Saturday, August 27, 2011

Extraordinary Claims...

Not all that long ago I took on the propaganda phrase “Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence.” I pointed out that it was used when there was no evidence for a particular theory and it is the last defense as a point began to collapse.

Proponents of the extraterrestrial theory for UFOs are not the only ones who had a pet and somewhat meaningless phrase. Debunkers ofter claim that “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” They trot this out when it begins to look as if some of the evidence does support the idea of alien visitation. That the evidence isn’t overwhelming isn’t really the point here but this phrase is often used to belittle any solid evidence or ignore it completely.

It can be argued that a claim of alien visitation is extraordinary and to prove it there must be some very persuasive evidence. Two or three, or a dozen people standing around and seeing a light in the sky that seems to move with great speed, maneuver in a way that defies physics as we understand it, and then disappears “like a light being extinguished,” certainly isn’t extraordinary evidence. There are too many other explanations for that sighting including illusion.

In fact, sighting reports in and of themselves will probably never be sufficient to prove alien visitation. Even if those making the observations are classified as “trained observers” meaning scientists, or police officers or military and civilian pilots, or a combination of all three, it is still just a sighting. When everything is examined, the report is still just the observations of those men and women and certainly open to interpretation.

What is needed are observations that are accompanied by other types of evidence. What is needed are chains of evidence independent of one another. A photographic case that is witnessed by several, with radar or other instrumentality involved, and maybe landing traces, or bits of debris that seem to defy an earthly origin would be perfect. What is needed is a scientific study of a case that mirrors that done in the early nineteenth century by Jean-Baptiste Biot. He was the French scientist who put together a study of a fireball that had fallen in France about three weeks before he initiated his investigation and changed the science of the time.

He did interview witnesses about what they had seen. He didn’t reject them simply because they were poor, uneducated, or rural. He didn’t reject them because they were not scientifically trained observers. He took down all the eyewitness accounts that he could.

But he also gathered physical evidence in the form of the rocks that were alleged to have fallen from the sky. Under analysis, he was able to establish that they were unlike the other geological samples from the region and that they had been introduced at some point after a recent survey of the minerals had been completed. They must have arrived as the witnesses claimed. They must have fallen from the sky.

He was able to reverse the scientific thought of the time and convince his colleagues that rocks did fall from the sky. His evidence was not extraordinary. It was eyewitness testimony and an analysis of the rocks that had fallen based on that witness testimony.

In the world of UFO, we begin the fight with the vast distances encountered among the stars. Everyone, it seems, agrees with the idea that there is life out there in the universe somewhere and some of it is intelligent. But then there are those who tell us that even with that, these alien races have not solved the problem of interstellar flight because, if they had, well, they would be here by now.

When we suggest that Earth has been visited, we are told that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and then dismiss everything that has been gathered as if it were not evidence, or, at least does not rise to the level of extraordinary evidence.

Okay, I can stipulate that much of the evidence has been poorly gathered. I can stipulate that the personal belief structures and the biases of those gathering the data come into play. I can even stipulate that many of those who have gathered the data were unfamiliar with the rules of evidence and scientific observation. But I will also note that some of those who complain about those of us who believe aliens have visited have done much to inhibit the gathering of proper data.

What do I mean?

Philip Klass routinely called the employers of witnesses, or investigators, of lecturers and researchers, and told them that their employees believed in alien visitation. He sometimes compared them to communists. He told half-truths about them. He attempted to silence them for reasons I do not now, and have not, understood. He wasn’t arguing evidence but attempting to silence these people through intimidation.

Klass would call venues hosting UFO conferences and suggest these same things, sometimes forcing the venue to be changed at the last minute. Klass, in fact, attempted to inhibit UFO investigation and once accused James McDonald of using government money to chase UFOs. The allegation was untrue but it caused McDonald a great deal of personal anguish and to what end? It didn’t stop the investigations and it might lead to an even more sinister consequence.

Klass wasn’t the only villain in this. The Air Force had a hand in it, though their role was never so outrageous. The official spokesmen, or those at Project Blue Book spokesman, believed the Air Force was wasting resources to investigate UFOs. They paid lip service to the idea of investigation and worked to avoid having to study the question. Documentation has been found that underscores that bit of reality.

How do I know?

The Levelland UFO case is illustrative. Here was a case that might have met this mythical idea of extraordinary evidence if it had been investigated properly at the time. It had multiple chains of evidence with many witnesses found at thirteen separate locations. In many of those locations there were multiple witnesses. There was evidence that the UFO interacted with the environment in a way that could be calibrated. There is even a hint of a landing trace which meant there would be physical evidence of the UFO’s presence. Or, at the very least, indirect evidence.

And what happened?

The Air Force almost called Major Donald Keyhoe, the director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena a liar for what he said about the Levelland UFO reports. Air Force spokesmen said that Keyhoe had claimed nine witnesses but their investigator had found only three. My point in today’s world is that I was able to identify many more showing both the Air Force and Keyhoe were wrong. Both underestimated the number of witnesses but both were too busy arguing this unimportant point to get to the heart of the matter.

Without going into detail about the case, we have sightings by law enforcement officers, travelers, ranchers, and a host of others. They reported that a close approach of the craft stalled their vehicles, dimmed their lights, and filled their radios with static. Not just one or two of these witnesses, but all of them at all the separate locations. All talked about this prior to news coverage and without consultation with witnesses at the widely scattered locations.

