This article was published in the daily newspaper The News Tribune, Duluth, Texas, USA, on Friday, August 6, 2004.
Woman continues search for aliens
UFO WATCH: Enthusiast begins looking for aliens after contraption's creator dies before its unveiling.
BY NICK KOTZEA
NEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
It looks like a prop from a low-budget science-fiction film. But the optimism Julie "Jitterbug" Pearce exuded Friday when talking about the likelihood her unlikely contraption can detect extraterrestrial life was undeniable.
Outside a country home several miles west of Duluth, Pearce, 23, unveiled an experimental machine she hopes can detect, attract or even communicate with alien life forms. With a little camping gear and a group of adventurous friends, Pearce is spending the first half of her weekend monitoring her awkward apparatus, equipped with colored strobe lights, low-powered lasers, a radio transmitter and a series of gauges said to track atmospheric changes common to extraterrestrial encounters.
Pearce said her machine's triangularly patterned strobe light design, coupled with looped radio transmissions and laser light refracted through a quartz crystal, may help signal aliens in the area.
Few would deny it's a longshot, and many would flat out roll their eyes, but Pearce combats skepticism with an ambitious smile. And, if nothing else, she says friends around a campfire make for a pretty good weekend.
"Regardless of what we see or hear, it still leaves the mind to wonder," said Pearce, who, with associate's degrees in art and chemical dependency counseling from Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, someday hopes to study emergency medicine.
Her ever-evolving range of interests got Pearce thinking UFOs about six months ago. After a friend was involved in a project to locate the legendary Bigfoot, Pearce logged onto the Internet and became inspired by the search for life beyond Earth.
That's when she came across an online posting by a man in Wisconsin who was selling the framework to a "UFO Attractor." Although many would have considered the very name of the item a signal of simplicity and potential absurdity, Pearce was quick to find out there was a scientist behind the equipment that she would come to purchase -- as incomplete as it was.
Myron "Mike" Muckerheide, a pioneer in laser technology in the medical and defense fields, died in December 2003 at age 73 before completing his UFO Attractor. Whether or not the Port Washington, Wis., man's home project would have worked, or what the final product was supposed to look like, may have died with Muckerheide.
But, for a few hundred bucks, Pearce purchased the elementary remnants of Muckerheide's brainchild from his daughter and her husband in Cedarburg, Wis.
"He (Muckerheide) wasn't saying there were or weren't (aliens), but if there were, he wanted to get them on tape," said daughter Susan Schreiner.
Pearce admits the philosophies deployed in building much of her machine were based on guesswork. But through Internet research, Pearce said she incorporated an array of theories popular among extraterrestrial enthusiasts. For example, hanging from a chain on her machine is a small piece of Labradorite. Pearce said the mineral is said to be found in locations prone to extraterrestrial encounters. She also hopes to monitor changes in electromagnetic energy.
Sitting in a group chatting about the best and worst of alien movies, Pearce's friends ranged in attitudes about her experiment.
"It could work," said Summer Steward, 20. "If we think we're the only life form, we're pretty arrogant."
For John Belanger, 23, a cigarette and relaxed demeanor said it all.
"I believe in aliens," he said. "But I'm here just hanging out."