High Strangeness: December 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012

Holmes & Watson and the Case of the Purple Gobbler

I've taken a few weeks off from blogging due to a combination of travel, the holidays and family matters, but I'm back and ready to start the new year off with a bang!

I had the opportunity to visit my old friend and fellow UFO witness Jxxx just before the holidays, and found that he's been thinking of becoming a Certified UFO Field Investigator himself! He even went so far as to propose that he and I could be the Holmes & Watson of the UFO detection field, an idea I like quite a bit.

The funny thing is, it doesn't really matter to me which of us would be Holmes and which would be Watson. We would just be Holmes & Watson and that would be that. And we'd have this whole UFO mess cleared up faster than you could say "Professor Moriarty." Jxxx has already identified our Moriarty, by the way: Jxxx Sxxxx, our old nemesis on our High School student council. I admit, that's going pretty far back, but not everybody can be a Moriarty.

Hot on the heels of that stunning development came another. Yesterday my wife and I drove to our favorite local truck stop for our last Sunday breakfast of 2012, and on the way we passed an old, abandoned restaurant that has been closed up for years, and a stupendous, fantastic, insane idea exploded in my head...

The restaurant is called The Gobbler, and it has been a landmark in the area since it was built in the late 1960s, because of its unique atom-age ambiance...
The Gobbler was the swinging place to dine in 1967.
Even today it retains its essential pizzazz.
Think of it as an intergalactic cruise ship that only the coolest aliens can get into...
Together with a companion hotel that shared the same name (but was razed years ago by some damn fool), Hartwig's Gobbler, as it was known then, was a welcome wayside for travelers along the newfangled Interstate Highway between Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. Back then, it was a 70-mile trek between the two cities, and folks needed a posh, otherworldly place to forget the cares of the road, fill up their empty bellies, get stuck to purple vinyl upholstery and perhaps rest up overnight for the final 35-mile leg of their journey the next day. Of course, today in our modern motorcars we make the trip from Milwaukee and Madison in a day or less, so there's no more need for a space oasis at the halfway point.

Or is there?

The Gobbler has been up for sale for years, and is, as they say in the realty game, "Dividable."
"Dividable." I don't like the way that sounds, do you?
We've been driving past this place for years, but what jumped out at me yesterday was that the price has been reduced. It had been listed at well over $1 million, but the price has now dropped to a very doable $998K. So as we drove past yesterday, I said to my wife: "Hey, what if we bought the Gobbler and turned it into an International Center for UFO Studies?"

She said, "That's a great idea, honey. You need to find a backer."  Then, after a pause, "You'd need at least $10 million dollars" (she's good at this stuff).

So, with the new year comes a new mission: buy the Gobbler, and turn it into a 21st-Century 221B Baker Street, from which the Holmes & Watson of Ufology finally solve the riddle of the UFOs...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nocturnal Missions

Crazy stuff is going on... I have not yet submitted my official case report of the possible alien abduction occurrence I was assigned to investigate, but my MUFON State Director has already forwarded my preliminary report to the famous Kathy Marden, Director of MUFON's Abductions Research Team, and Kathy's preliminary response is a doozy...

Here's what I had to say in my email:

"I just interviewed the witness, and it's a pretty interesting case. The object that he saw doesn't seem to have been all that spectacular, but the physical effect aspect is amazing. You know how he had reported the sighting happening on Nov. 21? Well, he checked with HR at work to confirm the date he had called in sick, and it turned out it really happened on October 31st. He was three weeks off!

"His description of how he suddenly felt so fatigued and shaky is very interesting as well. It came over him so quickly that he wasn't able to think about what was happening at all. He just felt he had to get to bed NOW, so he did. That was maybe 7 pm. Next morning he couldn't even get out of bed until 11."

So, as I say, this email gets forwarded to Kathy Marden, and that's a big deal. Kathy is famous for being the niece of the most famous UFO abductees of all time, Betty and Barney Hill, and hats off to her for having the foresight and presence of mind to be their niece. I have heard her talk before, and she brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to this most unusual of UFO topics. As such, I expected her reaction to this case to be reasoned, calm and rational.

Did my witness actually see this entity on a nocturnal visitation?
I don't know why I expected that, because she is, after all, part of MUFON, and so her actual response was pretty loopy:

Hi everyone,
Thanks for making me aware of this report. The distant light in the sky might be nothing more than a coincidence, but we'll know more about the answer to this question with the passage of time. If the witness begins to awaken with memories of nocturnal visitation by non-human entities, who take her to an alien environment, it might be an indicator that it was more than coincidence.
Best wishes,
MUFON Director of the Abduction Research Team. 

