Illustration by James Neff.

Introduction: Flying Saucers as a Manifestation of Intelligence

by Mac Tonnies

"So you look up to the heavens and you hope that it's a spaceship..."

--R.E.M., "Hope"

It's far too easy to interpret UFOs and their "occupants" along familiar ontological circuits. I think UFOs can best be understood by their effects. And one of those effects (if not the central effect) is the power to influence human belief. For all we know our universe is "someone else's" screensaver or A-life experiment, and UFOs are simply fragments of code endlessly scrolling just beneath the veneer of perceivable reality...

As planetary citizens, we're a dreadfully solipsistic lot. It's no surprise that answers are in short supply. We have entrusted the idea of extraterrestrial visitation to a small and rigid priesthood of self-proclaimed skeptics (however sincere their intentions). The "alien" -- as a meme -- has been quarantined under the most stringent protocol. Occasionally we glimpse it retooled for the big screen in the form of "Independence Day" or "Contact." Advertisers have an inexhaustible penchant for using the alien meme as kitschy media fodder.

The consequences of this are intellectually devastating. Americans, in particular, have taken the "alien" inquiry and turned it into a ridiculously binary issue of "belief" in flesh-and-bone extraterrestrial visitors. But the possibilities are so much more fascinating, as Dr. Jacques Vallee and John Keel point out in "Passport to Magonia" and "The Eighth Tower." We have allowed our imaginations to dim like so many cheap lightbulbs.

My research has led me to the conclusion that the human race is indeed interfacing with some sort of nonhuman intelligence. I don't know what it is, where it comes from, or what it looks like (although if pressed I'd suggest that it could look like whatever it wants). Whatever this intelligence is, it is unimaginably potent. If technological in origin -- as it seems it must be, at least in some abstruse sense -- then we're dealing with something very different than anything yet contemplated by humans. The evidence indicates it may desire to remain unknown (assuming it's knowable in the first place.)

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UFO debunkers love it when they can pinpoint a hoaxer or prank responsible for fanning the flames of ufological controversy. UFO Watchdog goes a step beyond, methodically exposing charlatans and publicity-seekers whose efforts make objective UFO research difficult if not impossible.

Historical Artwork and UFOs is a puzzling and engrossing gallery of historical paintings and woodcuts that seem to show "modern" UFOs. Definitely worth a look. Some of the examples are so "modern" in appearance that the initial response is to consider them hoaxes--but the bothersome reality is they're not. (Also available is an

The Virtually Strange Network, features UFO UpDates, the best electronic forum for discussing UFOs ever devised. Painstakingly moderated by Errol Bruce-Knapp, UFO UpDates is a definite treat for armchair ufologists.

Terry Groff's UFO Research Tools and Information is full of practical information for serious UFO researchers.

Best UFO Info Resources and Links: a useful ufological primer.

Timothy Good is one of the field's most intriguing -- and controversial -- researchers.

Astronomer/computer scientist Jacques Vallee is a pioneering and vital force in ufology.

The image above was acquired by NASA's SOHO solar observation satellite. It appears to show a "classic" flying saucer leaving an illuminated trail. For commentary, refer to

The Presidents' UFO Web Site documents the many fascinating anecdotes and public statements made by U.S. Presidents over the last several decades. While no President has yet confirmed the reality of extraterrestrial visitors to the American public, their comments on the phenomenon may reveal a serious secret political interest. Jimmy Carter, in particular, achieved underground notoriety by relating his own UFO sighting and vocally stating his intention to make government-sequestered UFO data available to the public.


WaterUFO.net is a valuable site dedicated to unexplained aquatic phenomena.

The Norwood Searchlight Incident of 1949 yielded this remarkable photo of a luminous UFO apparently bending a beam of light, an effect known as gravitational lensing.

UFOteacher.com features some of the most inspired alien-themed artwork online. Excellent.

Photo of an unknown triangular craft taken over Belgium.

Aliens: The Truth offers a well-rounded dose of UFO information and speculation. I'm not sure it lives up to its title, but its clever interface is good for a few minutes' clicking.

