Staten Island Advance (NY)
December 17, 2000
Author: BOB RAIMONTO; ADVANCE STAFF WRITER
Adjunct professor at Wagner College has made the study of unidentified flying objects his life's passion
Dennis Anderson was a typical 12-year-old. He was poking around his older brother Chip's room in their Tottenville home. He was specifically going through his sibling's desk looking for loose-leaf paper. What he found, instead, was a book on unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The discovery, in essence, helped shape his life.
Anderson is now 49 years old, the owner of 250 books on UFOs, the director of the Wagner College Planetarium, an adjunct professor of an undergraduate astronomy lab at the Grymes Hill school, a director of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, the resident UFO expert on Staten Island Community Television's program "We Are Not Alone: UFO Phenomena," a member of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies of Chicago and a member of the Intruders Foundation of New York.
Anderson, a pleasant and soft-spoken man as well as a self-described "realist who accepts nothing on face value," is not surprisingly a fellow with a very strong opinion on UFOs.
"This phenomenon is real," he asserts.
The book Anderson found all those years ago was "Report on Unidentified Flying Objects." It was written by Capt. Edward Ruppelt, a World War II bombardier who had been in charge of Project Blue Book, the official U.S. Air Force investigation of UFOs, flying saucers and the like.
"It sounded like science fiction," Anderson says of the Ruppelt tome. "But these people were talking fact, and my interest just grew from there."
The Air Force terminated Project Blue Book, and its official interest in unidentified flying objects, in 1969, after an Air Force-sponsored, 1,465-page study of UFOs by the University of Colorado, called the Condon Report, debunked the mysterious craft in its conclusions.
Nonetheless, Blue Book and Ruppelt's work whetted - nay, seized - Anderson's interest. From 1947, widely deemed the dawn of the modern saucer era, to 1969, a total of 12,618 sightings were reported to Blue Book, according to the Air Force. Of these, said the Air Force, only 701, or 5.5 percent, remained classified as "unidentified." The rest were dismissed as conventional aircraft, hoaxes, hallucinations, planets, stars, meteors - indeed, everything short of magic carpets.
But those 701 sightings fascinate Anderson and other private UFO researchers. They are especially intrigued by the possibility - and in many instances utterly convinced of the certainty - that the objects are interplanetary craft manned by non-human space travelers.
Many of the sightings were recorded during 1952, regarded as a UFO "flap" or "wave" year and a time when the diligent Ruppelt was active in Blue Book. Interestingly, some 75 of the sightings were made over American military installations; six over the Los Alamos (N.M.) and Oak Ridge (Tenn.) nuclear facilities, and six over Washington, D.C., itself.
One of those sightings over the nation's capital, on the night of July 26, 1952, has become the stuff of UFO legend for Anderson and others who share his views on this subject.
A number of lighted objects blithely flew through restricted air space over the White House and Capitol. The nocturnal air show delighted UFO buffs but caused consternation among military and civilian radar operators who tracked the objects on their scopes at Andrews Air Force Base and National Airport. The incident also did nothing for the nerves of the American jet interceptor pilots who were scrambled in pursuit. They professed to have seen nothing, except one pilot who did achieve radar lock on one object, only to watch it shoot away at a speed that surpassed belief.
The Central Intelligence Agency was not amused by this and other events, which included a similar performance by UFOs over Washington just one week earlier that oddly was not included among Blue Book "unidentifieds." The CIA was particularly disturbed over the Los Alamos and Oak Ridge sightings.
"Incredible reports from credible observers," a perplexed agency memo writer said.
Yet the Air Force had cavalierly waved aside the Washington affair as a mere collective case of temperature inversion. This was in keeping with its policy of denial as pertained to all UFO episodes - a policy seemingly inspired by fear of public panic, among other factors.
Indeed, years after the Washington extravaganza and the release of the Condon Report, the Air Force was still loyally toeing this governmental line, declaring that "nothing has occurred that would support a resumption of UFO investigations by the Air Force."
Anderson believes he knows better. He recently welcomed a visitor to his office in the Wagner College science building - a small space made smaller still by the presence of a palm tree, a desk overflowing with a computer and papers, and walls festooned with lunar maps and such.
"It's not usually this messy," he assures.
Anderson then takes his visitor to the Wagner planetarium, which he has run for about 11 years and which does a nice and deserved business in schoolchildren and others, and to a display outside the planetarium devoted to UFOs. One particular photo reproduction easily catches the eye.
