Date: Wed Aug 24 1994 00:20:00 Subj: Watch The Skies! - Review UFO - UFO sightings mirror

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Date: Wed Aug 24 1994 00:20:00 From: Sheppard Gordon Subj: Watch The Skies! - Review UFO ------------------------------- UFO sightings mirror to postwar America 07/10/94 San Antonio Express-News Watch the Skies! A Chronicle of the Flying Saucer Myth By Curtis Peebles Smithsonian Institution Press, $24.95 Despite the sensationalistic title, "Watch the Skies!" is probably the most insightful, well-researched debunking of the UFO myth that has yet been published. Aerospace historian Curtis Peebles examines how the myth has evolved over nearly half a century, from its first appearance in the pulp magazine "Amazing Stories" in the 1940s through the latest conspiracy theories concerning government coverups. After years of researching UFOs, Peebles is a skeptic who believes that flying saucer reports are misinterpretations of conventional objects, phenomena and experiences. But he also believes the myth is a mirror to the events of postwar America - the paranoia of the 1950s, the social turmoil of the 1960s, the "me generation" of the 1970s and the nihilism of the '80s and early '90s. Rather than becoming bogged down in trying to prove whether UFOs are real or not, Peebles examines the myth as a pop culture phenomenon, showing how many of the most famous UFO stories and books appear to grow out of earlier pop culture sources, such as science fiction magazines and Hollywood movies. People claiming to have had experiences with beings from other planets are probably enjoying more credibility than at any time in the past 50 years, especially since the recent publication of Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard University psychologist John Mack's "Abduction: Human Encounters With Aliens" (Scribners). Recent films such as "Communion," based on the book by native San Antonian Whitley Strieber, and "Fire in the Sky," based on the Travis Walton case in Arizona, use Hollywood special effects to make extraterrestrials seem much more realistic than they appeared in the 1950 films that helped shape the myth, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "It Came From Outer Space." In one of his best chapters, Peebles reveals that Walton, along with his lumberman buddies, concocted his UFO abduction story to get out of a contract with the U.S. Forest Service to clear more than 1,000 acres of timber - which Walton and his cohorts were unable to do by a deadline without paying financial penalties. Walton came up with his tale of being operated on in a UFO only two weeks after NBC aired "The UFO Incident," based on the first widely reported UFO abduction story, Betty and Barney Hill's "The Interrupted Journey." Though Walton failed lie detector tests and was exposed by the best-known UFO debunker, Philip Klass, the Walton case is still considered one of the most valid by UFOlogists. "Fire in the Sky," now available on video cassette, is fairly realistic and skeptical of the Walton story until the final, mind-blowing 20 minutes when Walton is sucked up into an organic spaceship resembling a human womb populated with big-eyed fetuses. Hollywood claims it is "based on a true story," but Peebles proves it's nothing but a lie. More doubt has been cast on UFO abduction stories gathered by the unlocking of "repressed" memories through hypnosis by another recent book, Austin author Lawrence Wright's "Remembering Satan" (Knopf), which examines the controversial child abuse case of an Olympia, Wash., deputy sheriff, Paul Ingram. Wright explains how Ingram, under hypnosis, admitted to being part of a Satanic cult and sexually abusing his two daughters despite having no memory of the abuse. Wright reveals how susceptible people are to inventing wild stories while in a trancelike hypnotic state, which has turned many recent child abuse cases into modern-day witch hunts. If hypnotically recalled memories are tossed out of the courts as legally admissible evidence, it will undermine the stories of most UFO abductees, whose memories of "missing time" are often uncovered in hypnotic sessions conducted by UFO believers. In "Watch the Skies!" Peebles presents the hard facts about many other UFO tales - the UFO crash in Roswell, N.M., in 1947; the invasion of Washington in 1952; the Air Force's much-maligned Project Blue Book; cattle mutilations; alien/human crossbreeding; and the incredible, right-wing conspiracy theories about "MJ-12." Peebles finds links between periods of national uncertainty and popular UFO sightings or "flaps." The McCarthy era was leading to the Cold War when the first UFOs were spotted in 1947. The Great Flap of 1952 marked the stalemated Korean War and the development of the H-Bomb. UFOs flooded the skies in the 1960s, when the civil rights and anti-war movements threatened to split the country. The last big flap in 1973 coincided with Watergate. In the 1980s and '90s, aliens became familiar stars in the movies -"E.T.," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Star Wars" - while UFOlogists became obsessed with alien abductions and right-wing conspiracies. Stories of alien-induced pregnancies and surgically removed fetuses have eerie parallels to the propaganda of the anti-abortion movement. But UFOs have become such a familiar part of the popular culture that mysterious lights in the sky hardly raise an eyebrow anymore. Peebles sees the UFO myth as an effort to make order out of a confusing, chaotic universe. Yet, as he concludes: "We watch the skies seeking meaning. In the end, what we find is ourselves."


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank