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Finals Week Ruminations

Ah, week ten at Drexel. The week that, to be blunt, kicks me in the face every single term. Most week tens are the same, a frantic orgy of typing, plagiarizing, and scribbling out homework, but there’s something special about this week. This is the 20th article I’ve written for the sci-tech section on the subject of not believing everything you read in the tabloids. Since I’m sure you’re as overloaded as I am, instead of my regular bum-rush of logic, I’d like to take a minute to review the past ten fortnights.

I’ve written about a variety of topics, but they can generally be lumped into two categories: crazy monsters and UFOs. If you’ve ever been thinking about writing articles on UFOs, let me assure you: each one gets a flood of hate mail. When I wrote about how Men In Black don’t exist way back in the fall, I got an actual death threat (my first ever!) Believe it or not, I was not terribly afraid of this anonymous fellow’s warning not to ever be alone or I’d never be seen again. Part of my lack of fear was due to the entire letter being written in lowercase letters without any punctuation. When I was in 6th grade I may have been afraid of 8th graders, but no more. Besides, I’ve got a sharpened screwdriver in my pocket and a lack of respect for the sanctity of life in my heart that says UFO enthusiasts had better shoot something a little larger than an email at me if they want to kill me.

The letters that don’t threaten me with physical harm are sometimes more disturbing. For instance, after writing an article about how UFOs don’t fly down and abduct people, I got an email from a very kind old lady who told me she was the reincarnation of an alien who died in the crash at Roswell. The government knew this, she said, and had assigned her some very friendly handlers. She also volunteered for an alien experiment that switched her race a number of times, from white to black and back again.

This letter actually almost made me stop writing. It felt, somehow, like I was picking on elderly women. I’ve picked a lot of verbal fights in my day, but I assure you, never with old ladies. I prefer my foes a spot more spry. Fortunately, this particular woman mentioned that she had worked as an elementary school teacher for most of her life. The fact that someone responsible for guarding children during their most formative years believed that she had been kidnapped by flying saucers whose inhabitants changed her ethnicity convinced me that perhaps another voice of reason being thrown out there wouldn’t hurt anybody.

If you don’t like being called names, never, ever, write an article that suggests crop circles are anything other than alien attempts at communication. That’s all I’ve got to say about that. Here is some free advice, however, for the UFO enthusiast community: if you’re going to send someone an email calling them dumb, take the time to spell out the phrase “you are.” Getting an email that reads “u r dumb” somehow fails to make an impression on the reader. Also, I’m aware there are occasional grammatical errors in what I write.

Every few weeks or so I get a tip-off from someone that I’m being discussed on some message board or another. This is, to some extent, the high point of my week. Some folks, such as a group in Texas that leaves me uncertain as to whether they do or do not believe in UFOs, take the time to reason out my arguments and debate them. Those are always nice to see and give me a warm, fuzzy feeling deep in my insides. On the other hand, seeing posts that say, and I quote “this loser relies on making fun of people and calling names to make his point” leave me with the terrible taste of irony in my mouth.

Not all of the ressonses to my column have been bad, however. My personal favorite was an email I received from a fellow named Willy Wegner, who wanted to translate my articles into Danish and post them on his Danish Skeptic’s Website. That’s right: goofy stuff I wrote about the Chupacabra can be found in Danish on the internet. How sweet is that?

After writing about the Hopkinsville Goblins, little monsters that terrorized a rural Kentucky farm in the 50s, I received an email from a Hopkinsville resident that stated although she wasn’t sure what the little men really were, there’s going to be a big festival down there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the incident this summer. She was even kind of enough to invite me on down. Part of me thinks it’s a trick to lure me to my death, but another part of me already called my uncle and asked to borrow his RV. It’s going to be my first, and best, vacation.

Twice I’ve been contacted by researchers. Once was by a man who wrote a book on the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, which he attributed to a lunatic and I attributed to mass hysteria. He’d written an entire book on it some time ago and maybe I’m just saying this as the type of guy that writes 1200 words about UFOs every week, but that’s pretty cool. The other was a guy who apparently knew famous UFOlogist John Keel when he was writing a book about the monster folks call Mothman. That’s as close as I’ve ever come to meeting a celebrity.

So, if you’re considering writing articles about weird crap no one cares about as a pastime, I highly recommend it. You get to meet a lot of interesting, although arguably insane, people and sometimes you get to meet some less insane but equally interesting people. You might even get a few death threats, and seriously, what makes a better story to tell at parties than “some guy that lives in his parents’ basement and pretends to be a Man In Black told me he’d kill me?”

First Published in The Triangle, 11 March 2005