Friday, May 16, 2014

Are You Still Alive? UFO Deaths, Revisited

Do ufologists die in more strange circumstances than most people?

Roger K. Leir, D.P.M., 79, passed away on March 14, 2014. Leir was a podiatric surgeon and author, but he is best known for his work investigating alleged extraterrestrial implants.

As if stepping from an episode of The X-Files, Leir and his work gained worldwide attention due to his interests in the phenomenon of supposed alien implants and his alleged removal of several such objects from the bodies of abductees. He also investigated the 1996 Varginha, Brazil case and the 2007-2009 UFO sightings in Kumburgaz, Turkey. Leir became well-known in the field from his appearances on television documentaries and radio programs, as well as a speaker at multiple international conferences and symposiums.

Leir's cause of death is uncertain. Some have said he died from complications of shingles. According to Fortean author Christopher O’Brien, Leir was in the hospital on March 14, 2014, awaiting surgery on his own foot that had been injured in a 2010 automobile accident. Leir reportedly left to use the restroom, but never came out.

Due to Leir's age, he could be called part of the "old guard." Younger ufologists have died in recent years too. People die all the time, of course. But of late, there has been increased talk of ufologists being murdered or dying mysteriously.

John Mack and Budd Hopkins, UFO Congress awards ceremony; Photo Stuart Conway, 2002.

Another strange death remains that of Harvard psychiatrist, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens (1994), Dr. John E. Mack, who died on Monday, September 27, 2004, while in London to lecture. Mack was killed by a drunken driver heading west on Totteridge Lane. He was walking home alone, after a dinner with friends, when he was struck at 11:25 p.m. near the junction of Totteridge Lane and Longland Drive. He lost consciousness at the scene of the accident and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. The driver was arrested at the scene, and was later convicted and jailed for the offense, though there was very little media coverage of this. There are still those who believe that his death was suspicious as it appeared to be far too "convenient."

Mac Tonnies, 34, a rising intellectual presence in Fortean thought and the "Posthuman Blues" blogger, was found dead in his apartment on October 22, 2009. His book The Cryptoterrestrials (Anomalist Books, 2010), published after his death, extended the thoughts of John Keel's ultraterrestrials. Tonnies' death, allegedly, may have been tied to one of several causes, but certainly it was one surrounded by quiet confusing details. (Please refer to Mike Clelland's statement in the comment section below for more on this.)

RRR's "Death List"

Strangely, Mac's name appeared at the end of the "death list" of people that a group of youthful ufologists placed in their infamous posting of March 22, 2008, 19 months or so, before Tonnies' passing. The so-called "RRRGroup," in their "UFO PROVOCATEUR(S)" blog entry entitled "Death(s) will clean the UFO palate," listed the names of people whom they almost seemed to be wishing would die more quickly so the "future" of the field could dawn more quickly.

They wrote:
When ufology’s old-guard passes on – Dick Hall, Stan Friedman, Kevin Randall, John Schuessler, and even the 60ish Jerry Clark to name a few – taking hangers-on and sycophants with them (and you know who they are), the UFO palate will be cleansed.

That is, the mummified concepts of ufology will be washed away, and new paradigms will be allowed to flourish.

Standing in the wings already is a group of middle-agers who, while not particularly astute about the UFO history and inclined to be cavalier with their observations and characterizations of ufology and UFOs themselves, think they are the news faces of ufology, which is a mantle they hope to change.

Those people include Paul Kimball, Nick Redfern, Greg Bishop, and Mac Tonnies.

...Once the old-guard is gone, and the mid-lifers dismissed because of their foolishness, the young crop of UFO mavens’ newer ideas will hold sway with the public and media....
Blood mixed with ink. After the above was written, Richard H. Hall died on July 17, 2009. Mac Tonnies died on October 22, 2009. Stan Friedman, Kevin Randle, John Schuessler, and Jerry Clark are still alive.

Former Socorro, New Mexico police officer and close encounter eyewitness to one of the most well-known UFO cases in history, Lonnie Zamora died on November 2, 2009, of heart failure.

C. D. B. Bryan also died in 2009, and Wendelle Stevens in 2010. The Year of 2011 saw a number of important ufologists die, including Budd HopkinsIon Hobana, and several others.

Well-known 1896-1897 Airship historian and Fortean archivist Lou Farish, 74, passed away on January 26, 2012. Fortean friend, ufology humorist, and writer James W. Moseley, 81, died November 16, 2012. He passed away at a Key West, Florida, hospital, several months after being diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.
Ten days after Moseley died, on Monday, November 26, 2012, the RRRGroup posted again on this topic, in "Ufology is dying and ufologists with it."

