In their most commonly reported form, the aliens have large heads and stand 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall. Their enormous eyes rest under a transparent helmet. Clad in jumpsuits adorned with insignias, the humanoids walk in sure, positive movements.
Maybe so, but that's where they probably come from.
And Seattle resident Dale Goudie has talked to people who say they've seen them.
Goudie has spent the last 14 years researching UFO's and using the Freedom of Information Act to collect federal documents that he contends prove UFO's exist.
The official position of the U.S. Air Force, for example, is that it got out of the UFO business when Project Bluebook ended in 1969. But Goudie says the Bluebook was succeeded by Project Aquarius.
Since 1942, there have been an estimated 60,000 UFO sightings in the United States alone and only 5 percent of sightings are actually reported, Goudie says. Feeding characteristics of the 60,000 sightings into a computer, 250 different shapes emerged, suggesting to Goudie that there may be more than one species involved in UFO's.
"The bottom line is: Don't believe me, but do read what is available" says Goudie, who has dedicated a room in his home to countless files and papers on UFO's. "The real problem is, no one wants to take the responsibility of telling the American public this (UFOs) is real."
Consider a series of once-classified material on Project Aquarius:
An Air Force document dated Nov. 17 1980, from the Office of Special Investigations at Rolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. to OSI at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico refers to a "request for photo imagery interpretation."
Other papers indicate that the request stemmed from a series of "alleged sightings of unidentified aerial lights" over the Manzano Weapons Storage Area at Kirtland between Aug. 8 and Sept. 3, 1980.
An analysis of at least two pictures of the sightings concluded that the film was unaltered and that they were "legitimate negative(s) if (an) unidentified aerial object," according to the Nov. 17 1980, document. Of the two confirmed sightings, one "contained a trilateral insignia on the lower portion of object...."
The document also states:
"The official U.S. government policy and results of Project Aquarius is still classified top secret with no dissemination outside official intelligence channels .... Because of a chance of public disclosure, no knowledgeable personnel with SPA (it's not clear it SPA stands for Special Project Aquarius, or something else) will be provided...."
But another Air Force document dated Jan. 25, 1983, says "possible unauthorized release of classified material" cast doubt on the authenticity of the Nov. 17, 1980, document. The later document says the earlier one included nonexistent offices and officers, it sought to discredit the validity of the purported imagery interpretation.
When a Freedom of Information request letter dated Feb. 20, 1986, sought information on Project Aquarius, the National Security Agency responded, in part, with a letter dated March 3, 1986:
"Please be advised that Project Aquarius does not deal with unidentified aerial objects. We, therefore, have no information to provide you on the subject."
But when U.S. Sen. John Glenn wrote the National Security Agency on Jan. 7 of this year on behalf of a constituent who was having trouble getting responses to Freedom of Information requests about Project Aquarius, the reply letter, dated Jan. 27, said in part:
"Apparently there is or was an Air Force project by that name which dealt with UFOs. Coincidentally, there is also an NSA project by that name. The NSA project does not deal with UFOs...."
It is Goudie's contention that the responses about Project Aquarius demonstrate the government is saying one thing and doing another. He theorized that the government is reluctant to admit the existence of even one UFO because as soon as it does, it fears opening the door to mass hysteria.
Spokesmen for the Pentagon, the Air Force and the National Security Agency either declined comment or denied that any government agency is actively investigating UFO's.
The Air Force quit studying UFOs in 1969 after a $500,000 study conducted by the University of Colorado concluded that "UFO phenomena do not offer a fruitful field in which to look for major scientific discoveries," according to Capt. Jay DeFrank.
DeFrank noted that in 1977, President Carter asked the National Aeronautic and Space Administration to look into the possibility of resuming active investigation of UFOs.
This is the same man who in 1973, when he was governor of Georgia, said, "I don't laugh at people anymore when they say they have seen UFOs because I've seen one myself."
NASA spokesman Dave Garrett recalls that agency's response to the president: "We said, "Thank you, but no thank you." We have never been in the business."
Dennis Chadwick, chief spokesman for the National Security Agency at Fort George Meade in Maryland, an arm of the Pentagon, would not say whether NSA or any other government agency is actively investigating UFOs.
Goudie, a 45-year-old freelance ad man and former TV talk-show producer, is not deterred by the government's stance. Two years ago, he established a computerized UFO bulletin board - CUFON (for Computer UFO Network) - that has more than 1,400 members. It spits out information, free of charge, to anyone with a computer and a modem.
He also runs UFO Information Service International, a global network of UFO sightings, and Puget Sound Aerial Phenomena Research Inc.
None of these enterprises, he says, is a moneymaking operation.
Goudie says he and others like him have been helped in their many Freedom of Information requests by military personnel who want the public to know about UFOs, but who can't afford to be named.
Many of the documents he's obtained indicate that "suspicious unknown air activity" has occurred at top-security military installations where nuclear weapon are stored.
The documents relating to UFOs dropping in on Air Force bases have been published elsewhere - and professional skeptics such as Philip Klass, an editor with "Aviation Week & Space Technology," have written books debunking the authenticity of those and other sightings.
But Goudie notes the government itself has never volunteered any information, much less any explanations, about UFOs at military bases.
"You can explain anything away," says Goudie, referring to Klass and the other debunkers, "But these aren't solid answers."
Goudie also says he has consulted with "optical physicists" who have performed "video-negative photoanalysis" of video tapes of UFOs to substantiate that the objects are not of this earth.
Goudie also says he has interviewed about 40 people over the years who claim to have been abducted by UFOs. All occurred in rural areas, including some episodes outside Redmond, in Maple Valley and north of Seattle. He thinks about three-fourths of them are telling the truth.
In many cases, the victims have suffered physical scars that they didn't have before their encounter, Goudie says. "I've tried to get these people to come forward. They don't want anything to do with newspapers. They're scared to death of losing their jobs..."
Considering the threat to national security and the risk to civilians, Goudie believes the government has an obligation to be more forthcoming.
You don't have to look to faraway places for physical evidence of UFOs, according to Goudie. He has a videotape of an object flying over Tacoma in 1982, enhanced by a process know as "video negative photo analysis" which allows the viewers to see vertical and horizontal lines within what Goudie calls "the plasma" that covers the true shape within. He expects the video to air on Sunday's Town Meeting" on KOMO.
Television, specifically a Dick Cavett shoe that aired in 1973, stated Goudie's preoccupation with UFOs. He's since appeared on CNN's Larry King Show and CBS-TV network news shows, among others.
He has spent countless hours and dollars pursuing UFOs.
His goal, he says, is to see the subject become an area of serious scientific inquiry.
"I'm doing it because I think people deserve the facts, and no one's taking the time to do it."