I have always had a soft spot for UFOs. Therefore, it was with great interest that I listened while on a flight from Florida to Pennsylvania to the latest episode of Monster Talk. Blake Smith and Karen Stollznow interviewed UFO researcher, blogger, and author, Robert Sheaffer, on his latest book Bad UFOs as well as the field in general. The episode did not disappoint.
As I noted in an earlier blog post, when I was in college I spent far too much time doing a literature review on everything UFOs that I could procure given that it was 1990-91 and before the internet. Although I was not a skeptic at the time, and had no idea that Skepticism was even a thing, the chances of UFOs actually being machines control by extraterrestrial lifeforms was quite remote to me. I am by no means comparing my efforts with Sheaffer’s far greater depth of a lifetime of research to mine. But he did come to the same conclusion.
What I recall striking me at the time, and also touched upon during this episode, is how much negative evidence against UFOs being of alien origin is lost through time and retelling of the same UFO incidents. My recollection of my time in the microfilm room at Gettysburg College’s Musselman Library was that initial newspaper UFO reports and news magazine articles from the late 1940s and 1950s were often either very goofy or very mundane. Goofy in that the visiting aliens were from a nearby planet in the solar system and that happened to be tall hot Nordic blondes, or mundane in that the UFO was described as a silent pattern of lights flying overhead that today most people who are more familiar with aircraft would peg as an airplane. This was not all the reports from that time frame, but from much of this came to form the backbone of much richer tales shared in the 1960s and beyond. There was also no consistency, especially in the description of the aliens themselves until 'the grays' took over after "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" hit theaters.
Sheaffer further shares his insights on how the UFO community has changed and mellowed over the years. Yet, there does continue to be hardcore adherents to ‘exposing the truth’ abut UFOs which I suspect will never quite go away. Sheaffer is a master of the subject area, and Smith and Stollznow are enough in the know to contribute to an interesting if only surface deep discussion of the topic. Clearly this could have been a three part episodes. As it is, it is an interesting hour. It is well worth the listen.