This past weekend, a UFO conference came to Burbank, California. It wasn’t far from where I live, so I went. The event was sponsored by Project Camelot, and was held at the Burbank Marriot (by the airport). Here was the event’s poster in the lobby of the hotel:
The event way underperformed the size of the convention center room that the organizers had reserved. The room had a capacity for 800, but only about 300 people (tops) showed up. I went primarily to see one speaker: Richard Dolan. I wasn’t disappointed. Dolan is a very, very smart Oxford trained historian, and he’s published two serious, nearly encyclopedic, books on UFOs. Dolan’s books read well and he stays on the sane side of UFO speculation. There may be less than a dozen books written on UFOs that would attract sympathetic academics, and Dolan has written two of them. Here’s an image of Dolan being interviewed outside the Marriot (I believe for a television show about conspiracy theories):
Now here’s the kicker: I went to lunch with Richard Dolan! After he had participated in an early afternoon group discussion, I approached him at the stage and asked if he had copies of his new book for sale. He said that he did. I walked with him to where he was keeping copies, promptly purchased one, and invited him to lunch. He accepted. We ate salmon and bow tie pasta at the hotel restaurant and talked UFOs. I decided to pepper him with tough questions as we ate, figuring I’d never get to have lunch with Richard Dolan in my life again—so what the hell! He’s quick, articulate, and good humored, so I never stumped him, but I think he enjoyed talking to a sympathetic and inquisitive skeptic attending the conference. My 76 year old father, who went to the conference with me, also had lunch with Dolan and I. My dad is a UFO buff and I think he was kind of in awe of my forwardness—inviting the most serious academic UFOlogist at the conference to lunch—and managing to yield a yes from him. My dad also found me sitting outside alone with Bob Dean, talking with him beneath a shade tree and listening to him tell his stories. Dean is one of the spiritual godfathers of the UFO movement. He’s 82 years old and likes cigars. So during the conference, while he was chomping on his cigar, sitting and leaning on a cane, I endured his smoke surrounded aura and hung out with him. He took a liking to me and answered my skeptical questions about UFOs with paternal patience. He has a beautiful baritone voice, and he strikes me as thoroughly sincere in his beliefs. He told me that his son is retired from the Navy and knows classified things about UFOs. I suspect that when the father dies, the son will write a book and perhaps take his father’s place at these conferences. It seems like a good retirement gig. Here’s Bob Dean bearing witness to his 1961 sighting of a UFO (go to the 1:14 part of this clip for his story):
I enjoyed my lunch with Richard Dolan and talking with Bob Dean under the trees, but I couldn’t leave a UFO conference without buying something, well, weird, could I? So that’s what I did. I bought something weird. An artist named Cynthia was selling ETs that she had sculpted, and I was captivated by one of them. Here is her table. Which one would you have picked?
I almost bought this one. The ant people. Yes, there are some who believe that there are extraterrestrial ant people:
But in the end I settled on the Iron Age Pharoah Akhenaten’s Egyptian queen, Nefertiti, her iconic conical hat replaced with a giant brain! Below is a picture I took, the day after my Saturday conference attendance, of my treasure (purchased for 70 bucks). I took the picture on the side of a road, in the Mojave Desert, in the late afternoon sun:
My ever quick-witted wife, on seeing the statue, immediately dubbed her “Nefer-ET.” And so she is named. My three year old, on seeing Nefer-ET, whispered into her ear, and then tried to listen to her talk, and when I asked my daughter what Nefer-ET said to her, she said: “I like candy.”
I suppose with a brain like that, you’d have to feed it a lot of sugar. Here’s the original Nefertiti (with her husband Akhenaten and their children). Nefertiti was one of the first proto-monotheists. She and her husband looked to the god Aten as their sole god of worship, the god behind the lightshield of the sun. The sun below kind of looks like a hovering UFO, doesn’t it?
Oh, and those kids. Look again. They’ve got the heads of Nefer-ET!