By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Ufology speakers take topic seriously

They come to share their knowledge of sightings, crop circles, abductions and other cases with fellow believers and others willing to consider the topic seriously.

And they come to McMinnville’s event not only because it’s the second-largest UFO festival outside Roswell, N.M., but also because they enjoy it.

“It’s a wonderful event,” said Kathleen Marden, a UFO researcher who is returning to McMinnville this year from her home in Florida.

She is one of six speakers scheduled to give talks or spend time with guests at events Friday and Saturday.

The others are Whitley Strieber, Dr. Irena Scott, Bryan Bender, James Clarkson and Alejandro Rojas.

Programs will be held in the Hotel Oregon or the McMinnville Community Center, three blocks away on Northeast Evans St. Tickets start at $25 in advance or $30 at the door for the programs, or $40 for luncheons.

Marden, who will talk at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the community center, has been featured at several previous McMinnville festivals. She speaks at 10 or 12 other conferences a year across the country.

“I really enjoyed being in McMinnville before,” she said. “I’m excited to go to a live conference again, and this one is a favorite of mine.”

Marden’s interest in UFOs stems from childhood, when her aunt and uncle, Betty and Barney Hill, were abducted by aliens.

Both well-respected in their fields and civil rights activists, the Hills were willing to speak to authorities about their experience, but wanted to keep it out of the public eye. However, the information was leaked, Marden said, and today theirs is one of the most widely known cases in ufology lore.

As an adult, Marden joined the Mutual UFO Network and became a certified UFO investigator. She served as MUFON’s director of field training for 10 years and director of research for another decade.

Her later research, not her relationship to the Hills, will be the subject of her talk at the 2022 UFO Festival. It’s titled “UFO Abduction: Evidence, Impact and Implications for Humans’ Future.”

She said she will discuss government files released in recent years and show numerous examples of photographic evidence of UFOs and nonhuman entities.

She also plans to cite three major studies that looked at commonalities between abductees and how abduction changes people. For instance, abductees commonly experience shock, disbelief and fear initially. Over time, they often become more spiritual and view the world differently.

After developing expertise in ufology and doing large amounts of research on many cases, Marden said she has a great deal of hope. “The positive ETs are trying to help us,” she said.

They see that “our technology is ahead of our spiritual awareness,” she said. “They’re attempting to raise our consciousness and show us we need love, consideration for each other, kindness.”

Another MUFON investigator, science journalist Rojas is making his second trip to the McMinnville UFO Festival, though it’s his first time as speaker.

At an 11:30 a.m. luncheon Friday in the hotel, Rojas and writer Bender will discuss how government agencies and officials are now taking UFO reports seriously and what their investigations might reveal.

“It’s important to share what’s really going on,” said Rojas, a science journalist and spokesman for the Mutual UFO Network, of MOFON. He has investigated anomalous phenomenon, lectured at UFO conferences and served as co-organizer and emcee of the annual International UFO Congress.

Rojas has been to the event before, in 2019.

He said he really enjoyed the mixture of expert panel discussions and fun activities, such as the parade.

Rojas grew up interested in science and in journalism. He combined the two, and soon his topics spread to ufology and investigating unexplained sightings.

“I’m still skeptical,” he said. “But I also know very credible people are working on this; a lot of people are interested and the government has been looking into this and a lot of paranormal activity.”

Official government documents released in 2017 confirmed that the Pentagon has a program to investigate UFO phenomenon and that the Navy took the subject seriously, as well, Rojas said. That led to Congress pushing for briefings and more investigations.

Two cases, in particular, stand out to Rojas. One was the USS Nimitz case, in which video of an unexplained craft was taken from aboard the ship. The other is the Roosevelt aircraft carrier experience, with a craft seen from a fighter jet.

Rojas speculated that these cases could turn out to be extraterrestrial in nature, but they also might have a more worldly, and perhaps more nefarious, origin.

Drone technology and spyware have become inexpensive and readily available, he said. Perhaps these UFO incidents are actually other countries spying on our military or government.

“We need to find out what they are so we can protect ourselves,” he said.

If investigations are carried out, Rojas said, he wonders how much the military will divulge.

He has hope: these days, he said, more scientists feel comfortable talking about UFOs, which once were written off as nonsense.

If you go

  • What: UFO Festival
  • Where: Downtown McMinnville, including McMenamins Hotel Oregon, McMinnville Community Center and Third Street area
  • When: Friday and Saturday, May 13-14; parade at 3:30 p.m. Saturday
  • How much: Speakers starting at $25, charges for some activities, parade and costume contests free
  • More information: or
  • The speakers are part of the overall UFO Festival, which also will include a 3:30 p.m. parade Saturday on Third Street, and numerous activities Friday and Saturday. Adult and pet costume contests, runs, music and vendor booths will be included. For a full schedule, visit


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