UFOs and the US Government – The Paranormal Podcast 808

An exhaustive history of the US government’s investigation into UFOs has just been released by Pulitzer Prize finalist Garrett Graff. Garrett joins us to give us the inside story in this fascinating discussion.

You can find his new book, UFO: The Inside Story of the US Government’s Search for Alien Life Here―and Out There, at Amazon: https://amzn.to/49NzxxJ

Thanks Garrett!


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[0:00] We’ve got a biggie today. We’re going to talk about the new book, “UFO: The Inside Story of the U.S. Government’s Search for Alien Life Here– and Out There.
And our guest is Pulitzer Prize finalist, Garrett Graff. And it starts right now.

[0:16] Music.

[0:21] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ This is the Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold.

Thanks so much for joining us today on the Paranormal Podcast, and I’m super excited. Thanksgiving is coming up in the States, and we’re grateful for you and great guests.
We’re going to talk with a very, very accomplished writer, Pulitzer Prize finalist, Garrett Graff, about his new book, “UFO: The Inside Story of the U.S.Government’s Search for Alien Life Here– and Out There.
But first, I want to tell you about something else that’s big, not quite as big as being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, but we’ve got a big sale going on right now at our Mausoleum of Merch.
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Click on Etsy and you can see all that cool stuff and get the deal with that coupon code BLACKFRIDAY23 and your purchases support our show.
But you’re here to hear this interview, and it’s a good one.
I think you’ll really enjoy it. Here it is.

I’m really excited about this because I think this is an important project.
We’re going to talk about an important guest.
Because the topic of UFOs, now they’re called UAPs all of a sudden, I think it’s one of great importance, whether you’re a believer, whether you’re a skeptic, or whether you’re agnostic.

[2:36] We’re actually talking about the new book just out, the “UFO: The Inside Story of the US Government’s Search for Alien Life Here–and Out There”.
And our guest is the author Garrett M. Graf, who has written this book, along with many other successful books.
Actually, his book, “Watergate: A New History” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history.
He spent nearly two decades covering politics, technology, and national security.
He is the former editor of Politico and contributor to Wired and CNN.
He’s written for publications from Esquire to Rolling Stone to the New York Times, and today serves as the director of the Cyber Initiative at the Aspen Institute.
His other books include The FBI History, “The Threat Matrix”, “Raven Rock”.

[3:29] That was about the government’s Cold War doomsday plan. I’ve got to read that one, and New York Times bestsellers, “The Only Plane in the Sky”, and as we mentioned before, “Watergate: A New History”.
And that book again, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History, what an accomplishment. Garrett Graff, thank you for joining us today.

Oh, it’s my pleasure. I’m looking forward to this conversation.

So, okay, you are, you know, you came very close to winning the Pulitzer Prize.
You’ve had multiple New York Times bestsellers.
You do serious books on serious subjects.
Maybe a David McCullough for our time, so to speak. So my question is to you, a lot of people would say, well, why would you take on something as wacky as UFOs? Why did you decide to take on the subject of UFOs and write this 500-page history?

[4:20] It’s a great question, but it’s actually not, I think, as strange a topic as one might first think.
And of course, your podcast and your work is a testament to the enduring interest and public fascination of this and adjacent topics.
But my goal with this book is – so let me try to back up and tell you where this book began for me, which is in December 2020, John Brennan gave an interview to a journalist that I like named Tyler Cowen who –, uh asked him about sort of this wave of UFO reporting that we have seen over the years since 2017 which is when as you probably remember the New York Times and Politico both did big stories sort of outing that the Pentagon has had a more serious and more long-standing interest in studying, UFOs which the government now calls UAPs as you said which is something that we can sort of talk about why that shift happened.

[5:32] And John Brennan said, in essence, in that December 2020 interview, “Yeah, you know, there’s some weird stuff flying around up there that we can’t really explain and that puzzles me.”
And I’ve covered national security for 20 years, and that comment sort of made me sit up and take note, because John Brennan’s a really serious guy.
He is a lifelong member of, or career-long member of the U.S.
Intelligence community.

[6:09] And in 2020, he had just wrapped up, you know, the better part of 10 years as the director of the CIA and as the White House Homeland Security Advisor.
Which is to say, there are not, there can’t be that many things that puzzle John Brennan in the world.
You know, this is someone who, if he wakes up in the morning with a question, there is a $60 billion a year intelligence apparatus of, you know, thousands of intelligence officers and analysts and satellites and surveillance networks and signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence, you know, that is, that will be basically tasked with answering any question that he has.
And so if John Brennan is puzzled by things flying around up there, so to speak, that’s probably worth taking a more serious look at.
And that sort of launched me on this book project.

[7:15] And it interweaves, as the subtitle says, sort of the twin threads of the military’s hunt for UFOs here on Earth and the sort of scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence, you know, as I say, out there.
You know, the work that NASA has done and astronomers have done over the last 75 years to sort of understand the possibility of life beyond Earth.
Because, of course, these are very related subjects, you know.
Whether there are aliens out there has a great deal of bearing on whether they happen to be visiting Earth as well.
And so, for me, this is a story not of the paranormal.
It’s a story of astronomy and science and the military sort of trying to understand, you know, generations of sightings and experiences that have been pretty well documented that are,

[8:31] You know, in some cases, you know, genuinely confounding, and it all exists against this sort of cosmic context that is probably the most basic, important, and fascinating question of human existence, which is, are we alone?
And to me, the thing that I was sort of unprepared for as a journalist who comes to this subject with a national security background, you know, as you said, sort of writing about the FBI, writing about nuclear war plans, writing about the presidency and American politics, is just how spiritual this book and this subject ends up being, because so much of this is about this, you know, just age-old human need to understand sort of where we exist in the grand scheme of the universe.
You know, Philip Morrison, who’s one of the founders of the field of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
I quote in the introduction as saying, you know, either we are alone in the universe or we’re not. And frankly, either answer boggles the mind.

Yeah, exactly. That’s an excellent point. That’s an excellent point.
So when you talk about this as a history, how far does this go back?
I mean, I think most of us who follow this stuff and are steeped in it think of Roswell, but there were instances before that.
I mean, goodness, you could go back to the airship flap of 1897.
You could even go back to biblical accounts. But in terms of the US government being interested in this, did it begin in Roswell, or was it before in World War II with some strange things that were happening with Foo Fighters?

[10:30] Yeah. So, they’re the sort of modern flying saucer age, and, you know, one of the fun things about this history is the way that these terms evolve.
You know, this sort of starts out as a fascination with flying saucers.
Then the US government rebrands them as UFOs, Unidentified Flying Objects, to destigmatize the conversation around flying saucers.
And now, of course, in the modern era, we have rebranded it again as unidentified.
It started as Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon, then it became Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon, UAPs, as a way to destigmatize the giggle factor of UFOs.
But that the age of the modern flying saucer begins actually a couple of weeks before Roswell in the summer of 1947. A Idaho businessman named Kenneth Arnold Is flying around the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest and spots what he describes as sort of a series of of flying saucers moving at what he reports are sort of a tremendous speed, perhaps a thousand miles an hour.

[11:52] This kicks off this sort of huge flap in the summer.
UFO waves, as your listeners may or may not know, are called flaps.
And this huge flap in the summer of 1947 of flying saucers being reported all over the country. They’re reported in something like 34 states. The government goes into a panic. The FBI gets involved. J. Edgar Hoover gets involved. This is right at the dawn of the Cold War, a big part of the early part of this book really ends up being, you know, the intersection of UFOs and early Cold War, because in some ways, like, the government doesn’t actually care whether these are aliens and in flying saucers, what they care about is that whether this is secret Soviet aircraft being designed by kidnapped Nazi rocket scientists.
And there’s of this fun thread in the early part of the book where like once the government sort of rules out that these are secret Soviet aircraft being designed by kidnapped Nazi riot rocket scientists the government sort of loses interest in whatever these flying saucers actually are.

[13:07] Um, but one of the things that’s really amazing as you sort of dive into that history is Roswell happens basically two weeks after this, and the Roswell story is a fascinating lens into so much of this public interest and government interest around UFOs, because what ends up happening is this rancher outside Roswell, New Mexico, sort of comes to Roswell.

[13:43] And reports that a craft has crashed on his, on his ranch.
And he ends up at the Air Force Base in Roswell, which is one of the nation’s most important Air Force bases in the country at the time.
It is the home of the silver-plated B-29 bombers. the one nuclear-equipped, air wing in the entire world at that point, and the commander of the base is an incredibly serious Air Force leader.
You know, he was actually the backup bomber pilot on one of the atomic bombings in Japan in 1945, so this this is not some, you know, yahoodle commander.
He sees this wreckage.

