High Strangeness: July 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Hollow Men

A fascinating article just appeared today at The Slice, and I think it's essential reading for everyone interested in UFOs and UFO culture.

Titled "Jesus Vs. Aliens: The Culture War Raging in the UFO Capital of the World," the article traces the sad decline of Roswell, NM, once the epicenter of the UFO-Disclosure-Saucer Crash-Alien Contact movements, now a sad, dusty relic soon to be left behind by history. According to the author, this year's July 4th Roswell UFO Festival was a shaky affair, inspiring as much apathy as enthusiasm among the locals. Roswell, it turns out, is a staunchly religious community, and the religious-types have no truck with the UFOs and aliens that have, over the years, brought so much fame and revenue to their town. Can E.T. co-exist with Christ? It seems not.

As I read the article, I couldn't help thinking that T S Eliot may have had Roswell in mind when he wrote the final stanza of his poem "The Hollow Men":
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.
I also couldn't help thinking that "The Hollow Men" could easily refer to a group of gentlemen who have been squeezing Roswell dry for decades. It's interesting -- and, to be honest, refreshing -- that the author does not mention any of these men by name, but only says:
"And while the U.S.’ leading UFOlogy speakers have driven or flown in from all over the country for this, Roswell’s conservative Christians have skipped town, saving up their vacation days to beat the crowds and blasphemous alien rhetoric."
The article goes on say how much money the UFO industry brings into Roswell every year, and it's a staggering amount.
"Roswell’s UFO museum brings in 175,000 viewers each year, more than any other single museum venue in New Mexico. The city takes in half a million dollars in revenue from the festival weekend alone (a lot for a small Southwestern city), and UFO museum director Mark Briscoe tells me that the museum’s economic impact on the community is 24 million dollars per year."
Jesus can't even come close to matching that kind of cash, so I doubt that the UFO folks will be asked to leave Roswell any time soon. Still, the article leaves no doubt that, with so few people left alive who have any real connection to the Roswell saucer crash story, there just isn't a whole lot left keeping the narrative alive...

So, who knows? Maybe the Roswell mythos would have died on its own without the help of the Roswell Slides fiasco.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Welcome to Restaurant X

Continuing on the theme of historical cases with odd addendums...

The other day I interviewed a college professor who had reported sighting a trio of odd lights over a lake in central Wisconsin several years ago. There wasn't much to the report, except that the witness had been on the phone with a friend who lived on the opposite side of the lake, and who interrupted the conversation to say "There they are again!" Turned out that the friend on the phone had been seeing these lights frequently, and her sister corroborated it for the witness. Three witnesses is always good, but none of them had lived right on the lake and none of them tried to get past the trees to get a closer view, and in any case the witness hadn't kept in touch with the friend or the friend's sister over the years, so there was no way to interview the other witnesses...

I was wrapping up the interview when she mentioned that she had had two other odd experiences in her life that might be of interest. I asked her if either event was related to a UFO sighting, and she said that, yes, one of them might have been. I asked her to tell me the story, and so she began...

The story took place 20-some years ago, when the witness lived in Iowa, and was visiting Chicago with a friend. They were hungry and went out looking for a place to get some dinner. After a while, they found themselves in a quiet corner of the city, not far from the Loop, and came across an interesting-looking office building that appeared to have a restaurant on the ground floor. They parked and went inside, and saw a sign for "Restaurant X." They entered and were seated immediately. They talked, had a drink, ordered dinner -- which, by the way, was delicious -- then paid and left.

Welcome to Restaurant X, where fear is always on the menu.
The witness and her friend had been very impressed with the restaurant, its beautiful decor, the professional staff, the fantastic food... but it occurred to them as they left that they hadn't seen a single other diner in the restaurant the whole time they were there. They thought that was curious, but soon forgot about it and went back to their hotel.

Four days later the witness was in Chicago again, with another friend, and suggested they have dinner at this interesting place called "Restaurant X." The witness had no trouble finding the office building after only four days, but as she parked she noticed that something was different.

She and her friend went into the building, but the "Restaurant X" sign was missing. They went to the entrance to the restaurant and peeked inside, and found themselves looking at a great big empty room. The beautiful decor that had impressed the witness only four days before had vanished; even the big doors she had noticed on the far side of the dining room were gone...

She was at a complete loss... She apologized to her friend and they went looking for a different restaurant...

I was intrigued, but puzzled. I asked her how this incident involved UFOs, and she said, "I've read about the idea of 'masking memories,' and I've always wondered if that's that we experienced." In other words, she wondered whether someone made her and her friend believe they were eating dinner at a restaurant, to mask the fact that they were actually having a very different experience... and she was clearly implicating aliens from a UFO. There didn't seem to be a missing time element at all, just a lingering sense of unreality.

