Tag Archives: j. allen hynek

150 – The Close Encounters Man: A conversation with Mark O’Connell about UFOs and Dr. J. Allen Hynek

It’s always a pleasure when we can bring Mark O’Connell to talk on the show. Not only did he grow up in the same town as Allison Jornlin and I, so it’s always fun to reminisce about growing up a little different in our tiny hometown of Big Bend, Wisconsin, but he’s a science fiction screenwriter who’s got the same interest in the paranormal as we do here on the show. He’s written for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he blogs on UFO subjects at High Strangeness UFO, and he has just released a biography of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, an astronomy professor who became the main investigator for the United States’ Air Force’s Project: Blue Book.

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Mark O’Connell at the 2016 Milwaukee Paranormal Conference

The Close Encounters Man: How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs is the fruit of Mark’s research and interest in Hynek that we talked about all the way two and a half years ago in our 23rd episode. 

While  Dr. Hynek famously started off skeptical, even his New York Times obituary mentions that he was proud to be associated with advancing the field of UFO research into something more scientifically respectable. And he wasn’t afraid to criticize the Air Force’s UFO study methods when he found them less than scientific.

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Dr. J. Allen Hynek cameoing in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind

He developed a classification system for UFO encounters in his book, The UFO Experience, that Steven Spielberg famously used as inspiration for the sci-fi mashed potatoes classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The movie poster even used the scale itself:

Close Encounter of the First Kind
Sighting of a UFO
Close Encounter of the Second Kind
Physical Evidence
Close Encounter of the Third Kind
Contact

Since the book was written, others have tried to add more levels to the scale to include everything from abduction cases (the fourth kind) to alien/human hybrid fertilization schemes (the seventh?), but those are more controversial because they involve some research that cannot be quantified. UFO researcher and Hynek’s friend Jacques Vallee has said a Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind could involve “high strangeness” (a term that Hynek coined) where reality itself seems to be altered during the encounter(and that’s something we’ve been talking more and more about lately!)

In this rollicking conversation, we talk about Hynek’s scale, his gigantic influence on how we investigate UFO phenomena today, his infamous “swamp gas” denial that set off a decade of tension between him and the UFO enthusiasts of the 60s and 70s, and also how Mark O’Connell himself has been branded a “skeptic” and what that means in today’s UFO community.

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Click on the book to pick up your copy!

One of the most important aspects of Hynek’s impact on UFOlogy was how his  beliefs evolved over time. He followed the evidence where it led without pre-conceived notions which is one of the reasons we’re still talking about him today. Evolution isn’t easy and adjusting your beliefs, whether it be about yourself or the universe,  when you discover new truths, isn’t easy. And some people can never change.

That’s what this week’s Sunspot song, “Archaeopteryx” is about. The dinosaur with feathers, we think of the archaeopteryx as the link between those cold-blooded monsters and our modern birds, and how it sucks to be stuck in the middle, belonging to neither generation. The key line is “Evolve or die”. That’s how natural selection works and that’s how science works. If you aren’t willing to change, then you are willing to go extinct.

I’m lost in time,
a relic of some forgotten past.
Where is my kind? I guess they just couldn’t last.
A reproductive dead end,
just more carbon left to waste.
Another life form couldn’t keep up in the race.

I missed out on the Golden Age,
too young to fit in and too old for this decade,
anyway.

A live oxymoron,
like an unexploded bomb.
An unwelcome guest who never,
knew where he belonged.

In this God-forsaken pit,
it’s just survival of the fit.
There is no why, evolve or die,
Archaeopteryx.

Adapt or be selected against,
but don’t get left behind.
The march of progress has a very tight deadline.

I missed out on the Golden Age,
too young to fit in and too old for this decade,
anyway.

A live oxymoron,
like an unexploded bomb.
An unwelcome guest who never,
knew where he belonged.

In this God-forsaken pit,
it’s just survival of the fit.
There is no why, evolve or die,
Archaeopteryx.

To all you boomers and the world that you screwed up,
I want to eat you like a Titan,
Beat you like I’m Tyson.
And you millennials who never can shut up,
Make me wish that Y2K,
Flushed you all away,
And my kind goes extinct.

A live oxymoron,
like an unexploded bomb.
An unwelcome guest who never,
knew where he belonged.

In this God-forsaken pit,
it’s just survival of the fit.
There is no why, evolve or die,
Archaeopteryx.