High Strangeness: June 2017

Friday, June 30, 2017

Lighten up, UFO People

Hoo-boy, UFO people do get tetchy...

This conversation about my book is taking place right now in the "UFO Updates" Facebook group:
This is why the aliens laugh at us.

Fin Handley "About the Book
The wildly entertaining and eye-opening biography of J. Allen Hynek, the astronomer who invented the concept of "Close Encounters" with alien life, inspired Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster classic science fiction epic film, and made a n
ation want to believe in UFOs."

WTF? "invented the concept of 'close encounters'"? Coined the phrase maybe. But the concept/idea of "close encounters", i.e. a close quarters meeting with a ufo craft and occupants, came when people first started reporting such events. Am I wrong? Surely he 'coined the phrase' in RESPONSE to the reports. The sentence above blatantly appears to be suggesting that it was the other way around: he INVENTS the very idea of people meeting ufo crafts and their occupants, and THEN people start to report such things. That is nonsense.
Curt Collins
Curt Collins I doubt Mark O'Connell wrote that blurb, but we can ask him.
Mark O'Connell
Mark O'Connel  You're right, Curt, the publisher writes all the cover copy, and yes, sometimes they do go for simple, clear words and images to grab the reader's attention. I have an opportunity to edit the copy, but in this case I thought the wording was just fine (within the constraints of what we could realistically fit on the cover). Fin, I don't disagree with your logic, but I do think you're splitting hairs. Obviously, Hynek did not invent the phenomenon of the close encounter itself, but he did invent the conceptual construct of the "close encounter" as a means of classifying and describing certain types of UFO events.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Happy 70th Anniversary, Roswell!

The big day is almost here! The 70th Anniversary of the famed Roswell "saucer crash" is almost upon us, so let the celebration begin!

Yes, in July, 1947, a flying saucer from another world crashed on a remote ranch outside Roswell, New Mexico, and forever changed the course of history. As reported in the July 8, 1947 Roswell Daily Record, the U.S. Army Air Force had "captured" a flying saucer and transferred it to "higher headquarters." The story also pointed out that Mr. and Mrs. Dan Wilmot of Roswell had seen a strange flying object from their front porch a week earlier, and that they, "...apparently were the only persons in Roswell who seen [sic] what they thought was a flying disk."
Join me in celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Roswell Post-It

So, we've got us a real UFO mystery, and we're going to celebrate its 70th Anniversary like crazy!

But, what exactly are we celebrating, and when exactly do we celebrate it? July 4? July 5? July 6? These dates and many more have all been suggested as the day the event took place, but no one really knows. And you know why no one really knows when "it" happened? Because no one ever actually saw anything happen. The were no witnesses who saw a UFO out over that ranch -- the Wilmots, remember, saw their UFO from their front porch in the middle of town a week earlier -- and there were no witnesses who actually saw anything crash.

From there the narrative gets stranger and flimsier. First of all, according to the newspaper account, Roswell Army Air Base had "recovered" a "disk." Not the wreckage of a crashed disk, but an intact disk. Yet today the Roswell narrative is all about recovered wreckage. Why? To me, when the initial strand of a story doesn't check out, the rest of the story falls apart. And here we've got something that right from the very start absolutely does not check out. Why would the military claim they had recovered a flying disc if all they'd really recovered was wreckage, as today's Roswell "experts" insist?

Then there are the "corpses." The article in the Roswell paper never mentions any recovered alien corpses. In fact, at the time of the events, no one was talking about alien corpses at all. Today, though, dead aliens are a fixture of the myth. But even if you accept the reality of the aliens, you still have to decide how many corpses were recovered, and whether any of them were alive. Depending on which version of the modern Roswell myth you subscribe to, there was one alien or there were several aliens, and either they were all dead, or most of them were dead but one survived, or they all lived.

Oh, you also have to decide how many "crash sites" there were: One? Two? More?

It's a sticky wicket, all right. I repeat my question: What exactly are we celebrating, and when exactly do we celebrate it?

I have an idea: maybe from now on we commemorate the anniversary of the Roswell myth with a week-long event that encompasses every day in early July on which the events are said to have occurred. It would be a massive celebration of all the zany crackpot theories and odd bits of so-called "evidence" that have cropped up over the years. We could call it "The Smoking Gun Festival," and we could start it off with a parade led by four very short hearses in honor of the great Glenn Denny. What's that? You don't know who Glenn Denny was? Why, he was the local Roswell undertaker who claimed that someone from the Air Base called him up in July '47 and ordered four tiny caskets on the hush-hush. And of course, if you order four tiny caskets, you also need four tiny hearses, right?

