Saturday, September 24, 2011

Kecksburg UFO Crash, Tim Printy and Steven Paquette

Not all that long ago (this last week, actually) Tim Printy sent me a question about part of the Kecksburg UFO crash. He noted that I had mentioned an Air Force officer named Steven Paquette. I wrote in Crash – When UFOs Fall from the Sky, that a document in the Project Blue Book files suggested that he was stationed in New Hampton, Massachusetts, but he had been ordered to participate in the search. Printy wrote that he had been through the Blue Book files and couldn’t find this document.

He also found that an officer with the same name seemed to be stationed much closer to Kecksburg and that he had participated in other UFO investigations. In fact, it seemed that Paquette had an additional duty of investigating UFO sightings in his area, an assignment that fell to many lieutenants in the 1960s.

Printy wanted to know if I knew this about Paquette, and if I could supply the document that I had used as a source, and if there really was a New Hampton, Massachusetts. All very good questions.

So, I went through my Kecksburg file which is about six inched thick and located the document. It was a teletype message that is part of a newspaper story about the Kecksburg sighting. I had gotten it when I asked CUFOS to send me a copy of the Blue Book file on Kecksburg.

Then I looked through the Project Blue Book files, which I now have on microfilm thanks, in part, to Michael Swords and CUFOS, figuring I would find the document there. I was surprised at the size of the Blue Book file, but only because it was so thin. There were a number of “Memos for the Record,” and a final conclusion that the sighting was “Astro, Meteor.”

But the teletype message, and a large number of newspaper clippings that I had thought were part of the Blue Book file were not there. Clearly, the fellows at CUFOS sent me everything they had and that included research that had probably been part of the NICAP files and later the CUFOS files. It was a very complete package and based on what I had seen in the Blue Book files of other, similar cases, I wasn’t surprised by all the extra material. I now know that very little of this information made it into Blue Book.

Printy sent me links to a couple of files for Blue Book that were online and Paquette appeared in them. He wanted to know if I thought it was the same officer. Well, yeah, since the name is not Smith or Johnson, I think it was the same guy, though the spelling of the first name is Stephen rather than Steven.

Of course, this is the world of the internet, and I found that there were quite a few people named Steven Paquette running around. I also found a number of them named Stephen Paquette. Still, how many of them would have been lieutenants in 1965 and 1966 when the various Blue Book investigations were accomplished.

And what about this New Hampton, Massachusetts, which apparently doesn’t exist?

From reading the teletype (a copy of which I did email to Printy and no, the highlighted part does not mention Paquette, that's higher on the message) it seems the reporter was giving a nod to Paquette’s hometown, though it was obviously not in Massachusetts. Printy mentioned a New Hampton, New Hampshire and I know of one in Iowa (but a check of my Britannica Atlas shows only New Hamptons in Iowa and New York). With the information supplied by Printy, it’s clear that Paquette wasn’t stationed in Massachusetts at the time. He was probably from the east coast and the reporter just screwed up the state. And it seems that the spelling of his first name was screwed up by the reporter as well (at least that seems to be the most logical assumption here).

Paquette’s whole role in this seems to be clearer today thanks to Printy. There is no evidence that Paquette ever went to Kecksburg, and while I speculated he would not have had a role in this unless he was assigned to some kind of special unit, that speculation seems to be in error. Paquette was stationed in Pennsylvania at the time, seems to have been assigned as a UFO officer as an extra duty and was quoted by the newspaper simply because he was an Air Force officer who talked to a reporter about Kecksburg.

Thanks to Printy, we now have a little more information about the Kecksburg case and we know a little more about this, at the time, low-ranking Air Force officer. We can clarify his role and move on to other aspects of the case.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Philip Klass and the Socorro UFO Landing

Although my posting had been about Philip Klass and some of his letter writing campaigns (which, of course, got nasty, his letters, not my posting), we have diverted into the Socorro UFO landing case and Klass’ investigation of it. We have gotten into arguments over semantics and site locations and just who owned what and when.

Philip Klass centered

First, the semantics. Some of us have suggested that Klass claimed the landing was a hoax created by the mayor of Socorro at the time, Holm Bursum and perpetrated by police officer Lonnie Zamora. Others suggested that Klass never said it, at least not in so many words.


Klass wrote, in his 1974 book, UFOs Explained (and I have a personalized, autographed copy), “The property where the UFO reportedly landed had, prior to the incident, been worthless ‘scrub land.’ But now, if the site became a long-lived tourist attraction, there could be need for refreshment stands, perhaps even a motel for those who might like to spend the night near the spot where an extraterrestrial spaceship had seemingly landed. By a curious coincidence, the property where the UFO reportedly landed was owned by Mayor Bursum, officer Zamora’s boss! The mayor’s principal business? He was the town banker and as such would not be unhappy to see an influx of tourist dollars.”

