High Strangeness: October 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

UFO Swag

I am on the horns of a dilemma. As a MUFON Certified Field Investigator, State Section Director and Chief Inspector, I need to put my best foot forward when I go out on a case. It's not enough to act like I know what I'm doing--I need to look like I know what I'm doing.

MUFON understands this, and so they've just added a valuable new item of Certified Field Investigator Swag to the MUFON Store: Business Cards!

That's right: from now on, every time I go out on an investigation, I can hand out official MUFON business cards to the witnesses I interview, revealing all my personal contact information to them! I suppose there are times that could be useful, but in my year and a half of investigating UFO sightings I have only actually met a handful of the people I interact with. About 75% of my investigations involve a 45-minute phone call, and that's about it. No need for business cards there.
Nothing says "I think you saw an alien spaceship" like a galactic business card.
But in those 25% of cases where I meet the witness, I'm not sure that I want to pass out a business card that reinforces so many stereotypes:

Outer space imagery? Check!

Star Trek font? Check!

Silly title? Check!

Anyway... longtime readers may remember that a few years back my kids had some UFO business cards printed up for me. I have been using the hell out of these cards in all sorts of situations since I got them, so much so that they have become an integral part of my UFO investigator persona...
Seriously, how would you rather introduce yourself?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Something Is Seen

When you write about UFOs, it's good to consider all the angles and remain open-minded. At least that's what open-minded people tell me. That's why I'm enjoying the latest addition to my burgeoning UFO library: "Flying Saucers--A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies," by the noted psychologist Carl Jung.

You know Jung; he's the psychologist in that movie who spanked Kiera Knightly. He was never quite as famous as his friend and mentor Sigmund Freud, but then Freud never got to spank Kiera Knightly. Anyway, this guy has got the kookiest take on UFOs ever: "Something is seen, but one doesn't know what."

At first glance it seems like a pretty meaningless statement, like saying, "I believe in UFOs." But on second glance it's exactly what you would expect a psychologist to say about something like UFOs, agreeing to nothing but dismissing nothing. "This formulation leaves the question of 'seeing' open," he later wrote. "Something material could be seen, or something psychic could be seen. Both are realities, but of different kinds." Everybody's happy!
You won't find the answer to the UFOs in that book, Dr. Jung!
Actually, when Jung first uttered this comment he got in a bit of trouble because people incapable of the kind of insightful analysis I've just posted above took his comment to mean that he believed that UFOs were physically real. He did not, in fact, believe that.

"I expressly state that I cannot commit myself on the question to the physical reality or unreality of the UFOs because I do not possess sufficient evidence either for or against," Jung stated in his defense. "I therefore concern myself solely with the psychological aspect of the phenomenon, about which a great deal of information is available."

So what did Dr. Jung really think about the nature of UFOs? I am halfway through the book and I confess I am still struggling to keep up with his analysis of the problem. Nonetheless, I will share a choice quote from the book that made me smile, just because it is so vastly, delightfully different from anything else I will ever read about UFOs...
"Considering the essential weirdness of the UFO phenomenon, we cannot expect the familiar, rationalistic principles of explanation to be on any way adequate. A psychoanalytic approach to the problem could do nothing more than turn the whole idea of UFOs into a sexual fantasy, at most arriving at the conclusion that a repressed uterus was coming down from the sky."
Take that, Freud!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

UFO Youth Outreach

Back again after an intense week of working on my Hynek book... writing about the first time the good Doctor actually went out in the field to investigate a UFO incident, and it's a pretty cool story.

But in the midst of my busy week I got a call from Vxxxx, my MUFON State Director, who said, "Mark, I have a proposition for you." She explained that a news crew from CNN was going to come out to her and her husband's isolated desert bunker house in the middle of nowheresville, Arizona, to get some video of her husband training fresh-faced new MUFON Field Investigators. The catch was that Jxx, the new MUFON President, who set up the shoot, wanted the fresh-faced recruits to be "young." Meaning just out of diapers.

Naturally, Vxxxx thought of me first.

What could I say? I was flattered, of course, but I burst out laughing and said, "But Vxxxx... I'm not young" (I'm not sure which was more difficult: admitting I'm not young or pronouncing "Vxxxx"). She hesitated for a moment, then said, "Well, how old are you?" "Fifty-three," came the reply.

Vxxxx gasped. "What? You're fifty-three? I thought you were thirty!"

Then came my turn to gasp. "Thirty! I thought you were going to guess that I was twenty!"

Which one is the real UFO Investigator? Which one is me??
Okay, that last part didn't really happen. I was happy with thirty and I told her so. But she wasn't in the mood. She was sorely disappointed that I couldn't be part of the TV shoot. "Here I was all set to pay your way to fly out here to Arizona to be in the segment! Now I have to keep looking..."

Sharp readers will notice a couple problems with this scenario. One: Why does the Wisconsin State Director live in a bunker in the Arizona desert? I'm still trying to figure that one out. Two: Why does a 53 year-old seem like a youngster in the ranks of MUFON? I don't know, but you can be damn sure I'm going to use it to my advantage from here on out. Three: Young people watch CNN?

It's going to take me a while to figure that one out, but while I'm thinking about it, there's this to chew on:

In her delirium, Vxxxx told me about some of the workings that had gone into setting up this gig with CNN, most notably that Jxx, the MUFON National Director, insisted on young, 20- to 30-something trainees, so that MUFON would look cool and youthful. "I told Jxx that wouldn't exactly be accurate," Vxxx told me, "But he just said, 'Oh, come on, do you think anything you see in reality TV is real?'"

So there you have it. MUFON is founded on lies, and Jxx and Vxxxx expected me to be a part of their web of deceit, depicting MUFONers as being all cool, hip, handsome, funny, well-dressed, articulate, charming, brilliant and sexy when in fact, aside from me, there is no one in MUFON like that at all.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Third-String Aliens

It's taken a while, but I'm finally getting a taste of what it means to be the MUFON Chief Investigator for the state of Wisconsin. One of our investigators filed a report on this recent UFO sighting:
I was going back into the house after taking my dog for a potty break. I have been studying the stars with the help of my I PAD. Looking up one last time the stars were blinking out and coming back on. At first I thought tree branches were getting in the way,but realized there were no branches there. I could see no object . I carry a 2 million candle spot light and shone it at the black out stars area. Wow was I surprised to see a triangle shaped craft dull gray. The front was thinner and curved to a wider back. It moved very slowly from west to east. I kept the light on the craft for approximately 3 minutes. Then it started a smooth slow turn to the southeast. It stayed away from the city light glow and stayed in the darker areas. I was losing sight of the object and weny into the house to get binoculars. I went out on the top deck and searched but could no longer see it. The object made no sound.at any time. I live 10 to 20 miles from two airports. I saw one small airplane before and two small airplanes after I saw the object. I had horrible nightmares that night!
Behold, the Space Dumpster
Our Field Investigator, Lxx, did a great job interviewing the witness and checking up on the story, not to mention securing the truly awesome illustration above. His report caught the attention of MUFON's National Director of Research, who asked me, the Chief Investigator, to gather some more information--not many UFO witnesses have 2-million candlepower spotlights at their fingertips, so there was great interest in what the illumination actually revealed about the size, makeup and distance of the strange object... There were so many follow-up questions that I decided a whole new interview was in order, so yesterday I had a long talk with the witness. At first it was pretty straightforward--man sees flying dumpster in sky, shines spotlight on it and it flies away into the night--but towards the end the witness really threw me for a loop... and I'm still shaking from it.

Here's the report I wrote up last night...
When he first noticed the object it was over the tree line to the west of his back yard. The trees are about 70' and he now thinks the object was about 100' above them when he saw it (when he talked to Lxx he thought it was more like 1,000' above the trees). At first he just saw a dark shape obscuring the stars and moving slowly in his direction. It was heading roughly towards the nearby airport, and since he was a pilot his first thought was that it was a plane in trouble trying to make it to the municipal airport about 3-4 miles to the east. 1000 feet up made sense to him at first, because that would be a logical elevation for a small plane approaching the airport. But it was moving too slowly, not making any sound and didn't seem to have any wings. As it moved west to east it appeared to "bob up and down." He turned his Brinkmann Q-Beam spotlight on the object as it flew directly overhead and the 2-million candlepower beam illuminated the entire bottom surface of the object. It had a dull, matte surface, and looked almost like a "rusty dumpster." It had a pointed front, and a flat rear edge with a grille, and was the same size as 2 1/2 inches on a ruler held at arm's length. When the spotlight hit it, the object stopped its bobbing motion and turned to the SE and flew away. He feels very strongly that the object reacted to his spotlight.

