This past weekend we took a trip out to Charleston, SC- mostly because Jon had a free room from Hotels.com that was about to expire. Of course we made sure to stop at any points of interest along the way, and the highlight to me was the UFO Welcome Center.
According to Wikipedia, the UFO Welcome Center was constructed by local man Jody Pendarvis in 1994. Its purpose is to offer a rest stop for any visiting UFOs, in a comfortable and familiar-looking environment.
We found it in the tiny town of Bowman, SC, next to a gas station, a trailer, and a man on the corner sitting on a box. We originally thought he was waiting for a bus, but we later understood that sitting at the corner was his To-Do for the day. The Welcome Center had a junkyard-like exterior, but it was clear we’d come to the right place.
We worked our way around the exterior, happy to simply take a few pictures and be on our way.
But it was then that we came to an entrance we hadn’t seen from where we’d parked.
Now here we were greeted by mixed messages. It says DANGER, NO EARTH PEOPLE, UNSAFE, and SPACE PEOPLE ONLY. But it also says ENTER AT OWN RISK and PUSH, which suggests that perhaps the daring are allowed to come inside and look around. We took turns peeking in the crack by the gate and considering our next move. At that point I heard something, a sound like a person inside moving around. I also heard some cheesy 70s sci-fi music coming from inside.
I quickly moved from the gate and whispered “We can’t go in! This is somebody’s house and he’s in there! I heard him! He’s watching tv or something (I assumed he was watching a 70s sci-fi movie)! Besides, the gate says that we’re not supposed to go in!”
We moved further away from the gate and Jon helped me deliberate. He said that the sci-fi music coming from inside was probably part of the “exhibit”, plus there was a wooden box inside that was spray-painted with the word TIPS, which suggested he was in there to give tours. To earth people or space aliens?
We continued to hem and haw when another car pulled up. A woman came out with her teenaged daughter, and clearly they were here to see the UFO Welcome Center, since the only other things around for miles were a gas station and a man on a box sitting at the corner. This woman’s arrival seemed to trigger something in Jon and me simultaneously, and we both purposefully about-faced and headed right to the gate, where we boldly entered at our own risk. I guess we both wanted to beat the other lady to it.
An old man came over immediately and greeted us. I went back to being timid and smiled, saying “hi” softly. He asked if we would like a tour of the Welcome Center, and I, still feeling timid, said “Oh, I would love to…um, I mean, if we’re not bothering you or anything…”
By this time the lady and her daughter had caught up and she was much louder and friendlier than I was. The old man, who was indeed Jody Pendarvis, asked if the four of us were together and the lady yelled “No, we came separate! You just caught the lunch rush! Haw haw haw! We’re from FLORIDA driving to CONNECTICUT and we’re making a SPECIAL TRIP to see the UFO WELCOME CENTER!”
Jody didn’t seem to acknowledge her more than a nod. He said to me “You want me to open it?” I didn’t quite know what he was talking about, but I said yes. He moved to the other side of the space pod, pressed a button, and the bay door of the saucer cranked into life. The door to the craft was motorized and dropped to the ground (like a ramp) very, very slowly-
Agonizingly slowly, actually. I later asked Jon how long he thought it took for the door to drop and he said probably four minutes. During that time we all stood around awkwardly. Well, some of us felt awkward. Florida Lady acted like she’s never felt awkward for one minute of her life. While we were waiting, she yelled “CUTE BOOTS!”, meaning my boots. I smiled and whispered “thank you” and wished she would go away. Then, while the door continued to drop, she told Jody the UFO Man that she’s seen REAL UFOs before, in FLORIDA. Of course you have…, I thought to myself, guessing Jon was thinking the same. “This wasn’t a SATELLITE- it was STATIONARY! That’s how you knew it was a REAL UFO! It had red lights trailing off it!”
Jody continued to pay very little attention to Florida Lady and her daughter. When the door was finally open completely, he motioned for me to come on in! I took a tentative step inside, Jon right behind me, the Florida Lady and her daughter presumably trailing behind.
Wow, how to describe the interior. The word ramshackle comes to mind.
We didn’t get a picture of it, but there was a toilet on a high platform, without a curtain or anything. Wikipedia claims it’s a functioning toilet. It reminded me of these dreams I get sometimes where I have to go to the bathroom really badly and the only toilet around is in the middle of a crowded room.
He led us to the two sets of ladders that led to the upper flying saucers, encouraging Jon and me to follow. “Tell your boyfriend to watch his head!” There was low ceiling clearance in the saucer, for sure.
Yes, I always do everything that crazy old men in junkyards tell me to.
The two saucers had numerous hatches in them, where Jon and I took whac-a-mole-like pictures.
The purpose of the hatches were twofold- one, it was supposed to be the entrance for the aliens, who would feel more comfortable entering the Welcome Center from above; and two, the hatches served as a lookout point for the UFO Man to watch for aliens on clear nights.The view was definitely spectacular.
See the car at the end of the intersection there? That was Florida Lady. Apparently she and her daughter had given up and left while Jon and I were climbing all over the saucer. Jon pointed out later that her car had Tennessee plates.
Jody was happy to take my picture, but he insisted I make the Vulcan salute. Again I complied.
On the way down from the ladder, I noticed this sign on the first floor that I missed on the way up.
Heh. We did leave a tip for him, and he asked where we were from. Jon described our intended trip to Charleston, then Savannah.
“And where are you from?”
“Wow, Atlanta!” He said this as if he were very impressed to meet someone from such an exotic place, as if I’d said we were from Moldova or The Comoros or Vanuatu. “You LOOK like you’re from Atlanta!”
This made me so happy! Nobody has ever said that I look like I’m from Atlanta before. It doesn’t matter what he might mean by that- I look like I’m from Atlanta!
We said thank you and good-bye, and were back on our way. I admitted to Jon later of feeling a little guilty that Jody welcomed us warmly while being dismissive of the Florida Lady and her daughter. Maybe Jon and I resemble aliens and the sign clearly stated no earth people allowed. Jon said that the daughter seemed to be getting the creeps and didn’t want to climb the ladder. Or maybe Jody liked my Van Gogh tardis space dress. I hear that’s what people from Atlanta wear. Still, the lady was loud and overbearing upon entering while I was meek and mild. Being meek and mild have rarely done me any good in my life, so I feel pleased that it benefitted me just this once. Usually it’s something I try to work past.
By the way, I looked up the UFO Welcome Center in more detail after we got home. Stephen Colbert apparently visited this center in a 4th season Daily Show episode. I also found that two people have written Yelp reviews for the UFO Welcome Center. They both gave it one star. Some choice quotes from the highly critical Yelpers:
“ I almost feel bad for the guy. He really thinks that aliens are going to visit or have visited his place, but in truth is is the laughing stock of the town. Please do not encourage people to mock him, but at the same time..do not waste you time by visiting!”
“Does driving to it and seeing that it’s a complete heap, count? Basically, it’s a run down trailer with a large UFO on top, surrounded by a huge fence. Too creepy to go in thank you.”
Did you really need me to know that Yelpers are the dumbest people on earth? Both of those people have a hopeless case of Not Getting It Remotely and Completely Missing the Point.
I think if the aliens do come and visit, they would be lucky to have an ambassador like Jody.