Wednesday, November 26, 2008

UFOS OVER EARTH: Mass Sightings in Mexico (2008)

Discovery Channel - Original Air Date: 11/24/08

The MUFON crew goes to Mexico City to investigate the huge number of sighting constantly coming from south of the US border.  Is it possible that one place can consistently have so many "genuine" UFO sightings?  Or is it more likely that the culture of Mexico -- which features a very popular UFO-sighting show -- is making people mistake more mundane objects for truly strange things?  After interviewing witnesses, the group decides to focus on three incidents: a videographer who works with Jaime Maussan (ultra-popular UFO show host) and consistently sells UFO footage, a witness who turned in very clear photographs of a daytime sighting, and an incident where a UFO landed atop a hill and made the local lights flicker in time with its pulsing.

The videographer has a lot of interesting-looking shots, most of them taken from the roof atop his studio.  The roof is a good viewing area, as it has a 360-degree view of Mexico City.  And as the group tours the roof, they spot something mysterious in the sky.  The videographer whips out his camera and captures what becomes known on YouTube as the "Morphing UFO" footage.  It all seems too convienient--and indeed, it is too convenient, as the MUFON group has set up this sighting to test the ability of the videographer (and Jaime) to differentiate mundane objects in the sky from truly unidentified ones.  This "UFO" is actually a group of mylar balloons released by another MUFON member in a nearby park.  The videographer fails the test, and Jaime insists that he trusts the man implicitly, even after the MUFON folks have revealed their hoax.  Ironically, a coda to the episode notes that the hoax video is now a very popular "real" video on YouTube.  Sorry, folks, it's just a bunch of balloons (and if you don't believe me, watch this show).

Jaime's tendency to trust too willngly shows up again in the next sighting, in which a young man claims to have photographed a hovering disc several times during one day, and then again several weeks later.  The photos are very sharp, and -- at first -- seem convincing.  The MUFON folks, though (rightly) distrust pictures that are too clear, and soon discrepancies crop up in the young man's story.  For one thing, the time stamps on the shots from his camera don't match the time frame he says they were taken in; the total time of the incident being about three minutes, though one of the photos was taken the better part of an hour after an ealier shot in the same series.  Also, the second sighting photos show signs of having been tampered with -- the UFO has apparently been pasted into the sky.  Confronted with these facts, the witness feigns ignorance, and Jaime claims to still believe him.  The MUFON folks (rightly, I think) conclude that the witness has faked the photos to get on Jaime's UFO-sighting show.  Jaime, unfortunately, is invested in his franchise and "wants to believe" more than he wants to know the truth.

Next, the group travels to the town where a UFO landed on a mountaintop and caused the local power grid to flicker on and off.  Using their CGI capability, the MUFON folks recreate what they think the sighting looked like -- based on the stories they've heard.  They then show the simulation to the community.  When they do , they discover a huge discrepancy between the stories and what the actual witnesses report: in reality, the "UFO" didn't fly over the town, but appeared glowing atop the local hills.  The crew tracks down the young man who took the (impressive) video of the incident.  The photographer shows them where he took the film, and states that he thought it was some kind of transformer short, rather than a UFO.  And it turns out that there is a series of power towers right where the "UFO" was sighted.  Taking the film to an expert in power line and grid problems, the group confirms that the report is entirely consistent with some kind of short circuit in the grid.  (The expert says that a thick tree limb fallen across the lines might cause shorts for days before finally burning away.)

So, on this episode, we have three cases that prove to be entirely mundane: one mistaken identity (by a too credulous vidographer and TV show host), one hoax, and one unusual but by no means unexplainable event.  This is like getting a "not haunted" conclusion on a ghost hunting show -- something far too rare on television.  Since this episode aired back-to-back with the series premier (at least I hope it will be a series), it allows folks like me to form an impression of what the continuing show may be like.  And I'm impressed.  Unlike the other UFO shows regularly on the air, this show seems more concerned with finding out the truth than with building UFO mythology (a mythology that fuels a multi-million dollar "believers" enterprise).  In fact, members of the investigation even state this as one of their goals: to find the truth, not build myth.  As someone who has complained long and loudly about other shows building myth, I'm very happy to see this development.  And I hope that when/if this show continues, it will continue to operate in this same way -- calling the incidents as they see them. (Like the drone hoax, also mentioned in this episode.)  It might be helpful, though, if MUFON would put up a page of UFO Hoaxes or Debunked Cases on their sight -- so that people would know what to look for and not believe so quickly. (Like the "ghost lights" that are showin being launched in one of the show's cut shots -- which are something that most believers have probably never heard about or seen.)  After all, as this episode proves with its "morphing UFO" footage, some people will believe a myth, even when the truth is right before their eyes.

