Published: 2:51 PM 3/23/2013
Expert turns Yelm’s eyes toward the night sky
By Steven Wyble, email@example.com
As a Washington resident, James E. Clarkson takes pride in his state’s out-of-this-world history.
Clarkson, director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) for Washington state, told people at Yelm Timberland Library last week about Washington’s central role in UFO lore.
It was in the sky over Mount Rainier when pilot Kenneth Arnold saw several unidentified flying objects that would ingrain the term “flying saucer” into American culture — through an erroneous news report, no less.
The UFOs Arnold claimed he saw were actually shaped more like a crescent than a round saucer. He used the term “saucer” to describe how the objects moved, not how they looked, noting they were “like a saucer if you skip it across the water.” But a newspaper article referred to the UFOs as “flying saucers,” and the name stuck.
Clarkson, who began investigating UFOs in 1986, developed an interest in the phenomena when he was 12 years old after listening to a radio interview with John G. Fuller, the author of several books on UFOs, including “The Interrupted Journey,” which told the famous story of the purported abduction of Betty and Barney Hill.
Clarkson shared a mixture of fact and opinion on UFOs during his appearance at the library. More than 50 people showed up to hear his take on the strange objects people sometimes see when they gaze up at the heavens.
Clarkson uses skills culled from a career as an investigator to research UFO sightings throughout the state. He was a police officer in Aberdeen for 20 years, a child abuse detective, patrol sergeant, and supervisor of a fatal accident team, he said. He approaches UFO investigations using what he knows about “investigations, logic and basic science.”
Studying UFOs has made him something between a “true believer” and a skeptic, he said.
“I will just come right out and tell you that in my opinion, we have been repeatedly contacted by some kind of non-human intelligence,” he said. “What it is, where it comes from, what the purpose is, I don’t know.”
Clarkson’s presentation served as a primer for people looking to learn more about UFOs and a refresher for existing believers. He highlighted high-profile cases through the years, such as the 1942 “Battle of Los Angeles,” where some people think a World War II air raid targeted an alien space craft; the 1947 Roswell crash, in which the government, according to some, covered up the crash of an alien craft; and the Phoenix Lights of 1997, where thousands of people reported seeing strange lights in the Arizona sky.
But Clarkson’s talk wasn’t all about history. He detailed some recent cases he’s investigated through MUFON.
“Assessing witness credibility, I do it the same way as when I was a policeman,” he said. “You look at a whole lot of things.”
Clarkson said on Monday that when interviewing witnesses, he asks himself if the person was in the right place at the right time under the right circumstances to have seen what they’re reporting. He also asks if they benefit somehow from making a report. He looks for “high witness credibility with high strangeness, because that’s where the most interesting part of UFO study is,” he said.
One recent case occurred near Kent and Auburn, when MUFON received reports of a single UFO from two different families who lived five miles apart and didn’t know each other who saw three “giant” red lights over a small lake.
Clarkson said MUFON of Washington has also recently been inundated with reports of orange orbs.
“I don’t know what this all means,” he said. “I’m just pointing out that it’s going on over and over.”
Clarkson estimates seven out of every 10 cases MUFON receives have a natural or man-made explanation.
“So what?” he said. “I’m interested in the other three. … Part of our job is to help people understand what they’re looking at. A lot of people have no idea what they’re looking at in the night sky.”
The number one mistaken UFO report is seeing the International Space Station float through the night sky. The Space Station, visible to the naked eye when viewed through binoculars, looks like a “giant glowing dragonfly,” he said.
For his part, Clarkson said his investigations have led him to a number of people he believes are genuine in reporting strange sights in the sky.
“The evidence and the testimony of the witnesses speak for itself,” he said. “I am convinced because of the power of the evidence and the weight of the testimony.”
Pat and Monica Craig drove to Yelm from Graham to hear Clarkson speak. Monica brought along a file folder filled with dozens of photos of UFOs she and her husband have taken from their home. The photos appear to show round lights or objects with odd shapes, such as one shaped a bit like a clothes iron.
Monica estimates she’s photographed about half a dozen UFOs, and seen about another half dozen she didn’t photograph.
Pat recalled one UFO in particular that he was the first to see.
“At first I thought it might have been a kite, and then a person on a … hang glider,” he said. “Then I thought it was an airplane out of control, because it was spinning and all of this, and then it just stopped, just like that.”
After the object stopped, it moved straight back the way it came, without turning around, he says. Pat yelled for his wife, who came out with her camera.
Pat said he’s seen UFOs in other places for years, including in Yakima, and describes them “craft in the sky that no human could ever build and make do what it did. They can say what they want; I know what I saw,” he said.
Clarkson has spoken at the Yelm library two other times. This was his biggest crowd by far.
A woman came up after the talk and told Clarkson about strange experiences she had as a girl in California.
“That happens at these kinds of talks,” he said. “People decide to talk about something they’ve been keeping to themselves for many years.”
He described her story as a “possible abduction experience” and said he may forward her story to the California MUFON.
After the success he’s had in Yelm, Clarkson said he might be back to organize a symposium that would bring in other speakers to discuss UFOs.
Several students of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment attended the event, and Clarkson credited the school in part for the good attendance.
Steve Klein, of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, said RSE students are taught that humans are not alone in the universe and there are many life forms on many planes of existence throughout the galaxy and universe.
“These beings have interacted with generations of humanity on this planet for thousands of years,” he said.
To report a UFO sighting to MUFON, go to www.mufon.com/reportufo.html and fill out the form.