By Craig Smith, Trib Live
Ventre had no interest in unidentified flying objects until he decided to write a science fiction book about 17 years ago.
The deeper he went in his research, the more evidence of UFOs he found.
“I am 100 percent convinced it is a real phenomenon,” said Ventre, Pennsylvania director for the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON, and one of the stars of “Hangar 1,” a new History Channel series about UFOs.
Each week, the show will piece together three MUFON cases and try to show what the alien agenda might be. Actual footage, recreations and narratives will be used along with expert testimony.
For the most part, aliens come here to watch what we do, said Ventre, 56, of Hempfield.
“I think they observe us ... we're like a science project for them,” he said.
Lou Coban has been watching the skies for 20 years at the Allegheny Observatory and has seen a laundry list of unusual things through its telescopes — but never a UFO.
“I've see all kinds of strange things, but I've never seen anything I couldn't explain,” he said. “There's all sorts of things flying around the sky ... from satellites to pieces of rockets..”
“A high percentage of cases are explainable,” said UFO investigator Stan Gordon, who has been tracking sightings “on a very frequent basis” since 1965.
Chinese lanterns and remote control helicopters can spur reports of UFOs these days, he said.
Ventre said he, too, has never seen a UFO, but plenty of others have. MUFON has about 70,000 cases nationwide, including many from Pennsylvania, which ranks third in the nation in UFO sightings, Ventre said. “We get a little over 300 (sightings) a year, about six a week,” he said. “Westmoreland County ranks No.1 for counties that don't have a major city.”
Last year, for instance, UFO sightings were reported in Murrsyville, Latrobe, Ligonier, Belle Vernon, Delmont, Jeannette, Greensburg, Irwin and Apollo, according to MUFON reports.
Ventre and others are convinced the key may be Lake Erie. About half of all UFO sightings are around bodies of water, he said.
Lake Erie, the accepted thinking goes, could be a base camp for UFOs that hide submerged beneath the surface, Ventre said. During their submerged state, they are referred to as USOs, or Unidentified Submerged Objects.
USOs been seen throughout history, Ventre said.
“In 1492, Columbus and his navigator saw a glowing object moving under their ship and turned the ship toward it,” he said.
Ventre said his curiosity was piqued when he learned of the Feb. 25, 1942, Battle of Los Angeles. When nine UFOs were seen over L.A. months after the Dec. 7, 1941, invasion of Pearl Harbor that launched World War II, they were fired upon by a jittery Army.
“The government said they were weather balloons,” Ventre said.
People soon started asking how the U.S. would turn back a Japanese invasion when “we fired 1,433 rounds at weather balloons and didn't hit them,” he said.
The Air Force gave up chasing UFOs in 1969, saying there was no evidence that the more than 12,000 “unidentified” sightings it received from 1947 were extraterrestrial vehicles.
About 701 of the sighting still carry the unidentified designation, records show.
Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.