To be or Not to be: An Experimental or a Mental Ufologist….or Both?
By Brent Raynes
Someone recently quipped that if you were to ask a classroom of young people today what they wanted to be when they grow up, some would probably say that they wanted to be “ghost hunters.” It still amazes, and amuses me somewhat too, how people’s mainstream views and acceptance of the paranormal have changed in recent years. The television documentaries and reality-based ghost hunting programs (plus the thousands of websites, blogs and You Tube videos on the internet that one can google) have all helped to significantly alter mainstream perspectives. In a city not far from here, I was reading a few months ago a newspaper feature about a local ghost hunting group made up of Christians!
I kind of identify with Barbara Mandrell and her song about how she was country when country wasn’t cool, except in my case I was a “paranormal” and “UFO” researcher when none of that was cool! Today I can go into my workplace and converse with several of my co-workers about some of my latest ongoing cases and experiences and they will listen with genuine interest, ask questions, and occasionally even want to get together and try doing a session on the “ghost box.” Believe me, when I first started working there a quarter of a century ago (it’s a state government job) I had to keep a low profile about my personal interests in such things for a good number of years. It’s funny how attitudes can shift so dramatically over time.
Before the internet (something my grandkids have a hard time imaging) there were very few media sources that were devoted to such subject matter. The monthly newsstand magazine FATE, which started up back in 1948, was like a Bible to those few of us then seriously interested in the paranormal. Today, because of all of the massive amount of information downloaded and available on the internet, FATE, it’s former large readership seriously dwindling, struggles to stay in existence. Many other long standing publications bit the dust years ago. To survive, many read the writing on the wall and changed with the times. That’s what the small staff here at Alternate Perceptions decided to do a decade ago. For a time, back in the late 1990’s, we had several distributors throughout the U.S. and in Canada, and a nice slick illustrated color cover and up to 66 pages of content.
Internet radio has become a very, very popular media format for paranormal and UFO programs. Today Coast-to-Coast AM radio rules the roost and for a good number of years has remained at the number one spot. Back in the 1950s and ‘60s however an early forerunner of such programs was Long John Nebel’s all-night radio talk show over New York’s WOR. In Nebel’s day his programs were quite a unique alternative in radio entertainment, though today such shows have become quite common place. His guests were frequently researchers like Jim Moseley and Tim Beckley, and contactee notables such as George Adamski and Howard Menger.
Yes sir, the internet has certainly changed how we communicate, interact, and stay abreast of events and developments in the world, though sometimes I truly do miss those bye gone years when I’d open the lid to my mailbox and discover a detailed and personal letter from a correspondent a few states away, or perhaps a copy of the latest issue of FATE, or even the APRO Bulletin.
Remember APRO? Aerial Phenomena Research Organization out of Tucson, Arizona, directed by Coral and Jim Lorenzen? It was one of the oldest UFO organizations and for a good number of years it was one of the largest. Then around 1969, several members split from APRO, dissatisfied with how it was being run I recall, and formed MUFON! Seems like a lot of folks are pretty dissatisfied with MUFON these days.
Ah well, these things run in cycles, don’t they? Back around the late ‘60s, John Keel called ufology an infant pseudoscience, and having been immersed in this field myself since 1967, it does seem as though much pseudoscience (not to mention blatant stupidity sometimes) runs rampant. Keel made the point that the “ufo buffs” made government censorship virtually unnecessary since they kept many true professionals and scientists at bay with their fringe, unfounded and oft-times fanatical beliefs. For a time, back in the late ‘60s to the mid-70s I really felt like there was a healthy, much needed explosion of alternative viewpoints being expounded by a variety of researchers and writers in the pages of Saga’s UFO Report and England’s Flying Saucer Review. Change seemed to be in the air…but then we seemed to largely back slide and there was a return big time to the “crashed saucer” stories and “nuts and bolts” angles, with very little focus on the more complex and challenging aspects of these encounter reports. When Whitley Strieber’s Communion come out, along with Budd Hopkins’s Intruders, I experienced an initial rush of excitement and anticipation for where we might go next, but again it seems we largely back slid, and though we heard that thousands of new experiencers were reportedly coming out of the proverbial woodwork, an over abundance of reportage seemed directed primarily at things like Gulf Breeze and what happened in Roswell way back in 1947. Rehash and largely pointless controversies and gossip often seemed to dominate the field.
However, because I didn’t perceive the core UFO enigma in its classic, traditional “nuts and bolts” trappings, my perspective overlapped considerably and included many different facets of the unexplained (for example, Bigfoot, so-called birdmen, like Mothman, little people [yup, leprechauns, fairies and such….sane sounding people once believed in them as seriously as many today believe in extraterrestrial/interdimensional space craft and little humanoids visiting us in these here modern times], ghosts, angels, devils, etc., etc. Jacques Vallee’s Passport to Magonia really helped open my eyes about such things some four decades ago!
Across America it seems like dozens of small ghost hunting groups have popped up in every state. Again we owe all of this to the magic of television which has greatly popularized this field in a few short years. No longer is the paranormal dominated by a stuffy, academic discipline known as parapsychology, with students who attended colleges like Duke University and did lab studies hoping to document telepathy and psychokinesis. Today anyone can jump on the paranormal bandwagon, and to hell with boring lab studies and putting together tediously documented reports and statistical analysis of one’s results. Now you can band together with your local “ghost hunting” buddies and hang out at cemeteries and haunted houses trying to capture EVP’s and pictures of the ghosties too.
Of course, ghost hunting like ufology can draw in a good number of flaky and misguided type personalities, just like a moth being drawn to the flame. However, I do believe that the ghost hunters are on the right track! Rather than just spending all of your precious time gathering countless hours of recorded eyewitness testimony and writing up report after report of what someone else experienced, ufologists should long ago have been making more of a concentrated effort to get out into the field and use instruments to record and document some of these anomalies firsthand. The ghost hunters took the paranormal hunt out of the lab and into the field, and this is what parapsychologist and psychiatrist Dr. Berthold Schwarz had years ago encouraged researchers to do….including the ufologists! In one of our early issues, back in 1993, Dr. Schwarz contributed an article entitled “Experimental Ufology.” He wrote: “Experimental ufology means to adapt and apply time-tested scientific techniques and disciplines to UFO experients’ related psi phenomena and attempt to duplicate in microcosm – in the field, the laboratory or research room – what was reputed to have occurred in the UFO contact. For almost everything that has been reported in connection with close contact UFO experiences has its homologue in psychopathology and psi. With careful documentation and long-term follow-ups of UFO experients, experimental sessions may yield information on the mechanisms of how various events took place, roles of dissociation and how these relate to prerequisite trance-like states and paranormal effects, and thereby open a more embracive and enlightened interpretation of the original encounter. Could the core of many UFO experiences be paranormal with secondary psycho-pathological, cultural and religious adumbrations?”
Dr. Schwarz pondered how so-called “gifted physical mediums” might be similar to “close-encounter UFO experients” who as well often reportedly had “histories for analogous mental and physical psi (alleged electromagnetic effects, compasses moving, telekinesis, levitation, materialization and dematerialization and so forth)?”
Sound like fun? At 59, I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Hmmm. An experimental ufologist or a mental ufologist perhaps?
So many choices, so little time!