High Strangeness: January 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Area 51 1/2 Revealed

A while back I wrote about the old abandoned strategic bomber base not far from where I live that has long been rumored to be a secret Air Force test site, along the lines of Area 51 in Nevada. Even though there are no structures left on the surface and the whole place has been converted into a campground and recreation area, it still retains an aura of mystery, that I am happy to help perpetuate. And it's called "Bong."

So it came as a surprise and disappointment to get this comment from J. Jxxxx:

"There wasn't a lot to do growing up in Brighton Township. One hobby in my youth was studying, mapping and exploring the remnants of the former air base. I can say categorically that there's nothing covert going on at that property. Just some bored DNR wardens and wayward campers. All of the above ground structures form the air force base have long since been razed. Underground, it's just a bunch of storm sewers and heating plant tunnels eroding over time. They're creepy (off-limits to civilians and dangerous), but not nefarious. I had been asked to investigate a UFO sighting over the area back in the early 2000s. Near dusk, a strange light was seen bobbing over the park seemingly without sound and not moving like a conventional aircraft would. Turns out it was an ultralight aircraft. Some aviation enthusiast used the airstrip the DNR built atop the former main runway going out for a joyride near nightfall. Occam's razor, baby."

Occam's razor? Are you kidding me? If I went around all Occam's razor all the time, there'd be no point to being a UFO investigator! Then what would I do? Furthermore, if William of Ockham, he of the razor, had ever seen a UFO himself, he would have thrown his razor in the trash and sworn off philosophizing for good.

William of Ockham, part-time monk, full-time party-pooper.
Anyway, I wish Mr. J. Jxxxx would explain how, if the storm sewers and heating plant tunnels underneath Bong are "off-limits to civilians and dangerous," he knows they've been "eroding over time?" Either he's a military person with security clearance to access eroding Air Force tunnels or he's a trespasser, and I'd like to know which.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

UFO Memories

I got a couple of comments on the blog today that made my day!

The first comment was a gem...

A few months back I wrote about the first interview I had done for my book about the career of Dr. J. Allen Hynek. I interviewed a gentleman named Bill Powell, who had worked with Dr. Hynek at Northwestern University for many years, and had shared many UFO adventures with Hynek along the way. Well, I made it pretty obvious in my post that I had enjoyed the interview immensely, and that a lot of Bill's stories would make it into my book.

So I was delighted to find this comment pop on my phone today:

I just happened to stumble on your article (long story), and enjoyed it immensely! You see, Bill Powers is my dad! And he does have a lot of cool stories about those good old days at Northwestern. I remember as a kid, running around the observatories (Dearborn, and the Lindheimer Astrophysical Center, since torn down). I spent many a night staring at the stars, Dad's arm over my shoulder pointing out this one and that... Thank you for such a wonderful article! 
Barb Powers 

I was having a pretty good day already, but this letter put it over the top. And now I need to interview her, too!

Dr. Hynek, pondering what a wonderful time I will have writing a book about him someday.
I will write about comment #2 tomorrow. You didn't think I was going to waste an opportunity to get the maximum mileage out of this, did you?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Screw You, Project Stork!

"Dear Mr. Gxxx:
"This letter concerns a preliminary recommendation to ATIC on future methods of handling the problem of unidentified aerial objects. This recommendation is based on our experience to date in analyzing several thousands of reports on this subject."

So begins a memorandum that could prove once and for all that the U.S. Government has been covering up what it knows about UFOs for a very, very long time. Or not.

The memorandum was sent to a Mr. Gxxx from a Mr. Cxxxx, and is noteworthy in that it was making a recommendation to the Air Technical Intelligence Center, or ATIC, an office of the U.S. Air Force that was housed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. This is noteworthy because ATIC oversaw the activities of Project Blue Book, the Air Force's official study of the UFO phenomenon and long-time employer of Dr. J. Allen Hynek.

That's what makes the memorandum noteworthy. What makes it a potential mountain of political dynamite is that it was dated January 9th, 1953.

Why is that a big deal? Project Blue Book was begun in 1952. It superseded Project Grudge, which was started in 1948. Project Grudge superseded Project Sign, which was begun in 1947, in direct response to the first wave of modern UFO sightings to sweep across the United States in the summer of that year. By the time the Air Force pulled the plug on Blue Book in December, 1969, the Air Force had investigated 12,618 reported UFO sightings. And yet, according to this memorandum, a completely different, unknown government group had already investigated "several thousands of reports on this subject" by the beginning of 1953!

I don't know why, but I expected it to be a different color.

The name of the super-secret UFO study group? Project Stork.

