The UFO community has had to put up with fake news for much more than a century. In 1897 there were a number of Great Airship stories that were printed by newspapers. The reporters and editors had to know that some of them were fake, but the interest was there, the stories were there and the bottom line is that newspapers need to make money. Hype a story that doesn’t deserve it, add details that the reporters invent and a few quotes to make the story better or just make it up completely.
|Aurora, Texas in the early 1970s. Photo copyright by|
I am convinced, by the evidence, or the lack there of, that the Aurora UFO crash of April, 1897, is a hoax begun by a newspaper stringer who wanted to do something for his town. Beyond the story printed in 1897, there isn’t much evidence of the airship crash, until UFO researchers became involved in the 1970s. The point here, however, is that in today’s world, this would be labeled as fake news.
To bring this closer to us, here in 2018, and keeping with the theme of the last few posts, I looked at the La Madera UFO landing. This was a sighting that took place in the hours after the Zamora sighting, and by hours, I mean something like 30 hours after the landing in Socorro. Orlando Gallegos said that just after 12:30 a.m. on April 26, 1964, he had gone outside and about 200 yards away, saw something he told Sheriff Martin Vigil, looked to be as long as a telephone pole and as big a round as a car. He said there was a bluish-white flame all around it and as Gallegos watched, the flames went out. I provided a long report on this sighting in Encounter in the Desert, for those who wish to learn more about the case.
The point here is not to talk about the sighting, but about one of the newspaper reports that appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican on December 28, 1969, some five years after the sighting. At the end of the story written by Ron Longto, Vigil is quoted as saying, “I’m not going to speculate on just what was at La Madera that night… but I hope it never comes back.”
|Dr. James McDonald|
Dr. James McDonald had seen the story and wanted to check on the veracity of it, meaning the quotes attributed to Vigil, not to mention some of the facts of the case. He couldn’t get Gallegos on the telephone but he could find Vigil. In a March 12, 1970, letter, McDonald wrote:
Upon explaining the purpose of my call and citing the press story, I got a laughing but emphatic statement from Vigil, “They absolutely misquoted me.” I presumed from that he was about to disclaim everything in the story but that was not the case at all. Instead, his strong initial reaction was sensitivity to the closing sentence of the story, in which the reporter took the liberty of inventing the quote that Vigil “hopes [sic] it never comes back.” The one other disclaimer was to the effect that he had said nothing to reporter Longo to suggest that “they really put the heat on Gallegos to keep his mouth shut about that sighting in La Madera.”
There is one other thing to say about all this. I have been accused of misquoting people on a number of occasions, but those allegations were untrue. I had taped the interviews and the transcripts reflected what I had said they said. J. Bond Johnson, the man who took most of the photographs in General Ramey’s office after the Roswell story broke in 1947, said that I had misquoted him on a number of points. When I read the transcripts to him over the telephone, he said that he hadn’t said those things because they weren’t true. He was convinced that I had misquoted him and he wanted to hear the tapes so he could prove it.
I sent him an edited version so that he wouldn’t have to sit through the whole four hours of interviews, but that had the quotes on them. His response was to say that I had admitted to editing the tapes and he couldn’t find all the quotes. So, I sent him all four hours, plus the transcripts, twice, and the best he could do was show that I had left an unimportant conjunction out of the transcripts. That, of course, didn’t satisfy him and even though he had the tapes, he continued to say that I had misquoted him. He had gone from telling the truth in the interviews I conducted to an assault on me, even when he knew he was wrong.
The point is that sometimes, when people don’t like the direction of the quotes, they claim to have been misquoted. Here, with Vigil, I see no reason he would claim to have been misquoted on something as innocuous as the last line in the story unless that was something that he hadn’t said. The quote is a nice wrap up for the story, a good final line, and the impression of the reporter might have been that Vigil felt that way, but Vigil said he didn’t say it. At least he said he hadn’t said it.
Is this overly important to the overall story? Not really, other than give us a look at something that in the world today would be called fake news. Vigil didn’t seem overly upset by the quote given his reaction to it. But it also demonstrates that we, as investigators, researchers, writers, and proponents of a point of view must get this stuff right even when it is something as inconsequential as that last line. E must be careful or we can damage all the work we have done.
And, besides all that, I thought it was kind of an interesting anecdote…