Tuesday 30 December 2008

My UFO Sighting 28/12/08

I’ve had another UFO sighting! It happened on Sunday (the 28th) at about 1.15PM local time as I was traveling to work. I was walking along Bulan Road, Headington, Oxford when I saw it. At the time I was on the phone to my friend Ustane (see links column) and was able to describe the sighting to her as it happened. The object was about 20 or 25 degrees above the horizon and lay slightly south of due west. I crossed over to the far side of the road because it was obscured by the houses on the near side. It took the form of a circular white disc, like a golf ball or ping-pong ball; I thought that it might have been slightly elongated at its four o’clock limb, but I can’t be sure; it was too small and far away to be seen clearly. It was very small, less than a quarter of the apparent size of the moon, and very distant I found. The weather was cold and bright, and thick clouds were passing over a clear blue sky; it was quite windy and they moved fast. I stood still and used one of the houses as a static gauge to check the object’s movement and it didn’t move at all in the minute or so I observed it. I include an artist’s impression of the sighting. (Well the artist is me actually, so I use the word “artist” in its broadest possible sense! I’m well aware that I'm no Neil Hague!) I watched the object as I continued walking along the road. Eventually a cloud moved in front of it, showing me that it was fairly distant, at least further away than the clouds. I decided not to try to photograph it because I only had my mobile phone camera and that is very poor quality; the object would certainly not have shown. I kept looking for the object as I resumed my journey to work but when the clouds parted it was nowhere to be seen.

What was it? I don’t know and I wish I’d had the chance to have a better look at it. I’m happy to declare that I’m no Skeptic. I’m a “Woo” and proud of it! But I hope my fellow Woo’s won’t regard it as a betrayal of my principles when I admit that the object could simply have been a balloon, airship or another kind of aircraft. However it is odd that it appeared not to move at all at first and then a few minutes later had moved so fast that it had vanished! If it was a balloon then it wasn’t a regular one, the type Richard Branson regularly flies over Oxford; it was far too high up. It would have to have been an unmanned high-altitude balloon, or might even have been that cliché of the UFO-debunker, a weather balloon! Unless I see it again we’ll never know. Nevertheless I did a bit of net-trawling, including checking out the local news (http://www.thisisoxfordshire.co.uk/news/ ) for any balloon-related events, but there were none. I also phoned the Oxford Mail and related my sighting to their newsdesk. They’ve not got back to me yet. It would be interesting to see if anyone else had spotted it! I asked around at work and nobody could help me, but one girl told me she had a sighting a few months ago in the same area; she lives there. A metallic object “like a plane” appeared in the sky outside her bedroom window. Although it resembled an aeroplane it didn’t move or make any sound. It hung motionless in that position for many hours. My witness had never spoken of it and had dismissed it; she actually came across as quite embarrassed to be even discussing it with me. I wonder how many other UFO sightings are left unreported and forgotten, repressed by the witness because “UFO’s don’t exist, do they? Everyone knows that.”
(Addendum: Someone at Contact International suggested that I might have seen the planet Venus. I didn't think so because it didn't look like it, but then I wondered if freak atmospheric conditions might make Venus look different. Then I found out that Venus is in another part of the sky anyway. Whew! What a relief! I'd have felt a bit of a plonker if I'd made such a song and dance over seeing Venus.)
(Another Addendum: I've heard back from a lady at BUFORA and they're not persuing my case. That's understandable I suppose; there are bigger fish to fry, not to mention broken wind-turbines! What I experienced two weeks ago was no close encounter, but I still thought it was worth reporting; I hoped that other people might have seen it too. The lady at BUFORA thinks I probably saw that cliche for UFO-debunkers: a weather balloon. I doubt that, but despite my doubts I can't prove that what I saw was NOT a weather balloon or something similar. I wish I'd got the chance to see it up close and for longer, maybe film it and get more evidence. It's frustrating. Never mind, I'll keep watching the skies.)

(I've made a HPANWO TV film about my sighting where I show you the location of the event: http://hpanwo-tv.blogspot.com/2009/03/my-ufo-sighting.html)

Thursday 25 December 2008

Sexual Subliminal in Station Poster

This was on a rotating billboard on Oxford railway station.

