One of the reasons I love the paranormal so much is that it requires very high degrees of belief and trust and resilience. There are very few supportable stories and photographs that point to the presence of these things — UFOs, Bigfoot, Nessie — and even most of these demand the wide-eyed kind of constitution that makes a person look at a photo of a blurry sphere shape in the sky and say, “My God. It’s them.”
When I was nine or ten years old and drawing with chalk on the sidewalk in front of my house, I saw a UFO just hanging out across the street. Well. Out of my peripherals, I saw a silvery shape that first hovered still and then flew away at what seemed, then, an unusual speed for human aircraft. It vanished. We lived near the airport; I knew what airplanes look like. It was probably some kind of plane. Probably. It doesn't matter to me. Ever since then, I've been in love with extraterrestrials. Especially greys. What could be cuter?
So, because I have this need to find people more deeply and fanatically into my interests than I am, I went to a MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) meeting. The other thing I love about the paranormal, by the way, is that, when you look into it, it will always be one thousand times more insane than you could have ever expected.
Picture any suburban town hall meeting and you will know exactly what the 45-person crowd at the community center where MUFON meetings are held looked like. I was definitely the only person there under 30, and very nearly the only person there under 55. That age group, alive during Roswell: those are my people. Our presenter that day was Nathan, a thin man in his late fifties who wore a violet polo shirt and a Britney Spears-type headset microphone. “You won’t leave here the same person you were when you came in,” he said, almost sternly.
The title slide of Nathan’s PowerPoint presentation depicted an ordinary-looking farm, owned by the pseudonymous “Joseph and Mary.” Nathan told us he’d been working with this couple for over a year, at an undisclosed location that was definitely not, but probably, in central Minnesota. He told us that there were some 30-40 “entities” living there. He told us that they sometimes disguise themselves as clumps of grass, which I imagine makes distinguishing them from normal clumps of grass quite difficult. He told us that sometimes, the adult entities leave their children behind on the farm, and that Joseph lets them into the house through the cat flap in his kitchen door. Joseph doesn’t see this happening, but he DOES hear the cat flap fluttering an awful lot.
Nathan clicked to the next slide. He called the creature we saw there a “horse-moose” — it was dark, with four long legs. I wrote down, “cow I think??” because to me it looked like a cow captured at a particularly odd angle. An older guy sitting to my right — wearing plaid and a trucker hat over his white hair — leaned forward to whisper into the ear of his friend: “Looks like a moose to me.” I trusted him instantly.
The details about the creatures (“entities”) were incongruous, to say the least. For one, there were at least three different “species” allegedly roaming the farm, which seems like a lot of weirdness even for a farm in central Minnesota. Nathan described 24-33 inch footprints, but the “horse-moose” appeared to have normal hooves. They were described as being anywhere from 6-15 feet tall, but were said to hide in weeds. They also climbed trees with the “ease of a tiny squirrel.”
“Do you see the face?” Nathan asked us, of the next slide. Everyone squinted. He zoomed in, and there it was: a blue humanoid face, perched in an upper crotch of a tree. It looked almost like CGI. “It’s not Photoshopped,” said Nathan, though no one had yet accused him of anything untoward. It was the sort of preemptive declaration that makes you positive that what the declarer has said isn't true is definitely true. The MUFON members around me grew skeptical, and fast: they asked Nathan to point out the facial "features," to explain where the body was, to give us a comparison picture of the tree without the face. I was impressed by their caution, their attention to detail. They weren’t there to accept a farm full of grass-wearing, tree-climbing blue horse monsters on its face.
Next, Nathan showed us a slide of “three devil-like entities” in the forest. “These aren’t Photoshopped!!” he said. The heads were circled, and when he zoomed in, they DID kind of look like faces. Faces created, Magic Eye-like, by shadows playing across leaves. “The biggest one is the oldest one, obviously,” explained Nathan, apropos of nothing.
Then there was the UFO clip, which Nathan said was a UFO flying across the screen. Two tiny bulbs, in a straight line, floated across the screen from left to right, getting bigger along the way – kind of like a car’s headlights would do. “Where…did you say the highway was, in relation to the farm?” asked a MUFON member, somewhat sheepishly. Everyone laughed. I turned around to look at the tanned older man who asked it and we smiled at each other, like, “Can you believe this guy?” which is kind of a funny thing to commiserate over, at a MUFON meeting.
The discontent in the room was palpable, and the next video, which Nathan described as “an entity walking across the farm field holding a mirror and using it to communication with the UFOs” pushed most of us over the edge. The clip was intensely blurry — all we could see was a tiny black blob and a tinier white blob moving across the screen. The mirror part seemed like wild conjecture, even to someone with an “I WANT TO BELIEVE” poster hanging in her room.
The concluding slide told us that Nathan had more evidence, but was withholding it until they could find a sponsor to cover the $200,000 in tech costs the family required for better evidence collection. Apparently Nathan also had a 90-minute video of a “Dimension Portal Opening,” but that was for another presentation. When he started up an Animal Planet special about the connection between UFOs and Bigfoot, I ducked out. It had been two-and-a-half hours.
Despite Nathan’s promise, I left the meeting with the same amount of belief I had going in. For every Nathan (a potential crackpot, a possible con artist), there are 40-plus believers who are positively rational by comparison — the kind who will believe even after the hoaxes, even without the kind of proof $200,000 worth of fancy cameras could (allegedly) provide. These are just your average senior citizens (and your odd twenty-something), looking for free cake and friends, and having the kind of character that makes a person willing to spend an entire Saturday afternoon in a fluorescent-lit community center, once a month, just in case. It’s okay if nothing turns up. Not having definitive proof is kind of the best part.
Katie Heaney is a writer and volunteer text message analyst living in Minneapolis. She thinks you should have good manners, even on the internet.