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UFO convention features ethnobotanist, Cloud Cult performance

Saucerheads and average Joes will come together in Duluth once again to discuss the inhabitants of other worlds. Duluth's third annual Area 61 UFO Convention will be held Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Lakeview Castle Restaurant & Lounge, 5135 Nor...

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Saucerheads and average Joes will come together in Duluth once again to discuss the inhabitants of other worlds.

Duluth's third annual Area 61 UFO Convention will be held Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Lakeview Castle Restaurant & Lounge, 5135 North Shore Drive.

The convention is the brainchild of brothers Allen and Jim Richardson. The brothers have written "Gonzo Science," a book that investigates weird or unconventional science.

"It's an extension of our interest in weird science," Allen Richardson said of the convention. "It's a topic of seemingly bottomless mystery."

The brothers held the first convention two years ago. The conventions feature local speakers, bands and a witness forum where people can speak about their own contact with aliens.

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Last year the conference was opened up to include discussions about ghosts and Bigfoot.

This year's convention will feature a performance by Cloud Cult and a talk by special guest speaker Dennis McKenna, a project leader for the Natural Health Product Research Group at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

McKenna, an ethnobotanist and ethnopharmacologist, will speak about mind altering plants and the similarities between shamanism and occurrences of UFO and alien sightings.

Deep meditation and the psychedelic state activate similar areas of the brain. These are areas that evolved to induce or mediate experiences with another dimension or otherworldly beings. The question is why is this area of the brain evolved and is present in people, McKenna said.

"I don't know if (otherworldly experiences) are real or the product of the mind," he said.

But that isn't the question because people are really experiencing something, he said.

In ancient times people saw angels, spirits and demons where modern people see aliens. There are a lot of similarities between the ancient and modern experience. Hopefully the talk will spark a discussion between conferencegoers, he said.

The psychedelic plants McKenna will speak about are not illegal drugs, but plants with a history of use in shamanism.

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Shamanism is basically a technique for exploration of other existences. It's a way of contacting beings from another dimension or another sphere, so the topic is closely related to experiences with aliens, he said.

McKenna's field of study is directly related to the topics discussed at the UFO convention. Many alien abduction reports aren't believable. McKenna's speech looks at a way of explaining the phenomena, Richardson said.

"It seems more likely to us there's more than one strange thing happening," Richardson said. "We're not ruling out the possibility of aliens."

The witness forum is a place where people who have experienced aliens can speak about it. The forum is open to everyone who attends the conference.

The conference is open to everyone. Anyone who is interested in the topic can and does attend, Richardson said.

"People are attracted to it because it's kind of strange," he said.

Twin Cities members of the Mutual UFO Network, a nationwide UFO group, also will speak at the conference.

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The third annual Area 61 UFO Convention is Saturday, Oct. 21, at Lakeview Castle Restaurant & Lounge, 5135 North Shore Drive.

The conference begins at noon with presentations by local speakers about UFOs, aliens, Bigfoot, hauntings and more. At 6 p.m. Dennis McKenna will speak about shamanism and psychedelic drugs. The bands play from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Admission is $5.

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