Can you see the sexual subliminal in this? It shows the swimmer’s shoulder and armpit, but if you glance at it briefly it could be interpreted as a perspective shot of his bottom! Of course this is an ad aimed at men, not women, so the image is homoerotic. But that’s how they get into our subconscious because for most of us any homosexual urges we might have are suppressed in our subconscious, so by accessing them an advertiser has a short cut to our subconscious! Diet Coke is marketed more towards women than men so this is why the old bottles had a subliminal that looked like women’s breasts on the label.

Advertisers use sexual subliminals all the time to draw attention and therefore success. A subliminal is anything that causes sensory stimuli that we experience below the threshold of our awareness. A lot of psychological research has shown that engineering subliminal messages in another medium works. In 1959 an experiment was done at a number of American cinemas when the film Ben Hur was released. The experimenters took a number of reels and put subliminal flash-frames in half them showing a Coca-Cola advert. As far as the conscious visual perception goes these flash-frames were invisible; if you were watching one of these reels there would be no way you’d be able to tell, even if you were warned to look out in advance, whether the subliminal frames were present or not. But the experiment showed that Coca-Cola sales were higher in the cinemas showing the flash-framed reels than the control group (Can’t remember the source).

The psychological illusionist Derren Brown has carried out a similar experiment on TV. I differ from Derren’s Skeptical views on Spiritualism and other things, but he’s bang on the money here: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=FEpdTZGfxCQ&feature=related

In my view subliminals are highly dangerous psychological weapons. Manipulating us to part with our money in exchange for worthless consumer-durables is their most benign function. They can, and are, also used by politicians to influence the people. For example when the West was trying to demonize the Libyan president Colonel Qaddafi they used embedded subliminals on the cover of Time magazine (David Icke live 2006). Experiments have also shown that subliminals, like more obvious forms of propaganda, have a much reduced effect if the subject is aware that they are being targeted; so this is why I’m writing this article, to make you aware!

(By the way, here’s a seasonal message to all HPANWO Readers: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.com/2008/12/merry-christmas.html . And just for a treat, I’ve posted two new articles. Scroll down here for the second one.

And here's yet another on the Christmas Truce: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.com/2008/12/christmas-truce.html)

Giant Breach in the Earth's Magnetic Field

According to geophysicists, the Earth's magnetic field does collapse from time-to-time, actually it happens on average 5 times every million years, and we're statistically overdue for another one. What's interesting is that the Earth’s magnetic field has been weakening for the last 2000 years and this is believed to be what happens in the run up to a pole-shift. What will happen in a couple millennia, when the magnetic field has settled down a bit, is that its strength will recover but it will have flipped; all compasses will reverse, south will become north and vice versa. This phenomenon might give us a treat during the “switchover” period actually: much more Aurora Borealis (and Aurora Australis over Antarctica) This beautiful sight is not common at the moment and can only be seen close to the poles, but it might become a regular occurrence and much further south than before. However we'd have to be careful because the lack of a magnetic field around the Earth will increase the amount of radiation that reaches the planet’s surface. It could be that radiation-related illnesses like cancer might become more common. Also problems with electrical and radio appliances will occur all the time, as they do today only during sunspots.

