An Interview with Greg Bishop of Radio Misterioso and The Excluded Middle
by: Brent Raynes
Greg Bishop has been studying the paranormal for most of his life. In his book Project Beta: The Story of Paul Bennewitz, National Security, and the Creation of a Modern UFO Myth (2005, Simon & Schuster/ Pocket Books) he wrote about a government campaign of disinformation perpetrated against an unsuspecting U.S. citizen.
The no-man’s land between the extremes of wide-eyed belief and closed-minded debunkery has fascinated Greg and led to the birth of a magazine he co-founded called The Excluded Middle, which was a journal of UFOs, conspiracy research, psychedelia and new science. Wake Up Down There!, a collection of articles from the magazine, was published in 2000. His third book, Weird California, a portrait of strange and eerie history and places in the Golden State, was released by Sterling Publishers and Barnes & Noble in 2006.
Greg’s writing has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Fortean Times, UFO Magazine, as well as many other magazines, and in the book-length anthologies Conspiracy And Cyberculture, Zen And The Art of Close Encounters, Kooks, and You Are Being Lied To. His article “Ethnic Weapons For Ethnic Cleansing” was rated one of the most underreported stories of 2001 by the media watchdog group Project Censored.
For two years (until it was shut down by the FCC) Greg hosted The Hungry Ghost, a radio show of interviews and music airing on pirate FM station KBLT in Los Angeles. His current show, Radio Misterioso, can be heard on Sundays from 8-10 PM PST at http://www.killradio.org/. Interviews with fringe-topic researchers and weird music are the usual fare. Podcasts and downloadable programs are available at radiomisterioso.com and through itunes.
Brent Raynes: What initially lured you into the controversial and strange world of ufology?
Greg Bishop: Reading all the UFO and paranormal books in the library when I was a kid.
Brent Raynes: How has this strange world affected your life?
Greg Bishop: Taught me not to take things too seriously and that having no answer for some things is nothing to worry about. It has also made me some wonderful friends.
Brent Raynes: Your perspective has not exactly been in harmony with typical mainstream ufology. For example, you've actually taken a serious look at the contactee syndrome, with special emphasis I gather on George Van Tassel, perhaps because of Giant Rock's close proximity to you - but irregardless it represents a fascinating personality and location that certainly captured worldwide attention - and may soon be in the focus again if plans to make a movie about Giant Rock and George Van Tassel come through.
Greg Bishop: Typical, mainstream anything is very boring. I can’t undersand why the orthodoxy is so strong in an area (UFO study) where nothing is proven yet. As Jim Moseley said, the personalities are far more interesting than the UFOs. I am interested in the contactees because they had a personal connection with the phenomenon (or at least desperately wanted us to believe that they did). And my interest is not in order to laugh and heap derision on them, that’s too easy. They were harmless. As far as I know, none of them ever tried to force anyone into their belief system.
Brent Raynes: I really liked your comment in Nick Redfern's book Contactees where you remarked that not only was this subject matter potentially stranger than we think, but that it's probably stranger than we can think! I feel like that's a very significant insight. Could you please enlarge upon that a little more and what all that may encompass - if you think you're up for the task? LOL!
Greg Bishop: We are trapped in a view of the world that is reigned in by the language that we use to describe it. If we can’t describe it, it doesn’t exist for us. So the problem is describing something that we have not encountered before using language that cannot describe the totality of the experience. I think that we have a very approximate view of the UFO phenomenon (and other “paranormal” topics as well) because we have to force the subject into our metaphors for it. Are ghosts dead people or an example of a break in the time flow as we see it? Is Bigfoot a creature who has managed through some means to navigate time and space as naturally as we can walk through a doorway? Are UFOs from other planets or from everywhere and everywhen? I feel that even these questions are very restrictive.
Brent Raynes: You've met a good number of ufology's original thinkers who thought well outside the proverbial box, including the legendary and controversial John Keel, perhaps most famous for his book and movie The Mothman Prophecies. While I spoke on the phone with Big John some and corresponded with him off and on going back to 1969, I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person. However, you did. Care to share some details?
Greg Bishop: Keel was very friendly and welcoming to me, but that’s probably because I was a big fan boy trying desperately to mask it. He signed a couple of books for me and we went to the Natural History Museum in New York to see a preserved giant squid. As we were going in the front doors, he said, “Here’s another load of crap,” or something to that effect. He was expressing his disdain for the popular view of history and the natural world, and how it doesn’t accept the anomalous. We met again a few years later for lunch and had a great time. I was very lucky.
Brent Raynes: You also met the late Karla Turner whose investigations into the abduction phenomenon revealed all sorts of mind-blowing and disturbing high-strangeness implications as did John Keel's investigations. What was meeting her like?
Greg Bishop: She was gracious and fun to be around. I only met her once, but we talked on the phone often until her untimely death in 1996 at age 48. The one quote from her that sticks with me was something to the effect that abductions would probably be solved by looking at the anomalous details, not the popular scenarios that were in the mainstream.
Brent Raynes: Who else in the field has made a memorable if not significant impact upon you and given you much to think about?
Greg Bishop: Jacques Vallee. A quote from him (which was cut off and never bought up again by George Noory on Coast To Coast) sticks with me: “What we are finding is that we may be a small subset of something larger.” The other one is “I will be very disappointed if UFOs turn out to be aliens from other planets.”
Jim Brandon’s book “The Rebirth Of Pan,” which proposed that some form of energy or force from the Earth itself uses our expectations and mere presence to produce what we term “anomalous.” An overlooked book which all those interested in abductions should read is “The Fairy Faith In The Celtic Countries” By Walter Evans-Wentz. The parallels with abduction stories are amazing. It is even more remarkable when you consider that it was written in 1911.
Brent Raynes: What direction would you perhaps like to see future ufology evolve towards? Greg Bishop: Much less centralized. With the internet, this is entirely possible. Get rid of the big groups (except perhaps as gatherers and collators of data) and let the independent researchers form their own small groups with their own agendas. That way, we can come at this from many different angles. Sighting reports should include a follow-up months later with questions about lifestyle changes or mental or physiological changes that were not present before the sighting/ encounter. Reports should also include info on ethnic background, mental and physical health, blood type, religious background, education, and other factors not normally considered to see if there are any underlying commonalities.
Brent Raynes: Do you have your own preferred pet theory on UFOs that you'd care to share? Greg Bishop: Not really. I think that the main problem is that we count ourselves out of the equation more than we realize.
Brent Raynes: What do you think of the UFO and paranormal connection with the UFO subject? Greg Bishop: Vitally important. UFOs are by definition “paranormal” and lie outside of our understanding at present. My guess is that someone outside of Ufology or other paranormal interests will start to break the field open for new ideas. What I’m suggesting is that someone with a specialty in another, seemingly unrelated discipline will come up with a new theory about the nature of time, causality, psychology, philosophy, etc. that has important implications for paranormal researchers. Hopefully, the researchers will listen and make the connection, or perhaps more importantly, at least accept it. v Brent Raynes: How about the role of altered states of consciousness, including such areas as the DMT studies conducted by Dr. Rick Strassman?
Greg Bishop: Strassman was overlooked by UFO people when his first book came out. I think that is changing. Access to non time-and space-bound states of consciousness may be one of the keys to a breakthrough that I mentioned in the last paragraph. Are people having abduction-type experiences on DMT because they have a scenario (unconsciously or not) to draw upon, or is there some reality external to their consciousness? It’s a hard one to figure out.