New agers tell us the truth about UFOs

Unhinged at the Lafayette Hotel

Illustration of UFO sighting
  • Illustration of UFO sighting
  • Louis Turi

The Lafayette Hotel on El Cajon Boulevard seems at first an unlikely venue for a major alternative conference dealing with the “Truth About UFOs” — or to give it its proper title, the National New Age and UFO Conference, held there during March. A looming neoclassical facade, yuppie interior, and immaculate swimming pool seem more appropriate to Nissan marketing seminars or gatherings of toilet paper salesmen. But then, even the UFO crowd like a little smooth decor once in a while, all the more to normalize their fantastical discussions of alien abductions, crop circles. Area 51, the Bermuda Triangle, and such. And this four-day spree, sponsored by New Age guru Tim Beckley of New jersey and Inner Lights Publications, was nothing if not relaxed. And who could resist any event in such surroundings when the special guest is one extraordinary fellow by the name of Dr. Frank Stranges? It might, after all, be Peter Sellers in disguise. The recent movie Fire in the Sky, based on the “true story” of an alien abduction in Snowflake, Arizona, in 1975, has brought UFOs back into the limelight — as have the mysterious sonic booms that rock the L.A. basin every week, ascertained to be caused by an object traveling at many times the speed of sound, despite the United States Air Force’s denial of any knowledge of the matter. Researchers following the trajectory of that boom have traced it to the top-secret Air Force base just north of Las Vegas known as Area 51, a favorite obsession of UFOologists and the target of a recent spate of TV documentaries. There is even a small company called UFO Excursions running tours of the area. From a small mountain called Whiteside, they say, you can look down at the secret Broome Lake area and actually see “flying saucers” take off and land. Before, that is, the government’s equally secret security company, WWT, comes to hustle you off public land — a fact that, one suspects, actually delights the UFO crowd, always up for a juicy conspiracy.

Alien model "Luanda"

Alien model "Luanda"

UFO Excursions is run by a charismatic young Californian conspiracy mongerer named Sean David Morton, author of The Millennium Factor and a former researcher on the popular TV show on the paranormal. Sightings. Like most UFOologists, he has a space background — NASA father, the odd astronaut godfather. Before meeting him at the Lafayette for the Friday morning opening, I thought I would give the long-haired pin-up of the UFO scene (or so he appears on his book, with unzipped leather jacket and Axl Rose gaze) a call at his Hermosa Beach home. The recorded message was spooky and sprightly at the same time, quite a feat, and ended with the merry injunction “Keep looking upwards!”

In person, though, Mr. Morton is a model of rational ebullience — until, that is, he gets onto the subject of military bases on die moon. “Oh yes,’’ he says, in the same merry voice, “I have photographs of those. Military bases. Absolutely no question about it. I will show you pictures of aircraft on the moon. They’ve been flying there for years. My father knew all about it, but he had to keep quiet. That’s the way NASA is. And as for Area 51 — my specialty — I can tell you for a fact that the USAF has alien craft that it has disassembled and learned how to fly. That’s what you see flying around out there early on Thursday mornings. And that’s why WWT [Wackenhutt World Technology] strong-boys want to set their dogs on you 15 miles —15 miles! — from the base perimeter. Well, what can I tell you? We’ll have to speak in person. This conference is going to be a wonderful event — because, you know, everything is connected. All these weird things that are happening right now — all connected. That’s right. And I want to tell you something about California you probably didn’t know. You know, Lawrence, we are all one. We are all one, AND WE MUST EVOLVE! All we’re doing is bringing the pieces together. Telling the people the real story. Because our biggest enemy, you know, is the government. I can tell you that for a fact. We are not being told the truth. Well, see you on Friday. I’m sure, Lawrence, that you’re going to have a fascinating, fascinating time. Your mind is really going to be blown!”

Friday

The crowd in the vestibule of the Lafayette did not, at first, seem the revolutionary gathering of visionary scientists (all, of course, with impeccable NASA backgrounds) that I had expected. I thought I might have wandered into a coven of esoterica-minded bikers or a gathering of faith healers from the low-rent suburbs. In the center of the conference area, where the various exhibitors and conferencees had set up their stalls, a life-size cut-out of Einstein stood under a cluster of small palms, and around this focal hub stood a disorientating array of individuals. Behind a large white shrine equipped with a china Buddha, green candles, and bowls of apples, two icy blonde priestesses with gold headbands — Gopi Saravati of Morningland and her colleague — stood ready to give direct transmission from the Master Sri Donato, which would protect from alien abductions.

Kenneth Ford

Kenneth Ford

Across the room, an even more terrifying sight: a large blonde housewife stood gesticulating wildly by the Powerdyne stall with a gold-frame pyramid perched precariously on her head. “The last time I wore it, honey,” she shouted, waving her arms, “I had sparks flying everywhere, everywhere...” And by the San Diego UFO Society counter, local UFO meister Gary Schultz stood fulminating, with one withered arm, against government coverups of biblical UFO prophesies. And while Louis Turi, the French astrologer, performed his amazing predictions, and Billy Meier, the Swiss farmer who recorded a “close encounter” on 8 millimeter in 1979, mumbled about his telepathic conversations with Pleiadians on a videotape, my head felt hot and I had to sit down. Where was the rational Sean Morton? And had the foul-smelling biker types really come in on a Friday evening to hear Norio Hayakawa talk on “Covert Aerospace Operations and Mind Control” or JoAnn Parks give forth on Max, the 10,000-year-old crystal skull?

Norio Hayakawa, the first speaker of the conference, is a well-known Japanese TV journalist who specializes in government conspiracy. He seems more than a little out of place in this Southern Californian New Age setting, with the conch-shell stage, the colored lights, and the little gold pyramid hanging over his head. Not only that, but the ghostly Dr. Stranges — who describes himself as “a minister and private investigator” — appears to introduce him and get things rolling with a rousing bit of feel-good theatrics. “A mind-expansion program, folks, not a Baptist convention!” Everyone then has to stand and shake his neighbor’s hand. “And give yourself a hand, why not!” Apropos of the inimitable Dr. Stranges: the Head of the International Evangelism Crusades has been master of ceremonies for the New Age UFO conferences since the very first one and is an illustrious graduate of Bible college. In December 1959, he was invited to the Pentagon, where he met a being who had no fingerprints, could read minds, and wore a garment that could not be cut, burned, or otherwise destroyed. This alien identified himself to our minister as Commander Val Thor. Shocked and disturbed, Dr. Stranges wrote Stranger at the Pentagon and revealed that there are 75 aliens living permanently on earth among us. He is still in touch with Commander Thor, who gives him invaluable help in composing his seminars.

After this absurd orgy of self-congratulation, Hayakawa nervously takes the stand, the feed-backing microphone emitting ear-splitting shrieks, and begins a rambling, incoherent, and fairly hysterical rant in some strange Anglo-Japanese dialect, consisting of a series of completely interchangeable paragraphs. One of these might go something like this: “There is a manipulation, folks, of the belief system that is going on, no doubt about it, those strange towers on the freeway are certainly not cellular phone towers, it’s a political, religious, social...er...possibly...er....historical group which has been controlling the de facto shadow government, folks, since...er...l948...or 1947....no doubt about it, they can implant chips in human organs, incredible technology now, and the hemoglobin of cows is similar to that of humans, so it can be substituted in times of emergency, and whenever there’s a crisis with Israel, folks, there’s an increase in UFO sightings.”

One of Ford's UFO models

One of Ford's UFO models

This goes on for an hour. The big guys with B.O. yawn and scratch their butts, eventually snoring with rolling heads. Only at one point does everyone wake up: When the excited Hayakawa suddenly suggests that the government will stage an alien landing in 1995 with holograms because, as he says, “There are no UFOs, it’s all a mind-control thing.” This gets the whole hall very upset. The big boys with National Enquirers stuffed into their back pockets start growling menacingly. What does he mean, no UFOs?! “No, listen folks, there’s no doubt about it!” Hayakawa yells, while it seems there’s going to be an imminent lynching. The session ends in confused ferment.

Now the suave charm of Dr. Stranges comes into its own. Raising his hands like a Biblical prophet, he cries, “Hands up who agreed with everything you just heard!”

Virtually everyone present sheepishly raises their hand. Order is restored, and Dr. Stranges looks approvingly at the raised hands. Then, in a softer voice, he says, “Stand up, everyone who thought every word the last speaker said was brilliant.”

