Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Angels Talking Through Their Eyes

Still trying to climb out of this numbing exhaustion, but finally I am at least able to sleep. Last night I slept for a good 10 dream-filled hours, and it was heavenly. I wish I had written down the dreams.

Speaking of heavenly, the Biography Channel aired one of its low-budget paranormal marathons the other night--on this occasion the show in question was, "I Survived! Beyond and Back;" an hour long collection of first person accounts of near death experiences.

I watched three full episodes before conking out myself. Most of the stories were filled with fairly standard stuff: the white light, the tunnel, the transcendent presence(s), the loving long lost relatives come to guide the newly departed into the afterlife just before, BAM! Did we say heaven? Nope, gotta go back! Sorry!

One detail of one specific account stood out for me in a big way though:

A young woman who had been severely injured in an auto accident found herself watching a complicated operation to repair her broken back from a vantage point high up in a corner of the OR. As she watched, she realized she was surrounded by angels, whom she described as being, "about nine feet tall and surrounded by light. They spoke with their eyes, which beamed this same light outward as a form of communication. The light itself contained the message."

I was struck by the similarities between this description of telepathic angelic communication via light and eyes and the standard abductee description of aliens with huge black eyes that communicate via intelligent, living darkness. In the angel NDE story, the light beams outward from the eyes.

In most alien abduction accounts, the person is transfixed by the blackness of the eyes, drawn in, and the communication in these cases is also nonverbal but quite clear. In both examples, there is a sense of shining, of a light/darkness that is itself intelligent/loving or (in the case of alien abduction) intelligent/terrifying.

The two experiences are mirror images of one another in many respects. 

The apparent opposition may well be superficial. It is worth pointing out that terror in the presence of angels is as commonly reported (perhaps more commonly reported) than love and reassurance, so some significant overlap is at play here. Angels and aliens have a lot in common.

I think this interesting detail gives a bit of experiential weight to the possibility that angels and aliens are in fact the same creatures--an idea floated by lots of interested parties in lots of different ways. Light and reassuring one moment, dark and terrifying the next, angels and aliens may be two manifestations of a single phenomenon.

BTW, I'm currently reading the new book by Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck, "Wonders in the Sky." It's pretty cool. As soon as I turn the last page I'll post a review,  I promise

Tomorrow I have to get a root canal before work.

I think I'd rather have a near death experience.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Was Jesus an Alien?

I've been absent from this blog for nearly two months, working a temporary Christmas retail job at the mall. Nice as it's been to see a regular paycheck for a change, however teeny weeny, I'm looking forward to the end of Christmas.

I've missed this blog.

And--I've been having predictably weird thoughts: 1) Because I always have weird thoughts, and 2) because I've been taking on lots of hours I and am tired now in places I didn't know existed. Tired in my toenails. Tired in my earlobes and eyelashes.

December 25th can't come fast enough for Pam this year.

I've been thinking a lot about the ambivalence built into religious experience and all anomalous experience, including UFO sightings and encounters--and about how much the two categories of experience overlap. Much has been written about this, but usually the slant of such writing is that UFO experiences and NDEs and mystical experiences of all sorts are just a variant on religious experience; a modern expression of a single phenomenon that is as old as the human race.

A question posed much less often is this one:

What if religious experience is a variant of UFO and anomalous experience,but is interpreted as religion because that's how human beings are wired--to think religiously.

Probably the reason you don't hear that question as often is because it offends people more easily than its opposite. It's harder to sell too. Has a much smaller target market, as it were.

I got to pondering this less popular question while hearing "Silent Night" on the store intercom for the gazillionth time and remembering the movie, "Starman" with Jeff Bridges. In that movie, an alien falls to earth, takes human form (by slipping into the body of a dead guy), is taken in by a nice young woman who falls for his charming peaceable alien style and just after he leaves earth--miracle of miracles--finds herself pregnant.

Do I need to point out the parallels?

I do not.

The odd rumination I had on the heels of that was about NDEs.

You know how people who have NDEs seem to always come out of them with psychic and/or healing abilities and a much more religious (or at least spiritual) inclination? Well, I had an NDE in my 30s.

In the years immediately following my NDE, I went on one of those grand spiritual quests (fodder for another post) so common among experiencers, and I also studied all kinds of esoteric traditions in depth, obsessively--very common as well. I did seem to develop a degree of psychic ability post-bright light moment; one I still retain. On a darker note, I fried hair dryers, coffee pots, and other small electronic appliances for years thereafter. I no longer buy such items.

My NDE happened over 20 years ago.

Today, I'm much more ambivalent about its meaning, if it even has one. I wonder, why me? What for? And on what basis do we categorize such experiences as divine?

Couldn't such experiences just as easily be generated by something much more prosaic--some intelligence with a better understanding of human cognition and anatomy than we ourselves possess? And the fact that we can't understand their motives, what of it?

As a line from the popular movie The Mothman Prophecies puts it:

"You're more intelligent than a cockroach, right? Have you ever tried explaining yourself to one?"

(Poor John Keel. Was he a prophet? Or a paranoid schizophrenic? Will we ever know? At least he dared to explore the territory.)

Perhaps we simply can't understand. Perhaps we lack the cognitive apparatus to understand, to know what this is. But does that mean de facto that the source of our anomalous perceptions must be divine? Maybe, but maybe not.

NDEs and other out of body experiences tend to be so overwhelmingly positive and eternal, so 'other' in a totally blissful way, that we automatically ascribe positive intent and value to them.

Heroin is like that too.

Somewhere between genius and madness a great mystery beckons. Is it friend or foe, God or alien? Or is it none of the above--experience for the sake of experience itself, perhaps. Something truly and wholly (holy?) Other.

Merry Christmas. See you on the other side.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nick Redfern and the Alien/Monster Connection

I just finished reading a fascinating book by Nick Redfern called Three Men Seeking Monsters

I had such a good time with it, that afterward I went to You Tube and found an interview with Redfern on his latest ufology treatise, Final Events: A book about a covert U.S. government research group that made a link between UFOs and demonology way back in the 50s.

Although many people do not realize it, UFO researchers have been making connections between UFOs and monsters for decades. Wherever UFOs show up, Bigfoot, phantom cats, spectral cavement, sea serpents, and dragons are not far behind.

Some witnesses have reported the emergence of cryptid animals from what can only be described as a small, luminous UFO. Other witnesses see these creatures vanish in a flash of light that, again, is more remniscent of ufology than zoology.

Hot spots for UFO activity frequently overlap with cryptid hotspots. In fact, several mainstream UFO researchers have admitted to Redfern privately that they are aware of this, but because it does not fit their own theories or the theories of their readers, they try to ignore it.

Three Men Seeking Monsters and Final Events examine this link between UFOs and other paranormal phenomena such demons, cryptids, time slips, channeling, possession, and occult magical traditions head on. So far I've only just read this single book by Redfern, but a quick scan of his other titles suggests this theme runs through most of his work and has become more focused over time.

Redfern is neither the first nor the only researcher to reject the ET hypothesis and conclude that UFOs have a paranormal or occult origin. John Keel came to the same conclusion back in the late 60s, followed by Jacques Vallee--the inspiration for the Frenchman in Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the 70s and 80s.

Keel eventually came to see UFOs as demonic in the Christian sense of '"something evil and deceptive that is up to no good spiritually and practically." Toward the end of his career Keel became obsessed with U.S. intelligence involvement in the occult and in Nazi mind control techniques.

I'm not saying that's all paranoid hysteria on Keel's part. It may well be true, at least in part. But it is one murky pail of creepy slimy stuff that, thus far, I haven't really had the stomach to dissect.

Vallee was less perjorative in his assessment than Keel, concluding only that UFOs and the paranormal phenomena that often accompany them are profoundly deceptive by their very nature.

Vallee noted after spending some years writing about these phenomena that anyone who does any amount of research into them enters a twisted world of high strangeness that just gets more slippery with every new bit of evidence and every new firsthand report.

