High Strangeness: January 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Just Be Yourself!

That's the advice of the MUFON Field Investigator's Manual for how to conduct myself in a media interview. "Just be yourself," the Manual says. "Don't attempt to change your voice, play-act or try to imitate someone else. You have done very well in life as the person you are." I'm glad someone feels that way.

It also says not to slouch.

But that's not the most charming part. Not even close. Under the heading of "Handling the Press," for instance, I am told that I should refer to the interviewer by his or her name whenever it feels comfortable. "But don't overdo it," the Manual tells me. "Use Mr., Miss, or Mrs. unless the interviewer asks you to use their first name such as "Oprah," "Geraldo," "Sally," "Montel," "Phil," etc. as examples." Hey, MUFON, I think you forgot "Johnny."

Want more charm? Just go to the next page, where you will find tips for how to liven up a television interview using props: "You may want to suggest visual aids that would help the quality of the program such as appropriate books, UFO publications, alien busts or possibly UFO models."

Because nothing livens up an interview like an alien bust. Really, what better way to be taken seriously?

Would you believe I'm only 37 pages into the 260 page Manual? God help me.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

GO Team!

What's cooler than being a Certified MUFON Field Investigator?

Being a part of MUFON's "Strike Team for Area Research," that's what. Especially because the acronym for the "Strike Team for Area Research" is "STAR Team." So, technically it's the "Strike Team for Area Research Team," but that's okay, because this is such a supercool Team, it deserves to be have the word "Team" twice in its name, and maybe even a third time!

Why am I so high on the STAR Team? It's not because STAR Team members' travel expenses are reimbursed by MUFON, although I do see that as a first step towards all Certified MUFON Field Investigators being generously compensated for our work. I love the STAR Team because it shows the world that MUFON is not to be messed with.

The STAR Team is a group of select Certified MUFON Field Investigators set up as sleepers around the country, ready to respond at a moment's notice to extraordinary UFO incidents involving physical evidence. Their only mission is to secure that physical evidence before anyone else can.

Here's how it works: when MUFON HQ learns of a "significant UFO event," it immediately dispatches two STAR Team members to the incident site. This advance team is known as the "Hasty Team." See? What did I say about this outfit deserving to have the word "Team" three times in its name? There is simply no limit to the teamy-ness of this Team.

If, after hastily assessing the situation, the Hasty Team decides that more resources are needed to secure the physical evidence, they will hastily notify MUFON HQ, and the Lethargic Team will be sent in. No, I just made that up; I'm sure everyone involved in this event would be hasty, even if they are not part of the Hasty Team.

What exactly happens after that is anyone's guess. The details are kept rather vague. All I can say for sure is that the STAR Team may show up at the incident scene with a Geiger counter, a Magnetometer, and a Penetrometer. That's right: a Penetrometer. I never heard of it either. Turns out it measures how hard the soil has been compacted under the weight of a UFO's landing pad.

This penetrometer can be had for only $229.99

So it goes without saying that I want to be on the STAR Team Team, and I absolutely have to be on the Hasty Team. And it goes without saying that I want a Penetrometer.

It also goes without saying that the STAR Team Team, by all indications, has never once been mobilized.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Breaking The Law For MUFON -- Addendum

After my last post detailing MUFON's protocol for an investigation of a UFO crash site, I read a little further into the Certified MUFON Field Investigator's Manual and found that there's more to the story...

It turns out that after I've lied to the authorities about the evidence I've hidden from them, I am to contact my State Director, who will then contact the International Director. The State Director and I will then, presumably, await further instructions. So far, so good. I like knowing that everyone in the MUFON chain of command has got my back up to this point.

But then things get a little dicey. The Field Investigator's Manual wraps up the "Crashed UFO" section on an ominous tone, saying, "There may be lethal or dangerous by-products involved with the crashed object and the investigator must use his or her own discretion in dealing with such a remote event." 

Uhhhh... "lethal or dangerous?"

The section closes with this: "Other than the described basic documentation, the local Network should leave further investigation to the military."

So clearly there is some point in the investigation of a crashed UFO when I must stop interfering with the military and leave them alone with my precious crashed saucer. Worse yet, when that point arrives, it almost seems that MUFON will no longer claim me as one of their own. Unfortunately, I have no idea when that point occurs, and the manual gives me no guidance.

For a while I had hoped that the section would conclude with the ultimate solution: that, in order to prevent the military from getting their grubby little paws on the crashed saucer, I, the Certified MUFON Field Investigator, would be instructed to find a way to get inside the saucer, figure out how to fly it, then go all Will Smith with it. That's what the manual should say, anyway. In my opinion.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Breaking The Law For MUFON

I knew that being a Certified MUFON Field Investigator was going to be fun, but I didn't know it was going to be Breaking The Law fun!

