A Fractured Hall of Mirrors

Half-way through watching Mirage Men, a new documentary on how U.S. Intelligence agencies have deliberately sabotaged research into the UFO topic, I literally shook my head, saying to myself with a laugh "it's a hall of mirrors". By the end of the documentary, my statement had been echoed and expanded upon by one of the interviewees, Linda Moulton Howe, who described the entire story as "a fractured hall of mirrors with a quicksand floor". Howe should know: in 1983, while researching a documentary on the subject of UFOs for HBO, she was engaged by Richard 'Rick' Doty, an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), initially with the promise of helping her investigate an alleged UFO landing near Ellsworth Air Force Base. But Howe's meeting with Doty took an unexpected turn when the AFOSI agent suddenly produced a manila folder, saying she could take a look at it but, not remove it from the office or make notes. Within it was a document titled "Briefing Paper for the President of the United States of America on the Subject of Unidentified Aerial Vehicles", which listed a number of alleged UFO crash retrievals by the government, as well as paragraphs that became "emblazoned" on Howe's mind concerning how they had discovered that Homo sapiens was a species created by extraterrestrials through genetic manipulation of primates. Amazed by the information fed to her by the government agency at the time, in Mirage Men Howe looks back with three decades of perspective and wonders at the the amount of effort that must have gone into the deception: "they must have had meetings about 'how do we stop a persistent and dogged reporter who has already demonstrated that she's going to go after a really difficult subject?'." The question that comes to mind, and which runs throughout this entire film, is 'WHY?'.

This was not the first time that AFOSI agent Doty had willingly mislead investigators of the UFO subject, and it would not be the last. As such, he serves as the focal character in the documentary; it begins with the deception he helped orchestrate on Albuquerque businessman Paul Bennewitz, goes on to discuss the Linda Moulton Howe case, the infamous Majestic-12 documents (described in the film by another AFOSI agent, Walter Bosley, as the "perfect Perception Management Device", though Doty denies any involvement with it) and extends forward to the more recent controversy over the 'Project Serpo' hoax.

And Doty is no doubt a worthy candidate for the film to revolve around. Coming to the documentary with a fair amount of knowledge about Doty's deceptions over the years – with consequences (direct and otherwise) ranging from the wasting of UFO investigators' time through to the mental disintegration, eventual hospitalisation and death of Paul Bennewitz – I already had a dislike for the man, and was ready to truly despise him. But one of the things that catches you off guard is how harmless and genial he seems - the man is sitting before the camera, telling you how he has deceived people, and yet you feel that he seems to be a nice guy that you'd happily chat with at a neighbourhood barbeque. Though as Bill Ryan, who was initially taken in by the Serpo deception, points out, that's what makes him so effective: "Rick's great strength is he's a wonderful story-teller", says Ryan. "He's a very friendly guy [and] builds relationships easily".

Richard Doty

The jarring inconsistency between Doty's disarming personality and his deceptive deeds, and the "fractured hall of mirrors with a quicksand floor" that is the subject matter, contribute to the overall feel of the film – one of unreality, with the viewer wondering exactly where the truth lies and even how many Inception-like 'levels' away that destination might be from them (are the 'visible' lies meant to make you follow the breadcrumbs to the real lie they want to sell to you?).

Using black and white public domain and Creative Commons footage as 'filler' helps maintain that feeling of unreality and deception, such as the cuts from the 1958 BBC television series Invisible Man - Secret Experiment showing objects moving without any visible cause, and the B-roll continues that mood with shots of empty conference chairs and long hotel hallways (always bound to transmit a lonely and alienated feel). The audio too, from the droning strings/synths almost subliminally set behind interviewees words, to the various ambient audio noises accompanying footage and the off-kilter soundtrack, will leave the viewer feeling on edge throughout . Each of these elements suggest that the film-makers were influenced rather heavily by the style of British documentarian Adam Curtis (The Century of the Self, The Power of Nightmares, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace).

Interviewees include the tricksters (AFOSI agents Doty and Walter Bosley), their marks (Linda Moulton Howe, Bill Ryan, Victor Martinez), UFO and paranormal investigators (Richard Dolan, Bob Durant, Greg Bishop, George Hansen, Gabe Valdez and more) as well as the author of the book on which the documentary is based, Mark Pilkington (read my 2010 interview with Mark about the book and film here). All offer their own insights into the hall of mirrors, from their own particular point of view. For instance, Bob Durant begins the film by admitting that "the general feeling amongst people who have devoted a big chunk of their life to studying UFOs I think is fear; that they have been taken for a ride, that these cases are hoaxes, but sophisticated hoaxes carried out by their own government". This range of interviewees helps bring balance to the documentary, and also will hopefully give viewers a wider perspective on the topic: 'true believers' in the UFO phenomenon should be chastened by some of the testimony, while self-labeled skeptics might have their eyes opened to some degree ('skeptic' Brian Dunning once told me that I had "clinically crossed the line to a diagnosable, treatable mental illness" if I thought there were psy-ops being conducted in the UFO field) and even perhaps have some sympathy for what some UFO researchers have been put through over the years.

Even the general viewer might take heed of some of the nuggets buried in Mirage Men, such as Doty's aside that Paul Bennewitz was easily convinced by the AFOSI deception: "Paul was a World War II veteran, very patriotic, he always flew his flag – those type of people you can convince". And, on a topical note, once you've seen an entire documentary about intentional leaks designed to mislead investigators, you might be a little bit more skeptical about some of the leaks that have hit the news in recent times, and wonder whether there was any government involvement or intent behind them.

Those looking for simple, obvious answers to either the UFO mystery, or government deceptions in a number of the cases, will walk away disappointed from Mirage Men, but I don't think it should be a factor in judging the film. The film-makers do ponder the latter question, but trying to answer it just ends up taking the viewer further down the rabbit hole. Was the disinformation meant to distract investigators from secret government projects. If so, as Pilkington points out, why did they encourage Bennewitz when they could have just told him (as the patriotic citizen that he was) to cease and desist for the good of the country? Was it intended to discredit the investigators for some reason? Or perhaps it was a psychological study in how people react to certain information and events, perhaps it was intended originally for 'real' enemies like the Soviets during the Cold War, or maybe it was all an exercise in how supposedly secret information is transmitted and by whom.

Mirage Men doesn't break any new ground in discussing many of these topics: readers will find discussion of them in books ranging from Jacques Vallee's Messengers of Deception through to Greg Bishop's book on the deception aimed at Paul Bennewitz, Project Beta (Bishop himself appears extensively in the documentary). What it does do though is gets Richard Doty, a notoriously slippery man to corner, in front of the camera discussing the things he has done, along with a number of the other significant players. The intelligent viewer will however ask why Rick Doty came forward willingly to be an interview subject for this documentary, given every move he has made on the UFO topic seems to have been precisely calculated to have a certain effect. He seemingly has no reason to offer all this information. So why is he doing it? And why does he admit to so much, but then deny involvement with Serpo when investigators seem to have caught him red-handed (via email IP addresses)? By the end of the film you'll be second guessing everything more than feeling as if your ideas have been confirmed, and perhaps that was exactly Doty's intent. And, if you want to get truly paranoid, you might start to worry that the documentary's creators go under the name 'Perception Management Productions' (echoing Bosley's description of the MJ-12 documents), and has within its ranks individuals who for many years have created crop circles as a type of art, and then sat back and observed as those 'anonymous' deceptions have engendered their own belief system and followers. Fractured mirrors and rabbit holes indeed...

Mirage Men is necessary viewing for anybody with an interest in either the topic of UFOs, or the role of government agencies in spying on and/or deceiving their own citizens. The former may be a specialised group, but the latter should include everyone. A highly recommended documentary – if your eyes weren't already open, they will be after watching this film.

Find out more about the film at the Mirage Men website, and follow @MirageMen on Twitter.

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emlong's picture
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The hall of mirrors is always a fundamental given. It behooves the interested to just keep plugging along with both eyes open and juggle all the pins without necessarily assuming that anyone is telling the truth. Most of us are capable of absorbing information without be bowled over by it.

To wit a recent example:
http://www.sott.net/article/262774-My-cr...

Rick MG's picture
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Terrific review Greg, you've nailed it perfectly. Exactly what I thought about the book.

Greg wrote:

By the end of the film you'll be second guessing everything more than feeling as if your ideas have been confirmed, and perhaps that was exactly Doty's intent.

I'm sure the following advice is on the first page of the psyops training manual -- If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit. When I read Mark Pilkington's book, I kept wanting to pull Mark up and say, "dude, this guy is telling you exactly what you want to hear." Doty did this with Linda Moulton Howe. Whatever your beliefs, he confirms them. He's deception incarnate.

