Okay, I don’t get it. What were these clowns trying to prove anyway? They seem outraged that in this day of science, people would believe that "an elderly obese man deliver[s] presents to every child on Earth in one evening?" They don’t seem to understand that those who believe this are children under the age of seven whose "critical thinking" skills have not developed and who still engage in what is know as magical thinking. This seems to be the level of thought of Chris Russo and Joe Rudy, the two geniuses who came up with the idea to test the world of UFOs.
And I’m not sure what their point was in bringing in Santa Claus. Are there any adults... any children over the age of eight... who believe in Santa as reality.
They wrote, "...60 years later, despite the fact that there still is no evidence, the UFO myth is as strong today as ever, fed by cable channel shows that prop up UFO ‘experts’ who claim to be authorities on the subject that’s on a par with astrology and palm reading. These charlatans make a career by perpetuating the E.T. fairy tale and exploiting credulous people who want nothing more than a good conspiracy theory to believe in."
Their mission? According to them, "It is in this context that we set out on a mission to help people think rationally and question the credibility of so-called UFO ‘professionals. We brainstormed the idea of producing a spaceship hoax to fool people, bring the charlatans out of the woodwork to drum up the controversy, and then expose it was nothing more than a prank to show everyone how unreliable eyewitness accounts are, along with the investigators of UFOs."
So, how well did they do? The first persons to be interviewed after the first "light" show were the Hurley family who had taken video tape. The father, Paul, worked at the airport and had a pilot’s license and said he had about five hundred hours of flight time. He was not a commercial pilot, meaning an airline pilot, nor was he a military pilot. He said the lights were not aircraft and he was right about that.
He said that there were "five red lights," in what he said was a "strange pattern." I’m not sure why he said it was a strange pattern, but that really doesn’t mean much. He would later say, under questioning by others, that he had seen no smoke and that one light seemed to drop out (burn out?) and two others seemed to take off to south at a fast pace.
The second witness was presented by the news media by way of his 911 call to the police, said, "I walked out of my house, it’s like these parachutes with these, uh, or balloons with these five lights flying over right now."
Seems to me that he hit the nail right on the head. No media types there to attempt to create the mystery for their broadcast. Just a witness seeing the five lights in the sky and suggesting balloons.
The local police, who offered a statement to KDTV said that the best guess was a prank with road side flares attached to helium balloons. Seems to me that the police nailed that as well.
On the compilation of video clips made by the perpetrators to prove their point, the second was of a breathless reporter who was all set to believe in aliens and flying saucers and who seemed to know very little about it. Unfortunately, she worked for a FOX affiliate so the interviews she conducted were used by FOX News on several of their reports. It was the reporter, in talking to witnesses, who often introduced the idea of UFOs, meaning alien craft rather than lights in the night sky.
But what she didn’t seem to get, nor did either Russo or Rudy, was that the descriptions offered by the witnesses were often accurate. It was the interpretation put on those observations by the media and others that took it from what we’d call nocturnal lights into the realm of alien spacecraft.
She talked to a witness who said the lights didn’t seem to be moving at all and another who suggested they had a purpose but added they could have been anything... and then said, "A UFO? Why not?" suggesting here that it was the reporter who asked if it was a UFO and not a spontaneous utterance by the witness.
That reporter then interviewed a little girl with a sucker (and yes, I wanted to use that term here) who said, "Aliens?" in obvious response to a question. But it was never established if she had seen anything or if she just happened to be standing around with her lollipop.
There was another witness who said that he thought the lights had streaked down toward New York but it’s not clear if this was the result of the balloons and flares drifting in that direction and giving the impression they were getting lower, or if he actually thought he saw something like that. He did say that one winked out. He said, "It just sort of went blip and disappeared," which, of course, is the description of a flare burning out.
Now we get two witnesses who tell us the best stuff. The first said the lights "zipped over the car." He said, "They literally flew over the car." When it was suggested these were flares he said, "No way. They zipped over our car."
He also said he wanted "...someone tell me what it was because I cannot tell you what it was."
His friend, in the car with him, as they had gone out to find something to eat, said, "They seemed to ascend and descend almost in a sequence – they’d rise up and dip down."
Here is the first time that we’re treated to a description of something other than lights drifting in the sky. We have them zipping over a car which would suggest that the lights were close. The witnesses were identified as Chris Russo and Joe Rudy... you figure it out.
In one of the news reports, they quote from a police report that identifies the objects, the lights, as flares and helium balloons. Once again, that explanation is right on target.
FOX News goes back to the Hurley’s and interviews them again. They repeat that they saw five lights slowly drifting across the sky. They said they were not aircraft, which we know is true. Paul Hurley did said that the lights drifted out of sight but also said, "a couple of them appeared to take off," and that one of them "appeared to drop out of the sky." He did qualify his statements by suggesting from his perspective, and at night, it was hard to tell but that "One of the two... seemed to take off to the south at a very fast pace." That, of course, was incorrect.
One of those interviewed said that if it was a hoax, it was a real good one. He also said that it seemed as if the lights were communicating, whatever that means.
Another of the 911 calls was also reported with the caller demanding to know what the red dots in the sky were. The 911 operator said that he was inside so he didn’t know.
