High Strangeness: March 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

UFOs & Brain Patterns -- Part II

Well, the response to my post about my friend Lxxx's UFO experience really took me by surprise.

The question of exactly when the mind recognizes that it's perceiving something that's "not normal" has started some interesting discussions here and on Facebook and at the Google Group "The UFO Collective," and has even gotten on the radar of noted UFO author Jenny Randles, who came up with the idea of "The OZ Factor," the moment you realize you're not in Kansas anymore.

And it turns out I got the spoiler all wrong for the "Veronica Mars" movie, so I didn't really spoil anything after all. Lxxx doesn't get killed, but she does shoot the guy I thought killed her!

But back to UFOs. I had another chat with Lxxx and she elaborated on her experience for me:
"Btw, to me, that 'feeling' you mentioned is the pause before 'fight or flight'. It's no longer the only two options. We've progressed to the third option of 'the danger may be worth it to experience something new'".
That's a mind-bender. The danger may be worth it to experience something new! I'm beginning to think that Lxxx represents some kind of evolutionary leap, or at least she's a really good candidate to lead NASA's next interplanetary mission. Lxxx, how did I not see this in you before??? (I know she's reading this)
Who knows? Maybe the danger is worth it...

And now we need a new expression... Something like... "fight or flight or fright" or "fight or flight or might" or "fight or flight or shite."

Okay, I'll stop now.

Anyway, I think I know how I'll react the next time I see a UFO; I'll choose the third option...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thank you, Veronica Mars!

So this is how social networking is supposed to work!

I think I have finally figured it out, and I owe it all to Veronica Mars.

How's that, you ask? Well, here's how it worked: Last week my daughter Cxxxx went to see the new Kickstarter-funded "Veronica Mars" movie, and she loved it. I mean loved it--she was actually kind of berserk.

One of the things she was excited about was that my friend Lxxx was in the movie, so not only did she know someone in the movie, she was now one handshake away from the actor in the movie she was crushing on (who, a bit ironically, kills Lxxx in the movie!) (Sorry 'bout the spoiler).

My friend Lxxx, before I dragged her into this whole UFO thing.
Anyway, that brought about my chat with Lxxx last week, which resulted in Lxxx telling me about her UFO experience, which I then blogged about here, and which started an interesting discussion in the comments section about whether it's possible to pinpoint, measure and name that moment when something you're looking at goes from being "somewhat odd" to "that's not normal."

That was a week ago.

Today when I sat down at my computer I found that the conversation on my blog had spread to Facebook here, and quickly got the attention of famed UFO writer Jenny Randles, who developed the concept of the "OZ Factor" in UFO sightings. Pretty cool, right?

But, wait, there's more! No sooner had Jenny Randles chimed in than the conversation migrated to "The UFO Collective" at Google Groups, where it will probably live forever!

I feel like I'm the king of the internet! I recently started using a web tracker called Klout.com to measure and analyze my growing social network empire, and in only a few days my rating has gone up nearly 20%. After all this stuff going today, I bet my ratings will go through the roof!

And to think, I owe it all to Veronica Mars.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

UFO Nit-picker

As I plug along on my book about the career of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, I am constantly aware of the fact that I am writing about a man who died almost 30 years ago, and that his life and work may not be all that relevant to readers of today.

Why should someone in 2014 care about a man who studies UFOs a half-century ago?

To ease my worries, I did a little research. Turns out there are new UFO books coming out all the time, and I decided to look at a few and see if any of the "mainstream" UFO writers pay any attention to Hynek at all. If they don't, I'm screwed...

Here's what my research revealed:

"UFOs and Government" by Michael Swords & Robert Powell (with a team of contributors), published in 2012, mentions or quotes Hynek 45 times.

"Inside the Real Area 51" by Thomas J. Carey & Donald R. Schmitt, published in 2013, invokes Hynek's name over 100 times.

I've been wanting to use this picture for a while now. I guess today is the day!
"UFOs for the 21st Century Mind" by Richard Dolan, published in 2014, mentions Hynek 31 times.

Fantastic!!!! That's almost 1,000 mentions! At least from my point of view.

