Alien Culture

Terrestrial tragedy has an entirely different context at the UFO Expo

Just a few short days after the World Trade Centers were gored by two passenger planes, a jet airliner roars overhead, low enough in the sky to make the company logo visible, as it prepares for descent into San Jose International Airport. As the bone-rattling sound fades into the seemingly peaceful azure distance, a volley of screams perforates the midmorning air. Intellectually, I know that Paramount's Great Americais just around the bend -- I can see the crest of several roller coasters rising in primary-colored splendor less than a baseball's throw away -- but viscerally I know something else: I'm frightened and on alert. I wonder at the fortitude, or fortunate insensibility, of the folks who drove to Santa Clara today to invoke terror by way of a 91-foot climb to the top of the Vortex, instead of just watching CNN. I also wonder at the multitudinous other techniques the human psyche has developed to battle the effects of tragedy.

"In light of the horrible events that occurred on Tuesday, I think it's even more important and urgent that we open up communication with extraterrestrials on a global scale," says Arizona music instructor Pinchemel Luz, one of the 900 people who made it to the third annual Bay Area UFO Expo, in spite of airport closures. "If we had access to alien technology, we'd have an endless power source, and we wouldn't have to meddle in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries. This whole thing could have been avoided if the government would just come clean with what they already know. We don't need oil. Our government knows that. They've known it for years."

Luz turns on his heel and marches into the Marriott Hotel with the air of a man doing his solemn duty. In the hall, he passes a woman cheerfully toying with two green alien finger puppets. (I am told the race represented by the puppets should be closer to "dolphin-gray" in color.) But for the most part, the conventioneers in the hallway are as grave as botanists as they map their hectic schedules, juggling over a dozen lectures and workshops while trying to squeeze in time for lunch and shopping/research in the expo hall. The average age of the conventioneers is older than I expected, and not a single soul is wearing antennae.

"What, did you think this was going to be like a Star Trekconvention?" mocks a Washington nurse practitioner. "A lot of these people are doctors, researchers, businessmen, activists ... thoughtful people."

Thoughtful people with interesting childhoods.

"I saw a UFO when I was 12," admits first-time conventioneer and Oregon resident Barbara Courseyafter some persistent wheedling. "There had been sightings all through the South that summer. It was the summer of 1948 or '49. Whole towns were seeing it. Together. But the government dismissed it, saying these people were drunk, those people were crazy, that whole town was under mass hypnosis -- just making stuff up to hide the facts. But I know what I saw. It was cigar-shaped and had a red, sparkly glow. It rose up very slowly, almost elegantly, and then just took off -- pteewww -- at a right angle." To illustrate the fact, Coursey slices her hand through the air as fast as she is physically able, a gesture that is duplicated by numerous people throughout the day in a futile attempt to convey speed. "It was really, really fast."

"But my grandfather said, "Don't you tell anyone about this. I won't have folks saying mine are crazy,'" continues Coursey. "In my family, you listened to Grandpa, so I didn't mention it to a soul for almost 30 years."

"That's the problem," says Sharon Macek, a local optometrist who "sadly" has never seen a UFO herself. "Credible people are afraid to put their reputations on the line, so people walk around with these huge experiences, these huge ... experiences, buried in their subconscious because society says anyone who believes in aliens is completely woo-woo. The government could change all that tomorrow if they wanted. Full disclosure."

The Disclosure Project, directed by Dr. Steven M. Greer, a family practitioner from North Carolina with four daughters and a golden retriever, is a "nonprofit research project working to fully disclose the facts about UFOs, extraterrestrial intelligence, and classified advanced energy and propulsion systems." In May of this year, the Disclosure Project staged one of the largest press conferences in the recent history of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., during which Greer brought forward more than 20 military, government, and corporate eyewitnesses to offer testimony about their UFO and extraterrestrial sightings. In the course of his campaign, Greer has recorded more than 120 hours of interviews with such witnesses, which he distilled to two hours for Senate hearings. On July 27, prompted by the conviction and information offered by Greer in a lecture, Berkeley resident Lara Johnstoneembarked on a 44-day hunger strike (her diet did include water, fresh fruit and vegetable juices mixed with spirulina and protein powder, herbal teas, wheatgrass juice, and soup drained of solids) in support of the Disclosure Project even though she didn't consider herself a member of the UFO community prior to seeing Greer speak.

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