Saturday, June 30, 2007

UFO Photo Hoaxes

The conventional wisdom is that there are very few hoaxes in the UFO field. Researchers suggest that 90 to 95 percent of all UFO sightings can be explained in the mundane as simple misidentifications of natural phenomena, misidentifications of aircraft or balloons, or as normal things seen under abnormal conditions. Of that 90 or 95 percent, some, maybe as few as two percent are hoaxes, according to the researchers. In fact, Project Blue Book officials suggested that there were so few hoaxes, they didn’t even deserve their own category.

The truth of the matter is that there have been major hoaxes in the UFO field from the very beginning in 1947. The reason so few of them have been discussed in the UFO literature is that it is very difficult to call someone a liar in print. When a case is labeled as a hoax, those who tell the story are being called, in essence, liars. Most researcher begin to look for other words and other labels to apply to the case. An alternative, if available, is often used instead of the word hoax.

In the UFO field there have been a large number of photographs offered as evidence that we have been visited. Unfortunately, the majority of them seem to have been taken by teenaged boys and most of those are hoaxes. This is a fact that is easily verified by a quick examination of those photographs.

It must be noted, however, that many of the UFO researchers have missed those explanations so that pictures, exposed as hoaxes surface in UFO books, articles, and on television documentaries as if they are legitimate. It is an area that creates confusion in the general public and journalistic communities, and leads those who do not study UFOs, who have a passing interest in them, to believe that there is nothing to them. There is a belief that all of the UFO sighting reports are made by hoaxers, tricksters and pranksters.

The 1997 bestseller, The Day After Roswell, by retired Lieutenant Colonel Philip J. Corso is a case in point. Corso claimed that during his long military career, he was exposed to the top-secret files of various governmental agencies dealing with UFOs. Corso claimed to have an intimate insider’s knowledge of what was happening with UFOs, that he had been told about and had seen personally the files about the Roswell UFO crash, and that he could answer the questions about the crash that had plagued researchers since 1947. Corso, however, demonstrated that he didn’t have access to everything and made a mistake that suggested he might not have access to anything. In the photo section of his book, he published a picture of a UFO over some hills in southern California. He noted that he was never able to confirm the veracity of the "UFO surveillance photos" which he had found in Army Intelligence files. If Corso was who he said he was, he should have recognized the picture as a hoax. It had been labeled a hoax in the public arena as early as 1966 and the Project Blue Book files had it listed as a fake.

That photograph, according to the editors of a special UFO edition of Look magazine was taken by Guy B. Marquard, Jr. on a mountain road near Riverside, California (Seen on the left). Marquard said that it was a hoax, that he was sorry to disillusion people, but he was 21 years old at the time and was having some fun. Project Blue Book files suggested it was the hub cab to a 1930s Ford thrown into the air.

It would seem that if the vast majority of UFO researchers knew the photograph was a hoax, Corso would have known that as well, if he truly was the insider he claimed to be. Instead, as if to prove the point here, Corso reprinted the photograph as if it was something that had stumped the military investigators.

But Corso isn’t alone in his belief that certain photographs reveal the presence of extraterrestrial visitors which were later proven to be, admitted to be, or shown to be, hoaxes. In May 1952, professional photographer Ed Keffel was standing on a cliff near Barra Da Tijuca, Brazil when he saw, what he at first believed to be an airplane. The man standing next to him recognized that the craft was something extraordinary and yelled for him to "Shoot! Shoot!"

Keffel managed to take five photographs showing an object that was clearly disk shaped with a dome on the top and a raised ring on the bottom. He was lucky that the maneuvers of the UFO revealed it to him from all angles. There was no doubt that what he photographed was not an airplane, balloon, or a natural phenomena.

The Brazilian Air Force investigated, tracked down an estimated forty witnesses to the sighting, tried to reproduce the pictures with trick photography, and made diagrams of the sighting on site and of the UFO itself. In the end, according to the report forwarded to the U.S. by Dr. Olavo Fontes of APRO, they found no evidence of a hoax. At APRO Headquarters, the pictures were studied again. APRO researchers found nothing that suggested hoax to them. The pictures, at this point, were termed to be authentic.

The APRO analysis wasn’t the last to be performed. During the University of Colorado study in the late 1960s, the pictures were again analyzed. According to the final report, there was a "glaring internal inconsistency." In the fourth of the five pictures, the object was illuminated from one direction but the trees in the foreground, specifically a palm tree standing above the others, was illuminated from another direction (The photgraph with the palm tree seen on the left). "This is evidence of a hoax unless there were two suns in the sky," according to the University scientists.

