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Monday, October 17, 2011

Mac Tonnies

Two years ago tomorrow (or today depending upon when you read this) on October 18, 2009 Mac Tonnies passed away leaving behind many, many unfinished mysteries yet to be solved. Unfortunately I never had the chance to engage him in conversation, so I can only speak personally about what affect he has had on my views of the paranormal and assorted Fortean topics right before and since his untimely death.

It was about three years ago or so that I first started listening to Tim Binnall's Binnall of America podcast. At the time, as I have recounted on this blog and elsewhere in the past, I was a pretty hardcore ETH kind of guy. So people like Greg Bishop and Nick Redfern really got under my skin. After all they were espousing such, as far as I was concerned, almost heretical ideas that maybe just maybe the occupants of UFOs weren't the little Grey guys that I knew them to be. But perhaps worst of all was this Mac Tonnies fellow that I heard originally on Binnall of America. The episode in question was from about two years prior to when I heard it, back when Tim would occasionally spread the interviews over the course of multiple episodes.

The first part of Mac's interview was acceptable for me, I didn't really take any great umbrage with it. The interview focused on his book After the Martian Apocalypse which discusses the idea that perhaps there are more to some of the anomalous features on our sister planet Mars than meets the eye. Or that have been given their fair share of serious attention by NASA scientists. But as I was going to learn, Mac deftly maneuvered the sometimes fine line between Hoagland-esgue “every rock must be artificial” kind of rationale and the fundamentalist skepticism that seems to seep out of NASA in regards to the likelihood of there being ancient alien artifacts anywhere in our solar system. In “classic” Mac Tonnies fashion, he simply said that there just may be something worth investigating on this planet it may not be what we think it is, whether we are skeptic or believer, so why not go and find out?

Again, I was OK with this. Hell I wasn't even sure who this Hoagland character was that he was referring to anyway. And besides, I had long been fascinated by the apparent “pyramids” that were on Mars. So as far as I was concerned this Mac guy was pretty OK. That is until he did the unthinkable. In part two of this interview, Mac dared to offer a challenge to the “hallowed” ETH. His alternative theory? Some entity that he called a “Cryptoterrestrial” that, if you can believe it, made it's home right here on Earth with us! The occupants of UFOs were supposed to be an indigenous species? No way! I was absolutely not amenable to this idea at all. And yet at the same time I couldn't stop listening to this blasphemer. He was so eloquent and spoke with such knowledge. You could tell that he knew a lot about the topic. That he wasn't just completely coming out of left field with this “working hypothesis” as he referred to it as.

It wasn't long after this podcast that this Mac Tonnies character seemed to be popping up everywhere I turned around. He was on paranormal show, after paranormal show. And without fail, his Cryptoterrestrial Theory would inevitably come up. Each time he offered the same, deceptively tempting caveat to his theory; it was testable. Not unlike how he treated the Martian Anomalies arena, the reason the Cryptoterrestrial Theory grabbed Mac's imagination was that, you could actually go out and look for them. It would be a relatively easy theory to disprove. After all, the ETH hadn't gotten us any closer to “solving” the UFO enigma. So wasn't it time to try something new?

I couldn't believe that people were still having this kooky character own, it wasn't bad enough that he was daring to suggest that somehow the ETH had failed us, but to go on and offer an alternative I just couldn't handle it. It was far too much. But then Mac came onto Greg Bishop's Radio Misterioso radio program in July 2009 in order to talk more in depth about his Cryptoterrestrial Theory. The program, which you can still find to listen here and I encourage you to do so, allowed for Mac to make the case for his Cryptoterrestrial Theory. Slowly as the hour and forty minutes started slipping by, I found myself intrigued and I really began to question the long-standing assumptions that I had about what could be behind the UFO mystery. At around the half hour mark, Greg asks Mac if he could read a sample of his Cryptoterrestrial Book (which at the time Mac had been working on for the last couple of years). The following represents all of what was great about Mac Tonnies. And with the excerpt the final nail in the ETH-only coffin was hammered, at least as far as I was concerned:

Every few nights I get out my laser pointer and indulge my cats in a frenetic game of "chase." Cats are natural hunters, and they're effectively incapable of not looking at the quickly moving red dot that I project onto the carpet, walls, or any piece of furniture that happens to be in its path.

