Close encounters of the Sonoma kind
After decades emphatically denying the existence of UFOs, the U.S government abruptly pivoted on June 25, releasing a long-awaited report acknowledging that credible sightings of mysterious airborne devices have been reported by dozens of military personnel.
In the case of 144 of those sightings, the government did not find extraterrestrial evidence. But in the case of 18, they acknowledged “unusual” patterns of movement in the flight patterns of the aircraft, advising that such movements could represent “breakthrough” technology, potentially in the hands of the country’s geopolitical adversaries (or aliens!).
All at once, it seemed, everyone was talking about UFOs. Or UAPs—Unexplained Aerial Phenomenon— in the vernacular now preferred by U.S military brass. Barack Obama chimed in. Donald Trump did, too. Overnight, the topic morphed from fringe to mainstream.
Without definitively saying there’s something “out there,” the government seemed to be admitting there might be.
But that’s old news to local UFOligist Jim Ledwith. The existence of UFOs and extra-terrestrials are the bedrock assumption of Ledwith’s life.
He’s made movies about them, and delivered countless lectures to rapt audiences. He is a staple at the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF), where his UFO programming routinely plays to a packed house.
Most recently, Ledwith produced the 2020 documentary-style film “The Phenomenon,” scheduled to screen at SIFF Summerfest this August and making waves on streaming platforms all over right now.
The unusual patterns of movement observed in the 18 UAPs that were acknowledged in the June 25 report are referenced again and again in “The Phenomenon.” The film features characters ranging from hard-bitten career military types to a group of Australians who shared a strange and consistently retold experience in childhood, and all of them say exactly the same thing: these unidentified aircraft move in a way that jet-propelled vehicles just can’t, performing 90-degree turns at impossible speeds, stopping on a dime, or disappearing instantaneously.
A few of the witnesses in the film go even further, claiming to have seen actual aliens. Ledwith doesn’t mind: he’s seen them, too.
Known colloquially as “UFO Jim,” Ledwith, 75, is a lifelong believer. “I’m an inductee, an experiencer,” he said. “I have been taken by them.”
Asked to explain what being “taken” means, Ledwith was blunt. “There are 13 million experiencers on the planet. It started for me when I was 3 or 4 years old, and they’ve been taking me ever since,” he said. “It wasn’t fun in the beginning. The last time was about five years ago from a home on Castle Road. They were in the hallway, and my neighbor saw the light of the craft.”
That neighbor was Dr. Chuck Young, former longtime chancellor of the University of California Los Angeles. Young also headed the Sonoma Valley Unified School District for one year, stepping in as interim superintendent when the district found itself unexpectedly shorthanded. Young is a serious-minded academic professional, a man not prone to flights of fancy, but he remembers the night of the bright lights on Castle Road well.
“I couldn’t help but see them,” Young said. “They were very bright. We had just moved in, so it was a surprise. It was a lot of light.”
Unlike Ledwith, however, Young draws the line at attributing the lights definitively to aliens. “It might have been that, I guess, but I don’t subscribe to the fact that it was an alien group. People from other planets are more than I can fathom. The laws of physics stumble me,” he said.
Young and Ledwith were the only two roused by the unexplained light in the middle of that night. Ledwith’s wife slept through the whole thing. “They put them out,” Ledwith explained. “Kind of like a triple Ambien.”
What do extra-terrestrials want with Jim Ledwith? “They’re using me,” he said. “What I’m doing right now is what they have me doing: I’m educating.”
Ledwith believes that extraterrestrials handpick certain humans to further their mysterious goals. Some of those chosen are compelled to educate, like Ledwith; others might provide security for alien operations. Some earthlings are selected for their genetic material, Ledwith said, which he believes the ETs harvest and use. “There are millions of hybrid people walking among us. We’ve done a class on how to recognize them. Go to YouTube,” he said.