Most Americans believe there’s life on other planets, and one-third believe aliens have visited Earth.
And millions of us are watching TV series that explore these beliefs: History Channel’s look at the Air Force investigation of UFOs, “Project Blue Book,” and the CW’s “Roswell, New Mexico,” which features alien-human romance.
Writer Richard Estep crisscrossed the state interviewing true believers for his 12th and latest book, “Colorado UFOs.”
The British-born Estep, who lives in the Longmont area, has been a paranormal investigator for 24 years. His research on haunted places, people and objects has been featured in episodes of TV’s “Haunted Case Files.” He also offers ghost tours at the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.
Working on the UFO book gave Estep a chance to meet people who say they’ve witnessed alien spacecraft or been in close personal contact with aliens. One woman told him she was half-Arcturian, meaning she was the child of an alien-human marriage. One man offered proof that aliens operate a base hidden deep under Denver International Airport featuring a tunnel linking to southern Colorado Springs’ NORAD facility in Cheyenne Mountain.
But Estep says his research hasn’t helped him answer one of humanity’s biggest questions: Are we alone in the cosmos?
“After interviewing eyewitnesses from all walks of life, I am still no closer to figuring out exactly what I believe lies at the heart of the UFO phenomenon,” he writes.
Estep visited Judy Messoline, who says she has seen UFOs in the San Luis Valley and who opened a UFO Watchtower in 2000 near her home in Hooper.
Messoline, who says more than 30,000 people have visited her tower, tells her story in her own book, “That Crazy Lady Down the Road,” available on her website.
Estep also interviewed people who say they’ve been contacted or abducted by aliens. Some say these experiences have been wonderful; others say they’ve been traumatic.
“Some people complain that they have been taken against their will,” Estep said. “They say their alien encounters have wrecked their lives, and they live in fear of future abductions. But other contactees say it has been a very positive thing, and they feel privileged to have been chosen.”
Denver artist Chuck Chroma says that since childhood, he has been visited by the Greys, who are kindly aliens. In recent years, Chroma has worked with a hypnotherapist to recover hidden memories of these encounters, and he has used raw material from these sessions to create art that portrays his experiences.
“Chuck had some fascinating experiences,” Estep said, “and the way he expresses these experiences as an artist is unique and compelling.”
Astronomer Frank Drake’s Drake Equation argues that so many billions of planets are in our cosmos that thousands or millions of them likely are occupied. But after spending the last half-century listening for signs of life, Drake acknowledges that SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has come up empty.
The U.S. Air Force investigated more than 12,000 UFO reports in the 1950s and 1960s before concluding that most were human- or natural-caused, such as weather balloons and swamp gas.
In 1968, the Condon Report written by University of Colorado physicist Edward Condon concluded that “nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge.”
But UFO believers aren’t easily dissuaded, and some say they have all the evidence they need in animal mutilations. Colorado Springs resident Chuck Zukowski calls himself the “UFO Nut,” a phrase he uses on his license plate and website. Zukowski has investigated hundreds of mutilations, arguing that only aliens could be responsible for such precise surgeries.
He declined to be featured in The Gazette, but he told his story in the 2016 book, “The 37th Parallel,” which argues that aliens have orchestrated more than 10,000 animal mutilations since 1967, when Snippy, a horse from the Alamosa area, suffered a grisly procedure.
But in a review of “The 37th Parallel,” The New York Times observed: “Why aliens would travel a trillion miles to butcher some poor cows isn’t clear.”
“The scientific community is open to the possibility of alien life,” Estep says, “but as for whether they are visiting us or not, that’s another question.”
As Estep says a number of times in his Colorado UFOs book, “I leave that for the reader to decide.”