To my cats, the red dot possesses its own vitality. It exists as a distinct entity. While they may see me holding the pointer, they can't (or won't) be distracted by such things once the button is pressed and the living room is suddenly alive with luminous vermin. So they chase it. And chase it. And, if they get close enough, even take swipes at it -- in which case I make the dot "flee" or disappear in what seems like a concession of defeat (which, of course, only further arouses the cats' predatory curiosity).
All the while I'm controlling the red dot, I'm taking pains to make it behave like something intelligible. Just waving the pointer around the room wouldn't be any fun. So I make it "climb," "jump" and scuttle when cornered -- even though the laser's impervious to obstructions.

This sense of physicality seems to be the element that makes chasing the laser so engaging -- both for the cats and for me.

I can't help but be reminded of our continuing search for assumed extraterrestrial vehicles. UFO sightings demonstrate many of the same aspects of a typical feline laser hunt: mysterious disappearances, "impossible" maneuvers and a predilection for trickery -- the apparent 
desire to be seen despite (or because of) a technology presumed to be far in advance of our own. More than one UFO researcher has noted that UFOs behave more like projections or holograms than nuts-and-bolts craft . . . an observation that begs the nature of the intelligence doing the projecting.

According to astrophysicist Jacques Vallee, UFOs are part of a psychosocial conditioning system by which perceived "rewards" are doled out to reconcile for the dearth of irrefutable physical evidence. The phenomenon -- whatever its ultimate nature – obstinately 
denies itself, thus enabling the very game it's intent on playing with us.

We see that sudden spark of red light; we pounce. 
This time we'll catch it for sure.

I think it was this passage, perhaps more than anything else, that struck the exact right chord for me. Only it wasn't an immediate change. The “ETH-only” part of me held on for a few more months. It seemed that Mac was only getting bigger and more (well deserved) attention from the more “mainstream” paranormal community. On September 28, 2009 Mac made his appearance on Coast 2 Coast AM. As far as paranormal shows go you can't get any better than this. For the entire four hours, Mac waxed poetic on his Cryptoterrestrial Theory and his Martian Anomalies work as well. It was without a doubt one of the better C2C's in recent memory.

Sadly less than one month after this, Mac Tonnies passed away in his sleep. Still left unfinished, among so many other things, was the manuscript for what would be his last work The Cryptoterrestrials. Luckily for the world at large, his writing was able to be saved by his mother and we now have the privilege to read the work of this Fortean legend. The book was published in March of 2010 and it was only a few months later when I was able to finally pick it up. With the help of this book, along with a short list of other books by authors like Jacques Vallee and John Keel, I came to change all of my preconceived notions about UFOs and the paranormal in general.

I may never have had the pleasure of talking with Mac, or meeting him, but more so than most people that I have known/met in my life, he has inspired so much of my thinking. Mac may have been taken far sooner than seems fair, but at least he has left behind a legacy of great, original thinking. 

Listed below are just some of the shows Mac appeared on. Also be sure to check out his site and blog. Finally if you haven't read his books, The Cryptoterrestrials and After the Martian Apocalypse (which you all but have to get the ebook version of), I can't recommend them highly enough.

Binnall of America part 1part 2


Anonymous said...

Mac Tonnies had some interesting stuff on his blog and his passing was unexpected and sad. This said his "cryptoterrestrial" stuff was more suited for the tabloids than any serious publication. For one, it's not new but simply a rework of John Keel's ultraterrestrial hypothesis. For another, his hypothesis would be far easier to prove than the ETH yet there exists absolutely no evidence for it. It was a waste of his potential, in my opinion.

Tony Morrill said...