Of course, just as important as how many times they mention him is what they say about him. You will probably not be surprised to learn that I disagree with a lot of what is said and insinuated about Dr. Hynek in these books.

"UFOs and Government" portrays him as weak and timid, a clueless lackey of the Air Force. A favorite expression of the authors is "Poor Allen!" However... I have spoken to Michael Swords about this, I presented my case for why I think Hynek was actually quite brave, and in the end we agreed that Hynek had indeed "evolved."

"Inside the Real Area 51" perpetuates the age-old myth that Hynek worked on the Air Force's debunking "Project Grudge" UFO study. Hynek actually worked for its predecessor, "Project Sign," but by the time he submitted his final report to the Air Force "Sign" had been replaced by "Grudge," and so Hynek's report was included in the "Project Grudge" final report. Furthermore, Hynek didn't return to work for the Air Force until after "Grudge" had been replaced by "Project Blue Book." Also, the authors can't resist a chapter heading that screams, "Dr. J. Allen Hynek: Dupe or Accomplice?"

"UFOs for the 21st Century," aside from portraying Hynek as just about the least-trusted guy ever involved in UFOlogy, gets some important facts wrong. The book says that Hynek declared in 1948 that fighter pilot Thomas Mantell crashed while chasing a Skyhook balloon, when in fact Hynek agreed with the Air Force's judgement that Mantell had been "chasing" the planet Venus. The book also states that when Hynek went to investigate the famous 1966 Dexter-Hillsdale "swamp gas" incident, he held the now-infamous press conference immediately upon arriving in Michigan, but the truth is he arrived in Michigan on Tuesday and held the press conference on Friday, three days later.

These aren't little details to me. They rankle. Now that I've become such a devoted researcher of Hynek's life, it irritates me when I see someone making an inaccurate statement or insinuation when all they had to do was dig through a few file cabinets, search bluebookarchive.org or flip through one of Hynek's books--all available on Amazon!--to get the real story.

(And, yes, I realize full well that I may end up making a few mistakes in my own book, and I fully expect to have them pointed out to me!)

Oh well, you know what they say:  
"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."  
Despite my disagreements with some of the material in these books, I want to thank every one of these authors, deeply and sincerely, for keeping the name of Dr. J. Allen Hynek in front of contemporary readers who will eventually go out and buy my book!

Thanks, everyone!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

UFOs & Brain Patterns

Last night I was chatting with my dear old friend Lxxx on Facebook, feeling kind of bad that I haven't kept in better touch with her but really glad that I had caught her online and that we were able to have such a great talk after so long.

Lxxx mentioned that she had turned a friend of hers onto this blog, and I asked if she or her friend had ever seen a UFO. She said she wasn't sure about her friend, but she told me she had once seen something strange in the sky years ago when she lived in Nashville. She was out on her back deck, looking out at the sky and the tall trees, then something was seen...
"Still can't explain it," she said. "Nothing obvious but very odd."
I asked for more detail, and she said something that I thought was very profound:
"Not that much to tell. Just hovering lights and a quick departure. I just remember it hitting that part of me that said 'this isn't normal.'"
At what moment do we realize something in the sky isn't supposed to be there?
That immediately got me thinking: I wonder if any psychologist or neurologist has ever studied that part of us that says "this isn't normal." 'Cause if they haven't, they should. I mean, in a sense that's the crux of the whole UFO mystery, isn't it? Someone sees something in the sky that might be "nothing obvious but very odd" and then, without warning, that moment comes when "very odd" becomes "not normal." 

What do we see that triggers that moment? What do we sense? Is the odd thing in the sky sensitive to that moment? Does that explain the "quick departure"?

Any psychologists or neurologists reading this, I hope you'll study this, because I have a sense that it could be really important. And if you do study it, let me know so I can tell you where to send the check.

Which of course I will split with Lxxx!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

UFOs & Old Cars -- Part II: The Holy Grail

The other day I wrote about the authentic cars used in the new Canadian TV show "Close Encounters," and there's something about the topic that I can't get out of my head...

I had written about the 1977 Ford Galaxie squad car that had allegedly been involved in a head-on collision with a UFO back in 1979, and mentioned that the car is in a museum in Warren, Minnesota, not far from where the event took place. If the story is true, that car is the holy grail of UFO research... and yet there it sits in a museum in Minnesota. WHY??

