By Eric Vandenbroeck 22 May 2021

Unvarnished overview of the current UFO phenomena

As part of President Donald Trump’s spending and pandemic relief package, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), included a provision calling for the director of national intelligence to help produce an unclassified report on everything government agencies know about UFOs, including scores of unusual sightings reported by military pilots. Thus thanks to the Trump-era covid relief bill, the UFO report is due sometime next month which no doubt will create some more media frenzy, but it already started this week.

Based on an article CNN posted yesterday claiming a mysterious UFO disappears into the water today, 22 May CNN newsroom continues to air an ongoing UFO segment with pictured here the latest segment with Chris Cuomo:

As 'developing tonight' in his latest presentation Chris Cuomo as seen above, reports that it all started with a CBS’s Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes broadcast stories about UFOs, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio sternly intoning about the importance of treating them as a potential national security concern.

This where CBS’s David Pogue literally chuckled during his Sunday Morning UFO report, telling viewers we should “live and let live” and not challenge UFO believers. Ezra Klein in The New York Times and Gideon Lewis-Kraus in The New Yorker said they would be sad without a UFO mystery to enjoy, whereby Lewis-Kraus alleged there was good reason for the U.S. government to get back into the business of hunting flying saucers.

The footage in question is the same that is known from the Pentagon program that was created at the behest of former Senator Harry Reid and was run jointly for a time with Bigelow Aerospace in Las Vegas, whose owner, Robert Bigelow, has long been on the hunt for extraterrestrials and poltergeists...

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and President and founder of Bigelow Aerospace Robert T. Bigelow in front of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module:

For UFO believers, the current promotion via CBS and CNN is the moment they had been waiting for. UFOs were everywhere, and they were suddenly respectable. With a new intelligence report on UFOs due to be delivered to Congress in June, even the U.S. government seemed poised to take UFOs seriously again.

Behind the creamy pages of high-end magazines and the marble columns of the Capitol, as we shall see, the media elite and Congress are being played by a small, loosely connected group of people with bizarre ideas about science. It’s easy to dismiss UFOs as a fantasy or a fad, but the money, the connections, and the power wielded by a group of UFO believers, and as appears now also embedded in the defense industry, bent on supplanting material science with a pseudoscientific mysticism.

As we will see, the idea of interplanetary travel flying saucers from Atlantis (an idea that started what we described in our article the current History Chanel claim that extraterrestrials have visited Earth for millions of years) possible initially inspired by the likes of Emanuel Swedenborg first became popular in esoteric circles influenced by the Blavatskyan Theosophical Society or/and Rudolf Steiner (known from the present day Waldorf schools) who claimed that "for the million years up to 10,000 BC in those parts of the world that now constitute the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean there existed an absolutely unique culture of people that in body and soul thoroughly differed from humans today. These people had aircraft which they flew close to the ground ... In those days the air was much thicker, the water was much thinner; it moved more artistically and let itself be guided, etc... [ellipses by Max von Laue].”

Whereby a neo-völkisch group formed in 1950 variously referred to as the Landig Circle (Landig Kreis), Vienna Group (Wien Konzern), and Vienna Lodge (Wien Lodge) produced (what basically was faked) evidence that flying saucers were Nazi secret weapons a theory that evidence by the following three current books still finds many believers and promoters (with 'secret files referring to what was produced by the Vienna circle whose members previously belonged to the WWII SS) the first book on the left was published in March 2021, the second middle one was published in April 2021 and the third on the right will be published in Nov. 2021.

    

The most important person what the creation of the UFO phenomena concerns is Ray Palmer ("the man who invented flying saucers"), and while there are others one should add the first person who claimed to have been abducted, plus two of the most popular early contactees George Adamski and George Van Tassel the latter who started hosting group meditation in 1953.

That year, according to Van Tassel, the occupant of a spaceship from the planet Venus woke him up, invited him on board his spaceship, and both verbally and telepathically gave him a technique for rejuvenating the human body. Thus in 1954, Van Tassel and others began building what they called the "Integratron" partially upon the research of Nikola Tesla, and Georges Lakhovsky Van Tassel described the Integratron as being created to recharge and rejuvenate people's cells, "a time machine for basic research on rejuvenation, anti-gravity and time travel. Pictured below the wooden, two-story, hemispherical umbrella (never completed) dome built by George Van Tassel and his backers starting in 1958:

This while the publicity surrounding UFO' was increased with the escalation of the Cold War and strategic concerns related to the development and detection of advanced Soviet aircraft.

These mysterious 'flying objects' type images indeed were pictured in 1952:

But just like in 1952, as we will see next some people are making the leap from strange, cloud-skimming phenomena to aliens.

 

The history of what led Robert Bigelow to convince Harry Reid

One of the arguments has been that belief in UFOs (which, as we will see, might have started as a form of deception) is that it led to the belief that can be described as a form of esoteric religion.

An example of a person who mixed esoteric ideas while also reporting the first alien abduction was William Dudley Pelley.

Lying naked on a marble slab, with two men in white uniforms attending to him, they told William Dudley Pelley to neither be afraid nor try to see everything in the first "seven minutes." One of the two white-clad individuals, that were attending him told Pelley that everyone had lived hundreds of times before because earth is a classroom where souls learn and move up the spiritual hierarchy. This hierarchy accounts for human races, which are simply "great classifications of humanity epitomizing gradations of spiritual development, starting with the black man and proceeding upward in cycles to the white."

After reading Subversive Movements, 1924, Nesta Webster believed the five powers behind the world conspiracy were Grand Orient Masonry, Theosophy, Pan Germanism, international finance, and social revolution. Pelley asserted that he received a clairaudient message that he should create a paramilitary organization. Heeding this rather dubious inspiration, Pelley established the Silver Legion of America on January 31, 1932. 

