Friday, October 31, 2014

Estimate of the Situation

Things have been a bit slowish in the Certified UFO Field Investigator trade, and since I'm paid on a "per alien" basis, this is causing some worry. The only case I have pending right now looks as though it's going nowhere, as my emails have been blocked and the witness hasn't returned my calls...

To add insult to injury, the last couple cases I've investigated were pretty disappointing: one involved a guy who woke up with a strange mark on his arm that alarmed him because he had seen a UFO a month earlier, and another guy reported that he was chased by a UFO while driving home at night. The strange marking on the first guy's arm had long since disappeared by the time I interviewed him (and the light in the sky he'd sighted a month earlier turned out to be Arcturus), and the guy whose car was paced at "100-110 miles per hour" by a UFO until the UFO passed behind a hill and never reappeared never thought to pull over and take a peek behind the nearby hill.

Not much to get excited about in either case... although there was a flurry of excitement over the guy with the mark on his arm, because in his report he was attempting to write "being as" instead of "because of" and he accidentally typed "beings." You can imagine what a stir that caused at MUFON HQ. They had the damned STAR Team racing to the airfield before I was able to calm everyone down.
Beware of UFO reports involving "beings," as it could be a misspelling.

Anyway, looking over my recent cases inspired me to take stock. Sure, the last couple cases have been duds, but I've had some doozies, too. I wasn't sure of the tally, but it turns out I've investigated a whopping 31 cases over the past 12 months! I've come across Close Encounters of the Third Kind, cattle mutilations, and even an 1890's airship, all right here in Wisconsin! That's not too shabby at all.

I've written before about the "Ballaster-Guasp" evaluation (BGE) tool that strangely uses the amount of time I've spoken with a witness as a measure of the witness' credibility, so that if a witness stutters or has fits of narcolepsy during the interview or endlessly repeats himself his testimony is given added weight. Despite its obvious shortcomings, we at MUFON are married to the BGE and so all 31 of my cases have BGE "certainty ratings"...

Of the 31 cases, 13 rated a big, fat 0 in the BGE. Most of those were because the witness did not respond to my attempts to contact them, but two came about because the same person reported the same exact incident twice, only with the date and location changed, and one came about simply because someone reported hearsay about a cattle mutilation story he once heard back in the 1970s, but couldn't remember who made the claim or where the events took place. I reported all but one of the BGE '0's as "Insufficient Data," and the one remaining was an apparent hoax so I wrote in my report that it was a "Hoax." Why do I say it was an apparent hoax? Because the witness wrote things like "I was the only one to see it take off like that and I screamed bloody murder I felt dizzy light headed all of reality just slipped away." In any case, he never returned my calls or emails, so I don't feel bad about not learning more about how his reality just slipped away...

Those 13 goose eggs really take their toll, as the average BGE rating for all 31 cases was a mere 6.247%, which is not a very healthy cumulative credibility score at all. Still, there were some standouts, like the guy who was launching his boat when he saw an invisible UFO cutting through the clouds and being closely followed by a U.S. Navy AWACS plane, and my favorite, the couple who got lost while driving late at night, saw a UFO land alongside the highway, then decided it was just a house, but who couldn't find any trace of a house when they retraced their route the next day. That was undoubtedly my best, creepiest, most unsettling case of the past 12 months... And I can honestly say that when I interviewed the witness I did not doubt his sincerity for one second.

I reported that case as "Unknown: Unidentified Aerial Vehicle," which means, according to MUFON's rules, that I had "90%+ confidence that the object sighted by the witness cannot be explained by a terrestrial object or an astronomical object." In all, I reported six of my cases as "Unknown: UAV," which means that a whopping 19.35% of my 31 cases were extremely creepy, and pretty much inexplicable. Those six cases averaged 14.66% certainty on the BGE, with the highest, the previously-mentioned house that wasn't there the next day, scoring a whopping 33%!

As for the rest of the cases, I reported four in my favorite nonsense category: "Unknown: Other." This applies to "...an unknown object that doesn't appear to be any type of aerial vehicle. Examples would be orbs, odd-moving lights near the ground, strange floating objects, a strange opening in the sky, etc." The "Others" on my list were as follows:
  • "...a red tinged circular object that appeared to be moving and interacting with a white circular star-like object that did not move";
  • "...an immensely bright light hovering in the sky in front of us";
  • "...orange flashing lights in the sky. At times blue and red beams seemed to shoot through the trees"; and, last but not least,
  • "...yellow light"
The really weird cases are those I listed as "Insufficient Data" or "Information Only" that still scored significantly more than "0" on the BGE. With certainty ratings of 2.72%, 4.24%, 4.97%, 2.04%, 1.48%, 1.63% and 10.11%, these cases couldn't quite be ignored and yet the witness' reports were so completely off-the-wall that I couldn't rightly throw my full support behind them. Like the case where the witness was sure the UFO was singling him out for attention, he guaranteed me that the Men in Black would visit me after our interview (they didn't), and he continued to drive his kids to school in his truck after a Geiger Counter supposedly showed that the truck was irradiated by the UFO... Good parenting there.

I guess this just goes to show how subjective the whole process is. I have to make a slightly-educated guess as to the nature of an object based on testimony that is sometimes very convincing but often very sketchy, sparse, illogical and unreliable... If I had to guess how often I get it right, I would probably give myself a pretty modest score, maybe 25-30%. Maybe.

Then there's this: MUFON points out that "70% or more of our cases will probably fall into" the category of "IFO," or Identified Flying Object. "A sighting should be categorized as an IFO if the investigator believes that the most likely explanation is a man-made object or a natural phenomenon," MUFON says. "The investigator does not need to be 100% certain that an object is identified. For example, several orange objects moving in the same direction that flicker and disappear one by one after a few minutes are most likely Chinese Lanterns and should be categorized as an IFO unless they exhibit unusual movements or last for longer than 10 minutes."

Bad news: I have not used this category 70% of the time. I have not used it 60% of the time. I have not used it 50%, 42% or 27% of the time. In fact, I have not used it once in the past 12 months...


Oops.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Betty Hill's Navel

A recent post over at the immensely entertaining UFO Conjecture(s) blog has got my blood boiling!!

Seems there is or was this writer for the Skeptical Inquirer named Martin Kottmeyer who loved to try poke holes in the famous Barney & Betty Hill UFO abduction story. So... RR at UFO Conjecture(s) wrote about one of Kottmeyer's attacks on the Hill case in which Kottmeyer strenuously argued that because a science fiction movie about alien abductions was made in 1953, eight years before the Hills' alleged alien abduction, the Hills must be lying...

Huh?

Kottmeyer's piece, which RR excerpts extensively, is completely bewildering. The film in question is called "Invaders From Mars," a visually stylish if narratively loopy bit of early-1950s paranoid fluff. The film is noteworthy for telling its invasion story from the point of view of a young child; and, interestingly, director and noted scenic designer William Cameron Menzies very deliberately gave the film a dreamlike quality, with overly dramatic camera angles and sets, suggesting that the child's version of reality is not necessarily to be trusted.

Sadly, neither is Kottmeyer's. He presents absolutely no evidence that Betty Hill ever saw the movie, and yet he suggests that Betty's tale of hers and Barney's alleged alien abduction was directly inspired by the imagery in the film.

There's another issue as well. Even if Kottmeyer could use his forensic skills to place Betty and Barney in a theater in 1953 watching "Invaders From Mars," which he can't, some of the so-called parallels he describes are quite ludicrous...

First he references something Betty said about her captors having noses like Jimmy Durante's, and then claims that the martians in the movie had Jimmy Durante noses as well... Hmm... Please note the two pictures for comparison:
Martian movie mutant nose...
Jimmy Durante nose...
Later Kottmeyer describes a scene from the film that depicts the interior of the Martian spaceship and he claims that it looks suspiciously like... well, I'll let him explain:
Correctly interpreted, it is an overhead shot of the alien surgical theatre which reveals some of the architecture of the saucer. Dominant in the image is a large tubular beam or conduit connecting the ceiling to the floor. It bears a marked stylistic similarity to the needle being used in the implanting operation. A confusion is invited. The tubular beam and its plastic sheath takes on the appearance of the hypodermic needle. The lighting of the floor of the saucer gives the illusion of the curvature of an abdomen. The place where floor and conduit meet is tightly surrounded by a circular indentation. It's the navel. This, I believe, is the origin of Betty's bizarre image of the needle in the navel. Either she misperceived it during the watching of the film, probably on black and white TV, or her consciousness spun out the alternate interpretation in constructing the nightmare.
The stupidity just hurts... Here is the shot in question, offered without comment:
Spaceship interior... aka Betty Hill's navel.

I will grant that the scene in the movie depicting an abducted woman getting a needle stuck in the back of her neck is close enough to what Betty described happening to her, but, again, Kottmeyer can't prove that Betty ever saw the movie...

So, sorry, RR. This "UFO conjecture" is less than worthless. Especially when you consider that "Invaders" is not the only fictional science fiction story that Kottmeyer used to try to debunk the Hill's experience. I've written about that here.

There's something else about this whole tale that concerns me... Kottmeyer, like some other commentators, continually refers to Betty Hill but excludes Barney. Why is that? From what I've seen, even Kathy Marden frequently bills herself as "Betty Hill's niece," but surely she was Barney's niece as well....



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

UFO Intruders

What makes a UFO witness credible, even when he or she can't prove that a single thing they're reporting is true?

I come across this all time as a Certified UFO Field Investigator. Some UFO witnesses just immediately strike me as believable, and some immediately strike me as, well... full of it. On the surface, it makes no sense. They're all reporting very similar phenomena, and none of them really stands to gain from reporting a UFO incident, and I am supposed to be... *ahem*... impartial.
Sometimes an investigator has to gauge a UFO person's credibility according to subtle visual cues...

But I'm human, and when I'm interviewing a UFO witness I'm paying attention to a lot more than just the story I'm being told. There are untold non-verbal cues that enter into what a person is relating to me and how I receive the information, and it would be impossible for me to untangle all the factors that shape my opinion of a witness and what that witness is telling me. Having said that, I think I do a pretty good job, but I suppose anyone would say that.

I bring it up because I've been spending the last week or two transcribing some of the many interviews I conducted over the summer for my bio of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, and this very topic came up in one of the interviews.

I had asked Dr. Hynek's son Paul what it was like growing up in a household in which a never-ending parade of visitors and guests came by to meet, or meet with, his father. And by guests I mean celebrities, scientists and journalists, but not just them. I also mean UFO witnesses. Lots of UFO witnesses. It would not have surprised me one bit had Paul told me that he didn't find a single one of them sincere or believable. They were, in a sense, competitors for his father's attention, after all, and they were intruding on the Hyneks' home life.

So I was pleased to discover that Paul had a favorite among all the UFO witnesses who intruded into his home, and even more pleased to discover that that the honoree was none other than Father William Gill, whose 1959 Close Encounter of the Third Kind in Boanai, New Guinea, is one of the strangest, most puzzling, most thoroughly investigated and yet thoroughly charming UFO event of all time.

To give a quick recap, Gill, an Anglican minister working as a missionary in New Guinea, witnessed a UFO for two nights in a row, and interacted with the occupants. The occupants were standing on a sort of deck on top of the hovering saucer, and when Gill and the others with him raised their arms and then waved, the occupants raised their arms and waved back. There were a couple dozen corroborating witnesses who all reported the same thing, and not even the Australian Air Force could pick the story apart.

Years later, Gill was in Chicago, apparently, attending an ecumenical conference, and he came to visit Dr. Hynek in Evanston. Here's how Paul recalls Father Gill:

"He was so at ease, and that’s what really struck me about him. I wasn’t familiar with the case before then, but I knew why he was at our house and he talked about it but he didn’t elaborate past the point where my Dad would prod him.
"You can just tell about some people, they are not making this shit up. There were multiple witnesses, and there was no abduction or sperm samples or anything tawdry like that, so, it was just the perfect case.
"And my recollection was that after a while Father Gill went back in for vespers or whatever that he had to do, and people couldn’t understand that. His answer was, more or less, that 'It’s my duty to do vespers, not to do vespers unless there’s a craft in the sky.'"