I was looking through the MUFON Field Investigator's Manual today and was mysteriously drawn to the "Special Cases" section in the back of the binder. I guess they put it in the back because they want you to get a firm grounding in the basic stuff up front before you move on to "Special Cases," but as I fully intend to make every case special, I decided to skip ahead.

Page 197 turned out to be a veritable cornucopia of specialness, for on this page I found entries for "Animal Mutilations," "Crop Circles," and "Crashed UFO." I have a fondness for each of these topics, but "Crashed UFO" really got me going. Would MUFON really send me, the greenest rookie on the force, out to investigate a UFO crash? Actually no, because the Manual makes the interesting assumption that I have discovered this crash on my own!

Hell yea!  

"In the event that the investigator learns of the existence and location of a crashed UFO, he or she should assure that it is observed and photographed in the presence of witnesses of impeccable character," the Manual states. It further specifies that these impeccable characters should be "competent members of the local scientific community and the news media." I don't know... That may have worked in 1950's alien invasion films, when it always seemed there was a scientist sitting around somewhere nearby, ready to be an impeccable witness (see image below), but I have found that in real life there are seldom any scientists available in my area.

This man can explain anything.
But, assuming I could scrape together an impeccable scientist and representative of the news media, what would I do then? MUFON is very clear on the matter: First, I must not contact any local, state or federal authorities until I have gathered all available physical evidence and documented the entire incident. Second, I must conceal all my documentation and evidence from said authorities. Third, should the military be called in, I must not reveal the existence of said physical evidence and documentation to the military.

"It is assumed that the military would treat the overall matter as National Security information and would seek to impound any and all evidence associated with the crashed object," the Manual states. "Every effort must be taken not to relinquish the evidence to the military if at all possible." I'm sure there's a paragraph later in the section explaining how MUFON will stop at nothing and spare no expense to get my ass out of the military prison I've been thrown into for concealing evidence, but I haven't found it yet.

Oh, what am I griping about? I'd take the risk of military prison to conceal evidence of a UFO crash from the military! How cool would that be? I'd be, like, the most famous person in the world for a few minutes, and I'd probably be named MUFON International Director for life.

Do I expect to discover a crashed UFO? Maybe not right away, but I'm in this for the long haul, and I don't think there's anyone more deserving.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Manual Has Arrived

Hallelujah, the MUFON Field Investigator's Manual has arrived, all 300 pages of it! It's got everything an eager young wannabe UFO field investigator could dream of, right down to the "Animal Mutilation Cases" reporting form!

It's really more of a three-ring binder than an actual book.

I spent some time over the weekend flipping through the Manual, and I have scarcely scratched the surface of its sublime wonders. Of course it seems to be rife with inconsistencies and contradictions, but I've come to expect that, and, in truth, it just adds to the charm. Consider this: on page 31, in the section on Media Policy Guidelines, the up-and-coming UFO Field Investigator is advised not to mention "paranormal or metaphysical" phenomenon when doing media appearances or interviews, because it is "nonproductive." The Manual goes on to say that "...an impression of inextricable ties between UFO research and other esoteric pursuits serves to confuse the audience and erode the UFO researcher's credibility." In other words, I eroded my credibility last week in my radio interview when I fielded a question about the local Wisconsin werewolf, The Beast of Bray Road... Oops.

But if that's the case, why then does the Manual go on, a mere ten pages later, to launch into a UFO sighting categorization scheme that includes this: "AN1 are anomalies with associated entities. This class could include reports of ghosts, yetis, and other instances of cryptozoology as well as elves and spirits."

What the...? I can't talk about a werewolf but I can talk about a yeti?

What if I get called out to investigate a UFO sighting that involves both a werewolf and a yeti? It could happen. I think I saw it in a SyFy Channel Original Movie once.

Basically, I'd be screwed. If I filed an honest and truthful report, my credibility would erode so fast MUFON wouldn't even trust me to run out for coffee and doughnuts. So I would have no choice but to omit any mention of the werewolf and make it all about the yeti, but how could I live with myself then?

I suspect that this may be MUFON's devious little version of the Kobayashi Maru test... Perhaps these MUFON evaluators are more clever than I think... far more clever.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The UFO Siege!

I have discovered why flying saucers are circular. It's because this whole confounded UFO phenomenon just keeps going around and around in circles...

Consider this: last September I spotted a 1977-vintage paperback UFO book called "Situation Red, the UFO Siege" at a rummage sale ('They Will Not Leave Me Alone," 9/26/2010). For 25 cents it seemed like a good buy, and the Cincinnati Enquirer called it "Fascinating!" so what the hell? I bought it. Unfortunately, once I started reading it I decided it was way too old school UFO for me -- too much "Why does the Air Force fear disclosure of the truth?" and all that -- so I put it on the bookshelf, wrote an angry letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer, and then forgot about it.

