I'm not saying flying saucers don't exist, or that people who believe in alien life forms are crazy. I try to remain open-minded. I just didn't know so many people were interested in the subject.
Last weekend I went to a lecture with George Fawcett, a UFO researcher who has investigated 1,000 reports of UFO sightings over 68 years.
Scanning the crowd of around 40 people, Fawcett asked whether any of us had seen a UFO. Two hands went up. The rest of us looked around sheepishly. Then Fawcett said he suspected others in the audience would contact him later to report sightings. He produced a stack of questionnaires he uses to help UFO witnesses better describe their experiences.
“We live in the age of miracles, and nothing really surprises me anymore,” Fawcett said as he described his research. The new edition of his book focuses on human reactions to UFOs and how UFOs appear to affect things on Earth, such as machines, animals, soil and plants.
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He said his interest began at an early age and, surprisingly, has always been rooted in his Christian faith.
Fawcett opened his program with a prayer and later mentioned the Catholic Church's recent statement that belief in alien life forms isn't contradictory to Christian faith.
But researching the topic of UFOs hasn't always been as acceptable. As a young man, Fawcett faced military court-martial after speaking about his research to a crowd in Panama City, Panama.
Some people's reactions are more severe. “I've only had my life threatened twice,” Fawcett says.
Fawcett has come to several conclusions about the nature of UFOs:
They are real. Of the cases he has investigated, Fawcett said, he has been unable to explain 22 percent of them in terms of earthly phenomena. He calls UFOs “unconventional objects with high technology.”
Fawcett believes that UFOs are a threat. Aliens, he said, take animals, humans, soil samples, electric power and water – basically, whatever they want.
“They use us as a free picnic table,” he said.
On the other hand, the creatures often are not as hostile as humans. Fawcett has studied 95 cases in which people fired weapons at UFOs, and in only one instance did the craft return fire.
Fawcett said the U.S. government knows of the existence of UFOs and is trying to duplicate the technology he said was found in Roswell, N.M., where a UFO is supposed to have landed. But governments, he said, are concerned with the welfare and safety of all citizens, so the topic is kept secret.
Because of the stigma that often surrounds witnessing UFOs, many people are reluctant to report what they've seen. But Fawcett was happy to share the story of his personal encounter with a UFO.
In 1951, he was on the campus of Lynchburg College in Virginia. Because classes were in session, Fawcett was alone outside when he saw an orange object against the dark blue sky. The object moved up and down, like a yo-yo, for about four minutes before flying away.
I listened, rapt, and wondered: How many of the people in the crowd in Sherrills Ford believe this story? I wondered whether I believed it.
Fawcett has traveled all over the world looking for similar stories. I guess everyone is looking for something to believe in. Some of us just look a little harder than others.