Tuesday, November 05, 2019
Media Update and the "UFOs in Canada Archive"
I was approached some time ago by an archivist who asked what I was eventually going to do with my huge collection of UFO reports, government documents, books and other paraphernalia.
I replied that I had no idea. I mean, who would want this stuff?
As it turns out, many people.
The Archives for UFO Research (AFU) in Sweden has been collecting UFO docs and publications for many years. In fact, they were the first to ask for copies of my Swamp Gas Journal when I started publishing it several decades ago.
Arthur Bray's UFO library and collection were donated to the University of Ottawa many years ago, and his UFO fonds is a treasure chest of material. His collection includes a lot of material on Wilbert Smith, for example, a mainstay of Canadian UFO lore.
UFO archives are stored here and there, and are invaluable to researchers pursuing studies in the field. Also, it is important to preserve this information, as it constitutes a significant aspect of cultural history that is often ignored but is gradually gaining recognition and importance.
I began working with Shelley Sweeney in the archives on this almost a year ago. It's taken me a while to figure out what can and can't be moved into an archive, how many bins it will take, making sure the documents are all there, etc.
(NB: As I was going through all the files, for some reason, I couldn't find my box of UFO reports from 1995 or 2013. I looked everywhere. All the other years were where they should have been. I have moved a few times during the past 40 years, so I was worried they might have been lost. Fortunately, I did find them, but only after I tore apart that corner of the basement.)
The archives was particularly interested in the Falcon Lake case files, as the case is uniquely Manitoban and Canadian, and involves a story that is part of local history and lore. It seemed to make perfect sense that the files should be preserved and made available to serious researchers.
Lovecraft the cat was very curious about the bins of Falcon Lake documents
So I began working with the archives and the Michalak family to develop a fonds, and it was their idea to announce its creation at a public event. Over the past year, I have shipped about 20 bins of material to archives, with much more to go. It may take years to collect and get everything over there, and as long again for them to catalogue it all.
(Also, they were most interested in being able to digitize the fonds, which can be quite expensive. They suggested creating a crowdfunding project to do this, estimating it would take about $20,000 to start the ball rolling. The ask has now has been made, and you can contribute to this effort.)
Recently, there was some media attention regarding the Stanton Friedman Fonds at the New Brunswick Provincial Archives. I had the good fortune to visit Stan at his home while he was alive, and he gave me a glimpse of his collection. I know better than most how big of a project its preservation will be! It's been described as the largest in the world, and while some dispute that, it is certainly quite large. My own photo (below) from visiting him in his home was used in stories about his files.
The good news is that my own collection is a bit better organized, and nowhere near as large. I have records on more than 20,000 Canadian UFO reports filed since 1989, when I began the annual Canadian UFO Survey. Among those are government and official UFO documents that are not part of the 9,000 that have been made available by Libraries and Archives Canada, so I including those, there may be more than 10,000 official UFO reports and documents in my collection that will donated as well. In addition, I have many boxes and bins of publications and papers on UFOs and related phenomena, such as a few linear feet of my research on geophysical UFOs, several feet of abduction case files (that may be withheld), original manuscripts of my 10 books and accompanying notes, historical UFO files, my files on other heteroclitic Fortean phenomena such as Sasquatch reports, lake monster cases, ghosts, Manitoba hauntings, and general weirdness.
Not to mention my library of books and zines on UFOs and related phenomena.
And now, the event is almost upon me.
It's coincided with a bunch of media appearances and published interviews, with more to come in the next few days.
It's a bittersweet time, with a "piece of myself" being shared with others, and the beginning of a new chapter in my life and passion for knowledge about the world in which I live.
Friday, September 20, 2019
UFO = UAP = TOPA = ?
What the heck are are UAPs?
If you've been living under a rock, you may have missed the news that the US Navy has admitted some unidentified objects buzz its planes and ships from time to time.
(e.g. CNN's version of the story)
Specifically, a Navy spokesman has said that the UFO videos in wide circulation do in fact show objects that they are calling UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena).
This admission was given largely because of the badgering efforts by John Greenewald of The Black Vault. He was able to get a response that the videos were not released by the Navy, as originally claimed.
This is pretty significant, as the Navy spokesman noted the videos were being shared freely by Navy personnel using shipboard computers.
“With respect to the 2004 sighting by aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68); that video was widely shared throughout the ship at that time. In 2007, one of those crewmembers posted the video onto the public web,” said Joseph Gradisher, official spokesperson for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare. “In 2009, the online post of the video came to the attention of Navy officials,” he continued.
And Gradisher stated that the circumstances of the videos' release was being investigated by the Navy.
And rightly so. Someone on board gave the video file to a UFO discussion forum three years later, as it showed up in 2007 on a German production company website then reposted to Above Top Secret.
