Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 24, 1947 - The Arnold Sighting

(Blogger’s Note: I have been criticized for not updating this blog often enough. I have tried to put up something new once a week but sometimes that just doesn’t work. The problems of daily life sometimes get in the way. Sometimes there are good movies on the cable... or I have gotten involved in a good book, and sometimes, I just don’t have an inspiration.

I realized that today was the anniversary of the Kenneth Arnold sighting and thought might be something interesting to do. I cold take another look at the Arnold sighting which triggered all the modern interest in flying saucers... in fact, it was the Arnold sighting that inspired the term, "flying saucers." So here, then, is a look at the Arnold sighting...)

What is considered the modern era of UFO sightings opened on June 24, 1947, when Kenneth Arnold, a Boise, Idaho businessman saw nine objects flash across the sky near Mt. Rainier, Washington. To that point, no one had actually talked about UFOs or flying saucers and the realm of alien life was solely that of science fiction. True, earlier in the century scientists had been talking of life on both Mars and Venus, and respected astronomers actually drew diagrams of what they believed to be the canal system on Mars. Some scientists thought of ways to communicate across interplanetary space, nearly all of them visual. One man suggested digging gigantic trenches in the Sahara Desert, fill those trenches with oil and set it on fire. His plan, which covered dozens of square miles was to create a beacon in geometric form that Martian astronomers could see.

In 1938 Orson Welles broadcast his War of the Worlds radio drama and sent thousands into the streets frightened by the thought of an alien invasion. Given the timing, just before the beginning of the Second World War, when tensions were at the highest, it might not be so surprising that so many reacted with so much fear. Within hours the country knew that the invasion from Mars was little more than the imaginative rambling of Welles and his radio theater company. Of course, it could be said that Welles had put the idea of Martian invaders into the heads of millions of people, even if no one acted on that notion for nine years.

After World War II people were ready from something more. The horrors of the war, culminating in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in flashes of atom heat and light had unleashed a new scientific age. Life, it was thought, was not confined to the Earth and there was speculation about who, or what lived on other planets. Not that any of this was in the overall consciousness of the country. It was there, in the background, sort of hiding from everyone and popping up in science fiction, movies and in some books.

Then Arnold made his sighting of the strange objects, flying one behind the other, at about 9,500 feet at a speed he estimated to be more than 1500 miles an hour. This was something that clearly wasn’t made in secret projects hidden in the mountains of New Mexico, and it wasn’t something that was made by the Soviet Union as they began to press for world domination. This was something strange that had no ready explanation, other than it was strange and almost impossible to believe.

When Arnold landed later in the afternoon on June 24, in Yakima, Washington, he told the assembled reporters what he had seen. In the course of describing the objects, he said they moved with a motion like that of saucers skipping across the water. The shape, however, according to drawings that Arnold completed for the Army, showed objects that were heel shaped with a blunt nose. In later drawings, Arnold elaborated, showing objects that were crescent shaped with a scalloped trailing edge and even a clear canopy over the cockpit.

Hearing Arnold's description of the motion of the objects, reporter Bill Bequette, coined the term "flying saucer," though in the next few days, most reporters and then scientists and Army officers would call the objects flying disks. The term, then, according to most investigators, didn't originally refer to the shape of the objects, but to the style of their movement through the air.

Ronald Story, a UFO researcher and editor of The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters, reported that in early 1992 he was in southeastern Washington, not all that far from Pendleton, Oregon, when he happened to see an editorial written by William C. Bequette. Story called Bequette and asked him about his interview with Arnold and the invention of the term "flying saucer." Bequette said that Arnold had described the objects as saucer shaped. So the world might owe the origin of flying saucer to Arnold.

But, as I say, nothing is ever easy with UFOs. Story said that he had read somewhere else that Bequette had said something different about it. Story wrote, "I can only repeat what he confirmed to me: that he was indeed the man who coined the term ‘flying saucer’ which was based on Arnold’s description..."

Arnold Briefs the Military
Later Arnold would provide the military with a written description of the events. In a document that was originally classified, but that has long since been released, Arnold wrote:

On June 24th... I had finished my work... and about two o’clock I took off for Chehalis, Washington, airport with the intention of going to Yakima, Washington... I flew directly toward Mt. Rainier after reaching an altitude of about 9,500 feet, which is the approximate elevation of the high plateau from with Mt. Rainier rises... There was a DC-4 to the left and to the rear of me approximately fifteen miles distance, and I should judge, a 14,000 foot elevation... I hadn’t flown more than two or three minutes on my course when a bright flash reflected on my airplane. It startled me as I thought I was too close to some other aircraft. I looked every place in the sky and couldn’t find where the reflection had come from until I looked to the left and the north of Mt. Rainier where I observed a chain of nine peculiar looking aircraft flying from north to the south at approximately 9,500 foot elevation and going, seemingly, in a definite direction of about 170 degrees.

They [the objects] were approaching Mt. Rainier very rapidly, and I merely assumed they were jet planes. Anyhow, I discovered that this was where the reflection had come from, as two or three of them every few seconds would dip or change their course slightly, just enough for the sun to strike them at an angle that reflected brightly on my plane... I thought it was very peculiar that I couldn’t their tails but assumed they were some type of jet plane. I was determined to clock their speed, as I had two definite points I could clock them by... I watched these objects with great interest as I had never before observed airplanes flying so close to the mountain tops... I would estimate their elevation could have varied a thousand feet one way or another up or down...

They flew like many times I have observed geese to fly in a rather diagonal chain-like line as if they were linked together... Their speed at the time did not impress me particularly, because I knew that our army and air forces had planes that went very fast.

