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Voodoo/ UFO Hunters

Date: 09-22-13
Host: George Knapp
Guests: John Alexander, William J. Birnes

In the first half of the program, George Knapp was joined by Dr. John Alexander, who discussed his recent trips to West Africa and Mongolia where he met shamans and observed voodoo rituals. He described voodoo more as a "way of life," rather than an organized religion, in these regions of the world. To that end, he noted that practitioners seek advice from voodoo priests on a variety of issues including medical insights as well as general life counseling. Alexander dismissed the Western characterization of the religion as sinister and argued that "the vast majority of the voodoo ceremonies are based on positive outcomes for the community."

Over the course of his appearance, Alexander detailed a number of voodoo rituals that he witnessed during his expedition, such as a fire ceremony which he described as amazing. Unlike the simple practice of briskly walking across red hot coals, he said, this ceremony featured participants who performed stunning feats like remaining unscathed while holding flaming logs as well as biting pieces of burning wood and safely keeping the fiery remnant in their mouth for over a minute. According to Alexander, knowledge of voodoo wisdom, such as how to perform these practices, is a closely guarded secret. The secrecy is so strict, he said, that while the head voodoo priest may be known to his village, the identities of his students remains a mystery until the priest reveals his successor shortly before his death.

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In the latter half, author Bill Birnes talked about his role on the defunct TV series UFO Hunters and what it's like to investigate the compelling and sometimes chilling evidence of UFO phenomena. He explained that the program differed from previous paranormal television shows because it aimed to examine all the possible explanations for key UFO events rather than simply highlighting a case and eschewing an investigation. Birnes recalled various 'behind the scenes' machinations which occurred during the creation of the program, including being told that "UFOs don't sell" by a TV executive and a legal battle over the name "UFO Hunters," which briefly saw two competing shows using the same title.

"If you think you're coming into a community and people are welcoming you with open arms, because you are investigating UFOs, sometimes it's exactly the opposite," he said about the challenges of producing UFO Hunters. He illustrated this point by noting difficulties they encountered while making the Maury Island episode of the show. In the early planning stages, Birnes said, they were rebuffed by angry investigators who closely guarded their own research and accused the program of trying to usurp their work. Additionally, during the on location taping the show, an irate resident of the area approached them, while wielding a handgun, and insisted that they leave the area. Although the crew convinced the man that they had the proper paperwork to film and he departed, Birnes recalled, "next thing you know, we're hearing gunshots and somebody says, 'this guy's shooting at us!'"

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