GREENSBORO — Roy Williams has never seen a UFO. He doesn’t expect to ever see a UFO.
But one has to keep an open mind, the retired police officer said.
“There are trillions of stars out there and the statistical probability of life elsewhere is undeniable,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time before we know the truth.”
Williams was one of about 200 attendees Saturday at the Center for UFO Research’s UFO Symposium in The Terrace banquet facility at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.
The event, which continues today, features a line-up of speakers from around the globe that includes military officers, scientists and college professors.
On Saturday, speakers largely steered clear of talking about aliens and abductions, instead encouraging a healthy dose of skepticism, and seeking answers to unexplained phenomena.
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“About 99 percent of UFO reports can be explained,” journalist and symposium speaker Leslie Kean said. “But there’s that small number for which we can eliminate most explanations.”
The two-day symposium was put together by Kent Senter, a founder of the North Carolina chapter of the Mutual UFO Network.
Senter, who lives in Burlington, said he saw a UFO when he was 10 and again 23 years later.
Now suffering from cancer, he said he wanted to put together a conference before he died, one that offered a scientific take on UFO studies.
“No alien dolls, no ET stuff,” he said during a break Saturday. “I just want to get to the nuts and bolts.”
Alice Willey, a retired administrative assistant who went to Roswell, N.M., last year for the 65th anniversary of a purported UFO crash there, said she appreciates the academic approach of the event.
“It’s just a sign of an intelligent human being to be open-minded,” she said. “I remember decades ago, reading a quote, ‘What man does not understand, he fears, and what he fears, he destroys.’”
Most of the attendees on Saturday said they hadn’t seen any UFOs, but still strongly believe that “we are not alone.”
“To think that we’re alone is very selfish,” Rosie Esquivel, a nurse from Charlotte, said. “It’s just very egocentric to think we’re the only ones.”
Several speakers on Saturday talked about the need to set up government agencies to study unidentified aerial phenomena. But they also urged caution in calling for such agencies.
“Saying they’re covering up ETs, whether that’s true or not, they’re not going to respond to that,” Kean said. “That’s not going to work with government officials. ... Treat this as an aviation problem.”
Jose Lay, international affairs director of the Chilean government agency tasked with studying unexplained aerial phenomena, said it is necessary for governments to share whatever information they have on possible UFO sightings.
“There is something out there, and I just want to help you find out what the heck it is,” he said.
And despite Senter’s plans for no alien dolls, one did appear at the convention.
Toward the end of Lay’s presentation, he revealed of photo of what he said is his agency’s biggest secret, an alien specimen — actually a green alien doll in a jar of water — prompting some chuckles from the audience.