Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cash Landrum and Crash Retrievals

One of the strange things about writing a book is that sometimes the comments or criticisms come in a short period of time.

What do I mean?

My book, Crash: When UFOs Fall from the Sky was published in May and in the last week or ten days I have heard from several people who wished I had included the Cash-Landrum case in the book. That is an interesting case and I believe John Schuessler did a very comprehensive study of it which has been published.

The problem for me is that I don’t view the case as a crash/retrieval. I see it as something that might have been an emergency close approach, or just a close approach without the emergency, or some kind of terrestrially-based test, but not a crash of an extraterrestrial vehicle. For that reason, I left it out.

What I know about the case is what everyone else knows and is based on the research of those who studied it in person. I have never spoken to any of those who were originally involved, though I do know John Schuessler. He is one of those who has devoted a great deal of time to the study of UFOs and this case took place almost in his backyard.

It was December 29, 1980, when Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum and Landrum’s seven-year-old grandson, Colby saw the strange object as they returned from dinner. Thinking that it was an airplane heading to a nearby airport, they thought nothing of it. But as they rounded a curve on the rural road, they saw the light approaching them at treetop level.

Fearing that they would be burned alive, Landrum screamed for Cash to stop. The road was narrow and Cash was unable to turn to car so that they could escape. But there was no other traffic, so Cash got out, walking to the front of the vehicle. Landrum also got out but her grandson so upset she got back in.

They could feel heat from the diamond-shaped object that was about 100 feet away. The car became too hot to touch and Landrum put her hand on the dashboard and left an imprint. Cash needed to use part of her leather jacket to protect her hand so that she could open the door.

There was a final blast of heat and the object ascended slowly. As it cleared the treetops, helicopters appeared from all directions. The object and the helicopters then disappeared from sight.

When her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Cash started the car and they began to head home. As they rounded another curve on that same road, they saw the object again, and Cash counted 23 helicopters near it. Landrum thought there were 25 or 26 of them. Cash was able to pull off the road. When the object and the helicopters were again out of sight, Cash then drove home.

Later that evening Cash became sick, the symptoms like that of radiation poisoning, at least according to some. She was hospitalized twice for treatment. The Landrums were also sick, but not to the same degree as Cash, which might be as simple as Cash being outside the car longer and her exposure greater.

The case was, of course, investigated. Cash eventually sued the government for 20 million dollars alleging that her illnesses were caused by the close approach of the craft. She was eventually treated for various cancers 25 times and had undergone two operations. The helicopters were obviously US government and they should have been protecting her. The case was dismissed in 1986. Cash died some twenty yeas later.

The suit was dismissed, according to the ruling, because there was no evidence that the diamond-shaped craft was any type of government test vehicle and they were hard pressed to find witnesses to the formation of helicopters. A few witnesses were found who said they had seen the fleet, but no physical evidence or documentation was ever located.

I will point out here, based on my experience as a helicopter pilot, that I find it difficult to believe they could hide an air operation of this magnitude. The helicopters would have had a crew of three and maybe four meaning almost 100 men (and given the date of this, I wouldn’t expect any women in the flight crews), not to mention the logistical support necessary. You’d have to supply a refueling point, as well as other considerations but no trace of any of that was ever found or documented. Something like that, on that scale, would be impossible to hide.

Nearly everyone, skeptics and believers alike, suggest that the illnesses sounded like radiation sickness. One of those who doesn’t is Brad Sparks. He presented a number of reasons including the rapid onset of the symptoms and the lingering nature of them as reason to suspect another cause. Philip Klass was interested in the health of the three victims prior to the encounter.

The bottom line for me, and my book on UFO crashes, is that there is no hint of a crash here. A close encounter of the second kind, meaning a close approach of a UFO, but not a crash. For that reason, I didn’t even consider this case for my book.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Philip Corso and MJ-12

There are many levels to UFO research and there are many different people adding to the confusion because of their own agendas. Sometimes those agendas are relatively benign, and sometimes they are almost evil.