But no one was really investigating this case. The Air Force NCO sent in spent a day talking with three witnesses and if a witness did not talk to the Air Force, then that witness did not exist. Even with the suggestion that UFO could suppress the electrical fields around vehicles, the Air Force didn’t pursue the investigation. I would think that the weapon potential would have been obvious to anyone in a military arena and that should have interested them. Today we call that the electromagnetic pulse or EMP.

Don Burleson, a UFO researcher from Roswell, New Mexico, which is some three hours from Levelland, said that about a decade ago he talked to the daughter of the Levelland sheriff. According to that information, the sheriff was more deeply involved than he let on in 1957 and according to her, knew of a burned area on a ranch. Who knows what sort of evidence might, and I stress the might, have been found if properly investigated in 1957? Today this information, while interesting, is useless. We don’t have anything from the sheriff, there is nothing to see there, and we’re dealing with, at best second hand information. We’re only forty or forty-five years too late.

But here was a chance to learn something important. Here was a chance to pursue those multiple chains of evidence. Here was a chance to gather, within hours of the event, the observations of those involved. Here was a chance, a possible chance, to gather physical evidence. And in the end, it was lost because of a disbelief by those in charge of the Air Force investigation and a fight over how many witnesses there really were.

It is possible that the extraordinary evidence might have been gathered at this point. We don’t know because no one actually attempted to gather it at the time.

There are other cases that present these sorts of opportunities. The McMinnville pictures of 1950 show some sort of object that is not of obvious origin. There are the photographs that are available for analysis. There is the witness testimony. There are not a horde of witnesses, but there were two known and a possibility of a couple of others. This seems to be a case that is either of something not of terrestrial manufacture or it is a hoax. Maybe not extraordinary evidence but certainly interesting evidence suggestive of something that borders on the extraordinary.

There are the Washington National UFO sightings from July 1952. The Air Force eventually claimed that they were the result of temperature inversions over Washington, D.C. But there were sightings by civilian pilots, by military pilots, by witnesses on the ground, and importantly, radars. In one case, radars at three separate locations showed the objects. Multiple chains of evidence that suggested something extraordinary, but a case that was labeled quickly and forgotten.

My point here, however, is that each time we suggest a case has some interesting elements, we are reminded that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” I suspect, however, that if we produced an alien ship, there would be those who would believe that we whipped it up in a lab just to prove our point. There are people who argue that no man has ever walked on the moon. There are those who deny everything and base their denials on personal belief rather than evidence review.

But trotting out the argument doesn’t really provide much of an answer. It is a fall back position that allows the user to take what he or she believes to be the scientific high ground, and reject everything that is offered. Nothing will ever meet this arbitrary standard of extraordinary evidence. No matter what is offered, it will not be extraordinary enough. Just as some say, “Absence of evidence,” we have those at the opposite end of the spectrum saying, “Extraordinary claims...”

I merely suggest that we not allow ourselves to be diverted by propaganda such as this. Yes, we must improve our methodology, yes we must improve our techniques, and no, we really don’t need more sighting reports. What we must do is gather the evidence in a professional manner and present it in a professional manner. Once we do that, we can get away from the propaganda machine and just maybe learn a thing or two.


cda said...

You may be right about Levelland. I don't know. But I do know that McMinnville and the Washington radar cases have been analysed over and over again. Neither constitutes "extraordinary evidence" for the good reason that they are hotly disputed. There is no finality about them - and never will be, but the balance is against both of them. Neither could ever be presented as "extraordinary evidence" for ETH.

What is needed is real hardware that scientists agree is manufactured elsewhere. True, it may take many years or decades for scientists to agree on this, but if enough such hard evidence emerges, it can and will eventually be done. Look at the situation re meteorites (as you say).

As of now, there just aint any 'extraordinary evidence', period. No hardware of any kind; none.

Alfred Lehmberg said...

From an old essay I wrote about insane reports from sane people:

"Dr. J. Allen Hynek (_still_ a ufologist's dean, eh?) writes in his, I submit, very rational and thoughtful book, _The UFO Experience — A Scientific Inquiry_, regarding an interesting analogy handily brought to bear on the credibility, personal character, and veracity of persons such as those pointed out, despite how far off the wall these persons seemed to ricochet!

Hynek compared all individuals to scientific observational instruments of varying usefulness in the proceeding analogy next paragraph. I submit he proved his logic, also handily, in this rational reflection ... which makes perfect sense, imo, first wash.

"In science," he wrote, "It is standard practice to calibrate ones instruments. No astronomer, for instance, would accept measures of the velocities of distant galaxies obtained by the means of an un-calibrated spectrograph. However, if such an instrument had given consistently good results in the past, had frequently been tested and had not recently experienced any jarring shocks, the observer would usually accept its results without any further checking..."

Hynek continues, "...The parallel for us is, of course, obvious: if our UFO reporter has, by his past actions and performance, shown a high degree of reliability and responsibility and is known to be stable and not 'out of adjustment,' then we have no a priori reason to distrust his coherent report, particularly when it is given in concert with several other 'human instruments,' also of acceptable reliability."

Eh? This may shoot "extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence of such" in the foot, to a degree, too, as the consistency required for the logic for which we all are admonished to adhere seems to indicate, then, that _mundane_ claims require only _mundane_ evidence of same for a, however tentative, conclusion to be drawn. That seems pretty silly to me

No, I submit the standards should have a balance that "extraordinary" identifications defeat, flatly, as a result of their always movable, and so then invariably moved, goal-posts.

