High Strangeness: UFO Intruders

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

UFO Intruders

What makes a UFO witness credible, even when he or she can't prove that a single thing they're reporting is true?

I come across this all time as a Certified UFO Field Investigator. Some UFO witnesses just immediately strike me as believable, and some immediately strike me as, well... full of it. On the surface, it makes no sense. They're all reporting very similar phenomena, and none of them really stands to gain from reporting a UFO incident, and I am supposed to be... *ahem*... impartial.
Sometimes an investigator has to gauge a UFO person's credibility according to subtle visual cues...

But I'm human, and when I'm interviewing a UFO witness I'm paying attention to a lot more than just the story I'm being told. There are untold non-verbal cues that enter into what a person is relating to me and how I receive the information, and it would be impossible for me to untangle all the factors that shape my opinion of a witness and what that witness is telling me. Having said that, I think I do a pretty good job, but I suppose anyone would say that.

I bring it up because I've been spending the last week or two transcribing some of the many interviews I conducted over the summer for my bio of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, and this very topic came up in one of the interviews.

I had asked Dr. Hynek's son Paul what it was like growing up in a household in which a never-ending parade of visitors and guests came by to meet, or meet with, his father. And by guests I mean celebrities, scientists and journalists, but not just them. I also mean UFO witnesses. Lots of UFO witnesses. It would not have surprised me one bit had Paul told me that he didn't find a single one of them sincere or believable. They were, in a sense, competitors for his father's attention, after all, and they were intruding on the Hyneks' home life.

So I was pleased to discover that Paul had a favorite among all the UFO witnesses who intruded into his home, and even more pleased to discover that that the honoree was none other than Father William Gill, whose 1959 Close Encounter of the Third Kind in Boanai, New Guinea, is one of the strangest, most puzzling, most thoroughly investigated and yet thoroughly charming UFO event of all time.

To give a quick recap, Gill, an Anglican minister working as a missionary in New Guinea, witnessed a UFO for two nights in a row, and interacted with the occupants. The occupants were standing on a sort of deck on top of the hovering saucer, and when Gill and the others with him raised their arms and then waved, the occupants raised their arms and waved back. There were a couple dozen corroborating witnesses who all reported the same thing, and not even the Australian Air Force could pick the story apart.

Years later, Gill was in Chicago, apparently, attending an ecumenical conference, and he came to visit Dr. Hynek in Evanston. Here's how Paul recalls Father Gill:

"He was so at ease, and that’s what really struck me about him. I wasn’t familiar with the case before then, but I knew why he was at our house and he talked about it but he didn’t elaborate past the point where my Dad would prod him.
"You can just tell about some people, they are not making this shit up. There were multiple witnesses, and there was no abduction or sperm samples or anything tawdry like that, so, it was just the perfect case.
"And my recollection was that after a while Father Gill went back in for vespers or whatever that he had to do, and people couldn’t understand that. His answer was, more or less, that 'It’s my duty to do vespers, not to do vespers unless there’s a craft in the sky.'"

I can certainly see why Paul found him so credible. Obviously, Paul had a lot of non-verbal information to help him assess Gill's believability, but I find it most interesting that he keyed in on the fact that Gill "didn't elaborate" past the point where Dr. Hynek would prod him... That's not even a clue; that's a non-clue, and that's what convinced him.

The lesson for me is that I need to be more cognizant of how I make those judgements, of what verbal and non-verbal cues enhance or diminish a witness' credibility in my eyes... Because I'm facing it in my book, as a matter of fact. I have a real corker of a story to open the book, and some of the evidence of Hynek's role in the story is based on a story Hynek told "my" witness about 35 years ago... My witness' memory of Hynek's story is based just as much on Hynek's non-verbal cues as by what he actually said, so in a sense I have next to no proof that what I believe happened happened... just a very, very strong intuition based on this person's very, very vivid memory.



1 comment:

Rek2008 said...

Sounds like it's going to be an interesting read.