UFO Conjectures

Monday, July 22, 2013

The UFO Delusion?

Copyright 2013, InterAmerica, Inc.


Tim Hebert noted, in a recent comment here, that he tends to see psychology as a kind of explanation for UFO sightings and “encounters.” He also noted that French researcher Gilles Fernandez feels likewise, although I see Gilles as more interested in the social psychological aspect of “ufology” – especially the Roswell incident, which Gilles sees as a grand myth. (See the link to his book here….it’s available as a free download, in French but easily translatable.)

When one accesses psychiatric categories, one can find syndromes, symptoms, and illnesses that could explain many (maybe most) UFO reports.

From the Psychiatric Dictionary [Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, London, 1970], edited by Leland E. Hinsie, M.D. and Robert J. Campbell, M.D. one will find such terms and listings as deliria oneirica, dissociation, folie à deux (trois, quatre, cinq, et cetera), hysteria, traumatic event, transitoria mania, collective psychosis, symbolization, hypnagogic visions, and more; all of which may well be alluded to in an attempt to provide a psychological overlay to UFO sightings and/or events.

For me, there is a neurological element that also needs to be addressed when one is examining UFO reports and witnesses.

Jose Caravaca’s litany of UFO accounts is ripe for psychological or neurological evaluations.

(Señor Caravaca, however, adduces an “external agent” as responsible for such encounters as he has provided.)

Let’ assume that psychological quirks are, indeed, responsible for most , if not all, UFO sightings.

Where does that take us?

We’d have to eliminate all photographs and videos of strange, craft-like bjects in the skies (and sometimes on the ground) as fake or contrived – hoaxes.

That’s a possibility, surely, but not a probability. Not everyone who has snapped a photo of a strange things flying overhead is duplicitous. The odds for total photographic disingenuousness are too great to be reasonable….a possibility perhaps, but not a probability.

Then what about radar blips, as Paul Kimball’s touted –as-authentic UFO event, the 1957 RB-47 encounter or the 1952 Washington D.C. intrusions?

One could ascribe a kind of mass hysteria for what was being seen on radar scopes, and one could make a case for such, since no one has a photograph of the radar scopes images in either account.

But that would be stretch, a possibility, of course, but not a probability.

Ken Arnold’s iconic sighting can be explained as psychologically induced ,and it has been.

But was Mr. Arnold really in a state of psychological disarray when he spotted his nine flying objects. His demeanor afterward, reporting his observation, indicates he was not, but psychological missteps can be subtle and not easily recognized by laymen or even many professionals.

The (in)famous UFO events – The Hill “abduction,” the Pascagoula “kidnapping,” the Travis Walton “foray” all can be attributed, easily, to psychological maladjustments, but I think there is more to them than that; something more exotic at work.

Old accounts, the Gorman dog-fight, the Coyne Ohio episode, the Iranian jet pursuit, and others, can be provided psychological rationales, and I’m okay with that.

But all UFO accounts, even those subject to Carl Jung’s brilliant etiology, can’t probably be psychological or neurological.

That would indicate a massive neurotic or psychological overlay or underbelly on the part of the many human witnesses, even those from prior centuries.

Yes, the human species has been wildly obtuse during its evolution but that it may be endemically insane is a step too far, perhaps.

UFOs, in part, can be explained away, as UFO buffs used to say, as psychological or mentally deranged observations but that is a callous determination, one that even I am hesitant to employ, although I’d like to.

No, UFOs are something else, something irrelevant maybe but a phenomenon with a little cachet for the curious, of which I, and some of you, are at one with.



  • The psychological explanation is a one-size fits all throwaway for lazy skeptics. I've written a few times I think UFO witnesses are generally pretty solid within the parameters of the seriousness of this issue . . . . (they aren't murder cases, for example).

    I would be curious as to a psychological study of witnesses well after the fact regarding the impression it left on them. How many still think, "I don't know what it was,that's why I reported it" to the converted, convinced now that ET is visiting. I suspect the former is a big percentage, even a majority. Still, I think that would be worth a look.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • While UFO witnesses and witnesses generally may be apparently solid mentally, Frank, a psychological mishap settles upon one, unannounced or unrecognized, as I've noted.

    Mental quagmires are as mysterious as the UFO phenomenon and while one may believe that those reporting UFOs are mentally healthy, a transient episode can displace their sane observation, providing what we see as very odd behavior by the thing seen or the witnesses themselves.

