Tag Archives: UFOs

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.

mark
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.

j allen hyena close encounters
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.

the close encounters man mark o'connell j allen hyena
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.

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.

144 – The Secrets of Fatima: 100 Years of a Marian Mystery

On May 13th, 1917 three children from a small village in Portugal claimed to have an apparition of the Virgin Mary appear before them. They claimed that the Blessed Virgin revealed three secrets to them that they could reveal to no one, and in fact the Third Secret could not even be released until 1960 and not to anyone but the Pope himself. They weren’t believed in the beginning and the children were even temporarily jailed (and it’s claimed the local law enforcement even threatened to boil them in oil unless they told the truth!) But in the end, thousands of people witnessed a solar miracle in Fatima, Portugal and the children’s visions would have a big impact on the Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century.

Our Lady of Fatima Children
The children behind Our Lady of Fatima

“Marian Apparitions” or visions of the Virgin Mary were pretty popular the end of the Nineteenth Century. The Church investigated many of them and determined a few “worthy of belief” (including one near Green Bay, Wisconsin, so we have our own Our Lady of Perpetual Packers Victory!) “Worthy of belief” means that they think that there’s  something to the vision, but as a Catholic you’re not required to believe it (like you are required to believe that Mary was a virgin and that Jesus is the Son of God and not just a wise carpenter who was endlessly quotable.)

Our Lady of Fatima appearing to the children
Our Lady of Fatima appearing to the children

The First Secret of Fatima was a vision of Hell that Mary showed the three childern. The Second Secret of Fatima had to do with the end of World War I and the prediction that another great war would come shortly after if Russia didn’t start turning back to religion from atheism. Those secrets came out in the 1940s when Sister Lucia (the only surviving child who originally was contacted by Our Lady of Fatima, she eventually became a nun) was forced by her bishop to share the secrets in case she got ill.

The Third Secret of Fatima was kept under lock and key until 1960 when the Pop was allowed to read it. It was said that the Pope cried when he read the secret and that was enough to freak everyone out. Was it the end of the world that he saw? This was a generation of schoolchildren who were growing up with nuclear war safety drills and people building underground bunkers in their backyards. Did the Pope see the end of the world by man’s own hand?

These secrets became of such fascination to Catholics, that in 1981 a former Trappist monk decided to hijack an Aer Lingus plane and demand that the Pope release the Third Secret of Fatima.

Totally sweet painting of the Third Secret of Fatima
Totally sweet painting of the Third Secret of Fatima

 

When the Third Secret of Fatima was finally revealed, it turned out to be kind of boring. It was a vision of the Pope being murdered by gunman and when the Vatican revealed it in the year 2000 (with a treatise written by the future Pope Benedict himself, Cardinal Ratzinger) it was really just about the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981, so “Hey, no big deal everybody, on this thing we’ve been hiding for damn near a century.”

That really hasn’t been good enough for some people, who think that the secret actually revealed that there would be a Pope who leads the church into ruin, a so-called “Anti-Pope” and there are people who believe that “Cool Pope” Francis is one. Even though he was in Fatima on the 100th anniversary to canonize the original children and declare their Catholic Sainthood, his detractors say that his liberal and easygoing attitude is going to lead the Church straight to the Fires of Hell.

fatima ghost anti pope
The dude from the band Ghost is the only true Anti-Pope!

Well, whether that’s true or not, there’s a different interesting theory that the people of Fatima actually saw a UFO on that strange day they saw “The Miracle of the Sun”. No less than UFO expert  has posited that theory himself.

But a more sobering and sinister theory is that the Catholic Church was using these Marian Apparitions to influence world events, that Sister Lucia writing in 1941 that the Soviet Union must be consecrated back the Immaculate Heart of Mary and away from Atheism or the entire world would crumble was justification for the Nazi Invasion of Germany. The Church’s reputation during the Holocaust and the Second World War is often brought up as one of its less proud moments (the Vatican was completely surrounded by Fascist Italy, so there could be a good reason that they remained neutral, but still it’s an unfortunate history of silence.)

