Welcome to Weird or What with William Shatner, where the premiere episode asks the question that's on everyone's mind: "Are we alone in the universe?" Given the vastness of space, we know that the chances of rubbing shoulders with E.T. are infinitesimally small, and yet there are a few unexplained phenomena that are nagging at Mr. Shatner.
Mootilation on the Range
Cows across the country have gone missing! Ranchers have been stumbling upon mutilated cattle carcasses that are missing their eyes, tongues, udders, and - brace yourself - genitals. These organs appear to have been cut away with laser-like precision, leaving only rotting meat and bone behind.
While Maggots might feast on these choice bits, it would take them days to do the damage that some have reported finding only hours after the cow had gone missing. But from where we're sitting, it seems like these ill-fated heifers died from anything but natural causes. And we're not alone! Rejecting even conspiracy theories that attribute these mutilations to a covert government program sampling American cattle for Mad Cow Disease, the radical Philip Hoyle is sure that extra-terrestrials are to blame for the missing meat. What purpose could aliens have for these choice morsels of beef? Your guess is as good as ours.
For many years, Jim Sparks has reported experiencing repeated alien abductions in his sleep. His memories of the ordeal are strikingly clear and yet impossible to verify. Sparks characterizes such nights with symptoms of paralysis, bright light, alien figures, and uncomfortable scientific procedures – and he is not alone.
Susan Clancy, a researcher at the Harvard school of Psychology, attributes Jim's experience to a condition known as sleep paralysis. The body undergoes a natural state of paralysis during the deepest portions of the REM cycle. Without this natural defense we'd all be sleep walkers! Sleep paralysis occurs when the dreaming and wakeful states overlap, and images from the dream state bleed into conscious memories. Clancy describes this phenomenon as incredibly jarring and is understanding of those who may conflate it with alien abduction.
Further illustrating the dormant power of the human mind is Dr. Michael Persinger's "God Helmet". Originally designed to study how spirituality and faith manifest in the physical mind, this device was able to stimulate the "religious" sectors of the brain and induce experiences much like those characterized as alien abduction. These results, coupled with the vivid accounts elicited through hypnosis therapy, surely prove that the human psyche can play tricks on itself, but some still feel that these tales may have an explanation that is out of this world!
The "Wow!" Signal
When astronomer Jerry Ehman discovered a sequence reading "6EQUJ5" amongst a sea of ones and zeroes in data from the "Big Ear" telescope, he knew that he could be on the brink of something as large as the universe itself. This anomalous, far-traveling narrowband frequency emanating from the depths of space could seemingly mean only one thing – that we are most certainly not alone.
Physicists naturally clamored to illuminate this unprecedented phenomenon, and a few were even able to provide plausible reasons explaining how the aptly named "Wow! Signal" could have been generated through human error. With naysayers describing the signal as a terrestrial radio wave bounced off of a satellite, Ehman remained staunch in his conviction. He counters by questioning why there were not many more such "Wow Signals" bouncing around space given how littered the earth's orbit is with satellites and other bits of refuse.
By the same token, Astrobiologists believe that an earnest attempt at communication from the farthest reaches of space would be a bit more persistent than one anomalous signal in the void. Instead, it is believed that "Wow Signal" may be an echo of a distant black hole essentially belching after devouring a star system. Hmm...pretty weird (or what).