High Strangeness: UFO Nit-picker

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

UFO Nit-picker

As I plug along on my book about the career of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, I am constantly aware of the fact that I am writing about a man who died almost 30 years ago, and that his life and work may not be all that relevant to readers of today.

Why should someone in 2014 care about a man who studies UFOs a half-century ago?

To ease my worries, I did a little research. Turns out there are new UFO books coming out all the time, and I decided to look at a few and see if any of the "mainstream" UFO writers pay any attention to Hynek at all. If they don't, I'm screwed...

Here's what my research revealed:

"UFOs and Government" by Michael Swords & Robert Powell (with a team of contributors), published in 2012, mentions or quotes Hynek 45 times.

"Inside the Real Area 51" by Thomas J. Carey & Donald R. Schmitt, published in 2013, invokes Hynek's name over 100 times.

I've been wanting to use this picture for a while now. I guess today is the day!
"UFOs for the 21st Century Mind" by Richard Dolan, published in 2014, mentions Hynek 31 times.

Fantastic!!!! That's almost 1,000 mentions! At least from my point of view.

Of course, just as important as how many times they mention him is what they say about him. You will probably not be surprised to learn that I disagree with a lot of what is said and insinuated about Dr. Hynek in these books.

"UFOs and Government" portrays him as weak and timid, a clueless lackey of the Air Force. A favorite expression of the authors is "Poor Allen!" However... I have spoken to Michael Swords about this, I presented my case for why I think Hynek was actually quite brave, and in the end we agreed that Hynek had indeed "evolved."

"Inside the Real Area 51" perpetuates the age-old myth that Hynek worked on the Air Force's debunking "Project Grudge" UFO study. Hynek actually worked for its predecessor, "Project Sign," but by the time he submitted his final report to the Air Force "Sign" had been replaced by "Grudge," and so Hynek's report was included in the "Project Grudge" final report. Furthermore, Hynek didn't return to work for the Air Force until after "Grudge" had been replaced by "Project Blue Book." Also, the authors can't resist a chapter heading that screams, "Dr. J. Allen Hynek: Dupe or Accomplice?"

"UFOs for the 21st Century," aside from portraying Hynek as just about the least-trusted guy ever involved in UFOlogy, gets some important facts wrong. The book says that Hynek declared in 1948 that fighter pilot Thomas Mantell crashed while chasing a Skyhook balloon, when in fact Hynek agreed with the Air Force's judgement that Mantell had been "chasing" the planet Venus. The book also states that when Hynek went to investigate the famous 1966 Dexter-Hillsdale "swamp gas" incident, he held the now-infamous press conference immediately upon arriving in Michigan, but the truth is he arrived in Michigan on Tuesday and held the press conference on Friday, three days later.

These aren't little details to me. They rankle. Now that I've become such a devoted researcher of Hynek's life, it irritates me when I see someone making an inaccurate statement or insinuation when all they had to do was dig through a few file cabinets, search bluebookarchive.org or flip through one of Hynek's books--all available on Amazon!--to get the real story.

(And, yes, I realize full well that I may end up making a few mistakes in my own book, and I fully expect to have them pointed out to me!)

Oh well, you know what they say:  
"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."  
Despite my disagreements with some of the material in these books, I want to thank every one of these authors, deeply and sincerely, for keeping the name of Dr. J. Allen Hynek in front of contemporary readers who will eventually go out and buy my book!

Thanks, everyone!
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