A number of news men and experts suggested that I might have been seeing reflections of even a mirage. This I know to be absolutely false, as I observed these objects not only through the glass of my airplane but turned my airplane sideways where I could open my window and observe them with a completely unobstructed view... When these objects were flying approximately straight and level, there were just a black thin line and when they flipped was the only time I could get a judgement as to their size.

Arnold's sighting didn't gain front page status immediately. Stories about it appeared in newspapers a day or two later usually on page eight or nine, and then with a comment about strange objects in fast flight. It was, at that time, the story of an oddity. Arnold claimed later that he thought he had seen some sort of the new jet aircraft and he was a little concerned about breaking the security around it.

Corroboration for Arnold?

Arnold wasn't the only person to see strange objects in the sky that day. Fred Johnson, listed as a prospector, reported watching five or six disk-shaped craft as they flew over the Cascade Mountains about the time Arnold had lost sight of his. He said they were round with a slight tail and about thirty feet in diameter. They were not flying in any sort of formation and as they banked in a turn, the sunlight flashed off them. As they approached, Johnson noticed that his compass began to spin wildly. When the objects finally vanished in the distance, the compass returned to normal.

After learning of the Arnold sighting, Johnson wrote to the Air Force on August 20, 1947, saying:

"Saw in the portland (sic) paper a short time ago in regards to an article in regards to the so called flying disc having any basis in fact. I can say am a prospector and was in the Mt Adams district on June 24th the day Kenneth Arnold of Boise Idaho claims he saw a formation of flying disc (sic). And i saw the same flying objects at about the same time. Having a telescope with me at the time i can asure you there are real and noting like them I ever saw before they did not pass verry high over where I was standing at the time. plolby 1000 ft. they were Round about 30 foot in diameter tapering sharply to a point in the head and in an oval shape. with a bright top surface. I did not hear any noise as you would from a plane. But there was an object in the tail
end looked like a big hand of a clock shifting from side to side like a big magnet. There speed was far as I know seemed to be greater than anything I ever saw. Last view I got of the objects they were standing on edge Banking in a cloud."

It is signed, "Yours Respectfully, Fred Johnson."

The Army Air Forces had asked the FBI to interview some of those seeing flying disks. Johnson was one of those interviewed. The FBI report contained, essentially the same information as the letter that Johnson had sent to the Army. The FBI report ended, saying, "Informant appeared to be a very reliable individual who advised that he had been a prospector in the states of Montana, Washington and Oregon for the past forty years."

Dr. Bruce Maccabee, a physicist with the Navy and who has a private interest in UFOs, wrote in the International UFO Reporter, that the Johnson sighting is important, not because it takes place near where Arnold saw the nine objects, but because it seems to be an extension of the Arnold sighting. It provides independent corroboration for the Arnold sighting, strengthening that case, and reducing, to ridiculous, some of the explanations that have been offered to explain it.

I will note here that Johnson also made one claim that Arnold had not. He said that his compass was spinning wildly when the objects were near suggesting some kind of magnetic interference. If that is accurate, we have, not only another witness to what Arnold saw, but we have the objects interacting with the environment and providing us with a clue about them. This interaction would be an important part of some of the other major UFO cases that we’ll look at later.

Dr. Donald H. Menzel, the late Harvard scientist, decided that Johnson was being honest in his report, that is, Johnson was not lying about it. Johnson, according to Menzel, was merely mistaken in his analysis of the sighting. Menzel wrote that Johnson had probably seen bright reflections from patches of clouds. It didn't seem to matter to Menzel that Johnson saw the objects only about a thousand feet over his head, watched them through a telescope, and had them in sight for almost a minute before they vanished, disappearing into a cloud.

The Project Blue Book files there is one note that says, "If we want to take an objective look, we must be aware that Arnold said there were nine objects but Johnson said he only saw six... There are several major differences, notably as Dr. [J. Allen] Hynek points out, that these objects had tails, and that the inferred size, as determined from the estimated distance, is quite different."

Overlooking the fact that witnesses in different locations and from different perspectives can be correct in their observations, or in his case, both could be correct, the Air Force investigators are also correct in their observations. There are some discrepancies. These may or may not be significant.

But then some Air Force officer in what had been labeled it as "Incident No. 37," wrote, "The report cannot bear even superficial examination, therefore, must be disregarded. There are strong indications that this report and its attendant publicity is largely responsible for subsequent reports."

Note content with a negative observation in the file. This unidentified officer also wrote, "It is to be noted that the observer has profited from this story by selling it to Fate magazine."

Here, for the first time were two accusations that would be made about many UFO cases, that is, the witnesses were in it for the money, and a suggestion that UFO reports were the result of the "snowball effect." It seems to suggest that Arnold invented his tale with an eye to writing a story about it for Fate. There is no evidence to support this and Arnold had not written any articles for any magazines prior to his sighting. The editors at Fate, and Ray Palmer specifically, who would become one of the first and most vocal proponents of the flying saucers, induced Arnold into writing about he had seen. The point, then, becomes irrelevant. The article doesn’t seem to have been a motive for Arnold, but more of a serendipitous reward for seeing and reporting the objects in the first place.

As a sort of ancillary thought, what would have induced Arnold to invent this tale? It wasn’t as if there had been many sightings, or that Arnold would have heard about them even if there were. The initial motivation doesn’t seem to be there. After the first of the reports in the newspapers, it became clear that some of the others jumped on the band wagon and began inventing tales. But with Arnold, he was the first and we have to ask where he would have gotten the idea. And the evidence for the hoax, at least here, is somewhat thin.

