Readers of The Chara Talisman (and there are a bunch of you out there, thank you!) already know that the sequel, The Reticuli Deception (working title) touches on mysteries in addition to those of the millions of years ago Terraformers and the more recent Spacefarers. Namely, whether there was anything to some of the UFO contacts reported in the 1960s. Since these books are set 150 years after that, there’s some question as to whether the original Blue Book files can still be located, and they do try, although that’s a side story to the main plot. In particular, they’re curious about the Betty Hill incident, and the star map she drew.
Sometimes, though, truth can be stranger than fiction. I’d heard that the Project Blue Book files were all transferred to the National Archives when the project was shut down in 1969 (or 1970, depending on which report you read). It’s not quite that simple. They were first transfered to the Air Force Archives at Maxwell AFB in Alabama, where they resided for about five years, although nominally available to the public. It was in 1975 that they were transferred to the National Archives, but only after redacting witness names and similar personal information. The Air Force kept a microfilm copy (also censored) for their own use.
It turns out, though, that uncensored microfilms also exist, discovered in the National Archives in 1998, and that “these rolls also contain some pages that are not on the NARA [National Archives and Records Administration] rolls” (– bluebookarchive.org). Curiouser and curiouser.
Eagerly I began to browse through Blue Book Archive’s list of microfilms. These are on line. Fantastic! I’d love to read the actual Betty Hill files. Pages one through four of their listings cover the pre-Blue Book projects, Sign and Grudge, as well as all the Blue Books up to 1954. The Hill contact was in 1961, I’m getting close. Page five … begins in mid-1968. Wait, what?.
So I dig a little deeper. Flip back and forth through various rolls. Search for “Betty Hill”, and find nothing relevant. Search for “Pease Air Base” (where they supposedly reported the incident) and find many interesting reports … from 1965. Ah, but what’s this? One of the first rolls has an index to all the cases. Great! Skip ahead 25 pages at a time: 1954, 1956, 1958, 1960… I’m getting close, slow down. Page 498, 16-30 April, 1960. Page 499, 1-15 May, 1962. Nineteen sixty two? What the…?
Okay, flip back and forth some more. Ha! Page 497 of the index is also 1962, page 498 must have been misfiled. Not a good sign (and at this point all the microfilm images are very faint, it’s near impossible to make out the text), but I’ll keep looking. Page 489 looks like it might be August, 1961, but the typewritten text is ghostly, and there’s an ominous hand-scrawled “missing” beside several of the cases listed. The next few pages are even less legible. (For example.)
I incline toward the sentiment “never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence,” and that’s probably what’s going on here (not, let me hasten to add, on the part of Blue Book Archive, who are doing an admirable job, but on the part of whatever bored Airman or clerk was microfilming this stuff in the first place, and other clerks who may have misfiled things). On the other hand, as Ian Fleming supposedly said, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” I wonder.
For the record, I don’t really think Betty and Barney Hill were abducted by aliens. On the subject of UFOs as alien spacecraft overall, I’m a skeptical agnostic. I’ve seen enough strange things in the sky that I couldn’t identify at the time to have no doubt that plenty of people see unidentified flying objects. I think that to immediately identify them as alien spacecraft is silly. Some might indeed be, but the burden of proof is pretty high as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s also silly to say flat out that alien spacecraft are impossible. We just don’t know enough.
As far as research for The Reticuli Deception goes, I may not be learning anything new about the Hill incident or the supposed Zeta Reticuli starchart, but I am gaining a good insight as to how my characters feel when they’re looking for this stuff: frustrated.
Readers know that none of my characters take frustration well, and they tend to come up with creative solutions to it. This is gonna be fun.