Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Skeptical Look at the 25th Annual International UFO Congress (Part 6 - last)

Merrill Cook

Merrill Cook is a former two-term Congressman from Utah who participated in the mock Congressional hearings, Citizens Hearing for Disclosure in 2013. The title of his talk was "UFO Disclosure," in which he would be discussing "how he would handle UFO disclosure as a former congressman as well as his experience at the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure. He will tell us about what he heard there, and the testimony from witnesses and researchers which showed him how deep this conspiracy can go."
Cook rambled on about sightings, and lamented  government skepticism. He called, of course, for real Congressional hearings on 'disclosure.' He cited the French COMETA report as an example of strong evidence for UFOs. However, John Alexander (who is certainly no UFO skeptic) has described the COMETA report as “an embarrassment… unsubstantiated data from questionable sources” in his book UFOs Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities

Jacques Vallee
Lee Speigel, who writes Weird News for the Huffington Post, introduced and hosted the speaker that many had been waiting for, Jacques Vallee, one of the best-known UFO authors for more than 50 years, and one who seldom attends UFO conferences or other public events.

Vallee's talk largely related to the content of the book he co-authored with Chris Aubeck in 2009, Wonders in the Sky, which describes reports of unidentified objects in the sky before the modern era. He related tales of such sightings from very credible astronomers and scientists in the 17th to 19th century, including Cassini, Leverrier, etc.

Vallee was soliciting subscriptions for the re-publication of an updated (might we say, "corrected"?) version of that book. Blogger and archaeologist Jason Colavito had this to say about it last October:
 (Vallee and Aubeck) launched an IndieGoGo campaign looking for $42,000 to publish 500 copies of a revised deluxe edition of Wonders in the Sky (2009), their demonstrably false and generally quite unreliable anthology of badly translated and frequently fictitious documents recording premodern UFO sightings....Let me say that again: $42,000 for 500 copies. That’s $84 per copy, for a book they are selling for $200 per copy.... What I’d like to point out, though, is a basic fact: Jacques Vallée is a very wealthy man. He is a venture capitalist, and according to, he is a general partner in SBV Ventures, a firm that operates more than 70 companies and has vast real estate holdings. He is also the managing partner of Runway Capital Partners LLC, a general partner of Astrolabe Ventures, and a partner at Red Planet Capital, a firm he founded in 2006. He sits on at least three corporate boards of directors. And here he is asking his fans to give him cash to print a book, money that someone in his position ought to simply have sitting in the petty cash drawer.
At the UFO Congress, Vallee said that there were still 350 copies of this book remaining to be signed up for. The week after the UFO Congress, Colavito was incensed that a "Publicist for Jacques Vallee Asks Me to Help Spread the Word that Vallee Wants You to Give Him Money", especially since

Aubeck told me via email that many of the revisions in the new edition are based in part on criticisms and corrections I offered on my blog. At the time I was fairly upset that the clearly wealthy Vallée was asking his fans to pay him to produce the revised book, and I was even more annoyed that Vallée was planning on what seems to be tens of thousands of dollars in profit based in part on work he and Aubeck are borrowing from my efforts to correct their countless mistakes, including mistranslations and fabricated texts borrowed from unscrupulous ufologists. Just to remind you, Aubeck said of my criticisms and corrections that “I have found [them] extremely useful while making a totally revised 2nd edition (thank you!).”....
[Vallee] wasn’t able to sell more than 150 of the 500 future copies of Wonders in the Sky he put up for sale late last year. Sadly, in order to tell [publicist] Garano how insulting it was to be asked to help a wealthy man make money off of my unacknowledged work, I had to turn down the offer of repayment in the form of an interview with Vallée. I can’t imagine how that would have gone: “So, Mr. Vallée, why did you repeat the same faulty translations, fabrications, and errors from Passport to Magonia in 1969 to Wonders in the Sky in 2009 until I finally caught you, all while holding yourself out as a scrupulous and
rigorous investigator?” I’m sure that would have gone over well.
One of the few talks with any worthwhile content was that by Marc D'Antonio, MUFON's chief photo/video analyst, and special effects guru Douglas Trumbull, famous for his work on many major films. Their talk was titled "Light Years To Earth":
Marc D'Antonio
Marc Dantonio and Douglas Trumbull provide an overview of the latest Exoplanet finds as motivation and reason why we should be looking for signs at home (Earth) of another civilization using advanced propulsion to visit us. Such signs we call the skidmarks of an advanced race.

