Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Top Ten Paranormal News Stories of 2021

 The Top Ten Paranormal News Stories are put together strictly by my opinion. They are collected from the stories I’ve talked about all year long and are ranked by a few pieces of criteria. First, have they made a positive impact on one area of the paranormal? Many stories I talk about are hoaxes and misinterpretations, but what stories have created an awareness of a paranormal subject or taught the general public something, or better yet has something been learned about our mysterious world? Granted, even hoaxes can teach us something if we know for sure they were a hoax. Some feel all hoaxes harm the paranormal, but I say some educate us on what to look out for as far as a story or types of data that is presented. It’s easy to believe everything, but hard to be skeptical when you want deep down to believe.

   Second, how viral was the story? Many stories I talk about are popular on paranormal websites but have not been heard of outside of this arena or where the story took place. A story that is big at a regional level will have more weight than a local story and a global story will be higher than that. Also with this I look at how much it was talked about through social media as well as how long it lasted in the news as a developing story. Lastly, I look at the reality of the story. Meaning, does this story include a real person or it is possibly just a story made up for website hits? I usually do this early on to make sure these are truly newsworthy stories to begin with, but still some stories are a bit questionable in their makeup and are just stories hyped up for the paranormal community.

#10 Loch Ness Monster drone hoax

  On September 27th a canoeist named Richard Mavor posted a video of personal drone footage to his YouTube channel Richard Outdoors where viewers quickly pointed out at around 3:50 into the video a strange shape can be seen under the water.

  Mavor was in the area canoeing for charity and decided to take some 4K drone footage of the beach he was at. It was in this footage that people pointed out that he might have just filmed the most elusive water monster in the world. Mavor claims he did not see the shape in the water while he was filming.

  The story quickly spread to the media, and it became the biggest Nessie sighting of 2021. Based on the story initially I didn’t feel it was a hoax and felt it was just a case of mistaken identity with the object being a submerged log or a sand bar. Apparently, I was too generous on this story as many began to take a close look at the video including the YouTube channel ParaBreakdown.


  Analyzing the object, it could have been simply a photograph layered into the video, which would point toward an intentional hoax. Looking at the shape closely Sam Shearon was able to pull the image out a bit more in the video and was also able to compare that image to a toy plesiosaur. It’s pretty much an exact copy of the photograph and is embedded in the video.

  Long time Nessie hunter and researcher Steve Feltham felt immediately that the video was a fake. He said, “There appears to be no natural movement in the object, and an unlikely degree of illumination, I have spent many hours as a passenger in a microlite flying low over the loch trying to spot a silhouette in the dark waters, and things just do not show up that clearly, it looks almost like the object is illuminated.”

  While ParaBreakdown showed the video with the image highlighted next to the photograph of the toy that was used Steve saw evidence of his own. He pointed out, “Mavors had actually used a small section of the drone footage elsewhere in his holiday video, but the clip he duplicated did not have the Nessie image superimposed onto it, whereas the drone sequence did. It's utter nonsense, a schoolboy mistake in the world of hoaxing, never show the investigators your ‘before and after’ workings.”

  He added, “Someone quickly found the online image of a plesiosaur that he had used to create the Nessie shape, which he simply superimposed onto his drone footage. When a researcher asked to see the original footage, he had unfortunately deleted it already, more red flags. Lie upon lie upon lie.  The mystery around what he has done has been completely solved, it's a poorly executed deliberate hoax and now all that is left is for him to own up.”

  Last year we had the Loch Ness Monster photo that turned out to be a catfish that was blended into a photograph. These are examples as to why a mere photograph just won’t bring any valuable evidence on its own of an unknown creature. It also highlights the fact that every time we advance with technology that advancement is eventually used against people for something.

  Why it’s in the top ten: The Loch Ness Monster gets more headlines around the world than any other cryptid. Despite a lackluster year of sightings this story was by the far the largest for Nessie.
  Why it’s only number ten: Despite the interesting backstory and the “I didn’t see it when it happened” angle the story was quickly torn apart by internet sleuths. Had it lasted longer or become a larger story it might have been the biggest hoax of the year.

#9 Pilot reports UFO/UAP/missile over New Mexico
 

  A member of the flight crew of American Airlines flight 2292 radioed to Albuquerque Center that they had encountered something strange. The encounter happened on February 21st at 1:19 Central Standard Time over the northeast corner of New Mexico. The transmission was as follows, “Do you have any targets up here?  We just had something go right over the top of us   - I hate to say this but it looked like a long cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile type of thing - moving really fast right over the top of us.”

  The rest of the flight was apparently uneventful, and the plane landed in Phoenix, Arizona. Many outlets have been carrying this story, and there has been a lot of speculation about what was seen. The audio transmission of one of the crew members is the only evidence that this event occurred and was downloaded by Steve Douglas who published the 14 second audio on his Deep Blue Horizon weblog. 

  Many articles on this incident focus on other reports of cylindrical objects that seem to defy logic. One problem is that all we hear is a short sample of the crew member and Albuquerque Center, we never hear a response. Douglas states that the response was walked on by another frequency. Douglas provides the MP3 sample of the crew member, but he’s also copyrighted it. I’m not sure you can copyright someone else’s conversation especially since anyone can get the same recording as they are generally public domain.

  No one has come forward with any audio from Albuquerque Center or Phoenix for any replies to this inquiry. The website The Drive stated they talked with Douglass and have reviewed an hour before and an hour after the transmission. They are attempting to get the audio authenticated from the FAA and hopefully get a comment about it. 

  A day later there was more evaluation by those who heavily research stories like this such as Scott Brando of UFO of Interest as well as Mick West of Metabunk.org. It seems there are a couple of candidates of aircraft that flew close to the American Airlines flight. A Learjet with the tail number N738RJ flew over the airliner at about 5,000 feet and around 33,000 feet away. While this sounds far away it isn’t for aircraft flying 300 miles an hour plus and the smaller Learjet could be misinterpreted to look like a missile from the angle.

  The big issue with the analysis is that this incident happened at least eight minutes prior to when it was reported. It’s possible the pilot and other crew talked about it before reporting it or it could have come from someone else on the plane.

  The big issue with the analysis is the fact that the FAA responded to the claim by stating, “A pilot reported seeing an object over New Mexico shortly after noon local time on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. FAA air traffic controllers did not see any object in the area on their radarscopes.” Interestingly, an American Airlines spokesperson told Fox News in a statement, "For any additional questions on this, we encourage you to reach out to the FBI."

  Why it’s in the top ten: One of the biggest private pilot sightings of a purported UFO in recent memory and was splashed on every newspaper around the world. 
  Why it’s only number nine: This report may have been big news, but since it never had any follow up it quickly disappeared as quickly as it appeared, just like the strange cylindrical object.

#8 Patterson-Gimlin film a hoax in July, might be real in December

  On October 27, 1967, the 53-second-long encounter of a purported Bigfoot encounter near Bluff Creek in northern California was filmed by Roger Patterson and observed by Bob Gimlin. Since then, the film has been the center of belief and controversy. Many feel the film provides the best validation of the existence of Bigfoot while many others feel the film is a hoax with a person in a costume.

  Roger Patterson maintained that the film was legitimate despite potential evidence against it all the way up to his death from Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1972. Bob Gimlin has kept a low profile for many years until riding the speaking circuit at conferences and conventions talking about Bigfoot in recent years. He’s maintained to this day that the film is legitimate despite not making any direct money from it and his name being attached brining him a lot of strain on his marriage and personal life.

  Of course, a cast of characters have made claims that they were part of the hoax and that a suit was used by Patterson to fool Gimlin. Over the years a variety of statements have been made in an effort to discredit the Patterson Gimlin film despite a lack of evidence.

  Now a claim by Rictor Riolo, a cast member of Spike TV’s Ten Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty, posted online that a video exists that contains scandalous statements about the video. In part the post read, “Russell Acord has recorded a confession video of Bob Gimlin and plans on releasing it after Bob and his wife have passed away. Russ told me it is scandalous.”

  Thomas Steenburg decided to call Gimlin the following morning for clarification on the claims and stated, “At 9:30 [the following] morning, I called Bob himself. Bob hadn’t heard any of this because it was brand new, and I asked Bob straight out. Is there a video of you making a confession about the Patterson/Gimlin Film? Is this true, yes or no? And he said, emphatically, no. It’s not happened. He doesn’t know why Accord is saying this, but he planned on having a harsh phone conversation with him that day.”

  The plot also thickened as Steve Kulls, the Squatch Detective, made a statement on his YouTube channel. The video of which is now marked private, he explained that Richter is not lying, and that Russell had also told him that Gimlin had said the film is now what everyone thinks it is. Comments on Steve’s video included Finding Bigfoot’s James “Bobo” Fay who stated in short that Gimlin had made a death bed cowboy promise to Roger Patterson about the film but never elaborated. This cowboy promise might be the fact that despite dying of cancer Patterson wanted to go back out and get proof of Bigfoot with Gimlin once he felt better and that promise may have been that Gimlin agreed to do so.

  Despite these claims there is no change in the validity of the film and it’s sad to know that when Bob Gimlin passes away there will be a line of people ready to step in and make claims about what they know about the film to jockey for attention and fame. Obviously then Gimlin will no longer be able to defend himself. Gimlin will turned 90 this year just over a week prior to the film’s 54th anniversary of the film in October.

  The amazing thing about the Patterson Gimlin film is it’s either all or nothing. With many ghost and UFO videos you might have a UFO, balloon, reflection, airplane, hoax, or many other things. A ghost video might be a hoax with CGI, fishing line, or other means, a misinterpretation, or a genuine ghost. The Patterson-Gimlin film is either a person in a suit or the real deal and that’s it.

  The television show called “The Proof is Out There” is in its second season on the History Channel. The show covers paranormal topics as well as other viral subjects floating on the Internet and examines video evidence of UFOs, cryptids, ghosts, and other strange phenomenon and by using different people with varying backgrounds they determine the validity of these pieces of data with a vague grading scale. So far, the show really hasn’t done anything that is groundbreaking to me, but that changed on the December 3rd airing of the 13th episode of season two.

  This episode was titled Bigfoot Revealed and took a new look at the old film and brouhgt in a variety of people to give their opinion on pieces of it that have been the most controversial. They explain that many have based their opinion on the film that was filmed initially on horseback by Roger Patterson who jumped off and chased after the creature now known as Patty to get a closer look. This made the video very jumpy in addition to being very grainy. The original film is missing and presumed gone and 22 other copies of it exist that are varying quality.

  Engineer and computer scientists Isaac Tian helped splice together the 22 films using artificial intelligence to create the best video from algorithms to help integrate all the frames as well as stabilize it to help create the clearest view of the film ever. In recent years we have seen stabilized views of the video as well as it in 4K but this latest view gives more detail that we’ve previously seen and some of it has turned out to be shockingly convincing.

  The show does a good job of balancing the topic by mentioning the fact that there is heavy doubt about the validity of the video along with the stories of people coming forward stating it was faked with a person in a costume. They also integrate other more convincing or ambiguous videos of purported Bigfoot videos which helps solidify the precedence that the Patterson-Gimlin film brings as well as showing the clearest and most unobscured look at the creature ever.

  In one footstep we can now see detail of the right foot flexing in the middle of the foot with the toes curling backward as Patty takes a step. If this were a costume it would more than likely be built around a shoe which would make this pretty much impossible to do. They also show how the skull seems to match the anatomy of Lucy, the best example so far of Australopithecus, an ancient hominin that is said to potentially be the ancestor of Bigfoot as well as the variety of creatures around the world such as the Yowie of Australia and Yeti of the Himalayas if they are to be real creatures.

  The video, according to Cliff Barackman shows point-for-point the detail of Lucy’s head. The interesting thing here is that the discovery of Lucy occurred seven years after the Patterson-Gimlin video was filmed making it unlikely anyone could have created the creature to fool anyone.

  They also analyze the back of the head, legs, as well as the buttocks of the creature. In the end, while most of the cast are true believers in Bigfoot there is one skeptic that seems to be a bit more convinced by the new view of the video. The final judgement of the video according to host Tony Harris; the Patterson-Gimlin film just might be real. The entire episode is available to stream for free on History.com and I urge anyone who either does not believe or is on the fence about this video to watch it.

  Why it’s in the top ten: The Patterson-Gimlin film is the most iconic piece of cryptid folklore ever. It has formed the mold for every other fabricated video for Bigfoot and many other creatures. The fact that it is still heavily debated proves just how iconic it really is and no one can explain it or explain it away.
  Why it’s only number eight: While both ends of the spectrum were on display this year neither story seemed to gain a lot of attention and the good news is the video will live on as the most debated piece of folklore in history.

#7 2021: The year of the serval
 

  On Wednesday, June 30th Kristine Frank woke up to find a large serval hovering just six inches from her face. The cat had entered the house through an open door. Kristine scared it off her bed and she said it cowered in the corner. After getting out of the room her husband was able to open another door allowing the cat to go back outside.

  The cat didn’t seem too intimidated and hung around for a few photo opportunities before disappearing into a nearby golf course. So, I say large serval but it’s just two feet tall. Still, it was obvious to the woman that it was not an ordinary house cat. The serval essentially has the same size and diet as the fox. Servals have been kept as pets for thousands of years stretching back to Ancient Egypt. Despite this fact they are still wild animals although not a threat to humans.

