For most people who heard about it for the first time, it started off with a somewhat startling article in THE HILL that: the military 'stands ready' and feds warn ufo enthusiasts against storming area 51.

The area has long been a focus of public interest for citizens and presidents alike. John Podesta, chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, said that his former boss had "asked for some information about some of these things, and in particular, some information about what was going on at Area 51."

Area 51 has been a prominent pop culture reference and made a notable appearance in the alien invasion movie "Independence Day."

Believers claim that in 1947 outer space flying saucers have landed in nearby Roswell and aliens have then taken over Area 51 (not to mention a number of other such bases) places that provide an alien beachhead on Earth smoothing the way for the conquest of the planet by extraterrestrials. The film Independence Day offered a twist on this fear and belief and Area, 51 becomes the staging ground for resistance to an alien onslaught…

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One of the arguments has been that beliefs in UFO's (which as we will see started as a trick) and what led to the belief related to can be described as a form of an esoteric religion whose earlier proprietors sometimes  borrowed from people like Blavatsky or Rudolf Steiner the latter who is known to have claimed that "for the million years up to 10,000 BC in those parts of the world that now constitute the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean there existed an absolutely unique culture of people that in body and soul thoroughly differed from humans today. These people had aircraft which they flew close to the ground ... In those days the air was much thicker, the water was much thinner; it moved more artistically and let itself be guided, etc... [ellipses by Max von Laue].”

A good example of a person who mixed esoteric ideas with more worldly pursuits and who reported the first alien abduction was William Dudley Pelley the founder the Silver Shirts.

Lying naked on a marble slab, with two men in white uniforms attending to him. they told William Dudley Pelley to neither be afraid nor try to see everything in the first "seven minutes." One of the white-clad individuals told Pelley that everyone has lived hundreds of times before because earth is a classroom where souls learn and move up the spiritual hierarchy. This hierarchy accounts for human races, which are simply "great classifications of humanity epitomizing gradations of spiritual development, starting with the black man and proceeding upward in cycles to the white."

After reading Subversive Movements, 1924, by Nesta Webster who believed the five powers behind the world conspiracy were Grand Orient Masonry, Theosophy, Pan Germanism, international finance, and social revolution. Pelley asserted that he received a clairaudient message that he should create a paramilitary organization. Heeding this rather dubious inspiration, Pelley established the Silver Legion of America on January 31, 1932. 

In 1933 two supporters purchased a plot of land to build a world headquarters for the Silver Legion. The building, however, came to a screeching halt on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when federal agents, who apparently had been watching the progress of the compound and its activities with some interest, stormed infrastructure.

Another at the time a famous figure was George Adamski.

He first founded an organization called the Royal Order of Tibet, to disseminate the messages of the (Theosophical) Masters.  In the 1940’s he wrote a short story revolving around spiritual contacts with mysterious, highly evolved beings. A decade later, the same claims would once again be presented, but this time as biographical facts of Adamski’s own life. Other texts from the period of this involvement with the Royal Order of Tibet were reworked and the Oriental Mahatmas were replaced with aliens. And started the boom for UFO related religiosity.

In retrospect, it makes a great deal of sense that the Shaver Mystery disappeared from popular awareness in favor of flying saucers from outer space. Shaver’s vision was dark and pessimistic, clearly shaped by the darker aspects of his mental illness. His focus was underground, away from the light and toward the caverns under our feet. But after World War II, Western eyes were looking upwards, to the stars and a brighter future. Even its paranoia was disguised with flashing lights and silver-toned spaceships. For a while, Palmer suggested that sightings of flying saucers confirmed the Shaver Mystery. Perhaps, he argued, they were flying ships from the caverns, piloted by the evil dero. But the call of outer space was too great. The extraterrestrial hypothesis won out, and the last half of the twentieth century saw films and television programs devoted to flying saucers from the stars rather than from subterranean realms. Another conspiracy theory rose to near-mainstream acceptance, while the Shaver Mystery disappeared. Flying saucers were reported over Washington, DC, but the dero stayed hidden in their caves.