Anonymous said...

If aliens are here, then we are content and they are context, which means it is up to them to prove themselves to us, not for me to prove anything about them, which I can't do (being 'context') without their cooperation.

Or, to quote Curly "I'm fed up looking for Indians. Let them look for us for a change!"



David Rudiak said...

"Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence" (ECDEE) is an almost meaningless, arbitrarily defined hack statement used by the frightened or intellectually lazy to AVOID thinking about or investigating something, a tool in the infinite array of human psychological denial. Scientists and government officials are just as prone to this as anybody else, and goes back at least to fellow scientists refusing to look through Galileo's telescope to confirm what he reported.

ECDEE also doesn't distinguish between the levels of evidence needed to investigate a phenomenon vs. prove what is behind it. To undeniably prove true UFOs are the result of alien visitation would be very hard to do without direct physical evidence--the alien body or craft itself. (Though in my mind, this is virtually proven indirectly by the absence of a good plausible conventional alternative explanation for the truly inexplicable sightings.)

But to prove there are craft or other phenomena of unknown origin shooting around in our skies has a much lower standard of evidence. Mass sightings coupled with radar and/or photographic evidence and/or physical trace evidence and/or interceptions where the object or objects display intelligent control, such as formation flying or evasion upon pursuit will do nicely.

This has been historically true from the beginning of the flying saucer age, when many credible reports from credible people led to the first official investigations by military and intelligence agencies of many countries. There was something up there flying overhead that needed investigation, and never mind exactly what was behind it. That is why you investigate--to try to find out.

Kevin mentioned the denial of the scientific community over meteorites and refusal to investigate. But there are many other similar examples, such as continental drift, an "extraordinary claim" reflexively rejected by the vast majority of the scientific community despite considerable circumstantial geological evidence collected by Wegener by 1912 to support it. It was rejected outright largely because nobody could understand the mechanism by which entire continents could move around. Wegener's evidence begged for further investigation, but the idea was almost entirely buried for another 50 years. Even though we still don't understand the full mechanism driving continental drift, the evidence finally became so overwhelming that CD is now universally accepted as a fact.

Another good example were instantaneous meteor sounds, a consistent phenomenon noted in the scientific literature for 200 years but almost universally rejected as some sort of psychological aberration of witnesses, only because scientists couldn't figure out how it might be possible physically. So just pretend the phenomenon doesn't exist, at least in the physical world and then use that to justify lack of investigation.

Similarly with UFOs, the tens of thousands of high-quality cases amassed over the last 70 years demand further investigation. But many in the scientific community can't wrap their minds around the idea that aliens, or whatever, could get here, so like continental drift or anomalous meteor sounds, never mind the evidence. Flippantly dismiss it as not "extraordinary" enough to even investigate, much less figure out what is really behind it.

What is particularly galling, are the smug claims that this is actually a "scientific" stance, when it is not. It is just raw human psychological denial on display once again.

Anonymous said...

A request for extraordinary proof implies the existing ordnary proof is insufficient. Aside from what 'ordinary' and 'extraordinary' mean, I'd like to know what ordinary proofs there are for ET visitation they've found insufficient and why.

If there are no ordinary proofs by their lights, then why don't they just request the 'ordinary' and not bother with 'extraordinary' -- unless it is merely witty repartee (by their lights).

Isn't the 'extraordinary' trope from Sagan? It sounds like Sagan.



David Rudiak said...

Don (Sourcerer) wrote:
"Isn't the 'extraordinary' trope from Sagan? It sounds like Sagan."

According to the Wikipedia article on debunker critic Marcello Truzzi, he wrote before Sagan:

"An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof." — Marcello Truzzi, On the Extraordinary: An Attempt at Clarification, Zetetic Scholar, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 11, 1978

Carl Sagan in his 1980 Cosmos TV series popularized this as "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence".

In then goes on to say, "However, this is a rewording of a quote by Laplace which goes, 'The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.' This, in turn, may have been based on the statement 'A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence' by David Hume."

Miltary/governments, however, tend to be more practical and not care as much for the hair-splitting of what constitutes "extraordinary" claims or evidence.

From the beginning, military investigations of the ghost rockets and then flying saucers did not demand "extraordinary" evidence to simply investigate. If what many credible people were reporting and what was being picked up on radar was real, that was enough. Something unknown of potential national security interest was flying around in the skies over various countries. Therefore, there were investigations, some of them coming to the conclusion, largely through the process of elimination--they were indeed real aircraft & beyond human capabilities to build, i.e., not made by us--therefore they are made by someone else not from planet Earth.

The Swedes and the Greeks, at the very least, came to that conclusion with regards to the ghost rockets, as did Project Sign 2 years later with their Estimate, then some Project Blue Book personnel in 1952-53 at the Robertson Panel, and then a secret West German government study headed by Hermann Oberth in 1954. (Does anybody know if this study was ever published? I'm only aware of Oberth going on the record and publicly talking about it.) The COMETA panel in 1999 likewise arrived at that conclusion.

I doubt any of them had the schematics of a flying saucer or an alien body in the meat locker to arrive at such a conclusion. They looked at the available evidence and felt it was compelling enough that the ETH seemed the most probable explanation after the conventional had been eliminated.

But one man's "extraordinary enough" or "good enough for government work" evidence or proof is another man's yawn.

Anonymous said...

David: "ECDEE also doesn't distinguish between the levels of evidence needed to investigate a phenomenon vs. prove what is behind it."

"There is no bar to knowledge greater than contempt prior to examination." --Herbert Spencer



Frank Stalter said...

"Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth." -Mohandas Gandhi

I like this quote better. :O)

MUFOB said...

For some discussion on the statement "extraordinary claims need extraordibnary evidence" read Peter Rogerson's ideas on the Magonia blog:

KRandle said...

John -

Welcome and thanks for the link. It is an interesting idea. I wouldn't have rated the alien spacecraft quite as low as he did, but he does provide an interesting way of looking at the various thresholds of evidence.

Lance said...

Hi Kevin,

I think the gist of the "extraordinary evidence" phrase is that there is no reason to change our basic idea about the way world works unless we are damn sure that we are right.

Above it is suggested that skeptics use the phrase when they face good evidence for UFOs. This may comfort enthusiasts but the fact is (even as admitted by most rational UFO believers) that evidence which might incontrovertibly butress their case simply is not in hand.

You mention that Klass "routinely" called employers to defame believers. What evidence do you have of this. I am aware of the McDonald matter and your interpretation of that does not match my own knowledge of the facts: Klass's beef there was the use of taxpayer funds for UFO work (and he was proven to be correct if I recall).

"Routinely" implies that you must be able to cite several cases. Do you mind listing a few.

Hopefully the statement wasn't a case of you giving us your interpretation of the matter instead of simply stating the facts.



Lance said...

To clarify my remarks above in regards to the McDonald/Klass feud.

Klass' campaign to show that McDonald was using public funds for his UFO research may very well have its origins in the way McDonald devastatingly dismissed Klass' theory of ball lighting as a explanation for UFO sightings.

Klass may have been royally pissed at this and even madder that McDonald wouldn't debate him.

Regardless of this, Klass did demonstrate that Mcdonald was (by his own admission) using the funds for this purpose.

Even leaving Klass out of the equation, the evidence show this to be the case.

The question was whether or not the ONR knew about the UFO research and the answer to this is not known (despite the claims of UFO buffs to the contrary).

One thing that is clear is that McDonald's ONR contract was cancelled after the issue came up.

Kevin, it is unfortunate that you (and many other pro-UFO writers) use the relative safety of Klass' current corporeal state to mischaracterize the facts.

You ask for better research in your article and yet...



KRandle said...

Lance -

McDonald was cleared of any charges in relation to using ONR funds for UFO research. An audit by ONR showed this to be the case. He did (as I have done) use my freetime to explore UFO cases in locations I would not be in if not for the military. In other words, when I assigned to Fort Rucker, AL, I traveled to Brooksville to study the Reeves contact case. But no taxpayer funds were used to support that research.

Check with Mark Rodeghier at the Center for UFO Studies to learn that Klass stopped what I thought of as a good research project. There was a series of prairie cameras set to monitor the night sky. When they finished with the photographs, they were to be sent to CUFOS for study in a search for possible UFOs. Klass was outraged at this and wrote letters to stop it. I have never understood that. The photos were to be destroyed so giving them to CUFOS did nothing other than provide them with data that might, but probably wouldn't have, showed some kind of UFO activity. Why would Klass care?

I was to put together a display about UFOs for a science station but the invitation was withdrawn after Klass send letters complaining. My plan was to provide the best information from both sides of the controversy and attempt to keep personal bias out of it. Would I have been successful? Who knows? I never got the chance.

As for Klass' current status, it is irrelevant here. His work, his attacks, are well publicized and available for all to read. We can demonstrate these things in today's world...

And we can also see his nonsensical explanations. The Socorro landing was solved because the mayor of Socorro was looking to create a tourist spot on land he owned... except the mayor didn't own that land in 1966...

He claimed that those of us who endorse an extraterrestrial explanation are no better than communists who wished to see the destruction of the US government and were using UFOs to create distrust.

He wrote to the University of Nebraska to stop a UFO conference there... it was moved to a venue off campus.

He made up solutions and created controversy where none should exist. He told me that he knew various UFO witnesses were liars because there was no such thing as alien visitation so anyone who suggested anything else had to be lying.

I interacted with Klass for 30 years. The last time I saw him was at the MUFON Symposium in St. Louis. I'm surprised that he was there because his health was so poor. I had to help him up a short flight of stairs to an elevator and then on to his room. I empathiized with his for his poor health and violently disagreed with his methods.

And so, since Klass had died, we are no longer able to question his investigations and motives? Do we now give a pass to Adamski, since he is dead? What about Jesse Marcel, Sr.? How about Don Keyhoe?

We can demonstrate through his body of work what he did... we can see through his letters and documents what he thought... but we're to ignore that?

Lance said...


Again I must say that you are the one rewriting history.

The final assessment in the ONR matter was that McDonald HAD used some of their funds for his research but that the people administering the contract knew about it and were okay with it.

Klass (in my opinion, rightly, even if motivated for the wrong reasons) brought this to wider attention. One can then assume that higher authorities at the ONR realized the problems with using taxpayer money for this purpose and terminated McDonald's contract.

This is all discussed exhaustively and dispassionately in Paul McCarthy's dissertation:

Are you able to provide any evidence of Klass calling employers (as opposed to taxpayer funded or educational institutions) "routinely" as you suggested. So far, I am not sure that the examples you provide support this statement.



