High Strangeness: 2017

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Surprise UFO Letter

I'm still kind of in shock from this...

Some readers may know that UFO and conspiracy author Jim Marrs wrote a cover blurb for my book a short time before he passed away this year. I was thrilled with his generous comments on The Close Encounters Man--but saddened that I never got the chance to get to know the man.


Well, the other day my editor Mxxxxxx forwarded me a letter he had gotten from Mr. Marrs' longtime assistant, Mxxxxxx, and I was bowled over by what she had to say. Here is her letter, reprinted with her kind permission:

To introduce myself, I am Jim Marrs' old assistant.
I just wanted to let the other shoe drop as the dust now settles over the Jim Marrs estate since his death on August second.
About three or so weeks before his passing, Jim handed me the envelope enclosing the manuscript of "The Close Encounters Man" and he didn't say much, just gave me a hard look over the rim of his glasses.  "Read this, it is good." is what he said.
I have just finished this fine work and I think one of the reason's he loved it so was that it was a desire of Jim's to have something done regarding his own life on this caliber.  He was most impressed with the tenor of the book, how well researched and the tenderness of dealing with the demise of Dr. Hynek at the end.  Jim was in this stage of decline when he read this manuscript and he had lost the use of his right eye before he finished this book and it wasn't easy for him to get to the end because of his failing vision, but he did.  This was the last book Jim Marrs ever read.  I just wanted you to know this point.  I hold this manuscript now as a priceless treasure!
Jim Marrs grew up from a young boy dreaming about UFO's, and even did a watercolor of one when he was 9 years old.  (I have that too.)  And it is interesting that the last book he read was the somewhat frustrating life of another UFO researcher, albeit a scientist and not a journalist like Jim.  This book brought Jim full circle. 
I cried when I read the last line thanking the aliens.  Nice touch!
Best regards,
Mxxxxxx
I wrote back to thank her for her kind letter, and this is what she wrote back (also reprinted with her permission):
You are most welcome Mark.  I was Jim's assistant for over ten years.  You kind of know what he means when he looked you in the eyes after a time.  He couldn't say much toward the end...but he forcefully shoved that envelope with your manuscript into my hands.  I told him I would read it.  Took me a couple of months because we had his whole estate to go through and he was a collector!  The manuscript had become a comfort when I would go to bed and it was there waiting for me, page by page. (I am not really a single woman, the other side of my bed is filled with books)  Kind of hated to finish it (I read many manuscripts for him over the years)...each thing I do distances me from him.  He was lively and kind and almost always positive except when there was a slow car up ahead, then he would get angry!  lol

He did appreciate your book and I know he enjoyed the content and the flow of the biography.  Nicely done from my point of view as well.  I throughly enjoyed all the historic nuance you brought in like how all the UFO groups gossiped and quipped amongst themselves, which is still going on today. Most tenderly I love how you said that Hynek "entered the supersensible realm." I may steal that one in the future. I imagine Jim and Allen having a nice chat with each other with an audience!  Even enjoyed your acknowledgements, not just names mentioned but why and how they helped you.  Job well done and there were no mistakes I could see! I hope your sales go through the roof.  I have endorsed this book on my facebook. It was a book that needed to be written!
As you might imagine, I am quite blown away by this.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

UFOs and Politics

I just don't know where to go with this...

Florida Republican Who Once Claimed Alien Abduction Announces House Bid
Either Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera has been watching too much Syfy Channel or she’s really just that special. We’ll probably never know for sure.
That's the lead-in to a news article that was making the rounds yesterday. A self-professed alien abductee is running for Congress in Florida, and now it's open season on people who report UFO encounters. The crack about "watching too much SyFy Channel" is particularly obnoxious.

The article continues:
No matter, the 59-year-old Republican, who once recalled in an interview a visit from three blond-haired aliens who took her aboard their spacecraft, is running for Florida’s 27th District seat being vacated by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“I went in. There were some round seats that were there, and some quartz rocks that controlled the ship — not like airplanes,” Rodriguez Aguilera said in a 2009 television spot, the Miami Herald reported.

