Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Hollow Men

A fascinating article just appeared today at The Slice, and I think it's essential reading for everyone interested in UFOs and UFO culture.

Titled "Jesus Vs. Aliens: The Culture War Raging in the UFO Capital of the World," the article traces the sad decline of Roswell, NM, once the epicenter of the UFO-Disclosure-Saucer Crash-Alien Contact movements, now a sad, dusty relic soon to be left behind by history. According to the author, this year's July 4th Roswell UFO Festival was a shaky affair, inspiring as much apathy as enthusiasm among the locals. Roswell, it turns out, is a staunchly religious community, and the religious-types have no truck with the UFOs and aliens that have, over the years, brought so much fame and revenue to their town. Can E.T. co-exist with Christ? It seems not.

As I read the article, I couldn't help thinking that T S Eliot may have had Roswell in mind when he wrote the final stanza of his poem "The Hollow Men":
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.
I also couldn't help thinking that "The Hollow Men" could easily refer to a group of gentlemen who have been squeezing Roswell dry for decades. It's interesting -- and, to be honest, refreshing -- that the author does not mention any of these men by name, but only says:
"And while the U.S.’ leading UFOlogy speakers have driven or flown in from all over the country for this, Roswell’s conservative Christians have skipped town, saving up their vacation days to beat the crowds and blasphemous alien rhetoric."
The article goes on say how much money the UFO industry brings into Roswell every year, and it's a staggering amount.
"Roswell’s UFO museum brings in 175,000 viewers each year, more than any other single museum venue in New Mexico. The city takes in half a million dollars in revenue from the festival weekend alone (a lot for a small Southwestern city), and UFO museum director Mark Briscoe tells me that the museum’s economic impact on the community is 24 million dollars per year."
Jesus can't even come close to matching that kind of cash, so I doubt that the UFO folks will be asked to leave Roswell any time soon. Still, the article leaves no doubt that, with so few people left alive who have any real connection to the Roswell saucer crash story, there just isn't a whole lot left keeping the narrative alive...

So, who knows? Maybe the Roswell mythos would have died on its own without the help of the Roswell Slides fiasco.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Welcome to Restaurant X

Continuing on the theme of historical cases with odd addendums...

The other day I interviewed a college professor who had reported sighting a trio of odd lights over a lake in central Wisconsin several years ago. There wasn't much to the report, except that the witness had been on the phone with a friend who lived on the opposite side of the lake, and who interrupted the conversation to say "There they are again!" Turned out that the friend on the phone had been seeing these lights frequently, and her sister corroborated it for the witness. Three witnesses is always good, but none of them had lived right on the lake and none of them tried to get past the trees to get a closer view, and in any case the witness hadn't kept in touch with the friend or the friend's sister over the years, so there was no way to interview the other witnesses...

I was wrapping up the interview when she mentioned that she had had two other odd experiences in her life that might be of interest. I asked her if either event was related to a UFO sighting, and she said that, yes, one of them might have been. I asked her to tell me the story, and so she began...

The story took place 20-some years ago, when the witness lived in Iowa, and was visiting Chicago with a friend. They were hungry and went out looking for a place to get some dinner. After a while, they found themselves in a quiet corner of the city, not far from the Loop, and came across an interesting-looking office building that appeared to have a restaurant on the ground floor. They parked and went inside, and saw a sign for "Restaurant X." They entered and were seated immediately. They talked, had a drink, ordered dinner -- which, by the way, was delicious -- then paid and left.

Welcome to Restaurant X, where fear is always on the menu.
The witness and her friend had been very impressed with the restaurant, its beautiful decor, the professional staff, the fantastic food... but it occurred to them as they left that they hadn't seen a single other diner in the restaurant the whole time they were there. They thought that was curious, but soon forgot about it and went back to their hotel.

Four days later the witness was in Chicago again, with another friend, and suggested they have dinner at this interesting place called "Restaurant X." The witness had no trouble finding the office building after only four days, but as she parked she noticed that something was different.

She and her friend went into the building, but the "Restaurant X" sign was missing. They went to the entrance to the restaurant and peeked inside, and found themselves looking at a great big empty room. The beautiful decor that had impressed the witness only four days before had vanished; even the big doors she had noticed on the far side of the dining room were gone...

She was at a complete loss... She apologized to her friend and they went looking for a different restaurant...

I was intrigued, but puzzled. I asked her how this incident involved UFOs, and she said, "I've read about the idea of 'masking memories,' and I've always wondered if that's that we experienced." In other words, she wondered whether someone made her and her friend believe they were eating dinner at a restaurant, to mask the fact that they were actually having a very different experience... and she was clearly implicating aliens from a UFO. There didn't seem to be a missing time element at all, just a lingering sense of unreality.

I would love to find out more about this, but the witness only had a vague idea where the restaurant was located... And, as with her other experience, she had completely lost touch with both friends involved in the "Restaurant X" incident. Since we talked I've asked her if she could remember any more details at all about where she found that weird office building, and if she comes through I expect I'll be going on a restaurant hunt sometime soon. Meanwhile, I've looked up "masking memory" and it appears to be a computer programming term.

Which is actually kind of disturbing, if you think about it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Good Luck, Earthlings!

The upcoming Edinburg, TX "Out of This World" UFO Conference & Festival continues to entertain... Shortly after I wrote my last blog post commending the organizers for their honesty in admitting that the event is at least as much about UFO entertainment than it is about UFO research, this announcement about the event came in the mail:
Follow the rules for a chance to win 1 of 3 prizes!

- 1st place will receive a 60 in. inflatable alien with novelty alien hat, t-shirt, cap and sticker.
- 2nd place will take home a 54 in. inflatable alien with novelty alien lanyard, t-shirt, cap and sticker.
- 3rd place will receive a 36 in. inflatable alien with t-shirt and sticker!

Winners will be announced and tagged on the Out of this World UFO Conference page one week before the event.
Sounds like good fun, right? Until you take a close look at the accompanying poster:
So, the aliens are good at marketing, too... We're goners.
What is this poster telling us? Is the Edinburg "Out of This World" UFO Conference & Festival actually being run by aliens? Is "Good Luck, Earthlings!" an encouraging message along the lines of "May the Best Human Win"? Or is it a malevolent threat, along the lines of "Good luck fighting back against our particle ray beams with your puny A-bombs, humans"? Either way, it kind of strikes a blow for honesty, doesn't it?

Of course, there is another possibility... Is this "contest" actually a screening process to identify humans who have above-average abilities, so the aliens can recruit them to their cause, a la "The Last Starfighter" and "This Island Earth"? Will contestants be asked to assemble an Interociter? If so, I want to be there, because I've always wanted an Interociter, and I'm pretty sure I could assemble one.

Behold the Interociter: Alien communications device that also makes a handsome addition to your study or den.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Honesty & UFOs

"Honesty in the UFO Community"

That's the imposing title of the segment I'll be doing tomorrow on the "Strange Surroundings Secret Universe" podcast on July 24th at 9 pm Central (otherwise known as "tomorrow").

When host Loren Hatfield asked me to be on his show, UFO world was still all abuzz over the Roswell Slides fiasco, and honesty in UFOlogy was a pretty hot topic. Now, nearly two months later, the "honesty" buzz seems to have died down to a whisper, so I suspect the talk will be somewhat more subdued this time than it was when I appeared last month on the Dead Air Paranormal podcast. Whatever happened to those Dream Teamers and their slides? Is anybody talking about them anymore? Does anyone care? Doesn't the whole silly thing seem like ancient history nowadays?

Maybe the relative quiet that has settled over UFOlogy in the past month makes this the best time to talk about honesty again. I certainly thought so the other day when I got a promo email for the upcoming "Out Of This World UFO Conference & Festival." My first reaction, quite honestly, was to roll my eyes and think, "Here we go again!" 

Isn't it time to be HONEST about the damage these events can do to serious UFOlogy? Must we embarrass ourselves like this over and over again? I mean, the organizers aren't even trying to be serious: they even have the word "Festival" in the title of the damn thing!

