Monday, February 26, 2007

UFO over O'Hare Redux - The New Swamp Gas

An editorial in the Sacramento Bee (may require registration) points out some interesting FAA behavior regarding last November's famous UFO sighting at O'Hare Airport.

Some of the more important bits

At first, the FAA attributed the incident to some kind of weather phenomenon, and United Airlines advised its employees not to talk about it, according to the Tribune.

"If this had been a plane, it would have been investigated," Hilkevitch says. "The FAA treats the smallest safety issue as very important."


To explain the witnesses' reports, he offered his best "guess." They may have seen a "hole-punch cloud," he said, which is in "a perfect circular shape like a round disc" and has "vapor going up into it."

These unusual natural cloud holes form only at below freezing temperatures, according to climatologists. It was 48 degrees at O'Hare that afternoon.

John Callahan, Division Chief of Accidents and Investigations for the FAA during the 1980s, says it's not at all surprising that the O'Hare UFO was undetected on radar.

Radar technology cannot always capture objects at extremely high speeds. A hovering object wouldn't necessarily show up either. "If it did, it would be a small dot, and air traffic controllers would not give it much concern," Callahan says.


One of the things I learned in grad school: Sometimes it is better to say "I don't know" when you don't actually know.

Too bad it isn't as catchy as Swamp Gas.

The Tomb of Jesus and Family

I've posted this to my archaeology blog, In Small Things Found. But I figure the hidden history element, the religious element, etc., makes this something of interest to Spooky Paradigm readers.

This is obviously going to be a big story, especially with the press conference on Monday.

Check the links at the bottom, but in summary, film maker James Cameron has produced a documentary (and the research? I'm not as clear on that) on new analysis and interpretation of what the researchers believe to be the tomb of Jesus Christ and his family. A family tomb in Jerusalem, excavated in 1980, includes ossuaries for a Yeshua (Jesus) son of Yosef (Joseph), Maria (Latin for Mary, and Mary mother of Jesus was referred to in other texts by the Latin), Matia (Matthew). Most stunningly, one ossuary is inscribed Mariamene e Mara or "Mary, known as the Master," a name for Mary Magdalene in Gnostic texts, and Judah son of Jesus.

Furthermore, bits of bone in the Yeshua (yes, you read that right) ossuary and the Mariamene ossuary are not related by blood (DNA was extractable from the remains in those two ossuaries). This leads to the interpretation that Mariamene married into the family.

The linked articles note that while the names are common in that region in the first century AD, the chances of all these names, that are associated as family and associates in the New Testament, occurring together, is 1 in 600.

Now, there is a lot that could be wrong about this. There may be elements of the data that we don't know about, that falsifies the hypothesis proposed by these researchers. With such a spectacular claim, there is always the possibility of fraud (perhaps by someone prior to the discovery). The researchers are suggesting a possible tie to the James ossuary (possibly having been in the tomb), which some researchers have declared a fraud, while supporters have produced 1970s-era photos of the ossuary. Of course, if the latter is true, this presents problems for the 1980 excavation. And of course, even if everything here is above board, at most it points to a likely historical link to the tomb occupants, something not provable beyond an absolute shadow of a doubt. But that's how archaeology often is.

Anyway, it is far too preliminary to judge any of this. But unlike many other media blitz claims about archaeology (this is a book, a documentary being shown on the Discovery Channel, etc.), the evidence seems pretty straightfoward here. And a peer-reviewed article on the statistics is apparently coming out soon, something often not found in media blitzes. And let's be honest: did we really think a discovery of this nature would appear first in a scientific journal. Of course it was going to get the King Kong 8th Wonder of the World treatment.

Here is a Discovery "News" blurb about the discoveries, that detail the basic outline

This is a somewhat detailed presentation of the tomb, in particular pictures of the ossuaries with transcriptions and translations of the inscriptions, and more about each element of the research. I recommend checking it out.

One of the archaeologists involved in the initial discovery says this is all PR and nonsense. But I will wait to see what the new analysis actually suggests, as I've seen this kind of rivalry before, sometimes legit, sometimes not. He is right, that archaeologists are not involved in the new analysis. On the other hand, an epigrapher of texts of this era is involved.

It may all be garbage. It may actually have merit. But regardless, I imagine this is going to be something a lot of people outside archaeology will be talking about.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Secret Discussion of UFOs in UK Military: Spooky Stuff Behind Closed Government Doors

I do not have time to write the post I want to write here. But for me, as an anthropologist, one of the most fascinating topics for me that is an excellent example of the Spooky Paradigm is the relationship between these topics and government officials.

The title of the post refers to a story in The Guardian this morning, concerning declassified documents about Britain's Ministry of Defence and the UFO question.

Now, in America, we're used to seeing documents like this, typically from the 1940s and 1950s (most famously the Estimate of the Situation after Project Sign [note, this is a pdf]). But the MoD documents are from the 1990s, and the proposal for research they detail resulted in the ironically named Condign (not Condon) Report. Some excerpts from the Guardian article

The documents show that the internal lobbying effort for a UFO study began in 1993. In a briefing note from the secret UFO investigation branch of Defence Intelligence - called DI55 - an unnamed author wrote: "The national security implications are considerable. We have many reports of strange objects in the skies and we have never investigated them.

"I also believe that it is important to appreciate that what is scientific 'fact' today may not be true tomorrow ... If reports are taken at face value then devices exist that do not use conventional reaction propulsion systems, they have a very wide range of speeds and are stealthy. I suggest that we could use this technology, if it exists."

The initial request in 1993 for an MoD research project into UFOs was shelved, but in a later memo dated June 19 1995 following a surge in UFO reports, the same unnamed wing commander at DI55 wrote: "Until we conduct some analysis of the files we will not have any idea what the many reports represent. If at any stage in the future UAPs are shown to exist then there is the potential for severe embarrassment."


And in a later document he describes a briefing by DI55 on the subject. "The scientists and engineers present treated to [sic] topic seriously while non scientists (or those without a physical science background) made the usual jokes about little green men and mass hallucination!"


Just as with Project Sign forty-five years earlier, officers in the military were concerned about a potential threat, imagined potential technological gain, and faced skepticism from the hierarchical and bureaucratic society of the military.

I do think that there is more interest in UFOs, on the part of militaries, than is publicly acknowledged. On my reading list for this year is Richard Dolan's UFOs and the National Security State (I've got it, I just don't have the time yet). And we know that governments use UFOs as the subject of psychological warfare and counterintelligence operations. The most famous example is the Bennewitz Affair, outlined in Greg Bishop's Project Beta, another one on my desk and awaiting a read this year. Nick Redfern has written about another counterintelligence program, this time in the UK in the 1970s, in his On the Trail of the Saucer Spies. And just today Greg Bishop blogs about the Serpo hoax, which in addition to sounding ridiculous and suspect, involved Richard Doty of the Bennewitz Affair (at least publically supporting it, if not directly involved).

Go further back in time, and you find the CIA using UFOs to distract attention from their activities in the coup against Guatemalan President Arbenz in 1954.

But the new UK documents and the Condign study are more akin to other military and government investigations into spooky and paranormal topics. The Ararat Anomaly immediately comes to mind. Photographed by the USAF in 1949, the "Ararat Anomaly" has attracted attention as the possible ruins of the Sumerian/Hebraic/Biblical Noah's/Utnapishtim's Ark. Interest in the Anomaly has waxed and waned as individuals in the military and intelligence communities heard about the photos (while they were still classified) and if sufficiently moved by the potential archaeological/religious rammifications, pursued it further.

Alternatively, the Star Gate project and General Stubblebine are in the same vein. One of several US military and intelligence programs seeking to utilize psychic and other paranormal/consciousness powers, these projects were eventually cancelled and dismissed as not having any significant value. Stubblebine has gone on to be a figure in paranormal and related communities, as well as the 9/11Truth movement (YouTube link).

The subject here is not government conspiracies or cover-ups, but that these interests, beliefs, concerns, or however you want to call them are a significant part of American, British, and other cultures. "Respectable" histories and descriptions may ignore them or minimize them through ridicule (only ignorant pig farmers from Arkansas get abducted, of course!), but when those in positions of authority or power act on these ideas, things become somewhat uncomfortable. I've already talked about this in regards to the civilian government, in response to Gerald Ford's death. This is the non-elected equivalent. In both cases the paper trail of government makes it easier to tell this history, but I suspect one would find a similar picture if one did enough research into the private elite of business, capital, and the media.