In his interview with Gary Posner published on the web at:

Klass makes this claim again. He said, “And I found out that Socorro's mayor owned the ‘landing site’ property and the town's only bank, and earlier had sought approval to build a new road to the UFO site for the benefit of tourists. So, when I wrote UFOs: Identified, I was confident enough to suggest that this case might be a hoax. And by the time my second UFO book, UFOs Explained, was published, I did unequivocally characterize the case as a hoax, as I've done subsequently regarding a number of other highly suspicious cases.”

For those of us who can understand this, Klass is saying that there was some kind of plot to develop a tourist attraction and the mayor was behind it. His subordinate was Lonnie Zamora. No, Klass doesn’t say they were working together on this, he just hints at it, knowing that we all can put it together. Since he is not actually making the allegation, he is safe from legal entanglements.

Posner (who is shown as “Skeptic,” in the online interview) said that the tourist attraction was never built. Klass has an answer for that, as well. He said, “Yes, but the plan had been initiated. On the first anniversary of the ‘landing,’ a newspaper article quoted a city official as saying outright that they intended to use it as a tourist attraction, and it reported that the road to the site had recently been upgraded. It also mentioned that a movie about UFOs had recently shot some scenes in Socorro. Perhaps when members of the City Council learned the truth, they opted not to proceed any further with the plans.”

But what is not said is that there is no evidence of this plan prior to the landing. They would have had no way of knowing that the landing report would get any sort of national publicity because most UFO sightings go unreported by the national media. They would have had to count on the Air Force investigation getting attention and that the attention would be from the media. If they were planning this all out, it was a very clever plan that worked... at least the part where they drew the national media attention.

The real flaw in Klass’ logic, however, is that the plan seemed to have been created after the media attention and someone thought there was a potential there. The real point is that even after they thought about it, the tourist attraction was never built.

Or maybe that’s not the real flaw... it seems that the mayor didn’t own the land in 1964. According to the Socorro newspaper, El Defensor Chieftain, which did a long story about the Socorro landing after it was suggested in 2008 that a historical marker be erected at the site, noted that the land in question had been part of the estate of Delia Harris in 1964. In 1968, the land was bought by the Richardson family and they apparently still own it. Mayor Bursum had never owned it. I don’t know where Klass got that idea. Maybe someone mentioned it to him and he believed it, figuring they should know.

Or maybe it was because in 1966 the Chamber of Commerce president, Paul Ridings, suggested they do something to promote tourism and thought the landing site would be a good place to start. They created a path lined with stones around a landing site, but it was in the wrong place. Apparently there was a lack of vegetation at the real site that frightened people. Some believed there was residual radiation, so they just moved the site over an arroyo or two. The mayor didn’t seem to have a hand in this aspect of it either.

But this leads to a second question. Which site did Phil Klass visit? If he was unaware that the Chamber of Commerce had moved the site, then his investigation would be flawed. His observations about the location and who could see what would be in error. Can we, at this late date, determine which site Klass “toured?”

Klass mentioned, in his book, “Although the policeman [Zamora] said the UFO’s [sic] roar could be heard over the noise of his speeding patrol car, from a distance of 4,000 feet, Mr. and Mrs. Felix Phillips, who lived only 1,000 feet from the UFO site reported they heard no such noise though they were home at the time.”

Klass also wrote (page 108, hardback, UFOs Explained), “During Hynek’s visit, he talked with one local resident who suggested that the case might be a hoax. The man was Mr. Felix Phillips, whose house is located only one thousand feet south of the spot where the UFO allegedly landed. Phillips said that he and his wife had been home at the time of the reported incident, and that several windows and doors had been opened – yet neither of them heard the loud roar that Zamora reported during takeoff... Hynek briefly mentioned the man’s suspicions in his second trip report to the USAF, but he strongly rejected all possibility of a hoax.”

In the online interview, Klass said, “When I interviewed a man who lived right near the landing site, and had been working in his garden when the UFO supposedly blasted off, he told me that he hadn't heard a thing, and that when he visited the site soon afterwards he saw no physical evidence to support Zamora's story and suspected that it was a hoax.”

Dr. J. Allen Hynek

Let’s answer the question about which site Klass visited. Based on this, I believe that Klass was on the correct site. He found the man who Hynek had interviewed. In the report that Klass cited, Hynek had written, “Although I made a distinct attempt to find a chink in [name redacted but is obviously Zamora] armor, I simply couldn’t find anyone, with the possible exception of a [name redacted, but I believe is Phillips] who has a house fairly near the site of the original landing, who did anything by completely uphold [again, the name is redacted but is Zamora] character and reliability, and I again talked with people who had known him since childhood.”

