J. Allen Hynek: Born in Chicago, 1910, coincident to Halley’s Comet. “I will die when Halley’s Comet returns,” believed the astronomer and sure enough, 76 years later, when Halley’s Comet returned in 1986, Hynek observed the periodic visitor in Arizona and died soon thereafter.
Mark Twain, also born under Halley’s Comet, predicted, “I came in with Halley’s Comet and I will go out with Halley’s Comet.” As with Hynek, so too was the foresight achieved when Twain died in 1910.
Honoring Hynek’s Rosicrucian beliefs, his mortal remains were not cremated until three days after he died.
Most of the above information comes from a biography published in 2017: The Close Encounters Man, by Mark O’Connell. Hynek is dubbed “the Close Encounters man” because he served as consultant for Steven Spielberg’s hit movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as well as having a brief cameo in that film. The concept of “close encounters of the third kind” was originated by Hynek: (1) close encounters of the first kind involve seeing a UFO; (2) close encounters of the second kind involve not just witnessing the event but also tangible residue, such as radioactivity; (3) close encounters of the third kind involve actual encounters of some type with “humanoids”.
Hynek’s hero was Johannes Kepler. Hynek, like Kepler, walked a thin line. Kepler needed the data held by Tycho Brahe. Hynek needed the data held by the U.S. Air Force. “Why don’t you raise some hell about Project Blue Book?” some of Hynek’s friends complained. They didn’t understand that for Hynek to access the secret Air Force data he had to make nice with them. Kepler, who detested Tycho Brahe, was caught in a similar situation.
Among the strange UFO cases discussed by O’Connell in his book is the 1952 UFO flap over Washington, DC. Yes, that’s right: waves of UFO sightings over our nation’s capital! It began July 19, 1952 when air traffic controllers picked up radar of fast moving objects. The readings were confirmed by nearby Andrews Air Force Base. About a week later, it happened again. Jet planes were scrambled to chase the intruders, but when approached the UFOs took off “at incredible speed.” For some odd reason, Project Blue Book was not ordered to investigate.
Elsewhere in the United States around this time radar defenses did not sufficiently exist. Filling the radar gap were citizen volunteers: The Ground Observer Corps (GOC). They watched the skies, on the lookout for any incoming Soviet missiles. On August 5, 1953, one of these ground observers reported a sighting to the Filter Center in Rapid City. An alert was sent to Ellsworth Air Force Base. Multiple qualified witnesses observed the event. An F-84 closed in on the UFO, which then sped away “at a high rate of speed.”
Where was Project Blue Book (PBB)? It has since been found that PBB was being used by the Air Force to debunk UFO reports.
When PBB issued its final report around 1969, “Science had spoken,” it seemed. UFOs were poppycock. However PBB forgot to tell the UFOs their conclusion, and they kept appearing.
A favorite strategy of Project Blue Book (PBB) was to stamp “troublesome cases” with “Unexplained.” Later the troublesome cases were filed as “Explained” because, after all, they had been explained as unexplained!
Branching off from the Ground Observer Corps were citizen volunteers who continued to watch the skies even when the radar defenses had been fully established. To rely on the government to stand watch would be SNAFU (Situation Normal: All Fu**ed Up). Thus were born various citizen groups such as MUFON, APRO, and CUFO.
J. Allen Hynek walked a thin line, not just between the Air Force and PBB but also between closed-minded “scientists” and lunatics in contact with the Venusians. Was there some kind of real government investigation hiding behind Project Blue Book? Or was it all just SNAFU?
(The Close Encounters Man, by Mark O’Connell. New York: HarperCollins, 2017.)