Sunday, May 22, 2005

UFOs? The Sky's The Limit

Bob Vanderclock
Bob Vanderclock

By Chris McKenna
Times Herald-Record
5-22-05
     Monroe – Let's face it. This is a big universe, and the notion that we humans (plus our little furry friends) are the only creatures occupying it is, well, just a little presumptuous. Surely, we are not alone.

   Take what happened out in the New Mexico desert in 1947. Sure, the military would later tell the world that the debris found in the sands near Roswell that summer came from an observation balloon that crashed to earth. But wait a minute. What about the initial reports of a flying disc that came apart?

   Robert VanDerClock came at this, he says, with no "preconceived notions." He'd been a "space program nut" as a kid, but he'd given little thought to the existence of extraterrestrial beings and what exactly they might be up to.

   Until 1993.

   That's when he started looking into what's known as "the Roswell incident."

   Lo and behold.

   "It took me about a week and a half to realize we'd been lied to," VanDerClock says. "It was basically the biggest story since the second coming of Christ." (OK, he's getting ahead of that story.)

   VanDerClock is a Monroe resident, a husband, a father of two. He has worked for the U.S. Postal Service his whole career and is the postmaster in Waldwick, N.J. He has a B.A. in political science from Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and served three years in the Army during the Vietnam War – doing intelligence work, he says.

   And he is absolutely, firmly convinced that we've got more in our air space than Delta jets.

   What began as a whimsical research project turned into a passion. VanDerClock is now a confirmed UFO buff, specializing in Roswell.

   "The government can't keep its story straight on this," he says. "It's had four different stories that contradict each other."

   He has written three papers on the subject, which he peddles at his speeches. He has also written an article about the late Col. Philip Corso – a former national security adviser and Roswell touchstone – for "Fate" magazine ("True Reports of the Strange & Unknown") and hopes to co-write a book with Paola Harris, the Italian ufologist (that's what they're called).

   But mostly he talks, with great enthusiasm. A former college pitcher and outfielder, he gestures with meaty hands the size of catcher's mitts as he expounds upon Roswell and the insights of old Col. Corso. He has the face of Fred Thompson, the Tennessee senator and "Law and Order" actor, with a mane of Prince Valiant hair.

   He'll speak today at the senior center in Highland Mills in what he says is "roughly" his 53rd talk on UFOs. He books these engagements nine to 10 times a year, mostly unpaid. Usually he packs them in. As of nine days ago, 45 people had already signed up for today's free talk.

   VanDerClock understands the skepticism. But what drives him crazy are the people who just scoff without listening to facts.

   "It's OK not to believe," he says. "But if you're faced with sworn testimony … "

   Not to mention a piece of a spaceship.

   VanDerClock says he handled one last year at a conference in Gaithersberg, Md. – the first annual "X-Conference," reportedly attended by nearly 600 people. He claims he was handed a shiny object that looked like coal, the size of a "large police whistle." He held it in his palm for about 30 seconds.

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