewing if you ask me). Why the old footage made its surprise appearance in 1995 and not years earlier I don’t know.
Actually, the 1990s was gripped by refueled interest in UFOs and aliens – Hollywood films like Independence Day (1996) and Men in Black (1997) – but things really started heating up in 2005 when a document said to have been written in the 1970s came to light. One of the Roswell aliens survived the crash in the 1940s (he was called EBE1, not Joe or Bob or Bill). EBE1 rounded up some military types and specially trained them and then they all took off for EBE1’s home planet, Serpo. Twelve humans stayed on Serpo from 1965 to 1978 – two remained on Serpo whilst the others died on the planet or when they returned to Earth. Say what??? You can read about it here. Mind you, this story does explain what has happened to some of the relatives I lost touch with – phone home please! Apparently, Serpo is a planet of Zeta Reticuli (where?). I had to fight hard not to succumb to the temptation of reading the report and getting caught up in this stuff.
Getting back to us being groomed to the idea of meeting aliens, some Ufologists considered the film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), a U.S.-government-backed project to get the public used to the idea of friendly aliens. The film had such an impact on the British House of Lords, it held a three-hour debate on alien abductions in 1979. Her Majesty’s government, however, decided UFOs were not alien spacecraft and were not a threat to the nation. Thank goodness, can you just imagine Her Majesty meeting someone called Eloha or Orthon.
NASA is now talking about a manned mission to Mars and “terraforming” is the new buzz word with news that Lowell Wood, a noted physicist, has outlined a plan to transform the Red Planet into a habitable world by the end of the 21st Century. Will we now see a spate of Martians whizzing around our planet in UFOs or walking aimlessly in some desert somewhere? As we get closer to a possible Mars mission, will UFO hysteria crop up again I wonder.
What’s always intriguing to me is that aliens seem to all be doctors. Barney and Betty Hill were driving peacefully in their car in 1961 when they noticed a UFO following them (as you do). When they reached home, they could not remember a large chunk of the journey and hypnosis revealed the couple recalled being abducted by aliens who subjected them to intimate and gruelling medical examinations. I can’t remember large chunks of my life, so a spot of hypnosis might just reveal that I haven’t really been working in law or KM – that I was abducted by aliens who conducted their nasty experiments (send the medical reports to my doctor please).
Joking aside, there are some people out there who are very serious about UFOs and aliens – take Stanton Friedman, a leading Ufologist who says: “The evidence is overwhelming that some UFOs are intelligently controlled ET spacecraft...” and he argues further “that the subject represents a cosmic Watergate, that there are no good arguments against these conclusions and that flying saucers and the worldwide government cover-up are the biggest story of the millennium“. You can check out Friedman’s site here.
And then there’s the Disclosure Project: ex-CIA and military officers describing their experiences covering up UFO and extraterrastrial encounters. I haven’t checked this site out thoroughly yet, but I plan to. Just in case you come across an alien, here’s a Layman’s Guide to Alien Contact.
I’ve spent so many years in law, teaching, information and knowledge management, that I’ve lost touch with the latest in alien encounters and UFO theories. But I often think that this vast universe can’t just be ours alone. What are your thoughts: why do humans seem to be so keen to believe that we are not alone in the Universe? Ever encountered an alien or seen a UFO?