Ask people what they think about UFOs, and you’re sure to get opinions ranging through all extremes and nuances. Some are so embarrassed by the topic that they simply refuse to consider any evidence whatsoever, like the Pope refusing to look through Galileo’s telescope. Others claim not only to be certain that aliens are here, but to have exact, insider knowledge of what it’s all about. Between these extremes are endless variations.

It’s the same with how we approach the subject. Some people read UFO books for fun, like a mystery novel or scary story. Others are more interested in scientific evidence, such as analysis of photographs, videos, or material samples. Still others prefer more hypothetical roads, like theories about the likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe, or how an advanced propulsion system might work. There are a host of specialized studies, too, ranging from abductions, to crop circles, to animal mutilations, and more. Or, you may focus on the believers and witnesses themselves by studying UFOs as an element of popular culture, or from a psycho-social perspective.

Another approach is historical. There are, after all, government UFO documents that anyone can read. What do they say? Can these documents tell us whether the government or military have ever been interested in this phenomenon? If so, why?

Granted, this approach might not be of the same value as subjecting a piece of flying saucer to laboratory tests. But it would certainly be important if the government had documents showing that UFOs are truly something extraordinary, and even possibly alien. Especially after telling the public the opposite for years. Since belief in UFOs is a near-professional suicide in most respected circles, what would it mean if we discovered that, within the classified world, people have taken it seriously for years?

It just so happens that they have. They do.

For many years, it was hard to obtain declassified government documents about UFOs. During the 1950s and 1960s, a few documents wended their way to the rest of the world, but this was rare. Then, in 1974, the U.S. government amended the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The result was a veritable golden age of document releases that lasted roughly until a 1982 Executive Order from President Reagan. While UFO documents continue to be released, a repeat of the Great Flood of the seventies appears unlikely.

Blacked-out, declassified UFO documents look rather cool, but most don’t provide any evidence for aliens, and many of them are not even that interesting. But some are very interesting. Whether they prove that UFOs are aliens or something entirely different, they make it clear that this topic has been taken very seriously at high levels, and has been subject to a great deal of secrecy.

Considering how marginalized this subject is from mainstream culture, making this point is enough for a day’s work. There are always deeper waters within which to swim, but for now let us stay close to the shore and look at a few of these documents. Even though most of these are well-known to UFO researchers, they continue to remain almost completely unknown to the wider public. Apparently, some things are so obvious that they are invisible.