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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jul > Jul 19


From: Mark Pilkington <m.pilkington@virgin.net>
Date: Sat, 18 Jul 1998 21:23:23 +0100
Fwd Date: Sun, 19 Jul 1998 15:40:03 -0400

 ------ MAGONIA ETH BULLETIN No. 5, July 1998



Several people have told me that they enjoy reading this
publication, especially those among the privileged few who
receive printed copies by snail mail. They have also told me
that they are thinking about writing articles for it. The sooner
they send me their excellent and eagerly awaited writings the
better, so that we can maintain our position at the cutting edge
of armchair ufology.


Signs and symptoms

In some close-encounter cases witnesses report bizarre
experiences, which are sometimes followed by signs and symptoms,
such as violent headaches, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhoea.
In most cases, though, symptoms following the experience appear
to be minimal or completely absent. Where unpleasant symptoms do
appear, many ufologists tend to attribute them to the effects of
getting too close to the UFO and being subject to some
mysterious, harmful radiation. It does not occur to them that
there could be more mundane explanations for at least some of
those close encounters which are not obvious hoaxes.

Classical migraine

Consider the following incident which is reported to have taken
place in Brazil in 1965. A 15-year-old boy was lagging behind a
party of youths who were going to a cinema. As he passed across
a piece of open ground he heard a strange hum and saw two cones
of white light in the sky and then saw two roundish craft land
not far from him. Entities emerged, inspected one of the craft,
then re-entered and the craft took off at a fantastic speed,
disappearing in a few seconds. The boy joined his companions in
the cinema, but soon developed a violent headache, which lasted
for five days. (1)

Here we have a very strange experience, followed by a prolonged
headache. We are not told if there were any other symptoms but
we are informed that a doctor eventually treated the boy for a
disturbed heart . However, this report appears to be a
description of what is known as a classical migraine. Most
people are aware that migraine usually consists of a violent
headache accompanied by nausea - a sick headache . However, in a
classical migraine these symptoms are preceded by what is called
an aura, which usually consists of disturbances of vision, but
can in some cases be of a highly complex nature.


The information about migraine for this paper is taken from the
book Migraine by Dr Oliver Sacks. (2) It is interesting to
compare some of his case histories with other accounts which
have been interpreted as encounters with UFOs. For example,
compare the following reports. The first is taken from an
account by one of Dr Sacks's patients. (3) The second and third
are taken from the UFO literature. (4)

It was a late summer afternoon, and I was winding along a
country road on my motorbike. An extraordinary sense of
stillness came upon me . . . I felt that this summer afternoon
had always existed and that I was arrested in an endless moment.
When I got off the bike, a few minutes later, I had an
extraordinarily powerful tingling in my hands, nose, lips and
tongue. It seemed to be a continuation of the vibration of the
motorbike . . . the vibrating sensation was growing stronger
every moment . . . My sense of vision was then affected . . .
The hum of crickets was all around me, and when I closed my
eyes, this was immediately translated into a hum of colour . . .
After about 20 minutes . . . the visual world resumed its normal
appearance . . . I had a come-down feeling and the beginnings of
a headache.

Clay, Alabama - Summer 1962, 1800

Dean Self was walking home along the Clay-Palmerdale road after
visiting a friend, when he heard a sound like a wind in a pine
tree , then an unnatural silence. Looking up he was terrified to
see an object 30 m above him. It was 12 m long, with a cabin
about 2 m high at the front. It had a smooth white surface with
multicoloured lights on the underside, which pulsated in rhythm
with a muted

throbbing sound which seemed to affect his whole body. The
object suddenly vanished, the wind was heard again, then the
natural sounds returned.

Sandling, near Saltwood, Kent, England - August 1962, 2330

Bruce Leggatt (17) had just ridden past Sandling station on his
scooter on this very warm night, when the air turned cold. He
became afraid and accelerated. Looking over his shoulder, he
glimpsed a yellow oval object, rough in outline, which extended
over the width of the road (c. 6 m). He became more afraid,
feeling that he was being watched. This feeling persisted for
some time after he turned on to a main road.