The making of a myth

When in the 1960s, famous UFOlogist Jim Moseley made a pilgrimage to the Wisconsin farm where Ray Palmer ("the man who invented flying saucers") spent most of his later years. Palmer asked Moseley rhetorically, “What if I told you it was all a joke?”

Ray Palmer from 1945 to 1947 initially printed material about a subterranean world inhabited where demonic creatures traveled about in flying disks and by means of secret rays were responsible for most of the ills of Mankind.

But while initially, the "Shaver Mystery" might also have been of influence, the step to full-fledged UFO's as flying saucers was indeed made by Ray Palmer who's Amazing Stories’ August 1946 was the first to depict flying discs. In fact Palmer was quick to argue that for several years, he noted, Shaver had mentioned the Deros' supposed spaceships. The idea that Shaver and Palmer had somehow predicted or presaged the "flying saucer" craze was later championed by writer John Keel.

It also was in the first issue of Fate, Palmer published Kenneth Arnold's report of "flying discs"...

Palmer's cryptic remark “What if I told you it was all a joke?” might be understood when we realize that Kenneth Arnold claims we can safely say was influenced by the Maury Island UFO Hoax which Ray Palmer had sent Kenneth Arnold out to investigate. It was this made up UFO sighting promoted by Ray Palmer that inspired the term “flying saucer,” and shortly thereafter prompted the 1947 Roswell claim that led to the mystique surrounding Area 51.

In his book, Angels and Aliens: UFOs and the Mythic Imagination, author Keith Thompson recounts what happened next: “Within a matter of hours, Arnold’s story — trumpeted by the evocative phrase ‘flying saucers,’ a creation of anonymous headline writers — became front-page news throughout the nation.”

When in 1952 rumors began circling around about flying saucers landing in the desert near Paloma. Adamski went out on an expedition to find them.

Adamski's following vision of a friendly, laid-back alien race is strikingly different from the descriptions of the bulbous, bug-eyed alien "greys" that UFO abductees speak of today. Adamski described Space Brother Orthon as tall, blond, humanoid with tan skin and brown shoes. Additionally, Adamski said that Orthon left mysterious symbolic imprints in the ground where he walked.

Adamski immediately became a major flying saucer celebrity after the release of his 1953 book, Flying Saucers Have Landed, where he told the story of encountering and communicating with Orthon, the pilot of a landed extraterrestrial spaceship.

Following particularly the sixties in the USA were a manic time for UFO belief.

Enter the sixties in the USA when UFO research became respectable

By 1949, the Pentagon officially dismissed UFOs as a product of hoaxes, misidentification, hallucinations, and mass hysteria. To convey this to the public, military officials worked closely with the Saturday Evening Post on a two-part article that derided the idea of intergalactic ships whirring through the skies. “It is a jittery age we live in,” the magazine concluded, “particularly since our scientists and military spokesmen have started talking about sending rockets to the moon… it is a small wonder that harassed humans, already suffering from atomic psychosis, have started seeing saucers and Martians.”

Instead of putting the matter to rest, as the Pentagon hoped, the article aroused ire and disquiet. Concerned that its public engagement was feeding into the country’s “war nerves,” the Pentagon resolved to go silent on UFO commentary.

Into this vacuum stepped a group of citizen crusaders, rank opportunists, and con artists. One leading voice was retired Marine Corps Major Donald Keyhoe, who in January of 1950 published a widely circulated article in True Magazine titled, “Flying Saucers are Real.” UFO sightings were soon taken up by mainstream media’s most iconic and influential publications. In 1952, Life Magazine published a lengthy article titled, “Have we visitors from outer space?” This was a watershed moment, writes Mark O’Connell in his recent book, The Close Encounters Man. “When Life spoke, the whole country listened,” he writes.

Book titles convey some of the mood of the period: Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space; Flying Saucers are Hostile; Flying Saucer Invasion; Target Earth; Flying Saucers—Serious Business; The Real UFO invasion; The Terror Above Us. The teaser on The Official Guide to UFOs promised “Exclusive! First News of America’s Most Terrifying UFO Invasion!” Wilkins’ books return with arch blurbs asking “Are they Friendly Visitors from Outer Space or Invaders Planning Conquest?” and “Is there a cosmic battle plan aimed at Earth?” The actual content was less dramatic than advertised, but that hardly mattered. The conviction of urgency transcended the material gathered for proof.

