UFO Conference’s Search for Truth
by Joshua Heston
Eureka Springs, Arkansas. A cool April night. Across the valley, the outstretched arms of the “milk-jug” Jesus reaches my way from East Mountain. The castle hotel balcony upon which I am sitting is known for a lady in white who dissolves in green mist as she plummets from the third floor.
Westward, countless stars dance above southern pines whose top clusters appear cloud-like in the yellow light of the Crescent Hotel. The tree trunks are all but invisible and the black-green needles seem to float high above, detached in the darkness. Separate. Weird. Alien. What mysteries lurk in the stars? I wonder.
Eureka Springs — eccentric, diverse, eclectic, you pick the adjectives from there — is a tiny Victorian community precariously nested between two mountains. This place has long been a strange mix of uproarious hillbillies, rich redneck tourists, hippie artists and LGBT activists. Eureka Springs has also been home to one of the nation’s most popular UFO conferences, begun here in 1987 by the late Lucius O. Farish. Farish was a “metaphysical author, researcher and pioneer in hypnosis and past-life regression.” The conference is a “gathering place for top experts and investigators in the field of UFOs, extraterrestrials, lost civilizations, crop circles and otherworldly phenomenon.” After Farish’s death in 2012, Dolores Cannon and daughter Julia run the event.
“Would you like to try the orgone generator?” says the short, heavy man with a Chicago accent. It is the next morning and I am making my way through the convention’s crowded vendor floor. The “orgone-generator” booth is wedged between the guy with a large copper plate plugged into a wall outlet — “to help you ground your energy” — and a vast, makeshift bookstore of Wicca how-to, alternative medicine and tarot card readings. I turn back to the man with the Chicago accent. He hands me a resin pyramid with shiny things inside. “These larger ones are cloud busters,” he continues, “and they keep away the grays, the drakes and the whites.”
I blink. “They keep away what?”
“Aliens,” he says as though it’s manifestly obvious. “The grays, drakes and whites don’t like orgone energy.”
Clearly, I need to catch up.
Broadly speaking, the UFO community is made up of two schools of thought: either aliens are real and are here to help us, or aliens are real and mean us great harm.
“I prefer to stay positive,” explains Race Hobbs, founder of KGRA, an internet-based talk radio network. “Julia Cannon and her mother Dolores work hard to keep things as positive as they can. There is a faction who believe these [aliens] are terribly evil. Julia is ever-mindful of the power of positive thinking.”
Hobbs is a friendly bear of a man who grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas. An on-air radio personality since 1985, he has a UFO story of his own:
“It was 1990 and I was on the radio. A listener called me, said he was on a highway 10 miles from the studio, and there was an object over his car. He said the object looked like a black submarine with a blinding light in the front of it. I put the caller on hold, ran outside — the studio had a panoramic view of the valley — and I saw a sparking-bright, shimmering light about 30 degrees off my horizon, floating from right to left. The light looked like a welders’ arc.
“After that I started a little research investigation group and [also] joined the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).”
Later that day, the positive thinking took a leap upwards during author Whitley Strieber’s lecture. The darkened room was packed as I settled into a back row.
“They are coming slowly along, struggling with our gravity,” Strieber was saying. “Look at them! What they hell they must think we look like?” In the grainy video, tall white aliens with bulging heads walk gangly-legged into view. The crowd inhales as one and begins murmuring to one another. Whitley continues, “Isn’t it amazing? And quite wonderful.” There is soft laughter. Heads nod in affirmation. I feel as though I’m watching a surreal nature show. The poofy-headed aliens gander off as I try to rein in my skepticism.
Strieber’s book Communion was his “true story” of an “elaborate personal encounter with intelligent nonhuman beings.” Stacks of his best-selling books are available for sale. “Old thinking says there are aliens from this planet or that,” he furthers. “New thinking is the human mind winking back from the dark. This is real power. Trust it.” I resist the urge to snicker.
Nick Pope, freelance British journalist and former British Government’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) employee explains, “It is a bizarre mix. There are fantastically intelligent, insightful people asking hard questions. There are true believers with their minds made up. Sometimes they are fearful. On the other side are those with a New Age approach — our galactic brothers and sisters making crop circles and reaching out to us in a happy-clappy way.
“Some people think I’m the bad guy. Many think governments around the world know the truth about UFOs. Hand on my heart, the British government does not know and we don’t have a spaceship hidden away. But the MoD investigated about 12,000 sightings and had around 60,000 pages on the subject. Why are our own pilots seeing these things? Why can we track them on radar? I’m not saying they are alien but this is more than weather balloons and swamp gas.”
For John Burroughs, former US Air Force, the questions are more personal. Burroughs was stationed at RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk, England on December 26, 1980. Strange lights were seen in the nearby Rendlesham Forest. Burroughs and others were sent to investigate. “Different people saw different things,” he says. “I saw a red oval object with blue, orange and white lights within it. Another saw an oval object that exploded into a triangle object.” Burroughs was later diagnosed with heart failure as a result of UAP radiation exposure.
“There is a stigma to [those] who attend UFO conferences,” explains Micah Hanks, author and personality of The Gralien Report and Mysterious Universe. A Dr. Who aficionado and bluegrass guitarist, Hanks’ North Carolina accent is evident as he speaks. “You’ll hear people laughing about tinfoil hats but the people I interacted with during the conference included a present government employee and a chemist.
“And then there are hard-core UFO researchers like David Marler who say, ‘Let’s focus on what we have observed. On that, the consensus is there appears to be a phenomenon that is at times dismissed by science.”
Marler was also presenting so I settled into the back row again, this time for a lecture on “The UFO Invasion of 1950: Farmington, New Mexico.” As Marler began sharing his research, a few New-Agey attendees looked bored.
“By the third day, flying saucers were reported over Farmington. Fully half of the population saw anywhere from ‘several’ to ‘more than 500’ UFOs. Some [UFOs] appeared to play tag. Some were seen streaking away at high speeds. Some were estimated to be ‘twice the size of a B-29.’”
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