Friday, December 31, 2010

Rhodes Photo Poll Results

Well, the results are in... even if so many of you decided not to bother to vote in the Rhodes photographs poll. Only 38 people voted, which suggests that the interest in the pictures isn’t all that great. Most seem to have ignored the possible significance of them and I’m not sure why.

Clearly the majority of the votes, or about 64% thought the pictures represented something other than an alien spacecraft. Many thought it was a hoax and I know they believed that because Rhodes seemed to have been less than honest in his educational background.

Only 34% though the pictures showed something of extraterrestrial origin. I’m not sure if they were persuaded by the story told by Rhodes, his genius, the seeming connection to the Arnold sighting of about two weeks earlier, or they would just believe about anything that leads to the extraterrestrial.

One thing I haven’t researched is if the Arnold drawings, now available to us because the Project Blue Book files have been released publically, might have influenced Rhodes, if the case is a hoax. His photographs match, to some extent, the drawing offered by Arnold to Army investigators... that is, his original drawings and not the much more stylized illustrations he produced later.

I’m not really sure on this one. That Rhodes apparently lied about his education is bothersome. That he seemed to have embellished his job with the Navy is worrisome. But I’m not sure that we can reject the photographs on that basis alone.

That they sort of match with Arnold is a plus for them, but is it enough to overlook his embellishments on his "resume"? I really don’t know.

The best solution here is to slip this one into the "unidentified" file because there is no proof the pictures are faked... but to keep our eyes open for any better solution. This simply is not the case on which I’d want to argue for the reality of alien visitation, and in the end, I think that is the most important point

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mel Noel/Guy Kirkwood in the 1960s

I was working on my book, Confessions of a Ufologist, and reviewing the section on Carroll Wayne Watts, who was the man who claimed in 1967 and 1968 that he had been accosted... abducted... invited by alien creatures from Mars to ride on their ship. A lie detector test was failed, according to Watts, because he was threatened by two men as he traveled to Amarillo to take it.

In my file on Watt’s, I have a typewritten version of a paragraph about Watts that appeared in the March 1968 issue of the NICAP UFO Investigator. In today’s world, I have, on my computer, a complete run of the UFO Investigator. I wanted to know if the typewritten version agreed with the printed version. So I looked it up and found that it did.

Here’s the real point, however. Right after that short paragraph, in which they suggested they didn’t believe Watts, was another paragraph, this one from Mel Noel. It caught me by surprise because I didn’t know that Noel’s UFO activities had gone back that far. I only knew of him after his name and story was mentioned in Timothy Good’s Above Top Secret, where it was claimed that Noel had been an Air Force pilot on some kind of top secret UFO mission.

But here was another contactee claim, by a man calling himself Mel Noel, who described meeting with pink-haired, platinum-skinned, fish-eating Martians said to be running a Mars-Earth transportation system to introduce Earthlings to Martians.

This was wild enough that I wondered how Noel had managed to reinvent himself some twenty-five years later as a former Air Force pilot and why Good had given any credence to the story. Was it possible that no one was aware of this earlier claim?

As I have said, the Internet is a wonderful tool and I found that there were some who had made the connection, after Good had published his book. Don Ecker, at one time the Director of Research at UFO magazine did an expose on Mel Noel, who was also identified as Guy Kirkwood.
The relevant part of Ecker’s expose is this:

However Don Dornan had a different explanation. "Noall Bryce Cornwell(Noel/Kirkwood's actual name) is a red hot amateur scam artist. He has never pushed himself to the point where he will destroy himself on a national level. He loves doing his gag, that is now obvious. I was working for *Life Magazine then, and they were just getting into the muckraking stuff and they were getting impatient. I told them it would take a little longer for what I thought was Noel and Tomlinson's setting of the hook for their scam. *Life wanted to know just where the beef was. Just when would the fraud be committed? Who was going to lose money? There is always someone who loses money in a scam.

