Friday, November 30, 2007
When I began writing this blog back in April, referencing events purely in chronological order wasn't possible, though things are a little more orderly for the moment. In fact, some of the more important entries were inserted in those first few weeks.
Nevertheless, I always knew that once a little chronological order kicked in, this very moment would arrive -- an occasion where I would bring before my readers something of curious significance. As usual, I'll let you be judge and jury.
In recent years I've mentioned the existence of "the letter," and various Web sites comment either correctly or incorrectly about the circumstances. But the truth is, I doubt that I ever showed the document itself to more than six people. Okay, maybe ten people, but, then again, probably the number six is too high. For three decades I've carried a photocopy in my wallet, just in case (of what?), and I even made sure it was a very poor photocopy, just so that if I did show it to somebody they would say with extreme doubt, "Oh yes, sure, look at this thing, it's an obvious fake!"
No, actually the letter is quite real. I'm proud of the whole thing, but. . .then what? So what? What to do? Where to go with this?
If you've read this blog from the start, you know that I've included several letters from former, now deceased, Syracuse Congressman James M. Hanley. Jim Hanley, as I've said previously, was one of the best congressional representatives Central NY ever knew, and he served several terms beginning in the early sixties. The James M. Hanley Federal Building in downtown Syracuse was constructed and named in his honor.
Prior to the 1976 elections, congressional redistricting or some such activity resulted in my area being represented by another congressman, and on at least one occasion when I tried to contact Rep. Hanley about some matter his office wrote back, replying that congressional courtesy required that the new representative handle my letter because Mr. Hanley no longer covered my area. I was (obviously) a chronic letter writer in those days on numerous matters, so dealing with a different office really presented no problem. Well, not until. . .
Until Jimmy Carter won the presidential election in 1976. As many people know, Carter believed he saw a UFO in 1973, and the kicker was that classic June 8, 1976 National Enquirer article in which Carter was quoted to say, "If I become President, I'll make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public, and the scientists."
Upon reading that, my dilemma surfaced like a periscope smashing into an iceberg. What if? What if Jimmy Carter won? Would he? Would he really do it? Would there be a new UFO project?
And what if I communicated some thoughts on UFOs to my "new" (Republican) congressman's office, with which I'd conducted nowhere nearly the level of correspondence about UFOs that I had with the other (a Democrat) for over 10 years? I truly doubted that anybody there would care, particularly because this was the opposing political party. I didn't care which party was which, just that they represented two opposing sides, and there's nothing like politics to muck up the best of intentions.
So I took the chance and wrote my original congressman, hoping this letter wouldn't get passed on like the other. On November 12, 1976 I wrote Jim Hanley a long letter, reaffirming my interest in a comprehensive UFO investigation after Carter assumes office. This was the time when my articles appeared in national magazines and I was teaching the UFO course at a college, and I simply posed the question, how could I be considered for a position in any proposed UFO project the Carter Administration might initiate? I wasn't a scientist, so the strengths I could offer would include anything involved with an historical perspective, publicity or writing in such a project.
Based on past expectations, I fully expected the letter would go to Rep. William Walsh, my then-current member of Congress. However, much to my surprise, Hanley sent me a letter on December 1 (displayed here), informing me that he had forwarded my letter to the Carter-Mondale transition team for a response.
However, my sense of surprise ascended to cascading explosions of astonishment two weeks later, when a December 15 letter from Rep. Hanley arrived, accompanied by a December 6 letter from the Carter transition staff, signed by the prominent Frank Moore, one of Jimmy Carter's key people.
Yes, the letter's words are routine, but all of this came about because Rep. Hanley had taken a giant step by actually recommending me to Carter's staff as a potential UFO project participant. I never for a moment anticipated that he would put his name and immensely golden reputation on the line by doing for me this incredible kindness.
That's where the story ends. There was no follow-up by Carter's people, apparently no UFO project and certainly no clandestine midnight meetings between men in black nor hooded alien figures and I (I bring these folks into the mix only because some inventive bloggers hovering on the edge out there may be looking for precisely this improbable collaboration, and I don't wish to deny them their impressions).
I do suspect, however, that I may be the only UFO researcher, and probably the only anybody, ever awarded a congressional recommendation to work in a government UFO project. Me, just a regular guy, neither rocket scientist nor brain surgeon. More animal than human, some might say, but I do digress. . .
Okay, now you know the letter is real. As I said, I'm proud of it -- but I've never been quite sure about including it on my resume. Especially when a little explanation might be required. Wow, can you even imagine?
All too often, what might have been or, arguably, should have been, will never be. All during the time I served at an Air Force base in Carter's Georgia from 1971-72, I never once ran into Jimmy Carter or Billy Carter, nor had I even a chance encounter with Miss Lillian at a supermarket. What were the odds?
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
WNDR-AM Radio no longer exists in Syracuse, but on October 24, 1976 I appeared as a guest on a weekly Sunday evening talk show entitled "Open Forum." Host Mike Cahill rather surprised me because his invitation included no mention of the skeptical astronomer who joined us for a discussion about UFOs.
We consumed about two and a half hours of this program that ran from 7:00 to midnight. There was a tape of the show, but only of the part where we talked about UFOs. Later, after I had returned home, still listening to program callers who phoned in long after the fact, the UFO topic remained hot. Now, there were numerous prank calls that night, as one might expect, with regret. But. . .
There was one particular caller, a man with a young-sounding voice, who had an immediate answer for every question the host asked. The caller claimed to have been a U.S. Navy frogman who, as part of a team of seven, assisted in the successful recovery of a strange submerged object that he called a UFO, or a part of one, on December 7, 1969. He reported its location as the Atlantic Ocean, not far from Guantanamo.
I listened intently from home, wishing I were still at the studio to take the call. The caller exhibited a few seconds of hesitation at only one point, and that is when host Cahill requested the retrieval's location. Following disclosure, the man clearly stated that he was warned never to discuss the incident under threat of some undefined punishment. At that point, he also warned radio listeners intrigued by the UFO subject not to get too involved, whatever that meant. The caller did seem genuinely afraid to leave his name off the air and feared his call being traced. He had commented that he probably said too much already.
I phoned Mike Cahill Monday morning (I was unable to reach him the previous evening) to see if a studio tape recording existed of the show, but there was no tape. He, too, had wished for a recording of this most intriguing call. He promised to contact me with any further information, but nothing materialized.
Monday evening I phoned Coral Lorenzen about this, she was "intrigued" and thought perhaps some of their military members could look into this.
As an aside, this is also the call where Coral informed me that an interview about APRO had just appeared in Oui Magazine and that there was some misquoting involved. She vowed to do no more interviews via phone unless she could tape them and review the articles first. I had to conceal my laughter when she confessed no prior knowledge that Oui featured pictures of naked women and, indeed, she insisted that her son cut the article out and give to her so she wouldn't have to look at the other contents -- and then she threw the remainder in the trash.
By this point, her husband Jim had fully recovered from heart bypass surgery and felt great. Coral was expecting a call from a Japanese film company this very evening, intent upon coming to the U.S. to film a documentary about UFO abductions, and she was working on a new book regarding abductions based upon what she called seven good cases. Quite confident, Coral promised the book would be unlike any other UFO book. I'm not sure whether anything more developed from this ongoing project, and I also suspect that answers to a great many questions like this will only be answered when access to APRO's files occurs someday (these invaluable files are apparently in the hands of a couple who somehow inherited them after Coral's death and APRO's demise).
Two more 1976 letters from Dr. J. Allen Hynek today. In one, he answers my complaint about a late publication.
In the other, he actually acknowledges how much money he made from his brief non-speaking appearance in the then still-unreleased movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," the answer to a question I certainly did not ask. But it was interesting to know.
If you read my earliest blog entries, you already know that one of my Argosy UFO articles turned up as a prop in the movie for a few seconds. Even in my life, this is one incredibly useless bit of information and impresses nobody. Drat.
It appears that Dr. Hynek banged this letter out on a typewriter or printer by himself, and I suppose he was just busy or tired when referencing the movie's director as "Steve Spielsberg" and leaving the "s" off the second word of the title. Too much time frittered away in astrophysics and not enough on the keyboard, apparently.
Editors of large city newspapers often serve their readers for years, at least they did commonly during the days when newspapers were so much more popular than they seem in some areas today. The late J. Leonard Gorman, executive editor of The Post-Standard (Syracuse), experienced such longevity, and he had been around long enough to know about my UFO interest via many letters to the editor. When informed about my first article for the national magazine Official UFO, he sent a very nice letter and kindly assigned a reporter to write a story.
On the other hand, speaking of Official UFO, there were publications where editors barely had time to unpack before making a hasty exit. Countrywide Publications of NY, NY published Official UFO and several other titles in the seventies and eighties. Official's first editor, Bernard O'Connor, was a dream for any UFO researcher intent upon writing a serious article. His dedication to printing the best UFO literature available impressed all of the major UFO organizations and his early issues seemed promising with an eventual circulation of 250,000.
He included my article (expanded from the 1971 A.P.R.O. Bulletin piece) on UFOs and ultrasound in the May, 1976 issue and by the time of its publication I was already working with him on the large article I hoped to write about the 1956 United Artists documentary movie, "U.F.O."
But suddenly all plans were on hold. Contributing writers in May of 1976 received letters from O'Connor informing us of his resignation from Official UFO. He thanked all of us profusely, yet gave no reason for leaving -- though word was already on the street about friction in the office.
