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  Columnist: Joe Posner

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Close encounters today: a global UFO update

Posted on Monday, 18 December, 2017 | 33 comments
Columnist: Joe Posner

Based on recent data collected, as you read this, a close encounter could very well be happening somewhere in the world. The number of experiencers ranges from a single witness to hundreds. Some are reported, others are secrets taken to the grave. With reported close encounters as an ongoing phenomenon and because of multiple factors, ironically many due to the advances in technology, it has become harder than ever for anyone, private or government, to accurately separate an experience that is being misinterpreted from an authentic close encounter.

It has been 45 years since the world was first introduced to Dr. J. Allen Hynek's "close encounter" system of classification in his book, "The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry". Of course Steven Spielberg's movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" made the system of classification a global house-hold terminology, still holding-up to this day to best categorize the types of UFO/alien encounters being experienced.

Before we examine some of the most compelling recent close encounters, let us take a look at those who are responsible for actually applying this system and classifying these encounters. Though it is not entirely clear who categorizes close encounters, the most accurate categorizing comes from a hand-full of UFO organizations and investigators in-the-field willing to take the time to collect and assess the crucial details and evidence needed. A few of the most notable organizations with the experience to classify close encounters are:

MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) – One of the oldest and largest civilian UFO-investigative organizations, this non-profit American-based organization collects reports and investigates cases of alleged UFO sightings.

CUFOS (Center for UFO Studies) – Founded in 1973 by J. Allen Hynek, this privately funded UFO research group takes-in reports worldwide and refers cases to investigators.

NUFORC (National UFO Reporting Center) – This organization collects reports and maintains a database of UFO sightings and/or alien contacts and disseminates them openly to the entire UFO community.

Equally as respectable and qualified to categorize close encounter events, some of the top UFO investigators are:

PETER DAVENPORT: A UFOlogist who has been the director of the National UFO Reporting Center since 1994. His interest in these phenomena began as a child and has a long history of investigating all manner of close encounters, with his first UFO case in 1965 in Exeter, New Hampshire.

STEVE HUDGEONS JR.: A UFOlogist that is currently the Mutual UFO Network Director of Investigations, Hudgeons has investigated close encounter cases for the last 20 years, 200 cases with MUFON alone.

JAMES CLARKSON: A UFOlogist that is currently the State Director of the Mutual UFO Network in Washington State. As a retired police sergeant, he brings his 30 years experience in criminal investigations into his investigations of close encounters.

CHRISTOPHER CHACON: A UFOlogist and Anomalist, Chacon has been investigating close encounters and anomalies for over 30 years and is one of the few scientific investigators today that has the resources to conduct confidential full-scale scientific assessments of environments, witnesses and phenomena around the world.

CHASE KLOETZKE: A UFOlogist that presently leads the "Special Assignment Team" for the Mutual UFO Network. With a background of designing special readiness programs for the Department of Defense, she applies her knowledge to close encounter investigations and was previously the Deputy Director of Investigations for MUFON.

DR. RICHARD HAINES, PH.D.: A research scientist for NASA since 1967, Dr. Haines has interviewed countless military and commercial airline pilots and air traffic controllers to amass reports of more than 3,000 UFO sightings. Dr. Haines specialty is close encounters by pilots and has been investigating and researching this subject now for over 37 years. 


No current update on close encounters would be complete without an overview referencing the long history of these phenomena, which arguably stretches back to biblical times and beyond, with references to "beings from the sky" prolific throughout many of the ancient cultures and mythologies. The Nazca Lines in Peru is one such example of this compelling circumstantial evidence. Confirmed UFO encounters amidst the era of manned flight began during World War II with countless reports of a "foo fighter" phenomena, a term used by U.S. military squadrons.

Of course it was the Kenneth Arnold incident that would forever change America. On June 26, 1947, on an unusually sunny Washington day, private pilot Arnold was flying his small single engine plane from Chehalis, Washington to Yakima, Washington. At one point Arnold turned and saw nine shiny objects in the sky, flying past Mount Rainer at approximately 1,200 miles an hour. That is much faster than any conventional aircraft in 1947. When Arnold later compared their actions in the sky to saucers skipping on water, the press ran with "flying saucers" and a new era was born. While many regard this as modern America's first UFO incident, two other lesser-known events took place in the previous century. While the 1800's may not entirely be considered ‘modern America', the incidents warrant mentioning; on June 1, 1853, at dawn, countless students and faculty of Burritt College in Tennessee observed two massive floating objects perform various maneuvers in the morning sky, including one of the objects morphing its shape; and in 1896/1897 a rash of sightings occurred across the U.S. originating from Sacramento, California and culminating on April 17, 1897 in Aurora, Texas, where the entire community supposedly not only witnessed the crashing of a UFO near their town, but also buried the extraterrestrial pilot in their town's cemetery.

Closely following the Kenneth Arnold Incident, an event took place involving a supposed flying saucer that remains one of the best known, and most controversial, UFO stories to date. On July 8, 1947 Walter Haut, the Roswell Army Air Field public information officer issued a press release. It stated that the 509th Operations Group had retrieved a flying disc that had apparently crashed, near Roswell, on a ranch. The local media ran a front-page story in their newspaper, which quickly spread across the country and around the world in record time, and that was without the Internet. However, the military jumped-in and made a huge effort to correct the story, hosting a press event now stating that the crash was of a weather balloon and not a "flying saucer". With that, after creating a brief stir, the story faded from view. It wasn't until the 1970's that UFOlogists rediscovered the Roswell incident with great interest. While stories eventually circulated involving alien bodies recovered from the crashed UFO, proof that the Roswell crash actually involved an alien craft remains elusive.


While a ‘close encounter of the third kind' technically includes all manner of direct extraterrestrial contact, many in the UFOlogy community wanted to more specifically categorize the type of extraterrestrial contact. What resulted was the adding of two new close encounter classifications; the ‘fourth' and ‘fifth' kinds that covers ‘abductions'. Though these terms are not universally recognized.

One of the first alien abduction cases in modern culture that defined the phenomena was the 1961 case of Barney and Betty Hill, which was majorly publicized. At the time, Barney and Betty Hill were like any other married couple with one possible exception: they had an interracial marriage at a time when such things were not common. On September 9, the Hills were driving at night, in their rural New Hampshire community. On a secluded country road, Betty observed what she thought was a falling star. She encouraged Barney to stop the car so they could investigate. Betty followed the "odd shaped" object with her binoculars. It flashed multi-colored lights. Curiosity getting the best of them, they drove to another location. In an area near Indian Head, the object came down and hovered about 100 feet over the Hill's car, that was now stopped in the middle of the highway. Barney saw the object as a giant pancake. Using binoculars, Betty saw 8 to 11 figures looking out the saucer's window. Suddenly a loud buzzing was heard that vibrated both the car and their bodies. They drove away, later claiming to have had a distortion of time experience. Some time after this event, under hypnosis, Barney and Betty separately revealed supposed terrifying experiences aboard the aliens' craft that produced tormented dreams for years. Their story later became a popular 1966 book, as well as a 1975 TV movie starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons. The first modern abduction story is amazing and like the majority of abduction cases, somewhat difficult to prove, despite the credibility of the Hills.

Another famous close encounter of the third kind took place in Arizona, on November 5, 1975. Logger Travis Walton was part of a five man lumbering crew in Sitgreaves National Forest, a stone's throw from Snowflake, Arizona. At one point, the crew spotted a saucer-shaped craft, emitting a high-pitched sound, hovering above the ground a hundred feet or so away. Travis states he left the logging truck to further investigate. After being hit by an intense beam of bright light, Walton was knocked to the ground. According to him, his logging buddies freaked, racing off in the truck and leaving him behind. After this, Travis went missing for five days. While people were out in the woods looking for him, Walton claims he woke up in a hospital bed, with three short, bald beings peering down at him. After a clear plastic mask was put on his face, he passed out. The next thing he remembered he was walking along the road as the UFO departed. The Walton abduction received extraordinary press, the story eventually becoming a book and a movie.
Close encounters of the third kind, specifically abductions, are the most difficult to assess, primarily due to the lack of direct and forensic evidence, the majority of the time only leaving testimonial and circumstantial evidence to support the encounter, many times fragmented and unclear, typically collected through hypnotic regression. Though difficult to find corroborating evidence, similar to close encounters of the first and second kinds, a significant percentage of abduction experiencers are proven to be of sound mind and body and are upstanding citizens and individuals of impeccable reputation and credibility.


Here is a smattering of some of the most intriguing close encounters from around the world that have taken place in the last decade:


In the airspace above Kolkata in the early morning of October 29, 2007, hundreds of witnesses observed a fast moving UFO that was also able to morph its shape from a sphere into a triangle and then into a straight line. The object emitted a brilliant light that produced a halo with a full spectrum of colors. As it continued to move over the area, hundreds of more witnesses encountered the UFO, resulting on countless photos and videos. Shibani Banerjee went through a complete spectrum of emotions as she experienced the encounter, "At first I was like everyone else around me, thrilled and excited by what we were seeing, like children seeing fireworks for the first time. Than, as if I hit a brick wall, a horrible ominous feeling came over me and of what this thing could be. I retreated along with others, at first slowly walking which then turned into a hysterical run." The UFO disappeared into the horizon at an impossible rate of speed leaving local and government authorities at a loss for what it was.


For a few days in 2007, four months in 2008 and again in 2009, UFOs besieged a wide area of western Turkey near Istanbul, along the Sea of Marmara. "The UFOs were so frequent and obvious, I brought my video camera to work and was able to easily capture the objects as they flew overhead", stated Yalcin Yalman, a security guard handling the nightshift at the Yeni Kent Compound in Kumburgaz. Government authorities visually confirmed each time the UFOs appeared but were unable to identify what the objects were. Haktan Akdogon and other scientific analysts at the Sirius UFO Space Science Research Center had thoroughly analyzed all footage filmed by Mr. Yalman and were able to rule-out all logical explanations, stating, "we came to a definite conclusion with no doubts that these are 100% genuine", adding about the footage, "the most significant UFO videos ever!"


On July 7, 2010, at Xiaoshan Airport in Hangzhou, China, a UFO was spotted hovering in the airport airspace at approximately 8:40 p.m. In response, authorities had to cease all airport operations, diverting inbound flights to Ningbo and Wuxi Airports and/or delaying countless planes and halting all adjacent ground traffic. A brief video of the object was later shown on Chinese TV. While the UFO was visibly seen by countless witnesses and recorded by multiple means, it did not appear on radar.

A Chinese aircraft engineer, who was among the thousands that witnessed the event, was adamant that the object could not have been any type of man-made aircraft. Several theories were floated, from the absurd to the plausible, including the planet Venus, a rocket launch or a helicopter with flashing lights. While analysts and skeptics were quick to dismiss the incident, multiple news and media outlets shifted and retracted their stories about government investigations into the incident, seemingly as a result of government pressure, with come Chinese officials going on record stating they knew what the object was but could not comment further due to national security. Lou Jinhong and his associates with the Shanghai UFO Investigative Research Center, had been interviewing witnesses and reviewing footage and photographs in an attempt to make some sort of definitive conclusion on what the object was. Both this organization, as well as conventional authorities, have been unable to determine the object's true identity.


In April of 2013, on a clear sunny day in the isolated Atacama Desert community, countless workers of the Collahuasi copper mine and their friends and families encountered a glowing flying disc maneuver in the skies above them. Several of the witnesses took photos and video of the object as it ascended, descended and moved horizontally at extraordinary speeds, unlike any aircraft today. At one point, the object hovered in one area as if intending to land, then suddenly disappeared into the east. It was later discovered that during the brief time it hovered in one place, an apparent abduction had also taken place. Initially, both the authorities, as well as the corporation that owned the mine and surrounding properties, were suppressing all information and documentation concerning this incident. Several months later, some of the video and photos that had been taken were leaked and the government and corporation had no choice but to comment on the "sighting" aspect of the incident only, declaring an investigation is taking place. Even with this announcement and the ongoing investigation, authorities sought to control all information concerning the event until they knew what they were dealing with and maintained a controlled press blackout.

