Monday, February 08, 2016

Jay West and Lieutenant Colonel Duran

I have often wondered why it was that Karl Pflock went after me in his anti-Roswell book. I have often wondered why there are those who quote from it as if it had been written in stone but ignored the mistakes he made in it. I have wondered why the fourth note on the map included on the inside covers of the book said, “The ‘revisionist’ Randle – Schmitt/first Ragsdale/ ‘true’ Kaufmann crash site,” when it was, in fact, the first site that Ragsdale identified. Wouldn’t the new site, out by Boy Scout Mountain and championed by the late Max Littell, be the “revisionist” site since it came after our interview with Ragsdale and his identification of the site we mentioned?

But none of this is overly relevant to the purpose here, and that is to clarify another short group of quotes that is not exactly accurate. These concerned two witnesses Don Schmitt and I had named in our earlier books, which Pflock seemed to believe were misrepresented at best and confabulated at worst. Jay West and Lieutenant Colonel Albert Lovejoy Duran were the men named and Pflock said he couldn’t find them. He wrote:

Also included is Jay West, purportedly in 1961 a United Press International Stringer working in Alamogordo. According to Randle and Schmitt, West “became friendly with the base [presumably, Holloman Air Force Base, formerly Alamogordo Army Air Base] [brackets in original] public information officer. The PIO had found a file that mentioned the Roswell crash that included a map. The PIO got a topographical map of the crash site. According to West, they made trips out to try to locate the crash. West described the map as showing the debris field and then, two and a half miles to the east, a second site.
Curiously, other than the above, which appears in the timeline section of the UFO Crash at Roswell, and the entry in the list of interviewees (“conducted in person, Nov 1989”) [parens in original], West and his story appear nowhere else in the book, including the index [which for those of you keeping score at home neither Don nor I constructed], and he is given similarly short shift in Randle and Schmitt’s second book, The Truth about the UFO Crash at Roswell. Yet, clearly West could be the key to the Roswell mystery, the lever needed to pry the lid off the crashed-saucer cover-up.
Early on, Fred Whiting of the Fund for UFO Research and I sought to learn more about West from Randle and Schmitt. The answers we got were vague and rather evasive. Meanwhile with the help of a friend with extensive experience in New Mexico, and national journalism, I attempted to track down Jay West. We came up completely dry, rather like Glenn Dennis’s nurse.
A few years later, on August 3, 1999, I received an email message from Kevin Randle asking, “Did you talk to Frank Lovejoy Duran [previously mentioned alleged witness to alien bodies] [brackets in original]? This was a source that Schmitt developed and seemed to be quite impressed with.”
Replying in the negative, I took the opportunity to once again bring up Jay West. The next day, Randle replied, “Jay West was a guy Schmitt met in Florida (if I remember the story correctly [and in listening to the tape again, they were in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the time]) while he was down there interviewing either DuBose or Rickett. West provided him with the information but no documentation. We did search the files at White Sands and I took a FOIA request to Holloman….” Presumably with negative results, although Randle did not tell me that explicitly.
While all this is the truth, it is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Starting with Jay West, I will note that I have a tape of the interview that Don conducted. It sounded like they were at an indoor swimming pool for the interview because of the level of noise in the background and the noise sounded like that when I was on the swimming team in high school. There are points where it seems that you can hear the life guard’s whistle reinforcing the idea of an indoor pool.

West spends a great deal of time talking about his experiences at White Sands watching the missile launches and mentioned, specifically, the anti-missile missiles. After a strange gap in the tape, he finally got around to talking about their attempts to find the crash site. He had a map that was found at Holloman AFB and the base PIO was involved in the search. They traveled around New Mexico attempting to find the location.

West said, “So we went back to Roswell… and I’m not talking about the road maps, I’m talking about the topography maps and what they had were little ‘Xs’ all over the place and what [appeared] to be crossed lines… [What we saw during our searches] they could have been gouges… they could have been tire tracks… We walked around for a couple of hours and tried not to step on any snakes…”

He then launched into an explanation of what the map was. A huge topographical map which sounded to me as if he was talking about the kind of map we used in Army Aviation. Not really an aeronautical chart, but something that contained the surface features such as rivers, ravines, mountains, hills, elevations and that sort of thing. He finally said that it was like a military land navigation map.

He then said, “Over here there was a circular object… [here meaning an area on the ground].”

Don said, “There are a lot of sinkholes in the area.”

West replied that it wasn’t a sinkhole or anything like that. He seemed to be suggesting that it was some sort of circular area on the ground but the quality of the tape is so bad that I’m not sure. He could have been talking about some kind of a burned area, or a place where the sand had fused into glass. None of that is particularly significant because this could have been the result of a lightning strike at some point and there was nothing said that would tie it directly into Roswell except for the file in which the PIO said the map was found.

West said, “Now I don’t have… aside from the fact that was circular and the scale wasn’t all that big…

Don asked, “Where would this area have been in relation to…

West interrupted to say that he didn’t know. That he’d have to see a map but that the map they had been using was a photocopy of a larger map. He said that north was not to the top.

He began to describe the area. It looked as if someone had used a bulldozer and that “it looked like the whole area had been vacuumed.”

But the problem was, of course, even though he said the map had come from a file that had been labeled “Roswell,” and he had been out there seeing terrain that varied from that which had not been manipulated, when all was said and done, he had been out there in 1961, at least according to what he said, and he was now talking about this in 1989 or nearly thirty years later. While this had the potential to provide some corroboration for the Roswell crash, and he had said he still had the map, which would, of course provide some documentation, he never produced the map. This was a lead that went nowhere.

We tried to follow up and I spoke to people at the White Sands Missile Range, but they said they knew nothing about this. I hand carried a FOIA request to Holloman AFB and to the PIO office, but again, this was now more than thirty years after the fact, and the request produced no results. I had thought, and still think, that it should be possible to learn who was assigned to the PIO office in 1961 (though my recent attempts to follow up have gone nowhere and there had been no answers to my questions) … though such records might have been moved more than once and determined to be of no importance today. We never did not learn who the PIO was that had talked to West.

So, when Pflock noted that the information about West only appeared in the timeline of our first book, part of the reason was that we had found nothing to corroborate the story. That didn’t mean it was untrue, it simply meant that we were somewhat dubious about it. Had the tape been easier to understand, had we been able to learn the name of the PIO, had we found anything to establish that this was a more important part of the Roswell case, we would have given it a more prominent place in the book. As it was, here was a story that had been told to us, one of which we had no reason to reject, but then, little reason to feature because it provided nothing more than a map we hadn’t seen, file that no longer existed and a description of a site that we couldn’t find.

There were reasons for the somewhat vague answers to Pflock’s questions. I had given him everything that I knew and while we couldn’t prove the information useful, I did have a tape which proved we hadn’t invented it, though that seems to be something implied, vaguely, in Pflock’s book.

There was something else operating here and it was that I had read Roswell in Perspective, that is, Pflock’s report on Roswell to the Fund for UFO Research, some years earlier and realized that I was often the target. To complicate matters, when he had completed that project, I had sent him a carefully worded note congratulating on the completion of a long task but he immediately began telling people that I had agreed with his conclusions. There was nothing in the note to support that claim and I issued a statement explaining that my intent was to note a colleague’s completion of a task but had said nothing about endorsing his conclusions.

Here’s something else that seemed to have been ignored. Pflock never identified this “a friend with extensive experience in New Mexico, and national journalism.” While I suspect that might have been Jason Kellahin who had been one of the reporters sent from Albuquerque to Roswell in 1947, I don’t know this. We don’t have the person’s identity which means we don’t even know if it was a man or a woman, and there is no way to confirm the person’s expertise or to confirm Pflock’s conclusion on this. In other words, this unknown person with unknown credentials adds nothing to our knowledge at all but is used to suggest something nefarious on the parts of Schmitt and me. West might not have been who he claimed to be, but the information provided by Pflock does not allow us to evaluate West’s claim and does nothing to discredit it.

We then move onto Lieutenant Colonel Albert Lovejoy Duran. Pflock didn’t do much with this, other than a vague suggestion attributed to me that Schmitt had found the witness and was impressed with him.

I’m not sure why Pflock would ignore Duran almost completely if he was convinced we had done something that was unfair. We had relegated Duran to a single footnote in the first book and never mentioned him again. This, by itself, would suggest that he was not a source that we had done much with given the facts. Pflock provided no new information about Duran and apparently was unable to find any record of the man, though Pflock did mention the Army Records Center in St. Louis in his attempts, or others attempts, to find the nurses from the base in 1947. Apparently Pflock’s attempt to verify Duran’s military service failed, which is not to say that Duran had not served in the military only that Pflock had failed to confirm it.

