Sunday, March 29, 2009

Allen Hynek's Watch

Chris A. Rutkowski, "Tests of Psychic Abilities." In John Robert Colombo, ed., Mysterious Encounters (Willowdale, Ontario: Hounslow Press, 1990, pp. 216-7.

There was at one time a Canadian television show called Beyond Reason, for which a panel of psychic "experts" (including an astrologer, clairvoyant, and two other "sensitives") would try to determine the identity of a hidden "mystery guest." On some episodes, some of the panel members would definitely appear to be able to divine the names of the guests; on other occasions, they were less than adept. [...]

The natural question arose as to how "secret" the mystery guests really were. After all, a bit of backstage bribery could enable a panel member to have inside information. The strictness of the security was noted when my friend Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the renowned astronomer and UFO investigator, was selected as a guest. Though he normally spoke with me when he visited Winnipeg, I only learned of his visit after the program had been taped. He told me to watch the show, as it was "very revealing." He also explained that the producers of the show had taken great pains to ensure no one knew he was in Winnipeg, and even gave instructions to the hotel operators not to reveal his presence to anyone who might have been inquiring.

The show was broadcast a few months later. On it, the panel members struggled with the mystery guest's identity, until it came to the turn of the clairvoyant. She held the guest's watch in her hand, and after only a few seconds said she felt "vibes" that the guest could only be Dr. J. Allen Hynek! It seemed truly amazing. But the next time Dr. Hynek was in Winnipeg, I asked him about the show. He explained how he had been approached by the producer just minutes before going on the air, and had been asked to give an item of jewelry or clothing for the clairvoyant to hold. Without thinking, he took off his watch, then proceeded to the booth where he was to be secreted. He realized he had made a mistake. He showed me the watch that he had given for use by the clairvoyant. It had been given to him as a gift, and was clearly inscribed: Allen Hynek.
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Chris A. Rutkowski, A World of UFOs (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2008), p. 194.

One of Hynek's most bizarre TV appearances was on a Canadian show about psychic phenomena. It was kind of a quiz show where clairvoyants, astrologers, palmists, and other seers were challenged to identify a mystery guest hidden from view, asking questions based on the impressions they received about him or her. Hynek had been flown into the city secretly for the show, so I was surprised to hear he was in town when I was called after the show to drive him back from the television station. He explained that security had been tight to ensure no collusion was possible so that the psychics had no way of knowing the identity of the mystery guest in advance.

I was startled to learn that a clairvoyant had guessed that Hynek was the mystery guest. I was impressed by the show when it aired. Somehow, by simply holding Hynek's watch, she began intoning, "I'm sensing something about space...about stars...about communicating with other beings...this must belong to a famous UFO investigator...it must be Allen Hynek!"

When we next met, I asked him about the incident. He laughed and rolled up his sleeve, then took off his watch. He handed it to me. Etched into the back of the watch was an inscription from his wife: "To Allen Hynek, with love from Mimi."
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[The canny "psychic" who identified Hynek was Irene Hughes, who appeared not to handle his watch during the show, contrary to Rutkowski's memory. That she took pains to declare that she had examined only his (presumably empty) wallet and not his watch leads one to conclude that she was aware of the inscription (which Rutkowski inconsistently described). Below is my rough transcription of an excerpt from the episode in question. -- bc]

http://archives.cbc.ca/science_technology/unexplained/clips/4344/

CBC Digital Archives

CBC game show with a paranormal twist

Beyond Reason
Broadcast Date: Feb. 21, 1977

[...]

Bill Guest: Irene, what do you pick up from our hidden visitor's personal objects?

Irene Hughes [holding a wallet and a piece of paper]: Well, first of all when I opened the box I have to tell you in this way. There were two objects in it so I took out the wallet because I had a terrible frightening feeling when I looked at his watch, so I didn't even take it out of the box. I've had that experience once before in my life. I feel that this man must have something to do with very unusual space, out of space things, in my mind, so I said Allan Hynek of UFOs! That's all I could think about, because... [Audience applause]... My heart is beating so fast right now I need a doctor, I think, really, because it was very frightening.

Allen Spraggett: I try not to wax too enthusiastic but that is a tour de force. That is really remarkable.

[...]

Bill Guest: Irene mentioned, Allen, that she did not want to open the box. I did not understand that too clearly. Can you explain that?

Allen Spraggett: Irene, did you mean that you had an uncanny feeling?

Irene Hughes: No, I opened, I opened the box, uh, there were two items, this [wallet] and a watch, and so I had a terrible feeling, I really did, and it was a feeling that I got when I was on a haunted house tour and we sort of encountered something of this nature in Iowa with, um, Brad Steiger. It was exactly the same feeling and so because of that I would not take the watch out, so I lay down on the cot with this [the wallet] holding it like this right here [against her chest] and I got all of these impressions and immediately wrote them down and I just said that he was a scientist of the highest degree, a math genius, lots to do with telescopes and documents, a consultant to Encounter of the Third Kind...[audience applause]... loves mystery....

Allen Hynek: I don't understand how you got all that.

Irene Hughes: It came right through this [wallet] very very clearly. It just really did as I held it on my solar plexus....