Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chasing My Own Footnotes

(Blogger's Note: This probably not all that interesting to many people, but I thought of it as important, if only to improve the quality of footnotes and endnotes that we see in many books... Besides, at the moment I'm tired of the whole Roswell Slides saga and there is nothing new happening there at the moment. So, enjoy if you can.)

While I continue my quest to improve the footnotes used by us all, I thought I should detail my latest challenge. While working on another project, I was looking at the Spitzbergen UFO crash. I was aware that there was a report for it in the Project Blue Book files, but I couldn’t seem to lay my hands on it. I looked at my A History of UFO Crashes which had a footnote reference that said, “Project Blue Book files, September 1952.”

That didn’t tell me much and I pulled out the master index for Blue Book but couldn’t find the file there in September. I went back to the files and notes I had created for the Spitzbergen case but could find nothing there that was helpful. I went to a number of other sources, none of which seemed to have drawn on Blue Book for their information or if they did, they didn’t mention it.

There are, in the Blue Book index, a large number of cases that fall outside of the investigation. These are newspaper clippings and other sources that have provided information on a case but that is all that is available about them. I thought Spitzbergen would be included among these but that didn’t help.

Frank Edwards and Ryan Wood, who both had written about the case, provided some source material, but according to Ole Jonny Braenne, who wrote a detailed account of the sighting in the November/December 1992 issue of the International UFO Reporter, the story couldn’t be traced to any specific individual or organization. Some of those sources, as quoted by Edwards and Wood, couldn’t be verified and were nothing more than dead ends. An article was attributed to a reporter with the initials J.M.M. but no one was able to identify him. These various sources seemed to be circular meaning one lead to another that eventually led back to the first.

All of this was interesting, and Braenne’s report suggested that the story was a hoax, but that didn’t get me to the Blue Book source. I tried using Fold3 and their Blue Book archives but Spitzbergen didn’t come up in the search engine. I finally went back to the Blue Book Index and starting with June, ran down through them, searching for anything from Norway or Spitzbergen. I finally came to a notation for a sighting there on July 9, 1952, but the solution was “aircraft.” That didn’t seem right but it was the only reference I could find to Spitzbergen in the files in the right time frame.

I went to the microfilm and searched for the case. There is no “Project Card” for it. The case follows another in which there is no Project Card but I did find it. After all this, I found that the footnote should have read, “Project Blue Book files, July 9, 1952, case no. 1411.” That tells you everything you need to know about it, even to the handwritten case numbers that appear in the index and if you went to the NICAP Blue Book site, you could have gotten to it quickly and easily providing you knew the proper date.

I will note here that there are several different dates associated with the case which complicated my search and I knew that it was in the Blue Book files when I started. In A History of UFO Crashes the date is September 9, 1952 and in Crash: When UFOs Fall from the Sky it is listed as September 12, 1952. Frank Edwards in Flying Saucers – Serious Business quotes from a newspaper report dated September 4, 1955 (as if this wasn’t complicated enough already) published in the Stuttgarter Tageblatt (which apparently is the Stuttgarts Dagblad). The Stuttgarter Tageblatt does not exist. The first mention of the Spitzbergen crash, at least according to Braenne was in the June 28, 1952 Saarbrucker Zeitung and mentions that the disc-shaped object was apparently tied to the Soviet Union. Markings and lettering in the craft were in Russian. The original story did not mention an alien craft. Although this is the source of the following stories, as it spread, the information about the Soviet origin of the craft was lost and it soon became an alien spaceship.

For those interested in Spitzbergen, avoid most of the articles about this case and look for the IUR article by Braenne (though in Crash I do cite the Braenne article and provide a more detailed analysis that I have here). Braenne provides the most comprehensive examination of the information. For those who don’t want to look at all this varied information in varied sources, I tell you this case is a hoax … even though that is suggested in the documentation, it is listed in the Blue Book files as an Earth-based aircraft.

In today’s world, if I was to write a footnote for this case, it would be a little more comprehensive and would look like this:

For the most comprehensive analysis of the Spitzbergen crash, see Braenne, Ole Jonny. “Legend of the Spitzbergen Saucer.” International UFO Reporter, 17,6 (November/December 1992): 14 – 20. See also, Randle, Kevin D. Crash: When UFOs Fall from the Sky. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Books. 2010:  146 – 152: Wood, Ryan. Majic Eyes Only, Broomfield, CO: Wood Enterprises, 2005. 102 – 104; Steinman, William S. and Wendelle C. Stevens. UFO Crash at Aztec, Tucson, AZ: Wendelle Stevens, 1986: 353 – 357; Edwards, Frank. Flying Saucers – Serious Business. New York: Bantam Books, 1966: 44 – 48.

I could also mention that Donald Keyhoe in Flying Saucers from Outer Space, Harold T. Wilkins in Flying Saucers on the Attack and Jimmy Guieu in Flying Saucers Come from Another World do mention the story briefly, but I only have the Wilkins’ book which contains no index. I haven’t bothered to search out the information in it simply because I know that the case is a hoax. In fact, I mention these other works, including those in the footnote to provide a balanced view of the report. I could have avoided all this effort had I properly provided the information in my original footnote, but then, I did cite the source and in the end I did find the information there. It just wasn’t all that easy to do.


Anthony Mugan said...

It does rather highlight an issue that bedevils the whole field. Here is a case that has essentially no substance at all behind it and yet it appears in many secondary sources. This is an alarmingly common occurrence and when you consider cases with perhaps a little more substance to them but insufficient evidence to rule out all possible conventional explanations the number of what I would view as serious cases drops off dramatically. Unfortunately we all have to wade through vast amounts of useless or near useless cases.
There have been attempts at putting together lists of 'best evidence' before but time moves on and these now seem in need of updating. We understand more about unusual atmospheric phenomena than we did 50 years ago and sometimes we know more about conventional aircraft that were operational in certain periods of time etc.
For what it's worth the cases I would tentatively list as being particularly evidential include
Fukuoka (1948)
Kodiak Island (1950)
Tremonton (1952)
Haneda (1952)
Ellsworth (1953)
West Freugh (1957)
CUFOS BB case 1249- B52 N Montana (1959)
USS Gyatt (1964)
Minot AFB (1968)
Northern Tier bases (1975)
Canary Islands (1976)
Tehran (1976)
Wisconsin air space (1978)
New Zealand-off Coast ( 1978)
Trans-en-Provence (1981)
Japanese Airlines (1986)
Belgium- elements of the wave ( March 1990)
Illinois (2000)
Stephenville (2008)

There are a comparable number which come close, from Muroc AFB 1947 through Rendlesham (1981) to elements of Pheonix 1997 etc, but these either need some additional element of data or I just haven't gone through everything in enough detail personally yet to accept / reject them from the list. The list is heavily skewed to cases with data in English and must be considered partial and tentative at this stage.

If that little lot stand up to scrutiny some interesting conclusions might be reached....very few disks for example, but that is a step or two down the line.

D.J. Mahar said...

Enjoyed this footnotes article and learned much more about the Spitzbergen case. Given its chilly locations, I'm wondering if this tale was partially inspired by the film "The Thing from Another World" released around the same time.

Bob Koford said...

This would make a great TV show, Kevin.

Chasing Footnotes.

It could be used to enlighten in different ways, and expose interesting stories at the same time. Doesn't even have to always be about UFOs.

Ok, well, there ya have it /Bob

Terry the Censor said...

> Chasing Footnotes

As a proofreader/editor, I would watch that! I just don't think I could get anyone to watch it with me.