100 Years Ago: Aimé Michel Was Born

michel-penseOn May 12, 1919, exactly one hundred years ago, Aimé Michel was born in the little village of Saint-Vincent-les-Fort (in the French Alps).

For thirty years he was one of the most influential ufology scholars. A graduate in philosophy, radio and television journalist and scientific popularizer, he was interested in “flying saucers” reports since the early years. In 1954 he published a book (“Lueurs sur les soucoupes volantes”, translated as “The Truth on Flying Saucers” in the USA) which caused a sensation because it was the first in France to cope with that subject in a rational and scientific way, just a few  months before that country was overwhelmed by the great autumn wave of UFO sightings and landings, which he himself had foreseen assuming a two-year cycle.

michel-fsslmThis flood of observations, unprecedented in Europe, built the core of his second book (“Mystérieux Objects Célestes”, 1958;  “Flying Saucers and the Straight Lline Mystery” in the USA) which was based on the discovery that UFO sightings seemed to take place along straight lines (“orthoteny”) changing along the days.

The possibility of applying a mathematical analysis to all the reports (with the consequence of stimulating the creation of the first computerized catalog), the attention centered on the landings and on what weren’t yet called “close encounters”, the formation around him of a large international network of correspondents (the “invisible college”) including scientists, technicians, intellectuals and military personnel privately but actively interested in the subject: all these were the important consequences of that book, which represented if not the birth at least the conception of the “scientific ufology”.

In the following years Michel focused on the implications and contradictions of the extraterrestrial hypothesis, of which he was always a supporter, through conceptual elaborations on the “problem of non-contact “, on the deceptive nature of the phenomenon (making us the equivalent of the mouse in the maze), finally coming to the conclusion of an intrinsic transcendence and unknowability of its causes and therefore to him leaving ufology in 1980.

meheust-michel-1981Beside UFOs (an acronym he did not like and which he preferred to replace with the French “MOC”), Michel was interested in and wrote on many other topics, from ethology to mysticism, from psychology to epistemology, and he was a driving force within the “fantastic realism”  around the Planète magazine.

An attempt to collect all his wide bibliography (and in particular his numerous articles) by a small group of enthusiasts is available on a specialized website dedicated to Aimé Michel (to whom the Italian Center for UFO Studies lent a hand by sending copy of its thick file of Michel’s UFO articles).

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Top picture: © Yves Bosson / Agence Martienne

In the lower photo: Aimé Michel in 1981 with writer and ufologist Bertrand Méheust.

Redemption for the “Book of the Damned”, 100 years later?

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In 1919, exactly 100 years ago, “The Book of the Damned” was published, in which the American writer Charles Fort started a line of studies and publications still alive and vital today.

Strange phenomena, unexplained events, anomalous experiences of all kinds (“damned” because not accepted by science) constituted the raw material for the tens of thousands of notes Fort culled from scientific journals as well as newspapers.

Such matters as ufology, ancient astronauts, cryptozoology have taken on a life of their own, while the broader “fortean phenomena” students continue to gather all kind of unusual and the mysterious news items (ice, frog and fish showers, spontaneous human combustion, out of place artifacts, findings of anachronistic objects…).

Others  have followed in his footsteps, continuing and expanding the collection work, with books, periodicals and associations. In this century anniversary, a new and original work comes out that has required years of study and verification of the sources. British EuroUfo member Martin Shough is the promoter and lead author, while our Belgian fellow Wim van Utrecht joined to lend a hand.

“Redemption of the Damned”  is an accurate “re-evaluation after one hundred years” of the work by Charles Fort, an often quoted, little read, even less understood author. For the first time the eyes and the skills of contemporary researchers have recovered the original sources of all the anomalous observations reported by Fort in the fields of astronomy, meteorology and atmospheric optics, subjecting them to a careful critical examination, correcting mistakes, contextualizing each case, analyzing everything in the light of current knowledge, methods and resources, in an attempt to find rational explanations, something that was possible in a large number of cases (with solutions that can sometimes shock the general public and even surprise specialists), while some well documented events remain unexplained.

The volume has 412 pages in large format (with 250 illustrations), is published in the USA by Anomalist Books with a foreword by Bob Rickard (founder in 1973 and long editor of “Fortean Times”). Needless to say, it cannot be missing from the personal library of every Fortean or student of unusual aerial phenomena.

2018 UFO reports in Europe rising again

Just as the  Italian Center for UFO Studies published its first data on the number of UFO sightings in 2018 from Italy (137), other European countries joined in.