KRandle said...

Lance -

I am not rewriting history, but quoting it. Jerry Clark, in his massive UFO Encyclopedia (2nd Edition, page 597) wrote, “But other statements McDonald made in communication with James Hughes, his ONR project manager, make it clear that at least some ONR funds when to McDonald’s UFO research. In December [1967] Klass launched a letter-writing campaign directed at Navy bureaucrats involved in research funding. He wanted to know “who had funded McDonald’s UFO investigations in Australia and also who would fund his upcoming trip to Europe and the USSR.” How, asked Klass, could McDonald claim to be doing atmospheric research in the face of his repeated assertion that (1) he was working on UFOs “full time” and (2) UFOs are not atmospheric phenomena? In this last regard Klass continually cited McDonald’s reject of Klass’s plasma theory.”

Clark continued, “Klass’s campaign continued in one form or another for some 18 months, causing McDonald trouble and embarrassment, though after an audit of his work ONR pronounced itself satisfied, noting that it was aware of McDonald’s UFO work and no objection to it. Nonetheless, McDonald lost ONR support for future contracts, apparently because ONR feared that Klass would write an article on the episode for the powerful Aviation Week.” (This last coming from McCarthy, whose work you cite.)

You imply wrongdoing, the ONR suggests not, but you dismiss this idea as UFO buffs’ theories. But what that link you supplied seems to suggest is that the ONR knew about McDonald’s UFO research and was tacitly supporting it.

It also seems to me that it doesn’t do much to suggest Klass was right in his accusations. It suggests he was a vengeful man who attacked the reputation of a man who didn’t think much of his plasma theory. Klass couldn’t respond with science so he attacked the man... which, I believe was one of the things that I was suggesting about Klass. In other words, your link seems to underscore the point that I was making.

Finally, in a most egregious case of Klass interfering with personal lives, take a look at I would hope this would satisfy your desire for additional evidence. Also you might want to check out the Herbert Schmirer sighting or Fire in the Sky by Travis Walton.

BTW, the Science Station was not funded by taxpayer money but private donations.

Lance said...

Hi Kevin,

You wrote:

"once accused James McDonald of using government money to chase UFOs. The allegation was untrue"

And yet your response affirms that McDonld DID use the money for UFO work.

I don't know how to respond.

I will look at the link you gave above and respond afterwards if I have anything to add. I am well aware of the Walton stuff and think that Klass' investigation there directly related to the government clearing contract and I see that as a good avenue of investigation and not supportive of your assertion that he routinely called employers to besmirch a witness.

Kevin if I found out that you had been hired to create (without skeptical counterpoint) an exhibit at a local school (I don't know what a science station is) about UFOs, I would object as well. I would not be doing it because of pure meanness, I would be doing in the interest of fair play and science.

While I admire your research greatly, I vehemently disagree with you conclusions about Roswell (as does much of even the pro-UFO community).

In your above words about Klass, you bring up several of his great mistakes...some of which even he admitted. But you don't mention any of his clever solutions and investigations and exposures. I think your claim that he routinely called employers is again is a conclusion that you have formulated without the support of the facts.



cda said...

Perhaps it the word "routinely" that Lance is objecting to. It implies Klass regularly did this. Kevin would have to provide several examples (say 4 or 5 at least and with different personnel) to make this assertion stick.

David Rudiak said...

Another example: Here is Dr. Bob Jacobs detailed essay about how Klass harrassed him, slandered him, and tried to destroy his career over Jacob's testimony about the 1964 Big Sur incident:

Klass was a vicious bastard. How many examples of him slandering people and trying to destroy their lives does it take to establish that?

Lance said...

Hi Kevin, Christopher and Dr. Rudiak.

I don't see evidence of slander (even in Jacobs' amazingly biased and slanderous article linked by Dr. Rudiak [who objectively refers to Klass as a "vicious bastard"]). Amusingly the Jacobs article shows an example of the the kind of slander that Klass received, dare I say it, routinely: Todd Zechel's claim that Klass was a CIA asset (something that Jacobs buys without question).

As we see above, I point out an obvious mistake in Kevin's article (saying that McDonald didn't use contract funds for UFO research [and then apparently agreeing that he did?]) and that just gets a pass but if Klass makes a mistake (and he made a few!) the mistake becomes evidence that Klass must have been Satan.

So far, not even one example of this:

"Philip Klass routinely called the employers of witnesses, or investigators, of lecturers and researchers, and told them that their employees believed in alien visitation."

Christopher is right about the word "routinely".

For instance, how about this sentence: "Kevin Randle routinely supported the stories of Roswell "witnesses" who actually were transparent frauds."

I can suggest that my statement is closer to the truth :) but it isn't really a fair one, is it?

Having Klass not agree with you is not evidence of slander. I am well aware that Klass didn't suffer fools gladly but being ornery is not the same as being slanderous.



Frank Stalter said...

Klass was certainly slanderous in his behavior regarding the Socorro 1964 case.

Lance said...

Hi Frank,

I think perhaps you might want to look into the meaning of the word slanderous.

While I agree that Klass' solution for Sorocco was not very smart, I wonder where you see the slander?

Can you point out the exact slanderous statement he made?


KRandle said...

Lance -

I should have said that Klass accused McDonald of misusing government funds to chase UFOs and that was untrue. ONR did not find anything inappropriate In McDonald's reports.

