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After more than 20 years of seeing weird lights and objects make absurd twists and turns in the night sky above her 10-foot-high watchtower in a remote corner of the San Luis Valley, Judy Messoline has only one request.

“I’d like for whoever is up there to land so I can talk to them about what’s going on,” 79-year-old Messoline said. “It’s bizarre stuff and it just keeps coming. I’ve even seen a cigar-shaped ship hovering overhead — as did 10 other people one night.”

In all, 297 sightings of flashy gizmos dancing through the skies above the watchtower near the Great Sand Dunes National Park have been recorded by Messoline. She has witnessed 30 of them. She has also dutifully recorded some and shared the videos with Air Force officers, who regularly monitor the UFO Watchtower website, Messoline said.

“They just kind of shrugged and said what they saw did not surprise them,” she said.

Messoline sold her cattle herd over 23 years ago so she could build the watchtower north of Hooper to feed her obsession with UFOs and aliens. “I always was a huge fan of the ‘X-Files’ TV show. Besides, the watchtower pays a lot better than cattle. Cattle can’t eat dirt,” Messoline said. 

The UFO Watchtower draws 10,000 visitors annually who each pay $5 to get a glimpse of an extraterrestrial spacecraft passing through the dark San Luis Valley skies.

Lately, business has been good. “It’s going like gangbusters,” Messoline said.

Colorado UFO watchers report a similar burst of activity. Not from the skies but from Earth.

“In the last 30 days, we have seen some extraordinary developments,” Barry Roth told a packed auditorium during the August meeting of the Colorado chapter of the national Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON. “This is an exciting time in UFOology.”

Government mum on UFOs after 14,000 page report from CU researchers

Roth got hooked on everything UFOs when he was 15 and joined Colorado MUFON in 1999. Two years later, he joined the Colorado chapter board and has served as its spokesperson, set up an education program detailing the history of UFOs and runs the group’s speakers bureau.

Though he works for Hertz car rentals, Roth’s avocation is UFO researcher, reviewing unclassified documents on unexplained aerial phenomena and studying other related subject matter.

Barry Roth, the author of “A Brief History of Ufology, 1941-2011” was the guest speaker at a Colorado chapter meeting of MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, on Aug. 12. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Roth recalls how he was regarded with suspicion when he announced he was joining MUFON. “My sister thought I was joining a cult,” the affable Roth said.

He and other MUFON members now say there has been a seismic shift in attitudes toward UFOs after congressional hearings last year — the first in 50 years — after the release of a government report on unexplained aerial phenomena and in July about the government’s alleged involvement in covering up information about alien life.

Retired Air Force Maj. David Grusch in July testified before the House Oversight Subcommittee that the U.S. has likely been aware of “non-human activity” since the 1930s. The Pentagon, in a statement to The Associated Press, denied Grusch’s claims of a cover-up, saying investigators have not “discovered any verifiable information to substantiate claims that any programs regarding the possession or reverse-engineering of extraterrestrial materials have existed in the past or exist currently.” 

The government does not use the term UFOs in its statements or reports, using instead “unidentified aerial phenomena.” 

“I guess the government thinks using UFO means it is not serious enough,” assistant state director of Colorado MUFON Seth Feinstein said with a shrug. “OK, we’ll go with that.”


Roth is not quibbling because the government is finally opening up what it knows about UFOs and legitimizing what MUFON has been investigating for over 50 years, Roth said. “At least they are asking questions,” he said. “But they are not telling us things we didn’t already know.”

Serious UFO study is also drawing rare bipartisan support in Congress, whose members are worried that the technology exhibited by some unidentified aircraft could pose a national security threat, Roth said.

“We’re excited about what is happening right now,” added Dale Roth, Barry’s wife. “This is a long time coming. We know things have been going on with UFOs since the 1930s and 1940s and even further back than that.

“Now we can talk about what is going on without getting into trouble,” she said.

Colorado is one of the most active arms of MUFON, which formed the year after the University of Colorado completed a massive government-funded study of UFOs. CU’s 14,000-page “Condon Report,” named for physics and astrophysics professor Edward Condon, concluded UFOs were no longer worthy of study and prompted the Air Force to shutter its look into UFOs, called Project Blue Book, Kevin Benham, past director of Colorado MUFON, said via email.