Second, though it has been studied by many and suggested by more that a single UFO report will generate additional reports, that doesn’t seem to be the case. When studying these things in statistical detail, it seems that the news media learns about them after many sightings have already been made. Often the first of the articles comes about the time the peak has been reached and the number of sightings is actually dropping off.

Once the first of the sightings enters into the public arena, then there are those who come forward with their tales, many of which are hoaxes. After Arnold’s sighting got national attention in late June, and after the July 4 weekend when there were a number of interesting and credible sightings, the number of stories in the newspapers and the number of hoaxes then skyrocketed.

But the initial point remains the same. The number of sightings reported can be correlated to the number of newspaper articles, but that is a side effect. The number of legitimate reports doesn’t seem to be geared to the reporting in the newspapers.

What I’m doing here is splitting a fine hair. The sightings are not tied to the newspapers and publicity but the number of reports are. In other words, people who have made sightings now know where to report them. These stories suggest, if nothing else, that the newspaper or radio stations are interested in the reports. People report the sightings that they have made over the last several days and weeks.

Over the years, a number of explanations have been offered for the Arnold sighting. Some of them are simply ridiculous. Pelicans have been offered, but had they been birds, at some point during the sighting, Arnold would have seen that they were birds. He had them in sight for a long time, and even turned the aircraft to make sure that the objects weren’t some kind of reflection on the canopy. During that turn, had this been birds, then he would have seen their wings flapping.

It was suggested that he had seen drops of water on the windshield. But Arnold had thought of that as well, and he opened a side window so that he didn’t have an unobstructed view of the objects. Clearly they were not water drops on the windshield.

Dr. Menzel, in one of his many different explanations, suggested wind blowing the snow around on the peaks of the mountains and this optical illusion had fooled Arnold. I am reluctant to buy into that simply because Arnold had flown the area before and had seen wind blowing around snow. He shouldn’t have been fooled by it.

I suppose we could speculate all day about what Arnold saw. If his sighting is stand-alone, then we have a report of one man and that doesn’t do much to advance our knowledge. If the Johnson sighting is truly independent of Arnold, then we have corroboration, not to mention the EM Effects which suggest the objects were interacting with the environment.

In the end, though the Air Force eventually labeled the sighting as a "mirage" [meaning they bought the blowing snow explanation, or one similar to it], there isn’t a good explanation for what Arnold saw.

Could he have been lying? Sure, but there is no evidence for it.

Could he have been mistaken? Sure, but we don’t have a good reason to believe that.

Could he have seen aircraft? No. There was nothing flying at that time, in tha formation for him to have seen.

Could it have been birds? Unlikely.

Could it have been a mirage? Probably not.

Were they alien spacecraft? Although the description fits nothing flying in that time, there is no reason to leap to that conclusion either.

In the end, the answer is "Unknown." I just don’t know what he saw.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wayne Brazel, Pat Garrett and UFOs

In the search for answers to questions about UFOs and alien spacecraft crashes, you sometimes run into strange information. Because Lincoln County, New Mexico was so large, much had happened there and as I was researching the Roswell UFO crash, I read the history of the county. One of the things that struck me was that the Brazel family had been part of that history some fifty or sixty years before anyone had heard of flying saucers or UFO crashes.

In a couple of books, I learned that Wayne Brazel had killed Pat Garrett but on one seemed to know what happened to Brazel. He disappeared some time after the trial and one of those historians speculated that Brazel had gone to South America and been killed there in a fashion similar to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Well, I was sitting there, in the cab of a pick up truck talking to a Brazel relative, so I asked the simple question and got a somewhat complex answer... Oh, not overly complex, mind you, but certainly not what I had been expecting.

So, here’s what I learned about this case which is related to UFOs, but not really part of the history:

It should have been an open and shut case. Jesse Wayne Brazel confessed within hours of the shooting. Pat Garrett was dead, not all that far from Las Cruces, New Mexico and although Brazel said it was self defense, the evidence suggested that Garrett had died of a bullet wound to the back of the head. The bullet in his stomach, which might have been fatal even with medical treatment, was apparently fired after Garrett was down.

There are those who believe that there was a conspiracy to kill Garrett (Garrett murder site seen here) and Brazel was part of that conspiracy. There are those who believe that the dispute developed over Brazel’s leasing of Garrett’s ranch and Garrett’s desire to sell it. But there is also a history of animosity between the Brazel family and Garrett, which most historians seemed to have missed.

Pat Garrett was born in Alabama on June 5, 1850 and headed west nineteen years later, like so many others, to make a future. He was a cowboy in Lancaster, Texas, a buffalo hunter on the southern plains, a gambler and eventually a lawman. In 1876, while still a buffalo hunter, Joe Briscoe, for some reason, according to Garrett, attacked him with an axe. Garrett shot Briscoe, and then believing that his career choice had been wrong, left buffalo hunting for good and Texas for years.

Or maybe it was in 1878, according to some historians, and the other man, Briscoe, had drawn his pistol first. Garrett was the one who survived, being quicker and the better shot, and then, fearing retribution, fled into New Mexico where he worked first as a cow hand and then opened his own saloon.

In November 1880, George Kimbell, the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico resigned and Garrett was appointed as his replacement. Garrett promised to end the violence that resulted from to rival factions attempting to control commerce in the area, not to mention two groups of badge carrying law enforcement officers. Billy the Kill, who Garrett would kill months later in July, 1881, with his group of Regulators, who had some kind of semi-official legal standing, had opposed the sheriff and his deputies.

