High Strangeness: June 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

UFO Favorites

So, last weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and that's a weird thing to say, but it's true. It's true because I visited the home of UFO historian and co-author of "UFOs and Government" Michael Swords, and that is always a pleasure.

I considered it important to interview Michael for my book about J. Allen Hynek because I know the man didn't always think too highly of Hynek. Michael makes no secret of the fact that he considers Hynek to have been a timid, weak-willed, ineffectual flunky of the Air Force. Over and over again in his recent book, and in much of his earlier UFO reporting, he likes to refer to Hynek as "poor Allen."

Is that a promise?
But I had a feeling that if I interviewed him, Michael might reveal a different side to his feelings about Dr. Hynek. Sure enough, throughout our talk he was thoughtful and respectful in his comments, and even though he didn't hide his negative feelings about Hynek, he went out of his way to put those feelings in the proper context. Hynek wasn't so much a sellout, Michael felt, as a man whose human weaknesses sometimes undermined his noble intentions.

Michael had come to work for Hynek's Center for UFO Studies a short time before Hynek moved to Arizona, so he only met Hynek three times. He became heavily involved with the Center's operation  in the mid- to late-80s, however, and has a lot to day about the influence of Hynek's work on the UFOlogy of that period. The book will be much richer for Michael's insights.

Towards the end of the interview, I asked Michael to name his favorite UFO cases. This guy has studied the UFO phenomenon frontwards and backwards and every which way in between, so I was very curious to hear which sightings stood out to him... He had already mentioned a few high profile cases during the course of our conversation so I thought I knew what direction he might go, but when it came to naming his favorites not a one of them came up.

Here are Michael's Top Three UFO Events of All Time:
  • The 1959 Father Gill case in Boianai, Papua, New Guinea, in which an Anglican missionary and about two dozen others witnessed two UFOs on consecutive nights and seemed to communicate with the seemingly friendly occupants of one of the crafts... The occupied UFO approach Father Gill and the others where they had gathered on the beach, and several humanoid figures appeared on the top of the craft. The humans waved at the UFO occupants, and the occupants waved back...
  • The 1973 Captain Coyne helicopter case, in which a crew of four Army servicemen on a helicopter over Ohio encountered a huge metallic object approaching them in the sky and took evasive action to avoid a mid-air collision. The helicopter went into a steep dive as the object hovered over the cockpit; after it vanished from view Captain Coyne and his crew found that even though the helicopter had gone into a steep dive, the craft had somehow pulled it nearly 2,000 feet higher in altitude. Not only did all the crewmen agree on the details of the event, witnesses on the ground corroborated the whole story and were terrified that they were about to see a mid-air crash...
  • The 1960 Red Bluff, California incident, in which several policemen witnessed a pair of football-shaped craft maneuver in the air for some two hours. This case was the big surprise for me, because on the face of it, it doesn't seem to amount to much. The UFOs didn't do anything spectacular -- no near mid-air crashes, no waving aliens -- and yet Michael was fizzing with excitement when he went over the details of the event...
Pretty cool stuff. I wholeheartedly agree with Michael about the Gill case and the Coyne case. Hynek was particularly fascinated by the Gill case and traveled to Boianai in 1973 to meet with the witnesses, and that says a lot. Even after 14 years, the case was still completely unexplained and intensely compelling. The Coyne case was the first big UFO event that Hynek's Center investigated, and it quickly became the gold standard for UFO cases.

As to the Red Bluff case... I'll have to read up on it to see if I can understand why it captivates Michael the way it does. But even if I never understand, it was a real treat to see that case and the two others through the eyes of a genuine UFO scholar.

What about you, readers? What are your favorite cases?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Is That You, Mo-Dean?

Back in '92, the fabulous B-52s recorded a fun little number called "Is That You, Mo-Dean?" in which the titular character Mo-Dean turned out to be an "Interdimensional Outer Space Being"...
"Waitin' for bus number 99
Goin' to the store for hot dogs and wine
When all of a sudden, I felt real cold
And wound up in the belly of a big ol' UFO"
It seemed like good fun at the time, but it turns out the B-52s may have been on to something more than just a catchy party tune.

