Aliens of America: UFOs and Abductions Through the Years

Do aliens hold the key to saving the human race? Jim Sparks believed so.

Are we alone in the universe?

Ever since humans first looked up at the sky and began wondering about our place in the infinite void of space, we've entertained the possibility that other life could be out there. And we've always hungered for connection with intergalactic creatures, building religions around them and even labeling them as the ultimate bringers of the apocalypse.

Occasionally, though, with surprising frequency, some people have done a lot more than simply imagine aliens. Tens of thousands of people have reported interactions with aliens (and an untold number have had experiences that they've kept to themselves). Ranging from mass sightings to full-on abductions, man's encounters with aliens have inspired dozens of science fiction movies and conspiracy theories. But truth is always stranger than fiction.

Alien UFO in Los Angeles, 1942

UFO Sightings

In 1947, something crashed in the desert near Roswell, Nevada—and sparked a nationwide interest in aliens that continues to this day. According to the U.S. Air Force, the object was a balloon meant to monitor the Soviet Union, but many people today believe that story was a coverup for the government's illicit alien-related activity in the Nevada desert. The event made Area 51 famous—and either catalyzed a bunch of hallucinations in the coming decade or incensed a bunch of aliens enough to inspire them to begin abducting and investigating humans.

After the Roswell incident, UFO reports exploded. A few cases stand out from the rest, though, due to their highly public natures. On December 9, 1965, thousands of people in North America saw a fireball cross through the sky. The town of Kecksburg, Pennsylvania had an even stranger experience: According to residents, a gigantic metallic object emblazoned with odd hieroglyphs crashed in their town but was quickly taken away by the government. Years later, NASA came out and said the object was a Russian satellite—but, eerily, Russian data doesn't match up with the timing of this fallen UFO.

On March 13, 1997, thousands of Arizonians (including the state's governor) saw a huge V-shaped object floating through the sky. The object changed colors and stretched almost a mile wide, and it made its way across the state before disappearing.

These are far from isolated incidents. Reports of UFO sightings date hundreds of years into BC time and span the globe. Alien sightings decreased a bit in the 21st century, but in 2019 they suddenly began spiking. That may have had something to do with the fact that the Pentagon announced it was actively investigating UFOs in May of 2019. (Of course, the government's UFO investigation has been going on since the 1940s).

Still from Project Blue Book by the U.S. Air Force, 1952-1969

1950-McMinnville, Oregon; photo by Paul Trent

Close Encounters and Abductions

Sometimes, aliens descend from their UFOs and actually attempt to make contact. This was the experience of the Sutton family in rural Kentucky, who claimed they encountered a dozen "goblins" in 1955. The family said that first they saw a light streak across the sky, and then goblins floated down from nearby trees. The family shot at them with their guns and eventually left to get a sheriff; when they returned, the creatures were gone.

In 1952, a woman named Kathleen May took her children and some neighborhood kids to investigate an object they had just watched fall from the sky. When they arrived at the site of the crash, they saw a ten-foot tall creature with glowing red eyes; it had massive hands and was making an ominous hissing noise. They fled, and all of the witnesses fell ill after the incident.

Perhaps no direct encounter with aliens has been more influential than what happened to Betty and Barney Hill in 1961. One night, the Hills were driving through New Hampshire's labyrinthine White Mountains when they realized that a peculiar light in the sky appeared to be following them. They eventually made it home to Portsmouth, though when they arrived their watches had stopped working and their shoes were scuffed—and neither of them could remember a full two hours of the previous night.

Betty and Barney Hill Abduction Case

With the aid of a psychiatrist, the couple eventually admitted what had happened: Grey creatures with bright eyes had led them into a massive metal disc. They'd examined the Hills, wiped their memory, and released them. The couple's story led to an Air Force inquiry and inspired Project Blue Book, an investigation force that focused on alien abduction reports. It also shaped alien abduction narratives for years to come. Before the Hills, most encounters with aliens had been friendly and harmless; afterwards, speculation about abductions and probes blossomed rampantly.

The couple's story also became the blueprint for a certain type of alien. Known as "greys" in UFO circles, the Hills' distinct aliens were spotted again and again over the years. This means that either dozens of people have experienced the same delusion, perhaps drawing subconscious inspiration from the Hills' story—or it means that a race of big-headed, bright-eyed, grey aliens are really descending down to Earth, investigating humans and floating back to wherever they came from, data in tow.

These aliens were spotted in another one of the most notorious cases of alien abduction ever to shake America—the story of Travis Walton. In 1971, Walton and five other forestry workers were making their way through the woods when they saw a bright light in the distance. Walton strode towards it, only to be shocked brutally by the glow. The five others ran off and reported their coworker missing. When Walton was discovered five days later, he reported that he'd been taken onto a ship and investigated by grey aliens who used some kind of gas to render him unconscious. Walton also said he met several other strangely good-looking humans, clad in blue uniforms, who conducted experiments on him in a large warehouse that appeared to be full of other flying saucers.