But then I read the name again. "UFO Conference & Festival." Suddenly it didn't seem so embarrassing. At least they're separating out the "Conference" part from the "Festival" part, and acknowledging the two reasons people go to these things. Isn't that what we talked about on the Dead Air Paranormal podcast: being honest about the "entertainment" aspect of the UFO industry?

I checked on the link and was surprised and delighted to see the roster of speakers. The headliner is a man who has shamelessly exploited the entertainment value of the UFO phenomenon for years, George Noory. And I'm not criticizing him for that. It's a fact that Coast to Coast AM keeps the UFO phenomenon alive by emphasizing the entertainment aspects while giving a nod to the "serious" researchy side of UFOlogy. What better person to headline such an event?
Major Don West, protecting the Robinson family and the Jupiter 2 from an alien menace...

Then I saw the next featured speaker and I had to grin. Getting second billing on the program is actor Mark Goddard, best known for his portrayal of "Major Don West" in the campy 1960's science fiction TV series "Lost In Space."  

What does Mark Goddard know about UFOs? Nothing, I'd wager, aside from the fact that he used to pretend to pilot a saucer-shaped spaceship on TV 50 years ago. But it's pretty funny -- and, I admit, pretty cool -- that he's making an appearance, just the same.

Oh, there are also a few speakers -- Noe Torres and Ruben Uriarte among them -- who seem to be serious UFO guys, but to be honest I don't know much about them. Still, they would appear to make up the "Conference" side of things.

The there's also a screenwriter who will be talking about "Star Wars." I'm going to say he's part of the "Festival."

So... what kind of a crackpot Conference & Festival is this?

Well.... I guess it's an honest one, because it's admitting up front that it's at least as much about campy entertainment as it is about serious UFO research, and it seems to be making the bold if perhaps inadvertent assertion that both sides of the program can exist side-by-side without detracting from each other.

Maybe they're onto something...

Friday, July 17, 2015

UFO Epiphany!

So, 15 months after we taped the interview, my segment about Dr. Hynek and the swamp gas incident was finally shown in tonight's episode of "Mysteries at the Monument" on The Travel Channel, and I am happy to say I'm pretty pleased with the final result.

Nice shirt, eh? I bought that especially for the interview. My wife says it brings out the blue in my eyes.
The producer of the segment texted me during the show and said, "Well, they oversimplified it." That's true, but not surprising. It's a pretty complicated story, and getting all the twists and turns and betrayals and sex scenes in an eight-minute segment would have been impossible. Okay, there aren't any sex scenes, but there is a lot of skullduggery that didn't make it onscreen.

So, there are some mistakes -- the Congressional hearing took place in '66, not '68 -- and there are some lapses, and somehow the oversimplification seemed to make the narrative more complex. My only significant issue is that they made it seem as though Hynek changed his mind about UFOs overnight, which I had worked very hard to argue against with the producer. In retrospect, I should have seen that coming; they wanted a dramatic moment -- an epiphany! -- not a plodding, decade-long process...

But, I can correct that in the book, and in the talk I give next March in Michigan. In that sense, tonight's show was sort of a warm-up to the main event!

Leave It To a UFO Professional

I just renewed my MUFON membership for another year, but I had to give it a few moments' thought this time around. I was starting to get spoiled over the last few weeks by the quality of cases I was getting, but suddenly that trend has reversed in a most dramatic way...

Some people who file UFO sighting reports on the MUFON website are content to just tell you what they experienced and leave it at that, while others... Well, some people, when you contact them, need to tell you their life stories. In minute detail.

I do not like this. It's my job to investigate the sighting that a person has reported to MUFON, period. Call me callous, or uncommitted to the cause, but I do not enjoy having to spend my time hearing about a person's lifetime of odd experiences which may or may not have anything to do with the reason I'm contacting them. One of the reasons I dislike this so much is that I often feel as though the person is just making shit up, and enjoys wasting my time. Or maybe they're completely sincere,  they've been waiting their whole lives to tell their stories to someone, and I'm the lucky guy. Who can tell?

