JAMES WEST/SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
COURTESY OF STANTON FRIEDMAN
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The physicist and the flying saucers
Mysteries: Famed ufologist's celebrity soars among the stars
Published Saturday September 1st, 2007
Appeared on page A1
FREDERICTON - The galaxy's greatest authority on flying saucers sits in a white wicker chair in his living room, books and videos about unidentified flying objects at his feet.
"If you told me in the early 1960s that I'd turn into a full-time ufologist, I would have laughed my head off," Stanton T. Friedman, a former nuclear physicist who was honoured with a proclamation this week by the City of Fredericton, says. "I preferred science and people, not science fiction.
"But how can you not believe?"
If not New Brunswick's favourite son, Stan Friedman is certainly among its most famous. For 40 years, Carl Sagan's former classmate at the University of Chicago has lived in Fredericton while trying to convince the world of the existence of invaders from outer space.
"I have never seen a flying saucer and I have never seen an alien, but I have talked to people who have," Friedman says. He is 73, has white hair and a white beard and chatters at warp speed. "I am still an optimist."
A native of Linden, a burg on the New Jersey Turnpike 18 miles from New York City, Friedman has lived in his wife's hometown on the St. John River for 27 years. He is one of the few people actually able to say he moved from New Brunswick - where he attended Rutgers University for two years - to New Brunswick.
"I've never regretted moving here, not for a minute," Friedman says. "I feel I have been lucky and blessed to live here, and I'm grateful for the support I have received. I can't imagine that a guy who's a nuclear physicist and a UFO expert has ever had a day named for them."
An expert in nuclear aircraft fission, fusion rockets and power plants for space travel, Friedman worked 14 years on advanced and highly classified projects for General Electric, General Motors, Westinghouse, TRW and McDonnell Douglas, among others.
He has given lectures on flying saucers at 600 universities over the last four decades, has testified for Congress and spoken at the United Nations twice and has appeared on television shows around the world.
"I must admit that I am a people person and I enjoy being on stage," he says. "But I am not doing it for free mugs from Larry King."
The original civilian investigator of the Roswell incident, considered the most definitive UFO event in history, Friedman has appeared in an Archie's comic strip and has been on King's show two different times. Over the years, he has also chatted up Mike Douglas, Steve Allen, Tom Snyder and Sally Jesse Raphael, and has appeared on Nightline and Canada A.M., and was a guest of Merv Griffin's twice.
"I really liked Merv," Friedman says. "I was expecting the Zsa Zsa thing, but he was one of the sharpest interviewers I ever met. After one show, I told him how much I appreciated the level of discourse.
"He was very intelligent, and always tried to make his guests feel at home. He ran his show like an after-dinner conversation among friends."
Friedman's scientific background, years of navigating through thousands of documents and hundreds of interviews with witnesses led him to the conclusion that aliens are more than a myth.
"After a while, you get used to the nasty, noisy negativists and the ancient academics,'' he says. "And years ago, I got angry at the government officials who were lying through their teeth.
"It got me started on a crusade, in a way. I'm a good detective when I set out to be."
Currently working on his fourth book, Friedman has talked about extraterrestrials on the Learning Channel, History Channel, Sci-Fi Channel and Space TV. An episode of Unsolved Mysteries that he instigated on the Roswell incident has been shown twice, and ranked as the most-watched segment in the show's 15-years.
"With UFOs, most sighting can be explained as something else,'' he says. "And while most that have been investigated, were indeed, explainable - what is interesting is that the observations people made and the descriptions they provided were very accurate.
"According to what I've read, the better the quality of the evidence gathered, the more likely an incident is to be categorized as unexplained. There are people out there - credible people - who have seen things but most are afraid to come forward with the information.
"They want to validate their observations, but don't want to risk anything. They're afraid people are going to think they are nuts."
Friedman just returned from Roswell, where he was the guest speaker at the 60th anniversary celebration of the day the U.S. Army claimed to have recovered a flying saucer. The U.S. military quickly backtracked and identified the object that crashed on a ranch in New Mexico as a weather balloon, but the announcement set in motion a debate that still rages today.
"They love me in Roswell,'' Friedman says ."This has turned into a gold mine for them. The museum there - 200 miles from Albuquerque, Amarillo and El Paso - has drawn more than two million people.
"I'm an attraction in places like these. I have a lot of fans out there."
On Monday, Friedman's normally quiet street in Fredericton was invaded by satellite trucks belonging to radio and television stations clamouring to interview him. He did four interviews on Wednesday over the course of 12 hours, another for nearly three hours on Thursday, and has speeches to give in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Detroit, Edmonton and Colorado in the next month.
"A lot of people just figure I am in this for the money because they see me on all these TV shows,'' he says. "But they don't realize I don't get paid for those appearances. When I did the Larry King Show, they paid the airfare but the only other thing I got out of it was a coffee mug.
"OK, and maybe a million dollars' worth of publicity."
Friedman invites a visitor to his den.
"The fun stuff is over there," he says.
A minute later, he is standing in a room with a fireplace and a piano - and bookshelves lined with volumes about UFOs. Aged copies of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and Tolstoy's War and Peace rest atop bookcases crammed with titles such as UFOs Are Real, The UFO Evidence, The UFO Enigma, and the UFO Encyclopedias, A-K and L-Z.
He picks up a lifetime achievement award he received earlier this month in Denver from the Mutual UFO Network.
"I was overwhelmed," he says. "It was a total surprise."
The Oscar-like statue shows an alien wearing sneakers and holding a cane.
"Some people have quite an imagination,'' he says, chuckling. "I expect this little guy to break into song and dance any minute."
There is also a lamp in the shape of a UFO, a bottle of unfiltered UFO wheat beer, an alien candle and the bust of an alien sent to him by a fan.
"It's a strange world we live in," he says.
Then, "I can dig up some photos of UFOs if you like.'' He heads for the basement and returns with a folder full of pictures he has collected over the years.
"I only use old UFO pictures," he says. "Today, any 14-year-old with a computer can make one."
He picks up a photo of an alleged flying saucer seen in Oregon in 1950, a second that looks like a wind-blown hat from Yugoslavia in the mid-1960s, then a third ship in the shape of the planet Saturn that in the 1950s was captured on film off the coast of Brazil.
"Forty-three sailors all saw that one," he says. "Four hours later the government said it was a weather balloon."
Marty Klinkenberg is contributing editor of The Telegraph-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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