Is Fortean Nostalgia A Reality?

Paul_Exeter

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jan 9, 2012
Messages
1,043
Angus Brooks was alone (other than his dogs) lying down watching the clouds passing, and saw an unusual cross-shaped UFO - this at a time when there was a major news story about the "flying cross" seen by two policemen in Devon, and which was later shown to have been probably Venus. He was a 'credible', sober and sincere witness but the conditions seem right for him to have slipped into some sort of waking dream state.

By contrast the equally sober and credible Rev Browning was standing up at his dining room window, and the object was first pointed out by his wife (there was supposedly another independent witness in the Cressy area but the details are a bit vague). While there was a subsequent UFO 'flap' in the country, presumably partly due to reports of what Browning saw, I don't think there was anything obvious going on at the time to explain it. So misperception is possible, but I think in this case it would have more to do with two conscious observers reinforcing each other's initial error, rather than an altered state of consciousness.
The flying cross story from Devon is an intriguing one. Yes, Venus is a likely candidate but these coppers were often out on night patrol and would surely have become familiar with the night sky, especially as that part of Devon has very little light pollution, To my mind it could equally have been a NATO aircraft and possibly a tanker engaged in in-flight refuelling. Cornwall had an active US Airbase at that time (St Mawgan) and RAF Chivenor was also still open to the north. I suggest this as a similar sighting of a 'flying cross' in the sky above Exmouth some years later was demonstrated to be in-flight refuelling. Apparently the tankers have powerful lights that light up the fuselage for operational means (source: The Rising of the Moon by Jon Downes and Nigel Watson).
 

charliebrown

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Nov 2, 2020
Messages
2,495
Location
Earth
I was under the impression that cross shaped UFOs are the most rarest.

Not too many ever reported.
 

catseye

Old lady trouser-smell with yesterday's knickers
Joined
Feb 1, 2010
Messages
5,092
Location
York
In the old days, if you saw something amazing and Fortean, you had to 'tell the story' to your mum and dad (who likely didn't really listen) and your friends (who probably weren't that interested and took you off to play Daleks instead). Now, when something amazing and Fortean happens to you you take to the internet where you find fifteen thousand people who had something like that happen to them and it turned out to be something mundane, fifteen thousand people who want to tell 'creepy stories' that are obviously made up, another goodly proportion of people who turn the conversation onto UFOs even if your experience was nothing to do with UFOs and about two people who actually listen.
There's no more sitting alone in your bedroom ruminating on what happened in a wonderful isolation. No more cogitating and turning into dream material. No more hunting through the library for books that tangentially touch on what happened to you.
 

Paul_Exeter

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jan 9, 2012
Messages
1,043
It's an interesting point, particularly for the field of ufology. The phenomenon itself seems to have changed, with a particular point of divergence in the late 1970s.

As an example of a less well-known but typical, and I think in its own way intriguing, sighting of the type that just doesn't happen anymore, I'd take the sighting by Rev. Lionel Browning and his wife at Cressy, Tasmania in October 1960. If you take Browning's account at face value, they saw a large, cigar-shaped, vertically banded grey object accompanied by several smaller, shiny 'saucers' emerge from a rain cloud, move across and in front of a backdrop of distant hills (enabling rough distance / size estimates), and finally disappear in the clouds again. This was all in a time when it took commitment to make a report, by modern standards.

When was the last time you heard about a structured craft sighting of this type, with size estimates? A report by a vicar? A 'cloud cigar', or a 'saucer' for that matter? But why is this - are Anglican clergy simply more visually discriminating these days? Are they less likely to be interested in UFOs, or less likely to go to the press? Did the big 'motherships' get decommissioned, or did whatever was getting mistaken for them get retired? This change in what is being seen, or reported, is almost as interesting as the reports themselves.
The age of the nuts-and-bolts UFO in its many configurations that included egg shaped, circular and cigar shaped arrived with the Cold war and seems to have departed at around the end of it. This might be a huge coincidence, it might be that our alien overseers felt we were now safe or it might be that there were a lot more NATO craft in our skies. Certainly, one close encounter in the Scottish Bonnybridge flap was 'alien' at the time but with hindsight was evidently a military drone: it looked like one, moved like one and very definitely sounded like one (Malcolm Robinson UFO Case Files of Scotland)
 