Though Rodriguez Aguilera’s extraterrestrial tale is suspect, her political credentials and pedigree are not.
Of course, her "extraterrestrial tale is suspect," because that's the typical knee-jerk reaction by a reporter who needs to portray him- or herself as above it all.

Now, I'm not always thrilled with abduction tales, because they do strain the limits of the Strangeness scale, and they give reporters like this easy targets. But I know, and have written about, several people who have had similar experiences to this woman in Florida, and I have complete faith in their sincerity. And I give this woman credit for speaking openly about her experience in the political arena; that's not easy to do. But this aspect of her story could easily overshadow everything else from here on out. I just hope her opponent leaves it alone.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

UFO Disappointment

In the past two weeks I've given two public talks about Dr. J. Allen Hynek and my book The Close Encounters Man, and the contrasts between the two talks are kind of funny to consider.

The first talk was at a gathering of retired educators; my dad is a member and past president, and I was delighted that he invited me to address his group. It turned out to be a lot of fun to talk UFOs with 50 retired schoolteachers! They were an attentive, appreciative audience, and at least two of them were there somewhat reluctantly because their significant others were UFO fans (I had very nice talks with both of them!). When I opened things up for questions, I was asked about crop circles and foo fighters, so there are definitely a few retired teachers who have at least a passing interest in the paranormal...

Does anyone really know everything about Dr. J. Allen Hynek?
The second talk was at the Third Annual Milwaukee Paranormal Conference yesterday, and the contrast between this and the first talk was pronounced. This is my third time addressing the Milwaukee Paracon (last year was the great Roswell debate with Don Schmitt), and it was quite different from the first two years. Yesterday's presentation took place in a small conference room at the Shorewood, WI, village library, where I followed up on presentations by UFO writer and radio host Nick Roestler and MUFON Chicago's Sam Maranto.

There were about 20 people in the audience -- much smaller than previous years -- but there were a few familiar faces nonetheless. They were engaged and appreciative, but in a different way than the school teachers. For example, one guy sat in the front row and took copious notes and tape recorded my whole presentation. That didn't happen with the teachers. Also, when I took questions at the end here's what happened:

One guy really, really wanted me to declare that Disclosure is about to take place. He brought it up more than once, and each time I had to disappoint him. That didn't happen with the teachers.

A couple people felt compelled to let me know that they know things about Hynek and about various UFO incidents that I don't. That's par for the course with a UFO crowd, but one guy -- the one with the notes and the tape recorder -- helpfully pointed out to me that, "Oh, Dr. Hynek's wife's name was Miriam, not Mimi." Yes, I refer to her as "Mimi" in the book, but I pointed out to him that "Mimi" is the diminutive of "Miriam," and so people sometimes called her Mimi.

That didn't happen with the teachers, who are known for correcting people.

These things can take the fun out of making a presentation. Like I said, being "corrected" by UFO fans is par for the course -- we all know there are a lot of know-it-alls in UFO world
-- but there's something weird about knowing that you're disappointing a lot people in your audience because you're not validating their beliefs that I am still not used to.

But I guess I'd better get used to it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dr. Phil & UFOs

TV talk show host Dr. Phil apparently had a doozy on his show a few days ago. The headline on his website shouts:
"Actress Jan Broberg Claims At 12 She Was Kidnapped, ‘Brainwashed’ And Told She Was Supposed To Have A Baby To ‘Save The Dying Planet’"
Now, this woman's story is tragic, and I am in no way making light of her experience. Her captor, a family friend, apparently convinced her that they had both been abducted by aliens who expected her to have a planet-saving child by her captor. Pretty twisted...

I bring this up only because my agent was trying to get me on the Dr. Phil Show a few months back to talk about my book The Close Encounters Man, and I checked out the Phil's website to try to figure out why the show producers ultimately passed on my agent's pitch.


Initially we had pitched the idea of interviewing three of the most interesting UFO witnesses I met in course of my stint as a Certified UFO Field Investigator for MUFON. The three I picked were:
What made the military man's experience so fascinating, besides his amazing recollection of the event and his accounts of the way it has affected him personally, was the possibility that we could get him on national TV to appeal to anyone of the other servicemen who were on duty that night and saw the same object to come forward and tell their stories. A long shot, maybe, but still worth a try. How cool would it be to discover that one one of those men was watching the show that day and called in to share their memories?