A UFO in Palomar Gardens, California, taken by George Adamski. Mary Evans Picture Library/

Alien Saviors?

Not all aliens are unfriendly and invasive mad scientists. (Perhaps, just like humans, some of them believe in harsher methods of investigation than others?) In fact, many people across time have said they've received important advice from aliens.

For example, alien abductee Jim Sparks says that he has had a long-term relationship with extraterrestrials known as the Keepers, who first appeared to him in 1988 and have since outlined steps humanity must take in order to save ourselves from self-destruction.

At first, Sparks said, the encounters were invasive, and he felt that his visitors (who appeared several times a month) were "probing through to the deepest fiber of my mind." Eventually, he decided to try and listen to what the aliens had to say.

The aliens told him that humans are "isolated" in the universe "by ignorance" and are "not ready to join the intelligent life that exists in other realms" because we're "too dangerous to be set free in the universe to do as we please." They showed Sparks video footage of beautiful scenery on Earth, then followed it with clips that showed humans destroying the natural environment. After one of these viewing sessions, a telepathic voice said, ""YOU ARE KILLING YOUR PLANET. YOUR PLANET IS DYING."

"There are better ways," Sparks was told, of "deriving your energy and food needs, without causing your planet any damage." Sparks later founded an organization dedicated to conserving forests.

Why We See Aliens

So, why do we see aliens? That's a huge question, and it's one that many psychologists and Internet conspiracy theorists have tried to figure out.

In general, psychologists conclude that the 2.5% of the American population who claim they've encountered aliens aren't actually making up what happened to them. Most people really think their stories are true, meaning that a lot of people are hallucinating or experiencing sleep paralysis…or that the aliens are actually making contact.

Some scientists blame alien abductions on humans' desire to feel special and not alone in the universe; others connect it to American exceptionalism. Still others insist it's the consequence of pareidolia, a modern incarnation of man's tendency to follow glowing blue lights in dark woods. If those old superstitions were fundamental in shaping our view of the world, then modern interactions with aliens might be a new myth, a new religion for modern times. Alien invasion "provides a language of longing for something — an angelic visitor, the complete fulfillment of our own technological potential, revelation about the nature of the universe — which remains elusive," writes Claire Coffey for The Outline. "Still, there are signs that alien belief is poised to become one of the world's ethical religions. Alien beliefs often implicate the world in wickedness and call for repentance — many accounts of alien contacts include calls for an end to war and an increase in peaceful human cooperation."

Some people choose to believe, looking beyond earthly logic and science. According to one report, one in five Americans believe that at one point or another, aliens have visited Earth. Do you?

The Original "I Want to Believe" Image from the X-Files Fox

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Travel Tips

Three Things to Consider When Planning Your Vacation

There are plenty of things to consider when planning your vacation. Make sure you have all your bases covered by the time you buy your plane ticket!

Going on vacation is wonderful after months of stress and work. There's just one last hurdle before hopping on that plane: planning.

There can be an overwhelming number of things to consider when planning your vacation (COVID-19 not least), but putting them in an itemized list helps. Here's a quick cheat-sheet for you to get a jump-start on that.

Vacation VacationUniversity of Kentucky

Remember Your Budget

If you make a budget, which you definitely should, stick to it. Don't spend more than what you can afford when you start vacationing. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, so saddling yourself with debt will only dampen the fun of your trip. How much are you spending on living accommodations, food, activities, travel? How much are you setting aside in emergency funds in case something happens?

Plan for the Length of the Trip

Are you going out of town for a few months, or do you only have a week off? How much time you have can affect where you can go and how much you can enjoy it. If you only have a week and a half for a trip, then it's best not to go somewhere that's a 16-hour flight away. Half the trip is going to be spent on planes, and the other half will be spent being jet-lagged.

Trip length can also affect how you have to deal with your home while you're away. If you're away for long periods of time, do you need to hire people to cut your grass? Do you need to hire house sitters or babysitters? There are even things to know if you need to board your dog. Keep all these in mind for extended vacations.

Consider the Weather

You never want to ruin your vacation by heading somewhere beautiful in its offseason. Depending on the time of year, most activities could be canceled due to weather restrictions. Some places are ideal for winter trips, and other destinations are made to be enjoyed during the summer heat. Plan accordingly, and don't show up in a swimsuit when it's 50 degrees outside.

That rounds up the basics, but there are plenty more things to consider when planning your vacation. Give yourself wiggle room if any unique considerations pop up in your planning process.

There has never been a better time to learn a language than right now. While we can't really travel, we can still get ready to explore the world and other cultures through film, music, and food. But the key to all of this is language. It can be hard getting started on your own and so we found the perfect solution: Rosetta Stone.

We've been loving hunkering down and digging into Rosetta Stone, a language learning app with many different languages, the best lessons, and an affordable subscription. It's flexible and made to work for you, no matter what level you're starting at. Jump back into French without dusting off your highschool books or pick up Mandarin with a clean slate.