UFOS OVER EARTH: Bucks County Flap (2008)

Discovery Channel - Original Air Date: 11/24/08

There's a new player in the UFO hunt, though it remains to be seen whether this show will be a perennial player, or if it's just a flash in the pan (I.E. a pilot that doesn't pan out -- Disc. seems to be showing a lot of "one shots" in their Monday night time slot right now).  This episode looks at a spate of recent (spring and summer 2008) sightings in Pensylvania.  After interviewing a number of witnesses, the investigators -- all members of MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network) -- narrow their focus to two witnesses.  One is a retiree, who seems very credible and has no obvious reason to make up his two sightings, and the other is a woman who claims both multiple sightings and to have pictures of the alleged UFO.  Unfortunately, the first witness has no actual proof, just a compelling story.  So the MUFON folks recreate his sighting using their CGI equipment, and filddle with the simulation until the witness approves the octagonal-shaped craft and the sighting conditions.

The woman witness proves both more interesting and problematic.  Her picture evidence is unimpressive (the usual blurred lights), and one image even seems to match up to the position of the moon and Jupiter on the night in question.  Additionally, she claims to have seen some kind of glittering dust falling from the UFO into one of the trees in her yard, only to have the dust then return to the UFO.  Despite claiming that this phenomnon lasted 20 minutes, she has no photos.  The group takes cuttings from the tree and sends them to a scientist, who claims that the tree was subjected to radiation which caused mutation in the leaves.  Fortunately (for science), the group then sends the sample to another expert, who says the first expert is totally wrong; there is no evidence of either radiation or mutation.  I was impressed by this, as most shows of this kind consistently fail to get a second opinion -- prefering to go with the most sensational finding (and dubious expert) possible.  The group also re-creates the woman's sighting, and she is very moved by the compupter-generated recreation.  This makes the group believe that she is sincere, though they retain some skepticism about her report.  This would be my only reservation about this episode -- that they give a witness more leeway than perhaps they should.  (To me, at least, the dust part of her sighting seems more like a waking dream.)  Fortunately, the MUFON folks make up for this lapse of "toughness" in the Mexico show.  (See following review.)

This show is to MUFON what UFO Hunters is to UFO Magazine -- that is, the program seems to be built around the people in the group and their interests.  And I have to say, from what I've seen so far, I find this show much more interesting.  Where UFO Hunters (the History Channel one, not the SciFi series which had one show and then disappeared -- seemingly for good) is built around UFO mythology and "investigating" classic sightings -- nearly all of which seem to be more than 20 years old.  This show is tackling sightings that are current (2008 as this is written).  I find the immediacy much more compelling.  The witnesses have had less time to become "set" in their stories, or to forget or embelish details.  (Though, as regular readers know, I don't put a lot of stock in witness reports; see the review of Unsolved History: Roswell - a.k.a. UFOs Over America for a scientific study of witness' memory.)  Also, the MUFON crew seems much more interested in finding out what's really happening than in building the UFO mythology.  In the Mexico show (see review), they even state this goal specifically.  So far, I'm favorably impressed.  The "crew" may not be as flashy and memorable as UFO Hunters or Ghost Hunters, but they're serious about their work and asking the hard questions that UFO Hunters -- for one -- seldom wants to ask.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Nice Review of My Iron Man Novel

I just got a nice review of my Iron Man adaptation and thought I'd share it.

Here's the URL:

You have to page down a bit to see the actual review.

But, in case you'd rather just check this blog entry, here's my cut 'n' paste of the review itself:

This summer's IRON MAN was, in my opinion, one of the best comic book movies made — certainly my current favorite, replacing the reigning champ of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE after 29 years. The beauty of the film — besides pitch-perfect acting and characterizations, seemingly effortless special effects, and the tight package in which it is all wrapped up — is the simplicity of the story: a man brought down by his own ego finding redemption through service to the world. The subtlety of his unfolding salvation provides the adult viewing experience that drew all those hundreds of millions dollars to the box office. For the young 'uns, it was the coolness of a guy who's been knocked down by bullies, but gets back up to fight back and win.

And that's how it plays in IRON MAN: THE JUNIOR NOVEL by Stephen Sullivan, featuring eight pages of photos from the film. Sullivan is faithful to the screenplay, while downplaying many of the too-grown-up motivations that might confuse his younger readers. It is, as I say, a good story and difficult to ruin, and Sullivan brings the right tone and style to keep things moving at a brisk pace that should keep even the kids who have seen the movie enthralled.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

UFO HUNTERS - First Contact: Aurora, Texas

History Channel - Original Air Date: 11/19/08

A brief review, as this is another in the UFO Hunters' "mythos" shows -- with lots of story, speculation, and theory, and no real (incontrovertible) evidence.  The team goes to Texas to investigate an 1897 incident in which a UFO allegedly hit a windmill on a ranch.  The ranch's well water was said to be contaminated, and an alien body was supposedly buried in a nearby cemetery.  The end result is that the team discovers the well was closed for non-alien reasons, though there was metal (aluminum -- possibly from the windmill) found there and in the property.  An ancient tree also sets off a metal detector (possibly from "molten debris" embedded in its wood), and ground-penetrating radar seems to indicate an umarked grave in the spot indicated by legend.  Unfortunately, the team doesn't have authority to dig up the alleged grave.  So, again, a lot of poking around and speculating, but little else.  If you like UFO stories and little or no proof, this show remains the one for you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Michelle Update

