High Strangeness: 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

UFO Reunion

Every once in a while, my involvement in UFO research brings me a chance to take part in a really fun event. Going to Connecticut a few years back to meet movie special effects genius Douglas Trumbull and see the debut of his UFOTOG tracking system was one. Going to Ann Arbor, Michigan last March to take part in Michigan MUFON's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the infamous "swamp gas" case was another.

The other day, another of these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities arose, and like the first two it came about because of my involvement in MUFON. Earlier this week I saw a posting on the facebook group for MUFON State Directors that piqued my interest (yes, technically, I shouldn't belong to the group as I am an ex-MUFON officer, but they haven't given me the boot yet, so...). The message was from a MUFON officer from Wyoming who is trying to put together an event in 2017 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which I think is a brilliant idea.
Who could we get to sponsor it?

The last 30 minutes of the 1977 film take place at "The Dark Side of the Moon," a secret UFO landing base that our government has built at the foot of Devil's Tower National Monument in northeast Wyoming, and this MUFON guy wants to hold the event there, at Devils Tower! Brilliant!

In his message, he explained that he would be in charge of planning the event, and he had no idea how to start, or who to contact as speakers for the event. So, naturally, I offered him a suggestion...

It's too early to say whether this event will take place. He's talking about a September, 2017 event, which gives him lots of time, but the logistics are daunting. Devil's Tower is in the middle on nowhere. Hell, Wyoming is in the middle of nowhere. How do you get enough people to an event in the middle of nowhere to make the event pay for itself, even turn a profit? I was just exchanging emails with my sister-in-law Cxxxx about it, and she suggested a mashed potato sculpture competition or mashed potato wrestling. I think those are both genius ideas, but will they attract enough people?

In any case, if the event comes to pass, I've expressed my interest in taking part, and my willingness to reach out to Doug Trumbull. It could be fun!


Sunday, December 4, 2016

UFO Through the Window

My first MUFON case since returning to the fold was shaping up to be a real nothingburger, but instead it has taken some interesting twists and turns.

In my last post, I expressed my reservations about my new Wisconsin state MUFON director and her work methods. Since then, she has shown a willingness to accept that I'm not going to do things her way, so maybe there's hope. She had assigned me a case in which a young couple saw a strange light in the evening sky as they drove home from shopping. My director really seemed to want this case to be about telepathic orbs, so I wasn't sure if she would accept my case disposition that the couple had simply seen a reflection of sunlight in the clouds. But, she did, and so we're cool. For now.

But, when I was interviewing the couple in this case along with my new MUFON co-investigator, I couldn't help noticing that the wife seemed to be very concerned, as if she was carrying some weight on her shoulders but didn't want to talk about it. My cohort had gotten the same impression from her. So I wasn't completely surprised when she emailed me yesterday to tell me that there was more to the story... And what a story it is.

The woman told me that she had been having strange experiences since she was five, when she had an incident with a green light outside her bedroom window. The light came into her room, and she was terrified that aliens were trying to "suck" her out of the window. She said her dad told her the next day that he had seen green light outside the house. From that night on, she told me, she would wait until everyone else in the family was asleep then sneak onto her parents' bedroom and sleep on the floor.

She also told me of recurring dreams of alien Armageddon that she had had off and on in her life. That is not so strange to me, as I have learned that a LOT of people have recurring alien Armageddon dreams, but one version of her dream was particularly interesting. It involved her and her whole class at school being taken from their school bus, lined up and made to kneel on the ground while "strange people" stuck needles in the soles of their feet, so that the strange people could keep track of them. The woman claims that she still has the mark on her foot.

She also said that these childhood experiences have absolutely no connection to the report she filed a few weeks ago about the light in the sky, which I think is a pretty interesting detail.

Honestly, I'm not sure what I think of this, but I am intrigued. This is one of those rare cases where it feels like an episode of the X Files just landed in my lap. My working theory is that the woman reported the light in the sky as a trial balloon, to see if MUFON would respond and to see how we would treat the case. That doesn't mean I mistrust her motives or her childhood memories, but I would need to know a whole lot more before deciding whats going on. All I can say is that she and her husband seemed sincere when we met with them last week.

So, I told her that she had three choices: First, if all she needed was to get this story off her chest to someone who would hear her out without making fun of her, and now that she has she doesn't need to go any further with it, that's cool. Case closed. Second, if she wanted to report the other experiences to MUFON, then my State Director would get involved, and all hell would break loose. Third, if she wasn't sure what she wanted to do, we could just keep the lines of communication open and I would respect any decision she might make. I have not heard back from her, and there's a good chance I may not.

I did notify my State Director, however, and guess what? Not only is she already 100% certain that we're dealing with a contact phenomenon that passes from mother to daughter, but she is all set to mobilize MUFON's alien abduction SWAT Team and she's already contacted a time-regression hypnotist...

Which makes this the first time I've ever felt that I need to protect a witness from MUFON.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My New UFO Headache

If you're as ancient as me, you may remember the opening sequence from the brilliant 1960's spy show, "The Prisoner," in which the unnamed spy played by Patrick McGoohan angrily resigns from his unnamed spy agency after bursting through the doors to his boss' office. It looked like this:
"I QUIT!"

Well, I may be close to doing something very much like this with my new boss at MUFON. In fact, I may have just done it!

Regular readers may recall that about a year ago I took a leave of absence from my post as a MUFON Certified UFO Field Investigator as I finished my Hynek book. A few weeks ago I decided to rejoin and get back in on the fun, partly because this work really is fascinating, and partly because I may still want to write a book about my adventures as a UFO investigator, and to do that I need more material.

In the year I was gone, however, much has changed. Wisconsin has a new State Director, and she and I are matter and anti-matter, if you know what I mean.

Things started out badly in our first exchange. She informed me in no uncertain terms that she expects me to respond to her emails the same day, no exceptions--and this woman writes a LOT of emails. I wrote back and politely informed her that I would endeavor to respond to her emails in a timely manner, but that it probably wouldn't be the same day.

Next she insisted that I buy this $20 book about orbs written by some MUFON guy, because it turns out that she thinks every UFO reported to MUFON is an orb with telepathic abilities. I politely informed her that I will not be buying the book, but that hasn't kept her from "suggesting" every few days that I buy it. She has shared several of her orb case reports with me, and when it comes to her case dispositions, she says that "natural and man-made causes have been ruled out." I asked her how she had ruled out natural and man-made causes, and she basically said it was because she knew they were orbs.

Then yesterday she emailed me to say that she had contacted a witness in one of the cases she had assigned to me, to "introduce" me as the investigator who will be handling her sighting. Only problem is, I have already emailed this witness twice and introduced myself twice, which my State Director already knows.

I find this embarrassing and problematic, so I wrote to my SD tonight and told her so. I stated my belief that it is confusing to a witness to be contacted by multiple people in the organization. Then I stated my belief that when she "introduces" me to a witness to whom I have already introduced myself, not once but twice, it makes us look like unorganized amateurs. Then I stated my belief that by contacting a witness in my case behind my back, she sends me the message that she doesn't trust me to do my job.

On top of that, I am about to submit my first new case report, and I know she's going to hate it, because she was pretty sure the witness was receiving telepathic messages from the orb, but the witness told me that she did not receive any messages, telepathic or otherwise, from the object. Ouch.

I am not looking forward to my new boss' next email. It's not going to be good.




