“Illogical alien” (Otherworldy visitors)

'Great job Zork, we're lost... you couldn't find Uranus with both hands and a flashlight!'

All manner of accomplishments and actions have been attributed to aliens, who for some reason seem to have a travel preference for the Americas. There are relatively few sightings or handiwork left behind on other continents. Some aliens are malevolent beings like the Robot Monster, while others like E.T. are friendly. Still others are neutral and satisfy themselves by scratching images on Ica rocks.

Aliens are also said to be responsible for Nazca lines, crop circles, destroying Atlantis, building Pyramids, reproduction experiments, Mayan temples, cattle mutilation, unpleasant prodding, New Mexico desert wreckage, and providing the blueprint for reverse engineering of advanced spacecraft. For all this, believers have yet to produce a confirmed alien artifact, souvenir, implant, or DNA sample. This is sometimes attributed to aliens having the ability to erase memories. More ad hoc reasoning explains why extraterrestrial creatures would travel unimaginable distances just to build stuff or screw with us and never engage in meaningful outreach or dialogue. It’s because the various alien populations have entered into a no-human contact agreement. This makes the lack of proof the proof.

We don’t know of any life on other planets, though there could be. There may be microbes, which would be significant but not that fascinating. There may be an equivalent of a mammal or reptile, which would be better but still not entirely cool. The best would be intelligent life, which I define as being able to appreciate what finding comparable life elsewhere means. For example, if intelligent life were discovered at the outer edge of the Milky Way, humans would comprehend this and understand the implications, whereas goats would not.

With billions of galaxies each having billions of stars, most of which are orbited by multiple planets, life could have developed on one or more of them. In the search for this life, astronomers look for traces of water and oxygen in the Goldilocks zone. On one hand, this could be myopic, as life may have other ways of developing. On the other hand, this is the only way we KNOW life can form, so it makes the most sense to look there first.

But if beings do exist elsewhere, the idea of them dropping by unannounced seems highly improbable due to the distance. Earthlings are 500 light seconds from the sun, but four light years away from the second nearest star, Alpha Centauri. That equals 24 trillion miles. Buck Rogers would need a sustained speed of 100 million miles per hour to get there in 30 years. By contrast, the fastest spacecraft to leave Earth, Voyager, travels at 40,000 miles an hour.

So aliens would need to travel at amazing speeds, plus keep a population housed, fed, clothed, medicated, entertained, cooperative, and sustained, probably for millenniums. Also necessary would be equipment repairs, plus planning and good fortune to avoid the perils of deep space. All this just to flatten some corn, scribble some artwork, or take skin samples from unwilling medical subjects.

Accounts of alien abduction have precursors in Medieval and ancient times. Some European nuns believed they had been seduced by demons. BCE Greek women reported that the gods Jupiter and Dionysus had incarnated as animals, then had sex with them, resulting in Minotaur and Centaur offspring. There were no reports of alien visitation until man began pondering interstellar travel in the late 19th Century. Jules Verne and the 1902 movie A Trip to the Moon, which featured a rocket crashing into the lunar body’s eye, popularized the concept of otherworldly beings.

Whether holding a prod or a paintbrush, the aliens are described by witnesses as being about four feet tall, with heads shaped like inverted eggs, having large craniums, slanted eyes, usually earless and with very small noses. This mirrors how movies, novels, and comic books have usually portrayed them. The first widespread abduction tale was that of Betty and Barney Hill, who told their story following a hypnosis session in 1961. Hypnosis can have limited value in specific instances, but is an unreliable method of accessing lost memories, and can even be used to create false ones.

Mr. Hill reported that the aliens had “wraparound eyes.” Not coincidentally, beings with these features were broadcast 12 days earlier on The Outer Limits. After the Hills story became public, reports became commonplace as the cultural delusion and communal reinforcement took hold. It helped that this took place during the Cold War, a time of a technological and arms races against a mostly faceless Red Menace. The situation seems to have not been reversed in Soviet Union, as its citizens had no access to Invaders From Mars or Flash Gordon comics. Most reports indicate a period of forgetfulness after the encounter. Hypnosis or some other type of suggestion session is needed to lift the fog of being sprayed with alien amnesia juice.

Scientists and skeptics have answered many of the challenges. The crop circle ruse was uncovered by hidden night vision cameras. Erich von Däniken claimed to have alien artwork but this fraud was exposed. He had hired someone to paint spaceships and aliens on rocks and tried to pass them off as ancient. Cattle and other animals can take on an eerie, bloated appearance after scavengers eat their tongues, eyeballs, and other soft parts.

While science demands proof, the alien visitation position asks for considerably less evidence. Nevada businessman Robert Bigelow financed a survey to determine the frequency of alien abduction. It asked respondents if they had ever sensed a presence in the room, had an hour unaccounted for, seen unusual lights, noticed unexplained scars, or had a sensation of flying. Answering four of five yes was counted as evidence of having been snatched by aliens, an especially absurd illustration of magical thinking. It seems more like evidence for having fallen down drunk.



