High Strangeness: November 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chewed Out!

Well, I've taken some heat for my recent blog in which I griped about the boring UFO cases that have been coming my way in past weeks, and I want to respond to that in two parts:

Part 1: I write this blog to entertain myself and, I hope, a few others along the way. As such, much of what I write here I write in jest. Because there's just so much stuff in the UFO world that's so darned funny. In fact, when I started this project, my aim was to write the world's first UFO blog that didn't take itself the slightest bit seriously, and in that I think I have succeeded. That's not to say I don't take the UFO phenomenon seriously, because I do, and if you read the blog a few times you'll see that. On the other hand, if you want to read a UFO blog that takes itself really really seriously, and is written by a UFO investigator who takes him- or herself really really really seriously, you have some options. A few thousand, in fact.

Part 2: Lighten up. I have a right to get bored with my UFO cases if they amount to the same danged silly lights in the sky over and over again, and if investigating the incidents doesn't produce any more information than the witnesses originally described. Both of those things can make Jack a very dull boy. And I have a right to gripe about the boring aspects of this job from time to time.
Yes, writing this blog can be like this.

On the other side of things, some very fun things have been happening lately...

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Geraldine Sutton Stith, the daughter of "Lucky" Sutton, the man who personally unloaded a few boxes of ammo into the "Little Green Men" of the Kelly-Hopkinsville UFO Invasion, and she was a pleasure to talk to. Geraldine wasn't born in 1955, when the event occurred, but she had good stories to tell about her Dad and how the event changed his life. I feel very fortunate to have this material, and a lot of it will be used in my Hynek book.

Also, today I noticed that Robert Hewitt Wolfe, one of the nice guys I used to work with when I wrote for "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" was doing an "ask me anything" on twitter (@writergeekrhw), and I was happy to see that a few people out there are still fans of the show. "DS9" was kind of the red-headed stepchild of "Star Trek," and was perpetually in the shadow of "The Next Generation," but IMHO it had stronger, more interesting characters, and a better overall narrative arc than "TNG." But that's just my O.

I also had a meeting recently with a film producer who is reading a few sample chapters of my Hynek book, and if he likes my stuff he wants to go out and try to get it set up as a moving picture somewhere out there in Los An-gell-eeze. And the best part is, he's an old friend, so if he doesn't like the book, he'll break it to me gently! And I'll still get it published anyway, so there.

Oh, and I got a mysterious email today from special effects guru Douglas Trumbull who you remember from this post, but I can't figure it out so I think it may be an elaborate special effect email. He said he was sending me a google file, but when I clicked on the attachment nothing appeared... I can't help thinking it's some sort of intelligence test and that only way he'll tell me anything more about his super UFO camera is if I solve the puzzle... Trouble is, I already wrote back telling him I couldn't open it.


Oh well, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

UFO Boredom

Someone, please, save me from my UFO boredom... After months and months of being assigned spectacular Close Encounter cases and entity contact cases, and being named to the MUFON Top Ten of 2012, and being interviewed for the newspaper and stuff, the past few months have been an absolute drag.

I guess it all started a few weeks back when I was informed that documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock of "Supersize Me" fame was looking for an interesting UFO case to profile for his new CNN series, "Inside Man," and that one of my cases was being considered for the segment. The segment was going to show how a Certified UFO Field Investigator investigates a perplexing UFO case, and I figured I had a lock: I'm young, I'm telegenic, I'm articulate, and my cases, truth be told, kick ass. But then I learned that Spurlock had chosen a case in Georgia instead. Good luck with that, chum.
Good luck in Georgia! You'll need it.

Then I started getting all these boring ass cases assigned to me, almost as though I was being punished for being so good at what I do. Case after case was the same: glowing orange orbs, glowing white orbs, glowing green orbs, all silently zooming through the night sky from south to north and disappearing in the distance. Whoop-de-friggin-do.

And this is what the "investigation" consists of: The witness has described maybe three or four "facts" about the event in his or her report, so I call the witness and ask him or her to repeat those three or four facts, and then I write down those three or four facts and add them to the case report alongside the witness's original mention of the very same three or four facts. Not sure what this is accomplishing, really, but I know it's not a good use of my time.