In the course of some of my most recent interviews for my book about Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the topic of interdimensional UFOs has come up over and over again. Dr. Hynek, in the later years of his UFO career, openly entertained the idea that the Interdimensional Theory was every bit as valid and just as likely as the Extraterrestrial Theory as an explanation for the origin of UFOs; assuming that UFOs have a physical reality, which is still a big unknown...
"Movin' through the spheres, faster than light
On our way to some planets that were out of sight
We said, 'Space driver, give it a spin
And take us to some places we ain't never been'"
In any case, the topic came up again today when I interviewed writer-director-special effects creator Doug Trumbull about his work on the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and his development of the UFOTOG system for detecting, tracking, imaging and analyzing anomalous objects in the sky. Doug brought up the Interdimensional Theory and we talked about what it might look like for UFOTOG to capture images of a UFO appearing from and disappearing back into a parallel dimension. Would it fade in and out? Would it pop in and out? If you could slow the video down enough could you see the actual materialization and dematerialization? How cool would that be?
Behold, Mo-Dean, appearing from an alternate dimension...

Then I talked about my favorite UFO abduction case, the 1973 Pascagoula, MS event, in which Charlie Hickson and Calvin Parker were allegedly floated aboard a glowing UFO by BZZZZing robotic creatures who examined them and then let them go. What has always intrigued me about this case is that when the two men saw the UFO appear, it appeared to be coming down from the sky, but when it left, it simply popped out of existence.

Why, I've always wondered, would the craft appear in one mode and then disappear in an entirely different mode? Well, Doug had a theory, and a pretty good one...
"Is that you Mo-Dean? It's me Mo-Dean
Is that you Mo-Dean? On a UFO
Is that you Mo-Dean? It's me Mo-Dean
The interdimensional outer space being"
Interdimensional travel would be fraught with hazards, Doug said, especially when one was trying to calculate where and how to enter a new dimension. We and everything in our dimension are in constant motion through space and time, so he thought that if some being was trying to navigate its way into our dimension, "the safe thing to do would be to arrive a safe distance from any solid object." So the Pascagoula craft, for instance, would have arrived in a safe position near the earth but not too close, then would have safely descended to Mississippi. "If you arrived 5,000 feet under the surface of the earth, you would have made a big navigational error," he said.

"Leaving would be much easier than arriving," he went on, explaining that in the Pascagoula case the craft may have been able to make a safe instantaneous exit to its own dimension without having to first move to a safe place.

Pretty clever thinking. I think he may have cracked the case...
Is that you Mo-Dean? It's me Mo-Dean
Is that you Mo-Dean? It's me Mo-Dean
Is that you Mo-Dean? It's me Mo-Dean
I say at which depot do we depart from his UFO?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Happy Anniversary, UFOs!

On this day in 1947, the modern era of flying saucers began, when private pilot Kenneth Arnold was cruising past the Cascade Mountains in Washington State and saw a series of reflections of sunlight off of metal at a distance of 20 to 25 miles. He watched in amazement as a string of nine shimmering discs zoomed around the mountain peaks, apparently under intelligent control. Arnold later estimated the speed of the objects at 1,200 miles an hour, and when he compared their motion to saucers skipping across the water, an imaginative reporter coined the term "flying saucer," and the world was never the same...

Looking back from 67 years later it's hard for us to appreciate just how significant Arnold's sighting actually was. Humans had been seeing weird things in the sky for years, of course, so in one sense this was nothing new. But the mystery "airships" of the late 19th century were clearly held aloft by terrestrial technology; Arnold's saucers had no wings, no tails, and no visible means of propulsion -- what the hell were they?

“The phrase allowed people to place seemingly inexplicable observations in a new category,” said David Michael Jacobs in his authoritative book The UFO Controversy in America (1975, Indiana University Press). “Witnesses scanning the sky could now say they saw something identifiable: a flying saucer. Moreover, the term subtly connoted an artificially constructed piece of hardware; a saucer is not a natural object.”
Jacobs also noted that Arnold’s report encouraged scores of Americans to come forward with reports of unusual objects seen in the sky. “Many of these sightings occurred before Arnold’s. In this sense the Arnold sighting acted as a dam-breaker and a torrent of reports poured out.”

