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UFOs Hot and Cold

Psychic Vibrations

Robert Sheaffer

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 27.5, September / October 2003

Some places are reputed to be “UFO Hot Spots,” and the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado-called by some “the mysterious valley"-is one of them. A bustling agricultural region boasting of spectacular views of snow-capped mountains, it also claims a large number of UFO sightings. My curiosity about the place was piqued several years ago when I was talking to a reporter who, believing most UFO claims, was hectoring me for my skepticism (as most reporters who do stories on the subject seem to). He challenged me: “Since you're a skeptic, have you checked out the San Luis Valley in Colorado, where they see UFOs all the time?”

It wasn't until this past June that I finally had a chance to visit that reputedly privileged place. The center of all things extraterrestrial in that valley is of course the UFO Watchtower (although “elevated platform” would be a better description). It contains a saucer-shaped gift shop and an unimproved campground (see; also, this column, May/June, 2002).

Judy is a pleasant middle-aged woman who owns and operates the UFO Watchtower. She seems to genuinely enjoy receiving visitors in her gift shop, filled with alien tchotchke. If it’s alien, she has it: dolls, balloons, key chains, pens, etc. Outside, little alien figurines dot the property, pointing the way to the campground or the exit, or just carouse on old farm implements. These aliens are archaically painted green, as in the days when UFOs were objects to be sighted-the present-day aliens, whose primary occupation seems to be abducting humans, are generally acknowledged to be gray. “We discovered that there are two large vortexes in front of the dome,” writes Judy in her newsletter. "Two psychics marked the centers of them for me and suggested that a rock garden be built so visitors could rest, relax, and meditate in it.” The result is an extraterrestrial cactus and rock garden filled with hub caps, the remains of old satellite dishes, and miscellaneous post-industrial detritus splotched with green paint, intending no doubt to create an eerie atmosphere-with some degree of success.

Not surprisingly, the degree of paranormality in this Alien Valley seems to have been greatly exaggerated. Judy herself claims only that twenty-one sightings have occurred since the opening of her UFO Ponderosa in May 2001, an average of less than one sighting a month. Of these, she has seen fifteen herself. Most of the sightings sound like a description of lights in the sky, a characterization she agreed with. When you get out into dark skies away from city lights, there are plenty of lights in the sky that might be called UFOs by those who are so inclined. “There haven't been any landings here,” she added. One female camper, says Judy, claims to have stepped outside her tent to behold a UFO that looked like a roulette wheel spinning in the sky above her. Unfortunately, she did not awaken her husband, asleep in the tent, to confirm the sighting.

The lack of photos on display in the gift shop is surprising. One would expect that any place worthy of being called a UFO Hot Spot would boast of numerous clear, unambiguous photos taken of the phenomenon by those who come hoping to see it. The lack of such photos suggests a corresponding lack of a genuine phenomenon. I noticed the same thing during my 1996 visit to some of the hottest of the UFO Hot Spots in Mexico (see chapter 21 of my book UFO Sightings).

If UFOs really were hovering around those parts on practically a daily basis, as some claim, and given that there was no shortage of people with cameras, the fact that nobody in those areas could show you clear and convincing photos of anything unusual pretty well refutes the claims that Mexico is under siege by extraterrestrials. (Another UFO Hot Spot is reputed to be in Pine Bush, New York, near the Hudson Valley, which is also where Whitley Strieber claimed to have encountered his “visitors.” It, too, is reported to be rather “cool” at present.)

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate as I entered the Mysterious Valley. Colorado weather is notoriously unpredictable, and a storm started to brew just as I approached the area. Lightning could be seen striking the ground. Later it cleared, and a modest stream of visitors came to climb the tower. By sunset it had cleared beautifully, and the night was exceptionally clear. The valley floor is extremely flat, so lights from distant farms, towns, and vehicles ring the horizon, twinkling like stars. The landscape is very quiet. The effect was indeed impressive and eerie, but unfortunately I didn't see anything in the sky that didn't belong there. But you know how reluctant paranormal phenomena are to reveal themselves when skeptics are present.

