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Title    : Heretic Among Heretics
Author : George Magazine
Date    : George Magazine

Jacques Vallee hesitated before agreeing to be interviewed about the subject
for which he's most famous: UFOs. It's not that he's reluctant to discuss the
topic, or tussle with the skeptics. After all, he's written close to a dozen
books on UFOs, several of them best-sellers, analyzing a notoriously ethereal
subject as a hard-headed physical scientist, folklorist, and sociologist. He
believes there is more than enough solid evidence to make a compelling case
for the existence of UFOs, and he doesn't shy away from an honest debate.
It's the hard-core believers who give Vallee pause. Anyone who has observed
the semi-academic cockpit known as "UFOlogy" knows that close encounters of
the UFO expert kind shed little light and much heat, dogma and territorial
sniping. Vallee's views about UFOs are far more exotic and far stranger than
what he calls the reigning "nuts and bolts" approach to the subject.
Consequently, he's been attacked by believers so often that he jokingly
refers to himself a "heretic among heretics." As Vallee puts it, "I will be
disappointed if UFOs turn out to be nothing more than spaceships."

In his recent autobiographical book, Forbidden Science, Vallee summed up his
views about the provenance of UFOs, a viewpoint that he's developed through
decades of research: "The UFO Phenomenon exists. It has been with us
throughout history. It is physical in nature and it remains unexplained in
terms of contemporary science. It represents a level of consciousness that we
have not yet recognized, and which is able to manipulate dimensions beyond
time and space as we understand them." So much for anti-gravity-powered
starships ferrying Big Brothers from outer space. Vallee thinks UFOs are
likely "windows" to other dimensions manipulated by intelligent, often
mischievous, always enigmatic beings we have yet to understand. (60 Greatest
Conspiracies of All Time covers Vallee's theories in detail.)

No other UFO researcher has contributed more to an admittedly controversial
field. But Vallee commands a measure of respect that must leave his
colleagues feeling a bit envious. Even Philip Klass, the avionics expert and
the media's favorite UFO-debunker, calls Vallee "one of the more
distinguished members of the pro-UFO community." Vallee, he adds, "is one of
the brighter physical scientists who believes in UFOs."

Vallee moved to America from his native France in the early 1960s, as young
astronomer-turned-computer scientist. Vallee pioneered the use of computers
to analyze and categorize the UFO phenomenon, and his 1965 book, Anatomy of a
Phenomenon, is still considered one of the most scholarly books on UFOs ever
written. At Northwestern University, Vallee assisted Prof. J. Allen Hynek,
the academic consultant on the Air Force's infamous Project Bluebook, now
seen by most saucer students as either a half-hearted government effort to
address the UFO craze of the 1950s and 1960s or a full-blown coverup. While
working with Hynek, Vallee and his wife, Janine, compiled the first-ever
computer database of UFO sightings.

In 1969, Vallee published another groundbreaking book, Passport to Magonia,
in which he collected a body of folkloric "myths" that read remarkably like
modern UFO encounters, from Celtic tales of fairyland abductions to Biblical
passages and medieval chronicles of "visitors" from beyond. Building on Carl
Jung's thesis that UFOs are a sociological phenomenon, a product of the
collective unconscious, Vallee forever left behind the space-bound E.T.
theorists. But his folklorist's approach to the problem would influence a
number of later researchers and writers who continue to echo his ideas about
other-dimensional forms of consciousness. Best-selling author Whitley
Strieber, Harvard "abductee psychologist" John Mack, and journalist Keith
Thompson (author of Angels and Aliens all owe a debt to Vallee. Stephen
Spielberg paid homage to Vallee in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, basing
his French scientist character (played by Francois Truffaut) on the real
French UFO theorist.

We recently had lunch with Vallee in San Francisco at restaurant around the
corner from the offices of his high-technology venture capital firm. Part 1
of that interview covers Vallee's theories about UFOs and his belief that
science can penetrate mystery of flying disks and alien beings. In Part 2,
which we'll publish later this month, Vallee discusses the second sphere of
his researches: The connection between the UFO phenomenon and the religious
impulse. Vallee believes that the intelligence guiding UFOs is a kind of
control mechanism, an invisible hand shaping the development of human
consciousness over a period of eons. In the second installment he also talks
about the theory that from time to time governments have manipulated public
opinion through UFO mythology--in some instances constructing elaborate
hoaxes for propagandistic purposes.