What made the two young women's experiences so fascinating was the surreal, haunting aspects to their stories, and the fact that they had both had such similar encounters and had never met each other before. How cool would it be to have them meet for the first time on national TV to compare notes on their strangely similar contact stories?

Well, the Dr. Phil producer was interested in the two young women, but not the military man. But this producer wanted to know if either of the women's UFO experiences had affected their family relationships in the following ways:

  1. They don’t believe in the abduction
  2. They believe and are afraid
  3. They will attest her personality changed overnight
  4. They did/didn’t notice anything
  5. They think the abduction is symptomatic of a bigger mental problem
  6. They are angry with her for her claim

It just so happened that both young women attested to undergoing dramatic personality changes caused by their experiences--another odd similarity between them. The family of one accepted the change, but the family of the other freaked out over it, so there would be things for Dr. Phil to talk about for sure.

But that's as far as it went. Apparently the producer didn't see enough potential for family drama in these women's stories, so they passed. I was puzzled by this: why would they reject the pitch after we offered them exactly what they had asked for?

Well, looking over descriptions of recent episodes makes it pretty clear that the Dr. Phil Show really goes for family drama stories where someone in the family has kicked someone else in the family out of the house. So, even though one of "our" women had experienced some angst from her mom over her personality transformation, she hadn't actually been kicked out of the house by said mom, so it didn't count...

Too bad. Dr. Phil and his audience missed out on a really fascinating conversation.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

An Atavistic Fear of the Unknown



            In the wake of the news that Tom DeLonge will at last reveal his Big UFO News on October 11 (a.k.a. tomorrow), I find myself reflecting on why stories like this always grab headlines and stir our deepest yearnings to learn who or what is behind the UFO phenomenon.

To most people who were alive in the 1960s, the most significant NASA space mission of that decade would likely be the Apollo 11 moon landing. Neil Armstrong’s “small step” onto the surface of the moon, which took place July 16, 1969, marked the first time that human beings had ventured beyond Earth orbit and landed safely on another celestial body, and it forever altered our perception of our place on the cosmos.

The most important NASA mission of the '60s? Not this one.
It also completely overshadowed an earlier NASA mission that, it can be argued, played a much more significant and lasting role in defining the human identity. For, while Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s dusty lunar footprints established the human race’s status as space explorers, the Mariner 4 Mars fly-by mission of 1964/65 taught us the meaning of loneliness.

It is startling to be reminded that just over 50 years ago, well within my lifetime, it was a commonly-held belief among sane, educated humans that intelligent life existed on Mars. This was not a crackpot idea; it had been promulgated, promoted and reinforced for decades by sober scientists and journalists (and, admittedly, the occasional science fiction writer). Ever since Milanese astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli had first described the “canali,” or channels, he saw on the Martian surface in 1877 and American astronomer Percival Lowell then deduced in 1894 that Schiaparelli’s canali could only be irrigation canals constructed by intelligent Martians, we Earthlings have been intoxicated—indeed, madly in love—with the notion that life exists on other worlds, that we are not, in fact, the one and only, nature’s supreme accomplishment.

Yet Mariner 4 dashed our hopes, permanently (or so we thought at the time). Mariner 4, an unmanned probe resembling nothing more than an oversized ceiling fan, passed within 6,000 miles of our nearest planetary neighbor on July 14 and 15, 1965, and transmitted to Earth 21 “close-up” photographs (and a partial 22nd photo) of the Martian surface. It was at that moment that the human race learned, absolutely and definitively, that there were no Martians on Mars. For generations who had grown up wondering about the canals on Mars and reading the speculative fiction of Ray Bradbury and H. G. Wells, it came as a lonely shock to discover that the bleak, dry Martian landscape was incapable of supporting life, and that we had the solar system to ourselves. “There was disappointment among some scientists, and the public alike,” reported space.com with some understatement.

