People from all over the nation flooded the Hilton to discuss and learn about all things extraterrestrial at the X-Conference.
by Brooke W. Stanley
The certainty of alien life on Earth is usually not at the top of the list of socially acceptable topics of conversation.
Yet those wishing to delve into such a realm found a sounding board in Gaithersburg this weekend, as people from all over the nation flooded the Hilton to discuss and learn about all things extraterrestrial at the X-Conference.
They seemed as comfortable discussing aliens as they would be discussing the weather.
Between 580 and 590 shelled out $45 a day to hear some of the 25 experts from five different countries talk about everything from government cover-ups to parallel dimensions.
The Paradigm Research Group, a Bethesda-based organization that provides services such as political consulting and fund-raising for researchers and activists involved with extraterrestrial phenomena, organized conference.
The group was founded in 1996 by Montgomery County resident Stephen Bassett, who ran for Congress in 2002 in hopes of drawing attention to the government cover-up of alien incursions.
Connie Guy, of Myersville, said she decided to attend the conference after a speech Bassett made at her church piqued her interest in UFOs.
"I think they're here" Guy said of aliens. " I think they're present. I think they're probably among us"
Guy believes humans can learn a lot from extraterrestrials.
"I believe that the beings that are outside of our awareness can help us because they know a lot of things we have yet to understand" Guy said.
Specifically, she believes extraterrestrials have harnessed energy in a way humans have not, and hopes that such technology can end the world's dependence on oil that has led to extreme human greed.
Guy's husband, Ted Jenkins, also attended the conference but had a less concrete belief in aliens.
"I believe in only the possibility" Jenkins said.
Jenkins said he has seen lights in the sky both in this area and in other parts of the country that move, stop and then change direction. But he is not jumping to any conclusions.
"I've seen things that I couldn't explain" he said. "...I don't know what I saw"
Jenkins said he believes knowledge of other intelligent life forms can be dangerous. An actual sighting of an alien could make someone go crazy, he said.
"It just shakes them out of their environment too much" he said.
Aliens also pose a threat to religious beliefs, Jenkins said.
"The basic idea of extraterrestrials challenges most religions" he said.
Among the vendors selling a plethora of UFO books and videos was Guy Malone, a self-described missionary who moved from Nashville, Tenn. to Roswell, N.M. in 1999 to teach Christianity to people who have had alien encounters.
Malone was selling both his book, "Come Sail Away" and T-shirts that said "A Single Ufologist's Biggest Problem? All the good ones are taken" Taken, as in abducted, Malone explained.
All joking aside, Malone said he believes the beings people describe in alien encounters are actually fallen angels, not extraterrestrials.
The Bible has the oldest and most accurate description of these beings, Malone said. "I do believe the Bible has those answers people are looking for" he said.
Malone, who owns a biblical bookstore in Roswell, said he hopes to keep people away from UFO cult religions, such as Heaven's Gate, which only take people further into dealings with fallen angels.
"Typically the church shuns those type of people so they go somewhere else looking for answers" Malone said.
Rebecca Gordon, who lives in Boulder, Colo., said the conference was one of more than 10 she has attended all over the country and the world.
Gordon, 35, said she saw a UFO while driving just outside of Lake Tahoe in California when she was 17. It was in a valley and shot off into the distance very quickly, she said.
"[It was] just a light in the sky -- nothing exciting, but I knew it wasn't from here, so I started reading about it" Gordon said.
She said she is fascinated by the lack of attention paid to UFOs by both the media and politicians.
"I know that there's some sort of cover-up" Gordon said, adding that she has traveled in many different countries where the issue is addressed more openly.
Gordon said she gains little bits of information here and there at conferences that allow her to piece together her own version of the truth about extraterrestrials.
Keith Gingrus, who came from his home in Connecticut for the conference, said he was just trying to be objective and see where the evidence leads him.
Gingrus, who has been studying the subject in his free time since 1990, said he believes there is some other intelligence or consciousness out there.
"They might have some reason for us being here" he said.
Among the speakers at the event was Philip Corso Jr., the son of the late Col. Philip J. Corso (ret.), who wrote about stewarding the Roswell, N.M., alien artifacts in his book "The Day After Roswell" The book addressed the July 1947 crash of an aircraft many believe to be from another world.
In his Saturday afternoon speech, Corso told a crowd of more than 100 in one conference room that his father, who had nine levels of clearance above top secret in the Army, saw alien bodies.
"He felt that the young people could handle the knowledge of knowing that we have been visited" Corso said.
The government is keeping what happened in Roswell a secret because it would reveal the secret to time travel, Corso said. A UFO is able to achieve time travel by moving simultaneously in many dimensions, he said.
After his speech, more than a dozen people crowded around Corso in a hallway to ask questions.
James Randi, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based investigator of paranormal claims, said Monday he is very familiar with the UFO "believers" who attend such conferences.
"It's very thrilling for some of them to belong to these sort of groups because they have nothing else going for them" he said.
People who seek out other UFO believers are really just trying to find happiness, friendship, companionship and magical answers to the tough questions in life.
"They get a great deal of comfort out of one another's company" he explained.
Randi, who is the author of several books, runs a nonprofit foundation that offers a $1 million reward to anyone who can show evidence of a paranormal or supernatural event in proper observing conditions. A magician by trade, Randi tries to demystify everything from UFOs to faith healing.
He said learning magic has taught him how people can be misinformed by their sensory systems. People see things in the sky all the time that they don't understand, he said.
"That doesn't mean that a UFO comes from extraterrestrial sources" he said.
While Randi said the existence of life on other planets is mathematically "inescapable" UFO believers have yet to show proof of intelligent life, not to mention intelligent life that has visited Earth.
Randi said he believes people who speak at UFO conferences either believe themselves, are trying to scam people for money, or a bit of both.