Until last week, when I was at the Chicago MUFON meeting, and one of the guest presenters mentioned that there was this great old UFO book out there that we should all read, and it was called "Situation Red, the UFO Siege." You could have knocked me over with a coincidence. That beat-up old 25-cent paperback on my bookshelf is worth reading? Who knew?

According to this presenter, "Situation Red" is noteworthy because it delves into some spectacular UFO encounters that didn't get much attention at the time they occurred, but are worth a second look. Just now I flipped it open at random and read an intriguing account of how, in the summer of 1939 in the city of Essen, Germany, time stood still for 10 minutes...

Now, most of us have had the experience where time seems to stand still on a pleasant summer day, sometimes for as much as ten minutes... but most of us have never lived in Germany in 1939, either, and maybe time stands still differently when there's a Nazi secret weapon aimed at your city... It's worth considering.

Yes, yes, I know that's not a UFO occurrence, per se, but it does make you wonder where the Germans got the idea for their freeze ray... and I'm talking "where?" as in "which planet?"

Anyway, things have once again come full circle. It now seems as though I must read this book that I bought last September and then cruelly cast aside. There could be some interesting discoveries in store...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Say It Ain't So, MUFON

I got a rather distressing tweet last night from one of the many #UFO tweeters out there saying that MUFON International Director Clifford Clift is resigning his post, and handing the reins over to a new guy in Ohio. I was little alarmed at first; I've exchanged a few pleasant emails with Mr. Clift and found him to be a very personable guy. It's more than a bit discouraging to realize that I'm going to have start all over again buttering up a new International Director... And, oh yeah, I just shelled out $90 for my MUFON Field Investigator Guide and t-shirt; am I suddenly going to find out that the Guide and t-shirt are no longer recognized by the new leadership?

What's even more discouraging is that, when I did a search today for more news about the changing of the guard, I discovered that MUFON seems to have a history of abrupt, and sometimes contentious, turnovers in leadership. Mass firings! Secret tapings of board meetings! Say it ain't so, MUFON, say it ain't so! You're supposed to be proving that UFOs are real and pressuring the government to disclose everything it knows about Roswell, not bickering amongst yourselves!

Sadly, I also discovered that the news of Mr. Clift's departure is not mentioned anywhere on the MUFON website... Hmmm.

It's enough to make a guy want to go off and found his own UFO research organization. And I can say that because MUFON itself rose out of the ashes of another UFO group that bit the dust back in the 1970s. If it was good enough for them, it's good enough for me.

But what to call my new organization? All the good UFO acronyms have already been taken: MUFON, CUFOS, FUFOR, NUFORC, UFOIL, UFORNA, UFORM, UFOLATS, GUFOA, ACUFOS, UFOSS, BUFOS, NUFON, PRUFO, HUFOS, RUFOR, SUFOR, KPUFO, BUFONET--my God, these people are creative.

As far as I can see, there is only one name left to use: BUFORD. As you may know, Buford is a boy's name that reached the zenith of its popularity sometime around 1910 (according to thinkbabynames.com). It also makes a  handy acronym for the Bureau of UFO Research and D____? I hit a brick wall with 'D.'  I'm sure I'll come up with something, but if you have any ideas feel free to post them.

Man... I just wanted to become a Certified UFO Field Investigator... I never bargained on all this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Damn You, Mothman!

Cripes, just when I thought I could take a day or two off and revel in my newfound public radio minor-celebrityhood, that darned Mothman has to reappear and here I am blogging again... Thanks MM.

I have never seen "Wayne's World." I guess this was in it.

This time the great winged one (that's pronounced "WING-ed") has been spotted in the skies above Chicago. The sighting took place last September 22nd, as an unidentified jokester was taking a photo of this odd American Indian statue on a building in Chicago because it was featured in the film "Wayne's World," and because from this angle it looks like his fly is undone and his, er... peace pipe is exposed.

Believe me, I wish I was making this up.

Anyway, if you take a closer look at the photo, you can see a dark object in the sky to the left of the statue, and it's beginning to take on some kind of form... 

Please ignore the statue's pants.

When that part of the photo is magnified, you see... Mothman! 

You might be tempted to dismiss this as a hoax or an optical illusion, except for the fact that on September 30th, just a few nights after this photo was taken, some University of Illinois at Chicago students reported a terrifying encounter with... Mothman!

Two UIC students spotted a 7 foot-tall winged (WING-ed, remember?) creature perched on a basketball hoop at a local park, and then saw it streak off into the sky with an audible WHOOSH! Moments later, they arrived at their girlfriends' apartment to find them both in hysterics, because both women had seen a pair of burning orange eyes peering at them through the windows...

Still up on that fencepost? Chew on this: some time after the college students had the basketball hoop/eyes in the window encounter, another group of UIC students reported seeing a large, terrifying batlike creature with glowing orange eyes flying 10 or 12 feet overhead. One witness who hailed from Tasmania described the creature as looking like "an immensely oversized sugar glider." I was curious; I had never in all my years heard of a beast called a "sugar glider," so I did an image search and found this:

And this...
And this...

