UFO sightings: Something Floats Over Our World
by Bruno Cardeñosa et al.
In 1968, Carlos Murciano was assigned the UFO beat. Just like that, thanks to the good offices of the legendary Torcuato Luca de Tena, director of Spain's ABC newspaper. He went all over the world in search of evidence proving the existence of unidentified flying objects. Today, with the benefit of age and the time elapsed since his original assignment, the journalist reflects upon that singular quest and the ills afflicting 21st century ufology.
"This one of the key points," says Murciano. "The UFO phenomenon was deprived of its humanity. There was once upon a time a series of young people, researchers who projected the problem into statistics. They could have cared less about the character who had seen the strange object--only the percentages, the cold hard data, and the numbers, and they started publishing books with these statistics, which interested no one, since the enigma's human aspect had been eliminated."
Carlos Murciano, a native of Arcos de la Frontera near Cádiz, represents a historic moment in Spanish ufology. This poet and novelist, a award winner, and with ninety books under his belt, saw his life change before him in early September 1968. He was 37 years old at the time, with six children and an upper management position at a Madrid-based multinational. His literary prowess was becoming well-known and he was collecting his first prizes when Spanish society began to face an enigma which had hitherto concerned only a few people: unidentified flying objects.
That same year, according to the statistics he so disapproves of, UFOs were seen more than 400 times over the Iberian Peninsula, and society was beginning to wonder just what were those artefacts. Even he pondered over the subject in an article published in ABC on September 12, 1968. Seven days earlier, one of those strange objects had flown over Madrid, and he was unable to resist the temptation to write a piece that would modify the course of his entire life:
"Something floats over the World, over this old world of ours, weary of rolling through infinite space. Something (but what?) arrives (but from where?) to roam its skies (but how?) stopping sometimes (but why?) and later escaping (to where?). Something (or someone?) that we ignore and can only intuit is observing, stalking and monitoring the creatures of the Earth who, curious and confused, try to answer that great question which is made up of so many other lesser ones. It is hard, truly, to give credit to what we cannot verify without a doubt, but it is no easier to deny what thousands of people of all walks of life and in the most unequal parts of our planet are seeing every day; that which many men of science, who are cautious when it comes to drawing conclusions, are seriously studying and considering."
Hours after writing these lines, Torcuato Luca de Tena, ABC's legendary editor, phoned him with a one-of-a-kind offer: to go around the world in search of UFOs. Carlos Murciano hesitated. I'm not a journalist, he told him. If I wanted a journalist, Luca de Tena replied, I could snap my fingers and have hundreds of them. But this mission called for a man of polished prose who was able to endow the mystery with a human dimension. And who could be better than a poet?
And so it was that Carlos Murciano temporarily set aside his business suit and donned his newspaperman garb, touring Spain and the world at large for almost a year, talking to and interviewing dozens of wise men who analyzed the enigma as well as witnesses of all different social and economic backgrounds who had seen the strange objects. The UFO correspondent does not recall having been home two days in a row after setting out on his journey.
He traveled extensively in Spain and overseas: Chile, Argentina, the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy. His assignment was to write a daily chronicle for the newspaper, and the work grew to such proportions that the would write in hotels and aboard airplanes, but fortunately his reports created a great deal of interest: the man on the street wanted to know what it was all about and his articles sated the desire. In 1969, under the title Something Floats Over the World, the Prensa Española publishing house released choice selections of his writings, which despite having sold out completely, was never reprinted. It remains today a holy grail item for anyone wishing to have a perspective of the UFO enigma in its moment of greatest splendour. His book remains one of the true classics in the small, great history of this enigma.
After those years there came an initial drought, followed by a new and prolonged wave of sightings between 1974 and 1980, and subsequently a void in which we are still floating, from a certain point of view. Public interest in the subject that Carlos Murciano experienced so closely was lost. There was a period in which there appeared to be a change in fortune, but finally, everything would revert to the irritating, cloying darkness.
When I sat facing Carlos Murciano in his Madrid residence, surrounded by the 20,000 books which form part of his extensive library, what interested me the most about this man--a journalist, who lived through those historic years like no other -- was to learn what was the perspective he had gleaned over the years, and the judgement offered by a well-furnished intellect: his opinion on the subject in the light of the apparent lack of interest evinced by Spanish society, and the scarce regard felt toward those who research and study the subject. In the late 1960's, Murciano witnessed the birth of the split between UFO researchers, and that is the crux of the question, in his opinion.
"The problem was the purists who paid more importance to numbers than to witnesses. This contributed to the UFO phenomenon's deflation. The man who reads the papers, watches TV, or listens to the radio, isn't interested in that, and much like a balloon, the subject of UFOs deflated. Added to this was the reduction in sightings," observed Murciano.
