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Chuck Shramek's pranking past? (fwd)

This appears in issue 117 of UK science fiction writer Dave Langford's
fanzine, "Ansible" (available on the web at


 - imagine "Saucer Smear" for SF fans and you'd be surprisingly close to
the truth). While I'd find it hard to sympathise with some of the views
expressed here, it still makes interesting reading. 

CULT CONNECTIONS. _Gregory Frost_ writes: `The recent mass suicide in
Rancho Santa Fe, California, has induced me (at the urging of Michael
Swanwick) to write you regarding my odd connection to an event that seems
to have prompted that act -- namely the discovery of the "companion"
purportedly following the comet Hale-Bopp on its flyby. _[See A116.]_ As
is well-known by now, the cult was convinced (as are many UFO zipheads who
weigh in on the internet) that the companion, discovered by amateur
astronomer Charles Shramek, is an alien mothership, either preparing a
mass invasion in the style of _Independence Day_, or a nice ship waiting
to sweep up the souls of the 39 cult members.  These conclusions were
reached when some hapless fool in a position of authority claimed he could
find nothing on the charts that corresponded to the object, which, if you
see the photo in question, is clearly and unquestionably a star. The UFO
believers immediately shouted "government cover-up!" at this denial --
even though the denial itself was supportive of their interpretation.  It
all turns out to be due to some _very_ incomplete star chart being
referenced, but never mind that. The UFOzos had their mother ship and a
denial of its reality by someone in power. It doesn't get better than

The thing is, Charles Shramek and I went to high school together.  We
occasionally cooked up batches of helium, filled dry cleaner bags with it,
attached pie tins containing flares to the bottoms, then sent the bags off
into the night. Immediately thereafter, we would call the local airport
and report having sighted UFOs. Now and then, especially when other people
saw our little flare balloons and called in, too, we made the local
papers. Chuck is an inveterate prankster. He was also a ham radio
operator, and deviously technological. I was on hand on one occasion when
he ran his voice through a filter that made him sound like Zontar the Warp
Master while he communicated with some gullible ham radio operators
elsewhere. Chuck had convinced a whole flock of them that he was a space
alien from Venus. He told us one night that he had pulled a great prank on
a neighbour who numbered among the believers by dressing all in black and
wrapping his head in aluminum foil, then peering into the windows of the
neighbor's house until the poor UFOzo spotted him, and tried to give
chase. I believe Chuck had tied this into one of his ham radio
communiques, proving to the neighbour that the aliens had visited him. So

[49 lines left ... full text available at <url:http://www.reference.com/cgi-bin/pn/go?choice=message&table=04_1997&mid=1544237&hilit=UFO> ]

Article-ID: 04_1997&1596454
Score: 88
Subject: Area 51 4/9