“Goode grief” (Truth11.org)


I spend enough time in critical thinking circles and examining anti-science and conspiracy claims that I have developed a sensitive Poe-meter. The satires are getting better and the ideas they ridicule are becoming more unhinged, so distinguishing between the two is getting tougher, but I can usually tell. But I failed when I came across truth11.org.

The site hawks plenty of generic conspiracies, along the lines of “Monsanto and the Rockefellers pulled off the Boston Marathon false flag in order to cause autism in the monkeys which the Bilderberger aliens used to start the AIDS virus,” or theories to that effect.

But my meter misfired when I saw my first headline from the site: “German secret societies and U.S. corporations nuked subterranean Martians and built slave colonies.”

I clicked on it, expecting to enjoy a good Poe, but ended up finding the real thing, which is usually better. The website goes beyond the normal conspiracy. The idea of Bush minions pulling off 9/11 with explosives is ever so trite. From truth11.org, we learn that instead lasers and mysterious orbs did the trick. The apparent airplanes being actually holograms coordinated to arrive at the precise time as the weapons of light. 

Truth11.org frequently features the happenings of secret societies – secret societies the website always know everything about. The articles provide no substantiating evidence beyond the words of someone calling himself Corey Goode. This man claims to have been a member of a number of projects and organizations that are far more clandestine than the societies he aims to expose.

With regard to Mars, he relates that the reason U.S. corporations conspired with a German Skull & Bones variant to eliminate the planet’s reptilians and insectoids was to access precious metals. This necessitated first exterminating the indigenous aliens, followed by the building of an advanced infrastructure on the red planet. This means it has been under construction for 70 years without so much as a cement truck spotted in one of the craters.

The appeal to ancient authority happens even when dealing with aeronautics, for Goode describes the spacecraft used as being based on BCE Hindu technology. Just to be safe, he had the reverse engineering take place at Area 51.

This website uses extreme post hoc reasoning in lieu of evidence. For instance, it cites a federal law that stipulates if any U.S. corporation ever mines in space, it would not be subject to government oversight. And this law is used as proof that Americans and Germans cooperated on a Martian genocide.

This eradication of Marvin and his underground cronies was followed by the enslavement of engineers and business executives, who were lulled to Mars by being told they would live in a futuristic utopia they would help build. They certainly made for the most affluent and learned chattel in history.   

Whether a theory is as unbelievable as this one, or is one that is more mainstream among conspiracy theorists, the hook is the same: The listener, owing to his shrewdness and independent thinking, is privy to a fantastic secret. This is all leading to the glorious day of revelation that takes place in an Eternal Tomorrow. It is always so close to happening, but never quite arrives. The website reports, “Goode remains confident that his disclosures are a prelude to massive document dump by a secret space program alliance that will finally confirm the truth.”

While waiting for this verification of alien extermination committed by Nazi leftovers, we can learn about giants sleeping in chambers that arrest the aging process. Goode again reaches into the ancient angle grab bag to explain the chambers were constructed by an unspecified lost civilization using undefined crystal technologies. This created a time warp in which 30,000 Earth years speed by while the slumbering behemoths age just 30 minutes.

And while it’s been going on for these tens of thousands of years, the payoff is again taking place in the Eternal Tomorrow: “Goode believes the beings are still alive, and in the process of being revived.”

Goode never explains where the giants came from, what they are, why they are super hibernating, who oversees this, or if it’s good, bad, or neutral. But he does relate that Abraham Lincoln claims to have seen them, so that says something for the honest nature of these accounts.

When the giants wake up, they will learn that Mankind has developed a manner of space travel using the sun as a portal. Goode said this mode of transportation employs “a form of hyper-dimensional mathematics based on sacred geometry.”

And this is just the first of many galactic airport layovers: “This model links all the stars in our galaxy,” allowing astronauts to travel anywhere in the Milky Way. These travel nodes also exist in places such as the Bermuda Triangle and open and close without warning. When activated, these nodes transport unwilling ship captains and airplane pilots anywhere in the galaxy.

Back on Earth, Goode is captivated by a humanoid robot statue at the Grove Hotel in Watford, England. Specifically, he ponders what this means for our future physiology. The Bilderbergers met at Grove in 2013, so Goode deduces that was an endorsement of the statue, and by extension, transforming people into Avatar warriors. This same hotel also hosted a Google event, and the company’s director of engineering is someone Goode describes as a transhumanism proponent.

Transhumans will largely resemble people but will have immense intelligence, strength, and durability. Not quite Superman, but at least Underdog. Goode said the Google executive “must have felt a kindred spirit with the metallic humanoid sculptures. This will lead to a new arms race that will force our society into a transhuman future.”

Or maybe they could just use the weapons they used to nuke the Martians.

“The Kids Are All Might” (Indigo children)


Indigo children are said to be youngsters who possess highly desirable supernatural abilities. These awesome offspring are variously suspected to be multidimensional beings, human-alien hybrids, super-evolved hominids, or prophets destined to lead humanity to full enlightenment. While none of these distinctions have been confirmed in indigo children, we can be certain of their parents’ traits, most notably a massive ego.

The concept of indigo children originated with Nancy Ann Tappe, who attributed her discovery to her synesthesia. This is an neurological phenomenon where a person is using one sense but has another stimulated. Everyone does this to some extent. For instance, if someone hears the word giraffe, they likely will “see” this giant animal in their mind. But synesthesia primarily refers to such experiences as hearing a car start and associating it with the color green, or looking at a circle and getting an itching sensation. Tappe, then, attributed synesthesia to her seeing an indigo glow around select children.

A fairly minor point here, but that would not be synesthesia since only sight was involved. Perhaps she was claiming the color was her “seeing” the sixth sense. In any case, whether or not she is seeing shimmering children would be easy to determine. A dozen partitions could be set up, and behind each would sit either a person she considers indigo, a person she does not consider indigo, or an empty chair. She could then tell testers which partitions had an indigo glow rising from them. However, New Agers don’t normally care for these types of tests, instead preferring feelings, intuition, and client gullibility. Boyued by these elements, Tappe writes books on the subject and holds seminars, where hundreds of disciples bathe in each other’s bluish brilliance.

In her writings, Tappe lists traits to look for to know if your child is indigo. It’s unclear why this is needed, since having Tappe look at the kids would seem enough. Also, the list of indigo traits is so long and vague it could apply to everyone and so the Forer Effect comes into play. These descriptions include being curious, headstrong, unusual, driven, intuitive, intelligent, and resistant to structure.

Thinking one’s child is a hyper-evolved multidimensional being is attractive to those whose credulity is matched by their vanity. But author Sarah Whedon suggests the indigo label also appeals to parents who seek to excuse their child’s behavior and their parental responsibility to do anything about it. For instance, pro-indigo authors Jan Tober and Lee Carroll say such children may function poorly in conventional schools due to their rejection of rigid authority, their being smarter than their teachers, and their inability to embrace discipline.

Whedon suspects that many children who have ADHD or autism are instead labeled as indigo by their parents. This also gives a fabricated reason to avoid Ritalin or other medication, a plus in this mostly anti-vax, anti-Big Pharma community. Here, autism is just another word for telepathy. Skeptic author Robert Todd Carroll said, “It’s much easier for them to believe their children are special and chosen for some high mission instead of having a brain disorder.” Anthropologist Beth Singler considers the movement as part of a moral panic about children, parenting, ADHD, autism, Big Pharma, and vaccinations.

From a list of identifiers at indigochildren.com, we learn, “If this seems to describe you, chances are you are an Indigo,” followed by an exhaustive list of personality traits. Most are positive, such as creative, honest, sympathetic, and confident. Like astrology, it is kept general, while also telling the listener what it wants to hear. There are handful of negative traits thrown in – rebellious, antisocial, strange – in order to have cover for ADHD and autism.

I doubt if anyone who has wanted to know if their child was indigo has looked into it and decided the answer was no. If someone has gotten to the point of seriously asking that question, it reveals their motivation and mindset.

“Bad council” (Aliens from Nibiru)


Few have taken body makeovers to the extreme that Joscelyn Kelley has. In 1992, she left her body to make room for Jelaila, who hailed from Nibiru, the 12th planet in our solar system. Jelaila did not reveal what planets 10 and 11 were, and Pluto had yet to be downgraded at the time of this interplanetary possession.

Jelaila took control of Kelley and trained her to be a galactic messenger and founder of the Nibiruan Council. In this role, Jelaila does more than pass on messages from invading body snatchers. She also interprets Nostradamus quatrains and sells colon cleansers, vitamins, and books. It’s multi-level marketing meets Star Trek, and Jelaila is both at the top of the Pyramid and commanding the Enterprise.

Per its website, the Nibiruan Council is comprised of “members who are connected to the people of Nibiru and their ancient ancestors,” who are some form of ninth-dimensional cat people. The Nibiruan mission is to prepare humans to take their rightful place in the galactic community. They do this by having Jelaila sell multidimensional ascension tools, DNA recoding, and exfoliating cream.

They also inspire her to blog. In her most recent post, Jelaila wrote, “When ascension plateauing occurs, we move upward in consciousness, until we reach a point at which we are unable to move forward.  What is needed is a boost, something that will create a wave of energy that propels us forward.” Incidentally, this post was about Cecil the lion.

You see, the concern for Cecil is about to usher in an era of economic prosperity. Cosmic overseers had hit an impasse on devising a new financial system for Earth until the wave of outrage following Cecil’s killing broke the stalemate. That’s because the compassion manifested itself as “an energy that nullifies polarity thorough the ascension process.”

But this process has benefits beyond trade agreements enabled by feline slaughter. It can help you ascend to other dimensions and make it to Nibiru. You purchase secrets on how to do so from Jelaila and the economy benefits, just like she said it would!

But since others have previously paid for this ascension, why are they not aboard the Earth-to-Nibiru trolley? Because ascension is not just a voyage, but a process (with a ratio so far of 0 percent voyage, 100 percent process). Jelaila tell us, “Ascension is an ongoing journey,” and apparently so is paying for it.