Now were treated to Russo and Rudy, finding an ad in the local newspaper in which a Ford dealer is exploiting the UFOs for some kind of sale. These two head to the dealership and apparently are unable to convince any of the people there to go on camera, but they leave it running, pointing at the ground (or floor) and record the thoughts of the sales force. BTW, is this sort of recording legal in New Jersey? Remember, they just left the camera running, recording the "witnesses" after they were not allowed to film.
So, we have a show room filled with aliens, an ad campaign designed to take advantage of the publicity generated by the news media who believes that UFO means alien spacecraft, and the two guys who launched the balloons and flares. Those unidentified witnesses in the show room seemed to believe that the lights couldn’t be flares because they were in a tight pattern, whatever that means and that flares would fall into someone’s backyard. They believed the lights were moving against the wind, but we don’t really know this but we do know that the winds aloft are often radically different than the winds at ground level so such a comment, without benefit of the proper weather data means very little. And, the tired old, we know they weren’t flares because we didn’t see any smoke, nonsense. Well, they were flares and you didn’t see any smoke.
The perpetrators of this hoax seem to believe they proved their point because the news media talked of UFOs and some of them made the leap from UFOs to alien spacecraft, but the witnesses were reluctant to do that. Instead, they were fairly accurate with their descriptions of what they had seen. Cindy Hurley talked of lights in the sky and even explained the twinkling on the video tape as the filming of the lights through the trees so it looked as if the lights were twinkling. Her descriptions were accurate and correct.
Of the UFO "experts" consulted, Peter Davenport from his reporting center in Washington, after watching the tape said that the lights were definitely not aircraft, and, of course, he was correct. On the tape he offered no speculation of what the lights might be.
Another was Marc D’Antonio who was alerted in January by MUFON’s Richard Lang, who works with one of MUFON’s STAR teams. These teams are set up to respond quickly to a UFO sighting that might provide some form of physical evidence. D’Antonio reported that he noticed, immediately, that the lights seemed to operate independently and that there was a "flame-based light source... By flame-based I mean a flying light created by a Chinese Lantern or a flare."
D’Antonio also said, "Whether this event was due to Chinese Lanterns, as I thought they could be, or flares, didn’t matter actually... It was clear to me after viewing the video that this is not a UFO, but was a man-made hoax."
And, of course, he was dead bang on. It was flares and it was a man-made hoax.
I will note that the MUFON STAR team did exactly what it was designed to do. Got into the area, did their science by looking at all the data and in the end, came to the correct conclusion. The media didn’t have much to say about this.
Bill Birnes, of UFO Hunters and UFO magazine talked to the witnesses and got some of the same responses. He didn’t believe that these lights were flares, as identified almost immediately by the police, and, offered that his experts and their experimentation had proven the flare explanation as implausible. He was, of course, wrong on that.
So, what have we learned? Well, the news media loves a mystery and even with the police telling them exactly what was seen, suggested something else. But, they did mention the flare explanation in each of their stories.
The majority of the witnesses were accurate in reporting what they saw and one of them who called 911 even said that it was balloons. The only ones to really take this and run with it were Russo and Rudy who said that their car had been buzzed... and let’s not forget the people in the show room who had some interesting observations but in the end, basically reported the lights accurately and misinterpreted what they saw.
It also seems to me that when those conducting the "experiment" interject themselves into the experiment, they have tainted it, especially when they add information that is inaccurate and untrue. When they go into the car dealer to interview the employees, their bias is apparent and they believe they accomplished their mission with their surreptitiously recorded conversations, but we are not treated to everything said so we don’t know what those conducting the experiment might have said to get the quotes they used. We’ve all seen comments taken out of context and reporters badgering witnesses to get them to say what they want to hear. While we don’t know that the bias of the two men contaminated these interviews, we don’t know otherwise either and given their attitudes, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they lead the conversations right where they wanted them to go.
In the end, I don’t think this experiment proved anything about the gullibility of the witnesses... or even the news media. The witnesses explained what they had seen, which was an accurate representation and the news media, for the most part, didn’t go too far overboard. It was reported early on and often that one solution was flares on a balloon and flares on a balloon is the final answer.
As for the critical thinking skills of the two men, I think they need to revisit that. The experiment was flawed, their interjection of themselves into the middle of it contaminated the results, and they proved nothing other than people will speculate about what they saw. But I didn’t see anyone claiming it was an alien spacecraft, visitors from another world, that the things landed or abducted anyone, or that anything approached the ground... except for the two guys who created the hoax and several members of the news media who ridiculed the idea of aliens or induced people to say something about aliens.
In the end, the solution was suggested early and if Bill Birnes got it wrong, that is no reason to smear the rest of us. We all make mistakes, and if Birnes interviewed these two guys, or more likely, reviewed what they had told the media in what can only be called a bald-faced lie, then anything they said about him is irrelevant. After all, if the objects buzzed a car, then they probably weren’t flares and balloons.
I just don’t see how they made any sort of statement about the gullibility of people. There were lights in the sky, they did move along and they did, eventually, disappear. No one talked of a spacecraft, except in the context that these lights were UFOs. So what did they prove? Sometimes the media just doesn’t get it as they attempt to make a story interesting and mysterious and often the witnesses are accurate in their observations. Maybe they are wrong in their interpretation, but they get the basic facts right. And two "twenty-somethings" who launched the balloons? They need to learn how to perform a proper experiment and how not to jump to the wrong conclusions.
Nice going, guys.