EDIT: Well I'll be damned. A day after I post this, news appears that in 2002 the UK also conducted limited experiments in remote viewing, following the example of Project Star Gate, mentioned above.

EDIT: Irish UFO Records

EDIT: Even more British UFO governmental disclosure

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cryptids at Mardi Gras

The Krewe of Proteus paraded last night (Lundi Gras) here in New Orleans with the theme "Legends and Lore of the Deep." Most of the floats were about ancient or at least centuries-old legends or myths. But a few more recent legends were represented from the realm of cryptozoology. I'm also putting in some of the niftier non-cryptid images (note: all photos by the author).

The flambeaux line up before the parade starts. The torch carriers are a parade tradition for all Carnival krewes.

The Proteus title float

The Loch Ness Monster

Pacific Paradise

A Sea Hag (Nellie something, I can't remember her last name)

Sea Serpents

Sea serpents

The Kraken

The Kraken

The Kraken

The Leviathan (not from Proteus, but a yearly float in the following parade, the Krewe of Orpheus)
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Thursday, February 15, 2007

UFO Sightings by Police and Pilots and the "No good UFO sightings anymore" meme

Nick Redfern blogs about a report self-published (pdf) by Gary Heseltine, himself a policeman, on UK UFO cases involving police witnesses. A recent case involves a retired British policeman who reported a flaming tube-like object. Another retired UK police officer was involved in a multiple eyewitness sighting in November.

This got me thinking about how the main reason the current UFO wave really got going was the O'Hare sighting. But it wasn't just the location, it was the reports coming from airline professionals, and specifically pilots. Others have written about the importance ufologists place on the "reliable witness," the military officer, the pilot, the police, etc. But it is notable that this element has been popping up again and again during this wave.

Apparently at a recent UFO conference, Chilean military officers came forward with UFO photos and videos. The French Space Agency is making its UFO files (UFOs have been a part of French space research for sometime) available on the internet.

A retired US Air Force pilot saw and photographed unusual lights in the sky over Kansas. This story came from the highly partisan and right-wing WorldNet Daily, but after Drudge picked it up, it got play in right-wing media and then mainstream sources as a result. It was explicitly compared to the 1997 Phoenix Lights, and within days of that comparison, the same explanation appeared as had in the Phoenix case: flares from military air exercises. Never mind that the witness flew fighter jets for decades. And then scant days later, lights appear over Phoenix again, and again the flares explanation is given. Given the source as WorldNet Daily, and then the rapid coincidences in the middle of the biggest public interest in a UFO wave since 1966, I have to say my paranoia sense is tingling. And I generally don't even believe that the US government is terribly interested in UFOs anymore.

Two weeks ago, one of several witnesses to a UFO case in Arizona was a Navajo Nation Police Ranger. Witness drawings here.

Of course the other notable thing here are the multiple witnesses. I personally think that waves are media artifacts, comparable with rumor panics, related to but not completely correlated with a steady occurrence of people having sightings and other experiences. It isn't an issue of more sightings, but more sightings in non-ufological media. But in any case, the wave of 2006-2007 should put a damper on the meme I've heard more than once that "good" UFO reports dried up after the 1973 wave. I suspect that meme has a lot more to do with the split between the traditional nuts-and-bolts generation of saucerers and ufologists, and the much messier melange of abduction and 4D that rose to prominence starting around that time. But that's something for another time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blurry Photo Department: Skeptical of New Parrot Species Photo

Exahaustingly poring over pictures of Bigfoot, a silver disc, a ghost, or a lake monster is something we expect. But what may come as more of a surprise is application of the same techniques to photos of something that we don't think of as a "monster" or other kind of anomaly.

A photographic expert has suggested that a photo, the only evidence for the reality of the new blue-browed fig-parrot species in Australia, may be a fake. Hoaxes are nothing new in science, but it is still interesting to see the same concerns from cryptozoology applied to the discovery of a new species in the mainstream media and within the notion of authoritative zoology.

Why I call it the Spooky Paradigm: Bones, Stones, and Cryptozoology

I believe a productive way of looking anthropologically at what others call "the paranormal," or "esoterica," or "forteana," or who subdivide it into specific fields is by considering it a Paradigm, a way of looking at the world. Rather than a trait list of things that fall into say "forteana," we should be boiling down how people think about these things, and how they use it to map the world. A worldview, a paradigm, a mental framework, whatever you want to call it.

This is not an attack or a skeptical critique. All humans do this. We have mental templates and worldviews we use to map reality, our dealings with other people and the rest of the universe. These worldviews are at least some degree unique to each of us, influenced by the sum of our experiences, our personalities, and who knows what else. They are also influenced by the people we interact with, that we live with and learn from. That means we share these worldviews, at least to some degree, with other people. What anthropologists call culture. Even at the basic level of language, of using agreed upon sounds and symbols to categorize the world.

We may detect some of our mental mapping, consciously knowing that perhaps we see things differently than others do. Other parts of our worldview may be largely invisible to us unless some contradiction or anomaly changes it. That of course goes back to Kuhn's scientific paradigms and revolutions. But our mental maps cover so much more in our everyday lives, as well as in more esoteric or theoretical realms.

We may have any number of different, and sometimes conflicting, mental maps we lay down on the universe. Morality, religion, economics, science, class, race. You name the worldview or classification system, and it can both contradict and co-exist with other templates held by one person. Travel writer, and pop sociologist of people with non-mainstream beliefs, Louis Theroux talks about this, and basically describes culture without calling it that. I am alternately skeptical in many things, yet I find myself seeing say politics or social theory in ways that do not pass Occam's Razor for other people. People who might see me as "eccentric."

What I call the Spooky Paradigm views the world through, I believe more than any other elements, hidden mystery. This is what unites what many people would consider disparate topics like cryptozoology, UFOs, numerological and mystical relationships and ideas, parapsychology, conspiracy politics, and other topics. Those interested or working in these different subjects might be offended to be linked to others in that list or similar topics. But they would be hard pressed to deny that many, many people who become interested in the one are not more likely to be interested in at least some of the others. And I think the thing that links these all is that their subjects are hidden and mysterious. Anomalies. Often contradicting mainstream science, religion, politics, or even "common sense."

From this perspective, mysteries and anomalies attract the attention of those who see the world through the Spooky Paradigm. And to be clear, I would include myself as someone who does. Whether I believe in specific ideas about anomalies, or whether specific anomalies really are anomalous, I still find myself on the lookout all the time for the mysterious, it piques my attention, and the Spooky Paradigm will be one of the templates I may turn to for cataloging a particular mysterious datapoint.

That sounds all kinds of abstract, so here are some related examples.

Archaeologists working in Ivory Coast have found ancient tools they believe to have been used not by humans, but by chimps. The 4300-year old tools appear to be what archaeologists call nutting stones, rocks used for smashing nuts open as part of food processing. No chimp bones were found in association with the tools, but chimps are known in modern times to use tools like these, and residue on the stones is from species of nut supposedly more likely to be eaten by chimps than humans. The archaeologists suggest humans didn't use the tools because they would not be a good fit for human hands, but would be for larger chimp hands.

On the other hand, cryptozoologist Loren Coleman suggests at least the possibility that a massive hominoid cryptid described in this region might have used the tools. Why does this lend itself to a cryptid explanation? Because of the sightings of a huge (really huge) primate a century ago. But I believe in large part because of that element of mystery. That since no chimps were found in association with the tools, even though chimps are known to have undertaken such behavior in more recent centuries, there is that bit of mystery. And that mystery opens the door to interpreting this through the Spooky Paradigm.

In a related vein, a severed foot found in a landfill in Virginia has elicited a similar reaction. The foot has been examined by a medical examiner, and found not to be human. This raises other possibilities including another known primate (though unlikely due to the size) or a bear (EDIT: Yes, it's a bear). Or a bigfoot. Despite the small 8" size,

William Dranginis of Manassas has a more unusual opinion--he believes the foot could be that of Bigfoot. He heads the Virginia Bigfoot Research Organization and has been passionately studying the elusive creature for more than 10 years.

Others, including at least one primatologist, have also stepped into the breach to try and identify the foot based on photos. But the point is, there is only the vaguest connection to cryptids (it looks kind of human, Bigfoot tracks look kind of human), but nonetheless attracts attention and speculation along those lines.

I first noticed this temptation to re-view the news through the Spooky Paradigm during the Kursk disaster. Early reports from Russian authorities said the Kursk collided with an unidentified object. Many interepreted this as an attempt by Russian authorities to put the blame on the US or other navies, rather than the eventual conclusion that an accident sank the submarine. Yet this initial mystery, and the mention of an unidentified something immediately brought up speculation about USO's, Unidentified Submerged Objects.