Besides stationary ascensions, Jelaila’s other main product is DNA recoding, which she describes as “the process of realigning, reconnecting, and reactivating DNA.”  Here’s what you get for rebooting your coiled biopolymer strands: “This takes away physical pains, which are themselves the source of painful memories, which will also be released.” Essentially, you get a compromised sense of touch along with amnesia. As such, you may forget that you’re also receiving clairvoyance and the “reactivating of your psychic glands.” You probably get an upgrade to a triple helix as well.

If you don’t care for oft-delayed multi-dimensional travel or DNA self-splicing kits, you can always go with her magic Epsom Salt. Customer Candy M. reported that salt alleviated her pain, and it served as the conduit for her Niburian guides. The guides let Candy know her damaged liver was going to be just fine and not to worry about having that surgery. Sounds like Candy is off to Nibiru, her time on Earth is almost done.

“We come in fleece” (Aliens from Taurus)

ALIENMESSAGEAliens usually fall into two categories: The probing, kidnapping, reptilian overlords, and their much kinder cosmic cousins who bestow a message of hope and promises of eternal bliss. The aliens are not precisely the ones delivering these messages. These benevolent types merely came up with the missives, it is humans that came up with the idea of packaging and marketing them.

One set of messages come from the Pleiadians, who come hail from Taurus, a star cluster about 450 light years from Earth. Like Allah (who needed Muhammad), these beings have completely mastered every advanced skill except mass communication. The Pleiadians selected Barbara Marciniak to spread their celestial good tidings. Later, Lia Shapiro claimed she was the true Pleiadian messenger, as unoriginal an epiphany as has ever been received.

Proponents claim the Pleiadians are a super-evolved species. Indeed, their home star system is only about 100 million years old. By contrast, Earthlings were billions of years away from being bacteria at that age. Pleiadians use their accelerated status to travel hundreds of light years and enlighten us on how we can attain their level. That much is reasonably consistent, though their human messengers offer differing tales about their origins, descendants, and which dimension they favor for traveling to and from Earth.

They are described as tall, slender, athletic, and altruistic. In other words, they are an idealized version of humanity. Just to be safe, they are even light-skinned and also go by the name Nordic Aliens. Various proponents have tried to tie them to Atlantis, Lemuria, the ancient Greeks, the Cherokee, and all manner of New Age healing. Others credit them with bringing dolphins from Taurus. Marcinak has argued that humans and Pleiadians have a common ancestor in another universe. While these ideas are distinctive from each other, they have the common thread of the person’s word being the only evidence.

So we are stuck in an evolutionary rut and the Pleiadians are here to give us a biological boost. Yet you are I are at the same evolutionary stage as was George Washington and William Shakespeare, so why are they Pleiadians just now showing up? Because the idea of alien messengers and their human helpers would have been so absurd in colonial America and Elizabethan England that no one could have come up with it, much less been made en masse to believe it. Therefore, demons, witches, leprechauns, and fairies were the prominent fictional characters of those times, and aliens are their modern-day equivalent. The idea is still absurd, but is more palatable to a person familiar with The Day the Earth Stood Still, E.T., and Aliens.

Shapiro runs the website Pleiadians.net, which makes the following claims (followed by my commentary):

“There are those that want to help us toward our higher spiritual destiny.” (If it’s destiny, it will happen no matter who tries to help or hinder it.)

“These Special Pleiadian Forces reside at a very high frequency that is lighter than what we know.” (So then how do you know it is there?)

“Eventually, all will become Pure Light at the center of creation.” (Given this inevitability, it remains unclear why we need to buy or do anything to prompt it).

The website says the aliens sometime come in physical form, but most often arrive through human consciousness. Either way, it’s faster than the speed of light, right? Oh no, for they have managed time travel, so beyond-warp speed is not required. But with that being the case, why don’t they just zip us ahead billions of years to our fabulous future?

Besides spaceships and telepathic communication, the creatures can also use dreams or memories. This means that ANYTHING that’s ever been in your conscious or subconscious mind could be a message from them. As to what they are telling us, “The Pleiadians transmitted seven messages for Earth’s inhabitants that convey a grand and glorious hope about the future.” There is one exception to this message of eternal peace and bliss, however, for a sense of urgency exists. You must act NOW to make these purchases, lest your chance for everlasting paradise be whisked away forever!

The final assurance from the Pleiadians is that we will eventually turn into them. Yes, your destiny is to deliver a message of eternal happiness from a super-evolved alien race that conduits will then sell in book form.

“Unraëlistic” (Alien visitors)


A year ago, I was sufficiently mortified by the anti-science movement that I started this blog. This month, I learned that Genesis Health System, where my son was born and where I have received emergency care, employs Reiki in its facilities. This has me so steamed that I am looking at how to take the Moline Skeptics from beyond a URL and an extension of my ego, and into an actual organization that affects change locally.

A little before my Reiki discovery, I corresponded with the president of the Quad Cities Creation Science Association after learning his group was sponsoring presentations by Dr. Charles Jackson, a creation scientist. I had planned on attending to ask Jackson about peer review, the Scientific Method, the Geologic Column, and so forth, but ended up having to work. Besides curiosity at how he would answer, I had looked forward to gazing upon a biologist who didn’t believe in evolution. Like the South Pole, I know it’s out there, but to actually see it would be fascinating.

