High Strangeness: January 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

UFO Pros and Cons

I've been in a bit of a quandary this week, wondering what I should write about.

On the one hand, I've had an extremely bizarre and unpleasant experience with a UFO writer who was not pleased by my recent post about Roswell, and chose to email me directly with his sarcasm rather than post a comment here in the blog so that everyone could weigh the merits of his gripes (or lack thereof). On the other hand, I've been putting more work into the concept of founding an Intergalactic UFO Research Center, and I seem to be building up at least a smidgeon of momentum.

So, fun topic or crappy topic? I choose fun!

Every chance I get, I have been talking up my idea of buying The Gobbler, the flying saucer-shaped restaurant that's for sale in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, and turning it into a research library and museum featuring valuable UFO archives that are being stored in random basements and garages throughout the country... And people like the idea!

A friend who founded and operates a non-profit organization is giving me advice on how to create a 503(c) non-profit foundation. The folks who currently maintain these precious UFO files are all in favor of finding new & better ways to preserve these treasures. Tomorrow I'll be meeting with some crowdsourcing experts in Chicago who will be sure to have some good advice on how to raise funds from among the UFO faithful. And my wife Mxxxxx, who is a professional archivist, is fully committed to the idea. It's all very encouraging, except for one thing: Johnson Creek, Wisconsin does not have any UFO history of note that we can capitalize on.

It's not that Wisconsin doesn't have any significant UFO history, of course. The 1961 Joe Simonton pancake incident would be more than enough of a foundation on which to build a monument to UFO research, but Joe took possession of those pancakes in Eagle River, WI, and Eagle River is 250 miles away from Johnson Creek.
Joe and the Pancake

The only Johnson Creek UFO incidents of which I could find any trace were a meandering nocturnal lights sighting late last year and a sighting of "rectangular black bars" floating in the sky from 2006. Neither sighting was very spectacular. I mean, the black bars could have been, but the witness never asked any of the people around him if they saw the same thing he did, so we'll never know what that sighting might have been... What we need is an abduction. Or a saucer crash. Or a "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"-style mass UFO landing (complete with the return of every human who has disappeared under mysterious circumstances over the last 100 years). That would put this place on the map!

As I see it, there are two ways I can approach this: One is to appeal directly to ET to help me out. So ET, if you're reading this (and I know you are), come on down and do me a solid.

The other way is to concoct a hoax. A big one.

Now I admit, this may not be the best idea I've ever had. But it could be close. Purists may object, of course, but I can't let that bother me. Sometimes the ends justify the means.

Building a convincing full size saucer to "crash" in Johnson Creek or staging a mass CE3K landing both seem beyond my abilities and resources at the moment, but a "missing time" abduction, it seems to me, could be fairly easy to fake. And it could be done on a modest budget. Another attractive possibility that occurs to me is that someone might happen to discover an Atacama Humanoid somewhere in Johnson Creek. It wouldn't surprise me one bit to learn that a tiny alien carcass could become mummified in the arid, high desert climate of southern Wisconsin. Or how about a tiny mummified alien corpse clutching a tiny UFO pancake??

I think I'm off to a great start here, but what do you think? What kind of hoax would you stage if you were me and wanted to publicize the opening of an Intergalactic UFO HQ?

Friday, January 24, 2014

IHOP UFO Meetup

Pretty quiet week here, as I've been recovering from knee surgery. No work done on either the blog or the book, but I've been keeping up with the UFO news, which never ends and never, ever disappoints!

First item is my latest UFO sighting investigation. A Wisconsin man had recently filed a report about a 1979 sighting involving a "blimp"-ish airship that sailed across the sky as he lay outside his parent's house one night. The witness responded promptly to my request for an interview, but, alas, he declined:
"I'm not sure what additional details I could provide.  I posted what I saw in case other people had similar sightings.
"Thanks though."
Er... ok. I guess that's that. 

Had it been a current sighting, I would have given it another try, but since the event took place 35 years ago, and the initial report seemed about as detailed as it was ever going to get, I decided not to pursue. I have nothing new in the pipeline, but with any luck I'll get another good case or two soon.

Meanwhile, I've gotten a few interesting new dispatches from my MUFON masters that I think my readers will enjoy. 

First up is this:

"UFO Sighting Statistics for December 2013"

directly from the desk of Jan Harzan, the new Executive Director of MUFON. According to Mr. Harzan, here's where UFOs were sighted in December, 2013:

UFO Reports by Top 25 Countries 
 
UNITED STATES 422 
CANADA 33 
UNITED KINGDOM 17 
AUSTRALIA 5 
NEW ZEALAND 4 
GERMANY 3 
MEXICO 3 
BRAZIL 2 
ITALY 2 
INDIA 2 
SOUTH AFRICA 2 
SPAIN 1 
SLOVAKIA 1 
MACEDONIA 1 
ISRAEL 1 
CHILE 1 
AUSTRIA 1 
NETHERLANDS 1 
IRELAND 1 
VIET NAM 1 
ROMANIA 1 
ZAMBIA 1 
COLOMBIA 1 
NICARAGUA 1 
LITHUANIA 1
TOTAL: 509

Seems to me that Zambia should have been at the bottom of that list, alphabetical-wise, but what do I know?

Mr. Harzan also included this:

UFO Reports by State 
 
California           68
Florida               33
Texas                30
Arizona              24
Pennsylvania     17
Minnesota          14
North Carolina    14
Ohio                   13  
Michigan             12
Virginia               11
Washington        11
New York            11
Missouri              11
Tennessee          11
Alabama             10
Georgia               10
Colorado             10
Illinois                   9
Maryland              7
Oregon                7
West Virginia       7
Massachusetts    6
Kansas                6
Indiana                 5
New Mexico         5
South Carolina    5
Hawaii                 4
Idaho                   4
Nevada                4
New Jersey         4
Mississippi          4
Kentucky             4
Montana              3
Maine                  3
Oklahoma           3
Vermont              3
Arkansas             3
Connecticut         3
New Hampshire  2
Iowa                     2
South Dakota      2
Wisconsin           2
Louisiana             1
North Dakota       1
Alaska                  1
Nebraska             1
               Utah                     1
Wisconsin only had two sightings in December? California had 68? That's what winter will do to your numbers... Trust me, nobody in Wisconsin has set foot outside since December 1st, and, guess what? If you're inside wrapped in a blanket 24/7, you're not watching the skies!

That's all good information, but here's the real meat and potatoes from Harzan's email:

Shape of the Object

Sphere     141
Star-like     90
Circle         83
Fireball       73
Triangle      61
Disc           60
Unknown    58
Other          52
Flash          28
Oval            27   
Cylinder      23
Diamond     17
Cigar          14
Teardrop     10
Cone            7
Boomerang   7
Chevron        6
Bullet/Missile 6
Egg               5
Saturn-like     4
Blimp            3
Cross            2

Did you notice? Three blimps! THREE!

UFOs and pancakes do have a complicated history...
Hmmmmm, now I'm riddled with doubt. Did I dispense of my latest case too soon? I've just done a search of the MUFON database and found a grand total of 625 "blimp" sightings, and -- holy shit! -- there are already 4 blimps reported in 2014...

This one is the best:

January 10, 2014... 4:04 a.m... Apache County, Arizona... "This is the third time I have been abducted and this time they told me to tell all of you they are coming back. They are going to land and present themselves to the people who believe so they ask me to tell you please come to the landing spot on March 3rd. It will be in the Mojave Desert at 1 am. We are going to meet at the IHop and then I will lead the people to the landing spot about 8 miles away. Make sure to bring all your money with you"

Sadly, the Arizona investigator has already declared this a "hoax" and has closed the case. Probably a good call, but wouldn't you love to be at that IHOP at 1 a.m. March 3rd??


Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Purpose of UFOs

Random thoughts today:

Thanks to everyone who offered their thoughts on how to pursue my most recent UFO case, but it seems to be dead in the water. I tried contacting the witness again this week and have gotten no response, so that's that.

How to rate it? Here's the new guideline from MUFON: "If the witness does not respond, after three attempts, and the description is too vague to draw any type of conclusion, 'Insufficient Data' should be used." Of course, I also had to fill in the Ballaster-Guasp Evaluation form before submitting my findings, and that gave me a Certainty Factor of 1.63%. That's about as low as it gets, folks...


On the other hand, I have a new case that looks very intriguing... The incident in question took place way back in 1979, so it's not exactly fresh, but the witness' account is well-written and evocative, so I'm hooked:
"It was a hot night and we didnt have air conditioning. My parents were asleep so I snuck out to lay in the cool sand of a construction site next to our house. Axxxxxx is a small city that stretches along the main road for about a mile or so. My house was on a hill at the end of the road, enabling me to clearly observe most of the city. I enjoyed looking at the lights of the city in the cool night breeze, and as I sometimes did, I was standing in the cool sand and looked down at the city lights. As I was doing this, I perceived that dogs were barking at the far edge of town. I didnt think anything of it until I realized that the barking was slowly getting louder and closer. This caused me to pay a little more attention and as I looked down at the city I saw a small patch of sky that was darker then the surrounding sky. As I watched, I noted that this dark patch was maybe 300 feet above Main St, and coming straight at me moving slowly. I didnt see any lights and couldnt make out the shape until the thing was maybe 100 yards from my position. I began to hear a low “rum…rum…rum noise coming from it. As the road it was following ended at a “T” it turned instantaneously to its left and I could finally see its shape, it looked like a blimp, and maybe a third of the way up it had a row of very dim shimmery round lights. It was somehow hard to see, yet I could clearly make out the shape. It moved on to my right until it went out of site behind a large hill. At that point I couldnt hear it anymore. I never saw it again, but it just occurred to me that maybe 2 years prior to this sighting, a saw a meteor fly over my house so low that we could hear a loud burning roar as it passed almost directly overhead. The shape I saw was going in roughly the same direction, no idea if they are connected."
I believe this will be my first UFO that made a "rum...rum...rum" sound, so that's special. I have emailed the witness and will continue to pursue the case with my trademark dogged intensity.
Ideally, an Intergalactic UFO Headquarters would be in high orbit, but I'll take what I can get...

In other good news, my idea of creating an Intergalactic UFO Headquarters has got some legs... I had a good talk this week with Mark Rodeghier of CUFOS, and learned that there has been significant interest in this type of thing for a long time, which is not altogether surprising. Mark feels that it might be possible to get few interested parties together to get a dialog started anew, because, really, what better way to get people involved again than to dangle a flying saucer-shaped building in front of them?

One final note: I just finished reading a little-known UFO book called "World Famous UFOs," by my favorite writer, the recently-passed Colin Wilson. It is in many ways a silly little book, as its title suggests, written as part of a series of "unexplained mystery"-type books put out by a British publisher in 1996. But, because it was written by a genius, it has more than its share of fascinating nuggets. The final paragraph of the book, in fact, was, to me, the most brilliant part of the book. After comparing UFOs to psychic phenomenon, Wilson wrote:
"Do these phenomena have a 'purpose?' That is impossible to say; but one thing is very clear: that their effect is to remind human beings that their material world is not the only reality. We are surrounded by mystery that cannot be understood in terms of scientific materialism. If psychic phenomena have a purpose it is to wake us up from our 'dogmatic slumber,' and galvanise us to evolve a higher form of consciousness. I would suggest that this is the only positive and unambiguous lesson we can learn from the strange mystery of the flying saucers."
Word.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

UFO Farce?

Okay, readers, time to step up!

My current UFO investigation, about which I recently posted, has taken an odd turn, and I'm curious to see how you all would handle it.

