Monday, January 14, 2013
Idle UFO Musings: J.Allen Hynek, Ripples in the Pond.
This is a posting mainly honoring many of my friends, but illustrating Hynek's ongoing impact through other colleagues and the next generation. Even when Allen was becoming too busy and later infirm, the people around him were making UFO history in their own ways. These persons were very talented in their own rights, but there is no questioning that merely being around one another and Allen added to their energy and insight. There is nothing like being around intelligent, knowledgeable, and friendly colleagues to help you avoid your own stupidity and ignorance. I know that I benefitted from this more than I could ever tell you. [Mainly when I would find out how far off the path some of my BS was taking me].
If, as is my opinion previously stated that Boianai, New Guinea is the best case in the UFO literature, then, again in my estimation, the so-called Coyne Helicopter case is the second. THAT case is Jennie's. What an investigation job. A total success. Not only were there several highly credible military witnesses [the helicopter crew] but there were completely independent ground witnesses. The crew were in plain sight to be interviewed [Jennie of course did and did so in a meticulous time and location blow-by-blow way], but those ground witnesses had to be found. Jennie found them. She even found secondary witnesses [unusual experiences of bright light in a bedroom]. But the Crown Jewel was an entire family who watched the overhead encounter from their vehicle. This case, thanks to this spectacular investigating effort, has credibility beyond doubting, and the testimony of the crew puts the strangeness out of sight as well. Philip Klass used to regularly try to, well the only way to say it is, "make things up" in an attempt to destroy what he immediately sensed was a threat to everything he'd staked his weird "career" upon. Jennie, one of the toughest ladies I know, massacred him. She even got a concession out of him once --- something almost impossible out of such an intellectually dishonest and egocentric liar as Klass.
John Timmerman. One of the greatest guys I've ever met in UFOlogy. CUFOS' treasurer for ever it seemed [although that was hardly where his skill lay, as John used to drive us all crazy, particularly Mark Rodeghier, with his quarterly reports]. John's skill was himself --- natural, friendly John. He was and forever will be, the finest "ambassador" for the Center we had.
But John's other contribution to UFOlogy will be better known. John The Ambassador used to go all over North America shepherding the CUFOS photo exhibit in a warrior effort to gain enough money in fees to keep the Center going. Looking at the face in the photo above, you can see why, when at the display, people would come up to John not only to ask questions and "talk UFOs", but to tell him their own "secret" UFO incidents which they'd told almost no one else. John, the forever Little Kid in the UFO Candy Store, taped them all.
I don't remember the number of tape recorded cases off the top of my head but it was over a thousand. Some heroic lady who helped John with his "hobby" did the unthinkable task of listening to all those tapes and transcribing them to hardcopy. Wow. Where are the award shows for invisible heroes? John didn't trust himself with writing this mountain of things up. He lacked a plan to do it, and so my old friend came to me and said: Mike, can you take these cases and try to get them into some useable form? I love cases, and I love "natural" spontaneously narrated ones. And frankly, I loved John for all he'd done and all he was. I told him I'd give it a try. Out of that, and at least two years of work, came GRASSROOTS UFOS. Another heroic lady took all my scribbled chapters and turned them into print. Maybe it's not the most profound UFO book on the shelf, but it's a good "pure everyday folks" book, and, best, it's John's book. It made him so happy. And it was an honor to do it for him.
Mark Rodeghier. Mark is currently Director of CUFOS, as Allen's successor. As a young graduate student, Mark so impressed Hynek that Allen specifically named him to take over the CUFOS reins years later when Allen retired to Arizona. This wasn't a smooth transition as there were two other claimants, but Thank The Maker that this is the route it went. What CUFOS got was a director who was eminently sensible about organizational survival [against terrible cultural-change odds] and an idealist about information accuracy and collegial sharing as well.