I would love to find out more about this, but the witness only had a vague idea where the restaurant was located... And, as with her other experience, she had completely lost touch with both friends involved in the "Restaurant X" incident. Since we talked I've asked her if she could remember any more details at all about where she found that weird office building, and if she comes through I expect I'll be going on a restaurant hunt sometime soon. Meanwhile, I've looked up "masking memory" and it appears to be a computer programming term.

Which is actually kind of disturbing, if you think about it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Good Luck, Earthlings!

The upcoming Edinburg, TX "Out of This World" UFO Conference & Festival continues to entertain... Shortly after I wrote my last blog post commending the organizers for their honesty in admitting that the event is at least as much about UFO entertainment than it is about UFO research, this announcement about the event came in the mail:
Follow the rules for a chance to win 1 of 3 prizes!

- 1st place will receive a 60 in. inflatable alien with novelty alien hat, t-shirt, cap and sticker.
- 2nd place will take home a 54 in. inflatable alien with novelty alien lanyard, t-shirt, cap and sticker.
- 3rd place will receive a 36 in. inflatable alien with t-shirt and sticker!

Winners will be announced and tagged on the Out of this World UFO Conference page one week before the event.
Sounds like good fun, right? Until you take a close look at the accompanying poster:
So, the aliens are good at marketing, too... We're goners.
What is this poster telling us? Is the Edinburg "Out of This World" UFO Conference & Festival actually being run by aliens? Is "Good Luck, Earthlings!" an encouraging message along the lines of "May the Best Human Win"? Or is it a malevolent threat, along the lines of "Good luck fighting back against our particle ray beams with your puny A-bombs, humans"? Either way, it kind of strikes a blow for honesty, doesn't it?

Of course, there is another possibility... Is this "contest" actually a screening process to identify humans who have above-average abilities, so the aliens can recruit them to their cause, a la "The Last Starfighter" and "This Island Earth"? Will contestants be asked to assemble an Interociter? If so, I want to be there, because I've always wanted an Interociter, and I'm pretty sure I could assemble one.

Behold the Interociter: Alien communications device that also makes a handsome addition to your study or den.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Honesty & UFOs

"Honesty in the UFO Community"

That's the imposing title of the segment I'll be doing tomorrow on the "Strange Surroundings Secret Universe" podcast on July 24th at 9 pm Central (otherwise known as "tomorrow").

When host Loren Hatfield asked me to be on his show, UFO world was still all abuzz over the Roswell Slides fiasco, and honesty in UFOlogy was a pretty hot topic. Now, nearly two months later, the "honesty" buzz seems to have died down to a whisper, so I suspect the talk will be somewhat more subdued this time than it was when I appeared last month on the Dead Air Paranormal podcast. Whatever happened to those Dream Teamers and their slides? Is anybody talking about them anymore? Does anyone care? Doesn't the whole silly thing seem like ancient history nowadays?

Maybe the relative quiet that has settled over UFOlogy in the past month makes this the best time to talk about honesty again. I certainly thought so the other day when I got a promo email for the upcoming "Out Of This World UFO Conference & Festival." My first reaction, quite honestly, was to roll my eyes and think, "Here we go again!" 

Isn't it time to be HONEST about the damage these events can do to serious UFOlogy? Must we embarrass ourselves like this over and over again? I mean, the organizers aren't even trying to be serious: they even have the word "Festival" in the title of the damn thing!

But then I read the name again. "UFO Conference & Festival." Suddenly it didn't seem so embarrassing. At least they're separating out the "Conference" part from the "Festival" part, and acknowledging the two reasons people go to these things. Isn't that what we talked about on the Dead Air Paranormal podcast: being honest about the "entertainment" aspect of the UFO industry?

I checked on the link and was surprised and delighted to see the roster of speakers. The headliner is a man who has shamelessly exploited the entertainment value of the UFO phenomenon for years, George Noory. And I'm not criticizing him for that. It's a fact that Coast to Coast AM keeps the UFO phenomenon alive by emphasizing the entertainment aspects while giving a nod to the "serious" researchy side of UFOlogy. What better person to headline such an event?
Major Don West, protecting the Robinson family and the Jupiter 2 from an alien menace...

Then I saw the next featured speaker and I had to grin. Getting second billing on the program is actor Mark Goddard, best known for his portrayal of "Major Don West" in the campy 1960's science fiction TV series "Lost In Space."  

What does Mark Goddard know about UFOs? Nothing, I'd wager, aside from the fact that he used to pretend to pilot a saucer-shaped spaceship on TV 50 years ago. But it's pretty funny -- and, I admit, pretty cool -- that he's making an appearance, just the same.

