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McAllen High School librarian Noe Torres was drawn to stories of the unexplained from a young age. In elementary school, his mother shared an experience from one particular night in the 1940s.
His family lived in a small, two-bedroom home surrounded by citrus on north Shary Road near where Pioneer High School now sits. Back then, the area was sparsely populated and lacked the illumination of street lights.
She heard a loud rumbling and saw flashing lights, Torres remembers his mother saying.
“Try as she might, she was unable to look above her head,” Torres said. “She was so frightened that she told me it was as if her neck muscles were locked in place.”
Family dogs were leaping in the air, snapping their jaws as they circled her, he said.
And all of a sudden, “everything went off like somebody turned off a light switch,” Torres said. This early exposure sent him running to libraries, consuming all he could on the topic.
Co-writing a book titled “Mexico’s Roswell” detailing a supposed UFO crash near Big Bend in 1974 earned Noe Torres invites to conferences at the infamous Roswell, New Mexico.
Torres even guided bus tours in the town, which drew visitors wanting to explore the lore of the “UFO landmarks,” he said. He always thought it would be great to have a local event like the ones he frequents.
The author says he speaks locally about UFOs often, including stops at the Edinburg library. It was there that he connected with Letty Leija, Edinburg’s director of library and cultural arts. They schemed to produce the first “Out of this World” event, with only a few speakers.
The initial event was small, but proved to generate interest. About 500 people showed up that first year, and the attendance has held steady as the event’s grown over the last five. The sixth annual event began Thursday with a visit to a supposed UFO site in north Edinburg and a free festival on Friday. It continues with the conference Saturday featuring Derrel Sims of “Uncovering Aliens” and Ben Hansen of SyFy’s “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files.”
Most people who attend UFO events have either had experiences or know someone who has, Torres said. Many come up to him after talks detailing their stories.
And Torres doesn’t buy every story he hears, he said.
When it comes to substantiating claims, there is an exhaustive checklist, including physical evidence, multiple eyewitnesses, documents, photographs or video. If you have several people seeing the same thing, and some sort of documentation, then you have strong evidence of something unusual.
Lights in the night sky are nearly impossible to verify, he said. With those, one looks for movement uncharacteristic of flying lights, such as strange zig-zags or improbable speed.
He must rule out all other possibilities, like experimental aircraft, drones and other aerial craft that could account of the phenomena.
“If you rule those out, then you have a very creditable unknown,” Torres said.
Torres said he believes most abduction cases are psychological, manifesting as dreams or the recollection of prior repressed memories.
Even during the United States Air Force’s famous investigation Project Blue Book, about 30 percent of those cases were unexplained.
“The only thing we can do is rule out the normal and declare something as being unexplained,” Torres said.
He’s interested in the small number of cases that defy explanation. Torres’ fascination isn’t necessarily about figuring things out, but keeping an open mind to possibilities.
“Every day, we have more and more headlines about the certainty of Earthlike planets,” he said. “We’ve only had hi-tech things for a few decades (and) before that, we were primitive and bariatric.”
It’s the “supreme arrogance of the human race” that leads us to believe we’re alone, he said.
“Why would we be the most advanced technological society in the universe or even in our galaxy?” he pondered.
IF YOU GO:
WHERE Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, 118 Paseo del Prado
WHEN 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sat., April 1, 2017