Thursday, May 14, 2009

UFOs Under the Stethoscope

The most perplexing essence of the UFO phenomenon might be its tendency to leave behind evidence, but not proof. How is that even possible? Remove momentarily the stories of crashed disc retrievals, true or not, and that's what we're left with in the vast majority of wow-look-at-this cases -- evidence, all kinds of it, but not definitive, irrefutable physical proof that would impress a majority of courtroom judges. So, there are a few of us, and then there's "it," or "them," somehow sharing the same time and space, at least briefly -- but most dramatic encounters seem strangely set apart from the usual concept of reality and real-time experiences. Evidence, but no proof of identity. Is that how it shall always be? Photos, films, videos, audio, radar returns, disabled electrical components, crippled missile defense systems, pilot encounters, missing pilots, landing marks, metered traces of this and fragments of that, abductions indicative of missing time via hypnosis and polygraph testing. Evidence, but no proof. How to interpret and comprehend the apparently incomprehensible? That's a fair question.

This is what I was thinking about recently when taking a quick mental walk through decades of newspaper clippings relating to UFOs, trying not to blame certain newspaper editors for their reactions when "good" UFO cases began to clutter up the conventional newsroom. However, gosh-darn it, there was a pattern. The better the UFO case, the more some editors rushed to headline the debunkers, everybody from the late Phil Klass (whom, for years, received FAR more attention than he deserved whilst denying UFO mysteries) to the local recipe stargazer or astronomer who would gladly make sense of everything by throwing out any plausible "explanation" weakly capable of sticking to the wall. Funny how that works with some news editors but not others. If somebody's murdered, the editor wants his reporters to find out how the crime was accomplished and what weapon was used. But if somebody reports a UFO, the editorial process generally seems to drift off and make a beeline journey to the nearest debunker who can explain everything in comforting rational terms as quickly as possible without so much as a glance toward the witnesses or the story's fabric. The evidence. All the news that's fit to print, but this weird UFO stuff just isn't part of the people's news.

Yet, it's not always like that. When I visited the old NICAP offices in Washington, D.C. back in 1965 as a teenager, upon my departure assistant director Richard Hall (see link) sent me away with a few current national magazines containing articles about UFOs. A famous UFO "flap" was very much in progress around the country at that time, and numerous periodicals churned out a relentless flow of "flying saucer" articles.

To my surprise, one of them was a publication called Medical Tribune, "the only independent medical newspaper in the U.S." Backed and advised by some very prominent members of the medical community, the July 17-18, 1965 edition actually featured a brief but exceptionally well-written piece about UFOs. While one's immediate expectation for such a publication might be an article slamming UFOs as nonsense and UFO proponents as mental cases in search of medical therapy, this clearly was not the case. Indeed, the organization NICAP (see link in margin) received serious attention, and UFO researchers Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Jacques Vallee were afforded thoughtful attention, along with recent UFO cases.

Actually, as a result of some amazing UFO activity in the sixties, a number of prominent journals and magazines offered readers a treasure trove of interesting articles (of course, many others did not) about the UFO phenomenon, and it's a shame that the trend failed to continue in such depth among popular publications of the current day. How many medical journals or newspapers would dare feature a credible, "pro" article regarding UFOs today?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Before News Crumbles to Dust

Printer and journalist John Peter Zenger surely thought the printing press would forever be the information organ of choice and necessity back in his time, but I wonder if he ever contemplated the future limitations of any words put to paper.
For instance, take newspaper clippings. Better yet, take my newspaper clippings. They only go back to the early sixties, stored securely in plastic bags -- yet, the oldest have become annoyingly yellowed, brittle and flaky. And there are so many. If removed from the bags and stacked flat on the floor, they would easily surpass two feet in height. The earliest clippings date back to 1964, literally a year dominated in UFO lore by the Socorro, New Mexico landed object and occupants reportedly witnessed by patrolman Lonnie Zamora.

Researchers in the UFO area (please don't, ever, refer to us as "UFO experts," truly a meaningless and silly term used primarily by the media, worthy only to be shunned by those who take their work seriously) were often encouraged over the years to donate their life's collection of valuable historical news clippings to this organization or that. The jewel in all of this is the fact that individual researchers' collections also tend to contain local and regional stories that national archives wouldn't even know about. Trouble is, some of the organizations themselves tend to go belly up, and storage for those left to clean up the mess is tough, if not impossible.

Enter the computer and scanner. I just finished a months-long chore of putting hundreds of old LP records and 45s into digital format, and I scanned as much album information as I could manage. The project achieved far more success than anticipated, but if I never again have the need to convert vinyl to digital in an overwhelmingly boring process, that's fine with me. But now, the news clipping dilemma. As surely as the sun will rise tomorrow and influence climate change far more than anything Al Gore can summon up in a speech, my old clippings are disintegrating like vampires into dust.

So the "fun" has begun, I'm off and running with this newest computer project, and I hate every minute of it. Newspaper articles have to fit properly for the scan, and if some columns extend too far they must be cut or moved to another page or resized in some manner. Folded clippings decades old have no desire to sacrifice now-permanent creases in order to look pretty and usable for the scanner, thus the daily battle is on as I try everything except ironing them into flaming newsprint.

Someday, I'll take the digital sum total and donate the neatly performed scans to libraries, historical associations and universities, if they'll have them. This is important stuff. History, at the very least, and evidence of science yet unknown, at the very most.

I think. . .I think I'll reference some of the older things in this blog now and then. I can't reproduce actual scans of clippings here because of copyrights and permission I have tried to obtain and was firmly denied -- but I can discuss them. We'll see where this goes.