That's actually a big deal. Loose lips sink ships. Or in this case, loose video clips. The Navy is tracking down the culprit.
But Gradisher was able to clarify one important detail: why didn't they call the objects in the video UFOs?
“The wide proliferation and availability of inexpensive unmanned aerial systems (UAS) isn’t contradictory, it’s just when the UAS is *NOT* immediately identifiable we refer to it as UAP. A quadcopter is immediately identifiable. As we have previously acknowledged, the number of incursions into our ranges has increased with that wide proliferation and availability of inexpensive UAS. Additionally, we use the generic UAP term in communications so as not to pre-judge the results of any investigation.
“Any range incursion by unauthorized craft affects the safety of our aviators and/or the security of our operations. Our revised reporting guidance solicits reports of any unauthorized craft (UAP or UAS) observed within our ranges so that we may investigate that range incursion. Incursions/sightings since 2014 may be referred to as either UAS or UAP, depending on the circumstances surrounding the specific incident in question.”
You see, in the 1950s, the term used for such objects was simply "flying saucer." But the US Air Force decided that the phrase was too loaded with an assumption of aliens that it adopted the more objective term UFO.
However, over the years, even UFO has come to mean aliens in common parlance, so there have been attempts to steer things away from an extraterrestrial assumption.
One good try was "Transient Optical Phenomena of the Atmosphere" (TOPA), but it was largely ignored.
Later, we started getting into the whole UAP, UAO, and UEX ideas. And it seems UAP stuck.
So while most media and most UFO buffs are going on about the US Navy admitting "UFOs are real!"... the reality is that the Navy stated no such thing. The Navy said the UFO videos were actual videos taken by Navy technology, but that the objects were not explained at the time.
There's a significant distinction here that is lost on most people.
“the ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena’ (UAP) terminology is used because it provides the basic descriptor for the sightings/observations of unauthorized/unidentified aircraft/objects that have been observed entering/operating in the airspace of various military-controlled training ranges.”
This can be best illustrated with more recent cases that are part of the Canadian UFO Survey.
A recent case noted in official files:
Date: 2019-09-19 Description: A Pilatus PC-12/47 [flying from] Eléonore (CEL8), QC, to Val-d'Or (CYVO), QC, reported receiving a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory (TCAS RA) when it was 5 NM N of CYVO. Altitude unknown and traffic not in sight. No known traffic.That's a UAP.
It's not a flying saucer, but it is, by definition within ufology, an unidentified flying object (UFO). In this case, a UAP was detected on radar but not seen visually, and the control tower at the airports did not have any planes in the area.
Was it a UFO? Sure.
Was it an alien craft? Unlikely, but hey, you tell me.
Thursday, August 29, 2019
The Marshall County 2019 UFO Festival
The Marshall County UFO Fest
On Tuesday, August 27, 2019, I was an invited speaker at the Marshall County Historical Society’s 40th Anniversary Celebration of the Marshall County UFO Incident. The case is better known as the Val Johnson UFO encounter of August 27, 1979.
The society described the case as “The Most Famous UFO Sighting in Minnesota,” and they are probably right on that point.
I had been one of the original civilian investigators back in the day, traveling there with Guy Westcott who had arrived there shortly after Allan Hendry of CUFOS did his first examination of the site and the car.
When I organized the first national Canadian scientific conference on ufology in 1980, I had invited Val Johnson to be a guest, and he brought with him his colleagues Deputy Sheriffs Greg Winskowski and Everett Doolittle. (I even found some audio from the discussion with Johnson.)
Sherlyn Meiers is the director of the society and runs the museum, and she organized the event. Meiers was nervous about the event, not knowing if the turnout would be poor on a weekday evening in a small town some distance away from the nearest city (Grand Forks).
The museum is in the small town of Warren, Minnesota, and I have to admit, the residents did their best to support the festival, with some stores offering discounts in honour of "UFO Day."
The event had received considerable pre-publicity, with stories in local newspapers and TV stations running the week before:
Meiers’ fears were unfounded, but her anxiety shifted considerably when more than 300 people showed up to cram the museum seating area, and it was standing room only.
The “UFO car” was on prominent display against a starry backdrop and displays of other UFO cases pulled from NUFORC and other sources. There was a binder full of press clippings and stories, including my issue of the Swamp Gas Journal in which I described the case in detail.
(NB: I tried to record the entire event on video, but the camera battery died, so I have only the first two-thirds or so, as a continuous stream here. Thanks for your help and expertise, Donna!)
The event began with a welcome by Warren Mayor Mara Hanel, who declared August 27, 2019, "UFO Day." (And then she told some really classic "Dad" jokes about UFOs and aliens.)
That was followed by the Spaced Out Costume Contest, which drew only a handful of cosplayers. (But hey, it’s small-town Minnesota.)
Up next was the performance of The Marshall County Incident, an original song by recording artists The Jensen Sisters. Before singing, they talked a bit about why they composed the song and how the stories they heard growing up influenced their songwriting.
The Jensen Sisters
Then five actors did a live re-enactment of the incident based on audio transcripts and other materials, titled “What Happened?”
This was followed by a short talk by Peter Bauer, who was the dispatcher on duty the night of the incident in 1979.
I spoke next, describing what I had seen at the site in 1979 and what impression I had of the car and of Val himself. I talked a bit about the possibility of traveling between the stars and how advances in technology make it seem reasonable that aliens could in theory visit Earth. I was told to keep my comments under 15 minutes because there were several other presentations after mine.
After me, three men from Minnesota MUFON in Minneapolis took turns reading case reports from MUFON files, mostly from northern Minnesota but several from the Twin Cities. Michael Harris started by showing some slides of what the MUFON web pages looked like, but it was hard to make them out beyond the first few rows. Dean DeHarpporte followed, talking about some cases he had investigated, and then Bill McNeff, former Minnesota MUFON director, gave a more approachable presentation about some more MUFON reports. It was interesting to hear their views.
All in all, the “UFO Festival” was a fine celebration. It attracted a lot of people, and I was honoured to have been a part of it.
I commend Sherlyn and her team for coordinating and staging the event. I’m sure it was a lot of work but it certainly drew attention to a little known slice of Minnesota history.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Manitoba Seminar on Ufology, 1981
The Manitoba Seminar on Ufology in 1981
Following the success of the Manitoba Conference on Ufology in 1980, during which UFO witness Val Johnson and other investigating policemen attended to talk about the Marshall County CE2 case of August 27, 1979, it was decided to hold a second national Canadian UFO conference.
So, on May 16, 1981, the Manitoba Seminar on Ufology was held in Winnipeg, with eight invited guests from across Canada, representing active UFO investigation and research, and local academics from various fields.
The title of the meeting was: Science and UFOs.
In advance of the meeting, a list of ten questions was proposed as a way to facilitate dialogue. The questions were:
- Should scientists study UFO reports?
- What proof is needed for the existence of UFOs?
- Will this proof ever come?
- Are UFOs physical or psychological?
- What discipline is best suited to study UFOs?
- Is it likely that extraterrestrial life exists?
- Could extraterrestrial spacecraft be detected by conventional detection systems?
- What natural phenomena could explain UFOs?
- Should the public be better educated about UFOs?
- Is there value in UFO research?
Invited participants were:
Dave Haisell, UFO investigator and researcher
Guy Westcott, UFOROM
Vladimir Simosko, UFOROM advisor
Dr. Martin Clutton-Brock, astrophysicist
Dr. Richard Gordon, biologist
John Brent Musgrave, UFO investigator and researcher
Dr. Richard Bochonko, astronomer
The host and moderator was Chris Rutkowski of Ufology Research of Manitoba (UFOROM) (now Ufology Research).
The audio recording is, unfortunately, difficult to make out sometimes, but it documents what was cutting edge interdisciplinary UFO research and a willingness to approach the subject by the academic community in 1981, almost 40 years ago.
Click here for the audio recording. (1.5 hours).
Sunday, August 04, 2019
"I stumbled across something I wasn't supposed to see"
One of the most remarkable UFO cases on record is the Val Johnson incident of August 27, 1979. That morning, Deputy Sheriff Val Johnson was on patrol in Marshall County, Minnesota, when his police car was apparently struck by a UFO. What makes the case extraordinary is that the "accident" was immediately investigated by the Marshall County police force and treated as a standard police report. What's more, the police car, as evidence of the incident, was never repaired and was impounded. It has been preserved and is still on public display today in a museum.
On March 16, 1980, Ufology Research convened the first Manitoba Conference on Ufology in Winnipeg, Canada.
In the April 1980 issue of the Swamp Gas Journal, I noted:
A main issue under examination at the Manitoba Conference on Ufology on March 16, 1980, was the Val Johnson UFO incident which occurred on August 27, 1979. The case received wide publicity and has been noted in most ufozines (it was noted in SGJ #6), so it will not be repeated again here. Briefly, it involved the apparent impact of a US police vehicle with an unidentified flying object, near the town of Stephen, Minnesota, The incident was supported by various physical evidence in the form of dents, impact marks and broken glass.
