Monday, April 25, 2016

"Star children" & "star seeds" - a "reality check" (DNA based) is needed

Keith Basterfield gives a interesting commentary on a recent "star seed" claim here in Australia:…/new-human-…

As I had devoted a chapter to this theme in my 2005 book "Hair of the Alien" I thought it was worthwhile to restate "the reality check" such claims require.
In the chapter - “An Early Abduction Odyssey” in my 2005 book “Hair of the Alien” – on the curious and fascinating story of Vicki Klein I discussed the complexity and validity of some abduction narratives and claims and closed the chapter with the following cautionary note. Given the recent publicity to recent “star child”, “star seed” claims I think it is useful to restate my views. Moreover claims of “hybrid DNA” should be validated with DNA testing. My book was focused on a case study – Peter Khoury’s 1992 experience which yielded a biological sample – a hair sample which was subject to detailed DNA analyses, headed by a leading DNA researcher Dr. Horace Drew (who worked at the CSIRO’s biochemical division as a senior research scientist). Claims of “hybrid DNA” should be examined in a more scientific way. My book was a template for such an approach, and given the techniques available today, belief in such claims is not enough. Techniques are available that take such claims beyond uncritical belief to greater certainty on whether they are the stuff of wild belief or something strange and worth investigation. If the numerous claimants and advocates continue to only described unsubstantiated claims, such experiences will remain just that – “claims”, “stories” from the wilder shores of UFO belief. A reality fix anchored in DNA studies and hard science is needed.
My 2005 comments:
“More uncertain and very much more provocative is the so-called “star children” phenomenon that has long been a part of the UFO abduction phenomenon. The belief argues that some “special children” with enhanced abilities, are the product of human/alien unions or other exotic means and they represent a transformational step in mankind’s artificially accelerated evolutionary path. Stories like those from Cynthia Appleton and Vicki Klein might suggest it, but these are far from the kind of proofs for the extraordinary implications that the “star children” saga implies. A somewhat uncritical fusion with new age perspectives has crept into the unravelling of such claims. While some of the advocates of the “star children” connection may mean well, and are perhaps only seeking to assist those people who have this sense of “alien origin” to realise what they perceive as their fuller potential, it is a veritable mind field for the uncritical and alienated within society. Such activities need to be rigorously linked with critical and objective assessments. As much of it centres around children such precautions are absolutely paramount. And yet the opposite seems to be happening. Parents of “special children” are often attracted to these belief systems, perhaps because to them it might somehow reconcile their sense of alienation. It is one thing for adults to embrace these things. It is entirely another thing for them to foist that belief system onto their children. Equally the researchers that advocate this “star children” belief need to tread extremely carefully before integrating children into this alien web. The soundness of their belief systems needs to be objectively tested. Advocates need to allow a critical assessment of their methodologies. If they don’t they will continue to wallow in the margins of the fringe belief systems from which it has emerge, and worse still run the risk of being seen as exploiting or endangering children.
“Numerous strands of reality and unreality run through the alien abduction story. Some either invigorate or endanger the serious investigation of alien abduction claims. Researchers and investigators in this controversial area of human experience need to tread carefully and purposefully, seeking frequent reality checks, as they try to work towards answers.”
In a footnote to those paragraphs in my book I elaborated:
"The “star children” belief has emerged from the “star people” concept popularised by writers such as Brad Steiger (see “The Star People” (1981) & “The Seed” (1983). Steiger dwelt on aspects of this milieu in his 1976 book “Gods of Aquarius – UFOs and the Transformation of Man”, specifically chapter 7 “The Star Maidens and the worldwide production of “little Uri Gellers”). Dr. Richard Boylan has emerged as a controversial advocate of “star children” (see “The Abduction Enigma” by Kevin Randle,, for some background on the controversy surrounding Richard Boylan). Jenny Randles provides intriguing material in her 1994 book “Star Children”. Whitley Strieber touches on this theme in some of his books, in particular “The Secret School – Preparation for contact” (1997). “Awakening – How Extraterrestrial contact can transform your life” (2002) by Mary Rodwell provides a somewhat uncritical and new age “bible” for experiencers. See in particular her Chapter 9 “Star Children – ‘Homo Noeticus’, The New Humans, or ‘New Kids on the block’. Colin Wilson in “Alien Dawn- an investigation into the contact experience” (1998) concludes with a similar focus. Some of the directions this belief system are leading to are described in such books as “From Elsewhere – Being E.T. in America” by Scott Mandelker, Ph.D (1996) and “Aliens Among us” by Ruth Montgomery (1985). An interesting journey through some of this territory can be found in “Soul Samples” by Leo Sprinkle Ph.D (1999). Researchers and travellers in this controversial area of “star children” claims would do well to take onboard the lessons of such books as “Hystories – Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture (1997) by Elaine Showalter and “Sleeping with Extra-terrestrials – The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety” (1999) by Wendy Kaminer. “In Advance of the Landing: Folk Concepts of Outer Space” by Douglas Curran (1985) provides a poignant “road trip” on this highway to the “alien-r-us” or the “alienated”."
In Keith Basterfield's commentary he refers to Mary Rodwell's book "Awakening" and the claims of 
Dr Berrenda Fox – amazing DNA cellular changes; some people developed new strands of DNA. (page 156). I actually highlighted years ago to Mary Rodwell that this claim was very dubious, as were many of Mary's "enhanced DNA" stories - none were validated in a scientific and documented way. This link highlighted the less than impressive background to "Dr. Fox's" story: 
While my journey through Vicki Klein's story and other complex cases I have examined cautions me not to dismiss these stories, it cautioned me to try available scientifically based techniques, such as DNA testing, to anchor such claims in fact or fancy.  I suggest the advocates of such claims try the same approach, otherwise they will be fodder for further marginalisation to "the wilder shores" of uncritical UFO belief.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

