The annual International UFO Congress will take place over the next few days at a small conference center at the Radisson Fort McDowell hotel in the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.
Only one thing is missing from this event, which is expected to draw about 2,500 people:
Any real evidence of alien visitation.
Sure, there will be evidence at the conference, mostly in the form of anecdotes. For instance, Kim Carlsberg will describe her experiences of being abducted from her home in Malibu in the late 1980s, when she worked as a still photographer for the TV show Baywatch.
The aliens she saw, according to an amazon.com customer review of her groundbreaking 1995 book, were:
"mantis-like beings as well as the smaller and larger sub-species of almond-eyed `grey' and like others, she has repeated encounters with one or two specifically identifiable individuals who seem to be personally responsible for her 'medical program'. She also, like almost all other abductees, encounters 'hybrid' children, has interactions with hybrid adults of various stages and encounters other abductees she recognises from the 'real world.' Her observations about the ignorance of debunkers, for example blaming it all on hypnotists, are priceless."
The "ignorant debunker" argument is a staple in UFO research. But we couldn't help noticing that the conference's session on sharing abduction stories is closed to the news media. From the conference's website:
Experiencer Sessions - Lead [sic] by a qualified therapist
These sessions are held in a private side room in the conference center, and seating is limited to the first 50 attendees. If you want to share your story of a sighting, visitation, or abduction or just sit and listen to others share their story then this is the session for you. This environment is designed to be a safe and comfortable place for people to gather knowledge and guidance with their experiences. No Press is Allowed in any session.
Of course, no "press" is allowed. Because the only articles or broadcast news pieces that could come from an "experiencer session" would resemble comedy.
There must be life out there, somewhere. We loved that line in Contact about how it would be a great waste of space if there weren't. These days, science lovers can do more than just dream about planets beyond our solar system -- we can read about the new ones being discovered at an increasing rate. More than 1,000 have been catalogued since 1995.
But in an age when cameras are everywhere and material is routinely analyzed on an atomic scale, credible evidence of alien visitation of the Earth has yet to turn up. C'mon, you would have heard about it by now. Cameras catch Corvettes dropping into sinkholes, meteors, astonishing close calls, and a million different one-in-a-million events.
No aliens or truly mysterious objects have been caught on video yet, though.
How will you know if a real UFO or UFO pilot turns up on video? Won't most people still dismiss it as a fake? Not necessarily. Like Justice Potter Stewart's famous quote about obscenity, you'll know it when you see it. Like videos of the Chelyabinsk meteor we wrote about in this week's cover story, or videos of people performing jaw-dropping stunts, or Tina Maze tying the time (to within one 100th of second) of Dominique Gisin to share gold in the women's downhill on Wednesday, some videos are pretty good evidence. Of course, it'll help if the visitors pose for pictures, like the alien robot in 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Unlike the recent video of a UFO docking with the International Space Station that caused an Internet buzz a few days ago, authentic UFO or alien footage will punch you in the gut like video of 9/11. It'll get more views than "Gangnam Style" precisely because it will be so . . . indescribably amazing.
In our ignorant debunker's heart, we hope someday to see something like that.
For the time being, though, the folks who attend the UFO conference near Fountain Hills have nothing real to talk about.
Fun party and get-together? Yes.
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A single shred of convincing evidence? Nope.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.