All this is a way of saying that not all that long ago I was talking to Bill Birnes of UFO magazine and The Day After Roswell. He asked me where I had gotten a copy of the proposal for the book. I told him that I was not comfortable revealing the source and although he made a guess or two, I refused to provide any additional information.

Birnes took that well and then said that Philip J. Corso, his co-author on the book had never claimed to have been on the MJ-12 committee. That reference had been added by a movie company that had been interested in doing some sort of feature film based on the book. Neither Corso nor Birnes had endorsed that statement.

If you read the book, you’ll find no claim that Corso was a member of MJ-12, either as a primary, alternate or assistant. Corso’s story has nothing to do with MJ-12 or any such committee other than in passing.

My point here is not to suggest that the book is factual, fiction, or a combination of the two. It is only to point out that the reference to MJ-12 and Corso’s participation in it was made by others who didn’t understand these sorts of things. It was made by those whose agenda was to make a film and make money and not to necessarily advance the state of UFO research.

Being on MJ-12 was not a claim made by Corso according to what Bill told me.

What this really means is that I can’t, and you can’t, reject Corso’s story because he said he was a member of MJ-12. You can reject for other reasons if you must, but this is not one of them.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Glenn Dennis Revisited

A bit of a preface about all this. Several years ago I decided that I would like to be invited to speak at more UFO conventions. I knew the problem was that I held some views that were not universally accepted in the UFO community. I thought that if I had only a skeptical argument I would not say anything about a case. I would promote only those that I believed had some legitimacy.

But I just couldn’t embrace some of the more ridiculous notions in the world of UFOs. The real breaking point came when I listened to Robert Willingham on Jeff Rense’s radio program. Based on what I learned, I knew that Willingham had not been an Air Force colonel. He was not a decorated veteran of World War II or Korea and had not been a fighter pilot. His claims of this military service outraged me. I could not, in good conscience, remain silent when I knew that there was absolutely no evidence that Willingham had served in the Air Force and that his story of a UFO crash was not true.

I had, in the past, suggested that I did not accept the tale told by Glenn Dennis. There were just too many problems in it, the most obvious was the lack of supporting testimony from those who were there, in Roswell, in 1947.

As I said in the last post, the question arose about how I learned Glenn Dennis’ name and that I answered. Walter Haut told me. From there we, and by we I mean Don Schmitt and I began our investigation into the Dennis story. Later others would contribute to our knowledge including Victor Golubic who at the time lived in Arizona and Ted Oliphant who, at the time, was a police officer in Alabama.

When I first met Dennis, in November, 1990, he told the story that he pretty much sticks to today. There have been modifications to it but those have come about because the information we, and when I say we I mean a number of different researchers, had provided.

According to Dennis, he was working at the Ballard Funeral Home in Roswell when he received a number of telephone calls from the base mortuary officer. He was asking questions about caskets, if they could be hermetically sealed and if he had any small ones in stock. He answered the questions but said that he didn’t have enough of the small caskets.

Later, because the mortuary also ran the ambulance service, not that uncommon in small towns in the 1940s, Dennis ran a slightly injured soldier out to the base. While at the base hospital, he saw a number of military ambulances parked there with their back doors opened. Inside he saw metallic wreckage, again not uncommon if there had been some kind of aircraft accident.

He said inside that ambulance he saw a canoe-shaped object. Not the whole canoe, but just the bow of it. He said that there were some symbols on it but he never really described these for me.
Inside the hospital he saw they were unusually busy, which might have been accounted for by an aircraft accident. He thought he would look up a nurse he knew to learn what happened and maybe buy a Coke before he returned to the mortuary.

The nurse saw him first, in one of the hallways and told him to get out of there before he got himself into some kind of trouble. Before he could react, an officer that he described as having red hair and a nasty attitude caught him and asked him what he was doing in the hospital. The officer was accompanied by a black NCO, whose attitude was equally bad.

