Word has reached me, meaning that Don Ecker called me, to tell me that he was quitting the UFO business. He had been around it for more than twenty years and probably a lot longer as an interested party. He served as the Director of Research for the US version of UFO Magazine for a number of years and was key in exposing some of the biggest UFO frauds. Even when the magazine seemed to endorse the ridiculous stories of some claimed witnesses, Don would write companion pieces explaining why he, at least, was not taken with a specific tale.
In a long paper that he published recently, Ecker wrote:
One thing that I’ve discovered being in this field for 20 years is a very simple truth, but a truth that is most profound. Most "researchers" are ignorant of what has happened previously in the field of UFO research. They are ignorant of the claims made in the past, ignorant of past hoaxes perpetrated by "players" in the field and are intolerant of views that conflict with their deep seated erroneous beliefs. Quite frankly, I’ve grown tired of this field.
I’m tired of the media that is blinded by their prejudice about UFOs, their snide and condescending remarks about something that quite frankly they know nothing about. I’m tired of people claiming to be researchers that refuse to accept the truth about something regardless of how many times it jumps up and bites them in the ass. I’m tired of government agencies that continuously lie about a subject that has shown to be something real and even possibly affect our national security … and getting away with it for over 60 years. I’m tired of believers that become upset when their fuzzy illogic is shown to be as full of holes as Swiss Cheese. I’m tired of frauds and clowns in this field that are shown to be frauds and clowns and yet still are treated like they are stars with something important to say. I suppose you could just say I’m tired of all of it.
20 years ago I thought that genuine study, research and investigation might make a difference. Alas!! I was most profoundly wrong! Today (even though I most certainly believe this is a genuine and legitimate subject of study and UFOs must come from somewhere), I have had enough! So, this is my goodbye from the wonderful and wacky field of UFOs. For any of you that, through the years, have found any of my writing on the subject to be of interest … thank you. It has been an up and down thing, this UFO enigma. However, if you are a believer in Bill Cooper, Mel Noel, Billy Meier, Project Serpo, or benevolent ET’s from the Pleiades here to show us a better way … or possibly how to build a better mouse trap … preferably a humane one, I’m sure you will be glad to see my exit … on stage right. So with that in mind I now make my exit. Thanks, because if nothing else … this has been an interesting but frustrating 20 years.
We see that Ecker’s paper tells of his years fighting the nonsense in the field and of the personal toll that sometimes takes. Although he doesn’t point it out specifically, this field, like much found in academia, is contentious, with claims and counterclaims thrown about, allegations of all sorts, and when that fails, then it moves into the legal arena, or more often, threats of legal action with no follow up.
I understand much of what Ecker says. I have been threatened with lawsuits for years and used to count the days in each new year until the first threat of a lawsuit was made. One year it was in early January.
This comes with disagreements and perceived slights. Stan Friedman once complained that in the acknowledgment section of my first book on Roswell, I had given Robert Hastings more lines that I had given him. I mean, who counts the number of lines in an acknowledgment?
But it does demonstrate one of the problems with UFO research and that is the ego of the researcher. We fight with one another in the fashion that O.C. Marsh used to fight with Edward Drinker Cope in the early days of dinosaur hunting. They would lie about their finds, collect specimens and then dynamite the fossil beds so that others couldn’t find them or excavate them and called each other all sorts of names. It did nothing to further the research and hindered it many times. Ufology should look at these "Dinosaur Wars" and try to learn from them.
So, in Ufology, we simply smear those with whom we disagree. I have been labeled, in recent weeks as a liar, poor researcher, incompetent and a fraud. In the past, I have been called a government agent and one misguided person even reported that I had worked with Hector Quintanilla, he once the chief of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, on some kind of recovery team. Of course, when Quintanilla was leading Blue Book, I was in high school, but such facts do nothing to defuse the situation.
To give you a feel for how this works, back in 1988, Don Schmitt, then the Director of Research at the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, invited me to join them in a project about Roswell. They planned to look at the evidence and search for witnesses who might not have been interviewed during the initial research. Remember, Schmitt asked me, because of my military background, to assist them. I agreed.
Imagine my surprise in the mid-1990s, when my partner was telling people that he suspected I was a government agent planted on him. He refused to supply people with my contact information when they asked for it and kept convention bookings for himself, telling the hosts that I wouldn’t be available. This is how it is in Ufology all too often. Partners working at what turns out to be opposite goals.
I can point to other examples but why bother? The story is sad and those who have called convention or lecture sponsors to attempt to steal the bookings know who they are. It can be documented. It has been but then, no one seems to pay attention to these underhanded tactics as long as the researcher says what the people want to hear. Often times the truth gets left behind.
What this demonstrates is simply, as many have said, we eat our young. We turn on one another so that we can move to the top of the heap in a field in which the heap is small and so often ignored. But fight for that top place we do, and this, I think, explains some of what Don Ecker was talking about in his article. He has grown tired of the infighting that benefits no one except the skeptics.
Which leads to another point that Ecker made. He wrote, "One thing that I’ve discovered being in this field for 20 years is a very simple truth, but a truth that is most profound. Most ‘researchers’ are ignorant of what has happened previously in the field of UFO research. They are ignorant of the claims made in the past, ignorant of past hoaxes perpetrated by ‘players’ in the field and are intolerant of views that conflict with their deep seated erroneous beliefs."
The example I think of here is the Mantell case. I believe that most of the old time researchers realize that Captain Thomas Mantell, a transport pilot during the Second World War, and who had just transitioned into fighters in 1947, was killed in a tragic accident. Mantell, asked to attempt to identify an object seen over the Godman Army Air Field at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, died when his F-51 crashed.
We now know, based on the files released by the Air Force, by the statements of those involved, research by Robert Todd, Jerry Clark and a dozen others, that Mantell climbed too high and blacked out due to oxygen starvation. His aircraft, trimmed to climb, continued upward to about 30,000 feet where the torque of the engine and the thin air conspired to pull the aircraft over, into a power dive. The aircraft was seen to begin to break up at about 20,000 feet. Mantell died in the crash.
The object he was chasing was a skyhook balloon which was part of a classified project in 1948. Descriptions released with the declassification of the Project Blue Files seem to confirm this. The answer, tragically, is that Mantell was trying to reach a balloon that was at 80,000 feet, way above him.
Today, we begin to argue about the case again. There are those who believe there was something more here. Mantell was chasing an alien space craft and regardless of the evidence, will not be persuaded otherwise. So, we waste more time and effort on a case, tragic though it was, that is only tangentially connected to UFOs. For those interested in the full treatment of the case see:
and scroll down to the segment about Mantell. All the information is there so that the reader can decide if Mantell was chasing a craft from another world or if he was chasing a balloon.
Ecker continued in this vein, writing:
As most reading this will know, Birne’s [meaning William Birne who is now the publisher of UFO magazine] was co-author with Phil Corso of the blockbuster "The Day After Roswell." However Birne’s is an academic and writer where I was a researcher and investigator. They began allowing previously verboten bullshit spewing airbags into the magazine that in my opinion don’t have a clue nor could they buy a vowel.
So, what are they doing in UFO? Birne’s feels that regardless, all should have a say and then let the public decide. I most strongly disagree with that position. (For example, there is a vocal minority claiming that the NASA Moon landings were done on a studio stage, and the entire Moon Program was a government disinformation program. Should we give these morons a public position in the magazine?) If one strives to be the publication of record in this confusing field, one has to be willing to separate the wheat from the chaff. As I write this paper, the most recent egregious example of slip shod editorial decisions was allowing one wind-bag columnist to revisit one of the biggest hoaxes in recent memory by allowing the inclusion of the ‘Dulce alien base shoot out with U.S. Forces in 1979!’ (With neither Birnes wife especially, or Birnes being aware of the last 20 odd years of UFO history, this type of egregious error is routinely made.) This came from the John Lear/ Paul Bennowitz disinformation all the way back to 1987, and has been effectively shown to be total crap!
Which means that some, unaware of the history of these stories will now accept them because there have been printed again without commentary. The bright spot is that with the Internet, some will try to learn more and will find the controversy that rages, though, in my mind, there is no real controversy. We know, as Ecker said, this is "total crap!"
So, we see that nothing in Ufology changes. We see that old cases are repeated as if newly discovered and that solid explanations are ignored because the mystery is more important than the truth. As some in the news media say, "Why ruin a good story with the facts?"
Don, I at least, am sorry to see you go. Voices of reason are too few in this field and the clouds of deceit and confusion far too many. The commentaries offered by you put some of this into perspective and now we’ve lost that. I hope that, at some point, you’ll return and that we’ll have another voice for reason because, without that, the bad guys win.
(Note: In the latest issue of UFO they only report that both Don and Vicki Ecker have decided to retire from the field...)
The whole of Ecker's article can be seen at:
And a thanks to Don Ecker for forwarding the link.