The UFO Iconoclast(s)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Folie à beaucoup: The Roswell Psychosis

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Folie à beaucoup – communicated insanity, induced insanity…suggestibility plays a part…It happens that paranoid or paranoiac and rarely hypomanic patients not only can make those with whom they [associate] believe in the delusions, but they so infect them that [those contacted] continue to build on the delusions. [The Psychiatric Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Leland E. Hinsie, M.D. and Robert J. Campbell, M.D., Oxford University Press, London, 1970]

Roswell is an example of how a group of normal individuals can act in psychotic collusion, spurred by a bizarre incident that was instigated by one person, acting on a possible mercenary whim.

(The Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme is a current example of the rampant psychology underlying what we see as the prime motivator for the Roswell incident.)

Mac Brazel is reported to have sought the way to gather a reward for discovering a flying disk, which was generated by his findings of some somewhat strange debris on the farm where he was foreman, debris from a balloon or some other aerial mishap.

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The debris is a sidebar here. Whatever Mac Brazel found is irrelevant to our point. His “debris” caused him, perhaps, to try to obtain some needed money – he was a poor man by 1947 standards, as were many who farmed in the New Mexico area in which Roswell and Corona are located – from an offer of $3000 to anyone who could produce fragments of a flying disk.

(The source of that offer is not clear, and really has little to do with our hypothesis here. Brazel may have only wanted attention, or got caught up in a mild hysterical episode that afflicted the Proctor family with whom he was commiserating about the “stuff” he had found.)

Brazel’s foray into Roswell generated an interest by the Army base there, and Walter Haut, Jesse Marcel, Sr., and others were infected by the “flying disk” suggestion of Brazel or the media frenzy caused by the prior Arnold sighting and other flying saucer stories that were prevalent at the time.

Once the story was tamped down by saner voices (the Army’s Ramey and Blanchard) and news media lost interest, the people who were initially involved with the inadvertent scam went back to their humdrum lives; that is until Moore, Friedman, Berlitz, et al. resurrected the “incident” and cause an unrepression of the folie à beaucoup.

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Once the floodgates of the original flying disk scam were reopened, coupled with suggestibilities by the UFO “researchers,” the Roswell myth was born and has spread as folies do to others who came into contact with the original Roswell witnesses or who come into contact with those – the UFO researchers -- who’ve met with the original participants in Brazel’s ultimately unproductive scam.

Dee Proctor has been a prime participant in the original Brazel instigated brouhaha, dissembling the story in a post 1947 folie à deux. And other alleged Roswell witnesses have engaged in the folie or started a new folie for reasons of nefarious kind.

Our point is that Mac Brazel started, for whatever reason(s), inadvertent or otherwise, a cascading series of events that developed (and continues) under the psychiatric sobriquet of a folie à beaucoup.

Roswell may only be that, a psychotic episode that resonates with persons today as psychologically significant as it did back in 1947.

27 Comments:

  • The general silence between 1947 & 1978 of everyone associated with the case is indicative of the general disinterestedness, and indeed strongly suggests it was a 'non-event' all along. It would have stayed that way had not two fame-seeking and money-seeking merchants got onto the story decades later.

    As to whether Brazel and family sought (or had even heard of) the $3000 being offered, we shall never know. Unfortunately the press accounts do not tell us anything on this. No diary notes, no local photos, no recorded testimony, and, most of all, no hardware.

    As for 'Folie a beaucoup' that also is a debatable point.

    By Blogger cda, at Friday, April 01, 2011  

  • Sure, CDA, the "folie a beaucoup" is debatable; that's why I placed it online here.

    It's as reasonable an hypothesis as any.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 01, 2011  

  • It was for long times I waited a SOLID and UNDENIABLE evidence that RRRGroup are desinformant agents concerning the UFO phenomenom, probably working for dunno what Zecret Agency to dezinform uz...

    Today, April 2011, the first, that's done! Let this be written and then never forgotten.

    Gilles Colleena Thomaso Fernandez

    By Blogger Gilles. F., at Friday, April 01, 2011  

  • Gilles:

    We're disinformation agents without portfolio -- inadvertent it seems, or by intellectual accident.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 01, 2011  

  • Very interesting hypothesis, seems an original and respectable entry in the non-ET category to me. Nice psychology basis, and informative. Nice text sourced too, thanks for that.

    I'd only heard of "folie a deux" before.

