Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The UFO: Redecorating with Shotguns for Ridicule and Innuendo

There's plenty of mysteries in human culture, but the term "UFO" is one that conjures up a lot of imagery. From the disc to the triangle, the sphere to morphing globs of sky stuff - there's no shortage of strange things seen in the sky. 

Now I'd be out of my mind to take on everything the UFO phenomena has to offer this particular discussion, from the varied plethora of 'craft' to the cryptic messages given to those who've come in contact with UFO craft occupants (if they are occupants and are indeed craft). Such a morass of topics would have us bogged down for months on end - we'll get to a lot of it in time, but for starters let's take one chunk at a time, and look at the surrounding elements of the UFO event. 

When we say UFO, what exactly do we mean? 

This is problem one: how do we identify the utterly bizarre presence associated with aerial phenomena and perceived 'aliens'? In short, we can't. Despite the often repeated statement, "We just don't have the technology that can do that" by just about every UFO 'researcher', there is one thing I can safely tell you: They don't know that. To suggest that they do is to state unequivocally that every UFO researcher saying those words has intimate knowledge of every secret military project in every country, and every secret civilian or commercial project.

I can assure you, they don't. And neither do you or I. 

And therein lies problem 1: how to identify whatever strange thing seen in the sky as the phenomena itself. This makes it a slippery eel indeed, because there isn't a way to effectively determine that. Although, I have an idea...but that's later on. 

Let's look at how UFOs and the people who report them have been perceived by mainstream society and science over the years.

I'm sure you've all heard the stereotype "only people in trailer parks see UFOs". While untrue as we all know, the genesis of the statement suggests that people who report such things are marginal. Trailer parks are stigmatized as containing a part of the populace that is considered lower class, minimally educated, and that often these individuals are prone to alcohol and drug abuse, Society at large maintain that such people are not to be taken seriously when they report that football sized cigar craft over the trailer. Of course these are stereotypes and don't represent overall reality.

But looking at the notion of trailer parks as an example - these are often homes for people transitioning from one place to another. Or, the homes themselves (trailers or mobile homes) are not a single family home, but nor are they a vehicle. They possess elements of being stationary and mobile. They are, by definition, liminal domiciles.

It's interesting that this is the stereotype's point of reference. The epitome of liminal homes and perceived marginal people. The other lesser stereotype is that the phenomena is reported by people in rural areas - derogatorily called 'hillbillies' - and again carrying the stigma of the under-educated, and alcoholic.

From the Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter (an alleged CE-3 event): (from wikipedia)

Part of the original news article

On the evening of August 21, 1955, five adults and seven children arrived at the Hopkinsville police station claiming that small alien creatures from a spaceship were attacking their farmhouse and they had been holding them off with gunfire "for nearly four hours". Two of the adults, Elmer Sutton and Billy Ray Taylor, claimed they had been shooting at "twelve to fifteen" short, dark figures who repeatedly popped up at the doorway or peered into the windows.

It's a pretty hair-raising account if you read it. Sheriff Russell Greenwell made it very clear that everyone was sober and that these folks were genuinely frightened. But were they 'country folk'? Without a doubt. All the parties when interviewed separately told the same story and drew similar representations of the beings. In all the years that went by, the story never changed. The Suttons never profited from their story, never penned a movie deal - but instead paid out money to fix their farmhouse which suffered holes and shotgun blasts inflicted by them as they defended themselves from small beings. 

Nonetheless, we're given this answer from a skeptical investigation:

"...the famous 1955 Kelly incident is easily explained by a meteor and a pair of territorial owls." (from Siege of ‘Little Green Men’: The 1955 Kelly, Kentucky, Incident)

Among gems like this, you'll find countless comments and innuendo that the witnesses were "probably intoxicated", or hoaxing...or...both. Please keep these kind of nonsensical answers and assumed facts in the back of your head because they represent an interesting repetitive effect with regard to the skeptic - that sometimes they posit answers that aren't based upon anything resembling good sense (Something they accuse the witness of lacking). This too figures in to our discussions to come.

Let's be real -  close quarters shotgun blasts rarely miss completely. The men said the guns had no effect, and that there was no chance they missed. The notion of weapons having no effect in these occurrences is now fairly common I think, regardless of what it may mean (that the phenomena is a non-physical manifestation or that advanced culture equals advanced defense systems - or anything in-between). As far as the 'intoxicated' accusations, when I interviewed folklorist and skeptic Dr. David Clarke some years ago he said the best approach to UFO case research is to refer to the original period reports (so let's play by skeptic rules and see below left). 

No drinking involved.
But, the whole thing is reduced to Owls and drunks. This is to me, a perfect example of trickster - the event happens to people who ultimately will not be believed - and we all are offered absurd explanations for the event by authorities, and many will accept those explanations. The case is then relegated to the dust bin by the majority of the public.

