In-depth interview with leading UFO researcher, Jacques Vallee.
Jacques Vallee hesitated before agreeing to be interviewed about the
subject for which he's most famous: UFOs. It's not that he's
reluctant to discuss the topic, or tussle with the skeptics. After
all, he's written close to a dozen books on UFOs, several of them
best-sellers, analyzing a notoriously ethereal subject as a
hard-headed physical scientist, folklorist, and sociologist. He
believes there is more than enough solid evidence to make a
compelling case for the existence of UFOs, and he doesn't shy away
from an honest debate.
It's the hard-core believers who give Vallee pause. Anyone who has
observed the semi-academic cockpit known as "UFOlogy" knows that
close encounters of the UFO expert kind shed little light and much
heat, dogma and territorial sniping. Vallee's views about UFOs are
far more exotic and far stranger than what he calls the reigning
"nuts and bolts" approach to the subject. Consequently, he's been
attacked by believers so often that he jokingly refers to himself a
"heretic among heretics." As Vallee puts it, "I will be disappointed
if UFOs turn out to be nothing more than spaceships."
In his recent autobiographical book, Forbidden Science, Vallee
summed up his views about the provenance of UFOs, a viewpoint that
he's developed through decades of research: "The UFO Phenomenon
exists. It has been with us throughout history. It is physical in
nature and it remains unexplained in terms of contemporary science.
It represents a level of consciousness that we have not yet
recognized, and which is able to manipulate dimensions beyond time
and space as we understand them." So much for anti-gravity-powered
starships ferrying Big Brothers from outer space. Vallee thinks UFOs
are likely "windows" to other dimensions manipulated by intelligent,
often mischievous, always enigmatic beings we have yet to
understand. (60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time covers Vallee's
theories in detail.)
No other UFO researcher has contributed more to an admittedly
controversial field. But Vallee commands a measure of respect that
must leave his colleagues feeling a bit envious. Even Philip Klass,
the avionics expert and the media's favorite UFO-debunker, calls
Vallee "one of the more distinguished members of the pro-UFO
community." Vallee, he adds, "is one of the brighter physical
scientists who believes in UFOs."
Vallee moved to America from his native France in the early 1960s,
as young astronomer-turned-computer scientist. Vallee pioneered the
use of computers to analyze and categorize the UFO phenomenon, and
his 1965 book, Anatomy of a Phenomenon, is still considered one of
the most scholarly books on UFOs ever written. At Northwestern
University, Vallee assisted Prof. J. Allen Hynek, the academic
consultant on the Air Force's infamous Project Bluebook, now seen by
most saucer students as either a half-hearted government effort to
address the UFO craze of the 1950s and 1960s or a full-blown coverup.
While working with Hynek, Vallee and his wife, Janine, compiled the
first-ever computer database of UFO sightings.
In 1969, Vallee published another groundbreaking book, Passport to
Magonia, in which he collected a body of folkloric "myths" that read
remarkably like modern UFO encounters, from Celtic tales of
fairyland abductions to Biblical passages and medieval chronicles of
"visitors" from beyond. Building on Carl Jung's thesis that UFOs are
a sociological phenomenon, a product of the collective unconscious,
Vallee forever left behind the space-bound E.T. theorists. But his
folklorist's approach to the problem would influence a number of
later researchers and writers who continue to echo his ideas about
other-dimensional forms of consciousness. Best-selling author
Whitley Strieber, Harvard "abductee psychologist" John Mack, and
journalist Keith Thompson (author of Angels and Aliens all owe a
debt to Vallee. Stephen Spielberg paid homage to Vallee in Close
Encounters of the Third Kind, basing his French scientist character
(played by Francois Truffaut) on the real French UFO theorist.
We recently had lunch with Vallee in San Francisco at restaurant
around the corner from the offices of his high-technology venture
capital firm. Part 1 of that interview covers Vallee's theories
about UFOs and his belief that science can penetrate mystery of
flying disks and alien beings. In Part 2, which we'll publish later
this month, Vallee discusses the second sphere of his researches:
The connection between the UFO phenomenon and the religious impulse.
Vallee believes that the intelligence guiding UFOs is a kind of
control mechanism, an invisible hand shaping the development of
human consciousness over a period of eons. In the second installment
he also talks about the theory that from time to time governments
have manipulated public opinion through UFO mythology--in some
instances constructing elaborate hoaxes for propagandistic purposes.
60GCAT: Why are Americans obsessed with the idea that outer space
aliens are the pilots of UFOs?