    The UFO reports we are all familiar with reek of psychological quirks.

    To assume that reports by UFO witnesses are free of psychological maladies is a non-objective position by far worse than that of the skeptics.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • I am curious about that book cover. If I were to claim I had seen the real book, would you say I was suffering psychologically in some way?

    By Blogger cda, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • I don't doubt there are SOME instances of that, but how often? I think I'm being generous by estimating that number at less than 5%. There are a lot of odd things up in the sky. The more you look, the more you see. I was completely unaware of the iridium flare phenomenon until recently, but if you skywatch enough, you're absolutely going to see them. They are spectacular. But even if you aren't looking, they could get your attention and if you don't recognize one for what it is, it's a UFO to you.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • Fellows,

    If your are steeped in the literature, the psychological and newer neurological literature (Oliver Sacks for instance, whose popularized the topic), you'll not be inclined to be so cavalier about the mental vicissitudes that can beset persons, sometimes (usually?) temporarily.

    I can take any UFO case and find examples, within it, of psychological malfeasance, even when I think the report is a bona fide account.

    Does that mean the witness report is bogus?

    No, but it is something that needs to be considered by those able to pursue psychological maladies.

    (Yes, I know....such persons have their own set of problems, but there are guidelines that have a history and hold up well. even within psychoanalysis.)


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • "The UFO reports we are all familiar with reek of psychological quirks"

    Not a very cautious or accurate statement, Rich. Gordon Cooper's 1957 report? Mantell? The Leveland multiple sightings? I don't recall any psychological quirks associated with the Belgian sightings...just sober observations and reporting by police officers who were baffled by what they observed over a period of many months. Were there psycholgical quirks associated with the Phoenix lights? Cite chapter and verse. I will grant you that certain aspects of a very few famouns cases--Roswell and the Betty and Barney Hill case and a few others--might lend themselves to psychological analysis. But surely the great mass of cases, some famous, most not, appear fairly clean of any mental quirks or the need for psychological analysis. It is quite possible (as I've argued before here) that some on this blog are mistaking "advanced technology" that we don't (can't) understand (yet) for "psychological quirks.)If that's the case, a visit to the shrink for help in explaining the best UFO cases will not prove very helpful.

    By Blogger Dominick, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • Dominick:

    Cooper's position is fraught with psychological ramifications but I'm not about to analyze his stance. It's obvious to those who are psychologically astute.

    Mantell followed a skyhook balloon.

    The Levelland sightings are interesting but one can make a case for a mass delusion, even if the witnesses are not in proximity.

    (That might be foolish but it can be done.)

    You are making a mistake if you think I'm denigrating the UFO experience however.

    My point is exactly the opposite of that.

    One would be remiss by seeing my posting as a dismissal of UFO witness accounts or UFOs themselves.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • I've come to the conclusion that the use of UFO is outdated based on today's growing technology. Perhaps, as others have used, UAP may be more appropriate.

    Based on that growing technology, ie, drones, I suspect a growing number of reports and confusion associated with this up and coming "phenomena". Will the rational use of intuition be a victim of this advancing aerial technology which is/was designed by us? I think that we're starting to see a little of that evidence.

    As far as visual observations, I generally believe that people DO SEE something and due to the brief elapse of time associated with some of the sightings, it leaves little time to cognitively frame it.

    I live in San Diego County and I have observed all types of aircraft flying over my neighborhood...military and civilian. Throw in the occasional meteor (I live in the in a secluded section, out in the middle of nowhere) and you have a good night time show. I've yet to see anything that totally grabs my attention, but that is solely me.

    I was able to do a meta search at work last night using our computer data base, key words: delusion, dissociation, UFO, alien abduction, PTSD. I came up with a plethora of peer reviewed psychology/psychiatry journal articles. This shows that this phenomena has been well looked into going back to a couple of decades.

    The final conclusions may not sit well with some, but it does show that a conscientious attempt has been made to make sense of this portion of the abduction phenomena.

    I run across this area every now in then in my profession, but due to the nature of my patients, there tends to be a pathological delusional element...for the most part.

    Regardless of my psychiatric take on UFOs/UAPs, the over all impact on the general population has been nil. Likewise the impact on our government/societal structures. These structures continue to operate unabated both functionally and dysfunctionally.

