By 1990, I tried to stay away from everything UFO.
The cultural zeitgeist at the time said that all things geek-related were decidedly not cool and I realized no girls were going to talk to me if I had a copy of Communion stowed somewhere. So I played a part. Then I saw it.
I was sitting in a friend's dorm room. His copy of The Wall Street Journal sat on his trunk by the couch. A headline caught my eye. It was something to the effect: "Belgians taking triangular UFO seriously." I lifted up the newspaper and read the article. The text was predictably dismissive but it related a few things I had never seen before in a UFO case.
The article spoke of just how many witnesses in Belgium between 1989 and 1990 had seen a black, triangular craft with white lights at each of the points and a red light in the center. Among these witnesses were police officers who pursued the craft by car. These triangles could apparently hover in silence and then soar away at incredible speeds, making breakneck maneuvers that would kill most human pilots. At one point, F-16 fighters scrambled to pursue the UFO. The object was tracked on the planes' radar and recorded, including the triangle's trademark exit at a speed well beyond that of sound.
Here's the kicker: Belgian defense authorities held a press conference to confirm this had all happened. They played video recordings of the cockpit instrumentation. Additionally, they said that they were treating the UFO presence as an incursion into their sovereign airspace and therefore it was a matter of national security. This was serious. A few months later I saw the notorious (perhaps now infamous) photograph of the Belgian Triangle (above). You could almost feel the electrical sizzle in the air from looking at the picture, conjecturing that the fuzziness of the lights might be due to an antigravity engine. It was one of the clearest photographs of a UFO I had ever seen.
Decades wore on and like many of my favorite cases, holes began to form in the narrative of the Belgian UFO Wave. Turns out even sophisticated radar systems such as those on the F-16 can get glitchy (it should also be remembered that the fighter pilots never actually saw the object. They were too far away.) In 2011 there were allegations that the above photo was actually a hoax. In one tantalizing revelation, the television program UFOs Declassified on the Smithsonian Channel had an avionics expert at the University of Toronto examine the recordings from the Belgian F-16 of 1990. The man didn't seem too keen on a UFO explanation for the readings, but he did suspect electronic countermeasures were at work. In other words, there was something out there that was deliberately sending out signals to spoof the F-16s' instruments. As I said, that in and of itself is tantalizing.
Let me be clear: I am not calling the entire Belgian Black Triangle Wave a hoax or a mis-identification. But there are clearly other points to consider.
Upon further reflection, there are two aspects that keep me personally interested in this case. For one, it's where I see the idea of "black triangles" as entering vogue. It was a sort of aeromancy for the UFO climate forecast. After 1990, triangles seemed to become a common shape for sightings. Yeah, yeah, I'm sure plenty out there will say "It happened long before then!! I've got a triangle sighting from 1949!!" You probably do. I'm merely talking about popular public consciousness. You can almost track a progression. First airships, then saucers, then cigars, and then triangles. When I interviewed witnesses in Dulce last summer, I spoke with as many people who saw triangles as those who reported saucers. Granted, the roughly triangular shape of stealth aircraft might account for many of these latter day sightings, but purported performance of many of the triangles would seem to rule that out in at least a few cases.
The other reason I have an affinity for the triangles is, as I said, they brought me back to Ufology. When I saw that article in the WSJ, a spark reignited in me. I could no longer hold back, regardless of what anyone thought of me. I read more books, watched more documentaries, and took to what was then the fledgling Internet (remember Gopher anyone?) to seek out new sources of UFO information. I'm glad that I did.
Whatever the truth is behind this phenomenon...and I confess I certainly don't know what it is and seem to grow foggier about it as time wears on...it's something I enjoy. Researching a sighting or a reported abduction, whatever the truth might yield, is infinitely more enjoyable to me than worrying about the stack of papers I still need to grade or wondering how I'm going to pay down the credit card bill. It holds the possibility, the possibility that there just might be fantastic things out there beyond the mundane.
Probably the most I've ever gotten out of the Wall Street Journal.
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