UFO High Impact - Westall and the amazing wave of 1966 - 50th anniversary

With the 50th anniversary of the UFO HIGH IMPACT year of 1966 here are some personal images that reflect my own engagement with that awesome year in Australian UFO history: 

being interviewed by the History Channel on Tully with Sydney Harbour bridge as backdrop; 

with Albert Pennisi, the owner of Horseshoe Lagoon - site of the famous daylight UFO incident in January 1966 - photo with Albert taken at UFO Research Qld's 2006 conference; 

the 3 "UFO amigos" at Westall in 2006 - Shane Ryan, George Simpson and me; at the Westall UFO theme park in 2015; 

at Westall school in 2005;

in the Department of Defence in 1982 taking over the DPR's desk examining the RAAF's UFO files;

at Burkes Flat in 1980 pointing at the tree that Ron Sullivan hit in 1966 when his car headlight beams bent in the presence of a UFO (Gary Taylor tragically died colliding with the same tree a few days later); 

with the 2 powerhouses behind the excellent documentary Westall '66 - a suburban UFO mystery - Carmel McAloon & Rosie Jones in 2006 at Westall; 

and my "forensic" drawing reconstruction of Victor Zackary's Westall experience in 1966.
1966 was an extraordinary year for high impact UFO events. Tully, Burkes Flat and Westall are the most prominent of these. There are other physical trace stories and events far stranger, such as apparent abduction events during that same year, long before such experience became a major part of the generally accepted UFO controversy. There is much more to be revealed about the extraordinary year of 1966.

Looks like I'll be on the Channel 10 TV next Wednesday April 6 2016 (about 10.30 am) coverage of the Westall anniversary.

I will be giving a lecture – “UFO High Impact - Westall and the amazing wave of 1966 revisited” at the Paracon 2016 event at Katoomba in late May 2016.
Time/Location: Sunday May 29th 2016 1030AM-1130AM in Blue Mountains Cultural Centre.
In the 50th anniversary year the extraordinary UFO wave of 1966, focusing on the striking Westall school case, the Tully UFO landing, the Burkes Flat "bent headlight beam" case, the Balwyn UFO photo, a Penrith close encounter and the Bankstown "saucer nest", is examined by UFO researcher, historian and author of "The OZ Files - the Australian UFO Story" and "Hair of the Alien - DNA and other Forensic Evidence of Alien Abductions Bill Chalker.
Note: There will be a screening of Westall 66 in The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre following this talk. (12PM-1PM) Check schedule for clarification.
I will also be interviewed on this theme by George Knapp on Coast to Coast radio on Monday, April 18, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm Sydney time as a way of covering the 50th anniversary of these extraordinary events – a time of UFO High Impact.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The Kelly Cahill Case revisited - an extraordinary lost opportunity