"And I suppose that the lack of answers didn't help."
"Because there were no substantial development. No matter how well-informed you become and how much you study, the years go by and everything stays the same." "After all those years of frantic searching, are you still involved with UFOs?
"Yes. Among the people I interviewed were researchers like Manuel Osuna and Antonio Ribera, who were enchanting, and with whom I stayed in touch. But there was that other group..."
Carlos Murciano, as a noted poet and winner of the Premio Nacional de Poesía in 1972, clashed head-on with the excessively cold trend of the scientists. Because, as he was able to attest after interviewing dozens of witnesses, the UFO enigma attacked a human being's emotional aspect directly. This was one of the things he learned in his journeys. "I had a contract signed with Planeta for a new book, but I got tired. The world of Literature, which was my world, was a world of constant struggle, filled with squabbles, contempt, and rejection, and it was necessary to always be at the forefront of the battle.
I didn't want to open a second front. There was no need whatsoever for me to face the sector which thought that it had discovered it all, and even though Planeta insisted, I refused. I took a step backward and told myself: you guys can have it. Because UFOs," concludes Murciano, referring to ufology's so-called critical or scientific sector, known today as skeptical ufology, "cannot be studied in the abstract."
"Therefore, your reaction was a product of the face-off which came about between both sectors of ufology."
"It's just that I couldn't echo that perspective," Carlos pauses and then states: "No echo and no future. And time proved me right."
One of the cases which best portrayed the showdown between ufology's two factions was the one experienced by IBERIA pilot Jaime Ordovs on February 25, 1969, when flying over the Mediterranean coast, he witnessed a giant triangular artifact engaged in impossible manoeuvres.
Carlos Murciano recalls, as though the interview had taken place yesterday, the testimony of the pilot and its crew. "Whey saw did not appear to correspond to anything known," he points out. But by then, that other faction of ufology which he mentions was classifying Venus as a possible cause for the sighting. "Venus, Venus, it always pops up as a possible explanation," he laments.
As years went by, he was able to ascertain that these ufologists upheld the explanation, which was also set forth in the Spanish Air Force's declassified reports, of which he learned thanks to the follow-up on the subject conducted by J. J. Benítez, the man who from his position in journalism collected the testimony of Murciano's eyewitness.
Much has changed since the days when Carlos Murciano carried out his research. A fundamental factor is the that interest in the UFO phenomenon has become factionalized due to errors of one party or the other. Nor does it give rise to social debate on the street, as it did then. Has this been a cause for the number of sightings to decline? In part, yes. Is there a guilty party?
Murciano summarized it in a single sentence: This enigma cannot be studied in the abstract. But as this veteran man of letters knows, the Unidentified exist and allow us to see them every so often, while those of us who research and popularize the subject decades later, are obligated to lay down the grounds which will aid scientists in emerging from the fatigue generated by the enigma, and who knows, perhaps spur the quest to find an answer to the mystery.
"Do you think that the option of humanizing the enigma, resurrecting it, still exists?" "It would be necessary to start from a pool of new sightings. It is necessary to have a new wave that acts as the trigger. There's no doubt that this phenomenon is cyclical, and it has always been so. But this latest silence is highly significant and has already lasted many years."
"But it seems impossible nowadays that the daily press would renew its permanent treatment of the subject, as it was done then. There is a great deal of rejection."
"There was always rejection, but what has indeed changed is the mindset. Before, scientists and intellectuals were always at loggerheads; now it's not so much. I don't think that a newspaper like El País or El Mundo would be criticized for retaking an interest in the subject. If the subject is approached from a modern perspective and seriously, it would be interesting!"
"What's your hypothesis about the UFO phenomenon?"
"That UFOs exist as such and that other worlds are inhabitable," replies Carlos Murciano. "There is enough evidence for the former, but what are they. The latter I can't prove, but I'm convinced that there is life on other worlds. Intelligent life? I don't know. Or let me put it this way -- something floats over the world and it comes from elsewhere, why not? I interviewed," he continues, "diplomats, clergymen, scientists, military, pilots, technicians, academics, people of all types and backgrounds."
"And out of all of them, whose account impressed you the most?"
"So much time's gone by," Carlos reflects, sighing and recalling an episode which took place in Sanlucar de Barrameda (Seville) in 1969. "A nine year-old girl had gone out of her house into the back yard, where there was an olive tree, and saw an object hovering over it. She went back into her house to tell her grandmother, who also saw it. The girl never went out of her house and into the back yard again at night, and she wasn't a liar. I don't know what she saw, but something strange stood in front of her."
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