Throughout the first half of the decade, Donald Edward Keyhoe who in 1956 founded the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) that next pressed for Congressional hearings on the UFO problem by such tactics as letter-writing campaigns. The Air Force warned congressmen such hearings would only dignify the problem and cause more publicity, thus adding to the problem. NICAP also published a book called The UFO Evidence (edited by Richard Hall) and sent copies to congressmen to put forward their case that UFOs were in fact real and posed a danger to the fabric of society. The danger included an unprepared public being caught up in widespread panic if an external danger was suddenly imposed. A sudden confrontation with extraterrestrials could have disastrous results, they warned. Among them, “catastrophic results to morale.”

Then there the writings of Carol E. Lorenzen that were required reading for American UFO buffs in the sixties. Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space (1966) builds on the Donald Keyhoe's thesis that UFOs are engaged in reconnaissance. They are painstakingly mapping the geographical features of our country and testing our defense capabilities. The 1952 Washington D.C. incidents are regarded as accidental incursions by aliens mistaking the capitol and White House for military installations. The Lorenzens expect they will be setting up bases since the taking of plants, boulders, and soil samples probably means they are testing what sort of agriculture they should establish. The Ubatuba explosion is regarded as self­destruction to prevent superior technology from getting into our hands and revealing its secrets. There is a bare possibility it was an atomic explosion. “UFOs are powerful radioactive sources.” The dangers they pose extend to the possibility that our next war could involve “all nations fighting as brothers against a com mon foe from outer space.” (Lorenzen, 1966)

They showcase the ideas of Dr. Olavo Fontes that UFOs possessed weapons like heat rays and a device that inhibited the function of petrol engines. They claim priority, however, that the observations UFOs made of cars and planes in the early years were done in order to devise these antimachine machines to disable propulsion systems.

A pattern of reconnaissance is seen which suggests to them that aliens plan to release sleeping drugs into strategic reservoirs and water tanks as a means of bringing the world to its knees in a matter of hours. They are concerned there are too many blackouts on our power grids. There are also people disappearing. Is this the procuring of specimens? Add to this the case of a woman with medical problems they interpret as radiation effects. No person of conscience can ignore the UFO problem in the light of all this. The UFO problem has to be taken out of the hands of the military who are lulling us into a false sense of security and given to an international commission who will handle this red-hot political problem.

“We are in urgent need of the acquisition and objective analysis of basic data.” We are facing potential danger. Maybe they aren’t hostile, but “there is no indication of friendliness either... The existence of a species of superior beings in the universe could cause the civilization of Earth to topple.” This urgency “defies expression.” We must be anxious to relearn the lessons of history; Billy Mitchell, Maginot, Pearl Harbor, and so on.

Credit must be given where it is due. The Air Force got it right and told it straight. No material threat to national security existed. The invasion never took place. Mirarchi’s Pearl Harbor, Riordan’s knockout attack, Kevhoe’s final operation, Wilkins’ death ceiling blockade, Michel’s Sword of Damocles, NICAP’s danger to the fabric of society, the Lorenzens’ mass drugging and toppling of civilization, Edwards’ imminent Overt Contact, Fawcett’s disaster beyond imagination, Steiger’s full scale annihilation, Hvnek’s Russian Breakthrough, Clark’s swamp-lurking village-slayers, Palmer’s ongoing titanic war, Fowler’s cultural disintegration: all were concerns with more basis in fantasy than reality.

The sense of urgency, the sense that it may be too late, the sense that our existence depended on a properly conducted investigation was an irrational fear. The Air Force repeatedly tried to get across the message that UFOlogists were wrong, but they were in no mood to listen. It is dogma among UFOlogists that the Air Force was incompetent or worse, yet if that is accepted as a proper, measured evaluation, what word is proper to describe the body of thought presented by these UFOlogists? The Air Force did not perform flawlessly in the details, but they had the big picture in more than sufficient focus to understand it was a nuisance problem and not one of life and death significance.