I can certainly see why Paul found him so credible. Obviously, Paul had a lot of non-verbal information to help him assess Gill's believability, but I find it most interesting that he keyed in on the fact that Gill "didn't elaborate" past the point where Dr. Hynek would prod him... That's not even a clue; that's a non-clue, and that's what convinced him.

The lesson for me is that I need to be more cognizant of how I make those judgements, of what verbal and non-verbal cues enhance or diminish a witness' credibility in my eyes... Because I'm facing it in my book, as a matter of fact. I have a real corker of a story to open the book, and some of the evidence of Hynek's role in the story is based on a story Hynek told "my" witness about 35 years ago... My witness' memory of Hynek's story is based just as much on Hynek's non-verbal cues as by what he actually said, so in a sense I have next to no proof that what I believe happened happened... just a very, very strong intuition based on this person's very, very vivid memory.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Where's My Space Ark?

To my great surprise and delight, I've been reading things over the past few days that signal an end to the tired "Disclosure" meme. First came news of a new Facebook UFO group called "U-Foreclosure" that bravely declares on its homepage that "UFO Disclosure is bankrupt and in default. Time to take things back and put them into the hands of investigators and researchers. U-Foreclosure Now!"
Then there was this courageous blog post at Silver Screen Saucers entitled "Disclosure Movement RIP."

This whole death of Disclosure thing could be true or it could be some massive psyops mindfuck to get us to let down our guard, but at this point I don't really care. Disclosure has long since passed its freshness date, and it's time to move on.

But if Disclosure is off, that means we won't be facing a total, catastrophic breakdown of civilization. And if we're not facing a total, catastrophic breakdown of civilization, what will become of the Space Ark? I don't know what your family talks about at dinner, but when the subject of surviving a total, catastrophic breakdown of civilization comes up in my household, as it often does, my wife Mxxxxx always brings up a very good point: she is convinced that someone, somewhere is building a Space Ark...

It could happen the day after tomorrow... or even tomorrow!
Perhaps they already have it completed and ready to go, my wife suggests. Perhaps there's a whole fleet! Perhaps.... they've already decided who will get to board. I have to admit, she makes a strong case for the Ark.

So, now that we don't need it, what's going to happen to it? Will it be scrapped? Or will they keep it idling, just in case... Just in case some other unforeseeable catastrophe befalls us -- a stray planetoid on a collision course with earth, perhaps (see illustration)?

If I had a suspicious mind, I might think that these folks who are suddenly and inexplicably declaring the end of Disclosure all sound so reassuring because they don't want the rest of us discovering the Space Ark... because they know Disclosure is closer than we think, and they already have their seats reserved. Greer, Bassett, Bigelow, the Atacama Humanoid... you can bet they all have first-class tickets.

If my deepest fears are true, there's only one thing we can do. Find the Space Ark! Storm the launchpad! Steal a seat! 

My wife and I are on this.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

UFO Science vs Anti-science

What has science ever told us about UFOs?

Not much, when you get right down to it. After over 60 years, science can't even tell us whether UFOs represent something physically real. As the late, great scientist Dr. J. Allen Hynek used to point out, all that we know for certain is that UFO reports exist.

So, considering how bad a job science has done to make sense of the UFO phenomenon, why not turn to the furthest thing from science that we can imagine -- anti-science, if you will -- to see if we can get better results. And by anti-science, I mean, of course, poetry.

You may scoff, but last night I was witness to a fascinating experiment in which one of the best-documented UFO cases of all time was picked apart by the anti-scientific method of poetry, and the results were pretty surprising...

A long while back I blogged about my new friend Txxx, the writer who was writing some poetry about the famous Barney and Betty Hill UFO abduction case of 1961. Well, last night Txxx gave a reading of four of the poems he has written thus far, and I, who know next to nothing about poetry, loved it. It occurred to me as I listened to Txxx's poems that he has really hit upon a powerful new way to consider the UFO phenomenon.

This sketch depicts what Barney saw when the UFO descended.
Think about it: The logic of science hasn't gotten us anywhere, but maybe the illogic of poetry is perfectly suited to unravel the mystery of UFOs. Maybe it's what we've needed all along. I certainly suspected it last night. Txxx read four poems about the Hill case; each of them dealt with a singular aspect of the case, and each broke that aspect down into certain incomplete fragments of time, sensation and emotion that were, in their fragmentary nature, more powerful than some of the more complete, factually- and chronologically-correct accounts of the events. I don't know how that works, but it does! Seriously, I felt as though I was inside Betty's and Barney's heads on that lonely stretch of Route 3 in 1961 in a way I've never experienced before. Whatever a poet gets paid, it's not nearly enough.

The four pieces concerned these four aspects of the Hill case:
  • Betty's recollection of the close encounter and its aftermath
  • Barney's reaction to hearing the recording of his account, made under hypnosis, of the medical exam aboard the spaceship
  • Barney describing the creatures to a sketch artist
  • Betty's encounter journal that she kept for years after the initial event
I can't say which I liked best, because each has its own unique impact, but one quote from the second poem, in which Barney keeps referring to his voice in the audio recording as someone impersonating him, really gave me a chill... Barney, who could not yet remember the abduction in conscious memory, said "It's better to wonder than to remember."

Last night, I believed him.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Paranoiapalooza

Well, it happened again. No sooner had I posted here about being shanghaied by the Bigfoot Contact Movement and then subjected to some very disturbing and NSFW erotic alien art as a result of belonging to the wrong Facebook group at the wrong time, than I get another notice from another Facebook UFO group telling me that I've just missed the "2014 Secret Space Program and Breakaway Civilization Conference"...

Let me repeat that so it has a chance to sink in: 2014... SECRET... SPACE... PROGRAM... AND... BREAKAWAY... CIVILIZATION... CONFERENCE...

Now, that's a title that makes me sit up and pay attention. It's diabolically engineered to appeal to the most paranoid reaches of my lizard brain... Secret Space Program? I knew it! Breakaway Civilization? I knew it! Conference? I knew it!

Once I followed the link to the very slick SSPABCC website I knew this was something extraordinary. It's got deep, deep questions. It's got a beautiful starry background. It's got a Swedish host. He's a guy, though, but still. More than that, it's got absolutely no trace of who built it, who is running it, or why... which is either very fitting or very ironic for such an elaborate and well-crafted monument to paranoia.

All you can do is follow the clues and hope they lead you to some level of understanding... I decided to start with those deep, deep questions on the "Intro" page:
  • Is there a secret space program?
  • Where did the money go?
  • Is the UFO the hidden factor in modern history?
  • Breakaway consciousness (that's not a question! how did it get here? - Ed.)
  • What is really going on out there?
Here are my answers:
  • Yes, and I'm running it!
  • Not to me! Otherwise I'd have my first rocket in space by now!
  • Yes, only the UFO can help us make sense of modern history; it completely explains last week, for instance!
  • That's not a question!
  • Are you kidding? I can't even figure out what's really going on in here, much less out there!
As you can plainly see, this leaves me no better off than when I started. Which, I have concluded, is exactly the point! The SSPABCC is all about deep and profound confusion... The more you think you understand, the less you actually do understand -- black is white, up is down, Coke is Pepsi! -- which makes me extremely grateful that I didn't attend; imagine my confusion if I had been there in person.
This woman got to be a presenter. Why not me?

Here, for example, is the opening paragraph from that same "Intro" page I cited earlier:
Join us as we present a carefully selected group of speakers gathered to ask some serious questions about the “deep state” and what is really happening in the world and beyond. We expose the most powerful invisible mechanisms behind global geopolitical and financial trends.
Did that make one iota of sense to you? And where are the UFOs?

In an effort to get to the bottom of this, I located the "Comments" section of the SSPABCC website and sent the mysterious organizers an email. In it, I said that I would like to be a speaker at next year's conference, because I know a thing or two about secret space programs and breakaway civilizations. I'll report back as soon as I hear from "them."