The Rise and Fall of Paranormal Publications
by Michael J. Hallowell

Years ago around ten, I reckon there was a boom in the market regarding UFO-related magazines. I recall mentioning this in a previous Across the Pond column, in fact.

But then, alas, it all went awry. One by one they fell; Enigma, Encounters, Quest, Beyond... until only a handful remained to beat the drum regarding UFOs and other bizarre phenomena.

So what went wrong?

When I was in my teens and that was a long time ago there was only one dedicated UFO magazine of any substance; the Flying Saucer Review. It wasn't available on newsstands, and could only be obtained on a subscription basis. This added an aura of mystery to the whole UFO enigma, for only dedicated enthusiasts would go to the bother of paying for it. Things changed with the advent of UFO Magazine, edited by the late Graham Birdsall. UFO Magazine was available in stores nationwide, and went a long way to popularising the subject.

Graham was a somewhat controversial figure. I only met him twice, and was impressed by his enthusiasm and dedication. Sadly he died of a brain haemorrhage in 2003. UFO Magazine ceased publication soon afterwards. It was truly missed, and the lack of Birdsall's presence could never be completely remedied.

The situation improved radically with the launch of UFO Data, edited by Russel Callaghan. Alas, this too ceased publication in 2009.

I think the downturn, which started in the mid-'00s was precipitated by nothing less than a loss of mystique. As newsstand publications became available in the early '90s, the general populace was able to investigate the UFO enigma without too much bother. Ufology became an open book, and, sad to say, the novelty wore off.

There is, I think, an interesting parallel between the rise and fall of fascination with ufology and the current obsession with ghosts and hauntings. There is currently a veritable mania with ghosts and hauntings the like of which the UK has never seen before. There are even satellite channels dedicated to the subject and a host of non paranormal-related magazines still carry columns and features on the preternatural on a regular basis.

But there are signs that the current interest in spooky stuff may be waning. As a writer who has penned ten books and over one thousand articles on the paranormal, I need to keep my finger on the pulse of publishing related to preternatural phenomena. My feeling is that we are on the verge of seeing the bottom fall out of the market once again. One reason for this is the recent tidal wave of poorly written books on hauntings which can be picked up at relatively low cost in stores. Some (although not all) are saturated with historical inaccuracies and show little evidence of having been properly proof-read. They find a market with those who have little real interest in studying the subject, but merely enjoy reading a few eerie stories to pass the time. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but I don't think it will be long before the market for such material goes into free-fall. I already know of several writers whose publication dates have been set back or even put on hold. Some publishers, I think, are sensing that ghosts and hauntings are no longer captivating the public's imagination the way they once did.

The situation with the UFO phenomenon is different, however, and it's certainly true to say that in that department all isn't lost. Recently I was told about the launch of a new publication specifically dedicated to the UFO enigma. The magazine, which has a number of top-of-the-tree contributors, will be hitting the newsstands soon. It's just possible that we are seeing a renaissance of interest in UFOs.

Ufology, I think, is emerging from a period of torpidity and may well provide a welcome alternative to those who are tiring of ghosts and phantasms. Only time will tell, of course, but the truth is that the UFO mystery presents mankind with a challenge of immeasurable proportions. Whether or not one accepts that we have been visited by extraterrestrials Greys, Reptoids, Nordics et al the very concept is riveting. Whether one is a believer or non-believer, we need to know.

I must confess, I'm baffled that the UFO puzzle isn't in the forefront of everyone's mind and not just "a good number". If there's even a 1 in 1,000,000 chance that alien life has visited our planet, the possibility is of such great magnitude that it needs to be investigated to a far greater degree that we have seen hitherto.

Or perhaps it has, and we simply haven't been told about it. In any event, it will be good to see UFO Matrix emerge in the not-too-distant future. Could Ufology be the New Black? I hope so....

Mike Hallowell, 2010

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