[ISGP note: photo not available in original article]
"It's the Trent photo," he says of the shot taken on May 11, 1950 by Paul Trent in McMinnville, Ore. The picture is of a turreted saucer. It has been subjected to rigorous analysis and pronounced genuine. Even the Condon Report bowed in respect, declaring that "the simplest most direct interpretation of the photographs confirms precisely what the witnesses said they saw."
Later, in an amphitheater-like classroom, Anderson showed films and lectured a joint group of General Chemistry I and Science and Literature in Film students. Questions expressing skepticism came down from one professor and a number of students. Anderson answered politely, but there crept into his voice an edge betraying the true believer's impatience with heresy or doubt.
"I don't talk to my students about it (UFOs)," he says of his own undergrad lab. "I stick to the astronomy end of it."
Anderson says that, in his view, the top UFO incident worldwide came in Trans-en-Provence, France, in January 1981. A farmer, Renato Nicolai, reported that an object, slightly smaller than the size of a car but with four circular openings in its base, touched down near his home and then a short time later took off.
"It left an impression on the ground," Anderson says. "It is the best physical trace case of all UFO cases."
But the French incident did nothing to top what Anderson considers the leading UFO experience on Staten Island.
As reported in the Advance in March 1975, two boys were inching their way through some frozen Annadale woods while under a starlit sky when they saw a large, orange, football-shaped object glowing in the distance. The boys gaped at the object as its sides converged on its center and it became no larger than a car tire. Then the object disappeared.
The youths told the Advance they returned the next morning and found that in the area they had seen the object, that trees had been snapped and burned 4 feet above the ground.
Anderson himself sniffed around the site not longer after.
"What I found was that trees in the area were knocked down in a kind of radial pattern and that the earth was charred," he says. "I would say this is our best local (UFO) thing."
Anderson the amateur astronomer had his own sighting to report, making it sound somewhat insignificant compared to the experiences of others.
"Once through a telescope I saw something make a right-angle move," he said. "That's the only thing."
However, Anderson said that in the past year he received a report from a "fairly well-known person who had seen a black triangle in the sky above Staten Island" (apparently similar to the objects viewed by thousands in Belgium in 1989-91 and by substantially fewer people in Illinois in January of this year).
Anderson also said he has gotten "letters from people on Staten Island that sound like abduction to me."
He meant abduction of humans by aliens for the purpose, in most reported instances, of conducting medical experiments aboard their mystery craft. Anderson realizes this kind of thing is hard for people to believe.
"It sounds so much like science fiction that it is difficult to accept," Anderson says. "People will believe there is something flying around out there. Then there are people who believe that somebody is operating them. Then there are people who feel that if they are operating them why can't they come down among us. Everybody has a different level that they are willing to accept."
"UFOs are complicated enough, but abductions are so complicated it's virtually impossible to explain it without somebody sounding crazy."
Budd Hopkins, a painter, sculptor and author (of three books on UFO abductions, "Missing Time," "Intruders" and "Witnessed"), appeared as the primary guest on the community television program "We Are Not Alone: UFO Phenomena" aired on Dec. 7.
"There are literally millions of people who have had abduction experiences," Hopkins said on the show. "This thing is far more systematic, and far more widespread, than anyone could have imagined."
Anderson, sitting beside Hopkins, did not contradict the author, who also is executive director of the Intruders Foundation set up to help people claiming they've been kidnapped by aliens. Instead, at one point, Anderson notes that there are between 100 billion and 400 billion stars in our own galaxy and that "we now know 125 billion galaxies that exist," suggesting there are innumerable places where other life forms can be.
"We are talking about culture shock in general," Anderson says of any definitive discovery that the human species is not alone. "People would no longer be aligned to a particular country. They would suddenly be concerned with the welfare of an entire planet. Also, there would be religious and economic problems. Where would the aliens fit in?"
"I can't tell you exactly what it (UFOs) is. It could be extraterrestrial. It could be inter-dimensional. It could be a combination of both. But whatever it is, in my opinion, it is a very real phenomenon."
In other words, science fiction is science fact.
A discovery that has helped shape Anderson since he found that book at age 12.
(Anderson urges anyone with information or questions on the UFO subject to call him at 390-3432, or write to him at Wagner College, 1 Campus Rd., 10301.)
Dennis Anderson, director of the Wagner College Planetarium, stands next to a display in UFOs.
Advance Photo by Advance Photo By Jan Somma Somma
Dennis Anderson reads the latest UFO information in his office at Wagner College.