And, like a herd of silent cows, the audience stands. “A world of fascinating facts and perpetual coincidences!” Dr. Stranges croons and everyone nods. Not like a Baptist convention? It is a miracle that everyone does not, at the slightest prompting, spontaneously burst into song. Seeing the guitar being lifted from its stand, and seized with a panic at the thought of the UFO crowd swaying to the strains of a New Age gospel, I head for the red exit sign and leave Rosemary Ellen Guiley, the beautiful blonde about to speak on crop circles, to the cognoscenti. There is only so much fascinating fact and perpetual coincidence one can take in a single day.

On my way out an elderly lady wearing one of the gold pyramids and brandishing a metal medallion that she claims is a “nuclear receptor” tells me to look more cheerful. “Remember,” she says, with that cool tone that only lightly disguises second-degree lunacy, “we’re not alone. They don’t like a long face up there. Come in tomorrow and we’ll speak to some little people from M32. That’s a galaxy, by the way. A very nice galaxy, too. I guarantee, young man, that it’ll get things in perspective for you. And the females will just adore you. Keep looking upwards!”

Saturday

San Diego boasts as large a circle of UFO experts, abductees, and alien-orientated mediums as any city in the U.S. relative to size. The Lafayette conference has brought them out of the woodwork. By the back windows overlooking the swimming pool, for example, sits a forlorn middle-aged couple wearing baseball caps that read “Some of My Best Friends are Earthlings.” You might think this is just a catchy logo for the owners of a Poway company called UFO T-Shirts run by one Kenneth K. Ford and wife. But Kenneth and spouse are deadly serious. As far as their affections are concerned, it really is a toss-up between earthlings and what our Ken calls the Alien Race.

Kenneth Ford is a well-known abductee; that is, he says he has been taken into alien spacecraft many times and experienced “encounters of the third, fourth, and fifth kind.” Deeply affected by his amazing experiences, he now makes a living purveying three-dimensional models of the alien race (they litter his stand, blue and red eyes glowing menacingly) and T-shirts with alien mottos. Slow of speech, slightly groggy, he describes his lifetime’s experience of UFOs as something rooted in a childhood trauma.

UFO tabloids

UFO tabloids

“My first abduction happened when I was six or seven. I got this heavy nosebleed in the middle of the night, and my mother came into the room to help me, and I said to her, ‘They were here,’ meaning the aliens. You see, it wasn’t just a nosebleed. They had put something in my nose. I firmly believe it was a transmitter of some kind. Now, that’s how they’ve been tracking me all these years. My mom thought it was a bad dream, but that wasn’t why I was screaming, it was the transmitter. And so that’s how I know that the next time it happened, when I was 14, it wasn’t an accident. They had followed me. They’ve followed me all my life. But it wasn’t until 1985 that I had my first big experience, by Mira Mesa — I saw something landing in a field on my way to the library. I was dumbfounded to see that it was an alien spacecraft and that the beings were inviting me to go with them. Well, they took me up to the mother ship, and we flew around some. They took me around the solar system, then brought me back. I was utterly traumatized. It was beyond anything I had experienced with them before. And since then, we’ve been communicating regularly, mainly by telepathy.” Husband and wife look at each other searchingly. “In fact, we’ve become real fond of them. They’re a curious bunch of beings.”

Kenneth relates his extraterrestrial adventures with such deadpan lack of excitement that you are momentarily unaware of the profound feeling that informs his account. On the other hand, the childhood background seems a little more relevant than it might first appear. Kenneth explains:

Lafayette Hotel

Lafayette Hotel

“I come from a Hollywood family. My father was an old vaudevillian who tried to develop ESP and thought transference and mind reading. He was very successful. He later got into ‘talkies’ and then was head of the publicity department at 20th Century Fox Studios for some 25 years. He made legends like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. I had to call some of the stars ‘uncle’ — Uncle Ronald Reagan, for instance. As for myself, I was in some of the old Our Gang comedies, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and many more. But in all cases I never liked the screaming directors or the movie set drugs. I liked the sets, the special effects, and the art of it. So it was that area that I pursued. Then, when I was 19,I had a serious motor accident. A car hit me broadside on my motorbike and threw me 80 feet — my first NDE and OBE [near-death experience and out-of-body experience]. I met a being from a Light who directed me back to my body. I was classified 85 percent disabled for the rest of my life, and my parents, who pocketed most of the insurance money, kicked me out.