Before long, a new editor stepped in, Russ Rueger, and he, too, sent out letters, essentially saying hi to the writers and laying out his plans for the magazine, Unfortunately, barely three months later we writers received another letter (widely circulated) from him, this time telling us of his own resignation, and he didn't spare the details. Rueger stated that the publisher endorsed an attitude that readers are mostly "true believers" who "desperately need to believe that UFOs are extraterrestrial beings who will someday come to earth to bring salvation." Further, stated Rueger, the publisher demonstrated a preference for "trumped up, sensationalized" unsubstantiated sightings and one or few-witness accounts written with a "true confession" slant. "We're an entertainment magazine," Rueger claimed the publisher would say, "so ethics are irrelevant." Clearly aware that Official UFO would exploit, rather than assist, UFO research, Rueger, simultaneously involved in a separate situation with the publisher which led to everything else that transpired, left the magazine, replaced by respected UFO researcher Dennis Hauck, who was assured by the publisher that all would be well. Thus, just in 1976, Official UFO was directed by three editors. I don't know the circumstances, but it wasn't too long before the magazine and its likewise absurd companion, Ancient Astronauts, perished. Whatever Hauck was able to offer during his tenure there, I'm sure his standards reflected the best of everything.
During the turmoil, I was advised to contact a Saga Magazine editor who might be interested in my planned article on the 1956 United Artists movie, but he decided -- unwisely - that nobody reading Saga publications would care about my rehashing the details of an old movie about UFOs. Eventually, completed at last, the article went back to Official UFO under Hauck's guidance and was printed in the February, 1977 issue with some portions excluded because of length. The piece, " 'UFO' Revisited," proved very popular with readers, and in later years became available on the NICAP Web site with pictures (see the NICAP link and look up my name in the NICAP search engine for access) and is also currently featured on the Ufologie.net Web site in both English and French versions.
However, as the February cover displayed here clearly shows, Official UFO was indeed wrestling with its identity, spotlighting in one title a sober interview with Dr. Hynek, while way above headlining the frightening UFO abduction of a woman's daughter -- a false story, by the way, contrived purely to sell magazines to the gullible, compliments of the publisher.
For me, abandoning Official UFO as a writer was an eye-opener, causing me to trust the publishing world a little less, more aware that the bottom line was almost always the bottom line. Integrity didn't matter nearly as much as the money to some publishers, and the proof was usually right before our eyes on the newsstands in the seventies and eighties, the largest assortment of UFO-related garbage in print that one can imagine.
Placing a few articles with competitors, such as Argosy Magazine's Argosy UFO and True Magazine's True Flying Saucers and UFOs Quarterly, where editorial policies enjoyed more stability, worked out well, but my unpleasant encounters with Countrywide Publications weren't over yet. A few years later, on some city newsstand I spotted a hopelessly inferior-looking magazine about UFOs, and though I can't remember its title at the moment, I instantly noticed the cheap pulp on which it was printed and the print quality inside was just hideous. In addition, I did a double-take while thumbing through the pages of this Countrywide abomination when I stumbled upon a reprint of my own article on UFOs and ultrasound from 1976 -- the article I sold to Countrywide on a "first rights" basis, meaning all rights reverted back to me after initial publication. I don't even recall if my name remained with the title, though the graphics were the same. Other writers recognized their previously sold work also, but I don't believe any of us attempted legal action because the expense and uncertainty for, frankly, so little economically would have been enormous and just too much trouble. I guess I know too well now what a cautionary tale is.
The lesson? If you write and something goes awry, by all means check with the editorial staff -- but don't automatically exclude the publishers as the root of all things dreadful. After all, they run the show.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Maybe you wonder why some of my blog entries seem irrelevant to your interest. I know a lot of this seems to be all about me, and that's because (unfortunately) much of it is about me. It's a blog, my name's at the top and if you sometimes think, oh, good grief, this guy is so full of himself, I guess that's an unintended impression I leave. However, my primary concern here is to offer whatever I can for historical reasons. I suspect that many UFO researchers of the past didn't send or receive as many letters as I, and if they did chances are their collections were simply thrown in the trash by surviving relatives or friends after their demise, people with no understanding of the historical treasures they condemned to extinction.
Therefore, I beg your indulgence when I get personal about important UFO researchers or witnesses of the past. I just want some things on the record, particularly when I believe that few, if anybody, had the opportunity or desire to bring these little nuggets to the forefront.
Readers who follow this blog realize that I had occasional phone conversations with Jim and Coral Lorenzen, the late couple who originated the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) in 1952, one of the oldest UFO research groups in the world. In my old files I've found notes made during an afternoon call to Coral on Saturday, May 29, 1976, and today I'll just list a few points from that conversation:
My reason for calling was to ask how Jim was doing, as he continued recovery from recent cardiac bypass surgery. Coral recalled that night when Jim felt so poorly and frightened about his condition. He had phoned his physician emergently, and when the surgeon replied that he would be at the hospital in one hour Jim responded, no, I want you there now. The operation proved successful.
Jim's post-surgical depression and spirits had lifted significantly the previous week when he appeared, still accompanied by a weakened voice, with alleged UFO abductee Travis Walton on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America," hosted by David Hartman, who was joined by actor Paul Michael Glaser of the "Starsky and Hutch" TV series (as the art of coincidence goes, I guess I should mention that Glaser's acting TV partner in the series, David Soul, appeared in the UFO-related TV movie, "The Disappearance of Flight 412," mentioned a couple of blog entries ago). The weeks after surgery had been chaotic, with medical insurance not covering enough and Coral losing weight because of worry over Jim's ordeal. While in Hollywood, the Lorenzens had spoken with an unidentified motion picture producer who expressed considerable interest in making UFO documentaries.
We talked about her new book, Encounters with UFO Occupants, actually an updated version of Flying Saucer Occupants. She also labored busily on a future book about UFO abductions. I was interested to learn that she had also written a science fiction story about a time in the 1930s when people saw a landed UFO with occupants exiting and then re-entering the object, which quickly departs. All witnesses, from the town drunk to the highest official, decide not to tell anybody for individual reasons of their own. To her regret, Coral had been unable to sell this one. I wonder what happened to it?
There were troubles at the magazine, Official UFO. Coral knew very well by then that its editor and his boss had serious disagreements (I'll write more about this situation in another blog entry), but was surprised when I informed her that he had already resigned on May 1.
Nor was it ever a secret that there had been "bad blood" between APRO and another major UFO organization known to many. In this conversation, Coral excoriates its director, who has just assumed the position of editor for the group's membership publication following a resignation ("Can you imagine what a mess that will be?" she asks). She asserts that he was once an APRO member who broke away to form his own organization, calling APRO members around the country in the process in an attempt to get them to abandon APRO. One APRO member had even taped a call from him and played it for Jim and Coral, who stated he said some terrible things about they, the Lorenzens.
Before ending our talk, I did ask Coral about her UFO opinions, in light of the Travis Walton abduction case and others then coming to light. Without hesitation, and with perhaps the only laughter induced during a call enhanced by her coughing and obvious weariness, she merely shot back this response: "Beats me."
A letter from the Syracuse police chief helped start the year 1975, as he informed me per my request that his office would be sure to pass UFO information along to me. It never really worked out that way, though. Several years later, when Central New York experienced a wave of numerous and impressive UFO sightings, the chief's department went bonkers, put off or refused requests for information from other organizations, and bit itself in the butt with intense in-fighting that spilled out into the streets and into the clutches of a very attentive media. (The late) Chief Sardino himself, outraged, was depicted as a controversial cartoon figure in association with UFOs on a quickly produced t-shirt, a garment quickly snapped up from the entrepreneurs who gladly distributed them locally for some fast cash. The Syracuse Police Dept., then as now, has a proud reputation, but the appearance of UFOs -- assumed a law enforcement responsibility ever since the breakup of the Air Force's Project Blue Book -- simply blew that official entity and others in Central NY into a frenzy, with little direction and absolutely no tools to prepare for UFO investigations. I plan to explore this era in a future blog entry.
For me, 1975 was significant mostly for preparing to write for some national magazines and, more important, for the chance to teach an introductory UFO course at a college. Non-credit though it was, at least this gave the UFO subject more credibility. Having spoken about UFOs at high schools and the like in the past, the opportunity to actually prepare and receive payment to teach a course now was definitely a step up. Mine wasn't the first UFO-related course offered at the college or university level, and other programs had been available for credit elsewhere in the country, but my own "UFOs: An Introduction" was certainly one of the very few ever attempted by 1975. Several sessions were successfully taught between 1975 and 1976, until I eventually went on to other things. At some point I wrote an article describing the course for Argosy UFO, and because I included a post office box number I received a wealth of letters from the U.S. and other countries, some from researchers intent upon the initiation of UFO history courses in their own areas. In the framework of mine, slides and audio presentations were included, and I obtained permission from the major UFO organizations to reprint specific material as handouts for my students. One student, incidentally, was the very pleasant father of one of the best known UFO skeptics (perhaps too mild a word, but I try to be kind) in the U.S. Yes, it was a tad awkward on those occasions when I condemned the skeptics and debunkers by name in the classroom.
As you peruse (that's one of those hundred-dollar words some writers use when we want to make you believe we're brilliant or derived from royalty -- so, is it working?) the letters displayed here, you'll also find a handwritten note from Coral Lorenzen. She and Jim were very helpful with my attempts to write for magazines, and in her note she also references a UFO conference at Fort Smith, Arkansas -- one of the more significant UFO discussion sessions of that year, as I recall.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The Center for UFO Studies (see the link and visit the web site) was a fledgling operation in 1975, the brainchild attributed primarily to astronomer and former Air Force chief consultant on UFOs Dr. J. Allen Hynek. I suppose the easiest explanation for its existence is its fulfillment of the need for something, a reliable reporting source, where UFO sightings could be reported and investigated appropriately. Project Blue Book had folded, thanks, of course, to that ridiculous conclusion conjured up by the University of Colorado and Dr. Edward Condon assuring us that UFOs were no big deal -- worthy of a look by science as time goes on, but nothing to fret over. Yet, internationally the dramatic UFO reports from pilots, police agencies and government entities at many levels continued. CUFOS would be a clearing house headed up by Hynek and other respected personnel, intent upon direct contact with official agencies (not so much with individual members of the public who wished to report sightings) in receipt of scientifically worthwhile UFO information from their own local areas.
I only met the late Dr. Hynek personally on one occasion, following one of his public lectures, but do have a few letters from him going back to the time when the Center was taking form. Two of them are offered with today's entry. Should the reader be familiar with Hynek's bearded face, there is no mistaking him during his cameo role in the 1978 movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Previously, I mentioned that when I purchased and received an autographed copy of Hynek's first book, the pages were all out of order. Impressed as I often am with things peculiarly out of kilter, I wouldn't dream of returning it for a replacement.
There are several pages of notes I had made sometime in late 1974 regarding a lengthy phone conversation with APRO's Jim Lorenzen. To say the least, both Jim and Coral exhibited considerable animosity toward the idea of Hynek taking such a public stance with his new Center, and I'm sure there were issues concerning them all about which I knew nothing, but Jim portrayed Hynek (and others) as too much the publicity seeker.
It isn't easy to understand the intricacies involved with relationships amongst various UFO researchers, but we can say with assurance that the UFO subject has always served as a great avenue for fostering jealousies and mistrust - sometimes justified and sometimes not. And don't for a minute believe that this sort of thing affects only private researchers: The government-sponsored Colorado University UFO project, a study intended as the epitome of pristine science and public spotlessness from start to finish, was itself rife with petty disagreements and displays of professional ego leading to the project's eternal tarnish.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The December, 1973 UFO report that I mentioned a couple of blog entries ago wasn't quite the end-of-year event for strange activity in Central NY. In the final days of October an incident so bizarre hit the news that one might be inclined to say, "Yeah, right" and dismiss it faster than a tabloid story about a new Elvis sighting.
Like the alleged Pascagoula, Mississippi UFO abduction prevalent throughout the world's headlines previously in 1973, two Central NY fishermen came forward with their own peculiar story, but this one involved flying stones and no alien creatures. No UFOs as we generally think of UFOs, as far as I know. Still. . .
Two friends, one 28 and the other 63, decided to do some evening fishing on Skaneateles Lake during a late October weekend. By the light of two lanterns they cast their lines around 7:00 p.m. At about 10:45 something hit the water near them -- a jumping fish, perhaps, they thought. Then another object hit the water, apparently a stone, larger than the first -- and soon another that they estimate weighed 50 lbs. splashed in and displaced water a good three or four feet.
They shouted into the woods, shined their lights all around and saw nobody. Frightened, or at least rather unnerved at this point, they raced back to their car, this time finding themselves deluged with a rain of small stones as they loaded their equipment into the car. One of the men took a shotgun out of the vehicle and fired into the trees.
Driving some distance away from the scene, believing they were safe, they pulled the car to the roadside so one of them could remove some heavy clothing worn to keep warm on that chilly October night. As the man exited the car, stones again began falling, pelting the car and the man. Leaving the scene, they drove off to a bar in Skaneateles, where each drank a beer as the bartender told of a UFO seen over the lake just a week previously.
As they resumed driving, stones again pelted the car and at some point they again stopped on the road to see if anything was flying overhead. The older witness claimed he saw nothing, but heard a humming sound. As they reached the Syracuse area, he states something seemed to shake the car. Only when they reached one of the men's homes did the stone barrage cease. According to The Post-Standard (Syracuse) of October 29, 1973, the fishermen had notified the police, and it was noted in an article from The Herald-Journal (Syracuse), also of October 29, that the Skaneateles police chief was a little skeptical about the incident. Then again, the older witness did remark, "What're the police going to do?"
I had sent the newspaper clippings to the International Fortean Organization, where they were mentioned in an issue of The INFO Journal in 1974. Initially, I had trouble locating either fisherman, but conversations with two reporters who covered the story indicated that each seemed sincere and truly frightened about their experience. At some point, at last I did meet the men and we participated in a talk show on Syracuse's WCNY-TV (a PBS station). Their sincerity could be described as overwhelming.
Ultimately, a geologist at Syracuse University tested six small stones the men had secured and offered as evidence. According to The Post-Standard of November 3, 1973, a spectrographic microscope and polarized light were implemented for stone analysis and the geologist's report stated there was "nothing at all that would indicate they are from any kind of extraterrestrial source. . .They are all very, very similar to rocks that are found in the local area." None was larger than a half dollar.
The INFO Journal editors remarked, rather tongue-in-cheek, that the composition of the stones as laid out in the newspaper article reminded them of the material commonly found in railroad roadbeds, and that "Maybe the Zeta Reticuli Express was passing through." (For my readers who just asked, "Huh?" Zeta Reticuli is the star system from which some assume Betty and Barney Hill's alleged alien abductors originated, based upon Marjorie Fish's highly intriguing star map per Betty Hill's recollections under hypnosis.)
For my part, while I confined myself generally to the UFO issue in those years, I did find a remarkably similar Iowa case mentioned in the book, The Enigma of the Poltergeist, by Raymond Bayless, a book I loaned to a reporter from The Syracuse New Times, who eventually wrote something about the Skaneateles case and referenced Bayless' book. Poltergeists? UFOs? I don't know. I've always felt peculiar enough just wondering what the concepts of here and now mean.
Okay, so back to UFOs. Let's go back to the beginning of 1974, at last, where I find that I made notes and wrote yet another of numerous letters to the editor about the topic, though 1973 hasn't yet made its exit. From November of 1973, there's a report about six Argentina Navy technicians tracking a UFO for 20 minutes. Certain that no aircraft or satellite activity was responsible, they officially documented this impressively maneuverable object as a UFO.
And there's this curious little tidbit (source unavailable at the moment) from the national media in 1973, quoting Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. George S. Brown at an October 16 press conference, where he admits that UFOs "plagued us in Vietnam during the war." Brown admitted to no knowledge about their identity, but his confirmation certainly added authenticity to numerous UFO reports filtering out of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam Era.
During the seventies and eighties, I occasionally wrote articles and reviews for The Syracuse New Times, a Central NY weekly newspaper still publishing. As 1974 drew to a close, I submitted an article for the December 8 edition headlined, "Television Getting More Open-Minded About UFOs." Indeed, keepers of the small screen and its (then) three main networks planned, for a welcome change, fair reporting about UFOs, whether truth or fiction. In fact, on October 1 NBC had premiered an important, now generally forgotten, motion picture starring Glenn Ford, entitled "The Disappearance of Flight 412." Presented as the fictional account of a shadowy, mentally-brutal U.S. government "debriefing" of an Air Force flight crew involved in a tragic UFO incident, few amongst the TV audience would ever know that the story flowed directly from a script writer's personal knowledge.
Actually, Jim and Coral Lorenzen of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization had even provided the producers some photos of UFOs seen in the movie. Obviously low-budget and looking a bit dated over 30 years later, the film nonetheless remains a chilling dramatization about aeronautical things unknown and government secrets untold.
1974 was also the year when plans began to take shape for the insightful documentary, "UFOs: Past, Present and Future," and NBC was forging ahead in anticipation of another little TV movie called "The UFO Incident," an extraordinarily well done production about the Barney and Betty Hill UFO abduction.
Jim Lorenzen, whom I quoted in my newspaper article, had addressed the amazingly fair treatment of the UFO subject weeks earlier: "There is now in motion a trend toward good public information on UFO matters. A handful of television films now in various stages of production will be aired this fall and winter. The subject will be treated maturely and realistically. Whether this new attitude is triggered by 'inside' tips or not is not known at this time.
"However," Lorenzen continued, "NBC activity in this area is the result of 'the word' being passed down from Herb Schlosser's (then NBC's president) office contrary to usual procedure -- story and theme ideas usually originate at lower levels and go 'upstairs' for approval."
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
You may recall my earlier reference to the Ithaca and Newfield UFO sightings of 1967. A few days ago I received a note from a person who decided to come forward and impart some information about his possible role in some of the UFO reports. I don't know how much influence his prank exerted upon the overall situation, because the magnitude of official interest in the Newfield situation was just too extraordinary to dismiss via the launch of a homemade "UFO." However, the writer certainly has something important to say from his aspect, and I'm anonymously including his comments as follows. Incidentally, I remind my readers, having seen an abundance of such pranks intended to foster UFO reports in the past, that sending anything skyward with a working flame can result in serious trouble with law enforcement personnel, should fire damage result when one's flaming creation lands in combustible material (I know, I know, I take all the fun out of this when I bring it up...)
I stumbled over references to UFOs over Newfield NY in 1967.
I stumbled over references to UFOs over Newfield NY in 1967.
I guess I have a confession.
I was a student at Cornell University's College of Engineering in 1967. I was curious about hot air balloons, and wondered whether or not I could make a working model. I took a dry cleaning bag, sealed up the openings at the top, built a framework to hold the bottom open, and then placed a "heat tab" from a Boy Scout Heat Tab stove on the frame.
I then brought the bag out to the "dust bowl" between the University Halls dormitories, lit the pellet, and held the bag upright to keep it from catching fire. Within a few minutes, the bag arose and began a journey, sailing out of sight to the southwest direction.
Within the same moments, I had drawn an audience of about a hundred freshmen students, curious as to what I was doing. Once the bag lifted off, some of the students began trying the same trick. Some succeeded while others failed. My success was based on the fuel: the heat tab.
I must say that my creation was a sight to behold. The heat tab produced a constant glow, and the clear bag took on the light in a way which magnified the existing light. It was strange, to say the least.
The next day, I was surprised to see an article in the Ithaca Journal titled, "UFOs Spotted over ". It didn't take more than a split second to make the connection that the UFOs may have been the bags we sent aloft from Cornell. The direction and the timing were right!
I never thought anything came of the sightings, however your blog seems to make reference to UFO sighting over .
Is there any possibility that my college prank was the cause of these UFO sightings over Newfield?
I alluded to the fact earlier that 1973 was a banner year for numerous interesting UFO reports around the USA. By the fall season I was learning of some impressive activity in Central New York and nearby.
