Over the Cold War years underground missile sites were built in the United States to house weapons to defend America from attack by outside forces.
In an odd twist, one such decommissioned site in Davenport, Wash., might end up becoming the future home of the National UFO Reporting Center.
For many years, the center's director, Peter Davenport, dreamed of relocating his organization in a missile site and even living there himself.
He explored several decommissioned ICBM sites in Washington state until someone decided to sell one in 2005: Atlas E Missile Site 6.
The site, shown in a 1960s image below, fell under the jurisdiction of Fairchild Air Force Base from 1961 to 1964.
"It was the first underground ICBM ... site in the U.S. arsenal, decommissioned in 1964," Davenport told The Huffington Post via email.
Considerable work is needed before this missile site will be ready for occupancy, he said, but meanwhile the work of the center goes on, from an office elsewhere in Davenport. Its role is to "receive, record, and to the greatest degree possible, corroborate and document reports from individuals who have been witness to unusual, possibly UFO-related events," according to its website.
With its phone hotline operating almost nonstop since 1974, the center has received tens of thousands of calls over the years from people reporting UFO encounters, especially from individuals wishing to remain anonymous.
When government agencies receive UFO reports that they either can't or don't want to handle, they often direct the reports to the center. The organization maintains a relationship with law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration's traffic control centers, the National Weather Service, military facilities and even NASA.
Already since the start of this year reports have streamed in at a steady clip, according to the Mutual UFO Network, for whom Davenport served as director of investigations of its Washington chapter during the mid-1990s.
Having worked as a Russian translator in the Soviet Union, a commercial pilot and a flight instructor, Davenport is a no-nonsense, level-headed investigator of UFOs, always weeding through the good from the bad.
"Based on my last 17 years of experience in collecting UFO sighting reports, I conclude that our planet is being visited, and visited frequently, by these objects we have come to refer to as UFOs," Davenport said.
While many people believe UFOs are alien spacecraft from somewhere far away, the truth is that, historically, the vast majority -- approximately 95 percent -- of UFO reports have been explained by conventional means. That would include misidentifications of aircraft or astronomical objects, weather-related phenomena and any number of other explanations.
But there's always been at least a 5 percent residue of UFO reports that have remained truly unidentified, as reported by numerous military personnel, including pilots and radar operators over many decades, according to previously classified UFO documents.
Davenport's center doesn't presume that all UFOs are extraterrestrial; he shares information gathered from his hotline with the public and many serious investigators to try and get to the root of each sighting report.
"I've seen many video clips on YouTube, and it's been disappointing, without exception," Davenport said. "The [principal] problem is the high frequency of prank videos, posted, apparently for no purpose other than to gain notoriety for the contributor," Davenport said.
Another major problem, according to Davenport, is the low quality of most of the clips.
We provided him some recent videos of objects said to be UFOs posted on YouTube and asked for his take on them.
This first video, posted on Jan. 4, shows an object over Buenos Aires.
"The object of interest is badly out of focus, so it is blurry," wrote Davenport about the photo. "We don't know whether the object is drifting with the wind or perhaps in another direction. I can't be certain what the object is, but I have no particular reason to conclude that it is a genuine UFO. It doesn't appear to exhibit any type of unusual movement that is often reported for genuine UFOs."
Another video posted Jan. 9 shows a triangular pattern of lights in the sky over Michigan.
"This is actually rather high-quality video," Davenport said. "The photographer had his camera mounted on a stable tripod. Most people don't realize that it is crucially important to immobilize a camera for nighttime photography. I suspect the three objects may be the U.S. Navy's N.O.S.S. triplet of surveillance satellites. The manner in which they fade is suggestive of how satellites fade from view when they pass into the terminator."
This video from Jan. 6, with no location indicated, depicts an object zipping behind a contrail.
Davenport wasn't impressed by this one, either. "The quality of most of the footage is particularly bad, given that the photographer is moving the camera so much and the object is rarely in frame," he wrote. "However, the object above the contrail does appear quite bizarre, perhaps moving in a non-aerodynamic fashion. It would be difficult to determine whether the object was real or whether it might have been added to the video afterward."
"Of the three videos, this is the one I would elect to investigate first," he said.
Davenport suggested that a person's predisposition toward UFOs can play a role.
"We are all subject to being victims of optical illusion, denial, self-delusion, etc. However, an experienced UFO investigator can usually determine fairly quickly how capable a witness a person probably is, which can say a great deal as to how reliable his or her report may be."
"I suspect that out of 100 telephone calls made to our hotline, probably only about 5 percent of them address sightings of genuine UFOs, i.e., extraterrestrial craft. That is a very rough approximation, however, and it would be impossible to certify how accurate the estimate is."
Within the scientific community, many might disagree with Davenport's assessment of what is the cause behind that 5 percent. One thing, for sure, Davenport seems to have plentiful reports to keep him busy, with more than 200 received in the first two weeks of 2012.
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