Hey, Tasmanian guy: you are the worst Mothman witness ever.



Well, they ran my segment at the end of the hour, in the traditional Goofy News slot. I guess I am officially  "The Lighter Side."

Am I complaining? No! Mxxxx, the host, did a nice job with the questions, and he ran the interview pretty much uncut, so I'm very happy with the final result. And I am proud to say that I am now an iTune! And an RSS Feed!

If you missed the show, go here, search for "Lake Effect" on the menu, then select either the RSS Feed or the iTune Podcast. It's the Wednesday 1/18 Show, and the segment is entitled "A UFO in Burlington?"

Did I mention that it's the last segment? Oh, who cares. I'm a freaking iTune!

UFOs On The Air -- Part II

Damn, I got the date wrong! My radio show is on today, right now!

UFOS On The Air

A couple news items today:

First, I have ordered my official MUFON Field Investigator Manual (and a nifty MUFON t-shirt), and will soon begin the long, arduous task of preparing for the open-book exam. I was encouraged in this last weekend at the Chicago MUFON meeting by the chapter director himself, who said that the organization is severely overloaded and needs a lot of help, and that I couldn't join the ranks of Field Investigators soon enough. Kind of cool.
Listen to my thoughtful interview on WUWM's "Lake Effect"

Second, my radio interview about the Burlington Vortex Conference airs January 18th at 10 am Central on "Lake Effect" on WUWM 89.7 FM. The show can be heard online here, and will be available as a podcast after the fact. And, if I had to guess, I would say that the show will also be picked up by other listening devices, possibly of unearthly origin, and perhaps beamed back to someone's home world in, say, Alpha Centauri...

Should be interesting to see who -- or what -- comes knocking on my door after tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

MUFON Agenda

Half the fun of the Chicago MUFON meeting the other day was just keeping track of the endless variety of  topics that came up in presentations and conversations. It was all I could do to keep up...
  • Cattle mutilation
  • Pixelated camouflage
  • Cloaking devices
  • Quasi-crystals
  • Hollow-earth theory
  • Agartha, the kingdom inside the hollow earth
  • Admiral Byrd's discovery of Agartha

This is how you get into the hollow earth. Watch that first step...

  • Reptoids!
  • Reverse engineering of alien tech
  • Lucky Point, Indiana
  • Night-vision cameras
  • Great Pyramids of Giza
  • "Aztec" UFO crash
  • World-wide reports of UFO crashes
  • Mysterious cemeteries in Chicago
  • Roswell UFO crash
  • The Battle of Los Angeles
  • Operation High Jump
  • More hollow earth
  • Shape-shifting Reptoids!
  • 9/11--UFO connection
  • Wall Street crash of 1909
  • Creation of the Federal Reserve
  • RFID chips
  • National Enquirer owned by the CIA
  • Disclosure
  • After Disclosure
  • True Identity of the British Royal Family: Shape-shifting Reptoids
That last one was, admittedly, a shocker. It was great fun to trace the evolution of the Reptoids throughout the day, from evil humanoid lizards to shape-shifters to rightful heirs to the British throne. It is somewhat reassuring that the Reptoids are not seriously interested in seizing power over the human race, but man, if I could take on the appearance of anyone on earth, Prince Charles would not be high on my list. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lucky Point, Indiana

Yesterday I attended my first MUFON meeting, and it was good.

It was a meeting of the Chicago MUFON group, scheduled to run from 10 am to 4:30 pm (with a Pizza Party Plus lunch!) at the public library in Orland Park, a southern suburb of Chicago. I didn't arrive until noon and even at that it was an endurance run. Still, the people were friendly and engaging, the Chicago MUFON director was very welcoming and funny, the presenters were interesting, and the pizza was good and greasy; what more could you ask for?

I'll have a whole lot to report about the meeting, but first I have to relate the best creepy story of the day, told by a friendly truck driver from Indiana during the pizza party (plus). The trucker, whom I will refer to as "the trucker," was proudly showing off his new night-vision camera to some of us at the lunch table. He explained that he got the tiny camera from Amazon for $110, and showed us how you could switch from normal mode to infra-red night vision mode at the flip of a switch. Naturally, we all wanted to know what he's been taking pictures of, but when we pressed him he sheepishly said, "Well... I'm scared." "Scared of what?" we all asked.

"I'm scared to use it after that first time."

Well, there was no way in Dulce, New Mexico he was not going to tell the story after that. We all demanded to hear, and after getting his wife's okay, the trucker told the story of the first time he ever used his infra-red camera...