Marc and Douglas also provide an overview of their system called UFOTOG II which will remotely scan the skies using a variety of instruments, looking for these skidmarks which are actually the indirect physical and instrumental evidence we can  detect of an advanced race using advanced propulsion in our universe.
Douglas Trumbull
D'Antonio asked, Could someone else find us? We think they already have. We have plenty of circumstantial evidence, but no tangible proof.

Trumbull noted that when he was five years old, he was taken to McMinnville, Oregon, home of the famous "classic" UFO photos of Farmer Trent. He saw an unidentified object, looking very much like the one in the photos, while he was there. He also told of discovering an "artifact" at the Airport (I'm not sure if this was still when he was five). However, it turned out to be just some concrete slag. (A concrete "artifact" is supposed to be very significant at the site of the alleged Aztec, N.M. "UFO crash.") These comments seem to suggest that Trumbull has been a UFO buff since at least age five, and apparently not a very discerning one.

Trumbull talked about some of his movies, which include  2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, The Andromeda Strain (original version) and The Tree of Life. Theaters are now in decline, he said, a statement with which my son, who manages a large multiplex theater in the San Francisco Bay Area, strongly disagrees. He sees their business booming, especially among the younger folk.

Both speakers talked about their UFOTOG I which was built, and UFOTOG II, which is planned. It is a multiple sensor device that will look for anomalous objects not only visually, but with magnetometers, gravity meters, spectroscopy, gamma ray and other detectors. Large numbers of them will be manufactured to get the costs down, and they will be placed on top of poles in areas where UFOs are being reported. Communicating via cell phone towers, their detection of radiation or magnetic events associated with anomalous objects might confirm that UFOs are “punching in” or out of other dimensions, as permitted by controversial theories in 'new physics.' While I seriously doubt that UFOTOG II, if built, will discover any such objects, you have to give them credit. This is clearly a Testable Hypothesis, a true rarity in UFOlogy. I wish them well.

Trumbull remarked that Jeff Bezos,  the billionaire founder of, is "knowledgeable" about UFOs and is "open to" them, suggesting that Bezos might contribute to such a project.
Dr. Ron Westrum

Sociologist Dr. Ron Westrum, another researcher who has been active in UFOlogy for more than forty years, spoke on "Hidden Events":
When an event is widely experienced but seldom reported, we can refer to it as a “hidden event.” Many anomalous events, including UFOs, by appearing to violate common sense or scientific paradigms, fall into this category. My talk considers three types of hidden events: meteorites (18th century), the battered child syndrome (20th century), and UFOs (current).
He complained that science is too rejecting of "hidden events." He didn't seem to appreciate that if science were to be too accepting of such claims (which are "legion"), it would merge into voodoo. When he got to UFOlogy, Dr. Westrum listed three unreliable sources:
  1. Science
  2. the Military
  3. the Press
He left out #4, the most unreliable of all : UFOlogists and others who make extraordinary claims.

The last scheduled event was a panel discussion on "Mainstream Attitudes Toward UFOs." Dr. Westrum noted that certain subjects are effectively "taboo." He said that the late Cryptozoologist Dr. Roy Mackal told him that he realized he could never be promoted to full professor at the University of Chicago because of his pursuit of  Nessie and other dubious beasts.

The question was raised: why are UFOlogists so hostile to SETI? My answer is: because SETI hopes to provide evidence of alien intelligence someday, far out in space, while UFOlogists claim that the aliens are already here, but hiding.

Somebody mentioned a journalistic UFO hoax, and Lee Speigel remarked, "I hate it when fellow journalists just make up crap!"

Next year's UFO Congress will be in the same location, February 15-19, 2017.

Look who won the raffle at the Banquet for the lovely painting of "star people" by a Native American artist  - it's Leda Beluche!


  1. I'm waiting for the Vallee book to be in the bargain bin...though if it's more than $5 I'm skipping it!

    1. It's already in the Bargain Bin. You can get a used copy of "Wonders in the Sky" for as little as $1.85 on Amazon, although you have to pay $3.99 for shipping, bringing the total cost to almost $6. In fact, I splurged and ordered a copy yesterday.

    2. The current link for Vallee's book fund-raising effort is here:

      Colavito has some quite detailed investigation and refutation of Vallee's claims:

    3. Jason writes, "Jacques Vallee, whose work I have now read in detail and which I find to fall on a range between utterly incompetent and intentionally fictitious."

      Much as Samuel Rosenberg characterized the reports contained in "Ancient UFO" books in the Condon Report, 1968.

      There's also the larger fundamental fallacy of Presentism by which the uniquely modern "UFO" myth is projected onto art and text of the past.

      Such "Ancient UFO" nonsense has been part of the "UFO" conspiracy myth from the 1960s in books by Brinsley Trench if not before. Certainly Jacques Vallee is well aware of this fact, Aubeck one would think also.