Some writers go over the edge and never come back. It happens. 

Vallee did not believe it was possible (at least not yet) to know what the motives of the 'aliens' in question actually are, but he argued convincingly that whatever they are up to, they've been getting up to it right here on planet Earth for thousands of years.

Vallee's best guess was that the 'aliens' are engaged in shaping human culture and consciousness by means of mythic intervention: a really interesting idea that he took no end of abuse for floating.

It bothered Vallee greatly that UFOlogists as a group tend to edit out the stranger elements of encounters in order to make UFO reports fit the 'visitors-from-space' explanation. Vallee felt that this was just bad methodology, a concern that Redfern shares, and one that has always bothered me as well and that I've written about here in this blog maybe a little too much.

Redfern is closer to Vallee in his outlook than he is to Keel, although there were times reading Three Men in Search of Monsters and listening to the interview when I felt like Redfern was definitely leaning toward seeing UFOs, monsters, and other paranormal phenomena as more malignant than friendly. If you come to see them as being generated (or at least summoned) magically, it's hard not to at least get a case of the willies. I mean, you'd have to be dead not to feel that.

But what does it all mean? That's harder to parse.

Redfern explains that both aliens and monsters do seem to feed on human emotion and belief, and that the emotion of fear seems to be an especially tasty treat for them. Therefore, these paranormal entities will try to generate as much of that emotion as they possibly can, and they seem to become all the stronger to the degree that they are successful in doing so. This is not the same thing as saying they are imaginary and fed by our fears. They're real enough, but not real in the way we are used to.

I've noticed this bit about fear and belief and deception myself and, again, I've spent rather more time thinking about it than is probably healthy. For me, it's a riddle. Although I experience bursts of fear and an occasional case of the heeby jeebies when delving into this stuff, in general I don't get scared by it very easily anymore.

At this point in my life, I just want to know WTF.

I realize I might not find out before I die, but I'd like to.

Hence this blog. And my infatuation with bad 50s sci fi.

Anyway, as we approach Halloween, when the veil between this world and theirs grows thin and things start to go bump in the night, if you're looking for a good read about men, monsters, aliens, and the virtues of punk rock music, you could do way worse than anything written by Nick Redfern.

Well, gotta go. I hear something growling by the back door...

P.S.--A film based on Three Men Seeking Monsters is due out in 2013. Hope they don't muck it up, because the book is way cool.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare, and UFOs

If your favorite X-Files episodes were always the ones with the Cigarette Smoking Man and the Spy versus Spy endless backstory, then Mirage Men is your kind of UFO book.

You'll probably eat it up in a single sitting and not even need an antacid afterward.

If, on the other hand, you were there for the supercool monsters and the overall hotness of Gillian Anderson, then you might find yourself feeling kind of woozy about a third of the way into this well-written, uncharacteristically rational ufology treatise.

In fact, you might need to lie down for a bit afterward. Just for a few minutes. Just until the room quits spinning and you no longer feel like you're going to hurl.

In case the title isn't enough of a tip off, Mirage Men chronicles the various and sundry methods used by the U.S. intelligence community to f**k with the general public (and more specifically, the UFO community), using specific examples that stretch all the way back to the 1940s, before Roswell.

In the movies this is the stuff that is always "on a need to know basis."

Well, if you are a UFOnut or naut, you need to know. Read the book. Most of it is probably even true.

Having made that necessary disclaimer--that yes, you should read this book and pay attention to what it says because a lot of stuff that passes for fact in UFO lore really is disinformation and nonsense--I have to also say that about a third of the way in I began to have, well, qualms.

Like so many UFO adventures, the beginning of my journey into their journey was promising. I was beyond happy when author Mark Pilkington straight up validated my pet theory about the Roswell myth, right out of the gate. Nobody is ever nice to me when I ruin Roswell for them, and that gets so lonely. So when that specific topic got a thorough and early deconstruction,  I was all like, "Oh cool! I KNEW it!"

Who doesn't like to feel right? I know I do.  

But things quickly went south.

For a tiny taste of why, contemplate the following statement for just a minute or two:

Everything I say is a lie.

What does it mean? When I say that I'm lying am I actually telling the truth? But how can I tell the truth ever, even by trick or deception, if I have stated as a given that everything I say is a lie?

Back and forth, back and forth.

That feedback loop is fun for about as long as it takes you to realize you're trapped in it, at which point it's time to pull down the shades, take a Percocet, and pull the covers over your head.

I got my first queasy feeling early on when, not long before the splendid Roswell deconstruction, Pilkington explains that he and his friend John are longtime members of a group of pranksters who make crop circles. From there he goes on to boldy declare that "...yes people make crop circles--all of them--and have done so since the early 1970s."

Seriously? Every single crop circle since the 1970s? These guys weren't even born until the 1970s!

I mean, I like to dress up like Rue Paul on Halloween, but that doesn't prove that drag queens--all of them--are really women pretending to be men pretending to be women, and always have been, ever since the invention of Spandex sometime in the late 1960s.

All I'm saying is, A does not equal B simply because C said so.

That's all I'm saying. (Is this ride moving already?)

By the time Mark and John set off for a Nevada UFO conference to meet the infamous UFO spook Richard Doty (if, as they themselves openly wonder, this guy really is the *real* Richard Doty, assuming a *real* Richard Doty exists anywhere except in Spy versus Spy lore and legend)--by the time they show up at this conference to drink beer and make snarky comments about the heavy American food (which is awful, yes, and who would know awful food better than the British?)--by the time they are quaffing brewskis with the possible Richard Doty and swapping opinions on film clips of purported Grays--by that time, I'm lovin' it all just a little bit less.

They discover that they really, really like this Doty guy. It's like love at first bullsh*t, and the longer they listen to his ever-evolving disinformation monologues and plausible denials, the more deeply they all fall in love with each other.

That blossoming love affair is weird for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Richard Doty (or someone who plays him in this book) is a pasty-faced, sweaty, middleaged life insurance agent sort of guy who wears outdated polyester clothing that barely covers his enormous ego.

Richard Possibly Doty is kind of a jerk. His jokes are not funny, he drinks a lot, and as if what I've said so far isn't already enough to send any sober woman running to the ladies room and out the back door, it turns out that Doty's most impressive UFO intelligence achievements involve undermining, falsifying, or totally destroying UFO films, books, documentaries, and investigations before they are ever fully completed.

Doty does this by approaching the investigators/authors/filmmakers and feeding them BS, which he is, you know, doing with these very guys as you read their very book.

Tums, anyone? Percocet?

Bottom line: The truth is not out there, and it's not in here either.

Seriously, stop looking for it before your brain falls out. Lighten up. Those rubber rooms are so hard to decorate. 

I wish ufologists were more skeptical. Or skeptical at all. I wish skeptics were more imaginative. Or imaginative at all. I wish debunkers were more open to creative tension and possibility, instead of so mean-spirited and autocratic. If wishes were horses, I'd have finished my own book by now.

Alas, I'm just a girl who loves monsters. And Gillian Anderson.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Biological Approach to the Grays

No one with any scientific or academic street cred is studying Gray aliens.

We all know this.

But what if they were?

I got to thinking about this the other day, as I mentally ticked off the characteristics of Grays most widely reported by experiencers.

It hit me like a lightening bolt from the land of the Obvious:

These things sound like animals. 

As animals, it's completely possible that the Grays are animals that really do come from outer space. I mean, when you know nothing for sure, anything is surely possible. 

But what is most likely?

If the Grays are indeed animals, and if, as it appears, they've been messing with human beings for thousands of years (not just since 1946), then it seems to me a lot more likely that, like all the other animals we know about right now, the Grays probably hail from the very same planet humans currently inhabit:

Earth.

