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UFOs Against the Wall

Has the UFO Era Come to an End?

New York Magazine has a thought-provoking piece on the field of ufology and how it seems to be increasingly becoming a relic of bygone age, using the recent MUFON conference as a case example:

MUFON has been around for 45 years and the average age of those who ponied up $239 for the conference was way past that. Many of the presenters, most of them long-established figures on the scene (Stanton Friedman, the 79-year-old widely acknowledged dean of the field, had to cancel owing to a mild heart attack) were equally venerable, as were most of the subjects they discussed. Much talk focused on the genre’s greatest hits: the Betty and Barney Hill abduction account (1961), the Lonnie Zamora/Socorro, New Mexico sighting (1973), the Rendlesham Forest incident in the U.K. (1980), and, of course, Roswell, circa 1947.

…It is true that very little beyond a shadow of a doubt forensic proof of alien presence has come to light over the years, but there are a number of subsidiary reasons for the seeming twilight of the UFO moment. With voracious proliferation of vampires, New World Order conspiracies, and the unprecedented rise of evangelical Christianity, the simple flying disc from far, far away has become a quaint, almost nostalgic specter. The saucer may have been the post-war generation’s signifier of the strange, but even versions of the unknown outlive their usefulness.

It’s not a new idea – I’ve read a number of discussions in the past decade that touch on the lack of quality sightings/encounters, and the dearth of honest, idealistic field investigators. What is to blame? The era of affordable CG effects? The proliferation of smart-phones making UFO stories less believable without photographic proof? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Link: The End of UFOs

  1. I don’t know where they get
    I don’t know where they get the impression that UFO sightings have dropped. Maybe this is sour grapes on the part of the mainstream media – the old timey news sources don’t get the stories much any more. It’s the internet where the action is. There are tons of current UFO stories on the net. MUFON also tends to cherry pick the shakier stories for popular revelation – the theory that MUFON is as much a coverup as it is a repository of sightings looks true to me. I regularly read MUFON for its reported sighting in my home state of Arkansas, and there are still lots of new sightings. I suggest that everyone scan the state by state sightings reports on MUFON. What’s more anyone who watches television will see a lot of documentray type shows about sightings from the recent past. The NYT is notorious for “making the news” ie propagandizing. This sounds like more of the same.

  2. is this the end of the flying
    is this the end of the flying saucer or the end of the ufo ?

    maybe ufology suffers in that it stubbornly refuses to consolidate all perspectives and traditions ?

  3. Nothing to see here folks, now move along
    Is it just me, or does the media seem to run a story proclaiming the death (or disappearance) of UFOs and/or Ufology roughly every five or six years?

  4. My take on it
    This is a rather strange op-ed written by Mark Jacobson, and I’ll come to that later on. But 1st I’m going to quote some excerpts of the text to offer my 2 cents, and finalize by adding my personal take about the so-called ‘end of UFOlogy.’

    So here we go:

    While this year’s symposium attracted a reported 400 people, this was a far cry from the thousands who attended the MUFON conference in the late 1970s, after Close Encounters of the Third Kind introduced extraterrestrials to the mainstream moviegoer.

    Here Mark is apparently not taken into consideration a rather interesting development that’s happened since the 70s: The Internet.

    There was a time when books & conferences was the only way of people acquiring the latest information on UFOs. Now you can find (almost) anything online, and as a result of it the conferences’ audience numbers have dropped dramatically; the average age of attendees is 40-60, because THEY are the ones with enough free time & cash to go to the conferences –those in their 30s or younger have other priorities… like trying to pay that steep college debt.

    That’s why some organizers have come up with the idea of ‘e-conferences’ and I feel it’s an attractive model. Perhaps the coming of the Oculus Rift will see a boost of ‘virtual simposia’

    In the context of today’s ever-narrowing attention span, there was only one drawback to this 25-year-old story [Lazar & Area 51]: It was 25 years old.

    Helloooo? Stephenville? There’s plenty of modern cases with very solid evidence –way more solid than Lazar’s tale!– that have surfaced in the last quarter of a century. Not just in the United States, but all around the world.

    Besides, anyone with a cursory interest in the subject should know the phenomenon is cyclical. There’s waves of heavy activity followed by periods of tranquility. Why that is, we just don’t know yet.

