High Strangeness

Saturday, February 15, 2020

UFO Book Reviews and GLARING Omissions

Every now and then I like to take a peek at how my book is being reviewed at Amazon and goodreads, and I'm always happy with what I find. The Close Encounters Man: How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs, has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon and  3.99 rating on goodreads. Not too bad.

I especially like reading the negative reviews. Sure, sometimes it smarts to have someone ripping on your work, but sometimes it can be kind of hilarious. My favorite negative review came from a guy who wrote something to the effect of, "I consider myself to be far more knowledgeable about the UFO phenomenon than the average person. However, until I read this book I had never heard of Dr. Hynek."

I still laugh at that one...

My latest review on Amazon (dated January 12, 2020) was pretty negative, and I have been struggling with what to make of it. Perhaps you can help. The reviewer gave my book two stars out of five, and wrote:
"Meh. Dry and dull. I have read better. Also the fact that the author did not add Dr Hynek’s opinion of the much more frightening (and documented BY THE USAF) case of Air Force Sgt Jonathan Lovett in 1956 which occurred at the New Mexico White Sands Air Force testing base is in my opinion a GLARING omission."
Basic rule of UFOlogy: you can't believe every story you hear,
I admit, I knew nothing about this case, so I looked it up and found that it involved this guy named Lovett who allegedly saw a UFO at White Sands and whose body was later found in the desert, very dead and very mutilated. That is indeed frightening, if true. But is it true? I never came across any reference to the case in Dr. Hynek's files, or in any Blue Book files. That doesn't prove anything, of course -- I may not have seen any reference to the case because I wasn't specifically looking for it -- but it makes me wonder how this Amazon reviewer knows for a fact that the case was "documented BY THE USAF" and that Hynek had an opinion on the case. If both of these things are true, why not include the documentation in your review, to back up your claims?

Anyway, assuming this really happened and it really was written up in a Project Blue Book case report, I doubt very much that Dr. Hynek would have given the story any credence unless he actually saw the dead body in situ. But it stretches credibility to think that the Air Force ever would have allowed Hynek to see Lovett's alleged corpse, much less asked him to comment on it.

Also, the fact that the Project Blue Book TV series has coincidentally done a recent episode on this Lovett story tells me that not only is the story likely to be false, but that Project Blue Book staff may be posting reviews of my book to stir up interest in their show. I know that's also a stretch, but you have to admit, it's an odd coincidence.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Forgotten Man of UFOs

This week found me ransacking my research files, looking for a recording of an interview I conducted in 2013 for my book The Close Encounters Man. It was an interview with a gent named William T. Powers, who had served as Dr. J. Allen Hynek's right-hand man at Northwestern University throughout much of the 1960s. I needed the recording of the interview to use in the TV show I'm producing for Travel Channel (aka TRVL), but 7 years after the fact I could not find the file... hence the ransacking.

The Socorro UFO: Bill Powers was there
The audio file wasn't where it was supposed to be, so I needed to look in all the places whether it wasn't supposed to be. Naturally, after spending an entire day tearing my entire office apart, I found the recordings, preserved on my old digital recorder, in the top drawer of my desk... aka, right where it was supposed to be!

Losing the recording of the interview would have been a great loss, both to UFOlogy and to me personally, as Bill was one of the warmest, friendliest, most cheerful people I've ever met. He passed away about a year after I interviewed him, and since I was the only person who had ever talked to him about his UFO work with Hynek, the recording holds a special place in my heart and in UFO history.

If you've read The Close Encounters Man, you may remember some of Bill's fascinating recollections of the Swamp Gas Case and Lonnie Zamora Case, stories of Hynek's epic battles with Blue Book boss Hector Quintanilla, or his remembrances of the early days of Hynek's "Invisible College." I'm hoping that some of Bill's UFO stories will make it into the show, because his words carry a lot of weight. At a time when there is more disinformation about UFOs than ever being spread about, it matters a lot to hear the voices of people who actually know what they're talking about.

Cheers to you, Bill!

P.S. The recording is now saved in 3 different media in 3 different places, including one in my safe, so I will never lose it again.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"Mad Men" with UFOs

So, I see this morning that History Channel's Project Blue Book series finally went too far for many of its fans in this week's Roswell, Part 2 episode. I myself have not watched the episode, and don't plan to, but from what I gather the producers decided to "explain" the Roswell incident with the bizarre story introduced by author Annie Jacobsen in her 2011 book Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base. In the final chapter of that book, Jacobsen quoted a former Area 51 employee who claimed that the alleged Roswell saucer crash of 1947 was an evil plot hatched by Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and Nazi scientist Josef "Angel of Death" Mengele. In this story, Mengele surgically altered deformed children to make them look like aliens, and Stalin provided a functioning flying disc that these ersatz "aliens" deliberately "crashed" into the New Mexico desert to scare the USA so badly that it would be easy work for the Soviets to invade our country and take over. That story didn't go over too well in Jacobsen's case, and from the tweets I'm reading this morning it's not going over too well with a lot of Project Blue Book fans.
Did Mengele and Stalin fake this saucer crash?