60GCAT: Why are Americans obsessed with the idea that outer space aliens are
the pilots of UFOs?

Vallee: I think Americans, if they are interested in the subject, are very
literal. They want to kick the tires, which is a good American thing to do.
They want to do reverse engineering on the propulsion system. And when I tell
them, "Look, maybe those things don't have a propulsion system," you get a
strange reaction. Just like, if you remember, in Close Encounters, the
Truffaut character keeps going around saying this is a sociological
phenomenon, not just physical. And he has a lot of trouble getting that idea

60GCAT: At one point you subscribed to the theory that UFOs might be
extraterrestrial in origin. . . .

Vallee: When I met Stephen Spielberg, I argued with him that the subject was
even more interesting if it wasn't extraterrestrials. If it was real,
physical, but not ET. So he said, "You're probably right, but that's not what
the public is expecting--this is Hollywood and I want to give people
something that's close to what they expect." Which is fair.

60GCAT: So what do we know for sure about the nature of UFOs?

Vallee: There is a phenomenon. We don't know where it comes from. It's
characterized by its physical [traces]. Eighty percent of all the cases have
trivial explanations. But I'm talking about the core phenomena. It seems to
involve a lot of energy in a small space; it seems to involve pulsed
microwaves, among other things. There isn't much that is known about the
effect of pulsed microwaves on the brain, so it's quite possible that some of
the stories that you get from people are essentially induced hallucinations
in sincere witnesses--the witnesses are not lying. They really have been
exposed to something genuine but there is no way to go back to what that
thing was, based on their description, because their brain has been affected
by proximity to that energy.

Having said that, I have plenty of colleagues in science and technology I
respect who tell me this could be a natural phenomenon--this could be an
undiscovered form of energy in the atmosphere. We don't know much about the
effect of electromagnetic fields on the nervous system. We're going to be
discovering that as we go. So, it's quite possible that there could be a
phenomenon like that, a very spontaneous thing. Or it could be artificial. If
it's artificial it could come from another form of consciousness, which may
or may not be extraterrestrial. It's a big universe out there. Who are we to
say where it comes from? We can only speculate on that point.

60GCAT: How can we use our own comparatively backward technology to
investigate this mystery?

Vallee: Where I think that technology can be of help is in looking for
patterns. And I did as much of that as anybody else. I built, with my wife,
the first computer database of UFO sightings. But where I think computers
could be used much better is in applying artificial intelligence, reason, and
inference to eliminating the reports that have natural causes. I developed a
software prototype of that, which was called OVNIBASE, which I turned over to
the French CNES; presumably they are developing a next version of it, and
running it on their database.

60GCAT: What about other technologies that can help us analyze evidence
better than we could, say, 10 years ago?

Vallee: Digital enhancement of photographs is very useful. In my book,
Confrontations, I mention the photograph that I brought back from Costa Rica,
which was unusual because the object was over a lake [Lago de Cote], so there
was a uniform black background. Everything is known about the aircraft that
took the photo. At the time the picture was taken [in 1971], nobody on the
plane had seen the object. It was only after the film was developed that the
object was discovered. The camera used was exceptional: It produced a very
large negative--ten inches, very detailed. You can see cows in the field. The
time is known; the latitude, longitude and attitude of the aircraft is known.
So we spent a lot of time analyzing that photograph, without being able to
find any obvious natural answer to the object. It seems to be a very large,
solid thing.

I obtained the negative from the government of Costa Rica--if you don't have
the negative, analysis is a waste of time. I also obtained the negative of
the picture taken before and the picture after, all uncut. I took negatives
to a friend of mine in France who works for a firm that digitally analyzes
satellite photographs. They digitized the entire thing, and then analyzed it
to the extent that they could, and could not find an explanation for the

60GCAT: It's hard for Americans to grasp the idea that UFOs might be a
manifestation the other-dimensional. . . .

Vallee: You have to keep an open mind. What I try to do is what any cop would
do: I try to listen to the witnesses instead of printing my own theories.
Theories are a dime a dozen. They don't do any good. It's much more useful, I
think, just to listen to what people are telling you, and I've been trying to
do that not just in the U.S., but also in Europe and other places I've
visited, like Brazil and Argentina, and try to look for patterns.

