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Project Blue Book
“Project Blue Book” turns some of the best-known UFO tales into a TV series, starring Aidan Gillen as investigator J. Allen Hynek. (History Channel Illustration)

“Project Blue Book,” the History Channel TV series making its debut tonight, takes its inspiration from classic UFO cases of the 1940s and 1950s — but for UFO fans who gathered to watch a Seattle preview of the first episode, the show hints at the shape of things to come as well.

“You won’t believe how many productions are coming down the pike right now to basically red-pill the public,” Michael W. Hall, the founder of a Seattle-area group called UFOiTeam, said at the screening. “The truth is out there, and guess what? We’re going to have to ‘fess up to it right away.”

“Project Blue Book” fictionalizes the real-life X-files of pioneer UFO investigator J. Allen Hynek. So it was natural for.Hall — an attorney based in Edmonds, Wash., who styles himself as the “Paranormal Lawyer” — to put out the word to the more than two dozen UFOiTeam members to attend November’s movie-theater preview.

The series takes its name from the real-life Project Blue Book, a U.S. Air Force campaign that investigated UFO reports starting in the 1950s. Hynek was the scientific consultant for the project, as he was for two earlier investigations known as Project Sign and Project Grudge.

The trained astrophysicist eventually came to believe that some UFO sightings were genuine mysteries and deserved more serious scrutiny. Nevertheless, the Air Force shut the project down in 1970 .

Hynek, who passed away in 1986 at the age of 75, is a kindred spirit for UFO enthusiasts — and particularly for folks like Maureen Morgan, who is Washington state director for the Mutual UFO Network, also known as MUFON.

Morgan and other MUFON investigators take reports like the ones chronicled in “Project Blue Book” very, very seriously.

“Generally when we call and interview everyone who submits a report about a sighting, invariably the first thing that comes out of their mouth is, ‘You’re going to think I’m crazy,’ ” she said. “And then I remind them who they’re talking to and say, ‘No, we’ve probably heard it before.’ ”

MUFON isn’t the only organization documenting anomalous aerial phenomena. The National UFO Reporting Center, or NUFORC, has been compiling records for decades. The center’s current director, Peter Davenport, has his headquarters in an converted ICBM missile site in Eastern Washington.

Washington state has a rich history of UFO sightings — going back to 1947, when private airplane pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing weird-looking aircraft flying past Mount Rainier at incredible speed. News stories about Arnold’s claims gave rise to the term “flying saucer,” and set the stage for the Roswell UFO incident weeks later.

Another 1947 UFO sighting in the Puget Sound region, known as the Maury Island Incident, entered local lore as well (and spawned a documentary that’s available to watch online).

The first few episodes of “Project Blue Book” focus on different locales — starting with North Dakota, the setting for a UFO incident reported by an Air National Guard pilot in 1948.

In the series premiere, Hynek (played by “Game of Thrones” veteran Aidan Gillen) is recruited by the Air Force to track down an explanation for the pilot’s sighting. He takes the job more seriously than the Air Force wants him to, however, and eventually runs up against shadowy spies and the infamous Men in Black.

Other early episodes take on the case of the Flatwoods Monster (West Virginia, 1952) and the mystery of the Lubbock Lights (Texas, 1951).

Will “Project Blue Book” become a phenomenon of “X Files” proportions? Based on the premiere, the show seems a bit too earnest to strike that chord. Throwing in some quirky “Monster of the Week” episodes and the geeky Lone Gunmen might liven things up. But that might clash with Hynek’s straight-arrow vibe.

The series’ serious tone certainly suited the folks on the UFOiTeam. For them, anomalous phenomena aren’t merely fodder for a retro TV show. In this age of media mistrust and government dysfunction, maybe programs like “Project Blue Book” are in line with the temper of the times.

“Without the MUFONs and the iTeams, without the National UFO Reporting Center, there is nothing out there, and it will revert to the deep state, whatever,” Morgan said. “It will go back to the same people who were behind Project Blue Book.”

The History Channel’s “Project Blue Book” premieres tonight. Check local listings for times.

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