A group of former Congressmen convened at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. earlier this month to hear impassioned eyewitness testimony on everything from the Roswell “incident” to more recent, unexplained lights in the sky. Vanity Fair this month published a lengthy profile of Harvard psychiatrist John Edward Mack—a man who believed, implausibly, in alien abduction.

Meanwhile, the “world’s first comprehensive” UFO exhibition recently opened in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where organizers promise 200 artifacts ranging from replicas of the Easter Island statues to “authentic video and audio recordings of people reporting alien encounters.

“Myrtle Beach is a hot spot for sightings,” one organizer points out in a not-quite-skeptical account of local sightings on CarolinaLive.com.

What is it about UFOs that drive so many people to believe they exist despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary? According to a 2012 National Geographic poll, 36 percent of Americans believe aliens have visited earth. And yet, as a concerned acquaintance wrote to Harvard’s Mack in 1994, such visitations “contradict virtually all of the basic laws of physics, chemistry and biology on which modern science depends.”