Friday, April 16, 2010

A journey through the UFO theatre

It is often difficult to predict the fickled nature of mainstream media's attention to the UFO issue but the typical result is often not worth commenting on. Over the last couple of months however the media has been prancing about in rather odd and erratic embraces. The Sydney newspaper "The Sun-Herald" did a profile on myself (February 21, 2010) which at least got in a reasonable quote from me:

"This is a subject that screams out for serious scientific investigation"
but still couldn't avoid X File allusions. Despite this the profile was not too bad.

The TV channel 7 Morning Show got excited with odd clouds and UK UFO file releases getting me in for 2 seperate shows within a week - with Dr. Martin Plowman (who did a recent PhD on ufology of sorts) on 24 February, and with Australian Skeptic Ian Bryce on 2 March. TV channel 9 had me in on the Weekend Sunday show (14 March) for a surprisingly good but short piece which focused on the DNA evidence featured in my book "Hair of the Alien."

Things really got heated up with the explosion of attention centred on photos taken by a Chipping Norton (Sydney suburb) housewife - Fiona Hartigan. The story initially emerged in the Sydney "Daily Telegraph" page 3 story on March 23 "UFOs over Sydney." I was asked to comment for that story but declined, indicating I preferred to actually investigate the incident before commenting. As it turned out I was able to interview Fiona Hartigan on the evening before the Telegraph story came out as well as conduct investigations at the site with her on March 22 and 23. While I felt that her photos were not evidence of "the intergalactic neighbours" dropping by as the Telegraph story headlined, they were interesting enough to generate all sorts of debate from the media and other parties. Sydney got a bout of "UFO fever" with the Telegraph running with the saga for the rest of the week and TV stations and radio chiming in. I resurfaced in the Telegraph on 25 March, again unfortunately with "the Aussie Agent Mulder" tag, but the story linked readers to the online version of the story which also featured an interactive map of New South Wales' "UFO sightings in NSW 1868 - 2010" based on material I supplied to the paper

I have included the listing in case the link disappears:

1868 Parramatta Park - engineer & surveyor Frederick Birmingham sees "Flying ark" land in park, taken onboard.
1927 Fernvale near Murwillumbah - family witness strange aerial lights, UFO landing, live stock mutilation and strange creatures in an early version of the "Mothman Prophecies"
1954 August 31 over Goulburn area - Naval Sea Fury pilot encounters 2 UFOs tracked on radar, ground witnesses
1966 January Grafton police witness UFO - widespread witnesses
1969 - Anzac Day, evening - Greenacre Sydney - Mother, daughter & taxi driver observe UFO hovering over park - figures seen inside UFO.
1970 - June - Emerald Beach, near Woolgoolga, NSW - truck driver sees UFO land. Physical evidence verifies the landing.
1971 - Kempsey - beseiged by UFOs - multiple daylight and night sightings. Daylight photo taken there in 1975
early 1970s - Kiama - UFO event with entities seen inside UFO, which also project "solid light" down onto people on beach.
1972 - Bents Basin near Wallacia/Penrith - group of people see UFO on ground & encounter "robot" type entity - car catches fire, witnesses flee area on foot.
1973 February - Norah head, central Coast, NSW - people in car witness UFO close encounter. Car lights effected. Same location in 1975 has UFO with smaller objects coming out of it "attacking" group of young people camping in the area.
1973 - Dorrigo Plateau - Tyringham & Dundurrabin area - heavy localised UFO "flap" witnessed by local farmers and resident, investigated by me while I was at the University of New England, who also witnessed some of the sightings. Photo taken.
1976, October 23 - group witnesses and films UFOs during total eclipse observations at Benboyd National Park near Eden
1978 - Bakers Creek Falls, near Armidale - driver has close encounter with UFO and experiences "missing time"
1988 & 1992 Sydney man Peter Khoury has alien abduction experiences - a biological sample - a hair strand - from the 1992 (Berala Sydney) experience was subjected to detailed DNA analysis which revealed very unusual results (see my "Hair of the Alien" book (2005))
1995 December 28 - major close encounter & sightings in Gosford Central Coast area - witnesses include police - UFO seemed to be sucking up water.
1998 August 10 Quirindi - witnesses observed "dumb bell" shaped object and smaller object issuing "angel hair" - fine white material like spiders web which evaporates and disappears. Similar to my own experience in 1969 at Grafton and striking French cases in 1952.
2007 - January 7 - security guard at Baulkam Hills Sydney factory site captures UFO on photo. Object moves away quickly and disappears
2007 January 26 (Australia Day) Earlwood Sydney - nurse and family witness close encounter with UFO which moves below roof line of units and between their unit and neigbours. Some sort of "communication" occurs during encounter.
2008 - February 29 - Coogee Sydney - man witnesses UFO landing on road - entity seen inside object - appears to burn part of road and nearby tree.
2008 April 9 far north coast near Qld border - woman witnesses UFO on road near her house - close encounter

Yet another "sound byte" outing on the TV Channel 9 morning show with Kerri Anne where I tried to highlight the difference between UFO and "ET craft" and that Fiona's photos might be the former but not the latter, continued the UFO theatre. Trying to convey the idea that investigations often take a while and might actually be subject to changing conclusions or positions depending upon the direction the evidence suggested seemed beyond the ken of the media. The answer "had" to be available immediately or not at all, it seems.

In an article I prepared for the Australian magazine "Ufologist" (due out late April) to describe the results of my investigations to date I wrote:

"As she says Fiona is just a mother from Chipping Norton who took some interesting photos, so much so, that they ignited a wildly popular theatre which played out a potent narrative on the UFO controversy. As I said on the Kerri Anne morning show on TV Channel 9 on Friday March 26, I felt that the photos were most likely not evidence of aliens or ETs, but they might be evidence of UFOs. Perhaps, perhaps not. The show did not allow for the kind of more appropriate dialogue that comes with a reasoned and sensible discussion informed by careful scientific enquiry and research. That takes time and seldom occurs in the time frame driven by “sound bite” 24 hour news cycles of the modern media theatre. While some might think the photos are already explained, depositing them in hoax, misinterpretation or other categories, others are less certain and the debate continues. For me they fall into the probably explainable category, but with some unresolved aspects, subject to further enquiry."

The media milieu encouraged a lot of people to report sightings old and new,
with even a pilot reporting to me his striking encounter with two UFOs that affected his
aircraft while flying near the Chipping Norton area back in 1994. This was his second sighting which he had kept quiet about because he thought it might affect his pilot's licence. It turned out I had investigated his first sighting he had with a friend back in 1991. He told me, "Amazingly, you advised us at this time that we would probably see another incident in our lifetimes."

The UFO theatre often delivers some interesting paydirt making the whole circus worthwhile.

(Group photo: Fiona Hartigan (centre) in front of me, with members of the UFO & Paranormal Research Society of Australia (Darren Broadie, Tiffany Alicajic, Larraine Cilia, Kellie Pataky and Dominic McNamara. I gave a lecture to the group at their April meeting in Campbelltown.)