Thursday, May 02, 2013
My first public lecture on UFOs, in 1978
When Dr. J. Allen Hynek visited Winnipeg, Canada, in 1976, he met with a prestigious group of academics to discuss the formation of a scientific panel to study the UFO phenomenon.
Although I didn't qualify to be among the elite group, since I was only in my second year of university, I was later asked to join the group's discussions because I had been investigating UFO sightings reported to the department of mathematics and astronomy. The professors themselves were far too busy to spend time investigating or talking with witnesses. Since I had some scientific curiosity about the subject, I had volunteered to take the calls and speak with witnesses.
I had been puzzled because, although I could explain most of the reports, some sightings did not seem to have explanations. Furthermore, most witnesses seemed rational and not at all like the way they had been painted by most scientists who often dismissed UFO witnesses out of hand.
Hynek inspired me. Here was a scientist who had a solid reputation in his field, and yet he was openly discussing and investigating UFOs. What's more, he had started out as a skeptic and debunker, even acting as the US Air Force's "point man" to explain UFO reports as Venus and, most notoriously, "swamp gas."
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the "Grandfather of Ufology"
I got to know Allen well over the years. In fact, when he visited Winnipeg, he met with me and even slept at my apartment once.
Hynek visiting at my home
A very young version of me with Hynek at a conference in 1977
Anyway, the UFO group that manifested following Hynek's first visit with the academics was called the Manitoba Centre for UFO Studies (MCUFOS, essentially the Manitoba chapter of CUFOS, his own group in the USA). However, because the academics were not investigating UFO reports themselves, they relied on myself and a few others to report back to them on what we had learned from witnesses.
In late 1977, I had been asked by one of the professors to brief his department on cases I had been investigating, and also the current state of science's view on UFOs. It was suggested I present this at a formal departmental colloquium. Now, you have to understand that this was not something that happened regularly. Students don't normally present departmental seminars, and certainly not a 2nd year undergraduate student. I was honoured, and petrified. As it turned out, because I had exams, I couldn't present when they wanted me to appear, so they postponed my presentation until January 1978.
And that changed everything. Word had spread that I was giving the colloquium, and soon the department had many requests for outsiders to attend. My presentation venue was moved to the largest lecture hall in the entire university. Not only was it SRO, but local newspapers, radio and TV media showed up too. That never happened with departmental colloquia.
I was nervous, but held my composure. I gave my illustrated talk in a straightforward, but entertaining manner. The questions were thoughtful and relevant. Not a single heckler or negative comment was voiced. It was a serious, scientific presentation on UFOs. And I had become "that UFO guy" in Winnipeg.
Here's a newspaper clipping of the review of my lecture:
And that's how it started.
[Oh, and MCUFOS died a natural death a few years later, mostly because the original academics had lost interest. But I started my own group, Ufology Research of Manitoba (UFOROM), which still exists today, as Ufology Research.]
I can't imagine there are very many Canadian UFO researchers who were personal friends with Hynek. Surely this puts you in a very exclusive club and should, I think, propel some additional writing that deals with insights and observations not only about UFO reports and the evolution of the field, but also the influential people who steered, drove and inspired the movement. You're too modest!
I can't imagine there are very many Canadian UFO researchers who were personal friends with Hynek. Surely this puts you in a very exclusive club and should, I think, propel some additional writing that deals with insights and observations not only about UFO reports and the evolution of the field, but also the influential people who steered, drove and inspired the movement. You're too modest!Post a Comment