      How otherwise intelligent people can overlook the fundamental flaw in this "Ancient UFO" nonsense is the only "wonder" on display here.

      And that "wonder" is only surpassed by the naïve credulity with which they present what--in its proper context--is completely mundane art and text if of seemingly extraordinary events.

      Some might forgive their thoughtless misanthropy, but given that it’s in service to a dead myth, I don't think I can.

  2. Here's a merry little poem which by a happy coincidence I discovered while doing some online research into certain things mentioned in earlier posts. It seems the late Cynthia Hind, in addition to investigating African UFOs, wrote poetry as well. Or at any rate, nearly as well.

    I thought I'd share this verse with you, since it's not only relevant, but cannot be labeled cruel mockery by a skeptic, since it was penned by a lady who believed, amongst many, many other things, that the MJ-12 papers, the Santilli footage, and Crop Circles were for real, Billy Meier told no lies, and that in 1957 Elizabeth Klarer gave birth to a child fathered by Akon from the planet Meton. By the way, this is one of Cynthia's better poems...


    There are fat ones and thin ones and some one can't describe,
    There are tall ones and short ones and some they should hide!
    There are men in their fifties with ear-rings and curls,
    And old ladies made up to pass off as girls.
    There are beauties and toy-boys, a smattering of each,
    and over-tanned women who make for the beach.
    But there's one thing for certain; you need never ask why,
    When a ufoe is sighted, all necks are craned high.
    (For someone has spotted a plane passing by)
    and all will shout loudly, "A Ufoe, my goodness,"
    and retire with a sigh!

  3. If this was the 25th such conference, there ought to have been some 'Silver Jubilee' celebrations. Were there?

    We also need to prepare, well in advance, for the Roswell 75th anniversary in 2022. (unless the ETs openly land en masse before then).

  4. I recently watched the 2003 Penn & Teller Bullshit episode on Alien Abductions. Lamb, Icke, Lear, and many of the conference participants were too easy targets, but compared to the conference in that episode, the IUFOC is something of a bargain. Should I mark my calendar for next year's event?

  5. I was one of the people waiting to hear Jacques Vallee speak. His presentation was disappointing, although I hope anyone induced to buy his new book enjoys looking at it.

    The scientific portion of his talk seemed years out of date and I am not sure he ever really got to the central theme of his published session title. Pitching the book was the priority.

    The most interesting moment came when Mr. Speigel asked Dr. Vallee to summarize his opinion as to what UFO phenomena mean. After hearing his rambling response, I wonder if you had the same thought as I did - Klass's curse is alive and well.

    1. Not getting to the point (or central theme) has been Vallée's SOP since "Messengers of Deception" and maybe before. As I think I've said before, I've often wondered why he's been held in such high esteem even among some of the more intelligent ufologists. Anyone any ideas?

      —Peter B

  6. @Duke of M - Jacques Vallée's A-list status is very easy to explain! The UFO community have always shown bizarrely hypocritical double standards when it comes to establishment representatives and authority figures. If any such person, no matter how senior and/or knowledgeable, denies the existence of flying saucers, they're automatically lying because they're part of the gigantic worldwide coverup that's been going on since 1947.

    On the other hand, if anyone who has ever held any such position, however minor, supports the case for flying saucers in any way, however unsubstantiated and/or downright bonkers, they must be telling the truth, because clever, important people like them always know what they're talking about and never tell lies.

    Jacques Vallée has a doctorate in astrophysics, and he used to be a real NASA scientist who helped to map Mars and invent the internet and everything, so of course they have to put him on a pedestal!

    But because of who he is more than what he says - how many ufologists today, even at the outermost fringes, actually subscribe to his muddled theories? Even the ones that seem to partially agree with him probably picked up similar but much less scrambled ideas from the far more readable John Keel.

    Seriously, some of Vallée's writings have honestly made me wonder if he's a borderline schizophrenic! All that flapdoodle about UFOs being a "Control System" from another dimension sounds a lot like the kind of thing Richard Shaver came out with, filtered through a better education and a higher IQ.

  7. I'm very skeptical, of course, but I do support continuing research in this area--especially with projects like UFOTOG I and II.

  8. CDA said:

    "We also need to prepare, well in advance, for the Roswell 75th anniversary in 2022."

    From the looks of things, it seems some of these Ufologists may no longer be with the living by 2022. Some of these guys are getting up there. Of course some won't be in business anymore either simply based on the fact that Ufology (as they knew it) is really dying off quickly now and most of what they push is simple nonsense for the sake of making money.


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