“Believe me, I know what it’s like to be a bum, to be hassled by the police. So I became a rogue and got in touch with some Hollywood VIPs — I became a real pro Hollywood playboy. I got tangled with Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys. After that, though, I got a job in Military Defense, and I worked on projects with John Glenn, the first moon landings, and the Hubbel telescope. Forty-two years altogether. Now, after I was abducted, I was interviewed by the FBI and so on, and I knew that my past relationships with celebrities meant that I couldn’t be compromised into divulging military secrets. That meant they were quite lenient with me. Recently, they cleared me to speak out on UFOs and my abduction, and they let me talk to Robert Gardinair, the first lecturer on UFOs. He confirmed my drawings of alien craft. So, in the end, with all this considered, I’d have to say that I’m a real prime abductee for study by the alien race.”

His wife nods sagely. “Go on, Kenneth,” she murmurs. Kenneth nods to himself, as if admitting that his strange semi-criminal past makes him the ideal abductee. “I feel,” he says, “that even though they are highly advanced, the study of a confused, hostile planet is very difficult. So just as Mormons, Catholics, and other earth religions choose their friends, I feel the alien race is just the same. You see, I am not a Cadillac chaser or a Mercedes fan. I am interested in the aliens as a race and how they are. I am sure the flying saucers are neat to see, but I feel the life behind the controls is more important than the vehicle. So I personally found them spiritually beautiful and very cooperative when cooperated with. And very easy to communicate with. Now,’ look at the models I’ve made. See how different they are? That’s because in the one craft I was in, there were several types of alien.”

We turn to the models he has made. Remarkably, they all have names. One, in jeweled headgear with tassels and rakish black headscarf, is called Luanda.

“Ah, yes,” Kenneth explains with prosaic flatness, “she was my guide. A very nice alien.”

Another is called, enigmatically, Deja Vu, and another. Old Wiseman. They all have those enormous, slanted insect eyes now established in the popular imagination with the alien race. Some of them are called “Grays” and others, much smaller, “Creulians.” The latter, says Kenneth, are “real brats, a little crude, shrill, not very gentle.” Much more refined is the abductor Quene Cuelene Khrystelene in her “spiritual headdress,” her third eye and her symbolic jewel that signifies telepathy. “Oh yeah,” says Ken languidly, “definitely the spiritual type.”

We then concentrate on the “Gray” who actually examined our intrepid abductee. “See, she’s got this uniform on, with the lapels. She was about four foot high in real life. The sculpture changes with light from a smile to a sardistic [sic] grin, as if to say, ‘If you’re so intelligent, Earthlings, just you figure us out.’ Now Luanda, she’s what you’d call a Hybrid Spiritual Blue — I recreated her image through channeling and astro-projection. With shadows and light I can recreate the beauty of moods of spiritual love. And see how their eyes change color all the time from blue to red? That’s how I saw them, inside the saucer.”

After a while talking to the director of UFO T-Shirts, one begins to think of these strange dolls — like the puppet props of some hideously outmoded British sci-fi TV series of the ’60s, like Dr. Who or Thunderbirds — as casual acquaintances one might run into in a local transvestite bar or late-night diner. There is not a single flaw in Kenneth’s consistency or demeanor. He is a man still living in a disturbed childhood, the actual complexion of which one can never know, and the UFO movement has enabled him to carry on doing so. The Inner Child building models.

But it is Saturday, the fattest day for lectures, and one of the major speakers of the event is about to get started. Gary Schultz of the San Diego UFO Society is giving a lecture in the New Orleans room on “UFOs and the Bible.” I shake Kenneth’s hand, and then his wife’s, and wish them luck persuading the world that telepathy with Luanda and the Cruelians might be a pleasant experience after all. “You bet,” says Ken, cocking his head and looking rather blankly back. “The alien race is very patient, you know. They’ve been waiting for thousands of years, and they aren’t going away. Let’s just hope that the human race wakes up before it’s too late.”

Too late for what? I feel like asking. But it’s clearly better not to. Ken might get that gleam in his eye. And in the New Orleans room, Gary is already there with his slide projector, his enlarged photographs of funny lights over Area 51, and his withered arm. And boy, he looks tense. The government looks like it’s in for a fearsome drubbing. We sit and collect our broadsheets.