Sunday, November 27, 2016

Beating a Dead UFO

So, the other day I did a webcast with noted UFO authority and all-around nice guy Kevin Randle (you can listen to it here), in which we discussed the Roswell Debate I had recently with Don Schmitt. The debate, for those of you new to the story, took place at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference earlier this fall. It was sponsored by well-known UFO and paranormal media outlet KGRA Radio, but after webcasting the debate live, KGRA has decided for reasons known only to them to reneg on their promise to post the debate on their website.

This is a problem to me for two reasons. First is the censorship issue: if you squelch dissenting voices and viewpoints, you're doing your listeners a disservice and keeping them in the dark, the exact opposite of what a media outlet is supposed to do. You're also engaging in what you might call a "cover-up," which I had thought was a dirty word in UFO circles. Second is the professional ethics issue: a big reason I did the debate was so that it could be heard online by an international audience, and by reneging on their promise to post the recording of the show, the people at KGRA have pretty much shafted me and the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference. I have a very low tolerance for people who break promises and reneg on deals. It shows a real spinelessness.

An early Xmas present from my wife! From growupawesome.com
So, anyway, Kevin and I had a good conversation on his show. We went over a lot of the content of the debate, and while we didn't agree on everything, we found common ground on a lot of issues and ultimately decided that there wasn't a whole lot more worth saying about Roswell. UFOlogy, I believe, has already moved on.

So it surprised me when, off the air, Kevin and his producer brought up the idea of having me and Schmitty do another Roswell Debate live on Kevin's show. They both thought it was a swell idea, and then they thought it would be even better if we did if for three hours instead of just one. And then they thought it would be an even better idea to have Tom Carey join Don Schmitt's side of the debate. Needless to say, the idea held very little appeal, but I hated to snuff out their enthusiasm, so I told them I wouldn't be able to commit to anything until after my book comes out next May and said we should talk again after that.

Then I thought about it over the holiday and realized that I won't want to talk about it in May any more than I do now. I have absolutely no interest in participating in another Roswell Debate.

Some decisions in life are hard, some are easy. This one was easy. Taking part in another Roswell Debate, I realized, would be a complete waste of my time and energy. Not only would it feel like beating a dead UFO, but it would only serve to legitimize Don Schmitt and his work, by keeping it in the spotlight. That is absolutely the wrong thing to be doing right now.

Also, somewhere along the line, Roswell has just become really, really boring to me...

What's the right thing to be doing right now? For me, it's working on my book. As my editor and I bang out a final draft of the manuscript, I'm also working on selecting photos and illustrations to use in the book, and securing permission from people who own the rights to those images. I thought the whole photo rights thing would be fraught with complications, but it's been amazingly trouble-free, and I am psyched about the images we're going to have in the book!

I had imagined using some great UFO photos, but after going over what there was available I came to the conclusion that UFO photographs pretty much suck, across the board. So, instead, we're using illustrations and artwork connected with some classic cases, and I couldn't be more excited. Where UFOs are concerned, at least, artwork is so much more evocative than photographs... I think it's because photographs represent an attempt to portray the physicality of UFOS, and if there's one thing that UFOs persistently refuse to give up, it's physical proof of their nature and existence. Illustrations, on the other hand, capture more of the psychological nature of UFO sightings. Yes, they're more subjective, but if you're not trying to prove one thing or another that doesn't really matter. Illustrations are about gut feelings, and what could be more interesting than that?


Thursday, November 3, 2016

The REAL Roswell UFO Cover-up!

It looks as though the great Roswell Debate may not be posted on KGRARadio.com any time soon, if ever. That's the only conclusion I can draw from the fact that I haven't heard a thing from KGRA host Race Hobbs since this message, sent to me on October 18:
"I sure will (post a copy of the debate) as soon as our copy is done. Tea said he had a video guy recording the first part but not the last side of the debate, which I have recorded.
"We will let you know, Mark, and by the way, you did a really good job my man!"
Ok, I appreciate that, but it's been a couple weeks now, and if the debate was in fact recorded, and if Race thinks I did such a kick-ass job debating Don Schmitt, why hasn't it been posted anywhere yet? And why hasn't Race responded to my follow-up email?

Think about it: KGRA was the damned sponsor of the debate, and they haven't posted it. Did it maybe not turn out the way they expected it to?
Could this be why KGRA hasn't posted the Roswell Debate? After all, their man RD was up on that stage in Mexico City ...

In lieu of the actual debate, then, I'll just share a few items of interest.

First up is this message sent the day after the debate by my niece Rxxxxx to my daughter Dxxxxx. My niece had a vendor table at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, you see, and this is what she heard in the vendor's room after the debate:
"The consensus of many people I've been eavesdropping on was that Uncle Mark fucking killed whoever that other guy was in the debate."
Not very scientific, I'll grant you, but my niece would never tell a lie.

Also, my sister Mxxxx the lawyer said I won the debate by virtue of the fact that Don Schmitt kept agreeing with me! Ha!

I'll tell you one thing we did not agree on, however. At a couple points in the debate, I quoted some statements that Dr. J. Allen Hynek had made during his career that pretty much shot the legs out from under Don's 30-some years of Roswell "research."

First was this quote from a 1975 letter Hynek wrote to Dr. Carl Sagan, in which he stated, "I do not, and have never, supported the idea that UFOs were nuts-and-bolts hardware from some very distant place."

Next, I quoted from an OMNI Magazine interview published in February, 1985, in which Hynek said the following:
"To be honest I don't like to talk about crashed saucers, because I am in a position to mobilize public belief. If I came out and held a press conference to say that a saucer has landed and and the creatures were in deep freeze at Wright Field, quite a few people would believe me. But it wouldn't necessarily be true, and it certainly wouldn't be science... I won't jeopardize my reputation for the sake of a story."
Well, these quotes seriously bugged Don, but instead of rebutting the quotes, guess what he did? He explained to all gathered that Dr. Hynek was suffering from brain cancer at the time he said these things, and only said them because he was experiencing diminished brain capacity!

That's right, according to Don Schmitt, Dr. Hynek was suffering from severely impaired judgement and didn't know what he was saying when he disagreed with Don's "research." Don's implication was that if Dr. Hynek had been of sound mind, he would not have said these things and would, in fact, have wholeheartedly agreed with Don's theories.

What a load of crap. Of all the cheap, sleazy ways to defend yourself, Don's characterization of Dr. Hynek disagreeing with him only because he was mentally incapacitated is the cheapest and sleaziest by a mile.

What do you think?
 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Backstage at The Great Roswell Debate

Now that the Great Roswell Debate between me and Don Schmitt is in the history books, I can talk a little about some of the backstage drama leading up to the event.

A few short days ago, it was looking as though the Debate would be called off.  What could cause such a catastrophe, you ask? You may not believe this, but there was a some last-minute hanky-panky perpetrated by Mr. Schmitt that threatened to derail the whole thing and leave a couple hundred angry people demanding their money back. Don may be used to that, but I'm not.

Several days ago, I got a panicky email from Tea Krulos, the amazing organizer of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, informing me that Don wanted to show a video as part of his 3-minute opening statement. Tea and the debate moderator were uncomfortable with the last-minute demand, and the fact that Don wouldn't let them see the video, but asked me if I would be ok if they allowed it. At first blush I thought the video idea was harmless enough, but then I read up a little on debate rules and discovered this:
 "Visual materials are permissible, and once introduced, they become available for the opponents' use if desired."
I ran this past Tea and the debate moderator and asked if this meant Don was required to share his video with us before the debate, and they said, why, yes it does!

