Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests include history, science, current events, technology, philosophy, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. Micah is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of The Debrief, a news site that covers future science, defense, and disruptive technology. A long-time proponent of the scientific study of unidentified aerial phenomena (more commonly known as UFOs), Micah is also a member of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU), and has written many essays, articles, and books about the history of this topic. Micah lives in the heart of Appalachia near Asheville, North Carolina.
Micah hosts The Micah Hanks Program, an extremely popular podcast available via all your favourite podcasting platforms. A weekly podcast that covers science and the mysteries of our universe, The Micah Hanks Program takes a critically-minded approach to the study of our world, and each week Micah presents commentary and discussions with guests on subjects that include mysteries of physics and astronomy, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), UFOs, myths and folklore, archaeology and ancient mysteries, artificial intelligence, futurism, cryptozoology, science fiction, and entertainment!
Sam: Greetings Micah Hanks!
Firstly a huge thank you for taking the time to sit down and share your thoughts with us regarding all things weird and wonderful!
Micah: You are most welcome!
Many will already know you from the podcast ‘The Gralien Report’ which is now of course re-named ‘The Micah Hanks Program’… But you also host and co-host several other podcasts, including ‘Middle Theory’ which covers news, politics, and current events with a non-partisan perspective. There’s also ‘The Seven Ages Audio Journal’ which focuses on areas of history, archaeology, science, and culture… and then we have your more recent ‘Sasquatch Tracks’ podcast, which is steadily growing in popularity and is an essential listen to any serious ‘bigfoot/sasquatch’ enthusiast!
You’ve written several books including, ‘Magic, Mysticism and the Molecule’ which presents an investigative analysis of ancient magical practices, mystical states, and out of body encounters through the use of various methods of reaching altered states of consciousness. Then there’s ‘The Ghost Rockets’ which examines the strange history of unidentified rockets and projectiles reported throughout the last several decades, as well as investigations into a number of conspiracies that have transpired since the end of the Second World War that involve such apparent technologies!
You’ve even written a book on podcasting itself, ‘The Maverick Guide to Podcasting’, (which I bought, read and was thoroughly inspired by!).
All of these books are of course available on Amazon!
With more than a decade in radio and podcasting experience, you’re no stranger to multitasking, as among many other things you’re also a musician!
…which brings me to our first question!
Sam: If you could get your hands on a time machine that had a ‘pause button’… and you could spend as much time as you liked on just one thing… Knowing everything else will be waiting when you click ‘un-pause’… what would that one thing be…?
Micah: I think the answer to that question has changed for me over the years, and invariably will change again in the years ahead! But safe it to say that, right now, if there were one topic I could pursue studies of (with the aid of a time machine), it would be the question of whether some unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) observed throughout time really does represent an unrecognized technology, and whether humans have encountered it since Classical Antiquity, and perhaps even earlier. There are some intriguing reports that a few modern scholars have mined from historical accounts from this period, but it’s difficult to tell if these are reports of truly uncanny things, or simply natural phenomena that had been little understood by those ancient observers, and which we today filter through the lens of our modern, technological worldview. So I would probably begin there, and make hops, skips, and jumps forward through time to land at other periods in history where strange things were observed in the skies: Nuremberg in 1561, San Fancisco in 1896-97, and plenty of other dates and periods. Then, of course, it would be intriguing to go back and observe the sightings that occurred during and immediately after the Second World War, which gave rise to our modern concept of what were first called “foo fighters,” “ghost rockets,” and “flying saucers” before the U.S. Air Force got into the game, and they were dubbed UFOs.
Sam: You began your radio and podcasting career well over a decade ago now… You’ve picked the brains and rubbed shoulders with some of the greats across the vast array of subjects throughout the ever expanding realm of the unexplained… Of all your interviews, whether in person or over the airwaves, who comes to mind as you’re most treasured conversation?