    Not that the old was out of place in this crowd. MUFON has been around for 45 years and the average age of those who ponied up $239 for the conference was way past that. Many of the presenters, most of them long-established figures on the scene (Stanton Friedman, the 79-year-old widely acknowledged dean of the field, had to cancel owing to a mild heart attack) were equally venerable, as were most of the subjects they discussed. Much talk focused on the genre’s greatest hits: the Betty and Barney Hill abduction account (1961), the Lonnie Zamora/Socorro, New Mexico sighting (1973), the Rendlesham Forest incident in the U.K. (1980), and, of course, Roswell, circa 1947.

    Yeah, the old guard is not getting any younger. But there’s plenty of ‘new blood’ in the field. Why they’re not invited to speak at the MUFON conference or other venues is easy to explain: The organizers are always aiming for the ‘big names’, those with plenty of books under their belt, because those are the ones the attendees have heard about. But this of course is a double-edged sword, because if you’ve heard Stan’s lectures once or twice, chances are you’re not going to hear a lot of new content on his new presentation…

    Instead of the far-flung wonder to the universe, much of what falls under the rubric of contemporary ufology has become deeply interiorized, resigned to the viscous psych-sexual abduction phenomena described and popularized by people like Budd Hopkins, Whitley Strieber, and John Mack. It is a narrative bothers many “hard science” ufologists. “I’m trying to evaluate these sightings,” said Tom Deuley, a no nonsense retired Naval officer, former NSA employee and a leading MUFON investigator for 37 years. “When you bring in crop circles, time-traveling and abductions, these things are hard to quantify.”

    The ‘hard science’ UFOlogists’ rejection of abductions is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the huge divide between the ‘nuts & bolts’ crowd & the ‘love & light’ New Agers. I’m not going to get into explaining why this is, but suffice it to say the ‘nuts & bolters’ have always been dragged into accept the evolving reality of the UFO phenomenon. There was a time when ‘serious’ researchers wouldn’t accept cases in which the objects were observed landing on the ground; UFOs were only supposed to survey us from above! But then the amount of evidence forced NICAP to conclude that, yes, UFOs were landing. But then when witnesses reported beings coming out of the landed craft, once again the researchers took a loooot of time into accepting these new cases; and so on and so forth.

    The phenomenon is always 2 steps in front of us, and all we can do is try to catch up.

    But now, with the proliferation of abduction accounts, coupled with the lack of scientists willing to risk their careers for entering into the field due to the giggle factor, we’ve seen a lot of questionable claims & methodology surrounding abduction research. Because of this some groups are trying to distance themselves not only from these experiences, but even from the UFO acronym itself! That’s why NARCAP & other associations solely employ the less ‘loaded’ & more antiseptic term UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) and they don’t make ANY claims or speculations re. the possible nature and origin of these objects.

    It’s an approach that’s not without merit, yet at the same time I feel it’s a bit naive to pretend the last 50 years of UFOlogy never occurred, and that we’re once again thinking that Close Encounters of the 2nd Kind are the only key to solve the mystery.

    None of this, however, was a reason to close the books on flying saucers. This would be impossible, since if you happened to have laid eyes on something you sincerely believed to be a UFO, it tends to stick. I will never be free of that cold winter’s night in 1989 when, along with my wife, I saw a saucer-shaped object fly down the East River and soar beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The way the craft seemed to coquettishly blink its lights as if to say, “even here, I appear, and then disappear” told me, that against all rationality, this particular interface with the ineffable was meant for me.

    This REALLY caught me offguard! At first I thought Jacobson was only interested in debunking UFOs –and the fact that he chose to illustrate his article with old b&w photos instead of recent color images, seemed to indicate an effort to underscore his point that UFOlogy is an aging pastime that’s slowly fading away.

    But that last paragraph shows HE has had a sighting of his own! So what gives?

    Fernando Garces-Soto, a wry, 60-ish Colombian-born music producer from Miami and fellow witness, was taking it more personally. “I’m spending a $1,000 to come to this. That’s a lot of money for the same old stories. This rehash, and more rehash. Probably next year I’ll spend another $1,000. What choice do I have?” Fernando exclaimed, finding the existential humor of the situation. “I’m obsessed,” he sighed. “I’m all messed up.”

