Transformation of Ufology, part 2.
A look behind the scenes
Matt Graeber

<<< Continued from Part One

A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES
(e-mails from the Ufological upper crust) 

Let’s see what the ‘List’ and the lLeaders’ have to say about this growing internet UFO group phenomenon in their midst. How do they feel about their own organizations dwindling membership, declining journal subscriptions and public appeal in the age of the internet saucer-hucksters? (I have changed the names of the e-mail writer’s on this topic to avoid embarrassing the complacent and/or woefully inattentive). Most e-mail entries cited herein have been capsulized and edited by the author. Additional comments byme in italics.

Matt Graeber to Albert Benson, (a pseudonym) 12/12/2005

Albert, I’m wondering if the list members would be willing to post something on the growing internet presence of the Wisconsin group ( BUFO), that is attempting to” Turn” the Carbondale hoax of 1974 into another Roswell-like incident. There seems to be a rash of crash and non-crash saucer stories that are being promoted as Roswell-like events. If the list would log on to “carbondale,pa. ufo crash”, they can see for themselves how outlandish the yarn has become.

Mr Benson did contact his friends and colleagues on the list concerning the request. Here are several of the replies he received on the matter.

From Rick Yost to Albert Benson & the list: 12/16/2005

Hey Al,

“Particularly the ectoplasm and orbs they found at the portal”….

“The Carbondale crash was first promoted by the late flying saucer evangelist Robert D. Barry. He was PR man for the late right wing preacher Dr Carl McIntire’s 20th Century Reformation Hour ministry. Barry operated its one man press arm. He later had a weekly Saturday midnight TV show, “ET Monitor” on McIntire’s TV station.” They are both passed, now, but looks like other nuts are milking it.”

“By the way, Barry was the first one to report in 1989, about the same time same sort of claims were first made about Roswell, that the Kecksburg PA crash involved the recovery of alien bodies. He later withdrew that claim as an error, which was a surprise to me since I don’t think Bob ever heard a UFO story he didn’t like.” 

I wonder how many young saucer enthusiasts ever heard of the Reverend Carl McIntire or, knew that the Roswell story didn’t include alien bodies until 42 years after the incident was first reported?
 
Albert Benson to Rick Yost & the list: 12/16/2005

Rick, I’m not talking about Kecksburg, but the Carbondale hoax of 1974. If you are interested to find out more about this blatant nonsense, log on to <carbondale,pa. ufo crash>, and check out the buffoonery at any BUFO site or link. Those pushing this hoax as ” Pennsylvania’s Roswell” are without doubt in need of an urgent reality check”.

To Albert Benson, Rick Yost & the list from Scott Morris a major UFO group leader: 12/16/2005

” My observation of Barry, who used to write regularly for Saga and its UFO magazine, was than nearly everything he said – excluding perhaps banal observations about the weather – could be automatically discarded. Too bad that one of his tall tales is still with us.”

I think the people who log on to the Carbondale UFO crash site should be alerted to this observation by one of Ufology’s major group leaders and long-time researchers.

From Albert Benson to the list 12/17/2005

” It’s bad enough that the bizarre crowd at BUFO ( Burlington UFO & Paranormal Radio) is pushing the Carbondale hoax of 1974 as a genuine occurrence, but they’re not content to confine their idiocy to that alone. Now they’re involved in an internet fantasy asserting that the little town of Olyphant PA. which is located about six miles from Scranton, is situated at the “centre of the universe” and modelled after ancient Egypt by alien race! This would almost be funny if it weren’t for the fact that for the uninformed public and the media, this is what passes for the face of Ufology.”

Albert Benson continues,

“And this type of crap only makes it more difficult to convince the scientific community that the UFO phenomenon is a real mystery that merits the most serious investigation on their part.”

Scott Morris replies on 12/18/2005

Al,” I agree that this is pretty dumb, but it doesn’t amount to anything consequential, much less a problem with scientists. My experience is that scientists who are so willing are perfectly able to separate Ufology’s sensible claims from the absurd ones. Scientists who are hostile simply use the latter as an excuse not to bother with the more substantive issues. Hard as it may be for some to believe, not all Ufologist’s problems are Ufologist’s fault.”

“The Carbondale silliness is perhaps worth noting, but nothing to get worked up about. UFOs and Ufology were long ago relegated to the fringes, and something relegated, even if unjustly, is going to attract fringe types. Surely, we have better things to do with our time than to waste it with ritual denunciations of the many nut jobs and liars who are out there, and have always been out there. They’re certainly an irritation, but they’re also no more than a sideshow.” 

Yet another valuable observation that is limited to the list membership. Scott is correct to point out that the list has far better things to do with it’s time than denounce the internet kooks…However, one wonders ” What might they do that they haven’t already done over the course of the last sixty years?
 
From Tim Connolly (a list member) to Albert Benson & the list: 12/18/2005

“At least this kind of thing provides fodder for ” Ufology-ology”, which consists of remote-viewing history texts which will be written on distant planets in the future of a parallel universe. 

Egads, more material for BUFO to promote!
 
Joel Simpson (a list member) chimes in: 12/18/2005

“Watch any established field on investigation ( nutrition, astronomy, genetics, linguistics, etc.) and you’ll always find the same sort of nuts looking for attention, and a great deal of confusion in the media…..” I agree with Tom that the tern “Ufology” as understood by the world at large ( not just by us) covers every conceivable aspect of modern culture, from Bermuda Triangles to flying lights, crystal skulls, dogu statuettes, Uri Geller, exobiology and Nostradamus. I’d rather avoid using it. When asked I certainly never say I research UFOs, and usually mumble something about “A strong interest in cataloguing unidentified phenomena recorded throughout history. 

I fully understand Joel’s embarrassment, and it’s too bad that those visiting BUFO/Carbondale sites and links are not privy to his insightful and candid remarks.

 I would also like to point out that Ufology is not actually an established field of investigation, rather, it is an investigative (and occasionally obsessional) hobby that has produced little if any evidence to verify the physical presence of UFOs in our skies. I certainly wouldn’t put it up there with Astronomy or Genetics, etc. 

 * * * * *

Baseless rumours and distortions that are left unchecked foster beliefs, expectations, fears and suspicions that not only are completely unwarranted, they are dangerous too

So, the question arises, why should the serious UFO researchers feel obligated to point out the absurdities, inconsistencies, contradictions and the fabrications of the many internet saucer zealots, charlatans and hucksters? The answer is quite simple. Not to do so is a failing of character, ethics and moral compass that would serve to protect the unsuspecting and the ill-informed from the distortion of repeatedly reading and hearing about, and finally accepting as true, the suspicions, fabrications and “delusions” that have been bandied about and thrust upon them via the net regarding the true nature of the phenomenon.

For baseless rumours and distortions that are left unchecked foster beliefs, expectations, fears and suspicions that not only are completely unwarranted, they are dangerous too. I’ve read lies about the character and professional efforts of an acting police chief who diligently worked shoulder-to-shoulder with UFO field investigators during the Carbondale PA incident of ’74, while also managing to professionally serve and protect his community, the many volunteers and the policemen under his supervision at the site.

Only to have his name and efforts dragged through the BUFOrian muck and malicious fabrications about him by internet saucer-hucksters like Mary Sutherland, and her investigator Ronald T. Hannivig who not only never met or interviewed the acting police chief, they were not even present at the scene while the incident was being investigated in 1974.

Yet, these same self-appointed experts also alleged that the acting police chief (Francis X. Dottle), wantonly participated in a cover up of the incident by tossing bogus evidence into a pond. They even went so far as to post the malicious remark that this fine public servant was not then (At the time of the incident), nor is he now, a friend of the people in the community he served.

These silly fabrications appeared at the <http://carbondale,pa.ufo crash> site which you may log on to and read for yourself. I ask, is it really inconsequential that a man’s reputation be besmirched by individuals who may be totally deluded and lacking any scruples? Should serious UFOlogists continually turn a blind eye to this sort of behaviour and self-serving promotional propaganda because it might be unpleasant, beneath their dignity and embarrassing to deal with?

Is it not shameful to remain silent and allow this sort of chicanery to infect the minds of young and elderly ill-informed people who search the net for reliable information on the phenomenon? I’ve even received two e-mail forwards from a researcher in which the communiqués sender claims that one internet huckster is involved in fraudulent online business practices and directly involved in the suicide death of a teenage group member.

Naturally, there are two sides (or more) to every story, so I’m currently attempting to learn and verify more about the matter. I’ll report my findings in a future Carbondale Chronicles entry for those who are interested in this rather shocking and sad story.

Is there not a lesson to be learned in the fact, that few European politicians and intellectuals of the day took the national socialist movement in Germany very serious when it first came on the political scene. So, impressionable young people, far too young to remember who Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill were, sit at their computer’s keyboard and unwittingly log on to saucer-huckster sites who are like sharks lurking in the internet’s waters for careless surfers to happen their way.

Interestingly, my grandson’s high school French teacher recently told me that 65-70% of his students thought that Germany had attacked Pearl Harbor in 1965 or 67. So, should the serious UFO researchers simply assume that this kind of historical ignorance is limited to today’s high school students? How could serious ufologists be so blind (and passive) as to believe that their not setting the record straight on the chicanery and many lies about the UFO enigma is matter of little or no consequence? If that’s the case, why the hell do they even bother to research the phenomenon at all?

If one thinks it’s silly to compare the absurd online UFO propaganda to that of the Nazi’s, one might do well to recall that well over fifty percent of the adult voting population of this country believe in the ‘reality’ of UFOs and would probably support a candidate who shared in their saucer enthusiasm. Perhaps a candidate who would simply promise to release any and all government papers on UFOs could win a close election, especially if that candidate were also a popular entertainment or sports celebrity.

So, while the studious UFO researcher’s utilize the same internet technology to e-mail pithy and complimentary notes for each others enjoyment, and an occasional pat on the back- many youthful UFO enthusiasts slip into the jaws of the saucer-hucksters deception, delusions, lies and distortions. In fact, in some cases they may even be gobbled up by a hucksters chronic, habitual and/or pathological lying.

But, the rub lies not in exposing the internet huckster(s) as a blemish on the face of Ufology.. it lies in the fact that many serious UFO researchers and organization leaders themselves have participated in their own brand of saucer-huckstering over the years (directly and indirectly- unwittingly and consciously). Moreover, calling attention to the speck in the eye of an internet huckster might provoke a response from the debunkers about the beam in the eye of the UFO organization and/or its leadership.

So, it seems that the boundaries between the proponent UFO camps are not very well defined any longer. There once was a sharp line between the organized groups and the kooky contactee movement. Now it just seems that some of the saucer group leaders and experts are more eloquent spokesman, (a.k.a. Classier salesman) than the internet throng. Yet all seem to be well-versed in the art of putting a particular “Spin” on a UFO incident or the phenomenon in general.

Considering that the organized groups have been doing so for almost 60 years, does point to a habitual behaviour pattern, especially since that pattern of behaviour has produced absolutely no incontrovertible evidence or data concerning the phenomenon’s true nature or origin.

What we have is a great deal of speculative fantasy, which stems not from hard spikes discovered in an objective database but, all-too-human wants, needs and desires concerning the phenomenon’s assumed importance and meaningfulness to mankind, and the equally-assumptive importance of the researcher’s own investigative efforts.

This near-obsessional behaviour pattern was first established by the baby-boomer ” Nuts and Bolts” school of Ufology which is presently on the verge of extinction. The bare bones of their contribution to Ufology will be that they successfully managed to dangle a promised carrot before the noses of the American public, the media and themselves for six decades.

It was they who pampered, endured and invited the hucksters of Ancient Astronaut tales and Bermuda Triangle yarns to their conventions and symposia. They even participated in the proliferation of Saucer-Crash Fantasies and the Abduction Mania. They did all this to promote membership numbers, draw larger crowds to their conventions, make book deals and seek increased journal subscriptions.

One asks, how much ‘objective researching’ is to be found in these business pursuits? ( e.g., what percentage of the monies collected actually went for research, after operating costs and salaries for the group’s top brass were siphoned away?) Moreover, if the internet hucksters are following in the path of the old guard with better and far more dynamic internet UFO presentations to entice the curious and the gullible, is that not but an extension of the sins of UFOlogists past?

The sociologists and folklorists of the future will look back upon the late 20th and early 21st.century’s transformation of Ufology into an “unbridled” entertainment industry (or “UFOOLogy” as it is more accurately described) and realize that the two terms differ only in the addition of one vowel. Ufology is no longer, nor has it ever truly been a purely pseudoscientific pursuit – it has blossomed into a full-blown sub cultural entertainment industry that has profound romantic appeal within our youthful society. Its roots lie in America, which Dr Carl G. Jung once called the land of science fiction and fantasy – but the American UFO malaise is now becoming a pandemic that has spared throughout the entire planet through the world wide web.

The fossil remains of it all will point to a mid-20th century belief in the existence of and pursuit of phantoms of the skies. 21st century UFOOlogy will probably seek out the phantoms through paranormal or spiritually-based investigative avenues, assumptions and beliefs – some of which may be serious, while most will probably be pure humbug. However, the answer will always seem to lie just beyond their grasp, around the next corner, over the next hill. (Much like the nuts and bolts camp’s carrot).

Such is the nature of true phantoms; they antagonise, mesmerize and befuddle the blind man who senses their presence but, can offer no definitive description of them.. except for hearing the curious beating of their wings and catching a faint whiff of their fleeting presence. Could it be that UFOs are modern man’s harpies?

The pantheon of UFO experts will continue to come and go, along with the parade of witnesses and the few remaining organized saucer groups. The UFOs however, will persist and endure the many ups and downs of UFOOlogical fantasy, theorizing, speculation and assumption – and in time, a new generation will take up the quest and start swinging their white canes at the fleeting phantoms. Could it possibly be that the canes will always be far too short, and the answer to the riddle of the UFOs will simply remain beyond our physical and mental grasp?

Example No.5 (UFOs from inner-space?)

Perhaps in some strange way “the UFOs are but a reflection of ourselves”, as James Moseley suggests – aimlessly flitting about like the modern man’s hopes, fears and aspirations on the phenomenon. Perhaps our ancestors were better equipped to assimilate these “signs in the skies”, for in their lifetimes things like these aerial displays were not only anticipated and readily interpreted, they were actually prayed for.

Have we somehow lost touch with the facility of mind that once fostered beliefs in visions, portents, divine warnings and angels yet, search the skies to once again experience? Or is it all just a growing new age mysticism and religiosity appearing in the guise of technological marvels that homotechnos currently beholds in awe, wonder and masked reverence?

Has the emotional and spiritual nature of our inner being been schooled out of us by the customs, demands and the technological advancements of modern-day living? Indeed, does everyone really think that such powerful human emotions would simply dry up and blow away because it was no longer chic or, politically correct to speak of them?

The organized group elites may scoff at such thoughts, in the same manner which they scoff at the internet huckster movement in their midst. They seem to have an overly confident Col. George Armstrong Custer attitude about what they perceive to be nothing more than a small hostile encampment that they “look down upon” from their lofty UFO research headquarters. However, their status in saucerdom, with the press, the entertainment media and the American public’s focus of interest is most assuredly headed for UFOOLogy’s happy hunting grounds.

– Matt Graeber

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Transformation of Ufology, part 1
UFO Idols with feet of clay
Matt Graeber

PART ONE: UFO Idols with Feet of Clay

There has been a great deal written about the ’ Transformational Effects’ of the UFO experience upon the observers and the interfacers with alien creatures. Many times these incidents are alleged to have produced an enhanced form of spiritual awakening, heightened awareness, or a realisation of one’s cosmic connection with the universe and its many intelligent life forms. In extreme instances, the UFO experience is even said to have produced “Hybrid” half-human and half-alien beings that are presently walking amongst us.

This folly is further expanded by a form of unbridled one-upmanship, in which stories are routinely topped by more outlandish and embellished yarns, and we even find that not only have some fellows claimed to have discovered and identified more than 86 separate alien species presently visiting our planet but, there is an American abduction expert who proclaims that the “Greys” (small statured bulbous-headed alien creatures), actually absorb life-sustaining nutrients in the air through their skin.

As far as I’ve been able to determine, the expert doesn’t mention the rather delicate matter of how the Greys might un-absorb their body’s waste materials. Perhaps, they don’t, and that’s why they smell so horrid on the numerous military base’s autopsy tables!?

But, rather than rehashing the claims and the counter-claims which these many yarns have provoked from the saucer zealots, UFO enthusiasts, sceptics and debunkers – I will discuss the “Transformation of Facts” that the unobjective UFOlogists quite often bring to fore concerning their misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the significance of their truly poor quality reports.

It was then that I first realized that pointed questions and opposing points of view were not very welcome within the established UFO group community… 

Example No.1  (A blast from the past!)

I attended a UFO conference which was held in a high school auditorium at Pottstown, Pa. back in the early 70′s, and the director of the UFO group speaking at the event presented a number of photographic slides of purported UFOs for the audience to view. Many of the photos were images from rather old cases and were frequently written about by the popular UFO authors of the day. However, several were new to me and I found myself particularly interested in one slide that featured a pair of copper-coloured disks flying in tight formation amidst the backdrop of a brilliant blue sky.

The disks were photographed from an approximate angle of about 40-45 degrees, and showed the pair of identical copper-coloured craft from the bottom with a pronounced leading and side edge. I was taken by the fact that this photo was very clear, well-cantered in the frame, and did not have any distortion which might have been attributed to the craft’s movement, camera movement, or the blurred, fuzzy and slightly out-of-focus character of many other UFO photos also being displayed.

When the speaker’s presentation ended, and the lights were rekindled in the school’s auditorium there was a question and answer period in which inquiries were fielded by the speaker. At one point during this period, I raised my hand and asked the speaker if he might share a bit more information about the photo of the copper-coloured UFOs with us. He readily admitted that he didn’t know very much about the photo’s origin except that it came from a small village in South America.

I asked if he could tell us something about credibility the person who took the photo, when it was taken, where it might have been taken and how it ended up in the assortment of photos he had presented. The speaker seemed to be a little stunned by my questions and replied that the photographer is unknown and presumably died in a mudslide that destroyed his entire village.

The speaker didn’t know the name of the village or, the date of the disaster. He also didn’t know when the photo was taken. So, it would be virtually impossible to link the photo to a mudslide catastrophe that was published in newspapers somewhere in South America without at least knowing the approximate location or year of the incident. Even with knowing that, it would still be an investigative stretch to assume one positively knew anything about the reliability of the photos themselves.

When I mentioned the fact that these photos were probably not the best examples for audience presentation, an obviously annoyed lady seated in the front of the auditorium challenged my statement with a rather vehement remark. It was then that I first realized that pointed questions, and opposing points of view were not very welcome within the established UFO group community. (i.e., it appeared that many of the conference attendees hadn’t come to learn anything. They just wanted their preconceived beliefs on UFOs to be confirmed and/or bolstered by the presenters).

Interestingly, I had collected coins as a youngster, and suspected that these copper discs were actually coin planchets that hadn’t been struck at the mint. (viz, American Revolution period large cents), for both appeared to have well-defined nicks along their outer edges, much like circulated coins viewed under magnification. I never got to mention this to the speaker, who shrugged off my questions by proclaiming that “he thought” the photos were interesting and that’s why he presented them at the conference. In other words, the UFO photos were not investigated for authenticity and photographer credibility before being presented to the audience.

I later reproduced the appearance of the UFO photo, by placing two large cents on a piece of transparent Plexiglas and viewed them from a similar angle with the sky as the background. The result was astonishingly similar to the mysterious South American photo shown at the Pottstown conference. This was the first of many disappointing experiences with the fawning group enthusiasts and their leadership I would have during my eight year stint as the director of UFORIC the Philadelphia-based UFO Report & Information Center, 1972-80. (Although, I’ve been semi-active in the field for the last 33 years). 

EXAMPLE No.2 (Implants anyone?)

I attended a speaking engagement at a gathering of the Society of American Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in 1976 – in which I was to follow an elderly gentleman who had been researching UFO reports for decades. As I entered the dining room of the hall I encountered a young man assisting the primary speaker (we’ll call him Mr.Compton), who was quite visually handicapped and poking about in a upright dining room cabinet which doubled as the speaker’s podium and had a microphone affixed to it’s top. Inside the cabinet small oil and vinegar bottles were stored before being placed on the dining tables with the dinner salads.

Although the young man was repeatedly telling the speaker that only vinegar and oil bottles were stored in the cabinet, the legally blind speaker persisted in rummaging about in the cabinet as if looking for something else to be there. (It was quite strange and an oddly-amusing affair). I do not recall learning what Mr. Compton actually thought might have been nestled within the cabinet.

As the speaker finally settled down behind the podium and the microphone was adjusted to his satisfaction, the lights in the dining room dimmed and the slide presentation and the experts lecture simultaneously began. The first slide was a photo of an unfurled American flag. Mr. Compton said, “I always show this slide first because I believe in truth!” A voice from somewhere the darkness chimed in with something about “leaping tall buildings in a single bound” but, Mr. Compton didn’t seem to be distracted by this comical comment as he continued, “I’ve been investigating UFO reports for many years, and let me make it perfectly clear… I’m no contactee! However, I do know a few, and if you listen to what I have to say you will be endowed by the friendly saucers and able to protect yourself from the hostiles”

Then a barrage of slides was shown in rapid succession with a quick explanation concerning the photographer/witnesses credibility and the date and location of the alleged incident. Many of the photos were quite old and were obviously borrowed from UFO books and group journals. Most were poorly centred in the frame, blurry and of quite distant or small objects.(Were they insects on the wing, birds, Frisbees or alien space ships, stars or planets, it was quite difficult for anyone to tell with any degree of certainty).

Then Mr. Compton warned the audience of the dangers of approaching the Globe, Football-shaped and Bee Hive-like UFOs and how to thwart their attacks with a common hand-held flashlight. Apparently, one could also use the flashlight to perform a ‘UFO Friendship Test’, which was fully explained in Mr. Compton’s 32 page pocket-sized booklet which was on sale in the rear of the hall.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of Mr. Compton’s presentation concerned his revelations concerning a middle-aged woman (Mrs. Brotmann), who was out walking her beagle puppy at sunset on a summer’s eve when she was struck down by fleeting a 2.5 to 3 inch diameter UFO.

According to Compton, Mrs Brotmann had just been bending over while adjusting her puppy’s collar and as she was starting to straighten up she was shocked to see the tiny UFO flying straight towards her face. She tried to take evasive action but, the glowing UFO was travelling so fast that it hit her squarely in the forehead knocking her to the ground, lodging itself in her brain! A bit dazed and bewildered Mrs Brotmann finally regained her composure and was amazed to realize that there wasn’t a mark on her face to show where the UFO had entered her cranium. Amazingly, after this incident Mr Brotmann’s IQ was greatly enhanced and according Mr Compton she is now an engineer (Type not specified).

Would it be a stretch of sceptical speculation to point out that the flag slide and the ‘engineer’ connection in the Mrs. Brotmann story seems to be a bit ‘American’ Society of Mechanical and Electrical ‘Engineers’ directed!?

An obviously concerned lady seated near the podium asked Mr Compton if he had taken Mrs Brotmann to the hospital to have x-rays taken of her head injury. Compton quickly replied that he wanted to do so but, Mrs Brotmann flatly refused treatment because of the voices in her head. Apparently, these were the voices of the UFO operators who did not want their presence publicly revealed. Moreover, the x-rays would be lethal to the tiny Venusians who reportedly have been visiting Earth since the dawning of mankind.

This was the very first of the many so-called implant stories I’ve heard of over the years. Compton dates the alleged incident to the early fifties. Naturally, I was quite shocked by the character of Mr. Compton’s presentation and followed up with a rather capsulized talk on investigative methods employed at UFORIC. After this experience I decide to avoid public speaking engagements on UFOs, press interviews and I rarely participated in radio talk show programming on the phenomenon. However, I did answer questions from the public over the phone at UFORIC because we were in fact, a UFO ‘report and information’ centre.

While the above may sound too bizarre to be a factual account, I can assure you that it is quite factual, and that even stranger/wilder yarns are presented at many UFO conferences and websites. So, is there any wonder why mainstream scientists feel that something is not quite right about these wacky UFO experts and enthusiasts? Is there not a reason to suspect that they avoid and ignore the subject for fear of being associated with the kooks and crack pots who have always populated the largely unchecked and totally unregulated Ufological landscape.

Moreover, why is it that if someone does question the validity of a reported incident, the UFO groups generally do not appreciate and applaud that individual’s objectivity and tenaciousness – rather, they label him or her a sceptic and debunker while leaping to the defence of many less than credible eyewitnesses and fantasy-prone self-proclaimed UFO experts who bandy these yarns about.

All this while the so-called serious ufologists have never proven that UFOs actually exist in the nuts and bolts sense of the word in 60 years of intensive inquiry, by thousands of group members and field investigators- not to mention the combined efforts of hundreds of professional consultants in the disciplines of metallurgy, psychology, optics, astronomy, biology, etc. etc.

Moreover these same groups invite Abduction Experts. Implant Researchers and Reversed Engineering promoters to their conferences to speak about aliens absorbing nutrients through their skin, telepathic communiqués from benevolent alien races, and the mass production of hybrid babies aboard colossal motherships which are reportedly laden with human foetuses in liquid-filled jars. (What utter and nonsensical drivel!)

What are we to think of these deluded folks who inflict themselves and their half-baked theories upon the unsuspecting public, the all-to-eager UFO group members and press with “wild” and completely “bogus” UFO tales? What are we to think of so-called serious research UFO group leaders who stand by and permit these same individuals to thrust themselves upon their membership? I actually came across a fellow (we’ll call him Fred), who had achieved some degree of acclaim in UFO circles with his outrageous crashed saucer investigations, alleged alien and MIB encounters, not to mention his own abduction report. Fred was actually an individual dealing with serious mental heath issues.

Yet, Fred and the small group he is an important member of has a growing internet following consisting of many young people who are Yahoo members, and quite a number of senior citizens who are interested in the group’s specialized senior services, such as prayer groups for those with spiritual, emotional and physical wants and needs.

Additionally, Fred had proudly posted information about his own improving mental health status and active MH volunteer contributions on the internet for all to read yet, other UFO researchers continually posted his UFO stories and reports at their sites, often thanking Fred for his contribution to ‘serious ufology’. Fred was even the focus of an article in a leading European UFO magazine. Obviously, all had taken his reports at face value and never looked into the matter of his health and veracity before listing such hokum as credible UFO sightings and alien encounters reports.

I guess that a schizophrenic could have a reliable sighting experience but, how would one be able to establish such a report as factual vs. hallucinatory in nature?

So, the question immediately arises, who is at fault here? The mental patient or the shoddy UFO researcher’s who post such potentially delusional material for UFO enthusiasts to read and readily accept as reliable data? Even the very best computer virus scans and firewalls cannot protect a serious researcher’s UFO database from that sort of contamination.

jackolope

The entire alien affair reminded me of a time as a youngster, when I first saw an authentic ‘Jackolope’ at a hunting lodge. From what I later learned a taxidermist was producing the spoof-creature (A jack rabbit with small horns) for hunters who wanted to bamboozle less-experienced sportsmen in their group

EXAMPLE No.3 (The fossil remains of Mythical Creatures and Saucer Pilots).

In a 1996 book on the discovery of many mythical creature fossils, a Texas fellow, said to be a palaeontologist, is suspected of actually sculpting and otherwise fabricating the so-called skeletal remains of mythical creatures, which included mermaids from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, leprechauns and several other creative works. Although the books titled clearly identified it as being about the discovery of  ‘mythical’ creatures, one of the major UFO group leaders of the day was so may captivated by a photograph of the alleged skeletal remains of a small creature that was imbedded in a concave plaster of Paris cast. (Sort of like a little alien on the half-shell).

The ufologist thought that the skeletal remains closely resembled those of a downed saucer pilot who reportedly crashed his spacecraft just prior to the turn of the 20th century at Aurora, Texas. Indeed, a UFO report involving the landing of two cigar-shaped objects at Ledonia, Texas was reported to have happened on April 16th 1897, and the Aurora crash (about a hundred miles away) was said to have occurred the following day. The fossil find story was cautiously but, favourably promoted in the UFO group’s journal where it received wide attention by the membership. After all, if the group’s leader thinks there’s something to this story. Well, there must be something to it.

As time passed, and the story started to unravel, the group leader decided to retire albeit, without ever fully-acknowledging that he’d been mistaken about the significance of the bogus alien fossil finding at Ledonia. Jim Moseley of the zany UFO newsletter Saucer Smear, had been gently chiding the ‘Czar’ as he called the group leader about the bogus fossil; and I even drew a cartoon concerning the controversy which compared the fossil to that of Warner Brothers cartoon character ‘Marvin the Martian’, who as you may recall is actually Bugs Bunny’s outer-space nemesis.

The entire alien creature fossil affair reminded me of a time as a youngster, when I first saw an authentic ‘Jackolope’ at a hunting lodge. From what I later learned a taxidermist was producing the spoof-creature (A jack rabbit with small horns) for fun-loving hunters who wanted to bamboozle their sons and younger, less-experienced sportsmen in their group. It’s the hunter’s equivalent of “Snipe Hunting” with young boy scouts at camp for the first time.

So if we find such ‘ufoology’ flourishing at the very top of the heap in the sub cultural community of Saucerdom or (Saucerdumb), take your pick. One wonders, how deeply might such a malady infect the group’s internet list membership and the independent serious UFOlogists who look to these groups and lists for database resources? 

EXAMPLE No.4 (On the Demise of 20th Century Style Ufology)

While hearing from a researcher about the recent ‘Mexican Roswell’ report”, nd the sad state of contemporary ufology in general, the subject of the Carbondale, Pa. 1974 UFO crash came up. He was somewhat amazed to learn that a small group from Wisconsin had managed to revive the long-ago hoax, and was currently claiming it to be a genuine saucer crash that was covered up by the military and the government. In fact, they wanted people to think ‘Carbondale/Roswell’, since they believed the case was actually much more significant than Roswell, and had many more reliable eyewitnesses. (Claims which are not only completely incorrect, they’re absolutely ridiculous too!).

This group ( BUFO), is headed by an aggressive internet impresario (Mary Sutherland), who not only dabbles in saucers but, also operates an online match-making service and prayer services for those in need, while also featuring psychic readings for those daring enough to peek into their future, at very reasonable rate of just $2.95 per minute. But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg on her UFO and paranormal internet enterprises which include an abductee support group and an array of items for sale at her online store and Gift Shoppe in scenic Burlington, Wisconsin.

The serious UFO researcher, who had long been studying a particular variety of UFO sighting seemed to be somewhat dismayed that all this was going on while most of the fellows he had been contacting on ’ The List’ probably felt that the Carbondale case was indeed a complete and clumsy hoax. Additionally, the Wisconsin group had established a dominate presence on the net at the <carbondale, pa. UFO crash> site, and was even skilfully promoting their crash and cover up yarns on internet radio (audio) and TV (video) links.

Of course, there is a so-called Mexican Roswell, the Kecksberg, Pa. incident which is often touted a Pennsylvania’s Roswell. The Carbondale, Pa. hoax which the Wisconsin group is actively attempting to turn into a Roswell tourist and entertainment industry – and of course, even the Rendlesham Forest case is being foolishly called the UK’s Roswell.

It seems that if you prefix or suffix the name of any downed or un-downed saucer story with the word ‘Roswell’, the story automatically takes on an added dose of mystery, conspiracy and authenticity which far over-shadows any amount of obviously embarrassing evidence that might dismiss the entire incident as a fabrication or misidentification.

For many in the UFO community, Roswell is the line in the sand over which brutally vehement controversy rages. There is little middle ground on the topic, either you believe or you do not! If you do not, you are labelled a sceptic, a debunker and someone who has simply gone over to the other side.

Even though I never publicly said I do not believe the Roswell incident is very accurately portrayed in the vast saucer literature. I have become something of a piranha in the field simply because I questioned the veracity of two alleged star eyewitnesses concerning the Roswell incident. (Both of whom were later discredited and believed to have been discredited by other proponent UFO researchers).

Continue to Part Two >>>

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UFO Evidence in an American Reservoir.
Alan W. Sharp

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 6, number 1. July 1973

Alan W, Sharp takes a critical look at the classic Loch Raven Dam Case

On the evening of Sunday October 28, 1958 two friends* were out driving in the outskirts of the city of Baltimore, Maryland, at about 10.30 p.m.The winding road took them past Loch Raven Dam on an allegedly dark, moonless, clear and starry night, bereft of any bright planets. No wind eras reported so that calm conditions likely prevailed.

No information is given in the original report by Jacques Vallee concerning the existence of human habitations or street lights (except that staff in a ‘nearby’ restaurant heard an explosion at 10,45 p.m.) but of course there is always some light in the vicinity of any large town. Nor is any such information available in the more recent treatment by Hynek (2), who incorrectly places the reservoir in Delaware (Appendix I, p 239). Neither of these authors offers any explanation for the UFO sighting which the two friends Mr C and Mr S, then made as they approached the first bridge across the lake. The case is presented as yet another mysterious item of alleged UFO evidence.

Rounding a right-handed bend they approached the bridge from a northerly directions with a cliff on the left and the water to their right only to see, floating above the bridges a mysterious and alarming “egg-shaped” object about 100 feet in diameter and about the same in height at an estimated 75 to 100 feet above the superstructure of the bridge, a modified Pratt truss steel structure about twenty feet high at the top points of its two independent spans. Thus the UFO was, according to Messrs C and S, one hundred feet or more off the ground at roadway levels though it seems likely that this figure was an  overestimate.

On first noticing the hovering UFO the men were travelling at between 20 and 30 m,p.h. at a distance of some 200 to 300 yards from the bridge, but speed was immediately reduced to around 10 – 12 m.p.h, Eventually when the car was a mere 25 yards from the bridge it suddenly stopped, the engine went dead and all the lights went out, just as well, perhaps for otherwise the intrepid friends, who thought the object might have been some sort of ‘blimp’ (balloon) would have found themselves on the bridge more or less immediately under the UFO!

Turning the ignition on failed to energise the starter motor, and Messrs C and S were now “pretty frightened”. Nevertheless they contrived to observe the UFO through the windscreen (which must have been difficult in view of the UFO’s — by then –presumably highly elevated position) for an unspecified length of time before getting out of the car and running behind it for some protection. (How this position helped is hard to see if the object under surveillance was so close so high and so large as it was reported to be.)

After a further lapse of about half a minute during which they were now “terrified” (S) the UFO which had “been glowing with an irridescent glow” seemed to flash “a brilliant flash of white light”, (C )and seemingly gave off a terrifically bright light, (S) whilst “at the same time we felt a tremendous heat wave” (S) and both “felt
 heat’ on our faces” (C) -  but: “It didn’t seem like the heat of a burning object but something like an ultraviolet light or some kind of radiation”. (S)Concurrently with the flash of bright light there was a loud noise, described as a “dull explosion” by C and as a “tremendous thunder” by S. This was the sound heard by the other people in a ‘nearby’ restaurant. “Then very quickly, so that you couldn’t get the proper sequence of events the object started to rise vertically. The only different feature it had while it was moving was that it was very bright and the edges became very diffused so that we couldn’t make out the shape as it rose. It took from five to ten seconds to disappear from view completely. We were very frightened”.

The two men thereupon got in their car, which now functioned normally, and drove home poste haste to report their experiences to the police. They asked the policemen if they had noticed if the witnesses face’s were red but the police said they had not., Subsequently the two men went to a local hospital for a check-up and a doctor said C’s face was slightly red but S’s was not. Next day S said that his face was noticeably a little redder. He later remarked: “I hoped what I did see would add to the national interest or national information that would maybe help understand these things a little better. I do know there are at least such things now as UFOs”.’

The experience had become a UFO sighting of the ‘close encounter’ type and displayed a good many familiar, awesome overtones; putting these aside however, what did the sighting amount to?

Two men saw an unexpected object which they considered bore some resemblance to a Naval ‘blimp’ stationary a short distance above the ground. After a few minutes they witnessed a bright flash of light from the object and simultaneously heard the sound of an explosion. The object then quickly rose up and disappeared.’
The answer is simple. The UFO was a balloon, a large partly deflated balloon carrying a payload. The payload was jettisoned by the activation of an explosive charge (3) and the balloons lightened of its burden, quickly rose up out of sight. The battery on the balloon evidently run down, was unable to provide much current to the balloon’s light until after the severance when the light came on and illuminated the underside of the fabric.

No doubt the payloads which might already have been partially submerged, disappeared into the lake, probably. on the north side of the bridge judging from a photograph in Vallée’s book, but the men were too excited to hear any splash there may have been. Presumably this payload is still lying on the bottom of the reservoir. Someone should go and retrieve it, just out of interest. It might also be of some scrap value.

As far as the car electrical malfunctioning is concerned, if Venus can perform this feat from a distance of over twenty million miles why not a balloon from a hundred feet or so? One is reminded of the case mentioned by Craig on page 761 of the Condon Report (4) where a cylindrically-shaped balloon released from Boulder, Colorado, eventually found its way to the Azores where it was sighted – and stopped all the clocks! For some reason one never reads of the most likely reason for malfunctions of car electrics, namely loose or dirty contacts and run-down batteries. Such things are common sources of failure, especially in autumn and winter. Why do the cars (often) start again after a while? Because the contacts have improved and/or batteries recover sufficiently when relieved of load for a time.

My advice to ufologists? Do not take too much notice of ufological electrical failures in cars and, if you live within striking distance, go and recover the lost treasure of Loch Raven, provided the authorities haven’t beaten you to it. They may not have done so, however for the good reason that neither the USAF nor Project Blue book evaluated the sighting at the time and no-one (including Drs Vallée and Hynek) has been able to do do since.

References

  1. VALLEE, JACQUES and JANINE, Challenge to Science. Neville Spearman, London. 1966. (pp 191-194)
  2. HYNEK, J ALLEN, The UFO Experience; a scientific enquiry. Abelard Schuman. 1972. (pp 215, 221, 222)
  3. Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects. Bantam Books. 1969. (pp 755-760)
  4. Ibid,, pp 760-761

* The witnesses have subsequently been named as Philip Small and Alvin Cohen

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Roy Dutton responded to Alan Sharp’s article in the following issue,  August 1973

Whilst attempts to remove the elements of mystery from UFO stories are to be welcomed, in my view Alan Sharp stretches the bounds of credibility too far in his rationalisation of the Loch Raven Dam incident. (MUFOB 6.1)Alan Sharp’s first error seems to be his interpretation of the word ‘blimp’, used by the witnesses to describe the object. ‘Blimps’ were not merely balloons but non-rigid airships, used by the US Navy for coastguard and other duties as recently as the mid-1960s. Since these things patrolled the Eastern seaboard, one would expect residents in the Baltimore area to have been well acquainted with them, even at night.Familiarity with Navy blimps could account for the fact that the Loch Raven witnesses continued to travel on towards the object, despite its unusual location and unfamiliar appearance. From the description of the object, they probably interpreted what they saw as a three-quarters frontal view. It is my guess that initially they were eager to get as close as possible, because the opportunity

 to witness an airship some 280 feet long and having a mean maximum diameter of about 80 feet (typical dimensions for a USN blimp) can be guaranteed to draw a crowd anywhere in the world. Only when the car engine died and the sights went out would their excitement become anxiety, and by then they had approached too close to the object for comfort.
Assuming that the underside of the object was in some way illuminated, as the report implies, the witnesses should then have been able to discern whether the thing hovering virtually overhead had the necessary excrecences to qualify as a blimp – an underslung cabin, engine nacelles and, perhaps, large control surfaces at the rear. I suggest that when the witnesses finally clambered from, and crouched behind the car, they had become very convinced that the object was not what they had originally assumed it to be, and naturally felt extremely vulnerable with only the windscreen separating them from ‘it’.

From this point in the incident it must be conceded that the subsequent events were witnessed by two men in a state of near panic. The obsessional concern for their faces after the flash of the explosion and the subsequent facial reddening could be attributed to an induced state of hysteria. (This should not be interpreted as implying inherent emotional instability; it could happen to anyone after a traumatic experience of the kind described.)

Alan Sharp’s explanation of the explosion seems attractive at first, but it is difficult to believe that so much explosive energy would be required to jettison a payload package, even one of large proportions; and surely, an airship would jettison ballast (water) to gain height. Consequently, it is my view that although the jettison idea may be just compatible with the met. balloon theory, it is an improbable suggestion for an incident involving an airship, unless the craft involved had been conducting some clandestine military experiment.

Finally, I wish to deal with the subject of car electrics. During some thirteen years of motoring I have never known an electrical failure of the kind described in this report. The fact is that although such failures are not impossible, they are highly improbable.
Consider the case of the faulty or run down battery. From my own experience, as soon as the engine is running above tick-over speeds, which is usually the case when the car is moving and in gear, the dynamo will continue to supply power to all the electrical equipment, even when the battery has been completely flattened. Further, since it is possible to remove the battery altogether after starting the engine, loose or corroded battery terminals seem to be irrelevant in the context of the Loch Raven report.

I suggest that only a large induced back-E.M.F., a massive short circuit of the electrical supply (albeit for a short period), or an improbable sequence of faults and chance events could produce such a complete systems failure as the one described.To conclude, without the failure of the oar electrics it would be reasonable to believe that the witnesses had seen a USN airship in unusual circumstances, (The Wallops Island Naval weapons testing stationer is only 100 miles or so to the south of Baltimore, and this thought must have occurred to the Blue Book investigators) but as events stand, in my view the Loch Raven object must surely remain unidentified. 

——–

Seeing Things. Patrick Harpur


From Magonia 42, March 1992

I have always felt uneasy about the complacency with which ufologists repeat the assertion that 90% (or 95%) of UFO sightings are misidentifications of ordinary aerial objects such as stars, planets, birds, clouds, aircraft, etc. (I don’t believe in weather balloons); or else of natural phenomena such as patches of light, optical reflections etc. (whatever they are). I don’t like the superior air which creeps into reports of UFOs which turn out to have one of these simple explanations. It reminds me of a school seniority system: the scientists look down on the ufologists for believing in UFOs, and the ufologists, who want to become (of all things) scientists, look down on poor benighted passers-by who mistake simple weather balloons (or whatever) for what they are pleased to call genuine UFOs.

At a Magonia conference in Mortlake some years ago, we listened briefly to a radio phone-in on UFOs which happened to coincide with the conference. How we all hooted when Val of Peckham rang in to say that she had been disturbed by a weird light in the sky! It had seemed to be watching her, it was definitely intelligent, she had come over all funny, etc. It was obvious from her description that the light in question was a planet. John Rimmer, our kindly host, quelled the derision by reminding us that Val’s experience was in a sense the very stuff of ufology — indeed, that many of the eminent ufologists present had been seized by the subject through just such an encounter, mistaken or not. We were suitably chastened. 

And so we should be. After all, if I may lapse for a moment into fancy existentialist talk, Val had been confronted in her fallen inauthentic condition with a sense of the uncanny. This idea plays a key part in Heidegger’s philosophy, for uncanniness is the hallmark of those moments in one’s life when, as he says, angst brings Dasein (being-there) face to face with its terrible freedom — either to dwell in inauthenticity or to make a bid for self-possession. (More particularly, the uncanny is the summons of conscience, at which we experience a primal guilt — Schuld– at the fact that the source of our being is a nothingness or, rather, that our being necessarily implies the possibility of non-being. Guilt, then, may play a part in people’s reluctance to report uncanny experiences, usually put down to simple fear of ridicule… ) 

However, I didn’t get you here to show off my profound grasp of existentialism. I just want to suggest that Val had the kind of experience we all have at some time, especially as children: that of seeing a world we had been told was dead, as alive, intelligent, watchful (we all remember the sinister dressing-gown, up to no good on the back of the bedroom door). In other words, that way of seeing the world, and being seen by it, which has been derisively labelled ‘animism’, is not the prerogative of poor benighted primitives (or even of children), but an experience of reality which can strike at any time, just as it struck a couple (one of whom was, of all things, a scientist) who were driving from Shropshire to Cheshire one night in October 1983. They were lengthily and systematically hounded by an aerial object which shone menacing beams of light into their car, terrifying them. In a state of shock, and after much thought, they reported it to (of all things) the Jodrell Bank radio telescope, who passed the report on to Jenny Randles, who kindly wrote it down for us. It turned out that the couple had misperceived the moon. 

Perhaps ufology should be less concerned with the nature of the object than with the nature of perception. Here, for instance, is another well-known case of misidentification: 

“…do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea? 0 no, no, I see an Innumerable Company of the Heavenly Host crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”‘

The percipient is of course the visionary poet and artist William Blake. The ‘disk of fire’ is the sun. Blake insisted that his poems were not mere figures of speech but true accounts of the natural world, transformed (invariably personified) by the power of the creative imagination. He could see the sun perfectly well as everyone else does, as a golden Guinea; but he could also see its deeper reality as a heavenly host. He distinguished between seeing with the eye and seeing through it.

I’m not saying that there are no such things as visual errors. We’ve all seen lights in the sky which might have been UFOs, but which on closer inspection turned out to be aircraft lights or whatever. But even such simple misidentifications are not wholly neutral or without significance. They are like visual equivalents of Freudian or, more accurately, Jungian slips: they point for a moment to the Unknown which lies both in our depths and in the heights of the sky. Even when we see with and not through the eye, as it were, we are already imagining what we see. Blake’s description of the normal sun is already embroidered by a simile, ‘like a Guinea’. The whole world is an imaginative construct. There’s no such thing as a simple unadorned perception, nor a simple misperception — let alone Val of Peckham’s sighting, charged as it was with potentially frightful significance.

Was Val satisfied with the explanation that her sighting was ‘only a planet’? Was she not made to feel a little foolish, even a little cheated? And what of ‘Mrs A’ of Hollington, West Sussex, who was watching television on 4 October 1981, when she felt ‘compelled’ to go to the window, only to see a large bright yellow object in the sky? Joined by her daughter-in-law Janette, the two women watched astonished for half an hour as the object wobbled, pulsated and repeatedly changed shape. Several times, as an aircraft passes nearby, the object emitted smoke and hid itself behind a cloud. Janette saw lights on, and structural sides to, the object. Both women suffered severe recurrent headaches over the following weeks — a sure sign of a close encounter — and Mrs A experienced a 14-hour blackout four days after the sighting. The witnesses were convinced they had seen a spacecraft piloted by aliens. Investigation revealed that the object had been the moon. 

william-blake-portrait

If Blake had been running the phone-in when Val of Peckham rang in, he would not have told her that she had misidentified a planet; he would have said she was privileged to have glimpsed the awesome form of foam-born Venus rising in splendour from the sea of night

The usual ‘explanation’ for such lunatic experiences is ‘projection’. The term, derived from Freud and the early Jung, is taken to mean that images from the unconscious are thrown forward, by-passing consciousness, on to the world or on to objects in the world (the night sky makes a particularly handy screen) where they are perceived as something external. This has come to mean that the images are ‘only subjective’ but are wrongly seen as objective. (Jung became much more equivocal about projection as a result of his alchemical studies.)

However, as Lee Worth Bailey, among others, has argued (in ‘Skull’s Lantern: psychological projection and the Magic Lantern’, Spring, 1986), the idea of ‘projection’ is a metaphor drawn from the model of the magic lanterns which caused so much excitement in the 19th century. While the common people were astounded and terrified by the slide-shows which tended to project images of ghosts and demons, experts and debunkers delighted in exposing the ‘fraudulence’ of these images. Scientists like David Brewster (d. 1868) published widely read descriptions of how the magic lanterns worked and went on to claim that all so-called visions and apparitions were attributable to them. He asserted that ancient priestcraft employed similar devices to trick people into believing that gods and daemons exist when they were, in fact, only projected delusions.

This notion was to influence Freud who deprecated visions as ‘nothing but projections’. And, naturally, just as we tend to model the psyche on our own machines (it’s computers now), so it was not long before the magic lantern became the model for our own heads out of which subjective images were projected on a soulless world of objects. The psyche became restricted to the skull, and any of its images encountered outside became delusions which had to be withdrawn back inside. Thus the autonomous myth-making imagination was reduced to a kind of cine-projector which mechanically threw out fraudulent visual, images — and to hell with the powerful affecting visions of poor benighted bystanders.

I suggest that the idea of projection won’t wash. It’s simply the corollary of Locke’s equally erroneous description of the mind as a ‘blank sheet of paper’ which passively receives the stamp of external sense impressions. We should rethink our epistemology along the lines of a Blake, understanding that our primary mode of perception is imaginative. We simultaneously see and transform the world. As the ancients knew, the moon is not just a barren planet but a dangerous goddess liable to induce delusions or revelations, madness or mystical experience; and if my two examples are anything to go by, she potentially still is.

We have been brought up with a literal-minded world-view. We demand that objects have only a single identity or meaning. We are educated to see with the eye only, in single vision. When the preternatural breaks in upon us, transforming the profane into something sacred, amazing, we are unequipped for it. Instead of seizing on the vision, reflecting on it — writing poetry if necessary — we react with fright and panic. Instead of countering like with like, that is, assimilating through imagination the complexity of the image presented to us, we feebly phone scientists for reassurance. We are told we are only ‘seeing things’ and so we miss the opportunity to grasp that different, more primordial order of reality which lies behind the merely literal.

I’m not suggesting that we strive only to see the world as visionaries. To perceive all aerial objects as angels — to see only the heavenly host sun and not the guinea sun — leads to the madhouse. It is just as literal-minded as seeing a light in the sky as only a ball of hot gas or a barren planet, or an extraterrestrial spacecraft. This, too, is a kind of madness, albeit established and called normal. The remedy is to cultivate a sense of metaphor which, as its etymology suggests, is the ability to ‘carry across’ — to translate one view of the world in terms of another. Sanity is the possession of what Blake called ‘double vision’, which allowed him, for example, to see “with my inward eye … an old man grey / With my outward a thistle across the way.”

If Blake had been running the phone-in when Val of Peckham rang in, he would not have told her that she had misidentified a planet; he would have said she was privileged to have glimpsed the awesome form of foam-born Venus rising in splendour from the sea of night. She might then have been emboldened to prise wider that momentary crack in literal reality and to enter that other, imaginative Reality which alone infuses the world with beauty and terror. We don’t need to see UFOs in order to enter that Reality because, to the poetic imagination, everything in the sky –stars, birds, clouds, balloons — is a UFO whose final reality can never be known.

The Case of the Little Man of Renève. Hilary Evans

If, ten years ago [1976], you had been a subscriber to the highly reputed Phenomenes Spatiaux, you would have been pleased to find that dramatic sightings were not confined to the sensational media. For here was a case which, while there were no indications of a UFO, certainly seemed to involve an entity not of this world.

As so frequently happens, the case dated from thirty years earlier; though as happens less rarely, the witness gave interesting reasons for the delay, as we shall see. Regrettably it was a single-witness observation: on the credit side was the fact that the solitary witness was the local curé, know in the report at the Abbé X. He served as parish priest in the small village of Renève, a village of fewer than 400 inhabitants near Dijon, from 1936 to 1947. This was his account:

“On a fine afternoon in April 1945 I went out hunting for mushrooms. Towards 6pm I was on my way home when I saw a likely-looking spot, and I was actually on my knees for a closer inspection when I suddenly saw a little fellow 15 to 17 cm tall, running swiftly to one side of me, He seemed out of breath and alarmed, though not so much so as to prevent him passing within 30cm of me, giving me an intense look as he did so.

“My first reaction was to grab hold of him, but I didn’t because of a sort of stalk or spike which he carried, which was taller than him by about 2cm. He disappeared into a nearby copse, without my being able to stop him, much as I would like to have entered into communication with him. I returned home kicking myself for not having made more of my opportunity.”

He planned to return the following day either in hope of seeing the entity again, or at least of seeing if there were any traces, but bad weather prevented him. He described the entity as ‘a miniature man’, with a man’s proportions, seemingly of 70 to 75 years of age. It was grey-haired, bearded, chubby-cheeked and with a very expressive face. It was wearing a one-piece suit, seemingly of rubber, although thirty years later he felt it might have been plastic.

The entity made no sound during the twenty seconds the sighting lasted. The priest had the impression that it was both nervous of and curious about himself. He never felt any doubt that he had seen something ‘real’ – not a ghost or a visionary being, not a robot.

What did he think it was? At the time, influenced by recent reading on the subject of evolution, he felt that he had seen some kind of primitive being related to man, that had failed to evolve. But when he told his story he was met with indifference, even scepticism. “It’s no fun being considered mentally sick or subject to hallucinations,” he said, so he gave up trying to tell people about his experience; but he always hoped that one day a learned society might take an interest in the case.

“Had anyone reported a flying saucer or something of that sort in the area,” he said in 1975, “I would have thought along different lines, and not been sidetracked into thinking it was some offshoot of the human species; instead I would have concluded that this remarkable apparition was an extraordinary being. In such a case, of course I should have behaved quite differently – I’d have hurried to report it to the gendarmes, so that they could investigate it formally.”It was a great relief to him when, having learnt of the existence of GEPA, the French group which publishes Phenomenes Spatiaux, he found people ready to listen seriously and sympathetically to his story and, moreover, provide him with a plausible explanation for what he had seen.

But just how plausible was that explanation?

Enter ADRUP.

Reneve falls within the area covered by ADRUP, the Association Dijonnaise de Recherches Ufologiques et Parapsychologiques. ADRUP consists of a small group of enthusiastic researchers who interest themselves in anomalous happenings of all kinds, publishing their findings in Vimana 21, an excellent review which combines lively writing with solid documentation.

Apart from coping with new cases as they come in, ADRUP also reviews outstanding cases of the past, and carries out such counter investigation as may be feasible. The last time anything remarkable happened at Renève was back in the sixth century, when a Visigothic princess named Brunehaut was punished for her misdeeds by being dragged naked behind an untamed horse until she died. The more recent case of the Abbé X seemed more susceptible to re-examination.

ADRUP’s members felt that GEPA had come somewhat prematurely to their conclusion that the priest had encountered an extraterrestrial. After all, no UFO had been seen, the entity had never left the surface of our planet; and that though creatures of that size do not normally wear clothing, many dog-owners provide their pets with winter coats, to say nothing of organ-grinders’ dogs and other showbiz canines.

At the same time, ADRUP saw no reason to doubt that the Abbé had indeed seen a very real ‘something’. Their investigations established that the priest was still alive, though no longer living at Reneve; and they were able to interview him. What bothered them was a certain ambiguity about what he thought he had seen. Though he had abandoned the ‘unevolved human’ hypothesis in favour of the ‘extraterrestrial’ according to the report in Phenomenes Spatiaux, and though he now referred the ADRUP investigators to the article there – “You’ve only got to read what M. Fouéré has written, it’s very good” – this seemed to be contradicted by something else he said, to the effect that it hadn’t been an extraterrestrial: “You mustn’t think of it as a little green man”. In other words, even if the entity had come from a flying saucer, it was essentially human in appearance. Even if he had managed to grab hold of it, he told ADRUP, he wouldn’t have exhibited it at fairs, it was a human being …

On the way home, turning over in their minds what the priest had said, the investigators’ minds began to consider possible alternatives. And perhaps it was his remark about fairs which got them thinking on the lines of a monkey that might perhaps have escaped from a circus. For the appearance of some kinds of monkey is remarkably human, and moreover, human in the way that a very old man looks, grey-haired and bearded.

So ADRUP started looking into the possibility that there had been a circus in the Reneve area. But letters to every possible source of information produced negative replies. 1945 was, after all, the final year of the war in Europe, and few if any circuses had got going, and there were none reported in the Dijon area. Additionally, the kind of monkey most often featured in circuses wasn’t the most likely one to match the Abbé’s description.

But further talks with the villagers opened up another line of investigation. M. Huot the butcher, knife in hand, told them that in 1945 a regiment from French North Africa had been stationed in the neighbourhood. A new train of thought suggested itself: African regiment … African continent.. exotic animals… monkeys … What about a regimental mascot?

The next task was to establish which African regiment had been stationed near Reneve; which brought them up against bureaucracy as only the French know it. Each department they contacted dodged the question on grounds of official secrecy or some such, until eventually they found themselves back where they began.Then luck came their way. A local historian, who had previously said he was unable to help them, phoned to say he’s just remembered that there had been a girl of the district who had married a soldier from the regiment that had been stationed locally. The wedding had taken place at a church 7km north of Renève. A visit to the mayor not only confirmed the marriage but produced the present whereabouts of the couple. And a letter brought them some suggestive information.The husband, then in Regiment CTA 154 of the Armée de l’Air, had been stationed at Reneve from the end of 1944, through the early months of 1945 (the Abbé had had his experience in April 1945). And yes, there had been a regimental mascot - a German Shepherd dog.

BUT the dog had been stolen (Query: who in their right minds would steal a German Shepherd dog from a regiment of tough soldiers? But we’ll let that pass …); and to replace the dog they’d found a monkey.

And not just any old brand of monkey, but one of the marmoset type which was most liable to resemble the Curé’s ‘little man’. The grey hair, the beard, the wrinkled face but chubby cheeks, the frightened but inquisitive eyes, all matched. The sticking up spike could have been the creature’s tale; and as for the clothes, yes, said the soldier, they would often dress it up in clothes. And he added that it was perfectly possible that the monkey might have escaped from where he was kept in a mill not far from where the priest had seen his entity.It was, to say the least, a remarkable coincidence that, at the time of the priest’s sighting, there should have been in the vicinity a monkey of the kind most likely to be described as ‘human’ in appearance, wearing clothes, liable to be wandering around on its own, and just the right size.

common_marmoset011

The Moral

So ADRUP send their dossier to the Abbé for his comments. He wrote back, politely but firmly: “Your theory is ridiculous, and stems from pure imagination. I am sorry to be in total disagreement with your theory, which quite simply doesn’t ring true. So let your little monkey rest in peace, and let the little humanoid of Reneve rest in peace …”Oh yes, there is a moral there.

It’s All In The Mind. Peter Rogerson

From Magonia 15, April 1984

This article was originally a paper presented at the second Anglo-French UFO conference held in Brighton, 30th March – 1st April 1984

It would appear that in certain quarters this magazine has gained the reputation of being part of the ‘it’s all to the mind brigade’, whatever that might menu. It seems worthwhile therefore to give a résumé of the sort of ideas about which Magonia Editors are speculating.

First, it must be realised that Magonia is not a monolith. Although we exchange ideas so much that it sometimes becomes impossible to say with certaintly who first thought of what, the Editors do have different views, and fit what follows I can therefore only speak for myself.

When I first became interested in the subject as a schoolboy in the early 1960′s I naturally supported the ETH, and was a hardcore supporter of the ‘nuts and bolts’ school. Having been weaned on Aimé Michel and Donald Kehoe I had no time for contactees. During these early years I read most of the old books on the subject, and swallowed most of the ufological clichés.

My parents were none too happy about my chosen hobby, and warned that many people who believed in ‘flying saucers’ were cranks. With the rashness of youth I disregarded their warnings; but when, in the autumn of 1968, I and a couple of school-friends joined the local flying saucer society I found my parents were right, and that many ufolologists were cranks!

My parents were none too happy about my chosen hobby, and warned that many people who believed in ‘flying saucers’ were cranks

Not only that, but I soon discovered that by reading a dozen or so books on the subject I had obtained as good, or better, a grasp on the subject as people who had allegedly been studying UFOs for 25 years. Many of the members appeared to have read nothing beyond George Adamski, and appeared to have been entranced since about 1952. It occurred to me that many seemingly impressive cases may actually have been investigated by people like this. My doubts grew. It was probably the Apollo 8 moonshot that destroyed my naive faith in the ETH. The idea of electromagnetic spaceships visiting the Earth seemed somehow absurd.My disillusionment made me increasingly open to the ideas of John Keel, whose articles had been appearing in FSR; and John Michel’s Flying Saucer Vision had reawakened an interest in folklore. It was in this climate that I encountered MUFORG Bulletin, and its successor, MUFOB. I was an instant convert!

By now I had also examined Fort’s data for 1904/05, which set UFO reports in a radically new context. I had also begun to take a serious interest in parapsychology, and I soon realised that serious psychic researchers thought along very different lines from the occult gibberish which circulated In UFO groups. The final synthesis was easy. Ufologists had argued that the UFOs had always been with us, and deeply involved with human culture, and acted like apparitions. The answer seemed simple. UFOs were created by people, they were products of the human imagination, and were hallucinatory, like apparitions.

I still thought along fairly radical lines, involving collective hallucinations, psi, idea patterns and a collective unconscious possibly able to alter the physical environment. Over the intervening years I have been forced to de-escalate hypotheses as it became clear that a far wider range of cases can he explained in ‘normal’ terns than was once thought possible.There are however still a fair number of cases among the 5000 or so in INTCAT which resist interpretation in terms of simple misidentification. These are cases in which an object (with or without humanoids) is observed in someone’s backyard for example, where if the record is a true one, and the report is not a hoax, then it must be either a subjectively real or an objectively real occurrence.

