Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Trickster Visits McMinnville

I thought this would be the last of the ‘Trent Tempest’ that recently went on, (see notes below) but I’m inspired to write a bit more on this. One of my observations about this whole thing has been the Trickster aspect in this little affair.

The Trickster is everywhere in UFO and Fortean events, and I think this point is often missed by many researchers. As irritating as the hoaxes and hucksters are, and as bewildering as the surreal moments in UFOlogy are,these elements are a necessary part, an innate part, of the phenomena.

Often both UFOlogists and the pathological skeptics call for some sort of what I call a cry to "cleanse the cultural landscape of woo." Get rid of the hucksters, the embarrassing ones, the harmless pranksters -- all of them. On the pro-UFO side, a rational (usually) call for saner behavior is made. On the rabid, anti UFO side, there are those who want a crusade against anything “woo.”

Personally, I’d like the Raelians to go away, for a long list of reasons. Reluctantly, however, I realize they’re simply a part of the big UFO picture.

The Trickster in Brief
The Trickster is not a person. It’s not an individual, not a human. It’s not a cartoon character, or a comic book icon.

The Trickster is a manifestation of a phenomena, an element, an idea. It’s cross cultural. The Trickster goes by many names, and many guises, and many guises within any one culture.

The Trickster is both a specific character -- say, the Coyote as in many Native American traditions -- or it can be more of a concept. Humans can exhibit Trickster traits and behaviors for a short time.

The idea of ‘The Trickster” is an archetype. It’s an idea, a behavior, that presents itself both in events and in isolated moments within a person’s character.

When the idea of “Trickster” is brought up in UFOlogy, I mean both specific, individual characters, as well as manifestations of a concept. One or both can be present at any time.

One concept is the hoaxer or prankster in UFOlogy. One of the key issues in UFOlogy is proof: is the photograph real or fake? Does that video of a light in the sky really show a light in the sky, or is it a remote controlled, glowing frisbee thrown up in the air? Is that UFO really a triangle of unknown origin, or just Air Force pilots having fun flying in formation? Is that UFO researcher, who speaks at conferences and has published loads of books in reality a disinfo agent? Is that abductee really an abductee, or at least an individual with strange, unexplainable experiences, or an outright lair?

We rarely know. And even when we do, when it comes out that so and so was lying, or the photo was hoaxed, or the video showed pilots flying in formation having a bit of fun and not a flying saucer, we’re often left with endless questions, and the event is not so neatly solved after all.

There’s also a playful element in the Trickster. The Trickster thumbs its nose at society (which certainly UFOlogy and Forteana do), at “the rules,” at convention. Often those who don’t “believe” in this stuff will join in, just for fun. Festivals in towns where UFO events have occurred are an example. (Roswell, Aztec, Hopkinsville Kentucky, Nevada) For a short time, no one takes it seriously and everyone uses the
the event to let loose, to be silly, to meet others, to be anonymous if they wish. Or to come out completely with their experiences and beliefs in a safe place, knowing they can leave and go back to “normal.”

Trent Photos

The Trent photos, taken in 1950 in McMinnville, Oregon of a UFO, have been considered as genuine by many researchers.

On that day in 1950, Paul Trent took two photographs of a UFO. More than fifty years later, according to the bloggers at the UFO Iconoclast blog, a “third, lost” photo of the Trent UFO was found. This photo was sent to the bloggers from an unnamed individual allegedly in Arizona.

It turned out the photo was not a “third, lost” Trent photo at all, but one of a UFO taken in Germany in the 1970s. Meanwhile, a small flurry of comments were made on their blog, the bloggers generated some attention for themselves, and the whole thing seemed to have quickly died down.

I wrote a couple of items on this, and my intuition tells me, as it did then, that the whole thing was a hoax; meaning, there never was a “lost” photo sent to them, it was all a silly exercise. It isn’t necessary to ask what the point was, for the point is: the Trickster is simply at work.

Another way the Trickster has fun with the McMinnville/Trent UFO case is in the annual McMinnville Festival in McMinnville, Oregon. This is the “party” element of the Trickster mentioned earlier. People come from all over Oregon and beyond to have fun. There is even a typical Trickster inversion of the Blessing of the Animals in many religious celebrations with the “alien pet parade” part of the festival.

UFO Researchers on the Trickster

Colin Bennett, George P. Hanse,Jacque Vallee, and John A. Keel, are some of the UFO writers who have written on this Trickster element within UFOlogy.

A recognition of this innate Trickster element in UFO and Fortean phenomeana doesn’t have to exclude a nuts and bolts construct. Both can coexist. In fact, it seems more evident every day that they do. I used to think that the two were exclusive, but the reality seems to be that we can’t afford to be that limited. All this infighting over theories doesn’t take into account that the two can be related, and part of a larger picture.

The next time some irritating and seemingly pointless event occurs surrounding UFOs, it may be some small bit of comfort to remember the Trickster’s role in UFO and Fortean experiences.

Regan Lee, UFO Digest:
Still a Mystery, and a Big Question: The Trent Farm/McMinnville Oregon Case
One hint that this was all a hoax -- the blog's contention there was a third lost photo, not the Trent photos themselves -- is the timing. My Trent article on UFO Digest appeared right after (was inspired by) another article on the Trent case. Not long after, the idea of a "lost" photo appeared. (I could be wrong, so be it if that's the case. In typical fashion, I doubt we'll ever know.)

UFO Iconoclasts blog:
A Lost Trent Photo?
Regan Lee, UFO Digest:
A New Lost Trent Photo Surfaces? and:
The Trent Tempest

1 comment:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Surprised you didn't mention the crop circles hoaxers in Britain - quite a merry bunch of hooligans.