Vallee: I think Americans, if they are interested in the
subject, are very literal. They want to kick the tires, which is a
good American thing to do. They want to do reverse engineering on
the propulsion system. And when I tell them, "Look, maybe those
things don't have a propulsion system," you get a strange reaction.
Just like, if you remember, in Close Encounters, the Truffaut
character keeps going around saying this is a sociological
phenomenon, not just physical. And he has a lot of trouble getting
that idea across.
60GCAT: At one point you subscribed to the theory that UFOs might be
extraterrestrial in origin. . . .
Vallee: When I met Stephen Spielberg, I argued with him that
the subject was even more interesting if it wasn't
extraterrestrials. If it was real, physical, but not ET. So he said,
"You're probably right, but that's not what the public is
expecting--this is Hollywood and I want to give people something
that's close to what they expect." Which is fair.
60GCAT: So what do we know for sure about the nature of UFOs?
Vallee: There is a phenomenon. We don't know where it comes
from. It's characterized by its physical [traces]. Eighty percent of
all the cases have trivial explanations. But I'm talking about the
core phenomena. It seems to involve a lot of energy in a small
space; it seems to involve pulsed microwaves, among other things.
There isn't much that is known about the effect of pulsed microwaves
on the brain, so it's quite possible that some of the stories that
you get from people are essentially induced hallucinations in
sincere witnesses--the witnesses are not lying. They really have
been exposed to something genuine but there is no way to go back to
what that thing was, based on their description, because their brain
has been affected by proximity to that energy.
Having said that, I have plenty of colleagues in science and
technology I respect who tell me this could be a natural
phenomenon--this could be an undiscovered form of energy in the
atmosphere. We don't know much about the effect of electromagnetic
fields on the nervous system. We're going to be discovering that as
we go. So, it's quite possible that there could be a phenomenon like
that, a very spontaneous thing. Or it could be artificial. If it's
artificial it could come from another form of consciousness, which
may or may not be extraterrestrial. It's a big universe out there.
Who are we to say where it comes from? We can only speculate on that
60GCAT: How can we use our own comparatively backward technology to
investigate this mystery?
Vallee: Where I think that technology can be of help is in looking
for patterns. And I did as much of that as anybody else. I built,
with my wife, the first computer database of UFO sightings. But
where I think computers could be used much better is in applying
artificial intelligence, reason, and inference to eliminating the
reports that have natural causes. I developed a software prototype
of that, which was called OVNIBASE, which I turned over to the
French CNES; presumably they are developing a next version of it,
and running it on their database.
60GCAT: What about other technologies that can help us analyze
evidence better than we could, say, 10 years ago?
Vallee: Digital enhancement of photographs is very useful. In
my book, Confrontations, I mention the photograph that I brought
back from Costa Rica, which was unusual because the object was over
a lake [Lago de Cote], so there was a uniform black background.
Everything is known about the aircraft that took the photo. At the
time the picture was taken [in 1971], nobody on the plane had seen
the object. It was only after the film was developed that the object
was discovered. The camera used was exceptional: It produced a very
large negative--ten inches, very detailed. You can see cows in the
field. The time is known; the latitude, longitude and attitude of
the aircraft is known. So we spent a lot of time analyzing that
photograph, without being able to find any obvious natural answer to
the object. It seems to be a very large, solid thing.
I obtained the negative from the government of Costa Rica--if you
don't have the negative, analysis is a waste of time. I also
obtained the negative of the picture taken before and the picture
after, all uncut. I took negatives to a friend of mine in France who
works for a firm that digitally analyzes satellite photographs. They
digitized the entire thing, and then analyzed it to the extent that
they could, and could not find an explanation for the object.
60GCAT: It's hard for Americans to grasp the idea that UFOs might be
a manifestation the other-dimensional. . . .
Vallee: You have to keep an open mind. What I try to do is
what any cop would do: I try to listen to the witnesses instead of
printing my own theories. Theories are a dime a dozen. They don't do
any good. It's much more useful, I think, just to listen to what
people are telling you, and I've been trying to do that not just in
the U.S., but also in Europe and other places I've visited, like
Brazil and Argentina, and try to look for patterns.
60GCAT: You're a bit of a controversial figure among UFO
researchers, mainly because you entertain theories more exotic than
the UFOs-are-from-outer-space paradigm.
Vallee: I've antagonized a number of the believers in UFOs.