At this point it might be useful to lay aside one of the great red herrings which still crop up in such discussions; the notion that only the mentally ill have hallucinations. There is little evidence to support this idea, which has recently been resurrected by Ian Cresswell [1]. On the contrary, it is generally recognised that psychotic subjects tend to have auditory hallucinations [2], rather than visual.Though interpretation is a matter of dispute, there is no doubt that many people have apparitional experiences [see 3,4,5,6]. Similarly, there is no doubt that people have ‘out of the body’ experiences [see 7, 8] which are also best thought of as being hallucinatory in nature.

The hallucinatory theory of apparitions developed historically because ghosts wore clothes, and were sometimes accompanied by animals or artifacts. Also ghosts could sometimes be seen by one person but not by another. Clearly this tended to dispute the traditional idea of ghosts as temporarily materialised spirit forms, as spirit clothes and spirit carriages are most unlikely. Furthermore, anything actually perceived by means of photons reaching the retina would he visible to all ably sighted people in the vicinity. So if apparitions are not perceived by means of photons, they are by definition hallucinatory.

Various psychic researchers have tried to find ways of accounting for apparitions by non-hallucinatory means [9,10] but without success. On critical exarnination their theories turn out either to mean nothing at all, or to introduce hallucinations by the back door, albeit hallucinations of a rather particular kind.Everyone has one kind of hallucination – dreams, which can be intensely vivid. It is usually assumed that one can tell the difference between sleep and waking, but this might well depend on context. If one wakes up in bed, the previous out-of-context experiences can easily be judged to be dreams.Certain kinds of hallucinatory experience account for a high proportion of apparitional lore. The most common of these are hypnogogic and hypnopompic imagery, and false awakening. These experiences are discussed in the various works of Dr. Peter McKellar  [11, 12, 13].

They were perhaps first extensively treated in a ufological context by John Rimmer and myself in the study of ‘Miss Z’ [14]. The most complete exposition of hypnopompic and hypnogogic experiences in a UFO context is that by the Australian researcher Keith Basterfield [15]. Though Basterfield’s arguments are probably too compressed to convince those who have not closely followed the same lines of reasoning, they are still impressive.

Some critics of Basterfield have tried to argue that hypnogic and hypnopompic experiences are so fleeting that they could not possibly generate UFO experiences. However, an examination of both the standard works by McKellar, and the literature on apparitions, clearly suggests that some of these experiences can be quite prolonged. One critic has gone so far as to suggest, apropos of false awakenings, that people who can’t tell the difference between their dreams and bring awake are stark staring bookers – or words to that effect! Not having had a vivid false awakening, myself, I put this view to a friend who has. He was quite emphatic that the only was to distinguish a false awakening from ‘reality’ was by context. A false awakening was not a hazy dream, but absolutely realistic.

My friend’s false awakening, involved him getting up, shaving, having breakfast, going to work, exactly as in ‘real life’. Eventually he became able to recognise minute differences in a clock. He then realised he was dreaming, and was able to initiate a ‘lucid dream’. If such a false awakening had happened whilst he was sleeping in a chair, and the dream had ended with him ‘returning’ to the chair, there would have been no way in which he could have determined that it was in fact a false awakening.

After a long drive the motorist will commonly report that at some point in the journey he ‘woke up’ to realise that he had no awareness of some proceeding period of time

Other circumstances in which hallucinatory effects can occur include driving at night, piloting a jet plane and watching a radar screen [16, 17, 18]; all circumstances in which UFO experiences are known to occur. ‘Highway Hypnosis’ is a recognised psychological description, as is the ‘time-loss’ which leads motorists to fear UFO abduction. As Graham Reed points out: “After a long drive the motorist will commonly report that at some point in the journey he ‘woke up’ to realise that he had no awareness of some proceeding period of time” [19, p.18]. Reed relates this experience to a loss of attention to surrounding scenery which tends to occur on long, straight stretches of road. It is not difficult to envisage this happening if the subject’s mind was preoccupied with other topics – a frightening UFO experience, say?

A very high percentage of close encounter cases involve people driving through rural areas at night, when conditions are just right for illusions, distortions of judgement, and hallucinations. Although very few such cases are publicised, conversations with motorists will often elicit details of a variety of hallucinatory / illusionary effects, including bizarre distortions of the landscape (compare with the Biet Bridge case), hallucinations of figures crossing the road, etc. No doubt the famous ‘phantom hitch-hiker’ of popular folklore has its origins in the ‘phantom companions’ experienced by fatigued drivers.

The nocturnal driver’s UFO experience is often initiated by a sense of either physical danger (‘a plane’s going to crash on me’) or social danger (‘the cops are after me’). In such situations an explanation in terms of ‘flying saucers’ can be a temporary relief. Since the publicity given to the Betty and Barney Hill story, however, the fear of abduction by space people has grown considerably, and may run in definite, media inspired, social panics.

As Allen Hendry has shown (20] the presence of multiple witnesses in closed groups can lead to mutually reinforced fantasies and panic. In many such cases the published summaries may obscure rather than illuminate the process of mutual reinforcement. An excellent example of this is provided by the Travis Walton case [21]. My interpretation of this is simple: I believe that Walton and colleagues saw some sort of light. Walton jumped out to investigate, whereupon the others, seeing a dash of light and Walton fall, drove off. They then began, probably unconsciously, to escalate the solidity and ominous nature of the threat, in order to justify their panic. By the time they reached the authorities they had no doubt convinced themselves that they had seen a detailed, structured object.

The explanation of Walton’s own experience, I would suggest, was rather similar. Clearly he received a shock of some kind and went into a fugue state, from which he recovered a couple of days later. The abduction sequence was probably a dream triggered by the same fears – though it was probably embellished and polished at a later date.

The emotional reactions encountered in the regression of ‘abduction’ victims is very closely paralleled by those who have undergone regression to ‘past-lives’ [22]. In both these cases such fantasies can generate real physical effects – weals, scars, etc.

Celia Green and Colin McCarthy, in their studies of apparitions, out of the body experiences and lucid dreams, connected these together as examples of ‘metachoric experiences’, in which the percipient’s whole environment is replaced by an hallucinatory one. It is interesting to divide these experiences into two types:

1. ‘Magonia’ intruding into the percipient’s real (apparitions, religious visions, CEIII’s)

2. Percipient intruding into ‘Magonia’ (OOB’s, near-death experiences, abductions, past lives).

The second type involves a much more complete break with consensus reality, and can generate profound symbolism and powerful emotional responses.If metachoric experience can be generated by external stimuli then we may have a clue to some of the truly extraordinary cases of misperception in which the moon and Venus appear to generate extreme effects. Could a misperception of the moon induce a metachoric experience in which all sorts of bizarre effects could be encountered? I think it highly probable that the ‘true’ UFO experience is this subjective experience which manifests itself along a continuum from misperception, triggered hallucination, metachorlc experience, dream, hoax, fiction.

If profound subjective responses can be generated by the moon or advertising planes, then they can equally be produced by plasmas, earthquake lights, or a wide spectrum of poorly understood phenomena

Before outraged readers object that this does not account for XYZ, let me make it clear that I am not placing any real limitation on the kind of phenomena both physical and psychological which might trigger such experiences. If profound subjective responses can be generated by the moon or advertising planes, then they can equally be produced by plasmas, earthquake lights, or a wide spectrum of poorly understood natural phenomena. If so, then scientific advance may be able to isolate further ‘core’ phenomena.

Nor can a discussion of mechanism really dispose of matters of ultimate causation. I cannot prove, for example, that demons are not giving people metachoric experiences, or causing them to misinterpret the moon as a spaceship; although I don’t think they are. Nor could anyone prove it: some areas are beyond rational analysis, and must presumably be taken as articles of religious faith.

It must be further emphasised that the UFO experience is not ‘all in the mind’ in the sense of being the product of the imagination of isolated individuals. It is a social and cultural phenomenon much more than a psychological one. The whole problem of the content of the kind of experiences I have been discussing is wholly unresolved. Why, for example, should hypnogogic imagery involve ‘faces in the dark’? What are the reasons behind the transcultural stereotyping in UF0 experiences?In recent years the interests of the Editors of this magazine have been increas-ingly concentrated, not on individual anomalous experiences, but on the social context within which such experiences take place, and which generates them. The experiences both condition, and are conditioned by, the beliefs of society by a process of mutual feedback. Within a social context many apparently ‘absurd’ beliefs and experiences have depth and meaning.

Research along these lines is still severely hampered because so many people in different academic disciplines remain ignorant of each others’ work and ideas. So long as this situation persists there will be a role for the non-specialist, who is not tied to a rota of routine professional reading, and who can speculate freely where academic reputations fear to tread.

REFERENCES:

  • 1. CRESWELL, Ian S. ‘Objections to the BT Hypothesis’, Magonia 11.
  • 2. WEST, Donald J. ‘Visions and Hallucinatory Experiences; a comparative appraisal’, International Journal of Parapsychology, Winter, 1960.
  • 3. TYRELL, G N M  Apparitions, Duckworth, 1953.
  • 4. GREEN, Celia and Colin McCREEERY, Apparitions, Hamilton, 1975.
  • 5. McKENZIE, Andrew, Apparitions and Ghosts. Barker, 1971.
  • 6. McKENZIE, Andrew, Hauntings and Apparitions, Heinemann, 1982.
  • 7. GREEN, Celia. Out of the Body Experiences, Ballantine, 1973.
  • 8. BLACKMORE, Susan. Beyond the Body, Heinemann, 1902.
  • 9. HART, Hornel, et. al.  Six Theories of Apparitions
  • 10. ROGO, D Scott  An Experience of Phantoms, Taplinger, 1974.
  • 11. McKELLAR, Peter. Imagination and Thinking Cohen A West, 1950.
  • 12. McKELLAR, Peter. Experience and Behaviour, Penguin, 1968.
  • 13. McKELLAR, Peter. Mindsplit, Dent, 1979.
  • 14. ROGERSON, Peter and John RIMMER. ‘Visions In the Night’, MUFOB, ns.4.
  • 15. BASTERFIELD, Keith. Close Encounters of an Australian Kind Reed, 1981.
  • 16. WILLIAMS, R. W. ‘Highway Hypnosis, an hypothesis’, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 1965.
  • 17. LUWIG, Arnold M. In TART, Charles (ed.) Altered States of  Consciousness, Wiley, 1969.
  • 18. BROWNFIELD, C. Isolation: Clinical and Experimental Approaches, Random House, 1968.
  • 19. REED, Graham. ‘The Psychology of Anomalous Experiences Random House, 1968
  • 20. HENDRY, Allen. The UFO Handbook, Doubleday, 1979.
  • 21. BARRY, Bill. Ultimate Encounter, Pocket Books, 1978.
  • 22. WILSON, Ian. Reincarnatlon, Penguin, 1902.

 Read this article in conjunction with Jacques Scornaux’s presentation at the same conference, ‘The Rising and limits of a Doubt’

The Rising and the Limits of a Doubt. Jacques Scornaux

From Magonia 15, April 1984

This article was originally presented as a paper at the Anglo-French UFO Conference held in Brighton in February 1984

Over the past few years a growing number of French ufologists have become increasingly doubtful about the existence of UFOs as a genuinely original physical phenomenon. I should like to analyse briefly the origins and limits of this doubt.

The first French ufologist to have said “the emperor has no clothes” was Michel Monnerie, in two hotly debated books. [1] He was until then a very classical ufologist, and a member of the editorial board of Lumieres dans la Nuit, the leading UFO magazine in France, from which post he was fired after publication of his second book. Monnerie’s reasons for doubting can be Summarized in two main arguments:

1. The non-specificity of the residue of unexplained cases – in other words the lack of distinction between explained and unexplained cases: exactly the same patterns and the same characteristics appear in both sets of cases. Indeed, cases with typical UFO effects have been explained: electro-magnetic effects, landing traces, humanoids, effects on animals, physiological effects, etc. I personally have investigated with friends a case which involved two witnesses, a burnt trace in a field and a howling dog – it was the rising moon: The unexplained cases have no unique peculiarities.

2. The continuity between the trivial and the extraordinary: for any phenomenon it is possible to define a set of median, or most probable characteristics (for size, colour, speed, etc.). But all these parameters are distributed about the median, and sometimes the appearance of a phenomenon is very far from the median, because of the inherent variability of the phenomenon, because of had sighting conditions or misrepresentation by the witness. It follows that the further the characteristics are from the median, the less will people be able to recognise the true nature of the phenomenon. For Monnerie, UFOs are situated at the ends of the distribution function, at the ends of a bell-shaped curve. They are thus ‘fringe phenomena’ of a larger set of phenomena, but their peripheral location is not perceived as such because ufologists remove the more central part of the curve, where the less strange phenomena are identified by the witnesses themselves or by the field investigators. Ufologists, Monnnerie says, arbitrarily call the minor misinterpretations ‘false UFOs’ and the major ones ‘true UFOs’, and do not realise that there is a perfect continuity between the two series, and that the difference between them is of degree not of nature.

But by what process does a well-balanced person (even sceptical ufologists accept that psychological cases are rare) interpret an unrecognised phenomenon as a high strangeness UFO? According to Monnerie, when there is a lessening of attention or if the witness becomes anxious, he lives in a sort of daydream. He distorts the observed phenomenon and transposes it through the unconscious influence of a rumour or myth. One of the great myths of our time Monnerie says, is the extraterrestrial concept, because it is so well suited to our scientific and technological civilization. But it must be emphasised that this type of serious misinterpretation is not pathological, and can happen to anyone. A physical support, a real object which is not identified, is always necessary; it is not a perception without object, it is not an hallucination.

Monnerie’s hypothesis was not exactly welcomed by French ufologists. But now, some years later, the situation has markedly changed. Why? It happened that as time went by an increasing number of allegedly “hard” cases – great “classics” of ufology – have been explained, not by sceptics, but by ufologists themselves. Let’s quote some examples: the well-know Leroy, Kansas, “calfnapping” case of 1897 has been explained by Jerome Clark as a hoax [2]; the famous photograph from Salem, Massachusetts, 1952 has been explained by Hynek as a reflection of lights on a window [3]; the very complex case of San Jose de Valderas, Spain, which involved two allegedly independent photographers and an object left on the ground by the UFO has been explained by Claude Poher and myself as a hoax [4].

There are serious doubts also about the renowned UFO accident case at Ubatuba – it might be an accident indeed, but involving a rocket launched by the Brazilian Army [5]. Almost all of the often quoted sightings by American astronauts have received very mundane explanations, and Hynek himself has admitted it [6]. The complex set of sightings in the north of France on October 3rd, 1954 was in fact caused by the moon (in one of these cases the moon allegedly landed, and later took off!) [7]. As a last example, the intricate French case of Taize in 1972, which had the honour of being published in FSR [8], has recently been explained by Bertrand Meheust as powerful lights around a house on the other side of the valley.

Apart from facts like these, more theoretical studies also reinforced sceptical attitudes. Several authors pointed out the many analogies of UFO sighting details with the occupations, the psychology and the fields of interest of the witnesses involved, or with traditional and classical symbols (9]. Let us also mention Alvin Lawson’s experiments: imaginary abductions induced by hypnosis gave the same details as the allegedly real abductions aboard UFOs (10]; this Is a good example of non-specificity [11].

Above all there was, for French ufologists, Bertrand Meheust’s book [12]. Meheust is not a sceptic, but the many similarities he points out between science fiction and UFOs in fact support the psycho-sociological hypothesis: almost all the UFO patterns were already present in SF novels before the Second World War (shapes, behaviour, types of entity, solid lights, physical effects, etc.). Why then search for an exotic explanation, if human symbolism and inventiveness are quite sufficient?

Firstly, it goes without saying, but goes even better for saying it, that the kind of doubt I am speaking about has absolutely nothing in common with the attitude of the lifelong sceptics

But this new and pervasive form of scepticism has its limits. Firstly, it goes without saying, but goes even better for saying it, that the kind of doubt I am speaking about has absolutely nothing in common with the attitude of the lifelong sceptics. The doubt of some French ufologists is only based on a thorough analysis of the facts and not on prejudice. No-one amongst these new French ufologists has any scientific or philosophical prejudice against the possible existence of extraterrestrial visitors or paranormal phenomena. I am certain that they are ready to reverse their attitudes if the facts require it.

Secondly, I and most of my colleagues continue to believe that there remains a small residue (although much tinier than we believed some years ago) of unexplained sightings (or perhaps we have to say more cautiously “not yet explained sightings”). But if explained and unexplained cases reveal the same patterns, what distinguishes these residual cases? Well, essential characteristics which are external to the phenomenon: number and quality of witnesses, multiple independent witnesses, psychological circumstances that exclude a hoax, or the absence of a suitable support for a misinterpretation.Let’s recognise that the reasons why we consider such and such a case as genuine are often difficult to make explicit: it is more a feeling than clear-cut reasoning. This is not to say that it is pure belief, but it may alas appear as belief to sceptics, for we have no real proof. Statistical evidence, as presented by Jacques Vallee, James McCampbell, or Claude Poher, is no longer valid, because many cases on which they are based have now been explained, and we often lack sufficient information on the remaining ones [13].

As I wrote some years ago [14], our ufological quest is a quest for the non-transmittable: although we may squire a personal conviction, we cannot pass this conviction on to ‘good faith’ sceptics (or at least not to many of them). All cases, even the ‘hardest’ ones, contain elements that legitimate a doubt. For instance, the famous Boianai, New Guinea, sightings appear at first glance to be very ‘hard’: many witnesses, object seen at short distance for some time, with humanoids and many observable details. However, Hynek had to concede that a doubt remained, because the position in the sky, and the time of disappearance of the main UFO fitted the movement of Venus [l5].

This continuing absence of really convincing proof (the problem is the same in parapsychology) is too general in this kind of phenomena to be merely bad luck. To me, it has only two possible explanations: either there is no new physical phenomenon – this is the psycho-sociological hypothesis described above – or we are faced with a phenomenon which deliberately escapes proof, that is, a phenomenon characterised by what my friend Bertrand Meheust called – in English in his French book! – “elusiveness”.

To try and solve this dilemma, I think that one of the most urgent tasks for ufologists is to attempt to determine whether the non-specificity is really total. Are there patterns which would be unique to the unexplained cases? Perhaps some details which do not appear in science fiction may be unique, like some types of physical traces, or sudden disappearances or the fusions and dislocations of UFOs. This is one of the main reasons why French ufologists recently launched the ‘Concreting Operation’, that consists of defining new and more severe credibility criteria for selecting really solid cases. Indeed it appeared that cases which figured high in the usual credibility scoring were nevertheless explainable.These new criteria, which are presently being developed by a small group of French researchers, fall into four categories: criteria concerning the phenomenon characteristics, concerning the sighting conditions, concerning witnesses, and concerning the field investigation.

More generally speaking, ufologists have now to think about the following question: what methods would allow us, on the basis of UF0 sighting reports and without prejudice about the solution, to distinguish phenomena relevant to behavioural sciences from phenomena relevant to physical sciences, and to distinguish, in the two subsets, known from new phenomena?

In any case, there is no reason to despair. I see at least two certainties in the present state of ufology: 

1. Ufologists are unanimous, even the most sceptical, on the fact that most UFO sightings have at their base a real physical stimulus that was genuinely not recognised by the witness. Hoaxes and hallucinations are rare.

2. In any event, UFO reports remain an unresolved problem and testify to the existence of at least one unknown phenomenon. Indeed, even if all the reports were triggered by the misperception of a known phenomenon (this is the minimal hypothesis) the distortion of reality would be so great and so frequent that this particular type of misperception would be in its own right an important new phenomenon, which would deserve a thorough study. This remains true even if there is a physically originated residue, because the numerous serious misrepresentations have to be explained in any case.

Because of this second certainty, ufology would not disappear if there were no new physical phenomenon. A psycho-sociological phenomenon of misinterpreted and distorted perception may be less appealing than an extraterrestrial or parapsychological one, but when it has the extent and persistence of the UFO phenomenon, is nevertheless revolutionary from the standpoint of present theories in the behavioural sciences. This, is clearly emphasised by the near absence of thorough studies of UFOs in the human sciences literature. Apart front Jung’s hook, there are practically no books, PhD theses or scientific journal articles about sociological aspects of UFOs [16]. This absence is quite strange in view of the rich study material UFO reports provide for behavioural sciences. Some sociologists even manage to write whole books on modern myths, of rumours in our society, without any allusion to UFOs! It is as if UFOs were put, as Meheust puts it, into “semantic-brackets”.

The extent and persistence of the UFO phenomenon, is revolutionary from the standpoint of present theories in the behavioural sciences

I think that this profound reluctance stems from the central dogma of the most influential school of thought in present day sociology, namely that man is an essentially rational being, whose behaviour is in most cases entirely predictable. The UFO phenomenon is an ideal case to point out the pervasiveness of myths, of irrational behaviour, even in our technological society (and to demonstrates the falseness of this dogma) because it is new (so new we can study its origin and development), frequent and perceptive (that is, based on a false perception, contrary to most myths and rumours which are based only on false reasoning and which can he qualified as cognitive). For these reasons it is also ideal for understanding the function that myths fulfil in our society. This is really revolutionary, but perhaps more in a political than a scientific sense, because both capitalist and Marxist theories are based on the assumption that man is rational. Both give a pre-eminent role to economic causes in human behaviour, and economic reasons are essentially rational.

Thus we ufologists are in any event revolutionaries! However, let us not exaggerate our power: of course we cannot seriously shake the rationalist or “economistic” dogma of our society, but we may and must be watchers, collecting and preserving as much information as we can, in the hope that sometime in the future mankind will be sufficiently adult to study these data without any prejudice in either direction [17].

References for this article will be added shortly

What Dreams Might Come. Ian Cresswell

From Magonia 16, July 1984.
Ian Cresswell examines the subjective nature of close encounters, and their similarity to dream and trance states.

While it has been assumed by many ufologists that the nature of the UFO phenomenon is of an objective nature with perhaps an element of subjectivity involved in some of the cases, the content of the close encounter experience seems to fully negate this belief. At first, this opinion may seem to be a fair possibility, going by the general appearance of the phenomenon; but not when these experiences are taken apart and certain strange inconsistencies start to appear, along with distortion, and other aspects that don’t make sense within this framework. Perhaps some people involved in our subject haven’t understood the extent of subjectivity present in the UFO phenomenon – especially with the close encounters.

I have made the decision to concentrate on C.E. cases because they seem to offer the most as far as contents and complexity are concerned, leaving us in the position to accept the experience as genuine or not, rather than also study the rest of the UFO phenomenon which could well be reports of many different things not necessarily connected with the close encounters.

One thing that I must make clear at the start is that I consider most of the close encounters to be genuine in as much as that the percipients are convinced of what they have experienced. The phenomenon is a reality – this is no longer in doubt. There will be only a small number of hoaxes in these cases and an equally small number that can be put down to psychosis.

Surprisingly, one of the first things that made me doubtful that there was an objective basis for these accounts was the large number of cases that have been reported from around the world. It seemed much too large a sample, and too wide a variety of types of craft and individuals, if physical objects were involved. A smaller number of cases and types would have been more convincing – what is involved here is more than just different descriptions of the same object or entity. Even individual cases with more than one witness produce different descriptions of the same events – more than one might expect from human error in descriptions. Similarly, there are innumerable cases where events lack witnesses, even in densely built up areas.

Many of these incidents appear to be dream-like in their appearance and contents. On the surface there is a pattern that so often emerges: one of apparent physical craft, with extraterrestrial occupants. Although the ‘plot’ seems correct, the script isn’t and the actors don’t seem to know their lines, judging by the nonsense they spout. So often in these cases objects will appear or disappear from nowhere; entities will appear through the walls of a craft rather than a doorway; objects will land on soft ground, yet leave no markings.

Some ufologists have tried to argue that these distortions and inconsistencies can be explained by the conscious will of the entities in an effort to confuse us as to their real identities, but this argument is merely indulging in intellectual somersaults in order to keep the phenomenon on an objective basis.

What the percipients are experiencing is a distortion of objective reality; they are perceiving a series of images superimposed on objective reality

I suggest that what the percipients are experiencing is a distortion of objective reality, and they are perceiving a series of images superimposed on objective reality, and indistinguishable from it. The origin of these images is subjective, and so is the process by which they emerge into consciousness. They occur outside the conscious will of the witness; they don’t cause them to happen, they can’t imagine them into being, because they occur spontaneously on a seemingly selective basis.

From the standpoint of psychiatry these images would be considered to be of an hallucinatory nature because the percipients are seeing something not objectively there. But this does not seem to be a satisfactory position, because largely the witnesses are not psychotic, and the hallucinations – if such they can be called – are clearly not pathological in nature. Although something is occurring on a subjective level it is no less real than something happening on an objective level: the images of objectivity are built from sensory data that is decoded in the brain.

Too often the unconscious is regarded as a dustbin with little of value in it, but its contents are far more than things which have been repressed because the conscious part of the psyche can’t face the truth. We can imagine the psyche like the proverbial iceberg, the unconscious being the seven-eighths underwater. We hold so very little at any given time in our conscious state, but within the depths of the unconscious lies a complete history of all that has happened to us on both a personal and racial level, and all that has occurred on the objective and subjective level.

It is from this combination of both conscious and unconscious that our night-dreams are made. I feel the images of close encounters are of a similar combined process, with more emphasis placed on that imagery that has never been conscious. Dreams are hallucinations, but are not pathological – or we all be psychotics: It appears that in the dream state we have the nearest comparison to the close encounter experience, both being formed out of subjective images that take on their own ‘reality’ when they are taking place.

It is said that dream states are very much like psychotic states, with the inner imagery continuing over into waking life. Schizophrenia appears to be a conscious dream state, but with one fundamental difference: in the dream state the sense of self and its relationship to the dream world is intact. The contents of the dream may be strange and bizarre, but they are still usually accepted as being real events at the time they occur, and it is only on waking their nature is revealed. In schizophrenia the sense of self is lost, and so are its links with other people, and the environment.It is not just a case of splitting away parts of the personality, but rather a total shattering of it. The schizophrenic believes in the reality of his hallucinations and delusions, and not just at the time they are occurring. This does not match the UFO percipient, as he accepts as reality subjective images which may happen only once in his life, with no further pathological reaction. He is perfectly aware of the rest of the environment and his links with it. The UFO event is the odd thing out and does not belong with the rest of the images of objective reality.

Although the dream state is very much like the close encounter it would not be true to say that the latter is a conscious dream, but their origins, and the process of becoming manifest within consciousness are the same.

Although the dream state is very much like the close encounter it would not be true to say that the latter is a conscious dream. But their origins, and the process of becoming manifest within consciousness are the same – this is the reason so many of the factors against the causation being objective stand out so clearly. The fact of distortion involved in these images is due to their unconscious nature, and has nothing to do with external events. The distortion of objective reality is because the origin of the images is different from that of the perceived state of the witnesses normal levels of consciousness. They only appear to have an independent existence because they are not a product of the conscious human mind.

A number of other factors involved in the process of manifestation also cause distortion in both dream-states and UFO encounters. The use of symbols instead of the actual object, and a symbol of a different type to that meant, causes a great deal of distortion. I am using ‘symbol’ in the sense of a subjective image portraying the contents of the unconscious. The same type of distortion can be seen with the process of ‘condensation’ which is the combination of a number of separate images to form one composite image.

Another factor found in both dream-states and close-encounters is ‘scene-jumping’. The perceived images suddenly change instantly into something else, apparently against all logic.

Before leaving the area of dreams and close-encounter experiences, there are three more subjective experiences worth considering. The first two can be classed together for convenience – hypnogogic and hypnopompic states. The former is the perception of dream images before falling asleep; the latter the perception of such images upon awakening. Their origins and processes of manifestation are the same as for dream states. Although technically, in psychiatric terms, regarded as being hallucinatory in nature, they are not pathological. They are just subjective images. These states are particularly relevant to ‘bedside visitor’ [or 'Old Hag' - Ed.] types of experiences reported in UFO contexts.

The other state I wish to look at is that of the ‘waking dream’. This is often just a single image, or occasionally a series, which breaks through the usual barriers of ego-consciousness to appear in the form of visual images that are superimposed on the environment with no apparent difference at first being noticed. These states are again hallucinatory, but not always pathological in nature. I say ‘not always’ because these states can occur with over use of narcotics or alcohol, or during periods of sleep deprivation. But they can also occur when a subjective image arises with enough associated emotion to drive it through the usual barriers of consciousness to manifest as an objective experience. These are often wish-fulfilments. During the non-pathological appearance of these images there is no loss of self and no loss of contact with the percipient’s surroundings.

It is of great significance that so many of the close encounter abduction cases have come to light because of hypnosis, often following a series of nightmares or a loss of memory following a UFO sighting. I feel that these cases do not argue the case for any objective event having taken place. In the hypnotic state a person will bring forth a series of images which are by now all subjective, regardless of whether they once had occurred in an objective state. In the hypnotic state reality, whether objective or subjective, is regarded as the same, and truth, fantasy and myth are all intertwined. The hypnotic subject will still be able to relate to it, and still feel very aware of self in these trance remembrances.

Regressed memories of this kind are no sure proof of the of the reality of the experiences, but they could well be evidence of its subjective ‘reality’. Consider if a person had a dream during which he encountered a grounded UFO and its occupants, which develops into an abduction scenario. Upon awakening,
like most dreams this is forgotten. But because of the high level emotional energy connected with it, it is likely to return to consciousness one way or another; usually in small remembered sections. Then under hypnosis the dream is brought back fully, and understood as a memory of an objective event of a physical nature.

We have seen how dream and other related states do throw light on the true nature of close encounters.

There is one more state of trance which I would like to suggest is of importance to our understanding of CE cases – that of somnambulism. In its classical psychiatric sense this means the carrying out of physical motor activities, often of a complex nature, while asleep – commonly called sleepwalking. At first glance this may not appear to have much relevance to our field of study, but I would like to draw attention to an important study by C.G.Jung; ‘On the psychology and pathology of so-called psychic phenomena’, first published in 1902, and can be found in the collected Works, volume 1: Psychiatric Studies. Although connected with hysteria, I feel the case is important because of the type of material coming out of trance cases, and the light it throws on the mechanisms involved in ‘paranormal’ activity.In view of the length of this case-study by Jung, I can only give a short summary, and then an extract from it. The case involves a young girl known as ‘SW’, fifteen-and-a-half years old, whose family and near relations manifested many unusual activities, often of a parapsychological nature, which would be of interest to ufologists.

