Summary: In his book UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries, UFO skeptic James E. Oberg proposes a hypothetical test case to demonstrate that there is probably nothing of significance to the UFO phenomena. If one was to search his book for any reference to UFO waves one would come up empty handed. He ignores the subject entirely. The reason, I suspect, is he knows that therein lies possible proof that UFOs are a serious phenomena and distinctly different from simple misidentifications or overly active imaginations.
The Importance of UFO Waves
And a Cyclic Connection with Some Curious Links
In his book UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries, UFO skeptic James E. Oberg proposes a hypothetical test case to demonstrate that there is probably nothing of significance to the UFO phenomena. His idea is based on the possibility that if among the total number of UFO reports there were a real core of "truly extraordinary stimuli" and you could somehow have one year where these genuine anomalies were to disappear from the scene, something very interesting would happen. In his estimation the number of supposedly "true UFOs" would remain at virtually the same level as they would in a typical year when the genuine article (suggesting there is no such thing) is not excluded. Predictably, his reasoning advocates that these "Unknowns" are nothing more than misidentifications of "perfectly mundane" events. It is his belief that there will always be a residue of reports that can not be explained after the fact due to unreliability of witnesses. He also implies that only a lack of complete information stands in the way of identifying the experience as something not out of the ordinary.
One of the difficulties in trying to prove an argument, pro or con, as to the existence of UFOs is that we have only UFO reports to work with and not the UFOs themselves (as the late J. Allen Hynek would often point out). An hypothesis attempts to explain a situation, but is still subject to critical scrutiny based on all known or discovered evidence. Unfortunately, Mr. Oberg's "thought experiment" can not be reproduced since the "postulated, extraordinary cause" or "true UFOs" can not be made to go away for one year. As a result his hypothesis can not be accepted or rejected directly through experimentation. However, let us see if the circumstantial evidence strengthens or diminishes the tenability of his hypothesis.
One piece of information that runs contrary to Mr. Oberg's reasoning is the fact that the proportion of "Unknowns" increases significantly when reports with only the highest witness credibility are selected. It is ironic that this fact was discovered by the Air Force when an independent scientific analysis was made of their UFO reports, the results of which became Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14 (1955). In an introduction to a reprint of this report by the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS, 1994), Dr. Bruce Maccabee states that this result of the study "...contradicts the hypothesis that the best witnesses should produce the best descriptions of the phenomena and thus should have the lowest percentage of unexplained cases if there were no true unknowns being observed."
It is a common belief that Blue Book, rather than created to solve the UFO riddle, was really nothing more than a public relations stunt. It may be defined in this context as a "front" to hide from public scrutiny the most alarming material, channeling it around Blue Book so it could be investigated at a higher and more clandestine level. Although much diligent research, made possible through the Freedom of Information Act, has uncovered a large body of evidence to add weight to this belief, there still are a good number of reports from Blue Book that are of value. This in large part was due to the efforts of Blue Book's founding director, Edward Ruppelt, who took these sighting reports seriously enough to investigate many of them first hand. As a classic example, he managed to dispatch first-class witnesses to the scene at the Washington, D.C. air traffic control center during an historic appearance of UFOs over the capital in late July 1952. From the very start of this particularly important event his contacts kept him informed while the Air Force chose not to.
At the time of this incident the nation was gripped by the greatest UFO invasion in the history of the phenomena. The Air Force was still not certain what direction it should take regarding them. Or, if it knew, it wasn't saying so openly. One thing seems certain however. At the highest level of Air Force Intelligence, high ranking officers were worried and they knew something had to be done about the situation. They couldn't make the UFOs go away, but they had to somehow prove to the public that there was nothing to be concerned about. Fortunately for the military brass the prevalence of sightings began to subside and within a few years the Air Force appeared to have had a handle on the situation. Captain Edward Ruppelt stepped down as the director of Blue Book when he retired from the Air Force in September 1953. And by 1955, historical research indicates that UFO reports were being regularly screened to determine whether they were 'too hot' for Blue Book.
In my estimation, if one looks into the record prior to 1955, evidence comes to light that casts a long shadow on Oberg's hypothesis. If one was to search his book for any reference to UFO waves one would come up empty handed. He ignores the subject entirely. The reason, I suspect, is he knows that therein lies possible proof that UFOs are a serious phenomena and distinctly different from simple misidentifications or overly active imaginations.
Looking at the data from 1950 to 1954, a striking pattern emerges when comparing reports during an average year to those of a wave year. Within that period a normal year would produce approximately 10% UFO reports to 90% IFO (Identified Flying Object) reports. But for a wave year the ratio would increase to about 20% for the UFOs. Following Mr. Oberg's reasoning, a logical conclusion would be that the wave phenomenon is only a product of media attention and the resulting public furor. However, if that were the case, and any core of "true UFOs" remained roughly constant from year to year, you would expect the percentage of "Unknowns" to decrease rather than increase during a wave. And yet, in 1952, when the total reports were three times greater than normal, the "Unknowns" multiplied six fold (see Chart A). This is quite a contrast to an expected three fold drop in their percentage (from 10% to 3.3%) if the standard skeptical view had any merit.
Now a debunker might argue that a tripling of reports could overwhelm the investigators so that many cases would be left unresearched, causing the level of "Unknowns" to rise to 20%. This may at first sound plausible but such reasoning is false. Since Blue Book threw the "Insufficient Information" reports in with the "identified" cases, the percentage of "Unknowns", rather than increase, would be expected to decrease even more dramatically during a wave. The actual breakdown of these reports would appear to indicate that if there was an increase in IFOs due to hysteria or mania such a cause actually followed a genuine increase in "truly extraordinary stimuli".
Although the year 1952 demonstrated a higher incidence of UFO sightings in the U.S. than for any other year before or since, that wasn't to be the end of the reports or the wave phenomena. There was another wave of activity in late '57 and again starting in 1965 and lasting through 1967. Since the early '50s, Blue Book had contracted a civilian astronomer to officially identify as many of the UFOs as something of astronomical origin. This last wave triggered J. Allen Hynek's true conversion from the Air Force's formerly reliable scientific debunker to serious UFO researcher. The initial event was a flap in Oklahoma in 1965. The Air Force had explained it away as due to an astronomical effect, but Hynek had never been presented with the data to personally evaluate it. So incensed was Hynek that three years later he made reference to this fact when he fired off a long letter to Colonel Raymond S. Sleeper to urge him to revamp the Blue Book Project so that it could become more effective at serious research in the field of UFOs.
Unfortunately, by this time, Hynek's actions were too little, too late. The Air Force had already decided to bury Blue Book. In 1966 congressional hearings placed a spotlight on the Air Force as their handling of UFO investigations was explored. It was recommended from this inquiry that an independent study be conducted to determine the future of the Air Force's involvement into such matters. However, the Air Force (who paid for the subsequent study) chose the University of Colorado and Dr. Edward Condon, a known skeptic, to conduct it. The Condon Committee became their way out and Dr. Condon served them well when his report was made public in 1969. In so many words, in the reports opening conclusions, he stated that based on their findings nothing had been or likely would be gained from studying UFO reports as far as science was concerned. One thing Dr. Condon didn't speak openly about was the fact that 25% of the reports they studied could not be explained. However, the studies' conclusions were enough for the Air Force and the Press and, before the year was out, Blue Book was history.
However, with the closing of Blue Book, sightings of UFOs persisted nonetheless. Independent UFO organizations (such as MUFON which was founded in 1969) continued their collecting and analyzing of reports. And, with the first post-Blue Book wave across the eastern half of the U.S. in the fall of 1973, Hynek in his effort to prove his assertion that UFOs were "a scientific problem of possible great potential" formed CUFOS (the Center for UFO Studies). During his independent search with ufologists and other interested scientists he studied the Hudson Valley wave of 1983-85 and also a wave of nocturnal lights (nighttime sightings of unidentified balls of light) in Norway, but by the time of his death in 1987, was no closer to solving the "UFO problem" (as Hynek often referred to the quandary that the UFO phenomena presented to science). As an astronomer, it seemed only fitting that Haley's comet had made an appearance in both the year of his birth and of his death.
Thirty years prior to Hynek's passing, another scientist died who like Hynek believed in the scientific importance of UFOs, but in his case it seemed like the answers to some of the UFO riddles might have been closer at hand. Perhaps, at least in regards to the government, he was just too close for comfort. His death was due to the effects on his weak heart from serving eight months in a federal prison. The FDA had placed him there for what they deemed to be fraudulent medical practices. Many factors conspired against him, but his own highly regarded academic background, his controversial beliefs, and his uncompromising dedication to serving the good of humanity were a sure ticket to martyrdom.