Here's another possibility that might sound off-the-wall, but is worth considering: Could this hole be man-made? Operation Starfish Prime was an US government scientific project in 1962 when a 1.4 megaton nuclear bomb was detonated in space. The purpose has been documented as an astrophysical experiment/muscle-showing exercise to the Soviets. (The “superpowers” often indulged in these playground games during the Cold War, oblivious to the human and environmental costs. In October 1961, just a few months before Starfish Prime the Russians had detonated their 62 megaton “Emperor Bomb”, an explosion so huge it broke windows in Finland!) Could there have been another motive behind Operation Starfish Prime? It’s interesting that the previous year the president, John F Kennedy, had formally launched the Apollo Programme with these words: “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.” However as Kennedy spoke these words scientists at NASA by then were coming to realize that the Earth was surrounded by several zones of dangerous radioactive particles called the Van Allen Belts. The belts’ discoverer Dr James van Allen stated that this radiation could present a hazard to astronauts and that spacecraft would need to be designed accordingly with shielding. How big was the threat? Nobody was sure at the time and even today figures quoted for the height, thickness and intensity of the belts vary. It’s also been discovered that the belts change according to the activity of the sun. Starfish Prime might have been done to try and clear up the uncertainty. In their documentary film What Happened on the Moon and their accompanying book Dark Moon- Apollo and the Whistleblowers David Percy and Mary Bennett claim a covert objective of Operation Starfish Prime was to force a navigable channel through the Van Allen Belts and allow manned rockets to reach the moon. If this was its objective it did worse than fail; it aggravated the original problem by creating a new radiation belt of its own! It was announced recently by President Bush that NASA has plans to send a new manned mission to the moon in the next decade; Russia and China have made the same announcements. Is there a connection between these announcements and the emergence of a hole in the Earth’s magnetic field? If there is then this time it has worked; presumably the government projects involved have found a more effective way to dredge a passage through the radioactive belts than battering them with a nuclear bomb. But what does this mean for us? The linked article says: "This could result in stronger geomagnetic storms than we have seen in many years." With all the problems associated with them in terms of radio interference and the failure of electrical grids. If this hole is man-made then whoever did it is probably aware of that, but history shows that concerns for our welfare have never stopped them in the past.

Sunday 21 December 2008

The Hanged Hangman

The other day I saw the film Brazil (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088846/ ). It was made in 1985 and starred Jonathan Pryce (currently in BBC3’s comedy series Clone) as Sam Lowry, a petty government clerk living in a dystopian fantasy similar to the setting in George Orwell’s 1984. Here’s a trailer: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=RqtUI4XfhMM . And here’s a documentary with the director of Brazil, Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=VBFqVMSDsdY&feature=related . Despite their similarities and constant comparisons there is one vitally important difference between the settings of 1984 and Brazil though. The New World Order in Brazil is not actively malicious, just deeply, deeply stupid; a monstrous anal-retentive bureaucracy, obsessed with red tape and rigid official documentation, completely devoid of any humanity and individual justice. In fact the driving force of the entire plot comes from an incident in which one of the character’s names gets inadvertently misspelt on a certificate and so they are mixed up with someone else. In the Brazil bureaucracy it is pointless to complain that such a mistake has been made for the reason wonderfully illustrated in the story of the Hanged Hangman, a joke about the consequences of a reality defined by officialdom rather than day-to-day reason and experience.

This joke appeared in the historical sitcom with Rowan Atkinson, Blackadder II (written by a man significantly-inspired by Monty Python, Richard Curtis), but I think it originally dates back to Dick Emery. It has several variations but goes along these lines:

John, an executioner, is up late one night filling out death warrants. He’s very tired and has trouble concentrating so he accidentally signs his own name in the box where the Death Row prisoner’s name is meant to go instead of the dotted line where the executioner usually signs. In the morning he is woken by the police breaking into his house and taking him away to be put to death. As his fellow hangmen tie him up and put the noose around his neck he protests his innocence: “Come on, guys! You can’t be serious! It’s me! You’re hanging the wrong man and you know it!” His colleagues reply: “Sorry, John. We hear what you’re saying, but you see we’re not hanging the wrong man. We’re hanging the right man and we’ve got the paper to prove it”.

This pathological fixation on rules, regulations and paperwork is very skillfully captured in Brazil. It’s a comedy film, but one with a pitch-black satirical wit that stuck me hard. In fact if I’d been producing the movie myself I’d have given it the title: Sign Here or Dotted Line. The urge to obey orders and rules at any cost is one I’ve noticed in our own society. Brazil is an exaggeration, but only just. I once heard a bus driver tell a passenger that the passenger could not buy the fare with her bus pass because it was only valid after 9AM and the time was 1 minute to 9! The passenger protested: “What difference does just 1 minute make?” The driver replied, and I can well believe him: “I could lose my job for letting you on board with this pass, even if I do it just one minute early”. For me this kind of brutal inflexibility in rules and laws is almost as sinister as things like Homeland Security and Internment. In a situation where the New World Order does get introduced (not if I’ve got anything to say about it!), I can well imagine that its hateful and spiteful nature probably would not last long; after a transitional period of imprisonments, shootings, torture etc its form would slowly change. Once the will of any dissent was neutralized forever it would probably eventually settle down into an insensitive and pitiless bureaucracy just like the one in Brazil. So along with overt and hostile government oppression like ID Cards and the War on Terror it is just as important to resist dehumanization and blind obedience in regulations and law.
The film is currently available for free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRRS7Ak4xlg.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Barack Obama- the Saviour?

