Friday, July 30, 2010

The Absurdity of it All

This headline from February of 1976 wasn't uncommon then or in succeeding years, particularly after the Air Force closed Project Blue Book and stated publicly that it would no longer investigate UFO reports (Nyuk nyuk!! Tell us another one. . .). If patrol cars could fly, these occasional UFO chases conducted by ground-based law enforcement personnel might not seem such exercises in futility, but in the absence of police helicopters engaged in the pursuit, what could one logically expect? Even the motion picture, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," still in production when this incident occurred, didn't miss the absurdity of cops being delegated by default the responsibility of chasing UFOs. Though not one Air Force UFO chase was depicted throughout the story, a brief but dramatic cop/UFO pursuit (presumably involving injury or death, as one patrol car crashes through a guardrail and over a cliff) was prominent early in the film.

The headline here pinpoints Lake City, Florida (specifically south-central Columbia County), where United Press International reported that sheriff's deputies and highway patrolmen chased an object flashing blue, green, red and white lights. "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes," remarked one unidentified deputy. The object appeared to hover 500-600 feet in the air and flashed "all different colors" from what seemed to be a glass-like dome on the bottom.

The newspaper report references nothing further about the case, but I'm betting the thing got clean away, without so much as a traffic ticket or stern warning. As usual.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vampire Bites UFO

It's a scary thought. Many people "believe in" UFOs, and there are apparently a fair number of primarily young folks who "believe in" vampires. People who respect and understand the scientific importance of UFO evidence are one thing, but the "I believe in UFOs" gee-whiz crowd, as far as I'm concerned, should simply proceed to the next "Star Trek" convention and leave the serious stuff alone.

Just look at current motion pictures and TV offerings: Vampires, werewolves, psychics, superhuman powers, visits with the dead. I suppose none of this should be surprising in an economic recession imbedded with depression and lackluster expectations in personal lives, so reaching for things of storyteller territory can be a common goal.

Most everything these days has a touch of vampire to it, and I really suspect there are more young people inclined to think vampires -- the creatures-who-rise-from-the-dead variety -- exist than consider that UFOs are real. Worse, one fears that the UFO phenomenon has become a mere cartoon, on the same level with vampires, to those who see everything as fiction and fantasy. To some, contrivances hypnotically attract the way a shiny lure sinking lazily in a lake beckons a hungry fish. Does anybody care about documentation anymore? Has the elephant on the living room sofa been there so long, concealed by layers of dust, that nobody cares to notice its presence now?

I know there are fads, and there have always been fads, including swallowing live goldfish, or packing as many of one's friends into a phone booth or cramming as many into a Volkswagen as possible. And there's the tattoo and jewelry skin-piercing thing. But today's vampire fad has people actually implanting artificial fangs and -- far more dangerously -- biting one another to the point of drawing blood.

Anybody with even a rudimentary knowledge of medicine realizes that the human mouth harbors an astonishing pathogen farm, dreadful organisms, bacteria and viruses that can infect, disable and kill (meningitis, for example). Potential vampire "bite-ee" victims should be advised, before allowing alien fangs to invade their circulatory systems, that they may as well prepare lunch on a toilet seat or lick the office computer keyboard, which would be gross and stupid -- yet safer than offering one's personal blood sacrifice as a role player.

However, when it comes to vampires, I'm no prude. Like many kids, I grew up with comic books (oh, how I wish I had kept them all -- from the days when they cost 10 cents each. . .) and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I knew the name of every monster movie and every movie monster that hid under a bed, in a closet or on a roof. I eagerly anticipated issues of Castle of Frankenstein and treasured even the brief existence of publications such as Wildest Westerns because cowboy motion pictures and TV shows were as common as monster and science fiction fare. And those who truly immersed themselves in vampires and horror movies in the fifties and sixties would remember private labor-of-love fanzines such as Horrors of the Screen, published in NY by a dedicated young man named Alexander Soma on a shoestring budget. He only turned out a few issues, and it's rumored that his health declined early on, but HOTS was worthwhile reading while it lasted.

Oh yes, I knew well the monsters and vampires of my era. In my parents' day, Bela Lugosi's Dracula was king, but during my childhood it was Christopher Lee's Dracula (pictured, from "The Horror of Dracula," a Hammer Films production) who enchanted me in movie theaters. Today, you know Lee for his role in the "Harry Potter" cinema, but in his day Christopher Lee frightened the pants off his vampire-lovin' audience with several Dracula movies. Hard to believe that this prolific actor, who accomplished numerous roles during his career, is actually a kind and charming English gentleman who, if memory serves, as I write this without access to Internet info, was decorated for distinguished service as a British fighter pilot during World War II.

Yeah, I, too, knew and appreciated vampires once upon a time, the vampires of my own era, a time when a vampire was a cursed creature of the dead and not a current fashion model of the week, posing as everybody's best friend -- a time when actors had to become believable vampires, unaided by the benefits of realistic computerized special effects. My vampires were not cuddly advertisements for undead wannabees. As a teenager, I even drew a few vampire scenes in charcoal and India ink, and I think a couple little drawings survived, but I'm not crazy enough to post them online ("So, Robert," some psychologist would remark one day if I committed some astounding crime, "I see from reading on the Internet, in your own blog, that you once drew vampires. . .tell me about your fascination with vampires. . .you know that there really are NO such things, don't you. . ."). Even in the military, there were a few nights when I penned a fictional vampire story taking place in the Old West.

Nor were vampires warm and huggable to researchers such as John (I may spell his name incorrectly, I hope not) Vellutini, whom many years ago turned out his occasional and well-researched Journal of Vampirology from California, all about the vampire legend through history. Vampires? Read the writings of the Rev. Montague Summers sometime. The vampire was "hot stuff" in centuries past and remains explosively popular today, though its reputation and characteristics have been twisted nearly beyond recognition by current TV and motion picture folks looking for the quick dollar and sponsor appreciation. But enjoy your vamps -- just don't let 'em bite you and draw blood. It's, you know. . .it's literally your neck.

So what to do with UFO reports in this climate? They aren't sexy and they don't bite. They don't turn into bats, but at least they seem to fly. But currently, if you're not undead you're nothing. Who can compete with that? Well, I can only speak for myself, but I'm glad I traded vampires and horror movies for UFOs, because therein lies a real mystery.

Besides, if I really wish to delve into true horror, all I need do is look at the current White House and Congress, or consider that the U.S. will have 100 million more people in the next 40 years and nobody's suggesting a way to prevent the disaster, and I wonder when we'll wise up and do everything possible to make sure that Sharia Law does not infect itself into the USA as it has in Europe. Or I can mull over estimates that illegal aliens cost U.S. taxpayers $135 billion dollars a year. Now THAT's sucking horror, with fangs politic imbedded deeply in the jugular.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

If We Can't Believe Pilots, Then Who?

You already know about the famous November 17, 1986 UFO encounter involving a Japanese Air Lines cargo flight (if you don't, you can certainly read the particulars via the Web), but months surrounding the incident -- or incidents, since at least one other UFO report was claimed by the JAL pilot and crew) -- held their own UFO surprises, not as well-publicized as the JAL news.

By June of 1987, according to the Associated Press, Poland's official Army newspaper was announcing that "several" military pilots had spotted strange objects flying silently over the country at high speeds. The Army daily, Zolnlerz Wolnosci, quoted the pilot of a Soviet-made single-engine AN-2, a passenger plane: "I saw a plane passing about 60 yards below me with a plume of bright fire trailing it. I was surprised because I should have heard the roar of a jet engine while the plane passed by me without a sound."

While the newspaper did not offer a specific date, it did confirm that similar reports had been received from other pilots.

Referencing another incident, the article quoted a military pilot: "That night we were to practice interception. All of a sudden someone cried out to look up.

"Right above us an object was sailing eastwards at an altitude of some 600 yards. . .It was literally sailing by, as no sound could be heard. Physically, it seemed impossible."

Listing yet a third incident, the newspaper mentioned two pilots who received orders to intercept an object back in 1983. One of them, a Lt. Marek J. (no last name given), stated: "After I got to a distance of 300 yards, I noticed its strange shape. It was something that did not resemble anything flying in the air. The object was an oblong cylinder."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hot dogs in the Sky

All manner of UFO shapes and sizes have been reported over the years, assuredly confusing an already multifaceted subject. One of the strangest shapes ever reported to me was a "Chinese dragon," observed by a woman who happened to see something in a very late night sky during a period when UFO sightings were common.

But hot dogs? Yeah, even hot dogs, and plenty of them all at one time.

Back in January of 1976, national newspapers were ablaze -- no, better make that saturated -- with reports that then-President Gerald Ford had passed his annual physical in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, over in Clovis, New Mexico, and throughout southeastern NM folks were making their own headlines while seeing hot dog-like objects in the sky. Associated Press reports state that numerous such objects were seen in evening skies over three nights. One police officer described chasing a "long object with orange and white lights flashing," which hovered at about 900 feet near the Texas-New Mexico border. "It changed directions suddenly, " said patrolman Willie Ronquillo. "It didn't make any noise. I couldn't believe it until I saw it. Now I believe it."

A newspaper reporter and several police officers had an opportunity to watch one of the objects through an amateur astronomer's 425-power telescope. Scott Price, reporting for the Clovis News-Journal, said, "We all agreed that we saw a bright white hot dog or cigar-shaped object with two black circular areas toward each end. . .all 11 of us at the telescope saw something.

"It wasn't a cloudy and it sure wasn't a swamp gas," Price quipped. Green, silver-gray and red seemed to be the predominant colors, according to Price. The amateur astronomer was no less amazed at the sight enhanced through his lens.

Over 30 objects were reported over several communities during just one night. "Everybody in town has called in," explained one police dispatcher. . .they all saw them all at the same time. Plus, our officers saw them."

Another Clovis policeman said, "I've never seen anything that looked like that before. They are there in the air."

A spokesman at Clovis Air Force Base cautioned that the Air Force no longer investigates UFOs (I think, uh, the missing word here is publicly -- rb), but did volunteer that no military aircraft were in the area during the sightings -- and radar equipment was turned off because there were no aircraft to track. Over at the White Sands Missile Range they had little to add, as a spokesman there said, "We didn't have anything in that area-- nothing at all."

Nothing. And as we all learned from that old Billy Preston song -- nothing from nothing is nothing.