  Authorities searched for the serval (named Nala) and finally captured it and hoped to relocate the animal to an accredited sanctuary. This story continues to add to the growing number of stories where people are put in danger by exotic animals being kept as pets. Anna Fyfe, owner of the long-necked, long-eared serval, says that she had the cat while living in South Carolina where it is legal to own the cat. She’s currently living in Georgia attending college at the University of Georgia where the cat escaped. Nala typically stays at her parent’s house in South Carolina, but she brought it to Georgia to stay with her for emotional support after a relationship ended.

  In part Fyfe’s statement to the press was, “The DNR did an amazing job at helping catch Nala and making sure everyone is safe, even though she is just a kitty and is harmless. They are not letting me keep her. They are taking her away to a sanctuary — I completely understand, they’re only doing their job. I’m just devastated because Nala is my baby. I wanted to bring (Nala) over to Georgia to stay with me because I couldn’t even sleep at night. She really helped me get through everything ... I couldn’t have got through any of this without her.”

  Alicia Prygoski, a senior legislative affairs manager with the Animal Legal Defense Fund says, “Wildcats are not meant to be pets.” Meanwhile, Fyfe says the cat was declawed and slept in the bed with her. She argued, “Yes, she is illegal in Georgia, but her home is in South Carolina, I think she should be taken back there. She's probably scared and confused right now.”

  Kim Kelly, a legislative affairs director at the Animal Legal Defense Fund says, “Even if this owner had the best intentions, it is not a domesticated house cat. These cats retain natural behaviors. They have the propensity to harm other animals.”

  Fyfe seems determined to get her cat back despite the plans to take it to a sanctuary. She says, “I will try to fight this the best I can. I don't think it is fair for her to go to a sanctuary. It is not a good life for her considering her life she had before.”

  In December of 2001 a seven-year-old boy was attacked by a serval who had escaped its owner. The declawed cat knocked him to the ground and bit him on the neck before being chased off by bystanders. In June of 2000, a man was walking a serval in New York when it suddenly attacked a four-year-old boy. The boy needed plastic surgery after a bite to the neck and face. The owner walking the cat also received several stitches to the hand. In October of 2019, a serval was shot and killed after attacking a dog and nearly attacking a sheriff’s deputy in Fairfield County Ohio. A serval attacked a child during a birthday party at a zoo in Indiana in 2018 requiring stitches. Numerous reports of servals escaping private owners’ litters newspapers across the United States despite warnings of what these cute but potentially dangerous cats can do.

  Yes, they are cute, yes, they are smaller, but they are wild cats with killing instincts. They have a much higher bite force than a house cat and have more aggressive tendencies especially if their needs are not met. They also have the tendency to urinate on everything as well as hiss constantly. These behaviors get worse with age and cannot be retaught.

  Multiple sightings north of San Diego California in early September made headlines as another serval was scaring residents and eating chickens. The owner of the cat has come forward and says its name is Pharoah and escaped an enclosure back on August 7th of this year. They presumed the animal had been killed by coyotes.

  Emily Shultz states that her husband and her mom bought the cat four years ago from a breeder in Mississippi and thought it was an F-1 Savannah cat. A couple of weeks later the cat was safely captured and returned to their owner.

  Also, in early September a pair of African servals escaped from a Huntsville Alabama pet store called 256 exotics. The exotic pet store focuses on reptiles and amphibians and other smaller birds and animals that are non-native. They also sell Savannah cats which are cats bred with servals. Alabama is one of 18 states that does not require a license to own a serval, but it looks like they may be breeding the serval to create Savannah cats which are still very popular to buy.

  Carol Baskin, of the Netflix documentary “Tiger King” fame weighed in on the escape of the animals on Facebook by saying, “Ask the USDA to cite this facility and seize the exotic cats to send them to legitimate sanctuaries that do not buy, breed, sell or allow public contact with wild animals. It’s not that these animals belong in cages, It’s just that it’s not legal to release them because they’re not native to the US. They’re native to Africa and since these cats were born in the US, they can’t be released to Africa…they’re stuck in a cage for the rest of their lives. But at least if they go to a legitimate sanctuary you’re not adding to the problem, as they are in these breeding facilities.” The cats were captured and brought back to the facility on September 22nd.

  In mid-October missing cousins to servals sent police into overdrive and the city of Royal Oak Michigan on high alert. Elaine Westfall is the owner of four African caracals named Bam Bam, Pebbles, Wasabi, and fire. At least two of the medium-sized wild cats escaped their elaborate enclosure and tiptoed through the neighborhood. Police were notified and immediately warned schools in the area and made it sound as if a 500-pound tiger was on the loose.

  Police recovered the cats and returned them to Westfall but have also issued her five citations as well as a demand that she must make the cats leave the neighborhood. Caracals are similar looking to servals but have a uniformed colored coat as servals have spots. Caracals and servals also both have large ears, but caracals have tufts of fur on the tips like the lynx.

  Caracals are quick runners with long legs and while shorter than servals they are stockier and can weigh up to 50 pounds. They’re also known to be able to leap at least 12 feet into the air and like the serval is an escape artist to those that are kept as pets like in this story. Westfall states she has spent at least $50,000 purchasing the cats from Africa and Florida as well as creating the elaborate enclosures in her backyard and garage. 

  In December San Diego encountered another escaped serval that ended up breaking into someone’s home. This cat was thought to be the same cat that had escaped earlier in the year. Also in December a family in Richland Mississippi responded to reports of serval sightings in the area. They had lost their pet serval who had escaped in mid-September. Two servals escaped an enclosure in September in Alabama and a serval escaped a petting zoo in North Carolina in July.

  Why it’s in the top ten: These escaped exotic pets have been popping up for years, but this year these stories were front and center in the media and social media stirring up a lot of debate on a variety of topics surrounding exotic animal ownership.
  Why it’s only number seven: Serval stories were outnumbered by alligator discoveries in places they don’t belong as well as a story that was more viral overall dealing with an escaped animal.

#6 Bigelow Consciousness Study

  Robert Bigelow, who has funded a few UFO research projects in the past is now focusing his efforts, or should I say money, on finding out if there is life after death. In early January Bigelow announced his intention of finding evidence of life after death.

  Bigelow, of course, is known for Bigelow Aerospace and his 2008 contract with the Defense Intelligence Agency to investigate UFOs as the Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies not to mention Skinwalker Ranch and his other ties to the government which helped create the focus on UFO research that has become mainstream today.

  Bigelow has offered $1 million to find credible evidence to support the existence of life after death. The Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies was created to, “try to conduct research and facilitate research into the possibility of the survival of human consciousness beyond bodily death,” according to Bigelow. It was established in June of 2020.

  Bigelow attempt to find evidence came in the form of essays. The BICS will award $500,000 for the top essay submitted on the topic, $300,000 for the second best, and $150,000 for the third. Essays will be judged by five renowned experts, and essays must be received by 5 PM Pacific Standard Time on August 1st. Applicants have to apply and be approved to be able to submit essays. Winners would be announced on November 1st.

  With the passing of his wife Diane last year after 55 years of marriage as well as his son and grandson who both committed suicide years ago, he began to personally ponder the question of what happens next. He is personally convinced that consciousness does in fact survive the death of the body.

  Bigelow received over 2,000 responses to the contest with nearly 40 countries representing. They then narrowed the papers down to 200 and hired six writers and academics that were familiar with the topic to act as judges. While the original intent was to award three winners the judges felt there was some very high-quality proposals and they opted to award 29 essays as winners with the last 15 being honorable mentions.

  This meant the prize money went from nearly $1 million to $1.8 million with 11 participants after the top three earning $50,000 and the next 15 earning $20,000 each. The winning essay belonged to parapsychologist Jeffrey Mishlove and was titled, “Beyond the brain: survival of human consciousness after permanent bodily death”. His 98-page essay included video clips as well as testimonials on near death and reincarnation experiences.

  All of the essays are available to be downloaded as PDF files at the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies website at Bigelowinstitute.org. Bigelow plans to edit the 29 essays into a series of books which he intends to give away for free to university libraries, hospitals, hospices, and religious organizations.

  Why it’s in the top ten: This story perfectly bookended the year from the announcement to the reveal. This story is one of the few that has had a large positive impact on the paranormal as this is the most work that has been done on life after death studies in decades.
  Why it’s only number six: Despite the work and monetary rewards the papers did little to actually discover or validate anything about the afterlife or consciousness, but hopefully its effects will linger.

#5 Houston tiger scare


  On Sunday May 9th residents were beyond startled when they saw a tiger laying in the grass in a street lined with homes in a west Houston residential street. An off-duty police officer approached the tiger with a handgun and pointed it at the animal but never fired. After a few tense moments of the tiger wandering the neighborhood after getting up. Then a man came out of a house and led the tiger into his home.

  Moments later the man, now known as Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, loaded the tiger into a white Jeep Cherokee and drove off just as police arrived. Cuevas evaded police after a short pursuit but was later arrested at his parent’s home and was charged with felony evading. He did not have the cat with him, and he and his lawyer stated that he was not the owner of the tiger which remained on the loose.

  Cuevas’ lawyer stated that his client was the hero in this situation as he is the one who caught the tiger. Although he’s the one who had possession of it in a residential neighborhood and he is lawyered up because he is currently out on bond from a murder charge stemming from a 2017 fatal shooting.

  I’ve said it before, you never know what animal might be in your neighborhood. Earlier this year a similar incident occurred in a San Antonio neighborhood where a man had a tiger escape and jumped into a neighbor’s back yard. Before the police arrived, he brought it back to his home and into an enclosure where he had other tigers. A separate tiger was captured later that month in a different neighborhood and was relocated to a wildlife rescue ranch in Texas.

  Another story that I’m surprised hasn’t been mentioned in all the news covering this latest event in Houston is the tiger that was discovered in an abandoned building in Houston back in February of 2019. That tiger, now known as Loki, was trapped in a cage and near death. Tigers are a little less dangerous when raised in captivity in close proximity to humans, but they are still extremely dangerous predators that can turn into a killer in the blink of an eye. 

  Sadly, there are around 5,000 to as few as 3,500 tigers are estimated to be living in the wild around the world. Meanwhile, there are estimated to be about 5,000 alone in the United States in captivity. The big problem with this is that only about 6% of these tigers are in zoos or other facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Most tigers, and many other exotic animals, live in people’s backyards or roadside attractions that generally fail to provide for the animals physical or mental welfare.

  The tiger was located on Saturday, May 15th. Victor and his lawyer had denied that the tiger belonged to Victor, but Michael Elliot, the lawyer, stated that the person who had the tiger called Victor’s wife Gia stating they had the tiger and were willing to turn it over to police.

  It’s also been released that Victor and his wife owned the tiger for about nine months which is how old the tiger was. The tiger is named India who was evaluated and sent to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch wildlife sanctuary in Murchison, Texas.

  Why it’s in the top ten: Loose exotic animals that are treated like pets have become a growing problem in the United States. This story shocked the nation and lingered in the news and social media for quite a while and has stirred some debate with lawmakers.
  Why it’s only number five: Once the tiger was captured the story disappeared.

#4 Starlink’s unintended consequences

  Since May of 2019 these rocket launches as well as the string of lights of the deployed satellites have been confusing viewers on the ground all over the world. One would think that after over 1,800 of these being put in space people would be aware of what they were seeing. SpaceX UFOs was the number seven story in last year’s countdown and was the number eight story in 2019

  This year the madness started in early March as witnesses in New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and other east coast states got a glimpse of a rocket carrying a payload of Starlink satellites. This led to some confusion and speculation that a giant UFO was headed our way. That same rocket would cause more panic on the west coast a few weeks later. Witnesses in the Pacific northwest saw a streaking fireball high in the sky. Some thought it was a UFO, a plane crash, or meteor but officials were quick to find out that it was the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that had been launched on March 4th that failed to make a deorbit burn.

  In early April concerned residents in Texas reported multiple lights in the sky to several news stations. Again, the speculation was UFOs or a crashing meteor but was once again the Starlink satellites. In early May there was widespread panic from Michigan, Wisconsin to Nevada and Texas over lights in the sky thought to be UFOs or all of the other things I’ve already mentioned. Calls flooded police and news stations but again turned out to be mundane Starlink satellite sightings.

  In late May I had a story where Canada had documented a notable surge in 911 calls following the launches where the deployment can be seen. Tracy Duval, a dispatcher, stated, “We were getting a lot of calls with the SpaceX satellite launches. They’re a very specific pattern in the sky, they’re not hitting the ground, and we can just explain very quickly to people that there are actual satellites. We have situations where people are saying that the aliens are coming.” The satellites are seen as they catch sunlight while in orbit a few hours before sunrise and a few hours just after sunset as the sun’s rays hit the craft in orbit and reflect the light back down to us. 

  In late August a story about Starlink being involved in close encounters of a potential collision kind surfaced. SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellations are involved in about 1,600 close encounters each week. This is roughly 50% of all situations in which two spacecraft passes within a distance of 1 kilometer or .6 of a mile of each other.

  Hugh Lewis, the head of the Astronautics Research Group at the University of Southampton, U.K. makes estimates of orbital situations using data from what is called the Socrates database. Of course, Socrates is an acronym which stands for Satellite Orbital Conjunction Reports Assessing Threatening Encounters in Space. 