Of course, tonight's interview had a twist. When I tried to cover the three or four facts with the witness, he kept adding more and more facts, none of which were relevant to the case in the slightest. In addition to hearing about his UFO sighting, I learned about how he has recently lost both his binoculars and his night-vision goggles. In addition to learning about the surrounding terrain where he saw the UFO, I learned that the trees in his back yard are actually cherry trees, and don't normally grow more than 7 feet high. In addition to learning that the white orb made no noise, I learned that the witness can identify any aircraft you can imagine just by hearing its engine noise, and that he could say for damn sure that the light was not a Robinson helicopter, or a Coast Guard Rescue Dolphin helicopter, or a Eagle Three Rescue chopper. Holy shit, witness.

And then there's the mini controversy I started at the MUFON State Director's Forum on Facebook by asking how many times I should try to contact a reluctant witness before giving up. It's been like five days and people are still posting opinions.

I need an entity. I need a CE3K. Shit, I'd settle for discovering an Atacama Humanoid.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

UFO Investigating is Hard

I've been having a serious hangup with my UFO investigation work. For several cases in a row now, the witnesses have failed to respond to my multiple attempts to contact them by email and phone, and I have reluctantly had to close out those no-contact cases with a designation of "insufficient information" and call it a day. To begin with, I was very diligent in trying to contact each witness by email and/or phone at least three times... Then that dropped down to two attempts... now I'm ready to make one attempt then close out the case. Ain't nobody got time for this.

Obviously, this is no good for the UFO research. How can we ever solve the UFO mystery if people report sightings and then shy away from talking to a Certified UFO Field Investigator? I mean, what have they got to lose?
Why can't all UFO witnesses be as sharp as this one?

Facing three more cases this week that seem to have lost their pulse altogether, I did something very rash: I reached out to fellow MUFONers for help. Because MUFON state leaders have a special and very active forum on Facebook where we can all argue about whether we should have color-keyed ID badges, I decided to present my concerns to my colleagues:

"How many times must I try to contact someone," I asked in a post, "when he/she doesn't respond to my emails or phone calls?"

The responses were immediate:
  • "Two emails and a phone call is what I usually attempt," said Rxxxxx.
  • "Yes............three and ur out........I would actually rather you closed it out as...information only," said some guy who I didn't know was my boss.
  • "Mark.... this is a typical response that my team also faces here in PA," said a guy from PA. "Normally, we try to contact via telephone ( when available ) and email at least two times. If no response after that, I recommend to close the case as 'information only' and move on. A clue to how you'll do with witness response is how they answer to question on wanting to be anonymous. If they answer yes, you can bet that you'll not get any response from them.. This is why I suggested a click on button which states 'do not contact me '. If the witness selects this option, then the case should be classified as Information Only 'by default' and not even show up on the CMS for investigators to follow up on, as this would be a waste of time."
  • "I agree. There should be an option 'do not contact me'" said Cxxxx.

Then the conversation took and odd, and some might say, controversial turn:

  • "Cxxxx, as you know, I have been trying to get the option of do not contact me for two years now and the request falls on deaf ears," complained Fxxx. "Many investigators that I have spoken to do not feel that they should have to feel out the complete form when they cannot get a hold of some one or have some type of physical evidence. Some one could be fudgeing the report with informtion for us to file. I believe if we are going to be a scientific organization, we need to verify information not take it at face value and close out the case as information only."
  •  "Agree about 'I do not wish to be contacted;'" said Rxxxx. "I had that discussion with Jan H in 2012 and there is an opposing case to it, that he gave, I won't get into it here. I'm undecided, maybe Jan is right (But good to see others see it). As for what we call No-Replies: I talked to many people at the '12 Symposium, Dave McD., Marie Malzahn, others. May others by email since. Concensus to me was as follows: Make a good faith attempt to contact them, use what they give you (i.e. both email & phone if they provide); and after a reasonable amt of time, close as 'Info Only.' You Do NOT have to fill out the Form1 beyond what they gave; can't, really. I've told the GA FIs no more than 2-3 weeks; 4 absolute tops. We have to move on. I lose 30 to 40% of my reports annually to No-Reply. 'Info Only' is to be used for these, Not Insufficient, has been made clear to me. Hopefully others of you were advised the same!"
  • To which Dxxxxx replied: "So let me get this straight: if we can't get a hold of the witnesses then we can just put info only? I've told my investigators to assess the cases with what has been submitted because sometimes a witness will put a lot of info in the report but doesn't want to be contacted. I want to see evidence in the FIs report that they attempted to get a hold of the witnesses."
  • "I've asked my FI's to use the Investigative Report Section of the CMS case file to essentially document every action they perform ( similar to a log ) with regard to the case," said the guy from PA. "I have them enter date, action they did ( i.e. attempted to contact witness by phone, no response, left voice message. ) and then initial that entry. The next time they attempt to contact witness would be 'logged' into this area, and so on. This way, I and my SD or anyone else can see that there is work being done, even though there is no contact being made. Of course, I use this format for successful contact with the witness as well -- again a log."

I was shocked, and dismayed, and disappointed. Part of me was hoping they would all let me off the hook. "Hey, Mark, you tried your best; time to move on," was what I was hoping for. Instead they all seemed to be saying that I have to work harder to solve the UFO mystery. Ugh.

So, shamed by my colleagues into further action, I decided to contact my three losers witnesses one more time. First thing I found out when I looked through my emails was that one of these witnesses had, in fact, written back to me two weeks ago. Problem was, instead of replying to my email, she had created a new email with no information in it, so I had no idea who the email had come from, or why. So I'm going to try to call her today. Then I emailed the other two on my list to give them one more chance, and, lo and behold, one of them replied this time! I will interview her next Monday. 

So, yeah, more work for me, but maybe it will all pay off. Maybe one of these two cases will turn out to be The Big One. The other one, who still hasn't replied.... screw him.


PS: Replies to my question are still coming in! If anything noteworthy happens, I'll report it to you here. I'm not lazy when it comes to my blog!

Friday, November 15, 2013


Sometimes I hate technology.

Last weekend when I was in Kalamazoo, the inestimable Michael Swords lent me a clutch of old cassette tapes of interviews with the late, great Dr. J. Allen Hynek. This is a veritable treasure trove of research materials, in addition to the 650 scanned documents I came away with. It's almost too much to handle, but handle it I must. As always, readers, I do it for you...

What's that, you ask? What's a cassette tape? Um, well, back in the day cassette tapes were what we used to record and preserve audio. Unlike an MP3, you could hold a cassette in your hand, drop it, break it, unspool it, anything you can imagine! So what was the cassette itself exactly? To the best of my understanding, they were little plastic rectangles with MP3s stuffed inside somehow, don't ask me how. Anyway, you could pop one in a cassette deck -- or, better yet, a "boom box" -- and sound would come out! Music, talking, whatever.
Boom box tip: always point the speakers away from your head.

And now I have a bunch of them with Dr. Hynek on them, and I have to figure out some way to extract the MP3s inside the cases without smashing them, then copy the MP3s to my computer and burn them on something called a "CD." What's a CD, you ask? Not now, please, I'm still exhausted from explaining cassettes.

What I can tell you is that my fancy little MP3 cassette deck arrived in the mail today, and I am trying to figure out how it works. But it is small. The gizmo itself is scarcely bigger than the cassette. The CD with the driver is microscopic. The User's Manual is subatomic. How do they print things that small??

I am now trying to figure out how the accursed thing works without going blind or crazy, and it's not a pleasant affair. I have succeeded in making a trial conversion of what we used to call a "music tape" and, well, so far so good: I have converted it to a file that I can listen to on iTunes and am listening to it now. So that's good, I think. Trouble is, I have already forgotten what I did to get to this point...

If I ever do get this figured out, here's what I have in store from the cassettes Michael gave me:

Cassette #1: Coyne Crew interviews; Hynek recollecting the Robertson Panel; Final part of Gill; Hendry private interview.

Cassette #2: J. Allen Hynek's Swamp Gas talk for Voice of America Radio.

Cassette #3: J. Allen Hynek's Latest UFO encounters.

Cassette #4: Hynek 1980.

Cassette #5: Al Chop, Donald Keyhoe, J. A. Hynek, and More...