Number one, because I'm not ready to jump to any conclusion that
it's necessarily extraterrestrial--we're not smart enough to know
what they are at this point. And the research has not been done. I
certainly remember enough of my training in astronomy to tell you
that the universe is big enough to have other forms of life than us;
at least we hope that it does. But so far we cannot prove it. So we
cannot see how they would come here--they probably would be much
advanced with respect to our physics, and they would have found a
way to do it. But that does not explain UFOs.
I've also antagonized a lot of people because I think that the way
abductions are being handled is wrong. It's not only wrong
scientifically, it's wrong morally and ethically. I've been telling
people, don't let anyone hypnotize you if you've seen a strange
light in the sky. I think a lot of those people prominent in the
press and in the National Enquirer and in the talk shows and so on
are creating abductees under hypnosis. They are hypnotizing
everybody who's ever had a strange experience and telling them they
are abductees by suggestion. And they are doing that in good faith.
They don't realize what they are doing. But to my way of thinking,
60GCAT: What do you think of John Mack, the Harvard psychologist who
believes that alien abductions are a real phenomenon? Of course, he
uses hypnosis on his patients to liberate "repressed memories" of
Vallee: I respect him for his courage in addressing the
issue, but I don't agree with his methods.
I've taken some witnesses who wanted to be hypnotized, taken them to
specialists in two cases out of maybe 70 cases of abductions that
I've studied. And usually the specialists tell me that hypnosis is
not necessarily the best way of helping these people. Nor is it the
best way to recover memories. It may help in very specific cases.
But I've never hypnotized anybody--I'm not qualified to do it.
60GCAT: How did you first become interested in UFOs and paranormal
Vallee: I started out wanting to do astronomy and I ruined
essentially a perfectly good career in science by becoming
interested in computers. This was in France in the early days of
computing and the earliest days of satellites and space exploration.
So I took some of the earliest computer courses at French
My first job was at Paris observatory, tracking satellites. And we
started tracking objects that were not satellites, were fairly
elusive, and so we decided that we would pay attention to those
objects even though they were not on the schedule of normal
satellites. And one night we got eleven data points on one of these
objects--it was very bright. It was also retrograde. This was at a
time when there was no rocket powerful enough to launch a retrograde
satellite, a satellite that goes around opposite to the rotation of
the earth, where you obviously need to overcome the earth's gravity
going the other direction. You have to reach escape velocity in the
direction opposite the rotation of the earth, which takes a lot more
energy than the direct direction. And the man in charge of the
project confiscated the tape and erased it the next morning.
So that's really what got me interested. Because up to then I
thought, Scientists don't seem to be interested in UFOs, astronomers
don't report anything unusual in the sky, so there probably isn't
anything to it. Effectively, I was in the same position that most
scientists are in today--you trust your colleagues, and because you
don't see any reports from credible, technical witnesses, you assume
that there is nothing. And there I was with a technical report--I
don't know what it was. It wasn't a flying saucer--it didn't land
close to the observatory. But still, it was a mystery. And instead
of looking at the data and preserving the data, we were destroying
60GCAT: Why did he destroy it?
Vallee: Just fear of ridicule. He thought that the Americans
would laugh at us, if we sent it--all of the data on satellites was
being concentrated in the U.S. And we were exchanging our data with
international bodies. And he just didn't want Paris observatory to
look silly by reporting some thing that he could not identify in the
sky. [This was in] 1961. Later I found out that other observatories
had made exactly the same observation, and that in fact American
tracking stations had photographed the same thing and could not
identify it either. It was a first magnitude object: it was as
bright as [the star] Sirius. You couldn't miss it. It didn't
reappear in successive weeks. It's just a little anecdote, but to me
that fact that we destroyed it was more important than what we saw.
And that reopened the whole question for me: Are there things that
scientists are observing and not talking about? And then I started
extending a small network of scientists, which is still active, and
found that there was a lot of data that was never published. In
fact, the best data has never been published. I think a great deal
of the misunderstanding about UFOs among scientists is that the
scientists have never had access to the best data.
60GCAT: Why has the best data never been published?
Vallee: I talk to a lot of technical companies where the
executives are aware of my interests, and I've had a lot of reports
under seal of confidentiality from people in science and in business
who had seen things. About a year ago, a vice president at IBM took
me aside after a conference and said, "Are you the same Jacques
Vallee who is interested in UFOs?" And he described a perfectly
classic UFO close encounter story that he and his family had in
upstate New York. This is not something that is going to be in the
I met a man who is president of a technical company in Silicon
Valley; he wanted to tell me about his experiences. He had been a
very-high ranking naval officer in command of a large ship, and he
had three experiences with UFOs, two of them in the service in very
sensitive positions--and at one time when he was a test pilot. He
has never reported any of the encounters, even when he was a pilot.
I said, "Weren't you under obligation to report it?" And he said,
"Maybe I was, but if they have the slightest doubt about what you
are seeing up there, you are [considered to be] crazy--they won't
let you near the cockpit of an experimental plane." And he said, "If
you're a pilot, you want to fly. You don't want to spend the next
month filling out forms for a bunch of psychiatrics." Which is what
will happen. I think any pilot will tell you the same thing, you
know, over a beer. So those are the cases that I'm interested in.
The cases that have not been reported in the press, haven't been
distorted in the retelling. When I have time, I follow up on those
cases with my own resources basically out of curiosity, with no
60GCAT: But skeptics always argue that even though there may be
anecdotal evidence, there's no hard scientific data. . . .
Vallee: There is plenty of data--and it should be analyzed
further. But I do not think it's going to be a propeller from a
flying saucer. I think it is going to be things that would be
interesting if you could find a pattern to the material. I'm
skeptical about stories of crashed saucers; I have an open mind
about it, but I've heard those stories for so many years and they
never really amount to anything tangible. Also, I am skeptical for
another reason: We build technologies now that are extremely
reliable where there is the need. How often does your hard disk
crash? I mean, if you keep your computer for 15 years, eventually
the hard disk is going to crash. But you don't expect that to
happen. If you were going to build a technology that takes you
across interstellar space, it would have to be extremely reliable.
60GCAT: In your books, you detail the hard data turned up in
Vallee: There is a small unit of the CNES, which is the
French equivalent of NASA, that has permission to investigate any
cases of UFOs. They were set up in the mid-'70s and they've been
going ever since. They found a number of cases that couldn't be
explained, and some cases were never published with all the data.
Cases where there were traces on the ground, where there was
evidence of heat, evidence of radiation, including pulsed microwave
radiation, and evidence of plants being affected. Again, that
doesn't prove anything. It just proves that there was something
there. It doesn't tell you what it was. But it certainly is a valid
This data doesn't tell you if the phenomenon is natural or not,
because it doesn't tell you enough about the conditions where that
happened. And that's where I think a lot more research should be
done. People have come to me saying, "Look, I was a pilot or in a
radar station in Alaska, and we were tracking UFOs--we recorded the
data, and I was a pilot and followed one of those things and got gun
camera footage of it. When I landed there was a guy waiting for me,
in blue jeans and a sweater, who said, 'You didn't see anything up
there.'" Meanwhile, a guy with a screwdriver is unhooking the camera
from the fuselage. Usually witnesses have no idea where those guys
come from. But somebody has a lot of data; and I think that this
hard data should be turned over to science, certainly the stuff from
20 years ago--I mean, how classified can it be? By now, we should
have known if it was an enemy, so we should turn over the data to
the scientific community. Let the skeptics analyze it from their
point of view and let anyone else analyze it from their point of
view. That's the way science should be done.
Vallee refers to this complex system of control--which is shaping
human society over the course of thousands of years--as an
"interface of reality with consciousness." It sounds a lot like
Arthur C. Clarke's science fictional theme in 2001: A Space
Odyssey--an alien intelligence subtly directing the course of human
development, toward mysterious ends. Talk about your cosmic
But Vallee also has controversial ideas about human-made UFO
conspiracies. "I was investigating some cases that were physically
real," he says, "but they were hoaxes--yet not hoaxes on the part of
The two most stunning cases of faked UFO events that Vallee has
uncovered occurred rather recently in the history of saucer
sightings. In 1980, a strange object purportedly "crashed" in
England's Rendlesham Forest, a few miles away from an American Air
Force Base. Dozens of military personnel were dispatched into the
forest, without weapons, before the supposed crash of a luminous
object. After the incident conflicting stories leaked to the press
and to civilian investigators, some of the leaks apparently
originating from the front office of the military base. Vallee's
conclusion--controversial among UFO believers who insist that aliens
touched down in Rendlesham Forest--is that "the event had all the
earmarks of being staged for the benefit of the witnesses, perhaps
so that their psychological reactions could be studied."
