I do believe in UFOs.
The X-Files was a favorite show, of course, because it made the reality of such phenomena seem credible. Area 51 and its mystery still draw me in. The science fiction movies of the 1950s continue to enthrall me: It Came from Outer Space, The Day the Earth Stood Still, the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing from Another World, Them, Forbidden Planet. I have no doubt our love of such movies and the feeling of possibility they engender are signs of the truth of their message, something we inherently recognize, a connection we feel deep within.
My own writing leans often toward the mystery and reality of UFOs. In my science fiction mystery Gene Pool, it is the principal basis for the story, visitors arriving from a galaxy far, far away and entering a university town in western Massachusetts. In my novella The Visitors, this also happens, in a small town in upstate New York. Other stories I have written follow suit.
But such themes are not in my writing only because I have a vivid imagination, which I do (a fact that makes skeptics happily declare I am making everything up). I have also had more than one experience I cannot explain.
I am one among millions who have encountered such events. They aren’t something I want to prove happened. I don’t need to do that. I just know they did happen. And I love knowing this. I’ll tell you about one of those, here.
But first, let me digress slightly and describe a journey I took through New Mexico in 1998. I had been living in California for ten years and was returning to the northeast, driving cross country. I wrote a fictional account about that drive east in several books, but in Winter’s Edge I gave a true account of it.
“I had encountered compelling landscapes in New Mexico on my drive cross-country. Those had been new to me. They were haunting, unforgettable — massive cliffs rising straight up from the desert, the line unbroken by trees, the plain filled with low-lying yucca and creosote, cacti and mesquite, with desert grasses in irregular patches. I drove for a hundred miles through that and it felt like an alternate reality.
I’d taken a brief detour south through the desert to Roswell, of course. It was night when I passed the area where it was said the alien ship had landed, a lonely stretch of road with the outline of trees in the fields and clouds overhead. A few miles beyond that I came to a fork in the road and right in front of me was a small, dark cabin.
To my shock a massive white light emerged from the back of it, filling a space higher than the trees. I had the car windows open but there was no sound. With an impulse that made no sense, except that I was in that instant in a state of fear beyond thought, I drove forward, to the left, around the cabin. The light grew even more intense and the glare of its path widened. And then, on the other side, I saw a crew setting up huge strobe lights, to what end or why at nine o’clock in the evening I didn’t stop to ask.
It still feels real when I think of it, that absolute terror mixed with the rush of anticipation.
I reached the center of Roswell and stayed there one night and day. The town itself was dry and dusty, as laid back as a southwestern town could be, but it had a marvelous, well-kept UFO museum that enchanted me, with artifacts from 1947. It was one of the highlights of the two thousand and seven hundred-mile journey.”
I recall two things from that experience. One, I truly, absolutely, wanted the light to be a real UFO. And I was terrified it might be.
So there is the power of imagination and susceptibility and desire all at work together.
But ten years earlier, something did happen. I was still in California and had read Whitley Strieber’s personal real-life narrative of seeing alien visitors and an abduction in his book Communion, set in the 1980s in the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York, the same valley where I live now. This region is called the UFO capital of the world, with reports of sightings going back to the 1960s.
Strieber, living in a cabin near Pine Bush, NY, was the first person to describe the short, gray-skinned humanoid with large, black, almond-shaped eyes. This is the image at the top of this article and now is the standard image we and Hollywood know so well. He asked an artist friend to draw it based on what Strieber told him about the creatures who visited him that cold, long ago night.
After reading Strieber’s narrative, I thought it made for a great story, but my own predilections lie in the psychic and metaphysical fields when it comes to the paranormal. Still, I couldn’t forget it. It reminded me of another book I had read as a teenager, written in 1966, titled The Interrupted Journey, an account by John Fuller of the UFO abduction of Betty and Barney Hill in New Hampshire, as they drove near Franconia Notch and the Old Man in the Mountain, part of Cannon Mountain. These were places my family went to visit every summer while staying at my aunt’s cabins in North Conway. I was enthralled by the proximity and similar time frame.
I had a Dad who was enthralled, too, for many a time he would take us on drives along the back roads up there and we would watch the skies on those warm summer nights, all of us hoping against hope to see visitors arriving in their ship. The X-Files documents such scenes more than once. The idea is part of our cultural heritage now.
What was also unforgettable in the Interrupted Journey was how Barney and Betty Hill described the malfunctioning of their car and their seeing a number of humanoids with “black hair, dark eyes, prominent noses and bluish lips. Their skin …. a greyish colour.”
Reading Communion twenty years later lent impact to the whole experience of the Hills. It also had impact on the experience I had of my own, sometime in the 90s.
I was awakened in the middle of the night by a scurrying sound. My first thought was that a small animal had gotten into the house, though I lived in a residential neighborhood. I didn’t want to get up and see, my sleep state having been so deep and I didn’t feel as if I could even move. I just hoped whatever it was would go away or be harmless. Then the sound stopped and I closed my eyes. But at the edge of my vision I had caught something, not a blazing light, more like a defused light coming into the room from outside. It only went halfway up the height of the wall, but I woke fully and saw it across the center of the room, like a low, translucent curtain.
The next moment the scurrying went on again. What seemed a crowd of humanoid forms, very short, were rushing forward across the room through the defused light. Taller forms were waiting for them. I had the impression they were dressed in blue. The small humanoids disappeared into the wall, ignoring my presence. This lasted a minute and then everything disappeared, the defused light, the creatures, and the sound. I went upstairs and made coffee and brushed the whole thing away as a strange dream that reached me in that deep sleep.
Except it happened two more times over the course of the next weeks. Then nothing more.
It is easy to be skeptical of this. I read everything in a subject if I like it, and I’ve thus read about UFOs for decades. Not to mention the slew of movies describing their presence among us. To say I was influenced by the theme is an understatement.
Yet to me a skeptic is often someone who wants proof via the five senses. Without such proof, they deny the existence of the object or event, insisting it is indeed nothing but imagination at work.
That’s a rather limited framework, given the infinite number of mysteries we have not solved about life — here and elsewhere. I rather think our experiences on this earth go way beyond our five senses, all the time. And each one of us discovers this when we open our minds and hearts to other ways of being and knowing.
We don’t have to believe anything we don’t want to believe. But the key word there is “want.” It defines us. What we want to believe and what we allow ourselves to believe can be very carefully constructed.
Not to mention, our five senses are often suspect and an immensely unpredictable variable. For example, we have no more proof that what we see with our eyes, programmed as they have been to one frequency most of the time, is real, anymore than we have scientific proof people have experienced strange visitors and UFOs.
Our vision, at frequencies up to 80 Hz, have 126 million light-sensitive cells. But we still can only perceive the visible spectrum, and not wavelengths above or below it. Our eyes, directed by our brain as it interprets visual data delivered by the photons that reach us, cannot “see” radio waves or “see” the infrared spectrum. We cannot even confirm we all see the same colors or hues. Though shades and subtle distinctions are likely present for everyone, so no two people see absolutely the same thing — we have no way to prove this.
Perhaps the visitors from UFOs make themselves visible to accommodate our visual spectrum, or else, provide us with a new, albeit short-lived, way to see what they have to show us, for whatever reason.
If that sound speculative, of course it is. But so is everything we think we know, in the end. It is in seeking to know more that our true journey lies.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
— Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5