On October 25, 1973 Syracuse radio station WHEN-AM reported an intriguing sighting witnessed the previous evening by no less than noted astronomer Terrance Dickinson, assistant director of Rochester's Strassburg Planetarium. Quoting from a transcript of that newscast:
"A Rochester astronomer says he sighted a formation of UFOs last night. Terry Dickinson. . .describes what he saw: 'A V-formation of lights, about the brightness of the planet Jupiter, that were moving together. I immediately turned the telescope onto them and I could see that, in addition to the four brilliant lights, there were smaller lights immediately beside the bright ones.'
"And Terry Dickinson says that after making checks with airports in the Rochester area, he's convinced that what he saw last night were UFOs."
In a later newscast, Dickinson admitted that he was very much the skeptic until his sighting, but changed his views after the experience.
1973, noteworthy for the Hickson-Parker UFO abduction in Pascagoula, Mississippi and reports of others, kept many researchers and journalists busy. I spoke at length with a Skaneateles, NY woman who awoke around 3:00 a.m. on October 12 and observed a "fiery Chinese dragon" shaped object in the sky that transformed into "a long whip shape" as it proceeded west. Then, on October 15, a Camillus, NY teenager and at least nine other witnesses watched two large, very bright lights appearing to be part of the same flashing object. At some point, a "ball" that blinked red, green and orange, with a circle of lights surrounding it, approached the first object. This second object stopped and hovered above the witnesses, and shortly the initial UFO flew directly above the second "as if they had merged" and both disappeared in different directions. On October 19 a witness in Constantia, NY viewed an object with green and red lights close to the waters of Oneida Lake. As he continued his observation, he saw it "skirt across" the water and it disappeared behind some trees. The UFO came to his attention initially because its brilliant lights reflected through his window.
Not even the Central NY winter could deter the steady flow of UFO reports. On December 7 I spoke with a Syracuse University law student who, with his girlfriend, a TV-radio major at S.U., experienced a bizarre object two nights previously. Observing from inside a dormitory, they watched as a diamond-shaped object, flat on the side, appeared over the campus. "Glowing lines" shooting from the thing helped define its shape. The witness further clarified that the object's color resembled that of a star, but sparks of red, yellow and green also exuded from it After watching the thing for 40-45 seconds, the witnesses watched it fly straight up in the sky and it disappeared quickly.
The national media's frenzy to report anything about UFOs encounters, true or not, resulted in considerable confusion at times. Following the Pascagoula fishermen abduction, James Lorenzen of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization offered a statement to the effect that people were seeing UFOs despite national attention on the Watergate scandal and Middle East tensions -- but some in the press misinterpreted his words to imply that he was actually saying people were observing UFOs merely as a distraction from these national concerns.
Friday, November 9, 2007
A 42-year-old truck driver named Richard offered his full name, harboring no objections to public identification when he phoned me early on the evening of October 23, 1973. His call was about a possible UFO sighting, but it wasn't new. Five years before (1968), a mysterious "sonic boom" occurred over or near the Fayetteville-Manlius area of New York State, and he wanted to tell me about his experience, possibly related. First, he found it necessary to assure me he had been "stone sober, and I'm no fanatic." I made extensive notes of his description, and have reconstructed his narrative as follows:
"I think it was four or five years ago...in the middle of summer...and it was 8:30 at night...it wasn't dark yet, and it was a clear night, a Thursday. I'm on (Richard gave a street name in the city of Syracuse where he resides) street, and I happened to step outside and looked toward the driveway -- which is south -- and over the top of the trees I can see this thing. It was red, it was a 'friction glow' red, colored red like a 'heat red.' Like something giving off heat." The thing made no obvious sounds,. according to the witness.
"Take the full moon and put it over (the south side of Syracuse). It was tree-top height here, but there it was probably two or three thousand feet high. It looked as bright as the full moon would be (the light did not blink on or off). The red was a glow more than a color. This thing was coming very slow, from east to west. I didn't think too much of it, but called my wife out and told her to look, and she saw it. Then the people in back and their children came out, and they looked at it.
"The whole thing went on for 20 or 25 minutes. The first thing I did was to call the telephone operator and said that I saw a UFO, and give me the SAC air base (at Hancock Field, Syracuse). The telephone operator said, 'It's a weather balloon.' I said, okay, it's a weather balloon. Now, give me the SAC air base!
"So I called the SAC air base. I talked with this boy who is way down in the basement there and I said, look, I'm not drunk, I'm a family man, I'm a hard worker and I'm not a fanatic -- but I think I've seen a UFO. He asked where, so I told him, south side of the city, near the west end. I used to be a paratrooper, so I know a little about the height. He said, 'We cover everything in the skies on radar in this area, and my radar shows nothing in the sky.' I asked him if he would pick up a weather balloon on radar and he said yes. I said, all right, that eliminates a weather balloon. 'Wait a minute,' he said, 'I'll send a man up to the roof to check on it visually.' Right after that he said, 'Wait -- I have a civilian airplane leaving Hancock Field right now, heading south in your direction, and you'll hear the engines in a minute.'
