Ufology is the study of reports, visual records, physical evidence, and other phenomena related to unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Various investigations have been conducted over the years by governments, independent groups, and scientists.
After reading many UFO reports over the years, it seems clear that the 1960’s and early 70’s had many genuine sightings. Newspaper reports appeared all over the country–and the world. In his remarkable book: The Missing Times, author Terry Hanson investigates the later role of national media in suppressing news coverage of the UFO phenomenon.
This era stands out in my mind for the number of serious investigations launched by intelligent, well-meaning individuals in search of the truth. While many examples can be found, for this blog entry I’ve decided to focus on three points that contribute to its relevance regarding UFOs: People, Cases, and Documentaries.
Astronomer J. Allen Hynek is best remembered for his work as a scientific advisor to UFO studies undertaken by the U.S. Air Force from 1947 to 1969. He later developed the “Close Encounter” classification system, with CE3 referring to cases where “occupants or entities are seen.” Considering the dismissive attitude of many academics toward Ufology, he once commented, “Ridicule is not part of the scientific method….”
Director Steven Spielberg brought his unique vision to the movie screen with “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in 1977. Spielberg said his faith in the possibility of UFOs was boosted when he received a 20-page letter from NASA stating their opposition to the film. Ray Bradbury declared it the greatest science fiction film ever made.
1973 is remembered for a world-wide wave of UFO sightings. Several abductions were reported during this period, including the case of Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Sightings occurred in at least 20 states and 10 different countries, peaking in mid to late October.
In November, 1975, Travis Walton was reportedly abducted by a UFO while working with a logging crew in Arizona, then reappeared after a five-day search. The case received mainstream publicity and was later adapted into a major film: Fire in the Sky. It is also one of very few cases with corroborative eyewitnesses, where the time allegedly spent in the custody of aliens plays a rather minor role in the overall account.
Chariots of the Gods entered American theaters as a West German documentary film in 1970. Based on Erich von Däniken’s sensational book, it theorizes extraterrestrials impacted early human life. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
In 1976, the documentary UFOs: It Has Begun appeared on American television, narrated by Rod Serling. Though promised footage of an actual ‘flying saucer’ landing at Holloman Air Force Base was not provided, producers shot dramatized parts of the segment beforehand, using paintings of the alien craft to depict an historic meeting which allegedly took place. To this day, its dramatic impact can still be felt.