In the last few years, national organizations within EuroUfo network have pooled their annual totals to get a general overview from the Old Continent.

The first coming forward was Jean-Marc Wattecamps for the COBEPS (Comité belge d’étude des phénomènes spatiaux) with data from Belgium French-speaking provinces (76 reports in 2018), soon echoed by Frederick Delaere (Belgisch UFO-meldpunt) to account for 179 sightings in the Flemish provinces, with a detailed report already available and downloadable, which bring the national total to 255 (a sharp increase over the previous year, which had instead seen a substantial decrease since 2016).

The number of reports collected by CENAP (Centrales Erforschungs-Netz außergewöhnlicher Himmels-Phänomene) from Germany is 326, as reported by Hansjürgen Kohler. A sharp rise as compared to 2017, but not yet returned to the level of previous years.

Björn Borg reported of 132 sightings collected in Finland by the Suomen Ufotutktijat (Finnish UFO Research Association), a middle ground between the 107 of the year 2017 and the 188 of 2015.

These are obviously provisional and partial data, and it is still early for a complete and detailed picture, which we will report as usual in the coming months. The summary for 2017 and previous years is available here.

CISU on Mars (15 years before InSight)

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Millions of TV viewers in front of the TV screens and on the Internet on November 26, 2018 to watch  InSight space probe landing on  planet Mars.

As usual, conspirators claimed that it was a NASA staging, that not only we never arrived on either Mars or the Moon, but even that the red planet is inhabited, with cities, seas and forests.

cisu-vt-su-marteOnly a few, however, knew that, without much clamor, the Italian Center for UFO Studies has already landed on Mars fifteen years ago, with an expedition started in 2003.

The initiative was by CISU Viterbo Section, which decided to join a NASA offer to include your name on a microchip meant to travel in space and land on that planet within the Rover module.

In June and July 2003, the Mars Exploration Rover mission launched two twin expeditions with Spirit and Opportunity rovers on board, both arrived onto the Martian ground in January 2004. From that moment on, CISU Viterbo Section has formally set foot on the planet from which, starting from 1893, millions of people all over the world have expected (and someone still expects) to see the Martians arrive on Earth.

In the meantime, the Italian Center for UFO Studies has been and remains the first (and only) Italian UFO organization to have landed on Mars  😉

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In the top photo: the Opportunity rover.
At the center: NASA certification that “CISU sez. Viterbo” was included among the names of people and associations joining the “Send Your Name to Mars” initiative.
Below:  Viterbo section of CISU (from left: Mauro Garberoli, Angelo Ferlicca, Andrea Bovo) at work.

UFOs above Parma: a new catalog

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On time for the 33rd National UFO Conference, held by CISU in Bologna on November 10th, the second edition of Cristian Vitali‘s “UFO su Parma” was published by UPIAR Publications.

The book, subtitled “Collection of UFO Reports in Parma province from 1947 to 2017″ is the updated and enlarged version of the 2015 result of Vitali’s three years work at collecting, filing and cataloguing all UFO case histories from his province.

vitali2015Compared to the first edition, this one brings from 445 to 502 sightings in and around Parma, with 34 new cases from the 2015-2017 periods and other 23 cases from previous years but not in the old catalog. Revisions and updates of 37 events were also added, in the typical “CISU style” for which the publication does not mark a project arrival but also the starting point for further investigations, in a continuing work in progress.

In addition to detailed description of each sighting, the volume contains statistical analysis and some in-depth investigations by the author, for a total of 220 pages. It can be ordered from Upiar Store website.

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In the below photo: Cristian Vitali presenting his provincial catalogue at CISU 30th National UFO Congress (Torino, 2015)

The 1978 Wave Becomes History – 33rd CISU conference in Bologna

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The 33rd edition of the annual National UFO Congress, organized by CISU, was held in Bologna on Saturday, November 10th, 2018.

As announced, the conference them was “The 1978 Wave Becomes History – Documents, Reflections and Research 40 Years Later than that Exceptional Year”. The congress was not open to the public but a closed-shop workshop for members of the Italian Center for UFO Studies and interested scholars, so to allow free and in-depth discussion.

33marzoGian Paolo Grassino opened the proceedings with an introduction entitled “Chronicle of an Unusual, Difficult, Unique Year” which consisted of a month-by-month overview of the main events (more relevant sightings, more clamorous UFO news, ufological activities, facts or society events) in Italy during 1978.