All I can say is, what do you expect from a show that bills itself as "Mad Men with UFOs"?

I don't have a whole lot to contribute to the conversation, but I know someone who does, and I think his voice needs to be heard at this moment. In one of the last interviews he did before his death in 1986, Dr. J. Allen Hynek had something to say on this very topic. The interview, which ran in the February 1985 issue of OMNI magazine, is well worth a read if you can find a copy. The scope and depth of Hynek's knowledge and understanding of the UFO phenomenon is a thing to behold. This guy knew his shit, backwards and forwards, inside and out.

So, when the interviewer brought up the topic of saucer crashes, Hynek didn't hold back. Here's what he had to say:

"To be honest, I don't like to talk about crashed saucers because I am in a position to mobilize public belief. If I came out and held a press conference to say that a saucer has landed and the creatures were in deep freeze at Wright Field, quite a few people would believe me. But it wouldn't necessarily be true, and it certainly wouldn't be science. I'm the interpreter, the monitor, the elder statesman in this field, and I won't jeopardize my reputation for the sake of the story."

Although he doesn't say it here, one big reason Hynek shied away from saucer crash stories was that if you claim that a flying saucer has crashed, then you are assuming that that saucer is/was a physical, manufactured, "nuts and bolts" object, and that's a big assumption. Hynek never embraced the "nuts and bolts" view, for that very reason.

The simple truth is that Allen Hynek never investigated the alleged Roswell incident, and he rarely, if ever, talked about it. He didn't start working for Project Sign until early 1948, over 6 months after the alleged Roswell crash, which by then was all but forgotten. So if you want to be upset about misinformation in the latest episode of Project Blue Book, you can start with the misrepresentation of Hynek's "involvement" with the case.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Catching Up With the UFOs


I've been pretty quiet here at High Strangeness for many moons, and there have been a couple of reasons for that.

First, the business stuff: In August a UFO TV show I've been pitching since my biography of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, The Close Encounters Man, came out was picked up and put into production by the Travel Channel (Now known simply as TRVL). As you might imagine, that set off a whirlwind of events and activities that have altered my life and my schedule and occupied my thoughts to an astounding degree (just ask my wife!). Once that all started, knowing that I would need to keep the show under wraps for the time being, I made the conscious decision to lay off the blogging, as I knew I would have a very hard time not using the blog to blab about the show and thus getting myself into trouble with TRVL.

Then, the personal stuff: First, my mom passed away in September, which was a blow, but I've been deeply inspired by the beautiful way my dad has dealt with his loss, and that has helped with my entire family's recovery. Second, I've been sick since last summer and in early November was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, a slow-moving, non-aggressive cancer, and I began a 5-month schedule of chemotherapy treatments. So, I haven't much been in the mood to blog all this fall and winter, as I've had other things on my mind... like mourning, and surviving. Sadly, my illness also meant that I had to cut back my involvement with the production of the new TV show. Happily, I just had my 4th of 6 chemo treatments and they seem to be working. All signs point to remission and as I continue to feel better I'll be more active in the production of the show. And let me tell you, I've never had so much fun with a project as I have with this.

My aim in writing The Close Encounters Man was to bring surprising new voices and new stories to the UFO world. What's the point in interviewing the same old people who say the same old things? I've maintained that approach with the show, and I think viewers will be pleased and surprised by some of the people they'll be seeing and hearing.

So what makes me want to resume blogging? Well, I just had chemo yesterday, so that means I'm not good for much around the house for the next few days, and frankly, I'm bored!

Dr. J. Allen Hynek, not seeking recognition

Also, the return of the History Channel (maybe now HSTRY?) fantasy series Project Blue Book has meant that I'm getting contacts from UFO podcasters to come on their shows to talk about the show and about my book. Anyone who follows this blog knows that I don't hold a very high opinion of the show, as it's about 98% made up and about 2% truth. If you didn't know this, you can listen to the interview I did just last week for Jeremy Scott's Into the Parabnormal podcast in which we spend part of the interview talking about my issues with PBB the TV show.

When the show premiered a year ago, my negative reaction kicked in halfway through the 2nd episode, when Hynek's wife asks her husband why he wants to sign onto this cockamamie UFO study for the Air Force, and he responds, "I want the recognition!" That moment made me howl.... Folks, I researched Hynek's life and work for 5+ years and I can tell you with utter confidence that Allen Hynek did not get into investigating UFO cases for the recognition. Frankly, Hynek was a much stronger, much more confident person than that. He was not the kind of weak character who needed or sought out "recognition." Furthermore, if he was seeking recognition, attaching his name to a fringy, disreputable phenomenon like flying saucers and little green men from Mars would have been a colossally stupid way to achieve it; the chances of becoming a laughingstock to the public and the scientific community were far too high for a little-known college professor to risk.

