AREA 51 AND RELATED CONTROVERSIES
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For a long time, mankind has been watching and wondering what is in the sky and questioning if there is any extra-terrestrial life among us. Since 1500 BC, man has been baffled by unidentified flying objects. Even Alexander the Great claimed that he saw “two shining silver shields” swooping through the clouds.
Although there are many hoaxes and fake sightings now, people back then could have been telling the truth. From early Africa to Australia, people have had accounts of guests from space. For example, the Dogon tribe of Mali, West Africa had a strong understanding of astronomy. The Dogon people appeared to know that the star Sirius took 50 years to travel its egg-shaped orbit and had a companion star that seemed to be invisible. The Dogon claimed that the information had been given to them by space creatures called the Nommo. In 1931, two French scientists were baffled by the discovery of the knowledge of the Dogon people.
UFOs have been reported as differently shaped objects through history. But the name “Flying Saucer” was created on June 24, 1947. Kenneth Arnold was flying over the Cascade Mountains near Mt. Rainier, Washington, when he reported seeing nine disc- shaped objects flying in a formation. He said the crafts were “skimming like a saucer does on water.” A book, called The Coming of the Flying Saucers, was written by Arnold himself and Ray Palmer enlightens readers about the experience.
UFO descriptions can vary. UFOs have been described as swiftly moving or hovering. They have been called disk-shaped, cigar-shaped, and ball-shaped. They have been claimed to be moving both silently and noisily. There have been accounts of UFOs with fire as exhaust or no exhaust at all. Flashing or glowing lights have been popular in UFO accounts. As UFO reports became more popular, the U.S. Air Force began to investigate UFO reports but ended their operation on December 17, 1969.
Other reports recorded were by WWII fighter pilots. Airmen on all sides reported seeing balls of light or fire traveling at speeds more than 250mph while carrying out bombing missions. Pilots on the U.S. side believed it was an attack strategy performed by their enemies. However, pilots from all countries were reporting them, so it couldn’t have been an attack strategy. The airmen soon referred to these “balls of fire’ as Foo Fighters. Some pilots claimed that an encounter with a Foo Fighter damaged the aircraft ignition system. Ball Lighting was the explanation put forward. Ball Lightning is a rare form of lightning that is shaped like a ball and can disappear without a trace. The reports ended in 1945 with the end of the war.
The Foo Fighters were just a few of the first major sightings. But probably the most conversed about UFO reports is the Roswell Incident. In Roswell, New Mexico, just 80 miles from the White Sands missile testing facility, in July 1947, there was an alleged UFO crash. On the night of July 2nd, a ranger by the name of Mac Brazel heard a loud explosion during a violent thunderstorm. The next morning, he found mysterious wreckage on a ranch. There were strange rods covered with writing that he himself could not understand. Some of the pieces were shaped like I-beams (horizontal girders used in building construction) and were extremely lightweight and could not be bent, cut, or burned.
The Air Force was contacted and later on the ranch was visited by Major Jesse Marcel of the 509th bomber squadron. The story eventually got public and a few days later, the government soon backtracked and took control of the story. They claimed the ruins were the remains of a crashed weather balloon. Also, at the same time more than a hundred miles away, what looked like a flying saucer was found. Beside it lay bodies with large heads, big slanted eyes, skinny arms, and wearing tight one-piece gray suits. Now there is a museum in Roswell displaying models of the so called aliens found near Roswell.
Also in close proximity to Roswell, over ten years later in a town called Socorro, a sighting was reported. On April 24, 1964, New Mexico Highway patrol officer Lonnie Zamora was driving down U.S. Route 85 and claimed the sighting of a “descending machine with orange and blue flames and was hovering”. When it landed, Zamora examined the craft which appeared to be egg-shaped and metallic resting on legs. Two humanoid figures wearing white uniforms climbed out of the spacecraft Zamora stated. He claimed it took off shortly afterwards. Zamora was the only witness to this mystery, and there was no evidence accounted, so most think the encounter was nonexistent.
Another famous UFO debate occurred in the city Gulf Breeze, Florida on November 11, 1987. In this town near Pensacola Bay, a UFO was photographed several times and one woman described how she encountered a small figure standing in the doorway to her kitchen. She said it was about four feet tall. Ed Walters, who later wrote a book about the occurrence, claimed he confronted a small UFO occupant at his bedroom door. Shocked, he stumbled backwards and fell. “The creature had black staring eyes and seemed shiny, almost like they were wet; the way someone’s eyes look just before they begin to cry…… the eyes get kind of misted over…” Ed Walters’ photographs of the UFO at Gulf Breeze were surprisingly clear and focused. Most were surprised at his photographs because most UFO photographs are out of focus or blurry, making them hard to comprehend. However, in the following years, there was a discovery of models in a house previously owned by Walters. The models of UFOs were identical to the ones in his photographs. This made numerous people believe that the Gulf Breeze incident was, undeniably, a hoax.
More strange phenomena include one in Mexico City in 1991. On July 11, during a total solar eclipse, seventeen people in differing locations inside the city video taped a silver, metallic object in the sky. This was one of the biggest UFO sightings ever.
