8 Quirky Locations Dedicated to UFO Sightings

There's no evidence that little green men have ever come to Earth, but with insistent conspiracy theories, frequent UFO sightings, and alien jerky for sale, it makes one think. If you find yourself fascinated by UFO sightings and want to immerse yourself in the culture, there are plenty of places to visit. 


If you’re going alien hunting, the very first place to hit is the region around Nevada's Area 51. Among other things, conspiracy theorists believe that alien craft, most notably from the supposed 1947 Roswell crash, is being studied and reverse engineered at the "secret" military installation, which, until 2013, the U.S. government refused to acknowledge even existed. Even today, most mentions of Area 51 are redacted from government documents—even the declassified ones. Thanks to the veil of secrecy, flocks of extraterrestrial enthusiasts visit the site each year: Tourists can take guided tours, check the skies for unexplainable activity, and snap photos next to the sign dubbing the local stretch of Highway 375 the "Extraterrestrial Highway."

When they're finished exploring, they can take a load off at the Little A'Le'Inn (little alien) in Rachel, Nevada. The kitschy motel has a bar, restaurant, and gift shop, all decked out in celebration of the little green men. There are plenty of alien-themed murals, decorations, and knick-knacks to make UFOlogists feel right at home. 


In 1947, a mysterious aircraft crashed in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico. Though the government explained it was a weather balloon (later confirmed to be a surveillance balloon), many of the locals suspected something a little more otherworldly. While the claims of aliens have been largely debunked, the site is still the epicenter for UFO fanatics; Roswell even has an alien on their town logo. In the town, you can find a UFO-themed McDonalds and Dominos as well as alien streetlights.

One of the bigger UFO-related places to visit is the Roswell International UFO Museum, which is a “non-profit educational organization with the mission of educating the general public on all aspects of the UFO phenomena.” Within its walls, you can find a plethora of alien-related artifacts like dirt from the crash site and a replica of the space roadster. 


iris, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

If the International UFO museum is a little too serious for you, you can also try the Area 51 Museum, which tries to make alien invasion more exciting. "Families with kids were coming to town and they were bored with the UFO Museum," said Elsie Reeves, the founder’s wife, told Roadside America. "We decided we'd become like the Hollywood part, where they can become part of the story." 

The museum, which is part of the Alien Zone cafe and gift shop, was built by artist and pastor Randy Reeves in the late ‘90s. Guests are treated to 20 life-size dioramas filled with props and backdrops. The museum is rife with photo-ops, including a crashed UFO that you can climb in, and an alien autopsy room with bloody knives you can pick up.  


According to some, Roswell isn't the only UFO crash site. In 1947, an alien spacecraft crashed in Piestewa Peak, outside Phoenix. The Dreamy Draw Dam was apparently built to cover the wreckage. The dam has a lot of “Keep Out” signs and a suspicious lack of water to dam. Some say that if you get close enough to the infrastructure, you can hear a distinct humming. The dam, which was built in 1973, is pretty close to an airport, which might explain the noise—but don’t let those facts get in the way of a good story.


San Luis Valley, Colorado has very little light pollution, making it a great spot for stargazing—or UFO-gazing: It's a hotspot for UFO sighting and other strange activity. The town of Hooper is home to the UFO Watchtower, a viewing platform with a connected gift shop. Although only 10 feet tall, the “tower” promises to give tourists the chance to catch a glimpse of something otherworldly. Visitors of the tower are provided with information about previous sightings and possible theories. Even if guests don’t see any UFOs, at least the sky will have plenty of stars to enjoy. You can check out their website here, complete with a Geocities-esque set-up and dancing alien gifs. 


The United States isn’t the only location for UFO gazing. Wycliffe Well is the self-declared UFO capital of Australia. The oasis has a holiday park that gives a nod to the UFOlogists that might be passing through with several alien murals scattered around the facility. According to their brochure, “UFO sightings are so common, that if you stayed up all night looking, you would be considered unlucky not to see anything, rather than lucky to see something.” Even if you don’t manage to see something strange, you can also check out the Devil’s Marbles, two large boulders found a short drive away from the park. 


San Clemente, Chile has had so many UFO sightings that in 2008 the town had no choice but to open a UFO trail. The 19-mile path cuts through the Andes mountains and passes by reported spots of alien activity. Tourists walking the trail can also stop by local restaurants, camp sites, and hotels. There’s no guarantee you’ll spot a UFO, but you can at least enjoy the view. 


On April 17, 1897, a strange cigar shaped object crashed into a windmill in Aurora, Texas. According to legend, there was an alien inside who died in the crash. The good people of Aurora did the only thing they could think of and gave the extraterrestrial a Christian burial. In the ‘70s, the International UFO Bureau discovered the story, and asked to exhume the body. The town refused. People from all over came to the small town to get a piece of the action and the locals responded defensively, even bringing out some guns. Today, the only thing to see is a small plaque noting the occurrence.

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Bess Lovejoy
The Legend (and Truth) of the Voodoo Priestess Who Haunts a Louisiana Swamp
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Bess Lovejoy

The Manchac wetlands, about a half hour northwest of New Orleans, are thick with swamp ooze. In the summer the water is pea-green, covered in tiny leaves and crawling with insects that hide in the shadows of the ancient, ghost-gray cypress trees. The boaters who enter the swamps face two main threats, aside from sunstroke and dehydration: the alligators, who mostly lurk just out of view, and the broken logs that float through the muck, remnants of the days when the swamp was home to the now-abandoned logging town of Ruddock.

But some say that anyone entering the swamp should beware a more supernatural threat—the curse of local voodoo queen Julia Brown. Brown, sometimes also called Julie White or Julia Black, is described in local legend as a voodoo priestess who lived at the edge of the swamp and worked with residents of the town of Frenier. She was known for her charms and her curses, as well as for singing eerie songs with her guitar on her porch. One of the most memorable (and disturbing) went: "One day I’m going to die and take the whole town with me."

Back when Brown was alive at the turn of the 20th century, the towns of Ruddock, Frenier, and Napton were prosperous settlements clustered on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, sustained by logging the centuries-old cypress trees and farming cabbages in the thick black soil. The railroad was the towns' lifeline, bringing groceries from New Orleans and hauling away the logs and cabbages as far as Chicago. They had no roads, no doctors, and no electricity, but had managed to carve out cohesive and self-reliant communities.

That all changed on September 29, 1915, when a massive hurricane swept in from the Caribbean. In Frenier, where Julia lived, the storm surge rose 13 feet, and the winds howled at 125 miles an hour. Many of the townsfolk sought refuge in the railroad depot, which collapsed and killed 25 people. Altogether, close to 300 people in Louisiana died, with almost 60 in Frenier and Ruddock alone. When the storm cleared on October 1, Frenier, Ruddock, and Napton had been entirely destroyed—homes flattened, buildings demolished, and miles of railway tracks washed away. One of the few survivors later described how he’d clung to an upturned cypress tree and shut his ears against the screams of those drowning in the swamp.

The hurricane seemed to come out of nowhere. But if you listen to the guides who take tourists into the Manchac swamp, the storm was the result of the wrath of Julia Brown. Brown, they say, laid a curse on the town because she felt taken for granted—a curse that came true when the storm swept through on the day of her funeral and killed everyone around. On certain tours, the guides take people past a run-down swamp graveyard marked "1915"—it’s a prop, but a good place to tell people that Brown’s ghost still haunts the swamp, as do the souls of those who perished in the hurricane. The legend of Julia Brown has become the area's most popular ghost story, spreading to paranormal shows and even Reddit, where some claim to have seen Brown cackling at the edge of the water.

After I visited the swamp earlier this year and heard Julia Brown's story, I got curious about separating fact from fiction. It turns out Julia Brown was a real person: Census records suggest she was born Julia Bernard in Louisiana around 1845, then married a laborer named Celestin Brown in 1880. About 20 years later, the federal government gave her husband a 40-acre homestead plot to farm, property that likely passed on to Julia after her husband’s death around 1914.

Official census and property records don’t make any mention of Brown’s voodoo work, but that's not especially surprising. A modern New Orleans voodoo priestess, Bloody Mary, told Mental Floss she has found references to a voodoo priestess or queen by the name of Brown who worked in New Orleans around the 1860s before moving out to Frenier. Mary notes that because the towns had no doctors, Brown likely served as the local healer (or traiteur, a folk healer in Louisiana tradition) and midwife, using whatever knowledge and materials she could find to care for local residents.

Brown’s song is documented, too. An oral history account from long-time area resident Helen Schlosser Burg records that "Aunt Julia Brown … always sat on her front porch and played her guitar and sang songs that she would make up. The words to one of the songs she sang said that one day, she would die and everything would die with her."

There’s even one newspaper account from 1915 that describes Brown's funeral on the day of the storm. In the words of the New Orleans Times-Picayune from October 2, 1915 (warning: offensive language ahead):

Many pranks were played by wind and tide. Negroes had gathered for miles around to attend the funeral of ‘Aunt’ Julia Brown, an old negress who was well known in that section, and was a big property owner. The funeral was scheduled … and ‘Aunt’ Julia had been placed in her casket and the casket in turn had been placed in the customary wooden box and sealed. At 4 o’clock, however, the storm had become so violent that the negroes left the house in a stampede, abandoning the corpse. The corpse was found Thursday and so was the wooden box, but the casket never has been found.

Bloody Mary, however, doesn’t think Brown laid any kind of curse on the town. "Voodoo isn’t as much about curses as it is about healing," she says. The locals she has spoken to remember Julia as a beloved local healer, not a revengeful type. In fact, Mary suggests that Julia’s song may have been more warning to the townsfolk than a curse against them. Perhaps Brown even tried to perform an anti-storm ritual and was unable to stop the hurricane before it was too late. Whatever she did, Mary says, it wasn’t out of malevolence. And if she’s still in the swamp, you have less to fear from her than from the alligators.

This story originally ran in 2016.

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Why Do Female Spotted Hyenas Give Birth Through Their Pseudo-Penises?
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At the zoo, you can sometimes tell the difference between male and female animals by noting their physical size, their behavior, and yes, their nether regions. Hyenas, however, flip the script: Not only are lady spotted hyenas bigger and meaner than their male counterparts, ruling the pack with an iron paw, they also sport what appear to be penises—shaft, scrotum, and all.

"Appear" is the key word here: These 7-inch-long phalluses don't produce sperm, so they're technically really long clitorises in disguise. But why do female hyenas have them? And do they actually have to (gulp) give birth through them? Wouldn't that hurt … a lot?

The short answers to these questions are, respectively, "We don't know," "Yes," and "OW." Longer answers can be found in this MinuteEarth video, which provides the full lowdown on hyena sex. Don't say we didn't warn you.


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