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The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America's UFO Highway

The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America's UFO Highway

3.7 3
by Ben Mezrich

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A real-life mix of The X-Files and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Mezrich “writes vividly and grippingly…A terrific story…[that] will make a heck of a movie” (The Washington Post). Here is the “fascinating” (Publishers Weekly) true story of a computer programmer who tracks paranormal events in


A real-life mix of The X-Files and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Mezrich “writes vividly and grippingly…A terrific story…[that] will make a heck of a movie” (The Washington Post). Here is the “fascinating” (Publishers Weekly) true story of a computer programmer who tracks paranormal events in remote areas of the western United States and is drawn deeper and deeper into a mysterious conspiracy.

Like Agent Mulder of The X-Files, microchip engineer and sheriff’s deputy Chuck Zukowski is obsessed with tracking down UFO reports in Colorado. He even takes the family with him on weekend trips to look for evidence of aliens. But this innocent hobby takes on a sinister urgency when Zukowski learns of mutilated livestock—whose exsanguination is inexplicable by any known human or animal means.

Along an expanse of land stretching across the southern borders of Utah, Colorado, and Kansas, Zukowski documents hundreds of bizarre incidences of mutilations, and discovers that they stretch through the heart of America. His pursuit of the truth draws him deeper into a vast conspiracy, and he journeys from Roswell and Area 51 to the Pentagon and beyond; from underground secret military caverns to Native American sacred sites; and to wilderness areas where strange, unexplained lights traverse the sky at extraordinary speeds. Inspiring and terrifying, Mezrich’s “dramatic narrative…connects dots we didn’t even know existed…Something’s clearly happening out there in the high meadows and along desert highways” (Kirkus Reviews). The 37th Parallel will make you, too, wonder if we are really alone.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mezrich (Once Upon a Time in Russia) pieces together a fascinating, if ultimately disappointing, account of a UFO investigator’s quest to find evidence meretricious enough to convince his skeptical wife and the world at large that UFO’s exist. Chuck Zukowski takes up UFO investigations as a hobby, but it slowly turns into something more. He travels widely, often with his family, to museums, UFO “hot spots,” and locations of sightings and strange phenomena. As he develops tools and connections to investigate further, he finds himself risking his job and safety to find the truth. Each firsthand account fills in a little more of the unfolding puzzle, and Zukowski’s personality and close observations bring the investigations to life. Mezrich approaches the material seriously, preserving the human element but taking care to present the facts. Zukowski’s realization that many sightings and events line up along the 37th parallel is the culmination of years of investigations, and after thrilling stories of lights in the sky, screams in the night, and mysterious dark helicopters, readers will be more than ready for the exciting revelation. However, perhaps in a misguided attempt to preserve a sense of mystery, Mezrich artfully censors Zukowski’s final discovery. What is the promised secret of the 37th parallel? If Zukowski said, Mezrich isn’t telling. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
Roswell? Area 51? In a book to make X-Files fans twitch in excitement, Mezrich (Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs—A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder, 2015, etc.) connects dots we didn’t even know existed.“Is there a dead cow in the back of this truck?....It’s not the whole cow.” Chuck Zukowski is the sort of rural cop who calls for a geekier Dennis Weaver or Tommy Lee Jones to portray him, a sheriff’s reserve deputy in the high country of Colorado—geekier because he’s employed in the tech industry and no stranger to the intricacies of computers and telescopes. Yet, Zukowksi is also one of those fellows who “scour newspapers, check Internet boards, searching for anything that mentioned UFOs or unexplained sightings.” Then there’s the business of the livestock mutilations, a specialty of his, which explains the presence of those half-cows in the bed of his pickup truck: “He hadn’t intended to cart his current mutilation into Denver,” writes Mezrich of a typical Zukowski moment, “but as with any vocation, sometimes life got in the way.” As the author notes in a narrative that is occasionally redacted, these mutilations would seem to be endemic to Colorado, dating back to the 1960s and accompanied by sightings of UFOs. The tangled history of those mutilations and the efforts of Colorado citizens and politicians to find an explanation for them is worth the cover price of the book alone, but there’s more: Mezrich joins the odd facts of those unfortunate dead cows and horses to secret landing strips, shadowy corporations, and sunglasses-clad government agents, the usual stuff of every other ET exposé. The author does it better than most, but, apart from a nicely dramatic narrative, there’s not much definitive in the findings. Something’s clearly happening out there in the high meadows and along desert highways, but what it is remains a matter of speculation. Mezrich probably won’t sway the skeptical, but fans of Art Bell and company will find all the affirmation they need.
Press Association (UK)
"[E]xtremely engaging … the inclusion of photos and important documents really helps the reader understand the intricacies of the investigation."
Washington Post
“Mezrich writes vividly and grippingly… It all makes a terrific story.”
USA Today
"The 37th Parallel makes strong case for UFO's. Riveting."

Product Details

Atria Books
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

The 37th Parallel


37.2841° N, 108.7787° W

September 12, 2000. A stretch of interstate highway winding along the base of the Ute Mountain Range near the Colorado–New Mexico border, a little after 4:00 p.m.

In a panoramic splash of pine trees and puffs of falling snow, flashes of brilliant sunlight reflected off the cap of Ute Peak, the Sleeping Mountain, high above. And then a beat-up RV lumbered into view. Over the rumble of the camper’s engines rose the off-key tenor of an all-American family sing-along.

Chuck Zukowski was at the wheel of the twenty-four-foot Winnebago Warrior Class A, both hands tapping out the rhythm of “Sweet Home Alabama” on the thick vinyl of the steering wheel cover. Early forties, sandy-haired, fit, Chuck was smiling as he navigated the camper down the serpentine asphalt. His three kids were in the back, one girl and two boys, and his wife, Tammy, a pretty brunette, was up front, joining Chuck in keeping the beat with her fingers against the dash. From the lines beneath Chuck’s blue eyes, it was obvious that they’d been driving for quite some time, but there was enough vivid scenery flashing by outside to keep even the youngest kid from getting bored. This sort of road trip was something the Zukowski clan enjoyed. In fact, when Chuck finally spotted the small ranch-style motel along the highway, coinciding with the notice from the dulcet tone of the RV’s audio GPS, he was almost reluctant to pull in for the night.

After parking the RV in the empty motel lot, Chuck grabbed a pair of room keys from the lobby manager, and the Zukowski family settled into two adjoining rooms overlooking a tarp-covered pool. The kids went straight for the TV in their room, after a quick dinner, microwaved to perfection in the RV, but next door, Tammy headed for the bed and sank into it with a tattered paperback, exhausted from the long day in the camper.

A few hours later, the kids finally let the TV get some rest, and Chuck closed the door between the two rooms. The sun was long gone outside, the view of the shuttered pool replaced by an inky blackness, broken only by the occasional flare of neon from the vacancy sign hanging above the motel lobby. Tammy was still digging into the paperback, but Chuck could tell she was down for the night. He ran his fingers through her hair and then told her he was going out for a short walk. Barely looking up from the book, she asked him to get some ice from the machine on his way back.

He took the ice bucket from the mantel by the door and headed out to the parking lot. Opening the back of the RV, he leaned into a four-by-four storage compartment and reached toward a locked strongbox affixed to one wall. With a jangle of keys, he pried open the box and exchanged the ice bucket—which he would fill when he returned to the Winnebago—for his equipment: a three-pound police flashlight, a video recorder, an EMF counter, and three rectangular batteries. Then he reached for the leather holster hanging from a hook at the back of the box and removed his .40 caliber Glock from it before checking the cartridges and strapping it to his waist.

By the time he exited the RV, snow had started to fall again, but even so he could see the headlights snaking toward him down the desolate highway.

•  •  •

Two hours later Chuck was breathing hard as he burst through the last line of thick pines into a clearing following his two companions—an athletic man, midthirties, sporting a pony tail and dressed in a thick hunting jacket with a machete slung over one shoulder, and a thin, slightly older woman struggling along in a bulky snowsuit and too many scarves. Tufts of low grass covered in snow punctuated the field of icy gravel. The three of them were now at least eight thousand feet up, high enough to feel the altitude; the other man, Joe Fex, part Native American, a rugged outdoorsman reared on the ranches that pockmarked this corner of the country, was barely sweating as he began setting up their makeshift campsite, raising a canvas tent to protect their equipment. But the woman was trembling from exhaustion and certainly fear. Chuck had no worries about Fex; the big man was an old friend and had accompanied Chuck on many similar excursions over the years. But the woman was a wild card; Chuck had met her over the Internet not two weeks earlier, and the drive over to the base of this hike was the longest time Chuck had spent with her in person. Chuck would have been much happier if they could have left her behind—but it was her information that had brought them to this spot.

According to her website, she was supposed to be some sort of psychic. Chuck wasn’t the type to judge anyone—for all he knew she had a cemetery full of dead people on speed dial. More likely, she was batshit crazy, but it didn’t really matter. As usual, Chuck had done his research. The psychic might have been the first to turn him on to this particular location, but now he had a case file an inch thick on this place.

Case file or no, the next two hours licked past in near silence, the three of them getting colder as the wind picked up, rustling through the nearby pines and sending ice chips and gravel skittering across the ground. Chuck wondered if they should cut out and chalk it up as another in a long list of wild-goose chases. In a few more hours, the kids would be waking up, and Tammy would want to get back on the road and find someplace for a good, cheap breakfast. Maybe there was a Denny’s somewhere up the interstate.

