Let’s not bother with any creative measures to “set the stage” here, or waste time with little exercises in editorial story-telling. Instead, we’re going to cut right to the latest in an endless series of sensational, conspiratorial headlines we’ve been seeing in the news lately: “CIA Admits ‘Area 51’ Exists, But Says No UFOs.”
Well here’s something else that you may find sensational: that headline is wrong. The latest information about Area 51 (which was actually released back in July), and its involvement with secret technologies that have been developed and tested for the last several decades, actually has a lot to do with UFOs… it just has very little to do with extraterrestrials.
Hence, I’m now going to highlight a number of elements regarding this story that have been continually overlooked. Not only will we tackle how the media has managed to get more than just a few aspects of this story wrong, I’m also going to divulge what UFO researchers can learn from carefully studying the minutia of revelations like this one, involving the CIA’s “acknowledgement” of a well-known and highly controversial desert facility in Nevada.
As we’ll soon see, Area 51 may in fact have everything to do with UFOs.
“Instead of encounters with flying saucers, the documents released by the Central Intelligence Agency on Thursday recount a less sensational history of Area 51,” a recent Discovery News article stated, “as a testing range for the government’s U-2 spy plane during the Cold War.” Sure, many researchers in the UFO field over the last several decades have wanted to believe that there might be connections with Area 51, secret government technologies, and programs that might employ “recovered” alien technology that has been obtained from alleged crashes and reverse-engineered. Many more of us aren’t particularly surprised that official documents relating to Area 51 would have more to do with government programs, most of which have been public knowledge, to some extent, for decades already.
Sure, maybe nothing should be ruled out completely (Editor’s Note: let’s wait and see which of these little narcissistic, sycophantic blogger-types will take my last statement completely out of context, and go around posting everywhere online that, “Micah Hanks seems to believe the government is hiding alien bodies,” without reading what I’m about to write in the next sentence). However, I remain resolute that I’ve never found what I believe to be convincing evidence that reverse-engineered alien vessels are what have been employed in the past at sites like the Groom Lake Facility (Area 51) in Nevada, or that any occupants of those presumed craft have ever been acknowledged, or officially referenced, as having been extraterrestrial beings.
I hope I’m being clear about all of this, because there is a far more important truth underlying the CIA acknowledgement of Area 51, as well as what the recently released files tell us about the location and its activities. Furthermore, many (well, virtually everyone) in the media have continually overlooked this element, based on their fundamental misunderstanding of what a UFO is. Indeed, while “UFO” in pop journalism today is used to imply the existence of an extraterrestrial spaceship, the term really only means unidentified flying object (apologies for those of you who hear me say things like this on a weekly basis, as I know it must seem redundant. However, just know that I’m not directing my present rant at you specifically).
In fact, with these latest revelations, we indeed may have found some of the most useful UFO-related material we’ve seen in years, and information which most logical, grounded people would probably be willing to acknowledge… it is information that could also be particularly interesting in relation to extreme skeptics like Phillip Klass who, over the years, have made attacks that include allegations of dishonesty against UFO witnesses.
So without further ado, here’s the bottom line: when we review the history of government programs that involve secret aircraft, what we learn is that there have been aerial vehicles employed over the years that were both highly advanced for their day, and which were also kept secret from the public. Insert one or two unassuming witnesses to observe this otherwise seemingly-inexplicable phenomenon, and you now have a formula for a UFO encounter. I don’t think it requires a logical leap to consider whether this could have happened, time and time again, over the last several decades of well-documented UFO encounters.
So yes, I’m saying “it’s not aliens” (though admitting this literally makes my hair stand on end… 😉 ), and furthermore, I think it’s pretty clear that whether “it’s aliens” or not misses the point. It doesn’t have to be alien for it to be a UFO. Hence, this shows us that there might indeed be occasions where a UFO witness, say, thirty or forty years ago, could have been telling the truth about something they saw, which they simply could not account for with their knowledge of existing aircraft. While believing that such an object might be advanced enough to be not of this Earth, the witnesses in this case would only have been incorrect in their interpretation of that craft. Though wrong, in part, about what they saw, they were nonetheless being truthful in their primary claims about seeing an unidentified flying object.
