Monday, April 17, 2017

Watch The Skies

(From Ray X X-Rayer #133. )

By Ray X

Flying saucers and spirit duplicators.

Those were the days.

In the early 1960s Rick Hilberg was an inquisitive teen who wrote about what was popularly called at that time flying saucers.

“I was born and raised in Cleveland,” said Rick in a recent email interview.  “[I] developed an interest in UFOs quite by accident.”

One day in his grade school class someone mentioned “flying saucers.”  Rick’s teacher saw an opportunity for a learning experience.  The teacher asked some students to delve into the subject, choosing either the pro or con side.

At first Rick was skeptical about unidentified flying objects.

Rick: “I chose the anti-UFO side, and in my research in trying to make my case began to develop a more open mind, and after a bit became convinced that something strange was indeed going on in our skies.”

Like other young ufologists Rick got the word out through a do-it-yourself newsletter.  He launched “UFO Magazine” in 1962.  He used a spirit duplicator to produce his newsletter.  No, a spirit duplicator wasn’t a paranormal machine to clone a ghost.  It was a printing press that used stencils and a solvent mixed with alcohol (henceforth the term spirit) to produce copies.

A spirit duplicator – AKA ditto machine – was an affordable option back then for people to produce newsletters that were snail mailed to readers or just personally passed along.

A stencil served as a master.  When someone wrote, typed or drew on it he had to be careful not to make a mistake.  Once an impression was made that was it.  Then the stencil was placed on a drum that spun off copies usually by hand-cranking.  Muscles were put to work.  The duplicator’s “ink” contained materials not exactly salubrious to an operator; breathing its fumes could produce high spirits.

Decades later Rick is still getting the word out via hardcopy but without a ditto machine’s smell.  Among their other benefits computers don’t have to be hand cranked.

As editor of Flying Saucer Digest newsletter Rick has maintain the tradition of paper over photons.  He uses stamps and envelopes, not electricity, to reach his readers.

While Rick the teen saucer fan was publishing his newsletter two other Clevelanders around his age, Al Manak and Ron Pelger, provided their take on strange aerial objects through their own zine.  They launched Flying Saucer Digest in the summer of 1967.  

In 1970 Al Manak convinced Rick to merge UFO Magazine into Flying Saucer Digest.   

Rick: “Since that time I've held several different staff positions with FSD over the years and took over as editor shortly before Al's untimely death in 1999.”

His wife Carol serves as managing editor.  Her duties include production, proofreading, financial aspects, and editorial decisions.  Like Rick she has an open mind regarding the UFO enigma. 

Flying Saucer Digest celebrates its 50th year this summer.   Over the decades Rick has observed the changes in ufology beyond publishing technology.

He has noticed that individual researchers nowadays are less apt to share information with their peers.

Rick: “I don't know, maybe it is the incentive to make a few quick bucks from publishing books and articles, not to mention getting paid to speak at various UFO conventions and gatherings that are held oh so frequently these days. Back in the day most researchers would gladly attend these gatherings at their own expense ( maybe accepting a free table to sell their material in exchange ) to get their ideas and findings across, as well as comparing notes as it were, with other researchers in order to bolster their own work.”

Rick has seen how the internet explosion over the last twenty years or so has impacted ufology.

Rick: “[The net] has made it easy for every Tom, Dick and Harry out there to essentially copycat especially interesting UFO sightings or strange motifs associated with the current ufological world view. Without having to give your name as was necessary in the old days when reporting something strange to the news media, today behind a creative e-mail address you can let your imagination run wild and come up with some really whopping tales to report to gullible UFO organizations and sites already convinced that the UFOs are indeed space ships visiting the Earth with a collection of bizarre life forms on board doing all sorts of nasty things to us Earthlings.”

Rick has problems with researchers who only believe in ETH – the extraterrestrial hypothesis.   This predominant bias, he thinks, invalidates ufology.

Rick: “I believe that ‘ufology’ does not presently deserve ‘validation.’  It is certainly little more than a rather complicated and at times contentious sub culture that deserves study by social scientists rather than those from the hard sciences. At one time, and we are talking about at its very beginnings in the 1950s, it had the potential to become a scientific movement that could have attracted qualified researchers to eventually blossom into something truly scientific in scope, but unfortunately degenerated into a disorganized circle of buffery that still is at the helm.”


Rick: “By ‘buffery’ I refer to those UFO buffs who basically control the field and its thinking. To me, anyway, a buff is a derogatory term for someone trying to oh so scientific, but in reality is a rather clownish seeker of the gee-whiz by playing a role.”

Is ufology closer solving the UFO enigma than fifty years ago?  “Hell no.”

Rick does have a theory about what is happening with aerial phenomena.  “What would I bet that the answer is? I truly feel that the phenomenon of that which we call UFOs and related phenomena has been with us since our very beginnings on this place we call Earth. ‘We’ are somehow related and intertwined in some way that we may never really understand. So many theories have been put forth over the years, but I doubt if any time soon we will be prepared to say which one, or ones, actually ‘explains’ this relationship.”

Despite the elusive solution his interest in UFOs hasn’t wavered.

Rick: “After all these years I still possess  that wonderful sense of wonder, dreaming and awe that I've had from the start of my journey in the UFO world, and that has sustained me on my quest to make sense of this most likely unanswerable enigma.”

As before he keeps one eye on the heavens.

*  *  *

To celebrate Flying Saucer Digest’s 50th year Rick has been reprinting covers from past issues, classic flying saucer art, with recent newsletters.   Beside FSD he has been publishing special publications, some of them long out of print.  The more popular titles are being reprinted to mark the five decades milestone. 

If you want to read a traditional UFO zine send $2.00 to R. Hilberg Publications, 377 Race St., Berea, OH 44017 to receive a sample copy.  Also you can request info on Rick’s special publications.

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