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contact with UFOs

Every summer Contactees -- people who believe they have communicated with god-like space people -- flock to the Rocky Mountain Conference on UFO Investigation, held on the University of Wyoming campus in Laramie. All these people have remarkable stories to tell: stories of personal transformation that sound like classic religious experiences in Space Age guise.

One of the stories is told by Merry Lynn Noble, by her own admission once "one of the leading call girls in the western United States." She was also an alcohol and drug addict seeking to change her life through spiritual studies. In February 1982, exhausted and depressed, she visited her parents in Montana. One evening, as they were driving in the country, a flying saucer appeared, bathing the car in light.

Noble's parents, who "were just frozen there," seemed unaware of the UFO's presence. Meanwhile, Merry Lynn in her astral body was being drawn into the craft, where she felt "absolute ecstasy, total peace, womblike warmth. . . . 'I'm so glad to leave that body,' I thought." She communicated telepathically with a "presence" who gave her a "new soul, with new energy, new humility." The next thing she knew, she was jolted back into her physical body.

From that moment her life began to change for the better. She found a good job and joined Alcoholics Anonymous, where she met the man whom she would marry. Her psychic contact with the extraterrestrial she met aboard the saucer continues, and she has written an unpublished autobiography, Sex, God and UFOs.

On the evening of September 19, 1961, while driving home to Portsmouth through rural New Hampshire, Barney and Betty Hill sighted a pancake-shaped UFO with a double row of windows. At one point they stopped their car, and Barney got out for a better look. As the UFO tilted in his direction, he saw six uniformed beings inside. Suddenly frightened, the Hills sped away, but soon a series of beeps sounded, their vehicle started to vibrate, and they felt drowsy. The next thing they knew, they were hearing beeps again. The UFO was gone. When they arrived home, it was two hours later than they expected; somehow, the Hills had lost two hours.

A series of disturbing dreams and other problems led the Hills to seek psychiatric help. Between January and June 1964, under hypnosis, they recounted the landing of the UFO, the emergence of its occupants, their abduction into the craft, and separately experienced medical examinations. In 1965 a Boston newspaper reported the story, which in 1967 became the subject of a best-selling book, John G. Fuller's The Interrupted Journey. On October 20, 1975, NBC television broadcast a docudrama, The UFO Incident, about the experience.

Most everyone has heard of the UFO abduction of the Hills. At the time it shocked even hard-core ufologists. Nothing quite like it had ever been recorded. Ufologists did know of a bizarre December 1954 incident from Venezuela: Four hairy UFO beings allegedly tried to drag a hunter into their craft, only to be discouraged when his companion struck one of them on the head with the butt of his gun. In any case, ufologists traditionally viewed with suspicion claims of on-board encounters with UFO crews. Those kinds of stories were associated with "contactees," who were regarded, with good reason, as charlatans who peddled long-winded tales of meetings with godlike "Space Brothers." The Hills, however, had a sterling personal reputation, and they returned from their experience with no messages of cosmic uplift.

The late comedian Jackie Gleason's second wife Beverly tells a strange story that she swears is true. One evening in 1973, she writes in an unpublished book on their marriage, Gleason returned to her Florida home badly shaken. After first refusing to tell her why he was so upset, Gleason confided that earlier in the day his friend President Richard Nixon had arranged for him to visit Homestead Air Force Base in Florida.

Upon his arrival armed guards took Gleason to a building at a remote location on the site. There, Gleason, who harbored an intense interest in UFOs, saw the embalmed bodies of four alien beings, two feet long, with small bald heads and big ears. He was told nothing about the circumstances of their recovery. He swore his wife to secrecy, but after their divorce Beverly freely discussed the story.

In the mid-1980s, when ufologist Larry Bryant sued the U.S. government to get it to reveal its UFO secrets, he tried without success to subpoena Gleason.

One night in 1974, from a Cessna Citation aircraft, one of America's most famous citizens saw a UFO.

There were four persons aboard the plane: pilot Bill Paynter, two security guards, and the governor of California, Ronald Reagan. As the airplane approached Bakersfield, California, the passengers called Paynter's attention to a strange object to their rear. "It appeared to be several hundred yards away," Paynter recalled. "It was a fairly steady light until it began to accelerate. Then it appeared to elongate. Then the light took off. It went up at a 45-degree angle-at a high rate of speed. Everyone on the plane was surprised. . . . The UFO went from a normal cruise speed to a fantastic speed instantly. If you give an airplane power, it will accelerate-but not like a hot rod, and that's what this was like."

A week later Reagan recounted the sighting to Norman C. Miller, then Washington bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. Reagan told Miller, "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 Miller expressed some doubt, a "look of horror came over [Reagan]. It suddenly dawned on him . . . that he was talking to a reporter." Immediately afterward, according to Miller, Reagan "clammed up."

Reagan has not discussed the incident publicly since.

"Have We Visitors from Space?" Life magazine asked in an article in its April 7, 1952, issue. It was a question people all over the world were asking in wonder or fear or both. What, short of intruders from other worlds, could explain the presence in the Earth's atmosphere of objects that looked like structured craft but which performed in ways unimaginably beyond the capacity of earthly rockets and airplanes?
photo of j. allen hynek
Intercontinental U.F.O. Galactic Spacecraft Research and Analytic Network Archives
The pioneering UFO work of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, now deceased, is carried on by many ufologists hoping to uncover the secret of Roswell and other UFO encounters.
Astro­nomer Clyde Tombaugh -- who had discovered the planet Pluto in 1930 -- was numbered among those who had seen flying saucers. On the evening of August 20, 1949, he, his wife, and his mother-in-law saw a "geometrical group of faint bluish-green rectangles of light" apparently attached to a larger "structure." He said of the experience, "I have done thousands of hours of night sky watching, but never saw a sight so strange as this."

In 1952, in an informal survey of 44 of his fellow astronomers, J. Allen Hynek of Project Blue Book learned that five had seen UFOs. "A higher percentage than among the public at large," Professor Hynek noted in an internal Air Force memorandum. Fear of ridicule kept most scientists silent about their sightings, however. In a 1976 survey of members of the American Astronomical Society, 62 admitted to having had UFO experiences; only one of the scientists made a public report of his sighting.

One astronomer more than any other would be associated with the UFO phenomenon: Professor Hynek. In 1948 the Air Force asked Hynek -- as a faculty member at Ohio State University, he was the astronomer closest to Dayton, Ohio, the location of the UFO project's headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB) -- to look at the UFO reports it was gathering to determine which of them resulted from misidentification of astronomical phenomena such as meteors, comets, planets, and stars.

To the extent he had given the subject any thought, Hynek was deeply skeptical of flying saucers. Yet four years later, he confessed in a lecture to colleagues that some reports were indeed "puzzling." The "steady flow of reports, often made in concert by reliable observers," merited scientific attention, not ridicule. "Ridicule is not a part of the scientific method," Hynek said, "and the public should not be taught that it is."