Consider the following list of commonly (if not universally) reported characteristics and ask yourself if this doesn't sound like a description of a creature that could be a part of ordinary, earthly reality:
  • Huge black hypnotic eyes with no pupils. Creatures on earth come equipped with many different kinds of eyes. The complex eyes on a fly are as bizarre, if not more so, than anything Lovecraft could have invented for a horror story. Not only that, we know that many creatures do use eye contact to render prey immobile or to signal dominance. Praying mantises do this, for instance. Dogs and many mammals signal dominance this way. So it isn't as if this feature is so alien that it must absolutely originate on some other world. It exists here, now.
  • Smooth, glistening skin that can be grey, green, golden, white, or changeable in color. The skin of Grays leaves a vivid impression on many experiencers, who describe it as being similar in appearance to the kind of skin an amphibian might have.
  • Skin that is whisper-soft to the touch or rock hard. Experiencers who have been touched by these creatures report that it feels almost ethereal, yet when restrained by the very same creatures the skin takes on the feel of armor and Grays seem super-strong. Some say that this variability proves that Grays are creatures of fantasy, but nature is filled with examples of perfectly real creatures that have exoskeletons or skins that exhibit amazing, changeable qualities. It's not impossible. 
  • Insectoid movement and social structure. Many, many repeat experiencers have pointed to similarities between the Grays and certain kinds of social insects, like ants. At least three different body types have been reported: short stocky 'workers' that seem to possibly be robotic, short thin Grays with large heads and long fingers and big eyes (the Close Encounters of the Third Kind version of the Gray and the most recognizable), and tall white beings that share characteristics of the Close Encounter Grays but that seem to be elders or leaders--these are often described as having a praying mantis-like appearance. 
  • Insect-like motivations. Again, many social insects exhibit behavior that is both amazing and seemingly alien, yet they hail from right here. Who is to say that a highly evolved insect species doesn't predate ours and doesn't regularly interact with ours for their own purposes? Some experiencers have speculated that the Grays seem not to understand 1) individualism, 2) human emotion, and 3) sexual reproduction. This lack of understanding is reported so often that it may well be part of their reason for studying us. Such a motive seems consistent with the notion that Grays are similar to (or even are) social insects, for whom these qualities are completely unnecessary or not central to their survival.
  • Nighttime abductions, altered consciousness. Grays appear beside people's beds in the dead of night and seem to come through walls or drop down through ceilings. Sometimes non-abductee witnesses see UFOs and brilliant lights at the same time that abductions occur, lending credence to the idea that something 'real' happens during abductions--not something delusional. While the bizarre, dreamlike nature of Gray encounters is often used to discount their validity, consider that we really don't understand our own need for sleep, what dreams are, why we need them, or how other species might perceive or use these states. When you find a grasshopper, does it see you? If it does see you, what does it see, exactly? When we don't understand our own perceptual apparatus it seems naive and self-serving to assume no other creature on earth could possibly manipulate it.
  • Feet with two split toes, sometimes described as 'cloven'. Pretty straightforward anatomical data, and not a detail you'd expect to remain consistent across reports.
  • An odd smell. Some experiencers report a sour, damp odor. Others mention a spicy/sulfurous smell. Others associate the Grays with a burnt smell. All of these share a quality of pungent earthiness; something you'd associate with an animal that lives underground. Some species of ants do scent mark their trails to communicate to other ants how to get from here to there. 
  • Lack of genitalia. Not that weird. Hundreds of species of creatures on earth lack the equipment for sexual reproduction. Do worker ants have genitals? They don't need them. So, no. 
I don't know what is happening with Gray aliens and abduction experiences.

But I do feel strongly that when we close ourselves off to experience out of fear or arrogance, nothing good happens as a result.

The more seriously I consider Grays, the more I think they are animals that share our planet.

We might want to ask ourselves, what are they up to?

The answers might be surprising indeed.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Mystery of Ed Leedskalnin's Coral Castle



Many ufologists believe that the pyramids and the Great Sphinx could not possibly have been built by human beings. They point to the existence of these ancient structures as evidence of early alien intervention.

Yet right here in the U.S., on a 10-acre site near Homestead, Florida, a monument to human ingenuity challenges the idea that alien intervention is necessary for the accomplishment of amazing feats.

Ed Leedskalnin was a small, Latvian immigrant who spent his life building what is now known as The Coral Castle. Composed of a collection of huge stones, some weighing as much as 30 tons, Ed built the unconventional structure for a woman and family he knew he would never have. One 9-ton revolving gate inside the compound is so perfectly balanced it opens easily with the push of a single finger.

Leedskalnin worked at night, by himself, and never revealed his methods. He also moved the entire structure, alone, from its original location to its current location on 10-acres years after first completing it near Florida City. No one knows how he did that either.

Leedskalnin claimed to know the secrets of the builders of the pyramids and when asked how he did it would say that he understood weights and counterweights and used a system of simple pulleys. Experts who have examined the structure, which is often compared to Stonehedge and the Pyramids, have not been able to replicate his methods.

Leedskalnin was also very interested in magnetism and wrote a highly unconventional book in which he argued that gravity does not really exist; that every object on earth carries a magnetic charge that connects to the center of the planet, and that what we take to be gravity is a side effect of this natural, innate magnetism.

Many people have theorized that Leedskalnin figured out how to reverse the magnetic charge of the stones so that they could be levitated, though no one has been able to prove this is possible.

With regard to aliens and UFOS, Leedskalnin's obsessive interest in magnetics and his unconventional life and accomplishments are intriguing. UFO sightings are often linked to magnetic disturbances. and many have theorized that the propulsion system behind UFO 'craft' is based on something to do with magnetism.

Nonetheless, Leedskalnin did not attribute his building methods to aliens or even talk about aliens.

The Myth of Progress

A common assumption of modern science is that human knowledge progresses and accumulates over time, so that today's knowledge is the best and most comprehensive knowledge ever, the sum total of all previous methods and discoveries distilled into a single best discipline.

Yet history seems to tell a different story: A story of increasing complexity and expertise followed by collapse and new beginnings. The people who built the Sphinx are long gone and so are their methods. They cannot tell us how they did what they did or why they did it.

Similarly, we still do not know how the Romans built their aquaducts. Much of their technology is lost to us. We cannot reconstruct it no matter how hard we try.

It seems that human knowledge develops in cycles, and that at the end of each cycle, as things fall apart, much if not all of the accumulated wisdom of the era is lost. Assuming that previous civilizations were more necessarily primitive than modern civiliation is most likely an error--a self-serving one.

Ancient civiliations were different. Their goals and motivations were different. Therefore their technology and organization was different. But were they primitive?

No.

Ed Leedskalnin's Coral Castle remains a mystery--one that is open to the public, open to anyone with a probing mind and healthy curiousity.

If you happen to be traveling near Homestead, Florida, stop in.

And if you figure it out, shoot me an e-mail!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Witchcraft and Aliens: Were Medieval Witches Actually Early Abductees?

Between the 14th and 18th centuries, somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 people on the European continent were tried and executed for witchcraft. Most of these people were burned alive in the public square of the nearest town, and most were also tortured before burning. Between 70% and 80% of all 'witches' executed were women, but many men, children, and even animals were executed as well.

What is most strange about the witchcraft trials of medieval Europe is that, despite being studied in great detail by historians and scholars of many stripes and biases, no single persuasive explanation has emerged for why they took place.

What is also interesting is that medieval 'witches' had much in common with today's 'abductees', and the witch hunters also resemble some of today's abduction 'researchers' in surprisingly consistent ways.

Something fairly powerful has to be going on either inside the public imagination or out in the real world or both, in order to sustain nearly four centuries of torture, carnage, and religious persecution. The Church did not simply try and burn witches: It aggressively sought them out to try and burn them.

The infamous Malleus Maleficarum (compiled in 1486) is a detailed instructional Church manual on how to identify a witch and what to do when you find one. Professional witch hunters, employed by the Church, roamed the European countryside searching out witches and delivering them into the hands of Church inquisitors who usually ended up torturing and killing them to save their souls.

