Fortean Times

Dangerous projection­s

A spot of eye trouble sets JENNY RANDLES thinking about UFO perception­s and physiologi­cal effects


We tend to think of UFOs in many ways – often romantic or exciting ones. As UFO witnesses, we may react by asking: Is this when history changes, and I am witnessing an alien arrival? Or: Can this event tell us something startling about nature or consciousn­ess and provide a new insight into how the world works? However, there are cases where what happens is almost secondary to the consequenc­es it has on those directly involved. Sometimes, events have a profound impact on the body of a witness who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, with a catastroph­ic impact on their subsequent lives.

Barring psychosoma­tic factors – or of course outright lying – any serious impact on the human body reported during a close encounter by a witness – or, more importantl­y, attested by a doctor – is probably the best physical evidence we have for a close encounter.

This came into focus in February 2023 when sources suddenly decided to describe as Unidentifi­ed Flying Objects what most at the time assumed to be spy drones – or ‘research balloons’ going astray – that were crossing North America and were shot down as a threat to air traffic (see FT430:2829). Such events set me thinking on how we interpret what we experience in ways that aren’t necessaril­y very helpful if we’re seeking a solution to the problem before us.

And this reminded me, too, of various UFO cases across the decades that reveal that something physically real can impact the body in big ways, and of the importance of correct diagnosis and a treatment pathway, rather than an over-focus on what extraordin­ary (or perhaps ordinary) trigger may lie behind the effect on the human body. So over the next couple of issues I will use my own recent medical experience­s to take a new look at these.

I will first pay attention to the eyes, given my own circumstan­ces – which started innocently enough, with a huge floater appearing like a UFO in my vision overnight!

One of the earliest cases in which UFOs and health came together, and today looks even more interestin­g to me, came up when I worked with the film company releasing the classic movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the UK. The publicity campaign was huge (see FT358:31). This case comes from one of the letters it generated.

On 22 July 1975, a family of four were on holiday in Dovey Vale, Wales. Early on a fine summer evening, their teenage son walked up alone onto a small incline called Wylfa Hill and was confronted with an amazing sight. A large round object was sittting atop the hill, surrounded by lights of multiple hues that the teenager struggled to describe. Inside the dome were two almost shapeless beings made up of small blobs in a state of flux and moving around. Suddenly, one started to float towards the lad, who was observing while trying not to be seen. He fled down the slope and tried to attract his father by shouting, “You won’t believe this – come on!” He ran back up the slope expecting his dad to follow, but he never did. At the top of the slope the teenager watched as the UFO and jelly-like blobs disappeare­d, not by flying away but by dissolving into the background, as if becoming invisible and merging into the different colours of the sky and scenery. He ran down the slope again, dragged his father up with him, but nothing was now visible at all.

This is a most unusual close encounter, which Andy Collins followed up from this initial report as he lived near the family. For 24 hours, the family just wrote the event off as vivid imaginatio­n, but then the teenager developed a sore throat and could not speak for a while, which suggested an infection. They returned home, and a month or so later the boy lost sight in his left

It started innocently enough with a huge floater like a UFO appearing in my vision

eye. Doctors, including an eye specialist, struggled to find any cause – especially when his sight started to return, but then the effects shifted to the other eye. Nobody could figure out what was happening. Of course psychologi­sts were involved early on, looking for a psychosoma­tic cause (cases of hysterical blindness in teenagers have been recorded). But what the ‘close encounter’ had to do with all this was harder to make out. The obvious conclusion was that it was an hallucinat­ion. A follow-up three years later by Andy revealed that, although there had been much physical improvemen­t, nobody had worked out exactly what had happened, although it was acknowledg­ed that prior to the trip the boy had seemed happy and was doing well at school. The medics probably assumed the UFO event was part of an ongoing ‘psychologi­cal’ experience. Which it may have been, of course. Or perhaps it was indeed a real UFO.

However, what strikes me about this ‘jellyman’ case is how some of it makes more sense to me given my own recent problems. I too suddenly started seeing odd things in front of my eyes. Floaters could look like solid objects or jelly-like blobs, and it took some time to get used to their persistenc­e, although I slowly did. And I did have other physiologi­cal troubles that may have been linked. What I think is interestin­g is that when what appears to be a UFO experience is described as such, then, perhaps unsurprisi­ngly, a cultural pattern follows. The balloon-like objects floating over North America are taken to be things that they are not, just because they are called ‘UFOs’, and this misdirects us to seek stranger things, when the truth is not extraterre­strial, but either psychologi­cal or physiologi­cal.

Somewhat ironically, this kind of episode affirms the importance of any physiologi­cal consequenc­es of a UFO encounter, but implies that sometimes it may be more helpful if instead we consider the UFO experience as the consequenc­e of physiologi­cal events, not the reverse. It is natural for researcher­s to accept the UFO as real and seek to explain how it causes the physical effects assumed to be a side effect of the encounter. However, as I hope to investigat­e in coming issues, looking at other puzzling events, we should not overlook the possibilit­y that when there is damage to the body, that damage may predate the event.

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