High Strangeness

Sunday, March 5, 2017

UFO Bad Guys

What's a book without a bad guy?

That was one of the many questions I had to answer while writing my book, "The Close Encounters Man." In writing about the life and career if astronomer and UFO expert Dr. J. Allen Hynek, I had--much to my surprise--a regular rogues gallery of villains from which to choose.

This was surprising to me because Dr. Hynek was just such a nice guy. How could such a gentle soul make any enemies in life? And yet he had. From his Project Blue Book project chiefs in the U.S. Air Force to establishment scientists to amateur UFO investigation groups to the whole state of Michigan, there was seemingly no end to the people Hynek pissed off in his pursuit of the truth.

  • There was Dr. James McDonald, professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Arizona, who was furious at Hynek for having "dismissed with absurd explanations" so many of the "good" UFO cases he came across while employed by the Air Force. McDonald could not forgive Hynek for ignoring so much good data, and could not understand when Hynek explained that a lot of that "good data" was in fact rubbish.
  • There was Philip J. Klass, the aviation writer who spent many years debunking UFO sightings in magazines, newspaper articles, and books, and who relentlessly mocked Hynek for taking the UFO phenomenon seriously. Klass is particularly interesting for the fact that Hynek and his colleagues Jacques Vallee and William Powers delighted in making fun of his absurd rationalizations for UFO sightings--Vallee would simply say: "Klass dismissed!"
    The UFO that made Major Quintanilla start smoking again.
  • There was Major Hector Quintanilla, the final project chief at Project Blue Book, who never liked or trusted Dr. Hynek, and did his best to kneecap Hynek's investigations at every opportunity. Quintanilla made no secret of his hatred of UFOs and the people who report seeing them; he had just quit smoking before being assigned to Project Blue Book, and lit up again when the famous Soccoro, New Mexico Close Encounter of Lonnie Zamora made national headlines in 1965.
  • There was Dr. Donald Menzel, astronomer at Harvard University, who challenged Hynek's Blue Book work at every opportunity, as he was convinced that all UFOs could be explained away as "invisible clouds" and temperature inversions.
  • There was, as mentioned above, the entire population of the state of Michigan, who reviled Hynek for suggesting that the 1966 Dexter-Hillsdale mass UFO sighting could well have been nothing more than "swamp gas."
  • And then there was my favorite, Dr. Carl Sagan, astronomy professor from Cornell University, who took great pleasure in ridiculing UFOs, people who claim to see UFOs, and fellow professors who study UFOs. That last category included, of course, Dr. Hynek. Sagan loved to go after Hynek every chance he got, as readers of my book will learn, but his arguments against Hynek's work were a bit odd, to say the least. You see, Sagan himself believed strongly in the existence of intelligent life on other planets. He also believed it was likely that those other life forms had indeed visited earth... but only hundreds of thousands of years in the past. If anyone suggested that aliens from other worlds were visiting us now, in the present day, well, Sagan would give them the smackdown, real fast...

Sadly, not all of these villains make it into the book, and some of those who do only get brief mention, simply because they did not play all that big a part in Hynek's story. But Dr. Sagan plays a pretty big role in the book, and I think readers will be very surprised by some of the things he said and did regarding UFOs.... and the reason he said and did them.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hasta la vista, MUFON!

I tried. I really did.

Ever since renewing my status as a MUFON Certified UFO Field Investigator I tried my hardest to get along with my new state director, but in the end I just couldn't do it. So last week I resigned--again.

Things started out weird, when her first official act as my "boss" was to encourage me to buy her friend's book about orbs. I'm not a big orb guy myself, but even if I was, I would have been irked by her insisting over and over again that I buy some book arguing that the Earth is being invaded by malevolent orange alien orbs. So I didn't buy it.

Right away she started to micromanage, telling me how, when and where to investigate my cases, and emailing me on pretty much a daily basis demanding updates, which didn't sit too well with me. Then it got worse. She started telling me what the disposition of my cases should be before I even investigated them. The explanation for each case was always the same: orbs. She always had an iron-clad case for why the explanation could only be orbs.

Along the way there were other odd occurrences that only made me feel more uncomfortable. One day she told all us local investigators about a Close Encounters of the Third Kind case she was investigating. It involved a guy who was being visited by alien greys every night at his vacation cabin. She made it out to be a pretty big deal, and said that there were amazing photos of the aliens that she would share with us in the next few days. A week or so went by and there was no news, and some of the field operatives she had notified started asking her for updates...

