In the mid 1990’s, the internet found itself. And I found MUFON. This was the Mutual UFO Network, for people who believed that the truth was, indeed, out there and they’d seen it. At the time, the website was MUFON.org (now a .com), and it had a link to something called “Become a member.” Naturally, I clicked with great enthusiasm, though, at the time, MUFON wasn’t so easy to get into. One of the steps involved finding a local chapter and going to a meeting. As a journalist, I imagined going would be akin to a Mormon attending an AA meeting. The final step of the integration would be to go on a “UFO hunt” with an experienced member. My curiosity was piqued, but I could never find a chapter, and the final step sounded as though it could turn out like Deliverance.
I am, in fact, a big fan of cryptozoology. It’s the study of creatures that might well be mythical – like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. Keep in mind, I don’t believe in any of them. I just enjoy studying them. I like reading about the idea of discovering something unimagined, I like reading about people willing to dedicate themselves to something they might never find, moreover, I just like the idea that there’s something more.
There are some interesting theories about the Loch Ness Monster – or “Nessie” as they call her in the cryptozoological field. One is that Loch Ness is connected to Loch Morar, and that’s why she’s so elusive. One is that she’s a pre-historic dinosaur called a Plesiosaur (which, to me, sounds like a dinosaur that just wants to make you happy). But my favourite cryptozoological legend is known as The Bloop. It’s simply a sonar reading that a ship picked up only for seconds of something far too big to be down where it was, and was most definitely something alive. People have searched to find it again for years to no avail. That’s what we all do. Unless it’s Cthulhu. It’s totally Cthulhu.
It was a bloop on the radar for a brief moment. It could have been an error; could have meant everything, could have meant nothing at all.
That’s how I feel about women.
“Where is everybody?” asked the physicist.
The time was 1950 and the physicist in question was atomic pile-builder Enrico Fermi. He was seated around a counter eating lunch with some colleagues at the Los Alamos National Research Centre. This question startled his co-workers, as clearly they were right there. But bear in mind this was just three years after the supposed UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico and America had gone “saucer-mad.” Even world-famous physicists.
Fermi explained that the universe is so vast and ancient that, unless we were the very first intelligent life in it, surely we would have encountered other life by now. “Where is everybody?” Fermi asked, and no one answered.
“What we try to do is prove or disprove any UFO sightings using a scientific background,” said André Morin.
Morin is the National Director of the MUFON Canada. He regularly investigates sightings. I approached Morin in hopes of finally tagging along during such an investigation.
“Since some of the witnesses want to stay anonymous concerning their UFO sightings, unfortunately you could not be with me during an investigation. I apologize for that.”
Morin did, however, take me through a typical investigation.
“Dr. Cleve Ziegler has come home past midnight. And he thinks he sees a UFO.” The object in the sky is of the bowtie variety of UFOs, but it soon forms into a trapezoid. It is hovering over Cavendish Mall of Kildare. “It couldn’t have been a helicopter,” said Morin. “The lights were too bright.”
Over 200 witnesses saw the mysterious object, Morin claimed.
Ziegler called 911, and emailed a reporter.
“This has to be something not of this planet,” Ziegler told the police.
It is then that Morin sets to work. He recited his list of equipment like a bookkeeper reading his ledger.
“Two small scopes, two large scopes, video glasses, two throwaway cameras, two video cameras, and believe me I’ve searched every outskirt of Montreal.”
MUFON also collects soil samples from supposed landing sites.
“Also we look for radar confirmation, any meteoric compound on site.”
“Here at MUFON, we try and provide a scientific basis,” said Morin. “We use physicists and chemists, try and track what direction they’re headed. We just try to gather as much scientific data as possible.”
So what happens to a Ufologist’s world when Area 51, a longstanding mecca for believers, was declassified by the CIA last August to be nothing but a test site for U2 planes? It doesn’t faze him in the least.
“We know something is there we just can’t prove it. There’s too much photographic evidence from people from all walks of life.”
MUFON was founded 19 years after Fermi’s query in Quincy, Illinois. Since then, it’s grown to over 3,000 members worldwide.
Saucer-mania resurged in the mid-1980s after novelist Whitley Streiber released Communion, detailing what he believed were moments of lost time during which alien beings would abduct him and forcibly insert rectal probes. Despite a popular film adaptation starring Christopher Walken, Streiber has all but recanted his claims; never claiming that his book is a work of fiction, he has said it is possible he suffers from temporal lobe interference.
Morin is only mildly familiar with Streiber’s work, though he does reason that abduction is entirely likely.
“Many people are missing in ways that rule out suicide or murder. It’s like they’re gone from the surface of the earth,” he said. However, he added, “those things are extremely hard to prove.”
It’s fitting that Canada’s headquarters is in Montreal, a city that has had some experience with unidentifiable lights in the sky. On November 7, 1990, several witnesses on the rooftop pool of the Bonaventure Hotel reported a large, round metallic object hovering above them for close to three hours. Though no witnesses claimed to be able to identify its nature, the following day’s La Presse had no trouble confirming the city had, indeed, been visited by little green men.
Currently, the Canadian Federal Government directs all reports of sightings to Ufology Research of Manitoba.
Most groundwork, however, takes place in Western Canada, where data is much easier to come by. According to a 2002 survey conducted by Ufology Research of Manitoba, Toronto has the most sightings per year with 34, followed by Vancouver with 31. A typical sighting lasts approximately 15 minutes.
Morin, he said regretfully, he himself has not witnessed a UFO, “but both my father and mother have.” He grew up “from the cradle” hearing stories about a huge ray of light moving fast across the sky, too fast to have been a fallen satellite.
Fallen satellites are often the cause of false UFO reports. According to NASA, since Sputnik’s maiden flight, over 1,800 objects – many the size of a schoolbus – have fallen back to earth after a failed booster rocket. Despite this, they project a one in 3,200 chance of a person or their property ever sustaining damage. By federal law, should those odds fail someone, NASA is required to pay. To this day, they haven’t had to spend a dime.
Few celebrities have claimed sightings. Former President Jimmy Carter once claimed to have seen something in California, and former Arizona Governor Fyfe Symington reported the infamous “Phoenix Lights,” which hovered over the capitol city’s skyline before taking two hours to glide to Tucson. However, the most outspoken on UFOlogy and paranormal research has been Canada’s own Dan Aykroyd.
As official Hollywood consultant for MUFON as well as a lifetime member, Aykroyd published a DVD entitled Dan Aykroyd: Unplugged on UFOs. He also regularly and openly supports the organization.
“This is not conjecture,” said Aykroyd. “In that film, we aren’t just speculating. We have footage of Reagan admitting that part of his star wars program was to prevent a possible alien attack.”
While on the set of the Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads, Aykroyd claims to have seen what’s commonly known in Ufology circles as “men in black” that suddenly vanished without a trace. While he didn’t claim they were extraterrestrials, he does believe they are active in a cover-up.
“I know they’re out there. I know they’ve been here. They have the technology. Lord Hillnorton of the British Defence staff said that 23 different species are coming. But I don’t think they want anything to do with us,” Aykroyd said, explaining that the human race is far too aggressive for an intelligent alien race to desire contact
There’s a reason the technical pseudo-science jargon in Ghostbusters is as specific as it is. Aykroyd is a firm believer in all things supernatural.
“I am a Spiritualist, a proud wearer of the Spiritualist badge. Mediums and psychic research have gone on for many, many years,” Aykroyd told Psychic News in April of 2008. “Loads of people have seen spirits, heard a voice or felt the cold temperature. I believe that they are between here and there, that they exist between the fourth and fifth dimension, and that they visit us frequently.”
In an interview with comedian and filmmaker Bobcat Goldthwait earlier this year, he compared cryptozoologists and Ufologists as a level above pedophiles in society’s eyes. “It’s pedophiles, Ufologists and maybe mass murderers above them.” That stigma, however, doesn’t even seem to be on Morin’s radar, perhaps because, despite his day job, he’s still a reasonable skeptic and not a die-hard believer.
“I don’t fully believe. Let me tell you why I think it’s possible,” he said. “Because astronomists are discovering planets on other solar systems. Including planets that could be in the right zone for liquid water. Now, without stretching the imagination too much, there could be a planet on another solar system that has life. It doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination.”
So what does a Ufologist do with his downtime between investigations? As for Morin, he really, really wants you to read his novella. In July of last year, Moosehide Books published his sci-fi comedy thriller, Reluctant Time Travellers.
“And by the way, right on the cover, there’s a UFO,” he said enthusiastically. “So you can tell there are twists and turns and it is action-packed, so maybe you can tell your friends…”
What would be most significant for Morin, is to discover some alien artifact or perhaps alien blood that could not be of this planet. “There’s already overwhelming evidence, but we need definite proof. And we won’t stop looking until we find it.”
Until then, where is everybody?
About Kenny Hedges
Suffering from a love of film and writing, Kenny Hedges used to spend his days pounding out reviews of older films nobody saw with the occasional recent press screening peppered in between. He's been published in Cult Montreal and smaller local papers and websites around town. Trained in journalism at Concordia and a high school in Tucson, Arizona that used to let him ditch classes to edit the school paper, he is also cursed with a wikipidic-knowledge of cinema, complete with some unverified information. Sometimes, if he's really good, his fiction gets published. He enjoys house parties, cooking, and old detective novels. Favourite Films: Crimes and Misdemeanors, Halloween, Night and the City, The Wild Bunch, Fletch, Miller's Crossing, Darkman, To Live and Die in L.A., Robocop, Billy Liar, Candyman, Piranha (1978), All The President's Men, Cat People, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, The Monster Squad, Badlands, Away We Go, The Wicker Man (1972), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) Favourite Music: Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, The Kinks, The White Stripes, The Jam, Burt Bacharach, Bernard Herrman, Modest Mouse, The Walkmen, The Beach Boys, Warren Zevon Favourite Books: The Great Gatsby, The Black Dahlia, In the Mountains of Madness, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Shopgirl, America: The Book, T.S. Elliot, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Billy Liar