Here's an update about Michelle & her family (from her sister, who works in comics):

* Michelle has gotten her baby's body and had had the funeral. Real-life is weirder than anything I can come up with in the comic book. Michelle and her husband Rhene were arguing (once again) with the Hospital powers-that-be, when a Doctor RECOGNIZED Michelle from our appearance together in FHM magazine. The Doctor actually brought the magazine to her asking her to sign it -- as she was grieving! The upside to this? The Hospital administrators said, "Oh...she's kind ofa celebrity? Maybe she's good for the money." And they released baby Reinee's body to her -- but not before they had her write three post-dated checks, essentially giving her another two months or so to pay the debt.

* Thanks to some wonderful people contributing, we've raised over $3,800.00 toward the $9,000.00+ that Michelle needs. The first person to contribute was STAN LEE! Several Glass House Graphics artists contributed anywhere from $10 to $500. Some of the biggest fans of BANZAI GIRLS also contributed (you know who you are). One amazing fan contributed $1,000.00!!

We're still hoping to reach the $9,000.00 point and pay off Reinee's hospital and funeral bills.

We approached "The Hero Initiative" for help. They said, "We'll look into it and get back to you," but they never did follow-up.

Thank you to all who have contributed!


I'm sure they'll still acccept donations at:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Unexplained: Legends & Lore

SciFi Channel - Original Air Date: 11/20/08

In this episode, George Noory looks into stories from "the greatest storyteller ever born," Lionel Fanthorpe -- whom the caption claims is the author of more than 250 books (Wikipedia says author or co-author).  They start with Springheel Jack, who began attacing people in 1837 and was a thin creature which breathed blue fire before leaping away, cackling.  Fanthorpe says that strange beings may be half-forgotten memories of races that once inhabited a land before it was invaded by modern humans.  The next story deals with Time Travel.  In Roxom (sp) Broad (a lake) two 17th century swimmers were crossing the lake when the water vanished and all at once they were surrounded by Roman soldiers. They followed the procession for several minutes, until they faded back into the water.  Fanthorpe says this is the first evidence of a timeslip at the Broad.  Later, a yatch saw the same thing.  Noory relates a story of a cab driver who hit an apparent 18th century man who appeared out of nowhere before being struck and killed.  He also mentions a pilot who entered a cloud to emerge in a WWII dogfight and returned to the present with bullet holes in his plane.  Fanthorpe tells of a 1932 flyer who flew over an abandoned Edinburgh airfield and saw it alive with activity from WWI.

Next they turn to vampires and a blood-curdling vampire attack story.  (With elements from Langella's Dracula -- or the other way around.)  Fanthorpe explains to a caller that drinking someone's blood would, traditionally, give you their strength.  Asked what a ghost is, Fanthorpe says three or four theories should be considered. Some apparitions are psychic recordings of emotional events.  He says the scariest story ever told would be the tale of the Barbados coffins -- which mysteriously rearranged themselves, repeatedly, in a sealed crypt.  What could move such large, lead coffins in a sealed room?  A caller asks how we can know whether a strange feeling we have is a ghost.  Fanthorpe replies that a vivid dream is hard to tell from reality, but we should apply the same tests to a strange situation that we would to determine whether we were dreaming.

While I enjoyed the stories in this show, they strike me as being more myth than history -- and some seem to be combinations of elements from several other stories.  Fun to listen to, but not to be mistake for fact.  After watching three of these shows, Unexplained with George Noory seems a mile wide, but not very deep.  How it may develop is hard to tell.  My guess would be that it will remain more about stories -- like this episode -- rather than becoming more critical.  So far, though, UwGN has been a fun diversion.

Unexplained: Monsters

SciFi Channel - Original Air Date: 11/16/08

Monster expert Lee Frank joins George Noory in this episode of the show.  Frank has been to Loch Ness and looked for bigfoot, and is convinced that unknown creatures remain at large in the world.  (He cites the usual exotic finds - squid, coelacanth, etc.)  Mermaids, however, he dismisses as imagination and pent-up hormones.  Frank defends the largely discredited Rines flipper photograph, and seemingly draws broad conclusions from less-solid Loch Ness evidence.  Frank says that at first it was thought unlikely that Nessie could be a plesiosaur, because the loch is so cold -- but now we know some dinosaurs were warm blooded, so perhaps that's not so outlandish.  He also claims such creatures are reported in 75 lakes around the world.  Frank dismisses criticism that Nessie reports are inconsistent in their discriptions, describing a creature with "baleen mouth" (?), red eyes, and horns, though pleseosaur like.  The show also uses the discredited three-hump photo (in actuality, bales of hay covered in tarps set in a shallow part of the lake) to illustrate the monster's multi-humped or shape-changing back.  A caller asks for more empirical evidence to support the claims of Nessie and Bigfoot, and asks what Frank has.  He replies they don't have good empirical evidence and they need it.  He believes the witnesses are credible and calls for more research.  (Which, IMO, is a nice admission from a monster hunting expert.)

During the bigfoot segment, Frank plays a tape he thinks might be a bigfoot cry. It's a coughing, growling sound that some think might be a bear. The show also displays a "hidden bigfoot face" picture and a brief movie (which looks like a costume) with no explanation.  Frank then shows some "recreations" of bigroot prints (which I doubt would hold up to scientific scrutiny), and dismisses the idea that hoaxers could have made all of the many prints found.  He then defends a footprint from the Patterson film (see previous blogs, especially the Is It Real Bigfoot episode).  He also mentions the late Grover Krantz as a serious scientist who has investigated the bigfoot/yeti phenomena.  He also says that investigators keep certain information about the prints secret from the public, so prints will be harder to fake.  (Nothing like witholding evidence!)  A caller asks why we haven't found any bones.  Frank says that we don't find deer or bear carcasses (I'm skeptical of this), and "nature takes care of its own."  Franks says it is certainly possible that these creatures live in caves and avoid humans, which has helped bigfoot survival.

A caller asks if sightings of strange creatures coincide with world events.  Franks points out that the Loch Ness sightings started when a road was built around the loch.  He's surprised that more bigfoot sightings didn't happen after Mt. Saint Helens.  He also says there is clearly a breeding population in Loch Ness, and that three creatures have been sighted at once.  (Is he talking about the debunked photo?)  He also says there is plentiful food in the loch "a veritable garden of eden" -- a fact that Adrian Shine, at least, would dispute.  Asked if anything else coul make the bigfoot tracks, Frank notes bears can walk upright for a short distance, but witnesses say they're not seeing bear.

I liked this episode better than the UFO show; with one guest for the whole half hour, it seemed more focused.  Still, it strikes me that suppositions and theories are often being stated as fact here -- and a casual viewer would not be able to discern the difference.  FYI Here's an interesting page on Loch Ness hoaxes.

Unexplained: UFOs

SciFi Channel - Original Air Date: 11/16/08

This is George Noory's new show, playing every night or so on the SciFi channel.  It's a half-hour format covering a single subject each night.  Unfortunately, I missed the first segment of this episode, which was probably about the Stepheville, TX sightings.  (See previous Howls blogs.)  The second segment included some fuzzy footage of lights in the sky and strings of lights, with not much explanation of what we were supposed to be seing (perhaps I missed that), though some was supposedly from a police car camera at Stephenville.  The second segment featured an interview with expert Linda Mouton Howe and a police witness, who talked about the Stephenville case, as well as taking a few caller questions.  In the third segment, George interviewed frequent Coast-to-Coast guest (and Dreamland host) Whitley Strieber.  Striber talked about his alien encounter/abduction/molestation -- details of which are probably familiar to readers of Communion (or those who have seen the movie).

This is the first show in the series I've watched, so it's a bit hard to judge (especially having missed part of it), but it seemed a bit heavy on the story/mythos/conspiracy elements and pretty much free of scientific counterpoint.  Still, if you like Art Bell's old radio show, this is probably worth looking at.  A half hour, though (minus commercials) is not a lot of time to dig into the subjects presented.

Monday, November 17, 2008

INVESTIGATION X: Siberian Apocalypse

Discovery Channel - Original Air Date: 11/10/08

This program (which shares a name/subtitle with an earlier program about the same mystery) starts with a reenactment of an air burst explosion that devastates San Francisco -- a blast similar to the famous Tunguska Event of 1918. Believed originally to be an asteroid or meteor strike, there have been no meteor fragments found. Other possibilities are an explosion from within the earth -- a freak eruption of volcanic gas, a collision with "mirror matter," and even UFOs. The only way to solve the mystery is to gather physical evidence -- and so this show sends an elite group of geologists, physicists, and astronomers to the explosion's epicenter. One scientist, Dr. Kletetschka, believes that half the mass in the universe is trans-dimensional "mirror matter" -- which we can only detect through gravity or when it strikes the earth. He looks for a magnetic signature in the oldest trees left standing. Another scientist, Boslough, believes the event was a low altitude air-burst asteroid explosion, which destroyed over 800 square miles of forest but left no crater. During the event, people heard a series of booms (20-21) and one witness described the sky opening up. The explosion left a butterfly-like "fall pattern." In 2007, an Italian team claimed to have found an impact crater nearby, but expert Boslough sticks with his air-burst theory -- and he seems to have the computer simulations to back him up. This is a high-tech version of the 1960s Soviet matchstick experiment from the earlier Siberian Apocolypse show -- which the show recaps. But Boslough believes the explosion was more powerful, and burns on trees seem to suggest he is right. Kletetschka beleives the air burst came from his mirror matter, and hopes the wood of the trees will provide the magnetic signature proving his theory. They take core samples in the area until they find a tree the right age.

