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Mass UFO Show / Monster Mash Recap

This past weekend, October 12th & 13th, I was in attendance at the 2nd annual Mass UFO Show / Monster Mash in nearby Watertown, MA. (pics from the event) The big esoteric double bill lived up to and beyond my expectations, featuring a bevy of fine researchers from a variety of paranormal fields, an eclectic mix of local talent, some of whom are on the verge of bursting onto the national scene, and a healthy crowd of interested people.

The weekend was so entertaining that it has actually taken me a few days just to unwind and begin to get going on a recap of the festivities. 1000 apologies for the length of this report, but I wanted to make sure I didn't leave anything out.

Friday :: Mass UFO Show

Since the event's location was so close to BoA HQ, I got to the Hibernian Hall on Friday with a whopping two hours, and change, before the night's festivities kicked off. This was a nice treat, since it really gave me a chance to see how things came together and meet the speakers as the rolled in and began to set up for the weekend. Conference organizer John Horrigan not only allowed me unfettered access to the proceedings, he is also a BoA reader, listener, and supporter, so I was actually treated like "talent" as opposed to just your average attendee or even the slightly more prestigious "reporter". Yes, my friends, we've moved to the other side of the table.

Luckily, my early arrival allowed for me to hob nob with the speakers before things got hectic. I spent a good deal of time chatting up Loren Coleman, who was just amazingly cool. (More on that later). Chris Balzano was another early arrival, much to my relief. Balzano is sort of my de facto wing man on the local esoteric scene. Chris knows the personalities, backstories, cliques, feuds, and other assorted sub plots of the area's wide berth of researchers, so he kept me in-the-loop and introduced to many of the local players who were coming and going all weekend.

Along the way, I also managed to make a new friend in Matt Moniz. Matt's an interesting character, a Harvard educated chemist who looks like he just stepped off the set of a heavy metal video. He's had a hand in quite a few major esoteric stories over the years, including the RAF Bentwaters case, and serves as science advisor for the radio show "Spooky Southcoast". Despite Matt's lofty resume, he's pretty reserved, but when he did say something, it usually carried some serious weight to it. I was impressed with both his acumen and attitude and hope that our paths cross again in the future.

The way the conference was organized was a nice change of pace, as the UFO speakers were going on Friday and the Monster Mash speakers on Saturday, but a fair amount of the speakers were in attendance for both nights. Knowing this, I kind of hung back on the UFO folks, since I didn't want to be all up in their area before they presented. In turn, it also allowed me to spend a good deal of time with the Monster Mash folks like Coleman, Balzano, and Don Keating.

Loren and I were quickly united in our mutual fandom of the Boston Red Sox. And since Friday was the first game of the ALCS, we had much to discuss and kvetch about. Luckily for us, the conference had a swank "green room" which contained drinks, snacks, and a small black and white television which had the game on it. Throughout the weekend, Loren and I could be found sneaking into the green room, peering at the little TV to check out the score of the game, followed by some lighthearted ribbing of Cleveland Indians fan Don Keating.

Having spent quite a bit of time with Loren over the course of the weekend, I can safely say that he is, hands down, one of the coolest people I've ever had the chance to meet from the esoteric world. He is amazingly down to earth, especially when you consider his contributions to the field of cryptozoology. You'd never know he was an esoteric superstar from just chatting with him, as he has an infectious everyman quality that disarms even an ardent fanboy like myself. Also, he's simply a riot, causing me to laugh my ass off on more than one occasion. In a world where many big name personalities are less than pleasant when the proverbial "red light" is off, Loren Coleman is a breath of fresh air.

The first night's presentations ran the gamut of Ufological intrigue. Nancy Talbott kicked things off with a look at crop circles, Don Ledger looked at the Black Triangle phenomenon, Carl Feindt covered Unidentified Submerged Objects, and Chris Styles closed the evening with a thorough presentation on the Shag Harbour incident. I learned quite a bit from the various speakers, each of whom brought some strong material to their presentations.

