Friday, July 20, 2007

Countdown to the Hynek Metamorphosis

Newspaper letters to the editor can sometimes be effective in swaying or reinforcing public opinion, and by 1966 I certainly discovered a great deal of reader interest in UFOs through my frequent letters intended to inform. Displayed here is a letter from the editor of The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), making reference to both this subject and an interesting enclosure.

Obviously, the public relations personnel at The Encyclopedia Britannica keenly realized the UFO subject's intrigue, especially in 1966 when the Michigan UFO sightings initiated news headlines all over the world. From its 1966 encyclopedia set, Britannica photocopied the section on UFOs written at some point by Dr. J. Allen Hynek and apparently mailed them to news editors all over the U.S.

Hynek's contribution, perhaps written sometime in 1965, or even 1964, showcases a scientist with an open mind about UFOs, but still far from ready to exhibit his eventual publicly announced belief that UFOs are a profound scientific mystery worthy of his Center for UFO Studies and books on their importance. His reluctance is hinted as the article concludes with a reference to a lack of trained observers -- though Hynek must have been aware more than anybody that trained observers of UFOs existed in large numbers via his own investigations. One suspects, of course, that his Air Force affiliation kept him somewhat self-muzzled as he simultaneously experienced a personal war of the intellect, precipitated particularly by his encounter with physical evidence and a sober tale of occupants at Socorro, NM (1964).

By the time the Michigan UFO furor, Barney and Betty Hill's abduction account and other events began saturating Dr. Hynek's thoughts, it would be reasonable to expect that Hynek himself would have deleted much of the 1966 Encyclopedia Britannica article to write something far more dramatic and troubling to science -- and that would have been a very, very good thing.