According to what Dennis said to me, and said to others, he was told there had been no aircraft accident, there had been nothing going on, and that he should get back to the city as quickly as he could. He would tell no one what he had seen, or thought he had seen, and if he ever mentioned anything about it, they would be picking his bones out of the sand.

He also mentioned that some of the threats came from the black NCO. This has always bothered me given the timing of these events. Yes, there were black NCOs in the Army and there were twenty-five or twenty-six assigned to the base at the time. However, it seems that neither the red-haired officer nor the black NCO were assigned there. They had come into Roswell from some other location.

But this was 1947 and I wondered about a black NCO threatening a white civilian. True, the officer had made the initial threats but given the era, given the racial divide in 1947, would a black NCO felt secure enough to threaten a civilian?

At any rate, Dennis left the base puzzled by all the activity and the security that was being maintained. It confused him, but a day or so later, he said that he had spoken to the nurse he knew. He had met her at the officers club and she had more to say. According to him, she told him that she had been involved in a preliminary autopsy of little creatures. She was sure that they were not from Earth and she told him not to tell anyone what about the events.

I will point out here because it does impact on the validity of his tale, that in the initial interviews, Dennis suggested that there was a romantic interest. He and the nurse had a relation that might have developed into something more permanent. This would explain why she felt she could tell Dennis about an activity that was classified even though she would have been ordered not to talk to anyone who was not cleared to know it.

Within days she was transferred from the base, apparently sent to England. Dennis said that he received one note from her, giving him her address in England. The letter he wrote came back marked, "deceased". She had been killed in an aircraft accident, according to what he was told by other nurses at the base.

This also suggests a relation that was more than casual. That she would write to him while enroute to England suggests a rather strong relation. If such a relation didn’t exist, then there would be no reason for her to communicate with Dennis so quickly.

All this kind of information gave us a witness to the bodies and testimony that those bodies were not human. It gave us information about transfers from the base, and it was a story that ended in tragedy. It would make great television, and we were in Roswell to make a documentary about the crash when I first talked to Dennis.

But this story also provided me with a lot of information I could check. There were components of it that would have been reported in other arenas and all I had to do was find the right information sources.

Yes, Dennis was reluctant to give us the name of the nurse. He said that he had promised her that he would never reveal what she said or who she was. But then she had been dead for decades and was beyond Army regulations and Army punishment for revealing classified information. There was no reason to keep this secret.

He did supply me with a name, with the promise that I would not tell anyone who it was. Naomi Self was the name of the nurse, and I have no trouble revealing it now because Dennis apparently shared that name with many others who released it. Even Philip Klass, in one of his SUN newsletters, gave the name as Naomi Maria Selff, a variation that Dennis had apparently given to Karl Pflock at some point.

Of course I checked the Yearbook that Walter Haut had produced in 1947 that gave us so many names. She wasn’t in it. But then many who had been at the base in 1947 were not listed.

She was not in the base telephone directory which held the names and base telephone numbers for many of the officers. Of course, as a nurse, her name might not appear in that book either.

I had noticed that the Roswell Daily Record, on the front page, nearly everyday, welcomed newly assigned soldiers and officers to Roswell. Her name didn’t surface there either... though I wondered if they would have printed the name of a young, single woman, again given the time frame.

I checked the New York Times Index, which, in the pre-computer age, was a great tool. I could look up aircraft accidents and found them broken down by date, type of aircraft, location, and when and where it had appeared in the newspaper. I searched everything from July 1947 through 1955 and found no aircraft accidents in England, Europe or the United States that had claimed the lives of five Army nurses as Dennis had said.

Don Berliner, who was conducting his own research along similar lines, searched the Stars and Stripes. This is a newspaper printed for the military overseas. Had such a tragedy occurred, then that information would have been published in it. He found nothing.

Not that this proved anything. The Army, in an attempt to stop people from searching for her, put out the rumor that she had been killed. It explained why she had never written to him again. The details he had could be wrong and that was why we could find nothing about it.

