High Strangeness: January 2020

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"Mad Men" with UFOs

So, I see this morning that History Channel's Project Blue Book series finally went too far for many of its fans in this week's Roswell, Part 2 episode. I myself have not watched the episode, and don't plan to, but from what I gather the producers decided to "explain" the Roswell incident with the bizarre story introduced by author Annie Jacobsen in her 2011 book Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base. In the final chapter of that book, Jacobsen quoted a former Area 51 employee who claimed that the alleged Roswell saucer crash of 1947 was an evil plot hatched by Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin and Nazi scientist Josef "Angel of Death" Mengele. In this story, Mengele surgically altered deformed children to make them look like aliens, and Stalin provided a functioning flying disc that these ersatz "aliens" deliberately "crashed" into the New Mexico desert to scare the USA so badly that it would be easy work for the Soviets to invade our country and take over. That story didn't go over too well in Jacobsen's case, and from the tweets I'm reading this morning it's not going over too well with a lot of Project Blue Book fans.
Did Mengele and Stalin fake this saucer crash?

All I can say is, what do you expect from a show that bills itself as "Mad Men with UFOs"?

I don't have a whole lot to contribute to the conversation, but I know someone who does, and I think his voice needs to be heard at this moment. In one of the last interviews he did before his death in 1986, Dr. J. Allen Hynek had something to say on this very topic. The interview, which ran in the February 1985 issue of OMNI magazine, is well worth a read if you can find a copy. The scope and depth of Hynek's knowledge and understanding of the UFO phenomenon is a thing to behold. This guy knew his shit, backwards and forwards, inside and out.

So, when the interviewer brought up the topic of saucer crashes, Hynek didn't hold back. Here's what he had to say:

"To be honest, I don't like to talk about crashed saucers because I am in a position to mobilize public belief. If I came out and held a press conference to say that a saucer has landed and the creatures were in deep freeze at Wright Field, quite a few people would believe me. But it wouldn't necessarily be true, and it certainly wouldn't be science. I'm the interpreter, the monitor, the elder statesman in this field, and I won't jeopardize my reputation for the sake of the story."

Although he doesn't say it here, one big reason Hynek shied away from saucer crash stories was that if you claim that a flying saucer has crashed, then you are assuming that that saucer is/was a physical, manufactured, "nuts and bolts" object, and that's a big assumption. Hynek never embraced the "nuts and bolts" view, for that very reason.

The simple truth is that Allen Hynek never investigated the alleged Roswell incident, and he rarely, if ever, talked about it. He didn't start working for Project Sign until early 1948, over 6 months after the alleged Roswell crash, which by then was all but forgotten. So if you want to be upset about misinformation in the latest episode of Project Blue Book, you can start with the misrepresentation of Hynek's "involvement" with the case.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Catching Up With the UFOs


I've been pretty quiet here at High Strangeness for many moons, and there have been a couple of reasons for that.

First, the business stuff: In August a UFO TV show I've been pitching since my biography of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, The Close Encounters Man, came out was picked up and put into production by the Travel Channel (Now known simply as TRVL). As you might imagine, that set off a whirlwind of events and activities that have altered my life and my schedule and occupied my thoughts to an astounding degree (just ask my wife!). Once that all started, knowing that I would need to keep the show under wraps for the time being, I made the conscious decision to lay off the blogging, as I knew I would have a very hard time not using the blog to blab about the show and thus getting myself into trouble with TRVL.

Then, the personal stuff: First, my mom passed away in September, which was a blow, but I've been deeply inspired by the beautiful way my dad has dealt with his loss, and that has helped with my entire family's recovery. Second, I've been sick since last summer and in early November was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, a slow-moving, non-aggressive cancer, and I began a 5-month schedule of chemotherapy treatments. So, I haven't much been in the mood to blog all this fall and winter, as I've had other things on my mind... like mourning, and surviving. Sadly, my illness also meant that I had to cut back my involvement with the production of the new TV show. Happily, I just had my 4th of 6 chemo treatments and they seem to be working. All signs point to remission and as I continue to feel better I'll be more active in the production of the show. And let me tell you, I've never had so much fun with a project as I have with this.

My aim in writing The Close Encounters Man was to bring surprising new voices and new stories to the UFO world. What's the point in interviewing the same old people who say the same old things? I've maintained that approach with the show, and I think viewers will be pleased and surprised by some of the people they'll be seeing and hearing.

So what makes me want to resume blogging? Well, I just had chemo yesterday, so that means I'm not good for much around the house for the next few days, and frankly, I'm bored!

Dr. J. Allen Hynek, not seeking recognition

Also, the return of the History Channel (maybe now HSTRY?) fantasy series Project Blue Book has meant that I'm getting contacts from UFO podcasters to come on their shows to talk about the show and about my book. Anyone who follows this blog knows that I don't hold a very high opinion of the show, as it's about 98% made up and about 2% truth. If you didn't know this, you can listen to the interview I did just last week for Jeremy Scott's Into the Parabnormal podcast in which we spend part of the interview talking about my issues with PBB the TV show.

When the show premiered a year ago, my negative reaction kicked in halfway through the 2nd episode, when Hynek's wife asks her husband why he wants to sign onto this cockamamie UFO study for the Air Force, and he responds, "I want the recognition!" That moment made me howl.... Folks, I researched Hynek's life and work for 5+ years and I can tell you with utter confidence that Allen Hynek did not get into investigating UFO cases for the recognition. Frankly, Hynek was a much stronger, much more confident person than that. He was not the kind of weak character who needed or sought out "recognition." Furthermore, if he was seeking recognition, attaching his name to a fringy, disreputable phenomenon like flying saucers and little green men from Mars would have been a colossally stupid way to achieve it; the chances of becoming a laughingstock to the public and the scientific community were far too high for a little-known college professor to risk.

I was surprised and disappointed that the producers of the show chose to characterize Hynek this way, and I thought, "If they're getting the basic essence of the man so completely wrong, how can I trust them to get anything right?"

On the other hand... I have seen evidence that at least some people watching the PBB TV show are getting curious about this Hynek guy and are finding their way to my book. So, there's that.

But I don't want my return to blogging to be all about my take on Project Blue Book. Mostly, I just want y'all to know that I'm back, I'm still in it, and I'm going to start blogging more because I have a whole lot more to say about UFOs!

Just to help kickstart me, feel free to send questions or topic suggestions. You tell me what to write about....