One evening during his freshman year, Drew Knepley was walking down Lomita Avenue in Orange when he saw something he could not explain.
“I looked up in the sky and I saw a red light that was moving, and then it turned to orange, and then it turned to green, and it moved back and forth, like kind of swiveled around,” the junior political science major said. “It just kind of stopped for a bit and hovered there, and then slowly faded away.”
What Knepley had seen that night can only be described by him as a UFO.
On April 20, Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences hosted Travis Walton, an expert on UFOs and extraterrestrial life, to speak about his experiences and the sociological implications of paranormal life in popular culture.
In November 1975, Walton said he was struck to the ground by a blue light coming from an unidentified flying object. It took five days until he was located, with little memory of what had occurred.
“I was thinking, you know, that I’d made a serious mistake in getting that close and then it got louder and started to move. It was kind of an unsteady motion,” Walton said.
Walton hid behind a pile of logs for a short moment before attempting to flee, when the UFO knocked him down with what he described as a blast of energy.
“Some people looking in the other direction said it lit up the entire forest for as far as you could see, brighter than daylight,” Walton said. “They said it was so violent they immediately thought it had killed me.”
Five days after the incident, Walton and his coworkers took several lie detector tests. Walton said the president of the American Polygraph Association told him that with six people passing lie detector tests, the odds are a million-to-one that there could be an error. Walton has personally taken five lie detector tests from three distinguished examiners, each corroborating his story.
Knepley, who attended Walton’s speech, said despite his own paranormal experience, he still isn’t sure if extraterrestrial life exists.
“I think it’s possible that alien life exists. I don’t know if they come to the Earth or not,” Knepley said. “I wouldn’t say I believe in aliens, and I wouldn’t say that (what he saw) was aliens, but I definitely saw a UFO.”
Though Knepley wasn’t completely dismissive of alien’s existence, he said he wasn’t as sure about people who claim to have been abducted.
“I think they genuinely believe it, like it could be a hyper-realistic nightmare or something,” Knepley said. “I don’t think a lot of them are hoaxes. I think they genuinely believe it, they just might have something wrong.”
Katarina Tomaszewicz, a junior creative producing major, said she believes in extraterrestrial life, but not in the way it’s portrayed in media.
“I don’t believe in little green men running around in UFOs, but I do believe that there’s something out there other than us,” Tomaszewicz said.
With so many UFO and alien abduction hoaxes in the media, Tomaszewicz said she isn’t sure what to believe.
“I’m split, because I know that there are some people who just want attention, but at the same time I’ve read a lot of things that are too similar,” Tomaszewicz said. “I think people are trying to get money and attention out of it for sure, but at the same time I think, maybe there is some truth behind these things.”
Ben Hansen, the host and investigator of Syfy channel’s “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files,” said he and Walton are not interested in convincing people that aliens exist, they just want to deliver the facts.
“If you were to ask me and say, ‘What is the probability that we have been visited or that UFO phenomena is real?’ All I can tell you is the facts of what I’ve seen, what I’ve heard, and what I’ve experienced,” Hansen said. “What it means is up to your interpretation.”