High Strangeness: April 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

The UFO Grapevine

Things are getting a little weird...I mentioned in my last post that I had been asked to write a bio of Dr. J. Allen Hynek for the Center for UFO Studies' new website, but I failed to mention that I had also been asked to write a rebuttal of sorts to an article called "The Secret Life of Dr. J. Allen Hynek."

This article had appeared in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, and I blogged about it the time, saying that while it was well-written, its conclusions -- most of them surrounding the 1966 Dexter-Hillsdale case, better known as the "swamp gas" case -- were pure bunkum. So the nice folks at CUFOS asked if I would address the inaccuracies in the article, which I think is a very good idea. Right about the same time, one of my twitter feeds tweeted a link to an article about what else but...? the Dexter-Hillsdale affair! The article in question was posted at the site About.com, which apparently is the place where the internet gets all its information about everything and stuff. Because of this, the story had the aura of being "factual," and even "definitive." But it was crap. The author was highly-selective in the facts and testimony he cited, he skipped over huge parts of the story, he did absolutely no original research, and the "conclusions" he drew about the case were simply restatements of every inaccurate write-up of the case that has ever been written. And there have been a lot.

It steamed me to think about how many people read these stories and think they have an understanding of what really happened in Michigan in 1966 and how hard it is to fight against that lazy reshaping of history.

You can imagine, then, how surreal it was to be contacted this very day by Lxxxx, a producer for the Travel Channel show "Monumental Mysteries," who was researching a segment about... wait for it... the Dexter-Hillsdale affair! She had heard through the grapevine that I was writing a book about Dr. Hynek and that I had researched that case extensively. That happens to be true, so thank you for paying attention, grapevine! I have researched the living shit out of this case, so, as I think I've made clear in this post, when someone gets it wrong I get a little stirred up about it.
Watch this show. It's important.

The thing is, Lxxxx had read the story from the Skeptical Inquirer, which makes sense because it's the most recent big piece written about Hynek and Dexter-Hillsdale, and so when she asked for my opinion I took it upon myself to unravel the faulty conclusions of the article. I suspect that within moments she regretted contacting me, although we ended up talking for about an hour, so it couldn't have been that bad. The big hook is this: the article posits that Hynek "changed his mind about UFOs," that he went from 100% skeptic to 100% believer, as a result of this one case, and that's just a gross oversimplification. Hynek had doubts about his skeptical stance towards UFOs as early as 1952, when he was forced for the first time to acknowledge that the phenomenon wasn't going away as he had predicted it would in 1948, and that his conclusion in one of his first case investigations, the Mantell crash, was dead wrong.

So, yeah, Dexter-Hillsdale isn't that cut-and-dried. The case and Hynek's role in it are both so complicated, and so well-documented, that I had to use two full chapters of the book telling the full story, and Lxxxx has to tell the story in a 10-minute segment! Yikes.

As for me, I'm happy that I was able to contribute in some small way to setting the record straight about Dr. Hynek, and I will be looking forward to seeing the show when it airs sometime later this year. And, thanks to all this, I now have my eight minutes of material for the presentation I'll be giving about my book at this weekend's "Evidence in the Skies" UFO Symposium here in Chicago.

Thank you, grapevine!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Possible Abduction, Or Something

Well, the Men In Black haven't shown up yet, and I'm kind of pissed. The guy who warned me/threatened me with a visit from the intimidating MIB said it was guaranteed that they would be making an appearance, because everyone he talks to about his UFO experiences gets a visit from the MIB. It almost makes me wonder whether he was telling me the truth.

Moving on, this week has become the week I work for CUFOS, the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies in Chicago. First, I was asked to write Hynek's bio for CUFOS' new website, which I was honored to do, but which turned out to be really hard. I've been writing so much about the good Doctor for such a long time that it was a terrific challenge to write a brief account of his life that didn't feel as though I was skipping over anything important. Because, of course, it's all important.

Then last night, just as I was about to finish up the short-ish yet long-ish Hynek bio, I got an email from Mark Rodeghier, the Scientific Director of CUFOS, asking if I would be willing to follow up on a UFO sighting report. In his email, tantalizingly titled "Possible abduction, or something," Mark said that a woman had called CUFOS wanting to talk to someone about "some odd events" she had experienced. "Whenever people leave a message like that," he explained, "it invariably means that they think that at some point they may have been abducted, or had some type of very close encounter."