In 1933 two supporters purchased a plot of land to build a world headquarters for the Silver Legion. The building, however, came to a screeching halt on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when federal agents, who apparently had been watching the progress of the compound and its activities with some interest, stormed infrastructure.

Another at time famous figure was George Adamski, who initially employed as a maintenance worker in Yellowstone National Park. Later influence by Theosophy in 1932, he wrote a short story revolving around spiritual contacts with mysterious, highly evolved beings with his mention of an alleged Royal Order of Tibet on p.23. But Adamski's career as a visionary really started when, after having read his story Lalita (Maud) Johnson invited Adamski to teach at the Little White Church for the Order of Loving Service, which she established earlier that year in Laguna Beach, an artists colony on the California coast. Whereby less than two years after that, still heavily influenced by Theosophy, The Royal Order of Tibet opens its ‘monastery’  the Temple of Scientific Philosophy in Laguna Beach:

A decade after he wrote his 1932 story, the same claims would again be presented, but this time as biographical facts of Adamski’s own life. Other texts from this involvement with the Royal Order of Tibet were reworked, and (initially an idea that sprang from Spiritualism where it was called 'spirit guides' the Theosophical Mahatmas were replaced with aliens. And started the boom for UFO-related religiosity.

The "Aryan" appearance of spacemen spotted by Adamski and others might also have helped give rise to a theory that UfOs represented a secret weapon of remnants of the Third Reich. A topic taken up by the above mention both former SS Wilhelm Landig and Rudolf J. Mund (who in 1979 became prior of the Ordo Novi Templi and claimed to have been the inspiration for Landig's "Götzen gegen Thule. Ein Roman voller Wirklichkeit. 1971 the book which started the Nazi-UFO craze).

 

How present-day Ufology actually started

In the 1960s, famous UFOlogist Jim Moseley made a pilgrimage to the Wisconsin farm where Ray Palmer ("the man who invented flying saucers") spent most of his later years. Palmer asked Moseley rhetorically, “What if I told you it was all a joke?”

From 1945 to 1947, Ray Palmer initially printed material about a subterranean world inhabited where demonic creatures traveled about in flying disks and using secret rays were responsible for most of the ills of Mankind.

But while initially, the "Shaver Mystery" might also have been of influence, the step to full-fledged UFO's as flying saucers was indeed made by Ray Palmer who's Amazing Stories’ August 1946 was the first to depict flying discs. In fact, Palmer was quick to argue that for several years, he noted, Shaver had mentioned the Deros' supposed spaceships. Writer John Keel later championed the idea that Shaver and Palmer had somehow predicted or presaged the "flying saucer" craze.

It also was in the first issue of Fate; Palmer published Kenneth Arnold's report of "flying discs"...

Palmer's cryptic remark, “What if I told you it was all a joke?” might be understood when we realize that Kenneth Arnold claims we can safely say was influenced by the Maury Island UFO Hoax which Ray Palmer had sent Kenneth Arnold out to investigate. It was this made up UFO sighting promoted by Ray Palmer that inspired the term “flying saucer,” and shortly thereafter prompted the 1947 Roswell claim that led to the mystique surrounding Area 51 whereby some of you might remember the somewhat startling article in THE HILL that: the military 'stands ready' and feds warn ufo enthusiasts against storming area 51.

In his book, Angels and Aliens: UFOs and the Mythic Imagination, author Keith Thompson recounts what happened next: “Within a matter of hours, Arnold’s story, trumpeted by the evocative phrase ‘flying saucers,’ a creation of anonymous headline writers, became front-page news throughout the nation.”

When in 1952, rumors began circling about flying saucers landing in the desert near Paloma. Adamski went out on an expedition to find them.

Adamski's following vision of a friendly, laid-back alien race is strikingly different from the descriptions of the bulbous, bug-eyed alien "greys" that UFO abductees speak of today. Adamski described Space Brother Orthon as tall, blond, humanoid with tan skin and brown shoes. Additionally, Adamski said that Orthon left mysterious symbolic imprints in the ground where he walked.

Adamski immediately became a major flying saucer celebrity after the release of his 1953 book, Flying Saucers Have Landed, where he told the story of encountering and communicating with Orthon, the pilot of a landed extraterrestrial spaceship.

More importantly for the later Harry Reed project is the fact that in 1966 J. Allen Hynek, the astronomer who pioneered the scientific study of UFOs for the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, told his friend, French UFO researcher Jacques Vallée, his deep dark secret: In terms of his scientific outlook, he wasn’t a strict materialist; instead, he was guided by his fascination with mysticism and the occult. Over the next decade, the two men toyed with the notion that UFOs weren’t alien spaceships at all but, rather, space poltergeists from another dimension. The two men’s discussions profoundly impacted a friend with an office near Vallée’s in the 1970s, an ex-Scientologist and physicist named Harold E. “Hal” Puthoff. Puthoff, who studied psychic phenomena at the Stanford Research Institute, championed debunked spoon-bender Uri Geller, was also a defense contractor. The intelligence community recruited him for a bonkers effort to use psychics. To spy telepathically on the Soviets, later known as “Project Stargate.” In 1984, one Stargate “psychic” claimed to travel back in time one million years to commune with Martians.

 

Following the sixties, particularly in the USA, was a manic time for UFO belief.

 

The time when UFO research became respectable and thanks to CNN again today?

By 1949, the Pentagon officially dismissed UFOs as a product of hoaxes, misidentification, hallucinations, and mass hysteria. To convey this to the public, military officials worked closely with the Saturday Evening Post on a two-part article that derided the idea of intergalactic ships whirring through the skies. “It is a jittery age we live in,” the magazine concluded, “particularly since our scientists and military spokesmen have started talking about sending rockets to the moon… it is a small wonder that harassed humans, already suffering from atomic psychosis, have started seeing saucers and Martians.”