Even more bizarre is the information turned up by French
investigators in the wake of a bizarre 1979 abduction case. An
unemployed young man named Franck Fontaine disappeared outside of
his apartment one morning, reportedly after his friends saw him
enveloped in a luminous fog. After a week of frenzied press coverage
and a fruitless search by the authorities, Fontaine turned up in a
field outside the apartment--with no memory of his unusual
experience. His friends insisted he had been abducted by a UFO, and
police investigators, though they doubted that claim, found no other
But as Vallee reports, investigators from GEPAN, the French
government's aerial phenomena study group, were led to an official
in the French Ministry of Defense who willingly described the
so-called UFO abduction as an "Exercise of General Synthesis." What
happened to Fontaine? "We put him to sleep and he was put under an
altered state of high suggestibility," replied the official. When
asked if the "exercise" was intended to test the investigative
abilities of local law enforcement agencies, the official said,
"That would be a fair way to describe it." Then he added, ominously,
"If this operation had been completed, the next phase would have
been far worse." As Vallee notes in his best-selling book,
Revelations, "It would be fair to assume that the [Fontaine]
operation could have been a test, perhaps a prelude to an experiment
of wider scope."
Vallee says he knows the name of the French official, an Air Force
officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
So what on earth--to pick an appropriate planet--is going on? Vallee
has several theories that might explain such UFO flimflam. The
military may be experimenting with psychological warfare techniques,
as the Germans did in World War I, when they projected images of the
Virgin Mary on banks of smoke in an effort to spook the French into
saying their Rosaries instead of killing Germans. Vallee also thinks
that sham UFO reports might be used as cover for tests of new
military stealth technology.
But the most troubling "deception theory" Vallee poses is that from
time to time, the target of UFO hoaxes might be the general public,
or a segment thereof.
"In some cases," he says, "the community of ufologists may simply be
used in a sociological experiment because they are a convenient
group of people to test, to see how they react to different rumors."
Sounds a bit improbable, but Vallee's research into the growth of
UFO "contactee" cults is suggests that such manipulation occurs. In
his book, Messengers of Deception, Vallee explored the rise of a new
kind of religious movement throughout the world: the UFO Messiah
cults, in which believers await the coming of bubble-headed saviors
in saucers. You can find these groups in Europe and the Americas, in
increasing numbers. Want a glimpse of this otherworldly subculture?
Just buzz into any of the alt.alien Usenet groups or enter the magic
word "UFO" into any World Wide Web search engine and see how fast
you're channeled into one of the most heavily trodden alternate
dimensions of online obsession since Big Brother went digital.
Listen to "Seth," the channeled alien being from beyond; hear the
Venusian commander known as Val Thor, who parks his spaceship on
Lake Mead near Las Vegas as if it were an extraterrestrial houseboat
(when he's not advising the Pentagon); heed the warnings of the
well-heeled "Rael," who speaks through a French contactee and runs a
According to Vallee, the French press has recently reported that the
notorious Order of the Solar Temple--in the news last year after 53
members committed suicide in Switzerland and Canada--told its
followers that the highest levels of initiation involved meetings
with extraterrestrial beings. The cult used holographic projectors
purchased in the United States to fool its members. "As you may
recall," says Vallee, "members of the cult were educated people and
professionals--not crazy kids on drugs."
So without further ado, we present Part 2 of the Jacques Vallee
60GCAT: Let's talk about some of the other forms of hard evidence
that scientists can look at when studying the UFO problem. For
instance, chunks of molten metal, the so-called "liquid sky"
Vallee: On their own, these metal samples are not compelling
evidence. But the existence of this material does show that there is
data that scientists can look at. When we received the Bogota,
Columbia, sample [supposedly the remnants of a plume of liquid slag
ejected from a flying disk over the University of Bogota in the
mid-1970s] we sawed off one little corner for analysis. It turned
out to be mostly aluminum. Again, this doesn't prove anything: you
could make a hunk of this stuff in your backyard by pouring molten
metal into a pool of water. Metallurgically, the Bogota sample is
not that unusual--except that it has gone through a violent heating,
not just up to a boiling point, but beyond. My point has always been
that it is interesting to see what patterns emerge from analysis of
enough of these samples. If you kept picking up specimens like that,
it might move your research into a particular direction.
60GCAT: One theory is that this liquid metal is part of the UFOs'
Vallee: There are [man-made] motors that use liquid
metal--usually mercury--for liquid contact. But the temperatures
necessary for molten aluminum and other metals would have to be
60GCAT: What about liquid sky samples that are of a slightly more
exotic makeup than the aluminum slag?
