High Strangeness

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks for UFOs

Well, it's happened again. For the second time in my very short career as a MUFON Certified UFO Field Investigator, one of my cases is in contention for MUFON's "Top 10" list!

It happened before, when a case involving a giant hovering UFO witnessed by a woman and her daughter was named one of MUFON's "Top 10 UFO Sightings" of 2012. It was a pretty cool case, but I'm even more excited about the new one. Well, I say "new," but it actually took place in 1980. It's a mass sighting at Fort McCoy, a military base in central Wisconsin, that involved as many as 50 servicemen.

The witness is now retired and is haunted by the event. He doesn't know what he saw, and realizes he may never know, but he wants to know if any of the other servicemen there that night remember seeing what he saw, a strange rectangular craft with two entities visible through a port in the front of the object.

His story, which you can read here, sure made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The sketch he sent me of the craft (below) is amazingly detailed and precise. I have spent a lot of time conversing with the witness of the phone and via email, and he has never given me the slightest reason to think that he was making this up or imagining it. This is one of those cases where my gut reaction is very Hynek-like: I absolutely believe that this witness had a real experience, but I have absolutely no idea what it could have been, or what level of reality from which it may have emerged...

I may learn more about the Top 10 selections next week, so I'll keep you posted!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Swamp Gas Fever!

I've just gotten updates about the two big speaking engagements I have lined up for 2016: the Great Roswell Debate, in which I will face off against Roswell brainiac Donald Schmitt to debate something or other about the Roswell saucer crash mystery; and the Swamp Gas UFO Conference, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the still-controversial Dexter-Hillsdale, Michigan, UFO sightings of 1966.

First off, the gentleman who is putting on the debate informs me that the big event will take place at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, next October 15-16. It will probably be the prime-time event that Saturday, but the schedule is not set in stone at this point.

He also had this to say about the debate:
"I spoke to someone from Marquette University's Debate Team, and he said he'd be glad to sit down and talk with me about running a debate effectively, giving me an overview on formats and such. I also got leads on people versed in debate that might make a good team to help run the event."
His approach gives me confidence that this could be a very good event, so stay tuned...

Then, I got this in the mail:

You know you want to be there.
This is pretty exciting to me. I'm thrilled that the folks at Michigan MUFON are putting on this event, and I am tickled to death that I get to take part.

I am sad to say, however, that the administration of Hillsdale College has declined to host any portion of the event or be involved in any way. Do you suppose the administrators were worried about the College's image? That seems to be the likely explanation, and if it's true then I think they made a bad choice, for their College, for their students, and for their community.

Nothing to do but move on... The only question for me now is, what exactly will I talk about?? With five other speakers on the program, I don't want to overlap with anything anyone else is doing, and I do want to make it worthwhile for people in the audience, so I want to provide some new and surprising information about the Dexter-Hillsdale event, the aftermath of which Dr. Hynek once described as "the low point of my career." I have given this a lot of thought, and I have decided on a few possibilities:

  • I can talk about why the American public were especially primed for a spectacular UFO event in March, 1966
  • I can divulge the real details of how and why Dr. Hynek was forced into giving a press conference at the Detroit Press Club before he had had a chance to fully investigate the sightings 
  • I can describe how Hynek's investigation of the sightings was hampered by the Air Force, the Michigan media, the local police, and even the witnesses
  • I can talk about how and why Dr. Hynek came up with the "swamp gas" hypothesis leading up to the Detroit press conference
  • I can tell the story of how Hynek turned the low point of his career into stupendous success, recognition and fame 

What do you think? If you could make it to Ann Arbor in March, what would you like to hear me babble about?

Friday, November 13, 2015

UFO Truth vs. UFO Legend

Boy, for a few minutes I thought I had uncovered an honest-to-God UFO conspiracy, and it was pretty exciting while it lasted!

It all started when I saw an email alert that someone had posted a very provocative question in a Facebook UFO group called "Global Aerial Phenomena Studies," and someone else had mentioned me in relation to the question. How about that?

The question was, "Did Dr. Hynek ever write or say anything about Roswell?" A provocative thought indeed. Is it possible that any UFO figure active in the field between 1947 and the present day could have avoided saying or writing anything about Roswell for the duration of his or her public life?

The questioner, Curt Collins, went on to say, "I'm sure he must have, but the only thing I've found is 2nd hand from disgraced Phil Imbrogno in 'Interdimensional Universe.' There's an article that seems like a good possibility, 'A Cosmic Watergate?' by Hynek in International UFO Reporter, vol. 9 Jan-Feb, 1984. Does he discuss Roswell there or anywhere else?"

