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The History and Psychological Effects of UFOs on the American People

Throughout man's recorded history, from all different kinds of people around the world, people witnessed (or believed that they witnessed) flying objects or even strange creatures, which they called Gods, Demons, or monsters such as bigfoot, gremlins, unicorns and millions of other things as far as the imagination can imagine. The most common belief is that there is something unknown out there, mainly because there are too many people that say they saw something. The most reasonable answer given could be that it is a psychological problem that causes millions of people to see things that aren't really there such as mass hallucinations. Even though there have been many reports of UFOs in the U.S. in the last sixty years, there are still many skeptics who don't believe the evidence of photographs and videos. Nevertheless, this still does not explain the problem of people witnessing UFOs.

The first modern history of UFOs (otherwise known as the UFO Era) officially began in 1947, even though the first reported sighting started coming from Europe (from France, Norway, Sweden, and a few other countries) in World War II by hundreds of fighter pilots (Cohens 14). UFOs have been identified as swamp gas, balls of lightning, secret government aircrafts, illusions, hoaxes, natural and human-made phenomena, psychic projections, holographs, weather balloons, visitors from another dimension, and of course the people's most famous idea that they are extraterrestrials from another planet. Unfortunately, most of the sightings do not have enough proof to determine what they really were. Even if UFOs were only figments of the people's (those who say they seen, communicated with, or been kidnapped by UFO occupants) imagination, the mere fact that those people believe in them can no longer be ignored in a health conscious society (Fitzgerald 3-4).

In June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold sighted nine disk-shaped objects flying and hovering. Kenneth Arnold was an experienced private pilot (who knew a lot about airplanes at that time), and he was flying his plane from Chehalis to Yakima, Washington when he sighted the objects (Cohens 21-22). At that particular day, he was looking for a Marine C46 plane that crashed in the area of the Cascade Mountains, mainly because there was a reward of $5,000 dollars for the first one to find the plane. While he was looking for a crashed plane below him, he first saw a bright bluish-white light that blinded him and lit up the whole plane. He had a good long look at each of the nine objects when the light died down and he could see the dark gray objects with the white snow behind them (Clarke 171-272). Later he reported saying to the reporters that he saw the objects quite distinctly in details and said, "I could see their outline quite plainly as they approached the mountain. They were flat like a pie-pan and so shiny that they reflected the sun like a mirror." He also estimated that the objects were going 1,700 miles an hour (which is three times faster than anything known at that time) and were flying at 9,500 feet (Ortzen 13). After that, Kenneth Arnold got much unwanted publicity from all parts of the world, mainly because Ray Palmer wrote many stories about Mr. Arnold and his sighting in his international magazines. In the articles by Ray Palmer, he coined the phrase "flying saucer," because Mr. Arnold described the objects going at high speeds, going up and down "like a saucer skipping over water." The term UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) was not originated until much later. Even though Kenneth Arnold sighting was the first of a "flood" of sightings, it might have caused many people to start playing jokes on other people and also help spark people's imaginations (Cohens 13).

On January 7, 1948, people of the area near Louisville, Kentucky saw a weird, silvery, cone-shaped object in the sky. Immediately after that, many of them called the nearby Goodman Air Force Base. The men in the control tower of Goodman Air Force Base also saw the object. And, they sent three Air National Guard F-5 airplanes to check on the object. In the lead plane was Captain Thomas Mantell who was a very experienced pilot. He radioed the control tower that every time they neared the object it increased its speed and went into a different direction. All the pilots became excited every time that they tried to "catch" the UFO. Captain Mantell even tried to climb to twenty thousand feet to get closer to the object without oxygen equipment. Captain Mantell presumably blacked-out due to lack of oxygen and his plane crashed head on into the ground with him still in it. UFOs might have been a joke before, but after the death of Captain Mantell, few people were laughing anymore. And soon after that, the people of America became panicky that the UFOs might be hostile and even more reports of UFOs started to appear.

In 1952, a larger amount of UFOs were reported all over the world. This was later called the 1952 Wave, but the term that the newspapers used to attract readers was "The Big Flap". In 1952, the number of reported UFO sightings to the Air Force rose to an all time high to 1,501. In 1951, there were only 189 sights; and in 1950, there were only 210 reported sightings. Many scientists (including some that worked for the Air Force) now believe that the number of sightings reported was only a fraction of the sightings all over the world, but no other country gave information on how many sightings were reported within their own country. On June 1, 1952, a Californian radar picked up a fleet of UFOs invading the U.S. from the Pacific Ocean, but no other radars in that area reported anything. On June 15, 1952, there were a large group of reports all throughout Virginia of flying lights. On July 5, 1952, about four hundred or more people on a beach in Chicago saw "a large red light with small white lights on the side" that passed directly over them and made a 180 degree turn and disappeared over the water. There were hundreds of other reports like these, including from Boston, Dayton, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and many other places, but no proof was ever found. The true Big Flap started in July 10, 1952, when eight UFOs were sighted by two different radars, and they were flying at "fantastic speeds," over the nationís capitol of Washington D.C.. These same sightings repeated in Washington D.C. for a few more nights at about twenty minutes before midnight each time. On one of the nights, the operators at the Washington National Airport could spot "a huge fiery orange sphere" hover only hundreds of feet away from the control tower. At the same time the top officials of the Air Force, including President Harry Truman, were deeply worried about the so-called "invasion" of the nation's capital. By the time the UFOs completely disappeared from Washington D.C., both the people and the government were concerned about UFOs. By this time, something had to be done about the UFO problem (Cohens 21-23).

