Note: Lest I receive volleys of slings and arrows, let me be clear. I am not, in any way, trolling or attempting to subvert the projects of To the Stars, Luis Elizondo, Tom DeLonge, nor any other individual connected to this club. I remain romantically and open mindedly skeptical, critical and pragmatic. My six-ish years of active investigation, privately, or with local groups or with MUFON, into the anomalous has taught me a thing or two; chiefly being that no one has a damn clue as to what is going on or what they are doing. Moreover, it has taught me to be leery of those who make bold claims of truth and knowledge in a discourse that hinges upon the unknowable. With all that being said, I remain, as I think we all must, in the “I don’t know.”
For reasons both in and out of my control, I have been revisiting the works of John Keel and Gray Barker. I consider their body of work essential reading for any UFO or paranormal researcher and enthusiast, and not because they are “right” or “trustworthy.” Within ‘UFOlogy’ and paranormal research, there is no “right” or “trustworthy.” The phenomena itself never fits into these ideologies. Rather, they are worth reading because of their active and open agenda to enshrine one honest and fundamental principle; all paranormal research, be it into ghosts, UFOs, cryptids and other weirdness, is essentially an ever evolving mix of fiction and fact. That is not to say that these bizarre and strange events do not objectively happen, but that the interpretation of those events are not objective, but hang upon mythology, archetypes, symbolism and the current historical and cultural paradigms we dwell in.
The Contactee movements of the 1950s and 1960s saw Venusians and men from Lanulos named Cold, and flying saucers with landing struts. The 1980s into the present bore the imagery of navigationally inept grey EBEs who dined on strawberry ice-cream, evil reptilian abductors, and technologically clunky interstellar travelers armed with 20th century syringes for breeding hybrids (though the alien hybrid narrative was mentioned in Keel’s “The Mothman Prophecies” in the mid 1970’s). Today, we engage in much of the same interpretive operation. We track Tic-Tacs with gun cameras and radar, much like we used to stare at photographs of landing marks and crop circles. Countless hours used to be spent pouring over pictures of flying discs with magnifying glasses looking for filament wires or testing the veracity of poorly shot 90’s video footage, God help us, before the age of High Definition. Today, not much has changed. We continue to watch and re-watch “Gimbals” and “Go-Fasts” and “F4s”. We still lament the fact that much data is missing, and if the government truly was democratic, they would finally disclose the “reality” behind the phenomenon. We can trust the government and its former employees, and we can’t trust the government because it is lying to us. Everyone and no one is a disinformation operative. Rick Doty is an outcast who thinks the UFO community is going to the “shit house” yet, most recently, spoke at a UFO conference and has been welcomed back into the fold like the Prodigal Son (to be honest, he is a nice guy).
As the legendary Shirley Bassey and The Propellerheads so eloquently put it,
“The word is about, there's something evolving,
Whatever may come, the world keeps revolving
They say the next big thing is here,
That the revolutions near,
But to me it seems quite clear
That it's all just a little bit of history repeating.”
Every UFO enthusiast and researcher since Arnold landed his plane in 1947 has argued that their era was going to be the most important in all history. That 1948 would be the year that the lid would get blown of this thing. Or was it 1949? Or 1950? 51? 52? I honestly can’t remember because the same claim has been made for every year and every decade. To suggest that these paranormal pioneers were wrong or foolish is hubris. I have little doubt that in twenty years when I am a “UFOlogical dinosaur,” many new young guns will laugh at my belief that 2019 or 2020 or 2021 would chime in the revolution.
Keel points out in The Mothman Prophecies that paranormal enthusiasts have been playing this game before UFOs even became ‘a thing.’ Ancient shamans and prophets who spoke to their gods, medieval men and women of various religions who saw visions and prophesied, and regular everyday Forteans who found themselves communing with Lam or encountering the supernatural or paranormal have all bore the mantle of researchers of the strange, and have always made claims of great change, paradigm shifts, and sought official confirmation of some esoteric force. In all this, the phenomenon has existed. In all this, the phenomenon has evolved and changed with those who chase it. Like it or not, it will continue to do so long after you and I are dead. Barker and Keel never reached “The Truth.” Neither did Corso, Keyhoe or Hynek. Neither will Greenwood, Dean, Jornlin, Graham, Rutkowski, Lukes, Costa, Sprague, Damante, Corbell, Kloetzke, Knapp, Bigelow, Puthoff, Pasulka, Green, Nolan, Clark, Vallee, DeLonge, or Elizondo (and you and me for that matter).
The inherent wisdom that both Barker and Keel understood and attempted to impart upon their readers is that the ontological “Truth,” the destination, is and forever will be unreachable. What matters most of all in this paranormal theatre of the absurd is the journey. The path we tread stretches on well beyond us, and paths are not built all at once, but with the placing of one stone at a time. Those stones we place are the stones of our time. Our collective zeitgeist, our cultural and social ideologies which seem so vital and essential now but will change and evolve as the years progress. Tic-Tacs, Black Vaults, AATIP, and metamaterials will fade into the past as did Catherine Crowe (I bet you had to look her up), Richard Shaver’s stories (if you had to look this one up, you should be embarrassed), and Project Sign (no excuse if you had to look this up, just go back to ‘being normal’). However, those Tic-Tacs, FOIA archives, government programs and alien artifacts stand upon the same path great women and men have walked before us, and future great women and men have yet to trod long after we have become footnotes in the paranormal narrative.
Keel got it right when he wrote,
“Many of the choicest tidbits in UFO lore were not actual events but were put into circulation by contactees who placed their complete trust in their contacters. The entities spun wild tales about crashed saucers being confiscated by the U.S. Air Force, farmers shooting and wounding spacemen, and so forth. Contactees repeated the stories to wild-eyed UFO enthusiasts and so they spread in ever-widening circles until they appeared in articles and books.” (The Mothman Prophecies, 1975).
UFO writers and supposed experts will continue to expound their theories and hypotheses concerning anti-gravity propulsion, raising the planet’s vibration, or the distant stars which allegedly house great civilizations who traverse space, time or dimension to communicate with little old us. Ashtar Command and the Secret Space Program will continue to manifest in different ways and under different names. We will continue to have conspiracies and ‘disinformation’ agents. More government intelligence officers will come forward to talk about their work and what they saw. All the while, the phenomenon itself will, to paraphrase Eliot, hold our coats and snicker.
I return to the expertise of the great Shirley Bassey,
“And I've seen it before
And I'll see it again
Yes I've seen it before
Just little bits of history repeating.”
This all begs a question; what is the point then? Why research at all? Why chase the paranormal or UFOs or the strange? Beyond the simple fact that it is so very fun, do not all human endeavours follow the same pattern? The long well walked roads of mathematics and science have not yet been completed. Future math will build upon contemporary math. Future science will rest its hindquarters on current science. Language, culture, and art are all constantly evolving, ever pressing forward, and never being totally finished. What is the point doing any of it? Because we must. In some strange odd way, it is our compulsion. We are naturally driven to see what is around the next corner or over the distant hill. Interestingly, the phenomenon, whatever it may be, seems to coax us. We are lured to it. Just when we think we are getting close, something changes. Flying saucers become Tic-Tacs. Landing traces become radar tracks. Black and white photographs become HD gun camera footage. Turn and look back every once in a while, and hope that those who come after you will look back also. The path gets longer. More stones will always be needed, so keep placing them down one by one.
- MJ Banias