Exploration into the Unknown: An Evening with Bozeman Paranormal Society
For the typical senior in college, Friday nights are the ultimate time to go out with friends, relax, and let loose after a long week of classes. This past Friday was no different. My friends went out to shoot pool downtown, asking me if I wanted to come along. But I couldn’t- I was driving the interstate to Livingston, squinting in the dark to look for signs to Sacajawea Park.
I had a UFO meeting to get to.
The park was completely empty when I arrived around 10 p.m., save for three members of Bozeman Paranormal Society (BPS). Though they’ve been a non-profit paranormal investigation group in Gallatin County for seven years, I only recently became aware of BPS from an intriguing Facebook post I chanced upon scrolling through my feed. “Bring your telescopes,” their post said. “Drinks and food will be provided. Will talk about UFO sightings you have had to get more ideas for more locations.” I met Elies Adams, Tim Schober, and Joshua Bartholomew in the park to look up at the stars and discuss the weird world of UFOs.
According to The National UFO Reporting Center, Montana has the second most Unidentified Flying Object sightings per capita in the United States, with Washington state taking the number one spot. Out of the 287 UFO sightings reported on the National UFO Reporting Center for the month of August, 3 were from Montana. One might believe Montana has some sort of cosmic pull for UFOs, but the members of BPS think there’s probably a more mundane answer.
“During the big East Coast blackout…the police were inundated with calls of UFOs, ‘cuz it got so dark people could see the Milky Way and they couldn’t tell what it was,” BPS member Tim Schober explains, laughing. “Here, you can see hundreds of stars and even a bit of the Milky Way. So, whatever is up there, be it known or unknown, man-made, natural, or otherwise, you can see it here. People also probably spend more time outside here.”
Montana is also the site of one of the most famous UFO incidents to date, known as the “Mariana UFO Incident.” On August 15, 1950, Nick Mariana, the general manager of the Great Falls Electrics minor league baseball team, and his assistant Virginia Raunig saw two bright silvery objects rotating and flying above the Legion Park baseball field in Great Falls. The 16 second video Mariana managed to capture on his 16 mm movie camera, while still debated if it’s reflections off an airplane, a hoax by Mariana himself, or a bona fide UFO, left an indelible impression on the area. Great Falls remains a popular place for reported UFO sightings, and the baseball team Mariana once managed was renamed the Voyagers in reference to the famous sighting.
Though many of us immediately equate UFOs with little green aliens or mysterious government surveillance devices, BPS is wary to jump to any conclusions about UFOs and their meaning. After all, as Schober noted, “Anything you see in the sky you can’t immediately identify is a UFO.”
While members of BPS do believe in the existence of other life forms outside of planet Earth, identifying and believing in the existence of UFOs can have little to do with believing in alien life forms.
“You have to be kind of selfish to not believe there’s not something else out there,” Adams said. “As a ghost hunter it tells you…that can’t just be it when we die, we just go into the ground. To me, why would there not be other life?”
But, as she and Schober stressed, the possible existence of other life and our contact with other life forms are two very different things.
“Not only do you have this infinitely large, three-dimensional space where life can happen, you also have incredibly long lifespan, where life could’ve been a blip, come and gone. So the problem you have with trying to say ‘Is there life on other planets’ is the problem ‘when’ was there life on other planets? The opportunity may have come and gone,” Schober explains.
BPS members also pride themselves on their investigative skills when it comes to the study of any supernatural phenomenon.
“I’ve always been a debunker by nature. I’m always trying to debunk something. To me, it feels like the normal thing to do,” BPS founder Elies Adams explains.
“Coming from a ghost hunting background, we’re always trying to find the actual cause, always trying to debunk it. Do I think that a UFO is an alien? Well, probably not,” says Schober.
While the debunkers at BPS tend to take a pragmatic view to UFOs and potential alien life, there are others in Montana who clearly take more of an outlier’s view on the subject. The National UFO Reporting Center database of UFO reports reveals many mentions of “crafts” and “motherships” in individual’s self-reported descriptions, indicating some people do feel these UFOs may be some sort of unidentified “ships.”
“Triangular crafts and mothership,” reads one report from Sedona, MT.
Another report from Kalispell reads, “I have been witnessing low flying craft for the past couple of months. 2 or 3 crafts that are formation in nature.”
Other Montanans take an even more eccentric stance. Michael P. Masters’ new book, Identified Flying Objects, asserts that UFOs could be time machines occupied by our own future generations coming back to study us. Masters, who teaches Anthropology at Montana Tech, became fascinated by the subject of UFOs after he overheard a UFO incident from his father at age 8. Now, he theorizes that, “The phenomenon may be our own distant descendants coming back through time to study us in their own evolutionary past.”
I came to the UFO meeting expecting to meet more people like Masters- starry-eyed fringe theorists awaiting time-travelling aliens. Instead, BPS pulled a telescope out to look at the rings on Saturn.
When I commented that looking through a telescope wasn’t what I was expecting out of the evening, Schober laughed and said, “If we came out here hoping and expecting to see aliens, we’d be really disappointed.”
Schober’s statement reveals an important aspect of BPS. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with exchanging crazy conspiracy theories, that’s not their mission. From an outside perspective, paranormal organizations might seem like groups that latch on to any old crazy idea or theory. But what I saw at the UFO meeting I attended was emphasis on investigation, exchanging ideas, and, most importantly- just having fun together. It’s far less about chasing aliens down, and more about getting to talk to people who share your interests. Although, BPS is willing to talk about almost any spooky theory you’re interested in.
While we spread out blankets, taking turns looking through the telescope, Adams pointed out a blinking light high in the night sky.
“That’s way too high to be a jet. Why’s it flickering?”
After discussing some potential theories- a satellite, maybe, or an airplane- BPS couldn’t come to an agreement on what it could be.
They turned to me, smiling. “Looks like we found a UFO!”
If you enjoy great night sky viewing and interesting conversation, Bozeman Paranormal Society will be hosting another UFO viewing on October 10th at the Lewis and Clark City Park in Belgrade at 10 p.m. If you have any questions, you may contact them at https://bozemanparanormal.weebly.com/ or follow them on Facebook for future outings and info https://www.facebook.com/BozemanParanormal/