Here is a poem by the Zulu shaman Credo Mutwa about the new US President-Elect Barack Obama:

An actor walks upon the floodlit stage of life
wearing a mask of an angel beneath a demon's gown.
Pretence smiles upon the crowded hall of life
holding out hope as bright as it is false.
Son of a woman in whose veins flows the blood
of ancient Ireland and dark Africa's plains.
You are Obama, nick-named the standing king
You are Barack, oh, son born to deceive
The suffering hoards of Africa look up to you,
See a black saviour where nought but a Judas strides.
An entrapper of nations, bringer of dismal war
Behind the robes and the nylon wings of hope
Oh, may those who look upon you, see you as you are.
May those who hope in you behold you as you be
A prince deceitful to bring down Africa's shrines
A siren who leads Africa's ships onto rocks of obliteration.
Your rule my lord will not be one of peace
Your reign my king will not be one of smiles
Even as we speak in caves both dark and dank
Enraged fanatics plot your dark demise
They will put around your head a bloodwet martyr's crown.
Oh black Kennedy following the one before
May God forgive thee and thy fiery spouse
As you walk in silence from the stage of life Barack Obama, blessed son, Oh standing king.

Barack Obama, the saviour! This is what he seems like at the moment. Several times I’ve seen people reading his autobiography (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dreams-My-Father-Story-Inheritance/dp/1847670911/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229619625&sr=1-5 ). I’ve had to travel by train a lot recently and twice now I’ve seen people reading this book on the train. Both those people were black; in fact Obama is seen as a kind of black hero, as Robert Mugabe was thirty years ago; the irony is not lost to me. The City of London America Company, the organization better, and wrongly, known as the United States Federal Government has been rebranded! It has a new shiny, cuddly image! Obama is the Ronald McDonald of that new image. Obama’s appeal comes from his liberal image, like Kennedy, he represents hope and change. But if you look at the people in his administration what change do you see? His National Security Adviser is Zbigiew Brzezinski, an arch-conservative hawk who believes in using aggressive military power and high technology to dominate the globe (See: http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2008/10/ian-crane-war-on-terra.html) There will be none of this promoted “Change” during Obama’s term of office. Or maybe I ought to rephrase: no change that his lords and masters in the Illuminati don’t want. If Obama were to disobey his lords and masters and try to exercise his Constitutional powers of office then all I can say to him is… avoid driving past any school book depositories!

Obama is seen as a saviour and of course he would be! Every new political figurehead is presented as a saviour from the administration that preceded them. David Cameron is being so depicted by the British media and political spin-doctors. Tony Blair’s New Labour government was seen as a saviour from the previous Thatcherite Conservative government that had ruled Britain since 1979. But if you go back to the time Margaret Thatcher was elected you’ll see that she herself was seen as a saviour! She supposedly saved us from the runaway Socialism of the 1970’s, trade union militancy and the endless unjustified strikes. See a pattern emerging?
It saddens me to see so many people pinning their hopes on Barack Obama that he will deliver real change. He will not. In the same way, David Cameron will not do so either when he elected. I’m not holding my breath, let alone a pen in the polling booth, that things will be any different this time around.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Article Delay

Apologies for the lack of activity on HPANWO at the moment. This is caused by technical problems with my computer. As soon as it gets back from the repair shop I have lots of new articles planned. I will not delay in writing them because I know how much it means to HPANWO-readers. I understand how bleak and meaningless you're lives must be without them.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Skeptics in the Pub (8/12/08)

This, my fourth Skeptics in the Pub, was a SitP with a difference. It featured a debate between two speakers, Nick Pope and Chris French, but just for fun they were both playing Devil’s advocate and arguing in favour of each other’s position. The idea for this event came when Chris and Nick were invited to be interviewed on TV and present the case for and against UFO’s being Extraterrestrial, as they have many times. In the dressing room, Nick turned to his opponent and said: “Chris, we’ve been through this routine so many times we could easily swap roles and table the other’s case.” So thus was last night’s event born. The bill’s title was Believer versus Skeptic, but Nick considers this unfair; it’s an oversimplification and polarization. In fact Nick is one of the most cautious UFOlogists on the scene and is seen as a virtual Skeptic by much of the UFO community; what’s more he and Chris are fairly similar in their approach, and indeed some of their opinions.

