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"The 37th Parallel" intersects with RDR editor's own "line of weirdness" theory

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BOOK REVIEW: The 37th Parallel: The Secret Truth Behind America’s UFO Highway by Ben Mezrich (Simon & Schuster) 2016

Let me just say that I have been reading books about UFO’s (apologies to Hüsker Dü) for 35 years or so and am an avid fan of shows like The X-Files. Anyone who knows me, knows this is a bit of an obsession of mine and continues to be.

So, after hearing an interview with best-selling author Ben Mezrich on Coast to Coast AM recently, flogging his new book The 37th Parallel, basically about a Colorado-based “UFO nut” who drags his kids and his wife Tammy around the American West, looking for cattle mutilations behind every dusty trailer park, well, I was pretty damn interested.

And that title – The 37th Parallel – caught my attention because, well, I had come up with a theory in 2013, suggesting that 94 degrees west longitude, was a line of weirdness running right through the middle of the country, essentially running from the Gulf of Mexico and Sabine Pass north, along the Texas/Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri/Kansas borderlands, all the way up to the Dakotas and even into Canada. I should note that when I wrote that, I had never heard of Chuck Zukowski or his theory of the 37th parallel. I only discovered that just a few weeks ago.

I reached out to Mezrich through Twitter, hoping to land a promotional copy of his new book to review. I never heard back. Oh well. He’s on to his next project, whatever that might be. I just bought my own copy.

And while the story of microchip engineer and slightly obsessed Ufologist Chuck Zukowski, who makes up the bulk of the book is interesting, as he takes samples of mutilated cattle (even hauling around rotting carcasses in the family automobile) and visits Roswell, New Mexico, home of the famous 1947 flying saucer crash and goes to an alleged crash site, to have his equally-obsessive sister Debbie, with MUFON in Missouri, dig up a strange “artifact.”

It’s here that I should note that Mezrich is really all over the place in The 37th Parallel. I wanted to know his Fox Mulder-like protagonist better, but the jumping around from date-to-date, event-to-event, trip-to-trip, proved confusing and hard to follow, making it unsatisfying for me, the reader (and this is a book I finished in an evening).

And it’s really not until the end that – like Richard Dreyfuss’s UFO-bedeviled character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Chuck, filled with childlike wonder, looks at a map of the USA, covered in stickpins, stretching from coast-to-coast, along the 37th parallel of latitude, showed UFO sighting after UFO sighting, as if it was a, well, “UFO highway.” A "eureka!" moment, indeed!

But let me say this. What really kind of freaked me out is that Chuck and I seem to have something in common in that while he is looking east-west for a highway of high weirdness, I have been looking north-south, along the 94th degree of longitude, as I noted earlier.

But what really kind of freaked me out is that our theories intersect in the small town of Scammon, in southeastern Kansas, not far from Joplin, Missouri (near where the Spook Light is located) and north of the largely abandoned and contaminated town of Picher, Oklahoma. It’s coordinates on the map? 37.2776 degrees north and 94.8250 degrees west. Thirty-seven and ninety-four. Yes, it gave me chills.

It is in Scammon, Kansas where Debbie, and not Chuck, follows up on a strange UFO sighting report, only to have a clutch of Men in Black types – government agents? Goons with Robert Bigelow’s spooky “space studies” operation in Las Vegas? A completely secret group, maybe with links to the military? – follow and harass her on a six-hour ride home to the other side of Missouri.

Whatever went down in Scammon in April 2009, got the attention of some powerful people and they did not want Debbie and MUFON poking around this rural Kansas town, looking for evidence of a craft said to have been as “big as a house.”

The “Scammon Incident” is really the most compelling part of The 37th Parallel. The rest is an interesting, sloppy mess, truth be told. And it has a rather sudden and puzzling ending, with words blacked out. Regardless, a couple of more edits and some tightening of the chapters and information included would have made this an even better book. 

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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