The president floated the idea of a debate between our two organizations. I made this contingent on a satisfactory answer to the challenge, “Describe the Scientific Method and use it to explain how creationism works.” He conceded this could not be done, so there will be no debate, although e-mails may continue and we could even meet some day for informal dialogue.

While the correspondence was not emotional like the Reiki-in-my-hospital discovery, it was energetic and got my blood pumping. Around the same time, I started to watch a NOVA program on the anti-vaccination movement, but couldn’t finish after seeing the seven-week old with Whooping Cough. So with all this emotional investment of late, I’m looking to transition, for one post anyway, from serious to silly.

So here is the story of Claude Vorilhon. Like Saul on the road to Damascus, Vorilhon saw a light overhead, received a message, founded a religion, and changed his name. His new moniker was Raël. In 1974, he was hanging around a volcano in France when a member of the alien Elohim race came to chew the philosophical fat, and a movement was born. In graphic design’s most colossal blunder, the Raëlians adopted a symbol that fused the Star of David and a swastika.

Either the alien spoke French or Vorilhot spoke Elohimese, because language was no barrier as the alien explained that Bible verses revealed how his species had created Mankind and all other Earthly animals and plants. The Raëlieans had been created by someone else, with this cycle going back indefinitely. Now humans had advanced far enough to start creating life.

I don’t know if the Raëleians are doing this, but they do sell products that promise eternal cell preservation, which would be almost as good. In 2002, they announced they had cloned a human baby. Besides being the first Xeroxed human, he is also the first invisible one, since no one has ever seen him.

Raël was taken by Millennium Falcon to Elohim to meet religious figures and be told he was the final prophet, sent to usher in eternal peace. He also reports that the Elohim will return to Jerusalem in 2025, which will make for either the greatest story in the history of Mankind or a right-fine manifestation of ad hoc reasoning and the Backfire Effect. The promise that they will return in 2025 contradicts another Raëlian claim that the Elohim need an embassy.

This would be a place where aliens could land without fear of being attacked and without having to train their heat ray on us. Once the embassy is built, they will be able to tell us their secret knowledge, bestow eternal health, and shower us in lollypops. From the Raëlian website: “According to the Elohim, it must be built in a neutral location that has been granted rights of extraterritoriality and guaranteed neutral air space.” Sounds like the only options are Antarctica or the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Maybe if Raël is given a cruise ship, they’ll land there. This will allow us access to amazing technology, such as “Lilliputian machines capable of synthesizing any needed product in any quantity.” Everybody will have as much of everything that they want. Sounds like that could create space issues, but we could always synthesize more storage units.

Raëlians insist there is no soul or god, although their leader seems willing to fill the void. He claims the ability to perform miracles, but says people will only be ready to see them once the Elohim return. Like other UFO cults, Raëlians co-opt ancient legends and sacred texts, then cram their “interpretation” in to make it fit. This is easy to do, owing to the vivid imagery and elastic ideas in these types of writings. Raëlians explain the universal, timeless belief in deities to the fact that alien technology seems godlike to those created by it. The movement’s philosophy is summarized by the Simpsons Halloween episode where Lisa creates life from soda and her tooth. For proof of their positions, Raëlians offer UFO sightings, crop circles, exoplanets, and Dolly the sheep.

Once the embassy is built, paradise ensues, as the Elohim will tell us what they told Raël. Until then, best we can do is buy Raël’s products. Because while Raëlians are considered one of the New Religions, they pay homage to their predecessors by maintaining the requirement of tithing 10 percent.

“Udder shudder” (Cattle mutilation)

COW666Cattle mutilation is a term that is usually only half-accurate. The cattle portion is correct, except for the few instances involving horse and sheep. The other part of the term is usually mistaken, as what is going on is a meal, not a mutilation.

The term is applied to dead farm animals with allegedly unusual injuries or unexplained features. This is often attributed to either Satanists or aliens. And just imagine what horrors devil-worshipping extraterrestrials could come up with. Other ideas are that it’s being done by the military or by medical mavericks. A few have suggested Chupacabra, but as one of the alleged features is surgical-like precision, this would necessitate a crazed cryptid being handy with a scalpel.

Trademark features are the reportedly medical nature of the mutilation and the complete draining of the animal’s blood. There is also internal organ loss despite no visible entry point, and the lips and genitals are often removed as well. However, all of these have satisfactory explanations.

Scavengers prefer to dine on body parts with thin skin, such as the mouth and reproductive organs. Also partial to these areas are parasites, who can drill their way into the animal most easily from these staring points. And once these parts are eaten or damaged, dehydration will cause them to contract.

Still, there is strong evidence that creatures with bulbous eyes do indeed descend from the sky and do damage. That’s because missing eyes and internal organs are the result of blowflies and other insects feeding on the beasts. Vultures and buzzards join in the feast, targeting the eyes and attacking the mouth and anus to get at the soft internal organs. There is little blood because it settles at body’s lowest point once the heart stops pumping. Blood on the outside is consumed or dries up.

The apparent surgical incisions happen because postmortem bloat creates tears in the skin, after which the animal’s hide shrinks and splits due to dehydration.