Although the Malleus isn't a word-for-word precursor to Intruders or Missing Time, many elements are similar enough to warrant a closer look. 


How to Identify a Witch or Abductee

Although today we do not burn alive abductees alive, the modern process for identifying an abductee is remarkably similar to the medieval process for identifying a witch. Witches and abductees share the follow characteristics:
  • Marks on the Body. Abductees and witches are both thought to be physically marked in some way. In the case of witches the mark might be a mole or birthmark, or if no such mark was found, the examiner  declared the discovery of 'an invisible mark.' In the case of abductees, researchers look for scoop marks, triangle-shaped scars, or evidence of alien implants. 
  • Supernatural Sex. Witches were believed to have sexual intercourse with inhuman agents of the Devil called incubi (male demons) and succubi (female demons). Abductees are often believed to have intercourse with inhuman or half human alien beings during the abduction experience. 
  • Flying by Night. Witches had the ability to fly through the night sky. Alien abductees often have vivid memories of flying or being transported through the sky or through space. 
  • Messing with Animals. Witches were said to possess the ability to kill farm animals without drawing blood. Alien abductions are often associated with bloodless cattle mutilations or the draining of blood from small farm animals (chupacabra incidents are often paired with UFO sightings). 
  • Miscarriage and Disappearing Fetuses. Witches were believed to have the ability to cause miscarriage or cause fetuses to disappear. Alien abductees often report disappearing pregnancies or mysterious anomalous events involving human reproduction. 
  • Circular Meetings in the Deep Woods. Witches were thought to meet with the Devil in the woods, holding highly sexualized rituals naked in a stone circle. (See drawing above.) Abductees are taken into a circular craft, often from remote or wooded locations, where they are then examined naked on stone or metal slab.
  • The Devil and the Greys. The physical description of the 'Devil' of the medieval witchcraft trials (to whom witches were said to agree to a pact or contract) bears remarkable similarities to the tall Greys described by abductees. Tan or grey in color, the Devil and the tall Grey both have cloven feet, strange skin, and demand perverse sexual allegiance. The Devil's eyes are said to 'pierce' the eyes of women and control them in this way. The Greys control by means of their hypnotic huge eyes. 
  • Associations with Bright Lights in the Sky. Both Satan and aliens are associated with bright lights in the sky. Satan was said to be the "brightest angel in the sky" before he fell to earth for rebelling against God. Alien abductions are often (though not always) associated with brilliant lights in the sky (UFOs) that come down to earth to release frighting Greys with a baffling sexual agenda. 
David Hufford's The Terror That Comes in the Night

Folklorist David Hufford wrote a landmark paper about the relationship between sleep paralysis and the legend of the 'Old Hag'. This tale occurs in every age and across all cultures. In the story, a sleeping person wakes to find a hideous creature (the 'Old Hag') sitting or pressing down upon his or her chest. The victim is unable to move during this experience, which often includes sexual intercourse with the fantastic other. The incubus/succubus tales of medieval Europe are variants of the 'Old Hag' myth, and Hufford believes many alien abduction stories are modern variants of this universal tale.

However, Hufford's groundbreaking thesis was that the 'Old Hag' narrative was universal because it referred to a real human experience. 

This was controversial stuff in the dry, methodical world of academic folklore research. Up until the time of Hufford's paper it was assumed that narrative traditions and physical experience were rigidly separated categories. Stories were just stories. Folklorists collected them.

Folkloric tales were assumed by definition to refer only to imaginary events and experiences passed down by specific cultural groups for various sociological purposes: indoctrination into the mores of the group being one of the main purposes. Hufford was saying that at least some universal myths and legends appeared to be an attempt to convey the content of a genuine experience in the language of the culture and time in which the experience occurred.

So during medieval times when the Church held enormous power and controlled people through vivid descriptions of hellfire, damnation, and the wages of sin, the experience was interpreted as demonic and the abductor as Satan. In ancient Sumeria the experience was intrepreted as divine. In modern technological culture the experience is interpreted as extraterrestrial. But the same experiental elements are repeated in each instance; they are simply spun with a different explanation of what it all means.

Hufford was careful not to ascribe any particular interpretation to the raw experience underlying these stories; he only sought to make the argument that some kind of real experience was at the base of the stories. Hufford made a careful, exhaustive (and rather dry) philosophical argument that the scientific term 'sleep paralysis' is a description (and hence, another myth), not an explanation.

Hufford felt that the experience itself remains unexplained.

We don't know what causes these experiences. We don't know why the experience has these predictable and bizarre elements. We've just slapped a descriptive label--'sleep paralysis'--on something that has apparently been plaguing mankind for as long as man has been able to tell stories about it.

The Problem With the ET Hypothesis

One of the biggest obstacles to understanding UFO and alien abduction phenomena is the ET hypothesis, the belief that visitors from outer space are causing these experiences and events. We really don't know that, but the tendency to interpret all these phenomena through a modern technological filter is so strong that today the term UFO has today become synomymous with 'spacecraft', even though its original meaning was simply something flying through the sky that could not be identified. 'Unidentified Flying Object' means we don't know what it is. And we don't.

If we KNEW it was a spacecraft, then it would NOT be a UFO. It would be a spacecraft.

What are the chances that our current cultural filter is any more correct than the medieval one that ascribed these phenomena to devils, or the ancient one that ascribed them  to Isis, or the medical one that ascribes them to a mysterious brain disorder called sleep paralysis, or the northern Scandavian one that ascribes them to the appearance of the 'Old Hag' (a folkloric harbinger of death)?

Weirdly, Huffords ideas get little uptake in ufology because they are seen as acribing the phenomena to 'myth', which is popularly understood by ufologists (who seem not to actuall read this stuff) to mean 'made up story that isn't true in any way'.

That understanding is the exact opposite of the compelling original argument made by Hufford, an argument that supports the notion that something real is going on, but that we just don't know what it is. Hufford's work could be used to support further scientific or academic study or these phenomena, but in a weird twist of illogic, it is used to dismiss them by both camps.

At least we aren't burning people alive over the experience these days.

But it would be nice to know what it was actually all about.





    Friday, August 20, 2010

    Why Ufology is Dying a Slow Horrible Death

    I recently had an unpleasant run-in on a ufology site that I realized is pretty much emblematic of why ufology today is on the decline.

    The relative dearth of good, new books on ufos and anomalous experience is not just a function of lack of public interest.

    The public is definitely very interested.

    No, the decline is more a function of infighting within ufology itself and a struggle between various camps for 'authority' and control.

    This infighting and nastiness is killing new inquiry, since mainstream science already shies away from any real research, and now new people who are willing to take a chance on entering the discussion have to face the wrath of these little, little self-proclaimed ufology gods and make offerings to them and so forth and so on to even be allowed to speak.

    Not a good way to encourage new ideas.

    Within ufology there are a few major camps and you have to choose one straight up and be accepted to get any uptake--no small task in itself--and the thing is, not one of them has the whole answer:

    1. The New Agers. These folks tend to believe that aliens are here to raise our consciousness and save the planet, and often have a whole cosmology of alien types and agendas readily at hand, with complex attendant beliefs and explanations that have to be learned and publically accepted if one is to gain entrance to their temple. No matter if any of it is correct. 
    2. The Conspiracy Theorists. Be afraid, be very afraid. The government is behind every bad thing that ever happened in your life, most especially abductions and ufo sightings and remember that time you stubbed your toe when you were 8? MK-Ultra. And BTW you'd know that already if you were as informed as those in the inner sanctum but clearly you are not, hence your ignorance you ignoramus you. (Would you like a little abuse with your abuse? How about some abuse for dessert?)
    3. The Aliens-Are-After-Our-Wimmin Witch Hunters. OK, I'm just going to say it. Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs creep me out. They might be nice guys, they might have positive motives, but I have my doubts. Neither of them has had any direct experiences of UFOs or aliens, and both spend all their time sitting on the bedsides of hurting people with painful sexual memories involving aliens, luridly transcribing every word and publishing it. They brook no criticism and have already decided what is going on and who knows the most about it: Them.
    4. The Folklorists and Neoplatonists. I like these people the best because at least they are aware of the magic words, "I don't know," and are willing to say them out loud in front of others. Basically they see these anomalous phenomena as modern manifestations of something very old and very earthly. Most of them reject the entire ET hypothesis but do believe that another intelligence is at play. 
    5. The Debunkers. These folks are just annoying. They're always about 'bring me the flying saucer,' totally ignoring the fact that millions of sightings and contact reports are in and of themselves enough reason to ask, "Um, what's going on here?" One of the most famous debunkers, Joe Nickell of Skeptical Inquirer fame, spends much of his time questioning other people's credentials. He himself holds a bachelor's degree in English. Wow.

    Why would I even care about the decline of a pseudoscience anyway?

    Because I want a good answer, and mainstream science won't look for one. It's really that simple.

    Modern science is clearly in trouble, and that means we are all in trouble. What science can't explain, it tosses aside. Plus, the language of science is so exclusive and the population at large so undereducated that only a very select few people get to participate in any scientific discussion of anything at all.

    So if, like me, you are hooked by an unexplained experience or event, you're kind of doomed to roam the margins of the known, looking for like-minded others with firing brain cells. When those others bite you too, it's even worse than being gaslighted by mainstream academia.  Lots of brilliant people--Jacques Vallee being my favorite, but there are others--have given up on ufology for this reason.

    Science is not bad. Science gave us radios, and computers, the electric car, and quantum physics and so forth, but one look at the world today and it's clear that something is wrong with science, epistemologically speaking. Science should not be a worldview. It's more like a tool, like a hammer.

    To a guy with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

    Hence, ever since the 17th century, science has been like a runaway truck barrelling backwards down a mountainside. It's a very powerful tool, yes, but if you don't know how to drive and you don't have a map, well, stuff goes wrong and keeps going wrong, faster and faster. (Kind of like now.)

    The pace of change today is so ridiculous that geezers like me have to buy cell phones by the six pack because by the time the one we own breaks, we'll need all new skills when its time to replace the damned thing. (Seriously, some of us just want to make phone calls on them. That's really true.)

    We know how to punch holes in the bottom of a sea bed and to get to oil two miles down, but we don't know what to do if something goes wrong. We know how to make chickens grow to three times their normal size and pop eggs out of their mouths (OK I just made up that second thing), but we have no idea what effect that will have on the humans who eat them. We'll figure we'll invent something later to fix that.

    Sure we will.

    So I'm interested in fixing that flaw, that runaway train quality to modern life, by finding a way to ground us culturally, and I think that UFO phemonena offer a way into that. I think that for a lot of reasons. So did Jacques Vallee. So do a lot of people way smarter than me who nevertheless know better than to poke a rattling snake with a sharp stick at a ufology conference.

    It isn't easy to stay open in the face of a great mystery, but what if that is exactly what is required?

    It would be really nice if someone could. Or would.

    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    Whitley Strieber Revisited

    I've been re-reading Whitley Strieber's UFO books and listening to old interviews with him on Coast to Coast and other You Tube radio and TV clips, and frankly I'm finding the exercise a lot more enjoyable than the first time around, back in the late '80s when Communion was selling like hot cakes and everyone and their mother suspected aliens were lurking in their closets (or at least their driveways).

    Coming back to this stuff after 25 years or so, it is striking how the whole alien contact/abduction thing has become normalized and at the same time, bracketed off, more or less put on the shelf indefinitely.

    Aliens? Oh, that. Aisle 5, right next to the werewolves.

    I think U.S. government intelligence helped this mainstreaming process along, but it's also a function of the enormous tension the topic generates. It's hard to stay hyped up forever.

    At some point, there's the dog and the wife and the electric bill.

    Life goes on.

    Today no one really cares too much about this UFO stuff anymore except for people with direct experience, and even those people have come to some conclusion about it all long ago and have either 1) let it go and moved on with their 'normal' lives, or 2) started their own religion, web page, investigative organization, or whatever based on UFOs, aliens, or New Age philosophies.

    UFO interests today subdivide into odd but passionate little factions: the religious contactee New Agers, the dark Malleus-wielding 'investigators' and their victim devotees (a la Hopkins and Jacobs), the MUFON folks and other mechanistic pseudoscientists, the annoying and often woefully un-credentialed debunkers (if you're going to ridicule and be snotty, shouldn't you yourself have a leg to stand on?), the consciousness gurus, the neurologists and psi researchers... it's quite the circus, and you have to pick your act, straight up.

    Declare your bias or bug off.

    Strieber is almost unique in being a direct experiencer who not only has no axe to grind, he refuses to pick any specific bias or declare it. Instead, he insists on the importance of not pretending to know more than we really do. This is refreshing coming from anyone talking about UFOs these days, since most folks seem to want to impress you with their credentials immediately (or at least slam someone else's credentials and then compare themselves favorably by contrast). 

    Strieber on the other hand talks repeatedly of the importance of not choosing a box and not putting this stuff on the shelf prematurely, of allowing the mind to stay open and admit, "I don't know what this is or why it is happening."

    That's really hard to do.

    It's SO hard to do, in fact, that I think it may well be the whole point of the experience--at least from the human side. Can you let go of certainty? Can you stop yourself from forming an explanation that nails it to the wall? Can you stop yourself from labeling it evil OR good and just let it be what it is?

    Most people can't. Not for long.

    As a culture we value knowledge and authority, but personal experience we discount ruthlessly. I believe we've paid a high price for this highly selective epistemology. In fact, I personally think it is killing us.

    Descartes said that his cogito statement was founded in a moment of radical doubt. It seems to me that the ability to stay open in the face of mystery requires exactly the opposite--a moment of radical trust.

    This is not to say that Strieber's 'greys' are trustworthy--if anything they are the penultimate tricksters--but only to say that perhaps the medicine for runaway rationalism and its ill effects involves openness and a willingness to dream--no matter how strange the dream, no matter where it takes you.

    Strieber's current website is called Unknown Country, his broadcasts Dreamland, and he refuses to even use the word, 'paranormal' because it doesn't mean anything.

    There is no normal versus paranormal experience. There is only experience. Experience is what it is. If we don't edit it, sometimes we are utterly amazed at what we find.

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Mac Tonnies on the Crypto-Terrestrial Hypothesis



    Fascinating guy. I just discovered him, and sadly he died very recently at only 34 years of age. But this is pretty close to what I think is going on with much of the abduction phenomena.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    My Weird Alien Dreams

    At the age of 36, in the middle of what I took to be a normal life, I awoke inside the following bad dream:

    I am sitting at a kitchen table with my brother, who in real life is one year younger. In the dream, we are eight and nine years old or so—not quite into puberty, but not little kids either.

    The table belongs to one of those 1950s Formica-topped dinettes, the kind with grooved chrome side trim, metal legs, and matching chrome chairs with red vinyl seats. 


    (Today these retro sets are popular fixtures in soda shops, hamburger joints, and Atomic home d├ęcor. When I was a kid, every household had one.)

    The Formica table, my brother, and I are all suspended in black space. The scene reminds me of one of those 1950s existential stage plays in which the theater goes completely black except for a spotlight on an actor or two who blather on about (supposedly) deep stuff.

    My brother is wearing pajamas, also from the 1950s, the seersucker kind with cowboys and Indians and lassos printed all over them. His expression is blank and a little strange. I reach out to shake his shoulder, as he seems to be in some sort of trance, and just as I begin to stretch out my hand I hear a voice inside my head hiss, “Don’t touch him!”

    But it’s too late.

    By the time I hear the voice I’ve already touched his shoulder. The moment my hand makes contact, he is suddenly not my brother anymore but some alien creature with huge deep eyes as black as space itself, only much, much deeper and vast beyond imagining. ‘Hypnotic’ is a shallow word for these eyes—They are infinite and alive, dark in a way that almost gleams or shines.

    I recognize this creature. In fact to this day I can see its face clearly and vividly. I have never forgotten it. The face is so real that in the dream it feels hyper-real, as if it is somehow more real than everyday reality, and it is clear to me right away that the warning voice and this thing are in fact one and the same.

    The thing has staged this scene somehow for my benefit, but my touch has destroyed the illusion and now I am face to face with it instead, locked in its gaze. It is nearly impossible to explain how this feels, but the moment includes extreme terror, paralysis, and the sense of being completely controlled by this other being.

    The creature’s skin glistens golden or slightly green-golden, iridescent, like the skin of some colorful Amazon frog. The eyes take up most of the bulb-shaped head. There is no nose to speak of and no proper mouth.  Beneath the eyes, which dominate the entire top half of the face, in the place where the mouth and nose should be, a network of what looks like veins or ridges or some kind of wrinkled skin disappears into an almost nonexistent neck.

    Then suddenly this thing, which has no mouth, smiles. It smiles with its eyes somehow and yet it feels like the whole face smiles. The smile is transmitted telepathically in some sense, and yet looking at the face it is still clear that it is in fact smiling—in somewhat the same way you know that a dog is smiling even though dogs don’t have human features.

    The smile is not reassuring at all, but weirdly sickening and terrifying. I sense that the creature means to reassure me by smiling, but the smile is so ‘off’ that it only deepens my terror. 


                    *************

    The dream ends abruptly. I wake to find myself sitting bolt upright in bed, shaking and drenched in sweat. Relieved that I’ve only been dreaming after all, a deep unease and mild nausea settles in nonetheless.

    I am convinced against logic that this vignette has not been a normal sort of dream but something dreadfully familiar and all too real, and I now feel as if I am losing my mind. Yet my experience is so visceral I cannot make myself chalk it up to hallucination.

    The next night, a follow-up nightmare seems tailor-made to validate these fears:

    In this second dream I believe that I am just waking up, as if I am not asleep at all but am in my normal bedroom about to start my day. Standing at the foot of my bed is the creature from the night before, only this time, I sense that there are others with him nearby, even though I can’t see them.

    The minute I see this creature again I am frozen in terror. I can’t move and I can’t cry out. The thing is absurdly dressed in what looks like a very ornate, heavily embroidered medieval red robe, and is holding a thin white metallic rod about a foot long that is slightly pointed at the end. The tip of the rod glows.

    This thin rod looks exactly like the sort of ‘magic wand’ a stage magician might use as a prop, and the ridiculous ornate costume that the thing is wearing heightens that absurd association. I seem to already ‘know’ that this rod holds a charge of some kind—I recognize it--and I immediately begin to plead in my mind with the thing to please, please not touch me with it.

    Of course it does touch me with it, and the second that it does, I am no longer frozen in my own bed but find myself running hard through a downtown alleyway at night, still dressed in my bedclothes.

    Just as in the scene from the night before, the run through the alleyway feels hyper real—more real than real—I can feel the cold night air on my skin and I recognize the location.

    I come round a corner (I am ostensibly running from this creature though I don’t see it anywhere) and run smack into a street person, a man, in very dirty clothes and wearing an odd expression. He smiles in a way that is oddly reminiscent of the smile on the thing in the other nightmare, but he’s clearly human. I can smell him, and he doesn’t smell good.

    “Are you all right?” he asks me solicitously, and reaches out his hand. The minute his hand touches my shoulder (again, much like in the dream the night before where I reach out to touch my brother’s shoulder) I wake up.


                    *************

    Once again I wake from this dream in my own bed, drenched in sweat, short of breath and more than a little nauseous, still smelling this street person and still stuck with the sick feeling that none of this is a dream, that it’s all way too real and way too horrible.

    That same day, I return some books to the public library downtown and check out some new ones. The books I check out are about trauma, PTSD, and multiple personality. I hold a BA in psychology and have a legitimate academic interest in these topics, but my interest is also personal. I’m trying to figure out if I’m cracking up, and if so, exactly what the nature of my insanity is.

    I’m about to walk out the door when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I wheel around, and standing there in front of me is the very same bum from my dream, still smiling that odd, inhuman (but not really threatening, just weird) smile, still dressed in the same dirty clothes and still smelling really bad.

    “Are you OK?” he asks, and then goes on, “I was worried about you last night.”

    I run, literally run, out of the library without responding.


                                            *************************

    Well, there's more to this story, a lot more, but I won't go into it here.

    I wonder how many people have these odd experiences and never discuss them for fear of ridicule. I have been unable to completely swallow the ET hypothesis when it comes to alien encounters, and weirdly, since all this happened I have found some of the weirder, more ridiculous elements of my dreams (like the wand, the ornate clothing, the wrinkled 'mouth' of the creature) repeated in other people's stories, giving the whole thing a sort of credence that is not exactly welcome.

    One thought I've been entertaining lately now that the movie Inception is in theaters is that someone or some thing may well know how to move in and out of other people's dreams for a purpose. This idea is not as fantastic as it sounds. In fact, modern scientific culture is the first in history to NOT believe that such things happen routinely.

    That being the case, it does make you wonder WTF.

    More later.

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    Alien Encounters as Personal Deconstruction

    If you want to feel better about not being able to afford or attend college, pause right now for ten minutes or so and educate yourself about the philosophy of famous 20th Century Frenchman Jacques Derrida, a philosophy more popularly known in academic circles as Deconstruction.

    Just click the hot links in the above paragraph and start reading. Then come back.

    OK, done yet?

    No, it sure doesn't take long to have more than enough of that, thank you very much. In all fairness though, most philosophy reads like that, not just Deconstruction. The only differance between Derridian texts and other kinds of philosophy is sheer Europineal attitude, but then the guy was French.

    He had a cultural standard to uphold. Not to mention a sartorial one.

    Anyhoo, Derrida's big philosophy idea du jour was that the bit that's excluded or absent from any given text is what makes the whole text meaningful, and that if you locate that bit--that excluded bit that he referred to as differance--if you find that central differance embedded in any given text and invert it, you can then take apart the whole sense of the thing, as in, unravel the text completely (as in, literally de-contstruct it) and render all the meanings therein utterly nonsensical.

    Voila!

    Start with Shakespeare. End up with overcooked spaghetti!

    What could be better than that?

    OK, a lot of things could be better than that. OK, ok.

    But here's my point:

    What if UFO encounters are personal, experiential deconstructive moments?

    Think about what happens to an individual's view of reality and self after such an encounter. At first, the experiencer may just feel a bit stunned and awed by the whole incident, but as minutes, hours, days, and eventually months tick slowly by, more and more questions about the very nature of reality and self begin to present themselves, whether that person is ready for such questions or not.

    Often, the experiencer becomes increasingly aware of a little glob of 'missing time', a break in the normal personal narrative of memory that seems to attach itself to other bits of existing memory that once seemed fairly solid, but now, not so much.

    It's a contagious little bit of nothing, this 'missing time', and it seems to have a penchant for dissolving all the little certainties and assumptions that make life possible and pleasant. Gradually, lots of things the person thought he or she 'knew' for sure about the present and the past and about who he or she actually is seem to be up for grabs, interpretively speaking.

    In the end, the contagion may spread to the experiencer's very sense of self. Many abductees eventually come to see themselves as having dual identities: one human, one alien; and they discover that these blank moments of absence stretch all the way back to their earliest childhood recollections.

    When strung together, these deconstructive moments create an alternate history that is bizarre in the extreme, a sort of shadow self and shadow reality that looks like the direct inverse of this one. 'Real' life at this point becomes somewhat dreamlike and the dreamlike alien encounters become primary.

