The Men Who Stare At Donkeys ... Could that be the next box office hit from best-selling author and investigative journalist Jon Ronson after his visit to the resort this weekend?
The award-winning writer and documentary maker, author of two best-sellers, Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare at Goats, lives in London, and is the star turn at this year’s LAPIS (Lancashire Anomalous Phenomena Investigation Society) Paranormal conference at the Carousel Hotel, New South Promenade, in Blackpool on Saturday and Sunday.
He’s joined a host of other speakers, including ‘alien contactee’ Mike Oram, an award-winning landscape photographer, songwriter and musician, who lays claim to a lifetime of UFO experiences, first as a child in the 1950s – then subsequently through his work as a UFO investigator.
The event offers two days of lectures on the downright weird and wonderful, from oddball theories, UFOs, crop circles, ghost hunters, mythical creatures and alien contact, through to whether American soldiers really did think they could walk through walls, as well as on water, when it came to warfare.
There’s likely to be a particularly big turnout for Jon, speaking on Saturday, who penned the book Men Who Stare At Goats, which inspired the film of the same title, starring Hollywood A-graders George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.
The book deals with crackpot attempts by US military forces to use psychic powers – America’s so called secret ‘psy-ops’ (psychic operators), based on a branch of psychic warfare deployed by the First Earth Battlion, established in 1979 by a demoralised and near skint post-Vietnam military.
The squad was said to run along Jedi principles – according to self-styled psi-warriors inspired by early Star Wars days.
Of course, psychic weaponry has the advantage of being free, unless you count the cost of sundry goats ordered in for slaying mentally, and the clean kill probably meant plenty of meat in the canteen.
The jury’s still out on whether it actually works, but Jon points to the enduring legacy of such days: Iraqi prisoners-of-war played the theme tune to Barney the Purple Dinosaur, by way of mental torture, to quote the Red Cross, by American guards at the Abu Ghraib prison; the military’s involvement with strange death cults; the arrival of 100 de-bleated goats to Special Forces command centre at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and the nutty national secrets at the core of George W Bush’s messianic War on Terror/Axis of Evil days.
Iraqis tried to play the pyschological warfare card too, by telling captured American soldiers “your wives are back at home having sex with Bart Simpson and Burt Reynolds”.
Truth being stranger than fiction. Jon traced the genesis of such bizarre activities back to the days when military chiefs began to believe a soldier could adopt a cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls, infiltrate the ‘flying saucer set’ and even kill goats (presumably by way of preparation for human, or alien, adversaries) just by staring at them.
Jon’s also in Blackpool to promote and sign copies of his new book, The Psychopath Test, based on research by a psychologist who developed the industry standard psychopath test and is convinced many industry leaders and politicians are sociopaths.
Janet Walkey, one of the conference organisers, is delighted at the calibre of high profile speakers attending this weekend; it was just such an event that got her hooked.
She says: “I attended the 1996 conference and enjoyed it so much I started going to meetings and have been involved with LAPIS ever since!”
LAPIS was founded in the mid-1980s by Joseph and June Dormer, who were among the foremost investigators of their day.
Since 1989, the society’s conferences have attracted increasing numbers of delegates from across the UK, and international specialists, including a former NASA astronaut.
The group is very active and holds regular skywatches throughout the year along with special expeditions – big cat hunting in Devon, UFO hunting, admiring crop circle artistry, one member even spending a month searching for the legendary Bigfoot in California.
More recently the group has investigated reports in the Preston area, which included a strange light hovering over a railway line and a “huge and almost silent craft which was seen low over a garden one night. ”
The group holds its more down to earth monthly meeting on the first Thursday of every month at The Guards Club, 37E Whitegate Drive, Blackpool, FY3 9DG.
Janet stresses: “Everyone is welcome to attend whatever their views on ufology or the paranormal. There really is something for everybody and we are sure it will be an intriguing weekend”
l Tickets are available online at www.lapisufo.com or by phoning (01253) 890601.