100 years later, Our Lady of Fatima still intrigues and mystifies people. But whether or not their claims were true, those three Portuguese shepherd children did something amazing, they changed the world with their story and affected millions of lives. The Sunspot song this week is in that same spirit, it’s called “Change The World”.

Did you read the news today,
did you listen to what it said?
It said our world was going to Hell,
and soon we’ll all be dead.
Don’t tell me about your apathy,
Don’t tell me you don’t wanna believe,
Don’t tell me that it’s not your problem,
Can’t you see… you’re not alone?

I want to change the world.
But I can’t do it by myself,
I need somebody else.

Wandering in the dark,
we’ve been living with blindfolds on.
Just thinking about ourselves for too damn long.
Don’t tell me that you don’t care,
Don’t tell me that the world’s not fair,
Don’t tell me there’s nothing you can do to help at all.
That’s no excuse.

I want to change the world.
But I can’t do it by myself.
I need somebody else.

137 – Tulpas, Secret Societies, and the Chupacabra: The Paranormal Cornucopia of Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern is the author of  40 books on UFOlogy, cryptozoology, secret societies, conspiracies, and the paranormal.  An incredibly prolific researcher and author, Nick usually contributes about 2 books a year to the field. From the Men (and Women!) in Black (the real kind, not the Wil Smith variety) to the Loch Ness Monster to the CIA’s mind-controlled sex slaves (say what?!), Nick has covered almost every possible paranormal story there is.
Nick Redfern
What’s Nick hiding in the desert?

You’ve probably read some of Nick’s writing on the Mysterious Universe blog or in FATE magazine or have heard him on Coast to Coast AM or seen him on Ancient Aliens (no, he’s not the dude with the crazy hair), Monsterquest, or Penn & Teller’s Bull$%^. When there is news of the strange and unusual, Nick finds a way there. Raised in England, Nick Redern moved near Dallas, Texas and that’s where he spoke to Allison and I.

Our discussion with Nick ranges from his new book on secret societies (with so many presidents Ivy Leaguers or members of Skull & Bones, we were eager to learn if President Trump was part of any secret organizations…) to Victorian Men in Black (could that be the real inspiration for Torchwood?) to the most interesting part of the interview for me.

nick redfern
Nick Redfern, man of mystery… and bandana model.

Of all the stories that Nick has heard, the one that surprised him the most was of the Puerto Rican Chupacabra (a beast that we discuss in depth in episode 24 of the podcast) and just how believable and credible the witnesses to the stories were. That took me for a loop, because at the end of our episode, I was thinking that the Chupacabra, the mystical goatsucker itself, was just the product of an overactive imagination after someone had watched Species (a film that could have used a lot more imagination!)

I was glad however that I got to tell him my own story that was influenced by one of his books (I also told this full story in our Exploring Cryptozoology roundtable discussion in Episode 66.) On a trip to the UK and Ireland in 2008, I was reading his work, Three Men Seeking Monsters, which was about Nick and his friends going to the locations of legendary paranormal sightings across Britain, listening to punk rock, and drinking prodigious amounts of ale. That was the kind of trip that I could get behind and it was a fun book to read while we were on our own road trip across the island.

It was a weird time because I was just about to quit my day job to go for it as a musician and my wife (girlfriend at the time) was contemplating leaving her career as well. So we were a couple of people who were planning on changing our lives completely.

 We went to Ireland for a few days on the trip to see the sites and we visited the Blarney Castle,  where you kiss the Blarney Stone and it’s supposed to give you the gift of telling lies and making up stories, which sounds bad right before I tell a crazy story.

nick redfern culpas mr. ed sideburns
Hey Mr. Ed, how do you like my 2008 sideburns?

 One of the concepts that Redfern deals with in Three Men Seeking Monsters is that maybe these paranormal visitations of ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot, faeries, and the like are really just manifestations of our belief, the Tulpa or “Tibetan thoughtform”. As Wikipedia calls it, “a being or object created through sheer spiritual or mental discipline alone. Indian Buddhist texts call it an unreal, illusory, or mind-created apparition.”

I’d never heard of that before and I thought it was a really unique concept at the time. We were talking about it a couple of days earlier. While we were walking the grounds of the castle, we were in the park alone when we spotted the shadow of an animal a hundred yards away. I saw what I thought was a dog or small wolf. In the back of my mind a little bit, I was terrified it was some kind of Hellhound like the kind Nick talks about in his book (hey, when you’re all alone walking around in a foreign country, sometimes your mind wanders a bit!) My wife, however, said she saw a cat.

nick redfern tulpa
What manner of beastie is that?! And why do these shots always have to be blurry?

Which she thought was a miracle, because while she was considering a career change she’d been offered a position at a cat specialty clinic in town just before we left and was wandering around the British Isles hoping to find any kind of sign on what to do with her life. Seeing a mysterious shadowy animal while on the trail was one thing, but us both seeing something different was another. And her seeing a cat was the icing on the cake.

A closer up shot of the Devil Dog of Blarney! Okay, okay, I guess it does look like a cat

Who knows what it was? Probably just a normal Irish kitty running around, but it certainly felt like something else. And as we checked our cameras and it disappeared when we looked away, it sure felt like it might be that sign she was looking for, and that it just might have been a Tulpa, the thought form that I first read about in Nick’s book just days earlier.

In honor of Nick’s book and Chupacabra stories and the strange creature I saw in the woods, we thought this week’s song would be perfect for a little beastly Sunspot goodness about , this rocker is actually based on the fable of the “Scorpion and the Frog” and it’s called “Nature of the Beast”.

 I’m loving, caring, and kind,
you’ll put your stinger in my backside,
your venom I can’t resist,
so let’s get on with this little tryst.

You love me,
You hate me,
You can try but you can’t change me.
I’m a victim,
I’m a killer,
I can’t help it, that’s my nature.
My nature.

I’m naive, but I’m not a fool.
You’re designed to be cold and cruel.
You can’t help your insatiable bloodlust,
I can’t help my misguided trust.

You love me,
You hate me,
You can try but you can’t change me.
I’m a victim,
I’m a killer,
I can’t help it, that’s my nature.

You can’t deny what you can’t control,
the beast is cold of heart but pure of soul.
there’s no changing spots through an exit poll,
so let’s take a dive in the swimming hole.

You love me,
You hate me,
You can try but you can’t change me.
I’m a victim,
I’m a killer,
I can’t help it, that’s my nature.
That’s my nature.

124 – Somewhere In The Skies: Ryan Sprague and The Human Side of UFOs

Coming of age in the 1990s in upstate New York, Ryan Sprague was exposed to the UFOs, alien abductions, and government conspiracy-mania that enchanted us all during the decade.

green day ufos ryan sprague
The finest music for attracting aliens…

He was listening to Green Day’s Dookie album outside on vacation on a Summer night in 1995 when he had his own UFO sighting for the first time (an experience that he shared with his father) and it inspired a lifelong obsession with watching the skies.

Ryan later moved to New York City and started working in theater, all the while writing UFO journalism for Open Minds magazine and co-hosting the podcast, Into The FrayHis methodology for investigation is all about trying to understand the personal toll that UFO witnesses often have to face and his new book Somewhere In The Skies: A Human Approach To An Alien Phenomenon.

ryan sprague somewhere in the skies

We’re really excited about the play he’s working on about the Rendlesham UFO Incident in the UK that’s inspired by his research with one of our favorites from the Paradigm Symposium, Peter Robbins!

To purchase Ryan Sprague’s book and learn more about him, definitely check out his website at http://www.somewhereintheskies.com and the profits of every purchase until the end of January goes to a great cause, the Women’s Refugee Commission.

Ryan’s Blink-182 t-shirt during the interview and the Green Day playing during his first UFO encounter inspired us to bring out an old Sunspot chestnut for this last episode of the year. Here’s one of our most pop-punk tracks and one that deals with believing in yourself and sticking to your own story, “Intellectual Terrorists”.

