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Classic 50s UFO sightings, revisited

Evaluating the claims of an ex-McGill prof on the existence of aliens

Are extraterrestrials real and present on Earth? They certainly are in the eyes of retired McGill psychology professor Don Donderi. In a talk given to the St. James Literary Society on September 26, Donderi laid out his theory on the presence of extraterrestrials on our planet. However, it seems there may be holes in his theories.

“Some of what people report as UFOs [unidentified flying objects] are extraterrestrial vehicles [ETVs]. Some ETVs have extraterrestrial crews. And some of those ET [extraterrestrial] crews catch and release people, to study us,” Donderi said at the talk. A rather remarkable claim, to be sure, but Donderi, author of UFOs, ETs, and Alien Abductions: A Scientist Looks at the Evidence, offered up a neat set of evidence. His evidence rests on a series of touchstones, or commonalities, between tales of UFO sightings and alien abductions.

“Some ETVs have extraterrestrial crews. And some of those ET [extraterrestrial] crews catch and release people, to study us.”

A common touchstone among tales of sightings and abductions is that the UFO appears for a while before speeding off into the distance. Where the UFO goes between sightings is unclear.

McGill cosmology professor – and extraterrestrial UFO skeptic – Matt Dobbs offered a possible idea on the disappearance of UFOs. When given a hypothetical situation wherein ETs are visiting us, Dobbs saw no reason why they would need to be detected by radar. “There’s a lot of [human] research that goes into creating materials that don’t reflect radio waves in such a way that allows them to be seen in radar,” he noted, suggesting that the technologically advanced alien race would already have developed this technology.


However, many of the sightings cited by Donderi include radar evidence of the spacecraft. Just don’t ask to see the evidence, as Donderi claims the government always takes it before any sort of widespread distribution can occur.

Alien sightings may have many touchstones, but they also vary in certain aspects. The shapes of the UFOs, for example, span from small discs to rotating cylinders to massive triangular objects. Many of these objects could be discounted as weather balloons or other scientifically launched objects. However even Dobbs, one of the scientists who launches such objects, couldn’t propose a source for the unidentified flying triangles. “Maybe an airplane by some view? But most people see enough airplanes that they wouldn’t mistake them. One point for the UFO sighters, I guess!”

Two of the examples of abductions given by Donderi were consistent with hallucinogenic drug usage. In one, which occurred in 1961, a honeymooning couple was driving along a highway when they spotted a UFO nearby. Then there was a two-hour period that neither could recall and they found themselves after with mysterious injuries and damage to their car. While it is possible that this is the result of their abduction, it also seems likely possible that the young couple was simply following the cultural trend of the 1960s and experimenting with magic mushrooms. The physical damage might then be attributed to steering their car off the road and into the neighbouring field.

In both cases, the abductees would have had extremely compelling reasons to conceal drug use.

The other event occurred in 1976. Two camp counsellors were at the camp while the campers and other counsellors attended a swim meet. Sitting on the edge of the lake, the pair spotted a UFO hovering over the lake. The UFO dispatched a smaller UFO that hovered over the heads of the counsellors. Then about an hour and a half of time passed which they could not remember.

In both cases, the abductees would have had extremely compelling reasons to conceal drug use – not only are the hallucinogens illegal, but using them either while driving or while responsible for the well-being of children is highly dangerous and could have led to dire repercussions. Such possibilities were dismissed by Donderi, who said, “Yes, [the abductees] can be deluded, under the influence, or hallucinating, but all of those things can be discounted by careful interviews, by observing through multiple witnesses, and by correlating observations with instrumental observations – all of which we’ve done.”

Although, if aliens are here, perhaps running a catch-and-release program on Earth isn’t the worst they could be doing. Earlier this year, Stephen Hawking voiced his concern, “If you look at history, contact between humans and less intelligent organisms have often been disastrous from [the less intelligent organism’s] point of view, and encounters between civilizations with advanced versus primitive technologies have gone badly for the less advanced… [Aliens] may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”