Note: I haven't written a book review in years, having put myself "out to pasture" in that area, but this book deserves attention because the author's references to the Montana UFO film -- and the movie upon which this blog is based -- fit right in.
MONTANA UFOS AND EXTRATERRESTRIALS, by Joan Bird, Riverbend Publishing, P.O. Box 5833, Helena, MT 59604 (Tel. 1-866-787-2363), 230 pages, publ. date 2013, $14.95 (Autographed copies are available from the author for $18.95, shipping included, inquire via firstname.lastname@example.org. The book may also be purchased through Amazon.com for $10.97, and of course can be ordered at list price through your local independent bookstore, through Barnes & Noble or from the publisher, where shipping charges may apply. Many Montana bookstores currently have it in stock.).
Oh, Montana -- oh, world -- what a gift this author has left at the doorstep of inquiring minds.
The decades have produced a number of regional UFO-related books, some worthwhile and some not. But Joan Bird's extensively researched volume, taking on the history of UFOs in Montana, ranks among the best area-specific trade books I've encountered, superbly footnoted with an illustration sprinkled here and there. Bonus: A mini-journey through the earliest years of UFO history in the U.S., ranging from the Air Force investigation to the Condon Report disaster and beyond is well-accomplished, and certainly important for those unfamiliar with the historical progression of research into the phenomenon.
Truth in reviewing dictates that I tell you right up front that Ms. Bird generously quotes and credits me in the first chapter and, indeed, that leads to my reason for featuring her book on this blog, intended. as you know, only for connections to the movie, "U.F.O." It turns out, as anybody remotely familiar with UFO history knows, that Montana was the home of Nick Mariana, whose brief fifties film of two UFOs traversing the sky and disappearing behind a water tower remains unexplained, even after in-depth analysis by government photo experts (with most credit going to the Navy's labs). The kicker here is that Mariana's film was prominently featured in Clarence Greene's documentary, and of course we've mentioned this in previous blog entries.
For this reason alone, Joan Bird's work has a home on this blog, all the more because the first chapter (of 76 pages) is consumed by a fascinating account of the late Nick Mariana's life before, during and after his famous UFO photography incident and, as we indicated, among all of this is the author's exploration of the United Artists documentary motion picture as it relates to the Mariana film.
Of special interest, though Ms. Bird accumulates a significant amount of information about Mariana from publications, studies and other sources from the past, to her credit she also wisely went to the trouble of contacting and interviewing the son and daughter of Nicholas Mariana, thereby updating and personalizing our knowledge about the man and his established integrity and veracity. Mariana passed on many years ago, but one wonders what additional gems Bird would have discovered, were he still available for questions.
The problems of time's passage in the book reminded me of a fleeting moment a few years ago, when a member of Canadian documentary film-maker David Cherniack's All in One Films contacted me prior to their visit to the United States, where they intended to conduct interviews and research all over the country regarding UFOs. Somehow, I think in relation to Greene's documentary, the name of former Navy chief warrant officer Delbert Newhouse came up. Newhouse, of course, was the other UFO photography "star" of Greene's 1956 documentary, because Newhouse, accompanied by his family on a trip, filmed a cluster of strange objects moving across the skies over Tremonton, Utah in the fifties. Like Mariana's film, Newhouse's offering confounded government film analysts -- and realize, too, that both Mariana and Newhouse complained that the best frames of their films were "missing" when returned by government officials, though this was not mentioned in Greene's "U.F.O."
But skip ahead from the fifties to the summer of 2006, when Cherniack and crew visited the U.S. Newhouse's name had come up during my phone conversation with an associate and we wondered where he might reside after all these years. By pure luck in the days after that call, I discovered a location for what might be a Newhouse family member, and when the Canadian folk checked further they were delighted to learn that Delbert Newhouse was alive and residing in an Oregon nursing home. They even established phone contact with Newhouse, getting his enthusiastic permission to come and interview him. Joking, he informed them that he was 93 years of age, so they had better hurry!
Unfortunately, Newhouse's humor proved strangely prophetic, for as Cherniack and his crew were rushing to Oregon, Delbert died suddenly, to everyone's surprise and sorrow.
I mention the Newhouse incident in detail here because, ultimately, David Cherniack's staff would end up speaking with and interviewing Newhouse's son, just as the Mariana incident needed to be explored by Joan Bird with family members after a witness's death. In Newhouse's case his son, a very young child in the fifties, clearly remembered the Utah filming incident.
Thus, the importance of Joan Bird's book to the movie for which this blog exists.
Beyond the Mariana expedition, the author confronts another dramatically important issue -- that of alleged UFO visitations to nuclear missile bases located in Montana, and for this she relies upon the work of Robert Hastings, Robert Salas and her own extensive research into these incidents -- and this is deadly serious stuff, apparently recognized and hushed up by our government on multiple occasions (Note: Salas recently revealed a personal UFO abduction incident, and there are allegations that other officers associated with UFO-nuke incidents may have experienced similar events. I mention this only as an update here, mostly about which I am uninformed - r.b.).
Other chapters discuss Montana crop circle evidence, alleged abductions and "contactee" stories from the state's past -- about which Bird effectively strives to remain factual, critical, and even dismissive where necessary. The super touch is Bird's extensive footnoting, a nice index and a lengthy list of acknowledgments in which she kindly attempts to leave no source out in the cold. Additionally, Bird appears intent upon continuing her research project, so perhaps there's a book or more in her future.
Yes, inclusion of MONTANA UFOS AND EXTRATERRESTRIALS fits into this blog nicely, a book composed with great documentary-style storytelling.