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Author Joan Bird talks about UFO sightings and encounters around Montana at the Western Heritage Center Wednesday night.

Gazette staff

Joan Bird believes in UFO sightings and stories of human contact with extraterrestrials, but after immersing herself in testimony and research, “I sometimes have to back off and go watch birds or something.”

“There is a limit to how much we can take,” the Helena author told a crowd of about 45 people Wednesday at the Western Heritage Center. “I know this is a lot to digest, but keep chewing.”

A trained zoologist and biologist with an earned doctorate, Bird wrote the book “Montana UFOs and Extraterrestrials.” She’s scheduled to speak again at noon Thursday at the Western Heritage Center in a talk sponsored by Humanities Montana.

With a smile, she noted her book “earned me a five-saucer review from UFO Magazine” before the periodical ceased publication in 2012.

Bird’s talk focused in part on people claiming UFO sightings in Montana. One, Nick Mariana, who was working in 1950 for the then-Great Falls Electrics minor league baseball team (now the Voyagers), shot film that purportedly shows two silver objects moving together in the sky. Mariana’s secretary said she also saw them.

Bird’s research showed that Malmstrom Air Force Base officials took Mariana’s film and “removed the good stuff,” she said. The original film reportedly showed the discs spinning.

Closer to home, Udo Wartena said he was prospecting in the Confederate Gulch in Broadwater County during the summer of 1940 when he heard a humming noise and spied a 100-foot saucer hovering over a meadow. He said someone came out of the saucer apologizing. “We didn’t know you were here,” the alien told Wartena. “We need water. Can we take some of yours?”

OK, Wartena told the alien, who invited the human onboard the saucer and showed him two counter-rotating magnets that the aliens used to nullify Earth's gravity.

“They were men just like us, and very nice chaps,” Wartena told his daughter, who relayed the story to Bird via Skype from China. She said her father “felt remarkable love or comfort in their presence and did not want to leave them.”

Wartena told his story to a few people but suffered ridicule afterward. Eventually he sent a letter to former astronaut and later U.S. Senator John Glenn in an effort to help the world through the fossil fuel shortage of the 1970s. Bird couldn’t find Wartena’s letter in Glenn’s archives, but she did note Glenn and Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada were later instrumental in funding UFO research.

Citing the Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial Encounters (FREE), Bird said a majority of about 3,500 people claiming contact experience with extraterrestrials said following their encounter they felt increased compassion, a deeper interest in spiritual matters, an increased concern for the welfare of the planet and a conviction that there’s life after death. What they felt less of was a concern with material things, an interest in organized religion, a fear of death and the desire to become more well-known.

Only 15 percent reported having a negative experience, she said.

“I like this subject. It’s provocative, and it makes us question our own philosophy,” she said. “I find it endlessly fascinating.”

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.