I was surprised and disappointed that the producers of the show chose to characterize Hynek this way, and I thought, "If they're getting the basic essence of the man so completely wrong, how can I trust them to get anything right?"

On the other hand... I have seen evidence that at least some people watching the PBB TV show are getting curious about this Hynek guy and are finding their way to my book. So, there's that.

But I don't want my return to blogging to be all about my take on Project Blue Book. Mostly, I just want y'all to know that I'm back, I'm still in it, and I'm going to start blogging more because I have a whole lot more to say about UFOs!

Just to help kickstart me, feel free to send questions or topic suggestions. You tell me what to write about....

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Men in Black are really bad at their jobs

I've been a bit out of the UFO loop lately, for a variety of reasons, but I'm back to talk about a very important issue in UFOlogy that is not getting any attention at all as far as I can see.

I was listening to a UFO podcast the other day and the subject of the Men in Black came up. It got me thinking about the best MIB stories I've read and heard about over the years. My all-time favorite is the story of the insidious smiling MIB named Indrid Cold featured in John Keel's book The Mothman Prophecies.

The book that exposed the Men in Black as posers.

But as I was thinking about the dreaded Mr. Cold, something occurred to me. Like the other Men in Black, Indrid Cold's job is, apparently, to isolate people -- usually people who have recently seen UFOs -- and scare the living crap out of them. The message that the MIB deliver to these hapless UFO witnesses is a simple one: don't tell anyone what you saw, or else.

It makes for a good campfire story, for sure, but there's a small flaw. If the Men in Black were any good at their harassment, their threats would have been effective, and as a result we would have no idea they exist.

Think about it. The MIBs' only job is to scare UFO witnesses so much that they won't tell anyone about their experience. But once the MIBs issue their warnings, they have become part of the experience that the witness is not supposed to tell anyone about; ergo, we know that the MIBs exist (at least within the framework of the story), because they are part of the warning. But because we know that the MIBs exist, we also know that they have utterly failed at their one and only job, because someone obviously ignored the warning and told someone else what they saw.

Of course we know John Keel told a lot of people what he saw and the MIB sure let him have it. Oh, wait, actually they didn't. They tried to scare him for awhile with weird phone messages, but in the end Indrid Cold and his gang just seem to have packed up and moved on. They even let Keel get his book published, which was, considering their mission, a pretty serious blunder (Of course, they made up for it by letting the book be turned into a movie, because the movie seriously sucked).

So there you have it. I'm calling out the Men in Black as colossal, stupendous failures. Even if some part of me wants to believe they're really evil geniuses.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

UFOs: A Cry in the Dark

I've been enjoying the hell out of reading all the vintage UFO literature my friend Cxxx dropped off over the weekend. Most of the magazines are issues of Search magazine and Flying Saucers (From Other Worlds), all published between 1957 and 1962 by Palmer Publications of Amherst, Wisconsin.

There are all sorts of pleasures to be found on the pulpy pages of these old magazines -- sensational reports of true UFO encounters, treatises on complicated conspiracy theories, fuzzy pictures of unidentified flying blobs, and the enthusiastic carnival-barker musings of the irrepressible publisher Ray Palmer -- but, to my surprise, I keep finding myself drawn to the sections of the magazines designed to make connections between UFO buffs reading the magazine.

In most issues, these fall into two sections: Flying Saucer Club News, and Personals. The Club News section is filled with fascinating notices like this:
  • The N.J. Association on Aerial Phenomena is proud to announce the completion of the third issue of The UFO News Bulletin, its official bulletin. Sample copies may be obtained for 25 cents. Membership is $1.25 in U.S. and $1.50 elsewhere. NJAAP is willing to mimeograph.
  • The Research Organization of Aerial Phenomena is unique in its sound, scientific investigation of the UFOs, and its exceptionally excellent bulletin, The UFO Sighter. The token membership fee of 50 cents per year is all that is required to become a member of this vital organization.
  • Important: In the last issue of this magazine it was stated that the Flying Saucer Research Organization would charge no dues. After approximately 3 months of this we find it impossible to continue any longer. The dues will be 50 cents per year.
  • ATTENTION UFO CLUBS: The National Aerophenomena Research League cordially invites all UFO clubs to inquire about this new service. The N.A.R.L. is a group of UFO clubs working in cooperation with each other, exchanging ideas and information... So why not join N.A.R.L. and help UFOlogy "pull itself together?" There is nothing to lose.
The personal ads are, if anything, even more fascinating:
  • If you have ever seen a flying saucer, or have been inside one, or talked with anyone from outer space, or have similarly interesting experiences, please write: Jxxxx Hxxxxxx, The Steve Allen Show, The Steve Allen Playhouse, 1228 N. Vine St., Hollywood, California. I am a writer-talent coordinator for the show, searching for interesting guests for Steve to interview.
  • Want to purchase, rent or borrow book by George Adamski titled My Trip to Mars, Moon and Venus.
  • Any readers who can write or know of people who can write interplanetary languages are invited to send samples of script to the Interplanetary Research Society. Readers who can speak interplanetary tongues are asked to send samples of speech by tape.
And my favorite personal ad, placed by Janice K. in Massachusetts:
  • I would like to write to anyone who is interested in the saucers, and who may have an idea explaining why they are here. I believe they are here to help us, although their motives may not be all kindness. I am also extremely interested in writing to all those who ponder on the nature and composition of Time. I would like to discuss time travel in some detail with those who know something about it. I also have a ouija board for sale; best offer.
Why do I feel so drawn to these postings? Is it because they resonate like lonesome voices crying out in the night?

