Ufology: A Dying Subject?
In a new article titled “Ufology entering its Dark Ages?” Rich Reynolds makes interesting observations on the current condition of Ufology and what the future may bring for the subject. As Rich notes, at his UFO Conjectures blog: “Several UFO enthusiasts (besides me) are speculating that ufology is kaput, down and out. That isn’t exactly the case but the impression that ufology is dead or dying is palpable. The ‘Roswell slides’ debacle has created a nadir in UFO interest, for UFO aficionados.”
Is Rich correct? Are we seeing the final years of Ufology? Or, perhaps, not extinction but a decline into ever-deepening obscurity? Well, let’s see. There’s no doubt that things have changed – and changed substantially – in Ufology (and related topics) in the past few years. Some of those changes have been good for the subject. Others have been far less so.
It’s important to note that when it comes to the world of the paranormal in general, trends and topics come and go. As does interest, and attendant research, into those same trends and topics. That has always been the case and probably always will be. Seances, table-rapping and ectoplasm were all the rage a century ago. The Bermuda Triangle was a big subject in the 1970s. Crop Circles, by the early 1990s, were major news. Today, none of those controversies attract the huge attention they once did.
Yes, the media still covers such mysteries, as does the field of paranormal research. But, things are definitely not what they were. Take the aforementioned Crop Circles as one example. I well remember the absolute hysteria (and that’s not an exaggeration) for Crop Circles that kicked off in the early 1990s in the UK and which continued throughout that decade.
The media (even the prime-time BBC News and the daily, nationwide newspapers) covered the subject to a large degree. People excitedly traveled to the hot-spots (primarily the English county of Wiltshire) in absolute droves. It was an amazing, fun, crazy time. But, like anything, the Crop Circle phenomenon began, peaked, and is now in decline. Soon, no doubt, it will be curled up in a rocking-chair in a nursing-home and drinking (and dribbling) warm milk.
Alien abduction is no longer the crowd-puller that it was in the 1980s and 1990s. The 2012 phenomenon: whatever happened to that? Same with the Contactee movement of the 1950s: it had its time and now it’s gone – at least, to a significant degree. So, where are we today? Let’s see.
There’s no doubt that “good” UFO sightings still occur; however, there’s also no doubt that things aren’t on the sheer scale they were decades ago. The Washington, D.C. overflights of 1952, the humanoid/”entity” wave of 1954, Betty and Barney Hill, Pascagoula 1973, the Belgian “Flying Triangle” wave, Rendlesham Forest, and the Cash-Landrum case are perfect examples of the huge diversity and frequency of fascinating cases from years long gone.
Yes, as I said, we still get very good cases today. The big difference, however, is that those days of ufological “waves” and “flaps” are nowhere near what they once were. And, as a result, I see something interesting happening: a shift in approach, to the point where many researchers no longer focus on the present and/or have hopes for the future, but obsess on the past.
As an example, over at my World of Whatever blog, the ten most popular of the currently 1004 posts include (a) one on the MJ12 documents (controversial papers on the events at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947); (b) one on the alleged UFO crash at Aztec, New Mexico in March 1948; (c) one on the Lonnie Zamora/Socorro UFO landing of 1964; and (d) no less than three articles on the fiasco known as “the Roswell Slides.” In other words, in terms of popularity at least, it’s all about the past. Okay, maybe that’s slightly generalizing, but you get the point.
So, to get back to Rich Reynolds’ article, I don’t personally think extinction is on the cards for Ufology. I do, however, think that the days of (a) roaming around a muddy field, photographing UFO “tripod landing marks,” of (b) sitting on a couch in someone’s home and interviewing them about the recent “Vehicle Interference” case they had; or of (c) crawling around on hands and knees in a Crop Circle for hours, may very well rapidly diminish.
I suspect we will see a decline in the presence of the active UFO researcher and a rise in the presence of the UFO historian – studying old files, dusty papers, the archives of long-dead researchers, and faded photos from the 1950s, and chiefly because they aren’t impressed by what they see today.
People change, situations change, lives change, and Ufology will change. I think there is definitely room for a ufological future. But, whether Ufology remains as a community, and as a “scene,” or if it becomes the domain of a few dozen people overflowing with nothing but tedious nostalgia and a yearning for the past, very much remains to be seen.
Ufology may well be entering its adult-diaper, slippers, and colostomy-bag stage, but there’s still some life left in the old geezer. For now…