High Strangeness: May 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I Must Be Doing Something Right

Usually I don't bother to blog much on a three-day summer holiday weekend. People have much more important and fun things to do on Memorial Day weekend than to read about UFOs. Like watching 72 hours of non-stop war movies on AMC, stuff like that.

But today something notable happened: my blog went over 10,000 page counts! If I had a dollar for every page view my blog has gotten, I would have... let's see... Holy crap, I would have $10,000!

But even though I don't actually get a dollar for every page view, I do get a dollar's worth of pride and satisfaction from every page view, and I thank all you page viewers out there for that gift.

I know there are many other pages you could be viewing, but you chose to view mine, and that means a lot. And, from now on, if you could send me a dollar every time you view one of my pages, it would mean so much more.

If page views were money...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Mole

I am usually very careful about redacting the names of real people I mention here at HighStrangeness, but in this case I must make an exception. I was going through MUFON's Wisconsin membership files this morning and came across a most unusual name...

There is an "Inactive" Wisconsin Field Investigator in the MUFON database with the name "M. Saucerman."

Saucerman? Saucerman??!! How could this go unnoticed? Please, MUFON, tell me you are not this clueless!

This is what we call a mole. A mole is a person from the other side who infiltrates our side and pretends to be on our side while secretly passing our sensitive information back to his or her friends on the other side. And in this case, that could be the other side of the galaxy!

How much of MUFON's secret inner workings has M. Saucerman leaked to the other side? Are any of the Wisconsin Field Investigators safe? What am I getting myself into?

M. Saucerman, mole.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Ballester-Guasp Evaluation

How did I miss this when I studied for the MUFON Field Investigator Examination?

When I am sent out on a case, I am to fill out a Ballester-Guasp Evaluation, or BGE for short. This evaluation scheme was thought up by a couple of MUFONers as a way for UFO sighting reports to "self-asses." In other words, as I fill in the details of the sighting report, numerical values are automatically given to various aspects of the report, and these numerical values are multiplied together to determine the "final certainty index" of the sighting. I don't have to think at all!

The BGE weighs three aspects of the UFO incident:
  1. The volume and quantity of the data recorded
  2. The inherent abnormality or "strangeness" of the event
  3. The credibility of the witness
Okay, all well and good, but assigning numerical values to "strangeness" and "credibility" as a means of assessing "certainty" seems to me like a fool's game. And believe you me, I know a thing or two about fool's games.

Is this UFO sighting credible? Not if it was reported by a farmer.
Let's look at these three criteria and try to understand what they really mean...

Number 1: When MUFON talks about "the volume and quantity of the data recorded," what they are really talking about is where I spoke with the witness and for how long. In MUFON world, if I interview the witness at the site of the incident it is more likely that the incident actually occurred than if I interview the witness over the phone. This is cool, because my actions actually affect the credibility of the story! If I'm too lazy to drive to the witness' house to do the interview face-to-face, the less credible the witness' story is! Also, if the interview takes longer than a half hour, it is more likely that the incident occurred than if the interview takes less than a half hour. Duh, MUFON, I'm just going to talk slower and ask the same questions over and over.

Number 2: Determining the "inherent abnormality or 'strangeness' of the event" is surprisingly simple. All I do is count how many of these seven factors were present and I have a value:
  1. Anomalous appearance
  2. Existence of anomalous movements
  3. Apparition of physical-spatial incongruities
  4. Technological detection
  5. Close encounter
  6. Presence of beings associated with UFOs
  7. Finding of traces or production of effects
The more I check off, the higher the value, and the less likely the phenomenon is to have a "natural explanation." This seems like a slippery slope to me. I have seen some "natural" occurrences that have seemed pretty blasted strange, and I have seen some "unnatural" occurrences that have seemed pretty damned not strange, so I'm not sure where to go with this.

Number 3: This is pretty cut-and-dried. If I interview a farmer or a housewife (both of whom are assumed to have no more than a high school education) who was alone when he or she saw a UFO, the story is not very credible. If I interview a Psychiatrist who was with many other people who are related to him or her when he or she saw a UFO, the story is very, very supremely credible. Never mind the possibility that the Psychiatrist was at the insane asylum at the time of the sighting, and the people he was with were patients (who just happened to be blood relatives); the sighting happened, and that's that.

Who are Ballester and Guasp anyway, and why does MUFON give their evaluation system so much weight in a sighting investigation? All it's going to take is one housewife with a Ph.D. reporting a UFO sighting to blow the whole racket sky-high.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Missing The Boat

I thought it was the perfect photo for an ID badge...

I was wearing my new suit and looking all Agent K when the picture was taken, and it seemed appropriate for a MUFON ID badge, so I sent it to International HQ.

They were not amused:
Dear Mark;

We have received your photo for the Field Investigators ID card. However, it is unusable.

These ID cards are for the purpose of identification. Therefore, photos with sunglasses are not acceptable.

Please submit a photo without the sunglasses. Once received we can issue your card.


First of all, how does "MUFON HQ" sign its own letters? Second of all, they are completely missing the boat. If my ID badge has a picture of me without sunglasses and I show up at an incident site with sunglasses, there will be utter confusion. I don't see how this can possibly work.

I will just have to hope that the witnesses I interview score extremely low on the Ballaster-Guasp Evaluation (BGE). This is something I studied up on for the MUFON Field Investigator Examination, but the significance of it didn't really sink in until I got my first case assignment and was told by my State MUFON Director that I will "need his age, education level and profession for the BGE (Ballaster-Guasp Evaluation) that sets a value for his credibility."

Does that seem a little creepy? It does, doesn't it? I will try to keep an open mind, but I am not altogether comfortable with judging a person's credibility on the basis of his or her education and profession. I would much rather be free to judge their credibility on the basis of the first thing that pops into my head, but rules is rules...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Sxxx Hits The Fxx

Date: Sunday, May 20, 2012
Location: Somewhere in Wisconsin
Mission: Investigate My First UFO Case

You read that right. As of this morning, I have been assigned my first UFO case. Trouble is, I can't write about it here, because of this whole confounded confidentiality thing. Apparently, by accepting the position of Certified UFO Field Investigator I have agreed to keep all my reports secret. Why the hell did I do that?

Oh well, all is not lost, because once the case report is accepted, it will be available on the MUFON database. In the meantime, I will try to figure out ways I can talk about my cases here without violating anyone's anonymity. I think I can do this.

I know it's completely safe to describe what this case doesn't involve. At least, I can try to describe what I think this case doesn't involve, from what little I know so far. So that still seems pretty safe. This case doesn't involve an abduction. This case doesn't involve a UFO landing. This case doesn't involve cattle mutilations. It didn't take place anywhere outside the city of Milwaukee. It did not occur on any other day besides Sunday. It did not involve any more or less than four witnesses, who did not see anything besides a light in the sky that was any other color but orange...

I'm sorry, but I can't say anything more than this. Yet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Stand Accused

I never dreamed I would have to prove that I'm human, but you never know what to expect in the UFO business...

My new email friend Cxxxxx from the foreign country of Rxxxxxx has been keeping me posted on her efforts to become a Certified MUFON Field Investigator, and I got her latest update yesterday. I was sad to learn that she did not pass the exam, getting only a 76 out of the required 80. But, considering how confusing and misleading so many of the exam questions are for someone like me who speaks English as his native tongue, it's easy to imagine that the questions are many times more incomprehensible for someone like Cxxxxx, for whom English is a second language. In that context, shouldn't MUFON cut her some slack?

To its credit, MUFON has sent Cxxxxx a duplicate answer sheet, so that she can try again. But, alas, MUFON policy forbids the exam administrators from telling us which questions we got wrong, so taking the exam again is not an automatic walk in the park. I think Cxxxxx's best strategy is to select the 24 most nonsensical questions -- not an easy task -- and guess something completely different this time.

While I wish Cxxxxx all the best, I am a bit concerned with the closing comment in her letter:

"...how can you prove you are not an alien after that good test score :P"

As I said, I never dreamed I would have to prove that I'm human, but apparently doing too well in the MUFOM Field Investigator Examination makes one suspect in the eyes of one's colleagues. Suddenly I feel a surge of sympathy for President Obama...


Friday, May 11, 2012

A Warm UFO Welcome

Last night I wrote to Vxxxx, the Wisconsin State MUFON Director, to ask if I could get the Username Robot Warlock for access to MUFON's Case Management System (CMS), and she wrote back to say that she would look into it! Score!

Then she wrote a very nice letter introducing me to the Wisconsin Field Investigators, some of whom have already written to welcome me! Well, one of them has. Anyway, very nice. It's a small group, though, so I will have my work cut out for me. When the UFOs start to descend over Wisconsin, as they are bound to do at any time, we will be spread pretty thin.

I assume I will be the last one called once the shit hits the fan, being the rookie and all, but that's ok. They may underestimate me at first and give me the "safe" rookie jobs, jobs I can't possibly screw up, like changing the batteries in the Geiger counter, or crowd control, but sooner or later there will be a crisis, and when the rest of the team is incapacitated and it looks like all is lost, I'll finally get my chance. Then they'll see the real me.

More importantly, the UFO occupants will see the real me... and they will know that the human race is almost ready for contact.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Getting My MUFON Shit Together

MUFON sure has a funny way of making a body feel welcome.

Three days ago I received word that I had passed the MUFON Certified UFO Field Investigator Examination with a score of 90. But then I read that I still needed more training before I could begin investigating UFO sightings and crashes and abductions. Then I read that they had sent me an instruction manual for the MUFON Case Management System (CMS). I opened the document only to find that I can't start my CMS training until I receive my special Certified UFO Field Investigator Username and Password. Then I read that my State MUFON Director would be contacting me with my Certified UFO Field Investigator Username and Password for accessing the CMS. But here's the thing: it's been three days and I haven't heard boo from my State Director.

Is she hesitating because she can't think of a cool enough Username for me? My daughter Cxxxx and I discussed it this morning and decided that Robot Warlock would be the coolest Username ever. So I'm going to write to my State Director and suggest that she name me Robot Warlock and get on with it, already.

Also, I have to send a 3" x 2" head shot of myself to MUFON International HQ for my photo ID badge, but that's tricky too. What photo do I send? What emotions do I want to stir within the heart of a UFO witness when I flash my ID badge at him or her? Reassurance? Suspicion? Trust? Confusion? Fear?

I'm going with Reassurance:

Estimate Of The Situation

Some call it the "Holy Grail of Ufology." Some call it a hoax. I call it the Estimate of the Situation, because that's what it's really called and I don't see why these other people keep calling it something else.

The EOTS is the very first official document produced by "Project Sign," the U.S. Air Force's very first official attempt to study and define the UFO problem. The document was written in 1949, shortly after a UFO sighting known as the "Chiles-Whitted UFO Encounter" made national headlines and terrified the nation. In this encounter, two airline pilots -- one of them was named Chiles-Whitted, but I'm not sure what the other guy's name was -- sighted a torpedo-shaped object that nearly collided with their commercial plane. What made it even scarier was that their plane was in the air at the time.

The Chiles-Whitted UFO Encounter (artist's depiction)  (my guess is that the artist wasn't actually there at the time)
The Project Sign staff investigated this incident thoroughly and found the report credible. Both Chiles-Whitted and the other pilot were experienced flyers and knew exactly what kinds of things were supposed to fly past their plane and what kind of things weren't. This, combined with their investigations of several other significant recent sightings, led the Project Sign investigators to conclude that UFOs were indeed real physical objects, that they displayed intelligent design and behavior, and that they most likely had an extraterrestrial origin. Those amazing conclusions formed the basis of the Estimate of the Situation.

You can probably guess what happened when the report came out, but if you can't I'll tell you. As the story goes, the EOTS was sent upstairs to the curmudgeon in charge of the Air Force, who freaked out, quickly squashed the report and told everyone in the Air Force to clam up about it or else.

Apparently that worked. Today, there doesn't seem to be a single copy of the Estimate in existence, and very few people alive can vouch for the truthfulness of the story or that the EOTS ever existed. And that's just how the Air Force likes it.

Whether it ever actually existed or not, and I think it did, the Air Force's investigative efforts quickly took a turn for the worse after Project Sign was disbanded and reconstituted as "Project Grudge" -- which has got to be one of the best names for a committee ever. Once Grudge went into business, UFO reports were uniformly dismissed and ridiculed, and UFO witnesses were routinely portrayed as kooks and crazies.

Here's how Dr. J. Allen Hynek described the sad demise of the Estimate of the Situation in his book "The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry":

"Once the Pentagon had set firm UFO policy and had rejected the historic 'Estimate of the Situation' (which one faction in Project Sign had sent through channels clear to the top), in which it was concluded that flying saucer reports did give evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, the air force entered upon a long period of unfortunate, amateurish public relations... (T)he Pentagon had declared that the problem really didn't exist."

And yet, Hynek points out, they continued to study this problem that really didn't exist for another 20 years...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Congratulations to ME!

"Dear  Mark;"

So begins the most exciting letter I have ever received...

"Congratulations on becoming a Mufon International Field Investigator by scoring 90 on the Exam. We welcome you and thank you for joining our investigations team."

Damn, I did it! I'm IN!

Oh, wait... There's more to the letter:

"Your application package is nearly complete. This is your first step in becoming a Mufon International Field Investigator.  There will be additional training in ethics, investigation platforms, Mufon’s Case Management System (CMS), and other subjects to complete your very basic training in the field investigation. Learning will continue to be a necessary component of your relationship with Mufon as long as you maintain your association with us."

Damn. So it's not that easy. I still have work to do. Oh well, I will approach it with a happy heart, knowing as I do that the additional training in ethics, investigation platforms, Mufon's Case Management System (CMS), and other subjects will make me a better UFOlogist and will make me that much more valuable to the organization.

Hang in there, MUFON, I'm coming!

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Tale of Two Offices

Dayton, Ohio must have been a very weird place to be in the late 1940s, especially if you worked for the U.S. Air Force and were stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I say this because over the past few days I have been reading two very different accounts of UFO research activities at Wright-Patterson, and the contrasts are beyond bizarre...