Here's how it all began: a woman in northern Wisconsin filed a UFO report with MUFON that was assigned to me for investigation. I went through the case file on the MUFON Case Management System and read this:
"As my daughter and I were pulling out of the driveway to go to the store, I observed a brilliant pulsating white light just above the horizon through the back window of my car... We pulled onto the road facing east and sat there watching it flicker and dart in ways that proved to be it was not an airplane, and I watched it ascend upward at a slight angle OVER the trees and descended in front of them towards us... By the time we had turned the car around, we realized that it was no more than 100 from us and we watched it fly directly overhead, so we followed it due east for almost a quarter mile towards the woods on the road and lost it just over the trees... When we got to the T at the end of the road and turned right, I looked back and saw it floating about 8 to 10 feet above the road we turned off of, following our path... (My daughter) blinked and it disappeared, so I jumped out of the car to look for it but it was gone. We continued on to the store, but I felt so weird and distracted and afraid that it would be waiting for us to follow us back home, so we went to another store and just before we went inside, we saw the light again, flashing and dancing around to the east above the highway! I got out my phone to try to take a video of it but as soon as I hit record, it vanished again. We went inside, and I had my boyfriend come and escort us home in case we saw it again"
There's a lot of interesting stuff going on in this game of UFO cat-and-mouse, and I was really looking forward to talking to the witness (This case is actually a lot like another I investigated a while back concerning a mom and daughter thinking their car was being chased by a light in the sky, so I was very curious to see what other parallels there might be). I emailed the witness and asked to set up a time to talk on the phone, but the next day she wrote back and asked to meet with a MUFON Field Investigator in person:
"I'd like to tell you about a different sighting I had in November, because the more time I've had to think about it the more I'm convinced that what my daughter and I saw was of this planet and feel even uncomfortable talking about it, particularly over the phone.."
She lives nearly 3 hours from me, so I knew I wasn't going to be able to meet with her, but I told her I would see if any of the other FIs in Wisconsin might be able to. Meanwhile, she informed me that she was going to file a report on the earlier sighting, and allowed that she might be able to talk on the phone sometime:
"I could take a phone call, I'll just ask my boyfriend to use his phone or something."
So now I know she doesn't actually have a phone... Remember that, because it's important.

Meanwhile, after a couple days it was pretty clear that no one we had in the state was going to be able to get to where she lived to meet with her in person. I wrote to her yesterday, explained the situation and asked if she would be able to talk about her sighting(s) over the phone.

This is what she wrote back:
"I can talk any day, preferrably before dark.
I seem to have developed an intense fear of the dark and nighttime, and I don't want t. o start seeing things outside the windows at the house... if that's even a rational thought...?
I'm genuinely sorry, this whole encompassing situation is starting to make me feel like a loony, I've actually considered seeing a hypnotist.
My number is XXX-XXX-XXXX,
Hope to hear from you soon. :-)"
Wow, that's some heavy stuff. But there was no time to think about it, because by the time I received this email from her, it was nearly dark! Acting quickly, I printed up my MUFON "General Sighting Case Report Form," grabbed my ball-point and called her up. After a few rings I heard a pleasant female voice on the other end; it was the witness, but it was only her recording, asking me to leave my name, number and reason for calling so that she could call me back. I left my message and asked her to call back any time (any time before dark, that is).
So, if I call the witness after dark, will she see something like this out the window? Would it then be my fault for having called her?
Now, attentive readers will be asking themselves why the witness would have stated in her earlier email that she needed to borrow her boyfriend's phone when she obviously has a phone of her own. I was asking myself that very same thing as I hung up my phone, and I'm still asking myself that, because over 24 hours later she has not returned my call.

Of course, it is getting dark as I write this, so there's no telling where she might be.

So, my question to you, readers, is how would you proceed?

Has the witness torpedoed her credibility? Or did she say that about using her boyfriend's phone because her own phone battery was dead? Or is she a merry prankster simply trying to find out how far a MUFON Field Investigator can be led down the garden path? Or is she genuinely scared and in need of reassurance and protection?

What would you do??
(If you were me, a Certified UFO Field Investigator)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Intergalactic UFO Headquarters -- Part II

I recently wrote about my interest in buying the fabulous Gobbler restaurant here in southern Wisconsin and turning it into an intergalactic UFO research and investigation center, and I am happy to report that the idea seems to have legs.