Oh, there are also a few speakers -- Noe Torres and Ruben Uriarte among them -- who seem to be serious UFO guys, but to be honest I don't know much about them. Still, they would appear to make up the "Conference" side of things.

The there's also a screenwriter who will be talking about "Star Wars." I'm going to say he's part of the "Festival."

So... what kind of a crackpot Conference & Festival is this?

Well.... I guess it's an honest one, because it's admitting up front that it's at least as much about campy entertainment as it is about serious UFO research, and it seems to be making the bold if perhaps inadvertent assertion that both sides of the program can exist side-by-side without detracting from each other.

Maybe they're onto something...

Friday, July 17, 2015

UFO Epiphany!

So, 15 months after we taped the interview, my segment about Dr. Hynek and the swamp gas incident was finally shown in tonight's episode of "Mysteries at the Monument" on The Travel Channel, and I am happy to say I'm pretty pleased with the final result.

Nice shirt, eh? I bought that especially for the interview. My wife says it brings out the blue in my eyes.
The producer of the segment texted me during the show and said, "Well, they oversimplified it." That's true, but not surprising. It's a pretty complicated story, and getting all the twists and turns and betrayals and sex scenes in an eight-minute segment would have been impossible. Okay, there aren't any sex scenes, but there is a lot of skullduggery that didn't make it onscreen.

So, there are some mistakes -- the Congressional hearing took place in '66, not '68 -- and there are some lapses, and somehow the oversimplification seemed to make the narrative more complex. My only significant issue is that they made it seem as though Hynek changed his mind about UFOs overnight, which I had worked very hard to argue against with the producer. In retrospect, I should have seen that coming; they wanted a dramatic moment -- an epiphany! -- not a plodding, decade-long process...

But, I can correct that in the book, and in the talk I give next March in Michigan. In that sense, tonight's show was sort of a warm-up to the main event!

Leave It To a UFO Professional

I just renewed my MUFON membership for another year, but I had to give it a few moments' thought this time around. I was starting to get spoiled over the last few weeks by the quality of cases I was getting, but suddenly that trend has reversed in a most dramatic way...

Some people who file UFO sighting reports on the MUFON website are content to just tell you what they experienced and leave it at that, while others... Well, some people, when you contact them, need to tell you their life stories. In minute detail.

I do not like this. It's my job to investigate the sighting that a person has reported to MUFON, period. Call me callous, or uncommitted to the cause, but I do not enjoy having to spend my time hearing about a person's lifetime of odd experiences which may or may not have anything to do with the reason I'm contacting them. One of the reasons I dislike this so much is that I often feel as though the person is just making shit up, and enjoys wasting my time. Or maybe they're completely sincere,  they've been waiting their whole lives to tell their stories to someone, and I'm the lucky guy. Who can tell?