In December, Garrett killed a friend of Billy the Kid named Tom O’Folliard and then, a few nights later the posse killed Charlie Bowdre and captured Billy and other Regulators. They all were taken to Mesilla, New Mexico for trial. Convicted and sentenced to hang, Billy was escorted to Lincoln, New Mexico where the sentence was to be carried out. He escaped from the Lincoln County Court House and the make shift jail, killing guards J.W. Bell and Bob Olinger.

Garrett eventually tracked Billy to Ft. Sumner, New Mexico (museum seen here) and the home of Pete Maxwell. Billy was supposedly there to visit Maxwell’s sister, Paulita, but when he entered the darkened room, Garrett shot him twice, killing him from ambush.

Garrett had hit the high point of his life. A hastily written book, ghosted by his friend Ash Upson, was published but did little to improve the situation for Garrett. He lost the election for Lincoln County sheriff and in 1884, lost an election for state senator. He then left New Mexico, served briefly as a Texas Ranger. He was elected a county commissioner in Uvalde, Texas in 1889, and in October, 1889, he was appointed sheriff in Dona Ana County, New Mexico. He ran for Chaves County sheriff. Chaves County had once been part of the huge Lincoln County. He lost the election. In 1896 he was again appointed to fill the vacancy of Dona Ana County sheriff and then elected to the post.

During this time, Garrett had been attempting to support his growing family, a wife and nine children. He acquired ranch property around Las Cruces and up into the Organ Mountains between Las Cruces and Alamogordo.

In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt appointed Garrett as a Collector of Customs in El Paso, Texas, which is not all that far from Las Cruces. He was not reappointed, however, after he lost favor with the President, apparently introducing Roosevelt to a friend with an unsavory background. With that, Garrett retired to his ranch, but now was in financial difficulty.

To relieve some of those problems, Garrett allegedly leased one of his ranches to a young man named Jesse Wayne Brazel. Not much is known about Brazel, other than he came from a family with a long history in New Mexico. Records show that he was born in 1877, or rather it has been deduced based on court transcripts from the trial.

Others have suggested that Brazel was born in Greenwood City, Kansas but soon moved to Eagle Creek, not all that far from Lincoln, New Mexico. He has been called a "good-natured boy" with blue eyes and who was often seen wearing a Mexican-style sombrero. His father, Jesse M. Brazel (which probably explains why Jesse Wayne Brazel was more commonly called Wayne) moved them off to Gold Camp. This new home bordered the San Agustin Ranch owned by W. W. Cox, where Wayne Brazel found work.

It was in this area that Brazel met Olive Elizabeth Boyd, an eighteen-year-old teacher for the Organ District School and who tutored the children of A.P. Rhode. Brazel was thirty-one as they began to plan their wedding in 1908.

There are those who suggest that trouble erupted between Pat Garrett and Wayne Brazel because of the lease that Brazel had obtained for the Garrett property. Some claim that Pat Garrett had not signed the lease with Brazel. It was Garrett’s son, Poe. Poe probably didn’t care how Brazel planned using the ranch. Payment was to be made in July of each year with ten heifer calves and a horse. Brazel, instead of grazing cattle or horses as Garrett expected, moved in goats. Some said this caused trouble with Pat Garrett who disliked goats and believed that he had been mislead by Brazel and his friends. He wanted the goats gone.

In fact, Garrett filed suit claiming a breach of contract. Garrett insisted that a verbal agreement existed which excluded goats. But verbal agreements are not worth the paper on which they are written (or not written) even with Garrett arguing that the method of payment, cattle and horses implied that these would be the animals using the range.

When that failed, Garrett used a New Mexican law that made it illegal to herd livestock next to a residence. He swore out a complaint and shortly before Christmas, 1907, the trial began. Trial was held in a barbershop, conducted by Organ (New Mexico) Justice of the Peace Charles M. Anthony. There was no jury and Anthony, being a politician of sorts, refused to act as an arbitrator. He recessed court until spring, apparently hoping that everything would work itself out before then.

The truth here seems to be that Pat Garrett had no real legal standing in the dispute. Dona Ana County records show that Poe Garrett was the true owner of the land. But Pat hated goats, as did many cattlemen. Goats, like sheep, ate the grass so short that it was no good for cattle. The cattlemen wanted to keep goats and sheep off the range.

Others suggested that Garrett wanted to sell the ranch to raise money but Poe Garrett had signed a five year lease with Brazel. Brazel was willing to break the lease, but Garrett, or someone, had to buy all the goats. There was trouble with the counting, Garrett insisting that Brazel had hundreds fewer goats than Brazel believed he did. Or Brazel miscounted the first time, telling Garrett there were 1200 but later saying there were 1800. No matter.

Whatever he truth, there was trouble with Brazel. In fact, this was not the first time that Garrett had fought with the Brazel family. According to Bill Brazel, who knew his cousin Wayne and had visited him in Arizona long after the events outside of Las Cruces, Bill Brazel’s grandmother had been alone one night at a Brazel ranch house when a posse led by Garrett arrived. Bill Brazel didn’t tell me who Garrett was hunting, but this might have been in July 1898, as Garrett chased Bill McNew, Oliver M. Lee and Jim Gililland.

Garrett told the woman, who was standing on the porch, that he expected his horses to be fed and watered and that he would be staying the night at the ranch. Brazel held a Winchester, which she cocked and announced that Garrett and his men would not be spending the night and they should get off her property.

Brazel won the stand-off. Garrett and his posse retreated but it became lore in the Brazel family. Garrett (house he built seen here) seemed to be a man who could be intimidated by a lone woman with a rifle and a menacing attitude, but it might be that he had other troubles that night and didn’t need to add this to the growing list. Whatever the reason, Garrett and his posse left.