Dr. Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian born doctor, psychoanalyst (one of Freud's prize pupils), sexologist, writer, and for much of his life dedicated to the communist ideology. He was known to be brilliant, driven, and eventually, by the estimation of some biographers, quite mad (at least during the last fifteen years of his life). Of course, even if the latter was eventually true, this doesn't necessarily disqualify his assertions (Nikola Tesla comes to mind as a comparative case).
Perhaps Dr. Reich's failure was that he was a pioneering type of scientist with no political sensibilities. Unlike Dr. Hynek, he didn't have a cautious bone in his body. His trouble started when he discovered what he termed to be "Orgone Energy". This energy was what he believed was the driving force behind all life. A parallel description to this force would be the energy labeled "chi" by the Chinese Buddhists. He began in depth research and started lecturing on his discoveries in Oslo, Norway in 1934. Five years later he continued his work in New York City and then formed his Orgone Institute in Maine in 1942.
Shortly after arriving in the U.S., Reich developed what he termed an Orgone Accumulator designed to store such energy in concentrated form. Ten years later he used this device to try and test the possibility that orgone energy could prevent the negative effects of radioactivity. Unexpected results caused him to reach the conclusion that there was also a negative orgone energy. Following the UFO wave of 1952 and the great plains drought of 1953, he came to believe that not only were UFOs real, but that these alien craft were tapping orgone energy to propel their spacecraft. He also became convinced that the byproduct of this process was a negative orgone accumulation that took the form of dark "DOR" (Deadly ORgone energy) clouds which were responsible for both droughts and illnesses of those exposed to such clouds.
In 1954 Dr. Reich used another one of his inventions, the cloud buster, to not only break up these destructive "DOR" clouds, but also claimed to have de-energize two alien spacecraft on two occasions in 1954. He then went on to try and discover how orgone energy might be able to propel spacecraft. He didn't get very far however since at the same time he decided that he could do much good for humanity by marketing his orgone accumulator as a cure for many previously believed incurable illnesses (and likely gain financial aid for his continuing orgone research). The FDA asserted that he could not prove his claims and that he needed to stop such marketing or to appear in court to defend his position. He chose to do neither (believing that he had already proved himself in the field of science and that the law had no say regarding such matters) and when the supreme court refused to review his case and after his lawyer's warned that prison would surely mean his death (due to his ailing heart) he was found guilty and promptly imprisoned. As someone who may have come close to unlocking some of the UFO secrets it seems fitting that he was both born (March 24, 1897) and died (November 3, 1957) during a UFO wave.
Even though a UFO wave appears to have caused Dr. Reich to stand up and take notice of the UFO phenomena, he never had much of a chance to study why they occur (whether he wanted to or not). Dr. Hynek didn't know why they were happening; he could only state that "the only scientifically justifiable statement that can be made is that they (do) exist." He was concerned with UFO waves, believing them to be a legitimate aspect of the UFO phenomena deserving serious inquiry.
In studying past waves of UFO sightings I have come to the same conclusion as Hynek and, as other researchers before me, found predictable patterns in their occurrence. In the March 1995 issue of the MUFON UFO Journal I revealed four potential UFO cycles and presented the possibility that the combined influence of several cycles can produce a pronounced wave effect. I proposed that just such an occurrence could make itself known from December 1994 through September 1995. Let us now review UFO activity during the previous year and see how close I may have come in my prediction.
Right from the start, 1995 heralded many newsworthy sightings in Europe beginning with a near collision of a UFO and a 737 passenger jet over the Pennine Hills on January 6th, shortly before its scheduled landing at the airport in Manchester, England. Interestingly, this UFO was described as triangular in shape and England continued to witness UFOs of this type (especially over the Pennines) in record numbers during the months that followed (as reported in UFO Magazine, Sep/Oct 1995 issue). Also, Essex, on the East coast near London, had a UFO wave that appears to have peaked at the time I predicted one should occur (in late April). The Canadian province of British Columbia showed an increase in June for Close Encounter cases and the province of Manitoba experienced a noteworthy wave of UFO sightings in July. Argentina and Chili also experienced activity that caused military concern, starting with a fantastic close encounter with a jet liner in Argentina on the evening of July 31st (see the December 1995 issue of the MUFON UFO Journal for details).
There was also a large amount of activity in the U.S. from late July to late August. The National UFO reporting Center (NUFORC) accumulated at least 50% more reports during this period than would normally be expected (see chart B). This same source also received a report in late February that Harrisonburg, Virginia (in the north part of the state) was experiencing a UFO flap. In April, NUFORC received a large number of sightings in eastern Pennsylvania, extending into New Jersey.
