itís a while since I penned a column for IRAAP. To be
honest, itís been too long Ė about five or six years, if
my memory serves me correctly. And it might not be
serving me correctly, but that could be down to the fact
that I recently hit the big Five Zero and Iím starting
to feel my age. (Go onÖall together now, say, ďAh,
that thatís out of the way letís get down to business.
The world of paranormal research is still big business
here in the UK, and, once again, magazines and journals
covering every aspect of the Weird and the Wonderful are
starting to proliferate. Some are superb; others are, to
put it bluntly, execrable. Thatís life.
in a humdrum world that is becoming ever-increasingly
bogged down in a mire of money-oriented tedium. Watch
the news, and youíll see just how sad weíre becoming. I
turned on the TV the other day and saw a picture of poor
Paris Hilton. I switched channels and saw a picture of
the sheriff who jailed her. On another channel was
footage of the City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. Iím
pretty sure he was talking about Paris Hilton, too. I
switched to CNN (always a sign that Iím getting
increasingly desperate for something to watch) and saw a
woman. She smiled a sweet smile at the camera with her
artificially whitened teeth and started to talk about,
uhÖ poor little Paris. Enough already, said I. I watched
the Simpsons instead and found it infinitely more
entertaining. I havenít the slightest inkling to learn
more about Paris, her car, her mother or her hair. If
Iím in need of a cultural icon, give me Homer every
find scary is the publicís obsession with mind-numbing
trivia such as this. There are other stories out there
screaming for airtime and yet they struggle for the
oxygen of publicity. Last week I read about a woman in
Birmingham, England who saw a UFO. It passed within
eight feet of the roof of her car, terrifying both
driver and passenger. She estimated that the spherical
UFO was roughly the size of a football pitch and hummed
loudly. As it soared through the ether she saw what
looked like piping attached to the undercarriage.
definitely a machineĒ, she stated.
we have an incident in which a woman and her friend had
close contact with something beyond our ken. There is a
possibility that it was - please excuse the clichť Ė
something from another world. For all we know, this lady
may have had a brush with an alien presence; a presence
that had dislocated itself from another part of the
galaxy and relocated itself here by means we can only
rationally-minded person this should be big news. First
Contact with Them has to happen sometime, and probably
did many moons ago. Okay, so maybe what she had wasnít
First Contact with Them. Maybe it was the 5,387,486th
Contact with Them, but, seeing as we have yet to have
any official acknowledgement of ANY contact with Them it
should still be pretty big news, right?
exactly. You see, something of far greater cosmic
significance occurred at the same time: Paris Hilton got
banged up for violating her probation.
just me, or is this seriously spooky? Someone has a
Close Encounter with alien intelligence and no one needs
to know. Some B-List celeb spends a week in the slammer
for being a naughty girl and the whole world sits up and
takes notice. Methinks it should be the other way round,
but neither the US or the UK press covered the UFO
would be easy to find a scapegoat at this juncture in
the form of the US government and/or ours. Your
government played down the UFO story whilst ours played
up the Paris Hilton story to cover up the UFO story,
right? Baloney. The problem is worse than a government
cover-up; its called public apathy. Oh, Iím not saying
that the powers that be donít engage in cover-ups; of
course they do. Maybe sometimes they have good reason
to, but unless we know what it is theyíve covered up,
then we donít know whether they were right to cover it
up, do we? But then again, if theyíve covered it up well
we might never know anyway.
worked as a journalist for years, and I know that
nothing stops a reporter from covering a story that he
or she knows will sell. If any of my media colleagues
thinks for one moment that a UFO story will impress the
editor then theyíll do the story and Lord help anyone
who tries to get in their way. The truth is Ė and itís a
scary thought Ė that most people would rather hear about
poor little Paris, her hair, her breakfast and her
altercation with the judge.
stories do still get into the press here in the UK. Our
civil liberties are being eroded at a frightening rate,
but we still have a free press and media. The BBC is
slightly biased towards the left. ITV probably leans
ever-so-slightly to the right of centre. Sky News is the
most balanced and dispassionate of all the major news
channels and will always give you the facts without hype
newspapers are pretty free too. The Guardian is
distinctly left-leaning, the Daily Mail and the Daily
Express overtly right-leaning. Overall, left and right
have struck a balance. The government gets roasted
slowly over a spit in the press every day, which I enjoy
immensely; its always a sign of a free and healthy press
when the Prime Minister and his cronies get
metaphorically executed every day on the news.
... and yet we still donít get good coverage for UFO
stories or other paranormally-related events. Itís not
that the press canít print them; every now and then they
do, and none of my journalistic pals ever get a knock on
the door in the night for spilling the beans. Its simply
that the public only has so much interest in this sort
of material before they switch off and look for the
feature that reveals more juicy secrets about Paris, her
jail time, her mother, her car, her manicurist, etc.
etc. ad infinitum.
on this one; if the public start to demand more news
stories on the UFO phenomenon, Bigfoot and the spirits
of dead presidents who allegedly still walk the floors
of the White House, weíll get them and the government
wonít be able to stop them. In truth, Iím not sure it
would want to.
probably heard that hackneyed old phrase, ďBack by
public demandĒ; the key word here is demand. What you
see on TV and in the papers is what we, the public, have
collectively told the editors that we want. If the
papers were filled with stuff we didnít want, we
wouldnít buy the papers and theyíd go out of business.
TV channels that donít pander to public demand also go
bust. The government doesnít control the media; we do.
So, if we arenít happy, we have to tell the media and
slowly but surely things will change.
years ago in the UK there was a spate of new,
paranormally-related magazines hitting the news stands.
They caused a glut, and one by one they all fell by the
wayside. Well, not all; you could still buy the
Fortean Times and UFO Magazine. Then the guy
who ran UFO Magazine died and it ceased
this time a number of conspiracy theories arose. The
idea was that the government was systematically pulling
the plug on all these magazines to suppress the truth.
When four ceased publication within the space of a few
short months it did look suspicious, but the truth was
that there were simply too many magazines of the same
ilk to fill a niche market and, as some predicted, the
market eventually collapsed. Now the paranormal is
undergoing a renaissance once again, and a new litter of
magazines has been born. Maybe the bubble will burst yet
again, who knows. I hope not.
nearly a decade Iíve penned a column, Bizarre,
for the Shields Gazette. The Gazette is the UKís oldest
provincial newspaper. Every week I take my readers on a
jaunt across the landscape of the Spooky Zone, delving
into all kinds of mysteries including UFOs,
cryptozoology, hauntings etc. I believe it's now the
oldest paranormal column running in a provincial paper,
and it's extremely well read. Iíve covered conspiracy
theories, black helicopters, cattle mutilations et al,
and Iím still awaiting my visit from the Men in Black.
Maybe I was in the bath when they called.
itís good to be back. Next column Iíll try not to rant Ė
ďScoutís honourĒ, as we say here in England. Iíll bring
you some of the latest stories in the world of anomalous
phenomena from this side of the Pond.
and stop meÖ.
Mike Hallowell, 2007