Why bother with a normal vacation, when you can have a paranormal one? A surprising number of locations have reported links to extraterrestrials, flying saucers and aliens, says David O’Leary, creator and executive producer of “Project Blue Book.”
The History television drama (Tuesday, 10 EST/PST) stars Aidan Gillen (“Game of Thrones”) as Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a college professor recruited by the U.S. Air Force and teamed with a young officer (Michael Malarkey) to research cases of alleged UFO sightings against the backdrop of 1950s Cold War paranoia. The show takes its name from Hynek’s real-life studies.
O’Leary says UFO-hunting is an “historical mystery that persists. There are areas when people consistently see strange lights in the sky, and unexplained phenomenon.”
In case “Project Blue Book” has inspired you to do some UFO-spotting of your own, O’Leary shares some favorites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Roswell, New Mexico
Ever since a mysterious object suspected to be an alien spacecraft crashed here in 1947, this small town has been the center of UFO conspiracy theories. “It’s the grand-daddy case of the modern era of flying saucers,” O’Leary says. Today, the town embraces its status with an annual UFO festival and the International UFO Museum & Research Center.
More information: seeroswell.com
The tiny desert settlement of Rachel is the closest most humans can get to Area 51, the shadowy U.S. Air Force Base tied to countless UFO sightings. “For decades people have been seeing strange crafts in the sky,” O’Leary says. “The area is cloaked in secrecy.” The town, population 54, is home to the Little A’Le’Inn, a UFO-themed restaurant and bar, and located just off Nevada State Route 375, also known as the Extraterrestrial Highway.
More information: rachel-nevada.com
Uintah Valley, Utah
Long the focus of paranormal folklore, this Utah ranch is is the focal point of Tuesday’s episode, “Curse of the Skinwalker.” But before you add it to your itinerary, note that it’s on private property and not open to tours. Still, there have been many sightings of unexplained creatures and other oddities throughout the surrounding Uintah Valley region. “It’s a hotbed of events and UFO activity. It dates back to Native American claims,” O’Leary says.
More information: dinoland.com
In 1950, Life magazine published some of the most famous images in UFO history, a series of flying saucer images taken by a local farmer. “It is to this day one of the best UFO sightings in terms of photographic evidence,” O’Leary says. “They’re very clear and have never been proven to be a fraud.” The city celebrates the mysterious incident with an annual UFO festival in May.
More information: ufofest.com
This red-rock-rimmed city north of Phoenix has long attracted visitors, drawn by what has been described as vortexes (the proper plural form of “vortices” is rarely used). “It has always been a place of power, having certain energies,” O’Leary says. The city’s visitors bureau provides maps to the most popular sites, which include Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon.
More information: visitsedona.com
Flatwoods, West Virginia
In 1952, a fireball streaked through the sky over West Virginia, and several young residents reported seeing an unidentifiable monster in the small town of Flatwoods. Today the community celebrates the story with a museum, and proudly notes the area has also had sightings of Bigfoot. “There’s a pattern in West Virginia of seeing strange creatures in the woods,” O’Leary says.
More information: braxtonwv.org
Fargo, North Dakota
In 1948, National Guard pilot George F. Gorman found himself in what he described as an aerial chase with an unidentified craft zooming over Fargo. The encounter, which began over the city’s Hector Airport, lasted about 20 minutes, and has come to be known as the Gorman Dogfight. “It’s a very, very famous case,” says O’Leary, who explored the incident in the first “Project Blue Book” episode.
More information: fargomoorhead.org
The wide-open plains of West Texas have seen many unexplained nighttime phenomenon, most notably the lights regularly seen darting through the skies near the small town of Marfa. The city even has an official Marfa Lights viewing area, designated by an historic marker, and sponsors an annual lights festival. “It’s a great case. Texas has a long history with lights seen in the sky,” O’Leary says.
More information: visitmarfa.com
San Luis Valley, Colorado
This area, which is pretty enough to warrant a visit even if you don’t believe in aliens, claims to have the highest percentage of UFO sightings per capita. O’Leary says there have been stories of quick-moving lights, bizarre cigar-shaped objects, and flying discs. These days, visitors can stop by a UFO Watchtower built in the town of Hooper and cruise Colorado 17, also known as the Cosmic Highway.
More information: http://ufowatchtower.com/
Hudson Valley, New York
Since 1909, this area north of Manhattan has reported startling eyewitness UFO accounts. In recent years, there have been many near the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge), crossing the Hudson near Tarrytown and Nyack, New York. “Many, many people have seen strange things there,” O’Leary says.
More information: travelhudsonvalley.com