ARPO responded to the analysis by insisting that they had known about the problem. According to them, blow-ups of the photograph showed that one of the palm branches was broken so that it appeared that the tree’s trunk was in the shade indicating the two suns. If not for the broken branch, the trunk would be in the sun. Everything in the picture would then be consistent and the evidence of a hoax was lost.

Even that wasn’t the end of it. People who lived in the area claimed they had seen men with models taking pictures. The Brazilian Air Force suggested that the people had seen Air Force officers attempting to duplicate the pictures. They had not seen Keffel and his companion trying to fake it.

As it stands today, it seems that these photographs, once considered among the best ever taken are, in fact, fakes. It is this sort of thing that has plagued UFO researchers from the very beginning of the modern era in 1947. Keffel wasn’t the only man to engage in such a hoax. Paul Villa, Jr. of Albuquerque released a number of photographs that he had taken on June 16, 1963. He provided copies of his photographs to the Air Force for analysis. Not surprisingly, the Air Force concluded that the pictures were of a small model.

Captain William L. Turner, Chief of the Air Force Photo Analysis Division wrote in his official report to Project Blue Book, "All photographs have a sky background with an unobstructed view of the object. It seems unlikely that anyone photographing a UFO from several angles would have all good, clear unobstructed photographs of the object."

While that might be true, it is also true that Villa might just have been very lucky or even a very good photographer (One of the Villa photographs seen on the left). That, however, doesn’t seem to be the case. Turner wrote, "Photograph #7 shows the UFO at close range with a leafless branch on the left side of the print, passing behind the object. Two twigs from this branch are readily visible on the right side of the object and in good alignment with the main branch. It does not seem possible that these twigs are from the tree on the right which is further away. Therefore, the object is between the branch and the camera. The object is estimated to be 20 inches in diameter and seven inches high."

Turner also noticed one other important fact. He wrote, "In photographs #1 and #2 the object appears to be a sharper image than the near and far trees. This indicates the UFO is between the near trees and the camera."

Given all that information, it would seem that the Air Force had thoroughly destroyed the credibility of the pictures. The question that has been asked by many is why accept the Air Force conclusions here but reject them in other cases. The answer is simply "Duplication." The Air Force results have been duplicated by UFO researchers and civilian photographic experts. It wasn’t that the Air Force presented a complete analysis but that others, when examining the photographs were able to see the same things Turner saw. The explanation was fair and that is why the Air Force explanation is accepted.

There are many other pictures that have been published that we now know to be hoaxes. In 1957, for example, Radio Officer T. Fogel claimed to have photographed a UFO near San Pedro, California (Fogel photo seen on the left). He admitted that he had built the object from a model airplane kit. ARPO published a photograph taken in 1963 that showed an object flying beneath an airplane. The shadows of both could be seen on the ground but it turned out to be a hoax. Two teenagers from Lake St. Clair, Michigan created a stir with their photographs of a UFO with an antenna on the rear, but later admitted the pictures to be a hoax. One of the very first of the UFO pictures, taken at a steel mill in Hamilton, Ohio in 1947 is now an admitted hoax.

The list could continue until it was pages long. Today, the problem is getting even worse. Before the advent of computers and various software programs that allowed for the manipulation of photographs, it was difficult, but not impossible, to fake good UFO pictures. Something tossed into the air, small models suspended above the ground, objects cut from paper and pasted on the window all contributed to the problem. Analysis by experts could sometimes detect the problems or inconsistencies. It allowed investigators to label a case. If no such inconsistencies were found, it didn’t mean that the photographs showed an extraterrestrial craft, only that it couldn’t be proven to be a hoax.

What this meant, simply, was that in the good old days, researchers had a fighting chance. The pictures had to be created physically and mechanically and if they were created in that fashion, there could be something left behind for researchers to find. In today’s environment, such is not the case. Any computer and software program can allow the hoaxer to create a negative that can be examined and on which there will be no evidence of that manipulation. The job just became that much more difficult.

This also explains the problem with video tape. It is why we have ignored video taped evidence here. It is just too easy to fake a credible video tape with a good computer and very little in the way of video equipment or even expertise. To prove the point we have created just such a tape, but we made the UFO look more like a worm with windows than anything extraterrestrial. We did it so that there could be no confusion about the origin of this tape.

If, however, we submitted it to any of those specializing in the analysis of video tape, they could digitize it, pixelize it, and analyze it any way they wanted, but they would not be able to tell that we had artificially created that tape. We put the appropriate dialogue on it, making it sound as if we were in awe of what we were seeing. We manipulated the object so that it swooped in, passed behind a tree and then disappeared in the distance.