The upside to Mirage Men is that Doty makes you question everything. Considering there's a lot of nonsense out there, that's always a good thing.

I haven't seen the film yet, but I've read the book and highly recommend it, even though I disagree with Mark Pilkington's (kinda) conclusions. It's a must-read for armchair and professional ufologists alike just for the insights into psyop shenanigans. The whole Doty thing reminds me a little of John Alexander's UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities; it's not what's said, but what isn't said that's interesting.

Mirage Men hasn't made me doubt the reality of UFOS, there's simply too much evidence. Solid UFO research has emerged in recent years via Richard Dolan, Leslie Kean, James Fox to name a few. So I find the timing of Doty's cooperation with Mirage Men a little suspect. The UFO mystery isn't confined to the United States either; it's global. Doty and his merry mirage men are smarter than the average bears, but they're not omnipotent. There's also the argument that the UFO mystery extends to ancient times.

If I was new to UFOs, or sitting on the skeptical side of the fence, I'd be inclined to agree with Mark Pilkington. However, I've had my own UFO experience that couldn't possibly have been a product of Doty and the Mirage Men -- as John Keats wrote, "nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced."

Greg wrote:

Mirage Men is necessary viewing for anybody with an interest in either the topic of UFOs, or the role of government agencies in spying on and/or deceiving their own citizens.

This +1. I even think the UFO angle is almost superfluous; the real story is the deception and manipulation. Jon Ronson's The Men Who Stare At Goats is that way too, almost just a lead-in story to a bigger one about government nastiness. I'll leave Ronson's endorsement of Mirage Men to the more conspiratorially-minded Grailers. ;)

And how could anyone resist Mirage Men's gorgeous cover design?

PS Doty and the Mirage Men is begging to be the name of a band. I'll be your manager. ;)

PPS If you'd like to help the hard-working Grail admin, purchase Mirage Men via the Amazon links which pop up regularly in the news briefs. Not only will you get a great read, but it rewards the Grail admin with a book or two. Win win!

~ * ~

@levitatingcat

red pill junkie's picture
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I've often wondered: Did Doty give permission to use his face for the publicity of the film? Is he receiving royalties out of this or what?

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
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jupiter.enteract's picture
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"Paul was a World War II veteran, very patriotic, he always flew his flag – those type of people you can convince".

That does say a lot, doesn't it?

p.s. excellent review, Greg

SecretSun's picture
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Pilkington is selling Doty- who was a friggin' crossing guard when all this nonsense was going down- as a master spy working for Uncle Sam. However, the entire premise of Mirage Men was totally debunked by Jacques Vallee almost 20 years ago in his trilogy, a fact that Greg Bishop should be aware of. So what's the agenda in dredging all of this silliness up again?

red pill junkie's picture
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However, the entire premise of Mirage Men was totally debunked by Jacques Vallee almost 20 years ago in his trilogy, a fact that Greg Bishop should be aware of. So what's the agenda in dredging all of this silliness up again?

I don't think I follow you, Chris. Could you please elaborate?

Why dredge the silliness up again? Maybe because, realistically, not many people read Vallee's books, and fewer still cared to read Greg's --even among people who claim to be interested in the topic. With a film there's a greater chance of spreading a message --for better or for worse...

Incidentally, I just finished listening to Greg's latest podcast, in which he mentions MM. I liked how he said that Pilkington's approach was kind of ironic in a hipster kind of way, whereas his on Project Beta was more of "These are my people & I love them" --Greg still considers Bill Moore a friend, something a bit rare, if you consider what Moore did to another 'friend' of his (Paul Bennewitz).

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
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SecretSun's picture
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Ironic and hipster? I didn't think this project could sound any less appealing but that squares it. By silliness, I'm referring to Pilkington's tireless campaign to be the poor man's Jon Ronson.

As for Pilkington himself, I'll let his responses to this post speak as to his credibility. Winding the Wayback Machine to 2010- you were there. Actually, you were there RPJ!

http://ufoprovo.blogspot.com/2010/08/ufo...

red pill junkie's picture
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...So I was!

And I *still* haven't read the book yet ;)

It's also interesting that the film is being released just as the British government has published the last batch of their official MoD UFO files, closing the chapter of a 50+ year investigation because they just can't waste so much of the taxpayers' money in such 'silly nonsense' --I bet the queen's afternoon tea is more expensive than what they spent on an entire year investigating UFOs :P

Had I to choose between Pilkington & Dave Clarke, I'd choose Mark any day of the week & twice on Sunday.

