Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wright Wrote Whilst I Knew Not

During the mid-sixties T.M. Wright was out there doing UFO research, yet I never knew. The fact that I never heard of him still amazes me. I guess my chaotic absence from Central New York explains the "mystery."

As I've mentioned (ad nauseam) over the past year, the military draft came after me in the sixties and I instead enlisted in the Air Force, thus absent from the Syracuse area from 1968 to 1972. However, while home on leave briefly in late 1969, I was rummaging one day through the used book section in the basement of a popular book store when I spotted a book entitled, The Intelligent Man's Guide to Flying Saucers by T. M. Wright. What a title, I thought, assuming it to be just another worthless debunking volume of nonsense.

But it wasn't. Actually, the author provided a reasonably fair assessment of the UFO situation as it stood in the sixties. Further, to my surprise, Wright, like myself, was born in Syracuse, and in researching his material had referenced many of the same people I previously contacted in my teenage years regarding the "great Northeastern power blackout" of 1965. His book saw publication in 1968, a time when my life was in turmoil because of the military, and I was certainly in no position even to know of its existence. Still, a book and author involved with considerable information about Central NY UFO activity of which I was unaware seemed unlikely. Yet, there I stood in a musty store basement, thumbing page by page through this used volume, a reliable research project published widely by A.S. Barnes & Co. of the USA and by Thomas Yoseloff Ltd. of England.

Wright covered some typical UFO cases, UFO waves and even tackled the contactee issue with appropriate discussion, wisely separating and leaving the Betty and Barney Hill incident open for conjecture. Those familiar with UFO history probably wouldn't find much new here, but I did note with interest such nuggets as Wright's disclosure that famed author John G. Fuller (Incident at Exeter, The Interrupted Journey, etc.) had tentatively planned to come to Central NY and other areas involved with UFOs seen during the blackout in order to write a book about the event. Of this I was unaware, and apparently Fuller eventually declined, for whatever reasons.

However, though my military leave had ended and I was required to return to Texas before I could seek Wright out, what ultimately and supremely impressed me in later years was Wright's ability to see the future. Publication of Guide occurred while the disastrous Colorado University UFO project continued to forge ahead, before the extent of its innermost corruption came to public attention via the expose' of NICAP, Look Magazine, John G. Fuller and others. Here, in his own words, is what T.M. Wright predicted:

"The University's report will be released some time after this book is published, and it doesn't take a genius to realize what the report will conclude.

"1. That UFO's, for the most part, are explainable, and all that's lacking in the few unidentifieds is more concise information.

"2. UFO's do not represent extra-terrestrial visitations. (Again the baseless statement that 'no evidence has been offered that UFO's come from another planet.' What kind of evidence do they want? What exactly are they looking for? Do they know?)

"3. Finally that the Air Force should close down its full-time (?) investigation of UFO's.

"The report will be warm milk for the skeptic, and a hangnail to the believer. It will be completely forgotten two months after it's released."

The accuracy of Wright's astute assumptions became clear as the months progressed. My only objection would be that he might have said instead that the Colorado report SHOULD be completely forgotten two months after its release; unfortunately, its tainted, odorous fragments stuck around long enough to exert an unfair influence on UFO research. The warm milk and, of course, the hangnail.

Wright himself has gone on to write numerous novels, is written about extensively and even has a web site for his fans. I never did locate him in the earlier years, though a brief reading of a writer's interview with him indicates that he currently does not believe UFOs exist. Nevertheless, when he wrote his first book Wright did leave the door open a crack regarding the extraordinary nature of the UFO phenomenon in his conservative, though powerful, closing words:

"The chances of extra-terrestrial contact, however small, must not be ignored. The evidence seems clear that life on Earth is not unique, and that we cannot go about our business unnoticed, or undisturbed."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Flying with. . . Keyhoe

Some weeks ago, we featured the one and only letter I ever received from Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe (USMC, ret.), former director of NICAP and prolific book/magazine writer regarding UFOs. What many of you may not know is that Keyhoe was a writer before he began tackling UFOs in the forties, and long before he undertook a military career as a U.S. Marine Corps officer.

I never did locate his early book, M-Day, during the years I searched, but was fortunate to find his 1928 volume, Flying With Lindbergh. Keyhoe served as an aide to famed pilot Charles A. Lindbergh on an important flight across the United States and, in this narrative, which I believe has since been reprinted at some point by another publisher, Keyhoe documents the trip. Amongst today's visuals is a letter from Lindbergh to Keyhoe after the journey and a photo showing Keyhoe, Lindbergh and flight associates.