The second and last UFO Wave was in 1965, also known as the 1965 Flap. One of the major sighting that year was the "Exter Incident" when a UFO was reported many times by different people. This UFO was chasing at least two civilian cars on the road. This UFO even chased a police car with two officers in it, who described it as two metal saucers on each other with different color lights on it, it made no noise, and it was less than fifty feet above the car. The Pentagon completely disbelieved the reports and marked them off as a hoax or people that saw the UFO was suffering from mass hysteria. After this incident, many people started taking shot guns (and other weapons), when they traveled away from the cities, mainly out of fear and because they just wanted to shoot down a UFO or something that looks like one. Another major sighting of that year was when Astronaut James McDivitt saw a white cylindrical shape with a white pole sticking out of it, while in space in the Gemini 4 space probe. On June 4, 1965, Astronaut McDivitt saw the UFO and had enough time to take two photographs which was taken away by the government (believed by the Pentagon or Air Force) and was never seen again. When the astronaut told his story to his family and reporters, they thought that he was crazy, and he did eventually become senile in a few years (Fowler 39-40, 84). In the month of August was the largest amount of reported sightings that ever happened in any other month, but after September, the UFO sighting decreased drastically way below the average of normal years (Ortzen 133).

On September 19, 1961, a couple left a small roadside restaurant. The two were Barney Hill, an employee of the nearby post office, and his wife Betty Hill, who was a social worker. On that evening, Betty Hill first noticed a light in the sky that was growing larger and brighter. Then they both argued for a while on what the object was. At one point, Barney Hill stopped the car on the side of the road and tried to spot the following light with a pair of binoculars. He first saw a large object with a fuselage (with flashing lights on it), but it had no wings or propeller nor was there any noise coming from the object. He got back into the car and drove on towards Cannon Mountain. The object disappeared behind the mountain and reappeared at the other side in a matter of seconds. Betty Hill used the binoculars to only spot windows on the object and all of a sudden the car stalled and the engine wouldn't start again. Barney Hill then used the binoculars to see the windows that his wife saw, but as the object came closer, he could spot six creatures at the windows, as the ship landed near their car. A ramp came down from the UFO and that was all either of them remembered. They both became conscious in their car thirty-five miles further along the road and with no sign of the UFO. This made a two hour gap in both of their memories. For weeks later, the couple suffered from bad headaches, nightmares, amnesia, and this finally forced them to tell the police, who sent them to the doctors to see what was wrong with them. Under hypnotherapy, they both revealed what happened to them for those two blank hours. Under hypnosis, they both gave the same long and elaborate story of being examined by aliens, even though they were separated during hypnosis. It is believed that both of the Hills were honest in telling the truth, because they were under hypnosis at the time and couldn't tell a lie unless told to. This made it harder for government investigators to prove that this as a hoax, because they were suffering from physical and emotional illnesses, which could be used as proof of UFO existence. The government wrote the Hills off as good liars and/or actors putting on a hoax or both were suffering from a mental disease (Ortzen 133).

Kimberly Baker was only six years old when she saw a UFO on the afternoon of April 23, 1975, and nobody else saw it or was able to shake her story. She was out in a large field picking flowers with two older cousins who went into the house to get a pair of scissors and something to hold the flowers in. When they left, Kimberly went looking around for more flowers when she saw an object that landed several yards away. She described it big as "daddy's car but higher" and was a "bubble or big ball" with a window and an outline of a door. Her parents contacted Mr. King (a UFO investigator), who tried to "shake" her story by giving her incorrect information about what she saw, but Kimberly corrected him every time. Kimberly was asked many questions (sometimes some repeated more than once) to see if her story would change, but the only time it changed was when Mr. King asked her if she was scared. She replied that see was scared "but not after the man smiled at me." She described the man in the window like her daddy or Rene (a friend of her father) and the man also winked at her and said something that she didn't understand. This man was also wearing a bubble on his head and wore "shiny white clothes." Kimberly then led them to the spot where she saw her "bubble." In an area of fifteen feet in diameter, the ground was completely compressed like there was something heavy on it, like a large truck, but there were no tire markings coming or going from that area. She also stated that a dog also saw it and barked at it (neighbors confirmed that their "mongrel husky was barking that day" which was unusual for him to do that) (Fowler 39-40, 84). The question is how a little girl saw a UFO when she never even heard of a UFO, flying saucer, or anything related to her story before (Fowler 39-40,84).

On most of the reported sightings, the government thought that the people that saw the UFOs saw an illusion; but contrary to what most people believe, illusions are very common. Mainly because it just doesnít affect people with mental problems or young children, but the people that usually see illusions of any type are usually on a formation of their religion and other personal believes or even an abstract of an idea that was just learned and is fresh in the mind. Illusions is just letting peopleís imaginations run loose and out of control to the point where they are really believing their illusions (Freud 685).

In past ages, people all over the world have seen or imagined strange creatures and their flying machines; but in today's society, people believe that these creatures are from another planet or there just peopleís imaginations playing tricks on them (Cohens 137-140). The questions that need to be answered is how people of the past saw creatures and lights in the sky that are still being seen today and still cannot be scientifically explained? And can a health conscious society ignore these sightings (Fowler 39-40, 84)?

by Phil for Humanity
on 10/03/2009


  1. Berlitz, Charles and Moore, William L. The Roswell Incident. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1980.
  2. Clarke, Arthur C. Mysterious World. New York: A & W Publishers Inc., 1980.
  3. Cohens, Daniel. A Close Look at Close Encounters. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1981.
  4. Cohens, Daniel. The World of UFOs. Philadelphia and New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1978.
  5. Fowler, Raymond E. Casebook of a UFO Investigator. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1981.
  6. Freud, Sigmund and Gay, Peter. The Freud Reader. London: Norton and Company, 1989.
  7. Ortzen, Len. Strange Stories of UFOs. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1977.

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