Intellectual terrorists are poisoning my head,
They want to break down my resistance,
And have my conscience left for dead.
They like to make you think that they’re the righteous ones,
And they’ll beat you down and call you names for sticking to your guns.
You won’t replace my sensibility,
With your overanxious, overloaded, oversensitivity.And if you look, you will find,
A rather sorry state of mind,
Of all the people who won’t stand up for their views.
And if you look you might see,
You don’t have to agree with me,
But I won’t close my mind for you.It’s easy to be blind, it’s easy to be led,
You like to cough up all the ideas,
That you’ve been force-fed.
No one likes the freak, no one likes the odd man out.
I’d rather live my life alone,
Than live a life of doubt.
I won’t let you force yourself on me,
I refuse to be a victim to your society.And if you look, you will find,
A rather sorry state of mind,
Of all the people who won’t stand up for their views.
And if you look you might see,
You don’t have to agree with me,
But I won’t close my mind for you.You can’t break me down,
I won’t close my mind for you.

Intellectual terrorists are morality anarchists,
And sensitivity exorcists are poisoning my head.
But I won’t close my eyes for you,
I won’t turn away the truth,
I won’t let you make me, overdose, or complicate me.
You can’t break me down.
I won’t close my mind for you.

119 – The Brimstone Deceit: The Scent of the Paranormal with Joshua Cutchin

When we hear about paranormal experiences, we can envision what people see and hear. A ghost might moan, a UFO might quickly blink in and out of existence. We don’t ask people if they tasted a ghost, we ask them if they have ever “seen” a ghost. But we humans have five senses (well, I would argue at least six, but let’s make it five for the sake of this interview!) so what about the rest of them. People obviously feel the chill and the temperature change when a ghostly presence enters the room or the physical “touch” of a spirit like that of all the reports from Greyfriars in Scotland (indeed it even happened to me when I was there and I never experience anything!)

But taste and smell just don’t often get the attention that they deserve. They are the two senses that are most closely intertwined, smell dominates how things taste to humans. After all, when we smell something putrid, we often react by retching, like we just ate something disgusting.

Author, musician, and man after our own heart (University of Wisconsin alumni!) Joshua Cutchin decided to tackle these senses when no one else was handling the job. His book  A Trojan Feast: The Food and Drink Offerings of Aliens, Faeries, and Sasquatch came out in 2015 and it details the different food experiences that people have had in paranormal experiences. He’s now followed it up with The Brimstone Deceit: An In-Depth Examination of Supernatural Scents, Otherworldly Odors, and Monstrous Miasmas which explores the olfactory experiences that people have during their encounters with the other side.

joshua cut chin the brimstone deceit
Joshua Cutchin, just a Fortean and his tuba

We wrote a song called “Sulfur” when we had Mary Marshall on the podcast because she talked about the “smell of brimstone” that accompanied her first paranormal experience with an evil entity in her friend’s basement. What we think of sulfur (or the rotten eggs smell), commonly known as brimstone in the Old Testament, is really a compound called Hydrogen Sulfide and in The Brimstone Deceit, Cutchin details how incredibly sensitive the human nose is to the compound. Hydrogen Sulfide often naturally occurs near volcanoes and hot springs and ingesting too much of it is deadly for humans. Brimstone is said to be how Hell smells.

The Brimstone Deceit Hellfire
OH GOD MY NOSE… Is this what Buster Poindexter meant by Hot Hot Hot?!

In our conversation with Joshua, we talk about how this smell often accompanies encounters from demonic possessions to UFOs to Bigfoot and how his title The Brimstone Deceit really means how our sense of smell might be used to manipulate us in these otherworldly encounters. Could Hydrogen Sulfide be some kind of primordial trigger? It helps to activate our sixth sense like it activates taste? Freezing us in place with some kind of Manchurian Candidate extraterrestrial brainwash?

brimstone deceit joshua cutchin fairy food
It looks so good, but don’t eat it or YOU’LL NEVER GET OUT OF HERE

And from paranormal smells,  we also get into the link between modern extraterrestrial lore and ancient faerie stories as well. Why is it that humans are never supposed to eat the food or drink the wine offered to them by fairies? Why are faeries hanging out with the long dead? What are the similarities between the accounts of alien-human hybrid fetuses and faeries stealing unborn children and replacing them with changelings? We look for the connection between ancient paranormal encounters and modern day alien abductions through Josh’s incredible research.

If you’re interested in learning more about Josh and his excellent books, A Trojan Feast and The Brimstone Deceit, then you’ve got to check out his website. He’s also the co-host of the Where Did The Road Go? podcast which you should check out as soon as you’re done with ours!

helena bonham carter the brimstone deceit morgan le fay
I ruined Kenneth Branagh and Tim Burton’s marriages and didn’t even need any magic!

Since we spent some time discussing faeries (also known as the Fey), we thought it would be a perfect time to put our track “Morgan Le Fay” on the podcast. It was the first track we ever wrote as the band Sunspot. Wendy was reading “Mists of Avalon” at the time and everybody thinks that King Arthur is totally sweet, so we started with the main guitar riff and worked on the imagery.

Morgan le Fay is the lure of the naughty and the evil. Like Lady MacBeth she spurns Arthur to do things he shouldn’t (like um, father a child with his half-sister.) She is the instant gratification of material power and pleasure, the temptation of the other world that’s almost impossible to resist.

She wraps black wings around me,
I’m paralyzed just like a dream.
Sacrifice in a place I thought was safe,
A warning I would never heed.

I spent my life looking for the savior,
But he looked the other way.
She holds me tight,
Wrapped in the living night,
A kiss from Morgan le Fay.

Quiet storms surround me,
I close my eyes and she appears.
Freedom from all the lies that I believed,
From my schizophrenic fears.

I spent my life looking for the savior,
But he looked the other way.
She holds me tight,
Wrapped in the living night,
A kiss from Morgan le Fay.

Hail to the Queen of the Hurricane,
I shot my conscience full of novocaine,
I lost my pleasure when I lost my pain,
And no one’s innocent when no one’s to blame.

Have you ever howled at the Full Moon?
Or watched the Earth from the sky?
Have you felt the ecstasy of murder,
Or a power over life?
A power over life.

I spent my life looking for the savior,
But he looked the other way.
She holds me tight,
Wrapped in the living night,
A kiss from Morgan le Fay.

Hail to the Queen of the Hurricane,
I shot my conscience full of novocaine,
I lost my pleasure when I lost my pain,
And no one’s innocent when no one’s to blame.

Blame.
Blame.
Morgan le Fay.

108 – Wow!: Radio Telescopes, Dyson Spheres, And The Search For Aliens

We’ve discussed SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) before when we talked about that Russian billionaire that gave a hundred million dollars to the quest to find aliens, but this past week had a huge announcement for those of us who keep our eyes on the skies.

We’re talking about the signal that was reported by a Russian radio telescope in May of 2015 but for some reason has only entered the public sphere starting last week and was especially exciting because it was all over the mainstream news sources. Usually when this kind of news happens, it gets relegated to UFO or conspiracy blogs. It’s easily weekly that I have to trudge through various reports that a UFO was seen on the live feed from the International Space Station and NASA quickly turned off the cameras.

So when it gets announced to the regular world that an amazing signal was detected from space, it’s big news for us and we wanted to talk about it. I hate to disappoint everyone but it’s already being disavowed. CNN is already saying that scientists are saying it’s probably of terrestrial origin, some kind of disturbance or weird reflection off an old Soviet satellite, just Cold War spy technology coming back to spoil our fun.

But how do we know that this isn’t just the cover-up? Once the world governments realized what was going on, they decided to shut it down before the truth got out?! Well, that certainly is a possibility and we know that the government loves to keep things from us but even though I’d love for this to be some kind of cover-up of an actual alien transmission, it’s probably not. And for a couple of reasons:

  • August is a slow news month. Donald Trump’s act isn’t as entertaining to journalists as it was a year ago and Hillary is playing it as safe as possible so she doesn’t blow her current lead in the polls. Most people are on vacation and news organizations don’t know what to write about. Aliens get clicks, every time.
  • This happened in May of 2015 and we’re just hearing about it now. If it was the smoking gun that we’re all waiting for, well, in this day and age, stories don’t take a year and a half to get told.
Im Not Saying It Was Aliens...
I’m Not Saying It Was Aliens…

Back in college, when we all ran SETI@Home on our computers instead of a normal screen saver (You still can, just check it out right here!) most of the signals that we were processing came from the radio telescope at Arecibo in Puerto Rico. The largest telescope actually has just finished construction in China and is scheduled to be operational this month(!)

Mike at Arecibo
Mike at Arecibo

So a quick primer on radio telescopes in case you’re wondering. It is a radio antenna like the one on your car, but while the one on your car can maybe pick up a signal from 80 miles away if it’s in AM mode, the radio telescope is big enough to pick up radio waves in space. And scientists can take those radio waves and use them to find out things about the objects that the telescope is pointed at.

Radio telescopes can collect data from further distances than visual telescopes. So, when the signal was announced last week that seemed to come from somewhere near the constellation Hercules, one of the exciting aspects of that was it seemed to be purposeful and for the signal we received to make it here from that distance would require the energy of a Kardeshev Type 2 civilization.

Huh? Okay, Kardeshev was a Soviet astronomer who developed a scale for the technological advancement of civilizations based on the amount of power that they could harness.

  • Type 1 was the ability to harness all of the energy of your own planet (we’re not there yet but here’s what it would be like if we were).
  • Type 2 is the ability to harness the power of a star. This is the Dyson Sphere that people talk about. A Dyson Sphere is an enormous structure built around a star that can use all of the energy that that star creates (like in the Star Trek: TNG episode with Scotty, “Relics” or the Hyperion book series by Dan Simmons.)
  • Type 3 means that you can manipulate the power of a galaxy. Everyone’s favorite Coast To Coast AM astrophysicist, Michio Kaku, thinks that we might be there in ONE MILLION years.

And oh man, that Next Gen episode was so sad, wasn’t it? RIP James Doohan, we still love ya!

But here’s something cool, in the past couple of years, we’ve had two strange readings from stars where their brightness has changed inexplicably. We expect up to one percent of the brightness to dip when a planet passes in front of them, but these dips are more like twenty-two to forty-five percent. So that means that something gigantic is getting between us and the star, something like a Dyson Sphere!

Of course, scientists always have an alternate explanation, but thinking that it’s extraterrestrials building a megastructure designed to harness the power of an alien sun is a lot more fun, and I’m sticking with that for today.

Wow!
Wow!

But on August 15th, 1977 there was a signal detected at the Big Ear Radio Telescope at Ohio State that was dozens of times stronger than the background noise of space. Lasting just seventy-two seconds, astronomer Dr. Jerry Ehman circled it on the printout and wrote down “Wow!” by it (hence the nickname of the signal.)

Why was it such a big deal? First, the signal was heard near a “protected frequency” that other earthbound transmitters aren’t allowed to broadcast on so it probably wasn’t a terrestrial source. Second, the signal rose and fell during the 72 seconds, meaning that it got more intense as the Earth’s rotation brought the radio telescope’s “beam” closer to the signal and less intense as it rotated out. That means it’s probably not some kind of interference which would have acted differently.

It’s the closest thing to an extraterrestrial radio source that we’ve ever seen, but it only lasted that minute and twelve seconds. Several attempts have been made to detect another signal coming at that intensity from that area of the cosmos and we haven’t heard anything yet.

Now, Professor Antonio Paris (c’mon, that’s an awesome name!) at St. Petersburg College in Florida (Note about this part of the podcast – I totally mixed up St. Petersburg and St. Augustine while we were discussing this) has come up with a plausible theory is that the intense signal might have been coming from some comets that as of 1977 were undiscovered. He’s hoping to test it in the next couple of years when the comets make another trip nearby Earth.