Nick Pope is the public face of the UFO phenomenon, both in Britain and abroad. He has become famous for being “Britain’s Fox Mulder”. When he was in the Civil Service he was head of Secretariat AS-2 at the Ministry of Defence, the official UFO investigator for the government, one of only a tiny few people in the entire world to hold such position since the closure of Project Blue Book. Today he’s a freelance UFO journalist, but is still employed as a pundit whenever a UFO story comes out in the news. This has been a busy year for him because this summer played host a virtual nationwide flap (EG: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.com/2008/06/more-ufos-reported-in-midlands.html ). I’ve met Nick before back in June in Glastonbury at the Now That’s Weird conference which I write about here: http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2008/06/now-thats-weird-conference-2008.html ; scroll down for my review of Nick’s speech. Here’s Nick’s website: http://www.nickpope.net/ . I first wrote about Professor Chris French long before I first attended SitP: http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2008/01/chris-french-mba-gold.html and http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2008/01/who-really-runs-world.html . He was the first person to whom I awarded the prestigious Materialist Bravery Award. Since then many others have won it: the Skeptic Susan Blackmore, three of my friends, Steve, James and Howard, and also the screenwriter Russell T Davies and others. Chris is a psychologist and heads the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit (Sounds like a politically-correct way of saying “parapsychology”!) at Goldsmiths Collage http://www.goldsmiths.ac.uk/psychology/staff/french.php . His job is to study the psychological factors of paranormal beliefs and the phenomena involved. He has become a kind of rent-a-Skeptic, taking over the role Susan Blackmore played a few years ago. He is as much a media personality as Nick, although he takes the Skeptical stance every time. See the TV show Who Really Runs the World in the above link.

I was not in a very good mental and physical state for SitP this time. I went there straight from the funeral of my best friend’s brother and it had been a heart-rending experience; my friend had wept as he read the eulogy and it hurt me to see him in such grief. I was also feeling very poorly, suffering from a bad cold with dizziness, aching limbs and lack of energy. I really belonged in bed with a hot water bottle, but I decided to grit my teeth and get on with it; who says only women can do that! I arrived early and got the chance to have a private drink with Nick to reacquaint ourselves. He remembered me from Glastonbury, but didn’t mention whether he’d read my conference report or not. If he had then he didn’t proclaim any disapproval or offence at my review of his address! We went to the cellar bar and saw his girlfriend Tab who is a fellow UFOlogist; here’s her site: http://www.roswell.org.uk/ . Then the event began and both speakers were posed the question: “Is Earth being visited by an Extraterrestrial civilization?” and given 20 minutes to answer.