    I already explained why this rehash of old cases keep happening. Furthermore, my friend Micah Hanks offered his own opinion in this very interesting post of his. Micah thinks that the most ground-breaking research in the field is conducted ‘underground’, away from the limelight of mainstream media and UFO conferences. The ‘Invisible College’ Hynek & Vallee talked about all those years ago.

    One example of this ‘underground UFOlogy’ is Stan Gordon, one of the unsung heroes in the field. Ever since he was a teenager he’s been investigated anomalous phenomena in Pennsylvania & nearby regions, from classic cases like the Kecksburg UFO, to less publicized sightings from anything to thunderbirds to Bigfoot-like creatures. In his most recent Paracast interview, Stan talked about some very impressive sightings of large structured craft that happened just a few weeks ago; so here’s a big refutation to anyone who thinks we don’t get good cases that are not 20 or 25 years old.

    Furthermore, most of those modern witnesses don’t bother to contact the authorities, or even MUFON; they go directly to Stan, and ask to remain anonymous.

    So, to conclude, I’m going to offer my last remarks about the ‘end of UFOlogy:’

    The problem with the popular perception of UFOlogy, is that most of the more prominent spokespersons are following the steps of the 1st founders of Christianity: They’ve been promising us the ‘second UFOlogical coming’ for the last 50 years, and telling us Klaatu is going to land on the White House lawn and start the new golden age any second now.

    In the last 2000 years, Jesus has not returned, and in the last 50 years, the aliens haven’t made open contact. People get tired of false promises and easily go & assume there’s nothing of substance in the UFO phenomenon –Of course, once a new wave starts which rekindles the public interest, UFOlogists will once again proclaim that “this is it! THIS time the aliens will finally reveal themselves.”

    Until that happens –and I have my reserves it ever will– UFOlogists are immersed in a big Catch-22: In order to obtain more serious evidence, they would need to get their hands of sophisticated scientific equipment, which costs a lot of money. Scientists & technicians with access to those instruments stay away from UFOlogy because of fear of ridicule, and skeptics keep demanding better evidence that UFOlogists can’t provide, precisely because of the giggle factor THEY have helped impose into our society!

    That’s why I feel that any potential breakthrough into the nature of UFOs will probably come from outside the field. Furthermore, I feel that one way to pass beyond the current stalemate of merely filling more cabinets with sighting files, is to look into one overlooked aspect of the phenomenon, which I think it to be of vital importance: It’s effect on human consciousness.

    I feel consciousness is key to finally start to understand not just UFOs, but also other ‘paranormal’ phenomena, like ghost apparitions & even cryptid sightings. That’s why I tried to propose in my essay for the Intrepid magazine blog Shift Happens. I feel investing more time in trying to undermine the current materialistic paradigm, would prove more fruitful than spending more years going to the field interviewing witnesses & collecting soil samples –Not that collecting soil samples is *not* important, but I feel one needs to have a more holistic view of the Fortean world & the way different phenomena are interconnected.

    But then again, what the hell do I know? I’m not a UFOlogist 😛

  5. Niet
    Yeah I don’t think just because a certain phenomena / period of history is declared ‘dead’ makes it so – Fukuyama’s declaration of the ‘End of History’, for example, following the fall of the USSR, is certainly very debatable.

    I think also similarly, the UFO phenomenan is not going to just ‘go away’, as (I suspect) people will continue to have odd, head scratching experiences which are not easily explained away by ‘rational’ means.

    A commentator on the above link made a beautiful point which I also think is very relevant:


    The article might have more properly been titled “The End of UFO Conferences?” The shortage is of people willing to pay for UFO information. Part of that is the content is usually warmed over rerurn cases, often served with a large side of hoaxes. Also, UFO conferences are not typicaly priced attractively to draw casual civillians. As Podcast UFO pointed out, the interest in UFOs is very high, both on TV and the Internet.”

    1. Curt Collins
      Curt is actually one of those ‘underground researchers’ very few people have ever heard of. He’s probably the leading expert in the famous ‘Cash-Landrum’ UFO encounter of December, 1980. His website is Blue Blurry Lines.