There are other indications that Garrett knew the Brazels on a more personal level. It was said that he had known Wayne Brazel and his father for years, and that Garrett liked Wayne. Given the circumstances of Garrett’s run in with the family and his death, this seems unlikely.

Garrett would later capture McNew without trouble, but Lee and Gililland didn’t surrender easily. In a gun battle near the little town of Oro Grande, one of Garrett’s deputies, Kurt Kearney was killed. Garrett withdrew, and both Lee and Gililland escaped. Later they would be caught, but not by Garrett. They were acquitted and released.

Which brings us to Alameda Arroyo on February 29, 1908. Garrett sent Brazel a note saying that he would be in Las Cruces the next day. He suggested a meeting, apparently believing that the dispute would be resolved soon. Or maybe, according to the Garrett family, Brazel gave a note to Adamson to suggest some kind of negotiation. Either way, the two men were in communication and knew where the other would be the next day.

Garrett was riding in the buggy rented by and driven by Carl Adamson. They drove through San Agustin Pass and down into the tiny community of Organ. They continued down, toward Las Cruces and near a junction of two roads, both of which headed into Las Cruces, one being slightly longer but smoother and the other, rougher but shorter. They thought they saw Brazel ahead of them, talking with another man. That man rode off without being positively identified, though some would later claim it was Print Rhode, and as the buggy drew close, Brazel fell in with it.

At first the men didn’t say much to each other. Brazel rode by the side of the buggy where the road was wide enough, or in front or behind it when the road narrowed. Garrett finally asked Brazel why he said there were twelve hundred goats when he had so many more. Brazel said simply, he had miscounted. The argument grew heated at points but all parties seemed to have calmed down by the time they reached the Alameda Arroyo, about four miles east of Las Cruces.
Adamson stopped the buggy and climbed down to relieve himself. Garrett followed, holding the shotgun he carried. Or maybe he climbed down and reached for his shotgun. Brazel, apparently believing that Garrett was going to kill him, drew his revolver and fired twice, hitting Garrett in the head and in the stomach or so the story goes.

Garrett dropped his shotgun and fell. He died there. Adamson and Brazel left him, heading on into Las Cruces. At the sheriff’s office, Brazel turned over his pistol to Deputy Felipe Lopez and admitted that he had shot Garrett. He said it had been in self-defense.

A sheriff’s posse was dispatched and found Garrett lying on his back, a bullet hole in his face where the round had exited and another in his stomach. The fatal bullet had entered the back of Garrett’s head, suggesting he was facing away from Brazel when he was shot.

The shotgun was about a yard from Garrett’s body, but it looked as if it had been set there rather than dropped. The shotgun was in it’s scabbard and it was not loaded. Or, maybe it was loaded with bird shot. The testimony on this is somewhat muddled. No matter.

Garrett’s fly was unbuttoned, and it looked as if he had been occupied with that, rather than threatening Brazel when he was shot. The evidence as described certainly didn’t support the claim of self-defense.

W.C. Field, a Las Cruces doctor, as well as a farmer, examined Garrett at the murder site and later performed an autopsy. He said that the wound showed that Garrett had been shot in the back of the head and that the bullet’s trajectory took it through his brain and exited on the right eyebrow. The wound, according to the doctor, was consistent with a shot fired from a man on horseback, into the head of a man who was standing with his head slightly bowed. In other words, a man in the process of relieving himself.

The second wound had been fired into Garrett’s stomach and had traveled upward, stopping behind Garrett’s shoulder. Field found a .45 caliber slug there. The wound suggested it was caused by a man standing on the ground, shooting into a man already down. Field concluded that both wounds were from a .45, though he didn’t find the slug that had hit Garrett in the head.

Many years later, James Hervey, the New Mexico attorney general in 1908 said that he had visited the murder site with Captain Fred Fornoff of the New Mexico Mounted Police and Carl Adamson on the day of the killing. About fifty feet from the murder site, they found a Winchester cartridge and a cigarette butt though some have claimed there were two cartridges. There were hoof prints around that suggested someone might have waited in ambush to shoot Garrett.

Fornoff thought that Garrett had been shot from two directions by two different weapons, which might be true. But it also seems true that the shot to the head was the first fired and that came from a man on horseback, near Garrett. If true, then there was no reason for the second shot from ambush. None of that mattered, really, because Brazel had confessed to the crime. Adamson said nothing about another shooter, and he had, in effect, endorsed Brazel’s story. Adamson, it might be said, was a disinterested third party and his version of the events could be considered the most accurate.

Brazel’s trial began on Monday, April 19, 1909. It was a short trial, and the only witness to the crime, Carl Adamson, who had supported Brazel’s version of events at the preliminary hearing, was not called to testify. The prosecutor, Mark B. Thompson didn’t present any evidence to show that Garrett had been shot in the back of the head, or that his weapon might have been unloaded. He presented almost no evidence at all. It was almost as if he was on the side of the defense.

The defense was short and claimed the shooting was in self-defense. This hung on a claim that Garrett had told Brazel that he would get him off the ranch one way or another. Not much of a treat, but given Garrett’s history, it certainly could have been intimidating.

There was apparently no one to dispute the claim of self-defense and the jury got the case at 5:45 p.m. By 6:30, Brazel had been acquitted and was free. That ended any official attempt to learn what happened, or to find others who might have been implicated in the killing.
William W. Cox, the local and powerful rancher, had supported Brazel through the trial and when the verdict was announced, invited everyone to a barbecue at his ranch. This was, of course, the same Cox that had a long relationship with Brazel, who had loaned him money in the past and who would loan him more money in the future.

