Greensburg man lending his expertise to new cable series 'UFO Files'
It's not clear when it happened, exactly. But at some point, the History channel's sister channel H2 was abducted by aliens.
Sure, the people who run it seem to look, talk and email like normal humans (or that's what they want you to believe...). Larry the Cable Guy, who hosts the network's “Only in America” show, seems unaffected.
However, if you want to learn about UFOs, this is clearly the place. On Friday nights (after “Ancient Aliens”), a new show, “Hangar 1: The UFO Files,” draws upon the files of MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network (www.mufon.com). In particular, it leans on the expertise of Greensburg's John Ventre, MUFON's Pennsylvania director.
Ventre brings the energy and enthusiasm of a late-in-life convert to the subject.
“A lot of these people (UFO enthusiasts) were into it as kids,” he says. “I was never into it until I was 39. I was not into UFOs at all until the late '90s. I decided to write a sci-fi book, based on the Mayan calendar and end-times prophecies. While researching it '96-97, I kept coming across all these cultures talking about people from the stars, people on ‘flying shields.' I joined MUFON in 1998.”
“Hangar 1” is actually a real place, where the national MUFON organization keeps its files, at a warehouse in Cincinnati. Since its inception in 1969, MUFON has attempted to collect as much data about UFO sightings as possible, from official government files to newspaper reports, to first-person reports.
For the latter, they train investigators to interview UFO-spotters, and try to determine whether the sighting is credible or has a more plausible explanation (satellite, star, military aircraft, etc.).
“We have over 70,000 eyewitness accounts in our files,” Ventre says. “Even if only 10 percent are real, that's 7,000 cases.”
In typical History channel style, “Hangar 1” features re-enactments, along with file footage, expert interviews and lots of flashy editing. What sets it apart, Ventre says, is that everything is based on documentation in MUFON's files.
“A lot of times, the media and shows make UFOs look silly,” he says. “We get to look over the episode before it airs. I actually have given them some of my ideas.”
Ventre lives in Greensburg, which puts him in the center of one of the most active UFO-spotting locations in the country.
“Westmoreland County is ranked No. 1 in the country for sightings, in counties that don't have a major city,” he says. “L.A. County (Los Angeles) is No. 1 overall.”
The first episode (already aired, available on www.history.com) started the series in a startling way with “Presidential Encounters.” As it turns out, just about all of our post-war presidents had some kind of documented brush with, or interest in, the subject of UFOs. If you want an authority to speak about something, why not go to the highest authority in the land?
“If a president told you, would you believe it?” Ventre asks. “If he said he saw it, that's the most credible level.”
“There are a lot of skeptics,” Ventre says. “The thing I hang my hat on are the documents. There are a lot of factual documents from the FBI, (correspondences) between generals and presidents, things that Carter and Reagan said. If you lay them out in order, starting in 1942, an intelligent person who reads those has to understand that this is real — very credible, high-ranking people discussed this.”
The episode also discusses the Robertson Panel, which investigated UFOs during the Truman administration in 1953.
“In '58, there's a memo from the CIA that they sponsored the Robertson Panel,” Ventre says. “It said, basically, ‘We should make fun of people who report them.' They used their psychology — people were very concerned about UFOs in the '60s. They tried to ruin the reputations of people who said they saw UFOs.”
So far, the ratings for the show have been quite good.
The March 14 episode is about “Alien Technology.” Other episodes include “Space Weapons,” “American Hotspots,” “UFO Crashes” and “Shadow Government.”
“I made out a list for the director,” Ventre says. “We could do a show on abductions, underwater cases, UFOlogists who have been threatened. Celebrity witnesses, military witnesses. There's so much material there.”
Ventre hopes the show drives interest in both the subject of UFOs and the MUFON organization. Their next major event is a conference April 26, at the Erie Bayfront Convention Center.
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7901.