Before you accuse me of not living up to the standards of scientific investigation, or even to the standards of MUFON, you should walk a mile in my Certified MUFON Field Investigator shoes... Here are a few stellar examples from emails I've received just this past week:
Hi Mark - I'd like to begin talking with you - although I'm on a landline exclusively, and my father, if he was involved at all, has disavowed any knowledge of anything unusual. If he was involved back then, I don't want any harm to come to him - he's still alive and kicking at 94 in his own home - - on the other side of the road of significance I mentioned in my post. These things are not clearly from any verifiable place I can glean - except through the lense of my own mystical experiences throughout my life.  It is a long story which is told in some 40+ journals I've written over the course of my adult life to try to understand myself, my family and my world. I'm still trying to piece the pieces together...
Uh... 40+ journals, and you still don't understand yourself?
Jxxxxxxxxx: where my parents met when my dad was assigned to train people there after signing up in early 1941, I believe in ND. This is where the long-standing-in-history-of-settlement and the Hxxxxxx family involvement in all of this.  We've got a bonafide family history mystery on our hands - Dad put together (with me helping with assembly and typing up) a history of our own little arm of the family out of Norway. A certain men's tailor - Norwegian in extraction, English by name came out of the Bergen area to America via some uncertain route. A couple of years ago (2012), I was helping a disabled friend downstate with a complicated move involving his companion cats. The only place that would take us was a resort in the city where I used to teach. Guess which family was having their annual American reunion with people form Norway there - the weekend before we arrived?  Same family out of Minnesota - we were never informed.  Some of the people I met in one of the many common areas with pianos for the guests to enjoy told me about a relative who performs piano in much the same style down out of Virginia - named Cxxx Hxxxxxxxxx - no idea of whether or not he goes by his birth name or not.
Yeah... Mom and Dad never inform me about the family reunions, either...
Jxxxxxxxxx - birthplace of the sacred white buffalo of the Lakota People - guess which ancester leader/medicine man I helped to create an historical talk about for a group of people in Mxxxxxxxx a few years back (2001-2003)? Great-great grandson of the religious leader - I held the sweetgrass braid he used to bless the people as they tried to talk to the white men coming their way.....I felt something amazing. I swear, I'm not trying to have these experiences - - these things just keep adding up......Sacred White Buffalo Woman Legend.......the music heals the world - - the world already has all the medicine it needs in the form of the music the people finally created to tell their own versions of the story - - I only learned this because of my innate curiousity on the subject, and the curious "coincidental" experiences (if not bizarre) - which match up in the actual factual knowledge of the facts of my life and what I've witnessed and experienced.
To be perfectly honest, no one "tries" to have experiences like that.
Fun fact: 1974 - first year of liberal arts studies at Mxxxxxxxx College - Took a scientifically oriented science fiction writing class - had to do research to reach into our imaginations to construct what the future might look like. Mine was about the stem cell research - not sure it was called this at the time. The original I wrote about the "organ bank" was realized when I saw the article about the ear growing on the mouse's back.......seriously people - - somehow I'm connected in all this and even I didn't put the pieces together - - the coincidence of the number - my attention being drawn to the clock at EXACTLY 5:55. Many, many times throughout my life - recent articles "leaked" my way indicate that this is a signal from spirit or universe or -----that a GREAT CHANGE IS ON THE WAY... I came along so late in the family - I always kept wondering who's related to who and how.  I also have family connections higher up in government, entertainment, news reporters, social justice people of a MAJOR nature... as my intro to my musica goes.....and the list just goes on, and on, and on!  Eventually, to really flush out whether or not I'm of anysignificance or my experiences bear anysignificance on the whole - - who can say?   I left my number I believe in the last message to your group.
 Oh, sorry... we lost your number.
You just can't get rid of this guy...
yes I would love to talk to you about my UFO siting, but I really want to talk to you about the summer of 1980 that was a really strange summer it started out with a ufo siting then a bigfoot encounter then finally I think I may have been abducted as I went to bed and woke up about 3 miles from my house dressed and standing on a rural street talking with a native American that wasn't there!!!! the whole summer was really weird and others were there for two of the incidents!!!! I know im not crazy and im not a liar I would never do that because I believe in this stuff and people who lie about it make it tougher for others telling the truth to be believed!!! but id like to talk with an expert very much!!   
Yeah, that was a weird summer for me, too.

At least this person actually mentioned a UFO. Also, Bigfoot! Also, too, a native American that wasn't there, but was able to talk!! Talk about loading the bases.

I have kept this in long enough and really need to speak with someone professional about it! and I don't mean a doctor I mean a UFO professional! I know this is just me saying I saw something but I would not lie about any of this and I truly believe in UFO's and in what I saw and heard in all the events! 
Okay, now this guy is making some sense! Why go see a doctor when what you really need is a UFO professional?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

UFO Psychology

I've been working a new UFO case for MUFON this week, and it has some interesting similarities to the fascinating 1980 Fort McCoy mass sighting report about which I've written so much lately.

This new case is also historical -- it took place in 1976, when the witness was about 11 years old. Like the Fort McCoy case, it involved multiple witnesses. And, like the Fort McCoy case, the witness' experience of the event is one of the most interesting parts of the story.

Oh, and it just happened to take place about 10 miles from Fort McCoy...

Creepy, eh?

The witness was camping out with friends on the shore of Perch Lake in the middle of Sparta, WI. He saw a strange "star" that was zipping back and forth in the night sky, so he decided to signal to it by flashing his flashlight. One of his friends thought this was quite stupid and begged him to stop, but he, being a bit of a jerk, kept doing it until the "star" disappeared.
UFOs in trees.... a perfect combination!

A few moments later, the 30-50' tree under which the 4 boys were sitting started to sway and twist as if a violent wind had hit it. Strangely, none of the other trees were affected. As the boys watched, brilliant beams of colored light shot out of something above the tree. The witness described the beams as seeming to be "shot from a cannon." The lights continued for just a minute or two, then stopped abruptly.

The boys gathered their gear and high-tailed it home. The witness' big brother and the brother's friend calmed the younger boys down and called the police. An officer came out to talk to the boys, and, although he couldn't confirm anything they told him, he at least didn't make the boys feel foolish for calling in a report.

That's about it as far as the report goes, but when we talked on the phone the other night, the witness filled added some new elements to the story...
  • The boys didn't feel threatened by the lights and movement, the witness told me, they were just in a state of high excitement because they didn't understand what they had just experienced... 
  • When the lights started flashing overhead, the witness felt as though he was frozen or mesmerized for a moment or two. He felt as though there was a brief "lapse of time," and, although he couldn't exactly call it a "missing time" event, he did say that he felt as though the object above the tree was reading his mind during that lapse.
  • The witness had mentioned in his report that he felt the encounter had been a sort of "invitation," and I asked him to elaborate. He said that when he and his friends calmed down that night, they went right back out to the lake and camped out in the yard adjacent to where the event had taken place, as if they wanted to see more, but from a somewhat safer position... To this day, he still goes out at night and flashes his flashlight into the sky, hoping to signal whatever it was he saw as a child.
He then told me a long, detailed, surprising story about how the event has affected his life and that of his friends, and, frankly, I still haven't figured out what to do with this information. The witness seems to sincerely believe that a number of odd and eerie life events affecting him and his friends have a direct connection to the initial sighting. These events involve criminal activity, psychic abilities and a general inability to function in society... The witness seems deeply sincere about this, and points to the "mind-reading" and "invitation" elements of the event to validate his beliefs, but... I can't go there.

The question I face now is this: do the iffy theories of how the event has affected the adult lives of the witnesses invalidate the report of the event itself? The witness is going to ask if the two remaining friends (the third died in the mid-1980s under suspicious circumstances, and his body was found not far from the 1976 sighting!) would be willing to talk to me, so I'll (try to) withhold judgement until then.

This has also left me pondering a deeper question. Both of these witnesses had compelling stories to tell, and both seemed to experience emotional upheaval when telling me of these events that were deeply rooted in their distant memories. The Fort McCoy witness seemed intensely stressed and afraid as he talked to me, but the light in the tree witness seemed intensely relieved, almost buoyant. What makes the difference?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

UFO Media Onslaught! -- Part II

Good things always happen in threes... Oh, wait, that's bad things, isn't it? Well, then I don't know how to explain the fact that three good things all kind of happened or are happening this week. Or maybe they're all bad things and I just don't know it yet?

#1: Today, the human race got its closest look ever at ex-planet Pluto, which was discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. Not only was Dr. Tombaugh the only astronomer to have discovered Pluto, he is also one of only a handful of professional astronomers to have seen and reported a UFO, and to publicly endorse the scientific study of UFOs. For that, I thank you, Dr. Tombaugh!

#2: This Friday, July 17th, at 9 pm/8 pm Central, I make my basic cable TV debut on The Travel Channel, talking about Dr. J. Allen Hynek on "Mysteries at the Monument," hosted by everybody's favorite cable TV host, some guy named Don Wildman. I would have preferred Charleton Heston or Geraldo, but they didn't ask my opinion. Will my interview clips make me look intelligent or will they make me look like a boob? Have the producers edited my comments to make it seem as though I'm saying things that I didn't really say, or will they just leave me to drone on and on like I usually do? Will I become the next Giorgio T, or will I become the proverbial "face on the cutting room floor"? Will it be my moment of shining glory or will it be a catastrophe? Since the interview was taped over a year ago and I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning, the contents of my interview will be as big a surprise to me as they will be to the rest of the world. Can't wait to find out what I said!

My suite at the Wyndham!
#3: I've just been asked to give a talk at a Conference to be held in Ann Arbor, MI in March, 2016 to mark the 50th Anniversary of the infamous 1966 "Dexter-Hillsdale" UFO sightings, better known to most as the "Swamp Gas" incident. The event will be hosted by Michigan MUFON and I am anxiously awaiting word on when the Lear Jet will be picking me up and how many nights I'll be spending in the Presidential Suite at the Wyndham Garden of Ann Arbor. I am truly honored to have been invited, and I owe a big thank you to the UFO Council of Elders that meets regularly at the home of Michael Swords in Kalamazoo, and who suggested me for this gig! (Strangely enough, I have already been approached by an alumnus of Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, MI, about possibly giving a talk on the sighting that took place on their campus and was a big part of the Swamp Gas fiasco. If both events are on the same day and I have to choose, it might come down to which Lear Jet has the best-stocked mini-bar.) I'm already starting to think about what my talk could cover, because I have a lot to work with; when I started researching the Dexter-Hillsdale case for my Hynek bio, I was surprised to find how heavily documented the incident was, and yet at the same time how completely misreported the entire affair has been over the years. In short, I thought I knew a lot about the case and I was dead wrong.

So there you have it: Three things that I think are all good, all hitting all at once. Every week should be like this!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Can We Get Back to Talking About UFOs Now? -- Part IV

If you've been reading along with the first three installments of the Fort McCoy saga here, here and here, then I don't need to recap.

What I want to do here in this final installment is look at the "second stage" of a UFO report. What is the "second stage?" Well, not every UFO report has one, but those that do are awfully interesting. As I've done before, I'm going to get unscientific here and talk about subjective reality, so consider yourself warned...

The first stage of a UFO report is when the witness recounts the facts of the sighting (as he or she understands them): where the event happened, when it happened, what the UFO looked like, how the UFO behaved, how long was it visible, etc., etc. The second stage comes about -- if it comes about at all -- when the witness goes a little deeper and reports on how the event affected him/her mentally, emotionally, even spiritually. This information is virtually valueless to the actual investigation of the event, but, let me tell you, it is fascinating when a witness drops his/her guard and starts to tell you the other half of the story, the one they never thought they'd tell...

As I said, sometimes -- most times -- witnesses never go there. That can be because the factual report is all there is, or it could be because the emotional & psychological aspects are too strange and scary for the witness to deal with them openly. When the witness in the Fort McCoy sighting sent me his old notes on the event, he included several pages of new notes, written after he and I had talked on the phone. Apparently he felt safe enough to share how this event has affected him for the past 35 years, knowing that I wouldn't ridicule him or judge him.

Here are some of his new notes...
"One regret that I have is after the night of the UFO incident, I'm regretting that I didn't get in on the conversations at the mess hall in the days following the incident. I was so busy with my duties and thinking forward with the refugees that I don't think I talked about the incident but a couple times while we were deployed to Fort McCoy."

"When my chain of command more or less let me know that they had heard enough and I should concentrate on the task at hand, that is exactly what I did. By the time I left Ft. McCoy I had all but tryed (sic) to put the UFO incident out of my thoughts for I really wanted to make a career out of the infantry and new (sic) this incident would not be favorable to my present goals."

"Even though I'm still reluctant to say I saw two intity's (sic) or outlines of two figures inside the craft, I struggled with this for years until one day I realized if I seen (sic) the craft and know that I did, I must also realize that I saw it all and I should just come to terms with it. This was the revalation (sic) that gave me the courage to say I'm O.K. with this whole incident and just want to be able to express it without the possibility of some kind of ridicule or disbelief from others. Besides, I just turned 60 yrs old and back when I was 25 yrs old it was a little more difficult for me to understand what I witnessed, and to talk about it with anyone."

"The last thing I wanted to say is I thought at the time of the incident that it was my duty to report anything unuseawal (sic) to my chain of command because of the seriousness of the UFO incident and the refugee resettlement. The next morning after the UFO incident at the mess hall and the following couple of days I remember feeling a bit strange emotionally and for just a few days I had some difficulty trying to concentrate when I wasn't busy with my dutys (sic). It was like when we were not busy with refugee stuff or when we had a moment of free time to address our personal needs or hygiene I found myself slipping back into this strange feeling, but never could really understand what I was feeling."
"I now hope that my coming forward with the report and the possibility of verification from other soldiers that were present that night will help to shed more light on the incident, and the overall phenomenon of undeclared, unenvited (sic), or/and unidentified forean (sic) objects over and around this great country..."

Those are some deep thoughts there... The funny thing is, I have absolutely no doubt that I will be hearing more from this witness.

As for the Lieutenant and the Colonel who made the witness feel like a fool for speaking up, all I can think of is this...

Sergeant Hulka does NOT want to hear about what you THINK you saw last night, soldier!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Can We Get Back to Talking About UFOs Now? -- Part III

So, it's back to the September, 1980 Fort McCoy, WI, mass UFO sighting one more time!

I've now had a chance to read the entire sheaf of documents mailed to me by the witness, and there is some fascinating information on those pages...

First the basics: The witness was, at the time of the event, a "buck Sergeant" in Company C, 1st Battalion (Mechanized) 12th Infantry Division Fort Carson, Colorado. "I was the Platoon Detachment/Company NBC NCO (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical)," he wrote, adding that he reported directly to the Lieutenant in charge of the Platoon Detachment. A commendation from his CO issued on 12 November, 1980 confirms that he took part in the Cuban Refugee Resettlement Program at Fort McCoy during the period of 27 August 1980 through 4 October 1980, and that he demonstrated "The Warrior Battalion tradition of excellence" in containing "a major disturbance on 7 and 8 September 1980."
Cuban refugees being bussed out of Fort McCoy in 1980

This was dangerous, stressful duty, as the refugees, some of whom were criminals released from Cuban jails, felt that they were being imprisoned. "The fact that my Battalion, all infantry soldiers showed up there one day out of the blue made them riot big time," he wrote. "They lit a couple of the barracks on fire to distract us and lit out across the fences. That first night they tore down most of the fence all the way around the compound!"

The witness and his comrades had to wear riot gear and form a human fence to keep the refugees in. "Each night we would catch about 6 or 8 in my sector trying to escape to the free word," he wrote. "The refugees took their bunks apart and made some long knives 8, 10, 12, 14 inches long and all we had were axe handles... Mostly we just tackled them and disarmed them with minimum force."