      But of course, it’s easier for MUFON & Open Minds to get more tickets sold if they invite Stephen Bassett & Steve Greer ¬_¬

  6. Proof is harder to come by
    I think part of the explanation for the mentioned derth of observations is modern day technology–specifically, the proliferation of man-made drones (both mini and massive). I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say that people are now less likely to attribute any unidentified light or craft to an otherworldly intrusion; most will assume it’s some private or military drone cavorting about and leave it at that. The implication is also that we can no longer rely on aerial activity as proof-worthy evidence of a genuine UFO presence. It’s so much easier to dismiss such sightings out-of-hand in 2014 as human-generated activity. What we still need–what we’ve always needed–is the hard evidence…as in hard landing…in the middle of Times Square with all those iPhone snapping, twittering tourists to document the event as it happens.
    What devilry, what impish, conniving misdirection keeps the proof hidden? Is it solely a matter of obfuscation and misinformation on the part of human agencies? Or is there something intrinsically ethereal in the very nature of UFOs themselves? Others have speculated on the inter-dimensionality, or possible inter-reality, of the varied and often bizarre phenomena that make up the UFO spectrum. Could they all be subconscious apports manifesting before our eyes, coming into hard reality through mechanisms of our psyche that we don’t understand, popping into and out of existence like so many subatomic particles? Could this be the case for all such notable, unexplained presences throughout history–fairies, Bigfoot, Spring-Heeled Jack, Mothman, poltergeists, etc.? It may be that reality is more fluid than we commonly assume, and that our minds–on all the unfathomable levels–have a much deeper, richer entanglement with the apparently solid, stable world in which we live than we can possibly understand. In other words, is it possible that we bring these things into, and maintain, their existence through some collective energy? Careful what you wish for.

    1. Good points
      Re. drones: I hope people take into consideration that if that weird object in the sky remains in the air for more than 15 or 20 minutes, then it’s probably not a man-made drone –at least not one of those commercially-available quadcopters that are starting to invade our skies– because those tend to have a rather limited flight capacity.

    2. Yerp.
      Yes I must say I subscribe alot to John Keel on this (i.e. Operation Trojan Horse, Ultraterrestials etc), but I think your point about our own singular and collective influences on reality are also very important.

      In the realms of magick we ALL affect our reality, in some way or another, consciously or unconsciously. Enough people believing in a ghost (i.e. the Philip Experiment) can seemingly manifest some sort of presence; imagine millions of people believing in a certain phenomena and what that could do…

      I suspect there is truth in both polars, that there is *something* out there, which we collectively can affect and vice versa. What this something out there is, well, golly. I suspect there is a myriad of things/beings, which can barely be categorised and leads to all the confusion about whether there are extraterrestrials, ultraterrestials, fay, mothman, etc. Indeed if there are multiple dimensions/realities, why could not these things ALL exist, but are literally not related to each other? That could be the scariest thought of all…lol

  7. End of UFO Conferences
    If UFO conferences offered more audience experimentation, they would be more popular. How about group God-Helmet sessions, messing around with plasmas, Chaos Magick evocations? I’d pay to go to those.

    1. Grail-Con
      Why wait? Lets set one up. It would make millions. Or maybe a few grand…

      Grail-Con. Coming to Melbourne / London / Las Vegas 2015.

      Quite seriously, that would be awesome.

      1. Oh man…
        That’s like, one of my deepest fantasies, right there with having a ride on a flying saucer filled with a bunch of Scarlett Johansson lookalike alien babes 😛

        But hey, maaaaybe if enough Grailers start wishing about it hard enough, we can manifest the Grail-Con into a reality someday!

        1. Last night I got hung up on a
          Last night I got hung up on a rather boring UFO documentary about sightings along the 33rd parallel. One interesting point was made by a seasoned UFO researcher – he had come to feel that just about everyone who has a true sighting has probably also been abducted, and that many of the sightings are actually the reporter “waking up” from an abduction and sort of saying goodbye to the alien abductor. That’s a provocative idea.
          One other quite interesting point made – a rancher who used to ranch on the Dulce mesa or ridge and who is quite sure that there is indeed an underground base there presented some photos he had sneaked in and taken on an off limits ranch that show some mighty suspicious looking “deer stands” that he thinks are actually observation towers. After looking at all the photos inside and outside the structures I was at least convinced that these must be the most heavily fortified and hardened deer stands ever made.

