High Strangeness

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Finishing a UFO Book

Wow, I'm down to the last chapter in my Hynek bio!

It's a weird feeling, let me tell you. I've been lugging this book around for 4 years, and in a matter of a few weeks I'll be sending it out into the world. Well, to my publisher, at any rate. And from there, who knows?
Dr. J. Allen Hynek (1910-1986)

When I look back on this project, several things amaze me:

  • I have found amazing people and stories that I never ever would have dreamed of getting into this book when I started out.
  • I have had to leave out mountains of material, but it's still a ripping good story (and all the material I couldn't fit in the book will make for a series of really wonderful podcasts).
  • I know more about J. Allen Hynek than I know about my wife.
  • My understanding and appreciation of the UFO phenomenon has been completely transformed.
  • There are some jaw-dropping surprises in Hynek's story.
  • Speaking of jaw-dropping, Hynek was either written up in or wrote articles for some of the finest titty magazines in the business. 
  • Also speaking of jaw-dropping, the bad guys in the story are very unexpected, and very, very bad.
  • Hynek could be an incredibly funny dude, a quality that is sorely lacking in many UFOlogists.
  • I did end up writing about Roswell, but only after finding some amazing quotes from Hynek about his true feelings about saucer crash stories.
  • A LOT of people loved and respected the guy.
  • People who took his astronomy classes decades ago still have fond memories of him.
  • I want to be more like Hynek.
Also, this:

That Juno probe that just entered into orbit around Jupiter? Should have been named after Hynek (and should have included a Lego Hynek).

Friday, July 1, 2016


The publisher's deadline for my Hynek book is fast approaching, and I am happy to say that the final chapters are coming together very well. There will be lots of surprises for both the UFO die-hards and the UFO-curious. Wish I could say more, but then you wouldn't need to buy the book!
Yes, this is still happening: the exact opposite of unique and fascinating.

Let's just say that I have found some very unique sources for information about Dr. J. Allen Hynek's work as a UFOlogists, and they have provided me with some fascinating material regarding everything from hypnotism to alien abductions to saucer crashes, and much, much more! The cool thing about these sources and this material was that a lot of it was right under my nose, hiding in plain sight the whole time, and the rest of it just came fluttering through the window and landed in my lap just in the past few weeks, at the exact moment that I needed it. Which, for UFO lore, is really quite appropriate.

Speaking of unique, fascinating takes on the UFO phenomenon, here's a brilliant article my son turned me on to this week, about UFOs, aliens, Roswell, Area 51, the atomic age and the American southwest. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the topic...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

I Am Not Writing a UFO Book

It's true: I am not writing a UFO book.

I know that sounds a bit like Leonard Nimoy writing a book called, "I am Not Spock." Of course he was Spock, and he eventually realized that was a good thing and wrote a sequel called, "I am Spock."
Sometimes you just have to admit that you ARE Spock.

So, while I am writing a book about the world's best known UFO expert, I am not writing a UFO book. I am writing a book about a really interesting guy who was fascinated by UFOs and the challenge they presented to science. Like the subtitle of the book says: Hynek made it okay for the world to believe in UFOs, and how he did it is a hell of a story.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately as my publisher's deadline looms (T-minus 3 months and counting!) and I make my daily decisions about what to include in the book and what to leave out. More and more I realize that my book probably will not make a lot of UFO fans happy. My book will not prove or disprove anything. It does not have an axe to grind. It will not conform to conventional wisdom of the UFO community. It will not get me invited to "Contact in the Desert."

Not that I don't think UFO fans will enjoy the book. I hope they do. But I am not writing it just for them. I am writing it for a general audience that is curious about UFOs and wants to learn more about the phenomenon and the man who, in his words, made it "safe to utter the words 'flying saucer' at the dinner table without having to worry about getting your mouth washed out with soap.'"

Having said that, there are a LOT of UFOs in the book. I can't expect every reader to know the history of the phenomenon, and they have to have some grounding in it to be able to understand and appreciate Hynek's accomplishments. There's even going to be some mention of Roswell, something I swore a long time back that I would be avoiding. But it's not going to be your father's Roswell, if you know what I mean.

That reminds me, yesterday I was reviewing an interview I taped for the book, and at one point I asked the person a question about UFO history... The person started telling stories and suddenly he paused, sighed, and said something to the effect that "A lot of people in the UFO field just don't like each other very much."

