Monday, February 20, 2017

A Skeptical Look at the 2017 International UFO Congress - Part 1.

The 26th annual International UFO Congress was held from February 15-19 at the We-Ko-Pa Resort and Conference Center in Fountain Hills, Arizona, near Phoenix.
We-Ko-Pa Resort and Conference Center

In his introductory remarks, conference host Alejandro Rojas noted the significance of several anniversaries this year: the 20th anniversary of the Phoenix Lights, the 75th of the Battle of Los Angeles, and the big one, the 70th anniversary of Roswell.

Stanton Friedman, the “Flying Saucer Physicist,” had been scheduled to be the opening speaker. However, his flight got canceled in the big snowstorms back east, so his time slot was swapped with the Los Angeles area abductionist Yvonne Smith.  Smith said that since about 2011 she has been receiving “messages,” about whose source she was not very specific. She suggested that many members of the audience might also have been receiving these messages, too.
Yvonne Smith

These messages are taking on an increasing urgency to “do something,” she explained. “Time is running out.” She reflected back to the 1992 Abduction Study Conference held at M.I.T. which she attended (as did I, representing CSICOP). The “messages” being received back then reflected much less “urgency” than today. Now, almost all “experiencers” feel increasing urgency and receive visions of impending ecological doom and other catastrophes. She showed a slide of a mushroom cloud, and warned of “earth changes.” Experiencers, she said, are feeling great “election related” angst, and launched into a rant against Trump.

The last part of her talk was handed over to Jim Lough, a California attorney of long experience, who spoke on “Civil Rights and Experiencers.” The UFO coverup, he said, has led to the Military Industrial Complex. Political dirty tricks are part of the great E.T. coverup, as is intrusive government surveillance.

Next was UFO author Noe Torres, speaking on “Real Cowboys & Aliens – UFOs in the Old West.” He said he found over 100 such cases, from which he selected ten or so for his book as the best. The one he talked about the most was the 1897 airship crash in Aurora, Texas. Long recognized as a hoax by serious researchers, if Torres was aware of this he did not let on. While some later cases might have been influenced by science fiction tales, he said, “they did not have the terminology" of airships at this time. Oh really? I wonder if Torres has ever heard of Jules Verne? Verne's famous airship novel Robur the Conqueror was published in 1886.
Noe Torres

Torres’ other cases mostly seemed to be based on newspaper stories, although he was not specific as to their source. He made no mention of 19th century newspapers' practice of publishing entertaining journalistic hoaxes. If these are the “best” cases, imagine how bad the rest of them are. In addition to aliens, the Old West also boasted of having Bigfoot, cattle mutilations, crash debris, and Unidentified Submerged Objects. Yee-haw!

In another substitution, Jennifer Stein, who made the recent movie Travis about Travis Walton, was supposed to speak on U.S. Crop Circles. But she was unable to attend, so Walton himself substituted. “He is a deep thinker,” Rojas said in introducing Walton.

Rojas had earlier promised, in announcing Travis’ substitute talk, that if you had already heard Walton speak, this would not be the same talk he always gives, but something different. Broken promise. Walton droned on as he usually does about his five fun-filled days aboard the alien craft. A few details sounded different than before. He observed that “we were all in a trance” when they spotted the UFO nearby. And I don’t recall hearing before the claim that after he was zapped and Mike Rogers drove away, they tried to catch up with some hunters, but could not. That would seem to imply that the hunters drove by that same spot, and contradicts what Rogers said elsewhere about how he just drove a quarter mile down the road, then stopped and anguished over what to do next.
Travis Walton
Walton did babble on toward the end some vague statements about the likelihood of intelligent life in the universe. I guess that was supposed to make this a new talk.

Ryan Sprague spoke on “UFOs vs. UFOlogy – the Convergence of Experience and Study.” He explained how he had a “catalyst” sighting of a triangle UFO in 1995. Subsequently he interviewed hundreds of people about their own sightings, and showed brief videos of some of them.

He made some confused claims about the star “Meroz,” which isn’t a star at all but a village mentioned in the Bible. He referred to the apparent contradictions in UFOlogy vs, Chemistry, Physics, Theology, Philosophy, etc., with some quotes intended to help resolve the disagreements.

Erika Lukes and Ted Roe
Ted Roe, Executive Director of NARCAP – the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, spoke on the Future of UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) research. He began by talking about his own early sightings, and many “synchronicities.” He also spoke at length about his own personal challenges: PTSD, family estrangement, and stress. He took up freediving, and became a teacher of it. The dolphins helped him, he said. ( I asked him about that later. He explained that dolphins often accompanied him in his dives, and showed some amazing underwater videos.) By deep contemplation and martial arts, Roe says, “I empowered myself.” He ended up talking more about himself and his eventful life than about NARCAP or UFOs.

He talked about some of the investigative papers that NARCAP had published on its website. Their goal, he said, is to establish a peer-reviewed journal for UFO research. He spoke about pilot UFO reports: "Pilots are good witnesses." He didn't mention that Dr. J. Allen Hynek came to exactly the opposite conclusion: the late USAF Project Blue Book consultant wrote on  page  271  of his 1977 book The Hynek UFO Report, “Surprisingly, commercial and military pilots appear to make relatively poor witnesses.”

Reflecting on his responsibilities as an administrator of a UFO group, he remarked that you must restrain those who “start attacking peoples’ image.” This struck me as ironic, considering that Roe recently reportedly drove from UFOlogy the highly-respected investigator “Isaac Koi,” who uses a pseudonym to protect his career and whose identity Roe allegedly threatened to expose (details are here). While Roe was still speaking, his colleague Erika Lukes posted to Facebook, “Ted is on top of his game.” I didn’t think so. In my view there was too much drama and self-promotion here.



  1. I checked Meroz on wikip. : "According to the Talmud (Moed Katan 16a), Meroz is a certain planet in the stellar sphere, and because the mention of it in Judges 5:23 is preceded by the phrase, "the stars in their course fought against Sisera" (v.20), it thus follows that Meroz must be defined as a celestial body. This mysterious 'Meroz' may not only be the name of a star, but also may allude to an unidentified group of outworld inhabitants somewhere in the second heaven (outer space) to which failed in their willingness to assist the righteous in a war against the wicked, and hence cursed by the angel of God."

  2. > Smith said that since about 2011 she has been receiving “messages,” about whose source she was not very specific.

    Perhaps she gets her ketamine from the same place John Lilly got his.


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