The information came to us after a lecture in Alamogordo. A friend told us that her friend, Juanita Valenzuela, whose father had been in the military and who was currently living in Utah, said that he had been assigned to a unit at White Sands Proving Ground (which became the White Sands Missile Range) that had been sent into the desert north of Roswell. She suggested that bodies had been found at that location. Because of this information, which seemed to corroborate part of the Frank Kaufmann story, we had put it in a footnote, naming the name. We had confirmed his military service. I will note here that since Valenzuela didn’t know about Kaufmann, this was independent information which should not be judged by the failure of the Kaufmann testimony.

And, here's why we didn’t do much else with this. We were able to confirm his military service and retirement at the rank provided. Duran was apparently an alcoholic, who eventually moved to Colorado. A friend, Sergeant Arne Oldman, who was assigned to White Sands at the time (meaning early 1990s) attempted to interview Duran, but Duran’s cirrhosis of the liver made that problematic and Duran died before Oldman could meet with him in person though he did talk to him over the telephone conducting a somewhat preliminary interview. After he died, Don did talk to the daughter one more time and she stood by the tale she told. Because all this, and our failure to get Duran on tape, we let go of the story.

However, since someone brought this up on this blog, assuming, I believe because of Pflock’s failure to identify Duran (and his failure to locate West for the matter) that we had fudged the information. No one seemed to think that Pflock might have stopped his search when he had gotten the answers he wanted, spun that information the way he wanted, and made it sound as if we had invented these guys or their stories.

But there was a problem for Pflock and that was he didn’t know anything about Duran, and if he attempted to run the name by the Army in St. Louis, and he didn’t supply something other than the name, he might not have found the guy. On the other hand, I used a government publication, one printed every year, looking for any mention of Duran and found his name in it, confirming that he had retired as a lieutenant colonel. This does not mean the story he shared with his daughter, especially when he had been drinking, was true, only that the man existed and that he had retired as a lieutenant colonel.

This then, should answer all the questions about Jay West and Lieutenant Colonel Albert Duran. They are real people, West was interviewed on tape, and evidence proving Duran was a military officer has been found. They fell out of “favor” when there was no corroboration for what West said and when repeated attempts to interview Duran in person failed. Moving to higher standards of evidence was another of the reasons that they weren’t mentioned. But the claims of Pflock were not proven and while his dismissal of them was understandable, some of the reasons given were as nebulous as the stories told by these two men.

As I have said so often, these two tales, because they are now part of the Roswell case should be relegated to footnotes (which is basically where you can find them). Since they are part of the Roswell story, they must be addressed, but they added nothing significant to the case.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Curse of Oak Island -Season 3 Final or "Why I decided to come back next year when I haven't found anything yet."

Well, we’ve had the season finale and we now know more than we did which is not to say that the episode wasn’t disappointing or that we learned much. (Spoilers Ahead) We got the final report from the diver who made what I think was an incredible journey down the Bore Hole 10 X to stand on semi-solid ground. He wandered around down there, telling us that the ground was “silty” and that it was uneven. He said that he saw no marks on the walls to suggest it was man made and said that the roof was uneven as well as the floor. It was his impression that it was a natural void they had tapped into when they drilled 10 X and that he found nothing down there to suggest human activity other than that which had happened after they bored the hole.

The pillar or post that had been seen on the sonar was apparently some of the debris left by modern men in their attempts to discover what was hidden down there. Or, in other words, it seemed to be a length of pipe that fell down and stuck in the mud. The body was an impression in the floor of the void and the box was a large rock that had one side with a nearly perfect right angle on it. None of the things that they believed were down there, and kept them coming back, turned out to be what they thought they were. Wishful thinking and an interpretation formed by their preconceived notions caused them to see things that weren’t there. To be fair, the video that had been made, what, forty or so years before, wasn’t very good anyway. No matter how often they aired it with their overlays to show us the various artifacts and body it didn’t change the outcome. Those things were not there.

Next the Lagina boys were visited by three McGinnis sisters who were direct descendants of one of the boys who originally found the “money pit” (I put that in quotes because I don’t think there is any money down there but all these treasure hunters have thrown a great deal of money into the pit). They certainly had a story to tell. First they mentioned a family legend that neither they nor anyone else in the family had ever revealed. According to them, the three boys found three chests with treasure in them. Each of the boys got one of the chests. Think of all the time, money and lives that could have been saved.

Here’s why I’m dubious of that story. In 1803, those boys, along with others, formed the Onslow Company and invested more time and money into digging deeper in the pit. If the boys had already removed three chests, they might have gotten it all and there would be no reason to look any deeper. Oh, I know what you’re thinking. If they found the chests buried each one deeper than the last, they might believe there was a fourth or a fifth, but to this point there is no evidence of that…

Which makes me think that tablet found at the 90 foot level was a hoax created by one of the land owners to increase the value of his land or by an investor to keep people interested in providing more money and coming back to the island. That tablet no longer exists though there are pictures of it but no photographs.