On the surface, this disappointment makes little rational sense, as the prospect of encountering alien life in any form tends to bring the worst, most primal type of human fear and loathing to the surface. Ever since the H. G. Wells’ 1897 novel The War of the Worlds introduced the concept of the alien invasion narrative to the human psyche, and the 1951 science-fiction film The Thing from Another World brought that horror to life on the big screen, humans have harbored a deep and abiding fear of alien life. And it isn’t just pop-culture narratives stoking the fire, either: for every space scientist today searching the skies for incoming messages from the stars or transmitting friendly radio greetings beyond our solar system, there is another warning us that attracting the attention of an alien race on some distant planet may not be our wisest move. “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans,” physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking famously warned in his 2010 Discovery Channel TV series, Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking. “Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.”

And yet we humans keep longing for that contact.


            How do we recognize this ever-present yearning? Consider the fact that today UFO-

themed reality television shows crowd the cable TV listings, and amateur UFO investigation 

groups receive hundreds, if not thousands, of UFO reports every week. Consider the fact 

that when science fiction films came to the fore in the 1950s and 1960s, they became so 

immensely popular that film historian Patrick Lucanio wrote, “One might argue convincingly

that never in the history of motion pictures has any other genre developed and multiplied so 

rapidly in so brief a period.” Consider that the return of FBI special agents Fox Mulder and 

Dana Scully in a recent six-episode X-Files “reunion” was one of the top ten rated TV 

shows of 2016, and the series is coming back by popular demand in 2018. None of these 

cultural barometers operate in a vacuum; aliens repel us, yes, but they also 

attract us with a power that is a wonder to behold.

I was first alerted to this strange attraction when researching the life and work of Dr. Hynek (1910-1986). Hynek's call for rigorous scientific study of the UFO phenomenon—a study that called for categorizing UFO events and identifying potential patterns in the most phenomenal cases—put him in an awkward position as a scientist, but he never allowed fear of ridicule to divert him from his mission.

When in the 1970s Hynek developed his iconic “Close Encounters” categorization system for classifying UFO reports, he identified Close Encounters of the Third Kind as those involving the presence of a being or “occupant” in association with the appearance of an unidentified flying object. In the nearly four decades Hynek studied UFOs, he came across thousands of Close Encounter of the Third Kind cases, and the sheer number of these reports was deeply troubling to him, as he simply did not want to make room in his rational brain for the bizarre concept of UFO occupants.

      “I don’t know what makes me want to automatically look down upon these creature 

cases,” Hynek said in a 1978 interview in UFO Report magazine. “Maybe this involves an 

atavistic fear of the unknown, or of rivalry with another species. There is, upon closer 

scrutiny, another factor which I find difficult to sort out. It is odd that the creatures seen 

coming from these craft should resemble our own homo sapien race so closely.”


      And yet “creature” cases continued to abound, and Hynek was called in to investigate a 

great many of them. And the more time he spent with the witnesses in these CE3K cases—

many of whom claimed to have been abducted by these entities, brought onto their crafts, 

even flown off into space—the more he was forced to accept that the presence of 

unexplained, often humanoid beings in association with UFOs were a significant factor in 

the phenomenon.


      And those beings were not altogether unpleasant. In one 1959 case that fascinated 

Hynek for years, an Anglican priest named William Gill who ran a mission in Boianai, Papua 

New Guinea, witnessed, with some two dozen others, the appearance of a flying disc with 

glowing, oversized humanoid occupants visible on a top “deck” on the craft. On the second 

night the disc appeared, Father Gill and another witness waved to the strange occupants, 

and they waved back. For a few exciting moments, the disc approached the witnesses 

below, and Father Gill expected the figures to land their craft and say hello. But the disc 

reversed course and moved away, leaving Gill and the other witnesses feeling oddly 

frustrated and disappointed.


      Similarly, in the Hudson Valley UFO sightings of the mid-1980s, in which thousands of 

people reported nighttime encounters with V-shaped light formations traversing the Hudson 

Valley north of New York City, the desire to get close to an apparently alien presence 

overrode the witnesses’ common sense. In several instances, witnesses claimed to have 

wished secretly that the object would come closer to them, only to flee in terror when the 

object seemed to respond to the wish and approach the witness.