“Right,” says Gary with a demented grin. “Please turn off the lights.”


Gary Schultz is in reality a nice fellow. Always happy to indulge a curious journalist, he is generous with his time. Why? Well, the Truth must out, and if volunteers like Gary don’t do it, who will? And if the Truth does not out, we are all in danger of falling victim to the most stupendous government-engineered conspiracy.

Looking a little like Gary Shandling without the TV wardrobe, this Gary — a “businessman and scientist” who is also the director of a thing called Secret Saucer Base Expeditions and the co-producer of a thing called “The Ultimate Need to Know Seminars” — is a veritable gushing fountain of conspiracy hysteria, a hysteria that seems, curiously, to calm him by giving a transcendent order to things. After all, if everything we see has been created by the Forces of Evil, it at least has some kind of order to it.

“When I saw my first saucer,” Gary says, “I nearly jumped out of my deck chair. Actually, there were six of them, an hour or so apart. Look, this is my now-legendary photograph of the saucers over Area 51. No fakery there. I saw them with my own eyes. Now, what is the significance of UFOs? We all have different theories, but mine is tied to the Bible, because I know for a fact that the Bible foretold everything that’s going in the UFO phenomenon today. I call my theory the Ontological Sandwich!”

Gary looks delighted with his Ontological Sandwich and, licking his lips enthusiastically, rushes on to explain it all.

“You see, the angels are spontaneously powerful. Now aliens, what we call physical, nontrivial aliens, are below angels but above men. And just as there are good men and bad ones, so there are good aliens and bad aliens — like good and bad angels. See? That’s the sandwich! Right?” He pauses and looks a little lost for a moment, then rummages for some time through his notes. “Right, so evil Aliens have linked up with the shadow government. It’s written in Daniel, Chapter 7: the Beast, the New World Order—see, it’s the same old order, look at all those Rhodes Scholars in the Clinton Administration —” He positively snarls as he says “Rhodes Scholars” — “Now, how do we know what we know? That, I believe, is called epistemology. Yes, sir. There’s always been a shadow government — think of the fake Alexandrine Bible. It was written by this guy Origen, the Voltaire of his day, and it’s a fake. It’s the same thing today. And these things weigh so heavily on us that it’s incredible how much pressure we have to suffer. All the lies we have to uncover. Our minds are like computers — garbage in, garbage out. Education, TV, press, these are the three arrows that you see in my slide of the human brain” — three yellow arrows pressing in on the cross-section of a helpless human cortex. “ — Yeah, they have all these...” he snarls “...Rhodes Scholars to sell this crap — clever people, make no mistake, and we have to reverse the propaganda. Without me, for instance, no one would know anything about the Ontological Sandwich.”

The sheer awfulness of this possibility defies the imagination and gets Gary quite hopping mad.

“Now listen, national security is national treason. Let me give you a little update on animal mutilations.”

Like an excitable schoolboy, he pulls out some gaudy pictures of dismembered cows and nods at them with a little wink, as if they were old friends.

“See, they tried to cover that up. Mutilated cows cut up by UFOs. Or by something else. We know that our government devotes billions to what is called the ‘black world,’ that is, the world of secret technologies. Now, ‘black’ budgets are constitutionally illegal. And all the security arrangements that have to be made to protect ‘black world’ sites, like Area 51, are just as illegal. You know, the Wackenhutt boys will practically beat you up 15 miles from the Area 51 perimeter fence, and that on public land! We went there determined to get a glimpse of what’s going on — you know it’s code-named ‘Dreamland’? My wife Pearl was the one who discovered what’s now called Pearl’s Peak — a blind spot on Bald Mountain from where you can look down at Groom Lake. That was a real breakthrough for us. That was May 24, 1992. Since then, we’ve seen some incredible things out there, as my photos show. We think that there is an exchange going on between alien technology and the deep-black reality. People like Robert Lazar, I.D.E. Thomas — who wrote something called The Omega Conspiracy— and George Knapp have been talking about this stuff for a while now. We’re being lied to, and I’m in the business of simply blowing the whistle...”

