On April 26th and 27th Alien Worlds Magazine columnist Brittany Babakioff and I attended the Retro UFO 3 conference at the Integratron, in Landers, California, along with fellow cabal members Nick Redfern and Greg Bishop, and assorted other UFO and conspiracy authors and researchers, including Kenn Thomas and Adam Gorightly.
Conference organizer Barbara Harris put on a great show, and is to be commended for persevering even though pre-conference registrations were low. In the end, about 60 hardy souls braved the desert heat and made their way out for the two days of talks, screenings, and fun.
As with all UFO conferences, some of the presenters were on the wacky side, so I'll follow my dad's old dictum that if you can't say anything nice about anyone, best not to say anything at all. For my money, Retro UFO 3 was worth attending for the following reasons:
1. It was held at the Integratron, which is an important piece of not just ufological history but American cultural history - as a bonus, attendees could also venture out to Giant Rock, which is about 3 miles away, another landmark of ufological history, regardless of what one might think of the original Contactees, particularly George Van Tassel;
2. One had the chance to hear my good friends Nick Redfern and Greg Bishop deliver the kind of no-nonsense lectures that should be the rule, and not the exception, at UFO conferences.
Nick always gives an interesting and entertaining talk, and this time it was no different as he provided an informative overview of how and why the various intelligence agencies kept an eye on the leaders of the Contactee movement in the 1950s and 1960s (much of the lecture was based on material found in Nick's excellent book, On the Trail of the Saucer Spies). Nick also added a couple of interesting anecdotes about his own brushes with the intel agencies over the years, including Scotland Yard.
Nick is always hard to top, but at Retro UFO 3 it was Greg Bishop who gave the best lecture. As far as I'm concerned, Greg is the most underrated UFO researcher and author out there - he's thorough, knowledgeable, and thought-provoking, all while managing to avoid the petty infighting that sometimes distracts the rest of us. At Retro UFO 3 he provided the audience with a fascinating and eclectic overview of the alternate theories to the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis, from time travel to tulpas, and cryptoterrestrials to extradimensional beings, all while acknowledging the validity of the ETH as a hypothesis, but criticizing those who put it forward as an established and proven fact.
Other highlights of the conference were Ken Thomas' talk on legendary comic-book artist Jack Kirby's ties to the CIA and his role in the Iranian hostage crisis (Kenn's re-hash of the Maury Island hoax, in which he tried to tie it to the JFK assassination, would make a good Oliver Stone film, but stretched credibility beyond any reasonable breaking point, although it was well delivered), and a wild late-night show by Zamora the Torture King which featured fire-breathing and... well, what can only be described as self-torture, including a routine where Nick, Greg and Adam were conscripted from the audience to help Zamora (aka Tim Cridland) prove that mind really does trump matter where a bed of nails is concerned! Also, Nick Redfern demonstrated a real McGyver-like sense of ingenuity at the Friday evening party back at the motel where he managed to slice limes with a car key, and Brittany was 100% game when it came time to participate in the Tin Foil Hat contest on Sunday... as was a certain alien explorer named Zorgrot!
All in all, Retro UFO 3 was a smashing good time. Hopefully Barbara will hold a Retro UFO 4 next year, and hopefully more people will show up, because if you're even remotely interested in the UFO phenomenon, particularly the sociological and historical aspects, you should really try to make it out to the Integratron and Giant Rock at least once, and you should take every opportunity you can get to hear the likes of Nick and Greg speak, because they are among the best UFO researchers out there.
A final note - keep an eye on Brittany Babakioff, who impressed everyone at Retro UFO 3 with her energy, her enthusiasm, and most importantly her intelligent approach to the UFO phenomenon. If ufology is looking for the next wave, it starts with her.
P.S. Here are a few more pics from the conference!
Brit takes photos for Alien Worlds Magazine.
Nick takes photos for the CIA!
Kenn Thomas and Adam Gorightly discuss various conspiracies.
Inside the Integratron, where many of the lectures were held, and where Best Evidence was screened.
Nick Redfern and Adam Gorightly at the opening ceremony.
Yours truly at the opening ceremony.
Greg and Nick relaxing in the vendors tent.