This was all brought up during a correspondence I recently shared with my friend, Tyler Kokjohn, Ph.D., who graciously allowed me to quote him (as he attempted to give me more credit than deserved for something which I feel he deserves equal kudos). As Kokjohn correctly notes below, some of my own predictions about the future of UFO research, as discussed in my book The UFO Singularity, entail the eventual disclosure of terrestrial technologies that, by being kept from the public for various reasons, have continued to add fuel to the growing mythos surrounding UFOs:
Along with the acknowledgment of Area 51, several news accounts also included the idea that some UFO reports filed by pilots were due to U2 aircraft overflight at extreme altitude. That hypothesis offers one possible explanation for some mysterious sightings of objects operating far beyond the capabilities of commonly known (then) current aircraft technology. It also happens to be a facet of your book thesis (as I interpret it) that at least part of the UFO explanation will be found within humans and human technology.
But if it does hold up, this possible explanation conveys other interesting things. First, people observed and reported ephemeral visual evidence of physical objects that were really there. We can now account for why and how these particular sightings were so mysterious. Second, in addition to reminding us that witness reports can be valid and useful accounts, it suggests there is value to collecting and maintaining them in searchable, relational databases. In other words, a systematic, evidence-based approach will yield dividends if combined with patience.
Kokjohn makes a number of excellent points here, and I have little doubt that some of the early reports of what the newspapers called “saucers” years ago (many of which left exhaust trails, as I note in my upcoming book The Ghost Rockets) were actually tests of similar craft, dating all the way back to the 1950s or earlier. Somewhat similar to the way newspapers have, for some time, referred to every mangy coyote carcass they came across as a “chupacabra,”every unusual aircraft seen shortly after WWII became a “flying saucer”. In reality, a number of these were likely nothing saucer-shaped at all, and employed innovative jet propulsion technologies, rather than extraterrestrial manipulation of gravitic fields.
And yet, one of the more combative approaches to modern UFO research that has emerged over the years has been to say that people are just “liars.” While speaking with a former associate of the late Phillip Klass just a few months ago, I was met with equal skepticism in relation to the concept that some UFOs could represent technologies that are kept from the public for national security reasons (keep in mind also that another skeptical blogger recently referred to such analysis, as presented in The UFO Singularity, as a “make believe idea”). “This many years afterward,” the gentleman told me, referencing some of the more classic UFO encounters of the 1950s and 60s, “the information about those programs, if they existed, would have been released if government had that information.” Thus, in his estimation, all the people who claimed they had seen exotic looking craft in such instances “were lying” (these were his actually words… I’m not misquoting him, or putting words in anyone’s mouth here).
Looking to the media yet again, I note the following headline: “5 decades later, some JFK probe files still sealed.” Now obviously, this has nothing to do with UFOs, but it has everything to do with my point about the common, skeptical assertion that “all of that information would have been released by now.” To the contrary, there are a variety of instances where information is withheld from the public, when the reason for secrecy is considered sensitive, closely related to national security issues, or even if it’s just plain politically damaging. To assume that government craft haven’t been mistaken for more exotic UFO craft in the past, based on the simple presumption that government will inevitably engage in transparency, is perhaps the very height of naivety.
Now folks, I often call myself skeptical… it is an approach I maintain in all walks of life. However, I still find that many of the other researchers who employ this term in reference to their work allow themselves to become ideologically extreme in their skepticism just as well. Hence, for some folks, their brand of “skeptical” research will also tend to support one’s own preconceptions, rather than employing an unbiased approach to the study of any observable phenomenon. In some cases, this may also be with the inclusion of such logical leaps-of-faith as, “the government would never lie to us, or withhold information from the public.”
I don’t think one has to be a conspiracy theorist to see, based on the headlines we read each day in the news, that our present way of American Government fundamentally lacks transparency… and is coming damned close to usurping people’s rights to privacy, information, and damned near anything else you can imagine. Sorry, but that’s just the reality of the situation here… so would it be such a “leap” to consider that many UFO reports that have surfaced over the years actually do deal with aircraft designed someplace here on terra firma… but due to this lack of transparency that exists for various reasons, people were seeing aircraft which they simply did not know existed?
I will conclude by saying this: if we are to learn anything from the recent discussion about Area 51 and CIA “disclosure,” it’s not that this new information about the facility should be seen as tool for use in debunking UFOs. Quite the contrary, Area 51 may hold the keys to better understanding a number of UFO reports, and a variety of other complex areas within UFO studies. What Area 51 doesn’t have is anything to do with alien technologies… or at very least, what the mainstream media thinks a “UFO” is supposed to be.