Imagine being a UFO buff back in the late 1950s, when postal addresses didn't have zip codes, and the charges for a long distance phone call could break the bank, and the mail might as well be delivered by the Pony Express for as slow as it must have been. Where could you go to connect with kindred spirits? Where would you look? Who would you reach out to? Would you post a notice on the community bulletin board at the local library, or place a want ad in the "Miscellaneous" section of the local newspaper's classified ads? How long would you have to wait for a response? I have to think that your odds of making contact with a fellow UFO buff back then were about as slim as the odds of the Arecibo radio antenna picking up an alien signal from Alpha Centauri. Thank God there was a Ray Palmer around back then to provide a locus for the plaintive mating calls of countless isolated UFO buffs...

Also, I really wonder why Janice K. was in such a hurry to unload her ouija board.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

My Wild UFO Trip

Wow, I've just gotten off a wild 36 hour UFO trip that has left me in a kind of a daze...

I don't mean I took a trip on a UFO, I mean I've been on a crazy trip fueled by some dazzling, dizzying UFO questions hurled at me from some very unexpected sources.

It all started yesterday morning, when I did a live Skype UFO Q&A call with some graduate students at Rice University in Houston, TX who have just read my biography of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, The Close Encounters Man. These Masters and Ph.D. candidates are taking a class in the Department of Religion entitled "Archives of the Impossible," and they were ready with an hour's worth of very deep, very serious questions about Dr. Hynek, UFOs and religion. It was an entertaining experience, and quite kick to know that my book is required reading for a Ph.D. level course!

Project Blue Book: Terrible UFO TV Show? or Worst UFO TV Show ever?
Sadly, I will have to postpone my full report on my classroom experience until sometime later, because this morning my strange UFO trip took a very surprising detour...

I got a surprise email from Leslie Kean, author of the hugely influential 2010 book UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record, asking if I could fact-check some information about J. Allen Hynek for an article she was writing for the New York Times. Of course I said yes -- Leslie has been very generous with her time when I've approached her in the past, and I was happy to be able to return the favor.

Imagine my surprise when Leslie told me she was writing an article pointing out the inaccuracies in the History Channel Project Blue Book TV series that just premiered last week! What a wonderful shock: She has as big a problem with this show as I do, and she's going to say so in the New York Times! Halleluja!!

For your enjoyment, below are the questions Leslie asked of me followed by my responses:

Do you know if Hynek ever saw a UFO himself? Yes, two, in fact! One from an airplane and one from the pier at his cabin in Canada.

Did Hynek ever crash in a plane while recreating a UFO dogfight that had been reported by a pilot? That's a big NO!

Did Hynek ever see what looked like an alien body floating in a tank in a secret facility, and take photos of it? That's an even bigger NO!
Did he ever meet Wernher Von Braun? MAYBE. Hynek determined the payloads on the launches of the Nazi V-2 rockets that we appropriated after the war, so it's possible that he came into contact with some of the "Peenemunders." But I think if he had met Dr. Von B there would most likely be some record of it...?
Did Hynek ever watch as a UFO witness douse himself with gasoline and set himself on fire? Are you f***ing kidding me? That's in the show???

When I expressed disbelief at the "UFO witness setting himself on fire" question Leslie kindly filled me in on the contents of the first six episodes. I've only seen the first, and it was pretty awful, but apparently the rest of the episodes are far, far worse.

You can read Leslie's article here. It's a good first step towards blunting the impact of Project Blue Book and making sure the real UFO story is heard.

So, yeah, I'm in a bit of a daze, and I'm not sure when it will let up... And I know for a fact that Dr. Hynek is rolling over in his grave.