Instead of putting the matter to rest, as the Pentagon hoped, the article aroused ire and disquiet. Concerned that its public engagement was feeding into the country’s “war nerves,” the Pentagon resolved to go silent on UFO commentary.

Into this vacuum stepped a group of citizen crusaders, rank opportunists, and con artists. One leading voice was retired Marine Corps Major Donald Keyhoe, who in January of 1950 published a widely circulated article in True Magazine titled, “Flying Saucers are Real.” UFO sightings were soon taken up by mainstream media’s most iconic and influential publications. In 1952, Life Magazine published a lengthy article titled, “Have we, visitors, from outer space?” This was a watershed moment, writes Mark O’Connell in his recent book, The Close Encounters Man. “When Life spoke, the whole country listened,” he writes.

Book titles convey some of the period's mood: Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space; Flying Saucers are Hostile; Flying Saucer Invasion; Target Earth; Flying Saucers—Serious Business; The Real UFO invasion; The Terror Above Us. The teaser on The Official Guide to UFOs promised, “Exclusive! First News of America’s Most Terrifying UFO Invasion!” Wilkins’s books return with arch blurbs asking, “Are they Friendly Visitors from Outer Space or Invaders Planning Conquest?” and “Is there a cosmic battle plan aimed at Earth?” The actual content was less dramatic than advertised, but that hardly mattered. The conviction of urgency transcended the material gathered for proof.

Throughout the first half of the decade, Donald Edward Keyhoe, who in 1956 founded the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) that next pressed for Congressional hearings on the UFO problem by such tactics as letter-writing campaigns. The Air Force warned members of Congress such hearings would only dignify the problem and cause more publicity, thus adding to the problem. NICAP also published a book called The UFO Evidence (edited by Richard Hall) and sent copies to members of Congress to put forward their case that UFOs were, in fact, real and posed a danger to the fabric of society. The danger included an unprepared public being caught up in widespread panic if an external danger was suddenly imposed. A sudden confrontation with extraterrestrials could have disastrous results, they warned. Among them, “catastrophic results to morale.”

Then there the writings of Carol E. Lorenzen that were required reading for American UFO buffs in the sixties. Flying Saucers: The Startling Evidence of the Invasion from Outer Space (1966) builds on Donald Keyhoe's thesis that UFOs are engaged in reconnaissance. They are painstakingly mapping the geographical features of our country and testing our defense capabilities. The 1952 Washington D.C. incidents are regarded as accidental incursions by aliens mistaking the capitol and White House for military installations. The Lorenzen's expect they will be setting up bases since the taking of plants, boulders, and soil samples probably mean they are testing what sort of agriculture they should establish. The Ubatuba explosion is regarded as self­destruction to prevent superior technology from getting into our hands and revealing its secrets. There is a bare possibility it was an atomic explosion. “UFOs are powerful radioactive sources.” The dangers they pose extend to the possibility that our next war could involve “all nations fighting as brothers against a common foe from outer space.” (Lorenzen, 1966)

They showcase the ideas of Dr. Olavo Fontes that UFOs possessed weapons like heat rays and a device that inhibited the function of petrol engines. However, they claim priority that the observations UFOs made of cars and planes in the early years were done to devise these antimachine machines to disable propulsion systems.

A pattern of reconnaissance is seen, which suggests to them that aliens plan to release sleeping drugs into strategic reservoirs and water tanks as a means of bringing the world to its knees in a matter of hours. They are concerned there are too many blackouts on our power grids. There are also people disappearing. Is this the procuring of specimens? Add to this the case of a woman with medical problems they interpret as radiation effects. No person of conscience can ignore the UFO problem in the light of all this. The UFO problem has to be taken out of the hands of the military, who are lulling us into a false sense of security, and given to an international commission who will handle this red-hot political problem.

“We are in urgent need of the acquisition and objective analysis of basic data.” We are facing potential danger. Maybe they aren’t hostile, but “there is no indication of friendliness either... The existence of a species of superior beings in the universe could cause the civilization of Earth to topple.” This urgency “defies expression.” We must be anxious to relearn the lessons of history; Billy Mitchell, Maginot, Pearl Harbor, and so on.

Credit must be given where it is due. The Air Force got it right and told it straight. No material threat to national security existed. The invasion never took place. Mirarchi’s Pearl Harbor, Riordan’s knockout attack, Kevhoe’s final operation, Wilkins’ death ceiling blockade, Michel’s Sword of Damocles, NICAP’s danger to the fabric of society, the Lorenzens’ mass drugging and the toppling of civilization, Edwards’ imminent Overt Contact, Fawcett’s disaster beyond imagination, Steiger’s full-scale annihilation, Hvnek’s Russian Breakthrough, Clark’s swamp-lurking village-slayers, Palmer’s ongoing titanic war, Fowler’s cultural disintegration: all were concerns with more basis in fantasy than reality.

The sense of urgency, the sense that it may be too late, the sense that our existence depended on a properly conducted investigation was an irrational fear. The Air Force repeatedly tried to get across the message that UFOlogists were wrong, but they were in no mood to listen. It is dogma among UFOlogists that the Air Force was incompetent or worse, yet if that is accepted as a proper, measured evaluation, what word is proper to describe the body of thought presented by these UFOlogists? The Air Force did not perform flawlessly in the details, but they had the big picture in more than sufficient focus to understand it was a nuisance problem and not one of life and death significance.

The same cannot be said of UFOlogists. For them, the big picture keeps changing. In the fifties, they were considerate and peace-loving. In the sixties, they were a source of danger and death. The seventies were perversely irrational and a source of hope. In the eighties, they were traumatizing though they didn’t realize it.

The 1960s also saw many other flying saucer groups like The Adamski Foundation, Mark-Age. Universaucerian Foundation, Aetherius Society, World Understanding, Association of Sananda and Sanat Kumara, The Unarius Academy, and Rael are usually called UFO religions.

Hence the sightings of 1947 of which Ray Palmer said, “What if I told you it was all a joke?” quickly spawned major actors, organizations, and schisms that would dominate the UFO movement for decades.

 

Project Blue Book and the plethora of UFO news

Deep public concern about UFO sightings in 1966 pressed the Air Force into funding an external evaluation of Project Blue Book. This work, directed by Edward Condon, an eminent physicist at the University of Colorado, was completed in 1968 and concluded that there was no evidence supporting a belief in alien visitation and that UFO phenomena do not offer a fruitful field for scientific discoveries. The National Academy of Sciences reviewed Condon's report and concurred with his conclusions. Project Blue Book was terminated in 1969.

Of more than 12,000 sightings eventually registered by Blue Book, over 90 percent were plausibly attributed to misidentifications of celestial objects such as Venus, of human-made objects like weather balloons or artificial satellites, or hoaxes (Condon 1968: 11). Surely there are errors in attribution, but activists and skeptics agree that the vast majority of UFO reports indicate nothing extraordinary.

While valueless for physical scientists or engineers, these sightings are useful for sociologists, showing the context in which ET claims occur. For example, UFOs are usually seen after dark but before midnight, and more often in warm months than winter. This reflects the times when people are outside looking at the night sky. Many nations report UFOs, but the United States is the center of activity. Within the U.S., the geographical distribution of sightings correlates roughly with a density of non-urban population. Few reports come from urban areas, probably because city lights obscure the night sky.

The Air Force count of UFO sightings ceased with Blue Book's demise. Ufologists remedied that loss, one of whom, Larry Hatch, has for twenty years tabulated sightings worldwide and posted them in graphical format on the internet. Like Blue Book, Hatch's unit of analysis is the UFO event, that is, the sighting of one or more extraordinary objects in the sky, or if on the ground thought capable of flight, at a particular time and place by one or more observers. His compilation includes Blue Book; journals, newsletters, and encyclopedias from UFO organizations; news media; and private catalogs. 

By Hatch's count, the greatest number of sightings for one year occurred in 1952. In March 1952, the Air Force consolidated its previous UFO inquiries into Project Blue Book, enlisting intelligence officers at all Air Force facilities to assess and report saucer sightings. This improvement in data collection may account for increased sightings in April and May but seems insufficient to explain the dramatic upturn during the summer.

The news media are another candidate. The Air Force's invigorated UFO inquiry was the lead-in for a highly influential story in Life magazine of April 7.9 Titled "Have We Visitors from Space?" Life's answer was essential "yes." Some 350 newspapers quoted the piece within days of its release. Media attention rose more sharply in July. The New York Times, for example, averaged only three UFO articles per month during the spring of 1952 but ran 17 articles in July, another 37 in August, and then by September nearly dropped the story. 

The last three months of 1957 saw another flap, especially in November. Blue Book attributed many of these sightings to misidentifications of Venus. No increase in UFO news articles accompanied this peak, perhaps because journalists were focused on Sputnik 1, launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, and Sputnik 2 with the dog Laika on November 3. Headlines were plentiful, inducing people to watch the skies.

A plethora of UFO news began in March 1966 with repeated reports by many witnesses of glowing colored lights in two swampy areas near Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dr. Hynek, the Air Force consultant, thought these were visual effects of swamp gas or foxfire from rotting vegetation, producing a phosphorescent glow. Though scientifically reasonable, this "marsh gas" explanation was derided as a cover-up. Michigan congressman (later president) Gerald Ford called for a congressional investigation. House hearings in early April produced more news coverage. The publicity was a boon to the authors of some twenty-five books on UFOs published between 1965 and 1968. John Fuller, a columnist with Saturday Review magazine and a UFO believer, was the major beneficiary, fortuitously publishing two saucer books in 1966. Sightings rose apace with the publicity, peaking in 1967.

Sightings peaked again in fall 1973. This flap started in the southern states and might have gone unmentioned in The New York Times if Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter had not commented that he once saw a UFO (September 14). In mid-October, the Times reported that a UFO seen by thousands of South Carolinians turned out to be the work of an artist who launched the object as an experimental sculpture. About the same time, two shipyard workers from Mississippi, while fishing on the Pascagoula River, were nabbed by hideous-looking aliens, taken aboard the spacecraft for examination, and then released. A local lawyer, acting as the abductees' agent, sought payment for the Pascagoula story. The men repeatedly appeared on network television despite the transparency of their hoax. By this time, there were sightings around the nation.

But in the end, the project concluded: "No UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security." According to the National Archives fact sheet, the program also concluded that the "unidentified" sightings were not advanced technology or extraterrestrial vehicles.

The project was closed down in 1969 because of its cost, the National Archives said.

 

The Heaven’s Gate suicides

After 1973 news reporters ignored UFOs except for a brief but intense return in 1997. There were two big saucer stories that year. In March, the bodies of 39 members of a millennial sect called Heaven’s Gate were found at a wealthy estate in California, victims of a mass suicide intended to remove them from their earthly bodies so they could join a spaceship lurking behind the Hale-Bopp comet, then passing near earth. In a lighter vein, many thousands of partiers gathered at Roswell, New Mexico, on the Fourth of July for the fiftieth anniversary of the crash of a flying saucer containing alien bodies, not all dead, that are still held in secret storage by the Air Force.

As we have seen above, as it relates to Area 51, the seed for the Roswell story was the crash of a government balloon on a nearby ranch in early July 1947. This was barely a week into the media frenzy set off by Kenneth Arnold’s “saucer” sighting near Mount Rainier. The rancher who found the wreckage notified the sheriff, who contacted Roswell Army Air Field, which picked up the debris. The base’s zealous public information officer, Lieutenant Walter Haut, wrote a press release saying that the Army had retrieved the wreckage of one of the rumored flying discs. The Roswell Daily Record ran the story under the headline, “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region.” By the following day, higher-ups in the Army identified the wreckage as a weather balloon, but that was not completely true. In 1994 the Air Force revealed that what crashed at Roswell was a 600-foot long train of weather balloons and radar targets then tested for Project Mogul, a top-secret attempt to detect sound generated by Soviet nuclear-bomb tests.

What is most remarkable about the Roswell crash is that it was virtually a non-event for four decades. I found a mention of Roswell in my perusal of UFO literature barely before 1990. The exception was a book called The Roswell Incident, but its absurdities (e.g., President Eisenhower lacked sufficient security clearance to be told about the downed saucer) gave it little credibility even among UFO believers. Roswell was reinvigorated in the early 1990s as new books promoted theories about one or more crashed saucers, recovered bodies, perhaps a survivor, and of course, a cover-up.

 

Alleged Alien Abductions

During the mid-1980s, several sensational books, presented as nonfiction, explicated the phenomenon of alien abduction, including intrusive medical examinations and the extraction from unwilling donors of sperm and ova, to be used in fertility experiments. There were accounts of hybrid fetuses taken from pregnant women and hybrid children shown briefly to their human mothers but kept by the aliens (Strieber 1987; Hopkins 1981, 1987; Jacobs 1992; Mack 1994). According to this literature, abduction and hybridization are commonplace, but since the aliens induce amnesia, contactees are barely aware of their encounters until memories are restored under hypnosis. The most commercially successful of these books, leading the New York Times bestseller list by May 1987, was Communion by Whitney Strieber, a well-known author of horror fiction, who wrote of his own abduction and traumatic medical examination by aliens. A movie version of Communion, starring Christopher Walken, followed in 1989, and following that was a wave of reported abductions. 

In 1994, the abduction phenomenon got an enormous boost from the trade publication of Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens by Dr. John E. Mack, a long-time professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for a biography of T. E. Lawrence. Mack had been introduced to the abduction phenomenon in January 1990 by Budd Hopkins, an accomplished artist and amateur hypnotist who had worked with abductees for over a decade. In 1987 Hopkins had published Intruders, a book on the reality of alien abduction. By 1992, after Intruders was reshaped as a fictional TV movie, the lead character was a Mack-like psychiatrist (played by Richard Crenna) working with abductees. Both Mack and Hopkins were consultants on the film.

Dr. Mack provided a level of credibility that Hopkins or any other UFO believer could not approach. He provoked a storm of controversy at Harvard, including a Medical School investigation of his work with abductees. Still, tenure and the spirit of academic freedom preserved him from serious censure. In the paperback edition of his book, Mack slightly moderated the sensationalism of the original hardback, stating that he did not presume that everything abductees told him to be literally true. Still, he vigorously defended the credibility of abduction experiences until he died in 2004, struck by a bus in London. It remains puzzling why a physician of Mack's stature would espouse so implausible a phenomenon. He did have a history of flirting with dubious practices like Werner Erhard's EST and Stanislav Grof’s "holotropic breathwork," a technique that allegedly accesses extraordinary states of consciousness. Whatever his motives, the Harvard professor and the mass media carried alien abduction a long way from the fabulous tale of Barney and Betty Hill.

There is no physical evidence associated with alien visitation or abduction that cannot be explained in ordinary terms. We have testimony from people like the Hills, who insist that they personally experienced these events. Most do not suffer severe psychopathology (Clancy 2005). In the clinical laboratory, when their supposed abductions are brought to mind, these claimants show physiological signs of stress consistent with a recall of trauma. Apparently, most of them truly believe they were kidnapped and sexually molested by extraterrestrials.

The major argument given to support the reality of alien abduction is that the stories told by unrelated abductees have a high degree of consistency on specific details. What are the broad commonalities? Most abduction occurs at night when the abductee is alone, usually in bed or asleep. Abductees often feel paralyzed while they are being taken. And abduction stories are generally accepted to be simply a result of sleep paralysis.

 

Senator Harry Reid and Robert Bigelow's 2017 revival of the UFO myth

Today, a new set of crusading actors revive a UFO narrative with all the trappings of America’s first round of extraterrestrial enchantment. On December 16, 2017, Politico, the New York Times, and The Washington Post published near-simultaneous stories about an obscure $22 million Pentagon project that officially existed between 2008 and 2012.

All three outlets had essentially the same story: The Pentagon program was created at the behest of former Democratic Senator Harry Reid in 2008 and was run jointly for a time with Bigelow Aerospace in Las Vegas, whose owner, Robert Bigelow, has long been on the hunt for extraterrestrials and poltergeists.

Politico and the Washington Post treated the Pentagon program as it appeared to be: A pet project of a senator that didn’t amount to much, other than “reams of paperwork”, and did not provide evidence that alien spaceships were buzzing our skies. Both stories had well-placed sources in the intelligence community that were skeptical of the program’s purpose and deliverables. Absent any salacious details; neither story got a wider pickup.

The New York Times, however, played up dubious tidbits that the Washington Post or Politico either didn’t find credible or simply didn’t know about, namely that the program had found “metal alloys and other materials… recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena,” that got stored in a Bigelow Aerospace warehouse. There is no indication in the Times story that any of these “materials” were seen firsthand by its reporters.

The Times also had something its competitors apparently didn’t: Grainy footage of two Navy F/A-18 fighter jets in 2004 tracking an apparent unknown object “traveling at high speed and rotating” off the coast of San Diego. The 45-second video and the Times front-page article went viral.

But there’s more to the Times story that should’ve given readers pause.

One of the story's authors was Leslie Kean, a journalist with a long-standing interest in UFOs and the paranormal, who published a book in 2010 titled UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record. At the time, activists in the UFO community were coalescing around the goal of obtaining official “disclosure” about extraterrestrial sightings. This entailed finding current military and aviation whistleblowers to come forward and share the secrets they knew about UFOs — or in the case of Kean’s book, tell of the strange flying objects they had seen or learned about in the course of their jobs. In numerous articles in the Huffington Post over the past decade, Kean has discussed her participation in several nonprofit groups in UFOs and the “disclosure” movement.

On Oct 10, 2017, Kean published a tantalizing article on the Huffington Post’s contributor platform. (The platform, now closed, allowed people to post their own writing to the site). “Something extraordinary is about to be revealed,” she wrote. “Former high-level officials and scientists with deep black experience who have always remained in the shadows” were preparing to dish “inside knowledge” of UFOs.

Kean described a group of “government insiders” who came together as part of a new for-profit company called To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science (TTSA). Members included Hal Puthoff, a theoretical physicist and former Scientologist who directed the infamous “psychic spy” program for the CIA and DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) in the 1970s and 1980s, and Chris Mellon, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence during the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations.

Of note, the founding of TTSA was set in motion by Tom DeLonge, a former guitarist for Blink-182 who has long nursed a very public obsession with UFOs. Another key player was a former military intelligence officer named Luis Elizondo, who at the launch of TTSA publicly announced that an “aerospace threat identification program” he had recently overseen at the Pentagon had convinced him the UFO “phenomena was indeed real.”

The Times, encouraged by Kean, took a serious look at Elizondo and his claims. Other prominent outlets, it turned out, were doing so, too. Two months later, the Times, Politico, and Washington Post stories hit. But it was the Times piece that reverberated across the media landscape.

ABC News called the Times story and video footage a “bombshell.” MSNBC, in one of its numerous segments on the story, described news of the government’s UFO program as a “remarkable admission by the Pentagon” as a “result of reporting by the New York Times.” Every major television network rolled the video. “You can laugh if you want,” news anchor Bret Baier said on Fox, “but a lot of people are taking this revelation seriously.” Elizondo, who would become a media darling over the months to come, said on CNN: “My personal belief is there is very compelling evidence we may not be alone.”

Amidst the media frenzy, few prominent outlets bothered to look closely at the juicy particulars of the Times piece or at the UFO video that left many awestruck. Notable exceptions included Scientific American, which was deeply skeptical about those metal chunks being stored in a Bigelow warehouse, and New York magazine, which, in a damning critique by writer Jeff Wise, faulted the Times story for “selective omissions” and for “making portentous assertions out of context.” Wise wrote that such techniques “are great for exciting an audience, but they’re better suited to Ancient Aliens,” the aforementioned History Channel series, “than the pages of the New York Times.”

These criticisms hardly registered, though. If anything, the juggernaut grew after Elizondo and TTSA in 2018 rolled out more intriguing videos, obtained from the Pentagon, of supposed UFOs under pursuit by military jets. It launched another news cycle, once again with few skeptical voices in the media.

Meanwhile, TTSA raised over $2 million from investors. The company’s all-stars, particularly Elizondo, continue to generate media coverage. As the Washington Post noted last May in a news story: “UFOs are suddenly a serious story.

As Neil deGrasse Tyson put it rather well: What the UFO community puts forth as evidence is weak on a level that, in any scientific circle, would be kicked out of the lab room. The basis of this argument boils down to the foundations of the scientific method. Eyewitness testimony is nowhere near enough evidence to support a claim as fantastical as alien visitors. He added: I am not saying didn't see it - I'm simply saying you cannot present that as evidence for something you want all of us to believe.

The alleged evidence Luis Elizondo mentioned is a video shown here and can also be seen on Tom DeLonge's website, along with his commentary. The video is discussed here: Plus, over on Metabunk, Mick West makes a good case that these images show distant jets. In fact, they seem quite similar to the "Groundbreaking UFO video" that Leslie Kean (one of the authors of the New York Times UFO article) obtained from Chile's UFO investigations group early this year, quite conclusively shown to have been a distant jet aircraft whose position had been misjudged.

Or as a recent article stated: "The media" loves this UFO expert who says he worked for an obscure pentagon program, did he?

Even today, People who claim to see UFOs are typically adamant about what they witnessed, though most space experts are unconvinced. “No serious astronomer gives any credence to any of these stories,” astrophysicist Martin Rees notably said in 2012. He’s right. UFO reports can be attributed to commercial or military jets, weather balloons, an odd cloud formation, a comet, or Venus (under certain atmospheric conditions). The planet can appear as a fast-moving, bright halo). Some intrepid photographers have even confused insects flying around a camera lens for alien aircraft.

As we have thus seen, Bigelow leveraged his friendship with Democratic Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who thought Bigelow to be “brilliant” and received tens of thousands in campaign donations from him. Reid and two other senators moved to expand the Skinwalker Ranch investigation into a fully-funded government program, despite the Pentagon’s complete lack of interest in UFOs or space spooks, mandating that the military research “aerial threats” at the cost of $22 million over five years. Bigelow, the only bidder, received the contract to research these “threats.”

The only public accounting of the program’s research was a list of its theoretical papers on stargates, wormholes, and other sci-fi topics that “invisible college” members like Puthoff obsessed over, as well as a proprietary 494-page 2009 “ten-month report” from Bigelow’s team in which Puthoff, Vallée, and others wrote about UFOs, “interdimensional phenomena” at Skinwalker Ranch. Alleged technology aliens implanted in a UFO abductee. Pentagon officials quickly concluded that releasing such an absurd report “would be a disaster,” as one unnamed official told The New Yorker. Eventually, Team Space Ghost developed bizarre mythology, imagining that an organized cabal in the Pentagon actively suppressed UFO work because it feared UFOs were demons and that researching them might provoke Satan.