What was Project Stork (CIA)? Which cases were Project Stork (CIA) investigating? Why did Project Stork (CIA) come out of hiding to issue this memorandum to ATIC? The last question is easy. In 1952 there was a huge flap of UFO sightings over Washington, D.C., our nation's capital. People were scared shitless, the Air Force had no answers, and pressure was mounting for the government to come clean with the American people about what the hell was zipping around willy-nilly in our skies. The Washington flap of '52 forced the Air Force's hand and precipitated the highly-publicized Robertson Panel, a commission of brainy scientists that got together to look into this UFO business once and for all. The people on Project Stork (CIA) were caught unprepared and attempted with this memorandum to get ATIC to slow-walk the Robertson Panel's report until they could complete their own study.

It occurs to me that "CIA" is spelled almost exactly like "CYA."

But I digress. The Robertson Panel was a whitewash. It issued a report that assured Americans that UFOs did not represent a threat to our nation's security. It got the Air Force off the hook, and everyone was able to sleep at night again. Project Stork went back underground and was, apparently, never heard from again.

But if this memorandum is true, and it must be because it is published in Dr. Jacques Vallee's spectacular book "Forbidden Science -- Journals 1957-1969," then the government was conducting a secret study of the UFO phenomenon simultaneous to the very public Project Blue Book. And if that's the case, you have to wonder why...

In any case, the folks on Project Stork were thinking big. According to the memorandum, their research was stymied by a lack of physical evidence (as a crack Certified UFO Field Investigator, I feel their pain), and they aimed to fix that. Their research showed that certain parts of the country could be classified as UFO hot-spots. They reasoned that they could set these regions up as "experimental areas," and equip each of them with "observation posts with complete visual skywatch, with radar and photographic coverage, plus all other instruments necessary or helpful in obtaining positive and reliable data on everything in the air over the area." 

The memorandum goes on to say that, "Coverage should be so complete that any object in the air could be tracked, and information as to its altitude, velocity, size, shape, color, time of day, etc., could be recorded."

Hmm... I think I see the problem. Project Stork wanted to mobilize a massive technological project in wide areas of the country to spot and track aerial objects that the Robertson Panel had just assured the American public didn't pose any security threat to the country. Awkward.

I can't decide if this memorandum is the bombshell Dr. Vallee seems to think it is. But there is one line in the document that is somewhat chilling...

Once these observation areas were fully equipped and functional, the memorandum states, "Many different types of aerial activity should be secretly and purposefully scheduled within the area."

W... T... F? Project Stork was suggesting that the government send up its own secret aircraft in the observation areas! Would this be before or after the CIA slipped a truckload of LSD into the local water supply? Damn. Screw you, Project Stork!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Soda Pop Factor -- Part II

I have just submitted my final report on MUFON Case #XXXXX, and it's a weird one. Not only does it have a potential "missing time" element, it has a genuine "soda pop factor." If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may have seen my previous posts on the soda pop factor, beginning with this one.

A soda pop factor is a detail in a UFO report that doesn't seem to belong. It doesn't seem to belong because it's a reference to fairly mundane observation embedded in the high strangeness of a UFO sighting... Like a visiting alien telling his human contactee that he's thirsty, and the human contactee offering the alien a bottle of orange soda pop.

Right from the start my case was weird. When she assigned it to me, my State Director started right out telling me that it had a potential alien abduction angle and that she had already alerted the MUFON STAR TEAM, just in case. Then, when I shared my preliminary notes with my State Director, she passed them on to MUFON's National Alien Abductions team leader, and she made the shocking, and completely bizarre, suggestion that the witness may start to recover memories of nocturnal visitations by non-human entities...

I can now say unequivocally that he has not started to recover memories of nocturnal visitations on non-human entities, and I have stated that fact in my report. He has, however, added some interesting twists to his account of the sighting.

The witness, who I'll call Cxxxx, noticed a bright, stationary light in the sky at dusk. Sounds pretty normal, but it struck him as funny, because it looked like a very bright star or planet, but there was nothing else in the darkening sky. He checked it against Google Star Maps, but Google confirmed his suspicion that there shouldn't have been anything in the sky... anything normal, that is.

He went into his house to watch TV, and kept going outside during commercials. Every time he looked, it was there, hanging motionless in the night sky. He called his girlfriend to tell her about the strange thing in the sky, and she confirmed this for me. Then he stepped outside to look once last time and the light in the sky was gone. He went back to watching TV and suddenly felt fatigued and nauseous and started to shake. He dragged himself to bed and passed out. He woke up at 11 am the next morning, still feeling terrible, so he called in sick to work and slept all day...

