| For more than 30 years, Robert Hastings knew he had another story to tell, one that risked dragging him back to the fringe. He’d worked tirelessly to position his research in the elusive center, and in 2010, it looked like he might’ve gotten a toehold.
Ten years ago in September, CNN live-streamed Hastings’ press conference at the National Press Club in Washington. That’s where most Americans — or at least, those who tuned in,
By Billy Cox
anyway — first learned from seven intrepid military veterans that UFOs were punching holes in the most sensitive airspace in the nation, above Strategic Air Command facilities, where America’s weapons of mass destruction are locked and loaded.
The speakers’ service records were above reproach, and their stories represented a fraction of what Hastings had chronicled in his 2008 book UFOs and Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites. At that time, more than a hundred veterans had gone on record for Hastings’ expose, which was the most in-depth look at this strange dance since word of compromised security first leaked out in 1973. The Christian Science Monitor broke that story when Sylvania Electric Systems manager Ray Fowler spoke out about how a flight of Minuteman ICBMs at Malmstrom AFB got shut down by bogeys back when LBJ was president. Eyewitness reports of similar intrusions have been dribbling out piecemeal ever since.
Hastings has interviewed more looped-in veterans since then, and in 2016 he produced a sobering followup documentary, “UFOs and Nukes: The Secret Link Revealed.” But the media never capitalized on the national-security angle, at least not until news of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program got out in 2017. Between that and the release of eyewitness-supported F-18 videos, the lid began to crack in a big way. And once congressional inquiries into The Great Taboo gain momentum, you can bet your ass the security of our nuclear arsenal will be a major part of that review. (But good luck getting anyone to acknowledge it.)
But the man who got the ball rolling was also holding back a secret he’d muzzled since 1988, something so underground it would’ve been as reputation-shattering as admitting to being gay in 1952. However, after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure two years ago, now closing in on 70, Hastings decided to drop the bomb late last year with a memoir, Confession: Our Hidden Alien Encounters Revealed.
Actually, it was two bombs. Not only did the newly unmasked UFO abductee disclose details of what may have been tracking him as early as age 2, Hastings invited Bob Jacobs to contribute to Confession as well. Jacobs, ex-Air Force, has never been shy about talking up what he claims was the filmed shootdown of an unarmed Atlas missile by a UFO over Big Sur when he was stationed at Vandenberg AFB in 1964. But he hadn’t told everything.
While comparing notes years ago, Hastings and Jacobs discovered they shared a bizarre mutual quirk – waking up with a start in the middle of the night, their digital nightstand clocks reading (mostly) 4:44 or 3:33. Those jarring episodes were often accompanied by the sort of “nightmares” long familiar to researchers who study abduction cases, with overlapping details that included (occasional) bloodstains on the pillows or sheets.
Without tipping his hand, Hastings would query strangers with similar interests about any experiences they may have had with the triplicate repetition of numbers, 1:11, 2:22, etc. So many puzzled souls reported being jolted from slumber at those times, he began calling it the “Triple Digit Thingy.” Hastings interpreted the phenomenon to be a signature, or a calling card, intended to inform the experiencer of the non-random nature of the event.
Long before the bad-health news, Hastings says he knew, someday, he’d have to get this stuff off his chest. In recent years, he began letting it out incrementally, in off-the-record asides to those he trusted. In some cases, he got the reaction he’d steeled himself for, often from the veterans he had quoted in UFOs and Nukes, who feared his revelations could mark them for ridicule by association. After all, abductees have been the butt of cultural jokes since Martin Mull’s “Fernwood 2 Night” first put the alien-hijacked country-rubes cliché out there in the 1970s.
“A few were visibly upset and almost angry that not only me, but that (retired USAF captain/missile launch officer) Bob Salas had come out of the closet, and felt there was no credibility to the abduction stories and that they undercut their credibility,” Hastings recalls from his home in Colorado. “I said look, you know my body of work, and I’m applying the same methodology in my analysis of my own experience, trying to accurately report what I remember and trying to keep speculation to a minimum. And when I do speculate, I overtly identify my comments as speculative.”
But Hastings also met military veterans who weren’t only unafraid of the issue, they agreed to go on record with their own abduction stories. Most notably there was Terry Lovelace, a USAF veteran who finished his long legal career with the Attorney General’s office in Vermont. Lovelace wrote his own first-person abduction account, Incident at Devil’s Den, in 2018. The other day, he told a told a podcast host how, upon waking up at 5:55 a.m., his cellphone workout app indicated he had ascended 60 feet above his one-story house in less than a minute.
A decade ago, Hastings would’ve gone on a book tour in hopes of encouraging others to step out of the shadows. He no longer feels encumbered by what his critics or anyone else thinks anymore. Given the “precarious” state of his health, however, the lecture circuit is a no-go.
Today, Robert Hastings sounds reconciled to the idea that the mystery at the core of his being is destined to remain just that. And if what appears to have been a lifelong ordeal is real, he has tried to accept, with as much grace as is possible under these circumstances, what humanitarian scrutiny would regard as a gratuitous imposition of powerlessness, confusion and cruelty.
“I think these beings themselves don’t really care about the emotional impact they’re having on the abductees,” he says. “They have a job to do when the person is being taken for a particular reason. And whatever they need to do in that interaction, they’re going to do. Whether you’re screaming or terrified or not, they’re just gonna ignore all of that and get on with it.
“An analogy might be, we use lab animals day in and day out for reasons that we judge valid. And when we’re interacting with mice or rats or chimpanzees in the lab, I’m sure they’re alarmed or terrified by the things we’re doing to them. And yet, we’re not intentionally trying to be cruel to them. But we nevertheless do have a job to do, or a function to perform, and we’re going to do it regardless of what distress we might cause them.
“So I don’t think these entities are going out of their way to be cruel or evil, they’re just engaging in something that we find frightening.”
Like getting a taste of our own medicine, maybe?