Second, the sisters had a small wooden box they kept in what looked like a velvet bag. Inside the box was a small golden cross that was said to be part of the treasure found by McGinnis so long ago. The Lagina boys thought that this was the first tangible evidence that there was treasure hidden in the “money pit” but all it really proved was that someone in the family had this cross that had been handed down through a couple of generations. There was nothing to attach it to the “money pit” other than family legend which could have been nothing more than family legend… or in other words, we don’t really know that it was found in a box of treasure removed from Oak Island. The Lagina boys didn’t seem to consider this. They accepted the story at face value but given their reactions to other important discoveries that isn’t much of a surprise.

After the sisters left the war room, the Lagina boys and their pals returned to the hole they had bored a couple of weeks earlier and by that I mean it was a couple of weeks for the show but might have been more time for them. Anyway, they brought out a guy with a small, HD video camera that he used to inspect pipes for damage. They lowered the camera into the hole and into the void their drilling had found. In the end, they saw some glints in the murky water that seemed to have a golden glow to it. This, they thought, was evidence of treasure down there, in the original “money pit” that had been buried too deep for the boys with only shovels to get in 1795 or too deep for the others who had been digging there because of the water that suddenly flooded the pit at about the 90 foot level.

And let’s not forget that when they drilled this hole they pulled up a bit of metal that excited them but looked more like a tiny piece of shrapnel than anything else. It didn’t seem to be made of a precious metal. Just a tiny bit of debris that could have easily been the result of other attempts to find treasure.

In the end of the show and the end of the season, they were sitting in the war room, trying to decide if it was worth the effort and money to attack the main money pit. They talked about throwing in the towel, but why do that when History was ready to fund another season. Although they tried to draw out the suspense but to no one’s surprise, they all voted to return next season… I mean next year to dig up the money pit. It is a fun summer vacation and you have the bonus of being on TV. What I don’t understand is why they wasted all this time and effort to explore Bore Hole 10 X when the treasure was allegedly in the “money pit.” Well, it did make for some dynamic television if nothing else.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chiles and Whitted Revisited

Although I was working on another project, this Chiles-Whitted thing is beginning to get out of hand, so I thought I’d just run through it again based on the Project Blue Book files, various newspaper reports from the time, and what has been said
Chiles' Drawing
about the case in the years since by a number of UFO writers. There has been some evolution in the sighting details over the years but I’m not completely sure the blame can be laid at the feet of Chiles or Whitted. Their statements, for the most part, have remained consistent.

According to the documentation, gathered in the hours after the sighting, Captain Clarence S. Chiles and John B. Whitted were flying an Eastern Airlines DC-3 at
Whitted's Drawing
about 5,000 feet, heading toward Atlanta. The night was clear and the moon was bright. They were twenty miles from Montgomery, Alabama, when Chiles saw a bright object in front of them. He tapped Whitted on the shoulder and told him that “Here comes a new Army jet job.” (It would seem that the glow of the jet engine would be what Chiles thought he saw and that would mean the aircraft was flying away from him but I digress.)

It appeared to them to be slightly above them and coming directly at them. It flashed by them on the right. Both Chiles and Whitted said that it was cylindrical in shape and that there was a double row of windows along the side. They thought it was about double the size of a B-29 fuselage in circumference and there was a long flame from the rear. As it passed them, one of the passengers, Clarence L. McKelvic, said that he saw a steak of light but no object. It seemed to climb into the clouds and disappear. The object was in sight for something like five or ten seconds.

Chiles called the company on the radio and asked if there was any other traffic in the area, meaning were there any aircraft near him. After they landed in Atlanta at 0349, they learned that the encounter had already been reported to the media. They were taken to radio station WCON and later were interviewed by William Key for the Atlanta newspaper. This provides a record of their descriptions within hours of the sighting.

The Air Force was impressed with the sighting. It might have been because both Chiles and Whitted had been military pilots during World War II. Chiles had been a lieutenant colonel and Whitted had been a first lieutenant. The report in the Project Blue Book files suggest that both were qualified observers, meaning that they were familiar with aircraft and had seen most of the natural phenomena that would be observed in the night sky.

At first the Air Force suggested a weather balloon but then switched to meteor. Chiles and Whitted both rejected the idea, explaining the object was much closer and much slower than a meteor. They also mentioned that they had to maneuver to avoid a collision. Although that information does not appear in the first official accounts, it was reported by Key in his first article. Chiles said, “We veered off to the left and the object veered off to the left.”