Vallee: The only one that's unusual is the one that Prof. Peter
Sturrock (a plasma physicist at Stanford University) has. It comes
from Ubatuba, Brazil. In the early 1930s, an object exploded over a
beach in Ubatuba. [In 1957, an alleged fragment from the explosion
turned up; its precise origin is uncertain.] Subsequent analysis at
the University and Colorado and Stanford confirmed that the material
was magnesium and magnesium oxide, with a very minute amount of
impurities. If the metal really did originate in the 1930s, it would
be very unusual because given the technology of the day, someone
would have had to go to a lot of trouble to get it that pure.
The Cosmic Database
60GCAT: Let's talk about some of the implications of your research.
If the UFO phenomenon is real, but is not aliens from outer space,
we're talking about new ways of thinking about reality and
cosmology, aren't we?
Vallee: Yes. In that sense, phenomenon is much more important
than visitors from another planet would be. Because it fundamentally
challenges the nature of reality. If UFOs are a physical reality,
they certainly violate everything we think we know about reality.
There are reliable reports of material UFOs that become immaterial
and disappear on the spot.
60GCAT: Your theories about UFOs and other "paranormal" phenomena
involve your metaphor of the "informational universe," where time
and space and whatever other dimensions there might be act as a kind
of cosmic computer database. What do you mean by that?
Vallee: You can get a consistent representation of reality if
you look at the world as a collection of events, or 'instances' (as
the philosophy of Occasionalism did in the eleventh century), rather
than as a collection of material objects moving in 3-dimensional
space as time flows. In virtual reality, of course, you can't tell
the difference. In the real world information and energy are
actually the same physical quantity. In a universe viewed as
'informational events' you should expect coincidences, telepathy,
time travel, multiple realities--all those things that seem
impossible in the 4-D energy universe. To me that's why puzzles like
UFOs are interesting. I don't have a personal theory to "explain"
them, but I see them as an opportunity to pose new questions. If
it's true that information resides in the questions we ask, coming
up with novel problems may be more important than having answers, at
this stage of our very limited understanding of the universe.
60GCAT: So reality is like a computer database in that the right
search word or "incantation" might cause a piece of information--a
UFO or ghost or other anomaly--to materialize.
Vallee: If you think of [reality] as the software for the
universe, all it would take is for someone to change a comma in the
program and the chair you are sitting in wouldn't be a chair at all.
The major benefit from this model is that it handles anomalies very
well. Coincidences would be a normal expectation. If you address a
database with a request for anything with the word "pool" you will
get ads for sunscreen, lotions, billiard balls and an investment
prospectus or two. In parapsychology gifted subjects may be forcing
similar coincidences between separate locations or separate minds.
One way of testing the theory, by the way, is to create massive
informational anomalies and see what happens when they collapse. You
could enhance remote viewing experiments, for instance, by loading
the site with large quantities of data about highly unlikely events
or situations, then quickly erase that data to collapse the
60GCAT: Of course, now we're talking about the intersection of
science and mysticism. Do you consider yourself a mystical person?
Vallee: I have never been comfortable with an arbitrary
separation of the world into the physical universe (which is
presumably what science studies) and the psychological, social and
psychic side of life. To me that arbitrary separation is the major
weakness of our intellectual system.
Most scientists who decide to study astronomy at an early age, as I
did, are probably motivated by something akin to a mystical desire
to understand the night sky and to embrace the larger issues. As
time goes on, of course, that desire gets eroded and trivialized. In
my case I managed to keep that curiosity fresh because although I
haven't had a "mystical" experience in a religious sense, I have
always suspected that there was another level of consciousness and
that it was accessible to the human mind. I have found similar
feelings among many Net programmers, who were drawn to networking by
the impression of operating outside the normal constraints of time
and space, something akin to what mystics describe, although of
course much more mundane.
60GCAT: You've said that UFOs represent a form of alien intelligence
that is actively manipulating human society. How and toward what
Vallee: A new computer analysis of historical trends,
compiled in the 1970s, led me to plot a striking graph of "waves" of
UFO activity that was anything but periodic. Fred Beckman and Dr.
Price Williams of UCLA pointed out that it resembled a schedule of
reinforcement typical of a learning or training process: the
phenomenon was more akin to a control system than to an exploratory
task force of alien travelers. There are many control systems around
us, and some are a part of nature: ecology, climate, etc. Some are
man-made: the process of education, the thermostat in your home. If
the UFO phenomenon represents a control system, can we test it to
determine if it is natural or artificial, open or closed? This is
one of the interesting questions about the phenomenon that has never
Chariots of the Frauds
60GCAT: Speaking of control systems, some of your other avenues of
UFO research have led you to suggest that from time to time human
agencies--governments, cults, and other groups interested in
manipulating people's beliefs--have engineered UFO deceptions and
hoaxes. Now we're really getting conspiratorial. . . .
