Friday, July 24, 2009

Richard H. Hall (1930-2009)

Richard Hall (see link) possessed a philosophy degree from Tulane university, so perhaps he would have been the first to understand my "logical" progression from reading books about UFOs in 1963 to becoming a member of a UFO organization in 1964.

He was the assistant director of that organization, NICAP (see link), and from the moment I discovered its existence in Washington, D.C. I was sending him letters incessantly. To both his credit and patience, he generally answered each and every one, no matter that I was a very curious and annoying teenager whose constant inquiries would surely have been dismissed by a lesser individual. Early on, Richard's careful approach, outlined in his books and during his editorship of NICAP's UFO Investigator, taught me the value of caution in endorsing or rejecting UFO cases.

Extensive biographical information about Hall can be found at Kevin Randle's blog site (see link), and Randle also includes a great life's summary from researcher Larry Bryant, so there's no need for me to rehash what's out there already (and it should be noted, too, that he involved himself with editorial duties for the International Fortean Organization's INFO Journal for a short time). From my perspective, however, I note that Richard was the first UFO researcher I ever contacted and I was better off for having the opportunity to tap his knowledge. As mentioned on previous blog occasions here, I actually met him in person during a 1965 trip to Washington, and on that warm summer day I also spent a few minutes with NICAP director Donald Keyhoe. Though the country was engulfed at that time in an abundance of UFO reports, causing chaos at the small NICAP office, Richard kindly took the time to gather some documents together for me, souvenirs of that brief visit.

When the impressive Northeast power blackout occurred on November 9, 1965 in conjunction with numerous reports of UFOs, Hall was available by phone and correspondence to guide me through the gathering of reports. When he discovered that the Pentagon's Air Force spokesman, Maj. Maston Jacks, sent me a letter referring to the 1964 Socorro, NM UFO as a "vehicle," he broke the story in The UFO Investigator. The first time I ever had a chance to write for a national magazine in the seventies, it was Dick Hall and Jim and Coral Lorenzen who put in a good word to the editor on my behalf. If I harbor any regrets, one that comes to mind instantly is my inability to review the copy of his book, Uninvited Guests that he sent me several years ago, because the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU) and its journal Pursuit, which I wrote for regularly, crashed before I could submit a piece.

If we multiply the good things he did for me by the multitude of great things he did for others interested in UFOs over the years, it's clear that Richard Hall was the man, the very essence of what UFO researchers should be. Unlike some, he never expressed his message with shout-downs and ridicule. Instead, he relied upon truth, logic and effective communication skills. His was the cool head, adorned with a cohesive train of thought, evidenced no better than in the outstanding editorial precision he exerted upon The UFO Evidence, a sober document given to every member of Congress in 1964.

Years had passed, many years, and the last time I had any contact with Richard was in 2007, when we exchanged a few e-mails regarding the death of Al Chop. He wanted to write an obituary for his own UFO journal and was soliciting whatever information might be available, though he did have a small file on Chop that he couldn't locate at that time.

Richard Hall's absence, I fear, will encourage the usual charlatans crouching in wait to fill the void left when he passed, taking rare integrity and insight with him. Goodbye Richard, we'll miss you and your profound contributions to UFO research. Aren't many like you left out there.

(ABOUT THE LETTERS SHOWN HERE: The June 11, 1965 letter refers to Daniel Cohen, then the very UFO-skeptical editor of Science Digest. UFO researcher Jacques Vallee is mentioned as well. The October 25, 1965 letter mentions a couple of people attached to the UFO research community, as well as the disappearance of a letter I loaned to NICAP (yes, they eventually found and returned it). The January 24, 1966 letter was written by Richard as a favor, intended to be seen by others, when I attempted to interest radio station program directors in presenting a weekly UFO show (which never happened, despite the letter's examples of success). The final letter, dated November 2, 1966, came about because a group of Central New Yorkers, more concerned with wild flying saucer contactee stories than UFO facts, tried and almost succeeded in organizing a local NICAP relationship -- until their cover was blown.)