Another thing that CUFOS got with Mark was a brilliant analytical mind. Mark is one of the clearest thinking academic-quality intelligences that I've encountered in my career, in a class with Henry Bauer and my good Western Michigan University partner David Hargreave. That my friends, even though you can't realize it, puts one in some very rare air indeed. But in terms of writing, unless one has kept up with CUFOS' magazine, IUR, over the years, the outside world won't know him. His must-have monograph on vehicle interference cases is pictured here. In terms of your UFO shelf resources, that's about it. The tragedy of this is that Mark has WAY more than that in him. So why don't we have it in our hands? Mark is the consummate "servant leader" and organizational loyalist. He has spent the majority of his UFO life in administrational service keeping CUFOS going, while shlepps like myself spend their time writing articles, books, and happily digging into all manner of interesting archives. Mark is another kind of hero, not enough recognized by the field, nor the public. He's also a good friend. There is little that I hope for more in this field than he can dump unnecessary duties and take a deep clear breath and chase some saucers in the files and write about them.
George Eberhart. George is my favorite pagan, although I'm pretty convinced that he doesn't know a thing about it. He is also the most mind-boggling bibliographer on the planet. When I look at his Geo-Bibliography of Anomalies [you need to do yourself a favor and try to get one --- a difficult task, by the way], or his colossal two volume bibliography on UFO literature resources [also essential for a real research UFOlogist], or his cryptozoology bibliography Monsters, or his cryptozoology encyclopedia, beside which all others pale nearly to insignificance, you come away with either a headache at the work involved, or consider some Menzelian hypothesis that this just can't be true. George Eberhart IS The Bibliographer.
He has also been CUFOS' secretary for countless years. In this capacity the thing that has impressed me most has been his editing of the International UFO Reporter magazine. I try NOT to judge George as Obsessive-Compulsive, but how-in-the-heck can I elsewise explain his astounding ability to get it just exactly right before it hits the printers? Just remarkable. Doubtless he's made a whole number of mistakes in his life as a librarian and editor, but his accuracy rate must be in the 99+% category.
Being around high-standards people like George and Mark cannot but improve everything about ones own products, and such has been the case for me. And George has been a good friend. Once I had, by accident entirely, acquired a copy of Abominable Snowman: A Legend Come To Life signed by Ivan Sanderson. I insisted on giving it to George, who as the cryptozoology expert obviously was the proper person to cherish it. Over his objections, he finally accepted it. As years have gone by, I owe my rare copy of the geo-bib, and his crypto-encyclopedia, to his generosity. Bread cast on the Waters comes back one hundred-fold, particularly when you're talking about great guys.
Jerry has been "hanging around the Center" from Time Immemorial, back in the 1970s [literally in Chicago while he was writing for FATE] and still at-a-distance today from the wilds of southwestern Minnesota [where you have to be tough to just get through the winters.] Jerry was with Mark and George the Triumvirate of young turks who took over the Center from Allen and kept it going in the 1980s and 90s. He was the primary content editor of IUR, and primary article recruiter for many years [thank Jerry for regular articles by Jenny Randles, Budd Hopkins, Bill Chalker and the like]. Sometimes, in thin months, he'd write half of it himself. But that is not what the outside world knows him for.
Jerry wrote THE Encyclopedia. A lot of that is, of course, pure Jerry, but an important element were the CUFOS files. I'd go through those files at later dates and they'd already have Jerry's fingerprints all over them. One cannot overvalue this encyclopedia. It shames the other attempts that have been made to write one. [as fine an effort as those are]. If you are truly interested in UFOs, you really need to get one. University libraries know this. It is a staple of academic reference collections. Why? Because it's "smart" and accurate. It's also well-written, a Clark trademark.
If anyone does not know, and for this blog's readers this is hardly imaginable, Jerry is a writer for a living. He has written volume after volume about the array of anomalous mysteries that are out there. Other such writers exist. The difference here is that none of them are consistently any good. Do yourself a favor; start with Jerry and expand from there. For me and my buddies at CUFOS, Jerry's works are, in part, more of the ripples from Allen's stone thrown into the intellectual pond.
Don Schmitt. Every time I see Don I smile. Can't help it; I just automatically like him. But there is a lot more to Don Schmitt that just being a likable personality, and a lot more that UFOlogy owes him.
Without Don there would be no respectable Roswell debate. Yes, Bill Moore and Stanton Friedman were fortunately positioned to "break" the case through the all-important early interview with Jesse Marcel. but because of the successful troll of Moore by the MJ-12 document inventor, Roswell was going into a stagnation mode, which is every complex situation's death knell. Don got Kevin fired up and the two of them went to New Mexico in search of reasons why this case was bogus. I know for certain that this highly skeptical mindset was real. What they found swung them completely around.
More than one hundred interviewed witnesses later, Don and Kevin have established that the USAF handling of the public information clearly was manipulative and contained lies [regardless of what you think Roswell was; the USAF finally was forced to admit that the conventional weather balloon seen in Ramey's office could not have been the real debris], and that a bunch of VERY puzzling "stuff" was littered all over a field on the Foster Ranch. Since descriptions of that "stuff" place it beyond the known metallurgy of the time [well beyond] we have a "problem" explaining this. Don and Kevin did the most lengthy and intense [and intelligent] investigation of a UFO claim in history. I know of nothing else which even comes close. People are free to doubt, but they should not be free to doubt without reading the saga of Don and Kevin's work. The books have flaws --- inevitable, hoaxers were embedded within this and difficult to expose. Today the best "quick read" on Roswell is Don and Tom Carey's monograph published, I believe, by the Roswell Museum. Roswell is, by far, not the only thing Don's done for UFOlogy, but it's what the world will remember him for. Good solid researcher, and a good friend.
Eddie Bullard. Doctor Thomas Edward Bullard is a PhD folklorist "so what can HE know?" Hah!! A very great deal about UFOs and everything associated with them, it turns out.
I can't tell as well for Eddie as I can for the persons above how much he may have been influenced by the "ripples" of Hynek's UFO life, but I can at least say this: Eddie has a tough-minded way of analyzing things which doesn't cave in easily to hypotheses which are short on facts. In fact, his writings very often leave you with very little in the way of speculation at all. In this mental approach, he fits well with the CUFOS crew and with the idealistic scientific approach of Allen Hynek. Eddie has been on the CUFOS board for several years now, and so there has been ample time for us to have polluted his thinking processes.
Exactly what influences Allen or we played in a masterpiece like The Myth and Mystery of UFOs only he can say. Must have been SOME little influence there though. My interactions with Eddie have always been interesting. I've asked him about what an advanced folklorist thinks about Jacques Vallee's claim of a strong correspondence of UFO incidents and Faerie legends, and Eddie tells me that the correlation at least as stated is pretty weak [for a variety of substantive and narrative-style-and-purpose reasons --- a view in which I concur for the very large majority of UFO observations]. I've asked him about his monumental analysis of CE4 researcher findings in which quite a bit of correlation was found, and specifically about whether he trusted the "clean-ness" of the hypnotic sessions data that he had to work with. He said that he gave the data that he had an absolutely honest extraction and analysis, but, yes, whether it was "good" unpolluted data bothered him. The Good Doctor Bullard is an honest man.
I'd like to say a little about UFO history. Allen Hynek WAS UFO history. So was another contemporary of ours, Dick Hall. Most of us are standing on the shoulders of these guys contributing what we can.
Because people such as Hynek and Hall were scrambling about making history, no one in those earlier years was interested [particularly] in researching UFO history. The Air Force was an opponent, not a subject matter. Those stellar fellows did what they had to do, but, in a paradox, by missing "history" they missed the strongest possible argument defending their work as reasonable and worthwhile. It is because no matter what a Hynek or a Hall would write or say, you didn't have to believe him. UFO cases, no matter how strong, would come and go, and nothing was ever established. No "field of study" existed because it had no undebatable foundation. Hynek tried the academic scientist's approach with his textbook, but that still stood only on the "who says so?" nature of all his cases. What UFOlogy needed to become an actual "...ology" was an undeniable base.
