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Author Topic: The Search for Earhart, a cultural phenomenon - or enigma?  (Read 4431 times)


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The Search for Earhart, a cultural phenomenon - or enigma?
« on: November 26, 2014, 05:32:50 PM »

What have -

Ric Gillespie
Elgen Long
Fred Goerner
David Billings
Colin Cobb
Mike Campbell
Carol Linn Dow
Richard (Dick) Spink
...and I'm sure I'm leaving a few off (you fill in the blanks)

- got in common?

Passion and Earhart.

What IS this phenomenon that causes people to go after the story of this lost aviatrix Earhart with a conviction and energy that are suggestive of a race for a front seat for the second coming - for decades on end?

Just thought I'd ask. 

Gillespie I can read pretty well since I'm enjoying TIGHAR's site as I write this.  Admittedly, I've followed him a lot closer than the rest - and of course most would realize I'm a Gardner fan anyway (bias also admitted).  My take on Ric is that he absolutely knows that Earhart wound up on Nikumaroro (formerly Gardner for anyone who's not been here enough to know that) but it takes a life's work to get the rest of us to understand that.  :o I'm glad he seems to see it that way - ever tried to follow someone who had no sense of direction? :P  Despite more trials of spirit than I care to even think about, he never tires or waivers in his zeal to clinch this Niku reef landing hypothesis - no mountain is too high, rocky or slippery - just keep working one's way up the slope and proof will come.

Goerner's been around maybe the longest.  T'was his book that got my attention in the first place - in the seventh grade (about 1970...).  My take on Goerner is... well, that he absolutely knew what happened to Earhart.  He truly piqued my interest.

Ah, every one of these actually seems to be certain of what happened to Earhart.  Many often get around to telling us why the others are wrong, which is a whole chapter unto itself in this consideration of phenomenon or enigma.

It doesn't end there, to wit - the followings by all kinds of nice folks of the general public (and some not so much at times  ::)).  Those who tend to stick around for a while and chase the various arguments with positives and negatives on what they believe happened tend to exhibit a fair degree of conviction themselves, or at least enthusiasm. 

No decent person likes it when a popular figure just drops out of sight.  I guess it's human nature - we like to find 'closure' and give someone a proper burial.  But as beliefs take root, what becomes striking is the utter conviction many of those have for what they believe happened.  What is more striking is how utterly convinced some of those are about the wrongness of others in their beliefs.

Then there are the weenies - which I think I am among.  Enthusiast - can't get enough said sometimes (at least as we see it  ::)); at our best we try to contribute to the serious effort of researching the possibilities - it's a great sleuthing effort.  At our worst we get convinced of some belief that we cannot fail in some detail of this - just like the poor guy spending his last $20 on lotto tickets because he's got a sure-fire method (with 5 days to go to payday).  Doncha see it?  That latched-onto detail is just the very thing that will prove Earhart's fate once and for all... yah.

It is utterly flabbergasting when I back off a few feet and gaze at the whole thing.  What causes such a frenetic clamor?

Winds aloft.  Overcast.  Undercast.  Shadows on the sea.  Bad radio handling.  Lost antenna.  Big sky, bigger ocean.  Scattered islands.  24 hours of fuel - or was it really only 20 or so? 

Pick your take on what they had to do with where the flight ended up.

Japanese.  Marshalls.  Sai Pan.  Tokyo Rose.  Irene Bolam.

Take your pick on what you believe (Bolam rightly sued and won - she's not Earhart).

OK, I think there's something extra-interesting about 'suitcase' and 'closet', 'sounds like NYC', etc. and Betty Klenck-Brown, and some other points.  I also think there's something to the navy's initial interest in Gardner - and probably some good reasons why, if they were there, that the fliers were not in evidence at that place a week after the flyover... but my interest and belief in those possibilities are not the story here - the WHY of it is -

And my WHY is dwarfed by those who write books about their convicted efforts at trying to solve the mystery.  Moreso by the attending clamor - just what IS this thing -

Is Earhart driving it all somehow?  Poe got flowers on his birthday for a very long time.  Hoffa still gets a rise out of some.  There are others - but show me one that drives this kind of spirit for the chase.

Earhart was said to hold some interest for the clairvoyant - is she reaching from beyond to get us into this?  If she is, I wish she'd drop a few clues...  ;D  That raises the specter of more seers than I could begin to name - "she lies in a watery place" - no kidding!  Can you tell us where?  Never get an answer to that one...

