Chances are that those who have watched the History Channel within the last decade have seen Bill Birnes. Even those not familiar with his name would likely recognize him wearing his signature UFO Magazine hat and aviator sunglasses. Birnes has appeared on the History channel since 2005 on shows such as Ancient Aliens, UFO Hunters and UFO Files. The Catalyst had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Birnes about how he became involved with Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) research.
According to Birnes, his interest in UFOs was caused in part by the attention they received throughout the 1950s. During the summer of 1952, several UFOs were reported over Washington, D.C. The objects flew over the White House and the Capitol building and were tracked on radar by Washington National Airport and Andrews Air Force Base. Fighter jets were scrambled, national media coverage followed and the event caught the attention of an eight year-old named Bill Birnes.
“The 1952 UFO invasion over Washington, D.C. was in the newspapers and in the motion picture newsreel back when they were doing double feature movies in the 1950s,” Birnes told the Catalyst. “In between the two features there would always be news and that’s initially where a lot of people got their news. They got their war news during WWII and in the ‘50s it was called Movietone. You can probably see some of them on YouTube. And Movietone news covered the UFO invasion over Washington and that really sparked my interest. And then a few years later I saw my own UFO hovering over our place in New York City and I knew something was out there. I didn’t know what it was.”
Although films including Invaders From Mars and The Blob contributed to the UFO fervor of the 1950s, UFOs took a backseat in Birnes’ life. “I did go to college to become a lawyer, but a funny thing happened on the way to law school: we had a war in Vietnam,” Birnes explained. “And basically I was 4F which means I didn’t pass the physicals for the two branches of the service that I wanted to get into. I wanted to get into the Navy as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) Lawyer and the Air Force in JAG. So I had this one career path that literally I couldn’t follow. So instead I went to graduate school and finished a Ph.D. and then taught college for 20 years. And then while teaching college, I got a job as a publishing consultant for a publisher in Princeton, N.J. and that led to my becoming a literary agent. Then I had a number of books as an editor and then as an author.”
Birnes focused again on UFOs in 1997 when he co-wrote The Day After Roswell with Colonel Philip Corso who served in Army intelligence and later became chief of the Pentagon’s foreign technology desk in Army Research and Development. In the book, Corso claims to have taken part in the recovery of artifacts recovered from the famed crash at Roswell, N.M., in 1947. Corso also claimed that the reverse engineering of the artifacts help lead to the development of some technologies including fiber optics and kevlar.
Birnes then got involved with UFO Magazine when the movie company he was working for at the time acquired it. “UFO Magazine has been around for a quarter of a century,” Birnes told the Catalyst. “No other magazine can really say that in terms of this particular area of publishing — UFOs, paranormal and alternative science. Back then it was a source of news so you’d see articles on breaking UFO news. Now, since the Internet has become the source news for most people, what we do is we’ve changed and now we are more involved — we go in-depth so it’s more research and exploration of certain issues as opposed to breaking news.
Later, Birnes went on to produce and host UFO Files and UFO Hunters on the History Channel. In 2009, UFO Hunters was cancelled after its third season. Birnes cites three major causes for the cancellation of the series, one of which was cost. “The show was really expensive,” Birnes said. “The network, beginning [in] 2009, was really feeling the budget pinch and they could make more money doing other shows that weren’t that expensive.”
The second reason Birnes cites is that the History Channel began looking for team-based shows, but UFO Hunters did not fit the team model. “Look at some of the History shows now,” Birnes explained. “American Pickers, Pawn Stars, Top Gear, Ice Road Truckers. These are team based shows in which theres some kind of a reality interaction between the team members. They couldn’t get it from UFO Hunters … The point of the show was very different.”
Finally, Birnes believes the network was forced to cancel UFO Hunters as a result of an episode in season 3. “I think we stepped on some major toes and people were saying, ‘These guys are going to discover something serious and we don’t want that to happen’ and they went to the people who own the History Channel and who own A&E — which is Disney — and said look, ‘You guys are going too far with the show, get rid of it.’”
The episode investigated claims of a covert underground base below a mesa near Dulce, N.M. where top-secret experiments are allegedly taking place. “We actually showed, over the objections of our execs at the network, a photograph of a hybrid,” Birnes told the Catalyst. “We actually took a photograph of a hybrid entity in the womb of a mutilated cow and that caused a major stir and in fact a couple of things happened. Senators Lindsey Graham and [Mitch] McConnell and one other moron introduced a bill in the Senate. And the bill was to criminalize interspecies breeding and we knew we had stepped on some major toes.”
The bill he refers to is the Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009 which was introduced and passed two and a half months after the episode on Dulce aired. According to the bill, Congress finds that “advances in research and technology have made possible the creation of human-animal hybrids” and “human-animal hybrids are grossly unethical because they blur the line between human and animal, male and female, parent and child, and one individual and another individual.”
“This might not have been extraterrestrial at all — it could have been basically big pharmaceutical companies taking people’s cattle for experimentation purposes,” Birnes explained. “And then now we’re talking about new advances in stem cell research and using the stem cells of other animals blended with human DNA to create human organs and that’s basically what we tripped into. We tripped into a harvesting mechanism run by some kind of unholy alliance. Maybe it’s the military, the pharmaceutical companies. It’s something thats a deep, dark secret.”
Despite the cancellation of UFO Hunters, Birnes has been working with the History Channel on the Ancient Aliens series, which has its third season airing later this spring. In addition to continuing work with UFO Magazine and the History Channel, Birnes worked as a consultant for The Battle Of Los Angeles which debuted in theaters earlier this spring.
Although the Catalyst has been unable to answer questions relating to UFOs or extraterrestrial life in its recent spurt of UFO stories, it was able to answer a question that most who have seen Birnes on UFO Hunters, Ancient Aliens and UFO Files have been asking themselves: Why does Birnes always wear a UFO Magazine hat and glasses?
In 2004, a film crew visited Birnes at his Santa Monica, Calif. home to film the first episodes of UFO Files just after having laser surgery performed on his eyes. “They were filming with the sun in my face and I said, “Look, ‘I just had laser surgery, I either have to wear sunglasses or film me in the shadow where I’m not in direct sunlight,’” Birnes told the Catalyst. “So, I was wearing my UFO baseball hat for that interview, obviously for promotional purposes, and I was wearing the sunglasses and afterward I wore them in the shows. They took a still picture of me and they e-mailed it back to the producer at the History Channel and the producer said, ‘I like the look. Keep it.’ … And that’s how it started.”