This then, suggests that Klass was on the right site. He is talking to the same man who Hynek interviewed. But then Klass slips off the rails, telling us the man was in his garden and that he saw nothing on the site.

One of the landing pad prints.

While I will give Klass the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he is talking from memory rather than inventing facts not in evidence, his claim that the man “visited the site soon afterwards he saw no physical evidence,” simply doesn’t make any sense. Why would he inspect the site if he heard nothing? What would be his motivation to walk over there?

More importantly, what about the claim that he saw nothing? This is in direct contradiction of the police officers, FBI agents, and Air Force officers who toured the site on the evening of the landing.

From Hynek’s first report (which I must assume that Klass saw since he was talking about the second report), “I questioned Mr Art Burns of the FBI, and several others who had been on the site within the first hours after the sighting as to the alleged freshness of the tracks. They were all of the opinion that the tracks were, indeed, fresh.”

Hynek also reported, “Although Zamora was the only witness to the actual sighting, nine people in all saw the markings.”

In Hynek’s second report, dated March 12 and 13, 1965, Hynek wrote, “All that seem definitely to agree on is that the green snakeweed and the green greasewood, which are notoriously hard materials to ignite, showed evidence of having been charred, as though they have been seared by a hot flame and not burned in an ordinary fashion.”

Regardless of the claim the Phillips saw nothing, there is good testimony that markings were there and that burning (or charring) of the bushes were there. Klass’ claims were in error, and if he had been speaking as one who thought that the UFO was extraterrestrial, these claims would have been challenged. They have not, until now.

Klass suggests that Phillips and his wife were home at the time. In his book, he wrote, “Phillips said that he and his wife had been home at the time of the reported incident, and that several windows and doors had been opened – yet neither of them heard the loud roar that Zamora reported during takeoff.”

In the Posner interview, he took it further, saying, “When I interviewed a man who lived right near the landing site, and had been working in his garden when the UFO supposedly blasted off, he told me that he hadn't heard a thing...”

This is a much more damaging statement. Rather than being inside with their doors and windows open, now Phillips is outside, where he should have been able to hear the UFO.

The maps that I have, crude though they all are, show that Phillips lived to the southeast of the landing site. This is important because, according to Hynek’s report, “The wind at that time was blowing very strongly from the south...”

Which means, of course, that the sound was blown away from Phillips. If he was inside, as had been suggested in the earlier accounts, including that by Klass, then there is a real possibility that he would have heard nothing. And, importantly, if he was inside, it would explain why he and his wife saw nothing. With no sound, they wouldn’t have gone to the windows so see what was making all the noise.

What we learn in this brief little study is that, semantics aside, Klass did hint that the mayor and Zamora were involved in a hoax to create a tourist attraction. It might be suggested that Zamora had been fooled, but the implication is clear. The fact is that no evidence has ever surfaced that anyone talked about a tourist attraction prior to the landing.

Klass was wrong about the ownership of the land and never presented any evidence that he knew who the owner was. He merely slung his allegation as evidence that the mayor wanted to create a tourist industry in Socorro, and by implication, make some money.

Klass has claimed the case was a hoax because Felix Phillips, who lived close to the site heard nothing. But Klass moves him from inside his house to the outside, working in his garden. He also claimed that Phillips walked the area of the landing but saw nothing.

But that doesn’t track with the evidence. There were a number of people who were there, who saw the physical evidence and who photographed it. While you might claim that the mayor and Zamora were involved in a hoax, you could not make a case for the FBI agent, Air Force officers and Hynek who did see the physical evidence.

Hynek, in his investigation made one observation that is important to us. He said the wind was blowing strongly from the south, and the map in Klass’ book puts the Phillips house to the southeast, meaning that the wind is blowing away from the witness. It is possible he heard nothing because of the wind.

For these reasons, we can reject the Klass conclusion of hoax because his evidence is, to put it kindly, quite thin. Does this mean that an alien craft landed in Socorro? No. It means that the case for a hoax, as identified by Klass, does not exist.

And, we’ve caught Klass in a couple of mistakes in his reporting of the case. I believe that there was nothing nefarious in his embellishments. It was, as the skeptical community is quite happy to point out, probably a problem with memory. Klass might truly have believed what he said in the online interview, but he was just as clearly in error.

