- Nicole DeCosta
- West Linn Tidings - Features
Will the world ever know the truth about UFOs? A West Linn ufologist, Keith Rowell, hopes so - he'd also like to know
It was a sunny day in 2006.
A light wind peaked at 10 mph.
West Linn resident Keith Rowell stepped outside his house to find a strange luminescent blue, white and red spherical object drifting through the sky. Sensing that this cluster wasn't just an escapee batch of party balloons, he ran inside to grab his video camera, zoomed in and hit 'record.' Six seconds later, the battery died.
Ten years prior, Rowell witnessed golden yellow and cobalt blue spheres in the sky above him while visiting a friend in Lake Oswego.
Rowell is an investigator of sorts - a ufologist, boots on the ground, visiting people's houses, asking questions and taking measurements.
'I've always had an interest in mysteries of the real world - not so much interested in the fictional mysteries,' Rowell said.
But that was before discovering books on unidentified flying objects while working for Portland Public Schools in 1974.
'I was an open minded skeptic,' Rowell said.
So, he started reading.
Three decades later, Rowell's basement is out of this world - in size and subject matter.
Hundreds of books about UFOs, sorted by author, line the perimeter of the room, with overflow space and alien memorabilia in the adjoining den, where he updates his Web site for MUFON - Mutual UFO Network, Inc. Rowell serves as the assistant state director for Oregon MUFON. He retired from technical writing about three years ago.
'I wrote computer manuals that everybody hates to read,' he said.
Now, he updates the Oregon MUFON Web site, 'to give people a reasoned voice of how to look into and study UFOs. It's a jungle out there,' he said.
When asked about the recent UFO sightings in Texas which the Texas chapter of MUFON is investigating, Rowell just shrugged his shoulders.
MUFON is a national organization with an emphasis on scientific investigation and analysis of UFO events, while promoting knowledge for the public about what is currently known about UFOs, according Rowell. Rowell is certified to investigate these phenomena that both mesmerize and scare the public.
Rowell said that the subjects of UFOs is controversial and emotional. When investigating paranormal activity - crop circles, cattle mutilations, UFO claims and other bizarre happenings - he said many people don't understand what happened but want an answer. And many feel relieved to hear it may be a meteor that caught their eye in the sky.
Hoaxes happen every so often with the increase of Internet use and ability to quickly report things, he said.
'The 'keystroke hoax' is common now in Oregon because we have one person who is doing this from downstate Oregon,' he said, meaning someone is repeatedly reporting false UFO sightings.
But debunkers, Rowell said, are destructive.
'Alternative medicine, UFOs, religious beliefs - this kind of person never accepts any amount of evidence,' he said.
Rowell earned a degree in philosophy and librarianship. He now acts like a live history reporter, speaking nonchalantly in public and private about Project Blue book - the Air Force's official investigation of UFOs in the 1950s and 1960s.
He suggests that others read about John Mack, M.D., a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard who is considered to be a leading authority on the transformational effects of alleged alien encounter experiences.
Rowell said that there are two obstacles holding the public from understanding UFOs - national security and the paranormal world.
'We live in a national security state since 1947 when the National Security Act created the CIA,' he said.
U.S. Government forces protect the interests of its people. Thus, the UFO subject is very hush, hush, he said.
'The fear of public panic about the reality of little alien bodies on ice and parts of saucers in storage gives our national security state pause about revealing the truth about UFOs,' Rowell said.
He continued, 'They are also trying to 'back engineer' the artifacts that they have to turn these engineering insights into human designed military weapons.'
The Roswell UFO incident - involving the recovery of materials near Roswell, N.M. in 1947 - is still under speculation. Were the remains really that of an alien craft or a secret research balloon, such as the U.S. military said?
Small, round flying objects referred to as Foo Fighters followed allied bombers over Germany during WWII. Sometimes they would appear in clusters. Witnesses often assume that they were weapons employed by the enemy. Later it was found out that neither side had anything to do with them and the case remains unexplained, according to Wikipedia.org.
Delving further back in time, the 1939 fictional adaptation of the science fiction novel 'The War of the Worlds' radio broadcast fooled listeners of a Martian invasion on earth and caused mass panic.
'UFOs are bound up with the paranormal world - psychic stuff: ghosts, telepathy, near death experiences, Big Foot, the Lock Ness Monster,' Rowell said.
He said that those at MUFON hope to help others deepen their understanding of UFOs by working through the various sides of, 'the UFO question.'
Rowell said that sophisticated business people and common folk have reported seeing UFOs.
According to the UFOCAT Web site and Rowell, more than 1,000 potential UFO sightings occurred in Oregon between 1947 and 1980.
MUFON operates off donations, from people like Rowell who donate $50 a year.
'You cannot get funds from foundations, the U.S. government and other sources of ordinary funding because it's a 'non-subject,' meaning 'not real' so it doesn't get time, money or expertise,' he said. 'It's frustrating.'
Rowell hopes that someday MUFON gets some serious money to aid with investigations and informing the public.
'Millions and millions of dollars,' he said. 'We just want to get the word out. … It concerns me that our society as a whole doesn't know what I believe to be the truth.'
The Oregon MUFON Web site invites opinions because opinions are, 'stronger than an impression and less strong than positive knowledge.'
Rowell's wife, Jan Rowell, seems to have a typical American viewpoint on the concept of UFOs.
'Who knows,' she said. 'It's just one of those things. Ask Keith, he's the expert.'
Rowell said that sometime he'd like the public to lighten their grip dubbing UFOs as a crazy idea and irrelevant and have the government reveal their secrets.
'Right now I,' Rowell said, 'unfortunately, am your expert.'
For more information about Keith Rowell and MUFON, visit http://oregonmufon.com.