It must be realised that these descriptions are not necessarily
accurate accounts of what was experienced at the time, because
of the difficulty of recalling and describing them clearly. Dr
Sacks writes of . . . free-wheeling states of hallucinosis,
illusion, or dreaming" which may be experienced during intense
migraine auras, and be manifest as confused or confabulatory
states of which the patient retains imperfect recollection.
These states are composed of coherent, dramatically-organised
series of images, and are usually compared by patients to
intense, involuntary daydreams or daymares. (5) Dr Sacks also
emphasises the exceedingly strange nature of many aura phenomena
and he notes that . . . the sense of strangeness is frequently
accompanied by a sense of profoundly-disturbed time perception .


A type of visual hallucination commonly associated with migraine
auras is the scotoma, which develops as it appears to move
across the field of vision. The advancing margin of the scotoma
often displays the gross zig-zag appearance which justifies the
term fortification spectrum . . . (7) A report from the UFO
literature, of a case investigated by BUFORA, which seems to
describe migraine scotomata, concerns a man who recalled having
seen a ball with spikes coming out over Lake Lucerne while on a
school trip about 30 years ago. His recent sighting occurred one
evening when he saw through his kitchen window an object on a
patch of soil in the garden which was wine red in colour and
about the size of a drinks tray . It remained on the ground for
a few minutes, then suddenly . . . it took off, like a coin
being flipped, and spun up into the air, revealing its underside
with a series of reinforcements" on the rim. It then seemed to
head for the window and gave out a blue flash. (8)

The report of this sighting is accompanied by a small sketch
showing an oval object surrounded by zigzags. It bears a
remarkable resemblance to a reproduction of a painting described
as a classical zigzag fortification pattern in Sacks's book.

Isolated auras

In this case the witness reported that he suffered no ill
effects, which means that, if it was a migraine aura, it was not
followed by the usual headache, or other symptoms and signs.
This is an important point. Sacks points out that it has been
estimated that the incidence of classical migraine is about one
per cent of the general population, but this gives no indication
of the incidence of isolated auras, which are probably much more
common. Obviously, if the aura is not followed by any unpleasant
symptoms it is unlikely to be diagnosed as migraine or anything
else. Most people do not like to consult their doctors when they
have no

symptoms. Sacks mentions discussing the subject with a
colleague, who immediately recognised his diagram of a
scintillating scotoma and said that he had often seen this
himself as a young man, but that it never occurred to him that
there was anything unusual about them; he presumed that
everybody saw such things. (9)

More than one witness

Many ufologists will no doubt consider it odd that that I should
propose migraine as an explanation for close-encounter UFO
reports in view of the fact that a high proportion of them
involve two or more witnesses. However, the presence of other
persons does not necessarily rule out migraine as a factor
involved in generating the reports. Few of the write-ups of
multi-witness cases give any detailed, separate

accounts by all of the witnesses. Sometimes other alleged
witnesses are strangely reluctant to talk to investigators. In
other cases one suspects that the witnesses have concocted a
dramatic story from a minor incident by a process, perhaps
unconscious, of confabulation, aided by faulty and confused
memories. Also, the strange behaviour of the person experiencing
a migraine aura could evoke hysterical reactions from other
people present. Someone with a forceful personality might
persuade others that an unusual or unexpected light is really a
flying saucer. (This effect will be familiar to many who have
indulged in UFO skywatches.) There are many such possibilities.


I am not suggesting that all, or most, close-encounter reports
have anything to do with migraine. I have no time for catch-all
explanations which can be force-fitted to any case that comes to
hand. There are many rational explanations for UFO reports and I
think that this one should be added to the list. I merely offer
this paper as a basis for discussion and investigation. All I am
saying is that there appears to be much in common between
descriptions of migraine auras and many reports of experiences
which have been interpreted as close encounters with UFOs.