One of four spotted in Roswell, NM, July 1947. Better keep the kids back when you pop open that tiny coffin...
Think, people: if you have in your possession four tiny dead aliens and you don't wish to draw attention to that fact, you do not call the local undertaker and order four pee-wee coffins. I would think that someone at the air base would realize that, if such tiny bodies existed, you could put those tiny bodies in full-sized caskets and not arouse any suspicion. In fact, you only need TWO coffins. Think about it.

Then there could be the Frank Kaufman float, with a larger-than-life typewriter, in honor of the many fake Roswell Air Base documents he secretly typed up on his vintage typewriter late at night in his home office, then "leaked" to gullible Roswell researchers. The funniest part of this story, to me, is the fact that Kaufman was Director of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce, and the Roswell researchers never seemed to catch on that Kaufman might have ulterior motives for helping to keep the Roswell story alive.

Then there could be a gap in the parade, in which there's just nothing there, in honor of "Nurse X," who claimed to have witnessed the infamous "alien autopsy" and then just seemed to vanish into thin air! NOTE: In some versions of the story there are multiple vanishing nurses, so it could be a very large gap in the parade!

The Grand Finale of the Smoking Gun Festival parade would be a massive tribute to the person who has done more than anyone to spread awareness of the Roswell events around the globe. I'm talking, of course, about that international Goodwill Ambassador of UFOlogy, the mummified corpse of the Pueblo indian child that spurred the all-too-recent "Roswell slides" fiasco. Yes, this little ersatz alien could ride on a gigantic cliff-shaped float, on which he would be displayed in his original glass display case from the museum at Mesa Verde National Park -- along with the original, controversial placard that was mis-read or simply ignored by so many Roswell eager beavers.

But that wouldn't be the only alien on display in the Grand Finale. There, at the top of the float, sitting on a golden saucer-shaped throne, waving happily and throwing candy to everyone, would be the alien clearly visible on the Roswell Post-It. That would be a splendid climax to a splendid celebration...

Wait, what's that you say? Roswell already holds a jokey, tongue-in-cheek UFO celebration? Oh well. Maybe I can still talk the organizers into letting the Roswell Post-It alien into the parade...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Nice Try, NASA

Well, that was quick! No sooner had hacktivist group Anonymous predicted that NASA is about to announce the discovery of extraterrestrial life than NASA threw a wet blanket over the exciting news:

"Contrary to some reports, there’s no pending announcement from NASA regarding extraterrestrial life," according to Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate. "Are we alone in the universe? While we do not know yet, we have missions moving forward that may help answer that fundamental question."

Nice try, NASA. Any fool can see that you're messing with us once again. First you tried to cover up the faked moon landings, then you tried to cover up the real moon landings during which our Apollo astronauts had strange secret encounters with aliens, and more recently you tried to cover up the  suspicious way the live video feed from the International Space Station just happens to cut out every time an alien spaceship appears in the frame. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention your pathetic attempts to explain away the Face on Mars. How long do you think the public will keep swallowing your cover stories?

So. Now that we know that NASA has, in fact, discovered life on another planet (What do you bet it was Mars all along?), the speculation can begin. Have they discovered tiny little microscopic critters? Intelligent carbon crystals? Giant tentacled monsters? More likely, it will be alien greys, Reptoids or Mantises, or some combination of the three.

Or it could be something altogether different. Thinking about what strange forms of alien life NASA is afraid to reveal to us reminds me of one of my favorite science fiction films, the 1968 psychotronic Japanese alien invasion spectacular, Goke, Bodysnatcher From Hell. I only recently discovered this trippy gem a year or so ago and fell in love with it immediately. The film combines so many tropes from so many movie genres -- science fiction films, disaster films, horror films -- that it's hard sometimes to keep track of what exactly Goke is or is trying to be. Is Goke trying to destroy the human race through hallucination? Does it really come from Hell, and if so does that mean that Hell is another planet? And why does the bad guy wear dainty white gloves throughout the entire movie? All I know is that the film boasts some of the weirdest imagery I've even seen, and Goke itself appears inside the most amazing UFO ever imagined... 

It may not look like much from the outside, but wait until you see the inside...
So, Dr. Zurbuchen from NASA, what are you hiding? Have you discovered Goke? Have you discovered Hell? We kind of need to know.

Friday, June 23, 2017

UFOs & Rolling Stone

The other day I had a great interview about my book with a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and I'm looking forward to seeing the article when it's posted! Before we began the interview I told the reporter that I had some good sidebar material for her story that I could share if she was interested, and she was...

