An interview with Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos
Updated: Aug 10
New: please download this excellent and extensive volume, edited by Vicente-Juan and Richard W. Heiden: https://www.academia.edu/101922617/The_Reliability_of_UFO_Witness_Testimony
Recently, I posed a series of short questions to legendary UFO researcher and investigator Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos. He kindly answered my questions and has given me permission to share the following correspondence here. Please be sure to check out his excellent blog https://fotocat.blogspot.com Vicente-Juan is of a skeptical persuasion when it comes to UFOs and rejects the extraterrestrial, and other extraordinary hypotheses, regarding their origins. He has also reviewed the recent 2022 Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena: https://www.academia.edu/95362778/The_2022_Annual_Report_on_Unidentified_Aerial_Phenomena_A_Review (for the unclassified DoD report itself, see here: https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/Unclassified-2022-Annual-Report-UAP.pdf), giving it a mixed but generally positive scorecard. I also highly recommend his assessment of the ufological situation, along with a friendly but somewhat countervailing view by Dr. Thomas E. Bullard: https://www.academia.edu/33352049/THE_NATURE_OF_UFO_EVIDENCE_TWO_VIEWS
Here is Vicente-Juan’s UFO bibliography, 1965-2022: https://www.academia.edu/93910545/Bibliography_V_J_Ballester_Olmos_1965_
Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos. (c) Raúl Belinchon, EL PAÍS.
[In the following interview, LC = Luis Cayetano and VJBO = Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos]
LC: In your view, what are the most important cognitive mechanisms or processes involved in generating UFO experiences?
VJBO: To begin with, “experience” seems to me to be a transcendental event, not applicable to most UFO sightings, which are more misinterpretations of mundane objects and phenomena. For critical reports of alleged encounters with landed UFOs, including nearby living crew, or the extreme form of contact that is the abduction, the nature of the supposed vision is varied, from hoaxing to psychopathology, but probably many of them rest on psychological processes including sleep paralysis, false memory, visual illusions, lucid dreams, hallucination, temporal lobe epilepsy, hypnopompic and hypnagogic imagery, fantasy-proneness, dissociation, altered states of consciousness, post-traumatic stress, etc.
I have generically termed the source as alien encounter disorder (AED), a non-pathological, short-lived, non-impairing, non-repetitive cognitive disturbance characterized by the “vision” of a flying object coming out of the blue, approaching the witness, hovering or landing at close range, with (optionally) emerging creatures showing absurd behavior, and taking off again speedily in a short time.
Concerning the historical scientific approach to UFOs, most researchers came from the side of physical sciences (mainly astronomers and physicists), but having reached the situation we are in after decades of UFO events where we have seen from mere lights in the sky to close encounters with the spacecraft’s pilots, and a long list of supposed interactions of the phenomena with the environment as traces left in the soil, impact on vegetation, living creatures burnt or otherwise affected up to cattle mutilation, electromagnetic effects on equipment and vehicle interference, kidnapping of people with significant abuse episodes…what else do we need to realize we are under siege by multiple extraterrestrial civilizations (not just one, according to the myriads of different types of saucers and occupants)? As I wrote elsewhere, a Putin-style invasion? If there is no material evidence to support that, and there is not, the simpler, more parsimonious hypothesis is that everything is false, a myth in the making.
Precedent to the current (established July 2022) US Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s UAP study program, the Department of Defense’s All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) was the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Advance Aerospace Weapon System Application Program (AAWSAP, nicknamed AATIP), 2008-2010. It was funded with 22 million dollars and generated, among other reports, 38 DIRDs (Defense Intelligence Reference Documents) amounting to over 1,500 pages. Where is the earthshaking evidence collected after such investment of time and resources? Nowhere to be seen. Always designing plans for the future…for getting additional funding.
I am rather convinced that what it is urgently required in a new phase of UFO/UAP investigation is the intervention of social scientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, anthropologists, historians, as well as professional interrogators and academics knowledgeable on personality assessment. The core of the UFO phenomena is not physical but sociological.
LC: How important has the religious impulse and the yearning for the "numinous" been in sustaining ufology?
VJBO: I have never studied a possible connection or quality between religious beliefs and UFO observation. As a very high percentage of sightings is due to aircraft, balloons, drones, birds, missiles, astronomical, etc., religion must have nothing to do with visual misinterpretation, it is simply ignorance or lack of data at hand on the cause or culprit that produces an apparently strange sighting to the unprepared and amazed eyewitness. If personal devotions do have any relationship to the extreme “contacts with aliens” that some people claim to have lived, it is to be checked.
LC: Do you think that there is currently more of a grifter/techno-scam aspect linked to government or former government people interested in UFOs than there was in the days of Project Blue Book, the Condon Report and NICAP? If so, what might explain this?
VJBO: I would not go as far as calling it a scam. It is more than evident that a certain number of people have been profiting off of naïve attempts from institutions to seek extraordinary developments from UFO research or the paranormal. You just have to list the people surrounding UFO and paranormal programs secretly, semi-secretly, or openly funded by Government departments, corporations, universities, or Government agencies in the last 30 years to realize that a dozen names are constant in the casting! I think they are honest people, but misguided, profoundly wrong because of an intense, deeper belief system built of the existence on supernatural forces, or superior intelligences ruling the world societies’ expansion, growth, or unrolling.
Some of these guys, and a new generation of politicians and intelligence officials had added to grossly lobbying the DIA and the US Navy, and the US DoD up to the recent creation of the AARO program, a great waste of money that - in my humble opinion - will lead to nothing. (By the way, is anyone aware of the 5-year AARO budget?)
LC: Of those government or former government or military people who genuinely believe that we are being visited by ETs and who you consider to be, for lack of a better term, honest believers, what do you think sustains their beliefs?
VJBO: What does sustain wild beliefs? An inner psychological urge, the influence of readings, a personally understood-as-anomalous event experienced in their youth, doing bad science, a mix of everything, who knows? The bottom line is that those mistaken people are guiding the legislation of a country like the United States as far as UFOs (sorry, UAP) is concerned in the XXI century! That will end as a big shame.
LC: Very briefly: if you were to assemble a team of investigators to look into UFO reports, select the highest quality reports, and then scientifically assess those reports with closer scrutiny using any means at this team's disposal, what criteria would you insist upon in relation to the types of people in this group, the group's mission statement, the follow-up questions they can ask witnesses, their equipment, etc?
VJBO: A multidisciplinary team formed by experts in the fields that create false UFO sightings, that is, astronomers, space scientists, imagery analysts, people skilled in aircraft sensor equipment, as well as psychologists, to study certain claimants, and experienced criminologists. It all depends on what is the mission tasked to the study group. If the aim is to check a potential adversary power’s surveillance of our military activities, the priority is one, but if you wish to respond - once and for all - to the query if flying saucers (sorry, UAP) are related to alien visitation, the priority is another. But in both cases, the training and knowledge of involved personnel may be similar, with much more emphasis in the social sciences in the latter option.
LC: Perhaps related to the above question, what is the biggest pitfall faced by people who investigate UFOs? Do you see the ufological "field" ever overcoming it?
VJBO: There is not a standard UFO investigator. There are all classes and kinds of them. This is a fauna. Some have Ph.D.-level training, others are almost illiterate. There is an infinite range of practitioners of ufology, with all types of motivations, some good, some badly-oriented. Egos and personality aspirations, money, fame, search for leadership, etc. are important clues, in some cases. Pre-conceived beliefs are a major problem because these preclude investigators in facing the crude reality and truth behind UFOs: that there are not unexplained UFO sightings, not at least of the class that provides significant evidence pointing to an anomaly to science, even less to an external origin to Earth.
LC: To what extent do you think that there might be a genuine sociological aversion within scientific institutions to the topic of UFOs?
VJBO: I do not think that scientific institutions abhor UFO studies, the proof is that my friend and colleague, Italian researcher Paolo Toselli has collected an inventory of 413 university UFO theses and dissertations all over the world from 1948 to 2022. Someone rightfully said that things are not scientific per se but by the way they are treated, and universities or research centers should not avoid approaching UFO research. Question is: is it currently reasonable and a real public concern to spend money on this issue? There have passed 75 years of hundreds of thousands of UFO sightings without contributing any convincing, solid proof that relates UFO cases to aliens. After so many international Government UFO studies or data collection efforts closed once they concluded that UFOs (a) pose no threat to national security, (b) there is no ascertained safety risk to aviation, and (c) that there is no basis to affirm that there is hidden scientific knowledge behind UFO reports. It is the pressure of a tiny group of society headed by a bunch of lobby people which is pushing the US Government to embark in this UAP program that, yes, will insufflate millions of additional dollars from the nation’s budget to the DoD, which is never a bad thing.
I can perfectly understand, however, that one country’s Air Force sets up a center to solve the UFO cases which worried citizens report to air authorities, the best example being the Argentina Air Force’s Aerospace Identification Center.
 V.J. Ballester-Olmos, “Introduction”, in The Reliability of UFO Witness Testimony, V.J. Ballester-Olmos & Richard W. Heiden (eds.), UPIAR, 2023 (in press).  V.J. Ballester-Olmos, “The Soucoupe Volante Problem: A Radical-Pragmatical Approach,” October 2022, CAIPAN 2 conference, GEIPAN/CNES (Toulouse, France), https://www.cnes-geipan.fr/fr/node/59754?fbclid=IwAR0fi0Q-908_rmat7TrtwVLdOo5lp7XLtyJnGhyRSQsEL0z55hTnJ07Z6Xo Scroll down to “Mr. Ballester.”  https://irp.fas.org/dia/aatip-list.pdf