21 July 2020


Irena McCammon Scott. Inside the Lightning Ball: Scientific Study of Lifelong UFO Experiencers, Flying Disk Press, 2018.

Irena has a very good background for studying UFO experiences; she worked for the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) analysing satellite photography during the height of the Cold War; she’s researched and taught at several universities, and was a volunteer astronomer at the Ohio State University Radio Observatory. From 1993 to 2000 she was on the MUFON Board of Directors and continues as a field investigator.
One of her earliest encounters involved seeing a lightning ball when she was 5 years old, later when living near Marfa, Texas (known for its mystery lights) she videoed a lightning strike that engulfed her in a huge ball of light for a fraction of a second.

Ball lightning has many strange properties and Irena thinks they might well share properties with UFO phenomena. Certainly her UFO sightings contain elements that indicate she was not viewing physical craft visible to everyone. She has also experienced many strange events surrounding her sightings that go beyond traditional nuts and bolts ufological theory.

One instance is her sighting of several UFOs on the night of 13 July 1968, including one with seven windows and an illuminated interior. Driving with her sister they viewed the fast moving UFOs as they drove on a freeway near Norwood Memorial Airport, Massachusetts. Normal aircraft were seen higher in the sky and even she admits it seemed strange no one else spotted the antics of the UFOs. When they pulled over to get a better view of it things took a more disquieting trip into the twilight zone. It was then a truck driver stopped and asked them what they were looking at, when they pointed at the UFO he looked in the opposite direction (twice!) and made a sign that indicated he thought they were crazy.

Even worse, when they drove off the truck tailgated them forcing Irena to drive at top speed to escape from being run off the road. Fortunately, despite being blinded by the truck headlights she managed to elude him by going down a slip road.

Over the next few days Irena heard invisible footsteps in her bedroom, and her toothbrush went missing and then it mysteriously flung itself back into existence. Plus, her alarm clock kept ringing every hour through the night and her friends were unable to get in contact with her by telephone. She notes, ‘When I got up in the morning, I was frightened and also worried about losing my job if I had just gone crazy.’

That whole night was confusing, afterwards they realised that at one stage they drove on the same road as Betty and Barney Hill did on the night of their abduction. The abduction monster raised its head again when UFO investigator Walter Webb (who was an early investigator of the Hill case) told her that beams of light fired at UFO witnesses often initiates abduction scenarios and periods of missing time.

Chief abduction cheer leader, Budd Hopkins, also comes into the picture and guess what? He thought that Irena had been abducted, and because there were a few disparities with her sister’s observations he thought her sister was put into suspended animation. Budd never fails! On reconsidering their journey Irena thinks there is a chunk of missing time. Hopkins must have squealed with delight to find another abduction victim, although he was no doubt severely disappointed when he found he was unable to put her into a hypnotic trance. However, he was compensated by the fact that she found a ‘mysterious’ scar on her calf.

According to Irena the strange truck driver might have been a government agent or an alien, and wonders if it was more than a coincidence that only recently in her post at the DIA they had spotted a disc-shaped craft over Soviet territory. The CIA rejected it as a photographic flaw, but Irena and her colleagues thought it was a craft of some sort. Another coincidence is that years after the 1968 sighting she decided to fill in reporting forms to send to the Centre for UFO Studies (CUFOS) when she had another UFO sighting.

Comparisons of her windowed craft are made with the UFO seen by Barney Hill, and the Buff Ledge case that features the observation of a craft with occupants and a subsequent abduction that occurred a month after Irena’s sighting.

One of the Buff Ledge witnesses, Michael, reported the incident 10 years after the alleged event to CUFOS and Walter Webb (again!) was sent to investigate. After Michael told him about disturbing dreams and emotional problems Webb put him under hypnosis (of course!).

Michael recalled being taken into the craft by a beam of light. He saw his friend Janet on a table being examined by small beings who had large eyes, two holes for a nose and no ears or lips. They scraped her skin, took fluids from her and shone a light into her eyes. They said their mission was to ‘make life like ours.’

The problem is that at the time of the so-called abduction, the Buff Ledge camping ground staged a mock alien encounter with tents and people dressed as aliens to entertain the teenage campers. Michael and Janet were either hoaxing Webb, or they had forgotten the trigger event was fabricated and had somehow haunted their minds over the years and became ‘real’ to them.

In the maze of UFO literature it is hard to make solid comparisons between cases. We must also bear in mind that unidentified flying craft with windows have caused witnesses to be fearful, when in reality they have merely viewed a meteor, fireball or satellite re-entry. So we have to take into account misperceptions, false memories and hoaxers when trying to make comparisons.

These factors make me critical of Irena’s view that the UFO phenomenon uses advanced laser technology to project images in the sky and manipulate matter. Like John Keel and others following him she mixes a multitude of psychic experiences, coincidences, MIB, UFO sightings and any other odd incident into a complex web of alien/government conspiracy.

Rather than having to speculate about alien technology it is more revealing to see that windows have a large part to play in Irena’s experiences. Her ball lightning sightings occurred near windows and at seven years old she and her sister saw a mini ball of light enter through their bedroom window. This sighting also had the template for their later 1968 sighting as in both instances the UFO circled and moved in a patterned fashion, and caused both of them to be terrified. On reflection in both cases she thinks they suffered missing time (Budd Hopkins has a lot to answer for!).

Returning to windows, Irena notes that after her childhood sighting she has since had a fear of north-facing windows at night. In the Appendix, listing her dreams, she mentions several that feature windows prominently, including objects and birds coming through north-facing windows. A horse stared through a window at her with a ‘murderous’ stare, and rooms with small windows have been in her dreams as well as quite disturbing ones about UFOs and glowing eyes.

She speculates that we might be living in a virtual reality where UFOs are holographic and/or volumetric displays that might well have self-organising abilities and intelligence. She suggests they could also control our behaviour through bypassing our conscious brain and have a subliminal affect on our behaviour. Alternatively, I would suggest UFOs and aliens are literally the stuff of dreams and nightmares and the driving force is our own unconscious desires and feelings, not alien quantum interactions. In addition, our perceptions have been shaped by the likes of Budd Hopkins and his rabble of abductionists to produce what Hilary Evans termed ‘authorised myths’ surrounding UFO experiences.

On the plus side, Irena does provide a thorough and scientific examination of her sightings and several photographs (unfortunately the reproduction of them is not that clear) are provided to back-up some of her claims to show that they were not all in her mind. – Nigel Watson.

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