"I've antagonized a lot of people because I think that the way abductions are
being handled is wrong. I tell people, don't let anyone hypnotize you if
you've seen a strange light in the sky."

60GCAT: You're a bit of a controversial figure among UFO researchers, mainly
because you entertain theories more exotic than the UFOs-are-from-outer-space
Vallee: I've antagonized a number of the believers in UFOs. Number one,
because I'm not ready to jump to any conclusion that it's necessarily
extraterrestrial--we're not smart enough to know what they are at this point.
And the research has not been done. I certainly remember enough of my
training in astronomy to tell you that the universe is big enough to have
other forms of life than us; at least we hope that it does. But so far we
cannot prove it. So we cannot see how they would come here--they probably
would be much advanced with respect to our physics, and they would have found
a way to do it. But that does not explain UFOs.

I've also antagonized a lot of people because I think that the way abductions
are being handled is wrong. It's not only wrong scientifically, it's wrong
morally and ethically. I've been telling people, don't let anyone hypnotize
you if you've seen a strange light in the sky. I think a lot of those people
prominent in the press and in the National Enquirer and in the talk shows and
so on are creating abductees under hypnosis. They are hypnotizing everybody
who's ever had a strange experience and telling them they are abductees by
suggestion. And they are doing that in good faith. They don't realize what
they are doing. But to my way of thinking, that's unethical.

60GCAT: What do you think of John Mack, the Harvard psychologist who believes
that alien abductions are a real phenomenon? Of course, he uses hypnosis on
his patients to liberate "repressed memories" of those abductions.

Vallee: I respect him for his courage in addressing the issue, but I don't
agree with his methods.

I've taken some witnesses who wanted to be hypnotized, taken them to
specialists in two cases out of maybe 70 cases of abductions that I've
studied. And usually the specialists tell me that hypnosis is not necessarily
the best way of helping these people. Nor is it the best way to recover
memories. It may help in very specific cases. But I've never hypnotized
anybody--I'm not qualified to do it.

60GCAT: How did you first become interested in UFOs and paranormal phenomena?
Vallee: I started out wanting to do astronomy and I ruined essentially a
perfectly good career in science by becoming interested in computers. This
was in France in the early days of computing and the earliest days of
satellites and space exploration. So I took some of the earliest computer
courses at French universities.

My first job was at Paris observatory, tracking satellites. And we started
tracking objects that were not satellites, were fairly elusive, and so we
decided that we would pay attention to those objects even though they were
not on the schedule of normal satellites. And one night we got eleven data
points on one of these objects--it was very bright. It was also retrograde.
This was at a time when there was no rocket powerful enough to launch a
retrograde satellite, a satellite that goes around opposite to the rotation
of the earth, where you obviously need to overcome the earth's gravity going
the other direction. You have to reach escape velocity in the direction
opposite the rotation of the earth, which takes a lot more energy than the
direct direction. And the man in charge of the project confiscated the tape
and erased it the next morning.

"The best UFO data has never been published. I think a great deal of the
misunderstanding about UFOs among scientists is that the scientists have
never had access to the best data."

So that's really what got me interested. Because up to then I thought,
Scientists don't seem to be interested in UFOs, astronomers don't report
anything unusual in the sky, so there probably isn't anything to it.
Effectively, I was in the same position that most scientists are in
today--you trust your colleagues, and because you don't see any reports from
credible, technical witnesses, you assume that there is nothing. And there I
was with a technical report--I don't know what it was. It wasn't a flying
saucer--it didn't land close to the observatory. But still, it was a mystery.
And instead of looking at the data and preserving the data, we were
destroying it.
60GCAT: Why did he destroy it?

Vallee: Just fear of ridicule. He thought that the Americans would laugh at
us, if we sent it--all of the data on satellites was being concentrated in
the U.S. And we were exchanging our data with international bodies. And he
just didn't want Paris observatory to look silly by reporting some thing that
he could not identify in the sky. [This was in] 1961. Later I found out that
other observatories had made exactly the same observation, and that in fact
American tracking stations had photographed the same thing and could not
identify it either. It was a first magnitude object: it was as bright as [the
star] Sirius. You couldn't miss it. It didn't reappear in successive weeks.
It's just a little anecdote, but to me that fact that we destroyed it was
more important than what we saw. And that reopened the whole question for me:
Are there things that scientists are observing and not talking about? And
then I started extending a small network of scientists, which is still
active, and found that there was a lot of data that was never published. In
fact, the best data has never been published. I think a great deal of the
misunderstanding about UFOs among scientists is that the scientists have
never had access to the best data.

