Unidentified Flying Objects Research Paper

This sample Unidentified Flying Objects Research Paper is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need help writing your assignment, please use our research paper writing service and buy a paper on any topic at affordable price. Also check our tips on how to write a research paper, see the lists of research paper topics, and browse research paper examples.

Any discussion of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) invokes multiple, often contradictory, meanings. In popular culture the UFO is an emblem of atomic-age anxiety and desire. Nonetheless, there were unidentified airship sightings in late nineteenth century America and scholars have documented striking parallels between UFO encounters and traditional fairy lore. Some UFO believers describe UFOs as prophetic missives from spiritual realms while other equally passionate believers locate UFOs in scientific and political quests.

An aura of marginality is an essential feature of UFO believers. Simultaneously, however, fascination with UFOs is mainstream. A 2002 Roper poll sponsored by the Science Fiction Channel suggested that a majority of Americans believe in the existence of UFOs. Groups based on interest in UFOs (such as the research oriented Mutual UFO Network; support groups for alien abductees; and Internet communities) encompass multiple aesthetic and epistemological affinities spanning generational, class, racial, and geographic boundaries. Interpretations of UFOs are made to fit into larger patterns of belief ranging from anti-government conspiracies to Christian eschatology (i.e., the end of the world). UFOs are said to be involved in unknown phenomena such as mysterious patterns appearing in grain fields—crop circles—and cattle mutilation. Perhaps the only fixed feature of the UFO is its openness as a symbol; always remaining “unidentified” has made the UFO an icon for uncanny elements of life in a rationalized age.

A major theme in UFO discourse is the paucity of official scientific research into extraterrestrial visitation. (UFOlogy is the study of UFOs.) Reports of UFO encounters have been studied through official venues, though these results tend to further the division between UFOlogy practiced by amateurs and authoritative forms of power and knowledge. In 1947 the Army Air Force began one of three investigative studies into reported UFO sightings. The final investigation, Project Blue Book, ended in 1969 with the conclusion that natural phenomena accounted for most UFO sightings. As with many UFO-related conclusions, however, this one remained open. One of its own participants, astrophysicist J. Alen Hynek, was dismayed by the investigation’s lack of scientific rigor and open-mindedness, especially regarding ambiguous reports that could not be explained as natural phenomena ([1972] 1998). Hynek assumed the rationality of most UFO witnesses and renounced his initial skepticism to become a major figure of UFOlogy.

In social science UFO belief has been studied for insights into religion, memory, psychology, and culture. Scholars of “new religions” make no claim as to the reality or falsity of UFOs but track religions or “cults” that arise out of the belief. In recent studies in psychology and memory at Harvard, researchers found abduction memories were linked to common brain states between sleeping and waking (Clancy 2005). Scholars in anthropology and cultural studies have also studied UFOs in the context of larger social and cultural meanings (Dean 1998, Battaglia 2005). Beginning with psychologist Carl Jung (1875-1961) to the beginning of modern UFO belief in the mid-twentieth century, scholars of psychology, religion, and culture emphasized the mythic elements of UFO belief. UFO history itself is organized through large stories of events that come to function like origin myths. Such narratives include the “first sighting,” the “first crash” and the “first abduction.”

The “Firsts”: Origin Narratives

UFOs are often said to enter American life through Kenneth Arnold, a respectable businessman and pilot who was flying solo in Washington State on a clear afternoon, on June 24, 1947. After Arnold saw nine unidentifiable objects flying over the Cascade Mountains he told a reporter the objects moved in the sky like saucers, thus coining a lasting term. Although other strange flying objects had been reported in the year before Arnold’s sighting, his sighting became the originary narrative of UFO culture and was the impetus for the military’s first UFO investigations. In the U.S. government, there was worry about both extraterrestrials and a possible secret weapon in development. From this beginning, UFOs were entangled with technological military development.

Weeks after Arnold’s sighting a crashed flying saucer was reported from Roswell, New Mexico, the only military base with an atomic bomb unit. A rancher named Mac Brazel had discovered mysterious wreckage scattered over the countryside, including pieces covered in what appeared to be hieroglyphics. Sometime in the next few days, amid the excitement of flying saucer talk around America, Brazel reported his find to the local sheriff, who in turn reported it to the Army Air Field’s (AAF) intelligence officer, Jesse Marcel. The AAF issued a press release that led the Roswell Daily Record to report on July 8 that a flying saucer had been captured by the Air Force near Roswell. But within a day, Brigadier General Roger Ramey called the press, changing the UFO explanation to that of a crashed high-altitude weather balloon.

Stories Of Conspiracy

The incident receded. Its uncanny and conspiratorial elements emerged in the late 1970s when Stanton Friedman, a UFO researcher with a background in nuclear physics, happened to meet Marcel and began to investigate the case. Friedman claimed that the government had been hiding evidence of this crashed UFO for decades. In subsequent research by Friedman and other researchers, one part of the story grew especially salient: Alien bodies had been recovered and hidden by the government for research. Reports grew of the military threatening witnesses. Friedman used testimony from a recently-emerged witness to propose that two extraterrestrial crafts had crashed in the area, and the government had secreted the crafts along with the alien bodies. In another twist, a former Pentagon official and army colonel named Philip Corso claimed not only that he had seen alien bodies from the Roswell crash but that the United States had developed modern technology, such as the integrated circuit and the laser, by studying the extraterrestrial craft. There was speculation that the UFOs had made their way to Area 51, a top-secret high technology military base bordering the Nevada nuclear test site.