After we talked about the object he told me about a dream he had that night. He dreamt that he woke up in bed and saw "two little fellows" in his bedroom. It's a 2nd story bedroom and the door was open, so he thinks they came in from the hall. The first fellow was just coming out from behind his dresser but stopped in his tracks when he saw the witness was awake and looking at him. He said "the fellow was as surprised as I was." The second creature remained behind the first. At first he thought they were alien greys, but they were brownish. "I got the third-stringers," he joked. They were about 36" tall, had round heads, round eyes, long hands and fingers. He didn't see any hair, clothes, noses or mouths, but he definitely felt that the first creature expressed surprise that he was awake and looking at him. At no time did the witness feel any fear or panic. After maybe 3 seconds he couldn't keep his eyes open and fell back asleep, but now he doesn't know whether he was dreaming or was actually awake.

He's confused by the "dream" for a couple reasons. He suffers from fibromyalgia and doesn't sleep well because of the pain. Once he's up, he's up, so if he was really awake to see the two fellows, it's very strange that he would have fallen right back to sleep.  Also, because of his sleep problems, he almost never dreams, so the fact that he had this experience at all seems unusual to him. His dog was in the room and slept through the experience. Also, his wife sleeps in a separate bedroom across the hall with the door closed--because of his sleep problems--and she didn't see or hear anything that night.

I asked him why he didn't mention the dream in the talk with Lxx, and he said he thought he had mentioned it, but didn't go into any particulars because he thought MUFON was "only interested in the facts." So, why did he talk about it today? I got the impression that after his talk with Lxx he had spent some more time in his yard looking up in the sky and trying to recreate the event, and the more he thought about it the more details seemed important to him.
That's what I said in my report. The truth is, I'd like to think he opened up to me about the dream because the "little fellows" chose me. But why?

And here's another puzzler: why would he think that MUFON is only interested in the facts??

Friday, October 4, 2013

The W Files

Bigfoot? YES! UFOs? YES! Lake Monsters? YES!

All of these strange things have been sighted in my home state of Wisconsin, and I know that because of a fun, wonderful book called "The W-Files," by my old friend Jxx. I was recently gifted with a copy of the book by the author, and even though I am officially only interested in UFOs, I also secretly enjoy reading about bigfoot and lake monsters and all sorts of bizarre paranormal phenomena that sometimes manifest here in the Dairy State.

Available now at fine bookstores.

What I like best about the book, though, is that it starts right out in Chapter One telling the story of Wisconsin's zaniest Close Encounter of the Third Kind: the 1961 Joe Simonton "Pancake" incident. In contrast to the account of the terrifying Kelly-Hopkinsville incident that I blogged about yesterday, Mr. Simonton's Close Encounter wasn't alarming in the slightest. On the contrary... as recounted in my friend's book, it was altogether cute, silly and charming...
"At 11 a.m., April 18, Simonton was having a late breakfast when he heard a sound like that of a jet being throttled back, something like the sound of 'knobby tires on wet pavement.'  He went into the yard and saw a flying saucer drop out of the sky and hover over his farm. It was silver and 'brighter than chrome...'"
It also had exhaust pipes, but that's not the weirdest part of Simonton's tale. The object landed, a door opened, and three "dark skinned aliens" emerged.
"They appeared to be about 25 to 30 years old and were dressed in dark blue or black knit uniforms with turtleneck tops, and helmetlike caps. They were clean-shaven, Simonton said, and 'Italian-looking.'"
The beings carried a futuristic, unearthly thermos, which Simonton filled with water; he knew they wanted water somehow, even though they never spoke. When Simonton returned the thermos he caught a glimpse inside the spaceship and saw one of the aliens cooking over a futuristic, unearthly stovetop. The alien was making pancakes.
"In return for the water, one of the aliens--the only one with narrow red trim on his trousers--presented Simonton with three of the pancakes, hot from the griddle. As he did so, the alien touched his own forehead, apparently a salute in thanks to Simonton for his help."
The pancakes were 3 inches and diameter, and "perforated with small holes." They also tasted like cardboard, according to Simonton.

The U.S. Air Force's scientific UFO consultant, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, always searching for hard evidence that UFOs were a real phenomenon, arranged for one of the flapjacks to be analyzed, and the lab "...found it to be made of flour, sugar and grease; it was rumored, however, that the wheat in the pancakes was of an unknown type."

Ultimately, the Air Force's Project Blue Book listed the Simonton encounter as "unexplained," and there it ended. Or so the world thought. But, by my calculation, there is still an alien pancake out there somewhere... We know that Simonton ate one, and a second was dissected in the lab; that leaves one alien pancake at large, and I think you know what I'm thinking: One more reason to storm the gates at Area 51.

