UFOs and the New Age Symposium


The conference held on 23, 24 and 25 June 2000 in Istanbul was among the most interesting that I have ever attended, and the aim of this article is to give readers an overview of the event, cross referencing with other sources of information.

It was clear from the outset that this was going to be a fascinating conference, not least because of the very different beliefs and approaches of the speakers.  Scientists like Stanton Friedman and John Mack would be appearing alongside contactees and channellers like Marcia Schafer and Lyssa Royal, and those who anticipated a wide variety of material were not disappointed.

The conference was organised by Haktan Akdogan, Chairman of the Sirius UFO Space Sciences Research Centre, and an intelligent and spiritual man who cares deeply for the subject.  He and his colleagues had put an amazing amount of work into organising the conference, but this three day event - with big name speakers from all around the world - was really only possible on so large a scale because of generous sponsorship.  An enlightened and modest businessman with a passion and commitment to ufology not only underwrote most of the event, but proposed publishing a number of key UFO books in Turkish.  Such help from the private sector is still all too rare, although the actions of Bob Bigelow and Laurance Rockefeller are two honourable exceptions here.

Stanton Friedman gave an authoritative and science-based presentation in which he stressed that there are numerous stars similar to our own sun at distances sufficiently small in cosmic terms as to permit round trips that do not conflict with the laws of physics.  These stars include Zeta 1 and Zeta 2 Reticuli (at a distance of around thirty seven light years), believed by some ufologists to be the location of the home planet of the Greys (on the basis of the analysis of abductee Betty Hill’s “star map” carried out by amateur astronomer Marjorie Fish).

I gave a standard lecture summarising my official MOD research and investigation of the UFO phenomenon, with the emphasis on those sightings that raised defence and national security concerns - e.g. those reports detailing structured craft displaying speeds and manoeuvres our technology (including experimental and prototype craft) cannot yet match.  I stressed the importance of sightings from pilots and of sightings correlated by radar data, and gave the audience a taste of some of the reports unearthed by Colin Ridyard, details of which are contained in a separate article in this edition of UFO Magazine.    

Budd Hopkins and John Mack essentially gave the same lectures they gave during the Intruders Foundation conference held in New York on 6 May, details of which are given in my article in the July/August edition of UFO Magazine.  That said, John Mack made a couple of telling points about abductions that he had not made in New York, and it’s worth repeating these, especially for those who believe that abductees are delusional.  Mack explained that as a mental health professional he came across numerous delusional characters, who press their often paranoid stories (They are being followed by the FBI, their relatives are trying to poison them, etc.) with vigour and at every opportunity.  Most abductees, however, take the opposite approach, possessing what Mack called “appropriate doubt”.  They are self-critical, nervous about coming forward, are selective about whom they tell, and are worried they will not be believed.  Mack also offered a comment on the theory that images of large-eyed animals seen during abduction experiences might be “screen memories” of large-eyed aliens, pointing out that some of the animals most often seen (racoons, owls, etc.) are traditional “power animals” among indigenous peoples such as Native Americans.  He said that the Shamans among indigenous peoples have known all about the beings we sometimes call the Greys, and have experiences themselves.  These are themes on which Mack elaborates in his latest book, Passport to the Cosmos.  Interesting material on Shamanism and its possible relationship to other paranormal phenomena can also be found in Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince’s excellent and intriguing book, The Stargate Conspiracy, most notably in the epilogue.

An interesting feature of Budd’s presentation was a series of drawings from children, which seemed to show images from classic abduction scenarios.  Research involving children who may be abductees is always going to be controversial, but Budd Hopkins personifies the ethical approach to abduction research and never puts his desire to gather data above his desire to help the abductee.  The innocent simplicity in the testimony and drawings of these children is undeniably poignant, and is an area of abduction research that deserves closer scrutiny.

Australian abductee Kelly Cahill gave a fascinating account of some of her experiences, further details of which can be found in her book Encounter and in an article in this edition of UFO Magazine.  As ever, it’s illuminating to hear accounts from abductees themselves, as opposed to listening to investigators summarise cases they have studied.  Although investigators may have a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon, reflecting the number of cases they have studied, abductees give personal perspectives and emotional insights that investigators can never fully understand.

Derrel Sims talked about his work with abductees and in particular his involvement in surgical procedures to remove implants.  This is a controversial area of ufology (see Roger Leir’s article in the July/August edition of UFO Magazine) but Derrel is always popular at conferences, and once he sets up his display of implants in the foyer of any conference venue, he is seldom without an audience.  Istanbul was no exception, and he was often surrounded by crowds of people wanting to get a glimpse of alleged alien implants and speak to the man dubbed “The Alien Hunter”.

Another popular figure at conferences is Bob Dean, the former US Army Master Sergeant who claims that while working at NATO’s SHAPE headquarters he saw a document entitled “The Assessment”, which set out clear evidence of an extraterrestrial presence on Earth.  A detailed analysis of these claims can be found in issue 7 of The Unopened Files.

K. T. Frankovich - a survivor of Hurricane Andrew - began her talk with a moving account of a visit she had paid to the area of Turkey hardest hit by the earthquakes that struck last year.  Her story about Hurricane Andrew, and the sensational allegation that it killed over 5000 people (and not the hundred or so officially confirmed) is set out in two articles in the current and next edition of The Unopened Files.  Her presentation concentrated on a consciously-recalled encounter with an extraterrestrial entity in a lime grove adjacent to her house in Florida, details of which can be found in her book Where Heavens Meet.

Wendelle Stevens possesses what is claimed to be the largest collection of UFO photographs anywhere in the world, and he shared some of these with the audience in Istanbul.  A lecture revolving around spectacular visual images is always a good idea at overseas conferences where English is not everyone’s first language; one picture is worth ten thousand words, as the saying goes.  I would not go that far: it depends on the picture and it depends on the words; but whatever the images show, they provoke debate and inspire the imagination.

Sean David Morton is a television and film producer who has specialised in UFO projects that have covered subjects such as Area 51, Gulf Breeze and underground bases.  He produced the highly controversial documentary Area 51: The Alien Interview, and shared some of this material with the audience in Istanbul.

Lyssa Royal is an internationally famous channeller and author of books such as Visitors From Within and The Prism of Lyra.  Her talk gave an intriguing insight into the whole channelling process and detailed some of her own attempts to initiate contact with the intelligences behind UFOs and alien contact experiences.

Marcia Schafer is another well-known channel, and details of her lifetime of experiences can be found in her intriguing book, Confessions of an Intergalactic Anthropologist.  Her talk summarised some of this material.  I have not investigated many cases involving channelling (although see chapter 13 of my book The Uninvited) and confess that I am not sure what to make of such material.  I have no doubt that most channels are genuinely receiving information, but in evidential terms this information is virtually impossible to evaluate.  It’s somewhat akin to receiving an anonymous letter - you know it’s a letter, but without knowing its origin, how can you judge whether the data is true or false, especially when so much is unverifiable?  This is especially true given the evidence that many entities (whether we call them aliens, or whether we view them as the little people from our folklore) seem to be deceivers and tricksters.  For this reason I was particularly keen to listen to and meet people like Lyssa and Marcia, and I gained valuable insights into the more spiritual world of the channellers.

Perhaps the most spiritual presentation of all came from former United States Air Force pilot Donald Ware, who has been a senior figure within MUFON.  He gave an extraordinary glimpse of what he believes life is like in the wider cosmos, and spoke about what he believes will be a transformation of the human race from “third density” to “fourth density” existence.  His book The Rising Culture: Joining a Galactic Society will be published soon, and will offer a synthesis of his views and research.

Another speaker who viewed extraterrestrial contact in a spiritual way was Sheldan Nidle, author of Galactic Human.  Sheldan is a contactee, and he gave an overview of experiences that convince him that this is a key time in the transformation both of the Earth and of humanity.  Like many contactees, he believes we are at a crossroads and that we may soon be taking our place in a wider spiritual hierarchy.  

As is often the case at conferences, much of the benefit takes place in private, as the speakers talk about latest developments in ufology, and exchange data.  E-mail certainly has its place, but there really is no substitute for round table discussions.  I for one welcomed the opportunity to discuss with Budd Hopkins and John Mack the claims made by Randle, Estes and Cone about lesbian and gay abductees (For details of this debate, see numerous posts on UFO UpDates together with my own analysis in my August column at www.hotgossip.co.uk).  From a casual chat with Lyssa Royal I discovered that she had had a UFO sighting in an almost identical location to that of an abductee with whom I am working.  They are now in touch.  This to me shows how new breakthroughs can come from things happening on the fringes of conferences.  Some two or three weeks after returning the UK, I was still working down a list of articles to send people and calls to make.  This continues to bear fruit, and some articles that I sent K. T. Frankovich have suggested a connection between Hurricane Andrew, weather control experiments carried out by the Chinese in Sichuan province in August 1992, and South African research into rainmaking.

As mentioned at the outset, there were vast differences in beliefs among the speakers, not least over whether alien contact is benign or malign.  On a couple of occasions these differences came to the surface.  One speaker turned to me during a presentation that included channelled material and asked in an exasperated tone how he was supposed to evaluate such data.  On another occasion I heard two of those who took a more New Age view of UFOs and abductions say that another of the speakers “doesn’t get the bigger picture”.  However, these were private observations and never translated into any unpleasantness.  On the whole, I think we all benefited from being exposed to such a variety of views.  Nobody has a monopoly on the truth, and there is nothing worse than going to a conference where everybody agrees with each other.  In ufology as with any other field of study, progress is made when those with divergent views come together, exchange data and theories, learn from each other and come away with new ideas and insights.  This is what happened in Istanbul, and I think that we all came away with something new.  I know I did.