Thinking about Rosetta Stone for your language lessons? Here are the answers to your most pressing questions:

What languages do they offer?

With Rosetta Stone, you can choose from 25 different languages including Spanish, Arabic, and Japanese. When you get the Unlimited Languages subscription you gain access to all 25 and can switch between languages. While you may be intensely learning German, you can take a break and pick up some conversational Korean — all in one app.

What are the features?

What makes Rosetta Stone's lessons really work are the incredible learning features.

Phrasebook will teach you short, useful expressions that are sure to come in handy during your travels, letting you see the practical application of what you're learning. Seek & Speak brings the fun back into learning by having you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and taking photos of them to get the translated name. Even in an app, Rosetta Stone turns any environment into a classroom.

TruAccent is a speech engine within the program that provides instant feedback on your pronunciation so you know if you're on the right track. You'll grow more confident about speaking aloud and it's like having an accent coach in the room with you.

How long does it take every day?

Rosetta Stone's lessons are bite-sized, so all you need is 5 -10 minutes a day to sneak in some practice and work towards your language goals. Of course, you can do more if you want but there's no regimented schedule or pressure to speed ahead.

How does it compare to in-person classes?

With the Rosetta Stone app, your learning is within your control and designed to move at your pace. The app will tailor to your particular interests, strengths, and weaknesses! Plus, with the recent explosion of online classes, most people have fallen away from in-person instruction anyway.

Rosetta Stone brings you expert teaching, fun engaging lessons, and a multitude of language options all on-the-go. Take your classes whenever and wherever works best for you, conveniently on the app.

Is it suitable for all levels?

Absolutely. When you first start, the app allows you to choose a study plan based on your experience level. So, if you're a beginner you can start from scratch and those with some proficiency can advance to where they're comfortable.

How much does it cost?

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month and grants access to all 25 languages, cheaper than Netflix. You get an education at a great value and the best part is no ads while you learn!

We look forward to our Rosetta Stone lessons and highly recommend it to anyone eager to learn a new language or even brush up on an old one. This program makes learning fun, practical, convenient, and most importantly affordable.

Say bonjour, to the go-to language learning app and have the world right at your fingertips!

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!

Like so many out there I haven't been traveling. With everything going on these days I've been staying home, which I love, but it does have me itching to travel. The international section of Netflix just isn't satisfying my travel bug like it used to (trust me, if it's been recommended I've watched it).

I was looking for another way I could travel without leaving home so I did the rounds of take-out food: Chinese, German, Italian, and Mexican. This was fun and tasty but a pricey way to explore the world.

A friend of mine suggested taking a prepping approach to travel and try Rosetta Stone: a language learning program that offers an annual plan with access to 24+ languages.

I've always wanted to learn a new language but have had trouble committing. I was a bit wary about starting Rosetta Stone but ultimately decided to give it a shot.

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month for 12 months (what a deal). While I was determined to learn Spanish in anticipation of my dream trip to Spain, this plan allows me to switch to any of the other 24+ languages.

I was excited to get started and use the app. I figured with all of the extra time I had until I could actually go on my trip, I'd aspire to be near fluent by the time it happened.

Jumping right in, I took a ton of lessons through their app and really binged the language. I loved the focus on conversational language, phrases, and vocabulary but after about a week I had burned myself out a bit.

I ended up pulling back and doing 10-minute lessons a day. This was manageable and easy to incorporate into my schedule whether it was by doing a lesson over my morning coffee or winding down right before bed. Learning in bite-sized amounts helped me digest the information and really process what I was being taught.

After a couple of weeks, I was getting really comfortable with Rosetta Stone and was actually enjoying the learning process… even though I wasn't a big fan of language when I was in school. What really set this experience apart for me was the Phrasebook and Seek & SpeakⓇ features.

Phrasebook teaches short, useful expressions that I know will come in handy on my trip. Seek & SpeakⓇ definitely brought the fun back into learning for me, as it has you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and take photos of them. Once you do this it gives you a translation of each item (I've never enjoyed looking for cucumbers in my fridge before).

Watching so many telenovelas I knew how important the accent is (in any language) but difficult without an in-person instructor. Rosetta Stone realizes that too and uses TruAccentⓇ. The speech engine within the program gave me instant feedback so I knew that my pronunciation was on the right track and it made me more comfortable speaking aloud.

Rosetta Stone turned out to be a great choice for me. Now I'm daydreaming about traveling and feel like when the time comes I'll be ready to. I'm so confident in my learning that I've branched out and have done some lessons in Italian and French! I'm thinking, after Spain… maybe Rome and Paris? My destinations list is endless now!

Honestly, with Rosetta Stone, I feel more inspired than ever to travel and all this inspiration is happening right in my home. I can't wait to take what I've learned on the road but until then the preparation is still incredibly fun and useful.

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!