I once saw a UFO. It was a fairly standard experience. The craft was cigar shaped, silver, and it slid silently across a clear blue sky. No abduction, no lost time, no probes.
The sighting occurred at Devil's Tower--you know, that natural wonder in Wyoming that Richard Dreyfuss carved out of mashed potatoes in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I was holding a video camera but when I hit record and swung it toward the sky the mysterious craft had vanished. The year was 1993; I was 11 years old.
It's been about twenty years since that day, and at this point in my life I consider myself skeptical but willing to keep an open mind when it comes to the subject of extraterrestrials. This particular outlook makes me an ideal visitor to the UFO Watchtower, according to its owner, Judy Mesoline.
Built to resemble a UFO, Mesoline's watchtower is a strange little museum, shop, and lookout post that she opened in 2001 after a failed stint as a rancher. It's located in Hooper, Colorado, a small town even by Colorado standards. As of 2011 it had a population of 105.
Mesoline's bizarre totem to alien sightings isn't just capitalizing on an otherworldly trend that stretches across the American west. It turns out that Hooper sits right in the middle of what one fellow visitor referred to as "The Bermuda Triangle of The West".
The San Luis Valley, a geothermal swath of land at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, and home to Hooper and the UFO Watchtower, also happens to be the site of an unusual number of UFO sightings, a home to many true believers, and ground zero for the unexplained animal mutilation epidemic. It was here in 1967 that the first known mutilation took place, on a now-legendary horse named Snippy.
Since she opened her lookout in 2001, Mesoline has had over two dozen sightings of her own.
"So many bizarre things have happened here in the last 12 years and I tell folks you better have an open mind," she said. "Maybe you don't quite get all of this, okay? But you'd better have an open mind because something's going on up there in that cosmos that we just don't know about."
See? Maybe I'm not so crazy.