Sometimes a walk down memory lane is more appealing when it’s lined with little green men and the path is lit by otherworldly lights from above. Figuratively speaking.
That might sound like a nightmare in some places. But looking back over the past six months, the absence of those things locally — at least in their usual volume — has contributed to making this a year to forget in Roswell, at least so far.
We’ve become accustomed here to a fairly high level of UFO-related discussion and activity.
As ground zero for perhaps the world’s most famous UFO-related incident and decades of debate and analysis related to that; home to the International UFO Museum and Research Center; and host of a world-famous UFO Festival … well, it would be odd if Roswell’s UFO-related activity didn’t exceed that of a typical U.S. community. Safe to say, in most years, that’s the case.
But the pandemic has forced all manner of adjustments — cancellation this year of the annual festival with its lineup of speakers, thousands of visitors and attendant spotlight; and state-mandated closure for a time of the Museum and Research Center. It’s made for less discussion on the topic of extraterrestrial life in 2020 than we’d experience most years in Roswell.
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However, this being anything but a typical year, the rest of the country has been helping to take up the slack. According to a September Wall Street Journal article headlined “UFO spotting has replaced bird watching as pandemic obsession,” data from the National UFO Reporting Center indicated that in 2020, reported sightings of UFOs have been up 51% from last year. Of the 5,000 sightings referenced in the WSJ piece, 20% were reported in April, “as much of the nation remained in lockdown.”
Elsewhere in the same Journal article, Matthew Hayes, of Northern Lakes College in Alberta, Canada, pointed out that interest in UFOs began during the Cold War, another anxious and uncertain time. “In a time of crisis, we look elsewhere for salvation, even if it means looking to the stars,” he said.
Also driving interest, toward the end of April, the Pentagon officially made public three video clips — previously released by a private company focused on UFO research — showing what are known in defense parlance as “unidentified aerial phenomena,” UAPs. The objects, captured by infrared cameras, moved at speeds and in ways that wowed Navy personnel who witnessed them.
Then in August, the Pentagon made related news, announcing formation of a task force to investigate UFOs encountered by military aircraft. That followed the Senate Intelligence Committee, in June, requesting analysis from the defense and intelligence communities of the encounters. Chairman Sen. Marco Rubio, according to CNN, told a television station at the time, “We have things flying over our military bases and places where we are conducting military exercises, and we don’t know what it is and it isn’t ours. …”
Those are just a few examples. Mainstream reports related to the phenomena, across a spectrum of media, have been steady throughout 2020.
And in news no doubt of less concern to the armed forces, at least currently, it was announced a few weeks ago that gases detected by astronomers in the clouds of Venus could indicate some form of life. So, possible Venusians — even if only microbial.
All this is not inconsequential here. Public interest in the topic of extraterrestrial life is good for business in Roswell, tourism and trade.
The country will gradually work its way back to something at least resembling normal. People will travel more widely and freely than they have since March, and get back to mixing in more of the things they want to do with things they have to do, indulging their interests and connecting with new people and places. That should bode well for UFO Festival 2021.
It’s no surprise people have been looking to the skies more often as parts of the country have been locked down. There’s only so much streaming TV anyone can appreciate, only so many glowing rectangles one can interact with before some connection with nature, the stars, anything more real, becomes necessary. If that leads to an unexpected sighting of something bordering on the unreal, well, lifelong interests and even road trips to the desert southwest have been inspired by less.
John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.