By: Vicki Gerdes
Though he’s only been on the paranormal convention circuit for a short time — “this is my second one,” he says — Stanton T. Friedman has over half a century’s experience as a UFO investigator.
“I read my first book on it in 1958, and gave my first lecture in 1967,” says Friedman, who was one of the featured presenters at the first-ever Paranormal Convention held Friday and Saturday at Mahnomen’s Shooting Star Casino.
Since that first lecture, he’s given over 700 others, and authored or co-authored five books on the subject, not to mention having published more than 90 academic papers — all about UFOs.
“I’ve lectured at over 600 colleges, in all 50 states, all 10 Canadian provinces, and 18 other countries, all over the world,” he says.
In other words, if you have a question about UFOs, Friedman is the one to call.
Not only is Friedman considered one of the premiere researchers in the study of Unidentified Flying Objects, also known as ufology, but he’s been involved in more hands-on investigations than he can recall.
“I’ve been on quite a lot of them,” he said, noting a little wryly that once a person has gone out and chased 40 different reports of lights in the sky and alien abductions, there’s not much more they can learn from listening to 40 more.
“I’ve tried to do investigations where my peculiar background could be of assistance,” said Friedman, who in 14 years of working as a nuclear physicist was involved in programs involving nuclear aircraft and nuclear propulsion, fission and fusion rockets, and various compact nuclear power plants for space and terrestrial applications.
After working for companies including General Electric, General Motors, Westinghouse and McDonnell Douglas, Friedman had acquired a high enough security clearance to gain access to highly classified archives, which he used to do more UFO research.
“If you can make a real contribution in such a specialized area, then you’ve done something,” he says.
Though every case he's investigated has had a unique appeal — "I like puzzles," he says — there are a couple that stand out in his memory.
"Roswell (N.M.) was the best crashed saucer case, and Betty and Barney Hill were the best abduction case," he says.
In fact, Friedman has written books about both incidents.
Though the Roswell crash occurred in 1947 — a bit before his time — Friedman was the first civilian investigator to work on the case.
"One of the real challenges of Roswell was to find witnesses," he says. "In one and a half years, my colleague and I found 62 witnesses... after six years, it was 92."
So how did a nuclear physicist first become involved in such a “far out” field of study? Basically, it boils down to curiosity, and a need to discover the truth.
“I was working on nuclear aircraft for General Electric, and I was very intrigued with the idea of nuclear propulsion,” says Friedman.
One day, he picked up a copy of a report called Project Blue Book, and what he read inside that report would change his life.
“I was shocked to discover that the Secretary of the Air Force was lying through his teeth,” Friedman says. “I resented it … it made me mad.”
In the front of the Project Blue Book report was a statement from the secretary that only about 3 percent of all reports of UFOs and similar phenomena couldn’t be explained through conventional means — when it was actually closer to 21 percent.
Irked by what he had discovered, Friedman joined some UFO groups and began reading all the material on the subject that he could find — and found a new calling.
Some 50 years later, he’s still at it.
“I figure as long as I’m healthy, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing,” Friedman says.
Besides Friedman, other presenters during the Paranormal Convention at Shooting Star included Barry Fitzgerald and Kris Williams from the television series “Ghost Hunters International,” John Zaffis, Chris Zaffis and Brian Cano from “Haunted Collector,” Ken Gerhard of “Monsterquest,” and “Ghost Lab” investigators Brad and Barry Klinge.
Psychic Chip Coffey, who has appeared on the TV series “Psychic Kids” and “Paranormal State,” also made an appearance, along with animal psychic Melissa Sehgal and cryptozoologist/”Bigfoot” expert Ron Coffey.
But probably one of the best-attended sessions held during the convention was the one featuring Detroit Lakes’ own Midwest Paranormal Files, which presented the results from two investigations conducted at the Old Pine Point School this past summer.
Between 300-400 people filled the hall at the Shooting Star Casino Event Center to hear the presentation.
In all, more than 800 people attended the two-day event at the Shooting Star, according to Bill Marsh, the casino’s marketing director.
A second paranormal convention is being planned for 2012, Marsh added.
“The convention went very well. The presenters and special guests were very good to work with,” he said. “As always with first year events we want to build interest, and hopefully next year we can attract more people.”
Look for more on the convention in Sunday’s Becker County Record from Detroit Lakes Newspapers’ resident paranormal expert, Brian Wierima.