UFO Mysteries of Space & Sky conference alights in Maryland

Alien technology?  Avrocar – National Museum of the United States Air Force. (Wikimedia)

Mention the word “aliens”, and most Americans will think about the desperate hoards pouring across our southern border. But for many others, the word has always held an other-worldly connotation, going back to a summer day in 1947 near Roswell, New Mexico.

Almost seventy years after the Roswell incident, interest in UFO’s and extraterrestrials remains unabated, as witness this weekend’s annual conference: Mysteries of Space & Sky, in nearby Gambrills, Maryland. The conference, the longest running exposition of its kind in the Baltimore – Washington area, brings together experts in the areas of astronomy, aerodynamics, history, physics and psychology, along with seasoned investigators of UFO sightings, paranormal activity, alien encounters and alleged abductions, for a day of lively discussion about extraterrestrials and the UFO phenomena.

Contrary to the divisive depiction of credulous conspiracy theorists in tin-foil hats, Mysteries of Space & Sky attracts sincere enthusiasts and sober skeptics in search of answers to difficult questions about science, faith and our place in the cosmos.

Klaatu and Gort from the film The Day The Earth Stood Still.
Klaatu and Gort from the 1951 film The Day The Earth Stood Still.

Some of the questions include:

> What really happened at Roswell, New Mexico?

> Have we captured an actual UFO?

> Is there a government conspiracy to hide the truth?

> What would civil preparedness be in case of a UFO emergency?

> Are aliens really extraterrestrial beings, or are they rather angels and demons?

> Why won’t newspapers seriously cover UFO stories?

In one recent poll, when asked the question, “Do you believe UFO’s are real?” 39% responded Yes, while only 19% said No and 48% said they weren’t sure. Among the true believers, are celebrities like Mick Jagger, Russell Crowe, Will Smith, Billy Ray Cyrus and Dan Aykroyd.

Former President Jimmy Carter also maintains he once saw a UFO, while Harry S. Truman (the first president to publicly deal with the phenomena) ostensibly approved the standing order, “If you can’t talk them down, then shoot them down.”

Real or imagined, UFO’s hold an unshakable lock on mankind’s collective psyche.

Mysteries of Space & Sky is the brainchild of Dr. S. Peter Resta, an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland. Resta, whose interest in alien encounters stems from his work as a psychologist, began hosting the conferences 11 years ago. This year’s event continues a nearly 20-year tradition of a Fall UFO conference in Maryland.

Resta told the Baltimore Post-Examiner that many UFO’s are actually IFO’s (identifiable flying objects) such as birds, balloons, satellites, secret government projects or simply camera lens flares. “But not all UFO’s can be explained,” he quickly added. “Not all cases of alien abduction can be explained. In many cases, the explanations that were given do not make any sense. That’s why we have conferences like this.”

Internationally Known UFO Experts

Rob Swiatek, a world renowned expert in the field of UFO’s and one of this year’s returning speakers, is a board member of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). Along with fresh topics, Swiatek always offers conference-goers an up-to-date and detailed review of recent UFO activity, including the “best cases” of the previous year.

“We’re dealing with a problem which has been consistent since 1947. One of the hallmarks of any authentically unexplained phenomena is it maintains a consistency over time.”

Swiatek noted, for example, that in 2008, there were 4200 reported UFO sightings. By mid-July of 2012, there were over 6200.

“Who reports UFO’s? Four percent are engineers and scientists,” Swiatek said.

UFO’s and related phenomena are also reported and investigated by military personnel and law enforcement officers.

Antonio Paris, a decorated combat veteran and former Army counter-intelligence agent, heads up a group called Aerial Phenomena. Paris and his team investigated a 2008 case of “men in black” at a hotel in Niagara Falls, New York.

After reviewing security camera video tape, interviewing the staff and other witnesses, and determining the sort of proprietary camera and software which would have been required to fake the purported encounter, Paris said, “If this was a hoax, it was a really good hoax.”

James B., a retired police officer who captured his first UFO encounter on film when he was only fourteen, was one of two officers who responded to a call about unusual lights in the skies above southeastern Virginia in the summer of 1975. For several hours, he said, the two officers watched the unidentified lights “play” in the clear night sky. At some point, he recalls that jets were scrambled from nearby Octavia Air Base. The initial incident (there were several that summer) was reported in a local newspaper and was dutifully entered into logs and in police reports. But as Officer B. sought corroborating evidence, he came up against a stone wall.

“The air base said they never saw anything on radar, and when I went back years later to pull the story together, I discovered all the official files from that summer were ‘lost’.”

UFO Evidence For the Curious and Convinced

Other previous speakers have tackled such intriguing eyewitness angles as “UFO’s in Wartime” (Mack Maloney), “Hunt for the Skinwalker” (George Knapp) “UFO’s and Water” (Carl Feindt) and the controversial “Aztec Incident” (Scott & Suzanne Ramsey).

Close up of light in the sky over Sri Lanka.(Wikimedia)
Close up of a light in the sky over Sri Lanka.(Wikimedia)

In 2013, the conference even hosted Col. Thomas McCabe (Retired: USAF Reserve), a “former believer in flying saucers turned sympathetic skeptic” for a friendly debate with former university professor, Dr. David Jacobs.

Does the conference change anyone’s mind or merely re-enforce pre-existing notions?

Perhaps both. But for Andrew Callimahos, from New Carrollton, Md. – an attendee of the 2012 conference – the evidence he heard was, at the very least, compelling.

“I was invited by a friend, so I attended out of curiosity. Everything I heard was very well presented. Some will believe. Some will always doubt.”

As for Callimahos’ friend, this reporter was unable to get him to say anything on the record.

But I did learn that he works for the NSA.

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Mysteries of Space & Sky: 2014 takes place this Saturday, October 25 from 9:30am – 6:00pm at the Bowie Elks Lodge No 2309, 1506 Defense Hwy. Gambrills, MD 21054. Information about cost and this year’s speakers may be found online at Eventbrite by visiting Mysteries of Space & Sky: 2014.