UFO seekers enter desert realm of ‘high strangeness’ 05/27/93 THE PHOENIX GAZETTE
They came in secret.
Some journeyed far.
They counted among them scholars, men and women of science. In a remote corner of Arizona, they gathered to teach and to learn.
To prepare for visitors from beyond the skies.
Are they – shall we say – wackos?
You be the judge. But remember: We are entering the realm of “high strangeness.”
It’s Friday. You and the spouse jump in the RV and hit the road. Ah, rural Arizona! Say goodbye to traffic and crowds; say hello to pure skies, sweet silence — oh, and the occasional secret convention of UFO spotters.
It’s true. They are out there.
“It was kind of spooky,” radio talk-show czar Preston Westmoreland said about the close encounter he and his wife had in a remote canyon near Wickenburg.
They had made arrangements to camp near Robson’s Arizona Mining World, a mining museum and ghost town many miles from Anywhere. When they pulled up at the end of a five-mile dirt road, they found a lone man waving a flashlight.
Aha! Cue up the horror-movie music. Westmoreland should have suspected something when the man asked: “Are you here for CSETI?” Or when Westmoreland noticed the man’s wife scanning the twilight skies with binoculars.
Or when the man told of the group’s huge generator-powered lights and miles of cable. Or when he advised that the best way to find UFOs is not to look straight up, but to scan low above the horizon. Fact is, that’s where they tend to hover.
Or surely when Westmoreland casually mentioned his line of work: “Everybody just shut up.”
Fact is, the Westmorelands had made contact. They’d stumbled across a secret five-day session of the Center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
“The rented the whole place,” said owner Jeri Robson. “It was a training session for people who might have opportunity to speak to someone from a flying saucer.” Were they . . . strange? “Not at all,” Robson said. “They were very reasonable, very intelligent — I mean, seemingly.”
But they weren’t happy with the media in their midst. By the time the Westmorelands left the next day, there were about 80 people there from all over. A “scientist-looking guy” pulled up in a cab.
Westmoreland was told the group included former federal officials — some of whom would not want to be identified. He did note that some people wore badges with colored dots. “The higher up they were (in the group), the more dots they had.”
Bizarre? Ridiculous? Creepy?
Far from it, said Bobbie Ammons, executive assistant at the center’s headquarters in Asheville, N.C. The center, she said, is a 3-year-old international group of about 450 members — and “growing daily.”
Its purpose: “To establish a peaceful diplomatic relationship with extraterrestrials.”
The group sends out teams to seek contact with UFOs through “light, thought and tones — one of which derived from what we believe was a spacecraft recording.”
In late January, she said, it almost worked. A team from the center was approached near Mexico City by a huge triangular-shaped craft. But it sped off as they were setting up the camera.
Such events, Ammons said, partake of “high strangeness — when things happen in your experience that are unexplainable.”
Bunk? Hogwash? Of course! What kind of people believe in UFOs?
Surely not Westmoreland, “newstalkmeister” and private pilot? “I’ve been interested in UFOs since my teens.”
What about Jeri Robson, who sounds every bit the no-nonsense rural Arizona woman? “I’m open minded. I tell you frankly we saw something out here one night that I can’t explain. And no one has been able to.”
Actually, Robson’s first response was even more apt. Asked if she believed in UFOs, she said: “Do you?”