I have complained in the past that I am becoming less than thrilled with the UFO community. The reasons for this are varied but come down to a couple of basic ideas. One of those is that no matter how often a case is proven to be a hoax, a misidentification, a misinterpretation, or an inability to recognize the mundane, there are those who will argue the point forever. A recent post was partially inspired by this. How many times do we have to delve into the Oliver Lerch tale when everything that can be found points to an invention of the tale rather than a real event?
The point here, however, is that part of the problem is that some people who claim to be researchers or investigators just don’t follow the path to its end. This is what lead to the chasing of footnotes because sometimes the footnote is simply inadequate. Sometimes the information is not complete.
Not to pick on Richard Dolan, but just the other day as I was looking for something else, I noticed a couple of problems. These sorts of things are not restricted to Richard because we all have
fallen into the trap. On page 16 of his UFOs and the National Security State, he
reported on a sighting by railroad engineer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who saw ten
shiny disks on June 23. His footnote leads us to a number of sources, which
cover a number of sightings in that same paragraph. Unfortunately, the
information about the Cedar Rapids sighting is wrong, as I have noted in an
earlier posting. The report was not made until after the Arnold sighting, was
apparently for the afternoon of June 24 rather than the 23, and the railroad
man was not in Iowa, but in Joliet, Illinois. Among those who reported this
information as Dolan had, were Dick Hall and Frank Edwards. I believe Hall got
it from Edwards, who must have seen something in the Cedar Rapids Gazette about the sighting a couple of days after
Arnold. Edwards, or those others, had not followed the story to the source, or
they would have found the discrepancies.
|Richard Dolan. Photo copyright by|
As I say, not to pick on Dolan, but later, on page 25, he wrote about Bill Brazel and the finding of the metal debris from the Roswell crash. The footnote takes us to Stan Friedman’s Crash at Corona in which he quotes from an interview with Bill Brazel. The quotes are accurate, for the most part, but there is no footnote to explain how the information was gathered because Friedman supplies no information about that. The trail ends there.
However, I know how that interview was conducted because I had
arranged it, and Don
Schmitt and I were there. I recorded it. The more accurate footnote would have
taken us not to Friedman’s book, but to UFO
Crash at Roswell, where the footnote explained the circumstances of the
interview. In other words, the original source was that interview that Don and
I conducted and not the information printed in Friedman’s book.
|Stan Friedman. Photo copyright by|
A side problem with this is that Friedman altered one portion of the interview without justification. Those who follow Dolan’s footnote to Friedman will get the inaccurate information… Friedman inserted the word “black” into the interview to describe one the sergeants who came to the Brazel ranch to collect the bits of debris Bill had found. Brazel made no reference to the racial identity of those four men but Friedman inserted the word to bolster the Gerald Anderson fairy tale. You can read the whole story here (if you are so inclined):
This problem is not confined to UFO research. I was looking for information for a post on the new version of the Treasure Quest show and found a couple of sites that provided what seemed to be accurate information. Reference was made to someone named C. H. Prodgers and in this day of the Internet, I thought I would find out what he had said about the treasure.
Twenty-five years ago, I couldn’t have gathered the information. True, one of the articles referred to Prodgers, but in the world today, I was able to find a copy of Prodgers’s book online. I didn’t have to rely on what others had written about it. I could read it for myself. And, I found that much of the information published, that referenced Prodgers, was incorrect. After all, they were quoting Prodgers as the source, but what Prodgers had written did not match what they were reporting. Could Prodgers have been making up the tale of the treasure? Sure. But that didn’t matter because he was the original source. He was writing from the point of view of having been there, lived the adventure, and there wasn’t much documentation that preceded him. The others were quoting him as their source.
That is, I chased the references to the ultimate source. I corrected the errors made by others who had used the same source, and came away unimpressed with the information. It reads more like fiction than fact and there really is nothing to back up the story. And now that the first season is over, we have seen a large number of problems with this treasure hunting quest.
So, now you’re wondering how all this relates to Ufology. It is about getting to the original source. In the past, the only way to do it was go to the location or find a library that had the proper resources in its collections. You had to read the microfilms and search endlessly for the articles. That is what I had done with the Cedar Rapids story. I could search the microfilm of the Cedar Rapids Gazette and I found the original article about the railroad man and his UFOs. Took about an hour. Had I lived elsewhere, I might not have found it… until I could make an Internet search.
Here’s another example. As I point out in another post, Don Keyhoe, in writing about the 1948 Mantell case, got some bad information and therefore some of his conclusions wrong. He didn’t have access to the documents available to us online today. He assumed that the timing of the events fit into a specific sequence. He assumed that the times given in various reports was when the object was seen over that specific town. What this means that the sighting of the object from Madisonville, Kentucky, wasn’t of an object overhead as Keyhoe believed, but of one to the northwest. The claim that the object was over the Godman Army Airfield tower as Keyhoe believed, is not true. The documents in the Blue Book files proved that the men in the tower saw the UFO somewhere to the southwest at the very limits of human ability to see it. Given those two facts, Keyhoe’s estimate of the speed was way off. That’s not Keyhoe’s fault. He was relying on information that had been reported to him orally rather than seeing what the documents said. He couldn’t have reviewed those documents easily until 1976.
Those who cite Keyhoe’s estimate of the speed have not followed up on the information which was published in the early 1950s. Had they done so, they would have realized that his claim the object was moving at 180 miles an hour was badly flawed. Information available today gives us a much clearer picture. This isn’t to fault Keyhoe because he was relying on the information he had, but to fault those who haven’t bothered to update the information when they began their research.
What all this means is that in the world today, we can look much deeper into the past. We have access to nearly all human knowledge through the Internet. We can study newspaper files in cities hundreds or thousands of miles away (though some services require a subscription). The files of Project Blue Book are on line for all to review… and there are other sources of information about Blue Book that we have today that Keyhoe and others in the 1950s and 1960s didn’t have.
There is then, no real excuse for continuing to report information that is out of date or inaccurate. We can clear up these things by taking our research to the next level, which has always been the real point of chasing footnotes. This isn’t about “gotcha” but about cleaning up the information so that we can come to the proper conclusion. It isn’t about making someone look bad, but about searching for the answers to the mystery, whatever that mystery might be.
While I find chasing footnotes to be fun, I guess there are those who can’t be bothered with following the trail. They already know the truth so there is no need to search any further for it. Why clutter up a good UFO report with a lot of facts that provide us with an identification? Sometimes, however, we do learn something important about a case, which is why I do what I do. I just wish that there wasn’t a constant fight inside Ufology, protecting the sacred cows, when the facts take us somewhere else.
I can cite examples here. Tales that are told and retold by those who are enthusiastic about their favorite cases. They ignore facts that don’t fit into their view of the world. They know the “truth,” and the facts be damned.
The airship crash in Aurora, Texas, in 1897 proves the point. The evidence and documentation shows that the story was invented by a stringer for a Dallas newspaper. Other documentation, in the form of histories of Aurora or Wise County where Aurora is located, that were published within a couple of years of the alleged crash mention nothing about it. Had such an event taken place, even if it didn’t involve a craft from another world, these histories would have contained some information about it. There is none. But we still have to listen to tales of the Aurora, Texas, UFO crash and put up with television documentaries in which they are digging “for the truth.” Of course, when they’re done, they have not advanced our knowledge. They have just added another level of nonsense to the tale.