    As noted elsewhere on this blog, taxes and mortgages need to be paid and ET is not helping nor offering a competitive interest rate. Life goes on.

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • Right, Tim...

    Those who live in the here and now and hope to thrive or just survive give little or no attention to UFOs.

    It's up to us goofy type to keep the UFO or UAP "lights" burning.

    It's a futile effort, surely, but kinda fun.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • Your comment on Cooper's report (not his "position" whatever that means) is baffling...to me at least. His report is straight forward and can be verified by the two cameramen involved that are named and identified by rank. If we were really serious about "research" we would find these guys (or their film) and be done with any debate. But to get back to your remark, is there something that we should know about Gordon Cooper's history or character(did he hate his mother, pull the wings off butterflies or believe in ghosts?)that would prompt you to suggest that "his position is fraught with psychological ramifications"?

    Mantell may well have followed a skyhook baloon but it is a famous UFO case and there are NO psychological ramifications that I can tell. And I'm not making any mistake about your "denigrating the UFO experience." I just think that aside from the cases I mentioned, most of the famous UFO cases (and I cited several) don't have "quirks" best understood by psychological analysis. Instead, they have a kind of "magic" and some technological aspects that we cannot (yet) fully understand. Before we understood "stealth" I'm sure that reports of "invisible" UFOs were dropped in the "nut" file and tossed over to the shrinks for analysis.

    By Blogger Dominick, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • "I can take any UFO case and find examples, within it, of psychological malfeasance"

    I could do the same with most any political candidate's campaign speeches.

    Psychotic episodes with hallucinations absolutely happen but how often do they manifest as UFOs/aliens? I would think it's a very small percentage to go along with the very small percentage of UFO sightings where that is the true and actual explanation.

    I think in some other ways, you're just scratching the surface. There have been a few very bad endings in the UFO racket like Bennewitz, Cooper, McDonald. Psychology obviously played a role there. Then you have the blatant purveyors of BS for a buck on the circuit. There's likely to be an element of sociopathy there.

    I think UFOs are a gold mine for a student of psychology . . . . maybe that's why ET likes visiting us so often. ;)

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • Dominick:

    Placing the halo of ultra-technology on top of sightings is riskier than my psychological bloom.

    Adding Mantell to the mix corrupts your argument right off the bat: he pursued a balloon, not an ultra-technological craft.

    He was gulled by not knowing about the secret skyhook program at the time.

    Is that psychological? No, but his assuming he was pursuing something unearthly or exotic goes to his mind-set....the psychology in his mental make-up.

    I know you believe UFOs are alien craft or visitations from extraterrestrials, and that is an almost reasonable deduction (as David Rudiak insists), but it is not scientific or objective.

    Other explanations have to be winnowed before one can come to the ET conclusion.

    Everything, by the way, has psychological quirks.

    I am a Freudian, despite his current dismissal by those who know little about his comprehensive views.

    For me, and Freud, everything has psychological consequences and meaning....including the UFO accounts mentioned and those not mentioned.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • Frank..

    You make my point.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • Getting to Mantell's tragedy, something did cause him to black out and crash and it seems fairly certain that something was hypoxia. There's no doubt he saw something but did he experience a sort of hallucinatory exaggeration which kept him chasing the UFO even higher, a sort of death trap? Yeah maybe, but the circumstances there were pretty unusual, a sort of perfect storm of misfortune that led to the captain's death. Certainly not something you could base any one-size-fits-many conclusions on.

    By Blogger Frank Stalter, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • The desire to find a theory that invalidates the entire spectrum of UFO phenomena is, arguably, itself evidence of some peculiar type of psychological instability.

    By Blogger solarity, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • Intellectual instability, more than a psychological malady, perhaps.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, July 22, 2013  

  • Gilles Fernandez provides this:

    Maybe you already know (?), but Jim Oberg have produced some counter-tons in his site about them and other "space age myths and legends" : http://www.jamesoberg.com/ufo.html and particulary its one: http://www.zipworld.com.au/~psmith/cooper.html