We have presented names of those Klass attacked personally, but it's not enough. He went after Bob Jacobs because he didn't believe what Jacobs had to say and it annoyed Jacobs. Klass started the fight.

I'm not sure why you wish to defend him (of course, he's not as bad as Korff, but that really isn't saying much.)

And making up solutions for sightings (the mayor of Socorro wanted to build a UFO attraction on land he owned, or suggesting that Zamora was an accomplice in a hoax, for example) is not the best way to prove a point.

Frank Stalter said...

Lance said...

@ Kevin:


"ONR did not find anything inappropriate In McDonald's reports. "

Sure. They were so happy with the UFO work that they just immediately terminated his contract.

The actual truth is probably that they didn't want the issue to grow any further and they made it all go away--his contract administrators looked bad because they sort of knew about the use of the funds for stuff unrelated to the contract.

In the end, it was probably not criminal misuse (and I can't find anywhere where Klass said that and I have most of his letters on the subject, I think) but it was frowned upon by those in charge.

In summary, McDonald got away with it but at the cost of losing a lucrative contract.

Kevin, if you said that Klass was an ornery old bastard who was hard to deal with and was vindictive and underhanded sometimes--I would have no argument with you on this.

I might mention that he got as good as he gave (as I showed above with the Zechel bullshit). Where was the outrage over that?

But you made a specific claim that I don't think can be backed up.

His work against McDonald was mean as hell but he found, I think, a legitimate complaint about the use of taxpayer funds.

His work against Jacobs is closer to the mark of what you claimed but I only have Jacobs almost certainly biased account. I don't seem to have the referenced materials of his account and would like to know more about the case.

By the way, Jacobs' UFO story does have a lot of holes in it and is essentially debunked.

Much of what I hear about Klass is simply the opinion of folks who don't like him because he was a skeptic. I talked with him on several occasions and in every case, his interest was in the facts of the matter.


Is that a link? Just copy and paste the statement you think fits the criteria.

Klass was a journalist. I would be shocked if he made an actually slanderous statement.

David Rudiak said...

Technically, if Klass publicly spoke, sang, used sign language, etc. false and malicious accusations, that would be "slander". If they were written down, recorded, i.e. more permanent, that would be "libel". Let's just call it defamation, which includes both, and leave it at that.

Legally in the U.S., somebody is guilty of defamation if the accusations are: 1) False, 2) done without adequate research, 3) caused harm to those falsely accused, and 4) if the accused is somebody in the public eye, done with deliberate malice.

Charges can even be factually true, but if there is no good reason for the information to be made public, it is considered an unjustified invasion of privacy and defamation nonetheless.

Let's consider Klass' charges in the case of Socorro. He claimed the mayor owned the land. False, and something that could have been determined to be false if he had bothered to do adequate research, as a REAL journalist would have done. Didn't Klass learn about basic journalistic ethics, like FACT CHECKING?

If the mayor didn't own the land, then Klass' other charge must also be false, that the mayor and Zamora conspired in a hoax to increase tourism to Socorro (to the "mayor's land") and enrich the mayor, and by insinuation Zamora. What was the factual basis of this charge? Obviously zilch. Klass clearly made it up.

We should also note that originally Klass proposed "ball lightning" as an "explanation", totally shot down by Klass' nemesis McDonald (also pretty preposterous given the physical evidence left behind, such as prominent soil indentations and scorched brush and soil). That's when Klass came out with his totally fabricated accusations against Zamora and the mayor.

Finally comes harm done to those falsely accused and whether deliberate malice was involved. These are less objective, but a strong case could be made for both. Klass was accusing Zamora and the mayor of fraud for personal enrichment based on no evidence. Only somebody trying to harm the reputations and credibility of these people would make groundless, made-up charges.

So had Klass been taken to court, he probably would have been judged guilty of libel. The man was a liar obviously trying to destroy the credibility of the chief witness in the Socorro case (Zamora) with false accusations, and thus the case itself. Honest, decent people don't do such things.

Lance said...

Dr. Rudiak may have strayed from his area of expertise.

It is not mine either but I do know the difference between suggesting something might be possible and claiming that thing as a fact. A quick perusal of the gossip pages might demonstrate my meaning.

Klass was clever enough and experienced enough to know how such things can be presented and indeed the text I have reviewed shows that his Socorro idea (which I admit was a bad one) was couched that way.

UFO discussions often stray into the "court of law" arguments, missing only the ever so important component of actually going into court to prove what is often stated on the interwebs as bald-faced fact.


David Rudiak said...

Everybody should know that "suggesting" that Zamora and the mayor committed fraud as a "theory" is exactly the same as insinuating they committed fraud. It isn't some innocent "theory" of events, as is trying to be spun here.

Theories are one thing, but they need to be rooted in fact. No REPUTABLE, professional journalist would ever offer such a "theory", especially since the basis of the "theory" was demonstrably false (the mayor DIDN'T own the land). Klass could have EASILY discovered this had he done what REPUTABLE, responsible journalists are supposed to do, i.e. basic FACT CHECKING. E.g., he could have called up or written the county recorders office and asked them who owned the land. How tough is that? Where did he get the idea that the mayor owned the land to begin with?

What Klass did was totally irresponsible, unprofessional and slimy. It was tabloid, yellow "journalism" by any standard and normal people see it for what it was. When there is lack of due diligence in trying to discover the facts, instead you deliberately lie and FALSELY accuse other people of lying/fraud in order to discredit them, you are guilty of libel. And this wasn't Phil Klass having a bad hair day. It was his standard MO.