    Context is interesting in this connect, actually. It was in popular published accounts of two brothers excellent psychedelic adventures (as it were) in the 1970's, down in the Amazon. One, now deceased, is a/the key figure, icon or guru/folk hero of popular subculture history decades (spotlighted here a while back, a Bragalia piece "LSD and UFOs" I believe).

    The interest angle to me being: I don't know those guys or what went on down there in the 1970's or how the "a deux" shoe fits.

    But since then, and up here in these parts away from the Amazon, on acquaintance and what I maybe do know or am sensible of --- the "beacoup" category is a sacre bleu bull's eye descrip (i.e. - explanation?) for what I've been noticing, and often referring to as, the "Terence McKenna effect."

    Its a subcultural phenomenon that's emerged around his name, to aggrandize or glorify, revere (like a cult figure). Tactics up the wazoo, a lot like WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW inserted JZ Knight into company with real experts, classic disinfo bit. Vallee, MESSENGERS OF DECEPTION, helped direct my attention to certain things -- like conspicuous mix of absurdity and confusion, as connects with thought control in cultism.

    "Folie a beaucoup" seems very relevant a lot of info or observations I've gathered over the years about this apparent case of folie a deux == extending into pop subculture history. Can any of the examples you cited even match this one, now that I'm putting deux and deux together (I ponder)?

    Interesting feature.

    By Blogger Brian Akers, at Friday, April 01, 2011  

  • Brian,

    Your putting deux and deux together gave me a chuckle.

    The problem with a strictly psychological angle is that one can do this with the Roswell group and a duo like Betty and Barney Hill and maybe Hickson and Parker, plus a few others, but those darn UFOs keep showing up, making a purely psychological explanation weak (as Jung's was).

    Context is very important, as you note.

    We need more theorizing, with some kind of experimental verification.

    Thanks for the comment(s), and I'll try to elaborate on the psychology of witness testimony or get Gilles Fernandez to chip in his deux cents worth.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 01, 2011  

  • Having chastised me for my alleged "obsession" with the RB47 case, it's most gratifying to see you continue to indulge in your actual obsession with Roswell. Why, I can almost hear the key unlocking to the door behind which the answers to the UFO Enigma are surely found!

    PK

    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Friday, April 01, 2011  

  • Well, Paul, my obsessions are part of my being -- I'm not a well person, mentally.

    But, you, you're normal (I think) and obsessive behavior by you doesn't make psychological sense.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 01, 2011  

  • You're not nuts, Rich. Well, no more than the rest of us. ;-)

    But if you want to retain any credibility with your critiques of ufology, you really need to stop with all of this Roswell stuff.

    PK

    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Friday, April 01, 2011  

  • Paul:

    Roswell is not anathema for me or anyone here.

    Something bizarre happened, as I keep noting -- something psychologically or sociologically bizarre, maybe even something extraterrestrial, although I lean against that view, somewhat.

    We input a lot of material here and at our other bogs and web-sites, thus the Roswell input is actually quite minuscule relatively speaking.

    I think you've actually mentioned RB47 a lot more than I've mentioned Roswell, including Anthony Bragalia's interesting posts.

    Credibility is not coin of the realm in ufology, as you know, so I don't adapt to that need.

    I would wish that you would put your incisive mind to rebutting Bragalia or me rather than carping about our insistence on creating more Roswell detritus.

    Just a friendly suggestion...

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, April 01, 2011  

  • You refer to Anthony Bragalia and Roswell. While he forcefully promotes the case as ET, he has not, as far as I know, promoted any other case as ET with as much vigour as this and has even labelled a number of other highly regarded cases as hoaxes. Strange attitude. Perhaps he can be persuaded to come forward and promote some other cases as strongly ET as he does Roswell. What about the Hills, the Brooklyn Bridge abduction, Washington radar, Flatwoods, Aztec, Ubatuba, Levelland, Rendlesham, even the RB-47, etc? What about LA 1942?

    Bragalia goes to great lengths with Roswell but seems strangely silent on these other popular cases. I await his news & views on these.

    By Blogger cda, at Saturday, April 02, 2011  

  • CDA:

    Bragalia takes a real researcher's approach to his favorite UFO event: Roswell.

    I am privy to his searches and extensive attempts to follow up on clues that keep popping up when he talks with Battelle staffers, military people, and some extant Roswell witnesses.

    He's thorough, as that's his business model.

    So getting him to be unfocussed is tough.