Last April, he was visiting a place called Lucky Point, Indiana, which is, apparently, a well-known site of paranormal activity and UFO encounters. It was daytime, and he had the camera on the night vision setting, to see how it would affect daylight photography. He took his time snapping a whole bunch of photos of the woods, stream and cornfields around the point, then turned the camera off, slipped it into his breast pocket and hiked back to his car.

Lucky Point, Indiana looks pretty peaceful and innocent here. Don't be fooled.

Here's where it gets creepy... When he got back to his car, he suddenly had an unsettling sensation that someone was standing right next to him, even though he was all alone. He phoned his wife, just to hear a familiar voice, and as they were talking, his camera turned itself on and "freaked out."

Freaked out? What does that mean when a camera freaks out??

"It turned itself on," the trucker explained, "and it was deleting the pictures."

The wife verified that she could hear the camera clicking and beeping like crazy over the phone, and the trucker looked at us all with an ashen face and simply nodded in silence. What more could he say?

He has no idea how many photos were deleted, because he really hadn't been keeping track of how many he took in the first place. In a final weird twist, the demon -- I just made the executive decision to call it a demon -- left a few pics on the camera... How the hell do you figure that?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Collateral Contacts

Continuing on with the third content area in the Certified MUFON Field Investigator exam, we get into some meaty matters: Collateral Contacts. It seems that there may be times when I can't completely trust the testimony of a witness, and have to go the extra mile to confirm their testimony.

Collateral Contacts. In a given circumstance, the Trainee must be aware of which public officials and/or others to contact in order to potentially resolve the report as a misperception, determine the person’s reliability as a witness, or identify others who may have witnessed and reported the same event.

I wish I had known this when I interviewed my wife and daughter. I absolutely interviewed them both "in a given circumstance." It would have been nice to know that I had permission to contact a public official to potentially resolve their reports as "misperceptions." But I didn't, so I can't determine their reliability as witnesses.

Honestly, this part of the exam rubs me the wrong way. It's already got me questioning my wife's and my daughter's reliability, and that's not right. If MUFON is trying to say that there will be times when I will be interviewing phonies, why don't they just say so? And why don't they give me the skills to determine whether the witness I'm interviewing is actually one of these phonies? And why would they think that any old public official will be able to help me figure it out? Because, really, my city councilman is kind of a phony himself.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

UFO Shot Down Over Florida!

Maybe this kind of thing happens a lot in Florida. How else can you explain the fact that a UFO was apparently shot down near Pensacola, Florida this past October 23rd and nobody is talking about it?

Today I got a tweet from UFOupdates that alerted me to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by a gentleman who seems to know an awful lot about this incident. He suggests that U.S.A.F. fighters were deployed from air bases in the Pensacola area to intercept a UFO, and that at least one of these interceptors "fired upon the low-flying interloper, causing a fiery explosion over the Gulf of Mexico."

Have you seen this plane?
 I have no idea if any of my readers live near Pensacola, or were visiting that area this past October 23rd, or are fighter pilots, or all three, but if you are, and if you filmed the fiery explosion, I ask you to please send your footage to me first. And, government, if you know anything about this, I demand you disclose it now.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Interviewing Methods

I feel better and better about this Certified MUFON Field Investigator Exam every all the time. I've already tackled the most difficult of the five key content areas, so how hard could the rest be?

Let's find out...

Interviewing Methods. Preparation, controlling the setting, the sequence of obtaining a complete account, recognizing sensory perceptions, analyzing witness body language, active listening, interpreting the oral account, and drawing conclusions are all vitally important.

Um... pretty damn easy, as it turns out. To date, I have interviewed three witnesses to UFO sightings, and I believe my methods have been consistent with MUFON's standards. Here's how:

Preparation: I find that my UFO witnesses are uncomfortable if they know how much I've prepared, so these days I skip the maid service and relish tray.

Controlling the Setting: Blinding spotlights are a must.

Sequence of Obtaining a Complete Account: I always start at the beginning, end at the end and fill the rest in in between.

Recognizing Sensory Perceptions: Sometimes I feel a little scratch in the back of my throat when I'm interviewing a UFO witness, but it usually goes away.

Analyzing Witness Body Language: I figure if they're shaking uncontrollably I'm doing my job.

Active Listening: I always stay active when listening to a UFO witness; I'm an avid hiker and love to bike and play tennis. Sometimes I have to ask the UFO witness to speak up.

Interpreting the Oral Account: Seeing as how MUFON's interview template leaves nothing open to interpretation, I'm not sure where to go here. I guess I'll need to study up on this one.

Drawing Conclusions: UFOs are real, and the government has a lot of explaining to do!

And there you go... On to content area number three.

UFOs On The Air

Today I'll be stopping in at the studios of Milwaukee Public Radio to record an interview for Lake Effect, a talk show about fascinating people, places and things in southeastern Wisconsin. Why they have made an exception for me, I do not know, but I plan to make the best of it.

