High Strangeness: It's a Small UFO World

Friday, August 10, 2012

It's a Small UFO World

I have been marveling this week that the vast majority of J. Allen Hynek's personal and professional archives just happen to be in a basement not seven miles from my wife's and my apartment in Chicago. I say vast majority because some more files are in another basement a few miles further away, in Skokie, and still more are reputed to be hidden away in Scottsdale, Arizona, in the clutches of a shadowy husband-and-wife team that are said to have swindled Hynek in the last years of his life -- but that's a story for another day. The point is: how freaking cosmic is it that, as I set out to write a book about the most important figure in UFO research ever, I find that the heart and soul of the man's life's work is literally just down the street?

Crazy.

At this point I should say that my first visit to the Hynek archives this week was wonderful. Mxxx, the president of Hynek's Center for UFO Studies, or CUFOS for those of us in the know, was so generous with his time and insights that for the full three hours of my visit he just sat and talked to me about Dr. Hynek's life and work. It wasn't until the very end of my visit that he showed me what was hidden away in the collection of file cabinets that rings the CUFOS corner of his basement, and man are there some treasures to be uncovered... Dozens and dozens of manila file folders, stuffed with documents, notes, articles and correspondence going back to the late 1940s, many of them with Dr. Hynek's handwriting all over them. One overstuffed file drawer alone was filled with letters that people had sent to Hynek over the years, from all over the world, telling him of their UFO experiences... This is going to be so much fun!

But then there was this other odd bit of small-worldishness that really has me scratching my head. As I was talking with Mxxx before he led me to the archives, I mentioned that my wife worked at a college in the city. Mxxx said that he had just gotten a call from someone from the very same college asking to look over CUFOS' files on the famous Betty & Barney Hill UFO abduction case... He gave me the name of the gentleman, a professor at the college, and said that this man wanted to research the Hill records because he plans to write some poetry about the incident.

This sounded pretty novel to me: poetry about a famous UFO abduction! It made perfect sense when I thought about it. What better way to express the absurd twilight dream-state non-linearity of a UFO abduction than through poetry? It's pretty brilliant, when you get right down to it, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if his poetry reaches closer to the ultimate truth of the Hill encounter than anyone has ever gotten in the 50 years since it happened.

Betty and Barney Hill show off a drawing of the object they sighted in New Hampshire in 1961, and which they claim to have subsequently and unwillingly boarded. Can poetry explain what science can't?
So my wife got in touch with Mr. Poet and put us in touch with each other. He and I have been exchanging emails this morning and plan to get together for coffee sometime soon. I can't wait!

Hold on a sec... As I was writing about this, I realized that I do know of one other poet whose work was inspired by unexplained, unearthly phenomenon... I have always been a fan of William Butler Yeats, or W.B.Y. for those of us in the know, in part because, like many of his Irish countrymen and woman, he believed in the fairie folk. Yeats wrote many poems about the fairie folk early in his career, and those poems often sound as through they were written from personal experience. Just read his uber-eerie 1886 poem "The Stolen Child" and tell me this doesn't sound just a bit like a UFO abduction...

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