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Reality Checking—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, October 2022

Journeying down the UFO rabbit hole

by: Brent Raynes

Since early 1967, beginning at age 14, I developed a deep fascination with reports of UFO sightings. Within a short timespan my fascination with the unexplained soon came to include many other puzzling occurrences that people have reported through the years. I investigated haunted houses, interviewed witnesses who claimed to have seen Bigfoot, the West Virginia "Mothman," ghosts/spirits, little people, angels, orbs, and of course UFOs and their apparent humanoid occupants. I even dabbled into the so-called Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) and recorded some very strange things myself, including names of people who had passed away, as well as people who hadn't! Quite strange.

Some cases naturally could be explained, but not all. I've strived to be cautious and objective. I've consulted along the way with those who had scientific, academic credentials, from psychologists, a psychiatrist, a neuroscientist, along with those who had much knowledge of electronics and physics.

Thanks to a researcher and writer named John Keel I wasn’t completely caught off guard as I journeyed down the UFO rabbit hole. After all, the reason I had come to widen my perspective on anomalies in addition to the UFO mystery itself was largely due to a New York journalist named John A. Keel (best known as the author of The Mothman Prophecies, published in 1975, which later in 2002 became a motion picture by the same name starring Richard Gere). I became acquainted with Keel in October 1969 while I was on the board of directors for a Florida UFO magazine named Saucer Scoop. We engaged in a healthy measure of correspondence, exchange of information and publications (his named Anomaly and mine a mimeographed Scientific Sauceritis Review, which I was putting out at age 17).

Back in 1966, Keel took a deep interest in the wave of UFO sightings that were being reported nationwide. He even came to travel through some 20 states tracking down eyewitnesses, and at times even sitting up on hilltops watching for UFOs, which he claimed he actually saw down in West Virginia. He even stopped in at the Pentagon early on and spoke with an Air Force official on the UFO matter who attempted to dissuade Keel from his interest, saying it was all nonsense, but Keel let him know he'd seen the things himself! Once in 1954, around age 24, when he saw a metallic looking, domed disc-shaped object hovering above Egypt’s Aswan Dam while he was exploring the Upper Nile, and even much earlier in his life, at the mere age of seven, Keel described how he and his mother and stepdad were in the family car near Canaseraga, New York one night in 1937 and observed a “huge, brilliantly illuminated sphere” rise up from a nearby hill.

Keel, however, came to realize from his own research and field investigations that he began in 1966 that the UFO puzzle was far more complex than hardly anyone realized. He found that many witnesses soon after their encounters reported other peculiar anomalous experiences from poltergeist activity in their homes, apparitions of mysterious beings, orbs of light, as well as having precognitive dreams and other paranormal phenomena. From 1968 to 1969, Keel acted as a technical advisor for the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where he became good friends with Lynn E. Catoe who produced a 400-page volume for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research entitled UFOs and Related Subjects: An Annotated Bibliography. After reading thousands of articles, books, and publications on the subject, she concluded in the volume's preface: "A large part of the available UFO literature is closely linked with mysticism and the metaphysical. It deals with subjects like mental telepathy, automatic writing, and invisible entities, as well as phenomena like poltergeist manifestations and possession...Many of the UFO reports now being published in the popular press recount alleged incidents that are strikingly similar to demoniac possession and psychic phenomena which has long been known to theologians and parapsychologists."

One prominent ufologist named Tim Beckley told me they had even showed up together at a UFO talk he was giving in Ohio. Keel’s good friend Doug Skinner even shared that they had dated for a few months. I also learned that both Keel and Catoe felt that they were being followed and watched during this time. Catoe's report was used to brief Dr. Edward Condon and his committee at the University of Colorado, who were assigned to do an extensive two-year review of the U.S. Air Force's material on UFOs. I can't help but wonder if the Air Force saw this as an opportunity to get out of the UFO business, with a volume whose bibliographer had declared much of the subject matter was more familiar to "theologians and parapsychologists." Keel noted that Air Force officers had startled some UFO witnesses by implying that perhaps they had undergone a "psychic experience" as opposed to a physical one.

In December 1969, the Air Force's Project Bluebook was shut down. The Condon Committee could find no evidence justifying the continued involvement of our Air Force in the UFO business. Did Catoe's bibliography help in that decision?

John Keel himself came to state that ufology should have been a branch of parapsychology (the scientific investigation of psychic phenomena), even pointing out how aliens and so-called ghosts and spirit forms possessed a variety of common characteristics (except for the frame of reference in which we generally perceive them). Both reportedly may appear and disappear, levitate, be partially physical or transparent, walk-through solid walls, and even shape-shift (change appearance, like go from humanoid into a ball of light, or vice versa).

In 1971, I sought Keel's personal input on how I might best launch my own investigations into this bewildering subject matter. He encouraged me to familiarize myself with some competent literature on apparitions and religious and visionary phenomena. Even though the literature was from an entirely different field in and of itself, the phenomena reported had much in common, as for example the thousands gathered at Fatima, Portugal to witness the mysterious "dance of the sun" on October 13, 1917, or the Marian apparitions witnessed by thousands in Zeitoun, Egypt between 1968 and 1971, which were even photographed and filmed. I even acquired from one of Keel's colleagues (Richard Hack) a 5-page summary of questions and methods that Keel recommended investigators might follow.

And so, in the 1970s, I followed Keel's recipe of inquiry into this stuff and hit the road whenever I could. I traveled through over a dozen states, from Maine to Florida - even to Pascagoula, Mississippi - even up into Toronto, Canada - and while serving two years active duty in the U.S. Navy (1972 to 1974) I followed up on UFO reports and paranormal events in different parts of the world. I spent practically the entire summer of 1975 on the road meeting researchers and witnesses in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida. I had the good fortune during these travels of being in correspondence with Keel's good friend, New Jersey psychiatrist and parapsychologist Dr. Berthold Schwarz, who was also looking deeply into the UFO/paranormal question. In fact, years later I would have a chapter in the good doctor's two volume book UFO Dynamics (1983) on a case in Maine that we had worked together on.

I wrote a book on John Keel and a rather extensive chapter I wrote for a huge book entitled Beyond UFOs (2018). My contribution delved into a lot of comparative paranormal and religious phenomena. I've written three books altogether, besides John A. Keel: The Man, The Myths, and the Ongoing Mysteries (2019), about Keel, his work, along with his influence on me and others I interviewed who had known him and been influenced by his work as well.

The other two books were Visitors from Hidden Realms (2004) and On the Edge of Reality (2009). In all three, I tackle the full spectrum of high strange, interrelated events. I also edit an online magazine that I began initially as a small non-scheduled 4-page print newsletter back in 1985. Today it comes out on the first of each month, is called Alternate Perceptions (apmagazine.info) and has a variety of different columns and submitted features, book reviews, letters to the editor, news links, and archived back issues - covering, of course, a diverse range of paranormal information and speculation - as well as ongoing features on ancient sites here in the U.S. - Indian Mounds, earthworks - and around the world - written primarily by my longtime friend and colleague Dr. Greg Little, who has traveled to these sites himself, and who has written extensively on such matters, including Native American beliefs, shamanism, Jungian psychology, Keel as well, and much more.

Saturday, April 13, 2024