Paul_Exeter

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jan 9, 2012
Messages
1,043
The age of the nuts-and-bolts UFO in its many configurations that included egg shaped, circular and cigar shaped arrived with the Cold war and seems to have departed at around the end of it. This might be a huge coincidence, it might be that our alien overseers felt we were now safe or it might be that there were a lot more NATO craft in our skies. Certainly, one close encounter in the Scottish Bonnybridge flap was 'alien' at the time but with hindsight was evidently a military drone: it looked like one, moved like one and very definitely sounded like one (Malcolm Robinson UFO Case Files of Scotland)
However, to reply to my own post, the age of seeing anomalous arial and landed objects has been with us throughout history. Such objects are always in advance of our own technology e.g. the airships, ghost rockets, saucers and know drone-like UAPs. They are also intrinsically linked to other Fortean phenomenon e.g. UFOs seen in conjunction with bigfoot, the Welsh Triangle spacemen being accompanied by poltergeist activity
 
Last edited:

Coal

The Ultimate Skepticus
Joined
Jun 27, 2015
Messages
8,845
However, to reply to my own post, the age of seeing anon=malous ariel and landed objects has been with us throughout history. Such objects are always in advance of our own technology e.g. the airships, ghost rockets, saucers and know drone-like UAPs. They are also intrinsically linked to other Fortean phenomenon e.g. UFOs seen in conjunction with bigfoot, the Welsh Triangle spacemen being accompanied by poltergeist activity
It's almost as if there is some common factor that links all these sightings.
 

MrRING

Android Futureman
Joined
Aug 7, 2002
Messages
5,457
I could see two things having an interesting bearing on this topic:

1. Most classic tales were reflected through the prism of classic journalism, but that whole approach journals communicate with has changed from what it once was, and as news is delivered in entirely different ways than it was in the past, it makes sense that how they cover the paranormal would become something else too.

2. The emotional state of reading of such amazing weirdness as a kid would be a different state than reading about ghosts or weird phenomenon as a (theoretically) mature adult. A suggestion to recapture a touch of awe would be to read a good classic ghost tale late at night on a Friday or Saturday night... maybe you'll get some if the buzz from the past again!
 

catseye

Old lady trouser-smell with yesterday's knickers
Joined
Feb 1, 2010
Messages
5,092
Location
York
Plus, looking back, everything takes on a kind of tinge that can't be reproduced. It's made up from incomplete understanding, that frisson of fear when you hear or read something completely new to you, that feeling that adults aren't telling you everything (and what they are keeping secret must be HUGE). Once you become an adult, understanding becomes more joined up. That big structure in the forest that nobody talks about isn't a mystery, it's a workers' hut and nobody talks about it because it's mundane and everyday. What is quotidian to adults is the pathway to misinterpretation by children, fuelled by half heard and incompletely understood phrases.
 

BS3

Abominable Showman
Joined
Sep 20, 2021
Messages
832
Plus, looking back, everything takes on a kind of tinge that can't be reproduced. It's made up from incomplete understanding, that frisson of fear when you hear or read something completely new to you, that feeling that adults aren't telling you everything (and what they are keeping secret must be HUGE). Once you become an adult, understanding becomes more joined up. That big structure in the forest that nobody talks about isn't a mystery, it's a workers' hut and nobody talks about it because it's mundane and everyday. What is quotidian to adults is the pathway to misinterpretation by children, fuelled by half heard and incompletely understood phrases.

I think a related point is that children to some extent innately trust their own senses - it would be hard to learn effectively if you didn't. The ideas of misperception, hallucination, or whatever - the staples of a sceptical approach- are something that takes time to develop. So - if an adult wrote that they saw something unusual, they most likely saw something unusual.

Secondly these stories have an incredible immediacy when read before a certain age. Growing up in a rural area I'm quite glad I never read about, for example, the Beast of Gevaudan as a child because I would probably have never left the house, despite understanding that the stories took place in 18th century France.
 

catseye

Old lady trouser-smell with yesterday's knickers
Joined
Feb 1, 2010
Messages
5,092
Location
York
I think a related point is that children to some extent innately trust their own senses - it would be hard to learn effectively if you didn't. The ideas of misperception, hallucination, or whatever - the staples of a sceptical approach- are something that takes time to develop. So - if an adult wrote that they saw something unusual, they most likely saw something unusual.

Secondly these stories have an incredible immediacy when read before a certain age. Growing up in a rural area I'm quite glad I never read about, for example, the Beast of Gevaudan as a child because I would probably have never left the house, despite understanding that the stories took place in 18th century France.
I have spoken elsewhere on this esteemed board about my innate dread of a lump in the ceiling in our living room, and my parent's 'refusal' to talk about it merely heightened my dread. They didn't see anything TO talk about, it was where the electricity cables came down (or went up, I'm never sure about house electrics), so completely boring, everyday and, to them, barely visible, unless one needed to paint the ceiling. To ME, though, it was some kind of arcane house invasion, and I used to avert my eyes from it with an awful sense of foreboding.

