The death of Dr. J. Allen Hynek in April 1986 came as a shock to me.
At the time, he, Philip Imbrogno and I were working on a book together long distance. Dr. Hynek lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, Phil in Connecticut and I in Florida. We kept in touch by phone and mail.
I knew Dr. Hynek had a brain tumor but I hadn’t heard from him in about a month or so and didn't realize he was gravely ill. I didn’t know he had died until I read an obituary in a newspaper one morning at work.
The book we were writing was NIGHT SIEGE, The Hudson Valley UFO Sightings, which was published in 1987 by Ballantine Books in New York.
The book detailed a large number of sightings of a huge triangular object, or objects, by many people in lower New York State just north of Manhattan and nearby areas of Connecticut in the early 1980s.
Dr. Hynek, as most people should know, was the first scientist to publicly assert that UFOs should be taken seriously and should be scientifically studied. He was an astrophysicist and for more than twenty years had been the astronomical consultant to the U.S. Air Force’s Project Sign and Project Blue Book, which investigated UFO reports.
When the Air Force abandoned those studies in 1969, saying UFOs were no longer worth investigating, Dr. Hynek disagree with that conclusion. He had seen too many reports that could not be explained as planes, planets, balloons or whatever.
For eighteen years he was a professor and chairman of the Department of Astronomy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, retiring in 1978. In 1973 he founded the Center for UFO Studies in Evanston.
I first met him in late 1975, when I was a reporter for the National Enquirer and he was one of the members of the Enquirer’s so-called Blue Ribbon UFO Panel.
MOST IMPORTANT CASES
At that time the Enquirer had publicly offered a million-dollar reward for anyone who could prove that UFOs were extraterrestrial. The Panel consisted of four or five scientists who examined cases reported by the Enquirer to see if any of them had that proof.
None ever did, but the Enquirer also paid out up to ten thousand dollars each year to the people involved in the “most scientifically important” UFO case. That was the panel’s real responsibility, and there were some very good cases over the years.
The Enquirer paid none of the panelists but it did pay all expenses for the panel’s meetings that took place over a weekend once or twice a year. Those meetings were held in many places, sometimes in Florida (where the Enquirer's offices were located) but also in New York City, Salt Lake City and Mexico City.
The panelists represented CUFOS, MUFON, APRO and NICAP – the Center for UFO Studies, the MUFON UFO Network, the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization, and the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. Only MUFON and CUFOS still exist.
Like most of the other panelists, Dr. Hynek agreed to join the panel in the hope that the Enquirer would help fund UFO research. It did, to some extent, but never as much as anyone hoped for. Because of that, Dr. Hynek felt he was being used and resigned from the panel after a couple of years.
Even after he left, I continued to share with him (as well as the leaders of the other UFO groups) the interviews and other information I got while running down UFO reports in a number of countries.
I also stayed in touch with him after he left the panel, and in the following years he paid me what I consider a great compliment. Two different times he told me that if CUFOS could have afforded it, he would have hired me as a full time investigator for the center.
The last time I saw him was around 1984 or 1985, when he was visiting a longtime friend of his, Dr. Willy Smith, when Willy lived in Sanford, Florida, near Orlando. I drove up and spent the day with them.
It was just a few months later that we began working together on NIGHT SIEGE. Dr. Hynek and Phil Imbrogno had done a lot of work investigating the 1983 sightings and decided to write a book, but they needed a writer.
SECOND EDITION PUBLISHED
Phil had done most of the investigating but writing wasn’t one of his strong points, and Dr. Hynek didn’t feel physically up to the task. Their agent, John White, put them in touch with me. With material supplied by Phil, I wrote drafts of the first two chapters. Dr. Hynek and Phil liked what they saw and we signed contracts.
We were only a few chapters into the book when Dr. Hynek died. From then until the time the manuscript went to the publisher, his widow Mimi worked with us, critiquing the chapters.
The book was not a great success, selling less than thirty thousand copies. But in 1997 Phil persuaded Llewellyn Publications in St. Paul, Minnesota, to publish an expanded and revised second edition of NIGHT SIEGE.
This required writing a couple of new chapters and revising several more. But Llewellyn also wanted the entire new manuscript to be submitted to them on a floppy disk. I had used a computer writing the original book but the files were long gone. All we had were copies of the book.
Not all was lost, however. By then I was into my third or fourth computer and I had to cut apart one copy of the original book and scan it into my computer, page by page. It worked... after a fashion.
Scanners don’t always see things the way I see them. After scanning the entire book, I went through it looking for mistakes – and was dismayed at what I found.
Virtually every time the name “Allen Hynek” appeared, the scanner interpreted it as “Alien Hynek.”
That was a horrifying shock. It prompted me to closely read the entire manuscript two more times to make sure that nothing even remotely alien appeared in the final version.