- The rich really are different. When Laurance S. Rockefeller-yes,
those Rockefellers-wanted to know more about UFOs, he didn't have to satisfy
his curiosity at alien-hunters' Web sites or in the Weird Science section
of Barnes & Noble. He asked Peter A. Sturrock, the former director
of the Center for Space Science and Astrophysics at Stanford University,
to convene a private meeting of a dozen top scientists at the Pocantico
Conference Center, on the grounds of the old Rockefeller family estate
20 miles north of Manhattan. Sturrock's guest list and agenda was noteworthy
for its omissions. Bob Lazar, who claimed to have reverse-engineered UFOs
at Area 51, wasn't invited. Neither was alien-buster Philip J. Klass of
the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
Roswell, the "face" on Mars and other familiar sightings got
little attention. Instead, researchers from Princeton University, Stanford,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Center for Space Research
in France focused on cases with more meat on their bones-sightings in which
physical evidence was left behind. "While their findings were not
conclusive, I hope [they] will raise the level of the debate," Rockefeller
- "Ask most scientists what they think of the UFO
enigma and you will almost certainly get a scoff and a brushoff like, 'There's
not one shred of evidence,'" says Bernard Haisch, an astronomer with
more than 100 scientific publications to his credit. "That answer
is simply not true. The problem is that this evidence does not follow our
expected scientific logic, and so scientists dismiss what is, in fact,
a huge number of accounts. Many sighting reports, as absurd as they sometimes
appear, are probably real. Most professional scientists never bother to
look at the evidence. Instead, the dogmatic dismissals by professional
debunkers, which are often patently ridiculous, are simply taken at face
- As you will see for yourself, some of the cases discussed
at Pocantico are difficult for even die-hard skeptics to ignore.
- Police Cruiser Blackout Luis Delgado was a 28-year-old
patrolman for the Haines City, Fla., police department when he became part
of one of the most compelling UFO sightings. It happened about 3:50 am,
on March 19, 1992. Delgado noticed a rapidly descending green light in
his rearview mirror as he drove down a street alongside a citrus grove.
The light seemed to keep pace with his cruiser, until he slowed down. Then
the silent, dome-shaped object flew overhead, filling his police cruiser
with a brilliant green glow. He pulled to a stop, and the power in his
vehicle went dead. For the next several minutes he stood outside his car
watching the 15-ft.-wide craft hover silently in front of him. It seemed
to float about 10 ft. off the ground, cooling the surrounding air to the
point at which it formed a foggy mist. Then, just as quickly as it appeared,
it sped away. Delgado returned to his car, and found the electrical system
was again operating.
- "The scientific panel was very impressed by cases
in which electrical equipment was disrupted," says Michael D. Swords,
of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich. A conference participant
at Pocantico, Swords told Popular Mechanics that this type of encounter
is far more common than most people realize. UFO investigator Mark Rodeghier
of the Center for UFO Studies in Chicago told the conference at Pocantico
that over the past 50 years more than 500 similar reports had been filed.
What distinguishes the Delgado sighting is the inherent credibility of
the observer. As a police officer, Delgado had nothing to gain-and possibly
a great deal to lose-by coming forward with his account.
- Trans-En-Provence For UFO investigators, the most disappointing
aspect of the Delgado sighting isn't the absence of evidence, but the way
evidence has been allowed to simply disappear through neglect. Samples
of the nearby road and vegetation were never collected. No radiation measurements
of the area were made.
- UFO researchers in France take the scientific investigations
of unexplained aerial phenomena more seriously than those in the United
States. The Center for Space Research, France's counterpart to NASA, even
has a team that swings into action when these types of events occur. The
team is called GEPAN, after the French acronym for Unidentified Aerospace
Phenomena Study Group.
- Investigator Jean-Jacques Velasco told the Pocantico
conference the details of what is perhaps the most completely and carefully
documented sighting of all time, the Trans-En-Provence incident. Renato
Nicolai didn't think he had seen a UFO, but instead a secret military aircraft
that had strayed from its test site. A contractor who had been retired
for about two years when the episode occurred on Jan. 8, 1981, Nicolai
was working on his terrace in the late afternoon when he heard a faint
whistling. In the distance he saw a lead-colored object, about 5 ft. high,
a bit wider in diameter, and shaped like a pair of inverted bowls, fall
from the sky. It came to a floating stop about 6 ft. above the ground.
For the next half-minute he observed the object, and then watched it rise
into the sky, creating a small trail of dust. "When my wife came home
in the evening, I told her what I had seen," he said in his official
report. "My wife thought I was joking." The following morning,
he showed her where it had hovered and the two of them spotted circular
traces it had left in the ground. Neighbors suggested they tell the police.
Through the police, word reached GEPAN, which routinely checks to see whether
such sightings are of a military activity or an aircraft. When both were
ruled out, GEPAN interviewed Nicolai and collected soil from the area where
the object had reportedly hovered. The mystery only deepened. There was
black material mixed with the soil, but chemical analysis ruled out combustion
residue, oil or concrete. Later analyses showed the soil had been contaminated
with traces of metal, and the surrounding vegetation showed subtle damage.
Something happened in Trans-En-Provence, but to this day no one is certain
of what that was.
- Metal Rain There was absolutely no question about what
happened in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on the night of Dec. 17, 1977. A UFO
ejected about 40 pounds of molten metal onto the ground. While most of
America was settling down for the evening sitcoms, Mike and Criss Moore,
who were each 24 at the time, were driving to Mike's mother's home in Council
Bluffs. About a half mile ahead, just above the treetops, they saw a glowing
red ball falling toward Big Lake Park. "It hit the ground in the vicinity
of Gilberts Pond in Big Lake Park, across the Missouri River from Eppley
Airfield. The exact street address is 1900 N. Eighth St.," says Jacques
F. Vallee-a computer scientist who has compiled a database of thousands
of sightings-in detailing the episode. When onlookers arrived at the impact
point on a small levee, they found a 4-in.-thick mass of molten, red-orange
metal covering the frozen ground, about 16 ft. from the road. The metal
mass was still glowing 15 minutes later when Mike Moore's father, assistant
fire chief Jack Moore, arrived.
- After the metal had cooled, Robert Allen, a local astronomer,
collected samples. Part of the roughly 40-pound slab went to the U.S. Air
Force's Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
in Ohio. A portion also went to the Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University.
The Air Force never made its analysis public, but in a letter assured local
authorities that "re-entering spacecraft debris does not impact the
earth's surface in a molten state." In his report, Ames Laboratory
director Robert S. Hansen ruled out a meteor.
- Officially, the episode remains an unsolved mystery,
but Vallee sees it as something more telling. The Council Bluffs episode
was not unique. At the Pocantico conference, Vallee said that in at least
nine other sightings, aerial objects in distress were accompanied by the
ejection of molten metal. "Reports of unusual metallic residue following
the observation of an unexplained aerial phenomenon are detailed enough
for a comparative study to be undertaken."
- True Skeptics Needed Bernard Haisch, a former Lockheed
scientist who had served on the Rockerfeller panel in 1997, believes it
is time for the scientific community to become more skeptical in the truest
sense of the word. "We need to be skeptical of both the believers
and the scoffers," he told PM during a visit to the California Institute
for Physics and Astrophysics in Palo Alto, Calif., where he is currently
director. To this end, Haisch recently created www.ufoskeptic.org. The
Web site encourages mainstream scientists to reconsider the UFO phenomenon
in light of recent advances in physics, such as superstring and M-brane
theories, which postulate the existence of multidimensional space. "I
have been an active professional astronomer since earning my doctorate
in 1975," he says. "I've learned quite a bit about the UFO phenomenon
over the years, certainly more than I had bargained for. UFO sightings
are not limited to farmers in backward rural areas. There are astronomers,
and pilots and NASA engineers, who have witnessed events for which there
is no plausible conventional explanation."
Site Served by TheHostPros