The Strange History of UFO Sightings is More Bizarre Than You'd Expect
Living in Kentucky for 21 years would make anyone go a little bored out of their mind, and that’s exactly what happened to Jack Womack. Luckily for him, however, he was able to entertain himself with wild theories about aliens and Bigfoot—with the fantastic flying saucers and little green space men that lived in the big starry night. Womack, you see, grew up during a time in which UFO sightings were prevalent, and black-and-white photos depicting bright, oval, vaguely UFO-reminiscent objects weren’t uncommon.
Eventually, this pastime morphed into a real vocation, and his fascination with the extraterrestrial and unearthly began to amass into a collection of published books—six in total, called the “Dryco” series—and memorabilia. Now, the author will be touching down in our Milk Gallery to beam us into his expertly curated UFO-themed library. Ahead of his exhibit, Flying Saucers Are Real!, which opens today, we sat down with Womack to talk about aliens, how terrible Prometheus was, and the craziest conspiracy theory he’s ever heard.
When did you start to get interested in UFOs?
1964. [What attracted] me [was] the possibility that these things could be possible—remember I was eight years old! I think you could be into both science fiction and flying saucers because, you know, they’re ways to get away from the day-to-day.
Do you think that aliens are real?
No. There might be. I cannot rule out the possibility of life on other planets many light years away. We’re certainly finding enough planets. Eventually I suspect we probably will, but I doubt any space men will come down or flying saucers will come over from the planet that always stays on the other side of the moon so we can’t see it. [Laughs]
“There was a theory about the Kennedy assassination that there were actually six assassins firing 27 shots at Kennedy but most missed.”
What’s your experience been like collecting all of this memorabilia? And especially as someone who doesn’t believe in aliens?
I do it to see the different kinds of photo hoaxes in the era before cell phones and the different kinds of narratives that emerged. I like the various theories that emerged. In the 1950s, alien theories ranged from Communist spies to intelligent bees.
Intelligent bees? Wow. What’s the craziest conspiracy theory you’ve read about over the years?
There was a theory about the Kennedy assassination that there were actually six assassins firing 27 shots at Kennedy but most missed.
If that’s true, then they had pretty bad aim. How has technology affected conspiracy theories?
With cell phones, you can no longer fake a photo of the Yeti or Bigfoot or lake monsters because everyone now has a camera and can take a photo or a series of photos so those have disappeared. You still see UFO sightings but they turn out to be space junk or meteors hitting the atmosphere. I mean, dash cams alone show so much more.
Yeah. It’s harder to fake it now.
It’s all gone more into theory. There are zines too, but mostly on the internet on message boards.
How’d you get into science fiction writing?
I never much liked sci-fi writing, but things were kind of rough in 1983 that I said to myself, well I can’t write anything contemporary because I just naturally exaggerate. So I’d just set the story 30 years ahead and then take it from there.
When did you publish your first sci-fi novel?
It came out in 1987! I did escape the cyberpunk label because that had already passed, but there was nowhere else that [my work] actually fit [into].
I think that most pop culture now is, in some way, science fiction based.
Oh yeah! In some way, because it took over essentially. Science fiction merged with comic books and then merged with games and took over.
Do you have any favorite movies or TV show about aliens?
The 1956 film Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is an ever-reliable choice. There have been so many good ones since then, but that movie is incidental to modern sci-fi. These things have their moment, though. That’s why The X-Files had such a huge following and then when they brought it back, it’s just not the same. You had to be there at the time.
How do you think the sci-fi genre has been affected by technology?
I see science fiction becoming far more interesting because you’re working with different myths and cultures from around the world to create different kinds of characters. That’s the most positive development I’ve seen in sci-fi text, at least.
In movies, they’re sometimes great these days. The Guardians of the Galaxy was much better than it had any right to be, but then there are movies like Prometheus. It’s one of those movies where I really wanted to go up and take a knife and slash the screen because it was so horrible. [Laughs]
“My readers actually told me, ‘Whatever you do, don’t predict anything.'”
A lot of your writing from the ’80s uses science fiction to talk about sociopolitical issues and predict what would happen in the future. Do you have any predictions for the next few decades?
I don’t… My readers actually told me, “Whatever you do, don’t predict anything.” Though, I’d like to believe that the American people will show good sense and elect Hillary Clinton.
How does it feel to be having your first solo show at Milk Gallery?
Oh, it’s wonderful! I know it’s going to feel wonderful to have people look at my books as if they’re in a museum.
Flying Saucers Are Real! will be on display from August 3rd to August 21st in the Milk Gallery. More information can be found here.
Stay tuned to Milk for more of our favorite conspiracy theorists.