George KnappNevada has long been a hotbed of UFO tales largely because our state is home to the Area 51 military base. But the eyes of the UFO world were on Southern Nevada even before Area 51 existed. A place called Mormon Mesa was alleged to be an UFO landing spot. And one man says he talked to ET's many times on the mesa.
What is the flying saucer? Why do people see them? What's behind the daily reports all over the country?" The first great saucer waves of the late 40s and early 50s created a UFO hubbub that has never been matched. The nation had its eyes to the skies as it pondered the motives of the alleged visitors.
With the Cold War as a backdrop, many worried about an ET invasion. In the midst of the hysteria, the so-called contactees emerged, people like George Adamski, who claimed frequent, peaceful encounters with the saucer people. Adamski's popularity inspired similar claims, including those of Truman Bethurum, a California highway worker who in 1952 went to work near Glendale, Nevada.
An hour north of Las Vegas is a vast plateau known as Mormon Mesa. It's flat as a pancake and stretches for miles. The late Howard Hughes thought it would make for a dandy airport. Truman Bethurum says it was a landing strip of sorts. He claimed to have witnessed several UFO landings on Mormon Mesa, which he wrote about in a series of books.
One account describes eleven visitations to Mormon Mesa in the early 50s. The first time it happened, he says, he got off work late at night and went to the top of the mesa, which was once a seabed, to search for fossilized shells. After taking a nap, he awoke to find himself surrounded by little people.
In that first incident atop Mormon Mesa, Bethurum said he encountered 8 to 10 alien beings. They were between four and five feet tall, had olive skin that made them look like Italians, he said, wore uniforms similar to what's worn by Greyhound bus drivers, and they all spoke perfect English. Eventually, Bethurum said he was allowed to go inside the 300-foot flying saucer, which is where he met the captain of the ship, Aura Rhanes, whom he described as, quote, "tops in shapeliness and beauty." Aura told Bethurum all about her planet Clarion and its utopian virtues and hinted that we earthlings should clean up our act.
When asked if there was no disease or death on Clarion, Truman Bethurum said, "They did not mention death. The woman captain said she expected to be around for 1,000 years. When the right time comes they would have a message to help us, with not one nation against another, but all nations together. Strife will not be a reality for very long."
Although Bethurum's tale caused quite a stir, Mormon Mesa did not become a place of pilgrimage for UFO believers, as Area 51 did decades later. Eventually the contactees like Bethurum faded from public view, their stories of benign aliens replaced by darker tales of alien abductions.
Other than his books, Bethurum never tried to cash in, and he admitted to the end it was a tough tale to swallow. Bethurum said, "I would not have believed my own mother if she had told me this thing could exist one second before I saw it. I would have laughed at her."
Some of Truman Bethurum's books can still be found in old books stores or for sale online.
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