  Lewis told Space.com, “I have looked at the data going back to May 2019 when Starlink was first launched to understand the burden of these megaconstellations. Since then, the number of encounters picked up by the Socrates database has more than doubled and now we are in a situation where Starlink accounts for half of all encounters.”

  In December I reported on residents as far south as North Carolina and north to Connecticut as well as far west as Arizona reporting lights in the sky of the deployed Starlink satellites. Starlink was also mentioned in the aftermath of the Russian anti-satellite test where Cosmos 1408 was destroyed creating about 1,500 pieces of trackable pieces of orbital debris along with hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces that are not that still pose a grave threat to anything in orbit. Starlink was forced to shift satellites to avoid the debris which also affected the International Space Station crew.

  Why it’s in the top ten: The Starlink satellites (and rockets that launched them) have probably accounted for more UFO sightings this year than all of the balloons, meteors, and swamp gas explanations in the last ten years.
  Why it’s only number four: Despite the growing amount of satellites to the constellation and the trouble they are causing with mounting space junk the public seems to be finally catching on to what they are seeing after two years.

#3 Thylacine lives on
 
  The thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger, received a bit of a revival of sorts in the paranormal news this year. This carnivorous marsupial has been in the news quite a bit over the years and many sightings have taken place despite most experts agreeing that the accidental death of a captive thylacine at the Hobart Zoo in 1936 was the last of its kind. Australia has kept records on thylacine sightings despite scientists stating the creature died out on the mainland thousands of years ago.

  Interestingly, a non-peer reviewed paper was published on January 19, 2021, that states that the thylacine may not have gone extinct back in 1936 but may have persisted until the 1990s or perhaps 20 years ago or might, just might, still be hiding out somewhere.

  Several reliable sightings were documented in the 1960s by trappers and bushmen. There was even a credible sighting in 1982 by a parks ranger which led to an intense localized search for the creature by authorities. However, a documented sighting accompanied by physical evidence still has not appeared.

  On February 22nd Neil Waters of the Thylacine Awareness Group of Australia released a 3 minute 20 second video outlining a new discovery. He stated that his team has not only discovered one, not two, but three Tasmanian tigers in the wild and not only that it seems the three are a breeding pair and a joey. The photographs were discovered on a trail cam in Tasmania.

  Waters seemed matter-of-factish that many will agree this is a living thylacine in the wild and the youngest one is recognizable by the tail and stripe markings. He was even talking about moving forward with making the thylacine critically endangered or even just an endangered species with the Australian government. 

  Waters states that his committee is in line with this being a group of thylacines, but an independent expert, Nick Mooney, was evaluating the photograph before they make the announcement public hopefully on or about March 1st.

  On the afternoon of February 23rd Mooney made a public comment about what he saw in the photos. Nick Mooney, honorary curator of vertebrate zoology at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, was quoted by a museum spokesperson saying, “Nick Mooney has concluded, that based on the physical characteristics shown in the photos provided by Mr. Waters, the animals are very unlikely to be thylacines, and are most likely Tasmanian pademelons.”

  He went on to say, “TMAG regularly receives requests for verification from members of the public who hope that the thylacine is still with us. However, sadly, there have been no confirmed sightings documented of the thylacine since 1936.”

  Neil Waters and his Thylacine Awareness Group have made bold claims like this in the past and while many were anxiously awaiting the news many others speculated that this would just be another attention-grabbing moment to advertise his movie or ask for money for further research.

  The pademelon is a small to mid-sized marsupial that is a cousin to the kangaroo and wallaby. They are very similar to a small-sized wallaby, are nocturnal, and are generally solitary animals, and a few have stripes, but not as pronounced as the thylacine. They also have long thick tails like their cousins as well as the thylacine. Many are confused as to how one could mistake the two animals.

  Many were withholding judgment until the photographs were released although most people seem that they already knew how it would unfold. On Sunday morning February 28th at midnight in Australia he released a 19 minute plus video on YouTube talking about and showing off the latest photographs.

  Neil seems convinced without hesitation that at least the juvenile photograph proves beyond the shadow of doubt that it is a thylacine. He draws circles and other objects on the photos and even uses thylacine photos to overlay to prove his feelings that at they are definitely thylacines. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof and we’re just not seeing it here. He seems to try to say that the shapes, stripes, and other details make this a thylacine and seem to make it sound as if the burden to prove otherwise is on others. That’s not how it works.

  He only seems to put in the effort to support his opinion and not to compare it to pademelons or other creatures as he only dismisses the idea. He even enlists other handpicked animal experts to evaluate the footage. One would assume that these experts are also on Neil’s side with hoping these are proof of thylacines.

  The biggest problem here is that there is a debate. If there’s any doubt as to what these creatures even are how can we say conclusively that they are an animal that has been extinct for almost 85 years?
  
  He says he disagrees with Nick Mooney’s opinion and that Nick himself told him to get as many opinions as possible. He says that he’s going to let the majority of people judge it. Again, many of the people he’s getting the opinion on are those that are in his circle which is not helpful. No matter how many experts he lines up on these photographs no one can prove that these are thylacine based on the limited views and lack of supporting evidence of tracks or other sign.

  September 7th marked the day that 85 years ago the last known living thylacine died at the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart of exposure. That day was also National Threatened Species Day. On September 7th the remastered video (digitized and colorized) of the last known thylacine was released by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) to remind us that our role in the survival of animals is larger than we realize.

  The original footage was shot back in 1933 on black and white film. In 1936 the species was granted protection status and yet 59 days later on September 7th the thylacine nicknamed Benjamin was left outside of its enclosure in suspected neglect. The last known shooting of a wild thylacine came in 1930 and despite numerous claims since then no has validated a wild thylacine since.

  Why it’s in the top ten: The initial announcement of evidence gave everyone hope that the Tassie tiger would finally be revealed as alive and well. Despite the evidence being a complete letdown, it captured the world’s attention.
  Why it’s only number three: If the evidence was something more credible there is no mistake this could have been the number one story. It fell short just as the evidence did, but it was still a captivating story.

#2 Oklahoma’s “Sasquatch Quest”

  On January 20th Justin Humphrey of the Oklahoma House of Representatives introduced House Bill 1648 which urged the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission to establish a Bigfoot hunting season. The bill sought to set season dates as well as licenses and fees effective November 1st. The thought isn’t about tearing up the state trying to kill the creature but that many people will buy these hunting permits as a pure novelty.

  Instead of revenue the bill attracted a lot of negative feelings in many different forms. Obviously, the pro-Bigfoot people were upset that the state is going to let people kill this elusive animal (if they could actually find them) and is promoting the killing of a creature that might be closer to humans than primates which could open up a legal nightmare for the state. It’s also a creature that is celebrated in the state with conferences such as the Honobia Bigfoot Conference.

  On the other side of the coin skeptics are upset that time and effort is being wasted on a mythical creature and is bringing embarrassment to the state. Micah Holmes, Assistant Chief of the Information and Education Division at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation told Fox News last week, “Here at the department, we use science to make management decisions, and we do not recognize Bigfoot as a wildlife species in Oklahoma.”

  Humphrey plays it off as just a novelty as he said, “Having a license and a tag would give people a way to prove they participated in the hunt, the overall goal is to get people to our area to enjoy the natural beauty and to have a great time, and if they find Bigfoot while they’re at it, well hey, that’s just an even bigger prize.” In addition to this Humphrey is also proposing a $25,000 bounty for Bigfoot’s safe capture. 

  In addition to the House Bill 1648 for Bigfoot Humphrey also put together another bill, House Bill 1653 which was about vaccines. The bill states in part, “any designer or manufacturer of a vaccine shall notify distributors, retailers, and health care providers if the vaccine contains human parts, animal parts, metals in any quantity, tracking devices, or any DNA-altering properties.”

  The bill isn’t centered on Covid-19 vaccines specifically but carries the general cries of anti-vaxxers which include being tracked, having your DNA permanently altered, or being injected with aborted fetal cells. None of which are remotely true.

  Commenting on Covid-19 Humphrey said, “First, we must establish that China developed this virus. “It was designed to infect overweight, diabetic, elderly people who have low immune systems. Where are the majority of overweight diabetic people found? That would be America!” 

  As far as the Bigfoot hunting bill it never made it out of committee, but he says that his idea did its job by promoting tourism to southeast area of the state. While he thought he would have to go through the state wildlife department to issue hunting licenses he discovered that since his intent is not to kill, he can go through the state tourism department. 

  Humphrey is now working with state tourism officials to set up what he’s calling Sasquatch Quest. The big rule is that Bigfoot must be captured unharmed and no one else can be injured nor can any laws be broken in the process. I think that if you’re trying to catch a 600-pound wild creature that seems to be pretty intelligent there’s a degree of danger involved and more than likely someone is going to get hurt along the way.

  What’s worse, is that there is money involved. The original intent was to set aside $25,000 of state money as a bounty for capture. But now he says an upcoming Hollywood Bigfoot movie has pledged around $2 million and another private business promised an additional $100,000. The good thing is the state will not flip the bill, the bad thing is that money will attract people who are not just coming to Oklahoma for the scenery and fun.

  Humphrey says, “We’re having fun with it. It's a lot of fun. I'm enjoying it. But at the same time, I know a lot of people thought I was crazy. But I think if people chill out, (they could) see that this could be a serious deal bringing in a lot of money, a lot of tourism.” Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Department of Tourism has not commented.

  The good news out of this is that profits generated from the Bigfoot tourism campaign will be used to maintain the state’s lakes, parks, and roadways. One confirmed plan is to allow businesses along State Highway 259A to sell annual Bigfoot tracking permits. The highway runs through Beavers Bend State Park and the profits from the sales would stay in the area.

  On Wednesday, May 26th, he announced that the bounty for Bigfoot had been raised again. He stated, “We're gonna offer $3 million, we raised the bounty today, $3 million for a live capture of unharmed Bigfoot.” He also stated that a film crew would be documenting various attempts to find the mythical creature over a six-month period. The series is set to appear in January of 2022.

  Why it’s in the top ten: This was probably the biggest Bigfoot story in years as far as how viral it was. It not only made a politician look crazier than normal, but it also stirred debate and discussion about this highly popular cryptid.

  Why it’s only number two: Despite this story being in the news for a good chunk of the year there was one story everyone was waiting on for a little longer.

#1 UAP Report finally revealed (and its fallout)


  Possibly one of the most important UFO stories in decades was finally unveiled on June 25th of this year after months of anticipation. The US intelligence community finally released its report on UAPs after much speculation. Unfortunately, it gave us about as much information as many thought it would.

  The short 9-page report stated that 144 reports originated from 2004 through 2021. Of these, 80 reports involved observation with multiple sensors. In 18 incidents described in 21 of the 144 reports there was observations of unusual movement by the UAP including patterns or flight characteristics. Of the 144 reports only one was able to be identified with high confidence which was discovered to be a large deflating balloon. Of course, this was the conclusion of the in-house investigation into these reports.

  Does the report point to alien powered craft flying through our skies? Not exactly, the report essentially points to the high possibility that these reports are due to foreign adversaries or like I’ve said even domestic technology that is more advanced than what the government is purportedly aware of.

  There is of course a list of issues behind UAPs which I have talked about over the course of the last few months. Many of these points are brought forth in this report including the lack of standardized report collection methods with most just taking statements or a mere collection of a single video. This isn’t good enough and while a small handful of reports have been researched thoroughly none of them are able to find any sort of potential logical solution or point confidently in another direction. 

  This is my issue that ties in with report collection; there doesn’t seem to be any apparent investigation going into most of these claims other than collecting statements and data. Many legitimate internet sleuths such as Mick West from Metabunk have been able to create a high amount of certainty toward potential explanations, but why can’t the government do this simple task?

  The other glaring issue with the report is that UAPs more than likely lack a single explanation. Are all of these sightings of alien spaceships or advanced foreign technology? Probably not and it may be possible that neither one of these explanations applies to the 144 current reports as well. Airborne clutter is the leading potential cause such as the deflating balloon identified in one of the reports, some could also be birds, recreational unmanned aerial vehicles or other airborne debris such as plastic bags. Many of these could confuse an operator especially with Infrared technology which seems to be at the center of many of these reports.

  Researchers outside of the government were able to discern that the glowing aura report was nothing more than a processing artifact that is common in thermal cameras. The Tic-Tac video coincided with movements of the camera meaning the object wasn’t performing fantastic maneuvers like advertised and even the object itself is in question. Even the Go Fast video was an illusion of speed due to camera movement and that object was actually doing wind speed which means it was more than likely a balloon.

  The Gimbal UFO shows that when the UAP purportedly rotated other patches of light in the scene rotated as well. This means the object was more than likely a camera artifact and shows a distant aircraft flying away. The aircraft was even identified by time and flight path although the government never commented. The triangle UAP video shows multiple points of light including stars as triangles. The filming method created an effect called Bokeh. All of these cases involved infrared cameras and a couple of them new cameras as well as new operators.

  The biggest letdown of the report is that is remains largely inconclusive. This means despite collecting these reports they have no idea what is causing most of them and still have a range of possibilities that could explain any number of these reports. To many this leaves the door open for alien operated UFOs, but as these reports come out we find there are actually logical solutions highly possible that may explain most if not all of them one by one.

