Every special-interest group seems to have a Political Action Committee (PAC) in Washington. So why should it be any different with UFOs? Well, it isn't. The Fund for UFO Research, a Maryland-based organization, has become an unofficial PAC. Although it doesn't contribute to political campaigns, the Fund does raise money for UFO research, conduct public education programs, and even contact congressmen.
The Fund was formed some 11 years ago by a group of UFO investigators and academics interested in raising grassroots donations for UFO research. Over the years, says Fred Whiting, who sits on the board of directors, the Fund has coughed up close to $200,000 for 20 projects on a range of issues from crashed saucers to UFO abductees. These awards are Spartan by the standards of big science, with most researchers receiving only $1,000 to $2,000 a crack. Still, they are princely sums to investigators accustomed to reaching into their own pockets.
But recently, the Fund has taken a political turn. For the first time ever, it has endorsed a specific claim. An alien craft really did crash in the desert of Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 says the Fund. What's more, says the group, parts of the crashed saucer were recovered by the United States Army and then passed off--falsely--as debris from a weather balloon.
To enhance the credibility of the claim, the Fund is currently funding research, videotaping witness testimony, and even pushing for a Congressional investigation of the case. Toward that end, Fund investigators have interviewed some 200 civilian and military witnesses, concluding, among other things, that the Air Force has kept news of alien bodies under wraps for 45 years. Don Berliner, another member of the Fund's executive committee says, "You have to consider the possibility that this [what witnesses observed in the New Mexico desert back in 1947] was actually an extraterrestrial craft."
This could be proven during Congressional hearings, Whiting notes, because military witnesses, otherwise sworn to secrecy, could be subpoenaed. With promise of immunity from prosecution, he adds, these people might talk.
Surprisingly, technical journalist and UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass also welcomes hearings. "I contributed one hundred and fifty dollars to the fund," he says. His take on the videotaped depositions, a major piece of the Fund's evidence, however, is decidedly different. "I found them very unimpressive," says Klass.
To bolster its impact, however, the Fund keeps a number of other balls in the air. For instance, it's supporting a project to examine UFO reports dating back to World War II and is studying mysterious reports of helicopters in the United Kingdom. There's also a campaign to ensure ongoing media coverage of UFOs.
For those who believe in ghosts but have never seen one, the next best thing may be what professional magician and parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach, Director of San Francisco's Office of Paranormal Investigations, dubs "an entertaining evening of Seance Fiction." For a modest admission and the cost of dinner at a selected restaurant, guests are treated to a lighthearted effort to raise the dead. The hook? All of the restaurants in which the seances are performed are reputedly haunted.
"Our intention is to entertain people," Auerbach explains. "But we're hoping, since we are doing the seances in locations where paranormal phenomena have been reported, that additional things do happen. Of course, the audience won't know what we've caused and what might potentially be caused paranormally by resident ghosts."
In the first round of the war against the New Age, yoga classes were temporarily suspended in a small town in northeastern Georgia. Commissioners from Stevens County and the City of Toccoa voted seven to one to cancel the lessons, following protests from fundamentalist Christians who claimed yoga was a heathen activity akin to devil worship.
Toccoa Mayor Bill Harris was the lone dissenter. The lessons, he says, involve simple stretching and relaxation techniques. "It has nothing to do with religion or anything else. It just makes you feel good."
Harris later called for a public hearing, where the majority of participants came out in favor of yoga. Classes resumed a week later with one minor change: Students were to pay the instructor directly rather than paying the recreation department.
Philip Lawrence, a Toccoa chiropractor who led the fight against yoga, considers that concession a victory for the separation of church and state. "Yoga has hidden behind a veil of innocence, but it's out of the bag now," he says. "God has exposed it for exactly what it is. They get you to mediate and leave your mind blank. When that happens, you had better look out! You open yourself up to demonic invasion and spirits."
Gerald E. McGraw, director of the School of Bible and Theology at Toccoa Falls College, agrees. Over the past 20 years, McGraw says, he has helped hundreds of people who have "come under strange influences" as a result of the occult.