When I was a boy in the early 80’s information, especially information on “fringe” topics was much harder to come by. I grew up in the era where there was no internet and the only computer that most of my friends had was the Commodore 64. Books on UFO’s were contained to one maybe two books in the local library shelf or perhaps late night tv special if I was lucky. To discover anything about the subject one had to be patient and grab anything that came along the line. Learning about UFO’s was kinda of a waiting game.
Luckily, I also grew up in the ear of In Search Of. As a child every Saturday afternoon at 5:30 you would find me sitting cross legged on our living room floor glued to the tv as Leonard Nimoy guided me through the world of the strange, the paranormal and UFO’s. I loved every second of it. I don’t know if this is where my passion for UFO’s was first sparked but it is certainly my first recollection of being exposed to the phenomena. As time went by I was able to get more and more information, I joined a local UFO group in my home state and received a booklet every month in the mail filled with sightings, articles and opinion pieces which brought me into a whole new area with stories of encounters in my own country. See as a young boy all I could find to read about were the American stories, Roswell, Barney and Betty Hill, Aztec New Mexico. I had little to no idea that my own country of Australia also had a rich history of sightings and contact and wouldn’t learn about them until much later. As time trickled by, and as I slowly grew, the way information was made available also grew. Above Top Secret by Timothy Good was released as was Communion by Whitely Strieber. UFO stories sprung up in newspapers and fluff pieces at the end of news casts. Even though I was only young I still recall the stir that the disappearance of Frederick Valentich made in our news services in 1978. So like a slow engine the UFO machine began to kick into life and suddenly there was half a shelf at the local library and even a couple in the bookstore at the local shops.
Then the Internet was born.
Websites were built, photos were shared, and a cacophony of voices erupted in cyberspace and everyone, everyone had their own take on the situation. What was a small trickle of the availability of knowledge became a flood which in turn, became an ocean. So where does someone who happens to discover all this begin their own journey? With so many personalities and so many differing opinions how do you find an opening and dive in? How do you differentiate between the people who truly believe and who truly want to share all they’ve learned from the charlatans and the hoaxes who, sadly, litter the field. There are a lot of them. One of the greatest things to happen to the UFO field in as a means to impart information my opinion is podcasts. They really allow you to listen to some of the best of the field has to offer, pretty much you’ll find a cast about any of the major stories and news and from there is your starting point. The trick is, as with any subject to separating the truth from the bullshit. And there’s a lot of bullshit. A lot of bullshit. There are many actors on the stage peddling their wares like a carny sideshow, from the absurd to the just plain stupid, all get their time in the sun and all get to peddle their wares. In a perfect world all these players would be pushing something they are passionate about, a theory or idea they truly believe in but in the realm of the UFO some are just out for money, or in some cases just to have their names in a spotlight. For every charlatan however there are ten people striving and doing their best find something tangible, a shard of truth in the quagmire of confusion.
Over the next few months I will be delving into a few cases which I find most interesting, starting with one of Australia’s most infamous cases, that of Frederick Valentich a young pilot whose encounter with something in the skies over Bass Strait forty years ago this year, ended with tragic results.