But what is it that does this search - this yearning, this thing - something that seemingly will not fade but grows more intense as the years slip by - this phenomena?  Or is it truly more of an... enigma?
- Jeff Neville

Former Member 3074R

Mark Appel

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Re: The Search for Earhart, a cultural phenomenon - or enigma?
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2014, 01:02:12 AM »

This Earhart phenomenon. We see it in other unsolved mysteries. People are drawn to the vacuum of the unsolved. And some cases in particular contain the special mix of elements that generate an almost cult like fascination.

Earhart is one of them. Maybe the most prominent example. The only one I can think of that might approach it is Jack the Ripper.

I have not experienced another mystery for which people have such fervor and dedication to a particular theory or hypothesis and a very personal hostility toward alternatives. And here's the rub: The amount of emotion expressed is inversely proportional to the amount of evidence supporting a given theory.

That is, the theories for which there is no actual, objective evidence but instead rely on hearsay, supposition or conspiracy seem to have the most fervent and protective adherents. Note I'm not trying to rate or judge any particular scenario, I'm just making the observation about the possessive and protective relationship Ameliaphiles have for "their" solution--and their consequent eagerness, indeed priority, to discredit alternatives.

The unfortunate Irene Bolam is a great example of this. People really, passionately, fervently believed that Amelia Earhart survived her trip and WWII only to return to the United States incognito and assume another identity. And the adherents acted on that passion, feeling righteously empowered to hound this woman named Bolam--because they knew the Truth.

There was no real evidence for this fantastic scenario but that didn't dampen the driving passions of its advocates. Passions that drove them to the edge of legality and certainly propriety. I might go one step further, it may have driven them to the edge of sanity.

Like Jeff, it was the Goerner book that got me into it. At least after my dad planted the seeds. And my sixth grade self was impressed by the strength of Goerner's conviction, even if at the tender age of 11, I harbored suspicions that he was a nut.

After years of wading through the vast swamp of conspiracy and hearsay that seemed to define the Earhart mystery, it was a revelation to encounter TIGHAR. "Wow. These guys have a hypothesis that doesn't rely on whispered conversations, phantom Japanese, or the conspiracy to protect Roosevelt! They have, god forbid, evidence!"

It's not perfect evidence. Nor is it definitive evidence. But it was borne of hard work, patience, and self criticism. It was at least plausible and sure beat hell out of the "Earhart was Roosevelt's personal spy and Geisha" school of thought.

And no surprise that the Earhart, uh, community harbors a particular antipathy toward TIGHAR in general and Ric in particular.

It's that inversely proportional thing again...

"Credibility is Everything"

Monty Fowler

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Re: The Search for Earhart, a cultural phenomenon - or enigma?
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2014, 08:43:37 AM »

I think the main thing with Earhart was - she disappeared at the absolute top of her game. She was a worldwide phenomenon, certainly a national heroine, someone people could believe in during the incredibly rough times of the Great Depression.

And she vanished completely. Mysteries don't get much more compelling than that.

The incredible irony of the whole Earhart/Noonan mystery is that, by disappearing as they did, they actually assured themselves far, far more lasting fame and publicity than they ever would have if they'd completed the World Flight. That would have ended up as a footnote in the history books? "June-July 1937, famed American aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan completed around the world flight at the equator." And nothing more.

LTM, who is going to forgo serious disputes with turkeys today,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 ECSP
Ex-TIGHAR member No. 2189 E C R SP, 1998-2016

Jeff Lange

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Re: The Search for Earhart, a cultural phenomenon - or enigma?
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2014, 02:19:57 PM »

Well-seeing that all of the posts here so far are from other members of the Dayton trip, I'll have to jump in.

I can't remember what led me to join Tighar back in 1989, but I came across them somewhere (NOT on the internet mind you!) and their hypothesis seemed all to logical to me. Before that I was aware of who Amelia Earhart was mostly do to the fact that Ann Pellegreno came from my hometown and when she duplicated the around the world feat in 1967 we held a a parade in town for her. The city even erected a model of her plane atop our water tower for a few years.

I, too, have been in awe of Ric's determination and dedication to what he believes in. But, unlike many other people who put forth a theory, Ric will admit when there is an error, or modify what is proven to be in error, and move on. We have been at this too long and have way too much circumstantial evidence that the flight ended at Gardner to be wrong. We just keep plugging along waiting for that one final piece of evidence to prove what most of us fervently believe to be the truth of what happened to Amelia.

Heck, I figure after 25 years of following Tighar, I can't bail out now!

LTM, who is enjoying her Thanksgiving!
Jeff Lange

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