High Strangeness: January 2018

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

UFO Secrets in Rubbermaid Bins -- Part IV

Submitted for your approval: the infamous Hynek interview with the infamous "Poher" quote...

(Please note that on the 4th & 5th pages, the Hynek interview is on top half of the page and a Spielberg interview in on the bottom half)

(Also please note that Dr. Hynek's name is misspelled. You gotta love those fanzines!)

UFO Secrets in Rubbermaid Bins -- Part III

Let's say you're doing research on a biography you're writing, and you come across an obscure published interview with the subject of your book. Let's say that, in that interview, the subject of your book states as fact something that takes you completely by surprise because it flies in the face of a story that has been told and repeated over and over again for decades.


What do you do? Do you use that newly-discovered quote in your book, because it sheds new light on your understanding of the subject of your biography, or do you ignore it, reinforce the conventional wisdom and preserve the status quo? Which would you do?

If you choose to ignore the newly-discovered quote, are you being fair to the subject of your book? Are you writing the best account of your subject's life and work that you possibly can?

On the other hand, if you choose to go with the newly-discovered quote, are you being unfair or accusatory in any way to the parties that have repeated the "old" narrative for decades? Are you guilty of insulting those parties if you use that new quote? Are you accusing those parties of being liars? After all, it's not you who uttered the quote; it's the subject of your book who said it. In a published interview. That has been around since 1978. If there's anybody for those parties to be mad at, isn't it the subject of your biography himself for saying the thing in the first place back in 1978 (or perhaps themselves for not protesting the quote when it was first published)?

That's what we've got here. As the researcher and author, you can't retract or apologize for something you didn't say. I doubt any writer or journalist would disagree with that.

Stay tuned: I have to run for now, but when I get back I'm going to post the original interview that started this whole thing...

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Danger of Wanting "Tic Tac" UFOS to Be Real

The danger of wanting to UFOs to be real is on display everywhere, it seems.  Wherever you look, people are believing all sorts of ridiculous things about UFOs, and that's not good news for those of us who take this phenomenon seriously.

I just tweeted over the weekend that even though 36 days had passed since the NY Times story about the alleged Secret Pentagon UFO study from 2007 to 2012, and the dramatic aerial encounter between Navy pilots and aerial tic tacs, we still hadn't seen any proof of anything from Luiz Elizondo and his pals at the "To The Stars Academy." People immediately responded to my post by informing me that the U.S. Air Force has confirmed that UFOs are "real," and that it's perfectly ok for the "TTS Academy" to release its alleged UFO "proof" in increments, and that Dr. J. Allen Hynek would be super excited that we're close to solving the UFO mystery that he worked so hard to solve during his lifetime.
Know what else looks like a tic-tac from a distance?

My responses to those assertions are, in order:
  • The Pentagon has confirmed that the program existed, but has not confirmed that UFOs are real. There's a big difference.
  • Real scientists don't release the results of their work "in increments." If they did they'd be booted out of the scientific community on their keysters.
  • Hynek would be royally PO'd at the TTS Academy turning UFO research into a revenue-generating public relations and ecommerce carnival.
Then it got worse. This morning I was poking around on reddit and came across this very serious-looking thread entitled: "Pentagon's Disclosure of Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP)," and it wasn't any better. Here's the write-up as it appears on reddit and my comments are interjected in red, in honor or reddit...

The Facts:

  • The Pentagon is publicly admitting to spending $22 million in "black money" from 2007-2012 on a UFO research program called Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP). But, again, that is not the same as confirming that UFOs are alien spacecraft.
  • The Department of Defense's AATIP program, via AATIP's former head Luis Elizondo, has supplied the New York Times with a video of an unidentified flying object that he and his colleagues names and qualifications, please have concluded appears to outperform any known man-made aircraft in terms of both speed and maneuverability. (For more about the evidence of sightings, see Popular Mechanics) Not sure how they can talk about "speed and maneuverability" when the tic-tac UFO appears motionless throughout the released video
  • Longtime intelligence officer Elizondo left his position what was his position, exactly? can we get an actual title? with the Department of Defense back in October, to protest the secrecy around the project. He then began working with To The Stars Academy, a project founded by Tom DeLonge and includes other former CIA, NSA, and Skunkworks figures.
  • One of the videos, the 2004 Nimitz video, is supported by the eyewitness testimonies of two Navy airmen who have come forward and are giving interviews with the press. I've only seen interviews with David Fravor; who is pilot #2? Anyway, the videos are suspect; the weather was reported as "calm" at the time, yet the videos show violently turbulent oceanic and/or cloud movement. Further, one pilot says that there's a whole fleet of tic-tacs visible, yet the videos only show one. There are also claims that the tic-tac UFO zipped away at a phenomenal speed, yet the videos show no such movement. And now pilot Fravor is claiming that the tic-tac UFO could be an indication that War of the Worlds is about to start! Yikes!!
  • Much of the research in the program was carried out via Bigelow Aerospace, a contractor that builds inflatable ISS modules. Founder Robert Bigelow has claimed to have built a special warehouse in Las Vegas where he stores materials recovered from an alien craft -- materials he claims are comprised of a mysterious alloy Where does Bigelow say he already has these materials in his possession? In the NY Times article Bigelow is quoted as saying he intends to store strange alloys "recovered from unidentified aerial phenomenon," but what does that mean? Bigelow could be referring to a scrap of tinfoil found on the ground in the vicinity of a UFO sighting. There's nothing in the reporting to suggest that Bigelow, Elizondo or anyone has recovered an actual piece of a spaceship These claims have been repeated by Luis Elizondo, Tom Delonge, and the journalists in the original New York Times report.

Why this is significant:

"Mr. Elizondo said he and his government colleagues had determined that the phenomena they had studied did not seem to originate from any country."
"Seem" is the operative word here. No mention of what specifically they were supposedly studying or what methodology was supposedly used.
Under Mr. Bigelow’s direction, the company modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Mr. Elizondo and program contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena.
Again, this is so carefully worded as to be virtually meaningless. Unless you can describe and reveal the "alloys and other materials" and provide proof of their origin, you've got bupkis.
The “unidentified aerial phenomena” claimed to have been seen by pilots and other military personnel appeared vastly more advanced than those in American or foreign arsenals. In some cases they maneuvered so unusually and so fast that they seemed to defy the laws of physics, according to multiple sources directly involved in or briefed on the effort and a review of unclassified Defense Department and congressional documents.
No big surprises here, as this has been central to the UFO phenomenon since it's birth. But who are these "multiple sources" and what are these unclassified documents that are being used as proof? Transparency, please.

Don't get me wrong! I want to figure out UFOs, too. I just believe it needs to be done correctly, carefully, openly and scientifically. Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Dr. J. Allen Giraffe and The Blue Book Blues

Major Hector Quintanilla was the project chief of the U.S. Air Force's "Project Blue Book" UFO investigation program from 1963 to 1969, when it was disbanded. Quintanilla was a thoroughly disagreeable chap. He hated UFO's with a passion, and at every opportunity he knee-capped Blue Book's longtime scientific advisor, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, as I've chronicled in some detail in my Hynek bio, The Close Encounters Man: How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs. In fact, second only to Dr. Carl Sagan, Major Quintanilla was the biggest, baddest bad guy in my book.
Project Blue Book chief Major Hector Quintanilla

Why do I bring this up so randomly? Why, it's because I checked in this morning on imdbpro.com to get the latest production update on the upcoming History Channel TV series about Dr. Hynek and Project Blue book, entitled Blue Book, and came across an odd connection to Quintanilla. Because this TV show appears to be so remarkably similar to my book, I've made it a habit to check in on its progress, and lately there always seems to be a surprise or two in the latest update.

For example, I recently noticed that the producers had cast an actor in the role of "General Hoyt S. Vandenberg," and I called attention to it here in my blog. I thought it odd that the producers would made a big deal about this casting news, since Vandenberg is at best a minor footnote in UFO history, and in fact was never involved in Project Blue Book at all. So, I took a poke at the producers over that, and then today when I checked, I found that Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg is no longer listed on imdb in the credits of the show.