He also said, “There was no prop wash or rough air felt as it passed.”

In 1960, in a description of the sighting in a letter to ATIC dated February 17, an unidentified civilian wrote, “The UFO was now almost on top of them. Chiles rocked the DC-3 into a tight left turn. Just as the UFO flashed by about 700 feet to the right, the DC-3 hit turbulent air.”

In 1968, James McDonald interviewed Chiles. One of the points to come out of that was the idea that the object came out of a squall line. The weather that night was described as broken clouds in 4/10s of the sky. We are told that there was a bright moon and there is no mention of a squall line anywhere.

There was another sighting that took place about fifteen minutes earlier near Blackstone, VA. Captain Perry R. Mansfield and co-pilot Louis Feldvary on another flight saw only a streak of light that seemed to be heading west. It was in sight for only three seconds. The Air Force concluded, in 1948, after their investigation that this object was most probably a meteor, given the lack of detail and the brief length of time the object was in sight.

Donald Menzel, the Harvard astronomer and rabid debunker, reported that on the night of July 24, an amateur astronomer in Alabama counted fifteen meteors in a one-hour period. That was part of an annual meteor shower so the rate of meteors hitting the atmosphere was higher than non-shower times.

In the Blue Book files there is a note suggesting that this might be a meteor, though if it had maneuvered to avoid the aircraft, then it was not a meteor and it was under intelligent control. There was a suggestion that a passing of a meteor might produce a perceptual artifact such as the double row of windows, but that it was something to be left to the psychologists.

It turned out, based on other evidence, that such is the case. March 3, 1968, provided a textbook example. The Zond IV spacecraft reentered the atmosphere and broke up in a spectacular flaming display. Most people recognized it for what it was, but a few thought they had seen a cigar-shaped craft with windows along the side.
Zond IV Drawings

Taking this a step further are the videos that appear on YouTube. There are dozens that show meteors as they break up, often looking like a glowing cockpit with a stream of fragments behind it looking just like the lighted windows along a fuselage.

There are those who say that Chiles and Whitted could not have seen a meteor because it was traveling too slowly and it was much too low. They said that it disappeared into the clouds and though McDonald reported they had seen it come out of a squall line, that doesn’t seem to be accurate based on the weather data available.

An object seen against the night sky, through a broken cloud cover, can be quite deceptive. It can appear closer than it is, traveling at a slower speed then it was. Chiles thought the object passed within 700 feet of his aircraft but Whitted thought it was about 2500 feet away.

Their drawings of the object, other than the general shape, don’t match very well, given that they had about an hour to discuss this before the aircraft landed. Whitted said that he saw a double row of six windows and his illustration shows that arrangement. Chiles drawing has a different front end and no real windows like that of Whitted. Of course some of this is nitpicking, but then, the differences do suggest they weren’t actually seeing the thing the same way.

There is one other aspect that needs to be discussed and that is Walter Massey who was a ground maintenance crewman at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. I mention this so that there will be no accusations of hiding information. I’m not sure it is relevant given the timing and the distance but the Air Force as well as other civilian investigators have suggested a connection.

At about 0140 or 0145, or about an hour before Chiles and Whitted had their sighting, Massey said that he had seen a stream of fire that he said, “…was a fairly clear outline and appeared to be cylindrical-shaped object, with a long stream of fire coming out of the tail end… I noticed a faint glow on the belly of the wingless object.” He said that he was sure it wasn’t a meteor.

Massey said that the trajectory of the object was more or less straight and level. He said that it was about the size of a B-29 and that the fuselage might have had a slightly larger circumference. It was too large for a jet.

But this was an hour before Chiles and Whitted and might not be related. By separating the sightings, the explanation becomes simpler. Two separate events. Linked, then you must ask what sort of meteor stays airborne for an hour.

Given all the information, given the description of the object and given the misidentification by some of the Zond IV reentry, I believe that a meteor, or rather a fireball (bolide), is the most likely answer. Or, as some others have pointed out, there is nothing to disqualify that as an answer. All the information suggests meteor (which I say at the risk of sounding like Philip Klass who invoked the
Meteors in Flight
meteor explanation frequently).

And yes, as far as I know, Chiles and Whitted never deviated from their original story and their original descriptions. They rejected the meteor theory from the moment they heard it. They were convinced they had seen some sort of craft that was not part of any countries aviation inventory and was therefore extraterrestrial in origin. For me, the answer seems to be a bolide, but then, you can argue that the experienced aviators wouldn’t have been easily fooled. You just have to pick the side where the evidence seems to be the strongest.

