Friday, March 16, 2018

The current state of Australian UFOlogy

Dear readers,

Today's post is being typed as I lounge by the backyard family swimming pool with a glass of Victorian Chardonnay at hand. It is a personal reflection of my recent review of several Australian UFO websites; over 60 Australian UFO Facebook pages; several Australian blogs belonging to individuals, and private email discussions with a number of selected high profile Australian 'researchers.'


No, not the android character from the Star Trek franchise, but pieces of information. Sightings of things in the Australian sky are reported to a large number of Internet sites. These range from overseas based organisations such as MUFON, to Peter Devonport's NUFORC, to local sites such as UFOR (NSW) Incorporated, and UFOR (Qld) Incorporated. Both Sydney and Perth observatories receive sightings, as do dozens of Facebook pages.

I can't find anyone who regularly monitors this vast area of data; collects it in one place and attempts to analyse it. The one exception to this statement is that for a period of 12 months, Melbourne based researcher Paul Dean and my co-blogger Keith Basterfield (on a long term break from UFO research at the moment) did just that. However, it is interesting to note that almost no Australian UFOlogists commented that they found it of any value to them!


Readers of my last few columns will be aware by now that the question of lack of interest in analysis of sightings by Australian UFO 'researchers' is a pet peeve of mine. Raw sightings contain valuable information about the UFO phenomenon. When was the last time you saw a table of numbers of reports versus time of day for Australian sightings? Or a breakdown of types of Australian sightings under the J Allen Hynek classification system, ie nocturnal lights, CE 1, CE2 etc? Or the number of witnesses per type of sighting? On the latter point, British UFOlogist Jenny Randles once found that the average number of witnesses to a nocturnal light sighting was around 2.4, whereas the average number of witnesses to a close encounter event was very close to 1.0. Telling us that most close encounters happen to single witnesses. 

All this kind of data analysis was being done by overseas researchers back in the 1960's -1990's. Why aren't Australian researchers doing this kind of data analysis today and publishing it?


Type in the words 'Australian UFO hotspots' into a search engine and you will find stories about Wycliffe Well in the Northern Territory. Despite all the media hype which abounds, there is a strange lack of detailed documentation on what has been seen. Like some of the places in the US who have capitalised on the UFO phenomenon, individuals at Wycliffe Well have become expert at marketing their locality as a hotspot.' The mass media loves this sort of 'here's the stories' ready made to publish, don't bother analysing what is said.'

Based on my Internet searches, the true Australian hotspots for UFOs were many years ago, in Northern New South Wales; North-Eastern Tasmania, and around the Clare valley in South Australia. But you will have to dig deep to find information on these today. In truth, today there are no UFO 'hotspots' in Australia, that aren't the creation of the media and certain Australian 'researchers' who seem to love the media attention it brings to them.

Social media

I think by now that readers will know my thoughts about the lack of value of most social media posts about the phenomenon. I am far from impressed with UFO pages on such outlets as Facebook.


What I do notice about discussions, particularly about Australian UFO videos on such places as Youtube is the amount of associated hype. There are screaming headlines with the video clip which do not reflect the content. I have quietly been querying people who post such Australian videos. Or should I say attempting to query them. I mainly get vague responses or very evasive responses when you politely ask an individual the most basic of questions such as, in what direction was your device pointing when you captured the images you show? My study of such videos has lead me to the belief that either the object featured is mundane, such as a helium party balloon, or a plastic bag, or that it is a computer generated image - ie a fake.


I found few people contributing anything beyond submitting vague videos and vague sightings. The few that are, such as Shane Ryan's research on the 1966 Westall incident (unfortunately never getting any closer to official Australian government confirmation as to the cause of the event;)  Paul Dean's work with official Australian government documents; Keith Basterfield's work shared in this blog (which does attempt to analyse Australian sightings in depth;) and Bill Chalker's work published on his blog (although most of his case analysis is of very old sightings, e.g. Tully back in 1966) stand out above the rest.


On the other hand, there are folks organising seminars or 'conferences' allowing individuals with an interest in the phenomenon to hear invited guest speakers from interstate or overseas. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to extend to providing an unbiased critique of the material which these speakers are presenting. Putting on seminars such as this is fine, but contribute little to our understanding of the phenomenon, as there is no effort made to sort 'the wheat from the chaff.' 

For example, Victorian UFO Action recently ran a meeting where witnesses to the 1966 Westall incident shared their personal stories. The witnesses who did this are to be congratulated for being willing to stand up in public and speak on this topic. Good material for a 30 second clip on television the day after. But VUFOA made no effort to critique these stories; to attempt to place them in the overall context of what has become a very complicated, multi-thread account of what at first seems to be a simple mass sighting. There are detailed, but contradictory accounts now from several people who claim to have been there that day. VUFOA made no attempt to tell people this. 

Too critical?

Am I being too critical? I don't think so. All the major Australian UFO groups on their websites state that they are investigating and researching the subject. The truth is that most are not. They are promoting the subject; marketing the subject to both individuals and the mass media; hyping up the topic, but are failing to conduct real research. 

This is the state of today's Australian UFOlogy.

In summary

As a science based researcher, I am very disappointed that Australian UFOlogy, in terms of research (and not based on popular appeal) has gone backwards since my last foray into the subject several years ago.

What is also disappointing is that this would be the same view obtained by any of my science based colleagues who would privately do the same research that I have been doing in recent weeks. You can undertsand why no Australian academic openly advertises any private interest they may have in the subject.

Is it possible to turn this state around? I don't believe so, the time of the marketed UFO phenomenon is with us to stay. All that science based researchers like myself can do, is to tell it like it is; and as Jacques Vallee once said, just go quietely about your own research. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Australian UFO conferences

Dear readers,

At long last we have slipped into Autumn here in Melbourne. The very hot days of summer are behind us, and we can look forward to cooler weather. I find Autumn a pleasant time, and my productivity usually increases the further away from summer we get, when the hot weather drains your thoughts away.

The recent family trip mentioned in my last post was very enjoyable. I had the opportunity of getting in some dark sky observing. Looking up at the sky from a country location reminds you of our place in the vast universe. You can't help but start to think about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. Not just life, but conscious intelligent life such as ourselves. Then, of course you get to thinking about the likelihood of any such intelligent life finding its way to the third planet of an average star in an average galaxy. Statistically this is extremely unlikely. This inevitably brought my thoughts back to the UFO phenomenon.


In my last few posts I have been exploring the contents of Australian UFO websites and Facebook pages. In this post I decided to use a browser and typed in the key words 'Australian UFO Conference.'

UFO conferences of the type once regularly held in Australia, by such organisations as ACUFOS and MUFON in Australia, and UFO Research (NSW) Incorporated are a thing of the past. No organised UFO group now brings together a group of say a dozen, well credentialed speakers from overseas and interstate, and post-conference publishes (either in print or electronic form) a proceedings of referenced papers by all the speakers.  I can understand why not, as these big conferences used to cost A$40,000 or so each to put on. That's a lot of money. 

The first thing which came up was the 'Cardwell UFO Festival.'  Cardwell is a small tropical coastal town in Far North Queensland with a population of 1,176. Someone there decided to start up an annual UFO Festival as a means of attracting tourists. If you read the details provided on the website, you will see that the festival is an updated version of a country fair, but with an extraterrestrial flavour. The UFO part is catered for by a couple of speakers; dress ups, kids activities and other ET flavoured functions. However, it is by no means a 'conference.' As I mentioned above, I would define a conference as a gathering which brings together a large number of speakers, usually around a central theme, for several days. Professional conferences always publish a proceedings of the papers presented by all the speakers. 

Close Encounters Conference

The only other entry which emerged in my browser search was a 'Close Encounters Conference' which does partly meet my definition of a conference (it doesn't seem to publish a conference proceedings.) The 2019 three day conference is being advertised on this website, together with a list of speakers, with the venue being Coffs Harbour, on the north coast of New South Wales. Unlike most conferences of the past it is not being held in a state capital city. 

The speakers listed are: Caroline Cory; James Bartley; Megan Heazlewood; Tim Zyphin; Mary Shaw; Kay McCullock; Cask J Thompson; Elektra Titania; and Pane Andov.

I chose two of the speakers at random and used the Internet to find out something about them. I was particularly interested to know their qualifications to be speaking on the UFO subject.

James Bartley

James maintains an 'official website' and the 'About James Bartley' area allowed me to find out that 'He specializes in research and investigation into Reptilian aliens and Military Abductions,' having carried out most of his research in the USA. The site goes on to state that 'James is an independent Historian with an emphasis on Military History, Intelligence/Counterintelligence and Special Operations.' 

What it didn't tell me was anything about him as a person; where he was born; his educational qualifications, or his work history. It gave me no indication as to why he was qualified to talk about the material he does.

Under the site's 'articles' tab we find articles about Native American spirits; monosodium glutamate; chronic disease; and how to protect yourself from radiation. What these have to do with the UFO or abduction phenomena isn't clear to me.

Bartley's own articles speak to such topics as 'the Grey Recyclable Container Agenda;' 'the Grey Borg Hive Agenda (weren't the Borg a fictional alien race in the fictional Star Trek franchise?); and mention of a law enforcement person whose genetics were altered; and finally, 'the training reptilians give to human abductees' (following the same line as US abduction researcher David Jacobs speaks of - although Jacob's methodology has been questioned of late.)

In short, the site's content is an exhaustive personal interpretation of Jame's perception of the UFO and abduction phenomena, and the interaction between a bunch of alien races and humanity.

I spent some time reading though articles and viewing a 2014 presentation which James gave in Sydney to make sure I was correctly understanding the content presented there. I came away feeling it was a bottomless morass of ill defined opinion; from dubious sources, all wrapped up in a fantasy land of unreality, with zero evidential base behind it.

This didn't give me much confidence to spend money to travel interstate to listen to James as a speaker.    

Kay McCullock

The next speaker runs an organisation titled ' Consciousness Development and Research Group (Australia). The website contains the following 'All information on this blog is copyright of C.D.R.G (Australia). Do not reproduce without prior consent.' Fair enough. So, I will paraphrase.

Amongst other things the group is about providing opportunities for individuals to contact aliens using certain protocols, some of which derive from the work of Dr Steven M Greer in the USA. Readers might be aware that Dr Greer's work has come under increasing criticism in recent times. The group facilitates 1-3 day duration CE-5 events. It also researches other subject such as demonology; cryptozoology; shamanism, and magic. 

My overall impression of the website and hence the group was of a lengthy collection of catch all 'new age' topics designed to offer something for everyone.

Unlike James Bartley's site, Kay did provide the information that her educational qualifications were 'Adv. Dip. Nat. BSc and Adv. Dip. Ap. Sc' which provides a scientific background. I checked with 'Google scholar' and did a general Internet search for professional/academic publications which Kay may have written but found nothing.

The site also states that she was associated, some years back with a number of Australian UFO groups, which provided her with insight into the UFO phenomenon. Elsewhere I found details of her personal ET experiences. 

In her energy and environmental medicine work, Kay charges for consultations, healing sessions, shamanic healing sessions, and spiritual mentoring.

During my general Internet search I did come across one odd item. This was in December 2017, where it is reported that Kay felt that an invisible predator was terrorising a guinea fowl.

Is it worth going to the conference?

I will leave it to my readers to conduct their own research to judge if the two speakers I randomly selected from the Close Encounters Conference 2019 event are representative of the other seven listed on the CEC website, and the value of spending money to travel to Coffs Harbour in New South Wales to hear them speak. Based on my random selection of two of the speakers I won't be going. 

Past conferences

Victorian UFO Action is a Victorian based group which has in recent times put on conferences (and provided videos of speakers' presentationsmore here)  VUFOA are to be congratulated on these efforts. A visit to their website reveals no current plans for further conferences, other than asking for ideas for speakers.

NEXUS Magazine was holding regular annual conferences  with a few of the talks being about the UFO phenomenon. There wasn't one in 2017, but the website refers to 'some exciting events being planned for 2018' although there is no mention of a conference. 


I welcome feedback on my blog posts via the blog comments section. 

The current state of Australian UFOlogy

Dear readers, Today's post is being typed as I lounge by the backyard family swimming pool with a glass of Victorian Chardonnay at han...