Thursday, March 12, 2015

December 18, 1966: Bear Mountain State Park, New York

I thought for fun and to change the tone of the discussion, I'd publish this analysis of a case that appears in the Project Blue Book files. The picture that appears in the files is so poor that it is nearly impossible to see with a magnifying glass. Of course those who wish to see it could take a look at the Fold3 site found here to look at the picture and good luck with that.

The Air Force, after a quick analysis, decided, “Photo: Hoax. Photo does not substantiate the witnesses’ description of alleged UFO.”

The quick description was that the object was long with a hump on its back. The color was silver to brown. The witness said that he didn’t know how big the object was, but thought it was big. He would later suggest that it was it was about twenty feet long. The object appeared to wobble and that it disappeared behind a fire tower on a 1320 foot hill.

The official report, which was gathered within days of the sighting in a telephone interview, revealed that there was a single UFO, there was no sound or exhaust and that it had no wings. The pictures were taken about dusk.

First Lieutenant Thomas A. Knutson was the investigating officer. He wrote, “The initial interview was by telephone. The pictures were received 1½ weeks after the call. A second interview (personal) was conducted after receipt of the photographs and Mr. [name redacted but is Vincent Perna, 23] furnished the negative.” Although it is unclear from the Project Blue Book file, Perna apparently took four pictures before the object disappeared.

This sighting would be of no real value, even with the photographs, except for the Air Force conclusion and Dr. J. Allen Hynek’s response to that conclusion. On February 20, 1967, the Air Force provided its solution to the case. On the official form, located in the Project Blue Book files, Douglas M. Rogers offered his opinion:

Examination of the negative has negated double exposure and/or retouching. The photographs appear genuine insofar as content is concerned, however, no satisfactory explanation could be made of the unidentified object. The object appears to be circular in planform, basically flat in cross section with a domed “superstructure.” The object appears to be situated beyond the foreground trees, indicating a diameter in excess of eight inches, and the relative clarity indicates it to be substantially nearer than the background trees. The object could have a diameter as great as two or three feet. No attempt at “panning” was indicated as evidenced by the sharpness of the general scene. The object exhibits some small degree of blurriness indicating motion, the direction of which could not be ascertained.
The report was approved by Major William L. Turner, who was the chief of the photo analysis branch and Wilber Price, Jr., who was the chief of the exploitation division.

Hynek thought that the conclusion was “completely unfounded and unjustified. He sent a letter to Major Hector Quintanilla, who was the Chief of Project Blue Book at the time. Hynek wrote:

Dear Major Quintanilla:
On re-examination I find no substantiation for the evaluation of hoax, particularly in view of the photo analysis report, No. 67 – 10, dated 20 February 1967, which contains no information upon which a hoax can be based. To the contrary, the report stated that close examination of the negative negated double exposure and/or retouching. The photographs appear genuine insofar as content; however no satisfactory explanation could be made of the unidentified object. The lack of a satisfactory explanation of the unidentified object does not constitute sufficient reason to declare a hoax. Further, the interviewed considers the witness to be a reliable source.
After examination of the print by myself and by Mr. Beckman of the University of Chicago, we feel that the original negative should be requested for further examination. Mr. Beckman, a qualified photo-analyst, disagrees with the photo analysis presented in the report as to the distance of the object. He points out that the depth of field extends much farther than indicated in the report. It will be noted, from the print, that the focus is poor in the entire periphery of the picture regardless of distance; only in the center of the picture is the focus good, and this good focus extends essentially to infinity. Consequently no judgment can be made as to the real size of the object, if this judgment is based on the quality of focus.
My recommendation is, therefore, that the evaluation be changed from hoax to unidentified.

The letter was signed by Hynek who was, at the time, their scientific consultant, but the recommendation wasn’t followed. The “Hoax” evaluation was left intact.

It could be argued, and in fact Hynek does say it, that “…the Air Force was not interested in finding out all of the possible facts – or a more thorough investigation might have been conducted.”

It could also be argued that by this time, that is early 1967, Hynek had jumped ship and was always in conflict with the Air Force. He has said that there was animosity between him and Quintanilla at that time. He might have argued with any evaluation the Air Force made.

But what about this Mr. Beckman? He isn’t employed by Northwestern University where Hynek works, seems to have no stake in the case one way or the other, and he apparently agrees with Hynek’s evaluation. Beakman offers a counter to what seemed to be a solid Air Force analysis that had no other mission than to evaluate a photograph of a flying saucer.

In the end, it seems like a case of picking a side and arguing the point. There is no evidence of tampering with the negative or the prints, so the conclusion that it is a genuine picture seemed to be confirmed. That evaluation, for those paying close attention, meant that no one had doctored with the print of the negative. But it did not mean that the object photographed wasn’t a small model suspended some distance beyond the nearest trees and the farthest. Given that the camera had a set focal length, there simply wasn’t enough evidence to make a positive determination so that both sides could make claims that were hard to justify.