The girl was ‘normal’ apart from a rather reserved manner which occasionally gave way to displays of exuberant joy. She heard about ‘table-turning’ from some friends in July 1899 and soon took part in it. It was discovered that she was a good medium, with communications of a serious nature taking place through the spirit of her dead grandfather.

Then in August of the same year her first somnambulistic attack took place. During this she became very pale, sunk down to the ground or onto a chair, closed her eyes, became cataleptic, drew several deep breaths, and began to speak. In this trance state she copied the voices of her dead relatives. Gestures and actions accompanied the words. These attacks, at their height, went on for about eight weeks, during which time numerous personalities spoke through her, answering questions put by the people present with Jung.

The general level of these massages was superficial and at times childish, whilst others appeared complex and intellectual. Sometimes during the attacks the girl’s eyes would be open, at other times closed. Although in a sleep-like trance she could walk around the room and perform complex physical motor activities, unaware that she was doing so.

If reported today instead of 1899 these events would almost certainly have been interpreted in a ufological context

In these trance states – which she took as being totally real – she was often taken by her ‘spirit guides’ to other parts of the world, to see relatives to see relatives and other people. During one of these trance-trips something happened which I think holds great significance for the understanding of close-encounter states:

“For instance, she once returned from a railway journey in an extremely agitated state. We thought at first that something unpleasant must have happened to her; but finally she pulled herself together and explained that ‘a star-dweller had sat opposite her in the train’. From the description she gave of this being I recognised an elderly merchant I happened to know, who had a rather unsympathetic face.

“Apropos of this event, she told us all the peculiarities of the star-dwellers: they have no godlike souls, as men have, they pursue no science, no philosophy, but in technical arts they are far more advanced than we are. Thus flying machines have long been in existence on Mars; the whole of Mars is covered with canals, the canals are artificial lakes and are used for irrigation. The canals are all flat ditches, the water in them is very shallow. The excavating of the canals caused the Martians no particular trouble, as the soil there is lighter than on Earth. There are no bridges over the canals but that does not prevent communication because everybody travels by flying machine.

“There are no wars on the stars, because no difference of opinion exists. The star-dwellers do not have a human shape, but the most laughable ones imaginable, such as no-one could possibly conceive. Human spirits who get permission to travel in the beyond are not allowed to set foot on the stars. Similarly, travelling star-dwellers may not touch down on Earth but must remain at a distance of some 75 feet above its surface. Should they infringe this law, they remain in the power of the Earth and musttake human bodies, from which they are freed only after their natural death. As human beings they are cold, hard-hearted, and cruel. SW can recognise them by their peculiar expression, which lacks the ‘spiritual’, and by their hairless, eyebrowless, sharply cut faces. Napoleon I was a typical star-dweller.” Psychiatric Studies, pp. 34-35.

There are many other interesting parts of this case study and I can only mention a few of them in passing. A ‘metaphysical chart’ was given on the nature of reality; a great deal about reincarnation and the past-lives of SW. The main period of activity was about eight weeks, with a steady decline over the next six months, until she was finally caught trying to fake physical apports during a seance. From this it would appear that as subjective images started to dry up, SW began to create, her own effects; a pattern similar to several close-encounter witnesses who have faked physical evidence to prolong the phenomenon after an initial genuine encounter. If reported today instead of 1899 these events would almost certainly have been interpreted in a ufological context – the imagery is identical.

I should add that Jung considered the case was a result of hysteria, and that SW’s experiences, although hallucinatory in their nature, had been conscious parts of the ego-state which had become unconscious, then returned, along with other types of internal unconscious imagery to form subjective image-visions of a non-psychotic nature.

In passing, I would also like to refer to another case of around the same period, that has been brought to light by Flournoy in his book From India to the Planet Mars published in 1900. This is the Helene Smith case, and again we have a young girl and a situation of trance-like state of consciousness. Through automatic writing she produced what was said to be the Martian language, but was later shown to be a mixture of French and Sanskrit, with pseudo-linguistic products of her own. This was not done consciously, but the girl was a victim of her own subjective nature. These cases show that today’s events are by no means unique, only the form has changed slightly, and, of course, our interpretation of it.

What we appear to be dealing with in the close encounter experience is something like the somnambulistic state which affects consciousness, to induce a state of semi-consciousness in the person under-going this experience. In this state subjective imagery, mainly from the unconscious, replaces the other ego-complexes to produce a trance state in which automatic behaviour still takes place.

Consider a driver going home on a lonely, deserted stretch of road. There is little to do but relax. It is dark, so there is little to see, and attention begins to drift, and turn to reflective inner thoughts, or else the driver will fall into a peaceful state of mind rather like the state just before sleep. These are the conditions in which the classic close-encounter or abduction occur – a bright light just above the road, a strange sound, and the light takes on the shape of a disc-like object. The car engine stops dead. Small entities emerge from the ‘object’ and approach the car. Suddenly the object vanishes in a flash, at the same time the car engine starts up on its own. The incident is over, and another CE III is recorded.But is this a physical event, is the car stoppage the result of a physical effect on the cars electrical system? I would rather postulate that the driver has experienced something that is totally subjective, in its nature and in its process of manifestation as a series of images imposed on objective reality.

Typically, the light is the first sign of something about to occur as the percipient falls into a different level of consciousness. Although still conscious and aware of his surroundings, the imagery that is being formed is doing so in the same manner as during a dream state, or during a somnambulistic state of trance. Then, as the state gets more trance-like the witness automatically (and thereby unknown to his conscious self) stops the vehicle.

The images become more solid and more complex as the elements from another level of functioning flood through the barriers that have now been broken between the percipient’s conscious and unconscious. The encounter is now the most important aspect of the percipient’s conscious field. As the trance state then begins to lose power, the images vanish, and as they do so the witness again starts up the engine. The incident is over, leaving the driver with no conscious memory of having controlled the car.It is interesting to see how large a part the presence of light plays before the start of all these subjective experiences. It is a light of a subjective nature.

Something very strange is taking place within the psyche of man, the dark side of the moon is becoming visible.

It may be important that the vast majority of these incidents take place during the hours of darkness, as with the coming of darkness the normal states of consciousness begin to alter, the mind is more receptive to subjective imagery from the depths of the unconscious. It may give rise to a state in which the dream has become a total reality for the percipient, as with Jung’s patient ‘SW’, their reality is accepted without question.

Something very strange is taking place within the psyche of man, the dark side of the moon is becoming visible. That which was invisible is now being manifested. Magonia is alive and well, functioning within the depths of the human unconscious.

But what is the nature of the intelligence behind this production of unconscious imagery? Can it be of archetypal origin? An archetype is a primordial unconscious image that is common to all people as part of the collective unconscious. This is why any subjective image of this nature could be experienced by more than one person at a time. Jung did not regard man as being the creator of these images, but that in some way we are the projection of them.These images seem to be of a purely subjective nature, having no place within the conscious ego-state. They appear to have been with us throughout history, with new ones being added with the passage of time. The close encounter experience and the images that are associated with it may signal the emergence of a new series of archetypal images centres around the theme of alien vehicles and occupants.

But is their original human one, or something much deeper that subjective myths and images only mirror? This is not a question that can be really answered by science working on an objective level, but one that can only be answered subjectively – an area that depth psychology appears to best give us an approach to.

What we are dealing with is not the product of pathology, but at the same time is some-thing very different from ‘objectivity’. Even at this state of our knowledge the answer can only be speculative.

Crash! Peter Rogerson

From Magonia 16, July 1984

Peter Rogerson examines the psychology of radical misperception, and the fears that lie behind the power of myth.

magship narrowIn his excellent and perceptive article in Magonia 15, Jacques Scornaux raises some vital points, among which are the process of radical misperception, and the failure of rationalist analysis of human society.

I would like to couple these perceptions with an analysis of some of the neo-romanticist attitudes which have arisen in recent ufology.

In trying to come to terms with works such as The Green Stone, it is dishonest not to acknowledge real difficulty. The gut-reaction is to wax indignant about the betrayal of integrity by the participants, who confuse reality with ‘dragon and dungeon’ fantasy. Given the recent press coverage of clerical condemnation of such fantasy games, it is perhaps wise to take the ‘new ufology’ route of trying to see the motivation behind such fantasies, without impressing ones own value judgements.

It is clear that, for example, the storyline of The Green Stone represents a process by which evil is defeated and cultural boundaries re-established by a series of ritual acts. Whether or not these events occurred in ‘real life’, they may well be the process whereby certain individuals are able to redefine their own psycho-social boundaries.

Furthermore, it seems that it is an excellent example of the main theme of the neo-romanticist revolt: the rejection of the intellect, the cult of immediate experience. For some ufologists the UFO experience becomes an access to an alternative reality, a twilight zone beyond the world of daylight reason. For example, Paul Devereux’s own UFO sighting takes on this aspect.

Devereux’s account of his peak experience is a prime example – ditching his own ‘naive realism’, recognising that the perceived image is not the same as the object watched, then it becomes clear that the ‘Earthlight’ or whatever is a sign of transcendence, a radical break with ‘daylight’ reason. The misperception, in effect the marginalisation of the perception, opens the door to the numinous. The radical misperception is, in a very real sense, a seeing for the first time, parallel with the sense of perceptual shock produced by such drugs as LSD. Here enters the idea of Magonia in disguise – the secret of the cosmos in a leaf blowing in the wind – going right back to the initial study of fairy-lore. We can thus equate radical misperception (or re-perception) with enlightenment.

Now let us try to work out why ordinary events should reveal their numinousness by masquerading as alien spaceships. Alien spaceships are contemporary cultural symbols of the ‘wholly other’, seen in other cultures as spirits, gods, etc. When the moon is seen as a phantom spaceship it reveals a sense of its radically alien nature.

This ‘misperception’, the enchanted glimpse into the mysterious heart of the ordinary, transforms the life of the percipient

This ‘misperception’, the enchanted glimpse into the mysterious heart of the ordinary, transforms the life of the percipient. It lifts them from the world of daylight reason and commonsense by reintroducing drama into the world. “Something out of the ordinary”, quite different from the dull, normal round, has taken place – at the very least the percipient has a good after-dinner story. To admit that it was ‘only’ a misperception thus deflates the percipient, it reduces them from being a ‘witness’ of the magical and ‘wholly other’, to being a ‘victim’ of a trick of light and mind.

It would seem that much of the neo-romantic, fantasy enterprise is a way of holding onto that drama and retaining the perception of the numinous. The ‘investigators’ now become figures in a drama of their own construction, enacted in its own world of meaning which is in stark contrast to the banal world of bureaucratic routine.

Ultimately the neo-romantic UFO quest becomes a protest against the hollowness of the world of ‘reason’, of senseless trivial conversation which obfuscates all real meaning. Given this glimpse of magical escape, few would willingly subside back into such a world. Where the neo-romantics fail is in their attempt to draw this encounter with Magonia into the daylight world by insisting that ‘these things can be’. Untempered by reason and commonsense, Magonia can soon ‘abduct’ us.

What is this ‘Magonia’ which is encountered in the shades of twilight? It seems to me to represent the ‘Wilderness’, all those aspects of reality and the world which are beyond rational control. It stands against the world of human reason, culture and ingenuity, which I shall call ‘Habitat’ (I apologise to anthropologists and others who may take exception to the term, I am simply looking for verbal symbols at present).

One writer on psychical research has used an excellent term to describe our encounters with Magonia – ‘crashing’. Magonia descends on us like a ten-ton weight – suddenly the ghost is in the house; the light on the road is a spacecraft; the polt throws the pots at us; Nessie surfaces onto the placid surface from unplumbed depths. Wilderness is upon us.

It is hardly surprising that those with an extremely strong commitment to some metaphysical ‘Habitat’ system should be extremely disturbed by this. Rationalists and Christian fundamentalists, deeply commited to strict rules and tight repression, when confronted with the crashing in of Wilderness, without so much as a knock on the door, not surprisingly are tempted to see it as a manifestation of evil, or at least cosmic bad form!

In the opening chapter of Book of the Damned, Fort compares the ‘damned data’ to the lumpenproletariat of society, unacceptable in the bourgeois drawing room. This is a profound insight, indeed. Part of the central force, the dynamic potential of the ‘crash’ of Magonia, is its equation with the untamed aspect of the personality, society and cosmos. Fortean phenomena are damned because ultimately they are signs of pure ‘Wilderness’. It is obvious that on a macro scale this ‘crashing’ can lead to disaster. Iran is a prime example of the sudden explosion of dramatic mythic power into a society, and the chaos which results when that power is unchecked.

It seems to me that Scornaux is correct in his estimate of the power of myths on our society, for good or ill. The Falklands or Greenham Common are excellent testimony to the power of a-rational appeals on human history; and it is not at all clear what myths may drive a world that is coming up to a close encounter with annihilation. There is just no way of telling what would happen in the last hours of countdown to nuclear war, but perhaps one could hope against all reason that there would emerge from Magonia an elemental, global, lust for life which would sweep all before it. Perhaps in this crisis of final despair all existing social ties would be broken, and all government, power and authority would be smashed apart.It would no doubt be the second greatest human tragedy possible, yet for all its pain and grief, might it not be an infinitely better outcome than that Last Winter?

A time must come when all the polite little articles and not so polite book reviews become just idle chatter. If we are to take our role seriously we must speak out at some point. For more and more people the shock that lies at the heart of Magonia is the realisation of a world order founded on cynicism, tyranny and mendacity, and defended ultimately by the threat of the immeasurably evil crime of mondocide – the murder of a world and all life, hope, love, joy; yes, even hate and sorrow! It is hardly surprising then that there is “crime, banditry and the distress of nations”. Indeed, the greatest imaginable sign of hope, and the greatest testimony of support for wise old Pelagius, is that there is so little, and that they overwhelming majority of people demonstrate, for the overwhelming majority of the time, so much love, tenderness, kindness and compassion.

It signals that human beings are not politico-economic puppets, miserable sinners requiring supernatural grace or extra-terrestrial nannying. Nor are they lumps of jelly whose sole purpose is carrying ‘selfish genes’, or spirits trapped in alien matter, ‘strangers in a strange land’. Rather we are the Children of Olduvai, the One People, the inheritors of the multiform cultures of our planet, bound for the stars. What dreams the dust of the universe dreams, and what greater hope could one have than this.

 

Knowing About UFOs, Part 2. Dr Ron Westrum

Part 2. From MUFOB New Series 6, Spring 1977

Reporting:

Although the number of those with personal experience of UFOs seems quite large, one must remember that all experiences are not reported. In the Colorado sample, only thirteen percent of those who sighted a UFO reported it to other than family or friends(Lee, 1968, p226)(16). In evaluating information from official agencies this selection factor must be borne in mind. And in fact to get a true idea of the amount of ‘filtering’, one can compare the (about) 12,000 reports which the US Air Force received between 1950 and 1969 (Condon) with the number they should have received if all the reports had been transmitted.

Of 3.75 million (estimated) people who have seen UFOs, the Colorado study found that 13 per cent, or about 490,000, had reported their sightings. If the Air Force received, over the same period, about 12,000 reports, then there must have been an enormous attrition of reports when passing through the channels, even considering multiple-witness reports. Thus anywhere from one in fifty to one in three hundred (17) sightings may be represented by an official (USAF) report. Consequently, conclusions from Air Force data about UFOs must bear this fact in mind.