[14:36] And he has, you know, sort of the most bureaucratic response at all, of all, which is great news, we have found the first flying saucer.
And, you know, he’s been reading all of these headlines from Kenneth Arnold and Idaho and all over the rest of the country.
And he’s like, great, we found a flying saucer.

[14:59] And immediately has his public affairs officer put out a press release announcing, “we have found a flying saucer.”
And, you know, you can sort of tell that he thinks that this is going to be like a big career moment for him, like he has helped solve the mystery of the flying saucer.
And then he put they put out the press release, and they put the wreckage on the plane to Fort Worth, headquarters of the Eighth Air Force for more study, lands in the Air Force headquarters in Fort Worth, and they immediately look at it and say, this isn’t a flying saucer, this is a weather balloon.
And what we now understand is, you know, again, if you believe the government’s voice in this, and we can talk about that sort of rising level of conspiracy around the Roswell thing.
But in the 1990s, the government put out that actually this was a experimental research balloon, which is why the military officials in Roswell did not recognize it.
It was a unique weather balloon and research balloon that was sort of meant to help America detect atomic blasts coming from the Soviet Union.
And so, the Roswell story sort of all unfolds in the course of an afternoon, the Air Force puts out a statement saying, “No, this isn’t a flying saucer, this is a weather balloon, sorry for the confusion”, and America moves on.
And one of the most interesting aspects to me in this history is that the Roswell story is almost instantly forgotten.
It was not this thing that sort of lands in in the American consciousness And you know if you talked to anyone in America if you sort of said the word Roswell to anyone in America from August, 1947 until the late 1970s early 80s They wouldn’t have any idea what you’re talking about.

It was pretty much wasn’t it Stanton Friedman who brought it back to the fore?


Yeah, I got to meet Stanton right before he passed. I mean, again, you may believe, you may not believe, but he certainly looms large amongst ufologists. I think that’s – there’s no question about that.


[17:18] Now I guess what I would say here, kind of representing the believers, you could understand why believers in the phenomenon that it is something more than just a weather balloon, particularly as it relates to Roswell, would say cover up, cover up, cover up, because, officially, it’s released. You know, there’s that press release, as you said. It’s in the Roswell Daily Record, Flying Disc, Flying Saucer, whatever the exact terminology was. And then all of a sudden, it’s like, no, nothing to see here. We’re just kidding. You could see how that might raise the suspicions of some people of a government cover-up.

[17:56] Absolutely. And I think one— So let me sort of back up a step here, too, and say, I’m 100%, convinced there’s a government cover-up about its understanding and knowledge and belief of UFOs. Absolutely convinced. There are multiple obvious reasons that the government is covering up the full extent of its understanding of the, you know, you UFOs and UAPs, you know, some chunk of UFO sightings are the government’s own technology.

Sure, absolutely.

[18:40] You know, what we now understand is that, perhaps even as much as a half of all UFO sightings in the 1950s turn out to be the U-2 spy plane as it was being developed, and it was a UFO.

Yeah, we talked to Annie Jacobson about this. Very common, yeah.

You know, it was a plane that was flying at altitudes that planes were not known to fly at. It didn’t look like a known plane. It didn’t fly at speeds that planes were known to fly at. You know, all sorts of people reported the U-2 as a UFO in the 1950s and 1960s.

[19:21] There’s a second layer to the cover-up, which is the government is incredibly protective of its sensor network and surveillance network that, you know, some chunk of modern UAPs, we know, are adverse advanced adversarial technology being tested against US defenses.

[19:45] We saw that, we saw that early this year with the balloon gate, so to speak.

Yes, and we know that some chunk of these are Chinese drones, Russian drones, Iranian drones because the Pentagon has actually said that.
One of the things that the Pentagon has said as it has come out in this sort of new latest wave of UFO reports is that part of its UAP research has uncovered a heretofore unknown trans-medium Chinese drone.
That is a drone that comes out of the water and transitions to flight.

[20:27] So some chunk of this is, you know, adversarial technology that our government is sort of squishy about what it detects and what it picks up and what it doesn’t and where those sensors are.
And, you know, you see that in some of these Navy videos as well, of UAPs.
So, you know, there are two layers of the government cover-up right there that are obvious and that we know are happening.
There are two more that I think are important to talk about as well, which is the government is also incredibly bad about knowing what the government is doing.