  The biggest interest about the report is something that has already been discussed publicly and that is the fact that UAPs could threaten flight safety as well as be a national security threat. The UAP task force states that there were 11 reports of near misses by pilots with UAPs. While there is still no direct evidence any of these reports are foreign aircraft the government continues to keep a close eye on these reports as this is the highest potential threat.

  So just as many have speculated this report really doesn’t provide any answers and really just opens the door for even more questions. The only bright side is the fact that now the door is open for disclosure on this topic and the government will continue to monitor the skies and take reports on unidentified craft.

  After the release of the report the question was raised about how long the classified version of the report might be. Officials declined to answer the question and speculation began with many people making their own guesses from 70 to 400 pages in length.

  John Greenewald, author and podcaster who also operates the website The Black Vault, tweeted out last Thursday that he confirmed the actual length of the classified version of the UAP report. In an email from Sally A. Nicholson, a Freedom of Information Act liaison for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, stated simply that the classified version of the report is a whopping 17 pages in length.

  The upcoming financial year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act contains 1,362 pages and within it calls for a permanent office designed to address unidentified aerial phenomena or UFOs. In part the legislation reads, “Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence, shall establish an office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense to carry out, on a Department-wide basis, the mission currently performed by the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force as of the date of the enactment of this Act.”

  Despite the closure of Project Blue Book back in 1969 we found out in December of 2017 through the New York Times that the government had been documenting sightings of unknown craft in the skies since around 2008. In August of 2020 the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force or UAPTF was established to document and disseminate recent sightings. This, of course, led to the preliminary assessment of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena report that was made public at the end of June this year. 

  Outlined in the bill the new UAP office would be responsible for:

  • Developing procedures to synchronize and standardize the collection, reporting, and analysis of incidents regarding unidentified aerial phenomena across the Department of Defense. 
  • Developing processes and procedures to ensure that such incidents from each military department are reported and incorporated in a centralized repository. 
  • Establishing procedures to require the timely and consistent reporting of such incidents. 
  • Evaluating links between unidentified aerial phenomena and adversarial foreign governments, other foreign governments, or nonstate actors. 
  • Evaluating the threat that such incidents present to the United States. 
  • Coordinating with other departments and agencies of the Federal Government, as appropriate. 
  • Coordinating with allies and partners of the United States, as appropriate, to better assess the nature and extent of unidentified aerial phenomena. 

  Lawmakers will also require the new UAP office to provide the Senate and House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees with an annual report detailing its activities until at least December 31, 2026.

  Why this story is number one: UFOs are finally being taken seriously. Despite the reality of these reports being more for potential foreign technology it is mind numbing to see that the U.S. government is more concerned about UFOs than those who used to push the disclosure movement.





Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Are there experts in the paranormal? Part I

    This has been a hotly debated topic ever since ghost investigation went mainstream about the time the Internet went full speed just after the mid-1990s. While many people feel that one cannot be an expert in a topic that is not fully understood, or explainable, others readily refer to themselves as experts in either the whole topic of parts thereof (such as an EVP expert).

    My goal here is not to settle the debate but to look at both sides of the argument. There is a lot of baggage to unpack on this topic and after writing notes on this for months I realized I couldn't get my thoughts out in just one post. Part I will explore the basics and I'll tackle other related topics as I move forward. 

    What does it take to become an expert in an area or a field as a whole? Is someone being referred to as an expert really something worth bragging about or being upset by? Are there shadier things to worry about in the ghost field?

    More than once in my many years of being a public speaker on a variety of paranormal topics I have been introduced as an expert of some sort without prompt of course. I used to clarify that I did not feel I was an expert, but over time I've just sidestepped the comment and accepted it as an honorable gesture. It seems some get their feathers a bit ruffled when they hear someone refer to themselves as an expert.  Yes, it is a bit concerning when someone jumps into the paranormal and all they really have is having watched a few seasons of a television show as their training. Many of these television trained ghost hunters waste no time in jumping into client cases as well as claiming to be experts in either the whole or parts of the field which is concerning as a reflection to the rest of those involved.

    Before we get too carried away let's define an expert. According to Merriam-Webster
An expert is "one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject or having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience."

    According to Wikipedia:
"An expert is somebody who has a broad and deep competence in terms of knowledge, skill and experience through practice and education in a particular field. Informally, an expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by peers or the public in a specific well-distinguished domain. An expert, more generally, is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study. Experts are called in for advice on their respective subject, but they do not always agree on the particulars of a field of study."

    These definitions don't seem too farfetched for someone to be an "expert" in a particular part of the paranormal such as EVP recording or interviewing or even the field as a whole although less believable due to the number of topics involved. The last part is a notable one, "...but they do not always agree on the particulars of a field of study." Some fields have room for interpretation, and I feel that most aspects of ghosts or other paranormal fields are not clearly defined for just one possibility in most of the aspects involved.

    To me, a person's credibility as an "expert" is more believable when there is a heaping helping of skepticism or understanding of how and why the paranormal is defined as a pseudoscience. In addition, acknowledging other fields that can help define or interpret subjective interpretations of various phenomenon adds credibility. For someone to stand up and declare that all orbs (or at least 99% of them) are ghosts and offer minimal skepticism cries true believer, not expert.

    This is the line that begins to form where I would argue that no one can be an expert in the highly interpretive world of the paranormal. Is it all ghosts, strange creatures, and aliens, or is is subjective environmental interpretation, misinterpretation, or pure belief fooling people? Can there really be a middle ground on the topic as a so-called expert?

    It should be believed that most people in the ghost field over value their knowledge of the field. How could an expert in the field of ghosts not have read a journal from the Society of Psychical Research? How could an expert in the paranormal never have conducted objective research experiments? Most people in the field have not done either one of these and there is far more missing from the arsenal of an expert that most are not doing. But is that just a "paranormal expert" thing?

    A cognitive bias known as the Dunning–Kruger effect haunts the general public and the paranormal. According to this principle, people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. This tends to occur because a lack of self-awareness prevents them from accurately assessing their own skills. People in the paranormal feel like they have knowledge because they have memorized and rehearsed what others have said based on opinion. This repetition has now made these conjectures into perceived "facts" which are then repeated by newcomers and so on.

  There seems to be a large gap between knowledge of ghost investigators and the application of that knowledge. Take into consideration that an overwhelming majority of investigators state that hauntings (residual activity/place memory/repetitive hauntings, etc.) occur far more than intelligent apparitions (intelligent hauntings). However, when these same groups take to the dark to conduct an investigation the first thing they do (after turning on all of their gadgets and stare at the screens) is ask questions. What sense does that make? What's worse is that anything and everything that happens ends up being a ghost. Most ghost investigators claim to be open-minded skeptics but tend to act like true believers once the lights are off. There is even beliefs that some techniques can summon demons such as using a Ouija board. But is it a conduit of the devil or belief?

 
     Despite being a children's game and marketed as a parlor trick for decades the cardboard and plastic game has a reputation worse than the devil itself (mainly due to the Catholic church and the movie The Exorcist). However, groups use the same approach as one would with a Ouija board with handheld electronic gadgets without hesitation.

    Perhaps I've wandered a bit off topic, but I do feel the paranormal investigation arena has been self-taught for decades and the information gathered is extremely flawed. The big issue is that a true expert would see when something is wrong and correct it. However, in order to be respected one must follow what everyone else does and not veer too far off the path so it seems.

    Personally, it doesn't bother me when someone says "expert" as long as they do demonstrate knowledge that is level-headed, coherent, and is not based completely on conjecture along with understanding basic scientific principles that balance out paranormal thought. However, I have heard other words that make my skin crawl.

    There are plenty of groups and individuals that advertise themselves as "professional" paranormal investigators or ghost hunters. I would guess they mean they are professional in the way they act and present themselves and not professionals as meaning they are performing work in a profession. Right? Sometimes I wonder what part of the definition they are referring to with being "professionals" and does this mean that other groups are just amateurs? I know, many are, but what really separates one group from another? Size? The amount of tools? Certainly not the matching black shirts or the bad ass poses since everyone does that in the graveyards.

    According to Dictionary.com, professional is defined as:

adjective
1. following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain: a professional builder.
2. of, relating to, or connected with a profession: professional studies.
3. appropriate to a profession: professional objectivity.
4. engaged in one of the learned professions: A lawyer is a professional person.
5. following as a business an occupation ordinarily engaged in as a pastime: a professional golfer.
6. making a business or constant practice of something not properly to be regarded as a business: “A salesman,” he said, “is a professional optimist.”
7. undertaken or engaged in as a means of livelihood or for gain: professional baseball.
8. of or for a professional person or his or her place of business or work: a professional apartment; professional equipment.
9. done by a professional; expert: professional car repairs.
noun
10. a person who belongs to one of the professions, especially one of the learned professions.
11. a person who earns a living in a sport or other occupation frequently engaged in by amateurs: a golf professional.
12. an expert player, as of golf or tennis, serving as a teacher, consultant, performer, or contestant; pro.
13. a person who is expert at his or her work: You can tell by her comments that this editor is a real professional.

    I'm not sure how many weekend ghost hunters or paranormal investigators are getting paid, but that's not something many people think is legit (a topic for another blog post). As far as I know being a paranormal investigator is nothing more than a hobby or pastime, it's not a profession and you cannot get a scientific degree in any topic relating to the paranormal other than parapsychology. Also, another topic for another day is the fact that to be a parapsychologist you have to take masters classes at an accredited university. Online classes that hand out certifications in parapsychology do not make it legit (or legal) for you to call yourself a parapsychologist. 

     In the definition of both expert and professional we saw words like "training" and "knowledge". Other than watching multiple seasons of television shows how do groups gain their knowledge? Can you get what you need from television, the Internet, and books? In the next part of this blog topic, I'll begin to talk about the next issue that deals with the "experts" and "professionals" which is certification programs. Some people hate them, many groups do them, but are they something that should be allowed to happen? Are they worth getting upset over? Are they worth anything at all?

Friday, January 1, 2021

The Top Ten Paranormal News Stories of 2020

 


10. MUFON director arrested


Jan Harzan, the head of the Mutual UFO Network which is the largest UFO research and investigation outlet in the world, was arrested on July 3rd on charges of soliciting a minor “for the purposes in engaging in sexual activity” according to the police report.

The Huntington Beach Police Department arrested Harzan as well as another gentleman on July 3rd and July 8th respectively surrounding sting operations in adult men targeting minor females. A Facebook post on the Huntington Beach Police Department’s page said in part, “On July 3, detectives contacted a male by the name of Jan Harzan after Harzan solicited sexual activity from a detective he believed was a 13-year-old girl. The suspect solicited the minor to meet for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity, and when the suspect agreed to meet the supposed minor, detectives were there to take him into custody.”

Also, according to the police report Harzan was arrested on multiple felonies and was specifically targeting minor females online. Harzan retired from IBM after 37 years in the information technology business, according to his MUFON bio. 

Why this story made the top ten: Despite being threatened by the monolith saga of December, Brazil UFO crash, workout ghost video, the Wisconsin Bigfoot bulletin and other stories, this one affects the largest UFO organization in the world. Despite the uptick in popularity and recognition of UFO and related phenomenon this is another black eye for the organization as well as the field of research. Short term affects seem minimal, but this story may wear down the organization’s foundation and public trust.

Why this story is only number ten: Although this was a shocking story involving MUFON it seemed to disappear as quickly as it appeared.


9. Lake monsters (other than Loch Ness)    

A 34-year-old British tourist was kayaking in the Nahuel Huapi Lake in the Patagonia region in Argentina when he disappeared back in late January. Sadly, the remains of the kayaker were later found about 20 miles away from where he had last been seen. Parts of the lake had been closed due to high winds which more than likely was the cause of the death. 

This explanation probably satisfied most, that was until a video surfaced a few days later of what appears to be a large monster swimming beneath the surface of the lake. The video doesn’t show much more than what looks like a wave in the middle of a narrow stretch of the lake, but it’s certainly caused some panic in the region and the video was the subject of many news reports in the area. 


A local legend exists of a creature named Nahuelito. The creature is generally described as a giant serpent and usually the same as the Loch Ness Monster appearing as a plesiosaur. In fact, a three-hour drive south of the lake is a small lake that is named Laguna del Plesiosaurio, which is purportedly where a few other sightings have occurred.

Rumors of this creature have persisted since the late 1800’s and the media took a heavy interest as early as 1922 which predates the Loch Ness Monster’s popularity. 

A video taken by Blake Neudorf and his father who were out on a dock at Lake Okanagan back on July 10 of 2018 finally hit YouTube on January 2nd of this year and the video has since taken off with over 50,000 views on the original video and several thousand on other sites as well as news stories covering it in the British tabloids. Lake Okanagan is purportedly home to Ogopogo, the British Columbia, Canada version of the Loch Ness Monster.  


In early February a strange creature was seen on the beaches of Mexico. People were walking along a beach about a dozen or miles or so northwest of Puerto Vallarta Mexico on the Pacific coast when they spotted something dead on the beach.

They initially thought it might be a dead dolphin, but as they got closer they realized it had an extremely long tail, no fins, as well as no eyes. The creature also had a mouth full of long sharp teeth.

There was a lot of speculation that the creature could not be identified by fishermen which meant it was something never seen or could be a genetic freak, but the creature was obviously one that lives in the depths of the Pacific Ocean where it would not need its eyes. 

A mysterious ten-foot-long creature in a lake in China frightened villagers, stunned the Chinese media, and has left everyone else baffled. That’s what the headlines say about a short viral video of a strange looking object submerged under milky brown water that could be a river, lake, or even a pond although it’s referred to as a reservoir in the story. This would suggest a manmade lake which would eliminate the possibility of a strange unknown creature. 


The ten second footage shows the mystical creature moving up and down at a fast speed. The social media animal experts have all weighed in their opinions and while many feel this could be the Chinese version of the Loch Ness Monster there are some other lesser exciting arguments being tossed around.

While some think this could be a crocodile or large snake, others suspect this could be a shoal of fish, a group of fish crowded together. When watching the video near the beginning you can see a small splash occurring at the far side of the mass about midway. This would indicate a group of small fish swimming together and seems like the most plausible answer.                                                                                                                               


The Loch Ness Monster’s American cousin is feeling no love. A “Champ Challenge” was created in early October to get people to look out for the elusive Lake Champlain monster that doesn’t get much media attention anymore. 

Through the years the best proof gathered comes in the form of a photograph taken in July of 1977 by Sandra Mansi. In the photo you can see what appears to be the head and neck rising out of the lake with part of a body visible out of the water. People are still looking for Champ but with all the attention that the Loch Ness monster has received lately the folks at Port Henry, New York are hoping that some attention can be had for Champ.


Adam Schwartz from Calgary was out in West Kelowna for Thanksgiving (Monday October 12th) and was hanging out near Lake Okanagan. Schwartz stated, “We were just hanging out on the shore, It was a really calm day and no boats were passing by or anything. We were looking out at the water. Then, all of a sudden, we saw this weird formation of waves that were kind of going against the current of what was coming in.”

He said the waves were moving really weird for about 30 seconds, he was then able to record the sighting for another 30 seconds before it disappeared. He also states he has spent some time on Lake Okanagan on vacations over the years and has heard all about the legends. After his sighting was captured on video, he uploaded it to TikTok which has since gone on to gather thousands of views.  

In late October a story out of China and North Korea involved one of the lesser-known lake monsters. This creature is called the Lake Tianchi Monster and resides in Lake Tianchi which is also known as Heavenly Lake of Tianshan or just Heaven Lake depending upon if you’re in China or North Korea. 

Heaven Lake is an alpine drift lake that was formed from volcanic activity and is part of the caldera that was formed after a massive volcanic eruption in 946 A.D. It’s a beautiful lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains, until you stand back and realize it’s water inside of a giant volcano surrounded by other volcanoes. The lake straddles North Korea to the southeast and China to the northwest.

It’s recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as being the highest volcanic lake in the world and is considered a culturally significant area to all Koreans. It’s covered with ice from mid-October until mid-June, but the creature that is said to live there has been seen since at least 1903.


This latest sighting comes from a caretaker at the mountain known as Mr. Yu. Mr. Yu was taking video of the lake and managed to get a black creature swimming in the water. The video was taken about 1,640 feet above the lake from the surrounding mountain area. Mr. Yu did not see the black spot initially but when he finally did he continued to film it. He said that in the past he has seen similar things that he was able to determine were boats, but this latest sighting he says was definitely not one as he says the area is currently closed to the public.

Why this story made the top ten: A collection of lake monster stories? What’s not to love? While none of these alone would have surfaced in the top ten by bundling them together they easily swim in at number 9 on the list as most of these stories gained worldwide attention and a depth of speculation.

Why this story is only number nine: Despite these intriguing stories nothing relevant came out of them other than curiosity and a distraction from Covid-19 coverage.


8. “Mad” Mike Hughes death and ‘Flat Earth hoax’   


Mad Mike Hughes, known as a Flat Earth believer who fires himself into the sky with a home-made steam powered rocket, died from injuries resulting from a crash. The crash occurred on February 22nd in the desert near Barstow, California about a two-hour drive northeast from Los Angeles.

The 64-year-old was filming an episode of a new television series called “Homemade Astronauts” for the Science Channel when the accident occurred. Hughes was attempting to get his rocket to 5,000 feet but it only managed to get just shy of 2,000 feet. 

Mike’s parachute seemed deploy just after takeoff and was shredded from the rocket’s steam exhaust. The premature parachute launch pulled the rocket off to a curved course and without it the craft headed straight down to the desert floor after its apex gaining speed until impact. Onlookers were horrified knowing likely they just watched a man die.

Justin Chapman, a journalist on the scene, published the launch via Twitter with a 48 second clip stating, “Mad Mike Hughes just launched himself in a self-made steam-powered rocket and crash landed. Very likely did not survive.”


Hughes’ rockets were all self-made and he stated he builds them by trial and error and has had several crashes over the years including one less than two years ago that caused him back issues. His rockets were launched from the back of a truck trailer. Chapman also commented that he thought the parachute might have been accidentally launched due to the rocket rubbing the launch apparatus, meaning the trailer.

Many headlines speculate that the reason for the rocket launches was to prove that the Earth is flat. Hughes had said this during a 2017 interview. However, during a 2019 interview with Space.com Mike clarified his statement by saying, “This flat Earth has nothing to do with the steam rocket launches, it never did, it never will. I'm a daredevil!” He also added that his biggest intention was to inspire people.

Darren Shuster, a public relations representative for Hughes told Buzzfeed news, “We used flat Earth as a PR stunt. Period.” Shuster clarified by saying, “He was a true daredevil decades before the latest round of rocket missions. Flat Earth allowed us to get so much publicity that we kept going! I know he didn’t believe in flat Earth and it was a shtick.” The truth may never be known but “Mad” Mike Hughes will more than likely go down in history as a Flat Earth believer who lost in his quest to find his personal truth.

Why this story made the top ten: The saga of Mike Hughes has lasted many years and has tied in with Flat Earth stories in the past. The crash and death of Hughes was widely covered by the media in the pre-pandemic 2020.

Why this story is only number eight: The death and attention of the plight of Hughes led to the reality that his adventures had nothing to do with the Flat Earth hypothesis, only that he was a daredevil.


7. SpaceX “UFOs” 

We didn’t have to wait very long for the SpaceX launches to create drama in 2020. On January 6th SpaceX launched 60 more Starlink satellites bringing the total to 180. These latest satellites are coated with a dark cover to help lessen the reflectivity from the sun during darkness, the sun is frequently reflected to the viewers on the surface from medium to high altitudes (due to the Earth actually having a curve to it).

UFO reports flooded in a few states including Nebraska and Texas. Numerous photographs of the line of satellites being launched were taken in the Lone Star State, but luckily many knew what they were looking at. 

New Zealand residents feverishly reported seeing numerous UFOs in the sky in late January. As expected, Elon Musk’s Space X Falcon 9 rocket deposited 60 more starlink satellites and again caused numerous people to report UFOs. This is the fourth trip and this launch was delayed shortly by weather before being launched.

In their defense, many people did report what looked like satellites on social media, but many others were perplexed by the long string of lights in the sky.  


Strange lights in the sky over Manitoba late March stirred up a lot of attention. People flocked to social media to talk about their experiences of seeing lighted objects moving through the sky. In April, residents over the United Kingdom witnessed strings of light dancing across the sky thanks to SpaceX.

Musk plans on putting up 12,000 suitcase sized Starlink satellites in orbit to provide internet to those who cannot currently get it. Worse yet, there other companies are set to launch thousands of their own satellites similar to Musk’s. By late March there were about 300 of the Starlink satellites in orbit but they have already been noted to be creating issues for astronomers and now confusing stargazers; and sadly, the situation will only get worse from here.

The issue is that despite being suitcase sized they will appear bigger and brighter than most of the natural stars in the sky.  Scott Young, manager of the planetarium at the Manitoba Museum, said of the Starlink satellites, “They’re unusual sightings now, but pretty soon it’ll be the new normal… all you’ll see are these satellites. Imagine trying to find constellations at night. Imagine if only a quarter of the dots you’re looking at are actually stars.”

We’re obviously aware that the world is changing, and things are generally never the same after technology moves us forward, but while the world is still dealing with light pollution in many places at least there’s a way around that. Putting up artificial stars will rob our children of being able to see the sky for what it is. For me it’s always a thrill when I can spot a satellite from the ground, but once these 12,000 plus satellites are in place one will probably be amazed to see a natural star or planet.   

While Belgium didn’t have any reports for the month of March sent to MUFON an article from the Telegraph points out that Belgium had a record month of UFO sightings. According to the article there were 87 reports in March and 188 for the year of 2020 so far.

The COVID-19 lockdown certainly narrowed the country’s attention and kept everyone looking for anything to do. Second, the weather had been clear for much of the month. Third, from March 28 to April 1st there were at least 50 reports of a row of lights moving from west to east. Of course, these sightings coincided with another launch of Starlink satellites.   

According to K102.5 Kalamazoo’s Greatest Hits radio station, the Starlink satellites did a flyover which caused an influx of UFO reports in early May over southern Michigan. The satellites also created a bit of concern back on April 19th in Great Britain and parts of Europe as people saw the string of satellites flying across the sky.     


We’re also still dealing with the Kessler Syndrome or Kessler effect where space pollution with satellites and other debris may limit us to travel into space in the future. The key part to the Kessler Syndrome is having too many objects in lower Earth orbit. This increases the chance of collisions. A single collision could create a chain reaction that could create even more debris and continue to destroy satellites leaving us without our space-based technology and ultimately having us trapped on Earth.

Currently there are about 2,300 active satellites orbiting Earth with about 3,000 littering space in addition to tons of other pieces and parts stuck in orbit for periods of time until they burn up in the atmosphere which for some may never come or take years to occur.

In October, the European Space Agency released its annual report on space debris, and it states that risk of dangerous collisions is on the rise. Also in October a close call between a defunct Russian satellite launched in 1989 and a spent Chinese rocket launched in 2009 could have created thousands of pieces of space junk that could have created a chain reaction like the Kessler Effect. SpaceX plans on putting up 42,000 or more Starlink satellites to bring Wi-Fi to the world, but at what cost?

If you want to see if the Starlink satellites are going to pass over your area you can check out the website: https://findstarlink.com/ 

Why this story made the top ten: UFO sightings were said to be on the rise this year, but so were Starlink launches. The launches are not only causing UFO sightings but also concern by astronomers and other scientists about our ability to see the night sky and to not end up trapping ourselves on Earth.

Why the story is only number seven: Surprisingly, the satellite launches created minimal accounts of UFOs compared to what I had predicted. The negative press was minimal about Starlink this year compared to last year and it looks as if these launches will increase and these UFOs will become more recognizable over time.


6. Arecibo observatory 


One of the most heartbreaking stories of 2020 related to the paranormal came to a crashing conclusion at 7:55 AM on December 1st. The location in Puerto Rico had suffered moderate damage from Hurricane Maria in late 2017 as well as from several earthquakes since which put a strain on the budget for the facility. A cable break in August of 2020 brought concern to the structural integrity of the platform, but plans were in place to help reinforce it.

However, a second cable break on November 6th put the observatory at high risk of self-collapse. The National Science Foundation conducted surveys of the damage and engineers had determined the structure unsafe and the 900-ton platform would eventually be destroyed as safely as possible by a controlled demolition. On November 19th, the facility was officially decommissioned by the National Science Foundation.


Many were hopeful that the telescope could still receive emergency funding to be repaired despite the claims by engineers that the cable failures meant the health of the structure was worse than initially believed. On November 21st, a petition was started on Whitehouse.gov to stabilize the structure that contained 20 tons of lead weights and is a potential hazard to an aquafer below. The structure is also vital to the safety of Earth due to the observatory’s unique ability to spot near-Earth objects that threaten life due to potential impact.

Ángel Vázquez, the observatory's director of telescope operations, was in the control room with others removing valuable equipment on the morning of December 1st when the platform gave way. He stated that during the week other cables on the arm that broke began to fray with strands visibly coming from the cables which eventually led to the breakage.


Drone footage captured the moment one of the cables came undone and snapped causing other cables to break and allowing the platform to swing and essentially destroy itself landing on the outside of the 305 meter or 1,000-foot-wide spherical reflector dish. No one was harmed in the uncontrolled collapse.

The Arecibo observatory was completed in 1963 and was the world's largest single-aperture telescope for 53 years, surpassed in July 2016 by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China. The observatory is well known for its “Arecibo Message” sent in 1974 by Frank Drake that includes data about Earth and humans. However, the merits and discoveries are long including the discovery of the first exoplanet, binary pulsar, in addition to a huge chuck of data to the Seti@home project and other SETI projects. 

Why this story made the top ten: Arecibo was one of the most unique radio telescopes even after it was no longer the largest. The observatory has carried out more work for SETI projects than any other telescope and is well known for its message sent into outer space in 1974. Most astronomers agree the loss of this telescope will hurt efforts of locating near-Earth objects and the work this unique telescope was able to conduct.

Why this story is only number six: Despite its work for SETI and science the paranormal community seems unaffected by the loss of the observatory. While 2020 was full of devastating losses, fear, and more important things to worry about the observatory’s destruction was more of a burden for scientists.