At this point, a pleasant-looking lady with white hair appears — Pearl — with a heavyset blonde in tow. The blonde is “Diane,” a local abductee who has been in the limelight recently with her recollections of a childhood experience involving the top-secret Edwards Air Force base just north of Los Angeles. In her thick shades and heavily lined eyes, she looks like one of those semi-anonymous witnesses you sometimes see on real-life crime shows. Diane, it seems, is going to tell her story, and Gary sets such store by her that he is more than willing to move over and let her speak.

“I want you to know,” she says in a thick Southern accent, “that I’m by no means the only one who’s had this terrible experience. There are plenty of us...plenty. It happened to me when I was four. I was taken by humans to a place called China Lake, where there’s an underground military base. What I saw I can’t all remember, but I did see a lot of children in glass boxes — human experiments, I reckon. Later, when I was adult, I was taken again, tortured and experimented on. They gave me shock treatments. They trained me for mind scanning and out-of-body stuff. And I saw aliens, tall aliens. There was a long-nose Gray there. The humans were assembling limbs, like for robots. I had to listen to the screams of people in cages — more experiments, I guess. The people in those cages were wearing nothing but boxer shorts, the women were in hospital gowns. When I saw that, I had to break down; I cried over that one, I can tell you.”

She looks through her thick amber shades with alarming sincerity and everyone nods sadly. Poor kids in cages. Poor women in hospital gowns.

“Anyway,” she goes on a tad more cheerfully, 44the Grays there had suction caps for fingers, and that’s why they use them in factories. Then they had this genetically engineered creature to teach me telepathy. It looked like this...” she holds up a crude pen drawing of a fearsome half-human arachnid. “It had skin like a bat and was spiderlike. So then I’m thinking that, c’mon, guys, this thing isn’t going to teach me telepathy. Ha. Who’re they kidding? Then they have this being, which I call the Reptilian, who comes to my house. He came in the middle of the night, woke me up in my own bed — I seen him, all right. These Reptilians, you know, are like little kids, real curious. I seen him and reached for my shotgun. He picked up the jewelry box, and I was praying that he hadn’t touched the kids. Then I blacked out; the last thing I saw were his eyes. Very sexual, very nasty. We think that these creatures went underground millions of years ago, and some of ’em has wings on ’em. That’s right. Anyway, so then they tortured me, and it felt like they rubbed gravel into my skin. And when you think that all this happened in the base of the U.S. military, you have to wonder — all those missing kids, that’s where they end up.”

The scene by now has become more than a little sinister. Gary creeps about with his withered arm (Oh, Dreamland!). Diane’s heavy mascara glows darkly behind her shades, as if she wears it to cover up something dreadful. And is there some coda to this abduction story, or some missing context that has not yet been revealed?

“My husband was military,” she explains, “at George Air Force Base. I married very young, in my teens. In 1967, we had a baby that was born dead. But at the time, now that I think back, I was sure I heard my baby crying. It wasn’t dead at all. They stole it. There were no records on that baby. I asked for the records, and they said there were none. The old records had been destroyed, that’s what they said. So now that I seen what’s going on in those underground laboratories with the kids in the glass cages, I know what really happened to my baby. My baby wasn’t dead at all. Like I said, the government stole it!”

Sunday

Sunday morning promises not only the usual round of insane lectures and entertaining rants, but also the opportunity of a quick chat with the energetic Mr. Morton. Indeed, I encounter him in the lobby almost immediately, looking like a cross between a frantic used-car salesman and an earringed rock star who is only incidentally into what is now called UFO/Alienology. The problem? Well, Mr. Morton is running his hands up and down a motionless fellow with closed eyes, crouching to “feel” his shins, then suddenly springing up and clapping his hands violently over his head. A group of people stand around the two men, seriously watching the psychic massage. After the final clap, the patient opens his eyes, looks very happy and says, “That was great! Thanks, Sean!”

