High Strangeness: UFO Research Nirvana

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.

10 comments:

purrlgurrl said...

I'm salivating at the thought of reading the book.

Terry the Censor said...

The Playboy article can be had for free on the Internet.

Here's one place:

http://billsufomags.blogspot.ca/2015/07/playboy-panel-ufos-article-from-playboy.html

Mark OC said...

Terry, where's the fun in that?

Terry the Censor said...

Not much for me. I went through the humiliation of buying the magazine in a used bookstore. I scanned the UFO pages, cleaning them up for printing, etc. Later, looking online for comment on the article, I found a PDF!

I hope I can spare others this experience.

Another thing: the panel never actually met in person. Each participant gave statements (by mail, if I recall correctly) and the editors put them together to give the impression of a debate. I can't remember where I read this, but if you need the source, Mark, I will find it.

Mark OC said...

Yea, I figured they weren't physically together, but the editor did a decent job of making it seem like they were.

Frank Warren said...

Good Day Mark, All,

I think it's safe to say everyone is looking forward to your book.

Ironically, it was that Playboy article that precipitated my correspondence (back in '78) with Jim Harder; we would take up the conversation again, decades later.

Keep up the good work!

Cheers,
Frank

Robert Sheaffer said...

Hynek taught at Ohio State University, not Ohio Wesleyan University. If you're writing a book, you'd better get that right!

So that's how Hynek got that cabin in Canada!

I got to know Hynek pretty well when I was at Northwestern. We can chat about that sometime, if you'd like.

Mark OC said...

Robert, I did get it right. Hynek taught at both Ohio Wesleyan and Ohio State. He was director of the observatory at Ohio Wesleyan for many years as well. There is abundant documentation on this.

Ben Moss said...

Let me know if you ever find Hyneks stereo poloroid shot take within seconds of Ray Stanfords shot in Socorro of 1964.

saucerspud said...

Please share the names of those 5 UFO cases. Inquiring minds want to know!