December 28, 2015

A UFO Sighting in Malden: Reality, Daimons and Hoaxes

Did a UFO land outside Boston earlier this month?

According to MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network), a Malden resident reported seeing something strange the evening of December 10 in the skies over either Malden or Revere. (The two towns are adjacent so I understand how it could be hard to tell where it was.)

The witness was out walking around 11:00 pm when he saw something unusual flying above him. The object was described simply as "an odd light" which hovered and then landed on the ground. After it landed the witness saw a red light shining through the trees but was unable to make his way to it.

It was dark and too far away to see it, but I swore I saw a red light on the ground. So I tried to get closer to it, but the only way was through a forest and it could have been miles away. I was unarmed and had no flashlight so I did not proceed, but I am in the morning. Waited to see if it would go back up for a few minutes. It didn’t and I went home.

I have a lot of friends who live in Malden and have been there innumerable times, so I definitely find this story interesting. The town is densely settled but also has a lot of forested land. In particular I'm thinking of the the Middlesex Fells, a 2,500 acre park that is partially located in Malden. It has lots of rocky hills, woods, lakes and even some open fields that might be large enough for a UFO to land in. It's also a great place to hike!

A photo from Woonsocket, Rhode Island taken in 1967. Real or fake? From this great site.

I have two initial and immediate reactions whenever someone claims to have seen a UFO.

First, I ask myself, "Did they really see something mundane and mistakenly think it was some kind of weird flying craft?" Maybe it was a plane, or a meteor, or a satellite. The MUFON website itself notes: "Please remember that most UFO sightings can be explained as something natural or man-made." The witness in this case claims that it was definitely not an airplane or helicopter. They are familiar with those because a relative was in the Air Force. Interestingly, when the witness tried to take a photo with their iPhone it immediately lost all power. Hmmm. I don't think your standard 747 makes phones shut down...

Second, I ask myself, "Is this person playing a hoax?", which might be the case here. I'm not sure what an anonymous hoaxer gains by posting something to an online UFO site, but there are plenty of hoaxes online. The details in this report are a little hazy which does make me a little suspicious. For example, where was the witness when they saw the UFO? How could they see the light on the ground if it was miles away and in the woods?

After I have those two immediate reactions I will sometimes think about this passage in Patrick Harpur's 1994 book Daimonic Reality:

Charges of fakery, lies and hoaxing are leveled at all paranormal phenomena. ... It is nowhere more true than in UFOlogy, where debates run for decades about whether "contactees" really contacted aliens or whether they were lying. I suspect that, reality being what it is, the they themselves don't know half the time. In other words, I prefer to see hoaxing as a daimonic quality inherent in, and continuous with, anomalous events - which are neither "genuine" nor "fake" but, in a deeper sense, both

Oooooh! That's a philosophically shifty paragraph if there ever was one. I tend to think of things as being either real or fake. Were there really weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Do vaccines really cause autism? Is the Earth really round? We should be able to determine what's true or false.

The key word in Harpur's argument is "daimonic," which refers to the daimones, minor spirits in ancient Greek mythology who filled the world. The singular form is daimon, which the English word "demon" is derived from. The daimons weren't necessarily evil, though. Some were good, some were bad, and a lot them were just tricky. They could bring dreams to people who were sleeping, or visions to those who were awake.

Harpur claims that although we think of these daimons as purely mythological (if we think of them at all), they are still here, but rather than flying around in the material world they are now lurking in our psyche waiting to play tricks. He quotes Jung to support his argument:

There are no conclusive arguments against the hypothesis that these archetypal figures are endowed with personality at the outset and are not just secondary personalizations. In so far as the archetypes do not represent mere functional relationships, they manifest themselves as DAIMONES, as personal agencies. In this form they are felt as actual experiences and are not "figments of the imagination", as rationalists would have us believe.

Harpur further claims that these daimons want our attention, but since we ignore them they tend to show up as weird anomalous phenomena like Bigfoot, ghosts, spectral animals, and of course UFOs.

Sometimes they show up on their own, but sometimes the daimons will unconsciously urge people to imitate them or pretend they have seen them. They get humans to do their work for them. So that guy who dresses up like Bigfoot to tromp around the woods may have been inspired to do it by the daimons. That UFO hoaxer who posts a fake sighting online might have been inspired by these tricky spirits as well. A good hoax serves the daimons' purpose: to remind us that not everything is rational and that weird things still lurk out there in the darkness.

You may not buy Harpur's theory, but I find it interesting. It's exciting to think that strange entities are still out there in the world, either hiding in our psyches or in the woods in a Massachusetts town with two subway stations.

PS - It seems like there are a lot of UFO sightings in New England during the winter. Does anyone know if that is true? Is it just because it gets darker so much earlier? Please share your thoughts on this subject if you have any. 


Rich Clabaugh said...

Another fun post Peter, thank you! I'm sure UFO hoaxes will balloon now with drones becoming more popular.

Peter Muise said...

Hi Rich! Thanks for the comment. I bet you're right about the drone/UFO trend. I bought my brother a small flying UFO for Christmas!