The program’s funding ran out in 2012. But its supporters have continued to labor tirelessly to push its ideas into the mainstream. Ex-official Luis Elizondo says he continued the program’s work through a different office before leaving the Pentagon for reality TV. (The Pentagon denies Elizondo’s account and insists he had no “assigned responsibilities” for the program.) Despite claiming to believe UFOs were an imminent national security threat, he didn’t take his concerns to national security journalists or Congress. He joined up with Puthoff and Team Space Ghost at their new entertainment company, To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, styled TTSA.

 

How they succeeded in manipulating the media

They were not master manipulators. But they succeeded in manipulating the media anyway. As seen above, joining forces with fading rock star Tom DeLonge of Blink-182. DeLonge reached out to former Obama White House counselor John Podesta in 2016 for help meeting with investigative journalist and paranormal enthusiast Leslie Kean or “somebody else more elevated than her” to help promote his UFO entertainment ventures.

In many ways, Kean was the perfect vehicle for a UFO story. She knew everyone involved. In 2002, Kean joined the Sci-Fi Channel and Podesta to sue the government to release UFO information. A regular at UFO researcher gatherings, Kean had been the last romantic partner of Budd Hopkins. They were together when she published a credulous book on military UFO sightings in 2010 with a foreword by Podesta. (Hopkins died in 2011.) She later joined UFO DATA, a UFO research organization, where she met a scion of the Mellon family, Christopher K. Mellon, a former defense official, and Senate staffer. Mellon had been briefed on Project Stargate when in office and professed love of UFOs. He became an investor in TTSA, staffed by Bigelow veterans like Puthoff. When Elizondo brought his story to TTSA, Mellon knew whom to call.

The TTSA team met with Kean on October 4, 2017, and she gushed over them in the Huffington Post six days later. The Huffington Post was exactly the kind of second-tier pop culture media like Rolling Stone, Politico, and Joe Rogan’s podcast that TTSA courted at first, lacking connections at more elite publications. That’s when dumb luck hit. As seen above, Kean had an idea.

After the meeting, Kean contacted retired New York Times reporter Ralph Blumenthal, whom she knew because of their shared connections in the alien abduction world. Blumenthal was working on a biography of John Mack, a colleague of Hopkins also funded by Bigelow. Blumenthal called the Times and convinced the paper to run the story, and it was a good story, that a billionaire had scored himself a personal military UFO research program. But Blumenthal and Kean framed the story as one of military interest in UFOs, not Bigelow’s, thus shaping media and congressional perceptions of the program.

Kean and Blumenthal’s first Times UFO story ran on December 17, 2017, on page one. Blumenthal had given TTSA something the “invisible college” had tried and failed to gain for years, elite respectability. Major media now ran countless stories, citing the Times as an excuse, with little mention of space ghosts or anything that might make the program seem unserious. This lent it more credibility. TTSA used Mellon’s connections to meet with Senate staffers primed by the Times coverage. Senators, including Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, radicalized by media coverage and lobbying from Mellon’s team, subsequently requested briefings from the Pentagon, allegedly to understand what they were reading in the news. Mellon praised Rubio for using last year’s Intelligence Authorization Act to require that the military and intelligence agencies produce a report about UFOs. “It further legitimizes the issue,” Mellon said. It could also create a rush for new defense contracts.

By this spring, the imminent report, and prodding from Mellon and Kean, prompted another round of uncritical media coverage. Kean and Elizondo were profiled in the aforementioned credulous New Yorker article tied to the congressional report Mellon had lobbied for. Within days, Elizondo and Mellon, who left TTSA for their own unnamed new national security UFO venture, were everywhere in the media, from 60 Minutes to CNN, reinforcing the Pentagon and UFO threat narrative skeptics did not recognize.

The threat narrative was a brilliant bit of framing, turning a story of poltergeist hunters battling a cabal of demon-believers into a national security issue. But this influence campaign masks the deeper transformation its advocates want to bring about: Puthoff and his colleagues seek to delegitimize material science in favor of a magical, neo-medieval view of reality founded on spirit, or, in their terms, security issue. But this influence campaign masks the deeper transformation its advocates want to bring about: Puthoff and his colleagues seek to delegitimize material science in favor of a magical, neo-medieval view of reality founded on spirit, or, in their terms, “consciousness” and psychic powers. Elizondo still speaks of demon cabals, otherworldly beings, and UFOs operating beyond human perception, just not on 60 Minutes. UFOs, newly relevant as a security threat, are only the vanguard of a larger effort to undo the failure of Stargate and elevate spirit over matter. It’s bad science and dangerous as government policy, the kind of magical thinking that leads to lunacy and disaster.

CBS’s David Pogue literally chuckled during his Sunday Morning UFO report, telling viewers we should “live and let live” and not challenge UFO believers. Klein and Lewis-Kraus said they would be sad without a UFO mystery to enjoy. HBO Max announced a valorizing biopic about Kean, 

Elizondo, and Mellon. So long as a compliant media plays along with the “fun” of UFOs, the clumsy effort to use them to break down modern science continues unabated. And Bigelow is prepared: Blumenthal recently gave him a lavish New York Times profile to launch his new think tank for “consciousness science” and afterlife studies. Bigelow appointed Hal Puthoff, members of the “invisible college,” and Leslie Kean.

 

From esotericism to alleged Science

So far the story is clear when we follow the footsteps of Ufology we see how it has evolved from esoteric and borderline religious ideas all the way into the hallways of Washington DC.

Looking at the history of these ideas, we have a good idea of what will happen, and we shouldn’t let enthusiasts of space ghosts have the run of Washington to steer money and policy in the direction they want. If they insist UFOs are a national security threat, then the national media must take them at their word. No more chuckles. No more rhapsodies about mystery. We must hold Team Space Poltergeist to the levels of skepticism, seriousness, and scrutiny it pretends to demand. 

