We spoke to attendees of ‘Contact in the desert’ about the US military’s recent acknowledgement that UFOs are maybe a thing.
Photos by Nick Rose

Attending the ‘World’s Biggest UFO Conference’ Showed Me It's a Golden Age for Believers

We spoke to attendees of ‘Contact in the Desert’ about the U.S. military’s recent acknowledgment that UFOs are maybe a thing.

With the US Navy’s recent acknowledgement of a pesky and persistent flying “tic-tac” problem has come a renewed mainstream interest (and suspicion) surrounding UFOs.

But for the 3,000 attendees of last weekend’s Contact in the Desert, which bills itself as the world’s largest UFO conference, this “soft disclosure” by the US military is just a small chapter in a story that stretches back decades, even millennia, in a quest to identify the unidentified vessels that apparently fill the sky.


The conference website describes it as a “gateway through which attendees can gain knowledge and the most up-to-date research on UFOs, ancient aliens, human origins, crop circles, government disclosure, extraterrestrial visitation, interplanetary living, contact and abduction experiences, and the ‘need to know’”—a hotel buffet of the paranormal.

Walking into the lobby of the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa was like physically stepping into a late-night YouTube UFO rabbit hole, but with the welcome presence of human interaction, and a programme of 50 lectures and 36 workshops by scientists, alleged abductees, ex-military, the guy from Ancient Aliens, and many other stalwarts of the UFO circuit.

The phenomenon of unidentified flying objects may, by definition, always be at the edge of human knowledge, but the tinfoil hats and tie-dye shirts of yore seem to be long gone. We spoke to some of the truth-seekers at Contact in the Desert, many of whom drove or flew thousands of miles to deepen their knowledge of the unknowable, about their search for scientific, personal, and spiritual truths about UFOs.

Autumn, 24


When did you become interested in UFOs?
I met someone while I was working at Applebee's. We were kind of dating and he introduced me to Gaia, a really good platform for UFO and spiritual information. It started off by looking at the dark things, like, “Why are we being lied to?” and turned into a positive experience, because once you look at the dark things you’re being lied to about, it’s better than not knowing. If we were in a place of hopelessness, no one would know anything.


What do you think UFOs are?
Some of them are military and some of them are interdimensional, rather than something coming from a few planets away. Even if they are from other planets, I think they travel through wormholes, not traversing the actual distance.

Do you get a feeling of community here?
It’s almost like being at church because everyone is really nice to you and you have a common thing that other people might not necessarily agree with. Everyone is at a different level of discovering all the nuances of what the truth of UFOs might be, but by becoming more informed they’re becoming better people.

Adam, 28


What brings you here?
Connection and understanding. We are much more than we understand. We are part of something much greater than ourselves. We seek connection, understanding, purpose, and ancestry—where do we come from? What are we? Why are we? It’s like unlocking Pandora’s box of the truth and lies that is our existence. I’m here to explore myself, which is an extension of all this.

Where do UFOs fit into this larger scheme you’re describing?
Unidentified flying objects are just the vessel for beings and energy, understanding and communication—the same way I show up here as a vessel for whatever intention they have. To me, they are vessels for other beings who have an intention.

What do you think about the renewed interest in popular culture?
There are so many lies around the subject. Even the truths that were spoken were discredited. Now, we’re in an age of information where anyone with a smartphone can pull it out and grab the truth. This interest is coming at this exact time for a reason. We couldn’t come to the same awakening then as we can now; information was controlled too heavily. Now, anyone can get the truth out and the truth is out there. It’s happening at the time and technology where it’s supposed to happen, so we can be where we’re supposed to be.


Ever seen a UFO?
No. I’ve seen things move very quickly across the sky. Can I can pinpoint that this object stopped and went straight up? Then I’ve seen that, yes. But not up close and personal.

Marc, “The Sci-Fi Real Estate Guy,” 51


Why are you here?
I’m a realtor from Vancouver and Imperial Officer from the Death Star. I’m really into ancient archeology and history in general. Add in the alien flavour here and it’s actually quite a blast.

Do you feel a sense of community here at Contact in the Desert?
There are things that I believe in and others things that people believe in that I don’t, but it doesn’t matter. No one is judged here.

Have you ever seen a UFO?
I have. I have no shame in saying it. A couple of times in my life, I’ve seen the white orbs. I saw another object in the sky with my kids that, to this day, we really don’t know what it was. I can only describe it as an inflated black garbage bag, but, of course, at the distance we were looking at it, it would have been the biggest, hugest garbage bag you ever saw. It was just moving and undulating with no sound.

What do you think about the renewed mainstream interest in UFOs?
Certainly they’ve kept it secret for their own reasons. There’s Brazil gun cam footage, Colombia, the US Navy recently; I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that UFOs are here. They’ve been saying the same thing for the last 30 years, but I think disclosure is coming.




Do you feel a sense of community here?
I’m here by myself, but I’m a bit of a loner. I’ll wander around and talk to people, though. The lineup of speakers is phenomenal.

What do you think about the renewed interest in popular culture?
The way things are going, the government is going to have to give up playing stupid and admit what they know. It’s got to come soon.

What do you think UFOs are?
Some say it’s us from the future, others say it’s an underground civilization. I don’t know. I’m just looking for everybody’s input,what they’ve experienced, what they’ve learned. I don’t have any specific questions. I want to know the big picture and you get that through a lot of knowledge and opinions.

What does your family back home think about your interest in UFOs?
My older daughter was really disappointed that she didn’t get to come with me, because we’re like spiritual sisters. As for the others, some of them like to tease me a little, while others will listen some. They’ve gotten used to me being out on the fringe. I came into life wondering, “I know I’m here for a reason and I want to know what that reason is.”

Why are people so quick to dismiss the UFO phenomenon?
A lot of it is fear. People are locked into what they’ve been taught, how we believe, and the history that we’ve been taught and they can’t cope without that because it’s outside of their paradigm. Even scientists espouse a certain opinion and teach and write about it and suddenly, somebody comes up with new facts and they say, “No, I can’t take that because it will make me look totally stupid.” People get locked into their paradigms.




Lara chose not to be photographed so here's an Alien head.

Have you ever seen a UFO?
Yes. I’ve seen shiny disks, glowing orbs, a cylinder over Burbank, a cube morphing out of a cloud. I’ve been to ECETI Ranch and seen UFOs come up over the mountains there. Why they come to me, I don’t know. They are real; it’s a question of how to get it into mainstream thought, so people can accept it and feel comfortable sharing their experiences. So many people I speak to who don’t come to these events and have these kinds of experiences think they were dreaming or hallucinating. People ask me what sort of drugs I take and I don’t take any drugs whatsoever.

What do you think UFOs are?
You can call them aliens, you can call them from this dimension, you can call them interdimensional beings that work on a different vibration and come from it from a multiverse perspective. There are different planes of existence. I don’t know. I haven’t got the answers.

What do you think of the US Navy’s recent acknowledgement of UFO sightings?
It’s a soft disclosure, which means revealing information but never getting to the truth and controlling what the truth is going to be. They don’t want to freak people out, but it’s more a question of how they get the truth out there. Coming from the military, it seemed to come from a trusted authority and people are more trusting of government and military, unfortunately.

So this is also a personal journey for you?
I wanted to be among people where I could speak the truth and be myself. I’ve been a seeker now for quite a while. I feel like I’m coming into my own being, hopefully a more evolved being.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

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