5. Mysterious Western US Drones          


Since mid-December, Sheriff departments in Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas had been inundated with calls of swarms of giant drones in the sky. One witness described seeing about a dozen or more drones that had a wingspan of at least six feet.

Sheriff departments were then joined by the FBI, FAA, and the Air Force in getting to the bottom of the mystery that has many residents in these three states feeling nervous, vulnerable, and downright scared. A local CBS affiliate waited for nightfall with one of the witnesses and was able to document the drones from a distance.

The FAA and Air Force have both claimed they did not know who was behind the drones and the FAA has even said they’re not even sure if these are drones, despite the numerous witnesses and videos. None of the agencies felt that the drones posed any sort of threat and seemed to downplay the activity which seemed suspicious although it might have been to calm the growing concern.

Colorado, seemingly being the epicenter behind the sightings, even created a task force that searched for a command vehicle that could have been deploying the drones. They were looking for potentially a closed box trailer with antennas or a large van. A specialty armed airplane with three cameras that see in color and infrared even went in search of the drones with no luck.  


The Air Force Global Strike Command oversees underground Minuteman silos across northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and western Nebraska, the areas where the drones have been spotted. The Air Force uses drones to keep other drones away from bases to keep the United States bases secure from prying eyes or from other aerial attacks. The Air Force denied that the drones are theirs, which technically they belong to a third party and not the Air Force. So, it’s possible these drones were theirs, but they don’t want that information going public.

The military drone hypothesis was made from drone and aviation experts in Colorado, some of which had their own interesting sighting. Chris Swathwood, the chair of the legislative affairs committee for the Colorado Aviation Business Association and a seasoned drone pilot stated, “We did get eyes on one about 200 to 300 feet above, and it was moving at about 100 knots. It was a large, fixed wing aircraft. It was dark, and it had lights unlike any other manned aircraft would normally have.”

Swathwood also stated he felt the drone was more than eight feet in size and would use a runway to take off or could take off vertically, but it had a drive motor in the back propelling it forward. He also said this type of drone is more like something the military uses for large areas of surveillance and could be remotely flown from just about anywhere and would cost likely over $100,000 each to build.

The U.S. Air Force as well as oil and gas companies have denied using these types of drones in the past. So far, Amazon, Paragon Geophysical Services, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Colorado Department of Transportation and UAV Recon have also denied having connections to the drones. 

Officials are warning people not to shoot at the drones, as besides being highly dangerous it is also illegal. Drones are highly regulated, and this latest activity is making officials think that drones should have ways to be identified from a distance so that mysteries like this are not turned into potential threats. In fact, in December the FAA announced a proposed rule that would ensure all drones registered by the agency have remote identification technology. 

On the other side of the coin, it has also been proposed that maybe someone saw a handful of drones in one location, but others are seeing something different such as satellites or even stars and have misidentified them. Drone paranoia has grown large in these states and many claims of sightings yielded no actual sightings by trained observers reacting to the area so it’s possible that this flap of drone sightings might be spurred by panic.     

On Tuesday, January 7th a medical helicopter pilot reported a drone had come “in dangerous proximity” to the aircraft. Pilot Kirk Peebles stated the drone passed within 100 feet of his helicopter. The Colorado Department of Public Safety then began to use more ground-based teams as well as aircraft to potentially get to the bottom of the mystery quicker. 

A Multi-Mission Aircraft took flight with cameras that had infrared and other ways of capturing video but was unable to find anything valuable. The MMA was tasked with finding a ground control vehicle for the drones. Any video captured by the MMA will not be released until the investigation is over. 

On Saturday January 11th, Colorado Department of Public Safety officials tested a small drone at low altitude as part of training for state workers. The training is aimed at helping the workers be able to identify smaller drones at a close distance versus large aircraft at a further distance.

There has been some talk by a few experts that many witnesses are probably seeing aircraft at a distance instead of drones, so the state is conducting some research and training for this scenario. They plan on testing the drone for a few nights and have warned the public of the tests so these flights will hopefully not get reported.  

Since the first large drone sightings there has been no physical evidence of large drones. Could this be a case of mass panic over a random sighting of something or could it be some sort of conspiracy theory? 

Once these sightings began to get national attention over 70 local, state, federal, and even military officials met in Brush, Colorado to help get to the bottom of the drone mystery. A joint drone task force was formed with ten to fifteen separate agencies actively working together to solve the sightings.

What about the helicopter pilot that states a drone came into “dangerous proximity” to his aircraft? How could we doubt the account of a trained pilot? Consumer drone company DJI has gathered several news reports of purported aircraft and drone collisions each with a not cut and dry outcome.

An August 2015 account of a small twin-engine plane that hit an unidentified object was fueled by speculation it hit a drone. Microscope research indicated a bird was responsible. A British Airways pilot reported hitting a drone at 1,700 feet in April of 2016 while on approach to Heathrow Airport. The media pushed the drone hypothesis heavily although no evidence was discovered of a drone and no damage to the plane was seen also the U.K. Transport Minister later said it might have been a plastic bag.

An airliner in Mozambique claimed to have hit a drone after hearing a loud bang. Despite a large dent in the nose of the plane it was determined to be structural failure, not an impact. A pilot in Australia claimed to have hit a drone while landing in July of 2017. DNA tests confirmed the plane had struck a bat. Many other incidents have been noted of balloons that were reported but drones were used in the media instead.

Another organization analyzed 764 reports of drones and found that only 27 were legitimate near misses of an actual drone: that’s just 3.5%.

When these sightings broke it was just days after the FAA proposed a rule that drones be identified remotely by using an identifier and GPS coordinates to a central database via a cellular signal. Granted, the big push behind this is in part that many companies including Amazon and the United States Postal Service are using drones more and more for commercial uses as well as that drones and their owners are hard to track by authorities who see illegal activity with their use.

Are these sightings being used to push an agenda to track drones? Probably not, but it sure does help to justify it.  

Officials revealed that there have been 90 incidents of drones since late November, 14 of which were just hobby drones. The other 76 cases are unresolved. With the big attention on the drone story 23 more cases have filtered in within the last week. Of these cases only 4 are a mystery while 19 have been determined to be hobby drones, planes, as well as planets or stars. People are seeing everything and reporting it as these drones.

One of the 19 reports turned out to be the Fort Morgan Colorado helicopter incident. Just one small daytime drone was reported, and the drone was not in a path or area that it should not have been. 

Officials have now admitted what many had been saying all along, there have been no confirmed circumstances of illegal drone activity. Along with this they have planned to pull back the investigation into the mass sightings of drones.   

David Hambling, a contributor to Forbes Magazine states that through documents obtained through the Freedom of Information act reveals that 24 nuclear sites suffered at least 57 drone incursions from 2015 to 2019. This doesn’t include the other areas like military bases and nuclear silo areas that have also recorded drone activity.

Some of this might just be curiosity seekers, but this is also alarming, but this doesn’t mean that UFOs are buzzing these areas. It shows how vulnerable these sites might be to terrorists as they could use a medium sized drone to put a hole in a cooling pool which could cause a horrendous radiation fire.

Why this story made the top ten: This was a big story to begin 2020 on. This was the most viral story of the month of January until the novel coronavirus invaded the United States and Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and others perished in a helicopter crash.

Why this story is only number five: While this seemed like an intricate story it more than likely was based on fear and virality. While there may have been some legitimate sightings of drones most of the reports were more than likely misidentification. This story was quickly lost in a very eventful January.


4. Loch Ness Monster radar and sightings      

It did not take long for the first official Loch Ness Monster sighting of 2020. The sighting came from a live webcam near Urquhart Bay on January 18th. Eoin O'Faodhagain, a long time Loch Ness Monster fan who has plenty of his own sightings over the years, was the person who sent in the sighting.

The sighting has been added to the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register that is run by Gary Campbell. Last year Eoin had four sightings all from the webcam which added to the record 18 sightings on the register for 2019 which was the highest amount since 1983.

There does seem to be something moving in the water in the video, but there is hardly any detail to make out just what could have been behind the movement. Eoin states, “There were no boats or birds to see at the time of the sighting.” Of course, this does not mean that the Loch Ness Monster was responsible for these sightings.  


Storm Ciara battled the United Kingdom and Ireland over the weekend of February 8th and 9th. The storm ultimately killed 13 people as it brought high winds and heavy rains to the UK, Ireland, and western Europe. The storm also deposited a giant skeleton on the shores of Aberdeen Scotland on the northeastern side of the country.

A photograph of the large skeleton with a person standing next to it was posted to Fubar News of North Scotland. The photo generated a lot of speculation and the media quickly jumped on it. The Liverpool Echo newspaper ran a poll asking its readers what they thought the skeleton was from. The largest percentage at 43% feel it’s a whale while 42% think it’s a publicity stunt, Nessie at 8%, and dinosaur at 7% but most headlines used the Loch Ness Monster as a hook for readers. 

Irish hospital clerk Eoin O'Faodhagain again caught a glimpse of the purported lake monster on the Loch Ness Live Cam which is stationed near Urquhart Bay. This second sighting of the year shows a small white shape that seems to come out of the water and float on the surface for just a few seconds.

This sighting was recorded off the web cam on Monday morning, April 13th at 8:11 AM local time. Of the sighting O’Faodigain said, “It was three to four feet out of the water at its highest but mainly low to the water for most of it. Putting up a wash of white water as it moved to see it at that range, it would have to be at least ten feet long. As you can see from the video there are no boats present before the object appeared out through the surface water. Loch Ness at the moment is like a ghost lake there is no activity of any sort out on the lake these days due to the present circumstances. It's exhilarating to get another sighting especially when it's the second one on record this year, back to back.”

It doesn’t look like much to me and I’m thinking it might actually be condensation or some sort of reflection on the lens of the camera. It might even be condensation or a close object near the lens such as a bug or bead of water on a spiderweb close to the camera.    

April 22nd brought the third Loch Ness Monster sighting of 2020. This sighting is thought to be the largest ever recorded with what is described as a 30-foot long shaped that purportedly came four to five feet out of the water. Such a sighting would have to help validate the Loch Ness Monster at this point, right?

This third sighting of Nessie for 2020 was again longtime Loch Ness Monster watcher Eoin O'Faodhagain. His last sighting came just a week and a day prior to this one and is seemingly the same thing he caught the first time. The footage doesn’t exactly show anything of detail and the size is left to perception and speculation.

The webcam is called Loch Ness Live Cam and can be viewed at https://lochness.co.uk/livecam/.   


Steve Challice, who was on holiday with his brother in Scotland for two weeks in September of 2019 had taken hundreds of photographs during his trip. It was only during lockdown that he went through his photos. 

During a trip to Urquhart Castle on the 15th or 16th of September he saw an object in the water he assumed was a fish and began taking photographs. Challice commented, “I started taking a couple of shots and then this big fish came to the surface and then went back down again. It only appeared in one shot and to be honest that was something of a fluke. I watched for a while as you can see from the last picture but didn't see it again.”

The only picture the creature appears is one where a creature appears to be partially out of the water and moving. Other pictures show a trail in the water where the creature seems to be moving. He said he was photographing the opposite shore when he saw a ripple and began taking photos. He estimated the creature was about 30 feet away and about 8 feet long.

Roland Watson, an author who runs the Loch Ness Mystery blog, says, “If this is a genuine picture of a creature in Loch Ness, it would easily rank in the top three of all time. At this point, I am in an ongoing conversation with Steve as to the objections and concerns I have about this being a photoshop picture. So, we will see where that takes us.”

According to the Daily Record a digital photography expert has also stated the photograph appears to be Photoshopped. The expert cites that color saturation and indistinct lining of the purported animal makes the photograph suspect.

Steve, however, states the photograph is genuine but he’s not claiming it’s the Loch Ness Monster. He says that he posted the photograph so that hopefully someone else could identify what it was. He says, “Personally I know there has been some interest and some people are saying it's the monster, but I don't believe that. I have to say I don't believe in the Loch Ness Monster and frankly I think if anything is there then there is a logical explanation for most of the sightings. My guess would be that what I captured was a catfish or something like that. As seals get in from the sea then I expect that’s what it is and that would explain why these sightings are so few and far between.”

The photograph was posted on the Facebook group Anomalous Universe and Roland Watson had followed the conversation once the photo was posted. The person responded to criticism about the image being CGI by saying, “No it's just a fish but not sure what sort. Love the idea of cgi but I'm not that good at it... Lol”.

However, Watson did some surface level digging and found the man’s LinkedIn page which shows that he’s a 3D graphical artist. Watson called out Challice to which he replied, “I didn't say I didn't do cgi I just said that I'm not that good. The photo is genuine, and it was taken at Loch ness last September. Will happily show you the rest of the images when I get home next week.”  

It didn’t take too long for this story to completely unravel and it turned out that the creature was a catfish and a giant one at that. Unfortunately, it wasn’t actually swimming in the waters of Loch Ness. 


This catfish is a wels catfish and was captured in the river Po in Italy back in 2018. The fish was estimated to be 105.5 inches in length and around 286 pounds.

Catfish have pigmentation patterns on their backs that are unique like human fingerprints. Jeriah Houghton spotted the image and compared the pigmentation on both the Italian catfish and the purported Loch Ness Monster image and discovered they were exactly the same.  