Like I said, we all do this in our own ways. For example, in the realm of politics, a series of strange federal judicial retirements brings speculation about cronyism and solidification of power by the White House. Many would not consider this a conspiracy theory, though some might for political reasons or others might because there are some similarities to classical conspiracy theory. Others, like myself, would say that based on past experience, suspecting ulterior and hidden motives in this case is only logical. The point is, we all become attuned to certain things that make more sense in the way we view the world, that mesh well with the gears of our minds. And in the case of the Spooky Paradigm, the key elements are mystery and anomaly.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Skeptics, Believers, Public Parapsychology and Anomalistic Psychology

I've linked and discussed several times, on parasychology and academia, posts on the blog Public Parapsychology. I'll continue to do so, but would also point the reader to that blog for futher perusal. I've linked to Public Parapsychology in the sidebar.

Two posts attract my attention. The first is a list of academic journals focused on or otherwise publishing on parapsychology.

The second is a discussion of anomalistic psychology. Public Parasychology defines it as:

In simplest terms, parapsychology is the scientific and scholarly study of certain unusual events associated with human experience. Anomalistic psychology is the scientific and scholarly study of unusual beliefs or experiences.

Anomalistic psychologists attempt to explain paranormal beliefs and paranormal experiences in terms of known psychological and physical factors. Such research is directed towards understanding the bizarre experiences that many people have without assuming that there is anything paranormal involved. In my opinion, the best kind of research in anomalistic psychology also avoids assuming that there is not anything paranormal involved. In such research, the reality of psi has little or no direct relevance to hypotheses under study.
In turn, Public Parapsychology points to the Goldsmiths University of London, it's Research Unit in this field, and its definition of the topic

Anomalistic psychology may be defined as the study of extraordinary phenomena of behaviour and experience, including (but not restricted to) those which are often labeled "paranormal". It is directed towards understanding bizarre experiences that many people have without assuming a priori that there is anything paranormal involved. It entails attempting to explain paranormal and related beliefs and ostensibly paranormal experiences in terms of known psychological and physical factors.

While psychology, neurology, and other scientific disciplines are rich with explanatory models for human experiences of many kinds, these models are rarely extrapolated to attempt to explain strange and unusual experiences. The paranormal is here defined as "alleged phenomena that cannot be accounted for in terms of conventional scientific theories", although it is recognised that new discoveries in physics, biology, and other sciences may be of relevance in understanding anomalous experiences.

It is notable that Public Parapsychology sees this field as working in tandem with parapsychology, while the Goldsmiths department would probably be less open to that approach (it publishes The Skeptic journal). Yet the two co-exist and can see a similar mission. I find much of this echoing my mission here with the Spooky Paradigm. In particular, the Goldsmiths department notes the "multidisciplinary" nature of the field, from a behavioral perspective.

The definition of the paranormal adopted by those working in this area typically goes beyond the core phenomena of ESP, PK, and life after death, and includes such topics as belief in astrology, UFOs, dowsing, the Bermuda triangle, and so on. It should be noted that the aims of anomalistic psychology would still be valid even if the existence of paranormal forces were to be established beyond doubt because there is little question that most paranormal claims can be plausibly explained in non-paranormal terms.
I would probably widen that definition, at least for the worldview and principles of the Spooky Paradigm, to all sorts of areas. But this in part is due to my interest in culture, rather than understanding cognition or individual "anomalous" experiences.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Literary History of Repressed Memories and the Implications for Alien Abduction

A new study in the journal Psychological Medicine suggests that repressed memories are a recent cultural concept, and not a biological universal. But how do the authors of the study come to this conclusion? By reading literature. In what one might call a case of historical literary anthropology, the researchers looked for descriptions of characters who suffered amnesia because a past event was too painful to remember. And they found that historical mentions of the concept are relatively new, dating to the era of the birth of modern psychiatry (including Freud).

The implications of such a finding would be important in a number of ways. The idea of repressed memories became central in the 1970s to an entire subculture of fundamentalist Christianity in American society, concerned with ritual Satanic abuse of children. Repressed memories became associated with child abuse in general, outside of the more specific claims of Satanic cults, "breeders," and other horrors. Repressed memories, and their recovery under hypnosis, were used in criminal investigations into past alleged abuse. By the 1990s critical voices were increasingly finding support, suggesting that hypnotic therapies for recovering memories were actually creating memories of events that did not occur or were greatly distorted. Hypnotic regression and repressed memories have largely been pushed out of use in criminal and legal investigation.