So, they communicated that to Don and he refused. Not only did he refuse, he told them that if they continued to demand access to the video that he would drop out of the debate.

Wow. So, suddenly, this innocent little video has taken on a very menacing aspect... Tea and the moderator are upset because Don is making a mockery of the debate, and I'm worried that the video might contain some personal attack (and, yes, there is precedence for this). And Don absolutely refuses to share the video. Tea is ready to pull the plug on the whole thing, and for a day or two, things are looking very precarious...

Then, out of the blue, Don shares the video with Tea and the moderator, and Tea sends the video along to me with this note:
"Um...ok, Don forwarded his video. This is unexpected!"
I watch the video, and I'm gobsmacked. It's an ancient George Carlin stand-up comedy routine--well, it's a rant, really, and it's not funny at all--in which Carlin warns his audience that the world is run by an unnamed powerful elite who screw us over in every way imaginable, and we're all blind to what's going on around us, and we're all basically fucked.


For a day or so after watching the video, Tea and the debate moderator and I exchange a long train of emails, in which we basically ask each other "WTF?" over and over again. Tea and the moderator ask me to explain Don Schmitt to them, and I can't. I just can't. They're still thinking of pulling the plug on the whole thing.

However, Tea and the debate moderator are now very amenable to my comments and suggestions, and they come up with a plan we can all agree on:
  1. Don can show his video as his opening statement, but because he's allotted 3 minutes for his opening statement and the video is 3 minutes long, the video will be his opening statement.
  2. Don has to present his video before I give my opening statement, giving me the chance to respond directly to the video.
  3. Because the moderator is suspicious that Don will try to pull a switcheroo and play a different video the day of the debate, Don will not be allowed anywhere near a laptop; only the debate moderator can show the video.
Fun, right?

Here's the point in the blog post where I should be posting a link to KGRARadio.com so that you can go there to listen to their archived webcast of the debate, but they don't seem to have posted it yet. I have emailed the dude in charge at KGRA for that information, and will post it here when I hear back from him... Which could be a while, because to date he has not responded to any of my messages.

Along those same lines, a reader here commented that he tried to listen to the webcast live yesterday afternoon, but that KGRA was playing some other program. I don't want to jump to conclusions, but... KGRA is a major sponsor of the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, and if they did NOT webcast the debate, I'd be interested to know why... If any of you out there were able to listen to the webcast Saturday afternoon without any trouble, please let me know!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Roswell Hiccup

Oh no!

Don Schmitt has just asked the moderators of The Great Roswell Debate that he be able to show a video as part of his opening statement! I think it's a bit fishy that he is trying to modify the terms of the debate only 9 days ahead of the event, but more than that, the rules of debate, as I interpret them,
Lest we forget how this whole thing started...
seem to make this a bit dicey for Don. Here's what they say:

Visual materials are permissible, and once introduced, they become available for the opponents' use if desired.

But Don, I am told, is not willing to make the video available... Will this be a problem? What could be in that video? Does he have some kind of "October Surprise" in store? Inquiring minds want to know...



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The "Roswell Debate" is Coming!

Well, here we are, a mere 11 days before the big "Roswell Debate" between yours truly and Don "Deathbed Confession" Schmitt, and I can hardly contain my excitement! It's been almost a year now since Don challenged me to this debate after the fallout from my discovery of the sensational  Roswell Post-It, and I'm sure he is ready to mete out his own brand of UFO justice.

I say, bring it on, Don.

The scribble that started it all: The Roswell Post-It, discovered on my desk in 2015.
The big event will take place at 3:30 p.m Saturday, October 15th, at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference. If you want to see two middle-aged guys with great hair arguing over whether there is any proof that a flying saucer from another world crash-landed outside Roswell, New Mexico on July 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, or 7th, 1947, then you've just got to be there.

If you can't be there in person, I have good news: you can listen to the live webcast on KGRA Radio. At least I think you can. The truth is, I don't know any of the details of the KGRA webcast, because this dude Race Hobbs who owns KGRA hasn't communicated with me at all. I contacted him a week or two back, asking politely for the particulars of the webcast, but he has not responded. See, I thought it would be nice to fill you in on the details, and I also thought an exchange of information would be helpful to both of us, because I could put him in touch with the marketing people at HarperCollins to see if they could leverage my upcoming book, "The Close Encounters Man," to promote the debate and the webcast.

But I guess Race isn't interested.

Ah well, I've been in this situation before, being the guy at the UFO conference saying things that the audience and the other presenters don't necessarily want to hear. Last March, when I was a presenter at the conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Dexter-Hillsdale "swamp gas" case, I questioned the conventional wisdom of that case, and said that Dr. J. Allen Hynek was right to say that the Michigan UFOs could have been swamp gas. As I was going through my analysis of the case, I sensed confusion and disappointment in the audience, and from certain of the other presenters, and it was kind of a weird dynamic. A lot of UFO enthusiasts, I realized, are more interested in validation than understanding. Fortunately, though, I got some positive feedback from several attendees, and the hosts from MUFON Michigan were fantastic from beginning to end.

So, 11 days from now, I expect there could be some confused and disappointed audience members and presenters at the Roswell Debate. And if any of them want to talk after the debate, they can find me at the bar talking Bigfoot with Loren Coleman.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Meet the New UFO Author on the Block

Yesterday afternoon I drove down to beautiful Williams Bay, Wisconsin, on the shores of beautiful Lake Geneva, to the site of the beautiful Yerkes Observatory, to have some "author's head shots" taken for my book. Along for the ride was my friend Lxxx, who is a very talented photographer, and my one and only choice for this photo shoot.

I chose the site because this is where Dr. Hynek did his graduate work on the spectra of F-type stars in the early 1930's, and so the place is of immense significance to the Hynek story. Yerkes has been owned and operated by the University of Chicago for well over a hundred years, and it's an impressive place. Lxxx just kept gasping in awe as we walked around the building, looking for places to set up, and I have to admit that I felt a little bit of pride showing the place off...

We ended up with a whole slew of pictures, and here are a few of my faves. I think Lxxx has captured a mysterious something in me...

Will my editor Mxxxxxx agree with my top picks? I'll let you know...

BadAss
The Truth is Out There
I Want to Believe
My natural state

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Speculation Over Hynek UFO Book Finally Ends!

*whew*
Is this man smiling because he's read my book?

The suspense is over.

It took my editor at Dey Street Books longer than expected to get through my manuscript (apparently he's working on other books??), but it was worth the wait, because he came through today with some great news:

Hi, Mark:
What can I say…You’ve delivered a tremendously accurate, substantial, and riveting book, which has exceeded expectations that were very high to begin with. I was enthralled by the amount of research you put into the draft, and despite your lack of a first-person voice I was able to sense that you (author, critic, historian, Hynekian) had so much fun with this. That made it all the better to read.

Considering that this is coming from a guy who came into this knowing nothing about UFO history and culture, it feels like pretty high praise, and I'm on Cloud 9. 

More news soon!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Happy 50th, Star Trek!

A sampling of my "Star Trek" work
First of all. Happy 50th Birthday, Star Trek! I feel honored to be just a small part of the show's history and success, and I hope ST continues to live long and prosper.

Second of all, I'm really loving the next phase of getting my book, "The Close Encounters Man," ready for publication! Right now my editor and I are talking about who to get to write blurbs for the book cover, and I'm having a blast thinking of favorite writers whom we can approach.

In the course of doing interviews for the book, I lined up one offer to write a cover blurb from a pretty unexpected source. As excited as I am about that, though, one blurb is not enough. So we've been going back and forth all day coming up with ideas for writers we think we can approach to give us a read and a write-up. It's unbelievably fun coming up with names, and even more fun to think that my book may be getting read and reviewed by some of my favorite writers!

We're also talking about an online platform from which to reveal the book cover when it's finalized. I didn't know this was part of the process, but apparently it's a pretty bog deal. My editor is looking for a popular blog from which to launch the cover, and for some reason it can't be mine! Go figure.

Also, I need to get a new head shot done for the book jacket. Which probably means I'll have to buy a new shirt! The work just never ends...

Anyway, there will be lots of news and announcements in the coming months, and a few surprises here and there (although I'm saving the best of those for the book).

Saturday, September 3, 2016

I Sold a Book!

This is getting real.

I met with my editor Matthew at Dey Street Books -- at HarperCollins global HQ in Manhattan -- and learned that my Hynek bio, "The Close Encounters Man," is already available for pre-order on Amazon! Even better, as of our meeting Thursday afternoon one copy had already been sold!

Whoever you are, THANK YOU!

I solemnly pledge here and now not to disappoint you.

The book comes out on May 9, 2017!

Next project for me: Writing my Author's Notes explaining how the book came to be, and describing everything that went into it... That should be fun, but... where to start??

Thursday, August 25, 2016

It's a Good Time to be a Space Geek

Wow! Only 69 cents when new!
I recently came across this little gem of a book at an antique store in Antioch, IL, and I had to buy it. "Space Flight: The Coming Exploration of the Universe," published as a part of the "Golden Library of Knowledge" in 1959, was a very special part of my childhood. When I was growing up, the complete "Golden Library of Knowledge" was laid out on a book shelf in my house, along with the World Book Encylopedia and the companion "Childcraft" junior encyclopedia, for me and my many brothers and sisters to use when we doing our homework or just wanted to expand our little minds. I don't know about my siblings, but I read those books a lot.

I could barely contain my excitement when I found this original copy of "Space Flight" in near-mint condition for just $4.00. I snatched it up and read it the minute I got home. The book, written by science fiction author and editor Lester del Rey, and beautifully illustrated by John Polgreen, describes in spare but dynamic prose exactly how the human race will break away from the earth's gravity and send rockets to the moon, to Mars, and beyond.

Amazingly, del Rey even makes the case for women traveling in space! "Girls will also want to go out into the Space Service," he wrote. "They will probably do at least as well as men. For long and difficult trips, women may be preferred, since it has been proved that they are able to stand monotony better than men." 

Ouch.

It's ripping good reading, but I'm pretty sure that I was more attracted to Polgreen's amazing illustrations of astronauts floating about in space, assembling giant space stations and zooming around in bottle-shaped "space taxis." And, yes, female space ladies can be seen in one amazing illustration of the command center of a space station... While man astronauts in business suits do all the important thinking and pointing and stuff, two lady astronauts in dresses and heels sit at futuristic desks and answer the space phone. Imagine a scene from "Mad Men" set on a space station and you get the idea.
In case you forgot what an Encyclopedia looked like...

Anyway, it was pretty cool to reconnect with this artifact from my youth just as astronomers in Europe announce the discovery of an earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighbor in the galaxy. Not only is it an astounding discovery on its own merit, it also means that "Lost in Space" was right all along! Who can forget that the space-faring Robinson family from Irwin Allen's cheesy 1960's science fiction series was trying to reach the Alpha Centauri system in the hopes of colonizing an earth-like planet? Crazy. I mean, how could "Lost in Space" be right about anything??

So, yeah, it's a pretty good time to be a space geek. And you know what else? We seem to keep on having times when it's good to be a space geek all the time now!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ozzy and the UFOs

Lately I've been beginning to turn my attention to my upcoming "Roswell Debate" with Donald Schmitt ("The Children of Roswell"), to be held this October 15 at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference.

I probably shouldn't say this, but I've been contacted over the past few months by people who want to give me "ammunition" to use against Schmitt in the debate, and while I appreciate the gestures of support, I honestly don't think I'll need the help. I actually don't even want the help; this debate is between me and Schmitty, and I don't want to be seen as being anyone's mouthpiece. And, really, how hard is it to find ammunition for a Roswell debate with Don Schmitt?

Case in point: the host of the Paranormal Conference, who, I must say, is a marketing and PR demon, just sent out a link to a recent TV show in which Don Schmitt put in an appearance and talked up the so-called July, 1947 "Roswell Incident," and boy is this show full of ammunition. The series, "Ozzy and Jack's World Detour," is on the so-called "History Channel" and features heavy metal monster, family man and "history nerd" Ozzy Osbourne and his son Jack visiting historical sites. In this particular episode, the father & son team travel to New Mexico in an RV to see the "Roswell Crash Site," and it's a hoot!
Where will those Osbournes turn up next?

I had never seen any of the Osbourne's TV shows, and I'm not a fan of Ozzy's music, so I was prepared to dislike the hosts, but they won me over pretty quickly. Ozzy and Jack have a great relationship, and they are naturally charming and funny on camera. Which is good, because about 80% of the show consists of them being goofy and screwing around and apparently forgetting what the show is supposed to be about.

Because of all the goofing off, they don't actually get around to talking about Roswell until the final 10 minutes or so of the hour-long show. When they do, Jack reveals himself to be a true if somewhat tentative believer in the Roswell saucer crash mythology, while Ozzy is a die-hard skeptic. At one point Jack says, with a straight face, that there are "over 400 witnesses" to the Roswell Incident, but, of course, offers nothing to back up that claim. 

"It's all bollocks, if you ask me," Ozzy says.

When Ozzy and Jack meet up with Don Schmitt and Roswell science teacher Frank Kimber to drive to the top-secret "crash site," both Jack and Ozzy have hilarious reactions: Jack comments on how weird it was to pull up beside Schmitt's and Kimber's truck, "and they were like, eyes forward, 'Follow us,'"; Ozzy at first dismisses Schmitt and Kimber as "f**king aliens," then later worries that the two UFO guys could be serial murderers who plan to lure him and Jack into the desert and kill them. Honestly, that was my favorite moment of the show.

Ozzy predicts that the top secret "debris field" to which Schmitt and Kimber are leading them will be just an empty field, and he is, of course, right. It could be any field, anywhere in the world. "This is history," Jack insists. "This is stupid," says Ozzy, for once not needing his mumblings to be subtitled.

But son Jack persists, and soon Schmitt is pointing out the physical features of the "debris field" and speechifying about how Bill Clinton still agonizes over the fact that he was not able to get to the bottom of the Roswell mystery while he was president. Next up, Kimber shows Jack and Ozzy some artifacts that he keeps in a super-special top-secret case. He describes the tiny fragments as being somehow unearthly, but Ozzy isn't having any of it:
"This is phenolic epoxy resin," Kimber says of one fingernail-sized fragment. "It shouldn't be here. They didn't have it in '47." 

