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Aliens Among Us

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Aliens Among Us

By Susan DeGrane

I met Pat two years ago. The disagreement she was having with another woman--over whether or not aliens desired contact with women who'd had hysterectomies--immediately caught my attention. Pat seemed annoyed when the other woman insisted extraterrestrials only wanted women for their wombs, and the conversation soon dissolved. But Pat and I continued to stay in touch.

Pat, a soft-spoken, mild-mannered woman in her early 40s, is a prolific correspondent. She sends me brightly decorated envelopes of various shapes and sizes, flat packages wrapped in pictures cut from magazines, collages of nature scenes, dolphins, and seals swimming in pairs, whale tails waving in ice blue water, spider webs beaded with dew, pictures of planets, tribal masks, Spock-like characters, and lots of cartoons containing alien humor.

These colorful envelopes are loaded with information about UFO sightings around the world, doctors who specialize in removing implants allegedly placed by aliens in people's sinus cavities, and superintelligent children. Pat has provided me with books on understanding the trauma experienced by those contacted by aliens, books about psychic pets, Native American shamans, the mysterious and fatal power of crystal skulls--even books about aliens who live among us.

There's enough paper for at least a dozen telephone books. It spills out of a large pink travel bag in a corner of my bedroom. More information continues to flow from Pat over the Internet, prodigious lists of UFO-related Web sites, news flashes about sightings in South America, and essays criticizing the hostile sentiments of people like Pat Robertson, who seem to believe that UFO witnesses should be burned at the stake.

Despite all this correspondence, Pat remains a mystery. I've never been to her house, and she seems to prefer it that way, electing to take public transportation home rather than accept a ride. She's never revealed the specifics of any personal encounters she may have had with aliens, but she does acknowledge having experienced phenomena associated with alien contact. Watches stop dead on her wrist. Computers crash with inordinate frequency. Batteries are rapidly drained. Streetlamps go out in succession when she walks down the street.

I once met Pat for lunch at Byron's Hot Dogs--the one with the alien motif on Clark Street that closed about a year ago. She brought along a heavy wicker basket with a bright bow tied to its handle. The basket contained a smooth rock about the size of a human skull and the color of whole-wheat bread dough. She said the rock had been left for her in a clearing in the woods and might contain a transmitter or computer of sorts for communicating with extraterrestrials. She said she felt rejuvenated after bathing with it and seemed to regard the stone as her friend.

This was a little much to digest as we bit into our hot dogs and fries, but Pat seemed so well-informed about a great many things relating to science--well, it was hard to argue.

Early on Pat mailed me a copy of a research paper she'd written for a class at Northwestern University. The paper referred to several UFO sightings in Lemont in 1988. I decided to check it out.

ooo

Last year I called the Lemont police station and asked to talk with Commander Tom Hess, who had seen the UFO back when he was a sergeant. Hess was glad to make time for me.

Driving to Lemont on Route 171, which winds through several miles of forest preserves to the southwest of Chicago, I noticed broken tree limbs and large black burns on the grass. Pat had referred to such things as telltale signs of UFO landings. When I mentioned these marks, Hess seemed intrigued, as if later in the day he might check them out.

For some time after the 1988 sightings, the people of Lemont shared tales of what had transpired the night of September 23. Stories buzzed at the local barbershop, Hess told me. An article published a month later in the Joliet Herald-News gave accounts from police officers stationed at both ends of the small town who saw a bright blob of light. One woman reported seeing a flash reflected in the foil covering the casserole dish she was taking to her mother's house.

Hal Holbrecht, athletic director at Lemont High School and a part-time policeman, was in the squad car with Tom Hess. At 10:30 PM they had witnessed a beaming object quickly approach, then shoot off at an odd angle. Later, Holbrecht coped admirably with teasing from friends and colleagues who fashioned a UFO from a couple of Styrofoam plates. The momento still hangs near his desk at the high school.

ooo

A few weeks ago Pat called me about a lecture series at the Lakeview Borders Books & Music. She wanted to see Bill Fawcett, who was plugging his new book, Making Contact: A Serious Handbook for Locating and Communicating With Extraterrestrials. Fawcett didn't write the book, which is actually a collection of articles explaining "what to do if a UFO landed in your backyard tomorrow." Even so, he gave an entertaining presentation to a small, virtually silent group of 15 listeners.

Fawcett's white-haired and blue-eyed, and his skin is as smooth as a baby's. He has an easy smile and a comfortable belly hanging slightly over his belt. After an initial warning that alien contact can be extremely dangerous--"you're not going to catch a cold from an alien, but you could get killed by one"--his gesticulations became emphatic and unselfconscious. He inadvertently kicked over my tape recorder and proceeded into the small audience with abandon, asking Tony, a tall black man, to stand up.

Tony towered over Fawcett. "Now, see, an alien might look at us and, considering the coloration and size differences, say we're from completely different races," Fawcett said, waiting for a response. The room was silent.

Pat sat quietly for most of the lecture, taking copious notes in a spiral notebook. UFO sightings have greatly increased in the last 50 years, Fawcett said. That's why, he reasoned, we should all be prepared. He explained that any communication with extraterrestrials would be "probably as important an event as the birth of a religious leader or Columbus landing in the Americas." Whoever represents the human race should be prepared, keeping a cool head and making an effort to communicate.

Pat seemed unimpressed. According to her materials, contact is already being made by people all over the world.

Fawcett said that historically, civilizations with superior technology have always managed to crush less advanced cultures. "It's no longer that the aliens may be the benevolent beings people want to believe, like E.T.," Fawcett warned. "And the Men in Black are not necessary as nice as in the movie."

Just as Fawcett made his reference to undercover government investigators, two men dressed in black darted out of the computer-book section--right behind where Fawcett was lecturing. A tall white man with a red beard, black suit, and dark tie was accompanied by an African-American man in black pants, turtleneck, and overcoat. I thought their appearance was staged, but no one else seemed to notice.

Fawcett's lecture turned into a dialogue with the audience after he criticized science fiction author Whitley Strieber. "I have a problem with someone whose aliens disappear every time his wife wakes up," Fawcett cracked. "There's no physical evidence of Whitley's experiences."

A woman who had just joined the group spoke in Strieber's defense. "Then why does Whitley have an implant in his head?"

Pat had attended Strieber's lecture at Borders the week before and had E-mailed her notes to me. They had also mentioned the implant behind Strieber's left ear, "a white ovoid" that a doctor was "able to get a scraping from," Pat had written, "but astonishingly, the object moved away from his forceps." Now she made no comment.

Fawcett didn't convince any disbelievers of imminent open communication with aliens. "I guess it's OK," said Mike Brown, one of the few people willing to reveal his last name. "I don't intend to prepare, but it's nice to know someone's thinking ahead."

One young man with hair spiked into sharp quills asked about the best places to find aliens. Fawcett said the southwestern U.S. and South America. Others asked for the best way to attract UFOs. Fawcett said a high-beam flashlight at night. He stressed the importance of recording the encounter with drawings, photographs, or a video camera.

Fawcett sold five autographed copies of his book, published by William Morrow & Company. The book offers suggestions for communicating with extraterrestrials, such as using coins valued at $3.27 to represent the sun, planets, and moons in our solar system. It also contains an assortment of string tricks, using exactly 72 inches of string. There's also medical advice about how to assist injured aliens.

After the lecture, Pat and I went for a bowl of tomato soup and a muffin at Screenz, a computer parlor on Clark. She showed me her notes, which lauded Fawcett for pointing out that when civilizations with superior technology take over, the conquered culture usually suffers from a bad self-image. But Pat also voiced strong disagreement with Fawcett's view that the only true encounters with aliens are spacecraft related. "I'm a hard scientist," Fawcett insisted.

I tried to tape Pat's comments, but the recorder kept shutting off. She reminded me that she usually has that effect.

Pat's voice flattened. "He really was there to plug his book, but that's OK."

On to personal business. How was she doing?

"Oh, fine," she said. "My streetlight interaction has been minimal lately."

As we walked out, a car alarm began blaring at the curb.

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