|The woo is out there|
|Aliens did it...|
|...and ran away|
Project Serpo is a science fiction fantasy launched as though true onto several UFO-oriented web forums starting in November 2005. Gullible UFO "researchers" such as Bill Ryan, Kerry Cassidy and Linda Moulton Howe[note 1] were totally bamboozled by this fiction. Author Len Kasten swallowed the story so completely that he wrote a book about it. As late as May 2019 the yarn was re-told as true on the overnight radio show Coast to Coast AM, when Kasten was a guest.
Serpo is an alleged planet of the binary star system ζ Reticuli, 39 light years from Earth. It is slightly smaller than Earth but has a human-breathable atmosphere. It is populated by an extraterrestrial race known as Ebens, who mostly live in rather simple villages. The total population is 650,000. Ebens are short and brown. "Ebens" is a term that comes from the acronym "E.B.E." for "Extra-Terrestrial Biological Entity."
The Exchange Program
One Eben was a survivor of the 1947 flying saucer crash at Corona, New Mexico. In 1965, twelve US military astronauts set off for what was to be a ten-year mission to Serpo in a spacecraft that used anti-matter as its energy source. The journey took ten months, at 40 times the speed of light.
Two of the astronauts died on Serpo or en route to Serpo, in part due to the intense radiation on the planet. Two others never returned and are alleged to be still living The Good Life on Serpo. The mission of the remaining eight (seven men and one woman) was extended and they returned to Earth in 1978. They were held incommunicado for debriefing until 1984. All of them have since died.
How it unfolded
Apparently it all started in 2005 with an e-mail from "Request Anonymous" to a Ufology maillist moderated by Victor Martinez. "Anonymous" claimed to be a retired US Government official with top-secret clearance. Investigation by the Reality Uncovered Network led them to believe that "Anonymous" was Richard C. Doty, a former security guard with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (who had a book to sell.) The R.U.N. investigators developed the story to include two other fabricators, the three being known alternatively as The Imaginary Intelligence Agency or Scammers, Inc.
Bill Ryan, business partner and (at the time) bed-mate of the paranoid gubmint-hater Kerry Cassidy, took up the story and created the serpo.org web site (which he no longer administers.) The story exploded onto the paranormal cybersphere in 2006 — nicely timed for the first edition of the Collins & Doty book.
Many claim that Steven Spielberg was aware of this story, and referenced it in his 1977 award-winning movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. One now has to wonder whether "Request Anonymous" was a fan of the film and used it as an inspiration for his claims. After all, the conspiracy theory that Hollywood has some sort of "insider knowledge" on "secret government programmes" has been around for a while by this point and it would only add fuel to the fire for many gullible ufologists. In an interview one year after the release, he speaks of NASA writing him a 20-page letter asking him not to make this movie. This interview gets taken out of context often by overzealous ufologists as Spielberg himself clarifies in the interview that NASA did not want epidemic of people being afraid and reporting UFOs, in a similar vein how Jaws left an impact on the populace being afraid of sharks to an irrational degree.
- Assuming the figures are correct, traveling at 40 times c for 10 months would mean that Serpo could only be 33.3 lightyears away, not 39 as described. Alternatively, if it is in fact 39 Ly distant, then the trip took must have taken 11.7 months at 40-times the speed of light: alternatively, if it did indeed take 10 months, then the spacecraft must have been traveling at 46.8-times the speed of light. Of course, the usual escape hatch for this failure of very basic maths is that "wormholes" reduced the distance travelled - at which point one has to wonder why the wormholes only covered ~15% of the distance and they had to fly the rest normally! Though it could be argued that the story is related by a security guard, who, due to not understanding related physics, could misremember relatively minor to him details, like exact numbers.
- Believers in Serpo cite the use of wormholes to explain the travel time. Wormholes are purely theoretical phenomena. None has ever been observed. No UFO enthusiast has ever satisfactorily explained how a wormhole could be contrived to exit at a chosen place in the universe.[note 2]
- The ζ Reticuli binary stars are many thousands of astronomical units apart. A planetary orbit is problematic because any classic orbit around just one of the stars would be so eccentric that temperature variation over the planet's year would be so extreme as to make multicellular life very difficult. The claim that radiation at Serpo's surface is intense is also hard to believe.
- The stars are relatively young, perhaps only half as old as our Sun. While that fact does not rule out the evolution of a technically advanced civilization, it certainly reduces the probability.
- Anti-matter as an energy source is not a ridiculous idea per se. However, this raises the question "What is the anti-matter contained in?" The best that CERN scientists have been able to do in terms of containment time in a magneto-optical trap is approximately 17 minutes.  Another issue is that the creation of antimatter takes as much or more energy than it yields in return, unless one could find a source of antimatter and effectively mine it (which itself is an issue due to the containment problem).
- Kasten, Len (2013). Secret Journey to Planet Serpo: A True Story of Interplanetary Travel. Rochester, Vermont: Bear & Company. ISBN 978-1591431466.
- Collins, Robert; Doty, Richard (2006). The Black World of UFOs: Exempt from Disclosure. Vandalia, Ohio: Peregrine Communications. ISBN 978-0976642633.
- Text of the original e-mail plus comments
- C2C official summary of the 6 December 2005 show featuring Richard Doty, Bill Ryan and Whitley Strieber.
- "Official" webshite
- Bill Ryan's farewell to serpo.org
- The Outpost Forum, custodian of serpo.org
- Reality Uncovered attempt to disentangle the story
- Exopaedia article on Serpo
- Exopaedia article on Richard Doty
- "Richard C. Doty, self-claimed government UFO disinformation agent, a UFO charlatan and con man" Civilian Intelligence News Service
- Howe's information apparently pre-dated the main Serpo hoax by many years. She wrote to Bill Ryan:
- "I learned back in the 1983-1984 time period about an alleged exchange program of humans leaving Holloman AFB on April 25, 1964, for Zeta Reticuli with non-humans while I was working on a Home Box Office television special entitled, "UFOs: The E. T. Factor." I was told three human men went: one died on the alien planet; one went insane (don't know fate); and one returned to Earth and was given a safe house in which to live the rest of his life on an island provided for by the U. S. government.
- My main source was Robert Emenegger, the writer of UFOs: Past, Present and Future , which was broadcast in the U. S. on television in the late 1970s."
- Wormholes were first theorized in 1916, though that wasn't what they were called at the time. While reviewing another physicist's solution to the equations in Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, Austrian physicist Ludwig Flamm realized another solution was possible. He described a "white hole," a theoretical time reversal of a black hole. Entrances to both black and white holes could be connected by a space-time conduit.
- Secret Journey to Planet Serpo. Excerpts archived from et-secrethistory.com in 2014.
- C2C summary of 3 May 2019 show
- Reality Uncovered article, July 2008
- See, for example, this ATS thread
- The Woo-meister Linda Moulton Howe using a loaded question to further her pseudoscientific agenda: Did NASA Try to Stop Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” Movie? (Spoiler alert: No, they did not)
- How Jaws misrepresented the great white - BBC
- Antimatter of Fact. The Economist, 9 June 2011