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David Hatcher Childress, an author who has studied ancient civilizations, speaks Saturday at the Aztec UFO 2007 Symposium.
AZTEC — Norio Hayakawa says he has always approached the question of whether unidentified flying objects (UFOs) exist with a certain amount of skepticism.

He said he has spent the better part of four decades making sure not to believe just any old claim.

Hayakawa was one of a couple hundred of people to visit the Aztec Boys and Girls Club on Saturday during Aztec's 2007 UFO Symposium. All types of believers with incredible stories showed up for the 10th year of the annual event.

Hayakawa said many of the so-called UFO sightings are nothing more than rumors perpetuated by the government to discredit people's claims of seeing advanced military technology. Hayakawa alleges that the federal government is behind these rumors to conceal the fact that they have military devices way beyond what the public believes exist. Talk of alien ships are a nice way to make sure that no one seriously investigates the sightings.

But there is one sighting he feels cannot be refuted.

Hayakawa said the March 1950 sighting of UFOs in


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Farmington has too many witnesses who told too consistent stories to consider it anything but truth.

"I'm still skeptical, except about the Farmington sighting. ... I have doubt in my mind that people saw these objects high in the sky," he said.

Hayakawa, a writer from Los Angeles, Calif., who works at a funeral home, has helped write articles and lead Japanese documentaries about paranormal activities and other unexplained phenomenon.

He estimates he has visited and researched countless sites all across the country.

Some merely believe in UFOs. Others claim to have first-hand experience. And some were just there to find out what's going on in the curious world of the paranormal.

Jodi Shand, 68, of Aztec, attended the first two symposiums but said, for one reason or another, she took a break for a while. She decided to return again this year to find out more about what is going on in the community of the believers.

Shand's fascination with UFOs dates back as long as she can remember. But the turning point in her life came a few years ago on what began as a normal day.

Shand recalls, with chilling detail, how one day she got home from work early in the afternoon and turned on the television to the news. It was a national news program but when it flipped to the local program, the local anchor in Colorado looked upset, she said.

"He said, Okay, we have some footage from Phoenix, I don't know what to make of this ... you have to make up your own mind,'" she said.

The footage was of a huge spaceship hovering over residential neighborhoods in the broad daylight, she said. Hundreds of people stared skywards as a huge metallic ship passed by.

Shand never saw that footage again. She believes the government pulled it and saw to it that no one saw the clips. Naturally, her belief in UFOs has not altered since.

"I know they're real because I saw it. It wasn't a fake thing. And all of these regular people, looking at this thing on a Sunday afternoon. It was fascinating and I thought wow, it's not a secret anymore,'" she said. "There's just been so many people who've seen or experienced things that I just don't think they're all nuts."

On Saturday, Shand wanted to learn more about what else is out there and being overlooked. She said she does not think about UFOs and other bizarre goings-on too often, but once in a while, she likes to learn a little bit more about what other people have seen and experienced.

At the event, she purchased a book by David Hatcher Childress, one of the speakers at the symposium. She was eager to learn more about the lost cities Childress claims can be found all around the world.

Childress, who grew up in Durango, Colo., spoke at length about a variety of topics including ancient electricity, ancient power sources and lost cities. He estimates there are more than 200 sunken cities in the Mediterranean Sea alone.

His central theory is that very advanced civilizations existed long before our own, but, as predicted by the Mayans, they fell victim to natural cycles of pole shifts that cause destruction and rebirth.

Using a slide-show, he presented his case for the proposition that these civilizations could not have achieved what they did using only the primitive resources that mainstream archaeologists believe they could access.

According to Childress, what they accomplished required much greater technology.

Blanche Zola, 71, of Gay Mills, Wis., has read one of his books and is looking forward to learning more about what she believes is her true heritage.

Childress traces the supposed roots of these former civilizations. Upon hearing Childress' presentation, Zola became interested in learning more.

Through studies of ancient, yet undocumented societies, Zola hopes to piece together more about her own past and where she comes from. She owns 1,000 books already. But after this weekend's symposium, the count is sure to increase.

The UFO Symposium continues today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Everyone, including skeptics, are invited.

Cory Frolik: cfrolik@daily-times.com