The RRR blogger wrote:
The death of “prominent” UFO mavens this year -- with more to come by years end -- will decimate the moribund UFO topic....The aging UFO researchers are either ill or near-death, many divorced and struggling to maintain a UFO identity, but without cachet any longer or credibility.
One comment maker, Michael D Swords, first author of the UFO History Group's UFOs and Government, wrote in, leaving the following on November 28, 2012:

Hello. I woke up this morning and found that I was alive. This did not surprise me. I also found that Patrick Huyghe was putting together a UFO research panel for the Society for Scientific Exploration meeting in June, including Eddie Bullard, Mark Rodeghier, and myself. Both of them were alive and healthy when I checked.
When I returned to Kalamazoo last evening, there was my young friend, in his thirties, who is writing a comprehensive study of the Hillsdale-Dexter Swamp Gas fiasco. He was alive and healthy and gave me a ride home. A young man came from Western Michigan University the month of August --- writing a Master's thesis involving a UFO connection. An art show on campus was rather good and the artist was inspired by UFOs in her work.
I am surprised to discover that we are all dead or hospitalized, or that some people want us to be so they can move on.

The Death of Ufologists & June 24th

On June 24, 1908, Grover Cleveland, the 22nd & 24th US President (1885-89, 93-97), died at the age of 71. On June 30, 1908, the Tunguska event, a large aerial explosion of unknown origins, near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, Russia, occurred. The UFO wave of 1909 in New Zealand followed sightings in the Southland in June 1908. But no one was thinking about deaths and strange shapes in the skies in 1908.

The topic of the death of ufologists is a modern but old one in the field. In 1971, UFO author Otto Binder claimed that at least 137 UFO investigators had died under mysterious circumstances during the 1960s. Binder's 1971 Saga article, "Liquidation of the UFO Investigators," summarized his findings.
Otto Binder (1911-1975), as well as John Keel (1930-2009), noticed a number of “seemingly coincidental deaths in the UFO field on 24 June.” These included in 1964 Frank Scully, author of one of the first crashed-saucer books; British contactees Arthur Bryant and Richard Church in 1967; and Willy Ley in 1969. Frank Edwards, popular UFO author and radio personality in the 1950s, died a few hours before Bryant. News of the sudden death of Frank Edwards stunned delegates assembled for the 1967 Congress of Scientific Ufologists in New York City’s Hotel Commodore on June 24th.

I have continued to track June 24th UFO-related deaths since Binder's time.

One person that has been overlooked is Robert Charroux, the best-known pen-name of Robert Joseph Grugeau (born April 7, 1909 - died June 24, 1978). He was a French author known for his ancient astronaut theories and writings in other Fortean subjects. Charroux's books include: Treasures Of The World (1967); The Mysterious Unknown (1972); Forgotten Worlds: Scientific Secrets of The Ancients and Their Warning For Our Time (1973); The Mysterious Past (1974); Legacy Of The Gods (1974); The Mysteries Of The Andes (1977); Masters Of The World: Groundbreaking New Revelations About The Ancient Astronauts (1979); and One Hundred Thousand Years Of Man’s Unknown History (1981).

Others have died on June 24th. An early advocate of flying saucer research, Jackie Gleason, died June 24, 1987. UFO writer Frank Edwards’ publisher, the maverick Lyle Stuart, died of a heart attack on June 24, 2006.

On June 24, 2013, former rocket scientist, computer scientist, and author of After the Internet: Alien Intelligence (2000), James Martin, 79, was found floating dead in the waters off Agar's Island. Dr. Martin bought Agar’s Island in 1977 and made his home in Bermuda. The multi-millionaire kept a relatively low profile in Bermuda.

For ufologists this date is of critical importance. On June 24, 1947 the modern era of UFOs began with Kenneth Arnold’s dramatic sighting of “saucers” flying between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams in Washington. The primary significance of this particular date, St. John’s Day, cannot be diminished within ufology.

Nick Redfern: Close Encounters of the Fatal Kind
Author Nick Redfern has a new book about UFO-related deaths that is being released on June 23, 2014. While it might have been more appropriate for his publisher to use the pub date of June 24, it does seem to be an intriguing coincidence. 

On May 16th, I asked Redfern a few questions about this subject as it relates to the RRR Group's writings. Here are his responses, which I appreciate Nick sharing with me.


Twilight Language: Do you feel that the field of Ufology is positively or negatively impacted when older, mature researchers die?
Nick Redfern: I think the field of Ufology can only be impacted negatively when a respected researcher dies. In simple terms, that person - presuming they were still actively doing research - is no longer able to offer anything else of value to the subject, so that's why I view such a passing as a negative event. If their files and archives are preserved, that's very good, since it allows us to ensure what they left behind doesn't disappear. It's like with John Keel: we have his legacy, his works. That's great. But it would be even greater still if he was still writing. Of course, if the researcher was an outright hoaxer, liar or criminal, then the scene is better off without them.