Curse of Oak Island - Finally Some Success

I have been complaining about the Curse of Oak Island for a long time now because it doesn’t seem they are making any progress. They keep getting diverted on other tasks that might interest some but they do little to prove there is anything extraordinary about Oak Island. There are those who suggest that what has been found has a natural explanation (though I don’t know how you explain the coconut fiber laid under the sand or the network of tunnels that fill with water which are considered a booby trap). I think that the treasure, if it was ever there, was retrieved a long time ago, before the boys began digging in 1795.

This week we were treated to a Skype conversation and to another diver who could get to the bottom of 10 X. This guy seemed to be confident that he could do it, and said that he would give it a try. But, before we got to that, there was another tour of the island and the like.

To keep this short, I’ll cut to the last few minutes. The diver talked about his plan, we saw an array of equipment and the safety measures. He was lowered into 10 X, and we can hear the progress as he goes deeper. We can’t see much because the water is cloudy but then, he’s in a tube that isn’t very wide so there really isn’t much to see anyway. He got down to the drill bar that was blocking the hole… and that is quite impressive because they keep mentioning that this part of 10 X is only two feet in diameter. I just don’t understand how an adult to get into that hole, not to mention diving in it upside down.

He got hung up by that drill bar but was able to get around it and entered the chamber, the dome, the void that was just beyond it. We learn that he has made it to the bottom. He is now over 200 feet below ground and standing in this chamber that has been sort of the focus for this whole season. After so many attempts, a diver has reached the bottom.

And that’s where it ends, and frankly, I don’t blame them. What a great “cliffhanger” to suck us to the season finale (I think) next week. But then we get a clue for what is to come in the previews for that show. The diver has found a box and it’s heavy. They also seemed to have put a camera down another hole they had drilled in what they think is the original money pit earlier in the episode and claim to see something metallic down there as well.

I’ve been fooled by clever editing of previews on other shows so that when you finally see the whole scene it isn’t what we had been led to believe. (I think of the Snake Island nonsense where they showed the lid of a chest buried in the ground that could contain great wealth only to learn, once they dig it out, that it is only the lid.) This is probably more of the same, but we do have the diver standing on the solid ground at the bottom of 10 X and we do have hints that they found something else as well. Given that, and given I have followed this thing since the beginning, I’ll tune in. Oh, I expect to be disappointed, but the potential is finally there for a big payoff because the diver is standing on solid ground at the bottom of 10 X.

Monday, January 25, 2016

My Interest in Oak Island is Flagging

I was asked over the weekend how the two guys, the Lagina brothers, could afford this on-going semi-investigation into the Oak Island Treasure. I think part of the answer is History (they used to be the History Channel). I think History is footing quite a bit of the bill, paying the guys for hanging around Oak Island, renting the equipment, and bringing in the distractions to keep the Laginas from getting to the bottom of either the Money Pit or the Bore Hole.

Let me explain.

Over the years I have heard about the astronomical payments made to some of the people participating on these alleged reality shows. The people on Jersey Shore seemed to have become millionaires because of their association with that show. I’ve heard that those on Storage Wars made something like thirty to sixty thousand an episode for that program. Dakota Fred from Gold Rush complained that he wasn’t paid the same rate as Todd Hoffman and some of his crew and that Discovery forked out something like twelve million to fund the bungle in the jungle. Hoffman and crew managed to rake in something like two ounces of gold and a couple of thousand in tiny diamonds during that fiasco.

I could go on in that vein, but all you have to do is take a stroll around the Internet and find some of this information. Given how some of this came out… through court documents, arrests, and lawsuits, if the numbers aren’t accurate then they’re pretty close. The people on these shows are getting paid big bucks to appear on them, and the guys on Gold Rush not only get paid for being there, there is the added bonus of all that gold they mine (and for those who think they’re wrecking the environment, well they showed just what they do to reclaim the land… which, on the show looked very impressive).

As for the diversions on The Curse of Oak Island, that is to keep the show going because if it wasn’t for all that running around the world, the show might have ended in the first season. Clearly History is responsible for the diversions which is not to say that they are planting things to be found such as the Spanish coin that was centuries old but that you could buy  on eBay for a few bucks… and they weren’t responsible for the sword that was apparently found in the water off Oak Island whatever that meant. Still, screwing around with the sword that was, what, maybe a hundred years old, took up a great deal of time as did flying to Miami to have the coin evaluated. Too bad there were no coin dealers in Canada or the Northeast who could have told them about it.

