The crowds were a lot bigger than anticipated for the first-ever Alien Con at California’s Santa Clara Convention Center. Outside the venue, the line of truth-seekers waiting to get in wrapped around the adjacent Hyatt Regency and spilled out onto the sidewalk.
Inside the convention center, the demand for the Government Cover-ups panel with the talking heads from History Channel’s Ancient Aliens far exceeded the capacity of the conference room that was set aside for it. The representatives of A&E Networks and Famous Monsters magazine that organized the con were forced to make a choice between turning people away and herding them all into the larger venue’s hall with no seats. The organizers chose access over comfort. The room lacked chairs, but it did have a full-scale model of a wrecked spaceship erected toward the center of the room to promote the literary works of L. Ron Hubbard, so there was that at least.
As a crush of amateur sky watchers flooded the hall, everyone immediately planted themselves in front of the makeshift stage that was still being assembled.
“Hold your position!” I called out to Jack Dooley, the cameraman shooting the video that accompanies the web and digital editions of this article. Jack had a clear shot of the stage where he was. I didn’t want him to lose it. Jack is 6'4". People around him weren’t happy, but he held firm.
Conspiracy theories started to form instantaneously as the crowd milled.
“This is a ploy,” a woman with sandy blond hair said. “There’s not going to be anyone in those chairs.”
Some men behind me started to cast aspersions toward the brunches with the alien experts they had all come to see.
“The brunches are where the money is made,” one of them groused. “They’re saving the bigger rooms for the brunches.”
The new spinning of Alien Con-specific conspiracy theories stopped when the niche celebrities everyone had come to see finally took the stage. British UFO investigator Nick Pope got the biggest applause by far.
“I used to work for the government,” he joked, “but I’m a nice guy anyway.”
Pope held the crowd in rapt attention as he outlined how Wikileaks revealed the ties between the Hillary Clinton campaign and information on “unidentified aerial phenomena.”
Linda Moulton Howe, another UFO researcher, took the microphone and talked about how the “UFO phenomenon emits a frequency in the terahertz” that “manipulates human minds and damages human tissues.” This phenomenon “has been affecting this planet for thousands of years.
“The Greeks and the Abenaki were never mythological gods,” Moulton Howe said later on, referring to a conversation with Tom DeLonge, the guitarist of Blink 182 who took a break from his band to focus on UFOs.
“They were actual extraterrestrials on this planet preceding the existence of homo sapien sapiens,” Moulton Howe continued.
“Did she say that the Greek gods were real?” Jack asked, wide-eyed, clutching his camera.
“Yes, I think she did,” I replied.
And with that, we decided to see what Gary Lockwood from 2001: A Space Odyssey had to say about Stanley Kubrick faking the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Mind = Blown.
Every month in “Shattering Conventions,” author Bob Calhoun crashes a new tradeshow, convention or conference looking for a way to fit in—even when he doesn't always belong. Calhoun is the author of "Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor." You can follow him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun.