I have to start at the beginning. How did I get into this mess and why am I still in it? It was 1995 and I remember sitting in my parent’s basement watching TV. It was the summer, so I was allowed to stay up late. Channel surfing, my father caught the opening intro to a great Canadian-American show called The Outer Limits. It was a re-working of the 60’s show of the same name and very similar to The Twilight Zone.
He informed me that he used to watch the original version of the show when he was a kid, so we decided to leave it on. The episode, “The Voice of Reason”. The plot, alien invasion. As with every good episode of The Outer Limits, there is a massive plot twist. The man you think is an alien isn’t and the rest of the mysterious shadow committee is. The Earth is being invaded by alien infiltrators and humanity is basically screwed.
This is how it began. After that- science fiction, UFOs and everything related became the love of my life. I would consume silly alien documentaries like they were candy. Star Trek became my favourite show followed by The X-Files. I grew up watching the great ufologists talk about Roswell, Project Blue Book and every alien hypothesis under the sun, all of which I took with little seriousness...not much has changed.
Many younger ufologists like me share a similar story. We saw something on TV or in a magazine and then BOOM - hooked. This begs the question; how did this UFO craze begin? Who started it and who do I blame for my love of all things odd...and spacey.
Any ufologist worth their salt needs to return to their roots at some point, to go back and see how this field started. In light of this revelation, I’ve decided to take a look at the seminal work of one of the fathers of ufology - Dr. J Allen Hynek, and his book, the The Hynek UFO Report.
Millennial ufologists are still highly involved in the subject but they typically (and I’m generalizing here) do not read Hynek or his contemporaries. They know his name but have yet to read him and probably never will. The data is old, the field has changed and the process of study has evolved since then - so why read something out of date?
I hope to answer this question over the next several posts as I do a four part review of The Hynek UFO Report. However, here are two “gut” responses which I posit more as initial hypotheses.
Nothing occurs in a vacuum, and his work pushed into the mainstream an idea that has swept the imaginations of countless people since. Hynek was different from his predecessors because he was one of the first ufologists to “suggest” that the UFO phenomenon wasn’t being investigated properly due to a cover-up by government. True or not, conspiracy theorists bit and this cultural ideology of government cover-ups became mainstream and still is today.
More importantly and perhaps with some controversy, this particular book pushed the field forward without attempting to force the reader into believing in the “source” of the phenomenon. Hynek explains that it is a fact that people are seeing objects in the sky that are unidentified and unknown. The rest (such as where they are from) is speculation. Does he present cases where observers witness strange beings? Yes. Does he attempt to prove they exist outside of these case files? No. He simply presents the cases as they are reported.
Hynek’s gradual shift to “Believer”, while relevant, is not present in this book. I reserve comment on his philosophical shift as I’d like to keep this a review of this particular text and not muddy the water with hindsight.
Today, it seems that the vast majority of big names in the field of ufology default to the “Believer” category; that is, UFOs are controlled by extraterrestrial intelligence without question. While these theorists typically fall along a spectrum - they all sit on that side of the fence. There are fewer ufologists out there who remain skeptical and fewer still who view UFOs as simply a strange phenomenon that needs to be studied simply for the sake of science.
Since Hynek’s time, has the evidence piled up to assert that ETI is responsible for UFO phenomena or are we living in an age where sensation sells better than science?
Stay tuned for Returning to Our Roots - A review of Dr. J Allen Hynek’s, “The Hynek UFO Report” - Part 1