[21:08] And so, one of the sort of themes that you see recurring in my book is basically, like, the government thinking things are UFOs without realizing that they’re actually, like, other government programs.

The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand’s doing, basically.
Another point I would make, when we talk about the government, I think particularly people in ufology, including me sometimes, tend to think that the government is a monolith.
Now you were the editor for Politico.
I think probably the government is the closest thing to not a monolith that exists.
So I just wanted to throw that in there because I think we tend to do that.

[21:51] Absolutely, yup. And then, you know, the sort of last obvious layer of the cover up is, you know, that the government is incredibly bad at declassifying information and that, you know, there’s a lot of stuff sort of hidden away in government records that would shed light on some of these UFO sightings that, you know, we may not see for, you know, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 75 more years.
So, again, there are four layers of the government cover-up right there that we sort of know are happening and ongoing and that we sort of already understand.
I think, though, the real government cover-up is a fifth factor, which is the government actually doesn’t have any idea what a lot of these UAPs actually are.
And I think that the government cover-up is primarily at its core about ignorance, not knowledge, which is to say we have this massive national security bureaucracy, you know, $60 billion a year spent on intelligence, you know, $800 billion a year spent on national defense another hundred billion dollars a year spent on homeland security.

[23:20] It’s really uncomfortable for the US government to come out as a bureaucracy and say basically what John Brennan said in that December 2020 interview, which is there’s a bunch of stuff out there that we don’t really understand, we don’t know what it is, and it puzzles us. And that’s not a very reassuring thing for a government to say to a population, to its citizens.

[23:52] And frankly, it would, if the government ever said that honestly, it would spark outrage.
It would spark…

[23:59] Right. What is our money going towards? Where is our money going? All those billions of dollars.


Why aren’t we working to understand what these things actually are?

And so, you know, I think when I sort of got through all of this, I think that what we’re going to sort of end up learning over the years ahead is that the government cover-up is not of knowledge, it’s of ignorance. And that, by the way, is not me saying I am a believer or a skeptic, because, you know, as I talk about in the book, I think actually what we’re going to find is that, you know, the core of UAPs ends up being a pie chart of at least four different categories of stuff.

[24:55] One chunk of it is meteorological, atmospheric, and astronomical phenomenon that we don’t yet understand.
I mean, there’s a lot of sort of weather and science and astronomy that we are still learning about right now that is going to sort of prove to be, I think, sort of some answer to the UAP UFO question.
Second category, again, adversarial advanced technologies that are being tested against us that will only become clear with time.
The third category to me is exactly the experience that we had with the Chinese weather, the Chinese spy balloon earlier this year, which is there’s just a bunch of weird stuff floating around up there in the sky that we’re not paying attention to on a daily basis.
And it turns out if you like turn the NORAD radars just a little bit differently than they’re normally set, you start picking up a lot of stuff that we didn’t know was up there, which is how we sort of end up shooting down all of these UFOs in February this year, you know, with like quarter million dollar missiles from F-22 fighters that like turned out to be like a weather balloon from an Ohio like hobbyist club that we just like weren’t paying attention to, and then like you look and there’s a UFO over Lake Huron.

[26:25] And then you get to the fourth category. And this to me is where I think we, you know, this is why, you know, I think at the end of this book, like I don’t really end up in either the skeptic camp or the believer camp, which is the fourth category, I think, is going to prove to be weirder than we can possibly imagine, which is to say it’s going to be things that we’re going to learn about in physics that we don’t yet understand.
You know, when you think about physics, almost everything that we have learned in physics we have learned in the last hundred years, you know, 125 years or so. And if you think about

[27:13] What we could learn in the next 100 years, in the next 500 years, in the next 1,000 years about physics.
The answers there could be way weirder than anything that we are prepared for.
You know, wormholes, time travel, parallel dimensions.
You know, literally this summer, for the first time, we actually sort of saw in space, gravitational waves that actually bend space-time. You know, we’d sort of learned, we’d sort of thought of that those existed, but we saw them for the first time this summer.
You know, I just finished reading a new book by an Italian astrophysicist named Carlo Rovelli, fantastic book called “White Holes”, that is his speculation, basically about what happens to black holes at the end of their life.

