What Did Dr. J. Allen Hynek Believe About UFOs in 1967: And When Did He Say It?


What Did Dr. J. Allen Hynek Believe About UFOs in 1967: And When Did He Say It? And A Philosophical – Psychological Debate: The Debunkers: And The Telling Of The Curious Case of Moriarty Wild: The Man Behind It.

Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart,” Phil Jackson.

(….they have made a show of intolerance which has been fatal to their success…whether those theories were true or false.” David Meredith Reese, Humbugs Of New York, 1838.)

“A primary aim of science is to satisfy human curiosity, to probe the unknown, and to open new paths for intellectual adventure…though scientists, being quite human, have often inadvertently given the opposite impression.”  Dr. J. Allen Hynek.

The world of unknown phenomena in 1947 was a peculiar world. In June, 1947, Kenneth Arnold sighted strange machines skipping through the Mount Rainer, Washington state skies akin to superior aircraft that he could not identify.  “I am convinced in my own mind that they were some type of airplane, even though they did not conform with the many aspects of the conventional types of plane that I know.”   (Kenneth Arnold, Spring, 1948 FATE Magazine1). That set the stage for thousands of people seeing similar aircraft, and since Washington and the White House denied it was American, the alternatives were fascinating; one said they might be “machines from outer space.”  And the worldwide imagination morphed into seeing exactly that.

It was an equally ‘peculiar’1967:  It was ‘Wild.’  Moriarty Wild.

[1] Later, in Amazing Stories Magazine, October, 1957, Arnold revised his opinion:  “[In 1947] Ray Palmer told me in a phone call that nobody would find out what the flying saucers were, or capture one – and today, ten years later, that boy is right!….I’m fairly well convinced  that there is a type of living creature in our atmosphere.  At least some of the things I’ve seen exhibit the characteristics of a living thing more than they do of a mechanical thing.”  (FATE Magazine, September, 1994, p. 26.) 



To the scientific community, always worried about its status quo and respectability, strange machines flying about the planet were hard enough to allow into conversation, but spaceships from outer space was absolutely sinequanon and taboo. The U.S government in general denied the reality of the phenomena, and it hired “experts” such as the late Donald Howard Menzel (Director of the Harvard observatory) and the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek (Professor and Chairman of the Astronomy Department at North Western University) to control the growing, raging speculation.

As the official consultant and investigator for the U.S. Air Force, Project Sign, Dr. J. Allen Hynek was able to view cases “up close and personal” and began a gradual change of attitude from complete cynicism to, what he believed was, true scientific objectivity – “objectivity” as in “examining all the facts based on all the evidence and testimony” – which Hynek labeled as the real Scientific Principle. Unfortunately for Old School UFOlogy, the “machines coming here from other planets” belief did not encircle all the facts and evidence; and Hynek gradually began to allude to that fact in his speeches and lectures.

Moriarty Wild (not the real name: which will be given to the editor2) is a case in point. He was one of those inquisitive young teenage astronomy students that felt the cases sighted promised new space-age accomplishments and expansion of science, and like many youngsters at that time, was eager to explore. I was one such imaginative youngster. But Wild  believed in a makeshift and an odd version of Old School respectability (in fact, Wild  believed most of Forteanism 3 was filled by inane idiots and crazy tall-tales; yet, those big guns of cynicism could just as easily been aimed at his own pomposity, who, like, Hynek and UFOs, I saw his idiosyncrasies “up close and personal” also) – I did not cling to old ideas – and I felt the wide field of science was “open” eternally to all kinds of possibilities (I, at the time, was impressed by the late pulp editor Ray Palmer’s intuitive ventures into New Age forecasting and the alternative viewpoints of the late Meade Layne Borderland Science Research Society and similar searchers).

Surprisingly, Wild and I both had been “buffeted” by ‘”authority” of various kinds: Wild, however, became an authority unto himself – I was far too “humbled” by the lashings and slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune to consider myself an authority to end all authority and all solely unto myself (see my forthcoming memoirs to discover the slings and arrows) – that kind of authority scared me – I sought wild adventure to fill that gap of loss caused by various kleptocracies. I saw any new science as “wide and wild adventure.”  That life and science of adventure, however, and those adventures were not necessarily progenitored by accomplished “liars” that Wild constantly envisioned.

In the ensuing years, Moriarty increasingly became what is known as a ‘debunker,’ those critics that devoted their lives, as a protection against the destruction of society, to destroying modernistic and what they felt were New Age degeneracies. Wild progressed to a fairly high extreme, seeing beliefs and modern theories as often a Fabian Communist Conspiracy. Some of his ideas, I could agree with, other ideas seem too harmful, even though the cases Wild attacked seemed just as hurtful and infuriating. I’ve heard Wild refer to citizens several times as “savages.”  (“… [if the attack had] backfire effects [which] can occur if a message spends too much time on the negative case, if it is too complex, or the message is threatening.” en.wikipedia.org/debunkers) Ben Pile surmised: “far from seeking rationalism, skepticism is increasingly a search for authority…it indulges the same fantasies…skeptics and rationalists ought to be taking a look at their own ideas…we don’t need a police force to protect us from bad ideas.  We just need better ideas.”

Debunking The Debunkers, Friday 13, October, 2006, www.spiked-online.com.

Debunkers, as a modern-day class, seemed to have emerged about 1975 with a gaggle of scientists about the globe, such as Marcello Truzzi of CSICOP (the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal), that fellow critic Carl Sagan warned was having a debilitating and polarizing effect with “…a tendency to belittle, to ignore the fact (that many theorizers) are human beings with real beliefs…..us vs. them….careless remark(s)….Phil Plait, astronomer, ‘Don’t be a dick’ DBAD speech….”  (SKEPTIC, Vol. 13, no.4, 2011.) 

What happened to Moriarty Wild may have happened to many a critic or debunker, and sometimes we find their holier-than-thou lifestyle is humbled by belated and sometimes reluctantly discovered facts.  I often found myself agreeing with Wild (and cannot be considered to be betraying him) in general terms on several topics, including the degeneration of Americanism and society. This story, however, is not presented to cause hurt or harm, but to introduce humility and compassion.  The real source of their sardonicism, as outlined at the end of this article, may be encrypted in the labyrinth of their psyche.  After all is said and done, however, debunkers cannot deny they are just ‘human beings’ like all the rest of us.


NOVEMBER 24, 1967

But everything has its beginnings, and we selectively pick November 24, 1967 when the public and Forteans went to listen to Dr. Allen J. Hynek’s lecture on his investigations into the UFO phenomenon as he spoke at the St. Louis Washington University Graham Chapel (“The UFO As A Scientific Problem”). I had taken note of and later presented his comments in my small fanzine Dissenter/Disinter, also marking Hynek’s comments that he was beginning to suspect that the oddities in those phenomena indicated a metaphysical or psychic aspect in its nature.  I later pointed out this revelation to Wild, where upon Wild again surprised and shocked me at my front door step by saying, as I greeted him and casually mentioned my column on the speech, that I was a “liar” or a “god-damned liar” (I can’t remember which of the two phrases he spurted out to me; it had been one of several of his tantrum-like bestirs over the years). Of course, Dr. Hynek’s sayings were not my words I reviewed, recorded and presented, but Dr. Hynek’s.

(I don’t, however, recall Hynek getting into some ‘lengthy’ discourse on the supernatural nature of UFOs, but he did indicate something paranormal was going on.  Did it occur to Wild that I may have been indifferent?  Impartiality, unfortunately, was not the hallmark of these ‘religious’ debates: apparently Wild felt [caused partially by Wild’s scholastic academics] that just the mere mention of anyone’s viewpoint opened the commenter to Wild’s censure in some kind of religious inquisition and verbal castration.)

Thoughts on the nature of UFOs as “space machines” (piloted by almost anonymous, unrecorded pilots in the actual sighting reports4) had been framed previously by pulp fiction writers in the 1930s and earlier fiction writers such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. The story line of pulp writers of the 1930s – 1940s encompassed such writers as Tiffany Thayer, Frank R. Paul, Raymond A. Palmer, Richard S. Shaver and others. Included were the ‘contactee’ stories (those who claimed physical contact with UFO pilots) of George Adamski, Howard Menger, Daniel Fry, Truman Bethurum, George Van Tassel and others. Only a few writers, unfortunately, suggested more than one cause for the sightings. Religiosity seemed prevalent among “speculators” of any Cult (including the Debunker Cult) in which adherents spoke, as their ‘Believer’ nemeses often did, only in terms of The “Absolute.”

And – again – as events in the subject developed and further lectures and papers by Hynek came out, the doctor, indeed, had said something paranormal seemed to be going on in that phenomenon: This I did pick up from his lecture on November 24, 1967 and wrote about it in my magazine.


It is amazing that two listeners’ notes I discovered on that lecture (one set of notes personally written on 12/21/67 by Moriarty Wild) did not record or pick-up on Hynek’s reference to the ‘paranormal’ as I did: so strong was the willingness to “cleanse” any thought or perception in Hynek’s words that a new and strange phenomenon may be involved including the metaphysical.  Major Donald Keyhoe of NICAP (National Investigation Committee on Aerial Phenomena) fought vigorously against any such notion of the spiritual or paranormal, even to the extent that he avoided that bizarre and strange humanoids were sometimes reported. The following reveals the growing tendency – even before 1967 — of Dr. Hynek to suspect an origin other than just ‘classical’ machines from the far distances and regular worlds in space:

Dr. Hynek spoke on this point in a June, 1975 Fate Magazine interview: “I always start with the incontrovertible facts that UFO reports exist and humanoid reports exist. I don’t like it ___ I’d much rather talk about nocturnal lights and daylight discs but no scientist throws out data just because he doesn’t like it.  If he does he’s not a scientist. The data of the reports are there.  If you go through the files of the Flying Saucer Review you have case after case. NICAP threw them out for years. They just refused to think there could be anything like that; therefore they weren’t going to touch it.  But that’s not science.” (p. 51.)  (Emphasis added by Steve Erdmann.)

It was odd that Dr. Hynek – on the same weekend he gave his Graham Chapel lecture – also was interviewed on WIL radio on November 25, 1967 and made similar allusions on UFOS: “….that’s a terribly loaded question….Do we really have an unexplained phenomenon? I think so. But it’s only after I have, or somebody has, the data really in form to study, in appropriate form to study, then one is ready for theorizing….The problem is, within the framework of our present-day science, we have no conceivable means or ideas of how that civilization could communicate with us because the distances are so utterly, utterly vast….it may also turn out to be something that we just don’t know about at all, in the same sense that a hundred years ago, the whole concept of nuclear energy would have been totally foreign to our way of life…I rather use the term ‘UFO’ than ‘flying saucer’ because ‘flying saucer’ is a loaded word, it…..already carries with it an answer…UFOs….do not seem to be explainable in the present scientific framework….reports of extremely strange sightings made by reputable people in many cases….”  It was apparent that on November 25, 1967, just one day after his lecture, that Hynek was still disenchanted with expressed flying saucer machines from normally envisioned interplanetary worlds.

The staff writer for the University College News, Washington University (January, 1968), speaking of the lecture (“Air Force Consultant Discusses…..”), missed the opportunity to outline Hynek’s inclusion of the paranormal in the phenomenon; the writer did catalogue Hynek’s disenchantment with the “visitors from outer space” theory”: “The next step is conjecturing how some cosmic navigator might set out to find our Earth…Once such a navigator had found Earth, there would still remain the unbelievable problem of getting here from such great distances.  And yet there are UFO’s….It is a great, huge question, still unanswered after 20 years of scientific searching.” (Emphasis added by Steve Erdmann.)

Mark Rodeghier, formerly director of the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), said on January 21, 2012: “You are correct that Hynek was open to a paranormal (or really, extra-dimensional) explanation for the UFO phenomenon…back in the 1960s while still a consultant to the Air Force, he was very cautious and expressing such ideas in public, he felt he had to wear his conservative hat.  So while you can find things he wrote in the earlier years, it will not be as open about the source of UFOs as his later public statements.”


One can see Dr. Hynek’s growing suspicions and his increasing evolution about the true nature of the UFO reality even before 1967, having lived with the UFO phenomena “up close and personal.”  In 1953 his suspicions leaked out into a April, 1953 article in the Journal Of The Optical Society Of America wherein he said true UFOs may be an unknown terrestrial phenomena: “But, do we have an natural phenomenon?”

The September-October,1966 issue of the now-defunct APRO Bulletin chastised Hynek for hiding a more liberal viewpoint on UFOs before that time, when, in fact, he had suspicions that a really unusual phenomenon existed:  “(Hynek would) ….bide his time until an opportunity came to arouse the interest of other scientists…a psychic revolution…”

As early as October 10, 1966, about a year before his Graham Chapel lecture, Hynek said in Newsweek Magazine, “Science And Space: UFOs For Real?” –  p.70: ” ‘I’m not saying we are being visited by extraterrestrial beings,’  Hynek told Newsweek Richard Steele, “….UFOs might even be, according to Hynek, ‘something entirely new to science…the question must remain open….'” 

Two months later, in the December 17, 1966, also one year before his St. Louis lecture, Hynek said in the Saturday Evening Post article “Are Flying Saucers Real?”: (speaking of the August 5-6, 1953 Black Hawk and Piedmont, South Dakota, and Bismarck, North Dakota UFO entanglement with a F-84 aircraft) “In my report, I noted that ‘the entire incident, in my opinion, has too much of an Alice-in-Wonderland flavor for comfort’….1964….people with good reputations….continued to describe ‘out-of-this-world’ incidents….the scientific probability of life elsewhere in our galaxy? I don’t know. I find no compelling evidence for it…we are dealing with some kind of natural phenomenon that we as yet cannot explain or even conceive of….who can say what startling facts we will learn about our world In the next 100 years?….compare new sightings with old and trace patterns of UFO behavior.”

Another case in point (apparently circa 1967-1968): in Leslie Kearn’s 2010 book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, Government Officials Go On The Record  (Harmony Books, New York, 2010), speaking about the Condon UFO Project and the subsequent July, 1968 Hearings before the Committee on Science and Astronautics, Kearn reminded us on page 113 of her book quoting Hynek’s early belief: “As Hynek pointed out at the time (emphasis, mine….SE), Condon and his supporters mistakenly equated the notion of UFOs with something extraterrestrial….”   Again, this appeared to be about 1967-1968.


On December 27, 1969 (just two years  after his speech at Graham Chapel) at a General Symposium of the American Association For The Advancement Of Science, 134th meeting, Hynek (conjoining and speaking of Canadian Philosopher of Science, Thomas Goudge) indicated that a genuinely new-empirical observation and new explanation scheme (including new, basic concepts and new scientific laws) needed to be established, and that the reported occurrences violated the “methodological criteria governing the advancement of science”: new observational data must occur, allowing new concepts, explaining new observational data. Hynek quoted Schreedinger: “….be curious, capable of being astonished and eager to find out……”

Hynek said in his 1972 book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry (Henry Regnery Company): “…do humanoids and UFOs alike bespeak a parallel ‘reality’ that for some reason manifests itself to some of us for very limited periods? But what would this reality be?…Its appearance of operating outside the established laws of physics, and its peculiar preferences for certain situations…exhibiting at times near-zero inertial mass yet able to leave physical traces of their presence, is surely a phenomena beyond the pale of mid-twentieth century physics…quite unable to illuminate the darkness of the future…The problem was – and remains  – whether the phenomena of UFO reports from  more than one hundred countries represent something genuinely new to science, quite apart from any preconceived theory (such as ETI) to account for the reports…The ETI hypothesis…there was no real evidence that it constituted the real problem…Fred Hoyle has conjectured that it is possible that a great intergalactic communication network exists but that we are like a settler in the wilderness who as yet has no telephone…such ideas, once forbidden and even revolting to our geocentric minds no longer shock us as we slowly grow out of our cosmic provincialism…or the  more esoteric notions of time travel or of parallel universes…scientific progress tends to be revolutionary rather than evolutionary…despite their bizarre nature, merely imaginative extensions of current concepts…One of the most exasperating and even repugnant features of the subject is its apparent irrationality…it cannot, at least at present, be separated from the social condition in which it is embedded…behavioral sciences from the physical sciences…inextricably mixed…a mighty and totally unexpected quantum jump.” (pp.139, 194, 195, 201, 232, 233, 234.)

Dr. Hynek spoke on February 23, 1973 at the Marriott Motor Hotel in St. Louis for the Northwestern University Alumni Club of St. Louis: “….the problem of the Northern Lights….nobody knew what caused it, because, simply, we didn’t know enough physics yet. And we may be in a sort of a similar situation with the UFO phenomenon; it may be opening a totally new domain of nature that we are, as yet – after all, just because it’s 1973 doesn’t mean that we know the things that we’re going to know about the universe in the year 4000….There remains no doubt in my mind that a real UFO phenomenon, of some sort, exists, which may, or may not, have extraterrestrial origin. Indeed that is the problem….these persons, adjudged responsible by all ordinary standards….to hold that they furnish as data that may be of decided, potential, scientific value….”  These notes were recorded by Moriarty Wild in March, 1973.

At a 1973 MUFON Annual Symposium in Akron, Ohio, Hynek said in a piece called “The Embarrassment Of The Riches”:   “…but many thousands every year? From remote regions of space? And to what purpose? To scare us by stopping cars and disturbing animals and puzzling us with their seemingly pointless antics?”

New Scientist of May 17, 1973 quoted Hynek thusly: “…the numerous perplexing reports of unidentified flying objects –  UFOs  –  may describe a branch of the natural world not yet investigated by science….maybe we don’t know enough physics to understand UFOs…”  

In the Spring, 1974 issue of Probe The Unknown Magazine, Dennis V. Waite commented on and quoted Hynek on these matters:  ”’To say that life (as extraterrestrial-alien-visitors…S.E) has visited us — that’s another question….ships from outer space.’ ”  “….explanation may just be too pat. Something is happening, Hynek says, something very real and frightening to many people…’We have to take this phenomenon seriously whatever it is’…There’s no conclusive evidence, he points out, that UFOs are ‘nuts-and-bolts hardware…not with a predetermined judgment that they do not exist or that they are alien spacecraft, but with an open, constantly probing and thorough scientific sleuthing.'”

In the January 20-22, 1975 AIAA 13th Aerospace Sciences meeting in Pasadena, California, Hynek said in “The Emerging Picture of the UFO Problem”:  “Eyewitness reports of actual space ships and actual extraterrestrials are, in themselves, totally unreliable. There have been numerous eyewitness reports of almost everything that most rational people do not care to accept…formulation of an hypothesis – or hypotheses – that encompass the established parameters of the UFO phenomenon – no matter how far beyond the boundaries of present-day science it may have to be…the trouble is, that whatever the UFO phenomenon is, it comes and goes unexpectedly. There is no way of examining it systematically. It appears suddenly and accidentally, is partially seen, and then it’s more or less inaccurately reported….the signal-to-noise aspect of the UFO problems aggravated to a high degree because the signal is a totally unexpected signal, and represents an entirely new set of empirical observations which do not fit into any existing framework in any of the accepted scientific disciplines….the signal itself signals the birth of a new scientific discipline…It is indeed sobering, yet challenging, to consider that the entire UFO phenomenon may only be the tip of the proverbial iceberg in a signaling an entirely new domain of the knowledge of nature as yet totally unexplored, an un explored and as unimagined as nuclear processes would have been a century ago…”

Likewise, speaking at a January 23, 1975 Annual Meeting and Banquet of about 900 assembled Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Hynek said: “We have an  unidentified phenomena which we are trying to study….The UFO phenomenon poses a research problem, and the hypothesis of visitation by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization is only one of several possibilities.”  (These quotes were transcribed by Moriarty Wild ).

The September 27, 1975 Joint Symposium of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Los Angeles chapter of the World Futures Society proceedings recorded Hynek as saying: “But what is by far the most appealing things about UFO facts is that they are not acceptable pieces in the scientific jig-saw puzzle. They are pieces that seem to belong to an entire different jig-saw puzzle…Bridge and tennis are just two different games and are played by different rules. And it seems clear to most of us that UFO’s don’t obey the rules of the present day scientific game….All these things seem to call for a Paraphysics, a metaphysics, of a transcendental physics…”.

Top Photo -Dr. Josef Allen Hynek (May 1, 1910 – April 27, 1986) was a United States astronomer, professor, and ufologist.[1] He is perhaps best remembered for his UFO research. Hynek acted as scientific adviser to UFO studies undertaken by the U.S. Air Force under three consecutive names: Project Sign (1947–1949), Project Grudge (1949–1952), and Project Blue Book (1952
to 1969). For decades afterwards, he conducted his own independent UFO research, and is widely considered the father of the concept of scientific analysis of both reports and, especially, trace evidence purportedly left by UFOs.


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