Fresh off his cameo appearance this week as a newscaster on CSI: Vegas, paranormal journalist George Knapp published an interview with paranormal investigator Jacques Vallée in which the two discussed the topic of their mutual interest—self-publishing badly written, bonkers books about investigating supernatural UFO mysteries. Both Knapp and Vallée recently put out their own books, Skinwalkers at the Pentagon and Trinity: The Best Kept Secret, respectively, both alleging to reveal secrets about UFOs and their connection to government investigations of the paranormal. Oddly enough, Knapp chose not to disclose in the interview or the accompanying article that Vallée served on the board of the organization that investigated Skinwalker Ranch, or that Knapp wrote a book about said ranch at the behest of, and with the support of, their mutual friend, Robert Bigelow.
The interview contains a number of notable points that contradict previous claims. In Trinity, the 82-year-old Vallée aimed to test objects from New Mexico that others have identified as pieces of a windmill to see if they came from a crashed spaceship that bore a suspicious resemblance to the kind of bombs the U.S. government was testing nearby. (As I have discussed before, Vallée has credulously accepted three old people’s tall tale from seven decades after the fact that seems to be a distorted childhood memory of American nuclear tests.) Anyway, in the interview Vallée says this was the first UFO debris that could be scientifically tested. “But we never had something, you know, that we could take to the lab, and test until really this this case,” he said. This contradicts years of assertions that he and To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science and others had collected and tested crash debris.
Either he is mistaken, or the previous efforts didn’t count because they produced no usable results.
Vallée bizarrely announces that he is going to have a news conference in November to announce the results of his tests. This was quite confusing since he and his coauthor rushed the book into print this summer, apparently to piggyback on the June government UFO report, only to have no results or evidence to support the wild claims, and now he seems to be looking for a do-over. It’s a very strange rollout for what he implies is convincing evidence of aliens. It looks like he and his coauthor, Paola Harris, have been stringing ideas together and hunting for evidence to support them to back-fill gaps in a tall tale they chose to believe because they like and trust other very old folk.
He also alleges that his findings will “support” the Roswell narrative. “This case helps the credibility of Roswell, because we found details about the material that has been recovered there, including some material from inside the object, from inside the craft that we can test. And we are doing that now.” This does not very clearly indicate how it “supports” Roswell, but apparently any anomaly reinforces every anomaly.
My favorite detail is that the vast government operation to recover the UFO was stymied by property rights! “The Army had to make a break in the fence. So they had to ask permission to do that, to open the fence,” Vallée said. That made me laugh, since the same government that can orchestrate a vast conspiracy to suppress extraterrestrial technology for seventy years and could force witnesses into silence nevertheless wasn’t able to take a truck into a field in secret without getting permission to temporarily remove a section of fence!
But the interview also struck me as very sad because it is becoming increasingly clear that the Jacques Vallée of today is not the man he was twenty, forty, or sixty years ago. Vallée says that he no longer has a very good memory, for example, and the credulity he expresses in this case is a marked contrast to his at least superficial efforts at critical thinking in the past. In the interview, he places great weight on the Trinity witnesses using the word souvenir to describe chunks of saved wreckage, which he describes as a French term that wouldn’t have been known to English-speakers in New Mexico:
Souvenir is a French word. And that struck me. Why do you call that a souvenir? He said, Well, you know, so many people died in the war. They were not coming back. You know, brothers, uncles, fathers. And it was very important for a family in many cases they couldn’t get the body. It was very important for the family to have something to remember them by and that’s what we call the souvenir. So that’s how that French word sort of came into the language in [New] Mexico 1945. Well, nobody spoke French and so those are the little things that are important you know should be important to a historian.
Souvenir originates in French—Vallée’s native language—but has been an English word since 1775. It requires no transmission from liberated France in 1945 to explain why English-speakers would use a longstanding English word. His lack of investigative rigor is more noticeable than ever.
Similarly, he expresses naïve faith in the power of eyewitness testimony, despite decades of research into the reasons eyewitness accounts are unreliable. He trusts the old folk talking seventy years after the fact. And he trusts the airmen. “I’ll tell you who I trust, I trust the pilots with their eyes,” he said, even though we have repeated instances of pilots incorrectly interpreting things they have seen in the sky, sometimes with fatal results.
Most of Vallée’s interview rehashed his book, and large portions were filler and blather that must have been incoherent to anyone who isn’t steeped in recent UFO lore. Overall, though, it paints a picture of a research in twilight, convinced of his own past successes and dazzled by the shiny and new.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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