Unidentified Flying Objects
Are UFOs Real?
As everyone knows, UFO is an acronym for Unidentified Flying Object. We have all sorts of unidentified objects zipping through our skies, so UFOs are real. They are not necessarily flying saucers or some type of craft piloted by short, skinny gray guys with huge eyes, but somewhere along the line that distinction blurred. To make everything even more confusing, we also have USOs, Unidentified Submerged Objects, which are every bit as interesting (if not more so) than UFOs. Sometimes UFOs become USOs (such as the 1967 Shag Harbor incident in Nova Scotia, Canada) and occasionally the reverse is true.
Are you totally confused yet? Well, acronyms aside, the fact remains people from all walks of life see things in the sky (and in the water) that aren't supposed to be there. From Bubba camping in the RV to scientists and even U.S. Presidents, many have seen a UFO in the strictest definition of the term. Many are probably misidentified man-made objects, military craft or natural phenomena, but that still leaves us with a percentage remaining truly unidentified.
What are they? Beats me but, no, they're not "swamp gas". Secret, triangular-shaped military craft? Maybe, but flying over densely-populated, metropolitan areas is hardly the way to keep a secret. Hoax? Some, perhaps, but certainly not the majority. Many of these craft are huge and glide silently. Some perform aerial acrobatics that defy the laws of gravity, if not physics. Visitors from another planet? "Impossible", some say, as we could never travel such distances with our current technology. Wow...how's that for conceit! Think of how our technology has progressed over the past 100 years, or even the past 50. Now, imagine a society that is 500, 1000 or more years more advanced. Theoretical physicists already contemplate what may be possible in relation to travel across the vast expanse of space. And here are the naysayers stating the impossibility of it all. Incredible!
What Does Our Government Know About UFOs?
Maybe little. Maybe a lot. Will we ever know what they know if they, indeed, know anything at all (that was a mouthful)? Probably not, unless they want us to. Researchers who thought they would finally get the answers through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) have found out otherwise. Any 'smoking gun' is not going to be made public by any government agency, the military or NASA. One simple statement, "...for reasons of national security", can pretty much be used to squash any such release. Historically (and especially, recently) other governments have appeared much more open to the idea of release of information on UFOs than has the United States.
There is speculation that even U.S. Presidents are kept outside the loop due to "plausible deniability", but more likely they just wouldn't want them to spill the beans. Reportedly, some knew more than others. Presidents Carter and Clinton have admitted to being clueless, even after making concerted efforts to get at the information. Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon are said to have known. Kennedy and Johnson? Doubtful. Ford? Maybe. Reagan? Probably, if only because George H.W. Bush was his Vice President. The man, at one time or another, held just about every position in the U.S. government; Congressman, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Director of Central Intelligence, U.S. Vice President and, finally, U.S. President. If he didn't know for certain, he must have had a damn good idea. That is, if there's anything to this to this 'aliens are visiting Earth' thing to begin with. George W. Bush may have known through daddy, his Vice President, Dick Cheney or Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Both men were strategic in the Bush Sr. administration, and part of the Washington establishment for decades. Strange how the reported alien "in crowd" seems to almost exclusively favor Republicans. That leads us to Barack Obama, a Democrat and, therefore, probably left out of the club. Much more information concerning Presidents and UFOs can be found on Grant Cameron's The Presidents UFO Website. Grant has been researching the subject for decades, with laser-like focus on what U.S. Presidents may, or may not, have known. It's a fascinating site, presented in an objective 'here's the evidence, you decide' manner. Be forewarned that you'll stay up most of the night, because once you start reading, you won't be able to stop.
Okay, So What Do UFOs Have to Do With Being a Paranormal Investigator?
Nothing, really. Just a (very) brief history of the UFO phenomenon, but UFOs, Ghosts, EVP and Cryptozoology all fall under the umbrella of the paranormal. Unlike others, I don't limit myself to only one aspect of the paranormal. Otherwise, I wouldn't be honest in calling myself a paranormal investigator, and 'ghost hunter' would have to suffice.
New England UFO Cases
New England has more than its share of UFO history. UFOs, along with other creepiness, are said to frequent the area of Massachusetts known as the Bridgewater Triangle, as well as the similar Bennington Triangle in Vermont. The Exeter, New Hampshire encounter of Norman Muscarello in 1965 garnered worldwide attention. Chronicled in the best-selling book, Incident at Exeter by John G. Fuller, it actually happened in Kensington, just outside of Exeter. The 1976 abductions of Charlie Foltz, Chuck Rak and twin brothers Jack and Jim Weiner while on a camping trip near Allagash, Maine. The lesser-known Buff Ledge Camp abductions on Lake Champlain in Vermont in 1968. Finally, no telling of New England UFO lore would be complete without mentioning the granddaddy of alleged abduction cases; the 1961 story of Betty and Barney Hill.
The Interrupted Journey: Betty and Barney Hill
I won't reconstruct the details here, as there are far too many, and a quick Internet search will yield much more information than I could provide on this humble website. The encounter generated books, a made-for-television movie and speculation that has lasted to this day. However, for those who are too young to remember (as well as those who are too old to remember!) the tale of Betty and Barney Hill is a strange one. On a lonely September night in rural New Hampshire, they claim to have been abducted by (you guessed it) those meddling gray bastards. While a handful of alleged abductions had previously been reported, none would elicit much attention. All that changed the night of September 19-20, 1961. The incident is notable in that it's when the 'greys', the classic creatures that seem to have nothing better to do than to abduct and probe humans, made their Earth debut. Over fifty years have come and gone since that night, and the debate still goes on. Did it really happen? Never one to not have an opinion, I have some thoughts and a few personal observations.
While I never met either Betty or Barney (Barney died in 1969), I lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at one time and did, on occasion, speak with individuals who knew them individually or as a couple. It's interesting to note that none had an unkind word to say about them, and all with whom I spoke believed their story. Portsmouth is where the Hills' lived, and Betty remained in the same home on State Street she shared with Barney, until her death from cancer in 2004.
It's very easy to sit thousands of miles away and chip away at their account of what happened that night in an attempt to debunk their story. It was an airport beacon. It was inspired by an episode of the television series The Outer Limits, which aired only days before. The infamous "star map" allegedly shown to Betty by those little grey pain-in-the-butts has factual errors. Yep, we've heard it all before. However, let's consider a few things before we pass judgement. What did they have to gain? By all accounts, the Hills were reluctant to do much with their story. The frenzied media pulled it out of them, and only then did it come to national attention. Immediately after the incident, they did what any law-abiding citizens in 1961 would have done; they notified the authorities. Betty was white. Barney was African-American. The last thing an interracial couple of that era would want is to draw attention, even in the relatively liberal and progressive Northeast. Remember, the Civil Rights movement was still in its infancy, and segregation was the accepted norm in much of the United States.
In later years, Betty distanced herself from the incident and the UFO crowd that used her for their purposes. Yet, through multiple battles with cancer and knowing the end of her life was near, she never recanted. Perhaps it's easy, through the jaded lenses of 2013, to dismiss Betty and Barney Hill. Perhaps it's not difficult, in the age of the Internet and instant access, to pore over details of their account, looking for the smallest discrepancies or that contradictory statement made in the turbulence of that time. Perhaps it is, but ask yourself this: Were you on that dark, lonely road in rural New Hampshire that September night in 1961?
Betty and Barney Hill are resting side-by-side in Greenwood Cemetery, Kingston, New Hampshire.
UFO Encounters Without a New England Connection
There are several well-documented UFO reports that you can research if you would like: the incident in the Rendlesham Forest in England in December 1980. The Belgian UFO wave that spanned several months, from November 1989 to April 1990. The Japan Air Lines Flight 1628 encounter over the skies of Alaska in November, 1986. The March 13, 1997 appearance of the 'Phoenix Lights' (which involved much more than just "lights") in Arizona. The Southern Illinois sightings during the early morning hours of January 5, 2000. The Chicago O'Hare International Airport sighting on November 7, 2006, and many others.
These cases are still unexplained and officially denied, and will probably remain so unless world governments cough up what they know or one of the gray guys comes forward and marries a Kardashian sister (a blatant publicity stunt, even for an alien). Until then, there will always be the usual suspects, the same three or four 'expert' talking heads that appear on television to condescendingly tell witnesses in so many words, "I wasn't there, but I can still tell you that you didn't see what you thought you saw". By far, my favorite 'head' is James "The Amazing" Randi. A magician by trade, he frequently enters the UFO controversy, somehow (magically?) managing to believe he has more knowledge on an incident than any trained pilots, military personnel, law enforcement officers, civilian and military aviation personnel or just plain very smart, average Americans that were actually involved. His usual modus operandi (and those of the other 'heads') is to focus on only one aspect of a case, offer an 'expert' analysis, and proclaim it as solved. Typical of this was his assessment of the Rendlesham Forest incident which he offered on the television program Larry King Live several years ago. His answer? It was a lighthouse beacon. It mattered not to Mr. Randi that trained military personnel from the RAF Woodbridge base witnessed the incident over multiple nights, that they were very familiar with the Orford Ness beacon in all weather conditions, that an actual triangular-shaped craft was seen and touched by military officers, that indentations were found in the ground where the craft landed, that radiation readings were 10x higher in those indentations than background levels, and that several broken tree branches and burn marks on the trees were observed at the location. No, that didn't matter one bit; Randi had spoken. He wasn't even on the same continent during those nights back in December 1980, yet he still knows exactly what those men saw and experienced. Now, that's amazing!
On the other hand, it's time for our government to realize that the American public (for the most part) does not consist of a bunch of idiots. If they truly are clueless about UFOs, it's okay to simply say, "We don't know". However, when there's a solid, V-shaped craft, estimated to be one mile in diameter, slowly and silently gliding over a major U.S. city at low altitude and witnessed by thousands of people, as was the case in the 1997 Phoenix sightings, it's nearly impossible to support the 'government knows nothing' argument without breaking in to laughter. Pilots in that busy metropolitan airspace saw nothing? Air traffic controllers saw nothing, either visually or on radar? Air traffic personnel at nearby Luke Air Force Base were completely unaware and somehow didn't see a craft of that size, later dropping flares from aircraft to create a cover story for the "lights"? Of course they saw it; they all saw it. However, I can tell you from my law enforcement experience that it is very easy for the authorities to keep mouths shut. An air traffic controller says he's seen a UFO? He's relieved from the job for psychiatric evaluation under the guise of "public safety". No psychiatrist working for, or under pressure from, the government is going to say that person is fit to go back in the tower. The same holds true for civilian and military pilots, law enforcement officers, and anyone involved with public safety. Personnel in those positions know that and, if they happen to forget, are quickly and curtly reminded. When it comes down to opening your mouth or having the ability to afford food to put in it, most choose the latter. If not, they can always be 'persuaded'. The few holdouts will live (maybe) to see their reputations and lives completely and systematically destroyed. Conspiracy theory? No, I'm sorry; it really is the way the game is played. Grim? You bet, but the need to keep a lid on things has been deemed infinitely more important than any one individual. Okay, okay...but what about the mile-wide craft hovering over Phoenix? How could they explain that away? They couldn't, so using a tried and true method the government and debunkers have employed for decades, they simply chose to avoid that elephant in the room, concentrate on only one aspect of the case, spin it to their liking, and announce the case as solved. Sounds like the Rendlesham Forest conclusion? Of course, and with an automatic denial from the government, the inevitable 'expert' opinion from the usual debunkers, and a chuckle and a wink from vacant, vapid news readers reporting a UFO sighting on local television, the hope is that all will soon be forgotten. And yes, it usually is.
What Should I Do If I Believe I've Encountered a UFO?
Arguably the most influential UFO researcher was astrophysicist J. Allen Hynek, and for very good reason: he 'walked the walk and talked the talk'. In other words, he had the academic training and credentials to back up his opinion. He had a decades-long association with the U.S. Air Force as a scientific adviser during its study of the phenomenon and, whether you believe its three consecutive studies, Project Sign, Project Grudge and, probably the most controversial, Project Blue Book, were nothing more than a whitewash and cover up, that certainly does not reflect unfavorably on Dr. Hynek. Going in as a scientific skeptic, he always kept objective and dealt only with the facts. However, when those facts started piling up, facts with no scientific explanation, he was the first honest-to-goodness scientist to say, "Hey! Wait a minute! Something is going on here!". And, he was hard to discredit; he was not some fringe scientific crackpot or sensationalist author trying to sell a book. He died in 1986 at the age of 75.
I bring up Dr. Hynek because, not only is he a major figure in the history of 'UFOlogy', but was also the originator of the class scale for encounters. You may know them as the 'kinds': close encounters of the first, second and third kind, which was the title genesis of the 1977 movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I remember seeing the movie in the theater and completely losing track of time; I was so involved in the story and special effects. By contrast, I thought Star Wars, which was released at approximately the same time, was boring and lame; too much fantasy for me. Regardless, Hynek's encounter scale has been altered and extended by others since his death, but still remains definitive:
First Kind: Visual sightings of an unidentified flying object.