A little over six months later, the Air Force got into the UFO game with "Project Sign," and in due course the Sign investigators took a look at Arnold's report. When my man J. Allen Hynek reviewed the file, he came up with "certain inconsistencies" in Arnold’s estimates of size, speed and performance of his "saucers," according to a Project Sign memorandum.
Kenneth Arnold, and an artist's conception of the first flying saucer.

Although he allowed that he couldn't explain the incident away as "sheer nonsense," Hynek contended in his report to Project Sign that the reflections of sunlight on the strange objects that first caught Arnold's eye were troubling. "For a direct reflection, the angle between the observer, sun and object must 'just right,'" he wrote, "and at such distances of 20 to 25 miles, the chance of a series of direct reflections is extremely small."

For Arnold to have noticed the objects as a result of direct reflections, Hynek reasoned, the objects had to be either far closer than 20-25 miles, or they had to be extraordinarily huge, perhaps 100 feet in height. It followed that if Arnold's estimates of the objects' distance and size were in question, then so was his staggering estimate of their speed.

"In view of the above," Hynek reported, "it appears that whatever objects were observed were traveling at sub-sonic speeds and may, therefore, have been some sort of known craft."

In Hynek's mind, the case was closed, and there was no mystery. Little did he know...

Monday, June 23, 2014

UFO Anger

Who gets a seat at the table? In UFO world, pretty much anybody.

That's what I've been grappling with the past few days as the negative comments have rolled in concerning my interview with Dr. David Jacobs. Okay, grappling is too strong a word; the issue randomly popped into my conscious mind once or twice over the weekend. And there've only been three negative comments, so I can't exactly say they've been rolling in. And they've been thoughtful comments as well, so it's a reach to even call them negative.

Still, those three commenters have made their feelings about Dr. Jacobs very clear, and their criticisms have given me cause to ponder a few things...

When I started this UFO gig three years ago I made a conscious decision to steer clear of the controversies that plague the UFO community. I would not get involved in turf wars, or pissing contests, or character assassinations, because it was abundantly clear that there was already waaay too much of that out there. But, guess what? It ain't as easy as I thought it would be. There are so many controversies and scandals and rumors and feuds that it's pretty damn hard to talk about anyone or anything in UFO world without ticking off someone.

Screw you, sadistic alien. From now on we're going to be friends!
And guess what else? UFO people thrive on this shit! They eat it up, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hunger for divisiveness is immense, and I have been shocked to discover over the past three years that there is no shortage of material to feed the hunger. The whole thing reminds me of the classic Star Trek episode "Day of the Dove," in which the crew of the Enterprise are trapped together with a Klingon crew and forced by a sadistic alien to fight to the death -- with daggers, not phasers -- for all eternity, for no reason... Because the alien eats their hatred! The more the two crews fight, the more anger they generate, and the more powerful the alien becomes. It isn't until Captain Kirk convinces the Klingon captain to lay down his arms and embrace him that the sadistic alien realizes it's fucked and leaves the Federation crew and Klingons to work their shit out. Could there be a sadistic alien presence driving UFO people to constantly squabble and spat? I wonder...

Then there's the problem I mentioned in my original post: look over the speakers' rosters for the two big upcoming UFO conferences, Contact in the Desert and the 2014 MUFON Symposium, and explain to me what metric the organizers are using in selecting speakers. Of course, the speakers need to be provocative, and they need to sell tickets, and... well, that's it, apparently. I look over the speakers roster for Contact and see people I truly admire and respect, like John Anthony West, who actually has, you know, geological evidence to back up his theories about the true age of the Sphinx, alongside people like the unfortunately-named "Dr. Dream" and the other Doctor who is still talking about everyone's favorite pint-sized mummified corpse which proves nothing, the beloved Atacama Humanoid. Then I look over the speakers' roster for the MUFON Symposium and see Mr. Integrity himself, Lee Speigel of Huffington Post, on the same list as the guy who put on the asinine and ineffectual "Citizen Hearing on Disclosure" last year. And the funny, tragic, and ultimately humbling thing is that a whole lot of people would fervently believe that I got the Goofuses and Gallants completely ass-backward...

