High Strangeness: The UFO Grapevine

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!

No comments: