High Strangeness: 2020

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

UFO Propaganda!

I came across an interesting parallel today concerning the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Many of my readers will remember the uproar around Annie Jacobsen's 2011 book Area 51, in which she quoted an unnamed source who claimed that the alleged Roswell "saucer crash" and resulting recovery of saucer wreckage and of teeny alien corpses was all a Nazi/Soviet propaganda project pulled off by an unholy partnership between Joseph Stalin and Nazi "Angel of Death" Josef Mengele. According to Jacobsen's story, Mengele made some deformed children look like "aliens," and they were placed in a flying saucer supplied by Stalin and sent to New Mexico in order to scare us Americans to death.

From what I've heard, History Channel's Project Blue Book series used that very same Jacobsen/Mengele/Stalin explanation for Roswell in its 2-part season opener, a very strange creative choice that seems to have alienated a lot of fans. "Alienated," get it?

Here's where the parallel comes in. As part of my quarantine distraction, I re-watched one of my favorite science fiction movies, the 1967 British flick Quatermass and the Pit, released in the US as Five Million Years to Earth. It's a brilliant movie, in my opinion, brimming with fascinating imagery and ideas (even if the film's moderate budget made it hard to fully bring them to life).

The story involves the discovery of a Martian spaceship buried under London, and the subsequent discovery of several perfectly preserved insect-like Martians inside the ship. Or are they Martians? The scientist protagonist of the film, Professor Quatermass, believes they are, but the military man supervising the excavation, Colonel Breen, insists that the strange object with its insectoid occupants is -- get this -- "a propaganda scare" developed by the Nazis in the waning days of World War II. "They sent over an experimental V-weapon in order to produce exactly the effect it has produced," Breen explains rather smugly, "though a little late for their purposes."

Of course Breen's propaganda theory wins out, and when the media are invited into the pit to see the "harmless" object, Quatermass' worst fears are realized. The spaceship comes to life, and London is plunged into chaos and horror.

What does it all mean? Probably nothing, but it sure is interesting to see that Jacobsen's bizarre, laughable Roswell explanation -- which, it must be acknowledged, sold a lot of books, and may have just torpedoed a contemporary TV series -- may have arisen in some odd way from a 53 year-old British science fiction film.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Stay at Home UFOs

Quick quiz:

What's the perfect way to pass the time while staying at home that only costs $1.99 and doesn't put you at any risk of being exposed to COVID-19?

It's pretty cheap as a paperback as well!
Answer: If you click here right now, you can download the Kindle version of The Close Encounters Man; How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs, my biography of Project Blue Book investigator Dr. J. Allen Hynek, for the low, low price of a buck ninety-nine. If there's a better, cheaper, safer way to pass the time during a pandemic, I haven't heard of it!

UFO people seem to be dealing with stay at home orders by burning up the social media platforms... I know I've been spending more time on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter the past few weeks, and, to my dismay, all I see is constant mentions of:
  • Skinwalker Ranch -- Grand Central Station for undiscriminating paranormal activity; recently granted a trademark, because it's, you know, a product
  • Luiz Elizondo -- can you say "overexposed?"
  • MUFON -- they're not hiding anything, because they got nothin'
  • AATIP -- 2+ years in and we're still waiting for the big reveal
All of which begs the question: Which of these hot topics has brought about any real breakthroughs in our knowledge and understanding of the UFO phenomenon? In my opinion, all these things have brought us is more confusion and obfuscation, and those are two things we don't need more of in the study of UFOs.

Is my book the cure? I'd like to think that in some way it's keeping UFOlogy honest, by upholding the ideals that Dr. Hynek established over his four decades of research. I know for a fact that some people have sought out my book after watching the History Channel's sketchy Project Blue Book series, so apparently the truth still matters to some of us.

So, yeah, download my book. Leslie Kean and Jim Marrs loved it; so will you.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

UFO Wonderland

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Dr. J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) for the first time in several years. While I was in the midst of researching and writing my bio of Dr. Hynek, The Close Encounters Man, I practically lived at CUFOS, soaking up UFO legends and lore like crazy every chance I would get. This time I was visiting CUFOS to set up a shoot for my upcoming Travel Channel TV series (more on that soon), and it was a real nostalgia trip.

