High Strangeness: UFO Favorites

Monday, June 30, 2014

UFO Favorites

So, last weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and that's a weird thing to say, but it's true. It's true because I visited the home of UFO historian and co-author of "UFOs and Government" Michael Swords, and that is always a pleasure.

I considered it important to interview Michael for my book about J. Allen Hynek because I know the man didn't always think too highly of Hynek. Michael makes no secret of the fact that he considers Hynek to have been a timid, weak-willed, ineffectual flunky of the Air Force. Over and over again in his recent book, and in much of his earlier UFO reporting, he likes to refer to Hynek as "poor Allen."

Is that a promise?
But I had a feeling that if I interviewed him, Michael might reveal a different side to his feelings about Dr. Hynek. Sure enough, throughout our talk he was thoughtful and respectful in his comments, and even though he didn't hide his negative feelings about Hynek, he went out of his way to put those feelings in the proper context. Hynek wasn't so much a sellout, Michael felt, as a man whose human weaknesses sometimes undermined his noble intentions.

Michael had come to work for Hynek's Center for UFO Studies a short time before Hynek moved to Arizona, so he only met Hynek three times. He became heavily involved with the Center's operation  in the mid- to late-80s, however, and has a lot to day about the influence of Hynek's work on the UFOlogy of that period. The book will be much richer for Michael's insights.

Towards the end of the interview, I asked Michael to name his favorite UFO cases. This guy has studied the UFO phenomenon frontwards and backwards and every which way in between, so I was very curious to hear which sightings stood out to him... He had already mentioned a few high profile cases during the course of our conversation so I thought I knew what direction he might go, but when it came to naming his favorites not a one of them came up.

Here are Michael's Top Three UFO Events of All Time:
  • The 1959 Father Gill case in Boianai, Papua, New Guinea, in which an Anglican missionary and about two dozen others witnessed two UFOs on consecutive nights and seemed to communicate with the seemingly friendly occupants of one of the crafts... The occupied UFO approach Father Gill and the others where they had gathered on the beach, and several humanoid figures appeared on the top of the craft. The humans waved at the UFO occupants, and the occupants waved back...
  • The 1973 Captain Coyne helicopter case, in which a crew of four Army servicemen on a helicopter over Ohio encountered a huge metallic object approaching them in the sky and took evasive action to avoid a mid-air collision. The helicopter went into a steep dive as the object hovered over the cockpit; after it vanished from view Captain Coyne and his crew found that even though the helicopter had gone into a steep dive, the craft had somehow pulled it nearly 2,000 feet higher in altitude. Not only did all the crewmen agree on the details of the event, witnesses on the ground corroborated the whole story and were terrified that they were about to see a mid-air crash...
  • The 1960 Red Bluff, California incident, in which several policemen witnessed a pair of football-shaped craft maneuver in the air for some two hours. This case was the big surprise for me, because on the face of it, it doesn't seem to amount to much. The UFOs didn't do anything spectacular -- no near mid-air crashes, no waving aliens -- and yet Michael was fizzing with excitement when he went over the details of the event...
Pretty cool stuff. I wholeheartedly agree with Michael about the Gill case and the Coyne case. Hynek was particularly fascinated by the Gill case and traveled to Boianai in 1973 to meet with the witnesses, and that says a lot. Even after 14 years, the case was still completely unexplained and intensely compelling. The Coyne case was the first big UFO event that Hynek's Center investigated, and it quickly became the gold standard for UFO cases.

As to the Red Bluff case... I'll have to read up on it to see if I can understand why it captivates Michael the way it does. But even if I never understand, it was a real treat to see that case and the two others through the eyes of a genuine UFO scholar.

What about you, readers? What are your favorite cases?

1 comment:

Strelnikov said...

I liked the Levelland, Texas sightings of 1957, because it was more than one object, you got a car stop out of it, and there were numerous witnesses.

I also found any Men In Black story interesting, because they are where UFOs and mythology intersect.