In 2013, a chance sighting of strange, orange orbs in the sky over the Salt Lake Valley reignited Erica Lukes childhood interest in the UFOs and the paranormal. Ever since that night, Lukes has become one of the field's brightest stars as she hosts "UFO Classified" every Friday night at KCOR Digital Radio Network. She's also been a guest on George Noory's "Coast To Coast AM" and is regular contributor on "UFOs: The Lost Evidence" on AHC TV.
The show features established voices like Nick Pope and Richard Dolan, but also newer names to UFO research like Lukes and others, and takes more of an investigative, rather theoretical approach compared to "Ancient Aliens."
"The thing that sets this show apart is the fact that the producers have chosen to showcase researchers that have not traditionally been seen on other TV shows," Lukes said. "This is critical if we want to engage a younger generation and it also helps to revitalize the field. I also like the fact that the show addresses the knowledge that indigenous peoples had/have with regard to the phenomenon. If we examine the history of these traditions, patterns begin to emerge and we must be willing to look at the connections."
"UFOs: The Lost Evidence" has completed its first season, and while many await to see if it is picked up for a second, television programs continue to be important in spreading awareness.
"TV is an incredibly powerful way to educate the public and to make the topic more accessible," Lukes said. "With that said, it is also important to stress that there can be a lot of misleading information presented (with) the hopes of increasing viewership. While I was working with the producers of the show, it was evident that they wanted to do quality work. It has become very clear that the government will not come forward with information so it is up to each of us to use different platforms to increase public awareness and to encourage people to take this subject matter seriously. "
While shows about UFOs are increasing in popularity, we are also in a society were information is as easily accessible as ever. Researchers believe it is going to take more than just TV shows and other parts of pop culture to seek the truth.
"We are living in a very pivotal time, and with he advancements in technology it is now possible to share information globally within a matter of seconds," said Lukes. "The technology that allows us to see outside of the human visual spectrum is also becoming less expensive and more accessible to the public. Both of these things makes it harder to contain the subject. The government understands this, and as a result, their means of controlling the subject will have to shift. I do believe that society is more accepting and given the current political climate, we are now challenging the powers that be."
While there's been strides in getting UFO awareness out to the public through broadcast mediums, there are still obstacles within the field itself. Look no further than the recent MUFON director's racist rant scandal and sexism that Lukes has faced, shows that some in the UFO field is reflective to our society in general; we still have a long way to go in some areas.
"Being a female researcher in a male-dominated field has it's challenges and one of them is dealing with the overt sexism that runs rampant in the field," Lukes said. " Unfortunately, there are organizations , 'researchers' and prominent members of the community who turn a blind eye to this type of behavior when they should be addressing the issue and taking the lead on mandating professional and ethical standards. We often complain about the fact that we are not taken seriously and when we engage in unprofessional behavior, we demean the hard work of many who have come before us."
Lukes believes this can be combated by an influx of new blood into the field of UFO research and would assist in getting research back to where it needs to be.
"It is vital to bring more women and a younger generation into the field," said Lukes. "The younger generation is savvy enough to understand examples of sexism and racism and they will even speak out about it. When women are demeaned and even 'slut shamed' we have a serious problem and it becomes time to shine a spotlight on the people who engage in this abuse so we can clean up the field and get back to quality research. "
-By MIKE DAMANTE
You can catch Damante appearing on "UFO Classified' on Friday June 23.
Q: Why do you think a lot of the evidence and theories about UFOs are so hard for some people to accept?
LUKES: We are conditioned to believe that we are where the universe begins and ends, that our reality is what we see right in front of us. We don't look up, we don't ask questions and we don't challenge belief systems. There is also ample evidence that the government has systematically undermined the field creates problems for the field of study.The evidence for the phenomenon is clear and overwhelming and I feel that if it put forward in a cohesive, intelligent manner we could make great strides..Another pervasive problem is are those who cannot operate their almost religious belief in UFOs from proper research. Instead of drawing lines in the sand, we need to take a deeper look at the mental and physical implications of those who are exposed to phenomenon.
Q: More on Erica Lukes' sighting that got her into research:
LUKES: It was concerned that these objects were seen in and around the flight corridor for the Salt Lake International airport, posing an aviation safety risk.Even more worrisome was the fact that there had been similar sightings southwest of the city at Dugway Proving Ground, one of the world's largest chemical and biological weapons testing facilities. As I started learning more I began to realize that there were specific areas all over the world where the same types of objects had been observed and studied most notably, in Hessdalen, Yakima, Washington and Marfa, Texas.