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The Pentagon’s much-anticipated unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAP) Task Force report — a nine-page report released June 25 that neither confirmed nor denied the existence of extraterrestrials — has generated significant buzz from both mainstream media sources like The New York Times and 60 Minutes and from diehard UFO enthusiasts and true believers who have been following the subject for decades.

Historically the military has remained tight-lipped on its interest — or disinterest, as they would have you believe — in UFOs. A handful of U.S. Air Force investigative projects like Sign, Grudge and, most famously, Blue Book, and the University of Colorado’s 1968 UFO report, authored by physicist Edward Condon at the Air Force’s behest, have all concluded that when it comes to UFOs, there’s nothing to see.

Unfortunately, that official position hasn’t stopped people from seeing UFOs. Since private pilot Kenneth Arnold’s sighting of nine discs flying past Mount Rainier in 1947, UFOs have become, more than anything, a cultural phenomenon, a kind of secular religion for people who look up at the night sky in wonder. UFOs have their own mythologies and origin stories, which change with the styles and attitudes of the times.

During the 1950s and ’60s, people spoke of flying saucers and contactees, people visited by the human pilots of UFOs, who brought messages of peace and love between Earthlings and “Space Brothers” from Venus and Mars. In the aftermath of the quagmire in Vietnam, during the never-ending Cold War and economic stagnation, UFO believers began to talk about the grays, abduction experiences, and macabre cattle mutilations. In the wake of Ruby Ridge, the Oklahoma City Bombing and Waco during the ’90s, UFO culture embraced byzantine conspiracies about a terrifying shadow government, shape-shifting lizard people and underground bases in places like Dulce, New Mexico.

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A diagram of George Adamski’s flying saucer, included in a CIA release of UFO photos

The one constant throughout decades of wild UFO stories: People continue to see strange, unexplainable things in the night sky. Couple those credible sightings with an inscrutable silence or outright derision from government authorities, and, well, people will take their explanations where they can find them.

According to data compiled from the National civilian UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC), there were 6,340 UFO sightings in 2019, and Colorado ranked 17th nationally for the most sightings. In 2020 there was an increase in sightings nationally, with some experts speculating COVID restrictions led people to spend more time watching the skies. Here in Colorado, former Republican Sen. Cory Gardner witnessed mysterious drone swarms near his home in Yuma in January 2020, and there were regular sightings throughout the year (tinyurl.com/ColoXFiles).

Chris McCain, a self-employed painter in Cañon City, saw strange objects in the sky from his backyard on April 22, 2021. McCain, his wife, and two other members of his extended family photographed and recorded five different instances of round, glowing, orange objects passing over his home. “We were out back and my wife, she noticed them first. They would appear in front of the house and travel out of sight. They all faded out at the same spot. I know what the satellites look like. These were weird because they were bright orange and all individual. They were round, kind of oblong. They were bright orange, silent, moving at a good rate of speed.”

Members of a Facebook group, Cañon City and Florence Community, who declined to speak on record, also claimed to have seen strange lights the night of April 22. McCain says he spent about two years as a member of the Civil Air Patrol, a nonprofit civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, and is familiar with different kinds of aircraft, and claims the objects he saw were not any kind of aircraft he had ever seen. “They weren’t in the jetstream, high,” he says. “They were below the cloud-line. They were low.”

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Photo of the object Chris McCain witnessed on April 22, 2021

McCain isn’t the only Cañon City resident to have encountered strange lights. A video from November 2020, posted to the website Sasquatch Chronicles, which covers general paranormal phenomena, shows the kind of triangular light formations captured by Pueblo resident Haley Pretzman in January 2020. Sightings in the area go back to at least 1965, when The Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph reported that Don Stites, a guard at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Cañon City, spotted a “bluish white light slowly changing in intensity.” He and six other guards watched the object until it disappeared around 3 a.m.

The most common prosaic explanation for UFO sightings continues to be the planet Venus, which is often misidentified due to its brightness. A number of sightings of strange lights reported to NUFORC in 2020 contain a label from the webmaster, “((Starlink satellites??)),” and Elon Musk’s efforts to bring broadband internet to the world continue to inspire UFO reports across the country. Another prosaic explanation is simply misidentified aircraft or drones. McCain lives less than 10 miles from the Fremont County Airport, and the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control has used nearby Brush Hollow Reservoir for nighttime helicopter training in the past. Flares dropped from aircraft can also be misidentified as UFOs.

“I know what a military flare looks like and it wasn’t one of them,” says McCain.

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Photo of the object Chris McCain witnessed on April 22, 2021

John Archuleta, an 83-year-old resident of nearby Penrose, has his own theories about the lights people see in Cañon City, and elsewhere. When he isn’t working six days a week as a cook, Archuleta is trying to prepare humanity for the arrival of Maitreya, a spiritual master and the head of what he calls the “spiritual hierarchy.” Maitreya, and his group called the Masters of Wisdom, are working with the Space Brothers and Sisters, in their spacecraft, to prepare humanity for a kind of spiritual ascension or evolution. According to Archuleta, the increase in UFO activity and phenomena like crop circles, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, are all signs of Maitreya’s imminent arrival, or the “Day of Declaration.”

“My personal life has been a life of search,” explains Archuleta, who first learned about Maitreya in 1989. “I was born and raised as a Catholic, and then I went to a born-again Christian church. That wasn’t very satisfying so I moved on to the Science of Mind [Centers for Spiritual Living], and that was OK. Then I went from that to born-again Christian [a second time], and then I needed some information that was more substantial. Someone suggested I go to the Jehovah’s Witnesses; they study the Bible, they know the Bible, so I became a Jehovah’s Witness. They helped me a lot, but they couldn’t answer many of my questions. They kicked me out of the organization because I was asking too many questions. One day I’m at a metaphysical book store, and there’s an ad on the wall [about Maitreya’s miracles]. They had a presentation the following Saturday, in Denver. I went and I was blown away.”

Archuleta works with an organization called Share International to disseminate information about Maitreya, the Spiritual Hierarchy and the Space Brothers and Sisters. Groups in Denver and Cañon City meet regularly to discuss such matters and engage in transmission meditation, “a specific and conscious process by which the Masters of Wisdom act as master scientists, safely directing these spiritual energies through the chakras (energy centres) of the group members, down to the mental levels where they become more accessible to humanity,” according to a pamphlet on the practice provided to the Indy by Archuleta. It essentially allows the Space Brothers to communicate with the people of Earth.

While transmission meditation might sound outlandish, adherents of Dr. Steven Greer’s CE-5 method, which uses meditation to make contact with UFOs, report varying levels of success. CE-5 is loosely based on the principles of remote viewing, which was studied extensively by the U.S. Army and the CIA starting in the 1970s (tinyurl.com/CSIndyCE5).

One night after a transmission meditation meeting, Archuleta said he witnessed the Space Brothers and Maitreya’s lightship in the Fremont County sky. “This has happened to me twice,” he says. “One night, we’re coming out of our meditation group in Cañon City, there’s three of us, and we’re walking out. The sky is dark, black as coal, nothing shining, and we’re walking to our cars and I tell the people, ‘Look up. Maitreya’s star is showing up.’ We had one, two, three, four [stars] and then Maitreya’s lightship. Five stars, right there.”

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John Archuleta uses dowsing rods to communicate with the Universal Mind.

Share International was founded by Scottish writer Benjamin Creme, whose work was influenced, at least in part, by the works of American UFO researcher George Adamski. Adamski co-authored the 1953 book Flying Saucers Have Landed and was one of the first contactees. Adamski claimed to have met a Venusian named Orthon after his ship landed near Desert Center, California, in 1952. Adamski’s claims were heavily criticized at the time, most scathingly by UFO researcher James Moseley, who fact-checked the sources mentioned in Adamski’s book and wrote, “I do believe most definitely that Adamski’s narrative contains enough flaws to place in very serious doubt both his veracity and his sincerity.”

While it might be easy to dismiss Adamski, he was investigated by Air Force Capt. Edward Ruppelt of Project Blue Book and diagrams of his spacecraft were recently released by the CIA as part of a collection of UFO photos the agency had on file. The photos were obtained by John Greenewald Jr. who runs the website The Black Vault, which is a repository of government documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), about UFOs and other weird phenomena. Greenewald’s work shows the extent to which the government has expressed an interest in UFOs and remote viewing, among other things, despite their official conclusions.

What does Adamski’s inclusion in this CIA document suggest about the veracity of his claims? “The material I compiled from the CIA was all obtained via the Freedom of Information Act,” said Greenewald via email. “However, what the CIA fails to do in document/photo releases like this is put it into context. Although the photographs were found with the CIA’s holdings, we do not know why. As is obvious with many of the photos, we can identify some of them. Lenticular clouds or an upside down pool of water, are just two of the explanations. However, the CIA does not offer up ANY explanation to why they were there, or archived. Sadly, we can only guess. They are fun to look at though, and one thing we can definitively say, is that they are there for a reason. Was the inclusion of some of these photos to show internal CIA analysts obvious hoaxes, so they can rule that out? Was the inclusion of George Adamski material also to show what a hoaxer could accomplish? Or, was it because the CIA analysts felt there was some truth to it? Although with Adamski I feel it was a hoax, there is ultimately no way to really prove the true context on why the CIA had this material.”

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In 1989, John Archuleta saw an ad like this in a metaphysical book store.

 The path from the Cañon City sighting, to Maitreya, to George Adamski’s CIA documents illustrates some of the difficulties UFO researchers have faced for the last 70 years. It’s easy to take an eyewitness account of something unexplainable, get an interesting explanation from another source, and obtain via FOIA something that could — maybe, sort of — lend a little credence to the whole situation. That is what, in essence, UFO researchers have been doing for decades.

If you have the time and inclination you can research things like MJ-12, the Wilson Documents, and the sad story of Paul Bennewitz to see for yourself. The fact that the recently released government report was inspired in part by the efforts of Blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge is not even one of the weirdest things about UFO history. It’s not even in the top 10.

UFOlogy is a field where the truth is almost always stranger than fiction, and where there are verified instances of government and military involvement that raise questions that are almost never answered in any kind of satisfactory way. Hopefully the UAP Task Force report will be a sign of a change in the way our government addresses the UFO topic. While the many and varied explanations for what UFOs might be are certainly entertaining, most people just want to know the truth about them. The truth, as they say, is out there.