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'Ufologist' resigned to 'loony' label
But he remains frustrated that others haven't seen the light
Northern Life

Stepping into Michel Deschamps' basement is like stepping into a religious shrine. But the objects of worship aren't religious - at least not in a traditional sense.

Instead, they're dedicated to Deschamps' unending quest to prove that UFOs really exist.

The walls are plastered with framed newspaper clippings proclaiming UFO sightings; on the desk are statues of 'aliens', based on the descriptions of people who have claimed to have had close encounters with them.

Videotapes line the walls of his bedroom, each containing documentaries on UFOs and testimonials from people who claim to have been abducted. In his hands he has two models of alien ships people claim to have seen, and he's clutching them like a medieval Christian might hold a piece of wood he believes is from Christ's cross.

But the religious comparison is one Deschamps, 31, firmly rejects.

"When was the last time someone took a photo of God?" he asks, pointing to the many pictures of UFOs that have appeared in newspapers over the years. "It's not a religion when you have physical evidence like that."

The middle child of a family of four, Deschamps was born in Val d'Or Quebec in 1964, the son of a miner. The family moved to Sudbury in 1968, and to Hanmer two years later, where Deschamps still lives with his parents.

He admits that his deeply religious parents "don't know quite where to place" his UFO mania. But, generally, his family is fairly supportive.

An avid Elvis Presley fan, he quickly points out he was never part of the 'Elvis is alive' fad of a few years ago.

"Nah, I know he's dead," he says. "Some people say he's been seen on a UFO with E.T., but I don't think so," he says, poking fun at the view some have of him as a loony. It's a reputation Deschamps accepts and hates at the same time. His frustration is that of someone who believes he alone has seen the light, and is fighting a lifelong battle to convince everyone else.

He remembers his first UFO sighting, down to the exact date and hour - July 14, 1974 at 4 p.m. in Hanmer.

"It was perfectly round, like a big metal ball bearing," he says. "It was hovering just above the trees.

"But there was nothing in the paper about it...so I can't really say for sure if was true. I would like to get hypnotized - if I really could be hypnotized - and find out just what I saw.

He didn't really become aware of what UFOs were for another two years when, as a student at St. Michel's School, his teacher brought in a clipping from a British Columbia newspaper.

It had a photograph of one of the most famous pictures of a flying saucer ever, taken by an 11-year-old boy - coincidentally, almost the exact age Deschamps was at the time.

The photo shows a black, saucer-shaped figure set against a grey sky. Deschamps is such a fan of the photo he has the same camera the boy used to snap the picture - a Kodak Instamatic X-15.

His next vicarious encounter was in 1981 when his uncle saw what looked like a red ball hovering outside of his home around Christmas time.

"When he got up enough guts to look outside, he saw a humanoid alien get out. It ws wearing - and I know some people may laugh at this - what looked like bell bottom pants."

Deschamps' interest peaked a short time later when he picked up a copy of The Roswell Incident, a book purporting to tell of a crashed alien ship, full of dead aliens, that the U.S. government ha foun in 1947.

"The whole thing was covered up," says Deschamps, "but there are more than 350 pictures, and people who were involved have come forward to talk about what they saw."

Which brings him to his next point, and the big question people often ask him - why would the government cover up the existence of alien life forms? What would they possibly have to lose?

It's a question Deschamps has a little trouble explaining.

"Panic, that's the major point," he says. "If the people knew that the government couldn't protect them from this, they would throw the politicians our of office. I mean, what good is the government if it can't protect you?

"So they've been lying to us for years and years. They feel we don't have the right to know."

Not surprisingly, Deschamps is a big fan of The X-Files, the TV show that has FBI agents fighting a losing battle to prove the existence of aliens in the face of a government conspiracy to keep things quiet.

"It's pretty good," he says. "Parts of some of the episodes have facts behind them, but still, it's a fictional show."

He prefers a show called Sightings, a late-night documentary-style show that recreates UFO sightings and encounters.

Deschamps argues that sightings - even in Sudbury - are common occurrences, but social pressures - the kind that have caused him so much ridicule - prevent people from stepping forward.

"It's always been like that," he says. "I myself have lost a lot of friends, but I've gained a lot of new ones."

Unemployed, he has worked as a dishwasher and as a gopher at a car company. As he searches for work today, he's conceded that taking "Ufologist" off his resume is necessary for him to get a job.

His romantic life has suffered as well - he doesn't have a girlfriend, and his last relationship suffered as a result of his UFO obsessions, although he says it wasn't the deciding factor in the end of the relationship.

Through it all, Deschamps says his research into UFOs keeps him together.

"No matter how hard I've tried, I can't get away from this. It's my destiny; it's the one thing that keeps me going."

"It's an obsession with me. It was a passion in the beginning..." he says, his voice trailing off.

"People might say there's a fine line between obsession and crazy, but I'm not there yet. I know when to put the brakes on."

His description of what it's like believing in UFOs is fatalistic. Because of the social pressures and the government conspiracy, anyone who goes public is an outcast.

But, at the same time, if someone does see one, it's an unforgettable experience that changes them forever.

He's equally fatalistic about the possibility that one day, in his lifetime, the existence of alien life forms will become widely accepted.

"No," he says flatly. "I hate to say it, but it's just going to go on long after I've passed away."

"It would just be too big a change in people's belief system. No one would know where to place God anymore."

The Northern Life - June 26, 1996


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