 

Stephen Colbert actually made a response to the Wow! Signal on his Comedy Central show a few years back…

So, we haven’t found that undeniable evidence that’s going to convince the straights that E.T. is out there, but that doesn’t mean radio telescopes haven’t been inspiration for our sci-fi over the past few decades. Great places to see radio telescopes in science fiction:

  • The Arrival – this is one of Charlie Sheen’s best roles and an under appreciated 1990s alien invasion flick. It had the bad luck of coming out the same year as Independence Day and let’s face it, as fun as Charlie Sheen can be, the late 90s was the Willennium.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOc01_Ty1eQ
  • Goldeneye – you saw it in the theater or you played it on your Nintendo 64 but you remember the big finish takes place at the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico where Pierce Brosnan chases Sean Bean around.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MH2qnn4D0kY
  • The X-Files – “Little Green Men”. Mulder goes down to Puerto Rico in his quest for the truth and it’s the first appearance of aliens on the show.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYEpvHDbT4Y
  • The Dish – The Parkes Observatory in the middle of the Australian Outback has to help out with the Apollo moon landing in 1969.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tc4MSie-P0k
  • Doctor Who – Tom Baker saves the universe from entropy but loses a regeneration in the process by falling from a radio telescope designed to contact alien intelligences.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xYOM70sbyA
  • The Arrival – Not Charlie Sheen this time, but Amy Adams. And it hasn’t come out yet, but the preview screenings have got me all excited about it. It’s supposed to be not so much of an alien invasion, but a What If? we actually met aliens who didn’t want to eat us, but wanted to make contact. This is the film that might be preparing us for full disclosure (keep your fingers crossed!)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hQkrCtfUP0

At the end of the episode, we also introduce our friend, Tobias Wayland, from The Singular Fortean Society. He is a Madison-based blogger and paranormal researcher, working with artist and fellow researcher Emily Bartos. They recently attended the Art of Darkness event in Minneapolis and he wrote up the event at their website.

This week’s Sunspot song is a simple track about calling out into night sky and only having one word to say when it answers you back. Wow!

Just how long can you stare?
At the emptiness inside a prayer,
An ear peeled to every band,
to hear a loneliness that just expands.

All the space between us is so black,
Patience just a virtue that I lack,
Until the void finally calls back,
I’ll scream into the night alone.

Wow, I heard you.
How, where’d you go?
Now, I’ll follow,
so please phone home.

Now the long wait can begin,
(I heard you),
when will you show yourself again
(where’d you go?)
It’s funny how just one time,
(I’ll follow),
Can forever alter  your life,
(please phone home).

All the space between us is so black
Patience just a virtue that I lack
Until the void finally calls back
I’ll scream into the night alone

Wow, I heard you.
How, where’d you go?
Now, I’ll follow,
so please phone home.
Wow.

 

79 – Way Of The Explorer: Remembering Dr. Edgar Mitchell

We recorded this episode on Valentine’s Day 2016, which is why we open with discussing Ghostbusters II (a film I feel is unfairly maligned because while the plot wasn’t as strong as the original, there were still some excellent jokes!), where the opening scene showed Peter Venkman hosting a paranormal show where he had two guests who predicted the end of the world.

One of the guests predicted the end to be February 14th, 2016 to which Bill Murray responds, “Valentine’s Day. Bummer.”

Well, the world didn’t end this last V-Day, so add it to another missed apocalypse date (a topic we discuss in Episode 58!),  but on February 4th, 2016, we did lose an important figure in the world of psi research and astronautics. Dr. Edgar Mitchell was the Sixth Man on the Moon and while you expect that kind of journey to change your life, it did even more for Dr. Mitchell.

“On the return trip home, gazing through 240,000 miles of space toward the stars and the planet from which I had come, I suddenly experienced the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.”

Dr. Mitchell was already interested in psychic research (indeed, he even planned a telepathy experiment while he was on the lunar mission!), but his samadhi moment (that feeling of being one with the universe) directed the course of his life from then on.

Soon after his return to Earth, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences which is a research organization dedicated to exploring the mysteries of consciousness. He became an outspoken proponent of UFO disclosure as well, stating that “I happen to be privileged enough to be in on the fact that we have been visited on this planet and the UFO phenomenon is real, although it has been covered up by our governments for quite a long time.”

Dr. Mitchell brought a seriousness and authority to UFO and psychic research that few others could. Astronauts were not only in peak physical condition and Navy pilots, but they were also PhDs who were admired and respected among all kinds of Americans. Mitchell was no slouch, earning his Doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his death leaves a large hole in the credibility of the field.

He did bum around with Uri Geller for a time in the 70s and Uri tends to spike readings on people’s skeptic-meters, so that’s something we discuss in the podcast. But while Uri’s natural talent for show business might have killed his credibility with the psi research community, could there have been real some psychic phenomena in the beginning? Did we lose years of valuable research because Uri wanted to pal around with1970s celebrities?

Dr. Mitchell wrote a book about his experiences and his philosophy called The Way of the Explorer: An Apollo Astronaut’s Journey Through the Material and Mystical Worlds and he was a popular guest on shows  like Coast To Coast AM as well as at UFO and paranormal conventions. Not only did he have great stories (an astronaut is automatically the most interesting person at every party), but a great attitude as well.

His bravery in the face of ridicule from the scientific community and his dedication to keeping an open mind in research serves as an inspiration to every explorer out there, paranormal or otherwise. And of course, if you’re brave enough to handle a rocket launch and re-entry from Earth’s orbit, ignoring a skeptical blogger doesn’t seem like such a big task!

What I find most heartening is his deeply held belief in the oneness of humanity and our connection to everything in the universe as well as each other. Most people get cynical as they get older and more set in their ways, but Mitchell kept his spiritual awakening spirit all the way to his earthly end.

Click on the pic to read NASA’s tribute to Dr. Edgar Mitchell

This week’s song is inspired by Dr. Edgar Mitchell and the optimism that came with the pioneering days of space exploration, “Shoot For The Stars” by Sunspot.

Not even that long ago,
you could look up to the sky and know,
that’s a place you could go.
Daydreaming of astronauts,
We weren’t just happy with what we got,
On this pale blue dot.

Back in my day, child, it didn’t seem so far.
Back in my day, child, we used to shoot for the stars.

Never thought that we’d still be here
Fifty years on, still stuck to the ground
and we’re still earthbound.
If the world has changed so much,
and those old dreams are out of touch, don’t you budge.
Just keep looking up.

Back in my day, child, it didn’t seem so far.
Back in my day, child, don’t forget Mars,
Back in my day child, or flying cars,
In my day, child, we used to shoot for the stars.

Getting In On The Act: The CIA X-Files

Hey now, speaking of disinformation, the CIA has gotten in on the whole new X-Files act by releasing their own CIA X-Files this week. They’re providing some links to documents about UFO sightings declassified in 1978, mostly about sightings that occurred in the 1950s.

Honestly, I can’t blame them for joining in the fun, considering that a lot of present-day CIA agents probably grew up watching the show and then joined the organization to find out what the U.S. Government really knew. Then they were probably disappointed when they got there and just went to work having to comb through selfies, sexts, and our phone conversations looking for terrorist plots.

Of all of the government agencies, none is more reviled and revered in the public eye. We all know the CIA has been up to some nasty stuff in it’s lifetime, while at the same time, characters like Jack Ryan from The Hunt for Red October and Sydney Bristow from Alias are portrayed as heroes that are always trying to save United States’ citizens. It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it, right?

Plus, the CIA is demonized pretty heavily in The X-Files as well as UFO conspiracy lore, so they’re playing some public relations here. I’m sure they already have read the scripts and vetted the show before it went on (so I don’t think that Agent Mulder’s going to be revealing anything important!) but it’s fun to read some of the old documents from the beginning of the UFO age.

You see that the Central Intelligence Agency did take these reports seriously from the beginning and that like any government agency they have a boring bureaucracy to sift through in order to get anything done. Reading the minutes of a CIA meeting from the 1950s isn’t quite the page turner that Stephen Spielberg’s multi-decade epic Taken was (a valiant attempt to unify all of modern UFO mythology into one pretty cool miniseries) but who knows, you might find something in there that everyone else missed!

For some extra weirdness, did you know there’s a special CIA website just for kids? I guess assassination of foreign leaders  and experimenting on innocent people with mind control drugs isn’t just for adults anymore!