Because she now lived fairly close to me, Mark thought it would make sense for me to call the witness, and I was intrigued enough to agree. I got her on the phone, and as so often happens, she was completely surprised that someone was responding to her report. Which, as always, I found kind of charming. She asked a few questions about my background and experience, and we talked about the kinds of things other people report and why they report them, and in time she felt comfortable telling me about her experiences...

Turned out Mark was absolutely right about her. The witness had a history of close encounters to tell me about, and I found her story very compelling. Her immediate issue is that she regularly has prophetic dreams, but the prophecies seem to center on odd, unimportant things, like what's going to be on TV that night or something a friend is going to say. On the surface it doesn't make much sense, nor does it seem very extraordinary. But then she went on to tell me that she has a long history of sleep paralysis, and that her mom used to tell her that it meant she had "a witch riding her back," which has got to be the greatest creepy folk term ever. That's when I really got interested...
"The Nightmare" by John Henry Fuseli. Did this guy nail it or what?

The first significant event she recalled was a dream, that maybe wasn't a dream, that she had when she was very young. In the dream or not dream, her whole family woke up in the middle of the night and silently walked downstairs to the living room, where there was a big picture window looking out at the front lawn. They stood there staring expectantly out the window, and then a disc of light came down in the front yard and "things" started coming out of it and approaching the house. They were humanoid with "weird heads" and they seemed to wear some kind of coveralls. They started coming into the living room, and there the memory ends. She doesn't remember where or when she woke up...

The second event took place some years later. She woke up in her bed in the middle of the night and found she couldn't move or speak. A being appeared in her room, and she described it as being transparent but with a glowing blue outline that gave it form and depth. She was terrified... The entity moved in an odd staggered manner towards her bed, then touched her arm. He fear immediately vanished, and she felt "like a teacup being filled with hot water."  A sense of peace and well-being swept over her, and she sensed the entity telling her that she was ok and shouldn't be afraid... She told me it felt as though the entity was downloading the message to her, or as thought her head was "tuning into a radio station."

Now, there's no way to prove or disprove any of this. It all happened many years ago, and the witness can't say with any certainty whether these were dreams or real events; and, to her credit, she's not trying to claim that the events were anything but dreams. But... but... there's no denying that she recalls the events with astonishing detail, and, she has a striking talent for expressing her feelings and sensations associated with the events. I'm going to echo Dr. Hynek here and say that I believe the witness experienced something real, but I can't say what it was.

I'll be reporting in to Mark later today, and it will be interesting to see how CUFOS handles a case like this versus how MUFON would handle it. MUFON would have this woman inside a Faraday Cage in minutes, but what will CUFOS do? This seems like a likely candidate for time-regression hypnosis, but I'm not the guy to make that call.

More to come... I hope.

Friday, April 18, 2014

MIB Magnet

Well, one of the disappointing UFO investigation cases that I was whining about recently has taken an unexpected turn... And because of it, I am now expecting a visit from the Men In Black. This is not just paranoia, dear readers; I was actually warned by the UFO witness that the MIB would be knocking at my door sometime soon... because, it turns out, this guy is a MIB magnet, and he swears that anyone he ever talks to about his UFO experiences eventually gets a visit from the MIB.

Frankly, I don't know what to do with that information, but depending on what happens over the next few days I think I might end up deserving a medal.

Anyway, here's the report I just filed with MUFON HQ. Make of it what you will...
Witness started out by telling me about previous UFO encounters he has reported to MUFON. When he was 19 (in 1996) he and his girlfriend saw an egg-shaped object on the beach with two "occupants" who  waved to them, then got in the object and flew away. Since then he has sighted numerous UFOs and has had at least three implants in his body, two of which have been removed and one of which is still in his arm. He says his father is/was an Army General involved in black ops and is one of the original "Men In Black." As the witness was growing up, his dad would disappear for weeks at a time and show up at home for brief visits, arriving in a black sedan and wearing a black suit. The father apparently supervised the removal of the witness' first two implants and made sure they "disappeared" and the doctor kept quiet about it.

On February 16th of this year, witness was driving along a county highway with his dog when he noticed a dark orb hovering over a large dairy farm approximately two miles ahead. The orb was slightly higher than the tree line, and remained stationary as the witness pulled over and got out of his truck. As he was using his "Blue S5" phone to take pictures of the hovering orb, the orb flew towards him at an incredible speed, stopping over his truck and killing the truck's engine. It was about 30' off the ground, 20' above the witness' head. It was about 30' feet across, "big enough to fit three or four men." The orb then flew back to the farm and he started his engine up again. Moments later the orb flew back to him, this time at "supersonic" speed, at which point his engine died again. This time the orb was no longer black but was using what the witness described as adaptive camouflage, changing its color to appear invisible in the sky. By moving around, he was able to maintain visual contact with it, however. His dog, meanwhile, was in a frenzy in the truck. The orb eventually flew back to the trees and disappeared.

Later, the witness had a friend who owns a Geiger counter take a reading of his truck, and the Geiger counter "went crazy." They did not take a picture or video of the Geiger counter readings, however. When I asked him to get another reading with documentation, he said his friend doesn't want anything more to do with it. Apparently the witness is well-known among his friends as having had numerous UFO encounters and numerous experiences with the Men in Black (his own dad being one of them), and so his friend was afraid of getting further involved.

The witness is a great observer and tells a good story, but what he told me had some major differences from what he initially reported: his report mentions flashing lights, but when I talked to him he did not say the object had any lights at all; he told me that the object made his truck engine die twice, but he never mentioned that in his initial report. Furthermore, I had him go over parts of the story two and sometimes three times, and the details about the object's appearance and behavior kept changing. When I would stop him and ask him to reconcile something he said with something different he had said previously, he uniformly stuck with the new version and showed no recognition that he had just changed his story. He continually interpreted the object's behavior as being somehow connected to him or directed at him.

Between our first talk and our second talk he added an element of missing time. In the follow-up phone call he told me that the event took 5 minutes "he thought," but then he ended up arriving at his friend's house 30 minutes late.

The photos are inconclusive. A dark spot in the sky that appears to be about a mile away is visible in some of the photos, but not others. The object is only clearly visible in image xxx, but only just. This is an interesting picture and should be subjected to analysis. Two of the photos are complete blurs, and the witness claimed that those were his attempts to get photos of the object as it flew overhead, but in both photos the camera is clearly stationary and pointed straight ahead at the horizon, and not moving around pointed at an object zooming 20' overhead.

Important points are that the orb shut his truck off not once but TWICE, and that the friend's Geiger counter "went crazy" when he examined his truck later. Wouldn't that be alarming to most people? Not to him: In a follow-up conversation he told me that he still uses the truck on a daily basis, and has not had himself or his dog checked for radiation poisoning. He excused that by explaining that the Geiger counter "didn't go all the way into the danger zone." That and the fact that he has a handy excuse for not taking another reading of the truck and documenting it this time is troubling.

It is also troubling that at the end of our first conversation he warned me I would get a visit from someone soon. I asked him who would be visiting and he said, "You know who: The Men in Black." He insisted that he gets frequent visits from the MIB, and that anyone he talks to about his UFO experiences gets a visit as well. Of course, since his dad is one of them, he says he can just tell them to go away and they do.
Who are these strange men in black, and when will they appear at my door? Fortunately, my doorbell is busted, and believe me when I say I have no intention of fixing it anytime soon.

My conclusion is that there might be something here, but the witness' biased observations and apparent wish-fulfillment fantasies make it difficult to decide what is real and what is his imagination. I recommend that his photos be analyzed and his truck be examined.
My verdict: "Unknown-Other." Which, in MUFON-speak, means "an unknown object that doesn't appear to be any type of aerial vehicle. Examples would be orbs, odd-moving lights near the ground, strange floating objects, a strange opening in the sky, etc"

Discuss.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

UFOpalooza!

I have seen the future of UFOlogy, and you can, too.

As regular readers know, I was presented with the opportunity last week to go to a film studio in Massachusetts to see a demo of Doug Trumbull's amazing new UFO detecting and imaging system called UFOTOG, and when the opportunity appeared, I pounced on it. And I'm glad I did, because it was a pretty great experience.

First of all, I have to thank Connecticut MUFONer Marc Dantonio for making it all happen. If I hadn't clicked on Marc's Facebook message last week, I never would have known about the event. Even better, Marc arranged for me to spend the weekend at the apartment for the production crew, which was pretty cushy.