The equipment used is not all that expensive, nor is it all that unavailable to the tricksters and the pranksters. Add in the computer software to clean up any problems and then claim tape is the original. No one would be able to tell the difference. The analysis is right back to the credibility of the witness or witnesses. And if they sound sincere, if they have no history of playing jokes and tricks, then there is very little the UFO researcher can do.

So, when studying the photographic evidence of visitor spacecraft, we return to those earlier pictures. Could the witnesses have faked them thirty, forty, or fifty years ago? Certainly. But in that time frame the task was more difficult and the evidence for it often showed on the original negatives. That is why, that long ago, investigators, whether Air Force officers or civilian researchers, wanted to see the original negatives.

The ideal photographic case would involve multiple witnesses at multiple locations producing both video tape and still pictures. We have often recommended that those with a still camera take a photograph and then move right or left fifty or sixty feet and take a second picture. If possible, the two points from which the pictures were taken should be marked so that precise measurements can be made later by researchers.

What this does is allow investigators to make a stereoscopic view of the object which would provide, on the film, important evidence. The altitude, distance from the camera and size of the object could all be deduced from a set of photographs made that way.

Now, if there were video tapes of the object, taking by other witnesses in widely separated locations, then corroborative evidence could be collected. It would provide other views of the craft and possibly give additional information about height and speed. It would be a case that would be nearly impossible for the debunkers to destroy because of the physical evidence in the forms of video tapes and stereoscopic pictures. It would end the debate and allow us to move to the next level of investigation.

It would seem, given all the cameras in this country, and now all the video tape cameras available that we should have something like this. Since we don’t, it suggests to some that there are no UFOs and spaceships of the visitors.

The answer, if we think about it is that real UFO sightings are extremely rare. They are usually close to the ground, no more than at a thousand feet or so. That means that only a limited number of people will see them, if they happen to be looking up. It limits the number of available witnesses and the number of cameras.

To argue that meteorites, especially bright ones, are seen by thousands, and they are not only short lived, but also rare, misses the point. The meteorites are usually thirty to forty miles in the air. They can be seen over a wide area. The especially bright ones light the sky drawing attention to themselves. Often there is a roar associated with the bolides that also draws attention to them. The UFOs are most often lower, darker and quieter. Yes, there are a few exceptions, but the vast majority of the cases reflect the lower and quieter component.

So, we are left with a rare and low flying phenomena. We are left with photographs, some of which are extremely interesting, but none of which can prove the case. The University of Colorado scientists, when studying the McMinneville, Oregon pictures noted they found no evidence of a hoax, but they also found that the pictures, by themselves, were insufficient to prove that some UFOs were extraterrestrial craft (One of the two photos seen on the left).

To us, that seems to be a reasonable conclusion because there could be other explanations that do not require interstellar travel. The fact that we don’t have those explanations doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There might be a natural phenomenon that could account for the pictures. There could be some kind of experimental craft, that never reached production that could account for them. We just don’t know.

What we do know, however, is that hoaxes, those admitted by the perpetrators and those discovered by analysis by investigators, have plagued the study of UFOs from the very beginning and beyond. The Great Airship of 1897 seems to have been little more than a fleet of hoaxes launched by those tricksters and liars interested in a good story and a good laugh.

Photographic evidence, unless there is a great deal of it from independent witnesses, is never going to provide us with the final solution to the UFO mystery. All they can do is muddy the waters as we learn how many of those photographs were faked by teenagers with too much time on their hands and access to a camera. It seems that nothing has changed since 1897. The people still enjoy a good joke.
(Note: All the pictures reprodued here are admitted fakes, with the exception of the Trent photos from McMinneville, Oregon. As of today, there is no solid evidence these pictures are faked.)
For those who would like more information about UFO photographs, both real and faked, I have a limited number of Spaceships of the Visitors available for $10.00 (four dollars off the cover price) plus five dollars for shipping and handling (and yes, the postage, envelopes and the like works out to about five bucks).
Send a check or money order to:
Kevin D. Randle
PO BOx 10934
Cedar Rapids, IA 52410


Sarge said...

For decades believers have tried to use photographs to buttress the arguement supporting an extraterrestrial source for at least some UFOs.
But with the advances in equipment have come not just better pictures, but more and more loop holes for the craft to slip through.
I'm starting to accept the sceptic's arguement that only a saucer landing on the White House lawn will ever prove the point.
If I hadn't seen one I doubt I would believe either.

JRobinson said...

I have always felt that most UFO photos appeared suspicious for one reason or another, but must admit you have opened my eyes to the added pitfalls of digital photography.
One case that certainly was not a hoax was the Newhouse movie in 1952.
I just recently posted a blog about that at: