“Contact In The Desert” — A UFO Lovefest

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Faced with the enormity of human impact on earth, extraterrestrial life is looking more appealing. At least, that is the view of some who attended ‘Contact In The Desert,’ a four-day conference that took place mid-August at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center

Bennett Stein, aka The GOOD4NOTHING CONNOISEUR, attended this be-in for UFO consciousness-seekers and first-hand recountings of close encounters of the 3rd kind.

He went armed with skepticism but says that weeks later, he is still recovering from a near out-of-body experience, not to mention an affection for retro-UFO style, from cigar-shaped burritos to spacecraft in the form of bowler hats, winged teacups and saucers.

Let’s start with who was there. 2,000 true believers had descended on the Joshua Tree Retreat Center in the scorching 108-degree heat to hear personal accounts from UFO A-Listers, including Travis Walton, the Arizona logger who claims to have been abducted; Dr. Lynne D. Kitei, expert on the “Phoenix Lights,” a 1997 mass sighting in Arizona; Nick ‘I’m Not A Whistleblower’ Pope, a former top official in the UK Ministry Of Defense; Dr. Erik Von Daniken, longtime proponent of extraterrestrial influences on early human culture, explored in his book Chariots of the Gods; and Glenn Steckling, director of the George Adamski Foundation, founded in 1965 to catalogue “UFO’s and Extraterrestrial Visitations dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.”


Woodstock for the Saucer Set

UFO-ers make for a very lively subculture, in fact, with a rather diverse membership, ranging from conspiracy-minded-scientist-philosopher-hippie-anarchists to your kindly granny-type baking sumptuous-smelling snicker-doodles next door.

On one hand it was Woodstock for the Saucer Set with lots of tie-dye, yoga-wear, chakra alignment clinics, vegan chow caravans and Indian flute muzak. One out of three sported gung-ho, space-camper Birkenstocks-with-white-socks chic., and many of the UFO scenesters flaunted the outdoorsy hiker in the Adirondacks with ski pole walking sticks in L.L Bean gear swagger. Clearly, for many of the conferees, UFO-consciousness is a lifestyle choice.

Between all the anachronistic style choices and the space-time continuum being smelted down along with my frying brain circuits upon the anvil of the desert sun, I frankly forgot what decade we were in.

But here’s the part that threw me—a small contingent of these true believers are passionately bright, and quite impressively credentialed, and staunchly unified in their unwavering conviction that alien civilizations are a slam dunk – and are convinced it’s only a matter of months before the rest of earth wakes up to reality.

IMG_0243 The Sweet Smell of Resentment

In every seminar room and mixer I partook of, however, I began to smell the saucer crowd’s distinct cologne of persecution and resentment at being marginalized and ridiculed down the decades. Erich Von Daniken, the keynote speaker, echoed the sentiment, turning it into a full-throated battle cry in what I fancied to be Carl Jung’s grandfatherly whole grain Swiss accent (he turns 80 next spring). “Fear not being ridiculed and being labeled ‘not serious’,” he repeatedly bellowed. Have civil courage!”

Pre-order your Space Whip and Rims Today

At the conference there were a great many talks and panels where photos and renderings of UFOs were displayed as various panelists stated that it’s common knowledge E.T.s have been among us for 270 million years. Many spewed what are termed ‘Anunnuki creation stories’ and displayed Power Point maps and satellite pics of well-documented ruins of ancient colonies with once thriving space tech industrial facilities, earth bases on down to alien-built vortex sites.

Then we were slimed with—I mean, treated to–more talk of alien interbreeding with ancient humans and how they schooled us in all jet pack-related engineering savvy over the millennia.

And it turns out there is a wide variety of iconic design shapes for inter-dimensional spacecraft, as shown in the images on this page. I say inter-dimensional as it seems some UFOs fly not just through outer space and across our blue skies above but also through membranes in the fabric of the universe, and jump dimensions back and forth in time spanning hundreds of thousands of years.


On a sheer design level, though, one came away with a head-spinning sense of the endless variants of design specificity of UFO spacecraft. Golly gee willickers, they come in all shapes and sizes from cosmic cigar, giant V, blinking triangle, golden swirling ball, bowler hat to winged teacups and saucers.

I saw so many renderings and photos and films of UFO craft, I began to wonder, where can I pre-order one of these shiny hyper-sonic transport doozy-ma-whatsits? Can I install a Dr. Dre Beats woofer and tweeter sound system to blast my old Sun Ra ‘Space Is The Place’ Arkestra and Hawkwind vinyl?

And can I order the sport coup hyperspace racer, or should I be an adult and just order the family model space-van-cargo-satellite-sweeper to transport my daughter on her play dates to meteor-shower-theme parks? It was one heck of an international UFO conference as car convention. I scoured the program for a spaceship driver’s ed workshop.


Welcome to the Epicenter of Disclosure

I hid my anxiousness and ordered a cigar UFO-shaped burrito, thinking I’d come back to my senses just as a hippie-chick in goddess couture came up offering a variety of rainbow-fractaling crystals with which to contact the alien power deity of my dreams through the portal of my third eye. I was trying to be open while displaying unbiased skepticism.

She echoed the tattooed hippie chick who had been introduced at the top of the day to the crowd in the searing amphitheatre as ‘Missy Galore.’ “We are not alone,” Ms. Galore intoned. “Welcome to the epicenter of disclosure.” And then she commanded, “Close your eyes, count to ten, tune into world consciousness. We are the wayshowers, the transition team, here by divine appointment.” Wow, that’s beyond groovy but–hang on there, Missy, would it be too much to ask for separation of church and UFO? I’m open to hearing first hand accounts of face-offs with the space people, but don’t start telling me that space beings are gods or angels in UFO drag who have come to teach us the ways of intergalactic love. (Even if that is true, I want to discover it for myself).

I started to fret though when Dr. Von Daniken started to transliterate biblical era natural disasters and comet sightings into armadas of ancient saucer craft, all come down to have their sexy stewardesses interbreed with the patriarchs of the Judeo-Christian Old Testament. Though I’m starting to see those 70s Isaac Hays albums like ‘Black Moses’ and Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ in a new light.

I mean I love Funkadelic, the band, don’t get me wrong, and all and fantasies of space discotheques on flotillas of snazzed-out motherships, but smokin’ E.T. babes taking our partriarchs’ seed and spawning E.T./homo sapien ‘hybrids?’ Well now, that is a mindful.

Skeptic-In-Chief Shaken, Even Stirred

Then came the moment where I buckled, I say as the self-appointed Skeptic-In-Chief holding his nose, avoiding eye contact with all the attendees. More to the point, I mean to say, I was nudged off my smug-disbeliever perch and onto reluctant fence-sitter position.

I’m shocked to admit it. Go ahead, ridicule away, Swift Boat me, splish-splash, into the bog of mental-defective shame as you slam down your airtight case files on the prosecutor’s table to prove your conviction that space people, beyond a reasonable doubt, are a mass hallucination, an OCD fantasy, adhered to only by drug addicts, losers and commie preverts.

The point is, you get swayed subtly, gradually, into the stance of, if not a true believer, then at least an open-minded reconsiderer.

Geoff stein at ufo conferenceFor me this was thanks to the most affecting speaker I saw, a one Travis Walton (left, with Jeff Stein, film director and brother of the author), who spoke softly in Noble Hall. He’s the guileless, gentle and gentlemanly Arizona logger gent who upon leaving a forest logging camp on Nov. 5, 1975, near Flagstaff in a pick-up truck with a half dozen fellow loggers, just post shift, when they got distracted by the piercing high beams of a spacecraft, it turns out, conducting routine earth reconnaissance maneuvers in a thick stand of pines near a rut-riven logging road.

Young Travis, famous for never NOT chasing a grizzly bear who might wonder into a work camp–burst from the pick up and got in the way of a plasma beam that zapped him to immortality as his panic-struck buddies–assuming he’d been waxed and that they were next–fled the scene.

Travis’ disappearance spurred the hugest manhunt in history, one that lasted four days. The incident turned the world upside down and into a white trash Fellini movie that had higher ratings than 18-month-old Baby Jessica’s tumble down that well in Midlands Texas in October, 1987. The local sheriff’s deputies meanwhile were convinced Travis had been murdered by his logging lunkheads, and thus made up a wild UFO abduction story to conceal their foul play. Travis reappeared on a remote highway miles from the abduction site four nights later.

Travis’s abduction turned into an all out media circus that pitted believers against nonbelievers, an ordeal that pushed Travis to the limit as he got called every insult in the book. Twenty years later Paramount Pictures made a movie of Travis’ ordeal called “Fire In The Sky.” I sensed he wished the incident had never happened.

Dressed like a homicide detective from Oklahoma City with classic copper’s moustache with cringe-making, mismatched dress shirt, tie and sport coat, he stood out as the most vulnerable speaker at the ‘Contact’ conference. He was a true everyman, the type of guy you’re up for getting a beer with and then voting in as next president of the U.S.A. He was very personable, gracious, and movingly funny thanks to his unbearable humility and sweet, slightly touched uncle glow that roused one’s maternal and protective instincts.

I tried my darndest to mock my upwellings of such sentiments and mash them back down as so much sappy hokum. But in my heart, I became Kevin Costner to Travis’ inner Whitney Houston.

Travis is either a masterful, excellently well-coached phony out to make a fast buckerooney, or he was, in fact, abducted by a UFO scout craft because it inadvertently injured him. And so it then was obligated to take him aboard, shuttling him to a mother ship organic tissues restoration space clinic to repair him, before setting him loose back in the earth human wilds.

IMG_0190A Transference Takes Hold

Then, much to my chagrin, a slight transference began to take hold of me: Travis’ ordeal started to become my ordeal. I suddenly found myself in an extreme state of duress, thinking irrational thoughts like, gosh, what else did the aliens do to me when I was—I mean, Travis–was on board that mother… ship?

I became gradually disarmed, my ten-inch thick city slicker, steel and titanium, smartass-cynicism cloak disintegrating into mere dust and cinder on the floor. Even when he spoke of moments of contact with the space medics aboard the hospital spaceship’s sickbay, there was no embellishment. Just relatable humanity as he self-deprecatingly said things like, “I just was grabbing for something—anything, these crystal tubes off a table, to hit them away with.”

I think if he was putting it on, at this juncture here he would have spoken about how they were telepathically beckoning him to the temple of space-brotherly love, etc. But instead he just downplayed the look of the aliens’ enlarged heads, half mocking them. He laughed at himself saying he’d just wanted to fight them, punch them and run away. He relived how profoundly disorienting and unromantic the ordeal was. The way his muscles tensed and twitched, reliving each detail, the guy was not acting. Unless he’s Daniel Day Lewis in a Travis Walton costume, then I would allow for what I witnessed as Oscar-worthy.

Cigar-shaped UFO1Stunningly, the man behaves like he’s still cheesed off at his alien abductors. He has clearly not yet forgiven them–40 years on. When he got to the part where just after he’d been repaired, he was irritable and could not grasp what the aliens were trying to convey to him. He described how suddenly a strange, but friendly, humanized version of the aliens, dressed like Travis himself in jeans and flannel, suddenly appeared to gently point to the ramp and walk Travis part way down. He looked back to see the creature’s final wave goodbye.

It’s over a month later and I’m still wrestling with Travis’ story. The amazing thing is, even respected scientists — from Carl Sagan on up to the loveably brilliant and hip Neal Degrasse Tyson—have been saying, we are not alone, which was the other unofficial mantra of this UFO conference.

I’m still on the fence, like most citizens of the third stone from the sun I hang with. With all the billions of galaxies packed with billions of suns and billions of planets just like ours that the Hubble and other research telescopes and infrared spectrometers keep discovering, can we really be the only one singing, “stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again,” watching Simpsons reruns?

With all the mad, unquenchable life and bacteria riots teeming on our planet, in our oceans, sewage treatment plants and on the keypad of that cheap motel remote you’re clutching surely there just has to be a few planets, or few dozen, or few dozen million that have similar organismic conditions to earth’s capable of evolving life and species of beings not so dissimilar to that open-carry Kentucky kid who, peering into the barrel of his thirty-ought-six, shot off the tip of his nose the other day.

On other planets maybe it’s the lower orders of species that monopolize the grey matter.

On planet X it’s the cows, say, that are the master technocrats who run things on the backs of massive people farms, where they harvest human milk to nurture their cow babies, and human meat and offal constitute the best dishes on the cow planet’s finest 5-star steak house rows.

On Planet Y, it’s the snakes that rule, and humans are used for transport like domesticated camels. On planet Z the superpowers putting the planet to the brink of nuclear incineration are the mosquitos vs. the cockroaches — a cold war ratcheting up as a Putin-type head roach on the red roach phone to the alpha mosquito in the ovum office as star-nosed moles serve human plasma jello shots. Other planetary hierarchies are yours for the wondering.

Seriously, get William Burroughs’ mugwump on the horn and set phasers on stun. Meanwhile please feel free to consider all shapes and sizes when selecting your customized flying saucer.

Thanks to the following for listening in – all high-ranking officials of the NRO, NSA, CIA, FBI, MI6, USAF, US NAVY, GNC, KKK, DNC, FDA, FAA, SAG, WGA, DGA, NFL, NBA and all other propaganda departments of the USA military entertainment complex — and you.

Safe flying and dimension-jumping, everyone.


Images, from top: 1, Photograph displayed at the George Adamski Foundation exhibit at the conference; 2, First meet of the self-described “watchmen/guardians of sky” in the “Amphitheater Landing Site” at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center; 3, Conference display of flying saucer people ancestor ruins; 4, Declassified saucer escort probe of a 1960s passenger airline, from Aliens-Everything-You-Want-To-Know.com; 5, Nick Pope discussing Rendlesham UFO incident; 6, Famous UFO abductee, Travis Walton with attendee Jeff Stein; 7, Police sketch artist rendering of alien encountered by Travis Walton; 8, Rendering of cigar-shaped UFO, from Aliens-Everything-You-Want-To-Know.com; 9, 2014 ‘Contact In The Desert’ banner w/highway, celestial bodies and UFOs.