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, July 23, 2013  

  • Rich, I just love your blanket pronouncements...without supporting argument! WHY is "putting the halo of ultr-technology on (UFO) sightings" riskier than your psychological "bloom"? WHY? And it wasn't me who "added Mantell to the mix" but you; after all, it was you who asserted that "the ufo reports that we are all familiar with reek of psychological quirks." Mantell is a UFO case that "we are all familiar with" but it hardly reeks of any psychological quirks. (I accept, BTW, that Mantell probably chased a skyhook). And neither does any of the other cases that I mentioned that, again, you did not comment on. You did make a very strange remark (even for a Freudian) about Gordon Cooper that requires clarification for those of us, apparently, who are not "psychologically astute." What were you getting at there? Finally, I've never stated explicitly that some UFOs are ET though after 50 years of serious interest in this subject leads me to the belief that ET is the least unlikely explanation for SOME (very few) reports and incidents. If that's not your "least likely explanation"....why not?

    By Blogger Dominick, at Tuesday, July 23, 2013  

  • Dominick:

    You are one of my favorite visitors here: smart, precise, glib, and not afraid to challenge.

    You tilt toward the ET explanation for UFOs. That is not an unreasonable explanation for the things.

    That is, it is not irrational, but it is unproven, maybe circumstantial, but unproven.

    Now to address your plaints:

    That UFOs are a sign of ultra-technology is a blanket pronouncement. How so?

    They do some strange things but nothing that is so outside ordinary that they may be said to be technological with the sobriquet of "ultra" added.

    If one (or two) actually crashed near Roswell, that belies "ultra" in my book.

    Mantell's pursuit of his observed "object" indicates what Freud outlined in Beyond the Pleasure Principle and may be considered from the listings on Pages 400-404 of the "Dictionary" noted at the beginning of my posting.

    Mantell was a victim of his own inherent psychology (and a secret balloon flight).

    Kevin Randle's exegesis of Mantell's plight and death is the one to view when talking about the Mantell case.

    Gordon Cooper, now that's another matter. The man has (or had), obviously, a propensity for things outer limit oriented.

    He would see any anomalous things connected with his flights and those of his fellow astronauts as unearthly, not prosaic.

    His mind-set was other-worldly, which biased or put a patina of extraterrestrial on something(s) that may not have been unearthly at all.

    He had or has biased apperception.

    Again, like David Rudiak, you incline to the ET scenario for UFOs (some, very few, anyway).

    But Bruce Duensing has an alternative view, which he provides at his blog.

    (I haven't linked his thoughts at his blog because that takes the discussion from here to there, but you might seek out his alternative views.

    We (the RRRGroup) has tried to provide a number of alternative views about what UFOs are.

    They are here, at this blog, and at our other blogs on the matter.

    So, we're not averse to weird UFO hypotheses, mine among them.

    The ETH (as it's noted by UFO aficionados) is okay with me, but only as n hypothesis, not as a full-blown explanation, even for some (very few) UFO sightings.

    So keep your views coming. They'll irk CDA, Gilles, and Lance Moody, and maybe even PurrlGurrl and Duensing.

    But they don't irk me. I'm not far from your camp, if you're reading me carefully -- nuance, after all.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, July 23, 2013  

  • "The UFO Delusion?"

    The "UFO" Delusion.

    No question about it.

    Having reflexive inconsequential false beliefs about the world does not make the believer or witness delusional, but those false beliefs could be the individual expression of a Collective Delusion--a widespread false belief about the world, such as the mass-media manufactured myth that "Real 'UFOs' exist."

    By Blogger zoamchomsky, at Wednesday, July 24, 2013  

  • And Zoam...

    There is the alternative delusion that things palpable are not real.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, July 24, 2013  

  • "There is the alternative delusion that things palpable are not real."

    Only if there were veracious evidence of reality and its denial, an implausible scenario in our Scientific-realist world.

    By Blogger zoamchomsky, at Wednesday, July 24, 2013  

  • I believe it was Asimov who described the phenomenon of an event in a dream happening at the precise moment that an external event occurs. The example he gave, as I remember, was dreaming of an alarm clock while the real alarm clock is attempting to wake you from sleep. Asimov postulated that the mind more than likely worked that alarm clock into the dream, or even triggered the dream completely. That 10 seconds of dream time might be experienced as hours worth of dreamed 'memories'.

    I think it's probably quite possible, perhaps even likely, that a UFO experience might occur very quickly, despite the fact that the 'experiencer' thinks it lasted much much longer.

    By Blogger Parakletos, at Sunday, July 28, 2013  

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