Another group member, Jeremiah D, replied with the following: "I don't know, but I have been eagerly awaiting Mark O'Connell's forthcoming Hynek biography, 'Close Encounters Man' ( for better or worse)."

That's where I come into the story, obviously. Was I annoyed by Jeremiah's "for better or worse" comment? Heck no. I, like many other UFO chroniclers, subscribe to the Oscar Wilde school of publicity: 
"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."  
Anyway, Jeremiah quickly added this comment:  "'(for better or worse)' was a jab at UFO literature in general and my own seeming inability to not buy every single thing I come across on the subject, regardless of thesis or theory; not Mark or his book."

Thanks, J!

Back to our story: I thought it was a good question Curt had asked, so I went to the library of old issues of  International UFO Reporter that I have saved to my hard drive to read the article in question. It was then I found, to my terror, that all of Vol. 9 was a "corrupted file" and couldn't be opened!


At least that's what I thought until I tried to read the file from the original CD, and there it was, good as new. *whew* 

Conspiracy averted, I read Hynek's article about "A Cosmic Watergate" and was not surprised that he didn't mention Roswell in the story. So I posted a comment to Curt and Jeremiah: "I can't say with 100% certainty that Hynek NEVER wrote or said anything about Roswell, but I think I can safely say that if he ever had it would have been brief and derisive. He was generally disdainful of saucer crash stories, and was never committed to a 'nuts and bolts' explanation for UFOs." And that's where it ends for me.
"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend"

Well, then Curt posted some information that Hynek had spoken at the 1981 and '82 MUFON Symposiums, and that Stanton Friedman has also appeared at both events to talk about his Roswell research. Curt naturally wondered whether Hynek and Friedman could have crossed paths and talked about Roswell at those gatherings. I guess it's possible, but it's just as possible that Hynek appeared on Saturday and Friedman appeared on Sunday, or that they were there at the same time but Hynek spent the whole weekend avoiding Friedman. Or maybe they did have a talk but Roswell never came up. 
But... even if they had talked Roswell, that's not the same thing as Hynek making a public statement about Roswell, as just about anyone's public statements on such a volatile subject are bound to be different from their private statements.

So, unless I turn up any definitive proof either way, I'll have to file Curt's questions away as an interesting thought exercise. Which is not to say that there won't be any saucer crash stories in my Hynek bio, "The Close Encounters Man," they just might not be the ones you're expecting.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


I got an interesting comment yesterday in response to myrecent post about the “Ramey memo,” and I wanted to thank the anonymous reader who posted this. I am always happy when my blog provokes a heartfelt response, because UFOlogy is only made better by healthy debate and discussion.

So here’s my healthy response to your comments, anonymous:

"I often find you have a pretty superficial knowledge of various UFO-related issues, and an overly dismissive, jokey attitude, Mark."

The “overly dismissive, jokey attitude” is kind of the whole point of my blog, so thank you for noticing. When I started thinking about writing a UFO blog over 4 years ago, I knew that there were already dozens of dreary, deadly-serious UFO bloggers out there, and I didn’t see any point in being another one. Why write a blog if I’m going to sound just like everyone else?

I decided to approach the phenomenon from a different angle: I would treat the subject seriously (because I do take it seriously), but I would reserve the right to be jokey and dismissive of the UFO phenomenon, and of the field of UFOlogy, and even of myself, when it was warranted. Either you get it or you don’t, and you clearly don’t. No big deal to me.

As for my “superficial knowledge of various UFO-related issues,” I have just turned that knowledge into a substantial book deal with a prominent publisher, so maybe it's more substantial than you think.

Then there's this:

"The point of the new scanning and use of more modern deciphering software on these somewhat higher resolution scans of the original negatives is to try and discern more clearly what parts of the Ramey memo might actually say.

"If it can be reasonably confirmed the memo says, in one part "victims of the wreck," and "disc," that would strongly suggest the invalid claims for Mogul flight #4 are thus discredited, the USAF lied in their 1994 and 1997 "case closed" whitewashes, and the term victims suggests there may be more to the case for Roswell than you seem capable of even understanding or accepting."

I think you give yourself away here. You portray the effort to read the Ramey memo as a quest for truth, yet in virtually the same breath you cite “the invalid claims for Mogul flight #4.” If you don’t yet know what the Ramey memo says, on what grounds do you assert that the Mogul claims are “invalid.”

Are you going to make me drag this guy out again? I think you are!
See, anonymous, it’s things like this that trigger my overly dismissive, jokey attitude: you pretend to be an open-minded truth-seeker, but you’ve already ruled the Mogul explanation “invalid,” based on evidence that you’re not even sure exists! Instead of trying to find out what the Ramey memo says, you and your ilk are trying to prove that it says what you want to believe it says. You see “VICTIMS”; I see “PICKLES.” Why wouldn’t I poke fun of that?