The same cannot be said of UFOlogists. For them the big picture keeps changing. In the fifties they were considerate and peace loving. In the sixties they were a source of danger and death. In the seventies were perversely irrational and a source of hope. In the eighties they were traumatizing though they didn’t realize it.

The 1960's also saw also many other flying saucer groups like The Adamski Foundation, Mark-Age. Universaucerian Foundation, Aetherius Society, World Understanding, Association of Sananda and Sanat Kumara, The Unarius Academy and Rael, all of whom usually are called UFO religions.

Hence the sightings of 1947 of which Ray Palmer said; “What if I told you it was all a joke?”quickly spawned major actors, organizations, and schisms that would dominate the UFO movement for decades.

Project Blue Book and the plethora of UFO news

High public concern about UFO sightings in 1966 pressed the Air Force into funding an external evaluation of Project Blue Book. This work, directed by Edward Condon, an eminent physicist at the University of Colorado, was completed in 1968 and concluded that there was no evidence supporting a belief in alien visitation, and that UFO phenomena do not offer a fruitful field for scientific discoveries. The National Academy of Sciences reviewed Condon's report and concurred with his conclusions. Project Blue Book was terminated in 1969.

Of more than 12,000 sightings eventually registered by Blue Book, over 90 percent were plausibly attributed to misidentifications of celestial objects such as Venus, of manmade objects like weather balloons or artificial satellites, or to hoaxes (Condon 1968: 11). Surely there are errors in attribution, but activists and skeptics agree that the vast majority of UFO reports indicate nothing extraordinary.

While valueless for physical scientists or engineers, these sightings are useful for sociologists, showing the context in which ET claims occur. For example, UFOs are usually seen after dark but before midnight, and more often in warm months than winter. This reflects the times when people are outside looking at the night sky. Many nations report UFOs, but the United States is the center of activity. Within the U.S. the geographical distribution of sightings correlates roughly with density of non-urban population. Few reports come from urban areas, probably because city lights obscure the night sky.

The Air Force count of UFO sightings ceased with Blue Book's demise. That loss was remedied by ufologists, one of whom, Larry Hatch, has for twenty years tabulated sightings worldwide and posted them in graphical format on the internet. Like Blue Book, Hatch's unit of analysis is the UFO event, that is, the sighting of one or more extraordinary objects in the sky, or if on the ground thought capable of flight, at a particular time and place by one or more observers. Sources for his compilation include Blue Book; journals, newsletters, and encyclopedias from UFO organizations; news media; and private catalogs. 

By Hatch's count, the greatest number of sightings for one year occurred in 1952. In March 1952 the Air Force consolidated its previous UFO inquiries into Project Blue Book, enlisting intelligence officers at all Air Force facilities to assess and report saucer sightings. This improvement in data collection may account for increased sightings in April and May but seems insufficient to explain the dramatic upturn during the summer.

The news media are another candidate. The Air Force's invigorated UFO inquiry was the lead-in for a highly influential story in Life magazine of April 7.9 Titled "Have We Visitors from Space?," Life's answer was essentially "yes." Some 350 newspapers quoted the piece within days of its release. Media attention rose more sharply in July. The New York Times, for example, averaged only three UFO articles per month during the spring of 1952, but ran 17 articles in July, another 37 in August, and then by September nearly dropped the story. 

The last three months of 1957 saw another flap, especially in November. Blue Book attributed many of these sightings to misidentifications of Venus. No increase in UFO news articles accompanied this peak, perhaps because journalists were focused on Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, and Sputnik 2 with the dog Laika on November 3. Headlines were plentiful, inducing people to watch the skies.

A plethora of UFO news began in March 1966 with repeated reports by many witnesses of glowing colored lights in two swampy areas near Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dr. Hynek, the Air Force consultant, thought these were visual effects of swamp gas or foxfire from rotting vegetation, producing a phosphorescent glow. Though scientifically reasonable, this "marsh gas" explanation was derided as a cover-up. Michigan congressman (later president) Gerald Ford called for a congressional investigation. House hearings in early April produced more news coverage. The publicity was a boon to the authors of some twenty-five books on UFOs published between 1965 and 1968. John Fuller, a columnist with Saturday Review magazine and a UFO believer, was the major beneficiary, fortuitously publishing two saucer books in 1966. Sightings rose apace with the publicity, peaking in 1967.