That's when I asked her about the photos of the aliens. I got crickets. Still haven't seen them.

Some time after that, she revealed to the group that she has had a lifetime of abduction experiences, and that she had just had one a few days earlier. Her proof? She woke up one night with a gelatinous substance on her nose. And the next morning her hands and robe glowed under a black light bulb.

That's it.

That's MUFON's threshold these days for proving that an alien abduction has occurred.

But that's not even the straw that broke the camel's back with me. What finally pushed me over the edge was discovering that she had been going through my old case files and changing my case dispositions. I talked to a higher-up at MUFON about this and learned that a state director can indeed change other peoples' case reports on a whim, and I didn't like that. See, she wasn't actually re-investigating my cases. She was just going over my case notes and deciding that many of my "insufficient data" cases were wrong, then changing them to "unknown other," aka: orbs.

Among her justifications for changing my case dispositions was this gem: "the orbs are the
most prominent object flying at this time in WI." Well, of course!

But, hey, it's not all bad. She assured me that my ignorance on these matters was not fatal to my career as a field investigator. I just needed more training.

And I needed to buy her friend's book.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Tired of UFOs!

I never would have thought it possible, but I have finally reached a point where I am tired of reading my biography of Dr. J. Allen Hynek. I have had to read and re-read and re-re-read the manuscript of The Close Encounters Man so many times in the past few weeks, going through the final copy edit and then meeting all the standards of my publisher's legal counsel, that I can barely look at it now.

But I still think it's pretty good! And, in a weird twist that sounds made-up but isn't, last night as I put the final touches on the book I revised the closing pages and wrote what I now think may be the best line in the book. Then I sent the MS off to my editor and put the book and myself to bed...

I can't share that line or much of anything else at this point, but I can give you a tantalizing peek at a few of the chapter titles:

Chapter 1: Under the Dome . . .

Chapter 2: Unusual Stars . . .

Chapter 3: The Crowded Sky . . .

Chapter 6: Project Henry . . .

Chapter 7: Hynek in Wonderland . . .

Chapter 14: Mr. UFO . . .

Chapter 15: Signal in the Noise . . .

Chapter 16: Invisible at Last . . .

Chapter 18: The Spur . . .

Chapter 19: Purple Peach Trees . . .

Chapter 21: Close Encounters . . .

Chapter 22: Arizona . . .

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

UFO Reunion

Every once in a while, my involvement in UFO research brings me a chance to take part in a really fun event. Going to Connecticut a few years back to meet movie special effects genius Douglas Trumbull and see the debut of his UFOTOG tracking system was one. Going to Ann Arbor, Michigan last March to take part in Michigan MUFON's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the infamous "swamp gas" case was another.

The other day, another of these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities arose, and like the first two it came about because of my involvement in MUFON. Earlier this week I saw a posting on the facebook group for MUFON State Directors that piqued my interest (yes, technically, I shouldn't belong to the group as I am an ex-MUFON officer, but they haven't given me the boot yet, so...). The message was from a MUFON officer from Wyoming who is trying to put together an event in 2017 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which I think is a brilliant idea.
Who could we get to sponsor it?

The last 30 minutes of the 1977 film take place at "The Dark Side of the Moon," a secret UFO landing base that our government has built at the foot of Devil's Tower National Monument in northeast Wyoming, and this MUFON guy wants to hold the event there, at Devils Tower! Brilliant!

In his message, he explained that he would be in charge of planning the event, and he had no idea how to start, or who to contact as speakers for the event. So, naturally, I offered him a suggestion...

It's too early to say whether this event will take place. He's talking about a September, 2017 event, which gives him lots of time, but the logistics are daunting. Devil's Tower is in the middle on nowhere. Hell, Wyoming is in the middle of nowhere. How do you get enough people to an event in the middle of nowhere to make the event pay for itself, even turn a profit? I was just exchanging emails with my sister-in-law Cxxxx about it, and she suggested a mashed potato sculpture competition or mashed potato wrestling. I think those are both genius ideas, but will they attract enough people?

In any case, if the event comes to pass, I've expressed my interest in taking part, and my willingness to reach out to Doug Trumbull. It could be fun!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

UFO Through the Window

My first MUFON case since returning to the fold was shaping up to be a real nothingburger, but instead it has taken some interesting twists and turns.

In my last post, I expressed my reservations about my new Wisconsin state MUFON director and her work methods. Since then, she has shown a willingness to accept that I'm not going to do things her way, so maybe there's hope. She had assigned me a case in which a young couple saw a strange light in the evening sky as they drove home from shopping. My director really seemed to want this case to be about telepathic orbs, so I wasn't sure if she would accept my case disposition that the couple had simply seen a reflection of sunlight in the clouds. But, she did, and so we're cool. For now.

But, when I was interviewing the couple in this case along with my new MUFON co-investigator, I couldn't help noticing that the wife seemed to be very concerned, as if she was carrying some weight on her shoulders but didn't want to talk about it. My cohort had gotten the same impression from her. So I wasn't completely surprised when she emailed me yesterday to tell me that there was more to the story... And what a story it is.

The woman told me that she had been having strange experiences since she was five, when she had an incident with a green light outside her bedroom window. The light came into her room, and she was terrified that aliens were trying to "suck" her out of the window. She said her dad told her the next day that he had seen green light outside the house. From that night on, she told me, she would wait until everyone else in the family was asleep then sneak onto her parents' bedroom and sleep on the floor.

She also told me of recurring dreams of alien Armageddon that she had had off and on in her life. That is not so strange to me, as I have learned that a LOT of people have recurring alien Armageddon dreams, but one version of her dream was particularly interesting. It involved her and her whole class at school being taken from their school bus, lined up and made to kneel on the ground while "strange people" stuck needles in the soles of their feet, so that the strange people could keep track of them. The woman claims that she still has the mark on her foot.

She also said that these childhood experiences have absolutely no connection to the report she filed a few weeks ago about the light in the sky, which I think is a pretty interesting detail.

Honestly, I'm not sure what I think of this, but I am intrigued. This is one of those rare cases where it feels like an episode of the X Files just landed in my lap. My working theory is that the woman reported the light in the sky as a trial balloon, to see if MUFON would respond and to see how we would treat the case. That doesn't mean I mistrust her motives or her childhood memories, but I would need to know a whole lot more before deciding whats going on. All I can say is that she and her husband seemed sincere when we met with them last week.

So, I told her that she had three choices: First, if all she needed was to get this story off her chest to someone who would hear her out without making fun of her, and now that she has she doesn't need to go any further with it, that's cool. Case closed. Second, if she wanted to report the other experiences to MUFON, then my State Director would get involved, and all hell would break loose. Third, if she wasn't sure what she wanted to do, we could just keep the lines of communication open and I would respect any decision she might make. I have not heard back from her, and there's a good chance I may not.

I did notify my State Director, however, and guess what? Not only is she already 100% certain that we're dealing with a contact phenomenon that passes from mother to daughter, but she is all set to mobilize MUFON's alien abduction SWAT Team and she's already contacted a time-regression hypnotist...

Which makes this the first time I've ever felt that I need to protect a witness from MUFON.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My New UFO Headache

If you're as ancient as me, you may remember the opening sequence from the brilliant 1960's spy show, "The Prisoner," in which the unnamed spy played by Patrick McGoohan angrily resigns from his unnamed spy agency after bursting through the doors to his boss' office. It looked like this:

Well, I may be close to doing something very much like this with my new boss at MUFON. In fact, I may have just done it!

Regular readers may recall that about a year ago I took a leave of absence from my post as a MUFON Certified UFO Field Investigator as I finished my Hynek book. A few weeks ago I decided to rejoin and get back in on the fun, partly because this work really is fascinating, and partly because I may still want to write a book about my adventures as a UFO investigator, and to do that I need more material.

In the year I was gone, however, much has changed. Wisconsin has a new State Director, and she and I are matter and anti-matter, if you know what I mean.

Things started out badly in our first exchange. She informed me in no uncertain terms that she expects me to respond to her emails the same day, no exceptions--and this woman writes a LOT of emails. I wrote back and politely informed her that I would endeavor to respond to her emails in a timely manner, but that it probably wouldn't be the same day.

Next she insisted that I buy this $20 book about orbs written by some MUFON guy, because it turns out that she thinks every UFO reported to MUFON is an orb with telepathic abilities. I politely informed her that I will not be buying the book, but that hasn't kept her from "suggesting" every few days that I buy it. She has shared several of her orb case reports with me, and when it comes to her case dispositions, she says that "natural and man-made causes have been ruled out." I asked her how she had ruled out natural and man-made causes, and she basically said it was because she knew they were orbs.

