High Strangeness: July 2011

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Interrupted Journey

Just back from a short vacation and ready to resume my journey, but first, an interruption:

I must come clean. I am a lifelong UFO geek. For as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to make a sighting, have a close encounter, be abducted, anything and everything short of the probing thing; I think I could convince a spaceman that I could still get a lot out of the experience without having a long needle inserted into my navel or up my nostril.

I grew up in a small village in Southern Wisconsin. We had a library, but I think the local bookmobile had more books. My mom was a volunteer librarian, so I spent a lot of time there and read anything that looked interesting. For some reason I was drawn to the beat-up paperbacks about UFOs and poltergeists and sasquatch, I guess because they scared me to death and because they were real. Or at least they claimed to be; they sure seemed to be.

The story that seemed realest of all to me in my youth was that of Barney and Betty Hill, a married couple from New Hampshire who sighted a strange flying craft while driving home from vacation in September, 1961, and promptly lost three hours of their lives. The book about their experience, "The Interrupted Journey" by John Fuller, mesmerized me and scared the living bejeebers out of me. The book told of how, for months after their experience, the Hills were troubled by frightening snatches of memory and terrifying nightmares of being taken out of their car and floated aboard an alien spacecraft. Finally, for the sake of their own sanity, they underwent months of hypnosis to try to pull back the curtain on those missing three hours of their lives. What they discovered, and remembered, about that night was so scary that it made me want to curl up inside my flannel JC Penney pajamas and never come out.

My memories of Barney and Betty recently resurfaced for the first time in a very long time when I started reading the 2007 book "Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience," by Stanton Friedman and Kathleen Marden. "Captured!" takes a new look at the Hills' experience, combining new evidence, the full transcriptions of the Hills' hypnosis sessions, and the memories of co-author Marden, who happens to be Betty's and Barney's niece, and experienced much of the events firsthand. Added twist: she is also a national training officer for MUFON, and thus my new boss!

The book is a revelation to a UFO buff, because it doesn't just make the abduction experience seem even scarier and more immediate than ever before; it also makes the Hills much realer, much more layered and nuanced and three-dimensional, then I have ever seen them portrayed. These people had nothing to gain by coming forward with their story, but once they finally did they never wavered in their description of their experience. Whatever else anyone might think of them, their courage and conviction is to be respected and admired.

That's the kind of people I hope to meet as a MUFON field investigator.

PS: If you can find it, the 1975 TV movie of the Hills' abduction, "The UFO Incident," is worth a watch. You haven't seen freaky until you've seen James Earl Jones delivering a post-traumatic stress disorder full-on China Syndrome meltdown under hypnosis!

Friday, July 22, 2011

First Contact

I have made contact! Honestly, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen. I had tried contacting my MUFON unit commanders in Wisconsin to volunteer for service, but for two weeks now they have been strangely uncommunicative. Perhaps Wisconsin already has more field investigators than it needs? Perhaps UFOs don't bother with Wisconsin? Perhaps my local unit commanders had already been lost in battle? Or had their internet service cut off? That opens up a whole new field of paranoia... did they forget to pay their internet bills, or were the cables cut... on purpose?

Frankly, I don't have time to worry about that. Because I have taken a different approach to becoming a MUFON Field Investigator. You see, my wife works in Chicago, so I spend half my time living in Wisconsin, and the other half living in Illinois. It occurred to me that if there was an active MUFON chapter in Illinois, and if I could convince the Illinois unit commanders that I was an Illinoisian, I might be able to join up after all.

Turns out the Chicagoland MUFON Field Investigators are a busy bunch. Chicago has been the site of two significant UFO incidents in the past several years: the multiple-witness UFO sighting over O'Hare International Airport a few years back, and the more recent "Tinley Park Lights" incident. I don't know how these guys keep up!

Well, they don't, because in a recent article in a local paper, the Illinois state MUFON director, a Mr. Mxxxxxx, was quoted as saying that he needed more Field Investigators. I was stunned by his words: could this be the opening I was looking for? I quickly dashed off an email to Mr. Mxxxxxx and made my plea: would he, for the sake of the science of Ufology, pretend that I was an Illinoisian and allow me to become a Field Investigator for his chapter?

I was delighted and dismayed to get his response the following day. Delighted because he welcomed me with open arms and invited me to begin my training immediately. Dismayed because twice in the same note he invited me to something he called a "training secession." Darned if I know what that is, but it sounds like something that should be taking place in Texas, not Illinois.

With some hesitancy, I wrote back to Mr. Mxxxxxx and asked for more information. I thought it might be nice to know the date and location of the "secession," just so I could actually show up. He responded enthusiastically, telling me to be at the Orland Park Library at 10 am on Saturday, September 13th to begin my training. But when I went to mark the date on my calendar, I realized that September 13th is a Tuesday...

Now I wonder... is Mr. Mxxxxxx playing the same game as the Wisconsin unit commanders, only more far more subtly? Is it all a big test? Am I supposed to be able to ferret them out on my own? Is it possible that I am already dealing with real aliens...?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why High Strangeness?

"High Strangeness" is the name given by field investigators for the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) to UFO encounters that are, well, stranger than other UFO encounters. High Strangeness is, to put it most appropriately, the mothership of strange. It seems to me that once you enter the realm of UFO-type phenomenon, pretty much everything is High Strangeness, but one thing I've learned from my lifetime fascination with Unidentified Flying Objects and extraterrestrial life-forms is that people who study these manifestations of supreme weirdness love to impose logical structure to them, no matter how poorly it fits. And that includes categorizing strange events by the strangeness of their strangeness.

That's one of the reasons I'm writing this blog. I have decided to join the Mutual UFO Network and become a field investigator. With any luck, a few months from now I will be trotting around Wisconsin investigating UFO encounters and learning to apply human logic and structure to this most un-human of experiences. For this is what MUFON field investigators do: they questions witnesses, collect evidence and categorize the incident according to standards set out in the MUFON Field Investigator's handbook. I will become a UFO CSI investigator, and I plan to record my progress and experiences here, even if some of them turn out to be kind of normal.

How it will start, I do not know. The MUFON people have been very slow to respond to my inquiries. I have given up on the Wisconsin chapter and contacted the Illinois chapter, in the hopes that Illinois has more, and higher, strangeness than Wisconsin (many Wisconsinites would say that this is true; after all, Illinois has the Bears). At this point, it seems more likely that I will be contacted by ETs than officials from MUFON

I kid. I'm sure they are very busy people who have a lot of UFO sightings to investigate, and I'm sure they struggle to balance their MUFON work with their family lives and careers. I will write again when I have been contacted by a MUFON official and instructed on my next steps. I will also write if I am contacted by Men In Black who try to discourage me from seeking the truth about UFOs. That'll show them.