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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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.

American UFO historian visits CISU headquarters

greg1Greg Eghigian is a historian of human sciences and a professor of Modern History at Pennsylvania State University, with a known interest in ufology.

For over a year he has been working on a research project on a  global history of the UFO subject with particular regard to the evolution of UFO sightings phenomenon and of its study.

gregrichieHis usual summer tour in the old continent was therefore an opportunity for a visit to Italy, with his colleague Richard Sherman (who’s teaching video making at the same university and is collaborating on the historiographical project with a documentary).

On June 11, Eghigian and Sherman arrived in Torino, specifically to meet and interview some CISU members and to visit Italian Center for UFO Studies  headquarters and archives (the second largest in Europe).

gregpter American researchers’ Italian day has been articulated in three different moments.
In a first part, the stories and personal evolution of a few CISU members (Paolo Toselli, Paolo Fiorino, Edoardo Russo) were collected as video interviews,  with an exchange of opinions on the past and future of ufology – which highlighted strong philosophical affinities.

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A second part  consisted of a general overview of the history of Italian ufology, followed by a guided tour of the CISU Archives, which amazed our visitors from overseas for the quantity and quality of the collected and organized documentation.

The meeting was also the starting point for identifying specific areas of collaboration, with particular regard to the historiographical aspects, which our association is particularly and actively interested in.

[In the pictures taken during the meeting at CISU registered office, from top to bottom: Richard Shermand  and Greg Eghigian preparing interviews; Eghigian talking with Edoardo Russo and Paolo Toselli; Eghigian interviewing Paolo Fiorino.]