[28:15] When they it sort of in his theory, and I’m sure I’m going to butcher this because I’m not an astrophysicist is like, basically like white hole that black holes bounce at the bottom of these sort of black hole, you know, event horizons, and then invert and sort of time reverses and moves.
And he’s saying, you know, we’ve never even seen the existence of a white hole.
And it may actually be something that is widely prevalent in our universe, and we don’t yet understand it.
And one of the things he points out is when he landed at his, um,

[29:04] Uh you know sort of first major academic role in 2000 you know his advisor didn’t even believe that black holes existed and of course now we have sort of a very we think sophisticated understanding of black holes a quarter century later but i think the the answer to what UFOs and UAPs could be, could end up being so much weirder than we could possibly imagine, even if the final answer doesn’t have anything to do with aliens.

Well, I gotta tell you, it’s so funny you say that because people will say, I’ve been doing these shows for 18 years, so you have a respectable career as a journalist, you know, in contention for a Pulitzer Prize.
I have a non-respectable career as a paranormal podcaster, but we have reached much the same conclusion because whether it’s UFOs, whether it’s ghosts, whatever kind of thing we cover on these shows, I have said I’ve learned nothing, but I have one speculation, one belief that has come out of the 18 years of doing these shows, is that our existence and the world is far stranger, than we give it credit for and we don’t really understand what’s going on.
And it’s so funny that people from so different of spheres have reached essentially the same conclusion.

[30:27] Absolutely, because I think that that’s where you have to, you sort of have to end up there.
You know, I talk about the, you know, in the introduction of the book, the sort of, the understanding that we now have of the sheer scale of the universe alone.
And, you know, we now believe that there is something like a septillion habitable planets across the universe.
So, sure, the chance of life or intelligent life can be vanishingly thin.
Do you think intelligent life in the universe is really a one in septillion chance?
I think the math is absolutely on the side of aliens and life and intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.
Whether any of it is close enough for us to ever have any knowledge of or contact with, that’s an entirely separate question to me.

[31:45] And it also involves a lot of sort of thinking hard about what intelligent life actually is and whether that intelligent life has any interest in the world beyond.
You know, one of the thought experiments that I sort of was most fascinated by in my book research was the possibility of maritime, marine planets where you could have incredibly advanced life.
You know, you could have dolphins, you know, you could have a planet of super advanced dolphins and whales, you know, something that by any stretch of the imagination, we would consider intelligent life.
And yet, on those planets, if they’re marine, it’s possible that none of those dolphins or whales have ever even glimpsed the sky.
And so, you know, have never given any thought or consideration to the idea of life beyond.

[33:00] Um, and so, you know, one of the things that the scientists who have sort of spent their careers looking at this subject talk about is, you know, it’s not just about whether you have intelligent life.
It’s about, like, do you have intelligent life who can see the sky and look at the stars and think about what those stars represent and come to understand, you know, that those stars are worlds and planets beyond.

We’re talking with Garrett Graff about “UFO: The Inside Story of the US Government’s Search for Alien Life Here–and Out There”.
And we’ll be back here right after this.

[33:48] If you love the Paranormal Podcast, be sure to check out Jim Harold’s Campfire where ordinary people share their extraordinary stories of ghosts, UFOs, cryptids, and terrifying encounters. Find it for free wherever you listen to this podcast.
Tune into Jim Harold’s Campfire today. Now we return to the Paranormal Podcast.

[34:10] What I’d like to do in our remaining time, there’s a few, there’s not a few, but there’s a lot of incidents you lay out in the book. I want to just ask you about a couple of them.
And I’ve got to ask you, because it is such a fascinating topic, the men in black.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you found about the men in black?

Absolutely. So this, you know, one of the things that really shifts is you see in the sort of second half of this book, this much darker strain of sort of ufology rise in American popular culture.
You know, a part of the UFO story is very much the interweaving of, you know, government and politics and military with popular culture, with, you know, books and movies and, you know, now podcasts and documentaries and things like that.
And that the men in black sort of, no pun intended, lurk in the back of many of UFO and sort of ufology stories.

[35:36] As this shadowy force that, you know, sort of start off as people imagining them as sort of secret government agents, you know, then there’s sort of an evolution of the story that these are, you know, perhaps even actually aliens themselves who are sort of out there, you know, policing and controlling, you know, public knowledge of alien beings on Earth.
And you see this sort of really give rise to this, like, very dark strain of government conspiracy theories that take place, that sort of grow up in the 1980s.
Particularly, um, driven by, um, sort of early talk radio host, named Bill Cooper, who, um, writes a, you know, book that’s like still a bestseller today called, uh, you know, “Beyond a Pale Horse”.
Um, and, you know, sort of tells this story of, you know, being a naval intelligence officer during the Vietnam War, where he says he was privy to a whole bunch of secret documents about the government’s relationship to extraterrestrials.