    But I'd like to see him take on some of the sightings you mention.

    Why hell, I'd like to see you and people like Paul Kimball take on some of the UFO events you cite.

    Listing sightings, propagandizing a few (RB47), isn't providing a workable (or debatable) theory of what they are.

    Bragalia, at least, opens the door to discussion and rebuttal, which is almost scientific in nature.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 02, 2011  

  • CDA-

    Why is this a “strange attitude?” I report on Roswell because of the sheer enormity of its implications. I expose hoaxes because they need to be exposed.

    And I have in fact reported on other UFO matters such as:

    Abductions; the NRO; Man-Made UFOs, the IPU; UFOs and States of Matter; UFOs and States of Consciousness; “Mirage Men,” Cryptoterrestrials; Nazi UFO Lies; Why ET has to be Humanoid, etc.

    So, I really do not understand your point at all. Further, I am currently investigating Rendlesham and I am encouraged by what may be a “breakthrough” confirmation of the ET nature of the event!

    AJB

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 02, 2011  

  • Actually, Rich, you should try going to my blog and putting "RB47" in the search engine, and then putting "Roswell" in yours, and check the comparative frequency of posts.

    You like Bragalia's material. Good for you - that's certainly your perogative. But in my opinion, it's just another symptom of everything that's wrong with UFO research - indeed, it's emblematic of the "ufology" you decry so often.

    I don't think you're nuts, but I am beginning to see a pattern of intellectual schizophrenia here.

    But it's your blog, so have at it.

    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Saturday, April 02, 2011  

  • Paul:

    You're a sensible guy.

    So you know I must like Anthony Bragalia and his "research" -- and he's a real researcher.

    And if push comes to shove, I'll stick with Tony all the way.

    I don't always agree with his conclusions or tendencies when it comes to Roswell, but I respect his acumen and stamina and I think his Roswell material may end up more productive than the promotion of the RB47 incident, which is more dead-end than Roswell will ever be.

    The vicissitudes of Roswell are, again, grist for many studies, about memory (or the failings thereof), deceit, military cover-ups (or malfeasance), even stupidity, and the over-arching aspect of Roswell that Gilles and CDA have: the mythology it has become.

    You don't see the nuances with which I am trying to deal when it comes to Roswell apparently, and I'm sorry for that.

    I don't seem to have made myself clear in a way that you comprehend.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 02, 2011  

  • The redundant short and sobering version is that show and tell conferences, a scrapbook of photographs, socio-political movements, unfounded confidence in government management of the paranormal, polemics over an unknown, endless debates over sixty year old typeface, selling books out of a trunk, is perhaps entertaining but it's simply not scientific research or even philosophically mature.

    The bedazzlement and bamboozled, the paranoiac and the Hollywood connection has replaced Dr McDonald, Dr Hynek, and even Dr Vallee has largely walked away, Aimee Michel is gone, while Dr Michio Kaku has brushed it off thinking we are ants. Even Phil Klass is missed by this writer.
    Even the two sides of Carl Sagan, "extraordinary proof" versus "Contact"..seems like a light from the descending dark. Even Robert Anton Wilson..where is his kind today?..all replaced by anti-intellectual, comparative comic books, my own included. Hopefully this is a down cycle of up. Time will tell.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Saturday, April 02, 2011  

  • Bruce,

    As usual, you are not folie a beaucoup but beaucoup savvy.

    Merci for the insightful comment.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, April 02, 2011  

  • I appreciate the non-ET approach to the Roswell story here, however I think this theory rests on a few assumptions that have always baffled me about the Roswell case. UFO researchers that take this point of view seem to take these assumptions for granted, essentially citing the unreliability of witness testimony as their proof:

    1) We have to assume that Brazel either could not tell a weather balloon from an alien craft, or he intentionally acted as if it was an alien craft (knowing full well it was a weather balloon).

    2) We have to also assume that the military official (can't recall his name right now) who gave the story to the Roswell newspaper originally ("govt recovers flying saucer") simply took Brazel's word for it (highly unlikely, considering the implications of such a discovery), or was ALSO unable to tell a weather balloon from an alien craft (once again, also unlikely if you expect a military official to know a bit more about what's in our skies). Although, I think we can safely assume that he wasn't intentionally lying to the press, although I could be wrong, and we could assume the same someone did for Brazel: that he was trying to get attention for some sort of monetary reward.

    These have always been sticking points for me on this event, and are the main parts of the story that really make me question if Roswell is simply misidentified balloon junk, or something more.

    By Blogger Armakan, at Tuesday, April 05, 2011  

  • Armakan:

    Brazel's life ended badly, in a way that supports, somewhat, the idea that he may have been looking for a way to get his hands on that elusive flying disk reward.

    I know that psychological mechanisms elude most visitors here, and the literature on psychic misadventures has not been read by most, if any at all, excluding Gilles Fernandez, of course.

    But once people read, even such non-psychological tomes as Minsky's The Society of Mind, the vicissitudes of mental aberrations come into focus, and help explain, for me at least, the underpinnings of many UFO tales.

    Roswell is an orchard of mental aberrations.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, April 05, 2011  

  • RR:

    Thanks for the reply, however I don't feel that really addresses my issues on this. I'm more likely to believe Brazel may have had some idea about getting UFO reward money. I've never been presented with any sort of reference or source for this idea however, so I tend to stand by the idea that this isn't the case, and it's an attempt at assassinating the character of a person rather than deal with his testimony. If you've got some sort of reliable source for that information I'm more than open to it.

    But, even if we are to take that assumption as truth, what about Marcel? (He is the one that originally reported the story to the papers, no?) Is he also prone to confabulations? I would say no, and I would also say he wouldn't just take some rancher's word that he had discovered a craft from another planet in his field. Therefore, I have to conclude Marcel was either reporting what his subordinates reported to him, or he probably went out to view the debris for himself. So, depending on where the information came from, we are to believe that the Roswell military is either full of incompetent hicks, unable to tell tinfoil and balsa wood from an alien craft, or they're also all prone to telling tall tales. Either way, I'd require some evidence for these assertions, especially on the military side of this.

    By Blogger Armakan, at Wednesday, April 06, 2011  

  • Armakan:

    I think you miss our purpose here.

    We play, usually, at devil's advocacy.

    I think, for instance, and have written as much, for a long time, in lots of places, that I think something bizarre happened at Roswell, and that I do not rule out an extraterrestrial accident.

    But I'm no staunch believer and I'm open to other possibilities, much as Nick Redfern is.

    I like Gilles Fernandez's mythology scenario, and as a psychologist, like him only less so, I think there's merit in the view that the Roswell tale may be an extrapolation of a mythical, folkloric kind.

    Brazel was a troubled man. Marcel, I think, became enamored of a legacy, one that was more than he was going to get.

    Some people want to be on television to prove they exist and they are meaningful beings thereby.

    The Roswell folks wouldn't be getting on TV, but they did have access to some fevered ufologists who made them think they were important (as CDA often notes), and therefore elaborated upon an event in which they were peripheral participants, if participatory at all.

    There are a number of possibilities, one being that the army was (as has been the case before with the military) stupid and mistake-prone.

    They may have botched the Brazel thrust, not knowing that he was out to scam someone who offered money for flying disk remains.

    Excitement about flying saucers was rampant in the Roswell time-frame, as I've noted elsewhere, as have others.

    In that atmosphere, anything was possible, even the idea that a flying disk crashed on the farm where Brazel worked.

    That's all...

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, April 06, 2011  

  • To Armakan:

    Where did you get the idea that Brazel thought he had "discovered a craft from another planet in his field"? Nowhere in the contemporary reports is there any such mention.

    Similarly why should Marcel take Brazel's word for it? Marcel went out there and collected some of the debris, but again where is the mention AT THE TIME that he ever thought it was from an ET craft?
    The man who informed the press was Walter Haut, not Marcel. And Haut never saw the debris at any time.

    As I have said repeatedly, the whole 'ET connection' story arose from the two investigators Moore & Friedman who started this particular ball rolling in 1979. Until then, nobody cared one iota about the stuff that was found. If I am wrong and certain people did care about it, please provide the evidence. There was a general & complete silence about any ET connection until 1979.

    As to whether Brazel knew about the prize offered for a genuine 'flying disc' (NOT an ET craft), we simply don't know the answer. Again, there is no way of knowing from the 1947 reports. All he really knew, or thought he knew, was that something strange fell on his ranch two or three weeks earlier. By the time he reported it to the sherriff, it was, in reality, old news.