We still have no clear explanation from the Zeta about the failure of their prediction that Earth would stop rotating and flip its poles this May (this column, May/June, 2003). An update to the Web site dated May 15-the very doomsday itself-states, “This is the last update, no further ZetaTalk anticipated.” It boasted of a 68 percent success rate for seeing Planet X during April, but only for “those educated, who had done their homework and followed the imaging session, noted our words as to what to look for, and oriented themselves in the sky.” Apparently other people didn't see anything. Nancy Lieder, the Zeta representative here on Earth, further informs us that MJ12, the supposedly ultra-secret crashed UFO panel, has “committed suicide to prevent itself from being misused.”

But Nancy and her diehard believers still apparently cling to the belief that Planet X is nonetheless on its way. During June she posted numerous accounts of supposedly bizarre phenomena such as unexplained booms, sunspots, a ring around the Moon, and the Sun “rising and setting in the wrong place.” These are labeled as “signs of the times,” and are attributed to the proximity of the dangerous Planet X. Nancy insists that Earth’s rotational stopping and flipping is indeed still going to occur, but she refuses to specify the hour or date. Her followers are carefully noting the times of sunrise and sunset, and the position of the Sun going down, to see if Earth’s expected careening might have already begun.

We previously mentioned the low state of activity in the UFO field (this column, September/October 2002), which seems to have cooled off almost as much as Internet stocks. Indeed, things are so slow that MUFON has recently closed its headquarters in Colorado. However, the UFO field has not been totally without interesting new developments. The Web site UFO Casebook carries an account originally published by MUFON of how Cordell Hull, the Secretary of State under president Franklin Roosevelt, allegedly showed a visitor four dead aliens in glass jars in the sub-basement of the Capitol Building way back in 1939 (see A “wrecked round craft” was also said to be nearby. The source of this story is a letter from Lucile Andrew of Ashland, Ohio, who claims that her father, the Reverend Turner Hamilton Holt, a cousin of Hull, was shown these wonders, but was of course sworn to secrecy. The tendency in UFOlogy of late has been to push back the date of supposed saucer crashes well before the famous incident in Roswell in 1947.

The online news service reported on May 14 that police were investigating “gnome reports in Ecuador.” Several residents of the town of Quininde saw what they described as a “gnome” near the center of town. “They all described the creature as being very small, green and ugly.” Marco Preciado told Diario Extra online: “It was less than three feet tall and I saw it three times. I tried to follow him but he disappeared.” Joseph Trainor’s Web site, www.UFO, reported on May 14 that the ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s speech of May 5 may have literally been “out of this world.” “According to UFO Roundup’s Middle East correspondent Ayesha al-Khatabi, some residents of Baghdad claim to have heard Saddam’s 15-minute broadcast over their household radio sets . . . there was some question as to whether the speech was made from the Moon or from a gigantic disk-shaped UFO orbiting Earth.” If so, the capture of all of the Most Wanted Iraqi Deck of Cards will never be completed. Also in that same issue, “The U.S. government said it will seek to block the airing of a video found by Navy rescuers in Antarctica that purportedly reveals that a massive archaeological dig is underway two miles (3,200 meters) beneath the ice. . . . The Atlantis TV production crew that shot the video is still missing.” The archaeologists are reportedly confirming the existence of a legendary city previously known only through the writings of the fantasy/science fiction author H.P. Lovecraft. The April 30 issue of UFO Roundup reveals how "The Russian Navy has reportedly recovered a large triangular UFO, which crashed in Kaliningrad harbor after overflying a naval base. The crash caused minor damage to a Russian destroyer.” None of these bizarre stories appear to be written tongue-in-cheek-apparently no matter what kind of implausible story gets told, somebody somewhere is eager to believe it.

Robert Sheaffer

Robert Sheaffer's "Psychic Vibrations" column has appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer for the past thirty years. He is also author of UFO Sightings: The Evidence (Prometheus 1998). He blogs at