Tag Archives: Robbie Graham

149 – UFOs: Reframing The Debate Part 2 with Robbie Graham and Mike Clelland

Last week, we covered the concept of “high strangeness” with Robbie Graham and Mike Clelland as we talked about the book, UFOs: Reframing The Debate, a collection of essays on modern UFOlogy conceived and edited by Robbie.

UFOS Reframing The Debate
Try checking this image out with 3-D glasses!

This week is the second half of that conversation between myself, Robbie Graham, Mike Clelland, and  Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts and we talk about healthy skepticism. I think that skepticism is just as important as belief when it comes to handling therse phenomena.

If you’ve seen a UFO, it’s always going to be a “your word” vs. “someone else’s beliefs and experiences” kind of thing. If that person hasn’t had a UFO encounter, they’re going to have a more difficult time believing yours. So, what are we trying to do? Make it more believable to convince skeptics that this stuff isn’t just hoaxes and hallucinations? Or help people who have had these experiences come to terms with them and be able to handle when they believe something has happened to them that they cannot understand.

It was in April of 2015 where we interviewed UFO researcher, Don Schmitt, about the “smoking gun” that was supposed to be the Roswell Slides released on May 5th of that year at a special pay per view event in Mexico City. If you didn’t see it, the slides were supposed to be a 1950s photograph showing a dead alien body, but really is just a mummified human. A small group formed on social media to take the investigation into their own hands and debunked the slides in a matter of a few days. Cliff Collins writes about it in UFOs: Reframing The Debate.

It’s an awesome example of why skepticism is so important. This small group ended the debate on the Roswell Slides. We’re not subjected to endless TV specials or internet sites dedicated to discussing the “controversy”, people won’t be writing books about the slides in 50 years and talking about “the unsolved mystery”. It’s debunked and now we can move on to the next thing.

But even if we could make UFO experiences more “believable”, does it matter? While Internet discourse has created an atheist skeptic vs. religious believer debate where you either fall on one side or the other, the skeptics have already lost.

A 2015 poll shows that 56% of Americans believe in UFOs and 45% of them believe that extraterrestrials have visited earth. That’s a majority of Americans who think that there is something real to that UFO phenomenon and just a little less than half believe in the “Extraterrestrial Hypothesis” (that it’s aliens coming to visit).

Carl Sagan popularized the saying “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Healthy skepticism and scientific rigor is important, not just to debunk and rain on everyone’s parade, but to find out the cases where things that are happening are truly unexplainable and are truly weird. It’s been seventy years since Roswell and are we any closer to the truth? It’s been over fifty years since Betty and Barney Hill were abducted, over forty for Travis Walton, almost thirty since Communion

Nothing has changed. We’re not any closer to the truth. Maybe we’ll never be – in this discussion, we talk long and hard about the futility of disclosure and at length about Tom Delonge’s Sekret Machines project that’s supposed to blow the cover of the whole UFO thing.  

We have a good laugh about disclosure as well, talking about how Donald Trump would never pass up the opportunity to be the one to let the world know about extraterrestrial and giggle about an alien wearing a Make America Great Again hat.

But how we deal with the aftermath of experiencers can improve. That is something we can change. I don’t think everyone is lying or hoaxing and if we can help people come to terms with the experiences, to process it in a healthy way, then we’re doing something tremendously important.

That’s where modern skeptics can really improve. Sympathy, understanding, a psychological perspective. That’s something that the Church has a superior handle on as compared to psychiatrists. The Catholics have been trying to figure out whether miracles have actually happened for two millennia and even have a system for it, it’s certainly not completely applicable here, but it’s much more sympathetic than the Phillip Klass or James Randi approach, that just suggests experiences are deceiving or delusional.

UFOs: Reframing The Debate challenges the core notions that I had about UFOs, ETs, and even faeries and owls that I’ve had all my life. It’s the kind of book that this field needs to break out of The X-Files mindset we’ve been living in (at least until Tom Delonge proves us all wrong!) It doesn’t take sides or come in with an agenda. And if your ideas about UFO phenomena are the same when you’re done reading the book as when you started, then you’re just as closed minded as any skeptic.

One of the themes of this week’s conversation is disappointment. Whether it’s the blowup with the Roswell Slides or the fact that so many have waited with baited breath for full government disclosure to no avail, disappointment is as much a part of UFOlogy as little green men. This week’s Sunspot song is called “The Breach”, when something important to you, and breaks and it hurts, but you keep going back.

I can still taste you on the tip of my tongue,
I’m trying to hold your breath inside my lungs,
Draw me away.
Draw me amazed.
We stand outside ourselves,
so please don’t move
When I scream fire inside a crowded room.Mediocrity surrounds me,
To the point of tragedy.
And we can walk along the breach,
walk along the breach.Consumed by a devouring,
Convinced by an overwhelming.
Draw me afraid,
I watched you draw me flayed.We stood outside ourselves,
and then you moved.
When I screamed fire inside a crowded room, a crowded room.

Mediocrity escapes me,
when I hear your voice.
Barely avoiding tragedy,
We made that choice.
I closed my eyes so hard,
I didn’t know the water from the sea,
As we walked along the breach.

The crack was deeper than it seemed,
I could not cross the yawning,
that opened in my chest cavity,
The frailty that tore,
Still led us once more unto the breach.

Mediocrity escaped me,
When I heard your voice,
To the point of tragedy,
When you made your choice.
I closed my eyes so hard,
I didn’t know the water from the sea,
As we walked along the breach.

Mediocrity escaped me,
When I heard your voice,
To the point of tragedy,
When you made your choice.
I closed my eyes so hard,
To shut out the uncertainty,
Against the husk of a dream,
As we stand astride, stand astride the breach.

148 – UFOs: Reframing The Debate Part 1 with Robbie Graham and Mike Clelland

Last time we talked with Robbie Graham, he had just released Silver Screen Saucers, a brilliant tome on how Hollywood and UFOlogy have influenced each other over the past 70 years. In the meantime, Robbie’s star has quickly risen in the UFO field (or is just the planet Venus?) thanks to his thorough research and an academic approach.

His latest endeavor, UFOs: Reframing The Debate is a collection of essays written by some of the greatest modern UFO researchers, bloggers, and even skeptics. It features some of our favorite former See You On The Other Side guests like Joshua Cutchin and Ryan Sprague as well as great podcaster Micah Hanks, and even Canada’s leading “UFO guy, eh” Chris Rutkowski.

With thirteen (of course!) essays, there is plenty to agree with, disagree with, things to make you mad, things to make you think, and lots to learn.

One of the contributors to the book, Mike Clelland, is the blogger behind Hidden Experiences and the author of The Messengers: Owls, Synchronicity, and The UFO Abductee. He’s not only a researcher into the field, he’s an experiencer as well and he and Robbie both join the discussion (along with Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts) as we do some deep diving into why we need to rethink everything we think we know about the UFO phenomenon.

That’s one of the reasons we wanted to split this podcast up. It seemed like the conversation naturally moved halfway through and we wanted to make sure that we gave each topic the thought space that they deserved. The first thing for me that changed the way I feel about UFOs was the concept of “high strangeness”.

No, high strangeness isn’t the lost Cheech & Chong movie, it’s a phrase from the great UFO researcher and Project Blue Book leader, Dr. J. Allen Hynek. He used it to describe the absurd and surreal nature of the phenomenon. And people use that term now to describe how once they’ve seen a UFO, their lives change and they start seeing weird stuff in their life all the time. Mike Clelland illustrates the point with several of his stories, as he has been collecting them for years on his blog, as well as having a few experiences of his own (like seeing gray aliens outside his window, missing time as a teenager, etc…)

You see a UFO, then you might see Bigfoot, then you might start experiencing poltergeist activity. It’s like that original sighting opens the door to everything paranormal. But why would that be?

I always thought the people who have more than one kind of experience made them sound even more unbelievable, ya know? The higher the number of experiences, the higher the chance of crazy. But so many people report more than just the UFO sighting. As Mike says in his essay:

Life, death, sex, dreams,spirituality, psychic visions, genetics, expanded consciousness, mind-control, channelling,mysticism, miraculous healings, out-of-body experiences, hybrid children, personal transformation, powerful synchronicity, portals in the backyard, distorted time, telepathy,prophetic visions, trauma, ecstasy, and magic. It’s as if our brains just aren’t big enough todeal with the overload of so much weirdness.

And that made me reconsider my assumptions on aliens, that they’re just interplanetary travelers (albeit with a taste for experimenting on the wildlife) and that it’s purely a physical materialist happening, something we can understand with our current models of the universe. But I’m stuck in the 90s X-Files/Independence Day conspiracy mode of thinking, when the new evidence points to what might be an even weirder explanation, almost like Twin Peaks. Indeed, the owls might not be what they seem. (And the Richard Jones evil doppelgänger story from Kansas last week certainly made me think of the denizens of The Black Lodge!)

But that’s the idea of the book, to challenge your former beliefs, to find room in the UFO tent for perspectives ranging from materialist to spiritual to hallucinatory to anywhere in between. We’re talking about a field where even the best evidence is scoffed at (and we’ll be talking about the importance of skepticism in Part 2 next week) so to advance the study of UFOs we’re going to have to be ready to embrace opposing points of view something too often avoided in the Internet Age, because a friendly perspective, the easy path, is only a click away.

Click here to grab UFOs: Reframing The Debate new book on Amazon.

Now after seventy years of flying saucers, to change people’s entrenched beliefs on the weirdness that we’re seeing in the skies is no easy task, you might say it’s “Sisyphean”, the mythical Greek King who was damned to eternally roll a boulder up a hill as a punishment for his defiance of the gods (he was always tricking them!) So, we thought that our Sunspot track, “Sisyphus’ Rock” might be the perfect capper to the first part of our epic discussion.

Like Sisyphus and his rock,
I roll our love up a great hill.
Hoping for a chance to reach the summit.
And as the gods of thunder bowl,
I watch the light show in the sky.
But you are frozen, terrified, and weakened.

I know the reasons for your actions.
I know you’ll answer for your tears.
But who will ever be my rock?
when you decide you’re on your own,
and I still draw you rainbows in the night.

I would steal fire from the gods,
if I thought it’d make you smile.
I’d sacrifice my liver for your heart.
Look out in Hades down below,
because I’ll not look back this time.
Now I’m armed with Schwarzenegger, two gats, and a nine.

FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT.
You’re the Achilles’ Heel of my soul.
FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT.
Yours is the only pain I know.
But little angel don’t you fear,
when you felt me you fell from grace.
But we are all Immortals in the end.

I will decline Pandora’s Box,
but I think I’ll see what’s in yours.
I’m clawing for the hope that’s at the bottom.
I’ll fight off snakes on Gorgons’ heads,
and I’ll take thunderbolts for you.
But please don’t leave my whispers to myself.

But angel don’t you ever fear,
when you felt me you fell from grace.
But we are all Immortals in the end.

New Music Inspired By The Podcast – American Monsters!

So this weekend our band, Sunspot, released our latest EP, American Monsters. What we’ve been doing is creating song demos for the podcast for every episode and then after a few months, we pick our three favorites and go into the studio and record them. We’ve always used the paranormal and pop culture as an influence for our music, I mean we’ve made fan videos for everything from Torchwood to Star Trek: Generations, so our love of sci-fi and the occult has always been baked right into the music. We were having a lot of the discussions that we have in the podcast already (usually in the van at 3 o’clock in the morning as we were driving through the middle of nowhere) so we thought we might as well talk about it too!

sunspot music

We called the EP American Monsters because we thought it was a really catchy name and the episode we did wth Linda Godfrey was one of our favorites. She’s one of our favorite investigators and authors into the weird (and bonus, she’s from Wisconsin too!) Since she covered plenty of American monster legends in her book, we thought we’d take the symbolism of the wild creatures that she writes about like Bigfoot and werewolves. While most of us won’t encounter bipedal canines, most of us face outrage and anger on the Internet every day.