Sightings peaked again in fall 1973. This flap started in the southern states and might have gone unmentioned in The New York Times if Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter had not commented that he once saw a UFO (September 14). In mid-October the Times reported that a UFO seen by thousands of South Carolinians turned out to be the work of an artist who launched the object as an experimental sculpture. About the same time two shipyard workers from Mississippi, while fishing on the Pascagoula River, were nabbed by hideous looking aliens, taken aboard the spacecraft for examination, and then released. A local lawyer, acting as the abductees' agent, sought payment for the Pascagoula story. The men appeared repeatedly on network television despite the transparency of their hoax. By this time there were sightings around the nation.

But in the end, the project concluded: "No UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security." The program also concluded that the "unidentified" sightings were not advanced technology or extraterrestrial vehicles, according to the National Archives fact sheet.

The project was closed down in 1969 because of its cost, the National Archives said.

The Heaven's Gate suicides

After 1973 news reporters ignored UFOs except for a brief but intense return in 1997. There were two big saucer stories that year. In March the bodies of 39 members of a millennial sect called Heaven's Gate were found at a wealthy estate in California, victims of a mass suicide intended to remove them from their earthly bodies so they could join a spaceship lurking behind the Hale-Bopp comet, then passing near earth. In a lighter vein, many thousands of partiers gathered at Roswell, New Mexico on the Fourth of July for the fiftieth anniversary of the crash of a flying saucer containing alien bodies, not all dead, that are still held in secret storage by the Air Force.

As we have seen above as it relates to Area 51, the seed for the Roswell story was the crash of a government balloon on a nearby ranch in early July 1947. This was barely a week into the media frenzy set off by Kenneth Arnold's "saucer" sighting near Mount Rainier. The rancher who found the wreckage notified the sheriff, who contacted Roswell Army Air Field, which picked up the debris. The base's zealous public information officer, Lieutenant Walter Haut, wrote a press release saying that the Army had retrieved the wreckage of one of the rumored flying discs. The Roswell Daily Record ran the story under the headline, "RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region." By the following day, higher ups in the Army identified the wreckage as a weather balloon, but that was not completely true. In 1994 the Air Force revealed that what crashed at Roswell was a 600-foot long train of weather balloons and radar targets then being tested for Project Mogul, a top secret attempt to detect sound generated by Soviet nuclear-bomb tests.

What is most remarkable about the Roswell crash is that it was virtually a non-event for four decades. I found barely a mention of Roswell in my perusal of UFO literature prior to 1990. The exception was a book called The Roswell Incident, but its absurdities (e.g., President Eisenhower lacked sufficient security clearance to be told about the downed saucer) gave it little credibility even among UFO believers. Roswell was reinvigorated in the early 1990s as new books promoted theories about one or more crashed saucers, recovered bodies, perhaps a survivor, and of course a cover-up.

Alleged Alien Abductions

During the mid-1980s, several sensational books, presented as nonfiction, explicated the phenomenon of alien abduction, including intrusive medical examinations and the extraction from unwilling donors of sperm and ova, to be used in fertility experiments. There were accounts of hybrid fetuses taken from pregnant women, and of hybrid children shown briefly to their human mothers but kept by the aliens (Strieber 1987; Hopkins 1981, 1987; Jacobs 1992; Mack 1994). According to this literature, abduction and hybridization are commonplace, but since the aliens induce amnesia, contactees are barely aware of their encounters until memories are restored under hypnosis. The most commercially successful of these books, leading the New York Times bestseller list by May 1987, was Communion by Whitney Strieber, a well-known author of horror fiction, who wrote of his own abduction and traumatic medical examination by aliens. A movie version of Communion, starring Christopher Walken, followed in 1989, and following that was a wave of reported abductions. 

In 1994 then, the abduction phenomenon got an enormous boost from the trade publication of Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens, by Dr. John E. Mack, a long-time professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for a biography of T. E. Lawrence. Mack had been introduced to the abduction phenomenon in January 1990 by Budd Hopkins, an accomplished artist and amateur hypnotist who had worked with abductees for over a decade. In 1987 Hopkins had published Intruders, a book on the reality of alien abduction. By 1992, after Intruders was reshaped as a fictional TV movie, the lead character was a Mack-like psychiatrist (played by Richard Crenna) working with abductees. Both Mack and Hopkins were consultants on the film.