The center is housed in the Chicago home of CUFOS scientific director Dr. Mark Rodeghier, with an additional storage space, housing thousands of CUFOS case files, just around the block. Roaming the archives and visiting with Mark reminded me of what an adventure it was to spend hours digging through the files, getting to know Dr. Hynek through his correspondence with scientists, UFOlogists, celebrities and UFO witnesses, discovering long-lost secrets about famous UFO cases, and just generally reminding myself that, despite all the misinformation and confusion out there about Hynek, Project Blue Book, AATIP, tic-tac UFOs and the like, there is a wonderland of real UFO research being preserved for generations of real UFOlogists.

If they use it.

One of the treasures I discovered through CUFOS: Project Blue Book investigator Jennie Zeidman
One thing that came up in my conversation with Mark was the fact that very few researchers ever actually visit CUFOS (and I imagine the same is true of other UFO archives). Researchers generally find the website (here) and then email Mark asking for information. Which he is glad to do, I might add, so long as the request is a serious one from a legit UFO researcher. But the fact is that visits like mine are rare, and that's sad. Sure, you can explain it away in large part as a natural consequence of the internet age, as we're all so used to dealing with instant digital information that we don't even think of visiting the source, and using our physical appendages to rustle through file folders filled with paper. But I think it's also a sign that UFO research all too often tends to be lazy, sloppy and insubstantial, and that many of the consumers of that research aren't all that concerned with accuracy and truth.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: UFOlogy needs a UFO Mecca, a (non-Roswell) destination vacation for UFO lovers and skeptics alike. What we really need is a central UFO museum/library/archive that, and I call dibs on running it. Anyone else want be on staff?

Saturday, February 15, 2020

UFO Book Reviews and GLARING Omissions

Every now and then I like to take a peek at how my book is being reviewed at Amazon and goodreads, and I'm always happy with what I find. The Close Encounters Man: How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs, has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon and  3.99 rating on goodreads. Not too bad.

I especially like reading the negative reviews. Sure, sometimes it smarts to have someone ripping on your work, but sometimes it can be kind of hilarious. My favorite negative review came from a guy who wrote something to the effect of, "I consider myself to be far more knowledgeable about the UFO phenomenon than the average person. However, until I read this book I had never heard of Dr. Hynek."

I still laugh at that one...

My latest review on Amazon (dated January 12, 2020) was pretty negative, and I have been struggling with what to make of it. Perhaps you can help. The reviewer gave my book two stars out of five, and wrote:
"Meh. Dry and dull. I have read better. Also the fact that the author did not add Dr Hynek’s opinion of the much more frightening (and documented BY THE USAF) case of Air Force Sgt Jonathan Lovett in 1956 which occurred at the New Mexico White Sands Air Force testing base is in my opinion a GLARING omission."
Basic rule of UFOlogy: you can't believe every story you hear,
I admit, I knew nothing about this case, so I looked it up and found that it involved this guy named Lovett who allegedly saw a UFO at White Sands and whose body was later found in the desert, very dead and very mutilated. That is indeed frightening, if true. But is it true? I never came across any reference to the case in Dr. Hynek's files, or in any Blue Book files. That doesn't prove anything, of course -- I may not have seen any reference to the case because I wasn't specifically looking for it -- but it makes me wonder how this Amazon reviewer knows for a fact that the case was "documented BY THE USAF" and that Hynek had an opinion on the case. If both of these things are true, why not include the documentation in your review, to back up your claims?

Anyway, assuming this really happened and it really was written up in a Project Blue Book case report, I doubt very much that Dr. Hynek would have given the story any credence unless he actually saw the dead body in situ. But it stretches credibility to think that the Air Force ever would have allowed Hynek to see Lovett's alleged corpse, much less asked him to comment on it.