Then yesterday she emailed me to say that she had contacted a witness in one of the cases she had assigned to me, to "introduce" me as the investigator who will be handling her sighting. Only problem is, I have already emailed this witness twice and introduced myself twice, which my State Director already knows.

I find this embarrassing and problematic, so I wrote to my SD tonight and told her so. I stated my belief that it is confusing to a witness to be contacted by multiple people in the organization. Then I stated my belief that when she "introduces" me to a witness to whom I have already introduced myself, not once but twice, it makes us look like unorganized amateurs. Then I stated my belief that by contacting a witness in my case behind my back, she sends me the message that she doesn't trust me to do my job.

On top of that, I am about to submit my first new case report, and I know she's going to hate it, because she was pretty sure the witness was receiving telepathic messages from the orb, but the witness told me that she did not receive any messages, telepathic or otherwise, from the object. Ouch.

I am not looking forward to my new boss' next email. It's not going to be good.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Beating a Dead UFO

So, the other day I did a webcast with noted UFO authority and all-around nice guy Kevin Randle (you can listen to it here), in which we discussed the Roswell Debate I had recently with Don Schmitt. The debate, for those of you new to the story, took place at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference earlier this fall. It was sponsored by well-known UFO and paranormal media outlet KGRA Radio, but after webcasting the debate live, KGRA has decided for reasons known only to them to reneg on their promise to post the debate on their website.

This is a problem to me for two reasons. First is the censorship issue: if you squelch dissenting voices and viewpoints, you're doing your listeners a disservice and keeping them in the dark, the exact opposite of what a media outlet is supposed to do. You're also engaging in what you might call a "cover-up," which I had thought was a dirty word in UFO circles. Second is the professional ethics issue: a big reason I did the debate was so that it could be heard online by an international audience, and by reneging on their promise to post the recording of the show, the people at KGRA have pretty much shafted me and the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference. I have a very low tolerance for people who break promises and reneg on deals. It shows a real spinelessness.

An early Xmas present from my wife! From growupawesome.com
So, anyway, Kevin and I had a good conversation on his show. We went over a lot of the content of the debate, and while we didn't agree on everything, we found common ground on a lot of issues and ultimately decided that there wasn't a whole lot more worth saying about Roswell. UFOlogy, I believe, has already moved on.

So it surprised me when, off the air, Kevin and his producer brought up the idea of having me and Schmitty do another Roswell Debate live on Kevin's show. They both thought it was a swell idea, and then they thought it would be even better if we did if for three hours instead of just one. And then they thought it would be an even better idea to have Tom Carey join Don Schmitt's side of the debate. Needless to say, the idea held very little appeal, but I hated to snuff out their enthusiasm, so I told them I wouldn't be able to commit to anything until after my book comes out next May and said we should talk again after that.

Then I thought about it over the holiday and realized that I won't want to talk about it in May any more than I do now. I have absolutely no interest in participating in another Roswell Debate.

Some decisions in life are hard, some are easy. This one was easy. Taking part in another Roswell Debate, I realized, would be a complete waste of my time and energy. Not only would it feel like beating a dead UFO, but it would only serve to legitimize Don Schmitt and his work, by keeping it in the spotlight. That is absolutely the wrong thing to be doing right now.

Also, somewhere along the line, Roswell has just become really, really boring to me...

What's the right thing to be doing right now? For me, it's working on my book. As my editor and I bang out a final draft of the manuscript, I'm also working on selecting photos and illustrations to use in the book, and securing permission from people who own the rights to those images. I thought the whole photo rights thing would be fraught with complications, but it's been amazingly trouble-free, and I am psyched about the images we're going to have in the book!

I had imagined using some great UFO photos, but after going over what there was available I came to the conclusion that UFO photographs pretty much suck, across the board. So, instead, we're using illustrations and artwork connected with some classic cases, and I couldn't be more excited. Where UFOs are concerned, at least, artwork is so much more evocative than photographs... I think it's because photographs represent an attempt to portray the physicality of UFOS, and if there's one thing that UFOs persistently refuse to give up, it's physical proof of their nature and existence. Illustrations, on the other hand, capture more of the psychological nature of UFO sightings. Yes, they're more subjective, but if you're not trying to prove one thing or another that doesn't really matter. Illustrations are about gut feelings, and what could be more interesting than that?