The topic of the interview will be my recent coverage of the Burlington Vortex Conference for Milwaukee Magazine, which has given me pause to think back on that crazy weekend in October and put a few things in perspective. Was it really as goofy as I remember? Sure it was, but there were nuggets of pure gold amidst all the silliness.

I've gained a new appreciation for Mxxx, the leader of the Haunted Woods Tour and hostess of the Vortex Conference. Sure, I didn't shift into other dimensions when she led me into the belly of the Vortex, but maybe I did and I'm not sensitive enough to tell the difference. It's a cruel joke of nature: I want to experience these things, but I don't have the proper level of sensitivity. Is that fair? Mxxx is clearly more sensitive to the energy of the Vortex than I am, so it makes sense that her Vortex experience is far richer and far more dramatic than mine, and that she wants to share that experience with others. Maybe there really was a satyr in the woods that night, and he just galloped away before anyone could react.

My interview is scheduled to run on the January 18th edition of Lake Effect, at 10 am Central, on WUWM-FM 89.7, and rebroadcast at 11 pm that same night. The show will be available as a podcast after that at www.wuwm.com/lakeeffect.

Listen in, won't you?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Investigative Ethics

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the Certified MUFON Field Investigator exam covers five main categories, and even though it's an open-book exam and the exam is actually in the book, I still think it's important to prepare. Do I meet the five standards? Will I be the best Certified MUFON Field Investigator I can be?

The very first item is perhaps the most difficult, because it is the most important:

Investigative Ethics. Most importantly, the Trainee must understand and adhere to the tenet of anonymity (withholding witness identifiers from persons who are not part of the UFO report investigation or its evaluation within MUFON).

I think I'm already meeting this standard quite nicely. If you've read this blog much, you'll know that I regularly redact the names of people I interview and quote, so as to maintain their anonymity and shield them from ridicule. For instance, I will always refer to my wife Monica as "my wife Mxxxxx," because she really doesn't want to be mentioned here by name and I fully respect that.

Is it ethical to do the ethical thing only because I think it's funny? I think that may actually elevate me to a level of meta-ethicalness that few if any UFO Field Investigators have ever reached, or ever hope to. What makes it even better is that several people have mentioned to me that they quite enjoy seeing their names redacted in my blog, so not only do my investigative ethics serve a higher purpose, they make the people I quote feel good about their redacted selves. I think I am really opening up new vistas in ethicalness, and I hope I will be recognized for my efforts someday.

I don't stop at redacting names, though. In order to fully respect the anonymity of the witnesses I interview, I always make a deliberate effort to mentally pixilate their faces when I interview them. For example, if you and I were both talking to the same person, you would see this:

What you see.

While I would see this:

What I see.

Hence, I would get more out of the person than you would. Which is why I am about to become a Certified MUFON Field Investigator, and you are not. Unless you're keeping something from me.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No UFO Field Investigator Left Behind

Now that I am finally about to begin the process of becoming a Certified MUFON Field Investigator, it seems a good time to review the process. It seems pretty easy: buy the manual, study the manual, take the test. Actually, it's even easier than that, because the test is right in the manual and I take the test on my own and mail it in to MUFON HQ in Greeley, CO. I'm not even sure why I need to go the meeting, come to think of it, except that it will be a good chance to meet some of the people I'll be working with on UFO cases.

From here on out, my life revolves around this book.

According to the MUFON website, to become a Certified MUFON Field Investigator, I will need to demonstrate the following core competencies:

Investigative Ethics. Most importantly, the Trainee must understand and adhere to the tenet of anonymity (withholding witness identifiers from persons who are not part of the UFO report investigation or its evaluation within MUFON).

Interviewing Methods. Preparation, controlling the setting, the sequence of obtaining a complete account, recognizing sensory perceptions, analyzing witness body language, active listening, interpreting the oral account, and drawing conclusions are all vitally important.

Collateral Contacts. In a given circumstance, the Trainee must be aware of which public officials and/or others to contact in order to potentially resolve the report as a misperception, determine the person’s reliability as a witness, or identify others who may have witnessed and reported the same event.

Technical Background. A working knowledge should be conveyed to the Trainee on the subjects of weather anomalies, astronomy, conventional aircraft (especially lighting configurations), space satellites, photographic equipment and methods, and the soil sciences.

Back Ground Check. MUFON will conduct a criminal "Back Ground" check on all applicants prior to issuance of a MUFON Field Investigator designation. If MUFON determines the Back Ground check is not acceptable to MUFON, the Field Investigator designation will not be issued to the applicant.

I think I'll do fine with the first four, but I'm a bit puzzled by the "Back Ground Check." I guess they'll want to inspect my back yard, but I can't imagine why.

Over the coming week I will be delving into each of these categories, to determine my existing level of competence and pinpoint my weaknesses. Soil science, for instance. Who isn't weak in soil sciences? On the other hand, I think I will more than make up for my weakness in soil sciences with my unquestioned mastery of  "Drawing Conclusions."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Happy Anniversary to Me!