The 5th official sighting was the 5th webcam capture of the year and the second for Kalynn Wrangle of the United States who now owns two sightings on the list one from April 10 and the latest from June 3rd. 

Sadly, these sightings are captured from a webcam that seems to be thousands of yards away from the loch and can’t see much detail to actually tell what is occurring. It is a boat, is it the wind, a bird, fish underwater? It’s nearly impossible to tell. Maybe this is by design.   

The sixth official sighting of the Loch Ness Monster occurred on July 8th and it’s the first of the year that happened in person.  This sighting happened near Fort Augustus when 35-year-old Ross MacAulay spotted something large in the water about 100 yards away from a pair of kayakers. 


Just like the other sightings this year of the Loch Ness Monster this one is hardly discernable. It’s like a fleck of white in the water filmed with a digital zoom about a mile away..

However, the story says that Ross and his friends were completely baffled as to what the object was, and he estimated it to be about 12 feet long. Of his encounter Ross stated, “There were a couple of kayakers, but 100 yards ahead of them was something below the surface. At first I thought it was a big rock under the water and I just carried on driving. Then I thought 'there's never been a rock there before' - so curiosity got the better of me. I turned round and parked in a long lay-by. The object had moved and was now out in the middle of the loch. The kayakers were much further behind. The creature must have done 400 yards in a minute - and against the wind. I started filming it for five minutes. There was no long neck, no head, just the hump bit. I would say it was 12ft long and 4ft wide, at its widest. It was light grey and it went under the water then up and then disappeared.”  

On August 29th Mr. Van-Schuerbeck was on holiday with his family, or a vacation to those of us in the United states, when he took a picture of Loch Ness and later discovered he might have found the elusive beast. Van-Shuerbeck was looking over his photos when he saw what appears to be something sticking up out of the water of the loch, but the object is so distant it’s nearly impossible to tell what it is.  

On September 8th, an unidentified man was walking around the loch on the new Loch Ness 360 trail when he took photographs of what he feels is the Loch Ness Monster.

The man states that he is a “lifelong Nessie skeptic” although according to the article he was shocked and baffled when he had his sighting. The man stated, “I was just enjoying the wonderful views, mind elsewhere on a lovely clear breezy day, when I stopped dead in my tracks. From where I stood, at a clear vantage point in the hills, there was a very defined dark shape beneath the water.”

Over the last weekend of September Corey and Lauren Sturrock were walking along the loch at around 3:40 PM when they saw a giant creature rise out of the water.

Mr. Sturrock stated, “I have been camping and walking on Loch Ness my whole life and I have never believed in the Loch Ness monster. But what my wife and I saw was something quite extraordinary and I would like to know if other people have seen the same. It was, what looked like to me and Lauren, like a massive eel. It was the size of a bus. It was massive. We saw the water rippling as if something was swelling, and that is what grabbed our attention. We then saw this thing, that looked like a massive eel rise from the water, and then go back under again. There was a large swell. Other people walking on the same path saw it as well.”

Mr. Sturrock continued, “I reached for my phone – but it was all over in a matter of about 10 or 20 seconds – and it only showed itself for a few seconds. By the time I got my phone out it had gone underneath again. It didn’t look like all those Nessie drawings with the humps – it was just a large, or very large eel. After never believing there was anything in the loch, and no basis for belief in the Loch Ness monster, I would say that perhaps there are large eels in the water – and when they emerge they may look like a monster. Whatever it was it was some size.”  


Ronald Mackenzie was piloting the Spirit of Loch Ness tour boat on Wednesday, September 30th, during a dull day with just a dozen passengers onboard the catamaran- it can carry about 210 normally. The passengers were excited to see an eagle when he spotted something remarkably interesting on the boats sonar system.

Mackenzie explains his sighting, “It was right in the middle of the loch at about 170m to 190m depending on the story (558-623ft) down with the loch being at about 300 meters or 984 feet. It was big – at least 10m (33ft). The contact lasted 10 seconds while we passed over. We have real state-of-the-art sonar on the new boat. It doesn’t lie. It captures what’s there.”  

On October 11th another piece of sonar data was recorded showing something large just above the bottom of the loch. The sonar find was also captured by Ronald Mackenzie of Cruise Loch Ness. The previous image was said to be of a 32-foot-long object which later estimated to only be about 15 to 20 feet long.


This second sonar contact occurred about a mile from the previous one. Craig Wallace, an expert sonar operator, discovered the real Loch Ness Monster four years ago using new sonar equipment. This was a model of Nessie that had been used during the filming of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes back in the 1970s. 

Wallace has offered to come back to Loch Ness and do more surveys if someone is willing to sponsor it. These sonar findings have furthered speculation that the quiet lake due to Covid lockdowns might be responsible for these sightings. But just like the last sonar image the possibility is high it is just a shoal of fish.  

Rod Michie of Jacobite Cruises stepped forward to add his sonar sighting to the two previous captures. The only issue is his happened back in June of 2015. He says of his image, “I used to see surprising things visually or by sonar, but every time there was a logical explanation. But this contact was different. It really is unexplained. The equipment is improving all the time and that is most likely to solve the mystery of Nessie. I saw things over the years that I did not want to make a lot of for fear of ridicule, but this sighting in 2015 was very similar to Ronald’s.”

He goes on to say, “I also know Ronald Mackenzie well and he is a genuine guy. There is something unexplained down there. My guess is that it is big eel – 20-30ft long.”

So, Jacobite Cruises is a rival company on the loch to Mackenzie’s so this to me sounds like an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of this story. Michie even stated he wonders if his image is possibly the lost model of Nessie that was used during the filming of the 1970s movie The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. The 30-foot model was discovered on the floor of the loch in June of 2016. It’s still there and its location is known so I’m not sure why Michie isn’t sure if it is or isn’t the model.

The 12th “official” sighting of the Loch Ness Monster occurred on November 24th near Urquhart Castle. Karen Scott and her partner observed the creature around 2:30 pm and stated that it surfaced, disappeared, and then resurfaced off and on for around five minutes but no photographs or video accompanied their sighting.

 A 13th sighting was reported in December of a November 15th encounter of spotting a “whitish grey” object in the water about a half mile away moving through the water.

Why this story is in the top ten: 2020 did not live up to the 21st century record number of sightings of 18 in 2019. But the sightings and stories of the catfish hoax and the sonar findings kept the Loch Ness Monster in the paranormal and mainstream news all year long and was a welcomed distraction to all the Covid-19 and political news.

Why this story is only number four: Collectively these stories cast a lot of weight for a creature that has been proven time and again that it does not exist. Last year’s number four story was the Neil Gemmel’s ‘Loch Ness Monster’ study that found no DNA that could explain a large creature in the loch. If it were not for the hoax and sonar findings the Loch Ness Monster may have gone unnoticed from the rest of the world outside of the United Kingdom.


3. U.S. government research on UFOs    


On Valentine’s Day Popular Mechanics published some new documents that showed that the U.S. government was doing some investigating and research into UFOs and related phenomena. Other information released from unknown sources to Popular Mechanics also refutes information released late last year that Louis Elizondo, now with the To The Stars Academy, was the leader of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program also known as AATIP.

AATIP was revealed to the world in 2017 as The New York Times uncovered information surrounding the $22 Million program and was thought to be a secret UFO research program. Since then, the government had admitted that the program did research UAPs, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, but again late last year claims that AATIP did not investigate these types of crafts.

Popular Mechanics emailed the Pentagon’s Senior Strategic Planner and Spokesperson Susan Gough for clarification of several discrepancies in the details and dates surrounding some of the information about the various programs including AATIP. Initially Gough responded she would examine the information and provide a response, but repeated requests for any statement have gone unanswered.

Motherboard recently contacted Susan Gough and states that she will release a new public statement about the findings in the following weeks as it pertains to the Advanced Aerospace Weapons System Application Program or AAWSAP and AATIP programs. It will be interesting how the Pentagon will attempt to twist their way out of this one. While we’re finally getting some disclosure, we’re also getting the runaround and somewhere someone is not telling the truth or doesn’t really understand the information.    

The U.S. Army is working with Tom Delonge’s organization, The To the Stars Academy, because what is rumored to be exotic materials in the group’s possession. TTSA issued a press release back in October of last year to make the announcement. The press released announced that they had formed an agreement with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) to “advance materiel and technology innovations.” This collaboration is called a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or CRADA (pronounced CRAY-DUH)

John Greenwald of The Black Vault attempted to obtain records relating to just what the deal between the Army and the TTSA is, but according to Greenwald the research and reports are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act per Army Regulation 70-57.

Greenwald instead used keywords “To the Stars” and “TTSA” in relation to all records and emails related to Dr. Joseph Cannon of U.S. Army Futures Command who is known to be working with the agreement. The Army responded that there were 29 documents but that they were not going to release these records as they were exempt from the request.

Motherboard reached out to Doug Halleaux, a spokesperson for the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicle Systems Center, who said that document’s related to TTSA would be classified as “trade secrets and commercial or financial information [that are] privileged or confidential.” 

So, the big hush hush here is not about secret UFO technology, it basically boils down to intellectual property and the finances behind the deal. The To the Stars Academy signed a five-year deal last year purportedly based on the group’s possession of so-called metamaterials that the U.S. Army would like to research to use in a variety of projects.    

On April 27th, the U.S. Department of Defense officially released the three videos showing unidentified aerial phenomena. The three videos had been previously leaked by the To the Stars Academy and have helped put the topic of UFOs out of the forbidden realms right into the mainstream.

The official announcement from the Department of Defense page reads as follows, “IMMEDIATE RELEASE -Statement by the Department of Defense on the Release of Historical Navy Videos dated APRIL 27, 2020. The Department of Defense has authorized the release of three unclassified Navy videos, one taken in November 2004 and the other two in January 2015, which have been circulating in the public domain after unauthorized releases in 2007 and 2017. The U.S. Navy previously acknowledged that these videos circulating in the public domain were indeed Navy videos. After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena. DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos. The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as "unidentified." The released videos can be found at the Naval Air Systems Command FOIA Reading Room: https://www.navair.navy.mil/foia/documents.” 

This is just a clarification of the information that has been put out by the TTSA and the vast speculation behind the videos. Like mentioned in the statement the government has already admitted the videos were theirs back in September of last year, so this official announcement doesn’t have a ton of impact, but it rules out the TTSA making anything up about the videos.  

A lot of people feel the Department of Defense’s acknowledgement is a step in the right direction toward potential disclosure of more information. Many were excited or at least happy to hear that the videos are now official. But not everyone was so excited or took them seriously.

President Trump seemed skeptical about the videos during an Oval Office interview with Reuters shortly after the official announcement. He laughed and questioned whether the videos were really real. Trump has not been a big fan of UFOs and has admitted that he’s not a believer.  


Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appeared on the Cyber podcast from Motherboard which explores UFOs and the paranormal. Reid says he’s done more than any other lawmaker to support the search for UFOs, but that statement doesn’t mean much because no one else is doing anything.

Reid was the backbone of the Advanced Aerospace Threat and Identification Program (AATIP) and the Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Applications Program (AAWSAP) that operated from 2007 to 2012 on a Congressional black budget of about $22 million.

Reid said, “I look at it this way, the world as we know it today is extremely large. It’s so big I can’t comprehend it. And I think that we as human beings have to be a little short sighted if we think we’re the only species in the entire universe. In the entire universe there is for sure more than one [species].”

While politicians generally sidestep talking about little green men or extraterrestrials Reid seems to feel that talking about strange things in the sky cannot be separated from aliens.

He says, “I don’t think you can separate them. I think it’s all one big basket of stuff. We learned with the work that we did that the sightings of aerial phenomenon has not been seen by a couple dozen people, not a couple hundred people. Thousands of people. Thousands of people. We have that down pretty pat. We know that unusual things have happened over decades on a regular basis and we know that in the Dakotas, a missile launching facility has been shut down because of something over one of them basically shutting off the power to them. We know the accounts off the coast of San Diego where ships have found these unusual things in the water and it shut down the communications on the ships.”

Reid stresses that while we should have no boundaries in what we search for people should not be afraid of what is out there. Reid has also stated that the three videos released by Tom DeLonge’s To the Stars Academy and recently acknowledged by the Department of Defense only scratches the surface of what remains classified and not yet publicly available.

The Pentagon has recently stated that AATIP was not studying UFOs this went against what Reid and Louis Elizondo had previously stated about the organization. So why are UFOs still taboo despite the mounting evidence?

Reid stated, “I think the legislators are afraid to do this for fear they’ll be charged with wasting taxpayer dollars. Even some of my staff told me to stay away from all this. But I never looked back. It was something I was interested in. I thought it was something that government should be involved in. And I think we have the Pentagon and other government officials don’t continue work on this it’s a really unfortunate thing for the country because other countries are doing it."     

At the end of June, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee announced that it wants to impose rules on how information is shared by the Department of Defense about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena or basically UFOs. Although in the bill they also use the term anomalous aerial vehicles.

The regulation of the Pentagon’s tracking efforts comes from the Department of Defense’s confirmation that the three leaked videos were legitimate and that the Office of Naval Intelligence is tracking these objects systematically.