I was very impressed at the level of depth to the topics discussed by Ledger and Feindt, as they both left the audience with a lot of avenues for future research. And, of course, Chris Styles proved that there is still lots to learn about the Shag Harbour incident, bringing out even more details to the case than we had covered on BoA : Audio. The best endorsement I could give to the speakers would be to say that they are exactly the kind of guests I enjoy interviewing: established and intensive researchers who produce serious and thorough work, but sometimes get overlooked in the sea of "personalities" that populate esoterica.

The intermission portion of the night's festivities was also not without its dramatics. Despite forcing my way behind one of the tables, conveniently located next to the green room, I still kind of felt like an interloper behind the scenes. That was until emcee and organizer John Horrigan started talking about the special guests in attendance. Then he started talking about BoA, which I thought was strange, then he called me up to the front of the audience to present me with a plaque for my "contribution to the international field of Ufology, paranormal research, and esoteric investigation". Yes ! My mother was right : I am plaque worthy.

Seriously, though, it was a humbling experience and one that left me honored, speechless, and more than a little embarrassed. In some ways, the recognition validated this strange journey I've been on the last few years and left me looking forward to whatever future adventures may be in store for me. It was a nice shot in the arm after what has been a long and difficult 2007. Of course, I followed that up by somehow offending a local reporter, to hilarious results, but that story is probably best left untold for now.

In short, the first night of the festivities was excellent. The presentations were outstanding and the speakers were easily accessible, not just for myself but for any attendee. The building was nicely cozy while also being spacious enough to give the event that "big time" feel to it. The attendance seemed strong and the audience was, thankfully, populated with mostly serious students of esoterica.

Saturday :: Mass Monster Mash

Saturday was a bit of a different animal, as the evening proceedings took on the cryptozoological / ghostly flavor of things in esoterica. The juxtaposition of the Monster Mash against the previous night's UFO show allowed for some interesting observations, in that there was a totally different feel to Saturday night. From the format all the way to the programs and even spreading into the audience, which saw more than a handful of new faces that weren't in attendance for the UFO Show, the event had all the makings of a real happening. One got the impression that this realm of esoterica is really alive in Massachusetts right now, as the energy in the room was off the charts.

Much like the previous evening, I spent a good deal of the pre-show time hanging out with the UFO presenters who were "off" that night, having already taken the stage on Friday. Carl Feindt, Don Ledger, and Chris Styles were all tremendously personable, whether it be talking shop or just shooting the breeze. Styles shared some great stories about his field work finding witnesses for the PEI UFO case and his battle with a debunker on live TV in Canada. He had so many compelling tales that it was just fun to sit back, listen, and absorb them.

As far as the formal night's events go, Loren Coleman kicked things off with a great presentation on the Dover Demon. Having heard countless interviews with him over the years, seeing a live presentation (complete with slides and audience interaction) was awesome. It was akin to finally seeing a band live after hearing their albums for years.

The key difference in format for the Monster Mash was evident after Loren finished up his presentation. Chris Styles took the stage to share a story with Loren about some kind of anomalous creature that was reported in conjunction with the Shag Harbour story. Then Loren and Chris Balzano had a mutual discussion on the Phantom Clown phenomenon, which segued into Balzano and Chris Pittman talking about the Bridgewater Triangle. Mixed in among all that were questions from the audience as well. It all had a really loose feel to it, like some kind of free form esoteric jazz.

Following all that was rising esoteric star Jeff Belanger, who had a sweet multimedia presentation and shared some awesome stories about his travels to haunted and creepy places, including some kind of mass tomb thing that was very chilling. Don Keating presented on the white Bigfoot, including showing some really intriguing video that may have captured the enigmatic beast, plus he had some great insight into the cryptozoology community in Ohio that you can really only get from someone who is really in the thick of it in that region. The formal presentations wrapped up with Karen Mossey showcasing some spooky EVPs.

During the downtime, I had a chance to briefly chat with Jeff Belanger, who is a pretty funny guy, despite the grim nature of his work. I also met the mysterious Chris Pittman, who was less mysterious than I'd been led to believe. Pittman is actually a pretty cool guy with a dry sense of humour that I found particularly amusing.