All of this was convincingly demonstrated by the sheriff’s department in Washington County, Arkansas. It placed a dead cow in a field and watched for 48 hours. As expected, bloating led to incision-like tears in the skin. Next, blowflies and maggots came and cleaned out the soft tissue. When all this was complete, the carcass looked exactly like those that had allegedly been zapped by aliens or Satanists.

While usually associated with cattle, the first supposed victim was of the equine variety. Dr. Robert Adams, the veterinarian who examined the case, said it had “no unearthly causes.” His report gained not near as much attention as the original story. Also, there had been reports of bizarre orange triangles in the sky around the same time. These factors led to reports of mutilation in 15 states within a decade, with aliens the usual culprit.

Meanwhile, there were isolated incidents of animal cruelty by derelicts who did more to cows than tip them, but these required no extraordinary explanation. Exhaustive, detailed reports by the FBI and ATF concluded that most of the cases were consistent with scavengers feeding on carrion.

Besides aliens, Satanists, and the military, the one other guess was that these cattle were victims of medical experiments. One hypothesis was that the government was enlisting aliens to test cattle as a way of curing AIDS. This would require ignoring the primate origin that most experts think is the disease’s origin, as well as brushing aside more serious shortcomings. However, I have to this idea a salute. In all my searching into conspiracy theories, this is the first time someone has attributed benevolent behavior to the perpetrators.

“Error 51” (Aliens at Nellis Air Force Range)

Since Area 51 is well-known in skeptic lore, I was reluctant to address it since I figured I would have little to add. But I decided to take a different approach by examining how True Believers handled the declassification and subsequent interviews with former Area 51 scientists and military personnel.

For most people, the revelations provided a glimpse of an exciting slice of the Cold War, and the mystery, subterfuge, and experimentation made sense when considering the new information.

But what was the end for most folks was the beginning for those determined to find more. Apophenia refers seeing patterns in unconnected data and is due to human nature’s aversion to randomness. But some take if further and, rather than finding a pattern, will cram one in, stuffing it with disparate parts to make it fit regardless.

Before delving into that, here’s a little background. Area 51 comprises Nellis Air Force Base and some adjoining space in Nevada. For about 15 years, the area was home to project Oxcart. It was hoped the resulting aircraft would be undetectable as it flew over the Soviet Union. However, them no-good Commies was on to us and they dispatched spy satellites to the Nevada desert. The U.S. countered by building planes out of cardboard, hoping their shadows would lead the Soviets astray.

The airplane had a groundbreaking shape. It was much wider than most planes and had a disc-like fuselage to allow longer journeys. Nearly 3,000 flights were made, giving persons in the area plenty of opportunity to see the craft. There were warnings not to get within five miles of the site and the government denied that it existed when it clearly did. This hostility to inquiry, combined with a strange, speedy aircraft, piqued curiosity.

This information vacuum was filled with ideas that competed with each other being the most wild. Among the more popular was that Area 51 was home to the reverse engineering of alien technology, perhaps with aliens in graveyards or cryogenic chambers. If that wasn’t exciting enough, there was a camp that trumpeted the presence of live aliens. Other guesses were weather control experiments or an underground transcontinental railroad. Also floated was the Cheshire Cat Airstrip theory, which held that the runway remained invisible until water was sprayed on it. For additional appeal, this was based on alien technology. Perhaps the most sci-fi hypothesis was that the planes didn’t just look futuristic, they were so, and were landing after returning from the 22nd Century or thereabouts. This seemed to be one-way travel, since no one suggested that the Wright Brothers or the Hindenburg were landing there.

It turned out that reality was fascinating enough. Area 51 was the birthplace of the A-12, the first stealth airplane, a craft that was capable of flying from New York to Los Angeles in 90 minutes. It could do this while taking clear photos of a bulldog from 17 miles in the air.

The A-12 flew 50 percent higher than other military aircraft and a twice as high as civilian airplanes. This meant that commercial pilots flying near Area 51 would see a strange-looking vehicle whiz by at speeds not known to exist, at an altitude not known to be accessed by terrestrial craft. During the early evening, pilots would see the sun reflecting off titanium wings, giving the aircraft an eerie, fiery appearance.

Surrounded by all this mystery and marvel, it was clear that something was going on. And the government’s refusal to even acknowledge the area existed led even usually incredulous people to entertain improbable scenarios.

For most, the intrigue ended in July 2013 when the government acknowledged both the existence of Area 51 and what had gone on there. Six years prior, the CIA had presented an A-12 to the public, displaying the Indentified Flying Object during the agency’s 60th anniversary celebration. But for those determined to believe in something sinister, or at least fascinating, declassification was a hoax, meant to add to the cover.

Here’s a good time to introduce a former Area 51 worker, Bob Lazar, who reported that he had been privy to the inner workings. This included the discovery of Element 115, which he said was found through alien technology, and which helped provide aircraft fuel. Lazar’s claims were handled in two distinct ways by conspiracy theorists. Most saw it as vindication. A Los Angeles Times report revealed that Lazar had lied about his education and employment history, even claiming degrees from two prestigious universities he never attended. Theorists insisted this was evidence of the government whitewashing his record to discredit him. Meanwhile, there was a second camp that painted Lazar as a government plant who would be exposed by the media’s vigilance (or compliance, depending on the extent of the cover-up).

