Monday, April 30, 2012

James E McDonald and the paranormal

Hi all

Introduction:

Some readers of this blog will be aware that I have had a long term interest in the paranormal and associated areas (click here .)  I have long advocated for the study of paranormal phenomenon, e.g. poltergeists, precognition, which crop up in connection with many UFO encounters, particularly abductions (click here.)

There are numerous examples of where this happens (click here) , and my own research regularly turns up such data. However, I was surprised to see mention of James E McDonald and the paranormal, when re-reading Ann Druffel's "Firestorm", her book about McDonald. Due to the fact that I have never come across any other reference to this material before, I suspect very few readers will be aware of it, so I present it below:

Washington:

McDonald's first public talk on the UFO phenomenon took place in Washington, DC, when he spoke to the local chapter of the American Meteorological Society. In looking for explanations put forward to account for the UFO phenomenon "He presented eight broad categories which various groups - ranging all the way from arch-skeptics to "kooks" - were using to explain the reports.

1. Hoaxes, fabrications and frauds;
2. Hallucinations, mass hysteria and rumours;
3. Misrepresentations of well-known physical phenomena (meteorological, astronomical, optical etc.);
4. Advanced Earth technologies (test vehicles, satellites, re-entry effects);
5. Poorly understood, rare atmospheric and electrical phenomena;
6. Psychic phenomena - psychic projections, archetypal images, (parapsychological phenomena);
7. Extraterrestrial probes;
8. "Messengers of salvation and occult truth." (p.157.)

Difficulty:

McDonald himself said "Categories 5 and 6, to the extent that they constitute explanations in terms of the still-unknown, were intrinsically difficult to handle in logical fashion...I would emphasise that I now regard category 6 as the only important alternative to category 7." (Source cited by Druffel as: McDonald, James E. "The Problem of the Unidentified Flying Objects," summary of a talk given October 19, 1966 to the District of Columbia chapter of the American Meteorological Society, Washington, DC, pp1-2.)

As Druffel notes, "This was a most unexpected statement, ...He was saying that if true unknowns (UFOs) are not from an extraterrestrial source, the parapsychological/psychic hypothesis was the next logical choice!" (p.158.)

Druffel continues "Most veteran UFO researchers living today don't even remember that he even referred to the psychic/parapsychological hypothesis." (p.158.)

"One of the very few colleagues in the UFO research field who remember that McDonald initially listed the psychic/parapsychological hypothesis is Dr Berthold Eric Schwarz, a psychiatrist and veteran parapsychologist. He feels that McDonald might have been criticised early on by certain colleagues for his open statement of category 6." (p.159.) Click here for information on Schwarz.

Meaning:

"It has never been clear precisely what McDonald was suggesting in his own "category 6." No know recording of the AMS talk exists. We have only his hand-out summary to guide us...McDonald dropped category 6 from his list immediately after the AMS talk and never referred openly to it again." (p.160.)

"McDonald was fearless in his search for knowledge, and was privately interested in various aspects of parapsychology...He read widely on the subject...He never discussed parapsychology with his colleagues in atmospheric physics...However, a few objective researchers in the UFO field, including some scientists, shared this interest and, with them, he discussed the subject freely...Hall stresses, however that their discussions about parapsychology were never directly related to UFOs, but were treated as  separate subject." (p.160.)

Comments:

Ten years after Druffel wrote "Firestorm," a copy of the October 19 1966 McDonald paper is now available on the internet (click here.)

On page three of the paper, one can see that there are indeed eight categories of hypotheses shown. However, here in the full paper, category 6 is simply listed as "Poorly understood psychological phenomena" and not Druffel's "6. Psychic phenomena - psychic projections, archetypal images, (parapsychological phenomena);" Why this discrepancy exists is not known to me. Can any readers throw any light on this?

Monday, April 23, 2012

UFO abductions - a change of tactics?

Hi all,

My co-blogger, Pauline Wilson, recently drew our attention to the precognitive sentient phenomena (click here for her post) hypothesis of John B Alexander. In one statement, Alexander, said "Every time researchers get close to an understanding of the situation, the parameters are altered or new variables are entered into the equation." (pp227-228 of Alexander's book.)

When I read Pauline's post, at this point I was transported back to the late 1980's and early 1990's. Here in Australia, we were inundated with accounts of UFO abductions. I recall spending day after day, sitting listening to Australian men and women giving me detailed descriptions of their encounters with a variety of strange entities. Many of these visitations took place in the bedroom.

My fellow researchers were also spending their time interviewing and working with these intriguing accounts. There were strong similarities in the data we were all gathering. Our discussions were all about this one type of UFO event. Overseas researchers spoke of abductions being the end of UFOs in the skies; and close encounters of other kinds. They said that abductions proved the ETH. Abductions would reveal all. The UFO phenomenon was about to be explained. Full disclosure was at hand. The aliens were here to create hybrid beings which would take over the Earth.

It seems to me that the UFO phenomenon has altered. Abductions haven't ended our research. The UFO phenomenon hasn't been fully explained. Despite what some elements of the field say, full disclosure has not happened. In fact, it seems to me, that it is the abductions which have gone away.

Close encounters:

The same may be said about close encounter reports. Colleagues I have spoken to, report a decrease in the numbers of close encounters as a percentage of total incoming reports. Back in the 1970's it seemed that every fourth or fifth incoming report was a close encounter. People reported UFOs near the ground, on the ground and UFOs chasing cars at close range. Today, just about every UFO report I read about is a vague light in the sky, often a video clip; a cluster of lights which could be balloons, or maybe an odd small angular diameter object seen in the day time. A look at the websites of Australian UFO groups UFOR(Qld); TUFOIC and UFOR(NSW) confirmed this view.

The phenomenon has altered again. Gone are the days of numerous close encounters; and gone are the large numbers of abduction reports.

What does this mean? Were we in some way getting close to some kind of understanding? If so, what? More importantly, what comes next?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New book alert - "The Search for Aliens"

Dear readers,

My latest new book discovery at my local library is "The Search for Aliens: A Rough Guide to Life on Other Worlds" by Piers Bizony. 2012. Rough Guides. London. ISBN 978-1-40538-324-0 (click here.) This 260 page book takes a look at the origins of life; the search for life on Mars; aliens at the movies; SETI; the search for extrasolar planets; plus one chapter headed "Kidnapped by Aliens." This post covers this particular chapter, the subject matter of this blog.

Introduction:

"Why do thousands of people believe that extraterrestrial spacecraft have already visited us? How can we distinguish between credible "close encounter" accounts and credulous nonsense? Just because you've seen an alien in your bedroom doesn't necessarily mean you're insane."

Project Blue Book:

The author takes a brief look at the USAF Project Blue Book (click here) and the work of Dr J Allen Hynek (click here) for that project. "Far from investigating alien corpses in hidden bunkers, Hynek was encouraged to find natural explanations wherever possible." (p.215.)

Loose definitions of CE1s to CE3s follow. The project's demise in 1969 is noted "...further funding could not be justified 'either on the grounds of national security or in the interests of science.'" (p.217.)

Under this sub-heading, there is also a short note that "The UK's National Archives contain a wealth of ufo-related material..." (p.217.)

Roswell:

"The most famous UFO story of modern times..." is covered in just over one page of text. "A succession of old timers, publicity chancers and one or two genuinely puzzled witnesses have come forward over the years to tell their versions of the Roswell story..." (p.218.)

There are mentions of projects Mogul ( click here) and High Dive ( click here) as official explanations for the Roswell event. "Some conspiracy theorists point out that although Mogul was underway in 1947, High Dive didn't start until the 1950's. But how would they know? And are these conspiracy theorists actually being paid by the US government to sow further confusion?" (p.218.)

The author's conclusion? "Roswell and almost all other UFO sightings have prosaic explanations. Those few cases that remain completely mysterious are just that, products of our lack of explanation, not proof of alien contact." (p.220.)

Area 51:

A quick overview of Area 51 ( click here) includes the statements: "Frequent reports of triangular UFOs in the skies around Groom Lake in the 1980's are best explained by the sinister shadow of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter..." (p.220.) "No matter how sleek the styling of Groom Lake's military machines, none are proof of extraterrestrial technology being hidden at Area 51, nor of airplanes retro-engineered from advanced alien counterparts that crash-landed decades ago." (p.220.)

Alien abductions"

This area of UFO research is covered in four pages. "Leaving aside the frauds and self-publicists,  hundreds of perfectly sane people genuinely believe they've been visited by aliens. Just because a person believes in something, doesn't make it true." (p.222.)

Dr John E Mack's ( click here) work is cited, followed by a quick look at the incubus ( click here) and succubus and accounts of their existence throughout recorded history.

Sleep paralysis:

One explanation put forward for alien abductions is sleep paralysis and the author takes a page and a bit, to explain this hypothesis. "It's not surprising that some people may interpret this kind of physical and psychological experience as an alien abduction." (p.224.)

After mentioning the work of UK psychologist Dr Susan Blackmore, the author writes "Blackmore is not alone in thinking that many abduction narratives owe their origin to biological and neurological causes, rather than extraterrestrial interventions." (p.225.)