Geophysicist Morgan has a very different theory. He believes that volcanic gasses built up in the basalt (volcanic) planes of Siberia. A massive eruption of superheated gas (a "Verneshot") triggered the Tunguska explosion, and the debris hurled into the air would explain the atmospheric glow reported after the event. He's looking for shocked quartz to help prove his theory. The final theory is that a UFO caused the blast; benevolent aliens saved earth from a meteor by crashing their own space ship into the deadly object. The Russian scientist found no spaceship, but many "strange" rocks. Kletetscha's samples don't have the magnetism he hoped for, though he vows to search again. Morgan does find his shocked quartz, but that only proves a Verneshot might have happened in the past. Tree scarring bears out Boslough's theory, and he is able to adjust his computer model to explain the possible Italina crater as well (by simulating less of the asteroid exploding). Though the final verdict is still out at on the event's cause, NASA scientists urge that we guard our planet against strikes by near-earth asteroids.

Crop Circles: Mysteries in the Fields

Discovery Channel - Original Air Date: 2002

This show starts with the debunked video of two balls of lights forming crop circles. (A video made by a special effects firm -- though later in the show, they do note this film is a hoax -- and then use it again to illustrate a beliver's story.) The show then states that some circles have been hoaxed, but what about the rest? Can they really all be hoaxed? This show takes MIT students and tries to fake its own crop circle. An expert states that the first incident was in the 1700s, but the circles have been building in numbers and complexity beginning in the last 25 years (since 1978). In the summer of 1991, Doug Browley and Dave Chorley (sp?) claimed to have made the circles for the last 15 years. Some, though, didn't believe their story (though Doug & Dave did inspire copycats). The show asked 3 MIT students to replicate 3 effects -- explusion cavities (blown nodes), magnetite particles (on the circle perimeter), and balanced geometry in the circle itself. The show claims that most crop circles are made (or appear) at night, and many have strange balls of light (unexplained -- though the pictures of ones they showed looked like badly photographed birds to me) associated with them. They say "natural" crop circles can take hours to form, or just a few seconds. (Though they offer no proof to either of these statements.) On scientist/believer suggests that many circle formations would take too long to form for people to make them during one night. (Though he fails to take into consideration the possible number of hoaxers working -- as some of these circles look like mathematical/artistic projects to me.) There are also anecdotal reports of people being healed by circles. Some people believe the circles are natural phenomena. Others believe that they're being made by human, pagan artists who are "anarchists."

The MIT students will attempt to duplicate what the BLT research group (which cliams to be the only publisher of peer-reviewed crop circle information) considers the signs of "real" crop circles. (I.E. non-manmade ones.) The students bring mashing boards (per Doug and Dave) as well as various gadgets to replicate the magnetite "contamination" (a "meteorite cannon"), a microwave generation "gun," and other effects. Interestingly, the microwave projector screws up the video equipment, sucking all the power out of the cameras' batteries. After checking their equipment, the students head out into an Ohio field in the middle of the night to begin their circle making. It takes them a while to get well coordinated, and they've only alotted themselves 4 hours to make the formation. Using their microwave gun and their meteor cannon after makign the circle, they soon start running out of time. (Though it seems to me that scattering magnetite while making the circle would have been easier than doing it afterward.) In the end, they use an explosion to scatter the magnetite. The next day, a different set of students check the circle to see how "real" it may be. (They also experience a power outage while flyinhg in their helicopter -- another supposed crop circle effect.) The investigating graduate students give a B+ to A- range grade. The size of the circle is excellent, but there weren't quite as many of the blown nodes, magnetite, and radiation effects as they'd hoped. This was the students' first effort, though. The narrator wonders who would go to all this trouble for a hoax. (Well, a group of MIT students obviously did.)

This show was originally broadcast around the time of the movie Signs. It is filled with unsubstatiated, anecdotal stories about crop circles, more myth than fact. But it also has the highly interesting MIT experiment. Are anomolies found in the area proof that crop circles are real? I'm no scientist, but it seems to me that when one goes looking for anomolies, one is likely to find them. (Very few spots on earth are compltely "normal.") Science is about forming hypotheses and then testing them to create theories, and refining knowlege until one discovers how things work -- by duplicating effects. I'm not seeing a lot of that here. ("There will be magnetite in a crop cricle," is certainly an hypothesis, but I'm not sure what good the prediction does.) Personally, it's hard for me to look at pictures of crop circles without seeing them as what I believe they are -- artwork. And that's what the students conclude, too. One even suggests going out and making your own; it's fun.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Uncanny Radio - New Podcast Home - Maybe

I've been experimenting with BlogTalkRadio, and I think I may have found a new home for the Uncanny Radio podcasts.  If I've done everything right, there should be a re-broadcast of the first UR show tonight at 10pm, Central time (11/15/08).  Here's a link to the new site:

After the show broadcasts/podcasts live, it should be available in the archive as well.  And will hopefully stay there for as long as we want.

That's assuming I've done everything right.  Tune in and let me know if it worked.

If it works, our new segment - featuring Bob Beutlich -- should air next Wednesday night, 11-19-08 at 10pm central time (and then be archived automatically).

With luck, we'll even have the podcasts available on iTunes soon.  Stay tuned, and wish us luck!

(And if it doesn't work, I'll try it again tomorrow.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

UFO HUNTERS - Hist. - Heartland Explosion

History Channel - Original Air Date: 11/12/08

In April 16, 2008, at 10:38 PM, something "exploded" over Kokomo, Indiana.  People investigating saw lights in the sky, which more than one witness describes as a "fireball."  (There are the usual blurry pictures.)  Initially, the local air base (15 miles away) denies any involvement, though later they say their F-16s were dropping flares and maybe have "accidentally" broken the sound barrier.  A local paper reports that a meteor shower may have been the cause.  (Personal Note: Fireballs can break the sound barrier and cause sonic booms.)  The UFO Hunters set up offices to interview witnesses and try to figure out what happened.  (Being the show this is, I'm sure they'll find a government conspiracy at the least.)  Three months earlier, in January, a witness saw a tower-like flying object.  He grabbed his video camera and shot pictures -- which show a hovering light (and a passing car).  As usual, the witness accounts are contradictory -- though many describe a fireball, and some pieces breaking off.  For a while, the police believe it might be an airplane down.  There's even a mention of a debris field.

MUFON has invesatigated and turned up video of local fighter jets dropping flares.  They also did an aerial recon and may have found a possible crash crater or as the show says "UFO crash site."  Since the pictures were taken, spring rains have flooded the location.  A sheriff says that though there were emergency first responders sent out, they never found any crash site.  A witness then describes something breaking up in the air.  (Note: a common fireball phenominon.)  A former air force man describes a bright ball of light accompanied by another, smaller ball and then a series of smaller lights.  Calculating sizes based on the car and the light in the video, they think the size of the thing is about 40 feet -- the wingspan of an F-16; but, it seems to be hovering, which an F-16 can't do.  The team eventually finds the crater they're looking for, but no evidence of impact; an expert declares it might just be a sinkhole.  (And that proves correct.)  The team builds a "sonic boom cannon" to try and recreate the event and gathers witnesses to listen.  They hope to duplicate the experience and thereby learn the size of the object creating the boom.  Witnesses don't totally agree, but the sonic booms do seem to match those of an F-16 flying at 5000 feet.

The team disagrees on whether this was merely a military plane or something stranger.  (It still sounds more like an actual fireball to me.)  Though at least there wasn't much talk of government conspiracy.

MONSTERQUEST: Sasquatch Attack 2

History Channel - Air Date: 11/12/08

The MQ team returns to the remote Canadian cabin where, last year, they had strange occurrences that might have been attributed to bigfoot.  They've returned this time loaded for . . . well, bigfoot.  They've got more and better cameras, a "blind" to hide their surveillance equipment (making the cabin appear deserted at night), scent traps, camera traps and all sorts of science stuff.  They've also got new DNA and hair analysts (back home), utilizing more advanced science than previously.  As you recall last time, this cabin had been attacked by some strange creature which ransacked it.  A "nail trap" left by the owner seemed to have wounded something with very big feet.  Then there were the "rock throwing" incidents during filming.  The cabin is too remote for pranksters, and no known North American animals throw rocks.

Unfortunately, the new, well-equipped stake-out comes up empty -- though as they're waiting, a bigfoot is sighted 125 miles away.  Theorizing that the late spring may have kept the creature further south to feed on blueberries, the crew decides to pack up and relocate their search.  They interview witnesses and search the area, but find only bear tracks and one possible footprint in the grass.  Sadly, again, it seems this team has come up a day late and a dollar short.  The new DNA tests find only fungus, no primate DNA (as before).  Is the sample just too degraded, or was the old test contaminated?  A hair reclaimed from a fishing rod case thrown at the cabin (in a recent incident) proves to be merely human hair.  But what has done the throwing?  Perhaps a longer expedition -- say, a few months -- could find out.

In the meantime, it wouldn't surprise me if this "bigfoot cabin" is now fetching a premium price as "fishing" rental with other monster hunters.  While entertaining, this episode adds little new to the previous case.  Too bad they brought all those experts and all that equipment for nothing.  Maybe next time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

UFO HUNTERS - Hist. - UFO Emergency

History Channel - Original Air Date: 11/5/08

The team looks into two historical cases of UFO encounters, one from 1994, another from 2000, which were investigated by police officers in Ohio and Illinois.  The show is filled with dispatcher audio tapes, and features interviews with cops and dispatchers, too.  In the Trumble County, Ohio case, Sgt. Molaro sees something that lit up the highway with bright lights, flew silently, and may have been cylindrical.  At the same time, his car stalled and his radio became inoperable.  When the object moved away, the car started on its own.  What did these officers and people see?  The show then recaps other similar encounters from history, and interviews a witness from 28 years earlier.  As a trucker, he watched a UFO with a bright beam of light move over his rig (as he hid underneath).  Both present and past witnesses describe the UFOs moving off at incridble speed.  In 2000, a similar incident took place near Lebanon, Highland, & Millstaff, Illinois.  A new video has come to light, purporting to show the UFO from that night, January 4th -- though the video is from much earlier in the evening (8pm) than the police sighting (4am).  The witness claims that the four lights appeared in various formations.  Expert Ted declares the 20-minute tape appears to be good quality and perhaps they can learn something from it--but they learn very little.  The show brings in a CGI sketch artist to interview the witnesses and create a simulation model -- but the two sketches are very different, though there is some overlap.  (The investigation crew suggests that it could be because of the sighting conditions.)  The team then investigates a similar incident, nine months earlier, in 1994 in Holland, Michigan -- again, four lights were seen in the sky.  Though the narrator says that multiple people were seeing the same object in these cases, the descriptions don't really match.  Radar signatures suggest a fast-moving object that breaks into three objects.  The radar operator seems to confirm details of the police sightings from the incident.  But no one has any idea what either the lights or radar hits could actually be.

And, of course, being a mythology show, UFO Hunters doesn't offer any non-alien possibilities.  As usual, the show's "investigations" consist of interviewing witnesses, compiling 911 tapes, doing recreations, and speculating about the alien nature of the craft, whatever they may have been.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008


History Channel - Original Air Date: November 5, 2008

Thousands of remote islands dot the western Pacific Ocean; do ancient dragon-like reptiles still live here?  Aboriginal cave paintings in Australia seem to show lizards larger than men.  Do these giant goanna (monitor) lizards -- Megalania -- exist today?  Cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy believes they lived as recently as 1890, when such a creature reportedly attacked Australian livestock.  Other sightings are more recent, and though scientists are skeptical, Gilroy has plaster casts of footprints.  He also claims to have found massive lizard like tracks in the forest in January 2008.  The tracks are 12-inches across, and MQ will have them analyzed by a reknowned paleontologist.  An MQ team tromps out into the outback forest to search for evidence of the beast.  Images of dragons are as old as mankind, but whether they were combinations of existing animals or, perhaps, based on fossils discovered by ancient peoples remains open to debate.  But could something like Megalania still live today, 40,000 years after the giants' supposed extinction?  How big a population would be needed to maintain the species?  Though monitors can reproduce by parthenogenesis (without male fertilization), it seems unlikely that could mantian the species for long (as -- oddly -- females cannot be created this way).

The komodo dragon is the world's largest monitor lizard, and it lives in Indonesia.  The largest, though, are still only ten feet long -- merely a third the size of Megalania.  One expert says dragons can mutate quickly, over the course of only three generations, so a giant mutation might be possible. In any case, the dragons can be dangerous to humans.  In 2007, an eight-year-old boy was attacked by a komodo dragon; he died before he could get medical attention.  Swedish divers also had to fight off a dragon in the same year.  A 20-footer would be much more dangerous.  And most komodos have deadly bacteria in their saliva.  Despite this, a team of researchers wrestles with several large komodos in the same way that Steve Erwin uset to wrestle crocodiles.  In the outback, camera traps are set to try and find the mythical creature.  But only ravens take the bait.  And the plaster print looks too symetrical for the paleontologist; a fake, perhaps?  As usual on MonsterQuest, "The chase goes on."

MONSTER QUEST: Jaws in Illinois

History Channel - Original Air Date: October 29, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the river, sharks swim upstream from the sea -- sometimes hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. In 2007, at Simmesport, LA, 160 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, fishermen caught a five-foot-long bull shark.  They caught a half dozen smaller sharks that same day, and swear a ten-footer got away.  Bull sharks can live in fresh water, unlike most of their kin, and they have been known to attack and kill people.  They are suspected of the series of killings in New Jersey at the turn of the 20th century. Monsterquest goes looking foor bull sharks in the inland waterways of Louisiana. They get some bites, but no sharks to show for it.  In the waters of the Saint Lawrence River, MQ divers go looking for Greenland sharks.  Diving at night, the team sees an apparent shark on the sonar, but can't get their cameras on it.  During the day, though, they find one, its skin traced with a spiderweb of scars.  Since Greenland sharks can live 200 years (!), the 12-toof shark has potentially had a long time to bet beaten up.  The dive confirms that huge sharks are living in the Saint Lawrence River, close to shore.  Greenland sharks are both scavenger and predator; are they a threat to humans?  A week after the show finishes shooting another 6-footer is caught in Louisiana.  Clearly the sharks are there, but whether this is a new phenominon or has gone unnoted previously, remains in question.