Vallee: I think the place where ufology--the way it has
developed today--meets with my interest in communications, and my
interest in networks is in deception and manipulation. I think that
is an area of which people should be aware. Because I think a lot of
the things that are being discussed today, among people who believe
in UFOs, are either mythical or a part of manipulation of some sort,
which could include the stories of little aliens and the hybrids and
abductions and so forth. A lot of that may be either material that
cults have injected into the culture because it suits their own
fantasy about the end of the world or the millennium and all that.
Or, in a more sinister sense, in some of the cases I've
investigated, the deception hides a mind-control experiment. Anybody
who is aware of technology today should know that we have much more
than a stealth fighter flying around. We have capabilities,
theoretical or practical, to make all types of things. There is a
massive development of nonlethal platforms going on that those
platforms have to be tested somewhere, they have to be disguised as
something else from time to time. There has been massive development
of RPVs--remotely piloted vehicles--some of which are disk-shaped.
There is massive development of low observable technologies that are
used for reconnaissance and can be used for all sorts of other
things. And in many cases, the UFO stories are not simply fantasies
in the minds of a few witnesses, but may have been planted as part
of a cover for some very terrestrial technologies that we are
'Messengers of Deception?'
60GCAT: The UMMO cult, which you discuss at length in your books,
Revelations and Messengers of Deception, has an impressive history
of elaborate deception. Tell us about it.
Vallee: I think that the UMMO myth was started by a small
group of people, essentially cultists. What was intriguing about
UMMO was all its pseudo-scientific revelations [supposedly handed
down to earthling scientists like Vallee from UMMO-ites, beings who
hail from a planet 14.6 light years away from our sun]. But these
supposed revelations were not within the state of the art. They
didn't come up with proof of Fermat's theorem or something like
that, it was just perfectly good science fiction.
60GCAT: What about the French theory that UMMO was a psychological
Vallee: Yeah, they thought that the cult had been used or was
manipulated by the KGB. Because for one thing, some of their
ideas--some of the data that was supposedly channeled from the UMMO
organization in the sky was very advanced cosmology. Very advanced
cosmology about twin universes involving some data that was not
stupid--it came straight out of the notes of Andre Sakarav,
including some of the unpublished notes of Sakarav, some things that
Sakarav was known to have worked on, but had not published. And so
some people--and I don't know who's right--felt that somebody had to
have access to those notes, to inspire those messages, perhaps the
KGB. It wasn't just ordinary science fiction; it was somebody who
knew what some of the more advanced cosmologists were thinking.
60GCAT: Why would the KGB or any intelligence agency perpetrate such
an arcane hoax?
Vallee: Well, let me tell you a little story. About fifteen
years ago there was a group that suddenly appeared in San Francisco.
They had a big party downtown. And they invited everybody who was
anybody in parapsychology. And they made a little speech saying, "We
have all this money from somebody who wants to do good and help
research, we know that there isn't much money in parapsychology; we
will entertain proposals for research, give us your best ideas; we
will send it to a panel who will review it and we will fund the best
research." After the party, a lot of people rushed home to their
computers and typed in all their best ideas, sent it on--but the
organization never existed, was never heard from again. Somebody was
So having a cover as a group sometimes, a completely weird group,
can be a convenient way of getting technical intelligence. It's a
good way of doing technological assessment. So some of those weird
groups could be used for that. Now, that doesn't explain why they
would do it for ten years. In the case of UMMO, why would you go on?
I think that UMMO became sort of a goal in itself. It became
self-propagating. because so many people got drawn to it,
psychologically. They started writing things about each other and it
became a self-sustaining myth. They're still sending me stuff. There
is an index, catalogs; for some people it's become their entire
life. Increasingly, we're seeing those kinds of cults appearing in
net space, cyberspace.
60GCAT: Is there something about online communications that helps
foster myths and deceptions?
Vallee: Because we live in a world where with communications
media based on digital networks, a small group of people can have a
tremendous impact on the belief of the masses. And we also live in a
world where the belief of the masses is a strategic weapon. We have
H-bombs but we can't use them. We have neutron bombs, but we can't
use them. But if we found a way of influencing the beliefs of masses
of people, that would have great strategic impact. The big problems
in the world are the problems of fundamentalism and
religion--whether it's Islamic or in other forms of religion. Those
are the great destabilizing forces in the world today. Well, belief
in Extraterrestrials coming here to save us can be induced in large
masses of people with the technical means that exist today.
