At the time I sat down to write this, news and social media had been all abuzz about a Chinese spy balloon seen floating across the country. It was, eventually, shot down. I was surprised to see just how many people on social media had become national security experts overnight, as it seemed everyone had ideas about what should be done. I’ll admit that I don’t know anything about spy balloons, or why on earth such low-tech espionage would be necessary in today’s technological age- but the particular interest among the Disclosure set, and those on hashtag UFO Twitter, got me thinking about the symbolic nature of balloons and, more specifically, this symbolism in relation to the topic of UFOs.
I was unable to finish writing this post the first time, and now, a week later, as I sit to complete it more objects have been shot down from both the U.S. and Canada…
My good friend, the right honorable Most Reverend StarDoG pointed out on Facebook:
You have to chortle at so many of those who are forever telling people that “People are losing their shit over a weather balloon and there’s nothing strange here, please move on”, currently, totally losing their shit over an actual weather balloon..
-Steve Mills, author of the blog post You’re Just Like a Little Child Chasing a Balloon into the Sunset
The irony related to balloons runs deep in UFOlogy. “Weather balloon” is one of the classic hand-waving dismissals of UFO reports since the 1940s, alongside the planet Venus, misidentification of birds or known crafts, and Swamp Gas. Weather balloons and UFOs are inextricably linked, and as I intend to persuade you through my ramblings here, the symbol of all balloons hints at something existentially unsettling and as hard to capture through words as clouds are in one’s hand.
Back in 2020, a “leaked government photo” of a UFO, taken from inside a jet, was revealed to be remarkably similar in size and shape to that of a party balloon featuring DC Comics’ Dark Knight, Batman. At the time, I found this profoundly amusing, and perhaps an indicator of the Cosmic Trickster at play. I had often felt that the extreme camps of those who engage with the Phenomenon, as it were, were exemplified by the Disclosure Set/TTSA mob, and fans of the documentary series Hellier. This dichotomy is often expressed as the “nuts and bolts” camp vs those open to a panoply of interpretations, bordering on the mystical and visionary. In cryptozoology, it might be the “flesh and blood” camp vs those open to supernatural answers for why we see Bigfoot and other beasties. In the interest of disclosure, although it’s probably entirely obvious, I fall into the latter camp. The caveat is, I don’t think either extreme at the exclusion of all evidence to contradict it is healthy. While I think chasing capital “D” Disclosure is a fool’s errand, I also think there is a very real danger of missing the forest for the synchronici-trees.
A major part of Hellier, for those who haven’t seen it, involves a blue star balloon that served as a synchronicity during the course of the investigation more than once. The balloon in question has become as emblematic of the Hellier goblin-hunt as the goblins themselves. In this sense, it seems amazingly on-brand for Trickster phenomena that the other extreme, who likely would not respond well to the language of high strangeness, to be taken in by a blue Batman balloon.
In Tim Burton’s 1989 movie Batman, balloons appear in the form of a dastardly plot perpetrated by the Joker. As he is throwing money out the people of Gotham, the floats above him are loaded with toxic gas that he hopes to unleash on the unsuspecting public. Of course he is foiled by the Caped Crusader, who flies in in his Batwing, towing the balloons to a safe distance from the city. This heroic act is mirrored later in the 2012 movie The Dark Knight Rises, in which Batman has to (we’re led to believe) sacrifice himself in bringing a bomb out into the sea to save the city.
The clown imagery and invitation to collect money in the scene, along with the hidden horror of the plot to poison Gotham, within a balloon, get at this odd symbolic quality of the unassuming and seemingly friendly object. A balloon might not be what it seems; is it a message from the cosmos, a whimsical decoration, a UFO, or a parade float filled with poison? Already, we can see that pinning down a straightforward meaning here is as evasive as the string of a free-floating balloon that has just left your grasp…Another relevant sinister clown / balloon connection is worth mentioning here- a single red balloon has also been a symbol of the character Pennywise in Stephen King’s It.