Listening to that again made me laugh and then reflect, and admit that I know it's true because I don't like a lot of people in the UFO field very much. I don't like people who try to feed me misinformation for my book. I don't like people who insist that if I don't interview this person or that person for my book the book will be worthless. I don't like people who contact me without introducing themselves but expect me to just automatically know who they are and what they represent to the UFO community. I don't like people who contact me and insist that I just have to interview them for my book, and then send me dozens of links to things they've written "proving" Hynek was a fraud. Guess what? People who do that don't actually want to talk about Hynek; they want to talk about themselves. I know this from one excruciating hour-long interview with a UFO expert who wanted to tell me about Hynek, then proceeded to talk about himself non-stop. When he finally paused for breath, I asked him a question about Hynek. He gave me an incomprehensible answer that had nothing to do with what I had actually asked him, and then he said in a huff, "Now, can I get back to my story?"

Those people don't get into my book.

I will tell you about someone I do like, though. I recently interviewed James Oberg for the book, thinking it would be nice to get the skeptic's point of view on Hynek and his work. I wasn't sure what to expect, and I feared that the conversation might be difficult. Surprise! Not only was Mr. Oberg perfectly pleasant to talk to, I ended up thoroughly enjoying our conversation and liking him a lot.

So, that's my mission for the next three months: focus on the good people, filter out the bad ones. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Shitty Parents of The Children of Roswell

Imagine yourself in this scenario:

You've recently been witness to a UFO crash site on a remote ranch in New Mexico. Maybe you discovered it yourself, or maybe you heard about it from another rancher and went to take a look, it doesn't matter. The point is, you saw it, and you were so excited that you took a piece of the wreckage home with you and hid it, because it was indestructible and you knew there was something weird and top-secret-y about it.

Now also suppose that you also saw the bodies of dead aliens near the crash site, but you decided not to take one of the bodies home with you because, hey, you already have a piece of indestructible wreckage. Why be greedy?

Then suppose that a really scary military dude showed up at your house some time later, confiscated your hidden sample of indestructible wreckage and threatened you. "If you tell anyone about this," the scary military dude snarled at you, "we will kill you and your entire family." Then suppose that over the next few days your kid sensed that there was something weighing on your mind and asked you, "Dad, what's weighing on your mind," and you said, "Well, son/daughter, I recovered a fragment of indestructible wreckage from a crashed flying saucer (while opting not to bring home one of the dead alien bodies found nearby), and the military confiscated it and told me that if I told anyone about it they would kill you."

Would you really be that dumb? Of course you wouldn't! Why would you endanger your child's life? What kind of shitty parent are you?
At least they haven't brought up the slides... Not yet, anyway.

Yet this is what the authors of the new book "Children of Roswell" want us to believe was playing out at ranches all over New Mexico in July, 1947, after the supposed Roswell UFO crash took place. All sorts of shitty parents in the Roswell area, apparently, were putting their kids' lives in danger that summer by telling their kids the one thing they were never supposed to tell anyone if they wanted their kids to stay alive.

Now, I know you're wondering why I, an avowed Roswell skeptic, would be reading such a book. Well, ever since Don Schmitt, the co-author of the tome I've just referenced, challenged me to a "Roswell debate" to take place next October at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, I feel obliged to review my opponent's writings on the subject, no matter how unpleasant that may be.

So here I am, just a few chapters into his new book, thinking, "Is this all you've got?" Because the only explanations I can come up with for the "telling your kids the very secret that will get them killed if you tell them" scenario are 1) these ranchers were, as I've mentioned, really shitty parents, or 2) they didn't take the death threats seriously, because they knew it was all a big joke. Either way, it doesn't make a real strong argument for the veracity of the authors' claims.

Also, how do you recover wreckage of something made of indestructible material? It's indestructible! I've never been able to figure that one out.

Monday, March 21, 2016

My UFO Weekend in Ann Arbor

Well, the Swamp Gas UFO Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan has come and gone, and we still aren't any closer to knowing what all those people in Michigan saw in the swamps 50 years ago, Dammit. I tried my best to present a clear analysis of the event, but because I wasn't trying to prove anything or promote the expected cover-up story I'm not entirely sure how my talk went over.

