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UFO devotees to gather in Landers
By Redmond Carolipio, Staff Writer

According to ‘‘The X-Files,'' the truth is out there.

And on Saturday, it'll be in Landers.

The High Desert will become the landing site for the Retro UFO Spacecraft Convention, an old-school homage to the starry gatherings that used to draw people to the desert decades ago.

‘‘We're going back to the history,'' said Barbara Harris of Yucca Valley, one of the event's co-creators. ‘‘We don't want to make it scary - we want it to be fun.''

Many trekked to UFO conventions in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, Harris said. People used to gather from all over the country for a chance to hear people called ‘‘contactees'' talk about their personal experiences with beings from another world - and expound about what it all meant.

One of the first contactees was George Van Tassel, an aerospace engineer who said he was visited by people from space, boarded a ship and was given the plans to build a machine called the Integratron, which is the focal point of the convention.

Van Tassel, who died in 1978, held yearly ‘‘spacecraft conventions'' near Giant Rock in Landers, which attracted thousands of people. The conventions helped raise the funds for Van Tassel to build the Integratron, which he described as a ‘‘time machine, a rejuvenation machine, and an anti-gravity device.''

Today, people boldly go to the Integratron to do everything from record music in the sound chamber to meditate. One of its signature features is the ‘‘sound bath,'' which is said to have therapeutic effects.

Harris said the rest of the fair will be quite a break from a run-of-the-mill UFO convention, which is heavy on academics and theories.

‘‘Typical conventions are held in hotels, and they just feature a lot of speakers - like a lecture,'' she said. ‘‘We're outside, we're going to have lectures in tents, hayrides, shows, bands at night, contests ... it's very lighthearted.''

There are also going to be tours of Giant Rock and the Integratron, art exhibits and a UFO opera performed by the band UFOetry, which has won two L.A. Music Awards for their work.

Visitors also have the option of staying at the Integratron overnight, supported by campfires and astronomers.

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Some of the original contactees from years past will be part of the lineup of speakers.

Rob Harris, Barbara's husband and co-organizer of the event, said while much discussion about meeting alien beings might sound ‘‘out there'' at first, it's obviously still on a lot of minds - just look at pop culture as proof.

‘‘There's that sense of wonder out there,'' he said. ‘‘It's still a big topic. You see more stuff about aliens on television shows and movies, so people are definitely still interested.''

However, much of what's seen in the media perceives aliens as malicious creatures that want to wipe humans off the face of the Earth, and people aren't getting the clearest picture of the movement, said Josh Poet, co-founder and member of UFOetry.

‘‘One of the things Barbara (Harris) talked to us about was that she wanted to reinstill the idea of the innocence and the purity of when we first heard about life on other planets,'' he said. ‘‘We wanted to get a back to the stuff that's been shrouded in conspiracy. There's more than just one group of aliens ... many of them want to help us evolve.''

And Barbara Harris hopes the convention itself evolves into something that leaves a lasting impression.

‘‘This made memories for people years ago,'' she said. ‘‘We want to create new memories for the next generation.''

THE RETRO UFO SPACE CONVENTION

When: Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: The Integratron, 2477 Belfield Blvd., Landers

Cost: $25 for general admission, $145 for full-day pass, $195 to stay overnight

Information: www.integratron.com, www.retroufo.com, or call Barbara or Rob Harris, (760) 365-3266

     
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