Yes, I would be remiss not to mention that Col. Lindbergh ("Lucky Lindy"), an American hero, is noted as well, particularly in recent years, for alleged pro-Germany views as the Nazi era crept upon the world scene, and that aspect can be read via other sources far more informed than I. For the intentions of this blog, I'm merely reflecting a Donald Keyhoe with whom many readers may be unfamiliar, and it was certainly my pleasure to have met him in the old NICAP offices in Washington, D.C. in 1965. Historical stuff here, yes?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This Arlington Morning - Part 1

(Today, the subject of UFOs takes a rest while I share something of a personal nature with my readers -- Robert)

Eight years have rushed by since my initial visit to Arlington National Cemetery, about a year before the 9/11 chaos transformed every airport customer into a person of interest, everything in one's luggage into an object of government scrutiny, and every airline flight into a temporary holding cell where the inmates dare not say or do anything to arouse suspicion amongst the smiling flight crew, who lie in wait for the slightest infraction. I understand the reasons quite sufficiently, but it just angers me that the terrorists won a substantial round and absconded with a huge chunk of freedom not likely to return any time soon. Good grief, how I long for the fifties, an era when my World War II veteran father flew often as a passenger, and wasn't averse to taking advantage of weather turbulence to shout into the aisle, "Hey stewardess, tell me again, when did the pilot say this plane was going to crash?!" Savvy passengers recognized the humor, but the newbies would recoil in terror. Try that one today and I can't imagine how many pairs of handcuffs and other restraints the crew would slap on you after fellow passengers stopped beating you to a pulp. And no miniature bag of peanuts for you, either, just the knowledge that humorless government folks would be hauling your butt off the plane at the next stop.

So I flew into Dulles Airport Saturday afternoon (flights to the far more convenient Reagan National Airport are noticeably scarce now), after encountering some very unsettled and jarring weather all the way from JFK in New York. Hey stewardess, when did. . .the pilot. . .say this plane. . .oh, well, no I didn't. But I did fly Jet Blue all the way and found JB to be a great airline, so I don't fault them at all; I only regret how the flying society's spirit has been altered and darned nearly neutered by circumstance. Major Donald Keyhoe (of UFOs and NICAP) surely never had these problems when he flew cross-country with "Slim" Lindbergh decades ago, you know? And I will admit, to those of you who wonder where the UFO topic is today, that after every Jet Blue flight I was wishing SO MUCH that I could ask each smiling pilot watching us depart whether he (1) ever saw "one of those" during a flight and (2) what he thought about the UFO observed at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Pilots know things, but they aren't inclined to tell, because. Because. Just because.

The reason for last weekend's trip was to meet Stephen's mother, Vivian, and it was so great to see her again after her long flight from the West Coast. She had lost yet another family member since 2000, when we last met and, as before, we would journey on to Arlington, where Steve was laid to rest in 1989 at age 38.

Steve, almost three years younger, and I had served for nearly two years (1969-71) together at the U.S. Air Force Regional Hospital at Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls, TX, he on the medical wards and in the emergency room, and I in the large hospital's physical therapy clinic. We were good friends and his love of literature and the fact that he was wise beyond his years made him a delight for me to hang out with and, of course, the medical staff liked him.

I remember that Vivian, a remarkable woman in her own right, once told me that as a child Steve loved the book, Gone with the Wind, and read it over and over again, refusing to part with the book until she literally pried it out of his hands so he could accomplish other childhood tasks.

Steve and I visited book stores frequently during off-duty hours, and his enthusiasm for this book or that caused me to purchase many a volume destined to remain forever unread, as I would later ask myself, why did I buy these? Steve was a natural showman. . .and a salesman, glowing with charm.

In 1971, the Air Force started inundating Sheppard's hospital staff with orders to report elsewhere. These were the Vietnam years, and medical personnel were on the move. I only went to a base in Georgia, but Steve received orders for South Korea. I had been attempting to teach him to drive so he could get a license, but that was a goal unrealized. We stayed in contact a little for a while, but I eventually lost contact with him.

I managed to locate Steve briefly when we were civilians, but lost contact again. By 1999 or 2000, when at last I had access to a computer and could search, I found Steve again, but the search results weren't what I expected. He had died from the complications of AIDS in 1989, just 38 years of age, and, incredibly, had kept his illness a secret from everybody, including family and co-workers. If you're familiar with AIDS, it's not an illness one can usually hide, and it certainly isn't one that allows a person to work right up until the time of death. Yet, Steve somehow toughed it out, without medical care and without medications, apparently telling concerned people that he had the "flu" (likely pneumonia) and he died alone in his Dallas apartment. Later, family and friends discovered that Steve, who worked for a major insurance company at its Dallas offices, had won a prestigious award for assisting AIDS patients when he previously lived in Houston.