It was a fun event, though, and I am really glad I got to take part. Hats off to Bill Konkolesky and his staff at Michigan MUFON for putting on such a slick event. There were about 200 people there, by my reckoning, and, hey, a lot of them stuck around until 4:15 to hear me tell the same story they had been hearing all day, so I was pleased.

Drink specials at the hotel bar the night of the conference. "Bud Light Lime" seems particularly otherworldly.
Not so pleasing was the fact that there was no one there from the media. I mean, not even Open Minds, for God's sake. Sheesh. Can we get a little recognition for something in UFO world that doesn't have "Roswell" in its name?

Also disappointing was the fact that the national MUFON organization provided very little support or promotion for the event. Shame on them. This could have and should have been a much bigger deal than it was, but MUFON HQ blew it. Why? Well, again, it doesn't have the "R" word in its name.

On the other hand, Roswell came up in the presentations, and when it did it was usually to endorse the tedious old saucer crash/government coverup story. When I was done with my Swamp Gas presentation, we opened it up for Q&A, and the first question came from a guy who asked me what I thought of Don Schmitt's reports that Dr. J. Allen Hynek interviewed Roswell witnesses. A Don Schmitt plant in the audience, perhaps?

What I should have said was, "What's a Roswell witness?" but I didn't. I said that to the best of my knowledge Hynek had never interviewed anyone about anything associated with Roswell. I could, of course, be wrong, but I've been researching Hynek's work for several years and I can tell you there is a notable absence of any mention of Roswell in any of Hynek's notes or books or interviews or correspondence that I have seen. It was only after Hynek moved to Arizona that Roswell became a hot topic in the CUFOS offices.

Another man asked how Hynek felt about UFO abductees. I replied that although Hynek was uncomfortable with abductee cases he was sympathetic to the people involved. He met Barney and Betty Hill in the mid-'60s, as well as Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker in '73, and was struck by the sincerity of all of them. He had been present when the Hills were hypnotized, and when the unsuccessful attempt to hypnotize Hickson and Parker had taken place, and was deeply impressed by both. On the other hard, he was not overly impressed when Travis Walton was hypnotized. He felt that Walton didn't remember much more under hypnosis than he had already consciously recalled.

Another questioner asked, "What do I tell people when they ask me if I really believe that UFOs are real?" I thought my answer was pretty snappy. I said, "You can just say what Hynek said when people asked him that. He simply said, 'Well, I believe UFO reports are real.'"

Yeah, maybe not what the crowd wanted to hear...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

UFO Poetry Slam

I just have to share this. I found this treasure a while back in Dr. J. Allen Hynek's files when I was researching my book about his career. It's a sarcastic poem someone wrote to and about Hynek in the wake of the swamp gas fiasco, and it's kind of a dopey masterpiece.

The poet was a Mr. Sxx Yxxxxxx, and he wrote the poem in anger over Hynek's apparent cover-up of the the Dexter-Hillsdale, Michigan UFO sightings of 1966. He felt, as did many, that Hynek knew for a fact that those Michigan UFOs were real extraterrestrial craft and was explaining them away as swamp gas to please his handlers in the Air Force. The poet's anger is entirely misplaced, in my opinion, which makes the poem even more fun. But you can't blame the guy for coming up with a truly creative way to vent his anger....

"Martian Gas"

In the midst of the twentieth century,
                        when man reached for the stars
And probed the void with telescopes
                        and inter-planet cars
And sought communications
                        with life beyond our own,
We found we still had earth-men
                        who feared the great unknown.

Scientist, astronomer and physicist but fair;
Yet, Air Force Apologist, most ex' trordinaire.
"Deny, debunk, deplore, decry the witness of your eyes.
Saucer-sighters are but fools delighting in their lies."

Mortal man is not prepared
                          for inter-stellar strife.
Leave him to the ignorance
                         of just this earthly life.
Just as priests reserve the faith, 
                         scientists hide the plan;
Martian conquest needs no help
                         from ordinary man.

Poor Sxx. He couldn't have known that Hynek kept a collection of all the sarcastic, satirical poems, cartoons and diatribes directed at him in the wake of the swamp gas case. Far from hurting Hynek's feelings, the attacks helped him keep things in perspective, and he was actually quite proud of them.

A lesson for us all, eh?