Lance said...

Hmm...Kevin points out that Jerome Clark made the same apparent mistake. I assume that Dr. Rudiak's criticism of Clark has been saved for a later missive?

Or does it only count if the mistake comes from a skeptic?


KRandle said...

Lance -

Using the link that you provided, I see that you might have overstated the case. First, however, I will note that Klass used the letterhead of his magazine, Aviation Week, for what he described as a personal matter... taxpayer funding of McDonald’s UFO research. He was suggesting that he had the backing of the magazine in his inquiries, which is not exactly the whole truth.

But even with this, what, somewhat unethical use of his position as an editor to intimidate the ONR, the outcome of the audit was no wrongdoing by McDonald as noted in the link you supplied. The original conclusions didn’t satisfy Klass... just who in the hell did he think he was, and why was the ONR so worried about him?

Well, he was an editor at Aviation Week and an article in the magazine could be embarrassing to the Navy. Not that McDonald had done anything wrong as the audit found according to the link you supplied, but that the Navy was funding UFO research in a field that was supposed to be left to the Air Force (this at a time when the Air Force was attempting to get rid of their UFO project... Navy interest in the subject was liable to cause the Air Force trouble with this mission).

You write about this, “ Sure. They were so happy with the UFO work that they just immediately terminated his contract.”

But that isn’t quite the situation. In the source that you linked, it said, “By February of 1968 Klass realized, contrary to Greenbaum's assurances, that the ONR renewed McDonald's contract and so he began another assault. McDonald developed an eighteen page critique of Klass' position in his CASI paper as a response. He also tried to justify open funding of his UFO research at the ONR on the grounds that, as Klass pointed out in his book, more could be learned about plasma phenomena by studying UFO reports.”

So, in the source you quote, it shows that ONR didn’t immediately terminate his contract, but only did so after a renewed assault by Klass, standing behind his desk at Aviation Week. Do you believe the Navy would have responded the way it did if Klass had written to them on his personal letterhead and no one knew of his link to Aviation Week?

This is actually an egregious example of Klass attacking someone at the point of his occupation. His allegations were found to be untrue, ONR did not immediately cancel its contracts with McDonald but only did so after renewed assault, and I believe Klass improperly used his position to hammer ONR, forcing it to terminate its relationship with McDonald for vindictive reasons, which, of course, strengthens my original point in the posting.

Lance said...

"His allegations were found to be untrue"

Jeeze, Kevin, I thought we settled this.

The allegation that McDonald was using taxpayer money to fund his UFO research WAS true. This is directly from the paper I linked and from which you quoted.

If you are saying Klass made other allegations then please quote them.

If you object to my use of the word "immediately" then I accept this and substitute "soon".

Hopefully now you might withdraw the word "routinely" which is what started this whole line of discussion and which you have not supported.

By the way, I am looking further into the Socorro Mayor thing.

I see the article where you found the info about someone else owning the landing site land. I assume you just accepted this as fact and didn't check into it further. That is fine, I wouldn't expect you to.

The thing I was wondering about was the OTHER site, the one town cleaned up and made a pathway, etc in the hopes of tourists coming to visit. This was not the original site. Do you know who owned that land?

Can you see how that info might change the black and white demonizing done above by Dr. Rudiak?



Alfred Lehmberg said...

Demonizing PJ Klass? Let me help!

The Last Will And Testament Of Philip J. Klass:

"To ufologists who publicly criticize me... or who even think unkind thoughts about me in private, I do hereby leave an bequeath:"

"The UFO Curse:"

"No matter how long you live you will never know any more about UFOs than you know today. You will never know any more about what UFOs really are, or where they come from. You will never know any more about what the U.S. Government really knows about UFOs than you know today."

"As you lie on your own death-bed, you will be as mystified about UFOs as you are today. And you will remember this curse."



"Charming to the last..."

Thankfully, the preceding very neatly did away with ~any~ well-wishing warmth or respect I might have felt for Mr. Klass upon his passing, verily... ...feelings which could not have occurred in any case... ...Mr. Klass was a backed-up cesspool of belligerently deliberate mendacity and fervid denial and he might as well have ~pulled~ the trigger of the gun ending James McDonald's life.

This last little "mind game" Klass prosecutes from the grave is only... Klassic... intellectual mind rape and cognitive imposition at its most insidious and psychopathic. We really should have expected no less.

Oh yeah... ...I'll remember his "curse." Yes, I will. I'll remember the eager steps he took to facilitate our ignorance, his smirking obstinacy in the face of the of the persons he destroyed or tried to, and the sneering delight he took in it all. I'll remember... and hold him responsible, him and the other flying monkeys for which he gleefully fronted... the whole of his well-rewarded professional career.

Yes, a pox on his scurvy memory, reader. He was not an "honored opposition" we'd even grudgingly eulogize. He was ever only a craven enemy of our aggregate spirit and an insult to the bravery of same. Another obstacle to our advancement; another impediment to our progression; another hindrance to our development. He is beneath even damning with faint praise.

All funerals, even the reader's and mine, are an improvement to the human condition, reader... Frankly, humankind was much improved on Philip Klass' passing.

[...thumbing my nose at what passes for the *memory* of Philip J. Klass...]


