High Strangeness: Pickled Men

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pickled Men

This is a time travel story. It's about something that happens in 2014 that actually happened in 1955... and it's really weirding me out.

It all started a short time ago when I posted my comments about who & what I would not invite to speak at a UFO conference when I finally do hold a UFO conference... which was really a logical extension of the many things in UFOlogy today that I have written about in this blog for which I don't care, among them:
  • The Atacama Humanoid
  • Dulce Base
  • Citizen's Hearing on Disclosure
  • Cable TV UFO shows
  • The Hitler-UFO Connection
  • Skinwalker Ranch
  • Books about Roswell
  • Disclosure
  • UFO experts who can't back up their claims
  • UFO Conferences that simply rehash every other UFO Conference
And on and on...

Well, imagine my surprise when I came across this encouraging show of support for my growing sense of disillusionment:


“Many people (and who can really blame them) would dearly love to have something as exciting as flying saucers really be true. As a matter of fact, so would I. It would be a world-shaking event if we could prove that space craft from elsewhere were actually visiting our earth!
“Facts, however, speak otherwise. There is nothing, and I repeat, nothing, that can be regarded as scientific that flying saucers are anything but reports of misidentified natural phenomena or objects.
"There are at present a number of commercially inclined individuals, addicted to sensationalism... who presume to speak and write with flamboyant authority and with naïve disregard for scientific accuracy.
“Such people do a great disservice to everyone but themselves. They capitalize on the wishful thinking of large numbers of people who are legitimately interested in the possibility of space travel, and are intrigued with the idea that other civilizations, living on some far off planet, may be paying periodic visits to our own planet, the earth.
 “A clever speaker can, by mixing judicious amounts of space travel science fiction with extravagant and ill-reported accounts of strange events, adding a rumor here and a rumor there (perhaps about the little men who are pickled in bottles and kept in a secret vault at Wright Field!) make a thrilling but highly fictional case for flying saucers.
“And finally, it has always impressed me strongly that practically no reports of unusual sightings have been made by scientists, and especially by people who are trained to observe the skies. If, however, anyone wants to take the fragmentary reports uncritically, and at face value, a mighty fine story can be fabricated. But that’s all it will be, a fine fabrication.”
Well-written, no? And yet you sense perhaps the slightest anachronistic tone to the comments, don't you?
 
Well, here's when the time travel twist comes into the story. This wasn't a letter that I just received from a reader; these comments were written in 1955 by my man, Dr. J. Allen Hynek. This was part of a popular newspaper column Hynek wrote for the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch in the 1950s called "Scanning the Skies." Generally the Doctor wrote about comets and eclipses and planets and the like, so this particular column dealing so forthrightly with UFOs is very unusual... The archivists at Northwestern University claim that this was the first time Hynek mentioned UFOs in public discourse, and that may very well be true.

Just exactly who these "commercially inclined individuals" were that the good Doctor was excoriating way back in 1955 (and why, just at the point in his career when he was seriously interested in UFOs as a scientific problem, he decided to publicly lash out against the phenomenon) is a mystery that I will attempt to solve in my book, but for the purposes of this post I thought it was quite uncanny that his words could easily have been written today in regards to the people and things I listed at the top of this post. How strange, and how sad, that the UFO field is in 2014 still rife with "commercially inclined" people "addicted to sensationalism" who try to make a "thrilling but highly fictional case for flying saucers."

And in case you didn't catch the one truly mind-blowing tidbit in Hynek's comments, it was when he mentioned "the little men who are pickled in bottles and kept in a secret vault at Wright Field!"

Subtlety, thy name is Frank Scully.
Of course this story had been kicking around for at least 5 years at this point, since Frank Scully had described alien corpses recovered from crashed flying saucers in his 1950 book "Behind the Flying Saucers," but I find it fascinating that the alien corpse story had, by 1955, already taken such a hold on the public's imagination -- even though it had been debunked three years earlier! -- that Hynek still felt it necessary to shoot it down. And now, some 60 years later, we still can't weed out the alien corpse come-ons.

So, to recap, in 1955 the field of UFOlogy was littered with flim-flammers who would "capitalize on the wishful thinking of large numbers of people who are legitimately interested in the possibility of space travel, and are intrigued with the idea that other civilizations, living on some far off planet, may be paying periodic visits to our own planet, the earth," and they're still doing it today...

Think about that the next time you get an invitation to a UFO conference or tune in a moronic cable TV show about UFO hunters or mysterious hangars or unsealed files. I know I will.


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