Originally posted on the San Leandro Patch

If you ever dreamed of attending a conference featuring a serious discussion about the possible connection between mass UFO sightings in Mexico and the subsequent swine flu quarantine there in 2009, you should have been at the Bal Theatre this past weekend.

On Feb. 26 and 27, hundreds of self-described “truth-seekers” gathered at the theater for the Second Annual Bay Area UFO X Fest – Quest 4 Truth Conference, featuring “Ancient Aliens & Forbidden Archeology. ”

The event included conferences, workshops, and films where rigorous research, complex conspiracy theories, and wild assertions mixed and mingled freely. The event featured experts in fields like Unidentified Flying Objects, lost civilizations, and forbidden archeology.

The UFO Fest was hosted by Bal Theatre owner, and long time truth-seeker, Dan Dillman.

Dillman said he had his first taste of archeology working with his grandfather and uncle while they searched for Montezuma’s Treasure, a cache of gold supposedly hidden in America’s Southwest.

“It was totally Indian Jones before Indian Jones came out,” Dillman said.

He began hosting the UFO conference, he said, because he wanted to create a space where people could talk about far out ideas.

“I feel it’s a university,” Dillman said of the conference. “It’s a quest for truth.”

The topics discussed at the conference aren’t likely to appear on the six o’clock news or in school textbooks. If anything, much of the material presented is labeled pseudoscience in academic circles. But it’s not so easy to write off the ideas presented by these researchers after hearing their impassioned presentation of evidence and analysis.

Dillman, like others involved in these fields as researchers or avid followers, pull inspiration from now universally accepted ideas that were once dismissed by the establishment, like the Earth’s roundness, or whether it revolved around the Sun.

“Most people go through life like it’s a TV series,” Dillman said, “and there are those who are willing and engaged to search for the truth.” Clearly, he includes himself and conference participants in the latter category.

Michael Cremo, one of the speakers at the conference, uses archeological and paleobotanical evidence to formulate the theory that humans didn’t evolve from apes, but rather from spiritual beings. Lori Erbs, a former government researcher who does work with Cremo, said ancient human artifacts and bones suggest that humans co-existed with apes for millions of years.

“It’s not that we evolved from matter,” Erbs said, “it’s more like we devolved from spirit.”

Far out? For sure.

Crazy? You decide.

William B. Stoecker, of Sacramento, attended the event with his wife Pat. Mr. Stoecker has authored books and articles about the search for Atlantis, the fabled, ancient civilization that, some believe, mysteriously disappeared.

Stoecker said all the topics discussed at the Bal conference and similarly-themed gatherings, such as UFOs, lost civilizations and alien beings, have to be looked at as interrelated in order to gain a better understanding of life. But discussing that with people can be difficult if a person is closed-minded, he said.

“I think people tend to believe what mainstream media and the government tells them to believe,” Stoecker said.

Scott Rodriguez, of Castro Valley, came to the conference with his wife, who is a fan of UFOs. Rodriguez, on the other hand, is not.

“I don’t think all that stuff exists out there,” Rodriguez said of UFOs. Still, he came for the educational aspect of the event, which also drives him to watch documentaries about the paranormal on television.

“I find it more interesting than Friends and other crap they put on TV,” he said.

A couple of celebrities attended the conference, including Dean Haglund, the Canadian actor who played Richard “Ringo” Langly, one of the three Lone Gunmen, in the X-Files television series.

At the conference, Haglund screened a recently completed documentary called The Truth is Out There, where Haglund travels to UFO conventions across the world and talks with people about sightings. Haglund talked briefly in the movie about how the X-Files was meant as “science probability,” in the words of creator Chris Carter, rather than science fiction.

Another celebrity speaker, at least among the likes of conference attendees, was George Noory, host of  Coast to Coast AM, an overnight talk show covering alltalked with the audience via Skype, his face stretched across the 40-foot screen as he fielded questions.

During the talk, Noory reflected on the interrelation between the swift, political changes sweeping the Middle East, ideological shifts worldwide, and the proximity of 2012, which marks a new era on the Mayan calendar, and is thought by some to be accompanied by an apocalyptic-like shift.

Perhaps there is a common thread in these themes, and among others advanced by conference speakers—the search for some intangible truth.

“I’m just trying to find the answers like you are,” Noory told the audience. “There’s a bigger purpose here.”