UFOs.  Ghosts.  Bigfoot

Go check out the Unexplained Conference this weekend

Dennis Murphy made this drawing after reportedly sighting Bigfoot on June 1, 2002, near Danbury, Wis. It's one of many Wisconsin encounters with the unknown that will be featured at the Unexplained Conference at the Alliant Energy Center.
Courtesy Dennis Murphy  

Are they out there? Ever wonder about UFOs? Or Bigfoot?

Then this is the conference for you ...

By Jay Rath
For the State Journal


04/24/08 - Wisconsin State Journal

Noah Voss and Chad Lewis must have the most interesting and unusual jobs in Wisconsin. They are professional investigators of the unexplained.

State encounters with Bigfoot, UFOs, ghosts, crop circles and even gnomes and pixies will be covered at a conference on unexplained phenomena Saturday evening at the Alliant Energy Center's Exhibition Hall. A variety of experts will share case studies and witness testimony, and will present photos and sketches in multimedia programs.

Whatever this Unidentified Flying Object really is, it was videotaped flying near Beaver Dam June 9, 2001.  A similar object was reported that evening over other southern Wisconsin locations.

"What is it like to go out and investigate these strange doings? In as few words possible, an adventure!" says Voss, author of UFO Wisconsin. "We get reports of many fantastic events, all of them mysterious and unique."

The Sun Prairie resident adds, however, that keeping the adventure grounded in science can tone things down. Says Voss, "For us as paranormal investigators, we spend lots of nights sitting in the dark with recording equipment, and trying to recreate any anomalous instances reported to us."

Working as a real-life Fox Mulder is fun, says Lewis, lead organizer of the conference and an Eau Claire resident who has a master 's degree in applied psychology. But his favorite part of the job is meeting the general public at presentations.

Sightings of this strange, panther-like beast were alleged by several witnesses near Eau Claire in the fall of 2002.

"A lot of people come looking to hear stories, but a lot of them want to tell their own stories," he says. "They don't know who to tell. They've had experiences maybe 20 years ago and they've never told anyone."

Some of those experiences are nearby. "Seminole Highway right here in Madison has decades of unusual reports," says Voss. "People traveling along this road in horse and buggy would report mysterious balls of lights floating along and giving chase as they fled the area. Just to the north of Madison near the airport and Token Creek used to ride a phantom on horseback."

Then there 's the state Capitol.

"There are believed to be several ghosts there," says Lewis. "Many staff will report the ghost of a heavyset man walking through the Capitol. He was a citizen who would sit in on all the meetings, and then after he passed away people kept seeing him there."

Also at the conference will be Terry Fisk of Eau Claire, who will discuss the evolution of the Western concept of afterlife and examine recent scientific studies of near-death experiences, past-life regressions and out-of-body experiences. Fisk is coauthor with Lewis of "The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations." Another presenter will be Kevin Lee Nelson, a Sun Prairie paranormal investigator who's looked into hauntings for ABC television's "Scariest Places on Earth" and the Discovery Channel's "Mystery Hunters."

Dennis Murphy made this plaster cast from a track left near Danbury, Wis., by a creature he describes as Bigfoot.

Photo courtesy Unexplained Research  

Whether it's a flying saucer, ghost or Bigfoot, the witnesses are a cross-section of society, says Voss. "From the richest to the poorest, from those with years of additional schooling to those who learned everything from doing, it seems after awhile that everyone we interact with has a story to share," he says.

Lewis has been conducting paranormal research for more than a decade, but only in the last year and a half has he been able to do it full time, as a career. In working with witnesses, he finds that his psychology training comes in handy.

"It is part social work," he says. "It's more so dealing with human nature than the sighting itself."

Sometimes people just want to be reassured that what they've experienced is real. And often it is, though not in the way they might expect. In the case of ghostly bumps in the night, "sometimes we can narrow it down to faulty wiring or a unique set of variables specific to their immediate environment, such as a water leak, high ambient electromagnetic radiation from nearby towers, or a malfunctioning microwave," says Voss.

One curious trend is that fewer people these days want their uninvited visitors to leave. "More and more they just want to understand them better," says Voss. "That's not to say we prove what is happening is a haunting or officially a ghost, just that perhaps something not yet fully understood is being experienced."

That search for understanding is what drives Lewis, whatever paranormal phenomenon he happens to be working on. "I'm interested in them, but I'm not necessarily sure I believe in them," he says. "But like most people I'm curious. That's what keeps me going, that curiosity. Are we alone in the universe? What happens when we die?"


What:  Unexplained Conference

When:  7 p.m. Saturday; doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Where:  Exhibition Hall of the Alliant Energy Center, 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way.

Admission:  $9, $5 for children age 12 and under, and are available at the door or online.

Details:  www.unexplainedresearch.com

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