    When things get to this stage, we pretty much have our pile of deconstructive spaghetti.

    But why?

    Well, that's the gazillion dollar question. Why indeed!

    Here are a few possible answers:

    (What? You thought I was going to give you the one right answer just like that, just off the top of my head? Au contraire, sugar bear!  Clearly you haven't been reading UFO stuff for very long if you actually thought that was going to happen...)

    1. Somebody is actually doing this on purpose to individual people: the government, evil magicians, aliens, guys who wear too much black clothing and smoke funny little cigarettes... who knows? The thing is, we know it can be done on purpose, so maybe someone or some thing is doing it on purpose for reasons we have yet to understand.
    2. The organizing structure of the experiencer's consciousness has lost all functionality, and the deconstructive alien encounter is a sort of massive spontaneous 'reset' experience; kind like rebooting a computer when it's all bugged up or frozen, or reinstalling the operating system. 
    3. The deconstruction of individual personality and personal history is part of an initiation experience similar to the kind of vision quest sought by shamans in premodern cultures. Post-experience, many abductees and contactees exhibit increased psychic abilities, and many also develop an acute awareness of how permeable the membrane that separates dream states from waking states really is. 
    4. The experience is exactly what it seems to be, and the whole of what we refer to as 'real' life is implanted into our consciousness by creatures with big eyes and suction cup fingers--kind of like in The Matrix. Sometimes I do wonder if people aren't actually larval aliens and the whole fabric of our lives isn't just one big pupated dream. We'll wake up one day on Zeta Reticuli.
    None or all of the above could be true. We just don't know, really. And we aren't likely to find out any time soon. But since most of us are out of a job these days anyway, throwing out ideas is not a bad way to pass a Thursday afternoon. Derrida probably wouldn't like it.

    But he's just another dead white guy now.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    The Roswell Before Roswell

    Right now I am reading and enjoying a book by Jim Marrs called Alien Agenda.

    Marrs is a natural story teller, which gives his book a narrative hook that many UFOs books just don't have.

    Even if you think UFOs are rot and nonsense, it's fun to read Marrs because he can spin a good yarn.

    When Marrs gets to Roswell, (he starts on the moon, moves to the 1876 airship mystery and ancient aliens, and then heads for New Mexico), he goes into some detail about the Roswell that came before Roswell on June 24, 1947 on Maury Island in Washington State's Puget Sound.

    (The Roswell story began a week later on Tuesday, July 1st, 1947.)

    According to Marrs, the Maury Island incident began when:

    "Harold A. Dahl, a harbor patrolman, reported that at 2:00 PM he--along with two crewman, his teenage son, and his dog--had guided his boat into a Maury Island bay to escape bad weather when they saw six doughnut shaped objects about two thousand feet in the air. They were described as gold and silver metallic objects approximately one hundred feet wide with a hole in the center and what appeared to be portholes around the perimeter and a dark hole underneath."

    A small explosion in one of the UFOS caused hot slag to suddenly shower down from above, killing Dahl's dog and burning his son's arm. Dahl took some photos and upon his return gave his camera and some samples of the hot slag to his boss, Fred Lee Chrisman.

    Although this incident is rarely discussed in UFO lore today (outside of Marrs' book), it is significant because Fred Lee Chrisman was a CIA guy whose weird little career linked him to all kinds of government disinformation campaigns over the course of many years.

    When Kenneth Arnold (yes, that Kenneth Arnold) was dispatched to investigate the sighting, he found that the slag samples looked like ordinary rocks and that he wasn't able to see Dahl's son at all--the excuse was that the boy was in the hospital for his UFO burns. All the motel rooms in the town were filled up, yet someone had mysteriously prepaid for a room for Arnold in the best hotel.

    The whole thing smelled, and when the small cargo plane on which the rocks were sent on their way to DC crashed for no apparent reason, the whole thing smelled even worse.

    Marrs goes on to talk about how Arnold was never convinced that the Maury Island sighting was a hoax, even though the military ended up dismissing it easily, but what seemed clear to me on reading Marrs' speculations was that the US intelligence was mucking about with planted UFO stories well in advance of Roswell, and it was working out pretty well for them.

    I have always thought that Roswell felt like a psychological operation and that the whole thing seemed planned in advance: the initial announcement that a saucer had been recovered, the quick retraction and lame weather balloon story, the subsequent rumors about alien bodies and reverse engineering: All designed to get people talking and keep them talking.

    Look over there. Not over here.

    In Melanie Klein's political critique The Shock Doctrine she talks about Nazi research into how to use shock to make prisoners more compliant and easier to control, and how the US government picked that research up and continued it after the war. Marrs talks a lot about the Nazis too, and how they seemed to have been working on a saucer shaped craft right before WWII ended.

    What we do know for sure is that Roswell diverted the attention of the American populace away from weapons development and nuclear build up and toward little men from space. In fact, to this day UFOlogy is used effectively over and over again to divert attention away from military activities and government malfeasance.

    For instance, whenever the public seems a little too itchy about biological warfare or covert military research of any kind, the Pentagon just leaks some tantalizing bit of info to Linda Moulton Howe about cattle mutilations and then retracts it, and boom! We're off to the races again.

    Problem solved.

    I'm not saying that all UFOs are fake or made up by the US government.

    But it seems clear to me that at least some of them are, and that the American public is still falling for it hook, line, and sinker.

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    Missing Time and the Mystery of Memory

    Alien abductions are frequently marked by periods of what has come to be called 'missing time'.

    For example, Betty and Barney Hill, the first 'official' modern abductees and certainly the most famous, were driving on a well-traveled highway when they saw a UFO with some strange small inhabitants visible through the windows.

    The UFO began to follow the Hill's car, and very soon landed in front of them, blocking their progress.

    The next thing the Hills knew, it was two hours later and they were far away from the spot where they spied the craft, driving along as if nothing had occurred.

    The two hours between the time the Hills saw the UFO and the time they realized they were driving again many miles away from the location of the sighting is called 'missing time'.

    What is really missing though, is not the time itself but any memory of the missing hours. This discontinuity of experience is behind the title of the book and movie describing the Hill's ordeal, Incident at Exeter: The Interrupted Journey.

    Later, under hypnosis, both Betty and Barney Hill separately 'remembered' remarkably similar events that involved being forcibly taken aboard that same UFO, examined medically, and then released and sent on their way. Betty Hill remembered being shown a star map showing where the aliens were from, and was able to reproduce it under hypnosis years later.

    Much has been made of the unreliability of this kind of hypnotically recovered memory. What is not often discussed is the fact that we actually know that ALL memory--not just recovered memory--is creative, selective, and mutable. That's why three different people in the same family can all remember the same family gathering differently, and why our parents seem one way when we are in our teens, another way when we are in our 30s, and different still when we are elderly ourselves.

    Our parents are still our parents. They are the same people no matter how we remember their past behavior. The same events comprise the story of our lives no matter how we interpret those events. But our memories of people and events change as we change, and evolve as our circumstances and our understanding evolve.

    Normal memory constantly shuffles and adjusts the 'facts' of an experience to fit our current situation and what we know now; highlighting some bits that we discarded earlier, and discarding other bits that we cling to for years.

    This process is not the same as lying or fudging the truth; it is adaptive and normal. It is as if memory is less like a bank of discrete bits of data stored on some internal hard drive, and more like language.

    Language is symbolic. It means nothing until we put it together to form a story and share it with others or use it to understand our environment. Memory is like this too: It is not just a collection of facts, but also a constellation of meanings. 

    Letters are just letters until we actively form them into words. Words are just sounds until we use them to tell stories. Stories that are irrelevant get discarded in favor of ones that shed light on current circumstances. Language and memory are both ongoing processes that help us figure out where we are in relation the rest of the worth and to other people.

