Watching the Skywatchers

Last week’s episode finished on a note of tongue-in-cheek anticipation of my possible demise by the hands of rabid ufologists. Although the conspiracy theorists among the readership may ponder whether or not this Blather was penned, so to speak, by an impostor, I would like to make it a clear that I emerged from the IUFOPRA (The Irish UFO and Paranormal Research Association) UFO Conference reasonably unscathed, despite the Irish coffees consumed during the latter part of the afternoon.

Just before 10a.m., as the proceedings were kicking off, I bumped into two of Blather’s old friends, Alan Sewell of the Irish Centre for UFO Studies, and his cohort, Eamonn Ansbro. Luckily enough, they don’t seem to have read ‘Blather’ at all, and as the new issue of Fortean Times hadn’t quite hit the shelves, they obviously hadn’t read my article (FT105:43) about their, er, exploits. These days, the boys are concentrating on the Curlieu Mountains in Roscommon, which I featured in Blather 1.22, ‘Passports for Aliens‘. I hypothesised that if something *did* happen in Roscommon, in May 96, it was probably military related. Ansbro, on the other hand, is now happily predicting the next extraterrestrial close encounter that the region will have, using his ‘Astronomical Theory’, and is preparing to launch into some good old fashioned. . . remote viewing. The ICUFOS is holding a conference from 2p.m. to 6p.m. on Saturday 15th November, in Wynn’s Hotel, Abbey St. Dublin 1, so more about them next week.

The IUFOPRA conference kicked off with what passed for an introduction by Chief Director Mr. Patrick Delaney, a matter of fact old gentleman who exuded the disquieting impression that perhaps he wasn’t too sure of where he was, geographically or socially. His speech left an indelible blank in my sleepy mind, which I can’t say about the worryingly long pauses between his sentences, which were almost lengthy enough for several of the 250 delegates to nip to the bar and back for a quick ‘hair of the dog’ without missing a word.

Karl Nally, Director of Public Relations & Membership, then took over the podium, and delivered a concise roundup of recent Irish UFO reports, probable causes etc., with a brief mention on their investigations into the ‘Roscommon Situation’, the online report of which doesn’t seem particularly in keeping with the objectivity presented by Mr. Nally. He expressed the IUFOPRA’s interest in entertaining all theories, including earthlight and tectonic strain theories, particularly regarding UFO reports from the Wicklow mountains. A point of note was his mention of a French Mirage fighter plane which had apparently entered Irish airspace during the month of September, 1997. All missives to governmental departments and the security forces elicited not a screed of a response, yet the French Embassy were only to delighted to furnish IUFOPRA with a full report detailing the flight permissions from the Irish government. I haven’t seen this document, but I would dearly like to. Call me a cynic, but I often wonder if it’s from civil service laziness that conspiracy theories are sometimes born.

Next up was William Holden, with his ‘Let the TRUTH be Known!’ agenda, which seemed to be a sales pitch for his book of the same name. A curious bird, is our Mr. H. Hailing from Georgia, U.S.A., and the son of a (Methodist) preacher man, he tells us that it is with ‘God’s Blessing’ that he is here with us, which immediately start setting of the alarm bells for *me* anyway – ufology and religion seem to mix rather too well. . .

As his weird and wonderful, if persuasive, snake-oil ‘insider’ account dragged on, I came to ponder on just how a USAF tech sergeant & aircraft mechanic (1962-1977) ended up as a steward on Air Force One, discussing UFOs with JFK, signing non-disclosure agreements so that he could attend treaty signings between the ‘aliens’ and NATO, and seeing U.S. flying saucer technology going through its test paces. He was also unfortunate enough to have been incarcerated as prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict, and was ‘abducted’ by ‘extraterrestrials’ in 1971, while fishing near Patrick AFB at Coco Beach, Florida. He also believes that every US underground base is connected by subterranean highways. Oh, and did I mention that the aliens want us to save the planet?

At lunchtime I was honestly surprised by the sight of a queue, all waiting to have their books signed by Mr. Holden. They couldn’t have swallowed all that noxious balderdash, could they? Should I feel guilty for possessing such ‘doubting Thomas’ tendancies?

After lunch, Russell Callaghan of UFO Magazine provided us with a ramble through famous UFO cine and video films, such as Gulf Breeze and Adamski’s offerings, discussing how they may – or may not – have been hoaxed. He also showed the recent Mexico City UFO, which I had previously only seen as a small Quicktime film. Callaghan quite rightly pointed out that that: a) the cameraman seemed to know *exactly* where the ‘saucer’ was going to go, tracking it’s movements with something close to precision, and b) apparently the film was shot from the office window of a video production company. It was enjoyable enough, if one ignored the fact that Mr. Callaghan appears unaware of Ireland’s recent independence from Britain (a mere 76 years).

He was followed by British ufology veteran Jenny Randles, who for me was the highlight of the day, a model of objectivity and lucidity. Jenny’s rule of thumb for the prospective investigator states that if you’re not discovering that 90% of your cases have relatively mundane explanations, you must be doing something wrong. This 90% can be made up of various explanations, including anomalous atmospheric or terrestrial phenomena, hoaxes and misidentification of normal aircraft. This may seem rather sceptical to some folk, by she is adamant that she has not dismissed the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH), but in true fortean fashion, she has not embraced it either. She focused on the by now infamous ‘Bentwaters Incident‘ or ‘Rendlesham Forest Incident‘ which took place in 1980, near a U.S. airbase in England. The most recent print issue of Magonia magazine has an excellent article concerning by Ms. Randles, which sheds some more light on the Rendlesham story, thanks to U.S. military documents which becamed public due to Freedom of Information laws. Top marks.

Graham Birdsall of UFO Magazine (who, incidentally, sponsored the entire event) was next on the podium, where he embarked on a meander through various conspiracy/flying saucer theories. It was all very interesting, and but while I’m impressed with Birdsall’s enthusiasm, he does seem to passionately preach the corporeity of an extraterrestrial/Masonic/Military Industrial Complex skeleton under every bed. Amongst numerous other things, he mentioned reports of black triangle formations entering and leaving water (cormorants?), in various parts of the world. He reckons that they could not be black budget aircraft – as there seems to be so many, and thus must be from somewhere other than the planet Earth. Later on, he shows us a 1960s U.S. government memo which claims the technological ability to build large undetectable subaqua installations, for military or industrial purposes. This apparently could explain the waterborne black triangles. . . or so he says. Interesting words, but to only to be consumed with large doses of salt (keep some water handy).

Many other points of interest came to light in the course of the day, especially during the concluding panel discussion/Q&A session, but they are too complicated to examine here.

Tune in next week, for more Irish UFO madness. . .

Dave (daev) Walsh

14th November 1997

Chief Bottle Washer at Blather
Writer, photographer, environmental campaigner and "known troublemaker" Dave Walsh is the founder of, described both as "possibly the most arrogant and depraved website to be found either side of the majestic Shannon River", and "the nicest website circulating in Ireland". Half Irishman, half-bicycle. He lives in southern Irish city of Barcelona.