According to the story, Deputy Sheriff Val Johnson was on patrol after midnight, and was trying to get a look at a strange light in the sky. When he finally got a look at it, it sped straight towards his car; Johnson heard a smash and passed out. When he came to, his car had skidded across the road, he had lost over 30 minutes of time, and he was suffering from welder's burns around his eyes and shock.

The car had lost a headlight, its front bumper and hood were dented, its windshield was shattered, one of its roof lights was cracked, the roof antenna was bent at 60 degrees and the trunk antenna was bent 90 degrees.
This is how UFO reports were filled out in 1979: typewriters and tintype photographs.

The car was examined at the time. An engineer from Ford reportedly determined that the windshield had been smacked from the inside and the outside... Which would suggest that something outside struck the windshield head-on, and then Deputy Johnson smacked his head on the windshield and pushed it out. But that would mean he wasn't wearing safety belts, which is unlikely, and anyway he didn't have a concussion. So it's a mystery, see? And an unsolved one, to boot.

I was not very familiar with the case before I saw it dramatized on the show, but now that I've read up on it a little I'm interested. Because, you see, the car has not been repaired since it was trashed by a UFO in 1979--the damage caused by the UFO is still there for all the world to see!

"See the Sheriff's UFO Car," says the website for the Warren County Historical Society at exploreminnesota.com, and I am sorely tempted! But Warren is so far out in the boonies it's closer to Fargo than it is to the Twin Cities. Hell, it's closer to Winnipeg than it is to the Twin Cities. They had to get UFO investigators from Canada to come investigate the case, for cripe's sake! So a visit anytime soon is not likely.

So, you know how everyone's always clamoring for "proof" and "evidence" that UFOs are here, that they're "real?" Well, folks, that proof has been parked for the last 35 years in a historical society museum in a small town in northern Minnesota. Parked alongside a 1912 Maxwell, a Hart Parr Steamer, a Studebaker Wagon of 1870's, a "Cook Car, a mobile dining facility used in the days of the Bonanza Farms," and "much more." The proof that UFOs exist is nothing more than a tourist attraction, a freak in a roadside freak show, a Jackalope.

Friday, March 14, 2014

UFOs & Old Cars

I will have to eat my hat.

I have not been shy about expressing my opinions of the silly UFO shows that fill up so many of the prime-time schedules of cable TV channels. These shows rehash the same old material (case in point: I just got an email promoting tonight's NEW episode of "MUFON's Hangar 1," that promises to reveal the secrets of how we developed radar and transistor radios and ball point pens and the Dyson vacuum and every other great technological marvel since WWII from reverse engineering captured flying saucers--this content is neither new nor true, nor is it found in any MUFON case investigation file); the hosts have funny hair; the production values suck... and on and on.

So, a commenter recently recommended that I check out the new Canadian UFO reality show called "Close Encounters," and made a good case for it, but I still refused to go there. I had seen a promo for the show and it looked dumb. Well, this last week, with my wife away on business and my kids and dog ignoring me, and "Are We Alone" week still calling out to me from the Science Channel, I decided to give "Close Encounters" a try.

I'm glad I did. The show is really quite good, and pretty entertaining to boot!

Is it because it's Canadian? I'm not sure, but I liked it. I watched a couple episodes, and since each episode looks at two UFO cases, I got a pretty good sampling of what it's all about. The first re-enactment was of the Cash-Landrum case, and I saw the Kecksburg incident and a few others, and they were all uniformly well-written, well-directed and, to my great surprise, well-acted as well; seriously, the gals in the Cash-Landrum case really had me going. The expert commentators (including my man Mark Rodeghier from CUFOS) were very matter-of-fact and informative in their reporting of the events, and the production qualities overall were first-rate, but what really impressed me was the attention to detail...

I'm an old car buff, and I notice when a car in a re-enactment doesn't fit the period being recreated. If a scene is supposed to be taking place in the '50s and the cars are from the '60s, it's going to ruin the whole thing for me. Can you possibly imagine how much fun my wife has watching TV shows and movies with me?? Maybe that's why she suddenly had to fly to Philadelphia last week...

