I have always, in the past, rejected the idea of producing a top ten list of UFO sightings. I thought of it as a trap by the skeptics and the debunkers. They would take the list, find implausible solutions and then report that they had identified the UFOs as something mundane. They wouldn’t care if the solutions made sense or not. They would report that they had solved the cases and UFOs were nothing more than misidentifications and hoaxes.
There is good reason to believe that. Philip Klass was infamous for finding solutions that didn’t fit the facts. In Socorro he suggested it was a conspiracy between the then Socorro mayor and police officer Lonnie Zamora. Klass believed that the mayor had wanted to find an excuse to develop some land he owned and believed a UFO landing there would create a tourist attraction. We have since learned that the mayor didn’t own the land in 1964 and no real tourist attraction was ever developed.
Donald Menzel offered multiple explanations for the photographs taken over Lubbock, Texas in September 1951 but finally settled on "Hoax!" There is no evidence that it was a hoax and when I talked to the photographer, Carl Hart, some forty or so years later, he told me that he still doesn’t know what he photographed.
But there is no evidence of a hoax, unless, of course, you have the Menzel mindset. That is, there is no alien visitation and anything that suggests otherwise is either a misidentification or a hoax.
I now find myself in the same dilemma as the skeptics when it comes to the UFO subset of cattle mutilations. I entered the investigation in the early 1970s when Jim Lorenzen, then the International Director of APRO, asked me (and several others in several other locations) to look into some mutilations in Minnesota. After a week or so there, I had the answers to the questions about those specific mutilations and the extraterrestrial had nothing to do with it.
And in the years since, I have investigated other mutilations and I have kept up with the current literature on mutilations. I have read from both sides of the controversy including the two works that I think of as most important: the Rommel investigation done for the state of New Mexico, and Mute Evidence. I believe that anyone interested in cattle mutilations should have read both works but that isn’t the case. When I asked a proponent of mutilations about it quite recently, she said that she was unfamiliar with them.
Here’s the deal. Every case of mutilation that I have investigated has a rational, terrestrial explanation. Every one.
The answers ranged from scavengers to humans who thought it funny to carve up an already dead animal, but nothing with an extraterrestrial influence. There were suggestions, but those were based on speculation and the observations of those who didn’t understand the process of decay.
Periodically, I would look again at cattle mutilations, believing that as time passed, new information would surface. Instead it was the same sorts of arguments that hadn’t seemed all that persuasive in the 1970s. Ranchers who said they had never seen anything like it in the past. A surgical precision that couldn’t be duplicated by vets or doctors. Laser instruments that suggested a technology that was far beyond ours.
But, in the end, no one could explain why the aliens were doing it. What was the motivation? Why not just take the whole animal and not leave the remains?
As I have mentioned in the past, some one over at UFO UpDates asked for a list of reading material about mutilations and, of course, all those saying that UFOs were responsible were noted. I merely suggested that they also look at Mute Evidence and Rommel’s investigation for the state of New Mexico. I wasn’t advocating a position, merely providing, what I thought to be some useful references.
The response was typical. I was asked how I would explain various anomalies that some investigators had reported. I was asked how I would explain a lack of copper in the blood of the mutilated animal. I was asked how I would explain the lack of scavenger tracks on the ground near the dead and mutilated animal.
Well, the answers were there. Today, I would point to Fact or Fiction: The Paranormal Files on the SyFy Channel. They showed a picture of a dead and mutilated cow and said that there had been no animal tracks around it. But they didn’t mention the bird droppings that were quite obvious on the animal, even in the picture. There are many bird scavengers and no one seems to think of them.
They also tried to duplicate, using various instruments, the precision of the cuts on a mutilated animal and failed to do it. But they did run an experiment that suggested that some of these precise cuts were the result of the natural decomposition of the animal including some seemingly straight line incisions.
Their conclusion, which I’m sure annoyed not only some of the local ranchers but those who studied cattle mutilations, was that there was no evidence to suggest anything alien was involved.
Here’s the real point. Every time I believe that we had ended the conversation, someone says, "Yes, those are solved but what about this new and different case. How do you explain...?"
Usually it is just more of the same. What is anomalous to one is explained in the mundane to another. The solution, I suppose, would be a list of the ten most mysterious cattle mutilations and see if we could find solutions.
There are some truly mysterious cases and I learned of one in England not all that long ago. While mysterious, the solution, I believe, will be terrestrial rather than alien. I won’t say that I would be delighted if is was alien, but if that is the direction it took, then we who argue for the extraterrestrial nature of some UFO sightings would have some good evidence.
In a similar vein, Chris O’Brien, out there in Colorado, in the San Luis Valley is attempting to put up web cameras that could be used to spot the mystery mutilators and any space craft they might be flying. While I sort of trivialize it here, I do think it is a good idea. Anything that is done in an attempt to further our knowledge and to resolve an issue is a good thing. But the question is how long does it go on before he decides that there are no alien mutilators...
Obviously, if he caught something on tape, that would prove his point and we would have a very interesting bit of evidence. But I wonder if the same thing I heard about the lack of "classic" mutilations while Kenneth Rommel was investigating in New Mexico would be said in the San Luis Valley. While the cameras were operating, there just were no classic mutilations in front of them... Or if there was evidence of scavengers in what might look to be a classic mutilation, it would be dismissed because the damage didn’t mirror, exactly, some other mutilations.
The skeptics, I imagine, think the same thing about UFO sightings. They wonder just how many of the once classic cases that are now solved, at least for many of us, have to be defined as mundane before we give up the argument. In the last decade or so, many of them have fallen. I now believe that the Chiles-Whitted case of the cigar-shaped craft that rocketed past their aircraft was a bolide... an extremely bright meteor that seemed to come directly at them and fooled them.
I believe that the Mantell case, in which Thomas Mantell was killed chasing a huge object, is explained by a Skyhook balloon. I base that on the descriptions of the object that were provided by those who saw it as it drifted at 80,000 or a 100,000 feet above the ground.
I do not believe that a Project Mogul balloon is responsible for the debris found near Roswell. That doesn’t mean it was extraterrestrial, only that it wasn’t a balloon. I get to the extraterrestrial by other means and I reject Mogul because it doesn’t work, for all the reasons I have outlined here in the past.
So I understand the skeptics desire to have a list of the ten best cases so they could tackle them. I can easily think of ten cases with multiple chains of evidence but I fear that we have lost the opportunities that those cases would have supplied. We were so busy arguing about whether or not some UFOs represented alien spacecraft that none of us looked at the really good evidence when we had the opportunity.
I also know that some of the skeptics, but by no means all of them, would fail to make a dispassionate argument. They truly believe there is no alien visitation and therefore no evidence can prove alien visitation. Others would take that dispassionate look, but they would insist an very compelling evidence and rightly so.
I have no hope that anything will ever be resolved. Even if the spacecraft landed there would be those who believed it was some kind of fake. These are the same kind of people who believe the moon landings were a hoax, that the president’s birth certificate was faked, and that there is a colony on Mars (where I suspect the really rich will hide when the asteroid collides with Earth on December 21, 2012 and remember you heard it here first).
My real point is that I understand the skeptics frustration with UFOs, but then, I understand the other side of the coin as well. And I understand that nothing will be resolved until we can remove the emotion and belief structure from the equation. Humans haven’t been able to do that in all of recorded history and I doubt we’ll do it here. We can try, but I have little hope.