07.18UFO Conference in North Haven, CT
by Steven Novella, MD & Perry DeAngelis
On the weekend of October 12th, the CSS board had the opportunity to attend the National UFO Congress, presented by Omega Communications, at the North Haven Holiday Inn. What we found has confirmed our suspicion that the realms of the paranormal are as intermingled as is extraterrestrial life in our world.
The congress consisted of three rooms. The first was the Hospitality Room, which contained the literature table (upon which the Connecticut Skeptical Society’s pamphlets happily inserted themselves), several empty tables, and a row of coffee dispensers. There was also a small painting display of some surrealistic new age nature scenes with an American Indian motif.
The second room was the dealer and “evidence” display room, which consisted of a series of 2’x3′ glass fronted frames in which were displayed various articles, memoirs, cartoons, and even some apparent physical evidentiary proof – or so the screaming banner claimed atop one such frame. Within were a couple of broken wheat stalks displaying themselves as incontrovertible proof that crop circle formations are of extraterrestrial artifice. Other displays featured the alien autopsy, Billy Meier and his ships from the Pleiades, the face on Mars (strangely coupled with news clips from the new life on Mars discovery, as if ancient microbial life is somehow related to the alleged artifact), government cover-ups, ancient astronauts, Howard Menger and his Venusians, and even a display about the old canals on Mars.
Yet, what was much more interesting was the selection of media materials available for sale. Almost the entire gamut of the paranormal was represented there. Alternative medicine, psychics, spontaneous human combustion, Bigfoot, psychic Bigfeet, etc. The fact that these disparate debris of the paranormal were found together at a convention dedicated to UFOlogy is very telling.
The criticism of UFOlogists and their adherents does not stem from the fact that they consider the possibility that UFO’s are actually alien spacecraft. There is nothing impossible about this claim, and many scientists, Carl Sagan among them, believe that the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence is likely. They are criticized, rather, for their inability, or more importantly their unwillingness, to objectively consider the information available and accept the truth, regardless of what that may be. It is their behavior which brands them as pseudoscientists, not the implications of what they purport to investigate.
If you own a Karma Cleansing clinic (there was a flyer there advertising one in New Jersey), why would you bring your media to a UFO congress in Connecticut? Do UFO’s cause karmatic impurities? No. The issue is that the owners of such a clinic knew all too well that their most likely clientele would be found at any such congress in a several hundred mile radius of their establishment. If you are gullible about one thing, you are much more likely to be gullible about another thing. And the con artists know this all too well. Call the psychic friends network, and it won’t be long before your name is on countless mailing lists. You will be counted among the gullible. By showcasing such a variety of paranormal literature, the UFOlogists responsible for this convention are making clear statements about their own dedication to science and reason, or lack thereof.
The final room at the congress was the lecture hall. It sat approximately 360 people, and was about two thirds full for the Michael Hessemann lecture that we attended on the Santilli alien autopsy film. The lecture consisted of Mr. Hessemann at the lectern, slides, and the playing of an unedited video tape of the alleged autopsy.
The slides were stills taken of some of the artifacts from Roswell, including metals with various engravings on them, some other metal with six fingered imprints in them (that looked like they would make excellent chocolate molds for Halloween), and some other scattered bits of debris. The video was basically the same as was marketed to television, except unedited. It allegedly depicts an autopsy of an alien in 1947. By the by, this autopsy happened five weeks before the generally accepted date of the crash in Roswell, thus Hessemann asserted that it must have been from a previous crash. For creatures of superior technology, they are certainly inferior pilots.
Mr. Hessemann stated that the cameraman had been an army photographer for more than ten years. In 1944 he was assigned to Intelligence. In July of 1947, he received a phone call from General Schwartz who ordered him to go to the White Sands proving ground in New Mexico, and was thence transported to the secret room in the secret base for the secret autopsy on the secret alien. Everything was very hush, hush.
In any event, many of our readers have likely already seen the footage of the alleged autopsy by now. It is claimed by Hessemann and his ilk that the footage available is actually the “garbage” reel. That is, all the edited material that the cameraman did not use in his final film that was taken by the governmental conspirators who now hoard it jealously in their mystical vaults. Hessemann used the garbage reel hypothesis to explain the poor quality of the film, but he did not explain why key events, such as the incision, the removal of the brain, etc., were all on the garbage reel. Since there was only one camera and one cameraman, no other shots of these events should be available. The cameraman claims that he called many times for them to also come and pick up the garbage reel, but no one responded, so he just kept it in his garage.
Hessemann also asserted that Nigger Head mine, which was mysteriously opened in 1946, was actually a creation of the government to conceal the excavation project of the crash site. Again, Hessemann was careful to distinguish this crash site from the so-called Roswell incident. Hessemann was also very hostile towards any attempts to skeptically analyze the film, looking for inconsistencies or evidence of a hoax. He specifically criticized Carl Sagan and Phil Klass for their unwillingness to accept the film uncritically. Mr. Hessemann’s conclusion at the end was that there was no evidence that the tape was faked, but that there is a chain of evidence that it is genuine.
Later, we had the opportunity to sit at a table with Mr. Hessemann and some loyalists in the Hospitality room. After listening for a bit about how the symbols engraved on the artifacts were very hieroglyphic (Chariots race again!), we interjected with several questions of our own. Mr. Hessemann had stated that there were several nations involved in the cover-up, and so we asked if it was therefore a multi-national conspiracy. Mr. Hessemann drew back from the word conspiracy, but agreed that several nations would have had to work together to keep the veil so tightly rapped. In fact, the final alien (there were four all together) was dissected with greater care in front of a multi-national panel of scientists, or so claimed the cameraman.
When asked if ever there were proof that the tape was fake, would he be disappointed, Hessemann said that he would then believe that even if the tape were faked, it was based on a real incident. Had he then discounted all possibility that the autopsy was fake? He had to finally admit that if someone could produce the dummy used, he would then believe, but nothing else would convince him. This led to a statement that a German television station had paid some special effects people $50,000.00 to recreate the autopsy, and they failed to do so convincingly. Thus, concluded Mr. Hessemann, it could not have been faked. At which point we reminded him that on stage he admitted that anything could be faked with today’s computer technology. This had Mr. Hessemann mumbling and stumbling, and sheepishly smiling while staring at the table and murmuring something about well, “that’s what they want you to think.” So much for autopsies.
Hessemann’s lecture was all too typical of the UFO phenomenon: he had a clear agenda; he presented only that evidence which was in support of his beliefs; he was hostile to criticism; rather than welcoming it as the only road to reliable truth; he failed to consider readily available and far simpler alternative explanations to the ones he preferred; and he was fanciful and unrestrained in his speculations. He even went as far as to attempt a translation of the alleged alien hieroglyphs, concluding firmly that the aliens have a religion.
The congress, in the end, did not produce any surprises and no new startling evidence was brought forth. The only thing, in fact, that was proven is that UFOlogists are as steeped in pseudoscience and the paranormal as ever. They remain critical of scientists for being closed minded, yet they are the ones who are closed to a genuine scientific treatment of the facts, where harsh rules of evidence apply, and all alternative explanations are considered, even the more mundane ones. The Congress did, however, turn up one useful item, a flyer announcing the existence of a group called “UFORSO”, based in Waterbury, Connecticut. They are dedicated to investigating sightings of UFO’s in our own little state. Look for a detailed report on them and their activities in a future issue of The Connecticut Skeptic.