By: Gregory L. Reece
Reviewed by: Treasure Ingels-Thompson
I.B. Tauris, 2007
Walking through town on a late summer night, I allow myself to contemplate the stars that surround all of us here on the third rock from the sun, Earth. A small but significant portion of my own childhood was devoted to watching tales of horror and of hope evolving from a sense that we as humans are, indeed, not alone in the universe. And the backdrop for this fascination, for me, was three movies that soon became iconic to our American culture—Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and Cocoon.
In his latest investigation of cultural fascination, UFO Religion: Inside UFO Cults and Culture, Gregory L. Reece soars straight into a world that on one end of the spectrum celebrates the possibility of learning, growth, and communication that interaction with other beings on other planets throughout the universe and beyond offers and the dangers that such interaction and communication may present to those who participate, willingly or unwillingly. Underlying our wider culture represented by diverse religions, politics, ideologies, and lifestyles is, Reece shows his audience, another world and culture represented, perhaps, by cults, religious and political, that evolve to scientific endeavor through "ufology," the study/investigation of unidentified flying objects.
Reece leaves no moon stone unturned in his investigation of the mania, devotion, and scholarship that true ufologists experience and produce. His desire for better understanding leads him on a pilgrimage to points of praise, redemption, and frightening possibility such as Area 51, a point of government-suppressed alien visitation, via Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway, and Giant Rock, California, a legendary point of alien-to-human contact. This physical pilgrimage is supported by a catalogue of apparent cults and religions that build on the notion of interplanetary visitation. The catalogue is broad, from Mormon teachings to Ancient Astronaut theory to Cold War hysteria debunking. Reece’s earthy nature prevails throughout as he sums up a personal fascination founded in childhood wonder: "We were looking for something more precious than gold...the children of the space age...the children who took moon landings as a matter of course." And I am reminded of my dark-theater childhood where a boy’s best friend could be a visitor from another planet with healing powers at his fingertips.
Treasure Ingels-Thompson lives and writes in Montevallo.