Micah: That, believe it or not, is a surprisingly difficult question. Safe it to say, I think it’s a tie; one contender involves a cherished conversation that I had with Peter Byrne, the Irish-born researcher who in addition to having led quite an extraordinary life apart from his search for creatures popularly known as “Sasquatch” or “Yeti”, is renowned for having led more well-funded scientific expeditions in search of the creatures than almost anyone to-date. Having read his books as a child, it was amazing to speak with Byrne in 2019, and to see that he’s now in his 90s and still going strong (and despite the challenges the modern world is throwing at us with the coronavirus pandemic). The other nominee that comes to mind here is a conversation that I equally enjoyed, which I featured on the show last year with my dear friend, Samuel Zinner, Ph.D. We covered everything from science fiction and the search for ET, to language and philosophy. Samuel is one of the most brilliant people I know, and his work has influenced me in profound ways over the years.
Sam: Aside from being a sharp dressing, well spoken, pause for thought provoker – (who by the way, to our readers, Micah could easily be mistaken for the British science fiction television icon ‘Doctor Who’!) – Micah, where do you draw your inspiration from in regards to your dress sense and do you in fact see yourself as a real life sort of ‘Time-Lord’ in that you’re a researcher of both past and future?
Micah: Well, it’s no secret that I love Britain’s cherished Doctor Who, and certainly enjoy its very unique fashion and style. Roughly defined, the Doctor’s fashion sense is usually a clash of elements between classic British fashion and rather avant-garde elements like exceptionally long scarves, and of course, the requisite arsenal of coats and jackets.
However, there’s more about the program that I find appealing than just its fashion sense. Doctor Who was intended originally as a children’s program which showcased historical periods by relying on the time travel motif, thereby juxtaposing the way of life during these periods alongside modern issues and scientific themes (all of which Doctor Who still does, by the way). Over the years, the show has grown well beyond that, incorporating themes that involve everything from aliens, robots, and monsters to very serious cultural commentary. In short, the show has consistently managed to provide stimulating food for thought, and I have often pondered some of the deeper mythic and psychological themes that the show conveys (particularly in terms of the Jungian concept of archetypes, and even the collective unconscious). All of that to say, perhaps what draws me to Doctor Who the most is the idea of a timeless soul in search of answers to questions that have haunted minds for as long as humans have been around. In many ways, I feel like my own research interests are the continuation of something much bigger, which, fundamentally, is really a lot of what being a human is about, isn’t it?
Sam: Your various podcasts and online journals are rich with studies covering all manner of unexplained phenomena, from Cryptozoology to UAPs (known previously as UFOs).
In regards to extraterrestrial visitations and in the same breath, the existence of bigfoot as a potential reality – With the world being more connected online as each year passes and seemingly with, shall we say ‘sensitive’ discoveries being revealed, or in some cases leaked to the public… Do you feel that the world’s governments, perhaps more specifically, the US government, are being more open these days due to being almost forced to admit things? Or are we being led on a wild goose chase of distraction from greater truths…?
It’s the age old question, that seems to repeat every decade, but are we finally in an age where we’re being told everything or will we forever be drip-fed the truth?
Micah: Since the arrival of our modern concept of UFOs in the late 1940s, there have been questions about what these phenomena might represent, whether the range of things that are seen and referred to collectively as UFOs (or now UAP, as many prefer calling them) represent a single phenomenon, and whether our governments are in possession of more information about them than the public has been made aware. Unfortunately, today there remains a pervasive amount of distrust and suspicion, and that is not only directed at government agencies; it extends to some of us in the research community as well. That is not entirely without precedent, and if we look back to the 1980s especially, there were obvious efforts that aimed—and succeeded —in leaking misinformation to various UFO researchers and groups, which have done little more than muddy the waters ever since. I’m referring primarily to things like the infamous MJ-12 documents, which appear to have cleverly woven in just enough valid information alongside fabricated nonsense to keep many researchers pondering over them for decades, and in my non-expert opinion, that’s what I would imagine that’s precisely what a successful demonstration of misinformation should do: blend verifiable facts with outright lies, so as to make it unclear what is true, and what isn’t.
