Joshua Tree. Mojave. The High Desert. A magnet for all things hip and New Age, the backdrop for every becoming photographer and a playground for the Burner folk. In the last four years, however, Joshua Tree has also bore witness to something honestly quite groundbreaking and significant in the world of Science, namely Contact In The Desert.
What is it, you ask? It’s a conference that annually takes place at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, at the edge of the world-famous and sacred Joshua Tree National Park. A befitting location for such a conference, its renowned serenity and sense of unrestraint not only makes it a go-to place for yoga retreats and other comparably spiritual conventions, but it also just so happens to be a hotbed for UFO sightings and other similarly mysterious activities. Was any such exciting activity spotted during our time at Contact in The Desert? Be sure to read on and watch our summary video as we reveal all.
Contact in The Desert saw its first event take place in 2013, making this the fourth annual affair. The conference attracts people from all over the globe, giving academics, researchers, authors and experiencers an opportunity to gather and share their information, providing a platform for what they have to say and what truly needs to be shared with the world.
There’s something calming and soothing about the desert, its cool evening breeze, the open starry skies, a peacefulness that’s difficult to obtain anywhere else – as mentioned, it comes as no surprise that a mentally and spiritually enlightening event such as CITD should take place in a setting like this. And though the thought of a “UFO conference” may well evoke images of people sitting around in tinfoil hats and geeking out over every “mystifying” light spotted in the sky, CITD is so far removed from that, it’s no wonder that more and more people are now adopting the use of UAP instead of UFO (that’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon, for those yet unfamiliar with the term). In short, there’s simply too much of a negative stigma attached to the concept of “UFO” to make it applicable in any serious sort of context. Also, let it be known that the event is just so much more than merely a meeting of people discussing “UFO” sightings: CITD describes itself as an, “exploration into ancient astronauts, extraterrestrial life, human origins, crop circles, UFO sightings, contact experiences, and the need to know”.
Other significantly noteworthy personalities in attendance included mystery writer and reporter, Nick Redfern; eminent Missing 411 and Bigfoot author, David Paulides; Ufologist and TV personality, Richard Dolan; acclaimed nuclear physicist, Stanton Friedman; highly influential Constitutional and Public interest lawyer, Daniel Sheehan; and John Greenewald, expert researcher and founder of the world-renowned underground government archive, The Black Vault.
One of the other speakers in attendance, perhaps most familiar in popular culture, was Travis Walton, considered by most Ufologists to be one of the best-known abduction cases to date (his story was turned into the movie, Fire In The Sky, back in 1993) - we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Walton on several occasions in the past, and once again got the quick opportunity to catch up with him, getting his take on this year’s conference. A great spokesperson for the world of UFOs and all “abductees” out there, Travis never fails to amaze us with his genuineness, humour, and down-to-Earth personality.
Evening number one, we had the pleasure of attending the CITD mixer, a chance for all attendees to hang out and socialise with their favourite authors and much-respected researchers and academics. There, we bumped into our good pals, Ron Patton and Clyde Lewis of Ground Zero, attending all the way down from good ol’ Oregon. We had a chance to sit down and catch up with Ron the next day, checking out what he’s been up to and getting all the latest on Paranoia Magazine and Ground Zero Media.
Day Two also had us attend a particularly interesting lecture by Graham Hancock, needless to say a personal favourite of ours, and an author that we simply cannot recommend enough for those not already familiar with his work.
Later that evening saw attendees in a particularly festive mood, as we celebrated George Noory’s birthday, lead host of Coast to Coast AM, and overall alternative news legend. The party saw music, a live band, and of course plenty of dancing. Who says ufologists and conspiracy fans can’t have fun too?
Day Three, knowing that the event was winding down and we would soon be leaving, we nevertheless tried to keep up our excitement and enthusiasm for interviews and lectures. One interview that we were particularly eager not to miss out on was Stanton Friedman, world-renowned nuclear physicist and original civilian investigator of the Roswell Incident. Having interviewed him on West of the Rockies in the past, the opportunity to personally meet and speak to him was a true honour.
Alas though, what would a UFO conference be without some strangeness and mysterious sightings? Of course, there was the usual abundance of chemtrails (admittedly expected out in the desert just as much as in the city); we also encountered a rather ominous military presence, becoming particularly apparent on the Saturday, and presenting itself in the form of a rather excessive assembly of army personnel and an extensive convoy of military vehicles; included in the list of bizarre discoveries at CITD was an alleged UFO sighting (apparently a particularly prominent triangular formation – though unfortunately not in attendance at the Sky Watch itself, we did however do our research, and in fact passed a still of the video-footage through some editing filters – rather interestingly, we observed additional, possibly related, lights near the formation.
Sunday’s workshops included Whitley Strieber’s and David Jacobs’, another two favourites of ours, never failing to present mind-blowing and difficult-to-argue-with research.
On top of that, CITD provided some good ol’ retail therapy of the whimsical and mystical kind, including a lovely couple selling, “Hippie Dippie’s Crystal Candles,” special handcrafted, chakra-themed candles, containing powerful geodes and gemstones that illuminate when lit (yep, it sounds New Agey, but the work put into making them was truly remarkable to watch); there was also a store that appeared to focus mainly on making and selling didgeridoos, quite an interesting and calming soundtrack whilst strolling around; furthermore, we came across a booth selling special stones that allegedly protect from EMF radiation, claiming to reduce the risk of a range of pains and diseases, including cancer, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, especially when either worn on the body, or kept around electrical items such as cellphones.
A particularly fascinating and pleasant individual that we had the enjoyment of meeting was engineer and artist Harlan Emil Gruber, a hard-working guy that devotes his time almost entirely to designing and creating what he calls transportals, interactive installations incorporating sacred geometry, colours, and sound-vibrations that can harmonise with the participant’s energy body, taking into account the Earth’s geometric grid to facilitate an “evolution of consciousness”: in short, he creates brilliant and one-of-a-kind meditation tools.
A personal highlight for us, though, must certainly have been watching the movie Contact…in the actual desert. It couldn’t have gotten more apt than that. Other movies were also featured during the evenings at CITD, making this an all-day and all-night round fun affair.
Make you're plans to attend CITD next year and find out why USA today called this conference the "Woodstock of UFOs."