          1. Abductions & UFO sightings
            That was actually the subject of my bud Mike Clelland’s article for Open Minds, which I linked to last week:

            The possible unsettling implications of UFO sightings

            Needless to say, it has caused a bit of controversy in the field, and not everyone agrees with it. It was mentioned in The Paracast last week & both Gene & Chris thought Mike’s error was using such a generalized ‘wide brush’ to paint all UFO sightings from a close range –and here Mike made a worth-noting distinction between your run-of-the-mill UFO sighting –which might only amount to some weird lights in the sky you can’t identify– and ‘unambiguous’ UFO sightings –the ones that leave NO doubt you are in the presence of something truly anomalous.

            My own defense of Mike in the Paracast forum is that, when he uses the (loaded) term ‘abduction’ he is NOT implying the cliched stereotype of finding yourself inside a round room, on top of a table, with 3 slender beings doing all sort of nasty medical procedures on you. What Mike is implying is that those who have had close UFO encounters –especially those who have had more than one– might just be more ‘entangled’ with the phenomenon than they consciously realize.

            Re. Dulce base… it’s a complicated subject, least of which because of all the disinformation surrounding the case, intended to obfuscate the work of Paul Bennewitz and his meddling into the Kirtland Air Force Base and the Manzano weapons storage area.

            I don’t think it’s preposterous to assume the United States has made clandestine operations near the Jicarilla Apache reservation; perhaps even involving dangerous radioactive material. Perhaps the Dulce legend was also meant to keep interlopers at bay, and preventing someone from snooping around dangerous areas.

            But I’m highly skeptical of the underground alien base mythos that spawned thanks to the likes of Richard Doty.

  8. UFO’s are old hat
    I’m old enough to remember the first true UFO story in our local newspaper. I grew up at a time when Flying Saucers made the papers frequently. So frequently, in fact, that by the time I was a college student the local paper hired me on as a Space writer, later as Science Editor. I chased Flying Saucer stories for over 15 years. I never met a flying Saucer I couldn’t explain, logically and verifiably. Some of the sightings were dead serious but turned out to be forgiveable misidentifications. Some were outrageous, some were quite funny. None were legitimate. At the time I kept abreast of as many UFO reports, across the world, that I could. A few were so well witnessed by solid, impeccable witnesses that I had to admit, maybe there is more to this. The Condon Report that everyone said proved UFO’s didn’t exist, obviously never bothered to actually read the report. Unfortunately this situation seems a regular human shortcoming. The report stated, matter of factly, that 97% of all UFO reports could be explained. However, the report also stated that roughly 3% of the reports were verifiably solid and no alternate explaination was at hand, at the time of the summation of the report. Three percent may sound like not very many, but actually accounted for several hundred reports. So, just because I never met a OFO I couldn’t explain does not mean that I have written off UFOs. But in over 60 years, either because of a government cover-up or whatever, no proof of Flying Saucers has ever become public. So I think most people are simply tired of something that seems to have no conclusion. Its the Ho-hum factor. I think that proof, visual, undisputed proof, would reawaken the public interest in UFO’s. Until then, it all slowly fades into the mists of myth and legend.

    1. Visual undisputed proof
      That might not be the case, now that we live in the age of Photoshop and cheap CGI software.

      The only visual proof that may convince people, is something akin to what M Night Shyamalan portrayed in his (somewhat atrocious) film Signs: Live video feed, taken with different cameras and from different angles, showing a UFO that is also observed by a multitude of witnesses.

      And yet I suspect that even THAT might be refuted, either by the skeptoid debunkers, of the conspiracy theorists in the field who would start shouting about Project Blue Beam and such 😉

      1. Aside from the question of
        Aside from the question of whether or not the government has extensive underground bases and they do – NORAD for instance and various known about very large underground bunkers for “continuity of government” – it makes perfect sense that the space dudes would have underground bases as well especially if they possess mining technology a few million years ahead of ours. There is nothing inherently incomprehensible about vast underground bases. If one accepts the reality of high tech aliens zipping about then the odds of there being vast underground bases built by them are very big odds indeed. The question of whether humans and aliens are sharing such facilities is a big bite to take, but I don’t doubt that both groups have large underground facilities. Why wouldn’t they?


          Link above to MUFON’s state by state daily UFO reports from regular people. This to me is by far the most interesting part of MUFON because it has a more real flavor to it; and sometimes you will find different observes reporting the same particular event as it traverses a large area. There are here and there photos also taken with cameras and Iphones.

          It does not look to me like there has been a drop off in UFO sightings.

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