In 1952, Navy officer Delbert Newhouse was driving cross-country with his family, a trip that took them through northern Utah the morning of July 2.
Around 11 a.m., Newhouse's wife reportedly noticed odd figures in the sky a few miles outside Tremonton. Grabbing his movie camera, Newhouse ended up with some striking images of the unidentified flying objects - images that persuaded the U.S. Air Force, Navy and the Central Intelligence Agency to investigate.
The government eventually concluded the "Tremonton tapes" simply showed some seagulls in flight.
Of course, what would you expect the government to say?
The Tremonton episode is one story in a long line of alleged extraterrestrial activity in Utah. It's one reason independent UFO researcher and lecturer Robert Hastings will make his fourth trip to the state Wednesday for a lecture at the University of Utah.
Of the Tremonton tapes, Hastings said: "If one looks, using modern, computer-based visual-enhancement technologies, those seagulls essentially were saucer-shaped. They were round, oval-shaped or disc-shaped, so clearly they weren't seagulls.
"That's one example of countless ones where the PR guys at the Pentagon have tried to explain away UFOs."
UFOs, extraterrestrials and all manner of unexplained phenomena are always the subject of uneasy debate between believers and nonbelievers, government agents and private citizens. And UFOs are fodder for pop-culture fantasies, whether through sci-fi flicks of the 1950s or "The X-Files," a TV show in the '90s that rekindled talk that "The Truth Is Out There."
The 56-year-old Hastings has dedicated much of his life to formulating counterarguments to official dismissals of all things UFO-related, digging through once-classified documents, filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and interviewing people with firsthand knowledge of UFO sightings and the government's efforts to ignore them.
He's delivered his findings in lectures at more than 500 colleges and universities.
Most of his study involves the preponderance of
UFO activity near America's nuclear weapons, and he has studied intently cases in Wyoming, New Mexico and Montana.
"There are FBI, CIA and Air Force documents going back to as early as December 1948 confirming that what the documents themselves refer to as 'flying discs' or 'flying saucers' have demonstrated an ongoing interest in our nuclear weapons sites," Hastings said, noting that since 2001, the release of sensitive, UFO-related documents by the government has slowed to a trickle. Much of his lecture Wednesday, "UFOs: The Hidden History," will involve the history and potential risks of alien life forms' interest in U.S. nuclear weapons.
Stephen Nielson, the 23-year-old speakers board chairman for the Associated Students of the University of Utah, booked Hastings' lecture at the U. Nielson said he believes in extraterrestrial life, but "I don't necessarily know if they've been to Earth."
"UFOs, everybody has some fascination with them," Nielson said. " 'The X-Files' made them extremely popular during the '90s, so the generation that's now in college kind of has that mentality."