Ask yourself this: would people who've lived in rural Kentucky for generations have seen an owl before? How about at night? Would they have feared the owl - even if they were drunk? Would you miss a large bird like an owl with a shotgun blast at close range? No mention of dead owls, or blasted feathers by police - and there were 20+ officers at the scene under Sheriff Greenwell - none of them found anything?

Please. Had this event happened in New York City, or in any major metropolitan area the people would have been considered in a completely different manner. But it happened in rural Kentucky. Would there have been accusations of drunkenness if it were in a major city? Or if the witnesses had been average store owners and patrons?

The contention here is that this is not an accident, or happenstance that the Sutton Family was targeted by something that we might label as part of the phenomena we're interested in. Billy Ray Taylor is the man who originally saw the UFO land near the Sutton home and ran to tell the Suttons who laughed and didn't believe his tale (yet). Of note? Taylor was from Pennsylvania and visiting the Suttons - he was out of his routine environment (the anti-structural component) and I'm sure if we dug into the circumstances and duration of his visit we might find more.

We are to believe that rural Americans had never seen an owl. 
I think what we see here is the hidden and overlooked consistencies yet again - marginal elements of the people involved and their geological location, Anti-structural element of a visitor (Taylor) at the house, and a special gathering going on. Want another? Elmer Sutton and Billy Ray Taylor were traveling carnival workers. Let's double down on the anti-structure and marginality

Cases like this probably started the 'drunken hillybilly' UFO stereotype. This is why it's important to recognize where these stigmas come from, and that they're more or less unique to paranormal events.

What surrounds the paranormal are elements to make it easily dismissed, no matter how unwavering the account. You'll find this not only in the Kelly-Hopkinsville case, but all over the UFO phenomena. This particular case seems to feed heavily into marginal elements, others might figure more on the anti-structure bits. And, all these hallmarks may be far more pronounced than we think - because no one has ever bothered to ask these questions. This is something that really needs to be deployed in modern UFO report forms or questions asked of witnesses. Forget the UFO for a moment and ask about the witness's current life situation, their living situation, job situation etc. I think this will yield interesting returns. 

This is after all, only one example that I think is easy to identify at this stage in our discussion. But there will be more from recent times, and you'll see these elements much more pronounced as time goes on. Think of this instance as 'Trickster Lite'. đź”»

(next: Personalities & The Performance Investigator)


  1. Experients are really the only tangible element within a UFO story and I would agree completely with you that these crucial questions are very much missed by those who concentrate on the "experience" ie: a UFO and not the experiencer themselves. Excellent analysis and write up of this highly strange "Trickster lite" case.

  2. I appreciate your perspective on the whole owl thing. I had a weird experience with a cafĂ© decoration once, but it never made me think seeing cafĂ© decorations was the same as encountering bodhisattvas. With regards to liminality, anti-structure and marginality, I’m wondering do the terms mean different things or are they the same? The reason I ask is because I think of being socially marginal as something imposed from the outside (you live in a trailer park, you must be an idiot), whereas being in a liminal state is more of a person feeling their sense of reality has been seriously challenged (internal psychological thing).

    1. Anti-structure and marginality are different, at times with one feeding off the other. Your example "you live in a trailer park, you must be an idiot" isn't a socially marginal thing - they live in a transitional domicile and there's a reason they are there. The stigma would be an outside view attached to trailer parks and those who live in them.

      Liminality refers to a period of transition, and anti-structure is the loss of routine. While these terms may feed off each other, they are wholly different meanings. My "First Terms" post fleshes this out more.

  3. Great post- lots of new, fresh ideas. Particilarly the transitional and liminal domiciles. I've been to ECETI in Trout Lake, WA and saw some unexplainable lights in the night sky. Keep posting and more people will keep reading.

  4. You raise some interesting points. I often wonder about the Kelly-Hopkinsville case. Looking at the names in a paranormal context, one has Kelly, as in Edward Kelly, the seer into other worlds and contactor of spirits; and Hopkinsville, as in Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General - two opposite poles that created a strong enough flux that allowed such bizarre monsters to manifest. These are 'just names', but not just names, for nomenclature has a long magical history, more recently examined by Allen H. Greenfield's book, 'Secret Cipher of the UFOnauts', in which he claims the aliens' deciphered names, etc., can be used to determine their next appearance.

    1. Mr. Greenfield tried to apply his cypher on an episode of the Paracast some years ago and predicted an event - it didn't happen. I'm not saying it's useless, but I think one would be hard pressed to predict such an demonstrably elusive phenomenon. That cypher if I recall correctly only applied to UFOs. I'd hazard a guess that it possibly ought to be overlaid onto every paranormal manifestation - although I still think the whole thing is a stretch.