Anyway, I'm watching the re-enactment of the experience of Val Johnson, a Sheriff's Deputy in Minnesota who reportedly had a Close Encounter of the 2nd Kind in 1979 -- and when I saw Close Encounter of the 2nd Kind, I mean the UFO and the squad car had a head-on collision. In the show, the performer playing the part of Johnson was shown driving a 1972 Dodge patrol car, which impressed me, because where the hell do you even find a 1972 Dodge Polara 4-door sedan, much less a law-enforcement version? That's crazy. Why would a TV producer in Canada bother with a detail that only I would notice? Especially since he or she couldn't possibly have known that I would watch the show! Somebody really really wanted to make this look period-correct, and they succeeded.
Yes, it's really a Ford, but check out the smashed windshield & dented hood!

(Full disclosure: I did some searching later [because if I don't you will!] and found that the real car, on display in a museum in Warren, MN, complete with unrepaired damage from the incident, was actually a '77 Ford -- doesn't change the fact that the producers took the time and trouble to make things look right, and that they did it for me.)

Like the Johnson case, the Cash-Landrum encounter took place entirely inside and around a car, and here the producers got things almost right, scoring an Oldsmobile Cutlass Siera that first sold in late 1981 for a re-enactment of an incident that took place in late 1980. This doesn't bother me so much because any early-'80s Cutlass was crap and deserved to be burned up by a flaming UFO, so what difference does a year make?

Then the re-enactment of the 1965 Kecksburg, Pennsylvania Close Encounter of the First Kind case really blew me away: the witness, Jim Romansky, is shown driving a 1964 International Harvester pick-up truck. Again, where would you find such a thing, and why would you go looking for it unless you really, really wanted to do things properly?
These days most '64 International pickups look like this.

I am well aware that on some level this is a silly reason to like and recommend a show, and it certainly doesn't prove that any of the other information in the show is reliable or trustworthy, but in a world where it's so easy to come up with multitudes of reasons why most cable TV UFO shows suck, it's amazing and refreshing to find even one small reason to like one of them.

Sadly, old cars are not often associated with Close Encounters, so now that the producers have covered the Johnson, Cash-Landrum and Kecksburg stories it may be that the rest of the show will suck, I don't know. But I will give it a chance the next time my wife goes on a business trip.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Black Coffee and UFOs

This Saturday morning is off to a perfect start! I woke up early and decided to write up my newest MUFON case report as I drink my morning coffee and enjoy a huge slab of my wife's homemade chocolate babka... All UFO work should be this cushy!

Maybe it's just the babka talking, but I'm pretty excited about this new case. I swear, just when it seems I'm starting to lose faith in the whole UFO racket, a case comes along that gets me all worked up again, and restores my faith UFOnity!

Not that I was excited to begin with. This witness wrote out his entire report on the MUFON site in ALL CAPS, then when I emailed him to set up an interview he wrote back "PLEASE CALL ME." Ugh. Can we just tone it down a bit? Understand this, UFO witnesses: THIS DOES NOT MAKE ME LOOK FORWARD TO CALLING YOU...

Well, when I worked up my courage and finally called the guy my worries immediately vanished. He was soft-spoken, calm, articulate, and had a great story to tell. His sighting took place way back in 1999, so of course I wanted to know why it had taken so long for him to report it... I'll let my just-finished case report do the talking:



LATITUDE LONGITUDE – 46°9′17″N 89°23′7″W



WEATHER INFORMATION – Cool, partly cloudy day.


WITNESS INTERVIEW AND STATEMENTS – Incident occurred in 1999, although witness was only guessing at to the approximate date—early September was the best estimate. Male witness, age 43 at the time, was outside getting ready to go out fishing on Lac Vieux Desert, just outside Land O’ Lakes, WI, on the border with Upper Michigan. The lake is 5-6 miles across and surrounded by national forests, the Nicolet on one side and the Ottawa on the other. It’s a very remote, isolated area, and although there are many cabins on the lake, by the end of summer most cabins were closed for the season. Witness reported that only 3 or 4 “hardcore” fishermen stayed at the lake into September, and he did not see anyone else out on the water the whole day.