    So what happens when a period of time simply vanishes after a strange event? What happens when there is a big gaping hole in a story that has just gotten a little too interesting?

    Skeptics say that human cognition abhors a vacuum, so memory automatically makes stuff up to create an illusion of continuity--even if the made up stuff is outlandish and strange.

    The idea here is that there are really two kinds of memory: 'true memory' tied to things that really happened; and 'false memory' implanted by the hypnotist or created by the subject in order to explain hours of inexplicable amnesia.

    This idea is actually profoundly deceptive.

    What skeptics don't say is that memory itself is in part the the process by which we take random experiential data and make a story out of it, and that all memory is partially false and partially true. All memory is full of errors and highly personal interpretations, and is subject to change over time.

    If there is no such thing as strictly 'true memory', there can be no such thing as strictly 'false memory'. Even memories that are not 'real' in a material sense often are rich in symbolic emotional content and therefore do contain a kind of truth, even though it might not be reductive or empirical. For that matter, material reality itself is a LOT more slippery than we generally assume.

    Things are not always what they seem.

    I personally distrust UFO 'researchers' who get ALL their data from hypnotic regressions and take whatever emerges as material fact, but I also don't think it's right to trash the phenomena just because the methodology has been sloppy and the facts are baffling.

    If anything, you'd think that would encourage more serious study.

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    The Eyes Have It

    What is it about aliens and big black eyes?

    Whatever it is, it isn't new. Take a look at the drawings below of ancient Mesopotamian eye goddesses unearthed in Syrian circa 3000-3500 B.C.

    For at least 5,000 years, human beings have attributed supernatural powers to beings with huge, mesmerizing eyes.

    One theory about big-eyed aliens is that they are actually adult memories of an infant's experience of a mother's face.

    The idea is that infants can't speak, so communication seems telepathic (just as aliens seem to transmit thoughts telepathically instead of speaking), and that infants zoom in on the mother's eyes, which then seem huge and out of proportion with the rest of the face.

    I think that's a creative and interesting theory, and it's especially intriguing given that the early eye goddesses were (of course) female--sort of super religious mother figures. However, it doesn't account for the supernatural terror and surreal quality of these experiences. Why would an infant respond to a mother's face with sheer terror?

    The element of terror doesn't fit.

    The prototypical grey alien face seems an ungenerous representation of anybody's Mom, to put it mildly.

    Eyes as a supernatural feature are every bit as as duplicitous as the aliens themselves.

    On the one hand, you have the tradition of the 'evil eye' common to many European cultures. When someone gives you the evil eye a kind of bad luck curse sticks to you that is transmitted via a malevolent stare.

    On the other hand, you have a long tradition of the eye as an amulet of protection against evil. The Eye of Horus carried this protective power, and the eyes found on currency serve a similar purpose.

    Eyes are also associated with control and sexuality. Eyes play a key role in inducing trance or auto suggestion by means of NLP or hypnosis. In terms of human sexuality, a direct prolonged gaze by a female signals sexual availability, whereas the same prolonged gaze by a male can signal dominance or even threat.

    I'm not sure what to make of any of this--much of it is conflicting and complex--but I think it's interesting and relevant to the visual appearance of aliens. 

    In the cheesy and mostly trashed movie, The Fourth Kind, the abducting aliens are emissaries of the Sumerian eye goddesses. They speak Sumerian. They are bossy and unpleasant.

    I wonder if the ancients didn't know some things that we don't about what is in the world and how to perceive it. More and more I lean toward the idea that we share this earth with creatures and energies that are not easily perceived through a modern cognitive filter.

    I don't think they come from outer space.

    But I do suspect they are real.

    There is too much consistency over too many thousands of years to shrug off that possibility.

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Men in Black and Shades of Gray

    I've been reading up on 1950s UFO writers lately, and honestly, I'm beginning to think that these guys in the 50s who first started writing about aliens and UFOs were even more colorful and slippery than their mercurial subject matter.

    There's a hell of a book in THAT for anybody with the time and means to write it--Hey maybe it will be me. (Weird things have happened.)

    Yesterday I watched an excellent documentary about Gray Barker, the one time editor of the 1950s rag The Saucerian Review, and author of such classics as They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, The Silver Bridge (Barker's book about the sightings of the Mothman creature that preceded the collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, WV in 1967), and MIB: The Secret Terror Among Us. 

    The documentary film, entitled Shades of Gray, is focused more on Barker than it is on flying saucers, but it's well worth watching, and it opens up quite a few compelling questions about the nature of paranormal research and the motivations of the people who do it.

    Gray Barker and John A. Keel both wrote books about Mothman and the collapse of the Point Pleasant Silver Bridge, and both tied the events to UFOs to a greater or lesser degree. Barker's book preceded Keel's by five years, and took a more methodical, detached approach to the topic that didn't stress the UFO connection as strongly as Keel's more popular Mothman Prophecies.

    Some years after Keel's book came out, Barker complained to the skeptical press about Keel's tendency to whip up witnesses by inserting his own paranoia and is own theories into his interviews, and he also accused Keel of changing some of the 'facts' presented in his version of the events.

    While it appears to be true that Keel's personality was impossible to extricate from his investigations and his theories (some of Keel's witnesses said many years later that Keel terrified them, and that for weeks after he left they were unable to sleep or relax), it's also true that Barker himself was quite the hoaxer and that he loved playing mean-spirited jokes on fellow authors and subjects. Keel's counterfeit letter from the State Department to contactee George Adamski is now famous--a staple of ufological history and myth--so the very idea of Barker criticizing Keel's integrity is pretty funny.

    Barker was a complex man by any standard. The Saucerian Review was the first publication of its kind to present contactee information as plain fact. The more outrageous the content, the better Barker liked it.

    At the same time, Barker clearly believed that something genuine was going on with some UFO phenomena, and that paranormal phenomena were sometimes more than simple delusion.

    He was fascinated by his subject matter, yet he wasn't above exploiting its weirder aspects in order to make a buck. He also had no problem with pranking others in the field or with mocking his own contributors, a quality that on the only hand is less than admirable, but on the other makes him all the more interesting a character in his own right.

    I thought that one of the strangest and more poignant aspects of Barker's career was his attempt late in life to market the true story of his daily life as a fictional novel. This came after years of marketing patently ridiculous stories as plain truth and having all kinds of fun doing so. In some sense, Barker could only write his true story as fiction. This irony could not have been lost on a man of his unique genius and bizarre humor.

    Barker was a homosexual in the South at a time when it was a lot safer and less awkward to be from outer space. The kind of duplicity and secretiveness required of a writer in such a position had to be toxic beyond imagination.

    I hate armchair psychoanalysis, especially when it comes to writers and historical figures, (so here I go, diving in anyway), but it really is hard not to see relevance in this case. Barker's work revealed an obsession with dangerous secrets, duplicity, and illusion. It put me in mind of Charles Fort's procession of the Damned, the march of the excluded--or even, one might say, the alienated?

    I also find no small measure of romance in the gritty, drinking, smoking, 50s sleaziness of these guys--Keel and Barker both seem larger than life, the kind of writers who pound out the latest bit of pulp insanity on a manual Royal typewriter with a scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other. There are photos of a young John Keel floating around the internet that make Brando and James Dean look like pussy poseurs.

    They were bad, bad boys. That much is undisputed. 

    I've lately been playing with the idea that UFOs can't really be studied in a detached way, that it isn't even possible--that at least when it comes to this specific topic, the observer needs to be embedded in the observation in a way that science does not allow. Gray Barker gave me much to think about in this regard, and now I want to know more.

    You can watch Shades of Gray yourself on your desktop at Netflix, or order it from the filmmaker's website.

    BTW, if you find a copy of The Saucerian Review at a yard sale this summer, jump on it.

    Those little rags are worth hundreds of dollars now.

    And anyway, how cool is this stuff? I'm on the hunt from here onward, rest assured.