High Strangeness: 100 UFOlogists

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

100 UFOlogists

Today I paid a return visit to Ground Zero, otherwise known as the Chicago HQ of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). It was there, just a few years ago, that I learned of the opportunity to write a book about the career of Dr. Hynek, and it was there that I very wisely jumped at the chance.

Since that fateful day, I have visited the CUFOS archives over a dozen times, and each time I walk away with a head full of knowledge and ideas for my book. Today's mission was really just to talk with CUFOS' Scientific Director, Mark Rodeghier. I needed to give him an update on the status of the book, run some new ideas past him and pick his brain for a while...
Found it on Amazon for a penny!

Today I came home with:
  • A list of five new books to buy, including one very intriguing book by an art history professor called "Picturing Extraterrestrials: Alien Images in Modern Mass Culture"
  • A list of moments in UFO history to research, including the formation of the first amateur UFO research group, the Aerial Phenomenon Research Organization (APRO) right here in Wisconsin in 1952 (this has the extra bonus of being good source material for the presentation I'll be giving on UFO's in Wisconsin at the upcoming Milwaukee Paranormal Conference), and Dr. Hynek's late 1950s trip to France, during which he hob-nobbed with UFO genius Aime Michel
  • A list of people Mark will contact for me to interview. Mark has always been great about this, even if his efforts haven't always been fruitful (He doesn't hold out any hope that I'll ever get in touch with reclusive CUFOS stalwart Allan Hendry, and we've both given up on Marc Chesney, since a certain someone, for reasons that still escape me, convinced Chesney that I was some kind of literary impostor and mistakenly cc'd me on his emails. Still, I hope the people Mark suggested today will come through)
I also spent some time rooting through the archives in Mark's basement and came across some wonderful correspondence between Hynek and British Ace UFOlogist Jenny Randles. In one 1979 letter Randles bemoans the fact that "Out of every 100 UFOlogists, only 2 or 3 are of any use." Seeing as how that letter was written from one UFOlogist to another, it's not hard to do the math.

I also couldn't resist once again looking through the file with Hynek's correspondence with Carl Sagan, just because I enjoy the weirdly polite sparring between the two of them: they were always so unfailingly polite and respectful, and yet constantly needling each other. The standout document in that file is a 1975 letter to Sagan in which Hynek requests that they call a truce for an upcoming joint TV appearance:
"I would like to propose a sort of mutual non-aggression pact because I think any 'confrontation' (which the tv people would dearly love) would, I believe, be based on an unfortunate misunderstanding. I do not and have never, supported the idea that UFOs were nuts-and-bolts hardware from some very distant place."
That letter just cracks me up every time I read it. Both men knew exactly how their joint appearance would go down: Sagan would attack Hynek's UFO work, and Hynek would struggle to get any point across in the face of Sagan's unending sarcasm. Hynek valiantly tried to stop it, as he always did, but Sagan doesn't appear to have responded to Hynek's offer. There is no response from Sagan in the file...

3 comments:

mister anderson said...

What were the other book titles?

Mark OC said...

The other books were:

"The Invasion from Mars" by Hadley Cantril;

"Project Mindshift: The Re-education of the American Public Concerning Extraterrestrial Life 1947-1997" by Michael Mannion;

"In Advance of the Landing: Folk Concepts of Outer Space" by Douglas Curran; and

"Hollywood vs. The Aliens: The Motion Picture Industry's Participation in UFO Disinformation" by Bruce Rux

I'll let you know what I think of them!

mister anderson said...

Thx!