As to whether I am capable of understanding or accepting "the Roswell case," I have to ask, "What is there to understand and accept?"  I understand and accept that Jessie Marcel may have genuinely believed that Mac Brazel had recovered debris from a crashed flying saucer, but that's where it ends. What else of any substance have you actually got?

What confuses and bothers you about my blog, I think, is not that I "don't understand" but that I refuse to accept conventional thinking when it is not borne out by the facts and evidence. I'm far less concerned with your use of "modern deciphering software" than I am with the context in which this is playing out... That's what I look at, and what I think you should look at: the CONTEXT. A mere six months after the last Roswell "Smoking Gun" went down in flames, the world is suddenly presented with another potential Roswell "Smoking Gun" by the same people, and you don't detect even the slightest whiff of desperation and cynicism?

Then there’s this:

"Using Rich Reynold's site and related postings for your initial source for info on this controversy simply confirms that, since he despises Randle. You therefore discredit yourself by such ignorance and bias." 

Anonymous, I don’t agree with a lot of what Rich Reynolds says in his blog, but I read it fairly regularly and I respect him because he raises a lot of interesting, difficult questions, because he doesn’t put up with any UFOlogy BS, and because he’s a very entertaining writer. I think we need more of that, not less.

Anyway, please tell me: Who should I be reading?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The 19 Year-Old T-Shirt

I recently saved a favorite old t-shirt from the trash heap and the donation bin, and I'm glad I did, because it marks a unique anniversary for me... Exactly 19 years ago today, what was then quaintly called "The Sci-Fi Channel" hosted what it billed as the first-ever online science fiction convention. Because I was writing for Star Trek at he time, I was invited to be a "guest expert," and my payment was... the t-shirt!

All in all, it still looks pretty good for a 19 year-old t-shirt that has gone for some verrrrrrrrry long stretches stashed away in a dark dresser drawer.

The online science fiction convention took place in a thing called "cyberspace," which was at the time a pretty alien place that William Gibson wrote about. I honestly don't remember a whole lot about the experience, except that I spent a few hours in a chat room talking with a few dozen hyper Trekkies, and it was pretty fun. Goofy, but fun. Not like the time I appeared live at GenCon in Milwaukee and sat next to actor John DeLancie, who played the omnipotent superbeing "Q" in Star Trek: The Next Generation, on the celebrity Q&A panel; but that's another story...

And then there's the shirt... It still looks pretty cool, although I can't for the life of me remember what that big "D" in the middle of the logo was supposed to stand for...

It's fitting that I've just rediscovered this shirt, as my new publisher is talking about sending me to Comic-Con to publicize my Hynek bio. If I can keep the shirt in good shape until next year, maybe I'll wear it to the Con!

Friday, October 30, 2015

My Hynek Book is Real (and so are UFOs)

It's official:

Expected publication in autumn 2016.

UFO Memo-Mania!

Did you know Roswell was still a thing? I was surprised this morning to find that it was being written about at the UFO Conjecture(s) blog, in response to it being written about in Roswellite Kevin Randle's blog.

What could they possibly be blathering about? What new Smoking Gun could there possibly be? And, anyway, didn't I already write about this?

Turns out this week's chatter concerns the Ramey memo, that little piece of paper that "proves" that Air Force General Roger Ramey wrote to his superiors telling of a crashed disc and the "victims" of the crash found outside Roswell.

Here are the posts, if you're interested:

UFO Conjectures




Kevin Randle


What I find so funny about all this is that these guys all want to argue 'til doomsday about what the memo actually says, or who owns the copyright on the photo, but no one addresses the most basic question about the photo, which is this:  
Why the hell is Ramey holding that memo in the first place?
That's what I can never get past. Why would this General be carrying around such a sensitive document, one that details his role in an ongoing government cover-up, and carrying it so obviously, so casually, so carelessly, while a photographer from the local paper was taking pictures? On a more basic level, why would that memo have ever been taken out of Ramey's offices ever, under any circumstances? I don't care how you try to explain it, there is no possible reason for Ramey to have been holding that document in a public space in such an open and casual manner with a press photographer snapping pictures if it contained any sensitive information at all.
Good thing this Air Force General knows how to conceal sensitive documents when pictures are being taken.

That's a real problem with so much of UFOlogy: people get crazed with something they think they see, but never ask -- or answer -- the obvious question about why that thing they think they see is even visible in the first place. I'm not saying I think I know what the Ramey memo actually said, or that I can prove it wasn't a sensitive document about a crashed disc and alien crash victims. But I am saying that before it can be accepted as evidence of anything, someone needs to explain why it's in the picture in the first place. Which, of course, no one can.