“Facts don’t cease to exist merely because they’re ignored.” -Alduous Huxley
If advanced beings from another galaxy have been visiting our planet for centuries, thousands of years, a chain of eons, who would have the courage to believe it? Indeed, if there was one credible person willing to face down the Berlin Wall of cultural skepticism on the topic of extraterrestrials, would anyone allow themselves to listen? It’s often the case that we only see as far as our drilled-in beliefs permit us to.
There’s been far more than just one credible voice, too. The topic of extraterrestrials in this decade has been characterized by a peculiar double consciousness: on the one hand, Martians have never stopped invading the silver screen, giving us the sense that our imagination is the only place aliens could ever truly inhabit; bringing this consensus into question, however, is the strange fact that officials in military and government these days have been discussing the topic of “UFOs”on the record with a curious conviction.
The genealogy of what is often termed as “disclosure”, however, dates all the way back to the post-war era of the 1950s, a period in which we now know, courtesy of declassified CIA and FBI documents, there was a vast expansion of covert U.S. military operations–many of them centered around the UFO phenomenon. We all remember Roswell, a kind of fossilized meme buried in the analog detritus of the mid-twentieth century. Few of us, though, recall the many accounts from Agency men like William Cooper, author of Behold A Pale Horse. Secrecy lends itself to amnesia.
Still, it’s very difficult to forget the story of Bob Lazar, wherever you might stand on the topic. Not only is he a singular figure in the world of UFOs and top-secret government programs, this writer would like to argue that Lazar is an essential figure in American lore. (Move aside, Daniel Boone!) Jeremy Corbell’s new independent film, Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers, brings the bespectacled legend of jet cars and particle accelerators back into clear focus after 30 years of silence. The biopic reanimates Lazar as a living symbol (and perhaps more) for our smartphone generation.
In 1989, the international media was sent into a frenzy when a man identifying himself as “Dennis” gave an anonymous interview stating that he was a theoretical physicist who had been employed at a U.S. government base in Nevada to reverse-engineer alien flying saucers. He said that he worked at a base named S-4 near Area-51 just south of Groom Lake, a base which required top-secret clearances to enter. The Channel 8 telecast had the highest ratings of any local Las Vegas news program in history; overdubbed versions were broadcast all the way in Japan and bootlegged tapes remained in high demand.
For the first time, the global public was treated to the viral concept of Area-51.
But it all had to be hot air, right? What cockamamie nonsense! This “Dennis” was clearly a charlatan of some sort, another con-artist willing to dupe the public into believing a yarn about alien cover-ups for 15 seconds of tepid fame. Bob Lazar, however, would not be so easily dismissed. Allegedly under duress from his higher-ups at the base, Lazar decided to come all the way out of the closet for his own safety. What America saw was a geeky young man with coke-bottle glasses who could be nothing else but a theoretical physicist. The detail with which he described his experience, the crafts and their otherworldly technology was head-spinning.
Corbell’s film goes to great lengths to portray how genuine a character Bob Lazar is. Thirty years later, the physicist hasn’t changed his story in the least–in the words of Corbell, he’s actually doubled down. What becomes clear in watching the older Lazar is that there is nothing of the showman in his personality. The most horrifying thing for his detractors to gulp down is that Lazar has an unmistakable aversion to fame and fanfare. He’s never gone on a book tour or tried to capitalize off his notoriety. If anything, the aging scientist gives a “get off my lawn” kind of vibe, content to conduct his enigmatic experiments in domestic solitude.
Bob Lazar is a jaded and embittered man, and you probably would be, too. The consequence of him speaking his truth has, in many ways, wreaked havoc on both his professional and personal life. If he had a chance to do it all over again, Lazar admits that he’s not sure he would. After seeing your name muckraked and dragged through the dirt, after having your house raided twice by the FBI (once during filming with Corbell) and having your identity removed from official records at MIT and Los Alamos Laboratories, it’s quite understandable. Lazar, however, does gain some solace in the many victories over his would-be debunkers down through the years.