There was one source of information that we hadn’t tried and that was the Morning Reports. In the Army, at that time, each unit produced a report of the number of people available for duty that day. Those reporting into a unit were listed by name and serial number. Those sick in the hospital were listed by name and serial number. Those on leave, those on temporary duty and those transferred were listed by name and serial number. And all those morning reports were housed in the big National Archives center in St. Louis. All you had to do was write to them and ask for what you wanted.

Which, of course, I did. And in return I got the Morning Reports, not for the medical staff, but instead for the Headquarters Company. I went back to them a couple of times and was told that the Morning Reports for that particular unit were no where to be found.

You might think that the missing Morning Reports suggest a conspiracy to hide the information and keep us from verifying that the nurse had been stationed in Roswell. A researcher, Vic Golubic, wanted to pursue this. He called the Records Center and talked to several people there. Eventually they located the Morning Reports for the unit.

The critical dates, July and August, were available. Since Self or Selff had apparently been transferred not long after the UFO crash, her name should have been in the Morning Reports in July or August, but it was not. But Golubic had requested the Morning Reports for the whole year of 1947 and much of 1946, so that he had the names of many of the nurses, but no Naomi Maria Selff or Naomi Self or anything that sort of matched.

Golubic would work the problem many different ways according to what he told me, chasing doctors who might have known nurses, civilian agencies in Roswell that would have employed nurses, and even going to the Army which had records of nurses and nursing students that went back into the early 1940s including those from the Cadet Nurse Corps Identification Cards that listed some 124,064 names. He was unable to find any variation of Self’s name in any of these locations.

I worked with a police officer, Ted Oliphant, and we searched throughout the United States attempting to find her. Eventually we would find four women named Naomi Self (yes, it is some what rare name, and we found four), but none was the right one.

I also used one of the CD-ROM telephone directories containing millions of names but couldn’t find her. I tried variations, including those provided by Dennis and still had no luck. And yes, I realize that she might have gotten married and that her married name would probably be different than her maiden name. Still, we could find no trace of her.

Golubic confronted Dennis about this, saying that he could find no record that a nurse with that name even existed. According to what he told me, Dennis said that he had not given any of us the correct name because he had promised to protect her identity. He hinted to Golubic that her last name did begin with an "S" and there was some speculation that it might have been Sipes.

Golubic, like many of us, thought this was just a dodge because we had proved a negative. No record of her in any of the places that it should have been had been found, and when that information was presented, Dennis changed it. That meant we would have to begin all over again.

But I didn’t believe that Dennis had not given us the real name in the beginning. I don’t know why he picked the name he did, but I don’t think he was doing it to protect the nurse. I think he believed we wouldn’t have the resources to track this, and I don’t think he realized the level of documentation existed in the 1940s that did.

I had talked to him once and he said that he couldn’t understand why we couldn’t find his nurse because he had given us the name. He stressed that he had reluctantly shared the real name with us in the hopes of our finding her, or what had really happened to her. Why couldn’t we learn anything?

I pointed out that people have the same name and I had talked, that morning, with a Robert Slusher who had been in the Army during World War II. I was looking for a Robert Slusher who had been with the 509th in Roswell in 1947. The guy I talked to was not the right man.

Dennis then said to me, "Oh, I know Bob Slusher. He lives over in Alamogordo."

When I talked to that Slusher, I learned it was the right man. But the point here is that Dennis was pushing the name, telling us that he had given us the right name and we couldn’t find his nurse. When we said there was no nurse by that name, Dennis changed his story and his nurse’s name.

Given all that, I wasn’t a fan of Dennis. I also learned that he hadn’t been a mortician in 1947 but an embalmer. A slight embellishment and maybe not one of overriding importance. Skeptics would, of course, use this to hammer him if they had known it.