Cassette #6: Hynek Address to 1977 International UFO Congress.

Cassette #7: J. Allen Hynek lecturing on astronomy to the public in Lima, OH, just weeks after the Robertson Panel.

Cassette #8: J. Allen Hynek, 1980 radio show.

Cool, huh? Should I be lucky enough to get my gadget figured out and get these buggers downloaded or uploaded, I'll let you know what dark truths I discover....

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Little Alien Pricks

I just had an amazing day of UFO research yesterday, and as a result I am no longer afraid of aliens!

Let me tell you how it all came about. Yesterday, accompanied by my wife Mxxxxx, I drove to Kalamazoo. Michigan to explore the J. Allen Hynek files of the great UFO historian and blogger Michael Swords. Michael is the de facto head of the UFO Council of Elders about whom I have written before.

When we arrived at his cozy home, Michael was in the midst of writing a new post for his exceedingly entertaining blog, The Big Study, about "pookahs," or ghost dogs. It's a very fun read, as always. The guy is curious about and fascinated by everything, not just UFOs, and he has files and books on everything... So while my wife settled into Michael's library looking at his many books on Poltergiests and haunted houses, I went to work scanning Michael's files with my nifty new scan wand, purchased specifically for the day's mission.

Four hours and about 500 scanned pages later, Mxxxxx and I were chatting with Michael about his work as an educator and researcher, and the man just amazed us repeatedly... We talked about visiting mystical sites in Ireland and Michael had been to them all. We talked about John Keel and "The Mothman Prophecies" and Michael produced a huge binder full of clippings and stories about Mothman, Thunderbirds, and other mysterious winged creatures.We talked about Dr. Morris K. Jessup and the strange case of his annotated UFO book and....

Wait, you don't know the story of Dr. Jessup and the annotated UFO book? My God, it's one of my favorite weird tales of all time...
The wigged-out book that started it all.

In 1955, Jessup wrote a book called "The Case for the UFO," in which he tried to establish that UFOs are a real phenomenon and then went about explaining many of the world's great mysteries throughout history as manifestations of the same phenomenon. In the normal course of the events, Jessup would have sold a few thousand copies to "true believers" and then probably faded into obscurity. But the normal course of events never seems to unfold where UFOs are concerned, and Jessup's case was no exception.

Two years after his book came out, a copy of the manuscript was delivered to the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research in Washington, D.C. It was wrapped in paper and labelled, "Happy Easter." The margins of the manuscript were filled with  notes written in three different hands (or claws, or talons), all apparently alien beings commenting on, and sometimes arguing over, Jessup's wild conclusions. The aliens came to be identified as "Jemi," "Mr. A" and "Mr. B." The essence of their notations was that Jessup was dangerously close to divining their true nature and plans for earth and warning that something needed to be done. Two years later, Jessup was found dead of an apparent suicide.

At the Navy's behest, a publishing company called VARO published a small quantity of annotated manuscripts for official use, and, lo and behold, Michael is in possession of one of those rare copies... And he let me look through it.

You can't imagine what it felt like to thumb through those pages. This manuscript is quite possibly the most significant and valuable artifact in the history of UFOlogy, and I was holding it in my hands and looking through it.... Simply amazing.

In the short time I had to page through the gigantic manuscript, a couple things jumped out at me: 1) Dr. Jessup, like Michael Swords, was curious about everything... His book is an amazing work of investigation and speculation; it would demand a great deal of patience to absorb it all, but the end result would be well worth the effort. 2) These aliens who wrote in the margins of Jessup's book were hilarious! Their notes are, in turns, sarcastic, profane, unintelligible, profound, backbiting, and completely wigged out. And they make it clear that there are different types of aliens, and they don't always hold each other in very high regard...