"Two or three minutes later, I heard the engines, and the thing stopped dead in the sky. Then, out of it came -- well, the best way the kids and I and the guy in the back could describe it would be like if somebody had six or seven flashlights and six or seven windows to shine them out of. Light beams, white, like you see in a searchlight. It looked like landing lights off an airplane, not pure white or pure yellow.
"It hovered, then the plane came closer -- and this thing started going up, not fast, but up. It kept going up. It took about 10 minutes, it didn't seem to be in any hurry. It went up until it looked like a star. But as it went higher and higher it changed its color from a bright, glowing red to a white-blue. It looked like a star. It went straight up until it disappeared. It was kind of a whitish-yellow.
"That was on a Thursday night at 8:30. Friday night, I looked in the newspaper to see if there was anything on it, but there was nothing. But I happened to read that there was a sonic boom at 8:30 Thursday over Fayetteville and Manlius. Residents there contacted the Air Force, which said that to make a sonic boom that would shatter windows over Fayetteville and Manlius (apparently there were reports of damage) would require many planes at the same time, and that's an 'impossibility.' They also said there were no planes in the area at that time.
"But in Saturday's newspaper, where I was checking to see if anybody in the plane that approached my area -- the plane that actually flew directly under the thing -- had noticed it, I read that the plane had landed either in New York or New Jersey. Somebody either telephoned or otherwise contacted somebody back in Syracuse, telling them about this UFO that they flew under. That's when it hit me. The sonic boom happened at 8:30 Thursday, and 10 minutes later I saw the thing in the sky, and maybe it was responsible for the whole thing.
"This was seen by my wife and I and our two children, and then by the other couple and their children in the back because I called them out. The first thing we thought is that it was the sun. It was big and red and oval-shaped, the appearance was like an egg. The higher it went, it changed colors. The thing would have to be the size of a city block. I kept telling myself it must be a weather balloon, until the guy at SAC said if it was his radar would have it."
And that was the end of Richard's story. I should mention that the man sent up on a roof to check for the object at Hancock Field reporting seeing nothing. Nevertheless, Richard's story was quite interesting, and placing the UFO and sonic boom in a similar time frame may be relevant. One's first impression might be to suggest whether the noise was caused by jets sent up to investigate the object, but none of the witnesses reported additional aircraft in the sky. I was able to find three Syracuse newspaper reports from the month of April, 1968, when the incident occurred. Again, these were the weeks leading up to my Air Force enlistment in June, and my attention to detail when contacted by sighting witnesses was certainly less than ideal at that time. But the report maintains an intrigue after all these years, and I wanted to share it here. The newspaper stories included the following details of interest:
The Post-Standard of April 18, 1968 states that an "explosion" in the Fayetteville-Manlius area early during the previous evening shattered a number of windows, panicked residents and deluged law enforcement offices and news media sources with phone calls. Air Force personnel at Hancock Field claimed no knowledge of military aircraft causing sonic booms.
According to The Herald-Journal of April 20, 1968, there were indeed numerous witnesses to the strange object's slow lateral and eventual upward movement, with colors and "rays" of light confirming what Richard had told me during our phone conversation. Even by April 20, the Air Force continued to deny radar confirmation, but did admit to calls from numerous witnesses.
Additionally, per The Herald-Journal of April 30, 1968, a husband (connected with the aircraft industry in some way) and wife watching a movie at a drive-in located in the same general area as the sonic booms of April 17 reported a UFO that flew overhead at about 12:40 a.m. Of course, this took place several days after the initial sighting. "The object was ice-cream cone shaped. . .traveling from east to west at a slow speed but picked up speed and, in doing so, changed from its original white color to a fiery orange," stated the article.
(By coincidence, just as a side note of interest, a letter was also written and mailed to me on October 23 by an Air Force serviceman of undisclosed rank with a mailbox at the former Griffiss AFB in Rome, NY, requesting information regarding UFOs and the alleged Hickson-Parker abduction incident. I responded, but heard nothing more from him.) And now this. . .
"HAPPY ANNIVERSARY:" Today, lest its significance go unnoticed, is the 42nd anniversary of The Great Northeast Power Blackout, notable for some highly interesting UFO sightings all over the Northeast concurrently. We've touched upon this subject previously, involved as we were with local UFOs (reported by the major news services at the time). As far as I'm concerned, satisfactory answers about the massive power failure never came forth -- and as I mentioned in a prior blog entry, a ranking power company official who promised to give me some important information about the UFO connection -- or not -- apparently took the "not" road, because I never heard from him again.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Actually, 1973 was a prolific year for UFO encounters. I've included a portion of a letter I received from a sighting witness, one of numerous reports sent to me and forwarded to APRO and other organizations. The other letter, from Coral Lorenzen at APRO, reflects the media's interest in UFOs in 1973. She also mentions her injury, which at that point, as I recall, involved severe vertebral or neurological trauma arising after she tripped over a family pet at a very bad moment -- an injury that would trouble her for years thereafter.