Friday, December 12, 2008

INEXPLICATA Interviews Manuel Carballal

INEXPLICATA Interviews Manuel Carballal

Inexplicata contributing editor Manuel Carballal has seen it all, and endured the slings and arrows of believers and opponents of the paranormal alike. Along with researchers Javier Sierra and Josep Guijarro, he forms part of the “third generation” of Spain’s UFO community and has gone on to enjoy success in television, radio and in print. We managed to steal a few minutes from his schedule to ask him a few questions:

Hi Manuel – I remember that the first of your projects that I translated was for my Samizdat bulletin back in 1994. What’s your opinion about the trajectory that UFO research has taken since then?

Entirely foreseeable. Interest in UFOs, like all fashions in Western civilization, is cyclical. In Spain we have gone through UFO boom and bust cycles, respectively, in the 70s, 80s, 90s...I intuit that they’ll be in fashion again, and it’s only logical that the number of people involved in its research, and therefore the energy with which said research is carried out, fluctuates from one period to another. But even when many curiosity-seekers and fans engage the subject enthusiastically, and become disenchanted with the subject when the fashion fades, we are always left with a core group, a natural selection, which consists of those who feel true passion for the study of the unknown. For this reason, and for all the discoveries we have made over the past 14 years, I think that we know a lot more about UFOs now than in the 90s, the 80s and of course, more than in the 50s. It’s also true that the “noise” generated around certain radical groups of ET believers, pseudo-skeptics and pseudo-scientists, alien cults, etc. is louder than ever, since the modern media is faster and more global than ever before. However, new cases have emerged in recent years – new sources that have provided far greater perspective on what we know, for example, the connection between UFOs and the military. For example, I can tell you that in the last year and a half I’ve learned more about the back of the UFO declassification shop in Spain, and in other European countries as well, than over the past 15 years. And all of this thanks to a new information source directly involved in the declassification, who is furnishing us a veritable flood of files, documents and unknown reports. And this represents an infusion of enthusiasm and energy to keep researching.

Manuel, at this stage of the game, so to speak, is it still worth devoting ourselves to the study of UFOs and the paranormal?

I can’t think of anything better to devote my spare time to. Research into anomalous phenomena forces us to become familiar with all fields of science and culture that can offer us explanations for one case or another. It is for this reason that researchers are obligated to seek training in fields as disparate as astronomy, illusionism, physics, astronautics, chemistry, architecture, theology, history...with regard to other “passions”, I think that if we had been seduced by coin collecting, stamp collecting or hot-rodding, we wouldn’t have read as many books, wouldn’t have traveled so much, or would have met so many extraordinary people as we have, feeling this passion for anomalies. In the end, what we’re pursuing is something so huge and pretentious as to seek the existence of other life forms, other parallel realities, the Newtonian paradigm that outlines our map of the universe...and this unquestionably requires all our efforts. Therefore, yes. It’s worthwhile, without question.

However, it is true that some people believe that these subjects represent an easy way to make money or acquire celebrity. Particularly those who have failed in scientific or cultural fields and see the assault or the irrational defense of mysteries as a modus vivendi. I would like to think that natural selection will cause these parasites of the mysterious to tire and move away from this subject.

Your journal, El Ojo Crítico, will be celebrating its 15th anniversary before long. How do you account for its success and longevity?

Well, I can only think of one answer: the stubbornness and imagination of those of you who, with your articles and cooperation, have made it possible. When the first issue of El Ojo Critico appeared 15 years ago, there were many other bulletins and fanzines created by well-known researchers and disseminators such as Javier Sierra, Iker Jimenez, the CEI, etc. As time went by, the ease of use of the Internet, and above all, the price of photocopying, forced all the others, except EOC, to disappear. And this is a shame to me. I find it highly positive to have alternatives to large circulation commercial publications. Means of communication that allow us to publish less commercial critical articles and more specialized critiques. And I suppose that it’s precisely because we pursue this independent, often transgressive line, with which it was born 15 years and 60 issues ago, that so many fans and researchers have requested the print copy of EOC or download it directly from its web, or from the dozens of friendly websites that also enable its download. In some of them, such as E-Lecturas or La Sombra del Espejo, the moderators tell me that the thousands download the newsletter, so we’ve lost track as to how many people may read us.

No one gets away without answering this question: What’s your take on Roswell?

Experience has taught me that it’s overly bold to opine about what one doesn’t know, and I’ve never been to Roswell. That can only be done in the U.S. (I don’t believe in investigations done by e-mail or by phone). However, I’ve had the opportunity to investigate several very interesting cases involving unidentified flying object crashes on Spanish soil, and clandestinely collected by U.S. troops. In some of these cases, such as the object that crashed in southern Spain a few years ago, a Spanish citizen was able to take up to 10 photos of U.S. troops from the Rota Base collecting the object’s remains, which had caused deathly fear among several witnesses prior to its collision, and which even resulted in a parliamentary complaint to the Ministry of Defense by the Izquierda Unida political party. In the end we found out that it was an American spy plane that was flying illegally in Spanish airspace. This has occurred on other occasions, so I’m not surprised to find that civilian witnesses are telling the truth when they describe the collision of a strange object, and that military personnel rapidly cordon off the area to clandestinely recover the remains. The provenance of the crashed object is a different matter altogether. However, I have hard time imagining a marvelous technology that’s able to surpass the speed of light, capable of overcoming all of our aeronautical and physical shortcomings, and later crashes in such a suspiciously human fashion. It would be tantamount to saying that Apollo 11 reached the Moon, and that Armstrong got out of the lunar module in an oxcart.

With so many years of work behind you, would you share any advice with young researchers who are wading into the murky waters of the paranormal?

I’m not one to dispense advice, but the perspective of the years, and having met so many people in this time period, has taught me that it’s very important to not lose one’s enthusiasm. As I tried to describe in an article that caused, and still causes, a controversy in the Spanish paranormal research community (“La prostitucion del periodismo paranormal”), when you enter this field you tend to believe in the good will of researchers, “skeptics”, witnesses, disseminators...and over time you find out that there are financial interests and vanities as in any other field. Then, with the unavoidable disenchament of learning that many alleged skeptics, or visionaries, or researchers are in fact charlatans, it’s easy to feel the urge to quit it all. However, the anomalous events, the mysteries, the UFOs, have existed far longer than any of us, and will endure after we’re gone. And if what motivates you isn’t the wellspring of these enigmas, rather than the people who seek to monopolize them, you learn that you don’t need anyone’s blessing to continue with your personal search. That’s what makes these subjects so wonderful. We have so much to learn yet...

[Manuel Carballal’s blog can be visited at]