Before you accuse me of not living up to the standards of scientific investigation, or even to the standards of MUFON, you should walk a mile in my Certified MUFON Field Investigator shoes... Here are a few stellar examples from emails I've received just this past week:
Hi Mark - I'd like to begin talking with you - although I'm on a landline exclusively, and my father, if he was involved at all, has disavowed any knowledge of anything unusual. If he was involved back then, I don't want any harm to come to him - he's still alive and kicking at 94 in his own home - - on the other side of the road of significance I mentioned in my post. These things are not clearly from any verifiable place I can glean - except through the lense of my own mystical experiences throughout my life.  It is a long story which is told in some 40+ journals I've written over the course of my adult life to try to understand myself, my family and my world. I'm still trying to piece the pieces together...
Uh... 40+ journals, and you still don't understand yourself?
Jxxxxxxxxx: where my parents met when my dad was assigned to train people there after signing up in early 1941, I believe in ND. This is where the long-standing-in-history-of-settlement and the Hxxxxxx family involvement in all of this.  We've got a bonafide family history mystery on our hands - Dad put together (with me helping with assembly and typing up) a history of our own little arm of the family out of Norway. A certain men's tailor - Norwegian in extraction, English by name came out of the Bergen area to America via some uncertain route. A couple of years ago (2012), I was helping a disabled friend downstate with a complicated move involving his companion cats. The only place that would take us was a resort in the city where I used to teach. Guess which family was having their annual American reunion with people form Norway there - the weekend before we arrived?  Same family out of Minnesota - we were never informed.  Some of the people I met in one of the many common areas with pianos for the guests to enjoy told me about a relative who performs piano in much the same style down out of Virginia - named Cxxx Hxxxxxxxxx - no idea of whether or not he goes by his birth name or not.
Yeah... Mom and Dad never inform me about the family reunions, either...
Jxxxxxxxxx - birthplace of the sacred white buffalo of the Lakota People - guess which ancester leader/medicine man I helped to create an historical talk about for a group of people in Mxxxxxxxx a few years back (2001-2003)? Great-great grandson of the religious leader - I held the sweetgrass braid he used to bless the people as they tried to talk to the white men coming their way.....I felt something amazing. I swear, I'm not trying to have these experiences - - these things just keep adding up......Sacred White Buffalo Woman Legend.......the music heals the world - - the world already has all the medicine it needs in the form of the music the people finally created to tell their own versions of the story - - I only learned this because of my innate curiousity on the subject, and the curious "coincidental" experiences (if not bizarre) - which match up in the actual factual knowledge of the facts of my life and what I've witnessed and experienced.
To be perfectly honest, no one "tries" to have experiences like that.
Fun fact: 1974 - first year of liberal arts studies at Mxxxxxxxx College - Took a scientifically oriented science fiction writing class - had to do research to reach into our imaginations to construct what the future might look like. Mine was about the stem cell research - not sure it was called this at the time. The original I wrote about the "organ bank" was realized when I saw the article about the ear growing on the mouse's back.......seriously people - - somehow I'm connected in all this and even I didn't put the pieces together - - the coincidence of the number - my attention being drawn to the clock at EXACTLY 5:55. Many, many times throughout my life - recent articles "leaked" my way indicate that this is a signal from spirit or universe or -----that a GREAT CHANGE IS ON THE WAY... I came along so late in the family - I always kept wondering who's related to who and how.  I also have family connections higher up in government, entertainment, news reporters, social justice people of a MAJOR nature... as my intro to my musica goes.....and the list just goes on, and on, and on!  Eventually, to really flush out whether or not I'm of anysignificance or my experiences bear anysignificance on the whole - - who can say?   I left my number I believe in the last message to your group.
 Oh, sorry... we lost your number.
You just can't get rid of this guy...
yes I would love to talk to you about my UFO siting, but I really want to talk to you about the summer of 1980 that was a really strange summer it started out with a ufo siting then a bigfoot encounter then finally I think I may have been abducted as I went to bed and woke up about 3 miles from my house dressed and standing on a rural street talking with a native American that wasn't there!!!! the whole summer was really weird and others were there for two of the incidents!!!! I know im not crazy and im not a liar I would never do that because I believe in this stuff and people who lie about it make it tougher for others telling the truth to be believed!!! but id like to talk with an expert very much!!   
Yeah, that was a weird summer for me, too.

