31760 BC-IL--AlienState ad AP-RG LOCAL NEWS    WKD ADV   587   02/06  2:20 AM
 BC-IL--Alien State, adv12,590                           (0710i0il--na012DC)
 For Release Monday PMs of Feb. 12 and thereafter
 Cadre of Illinoians Keeps Eye to The Sky for Visitors From Space
 The (Bloomington) Pantagraph=
   BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) _ The way some see it, it doesn't make
sense to sit around watching TV shows about alien abductions and
space travel, when you can simply get off your couch, grab your
binoculars and check it out for yourself.
   UFOs over Illinois? Should the masses be alarmed?
   While many call it bunk, others believe that close encounters
occur right here in the Corn Belt.
   In Illinois, there is a cadre of residents dedicated to the
investigation of UFOs and the questions their existence inevitably
   Paul Russell of Pekin heads the Central Illinois chapter of the
Mutual UFO Network, one of the largest UFO organizations in the
world. He and a band of about 30 space sentinels travel the back
roads on clear nights to spot UFOs.
   He says he's seen and heard of abnormalities in the night sky,
ranging from bright flashes to ``The Mothership,'' a half-mile-long
vessel with flashing lights.
   ``Civilization as we know it will collapse,'' he said. ``Outside
beings are smarter than us. It will happen in my life span. I know
I'm going to have the last laugh.''
   The chief of MUFON's state office, Forrest Crawford of
Collinsville, says the network has been attempting to discern a
pattern of UFO visits, an elusive venture thus far. The idea, he
said, would be to predict when the UFOs are coming, set up shop at
that site and wait.
   One MUFON member, Gary Hart of rural Bloomington, has spent
about $10,000 on equipment he hopes will help him zero in on alien
   He investigates sightings of his own and others, some of which
occurred during the day, he said.
   ``That's when it gets really hard to discount.''
   George Eberhard, director of publications for the Chicago-based
J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, said 95 percent of the
world's UFO reports are ``garbage'' that can be explained as either
airplanes, satellites or planets.
   After peaking in the 1970s, Eberhard said UFO sightings have
declined. One explanation, he said: ``Aliens were here, now they're
not. Sometime around 1980 or '81 everything fell off.''
   Carl Wenning, who heads the Illinois State University
planetarium, concurs. ``It's been awful quiet.''
   Crawford said UFO visits run in nine- to 11-year cycles, with
small surges every five or six years.
   ``It ebbs and flows,'' said Hart, who said 410 sightings were
reported in Fulton County during a six-week stretch in 1987.
   But the frequency of sightings appears to be on the upswing.
   In Pekin, Paul Russell reported the reappearance of ``angel
hair,'' a spider web-like substance he says is cosmic pollution
from spacecraft.
   The frothy, white material falls as spacecraft dart in and out
of the Spoon River Valley, he said.
   Greg Brown, a Bloomington UFO aficionado, said, ``It's up in the
air yet about what's going on. It's leading up to something and
we'd better be ready. But what's our biggest enemy? Denial.''
   Wenning said he'll believe spacecraft from other planets are
visiting earth when someone can produce a specimen that can be
   ``The burden of proof is on them,'' Wenning said. ``I'm talking
about stuff you can put your hands on.
   ``Remember, there are people out there who believe that Elvis is
still alive,'' Wenning said.
   (Copyright 1996 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)
    AP-NY-02-06-96 0221EST