Although Bill Brazel (seen here) told me that Wayne had been ordered out of New Mexico after the acquittal, the records seem to indicate that he acquired the Harrington Well and then homesteaded a small ranch near Lordsburg, New Mexico and in 1910, he finally married Olive Boyd. He had a son in 1911. By 1915, his wife was dead, and Brazel sold his ranch. The government now filed perjury charges against Brazel because of some irregularity in the homesteading. When the charges were dropped, Brazel disappeared.

In 1935, an El Paso attorney was hired by Brazel’s son to find his father. The best that H. L. McCune could do was suggest Brazel went to South America and died in a shootout like that which killed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They believe he died around 1915.

But the truth is something less than spectacular. Though I don’t know why Brazel’s son couldn’t find his father, I asked Bill about that and mentioned South America. He laughed and said, "No. He went to Arizona. My Dad and I visited him there."

Wayne Brazel was still alive in the 1930s when his son began looking for him. Brazel said that he worked on a ranch there, doing the same things that he had done before. No one really knew about Pat Garrett or the murder charges that had been filed against him or any of his later trouble with the government.

People knew who Pat Garrett was because of Billy the Kid. Many of them thought Garrett was guilty of murder because of the way Garrett had ambushed the kid. Few knew that Garrett himself had been murdered.

Wayne Brazel lived out the rest of his life in obscurity. Attempts shortly after Garrett’s murder to learn where Wayne Brazel was failed and the family encouraged some of the rumors. But, when I talked to Bill Brazel some eighty years after the murder, with Wayne dead, he told me where he had gone when he left New Mexico. Bill knew that no one was searching for his cousin now and the information couldn’t hurt him. Wayne Brazel quietly passed from the public spotlight, and unlike Pat Garrett, that suited him just fine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Spooklights - 2009

As many of you know, I was at the Illinois MUFON Symposium hosted by Sam and Julie Maranto (seen here) and held over the last weekend in May. One of the speakers there, Ted Phillips, was a man I had heard about for years but had never met. He was involved in investigating and documenting UFO landing trace cases. These would be cases in which the UFOs interacted with the environment and left some sort of physical evidence behind.

I was interested in what he had to say and was surprised when he didn’t begin telling us about some of the physical trace cases. Instead he talked of an ongoing investigation in which lights... nocturnal lights... are seen on a regular basis in a relatively confined geographic location.

My first thought was of the Joplin Spooklight. I’d spent time in Joplin investigating that. It was a phenomenon that appears nightly at a certain location outside of Joplin, Missouri. I’d photographed it, though people all told me you couldn’t take pictures of it. The solution for that case was as simple as atmospheric refraction and car headlights from a stretch of road several miles away. There is no doubt in my mind that the Joplin Spooklight has a mundane explanation. Many others have reached the same conclusion (See The Joplin Spooklight, September 2006).

So I sat there listening to Phillips talk of his months long investigation, sure that some sort of mundane explanation would be offered. Lights in the night sky just didn’t do a thing for me.
But this wasn’t a repeat of the Spooklight that hung in the air in one location for hours on end. These were periodic lights that were seen in various locations doing various things. He called some of them amber lights.

Phillips said one thing that resonated with me. He said that he expected to see nothing when he got there because frequently these things do not show up for the investigators. But he had been told that they appeared irregularly, but they always, eventually appeared, if you were patient. And one night they did. He saw five of them and almost didn’t get any pictures of them.

Let me make a point here, and it is something that the non-believers always say. You had a camera right there and you didn’t use it. Phillips is an experienced investigator and he was standing right there with the video camera in his hand and thought nothing of it until the end of that sighting. Had this been his only opportunity to photograph anything, we could make all sorts of snide comments.

But it wasn’t. He did take a short video at the end of the sighting. And during other the months he spent in the area, he, and his team including Adam Johnston, made several tapes and took many photographs. Phillips said that they had gathered 223 witnesses, and that the records and testimony suggest that the sightings go back into the 1930s.

There are several locations in which the lights are seen. There are the amber lights (seen here) that seem to be very large and very bright and they have seen as many as 35 at once. There are very bright white lights sitting on the ground that they have seen from various angles but have been unable to approach. They said that the lights have interfered with cars and other electrical devices, have knocked the branches out of trees and left circular patterns of debris on the ground. This suggests something more tangible than lights in the sky.

But, here’s the thing. They don’t know what they’re seeing and photographing. All they know is that one of the witnesses said he first saw the lights in 1937 and that there have been no displays in the last six months. They believe the lights will return because they always have, but Phillips and his team don’t know when.

I had hoped to talk to Phillips about this while at the conference but there never seemed to be a couple of moments when the two of us crossed paths with one short exception. I told him that it was my impression, from his presentation, that he wasn’t looking toward the extraterrestrial on this. He confirmed that he thought it was some kind of terrestrial manifestation but didn’t know what it might be.

So, unlike the Spooklight in Joplin, this one remains a mystery. Yes, I thought of the earthquake lights that some scientists have talked about, but those seem to be relatively short-lived lights, not like the displays that Phillips has witnessed and photographed. And, no, it doesn’t seem that swamp gas fits the bill because the luminescence from swamp gas is close to the ground and is usually faint. None of the mundane explanations work here.

Phillips said he is continuing his research. He said that they would be back at it soon. The story is fascinating, mysterious, and at the moment, unexplained.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Astronomers and UFOs

In the past, we have talked about astronomers and UFOs with the prevailing opinion that astronomers don’t see UFOs because they are familiar with what is in the sky so they are not easily fooled. I believe that astronomers don’t report UFOs because they are afraid of ridicule and committing professional suicide.

