Horror

John E.L. Tenney Discusses UAPs, Conspiracy Theories, and Possible Origins of the Phenomena [Interview]

Welcome back to DEAD Time. Even if you’ve only dabbled in the paranormal, chances are you’re familiar with John E.L. Tenney. Tenney is one of the most sought-after and well-known experts in the world and has more than 30 years of experience with UFOs, paranormal research, occult phenomena, and conspiracy theories. He has authored over a dozen books and worked as a consultant and appeared on TV shows like Unsolved Mysteries, Sightings, Hellier, and Kindred Spirits.

In a previous installment of DEAD Time, Bloody Disgusting talked with Tenney and his best friend and co-host of the What’s Up Weirdo Podcast, Jessica Knapik, about their favorite haunted locations and Tenney shared the terrifying true story of an exorcism he attended.

This month, Bloody Disgusting was excited to have the opportunity to talk with John E.L. Tenney about conspiracy theories surrounding UFOs and UAPs, hoaxes, possible origins of the phenomena, and a lot more.


Bloody Disgusting: You’ve been actively investigating unexplained paranormal and occult phenomena for over 30 years, so you’ve probably seen it all. I’d like to talk about UFOs and wonder what you think about the term being changed to UAP – Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena?

John E.L. Tenney: I don’t have a big problem with it. We’ve seen the change in the moniker of strange objects before, going from flying discs to flying saucers to UFOs. So, it’s just another kind of cyclical, completely benign name change. I think the only thing that worries me about it is that people think that by changing the name it somehow changes the credibility of the sightings; by giving it this term that the government will use, UAP, it somehow discounts all of the flying saucers, flying discs, experiences, UFO experiences from the 1940s up until now.

BD: Last year David Grusch, a former intelligence officer, became a whistleblower and claimed the government had recovered nonhuman crafts with nonhuman species inside. What do you think about his claims?

JT: Well, it’s really interesting with his testimony to Congress because he used very specific language. Very specific questions were asked, and he answered them in very specific ways. So, even to your point, if I’m remembering the way the testimony went, he was asked about extraterrestrials, and he said that they had found non-human biologics. Now that term, non-human biologics, can be applied to anything that has life that’s just not human. So, that could be viruses, that could be molds, that could be spores. So, because the question was asked about extraterrestrials, and he answered affirmatively that there was non-human life, the media ran with the idea that he said that there were extraterrestrials. The majority of life on this planet is non-human biologics.

BD: What are your thoughts on the Interdimensional hypothesis and ultraterrestrials as explanations for UAPs?

JT: I think that where our research spans, we really have to kind of broaden our field. So, whether something exists in this kind of plane of reality with us or in an alternate dimension or an alternate universe or an alternate reality is something that we can give thought to and that we can craft ideas about. It’s just that the further away we get from something that is experiential and experienced by tons of people, and the harder it is to prove scientifically, doesn’t necessarily give us better ideas, right? I think that there’s really nothing wrong with the way that people have been thinking about aliens for 100 years, which are life forms that have developed technology and intelligence and come from somewhere else within our reality. It’s just as people start to research and sometimes that doesn’t seem fulfilling, or sometimes the experiencer says something which doesn’t match reality.

It’s just as people start to research and sometimes that doesn’t seem fulfilling, or sometimes the experiencer says something which doesn’t match reality, people start to jump to conclusions that perhaps it’s multi-dimensional. Perhaps it’s an ultraterrestrial when I don’t know if you need to make that leap so fast. And by doing that you take focus off of that which can be researched. We have hundreds of thousands of cases which don’t seem to be ultraterrestrials or interdimensional, and they’ve never been really well researched. And as we start to get new cases and new fascinating ways to think about them,we do kind of leave all of those hundreds of thousands of cases behind because, well, maybe it was just a hubcap someone threw in the air. The more mysterious it gets, the more those earlier cases which now seem mundane to us, which are probably very important to the formation of how we think about things, get lost in the shuffle.

BD: One of the most famous UFO stories is the Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter in 1955, which involved a group of people who arrived at the police station and claimed their farmhouse was being attacked by small alien creatures who came from a spaceship. Do you think there is any truth to this story, or do you think it was a case of mass hysteria?

JT: Kelly-Hopkinsville, much like even the Flatwoods monster in Braxton County, West Virginia, are incidents where people have what seem to be super normal experiences. They don’t make any money off of it, they actually become ridiculed in the community. There’s no beneficial point for them making up the experience. In Braxton County with the Flatwoods Monste, you have, 10 or 12 people seeing a giant 11-foot-tall creature with a burning head come down out of a UFO. And all these cases are researched, and they seem to have some physical evidence, some physical traces, whether it’s tracks in the ground or even in the Kelly-Hopkinsville case, you can actually see the shotgun blast where they shot at the creatures through the door. So, there’s something there to research. I don’t think that it’s written off as mass psychosis in the sense that how many people would willingly subject themselves to ridicule by making up a story with no monetary or power dynamic beneficial to them.

BD: That would make sense. They’re not getting anything by going public with their story.