The potential for contagion of absurd beliefs is a real one. In the
hands of people who might deliberately use the Internet to create an
epidemic of irrationalism we might see the emergence of a whole new
class of very dangerous, powerful cults with all the trappings of
And I think somebody has to pay attention to that angle. So I was
led to that by finding-- I was investigating some cases that were
physically real, but were hoaxes--but not hoaxes on the part of the
witnesses. And the story about the object had in fact been planted.
The Bentwaters case [in which American servicemen at an Air Force
base in England observed a disk-shaped craft land in the forest] is
a classic. At the landing site, they had a mix of ordinary guards,
officers, sentries and so on--they all had orders to go to the site
under a scenario. And that's not what would of happened if the
encounter were real--if a strange object landed on the base you
wouldn't be sending out a hundred people without weapons. The thing
has all the earmarks of being staged for the benefit of the
witnesses, so that they could be studied and the reactions of the
different psychological types and of different ranks could be
studied. And when you think about it, it's not that weird. If you
were in charge of a project like that, you'd have to test it in
conditions where nobody is danger and you can get the data you need.
In cases like this one--not many but a few of them--that I
investigated, I had to conclude that these were tests of virtual
Psy-Ops from 'Beyond'
60GCAT: So there might be military applications for this technology
Vallee: Our gods have always come from the sky. And how would
a god come from the sky today? He would come down in some kind of
space ship. He couldn't just appear out of the clouds, I mean, that
won't work. Although in World War I the Germans were using
psychological warfare by projecting photographs, slides, along
French lines. And I'm sure the French were doing the same thing to
the Germans. And there are very sophisticated devices now being used
in psychological warfare to create holograms, to create visions to
influence people. It might not work with you and me today if we go
out today and see something in the skies, it might not destabilize
us. But if we were under a lot of stress--if you've been fighting
for a month on some little island, and all of the sudden something
like that happens--
I remember seeing a letter to the U.S. Air Force from a man who was
finally reporting something he had seen during World War II in the
Pacific. He said he was on top of a little island lookout point.
They were expecting a Japanese attack. They had been fighting
intensely on and off for several weeks. They were fairly isolated.
They saw an object in the sky that was absolutely physical, that
circled the island, was a disk, no means of propulsion, no noise. It
circled the island and went off. And he said he had never reported
it, not even to his wife. The reason he didn't report it at the time
was that his men were under such stress that he wouldn't want them
to think that their commander might be flipping. So the same kind of
psychological means that won't work with ordinary people and
ordinary things might work in exceptional cases.
60GCAT: And therefore cultists and UFO true believers--who are under
a kind of ideological stress--might be seen as ideal targets for
Vallee: In some cases the UFO community may be simply used in
a sociological experiment because they are a convenient group of
people to see how they would react to different rumors. [Suppose the
government loses a nuclear weapon over a foreign country.] You still
have to go and recover that thing. And you can't tell people what
you're doing, so you have to be able to very quickly plant a story.
You might plant a story that this was a flying saucer from Venus.
That would be so ridiculous that scientists wouldn't go check. You
might have a few journalists there, but you can tell them whatever
you want, and you can give them photographs of whatever. And so all
you need is to distract everybody for two or three days, time to
bring the equipment, get everything out, recover whatever was
scattered and go away. I think there are cases where exactly that
has happened. And those are sort of the great UFO stories that
people still tell around campfire.
But I think there was no UFO there. I think the UFO story was
invented-- I was saying earlier it's healthy to be skeptical. I
respect people who have a skeptical argument there. Jim Oberg, who
is a specialist in the Russian space program, pointed out to me that
some of the sightings that I published from the Soviet Union--a
strange yellowish crescent seen going through the sky by many people
in the Soviet Union--that those were rocket tests that were illegal
under the Salt agreement; and obviously, they couldn't hide it in
the sky. . . so the government planted the story that there was a
flying saucer, and that got into the newspapers.
Again, the UFO research community is a useful laboratory in which to
observe the effects of propaganda and disinformation, since it is
driven in large part by an intent to expose "the coverup." This
creates an opportunity for people to masquerade as good guys and
"reveal" all sorts of unverifiable rumors. They meet with a
receptive audience because the context is one of "independent
inquiry of original, bold, nonconformist ideas. Does that mean we
should necessarily believe the man who claims he was in NATO
intelligence and saw a classified document about the four humanoid
races that live on the moon? I don't think so.