Soon after I contacted Steve's family, his mother invited me to Arlington for a visit in October of 2000, and I accompanied Vivian and Steve's step-father to his resting place.

And now, in March of 2008, on a day sliced by a chilly and cutting wind, I've met Vivian as she arrives once again to visit the grave of her son whose knowledge and friendship had such a major impact on my own life.

Today's photos, accomplished by various people, include Steve's Air Force portrait, a snapshot of him in winter gear during his time as an Air Force site medic in South Korea in 1971 (during his spare time he taught English to Korean school children, and I'll bet he was a fine teacher), a great picture of Steve and Vivian during a home visit, a typical pose of Steve smiling, and -- to everybody's sadness, of course -- a picture of Steve's marker at Arlington. Too young, much too soon, what can we say? We can love him, we can try to understand his actions, but nobody has the right to judge him. He served his country, he lived his life, he loved whom he loved and was kind, helpful and charming to the end. I think. . .I think there are always secrets, aren't there?

I've a few more pictures taken by others that offer a little insight into Steve's world, and we'll have a look at those next time. In the meantime, whether you support "the war" or not, please strive to respect all active duty military personnel and veterans, because each is human and each has a story to tell, even if that story remains unspoken or undiscovered for any variety of reasons.

This Arlington Morning - Part 2

Steve could never really fathom my interest in UFOs, but he mentioned at some point after we left Texas that, indeed, he had read some story or novel involving a UFO in the plot line, if only in a fleeting manner. I believe he was more intrigued by a woman's predominating role in the story.

Post military, Steve eventually attained a university degree in journalism, though he ultimately worked for a large insurance company. Journalism wasn't really his thing, anyway, as his true preference, his goal, was to write plays. At Sheppard AFB, if he wasn't reading fiction voraciously, he was jotting down notes or writing pages about. . .something. One didn't require deep analysis to appreciate his unrequited love for stories spun by revered authors of the day (he was a huge William Styron fan, for example, though I also discovered Steve to be quite captivated with the book, Ratman's Diary), and I do believe he escaped into fiction often for relief from depressing hospital work. He hated Sheppard AFB, truth be told.

In any event, to this day Steve's mother cherishes boxes full of notebooks containing notes about and initiations of plays Steve intended to write. Intended is the key word here because he never actually wrote a complete play, busying himself instead with organizing the preliminary ingredients. He was also fond of partying when not working, as he had many friends, and that probably consumed some potential writing time.

This Arlington Morning - Part 3

Photogenic. I first experienced a close encounter with that word back in 1967 as a radio-TV college student, when the professor remarked after an on-camera teaching session that he felt my face was "photogenic."

I don't know about that, especially 40 years later, but Steve certainly possessed the good looks to exemplify the word, photogenic. The thing is, Steve loved to model for the camera and to be photographed, and the photos shown here offer a fair representation of his style. Steve always looked great any time of the day or night when I knew him, and he used those looks to his advantage in numerous ways ("Heads would turn" whenever he entered a room, one of his friends told me when I inquired about his life after I learned of his death).

In the mid or late 1970s, then out of the Air Force and in college, Steve learned that famed playwright Tennessee Williams was coming to Houston to watch a performance of one of his early, obscure plays. At the theater, Steve had arrived with a hardcover copy of Williams' autobiography entitled Memoirs, published by Doubleday, and after the play approached Williams for an autograph. Considering Steve's looks, maybe it was predestined that the openly gay Tennessee Williams would gladly sign the book for this photogenic literary fan who cornered and swept him away with immense charm. An autograph session wasn't scheduled until the next day, but Williams accommodated Steve with these words of presumed humor, scrawled inside the book directly underneath its title:

My Biggest Mistake,
(signed) Tennessee Williams

Memoirs, incidentally, is said to have been one of Steve's favorite books, before and after Williams signed it.

This Arlington Morning - Part 4

Cats were an important enhancement in Stephen's life. Indeed, his family loved cats and invited many into their homes over the years. Steve enjoyed the friendship of several cats after his Air Force years, and his favorite -- Truman -- was the one depicted in these photos. In my naivety, I once asked Vivian if he was named after President Truman, but I should have known that this special feline acquired his label thanks to writer Truman Capote.

