By Christopher Seifert
Television”s “The X-Files” is conspicuously absent from the airwaves this fall, but Salt Lake City has its own real-life Fox Mulder on the case. Meet “Alien” Dave Rosenfeld.
Rosenfeld, 34, is co-founder and president of the Utah UFO Hunters, an eclectic bunch of 23 Utahns who insist the truth really is out there.
While Rosenfeld himself admits the skeptics of his cause are many, he perseveres in a personal quest to locate undeniable proof that paranormal activity is real.
He wears blue jeans, a gray baseball cap and a black T-shirt with green lettering that identify him as a UFO search team member. His hobbies include art and Web design. He enjoys science fiction movies like this summer”s “Signs.” He is plainspoken. He doesn”t flinch.
“I don”t really care what people think about me because I know what I”ve seen,” he says matter-of-factly.
His first encounter with UFOs came in the summer of 1977. Rosenfeld, just 8 years old at the time, was camping with his two older sisters high in the Uintah Mountains when he spotted a large, noiseless object he says looked like a “red/brown potato” moving slowly across the night”s sky. After the object disappeared over the horizon, another craft appeared – this one a simple white light performing aerial maneuvers he considered impossible for a man-made craft. Despite the close encounter, Rosenfeld and his sisters treated the incident lightly.
“It wasn”t a big deal at the time,” he said. “I didn”t know what UFOs were. I was more interested in trying to sleep.”
It wasn”t until nearly two decades later, on a return trip to the Uintah Mountains, that Rosenfeld”s unwavering belief in UFOs and extraterrestrial visitors began. On that evening, a friend”s daughter pointed to a shooting star that turned out, Rosenfeld says, not to be a shooting star at all. To the amazement of the group, a mysterious bluish-white light sailed gradually across the sky.
“I guess we had a mindset about looking up at the stars that night,” Rosenfeld said, “because we saw about 20 of those things.”
That experience in 1996 made Rosenfeld a true believer and gave him the impetus to start his UFO Hunters organization. Since then, his encounters with the paranormal have intensified, he said. He has experienced lost time. He has seen alien beings face-to-face.
The owner of a truck washing business, Rosenfeld devotes much of his free time to hands-on investigation of paranormal claims. His investigative field kit includes a 35mm camera, a camcorder, a tape recorder, flashlights and magnets.
His group of UFO Hunters meets with other believers once a month at the Hunter Library in West Valley City to share experiences and discuss paranormal activity.
September”s meeting included discussion of ghosts, Bigfoot, extraterrestrials, out-of-body experiences, reincarnation, lost time, energy vortexes, crop circles, alternate dimensions and talking fields. One woman recounted an experience with supernatural praying mantises. No one laughed or snickered.
This monthly congregation of believers is a combination support group and quasi-religion.
Alan Meyer, an English teacher at Ogden”s Bonneville High School and an adjunct instructor at Weber State University, was the guest speaker at September”s meeting. Meyer reports experiencing supernatural visitations from an early age and has a simple explanation for the maddening diversity of paranormal encounters. Everything from Bigfoot to UFOs, Meyer said, are manifestations of the same phenomenon described differently by different individuals.
“I think this stuff takes a form according to your own orientation,” he said.
Meyer”s presence at the meeting was a morale boost for his fellow believers. For them, the professed belief of an academic seemed to bolster the credibility of their own claims.
Marlee Spendlove, a believer from West Valley City, scoffed at the closed-mindedness of skeptics.
“Some people would question the intelligence on this planet too,” she said.
Renee Mangum, a food product demonstrator from Salt Lake, echoed that sentiment.
“We tend to ask more questions than most people and want some sort of verification,” Mangum said.
But some skeptics say believers aren”t asking enough questions – or at least not the right ones.
UFO reports have actually declined over the past decade, said Kevin Christopher, public relations officer for Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. Christopher doesn”t doubt that individuals believe their own stories of the paranormal, but he says those individuals fail to look at all the facts.
“People often fall for the (UFO) argument from ignorance,” Christopher said. “It”s sort of a logical fallacy argument. Somehow, if you don”t have the scientific explanation, it suddenly becomes an alien spacecraft.”
To illustrate just how easy it is to be duped, Christopher, armed with a two-by-four and some rope, helped create two crop circles last October – one in a wheat field in upstate New York and another in a wild grass field in Buffalo.
“With nothing more than a length of rope and someone standing in the center you can make a perfect circle – or good enough for photographs,” Christopher said. “You can create almost any shape you want.”
Rosenfeld agrees that not every paranormal experience reported is authentic.
“I do not believe everything that is spoken at our meetings, by our members or on our Web site,” he said. “It”s an open forum, and we don”t pass judgment or preach our beliefs. We keep a clear head with an open mind.”
And the crop circle hoaxers?
“I do believe that people do go out there and stomp and make crop circles, but to me the difference (from authentic crop circles) is obvious.”
When crop circles began appearing in a field in Teton, Idaho, on Aug. 10, Rosenfeld was there to investigate. The Teton circles, Rosenfeld said, are the real thing. The stalks are bent, not broken, and he insists some form of energy exists inside the circles.
But verifiable evidence is hard to come by.
Since the formation of the UFO Hunters in 1996, Rosenfeld said he has videotaped or photographed more than a dozen UFOs. Two photographs and one videotape have been analyzed for authenticity by the National Institute for Discovery and Science. NIDS determined the photos and video had not been doctored, but no one is conceding the objects captured on film are extraterrestrial in origin.
“We can talk about eye-witness evidence and photographs and there”s a lot of that,” Christopher said, “but that”s weak evidence. What a skeptic would be asking is, ”Where are the alien bodies? Where is the alien technology?” Until we see that, I don”t think a skeptic has any obligation to believe any of it.”