My wife Mxxxxx was catching up on the blog last night, and after picking herself up off the floor and wiping her tears away, she said "'Santa Claus Conquers the Martians?' Where do you keep coming up with this stuff?"

It's a fair question, and the answer is pretty easy: I don't. The stuff keeps coming to me. As demanding as it can be to come up with something new to write about every day or two, this blog has never felt difficult at all. I've had a few stretches when I've had to reach for new topics, but for the most part I sit down to write a new post with at least two or three ideas burbling in my head. So I took it as a huge compliment that my wife remarked on how much I keep mixing it up (and in that vein I intend to write a post soon about her spooky experience as a child playing with a OUIJA board with her brother Mxxxxxx).

All of which brought me to the realization that High Strangeness is hitting some big milestones. Last night I posted my 100th post, and a few days ago I hit 4,000 pagehits. And in a few days High Strangeness will be exactly six months old!

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more! The fun is just beginning...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

UFOs In The News -- Part II

Once again, I look back at what I just posted and I see something I hadn't noticed before...

The picture of the newsstand that I just posted was sent to me the other day via Google+ by my son Nxxx, with the funny caption, "Look! Cam Newton!" It was funny because he never even noticed that the January issue of Milwaukee Magazine with my UFO story in it was also on the newsstand! I hope he's figured it out by now.

Anyway, I just took a look at the headlines on the three magazines in the middle of the picture, and this is what I saw:

"Mr. Right Now"
"Face of the Future?"
"Predict the Future"

Wow. Just wow.

UFOs In The News

Just a reminder for those of you in the Milwaukee area: my article about the Burlington Vortex Conference is in the January issue of Milwaukee Magazine, on newsstands now...

That is not me on the cover of Milwaukee Magazine, but it should be.
In other media news, I will be interviewed about the Burlington Vortex Conference on Milwaukee Public Radio's "Lake Effect" on January 18th.

We call this Wall-to-Wall High Strangeness.


This just burns...

A few months back, I submitted my list of Ten Things You Should Do When You See A UFO to Cliff Clift, International Director of MUFON, for publication in his organization's monthly Journal. Mr. Clift told me he enjoyed my list and wanted to publish it in the January issue of the Journal. All he had to do was secure the permission of his Board of Directors and it would be a done deal.

I was thrilled and flattered that Mr. Clift liked my list enough to want to share it with MUFON's membership, especially since I had written it in protest of MUFON's official list of what to do when you see a UFO. I thought their 17 year-old list was a bit on the dry side and needed some updating, and I thought Mr. Clift agreed that my list would make a nice counterpoint.

Today I heard from the new editor of the MUFON Journal that, while he thinks my list is funny, he is going to pass on publishing it, at least for now. He is afraid that people will read my list and take it seriously. By his reasoning, if enough people started to follow my recommendations when they see a UFO, they would forget to do all the really important things that MUFON wants them to do when they see a UFO, and that would be bad.

For instance, if they followed my #1 tip to Enjoy The Experience, they might not bother to consider MUFON's directive to hold an aspirin tablet up at arm's length and compare the size of the UFO to the tablet. Or if they followed my advice to Offer A Bottle Of Orange Soda Pop To An Alien, they might forget MUFON's orders to take evasive action and remain hidden from the alien. So, yes, if MUFON Journal readers took my list seriously, I suppose all sorts of bad things could happen.

In a way, it's tremendously flattering that he thinks people would follow my advice over his own. If you want to know the truth, I think he's terrified. Deep down inside his heart of hearts he must know that every member of his organization is waiting patiently for someone to tell them to do something that differs wildly from the MUFON orthodoxy, and he will stop at nothing to prevent that from happening, because he knows they will do it!

Then after all that, the editor said he doesn't want me to think that MUFON doesn't have a sense of humor, because they do.

I'll just let that hang there.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Searching For Aliens

At a New Year's Eve party this past New Year's Eve, I was talking to my friend Kxxxxxx about the new telescope my wife had gotten me for Christmas, and I discovered that Kxxxxxx's an astronomy buff, too. This seems to happen a lot when I talk about my telescope, so I plan to talk about it every chance I get. Anyway, I mentioned to Kxxxxxx that I take part in SETI@home, a very cool project that uses about 1.2 million personal computers just like mine all around the world to help analyze radio signals from space, and she said she wanted to take part.

