UFO Study - Believers
Say It's About Time

By Bill Hendrick
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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 visited Earth.
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 labeled kooks.
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 believe.
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 like bugs."
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. It's fun."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is doing a small UFO poll. A voting option and the interim results can be found at
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 on UFO's?
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

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