At least this person actually mentioned a UFO. Also, Bigfoot! Also, too, a native American that wasn't there, but was able to talk!! Talk about loading the bases.

I have kept this in long enough and really need to speak with someone professional about it! and I don't mean a doctor I mean a UFO professional! I know this is just me saying I saw something but I would not lie about any of this and I truly believe in UFO's and in what I saw and heard in all the events! 
Okay, now this guy is making some sense! Why go see a doctor when what you really need is a UFO professional?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

UFO Psychology

I've been working a new UFO case for MUFON this week, and it has some interesting similarities to the fascinating 1980 Fort McCoy mass sighting report about which I've written so much lately.

This new case is also historical -- it took place in 1976, when the witness was about 11 years old. Like the Fort McCoy case, it involved multiple witnesses. And, like the Fort McCoy case, the witness' experience of the event is one of the most interesting parts of the story.

Oh, and it just happened to take place about 10 miles from Fort McCoy...

Creepy, eh?

The witness was camping out with friends on the shore of Perch Lake in the middle of Sparta, WI. He saw a strange "star" that was zipping back and forth in the night sky, so he decided to signal to it by flashing his flashlight. One of his friends thought this was quite stupid and begged him to stop, but he, being a bit of a jerk, kept doing it until the "star" disappeared.
UFOs in trees.... a perfect combination!

A few moments later, the 30-50' tree under which the 4 boys were sitting started to sway and twist as if a violent wind had hit it. Strangely, none of the other trees were affected. As the boys watched, brilliant beams of colored light shot out of something above the tree. The witness described the beams as seeming to be "shot from a cannon." The lights continued for just a minute or two, then stopped abruptly.

The boys gathered their gear and high-tailed it home. The witness' big brother and the brother's friend calmed the younger boys down and called the police. An officer came out to talk to the boys, and, although he couldn't confirm anything they told him, he at least didn't make the boys feel foolish for calling in a report.

That's about it as far as the report goes, but when we talked on the phone the other night, the witness filled added some new elements to the story...
  • The boys didn't feel threatened by the lights and movement, the witness told me, they were just in a state of high excitement because they didn't understand what they had just experienced... 
  • When the lights started flashing overhead, the witness felt as though he was frozen or mesmerized for a moment or two. He felt as though there was a brief "lapse of time," and, although he couldn't exactly call it a "missing time" event, he did say that he felt as though the object above the tree was reading his mind during that lapse.
  • The witness had mentioned in his report that he felt the encounter had been a sort of "invitation," and I asked him to elaborate. He said that when he and his friends calmed down that night, they went right back out to the lake and camped out in the yard adjacent to where the event had taken place, as if they wanted to see more, but from a somewhat safer position... To this day, he still goes out at night and flashes his flashlight into the sky, hoping to signal whatever it was he saw as a child.
He then told me a long, detailed, surprising story about how the event has affected his life and that of his friends, and, frankly, I still haven't figured out what to do with this information. The witness seems to sincerely believe that a number of odd and eerie life events affecting him and his friends have a direct connection to the initial sighting. These events involve criminal activity, psychic abilities and a general inability to function in society... The witness seems deeply sincere about this, and points to the "mind-reading" and "invitation" elements of the event to validate his beliefs, but... I can't go there.

The question I face now is this: do the iffy theories of how the event has affected the adult lives of the witnesses invalidate the report of the event itself? The witness is going to ask if the two remaining friends (the third died in the mid-1980s under suspicious circumstances, and his body was found not far from the 1976 sighting!) would be willing to talk to me, so I'll (try to) withhold judgement until then.

This has also left me pondering a deeper question. Both of these witnesses had compelling stories to tell, and both seemed to experience emotional upheaval when telling me of these events that were deeply rooted in their distant memories. The Fort McCoy witness seemed intensely stressed and afraid as he talked to me, but the light in the tree witness seemed intensely relieved, almost buoyant. What makes the difference?