Then things got weird. He reported the sighting to MUFON and said it took place on November 21st. But when he checked later with his HR department at work, they said he had actually called in sick on October 31st. The guy was off by three weeks.

There's more oddness. His girlfriend confirmed for me that he had called her about the light in the sky, and she confirms that she was in New York City at the time, hepling her sister deal with Hurricane Sandy. But she distinctly remembered him calling her urgently three times that night, and he only remembers calling her once.

That's interesting, but what's more interesting to me is that Cxxxx remembers a friend calling that night to remind him that "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" was on TV that night. Apparently his friends all know he's a Peanuts freak, so the call from the friend was not unusual. So at the same time he was monitoring this UFO, Cxxxx was watching the Charlie Brown special. And when the UFO disappeared hew went back to watching the show, and that was when he started to feel fatigued. And suudenly the show wasn't making any sense to him. Despite the fact that he's seen the show dozens of times and knows it inside and out, he couldn't understand what the characters were saying. And he wasn't talking about Charlie Brown's teacher...

When you think about it, Linus watching the sky for the Great Pumpkin is not all that different than Cxxxx watching the sky for his UFO. Weird.
That to me is the soda pop factor... It really struck me that he mentioned "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" as part of his UFO report. So odd, so random... and yet I found it very compelling because it was so odd and so random.

And, guess what? According to ABC-TV's website, they did indeed air "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" at 7 pm Central time on November 31st...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Labor Intensive

Yesterday I had the rare privilege of pillaging yet another J. Allen Hynek archive in search of material for my Hynek biography. This time I was granted access to the case files of Hynek's UFO research organization, CUFOS, which are housed in yet another Chicago basement. Surely the man deserves a better legacy than to have his life's work secreted away in a multitude of subterranean file cabinets, but that's a matter for another blog post.

The basement I was in yesterday belongs to Mxxx, a CUFOS stalwart who takes the UFO business very seriously. As always, I can't say enough about how nice, thoughtful, supportive and generous the CUFOS folks are. Mxxx was amazing; every time I had a question or hit a hitch in research, she was there to help me along. Like the other CUFOS folks, she can tell a damn good story, and her knowledge of UFO lore puts me to shame.

I was able to find amazing information on the Pascagoula incident, the Coyne case, and the Father Gill case, much of it written in Dr. Hynek's trademark 3"x5" spiral bound notebooks, and I'm all charged up again to finish up my first sample chapter of the Hynek book.

As I was finishing up my work, Mxxx asked me if I knew any photography experts who could help her with photo analysis. I wanted to know more, so she showed me what she was working on: a massive 300-page research paper on the authenticity (or lack thereof) of some of the most famous UFO photos in history: The 1965 Rex Helfin phots...

Feast your eyes on these:

Heflin #1

Heflin #2

Heflin #3
Heflin #4
I had seen the first three photos before. They've been reproduced in dozens of UFO books and magazines over the years, so they're pretty hard to avoid. That last photo, though, officially known as "the smoke ring," is just weird. I have no idea where that came from or how it's supposed to fit into the story.

But that's not important. What's important is that Mxxx has spent the last two and half years of her life analyzing these 48 year-old photos every which way you can imagine, trying to prove that they are not authentic. These are old photos, folks. The guy who took them has died. The camera he used to take them with has died. I don't think that patch of sky still exists.

So what does it matter, at this point, whether the photos are authentic? Well, it matters to Mxxx, and, apparently, to a whole bunch of other people. Because, it turns out that these photos have been analyzed over and over and over again, and 48 years later people are still arguing about whether they're authentic or not. It all has to do with the altitude of the cloud cover that day, the speed and direction of the wind, the location and angle of the shadows, the fact that Rex Heflin was known to be a high-spirited fellow (read: jokester), and a whole lot of other, less-intriguing factors...

And Mxxx is trying to figure this all out without access to the original negatives. Which is why she's looking for a photographic analyst. Which is why I felt bed about not knowing any photographic analysts who could help her. Which is why it was time to leave.

But I left with a profound sense of wonder and respect for people like Mxxx, to whom solving this kind of puzzle is so important they are willing to devote their lives and their sanity to the cause, even if they can't possibly prove anything, due to the fact that they don't have access to the original negatives... It makes my poor head spin.

Because, really, I'm kind of like Mxxx...


Friday, January 11, 2013

The Tragic Hero of UFOlogy

My wife Mxxxxx got me a wonderful Christmas gift this year: "How to Do Biography: A Primer" by Nigel Hamilton. Mxxxxx wants me to write the best darned biography possible of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, so it's not just a Christmas gift: it's a vote of confidence, and I love her for it.

