Since the late 1940's, into the 1950's and 1960's, reports of UFO's were fast and furious. Thousands of reports were made every week or month from all across the country. Skeptics and debunkers state that America was in a state of "flying saucer hysteria", and that everybody wanted to see a UFO. As a result the predisposition of witnesses to see flying saucers and aliens from outer space allowed them to see just that while staring up at the skies, mistaking conventional aircraft or common atmospheric phenomenon for alien space craft. Now that could be true, but I'll avoid the discussion of cause and effect for now (Did people see more UFOs because there were more UFOs, or did the UFOs make more appearances back then because there were more people giving attention to them?), and let's focus on the cultural shift between that time frame and today's age.
The Atomic Age - Fighting the Red Invasion!
Watching the Skies
In the 40's and throughout the 50's and 60's America was in a state of paranoia and war-alert, driven by the arms race with the Soviet Union and inspired by the events of the Korean War, later the Vietnam War. Although confidence and patriotism towards the U.S. government was at an all-time high, there was an underlying current of fear from invasion by Communist forces back in that day. Top that off with the fact that radar technology was in it's infant stages and there was no such thing as satellite observation of our skies and what you have is a condition were manual observation of America's atmospheric territory had to be conducted. Specifically you had trained volunteers sky watching for suspicious activity by potential Soviet planes. Often times members of the general public would watch the skies for any sign of the Red Invasion, and if anything out of the ordinary was seen it was there duty as American citizens to report it.
Just the Facts, Ma'amAnd where would they report such sightings? The knee-jerk reaction to report something suspicious back then boiled down to one of three general institutions; law enforcement, military, or the press. Very often UFO reports streamed into the local sheriff or news paper office, but if there was a military office nearby they may get the occasional, panicked phone call as well.
Can You Tell Me What You Saw?
UFO investigators through out the 50's and 60's operated entirely differently, too. They scoured the newspapers, listened for word-of-mouth stories, or even monitored their local law enforcement reports for UFO sightings. Then, those investigators would do something completely unheard of today; they would travel to the witnesses home or business, knock on the door, and actually talk to the witness face-to-face about the sighting. Now as unheard of as that is today, that was the best way (and still is) of getting a clear perspective on not only what the witness experienced, but the witnesses reaction and credibility to the event. Often times the investigator would ask the witness to revisit the scene of the event and explain what was experienced. Then said-investigator would interview law enforcement, military officials...anybody else who could shed some light on what the witness observed, and when the UFO investigator had enough material and sightings, typically they would sell the story to a paranormal magazine or write a book.
The Modern Era
Fast forward to today; first, very few members of the general public are observing our skies. Technology has taken over the invasion-resistant sky watcher, and people are far too distracted by their smartphones and tablets to look upward. Even when people do experience something unusual in our skies they're very resistant and reluctant to report it to any official institution for fear of ridicule or from the (well founded) belief that 'nothing will come of it anyway.' In general the public no longer cares what's in our skies. Law enforcement might make a report, the press may publish something in a swarmy, sarcastic fashion, and the military will flat-out ignore the more common UFO sightings reported to them while writing off the witness as a nut job. In short, even if someone has a compelling sighting, no one from an official standpoint will care, and worse, the witness risks ridicule and mockery. It's because of those potential ramifications that even the most solid UFO encounters, these days, are not reported through official channels and are, typically, just told to family or close friends of the witness, instead.
And the UFO researcher? Well UFO 'research' has now been confined to the Internet. Full-out investigations are conducted via YouTube videos, interviews granted via email, and conclusions are drawn based on electronic review and World Wide Web perceptions. I read a book just the other day regarding a haunted road here within the United States and listened to an interview with the author on a popular paranormal podcast during which the author freely admitted that he had not actually visited 90% of the locations he wrote about. He had done nearly all of his research for the book online.
Why? Well it's cheap and easy. How expensive is gas these days? A plane ticket? Why get up and walk out your front door to actually ask someone about a paranormal story or experience when you can email them from your computer, iPhone, or tablet? It's so much easier that way and you avoid the hundreds of dollars spent in travel. But I think anybody can see what's lost; the personal experience. The face-to-face contact with the witness, seeing the actual location where something truly astounding may have occurred, and being able to measure and gauge the witness to see if they're telling the truth, embellishing, or even making it all up.
Witness faith and confidence in law enforcement, the military, and the local press is gone, scattered to the wind by ridicule and disbelief on the part of those organizations. The art of the interview, observation, and experience, even if it's second-hand, by the paranormal researcher is lost. In short, it may not be that people aren't seeing as many UFOs, these days, it may just be that when they do the tell no one. Couple that with the fact that so-called 'investigators' of these phenomenon do little more than fire off a few email messages to witnesses and you have a serious degradation of investigation and reporting being performed. The next Roswell, the next O'Hare , the next Bentwaters could occur and it's a sad fact that no one may genuinely care in this day and age.