By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Ken Storch and LJ Dalicandro are on a case, the case of a lifetime.
They pick an isolated booth in the corner of a suburban Denny's, light up thin cigarillos and give the restaurant the once-over before they start talking. When coffee arrives, Dalicandro whips out a buck knife to cut the top off a container of cream. Storch opens his creamer in the traditional manner.
Storch is a 21-year-veteran of a metro-Denver police force. Dalicandro, today dressed in jeans and lizard-skin cowboy boots, met Storch in 1984 on a cocaine bust at another suburban restaurant. At the time, Dalicandro was working as a "civilian undercover operative" for the DEA. The two, now both 48 and single, became fast friends and have worked investigations together ever since. But this is the biggest case they've taken on.
"What we're handling here is a criminal investigation," says Dalicandro excitedly, "because it's criminal for the government to hold this information from us."
While the stocky Dalicandro is almost manic in his enthusiasm for their current investigation, Storch is calm and composed. He leans his lanky body over the table and exhales smoke. "The only way I know how to approach this is from a law-enforcement perspective," he says. "I'm looking at it as a criminal problem, and there are steps I need to take in order get to the bottom of it. First I gather intel on these suspects. Then we put a program together to nail their asses to the wall.
"We do that by getting our data and then setting up a stakeout. For example, if I know you frequent Club J, I'll stake my ass out there until I see you. And in this case, Club J is a location in the southwest United States. And that's where my team and I will be, because all of my research has led me there."
But Storch and Dalicandro aren't going out into the field to chase down crooked DEA agents or anti-government forces. They're hunting aliens--and not the kind that immigrate illegally to find work, either. The two investigators think they'll find extraterrestrial activity at what they describe as "the new Area 51."
The original Area 51--"The Ranch," as conspiracy aficionados call it--is a high-security military base located in the Nevada desert. The base opened in the early Fifties and was the testing site for the U-2 and Stealth bombers. But many UFO hunters believe the installation also houses extraterrestrial specimens and artifacts collected from alien crash sites on Earth.
Storch and Dalicandro are convinced that the military has recently relocated covert operations to this remote base (the name of which they refuse to divulge) in order to avoid the scrutiny of people like themselves. But where the government goes, aliens will surely follow. And so these two are putting together a team that will stake out the new, top-secret base in hopes of "observing unexplained aerial phenomena and government activity."
They've already heard from dozens of potential expedition members who learned of their project through a "help wanted" classified ad and are willing to pay $100 each to go along on the stakeout. So far, candidates include an archaeologist, a preschool teacher and a Ph.D. of theology who claims that both she and her daughter have been abducted by aliens. ("She says it must be genetic," Dalicandro explains.)
In order to make the expedition a success, Storch says, he's got to have a team of open-minded people. "The purpose of our expedition is to add legitimacy to the UFO phenomenon," he says. "We're going out to gather hard scientific evidence. Look, I'm four years away from retirement and can't afford to be involved in some dog-and-pony show or hoax. I'm not going out there to take a picture of a mysterious light and pawn it off as a UFO. Of course I'd like to come upon an alien craft, put it on a trailer and haul it over to the Smithsonian. But I'm not going to fake it. I'd rather go out there and see nothing but keep the expedition legitimate. That's why we're not recruiting Billy Bob with one tooth in his head and a branch for a family tree for this expedition. We need credible professionals who can establish a chain of custody demonstrating who recorded what data if we do see a mysterious aircraft. An eyewitness account is only as good as the evidence that backs it up."
And since they plan on taking a group of twenty into the field, they'll have plenty of corroboration if they do run into something. More than two decades in law enforcement has taught Storch what will hold up both in court and in the public eye.
"The problem with individual eyewitness accounts is that they're subject to personal bias," explains Storch. "So what you do after an incident is immediately separate all the witnesses. After you interview all of them, what you end up with is a mosaic, because everyone picks up different things. One person notices that the suspect has a lazy right eye. Another sees the mole on his face. A third notices the gun he's carrying. You put all those details together and you've got something to work with. Especially if the witnesses are intellectuals with research experience."