Friday, May 27, 2005

Strange Skies... Indeed

One of the better books on the UFO phenomenon available at a reasonable price right now is Jerry Clark's Strange Skies: Pilot Encounters with UFOs (New York: Citadel Press Books, 2003).



Strange Skies is a measured and balanced book that takes time to expose clearly fraudulent cases, like Maury Island, and note those which have been explained, like the Mantell case, before moving on to the still unexplained cases which, as the title suggests, center on pilot sightings. Among those included by Clark are the RB-47 case (pp. 191 - 194), which would certainly rate on my personal Top 10 list of top cases ever, but which is largely unknown, even by some ufologists.

Clark's writing is crisp, engaging and to the point. Most important, he gets at the crux of the problem with UFO debunkers, like Phil Klass, who dismiss the phenomenon out of hand (as opposed to sceptics, who tend to proceed on a case by case basis). He echoes J. Allen Hynek (see "J. Allen Hynek: Not an Aplogist Ufologist), when he writes, at p. 216:

"If UFOs do not exist as genuine anomolies, one would expect that high strangeness reports of, for example, structured discs - the ostensible product of intelligent manufacture and control - would come overwhelmingly from unreliable - that is, naive, dishonest, or emotionally disturbed - witnesses... The opposite happens to be true. As this book, for but one example, has shown, there are plenty of reports that are both credible and interesting. An impressive number have come from military and civilian pilots, whose very survival depends on their being able to make sound assessments of what they are seeing in their airspace. In the early 1950s, a study conducted for Project Blue Book by the civilian Battelle Institute revealed that the best reports came from the most qualified observers, the poorest from the least qualified. Moreover, the best sightings were the most difficult to explain and the ones of the longest duration, affording observers a better chance of figuring out what they were or were not seeing. Battelle's analysis showed that reports of (in Blue Book's terminology) 'knowns' and 'unknowns' were fundamentally unalike. In other words, what we call unidentified flying objects are most unlikely to be identified flying objects in the waiting."

One does not have to accept that every case presented by Clark in Strange Skies is a genuine UFO (some may indeed be IFOs that remain unexplained) to understand that this is a phenomenon with excellent sightings by solid witnesses that demands, as a result, more serious study.

Clocking in at a user-friendly 254 pages and USD $16.95 price tag, Strange Skies: Pilot Encounters with UFOs is a must read for both the dedicated ufologist and the casual reader, and marks another positive contribution to the study of the UFO phenomenon from a man who has made more than his share over the years.

Paul Kimball

8 comments:

Dante Rosati said...

what happened, fish weren't biting?

Mac said...

Thanks for the recommendation/review. I've read a lot of UFO books, and I suspect some of my time could have been better spent reading Clark.

Paul Kimball said...

Dante:

Just leaving a day later.

Mac:

Clark is one of the more reasonable voices in modern ufology - always worth a read, even if you don't agree with him.

Paul

Dante Rosati said...

Paul-

have a good one!

Dante

Isaac Koi said...

Hi Paul,

I quite agree with you about the value of Jerome Clark's books, particularly given the richness of his references.

By the way, I mentioned his "Strange Skies" book a week or two ago on the "ufologyinuk" List in the context of an email about BUFORA's "Pilot Project". I've cut and paste the relevant email below:

The Bufora research page at the link below refers to one of their "16 major projects underway at the present time" (as at the date of that webpage, May 2002) as the "Pilots Project":
http://www.bufora.org.uk/RD/research_projects.htm

The same webpage includes the "Pilots Project" in a list of projects "actively underway, for which early-draft publication is expected".

Another webpage on the BUFORA website (link below) states that the the "Pilot's Project" involves "collating the world-wide reports of UFOs by a specialist group of trained observers - pilots":
http://www.bufora.org.uk/about_bufora.htm

Rather than references for any of the (many) famous UFO reports by pilots, I assume that BUFORA's research team would find it more useful if we provided references to existing projects to collate such reports. (As always, it is possible that BUFORA is well aware of all such other projects - but given our rather diverse interests and knowledge, we may be able to point to one or two catalogues or sources that BUFORA is not aware of).

Firstly, I think it is worth noting the numerous online articles and case listings available in relation to sightings by pilots at the webpage below: http://www.ufoevidence.org/topics/pilotsightings.htm


Secondly, there are several books that focus almost exclusively on reports by pilots (including one book by Jenny which concentrates on reports by British pilots). I have in mind the following books:

(1) Randles, Jenny “Something in the Air” (1998) generally, particularly the Introduction of the Hale hardback edition.

(2) Clark, Jerome “Strange Skies: Pilot Encounters with UFOs” (2003) generally, particularly at pages 108-136 (Chapter 6 generally), 177-213 (Chapter 8 generally) of the Citadel softcover edition.

(3) Smith, Willy “On Pilots and UFOs” (1997). (I haven't obtained this book yet, but it is referred to by Jerome Clark in his book, above).


Thirdly, the other existing catalogues of pilot sightings that I'm aware of are:

(1) AIRCAT -Richard Haines’ pilot-UFO report database

I assume that AIRCAT is incorporated now within the work of "NARCAP" (the "National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena" established in the USA late in 2000), which has a website at:
http://www.narcap.org/

AIRCAT discussed:
Discussed by Randles, Jenny in her “Something in the Air” (1998) at page 33 (in Chapter 3) of the Hale hardback edition.

Discussed by Susan Wright in her “UFO Headquarters” (1998) at page 60 (in Chapter 3), 146, 147 (in Chapter 8) of the St Martin’s Press softcover edition.

Discussed by Peter Sturrock in his “The UFO Enigma” (1999) at page 85 (in Chapter 11 generally) of the Warner Aspect hardback edition.

(2) Dominique Weinstein’s “Aircraft/UFO Encounters Catalogue”

One version of Weinstein's catalogue is available online at the link below:
http://www.project1947.com/acufoe.htm

Discussed by Susan Wright in her “UFO Headquarters” (1998) at page 147 (in Chapter 8) of the St Martin’s Press softcover edition.


Kind Regards,

Isaac Koi

RRRGroup said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RRRGroup said...

Isaac:

You are brilliantly prolific and fecund.

We (and I presume to speak for Paul here) appreciate your added presence in the blogosphere.

Rich Reynolds

Paul Kimball said...

Rich:

Speak away, at least in this case. Isaac is the kind of voice that ufology needs!

Paul