MUFON started in 1969 when aerospace engineer John Schuessler left McDonnell Douglas to investigate UFOs, Benham said. Schuessler’s daughter Barbra Sobrani is on the MUFON board and is director of the NASA-funded Colorado Space Grant Consortium at CU.

MUFON has since grown to include a corporate office in Ohio, 4,000 members, 600 field investigators, a case management system with over 100,000 UFO cases, a nationwide rapid response team, an underwater dive team and its own show on the History Channel.

Each investigator is trained in interviewing and technical analysis. They also take a sober approach to each UFO report and are not prone to embellishing, Benham said. Before he retired, Benham was an engineer with IBM and at one time supported the ground-based hardware for the Patriot missile system.

When someone submits a sighting via the main MUFON website, the case will be assigned to the local state chapter where the sighting occurred, Benham said. They, in turn, assign it to a field investigator who manages the case.

Benham, who worked over 100 cases for Colorado MUFON, said investigators try to collect as much data from witnesses as possible and then make a determination about its validity.  An actual unexplained case is not that common, he said.

“About 90% of the cases are classified as either ‘man made’ or ‘natural phenomenon,’” Benham said. 

A woman standing in front of a screen with flying saucers projected on it
Katie Paige, director of the Colorado MUFON chapter, opens the Aug. 12 meeting. She says Colorado investigators have so far this year taken on 111 cases of unidentified aerial phenomena. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The U.S. MUFON office collects about 350 to 500 reports a month, Roth said. The Colorado chapter includes 22 field investigators and looked into 197 cases last year, said Katie Paige, Colorado MUFON state director. 

So far this year, state MUFON investigators have taken on 111 cases. “Our cases are on the rise,” Paige said.

Colorado is a “hotbed” of UFO activity likely because it hosts so many military bases, she said. Paige — who also appears on the History Channel — was drawn to UFOs in the 1970s as her family’s ranch became a focus of cattle mutilations in Elbert County.

“That prompted me to get involved in UFOs, to find out what is going on out there,” Paige said.

Benham, who now lives in Phoenix, is skeptical that UFOs are alien-made. But he doesn’t dismiss the possibility that Earth is being watched by drones or smaller aircraft sent by an alien mother ship.

He saw his first UFO in 1976 when on a short walk to work, he spotted a small white object going north to south at a steady pace. Turns out it was a weather satellite on a polar orbit.

One night in Arapahoe County ….

Then in July 2014, he said he was driving south on Himalaya Street, just north of Chenango in Arapahoe County, and saw a black sphere fly directly in front of his family’s vehicle just above the traffic light cables at an “incredible speed.” 

“As it flew by the street light on the corner, there was a flash effect from the reflection off of the sphere. I saw my wife jump when the flash happened,” Benham said.

He said it likely measured 10 to 12 feet in diameter, about the size of an old Bell helicopter bubble cabin. “However, it was all black, no signs of propulsion, control surfaces or windows, just a matte black sphere,” Benham said.

He concluded it was likely human made and responsible for the “orb” sightings that are common. Its propulsion was probably using a form of element 115, a human-made element.

“I seriously doubt the craft was aliens from outer space. It was much too small for interstellar travel,” Benham said. 

Still, “there is the possibility that it came from a mother ship. I have seen other ‘objects’ and also have multiple photos of ‘anomalous’ objects that couldn’t be seen by the naked eye,” he said.

Over 100 people gathered for the monthly meeting of the Colorado MUFON chapter in Centennial earlier this month, “the most we’ve ever had,” Dale Roth said.

Seth Feinstein, left, assistant director of the Colorado MUFON chapter, shows photos on his laptop of information he gathered during an investigation of a sighting in Las Vegas, Nevada in June. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Her husband spoke about the history of alien sightings around the world. Several members also gathered around Feinstein’s laptop to view a video of an alleged sighting of two 8-foot-tall aliens in a backyard of a Las Vegas home in June. The incident drew police and local news crews but no definitive proof of actual aliens. 

Those life-forms in the Las Vegas backyard were likely “tall whites” according to UFOlogy. There are also “grays” with black and emotionless eyes and most often linked to the purported crash of a UFO in Roswell, N.M., in 1947.

None of the attendees could say exactly why aliens have not decided to finally reveal themselves publicly. 

Maybe because they don’t have to, MUFON investigator Craig Rathbun said. “Why should they? The difference between us and them is so vast, what would be the point?”

“They may find us interesting,” he said, “and then they move on.”

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @monteWhaley