Thursday, December 23, 2021

UFOs: The Long Black Road

Dreams have provided inspiration for the creation of both fiction and physical inventions. From time to time, I have what I call OC-Dreams (for obsessive-compulsive) where a thought or situation replays in a loop while I try to solve it. Sometimes it’s about writing or editing a UFO article. When I woke from the last one, I was left with a powerful urge to make the article real, but as in many dream-inspired ideas, additional ingredients from the real world are required to make it work.

It began with a statement that most UFOs reported could be identified or explained, with only a small subset left as unknowns. Dr. J. Allen Hynek cited the unknowns from Project Blue Book as 23%, but his colleague Allan Hendry at the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), concluded in The UFO Handbook, that of the 1307 reports made to them, only 8.6% remained unidentified after analysis. Often, the unknown status is given chiefly due to insufficient information. However, this void is exploited by promoters who portray it as evidence of physics-defying performance from anomalous aerial vehicles made by no civilization on the earth.

The King of the World? - Amazing Stories, May 1946

The problem is that such notions about UFOs are often based on something other than facts. Take the extraterrestrial hypothesis for the origin of UFOs. Long before Kenneth Arnold’s famed flying saucers sighting, spiritualism and science fiction spread ideas and beliefs about extraterrestrial beings coming to earth and interacting with humans, with or without spaceships. When the summer of saucers came along in 1947, some followers pointed to the news and said, “toldja so!” The spiritualists used the saucers as the proof behind their cosmic gospel for a new age. 

Kenneth Arnold’s UFO that was not like the other 8.

Others factions championed UFOs as extraterrestrial based on a science-flavored belief system. In the absence of tangible evidence, they became convinced that the elusive saucers represented physical structured technological craft made by an intelligence from another world. The tenets of their faith stated that flying saucers are extraterrestrial spacecraft, and that their reality is covered up by the U.S. government. But someday soon, the truth would be known. 

The Flying Saucer Are Real, True magazine, Jan. 1950.

Opportunists, hucksters, and frauds mixed the spiritual humbug with the pseudoscientific humbug into a message that the 10% or so of UFO unknowns represent spaceships of extraterrestrial origin, and there are far more of them that are never observed or reported. There are more they say, since many explained cases are just cover-ups. Lack of evidence is evidence – of the cover-up.

Vickie Landrum

Bringing that fantasy-based baggage into a UFO case virtually guarantees the investigation will be doomed to myth-building, such as what happened in the Cash-Landrum case and countless others before and since. As Vickie Landrum said in 1981
"I don't want no more (UFO) investigators having me go over the deal... I don't, and there's a lot of quacks, there really is, that's supposed to be big UFO dealers and wheelers, and they're not after hunting the truth, they're after something, proving something that's unreal." 
Anyone rationally interested in the UFO mystery must become aware of the history of the topic and the unscientific beliefs that were baked into the topic from the start. Seek out primary documents and put away the notions from books and TV shows produced for entertainment. UFOs are real, but very little of what’s believed and said about them is. The beliefs are interesting to folklorists, but otherwise, they need to be left in the past. The hard question to ask is: What does the actual evidence show and where does it lead?

In my dream, the article was only one paragraph long, which prompted me to find a song quotation that served as a coda, cautioning that the work to finding UFO solutions was more of a grind than a glamorous endeavor - and it provided no guarantee of a happy ending. From Jeff Lynne’s “Long Black Road” for Electric Light Orchestra (ELO):

“You gotta get up in the morning, take your heavy load
And you gotta keep goin' down the long black road.”

. . .


For more information on the foundational fantastical UFO concepts and their promoters, see these articles from The Saucers That Time Forgot.

Pre-saucer beliefs:

Theosophy and Spiritualism - The UFO Prophecy of Frederick G. Hehr

Meade Layne and the Occult - 1946, Before Saucers, Kareeta: UFO Contact in California

Charles Fort and the ETH - The 1st UFO book? Forgotten Mysteries by R. DeWitt Miller

Science-flavored beliefs:

 Frank Scully’s Conspiracies - Operation Hush-Hush: The UFO Crash and ET Bodies Cover-Up

Mixing science with fantasy - The UFO Evidence of Robert C. Gardner

From fact to fantasy - Tracing the UFO Mothership Connection

1 comment:

  1. The caption with the crescent-shaped UFO image reads “Kenneth Arnold’s UFO that was not like the other 8.” I don’t recall seeing many reports over the decades of crescent objects. He reported the others were convex shaped. I wonder if that comment and his observation about a saucer skipping across the water influenced the sightings that followed. Whatever Arnold saw I doubt it was meteors or pelicans.