We’re again treated to a suggestion that another diving team was going to attempt to get down through the Bore Hole. It just seems to me that this avenue could have been explored long ago and it makes you wonder if they know that there is nothing down there. If there isn’t, then interest falls way off… but if there is, then some of these other activities make sense.

I don’t know about you, but they’re drawn this out to the point where I just don’t care anymore. Oh, sure, if they could up with a huge treasure that would rekindle my interest, but at this point it is flagging rapidly. There had better be some kind of a payoff soon, or I’ll be one of the many tuning out.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Chiles/Whitted and Skepticism

Since some people have gone nuts over the article about pseudoskepticism, I thought I might demonstrate what I think along those lines. There is a claim that Clarence S. Chiles and John B. Whitted, two airline pilots saw a cigar-shaped craft that flashed by their aircraft buffeting it with the turbulence of its passage. A passenger on the aircraft didn’t actually see the object, but did see the light from it. The other passengers were on the wrong side of the aircraft or they were asleep given the late hour.

Chiles/Whitted illustrations. Photo courtesy of USAF.
Proponents of the alien visitation explanation suggest that you have two reliable observers who both saw virtually the same thing at the same time and within hours of the event provided military investigators and radio reporters with their eyewitness testimony. They believe this is a solid case and point to the evidence of alien visitation.

Skeptics say that they were fooled by a bolide, a very bright meteor, and although both had seen many meteors during their nighttime flights, this was something different. It was bigger and brighter and was only visible for a few seconds. The case is solved by this explanation.

Proponents ask, “How do you explain that both pilots saw a cigar-shaped craft with a double row of square windows?”

I say, “That question is fair enough. How do we explain it?’

And the answer was given to us on March 3,1968 when the Zond IV, a spacecraft that had been made on Earth reentered the atmosphere. While the majority of those seeing the craft as it broke up in a shower of glowing pieces, there were some who thought they saw a cigar-shaped craft with square windows. Clearly this description was in error and it calls the Chiles-Whitted case into question. It shows that witnesses, provided with a glimpse of a glowing object at night can image they have seen something that was not there. They were fooled by an optical illusion and the way the brain functions.

Zond IV reentry illustrations.
In fact, in today’s world, with the Internet hosting all sorts of video clips we can take this a step further. Meteor falls have been recorded many times and in them we can often see an object breaking up with glowing pieces stringing out behind it. The illusion, for those who happen to glimpse something like that is a glowing cockpit and a row of windows along the fuselage of the craft. Meteors can fool us when seen briefly and in those conditions.

Yes, you say, but what about the turbulence felt as the craft passed Chiles and Whitted. Surely a meteor wouldn’t create that turbulence.

And skeptics say, look at the statements they made right after the event. Written statements signed by both men within hours of the sighting. They don’t mention the turbulence at all. That fact was introduced later.

What about the passenger? He only glimpsed a bright light flash by which serves to prove something was in the sky, but he didn’t see a cigar shape or rows of windows. His role in this sighting does nothing to validate the object or the windows. He didn’t see them.

What do we see here? Proponents offered a case that seemed to suggest alien visitation. Two airline pilots reported a cigar-shaped craft with square windows. Clearly this was not something manufactured on Earth. Skeptics said, “No, it was a meteor.”

Who is right?

Well, the skeptics seem to have the weight of the evidence on their side. They acknowledge that Chiles and Whitted saw something extraterrestrial, but it was not an alien spacecraft. They believed that they saw square windows, but we now know that can be an artifact created in the mind when something is glimpsed that is unusual. We can say, based on evidence from other reported events, that this illusion of a cigar-shaped craft with square windows is a perception problem and not a glimpse of reality.

The added fact, which might have disconfirmed the explanation, that is the buffeting of the aircraft, is not something that was reported by either pilot at the time. This “fact” was added sometime later.

It seems to me, that proponents offered what they thought of as a solid case, but skeptics, as they researched the events, using the testimony of the witnesses and their written statements, plus the observations of the Zond IV reentry, have proved their case. They didn’t just dismiss it by claiming hoax without evidence, or by suggesting other wild ideas, but provided solid evidence that the object observed was a meteor. I believe this to be a good explanation.

