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One Weekend with Alien Enthusiasts Might Make You a Believer 

Thursday, Nov 28 2013
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He pulls up more blurry close-ups — a Martian in a black caftan running away from the camera; another diving into a hidey-hole. "They're camera-shy."

What is the atmosphere on Mars, a girl in the front row asks. "What I've been told by people who were there is it's like being in Denver, Colorado," Webre answers.

Webre sought to have National Geographic publish his findings. "We have not yet received a reply." He has been waiting four years.

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Other attendees believe that the evidence has been on Earth all along, hiding in plain sight in the world's great stone monuments — the Egyptian pyramids, Chichén Itzá, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat. How else to explain the massive stones perfectly cut, held together by only friction and weight, no mortar?

As author and retired engineer Marshall Klarfeld puts it, "We're stuck with this scientific box that we're in. 'Because the Egyptians were there, they built it. Because the Mayans were there, they built it. Because the Sumerians were there, they built it.' Couldn't they have inherited it?"

Klarfeld believes that extraterrestrials came to Earth a long time ago and influenced early human culture. In the UFO community, this branch of inquiry — based largely on the writings of controversial, self-taught biblical scholar Zecharia Sitchin — is called the "ancient astronauts" or "ancient aliens" field.

Klarfeld is aware that not everyone shares his passion for Sitchin's writings. "There are people in the scientific community, frankly, who called me a woo-woo," Klarfeld says.

Woo-woo?

"Off the wall. Lost my marbles."

Such insults don't bother him.

Back in the 1950s, says implant surgeon Leir, the government made Joshua Tree ufologist George Van Tassel — who believed that aliens from Venus were communicating with him telepathically — look like an "absolute jackass."

"If you talked about this to your neighbor, you were almost afraid," Leir continues. "Because someone was gonna laugh. You know, 'There's a class-A, No. 1 nutcase.' It worked very well. And it's still working today."

"Some people would rather go to a psychiatrist," he says, "and take a pill rather than admit they were abducted."

What does it take to be taken seriously? Perhaps a few serious academic studies? "You don't fund research on UFOs," historian Dolan says. "No one goes into it because who will be your adviser? No one."

He knows. He tried. "Oh," his professor said, "you're a conspiracy theorist."

It's sad, Dolan says. You encounter a UFO, "and you tell no one about the most amazing experience of your life."

Murmurs of assent waft up from the crowd when he says this. The room is stiflingly hot, and the women fan themselves with programs, as at church.

One young half-Filipina woman says she confessed to her family that she believed she was being abducted. "They all think I'm crazy."

These people are not kooks. Not in the traditional sense. Klarfeld got his degree from Caltech and studied under Nobel laureates Linus Pauling and Richard Feynman. Webre, the guy who believes platypuses are running around on Mars, is a Yale Law School graduate and a former general counsel for the New York Environmental Protection Agency.

The more psychologically minded among us ask, when, exactly, did their schizophrenic break with reality occur?

And yet ... some things linger in the mind long after you've heard them. Skyped in from London on the conference's second day, explorer and best-selling author Graham Hancock suggests — to the everlasting irritation of mainstream archaeologists — that, yes, perhaps the Great Pyramid and other megaliths are thousands of years older than we currently believe and were built by one such advanced, ancient civilization. Whoever the pyramids' builders were, they had a deep knowledge of astronomy.

The perimeter of the base of the Great Pyramid, for instance, multiplied by 43,200, gives you the equatorial circumference of the Earth. And 43,200 isn't a random number. It is a multiple of 72.

Why does 72 matter? Like a top winding down while it spins, the Earth wobbles on its axis. In astronomy, this motion is called "precession." It takes 72 years for the Earth to complete one degree of precessional wobble. So it seems the Great Pyramid's builders knew not only the size of the planet but also some very subtle, sophisticated things about how it moves through space. This at a time before modern man even realized Earth was round.

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