Monday, October 20, 2008

UFO waves as social poltergeists

I alluded to this idea in my previous posts that UFO waves could be compared to grand scale poltergeists. Now, I would like to expand on it, and propose a model to approach the phenomenon.

Commonalities between UFO waves and Poltergeists

First of all, it is useful to look at the descriptive level to see commonalities. Poltergeist is quite a multifaceted phenomenon, contrary to what most people think. Poltergeists are known for inexplicable noises and bangs, as the German origin of noun can attest. The phenomenon includes also objects apparently moving by themselves, objects disappearing and reappearing. It is oftentimes construed that poltergeists are simply a macro-level form of psycho-kinesis (PK). However, there are a number of poltergeist reports that include also sightings of out-of-this-world beings and entities. Or, in other occasions it is assumed that there might be both a poltergeist and haunting dynamics going on. Then again, strange noises and bangs, and objects moving by themselves also occur during hauntings. The first important point to make here is that people tend to distinguish hauntings from poltergeist by the apparent nature of the entities seen; that they appear to be deceased human in hauntings while in poltergeist the entities appear to be something else. As one can see, this distinction between hauntings and poltergeists is an arbitrary one, and it is essentially based on descriptive elements instead than on comparing the dynamics at play.

If one takes a parapsychological approach, then hauntings and poltergeist are not fundamentally different: they are both psi effects. The descriptive differences are in part due to what people unconsciously project into the phenomenon and for the other part based the social dynamics to leads to the psi effect. Poltergeist are shorter in duration because they are caused by psychological conflicts than get resolved (one way or the other) while hauntings last longer because they are “fed” by an ongoing and content specific belief in the haunting (essentially a permanent Philip experiment). Poltergeists and hauntings are otherwise showing to be generated by the same dynamics.

1- They both have a subjective and an objective component. What is perceived and what can be recorded does match at times, but not always.
For more on this please see: Roll, W.G. (1977). “Poltergeists.” In B.B. Wolman (Ed.) Handbook of Parapsychology. New York: Reinhold, pp. 382-413.

2- They both develop through a hierarchy of experience, from mostly imperceptible phenomena to increasingly ostentatious activities culminating, if allowed to continue, with the apparition of non-human entities.
For more please see: Houran, J. and R. Lange. (2001). “A Rasch hierarchy of haunt and poltergeist experiences.” Journal of Parapsychology 65: 41-58.

3- They both end when percipients understand and internalize a different belief about the situation through someone external to his/her normal social environment. Be either by ritualistic activities such as exorcist, psychic showing the way to the other world, effective “debunking,” or psychotherapeutic intervention showing the psi component and dealing with the affect behind the phenomenon.
For more information on this issue, please see: Lucadou, W.v. (1995). “The Model of Pragmatic Information (MPI).” European Journal of Parapsychology 11: 58-75.

The UFO waves tend to respond to similar dynamic, although it is not always easy to circumscribe what could be included and excluded from a wave, now that there are so many UFO reporting outlets in the world.

To take a specific example that is well documented, the 1989-1990 Belgian UFO wave, all three components could be found. (1) There were people who saw lights in the sky, others saw a triangle in sky, and yet there was radar traces. (2) It followed a hierarchy to culminate by people seeing an object near the ground about the shape of the Concord airplane (an elongated triangle – rather than the almost equilateral triangle usually seen in the sky – with an outside appearance of bolted steel plates looking like an early 20th century ship). The official report did not discuss any encounters of the 3rd kind (CE3), although some were reported but were not made widely known. (3) The phenomenon ended shortly after the “authorities” looked into the phenomenon seriously and concluding that although it could not identify what it is, it was deemed as essentially inoffensive.

A model to investigate UFO waves

Although the above comparison between UFOs and poltergeists remain to be further developed, it constitutes a useful starting point to understand UFO waves. Also, the distinctions between hauntings and poltergeist based on the underlying social dynamics can also be useful. If the analogy is extend, then it is possible to cast the ongoing UFO sightings as a “haunting” of the sky. It is feed by the nowadays belief in the ETH, where at times genuine psi effect can occur. UFO waves, given its more dramatic and shorter lived-nature, are more akin to a poltergeist in the sky (and on the ground). The key would then be to identify the unconscious social tensions generating the psi effect.

Like in von Loucadou’s model quoted above, as well as in other poltergeist research model, it appears also necessary to identify a “central person.” Poltergeists tend to have an individual more central to the phenomenon, although it is not the only one contributing to it. Von Loucadou considers that poltergeists are a micro-social phenomenon where the entourage of the “central person” plays an important role. Not only they can participate through psi channels, but by witnessing the effects they are creating a psycho-social context reinforcing the belief in paranormal activity and thus allow it to continue further. As well, the “central person” is usually having its psychological conflict with individuals part of the same entourage; the paranormal phenomenon is just more occasions to feed unconsciously the conflict, and to leave key issues unaddressed as the attention is focussed on the phenomenon.

From a sociological perspective, if we assume that UFO waves are poltergeist at the social level (because the entire society is eventually informed of the wave), then a series of questions need to be answered:

1- If psi effects are produced by unconscious processes, then how can they be identified at the collective level? (i.e., what does constitute the collective unconscious, and how can it be studied?)

2- In a sociological context, what does constitute a “central person” and its entourage? An individual, a network, a sub-group, an entire society?

3- What kind of social conflicts are more prone to create poltergeists (for instance, teenagers are often the central person in poltergeists – one of the reason is that at that age, people’s unconscious mind goes through very profound and conflicting processes as a new identity is emerging – from child to adult). Is social identity a key element?

4- Is it a valid construct to maintain a geographic link between people and the phenomenon when it comes to social poltergeists? (i.e., usually a poltergeist occurs where the central person lives or works – is the geography of a UFO wave is a good indicator of where is the central person?)

These are some of the key questions I will try to answer. The answer will be more in the form of a expanding spiral. A provisional answer will lead to other answers, which will lead to reassess the first answer. At least, it is my hope that such process will be fruitful. I plan to use a mixture of review of existing literature, and mini historical case studies to explore some hypotheses.

Copyright © 2008 Eric Ouellet


Atrueoriginall said...

"Haunting of the Sky". I like that.

I am a magnet to the paranormal but have also had other more interesting things happen to me. Rather than explain, I've supplied a link that explains something for me. It's very brief.

In this paragraph you'll read, I say "large noise". That was actually a bad choice of words and have regretted ever using them since it sounds like I'm saying a large noise as in a bang. It wasn't a noise like we know a loud noise. It's also very difficult to define. It was like a large wind pushing through very swiftly, making a lot of noise but yet the leaves on a tree wouldn't be moving. I guess you would have to imagine such a noise.

Anyway, this experience was unbelievable. For the short time this wave was in my home, body and everything else, it was as if it was a living entity. That is exactly the sensation I got, was that it was alive.

Prior to the event below this had happened to me before. My roommate and I were sitting at my kitchen table on our computers. Suddenly and out of no where we both felt very scared but we didn't know why. We looked toward the front door and both the door and wall adjacent to the door had this absolutely humongous wave coming in the room (visible). It rolled like a wave in the sea. It went up and down, up and down. We were scared to death and ran to the back porch. This was in daylight hours. There's more but then again, I'm 56 and these kinds of things have happened to me all of my life so there's just too much.

Very nice article. I'm going to post your link in a couple of my blogs tomorrow.

National UFO Reporting Center

Eric Ouellet said...

Thank you for your comment. One thing for sure about UFOs is that "flying saucers" and "grey" aliens are stereotypes. The UFO experience is much more diverse and complex than what popular imagery shows.