"I don't know where he (Kirkwood) was getting the money. He had to have been getting money, but I think he enjoyed the scam more than the money. It's funny, Kirkwood thought I was some kind of spy, but I wasn't. The real spy there, and he was sure that this was a scam and Kirkwood was a fraud, was Bob Klinn. (Klinn was an associate of J. A. Hynek)
"All this time" Dornan continued, "Mel (Kirkwood) was using his "Air Force" background that established his credibility. My brother (now Rep. Bob Dornan) had been a pilot in the Air Force, and when he had met Mel knew he had to have been a fraud. He (Bob Dornan) used to sneak in little things just to check out Mel, facts that if you were a pilot then, you would have known. Mel didn't pass the test. Also, some checks were made then to see if Mel held a pilots license and NOT ONE THING WAS FOUND. The Air Force was also aware that Mel had been passing himself off as an officer, and were considering filing criminal charges on him."

Dornan continued with "I always thought that Kent Tomlinson was the brains behind this scam. He was using Kirkwood and I finally brought it to a head in a meeting with Genovese. In front of everyone I asked Mel if he had ever been arrested? He said no and I ticked off the first couple of instances. I then asked him if he were a Fuller brush salesman. He said "yea". I then asked him if he were a dance instructor and he answered yea. I was then hoping that everyone else was getting it as I ran down the list. You know what? Almost total denial. `How do we know you're telling the truth, or I don't believe it!' I said to myself, I gotta tell these folks to get off the denial kick here. I told Mel that we didn't have anything to bring charges but that (he) played with these peoples emotions. They (group) did not want to hear this, but as I kept going on they finally got the point that they had been had. I told them that I was working for *Life Magazine. Several people were worried that the story would run in the magazine and I told them no, but that Mel had abused their friendship and he had abused their emotions.

Mel "crapped out" and did not deny anything. I asked him if he were ever an Air Force pilot and he said no, if he chased saucers and he said no. That was the end of the story there."

In October 1969 Mel Noel/Guy Kirkwood walked onto the studio of Channel 9. The program was Robert Dornan's *TEMPO, and when Kirkwood came out he said "Hi Bob, I know your brother." Host Bob Dornan had invited both Mel and Don Dornan onto the show to "Hash" the story over. Don Dornan immediatly called Kirkwood on the carpet to state his real name.

"Noall Bryce Cornwell" replied Kirkwood. Then Dornan said "Noall Bryce Cornwell is not a pilot and never has been a pilot. (Kirkwood later did get a 2nd Class Pilots License) All known aliases also show no record of you holding a pilot's license."
Bob Dornan then said "Were you a commissioned AF pilot at anytime?" Kirkwood said "No sir." And until Timothy Good's book "Above Top Secret" no more was nationally heard of him until the Fox Broadcast where once again he appeared as a former officer pilot with the U.S. Air Force.

But that didn’t take me back to this 1960s claim. It just showed that Noel/Kirkwood/Cornwell had no credibility. Here was another guy claiming to be a former Air Force officer, former military pilot, who turned out to be none of those things.

Further searching did reveal that some knew of the earlier story and while it suggested to a few that Noel wasn’t credible, there were others who thought nothing of it. After all, didn’t the CIA or the Air Force control those records so that a lack of documentation meant nothing about the guy’s credibility.

Of course, there were Noel’s admissions that he hadn’t been any of those things, but in the world of the UFO, even a claim by the man, denying that he had ever been in the Air Force isn’t good enough. I can’t tell you how many of these people, once exposed, managed to return, often with a new story and new claims.

So, once again, I have provided information about someone who said that he had been an Air Force officer, but who was not. I have shown that his tales go back to the 1960s, but few bother to mention that. Here is just another case where we shouldn’t be fooled by someone who isn’t who he said he was. How much longer are we going to put up with this?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ART, LIFE and UFOs by Budd Hopkins

Very early on in reading this book, I stumbled across a sentence* that got me thinking about other aspects of the UFO field and I sent a note to Budd Hopkins, telling him that I was reviewing his book and that I planned on looking mostly at the UFO aspect of it. Budd wrote back saying that the book was not just another of his UFO books, but more of a memoir that covered his life’s work. The UFOs were important, but so was the art and so was his life’s story.

