Seen through military-grade night-vision goggles, the night sky trembles with life. It starts to resemble a Petri dish crawling with planes, satellites, birds and unidentified flying objects.
Calistoga-based UFO researcher Ed Grimsley isolates one such object as he cranes his neck skyward. “It is a craft, but it’s not a satellite,” he says. “That is a spacecraft.”
On a road in front of the Best Western Beach Resort Monterey, Grimsley, local UFO enthusiast Bob Oliver, a middle-aged female friend of Oliver’s who declines to give her name, Weekly staff photographer Nic Coury and I scan the sky like nocturnal ornithologists with Grimsley’s four sets of goggles. But unlike bird watchers, we are not looking for anything that has originated from this planet. We are searching for extraterrestrial species.
Though I miss this first sighting, there’s a lot of enthusiasm on the ground here just feet away from Highway 1, where the goggles make the cars zooming by look like they are encased in amber bubbles. Grimsley, a short and stout bearded man who wears a camouflage baseball cap and resembles a hunter, tells stories about his past experiences with UFOs.
“Have you heard of a USO?” he asks me. I shake my head.
“It’s an unidentified submersible object,” Grimsley says matter of factly. “They pop out of the water and into the sky.”
A few seconds later, the woman, who is lying back on the hood of a truck with the night goggles held tight to her eyes, announces she has spotted something.
“That right there is a duck,” Grimsley says, taking aim at the object with his night goggles. After the woman laughs at herself for a moment, Grimsley gets the group fired up again. “He’s coming back,” Grimsley yells. “Duck!”
Once he is sure everyone gets the pun, Grimsley returns to the business of describing what sort of UFOs haunt the night sky. Grimsley describes a silver-colored oval craft he says he has seen, but he gets very excited when he starts talking about “deltas,” a set of UFOs shaped somewhat like a Concord airplane. “If I ever get to be a pilot in one of those [spacecraft], I want to be in a delta,” he says wistfully.
As Grimsley continues on about different UFOs, Oliver, a host of the local UFO AM radio show “The Quantum Leap,” and his woman friend move to the other side of the truck and point their goggles upward. Noticing their movements, Grimsley quits talking about UFOs and trains his lens toward the two earthbound figures. “Bob, what are you doing back there?” he asks his friend. “I see some unusual sparking.”
While Grimsley jokes around, I hold the night vision goggles to my eyes and spot a couple of lights enclosed in a moving sphere of light. Noticing what I’m staring at, Grimsley tells me it’s just a plane. “I hope I see a squadron,” the UFO enthusiast says. “You will shit. For real.”
A couple minutes later, a tall, dark-haired young man walking two dogs passes by. He introduces himself as Steve and says he is a director of television shows in Hollywood. Before long, Steve is peering through the goggles and being given an introductory lecture on extraterrestrial life by Grimsley. The two go back and forth like a couple of college kids philosophizing in a freshman dormitory. “So how many different types of aliens are there?” Steve asks Grimsley.
“How many species of dogs are there?” Grimsley retorts.
“Are we just a seventh-grader’s science experiment?” Steve asks.
As Steve keeps peppering the conversation with wisecracks and questions, Grimsley talks about firefights he says he has seen in the sky between different spacecraft. He also describes a top-secret military mission into deep space that lasted nine years. Apparently, the 12-man crew met a hostile life form at one point of their journey. “One got eaten by a giant serpent,” Grimsley says.
Before Grimsley finishes his story, Steve excitedly says he saw something. The director describes a little orb of light that zoomed past another ball of light that appeared to be an airplane. “I don’t know what I saw,” he says. “It’s a blip in the sky.”
While Grimsley rushes over to Steve, I point my goggles back toward space. I locate a small circle of light moving erratically across the sky like a pill bug.
I have no idea what it is – I can now see why they call them unidentified flying objects.