He first caught sight of circular contrails – like “perfect smoke rings” – off to the east in the partly cloudy sky, and as he tried to figure out what they were he heard a faint sound of an airplane and spotted a military AWACS plane, about 7-10 miles away. The plane, with its telltale humpbacked radar dome, was easy to identify, although the witness had never before seen one in this remote area and has never seen one since. It was clearly a military plane, but there are no bases close by, and through his binoculars he could see that the plane had no markings. His best guess was that the plane might have come from one of the U.S. Navy’s ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) submarine command bases, as Land O’ Lakes lies in a direct line between the two ELF Transmitters in Clam Lake, WI and Republic, MI in the Upper Peninsula. Neither installation, however, has an airstrip, and the local civilian airport, 4 miles from the lake, is not big enough to accommodate an AWACS (There was a NORAD air base in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, but that had been decommissioned in 1979).

The AWACS plane was flying in a tight circle, and as he watched, the witness realized that there was something in the air ahead of the plane. Whatever it was, it was visibly cutting through the light clouds and leaving a wake, but the witness could see no actual object. The AWACS seemed to be following an invisible aircraft.
What was this AWACS plane chasing through the skies above a peaceful fishing lake in northern Wisconsin?

The invisible object must have been huge, because it cut a swath through the clouds that was 4 times the width of the AWACS’ wingspan. It was 7 or 8 plane lengths ahead of the AWACS, so it did not appear to the witness to be attached or connected to the plane at all. Witness could hear no sound from a second craft, however, and through the binoculars could see no shape, reflection or outline at all. As far as he could tell, the AWACS was patiently observing the invisible object, possibly as part of some testing – the witness’ immediate assumption was that the military was testing some new invisibility technology, although he kept asking himself, “What are they doing here?”

The invisible object and the AWACS plane continued on flying in circles until they disappeared beyond the tree line to the north of the lake.

CONCLUSIONS – The witness seemed extremely credible. He had owned his cabin on the lake for some time, and was familiar with the topography. He is a law enforcement officer and was working at the time as an undercover agent for the XXX in Green Bay, WI. He did not report the sighting in 1999 for fear that it would affect his ability to function in his job, but had seen so many TV shows about UFOs recently that he decided to finally report what he had seen.

The experience has clearly stuck with him even after 15 years, and he recalls the entire incident in precise detail. He recounted the events clearly and calmly, and never changed any details when we went over them again. He wished he had been able to report the events when they occurred, but had been afraid of how his co-workers would react. He could not afford to have his credibility questioned, and so he kept quiet, but never forgot.
With a Ballester-Guasp credibility rating of almost 15, this one is right up there with the best. Having investigated over two dozen cases now, I can say that this witness was unusually solid. His testimony to me had a precise, unexcited Sergeant Joe Friday "Just the facts, ma'am" tone to it (and if you don't know what I'm referring to there, you need to watch a lot more MeTV), and his memory seems as tight as a drum; I bet he remembers every detail of every case he's ever worked.

It's a pity the trail is so cold, however; after 15 years it would be difficult to determine whether the military had any AWACS in the area, and for what purpose. I will continue to poke at it, though, mainly because I'm interested in the ELF angle... ELF sends low frequency radio signals through the earth -- not through the sky, but through the earth! -- to communicate with nuclear submarines around the globe, and it's been a weird and contentious part of Wisconsin history since I was a young whippersnapper. When it was built, people in northern Wisconsin were terrified that strange rays emitted from the huge ELF transmitter array, which covers many square miles, would be harmful to people and wildlife, possibly killing them or turning them into horrible mutants. Neither of those things have actually happened, to my knowledge, but I don't believe that any of the protesters at the time ever considered the invisible aircraft angle. This needs to be looked into.

But first: more babka!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pickled Men

This is a time travel story. It's about something that happens in 2014 that actually happened in 1955... and it's really weirding me out.

It all started a short time ago when I posted my comments about who & what I would not invite to speak at a UFO conference when I finally do hold a UFO conference... which was really a logical extension of the many things in UFOlogy today that I have written about in this blog for which I don't care, among them:
  • The Atacama Humanoid
  • Dulce Base
  • Citizen's Hearing on Disclosure
  • Cable TV UFO shows
  • The Hitler-UFO Connection
  • Skinwalker Ranch
  • Books about Roswell
  • Disclosure
  • UFO experts who can't back up their claims
  • UFO Conferences that simply rehash every other UFO Conference
And on and on...

Well, imagine my surprise when I came across this encouraging show of support for my growing sense of disillusionment:

“Many people (and who can really blame them) would dearly love to have something as exciting as flying saucers really be true. As a matter of fact, so would I. It would be a world-shaking event if we could prove that space craft from elsewhere were actually visiting our earth!
“Facts, however, speak otherwise. There is nothing, and I repeat, nothing, that can be regarded as scientific that flying saucers are anything but reports of misidentified natural phenomena or objects.
"There are at present a number of commercially inclined individuals, addicted to sensationalism... who presume to speak and write with flamboyant authority and with naïve disregard for scientific accuracy.
“Such people do a great disservice to everyone but themselves. They capitalize on the wishful thinking of large numbers of people who are legitimately interested in the possibility of space travel, and are intrigued with the idea that other civilizations, living on some far off planet, may be paying periodic visits to our own planet, the earth.
 “A clever speaker can, by mixing judicious amounts of space travel science fiction with extravagant and ill-reported accounts of strange events, adding a rumor here and a rumor there (perhaps about the little men who are pickled in bottles and kept in a secret vault at Wright Field!) make a thrilling but highly fictional case for flying saucers.
“And finally, it has always impressed me strongly that practically no reports of unusual sightings have been made by scientists, and especially by people who are trained to observe the skies. If, however, anyone wants to take the fragmentary reports uncritically, and at face value, a mighty fine story can be fabricated. But that’s all it will be, a fine fabrication.”
Well-written, no? And yet you sense perhaps the slightest anachronistic tone to the comments, don't you?
Well, here's when the time travel twist comes into the story. This wasn't a letter that I just received from a reader; these comments were written in 1955 by my man, Dr. J. Allen Hynek. This was part of a popular newspaper column Hynek wrote for the Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch in the 1950s called "Scanning the Skies." Generally the Doctor wrote about comets and eclipses and planets and the like, so this particular column dealing so forthrightly with UFOs is very unusual... The archivists at Northwestern University claim that this was the first time Hynek mentioned UFOs in public discourse, and that may very well be true.

Just exactly who these "commercially inclined individuals" were that the good Doctor was excoriating way back in 1955 (and why, just at the point in his career when he was seriously interested in UFOs as a scientific problem, he decided to publicly lash out against the phenomenon) is a mystery that I will attempt to solve in my book, but for the purposes of this post I thought it was quite uncanny that his words could easily have been written today in regards to the people and things I listed at the top of this post. How strange, and how sad, that the UFO field is in 2014 still rife with "commercially inclined" people "addicted to sensationalism" who try to make a "thrilling but highly fictional case for flying saucers."

And in case you didn't catch the one truly mind-blowing tidbit in Hynek's comments, it was when he mentioned "the little men who are pickled in bottles and kept in a secret vault at Wright Field!"

Subtlety, thy name is Frank Scully.
Of course this story had been kicking around for at least 5 years at this point, since Frank Scully had described alien corpses recovered from crashed flying saucers in his 1950 book "Behind the Flying Saucers," but I find it fascinating that the alien corpse story had, by 1955, already taken such a hold on the public's imagination -- even though it had been debunked three years earlier! -- that Hynek still felt it necessary to shoot it down. And now, some 60 years later, we still can't weed out the alien corpse come-ons.

So, to recap, in 1955 the field of UFOlogy was littered with flim-flammers who would "capitalize on the wishful thinking of large numbers of people who are legitimately interested in the possibility of space travel, and are intrigued with the idea that other civilizations, living on some far off planet, may be paying periodic visits to our own planet, the earth," and they're still doing it today...

Think about that the next time you get an invitation to a UFO conference or tune in a moronic cable TV show about UFO hunters or mysterious hangars or unsealed files. I know I will.