MONSTER QUEST: Monster Spiders

History Channel - Original Air Date: October 22, 2008

Do monster spiders up to 5 feet across live in the Amazon, the Congo, or other remote regions of the world?  In 1938, a British couple went to the Congo on a honeymoon safari.  They saw a 4-5 foot creature crossing the road that they at first thought was a big cat or monkey, but then they realized it was a huge spider.  In ancient times, giant sea scorpions got as large as crocodiles, but could huge arachnids still exist?  In the Amazon, a shaman describes a basketball-sized tarantula that could rear up to the height of a man.  In Iraq, US troops report gigantic camel spiders, and in they're know as Texas "deer killers."  How big can such known species grow?  US soldiers claim to have been attacked by cat-sized camel spiders (actually a solifugid).  The one photo of a supposed monster, though, turns out to be two creatures, not one -- though such solifugids have been reported to grow five inches cross.

Despite eyewitness reports, experts doubt that there is enough oxygen in the air today (21%) to support such monsters; air in the age of giant insects had 60% more oxygen.  Bugs have very poor circulatory systems and needed the richer oxygen content to grow to huge size.  In 2007, an enormous web the size of 2 football fields was found in a forest in Texas.  Whether it was created by many spiders working together or by an unknown giant?  Scientists remain unsure.  Field teams turn up no giants, though they find some big tarantulas.  While eyewitnesses can't be discounted, to date there is no solid evidence that monster spiders still exist.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Burlington Vortex Conference 2008

Just finished the BVC 2008.  Had a great time acting as videographer, AV-tech guy, and occasional MC and schedule maven.  The speakers were a combination of people I'd heard of and people I hadn't, but all of them turned in good performances during their lectures.  Here's a list with an over-brief description of what the speakers did:

Tecumseh Brown-Eagle - linguistics and migrations
Stanton Friedman - Roswell expert
Heidi Hollis - shadow people, meeting Jesus
Frank Joseph - Atlantis in Wisconsin, Ark of the Covenant
Bonnie Meyer - contactee, alien invasion
Don Schmidt - Roswell expert
Jerry E. Smith - weather control, Spear of Destiny
Sherry Strubb - Wisconsin ghosts
Dr. Claude Swanson - the science of the paranormal
Peter Moon - Montauk project

There were a couple of other expected guests who couldn't make it at the last minute.  All of the people listed did two, hour-long lectures except Sherry who gave one, and Stanton, my favorite of the bunch, who gave three.  The only problem was that there were almost too many speakers for the time alotted.  (Even after the drop-outs.)  This happened mostly because the local theater had demanded -- and got -- a continuous schedule before dropping out.  (Leaving us holding the bag.)  That resulted in a constant pressure to get people on and off the stage in an hour.

As AV guy and videographer, I was there for nearly every minute of the 22+ hours of lectures over the weekend.  I made some new friends and lined up some prospective guests for Uncanny Radio.

There was a "meet and mingle" dinner on Saturday night in what used to be an underground speakeasy, and there were tours of the local tunnels and the haunted woods (both of which I was too busy to attend; but I live here and will get to go some other time).

Friday was pretty chaotic, as those of us working and/or helping out tried to deal with mechanical gremlins and the disruption of having to hold the events in the cleared-out Mysteries Museum, rather than the planned theater.  (Which cancelled at the last moment.)  Those obstacles made things tricky, but by the next day, Saturday, things adjusted and the schedule ran more smoothly.  Several attendees, Russ and Diana in particular, came through big-time in helping solve the video/display problems.  (Thanks!)

The whole event seemed very well attended to me.  The lecture room was extremely busy, and sported a crowd of 30 to 60 (or more) at every event.  The Cafe, with food, sovenirs, and signing tables, also seemed packed much of the time.

I spoke to some fans of Uncanny Radio, but didn't sell any books -- probably because I was too darn busy running the lecture room.  I'm sure I would have done better, too, if the book I'm doing with Nick Redfern (and friends) hadn't gotten hung up in producton.  It's called Uncanny Encounters: Roswell.  Look for it soon.

People seemed happy, despite the initial chaos, and numerous attendees expressed to me their desire to do it again next year.  Certainly I hope to do it again.  With luck, Mary and the SciFi Cafe did well enough to justify another year.  As long as they didn't run themselves into debt the way the It Came from Lake Michigan film festival did, they should be fine.

Next step is to figure out a plan for mastering and releasing DVDs of the conference.  Should we release the "raw" footage of the whole thing, or try to edit it down into highlights? Right now, noe of us are sure.  If you've got an opinion, leave a comment.

And I hope to see you all at the Burlington Vortex Conference next year!