Dr. Mack provided a level of credibility that could not be approached by the likes of Hopkins or any other UFO believer. He provoked a storm of controversy at Harvard, including a Medical School investigation of his work with abductees, but tenure and the spirit of academic freedom preserved him from serious censure. In the paperback edition of his book, Mack slightly moderated the sensationalism of the original hardback, stating that he did not presume that everything abductees told him to be literally true. Still, he vigorously defended the credibility of abduction experiences until his death in 2004, struck by a bus in London. It remains puzzling why a physician of Mack's stature would espouse so implausible a phenomenon. He did have a history of flirting with dubious practices like Werner Erhard's EST and Stanislav Grof's "holotropic breathwork," a technique that allegedly accesses extraordinary states of consciousness. Whatever his motives, the Harvard professor and the mass media carried alien abduction a long way from the fabulous tale of Barney and Betty Hill.

There is no physical evidence associated with alien visitation or abduction that cannot be explained in ordinary terms. What we have is testimony from people like the Hills who insist that they personally experienced these events. Most do not suffer severe psychopathology (Clancy 2005). In the clinical laboratory, when their supposed abductions are brought to mind, these claimants show physiological signs of stress that are consistent with recall of a trauma. Apparently most of them truly believe they were kidnapped and sexual molested by extraterrestrials.

The major argument given to support the reality of alien abduction is that the stories told by unrelated abductees have a high degree of consistency on specific details. What are the broad commonalities? Most abduction occurs at night when the abductee is alone, usually in bed or asleep. Abductees often feel paralyzed while they are being taken. And abduction stories are generally accepted to be simply a result of sleep paralyses.

The 2017 revival of the UFO myth

Today, a new set of crusading actors are reviving a UFO narrative with all the trappings of America’s first round of extraterrestrial enchantment. On December 16, 2017, Politico, the New York Times, and the Washington Post published near simultaneous stories about an obscure $22 million Pentagon project that officially existed between 2008 and 2012.

All three outlets had essentially the same story: The Pentagon program was created at the behest of former Democratic Senator Harry Reid in 2008 and was run jointly for a time with Bigelow Aerospace in Las Vegas, whose owner, Robert Bigelow, has long been on the hunt for extraterrestrials and poltergeists.

Politico and the Washington Post treated the Pentagon program as it appeared to be: A pet project of a senator that didn’t amount to much — other than “reams of paperwork” — and did not provide evidence that alien spaceships were buzzing our skies. Both stories had well-placed sources in the intelligence community that were skeptical of the program’s purpose and deliverables. Absent any salacious details, neither story got wider pickup.

The New York Times, however, played up dubious tidbits that the Washington Post or Politico either didn’t find credible or simply didn’t know about — namely that the program had found “metal alloys and other materials… recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena,” that got stored in a Bigelow Aerospace warehouse. There is no indication in the Times story that any of these “materials” were seen firsthand by its reporters.

The Times also had something its competitors apparently didn’t: Grainy footage of two Navy F/A-18 fighter jets in 2004 tracking an apparent unknown object “traveling at high speed and rotating” off the coast of San Diego. The 45-second video and the Times front page article went viral.

But there’s more to the Times story that should’ve given readers pause.

One of the authors of the story was Leslie Kean, a journalist with a long-standing interest in UFOs and the paranormal, who published a book in 2010 titled, UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record. At the time, activists in the UFO community were coalescing around the goal of obtaining official “disclosure” about extraterrestrial sightings. This entailed finding current military and aviation whistleblowers to come forward and share the secrets they knew about UFOs — or in the case of Kean’s book, tell of the strange flying objects they had seen or learned about in the course of their jobs. In numerous articles in the Huffington Post over the past decade, Kean has discussed her participation in several nonprofit groups involved in UFOs and the “disclosure” movement.

On Oct 10, 2017, Kean published a tantalizing article on the Huffington Post’s contributor platform. (The platform, now closed, allowed people to post their own writing to the site). “Something extraordinary is about to be revealed,” she wrote. “Former high-level officials and scientists with deep black experience who have always remained in the shadows” were preparing to dish “inside knowledge” of UFOs.

Kean described a group of “government insiders” that had come together as part of a new for-profit company called To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science (TTSA). Members included Hal Puthoff, a theoretical physicist and former Scientologist who directed the infamous “psychic spy” program for the CIA and DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) in the 1970s and 1980s, and Chris Mellon, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence during the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations.

Of note, the founding of TTSA was set in motion by Tom DeLonge, a former guitarist for Blink-182 who has long nursed a very public obsession with UFOs. Another key player was former military intelligence officer named Luis Elizondo, who at the launch of TTSA publicly announced that an “aerospace threat identification program” he had recently overseen at the Pentagon had convinced him the UFO “phenomena was indeed real.”

The Times, encouraged by Kean, took a serious look at Elizondo and his claims. Other prominent outlets, it turned out, were doing so, too. Two months later, the Times, Politico, and Washington Post stories hit. But it was the Times piece that reverberated across the media landscape.

ABC News called the Times story and video footage a “bombshell.” MSNBC, in one of its numerous segments on the story, described news of the government’s UFO program as a “remarkable admission by the Pentagon” as a “result of reporting by the New York Times.” Every major television network rolled the video. “You can laugh if you want,” news anchor Bret Baier said on Fox, “but a lot of people are taking this revelation seriously.” Elizondo, who would become a media darling over the months to come, said on CNN: “My personal belief is there is very compelling evidence we may not be alone.”

Amidst the media frenzy, few prominent outlets bothered to look closely at the juicy particulars of the Times piece, or at the UFO video that left many awestruck. Notable exceptions included Scientific American, which was deeply skeptical about those metal chunks being stored in a Bigelow warehouse, and New York magazine, which, in a damning critique by writer Jeff Wise, faulted the Times story for “selective omissions” and for “making portentous assertions out of context.” Wise wrote that such techniques “are great for exciting an audience, but they’re better suited to Ancient Aliens,” the aforementioned History Channel series, “than the pages of the New York Times.”

These criticisms hardly registered, though. If anything, the juggernaut grew after Elizondo and TTSA in 2018 rolled out more intriguing videos, obtained from the Pentagon, of supposed UFOs under pursuit by military jets. It launched another news cycle, once again with few skeptical voices in the media.

Meanwhile, TTSA raised over $2 million from investors. The company’s all-stars, particularly Elizondo, continue to generate media coverage. As the Washington Post noted last May in a new story: “UFOs are suddenly a serious story.

As Neil deGrasse Tyson put it rather well: What the UFO community puts forth as evidence is weak on a level that, in any scientific circle, would be kicked out of the lab room. The basis of this argument boils down to the foundations of the scientific method. Eyewitness testimony is nowhere near enough evidence to support a claim as fantastical as alien visitors. He added: I am not saying didn't see it - I'm simply saying you cannot present that as evidence for something you want all of us to believe.

The alleged evidence Luis Elizondo mentioned is a video shown here, and can also be seen on Tom DeLonge's website, along with his commentary. The video is discussed here: Plus over on Metabunk, Mick West makes a good case that these images show distant jets. In fact, they seem quite similar to the "Groundbreaking UFO video" that Leslie Kean (one of the authors of the New York Times UFO article) obtained from Chile's UFO investigations group early this year, quite conclusively shown to have been a distant jet aircraft whose position had been misjudged.

Or as a recent article stated: "The media" loves this UFO expert who says he worked for an obscure pentagon program, did he?

Even today People who claim to see UFOs are typically adamant about what they witnessed, though most space experts are unconvinced. “No serious astronomer gives any credence to any of these stories,” astrophysicist Martin Rees notably said in 2012. He’s right. UFO reports can be attributed to commercial or military jets, weather balloons, an odd cloud formation, a comet, or Venus (under certain atmospheric conditions, the planet can appear as a fast-moving, bright halo). Some intrepid photographers have even confused insects flying around a camera lens for alien aircrafts.