As George Knapp, former Channel 8 anchor whose career as a UFO investigator was launched after the first Lazar interview, says with great relish: “Bob Lazar won!” It’s hard to argue with him. For starters, the terms “S-4” and “Area-51”, both denoting real places as confirmed by government officials and Air Force personnel, were nowhere in parlance before Lazar made his claims. How did he know about them? Lazar also underwent four separate polygraph tests and passed every one, the results of which were triple-confirmed by polygraph professionals.
There’s more. Back in 1989, Lazar referenced top-security hand-scanners that were used at S-4 upon entering the facility; these devices were able to confirm the identity of the individual via a biometric analysis of the bones in their fingers. For a long time, no one had any idea what Lazar was talking about. Just recently there have been pictures of these very hand-scanners taken at the Nellis Air Force Base. Another feather in Lazar’s cap (which he can’t help crack a smile over on camera).
There was one distinct episode before Lazar’s disclosure, in fact, that famously got him into some trouble. He escorted a couple of friends out to the nearby Papoose Lake on a Wednesday night expressly to watch test-flights of flying saucers. This is attested to by John Lear, a former CIA official who was with Lazar that evening. The group actually managed to get clear footage of the crafts rising into the inky desert sky. Lazar reports being severely reprimanded and threatened by S-4 authorities for the breach in security. Again, how could Lazar have possibly known about those test-flights?
The biggest smoking gun–er, particle accelerator–in the case of Bob Lazar, however, is that of Element 115. One of the most conspicuous gems that can be mined from young Lazar’s dense explications of E.T. technology is this mysterious, off-world element which was capable of creating its own gravity wave. Of course, there was no such thing as “Element 115” in 1989. The Nevada scientist’s greatest vindication would come nearly 15 years later in 2003, though, when a team of American and Russian scientists announced the discovery of…you got it, Element 115. It exists for all of us to google.
Corbell’s film itself is an engaging and cinematic piece that propels onward by force of its subject matter. The raw footage of Lazar in his natural habitat–crafting fireworks and flame-throwers, recreating a Gilbert atomic energy kit from the 1950s–makes for a fascinating and revealing document of “the reluctant UFO messiah”, the man behind the myth. Besides being an openly mad scientist, the guy manages to lead a remarkably unremarkable life. Except, that is, when the FBI raids his home, explicitly referencing a conversation had between Corbell and Lazar regarding Element 115. Corbell doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of the drama, tying it into the greater weave of high-weirdness.
At the center of it all, of course, is Bob Lazar’s exotic story itself. While Lazar doesn’t care what you think about him, he certainly thinks it’s advisable for you to “pay attention” to what he has to say. According to his story, the U.S. government is suppressing their knowledge of a race of intelligent beings that has been visiting earth for quite some time, and further they are suppressing knowledge of advanced forms of technology that would transform our society overnight. “You can’t just not tell everyone,” an exasperated Lazar told us in 1989.
While the man who first clued us in to Area-51 may never culturally transcend his own story, his story has the power to transcend history as we know it. This writer is one of many people around the world who has witnessed a “UFO” in broad daylight. Are we to retain any kind of scientific (or moral) legitimacy if we lazily explain these sightings away as some kind of Jungian projection of the unconscious? At what point do we gain the courage to reassess our outmoded views of the universe and intelligent life so that they begin to match up with the reality of our experience? Perhaps we need to regain our capacity for astonishment.
Bob Lazar will only shrug his shoulders, look out the window pensively and bite his lip. There’s no need to repeat himself now. Maybe his mind isn’t the problem, maybe it’s our mind that is. Maybe there are field-propulsion crafts that can manipulate space, time and gravity all at once to cross galaxies in a breath. Maybe the governments around the world do know about them. And maybe they aren’t just images on a shaky screen, but harbingers of a new kind of civilization on this planet entirely.
*Narrated by Mickey Rourke, available on iTunes.