Conspiracy theorists pride themselves on continually asking questions, but they are not seeking answers. Logical, verifiable explications are too restricting. When an explanation is offered, there is always another tangent to veer onto. With Area 51, government denial was one of the main planks. Once that went away, the focus was on the WHY or the WHEN of the release, rather than its substance. If the Air Force had presented aliens at the press conference, theorists would have declared them a cover for an even-more-implausible storyline.

The month after declassification, Element 115 was discovered in Sweden. If needing to update your periodic table at home, the element is ununpentium, and it goes in Group 10, Period 4. This was interesting news for chemists, but an overwhelming joy for conspiracy theorists, whose apophenia meters went into overdrive.

Again, this led to disagreement among various conspiracy theorists. In no case, however, was there finality. For some, it was vindication, but it led to more questions, such as what else was being done there or what other secret element was being used.

For others, the discovery of Element 115 was not cause for celebration, but only an extension of the plot. The element has a life of one-fifth of a second, and only 50 atoms are known to have been produced. Thus, they theorized, the announcement was meant to clandestinely discredit Lazar’s claim that Area 51 scientists produced 500 long-lasting pounds’ worth.

Then we have Boyd Bushman, who worked as a scientist at Lockheed Martin. Right before his death, Bushman said he had talked with aliens at Area 51 and gave an approximate location of where they hail from. He also presented photos of the alleged creatures. These were later proven to be of Wal-Mart dolls. Never ones to be deterred, theorists posited that the dolls’ manufacturer based their design on those aliens. Bushman’s YouTube video was taken down for what the site called copyright issues and for what theorists called the latest cover-up.

“Ancient Astro-nuts” (Alien pyramid builders)

From their hat, or possibly another location, History Channel producers have pulled this gem: Ancient peoples were too stupid to do anything worthwhile without aliens, for whom great distances were a trivial matter thanks to wormholes. They have managed to get six seasons out of this premise on Ancient Aliens, perhaps the most pitiful pseudoscience program today – quite an accomplishment considering the competition. The basic idea is that visitors from outer space, rather than humans, are responsible for the major accomplishments of long-ago civilizations.

Until being eclipsed by The History Channel, the most prominent proponent was Erich von Däniken. His ideas are mostly the result of selective use of data, but he was caught in one instance of fraud. He had photos of pottery decorated with spaceships and aliens, and claimed to have found this during an archaeological dig. NOVA traced the pot to a contemporary source.

So he either just makes the stuff up or bastardizes ideas from Buck Rogers and H.P. Lovecraft. He mixes fact and fiction, rummaging through archeological sites and finding artifacts, but automatically attributing any advanced technology to ancient astronauts. Like any self-respecting pseudoscientist, he reaches his conclusion, then searches for it.

Von Däniken regularly relies on a pair of logical fallacies: The appeal to ignorance and the false dilemma. He uses both in this typical sentence about the Nazca Lines: “Either this data is to be explained by assuming these primitive idiots did this themselves, or we must accept the more plausible notion that they got help from extremely advanced peoples who must have come from other planets where such technologies as anti-gravity devices had been invented.” So he dismisses the idea that ancient peoples could have drawn giant animals on the ground, but presupposes the existence of an unproven super species using unknown technologies. There is a third option, which is that the ancient people of Peru were more advanced than what von Däniken acknowledges. Whenever we have a gap in our knowledge of past cultures, von Däniken is there to plug it with ancient astronauts.

Some of his claims are impossible to disprove, but not all of them. For instance, he asserted a Mayan design depicted an astronaut, even though the accompanying text identified it as a Mayan leader. This is a typical tactic, employing a creative interpretation of artwork, such as presupposing an Aztec chiseling to be of a helicopter, when it could just as easily be of a locust. In fact, the artwork he cites as depicting aliens is consistent with religious myths, such as deities or a ruler ascending to heaven. He claims this is reversed, that alien visitors became gods in subsequent religions. This is negated by the fact that plenty of religions have crept up since without alien visitation.

If we ever figure out how Nazca, Stonehenge, and Moai came to be, it will come from National Geographic, NOVA, or Mythbusters, not some guy chasing down Zontar, the Thing From Venus. Anthropologists visiting primitive peoples have noted their creative use of pulleys, levers, water, brains, and brawn to accomplish what we would have suspected to be beyond their grasp.

Underestimating primitive cultures is a hallmark of the Ancient Astronaut Association. For instance, Robert Temple deduced that the Dogon people of Mali knew more about astronomy than their locale and education would suggest. He mixed translation errors and native myths to fuse another tale of alien visitors.

The only proponent to offer a specific launching point for our ancient house guests is Zecharia Sitchin. He asserts they hail from Nibiru, which he has lying beyond Pluto. Astronomers have no evidence of such a place, but Sitchin is undaunted by this refutation. He claims Sumerian texts tell the story of 50 Nibiru inhabitants coming to Earth 400,000 years, eventually somehow creating homo sapiens. This was based on his ignorance of ancient languages and an extreme desire to believe. It is worth noting that ancient astronaut hunters never interpret a literary work about extraordinary qualities to be a myth or tale, but always a literal occurrence.