Doug and his wife Julia were wonderful hosts, and when they opened up the studio to their guests it was like being ushered into wondergeekland... There was a huge green screen set, where the entire UFOTOG movie was shot... There was a scale model of a "Magi" movie theater of the future, where films will someday be shown using Doug's new 3D projection system... There was the huge military Humvee with the clamshell roof that can carry the UFOTOG anywhere UFO activity is occurring... and there was the first of the UFOTOG rigs itself, lacking its phalanx of cameras but toting enough gleaming telescope power to put the Hubble to shame.

Can you tell I was enjoying it?

The screening of UFOTOG was stunning. Doug has made a 10-minute film that serves as a teaser for a planned feature-length film, while also showcasing his 3D system and the UFOTOG system. Sounds like a lot to juggle in 10 minutes, but it works: the movie starts out with a bang and maintains a manic, break-neck pace until the final frame. But if it was just the spectacle of the effects and the 3D it wouldn't amount to much; the movie tells a really fun, exciting story that makes you want more. What more can you ask from a movie than that?

And, damn, that UFOTOG system! It's so cool! Of course, I only saw it in action within the confines of the film, but the way it's portrayed there is pretty astounding. Imagine going birdwatching with a pair of binoculars that actually locates the birds in the brush or in flight, tells you their genotypes, calculates their trajectories, analyzes their chemical makeup, takes X-rays, MRIs and CAT scans of them all at once, tells you what's in their poop, reads what they're thinking in their little heads and breaks down the audio makeup of their bird calls. Yes, your neck would get very sore and your arms would get very tired, but the point is you'd have that birdie nailed!

Now imagine that same set-up, only a million times cooler and aimed at the night sky out of the roof of a Humvee on a lonely mountaintop. It's going to happen, and it's going to require an awful lot of volunteers. Somehow I don't think that will be a problem.

Best thing of all is that anyone who can get to Seattle on Sunday, May 11th can see it too, at the fabulous Seattle Cinerama Theater's Science Fiction Film Festival. I've already contacted these nice folks about attending, and now I'm asking you! This thing is gonna succeed if the suits see that theater filled to capacity for all three screenings of UFOTOG. If you or anyone you know can get to Seattle on May 11th, GO SEE IT. You will not be sorry. Did I mention Doug will be doing a Q&A after each screening? You bring the Qs, he'll have the As.

And if you can be there Friday and Saturday, you can also see some of Doug's other work: "Brainstorm," "2001: A Space Odyssey," and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Just tell 'em High Strangeness sent you.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Un-UFO

Things have been a mite slow on the Certified UFO Field Investigator front, but suddenly I have two cases pending that have curious similarities.

Both cases involve photographic evidence! Normally I'd be pretty excited by that, but, alas, the photographic evidence in both cases is so inconclusive that it might as well not exist at all. Oh, excuse me, did I say "inconclusive?" I meant to say "crap."

The first case is dated as taking place last October in a town a few hours north of me. The person who filed the report noticed anomalies in some pictures taken on his or his daughter's iPhone. Suspecting an alien presence, he filed a report with MUFON and included the photos:
"I was going to delete landscape photos taken by my daughter months earlier... something looked peculiar so I blew up area of photos that had these things and can't explain what they are so I'm sending them to you. They were taken with iPhone 4S they two photos with orbs in sky and one in grass in day time and another rectangular cloud like or silver box shaped evervesent with antennae"
That's where I came in. I read the report, I looked at the photos and I was immediately suspicious. The pictures were taken on a bright, sunny day with only a few wispy clouds in the sky, and all three were taken with the camera pointed directly at the sun. Who takes pictures pointed directly at the sun? More to the point, who takes pictures pointed directly at the sun and then is surprised to see lens flares in the photos? Moreover, there was absolutely no information given by the "daughter" about why and when and how she took the pictures or what else she may have noticed or experienced at the time.