      Had a meeting between humans and aliens transpired one of those nights in 1959 or in 

the mid-1980s, what might it have meant for mankind? All we know for certain is that in 

more than one occurrence, numerous earth humans reported being at least momentarily 

giddy with excitement at the thought that they were communicating with beings that were 

quite possibly not from this earth, and that those beings might land and say Hi.


      I would argue that a great many of us—perhaps most of us—would feel that same thrill 

of anticipation at the thought of making contact with an alien life form, Stephen Hawking 

notwithstanding.


      But, why? Why was a great swath of the population of earth so at ease for so many 

years with the idea that Mars was populated with intelligent—and, let’s be honest here: 

possibly malevolent—beings? Why were we so disappointed when Mariner 4 transmitted its 

devastating photographs of Mars’ destitute landscape?


      Why do we fear being alone in the universe?


     My theory—and it’s a very simple one—is that if we are the only intelligent life forms in 

the universe, that makes us seem accidental. Believing that intelligent life has evolved 

elsewhere makes our existence—and theirs—seem intentional.

 So, yes, on a very basic level, we need aliens. We need them everywhere, and so we have them everywhere. I have an alien emoticon on my phone, for God’s sake, and I bet you do, too.

This much was obvious to Dr. Hynek as far back as the early 1980s: “UFOs are a subliminal theme in society,” appearing in “many of today’s video games, movies and in rock music,” he said in an interview. “It’s a new form of religion with some people—a dissatisfaction with the old-time religions in which people are looking for a scientific twist.” Of course, Hynek himself was a factor in these developments—he even appeared in a six-second cameo appearance at the climax of CE3K, cementing his role as a popularizer of UFO culture.

While I am not suggesting that belief in the reality of UFOs and their possible occupants constitutes a religious movement, I do agree with Hynek that there is a profound allure in finding a “scientific twist” to traditional religious beliefs. Many of us humans place as much or more faith in science as we do in our Gods, in part because for many of us science justifies our faith more often and more reliably than does religion.

And yet, science is not without its failings. When Charles Darwin placed us at the top of the evolutionary ladder, he neglected to consider that we humans have an innate drive to keep climbing. If there’s a top rung to the ladder, where do we go next? The aliens seem to know.

Maybe, then, our need for aliens is one part a need for comfort and reassurance and one part aspiration. We want company in the universe, and we want a procession of new goals, new hopes, new reasons for our existence. And the aliens just might be willing to help. Now, if only they could make their message a little more clear to all of us...

Understanding may not come quickly or easily. Dr. Hynek knew that the universe demands that we play the long game, but he also believed that our patience would be rewarded. “I would not be prepared to defend the thesis that UFOs represent visitors from outer space,” Dr. Hynek once mused. “Indeed, I think the answer may be even more interesting than that. I think the answer will be very exotic and beyond our imagination.”

Friday, September 29, 2017

UFO Regression

Just when I think we're making some progress in this whole UFO thing, something happens to send UFOlogy back to the stone age...

Roswell: There's no there there, folks.
Just this morning I came across a posting on Facebook, in a group called "UFO'Real? A Historical Review." The posting was praising a new book about Roswell called UFO Cover-Up at Roswell, by none other than Donald Schmitt. I groaned inwardly when I saw it. Regular readers of my blog will recall that Mr. Schmitt and I have had our differences:
  • He accused me of being under the control of some mysterious "them" who were dictating the content of my book. 
  • When I tried to interview him for my book, Schmitt claimed that "The last time Allen Hynek and I had dinner, he said, 'Dammit, Don, everything points to nuts and bolts,'" but in my book I quote a 1975 letter to Carl Sagan in which Hynek says, "I do not, and have never, supported the idea that UFOs were nuts-and-bolts hardware from some very distant place."
  • Last year Schmitt challenged me to a "Roswell Debate" that took place at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference, and I have heard from attendees that I "killed it."
So, yea, that's a quick look at my history with Don Schmitt. And now he's gone back to that same bone-dry Roswell well for another book. I wish him well with it. I'm not bothered that he's written yet another Roswell book -- it's a free country, and obviously some people love reading the same stories over and over again. It's what the reviewer says at the end of his comments that bugs me:

"UFO Cover-Up at Roswell" is an example of the objective way UFO cases should be examined. Dr. J. Allen Hynek would be proud.
Uh, that's a big "NO." Dr. Hynek would not be proud of another book propagating the saucer crash myth. He would more likely recoil in horror.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

UFO DNA Invasion!