Also, the fact that the Project Blue Book TV series has coincidentally done a recent episode on this Lovett story tells me that not only is the story likely to be false, but that Project Blue Book staff may be posting reviews of my book to stir up interest in their show. I know that's also a stretch, but you have to admit, it's an odd coincidence.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Forgotten Man of UFOs

This week found me ransacking my research files, looking for a recording of an interview I conducted in 2013 for my book The Close Encounters Man. It was an interview with a gent named William T. Powers, who had served as Dr. J. Allen Hynek's right-hand man at Northwestern University throughout much of the 1960s. I needed the recording of the interview to use in the TV show I'm producing for Travel Channel (aka TRVL), but 7 years after the fact I could not find the file... hence the ransacking.

The Socorro UFO: Bill Powers was there
The audio file wasn't where it was supposed to be, so I needed to look in all the places whether it wasn't supposed to be. Naturally, after spending an entire day tearing my entire office apart, I found the recordings, preserved on my old digital recorder, in the top drawer of my desk... aka, right where it was supposed to be!

Losing the recording of the interview would have been a great loss, both to UFOlogy and to me personally, as Bill was one of the warmest, friendliest, most cheerful people I've ever met. He passed away about a year after I interviewed him, and since I was the only person who had ever talked to him about his UFO work with Hynek, the recording holds a special place in my heart and in UFO history.

If you've read The Close Encounters Man, you may remember some of Bill's fascinating recollections of the Swamp Gas Case and Lonnie Zamora Case, stories of Hynek's epic battles with Blue Book boss Hector Quintanilla, or his remembrances of the early days of Hynek's "Invisible College." I'm hoping that some of Bill's UFO stories will make it into the show, because his words carry a lot of weight. At a time when there is more disinformation about UFOs than ever being spread about, it matters a lot to hear the voices of people who actually know what they're talking about.

Cheers to you, Bill!

P.S. The recording is now saved in 3 different media in 3 different places, including one in my safe, so I will never lose it again.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"Mad Men" with UFOs

So, I see this morning that History Channel's Project Blue Book series finally went too far for many of its fans in this week's Roswell, Part 2 episode. I myself have not watched the episode, and don't plan to, but from what I gather the producers decided to "explain" the Roswell incident with the bizarre story introduced by author Annie Jacobsen in her 2011 book Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base. In the final chapter of that book, Jacobsen quoted a former Area 51 employee who claimed that the alleged Roswell saucer crash of 1947 was an evil plot hatched by Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and Nazi scientist Josef "Angel of Death" Mengele. In this story, Mengele surgically altered deformed children to make them look like aliens, and Stalin provided a functioning flying disc that these ersatz "aliens" deliberately "crashed" into the New Mexico desert to scare the USA so badly that it would be easy work for the Soviets to invade our country and take over. That story didn't go over too well in Jacobsen's case, and from the tweets I'm reading this morning it's not going over too well with a lot of Project Blue Book fans.
Did Mengele and Stalin fake this saucer crash?

All I can say is, what do you expect from a show that bills itself as "Mad Men with UFOs"?

I don't have a whole lot to contribute to the conversation, but I know someone who does, and I think his voice needs to be heard at this moment. In one of the last interviews he did before his death in 1986, Dr. J. Allen Hynek had something to say on this very topic. The interview, which ran in the February 1985 issue of OMNI magazine, is well worth a read if you can find a copy. The scope and depth of Hynek's knowledge and understanding of the UFO phenomenon is a thing to behold. This guy knew his shit, backwards and forwards, inside and out.

So, when the interviewer brought up the topic of saucer crashes, Hynek didn't hold back. Here's what he had to say:

"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 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'm the interpreter, the monitor, the elder statesman in this field, and I won't jeopardize my reputation for the sake of the story."

Although he doesn't say it here, one big reason Hynek shied away from saucer crash stories was that if you claim that a flying saucer has crashed, then you are assuming that that saucer is/was a physical, manufactured, "nuts and bolts" object, and that's a big assumption. Hynek never embraced the "nuts and bolts" view, for that very reason.