The "silver box" looks oddly like the Caribou Coffee logo.
I talked to the gent on the phone and he was adamant that I not make up my mind about the pics until I had looked at them on an iPhone or iPad. I thought this was a curious thing to insist upon, but I decided he must work for Apple, so I played along and looked at them on my iPad with the "retina display." They didn't look any different than they had on my Windows 8 computer; just a bunch of pictures of the sun glaring down over a nondescript cornfield. Two photos show "orbs" in the sky, seemingly hovering a few feet off the ground but definitely directly between the sun and the camera. One of the "orbs" is translucent enough that you can clearly see the foliage through it, while the other is in the sky and so has nothing showing through it. The third photo, with the "silver box shaped evervesent with antennae," is harder to explain. It is light blue, not silver, but it is indeed "box shaped," if they've started to make crooked, lopsided boxes that look like galloping blue caribou. As for the "antennae," I have no idea what he's talking about, because they looked like the caribou's antlers to me. In any case, the caribou/box appears amidst some swirling clouds in the sky; nothing actually shows through it, and it has no clear border or outline...

If I were to file my report today I would classify this under "insufficient data" or "flying caribou" and call it a day. But I wanted to give the guy a chance, so I wrote to him and told him that I couldn't come to any conclusions until I could talk to his daughter. So far, no response.

The second case is only slightly less bothersome. Here's the report, such as it is:
"Was travel king north on CTY hwy X and saw it hovering over a commercial farm so I pulled over and it wiped off to the horizon and then came back right over head and then ziped back to the horizon all the wile I was takeing pics with my phone"
This person included seven photos, but two of them are complete blurs so they don't count. The other five photos show something in the sky, perhaps a mile or two in the distance, just above the tree line. All that shows in the photos is a tiny black dot; in a couple of the pics it's in one location, and the others it's in a slightly different location. It only actually looks like anything in one of the photos, but all it looks like is a slightly bigger black dot in the sky.

Still, hats off to the guy for actually pulling over and observing the dot! A lot of people would have just said, "Oh, it's a dot," and kept right on driving.

This could potentially be something interesting, but I am suspicious of the comment that the object was "right over head," because none of the seven photos show it being anywhere within a mile of the witness. He does say elsewhere in the report that the object "was over head then a mile away than came back super sonic speeds," so I guess I could excuse the guy for not getting a shot of something zooming overhead at supersonic speeds, if there was more detail to the story...

Surprisingly, the witness says in the report that he is a "scientist" with a "Master's Degree." I was actually pretty excited when I saw that, because that meant that whatever he said was automatically true. Sadly, though, he's not a real scientist; he's a "political scientist." So that gets us nowhere.

I'm hoping to talk to him soon, but for now this one is "insufficient data" as well.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

UFOTOG Are Go!

I've written a few times in the past about Douglas Trumbull's uber-cool UFOTOG technology that could just blow this whole UFO thing wide open, and the beyond-high-def movie he made to showcase the system; as cool as it sounds, I didn't hold out much hope that I would ever see the demo.

Until yesterday.

This is as fluky as fluky gets. I belong to a Google group for MUFON State Officers, and even though the posts can be very informative and wildly entertaining, I don't read them all. Not even close. I would go nuts trying to, the volume is so overwhelming sometimes (and, frankly, the quality of the posts is pretty hit or miss). Bottom line is, I probably delete 75% of the posts unread.

But yesterday I opened one, purely by chance, and it changed my life. So, so glad I didn't delete this one...

"I have a once in a blue moon offer for the MUFON groups in the New England area," read the post from Marc Dantonio. Now, you smart readers will immediately realize that I am not in New England; not even close. By rights I shouldn't even have received this email, but there it was, and this is what it went on to say:
"I am making the offer on behalf of Douglas Trumbull ... For the last 5 years or so I have been working on films and other initiatives with Doug who changed how we viewed science fiction forever with his work on movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters, Blade Runner, Brainstorm, Silent Running, Andromeda strain, Star Trek and more. Doug is an Academy Award winning innovator in special effects and production and is one of the most ingenious guys on the planet."
I second that. I've been an admirer of Doug Trumbull since I was a kid and discovered a book called "The Making of Kubrick's 2001" at my local public library. I was maybe 10 or 12 at the time, didn't understand half of the book -- "slit-scan" photography?? Hunh?? -- but it didn't matter; I was hooked.
It all started many, many years ago, on the pages of this book...
So, what was the once in a blue moon offer? Well, Doug Trumbull has developed this technology to get better images of UFOs and he's produced a short demo film highlighting the technology and he's shot the film with a new 3D system that projects images at a jaw-dropping 120 frames-per-second, which is so fast not even James Cameron and Peter Jackson combined could accomplish it, and 25 lucky MUFONers can see an exclusive sneak preview of the film this Saturday in Massachusetts for free.