The “Phoenix Lights” was another famous UFO episode. On March 13, 1997, people of Arizona, Nevada, and the Mexican state of Sonora were astonished by a line of lights in the sky. The lights were of varying description. Between 6:30 PM and 10:30 PM, a triangular configuration of lights seemed to pass over Arizona. A series of motionless lights were seen over Phoenix area alone. After two months, the United States Air Force claimed that the second collection of lights where actually flares dropped by an A-10 Warthog on a training mission. This explanation caused some questions to arise. If there were flares, why did they stay in one place and why were they of equal distance of each other? And why did the government take so long to come up with a response? Witnesses claimed that the craft was “V” shaped and was flying very low. In some pictures and even videos, mountains can be seen behind the craft. With the mountains in the foreground, photographic experts could estimate the size of the craft. Experts say that the craft could have been an amazing 1+ mile in length. It is estimated that the ship was traveling at10-15 miles per hour.
Many sightings are simply misconceptions. Officials say that many alleged UFO sightings and encounters could actually be an unconventional aircraft. For instance, the B-2 bomber was mistaken for a UFO while flying over populated areas. Other misunderstandings could have been aircraft under uncommon weather conditions, aircraft with unusual external light patterns, high altitude balloons, satellites, flocks of birds, reflections of searchlights off clouds, sunlight off shiny surfaces, luminescent organisms, (such as fireflies), mirages, cloud formations, ball lighting, sundogs (small rainbow near the sun), meteors, bright planets like Venus, bright stars, or Aurora Borealis (The northern lights). Some UFOs can be detected by radar, but most cases where they are detected the government takes in the case and covers it up. In October 1957, Sputnik 1 was launched. There were 1178 UFO sightings that year; 701 between October and December indicating that Sputnik was mistaken for a UFO.
Although there is often no accounted evidence, there are some encounters that have evidence that one could definitely not look past. For instance there was one sighting on December 29, 1980 near Dayton, Texas. Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum, and her grandson Colby Landrum were driving down a deserted road toward Dayton. Colby claims to have noticed a brightly lit point in the sky. As the craft descended, the interior of the car grew exceedingly hot. It eventually got so increasingly hot, the three had to evacuate the car. The diamond-shaped spaceship spewed fire from the bottom like a rocket and had a line of blue lights. As they trio watched, Colby grew scared and he and his grandmother retuned to the car. In the car, they had to turn the air conditioning on to full blast to drown out the heat. Betty Cash returned to the car roughly 10 minutes after Vickie and Colby Landrum did. The UFO flew away shortly afterwards, and the three reported seeing at least 20 U.S. Military helicopters in pursuit of the craft.
The trio drove home dazed about what they just witnessed. On the way home, they all developed severe headaches. Immediately the next morning, Colby and Vickie started vomiting, and their skin seemed to be badly sunburned. Betty Cash, who remained outside of the car for the longest, had red skin, large blisters where her skin was exposed (Arms, Legs, neck, etc.),and her eyes were swollen shut. All three kept vomiting and had severe diarrhea. Doctors declared that all three had suffered slight and permanent eye damage. The whole trio had excessive hair loss and shed their fingernails. It took a long while for their hair and fingernails to grow back.
Experts say the symptoms were caused by radiation sickness. They also said that because of the radiation sickness, the three had an increased risk of developing cancer. Enraged, they blamed the U.S. Military because of the helicopters they saw. They sued the United States Government for $20,000,000.The judge dismissed the case because the description of the helicopters did not match any known military vehicle. The judge also ignored a statement made by a Dayton, Texas Police Officer who reported seeing several Chinook Military helicopters flying in the area of the sighting. Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum, and Colby Landrum all continued their lives with and increase risk of cancer.
For centuries, humans have been wondering if they were the only life in the universe. Claims of encounters mysterious crafts have been reported time and again. But individuals can’t believe all of the information that is said about UFOs; for as UFO science grows to be more popular, so do the shams and fakes. Even if people aren’t trying to pull a prank, they could have mistaken something like B-2 bomber for a UFO or could have simply seen something that just wasn’t there. Until there is unmistakable proof, the knowledge of UFOs and the answer to the question, is there any extra-terrestrial life among us, will remain unsolved.
#1 Book- The Mystery Library: UFOs
Author: Patricia D. Netzley
Place of Publication: San Diego
Publishing Company: Lucent Books, Inc.
Copyright Date: 2000
#2 Book- UFOs and Aliens
Author: Collin Wilson
Place of Publication: New York City
Publishing Company: DK Publishing
Copyright date: 1997
#3 Book- The Gulf Breeze Sightings
Authors: Ed Walters, Francis Walters
Place of Publication: New York City
Publishing Company: William Morrow Co.
Copyright date: 1990
Author: Carole Marsh
Title of Article: Alien Nation
#5 Encyclopedia- Grolier
Title of Encyclopedia: Encyclopedia Americana
Title: Great Mysteries of the 20th Century
Author(s): Reader’s Digest Association
Place of Publication: Pleasantville, NY, Montreal
Publishing Company: reader’s Digest Association Inc.
Copyright Date: 1999
Name of Channel: National Geographic Channel
Name of Program: Is it Real?
Episode Aired: January 26, 2008
© 1996-2008 National Geographic Society
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