Chris opened for the “Yes” camp: He began by coming clean that he had been a disinformer for the government all these years! His wages had been cancelled so he’d decided to blow the whistle! It makes perfect sense that the universe is full of life because of the Drake Equation, a mathematical formula for assessing the likelihood that there are advanced, intelligent species in our Galaxy capable of creating a technological civilization to the point we could make radio contact with them. The conclusion of Frank Drake, the equation’s inventor, was that there are probably thousands of such civilizations, and even if you reduce the factors by as much as possible you come up with a figure of =10. So ET is definitely out there, and if he’s out there then why shouldn’t he be visiting us? After all, we ourselves are now a space-age race; albeit for only just over 50 years and we’ve barely begun on that path. Other species may have been at it for millions of years and have got a lot further. But the Drake Equation is just a theory; is there any direct evidence to back it up? Yes there is: actual reported encounters with bizarre, advanced vehicles and non-human, intelligent beings. These encounters are not only reported by hippies and “loonies”, but by sober, trained observers like pilots, police officers and military personnel. These reporters are often backed up by radar, multiple sightings, signals and photographic evidence. Sometimes the surroundings to the encounters are affected with identifiable evidence like high radiation levels and marks on the ground which have been properly documented. Many of the researchers who carried out the first investigations into UFO’s like J Allen Hynek and Nick himself, were originally Skeptical but became believers. The reported Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a term Hynek coined, with alien beings also cannot be written off as delusion and lies. Sane and sober people profess visits, contact and abductions by these beings; very often they are not asleep or under the influence of drugs etc, and so discounting dreams, sleep paralysis, hypnopompic experiences and hallucinations. What’s more not every witness has been given the highly dodgy treatment of hypnotic regression and many retrieve their memories from the same state of consciousness as they relate them. Skeptics need to beware that they don’t fall into the fallacy of making an unfalsifiable claim. What would convince them? It’s highly unlikely that there’ll be a flying saucer landing on the White House Lawn; the ET’s, whoever they are, obviously wish to remain covert. Simply claiming “intelligent creatures wouldn’t behave like that” is anthropomorphizing; we have no way or predicting or sympathizing with what an alien mind would think. Let’s use Occam’s Razor: Which is more likely, that all these normal and healthy people are liars and psychotics; and that all the copious evidence is faked… or that some of their reports are real and that the phenomenon is real: We are being visited by aliens from other planets in advanced spacecraft.

Nick the “Skeptic” then took the floor: UFO’s have been reported in the mainstream media and been the subject of million-pound investigations by many governments for over 60 years and what have we got? Badly-exposed, grainy photographs, unsubstantiated personal reports and clever CGI mock-ups like the “Haiti UFO” (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=up5jmbSjWkw ). The equipment necessary to produce a very good fake visual record is now available from PC World for a few quid! Chris decided to employ Occam’s razor, well so did Nick! Which is more likely? That sophisticated alien beings fly trillions of miles across space from distant stars to make a couple of crop circles and insert an anal probe into a few terrified Wiltshire yokels, and then just fly all the way home again?... or that there are no aliens and these events have a more mundane explanations, psychological and sociological, even if we can’t isolate them exactly yet? Also the laws of physics have created a universe unfriendly to interstellar travel; it’s as if God intended us to stay on our own planets! The energy expenditure necessary to even approach a significant fraction the speed of light is virtually infinite and at slower speeds journeys between solar systems would be far longer than any biological or mechanical lifetime. The Drake Equation determines how likely it is that ET is out there, but that’s a totally different kettle of fish to determining how likely it is that he has made it to our front door. As far as the idea that the governments are covering up the ET presence, it seems highly unlikely that they could get away with it for 60 years when they can’t even leave a laptop or data-disk in the hands of their staff without them losing it on the train or letting it falling behind a radiator and causing a media scandal! How on Earth could they hope to keep such an explosive secret as aliens being present!? Some hard evidence is touted in the form of implants; they’re doing the circuit at UFO conferences to be examined by wide-eyes UFO-enthusiasts, but none of these objects have been subjected to conventional scientific analysis. Apart from crop circles, all of them obviously man-made, there is no hard evidence at all. Abductees, according to some studies, are actually not a completely homogenous cross-section of the population and actually do have minds predetermined to fantasy and assumption. They are very vulnerable as a result of their psychoses and are therefore easy victims for unscrupulous UFOlogical conmen. Hypnotic regression is a terrible way to gather data because science doesn’t even know what the altered state of consciousness called hypnosis is! It’s still a mystery. If it was more reliable then the police and courts would be using it. And why do so many aliens look just like the ones in sci-fi? This is a cultural psychological phenomenon with no objective reality at all. UFOlogists themselves are usually not scientifically trained and range from being incompetent to downright corrupt. UFO’s are an industry that makes its stars very rich and famous. They spawn conferences, books, DVD’s and other very lucrative sidelines, even an opportunity to meet Robbie Williams. The last thing UFOlogical establishment wants is a down-to-Earth, everyday explanation for everything its devotees believe in.

Both speakers then got a 5-minute rebuttal. Chris explained how just because something appears to break the laws of physics doesn’t mean it does. When the Wright brothers first flew their plane in 1902 the local newspaper didn’t bother covering the historical moment because “everyone knows flying is impossible!” Physics does support the idea of “shortcuts” to direct travel through space with wormholes which remove the need for long journeys between distant stars. What’s more the government is covering it up; all these laptops and disks that go missing etc is a part of the conspiracy! They’re staged events to lull people into a sense of false security! And certain MoD officials (Ha ha!) are frontmen who’s job it is to sew confusion and disinformation. Nick’s own book was approved by the government before it was published. Nick riposted by saying that all these so-called “expert” witnesses are not expert at all. Pilots and policemen are trained to observe, but only observe within the parameters of their own job description. If someone tried to break into your house they’ll send a squad car straight away because they’re trained to do that, but on one occasion when the police were called to a UFO sighting the coppers who turned up wandered around like lost sheep unable to decide what to do. If you want a reliable UFO-witness then you’re better off asking a bird-watcher, and strangely few of them ever report UFO sightings.

After the break there was a very amusing and riotous Question-and-Answer session, but some serious points were made like how UFO experiences can be related to cultural differences without necessarily abandoning the ETH, Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. People have been reporting encounters with alien beings a long time before we started watching then in sci-fi movies. In fact we’ve been reporting them as far back in history as we can look. Of course they used different terminology like “goblins”, “demons”, “trolls” “faeries” etc, but the experiences were incredibly similar. The modern space alien format is merely how we see this strange archetype in the 21st Century Western cultural context. This aspect fascinates me; I only differ from Chris in that I don’t think it’s all in our heads. Chris (the speakers went back to flying their true colours now) sees this as interesting from his psychogenic hypothesis, but it is also very telling from the ETH, and this was my own principle question over the evening’s proceedings.

I’m a believer in the ETH myself, but I see it in a different way to its popular image and ironically it is the Skeptical Chris’ perspective that is the most progressive in that area. The popular perception of the ETH, and the one mostly discussed by the speakers, is that UFO’s are nuts-and-bolts solid objects, like far more advanced equivalents of our own spacecraft, piloted by flesh-and-blood physical creatures like ourselves. I think recent research indicates otherwise. The UFO phenomenon, or at least part of it, may be far more closely related to other kinds of paranormal manifestation like ghosts, poltergeists, remote viewing etc. This idea was first explored by John Keel and was met by hostility from mainstream UFOlogy, in the same way that classic ETH-believers were themselves on the receiving end of hostility from the Skeptics. Even UFOlogy, it appears, is not without dogma. My friend Brian Allan (http://www.p-e-g.co.uk/ ) is interested in this question and I’ve had many interesting discussions with him about it. I am particularly intrigued by my own visit to Ann and Paul Andrews’ house’ Ann and her son Jason are repeat-contactees; I wrote about my visit here: http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2007/11/my-trip-to-haunted-house.html . During my few days as Ann and Paul’s guest I learned, not only from reading Ann’s books, but from my own experiences in their house, that UFO encounters are accompanied by other forms of paranormal phenomena that are not conventionally or causally related to them. It’s a big subject, but to outline it: UFO’s may not be solid and physical, but may actually be etheric, coming not from Zeta Reticuli, but from non-physical hyperspatial realms, places beyond the Universe as we know it.

Last night’s Skeptics in the Pub was the best yet, enormously lively and entertaining .I felt completely at home there and now give an embarrassed laugh at my early misgivings about being “the only Woo in the village!” I felt completely at ease there. I met several other non-skeptics including Dave from Probe (http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2008/04/uk-probe-conference-march-08.html ). The two speakers were virtually a comedy double-act! They made constant sarcastic jokes at each others’ expense, but it was all very amiable and fun; you can see they’re great friends despite their differences. I’m glad I forwent the hot water bottle and Lemsip and braved my illness to attend!