Thanks for your response! However I respectfully disagree with you. First, Mac more than once stated both in his book and on the numerous podcasts that I outlined above, that this theory wasn't exactly new or original but that he was modifying it slightly for a new generation. As for Keel's "Ultraterrestrials" the way he envisioned them, at least as I understand it from reading Keel's works, is that they were mostly non-corporeal who could through some focus become corporeal for a time. Mac's "Cryptoterrestrials" on the other hand were, for the most part, far more down to earth. By their very nature Mac's "Cryptoterrestrials" were supposed to be physical entities, a sister species if you will to homo sapiens. As to the "testability" of his theory, Mac was the first to point out the hole's there. For instance in the Radio Misterioso podcast I mention, Mac specifically brings up how one could argue that the fossil record doesn't seem to reflect a sister species at all. But as he pointed out, the fossil record is admittedly not as complete as we would like for it to be. And finally I have to strongly disagree with you that Mac "wasted" his potential. Mac simply offered a 'thought experiment' as an alternative to the ETH, and really there is nothing better you can do in this world than thinking outside of the box. After all it's though experiments like Mac's that lead to new inventions, more often than not.

Anonymous said...

Tony Morrill,

Actually John Keel didn't discount the idea that ultraterrestrials may be physical beings that evolved here on earth along side us but he did seem to focus on beings that existed in frequency above our own.

Mac's "Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis" is a dead end. It doesn't further our understanding of the UFO phenomenon and there is no evidence for it. One would think that if Mac was correct that we would have found evidence for a prior advanced civilization, or at least their trash. I mean not even a scrap of plastic. I think it's very safe to dismiss his hypothesis.

Sadly, I was very shocked to learn while Mac was alive just how hostile he was to the ETH. His "cryptoterrestrial" work was a waste of his potential and he failed to produce a serious contender to the ETH.

Tony Morrill said...


If we are going by the lack of evidence, which I don't argue as of yet we haven't found any proof of a Sister species, on the same token the same exact thing can be readily said for the ETH. As it stands right now we have no evidence supporting this theory either. After all that's what these are is just theories or ideas.

We truly know nothing about the UFO phenomena and after over 60 yrs the ETH has gotten us no further in our understanding, so I think its ok to entertain new ideas. At the end of the day we are all just playing in a giant sandbox with our "pet" theories.

I for one don't necessarily "buy" the Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis anymore or less than I do the ETH. They are simply different thought experiments on an unusual phenomena the bottom of which we may never get to. I think John Keel said it best in Gray Barker's The Silver Bridge:

"But I've got to admit that the Air Force's position makes more sense to me every day. Maybe the government has always realized that the 'truth' can't be proven, and that few people would believe it anyway .... If UFOs were around in Zecariah's time, and in 1866, they'll probably be around in 2066, too - and be just as aloof of us as they've always been ..... Instead, people like Zechariah, Denton, and Derenberger will continue to undergo wild experiences which can't be proven and which few people will want to believe. And guys like you and I will spend our lives running around trying to find all the pieces to a puzzle which doesn't seem to have any definite shape or borders".

Nick Redfern said...


It's important to note that there is no actual evidence for any theory that has been offered in relation to what te origins of the UFO phenomenon might be.

Yes, we heard stories of alien debris (Roswell etc), but it's never conclusive.

The evidence we have is fragmentary - landing marks, radar traces etc. But nothing solid.

In other words, every attempt to provide a theory for what UFO are or are not has failed in terms of evidence.

You say Mac's theory is not a serious contender to the ETH. But, given that we have no trash or plastic from an alien spacecraft either, we might as well say exactly the same about the ETH as you do about the Cryptoterrestrial angle.

When both theories lack hard evidence, why is the ETH more viable? It isn't.

All we know for sure is that there is a real phenomenon, but it's incredibly elusive.

Also, everyone forgets the sub-title of Mac's book - "A Meditiation on Indigenous Humanoids and the Aliens Among Us."

That word, "Meditation" was there for a reason - to demonstrate to the reader that this was a thoughtful look at the theory, not a dogmatic insistence it was correct.

What Mac was basically trying to do was meditate on a theory to try and explain the undoubted flaws in the ETH.

For the record, he had much more data that would have gone into the book had he had more time.

Jeff Davis said...

I personally think Mac Tonnes was brilliant. I don't however believe anything he suggested was in fact new in the least. It's been mine and MANY other's belief (hypothesis) for the last 30 or so years. Just because you forward a lesser favored notion as to the origin and placement of those that pilot the UFOs, or other elusive creatures, doesn't mean you invented the idea or are some kind of an authority on said ideas. I am VERY sad that Mac checked out as quick as he did, because his real"work" hadn't even began, but for pete's sake, can we drop the FALSE notion that this was "his" theory or hypothesis when in all reality as much has been suggested for over 50 years now!

