The Hack and the Quack

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Dilettoso is needlessly conservative. If the lights of March 13 were of otherworldly origin, it would be one of the most significant events in human history.

That's been the holy grail of a movement spawned decades ago that shows no sign of abating. But research into UFOs has changed considerably, much to the chagrin of investigators who still insist on a scientific approach to unexplained sightings.

Interest in "flying saucers" exploded in post-World War II America, prompting the Air Force to hire an astronomy professor, J. Allen Hynek, and others to investigate. For more than 20 years, Hynek and the rest of the Air Force's Project Blue Book examined UFO sightings, the vast majority of which were easily explained as natural phenomena.

The military ended Hynek's contract and Project Blue Book in 1969, and four years later Hynek, by then head of Northwestern University's astronomy department, created the Center for UFO Studies. The center examined UFO claims scientifically and tabulated its results. In its initial studies, the center found, for example, that 28 percent of sightings were simply bright stars or planets (in 49 of those cases, witnesses estimated that the celestial objects were between 200 feet and 125 miles away).

Of 1,307 cases which the center examined in the early 1970s, only 20 seemed unexplainable. The center stopped short of claiming that those 20 were caused by alien spacecraft.

UFO investigator Philip J. Klass, in an article about Hynek, points out that few present researchers apply the same kinds of rigorous study to the subject. For today's "investigators," the slightest mystery is obvious proof of an extraterrestrial presence.

Hynek died in 1986 in Scottsdale. By then, the field he helped pioneer was changing radically.

Jim Marrs is a good example. Author of the best-selling Alien Agenda, Marrs is touted as both an expert on UFOs and the John F. Kennedy assassination (and, incredibly, connects the two in Alien Agenda, suggesting that Kennedy was killed for his knowledge of U.S.-space alien contacts). Oliver Stone mined Marrs' 1990 book Crossfire for his conspiracy-minded film JFK.

Today, Jim Marrs is giving a sermon.
He's a featured speaker at the Seventh Annual International UFO Congress. His message: There's no question aliens are among us. The real question, he asserts, is what their "agenda" is.

"I feel like I'm preaching to the choir. I don't think I need to explain anything to you," he says in his Texas twang.

Marrs preaches about our moon, for example, asserting that it is "the original UFO," and a great mystery. Marrs asserts that, unlike other celestial objects, the moon travels not in an ellipse but "in a nearly perfectly circular orbit."

No one objects to this falsehood. In fact, the moon moves in a very respectable ellipse which can change its distance from Earth up to 50,000 kilometers.

To Marrs, the sum of this and other effects--which include several basic errors of astronomical knowledge from a best-selling author who claims to be an expert--lead to only one, unavoidable conclusion: It is obvious that an ancient, extraterrestrial race parked the moon in a perfect orbit around Earth.

No one in the audience laughs.
"I don't have to explain this. You all believe this, right?" Marrs asks, and he gets a resounding "yes" from the choir.

Meanwhile, two women ignore Marrs as they talk about why aliens are abducting so many people. One says aliens want to create a hybrid human-alien race which will be able to operate the advanced technology aliens plan on bestowing us.

The second woman says that the hybrid race would be pandimensional, capable of disappearing into the fourth dimension.

Lights in the sky. Bizarre dreams. Objects whizzing by in video shots which look just like bugs out of focus. Memories of alien abductions "recovered" by suggestive hypnotherapists.

The movement barely resembles the field of inquiry taken seriously by the late Hynek.

With a heavy dose of New Age influence, the UFO movement increasingly grows less like a science and more like a religion. Some investigators point to an early case that marked this shift: the elaborate claims of a one-armed Swiss farmer named Eduard "Billy" Meier.

Since 1975, Meier has claimed to have had more than 700 contacts with aliens from the Pleiades star cluster. In most of those contacts, a female alien named Semjase has appeared to Meier, allowed him to photograph her spacecraft, taken him on rides in the craft, and even whisked him into the past to meet Jesus Christ, who was duly impressed with the advice Meier gave him. He has taken more than 1,000 photographs of Semjase's craft (which Semjase only reveals to Meier when he is alone), as well as photos of alien women, closeups of famous celestial objects, and even the eye of God. Meier claims that he is the reincarnation of Christ and that his teachings, based on what Semjase tells him, will save mankind.

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Tony Ortega
Contact: Tony Ortega