Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Anthony Ranfone, R.I.P.

This is sad. Thanks to Juan for posting this in the comments to an earlier post. 

The mystery of Anthony Ranfone's whereabouts has been solved. No more wonderful depictions of aliens and robots and monsters. What a loss...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Son of Hypno-UFO -- Part II

Here is is at last, more of the Charles Hickson hypnotism session! The first two segments are here and here. (Be sure to read the comments; people were scolding me over posting this!)

As I promised last time, this new segment includes Charlie telling Dr. James Harder about what it felt like to be floated aboard a UFO and into an examination room...

Harder:  I would like to see you now see if you can tell us about the sensation of floating, you said before. Now do you feel that you're floating, or do you feel that you're sitting or standing on something? 

Hickson: I-- I just ain't got no feelings.

Harder: You don't have any feelings. But that does -- does that mean that you could be sitting on something or lying on something without being able to feel it? Is that a possibility, or do you think that you're -- do you have -- tell me about the feeling that you have. (pause) You say you have no feelings, but do you feel -- do you feel any of your internal organs, do you feel your stomach being fluttery or anything of that sort? How does your stomach feel?
Charlie Hickson and his UFO

Hickson: I can't -- I-I can't feel nothing.

Harder: Do you feel yourself touching anything?

Hickson: No... I'm trying to move my toes. (pause) I can't do it!

Harder: Well that's all right, that'll be okay. Your feeling will come back. (pause) Can you tell us what happens next, after this? Is there something that happened to you, something that you heard, that you're able to feel or hear, or observe right now that you have not seen before? Is there something that's new that you're remembering? You can concentrate on that, and see if there's anything new that you can tell us that's happening to you.

(long pause)

Hickson: It's real bright in here.

Harder: Very bright... How does it remind you? Does it remind you of something that you've seen? Is there anything that's bright that you've seen before that you can compare it to?

(long pause)

Hickson: I don't think so.

Harder: You've been around arc welding on ships. How would you compare it with that?

Hickson: It's not a... It's not a light like that. 

Harder: Uh-huh. In what way isn't it like that? Is it not...

Hickson: It -- It's just glowing. Glowing.

Harder: Just glowing.


Hickson: There's something... in front of me.

Harder: Can you describe it? Does it seem to have  anything that looks like glass or is shiny or reflective? Or is it just dull-colored or gray-colored?

Hickson: There's something.... The light's bright. I can't see through.

And it pretty much peters out right there... Is there a law of diminishing returns where hypnotism is concerned? Because by this time in the session, Hickson is really running out of things to say. And Harder seems to think that if he just wears Hickson down enough, the guy will finally come up with something.

It's almost comical; you just get the feeling that poor Charlie Hickson has no idea what Harder is trying to get at, and he's just not able to give Harder any kind of satisfactory response... and in the end, we really don't learn anything at all about what it felt like to be floated aboard the UFO. Which sucks, because I really wanted to know!!

Damn you, Harder! Why can't you just get to the point??

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Man Who Invented Flying Saucers

Over the weekend I've been reading "The Man From Mars" (2012, Tarcher/Penguin), and I think it's a must-read for anyone interested in the history of UFOlogy in America. "Mars" is a raucously entertaining book about a man who could fairly be described as the world's first UFO huckster, pulp publisher Ray A. Palmer (known to his many fans and detractors as simply "Rap").

The book, by Fred Nadis, recounts Rap's early involvement in science fiction publishing in the 1930s, first as a fanzine pioneer and then editor of the popular and influential Amazing Stories magazine. Not content to merely publish entertaining science fiction, Rap was a myth-maker, endlessly messing with his readers' minds by blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, fiction and non-fiction.

The breathless inaugural issue of Fate magazine
When private pilot Kenneth Arnold became the first modern flying saucer witness in the summer of 1947 and the entire country went saucer crazy, Rap founded Fate magazine and perched himself atop the crest of the flying saucer tsunami. Nadis writes that Fate was "designed for an audience with a taste for the paranormal and unexplained," then continues with this wonderful passage:
"With its first issue in 1948, Fate also became a centerpiece for the newly forming flying saucer subculture. Unafraid of the tyranny of what he termed the 'raised eyebrow,' Palmer became the ideal figurehead for the new community of 'saucer people.'" 
That's where the story gets really interesting, to me...