The other major role for hypnotic regression has been in alien abduction. Regression goes back to the early case, which Matheson argues is also very influential on later writings by abduction researchers, of Betty and Barney Hill. The use of hypnosis to recover memories has continued to be a common if contentious element of abductionism to the present day. Many abductees or other interested parties would note that there are a number of cases that are not recovered through hypnosis, and would argue that the phenomenon stands on its own without recovered memories.

Others might suggest that even if people don't repress memories, perhaps abductors might do so, that missing time might not be a defense mechanism but memory wiping by the abductors. Regardless, regression and memory recovery as a way to investigate missing time and abductions clearly has its roots in the notion of repressed memory from 20th century psychiatry.

The study in question suggests that the concept of repressed memories is relatively new. From this, it implies that repressed memories are not a biological universal in humans, but instead a cultural malady of Westerners starting in the late 19th Century. It is an intriguing approach, but it must be remembered that the researchers are studying cultural ideas. They suggest that the lack of a cultural notion for a malady in literature and other cultural texts is evidence that it is not a biological phenomenon. I am no psychiatrist or physician, nor am I a supporter of repressed memory ideology, but it would seem to me as an archaeologist that to go from a study of cultural texts and memes to conclusions concerning material and biological reality requires some "ground-truthing."

EDIT: New study suggests that traumatic memories don't get repressed, they are easier to remember than the good times. This certainly fits my experience. As with the story mentioned above, one could argue abductions and missing time involve mind-altering technology or methods, and not a psychological defense mechanism. But as I note, the whole thing is framed by the Freudian concept of repressed memories.

Mind Controlees: A (sort of) New Belief Group

The Washington Post Magazine ran a piece by Sharon Weinberger on the community of people who believe that government or other agents beam thoughts into their heads.

The very definition of the tinfoil hat people.

The essay compares this community to alien abductees, describes the beliefs of a few members of this community, and suggests psychological explanations for the phenomena (both the physiological phenomenon of voices and the cultural phenomenon of how to interpret it). I imagine that Weinberger has not read David Hufford's book, The Terror that Comes in the Night. A similar approach is found in that book, regarding sleep paralysis mixed with hypnopompic or hypnogogic hallucinations. Hufford's work in turn has inspired those who explain some (as well as those who explain all, though that's another issue) alien abduction accounts with sleep paralysis.

Weinberger's article also notes that there has indeed been experimentation by the US defense establishment into exactly what these people claim: projecting voices and messages into the mind using microwaves. Never mind the long history of MKULTRA and other experimentation into mind control using other methods (pharmacological and psychiatric).

Wired's blog post on the topic is generally correct, that the WaPo article is playing some dirty pool. Weinberger's descriptions make it clear that she does not see spy games behind the claims of TIs, but likely an undiagnosed psychological delusion. Yet the article does mix in the bit on actual mind control technology.

Where Wired fails, though, is taking what I've increasingly thought of as the "mechanical engineering" attitude on the world. A hard and very mechanistic approach that does not care much for concerns about culture, social movements and ideology, and other things that humans have been doing for a long time. I noted this same attitude in one of my earliest posts on this blog, in a slap fight between transhumanists and ufology. Such an attitude, one cavalier about the reality of messy humanity with its cultural beliefs and variables, is as realistic about the real human world as the TIs are about government secrecy.

The WaPo essay raises, to someone who has interest in how humans work, three basic questions for study:

1.) What causes people to hear voices in their heads (and then another follow-on question: if it is psychiatric, can it be treated)?
2.) Why do they attribute this to one specific cause or another?
3.) How do the beliefs from Question #2 influence the behavior of people and their relationship to the larger society and to other TIs?

UPDATE 11/08: The New York Times has done a piece on this community, and directly compares it to the rise of alien abduction accounts in the 1970s and 1980s, and notes the collision between psychology and culture.

And a Canadian judge has allowed a $2 billion lawsuit to go forward against, amongst others, Microsoft based on TI claims. He cites MKULTA, including the participation of a Canadian researcher, as his justification.