I think the aliens are invading, and I think it's our own damn fault.

The realization came to me a few nights ago when I was watching TV and an ad came on for this company called "23 and Me." The ad depicts a young woman traveling the globe to get in touch with her roots, which prove to be remarkably diverse. In the end, we're told that we, too, can probably trace our ancestry to many different races and ethnicities, then go trot the globe looking for long-lost relatives. All we have to do is send a genetic sample to "23 and Me," along with $99 (for the basic service; other services cost more). In return, the company will send you a pretty pie chart showing you a breakdown of your genetic heritage. Ancestry.com is also offering a similar service for the low-low price of $79, but then their pie charts don't look as nice.

Huh.

My immediate reaction to the commercial was, "Why the hell would I give my genetic information to an anonymous company, and -- worse yet -- pay them to take it off my hands (literally)??" I've seen Law & Order. People go to jail rather than surrender their genetic information to the cops, for Christ's sake. But these companies want you to give it up voluntarily, and at a price!

Would you give this to a stranger?
I had some troubling questions as I thought it over that night: Who owns the DNA sample? What's done with it after the service analyzes it? Do they send it back to you so you can reintegrate it into your genetic matrix (I assume the technology exists to do so, but I probably watch too many science fiction movies)? Is there a secondary market for these DNA samples? Am I going to be cloned (not necessarily a bad thing)? What if the sample gets lost in the mail? Is the innocent family tree enthusiast cautioned about of any of this before they pop their gene sample in the mail?

I couldn't answer any of those questions, of course, but as I stewed over the situation a terrible realization came over me: What if these companies are owned and operated by aliens, intent on taking control of the Earth? How would they begin the invasion? Isn't it possible that they would begin by compiling a library of human genetic information, to be used to develop terrible and exotic weapons that target our DNA? Or, worse yet, the information could be used to contaminate and mutate our genetic structures... Science fiction films, TV shows and literature are chock-full of aliens and mad scientists trying to alter our genetic structure and turn us into snake people or swamp things, and it's never pretty.

Somewhere in my files I have a very detailed family tree put together by my paternal grandmother over 30 years ago. She used newspaper articles and public records to trace the O'Connell ancestry to northeast Iowa and then back to the Emerald Isle, and nobody had to swab their mouths for it.

You want my advice? Don't be a chump: Never ever send your precious DNA anywhere in the mail. Trust me, if aliens are advanced enough to get to Earth, they can figure out how to rent a Post Office Box and film a commercial or two.




Saturday, September 16, 2017

Who's "The Alien Guy"??

Start 'em early, that's what I say.

When it comes to parenting, one of the most important things to remember is to start teaching your little ones about UFOs early and often. I know, because I've raised four kids, and they all know the score where paranormal phenomena are concerned.

I hadn't fully appreciated the value of this, however, until this past June as I was out promoting The Close Encounters Man at an indie bookstore in Chicago. There was a small group --I believe the euphemism is "intimate" -- there to hear me talk about my book, and among the audience were a dad and his son, who I guessed was 4 or 5. When I was done talking, I signed a copy of the book for them, and thanked them for coming.

I was disappointed by the turnout, I admit, but when I mentioned that afterward, my daughter Dxxxxx said, "If it makes you feel any better, you made a convert to the cause tonight. That little boy in the front row was hanging on your every word!" I guess I was so wrapped up in my presentation that I hadn't noticed the boy's interest, but it did make me feel better to know that even a 5 year-old could get into listening to me talk about UFOs and aliens.

Fast forward to late August, when I attended a meeting of the screenwriting faculty at DePaul University, where I teach. I said hi to a few of my fellow professors, and then a familiar but unfamiliar professor said hi to me, and mentioned that had been at my book signing event with his son. Talk about a small world!