This direction began at CUFOS because of Roswell. Don and Kevin were literally all over the country interviewing folks and finding that something happened on the Foster Ranch and nailed that down. But what happened then? Small evidences pointed to Wright-Patterson and the Pentagon. I tried to help a little by reading the whole Blue Book microfilm and picking out the key names. We found the widows of Colonels McCoy and Clingerman and our hunt to understand T-2 Intelligence was on. Barry Greenwood and other heavy lifters like Jan Aldrich and Robert Todd began the flow of FOIAs. Data got richer, deeper. Wendy Conners and Michael Hall got excited and began their hunts into all this as well. Slowly it became clear [to me anyway] that this prying open the "inside story" was the ONLY way that a definitive defense of the UFO phenomenon's importance could be made [short of ongoing interstellar relations in public]. I felt that somebody was going to have to take this mammoth writing task up or we, as a field, had no chance of getting there. Unfortunately I was the guy who got stuck with most of that job.... and "The Book" is the result.
I have no idea whether the book will make any difference. It should, but the mass of mental pollution over six decades might be too much to overcome. Still, Robert Powell and the gang and I did it. It stands there like a non-debatable stone because it is not we who say the things within, but the exact people who wanted us to believe otherwise. Whatever the impact, I know one thing. Allen Hynek would have smiled.
Lots of stuff has gone on in that cramped little office space that we were able to barely afford when the Center existed as a physical address. Look at that picture above top: Jennie Zeidman, Don Johnson [who developed UFOCAT], Mark Rodeghier, David Pritchard [of MIT], Stuart Appelle, and myself just for fun. Stuff happened when such people got together. Good mental stuff. Allen's ghost probably listened in.
The bottom photo is of the library with, incidentally, Frank Reid. Frank is one of the most interesting persons that almost no one in UFOlogy knows. Heckuva lot more interesting than the library books. Hard to call him a "ripple" of anything, but he was not just a regular at CUFOS meetings, but nearly a resident --- I often stepped over his snoring body when I'd arrive for one of my very frequent visits to the Center [I'm not mocking; I had a bedroll there myself!]. Frank is a cluttered, noisy mind which somehow manages to boil up the most esoteric memories. Thankfully they are often germane to the issue being discussed. NOBODY has read more anomalistic paper than Frank Reid. NOBODY. Every once in a while, using his inscrutable and Taoist-style reasoning processes, Frank will come up with an idea and send it to me. If I think that it's good, I'll tell him and then wait --- after a little delay, I'll go into the ones I think are good myself. Sometimes these end up being pretty interesting IUR pieces. Frank Reid has been a good fellow to know and in our strange ways a good friend. One of the worst aspects of us closing the physical Center was that I no longer see Frank [though we hear from him occasionally on this blog].
The very strong intellectual ripples left behind by Allen Hynek at CUFOS still have some "punch" in the world. When Peter Jennings' group wanted to do their big UFO special, they came to CUFOS --- not just for people to be on screen, but for a lot of advice on the subject matter and the history and the illustrations. I had an in-house filming visit and at least three other contacts. When Peter Sturrock wanted to organize the famous Sturrock-Rockefeller meeting, Peter came to CUFOS beforehand too for discussions about topics and personnel [and to bend Mark's and my arms to attend]. When the Sturrock volume was printed the lengthiest thing in it was Jennie Zeidman's Coyne Case.
Allen would have liked all that, too.
Somewhere the Old Man's smiling.
Glad I had a part in that.
Peace to all, and as Allen would say imitating CE3: Watch The Skies.
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- A Different Perspective
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