Referring again to the chart related to UFO activity in the United States during 1995 (gleaned from data supplied by NUFORC), it is perhaps more interesting to take note of the increase in activity during the earlier part of the year rather than in August. Normally, February is a below average month for UFO reports (second only to December for the leanest months), but in 1995 the reports were at least twice what one would normally expect. Interestingly, the planet Mars was at its closest orbital approach to earth during that month. Mars has a history of being in this position during UFO waves and the results for 1995 only reinforces this possible connection.
Following my last article I began a correspondence with Larry Hatch, the developer of the *U* UFO Database program. He also had an interest in the subject of UFO waves and through our collaboration agreed upon a cycle that correlated with the known cycle of solar activity. He concurred with an 11.2 year cycle that I had previously detected and he found an additional cycle of 21.25 years duration. Based on the possibility of there being a connection to UFO waves and solar activity, one might at first assume that any correlation between the two would relate to solar maxima. In actuality, the evidence points more to a link between UFO waves and solar minima.
Recent scientific findings show that spacecraft are in more danger during solar minima from an increased accumulation of electron particles in our atmosphere during such times (see the New York Times of 8/16/94, page C11). Other scientific studies have previously been done on a possible connection to solar minima and an increased chance of damaging earthquakes. Similarly, it has been observed that every other solar minimum (20-22 years in length) coincides with the appearance of Great Plains droughts. Mr. Hatch's research also indicated the possibility of their being a 10.6 year cycle (also similar in length to a solar cycle) which was not only half as long as the 21.25 year cycle, but twice as long as a UFO cycle that was discussed in my earlier MUFON article. It should be noted that his program seemed better suited at discovering cycles longer than the ones I proposed earlier.
Using the *U* UFO database (which now contains approximately 17,000 sightings), and smoothing out the data for all months containing anomalously high numbers (at least three times the monthly average for the year they fell in), I developed the projection used in the 1995 sightings graph. This was done to demonstrate how UFO reports typically vary from month to month, but in a fairly predictable manner each year. The flow of reports often follows this pattern in the absence of UFO waves. In order to get a rough estimation of the amplitude of the monthly projections I used May as a baseline since historically it was the least likely to vary from its average.
Looking back over the past century, one can clearly see a pattern of UFO activity that fits in with a 20-22 year cycle. Even before the modern era of UFO sightings, two peaks of UFO activity stand out. From 1911 to 1941, more than half of good quality sightings recorded (or twice the expected average) were during the years 1912-1915 and 1933-1936 (solar minima occurred in the years 1913 and 1933). There was, of course, a great wave of activity in Europe in the fall of 1954; a year of solar minimum (the *U* UFO Database had 12% more sightings in this year than in 1952). When looking at good quality UFO reports for the seventeen year period from 1969 to 1985, the yearly average during 1973-1978 was more than two-and-one-half times greater than for the other years (solar minimum was during 1975-76).
Based on this scenario one would expect UFOs to soon become more numerous than usual in response to a natural projection of the minimum of sunspot activity occurring in 1997. This estimation relates to the fact that an average sunspot cycle is just over 11 years in length and solar minima usually occur seven years after a significantly high maximum (as it was in 1990) and four years before the next maximum. However, between peaks of record sunspot activity the period is less than 11 years and between uncommonly low peak activity the period is greater than 11 years. Evidently we are now between peaks of higher than normal sunspot activity since solar scientists recently revealed that the next solar minimum appears to be arriving a year earlier than would normally be expected. Therefore, solar minimum should occur in the year 1996 and a peak in UFO reports at this time would not be surprising.
Regarding the other possible connections to solar activity and earthly phenomena, we could be headed for another drought like the one in the U.S. in 1976-77 (and England very severely in 1976 also). 1976 was also an historic year for very destructive earthquakes with a record number of fatalities.
For one year, ending in the fall of 1995, the NE part of the U.S. was hit by drought. Chicago had a heat wave in July 1995 that caused over seven hundred deaths. Georgia had perhaps its driest July ever. Oklahoma expects 1995 to go down as the leanest wheat pasture year on record. Massachusetts was experiencing its worst drought since 1883 (the start of the historical weather record there). Spain, its worst drought this century. England, the driest summer since 1727. Texas and Mexico were also suffering from drought and so too has been Puerto Rico, Brazil, Australia, Russia, and much of China. Some examples of the financial hardship caused by these droughts: 3.8 million hens died in the midwest, $200 million in damage to cotton crops in Texas, over 200,000 cattle lost in northern Mexico, and Russia had its worst harvest in 30 years.