Sean Morton’s view of the world gets stranger by the minute. “I come from a space family,” he says breezily, in what is now a pretty common UFOologist’s self-description. “My father was head of NASA PR for 20 years. I grew up with all the insider stories about strange stuff going on up there. And make no mistake, all the astronauts have seen something. That’s how I came to distrust all appearances. Later, I studied with the Tibetan Masters at the T’ang Bay-a-chay monastery in the Sugarmatha Valley in Nepal. I have a circle of psychics called the Adelphi Associates, and I’ve worked on TV stuff like Sightings and Now It Can Be Told with Geraldo. My psychic powers are truly extraordinary: I’ve projected myself into the future, crossed the void, and predicted everything from major earthquakes to the coming global economic collapse. I have especially developed ideas about the anti-Christ. In fact, I know for a fact” — a strange intensity is suddenly in the air — “that he was born in Bethlehem on February 5,1962, and that his parents were killed in the Six-Day War. He will devise a supercomputer which will enable him to wage global jihad. Now, during one of my hypnotic regressions back into the 1500s, I met Nostradamus, who showed me this guy in his black obsidian mirror. An artist I work for called Steven Hills, a former military artist for NATO, has made a picture from my description, which I’m making available here for the first time. By the way, I make this drawing public at great risk to my own personal safety. It’s an exact likeness of the man I saw in Nostradamus’s mirror — and whom I also saw once when ‘trolling,’ that is, astrally wandering. I saw him in a dining room on the Nile River in Egypt, and he could have been almost angelic — if it hadn’t been for the deformed dent in the right side of his lower jaw!”

One is at an utter loss when first confronted with this fluent avalanche of total delusion, just as when told that California, in fact, derives its name from the goddess Kali. In his book, The Millennium Factor, Morton explains that Southern California was once a large land mass connected to the Channel Islands and populated by a “teeming, thriving civilization, the likes of which we have never seen.” However, there was a big bad fight with the folks of Atlantis, and a nuclear war wiped out the whole thing (“There has not been a time,” the author blithely opines, “in the some 22 million years of intelligent human habitation of this planet that we have discovered these types of weapons and not used them for our own destruction.”) When the men from the “new world” arrived, they found the “local natives” worshipping the ancient black Hindu goddess Kali. So these men called the place Kali-for-nea, meaning “goddess who builds cities by the sea.” Okay?

The essential import of the whole UFO-prophesy-psychic-channeling-doomsday industry is that “enlightenment,” in the face of coming catastrophes, alien landings, and anti-Christs, is the only way to obtain “salvation.” The Inner Light outfit that runs the conference makes it all very clear. There is a Doomsday scenario. We are living in the End Time. The Space Brothers want us to survive, or at least those New Agers among us who consent to see the light (and send $12.95 for a copy of UFO Revelations). “You Can be Saved!” their broadsheets scream. “While utter chaos will take place all around us, all of those who have received this highly advanced, truly prophetic warning have said that the Chosen Ones who are ‘ready’ will be saved and taken off this planet just in the nick of time! This book,” it then drools, “has been inspired from Above!”

The Inner Light people are always asking you, “Will you be alive in 1995?” They envisage mass UFO landings, the “collapse of our civilization,” the end of the money system, the total annihilation of the physical world. But then, imagine the power of a sudden, dazzling salvation. Why, you thought you were going to die, to be smashed to atoms, when out of the blue hundreds of spacecraft come down out of the sky and, whisking you away to a distant galaxy, effect a mass evacuation of The Worthy! Just to be sure that you’ll be recognized as one of the latter, Inner Light advises you to start wearing a Space Brothers medallion — it shows a rainbow with a flying saucer over it. Wear it, and other believers will be able to spot you at a distance, and the Space Brothers may even be able to detect you telepathically, saving your hide in the Apocalypse. Just send $15.95 plus postage. Now is that a deal or isn’t it?

The conference stalls are crammed with these purveyors of millennia doom. Instead of Jesus and his hordes of angels, UFOs will take off from the exploding planet at the Last Judgment. A wide-eyed woman called Mary Wunder, who writes down hieroglyphics from space, says, “Tidal waves will be one of the disasters. Everything will go dark. The spacecraft will begin to come before the mountains tumble — and then the people will be taken to a secured shelter.”

Would that be called Heaven, perchance?

A radiant smile.

“Let’s just say that in that place, people’s faith will be turned around. They will grow together in the secured structures.”

To which all one can say, with as straight a face as possible, is: Amen and praise be to the Space Brothers.

Monday

The last days of conferences are always a little nostalgic. There is often a slight air of torpor. Perhaps folks are a mite tired of each other’s faces — or else the incestuousness of the whole thing becomes claustrophobic. To be sure, hardly anyone seems to have walked in off the street or just swung by out of curiosity. The general public is noticeable by its absence.