The Bible UFO Connection examines one of the world's best-known theological texts in search of insight into the UFO mystery. Many of the parallels are compelling and deserve close attention.

In 2003 I received an email by a person calling himself Pavel, who claimed to have found a strange object (shown above) buried in the woods near his home in Perm, Russia. According to Pavel, the object had been ejected from a UFO. During my subsequent correspondence with him, Pavel rejected my suggestion to take the mystery object to a properly equipped lab for analysis and, inexplicably, decided to send the artifact to me via international post. Pavel described the object's anomalous physical characteristics: the Braille-like figure (shown in the upper right-hand corner) had supposedly changed by itself and the cylinder's metallic surface would grow hot after being touched with no evident mechanical cause. These and other properties apparently worried him that the object's original owners would return for it, possibly endangering his family.

I shortly received an email from Pavel claiming that overseas shipping was more expensive than he had expected and requesting me to send money to assist in the artifact's delivery. I declined and email from "Pavel" immediately ceased. I had realized that the possibility of my being hoaxed was very real, and Pavel's request for funds seemed to cinch the matter. But I had become interested in the cylinder's basic resemblance to similar objects associated with the infamous UMMO hoax (see Jacques Vallee's "Revelations: Alien Contact and Human Deception"). Even the "Z"-shaped glyph on the object's underside bore a vague resemblance to UMMO's trademark stylized "H." Was Pavel operating as an agent for a Russian offshoot of the ostensibly defunct UMMO cult?

After appealing to the UFO community via the UFO UpDates email list, I discovered that at least two other parties had been approached by "Pavel." I now tend to doubt any explicit UMMO/cult connection; the more likely explanation is the desire for quick cash from gullible UFO researchers.

The unknown phenomenon pictured above was independently photographed by two witnesses. Although unidentified, it's tempting to surmise a meteorological explanation.

UFO Evidence is a well-rounded introduction to the UFO phenomenon, with lots of photos and helpful external links.

The photo above depicts a "War of ther Worlds"-type scenario enacted over Los Angeles during World War II, when at least one unidentified flying object encroached on the city. Air-raid alarms were sounded and the UFO, seen spotlighted, was pummelled with anti-aircraft shells. Apparently unaffected, the UFO eventually vanished over the ocean. Recent computer enhancement of the original negative indicates a structured disk-shaped object.

UFOSkeptic.org: yet another sensible UFO site.

The Adamski Foundation reiterates the claims of the late George Adamski, flying saucer "contactee" of the 1950s whose works on Venusian "space brothers" triggered nothing less than a spiritual movement whose effects are visible even today.

UFO Casebook is thorough and informative.

Cyberpunk author John Shirley's exceptional UFO column, The Skeptical Believer: a UFO website for the intelligent minority.

A Soviet never-was flying saucer.

This computer-generated reconstruction supposedly shows a UFO originally spotted by a satellite in Earth orbit. Is our planet under observation?

Project 1947 is an effort to enhance the scope of contemporary ufology by examining the UFO phenomenon's modern emergence c. 1947 (year of the alleged Roswell crash, among other things). As such, Project 1947 appears to be the only serious historical UFO resource online.

One of the remarkable photos taken by Paul Trent, whose images--while controversial--have withstood thorough computer analysis and are widely considered authentic.

Computer enhancement of Trent UFO.

Bruce Maccabee is an optical physicist and ufologist perhaps best known for his analysis of the famous Trent photos and controversial involvement with the Gulf Breeze/Ed Walters case.

Check out UFO Folklore for a massive collection of links.

UFOInfo maintains a library of useful, nonsensational information, including Jacques Vallee's Magonia database.

Although some skeptics maintain that true "flying saucers" have only been reported since 1947, the historical record is actually littered with "modern" sightings. The

The National UFO Reporting Center, "Dedicated to the Collection and Dissemination of Objective UFO Data." And if you think there is no "objective data" for the existence of UFOs, you're in for a surprise.

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