The night of the UFO event, he was talking to his Lieutenant as he got ready to slip into his sleeping bag. "The Lieutenant was talking to me about how lucky we were for the good weather," he wrote. This is important: the Lieutenant was right there, talking to the witness, when this happened:

"I could see that this thing in the sky was a giant ship or something distinguished by me and my fellow soldiers as a unidentified flying object. As it moved overhead, it was absolutely silent moving slowly but directly across the sky, parallel to the road. It had a dim bluish light underneath it with other lights dimly showing the inside out appearance with structures like braces on the side and bottom of it. It was almost box shaped or rectangle looking with a slopped (sic) front end and a almost squared off appearance in the rear. As it passed over my position I watched until it completely disappeared...

"After the object went out of sight I looked at the Lieutenant and he looked back at me and his only words were 'Don't say a word.' I looked out to the road where all the other soldiers had gathered. Some were pointing to the sky were the object had just passed by, others were chatting away and a couple soldiers were pointing at their cameras."

The next morning, as I reported yesterday, the witness mentioned the event to the Lieutenant, and asked if they should bring it up with the Colonel when they saw him at breakfast. The Lt. simply replied "You're on your own."

"So I took that to mean that he knew something I didn't," the witness wrote, "or he was afraid of what happened the night before..."

So, purrlgurll, I hope this addresses at least to some degree your concerns that the witness was dreaming and that his commanding officers didn't see anything.

There's also this:

"The whole time I was on detachment at Ft. McCoy no planes, no helicopters, no airships of any kind ever flew overhead, especially at night," the witness wrote. "Besides, the size of the UFO craft was bigger than any known object I've ever seen airborne at that distance!"

Now, as compelling as this is, there is a big question mark in the story, as far as I'm concerned. If the soldiers were all looking up at the thing in the sky, wouldn't the refugees have taken advantage of the distraction, overwhelmed the guards and escaped? Or were they watching it, too...?

The story continues tomorrow....

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Can We Get Back to Talking About UFOs Now? -- Part II

Since I blogged last week about the strange 1980 Fort McCoy UFO report I'm investigating for MUFON, more information has come up, so I thought I'd post an update.

True to his word, the witness mailed me a packet of documents, including a list of servicemen who were on duty at Ft. McCoy the night the event occurred, a written account of the sighting that exactly matches what he had written in his MUFON report and related to me in our phone interview, and this drawing of the object he saw...

Fort McCoy UFO, as drawn by witness -- note the two tiny "occupants"
I wish the image had reproduced better, but the original was drawn on plain typewriter paper some 35 years ago, so it's a wonder it survives at all...
I'm glad to be able to write about this case again, because I got some interesting comments after my first installment, and I want consider them. First was this:

Lance said...
Hi Mark

Your approach here does not put me in the mind of scientific inquiry.

Lance, I'm not sure if you're commenting on my reportage in general or on some particular aspect of my narrative. I did say, before commenting on the witness' vocal cues and manner of speech, "Now I'm going to be very unscientific here and tell you what I found persuasive about this man's story..." Yes, I was being subjective in my observations. When I can hear stress in the witness' voice and sense the witness struggling for words to describe what he/she saw, I think it's reasonable to take that into consideration. In truth, that is very often the only thing I have to work with. In this case, while those cues certainly didn't prove anything, they did add to the witness' credibility in my eyes.

And, as I mentioned, this case scored a very high 48.85 Certainty Rating on the Ballester-Guasp Evaluation tool, and the BGE is 100% objective.

Then there was this odd exchange, over which I am still puzzling....
Tim Printy said...
Did I miss the information or is there a date and time associated with this sighting. If you don't have these basic details, it is not a very good case at all.
Mark OC said...
Tim, the witness does have a date and time, although after 35 years he admits he may be a little off on the date. In any case, it should be easy enough to date the presence of the Cuban refugees at Fort McCoy to get at least a rough time frame.

Tim Printy said...
So we have a date that the witness recalls but it may not be the precise date and time. If we don't have a precise date with a reasonably approximate time, it will be difficult to determine if what he saw was extraordinary or something ordinary that he misinterpreted. I doubt that any directions and elevations will be any more accurate. This is just another one of those UFO ghost stories that can't be verified or analyzed in any meaningful way. 
Okay, so... the witness reports that the event took place at about 9 or 10 p.m. on September 11, 1980, but, because this was an event that took place nearly 35 years ago, he can't be precisely sure of the date. That shouldn't be a huge surprise, but I don't understand Tim's attitude that without an exact time and date, the report is crap. And even if it "can't be verified or analyzed in any meaningful way," which I admit may be true, why is it not worthy of our attention?
I did a little digging and found an account in the Fort McCoy base newspaper that gives a timeline of the incarceration of Cuban immigrants at Fort McCoy in 1980. The timeline includes the following:
Sept. 7.  Cuban refugees protested their confinement and future move to Fort Chaffee and tear down fence.
That means that the witness and his comrades had to form their human fence on the 7th, which lends support to the witness dating the event on the 11th. And that's just the first piece of supporting evidence I've found. I may still find more.