Additionally, I was surprised to see BoA columnist Tina Sena in attendance. Tina must have been suffering from Khyron syndrome, as she didn't talk to me until I finally went over to say hello after I'd recognized her voice during the Q & A session with Loren Coleman. Tina is a bright young lady and it was great to get to talk to her, albeit all too briefly. I look forward to hearing her perspective on the big night, as she was right in the thick of it, chatting up the speakers and raising thoughtful questions during the intermission.

Much to my surprise, again, I was awarded with another recognition plaque during Saturday's intermission. At that point, I was really getting embarrassed. I almost always try and stay in the background during events like these and, despite the flair on the BoA website, I'm a rather shy fellow and a lousy in-person self promoter, so I did my best red-faced wave upon receiving the plaque and quickly hide back in the shadows. That said, I was really thrilled by the encouragement I received from John, along with kind words of support from Loren Coleman and Chris Styles for my work on BoA : Audio.

In all, Saturday's night affair was another fine evening of paranormal discussion and socializing. When combining the presentations from both nights, the conference was an remarkable showcase of different esoteric genres. To the lay person on the street, they would have come away learning about crop circles, black triangles, USOs, UFO crashes, the Dover Demon, haunted places, the white Bigfoot, and EVPs. That's a seriously full plate of high strangeness. John Horrigan should be commended for the array of areas covered over the course of the two nights.

Other Notes from the Underground

We posted some pictures that I had taken during Friday night's event. If anything, the photos should prove that I am a terrible photo journalist, as my primary focus for pictures is having shots of me and the speakers. That said, they are pretty cool pics.

With regards to audio, I knew that there was also a responsibility to produce for the BoA : Audio listeners, so on Friday, I made quick work of getting some on-site interviews with Loren Coleman (talking about Dover Demon and the latest from the Copy Cat Effect world), Chris Balzano (discussing the Bridgewater Triangle and Phantom Clowns), and Don Keating (covering the White Bigfoot phenomenon). On Saturday, I sat down with Carl Feindt to discuss USOs, Don Ledger to talk about the black triangles and pilot UFO sightings, and Chris Styles to get the latest on Shag Harbour since our previous interview. These short cut interviews, along with others taped during the weekend, will be a part of a long-form BoA : Audio special to air sometime during Season III. I can't thank the six on-site interview guests enough, as they were all very gracious with their time and patience while we captured these interesting conversations.

On-site interviews have to be the toughest aspect of a weekend like this. Finding the right place that is both quiet and free of gawking spectators is always a challenge. We ended up taping Friday's interviews outside of the Hall, which was interesting, to say the least. On top of that, you never know who exactly you will be interviewing, or when, so coming up with questions is often impromptu and done while in the midst of actually doing the interview. It's a unique challenge, but one I enjoy from time to time.

Final Thoughts

I can't put over the work of John Horrigan enough when it comes to the creation and production of the overall conference. I have tremendous respect for his attention to detail, which was evident throughout both evenings, and the ambitious scope of the two day affair as a whole. The Mass UFO Show / Monster Mash was a revelation for the local esoteric scene and is something that has been sorely needed around here for a very long time. We have John Horrigan to thank for making it all a reality.

On that note, it was great to meet and befriend so many fine researchers from the various esoteric fields. Loren Coleman, Jeff Belanger, Don Keating, Carl Feindt, and Don Ecker were all first class individuals whom I look forward to working with in the future. Also, keep an eye on Chris Balzano. I have him pegged as one of the breakout stars of esoterica for 2008 and he ought to be making a big impact on the national stage in the not too distant future, as he has a number of books that will be rolling out throughout the next year. Chris is a terrific investigator and possess the perfect quality of level-headedness that's needed in this all too retarded, at times, field that is paranormal studies.

John has already announced plans for a third installment of the Mass UFO Show / Monster Mash for October 17th & 18th, 2008. I'm sure BoA will be in the house for next year's festivities and I suggest that those in the New England area who didn't make it to this year's event to circle your calendars now and do not miss this great weekend of fun and esoterica next year.

BoA : Audio, Season III premieres Saturday, 10.20.7, with Jim Marrs.