60GCAT: Why has the best data never been published?

Vallee: I talk to a lot of technical companies where the executives are aware
of my interests, and I've had a lot of reports under seal of confidentiality
from people in science and in business who had seen things. About a year ago,
a vice president at IBM took me aside after a conference and said, "Are you
the same Jacques Vallee who is interested in UFOs?" And he described a
perfectly classic UFO close encounter story that he and his family had in
upstate New York. This is not something that is going to be in the National

I met a man who is president of a technical company in Silicon Valley; he
wanted to tell me about his experiences. He had been a very-high ranking
naval officer in command of a large ship, and he had three experiences with
UFOs, two of them in the service in very sensitive positions--and at one time
when he was a test pilot. He has never reported any of the encounters, even
when he was a pilot. I said, "Weren't you under obligation to report it?" And
he said, "Maybe I was, but if they have the slightest doubt about what you
are seeing up there, you are [considered to be] crazy--they won't let you
near the cockpit of an experimental plane." And he said, "If you're a pilot,
you want to fly. You don't want to spend the next month filling out forms for
a bunch of psychiatrics." Which is what will happen. I think any pilot will
tell you the same thing, you know, over a beer. So those are the cases that
I'm interested in. The cases that have not been reported in the press,
haven't been distorted in the retelling. When I have time, I follow up on
those cases with my own resources basically out of curiosity, with no
preconceived idea.

"I'm skeptical about stories of crashed saucers; I have an open mind about
it, but I've heard those stories for so many years and they never really
amount to anything tangible."

60GCAT: But skeptics always argue that even though there may be anecdotal
evidence, there's no hard scientific data. . . .
Vallee: There is plenty of data--and it should be analyzed further. But I do
not think it's going to be a propeller from a flying saucer. I think it is
going to be things that would be interesting if you could find a pattern to
the material. I'm skeptical about stories of crashed saucers; I have an open
mind about it, but I've heard those stories for so many years and they never
really amount to anything tangible. Also, I am skeptical for another reason:
We build technologies now that are extremely reliable where there is the
need. How often does your hard disk crash? I mean, if you keep your computer
for 15 years, eventually the hard disk is going to crash. But you don't
expect that to happen. If you were going to build a technology that takes you
across interstellar space, it would have to be extremely reliable.

60GCAT: In your books, you detail the hard data turned up in European

Vallee: There is a small unit of the CNES, which is the French equivalent of
NASA, that has permission to investigate any cases of UFOs. They were set up
in the mid-'70s and they've been going ever since. They found a number of
cases that couldn't be explained, and some cases were never published with
all the data. Cases where there were traces on the ground, where there was
evidence of heat, evidence of radiation, including pulsed microwave
radiation, and evidence of plants being affected. Again, that doesn't prove
anything. It just proves that there was something there. It doesn't tell you
what it was. But it certainly is a valid technical issue.

This data doesn't tell you if the phenomenon is natural or not, because it
doesn't tell you enough about the conditions where that happened. And that's
where I think a lot more research should be done. People have come to me
saying, "Look, I was a pilot or in a radar station in Alaska, and we were
tracking UFOs--we recorded the data, and I was a pilot and followed one of
those things and got gun camera footage of it. When I landed there was a guy
waiting for me, in blue jeans and a sweater, who said, 'You didn't see
anything up there.'" Meanwhile, a guy with a screwdriver is unhooking the
camera from the fuselage. Usually witnesses have no idea where those guys
come from. But somebody has a lot of data; and I think that this hard data
should be turned over to science, certainly the stuff from 20 years ago--I
mean, how classified can it be? By now, we should have known if it was an
enemy, so we should turn over the data to the scientific community. Let the
skeptics analyze it from their point of view and let anyone else analyze it
from their point of view. That's the way science should be done.

Part 2 of the Vallee Interview: "Liquid sky," alien control mechanisms,
"Messengers of Deception," government hoaxes and coverups.





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