Friday, November 03, 2023

On the steps of a "magnificent obsession" - UFOs, UAP and the Mitchell Library

Here on the steps of a wonderful "magnificent obsession" is this group of people, many of whom have their own "magnificent obsession" with the UFO (UAP) subject.  The steps are the north western steps of the  Mitchell Library in Sydney, located just to the right of the red arrow ("Mitchell Building entrance") on the State Library of NSW map. The date: Saturday 28 October 2023. In 2007 Brian Fletcher provide an excellent account of the story of the Mitchell Library, which was entitled "Magnificent Obsession."

The group assembled on the Mitchell steps, had been there with a full house for the booked out Close Encounters Australia sponsored lecture event with Ross Coulthart, author of "In Plain Sight - An Investigation into UFOs and impossible science", now in a revised and updated edition (2 new chapters - "Lock your doors!" and "The Biggest Story Ever ...").
Irene of Close Encounters Australia, and "the blue shirts" of her very helpful support team, were arranging to take us all to dinner.  Moira McGhee (with the pink shawl) had her collection of books (including "The Gosford Files" and her latest "UFOs & Aliens - The Good Old Days") gifted to Ross after his presentation - the results of her own "magnificent obsession." 
James Rigney brought his, along with insightful takes on the mystery, not the least his part in making the Wilson Davis document available.  Given his architectural background he was wishing he spent more time exploring the building.  Next time.  Grant Lavac brought his FOI obsession, a very productive exercise for all us researchers. The guy with the shades, Roger Stankovic, brings MUFON Australia, his medical mind and his "Kiama sirens" (he knows what I mean). Thats me in the red shirt.  I too bring my own "magnificent obsession" to those steps and that great place - the Mitchell State Library.
Of course there was Ross Coulthart, head above the gathering.  
Ross gave a good presentation, supporting the need to rely on data and evidence.  While he stated he respects and advocates scientific enquiry, Ross stressed he was an investigative journalist, and highlighted the significant difference in approach between science and journalism. He indicated, to science, witness evidence equalled no evidence (I wouldn't quite go that far). But, like the legal system (for which Ross has experience), for journalism consistent witness testimony is evidence, corroboration in a range of witness testimony is evidence.  
Science is after replication, which is not always easy to deliver.  While I have long argued that science needs to better engage with the UFO phenomenon, with so much credible evidence going untested or investigated by science, good things seem to be gathering apace.
I think eye witness testimony is important, but it certainly helps if there is compelling physical evidence to support a case. 
Ross Coulthart's lecture brought a lone protester to these same steps of the Mitchell, in the form of long time Australian Skeptic Ian Bryce.  Predictable message, but he was made welcome to the Q&A, asked his question and even lined up from an autographed copy of "In Plain Sight".  Here's hoping he will read it carefully. He and I had played the game on uncritical TV spots along with some of his skeptical comrades over the years.

My photo of Ian & his protest; James R.'s photo of Ross & Ian
Ian's presence made me reflect on my past interactions with Australian Skeptics.
Here are some of my "Skeptic" moments (according to the Australian Skeptic):
See my recent article "The Ultimate Secret and the Australian Experience" for my account of the "Alien Honeycomb" affair.

At the 1991 UFO conference then Australian Skeptic president Barry Williams came to my rescue, in a way, when a UFO conspiracy believer was accusing me of being CIA, MJ12 or something.  Barry "helpfully" said from the audience, (me paraphrasing) "Yes I know Bill, he is CIA, "Catering Institute of Australia" - Bill's a food chemist/scientist," blowing the paranoid wind out of my strange inquisitor's bizarre tilt from the conspiratorial windmill sails of his mind.
Things were not quite so jovial with my 1994 encounter with Barry Williams (not that you would guess that from Barry's own account of his Science Week lecture "I was abducted by Aliens") at the Sydney Powerhouse - "An Innocent Among the UFOnaunts".  During an error laden lecture heavy on ridicule and factual fantasies, he seemed alarmed when Peter Khoury, an abductee, who I would write about in my book "Hair of the Alien" (2005) forcefully called him out.  Bizarrely security was un-necessarily called, and after the event, when we "fell into conversation", I thought he had been over agitated by the "heat of the UFO kitchen".  I suggested his group had the wrong name. I suggested "Australian Debunkers" rather than "Australian Skeptics", because skeptics actually investigate and research carefully, something, in my opinion, was not evident in his Science Week lecture. 
(Barry Williams, 1994)

Ian Bryce's skeptical lone protest on the steps of the Mitchell seemed a pretty comical response, but he was treated well by the event organisers.
This most recent excellent UFO event at the Mitchell reminded me of past visits to the Mitchell and NSW State Library. Back in 1996 1954 Sea Fury pilot/UFO witness joined me and supported my book launch of "The OZ Files" on "a dark and stormy night" at the Metcalf Auditorium at the Mitchell/State Library - one of the worse storms to hit Sydney for a while - a wild launch indeed. While spending long hours in the Mitchell reading old newspapers and micro film searching for historical UFO/UAP reports, I met a fellow Fortean researcher Paul Cropper and we became friends from that point on.  I did a lot of research into the 1868 Parramatta "UFO vision" of Frederick William Birmingham after confirming at the Mitchell he was a real resident of historical Parramatta and they had some of his survey maps. There were many other UFO related threads and plus the hard copy availability of material on my first Australian ancestor William Chalker led me to the Mitchell/State Library. 
Many magnificent obsessions have been nourished at the Mitchell/State Library. 


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