The point here is that the proponents had some very good testimony gathered within hours of the event. They had the drawings of the object with its square windows. Skeptics didn’t have the best evidence until 1968, but then we all could see how people might mistake a bright meteor glimpsed as it broke up as a craft with windows. Video tape confirms that impression. The evidence gathered in the years following the sighting proved that explanation is the most likely of the solutions offered… and to me that is how skepticism should work… I was skeptical of the meteor explanation until the evidence was laid out.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Skepticism vs. Pseudoskepticism

We have had arguments about the purpose of skepticism and what it means to be a skeptic. I have often thought it odd that the skeptics seem to embrace the explanations for UFO sightings with little or no skepticism but continue to demand boatloads of proof from those who believe UFOs might be alien. Sure, I get that the bar for the believers is higher because of what that belief is, but that doesn’t absolve the skeptics from presenting rational thought. The best example that pops into my mind is Project Mogul. They seem to embrace it even though the documentation suggests that there was no Flight No. 4. They point to the cluster of balloons as a real, full array, but the documentation doesn’t support that. It would seem to me that the skeptics would be as skeptical of this “official” answer as they are of the alien answer (okay, not quite as skeptical given that the believers must create interstellar flight but the documentation does argue against Mogul).

Although I really don’t want this to devolve into another endless and somewhat mindless discussion of all the minutia about Mogul (though I’m sure there will be those that just have to say something about it), the real point is what skepticism should really be and how it should really work. If I came up will all that follows, I’m sure it would be rejected simply because I was the one who came up with it. To prevent that, I suggest that everyone take a look at:

Now you all can argue about what is skepticism and what is pseudoskepticism, but the point is that many of the arguments made here are outlined in the article. I could say more about it, but the arguments made in the article are more elegant than anything I could do here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Oak Island and the Roman Sword

After most of a season of just screwing around and doing nothing more than digging up more areas on Oak Island that yielded bits of wood, stumps and a hunk of cable, they finally moved back to Borehole Number Ten and set up a dive. This was to get them to the bottom of the hole where it is alleged that there is a box of some kind, the remnants of a hammer or ax and the possibility of human remains.

We did see them attempt to make the dive. They got in the water and disappeared into what looked like a thick, yellow soup. The lights they carried disappeared in seconds. As did the communications. The dive master called off the dive at that point for safety reasons. One of the divers reappeared quickly, but the second didn’t. We see some tense minutes, knowing that if there had been some sort of tragedy we would never see it and, of course, one of the alleged news magazines on television would have reported it. The second diver appeared after about thirty minutes.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m all for calling off the dive under those circumstances. Diving into that narrow tube that goes down a couple of hundred feet is an incredible thing to do and obviously neither man had issues with claustrophobia. I wouldn’t do it and from their discussions in the “War Room” there are plenty of other divers who refused the opportunity as well.

The next day, the divers were back, having fixed the communications issue but there was some trouble with the masks. They didn’t want to make another dive without fixing that problem as well. Everyone was disappointed but all agreed was that safety had to be the paramount issue. That seemed to be a sane decision to me.

Before the hour was over, the divers were back to make another attempt. This surprised me because the episodes rarely return to a point made earlier in the program. The divers had their equipment with them with the dive mask issues resolved and the communications working. They made the dive and according to them, one of the divers got to the end of the borehole but was stopped by a huge drill bit that broken off some forty years earlier. It was lodged in the borehole, blocking access to the underground cave or room or whatever that supposedly holds the treasures.

There seems to be no plan to remove the drill bit (this isn’t something small like in your handheld drill but a huge auger used to professionally to drill deep holes that are several feet in diameter). It is wedged at the bottom of the narrowest part of the bore hole which is something like 140 feet (or deeper) so the challenge to remove it might be overwhelming.

Rather than attempt to solve this problem, they retreat to the War Room to meet with a couple of guys that have something concealed in a towel. This turns out to be a Roman sword, which might be about 1500 years old… or it might be a replica that is only a few decades old. It was apparently discovered somewhere close to Oak Island in the 1940s and everyone seems to believe this has some relevance. Maybe the Romans had sailed to Oak Island centuries before Columbus.

Now, they’re off on another tangent, trying to find out how old the sword is and how it might relate to Oak Island. I would think, with the amount of money they have spent in their attempt to learn what is hidden (or not hidden) there, they would not be interested in a Roman sword that probably has no relevance to Oak Island and what might be hidden there.

Or, in other words, they’ve dragged this out long enough. For crying out loud, stop screwing around draining swamps, following dowsers, using esoteric maps based on all sorts of strange theories, and stop running sonar off the coast of the island so they can look at triangular-shaped rocks that might or might not be natural. Just figure out a way to get the drill bit out of the borehole or put a camera down there that has some sort of high definition capability to provide some revelation because I won’t wait forever and I don’t think many others will either.