February 17, 2007
Good news for Canada. Maybe not so good for the U.S.
MONTREAL — As real-estate listings go, this one is out of this world. A property is on sale in Quebec for a cool $2.95-million, and it even comes with its own flying saucer.
UFOland, the playground and pied-à-terre of the white-robed prophet known as Rael, is on the market — a onetime utopia that appears to have fallen to Earth.
The Raelians, who gained global notoriety in late 2002 after announcing the birth of a yet-to-be-seen cloned baby, say their popu-
larity has peaked in Quebec. So they are packing up and moving south.
“We’ve been in Quebec for 30 years and our membership is saturated. Our future is in the United States,” said group spokesman Jocelyn Chabot, who describes himself as a Raelian priest.
Observers say it’s a sign of decline for a sect that once piled up publicity with its beliefs in telepathy, aliens and free love. UFOland was the group’s headquarters and world embassy, a shrine to its belief that humans were created in an alien lab 25,000 years ago.
Only four years ago, the cloning announcement brought throngs of journalists to UFOland from as far away as Australia and Japan.
Now it’s all available for the right price. The property, which is already posted on one Internet site, sprawls over 110 hectares in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. It offers campgrounds, lakes, an amphitheatre, offices and — for those with otherworldly tastes — a condominium building in the shape of a spaceship.
… Mr. Chabot said the group wants to relocate to the southern United States and already holds self-enlightenment retreats in Las Vegas, which happens to be where Rael spends some of his time these days.
“Our next sessions will be in Palm Springs,” Mr. Chabot added.
It’s possible that some of the group’s practices may not be welcomed in Permatanland:
Rael and his followers have had a series of setbacks in Quebec. A crucifix-burning campaign provoked an outcry. Rael, who insists on being addressed by journalists as Your Holiness, had his topknot pulled by a fellow guest on a popular talk show in 2004. Former Quebec cabinet minister Pauline Marois, also a guest, then called Rael “raving mad.”
The tabloid Journal de Montréal ran an unflattering exposé on the group, and the Raelians’s cloned baby never materialized.
… [Maricourt Mayor Réjean] Paquette said that group members made their mark when they came into nearby Valcourt to do their shopping. He once spotted Rael wandering around in his futuristic-looking robes and surrounded by women; sometimes a couple would be seen kissing while out shopping for groceries.
“Maybe they were a bit exuberant,” he said. “But they always paid their property taxes on time.”
It’s the little things that matter.
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