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?