Fox Point — "Excuse me, can you tell me what a typical UFO looks like?" Fox Point resident Richard Thieme asked a random woman at Stonecreek Coffee on Port Washington Road last week.
"Isn't it kind of a disc shape?" she replied.
Turning back to his interview with North Shore NOW, Thieme said, "Everybody knows what a UFO is."
That image of a UFO has circulated around the world for years and Thieme says there's a reason for that. Thieme was a member of a team that spent five years researching historical documents and requesting public records relating to unidentified flying objects. Ultimately, the team authored "UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry," a 600-plus page book with nearly 1,000 sources that documents the phenomena and how the military and intelligence communities responded to it from World War II to the present. The book is not about what a UFO is, or where it originated from, rather it is about the government response to, and how they developed policies, around the phenomena.
"You will pick up a lot of information about UFOs along the way because they responded to something real," Thieme said. "There's nothing in here that is speculative, it's all documented and it's about the government primarily and how the government responded to the phenomena."
Thieme, a speaker by profession and past English literature professor with two master's degrees, is giving a presentation on the book at 1 p.m. Saturday at North Shore Library, 6800 North Port Washington Road.
The public is welcome to attend to hear an in-depth discussion on UFOs and their relationship with the U.S. government. Thieme is a contributing writer and editor to the book meant to serve as an academic resource.
"There was a lack of robust historical research," Thieme said of the topic. "The field had been so discredited that it has become taboo in academia to even treat it as a social or cultural phenomena and we wanted to show that it was worthy of serious, historical study with robust scholarship."
A look into history
The government was getting credible reports from credible people about things flying in the sky back when the U.S. Air Force first formed decades ago, he said. In his experiences, when people describe what they have seen, they generally describe exactly that.
"They were surprised to find it was real and the reports came from credible pilots, radar operators, multiple witness accounts," he said. "When you get those reports by the thousands, literally the thousands, from all over the world, then you know they are corroborated."
The book details documented reports using censored data early on, which led to the formation of Project Sign, a U.S. government study to look at unidentified flying objects. During the time when the Cold War was gaining viability, Thieme cited national security concerns as the reason why the government became tight-lipped about the phenomena.
"It became a threat in terms of what could be done with it and the best thing that could be done with it from our point of view was to damp down concerns in the American population and they chose to do that by dismissing it, ridiculing it and denying that it represented something threatening or something real," Thieme said.
There were three explanations for censored data reports of UFO sightings early on: American, Russian or extraterrestrial, he said.
"We show how they eliminated the first two," Thieme said.
It has been 60 years of gradual desensitization to the phenomena, which Thieme said is exactly what the government wanted.
From intrigue to reality
Thieme first became interested in the subject in 1978 when he worked as a priest in an Episcopal parish in Utah. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" was in theaters. Thieme was sitting in the church basement, speaking with a man who was a friend, a parishioner and a decorated fighter pilot. At that time, Thieme said all he ever knew about the topic was what he read and he told his friend "you chase them and you can't catch them."
Thieme's friend confirmed this sentiment.
"Instead of being fun, interesting, intriguing, it was real," he said.
From that moment on, conversations about the subject of UFOs with people from all walks of life began and have continued ever since. Thieme went on to read everything he could about the subject and sought leaders in the field. It all came to fruition when Thieme was asked to participate in the research project.
For the last 20 years, Thieme has worked as a speaker, discussing an array of themes and topics at different venues with different audiences around the world, including Def Con, a computer hacking conference. He has spoken in Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland, Wellington, Dublin, Berlin, Amsterdam, The Hague, Israel, and all around the United States. He has written two pieces of fiction before tackling the nonfiction research project "UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry."
For more information, visit thiemeworks.com.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Discussion of 'UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry'
WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: North Shore Library, 6800 N. Port Washington Road, Glendale
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