Finally, purrlgurrl, I want to address your doubts in my next post. You suggested that the witness may have had an intense dream experience, and that the behavior of his superiors suggests that they didn't see anything that night. The notes the witness sent me include more detail of what was going on at the base in general and with him in particular in the days, hours and minutes before and after the sighting, however, and I think the additional information is worth considering.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

UFO Media Onslaught!

The Mark O'Connell media onslaught has begun! Right after doing a very fun podcast the other night, I'm now gearing up for my very first cable TV appearance as -- wait for it -- as a UFO Expert! Yes, on Friday, July 17th, I will be a guest expert on the Travel Channel hit show "Mysteries at the Monument," talking about Dr. J. Allen Hynek's controversial role in the March, 1966 Dexter-Hillsdale, Michigan "swamp gas" case. Here's hoping I come out of it on the 18th with a bit of dignity intact!

How did this all come about, you may ask? Well, I owe it all to Patrick Huyghe of Anomalist Books (thank you, Patrick!). About a year ago I got a call from a producer for the show (called "Monumental Mysteries" back then), and she said Patrick had referred her to me. She had a question about Dr. Hynek and she hoped I could help her out...

My curiosity was piqued, and I was more than happy to help. I asked her what the issue was, and her response kind of threw me: "Is it true," she asked, "that the Michigan 'swamp gas' case is what caused Dr. Hynek to change his mind about UFOs?"

Oh boy... Where to start?

I had to be honest with her and tell her that, no, it was not true. She took it well, but wanted to know the real story. I told her that while Hynek had, indeed, famously changed his mind about whether UFOs were a real phenomenon worthy of scientific study, there had not been any one incident that caused him to abruptly change his mind. In fact, I told her, Hynek's change of mind was a gradual process that had begun over a decade before the Dexter-Hillsdale case, and took years to complete. The most I thought she could honestly say for her show was that the process of Hynek changing his mind was completed by the "swamp gas" case.

Damn you, Hynek, when did you change your mind??
In the end we were on the phone for close to an hour. I had a lot to tell her and she seemed interested in hearing the whole story. And what is the whole story? Here's what I told her:

When Dr. Hynek was invited to be a paid consultant on the Air Force's UFO investigation Project Sign in 1948, his only task was to explain away as many sightings as he could as mis-identifications of ordinary astronomical objects. Hynek was very good at the job and he rather enjoyed having the opportunity to be a crusader for "real science" and to help stamp out this silly UFO craze. By the end of Project Sign, 80% of the reported sightings had been handily explained away, and Hynek felt sure that, given enough time and resources, the other 20% could be explained away as well.

Hynek went back to academia, satisfied that the UFO controversy had been laid to rest, and the Air Force closed down Project Sign and replaced it with the overtly anti-UFO Project Grudge (Many people think that Hynek worked for Grudge, but this is not true; by the time Hynek filed his final Project Sign report, Sign had given way to Grudge, and so Hynek's report was included in the Project Grudge final report; that's the only connection).

In time, Project Grudge gave way to Project Blue Book, and Captain Edward Ruppelt, a reliable problem-solver, was put in charge of the problematic project in 1952. One of Ruppelt's first jobs was to re-open the 1948 Thomas Mantell UFO case, in which an Air National Guard pilot crashed and died while chasing a UFO over northern Kentucky. Project Sign -- and Hynek -- had found at the time that Mantell had been chasing the planet Venus, but now Ruppelt was getting requests for more information from reporters and wanted to take a fresh look at the case. The original Sign file had been damaged and was unreadable, but Ruppelt discovered that Hynek still had his original case file. When Hynek and Ruppelt went over the file together, Hynek realized that the Venus hypothesis was untenable. Yes, Venus had been in the sky in the right location the evening Mantell crashed, but Hynek now realized the planet could not possibly have been bright enough to have been visible to Mantell and the other witnesses at the time...

A short time later Ruppelt invited Hynek to resume his old job as professional debunker with Project Blue Book, and he accepted. But Hynek was truly shocked to discover that the UFO problem was still going strong, and that 20% of the Air Force's cases remained unexplained.

Those unexplained cases started to bother Hynek, and that, I told the producer, was when Hynek started to change his mind about UFOs...

And at that point, we still have 12 years to go before Hynek gets caught up in the Dexter-Hillsdale sightings... Can you see why we talked for almost an hour?