Saturday, December 19, 2020
UF HO HO HO
So, as I was going through so UFO case stats, I realized that over the years there have actually been quite a few reports from around Christmastime.
Sure, that invokes the old joke about people seeing a bright red light flying over rooftops on Christmas Eve, and how NORAD really does do some remarkable public service with its Santa Tracker every year.
But in terms of actual reports, given that there are about 1,000 cases in Canada every year, it should not come as a surprise that there are reports of UFOs at Christmas. In fact, going through just the Canadian UFO Survey database from 1989-2019, I found 75 sightings reported as having occurred on Christmas Day alone. Most, of course, were simple lights in the night sky.
Globally, there have been some significant UFO cases at this time of year. Just before Christmas 1978, the Kaikoura lights were seen in New Zealand. There's Rendlesham, which started with a sighting on Christmas night into Boxing Day, with lights seen at 3:00 am on December 26, 1980. And Betty Cash and Vicki Landrum were having trouble finding a Bingo hall that was open that same year in Texas and ended up having too close of an encounter with a hot UFO. And in 1985, Whitley Strieber first reported being haunted by catlike aliens in his New York home just after Christmas.
Out of curiosity, I have pulled together a select list of Canadian UFO cases from the Christmas season.
Shortly after midnight around Christmas 1977, a man was driving on the Alcan Highway and was about 10 miles north of Whitehorse when a brilliant light flashed across the sky overhead. It was bright enough and seemed so low that a fire truck and an RCMP vehicle drove into the ditch to avoid it. There were numerous witnesses, including the tow truck operator who said that the object “buzzed” cars on the road and then took off along the highway.
The Father of the family (CRM5) was watching television when he noticed a long row of lights moving in the distance through a window facing northeast. "I thought it was a jumbo 747! But I listened for sound, but nothing!" The father called the rest of the family to have a look. They were all amazed! Getting close to Christmas, the 3 children, of whom the eldest was six years old, thought that it was Santa Clause and his reindeer. The UFO consisted of "four big balls of light in a row" red-yellow in color with " a little bit of blue". At the left and right side of this row of lights were smaller lights that were orange and green (see drawing by the mother, CRM6. The UFO was slowly drifting from left to right, "it looked pretty low, just over the trees" and was about 2 feet at arms length in size in the sky. There were also what appeared to be white sparkles dropping away from the base of the larger lights. They were dropping at an angle to the left, consistent with the UFO moving to the right.
(Of course, as Ted Molczan noted, a rocket booster re-entry was occurring at that exact time and location.)
Or what about the UFO seen over Chilliwack. BC, on Christmas 2008, at 10:20 pm. Witnesses saw a starlike light like a satellite moving from the south and travelling north, but it then did a “loop-de-loop” and went back the to the south again, all within about 25 seconds.
In 2010, a woman in Thompson, Manitoba, said she saw three unexplained reddish orange lights in a triangle in the sky on Christmas Eve for close to an hour between 7 pm and 8 pm She said: “My boyfriend came running into the house yelling at us to come look at the sky… When me and my mom got outside we saw three reddish orange lights in a triangle that looked the same size as stars. Then after about a minute the middle light fell and faded, then the first light faded. I ran inside to grab some binoculars and when I got outside the last light wasn't there anymore.”
On Christmas Eve in 2012, a couple were driving near Kanata, Ontario, at about 11:30 pm and stopped their truck to watch a square object with glowing, pulsating red lights moving soundlessly to the northwest for three to four minutes.
And on Christmas Day, 2017, at 1:30 am, a witness was driving between St-Jovite and St Faustin in Quebec when a flashing object “like a photo flash” was seen approaching. When the object flew directly over the car, the witness reported: “I saw this triangular shape and it seemed to have three turbines below it. I could see one of them very well and I make out the turbine’s metal or steel spokes,” Once it had flown overhead, the witness looked in the rearview mirror, but the object had completely disappeared.
And as if to ring in the New Year, early on the morning of December 31, 1997, with the temperature hovering at -40C, a bright white light was seen moving northward over Resolute Bay at an estimated altitude of 400 feet and speed calculated by the airport manager as between 400 and 500 mph. The witness told investigators: “Nothing flies here at that speed, and especially not at 3:00 am. We live in a very small isolated community!”
I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't mention the remarkable case from New Year's Day 1980, in Duncan, BC. It was profiled in a documentary about UFOs a few years ago, and remains one of the classics. Doreen Kendall and Frieda Wilson were two nurses working together on the night shift in Cowichan District Hospital at Duncan, British Columbia, on New Year’s Day, 1970. At about 5 am, they saw a domed saucer hovering just outside a window, with two humanlike pilots working at an instrument panel.
Best wishes of the season, and Happy New Year, to all humans and extraterrestrials.
Saturday, December 05, 2020
"Trust me, I'm an astrobiologist"
“I’m not Chevy Chase, and neither are you.”
With apologies to those who don’t understand the reference to a classic Saturday Night Live gag, let’s just leave that there for the time being.
In one of the most disappointing published articles by an astronomer to date concerning UFOs, Dr. Chris Impey, University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona, states that since he has not personally seen any evidence that aliens are visiting Earth, UFOs are nonsense. Furthermore, his research on the subject has indicated that “UFO belief is associated with schizotypal personality, a tendency toward social anxiety, paranoid ideas and transient psychosis,” implying that belief in UFOs is congruent with aberrant behaviour overall.
Impey claims to be an a UFO agnostic, which is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t seem to be at all well versed in the subject of UFOs. Of course, this is what is to be expected from an academic who is editorializing on a topic outside his field of study. In fact, The Conversation is a non-peer-reviewed vehicle for academics to present opinions and viewpoints in a way to get coverage by subscribers, who are mostly media, and thus published widely without having to wait for months or years to get accepted in scholarly journals. Thus, Impey, solely because he is an academic (The Conversation does not accept articles from non-academics) can state things that would otherwise not get published.
This is obvious because in his editorial, Impey makes a number of outlandish and unsupported statements about UFOs that are patently and factually incorrect. In his own field of astrobiology, it would be as if he stated that there was no evidence of water ever flowing on Mars, without providing and references for the statement and ignoring reams of research that say otherwise.
The most appalling example is his statement:
“The majority of UFOs appear to people in the United States. It’s curious that Asia and Africa have so few sightings despite their large populations, and even more surprising that the sightings stop at the Canadian and Mexican borders.”
His source for this statement appears to be an animated map that used data from the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) based in the United States. He seems to be unaware that social and cultural factors could influence the emailing of UFO reports to a single American website. He is also sadly unaware of many published studies of UFO reports in other countries, particularly the Canadian UFO Survey that has now been available for more than three decades. This shows that Impey’s research on the subject is cursory at best and more likely nonexistent.
It’s amazing to me that a distinguished scientist who has demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the scientific process would even attempt to publish an article in without an adequate study of the subject at hand, but this is actually common in academia regarding the subject of UFOs. Impey’s first statement belies his rather inflated opinion of his knowledge when he states:
“I’m an astronomer and I think aliens may be out there – but UFO sightings aren’t persuasive.”
This tells us a few things: first, his opinion of his expertise in the field of astrobiology is unparalleled, and second, that he is unaware that ufology had moved away from bug eyed aliens many years ago.
Impey equates UFOs with alien spacecraft, and therefore since he has personally not seen any evidence that aliens are visiting Arizona, they must not exist. And what’s more, his opinion is paramount to others’ views on the subject because of his status in the scientific community. There is no use offering an argument against him, because he has weighed all the evidence and it is all in his favour.
This is, unfortunately, proof of the adage that the late UFO advocate Stanton Friedman noted at his many lectures, as held by debunkers and the scientific community at large: “Don’t bother me with the facts; my mind is already made up.”
Impey further shows his lack of understanding when he writes:
“Most UFOs have mundane explanations. Over half can be attributed to meteors, fireballs and the planet Venus. Such bright objects are familiar to astronomers but are often not recognized by members of the public.”
For this, he cites an article by Ian Ridpath, who himself cited Allan Hendry: “…just over half of all identified nocturnal lights were accounted for by astronomical causes: stars, planets, meteors, the Moon, artificial satellites, and satellite re-entries.”
That’s a bit misleading, and quite selective. While most reported UFOs are nocturnal objects, this ignores a large body of data of daylight sightings of objects that are structured or have characteristics unlike mere lights in the sky. It also ignores unidentified nocturnal lights, of which there are many examples. And why mention Venus specifically, when Jupiter and Mars are generating UFO reports in the fall of 2020?
Without any context, Impey also states: “Reports of visits from UFOs inexplicably peaked about six years ago.” (His citation for this is again a secondary source that used NUFORC data.) What does that mean? It seems he is implying that UFOs are waning as a topic of discussion, although the current increase in media and public attention proves this otherwise.
Studies of UFO reports have found that there was indeed an anomalous peak in number of UFO reports in 2012 (not 2013 or 2014 as Impey suggests) but the data actually shows a reverting of report numbers back to the gradual increase that has been noted for decades (c.f. http://www.canadianuforeport.com/survey/essay/2019surveyessay.pdf).
As well, Impey’s choice to use the term “visits from UFOs” again demonstrates his disdain for the subject and his narrow view that UFOs are assumed to be alien spaceships.
As a final example, Impey states: “[UFO] Sightings concentrate in evening hours, particularly on Fridays, when many people are relaxing with one or more drinks.”
Oh dear, that old standard: UFO witnesses are drunk.
In fact, Impey’s source is again a mocking opinion piece (based yet again on NUFORC data): “They seldom disturb earthlings during working or sleeping hours. Rather, they tend to arrive in the evening, especially on Fridays, when folks are sitting on the front porch nursing their fourth beer, the better to appreciate flashing lights in the heavens.” (https://www.economist.com/united-states/2014/06/28/everything-you-need-to-know-about-ufos)
It’s disheartening that I would have to explain that, from literally hundreds and perhaps thousands of interviews with UFO witnesses in which I have participated, absolutely none were involving inebriated persons. And in a review of just the UFO reports in the files of the National Research Council of Canada, it was found that a large percentage of witnesses were on-duty constables of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or members of the Canadian Forces, including pilots.
Amazingly, Impey tries to prove he actually has an open mind on the subject of UFOs by concluding his opinion piece with a review of the current state of SETI and stating: “…I don’t think belief in UFOs is crazy, because some flying objects are unidentified, and the existence of intelligent aliens is scientifically plausible.”
The paradox of his accepting that some UFOs are unidentified after lambasting UFO witnesses and mocking belief in UFOs as a kind of religion is truly remarkable. He’s simply not persuaded that UFOs are alien craft based on what he has read, which seems rather limited at best. He is apparently unaware of the multitude of excellent theses and articles published in peer-reviewed publications about UFOs.
Impey doesn’t even bother to address the present-day discussions in ufology surrounding recent American military admissions of investigations into UAPs and eyewitness reports by pilots and other reputable persons. His vague review of the subject is enough to justify his sharing an opinion on the subject with the world, as he is a distinguished scientist, after all.
And you’re not.