A report from the Palm Beach Post in January of 1969 amid stories of the unfolding war in Vietnam suggested to readers the opinion of a select group of scientists who were uncovering the latest impact of a surge in the UFO phenomenon. The study concluded that the government should not study and gather information on UFOs, but rather those who believed in them. The paper was entitled, “Don’t Study UFOs, Study the Believers.” Of course looking back some 42 years later we see a world very different – and in some ways eerily similar.
The paper also suggested that over 90 percent of UFO sightings were misidentifications of understood phenomena – with the other 10 percent not being so convincing to warrant a thorough investigation into the UFO phenomenon. It spoke from a position of reassuring authority. And yet the phrase “Study the believers” carried an uneasy and almost sinister tone for the millions who had become interested in the phenomenon. And yet it seems after all these years a number of people have come forward and decidedly started agreeing with the idea that the UFO culture that has subsequently sprung up over the decades in reaction to sightings of lights in the sky and possible interactions of UFO abductees and contactees may be a subject of almost as much mystery and interest as the UFOs themselves.
Take, for example, the case of roadside attraction and restaurant The Little Alie-Inn in Rachel Nevada. Back in 1991 when the restaurant opened it was little more than a coffee shop near the most famous military installation to never exist – Area 51. And yet in only a few years, soon people all over the country were talking about this quirky restaurant with its sometimes kitschy themes and clever use of wordplay existing at the outskirts of the no-man’s land surrounding Area 51. And if the culture springing up from this mystery of alien visitors isn’t simply a cultural phenomenon, then there is another side of it that might be interesting to look into.
UFOlogists that have run the circuit of conventions and looked into the various lectures on the reality of the extraterrestrial phenomenon will gradually become familiar with the differences in different generations of the narrative. And while several key points are generally agreed upon, there are several differences that sometimes crop up. And these are often mutually exclusive. The study of these narratives, what they may mean to the human race, the facts behind their popularity, and why some other UFO narratives simply don’t catch on could one day become so relevant to humanity’s development that it could rival religious studies in what it means for us all.
In the end, while we can’t say we agree that millions of members of the human race have universally been mistaken when they say they see something that appears absolutely out of this world, it does seem those scientists back in 1969 may have been on to something in their paper when they said, “study the believers.”