Curiosity, the driving force behind journalists and writers of every ilk, can be overwhelming. During the course of just a few months, I learned more about Steve's life than I could have imagined would be out there. Unquestionably a rarity amongst his contemporaries, his had been an existence of ups and downs. One of his closest friends and roommates, another military veteran who attended college with Steve, once told me that he felt like the narrator in The Great Gatsby, attempting from the sidelines to tell me about Steve's involvement with the rich, the famous and the near-famous. There were parties and thrills, with a little decadence thrown in for good measure. There were bad times, too, primarily the early college days when money was tight and Steve's stubborn demand for independence prohibited him from asking his family for assistance. And, at the end, there was AIDS. Its effects are obvious in a couple of Steve's photos that I choose not to display here, and I'm sure my readers will understand, but Steve appears very drained and tired in these pictures. Nevertheless, it wouldn't have been a stretch merely to assume he was weary after a bad cold or something.

So, on this chilly morning of March 10, 2008, Vivian and I spend some time at Steve's resting place at Arlington. Having visited many times over the years, she immediately notices the expansion of grave site areas, as the tragedies of a new war have meshed with those of the past. At least the storms have departed and a pleasantly sunny sky reflected in blue dilutes, somewhat, the moment's sadness. For his mother, there are tears and memories and echoes of questions unanswered. For me, there are personal memories and recollections of everything I learned about Steve's life via others. I'm not crying during this Arlington morning, however. I haven't really cried in years, not since I went temporarily bonkers in 2000 after learning of Steve's demise. Oh, actually there were two times after that, when two loving pets died. What to do? We get older and either shed tears over all manner of things or, as if in fear that our allotment of tears will expire, we save them for later. For another inevitable occasion.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Warm Welcome: The Air Force and A.D.S.

I could hardly believe my ears last Sunday evening during CBS TV's Sixty Minutes, when correspondent David Martin began reporting on the Air Force's "Active Denial System." Wait a minute, I thought, is the USAF re-initiating Project Blue Book, this time with a name that fits?

But sadly, no. Instead, the report concerned a new military device intended to disperse crowds with bursts of high energy, effectively causing people to momentarily feel as if scalded with boiling water. Yet -- wait a minute, just wait a minute. This futuristic non-lethal weapon was being tested at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, my old stomping grounds as an enlistee, and, much more to my amusement than amazement, involves "an electromagnetic beam made up of very high frequency radio waves."

Now, THAT's interesting. Radio waves? Technically speaking, are we referencing sound waves, microwaves or what here? A personal message, please, to Col. Kirk Hymes, head of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, which is likely far more creepy in practice than it sounds: Sir, we could have saved the Air Force millions, had your predecessors only come to me in 1971 or 1972 when I operated the Moody AFB hospital's independent-duty physical therapy section. I arrived at Moody in March of 1971, around the same time that the March-April, 1971 issue of The A.P.R.O. Bulletin published my article, "UFO Ultrasound: Key to Injuries?" Relying heavily upon my experience with Air Force clinic machinery involving such forms of energy as ultrasound and microwaves, I took a real hard look at ultrasound and suggested briefly a possible relationship between (those non-existent) UFOs and injuries to and effects upon human tissue. Maybe sound waves were involved, I conjectured (as I did in more depth for a future issue of Official UFO). Oh yes, you'd better believe I was worried about the Air Force seeing my name and military relationship in print during those days when military folks didn't dare concern themselves publicly with the UFO issue -- but all was well and no black helicopters or men in black whisked me off to a corn field for debriefing, mental adjustments or drug therapy. At least, I don't think so. Hmm, of course, I wouldn't remember, would I? Drat, now I've got me wondering.

Anyway, I just want Col. Hymes and company to know that, had the Air Force come to me when I was a staff sergeant at that very Air Force base back in 1971, I gladly would have passed on a copy of The A.P.R.O. Bulletin for the reading pleasure of futuristic military weaponry geeks -- and for far less investment of tax dollars, maybe I could have assisted officials in developing devices to "warm" the crowds. In the end, my only request would have been for a hand-held A.D.S. device to carry everywhere so I'd never have to stand in the back of a line of people again. Sweet!

So Colonel, speaking of UFOs -- and borrowing three more words from Sixty Minutes, this time via Andy Rooney -- ever wonder why. . .ever wonder why so many things the military accomplishes with forms of energy seem to mimic UFO incidents reported decades ago?

The Chronillogicus

At some point, months ago, I began posting entries primarily in chronological order, or at least I progressed from year to year and attempted to place annual content in a meaningful, logical manner. Well, that doesn't quite describe it, but you know what I mean.

So here we are, almost a year after initiating this blog last April. You might recall that my primary intent was to pull miscellaneous documents from my old files and make them available online, for the historical significance of it all. Your e-mailed comments have been generally favorable and I thank you for your interest.

However, there is a problem with chronological entries: Beginnings always suffer an end. Choosing what I felt were the most intriguing contents of files extending back to the early sixties, I've now posted pretty much everything I hoped to feature from a chronological aspect. Unfortunately, there are nuggets I wanted to offer, but can't for various reasons. Some of my readers may be difficult to convince, but I do possess ethical standards (!) and these confounding impediments prevent me from pushing myself to the brink of condemnation or (more likely) lawsuits.

Nevertheless, this is NOT the blog's end. It's likely I'll find other items of interest for posting, it's just that they won't be in chronological order from now on, and posts may be infrequent. But, despite whatever is to come, my fond hope was to create something here that all readers can refer to for information, nostalgia and maybe even a little humor on occasion. Every UFO researcher entertains his or her impression of the phenomenon at hand and all the trappings in accompaniment, and this is simply mine in blogger format -- with important visuals for support.

In the meantime, as always, I refer you to the links carefully selected and listed on this page. When you aren't checking out the UFO sites, have a look at my other blogs, one concerning my four Air Force years (sorry that some visuals won't open over there; I try to repair that problem when and if I can) and the other with photos of my deceased Pekingese (one of many pets of all varieties and sizes who enhanced my life over the years). In addition, remember, I hope to introduce a new blog in the near future all about the 1956 documentary motion picture, "U.F.O." I'll be scanning personal letters from movie participants that you won't find anywhere else, and it's all free for the looking because this is my small contribution to the history of UFO research. Of course, I'll make the announcement right here, so if you do go away -- be sure not to stay away for too long. You might visit other UFO-related blogs to your heart's content, and good for you, but never forget that mine typically is. . . not your grandfather's UFO blog. -- Robert

Monday, March 3, 2008

And the Name is. . .Jim Bohannon

When the subject of UFOs is high on the minds of radio broadcasters who deal with that and other unusual topics on a regular basis, we rather expect a reasonable treatment of the issue. Hosts from the distant past whose shows were popular in the USA, such as Long John Nebel, Frank Edwards, Jerry Williams and Larry Glick were familiar enough with UFO incidents to discuss the cases with integrity, not ridicule.

I remember, for example, when young Australian pilot Frederick Valentich mysteriously disappeared during a solo evening UFO encounter over open waters years ago. If you don't know about this case, be sure to look it up via a reliable web source, because this chilling encounter involves the pilot's final words in a radio transmission and the unexplained metallic scraping sounds heard just before he and his craft seemingly dropped out of existence. Within days of this internationally headlined incident, I was fortunate to hear the late talk show host Larry Glick of WBZ in Boston interviewing an Australian journalist who remained close to the story. Glick, always open to humor on his show, handled this important conversation with the sobriety and concern it deserved.

These days, except for the occasional Peter Jennings, or even George Noory or Art Bell, how many broadcasters can even mouth the term, "UFO" without either making a joke or offering some almost apologetic comment for bringing the subject up? Recently, I became familiar with yet another instance where a broadcast journalist whose UFO reporting gained high audience interest was nonetheless told by management not to do any more UFO reporting -- and this sort of thing happens frequently in the United States (in fact, you may recall the well-publicized Texas UFO sightings of a few days ago and the newspaper reporter who lost her job after writing about them -- of course, there was no connection between the two events. . .wink. . .wink).

In consideration of this, it truly is a pleasure to find those rare national talk show hosts who generally tackle politics and anything but UFOs who, nonetheless, are willing to give the subject a fair shake. That's why I think back fondly to 1994, when Mutual Broadcasting's Jim Bohannon executed a fair and informative interview with veteran UFO researcher and former NICAP assistant director Richard Hall. After I wrote and thanked Bohannon for that good show, he kindly surprised me with an autographed photo (see) and thanked me for some information I included.

Bohannon's evening radio talk show -- which I have not heard in years (no longer available in my area, thanks to conglomerate radio coming to town and putting the "R" in the ruination of broadcasting's fine art), though I'm aware that it continues -- succeeded radio's coveted "Larry King Show" when King left for higher stakes in TV. Vietnam veteran Bohannon turned out a great show during the years when I listened nightly, and I've no reason to believe his evening sessions are less enjoyable and informative now. Unheard, but not forgotten!

In the play, "My Fair Lady" Professor Henry Higgins asks, why can't a woman be more like a man? My own question would be, why can't more talk show hosts be like Jim Bohannon?