Second Kind: Visual sightings plus the accompanying of physical evidence.
Third Kind: Sightings of occupants in and around the UFO.
That leads us to yet another, more recent, film: The Fourth Kind. An über-creepy movie, the abduction phenomenon, oddly, wasn't considered in Dr. Hynek's original classification. Whether this reflects his opinion on the validity of such encounters is unclear; there were cases such as Betty and Barney Hill as early as 1961, and a few reported even before. Still, close encounters of the fourth kind are synonymous with alleged alien abduction. This is where much of the UFO news and nearly all of the alien entertainment action has taken place over the past 30 years: the gray skin, frail bodies, big heads, huge, black, almond-shaped eyes and, yes, even those notorious anal probes.
So, what should you do if you believe you've encountered a UFO? Well, you could run like hell; there's absolutely no shame in that. However, regardless of the 'kind' of close encounter, all should be reported to the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) or similar organization. While not government agencies, they do keep track of sightings, which helps to identify a pattern or "flap" in your neck of the woods. I'm a firm believer in reporting anything more than a casual, unconfirmed sighting to local law enforcement. You may disagree but, regardless of whether the person answering the call personally believes in the phenomenon, it is their duty and obligation to investigate. I can guarantee that if they receive multiple reports, they will start to believe something is going on, although they probably will never determine the cause. And, by contacting the authorities, there will be an official record, a paper and recording trail should investigators want to dig more deeply into the sighting. Law enforcement also has the ability to check with nearby civilian and military air installations to see if they can shed light on what people are seeing in the sky. Where will that lead? Almost invariably nowhere, especially concerning the military, but they'll at least give it a shot. If you have video capability (and who doesn't nowadays?) grab your Android or iPhone and start recording. You may only end up with a dark, jerky, grainy mess, but at least it's something, especially in the context of all of the other video that will likely be shot during a multiple sighting. By comparing the totality of video from different locations, times and perspectives, researchers can sometimes uncover a surprising amount of information.
So what if it's not just a weird light in the sky, but the mother ship that's landed in your back yard? Yikes! Consider all of the steps above, but do not attempt to go outside to investigate. There have been unconfirmed reports of everything from slightly higher-than-average background radiation levels to "Oh shit, I glow in the dark!" emanating from these things, so stay away. There was a well-known alleged encounter in Texas several years ago; while driving home at night, two women and a boy suffered what was believed to be cutaneous radiation syndrome after coming face-to-face with a 'diamond'-shaped object hovering in their path. Was it a secret military test gone awry or something otherworldly and even more bizarre? That's the big unknown, but one thing is known: DNA damage from excess ionizing radiation exposure is cumulative and permanent, with all of the nasty immediate and possible future consequences. Don't risk it.
How about if they're not in the sky, not in your back yard, but have come for a bedside visit? Now is the time for an extremely important note of caution: There are medical and psychological conditions, as well as OTC and prescription medications, that can cause very unusual side effects, especially when in a sleep or semi-conscious state. Therefore, all are much more likely explanations, and all must be considered and discussed with a healthcare professional before making the leap to belief that you have been abducted. And that is, indeed, a huge leap. Be honest with your healthcare professional. Do not hold back; there is no reason to feel embarrassed. It is the only way he/she will be able to determine what may, or may not, be the cause. As odd as it may seem, I can assure you that you will not have been the first patient to broach the subject, even in a primary care practice. Imagined or real, there is much more of the phenomenon out there than one would realize.
That being said, one harmless (but effective) tool you can use is recording technology. If nothing else, it may ease your mind. Usually, the sense or memory that one has been abducted is not an every night occurrence. Much like what is done in a medical sleep study, start recording your sleep with a camcorder. Don't be discouraged; keep it up for a few months. If you believe something has happened on a particular night, go back and watch the recording. If you don't have a camcorder, even an inexpensive digital audio recorder placed in your bedroom will go a long way in proving or disproving what may or may not be going on. Good luck!
Now, Back to Where I Get Involved with UFOs...
I do have the capability and possess the technology to investigate UFOs. As with cryptozoology, I occasionally lead expeditions of UFO hunters in and around New England. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have. I strive to respond to all inquiries within 24 hours.