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
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SecretSun's picture
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The annals of UFOlogy (and the paranormal in general) are riddled with sad sacks who murder their darlings and try to sell the corpses as their in-road to the progressive media elite. All it usually gets them is a condescending pat on the head and a finger pointing to the exits. Someone needs to tell them they are just jumping off a soggy dinghy onto the Titanic that is the mainstream media. Sure it looks big and fancy, but it's halfway in the drink and sinking fast.

emlong's picture
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Let's just go camp out at Gilliland's Ranch. There's no need to listen to a bunch of suits. Have the experience directly. Armchairing not necessary.

See video

asecretcountry's picture
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"they must have had meetings about 'how do we stop a persistent and dogged reporter who has already demonstrated that she's going to go after a really difficult subject?'."

No false modesty from Howe. :)
What Howe should have said...

"they must have had meetings about 'how do we feed a persistent and uncritical reporter who has already demonstrated that she's never going to question anything and will never admit too making mistakes".

At no stage has Howe ever said "mea culpa..I was sucked in and promoted garbage they fed me and I was 100% wrong".

red pill junkie's picture
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Ego was also the downfall of Bill Moore. Even since the Falcon told him "you seem to be the only one who knows what's going on" he was hooked, lined & sinkered.

BTW Welcome to the Grail :)

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
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@red_pill_junkie

emlong's picture
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Or we can listen to folks like my friend Ardy Sixkiller Clarke. There are many more credible people reporting out there than a bunch of hired suits with inscrutable resumes:
http://sixkiller.com/

red pill junkie's picture
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I enjoy listening to Ardy's tales. Her folklorist approach to the topic is refreshing. By 'folklore' I mean that she's not really on a mission to prove to anyone whether the stories she was told are true or not, she just retells them as accurately as possible.

In a way her work reminds me of books on Fairy lore written in the XIXth century by Yeats & others, which were often quoted by Vallee on his books.

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

Thomas Turk's picture
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If you have read this far, you must be curious, we all were. However, I have learnt that if we wait for nasa/seti/astronomers/govts etc for real UFO facts, we will wait for ever.

Get up to date by opening www.theyfly.com, and see the uTubes of Randolph Winters and Billy Meier, and Randolph's book, The Pleiadian Mission.

I you cannot handle that, and want scream fraud, that is your problem not ours.

asecretcountry's picture
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Thomas Turk wrote:

If you have read this far, you must be curious, we all were. However, I have learnt that if we wait for nasa/seti/astronomers/govts etc for real UFO facts, we will wait for ever.
Get up to date by opening www.theyfly.com, and see the uTubes of Randolph Winters and Billy Meier, and Randolph's book, The Pleiadian Mission.I you cannot handle that, and want scream fraud, that is your problem not ours.

Why would anyone..expect NASA or SETI to come out with any "facts" on ufo`s.?
There are some great books with "ufo facts" already out there.
If you had read any books by someone like Vallee for instance, you would already know that "beings" have been reported in all sorts of eras telling humans all sorts of garbage.
Which uncritical followers, swallow hook line and sinker..
And that there are only a small % of ufo reports associated with any form of "beings".
And some UFo buffs have somehow staggered through this minefield and missed all these sort of "facts".
Your link is a great example what I am talking about.
And...the post is about..The US government inducing the "ET is here" meme amongst ufo researchers.
So, your comments are sort of doubly ironic.. :)

emlong's picture
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I wouldn't characterize "Encounters With Star People" as being an example of an anthropologist collecting "fairy tales." There is much more documentary detail than that at least in half of the stories. Some were more hearsay, but the very specifically detailed stories told by interviewees who took the social risk (ruthless Tribal ribbing for example) of telling their tales convinces me that many of them saw what they said they saw, and that was often described by simultaneous multiple witnesses.

asecretcountry's picture
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emlong wrote:

I wouldn't characterize "Encounters With Star People" as being an example of an anthropologist collecting "fairy tales."

What "star people"??.
You mean beings that tell us the truth and admit straight off the bat they come from the stars..then hypnotise their victims to forget.
Then our brilliant earth hypnotists induce a trance state and get to the truth anyway.
Sort of makes you want to ask..why would the
"aliens" keep bothering since we will get to the trance induced truth anyway.
THe rhetorical question that the true believers never touch with a stick…and for good reason. :)
And which anthropologist and which poster are you actually responding too, ?

emlong wrote:

There is much more documentary detail than that at least in half of the stories. Some were more hearsay, but the very specifically detailed stories told by interviewees who took the social risk (ruthless Tribal ribbing for example) of telling their tales convinces me that many of them saw what they said they saw, and that was often described by simultaneous multiple witnesses.