Chuck froze midthought, as he noticed something strange. The wind seemed to have stopped—not gradually, but suddenly—and the air went silent. He opened his mouth to say something to Joe, but before he could get the words out, there was a sudden flash of light in the pitch-black sky above. Incredibly bright, at least three hundred feet up—and it stayed lit. Before Chuck could shout for Joe to grab the camera from the tent, a second light joined the first, and the two flashes sprinted through the air in a wide arc. Then, it seemed as if the entire sky had opened up, lights exploding everywhere, brighter than the Fourth of July.

“Holy shit!” Chuck screamed. “Joe . . .”

Joe was already dashing at full speed around the psychic—who had curled into a ball on the ground, her face a mask of pure terror—and into the tent. He quickly returned with the camera and all three batteries. Chuck grabbed the camera from Joe’s shaking hands, turned it toward the sky, hit the button—and . . . nothing.

The camera was dead.

Chuck cursed, yanking the battery out of the device, jamming the second fresh battery into the base. He hit the button again. And again, nothing. He tried the third battery, but it was obvious all three batteries were now, inexplicably, completely drained. Chuck felt his pulse rocketing in his veins. To have one backup battery go out would have been unusual—but all three?

“What the hell are they?” Joe shouted, as the two men stared at the lights arcing back and forth through the sky above them. “Helicopters?”

Chuck shook his head. His mouth was dry, his chest constricted with fear. He’d never seen anything like this before.

“No way. Helicopters can’t move like that. Or fly that close together.”

“A meteor shower? Some sort of discharge? Or . . .”

And just as suddenly as they had started, the lights vanished. Completely. The sky went back to black. A strange, intense silence spread across the clearing, severe as a leather belt snapping tight. Not a single tree branch twitched.

And then a high-pitched scream pierced the air, from somewhere below the tree line, maybe two hundred feet down the mountain.

Christ. Chuck looked at Joe as the screaming grew louder. There was a crashing of tree branches: Whatever was making that noise was coming toward them. Some sort of animal, maybe an elk or a moose, running at full speed, screaming that unnerving, terrified scream. Bearing down on them, louder and louder, diving headlong through the pines toward the clearing . . .

And then just as suddenly as it had started, the noise cut off dead, midscream. The animal, whatever it was, had been running from something. Something that had taken it down in a single stroke.

The breeze picked back up, and the night switched back to normal, as if none of what Chuck and his companions had just experienced had ever happened.

Chuck stared at Joe, at the way the big man was shivering beneath his hunting jacket, and then at the psychic, who was sobbing on the ground. Then he looked down at his own trembling hands, one of which was resting on the hilt of his .40, still in its holster.

He shook his head, completely unnerved.

“Whatever ran that animal down—this Glock isn’t near big enough, is it?”

At that, even in his terrified state, he almost cracked a smile.

Meet the Author

Ben Mezrich graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. He has published fifteen books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Accidental Billionaires, which was adapted into the Academy Award–winning film The Social Network, and Bringing Down the House, which has sold more than 1.5 million copies in twelve languages and was the basis for the hit movie 21. He lives in Boston.

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The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America's UFO Highway 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A solid piece of non-fiction in a good narrative style. It is a tough thing to do, making a non-fiction book as engaging as a novel but this book pulls it off.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America's UFO Highway by Ben Mezrich is recommended for UFO believers and fans of The X-Files. Chuck Zukowski has been interested in UFOs for years and has investigated reports and areas of activity in his own time for years. Mezrich follows Zukowski's beginnings as an UFO hobbyist whose interest turns him into an investigator. He began with an abiding interest in UFOs. He had telescopes to scan the night skies and visited tourist spots like Area 51, Taos, N.M (the hum) and Roswell. Then he began to look into animal mutilations. He and his family moved from California to Colorado so Zukowski could be closer to where activities are being reported. While a sheriff's deputy in Colorado, he assembled a kit to assist in investigating any reported animal mutilations that defied normal explanations (predators, hunters). According to Zukowski there are 10,000 unexplained animal mutilations every year. The book looks into several of these cases that Zukowski personally investigated. Mezrich also covers Zukowski's investigations conducted with his sister, who is a member of MUFON. There is one incident that seems like a direct X-Files episode, with men in black and everything. Mezrich follows the evolution of Zukowski's interest in UFOs over the years to his realization that the thing that ties most cases together is that they have occurred in the 37th parallel. Mezrich presents Zukowski's search in a serious, factual manner and includes photographs, a bibliography and an index. The whole book leads up to the revelation about the 37th parallel and then... that's it, which is more than a little disappointing considering it is in the title of the book. I'm not sure if Mezrich coverage of Zukowski's investigations turn up any definite answers, but this is a quick read and interesting enough to hold your attention. Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.