I had a long talk with the realtor the other day, and he loves the idea, but that's not surprising as he's desperate to sell. The flying saucer-shaped building has been on the market for over a decade, and as far as I can tell the price has been dropped to about a quarter of the original number.
Turkeys were all the thing at The Gobbler back in the 1970s.

So that means there's a real opportunity here... There's a great interest locally to preserve the building, but, inexplicably, there doesn't seem to be any interest in re-opening it as a restaurant. The realtor told me that the building has a huge basement that would be perfect for archiving historical documents and research materials, and the kitchen, the showy dining area and the upper dance floor create some interesting entertainment options...

I was up front with the realtor about the fact that I have no money for this, but that didn't deter him in the least. I think he's willing to pursue any possibility to unload this turkey; I just need to come up with a plan (I should point out that The Gobbler was built by a local turkey farmer, so that was a joke). What's not a joke is this genuine vintage TV commercial for the original restaurant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AajNoE2AqnY

My first idea died quickly: Kickstarter funds can not be used to purchase real estate.

My second idea died just as quickly: Approaching millionaire UFO fan Robert Bigelow and asking him to write a fat check just reminded me that when he offered huge money to MUFON it allegedly had a very large string attached -- namely, that he would own everything MUFON discovered using his money. Sure, that's fair if you're writing the check, but if I'm going to create a permanent home for decades of priceless UFO documents, they have to be available to everyone.

So, the funding is a hurdle. But the need grows larger every day. I have made appointments to visit the two CUFOS archives in Chicagoland next week, and the conversation about scanning documents elicited some heartfelt concern about the future of this material, and what a huge job it will be to preserve it all...

So, who knows? Maybe the time is right to make this happen. I'll be talking to the archive-keepers over the next few weeks to see how they feel about it, and I will report back to you.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Roswell Schmoswell

I just saw a ridiculous UFO program on The Military Channel, and I am irked.

The program, "Nazi UFO Conspiracy," was produced in 2008, apparently for the Discovery Channel, and has been bouncing around "non-fiction" cable TV channels ever since. On the face of it, the show was marginally interesting and passably well-made. I enjoy a good conspiracy story as much as anyone else, and a Nazi-UFO connection is a tantalizing idea. But then they started talking about Roswell...

First the narrator referred to the Roswell event as "a UFO sighting." Then he said that the event began when a flying saucer crashed on a ranch near Roswell. What's wrong with that, you may ask? Both statements were presented as fact, but neither statement is true. The events at Roswell did not involve a UFO sighting at all, and therefore there was no UFO to crash.

This is UFO 101, folks. We're probably all pretty well acquainted with the story, so I won't bore you with a recap, but the events started when a ranch foreman found some strange material on the ground, and that's it. He didn't see any unidentifiable objects in the sky. He didn't see anything crash. He found some stuff. On the ground.

Did Hitler plot with E.T. to take over the world? I believe he may have.
This is one big reason UFOlogy has such a bad name. How can anyone take us seriously if theory and speculation are routinely presented as established fact? I'm not saying I don't think anything strange happened in Roswell in the summer of 1947, but I am saying that no one has ever proven anything. People need to accept that.

In the opening chapter of my book about UFO researcher Dr. J. Allen Hynek, I give the Roswell event a couple of brief paragraphs. My editorial consultant Mxxx, the Scientific Director of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), has suggested that I not mention it at all, however. The Roswell event barely registered when it occurred in 1947, he reasons, and it was never a factor in Hynek's career. In fact, Hynek was generally pretty dismissive of stories about crashed flying saucers and recovered aliens.

I only added the description of Roswell in the chapter to establish context, as a way to show how the flying saucer phenomenon worked its way into the public consciousness in 1947, but I am inclined to agree with Mxxx that it doesn't deserve even the small amount of real estate I've given it. So, out it goes. And I won't miss it.

I just need to stop watching dumb UFO "documentaries" on cable.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Intergalactic UFO Headquarters

A little over a year ago I wrote about "The Gobbler," the flying saucer-shaped restaurant and Wisconsin landmark that has been up for sale for several years... My thinking at the time was that The Gobbler -- which is only about 15 miles from me -- would make a spectacular UFO research center, but I didn't realize back then how badly such an institution was needed...