Over a year later and over a thousand miles away, another UFO incident occurred in Chile on November 2014, as a Chilean Navy helicopter was performing routine coastal patrol. The military aircraft visually documented the UFO with state-of-the-art recording technology while it flew in front of them at the same rate of speed for over nine minutes, until they had to break-off to return to base. Shortly after the government went public with this incident earlier this year, Chilean Police Officer Gomez, who had recently retired, came forward with additional details regarding the Collahuasi encounter. "At first, I and several fellow officers were responding to reports of an unknown object in the sky." Said Gomez. "We could see it from a distance, as it glowed bright in daylight. It moved impossibly fast and would suddenly stop. It was definitely not a plane." As Gomez and other officers were trying to get a closer look at the object, he was ordered to respond to an "incident" in the area. It was reported that a total of 4 victims (2 adults and 2 teenagers) had "disappeared" as flashes of light, similar to lightning, was produced from the flying object. Gomez continued, "A total of 14 people (5 related or associated with the missing, 9 others unrelated) witnessed the disappearance. All witnesses reported a temporary blindness and burning of skin as a result of flashes of light that the object emitted." According to Gomez, the confidential investigation that followed involved government at the highest levels, bringing in the previously mentioned American investigative specialist, Anomalist/UFOlogist Christopher Chacon, who conducted confidential assessments of all evidence, the areas where the UFO flew and of all the witnesses of the reported abduction, including psychological and physiological testing. Both this confidential aspect of the investigation, as well as the findings of the public one, have never been released, though it is common knowledge among the close-knit community that the missing and/or abducted people have never been found.


On the evening of December 13th, 2016, a pilot flying from Cape Town International Airport to Port Elizabeth International Airport encountered a glowing green object increasing in speed and altitude past the cockpit of their airplane, reaching to about a thousand feet into clouds above them and then returning towards earth at high speed past the cockpit of their plane. The incident forced the NSRI (National Sea Rescue Institute) to investigate the matter, conducting searches in case the unidentified aircraft had gone down for whatever reason. No aircraft was ever found. Everything from weather balloons to drones to green parachute flares to space debris and meteorites were ruled out in this case, the object classified as unidentified.


And of course it is no surprise that the U.S. continues to be at or near the top of the list for countries that continue to report close encounter events. In fact, according to the 2017 book, "UFO Sightings Desk Reference", written by two UFO experts, Linda Miller Costa and Cheryl Costa—one a former aerospace analyst and the other a former librarian at the National Academy of Sciences and NASA, sightings have spiked across the U.S. in general. In 2015 alone, there were 11,868 reported sightings, significantly up from the 3,479 logged in 2001—and those are just the reported ones. Rather then even attempt to detail the specifics from so many encounters, here is the list of states that continue to have the most UFO sightings, in order from the most to least, with California leading with the most reports:

1. California
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Washington
5. Pennsylvania
6. New York
7. Arizona
8. Illinois
9. Michigan
10. Ohio


For years now there has been much debate on whether close encounters worldwide are on the decline, have remained steady or are actually on the rise. However a recent 2017 independent report and assessment done by Statistician/PhD student Sam Monfort with Human Factors and Applied Cognition at George Mason University, revealed that UFOs sightings have been steadily rising with 104,947 reported sightings on record over the past 100-plus years. Monfort utilized data from the previously mentioned National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC). According to Monfort's assessment, sightings have spiked dramatically over the past 30-plus years, with the reported number jumping from around 5,000 in 1980, to roughly 45,000 in 2010. Some sociologists and psychologists speculate that the perception of there being a decline in UFO reports is due to an overall dismissal of such eye-opening news as a product of mass desensitizing, cynicism, pessimism and apathy around the world. They suggest that this is primarily because of the effects of the digital age (Internet, smartphone, etc.) and constant over-exposure to violence and other negative depictions in media, as well as an overall loss of confidence in media.

Of course the majority of close encounters of the ‘third kind' that include alien abductions are a different matter all together, with many of the encounters never associated with actually seeing a UFO prior to the actual encounter. Additionally, a huge percentage of abductions are never reported for a variety of psychological, sociological and cultural/religious reasons, with a significant estimated percentage never knowing or realizing that they had been abducted to begin with.

One thing is for certain regarding close encounter experiences; it is most certainly an equal opportunity phenomena around the world, being experienced equally by every age group, sex, social class, culture and belief system. And while the phenomena continues to elusively proliferate, we are yet to have globally come to any absolute agreed-upon consensus of what these phenomena are and why they continue to occur, remaining just as mysterious as ever.

Article Copyright© Joe Posner - reproduced with permission.

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