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Internet needs less Saddam and Britney, more UFOs

Burt Constable

Posted Thursday, January 11, 2007

Saddam Hussein can’t drop dead without a cell phone camera recording his demise and a post-mortem sequel for distribution on the Internet.

Britney Spears can’t totter through one night as a trollop without photographic evidence popping up the Internet.

YouTube.com has video of a costumed Tigger appearing to punch a teen in the face at Walt Disney World.

Little kids can’t drink from hoses, fat people can’t sit in spindly chairs, old ladies can’t get off poorly docked boats, and dads holding pinatas can’t get hit in the crotch without cameras capturing the hilarity for TV’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

You can’t even go to work without a camera recording you filling up with gas, buying coffee, running a yellow light, zipping through a toll booth or entering your office.

But search the Internet for a clip of the UFO reported hovering Nov. 7 above O’Hare International Airport, and you come up empty.

The story, reported Jan. 1 by Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune and appearing in international media outlets from CNN to late-night comics, said about a dozen people reported seeing “a flying saucer-like object hovered low over O’Hare International Airport for several minutes before bolting through thick clouds with such intense energy that it left an eerie hole in overcast skies.”

And yet, not a single O’Hare UFO image from a cell phone, security monitor, TV crew or camera-toting tourist has appeared to the masses.

“Yup, it’s frustrating,” says Mary Kerfoot, a longtime UFO activist from Schaumburg, who wishes we all could see the otherworldly crafts and beings that she says she has seen. “Security cameras must not be pointing at the sky.”

Scour popular UFO Web sites such as mufon.com, paradigmresearchgroup.org or nuforc.org and prepare to be less than dazzled. Bright lights, shaky video and fast-moving specks in the sky just don’t impress a generation accustomed to the movie UFOs of “War of the Worlds,” “Independence Day” or even the 30-year-old footage from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

“You’d think it would be easy. Just reach up and take a picture,” says Sam Maranto, a financial planner from Orland Park who is director of the Illinois Mutual UFO Network.

But it generally doesn’t work out that way.

“I think most people are so mesmerized, they don’t want to take their eyes off it for one second,” says Maranto, who includes himself in that number. “Anything that is genuine is emitting a frequency, and it looks more like a distortion. So you are never going to get a perfect picture. If you have one that is a perfect picture, you have to wonder if it is a hoax.”

Besides, Maranto argues, Americans believe in plenty of things — from the existence of angels to the likelihood of a 2007 Cubs World Series — with far less physical evidence.

Kerfoot’s son, Bob, says he was a “total skeptic” when he was “freaked out” by a strange, dark, diamond-like shape hovering in the sky Aug. 12 and zooming up and down above Woodfield Shopping Center in Schaumburg. A computer scientist, he isn’t ready to conclude it was a UFO, a military craft or strange atmospheric reflection. But he promises that if he ever sees something like that again, “I’ll take a picture.”

One definitive picture of something out of this world would make a world of difference to a cynical public.

“I’m not in the mood to take criticism,” growls Peter B. Davenport, director of the National UFO Reporting Center in the state of Washington. A month after he posted the O’Hare sighting on his Web site (www.nuforc.org), an exasperated Davenport finally tipped off the Tribune’s Hilkevitch, who says it took him a while to win the confidence of witnesses, find additional sources and get the goods for his story.

“It’s frustrating for me, too,” says Davenport, who doesn’t have the resources or power of the mainstream media. “I can do nothing about your disappointment. Give us a budget, give us a staff. Tell the government to open their records.”

Davenport says photos of the O’Hare event do exist, and (along with all the other UFO work he does every day), he’s trying to get them made public.

The National UFO Reporting Center has data, “which I, and many others, consider to be very powerful evidence regarding that phenomenon,” notes Davenport, who criticizes me and other reporters for not attending any of his hundreds of presentations.

“The problem is there does seem to be physical proof, but this ridicule factor is so prominent,” Mary Kerfoot says. She says society won’t believe in UFOs until the president of the United States actually says he has “credible evidence.”

“Of course,” Kerfoot says after a thoughtful reflection on the state of credibility today, “that wouldn’t be the current administration.”

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