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Six UFO tales: Dispatches from our alien-loving culture

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Sunday, February 16, 2014, 9:56 AM -

In countless trillions of solar systems, across countless millions of galaxies, it defies credibility that our blue marble is the one and only home of intelligent life in the universe.

So when one sky watcher in Oregon said he spotted a series of lights that took an odd shape when viewed in night vision (the story even made it into the Huffington Post), out of curiosity, we asked visitors to our website whether they believed in bona fide visitors from beyond.

The results were ... interesting. It seems around 59 per cent of respondents definitely believe UFOs exist.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do YOU believe in visitors from beyond? Let us know in the poll comments, and below.

Whether you think they're real or not, UFOs are a huge part of our common culture.

Here are are six tales of people and places who all had their own, defining effect on our collective love of the Little Green Men.

Vancouver gets a different kind of tourist

This must have seemed like the jackpot for UFO enthusiasts: A UFO that made its appearance not on some backwater road, but at a crowded baseball game in late 2013, in a major city.

Hard to dismiss seeing it, for sure, and aside from news coverage by reputable mainstream local and international media, its presence reached deep into the Internet with YouTube uploads and Twitpics.

Hey, it even had its own hashtag: #LuckyUFO. It seems the Vancouver Canadians, who were playing at Nat Bailey Stadium when the extraterrestrial visitor showed up, ended up taking the game, and the one after it.

It was stupendous. It was a phenomenon.

And it was too good to be true, because of COURSE it was. It was all an elaborate and high profile hoax, and a few days after the baseball game, none other than Vancouver’s H.R. MacMillan Space Centre owned up to it.

And by “owned up to it,” we mean it issued a very enthusiastic press release, in the vein of: “It was totally us, you guys, and it was awesome!”

It seems the Space Centre completed a $500,000 upgrade to its planetarium theatre, and wanted to build up a buzz around space, so they got together with a marketing company to design and build a drone in the shape of the space centre itself, and strategically place it around the city.

The space centre even released a video showing how they did it. No word on whether they also hired anyone to follow it around and start whistling the X-Files theme.

Attendance at the space centre was up more than 60 per cent even BEFORE the drone started buzzing the city. That marketing company really earned its fee.

A really great radio broadcast sparks a panic

Everybody knows this one, but it’s quite something still to listen to the 1938 radio adaptation of War of the Worlds, put together by none other than Orson Welles.

It’s astounding because it sounds so normal – at least at first. Heck, after a disclaimer by Welles reminding viewers that the next hour was pure fiction, it starts off with a perfectly legit-sounding weather report about a low pressure system off Nova Scotia.

Then, slowly, the faux broadcast was interrupted with ever increasing urgency by totally-real sounding reports by totally real-sounding reporters and interviewees.

Before the hour is out, that Nova Scotia weather bulletin has turned into Martians vaporizing people and the iconic tripod war machines of the famed sci-fi novel marching on New York.

People lost it. They fled their homes, spammed emergency phone lines, flocked to churches and prepared themselves for what they were totally sure was an invasion from another world.

People just tuning in and out were not likely to hear Welles' disclaimers, or even register hearing them, given how incredibly well-put together the program was. And remember: It was 1938. The Second World War was about to break out, and everyone was on edge.

Looking back in hindsight (Time Magazine did a retrospective on the broadcast’s 75-year anniversary in 2013), the “panic” may have been overstated by the newspapers of the day, eager to discredit the medium of radio in the wake of stiff competition for ad revenues.

Certainly, Welles himself seems very shaken by the panic in this interview clip, however much he would revel in it in the years to come:

Look at him. At one point he’s rocking back and forth where he sits, mobbed by reporters on all sides. We know he was a great actor, but he seems genuinely horrified that anyone – ANYONE – would really think Aliens had invaded New Jersey.

Evidently he didn’t know his audience as well as he thought he did.

St. Paul, Alberta, for one, welcomes our alien overlords

If you’re tired of just waiting for UFOs to come to you, why not go to them?

We don’t mean building a rocket ship and jetting out to the cosmos to find them (although if that’s something that’s in your power, by all means, go for it). We mean moseying on down to St. Paul, Alberta – proud owner of the first UFO Landing Pad in Canada, and possibly the world.

Image: Bryan C. Passifiume/Wikimedia Commons

Image: Bryan C. Passifiume/Wikimedia Commons

Yep, it’s a real thing, and everyone takes it VERY seriously. Local residents and businesses chipped in $11,000 to build it in the 1960s, and when it opened in 1967, it was hailed as part of Canada’s Centennial celebrations.

Heck, then-defense minister Paul Hellyer himself showed up in a helicopter to cut the ribbon, and the town promotes it every way they can. They even added a UFO information centre in 1990, boasting “actual photographs of UFOs, crop circles and cattle mutilations.” So, you know, fun for the whole family.

We’re sure there are a few folks out there who are staunch believers in UFOs (Including Hellyer. The National Post reports the high-ranking federal minister later said he thought the U.S. government was covering up reports of visitors from beyond), but probably most supporters agree: It’s all about the tourism.

And it works. The town does a brisk trade from travelers who come for the little green men and stay for the town’s other attractions. Mother Theresa dropped in once, as did the Queen.

And if you happen to spot a flying saucer yourself, do your civic duty and call it in – St. Paul set up a 1-800 number just for that purpose.

NEXT PAGE: How to spark a panic for only $80

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