Gee... all my MUFON training tells me not to jump to unwarranted conclusions or project my own biases or expectations on a witness' testimony. Why doesn't the Director of the MUFON Alien Abductions Team have to follow the same rules? I mean, I kind of get where she's coming from: she expects my witness' experience to mirror that of her aunt and uncle. But as it stands there is absolutely no reason to believe that that will happen. As much as I would love to have a case involving nocturnal visitations by non-human entities taking the witness to an alien environment, I kind of think it's up to the witness to initiate that conversation.

So now I have to wonder what happens next. If Kathy gets interested in this case and decides to interview the witness, how can I be sure she won't try to influence his testimony, or even implant false memories? She just can't go there, but going by her letter she already has.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Creepy Things

This is amazing. Also creepy. Mostly creepy. I was just about to head out for a week of travel when I got this urgent MUFON email from Vxxxx, my State Director:

Dear Mark:
I just assigned this case to you. There is a possibility that this woman may have been abducted or otherwise affected. Please question her in this regard, using non-leading questions.  If you feel that it would be helpful to have Star Team back up, let me know. We will probably want to forward your findings to Kathy Marden, head of the abduction research team, for review. Thanks!

Wow, that's quite an intro. What was she so hopped up about?

Turns out, someone (a he, not a she, as Vxxxx had assumed) in central Wisconsin had reported seeing a brightly-colored star-like object hovering in the sky a couple weeks ago. Nothing so special about that, but he also reported that after the object disappeared he grew fatigued and started to shake. He went to bed and called in sick from work the next day, so... naturally, Vxxxx is thinking: physical effects>missing time>abduction!

Well, I wasn't going to write back to Vxxxx and say "Sorry, I'd love to take on this case, but I'm just about to leave for a week," was I? They'd assign the case to someone else and I'd lose out on all the fame and fortune. So I put off my packing for a few hours and called the witness tonight to begin my investigation...
Will Wisconsin soon have a UFO abductee as famous as Betty (left earthling) and Barney Hill, seen here portrayed by Estelle Parsons (left earthling) and James Earl Jones in the TV movie "The UFO Incident"? Will he get a TV movie made about his abduction? Will I get to write it?
The conversation wasn't very gripping to begin with. The guy had seen something in the night sky that seemed to be a star or planet, except that it was flashing and pulsing with multi-colored light. He was clearly fascinated and confused by the object, and had a very strong feeling that it didn't belong in the sky, and yet he went inside to watch the news on TV. He can't remember why. He kept checking the object in the sky during commercials and it never moved or changed appearance. Then he called his girlfriend and told her about the object in the sky. Then he checked it again and it was gone.

And that's where the story gets weird... Shortly after the object disappeared he grew completely fatigued and started to shake. It hit him so hard that he couldn't even think about what he was doing; he just knew he had to get to bed NOW. He went to bed and crashed, and the next day he couldn't get out of bed until 11 am, nearly 14 hours later. He called in sick and felt awful all day, then twenty-four hours later he felt fine again.

Here's creepy thing  #1 about what he told me: He said the whole thing feels like a dream that's slowly fading from his memory, and yet his girlfriend remembers him calling to tell her about the strange object in the sky. Here's creepy thing #2: He reported that the sighting took place on November 21, but when he contacted the HR department at work today to confirm the date he had called in sick, they told him it was actually October 31. He was off by three weeks!

Holy shit.

Within minutes of emailing Vxxxx to give her the highlights, she had alerted the aforementioned Star Team and head of MUFON's abduction research team.

This is flipping huge...

But I'm still leaving.

Monday, December 10, 2012

High Weirdness

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been doing interviews for my book about J. Allen Hynek, and learning some surprising things in the process. A few days ago, I interviewed Mark Rodeghier, who started as a volunteer to Dr. Hynek back in 1974 and now is the President of Hynek's Center for UFO Research, or CUFOS, and, even though I've talked with him a dozen times, he had a few surprises for me.

When it comes to UFOs, Mark knows just about everything, and what he doesn't know he can find out, because he's got every UFO expert in the word on speed-dial. And I like him because he recruited me to write this book in first place, and he recruited me because he read a few of my blog posts here on High Strangeness. And if that doesn't prove that anything is possible in this crazy, mixed-up world, I don't know what does.

