High Strangeness: February 2020

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

UFO Wonderland

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Dr. J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) for the first time in several years. While I was in the midst of researching and writing my bio of Dr. Hynek, The Close Encounters Man, I practically lived at CUFOS, soaking up UFO legends and lore like crazy every chance I would get. This time I was visiting CUFOS to set up a shoot for my upcoming Travel Channel TV series (more on that soon), and it was a real nostalgia trip.

The center is housed in the Chicago home of CUFOS scientific director Dr. Mark Rodeghier, with an additional storage space, housing thousands of CUFOS case files, just around the block. Roaming the archives and visiting with Mark reminded me of what an adventure it was to spend hours digging through the files, getting to know Dr. Hynek through his correspondence with scientists, UFOlogists, celebrities and UFO witnesses, discovering long-lost secrets about famous UFO cases, and just generally reminding myself that, despite all the misinformation and confusion out there about Hynek, Project Blue Book, AATIP, tic-tac UFOs and the like, there is a wonderland of real UFO research being preserved for generations of real UFOlogists.

If they use it.

One of the treasures I discovered through CUFOS: Project Blue Book investigator Jennie Zeidman
One thing that came up in my conversation with Mark was the fact that very few researchers ever actually visit CUFOS (and I imagine the same is true of other UFO archives). Researchers generally find the website (here) and then email Mark asking for information. Which he is glad to do, I might add, so long as the request is a serious one from a legit UFO researcher. But the fact is that visits like mine are rare, and that's sad. Sure, you can explain it away in large part as a natural consequence of the internet age, as we're all so used to dealing with instant digital information that we don't even think of visiting the source, and using our physical appendages to rustle through file folders filled with paper. But I think it's also a sign that UFO research all too often tends to be lazy, sloppy and insubstantial, and that many of the consumers of that research aren't all that concerned with accuracy and truth.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: UFOlogy needs a UFO Mecca, a (non-Roswell) destination vacation for UFO lovers and skeptics alike. What we really need is a central UFO museum/library/archive that, and I call dibs on running it. Anyone else want be on staff?

Saturday, February 15, 2020

UFO Book Reviews and GLARING Omissions

Every now and then I like to take a peek at how my book is being reviewed at Amazon and goodreads, and I'm always happy with what I find. The Close Encounters Man: How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs, has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon and  3.99 rating on goodreads. Not too bad.

I especially like reading the negative reviews. Sure, sometimes it smarts to have someone ripping on your work, but sometimes it can be kind of hilarious. My favorite negative review came from a guy who wrote something to the effect of, "I consider myself to be far more knowledgeable about the UFO phenomenon than the average person. However, until I read this book I had never heard of Dr. Hynek."

I still laugh at that one...

My latest review on Amazon (dated January 12, 2020) was pretty negative, and I have been struggling with what to make of it. Perhaps you can help. The reviewer gave my book two stars out of five, and wrote:
"Meh. Dry and dull. I have read better. Also the fact that the author did not add Dr Hynek’s opinion of the much more frightening (and documented BY THE USAF) case of Air Force Sgt Jonathan Lovett in 1956 which occurred at the New Mexico White Sands Air Force testing base is in my opinion a GLARING omission."
Basic rule of UFOlogy: you can't believe every story you hear,
I admit, I knew nothing about this case, so I looked it up and found that it involved this guy named Lovett who allegedly saw a UFO at White Sands and whose body was later found in the desert, very dead and very mutilated. That is indeed frightening, if true. But is it true? I never came across any reference to the case in Dr. Hynek's files, or in any Blue Book files. That doesn't prove anything, of course -- I may not have seen any reference to the case because I wasn't specifically looking for it -- but it makes me wonder how this Amazon reviewer knows for a fact that the case was "documented BY THE USAF" and that Hynek had an opinion on the case. If both of these things are true, why not include the documentation in your review, to back up your claims?

Anyway, assuming this really happened and it really was written up in a Project Blue Book case report, I doubt very much that Dr. Hynek would have given the story any credence unless he actually saw the dead body in situ. But it stretches credibility to think that the Air Force ever would have allowed Hynek to see Lovett's alleged corpse, much less asked him to comment on it.

Also, the fact that the Project Blue Book TV series has coincidentally done a recent episode on this Lovett story tells me that not only is the story likely to be false, but that Project Blue Book staff may be posting reviews of my book to stir up interest in their show. I know that's also a stretch, but you have to admit, it's an odd coincidence.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Forgotten Man of UFOs

This week found me ransacking my research files, looking for a recording of an interview I conducted in 2013 for my book The Close Encounters Man. It was an interview with a gent named William T. Powers, who had served as Dr. J. Allen Hynek's right-hand man at Northwestern University throughout much of the 1960s. I needed the recording of the interview to use in the TV show I'm producing for Travel Channel (aka TRVL), but 7 years after the fact I could not find the file... hence the ransacking.

The Socorro UFO: Bill Powers was there
The audio file wasn't where it was supposed to be, so I needed to look in all the places whether it wasn't supposed to be. Naturally, after spending an entire day tearing my entire office apart, I found the recordings, preserved on my old digital recorder, in the top drawer of my desk... aka, right where it was supposed to be!

Losing the recording of the interview would have been a great loss, both to UFOlogy and to me personally, as Bill was one of the warmest, friendliest, most cheerful people I've ever met. He passed away about a year after I interviewed him, and since I was the only person who had ever talked to him about his UFO work with Hynek, the recording holds a special place in my heart and in UFO history.

If you've read The Close Encounters Man, you may remember some of Bill's fascinating recollections of the Swamp Gas Case and Lonnie Zamora Case, stories of Hynek's epic battles with Blue Book boss Hector Quintanilla, or his remembrances of the early days of Hynek's "Invisible College." I'm hoping that some of Bill's UFO stories will make it into the show, because his words carry a lot of weight. At a time when there is more disinformation about UFOs than ever being spread about, it matters a lot to hear the voices of people who actually know what they're talking about.

Cheers to you, Bill!

P.S. The recording is now saved in 3 different media in 3 different places, including one in my safe, so I will never lose it again.