"How do you know it's not recent?" Ozzy asks. Kimber's excited smile vanishes and he physically shrinks to about two inches high, right on camera! "This, I don't," he admits with a shaky voice. "It hasn't been tested."
So, there you have it. On national TV, a Roswell "expert" in league with Don Schmitt presents an artifact as being evidence of a flying saucer crash, then, when asked one simple question, immediately admits that he's completely full of shit. Where have we seen this before?

Ozzy sums it all up by telling Jack, "They haven't proven anything."

So, yeah, I think I'll have plenty of ammunition for the big Roswell Debate this October. I think I'm at least as sharp as Ozzy Osbourne, and he didn't even break into a sweat knocking down the Roswell myth.

There is one thing I worry about, though... Is anyone contacting Schmitt to offer him ammunition to use against me?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Man, Do I Have a Lot of UFO Books

I have a lot of UFO books.

I guess that'll happen when you've spent four years researching and writing a book about UFOs. And while I'm staggered by the number of books I've purchased and read over the past four years while researching UFOs for the book, I am also kind of entertained by the crazy collection of titles on my bookshelf and on my kindle. Basically, I've been keeping Amazon afloat for the past few years, and now I think I could open up a UFO and paranormal lending library, or make a killing at Half Price Books.

Below is a list of many, but not all of the books I've amassed in the course of writing my Hynek bio. Some of the books are fantastic. Some are crap. Some I would happily read again; others I would gladly toss in the trash. But even the bad ones have served a purpose, because in many cases they've helped me see a fascinating side of Hynek's story that I might have missed otherwise, or helped me to better understand the people in Hynek's life.

Here's a sampling of what's on the bookshelf in my office, listed in no particular order:
  • Billion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss
  • Flying Saucers by Donald Menzel
  • Picturing Extraterrestrials: Alien Images in Modern Mass Culture by John F. Moffit
  • The Invasion from Mars by Hadley Cantrill
  • Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace by Jodi Dean
  • Project Mindshift by Michael Mannion
  • Time-Life Books Mysteries of the Unknown: The UFO Phenomenon
  • Alien Creatures by Richard Siegl and J-C Suarez
  • The UFO Handbook by Allen Hendry
  • Unconventional Flying Objects: A Former NASA Scientist Explains How UFOS Really Work by Paul R. Hill
  • The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters edited by Ronald D. Story
  • The UFO Controversy in America by David Michael Jacobs
  • UFOs and Government by Michael Swords and Robert Powell
  • The UFO Encyclopedia, Volumes I & II by Jerome Clark
  • The Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction edited by Phil Hardy
  • UFOs Past, Present & Future by Robert Emenegger
  • Beyond Earth: Man's Contact With UFOs by Ralph & Judy Blum
  • The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel
  • Flying Saucers--Here and Now! by Frank Edwards
  • Situation Red: The UFO Siege by Leonard H. Stringfield
  • Anatomy of a Phenomenon: UFO's in Space by Dr. Jacques Vallee
  • UFOs? YES! by David R. Saunders and R. Roger Harkins
  • Incident at Exeter by John G. Fuller
  • The Cosmic Connection by Carl Sagan
  • World Famous UFOs by Colin Wilson
  • Them or Us: Archetypal Interpretations of Fifties Alien Invasion Films by Patrick Lucanio
  • Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies by Carl G. Jung
  • The Invisible College by Jacques Vallee
  • Alien Dawn: An Investigation into the Contact Experience by Colin Wilson
  • Science Fiction of the 50's edited by Martin Harry Greenberg and Joseph Olander
  • Astrophysics: A Topical Symposium edited by Dr. J. Allen Hynek
  • Socorro 'Saucer' in a Pentagon Pantry by Ray Stanford
  • Starseekers by Colin Wilson
  • UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies and Realities by John B. Alexander, Ph.D.
  • UFO Contact at Pascagoula by Charles Hickson and William Mendez
  • UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record by Leslie Kean
  • Hollywood Vs. the Aliens: The Motion Picture Industry's Participation in UFO Disinformation by Bruce Rux
  • The UFO Files: The Inside Story of Real-Life Sightings by David Clarke
  • The Conquest of Space by Chesley Bonestell and Willy Ley
  • In Advance of the Landing: Folk Concepts of Outer Space by Douglas Curran
  • UFOS and Popular Culture: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Myth by James R. Lewis
And, of course:
  • The UFO Experience and The Hynek UFO Report by J. Allen Hynek
  • The Edge of Reality by Hynek & Vallee
And, a sample of what's on my kindle:
  • The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects by Edward J. Ruppelt
  • Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience: The True Story of the World's First Documented Alien Abduction by Stanton Friedman, MSc. and Kathleen Marden
  • The Interrupted Journey by John G. Fuller
  • Operation Trojan Horse: The Classic Breakthrough Study of UFOs by John Keel
  • Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers by Jacques Vallee
  • E.T. Culture: Anthropology in Outerspaces by Debborah Battaglia, Christopher F. Roth, David Samuels and Susan Lepsetter
  • Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan
  • Earth; An Alien Enterprise: The Shocking Truth Behind the Greatest Cover-Up in Human History by Timothy Good
  • True Alien Invasion of the Sutton Farm--A Documented Case by Chet Dembeck
  • Danse Macabre by Stephen King
  • Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture by Christopher D. Bader, F. Carson Mencken and Joseph O. Baker
  • Dragon in the Sky: Prophecy from the Stars by Ann Eller
  • Night Siege: The Hudson Valley UFO Sightings by J. Allen Hynek, Philip L. Imbrogno and Bob Pratt
What do you think? Keeping in mind that I haven't included every title here, and I haven't counted up any journals, papers or magazines, have I missed anything? 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A UFO Bestiary

Now that I've sent the manuscript of my J. Allen Hynek bio off to my editor, it's time to get back to blogging at my favorite blog! For my comeback, I thought it might be fun to sit down and tally up all the UFO cases that I wrote up in the book, because now that I'm done with the book I suspect it may be a pretty substantial number.

Not every case gets a huge write-up, of course: some get entire chapters while others may only rate a small paragraph or even just a sentence. And none of them are safe from my editor's red pencil, so who knows how many may survive?

Many cases cited in my book come from the files of the Air Force's Project Sign and Project Blue Book (Hynek never worked for Project Grudge, the one that came between Sign and Blue Book). Most, but not all, were investigated by Dr. Hynek, either for the Air Force or as an independent investigator.

The first two cases that appear in the book are not surprising. First up are the Great Airship Mystery of 1897 (this involves multiple sightings but for convenience I will group them together as one), and the June 24, 1947 Kenneth Arnold sighting in Washington state, the one that kicked off the so-called "modern era" of UFOs.

Next up are a series of sightings reported in the summer of 1947: a June 28 sighting of a bright light zig-zagging across the sky, a July 3 report of wingless objects in the sky, a July 6 sighting of an object in the sky going 500 to 700 miles an hour, a multiple sighting of bright spheres and discs on July 7 and 8, and a group of objects in a triangular arrangement moving across the sky at a terrific speed on August 19 (the witnesses in those last two were army observers and police officers, not "nuts").

That gets us up to seven in short order.

Number eight is the January 7, 1948 Mantell case, in which an Air National Guard pilot crashed his plane and died while pursuing a gigantic glowing object in the sky. Number nine took place in July, 1947, involving a disc-shaped object moving at a very high velocity. Number 10 was a sighting of a yellow-orange oval over an Army Air Base in March, 1948. Number 11 took place in November, 1948, and involved a weather observer in Central America who watched spherical object in the sky for 40 minutes. An August, 1947 sighting in which a father and his two sons in Idaho saw a metallic disc fly past their house brings us to an even dozen.

In the first half of the book alone, there are 41 UFO events. And some of those, like the "Washington Merry-Go-Round" of 1952 and the case of the "Levelland lights" of 1957, and the previously-mentioned Great Airship Mystery, involve multiple sightings, so, technically, I could say there are more like 60 or 70 sightings. 

No wonder I'm so exhausted...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Finishing a UFO Book

Wow, I'm down to the last chapter in my Hynek bio!

It's a weird feeling, let me tell you. I've been lugging this book around for 4 years, and in a matter of a few weeks I'll be sending it out into the world. Well, to my publisher, at any rate. And from there, who knows?
Dr. J. Allen Hynek (1910-1986)

When I look back on this project, several things amaze me:

  • I have found amazing people and stories that I never ever would have dreamed of getting into this book when I started out.
  • I have had to leave out mountains of material, but it's still a ripping good story (and all the material I couldn't fit in the book will make for a series of really wonderful podcasts).
  • I know more about J. Allen Hynek than I know about my wife.
  • My understanding and appreciation of the UFO phenomenon has been completely transformed.
  • There are some jaw-dropping surprises in Hynek's story.
  • Speaking of jaw-dropping, Hynek was either written up in or wrote articles for some of the finest titty magazines in the business. 
  • Also speaking of jaw-dropping, the bad guys in the story are very unexpected, and very, very bad.
  • Hynek could be an incredibly funny dude, a quality that is sorely lacking in many UFOlogists.
  • I did end up writing about Roswell, but only after finding some amazing quotes from Hynek about his true feelings about saucer crash stories.
  • A LOT of people loved and respected the guy.
  • People who took his astronomy classes decades ago still have fond memories of him.
  • I want to be more like Hynek.
Also, this:

That Juno probe that just entered into orbit around Jupiter? Should have been named after Hynek (and should have included a Lego Hynek).

Friday, July 1, 2016

UFO-curious?

The publisher's deadline for my Hynek book is fast approaching, and I am happy to say that the final chapters are coming together very well. There will be lots of surprises for both the UFO die-hards and the UFO-curious. Wish I could say more, but then you wouldn't need to buy the book!
Yes, this is still happening: the exact opposite of unique and fascinating.

Let's just say that I have found some very unique sources for information about Dr. J. Allen Hynek's work as a UFOlogists, and they have provided me with some fascinating material regarding everything from hypnotism to alien abductions to saucer crashes, and much, much more! The cool thing about these sources and this material was that a lot of it was right under my nose, hiding in plain sight the whole time, and the rest of it just came fluttering through the window and landed in my lap just in the past few weeks, at the exact moment that I needed it. Which, for UFO lore, is really quite appropriate.

Speaking of unique, fascinating takes on the UFO phenomenon, here's a brilliant article my son turned me on to this week, about UFOs, aliens, Roswell, Area 51, the atomic age and the American southwest. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the topic...


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

I Am Not Writing a UFO Book

It's true: I am not writing a UFO book.

I know that sounds a bit like Leonard Nimoy writing a book called, "I am Not Spock." Of course he was Spock, and he eventually realized that was a good thing and wrote a sequel called, "I am Spock."
Sometimes you just have to admit that you ARE Spock.

So, while I am writing a book about the world's best known UFO expert, I am not writing a UFO book. I am writing a book about a really interesting guy who was fascinated by UFOs and the challenge they presented to science. Like the subtitle of the book says: Hynek made it okay for the world to believe in UFOs, and how he did it is a hell of a story.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately as my publisher's deadline looms (T-minus 3 months and counting!) and I make my daily decisions about what to include in the book and what to leave out. More and more I realize that my book probably will not make a lot of UFO fans happy. My book will not prove or disprove anything. It does not have an axe to grind. It will not conform to conventional wisdom of the UFO community. It will not get me invited to "Contact in the Desert."

Not that I don't think UFO fans will enjoy the book. I hope they do. But I am not writing it just for them. I am writing it for a general audience that is curious about UFOs and wants to learn more about the phenomenon and the man who, in his words, made it "safe to utter the words 'flying saucer' at the dinner table without having to worry about getting your mouth washed out with soap.'"

Having said that, there are a LOT of UFOs in the book. I can't expect every reader to know the history of the phenomenon, and they have to have some grounding in it to be able to understand and appreciate Hynek's accomplishments. There's even going to be some mention of Roswell, something I swore a long time back that I would be avoiding. But it's not going to be your father's Roswell, if you know what I mean.

That reminds me, yesterday I was reviewing an interview I taped for the book, and at one point I asked the person a question about UFO history... The person started telling stories and suddenly he paused, sighed, and said something to the effect that "A lot of people in the UFO field just don't like each other very much."

Listening to that again made me laugh and then reflect, and admit that I know it's true because I don't like a lot of people in the UFO field very much. I don't like people who try to feed me misinformation for my book. I don't like people who insist that if I don't interview this person or that person for my book the book will be worthless. I don't like people who contact me without introducing themselves but expect me to just automatically know who they are and what they represent to the UFO community. I don't like people who contact me and insist that I just have to interview them for my book, and then send me dozens of links to things they've written "proving" Hynek was a fraud. Guess what? People who do that don't actually want to talk about Hynek; they want to talk about themselves. I know this from one excruciating hour-long interview with a UFO expert who wanted to tell me about Hynek, then proceeded to talk about himself non-stop. When he finally paused for breath, I asked him a question about Hynek. He gave me an incomprehensible answer that had nothing to do with what I had actually asked him, and then he said in a huff, "Now, can I get back to my story?"


Those people don't get into my book.

I will tell you about someone I do like, though. I recently interviewed James Oberg for the book, thinking it would be nice to get the skeptic's point of view on Hynek and his work. I wasn't sure what to expect, and I feared that the conversation might be difficult. Surprise! Not only was Mr. Oberg perfectly pleasant to talk to, I ended up thoroughly enjoying our conversation and liking him a lot.

So, that's my mission for the next three months: focus on the good people, filter out the bad ones. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Shitty Parents of The Children of Roswell

Imagine yourself in this scenario:

You've recently been witness to a UFO crash site on a remote ranch in New Mexico. Maybe you discovered it yourself, or maybe you heard about it from another rancher and went to take a look, it doesn't matter. The point is, you saw it, and you were so excited that you took a piece of the wreckage home with you and hid it, because it was indestructible and you knew there was something weird and top-secret-y about it.

Now also suppose that you also saw the bodies of dead aliens near the crash site, but you decided not to take one of the bodies home with you because, hey, you already have a piece of indestructible wreckage. Why be greedy?

Then suppose that a really scary military dude showed up at your house some time later, confiscated your hidden sample of indestructible wreckage and threatened you. "If you tell anyone about this," the scary military dude snarled at you, "we will kill you and your entire family." Then suppose that over the next few days your kid sensed that there was something weighing on your mind and asked you, "Dad, what's weighing on your mind," and you said, "Well, son/daughter, I recovered a fragment of indestructible wreckage from a crashed flying saucer (while opting not to bring home one of the dead alien bodies found nearby), and the military confiscated it and told me that if I told anyone about it they would kill you."

Would you really be that dumb? Of course you wouldn't! Why would you endanger your child's life? What kind of shitty parent are you?
At least they haven't brought up the slides... Not yet, anyway.

Yet this is what the authors of the new book "Children of Roswell" want us to believe was playing out at ranches all over New Mexico in July, 1947, after the supposed Roswell UFO crash took place. All sorts of shitty parents in the Roswell area, apparently, were putting their kids' lives in danger that summer by telling their kids the one thing they were never supposed to tell anyone if they wanted their kids to stay alive.

Now, I know you're wondering why I, an avowed Roswell skeptic, would be reading such a book. Well, ever since Don Schmitt, the co-author of the tome I've just referenced, challenged me to a "Roswell debate" to take place next October at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, I feel obliged to review my opponent's writings on the subject, no matter how unpleasant that may be.

So here I am, just a few chapters into his new book, thinking, "Is this all you've got?" Because the only explanations I can come up with for the "telling your kids the very secret that will get them killed if you tell them" scenario are 1) these ranchers were, as I've mentioned, really shitty parents, or 2) they didn't take the death threats seriously, because they knew it was all a big joke. Either way, it doesn't make a real strong argument for the veracity of the authors' claims.

Also, how do you recover wreckage of something made of indestructible material? It's indestructible! I've never been able to figure that one out.

Monday, March 21, 2016

My UFO Weekend in Ann Arbor

Well, the Swamp Gas UFO Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan has come and gone, and we still aren't any closer to knowing what all those people in Michigan saw in the swamps 50 years ago, Dammit. I tried my best to present a clear analysis of the event, but because I wasn't trying to prove anything or promote the expected cover-up story I'm not entirely sure how my talk went over.

It was a fun event, though, and I am really glad I got to take part. Hats off to Bill Konkolesky and his staff at Michigan MUFON for putting on such a slick event. There were about 200 people there, by my reckoning, and, hey, a lot of them stuck around until 4:15 to hear me tell the same story they had been hearing all day, so I was pleased.

Drink specials at the hotel bar the night of the conference. "Bud Light Lime" seems particularly otherworldly.
Not so pleasing was the fact that there was no one there from the media. I mean, not even Open Minds, for God's sake. Sheesh. Can we get a little recognition for something in UFO world that doesn't have "Roswell" in its name?

Also disappointing was the fact that the national MUFON organization provided very little support or promotion for the event. Shame on them. This could have and should have been a much bigger deal than it was, but MUFON HQ blew it. Why? Well, again, it doesn't have the "R" word in its name.

On the other hand, Roswell came up in the presentations, and when it did it was usually to endorse the tedious old saucer crash/government coverup story. When I was done with my Swamp Gas presentation, we opened it up for Q&A, and the first question came from a guy who asked me what I thought of Don Schmitt's reports that Dr. J. Allen Hynek interviewed Roswell witnesses. A Don Schmitt plant in the audience, perhaps?

What I should have said was, "What's a Roswell witness?" but I didn't. I said that to the best of my knowledge Hynek had never interviewed anyone about anything associated with Roswell. I could, of course, be wrong, but I've been researching Hynek's work for several years and I can tell you there is a notable absence of any mention of Roswell in any of Hynek's notes or books or interviews or correspondence that I have seen. It was only after Hynek moved to Arizona that Roswell became a hot topic in the CUFOS offices.

Another man asked how Hynek felt about UFO abductees. I replied that although Hynek was uncomfortable with abductee cases he was sympathetic to the people involved. He met Barney and Betty Hill in the mid-'60s, as well as Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker in '73, and was struck by the sincerity of all of them. He had been present when the Hills were hypnotized, and when the unsuccessful attempt to hypnotize Hickson and Parker had taken place, and was deeply impressed by both. On the other hard, he was not overly impressed when Travis Walton was hypnotized. He felt that Walton didn't remember much more under hypnosis than he had already consciously recalled.

Another questioner asked, "What do I tell people when they ask me if I really believe that UFOs are real?" I thought my answer was pretty snappy. I said, "You can just say what Hynek said when people asked him that. He simply said, 'Well, I believe UFO reports are real.'"

Yeah, maybe not what the crowd wanted to hear...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

UFO Poetry Slam

I just have to share this. I found this treasure a while back in Dr. J. Allen Hynek's files when I was researching my book about his career. It's a sarcastic poem someone wrote to and about Hynek in the wake of the swamp gas fiasco, and it's kind of a dopey masterpiece.

The poet was a Mr. Sxx Yxxxxxx, and he wrote the poem in anger over Hynek's apparent cover-up of the the Dexter-Hillsdale, Michigan UFO sightings of 1966. He felt, as did many, that Hynek knew for a fact that those Michigan UFOs were real extraterrestrial craft and was explaining them away as swamp gas to please his handlers in the Air Force. The poet's anger is entirely misplaced, in my opinion, which makes the poem even more fun. But you can't blame the guy for coming up with a truly creative way to vent his anger....

"Martian Gas"

In the midst of the twentieth century,
                        when man reached for the stars
And probed the void with telescopes
                        and inter-planet cars
And sought communications
                        with life beyond our own,
We found we still had earth-men
                        who feared the great unknown.

Scientist, astronomer and physicist but fair;
Yet, Air Force Apologist, most ex' trordinaire.
"Deny, debunk, deplore, decry the witness of your eyes.
Saucer-sighters are but fools delighting in their lies."

Mortal man is not prepared
                          for inter-stellar strife.
Leave him to the ignorance
                         of just this earthly life.
Just as priests reserve the faith, 
                         scientists hide the plan;
Martian conquest needs no help
                         from ordinary man.

Poor Sxx. He couldn't have known that Hynek kept a collection of all the sarcastic, satirical poems, cartoons and diatribes directed at him in the wake of the swamp gas case. Far from hurting Hynek's feelings, the attacks helped him keep things in perspective, and he was actually quite proud of them.

A lesson for us all, eh?

Swamp Gas Fever

Well, tomorrow I drive to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the notorious 1966 Dexter-Hillsdale "swamp gas" UFO case, that led to the disastrous Detroit press conference that Dr. J. Allen Hynek declared the low point in his career.

For all the info you need on the Swamp Gas Conference hosted by Michigan MUFON, go here.

Swamp gas... or marsh gas? You decide.
I've put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into my one hour and 15 minute presentation (yet another reason I haven't been able to blog much lately), and I think it'll be pretty boffo, if I do say so myself. The other speakers, I am happy to say, look like they'll be fun to drink with at the hotel bar afterwards, so all in all I think it will be a fun weekend!

The event even got a write-up in the Detroit Free Press the other day. Not half bad.

I'm not sure what kind of media coverage to expect, but whatever we get I'll be sure to post it here!



Saturday, February 20, 2016

My New UFO Life

Man, I knew it was going to be hard to keep up with the blog after the Antarctica trip, but I didn't know how hard! I am literally forcing myself to sit down and write this today, because if I don't do it now, I'm not sure when I ever will.

The two biggest factors in my suddenly busy life are: 1) writing my book; and 2) teaching my screenwriting class at DePaul University.

Not that I'm complaining, because I love both jobs. But my publisher has given me an August 1st deadline for the Hynek book, which means that I have to crank out a chapter every two weeks for the next five months. And, they're insisting that it has to be good. That's a load of work, right there. And the class, even though it only meets once a week, takes up a lot of time and energy. Molding impressionable young minds is a big deal, as it turns out; who knew?

Man was not meant to venture to the stars... Look what happens.
Book-wise, the past couple weeks have been especially fun, as I've been writing about:
  • Hynek's connections to Sputnik, Johannes Kepler, and Dr. Carl Jung;
  • Classic 1950's science fiction films, including "Forbidden Planet" and "The Quatermass Xperiment";
  • The 1957 Levelland, Texas, Close Encounters of the Second Kind;
  • The 1959 Father Gill Close Encounter of the Third Kind;
  • Loads of other amazing stuff!
I've also had the rare opportunities to correspond recently with Jerome Clark, Claude Poher and Bill Chalker about their Hynek memories. And once I figure out the whole time zone/International Date Line thing, I plan to interview Mr. Chalker on Skype. That will be fun, and kind of a BFD.

In other related news, I have officially taken a leave of absence from MUFON, at least until summer. I have just not had the time and energy to keep up with my duties as Chief Investigator and Assistant State Director--well, actually, I've never been too clear on what those duties actually are, but I'm pretty sure I haven't been able to keep up with them. Unlike the teaching and the book writing, my MUFON work has not been feeling very worthwhile lately. The big problem, as I see it, is that there is no filtering of reports; I get assigned all these crap "lights in the sky" cases that never amount to anything, and instead of being able to investigate the really interesting cases, I have to interview people about, well, lights in the sky. Meanwhile, the fascinating cases, like The Case of The House That Wasn't There, The Case of the Humanoids and the Human Fence, and The Case of the Phantom Restaurant That Also Wasn't There just sit there not getting investigated, because who has the time when the one or two evenings a week they have to investigate cases get sucked up by lunatics and lame-brains?

I have also had to pass on an invitation to spend a weekend in May in Kalamazoo, Michigan, hob-nobbing with Michael Swords and the UFO council of elders. As much as I enjoy Michael's gatherings, this one falls over my birthday weekend, and I just can't make it. Also, Don Schmitt will be there, and I think it's best to maintain the wall of separation between us from now until next October (see below).

On the other hand, I do have some fun events coming up:

I'll be speaking at a Conference to salute the 50th Anniversary of the famous Dexter-Hillsdale "Swamp Gas" cases. The Conference is coming up on March 19th in Ann Arbor, MI, and you can sign up here.

Also, I'll be doing the big "Roswell Debate" with the aforementioned Mr. Schmitt next October 16th at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference. That promises to be the most entertaining public debate spectacle since the GOP Presidential debate in which Senator Marco Rubio was revealed to be a malfunctioning Stepford Wife.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me! I'll try to be better about keeping the lawn mowed.






Tuesday, January 26, 2016

UFO Research Nirvana - Part 2

Okay, I was able to capture the conversation I was pretty sure I had heard yesterday, and it's pretty funny...
There might be something to it, but what?

The recording was made around 1975-76, sometime after the Travis Walton abduction case. Dr. Hynek is chatting with Coral and Jim Lorenzen, and I think Rich Heiden, along with Walton and a few of his friends. They're all having a very boisterous conversation about how the investigation of Walton's experience went awry when a whole slew of sketchy characters like UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass, William Spaulding of Ground Saucer Watch and renegade hypnotist "Dr." Lester Steward got involved... The general sense is that there might be something to the Walton case, but that the investigation hasn't been handled as well as it might have been.

Suddenly Dr. Hynek says, in a somewhat hushed tone, "I've got one ulterior motive here, Coral, and I think you'll agree, and that is (unintelligible) we can really nail Klass to the wall on this one."

A moment or two later, one of the other men, I think either Jim Lorenzen or Rich Heiden, says, "It's not going to be easy. I think you underestimate your adversary. He is a sonofabitch."

After which another of the men says, "I got a call from him the other night, and I'm pretty certain he was taping the conversation..."

Monday, January 25, 2016

UFO Research Nirvana

Researching my Hynek book is about the hardest work I've ever done, but it's also some of the most enjoyable. Today was kind of a bonanza...

I was going to write today about the second coming of "The X-Files" ("Roswell was a smokescreen!") or the super-groovy "Swamp Gas UFO Conference" coming up this March in Ann Arbor, MI, but I had such an interesting day of researching my book that I'm just going to talk about that...
Don't miss the UFO event of the Century!

First, I got some fantastic archival material from a very helpful librarian at Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU), where Dr. Hynek taught astronomy classes and conducted astronomical research from the mid-1930s to the late 1950s. One of the most interesting items contained background information on a sweet little perq OWU offered its faculty: cheap vacation property in northern Ontario. Like many other professors, Hynek took advantage of the program and built a cabin on his lot, and the Hynek family vacationed there every summer for decades... Hynek also had a second cabin built as an office, and that, according to his son Paul, is where he did a lot of his writing. He also saw a UFO there once!

There's also a terrific piece from OWU about Hynek taking a job at Harvard in 1956 planning the world's first global satellite tracking system. This was a pretty daring move, seeing as how no one knew for sure if an artificial satellite could get off the ground at all, much less be tracked from earth. Hynek knew it could be done, and he did it. And in so doing, he invented crowdsourcing. He truly was a pioneer, of the space age and, also, somehow, the internet age, some 30 years before it started.

Then the snail mail arrived and Amazon came through with a 1978 issue of Playboy magazine featuring Hynek as part of a scholarly "Playboy UFO Panel." Hynek, along with several other UFO luminaries like researcher Jacques Vallee and skeptic Philip J. Klass, talks at length about the state of UFOlogy in the late '70s, and he is not afraid to mix it up with Klass! It's a fantastic article, and an important reminder that Playboy was and is an essential publication -- perhaps the essential publication. It also has a lot of awesome ads for late-'70s cars, booze, and hi-fi equipment -- I'm talking reel-to-reel! Those were the days...

(This came hot on the heels of a 1978 science fiction film magazine I got the other day that was dedicated to the new movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and featured a wonderful interview with Hynek about his involvement with the film, the origins of its title, and the scenes he shot that ended up on the cutting room floor.)

You really can find anything on Amazon...

Then, as I was listening to my treasure trove of audio recordings of Hynek giving speeches and interviews and talking with colleagues (courtesy of Mr. Michael Swords), I came across a mid-1970s interview in which he mentioned five of his favorite puzzling, unexplained UFO cases. I am happy to say that four of them were new to me. So I've been reading up on some of these cases, and they're pretty fantastic. One even took place about an hour from where I live, so I may be able to track down some of the witnesses.

Right now I'm listening to a recording of Hynek with some of his colleagues talking shop. It's not always easy to tell who is speaking, because the audio quality is pretty awful, but I think that Jim and Coral Lorenzen are there, as well as James Harder and a few others. In this tape, Hynek spends a lot of time talking with abductee Travis Walton, which is pretty fascinating, but I think I need to replay part of the recording...

Out of the blue, someone in the room blurts out to someone else:

"I think you underestimate your adversary. He's a sonofabitch."

Sounds like UFOlogy to me! If I figure who said it and who he's referring to, I'll let you know.