FRESNO, Calif. -- There's no other way to say it: Tony Presser and Joe Thor believe in aliens from outer space.
Not just a vague suspicion that "something is out there."
They are true enthusiasts in a global subculture with millions of fellow believers, computer data bases, books and a mishmash of theories.
The theories explain everything from strange lights in the sky to secret military bases to the John F. Kennedy assassination to the origin of modern man and Jesus Christ to cattle mutilations.
Mr. Thor, a Fresno businessman, says he has seen an extra-terrestrial close up. Mr. Presser, a College of the Sequoias instructor, says today's human beings are a crossbreed of extra-terrestrials and cave men.
But the strangest part may be that Mr. Thor and Mr. Presser appear to be just what they say: two regular guys, family men, sane and solid citizens who believe in aliens and a U.S. government cover-up.
"I'm a level-headed guy," Mr. Thor says. "Maybe a little impulsive sometimes, but I'm a responsible person. I know it sounds unbelievable, but there's just too much evidence to dismiss."
Mr. Thor, 39, has an industrial engineering degree from Fresno State University. He owns a local print shop and a computer service.
He says that he has always been interested in unidentified flying objects but that last year his curiosity was sparked by a television show about reported UFO sightings, an alleged cover-up of alien visits and research at a secret Air Force base in the desert north of Las Vegas.
Deciding to see for himself, Mr. Presser says he drove there, parked the car on a mountain above the remote base and waited.
Mr. Thor says he saw strange distant lights in the night and strange shadows across the moon that may have been alien spacecraft but that a near encounter convinced him.
According to Mr. Thor, a base security guard in a four-wheel-drive vehicle drove by in the dark about 20 yards away. The vehicle's dome light was on and the guard did not see Mr. Thor in the darkness.
In the passenger seat, sitting upright, was -- well -- something not human, says Mr. Thor.
"You'll probably think I'm crazy, but it was a female creature, maybe half-human, with blond hair and big dark eyes and a wide face," he says.
"You know, your typical alien."
He says he is open to all possibilities -- secret Air Force aircraft prototypes, meteors, unusual weather phenomena -- but his close encounters have made him a believer.
"I wouldn't believe in this stuff if I hadn't seen it myself," he says.
Mr. Thor says his motivation for learning the truth about "Area 51" or "Dreamland" -- the reported alien section of Nellis Air Force Base -- has to do with the public's right to know about government activities and the benefits to mankind from interaction with advanced beings.
"What could we learn? How could it affect us? Could we solve world hunger and war and diseases with their help?"
Mr. Presser, 54, an English and journalism instructor, has believed for years in the existence of extra-terrestrials and their ancient interaction with humans.
Mr. Presser, who also says he has seen strange lights in the sky, cites biblical passages, in part, as support for theories that say mankind is a genetic manipulation of extra-terrestrials and Adam and Eve.
He talks about the history of reported human contact with extra-terrestrials -- from the "ancient astronaut theory" that says aliens have been visiting this planet for thousands of years to modern-day encounters that began with an Air Force pilot reporting a flying saucer in 1947 to the reported 10th planet in the solar system as the home of some aliens.
"There are flakes, and there are genuine researchers who present evidence backing up their claims," Mr. Presser says.
"There's just too much here to say everyone is lying."
In this subculture -- sane or insane depending on your perspective -- the theories seem endless: Christ is a creation of aliens; the Secret Service assassinated John F. Kennedy because he was about to expose the government's cover-up of aliens; livestock and humans are being mutilated in alien medical experiments.
And then there are the bizarre ones.