I had thought that his book would be segmented into his early life, his art and his UFO research but it wasn’t. I think of my life with my military career separated from my writing career and my UFO research, but Budd has integrated all parts of his life so that his art is influenced by his UFO research and his UFO research is influenced by his art as he suggested to me and throughout this book.

On page 306, for example, Budd wrote, "...I was keenly aware that few people in the UFO research community had any knowledge of abstract art, mine included, and very few artists cared a fig for the idea of UFOs. I was pained by the disconnect between two groups with which I was so deeply involved..."

In a similar vein, just two pages later, he expressed surprise that science fiction writers have little regard for UFOs. He was writing about two specific examples, Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury. Vonnegut "coldly dismissed it [UFOs] as ridiculous. Bradbury, it seems, knew little about UFOs, the evidence for them and probably cared even less."

Those of us who have written science fiction and who have moved through the science fiction community know that it is the writers who most often express disdain for the idea of alien visitation, but the fans of science fiction seem to love it. They have a captivation with UFOs that is curiously lacking in the writers of it.

But this book has nothing to do with science fiction and it is certainly more than just a UFO book. It’s about his life and I confess that I was fascinated by the short look into the history of the Second World War through the eyes of a boy too young to join the military and whose father was a soldier involved in that war. Hopkins takes pride in his father’s position and high rank but clearly did not follow in his footsteps as a military officer or in his political philosophy.

In fact, in exposing his liberal leanings (can one really believe that an artist living in New York would be anything else?) he laments using student deferments to avoid the draft in the 1950s as the Korean War wound down, as did George Bush the Younger, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in the1960s during the height of the Vietnam War. He didn’t mention Bill Clinton’s attempts to avoid the draft as well. I suppose the argument would be that Clinton hadn’t started any wars but the others had. And, I suppose it should be noted that taking advantage of an opportunity that is offered, when it is offered is not necessarily a bad thing to have done. Especially when it is remembered that the drafted soldier has his life turned upside down for two or more years.

I would have liked more about his early life during the Second World War simply because we have many histories of the war told from the point of view of the soldiers, from the adults who were involved in the war industry, the politicians who made careers at the time, but very little of how it affected the youngsters. At one point Budd tells us of watching military aircraft that is going down and he could clearly see one of the men in it, just before it crashes. This must have had a major affect on him but he writes relatively little about it.

Budd moves into his high school career and then onto college where we learn more about his sex life than I care to know. But this is his memoir and he’s telling us what is important to him.

But he also talks about the "fights" with his father over his choice of career and the college he would attend. This seems to be a fairly normal exchange driven by a father who would like to see his son succeed and a belief that art might not be the best, or the most lucrative of career paths to follow. Here Budd proves that some who have visions of art actually succeed at that as an occupation.

In fact, it seems that he is successful enough that he has a home away from Manhattan and I mention this only because it provides the backdrop for Hopkins’ UFO sighting.

As I say, I was more interested in his history with UFOs and it’s deep in the book when this begins to appear. He finally talks about his UFO experience, giving us all the details, including that it was a lens-shaped object that was clearly visible. He thought that it was as large as a car but also knew that size of objects in the sky without points of reference are difficult to judge accurately.

Budd wasn’t alone during the sighting. There were two others in the car including his wife at the time, Joan, and Ted Rothon, described as "a young English social worker." Budd eventually stopped the car and all three of them got out. They watched as the UFO began to move, into the wind, at the speed of a light plane.

This was 1964 and after the sighting, which changed his perception of UFOs he didn’t do much about it. He talked with friends who told of similar experiences in the area. He talked with his father who took the sighting seriously and he wrote to the Air Force, which did not. I also wonder if his listening to the famous Orson Welles 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast, to which he devoted a short chapter might also have influenced him.

A decade later, Hopkins learned of another UFO sighting, this one in North Hudson Park. He knew the witness and interviewed him. He then set out to find other witnesses and was successful. All of this might not have been important, but he eventually met Ted Bloecher, a long time UFO investigator who was interested after Hopkins told him about the sighting.