Why would UFO research be done at all at a base in Dayton, Ohio, you might ask. It seems strange, but Wright-Patterson has always been associated with advanced aircraft testing, and so every time the Air Force gets its hands on a crashed UFO they bundle it up and ship it off to Dayton, where it will officially baffle and confuse our best and brightest aeronautical engineers. Which means that anyone hoping to find a salvaged UFO at Area 51 is going to be disappointed. They're all in Ohio! Ditto on the alien corpses.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where the U.S. government probably maybe keeps its UFOs and aliens.
You would think that that would make Wright-Patterson a pretty cool place to be between 1948 and 1952, and you would be right. But, it was only cool for certain people working in certain offices.

Take the experience of June Crain, in whom who I have now taken a special interest. This woman worked as a secretary/office manager for several offices at Wright-Patterson between 1942 and 1952. For the last few years of her employment, she worked for Air Materiel Command, and had earned a SECRET Q security clearance, which could mean that she was cleared to know about anything starting with the letter Q, or could mean something different entirely. The point is, once a person goes beyond Super Triple Top Secret, as June Crain did, the security nomenclature starts to make very little sense at all.

Be that as it may, everyone at Wright-Patt with a SECRET Q security clearance knew everybody else at Wright-Patt with a SECRET Q security clearance, and since they couldn't talk about their work with anyone without a SECRET Q security clearance they all spent a lot of time talking with each other about SECRET Q-y-type things going on at the base. As it happened, a lot of those SECRET Q-y-type things had to do with crashed UFOs and alien corpses being delivered to the Air Material Commend offices, where Ms. Crain would have to sign for the deliveries and make sure all the corpses were accounted for. Actually, that's not true, but because of her security clearance, the people who really did handle UFO wreckage and alien corpses spoke freely in front of her and even to her about the strange things in the basement... and her testimony, given many years later to UFO researcher James Clarkson, rings true.

Which makes it all the more ironic that at the exact same time, at the exact same Air Force Base, the dedicated staff of Project Sign (which begat Project Grudge, which in turn begat Project Blue Book) were working night and day to convince the American public that there were no such things as flying saucers and aliens from space.

The chapters in J. Allen Hynek's book "The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry" in which he describes his role in the Air Force's official UFO research group paint a picture of an understaffed, unmotivated, directionless team of low-ranking officers and functionaries who couldn't be bothered to do even the most rudimentary investigative work, and always came the same predetermined dismissal of every UFO sighting case that they looked at.

Did the two offices know of each others' existence? In one office, you have SECRET Q June Crain hearing about nighttime deliveries of alien corpses and being given glimpses of strange alien metal, and in another office, perhaps right down the hall, you've got low-ranking Air Force officers with YOU ARE NOT CLEARED FOR SHIT security clearance blithely telling the American public that every UFO report they read about in the papers was just some yokel who either misidentified the planet Venus or should be in a straitjacket at the local asylum, or both.

Somehow, it is all too easy to believe that the two offices had no clue the other existed...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A UFO? It Can't Be

Now that I've completed the MUFON Field Investigator's Examination, it's time to turn my attention to other important matters, like researching a proposed book documenting the career of UFO investigator Dr. J. Allen Hynek. Last night I resumed reading his seminal book "The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry" and immediately came across this gem, in which Dr. Hynek describes the U.S. Air Force's attitude towards UFO sighting reports:

"It can't be, therefore it isn't!"

Mind you, this was the USAF's attitude towards UFO sighting reports during the time it was supposed to be conducting an open-minded, scientific study of UFO sighting reports. Basically, if you reported a UFO sighting to the Air Force between the years 1952 and 1970, you were considered a screwball. You probably still would be if the Air Force still accepted UFO reports, which they do not, at least officially.

All told, the staff of Project Blue Book, the Air Force's official inquiry into the UFO phenomenon, collected 12,618 reports of UFO sightings and encounters. The vast majority of those sightings were dismissed as misidentifications of natural phenomenon or conventional aircraft, which is an insult to screwballs everywhere.

Behold the U.S. Air Force's "Project Blue Book" team, pictured here with their desk, their telephone, their blotter, their pen, and their two astronomical charts. What, no stapler?
The remaining 701 sighting reports were classified as "unidentified," which was the Air Force's way of saying "We couldn't get Hynek to say it was Venus." But just because the Air Force couldn't explain what the hell was going on in those 701 cases, that didn't stop them from dismissing them anyway.

The Air Force's official conclusions at the termination of Project Blue Book were as follows:
  1. No UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security;
  2. There was no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as "unidentified" represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge; and
  3. There was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as "unidentified" were extraterrestrial vehicles.
  4. Which is all a load of horse puckey. 
 Okay, maybe you could tell I added #4 myself, but it's true.