There is one other point to this. In 1967, the University of Colorado was beginning their investigation of UFOs for the Air Force. It would seem that a photographic case that was only a few months old, would be of interest to that project. They could have talked to the witness; they could have evaluated the photograph and then would have been able to examine the camera. It was all very timely for them, but there is no evidence that they made the effort to do so. Maybe they took the Air Force conclusion as an accurate evaluation. Hynek’s letter wasn’t sent to Quintanilla until November. Given that, they might not have thought it was worth the effort to investigate for themselves.


Capt Steve said...

Kevin, I believe that the Mr Beckman referred to is Fred Beckman. In 'Forbidden Science' Vallee mentions Beckman several times as being part of an informal group of UFO enthusiasts at that time (mid to late 60's).

Larry said...

Rich posted a copy of the photo on his website. From that picture, the obvious hoax hypothesis is that it is a small object suspended by a thread from a limb belonging to one of the trees that is in the foreground. (Such a limb, if it exists, is not visible in the photo, but may be presumed to project out to the left of the tree trunks.)

From this simple observation, the Air Force conjecture that the photo is a hoax, is perfectly reasonable.

However, the conjecture that the photo is a hoax is not proven by any element of the story, and is perhaps falsifiable.

For one thing, it is possible to see very small twigs in the photo at approximately the same distance from the camera as the trees, yet no supporting string is visible. How small would a supporting string have to be to be invisible? No one seems to have posed, much less attempted to answer, this question.

More importantly (to my mind) is the statement that apparently 4 different photos were taken. If they were all compared, it should be fairly easy to distinguish between the hypothesis of a small, nearby string-supported model, and a large, distant free-flying object.

Again, the Air Force seems to have not expressed any intellectual curiosity toward answering this question.

Another example of Air Force bullshit.

Anthony Mugan said...

Good idea. At the moment I'd say tid one was 'insufficient evidence', but there were possibilities for further investigation that were not done by BB
But then, that was never the point

KRandle said...

I have said it before... about 99% of all UFO pictures were taken by teenaged boys and about 99% of those are faked. Eventually, as they grow older, they fess up. Something we must always take into account. The point here was that the Air Force didn't really do their job. They just assumed it was a hoax and let it go at that. They should have made an effort to determine the truth rather than just slap their opinion on the case.

matilda said...

I would like to share another example that I feel relates to this subject. By chance my fiancé and I found out that his uncle and grandmother had witnessed a UFO back in 1952. We thought nothing more of it until coming across the Stock photo's taken in Passaic, NJ. After showing them pictures from the internet, they confirmed the object look like what they could remember. They both claim they had never seen the photos before this or knew about the incident appearing in a newspaper. It should be noted that they lived across the street and three houses up from the Stock's. I happened across a report on the incident found at The photo's where "never proven to be a hoax" but, ultimately labeled as such. Reasons given where because they "appeared too good to be true" and should have been witnessed by at least one independent observer, but ATIC could find none". According to my fiancés grandmother and uncle, who are both still living, no one ever asked them about George Stock or any unusual sightings.

Unknown said...

Dear Mr Randle,

I'm sorry to post this here, but I don't have a direct contact address for you.

My google-fu has failed me, but since you are deeply knowledgeable in the subject, could you point me to a list of dates of the Mogul balloon launches? Are they in the '95 GAO report? (I don't accept Mogul as a valid explanation for Roswell accounts, particularly due to the missing flight 4, I am trying to field a question from elsewhere)

Sorry to derail.

Much obliged

KRandle said...

Checo -

The best reference for the Mogul launches and all relevant data are in the Air Force Report "The Roswell Report: Fact vs Fiction." That contains Dr. Crary's diary, the launch records, the reports made about the balloon flights, nearly everything you could want.

Bob Koford said...

Note: AFOIN= Air Force Office of Intelligence AFCIN=Air Force Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence

With cases such as these, where it is perceived that the Air Force was lax, it makes it all the stranger when you read in the Archives about how AFOIN-X tried to re-invigorate the UFO Program, in 1957/1958. It had been noted that the Air Force investigators were being severely upstaged by certain civilian groups.

They revised 200-2, and even ordered a revamping of the entire attitude of the program.

They went so far as to try to emulate some of the more respectable private UFO investigation groups (that's where they began getting UFO "kits"...with Geiger counters, cameras...etc.)

AFOIN-4/AFCIN-4 was given a "new" plan on UFOs.

[see, for instance at the Blue Book website, beginning with NARA-PBB86-114, and proceeding a little further]

And yet, as we see many times, later in the files...later in time, the lax attitude continued.

It truly paints a picture of a program that is being run by different groups, who don't tell each other anything.

In this case, AFOIN-X1, who is, or thinks it is, monitoring AFOIN-4/AFCIN-4 (the Aerial Phenomenon Branch) assumes it is on top. Yet, it is almost like someone else comes along poking their nose in, winking...saying, "never you mind, now."

This is just one item that perpetuated the conspiracy stories over the years.

Unknown said...

OT (sorry):

It seems as though Chas. Moore's MOGUL balloon supposedly launched in early July 1947 has finally returned to Earth: