BoA:Audio examines one of our favorite topics over the years on the program: the history of UFO studies as we welcome Mark O’Connell, author of the amazing J. Allen Hynek biography The Close Encounters Man.
We kick things off with the standard bio / background on Mark O’Connell and find out how he wound up writing a biography on the pioneering UFO researcher.
Diving into the life of Hynek, we discuss how his perspective on the phenomenon constituted an evolution as ‘flying saucers’ quite literally fell into his lap and he did not quite grasp their enigmatic nature until he’d been looking at them for a few years and, even then, held back his opinions on the topic.
Various areas and aspects of Hynek’s life discussed during the conversation include his time at Project Blue Book, how the organization seemed to be holding back key cases, but no one is quite sure, and Hynek’s pushback against skeptics by chastising them for ridiculing witnesses.
We also cover Hynek’s role in the story of Sputnik and how it made him a national celebrity as far as scientists go as well as how his specific role as reassuring expert could have helped assuage the public about UFOs.
This leads to some talk about the ‘big bad’ of the book, Carl Sagan, and how the famed TV personality / scientist had a unique way of sidestepping the UFO issue in a rather underhanded fashion as well as how some of his pronouncements about space and research spending have proven to be rather foolish over time.
Additionally, we discuss life after Blue Book and how Hynek embraced some more esoteric ideas as well as the ‘Invisible College’ and if it still exists today.
We also find out whether Jacques Vallee was interviewed for the book and a rather hilarious response he had to The Close Encounters Man once it had been published.
And, of course, we also discuss the infamous ‘Swamp Gas’ case and how much of the criticism aimed at Hynek falls apart once all the facts about his investigation come to light.
Additionally, throughout the interview, we contrast Hynek’s era of Ufology with contemporary UFO studies, looking at how the field is dramatically different today and not at all in a good way.
A thoroughly fascinating edition of the program that is almost certain to enligten listeners with new information about the history of UFO studies with an author who has produced a truly precious piece of work with his Hynek biography, Mark O’Connell.
MP3 and Streaming Audio linkage here.