I had a nice talk with my colleague, who I now recognized -- his name is Jef Burnham -- and told him what my daughter had said to me about his little boy after the book signing. Jef laughed and said that he and his son Alistair host a horror and science fiction movie review podcast called Cadavercast. He explained that his son was excited at my book signing because he realized there was somebody else in the world who loves the same things he and his dad love! So, I hadn't converted the little boy as my daughter had thought; he was already a convert! How cute can you get? And who can't relate to that electric feeling you get when you realize someone else loves science fiction and monsters as much as you do??
Pretty scary stuff!

Well, since that meeting I've been listening to Cadavercast and loving it! Jef and Al put on a fantastic show, they have great chemistry (as you'd expect), they really know their stuff, and best of all, they make me want to watch all my old sci fi and horror movies again!

My favorite bit so far is when they review the 1951 film, The Thing From Another World, and the subject of John Carpenter's terrifying and gory 1982 remake comes up. Five year-old Al keeps talking about the Carpenter remake as though he's watched it several times, but dad Jef keeps correcting him, pointing out to Al that he will not actually be old enough to watch the remake for many, many, many years. It's just a riot listening to dad subtly setting his determined son straight on the matter.

And if that wasn't reason enough to listen in, get this: any profit Jef and Al make from the show goes into Al's college fund! I can't recommend Cadavercast strongly enough.

I emailed Jef the other day to tell him how much I've been enjoying the podcast, and the next day I got this response:

I really appreciate it, Mark. Al was positively thrilled to hear "the alien guy" has been listening. He's good kid indeed. One of a select few 5 year olds who can tell you about Bela Lugosi and Karloff I guarantee it! 

I'm "the alien guy"! That's awesome :)

Now, if I can only use my influence to get Jef and Al to review Close Encounters of the Third Kind...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hynek Hijinks

A while back I had mentioned that J. Allen Hynek's long-time friend and colleague Jennie Zeidman had promised to send me a document that she had recently uncovered in her files. When she first mentioned this to me, my imagination ran away with me; what if Jennie had discovered some long lost document that blew the whole field of UFO research wide open? What if it was a signed statement from President Eisenhower admitting that he had met with aliens, or a signed affidavit from Jesse Marcel stating that he had made up the entire Roswell story? Or what if it was definitive proof that Project Blue Book really was a sham, and that Hynek himself was running the Air Force's real clandestine UFO study?

When the envelope showed up in the mail I could hardly contain myself! I felt like a kid on Christmas morning opening the biggest, brightest present under the tree, only in my case there was the horrifying possibility that inside this present was proof that Santa Claus didn't exist...

What's Thor got to do with it?
Well, I opened up the envelope and found a 3-page hand-written letter from Dr. Hynek to Jennie Ziedman, from the early 1970s (Hynek only wrote the month and day, not the year). I read through the letter greedily, hoping to find the bombshell... but there was none. Hynek complained about a picture of his that had just run with an article in TIME magazine... He talked about upcoming travel plans, a Hynek "at work and at play" TV special he had just done for the Chicago NBC affiliate... He proudly announced that his two oldest sons, Scott and Joel, now had their pilots licenses... And he announced that "the book she is done."

Aha! So that's what made the letter special! Hynek had just finished "The UFO Experience" and he was blowing off steam... Of course! Just having gone through that experience myself, I could fully appreciate Hynek's feelings. And, indeed, there is a tone of goofiness and elation to the whole letter, and I couldn't help smiling as I read it, especially when I got to the limerick on the last page.

Then I found the small note Jennie had attached to the letter. It read: "this suggests Allen had a long tough day and was enjoying a bit of booze..."

So that was the bombshell... Jennie had found a letter that brought Allen Hynek to life for her, and she thought it was important to share it with me. I appreciate that greatly. And now I'm sharing this little glimpse of the real J. Allen Hynek with you...

Here's his limerick, appropos of nothing:

A Thundergod went for a ride
Upon his favorite filly
I'm Thor, he cried!
His horse replied -
You forgot your thaddle, thilly!

Then, in parentheses, he added: (--it's the heat!)