Colorado's Stan Romanek claims to have been abducted by aliens multiple times, and his experiences have garnered more attention than any other modern-day case of alleged E.T. encounters. But is he telling the truth, or is it all an elaborate hoax?
In the summer of 2002, Romanek decided he wanted some answers, so he visited the Fort Collins office of hypnotherapist Deborah Lindemann. As part of hypnotic regression therapy, Lindemann guided Romanek into a trance, walked him through a series of questions, and then offered him a pen and paper. Romanek, who professes to have dyslexia and the mathematical ability of a fifth-grader, began writing complex equations and diagrams. He scribbled the proper electron configuration for Element 115, which at that point in time had been only theorized by scientists and popularized in UFO circles by physicist Bob Lazar. Romanek also wrote the Drake Equation, a formula that aims to arrive at a best-guess calculation for the number of intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy that would be capable of communicating with us. Depending on the input values, estimates can vary wildly, from as many as 10,000 civilizations or more, to just one.
Over the next several years, Romanek's UFO encounters and abductions continued. The hypnosis sessions continued, too, initially with Lindemann, and then with Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle, a counseling psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of Wyoming. "My initial impression was that Stan was sincere and reliable," Sprinkle says. "In the vernacular, he's the real deal. He's a normal person having very abnormal experiences." And Romanek kept writing—sometimes in his sleep in the presence of witnesses, sometimes in hypnosis sessions. There were more equations, star charts, and diagrams.
Speculation was rampant in the UFO community. Could Romanek have simply memorized and regurgitated the formulas? The simple answer is yes. But Romanek's new abduction experiences and new formulas caused many scientists studying Romanek's case to doubt the likelihood that it was all an elaborate hoax. "This is one of the strongest cases I've seen in terms of evidence," Lindemann, the hypnotherapist, says.
In fact, some observers went as far as suggesting that Romanek's writings were a guide to new technologies that would permit interstellar space travel. The unimaginably vast distances required of such travel mean that we need a faster way to get from here to there. Einstein's theory of relativity and other laws of physics place limitations on just how fast we can travel through space-time; however, they don't place limitations on warping space-time itself. If we can't go faster from "here" to "there," why not reduce the distance between the locations by warping, or compressing, space-time? Or what about traveling through hypothetical wormholes that connect distant locales, the interstellar sci-fi equivalent of taking the Eisenhower Tunnel instead of Loveland Pass? UFO buffs thought Romanek's equations might open the door to new technologies that could allow us to do just that.
Dr. Jack Kasher, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the Nebraska state director for MUFON, was one of the first serious academics to examine the equations. Kasher points out that although Romanek's diagrams seem to imply certain alien technologies, the equations offer little new insight into our present understanding of physics. In Kasher's view, the complexity and accuracy of the equations, coupled with their mathematical and scientific validity, are meant to catch our attention. "It's an incomplete picture right now," Kasher says. "It's premature to be making claims of wormholes and propulsion systems, but the equations make remarkable sense. There's some guided intelligence beyond Stan that is causing it to happen." In short, the equations are breadcrumbs. Now that the aliens have us watching, they'll send us new insights—ostensibly using Romanek as the vessel for that information.
Yet for every Jack Kasher, Leo Sprinkle, and George Zeiler who believes there's something to Stan Romanek's experiences, there are just as many or more vehement critics. Some suggest he's after fame or fortune, though more than one researcher has noted that there are much easier ways to make a buck. Others simply call him a fraud perpetrating an intricate hoax. One particularly harsh detractor—Vincent Bridges, an author on UFOs and unconventional spirituality—noted that Romanek is "important only because he became involved," and that he "stubbornly clings to a certain folksy ignorance while shrewdly promoting his experience."
Dr. Sprinkle, the Wyoming psychologist and hypnotherapist, argues that in UFO cases the reality ends up being one of three possible truths: A person can deliberately stage a hoax, a person can be genuinely sincere but wrong about the nature of their experience, or a person can be sincere and absolutely right. Of the serious researchers closest to Romanek, all agree on one thing: Putting their professional reputations on the line, they assert the fundamental legitimacy of Stan Romanek's experiences. "There's no question they were real," MUFON investigator George Zeiler says of Romanek's encounters. "But there are so many unanswered questions."
The details of exactly what happened have been clouded by Romanek himself. He's been described as a showman who loves the spotlight. There's no doubt he's an excellent storyteller and that he may be prone to embellishment for the point of effect—which is unfortunate, because it undermines his credibility in what is otherwise a very compelling case with evidence that is hard to ignore. Based on that evidence—and their preconceived notions—people are sure to come to wildly different conclusions about Stan Romanek's case. In fact, Romanek himself invites people to come to their own educated opinions. "I'm not trying to convince anyone," he says. "Look at the data and evidence for yourself. Don't take my word for it."
Peter Bronski is a frequent contributor to 5280 and is the author of At the Mercy of the Mountains: True Stories of Survival and Tragedy in New York's Adirondacks (Lyons Press), which was published in February. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.