The Sky's The Limit
- The Sky's The Limit
By JENNIFER LANG
TERRACE'S reputation as B.C.'s UFO capital is creating a new kind of tourism boom in the region.
Curious travellers from across North America are inquiring about the tourism facilities in communities across Highway 16, including Terrace, says a UFO researcher based in Houston, B.C.
"You would be surprised just how many emails I get over the months requesting information for our areas," says Brian Vike, editor of Canadian Communicator, a magazine specializing in the paranormal, and director of HBCC-UFO Research.
Earlier this year, Terrace cracked the top 10 in a national UFO survey, earning third place, just ahead of Houston, where Vike operates a toll-free UFO hotline so he can collect and investigate eye-witness reports.
Terrace recorded the third highest number of UFO sightings in the country last year, bringing national and international attention to the region, Vike says. The resulting publicity means the northwest is rapidly emerging as one of the best places to see UFOs in Canada.
Savvy tourists know they're more likely to see a flying saucer than the elusive Kermode bear, the white form of a black bear that is the city's official symbol.
Vike says he's often contacted by UFO buffs and the just plain curious who want to know about the region's tourist attractions and accommodations.
"Many have never been up this way," Vike says. "So I give them the lowdown on what our communities have."
He tells them about camp sites in the area, the excellent hiking, fishing and boating opportunities here, the beautiful scenery and the range of wildlife.
"As a matter of fact, I receive so many emails, I was going to put up a page on my website which would give information to tourists on what we have."
Vike says 2003 is shaping up to be another record year for UFO sightings in the skies over Terrace, where 25 sightings were recorded last year, suggesting more national and international attention could be on its way.
"Right now Terrace has darn near caught up to last year's total count for sightings," he says.
UFO-related tourism is a growing market in the rest of the world.
Vulcan, a town of 1,700 in southern Alberta that's home to a replica starship and a tourist information centre built to look like a space station, isn't the only place cashing in on its Sci Fi cachet.
St. Paul, Alberta was out of the gate back in 1967, when it built the world's first UFO landing pad, ensuring that future space travel would be safe for all intergalactic beings.
"All visitors from earth or otherwise are welcome to this territory and to the Town of St. Paul," reads an inscription beside the 12-metre-diameter concrete pad.
The tiny U.S. town of Rachel, Nevada, meanwhile, has capitalized on its proximity to the mysterious Area 51, thought to be a secret U.S. military base.
Rachel's tourism industry began to take off in the late 1980s, thanks to its reputation as a reliable location for sightings, drawing ever larger numbers of "UFO tourists".
Nearby Nevada State Highway 375 was officially renamed the "Extraterrestrial Highway" to reflect the large number of sightings along this stretch of road.
Enterprising community leaders in other countries have boarded the UFO tourism spaceship, too.
Last year, a Chilean mayor took the bold move of designating the region near his town as an official UFO tourism zone because so many sightings have taken place in the Andes mountains there.
That's the kind of notoriety places like Terrace, Houston, and other Highway 16 towns could easily take advantage of.
While Terrace may presently lack an officially-sanctioned UFO tourism strategy, Vike is functioning as an unofficial intergalactic ambassador, sharing the region's latest eye-witness reports and his own pet theories with a curious world.
From Houston headquarters, he keeps busy doing interviews with newspapers, TV shows and radio talk shows all over North America.
Canada's Life network shot 18 hours of footage with Vike in Houston, Smithers and Telkwa in February. A documentary will air this fall season or early in the new year.
"All of this is great for tourism," he says, reminding northwest residents to keep their eyes to the skies this summer.
Vike has noticed a new pattern in the most recent reports: more eyewitnesses in the northwest are reporting objects in the sky, instead of just unexplained, or oddly-moving lights.
One sighting reported by multiple witnesses across a wide geographic area involved gigantic triangles.
Others have reported seeing crescent or ring-shaped objects in the sky.
Vike adds a number of eyewitnesses reported seeing a large, saucer-shaped disk travelling from Mill Bay on Vancouver Island to Kitimat past the Alcan Smelter and on towards Prince Rupert and Terrace.
Vike, a former forestry industry worker, tries to uncover likely explanations for what eyewitnesses have seen.
The planet Venus is sometimes mistaken for a UFO. Other sightings are later found to be aircraft, meteors, satellites, stars or even blimps, says Vike, who once belonged to the Royal Astronomical Society and volunteered at the planetarium in Vancouver.]
Vike's got a toll-free number: 1-866-262-1989, and a website: www3.telus.net/public/wilbur8/hbcc_ufo_research.htm
Terrace Standard Newspaper
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