Not only did Rap convince Kenneth Arnold, who was quickly becoming a national laughingstock, to share his story in the first issue of Fate (see picture on right), he transformed Arnold from the world's first flying saucer witness into the world's first flying saucer investigator. In a wild story worthy of the pulp fiction he had been publishing for years, Rap sent Arnold out to investigate the Maury Island, Washington, sighting, and the assignment soon turned hairy... Before Arnold gave up and headed home in frustration, the bizarre case had come to involve the FBI, the Men In Black, a disappearing house, flying saucer fragments... and, possibly, sabotage and murder.

The incident inspired Rap and Arnold to co-author a book about the case, "The Coming of the Saucers." Judging from the extensive excerpts in Nadis' book, I expect "Saucers" will be a good read, but as Nadis points out elsewhere in his book, Rap's recurring editorial advice for writers who had trouble maintaining a suspenseful pace in their pulp stories was: "When the action slows, throw another body through the skylight." Arnold's and Rap's account of the Maury Island investigation, alas, smacks of the writers desperately throwing body after body through the skylight...

Then there's this:

One of Nadis' sources is a 1983 magazine article written about Rap by famed UFO writer John Keel. The article, entitled "The Man Who Invented Flying Saucers," appeared in the Winter issue of Fortean Times magazine, and gives us a fascinating, sad, yet hilarious description of the first ever UFO convention... attended by Keel himself:
"In the fall of 1948, the first flying saucer convention was held at the Labor Temple on 14th Street in New York City. Attended by about thirty people, most of whom were clutching the latest issue of Fate, the meeting quickly dissolved into a shouting match. Although the flying saucer mystery was only a year old, the side issues of government conspiracy and censorship already dominated the situation because of their strong emotional appeal"
Think about that. In the fall of 1948, just a little over a year since Arnold had sighted his flying saucers, "government conspiracy and censorship" were already emerging as the predominant themes among the "saucer people."

Read the book. For good or bad, it's because of Ray Palmer and his exuberant myth-making that we're now stuck with Disclosure, the Roswell Incident, Area 51 and Dulce Base. Thanks Rap.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Coffee and UFOs

Sometimes the best way to enjoy a beautiful Saturday morning while the house is still quiet is to settle in with a cup of coffee and catch up on UFO news.

That means looking in on some of my favorite UFO blogs to see what my colleagues are writing about, which is always worthwhile. There are a lot of interesting, intelligent, entertaining people in the wide, wide world of UFOlogy, and one of the biggest reasons I appreciate their work so much is that they tackle subjects that I don't want to (or simply can't because I don't know nearly as much as they do).

Today we have quite a smorgasbord...

In The Big Study, Professor Michael Swords offers up a little-known "coincidence" involving the famous 1977 "WOW signal," received by the "Big Ear" radio telescope at Ohio State University. Is it possible that an amateur electronics whiz in Indiana picked up the same signal the same night? It's a tantalizing story, and the Professor leaves us wanting to know more...

What's the most spectacular train wreck in UFOlogy? So many choices...
In The Other Side of Truth, Paul Kimball reports on the recent Canadian UFO Survey, which documents 25 years of UFO sightings north of the border. I have only taken a brief look so far this morning, but it looks as though the work done by Chris Rutkowski and UFOlogy Research of Manitoba is a model for UFO researchers everywhere. Kinda cool that their methodology is based on Allen Hendry's awesome 1979 guide, "The UFO Handbook" (also kinda cool, in a completely irrelevant way: One of Dr. J. Allen Hynek's personal UFO sightings took place at his family's cabin in Canada).

Over at Jack Brewer's The UFO Trail, meanwhile, Jack weighs in on the "Carpenter Affair," in which a hypnotist allegedly engages in some seriously sketchy behavior and still gets invited to speak at MUFON meetings (Hate to say it, but we all know this kind of thing happens all the time; seems there's always a place at the head table for even the most ethically compromised "UFOlogists"). UPDATE: Jack just tweeted me to say this is not "alleged" but "confirmed" here: http://ufotrail.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-carpenter-affair-for-record.html )

For sheer volume, it's hard to beat The UFO Iconoclast(s), which has been serving up a succession of meaty posts over the past few days. First, the always interesting RRRGroup watches bad UFO TV so we don't have to: ancient astronaut guy Giorgio Tsoukalos hosted a show on cable TV last night about "The Roswell Rock," and RRRGroup wasted not a moment in skewering this silly "find." I have joked before about how, in the course of things, the world will undoubtedly be presented with the Roswell 8-Track Tape, the Roswell Post-It Notes, and the Roswell Dry-Erase Board, each of which will prove that a UFO crashed in Roswell, NM in 1947... before being thoroughly debunked. "The Roswell Rock" shows that there may be more truth to my joke than I suspected.