So, the question is, are there any facts to back up this claim?

Certainly. I refer to the Special Report on Conferences with Astronomers on Unidentified Aerial Objects to Air Intelligence Center, Wright Patterson Air Force Base by Dr. J. Allen Hynek and dated August 6, 1952.

According to the introduction, "This special report was prepared to describe the results of a series of conferences with astronomers during and following a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Victoria, B.C., in June, 1952. It recounts personal opinions of a large number of professionally trained astronomical observers regarding unidentified aerial objects. In addition, it reports sightings by five professional astronomers that were not explainable by them. Representing the opinions of highly trained scientists, these comments should prove particularly helpful in assessing the present status of our knowledge of unknown objects in the skies."

Of those in the survey, Hynek wrote, "Astronomer R has personally sighted an unidentified object, a light which loomed across his range of vision, which was obstructed by an observatory dome, much faster than a plane and much slower than a meteor... Astronomer R does not ascribe any particular significance to this sighting, except as it constitutes one of the many incomplete and unexplained sightings."

And, of course, it doesn’t really suggest anything solid or extraterrestrial. It’s just a light moving across the sky that the astronomer can’t identify and fits into that category we’d call nocturnal lights. Just a light seen at night that has no ready explanation.

Another astronomer labeled as II had made two sightings two years apart. Hynek described him as having an adequate professional rating, which probably means here that he wasn’t involved in any advance theoretical work and was just an average astronomer. Nothing bad about him but he wasn’t a stellar performer (pun intended)

According to Hynek, the astronomer heard a transport plane heading to the west that was making a lot of noise and he looked up to watch it. "He then noticed, above the transport and going north, a cluster of five ball-bearing-like objects. They moved rapidly and were not in sight very long."

The second sighting, according to Hynek’s report, was two years later. He saw a single object, ball-bearing shaped, that disappeared quickly. The astronomer said that he would supply the details, but he didn’t want anyone to have his name.

Hynek mentioned Dr. Lincoln La Paz, who was identified by name and was also Astronomer LL in his report. Of course, La Paz was the scientist working on the Green Fireball mystery (bright green meteor-like objects that seemed to fall only in the desert southwest over a period of a couple of years). Hynek noted that the discussion of the Green Fireballs had taken place in front of many astronomers who were of the opinion that the Fireballs were natural objects.

Hynek wrote, "However, close questioning revealed that they knew nothing of the actual sightings, of their frequency or anything about them, and therefore cannot be taken seriously. This is a characteristic of scientists in general when speaking about subjects which are not in their own immediate field of concern. (Emphasis added)."

I thought this a rather interesting statement from Allen Hynek when talking about his fellow scientists. They tended to make pronouncements about topics of which they knew nothing. The media, because the men were scientists, assigned more importance to their statements than they might someone with less education and standing.

Astronomer NN was Clyde Tombaugh who had discovered Pluto and he too had made two sightings. In one of them, he mentioned square-shaped objects like lighted windows overheard. In the other he talked of an object that was four times brighter than Venus at its brightest traveling across the night sky from zenith to horizon in about three seconds.

The best of the sightings reported by Hynek in his monograph was made by Dr. Everton Conger who was, at that time, an instructor in Journalism at the University of New Mexico. He said that on July 27, 1948, between 8:35 and 8:45 a.m. he noticed "a disc-shaped object in the sky. It was flat and round like a flat plate. It appeared to made of duraluminum and gave off reflected light very similar to the light reflected from a highly polished airplane wing."

In his "Summary and Discussion," Hynek wrote, "Over 40 astronomers were interviewed of which five had made sightings of one sort or another. This is a higher percentage than among the population at large. Perhaps this is to be expected, since astronomers do, after all, watch the skies. On the other hand, they will not likely be fooled by balloons, aircraft, and similar objects, as may the general populace."

Hynek added an appendix about an experience he had while in Los Angeles. He had been invited to appear on a television program to discuss flying saucers that included a science analyst, a rocket expert and the writer Aldous Huxley. He declined but then observed, "There was very little constructive about the program. It consisted of a rehash of all the things we have heard already. It might be profitable, for instance, to have a TV program, sponsored by the Air Force, acquainting the public with the problem of flying saucers as a scientific problem (Emphasis added). Though suggested jokingly, there might be some point to this, if this investigation ever gets to the scientific panel stage."

I might point out here that this suggestion was made months before the CIA sponsored Robertson Panel made a similar suggestion and ten or twelve years before the Condon Committee was organized.

But back to the original question of astronomers not reporting UFOs because of their fear of professional suicide. Has that statement been verified?

Well, given the above, not really. We learned that two astronomers, Lincoln La Paz and Clyde Tombaugh have reported UFOs and that did not affect their standing in the community. It could be argued that who they were had something to do with it. In the 1950s, Tombaugh was thought of as the man who had discovered the ninth planet in our system... of course, today, he is the man who discovered one of the dwarf planets, and the discoveries of other scientists and other dwarf planets has negated his importance. But, in the 1950s, his reputation was quite secure.

The same can be said for Lincoln La Paz. He was the man who directed the search of a solution to the mystery of the Green Fireballs and it was his work with other meteors that cemented his reputation. He could suggest he had seen a flying saucer and not worry about his career.

Others were reluctant to talk, according to Hynek. Some thought the topic silly. Of Astronomer C, Hynek reported, "It is evident that he regards it as a fairly silly proceeding and subject."

Of Astronomer G Hynek wrote that he was "Reasonably interested in talking about the subject, he clearly does not consider it a topic of real interest..."

