As anyone who has ever pulled a white rabbit out of a black hat will tell you, the art of fooling people depends on doing things right in front of their eyes.
What, then, might one think of the explanations being offered to the poor, frightened people of Cowley County in Kansas? For just a few hours ago, they witnessed what some of them suspected was an extra-terrestrial craft being wheeled through their streets.
It was only last Monday afternoon when a vast shrink-wrapped, saucer-shaped thing was seen being towed down Cowley County's Highway 77.
Street signs had to be moved so that this saucer didn't fly into them. Is it any wonder that slightly cowed Cowleyites believed this to be a UFO?
Because technology lies at the very heart of Kansas--why, Sprint is headquartered there--the locals filmed this troubling sight. The saucer must have been at least 30 feet wide.
Of course, the local authorities, no doubt feeling the need to be authoritative, immediately announced there was no need to be alarmed.
A PR man from Northrop Grumman suddenly materialized to tell the world that this was an X-47B drone, destined for use by the Navy. But did he say this to the Associated Press? Oh, no. He told it to Life's Little Mysteries.
Who in Kansas might not have imagined that this was deliberate symbolism on the PR man's part? Tell them it's a drone, but make them feel that there still might be a mystery here.
The PR man, whose official name is Brooks McKinney, added to the frisson of fright by saying: "Clearly people are interested in what's going through town. It's unusual to see a shrink-wrapped aircraft, especially one with that shape."
Clearly. Or not so clearly, given that the spooked residents couldn't see through the wrapping to confirm that this was merely a spook plane.
McKinney even had an answer as to why the drone didn't fly to its alleged destination in Maryland: "It's difficult to fly an unmanned drone through commercial airspace."
It all sounds so very plausible. But in times in which earth-like planets are blossoming out of nowhere and presidential candidates say they will have judges arrested, who can be sure what to believe?
Will be people of Cowley County sleep well tonight? Will their social events now be conducted entirely behind closed doors with only those knowing the special password--"Martians"--being allowed inside? It's not as if the hauling truck stopped in order to allow the residents a peek beneath the shrink wrap.
Even Life's Little Mysteries seems not to be entirely convinced by the McKinney PR spinny.
Something is happening, but I don't know what it is.