As if to emphasize the point, just a day earlier RRRGroup tore into the "Roswell Slides" drama and found it to be "Sidetracked or Derailed." According to the post, the owner of the slides in question has spurned the "Roswell Dream Team," and is apparently in talks with cable TV producers to present the blockbuster slides in a blockbuster TV special. You can't blame the guy for wanting to cash in, I suppose, and you really can't blame him for not wanting to share the spoils with the RDT. It's a good read, and you have to love a writer who can use "in toto" and "summum bonum" in the same sentence.

So that's my Saturday morning. Now... off to the beach!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Getting Rich Off UFOs

I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner. It's been in front of my nose for the longest time, and I never gave it a thought until today.

It turns out that there is one very easy way to get rich being a UFOlogist. All you have to do is collect the prize money!

What prize money, you might ask? Oh, it's out there, just begging to be claimed. One award is for a cool $100,000, and the other is for One Million freaking dollars! All you have to do is prove that UFOs and paranormal phenomena are real, and you walk home $1,100,000 richer.

Who is putting such whopping amounts of money at such perilous risk, you might also ask? What kind of damn fool would lay so much in the line?

Well, the first award, the one for $100,000, is being offered by James Fox and Tracy Torme, the filmmakers behind a long-planned movie called "701," which refers to the 701 UFO cases from the Air Force's Project Blue Book files that remain unexplained. Does anyone else see the problem here? If the filmmakers plan to make a two-hour movie they will only have 10.27 seconds to devote to each case, which is even less time than Blue Book gave them.

Anyway, the website for the film has a lot of sinister clouds and voiceover clips and stuff, and boldly claims that 701 is "THE NUMBER THE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT WANT YOU TO KNOW." Which is a bit like saying "Tuesday is the day the government does not want you to know." Why would the government not want you to "know" a number, and how the hell are they going to stop you from "knowing" a number? It makes absolutely no sense.

But the $100,000 is serious. "...we're offering a $100,000 reward for the best proof that some UFOs are alien spacecraft," Fox told the Huffington Post way, way back in February, 2013. "This material can be in the form of a photograph, video or film footage or debris from an alleged crash site. But it must be able to withstand scientific scrutiny by our chosen panel."
You can expect to see this truck pulling up my driveway any day now... It will be a lot lighter when it leaves.

You know what I say to that? QED. While Fox makes it sound as though his "scientific panel" will be hard to fool, anybody who pays even the slightest bit of attention to the world of UFOlogy knows damn well that people like Fox and his panelists are Jonesing so hard for real proof that they will be unbelievably easy to dupe. I am, even as I write this, carefully preparing a smorgasbord of unusual crystals, absolutely not-of-this-earth metallic fragments, hard-to-explain photographs and inexplicable alien encounters so convincing they would fool even the Roswell Dream Team.

In other words, consider the $100,000 mine. I am already drawing up the bank deposit slip.

The $1 million could be a little harder to get my hands on, but only just. The "One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge" is being offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation, a group dedicated to debunking "the paranormal, pseudoscientific and the supernatural." In other words, unlike Fox and Torme, who apparently really do want someone to prove the reality of UFOs and so have offered only a measly hundred grand, Randi's foundation is pretty sure no one will be able to meet their challenge. So they think that $1 mill is pretty safe.

I call bullshit on that.
"At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the 'applicant' becomes a 'claimant.'"
This seems like a no-brainer. There is no "scientific panel." The "formal test" takes place in my own home, for Christ's sake. How could I not become the "claimant?" In fact, there's no reason why I can't present the very same evidence for this award that I presented to the "701" competition. Who's to say a fragment of unearthly metal from a UFO can't have psychic properties? And why couldn't the wreckage of a crashed flying saucer be haunted by the ghosts of its alien crew?

Imagine being able to prove the existence of alien ghosts! Does the fun factor not just rocket off the charts when you combine those two words?

So yeah, my future is looking pretty rosey... There is one thing that's nagging at me, though. I've just been looking through the August issue of the MUFON Journal, and it's chock full of photos from the recent MUFON 2014 Symposium held in New Jersey. James Fox, of "701" fame, is in a whole lot of the photos, and he's in these photos with some people who have made pretty bold claims in the past about evidence of the reality of UFOs... Come to think of it, some of the folks listed in the production credits on the movie's website have also made some bold claims about UFO proof. Why haven't any of these people claimed Fox's $100,000?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The End of UFOs?

I can't say I really liked Mark Jacobson's UFO article that appeared over the weekend in New York Magazine's "Daily Intelligencer."

While it's great anytime the phenomenon gets coverage in such a prominent publication, it's also fraught with complications... The article claims to be about UFOlogy, and starts out promisingly enough, but I realized in pretty short order that it was simply a report on the MUFON 2014 Symposium, which happened to be held in New Jersey. In other words, the UFO convention was close enough to New York that there would be no travel expenses involved, so why not send a reporter around for an afternoon to see what he could come up with?

So for Jacobson to claim that he was authoritatively summing up the state of modern UFOlogy was quite a stretch...

Not that he didn't make an attempt to do a creditable job. The writer clearly knows a thing or two about the history of UFO phenomenon, and knows enough to question the whole silly "Disclosure" meme that has taken over the field. But it's not hard to see that spending a few hours interviewing random MUFONers might make him think that UFOlogy is a relic of the past. What he didn't seem to get was that UFOlogy is much bigger than MUFON, and there is much more to know about the field than an afternoon in New Jersey will tell you.

Thank God the writer talked with George Knapp. He at least got to see that there's some intelligence in UFOlogy. But he also talked with Steven Bassett, the brainiac behind last year's asinine and embarassing "Citizen Hearing on Disclosure." 

Sorry, but there is a lot more to UFOlogy than just this...
And now, in the eyes of the New York Magazine's readers, those are the voices of modern UFOlogy. The only voices.

Interestingly, the reporter pointedly emphasized the ages of everyone involved, to drive home the point that UFOlogy is essentially running on Geritol fumes. (Had Stanton Friedman been in attendance, the reporter would undoubtedly have included him in the discussion, but I don't see how that would have improved things -- to the reporter, it just would have meant more old material from another old guy).

Someday, maybe, there will be a write-up about UFOs and UFOlogists in a mainstream publication that portrays us as intelligent, thoughtful people who aren't all pushing 90 and who don't necessarily gather at UFO conventions, but are driven by a genuine need to understand a phenomenon that science has yet to come to terms with.

Someday, maybe.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hynek: UFO Rebel

Just a short post here today before I head out for a few days' vacation.

Last week I was at the University of Chicago archives researching the early work of Dr. J. Allen Hynek. And when I say early, I mean back in the mid-1930s when he was getting his Ph.D. and just beginning his career as a professional astronomer.

It's been one of the great joys of working on this book that I have found so many surprises in Hynek's past that completely obliterate the popular perception among his contemporaries and among modern-day UFOlogists that he was a weak, timid, lily-livered coward who sold out the UFO community and enabled the U.S. Air Force's UFO "coverup." This view is still pervasive today, as one recent UFO book revealed: the authors laughably titled their chapter about the Doctor, "J. Allen Hynek: Dupe or Accomplice?"

Uh... How 'bout neither?

There's a mountain of documented evidence that Hynek was in fact remarkably brave and outspoken in the astrophysics community even when he was an absolute nobody! He was already quite the rebel when he took up his first professional position at Ohio Wesleyan University in the '30's. You just have to look for the evidence.

For today, one example will suffice. At the U of C archives one can find folder after folder of correspondence between Hynek and his mentor and former boss at the Yerkes Observatory, Dr. Otto Struve. In these letters, Hynek's penmanship is striking: his handwriting leans very dramatically to the left...
 (NOTE: The images are a little askew because the folks at the U of C archive do not allow scanning of files; you can only take photos, and only with express permission. These images were made as I held my iPad over the documents and snapped pics of them. Not very exacting, but the best I could do under the circumstances)
May 15, 1939 from J. Allen Hynek to Otto Struve

April 16, 1939 letter from J.A. Hynek to Otto Struve
I thought this pronounced slanting was pretty interesting, and I wanted to find out what it might mean. I did a little unscientific online research into handwriting analysis and discovered a pretty consistent theme running across several websites...

A person whose handwriting leans heavily to the left is "quiet, reclusive, and usually thinks before acting," said one website. That is very true of Hynek, but it's not the whole story. Another site stated that if your handwriting slants left, "You tend to keep to yourself and generally like to work behind the scenes. If you are right-handed and your handwriting slants to the left, you may be expressing rebellion." 

The key question, then, is this: Was Hynek a right-handed rebel? I'll let the photographic evidence speak for itself...