All because nobody would explain what it was or, if they did, I was too young to understand.
 

BS3

Abominable Showman
Joined
Sep 20, 2021
Messages
832
I have spoken elsewhere on this esteemed board about my innate dread of a lump in the ceiling in our living room, and my parent's 'refusal' to talk about it merely heightened my dread. They didn't see anything TO talk about, it was where the electricity cables came down (or went up, I'm never sure about house electrics), so completely boring, everyday and, to them, barely visible, unless one needed to paint the ceiling. To ME, though, it was some kind of arcane house invasion, and I used to avert my eyes from it with an awful sense of foreboding.

All because nobody would explain what it was or, if they did, I was too young to understand.

One of the most terror inducing things of my young childhood was about quarter of a mile down the road: a section of drain pipe that someone had used as a fence post. It was explained to me multiple times but didn't quite sink in.
 

Min Bannister

Possessed dog
Joined
Sep 5, 2003
Messages
5,204
I have spoken elsewhere on this esteemed board about my innate dread of a lump in the ceiling in our living room, and my parent's 'refusal' to talk about it merely heightened my dread. They didn't see anything TO talk about, it was where the electricity cables came down (or went up, I'm never sure about house electrics), so completely boring, everyday and, to them, barely visible, unless one needed to paint the ceiling. To ME, though, it was some kind of arcane house invasion, and I used to avert my eyes from it with an awful sense of foreboding.

All because nobody would explain what it was or, if they did, I was too young to understand.
There is definitely "something" about the hidden or invisible. I had a Dr Seuss book which had all kinds of rhyming creatures hiding in random places. The Gurtain behind the curtain and so on. Most of the creatures seemed quite friendly but some scared me more than others. The Shug? under the rug scared me most as it was IMO only visible as a big lump under the rug with no visible features. With the others you could at least see something. I think you could see the Gurtain's feet for example. I could look this book up online to check my memories are correct but I don't want to see the Shug under the rug..
 

catseye

Old lady trouser-smell with yesterday's knickers
Joined
Feb 1, 2010
Messages
5,092
Location
York
There is definitely "something" about the hidden or invisible. I had a Dr Seuss book which had all kinds of rhyming creatures hiding in random places. The Gurtain behind the curtain and so on. Most of the creatures seemed quite friendly but some scared me more than others. The Shug? under the rug scared me most as it was IMO only visible as a big lump under the rug with no visible features. With the others you could at least see something. I think you could see the Gurtain's feet for example. I could look this book up online to check my memories are correct but I don't want to see the Shug under the rug..
Like the scene in Crossroads (I think), that I saw by accident. My mum had left me downstairs to go and bathe my baby brother upstairs. Crossroads was on on the TV and there was a scene where a girl went into her room and there was a lump in her bedclothes. Then the lump moved. I was out of that room and up the stairs to my mum and brother in a flash.

I have never discovered the upshot of that scene, but maturity tells me it was probably an animal in her bed. But that moving unseen hump.... brrrrr.
 

Mythopoeika

I am a meat popsicle
Joined
Sep 18, 2001
Messages
47,553
Location
Inside a starship, watching puny humans from afar
There is definitely "something" about the hidden or invisible. I had a Dr Seuss book which had all kinds of rhyming creatures hiding in random places. The Gurtain behind the curtain and so on. Most of the creatures seemed quite friendly but some scared me more than others. The Shug? under the rug scared me most as it was IMO only visible as a big lump under the rug with no visible features. With the others you could at least see something. I think you could see the Gurtain's feet for example. I could look this book up online to check my memories are correct but I don't want to see the Shug under the rug..
The Vug under the rug.
 

Sharon Hill

Complicated biological machine
Joined
Dec 16, 2014
Messages
1,231
Location
Pennsylvania, USA
The only one that keeps coming to me is "fish falls". I feel that I have a fairly established and stable position on what I believe about most of the big Fortean subjects. However, I find myself unable to accept the supposed scientific rationalisation of fish falls as "a shoal of fish lifted by a tornado or waterspout, transported inland, and then dropped." This feels like science "explaining away" rather than "explaining" the phenomenon. Put another way: it sounds like a load of cod.