In my latest column in Gary Heseltine's "UFO Truth" magazine there were some editorial typo issues which both Gary and I worked to fix.  As there might be some confusion I've included the corrected copy here:
"This is not a science fiction fantasy.  This is an Australian reality", states Kelly Cahill of her experiences and her odyssey into that vast milieu that is the UFO abduction phenomenon and the social phenomena that swells around it.
The first episode of the new limited season science fiction series of “The X Files”, aired in late January 2016, had FBI agent Fox Mulder testing the knowledge of a new possible asset by asking him about Kelly Cahill.  Here was “The X Files” utilising a real case.   That exposure in a fictional TV programme watched by millions put the Kelly Cahill case back into the spotlight. Kelly had long since retreated from the spotlight.  My last contact with her was when she sent me her personal files before moving overseas for a new life free of the attention that the UFO episode had drawn. 
Ultimately Kelly Cahill was the only witness to what may have been a multiple witnessed abduction milieu who emerged into the public eye.  The case showed great promise suggesting that on 8 August 1993 at a location known as Eumemmerring Creek, Belgrave, in the Dandenong region near Melbourne, Victoria 3 apparently independent groups of people may have witnessed a UFO at very close quarters, encountering strange entities and experiencing abduction like episodes with apparent physical effects on witnesses and the apparent UFO close encounter site – ground traces which appeared to include a magnetic anomaly, unusual soil chemical profiles and possible surface damage. In all it seemed 6 people were involved – Kelly and her husband “Andrew” (Car 1), Jill (or Glenda depending on which account you read), Jane and her husband Bill (Car 2 – Kelly apparently observed this car, but was only aware of 2 people), and a single male (Car 3). 
In attempting to deal with the unraveling nightmare, Kelly tried to contact universities and aviation authorities, albeit with unsatisfactory results. The aviation authority gave her 2 UFO contact numbers, one in Victoria and mine in Sydney, New South Wales as part of the UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC).  Kelly was very dissatisfied with her attempts to receive assistance from the Victorian group, which seemed keen to only get details of her experience into their publication, and then dwelling on how extensive their files were and criticising other researchers. She then contacted me on October 4th, 1993, seeking assistance in understanding a bizarre experience she had near the outer Melbourne suburban housing estate of Narre Warren North, in the foothills of the  Dandenongs, Victoria, between Belgrave and Fountain Gate, during the early hours of August 8th, 1993.
The importance of this event lies in the fact that when Kelly contacted me she mentioned that apart from her husband with her in their car, she was aware of another car further down hill from their position which contained at least two people, a man and a woman.  She paid little heed to them at the time as she and her husband's attention was taken up by a massive UFO that had apparently that had landed in the field opposite them. 
Because Kelly lived in Victoria and my preliminary assessment was that her experience warranted serious investigation from investigators and researchers closer to the locality than I was, I passed details of Kelly's experience onto John Auchettl of Phenomena Research Australia (PRA) and recommended Kelly contact him. 
PRA appeared to have conducted a detailed investigation of the incident which developed from a complex UFO close encounter, entity encounter and missing time milieu, to a incident that also involved other people unknown to Kelly and her husband. 
By November 17th, 1993, PRA's investigation managed to locate the man and woman apparently seen by Kelly that night.  The couple were also accompanied by a girl friend that night, and this separate group were apparently able to take John Auchettl back to the encounter site, to a spot consistent with Kelly's location of them.  The group's drawings of the UFO and entities also closely coincide with those of Kelly. 
It is extremely significant that this independent confirmation of a Close Encounter of the third kind (CE3) and "missing time" milieu has occurred as it possibly represents a first, in that two groups of people unknown to each other have witnessed the same UFO encounter, entities and also experienced missing time, and each group has been available to competent and serious investigators and researchers.  Perhaps for the first time independent witnesses have been able to provide information that enabled cross checking and correlations to reveal a striking degree of similar information, therefore possibly offering a compelling case for the reality of the strange events described.  The ontological status of the events is further strengthened by the reported discovery of a range of apparently related physical traces, including ground traces, a magnetic anomaly and effects on some of the witnesses.
Twenty years ago "The extraordinary abduction of Kelly Cahill" was the first chapter of my 1996 book "The OZ Files - the Australian UFO Story". "Rolling Stone" (Australian edition) ran that chapter as an excerpt in the magazine. Later in the year (1996) Kelly's own book "Encounter" was published. 
I described the case in my 2005 book "Hair of the alien" as a lesson well learnt - "Trust no one" (to play on an “X-Files” mantra) if you want it done right. The Kelly Cahill case and the strange dynamics with the PRA group in Melbourne ensured I would focus myself on the Peter Khoury case and not let another group run with it and seemingly bury their data, in a manner similar to what happened to Kelly herself.  Her persistence got her some limited case data from PRA (but far short of a detailed case file that gave context and detail).  Despite being the person who facilitated John Auchettl/PRA’s involvement in Kelly's case in the first place I never did see their promised case data and detailed report, which would have assisted in analysis and assessment.
Kelly Cahill's experience was an extraordinary lost opportunity. I came to regret my decision to involve PRA, but they were Victorian based and I was in New South Wales. PRA's decision to not make their data generally available was disappointing, but it was the dynamic that emerged in their investigation that disappointed me the most.
I am still impressed by the basics of Kelly Cahill’s experience.  I am frustrated by the investigation dynamic, mainly PRA's investigation, so much so I determined never to pass a case onto them again. It was frustrating that such a promising case was caught up in a situation where the group involved chose not to make their data available.  PRA specified witness problems and legal hassles as the key contributing factors that stopped their report emerging.  They claimed that forced changes made the proposed end document unworkable.
Maybe John Auchettl & PRA might now feel they can free up their case data on this intriguing case. Its only been 22 years? I've got no expectations nor do I wish to play their games again. Someone else's turn.  

In the absence of a detailed case file from PRA to examine I’ll summarise below various references that may help you navigate through this complex case.  This will help you then navigate through the various on-line Internet references which vary tremendously in quality. 
My own initial account of the complex episode was the first to appear.  It was published in the Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) publication International UFO Reporter, September/October, 1994, in “An Extraordinary Encounter in the Dandenong Foothills”
I had written in my original report:
“Kelly has gone on to write her own account of the experience and its difficult aftermath. In October 1994 John Auchettl and PRA, whose investigative thoroughness is to be commended, released a comprehensive report on the affair. In this emotionally explosive area it is easy for people to get caught up in less than satisfactory situations while they attempt to understand extraordinary experiences. I hope this event and the documentation that flows from it will be of some help to others in similar situations.
“The victims of these experiences must not be unrealistically encouraged by advocates of an alien presence; nor, at the other extreme, should they be ridiculed by the sceptical among us. They should be helped to deal with their experiences, whether those experiences turn out to be prosaic or profound in origin. The second part of this report will review the PRA report and examine in detail the accounts of the other group of witnesses. It will also consider the physical evidence and provide reflections on the nature and meaning of this event.” 
Here is a link to my original account which also includes a follow-up statement I posted in June 2002: 
“The Cahill case, PRA & openness:
“It should be noted that the above "comment" in the 1994 IUR report was prepared on the assumption that the "PRA comprehensive report on the affair" was about to be released. Despite nearly a decade passing, John Auchettl and PRA have not released their report other than a few fragments of information.
“As the researcher responsible for passing Kelly Cahill onto PRA in the first place, principally because I am NSW based and the incident occurred in Victoria, I have to say now that that decision was, in hindsight, a mistake.
“My comment in my 1994 IUR report: "John Auchettl and PRA, whose investigative thoroughness is to be commended", was based entirely on conversations with Auchettl and discussions with Kelly Cahill at the time (1993-1994), and in retrospect should have been qualified more accurately. While Auchettl & PRA may well have been thorough in their investigation, in reality there has been no way to absolutely verify this, because of their unwillingness to release their report and data on the case. PRA have offered some seemingly unusual and convoluted explanations for this lack of sharing.
“I have long encouraged openness and sharing in UFO research (my web site is in part an expression of my position on this matter). My attempts to encourage PRA in this direction, from my perspective, have been very disappointing, and have instead lead me to not to refer cases to John Auchettl and PRA. Unless PRA changes their apparent lack of transparency and openness, researchers and witnesses should carefully consider the wisdom of cooperating with Phenomena Research Australia (PRA).”
The “seemingly unusual and convoluted explanation” PRA provided for their report on the case revolved around 2 alleged versions of the report.  The first one was scheduled for October 1994.  John Auchettl was confidently advising of its imminent publication and that given I had facilitated his and PRA’s involvement in the case he had indicated I would be one of the first to receive the much anticipated report.  Hence I made reference at the end of my IUR report that their report was published (to align with the publishing schedule of IUR) and part 2 of my report would focus on my analysis of the PRA report.  Part 2 of my PRA never appeared because the PRA report was not released.  What happened? 
John Auchettl and PRA’s explanation was carried in their regular publication PRA Journal # 16 (December 1994) and indicated “THE EUMEMMERRING CREEK – CLOSE ENCOUNTER” report (on the case) “will be delayed for an unspecified time.” PRA spelt out it was due “an alleged NAME & LOCATION dispute with Group 1” (namely Kelly and her husband) and an “implied threat and possible unlawful act” allegedly directed at PRA.  PRA also added “On advise (sic – advice) from our Lawyers, we categorically state that at NO time have we compromised any confidential information, nor is there any information that would compromise any witness.” Helpfully John Auchettl/PRA added “see the IUR Sept/Oct 94 Edition as BILL CHALKER has produced an excellent brief for the IUR Journal.” (emphasis per John Auchettl) 
John Auchettl and PRA were not particularly transparent on what seemed just a temporary bump on the road to publication release, albeit with Group 1 information substantially revised. 
While John Auchettl and PRA insisted they had not created the “witness problems”, I found myself drawn into this dynamic by Kelly Cahill.  She rang me in a frantic state and agitated state begging me to contact John Auchettl to verify if her and her husband’s real names and location details were present in the PRA report about to be released.  She told me that she had not given permission for their real details to be used and her husband was extremely angry about this development.  Kelly had contacted John and found that this was apparently the case.  She was asking me to talk with John to see what had happen and what could be done.  I had an extended conversation with John in which it seemed very difficult to establish how John and PRA established they had permission to use Kelly and “Andrew’s” personal details in the report.  Eventually it seemed that “permission” seemed to revolved around Kelly inadvertently using her real name and address details on the back of a single envelope in an abductee questionnaire PRA helped Kelly undertake with a pool of apparent abductees.  
I put to John that this hardly constituted getting clear and unambiguous permission to use the witness’s personal details.  Apparently this led to PRA pulling the first version of the report.  It remained unclear to me the true nature of the investigator/witness dynamic in this case given John and PRA’s lack of transparency on the matter.  It seemed to me, correctly or incorrectly that things started to go downhill from there.  What seemed to be a very promising and impressive investigation and report seemed to disappear into “the PRA bunker” with only very limited data emerging. 