Over the past year, as I've been working on my book about Dr. J. Allen Hynek, and as I've been spending hours upon hours in what passes for UFO archives, I've come to realize that the field of UFOlogy has a huge problem... These days we're fortunate that the vast majority of all UFO reports are filed electronically, as are the vast majority of the resulting UFO investigations. But until fairly recently, all reporting and investigating was done on paper, and as a result there are vast stockpiles of incredibly important paper records sitting around unprotected, growing old and fading away in peoples' basements and garages.

A few days ago I read the latest blog post from UFO historian Michael Swords, and I was reminded once again of the impending catastrophe that faces us if none of these records are ever properly stored and protected. In Wandering In the Wake of UFOs, Michael offers a rather poignant look at the vaults of information he keeps in his house and wonders whether anyone will ever appreciate their true value.

"Doctor Hynek said that we have an 'embarrassment' of riches in the case files," Michael writes. "It is a difficult 'embarrassment' however to employ. The good Doctor immersed himself in the pool of incidents; almost no one else will bother. People say that we've learned nothing. They mean that THEY've learned nothing.

"I DO care a bit though about one thing: what should I do with these files, this pile of wasted paper and film in the eyes of the mind-dead?... an embarrassment of riches.... which no one seems to care much about ..... except we few."

The fabulous "Gobbler," resting on its landing pad in Johnson Creek, WI As flying saucer-shaped restaurants go, it's a doozy.
No one cares except we few... Are things really that bleak? I'm afraid they might be.

Michael's post gave me a lot to think about, but then the whole New Year thing happened and I found myself having to come up with resolutions, and I started to go big... I don't know how it can be done, or if it can be done, but I've decided that one of my long-term resolutions -- for 2014 and beyond -- is to somehow acquire The Gobbler and turn it onto an intergalactic research and study foundation for UFOlogy.

Just imagine having all the thousands of records and case files from CUFOS that are currently in multiple basements of peoples' houses in Chicago (and a mystery location in Arizona), all the thousands of records and case files in Micheal's basement and garage, all preserved and safeguarded inside The Gobbler for future generations of UFO pilgrims (I would still call it The Gobbler, of course -- that way unwitting travelers who think they're stopping in for dinner would instead find themselves in a UFO wonderland). Imagine that very same building taking researchers and visitors on trips to Venus and Mars and Alpha Centauri (presuming I can locate and repair The Gobbler's original anti-grav drive). The thing is, it doesn't matter whether the building is actually spaceworthy; once you set foot inside the rotunda of The Gobbler, you feel as though you're traveling through space, or perhaps exploring an alien world. There's lots of parking, too, and it's right off the Interstate. What better place could there possibly be, I ask you, to create an intergalactic repository for UFO archives?

Crazy idea? That's what they said about my Million Intruder March, too. And my idea to restage "Roswell, the Musical." I may not have made either of those things happen yet, but not making them happen doesn't make them crazy. It just makes them very difficult.

So, to start things off right, I have just sent an email to the director of "Buy The Gobbler," a local group that hopes to save and preserve The Gobbler. Here's what I had to say:
Hi Mxxx, I have an idea for The Gobbler. This may seem like a joke, but I assure you I am absolutely sincere. I live in Fort Atkinson, and have been a fan of The Gobbler for a long time. Over the past few years I have gotten involved in the field of UFO research, and find that there is a real need for a central storage space and gathering place for this field. What building on earth would make a more perfect spot for a UFO library, archive and meeting place than The Gobbler? I imagine that you get a lot of creative pitches for potential uses for the building, but I doubt any are more original than mine. Please let me know if you'd like more information.
Best regards,
Mark O'Connell
Will it work? Anyone's guess, but I have to believe that people who care about preserving The Gobbler will understand the importance of preserving important historical records. In any case, I will report back if and when I get a response. In the meantime, I'm going to keep brainstorming ideas for ways to save and preserve our embarrassment of riches.