But, I could say that Klass had accomplished his mission, which was to explain the Socorro landing. He said it was a hoax, and continued to say that far and wide. He said it enough that some people believe that it was a hoax. The problem is that Klass never proved it to be a hoax and he offered no evidence that it was.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Philip Klass and His Letter Writing Campaigns

Lance objected to my word “routinely,” when I suggested that Philip Klass routinely contacted employers of UFO witnesses and investigators. Christopher Allen suggested that if I listed five examples, then that might cover the point.

What I should have said originally is that Klass (seen here) routinely caused trouble for the witnesses, researchers, investigators and believers in UFOs by writing letters to their families, friends and employers and that he harassed them periodically when they didn’t respond to him as he thought they should.

Here’s what we can prove.

Klass, using his power as an editor of Aviation Week (meaning he wrote his letters in the McDonald case on the magazine’s letterhead, suggesting the inquiry was not from Philip Klass private citizen, but from Philip Klass on the staff of the magazine) contacted the Office of Naval Research about Dr. James McDonald. He wanted to know if McDonald had been doing UFO research while on grant research in Australia.

The answer was yes, but the ONR knew about it and had tacitly approved what McDonald had been doing. Klass was not satisfied, though I don’t know why, or who he thought he was to object. He had raised what we all might agree was a legitimate concern about the misuse of government money for UFO research. ONR launched an internal audit and determined that what McDonald had done was not outside the rather wide scope of his research grant.

Klass, continued writing letters (no Lance, not one everyday), but enough to cause concern in the ONR. While the thinking at ONR is not known, it is known that the military, as well as others in Washington, D.C., respond quickly to inquiries from Aviation Week. Klass might claim that he was a private citizen concerned with taxpayer money, but he used the club of the magazine to get what he wanted. ONR decided not to continue funding McDonald’s research. We can guess why they made that decision, but it would only be a guess.

It is not clear if Klass’ superiors knew what he was doing or if they would have approved had they known in the beginning. By the time the question was raised about the legitimacy of Klass’ use of Aviation Week letterhead, the wagons were circled and other editors suggested they knew and approved of Klass’ action. Kind of the same circumstance that we find with McDonald and his superiors at ONR.

The point here is that Klass did contact McDonald’s superiors and slung allegations about the legitimacy of McDonald’s research. You can suggest that all Klass wanted to know was if McDonald had been conducting UFO research in violation of his grant, but once that question was answered, Klass should have moved on. Instead he continued to write letters. Obviously he had another agenda.

Had this been the only example of this sort of thing, then it could be overlooked. Maybe Klass had gone too far in his questioning and maybe he wrapped himself in the mantle of Aviation Week, but McDonald had used ONR funds to pursue his UFO research. When ONR didn’t complain, or rather announced that they found nothing improper, that should have been the end of it. Of course it wasn’t.

Klass did this again after Dr. Bob Jacobs wrote an article for the January 1989 issue of The MUFON Journal. In it, Jacobs said that he was a former Air Force officer and that he had been involved in a UFO sighting, which, I guess is now called The Big Sur UFO Filming. Jacobs said that the UFO was alien and that the Air Force had ordered him not to talk about what he had seen and what had been filmed. He wrote that he had been told, “Lieutenant Jacobs, this never happened.”

In his article, Jacobs referenced a paper, Preliminary Report on Image Orthicon Photography written by Kingston A. George. Klass, though he had all the information necessary, wanted Jacobs to send him a copy of the paper. Klass offered to pay for it but Jacobs didn’t like the tone of the letter. To him it seemed that Klass was ordering him to send the paper.

Jacobs refused, and Klass, apparently went ballistic. He wrote a two page report in his Skeptics UFO Newsletter (SUN) about Jacobs and the Big Sur sighting, suggesting somewhat unkindly that the whole thing was bogus.

Klass wrote, “JOURNALISM PROFESSOR (AND FORMER USAF OFFICER) ‘MANUFACTURED TALL UFO TALE, THEN ACCUSES THE GOVERNMENT OF COVERING IT UP.” (Those who have seen the SUN Newsletter know that Klass was in the habit of capitalizing, underscoring and using boldface type to emphasize his remarks, sometimes using all three at once.)

Jacobs suggested that he had cited his source properly, given Klass the name of it, the author and the date, and that was all he was required to do to properly source the document. Klass then wrote to Jacobs’ boss at the University of Maine in an attempt to discredit him.

Klass wrote:

Dear Prof. Craig:

I am writing to bring to your attention what seems to be to be unbecoming conduct on the part of a journalist and member of your faculty. One should expect a faculty member to serve as a role model for students in demonstrating the ethics and responsibilities of their profession. I refer to Dr. Bob Jacobs.

According to that letter, Klass introduced himself and then said he had become interested in Jacob’s claim that he had photographed a UFO. He wrote that he had offered to pay for the report mentioned earlier and that Jacobs had refused to send the document.

Klass then wrote:

I understand why Jacobs is reluctant to release this report. Based on my research, I’m confident the report would reveal that his ‘UFO tale’ is a cock-and-bull story.

If Jacobs were a young journalist working for the National Enquirer, or one of its even less scrupulous clones, I might be more tolerant of his behavior. But when a professor of journalism, who publicly accuses the USAF and the U.S. Government of ‘cover-up,’ resorts to intentional distortion of the facts to mislead his readers and then to cover-up, I am deeply distressed.

I hope you share my feelings.
It was signed by Klass.

This is akin to the tactic he used against McDonald and the ONR. But the University of Maine had no fear of Aviation Week or a UFO hobbyist (as Klass described himself in the letter) from Washington, D.C. Jacobs did not lose his job.

To read all of the article by Dr. Bob Jacobs, see:

But that’s not all.

When Stan Friedman (seen here in "lecture" mode) began to contemplate a move to Canada, Klass decided that he needed to save Canada from the foibles of Friedman. He wrote a letter that Richard Dolan found in Canadian archives in 2005.

According to Dolan:

The letter was dated August 15, 1980, and addressed to Dr. A. G. McNamara of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics. It was unsolicited, and is a straightforward character smear of Stanton Friedman, who was at the time in the process of moving to Canada. According to Klass, Friedman was a “full-time UFO lecturer (of the ‘snake-oil salesman’ variety).” He was moving to Canada "to become its chief UFO Guru." Friedman was ‘quite a showman’ whose lectures were ‘so filled with half-truths and falsehoods that it would take me several hours to offer a rebuttal. And like wrestling with an octopus, when you manage to pin down one leg, the other seven are still thrashing about.
The letter disparages Friedman’s professional credentials as a nuclear physicist, twice refers to Friedman’s "mountainous ego," and calls him "something of an outcast" within the UFO "movement." All in all, a nasty and underhanded little letter. Better yet, Klass enclosed a "White Paper" he prepared on Friedman "that illustrates the man’s modus-operandi and his distortion of facts." (This White Paper was not included in the material I saw at the archives.)

But why send the letter at all? Klass said he wanted to warn the good people at NRC that Friedman would now in all likelihood be directing his focus on them.
"I can assure you," Klass wrote, "that you and your associates will be publicly accused of a UFO Coverup (or ‘Cosmic Coverup,’ as he is prone to say) that ‘dwarfs the Watergate scandal.’" Also, "to alert you to deal cautiously with him knowing he is inclined to distort the facts and exploit any ambiguity in your statements."
The final statement is illustrative. "Please treat this letter in confidence, sharing it with appropriate associates as you see fit."

Dolan concluded, “In other words, tell as many people as you can, but behind Friedman’s back, please.”

For those who wish to read Dolan’s complete analysis of this incident, see:

But that’s not all.

In a similar vein, as I joined the Air Force Reserve as an intelligence officer, Klass was in communication with the man assigned to do the background investigation. I know this because the man happened to live across the street from my father and told him I was being investigated for a security clearance. All I know was that Klass thought that it ironic that as a UFO investigator I had written magazine articles that suggested the Air Force was engaged in a cover-up of UFOs. He suggested they read those stories before deciding if I was worthy of the trust of the Air Force. After all, I had already demonstrated that I thought little of the Air Force and if trusted with its secrets, might I not leak them into the public arena.

I do know that the investigator did obtain some of the stories I had written about the Air Force, including one about the opening of the Project Blue Book files while I was still in Air Force ROTC. That story, and the others, did not seem to worry the Air Force. I was both commissioned and then granted a top secret security clearance (I'm standing on a building at the Baghdad International Airport in 2004).

Klass, in a move that I never understood, mentioned that I drew a number of unnamed benefits based on my military service. We exchanged a series of letters over this with Klass harping on these benefits. I told him repeatedly that after using the G.I. Bill for college and to buy my first house, I knew of no other benefits to which I was entitled. At that point I had not completed twenty years of military service (active duty and reserve and National Guard). Since then I have retired from the military with more than twenty years and do receive various benefits.

He didn’t like my answer and kept asking the question. However, when I asked about his military service he responded, sarcastically, about his long military record. Yes, it was all tongue in cheek and I understood that, but if he expected a serious answer from me, shouldn’t he supply a serious answer to my question? He did avoid service during WW II and Korea and was probably considered too old for Vietnam, though the Army didn’t think I was too old for Iraq.

But that’s not all.

J. Allen Hynek, who had once been an Air Force consultant to Project Blue Book, learned that Klass called McGraw-Hill about Hynek’s UFO book. According to Allan Hendry, Klass wanted to know why McGraw-Hill had a “UFO nut” on its payroll and suggested that McGraw-Hill fire him.

And when he wasn’t attempting to interfere in the private lives by attacking our livelihoods or our plans to move, he was busy assassinating the characters of those who disagreed with him or who claimed UFO sightings. The Travis Walton case proves the point with Klass’ continued assaults on Walton’s integrity and his prying into Walton’s past.

Let’s be clear on this. Background checks are important and necessary. When Robert Willingham claimed to be a retired Air Force colonel, it was necessary to learn if that is the truth. If Willingham was not an Air Force officer, then his story of the Del Rio UFO crash collapses. But my investigation was limited to the public sources available, and not a search through his entire background to find any dirt that I could. The issue was Willingham’s military service and not what he might have done as a teenager.

And, if a witness has a long history of deceit, is known for his tall tales or practical jokes, then it is necessary to learn that. But there becomes a point where that sort of investigation can become intrusive and borders on harassment. Klass was unaware of the line, or maybe he knew where it was, but simply didn’t care.

While he should get credit for learning about the first lie detector test taken by Walton, the one Walton failed, getting into Walton’s juvenile record is going a step too far. I’m not sure that a juvenile indiscretion, a one time thing, should become part of a UFO investigation, especially if the circumstances are as Walton laid them out in one of his long responses to Klass. A very well written and intelligent response appears in the 1996 updated edition of Fire in the Sky.

Walton is an extreme case, with Klass spending years attacking not only Walton but the fellows with him and his family. I think that dragging his family into it is another step too far. Call the case a hoax, suggest that it is not grounded in reality, but do you really need to attack the family as well.

Klass (back to the camera in Roswell, New Mexico) attacked Minnesota police officer Val Johnson, after Johnson said his police car was damaged, and he was burned, by a UFO. Klass called the case a hoax, which was calling Johnson a liar, in national publications and various other forums. Fortunately, Johnson’s boss, and the others in the area didn’t buy Klass’ assessment, which had been based on Klass’ opinion that there are no UFOs and therefore Johnson must be lying.

In another case, that of Australian Frederick Valentich, who disappeared in a small aircraft after reporting that he was under aerial assault by some undefined UFO, Klass told Don Ecker that Valentich was a drug smuggler. There is no evidence of this, other than Valentich seemed to have had four life preservers on his light plane. I’m not sure how Klass determined this, or if it was true, but the smear was there.

For more information about this see the Wikipedia entry about Klass and see:

In fact, we can look at case after case in which Klass had decided that the witnesses were lying. He claimed he could prove them to be a hoax, but his proof often fell short. He just didn’t have the information to prove a case a hoax, but since there were no UFOs, then, in some cases, that was the only possible answer.

To some, labeling a case a hoax is not a big deal. But the bottom line is this, especially when the case has received national, or international, publicity, labeling it a hoax is calling the witness, or witnesses, liars. If there is evidence that the case is a hoax, then yes, it should be labeled as such and we all, skeptic, debunker, researcher or enthusiast, should spread that solution far and wide.

But when there is no evidence of a hoax, but the only available answer left to explain a case in the mundane is hoax, then it should not be labeled as such. Klass had no evidence that Val Johnson had wrecked his police car on purpose and made up the story of the UFO, but Klass labeled it a hoax anyway.

A quick search in almost any reference will revel Klass’ investigations and his conclusions. Anyone will be able to see that Klass attacked not only the case, but the witness, or the investigator involved. His attitude seemed to be that if you can’t attack the case, then attack the witnesses.

Such conduct can be seen in the University of Nebraska seminar about UFOs to be held in 1983. According to Jerry Clark:

On August 23, 1983, an administrator at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln took a strange phone call from a man who had a complaint which he expressed at some length. When he finally got offf the phone, the administrator summarized the conversation in a memo to another university official:

“Mr. Phillip [sic] Klass ... is a member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal [CSICOP]. This committee has a much different view of unexplained phenomena than those groups we are working with as sponsors of "this conference [titled Exploring Unexplained Phenomena]. He was, in fact, quite adament [sic] in his position regarding the credibility of the conference presenters. Further, Mr. Klass has a personal feeling that the nature of this conference seriously questions the integrity of the United States Government. He feels that there is no scientific evidence to support the claims of the presenters and indicated that these organizations, by publicly questioning the government, lend support to the Communist movement."
On November 23 Klass wrote the administrator, who was startled to see large chunks of Klass' words from their three-month-old conversation quoted verbatim -- indicating, the administrator correctly surmised, that Klass had taped the two without informing him he was doing so. Klass said that since a "copy of your memo was 'leaked' to outsiders," he wanted to "clarify and expand upon statements" he had made. He said "we" -- presumably meaning himself and CSICOP -- did not seek to "prevent conferences or meetings by those who want to propose UFOs" but that he had some trouble with the university's sponsorship of a conference on the subject. What, he asked, would the university do "if the American Nazi Party came in and said they [sic] wanted to hold a conference?"
"I emphasize to you that I am not, repeat not, suggesting that any of the people or any of the organizations are in any way affiliated with Communist Fronts or with the Soviet Union. But as a patriotic American, I very much resent the charge of 'coverup', of lying, of falsehoods, charged against not one Administration, not two, but eight Administrations going back to a man from Missouri named Truman, a man named Dwight Eisenhower. Because if this charge is true -- Cosmic Watergate -- then all of these Presidents were implicated, and all of their Administrations.... [In making this charge, ufologists] seek what the Soviet Union does -- to convey to the public that our Government can not be trusted, that it lies, that it falsifies. Now I'm not so naive -- remembering Watergate -- to say that never has happened in history. But from my firsthand experience (i.e., 17 years in the field of UFOlogy), I know this charge is completely false. And I resent it as an American citizen."
Remarkably, Klass distributed copies of this letter to others, including me, on the evident belief that it would exonerate him, in other words demonstrate that when read in context his sentiments would sound rational. He would even charge that the administrator's paraphrase had been "inaccurate," when if anything it made Klass' charge sound marginally less nutty. As I wrote Klass on December 6, "In the past, when your critics have accused you of engaging in McCarthyism, they were using the term in a metaphorical sense. Now, it seems, they will be able to use it in the most literal sense."
For those who wish more information and to read all of Jerry Clark’s thoughts on this, see:


Phil Klass, of course, didn’t see it all quite this way. In an interview conducted by his friend, Gary Posner, he gave his own version of the events. Klass told Posner:

To the best of my aging recollection, I have never attempted to get any organization to cancel a pro-UFO conference or any of its selected speakers. But I know what you're referring to. Back in 1983 I received a phone call from a faculty member of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, who was embarrassed because the school was sponsoring a conference on the alleged "Cosmic Watergate Government UFO Coverup," and no skeptical speakers were on the agenda. So I decided to write a short article "needling" the university. But before doing so I needed to interview an appropriate official. So I called Prof. Robert Mortenson, the school's director of conferences, who expressed surprise to hear that no skeptics had been invited. He told me that he appreciated my concern, and that if they were to sponsor a UFO conference the next year, there should be a better effort made to balance the presentation. At one point during that telecon I did say that, although I am not suggesting that any of the people or organizations involved in the conference are in any way affiliated with communist fronts or the Soviet Union, nevertheless, their reckless "Watergate-type coverup" charges against eight administrations, going all the way back to President Truman, serve, not unlike communist propaganda, to foment distrust and suspicion of the integrity of our government. I also very distinctly remember telling Mortenson, "Let me emphasize to you that I am not, repeat not, suggesting that you cancel or terminate this conference." Again, that was in 1983. A newspaper article the following year quoted Mortenson as saying that the university had decided not to hold another UFO conference that year because the ones in 1982 and 1983 had lost money.
This was, of course, the excuse given for not holding another conference, though it came after the conference host demanded to know why the series had been cancelled.

Klass continued his version, saying:

...[F]ollowing our conversation, Mortenson wrote a brief memo about it to an assistant chancellor. But he misquoted me as having said that conferences like this "lend support to the Communist movement," which carries quite a different connotation -- I had been very, very deliberate in my choice of words to insure that I would not be misunderstood. Anyway, who leaked the memo I don't know. But photocopies of it were distributed at the conference. And the next issue of the MUFON UFO Journal said that I had tried to "scuttle" the conference because it, and others like it, were "aiding the Communist cause." In the same issue, MUFON's director, Walt Andrus, quoted the memo verbatim and even indicated that he had in his possession copies of Mortenson's original handwritten notes that he had jotted down during our conversation. So, armed with all that, one of my most vehement critics began to hurl the charge of "McCarthyism" against me -- even though I had earlier provided him with a verbatim quote of what I had actually said. Mortenson later denied in a letter to me that either he or his deputy had given his notes to Andrus, but he did say that copies of his memo had been sent to the program coordinator and the "file" for informational purposes. But as for exactly what I did say in that conversation, it is just as I told you. When I picked up the phone to call Mortenson, I was planning to write an article, but I never did because he sounded so gratified to learn from me that the panel was so biased, and even asked me if CSICOP would provide speakers for the next year's conference. And because I had planned an article, to assure accuracy I tape recorded that call and, fortunately, I still have that tape.
For those who wish to read all of Posner’s interview with Klass, see:

For all of this, I had a fairly cordial relation with Philip Klass over the years. We once went sailing on the Potomac and got stuck, momentarily, on a sandbar. In later years Klass didn’t remember this, but I did, probably because it is the only time that I went sailing.

We would speak at conventions, and as I have told others, on the last occasion that I saw him, I had to assist him up a couple of stairs to the elevators and then onto his hotel room. His health wasn’t as good as it had been in the past.

And for all the trouble he caused, he was not the worst of the lot. That distinction belongs to Kal Korff, who in today’s world attempts to market himself as a colonel and who has threatened to sue anyone who looks at him sideways. He is a vicious man filled with rage and makes up the most outrageous claims. When challenged with evidence, he quietly changes these claims, but never apologizes.

Of the two, I much prefer Klass who seemed to be a gentleman outside the UFO arena. Korff is just nasty. How you feel about all this is, I suppose, a matter of perspective.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Roswell and the Disappearing Debris

I have never been a big fan of the paranoia that runs through the UFO field. I don’t believe Men in Black are stalking UFO witnesses or investigators. I don’t believe that black helicopters routinely inspect witnesses and investigators. I just don’t buy into all the paranoia that runs so deep.

But there are questions. Frank Kimbler (photo courtesy Alejandro Rojas of Open Minds), who teaches at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, and who has spent time inspecting the terrain around the various debris fields and crash sites, has had some luck in finding strange debris. I say strange simply because it is not readily identifiable. He has just some scraps that he, as a geologist, was unable to identify with the equipment available to him. Doesn’t mean what he has is of alien manufacture or extraterrestrial origin. Just that it is a little odd.

On September 2, 2010, I received an email from Frank about a metal fragment he’d sent to Arizona State University for analysis, which is to say that I was just one of a couple of dozen recipients of the email. Frank send his concerns about his fragment to many of us.

Frank had received an email from Dr. Lynda B. Williams, a research professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU. She wrote that she had received his FEDEX package and that she had opened it on the lab bench, but found nothing inside.

She wrote, “I was expecting a 2mm foil and a standard. There is nothing in there but a black felt with gray sponge layer on top of a thin grey [yes, she used both spellings] sponge layer attached to white cotton. Which layer had the sample on it? I’m sorry, but its just not there!”

Frank wrote back:

The AH- 1 metal fragment was well packaged and I can't believe that it is lost. I did not forget to include the fragment. I can assure you it was in the small round box, directly on the top in plain sight in the box.
This UFO evidence stuff is an interesting game to play. Seems to be a great deal like cat and mouse, cloak and dagger and chess all wrapped in one.
I hate to say this but I was warned and should have never trusted sending an

alloy fragment to anyone, universities, or private labs I should have hand delivered it to the SIMS lab. So its my word against everyone else's; and its my fault. The stupid mistake I make will not happen again.
The metal fragment was in the round plastic box. The round plastic container has a small metal fragment about 1.5 x 2 mm in size. It was directly on top of the black material and visible just about dead center through the plastic top. The plastic container was wrapped in a small amount of bubble wrap and taped at both ends and placed in small brown padded envelope which was also taped and stapled at the top; this was placed in a Fed-EX mailer. Very static sensitive as I mentioned in the note in the package. There was no standard because it takes weeks to get those from ALCOA.
No other fragments will be sent to anyone. All specimens will be delivered by me, under private armed guard if needed, every step of the analysis will be supervised by me and a trusted scientist or individual.
He signed his name.

No, I have no explanation for this. I know that Frank would not be engaged in some sort of hoax to elevate the importance of his work. I don’t know how any governmental agency, if a governmental agency was involved, could have pulled this off. It is one of those mysteries that dot the landscape. (Debris photo courtesy of Frank Kimbler.)

I do know that back in 1990, after Mark Wolf, Don Schmitt and I had interviewed Glenn Dennis on tape for the first and second times, that Wolf gave me one set of interviews and he took the other set. He said that the package that contained his video tapes had been tampered with, but nothing was missing. He thought it strange simply because, on other assignments and documentaries, when they had transported video tapes, nothing had been disturbed. However, all the tapes were there and I had the duplicate (or rather the other interview) with me so it wasn’t as if anything was lost.

Make of this what you will. The sample has vanished from the closed package. Dr. Williams didn’t mention that she thought there had been tampering and she wasn’t looking for that. I do know that I have received some FEDEX packages in pretty sorry shape.

One fact remains. There was nothing in the package, and unless Frank is engaging in some kind of scheme, I have no explanation for this.