In 1994 Representative Steven Schiff of New Mexico requested the release of government files on Roswell under the Freedom of Information Act. To Schiff, the files were unsatisfactory, containing scant and redacted pages. Finally, however, Schiff’s appeals to the Congressional General Accounting Office led to revelations about a secret cold war program in 1947 called Project Mogul. Scientists from New York University had launched balloons in New Mexico carrying devices meant to track nuclear tests by the Soviet Union. One of these had disappeared near Roswell during the appropriate time period. The balloons had some of the physical qualities described by witnesses fifty years earlier, such as tape containing symbols that could have been mistaken for alien hieroglyphics. This explanation has created controversy among UFO researchers, some of whom are convinced and some of whom still believe in the extraterrestrial hypothesis.

The original story of the first abduction contained themes that set a pattern for subsequent cases. In September 1961 a couple from New Hampshire named Betty and Barney Hill experienced “missing time” while driving in the White Mountains. Strange dreams and Barney’s anxiety prompted them to seek out hypnotherapy, which revealed memories of having been abducted. According to the Hills, the couple had seen a UFO approaching and their car engine had failed. Like most alleged abductees, the Hills described a medical violation of their bodies, especially their sexual organs.

Abduction Patterns

Since the case of the Hills, many abduction narratives have followed a similar pattern of clinical experimentation and violation based on human reproduction. Some people recall seeing “hybrids,” offspring between humans and extraterrestrials.

Budd Hopkins (1981) and David Jacobs (1992) have been at the forefront of this narrative’s circulation for twenty years, often relying on hypnosis to elicit traumatic abduction memories. Symptoms of abduction that might lead one to seek hypnotic regression include missing time, unexplained marks on the body, unexplained mechanical failures, strange dreams, and “screen memories” of things representing extraterrestrials. In one famous case, logger Travis Walton says he was abducted from Arizona by extraterrestrials for several days. In most instances documented by Hopkins and Jacobs, however, the missing time is hours, not days, and there are rarely witnesses.

While many people who claim to be abductees portray abductions as terrifying, it is often more complex. A belief in benevolent spiritual extraterrestrials, prevalent in the mid-twentieth century, became an ambivalent, complex discourse of personal transformation. The process of post-traumatic spiritual enlightenment undergone by “alien abductees” is best known from the work of two men: Whitley Strieber, who in the 1980s turned from writing best-selling science fiction and fantasy novels to writing a nonfiction account of his own encounters with extraterrestrials; and John Mack, a Harvard psychiatrist who, late in a distinguished academic and clinical career, began working with people who said they had memories of alien abduction and experienced great spiritual growth.


  1. Battaglia, Debbora, ed. 2005. E.T. Culture: Anthropology in Outerspaces. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  2. Bullard, Thomas E. 1989. UFO Abduction Reports: The Supernatural Kidnap Narrative Returns in Technological Guise. Journal of American Folklore 102, no. 404 (April/June): 147-170.
  3. Clancy, Susan A. 2005. Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  4. Corso, Philip J. (with William J. Birnes). 1997. The Day After Roswell. New York: Pocket Books.
  5. Dean, Jodi. 1998. Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  6. Friedman, Stanton, and Don Berliner. 1992. Crash at Corona: The US Military Retrieval and Cover-Up of a UFO. New York: Paragon House.
  7. Fuller, John G. 1993 [1966]. The Interrupted Journey: Two Lost Hours “Aboard a Flying Saucer.” Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books.
  8. Harding, Susan. 2005. Living Prophecy at Heaven’s Gate. In Histories of the Future, 297–320. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  9. Hopkins, Budd. 1981. Missing Time: A Documented Study of UFO Abductions. New York: R. Marek Publishers.
  10. Hynek, Allen J. [1972] 1998. The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry. New York: Marlowe and Company.
  11. Jacobs, David. 1992. Secret Life: Firsthand Documented Accounts of UFO Abductions. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  12. Jung, Carl Gustav. [1953] 1979. Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  13. Korff, Kal K. 1997. What Really Happened at Roswell. Skeptical Inquirer, (July/August). http://www.csicop.org/si/9707/roswell.html.
  14. Lepselter, Susan. 2005. The Flight of the Ordinary: Narrative, Poetics, Power and UFOs in the American Uncanny. Doctoral Dissertation: University of Texas at Austin.
  15. Lewis, James R., ed. 1995. The Gods Have Landed: New Religions from Other Worlds. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  16. Mack, John. 1999. Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters. New York: Crown Publishers.
  17. Patton, Phil. 1998. Dreamland: Travels Inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51. New York: Villard Books.
  18. Peebles, Curtis. 1994. Watch the skies!: A Chronicle of the Flying Saucer Myth. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  19. Rojcewicz, Peter. 1987. The “Men in Black:” Experience and Tradition – Analogues with the Traditional Devil Hypothesis. Journal of American Folklore 100: 148–160.
  20. Saler, Benson, Charles A. Ziegler, and Charles B. Moore. 1997. UFO Crash at Roswell: the Genesis of a Modern Myth. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  21. Sci Fi.com. Roper Poll: UFOs & Extraterrestrial Life. September 2002. Sci Fi Channel. http://www.scifi.com/ufo/roper.
  22. Strieber, Whitley. 1988. Communion. New York: Avon Books. Vallee, Jacques. [1969] 1997. Passport to Magonia: On UFOs, Folklore, and Parallel Worlds. New York: McGraw Hill.

See also:

Free research papers are not written to satisfy your specific instructions. You can use our professional writing services to buy a custom research paper on any topic and get your high quality paper at affordable price.


Always on-time


100% Confidentiality
Special offer! Get discount 10% for the first order. Promo code: cd1a428655