    By Blogger cda, at Wednesday, April 06, 2011  

  • I am obviously not as versed on these stories as you two apparently are, so I've made a few mistakes and maybe a few assumptions I shouldn't have. My original sticking point, which I should have gotten to quicker, is the original newspaper article. I'm not trying to claim anyone was really interested after those until 1978. My apologies CDA, Brazel doesn't claim to have recovered a "craft from another planet," I only interpreted that was his guess after he discovered the debris. My recollection of his testimony is hazy, but if I recall correctly, the famous pieces of evidence found by him were the "memory metal" and the "girders" with weird hieroglyphic markings on them. I had thought that he then interpreted these findings by saying he felt it "must be from another world," although my recollection of that could be mistaken.

    I suppose I'm making connections that aren't necessarily there by equating "flying disc" with "ET craft," but surely that was the feeling of most people at the time: flying discs WERE ET craft. Maybe I'm completely incorrect here, but to me its essentially one in the same, and to argue a difference is really just semantics.

    Regardless, my main issue with this case is: why would the RAAF suddenly come out and report they had a flying saucer if in fact they did not? As CDA points out, by the time the article was written, the story was "old news." I assume he's basing this on this excerpt from the Roswell Daily Record:

    "Wilmot, who is one of the most respected and reliable citizens in town, kept the story to himself hoping that someone else would come out and tell about having seen one, but finally today decided that he would go ahead and tell about it. The announcement that the RAAF was in possession of one came only a few minutes after he decided to release the details of what he had seen."

    So Wilmot waited a while to tell his tale, then after he did moments later the RAAF said "we have a flying saucer." There was no need for this type of disclosure. As you've both pointed out, there was no public clamor over what actually happened - no one was interested until the late 70's. So why this explanation, and then the sudden retraction from a commanding officer the next day? It's an odd thing for the RAAF to come out and claim, and I have a hard time believing no one at that base was able to tell that a Mogul balloon was not the remnants of a crashed saucer, no matter HOW stupid they were.

    By Blogger Armakan, at Thursday, April 07, 2011  

  • Armakan:

    I'll let CDA answer you, as he's the expert Roswell debunker.

    But I did note, earlier here, that the press release saying the Army had a flying disk (or saucer) is intriguing.

    Why did the press release say that?

    Why, specifically...

    No one provided an answer.

    Why was "flying disk/saucer" mentioned at all?

    It's a point for inquiry, as you note.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, April 07, 2011  

  • Armakan:

    You have the Roswell timeline a bit skewed. None of the 'hieroglyphics' on the debris was mentioned in 1947. Neither was the 'memory metal'. Nor was there any association with something from another planet. ALL those concepts, and many others, date from 1979 and were first published in the Moore-Berlitz book in 1980.

    Nor do we have any reason whatever to suppose Brazel & Marcel's thinking was along the lines of a landed ET craft. This also dates solely from 1979.

    This is the whole reason Roswell is such a hotch-potch of data, ideas, memories and assumed 'facts'. It is purely anecdotal and always will be.

    But we have been through all this before and I do not want to overdo it. Wilmot's sighting on July 2? Is there any reason whatever to link it with debris found on a ranch 75 miles away nearly 3 weeks earlier? The press release we have also argued ad nauseam. Over-zealousness on Haut's part maybe?

    I do not claim to know all the answers. But I do know one sure thing - the ET connection only arose 32 years afterwards. In the intervening period it was, to the people involved, a 'non-event'.

    By Blogger cda, at Thursday, April 07, 2011  

  • cda:

    I'll agree that my facts and timeline could be off. Sadly, I've received most of my information from webpages and documentaries about Roswell, so there's no telling what facts that I'm aware of are even considered relevant or factual, and if they were misrepresented as occurring at the time of the incident.

    However, I think RR agrees with me on this one, that the most confusing part about this story is the RAAF captures flying saucer headline. I still don't see any good reason for this to occur unless they were accidentally telling the truth, or they were just incompetent. As you've pointed out, this has been argued ad nauseam so I won't try to reignite that debate.

    However, if anyone else comes back to this thread and reads this comment, I may end up starting a very long comment war: what are your (all readers) favorite and trusted sources for history into this subject, as well as developing/new information? I'm really looking to delve deeper into this, and not have to depend on cranks or History channel documentaries for my information.

    By Blogger David, at Thursday, April 14, 2011  

  • David:

    I do agree with you...why, indeed, did the Army use "flying disc" for its press release?

    Even if Haut did this on his own, why use that term?

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, April 14, 2011  

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