One passage in particular caused me to lose my fear of aliens forever, and I share it with you now. In one chapter, Jessup spends some time talking about UFO incidents at sea, and recounts some stories where entire ships' crews vanished into thin air, saying:
"To attempt to postulate motive for space inhabitants kidnapping crews from ships--not to mention isolated individuals to which we shall come momentarily--is in the realm of pure speculation. On the other hand, bearing our two possibilities in mind as to the origin of space contrivances, in either case our space friends would want to know what has happened to us since they left, or what has happened to us since they put us down here. Again, there is always the possibility that the open seas provide an easy catching place."
After which "Mr. B" writes:
"Ought to, the Sea is the Natural home of the Little bastards. The little pricks come-aboard at nite and go Wandering about the Decks, Scares the Crews but No Crew Man meeting one, ever says so, Just quits drinking."
Not exactly sinister, is it? I just stared at this passage for a long time, then started laughing, then read it aloud to my wife and to Michael. "Little pricks?" This is what aliens call each other when humans aren't around?

My head is still spinning... From holding that amazing book in my hands and seeing it with my own eyes, and from the realization that this whole UFO thing could just be one massive cosmic practical joke on us humans...

Friday, November 8, 2013

UFO Spy vs. Spy

The other day I blogged about another UFO blogger whose Twitter account I follow who made what I thought was a rather counter-productive statement in a recent tweet:

"After 66 years since the UFO wave, no one has yet to come forward with proof that aliens exist. Come on people. Send some proof. Please."

Well, my friend is at it again. Today I got another gem... First the blogger says this:

"Strange, several accounts associated with MUFON all the sudden are following me. Are they trying to learn from a pro or UFO espionage? LMAO"

Then one of his followers responds with this:

"some believe mufon has members that are actually spies for the govt which I totally believe...keep tabs on truth seekers"

Well, wow. So many problems with this exchange. 

First, the English teacher in me has to point out that the correct expression is "all of a sudden," not "all the sudden." I realize he could have been cutting corners to get his tweet down to 140 characters, but I'm a writer and I don't approve.

Second, as a MUFON Certified UFO Field Investigator, I resent the accusation that anyone from MUFON who follows him on Twitter is "trying to learn from a pro" or spying on him. I don't believe for a second that this guy is a pro UFO investigator; in fact, it says right on his website that he works for an engineering firm. And how the hell would MUFON "spy" on this guy's twitter account, which is specifically intended to allow him to share every bloody thought that passes through his head the instant he thinks it with everyone on earth?

When will these two numbskulls ever learn?
Third, "LMAO"? I swear, every time I see someone using LMOA in a message I just laugh my ass off. Sometimes I even roll on the floor.

Fourth, I resent the suggestion that I'm a government spy keeping tabs on "truth seekers." Having been a MUFON Certified UFO Field Investigator for a year and a half now (not coincidentally the best year and a half of my life), I'm pretty sure there's nothing for the government to keep tabs on. MUFON meetings are open to the public, usually held in public libraries, their website openly lists all the UFO cases that are reported to them, they desperately fish for new members every chance they get, they're all over cable TV, and if you want to read all the supposedly secret case reports that MUFON supposedly refuses to share with the public, you can spend $20 to join and read any damn thing you want. Again, I ask: what's to spy on?

Dumb. Just dumb.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Third-String Aliens -- Part 2.5

Two unrelated yet related things came up today, so I thought I would blog about them both, and give you, my lucky readers, two blog posts for the price of one!

The first item is a sensitive one, as it involves a fellow UFO blogger and a tweet he tweeted... Now, this is a guy who says he wants to reinvigorate UFOlogy for the 21st Century, which is great. I heartily applaud that sentiment, and I respect the energy that this guy brings to that mission. But this tweet today really jarred me, because to me it sets the field of UFOlogy back about, oh... 66 years:
"After 66 years since the UFO wave, no one has yet to come forward with proof that aliens exist. Come on people. Send some proof. Please."
So wrong, on so many levels. This tweet is based on the somewhat shaky assumptions that 1) UFOs can somehow "prove" that aliens exist; that 2) there could exist some sort of proof that this is true; and that 3) someone out there is sitting on that proof. If one goes into UFOlogy thinking they one is going to be able to prove that aliens exist, they are in for a long, disappointing journey. Interrupted by many speaking engagements at UFO conventions. But, still. To me, UFOlogy means trying to find out what UFOs are, not trying to prove that they are one thing or another. 'Nuff said.
Hey, get a load of that UFO! No, look higher. And to the right...

The second item of interest was a comment here in the blog from my old frienemy "Anonymous," in response to my recent post, "Third-String Aliens." Here's the comment, in all its odd entirety:
"Mark, we appreciate you sharing this case with us. Please keep us updated on any new development." 
You get that? "Anonymous" is really a "we," and "they" appreciate my sharing this case with "them"....

So just who in the hell are you, "Anonymous?" Are you the Men In Black (not the Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones Men IN Black--the REAL Men In Black!)?? Are you CIA??? Are you... aliens????

If you're aliens, that makes a lot of sense. I've suspected for a long time that you aliens were monitoring my successes as a UFO Field Investigator by reading this blog (In fact, that's always been the purpose of this blog, from day one: to get you hooked on my witty writing and ensnare you in my web).

I demand you show your face at once and tell me why I should update "you" on any new development? AND tell me what's in it for me. Because if you could give me proof of what that other UFO blogger is begging for, "we" could set the science of UFOlogy on its ear and propel it into the next century! That would be something.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Code Word: Excitement!

This is big! I've come across an interesting bit of secret U. S. Air Force code while working on my book about Dr. J. Allen Hynek. At first I wasn't sure if I should share it here in the blog, knowing how sensitive it might be. National security and all that. But upon further reflection, I decided to take a stand. The public deserves to know.

What have I got? Well, back in August, 1953, while Hynek was working as a consultant on the Air Force's UFO study, Project Blue Book, a big case came in. In one night, over the course of three hours, as many as eight separate unidentified flying objects were sighted and tracked in the sky over Rapid City, South Dakota and Bismarck, North Dakota, some 220 miles to the northeast. Two things made the sightings remarkable: 1) every last one of the witnesses was a skilled, trained observer; and 2) the objects were picked up simultaneously by ground observers, radar operators and, in South Dakota, by Air Force pilots.

The first sighting was made by a volunteer sky watcher with the U. S. Air Force Ground Observer Corps (GOC) in Blackhawk, SD, just a few miles from Rapid City. Crazy as it seems, back in '53 the United States had not yet gotten our early warning radar system up and running; all we had was a bunch of kids, housewives and retirees with binoculars scanning the skies for any sign of incoming Russkie bombers. They actually strapped these people to the radar dishes.

So this woman spots a bogie through her binocs, calls it in to the GOC Filter Center in Rapid City, they in turn call it in to the control tower at nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base, and for a for a few hours everybody goes crazy watching a series of red, white and green lights flit around the sky and behave "erratically." Two Air Force jets are vectored to intercept the lights, only they can never catch up with them, which spooks the pilots something bad. One of the lights zooms up to Bismarck where the whole thing starts up all over again.
TRUE FACT: In 1953, the Air Force sent out black and white jets like these to intercept UFOs.
The case is investigated thoroughly by both the Blue Book CO, Captain Edward Ruppelt, and Dr. Hynek. And it's a really big deal because it's Hynek's first actual field investigation, see? So both men interview witnesses and file very long reports... and it's while I'm reading these reports some 60 years after they were written, that I detect the secret code...

Both Hynek and Ruppelt pepper their reports with the words "excitable" and "excited," and as I see these words over and over and over again in the reports it hits me that they mean something more than just "excitable" and "excited."

They're secret Air Force code for: "UNRELIABLE"!

Don't believe me? See for yourself. Here, for your enjoyment, are every last mention of these secret code words in the two Project Blue Book reports:
  •  “Bennett is rated as excitable, but pretty sure about what he sees,” Hynek reported, but noted that Bennett had pegged Needham as the excitable one.
  •  “The (South Dakota) observers are more excitable and less matter of fact and certainly have less scientific background then (sic) the observers in Bismarck, with one or two exceptions.”
  •  “They had been interrogated by base personnel and were ‘all excited.’ It was believed Capt.  Ruppelt’s talking to them would only further excite them, needlessly.”
  •  Needham described Bennett to Hynek as “excitable.”
  •  “In Captain Ruppelt’s original report, he stated that although he did not visit Bismarck, he felt that in as much as they had been alerted to watch out for something, they became excited and ‘saw lights.’”
  • Killian was “an excitable and rather cocky individual, and in some respects overbearing.”
Is it just me, or is that just way too much excitement?