Thursday, March 17, 2005

Rochester Man Studies UFOs with a Historian's Tools

By Mark Hare
The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Richard Dolan has never seen a UFO. But he believes they are real. Don't roll your eyes.

Dolan is a historian and researcher by trade. He has never had any interest in science fiction. If extraterrestrials have visited Earth, Dolan doesn't claim to know where they've come from or what they want.

He does believe, though, that the subject is worthy of inquiry.

Dolan, a Brooklyn native, earned a history degree from Alfred University, studied at Oxford University, and then studied American Cold War diplomacy at the University of Rochester in the 1990s. He earned a master's degree in history.

He left academia because he didn't want to spend his life "begging for adjunct instructorships." He now runs his own professional résumé writing service.

His passion, however, is researching and writing about UFOs. He has been a contributor to The History Channel, has written dozens of articles and, in 2000, published Volume One of UFOs and the National Security State: An Unclassified History. The book documents global UFO encounters from 1941 to 1973. Just in those years, he says, the book documents about 250 UFO encounters involving the military. He is working on a second volume that would present evidence through the 1990s.

"I have gone from the standard academic track to the fringe," he says, "and the fringe is the best place to be."

He has collected loads of official documents released to many researchers over the years through Freedom of Information Act requests.

At first, he says, American intelligence worried that the Soviet Union might have perfected the technology of extremely high- speed craft that can stop in midair and turn on a dime. That turned out not to have been the case, but the reports of sightings continued for decades.

As every television viewer knows, the government has long dismissed sightings as mistakes. Either witnesses have mistaken weather balloons or atmospheric conditions for unusual aircraft or they are hallucinating.

But when you have trained pilots telling similar stories, you have to listen, he says. "I would hesitate to use the words 'extraterrestrial spacecraft' in describing these things. This could well be so — but I really try to be less definitive. Call me picky, but I would simply describe them as military encounters with unconventional craft that vastly exceed our own capabilities."

You have to be skeptical of reports, but not closed-minded. So what's credible?

"I look at a few things. First, a detailed (Freedom of Information Act) report is something I consider credible," Dolan says. "A photograph that has gone through extensive analysis" is also credible.

In fact, he says, people need to be far more open to possibilities we cannot imagine. Might creatures capable of traveling vast distances have more sophisticated ways than low-flying metallic hovercraft to survey the Earth? A reasonable assumption, he says, but who knows?

In 1994, Dolan kind of stumbled into the field of UFO research, knowing quite well that most of the world finds the subject amusing, if not nuts. It doesn't bother him.

He has pursued his material methodically because, as he says in the introduction to his book, "this topic deserves a respectable history."

Dolan will speak on "UFOs, National Security and You" from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 28, at Brighton High School. Advance registration is required. Call (585) 242-5191.

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