Sunday 7 December 2008

The Psychic Hamster

The psychic ability of animals is something that has been studied carefully by parapsychologists alongside that of humans; also mediums in Spiritualist Churches will occasionally refer to the phenomenon and pass on messages from their clients’ deceased pets. Unlike psychical research on humans, the research on animals has not waned during the 20th and 21st Century; if anything it has almost gained respectability while its human counterpart’s has declined. The most interesting and prominent researcher into animal parapsychology is probably Rupert Sheldrake (http://www.sheldrake.org/homepage.html . And here’s a lecture by Rupert Sheldrake: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6285430996722410689&ei=z807SYXAHZHYiAKZz_GsCQ&q=rupert+sheldrake ). The most promising species in this area of research is the dog. In fact many dog owners will relate astonishing stories of their four-legged friends’ extra-sensory insight. For example dogs seem to know instinctively that their owner is returning after a long period away from home. They will become more excited and cheerful as their owner approaches the house, even though they may be driving on a distant road or on a train or plane and too far away for the dog to physically sense them. There may be a mundane explanation in some cases; it’s well-known that dogs understand a certain amount of human speech, “walkies”, “sit!” and “good boy” etc. But dogs also quickly learn the names of the people in their family and if the other humans in the household are talking about a person a lot because they know that person is coming home the dog could well hear that person’s name being mentioned and work out the good news. But apparently there are cases when a dog has reacted to a person’s impending return when nobody in the household knew that the person was returning and so would not have given the dog any verbal clues. There are even more fascinating stories of a dog or their owner knowing when the other has had an accident or sudden illness. I’ve even heard a case on TV of a man who had psychic communion with the spirit of his dog who died a few months before. Other species are mentioned in some of this research too, but few scientists have closely studied the species with which I myself had a strange and powerful paranormal experience.

My 13-year old daughter and I had a hamster a few years ago called DW. I took DW in mostly to please my daughter, but I grew rather fond of her myself. Hamsters are very cute, amiable and interesting to watch. They have pouches in their cheeks to carry food and build little nests for themselves out of paper and any other suitable material you provide for them. They are cheap and easy to care for too; you just make sure they have a clean cage, a running-wheel to exercise on; toys to play with, food and water, and then they take care of themselves. The downside is that their lifespan is very short; they usually only live between 18 and 27 months, so I had to make an effort not to get too fond of DW. DW seemed oblivious to her surroundings and was always focused on some activity: eating, running on her wheel, gnawing a piece of wood or cardboard etc. She never reacted to anyone’s presence around her and never sat still for a moment except to sleep. This is typical behavior for hamsters. But one day there was an incident where, for a brief moment, all that changed. I cleaned her cage one Sunday; something I always did on a Sunday; only this time it was different. I had forgotten to buy any clean sawdust for her bedding so I got an old magazine and laid it on the bottom of her cage. As soon as I put DW back in her cage she started behaving abnormally, scurrying around, scratching and digging at the smooth shiny paper on the floor of the cage and appearing very distressed about her unusual bedding. She urinated in a corner and it immediately started stinking and didn’t soak in like it does in sawdust. I realized that the magazine was not a suitable material and I’d have to get some proper bedding for her, but this was a Sunday and the pet shop was shut. I resolved to go straight there the next day and buy some sawdust.

Then something incredible happened. I was watching DW in her cage and suddenly, for the first time ever she stopped what she was doing and sat completely still. Then she stared at me; I swear she looked right into my eyes. I find it hard to describe in words what happened next. I can only say that it was an altered state of consciousness. My mind and DW’s met and our thoughts became exposed and united as one; I could feel her feelings and read her thoughts and she could feel my feelings and read mine. She said to me telepathically, but not in words that I could hear: “Ben, I can’t stand this. My cage is so uncomfortable. I need some proper bedding now!” The experience only lasted a moment then everything shot back to normal and DW continued in her usual hamster-like nature, but I was struck dumb by it. I immediately went out of the house and bought some sawdust. As I said, the pet shop was shut, but I walked right across town to a supermarket to buy some for her. As soon as there was proper bedding in her cage she appeared content. I watched her for a while to see if we would have any further telepathic contact, but we didn’t. Though I’m sure though she was grateful!
My strange experience with DW did not reoccur again, nor has it done with any other hamster, but I’ve never forgotten it. It’s made me look at animals differently; I think it raises questions about their intelligence and consciousness. These lead to ethical questions as well as philosophical ones; about the way we exploit animals on farms or in laboratories.