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The Wednesday Phenomena

Columnist Cheryl Costa looks at a theory of late ufologist John Keel.

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This week, several ufologists, while examining UFO seasonal pattern charts I had posted, brought up the writings of the late John Keel.

Keel, a widely read professional journalist, was influential with his writings about ufology. One of his profound theories was the trend he called the “Wednesday Phenomena.”

In his book Mothman Prophecies, Keel wrote, “I had collected some 700 UFO reports from 1966 and discovered that the greatest number of sightings, 20 percent, took place on Wednesdays.”

The thing we must keep in mind is that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, UFO reports were mostly collected from newspaper clippings. At the time, having access to several hundred reports was a big deal. The flaw I saw when presented with Keel’s Wednesday Phenomena was the problem with sample size. In addition, the question of where these sightings were reported was troubling. Did these sighting reports all come from one state or was his collection of data a mix for sightings from all over the country?

While I respect John Keel’s early work as ground breaking, I must point out that from a 21st century big data perspective, Keel’s sample size was rather small.

I decided to test the Wednesday Phenomena against my database of over 120,000 sightings from 2001-2015. I selected three states: Connecticut, 1,478 Sightings; New York, 5,141 sightings; and California, 15,836 sightings.

The results were interesting and somewhat consistent. Monday through Friday was relatively flat and each day averaged about 13 percent of the state’s total sightings. Saturday jumped up about 7 percent in sightings and was approximately 20 percent of the state’s sightings. While the day of the week was not Wednesday, the percentage of the week’s high sightings day was is consistent with Keel’s findings of 20 percent. Sundays were also elevated above the weekday baseline to an average of 15.5 percent of the state’s total UFO sightings.

Of course the common reasoning for the Saturday and Sunday uptick in sightings is perhaps because most people have the weekend off, therefore more time outside for sky watching.

In my opinion, Keel was certainly on to something; his work was simply hampered by a small sample size of UFO sightings. John Keel passed away on July 3, 2009 at age 79.

If you are interested in joining a monthly UFO discussion group in the Onondaga County area, drop Cheryl an email at Blogger@CherylCosta.com. If you have a UFO sighting to report, you can use either one of the two national database services: nuforc.org or mufon.com. Both services respect confidentiality.

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