What the hell was I going to do? Give it a pass? No way. Eight tickets were already spoken for by the time I got the email! I had to act fast: For one thing, it's a chance to meet a boyhood idol. For another, it's a chance to be among the first to see the newest film technology and UFO hunting technology in person. And third, it might be my best shot at getting an interview with Mr. Trumbull for my Hynek book. He did, after all, meet Hynek on the set of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and in a strange but meaningful way his UFOTOG system is a direct descendant of some of the pioneering celestial imaging systems that Hynek developed during his career, including the Baker-Nunn astronomical camera and the image orthicon astronomical video capture system. You see, ultimately, it's all about the book.

So, in other words, I really have to be there. And I will be.

Mr. Dantonio did not seem to grasp my serious intent when I wrote back to him to reserve one of the 17 remaining seats at the screening. He kept writing me things like: "You know.... this is in Massachusetts... and it is this Saturday..." Yup, yup, gotcha. I'm still going to be there.

And I will finally, finally, figure out what the hell "slit-scan" means...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Removing Alien Implants and Other Weirdness

My son Cxxxxx is planning to go to medical school, and the other day, trying to be a helpful, involved Dad, I suggested that he specialize in alien implant removal. After all, the world's only specialist in alien implant removal, podiatrist Dr. Roger Leir, recently passed on, leaving the field wide open. There's probably big money to be made there, although the conventions will be very quiet. When I told my son that Dr. Leir had apparently been the only doctor specializing in this unusual practice, he dryly said, "I'm actually surprised there aren't more."

What's the take-away here? Well, first, my son is undoubtedly going to ignore my advice, which is to be expected. Although it seems that even if he did specialize in something boring like podiatry he could still change his mind later and start extracting alien thingies from people's noggins without much fuss.
Awfully nice of the aliens to insert a big black arrow pointing out their implant!

The second take-away is this: Much like the abandoned Sheriff's car in the museum in northern Minnesota, we seem to have a case of apparent physical proof of alien visitations that no one is bothering to broadcast to the doubting world. If Dr. Leir has been harvesting alien implants from his podiatry patients, shouldn't there be a room full of demonstrably alien devices in the good doctor's office or in his home? Shouldn't this be slam-dunk proof that we are being visited by aliens? I hereby volunteer to go to California, box up all the implants (assuming they have been de-goo-ified) and deliver them personally to the World Health Organization.

And there's a third take-away: Why does so much of UFO world have to be so damn weird? I mean, there's weird and then there's weird. There's someone claiming to have an alien implant in his or her head, and then there's someone claiming to be able to remove it using podiatry tools, but then not presenting it as proof that an alien put something into this person.

This third point is especially pressing today, because I have just been inundated with weirdness this past week. Once you get on a couple of these UFO mailing lists, Google groups and twitter feeds your life becomes a non-stop nightmarish gusher of freakiness that you are powerless to stanch.

And this is coming from a guy who loves weird! I truly love it, I do, but some of the shit that comes across my desk is just ridiculous.

It all started last week when a friend who had been vacationing in the southwest sent me a link to the "Integratron" and said he and his wife thought of me when they saw it. How nice. It's this kind of drum-circly thing in the California desert, and it was built by UFO contactee George Van Tassel, who received the blueprints telepathically from aliens. Ok, maybe I can be down with that, but not this:
"This one-of-a-kind 38-foot high, 55-foot diameter, all wood dome was designed to be an electrostatic generator for the purpose of rejuvenation and time travel."
And yet, old George Van T. isn't around to tell us more, because he kicked it in 1978. Hmm.

Shortly after that I started seeing synchronistic mentions of Skinwalker Ranch. 'Nuff said.

The weirdness got even weirder a few days later, when I saw a tweet referring to a UFO gathering called "Contact in the Desert," and made the mistake of following up on it. I had heard about CITD last summer when it debuted but didn't pay too much attention at the time. Turns out they're doing another one this summer, and it's got a star-studded lineup of speakers (including a guy who calls himself "Dr. Dream"), but what really struck me is that people are still complaining about last year's event because some of the speakers brought along personal guards who stood at the doors and wouldn't allow anyone to leave the hall once the speakers had started their presentations. That's not just weird; it's dangerous. And illegal. And weird.

This year's event features pretty much the exact same roster of speakers, so you have to wonder: Who the hell would go back this year?