Is Paranormal Research Headed In The Wrong Direction? ...by Bill Knell
Paranormal research is quickly becoming the domain of know-it-all technical experts, fruitcakes and hard-nosed skeptics. When I first began studying UFOs and the unexplained, it was about the phenomenon. Now itís about the people, the machines and the skeptics. The trend toward this began in the early 1990s. All you needed to get your face on the local news was a computer, some bad flying saucer or ghost footage and a good rap. Fox Network affiliates started the ball rolling by looking for any and all X-Files tie-ins they could find. If you saw or investigated something weird, you would get airtime.
In an effort to show their journalistic muscle, the other major network affiliates took just the opposite approach. They also wanted all the weird stuff they could get their hands on, but then would handily debunk it with the help of any diehard skeptic they could find with a few letters after his or her name. Not wanting to be left out of the picture, the technical people chimed in for their fifteen minutes of fame.
The media had underestimated the publicís interest in the paranormal during the 1980s. Once they became aware of their mistake, they over-reacted in the 1990s. There were a huge number of shows and specials about UFOs, ghosts and other paranormal activity. It didnít take long for the media folks to find out that that there is only a limited amount of high quality evidence out there and most of it took people like me years to accumulate.
In an effort to get the goods, show producers sought out UFO and Ghost chasers who approached things from an electronic standpoint. Before you knew it, cameras went from focusing in on people to filming meters and video screens. Apart from the occasional white swish on a photo, unexplained dot in the sky that registered as an unknown on someoneís photographic software program and meters that indicated ghost activity in a musty closet, it just wasnít interesting enough for TV.
To spice things up, producers added psychics to programs about ghosts. They would provide the low down on any spirit that decided to float by. Likewise, they sought out colorful characters who were involved in local UFO research to help with that topic. Overall, these formats were boring and didnít click with audiences. It became obvious to me that the inmates had taken over the asylum when it came to researching the unexplained. That had the predictable and always unwelcome dry well effect.
What happened to all the good stuff that used to come our way before the new Millennium hit? The fast answer is that the public had been fed a steady diet of crap in lieu of serious paranormal research for a long period of time and now has lost faith in our ability to objectively investigate anything. Anyone coming forward with a paranormal experience to report or information to share is likely to be subjected to contact with less then credible or objective people.
I received an email from someone Iíll call Ashley in 2004. Her message was lengthy, informative and disturbing. After reading it, I decided to call the phone number she provided. As a UFO witness, she seemed credible. After finishing her shift (she works in the medical profession) at a hospital around one oíclock in the morning, she noticed a light in sky, which seemed to get progressively brighter and followed her home. Once home, she woke up her roommate who also saw the object and filmed it with a digital camcorder.
In an effort to see if it was just a star or aircraft, they got in the car and continued to film. Driving all the way back to the hospital, the object followed. Driving back home again, the object followed. Driving to an all night convenience store, the object followed. Finally, it simply vanished. While what happened to Ashley and her roommate is a common experience among UFO Witnesses, getting good video of the most of the event is not. The object appeared to be brightly lit compared to the rest of the objects in the sky and moved to a point where it may have been less then a thousand feet from the women. All in all, an impressive sighting. Now, comes the bad part.
After talking it over with her roommate, Ashley contacted a UFO group in her area. She heard about them from a friend who had seen a public access cable show presented by the group. Almost as soon as they answered the phone, the UFO researcher on the other end began interrupting her. He wanted to be sure that she knew WHOM she was talking to. After finally getting him to listen, she related her experience. He did not seem interested, concerned or impressed until she brought up the video. At that point, he immediately demanded access to the tape.
Thinking it might be a good idea to meet this intense individual away from her home, she agreed to have coffee with him and a few others at a local Waffle House. Once there, she was a bit taken back by the people who showed up. She had met people interested in UFOs and New Age subjects before, but none of them seemed as intense, poorly dressed and badly groomed as this crowd.
Before she was even able to sit down, the collection of shabby men and women showed what looked like photocopied ID badges with a little saucer on them. It was obvious who was in charge. It was the person she had spoken with on the phone. He related a brief history of their group, noting all the national and international UFO organization affiliations the group had and asked if she had brought the tape with her.
Ashley had decided to meet with the group before providing the tape. Her voice and that of her roommate were clearly audible on the it and she lacked equipment to copy the tape or remove the audio track. Given her constant contact with the public at work and the large circle of friends the women had, Ashley knew that someone was going to recognize their voices if they heard them on the video. From what she observed, this group would not go out of their way to protect their privacy.