The PRA Journal # 17 (March 1994) had John Auchettl reporting on yet another major issue.  Allegedly the trio in Car 2 had signed a deal with German magazine interests who were now claiming copyright on all material related to their story.  PRA sought legal clarification but in the end version 2 of the PRA report did not appear.  As far as I can tell (as well as many other researchers also tried to determine) no German magazine ran any exclusive story on the experience of the occupants of Car 2. Nor did they come out with their own story.  So in the end we have only the fragments that Kelly gleaned from John Auchettl and PRA and others gathered as well, such as in my own conversations with John. 
Now if the problems described by John and PRA were accurately described they would certainly have been acutely frustrating, particularly the latter media intervention.  The witness issues could have been worked out I suspect without the need to gut the contents of the report, plus the reported physical data would have been independent of any of the witnesses and could have strongly supported the case, if they were allowed to have been fully reported in context. 
This was not to be and ultimately only John Auchettl and PRA can clarify that.  A promising case, indeed a very striking case, was adrift and largely only standing on the testimony of one very determined witness – Kelly Cahill – and any supportive data and information that could be gleaned.  These were largely anecdotal and only supported with some limited PRA physical data that lacked detailed context and documentation. 
I referred to the case in some detail in my 1996 book The OZ Files. Kelly Cahill wrote her own book about the experience – Encounter – which was published later in 1996.  See also UFOs: a Report on Australian Encounters by Keith Basterfield (1997), pgs. 123-128. Timothy Good provides a good summary in Unearthly Disclosure (2001), pgs. 51-66 based largely on Mark Birdsall’s interview with Kelly Cahill, which appeared as the article “The Red Dragon – The Abduction of Kelly Cahill”, UFO Magazine, March/April 1997.  This article also described the contents of a letter apparently written by the wife of the man in Car 3.  She mentioned I had failed to contact her after two messages were left. I found this particularly puzzling as my recordings of my answering service failed to reveal any calls that reflected that possibility. Needless to say if I had been aware that the wife of the Car 2 driver had actually called me I would have followed it as a very high priority.  I did actually follow up all calls I had receive from Victoria that had not panned out on initial call backs but nothing led to anything related to the case.  So that part of the letter was a big mystery to me. 
My summary “Kelly Cahill Abduction” appeared in The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters edited by Ronald Story (2001), pg. 291-293, also published as The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters in the UK (2002). 
Phenomena Research Australia (PRA) are yet to publish their account in the broader public UFO literature despite the passage of more than 2 decades! 
Along with Peter Khoury’s 1992 DNA case, Kelly Cahill’s case appears in The World’s Best UFO Cases compiled by MUFON UFO Journal editor Dwight Connelly (2004). Despite the lack of detailed PRA disclosure and his limited experience with them Connelly describes the PRA group as one of the most respected in the world, a claim I and many other researchers find very difficult to fathom. 
Here was an incident that might represent interesting evidence for a reality behind abduction reports.  While it might not represent extraordinary evidence, once you are familiar with the full extent of the case, it might give pause to the argument that such tales are more about the human condition than they are about UFOs.  Perhaps? Perhaps not? 
I found Kelly's account extraordinarily potent and compelling when I first heard it 2 months after it happened.  I still find her story compelling. I’m less sure of the stories attributed to the other 2 car occupants and I am uncertain about the physical data reported by PRA simply because there was no way to confirm further details without PRA’s cooperation.  
As a physical scientist I would have loved to have examined the full data and reviewed it with the analysts involved.  That was not possible as PRA did not allow those sorts of opportunities for peer review.  John Auchettl surprised me once when he told me that he could not share the contact details of the scientist or analyst in a particular case we were discussing. The discussion followed on from his comments that while PRA were able to get technical data they lacked the resources to get it properly analysed and evaluated.  I told him he was talking to a physical chemist – me, who could assist. He told me scientists don’t do that.  I was dismayed.   I replied scientists debate, argue and discuss data all the time – it's the core of peer review, the process that drives scientific dialogue and publication and research.  The Kelly Cahill case was a striking missed opportunity to do exactly that.  We are all the poorer for that. 
I am an advocate of careful, serious and thorough enquiry into such experiences.  Until such investigations and support become the norm rather than the exception, abduction experiences will continue to be the province of a marginalised fringe controversy.  Kelly and others like her deserve better than the polarised extremes we have now of uncritical belief and ignorant skepticism.
Alien abductions may yet prove to be remarkable testimony to the eccentricities of man - that is, these experiences may spring from the realm of the hoaxer, the deluded and the alienated of our society.  And yet the possibility that it may just be about something truly extraordinary demands we keep an open mind and keep the matter properly in question, until we have enough information to properly determine what is going on.  Fortunately the number of intelligent and qualified people now looking into the UFO abduction mystery is growing.
The victims of these experiences should not be unrealistically encouraged by advocates of alien presence, nor, at the other extreme, should they be ridiculed by the skeptical among us.  They should be helped to confront the reality of their experiences, whether or not it is eventually found to be prosaic, profound, or extraordinary.   Only time will tell, whether the search for answers will give us more insights into the human mind or into the UFO phenomenon.  Could it be that it will do both? 

The UFO abduction mystery more than any other part of the UFO mystery brings us into direct confrontation with the human dimensions of the UFO problems.  Here it is at its most intimate level with human beings.     However the evidence for a physical reality behind UFO abductions is not as compelling as the so called mainstream UFO phenomenon, and yet we have the extraordinary problem that it is the abduction phenomenon that is now defining the UFO phenomenon.  The UFO phenomenon itself has been abducted by the alien abduction phenomenon.   Until we have gained a much greater certainty with the abduction data, it should not define our central understanding of the UFO mystery.   We are a great deal more certain about the physical dimensions of the mainstream UFO phenomenon.  Let us not abandon the firm foundations developed over decades for the extraordinary uncertainties and fantastic claims that dominate the field today.  We need to learn from history.  If we don't we will be condemned to relieve it and the UFO phenomenon will be condemned to stay in the marginalised fringe shadow it is now struggling to emerge from.

Monday, January 25, 2016

AUSTRALIA DAY SPECIAL: Randolph Stow, Visitants and the call of the UFO part 2

In Part 1:
Randolph Stow was one of our great writers and I encourage you to embrace the literary legacy of Mick Stow and the highly anticipated 890 page biography "Mick: A Life of Randolph Stow” from UWA (University of Western Australia) Publishing by Suzanne Falkiner. 
Randolph Stow was one of the great Australian writers of his generation. His novel To the Islands – written in his early twenties after living on a remote Aboriginal mission – won the Miles Franklin Award for 1958. In later life, after publishing seven remarkable novels and several collections of poetry, Stow’s literary output slowed. This biography examines the productive period as well as his long periods of publishing silence.
In Mick: A Life of Randolph Stow, Suzanne Falkiner unravels the reasons behind Randolph Stow’s quiet retreat from Australia and the wider literary world. Meticulously researched, insightful and at times deeply moving, Falkiner’s biography pieces together an intriguing story from Stow’s personal letters, diaries, and interviews with the people who knew him best. And many of her tales – from Stow’s beginnings in idyllic rural Australia, to his critical turning point in Papua New Guinea, and his final years in Essex, England – provide us with keys to unlock the meaning of Stow’s rich and introspective works.
Suzanne Falkiner kindly shared some extracts of her Stow biography and aspects of her wider research.
I had written to her on 24 August 2015:
I am very much looking forward to your bio on Randolph Stow.  Part of my interest stems from his wonderful novel "Visitants" which I mentioned in my own book "The OZ Files - the Australian UFO Story" (1996, Duffy & Snellgrove).
You may be interested in my posts on Bill Gill and his 1959 experience:
It is fascinating to see the multiple witness enquiry literary template that exists in both Randolph Stow's "Visitants" and John Fowles "A Maggot" - both with "alien contact" threads - 2 extraordinary books that weave "the other" in fascinating ways through their narratives.
I recollect Randolph had a UFO sighting with William Grono in 1966.
I would be very interested to learn of what Randolph Stow's private papers expressed on his thoughts about the 1959 Boainai events, which he learnt about upon his return and the other reports of that period.  Does he elaborate on his own experience?
Best wishes,
Suzanne replied the next day:
Dear Bill,
Stow did elaborate briefly on the events in his unpublished papers, and kept a cutting about the Gill experience. I attach the refs. 
However, if you don’t examine the papers yourself in the interim, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t quote from the unpublished text attached until after (or at least nearer to when) my book comes out (February 2016), and then credit it if you do.
I think the key to Stow’s approach is his comment that it's not whether such objects did or did not exist, which he couldn’t have any firm opinion about, ‘but why so many people want to believe that they exist.’ 
He applied the same precept to the 12th century stories of the ‘Green Children’ and the Merman of Orford, etc, written in Latin by chroniclers as if they were history, that he explores in The Girl Green as Elderflower. He draws a parallel here to Trobriand creation myths (and Christian myths), but maintains an open mind. 
Hope this helps!
All the best, 
At the same time Suzanne shared extracts from her forthcoming biography. 
Stow was in Papua at the time and while he did not hear of the sightings at the time, he was made aware of a similar event on Kitava (part of the Trobriand Islands (the customs and people of that island group were described in Malinowski's classic study "Argonauts of the Western Pacific" (1922)) and a strange disappearance. Stow incorporates both into the novel and the sightings of "star machines" are a recurring thread in the novel.
Suzanne’s extracts cover both of these aspects – Stow’s encounter with Kitava locals who described their “star machine” encounter, ostensibly shortly before their meeting and some months after the Boianai sightings. 
She explains that the Kitava information served as “the kernel of a second plotline in “Visitants.”  She quoted from Stows papers held at the National Library of Australia – Stow’s typed notes on Trobriand myth, magic and ‘cargo’: 
“One night we were visited by a group of men who wanted us to settle an intellectual dispute. The question was, whether or not the war with Japan was over. We told them that it had ended fourteen years earlier, and wondered why they were interested. They said that a ‘star’ or ‘machine’ had been passing over the island, and they wanted to know whether it was a Japanese or Allied ‘star’. They said that they were frightened, but they laughed as they said so.
We assumed that they had seen a satellite or space probe (though it should have seemed obvious at the time that they would never connect such a small pocket of light with a war-machine) and fobbed them off with some photographs of rockets in an old magazine. They [were] dissatisfied, and said that the rockets were the wrong shape—sketching a shape with their hands. But I was too tired and too much the know-it-all Dimdim to pay much attention.”
Suzanne also quotes from Tony Hassall 1982 interview with Stow – “Breaking the Silence.”  I was already well acquainted with this fascinating interview through Professor Hassall’s excellent book “Randolph Stow” (UQP 1990).  It had been originally published in “Australian Literary Studies” (1982):
No doubt there was a lot of talk about Boianai at the time, but I didn’t hear of it. …I thought they were talking about a Soviet Lunik, which was in the sky at the time and I dug out a copy of Time magazine, or something which had a picture of rockets on the cover, and said: ‘it’s like that, it’s like a bullet’. And they said: ‘no, no, it’s not like that’, and made a shape of it with their hands, which I think was, as far as I can remember it, a disc-shape. But I can’t actually swear to that now. Anyway, they told me that it certainly wasn’t like a bullet going through the sky, it was a machine that had a big light, and it chased some men along the path, when they were coming home from fishing, and they were frightened. And I suppose that I just put that aside; as I couldn’t answer the question I just forgot about it until years later…
In her book Suzanne elaborates: 
Six years on, at Point Barron in Alaska, Stow recorded, in an American magazine he came upon an account of the ‘New Guinea episode of 1959’ — a similar sighting of a flying object, some five months earlier in late June, at Boianai on the New Guinea mainland about 150 miles southwest —and found himself trying to recall every detail of the conversation. 
She notes:
“This was an extract from Jacques Vallee’s Anatomy of a Phenomenon (Henry Regnery, 1965), describing a sighting in June 1959 by Reverend William Booth Gill and 37 local people at Boianai, in Goodenough Bay, and in which the astronomer made a plea for statistical analysis of the incidence of sightings. See also NLA MS 10.128 Papers of Randolph Stow, Box 6, Pkt 23 - printed report on Reverend Gill’s 1959 sighting of a UFO at Boianai.”
Suzanne further shared: 
“In the same typed-up account found among his unpublished notes, Stow mused on the topic of faith, belief and rationality, particularly in relation to ‘cargo cults’, or ‘Vailala Madness’, as a particular variety of the Millenarian movement was called.
It is a tragicomic business, and the temptation, especially for a writer of fiction, is to emphasise the comic elements and to treat the cultists as a crowd of savage idiots. But we Dimdims are by no means always rational in ‘spiritual’ matters….The people of Kitava on this occasion conducted themselves like scientists—and the ‘miracle’ of Our Lady of Fatima might be considered a major event in the history of cargo-cult. 
Was missionary work allowing Fatima to leak into Kitava thinking or was this Stow just wondering about Fatima 1917 in general in this belief context?
There were Methodist and Catholic missionaries on Kiriwina at the time, but Mick makes little mention of the RC one, whereas the Methodist one, whose wife was a nurse, lived near the ADO station at Losuia and was more of a friend. No other mentions elsewhere in Stow's papers or correspondence of his being aware of, or interested in, any other incidents or sightings, or again of the Boianai or Kitava sightings. Or indeed of Fatima. 
In terms of the Fatima books originally published in Portuguese if Mick had ever encountered them they would not have challenged him.  He had a command of the language that supported his intriguing wider speculations on the madness that may have informed the Batavia tragedy.  But as Suzanne Falkiner notes Stow probably didn’t go down the deeper “rabbit hole” that is the wider UFO mysteries intertwined with these matters.
Suzanne and I did meet briefly at the special Stow event, which was a wonderful celebration of the life and legacy of Mick – Randolph Stow.
“What interested Stow more, Stow told Hassall in 1982, was not whether such objects did or did not exist, which he couldn’t have any firm opinion about, ‘but why so many people want to believe that they exist.’ 
In response to Suzanne’s kind sharing of this research I expanded in my 26 August 2015 email:
Hi Suzanne,
Thank you for sharing this information.  It seems to replicate much of the material Tony Hassall aired in 1982 and 1990.
I have Tony Hassall's 1990 "Randolph Stow" (UQP) which features "Visitants" and his detailed interview.  I was going to quote from that in "The OZ Files" (1996) but in the end I only referred to "Vistants" and brief background on Mick. 
Given that Mick didn't offer "any firm opinion" on UFOs but key was "why so many people want to believe that they exist" the nexus of belief, fact and fiction seemed to be important to him.  
Given that Rev. Bill Gill wrestled with the very same dynamic, I thought the evolution of thought he went through was worthwhile drawing to your attention:
“…. my understanding of the evolution of Bill Gill's thoughts on his sighting.  Not really belief, but anchored in fact, and apparently privately mediated by his faith.  But he put that out there as just an idea for thinking about. Perhaps the glowing "radiance" "sparking, etc that surround the "men" and the object led him privately in that direction.  Publicly "aliens", "Americans" or "aliens", he did not know, but he was certain of what he saw.
Perhaps that’s where Mick resonated.  Your reference to Bill Grono's belief that he saw a weather balloon with Stow at Greenough in 1966, doesn't seem to sit well with Mick's description of "a point of light making a falling-leaf, and then going away and vanishing with great speed, and then coming back at great speed from another direction, and going through the falling-leaf motion again" (Stow to Hassall) all this about 45 minutes, and they just gave up watching it.  This appears to be a remarkable "weather balloon", unlike any I have investigated over decades of research.  Perhaps Bill's response was mediated by belief, rather than the facts of the event? 
Was there an actual date, apart from year - month, day, time? Direction?
I note that Bruce Bennett wrote in the Westerly (55:2, 153) that when Stow died in 2010 he had "some half-century of memories of this region of England (Suffolk) to supplement his still vivid memories of Western Australia."  
I have read Bruce's interview in both the Westerly & Tony's anthology and was left wondering (after Bennett in Hassall, 375) if the interview had been in 1983 rather than 1981, whether the nexus of belief, fact & fiction may have played out differently, given the Harwich & East Bergholt Suffolk location and the mix of memories of place.  