Hynek did report, "It is interesting to remark upon the attitude of the astronomers interviewed. The great majority of were neither hostile nor overly interested; they gave one the general feeling that all flying saucer reports could be explained as misrepresentations of well-known objects and that there was nothing intrinsic in the situation to cause concern."

Then he added, "And certainly another contributing factor to their desire not to talk about these things is their overwhelming fear of publicity. One headline in the nation’s papers to the effect that "Astronomer Sees Flying Saucer" would be enough to brand the astronomer as questionable among his colleagues."

Hynek drew these conclusions based on his discussions with the astronomers but didn’t provide much in the way of confirming information. That he put it into this report is interesting and it suggests that it was an impression he drew from his interviews.

And it seems to hold true today, giving what many of the current crop of astronomers have to say when interviewed about the topic. They offer the same ill-informed opinions that their predecessors offered and apparently with the same level of ignorance.

So, we have learned that astronomers see UFOs, but most of those sightings fit into the category of nocturnal lights. Clyde Tombaugh’s sighting suggested a structure and Lincoln La Paz saw a Green Fireball, not to mention something else.

For Phil Plait, it looks as if the astronomers didn’t report alien spacecraft and the best sighting in this bunch was that by the journalism professor. But we have a report, based on interviews with 40 astronomers and the conclusions we drew were based on those facts. At least we had some... too often, the conclusions are drawn on what we’d like to believe rather than what is.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Jesse Marcel, James McAndrew and Me

I recently had the chance to sit down with Colonel Jesse Marcel, Jr. (seen here) and we had a chance to talk about many things including some new stuff about the Roswell UFO case. Well, relatively new anyway.

Back in the mid-1990s, as the Air Force claimed to be investigating the Roswell UFO crash story, one of the officers, First Lieutenant (later captain) James McAndrew, called many of the witnesses and many of the investigators to talk with them. I spoke to him on a number of occasions and the tone was normally him trying to convince me to admit that I was only in it for the money. He told me that no one would think any less of me if that was the case. People would understand the motive.

I told him that I would have conducted the investigation and written the books if there had been no money involved. This was an important story and one that needed to be told. I pointed out that I had tapes of most of my interviews and that I would give him the telephone numbers of many of the important witnesses. This was all he needed to do to verify that what I reported was what they had said.

Yes, I fully understood that having taped interviews didn’t mean that the witnesses were telling the truth, but it would prove that I had reported accurately what I had been told. And yes, we tried to verify the information which is why I didn’t report about the former Air Force pilot who had been one of the alternate pilots on Air Force One, who had flown the aircraft when President Kennedy was on board, and that he had taken the president to see the bodies.

I found the pilot and yes, he had been an Air Force officer and yes, he had flown President Kennedy on Air Force One and yes he had seen an alien creature. However, he had not flown the president to a location to see alien bodies. He had been flying a fighter when he had seen a craft off his wing and inside the domed structure he had seen a creature. So, all the elements were there, they just didn’t add up to the whole that we had been told.

What was interesting about McAndrew was that he wasn’t interested in the tapes. He didn’t want to talk to the high-ranking military officers. He was more interested in telling me that he KNEW I was in it for the money. Not the truth but his belief.

Now, over the weekend, at the MUFON conference put on by the Illinois chapter of MUFON and hosted by Sam and Julie Maranto (seen here), I spent time with Jesse Marcel. It was late on the last day when the topic of McAndrew came up at the question and answer session held by all the presenters. I mentioned that McAndrew wanted me to flip and that he wasn’t interested in the tapes and telephone numbers of some of the key witnesses. I figured the Air Force didn’t want to be in the position of calling high-ranking officers, including one brigadier general, liars at best. This whole thing might suggest that the Air Force was lead by incompetents.

Jesse mentioned that McAndrew had called him several times and always pressed him on the details, suggesting mistakes. Jesse always told me that it hadn’t been a balloon. The debris he held and the debris he saw was not part of a balloon, or a balloon structure, or a Project Mogul array. It was strange stuff that was very lightweight and very strong. He didn’t know what it was.

Jesse then said at the end of the last call, McAndrew said, "Well, Colonel, we don’t know what you saw."

When you think about it, that’s an important statement. Here was McAndrew, trying to convince Jesse that he had seen parts of a Mogul array, trying to convince him of the new Air Force answer about the Roswell UFO crash, and finally admitting that he didn’t know what Jesse saw.

No, this doesn’t mean that McAndrew was conceding to Jesse that it was an alien spacecraft or anything else. It just means that McAndrew was admitting that he didn’t know what Jesse had seen (Jesse Marcel holding a replicate of one of the I-beams).

I will note here that the Air Force, in their investigation, did not report on all the interviews they had conducted with the researchers, with the witnesses and with the former and retired officers. Instead they focused on the members of Project Mogul, the civilians who launched the balloons in New Mexico, and Sheridan Cavitt, the Counter-intelligence Corps officer who lied about where he was in July 1947 but told the Air Force just what they wanted to hear.

And now we learn that the chief investigator told Jesse Marcel that he didn’t know what Jesse had seen. This seems to be a curious admission for the man. A moment of honesty hidden in all that governmental deceit.

Of course I know why they worked so hard to prove that Roswell was a balloon and not an alien craft. No matter what they said today, they were going to look bad and in any case they would be painting some top officials as liars. True, the lies might have been justified because of national security considerations, but they were lies nonetheless.

We have one new bit of information that doesn’t mean all that much in the overall picture, but does provide a glimpse into the background. The man who would be pushing the Mogul answer telling a witness that, "Colonel, we don’t know what you saw."