Unfortunately, fish falls do not have the glamour and excitement of a relict colony of plesiosaurs in a Scottish loch, or a carving on an ancient pyramid being clear evidence that our ancestors were visited by astronauts. Fish falls do not keep me awake at night like the thought of the Highgate Vampire did when I was teenager.
You'll want to pick up FT 420 coming soon. Fish falls on the cover, I hear. But, the coverage might be disappointing to some people who want the magic to continue.

I'm the kind of person who likes when the mystery is solved. I'm not crushed by debunking. However, it seems most of humanity prefers to believe in something exciting rather than to understand what might really be happening and face the mundanity of it all.
 

Zeke Newbold

Carbon based biped.
Joined
Apr 18, 2015
Messages
1,091
It's an interesting point, particularly for the field of ufology. The phenomenon itself seems to have changed, with a particular point of divergence in the late 1970s.

As an example of a less well-known but typical, and I think in its own way intriguing, sighting of the type that just doesn't happen anymore, I'd take the sighting by Rev. Lionel Browning and his wife at Cressy, Tasmania in October 1960. If you take Browning's account at face value, they saw a large, cigar-shaped, vertically banded grey object accompanied by several smaller, shiny 'saucers' emerge from a rain cloud, move across and in front of a backdrop of distant hills (enabling rough distance / size estimates), and finally disappear in the clouds again. This was all in a time when it took commitment to make a report, by modern standards.

When was the last time you heard about a structured craft sighting of this type, with size estimates? A report by a vicar? A 'cloud cigar', or a 'saucer' for that matter? But why is this - are Anglican clergy simply more visually discriminating these days? Are they less likely to be interested in UFOs, or less likely to go to the press? Did the big 'motherships' get decommissioned, or did whatever was getting mistaken for them get retired? This change in what is being seen, or reported, is almost as interesting as the reports themselves.
RE: less sightings by the clergy.

I think the change here is aa sociological one. Vicars still exist. Strange stuff in the sky still happens. No doubt vicars still see strange stuff in the skies. But the rub is that they now feel less confident in going to the press about it.

Why? Because the innate respect that their standing in life once endowed them with has since evaporated. Over the last forty odd years Britain has become, in certain respects anyway, a less deferential (as well as more secular) society.

Likewise, if you read journalistic write ups of UFO sightings and suchlike from the sixties and seventies they are crammed with witnesses whose profession is underscored as being that of a headmaster, colonel (retired or otherwise), doctor and housemaster: that is to say upper to middle class authority figures who would have commanded respect back in those less devolved days.

You only need to recall the fact that the best known shot of `Nessie` - the 1934 picture by Robert Kenneth Wilson (now widely understood to be a staged shot of a toy submarine) - was (and is) routinely referred to as `the Surgeon's photo` - with the author's profession being seen as the most significant aspect of it all.
 

Coal

The Ultimate Skepticus
Joined
Jun 27, 2015
Messages
8,845
You only need to recall the fact that the best known shot of `Nessie` - the 1934 picture by Robert Kenneth Wilson (now widely understood to be a staged shot of a toy submarine) - was (and is) routinely referred to as `the Surgeon's photo` - with the author's profession being seen as the most significant aspect of it all.
Less deferential to authority or finding out that authority confers no authenticity?
 

Mikefule

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Dec 9, 2009
Messages
982
Location
Lincolnshire UK
Less deferential to authority or finding out that authority confers no authenticity?
The photo was taken in 1934. The gynaecologist who supposedly took it refused to put his name to it. It therefore became known as "the surgeon's photograph". It was then widely accepted as genuine for approximately 60 years.

For those 60 years, there was no reason to connect the common name of the photo with our modern understanding that social or professional authority in one area does not automatically confer authority in other areas.

For much of those 60 years, it is likely that many people with only a passing interest might see the photo, hear the name that it was given, and assume that its supposed source made it more likely to be genuine.


As I understand it, the "surgeon" was not directly involved in taking the photo, but was the person who handed it in to the chemist for development, so there may be an element of deliberately using the surgeon's respectable status to add some credibility to part of the story.


Argument from status, or authority, or reputation, is still something that happens, and probably always will be. On the internet, we see memes attributing various worthy made up "quotes" to supposed authority figures. On the news, we see entertainers and sports stars "adding their weight" to political campaigns. There are several "trade certification bodies" that recommend tradesmen on the basis of irrelevant celebrity endorsement. The social media "influencer" is an extreme example: a self-appointed generally young and attractive person who is good in front of the camera, using nothing but their assumption of authority to promote one brand or another.

Deference to authority on matters to which that authority is irrelevant is a normal part of human behaviour. It is probably even helpful for social cohesion when dealing with matters of opinion, fashion, and social interaction. All that has changed is that we are now less deferential to the doctor, solicitor, magistrate, or MP, and more deferential to the entertainer, the influencer, and the sports person.