SETI happens to stand for "Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence," a long-running project that sends radio messages out into space while also listening for signals from space. The idea is that sooner or later our signals may reach an extraterrestrial intelligence, and/or, we will detect the signs of an extraterrestrial intelligence in the signals we are monitoring. Trouble is, there is so much data to analyze that it would take decades for even the most massive supercomputer to sift through the radio waves we've been receiving. That's where SETI@home comes in. By spreading the data out among those 1.2 million plus home computers, SETI@home creates a virtual megacomputer that can analyze immense amounts of data in relatively little time. As an extra bonus, the program acts as a screensaver while it's analyzing data. It's free, it's fun, and if you're the lucky geek whose computer discovers the next Wow! signal, you could be world famous! I hope it's me and not Kxxxxxx, but if it is Kxxxxxx I will feign sincere happiness for her, and trust that she will mention me in her interviews.

As so often happens in UFO world, no sooner had I decided to blog about this topic this morning than I came across a related news item. Coincidence? I think not. There is a team of scientists at Arizona State University who want to start a similar crowdsourcing project to look for signs of artificial structures on the surface of the moon. Don't you love how even the kookiest idea can sound somewhat reasonable when it comes from University scientists?

"In this paper we take as a case study one particular new and rapidly-expanding database: the photographic mapping of the Moon's surface by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to 0.5 m resolution," the abstract reads. "Although there is only a tiny probability that alien technology would have left traces on the moon in the form of an artifact or surface modification of lunar features, this location has the virtue of being close, and of preserving traces for an immense duration."

Okay, so it's a "tiny probability" that aliens left anything behind on the moon for us to find. When has that ever stopped a UFO researcher? If every one of the 1.2 million people who are running SETI@home on their computers took responsibility for analyzing just one photo of the moon's surface taken by the LRO, I bet we could find something fast.

What might we find? Something like this?

Of course that is the famous "Face on Mars," and I'm not suggesting that we would find an actual face on the moon. In fact, I hope we don't find a face. People have been squabbling over the authenticity of this image for 40 years. If I was an alien and I wanted to leave something behind on the moon, I would not it want it to cause 40 years of fighting. That's terrible!

Anyway, back to the topic. There is a website for the ASU project, but it is, frankly, a disappointment. First of all, you professors, you need to think of a catchier name for the project than "Searching for alien artifacts on the moon." What kind of an acronym is SFAAOTM? Second of all, professors, don't put up a button that reads "Join the Search" if it doesn't actually take you anywhere.

Still, I like the idea of SFAAOTM and I will attempt to "Join the Search" if it ever becomes possible. But I am not going to tell Kxxxxxx about it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Burlington Vortex UFO Revisited

It's been over two months since the spectacular Burlington Vortex UFO sighting, and I was beginning to wonder whether the world had forgotten...

I shouldn't have worried, though. Not only has my video of the event gotten over 463 views since I posted it (that's practically viral in my world!), but I just got a corroborating account from one of the other witnesses that night. Yes, another member of the Haunted Woods Tour has bravely come forward with an account of what we saw that night:

"The experience was very interesting and unique. I've been on the tour once before, and had never experienced that. I recall standing in the woods that night and suddenly there was commotion about a red light moving across the sky. When I finally saw it (trees were blocking my view at first), it moved at a fast pace, then just flickered out, the light kind of like how a candle would just flicker and blow out in a 'scary' movie. While we were all looking at the sky, another red ball appeared, again moving fast across the sky. And again, after a minute or so maybe, it flickered out just the same as the first UFO did. We could definitely rule out that this was not an airplane, helicoptor (sic) or something of the like. It was just a ball of red/reddish orange, but moving fast so as not to be interpreted as perhaps a Mars sighting or even a shooting star. The experience affected me by changing my thinking about the 'classic' UFO look, some with three lights in a triangular pattern. It definitely makes me wonder what happened that night."

This account matches my own in pretty much every detail, although this person seems to remember the orange lights moving faster than I recall. I'll chalk that up to the fact that the orange objects were moving towards us, not laterally across the sky, so it was hard to say just how far they traveled in the short time we saw them. I will be forwarding this account on to the Wisconsin State MUFON Director, and I will continue to report on where this investigation leads.

Speaking of investigations, I started passing out my new "Rogue Investigator" cards when we went out with friends for New Years Eve, so I expect the calls and emails to start flooding in any day now...

Be sure to check back here often in 2012. It should be an interesting time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

UFO Activity Heats Up in 2012

This is it. This is the year I become a Certified UFO Field Investigator. I have been summoned to a meeting of the Chicago MUFON Chapter on January 14, to begin my indoctrination. It costs $15 to sign up, which seems like a pretty fair price for such a life-changing event. I don't really know what to expect, except that there will be a pizza party.

And what a perfect time it is to become a Certified UFO Field Investigator! The new year has ushered in a rash of new UFO sightings, and I want to investigate them all! Seriously, no sooner had the ball fallen in Times Square Saturday night than my phone started to beep with new tweets from @ufo_stalker. Before New Years Day was over, I had received 61 tweets of UFO sighting reports. That's a staggering six times more than the normal daily count, according to MUFON's own stats...

Will 2012 be The Year We Make Contact? Will they have Hawaiian pizza at the MUFON meeting?