Twilight Language: Younger ufologists die too. How do you feel the field is altered when someone like Mac Tonnies dies, when his output is hardly known yet?
Nick Redfern: When a younger UFO researcher dies, I think that - first and foremost - it's a tragedy for the family. No child should die before his or her parents. So, realizing someone is a human being before a UFO researcher - and the effects that an early death leaves behind for the family and friends - is the main and most important thing. But, in terms of research and written output, it's always unfortunate if a young researcher has a great deal of potential and dies before their time. Who knows what they might have done in the decades ahead? It could have been groundbreaking. But, in such cases, we'll never, ever know. You mention Mac Tonnies. Mac died in his mid-30s, and only had a couple of books published. Potentially, he could have been writing for another 40 years. I only ever met Mac once (for a weekend conference in Canada 7 or 8 years ago), but there's no doubt he was a man who had a lot to offer the field of Ufology and the wider issue of Forteana in general.

Twilight Language: Do you think young ufologists in the RRR Group truly want the "old guard" to depart so the RRR folks and younger UFO theorists will be heard more clearly?
Nick Redfern: No, I don't think anyone in the RRR actually wants any of the old guard to die. What I think they do want, and what I think is very important too, is to encourage the next generation of researchers, and the one after that. Not at the expense of the old guard, but to ensure the subject continues to get an injection of new blood, new energy, new thought processes, and new research. The major problem I have with much of the old guard is they are very much stuck in the ETH mode. Now, yes, that may well be the right path to follow. But, on the other hand, it may not. But, I think a lot of people, as they get older, they get into a comfortable, safe zone. And, when it comes to Ufology, I don't think research should be comfortable or safe, at all. It should be challenging, and filled with people not afraid to rock the boat and question accepted beliefs. That's why I think new blood is vital, and I think that's what the RRR people are saying.
Twilight Language: Thank you, Nick.

In 2008, I left the following comment at the RRR site. I haven't changed my mind too greatly on these final thoughts.

It seems incredible to really read these words: "...the young crop of UFO mavens’ newer ideas will hold sway with the public and media, because this new generation isn’t conscripted by former old-think about UFOs, presenting instead original thought and pursuit of the UFO mystery..."
Being a radical Fortean observer watching the coming and going of all matter of writers, researchers, and theorists in the last four decades, you have given me a good chuckle.
Every "new" generation sees themselves as having the "real" solutions or the next best outside-the-box suggestions. Of course, it will only be something you will reflect upon when the next generation after you, the new group of "Young Ones" start nibbling at your aging heels, [and] says something similar to you.

It's always been that way, and it will continue so into the future.


Mike Clelland! said...

I knew Mac Tonnies, and by all accounts his death was due to an undiagnosed heart ailment He was hospitalized a few months earlier because he fainted at work.

After his death made the rounds on the internet, there was a storm of speculation it might have been the secret government silencing him because of his UFO research. That doesn't play or as at all likely.

There is no evidence of either of foul play or suicide.

Nick Redfern said...

Yes, Mike is right.

Although I only met Mac once, we did speak occasionally on the phone.

In 2009, I interviewed Mac by phone for my "Contactees" book, which came out at the end of the year.

Either right before we started the interview or after we finished it (which, I think, was around Feb/March), Mac mentioned he had been having dizzy spells and had passed out a couple of times.

A very tragic death, but I don't think there's anything suspicious about it at all.

We're all human - even ufologists - and sometimes people die young.

I guess the difference is that if an athlete dies young it's assumed to be ill-health (as it often is). Or if a rock-star dies young it's due to drugs or booze (as it often is). But if it's someone in Ufology there's often a suspicion it's due to them."

That's why, in my forthcoming book, I have been very careful about which cases I have included and which I haven't.

For example, there's no doubt John Mack's death was an accident. It was at night, he was hit by a drunk driver, and here's the most important thing - he was crossing the road at the same time.

He was an American crossing the road in England - where we drive on the opposite side of the road.

My guess is he made a devastating mistake: his mind slipped and he looked for the oncoming traffic as he expected to see it coming in the US. It came, however, from the other direction and he ended up hit by a vehicle - compounded by the fact that the driver was driving drunk.

henry_allen said...

When older people die, it hardly seems strange. There was a wave of UFOlogists and conspiracy enthusiasts (had to be both) that died in their 40s and 50s often under strange circumstances. The number two publisher (after Disinformation)of books and stuff on these subjects (IllumiNet Press) was effectively put out of business with the mysterious death of Ron Bonds - my first publisher - Kerry Thornley and Jim Keith. OTOH, there's nothing mysterious about the death of my good friend Jim Moseley who was a chain smoker I never saw sober in the 45 years I knew him, who died at 81. There should be two lists - those ripwe in years who are simple heir to the failings of the flesh, and those who seemingly poked their noses in the wrong (or right!) stuff and died way too young and often under strange circumstances.

Joseph Capp said...

The RRR Group posted a phony photograph of the famous "Trent Photos" They knew it was fake and it indicated the disk was attached to a string but they posted it anyway. Why do they do this because they have a great deal of contempt for the common people - the UFO witnesses who don't have degrees.
RRR group doesn't have any boots on the ground like MUFON. They are arm chair quarterbacks who dissect UFO witnesses as if they were insects in a lab.
In my book, they are disgusting and not worthy of serious consideration by researchers on this subject.
Joseph Capp
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