High Strangeness: Artist's Rendering

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Artist's Rendering

Yesterday was a big day. I spent the afternoon in the basement of the Deering Library on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, and I never knew being in the basement of a library could be such a blast.

I was there to start my work researching the life and times of famed UFO researcher Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who was the chairman of Northwestern's astronomy department from 1959 to 1978. Because he happened to reach the height of his fame as a UFO expert in roughly that same time period, his collected papers in the University archive are a fascinating contrast of serious scientific and academic matters and equally serious but somewhat more unusual UFO matters.

I was pretty much in heaven.

The archive staff were uniformly gracious, attentive and helpful, even though I had requested access to five boxes of papers and in three and a half hours' time I only made it though a half a box... Oops. Sorry, guys!  I'll know better next time.

So, yea, I'm an archive noob, but I am already hooked. You just have no idea when you flip open a file what kind of treasures you'll find.

Like this: In folder 1, I came across a list of popular magazine articles Dr. Hynek had written in the late 1960s, and was amused and delighted to see that he had written an article entitled "How to Photograph a UFO" for a 1968 issue of Popular Photography magazine, and another entitled "The UFO Gap," for the December, 1967 issue of Playboy. You don't think there's glamour and sex in the UFO biz? Think again. This guy got around. And, yeah, Hynek may never have proved that UFOs are spaceships from another world, but he proved that there are some people who do read Playboy for the articles, and that may be an even more outstanding achievement in the end.

My favorite find from Day 1 in the trenches? That's easy. Folder 5 was filled with correspondence from 1948 to 1974, and in amongst all the letters and telegrams I came across a typed letter dated March 30, 1966, on the very attractive letterhead of the S.C. Kingsley Advertising agency in New York City... The letter was from the eponymous owner of the agency, describing a UFO sighting he had experienced with a group of friends on Long Island in 1958...

"I am an artist and trained to observe so my description is accurate in every detail," says Mr. Mad Men. "I cannot estimate in feet at which it was flying but it was well below that at which our commercial airplanes fly. The only light visible was all around the perimeter. This was an electric blue in color and looked as a pinwheel would in motion. From this I am sure the outer body of the craft was spinning. This gyroscopic motion might well account for some of the fantastic right angle turns which have been reported."

The sighting only lasted 30 to 40 seconds, but made enough of an impression for the witness to make a "sketch," which he sent to Dr. Hynek along with the letter. And when I say sketch, I mean a watercolor. UFO skeptics love to ask, "Why doesn't anyone have a camera handy when they see these things?" Well, how about someone having a canvas, an easel, a paint brush and some watercolors? Would that count?

Who needs a camera? Really.
I mean, look at that picture. Look at the shape of the tree. Look at the detail of the windows and chimney on the house. Look at the tilt of the flying saucer, look at its electric blue perimeter, look at the way it seems to be subtly disturbing the air surrounding it. Does it not make you weep?

Now, I have to point out that the actual painting is far more vivid than you see here. The basement library did not afford the best light, and the flash on my camera phone clearly was not up to the task. I can assure you, the painting is beautiful, and I will try to get a more faithful image on my next visit to the archives.

I can hardly wait!

No comments: