But extraterrestrials can also embody people's fears, looking radically different from human life.
Pop culture depictions of aliens don't seem to be slowing down. On cable, there's the acclaimed mini-series "Torchwood: Children of Earth," where the aliens' sinister thoughts are spoken through possessed children. And this fall, ABC will add a new series to the list of those on creatures from outer space.
The members of Starborn believe, however, that this is not just the stuff of science fiction, but fact. They said that coming forward with their beliefs is challenging.
Terrell Copeland, a former U.S. Marine, traveled the farthest to attend the "secret" meeting, driving 600 miles from rural Virginia. Copeland's foray into the paranormal began two years ago with a UFO sighting he said was captured on his cell phone from his apartment in downtown Suffolk, Va.
"It was an orb of light," he said. "Just a big ball of light. It wasn't moving. One was solid white. The other was directly across the street from it ... up 300 feet above ground and was changing colors very rapidly.
"This is ... this is not usual. Something's wrong here. Maybe I am in over my head. I'm not supposed to be looking at this stuff," Copeland, 27, who drives forklifts at a warehouse for a living, recalled thinking.
But after the video of what Copeland said he witnessed in the sky was posted on YouTube, he said a strange visitor came to his front door.
"I woke up from the nap by the sound of someone trying to enter my apartment," he said. "And I said, 'Who is it?' There was no answer. Still just, you know, you could see the door knob moving and like a scratching at the door. And I keep a firearm. It was on my table. And my thought was to get up and check.
"I was in complete paralysis. The only things I could move were my eyes. And I heard a voice through the door say, 'You don't need that weapon. We won't harm.'"
Soon after, Copeland said he started experiencing what he calls "missing time." During a span of two nights, Copeland said, he missed four hours -- not as a result of sleep.
"When you see these object[s], and then you do the research and you see that there are so many people who have experienced the same thing as you ... you have to say to yourself ... maybe there is something to this," he said.
With the number of unexplained UFO sightings mounting, Copeland began keeping a log and sketching what he believes he witnessed during the "missing time" episodes.
"I was a in a room and I saw a woman who did not have complete human features," he recalled from the night he said he was abducted in 2006. "She had the typical black eyes that you hear about. She had an elongated skull. And that startled me. And the next memory I have is me standing on my balcony waving at this cylinder-shaped ship."
Copeland said that his experiences with aliens have spiritually transformed him.
"I just want to be a better person because if I feel if someone from above took notice of me ... then maybe I'm doing something right. And if I'm doing something right, maybe I can do it better," he said.
Copeland's otherworldly convictions are shared by thousands of believers. Hundreds flocked to the national convention of the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON, in Denver this month to share their experiences with like-minded believers.