E.T. was a no show.
Little green men and grays didn’t pop in either.
But that didn’t keep about 100 people from turning out for Duluth’s first Area 61 UFO Convention on Saturday at Lakeview Castle on Scenic Highway 61. The convention’s name is a reference to Area 51 — a government facility in Nevada often associated with UFO coverups.
“I have always been interested in aliens,” said Dan Gordon of Duluth, whose interest stems from childhood. “I have an open mind.”
Gordon stopped in to learn more, citing what he described as the aura of confusion and secrecy that has long surrounded the phenomenon of unidentified flying objects.
The UFO phenomenon isn’t strictly about aliens, hence the term unidentified, explained Allen Richardson of Duluth, who organized the event with his brother, Jim.
Authors of the book “Gonzo Science,” the brothers decided it was time Duluth had its own UFO
convention to make a scientific analysis of the phenomenon locally. For more than 10 years, the brothers have been researching scientific anomalies. After all, Duluth is no stranger to UFOs.
As early as 1916, newspapers in the Twin Ports reflected stories of strange sightings and people who had seen bizarre events in the skies along the North Shore, said Ben Marsen, who researched the newspaper archives at the Duluth Public Library to find out how the phenomenon has played out here.
One clipping from the News Tribune in 1947 contained a disk-like object that resembled a frying pan that had been spotted over the West End. The paper later linked the unidentified object to Paul Bunyan’s pancakes, Marsen said.
In most cases, Allen Richardson said he doesn’t believe aliens account for reported UFOs. He said it’s something weirder than that.
One possible explanation is naturally occurring lights, known as earthlights, that are connected to earthquakes and correlate with seismic activity, Richardson said. He said the phenomenon can alter one’s state of mind and may even make someone feel like there is another presence close at hand. Earthlights alter chemicals in the brain that may make someone believe they’ve encountered other entities, he said.
There are different theories and you have to keep an open mind, said Jim Richardson, who drew parallels from today’s stories of aliens to myths about elves, fairies and a host of other historically unexplained creatures.
The nature of the flying object is not clear in every case, which is why they are unidentified, Jim Richardson said. In the 20th century, people began to try to explain and document the sightings of celestial apparitions, but the difficulty lies in determining the reliability of the witness, he said.
There were a number of UFO reports in Duluth in 1965 — from an 8-year-old boy who reported seeing a “buzzing red ball” to a claim that fighter jets gave chase to 10 unidentified objects flying in a V-formation, Marsen said. The newspaper story on the fighter jets could not be found in the library’s archive, he said.
Jennie Davis of Duluth brought her son to the convention because he believes there is life out there somewhere.
“It was a way of getting out of the house,” she said. “It’s interesting.”
The Richardsons hope to make the convention an annual event.
SHELLEY NELSON, Duluth News Tribune