Following the second-season premiere of “Hangar 1” a couple of weeks back, De Void decided to skip the rest of the Red Bull-paced bells & whistles that the History Channel marketing slicks insist it takes to hold 21st-century audiences. The NBA playoffs are in full swing now, and Friday nights are usually reserved for disco-ing, so time management’s a BFD for me. Because you can tell by the way I use my walk I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk.
Anyhow, the aftermath of “Hanger 1’s” third episode, “The Far Side of the Moon,” triggered an email from “UFOs and Nukes” author Robert Hastings, which lured me back into the mire. Hastings has interviewed more than a hundred USAF veterans testifying to decades of UFO activity making a joke of security around America’s nuclear arsenal, and has just finished crafting their stories into a documentary. Along the way, Hastings turned down several cable offers that would have cost him creative and editorial control, and probably would’ve made his research look like, well, “Hangar 1.” But last Friday night’s installment, which speculated the U.S. is operating secret military bases on Mars and the moon, really set him off.
“This series is slow suicide for MUFON,” declared Hastings, referring to the private research group which has turned its 45-year-deep case files over to the History Channel. “Whatever credibility the organization had is ebbing away. Their membership may be up — a sad testament to be sure, if the show is responsible for that — but their association with Hangar 1 has severely and negatively impacted ufology’s attempt to be recognized as an endeavor worthy of respect.”
Ever the sucker for train wrecks, De Void tuned in, online, for the full monty, and wow, yeah, shew. There were actually some interesting assertions begging more details, such as how “hundreds” of ham operators recorded Apollo 11’s missing 2-minute tape-recorded astronaut chatter about seeing UFOs on the moon, and Buzz Aldrin’s 16mm film of a bright white dot skirting the lunar surface. But that stuff got lost as “Hangar 1” went all Michael Bay and regurgitated Monuments of Mars author Richard Hoagland’s mile-high crystal towers on the moon, “interstellar soldier” Randy Kramer’s eyewitness riffs on genetically enhanced super-soldiers pulling picket duty at lunar and Martian outposts, and — no wait. De Void’s not gonna make this easy for you. You need to sit through it yourself right here.
Here’s what caught De Void a little flat-footed.
De Void called John Schuessler, Mutual UFO Network co-founder and board member, for his take on “Hangar 1.” As a McDonnell Douglas’ erstwhile director of engineering and project manager for Space Shuttle Flight Operations at Johnson Space Center, Schuessler spent a career trouble-shooting real-world challenges on the high frontier. Schuessler confessed he missed Friday night’s show and said “I can tell you that most of us (at MUFON) don’t believe in such a thing (off-world U.S. military bases).” But he also said MUFON’s been caught in a pickle for decades.
“We’ve been accused of being a in black hole where information keeps going in but we never tell anybody everything we’ve got,” he said. “Well, we have files on almost everything. It doesn’t mean we’ve verified everything or that we believe everything we’ve got. So it’s a double-edged sword. Production companies take what they want and they’re free to use artistic license — that’s business.”
Schuessler declined to name names for the record, but he said one cable network decided to abolish all UFO programming because it conflicted with the religious beliefs of its owner. “I’m not kidding,” he said. Which, he added, makes MUFON’s new venue at History — however erratic or sensationalist its UFO productions may be — a gamble worth taking. And here’s why.
“In general,” he said, “this show has done more to open up channels of discussion than anything we’ve ever been involved with before. It’s a tradeoff, but it’s paying off for us, we’re getting more data. And that’s the whole point.
“I haven’t seen Friday night’s show, but I can guarantee you — even as controversial as that one apparently was — people with other parts of the puzzle will come forward. That’s what’s happening. Maybe, in this case, we’ll get confirming information that it’s all wet. But we’re getting feedback from people we’ve never heard from before.”
Well, there you go. Still, De Void can’t help wondering how it would work if the History producers played it straight. On the other hand, maybe this is as good as it’s ever going to get, and the formula strokers really are geniuses.