Tony Morrill said...


Mac was the first to readily admit that his ideas weren't new. Rather he stated many times that he was influenced in his thinking by Jacques Vallee and John Keel among others. What he did, was to bring it to the attention of a younger generation such as myself who had not had much exposure to the works of Vallee and Keel.

Tony Morrill said...

Also thank you Jeff for posting!


Thanks for your response. You're absolutely right, and it's funny that you posted your comment when you did. I was contemplating adding an addendum to my prior response that would have included Mac's full title for the Cryptoterrestrial book, but you obviously beat me to it! :)

Jeff Davis said...

Thank you Tony. I want to really apologize for butchering Mac's last name too. Mac Tonnies was an AMAZING and unique thinker that forwarded an incredible hypothesis that I have always felt is the most probable one.

David Biedny said...

I've been thinking about Mac all week, and just read "The Cryptoterrestrials" again, and as Nick pointed out, there is no hard evidence to prove that the source of the many UFO and non-human entity sightings that sometimes accompany them, are of extraterrestrial origin. All Mac tried to do in that book, and in the conversations I had with him - some broadcast, others on the phone - was to try and expand the conversation to consider the possibilities. He did it in a way which I found far more honest than Keel, and a little more flexible than Vallee, so in that regard, while he was building on the work of these fellows, I think he added his own considerable insight, intuition and intelligence to the conversation, and I for one sorely miss his presence on this planet. Mac was a gem of a human, and the likes of him doesn't come along very often. RIP, Mac.

Tony Morrill said...


Thank you for commenting! Your conversations with Mac on your old podcast are some of the few that I'm aware that he even did. I still go back and listen to them on occasion.

Your points are all extremely valid and so I can't really add much to them other than to thank you again for posting.

Paul Kimball said...

I think people need to stop claiming that Mac thought of the CTH as his own creation. He readily and repeatedly acknowledged that it was drawing inspiration from, and building upon, the work of others. He didn't even come up with the name "cryptoterrestrial"... which he also happily acknowledged.

Also, Mac was not hostile to the ETH - indeed, he stated many times that he thought it was a perfectly valid hypothesis, and he had a particular interest in the notion that we could be dealing with a form of space-faring AI, although he wrote about that less as the years went on. Mac was always clear - he was interested in all ideas, even as he was critical of aspects of each of them, including, I might add, the CTH, which he definitely viewed as more of a thought-experiment.

On the CTH... For a couple of thousand years, there was no sign of Troy - and then there was, when acheologists finally discovered it. So let's not just fall back on the lazy thinking behind, "hey, we can't find their trash, so it's simply not possible."


Red Pill Junkie said...

I think that for me, far more interesting than the Cryptoterrestrial hypothesis, was his speculations about the UFO phenomenon in terms of Transhumanism and Nanotechnology.

For example, when Jacques Vallee makes the case against the ETH, he uses the argument that UFOs (and their occupants) are very often seen materializing and de-materializing on the spot; to Vallee, this was clear indication that UFOs might be interdimensional objects.

But then comes Mac Tonnies and proposes: what if we think of UFOs in terms of nanotechnology? what if they are some sort of 'sentient swarm' of nanobots that can re-arrange itself at will? that would account for the cases when the UFOs are seen 'morphing' into different shapes, and *also* for the (apparent) de-materialization, which would be nothing but the swarm 'spreading out' so that to the naked eye it would seem as disappearance.

When I read that on his blog I thought "that's effing brilliant!"

Besides the two books already mentioned, I would like to invite all interested to grab a copy of Darklore vol. 2, where you will find an essay written by Mac in which he asks whether UFOs are vanguards of a post-biological intelligence.



PS: Man, those captchas! the one I got today was "mutat" :)

Digital Trickster said...

I agree that Mac was such a original thinker and he will be sadly missed.I have always believed that the CTH might be a valid idea of what these sightings and events might be and it may also be the ETH as well as other theories too.I love the fact that Mac was willing to question what is happening and for that I believe we have lost a truly great researcher and thinker in this field RIP Mac Tonnies

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