American Monsters: An Interview with Linda Godfrey

While I’m not a fan of the phrase “political correctness” (it’s mostly just a code word in the culture war), I do believe in diversity of opinion and that unpopular opinions (even ones that offend people) have a right to be heard, not shouted down just because some people don’t like it. You don’t win the war of ideas through crushing dissent, you win by convincing people you have the best idea. That’s the essence of our “American Monsters” and it’s a track that’s very classic Midwestern Power-Pop (think Cheap Trick, we even do a sly play on  “Dream Police” in the song.)

Silver Screen Saucers: An Interview With Robbie Graham

“Seeing Is Believing” was inspired by our conversation with the author of Silver Screen SaucersRobbie Graham. It’s a synth-rock Disinformation Age conspiracy anthem about media manipulation. Of course, the song is about how the UFO mythology of the past fifty years was exactly what the CIA wanted us to believe (something even the new X-Files embraced), but it really could be about any story that we get distracted by to take our mind off something that would enrage us.

Alien disclosure would be awesome, but I don’t know if it’s as important as knowing the food pyramid we grew up with was heavily influenced by the meat and dairy lobby, that the Drug War is necessary (and hasn’t destroyed millions of lives), or that the NSA has an actual Artificial Intelligence program named after Skynet from The Terminator. More people know the domestic grosses of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice than know these things.

Have an Out of Body Experience: With Luis Minero

I’ve never had an out-of-body experience but one of these days I’m going to, dammit! Dr. Luis Minero gave some simple steps to attempt an OBE in our podcast interview and one of the things that struck me was when he said you once you reach the right state, you just “push yourself out of your body” and that seemed like a cool thing to express in a song.

Have you ever been in a situation so traumatic that you would do anything to escape but you couldn’t physically leave? Something terrifying or horrible? A lot of people say that when something like that happens, they get that detached feeling of being somewhere else, watching the thing happen to them  – that’s called “derealization” and it happens often during traumatic moments. That’s “Push”, a song about escaping those moments, forcing yourself out of your body to be able to face what you need to.

Anyway, we just thought you might like a little background on the tracks. You can download the new EP for free at http://www.sunspotuniverse.com right now.

If you’re interested in learning more about our band, Sunspot, we have won the Wisconsin Area Music Industry‘s Artist of the Year (an award won by other cheese state luminaries like Violent Femmes, Garbage, and Bon Iver) and have won also Best Rock Album from the Madison Music Awards three times. Some of the latest reviews we’ve gotten are:

“Sunspot learned to embrace its charming weirdness… the band members are making some of the best music of their career.”
– Isthmus, Madison, WI

“They sound oh so, familiar and like nothing you’ve ever heard before.”
– Power Play Magazine, UK

“A perfect piece of Pop Rock.”
– Get Ready To Rock Blog 

We’re really proud of the new music and if you enjoy it, please let your friends know about the songs as well (you can find a bunch of ways to share it on social media right here). Most of all, thanks for listening!

60 – Silver Screen Saucers: An Interview with Robbie Graham

UFO movies have been with us for just a little bit less time than movies themselves.  From Kenneth Arnold’s original sighting of a flying saucer in 1947 to the Roswell incident less than a month later, it only took a couple of years for Hollywood to catch up. In 1950 they’d released The Flying Saucer and UFOs landed for the first time on the big screen, beginning the long relationship between film and UFO phenomena. Author Robbie Graham has just released a new book, Silver Screen Saucers, that focuses on that relationship. I interviewed Robbie from his home in Surrey in the United Kingdom and we talk about how the book started as  a doctoral thesis, the power of cinema on belief, and how the CIA might have been using these films as disinformation.

When I think about flying saucers and alien visitation movies, one of my favorites is The Day The Earth Stood Still reference (the original, not the Keanu Reeves version…)

Keanu Reeves as Klaatu
I know Kung Fu…

To me, what The Day The Earth Stood Still really gets right is the sense that aliens have superior technology and that we’ve caught their attention in the universe .  Now that’s something that has really influenced our UFO folklore for a long time now, that they’re coming here for a reason and could take us out at any minute.  If they’ve got the power to travel among the stars, what must their weaponry look like, right?

Oh, and just because I love it, here’s a little Bruce Campbell with my personal favorite reference from The Day The Earth Stood Still.

What was particularly interesting to me, though, was something I hadn’t heard before. And that was that the movie was made with full cooperation of the US government, and that they might have been behind some of the content of the film. But why would that be? What would they have to gain? The legend in UFO circles is that they wanted to prepare the American public for UFO disclosure (which to me seems ridiculous, because it’s been over sixty years and no disclosure yet…) Robbie even has an excellent article on Scribd about it which you should check out because it’s the most well-researched article you’re going to see on UFOs today!

Okay, well maybe it wasnt about disclosure, but maybe it was about getting the American people to believe in aliens. But why would the government want that? Well, in the Cold War, it was completely advantageous for Americans to believe in the idea that we had contact with aliens and that we were working on new technology with them. Now that’s something that would be scary to the Russians, we might both have nukes, but what kinda of extraterrestrial technology are we hiding up our sleeves? It’s classic psychological warfare.

Robbie goes on to give some more examples of this and we start talking about the first mention of the famous “Area 51” in the mass media, which was a television special that I remember watching as a kid. 1988’s UFO Cover Up Live was one of those syndicated specials like Geraldo checking out Al Capone’s vaults. This was nearing the end of the Cold War, when things were tense again in the 1980s. All of a sudden, the Air Force’s secret base has alien weaponry,

So, it’s probably not a coincidence that Area 51’s most famous employee, Bob Lazar, came out just a few months later to reveal all he had seen while working at the Top Secret facility. Robbie believes that Lazar was shown these things on purpose by the Air Force because they wanted him to “blow the whistle”. After all, what’s a Soviet nuke compared to an alien death ray?

Okay, that’s just a short part of Silver Screen Saucers and that’s where I steered the conversation because I truly hadn’t thought about it like that before, but I could have talked to him for hours on end on any one of the topics that he broaches in his new fascinating book, which you can buy right here and check it out yourself! 

Well, the main thesis of Silver Screen Saucers is that we’ve made UFOs real to because visuals have such a real effect on our beliefs system even more than books, because our visual sense is so tied to our interpretation of reality. It’s like in a horror movie when your subconscious mind doesn’t know you’re seeing fiction, so that’s why you have a physical reaction. So the song this week is a little riff on that idea called “Seeing Is Believing”.

Featured Song: Seeing Is Believing By Sunspot

Disinformation,
we’re lied to every day,
Our imagination used
to fool our lizard brain.
The point of distraction,
just a little bait and switch,
Find the ball under the shell,
Who knows? You might get rich

A mothership o’er the Empire State,
A saucer on the White House lawn,
Keep your eyes upon the skies,
and forget you’re being conned.

If seeing is believing,
Then I’ll get down on my knees,
my head gets cracked,
‘tween fiction and fact
We see what we want to see.
Your eyes play tricks,
and your mind transfixed,
on what the screen reveals.
Seeing is believing,
but that doesn’t make it real.

Check your programming,
you could use a little doubt.
Keep on looking, keep on looking,
further than your eyes allow.

A mothership over the Empire State,
and a saucer on the White House lawn,
Keep your eyes upon the skies,
and forget you’re being conned.

If seeing is believing,
Then I’ll get down on my knees,
my head gets cracked,
‘tween fiction and fact
We see what we want to see.
Your eyes play tricks,
and your mind transfixed,
to what the screen reveals.
Seeing may be believing,
but that doesn’t make it real.