Frankly, it is one of the most puzzling incidents in the history of ufology. This strong statement is partly because of the fact that the case involves a man who has been described as "the perfect witness." Val Johnson is a Deputy Sheriff in Marshall County, Minnesota, and is a trained observer as well as an experienced police officer. The physical evidence suggests that something very strange happened to him in the early morning on a lonely stretch of road near the Red River. The time sequence of events is very firmly established by both tape recorded and written logs of his actions that morning. The physical traces were examined and measurements were made immediately after the encounter by trained police investigators, and Johnson was taken to a hospital by ambulance directly from the site.
At MCU, the case was discussed and reviewed in detail by all participants, as presented by guests Val Johnson, Everett Doolittle and Greg Winskowski. Doolittle was the first individual to reach the site after Johnson radioed for help, and Winskowski conducted the initial police investigation.
Invited attendees with Val Johnson and other deputies in discussion at the first Manitoba Conference on Ufology.
Members of Ufology Research, including Guy Westcott and Chris Rutkowski, were among the first civilian investigators of Val Johnson's experience, since at that time there were few UFO investigators in the area and Winnipeg is only about two hours driving time away. This was a unique cross-border collaborative effort.
I wrote about this case several times, and summarized the conference proceedings in the special issue of the Swamp Gas Journal, later republished. Anticipating some interest in the discussion, I had used a small cassette tape recorder to capture some of the discussion. However, the tape recording had been thought lost during the intervening decades.
Amazingly, the tape surfaced only a few days ago, serendipitously just prior to the 40th anniversary of the incident. I managed to convert the fragile magnetic tape to a digital version, and we now have a playable record of about half an hour of the conversation with Val Johnson and a select few conference attendees.
Towards the end of the recording, Val Johnson is asked about what he saw, he replied: "I think I stumbled across something I wasn't supposed to see."
He refused to speculate about the UFO he encountered being an alien spacecraft.
Jack Webb would have liked him: "Just the facts, ma'am."
Thursday, August 01, 2019
"Lost" audio recording of Hynek found and restored
It was a bitterly cold, February night in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. That morning, the temperature had hovered near -30C (colder than -20F), and there was a bus strike.
Despite this, on Friday, February 6, 1976, Dr. J. Allen Hynek gave two lectures at the University of Manitoba as part of its Festival of Life and Learning. (Other invited presenters during the Festival included sound poet Ken Feit and vaudeville legend Mandrake the Magician.) Both of Hynek's talks were to packed houses.
A review of Hynek's afternoon lecture, published in the University of Manitoba student newspaper, The Manitoban
I was taking courses in the astronomy department at the time, and I had started investigating UFO reports several months earlier, having been given contact info for witnesses who called the department with their sighting details. I was young, impressionable, and willing to do anything to get on the good side of my professors, who couldn't be bothered with such nonsense as UFOs.
At that time, Hynek was the guy. He seemed to always be on TV talking about UFOs, and yet had such a solid astronomical background that one of his textbooks was required reading in my courses.
Apparently, in 1977 when I met Allen at a science education conference, I had lot of dark hair.
I had been invited to meet with Hynek privately before and after his afternoon lecture, and listened as several university academics professed their desire to help him in his UFO research. This was the early stages of the creation of the Manitoba Centre for UFO Studies, the first satellite group for Hynek's Center in the USA. MCUFOS never really got off the ground (pun intended) because none of the academics wanted to venture into the field to investigate reports, and preferred offering their scientific opinions.
However, MCUFOS did spin off Ufology Research of Manitoba, which I created after watching MCUFOS flounder for a few years. The good news is that I continued to meet with some of the university scholars in a true "Invisible College," drawing on their expertise and assistance in my research and investigation. A few physicists helped me analyze the radioactive Falcon Lake artefacts, for example, and a psychologist worked with me on experiments on belief and dissociation, and later a clinical psychologist worked with me on abductee cases.
Allen kept in contact with me from then on until his death. Every time he visited Winnipeg, he made a point of meeting with me to discuss UFOs. He even napped in my home to recharge between talks and media interviews.
Dr. J. Allen Hynek in my living room, about 1977
In 1979, I spent time with him and his family at a remote lodge in Manitoba that was on the centre line of the 1979 solar eclipse, where he proudly showed off his stereo camera.
Allen and Mimi at Hecla Island for the 1979 solar eclipse
The Hynek clan having dinner with us at Hecla Island in 1979
I recalled using a Radio Shack tape recorder to record his evening talk, but I had completely forgotten about it until I was looking for some other recordings and discovered it in a dusty box in my basement. After several moves, I was surprised it still existed.
I then had to figure out how to play and convert the aged magnetic tape to a digital format. Through trial and error, using borrowed equipment (thanks, Vicki), and with advice from Isaac Koi and Curt Collins, I was able to make the transfer. There's a bad hum throughout the recording, and the audience microphones were not working well, but we have a fairly decent recording of Hynek's evening presentation, linked here for your listening pleasure.