So, am I raising valid points or am I rationalizing? Because of the divisiveness and rancor that seems to come so naturally to UFO world, we each just have to make up our own minds how much bullshit we're willing to put up with, and from whom. I guess by reading this, you're deciding that you're willing to put up with my bullshit, and I thank you for that.

In the end, I think there's something to my idea that a sadistic alien is driving UFO people to fight each other with daggers for all eternity. What other explanation makes sense?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The UFO Abductee Problem

There are so many things I could write about today: the shocking news that John Lennon's killer was controlled by "dark" aliens; the great white shark that washed up on an Australian beach half-devoured by some "Nessie"-type sea predator; reports that 52,000 years ago reptilian humanoids ruled our planet. Each of these topics is deserving of serious consideration, but, alas, I cannot be the considerer today, for something mush more pressing has come up.

I recently blogged about my interview with UFO researcher and author Dr. David Jacobs, and I knew when I did that someone might voice a strong opinion about Dr. Jacobs' work with UFO abductees. Sure enough, fellow blogger Jack Brewer of The UFO Trail wrote the following comment:
"About Dr. Jacobs, I would have to challenge your suggestion that his research of alien abduction is controversial. It's not controversial, it's conclusively bad science. Interested parties might choose to view a three-part post I did on the circumstances following an interview I conducted with the man at a conference in 2012. Part one:


"Here's a more recent review of more of his actions and statements:


"I hope some find that helpful and informative. In my opinion, we have responsibilities to directly address such circumstances for many reasons, the least of which not being that by avoiding the issues, we endorse their continuation and lower the quality of standards of research. Personally, I do not want to be responsible, indirectly or otherwise, of even remotely implying an experiencer of high strangeness should pursue Jacobs's brand of investigation."
This brings up a whole bevy of interesting questions for me as I continue work on my book about the career of Dr. J. Allen Hynek. It's not hard to find a high-profile UFO researcher who has been or could be accused of practicing bad science -- indeed, it was a charge levelled at Dr. Hynek many times in his career -- so in a sense, if I were to follow Jack's advice and "directly address" such practices or else be found guilty of endorsing their continuation and lowering the quality of standards of their research, I'd have to be directly addressing the issue pretty much 24/7.

It's not a big shocker that bad science permeates UFOlogy -- I have commented on such things many times in this blog -- and it would be wonderful to scour out the frauds and incompetents, but it ain't gonna happen. Is it even worth the trouble to differentiate between the UFO good guys and the UFO bad guys when their names and photos all appear side by side on the speakers' lists for every UFO conference anyway?

When I interviewed Dr. Jacobs, we talked about his relationship and experiences with Dr. Hynek, and it was a wonderful talk. The only time his abduction studies came up was when he told me a completely unprompted story about how much Allen Hynek disapproved of his work with abductees and tried to warn him away from it. This moment of self-effacement was just one of many instances in which Dr. Jacobs endeared himself to me, and I'm not going to apologize for liking the guy for it.
Would you put this cow under hypnosis?

I respect Jack's views on Jacobs, and it may well be that if I were to delve into Jacobs' work with abductees I'd feel the same scorn and disapproval. But right now I value Dr. Jacobs' 40 years of work in this field, and his wisdom and insights will be a great addition to my book.

Will it cost me some readers? Maybe so. But if I was really worried about that I wouldn't be able to mention Dr. Hynek in my book about Dr. Hynek.

I recall early on in the life of this blog when I mentioned a certain figure in UFOlogy who I intended to interview for my book, and readers warned me that that person was a fraud and a liar. It was clear to me then that I should not use a person with such a bad reputation as a source for my book, and since then I have had reason to be grateful I made that decision. But am I a hypocrite if I don't apply the same standard to Dr. Jacobs? Where, in the end, does one draw the line?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Watch the Skies!

I had a wonderful two-hour visit the other day with famed UFO abduction researcher Dr. David M. Jacobs, and, as so often happens after these interviews, I feel like the most fortunate person in the world with the best job in the world. Funny thing is, I got the feeling Dr. Jacobs feels the same way about himself, and I would not begrudge him that one iota.

My first question to Dr. Jacobs was this: "You published your doctoral dissertation in 1975 as the book 'The UFO Controversy in America,' and somehow or another you, a mere graduate student, managed to get the biggest superstar in the UFO field, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, to write the introduction to your book. How on earth did you pull that off?" Because, in truth, I find that an amazing accomplishment... Dr. Jacobs gave me a big smile and a hearty laugh and started to tell me the story. And the stories just kept coming... The interview started on a high note and ended on an even higher one, and, I have to say, it may have given me the last line of the book. That's pretty cool.

Here's something else cool, at least to me. When I did my guest gig a few weeks back on PANG Radio, one of the listeners asked if I thought us humans are being conditioned to accept the reality of
UFOs and alien civilizations. My mind immediately flashed back to the previous night, when my family went to see "X-Men: Days of Future Past," and we had seen a whole bunch of trailers for upcoming science fiction movies. Sitting in the theater watching trailer after trailer, it struck me how many science fiction films deal with an alien invasion of earth, and how much of the imagery in those alien invasion films looks awfully familiar...

Take, for example, the now-familiar image of the ridiculously, impossibly, stupefyingly HUGE spaceship hovering menacingly over a familiar earth landscape, most often a huge earth city. See if you can identify the movies (or TV shows) in which the following ridiculously, impossibly, stupefyingly HUGE -- and pretty much interchangeable -- spaceships appeared:

So my response to the listener's question was that these images, and others like them, have become cultural signifiers, and may in fact be conditioning us for a possible future event... These images have been appearing for decades and by now they are, I imagine, deeply rooted in our collective subconscious.

But what are they preparing us for? Sure, the answer seems obvious, but I doubt it's that simple. And whatever event these images are preparing us for, when will it happen?

Of course, there is another possible explanation for why all these alien invasion images are so similar and so familiar. Nobody in Hollywood has any original ideas...?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fifteen UFOs and 35 Head of Cattle!

I've had a quite the afternoon. The other day I was chatting with my MUFON State Director, Mxxx, about the huge backlog of reports we've amassed here in Wisconsin, so today I decided to pitch in and do my share. You can imagine my surprise when I logged on to the MUFON Case Management System and discovered that I had no less than a dozen outstanding cases to my name. A dozen!

That's unacceptable, even with my lax standards.

Then I looked them over and realized that I had already tried to contact the witnesses in seven of those cases. Of those, only one had ever responded, and I have an appointment to interview him on Txxxxxxx. The other six? UFO deadbeats. None of the witnesses had responded to any of my repeated attempts to contact them, so I decided it was time to close out all six cases and classify them all as "Insufficient Data." All but one, that is, and I'll get to that later.

I do this with mixed feelings. Some of the cases I have to close out seem interesting, but I have to accept that the witness just might not want to talk to me about it and I will never know what the UFO was... With other cases, I am actually relieved that I don't have to talk to the witness, because they are clearly not worth talking to.

I'll give you a recap of the cases I just closed out, and see if you can guess which category each witness falls into:
Case #1 -- April, 2014:

I was looking up at the lunar eclipse. Then I noticed a shadow in the sky above my head that looked like a large bird at first glance. As I focused on it, the The shape became very visible. It had 5 lights on the front side. It wasn't there for long and the lights were very dim. It seemed more like reflections of light, but as it changed angles from me they didn't change or move. I could clearly see the outline of the object as it disappeared due to the lights of the city. It was only visible to me for like 9 seconds. It was moving very fast. From the shape and speed it was moving my first though it was a bird for that reason. It did not appear to be very far from me. Then I could see there was no flapping, and the lights very faintly.

Did you guess that this one might have some meat on the bones? Me too. It's a shame the witness has not responded to me...

Case #2 -- April, 2014:

Last night at 1:32 AM 3 friends and I were out on a walk. At one point when we were looking at the sky, two of the others and I saw two lights fairly low (about 500 feet, it's hard to tell) move very slowly heading northwest (more north leaning) and then speed off at an extremely fast rate until it disappeared. The whole thing lasted about 5 seconds, and 3 of us all saw the same thing.

This witness actually did respond to one of my emails... with a blank email. He didn't respond to any other messages, but that's ok. I don't think there's much here.

Case #3 -- September, 2013:

We were driving on I43 at 1250am September 20, 2013. We had been on the road for about twenty minutes heading back to Colorado. I noticed an orange glow flying at about 3,000 to 5,000 feet heading NE about to cross the freeway. I told my son to look as I pulled off the side of the highway to a full stop. I then turned my headlights off and then on several times. At that moment it changed direction heading southeast on a dime. We stood and watched the object for a few seconds and it suddenly changed directions once again heading NE toward Milwaukee. A few seconds later the object accelerated to an incredible speed and vanished off into the distance.

Intrigued? Me too. I guess the witness thought that since it happened last fall it was old news. UFOS are never old news.

The next two are grouped together because they were reported by the same person on the same day and are nearly identical...

Case #4 -- May, 2010
on the night of may 17 i was walking my friends dog,walking to first corner of lindermann ave @ hayes ave when to the north over a house appeared 2 orbs bright as a fireball, u could not miss them. then i took the dog back to friends garage, to get my friend to come outside. we both went out to observe the orbs in the alley. then 2 more orbs appeared, then 2 more appeared over the houses flying towards the east towards a cemetary before scattering in different direction and flying up in to space. i was a little scared at first until i got my friend he was scared also, they made no sounds at all no blinking lights, the orbs stayed same color at all the time. my friend stated he saw 5 orbs.
Case #5 -- May, 2012:
I was walking my friends dog on the night of may 19 2012, on the corner of linderman ave and hayes ave, when to the north above same house in 2010 encounter 1 orb appeared and shot downwards at me. within 30 feet of me, it communicated with its mind stating we needed help. so i took dog back to garage to get my friend again. we both went to alley to observe all 5 orbs which in the darkness they were so bright u could not miss them. being the second time we witnessed them,they scattered in different directions. one shot straight up threw a cloud, making a perfect circle in it and at a high rate of speed disapered in to the darkness. i was surprised at first to see them again, my friend was surprised as well. since i have seen them on the 17 of 2010 and 19 of 2012 im hoping they will back on the 21 of may 2014 this year, ill bring a digital camera this time. you are welcome to join me if u want, give me a call
Notice the eerie similarities? The witness was walking his friend's dog at the same intersection both nights two years apart!! Notice how the witness' "friend" is always hanging out in his/her garage? Notice the completely loony rationale for believing something would appear on May 21st of this year? Notice the cheeky invitation to meet up with the witness on May 21st? I did, too, and yet when I tried to accept the invitation the witness did not get back to me. Which is not surprising: what can you expect from a person who ignores an orb's telepathic plea for help?

As always, I saved the best for last. This is the case that I could not file as "Insufficient Data," because there isn't even enough data to dignify it with the adjective "insufficient." It's complete hearsay, and so I had no choice but to classify it as "Information Only," which is MUFON's polite term for "Uh... No."
Case #6 -- June, 1978

Cattle mutalation approximatly 35 head of beef cattle on a farm north of praire du chein wisc,farm own by a father and son, went there to ask them about it and what they said was all the cattle were taken ro madison wisconsin , they were told that they were not allowed to talk about this to anyone buy an order from the military,they father and son was so in fear that they bought pistols to carry with them on the farm. All the son would tell us was there was no foot prints of any type or tire tracks and the animals were missing all hanging body parts and reproductive organs.

Wait, were the cattle taken to Madison or not? And if they were, can we assume they were taken to the Oscar Mayer plant?
What is this strange conveyance, and why is it always spotted in the vicinity of cattle mutilations?

Will things always be this bad? No... Look at the next case I have coming up:
Myself , my son , & my wife saw strange lights in the horizon. My son and I got In my car to drive closer to the lights. And what we saw we will never forget...