I had never heard of this Hamilton fellow before, but it turns out he's quite the big wheel in biography circles, and he has written quite a nice little book! I am about halfway through, and I've been finding it to be both educational and inspirational. I might just go into the biography business full-time after this! Let me know if you want me to write about you!

Actually, no, I don't want to write about you. At least not now. I need to keep my focus on Dr. Hynek, and use the lessons I'm learning from my new book to portray his life and work in the most engaging and honest way I can. Turns out that means I might have to face some ugly truths about the man. So, in some ways I hate the damnable book! I don't want to do what it says, but... I... must... but....

Damn book. Merry flipping Christmas.

This internal struggle came to a head today when Mxxx, the Director of Dr. Hynek's UFO research organization, CUFOS, and the man who first recruited me to write the Hynek book, referred me to a UFO blog that mentions Dr. Hynek.

First of all, shame on anybody who reads a UFO blog that's not this one. Second of all, wow, this other UFO blog is pretty harsh in its assessment of my good Doctor. I mean, hats off to Mxxx for wanting me to  absorb both the good and the bad about his mentor, but, man, I have to work this out... The blog is by Michael Swords, UFO historian and co-auther of the recently-published "UFOs and Government." Professor Swords knows his stuff, and I have to say right here and now that he has already given me some fascinating insights into Dr. Hynek's work in a personal email exchange. So, I knew he had some mixed feelings about Hynek, and I respected that.

But his blog posts are making me realize that I really do have to fully explore both the good and the bad and the really bad and the really, really bad about Dr. Hynek, wherever that may lead. In Dr. Sword's blog posts, he states pretty strongly that Hynek's timidity was a monumental liability both to him personally and to the field of UFOlogy in general. It's impossible to dismiss the point, and I will have to explore that side of Hynek fully if I am to live up to my wife's expectations and to that infernal book.

But man, look at the things Swords says about my Dr. Hynek:

"Victories in (his) quest were small and of course insufficient."

"(Hynek) also didn't really write much of significance at all."

"Hynek was an idealist hiding in a mouse's body, too scared of the bosses for too long, too ignorant and too trusting of what was going on, and subconsciously realizing that he was screwing this mystery up."

"(Hynek) actually would show up at their place almost in disguise --- another testament to his timidity."

"Poor old Allen."

"Allen, no wonder Mac wanted to punch you!"

"Ah, Allen. A good man. A good-not-great scientist. A paradoxical timid but avid explorer of the Unknown. We were lucky to have you, 'warts and all'."

Ouch! Hard to take, but it's part of the story I have to tell...

As much as it pains me to do this, here is the link to Professor Sword's blog, The Big Study. Just promise you'll come back here when you're done, ok?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Strange Patterns

I have been woefully lax in my blogging lately, for a number of reasons, and I hate to say it but this week is not looking too promising, either. I love this blog like a brother, and I hate having to neglect it, but I assure you it's all been for good reasons.

This week's reason for my neglect is an especially good one. I am flying to Golden, Colorado this week for a job interview at the National Renewable Energy Lab, and I have a lot of prep work to do before leaving three days from now. That will leave me precious little time to write about my UFO work, but while I have a free moment tonight I'll give you a quick progress report.

Behold my new crib... The National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, CO.
The creepy UFO sighting investigation that I started a few weeks ago is still ongoing, and getting potentially creeper by the moment. I mean to say that the sighting is creepy, not my investigation. Anyway, I hope to interview the witness' girlfriend sometime this week, and then schedule a follow-up interview with the witness himself after I get back from Colorado. He wrote to me the other day and said, "I also may have some new info for you that may be of import. Bxxxxxx and I had some time to talk a bit and there are a few more things that I recall." Could this be the re-emergence of memories of nocturnal visitations by non-human entities that I've been tipped off about? We shall see...

I got a cryptic email the other day from Vxxxx, my State MUFON Director, telling me that she had received an interesting request about me from the staff member of a pretty famous UFO investigator and author... "Xxx said that Dxx would like your telephone no," Vxxxx said in her email. "Didn't say what it was about.  Do you want me to give it to him?  Dxx is a super guy and, as you most likely know, one of the world's foremost experts on Roswell.  Then if you can and have the desire to tell me what it's about, my curiosity is up."
So is mine, Vxxxx, so is mine.

So, in summation, I will attempt to get back on a more regular blogging schedule once my busy stuff comes to an end. At least I think I will... You see, I noticed something very curious when I checked my blog stats just now. It seems that all this time I haven't been blogging, my daily page views have gone up! 

How is this possible? The less I write, the more popular my blog becomes...? If I stop writing altogether, will my blog go viral? If I keep writing, will my readership take a nosedive? Why does everything in UFO world have to be so confounded opposite??