Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Flying Saucer Review Volume 9, Jan-Jun 1963: Nadir?

Many people feel that by 1963 the UFO desert was beginning to get some rain on its way to the explosion of life it exhibited in the mid-sixties. You can't tell it by my own files. 1963 is the low point for case numbers for me [down to about a quarter of a typical strong year.] The first three issues of FSR in 1963 simply reinforce that. FSR was, like the rest of the field, trying to grasp for direction--not so easy anymore as much of the low-hanging fruit of wild speculation was seen by most followers as rotting right on the tree. As long as Girvan was in charge, FSR would never give up on Adamski, but FSR was sounding more and more like they had given up on almost all the rest of the contactees. Without the contactees to tell us what the spacetravelers were all about, we were left on our own. Of course most sensible UFO scholars already knew that. People like Michel and Vallee, even looser thinkers like Fontes and Ribera, were trying to find a path in mathematical approaches. NICAP,APRO, the slowly-evolving Hynek, and non-US researchers like Gosta Rehn in Sweden and David Wightman [ the editor of Uranus] in England, felt that the amassing of piles of individually-strong cases was still the way [and so good case investigation was paramount]. 1963'FSR showed awareness of some of all of that.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A somewhat novel presentation of a clever theory was presented by Austrian scholar, Luis Schoenherr. This was the speculation that UFOnauts were travelers from the future. Many times this idea has been presented as the UFOnauts being non-terrestrials, but, by itself, this concept is redundant. [If all they are is ET, then why bring in a time dimension? They can come here via super-tech and show off their stuff whether time is involved or not.] The interest in the theory is when one considers that "they" are "us" from the future. There are all sorts of problems with this, which in my mind are insurmountable, but the idea does lend itself to a few interesting "solutions" to elements in the UFO phenomenon. The most important of these for early time-travel speculators was that they felt that this got around the "problem" [theirs not mine] of the UFOnauts looking too much like us. Well, right, it would get around that element, if one thought it was a problem. [readers of this blog have read how I deal with this from earlier material]. Other early thinkers felt that this might solve the problem of how to get here from there, as there was no "there" but "just" a slip of time away. Obviously this is replacing one partially-understandable engineering problem with a completely non-understood one. The issue called forth comment in the journal from the soon-to-be greatest editor of FSR, Charles Bowen. This was his first coming-out-of-the-shadows on UFOs. Bowen speculated that the reason that we were seeing Aime Michel's Orthoteny [straight] lines of UFO exploration was that in order to time-travel the UFOs could only use certain physical routes. Bowen went on to say that the minimalist true communication by UFOnauts was to avoid "changing the future" by imparting usable information. [his variation of the "grandfather paradox"]. He worried that the non-loving nature of "recent" Italian encounters indicated that bad aliens may have conquered our descendants. With all due respect to a man who became a useful facilitator of the distribution of UFOlogical knowledge, each one of these concepts is, in its own way preposterous. [Orthoteny because it seems NOT to be defendable at final glance; non-interaction because there is plenty of interaction; and future conquerors of Earth because all UFO cases are hardly hostile, and the majority {think Father Gill} are neutral to mildly friendly]. Bowen's article is interesting because he rarely spoke out like such an uncontrolled wild idea flinger in later days. ------------- Schoenherr's views were more measured. He was concerned with why the UFOnauts looked humanoid and why they seemed so well adapted to Earth environment, but he added to that the high-strangeness phenomena of instant appearance and disappearance. Schoenherr, following in the footsteps of Edwin Abbott's Flatland concepts, described the UFOs as "four-dimensional objects" [I believe in the sense that they moved through three dimensional space "orthogonally" in time] and would suddenly manifest when entering our Now, and "dematerialize" [to our eyes] when they passed by our Now. Schoenherr's ideas were always more sensible about this than most other speculators, and Luis and I corresponded about them after I had written a piece about how the commonly described "grays" had all the gross characteristics of a neotenously-shifted human form--a shift which might have been engineered as a future form of ourselves. I also wrote a follow-up piece on the varieties of hypotheses about time travel. [The abductions people absolutely hated this, by the way]. Although I don't think that the time travel hypothesis is even possible when one weighs out all the intellectual bits, I felt that it deserved at least a clear presentation and so wrote the papers. Very few mainstream UFOlogists include the Time Traveler speculation as part of their thinking [and none as far as I know have even read and understood the Neoteny concept], but you will still see the idea pop up for a casual throw-out hypothesis now and then. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The first half of 1963 saw Aime Michel write of what was, apparently, the most impressive thing about his Orthoteny work to him. This was, as everyone always emphasizes, the BAVIC line [the line of sightings stretching from Bayonne to Vichy. {it is the blue line on the accompanying map.} BAVIC was felt by orthoteny supporters to be the foundationstone line, as it had several points of incidents in a fairly impressive linearity and time constriction. But there was more to it than that. Michel was concentrating his research on that one line [while people such as Vallee looked for larger and ultimately global patterns], and had as a colleague an astronomer [not, in this case, Vallee]. Michel had a "loose" case in his records, the town of which was so small that he couldn't locate it on any normal scale map. But its timing seemed to make it a candidate for the BAVIC line. His astronomer friend was the one to say to him: if we're going to find Vauriat, we'll find it on BAVIC. With a very detailed map, the astronomer lined up BAVIC and began tracing down from Vichy. Coming to a railway line [a clue to the case] they looked a small way further and the line went directly through a small village--Vauriat. This is the sort of experience that, rightly or wrongly, powerfully imprints upon our minds. It would be difficult for Michel to believe that there was nothing to orthoteny after that. Well, maybe I'll go along with him in just this instance. Maybe we've had occasional straight-line UFO displays on our planet. The larger claims elude me. I am sure that if we mapped all the UFO occurrences with an ink dot, the map, on almost any scale, would be black. So such alleged orthotenies must be defended by other criteria than that we can draw some straight lines through points. At a minimum they need to be a) date-restricted, b) location-restricted, and c) actually predict something. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This was the time period when the young and naive Carl Sagan made what I call "Sagan's Error". FSR blared: "SPACE BEINGS HAVE VISITED EARTH: U.S.A. astronomer's belief". [NICAP's UFO Investigator had just published this and FSR handed it on]. Reporting on Sagan's address to the American Rocket Society, Sagan was quoted as believing that highly advanced extraterrestrials flooded the universe and have been around "out there" for a very long time. Worse, "The Earth may have been visited many times by various galactic civilizations and a base may be maintained for such visits. The hidden side of the Moon, he said, would be a reasonable location." Unfortunately our boy Carl didn't realize that he was living in an unreasonable micro-culture. Sagan paid for these remarks for a very long time [you will remember that I wrote a little about this earlier in a post]. This "payment" was plenty enough to turn him to the most dangerous public debunker of UFOs in the world. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------What follows is a set of remarks which have a spiritual rather than anomalistic/UFOlogical intent. Skip on by this if such subjects irritate you--but it is my blog so I'm motivated to say something which is vaguely related to this. ------- I was told some of the story of Sagan's plight after his blunders by his boss at Cornell, Yervant Terzian. Terzian at the time was vice president of the open-minded Society for Scientific Exploration. He was very mismatched with the organization and probably only was there because he was a good friend of Peter Sturrock [one of the really good guys in the anomalies business and a preternaturally good diplomat]. Terzian himself though seemed to be ultra-right conservative establishment and believed, as far as I could tell, in nothing that you could not hit him in the face with. [he ultimately went back to Cornell, gave a horribly biased interview on UFOS {mocking them}, and finally resigned from his office in SSE]. At one meeting Terzian told me of how "Carl has made some mistakes" and has had to do a lot of work to repair his standing as a "rational" member of the scientific tribe [these last are my way of phrasing it not Terzian's]. Because the topic was of interest, I spent some time at a dinner table with him and others. Perhaps it was the wine, but he became melancholy. Someone, a female member, asked him how he felt his life was going, or some such deep question, and he said, with no joy or humor, that it was hard, as one approached ones latter years and realized that in the end nothing really mattered [i.e. that the universe was meaningless and so, thereby, in the big picture, was ones own life]. I'd heard a scientist [who also believed in nothing] speak this frankly once before, but the experience was no less chilling [and pathetic]. Terzian had given a review paper talk on the nature of Time at this symposium [Peter diplomatically awarded an unofficial "prize" for best paper to his non-believing friend] but even Terzian looked like he was embarrassed. The paper was competent, hyper-conservative, and frankly stunk. It offered no imagination, no soaring vision of the possible, no attempt to relate to anything that SSE was about. I asked him a question about a prominent physicist's concept of a black hole-assisted bending of space so as possibly to allow movement in the temporal direction, and he snickered it away with: "he's just fooling around". But he was being true to his nature of believing in nothing. Walking up a San Francisco street to a good Chinese restaurant, I asked him about Michael Papagiannis' ideas about solar system SETI. His disrespectful [of Papagiannis] remark was emotional ["what's he ever accomplished!!"]. Wow. I will tell you one thing which Michael Papagiannis accomplished: as he moved towards retirement, he began to take regular time off to visit a local [to Boston] monastery. He would sit in the garden and meditate on God's creation and the "other side" of reality: the Spiritual. He would meet a religious friend from the monastery and they would walk and discuss the larger world. Michael Papagiannis smiled when he thought of the universe. Yervant Terzian did not. Michael Papagiannis was, we know, engaged in the Big Study. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Well, back to a smaller topic: UFOs. A few cases from these numbers, just to appease your hunger for strangeness: FSR was running several articles on Italian cases. They reached back to 1950 and the Abbiate Guazzone incident of Bruno Facchini. Some people like this case even today, but I'll plead too much personal ignorance and just give you FSRs description. At about 10pm Facchini was returning home after a big storm. He is on foot. There seemed to be a "sputtering of sparks" in his field. Thinking it was storm phenomena of some kind, he went to investigate. Instead he sees a dark mass hanging in the air. He approaches. The thing is round and has a hatchway descending from it. A humanoid seemed to be engaged in something like welding on the side of the machine. It had a tight fitting overall and a helmet. Three other similarly suited humanoids then came walking around the object. Facchini, now right up to the craft, asked if he could do anything to help [obviously thinking that this was some kind of repair on a piece of military technology.] The humanoid's guttural reply startled him and he stumbled into a jet of compressed air which knocked him down. All the humanoids entered the craft and it rose rapidly and disappeared into the blackness of the night. ------- that is how FSR reported things from one reporter, but the story had more. The witness told others that he panicked and began to run, and was knocked down by a lightbeam from an object aimed at him by one of the occupants. He also said that he returned to the spot with police and found a set of four indentations in a six-foot square pattern and a circular burned area. Some metal fragments were found at the site, taken by the police, and sent to a university for analysis [an analysis of which I can find no report. That's Facchini and a metal fragment in the picture above]. Bowen apparently knew of the rest of this incident's details, as he mentioned these Italian cases as showing hostility in his time-travel article. Well, it's your call.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------OK, here's another: January 1963 in the evening, Durban, South Africa. Four adults were enjoying a night at the beach when they saw lights coming from the east. The lights were like large bright stars and flying in formation. The formations were columns formed into squares, one much larger than the other [think of a square of 6x6 lights followed by one of 4x4---we don't have the exact numbers as the things wowed the witnesses and flew fast]. When they seemed to reach a central point over the bay, they turned and flew away towards the south. The soundless swerving course change stunned everyone.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Last one: really Out Proctor now. A mother and her two grown children [ages 25 and 20] observed a silvery disk zig-zagging in the sky prior to retiring for bed that evening. At 3am the daughter was awakened by her room suddenly becoming extremely cold. A green light came through her window. Through the open window she saw a being which seemed transparent and fuzzily becoming corporeal. It was inside the room; big and bald and menacing. She screamed. Her mother woke and saw the thing and promptly fainted, falling on the floor. Her brother rushed into the room, saw the thing bathed in greenish light, but now dimming, fading, getting smaller and passing out of the window. Its last moment of existence was a tiny flash of light like a TV set going out. This unnerved everyone and they moved out of town. Doubtless property values fell all over Verona, Italy. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Waveney Girvan [not the guy in the picture] said something in one of his editorials that is so simply profound that it's pure Mountain William. Referring to a skeptic who "debunked" a photo case, Girvan said this: when a skeptic throws a dustbin lid into the air and photographs it, what he proves is that dustbin lids can be thrown into the air and photographed. This is a possibility which we would have thought needed no demonstration. ------ Ha! And right on, Mr. Girvan.


  1. Hello Professor, and thank you again for another great article.

    Didn't Dr. Sagan say not only that the Universe is full of life forms, but also something like: "I believe they are a hell-of-a-lot smarter than we are, but a hell-of-a-lot uglier"?

    I think it was in regards to the NASA study. I remember it was in black, and white, but don't remember the year.

  2. To Bob, I don't know if Sagan phrased it that way but those are his exact beliefs. Many people don't know that Sagan had a biology background along with his astronomy and was trained in genetics. He thereby became caught in the paranoid extreme Darwinist school [a la Simpson, Gould et al] who were so afraid of seeing anything which smelled of "Design" in the world that they rejected any serious thoughts of convergent evolution [even though you can have all the convergence in biological form that you want based on natural laws.] Because of that, he like Simpson and Gould [and certain UFOlogists] rejected the ETH as far as UFOs were concerned, since "they" couldn't possibly be humanoid. All [well, 99.99%] of CE3s were therefore mental aberrations of some kind [deliberate or hallucinatory]. Because "they" had to be radically, even unrecognizably, different from us, any similarity even in technology would smack of our own imaginations. All of this speculation about extraterrestrial biological evolution is, of course, not provable one way or the other until we get up-close-and-personal evidence of a scientific nature, but modern biology points very strongly towards convergence of forms and away from the Simpson/Gould school of variation-at-all-costs. Ugly they may turn out to be, but it will be a recognizable ugly. And, "ugly" is in the eye of the beholder anyway. I'm sure that their Moms think they're cute.

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