[37:03] He sort of goes down this like much this this very dark sort of anti-government conspiracy theory trail over the course of the 1990s in his talk radio work that actually ends up inspiring a young Austin talk radio host named Alex Jones to launch his own theory of a sort of right-wing, conspiratorial talk radio and I I think one of the things that really stands out for me in this book is the way that you see, you know, there’s sort of like, oh, there’s sort of a light and happy strain of UFO conspiracy land.
And then there’s sort of like this very dark, very paranoid strain of UFO conspiracy land. That really, I think, lays the foundation in the 1980s and 1990s for a lot of the conspiracy theories that we live with in the modern age.

[38:20] And the second half of this book, in many ways is this story of the collapse of trust in the US government and institutions, you know, on UFOs, but also on sort of a much broader range of other conspiracy theories.

[38:38] Yeah, Vietnam, Watergate.

[38:41] Yeah and, you know, to me, one of the things that’s like so interesting about my work in this space is that, you know, all of my books sort of sit in this like weird, you know, I refer to it as like a comic cinematic universe where the books overlap with one another and sort of feature the same characters in different settings.
And that like, you don’t end up with where we are with UFOs today, without Watergate, which was the subject of my last book.

[39:15] And, you know, that that sort of, you know, the Pentagon Papers and Vietnam and Watergate, Nixon’s lies, you know, really lay the foundation for a lot of the UFO conspiracies, including Roswell, that really sort of spring up in the 70s and 80s and sort of continue to this day.

Another one I’d like to talk to you about briefly the Tehran incident.
People forget that Tehran and Iran, Iran used to be a U.S. ally when the Shah was in power. And this story about an F-4 Phantom and an Iranian pilot just always fascinated me. Please tell us about it.

Yeah. So this is, you know, one of the things that you see as you sort of get into this history is that this is not just an American phenomenon. You know, we sort of think often that, you know, UFOs sort of only seem to hit America. But that’s not true. And in fact, some of the most high profile and most influential UFO sightings over the years end up taking place overseas.

[40:36] You have the the Belgian UFO wave of sort of a flap of sightings of some large black triangular craft over Belgium that unfolds over several months. You know, the Costa Rican government actually ended up with the best photo of a UFO that anyone has ever actually seen that was taken by a research plane sort of totally accidentally over a lake in Costa Rica. And then, you know, you have this Tehran incident, which ends up being this sort of big event in the 1970s, where sort of several pilots actually are sort of scrambled to investigate a UFO sighting.

[41:28] They report sort of equipment malfunctions as they get close to the event or close to whatever the thing is that they are pursuing. You know, become afraid that the craft is interfering with their communications and electronics and then, you know, sort of follow up investigation by the Iranian government in sort of the following days, you know, uncovers some physical evidence potentially of a craft that actually landed somewhere nearby.

[42:10] And it becomes, in many ways, sort of this Rorschach test, like a lot of UFO sightings where, you know, it is sort of sometimes held up as one of the most, you know, reliable and extensive UFO encounters that we have seen.
And then, you know, the US government sort of does some follow up investigation through its own Air Force, military and intelligence sources in Tehran.
This is this is at a time, of course, as you said, when US personnel are actually on the ground in Tehran. And you know, they sort of come to doubt whether the pilots actually had any encounter with anything at all.
And that they’ve that perhaps these planes were just poorly maintained, and the pilots got confused, as they were, you know, pursuing, you know, probably maybe something as simple as Venus in the night sky. And, you know, their planes just malfunctioned and, you know, had some gremlins in the system that were, you know, normal avionics problems.

[43:21] But I think it becomes this really important moment in some ways because it is to me indicative of sort of some of the most interesting sightings, which are, you know, for all of the public fascination around something like Roswell, to me, there’s a much more interesting and a much more suspicious and much more intriguing, sighting in New Mexico in 1964 where in Socorro, New Mexico where you have this police officer named Lonnie Zamora, who is chasing a speeder outside of town, ends up sort of spotting off to his side what he thinks is an overturned car in a ditch, sort of abandons the pursuit, turns off into the desert to go to this car. As he gets closer he sees sort of two small figures outside of the craft and then as he gets closer the craft, the figures go inside the craft and the craft takes off and there’s some physical evidence of a craft being present in the desert. There are other police officers including a New Mexico State Trooper who arrive on the scene within a couple of minutes and see Lonnie Zamora sort of upset by this encounter.