I suspect while Mick may not have favoured "News of the World" as reading material, locals of Suffolk would no doubt been agog with the front page of 2nd October 1983, which went global and was reported upon even here in OZ:
There seems no evidence that Stow revisited the dynamic of "Visitants" published in 1979 with its famous 1959 sighting as a prologue.  Only slightly removed and certainly in close proximity in sense of place and time and maybe belief - December 1980 Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk, aired by the "news of the World" in October 1983.
I suspect at least that Stow would have heard about it? 
I was struck by reference to "Our Lady of Fatima" in Stow's musings about it "might be considered a major event in the history of cargo-cult" by "the people of Kitava.  Is there an accurate date to Stow's encounter with locals on Kitava (presumably between September 1 and November 1959)?  Was there a sense that the locals were telling Stow about something that had just happened, maybe only by days?
Was missionary work allowing Fatima to leak into Kitava thinking or was this Stow just wondering about Fatima 1917 in general in this belief context?
He may have wondered even more if had been exposed to recent writings on Fatima (2005, 2006, 2008, all before Stows passing in 2010, published earlier in Portuguese.
These are very intriguing recent works and in part extend Vallee's research in his 1975 book "The Invisible College - What a Group of Scientists has discovered about UFO influences on the human race". Therein he had a chapter focusing on Fatima: "A morphology of miracles."
Stow had "an open mind."  Had he come across all this - Fatima "re-envisioned", Rendlesham Forest 1980 in Suffolk, one can only wonder in light of "Vistants" and its cousin "The Girl Green as Elderflower"?  
"Visitants" is considered by many as one of Stow's best books and possibly one of the finest novels in "Australian" literature, therefore these connections are I think are of merit and worth sharing. 
Although the Saturday event appears to be "sold out" I plan to dally at the library to see if I can get my foot in the door.  
Perhaps we can have a chat there if we cross paths.
Best wishes, 
Suzanne kindly responded with the following additional clarifications on 26 August 2015: 
Dear Bill,
Thank you for all that interesting information. I hope I’ve answered your queries below:
Suzanne added:
Bill Grono told me that he himself believed it was a weather balloon that he saw with Stow at Greenough.”
Was there an actual date, apart from year - month, day, time? Direction?
I agree the weather balloon theory seems unlikely, especially as Bill Grono saw the object or light shooting up into the air as well (do weather balloons have lights?). Nearest I can date sighting is sometime between about 7 January 1966 (approximate date of Stow's arrival back in WA from USA, after 3 week sea voyage from 17 December 1965) and 4 February 1966 (the date he mentions the trip north in a letter, after returning to Perth), and probably more towards the end of that period than the beginning. It was their last night staying in the holiday shacks on the Greenough river before their return, and after they’d had 'a few drinks’ (which probably would have been rather more than a few), and presumably quite late, ie after they'd had dinner, as Stow wanted to wake the guy in the neighbouring shack to see it also, and he wouldn’t be in it. I imagine the shacks would be looking out to sea, but that’s a guess.
Is there an accurate date to Stow's encounter with locals on Kitava (presumably between September 1 and November 1959)?  Was there a sense that the locals were telling Stow about something that had just happened, maybe only by days? 
Stow was on Kitava, on and off between visiting other islands, between 16 October and Friday 13 November 1959. No indication of when in this period the men told him about the object. No indication either of whether it had been a recent sighting, but presumably it was, as other patrols had recently passed through.
Suzanne’s kind sharing and my revisiting of “Visitants” and particularly its curious sister novel The Girl Green as Elderflower immediately alerted me to one more Suffolk mystery that may have (but probably didn’t?) become known to Stow – the strange incident of the Aldeburgh flying platform which took place in the middle of World War One (1914 – 1918).
Stow had a literary connection with Aldeburgh through his appreciation of the near-forgotten poet George Crabbe (1754-1832), who is perhaps more widely remembered through Benjamin Britten’s opera “Peter Grimes,” which was based on a chapter in Crabbe’s lengthy piece “The Borough”.  While the Suffolk town of Aldeburgh is not mentioned by name it is generally understood that Crabbe’s birth place of Aldeburgh is its basis.  Britten founded the Aldeburgh festival in 1948. Stow was in good company for Crabbe’s work was admired by the likes Byron, Tennyson, E.M. Forester, Jane Austen and Walter Scott to name a few.  Stow mentioned Crabbe and Aldeburgh in an interview by Bruce Bennent in 1981 (Westerly, No. 4, December, 1981).
While Randolph Stow was living in England (either London or Leeds) during the period 1966 – 1969 the son of the Aldeburgh flying platform witness from World War One sort to share his mother’s fascinating story beyond the circle of family and friends where it had circulated since it happened.  His letter appeared on page 16 of the Daily Mirror of August 8, 1968. 
There are some similarities to Father Gill”s Boianai sighting. “Return to Magonia – Investigating UFOs in History” (Anomalist Books) gives an excellent analysis of the Aldeburh Platform incident and gets into the kind of mythic aspects Stow might have been interested it. 
We can’t be certain Randolph Stow became aware of the Rendlesham  Forest case via the “News of the World” account or the Aldeburgh Platform story via the Daily Mirror letter.  We can be sure he was intrigued by UFOs, had first hand testimony given to him from native witnesses, and had his own sighting in 1966 with his friend Bill Grono. This was in the period of the well publicised Queensland “Tully flying saucer nest”. There were also  sightings by farmers in remote parts of Western Australia. 

Discover the literary legacy of Randolph Stow and read of his life – a great Australian, a “Visitant” here in OZ, Sussex and Papua New Guinea.  For a little while he was intrigued by the UFO mystery and became focused on “why so many people want to believe that they exist.”