“A human being is a part of the whole called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
I am standing alone at night on a wooden bridge that cuts over a marsh near the Credit River in Mississauga, Ontario, staring into the sky, looking for signs. The slow drone of cars on the overpass settles into the background buzz of an insect symphony. Toads sing sad love songs and a cacophony of crickets create an aural chaos. Clouds cling to the outer edge of darkness and dance under a scimitar moon while I look at Mars signaling to me in the distance. Mars appears to be rising slowly away from its ecliptic as if time is speeding up. Its light gets brighter in the night sky.
I scan the south-eastern sky where I can see true Mars in its much dimmer red sheath. The light far to the right of it has increased in brightness and is definitely moving towards me. Mystified as the light glows brighter and brighter, I watch a soft orange fireball in the sky. Everything is suddenly quiet, as if someone has thrown a switch on the world. There are no cars or insects, just an anxious silence. The light glows larger now, soundless, the size of a copper penny held at arm’s length. Its illumination increases. My heart rate rises and, as I watch, the orange ball rises directly above me and splits into two great glowing spheres of buttery mango. There is an electrical charge on my skin. I should not be seeing what I’m seeing. The silence is instantly cracked open by the sudden sound of hundreds of thousands of bees in the air. The buzzing is tremendous inside my head and comes in steady waves all around me. The two balls of light move further apart to reveal a tiny lemony spark in between them, strobing steady in time to the buzzing reverberations. My body vibrates with this unreal cacophony and the entire marshland in front of me is now illuminated and alive.
There are things dancing in the woods, strange aquatic shapes, like weird pulsing neon jellyfish that swim in and out of trees. They are all around me and I can no longer feel myself standing on the bridge. I am covered in amber light and am subtly stretching. I feel elastic. My fingers are not my fingers; they look thin and long while I float freely in the swirls of light. Above me is a miasma of multi-colored starfish, red ochre seahorses and glowing sea slugs that contort and buckle like a green and blue train. The night is a riot of color. A celestial siren call is singing in the centre of my skull. It is the strobing electrical ball that controls the heavy rhythm in my brain. It is ripples on my skin. My body throbs in time to it. It is saying it wants to speak with me. Over and over again, its buzz blares that it wants to speak to me. And, just as before, a switch is thrown and then there is nothing—total darkness. I am standing alone on the wooden bridge again and there is no sound. No strange sights. Just nothingness. I look to my left into the hollow dark tunnel of the forest path beyond the bridge. I look to my right and a thin alien figure in the shadows is coming towards me…
Dear Witness: Nobody Wants to Hear Your UFO Story!
We are storytellers by nature. There is something that burns deeply in the human experience that compels us to share our stories with those who are near to us. We share our dreams and visions, tales of life and death and survival. We recall our earliest experiences from the outer darkness of childhood when we saw things that we could not explain. All that moves us we want to share.
For tens of thousands of years in cave paintings all around the world we see hand prints: hands outlined by color in Argentina’s Cuevas de las Manos 31,000 years ago, mystical spirals painted inside of hands in the Three Rivers location in America and the stencils of mutilated hands in the French Pyrenees in the Grotte de Gargas. On every continent in the world there is a cave stained with human hands, a universal graffiti that in its most base interpretation is a simple symbol of self, as if to say, “Here is my hand on the wall. I was here once upon a time.”
The UFO experience is one that reaches out to us from the past to provide us with strange tales of horseless carts emerging from metal spheres touching down in farmers’ fields, or inexplicable airships anchoring themselves on roofs as they hang in the sky over towns, whose operators wore fur skins or elegant dresses and suits as if preparing for high tea. UFO stories arrive out of every culture in the shape of dragons, phoenixes, pearls, holy spirits, saints, giant tanks, honeycombed spider-webbed ships, glowing orbs, triangles with red lights, and football-field-sized platforms that block out whole chunks of the sky. All these indescribable events are translated by human tongues into stories that must be told. But these are events so far outside the boundaries of common social experience that it makes their telling both a compulsion and a fear to admit seeing such preposterous things.
Such is the traumatic nature of the UFO experiencer. The anomalous experience is a story desperately looking for a way to be told. The trauma survivor is plummeted into a well of abnormality and faced with the task of trying to integrate that which the wider waking world often mocks and sometimes hyper-validates for the sake of perpetuating various myths of ufology, specifically to prop-up the ETH, a theory long in need of a drastic overhaul, if not outright abandonment.
Investigatory approaches towards the UFO witness have been haphazard and, in some cases, quite harmful, leaving the witness as something both to exploit and consume. Yet it is the witness experience that is the primary catalyst for ufology. Their stories have since exploded into an orgy of squabbles over belief systems, and the wringing of hands over the imminence of government Disclosure. What started as a story about seeing something strange in the sky has since been manufactured into a mythology by the whole cabal of gladiators in the arena of ufology. A return to the core component of the narrative is necessary and it must be done with more imagination, ethics and standardization that respect what it means to undergo a traumatic experience. A more compassionate approach to the witness, as well as an appreciation of how the act of seeing works during high-strange experiences, may allow us to gather much more valuable information about how the UFO phenomenon intersects with human perception.
The physiological limits of human perception provide only a glimpse of reality; consequently, it is worth our while to parse out the full experience of the UFO witness—not just how to ameliorate the social rejection, but because the entire container of how the UFO experience is translated must be refashioned. How the UFO witness has been prepared for their individual experience must take priority in any investigation, especially as we learn more about neurobiology and how these scientific examinations define our perceptual experiences. It is imperative to look at the human body as both a memory archive and a perceptual tool translating highly unique external stimuli into words, thoughts and emotions.
Memory, culture and our sensory apparatus combine to create the narratives of consciousness that frame the UFO. In this way, it is both self-creationist muse and active agent of deconstruction. The witness must work to integrate this anomalous experience in the narrative of their own life. Those who come forth to speak must be prepared to have their status and very identity in society challenged. The investigator must seek a deeper understanding of how to approach these subjects as a means to augment our understanding and experience of reality, as well as engage in profound acts of self-discovery. The essence of witness experience is one of change and transformation. People are altered profoundly by the accidental close encounter case turning them into accidents of their former selves. Those who spend time with survivors of trauma know that the internalization of such major life events is profoundly destabilizing. When a police officer becomes witness they are most severely reviled and rejected by the community. How can the embodiment of rationality have possibly seen something so irrational? During the Portage County Ohio Police UFO chase on April 17, 1966, two sheriff’s deputies had a close sighting and chased the object into the neighbouring state of Pennsylvania at speeds of up to 100mph. The experience was as profound as the aftermath for all police involved, but especially destabilizing for officer Dale Spaur. His description is certainly alien in nature:
It started moving towards us, and this time he’s still looking straight ahead. As it came over the trees and I looked at Barney and he’s still watching the car. I mean the car in front of us. The thing kept getting brighter and the area started getting light. And I look at Barney and he’s still not saying anything and I told him to look over his shoulder. So, he did and he didn’t. He didn’t say nothing and he just stood there with his mouth open for a minute and as bright as it was and he looked down and I started looking down and I looked at my hands at both of them Barney, Barney are you……. and then it stopped, parked right over top of us. And the only sound in the whole area was just a hum and it just changed a little bit but it wasn’t anything screaming or real loud and, but you, sound like a transformer being loaded when you overload a transformer.
Dale Spaur stands at the centre of an incredible story. This Deputy Sheriff became the accidental witness whose life foundered into a series of tragedies. He was soon after charged with spousal abuse, left his job, moved to a motel room, lost weight and finally lost his family. He also claimed to see the UFO for months afterwards. He was completely destabilized from the event.
No one who is invested in the normal order wants to hear this kind of story. Who is a better UFO witness than the moral guardian who risks social status to tell what they saw? This voice should be the most convincing of them all and yet police are often publicly vilified and have their lives ruined for daring to claim they saw a UFO. The story they dare to tell stands against a number of social constructs and is part of a continuum of narratives across a history of people experiencing a reality society would prefer to call a vision.
The UFO phenomenon takes place at the known borders of society, at the edge of human experience, and still unfolds in ways akin to the experience of the seer or shaman, except, instead of honoring this vision or attempting to integrate it into our social structures, we have laughter, derision, and exclusion. Their stories generated processes that moved society forward by innovating traditional practices. Truly the UFO is a vital and viral image, an agent of change in society that is a disruptive influence and appears as an invitation. The close encounter experience is a sensory overload for both the individual and society. These are things the human creature is not meant to see, and yet they are seen.
While described as a shy phenomenon occurring only in marginal spaces, UFOs often appear with an incredible theatricality. Continued ...
” DISCOVERING OUR HUMANITY IN THE ALIEN OTHER by Robert Brandstetter” is an extract from his contribution to UFOs: Reframing the Debate edited by Robbie Graham.