As far as the current level of interest we are seeing put toward the UAP issue from the U.S. government, I don’t think it’s being driven by some nefarious intent. Quite the contrary, there have long been members of government who take the UAP/UFO topic serious, and that remains true today. Obviously, the Pentagon kept its involvement with UAP investigations largely out of public view for as long as it could, but once the New York Times went to print with the AATIP story in 2017, things quickly made their way to the surface from there.
However, something very worth pointing out here is that, rather than being based exclusively on government disclosures, I would argue that a good majority of the information about government UAP investigations that have come to light in recent years resulted from civilian journalists recognizing the newsworthiness of a story (like Leslie Kean and Ralph Blumenthal did in 2017), and convincing editors at a publication like The New York Times of this fact and taking it to print. From there, the research community began piecing together additional clues, filing FOIA requests, and looking for further details about what, precisely, was going on. An interesting result of all that public interest appears to have been that lawmakers in Washington recognized that this issue mattered to their constituents, resulting in the passage of a bill into law that established the Navy’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF). The institution of the UAP Task Force also resulted in the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) last June, which paved the way for the Pentagon’s new Airborne Object Identification Management and Synchronization Group (AOIMSG) and the forthcoming Anomaly Surveillance and Resolution Office (ASRO), the latter of which was passed into law with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022. So for my own part, I don’t view all of the recent “revelations” as being necessarily a process of intentional, coordinated government “disclosure”, but rather, it is the result of an interest-driven modern cultural movement. Perhaps the one thing that distinguishes our attempts at resolving questions about UAP right now from past attempts (like the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book, and the study the USAF funded that was carried out by the University of Colorado in the late 1960s) is that we possess a greater understanding of the cosmos today than we did decades ago, and are equally armed with more formidable technologies that could help us narrow down the possibilities as to what, precisely, this all means.
Sam: You’ve been witness to some strange experiences yourself throughout your career… Everything from strange lights in the sky to the strange man watching you out in the middle of a mountain hike! Do you feel that the deeper you dig into a subject, the more the universe becomes in tune with you and you start to see more of those layers in reality start to peel away…or shall we say ‘Keel away’…? To further this question, as a self professed open-minded sceptic, do you subscribe to the idea that ‘like attracts like’ and thus weird attracts stranger…?
Micah: I’m reminded of Nietzsche’s famous aphorism, “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” As far as things I’ve personally experienced, I have seen some unusual lights in the sky, but nothing I can unequivocally attribute to being something anomalous. I do think that, to some degree, people who pursue odd interests—things that fall under the umbrella of “Forteana”—occasionally find themselves in the company of odd happenings, although I have a fairly prosaic outlook on the phenomena underlying this. To help illustrate what I’m talking about, another quote that comes to mind involves Ian Fleming describing what would become the world’s most famous fictional spy, James Bond 007, to The New Yorker many years ago. Fleming called Bond “an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened.” That might be a good way to describe me too: I don’t see there being anything particularly unique or interesting about me, but my research interests happen to propel me toward looking for some of the most interesting things in all of creation, and occasionally, interesting things happen to me as a result!
Sam: Peering into that unexplained darkness as it peers back, have you ever been frightened by something you’ve looked into only to abandon it and walk away due to either worry or warning?
In that same breath… have you ever been threatened by someone for getting ‘too close’ to something ‘unexplained’? (Naturally you may not want to mention by who if the answer is yes… a simple ‘yes’ will of course leave myself and our readers drooling with eyebrows raised).
Micah: There have been some odd experiences at times. These include the occasional strange clicks and beeps on the phone line, or the time a fan wrote to tell me that a bonafide man dressed all in black appeared outside his workplace and told him to stop communicating with me about a UFO he had seen. Then there’s the story of the creep on the hike from many years ago that you referenced earlier, who had been obviously attempting to watch me and my girlfriend at the time from a distance, while under (what he thought) was the concealment of a small thicket. There’s also my penchant for crawling around in caves and caverns in mountainous areas, which appears to have garnered some interest from the Fortean crowd in recent years. If nothing else, these experiences make for good stories, although I’m not sure whether they necessarily relate to my interest in the unexplained, or if they result purely from the process of myth-building that accompanies such pursuits.
Sam: Shifting gears, so to speak…
Mankind took to the air around the beginning of the last century and we’re now twenty two years into this one. With politics, wars and money making industries aside, the advancements in technology are doubling and tripling by the day it seems… Don’t you feel we should be a LOT further along in our aviation and perhaps even space travels in this age and way past fossil fuels? Could there really be, as Richard Dolan calls it, a ‘Break-Away Society’ that the majority of us don’t know about and are we simply being left behind in the dark? …a sinister thought, but could it be?
Micah: Dolan’s idea of a “Breakaway Civilization” has always interested me, and there appears to be a lot of confusion about it. I’d like to point out that, as far as I know, Dolan actually was the first person, to my knowledge, who proposed this idea, but he also did so without making any claims that this was a “solution” to the UFO issue that he endorsed or believed. That said, he and I have discussed it on many occasions, and I find it to be an interesting concept. In likelihood, some version of this idea (even if it’s only a small part of what Dolan originally outlined) is probably true, and to me, is likely to represent a part of the broader UFO mystery.
Sam: You’re more than familiar with the romantic notions of dinosaurs living and breathing in the Congo today or even prehistoric reptiles in our modern oceans, our North American great lakes and European Lochs and Loughs… But in regards to the serious study within the fringe science of cryptozoology and the search for living legends – What are your thoughts on the remote areas of the world such as the great outback of Australia or perhaps the little explored regions of Russia and Asia… Could there be small population of evolved descendants of the dinosaur family, living quite happily in an as yet unexplored region of the world? Could there be a real ‘Kong-Skull-Island’ out there somewhere perhaps?
Micah: I would certainly be excited if there were such a place, and while I have little hope for the discovery of a mysterious island that time has forgotten (with consideration for all the satellites we now have in orbit, photographing every stretch of the earth on a daily basis), I certainly do think there are quite a few surprises that biology is waiting to toss at us. As indicated by my mention of Peter Byrne a bit earlier, I have long been fascinated with stories about humanlike creatures observed in parts of the world, which obviously include North America. A sincerely comprehensive look at the history behind that idea does appear to convey something that is more than just a legend.
With the idea of “living dinosaurs,” probably one of the most famous instances of that sort of thing, as you referenced, involves a creature called Mokele-Mbembe believed to exist around Lake Tele in the Congo. Here again, there are some intriguing stories, but I’m not certain they necessarily prove the existence of such a creature. On the other hand, I remain very interested in the historical reports involving large aquatic creatures observed at sea; famous examples include the sighting of such an animal from aboard the HMS Daedalus in 1848, and the sighting of a similar creature off the coast of Brazil in 1905 by Michael J. Nicoll and E. G. B. Meade-Waldo. Another striking incident occurred in 1986 off Stinson Beach, California, involving a multiple witness observation through binoculars of a “giant snake”, as one of the witnesses later described to me. Whether these animals were “dinosaurs” or anything akin to them remains unclear, but they certainly appear to represent multiple witness sightings of one or more varieties of aquatic animals that science does not yet recognize.
Sam: If you could sit down with anyone from history, alive or dead… and pick their brains about the unexplained… who would they be…?
Micah: John Keel is the first one who springs to mind, although I would equally love to be able to speak with J. Allen Hynek, or Charles Fort. William R. Corliss would also have to be on the list.
Sam: As briefly mentioned earlier in this interview, you’re also a musician. Are we going to have an unexplained themed album at some point and where can people hear your music? …and finally, what’s next for the ‘Time-Lord’ Micah Hanks!?
Micah: There has been a lot of talk over the years about a musical project that overlaps with these kinds of subjects. Who knows! As far as what’s next for me, there have also been rumblings about a potential film project, and I certainly hope to complete some book projects dealing with all the aforementioned within the next year or so. It’s all a matter of time, really… it always comes back around to time, doesn’t it? 😉
Sam: Micah Hanks, thank you so much again for taking the time to sit down and share your experiences and thoughts with us! I for one am very much looking forward to listening to your various shows for many, many years to come!