I told her that back in 1974 Dr. Hynek had had a beef with Rolling Stone, and, as I had hoped, she was curious to know more. So, I took her back in time to October, 1973, just after the famous Charlie Hickson & Calvin Parker Pascagoula, Mississippi alien abduction case.

Hickson's and Parker's tale of being kidnapped by hovering robotic creatures with lobster claws for hands, and then examined by the creatures aboard their glowing "craft," had made national headlines, and created a media sensation. Rolling Stone wasn't going to be left out, so the magazine sent a writer named Joe Eszterhas to do a feature story on the Pascagoula abduction. Now, this guy Eszterhas has gone on to write a whole bunch of blockbuster movies, like Basic Instinct and Flashdance, but at the time he was just some smart-ass writer trying to make a name or himself. Kind of like me. Anyway, when he got to Pascagoula he made contact with Joe Colingo, a local attorney who was looking out for Hickson and Parker (I was fortunate enough to interview Mr. Colingo for my book, and he shared some interesting stories about those interesting days--more on Colingo and Eszterhas in a bit).
Rolling Stone's brutal takedown of the Pascagoula, MS, abduction.

As some readers may be aware, there was a lot of pressure on Hickson and Parker to undergo both polygraph tests and hypnosis. After much persuasion the two men agreed to hypnosis, but when the hypnotist tried to take them back to their experience with the creatures the two men panicked and had to be brought out of their trances (Dr. Hynek was there for the session, and he was so struck by the terror Parker and Hickson displayed under hypnosis, he felt certain the two men had had a real experience).

That left the polygraph test, and even though both Parker and Hickson had volunteered to do the tests, Parker had a breakdown just before the test could be done, and he had to be hospitalized... Here's where Eszterhas and Colingo come back into the story. When word got out that Parker was not going to do the polygraph test, Eszterhas tried to get Colingo to admit that Parker chickened out because he knew the polygraph test would reveal that he and Hickson were lying about their UFO experience. Colingo wouldn't bite, and Eszterhas was deprived of his story. But that didn't stop him from writing an article for the January 17, 1974 issue of his magazine that completely decimated Hickson, Parker, Colingo, Hynek, the city of Pascagoula and pretty much every part of the country that lay to the south of the Mason-Dixon line. Here's my depiction of Eszterhas' reporting from an early draft of my book:

In the Rolling Stone depiction of the events, everyone in Pascagoula spoke with a comically exaggerated, Skoal-muffled southern drawl, and all the key players—Hickson, Parker and Colingo among them—were either dumb hicks or scheming gold-diggers, or both.

Here’s a typical passage by Eszterhas, quoting Charlie Hickson’s account of what he saw on the pier: “I heard this buzzin like air gittin let outa a pressuh hose. We stood there watchin it, not movin we was so skeered.”

Eszterhas was equally brutal in his description of Hynek, presenting him as “goateed and stubbly,” and putting quotation marks around the title of “Professor,” insinuating that Hynek was some sort of academic fraud. “Dr. Hynek was the former head of the Air Force’s UFO probe, Project Blue Book,” Eszterhas went on, erroneously. “He lost his job in 1969, when the Air Force discontinued Blue Book and said there were no living/homing/zzzzing/beeping (sic) Claw Men up there.”
A few years later, Hynek got his due in his 1975 book The Edge of Reality, co-written with Dr. Jacques Vallee (whose discussions were sometimes moderated by their friend Arthur Hastings). Here's what he had to say about Eszterhas' article:

VALLEE: What do you think about the Rolling Stone article about Pascagoula?
HYNEK: First of all, those men didn’t talk that way. Hickson doesn’t have that exaggerated drawl, that extreme Southern accent. I can’t even imitate it.
HASTINGS: Where did the Rolling Stone get that idea? Obviously they wanted to take a Southern town apart.
HYNEK: Yes, they sure as hell wanted to take it apart."

Charlie Hickson ended up having the last laugh, passing his polygraph test a few weeks after his abduction, and silencing some--but not all--of his critics. Here's what Joe Colingo told me about his reaction to Hickson's polygraph test:

“We called a company out of New Orleans to come to Pascagoula, and they gave Hickson a polygraph. I wasn’t in the room, but they gave Hickson a polygraph, and I can still remember the quote that the polygraph operator said. He said, 'I’m not saying he saw a spaceship, but when he said he saw a spaceship, he wasn’t lying.’ That’s the way he put it.”

I am happy to say that Rolling Stone is far more enlightened today that it was in 1974. The writer and I had an hour-long talk about UFOs & UFOlogy, belief systems, what made Dr. Hynek tick, and all sorts of other good stuff. I'll be sure to post the link to the article right here as soon as it appears!