I suggest that those who wish to argue about this subject should
read Dr Sacks's book first, if possible. Comments and
information are welcome, particularly from medically qualified


1. Creighton, Gordon. The Humanoids" in Latin America , Flying
Saucer Review: The Humanoids, October/November 1966, 41

2. Sacks, Oliver. Migraine, Picador, London, 1995

3. Ibid., 86

4. Rogerson, Peter. INTCAT, cases 1028 and 1052, Magonia, 6,

5. Sacks, op. cit., 79

6. Ibid., 71

7. Ibid., 59

8. Case 9303,Northern UFO News, April 1993, 14

9. Sacks, op. cit., 88

 IS THE ETH FALSIFIABLE? Martin S. Kottmeyer

There have been individuals frustrated by the behaviour of
ufologists who level the charge that their beliefs are
unfalsifiable. Advocates say this or that case is unexplainable
or this or that pattern cannot be explained by conventional
means. Solve the case, show the pattern is explicable, do they
accept this negates their position? They will probably just come
up with a new case or pattern. This is annoying behaviour, but
does it really constitute evidence of unfalsifiability? We are
dealing with the proposition that intelligent beings are
surreptitiously flying around the world and are actively trying
to prevent their detection. Maybe the evidence is ambiguous, but
aren't we allowed the faith that someday someone will build the
better mousetrap that will capture the proof that will silence
the cynics?

Efforts to find them in photographic sky surveys have met with
no success. Efforts to videotape aliens capturing repeat
abductees don't seem to be working. One

researcher has suggested that maybe we can put radar-tracking
devices on abductees and capture their transport to hovering
craft. Maybe someday spy satellites can be used to monitor
potential abduction sites and capture images of their craft.
Okay, what if these are implemented and also fail? Will the
advocates accept defeat or fall back on selective visibility and
other magical supertechnology? Is there any conceivable test
that will prove the ETH wrong?

If the ambition is for an absolute
all-doubts-and-all-potential-excuses-removed surefire alien
mousetrap, I suspect such a thing is indeed inconceivable and
the ETH potentially unfalsifiable. Let's suggest however that a
more modest conception of falsification can be said to exist.
Call it a more pragmatic and operational, a
what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? approach to falsification. Has
the ETH provided us with anything useful or interesting in the
way of prediction?

The answer to this is surely no. Nobody has yet come up with a
working saucer drive mechanism from a consideration of the
testimony of witnesses despite several

attempts. (1) ETH proponents have offered theories that they
hoped would predict when the next flap would take place. Early
proponents talked about UFOs monitoring atomic tests and the Air
Force even set up a reporting net at a test site to test that
possibility. Nothing was seen at the test site. Predictions that
saucer reports would increase in response to future scheduled
tests were total failures. Some offered predictions that saucer
sightings increased when Mars got close to Earth. The bolder
predictions failed and the weaker ones got results equivalent to
random chance. Still weaker interpretations involving flaps as a
way to desensitise humans to their fearful presence are not
consistent with well-known findings in human psychology. Recent
flap scholars are silent about these failures and seem to insist
flaps are not psychosocial in nature, yet they have proposed
nothing to suggest the ETH can explain the timing of flaps.
Jerome Clark has recommended Bullard to me as my superior in
these matters, so, Challenge Time! How about it, Eddie, can you
give us a useful ETH theory of flaps? (2)

Proponents have repeatedly proposed that the phenomenon was
escalating in a pattern that suggested we would soon either be
invaded, there would soon be a mass landing, or there would soon
be no doubt of their existence. (3, 4) All have failed. There
have been many suggestions that flying saucers are, in one sense
or another, omens for potential catastrophes. Each ufologist
seems to offer a new variant: supernova (Heard), magnetic
fission of the planet (Scully), Earth knocked out of orbit
(Keyhoe), mass A-bomb attack (Keyhoe), cosmoplastic Earth nova
caused by L-bombs (Wilkins), extermination due to inferior
ethics (Michel), cosmic storm (Jessup), catastrophic changes in
the Earth's surface (Lorenzens), war of the worlds (Steiger and
Whritenour), a disaster beyond imagination (Fawcett), the
violence of the final generation (Keel), climactic confrontation
between Good and Evil involving the inner earth (Trench),
collapse of civilisation (Clark and Coleman, Rogerson), Binder
(rampaging natural forces), nuclear Armageddon with psychic time
ripples (Randles), black hole collision generating a universal
dissolution to which not even the gods are immune (Andrews),
sterility (Fowler), environmental collapse and death of living
Earth (Mack), catastrophe, hybrid integration and takeover, and
control by big-bug aliens (Jacobs). (5, 6) All have failed to
date, thank goodness.

As early as the 1947 Wave, there was already talk that the
government would soon reveal what the saucers were. Louis E.
Starr, commander-in-chief of the Veterans

of Foreign Wars, revealed on 5 July of that year that he was
expecting a telegram concerning the fleets of flying saucers and
it would help explain the discs . (7) Keyhoe, in his first book,
thought he saw a pattern in Air Force statements that suggested
to him the government had an intricate program to prepare
America - and the world - for the secret of the disks . In his
view, The official explanation may be imminent . (8) This has
been a continuing refrain among ufologists (FSR, 1957; Lorenzen,
1974; the Blums, 1974; Walter Andrus, 1983). (9) (Psychics,
contactees, and numerous minor figures have also predicted this,
(10, 11) but these should probably be considered off the ledger
in assessing the value of the ETH in serious ufology.) A very
significant possibility for why these predictions fail is that
the ETH is false and the government has no more to reveal than
it already has.

The upshot is that the ETH has generated dozens of predictions
which time has tested and found invalid. It has been falsified
consistently where it counts - how will it prove its importance
to mankind. The landing never comes. The invasion is postponed.
The flaps don't conform to schedule. The government stays mum.
The revolutionary saucer drive is never built. The world doesn't
end. This may not be falsification in an absolute sense, but it
is surely falsification in the ways that matter



1. Vallee, Jacques. Revelations, Ballantine, 1991, 283-284

2. Kottmeyer. UFO Flaps - An Analysis , The Anomalist, 3, Winter 1995-96,

3. Kottmeyer. What's Up, Doc? , Magonia, 44, 45, 46

4. Clark, Jerome. The Last Decade , International UFO Reporter, 15, 2,
March/April 1990, 3, 20, 23-24

5. Kottmeyer. Dying Worlds, Dying Selves , UFO Brigantia, 47, January 1991,

6. Andrews, George. Extraterrestrial Friends and Foes, Illuminet, 1993, 240.
Fowler, Raymond. The Watchers, Bantam, 1990, 357. Emory, C. Eugene.
Harvard Launches John Mack Attack , Skeptical Inquirer, 19, 5, 3-4. Jacobs,
David. The Threat, Simon & Schuster, 1998, chapter 12

7. Bloecher, Ted. Report on the Wave of 1947, author, 1967, I-9

8. Keyhoe, Donald. The Flying Saucers are Real, Fawcett, 1950, 6, 14

9. Klass, Philip J. The Cloudy Crystal Ball , Skeptics UFO Newsletter, 14,
1992, 8

10. Sheaffer, Robert. UFO Sightings - The Evidence, Prometheus, 1998, chapter

11. Cooper, Vicki. 1992 Predictions , UFO Magazine, 7, 1, 24-29

MAGONIA ETH Bulletin. All correspondence, articles, etc. should be
addressed to
the Editor: John Harney, 27 Enid Wood House, High Street, Bracknell, Berkshire

ETH Bulletin index

Mark Pilkington
Magonia online