33tosellicoverA deliberately provocative paper by Paolo Toselli followed: “1978: Italy calls UFO – mass disinformation techniques?”. By cleverly  correlating the ambiguous role of some individuals (contactees, scientists, intellectuals, officials) in different moments, it raised the tongue-in-cheek question whether the wave was at least partly planned and built, for not admitted purposes. A lively discussion ensued.

33casiritagliThird speech was Edoardo Russo‘s “1978: the Invasion?”, closely centered on the figures & data of what was then and still remains the record year in Italy (as of number of sightings, landings, encounters of the third kind, articles and news in newspapers, TV services, published books). In view of the forty-year anniversary,  the Italian Center for UFO Studies completed an extensive work of updating the case histories archive and catalog in recent months, bringing from 1,800 to over 2,300 Italian sightings collected and filed for that year alone (equal to 28% of all reports up to that time). In parallel, the complete digitalization of the newsclipping archive was completed, which for that year has got to over 2,200 articles or cuttings. In addition to some monthly and weekly statistics from those two files, the trend of their time distributions was also compared, and the uniqueness of the Italian “1978 phenomenon” as compared to the rest of the world was highlighted.

Both at the end of the speech and on the following day (before CISU members annual general meeting) several suggestions were proposed for further research on/from these data. And that was precisely the intention and purpose of the conference: not a point of arrival but of departure.

In order to relieve the discussion, it was again Grassino’s turn to talk about “Close Encounters of the Third Kind: the Film”, with little known UFO background about the genesis and production of Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster, the role played by astronomer-ufologist Joseph Allen Hynek and the Italian side of both items (the film and Hynek’s  Italian journey in that spring of ’78, with its queue of public conferences, interviews in newspapers and TV, publication of his book).

Four intense hours, but a strong stimulus for all the participants. The presentation slides of the papers and the whole recording of the speeches are available to CISU members, so to share the conference with those who were not able to attend.

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Pre-UFOs over Italy: 3,400 Apparitions in Past Centuries

preufocat-2018PreUfoCat is the catalog of unusual aerial phenomena over the Italian peninsula all along the centuries before 1900, coordinated by Pietro Torre. Its third edition has just been published by Upiar Publications under the title “Strange Lights in Italian History”.

torrepietroThe first edition (November 2011) presented about a thousand case histories in 260 large-format pages. The second edition (exactly three years later) had doubled the total of cases collected and reported in full, with bibliographic sources and illustrations, coming to 684 pages for a  limited edition (for collectors only) on paper, while the catalogue went out in a digital DVD edition (with a 12-page introductory paper booklet).

This third edition, arriving almost four years after the second, has risen to over 3,400 case histories, so that the 1,010 paper pages have been broken into two volumes for the limited edition (once again for collectors only, in full color), paralleling the DVD edition.

Both versions (as well as previous editions) can be purchased as usual from the Upiar Store website.

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In the central picture: Pietro Torre presenting PreUfoCat first edition at the 26th CISU conference (Turin, 2011)
Below: comparing the three editions of PreUfoCat.

Two UFO books by Nico Sgarlato

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The aeronautical journalist Nico Sgarlato succeeded in a odd record:  two UFO books by him were published within just over a month, the first ones in an already long career as a writer on technical issues.

At the end of September, Delta Publishing  announced the release of a volume titled “UFO Fighters” (80 pages, hardcover), which consists of a collection of articles he Sgarlato wrote about UFO cases hisotires having pilots in flight as witnesses , especially in the magazine “Aerei” (Airplanes) . Among these are Kenneth Arnold, Thomas Mantell, George Gorman, Frederick Valentich and Giancarlo Cecconi (Italy) testimonies, Washington, Lakenheath, Teheran, Belgium aerial encounters etc., each with a wide range of illustrations and references to the aerotechnical aspects.

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In early November, the book entitled “Roswell, New Mexico” (and subtitled “Flying disks, airplanes and secret military projects: stories and facts”, 93 pages + xvi of pictures) has been published  by UPIAR Publications about the famous story of a flying saucer crashed in southwestern USA, in those very early days when the “flying saucers” saga began. Here, too, author’s attention is mostly centered on aeronautical and military history, with an eye to the role played by intelligence in this and in some other historical cases (Mantell, Kinross, Fu-Go Ballooons, Kecksburg).

 

Nico Sgarlato (born in 1944 in Albenga,sgarlatonico where he has always lived) is mostly known as editor or editor-in-chief of several specialized periodicals (eg. Aviation & Navy, Airplanes, Aerospace-month, Airplanes in History, Aeronautics & Defense), but only a few people know he also has a ufologist curriculum dating back to his younger years and the collaboration with “Clypeus” magazine  (1967). Since 1990 he’s been  a full member of the Italian Center for UFO Studies (CISU), writing articles in its journal “UFO”.

1978 UFO invasion on show in Alessandria

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Exactly forty years ago, in the autumn of 1978, the whole Italy was overwhelmed by a real “UFO psychosis”: thousands of lights sighted in the sky and hundreds of close encounters (often with traces and humanoid beings) spread all along the peninsula in a crescendo culminated at the end of December.

But that’snot all: daily newspapers, magazines and general mass media were overflown with articles on the UFO subject, movie theaters projected Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (and “Eyes from Behind the Stars”, too), “Atlas UFO Robot” cartoon conquered the young kids from TV screens.

In order to celebrate the forty years from ’78 and the continuing presence of UFOs and extraterrestrial spacecraft in our everyday life, the Italian Center for UFO Studies (CISU) presents the thematic exhibition “The famous invasion of Flying Saucers at Bassavilla”, at the Ethnographic Museum ” Once upon a time”  in Alessandria, with free admission every day from 9 to 12 and from 15.30 to 19 (closed Sunday morning), from September 7th to 30th.

Inauguration will be held at 6 pm on Friday,  September 7th. On Sunday, September 23, at 5 pm, there will be a conference by Danilo Arona and Paolo Toselli about “Alessandria and the UFOs: 45 years of investigations”.

For information: tel.+39.0131.400.30, e-mail museogambarina6@gmail.com, www.museodellagambarina.it

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In the above picture: exhibition poster by Franco Brambilla (artist of many “Urania” cover pages) showing Dome Square in Alessandria (the “Bassavilla” born from the mind of Danilo Arona)  “invaded” by spaceships and aliens, who look like intrigued by a classic Borsalino hat.

A book by GEIPAN Chairman, Xavier Passot

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Xavier Passot‘s book has now been  published, about his five years direction of GEIPAN (Groupe d’études et d’information sur les phénomènes aérospatiaux non identifiés), the UFO sightings collection and analysis office within French “Center National d’Etudes Spatiales” (CNES), the only non-military government UFO office active for over 40 years all over the world.

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We have often written about GEIPAN, and Mr. Passot himself was a guest and speaker at CISU national conference in Torino, in October 2017, where he presented us his experience in such unique position as an “official ufologist”.

The book is titled “J’ai vu un OVNI: Perceptions et réalités” (“I saw a UFO: Perceptions and Realities”, Cherche Midi Pub., 142 pages), with a foreword by sociologist Pierre Lagrange.

 

It is not the first book written by a former GEIPAN director: he was preceded by Jean-Jacques Velasco (“Ovnis: La science avance”, 1993; “Ovnis: L’évidence”, 2004 ) and Jacques Patenet (in the collective book “Phénomènes aérospatiaux non identifiés, un défi à la Science”, 2007). In fact each director of the GEPAN (later renamed SEPRA, finally GEIPAN) has given his own mark to that office, and it is therefore interesting to know each one’s perception “from within”.

Following on the footprints of his predecessor Jacques Patenet, Passot’s  years marked the phase of GEIPAN’s maximum openness both to the public (with the gradual publication of its whole archive of UFO reports) and to private ufologists (at least to those of scientific orientation), culminating with the Paris congress CAIPAN (Collecte et l’Analyze des Informations sur les Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non-identifiés) in July 2014.

The book is not addressed to ufologists but to a general public, it is written in simple language, with a pedagogical intent, and is divided into three parts.
The first section (“GEIPAN Files”) reports a dozen significant case histories investigated, also reporting the conclusions where it was possible to reach one.
In the second part (“Investigation Complements”) the author delves into the complexity of UFO investigation, by quickly reviewing conceptual components of the problem: what is (and can be seen) in the sky, the weight of cultural factors, the role of the witness at the heart of the investigation, the concept of evidence and the role of photographs, the role of the investigator.
The third section (“The UFO Challenge”) examines the most widespread interpretative hypotheses, the interaction with the tools of science, the relationship with the mass media, the aspects related to defense, the role of beliefs.
The book ends with a chapter of conclusions, a critical analysis of the “COMETA Report” and an annotated essential bibliography.

If Passot’s purpose was to resume his five years in chair of GEIPAN and report his personal experience in the UFO world, even if brief his text makes an effective synthesis of the UFO problem and of its study today.