More detail than in what.?..and I didn't know that "more detailed" anecdotes were more likely to be indicative of real events. :)
Which multiple witness account (without flipping hypnosis) are you talking about.?
And..its a sort of poor straw man anyway..I am not arguing against x number of people actually "meeting" something..I am arguing that people have this bizarre tendency to believe anything these "beings" communicate..
Spiritualists do it all the time..
And the more details to the narrative..means nothing,
Paranoid schizophrenia can lead to some amazingly complicated and detailed stories..so what.?
Next straw man diversion question would be..are you saying all reports of meeting with beings are due to Paranoid schizophrenia.?
No I am not. :)

red pill junkie's picture
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What "star people"??.
You mean beings that tell us the truth and admit straight off the bat they come from the stars..then hypnotise their victims to forget.
Then our brilliant earth hypnotists induce a trance state and get to the truth anyway.

To be fair, NONE of the accounts gathered by Ardy Sixkiller required any form of hypnotic regression. People told her their accounts from direct memory, or at least from what a close relative or friend told them.

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

asecretcountry's picture
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red pill junkie wrote:

To be fair, NONE of the accounts gathered by Ardy Sixkiller required any form of hypnotic regression. People told her their accounts from direct memory, or at least from what a close relative or friend told them.

Thanks..I am aware of her work.
It does sound interesting and I have communicated with her before.
But..when I asked her why these "beings" stories and claims are automatically believed..she basically didnt answer and told me to buy the book.
Which gets me back to the original problem.
There is zero evidence of any sort that can prove the claims of the "beings".
Thats the elephant in the room that many just ignore and carry on..the will to believe is easier than the will to critically look at things..
Which gets back to Vallee`s work..sorry. :)
For some people to try and dismiss Vallee`s work as a mere collection of folklore/fairy tales means people have not actually read or understood his work.
Each to his own.. :)

red pill junkie's picture
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I get your point. I've even written about it on my post Troll-ien Invasion?

But here's the kicker: when is it preferable to tell a white lie, or at least a partial version of the truth? Maybe the entities are not being honest with us, the same way parents prefer to tell their kids about storks coming from Paris, because they are not ready to understand where babies come from?

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

emlong's picture
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It's a book of stories. Nobody is claiming it is irrefutable "proof" of anything. We are just being reasonable - the number of stories with similar detail world wide does begin to stack up and make an argument, but it is just an argument still. If your argument is that there is no "proof" you are correct, but that doesn't stop us from probing and pushing. That is the only way there will ever be any such proof. We are enthusiasts. Einstein was an enthusiast constantly beset in the early going by people yammering that he had no proof. He didn't have proof. He had a hunch. He followed that hunch even though most fellow scientists told him he was nuts. We are just following hunches. They may or may not lead to a dead end. In the meantime, we admire field researchers like Ardy who are sincerely collecting stories that may yield a pattern.

red pill junkie's picture
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Agreed. It comes back to the distinction I make between evidence & proof.

Evidence is compelling, & suggests you're heading into the right direction.

Proof is conclusive & irrefutable. Whatever you were looking for, you found it --whether it is what you expected, that's another matter ;)

We don't have irrefutable proof that beings from other realities or star systems are constantly visiting us. But Ardy's stories are evidence that SOMETHING is going on.

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

pov's picture
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red pill junkie wrote:

Agreed. It comes back to the distinction I make between evidence & proof.

Evidence is compelling, & suggests you're heading into the right direction.

Proof is conclusive & irrefutable. Whatever you were looking for, you found it --whether it is what you expected, that's another matter ;)

We don't have irrefutable proof that beings from other realities or star systems are constantly visiting us. But Ardy's stories are evidence that SOMETHING is going on.

There is no *thing* that is irrefutable. Materialism does have a strong foothold but it won't lead to knowing the actualities. That said, to me there is clear proof that there are visits from elsewhere. Whether that elsewhere is physical is another matter.

emlong's picture
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My own perspective comes from a very fortean UFO sighting I had some years back. I can't find it in my blog archives, so it must have exceeded the wayback limit for TDG, but some of us aren't just coming at this from the theoretical perspective. We have had personal experiences that transformed our thinking on the subject.