Months earlier, I had pointed out that the History Channel's original press release for the show erroneously claimed that Dr. Hynek "spearheaded" project Blue Book, when in fact he was merely a hired consultant. The current PR material from History Channel acknowledges that Hynek was only a hired consultant.

Suddenly things are even weirder in Blue Book-world. The cast list on imdb is now greatly expanded, but with the exceptions of Dr. Hynek and his wife Miriam, not one of the characters is an actual person. The new cast members include such colorful characters as "Susie Miller," "General Hugh Valentine," Mandy," "Donnie," "Toby McManus," and "Local."  None of these people is real (Wait a minute! "Gen. Hugh Valentine?" "HV??" Could that be a new version of "Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg?" He hasn't been eliminated; he's been altered!).

They are now blatantly making shit up. Case in point: Deadline.com now reports that an actor named Michael Malarkey (no, I did not make that up!) has been cast not as Major Hector Quintanilla, but as, and I quote,
"Captain Michael Quinn. A decorated WWII hero, Captain Michael Quinn is selected to run Project Blue Book, a new Air Force division investigating UFO phenomena. A charming Air Force pilot, he clashes with his Blue Book partner, Dr. Allen Hynek (Aidan Gillen), challenging Hynek’s scientific mind with his raw emotional gut instincts."
I'm not joking: here's the link.

I don't know whether I should laugh or cry. As Ira Steven Behr, my old boss on Star Trek, loved to say with a resigned shrug, "Hey, Mark, it's Hollyweird." That's what they do: they make shit up. But, this is the so-called "History Channel." Forgive me for thinking that might actually mean something...

So anyway, according to Deadline.com, the irritating Major Quintanilla is now the "charming" "Captain Quinn." He apparently was the first Blue Book project chief, not the last, and his conflict with Dr. Hynek, himself newly promoted from "consultant" to "partner," was simply a battle between logic and emotion, with Hynek taking on the Spock role and "Quinn" standing in for Dr. McCoy.

Huh. News to me.

I would not be at all surprised if they create another character named Captain Tanilla." After all, "Quintanilla" is such a great name, and as it stands they're only using the first half of it. Why let the rest go to waste?

I'll take that a step even further. I also wouldn't be at all surprised if, the next time I check, Dr. Hynek himself has a new name and identity. I hereby make a suggestion to the Blue Book producers: Dr. Hynek was known to start the first day of his astronomy classes by writing his name on the blackboard and introducing himself as "Dr. Hynek. as in 'giraffe.'" Why not play it safe and call Hynek "Dr. J. Allen Giraffe" in your show?

It's almost as if they're saying that the real story of Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Project Blue Book isn't interesting enough as it is, and that it needs to be enhanced. That's crazy.

Who here agrees with me?

Monday, January 15, 2018

UFO Secrets in Rubbermaid Bins -- Part II

Well, this didn't go as expected.

In my last post, I described how, in the course of researching my book I had discovered the true identity of the person who inspired "Lacombe," the French UFOlogist character in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but I didn't drop any names, in the hopes of building up some suspense. Well, that's all moot now, so here are the names:

The guy we all thought inspired Lacombe: real-life French UFOlogist Dr. Jacques Vallee
The guy Dr. Hynek said inspired Lacombe: real-life French UFOlogist Dr. Claude Poher

The story I thought I was going to tell in this follow-up post was about how Dr. Vallee contacted me last summer to tell me how upset he was that I put that quote in my book, and I was going to tell how he had just contacted me over the holidays, just as upset, and that he had cc'd a prominent journalist both times which made me wonder whether this whole thing was going to end up in print somewhere.
Drs. Hynek (left) and Vallee

That's the story I thought I was going to tell. But then something else happened. What happened was, when Dr. Vallee wrote to me over the holidays, I started reading between the lines. And when I did that I sensed that Dr. Vallee may have been upset because he thought that my book was officially sponsored by Dr. J. Allen Hynek's Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). While it's true that Dr. Mark Rodeghier, the scientific director of he Center, gave me the opportunity to write the book, the book itself is not a CUFOS product. So, I wrote back to Dr. Vallee and explained this to him.

