The New MeX-Files
Deep Inside New Mexico's High Strange Community
By Devin D. O'Leary
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE
AUGUST 11, 1997: Thanks to the worldwide media feeding frenzy that was the Roswell 50th anniversary, everyone in America now associates the Land of Enchantment with little green men from outer space. But crashed flying saucers and dead alien bodies in the desert are not the only odd phenomena that New Mexico has to offer. Our state has an active and downright fanatical community of people interested in the paranormal, the supernatural and the plain old extraterrestrial. "High Strange" is the new catch-all, PC term used to encompass this divergent set of theories, beliefs and misunderstood phenomena. From new age healers in Santa Fe, to mad scientists at White Sands, to "UFOlogists" in Taos, the Land of Enchantment has a long tradition of strangeness at its most high.
Take a trip to local bookstore Page One, and you'll see an entire section of books dedicated to flying saucers, crop circles, Tesla technologies, cryptozoology, Atlantis, mental telepathy and the New World Order--it all falls under the mantle of High Strange. In the past few years, all things alien, occult or just plain weird have become prevalent to a point that they haven't been since the mid-'70s heyday of Charles Berlitz (Secret of the Bermuda Triangle) and Erich Von Daniken (Chariots of the Gods).
In order to learn more about this growing underground community, I decided to make my own descent into the dark, labyrinthine world of the New MeX-Files.
It's lunch time at Minato, an upscale sushi bar in Albuquerque's Northeast Heights. It's about as far from "dark" and "labyrinthine" as I could possibly get. This isn't exactly how I expected to be inducted into New Mexico's High Strange community. Still, as I squat on a tatami mat devouring a soft-shell crab roll, I'm being introduced to "the group."
Vic Brown is the informal leader of this loose affiliation that meets every Thursday to discuss conspiracy theory between bites of tempura. Brown is a retired federal police officer with a strong background in physics. He has published magazine articles on rain forest depletion and other favorite topics. He is a nuts-and-bolts science man who goes for none of the "new age stuff" as he calls it. The genial, well-spoken Brown now divides his time between his two passions: nature photography and "aerial phenomena." He proudly points out that his home-built "UFO detectors" (pager-sized devices that measure magnetic disturbances) have been distributed all over northern New Mexico.
The day I show up at the weekly High Strange meeting, there are about 20 people in attendance. Listening to the rapid-fire conversations bouncing around the room is dizzying. I hear about how the Mars Rover will disappear before reaching the Red Planet, will go missing for five days and will appear again in the hands of an alien race, (an eventuality that, sad to say, did not occur). I am informed about a bunch of hillbillies in Arkansas who shot and killed an actual Bigfoot the week before (unfortunately, they buried the corpse and all evidence was lost). I'm adamantly warned never to get a flu shot (apparently that's how the government brainwashes you). I'm also informed that the "red Chinese" are building two entire cities in the desert outside Los Angeles so that they can begin their takeover of America (I'm still checking on this one).
Everyone in the group seems to have their own "specialty." For one person it's cattle mutilations, for another it's alien abductions. The members trade books, videotapes and informational pamphlets like others would trade baseball cards. If you've ever attended a UFO lecture, you know what the typical "believer" looks like. The High Strange group fits the profile quite well. Almost all are older, retired. Most are intelligent, well-educated. Many have served in the military. A great number are female. What holds them together is their unshakable need to believe in something. In this community, the word "skeptic" is tossed around with all the nasty connotation of the word "heretic."
Unfortunately, the strength of these beliefs can also prove to be the undoing of such groups. New Mexico no longer has a chapter of MUFON (Mutual UFO Network, the nation's largest UFO society), reportedly because of schismatic infighting. At the sushi bar conclave, I hear people insist that UFOs are from Venus, from another dimension, from the Earth's core, from the CIA or were stolen from the Nazis during World War II (and depending upon whom you listen to, the Nazis stole them from Atlantis, a mystical Tibetan society or crackpot scientist Nikolai Tesla). It's not surprising that these beliefs can cause rifts, even among friends. But, as one frequent High Strange attendee concludes, "I'm awfully fond of those people. ... Besides, they're a lot more fun than the debunkers."
Based on all that I hear, I am determined to investigate at least one morsel of High Strange folklore within our state's borders. Nearly everyone I talk to in the High Strange community mentions Dulce, N.M., at least once. "You want UFOs," they say, "go to Archuleta Mesa."
I have been informed by several sources that at the end of a box canyon on Archuleta Mesa lies "an exact replica of the Egyptian Sphinx." It is at this particular point that UFOs, flying saucers, "ghost lights" and other aerial phenomenona disappear into the mountainside, either through a large cave-like opening or a "swirling energy vortex." Now this I just cannot miss. I gather up a hand-picked team of researchers (two old college friends), and it's off to northern New Mexico.
Dulce lies on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, some three hours north of Albuquerque. Lush rolling hills, a tiny Indian casino and some reportedly fine elk hunting are all the tiny town normally has to offer its visitors. After inquiring at a local gas station, my two companions and I manage to determine which of those "lush rolling hills" is our eventual goal.
Archuleta Mesa straddles the border between New Mexico and Colorado just north of Dulce. During the late '70s, Dulce was a hotspot for cattle mutilations. As we make our way out of town, a minor forest fire is on the verge of being doused. Busloads of dirty firefighters truck up and down the road. A lone rescue copter shuttles back and forth between the fireline and a landing field near beautiful downtown Dulce. For the record, the copter is neither black nor from the U.N., and none of the cows in the area seem particularly scared of mutilation at its occupants' hands.
The winding road up to the peak of Archuleta is dusty but hard-packed. Occasionally, we round a tight corner and find ourselves face to face with an insectoid logging crane sitting dormant by the side of the road. Despite their unusual appearance, all seem to be of earthly origin. The back side of Archuleta suffered a severe forest fire last summer and a major salvage logging operation is currently underway. All around us, trees stretch their dead, black skeletons to the sky. It's an eerie enough sight, but it gives us plenty of clear horizon in which to spot flying saucers.
After several rumbling miles, we reach the top of Archuleta Mesa. Here a meandering canyon terminates in a sharp outcropping of bare rock. Is this the "exact replica of the Egyptian Sphinx" we've been searching for? We stare at it for several minutes and ... by God if it doesn't look like the face of a cat. Or as one of my compatriots proclaims, "It looks like a cross between Tony the Tiger and Chester A. Arthur." Of course, finding a cat face in a pile of rocks is no more miraculous than finding the face of Jesus in a burned tortilla or the shape of a tugboat in a big, puffy cloud.
So, just what are all these UFOs supposed to be doing here? Some believe that the entire mountain of Archuleta is a 10-story UFO base run by a coalition between small "gray" space aliens and the U.S. government. According to one Milton Cooper, an ex-Naval intelligence officer, some kind of coup occurred at the underground base in 1969. Sixty-six humans were supposedly killed, and the place is now run entirely by aliens. Others, like Vic Brown, are a little sketchier on the details, but are no less convinced of Archuleta's validity as a UFO pit stop. Brown believes the mesa is merely a doorway to a vast underground network of tunnels that crisscross our state. This particular one allegedly leads to Los Alamos National Labs.
Currently, there is a wide logging road and several backhoe tractors parked directly under the "Sphinx." Apparently the aliens don't mind a little commerce in their immediate vicinity.
According to a number of UFOlogists and at least one state trooper, flying saucers regularly race up this canyon and disappear into the cliff face in the blink of an eye. Jack Kutz, author of Mysteries & Miracles of New Mexico and frequent High Strange sushi club visitor, has made the pilgrimage to Dulce with a state patrolman by the name of Gabe Valdez. "He took us in to the top of Mount Archuleta. That's where he has seen UFOs come in along that long ridge and pass the peak and vanish. Like blowing out a light. It's his theory--it's a lot of people's theory--that they travel dimensionally. ... It would be fun to sit out there overnight and see if anything shows up. Of course," Kutz adds with a laugh, "they never show up when I go there."
The sun sinks and the moon plays hide and seek behind the clouds. My fellow investigators and I wait in the cold for several hours and, as with Jack before us, "they never show up." No UFOs appear. No dimensional gateways open. The only lights we see this night are the headlamps of the firefighters twinkling along the firebreak on the far ridge. "The Truth," apparently, is still out there.
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