Here’s the setup for the ultimate UFO conference experience - holding hands and chanting AUM with 100 complete strangers around a giant rock, actually THE Giant Rock, one of the most archetypal UFO locations in the California desert. That set the stage for my 2019 Contact in the Desert experience. 

The Giant Rock tour plus a visit to the Integratron took place the day before the actual Friday to Sunday conference and was 90 minutes away from the Indian Wells, California resort where the conference has been based since moving from Joshua Tree. I’ve always wanted to see Giant Rock in Landers CA, where George Van Tassel is alleged to have communicated, first in meditation and later in person, with the space brothers. Another item on my bucket list is the Integratron, the domed structure composed of "wood, concrete, glass, and fibreglass, lacking even metal screws or nails" (according to Wikipedia so you know its true), designed as for "human cellular rejuvenation" but never completed and now used for sound healing sessions in its upper chamber. Those were sold out by the time I booked my ticket, but we were able to enter the lower area and experience the way the whole structure vibrates when music is played upstairs. Actually, its up a ladder after removing your shoes, indicating that Van Tassel had no idea it would be this popular. I will be going back for a “sound bath.” 

The 2019 conference was attended by 4000 people and it seemed that crowded at times. The UFO conference experience is expensive (more on that later), immersive and exhausting. There are 5 or even 6 presentations going on at the same time, starting every 2 hours from 9 AM until 11 PM, with a maddeningly random schedule that forces you to make hard choices when 2 interesting presentations begin at the same time. So I saw Rey Hernandez but had to skip Peter Levenda's probably controversial talk on the Sekret Machines project and his work with Blink 182 guitarist Tom DeLonge. Whitley Stieber or Linda Moulton Howe? (I chose Strieber) Erich Von Daniken or Clifford Mahouty? I chose Mahouty, he was one of the people I planned to see. It got worse: Graham Hancock or Nick Pope or Mary Rodwell, I chose Hancock but that was a tough one. It seemed for every speaker I saw, I missed another. Maybe that's designed to get me back next year?

By Sunday I was dipping into multiple lectures, catching an hour here and walking across the complex, out of a freezing cold and dark auditorium into the desert sunshine before catching the last half of a 2nd lecture. Sometimes this was by design; I tried to sit through Laura Eisenhower’s lecture but only lasted 15 minutes, it was almost incomprehensible. Presenters like Eisenhower and Gaia star David Wilcock were rock stars playing the hits to their fan base, so no information was given to bring the newbies up to speed. When Wilcock talked about “The Alliance”, every in the room seemed to be nodding in agreement and I didn’t have a good enough internet connection to Google it. (Its Wilcock’s version of the group organized against the cab-, oh just Google it, its gets insane quickly.) But Wilcock was the star of this year’s conference, his 200+ Gaia episodes were the drawing card for many of the attendees, and discernment was not on the menu. I was sitting among the true believers - in Disclosure (imminent as always), in StarSeeds, in underground government bases. I was there to see Jacques Vallee and his was one of the least attended lectures, so the CITD organizers know what sells. 

Actually, someone like myself could put together a schedule of interesting and not insane speakers to be enlightened by. Rey Hernandez, one of the co-founders of astronaut Edgar Mitchell's Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial and Extraordinary Experiences, or FREE. Less than an hour into his 1st talk, which featured lots of data and screens full of numbers logging the accounts of contactees, I saw this bit of info:

26% of contactees have received information about past lives as a result of their contact. 

Immediately there is a link between my past lives research and the UFO contact phenomena, plus a quotable statistic that I'd never heard before. I was in the right place!

I saw Clifford Mahouty’s excellent talk framing the UFO in his experiences as a Zuni Pueblo elder. Whitley Strieber struggled through computer issues as did many of the presenters. Apparently there was a laptop in place in every room with the presentation pre-loaded and no one navigated this process without a hitch. Even a pro like Richard Dolan struggled with this system, while giving a dark and scary lecture on the way that Artificial Intelligence will be changing our lives in the very near future. The person I flew across the country to see, Jacques Vallee, gave a very professional field report on some contact cases that he personally investigated. Unfortunately, the first case he presented was about a guy who’s family saw a blue light descend on him in their field and was later found dead with his ear burnt off. So many people left at that point that Vallee joked about it from the podium. By the end of his talk there were only about 50 of us left, a sad statement on the imbalance between content and spectacle. 

There were bright spots: I was pleasantly surprised to see so many women attending. Maybe it was due the number of female presenters, with major presentations and “workshops” (more on that in a moment) by Linda Moulton Howe, Mary Rodwell, Dr. Lynne Kitei, Maria Wheatley as well as crowd pleasers like Laura Eisenhower and Carolyn Cory. But it was effective and seeing many couples in attendance was a relief from the Star Trek convention nerd-fest I feared. Its also very positive for UFOlogy going forward.

The expensive part of the conference is: I paid $270 for my 3-day pass to all the lectures plus some of the evening events like sky watching and a classic movie on the lawn. I also paid $29 for the pre-conference Giant Rock tour. Every speaker gave a one hour and 45 minute presentation, and most of the big names also gave a “workshop” which was a 2nd talk, for anywhere from $29 for Clifford Mahouty (which bizarrely was scheduled at 7:45 AM on Sunday!) to $69 for David Wilcock’s workshop, highly attended I’m sure. Then on the Monday after the conference, an entire day of “intensives” were scheduled with 13 of the presenters giving a 3-hour lecture. It would have been very easy to double the price of the 3 day pass with workshops and intensives for the serious fans, and I’m sure many did. 

It was an incredible experience. Would I go again next year? I’ve already received emails from Contact In The Desert 2020 informing me that they have booked the entire resort and conference center for next year. It was interesting sharing the resort with families on vacation and golfers mingling with the UFO crowd. It was almost too crowded at times, I missed a few lectures because I couldn’t get in to some of the smaller rooms, and the parking was a mess; my rental car was a 10-minute walk away that required crossing a 6 lane road. But whether I go again will probably depend on who they book. I’m sure many of the same rock star presenters will be there, as will many of their fans. Having seen Vallee and Strieber I don’t know what it will take to make me fly cross the country again. But who knows? CITD 2020 may be the first post-Disclosure conference, and that would give them lots to talk about.