There were other minor alterations in his story but these seemed to be more of the problems with memory than an attempt to deceive. For example, he took us to what had once been the base hospital and laid out the scene for us. He pointed to where the ambulances had been parked, what door he had entered, and what loading area had been used by the military for the bodies (as seen in this picture). The problem here was that the hospital as it stood then, in 1990s was not the hospital in 1947. In 1947, the hospital was comprised of a number of separate buildings, each with it’s own function (as seen below). When I was there in 1990s, a single building had replaced all those others.

It would seem to me that Dennis, if he was telling us the truth, would have known that. It would seem that he would have said that this doesn’t look quite right but there had been no hesitation by him when he was describing the scene to me. This suggests an invented tale rather than a lapse of memory.

Is this another big blunder, or is it just a faulty memory that was fifty years in the making? Given the name trouble, maybe it was just more of the invented tale.

In fact, at one point he was telling people that we all had pressed him for a name, meaning that we UFO investigators had wanted the name. He said that he told us he’d give us a name but that it wouldn’t be the right name. We just hadn’t listened to him when he cautioned us. This was, of course, an attempt to blame UFO researchers for the Naomi Self name. That should have annoyed all of us, but apparently I was about the only one who thought this to be outrageous.

I can take this a step further, which I believe to be important. Dennis had told Karl Pflock that his, Dennis’ nurse, had told him that the autopsies had been performed by two doctors who came in from Walter Reed. That caused researchers to ask why they would have called Dennis about embalming the bodies as he had claimed. Dennis again said that he had been misquoted. The trouble was that he was on video tape saying that his nurse told him that the pathologists would have to do something when they got back to Walter Reed. He hadn’t been misquoted.

There is one other point that should be made and that is that in 1947, according to the City Directory, Dennis was married. His wife’s name was Dorothy. So, why would the nurse have been involved in a romantic situation with Dennis, especially when he described her as a good Catholic girl?

The big problem was the shifting nature of the nurse story and her name. And then his attempts to blame us, meaning the researchers for those changes. But that isn’t the way it was at all. Had he told me that he would give me a name, but it wouldn’t be right, I would have told him to save it. No, what he told me was that he had promised her he wouldn’t tell anything and that I had to promise not to reveal her name. I held onto that promise until it seemed that everyone, Roswell researcher, UFO researcher, UFO skeptic and debunker, and tourist had been given the name.

There was another the thing that bothered me the most about Dennis’s story. He had been unable to provide documentation that he had once promised. And, that the story might not really be his, but was that of another employee at Ballard’s who had received the telephone calls and the inquiries. But that man had died before Dennis entered the arena, which meant the core of the story was true, but Dennis had not been the man in the middle of it.

What I had been told, by some, was that the mortician who received the telephone calls was not Dennis, but another man. That man would later tell Dennis about this and Dennis adopted it as his own story.

While my disappointment hinged on the failed attempts to find his nurse and the changing of her name, there were others who were still looking for Naomi Marie Selff, as the name had evolved. A group calling itself News of the Force (NOTF) said they had contacted three officers at the Pentagon who searched the records available there for Selff but found nothing. One officer said that he found nothing about her in the archives of the Women’s Memorial at Arlington.

But as I say repeatedly, nothing is ever simple in UFO research. NOFT claimed to have found a web site of military records and in their search turned up two women named Naomi Marie Self. One of the entries suggested one of the women was about 87 and the other suggested was 101. However, not long after NOTF found the records they disappeared from the Internet... which means that I can’t verify the information.

NOTF had also initiated some Freedom of Information requests to the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. According to them, the reply said, "The Air Force Worldwide Locator searched all available Air Force and Civil Service file computerized indexes (sic) and based on the information you provided did not find any record of ‘Naomi M. Self’ ever having served with the U.S. Air force under that name. AFPC searched all records contained in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System (known as DEERS to all of us who have served and retired) database and the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) database, the Automated Records Management System (ARMS) database and the Military Personnel data Systems (MILPDS)... There were no identifiable responses for that name."

