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The Australian International UFO Symposium 1997

11-13 October 1997

Reviewer: Martin Gottschall, PhD

The Australian International UFO Symposium was held from 11 to 13 October 1996 at the Mercure Hotel, Brisbane. Its principal organizer was Glennys Mackay, who has presented herself during the past two years or so, as the Queensland representative to MUFON (Mutual UFO Network, a large USA based body). The Symposium Proceedings refer to QUFON (Queensland UFO Network), and declare that the Symposium is hosted by Glennys and George Mackay.

During the Symposium, Glennys and George were assisted by a number of ladies who were voluntary helpers. The chairing of the Symposium program was performed by Anthony Frangi, Glennys and members of MUFON. It became apparent from the various comments made by the chairpersons, that the Symposium was strongly supported by the MUFON executive.

All the papers were presented in the one large auditorium with a capacity of at least 500. Participants were able to assemble and meet in a foyer outside this room. The vendor tables were located in a modest sized room elsewhere in the Hotel on a different floor, and movement between this place and the auditorium was slow and somewhat tortuous.

During the months preceding the Symposium, at least two preliminary programs were released. The final program released a few weeks before the symposium, and its prices should be referred to for more accurate information. The cost of registering for the full conference was $200, and for one day $95. In addition to the symposium program, a dinner on the Saturday night, and other workshops and talks were organised for the days after the Symposium.

I attended the full Symposium, and Sheryl and I, as well as other members attended the occasion at Mayne Hall on Monday night to hear Stanton Friedman and John Mack. I estimate the Symposium attendance as about 350 each day and the Mayne hall attendance as about 600. There is every indication that despite its considerable cost, the Symposium was a financial success.

Twenty speakers addressed the Symposium, representing the Americas, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Whitley Strieber, John Mack and Stanton Friedman are the better known of the nine USA speakers. Jairne Maussen spoke about the recent UFO activity in Mexico, Ademar Gevaerd from Brazil gave a detailed account of the capture of what are believed to be two alien beings from a crashed UFO earlier this year, and two young ladies spoke on UFO sightings in Chile.

Seven Australian speakers, Alex Newald (an abductee) from New Zealand, and George Wingfield from the UK made up the rest of the speaker list. The opening speaker was Walter Andrus, International Director of MUFON, who in effect represented Budd Hopkins. His talk was based in Hopkins’ latest book “Witness” detailing the abduction of a young woman from a 12th story apartment, witnessed by a prominent UN official and others. Hopkins is presently engaged in a lecture tour in the US promoting this book.

Keith Basterfield of Adelaide was announced as the Australian Continental Director of MUFON and spoke on “The Side Effects of a UFO Abduction Experience” which he classified as psychophysical, belief and lifestyle and physical. Under “psychophysical” he listed such things as increased psychic abilities, electrical sensitivity, poltergeist type activity, increased light sensitivity, nightmares and flashbacks (event recall). Under “belief and lifestyle” he listed dietary changes (usually becoming vegetarian), a greater environmental and Earth consciousness, a search for higher consciousness and a sense of global mission. Under “physical” he listed irritated eyes, thirst, weight loss and body markings.

“Symposium Proceedings” were published, and available during the event. A copy exists in our library, and I understand that Glennys still has a number of them available. Rather than go into detail on each speaker, I refer the reader to this publication, and give some of my impressions of the Symposium. The majority of speakers had much to offer, and if I make little or no reference to them, it is not to be interpreted as a form of negative criticism. In my view, one or two would have done the Symposium a favour by not coming, though this is probably a minority view.

Stanton Friedman has done a lot of valuable work, especially in getting Government documents into the public domain, and deserves the recognition he is getting. He is outspoken in his views, and it seems to me, does sound research. Nevertheless he is, I think, plain wrong on some of the subjects on which he takes a strong position. We can learn much from Stan, but do well to leave some of his views alone.

John Mack and Whitley Strieber are focused mainly on the abduction phenomenon, although from very different perspectives. They both see it as something which, despite its “negative” image, tends to lead to positive outcomes in the lives of the “experiencers”. Budd Hopkins seems far less inclined to take such a view. Thus we have the researchers in this area casting a quite wide net in their search for an understanding.

I found John Davenport’s comments about the activities of the “National UFO Reporting Centre USA” particularly interesting because of my own background in receiving so many sightings reports. Although I have tended to see it as merely the first stage in a larger process, it is frequently all the information we get from witnesses, and needs to be handled as such.

Several other speakers went well beyond the “scientific” way of looking at things. Dr. Joe Lewels brought “consciousness”, “God” and related concepts into the arena, as tools for finding answers, and for coping with experiences. Slowly, it seems, we are returning to the ideas that were inherent in what contactees had to say all those years ago, and who knows, perhaps UFO research will one day actually look at what they said, instead of rejecting them out of hand, as has been the pattern these last four decades.

Moira McGhee spoke on less known Australian Sightings going back to about 1953, and including a fairly detailed treatment of video footage obtained in 1994. Moira has been appointed NSW Director for MUFON, since the Symposium.

Overall, the strong point of the Symposium was probably also its weak point. With so many highly credentialed speakers, there was really not enough time to do justice to any of them, but on the other hand, having them all together created a kind of “overview” of thinking in this field.

Categories: Reviews

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