While Ashley spoke in hushed tones with the group, they were loud and brought attention to the conversation. After a few minutes, she decided to leave. She told the group she would think things over and get back to them. Disappointed and annoyed by the whole experience, Ashley decided to let things cool down for a few weeks. Once her head cleared, she would try calling or contacting someone else.
Meanwhile, Ashleyís roommate who I will call Hannah, decided to take some actions of her own. She attended a community college part time at night while working during the day. After giving it some thought, she decided to share her part of the experience with a teacher. He steered her to a Professor he knew at a prominent university nearby. The two met within a few days.
The Professor was likely a dyed in the wool Skeptic. Cordial and well spoken, he listened to about half of her story, then interrupted with, ďPeople see things in the sky all the time that they cannot identify. That doesnít mean they are space ships.Ē The statement was fair enough, but what followed was not. Offering to show him the tape, the two moved to an area in his office where she was able to plug her digital camcorder into a video monitor. He watched less then ten seconds of the tape, and then told her to shut it off.
The professor smugly assured her that what she saw and taped was probably a moving aircraft. Given the amount of air traffic in the area, he might have been right. However, a close up revealed no sign of running lights or a common aircraft shape. The absence of noise was also interesting. In the end, he had no interest in examining the matter further and told her she would just be wasting her time if she pursued any sort of investigation.
Despite the professorís advice, Ashley and Hannah took one more step. They contacted a local researcher who had been featured on the evening news some time ago as a person who examines video evidence for UFOs. He looked at the tape and ran a series of computer examinations on it. Despite the obvious fact that Hannah had filmed the object over a ten mile distance from work to home, back again and another few miles to their local convenience store, he declared it to be a street lamp! When they tried to tell him what happened, he assured them that his computer software would not lie.
There is much more to this case then I have indicated, however it would be impossible to go into detail without costing these witnesses their confidentiality. Besides, their experience in trying to get someone to research their sighting and examine the evidence is a lesson learned in itself. That lesson exposes the reason why UFO and Paranormal Researchers are just not getting the quality of material that once flowed their way. There are too many self-important nut cakes, diehard skeptics and know-it-all/know-nothing technical experts out there destroying the enthusiasm of witnesses and credibility of objective investigators.
Of all the investigations I have been involved with, two stand out as object lessons for why this field has come to a screeching halt in terms of good evidence and public confidence. In the 1980s, I came across a number of witnesses who saw a UFO land in a New York City Park. This not only included a bus full of people passing by the park, but those living in the neighborhood and driving by in cars. The ground where the object landed was oddly affected and there was quite a bit of other physical evidence as well.
Despite my better judgment, I decided to call the head of a large national UFO group who I felt might want to be involved in the investigation. After giving him a thumbnail sketch of the event, he casually asked me what kind of grass was growing in the park. Ha? He had no interest in the witnesses, but was very concerned about the grass. Of course, it is fair to say that knowing what kind of grass the object had affected was important, but not crucial at that point. It was obvious that that group would be sending no one to help. That case turned out to be very important and made worldwide news after another object landed in a Russian Park in much the same manner as the one that landed in Queens, New York City.
In the late 1980s, a Long Island UFO group put out a press release about a UFO Crash that they claimed had occurred off the south shore. Touted as a UFO case of monumental proportions, I met the chief witness who was said to have military connections and provided much of the evidence to support the idea that the UFO had crashed and been retrieved by the U.S. Government. Flaunted as a person with important government connections who was above reproach, I found him to be a nutty guy who was involved with a local New Age bookstore. When I tried to talk to him about the case, he just kept telling me how that the Gray and the Blond Aliens had taken over most of the U.S. Air Force Bases in Texas. Later, the head of that Long Island UFO group was arrested for trying to murder local politicians. Today he resides in a mental health facility.
Whatever happened to serious UFO and Paranormal Research? The serious researchers have yielded their positions to lunatics, skeptics and machines. Why? Mostly because the lunatics and skeptics have tended to bully their way into our field and threaten anyone who dares take away their spotlight or enter their little serfdom to present a seminar or investigate a case. Machines have taken their piece of the action because people have lost faith in their fellow humanís ability to rationally and objectively investigate anything.
Anyone willing to investigate the unknown should be willing to share what he or she has gleaned from that research. More importantly, they should be able to do so without being harassed or belittled by those who disagree with them. The public has a right to hear the evidence and decide for themselves. Telling people about my investigations through seminars and videos has produced additional witnesses and information which have been invaluable. The fact that I have not felt the need to have science or technology validate everything I do should not be a reason to condemn me. Science has been wrong many times and technology continues to be a work in progress. Public interest in the paranormal has cooled. Those that research these topics are not well received because of the personality cults, unprofessional behavior of investigators, skepticism and over use of technology. That should a major concern to anyone that researches the unexplained and a lesson to us all.
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