"Alien looking aliens:"

"The strangest element uniting almost all 'close encounters of the third kind' witness reports is that the aliens appear more or less human, or at least humanoid." (p.225.)

The author argues that "Even if aliens did happen to come from a world just like ours, they still wouldn't look like us, because of countless tiny variations in their evolutionary history." (p.226.) "...it becomes obvious that creatures from other worlds are not under any obligation to look like humans." (p.227.)

Resources:

This section of the book includes sections on astrobiology sources material. There is a section headed "Technical papers"  which includes Blackmore and Cox's 2000 paper "Alien Abductions: Sleep Paralysis and the Temporal Lobe" from the European Journal of UFO and Abduction Studies, 2000. pp.113-118.

Also, under "Websites" are:

"National Security Agency, UFO documents Index, http://www.nsa.gov/public_info/declass/ufo/index
If all the UFO documentation in America was stacked up, it would probably reach to the Moon. The US government's spookiest intelligence agency has released plenty of material in response to numerous requests."

UK National Archives: Unidentified Flying Objects.
http://www.ufos.nationalarchives.gov.uk/
Whatever your feelings about flying saucers, the newly released UK government archives contain a few intriguing mysteries, and some embarrassing admissions - such as the fact that shortage of funds prevented officials from investigating some of the more interesting reports. 

US National Archives: Unidentified Flying Objects
http://www.archives.gov/foia/ufos
The motherlode for UFO enthusiasts, rich in myth and secrecy, with enough material to keep us in movie plots for generations to come." (p.248.)

Friday, April 13, 2012

"A time to remember"

Dear readers,

The English magazine "Fortean Times" is always a source of articles which make me think. Another fascinating article appears in the March 2012 issue (pp56-57) penned (or typed) by one Rob Gandy.

A management consultant, Gandy, had an unusual experience in December 2006, which he shares with us. After working on bicycle repairs, then talking to his wife, he lost a portion of his memory for recent events. At first, his wife thought he had experienced a stroke. However, the diagnosis was Transient Global Amnesia (for more click here.) His memory slowly returned.

Gandy points out that a FT contributor, Gail-Nina Anderson, who also had a TGA episode, joked that "...if she had been on a dark lonely road when she experienced TGA, she would have been able to attribute the time lapse to aliens."

Gandy then writes "A stereotypical; event in ufology is that someone is driving through the countryside at night when their car enters a luminous cloud, or similar; then the driver finds himself miles down the road with half an hour missing."

"A number of commentators have argued that many, if not all, perceived UFOs are actually forms of a rare meteorological phenomena. Therefore, my speculative interpretation of these events is that they do involve rare meteorological phenomena and these phenomena can induce TGA in humans who get too close to them."

What is the frequency of TGA?

"Estimates...varies from a minimum of 2.9 cases per  100,000 population (Spain) and 5.2 per 100,000 (USA); but among people aged over 50, the rate of TGA incidence is reported to range from approximately 23 per 1000,000 (in a US population) to 32 per 100,000 (in a population in Scandinavia.)"

Gandy argues that some people who have a TGA episode, might arrive at an interpretation of an alien abduction, in their world view.

Lost time:

"I surmise that most, if not all, reported episodes of lost time are not, "lost time: but "lost memory," and suggest that there are rare meteorological phenomena that can induce memory loss on a temporary basis."

Comments:

I find the meteorological part of Gandy's hypothesis a bit of a stretch. Why do we need a rare meteorological phenomena to cause a TGA? TGA's happen to some people, in a variety of circumstances.

I do however, think that TGAs may have an involvement in some UFO encounters. Just as hypnagogic and hypnopompic imagery; (click here);  fantasy proneness; (click here) sleep paralysis (click here for a detailed article by Keith Basterfield) ; migraines (click here); false awakenings (click here)  and other conditions seem to be involved in some encounters. TGAs may account for element of some such events. Perhaps, many abduction accounts may involve one, or a combination of these triggers?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Intelligence officers and UFO reports

Dear readers

Today's post arises from an interesting article in the March 2012 issue of the English Fortean Times magazine (issue 284 pp390-31.)

Researchers David Clarke and Andy Roberts, in an article titled "On the Saucer Beat" explore the issue of official UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) investigations into U.K. UFO reports.

They quote the head of S4(Air) MOD, John Peduzie, speaking of the MOD's specialist intelligence branches, "[These] branches have their own methods - and [the UFO desk] has 'no need to know' about them - but we are aware that DI55 ( click here for more) sometimes makes extensive enquiries." Clarke and Roberts go on to say that  "It's no surprise then, that most of the intelligence files on UFO investigations were destroyed long before the arrival of Freedom of Information."

A number of papers survived and were located in the Archives, which showed "...that, on some occasions, intelligence officers were sent out to conduct field investigations." (Click here for my previous post on UFOs and British Intelligence agencies.)

The authors cite a UK March 1966 instance, where a Police Constable, Colin Perks, reported an object hovering over shops at Wilmslow. "...the MOD...sent a Defence Intelligence Officer from London to interview Perks, and to visit the scene.

MIB?

Roberts and Clarke note that "It is possible - indeed likely - that some of these visits were responsible for rumours about the activities of the sinister 'Men in Black.'"

In another case, Police Constable Martyn Johnson was out walking with his girlfriend, when they both saw two colourful lights moving slowly, soundlessly, close to the ground. Then the two lights became four, and vanished at speed. The PC was told to attend his boss' office, where he found two other men present.

"...they were dressed just like the spies on TV, in trench-coats and trilby hats...He was reassured when his boss told him he wasn't in trouble and that the two men were 'members of a government investigation department in London..." The men questioned the PC about the UFO sighting. The next day they accompanied him to the location of the event.

The PC ran into them again later, and they told him "What you have seen is an unidentified flying object or UFO. Some people call them spaceships and if the people of the world knew how many genuine sightings there were like yours, they would panic."

Clarke and Roberts found PC Johnson's report on a file and note "All the reports on this file were copied to the RAF Strike Command and to DI55."

Australian and New Zealand intelligence agencies:

I have previously written about the involvement of Australian and New Zealand intelligence agencies and UFOs (click  here.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New book alert - "Beyond UFOs."

Dear readers

Another delightful autumnal day, here in Adelaide, South Australia; following a four day Easter break. I took some time over the break to read another book, new to me, and again supplied by my local library.

The book is "Beyond UFOs: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Astonishing Implications for our Future." 2011. By Jeffrey Bennett. Princeton University Press. Princeton. ISBN 978-0-691-14988-2.

Bennett is an astrophysicist, author and educator and lives in the USA. The book is primarily about the search for extraterrestrial life. However, Bennett had some personal and seemingly UFO related early childhood experiences which he tells us about. My post today will concentrate on pulling out his views on UFOs as expressed in this book.

Preface:

"It has been a long time but I distinctly recall the sounds and sights  of my alien friends." This is how Bennett commences his work, by recalling his childhood perspective of what he perceived as visitations by aliens.

He then goes on to  say "I am now in my fifth decade of life, and I have not seen or heard from my friends since I was a teenager. I still believe they are out there, somewhere, but I am no longer convinced that they really visited me in my bedroom."

Personal sighting?

"I'd always wanted to see a real UFO - something in the sky that I could not explain and that would therefore qualify as an unidentified flying object. Then, even without proof, I could at least hope that I'd seen an alien space craft." (p.22.)

Finally he did see a UFO, a light, about the brightness of Venus, as well as the planet Venus in the sky. It brightened then faded, concluded "...I cannot conclusively identify the light I saw in the sky as a meteor or as anything else, which means I can truly claim to have seen an unidentified flying object. However, I cannot automatically conclude that my UFO was an alien spacecraft." (p.23.)

Science and the UFO:

"I tell this story not to discredit other UFO sightings but rather to emphasise what I consider to be the most basic difference between science and beliefs. Science is supposed to be based on verifiable evidence, while beliefs are matters of faith or opinion. I could believe with all my heart that I really did see an alien spacecraft, but if you don't believe me, there's nothing that either of us can do to convince the other." (p.24.)

His views on UFOs:

On an alien invasion hypothesis: "The mere fact that we are still alive therefor proves that no one with intentions on our world has visited us lately, because if they had, the world would already be theirs." (p.59.)

On crop circles: "...we are talking of beings who we should expect to possess technology at least 50,000 years beyond ours. If they chose to make their presence known, does it really seem possible that they'd decide to do it by drawing patterns in wheat fields?" (p.59.)

On crashed UFOs: "Claims of debris from alien crashes are hardly more plausible. Indeed if you assume that debris from places like Roswell really is from alien spaceships, the most remarkable thing about it is that alien spacecraft material doesn't look all that different from ours." (pp59-60.)

On hard evidence: "The bottom line is that virtually any claim of "hard" evidence of alien visitation quickly collapses under its own weight of implausibility. " (p.60.)

A rider: "But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and I'll be the first to admit that it's still possible that aliens are visiting us. In fact, based on the argument I've made about the number of civilisations, it seems difficult to believe that they're not..." (pp60-61.)