 

Conclusion

The May 17e reporting on CNN (from which the above snapshot was taken) and the 60 Minutes segment of Sunday, May 16, 2021 (available on YouTube), was no doubt for many people a startling revelation that the US Government has admitted that UFOs are “real” and the military is investigating them. But for many, it was a walk down memory lane, a recap of the curious events as listed above.

The segment opens with an interview with Luis Elizondo, the former head of the above mentioned $22 million program instigated by Senator Harry Reid called AATIP: the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. Ostensibly this was created to study possible future developments in aerospace. Elizondo claims the program was actually created to study UFOs (or, as they prefer to call them now, UAPs, or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.) Put out to tender in 2008, the budget was awarded to (pictured below) Robert Bigelow, a paranormal enthusiast.

Elizondo opens with the startling claim that “the Government has already stated for the record that [UFOs] are real.” Startling, that is, until you remember that “UFO” does not necessarily mean alien visitors, but rather something unidentified in the sky, something about which the observer lacks sufficient information to identify. Obviously, the government would admit such things are “real.” A mylar balloon floating into the range of a Navy jet’s camera is “real”, but the U in UFO and UAP does not mean extraterrestrial, or even necessarily an aerial technology beyond any known physics and aerodynamics.

Elizondo then goes on to describe craft exhibiting startling technologies, the ability to accelerate at a physics-defying 600g, reaching speeds of 17,000 mph in the atmosphere, or even through water. These are things that the government very much has not admitted are real.

We then are shown a series of familiar videos as evidence of this amazing technology, all of which have been in the public domain for some time (over a decade in one case) and all of which have been analyzed by several people, and found to almost certainly not represent objects exhibiting incredible abilities, and instead more likely signify very ordinary human technology.

First, we see “Go Fast”, a video presented as showing an incredibly fast craft skimming low over the ocean. But if you do the very simple trigonometry invited by the numbers on screen, it turns out to be something far above the surface and moving at a speed that matches the wind at that altitude, making it almost certainly just a balloon. Yet the 60 Minutes host, the highly respected journalist Bill Whitaker, repeats Elizondo’s baseless claim that it’s “fast moving.”

Next we see a more recent video, the green flashing triangle. Initially very impressive, it shows a triangular shaped object moving across the sky, filmed with a night vision device from a Navy ship. But then you notice the flashing light that perfectly matches the pattern of blinking lights on a commercial plane like a Boeing 737. A little research reveals that some night-vision devices have a triangular aperture (the analysis at Metabunk). When the device is slightly out of focus then a plane flying overhead looks exactly like this flying triangle. The case was effectively closed when other triangles in the scene were identified as stars. Yet we are told “the Pentagon admits it doesn’t know what in the world it is.” It’s pretty obvious what it is once you match the UAP blinking triangle to that of commercial airliners.

In fact, the only thing the Pentagon has admitted is that the videos are “real,” in that they were taken by US Navy personnel (and not, therefore, fake CGI-generated videos or whatever), and that they were included in studies by the UAP task force, meaning they were at least unidentified at one point.

We are then shown two other videos. “FLIR1” is claimed to show physics-defying acceleration, but careful study has shown that the supposed sudden moves are actually the result of the camera moving or changing mode. “GIMBAL” shows an impressive looking flying saucer, but again the reality seems more mundane, an infrared glare of a distant plane and a rotating gimbal mechanism explain both the rotating saucer shape, and why it was named “gimbal” in the first place.

Later we hear about the 2004 USS Nimitz aircraft carrier incident, which gave us the FLIR1 video. Two pilots, David Fravor and Alex Dietrich, repeat a story they (mostly Fravor) have been telling for over a decade. Lauded as the greatest UFO encounter of all time, it has remarkably little in terms of actual evidence. The one blurry video has been consistently misinterpreted (including by Fravor) as showing rapid motion. There are accounts of unusual radar returns showing rapid motion, but unfortunately there’s no solid evidence for these, and the account has changed somewhat since it first appeared in a bizarre short science-fiction story written by the chief radar operator in 2008.

Dietrich and Fravor describe an encounter and short dog-fight with a “Tic-Tac” shaped craft. This is perhaps the most compelling story, and one that’s difficult to explain. But their accounts don’t exactly line up, and I suspect that they saw the same thing, but both had different illusions of motion based on parallax. Unfortunately, the passage of time might mean we will never know what they saw.

We then meet Elizondo’s partner in this enterprise, Christopher Mellon, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. Mellon seemingly shares Elizondo’s suspicion that we are being visited by some kind of non-human entity, and in 2017 worked with him to secure the release of the videos, which they then gave to the New York Times for a piece of well-timed publicity for their then employer, the To The Stars Academy, founded by rock star Tom DeLonge.

The 60 Minutes segment is capped by Senator Marco Rubio, who has somehow become embroiled in the UAP saga, presenting himself as the voice of reason, just trying to get the military to look into “this.”

But the military is not ignoring things that fly into their airspace just because they can’t identify them. Procedures exist for reporting and investigating such things, not the least of which being that incursion into sensitive airspace would be aggressively intercepted. And the supposed rationale for AATIP (exploiting UFO technology) has already been covered by a variety of Foreign Material Exploitation Program, likely with vastly higher budgets.

Ultimately this story has gone on for far too long because the wall of military secrecy allows rampant speculation and claims based on supposed classified knowledge. The unwillingness of the military to clear this up is perhaps understandable, as they have more important things to do. But it’s becoming a big story now, with large segments of the public thinking that there’s something to these accounts and these videos, and it’s a short path from “unidentified” to “extraterrestrial” or “foreign assets”. I do not have great expectations for the story going away, but I wish that someone high up will eventually say enough is enough, and explain exactly what is going on, what these videos show, and what the military really thinks about UFOs.

 

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