Thank you, Jxx, for the autographed copy of "The W-Files," and for sending me off on another wild goose chase!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Little Green Men!

Where did the concept of "Little Green Men" come from? Most UFO occupant stories involve entities that are not little, not green, and -- let's be honest -- not men, so how did the term arise?

I am just starting to research a 1955 UFO case for my J. Allen Hynek biography that may provide the answer. Not only was the famous Kelly-Hopkinsville incident Dr. Hynek's first attempt at actually investigating a UFO sighting (albeit by proxy), it was perhaps the first human-Little Green Men encounter in history...

It all began on a night in March, 1955, near the small Kentucky towns of Kelly and Hopkinsville, when the "Lucky" Sutton family were hosting a visit with the family of Billy Ray Taylor at their rural farmhouse. Billy Ray and his family were the only guests invited that night, so it came as a surprise when a flying saucer landed nearby and a phalanx of a dozen or so diminutive jade males emerged from the saucer and approached the farmhouse.
Imagine seeing 12 of these things marching up your front sidewalk... Shotgun time!
Were they just dropping in for a chat? Did they bring beer? Sadly, no one knows, because when the first of the undersized viridescent geezers showed its face at the screen door, Mr. Sutton blasted it with his shotgun.

Strangely, that didn't seem to phase the green beasties at all. In fact, the more Lucky and Billy Ray shot at the creatures, the more they tried to get in the house. The more they tried to get in the house, the more terrified the humans became... For the next four hours the Sutton and Taylor families were held captive by the creatures, which not only seemed impervious to bullets and shot, but had an unusual ability to float around in the air.

Finally, scared completely shitless, the families ran out to their cars and raced to the police station in Hopkinsville. The police were convinced enough by the story they heard to drive out the farmhouse to investigate. They were spooked enough to call in backup from the Kentucky State Police. And the County Sheriff. And the County Sheriff from the next County over. And more State Police. Twenty-five cops in all descended on the Sutton farmhouse, scoured the house and property for evidence of the attack, and found nothing but a hole in the screen door where Lucky Sutton shot the first alien...

Despite the lack of evidence, the officers found the two families' testimony convincing and came up with no reason to disbelieve the story...

And thus the Little Green Men became a beloved fixture of UFO lore.

The Creature

Last weekend I learned that the Patio Theater in Chicago was screening a restored 3-D print of the 1954 monster movie "Creature From The Black Lagoon." This sparked all sorts of nostalgic thoughts, not only of being terrified of the Creature as a kid, but also of being at a private 3-D screening of "Creature" a few years ago with another fantastic cinema icon, Mark Hamill. Long story how that all came about, but the screening turned into a sublime sort of "Mystery Science Theater" live event, with Hamill ad-libbing a hilarious new script and soundtrack as the movie rolled...

I didn't think anything could top that, but it turned out that the Patio was bringing in the star of "Creature," the beautiful Julie Adams, for a Q&A and book signing after the screening! I had to go, and my saintly wife agreed.

You see, it wasn't just the Creature that made this movie rock; it was also Julie Adams (aka Julia Adams), playing scientist Kay Lawrence, who spends much of the movie inadvisedly swimming alone in the titular Lagoon in a tight white one-piece:
Sure, she's smiling now...
How's a Creature supposed to keep his cool with that swimming around in its lagoon?
No lifeguard on duty... In this shot Ms. Adams is doubled by the equally-beautiful Ms. Ginger Stanley
Fair to say that the potent combination of Julie Adams+white swimsuit+Creature gave the movie some lasting resonance for me. Sure, she's starred in a lot of cool movies and TV shows over her long career, including the Elvis movie "Tickle Me," an episode of "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," and even the recent TV series "Lost," but "Creature" put her on the map and kept her there for 60 years.

Well, Ms. Adams turned out to be just as beautiful and charming as I anticipated, and after the Q&A my wife managed to get us to the head of the line for the book signing. When we got to meet Ms. Adams, she was sweet and funny and graciously posed for a picture with us. She also revealed a deep-dark Hollywood secret: The Creature and Elvis were equally difficult to get along with!
She still looks good in white! Me, Julie Adams, and my wife pose for the paparazzi.
Later on, as I happily paged through my new autographed copy of Adams' book, "The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections From The Black Lagoon," I came across a photo of the actress that completely bowled me over...

My God, what could it mean??