JT: Except scorn and ridicule. In Michigan in 1960, the largest UFO sighting in American history, it went over the course of about a week and a half. Thousands of people saw flying saucers in the air. The government was called out. It’s now called The Swamp Gas incident because the government said it was just swamp gas that everyone saw. This was a really big turning point because even the people who were involved in it, once the government had said it was swamp gas, everybody, most of the people involved said that if they ever saw anything again, they’d never talk about it because paint was thrown on their houses. They were called frauds everywhere that they went. So, it’s actually like really detrimental to a person to report these sightings. And that 1966 case two was the first time that Congress actually took up the idea of investigating flying saucers. Because the Michigan congressman at the time was Gerald Ford, and he went on the floor of the House and called for investigations into flying saucers.

BD: I know you also deal with conspiracy theories sometimes. Obviously, there’s going to be conspiracy theories thrown around if the government is looking into either the whistleblower or some of these other incidents.

JT: I think that first and foremost, it’s interesting that when we look at the way it’s portrayed in the media now with congressional hearings and people of rank and people with government positions talking about UFOs, because of the way that we remember history and tell history, we forget that there have been congressional hearings on UFOs in the past. There have been high-ranking people in the past that have talked about seeing flying saucers, whether it’s Air Force pilots or admirals in the Royal Air Navy in England, this has happened before. The only difference now is the way that it’s covered in the media and our media cycle makes it seem much more prevalent than it ever was in the 1970s.

If your UFO story got told in the five major newspapers of the world, that’s a huge story. But now this one story is being retold in 700 online newspapers. It seems like there’s much more being told, but it’s really not as much as it’s ever been. And the government is bad, pretty notoriously, at keeping secrets. Big ones too. There are so many people involved. There are so many people that would have to be involved, even with things that might sound really kind of off the rails. But like when people talk about someplace like Area 51 that has, you know, hundreds of UFOs supposedly stored in it, and there’s thousands of people that work there, one of the things you have to take into account is simple things like waste management. Who takes care of the plumbing? Who takes the garbage out? The secrets would eventually slip. There are so many people involved in something like that, right? And we’re also now dealing with congressmen, businessmen, elected representatives who are of an age where they grew up as fans of science fiction.

We’ve never experienced that before. When all of the former elected officials and Air Force pilots and military officials, all those earlier people grew up, science fiction was a kid’s thing. These people now that are elected representatives and officials, grew up with Star Trek and Star Wars and watching In Search of and Unsolved Mysteries. So, when they get into positions of power, their natural curiosity is to talk about the things they have always been curious about just like us. And so, it doesn’t mean that they have any more information; it’s just that they have more interest and more personal identity attached to high strangeness than previous elected officials.

BD: That’s such a great point. That had not even occurred to me.

JT: I think it was Representative Adam Schiff, a few years ago, went on the floor of the House and talked about Star Trek and Spock, like he’s a fan of Star Trek. So, when you see people now interested in having UFO hearings, you have to remember that those people are also fans of modern-day science fiction.

BD: Do you have a personal theory that might explain what UAPs really are and where they come from?

JT: There’s a part of me, of course, that is very interested in the fact that the rise of UAP and sightings of things flying in the sky has proportionally increased with the ability for every day, normal human beings to buy objects that can fly around and flash in the sky. Drones are a good example. But I think that it’s important to look back at the older cases that aren’t so much involved with easily accessible technology that we have. I think that the UFO phenomenon, the UAP phenomenon, the flying saucer phenomenon, is much larger than just one answer. I think that you may have a multitude of extraterrestrial creatures, interdimensional creatures, ultraterrestrials, the kind of belief systems that form around mythology with different religions—I think all of those things can be happening at one time. And when you look at it through your personal lens, you might not see it as separate, individual cases, and lump them all together. So, I really think it’s important for people to look at each UFO case individually without saying, “Oh, objects must be a tic tac shape. Oh, objects must be a disc shape. Oh, objects must conform to what I think a flying saucer, UFO, or UAP case is.” The best research that people can do is to look at each case individually and uniquely because each case is unique and individual.

Obviously, not everyone is a researcher, but there are a lot of people who think that if I see a UFO, in Michigan for example, on Monday and then people see a UFO on Wednesday, in Michigan, that these must be the same UFO, when it’s two completely separate events happening. When you talk to people and drill down, yes, there may be commonalities between the sightings, but the differences are really where the interesting theories and ideas come from. Saying that everything is just a tic tac really does disservice to strangeness in and of itself. What I tell people is that when you look back on the history of UFOs, and you look at some of the UFO photographs taken in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, the ones that have remained, the ones we can’t prove are hoaxes—you have to remember that if those people did hoax the remaining photographs we have that show weird things in the sky, those people never considered that we would have easily accessible computers to debunk their photographs. So, the fact that a photograph from the 1940s or 1950s cannot be disproven with all of the technology that we have now makes those cases even more fascinating because the tic tac video might be great but I’m pretty sure that thousands of people in the country could make a video that looks just like it right now within a few minutes.

It really fascinates me that people really miss the fact that the average age for a congressperson right now is about 57. They all grew up watching Lost in Space, Close Encounters, and Star Trek and sitting around the television and reading comic books and loving it. They are the first generation who have access to power and who have had a real fandom to it.


For more information on John E.L. Tenney’s work, as well as upcoming events, please visit his website.

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