The cultural quirks of UFO sightings

There are a few stories out today about a giant, silent UFO over Texas, apparently witnessed by a few dozen people. That's blogworthy unto itself. But what's really interesting about this story is how it reveals the total idiosyncracies of local experience. Check out these quotes:

“People wonder what in the world it is because this is the Bible Belt, and everyone is afraid it's the end of times,” said Steve Allen, a freight company owner and pilot who said the object he saw last week was a mile long and half a mile wide. “It was positively, absolutely nothing from these parts.”

And in a similar vein:

“You hear about big bass or big buck in the area, but this is a different deal,” Mr. [Ricky] Sorrells said. “It feels good to hear that other people saw something, because that means I'm not crazy.”

The first thing anyone does when encountered with something they can't explain is to try and cram into some kind of a meaningful context, relating it to something they understand and think a lot about. For the good people of Stephenville, this context is, on the one hand, biblical, and on the other, to do with hunting and fishing. I'm not making fun of these people- this is just how the make sense of something otherwise nonsensical. Were a similar object to appear over Yonge Dundas Square, I'm sure the newspapers would be full of reports of a 'hockey puck' or 'Roy Thomson Hall' shaped object. People from Toronto would know immediately what this meant. People from Stephenville would have no idea.

All of this is a long way of saying that, even in this age of internets and global communication, people in different parts of the world continue to talk past each other. And Roy Thomson Hall looks like a UFO.


Roy Thomson Hall: The Alien Mothership in our Midst. Photo by SimonP.