The simple truth is that Allen Hynek never investigated the alleged Roswell incident, and he rarely, if ever, talked about it. He didn't start working for Project Sign until early 1948, over 6 months after the alleged Roswell crash, which by then was all but forgotten. So if you want to be upset about misinformation in the latest episode of Project Blue Book, you can start with the misrepresentation of Hynek's "involvement" with the case.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Catching Up With the UFOs


I've been pretty quiet here at High Strangeness for many moons, and there have been a couple of reasons for that.

First, the business stuff: In August a UFO TV show I've been pitching since my biography of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, The Close Encounters Man, came out was picked up and put into production by the Travel Channel (Now known simply as TRVL). As you might imagine, that set off a whirlwind of events and activities that have altered my life and my schedule and occupied my thoughts to an astounding degree (just ask my wife!). Once that all started, knowing that I would need to keep the show under wraps for the time being, I made the conscious decision to lay off the blogging, as I knew I would have a very hard time not using the blog to blab about the show and thus getting myself into trouble with TRVL.

Then, the personal stuff: First, my mom passed away in September, which was a blow, but I've been deeply inspired by the beautiful way my dad has dealt with his loss, and that has helped with my entire family's recovery. Second, I've been sick since last summer and in early November was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, a slow-moving, non-aggressive cancer, and I began a 5-month schedule of chemotherapy treatments. So, I haven't much been in the mood to blog all this fall and winter, as I've had other things on my mind... like mourning, and surviving. Sadly, my illness also meant that I had to cut back my involvement with the production of the new TV show. Happily, I just had my 4th of 6 chemo treatments and they seem to be working. All signs point to remission and as I continue to feel better I'll be more active in the production of the show. And let me tell you, I've never had so much fun with a project as I have with this.

My aim in writing The Close Encounters Man was to bring surprising new voices and new stories to the UFO world. What's the point in interviewing the same old people who say the same old things? I've maintained that approach with the show, and I think viewers will be pleased and surprised by some of the people they'll be seeing and hearing.

So what makes me want to resume blogging? Well, I just had chemo yesterday, so that means I'm not good for much around the house for the next few days, and frankly, I'm bored!

Dr. J. Allen Hynek, not seeking recognition

Also, the return of the History Channel (maybe now HSTRY?) fantasy series Project Blue Book has meant that I'm getting contacts from UFO podcasters to come on their shows to talk about the show and about my book. Anyone who follows this blog knows that I don't hold a very high opinion of the show, as it's about 98% made up and about 2% truth. If you didn't know this, you can listen to the interview I did just last week for Jeremy Scott's Into the Parabnormal podcast in which we spend part of the interview talking about my issues with PBB the TV show.

When the show premiered a year ago, my negative reaction kicked in halfway through the 2nd episode, when Hynek's wife asks her husband why he wants to sign onto this cockamamie UFO study for the Air Force, and he responds, "I want the recognition!" That moment made me howl.... Folks, I researched Hynek's life and work for 5+ years and I can tell you with utter confidence that Allen Hynek did not get into investigating UFO cases for the recognition. Frankly, Hynek was a much stronger, much more confident person than that. He was not the kind of weak character who needed or sought out "recognition." Furthermore, if he was seeking recognition, attaching his name to a fringy, disreputable phenomenon like flying saucers and little green men from Mars would have been a colossally stupid way to achieve it; the chances of becoming a laughingstock to the public and the scientific community were far too high for a little-known college professor to risk.

I was surprised and disappointed that the producers of the show chose to characterize Hynek this way, and I thought, "If they're getting the basic essence of the man so completely wrong, how can I trust them to get anything right?"

On the other hand... I have seen evidence that at least some people watching the PBB TV show are getting curious about this Hynek guy and are finding their way to my book. So, there's that.

But I don't want my return to blogging to be all about my take on Project Blue Book. Mostly, I just want y'all to know that I'm back, I'm still in it, and I'm going to start blogging more because I have a whole lot more to say about UFOs!

Just to help kickstart me, feel free to send questions or topic suggestions. You tell me what to write about....