There are not many lectures on this last day, if we except a colorful slide show on the theme of “Animal Mutilations and the UFO Connection,” David Jungclaus’s seminar on “Authentic Meditations derived from Ancient Lemurian/Atlantean Teachings,” and a thing run by one Sandra Michael that describes itself as “Access to the ancestral wisdom of the entire genetic base and to the transmitting of the galactic code centers which allows you to function fully in ecstatic states.” Instead, people are simply mingling in the lobby. A fairly large crowd gathers in front of the Lightworks stalls, a company that markets videos dealing with UFO experiences, chief among them being what are called the Pleiadian Tapes, dictated telepathically to the Swiss farmer Billy Meier in 1979. Billy Meier’s famous footage of flying saucers visiting his remote Swiss farm are also being shown on the Lightworks video, provoking audible ripples of enthusiasm among the UFO people — the footage is, after all, regarded as the definitive film record of a UFO manifestation. However, the film itself is a little perplexing. There is open sky, trees, green farmland...and there, suddenly, is a metal trash-can lid hovering unstably in midair, as if precariously suspended by an invisible wire. The things wobbles dangerously for an interplanetary ship, probably hurling its little Gray operators inside all over the place. “Incredible,” everyone murmurs in awe. “Look at that. How could you fake that? Eh?” Another shot shows the saucer disappearing “so quickly that the eye can’t pick it up.” Evidence, obviously, of some kind of warp drive. (Or else, dare one suggest, a nifty pair of editing scissors.) The wobbly trash-can lid is there again, rotating comically above a tree. And suddenly, for the first time in four days, a rational, waggish voice pipes up from somewhere behind us. “What’s wrong with its gyroscope?” it says. “Look at it — it’s completely out of control! The gyroscope’s gone!” The Lightworks people look at him aghast. But before there can be a spontaneous lynching, the invisible wag has gone, and people are once more telling themselves how incredible the trash-can lid is. They simply do not choose to see the wobble. The wobble, it seems, is for mere cosmically unenlightened cynics.

One person I do want to talk to before I leave is Sri Donato of the local spiritual organization Morningland, whose altar had attracted my eye on the First day. The scribes at Morningland claim they can prevent Aliens abducting — or as they put it, “harvesting” — you. Sri Donato gave a curious lecture called “Where and How the Aliens Penetrate the Dreamline,” about aliens getting into our dreams and causing havoc there. “According to a national survey,” she says, “one out of 50 persons in this country has been abducted by aliens, with the total number of abductees currently standing at about five million. Group therapy is now available for people who have undergone traumatic encounters at the hands of an alien force, which seems to have the power to enter our homes and our minds, taking the terrified on lone journeys into space and experimenting on their bodies in any fashion that they choose. These Alien Harvesters are violating Divine Law.... They take your body, stun your mind, wipe out your memory, and drop you with the mutilated cattle — except that your mutilation is in the form of confusion, nightmares, fears, phobias, leaving you feeling helpless. That’s the huge collective experience which we address: These Harvesters are really the ultimate thieves, a dark, demonic force.”

Unwittingly, Sri Donato has put her finger on the moral nerve center of the whole thing. In the Culture of Complaint of late 20th-Century America, everybody has to be a Victim. Everybody has to be saved. Childhood “rape” (by Aliens, parents, what difference?) becomes the ultimate benchmark of adult reality. As Robert Hughes has recently shown, the glorification of the Inner Child rules the roost — hence the incredible atmosphere of infantilism in the conference. As Hughes puts it, “The cult of the abused Inner Child has a very important use in modern America: it tells you that personal grievance transcends political utterance and that the upward production curve of maudlin narcissism need not intersect with the descending spiral of cultural triviality... [and] if the Inner Child doesn’t let you off the hook, the embrace of redemption will.”

Sri Donato’s harvesters are really just medieval demons (who, if you remember, also had the power to enter people’s dreams), and her “abducted” children are just herself. “My abductions,” she says, “began when I was seven...” By now it’s a familiar, sad litany. It’s time, finally, to leave. As I do so, I feel like physically taking a shower. Fifty years ago, W.H. Auden wrote, imagining the future in his Christmas Oratorio: “Reason will be replaced by Revelation. Knowledge will degenerate into a riot of subjective visions — feelings in the solar plexus induced by undernourishment.”

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