Sunday, May 2, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mysterious Earthlings Scour The Desert For Space Alien Tourists

Orange County Register

It is twilight and Sean David Morton is driving 90 mph through the Nevada desert, headed for a dimension where unearthly flashes appear in the sky and the lone local bar serves alien-burgers and a cocktail called the Beam Me Up, Scotty.

He is hurtling toward a sector where he says extraterrestrials prowl the Earth, surgically mutilating cows, conspiring with the U.S. military and watching late-night TV.

He is entering the terrifying Area 51.

The Establishment says Area 51 is a testing site for secret airplanes near Nellis Air Force Base. But Morton insists that it's a U.S.-alien cooperative where flying saucers are tested and grotesque genetic experiments take place.

"NASA is a fake. The real stuff is out here," he says.

In the back of his rented van are seven wide-eyed passengers, a few of them alarmed by the warp speed at which Morton is driving. Each has paid $99 to see the flying saucers that Morton says spin through the desert at night.

The fee also entitles them to an earful of the self-proclaimed prophet's arcane tidbits about space travel and government cover-ups, which he spews forth with a lunar gleam in his eye and a touch of sweat beneath his fedora.

Casually - in a tone you'd use to explain that your Aunt Mavis is from Wisconsin - he explains that Area 51's aliens are probably from Krondac, a planet 800 light-years away.

"They're actually bluish-gray and a little bigger than most people think. They're 3 to 4 feet tall."

Morton admits he's never actually seen any aliens in the flesh, but "sources" tell him they're living at Area 51 - little men with the smooth heads and the wrap-around eyes.

His fellow travelers are three students of the paranormal from Mexico City, one guy with a video camera who sells material to the Fox Network series "Sightings," one inscrutable Brazilian, and a hairdresser from West Hollywood.

Morton, 34, makes his living as a psychic, a healer, a predictor of earthquakes and a screenwriter. He just finished a book of prophecy for the next 30 years. He also worked on TV shows about Area 51 for the NBC series "Unsolved Mysteries" and for Geraldo Rivera's "Now It Can Be Told."

"Hidden here is the technology to end all wars, to end hunger, to provide an endless supply of energy," he said. "I'm outraged that they're not showing it to the rest of the world."

Morton says he was raised in a fundamentalist Christian family "of the most rabid variety" but became a New Age thinker after a spiritual quest that took him from Texas to Tibet and various points in between.

"My mother thinks I'm nuts. She thinks I'm the Antichrist," he said. "She has a publishing company, and she won't even publish my book."

As 100 miles of desert fly by, Morton repeats a story about cow mutilations he told a few hours before, emphasizing the part where the aliens "core out" certain intimate cow parts for unknown purposes. But this time he adds a detail: The aliens are rumored to make a cocktail out of cow blood and hydrogen peroxide.

"By the way, us hairdressers use hydrogen peroxide," Charles Smirnoff, the visitor from West Hollywood, says ominously. "We use it for hair color, definitely for hair color."

Miles later, the UFO van pulls into Ash Springs, Nev., population 11, for supplies. Store owner Goodie Goodman recognizes Morton. He bags groceries and muses.

"I am not a believer because I have not seen anything, but I know people who have," he says. "You have to understand where we are in relation to Area 51."

More and more desert. More and more darkness. One of the Mexicans nods off. Suddenly, Morton swings the van off the road, kills the headlights and leaps onto the road, screaming, "Look-look-look! Over-there-over-there! What the hell's that? Oh! It's gone!"

The fellow travelers run down the berm behind him.

There are lights all over the sky. Some look like helicopters, some like flares, some like F-16s. Two huge planes, possibly B-1s, swoop close overhead in the dark, barely making a sound. And something else seems to hopscotch across the sky, leaving an orange flash at each stop.

"You just saw tiny space jumps," Morton declares.

But skeptics say Morton's the one doing the jumping - right off the deep end.

"For nearly 25 years, my specialty has been the field of UFOs, as a hobby," said Philip J. Klass, a senior editor at Aviation Week & Space Technology for 34 years and a specialist in aviation electronics. "In all that time, I've yet to find a `UFO' case to suggest we have any alien spacecraft in our skies. If there were any credible evidence, it would not be a mystery anymore. I think there's no possibility of that being true."

Area 51 is used for testing new covert airplanes, Klass said, and for staging war games and testing electronic jamming equipment.

He said the "skipping" orange lights are most likely airplanes testing decoy flares that fool heat-seeking ground missiles.

But, then, Defense Department officials did not return this reporter's telephone calls inquiring about the phenonmenon . . .

Barry Karr, executive director of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, said con artists are promoting Area 51 to make easy money giving tours and lectures.

Klass suggested that pranksters might be enhancing the military's aerial show with their own bogus UFOs and that local businesses might be perpetuating the myth to bring tourists to an otherwise uninviting corner of the desert.

As midnight nears, the van pulls up at the only bar for 85 miles - the Little A'le'inn, a converted trailer. The signs outside say "Earthlings Welcome" and "Budweiser."

"It's not just kooks and idiots that come out here. These people are genuinely interested," says proprietor Joe Travis, standing behind the bar. Within his reach were dozens of liquor bottles; his wife, Pat; a 12-gauge pump shotgun; and an assortment of .357 Magnums. "We had a man in here last night from another planet. He didn't tell me, but I knew."

Travis is serious. He insists that humanoid aliens patronize his tavern, indulging in the Alien Burgers and the Beam Me Up, Scotty (Jim Beam, 7-Up and a dash of scotch).

Joe Travis chain-smokes and tells stories.

"I had a friend of mine - he'd come in here for an Alien Burger and a 7-Up. This one day he came in and said: `Last night I went to bed about 9 o'clock. I woke up during the night and there was this alien sitting in my chair watching my TV. The alien looked over at me and nodded.' He said he wasn't frightened. He just turned over and went to sleep. The next morning, he woke up and the TV was turned off and the alien was gone."

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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