[45:06] And, you know, to me, there’s a sort of core set of witnesses like Lonnie Zamora across ufology and UFO history that are the most intriguing types of witnesses to me, because they are people who lead sort of totally normal lives, have one sort of well-documented or sort of meaningful upsetting encounter, and then go on with the rest of their lives. You know, they’re not sort of one of these people who are like, I was visited by an alien on Tuesday, and then every Thursday since, the same alien has popped by my house.

[45:53] You actually just almost used my phrase, because I say I’m less likely to believe when it says that I have tea with the aliens every third Thursday of the month. Yes.

[46:03] Yeah. And that there is no, there’s no reason to doubt Lonnie Zamora had some sort of encounter like the thing that he said. And there’s nothing that we have ever seen come out that explains the experience that he had.
You know, one of the theories is that he, you know, ran across, you know, this was right by the White Sands Proving Ground, you know, in the middle of the space race.
Maybe he ran across some experimental Air Force project that was part of the Apollo program, you know, that was like practicing moon landings out in the desert.
But we’ve never seen a craft come out of the government archives that looks or behaves anything like the thing that he says he saw and to me you know when we come back to this, and by the way, I started talking about this incident, partly because this was a hugely important incident for J. Allen Hynek, who was the sort of premier ufologist, you know, from the 1940s through the 1980s. You know, this is the guy who invents the very classification of, you know, close encounters of the first kind, second kind, third kind, you know, even has a bit part in the Steven Spielberg movie that’s based on his book.

[47:38] And he’s, you know, he’s the lead scientific consultant, he’s an astronomer, and the lead scientific consultant on the military’s Project Blue Book, which was its UFO hunting unit in the 50s and 60s. And he’s dispatched to Socorro, you know, meets with Lonnie Zamora, and like, actually ends up really shook by this encounter, because he sort of can’t come up with any reason that this incident didn’t happen exactly the way that Lonnie Zamora says that it did.
And for him, it’s this incredibly important intellectual turning point, because he sort of begins to doubt that there he, you know, he spent most of his time in this program as a skeptic, you know, that he doesn’t actually believe that there’s anything out there.
And that he sort of comes away from Lonnie Zamora’s incident and and others like it with the sort of rising series of doubts that maybe there actually is something to all of this stories. And to me, coming back to my sort of answering our conversation about the government cover-ups, This to me is like the crime of the US government, which is what there is some series of things that has happened over the last 75, 80 years that no one can explain. And the US government should be more interested in what the answer to those things actually are.

[49:17] And as citizens, as people, we should sort of demand better answers from our government about what these things are and that should be a question that the government is more interested in, that scientists are more interested in. And again, for all of the reasons that we’ve talked here, that’s not me saying that I think that they’re like aliens from Alpha Centauri who like are buzzing by the USS Nimitz on a Tuesday morning. It’s me saying that there’s something interesting happening here that we don’t have a scientific, you know, meteorological, astronomical, atmospheric, or military understanding of what it is.

[50:04] It’s been a fascinating conversation, and we didn’t even scratch the surface.
The book is “UFO: The Inside Story of the Government’s Search for Alien Life Here– and Out There”. And Garrett Graff, thank you so much for your time. This obviously, this will be released after the book is out. And obviously, you can find this book anywhere, right?

[50:26] Absolutely. And thanks so much for chatting. This was a great conversation.
And I think it’s fascinating that you and I sort of end up in almost exactly the same place after coming at this subject from such different vantage points.

{50:38] Yeah, very true. Garrett Graff, thank you so much for joining us today to talk all about UFOs.

My pleasure.

[50:46] Even though Garrett is probably a little more on the skeptical side than I am, probably definitely, I think it’s a great perspective to have and we thank him for taking time to be on the show and very, very intelligent guy, obviously, and very well steeped in the history of the UFO phenomena and we’re so glad we got to talk to him. We’re thankful and we’re thankful for you. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the States who celebrates and if you’re outside of the States.
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[52:42] Music.

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