The report states, “The Committee supports the efforts of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force at the Office of Naval Intelligence [ONI] to standardize collection and reporting on unidentified aerial phenomenon, any links they have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”

The committee wants an unclassified report filed within 180 days of any incident although the report may include a classified annex meaning part of the information may be missing. The bill itself is heavy on a lot of other topics including cybersecurity and artificial intelligence reporting which is scary enough and the UFO stuff is merely in the comments.  

In August, the Pentagon has announced the establishment of a task force to review unexplained aerial phenomena that have been seen by the U.S. military. In a statement the Pentagon stated in part, “On Aug. 4, 2020, Deputy Secretary of Defense David L. Norquist approved the establishment of an Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) Task Force (UAPTF). The Department of Defense established the UAPTF to improve its understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs. The mission of the task force is to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security.”

The UAP task force will be operated by the Navy and report to the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. This work was already being done but now it will be a more formal process. The work completed by the task force will be classified, although this might change in the future if the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s proposal for an unclassified report on UFOs is adopted by the full Senate and House of Representatives.

Of course, all of this follows the release of three videos which have gone on to be known as “Gimbal”, “GoFast”, and “FLIR1” which is also known as the “Tic Tac” video. These videos were acknowledged and officially released by the Pentagon in April of this year although leaked to the public through the New York Times via the To the Stars Academy. Many claim these three videos are UFOs and defy rational explanation, although various explanations for all three videos have been made although largely ignored by a public that wants to believe. 

This task force creation is essentially a reaction to the reaction of these videos getting out into the public. UFO skeptic Robert Sheaffer weighed in on this topic by saying, “In the military, a task force is something that is put together to deal with a specific situation or problem. It is expected to produce a report and recommendations concerning that issue and is disbanded when such work is complete. So, this is not something open-ended and ongoing, like Project Blue Book. It does not suggest an ongoing government interest in unidentified objects.”

Other experts point out that this response to Unidentified Aerial Phenomena is anchored in the protection of our airspace which has been increasingly penetrated by other technologies from around the world. As our technology increases, we may also monitor how our technology could be perceived by others which might be another reason for this analysis.

Either way, on the outside it might seem like this is about tracking alien spacecraft in our airspace but it is really about understanding the technology advancements around us and how to keep track of it all.

Why this story made the top ten: UFO study has gone from swamp gas and X-File theme music with canned laughter to a serious discussion point within the U.S. government. These days it seems the government is doing more work to uncover UFO information than the public that feels they are covering everything up. UFOs, or UAPs, were in the news all year long this year and have finally become an accepted topic by the news.

Why this story is only number three: While the topic was in the news all year long there were no major strides to disclose any new information. We’re still as in the dark as we were in 2019, but the push seems to be headed in the right direction finally.


2. UFO reports on the rise?    


The number seven story this year was the increase of UFO sightings that were attributed to the SpaceX Starlink satellites. We also heard dozens if not hundreds of stories documenting the rise of UFO sightings in 2020. Many felt this was due to the pandemic and lockdowns, but the first week of January we had our first article on this topic.

This one focused on NUFORC, or the National UFO Reporting Center, which was created in 1974 and has been operated by Peter Davenport since 1994. Despite being essentially a one-man show, the organization stays current with sightings and has a hotline and dynamic website that displays hot cases generally with explanations.

NUFORC stays relevant by pushing stories into the media and in early 2020 noted that 2019 had a surge in cases. In 2018 NUFORC reported 3,395 reports and 2019 totaled 5,971 reports. NUFORC is only concerned with reports from the United States but does include other countries in their database which is free to use by anyone.

On the rise Davenport stated, “One of the mysteries of ufology is there is a fluctuation in the number of reports over the years. Some years it’s been low, but it’s gotten higher recently.”

Davenport does not investigate these reports and notes that some of them may be for the same object. Many of the reports are placed by anonymous people and the cases are never followed-up on.    

An early April article from the Daily Star states that the Coronavirus pandemic has sparked a 30-year high in UFO sightings worldwide. But the headline was a bit misleading.


The story points to the fact that since people have been on lockdown this has meant people have more time for stargazing. They do also state that the Elon Musk Starlink project has also been the culprit to some of the UFO sightings, but in all honesty, it is responsible for quite a bit of them.

The article also mentions the surge of UFO sightings out of Belgium. From the article it states that Frederick Delaere, from the Belgian UFO Reporting Centre, said Belgium’s coronavirus lockdown was likely the cause.

The real cause was the spotting of the Starlink satellites as a vast majority of the sightings reported the same exact thing in relation to the movement of the satellites being deployed. It might be partly that people are at home more, but they’re also bored and many of them scared. High UFO reports have historically come during uneasy times.

We can also really point the finger at the media for (which ever finger is up to you) their lack of research behind a lot of these sightings. But this isn’t new. We did see a spike in sightings reported by MUFON, but not quite at the strength that they were during the 2015 year during the height of the television show Hangar 1. 

In early September the National UFO Reporting Center, known as NUFORC, makes the news as they are reporting a 51% increase in reports through this time last year. Unlike MUFON, which has many investigators in nearly every state as well as many countries worldwide, NUFOC is operated by one person- Peter Davenport with support from a webmaster who fields the online form.

From his home in Harrington, Washington, Peter says he is taking 25 to 50 calls a day on UFO reports this year. Davenport’s nonprofit organization has reported over 5,000 UFO reports for 2020 with around 20% taking place in April. MUFON also encountered a historical month of April recording 1,026 total worldwide sightings. And in case you’re keeping score at home MUFON has recorded 5,851 reports so far this year. Last year the total for year for MUFON was 7,134.

Of course, much of the spike in reports is due to the lockdowns imposed over the Covid-19 pandemic as people have had more time to think about and report sightings that happened previous to this year. But we should also consider that the news of the U.S. Navy releasing the archival footage of the already known three UFO videos certainly helped, also noted by Davenport is the influx of photographs and sightings of the Starlink satellites that are a line of UFOs high in the sky, as well as the History Channel's two seasons of “Unidentified: Inside America's UFO Investigation” that wrapped up last month.

While MUFON releases the total numbers of sightings NUFORC doesn’t always break things down, but in this article, we get to see a month-to-date total as well as month-to-month. January NUFORC recorded 601 reports (MUFON 628), February 604 (MUFON 540), March 807 (MUFON 883), April 1,034 (MUFON 1,026), May 556 (MUFON 759, June 357 (MUFON 601, July 615 (MUFON 769), and August 545 for NUFORC and 645 for MUFON.


Are these all the same reports? No. It’s important to note that many of these reports could be of the same sighting, explainable or not, and yes, most if not all of them either have been explained or may have a logical explanation short of a satellite, airplane, other misinterpretation, or a hoax. Also, these reports may reflect historical data. So, the big bump in April doesn’t mean that UFOs began to swarm Earth or more people were out looking for proof of UFOs it just means that more people decided to take the time to talk about a UFO experience they had which could have been in 1975 for all we know.  

An article by Astronomy in early October stated that sightings of UFOs might not have spiked due to Covid-19 lockdowns. They state that the National UFO Reporting Center, NUFORC, has reported a spike in cases in the spring that they feel is tied to the Pentagon’s official release or UFO tapes and the media that was generated by this story.

The Astronomy article states that the National UFO Reporting Center did encounter a large spike in the spring but that after these high months that the numbers went back to 2019 levels which have been lower than they have been over the last decade.

MUFON’s Steve Hudgeons, international director of investigations, states that overall cases have been declining over years. While the numbers have fluctuated over the last five years that I’ve been keeping a close eye on them you can see an average annual decline over that period of time and MUFON has been tracking them since 1969.

But what about stories being published that state that UFO sightings are on the rise? The Wall Street Journal had a headline that read, “UFO Spotting has Replaced Birdwatching as Pandemic Obsession.” New York claims to have had an increase in UFO sightings, last month the New York Post stated sightings were up 51% during the pandemic.

Steve Hudgeons has noted that despite an increase in the number of UFO reports there has also been a larger spike in reports that are easily explainable. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, feels that many UFO sightings are a result of the fact that most people rely on their cell phone as the main source of evidence. These devices do not have a mechanical shutter which results in smearing of moving objects. He says that birds become cigar-shaped objects and bugs become hypersonic UFOs since they don’t realize they are right in front of the camera.

Why this story made the top ten: Probably every single U.S. state ran an article about an increase in UFO sightings since last year and this was also a topic worldwide. With the support of SpaceX and the government release of UAP investigations along with the announcement of a task force investigating them no wonder people feel as though there is an increase in sightings.

Why this story is only number two: There really wasn’t much of a bump in sightings and reports have actually been down over the course of the last few years. Of course, there is a number one story that had a much bigger effect on the world.


1. Covid-19 shuts down the world (and the paranormal with it)


A paper published on February 4th in the Lancet doesn’t point toward monkey brains or bats as the culprit to the Coronavirus that would become Covid-19. They felt that an October 11, 2019 bright fireball over northern China is to blame. In their paper they hypothesize the meteor left small particles that made their way from the mesosphere and stratosphere to the surface after a month to start the outbreak in November of 2019. Their guess is that particles may continue to rain down over the world to create a continuing outbreak.

This wasn’t taken seriously though as similar reports have been made by the same researchers in the past without merit. But this story began to weave the novel Coronavirus in with the paranormal.

As March hit so did the panic and the pandemic. As toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes flew off the shelves local and state governments began to limit the number of people in gatherings and impose stay at home orders. This began a domino effect that led to the cancellation and rescheduling of dozens of paranormal conferences and conventions. While many felt that things would be back to normal by summer the realization was slow to hit as the lockdowns lasted into the fall and hardly any events went on as planned.


March also brought a pair of interesting coincidences and conspiracies. The first was about the book, “The Eyes of Darkness”, written by Dean Koontz in 1981. In this fictional thriller Koontz wrote about a virus named Wuhan-400 which was created as a weapon in a laboratory. Of course, this was a coincidence but has given some fuel to some conspiracy theorists that the virus was released by China for one reason or another on purpose.

Sylvia Browne, a self-proclaimed psychic medium and author who made numerous television appearances has suddenly been brought back into the spotlight. Browne died in 2013, but her 2008 book, “End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World”, has suddenly become a popular book due to a prediction she made about the coronavirus. But did she really?

Many people were talking about this prediction online and it was slowly gaining momentum until Kim Kardashian West decided to share it with a heavy sense that she believed it was true especially since it came from the reliable source of her sister Kourtney. Of course, her loyal followers have also followed this belief that Sylvia Browned did in fact predict the future which resulted in this story exploding.


Browne wrote, “In around [sic] 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments. Almost more baffling than the illness itself will be the fact that it will suddenly vanish as quickly as it arrived, attack again ten years later, and then disappear completely.”

So, yes, she got the year right; that’s pretty impressive. But the passage says in around 2020. 2020 is a nice round date but around 2020 could mean a wide range of years. Benjamin Radford wrote about this in his blog for the Center for Inquiry where he says, “Most people would probably agree that 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023 are “around” 2020. Using this range, we see that Browne’s spread is over seven (or more) years—well over half a decade.”

Sylvia then predicts a “severe pneumonia-like illness”. COVID-19 is not a pneumonia-like illness although it could lead to pneumonia, but it is a severe respiratory infection. Browne then states, “it will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes.”

Again, Benjamin Radford points out, “Covid-19 has now indeed spread throughout the globe, though the phrase “attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes” isn’t a prediction but merely restates any “pneumonia-like illness.”

Browne then states that it will resist all known treatments. This is absolutely not true. Despite not being a vaccination at the time this does not mean that the infection is not resistant to any treatments to any of the symptoms.

She then says the illness will suddenly vanish and then attack ten years later. Well, hopefully COVID-19 will disappear as quickly as it has arrived as this is normal with outbreaks of any disease. I’m sure you’ve heard about lowering the curve, this means that when cases peak out and begin to decline, we can expect the cases to dissipate as quickly as they arrived. This is basic virology and simple science. As far as coming back in ten years we will have to wait on this one, but due to the fact of COVID-19’s spread it’s pretty certain that we will be dealing with this for years to come.

Sylvia Browne has a long track record of wrong claims and was even convicted of fraud, grand theft, and larceny back in 1992. She made numerous predictions of missing children that were completely wrong including the heartbreaking Amanda Berry case in 2004 where Browne told Berry’s mother that she was not alive. Berry’s mother died two years later with the thought that her daughter had died, but her daughter was found alive seven years later.

Browne even predicted she would die 11 years after she really died. She was even caught in a lie during an episode of Coast to Coast with George Noory where she changed her prediction based on information provided by Noory about miners trapped in the Sago mine in West Virginia in 2006.

Predictions like this rely heavily on vagueness of the information as well as people retrofitting information to fulfill it even if a lot of things are wrong with it.


Why this story was number one: Even if you didn’t get sick pretty much everyone in the world was affected by Covid-19. While many businesses suffered the paranormal conference scene was essentially shut down although some events did go on as planned with limited attendees or by using video conferencing software. Haunted houses took a hit and Halloween just wasn’t the same. Then again, all major holidays either took a hit or contributed to small outbreaks. Ireland had no bars open on St. Patrick’s Day! A couple of stories led to conspiracy theories about the pandemic, but they were mostly brought on by fear or misunderstanding as well as boredom, but it was the topic of the year by a wide margin.


Honorable mentions:


This year's countdown is dedicated to the life and work of Bigfoot researcher and friend David Dragosin.