As Mirage Men discovers, central tenets of the UFO belief system turn out to have far earthlier origins. Mysterious cattle mutilations in 1970s New Mexico turn out to have been officials furtively investigating radiation in livestock after they’d conducted an ill-advised experiment in underground “nuclear fracking”.
Test pilots for the military’s experimental silent helicopters admit to attaching flashing lights to their craft to fool civilians.
Doty himself comes across as a slippery character, to say the least.
“He remains an absolute enigma,” says Mark Pilkington, writer of the book Mirage Men, the basis for the documentary.
He found the retired Doty working as a traffic cop in a small New Mexico town.
“Some of what he said was true and I’m sure a lot of it wasn’t, or was a version of the truth. I have no doubt Rick was at the bottom of a ladder that stretches all the way to Washington. It’s unclear to what extent he was following orders and to what taking matters into his own hands.”
Doty almost admits to having had a hand in supposedly leaked “classified” documents, such as the “Majestic 12” dossier – spilling the beans on a secret alien liaison committee founded by President Truman.
But he denies involvement in the “Project Serpo” papers – which claimed that 12 American military personnel paid a secret visit to an alien planet in the Zeta Reticuli system – only to be caught out as the source of the presumed hoax.
The Serpo scenario, it has been noted, is not unlike the plot of Steven Spielberg‘s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
- Does that suggest that the forgers lazily copied the movie?
- Or that the movie is based on real events and Spielberg was in on the conspiracy?
Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Photograph: The Kobal Collection
The place of movies in the grand UFO conspiracy is a tricky area.
Depending on which theory you subscribe to, Hollywood’s steady stream of sci-fi is either a deliberate exaggeration, designed to make the “truth” look unbelievable (the “you’ve been watching too many movies” defence), or it’s a way of psychologically preparing the populace for staggering alien secrets yet to be revealed.
There are at least grounds for suspicion in the latter camp.
Mark Pilkington points to the CIA’s Psychological Strategy Board, founded after the second world war to promote U.S. propaganda. Associated with the board was veteran film producer Darryl Zanuck.
In 1951, Zanuck executive-produced seminal alien-visitation sci-fi The Day the Earth Stood Still, often cited as a government-sanctioned testing of the waters for alien contact.
Like Zanuck, the film’s writer, Edmund North, was ex-military, while director Robert Wise apparently became a UFO believer on account of discussions he had with Washington figures during the making of the movie.
Steven Spielberg is a less likely government stooge, though he has been obsessed by aliens his entire career, from Close Encounters and ET up to War of the Worlds and the last Indiana Jones film (not forgetting his producer role in Falling Skies, Transformers and, er, Men in Black).
If anyone’s paving the way for the big reveal, it’s Spielberg, but, after 30 years of paving, we’re still waiting.
Mirage Men finds an even more extreme example in the form of industry veteran Robert Emenegger, who claims that in 1971 he was approached by the Pentagon to make a film revealing,
“what the government really knows”.
The Pentagon’s big lure was that they would let him incorporate top-secret footage of an alien craft landing at Holloman Air Force Base in the 1960s.
Predictably, the footage never materialized but Emenegger – no less cryptic a character than Richard Doty – claims to have seen it, and still believes alien contact has been established.
He went ahead and made his documentary:
UFOs – Past, Present And Future
Presented by Rod “Twilight Zone” Serling, it culminates in a rather anti-climactic “reconstruction” of the Holloman UFO landing.
In the cold light of the post-cold war, the evidence is starting to look pretty shaky for UFOs. Numbers at UFO conventions and clubs are dwindling. The UK’s Ministry of Defence closed its UFO desk in 2009, and, like many countries, has declassified its UFO documents.