Evidence:

"With extremely high confidence we can conclude that any aliens who are visiting Earth are so far beyond us that there's virtually no chance of them leaving evidence behind by accident. If they want us to know they're here, they'll tell us." (p.61.)

Proviso:

"And yet, I still won't tell anyone who claims to  have seen a UFO that they're wrong. Because with all this considered, there are still laws of which we are unaware, perhaps allowing them to do things like "cloaking" their spacecraft to prevent us from seeing them." (p.61.)

Beyond UFOs:

Having discussed the UFO phenomenon in early parts of the book, the rest of it discusses the subjects of what is life; life in the solar system; life among the stars, and SETI. "So now, we really are ready to move beyond UFOs. I hope I've convinced you that even if UFOs are real, we probably won't be able to find the hard evidence that science demands to prove it." (p.61.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Precognitive sentient phenomena"

Dear readers,

In Adelaide, the month of March is transeasonal. We get days where the maximum temperatures are in the low 30's C, like yesterday, and days which barely reach 20 degrees C. You quickly learn to dress for the day, not for March, which is autumn here in the southern hemisphere. On the cooler days I get out and about after work, taking a walk. On the hotter days, after work, I hibernate and read. At the moment I am re-reading John B. Alexander's 2011 book titled "UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies and Realities."Click here for my take on the book )Thomas Dunne Books,New York, ISBN 978-0-312-64834-3, for a second time.

PSP:

On the first read through this book I quickly noted  the section dealing with what Alexander calls "Precognitive sentient phenomena" (PSP.)

"The precognitive sentient phenomena concept suggests that there is some external controlling agent that initiates these events that are observed and reported. It appears as though that agent not only determines all factors of the event, but is already (i.e. precognitively) aware of how the observers or researchers will respond to any given stimuli. The agent can be considered like the Trickster that is always in control of the observations. Every time researchers get close to an understanding of the situation, the parameters are altered or new variables are entered into the equation." (pp227-228.) (For an excellent look at the Trickster concept, click here.)

Alexander points out that "...the variety of observations does suggest that there are just too many different types of UFOs reported..." (p.228.) which is a problem when looking for an explanation.

Vallee:

Alexander considers that we should "..not just limit the input to sightings of hard physical objects..." (p.229) noting that this has also been the view of other researchers, including of Jacques Vallee. "We agree that at times hard, physical craft exist, but there is much more to the phenomena." (p.229.)

Noting that UFO reports have changed over time, "This observation points to the conclusion that many of the physical craft that are seen tend to be in advance of current technology, but not beyond the understanding of human consciousness." (p.229.)

Skinwalker ranch:

In describing some of the characteristics of a ranch in south-eastern Utah, (click here) where unusual phenomena have been  reported over a long time period, Alexander points out that "Extensive research in other equally arcane fields contributed to development of the notion of possible precognitive sentient phenomena." (p.232.)

Readers of this blog who have come across Kelleher and Knapp's book "Hunt for the skinwalker" (click here) will be familiar with such accounts as,  the ranch's balls of light; unusual animals being seen; and the August 1997 observation of what can only be described as an inter dimensional tunnel complete with emerging creature.

Other cases:

Alexander argues that in the Cash-Landrum case (click here)  where the witnesses reported seeing numerous US Army and other helicopters present "..we have almost no evidence that the helicopters were real..." (p.236.) "...if PSP is considered...One possibility would be that the UFO could employ holographic technology...another alternative is that the UFO was able to project that imagery directly into the brains of the observers..." (p.237.)

Startegic weapons:

Illustrating his argument with the Malmstrom (USA) (click here) and Byelokorociche (Russia) missile cases, he poses the question "...whether a PSP was able to interact with these nuclear weapons in the manner most likely to cause concern..." (p.238.)

Summary:

In summarising his PSP hypothesis, Alexander notes that "Whatever the origin of the UFO phenomena, it is unlikely that a single simple theory will adequately resolve all of the observations." (p.2563.)

He then points out that "Clearly, UFO sightings are but a subset of a multifarious macrocosm of phenomena. " (p.253.) "These, when examined in a broader  context, suggest that emergent patterns  are discernible. These seem to intimate that there exists sentience that lies beyond current comprehension, yet controls the presentation of  seemingly improbable observations." (pp253-254.)

Comments:

Many researchers have suggested the need to look beyond the ETH. Alexander's PSP hypothesis is an intriguing one.

National Archives of Australia - more new UAP files available

Background Over the years, Australian researchers have found around 150 files in the National Archives of Australia (NAA), dealing with t...