Has Westmoreland County had more UFO sightings in the past 50 years than any other place in the United States?
Why is Pennsylvania ranked fourth among the states in the number of UFO reports?
What would the world be like if we discovered that beings from outer space have been visiting our planet?
Those are some of the topics that will be discussed this weekend at the annual conference of the Pittsburgh Area Mutual UFO Network at Westmoreland County Community College.
"The purpose of the conference is to disseminate information about UFOs by some of the leading experts in the field," said John Ventre, Pennsylvania state director for the network and a speaker at the conference.
Mr. Ventre, 55 of Greensburg, retired in May after 35 years as director of Pennsylvania security and public affairs for United Parcel Service.
His most recent book, "UFOs over Pennsylvania," was released last month and is devoted to explaining UFO sightings in Pennsylvania. His website, johnventre.com, reports that Westmoreland County has had the most UFO sightings in the U.S. in the past 50 years and that Pennsylvania has the fourth largest number of reports in the U.S.
"In 2008, there were a lot of sightings over the Pittsburgh area and Bucks County," he said. "Reports of sightings went from 100 cases a year to 350 and from two cases a week to one case a day," he said, referring to reports made to the network's website, MUFON.com. The reports were categorized into two types: high-flying objects and below-cloud-level triangular-shaped crafts.
He appeared on the Discovery Channel's "UFOs Over Earth" series in 2008, the History Channel's "UFO Hunters" in 2009 and on the Anderson Cooper show this year.
Mr. Ventre, who has never spotted a UFO, said he got interested in the topic while doing research for his book, "The Day After 2012," which is a companion volume to his earlier book, "12/21/2012: A Prophecy," and recaps 20 different prophecies about the end of the world, including the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21 this year.
"While reading reference material to write the book, I saw numerous accounts of 'Star People' or 'Cloud People,' " he said, referring to what he interprets as references to beings from outer space.
Another speaker at the conference will be historian Richard Dolan, author of "UFO's and the National Security State: Chronology of a Cover-up 1941-1973," first published in 2000.
"Dolan will talk about how things would change if the world discovered that Earth is being visited by alien beings," Mr. Ventre said. "Most of the conference's nine speakers are not MUFON members but are ufologists, who've either experienced a UFO encounter, study the field or investigate reported cases."
Travis Walton is one of the speakers who says he has been abducted by a UFO. He says it happened Nov. 5, 1975, while he was working with a logging crew in Arizona.
"Walton claims that, after he passed out, he woke up inside the UFO," Mr. Ventre said. "At the conference, he'll discuss his experiences on board the craft, as well as the 1993 film ["Fire in the Sky"] about his UFO experiences. In his talk, he'll also point out what was factual in the film and what was sheer entertainment."
Bill Birnes, a New York Times best-selling author, will be the keynote speaker. Mr. Birnes holds a law degree and has published material on UFOs, including UFO Magazine. He headed an investigation team of fellow ufologists on the History Channel in 2008-09 and is a commentator on "Ancient Aliens," which has aired on the History Channel.
Stan Gordon, 64, of Greensburg, also will speak. Mr. Gordon, who has studied unexplained sightings and mysterious incidents for decades, is an author and documentary producer and has appeared on a number of television shows. He is a former Pennsylvania director of the network and operates a hotline for people to report UFO sightings.
The fifth annual conference of the Pittsburgh Area Mutual UFO Network will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Science Building of Westmoreland County Community College, 145 Pavilion Lane, Youngwood.
Information: MUFONPA.com or 724-836-1266.
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: email@example.com.