What do we know about the representativeness of the reports the US Air Force receives? Can we assume that only the best reports are passed on? To attempt answers to these questions we must examine both the reasons for reporting and those for non-reporting. Sighters whose reports reached the Colorado Project’s files indicated that the two strongest motives were 1) the feeling that strange objects should be reported, and 2) “I would want to know what it was” (Lee, 1968, p227) Given that the first motivation, mentioned by 43 per-cent of the sighters, could be seen as involving a sense of civic duty, one can well sense the bitterness and frustration felt by those making the reports when they are labeled liars or mentally ill. (18) Reporting is a risky business, and making a report is often an act of considerable courage.

The decision to report or not probably involves calculations about the positive and negative consequences that will personally accrue if a report is made. Many of those who have high credibility and are ‘high discriminators’ are precisely those who have the most to lose by making a report. Single-person sightings are probably under-represented in reports, since a greater degree of scepticism is applied to events that were witnessed by only one person. Even close kin may not believe ones unless it was witnessed by someone else (Fuller, 1966, pp.13,140,176; Michel, 1958, p.43). The more impressive a particular UFO sighting is, the more information the report is likely to yield — and the greater the scepticism on is likely to meet in reporting it. We have already mentioned the convincing effect that personal experience has on unbelievers. A good proxy for personal experience is the experience of a close friend or a peer. Other persons with whom there is a high identification tend to be believed more often than strangers — even when such strangers are more knowledgeable than one’s friends and peers. (19)

There is also a tendency for certain kinds of information to circulate only informally along colleague groups. This is particularly important in the case of scientists, since there observations are given special weight by both other scientists, and by the public at large. Page (1968) begins an article on detection of UFOs by noting that no astronomical photograph has recorded a UFO. This assertion is in itself interesting, as the Vallées (1966) had already indicated that more than one astronomical photograph was in existence and in fact one of them is reduced in their book. But the assertion is even more interesting in that Page admits in a footnote that he has been told informally that ‘anomalous trails’ had appeared on one set of photographs (20) which had not been reported in the public literature, and that in any case no special search for anomalies had been made. It is thus possible that an astronomer will know relatively little about colleagues’ observations of UFOs even if he has an active interest in them.

The fear of ridicule predisposes many scientists against reporting. Berthold Schwartz, a psychiatrist, notes that he interviewed a physicist who is now Professor and chairman of a university department. Although this person had experienced a UFO sighting at close range which he credited with a significant influence on his life, few of his colleagues were aware that he had had such an experience (Schwartz, 1972). Nor would he allow his name to be used in Schwartz’s writings. In my own interviews with about two dozen physicists and chemists in a university setting, I came across one case in which an apparently prominent physicist observed what would be called a “cloud cigar” in the jargon of ufology. He had not publicised the fact however, and had in fact sworn his friends to secrecy. Thus many reports — how many it is impossible to know — by scientists are kept not only from the public but from their colleagues at large. And the informal policies of scientific journals (see Hartmann, 1968, p.584) are such that the journals are unlikely to accept the papers of scientists who try to publish them. All of which contributes to the public and scientific impression that UFOs are not seen by astronomers. (see Jones, 1968a, p.230)

This tendency extends to the international concealment of research projects on UFOs carried out by scientists and others. Ruppelt (1956) mentions two cases of such concealment, both dealing with the relation of UFOs to exceptionally high atmospheric radiation. In one case a group of scientists at an Atomic Energy Commission laboratory had noticed that huge jumps in background radiation tended to be associated with local UFO sightings. Some years later they set up a recording apparatus on a local mountain, and found that in the one case in which a UFO had been seen near the mountain their recording apparatus showed a large jump in radiation level (see pp.264-270). In the second case a military installation found consistently that its radiation monitoring equipment tended to show higher radiation in areas where UFOs had been seen (pp. 270-271). In both cases no official report was made of the activities of these groups.

If UFOs were, for instance, outer-space vehicles, then those reports which involved close proximity to UFOs, or contact with their “operators” would be the most valuable, since they would yield the most information on the nature of the craft and their occupants. Since such reports are often sensational, however, and the rapporteursoften make money on the basis of their testimony, reports of contacts tend to be suspect. Project Blue Book had an admirably simple method of dealing with such reports they went into a file marked ‘crackpot’. Many amateur UFO investigation organisations also reject such reports (Vallée, 1966, pp 232-234).

It was previously the belief of the author of this paper that contactees represented a mixed group of hoaxers and psychotics. This may in fact be the case; but even if it is, the matter is more complex than it at first appears. Many contactees are apparently ‘silent’ According to his own account, Keel (1970, p.212) interviewed over 200 of them who had previously not divulged their experiences in a public way. (21) He estimates that they may number as many as 50,000 throughout the USA, although he does not disclose the basis for this estimate. Other contactees are inspired to attempt assassinations (Vallée, 1969, p.131); may play major roles in religious “miracles”, such as the one in Fatima, Portugal in 1915 (see e.g. Keel, 1970, pp.255-264); or even conspire to overthrow governments (Keel, 1970, pp.280-281). Depending on how broadly one wishes to define “Contactee”, one might consider that many of the world’s major and minor religions were started by alleged or actual contactee exper-iences. The real extent of the contactee phenomenon is beyond the scope of this paper, and can only be appreciated by reading Vallée and Keel.

It was previously the belief of the author of this paper that contactees represented a mixed group of hoaxers and psychotics. This may in fact be the case; but even if it is, the matter is more complex than it at first appears

The above considerations make it unlikely that the official reports represent a random sample of UFO experiences and even less likely that they represent the most informative reports. Ruppelt, while Director of Project Blue Book, once found out about a very important sighting (Ruppelt, 1956, pp.139-141) while riding on a plane with a man who had no idea who Ruppelt was; Ruppelt was the first and perhaps the only person he had confided in, because he was a complete stranger. This sighting, which correlated with another previously uncorroborated sighting, reached Ruppelt by coincidence. How many other sightings are not so serendipitously communicated? One does not know. It is clear though, that much that is important comes to light only after intensive search or completely by accident. Reporting is thus a haphazard process, and much filtering of reports takes place at the source.

It would be undesirable to suggest that all suppression of reports is unjustified. Clearly, society’s information-processing mechanisms are limited, and might be overloaded if all apparent anomalies were scrupulously reported. Hence, in making a decision as to whether to report or not, the individual may also be concerned with over-burdening social intelligent mechanisms. The more striking the observation, of course, the less legitimate this rationale becomes. My personal impression is that there are as many errors of overcaution in reporting as there are of temerity.

Contagion. Experience Generation vs. Report Release.

A point often advanced in favour of the hypothesis that waves of UFO sightings are due to hysterical contagion is that the release of a single prominent report prompts the release of many more. One distinction however, must be made that is often overlooked in this matter. Reporting may well be contagious, in the sense that a person may be motivated to report a UFO if other reports are being made. This does not necessarily imply, though, that the number of experiences of UFOs increases when this happens – which would be the case if hysterical contagion were involved. Rather, all that one can say is that the propensity to report increases. This is likely to mean that the conditional probability of reporting, given an experience, will increase; and it is likely to mean that reports which are hoaxes will increase as well.

Earlier we have indicated the small ratio of reports to primary experiences. There exists at any time, then, a large number of reports which can be “shaken loose” by a newspaper article, magazine or book. It is by no means true that the reports which are thus elicited are all second rate either. Heuvelmans, in his work on sea-serpents (1968), has noted that many good reports seem to be communicated after someone breaks the ice and tells about their sighting; others are then likely to write to the magazine or author of the article and relate their own experience. This sort of “report release” phenomenon may be involved in information about other kinds of anomalies as well.

Of course, if hysterical contagion is involved, all the reports which come in should refer to experiences which postdate the original report. Report release, on the other hand, is likely to involve reports that may be years old. Yet even this criterion is not unequivocal, since experiences after the original report are more likely to be reported than ones before it. And in the case where private, unpublicised experiences take place before the initial report is made (22), is the hypothesis of hysterical contagion still tenable? This is a question which sociologists might fruitfully attack withboth empirical studies and mathematical models, since the phenomenon of hysterical contagion often manifests itself in quite different ways, as one can see from the diverse kinds of collective behaviour grouped under this label (see the review in Kerckhoff & Back, 1968, ch.2); from bodily symptoms which are transmitted through personal observations to imagined incidents which are suggested by newspaper stories. Even neuroses like “shell shock” may be the result of social contagion.

Behaviour of Official Agencies

So far we have been largely concerned with those who have experiences with and report UFOs. Clearly one component of reporting, though, is the expected reaction of those to whom the report is made. We have already alluded to the role of communication media in generating reports, but government agencies also have a role in eliciting or discouraging reports. This role is particularly important where organisations, including other agencies, are in a position to make repeated UFO observations, and whose propensity to make reports will be related to the feedback they get from those who receive the reports. Ruppelt indicates in several places how important this feedback can bee in influencing the transmission or non-transmission of reports (1956 pp.146,159-161,169,10).

In looking at the interaction of official agencies, it is often useful to make a dichotomy between “locals” and “centrals”. The locals are those on the spot, in the field, who actually have the experiences. The centrals are those who have the job of interpreting the reports of the locals, often in political capitals far removed from the scene of the action. Should locals observe some anomalous phenomena and try to send a report to the centrals, trouble is almost necessarily bound to ensue. The locals consider them selves “high discriminators” and reasonably competent at evaluating what they observe. The centrals, on the other hand, have not made the observation that the locals have, consider such observations a priori impossible, and suspect that the locals are a bit barmy.

The communications from locals to centrals tend to arrive in written form, often with contextual facts and emotional ambiance extracted from them; in any case there is nothing to require the centrals to read the reports in their entirety. The centrals then suggest that the local, e.g., have been drinking too much (Ruppelt, 1956, p.99) or advise the locals about certain elementary sources of observational error that they may not have taken into account (Ruppelt, 1956, p.170). Regardless of the emotional tone of the locals’ reactions to these insults – which range from fury to despair — the reports are almost certain to stop coming, a result that the centrals do not seek to avoid.

In many cases the locals are not part of any agency, and submit reports, for instance, to the local Air Force base. If those at the base do not have a personal commitment to transmit the sightings, they may well wish to avoid unpleasant suggestions from their “centrals” and so tailor their information transmissions to match the expectations of their superiors.

Air Force officers are human, and therefore interpret their duty quite differently. Some went to great lengths not to submit a report. Others took a special delight in submitting all of the ‘easy’ ones out of a zealous loyalty to their service, because the re ‘identifieds’ they turned in, the highter would be the overall percentage of UFO reports explained. (Condon, 1968. p.22)

The centrals, too have their own higher echelons, whom they in turn must take into consideration:

The people on the UFO project began to think maybe the brass didn’t consider them too smart so they tried a new hypothesis: UFOs don’t exist. In no time they found that this was easier to prove and it got recognition. Before if an especially interesting UFO report came in and the Pentagon wanted an answer, all they’d get was an “It could be real but we can’t prove it”. Now such a request got a quick, snappy, “It was a balloon”, and feathers were stuck in caps from ATIC up to the Pentagon. Everybody felt fine. (Ruppelt, 1956, p.82)

Because of the often close dependence of agency behaviour on the perceived wishes of the higher echelons, the information which reached the latter may vary in a manner only partially related to external events, at least as such events reach the lower echelons.

Not all agency personnel, of course, act in this manner; some often persist in forwarding reports of unexplained UFO sightings in spite of the sentiments of their superiors. When official channels bog down, informal channels often are used for communication. The higher echelons are not necessarily unanimous, and those among them who refuse to accept pat answers may find sympathetic lower officers who will surreptitiously forward reports, although this will sometimes be done only on a face-to-face basis (see Ruppelt, 1956, ch,1). Here again the informal communication that takes place among colleague groups is often the main channel along which much information travels and discussion takes place.

For several months the belief that Project Blue Book was taking a negative attitude and the possibility that UFOs were interplanetary spaceships had been growing in the Pentagon, but these ideas were usually discussed only in the privacy of offices with doors that would close tight. (emphasis RW) (Ruppelt, 1956. p.196)

It nonetheless appears true, at least in the period 1947-1953, that evidence by and large was looked into, reported, or destroyed according to what it was felt the higher echelons of the US Air Force desired (Ruppelt, 1956. pp.12, 160, 176, 229). This was also true of the orientation of Project Blue Book itself during this period. Nor is such behaviour a unique property of Air Force intelligence organizations (see Wilensky, 1967, ch.3).

These internal forms of suppression, subterfuge and deceit are harmful enough to the process of social intelligence: in warfare they have often extracted high costs (Wilensky, 1967). Where public opinion is aroused, however, external forms of disinformation are resorted to as well. The so-called Robertson Panel, a group of scientists who were called to evaluate the evidence for UFOs in 1953, recommended a public debunking campaign to take the “mystery” out of UFOs. The intention of the Robertson Panel was to discourage the “poor” quality reports so that there would be more time to process “good” quality reports. It is possible, on the other hand, that what would have resulted had their recommendations been taken seriously was a decreased propensity to report, which would affect “good” as well as “poor” reports. An Air Force disinformation campaign in 1949, although admittedly less elaborate than the one proposed by the Robertson Panel, hardly succeeded in quashing public interest. (Ruppelt, 1956, p.87). The disinformation campaign itself may have served to stimulate public interest, since it was obvious to many observers that the Air Force was being less than candid. This may be one of the “ironies” to which Jones (1968b) has referred: the process of concealment itself arouses interest in what is being concealed.

Conclusion

In forming his opinion as to whether or not UFOs are in fact “real” — whether extraterrestrial, ultraterrestrial, or whatever — the layman cannot be expected to weigh all of the considerations we have advanced here about the way in which social intelligence about anomalous phenomena is formed. The scientist is likely to be more concerned with those aspects of the phenomena about which he does find out, and to which he can apply the sorts of measurements and methods that to many scientists and laymen alike constitute science. Persons whose responsibilities are less easily circumscribed, such as the social critic and the policy-maker, however, cannot excuse themselves on the basis of either limited sophistication or specialised expertise. In making decisions about anomalous phenomena, they must take into account the network of social information which is responsible for keeping public and government informed about the external world. Mass hysteria over hoaxes and hallucinations constitutes only one danger; the opposite danger is ignoring forces which may have unsought effects on human life.

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Notes:

  • (16) The wording of the question in this way was unfortunate, because we do not know how many people reported sightings to no one at all; there is evidence, as we shall see below, that those who have such experiences by themselves are re-luctant to report them even to family members.
  • (17) One does not know how many sightings are multiple witness. Even if figures were available they might indicate selective reporting; multiple witness sightings being preferentially reported.
    (18) Not to mention having to change jobs or locations as a result of adverse publicity. (Lee, 1968, p.225)
  • (19) For instance, airline pilots tend to believe other airline pilots (Ruppelt, p.108 et seq.); generals tend to believe other generals (Op cit. p.125); radar operators tend to believe other radar operators (Op cit., p.169). This tendency is probably stronger the more elite the group.
  • (20) From the Smithsonian “Prairie” meteorite camera network.
  • (21) He did this by circulating in “flap” areas talking to people in the vicinity, etc.
  • (22) This was the case in the UFO wave of 1947, in which several sightings took place before Kenneth Arnold’s famous one (see Bloecher, 1967).

References:

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