I’m afraid they wasted their effort, other than proving, once again that Naomi Self was not the right name and I wonder if these databases were user friendly. Would they have kicked out a name if it had a single F on the end? And, what if Naomi Sipes was the right name? It probably wouldn’t have kicked that out.

Sure, I’ve read some of the supporting statements for Dennis. Tom Carey and Don Schmitt, in their book, Witness to Roswell, reported on a number of people who claimed to have heard the little bodies, little coffin story from Dennis.

Former Roswell police chief L. M. Hall in his 1993 affidavit for the Fund for UFO Search said that he remembered Dennis telling him only a few days after the newspaper stories that he had received telephone calls asking about the small coffins. Hall claimed that Dennis said they wanted "to bury [or ship] those aliens." Hall said that he thought it was some kind of a joke. But this isn’t documentation. It is hearsay.

Besides, there really is nothing in Hall’s statement to anchor this recollection in time. Yes, he says that it was just days after the events in the newspaper, but this might be where he is confused. I can’t think of a reason this should stick in his memory, nor can I think of a reason that it has to be 1947. Hall, here, I believe is, confused.

Carey and Schmitt found Roswell attorney Richard L. Bean who said that he heard the tale of the telephone calls within days of the crash, but it was a couple of years before he heard Dennis talking about it which doesn’t do us much real good either. The couple of years could be something more and again, this doesn’t anchor the event for us.

Most important, none of this information was reported before the explosion of the Roswell case. There is nothing to support the idea that Dennis had been telling this story since 1947 to selected friends.

There doesn’t seem to be any written documentation that transcends the publication of The Roswell Incident. Dennis’ story emerges in 1989 and has since undergone a number of evolutions. I have tracked the story from the beginning and haven’t seen any reason to alter my earlier opinion that there are some real problems with it, not the least of which is the changing name of the nurse.

Once again, I’m at odds with those in the UFO field. Most accept Dennis’ story as legitimate, but I can’t. There are too many red flags, too many discrepancies, and too many changes to it. I have learned, over the years, that a story that changes to incorporate new information is probably not accurate.

So, rather than not say anything about this and letting others fight it out here, I figured I would tell what I knew about Dennis and his missing nurse. Without some kind of verification that does not rely simply on the memories of people who believe that Dennis said something in 1947 to them, I find no reason to accept this tale as accurate.

Friday, January 07, 2011

How I Learned about the Roswell Mortician

Not all that long ago someone asked how I had learned of Glenn Dennis (seen below), the Roswell mortician. The correspondent suggested that he had searched the literature and couldn’t find out how I had learned of him, or how Stan Friedman had learned of him.

Stan, I believe, and he’ll be quick to correct me if I’m wrong, learned about the mortician through a friend of the mortician. I’m not sure if it was Robert Shirkey, a Roswell resident who had been a member of the 509th Bomb Group in 1947 or someone else. The point is that someone in Roswell gave Stan the name and he went in search of him.

I, on the other hand, had been told of a mortician and was given a name. The name I had belonged to a man who lived in Albuquerque and who worked at the main library there. I found the guy and talked to him but he had never lived in Roswell and had never been a mortician.

On that same trip to New Mexico, Don Schmitt and I visited with Walter Haut. We were sitting in the living room of his house and I was asking questions, trying to get a name for the mortician.

Walter said, "I know the name you’re fishing for. It’s Glenn Dennis."

So I learned of Dennis from Walter Haut.

Not long after that, while in Roswell to tape the documentary, UFO Secret: The Roswell Crash, Mark Wolf, with the help of Walter Haut encouraged Dennis to accompany them on a trip out to the Debris Field near Corona. On that trip, Wolf learned more of the Dennis tale and encouraged Dennis to tell it on tape.

The first of the interviews was done by Wolf late one evening. After we had him on tape, Dennis thought that he would like another interview done with him dressed in a suit and the ever present New Mexico string tie. I conducted that interview, following the lead that Wolf had established.

That should answer the question about how I learned of Glenn Dennis. I asked Walter Haut and he told me.