- Walter Sheets, a former College Park
police chief, saw his first UFO in the mid-'60s and has seen a slew of
them since. He welcomes a new call by a distinguished group of scientists
for more research on whether space aliens have ever visited Earth.
- So does Michael Hitt, a Roswell police
officer who has also seen some UFOs. He says the scientists' conclusion
-- that many UFO sightings have never been adequately explained -- is not
only obvious, but long overdue.
- If Sheets and Hitt are kooks, they have
a lot of company. Most of the American public would probably agree with
them, according to the latest Southern Focus poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- The poll found 59 percent of Southerners
and 66 percent of people outside the South think UFOs are real, or at least
could be. The poll also found that 53 percent of Southerners and 62 percent
of people outside the region think it's at least possible that aliens have
- Perhaps lending validity to those views,
the scientific panel, which conducted the first independent scholarly review
of UFOs in nearly three decades, published its 50-page report Monday. It
argued more research is needed because many strange phenomena have been
pooh-poohed too quickly. It cited mysterious objects on radar, strange
lights flitting in the skies, aberrations in the workings of automobiles,
skin burns of witnesses and radiation found in vegetation.
- The panel, headed by Stanford University
physicist Peter Sturrock and made up of scientists from other major universities,
chided scholars worldwide for shying away from UFO research because of
the potential for ridicule. It noted that meteorites and ball lightning
were "originally dismissed as folk tales."
- Sheets and Hitt said this new recommendation
will spark increased enthusiasm for a scheduled "sky watch" after
dusk on July 11, at which dozens of Georgians are expected to converge
on a "UFO hot spot" in Troup County. The event is sponsored by
the Georgia chapter of the Mutual UFO Network, of which both men are members.
- Hitt, 42, MUFON's state historian, said
thousands of UFOs have been sighted in Georgia. He said "hot spots"
change every few years and that Atlanta and military facilities in Georgia
have all been areas of alien scrutiny over the years.
- Faded Journal-Constitution archives show
"flying saucers" have been the subject of dozens of serious news
reports since World War II. In 1952, for example, the Constitution published
a United Press International story reporting that the U.S. military had
ordered jet pilots to take off instantly in pursuit of "flying saucers"
reported anywhere in the country.
- In 1973, a story in the Journal, quoting
officials of the North American Defense Command, reported that it was "very
unlikely" that a flock of UFOs sighted over Georgia could be explained
away as space junk falling to Earth.
- The Air Force last year made public what
it said would be its last report on UFOs. It explained that the famous
"Roswell incident" of 1947, thought by many to be a UFO crash
near the New Mexico town, was a military experiment with high-altitude
parachuting, involving dummies.
- The Pentagon launched Project Blue Book
in 1952 to investigate thousands of UFO sightings and ended the research
in 1969, concluding it had found no useful evidence any unexplained phenomena
constituted a security risk.
- Sheets, 49, a Vietnam combat veteran
who spent 25 years as a homicide detective before becoming police chief
in College Park, argues that Washington wants to sweep UFOs under the rug
because it fears "if mankind were to learn about another intelligence
from elsewhere, there would be chaos in our society."
- He said he personally has investigated
hundreds of sightings. He said he saw his first UFO as a student in the
1960s, peering through a telescope. He saw a "V-shaped formation of
disc-like craft, traveling east to west, high in the sky, performing unusual
and bizarre aerial maneuvers."
- He said many sightings are made by police
officers, who often are reluctant to tell their superiors for fear of being
- Hitt said he saw his first UFO in 1969
when he took his family to Florida to watch an Apollo moon launch. The
night before blastoff, he said, "we saw something that looked like
a shooting star, streaking across. But then it stopped, and reversed its
course, and did this zigzag pattern for 15 seconds. I knew no one would
believe me, so I got my sister, mother and grandmother to look, and they
all saw it. It was very rapid."
- Hitt said he feels UFOs have been visiting
Earth for eons but started coming more often after atomic bomb detonations
started in 1945. He said it is "well documented" that Dobbins
Air Reserve Base in Marietta was "buzzed" by UFOs in 1952, the
same year strange objects were reported streaking over the White House
by Washington newspapers.
- John Thompson, a 45-year-old LaGrange
insurance executive and a past state director of MUFON, said he and his
family -- his wife and three sons -- saw a UFO on Feb. 20, 1994, that had
to be from out of this world.
- "It looked like a string of bright,
non-blinking Christmas tree lights, just sitting in the sky, low on the
horizon. It had a large white light in the center, and it was revolving."
- By arguing that UFOs definitely do exist,
the MUFON members go far beyond the new scientific report, which only suggests
more study. Many other academics ridicule the very idea of UFOs, and say
that the only research needed is psychological: to determine why people
- Glenn Sparks, an expert on belief systems
at Purdue University, said his research shows that angst over the coming
of a new millennium, fed by Hollywood movies and TV shows, is fueling belief
in UFOs and other kinds of unproven phenomena, like ghosts.
- "People seem to want to believe,"
he said. "It's a general way of coping with upheaval in society."
- Michael Murphy, an anthropologist at
the University of Alabama, said: "There is absolutely no archaeological
evidence for UFOs, though it would be irrational to think that in an infinite
universe, there is not other life. But it's just as irrational to think
that any of that alien life could have found Earth and would be interested
in us if they did, unless they were entomologists and wanted to study us
- Dr. Terry Sandbek, a clinical psychologist
in California who also specializes in behavior, said the reason people
believe in UFOs is simple: "It's the same reason we enjoy fiction.
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is doing
a small UFO poll. A voting option and the interim results can be found
- Do you believe in UFOs?
- Yes: 85% 145
- No: 9% 16
- Unsure: 5% 9
- Total Votes: 170
- Have you seen any in the Atlanta area?
- Yes: 10% 18
- No: 89% 150
- Total Votes: 168
- Should the government fund more research
- Yes, this phenomenon can,t be ignored
any longer: 19% 33
- No, it's a waste of money: 13% 24
- The government knows all about UFO's,
they just don't want us to know:
- 67% 116
- Total Votes: 173