They will also point to similarities in art around the world to suggest aliens had taught the same techniques to different cultures. This is a baseless and desperate attempt to make something fit. Why not take it further, and declare than any differences in art are proof that multiple alien cultures have visited?

Artwork isn’t the only thing they misinterpret. For instance, science has demonstrated that the human brain has undergone rapid evolution. Ancient astronaut proponents insist this resulted from extraterrestrial creatures tweaking the DNA of our ancestors. So they don’t believe human evolution could explain rapid growth, but they are OK with evolution being so complete in another species to allow for DNA manipulation and the controlling of natural selection.

While there are gaps in our knowledge of past civilizations, the motif of mankind’s existence shows slow, steady advancement. There is never a quantum leap that would be consistent with being enlightened exponentially by benevolent beings from a faraway galaxy. Even the Incas, Greeks, and Romans built on established knowledge and added to existing fields.

Man has always show ingenuity, harnessing fire and doing the same with the electron. Over the centuries we have seen the advent of the wheel, farming, art, medicine, mechanics, engineering, transportation, education, diplomacy, amusement, mass communication, animal domestication, weather forecasting, disaster response, and justice systems. And unless the likes of Hammurabi, Faraday, and Tesla were aliens, humans did it.

“Close encounters of the blurred kind” (Alien visitors)

When it comes to a UFO, the flying and object parts are straightforward. But how unidentified the object is relies on the location and knowledge of the viewer, along with the conditions.

It could be an aircraft, atmospheric phenomenon, ball lightning, bird, flare, meteor, reflected artificial light, rocket, satellite, weather balloon, or something else. However, the term usually refers to a belief that it is an alien aircraft.

Almost no UFO reports are logged by professional astronomers who watch the sky and space for anomalies. They see lots of images, but recognize them as natural or manmade objects.

While there is no evidence for alien life, it certainly may exist. With trillions of stars and their orbiting planets, the odds would seem good that life has developed elsewhere. However, the vast numbers also make alien visitation supremely unlikely. It would take 100,000 light years to cross the Milky Way and in the observable universe, our galaxy is an imperceptible speck.

Closer to home, Alpha Centauri is four light years away, or about 25 trillion miles. Let’s make the extremely gracious allowance that one of the star’s planets is home to beings that have mastered inter-solar system travel. Even then, the numbers don’t support them stopping by for coffee. To reach Earth, the aliens would need either extremely fast spacecraft or astronomical life spans and an inexhaustible fuel supply. At one million miles an hour, it would take 2,500 years to get here. Reaching us in 25 years would necessitate an average speed of 100 million miles per hour, done safely and with provisions for repairs managed in deep space.

Coming from even farther away, space travelers would need to keep a population alive for millions of years. There are alternate theories, such as wormholes or other dimensions. But it requires the most desperate desire to believe to take an unproven notion, tie it to flashes in Earth’s sky, and deduct that aliens are overhead.

Descriptions and accounts of UFOs are a relatively modern phenomenon. It wasn’t until the airplane began being seriously contemplated in the 1890s that sightings began. And these described not saucers or flashing lights, but long cylinders and objects resembling advanced hot air balloons.

In 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold saw nine brightly glowing meteors speed past his plane. Since they were pieces of an exploding fireball breaking up, they seemed to be flying in formation. He assumed their brightness was reflected sunlight. Arnold told reporters they flew “like a saucer skipping over water.” Arnold’s description of the meteors’ actions (skipping like saucers) was mistranslated into that being their shape, and the flying saucer fixation began that day and continues unabated.

The best evidence for alien visitation would be an alien landing and showing us the aircraft. This could be bolstered with photos from its planet and journey, its DNA, extraterrestrial objects, and demonstrations of science or technology we have yet to manage. Instead, for evidence we have blurry photos, shaky videos, and anecdotes.

The most intense stories involve alien abductions. Fairy, elf, and goblin abduction tales go back for millennium in Europe. These tiny humanoids were fused with supernatural powers and scurried about the countryside nocturnally, snatching victims. Other Medieval delusions centered on demons raping nuns, or on gods incarnating as swans to seduce women. These have vanished today because we have our own fairy tales. These ideas seem silly to us, just as spaceships and alien abductions would have been scoffed at in Elizabethan England. Our culture heavily influences the belief in UFOs and aliens. Author and investigator Robert Scheaffer has said, “We find all the major elements of contemporary UFO abductions in the 1930s comic, ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.’”

Most alien abductions are explicable through sleep paralysis, which is the opposite of sleepwalking. Instead of being unconscious and mobile, a person is awake and paralyzed. Abductees report being unable to move or speak and they sense a presence. This mirrors the experience of sleep paralysis. Most tales involve a probe and implant of some kind. Yet when NOVA asked to abductees to submit implants for scientific scrutiny, no one took the offer.

If mankind ever manages intergalactic travel, I hope the impression we leave on exoplanet inhabitants is better than crop circles, painful injections, and repeated nighttime desert visits.