One of the most famous UFO pictures ever, taken in McMinnville, OR in 1960. Weird, or not weird? I say weird and a half.
Anyway, during the interview, Mark and I had a long talk about his experiences with one of the greatest UFO researchers of all time. I asked him which UFO incidents were his favorites, and he gave quite a list of sightings that were of personal significance to him. But along the way he talked about how these incidents have changed their nature over the years and how that has changed the way they've been investigated over the years... And at one point he said, "After all, what is a UFO incident? It just means, 'Something weird happened here.'"

I had to laugh! Here's one of the world's foremost experts on the UFO phenomenon -- if anyone had the right to take himself and the entire phenomenon entirely too seriously, it would be him -- and he boils the whole thing down to, "Something weird happened here." I love it!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Singing Like a Canary

I haven't been blogging much this week because I've been focusing on my J. Allen Hynek book. It's been a pretty fantastic week, actually, because I've been able to interview some people who play key roles in the UFO story, and I'm learning how to be a dirty, underhanded interviewer. This is great!

I'll talk about the second interview in a later blog, but first up was the layer fella from Mississippi, whom I have already immortalized in this blog. Lawyer Joe had been smack-dab in the middle of the media frenzy surrounding the famous Close Encounter of the Third Kind alien abduction that took place in Pascagoula, MS, in 1973. The first time I spoke with Joe, about a month ago, he was fresh out of the hospital and did not feel up to doing an interview. He asked me to call him back in a few weeks, and I was happy to oblige.

I gave it a few weeks and called him up the other night. As soon as I said my name he remembered me, and boy, was he ready for me.

"You know, Mark, I've been thinking about this interview, and I just don't think it's something I want to do," he said, to my dismay. "It was forty years ago and I really wasn't involved very much, and so there's nothing new I can tell you."

Of course, ace interviewer that I am, I was sort of expecting this from Joe. So I knew not to let him off the hook. First, I reminded him of something he had told me during our first talk that had never, in my knowledge, ever appeared in any account of the Pascagoula abduction: namely, that he had not been hired to represent Charlie and Calvin, the two men who were abducted, as is commonly reported, but rather was hired by their employer to scare away reporters. I told him that he did, in fact, have something new to tell me about the incident that people would want to know. Well, that got him all fired up, as expected.

For the next half hour, Mr. "I have nothing to add" added and added and added, until the batteries in my recorder started to run out of juice. He told me about the lie detector test he arranged, and how Charlie passed with flying colors. He told me about getting the local Air Force base -- which was officially out of the UFO business -- to test the two UFO abductees for radiation. He told me about accompanying Charlie to New York to appear on The Dick Cavett Show, and how Charlie barely said a word to him or to anyone until he was on camera in front of two million television viewers. It was fantastic. He's the experienced trial lawyer, and here I am getting him to sing like a canary. Amazing.
UFO abductees Charlie Hickson (left) and Calvin Parker. I am one handshake away from these two gents!
And Joe's a great guy. He never earned a penny from his involvement with Charlie and Calvin, but he remained a steadfast supporter and protector of the two men for weeks and months after the incident. "I never thought they were crazy," he told me, "but I think that a lot of people thought I was crazy for not thinking they were crazy."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cindy Lou Who, What, When, Where and Why

Something interesting is going on with this blog...

High Strangeness has now gone past 10,000 page views in a little over 17 months, and day after day, week after week, month after month, the most popular post is this one, written a little less than a year ago, about my friend Jxxx's childhood UFO sighting. It's a great story, so I'm not surprised that it gets so many reads, but I wonder if people read it because of the UFO angle or the Cindy Lou Who angle...

So, you 639 people who have read "Cindy Lou Who -- Part II," what is it that draws you in? Is it that cute little Dr. Seuss face, as rendered by the pen of "Grinch" animator Chuck Jones?

Cute, yes... but cuter than a UFO?
I have several reasons for wanting to solve this mystery. Obviously, it could point me to the ultimate solution to the UFO enigma, and that would be great for me. But it could also reveal a deep connection between Dr. Suess, Mr. Jones and our racial psyche. What is it about Cindy Lou Who that is so appealing? If I keep pilfering pictures of characters from "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," will my readership skyrocket?

Let's find out...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Too Many Goals

I'm freaking out here. I'm finally catching up on the heaps of email from my superiors at MUFON and what I'm finding is a mess wrapped in a mess covered with a mess.

I only have the energy and patience to deal with one letter per post, so bear with me. The first letter came from Sxxxx, the new MUFON National Director of Investigations (DOI), and it made my head spin. Sxxxx is a real hands-on guy. He starts right out telling us that if we ever have a question, "large or small," we should come to him, and if we ever have a problem, "large or small," we should come to him. Basically, we should come to Sxxxx with anything of any size.

"I always say that MUFON has no problems…….only solutions." Sxxxx goes on. "It has been said that 'United we stand, Divided we fall.' Never have so few words meant so much." I don't know. "I hate you" is only three words and I think it means at least as much, maybe more. I'll have to bring this up with Sxxxx when I meet him. Except that I might not meet him, because he also says, "I have met only a few of you and really seriously doubt I will meet everyone but that is what the internet is all about."

Okay, so we probably won't ever meet. Seems like an awfully shaky start to an introduction letter, but I'll give the guy another chance...

"As you know, with new faces come new ideas," he continues. "I do have certain goals in mind and I am asking the State Directors to join me in my quest. "

Now we're talking. I love quests! I've always said this organization needs more quests and shorter meetings. So, what are your certain goals, Sxxxx?

Here's where the mess really starts. First, Sxxxx lists seven (7) goals. Then he lists another seven (7) goals that may be expanded versions of the first seven or may be seven completely different goals; it's hard to tell. Then, he breaks the second Goal #1 into three (3) more goals. So now I count seventeen (17) goals and I'm afraid to keep reading the letter. 

Especially since the typical goal reads like this:

"Goal #2……a new supplemental report form has been added for each report old or new.  It requires the investigators to fill in the required information in a basic short form.  I suggest that you begin with the basic questions pasted in a word Doc…cut and paste from the CMS onto the Word Doc…once finished, capture the entire document, resize the fonts to be the same, save the document…then cut and paste or save the short form onto the CMS.

"I have had this form brought to my attention on the first day as the DOI.  I am told that it is a waste of time and should only be used for Cat 3’s.  My answer to this is, this short form is being placed into the CMS programing and will soon be a searchable document.  We have a Scientific Review Group that is reviewing sighting reports for any scientific value.  This group is made up of MUFON members and not a third party.  This new short form has the priority data and can be read at a faster pace thereby cutting time.  So the faster everyone gets onboard the better.  Anyone needing to be trained on the use of the CMS please contact me by email."

Lord help me. I have no idea what the man is talking about, but he seems to be saying that the more time we devote to cutting and pasting and resizing fonts, the faster we'll solve the UFO mystery. Once again, ET is laughing all the way back to Alpha Centauri.

If aliens exist, do they laugh at us behind our backs like this little fellow?
Is there any hope for Sxxxx? I'm really not sure. Here's how he closes his letter:
"I am a straight shooter….I go by the rules…I don’t like under the table goings on…rumors…back stabbing…I will tell you exactly what is on my mind and I expect nothing less from each of you. Much like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas......so it is with me....I over analyze everything while reading between the lines and I'm all about being a "Nuts & Bolts" Investigator. So let's all get organized. It goes without saying...you guys and gals are the life force and doing all the work and I won't ever forget that."

I like how Sxxxx compares himself to Vegas. I guess that means everything that happens in Sxxxx stays in Sxxxx, but that seems really uncomfortable. Also, I didn't think we were supposed to call UFO witnesses "Nuts." Or "Bolts."



Saturday, December 1, 2012

UFO Counselor -- Part II

In my last post I wrote about the young girl whose UFO sighting I investigated last month, and who had written me this week about a subsequent sighting. Sxxxxxx had two problems, only one of which I could help her with.

First problem: her parents and step-parents are razzing her about her growing preoccupation with UFOs. I couldn't really help her with that.

Second problem: her growing fear that the UFOs and watching her and following her. I tried to help her by suggesting that she is actually watching and following them, and that instead of feeling scared she should feel lucky that she gets to keep seeing these strange objects in the sky.

It seems to have been fairly good advice, because here's what I heard back from her:

"What you are saying totally makes sense to me. Now that I know alot more about them..I'm becoming less 'afraid' and more amazed! It really is exciting to see something unknown up in the sky! I guess Im going to have to start taking my camera along when we go out to places now just incase I see something again! Thanks for responding to me Mark! I appreciate it!"

They don't train you for stuff like this when you become a Certified UFO Field Investigator. You either got it, or you don't got it, and I got it. 

How did I come across this wisdom and awareness? Partly because I'm just naturally that way, but partly because of the words of my mentor, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, when asked in 1973 about the two fishermen in Mississippi who claimed to be captured by creatures (see photo left) and taken aboard a strange vessel. "There is no question in my mind that these men have had a very terrifying experience," Hynek told reporters after interviewing the two abductees. "Under no circumstances should they be ridiculed. Let's protect these men."