On matters of objective truth (Is this a genuine photograph of a cryptid? Is the Earth flat? Does this vaccine cause this syndrome?) then we ought to be considerably more careful about the relevance of the person's authority.

However, when "good faith" is at issue, there is some justification for considering what the person may be risking in terms of reputation. If an eminent and respectable person reports an anomalous experience, or claims to have taken a photo of an anomaly, the risk to their reputation is at least an indicator that they are likely to be sincere.

Unfortunately, it is too easy to go the other way, and dismiss the evidence of those who have nothing to lose, especially if they have something to gain. The factory worker who is having a day fishing alone and takes a photo of "Nessie" and gets his 15 minutes of fame in the local press may be unfairly seen as more likely to be making it up than someone of higher status with a reputation to risk. That is unfair.
 

BS3

Abominable Showman
Joined
Sep 20, 2021
Messages
832
With UFO sightings of a past era the 'deference to authority' phenomenon tended to be deployed in two ways: the witness was either a respectable professional who could never perpetrate a hoax; or the witness was a 'simple' farmer, manual labourer, etc, who (it was implied) lacked the intellectual sophistication to even have an interest in UFOs, let alone hoax one. The descriptions of Villas-Boas (a middle class man who ended up becoming a lawyer, but who happened to be working on a family farm at the time of his experience) are a case in point.
 

BS3

Abominable Showman
Joined
Sep 20, 2021
Messages
832
Wasn't there a study some time ago saying that people in some professions/occupations felt undervalued and were therefore more likely to invent stories of UFOs etc, to gain some attention?

One of the main factors connecting some of the people who report Fortean experiences of all kinds is 'status inconsistency'. An example is where an intelligent or educated person is doing an unskilled, dull or unrewarding job. The Irving family of the Dalby Spook case are a good example (or Villas Boas, for that matter).
 

Mikefule

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Dec 9, 2009
Messages
982
Location
Lincolnshire UK
Wasn't there a study some time ago saying that people in some professions/occupations felt undervalued and were therefore more likely to invent stories of UFOs etc, to gain some attention?
I have seen no such study. However, it is an interesting idea.

People may end up in jobs, but they choose professions. A profession generally requires qualifications, which in turn means study, and, before that, choosing the course. You might drift into factory work, sales, or customer service, but you set out to become a lawyer, doctor, or dentist.

It would be reasonable to assume that someone's desire for or aversion to attention would influence their choice of profession. An attention-seeking person who went into an attention-attracting profession but was unsuccessful might possibly be likely to attract attention by other means.

However, it is equally likely that a person who ended up in a dull repetitive low paid job might feel very unvalued and therefore seek attention by other means.

I would be very surprised if it were possible to do a reliable study correlating hoax reports of anomalies (UFOs, bigfoot, LNM, etc.) with profession. Firstly, you could only count an instance in your study once it was a proven rather than suspected hoax, secondly, the number of such hoaxes is small, and thirdly, the study would require the cooperation of proven hoaxers.
 

BS3

Abominable Showman
Joined
Sep 20, 2021
Messages
832
A long while back I read that statistical analysis of UFO 'flaps' showed that they were most likely to occur in formerly rural areas which had been recently suburbanised. I wonder if this is vaguely related in some way, for example by suggesting that witnesses might have a less secure attachment to their home area, or more change in their lives generally.
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
27,724
Location
Out of Bounds
A long while back I read that statistical analysis of UFO 'flaps' showed that they were most likely to occur in formerly rural areas which had been recently suburbanised. I wonder if this is vaguely related in some way, for example by suggesting that witnesses might have a less secure attachment to their home area, or more change in their lives generally.

It could have something to do with a newly arrived population of residents whose prior urban environs didn't afford them the same ability to see / watch the skies (particularly at night).
 
Joined
Apr 2, 2012
Messages
6,416
As a related point to "arguing from authority" and deferring to authority, be it relevant or not: there's a tendency for the "believer" types to argue that "I've been studying this for 'x' years" - as though this is some sort of position of authority. In some cases it might be, however, in the past it could have meant as little as looking at FT, Fate and other mags/zines and maybe the occasional book. Nowadays, it can mean as little as visiting a few dubious websites and FB pages.

I met a perfectly nice lady some years ago who believed in bigfoot and possibly in British bigfoot too, she was credulous to say the least and was very keen to inform me that she had been "studying this for 30 years!"
 
Last edited:
Top