All this became important because Budd would eventually write an article about it for the Village Voice which later appeared in Cosmopolitan. This told people that he was interested in UFO sightings and as so often happens, once they have a point of contact, they will call with their UFO stories.

Yes, we do get very abbreviated stories of abduction research, telling those interested where to find more about it. This book is not a UFO book so that evidence to prove the UFO connections just isn’t included in it. Is that a flaw here? Not at all. It provides an interesting background for his UFO research, provides some insight into his thought processes, but in the end, this is a book about Budd Hopkins and not about UFOs or art. Besides, he tells us that it was all detailed in one of his other books.

We do get to see some of his beliefs. On page 287, he wrote, "One of my favorite comments of Mark Twain is his statement that ‘always telling the truth means never having to remember anything.’ For a deliberate liar or an emotionally confused confabulator to avoid mistakes in later testimony, he must first memorize many irksome, even trivial details from what he has claimed so far..."

But confabulation in not deliberate lying, but more of the mind filling in lost details. So, while the point about lying is valid, the detail about confabulation is not... and that, I suppose, would be one of those trivial details that I caught. A tiny misconception that means little in the greater scheme of things.

We move through these later chapters, one dealing with UFOs and another focusing on art, but we also see the intermingling of these two important facets of one life.

One thing surprised me about this book. Budd wrote, "But the truly bad news was the fact that my press and TV appearances on the UFO abduction phenomenon were apparently having a negative affect on the way that people – dealers, collectors, and even some fellow painters – viewed my work."

As I say, I found the book to be captivating, and while much of the UFO related material can be found in Budd’s other books, the condensed version here made it all easier to understand. It brought a bright light on his introduction and then immersion into UFOs and abductions. He had displayed here, simply, and compactly his thoughts and his beliefs.

At the beginning of the book I wasn’t all that interested in the art world aspects of this, but now that I have worked through it, I found that it was worth the challenge. Budd has provided a glimpse into a world that I would never have entered simply because I’m not an artist.

Those familiar with the UFO community know that Budd and I disagree on some major points, but this was a fascinating look into the man. Make no mistake. This is not a UFO book, but a book about one man’s life including his political beliefs and his observations on life. It’s about his struggle as an artist, his insights into that world and his eventual understanding of his father’s personality. He wrote, about his father’s, or rather the household lack of the positive confirming cliches such as "You should try to be a leader and not a follower," that "...he preferred us [Budd and his siblings] to be obedient rather than independent and to follow his dreams rather than our own," which, I think, is the attitude of many parents of the time.

So, in the end, we have a fascinating book about Budd Hopkins. We have a book that is necessary for the student of UFOs, but also for the student of the Arts. We learned how he arrived at the point he reached and if I have a complaint, it is that he skipped over what I think of as the turning points without providing any real motivation. He might have insisted on a career as an artist to spite his father, but if that is a motive, it is a relatively minor one for it is clear that he loves the world of art. His choice was made, not so much in defiance, but in love of art.

He was drawn into the world of the UFO because of his own sighting, but where most let it go at that, he searched for more meaningful and deeper answers. He found an interesting aspect of UFOs with the abductions, providing us all with an understanding of how he got there and what he believes.

There is also an undercurrent of his political beliefs throughout the book. Hints here and then until he reveals late that he is a liberal Democrat to his father’s somewhat conservative Republican beliefs. This seems to be an important point to Budd, but I’m not sure that it is important to the reader. Some might take offense, but the rest of us understand that people have a wide range of beliefs and values and to reject someone because of a political philosophy is to reject so much more without rational reason. And, of course, injecting one’s beliefs into a work sometimes alienates the reader, which is the right of the author to do and the right of reader to reject.

This, however, is a book that should be read by those interested in UFOs, in art, and in the human condition. It also provides, though I don’t think it was intentional, a history of the evolution of American society from the end of the depression to the point we have reached today. His review of his life seems to suggest that we are improving, and though there are bumps in the road, we’ll eventually get there. This, if for no other reason, is a good excuse to read the book.
You can find the book at

*For those who are interested, the sentence that sparked the email was a note that Charles Hickson had been awarded two Purple Hearts for service in Korea and I wanted to know where that information originated.