I knew that there had been some bad blood between Dr. Vallee and CUFOS some time ago, so it suddenly made sense to me that I should assure Dr. Vallee about the independent nature of my work.

Well, a couple weeks went by with me not knowing what might be happening, and then just yesterday I got the nicest letter from Dr. Vallee. Turned out he really was concerned that my book was being used as a vehicle for CUFOS to take pot-shots at him, and he seemed very grateful that I had cleared that up.

I wrote back to him today and we now have a very nice dialog going... No mention of the "Lacombe" affair at all! In fact, in his letters today he was complimenting my book and telling me about Volume 4 of his published personal journals, "Forbidden Science," hinting at some of the stories he'll be telling. I can't wait to read it, and I hope you all will, too!


Saturday, January 13, 2018

UFO Secrets in Rubbermaid Bins

It will probably come as no surprise to my readers that I have stored in my basement great quantities of old science-fiction fan magazines from the 1970s, '80s and '90s. They are stacked in huge Rubbermaid storage bins, and include such titles as Starlog, FilmFax, Cinefantastique, Science Fantasy Film Classics, Cinemagic, Fangoria, Cinefex, and even a few issues of American Cinematographer for good measure.

What can I say? Some people can't bear to throw out old copies of National Geographic; I get the same way with old Starlogs.
This is the magazine that started it all...

The thing is, they're not just dead weight. This became evident to me when I was writing my J. Allen Hynek bio, The Close Encounters Man, and I found myself looking for information on Hynek's role in the production of Steven Speilberg's movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. As with all my research for my book, I was always on the lookout for new and different voices I could include in my narrative. Very often, when I had a choice between quoting someone who would be familiar to readers (and, thus, seemingly authoritative) or quoting someone who had rarely if ever spoken about Hynek and his work, I would choose the lesser-known source. I didn't want to tell the same old story as remembered by the same old people, and giving voice to forgotten and overlooked characters kept it interesting.

So, I started on the Close Encounters chapter in my book, and it occurred to me that I had a treasure trove of material in those Rubbermaid containers in my basement! I dug through my old fanzines and came across quite a few gems, but the biggest prize by far was the Spring 1978 Close Encounters "Collector's Edition" issue of Science Fantasy Film Classics, with an exclusive interview with the big man himself, Dr. Hynek! What's more, the CE3K coverage had been written by science fiction authors David Gerrold and Algis Budrys. I was in heaven!

I tore into that Hynek interview with glee, feeling certain that I was about to discover pure UFO gold. I was not disappointed.

On the second page of the interview, writer Scott Becker asked Hynek, "I want to know if in some ways you identified with the character Lacombe. Isn't Lacombe similar to one of the officers of French NASA?"

Of course I already knew the answer to that question. We all do. Of course, the Lacombe character was based on Dr. Hynek's longtime friend and colleague, Dr.---

Wait a minute... The next sentence in the interview did not say what I thought it was going to say. The person I thought had inspired the Lacombe character was not mentioned at all. Instead, Dr. Hynek named someone completely different!

WTF? How could I have been wrong about that? I went through as many of my other sources as I could lay my hands on, and they all agreed that the person I had expected Hynek to name was the guy who had inspired the Lacombe character. I mean, how many French guys could be associated with this movie? But here was Hynek, in a direct quote, naming a completely unexpected Frenchman!

I was in shock (still am, to be honest). How could so many people be so wrong about this detail?

Well, there was no hesitation on my part. If Hynek told this interviewer that Lacombe was inspired by this other guy, then that's what would go in the book. It's a flipping direct quote by the man I'm writing my book about--of course I go with his quote and not conventional wisdom!

Would you believe this has opened up a can of worms that I am now having a hard time getting the lid back on?

I'm still sorting out how to address this, so it may take me a while to post a continuation of the story, but I will write more when I can...