Although the snowpack in the Sierra Mountains was only 30% of normal on the first day of 1996, snowstorms followed to boost snow levels up to the seasonal average. Since California relies heavily on this resource for water reserves it would seem that drought there has been averted for now. Only time will tell if California will fare as well in the years to come.
If greater drought conditions are on the horizon there could also be at least as likely a chance of destructive earthquakes in the near future. For those familiar with the current predictions of Gordon Michael Scallion (known by many of his followers as a modern day Edgar Cayce) this should not come as a surprise since he is predicting earthquakes greater than any previously recorded within California during the 1996-97 period. Adding some weight to his vision is the prediction recently made by Michael Lindemann, founder of the 2020 Group (a futurist think tank) and the Institute for the Study of Contact with Non-human Intelligence (ISCNI, Inc.), who also believes it to be highly likely that California will experience intense earthquake activity in 1996 and 1997, but not at the apocalyptic level foreseen by Mr. Scallion.
Turning briefly back to the past, there were great droughts in the U.S. during 1932-1936 and 1953. One of the largest earthquakes ever recorded was in Japan in 1933 followed shortly by a killer quake in Long Beach, California. In 1952 California had its biggest earth-quake since the San Francisco disaster of 1906. The 7.7 magnitude Bakersfield temblor of July 1952 also occurred in the midst of the greatest U.S. wave of UFOs ever. Earth scientists have been waiting for the Parkfield fault to rupture for several years and it is likely to give way in the near future since it has shown a periodicity of fault rupture similar to and in line with solar minima. However, this could be a much greater event than seismologists anticipate as a result of a fault rupturing from a much larger earthquake, extending from as far south as the Mexican boarder to as far north as Monterey.
It should be noted that detectors in the Parkfield area recorded strong magnetic anomalies just before, during, and after the Northridge earthquake in January 1994, during the same period as there was an increase in UFO sightings in the areas North and West of Los Angeles. Detectors again recorded similar variations later that year (November 20 to the end of December). Besides an earthquake of 5.0 magnitude on December 20, there again was a flurry of UFO sightings in Los Angeles and nearby areas North and West of there about two weeks prior (see chart C).
From my investigations I have concluded that variations in the magnetic field can both signal coming earthquakes and UFO sightings as proposed in my earlier MUFON article. It also appears that such variations occur most frequently during solar minima. A case in point is the European wave of October 1954. In John A. Keel's book Disneyland of the Gods (in the chapter labeled Astopaphopia under the subtitle Magnetism and UFOs) he notes that a leading scientist stated that there was a "good statistical correlation between disturbances of the earth's (magnetic) field and UFO observations during the one month (referring to October) in the remarkable year 1954..."
It may seem odd that the sun during its minimum cycle could be more influential on the earth's magnetic field, but if one considers that at minima any solar prominence would form closer to the solar equator than during maxima, there would be a greater likelihood that the radiation would intercept earth in its orbit. At times of maximum solar activity such an occurrence would normally be likely only during a larger than usual peak. In the years 1947 and 1957 there were UFO waves during solar maxima, but sunspot activity was also at a greater intensity than usual. Also, in 1957 there were five possible UFO cycles not connected to the solar cycle that were reaching a peak. In regards to my other theory (that waves are often caused by multiple cycle interactions) the 1947 UFO wave remains a bit of an anomaly, however sunspot activity was at a maximum at the time and at a much higher level than normal.
During the last intense solar maximum UFO sightings were at a premium (late 1989 through 1990). Since UFOs were on the scene in great numbers at both of the intense maxima of 1947 and 1957 and even more so at the minimum period between them, it would seem likely that the present solar minimum (similarly sandwiched between two large maxima) will be accompanied by a higher number of sightings than during the last maximum.
For those of you who would like to read summaries of the latest sighting reports in the U.S. first hand, the National UFO Reporting Center has an Internet page that can be accessed via http://nwlink.com/~ufocntr
Another valued resource in the creation of this article was the *U* UFO Database. Details of this program may be obtained by sending a request to Larry Hatch Software (click on to send e-mail) , 142 Jeter St., Redwood City, CA 94062-1957.
A demo of this program can be downloaded from Norwegian UFO researcher ole Johnny Brenne's web page via http://www.ufo.no/english/index.html or through Larry Hatch's website at http://www.larryhatch.net/index.html