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A Polka Party... in Space!

Aura Rhanes, the Captain of my Heart.

No matter what the troglodytes that send me hate mail say, it's always been my position that I hope I'm wrong. I hope that some day someone will show me irrefutable, scientific evidence that space aliens are real, or that things like Bigfoot and the Chupacabra really are out and about, terrorizing the countryside. Because let's face it: A world with space aliens abducting our cattle and leaving circles in our crops is much cooler than a world without them. However, no one has ever produced any sort of evidence that doesn't require a prodigious leap of faith to accept, so I think it's about time I rephrase my position on the subject: I don't hope that I am wrong. I hope that Truman Bethurum is right.

Bethurum was one of the contactees that appeared in the 1950s and captivated the UFO enthusiast community with his tales of interacting with the crew of a flying saucer. Altogether, he claimed to have ridden in saucers 11 times, and was promised a trip to another world, Clarion, by the ship's captain.

All of this began when Bethurum was 55 and employed as a mechanic in a road construction crew. Like myself, he had a part time job: He worked nights as a fortune teller and spiritual advisor to chumps with too much money.

Then, in 1953, he began publishing articles in a local newspaper about meeting the crew of a flying saucer. They were from the planet Clarion, a utopian place that, in absolute defiance of everything we know about physics, was invisible to Earth because its orbit always positioned it behind the earth's moon. Later, he claimed he had misunderstood what the Clarionites had told him: The planet was invisible because it was on the other side of the sun, not the other side of the moon. Either way, unless our astronomers are engaged in some sort of cover-up, it's not possible.

Clarion is a beautiful world, totally at peace. It knows neither war nor hunger, and the inhabitants do not have tobacco or liquor. This sounds hardly Utopian to me, but I'll assume that "liquor" does not refer to alcohol in general, and the inhabitants enjoy the occasional pint of beer or glass of wine. Devout Christians, the Clarionites attended church every Sunday, were about half the size of humans and lived to be 1000 years old. Much like myself, the Clarionites found nothing more enjoyable than a good polka or square dance. They also spoke perfect English, though always in rhyme.

Bethurum went on to describe the flying saucer he had ridden in: 300 feet in diameter and 18 feet deep, it was made of stainless steel for some reason. The crew did not call it a flying saucer; rather, they called it a "scow," which for some reason implies to me that it was involved in hauling garbage. Nautical types, feel free to correct me.

It gets better. The captain of this scow was a beautiful woman named Aura Rhanes, who had a "slender, Latin-type face" and was, in human terms, much too good-looking to be giving people like Bethurum a ride. She wore a red skirt, a short-sleeved blouse of black velvet and a beret of black velvet with red trim.

Bethurum enjoyed quite a bit of popularity after his story came out, giving lectures at conventions, publishing a number of books and appearing on television and radio shows. Like many other contactees, he claimed that his space aliens had told him to start a religious commune, with himself as leader. He named his commune the Sanctuary of Thought, founded near Prescott, Arizona, and to this day, some people adhere to his space-man beliefs. Strangely, he had a bit of trouble with the ladies: His second wife divorced him, an event he claims was spurred by jealousy for Aura Rhanes. I'm sure that that's true, but not the way he thought. He also claimed to have seen Aura Rhanes herself sitting in a restaurant in California, drinking a glass of orange juice, but she denied both that she was the captain of a space ship and that she knew Bethurum. I am certain that this also happened, but that the woman's refusal to talk to this guy was based on, shall we say, purely human considerations. He also hired a secretary solely because, according to him, the woman looked a lot like Aura Rhanes, and I've got to believe that may have been the crappiest job of all time. I mean, talk about a boss with expectations that are a little too high.

Let me absolutely, unequivocally clear: If space aliens exist, I hope they're a lot like the Clarionites. Seriously: a polka-loving people whose hot women don't think they're too good for ugly men with crappy jobs? Where do I sign up? From now on, every night my prayers will end with, "please let the Clarionites be real."

But alas, with a heavy heart, I must tell you that I suspect Bethurum was full of baloney. Aside from his insane suppositions about the location of the planet Clarion, Bethurum made a number of predictions that turned out not to be true, most notably that mankind would not achieve space flight until strife was gone from the earth. My knowledge of history is a bit shaky, but if I recall, the years during which mankind developed spaceflight, culminating with our landing on the moon, are synonymous in history books with communists slaughtering people and the more civilized nations of the world not wanting to be outdone.

And let's face it: Beautiful female spaceship captains don't just hang out with regular guys. They hang out with rock stars, surgeons or any man with a pile of money. Bethurum was none of these. The evidence against him continues to pile up: The Clarionites spoke perfect, rhyming English? The scow was made of stainless steel? Despite the fact that the aliens were devout Christians, they asked him to start a cult? And so on.

I think the biggest strike against Bethurum is that he claims the aliens spoke perfect English, yet enjoyed polka music. Everyone knows that polka is best when it is sung in Polish, so are we to assume that the Clarionites speak Polska as well?

It puts a dark cloud over my day to say that I think it's fairly obvious that Bethurum was making all of this up. Either he made it up on purpose so that he could make a giant pile of money (which he did) or he was absolutely, bat-chokingly insane. But nothing would give me more pleasure than to know he wasn't. I would love to write here that I have found proof that the Clarionites are real. So if you are out there, my diminutive pierogie-eating friends, please give me a sign.

Be seeing you.

This article first published in The Triangle, 19 May 2006