On May 19 and 20, 2018, Halifax Nova Scotia saw the debut of a new paranormal conference, Esotericon. Organizer Paul Kimball, on behalf of Winterlight Productions, invited me to come up and speak on the repetitive yet evolving nature of UFO narratives and I was happy to do so. This was my third trip to speak in Nova Scotia, having appeared at the 2016 East Coast ParaCon and the 2017 Shag Harbour UFO event. I thought I’d take a few moments and get down some thoughts on the event while it was still fresh in my mind.
The talks on Saturday began with Tim Binnall telling the crowd about the history and present-day resurgence of belief in a flat earth. I thought this was a great topic and a fun talk. It’s a topic that I knew almost nothing about and, apart from the bizarre attraction of celebrities to the theory, my favorite thing that I learned was that flat earthers can agree on almost nothing except the flatness. Other questions of the physics and mechanics of a supposedly flat planet are (apparently) the subject of intense debate.
Walter Bosley was next, talking about some of the investigations he discusses in his Empire of the Wheel books as well as the larger issue of how to integrate one’s own strange experiences into the investigative process. For example, leaps of intuition that you can’t really explain to a reader but that you are convinced are valid. Walter also related a fascinating UFO sighting he experienced that had elements which reminded me of aspects of the Maury Island case.
Greg Bishop was first up in the afternoon, discussing the co-creation hypothesis that he originated and continues to refine. This was a fascinating and mind-bending discussion of the way in which the various phenomenon we describe as “paranormal” might be interacting with us and the role that witnesses play in such manifestations.
The final talk of the afternoon was from Micah Hanks, who discussed the history and interconnectedness of mystical experiences, the paranormal, and magic. It was an incredibly well-presented and engaging talk on a topic that I, frankly, do not know enough about. Extra points for mentioning John Dee.
The Saturday night slot was filled by the keynote speaker, Stanton Friedman who returned to the topic that put him on the map, “Flying Saucers are Real!” Once Friedman started talking you’d never know he was approaching 84 years of age and heading toward retirement. He was as sure on the topic when I first heard him on radio shows and documentaries 25 years ago. I described this to my fellow speakers as UFO comfort food. Stan’s go-to phrases were there, including my favorite, defining the SETI program as “Silly Effort To Investigate.” Regardless of the degree to which one accepts Friedman’s arguments about Roswell or MJ-12, it is undeniable that he’s the most significant popularizer of UFO study in the last two generations and whether they want to acknowledge it or not, everyone making their living as a public UFO personality is here because of Stan Friedman.
Plus, he said he liked my tie.
Sunday began with Ryan Sprague, of the Somewhere in the Skies podcast. Ryan presented a talk about the effect of UFO encounters on experiencers. He supplemented the talk with many videos from experiencers Ryan has known and talked to (videos that were, largely, created for Ryan, not just stuff out there in the ether) about how their lives have been affected by their sightings, contacts, or abductions. Entitled “Keeping it real…human,” Ryan’s discussion centered on the people whose lives have become entwined with the phenomenon and it was my pick for the presentation I enjoyed the most.
I spoke in the late morning slot on Sunday and I don’t think it was too bad. My starting point was the Gerald Light letter discussed in Encounter 301 and how that story has evolved and expanded over the years. It was fun to research and I hope to do more with that topic I the future, in some way.
Paul Kimball and Holly Stevens were up next, talking about their experiences working on the show Haunted, broadcast on Eastlink TV in Atlantic Canada. The discussion was well-supported with great clips from the show. The juxtaposition of clips with behind the scenes insight into what they observed and felt at the time was very interesting.
The weekend wrapped up with a panel featuring all the speakers. There were some challenging and thought provoking questions from the audience. The panel revealed, once again, the broad range of perspectives from the participants.
Overall, it was a great weekend. All of the talks were interesting, and it was great to see Friedman in person. The audience was engaged with a wide array of questions for all the speakers. Paul has mentioned there being an Esotericon 2019, and I certainly think such a great event as this should have a sequel. Audio of the talks was recorded and should be available in some way, at some point in the future.