We talked about the time a man in traditional Mayan garb interrupted a conference of fringe scholars who believe the ancient Mayans predicted the world would end in 2012. He was wielding a cane, and unloaded a profane tirade on the attendees. “He went ballistic. I mean he had lost it,” Noory said. “Plus, I didn’t know what was in his cane. You never know—people are passionate about these things.” They told me about Ed Grimsley, who for years would lurk around paranormal conferences with a suspicious-looking backpack that, he finally revealed, contained the night-vision goggles through which he witnessed a UFO war unfolding, night after night. (Noory says he saw two UFOs, his first and only sighting, with Grimsley not long ago.) And about Dr. Roger Leir, whom the pair watched perform surgery on someone putatively afflicted by an alien implant. “Oh, he definitely cuts people,” Danheiser said, laughing, when I expressed my skepticism about the procedure’s authenticity. And about the man who approached Noory at a dinner and told him, urgently, that he needed to show him photos of a perpetual-motion machine he had created, only to slap down pictures of common toilet parts. (The man admitted he hadn’t quite gotten the machine to work yet.) And, finally, about the time they had a nurse on the show to discuss Morgellons disease, a possibly psychosomatic ailment in which one feels crawling sensations beneath the flesh, and 10,000 listeners e-mailed the poor woman to report that they had it.
“Or thought they had it,” Noory said.
“Or thought they had it,” Danheiser repeated.
These stories reminded me of the first time I met Noory. He had been the featured speaker at a meeting of paranoid minds called the X-Conference, held in Gaithersburg, Maryland, a few months back. His presence electrified the crowd, hundreds strong, who greeted him with chants of “George, George, George!” On either side of the podium, huge projection screens showed a close-up of his face.
“All of us are here because we believe. Or want to believe. Or there’s something happening in our lives that seems to be drawing us to this,” he told the crowd. “We’re looking for answers … And until we can get the right answers—of who we are, and what we are—we’re going to be plagued with this inner feeling that you all have.”
He paused, and looked around the packed ballroom. “I mean, how many of you have that emptiness inside of you?”
Not a single hand went up.
“They all felt it,” he said, when I asked him, at the restaurant, about that moment. “They were afraid.”
I asked him if the emptiness he was talking about was one reason his show seemed to be taking off. He leaned back in his chair and looked out the window.
“You know, I don’t know,” he said. “It just continues to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. People are interconnected, and they are pulling themselves to a central point where we’re all meeting, which happens to be this radio show. But there is something out there that is truly profound. I mean, today they announced that the astronauts had attached a brand-new camera to the Hubble telescope, which they said would allow them to peer back to just 500 million years after the dawn of the universe. Isn’t that an incredibly profound statement? Five hundred million years after the dawn of the universe? What dawned it? You know, how did it start? Who are we? What are we doing here?”