One final note: Isn't it ironic that his poisoned "last words" on UFOs, ostensibly from his death bed, were actually a veiled admission of the existence of same! Rofl! It's true! Read them again!

KRandle said...

Lance -

You wrote, "If you are saying Klass made other allegations, then please quote them."

From the paper you cite, (p. 206, fn 40), "Anderson made it clear, without naming names, that Klass complained to him about McDonald misspending ONR funds."

Again, there is no evidence that such was the case. While it is true that McDonald did research UFOs as part of his ONR contract, it was not inappropriate and McDonald was not "misspending ONR funds," as Klass alleged.

cda said...

Once again, Mr Lehmberg demonstrates vividly that he is "inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity".

I leave him to find the original of that quote.

His description of Klass is worthy of a reply, except that as I am NOT "inebriated etc...", words fail me.

And lo and behold, once again, we have strayed so far from the original topic that words fail me..., again.

Alfred Lehmberg said...

You self-deprecate, Sir! It is _seldom_ one encounters, as you have just iterated here, bupkis so brilliantly articulated!

Still, your close: an entreaty to return to topic... is flaccid and unhelpful. Indeed, words _do_ seem to fail you.

Myself, I've no apology to make for being high on language, eh? It does seem preferable to the antithesis.

No comment on Klass admitting to UFOs as his last rattling breath... even to scoff? Seems a tailor made opportunity... and the absence of that caliber of response is pretty chatty in its own right... so, _unspoken_ words don't fail you. Maybe you should do more of that? There, see? _That_ was helpful!

Lance said...


Hey, I thought we were slightly ON topic and I was feeling uneasy about it!


You do yourself a disservice by posting the quote of someone else characterizing the words of Klass as though that settles anything.

Knowing the difference between a "first-hand" quote and "third party" claim crops up as a problem often in UFO research.

Do you have an actual quote from Mr. Klass that supports your statement. Yes, Klass was complaining that McDonald was using taxpayer funds for what he saw a frivolous UFO research. I totally agree with him on this point and might have also complained. As a taxpayer, I don't want any taxpayer funds used in UFO research or hunting for Atlantis or Noah's Ark.

Klass was perfectly within his rights to complain about this (even if he may have had a personal feud with McDonald).

It is accepted by everyone that McDonald WAS using the funds for that purpose. And indeed McDonald attempted to hide or minimize this, submitting a whitewashed accounting at first. This is fully detailed at the link I provided (and from which you quoted).

Here is another source:

Clark (UFO Book Pg 370): "But other statements McDonald made in communications with James Hughes, his ONR project monitor, make it clear that at least some ONR funds went to McDonald's UFO research."

I have now shown at least two statements in your blog post are not supported. Klass's allegations were not proven untrue. They were proven to be true.

This is misuse of funds as I see it. That doesn't mean it is formally illegal--the government spends a lot of money that I think falls into the same category but all I can do is complain. Whether it was inappropriate or not can be in eye of the beholder. I suspect that the higher authorities at the ONR agreed with Klass on this and thus ended their relationship with McDonald.

You seem to be hanging onto the idea that Klass said that this misuse of funds was illegal. I again ask you to quote Klass to prove this.

One must assume that McDonald's research had the same result as all other UFO research...I want my money back.


Back to the Socorro Mayor and his land:

Did you see my earlier question?

Is is possible that the land that was fixed up for tourists and called the landing site (even if it wasn't really) belonged to the Mayor?

Another thing I was wondering was if it was possible that the city owned the land mentioned above and perhaps Klass or someone else misunderstood the Mayor to say he owned it while he actually meant the city owned it? I know our Mayor talks about city property as though he owns it sometimes.

Surely here among the most stanch Roswell loyalists I can find a bit of sympathy for the dilemma of misplaced landing sites?

I don't have Klass' first book and I think this is all discussed in there. Does anyone have it and could he or she perhaps quote the relevant section?



Lance said...


I think the Klass curse preceded his death by quite a few years. That is my memory of the thing.

Not surprisingly, I suppose, I find the curse delightful!


Alfred Lehmberg said...

Even as a veiled admission of UFOs? Read it carefully.

He was always clear that they did not exist in any extraterrestrial sense at all, and were only ever a quality of the credulously misinformed, the mentally ill, and the deliberately misleading. In his "curse" (which _I_ never heard a peep about before his death) he seemed to ID them in a _different_ manner. I find _that_ delightful.

Lance said...

Hi Alfred,

Jim Moseley says it was first published in Saucer Smear in 1983.


Lance said...

P.S. To Alfred:

I don't see the admission you are talking about--would love to hear more of your take on it. I see it as ambiguous and I love that part of it.

Most skeptics, I think, like me wish that there was something to UFO's--the characterization that we would ignore obvious evidence and turn away from it is fantasy from my viewpoint.


Here is the curse for those unaware of it:

"To ufologists who publicly criticize me or who even think unkind thoughts about me in private, I do hereby leave and bequeath THE UFO CURSE. No matter how long you live, you will never know any more about UFOs than you know today.... As you lie on your own death-bed you will be as mystified about UFOs as you are today. And you will remember this curse."

cda said...

I apologise for saying we had strayed from the topic, as Kevin does specifically mention Klass & McDonald in his original blog post.

Obviously I was diverted by the magnificent (once again) prose of Mr Lehmberg. It was this that caused my mind to temporarily (I hope) veer off course.

I didn't like his suggestion that it was Klass who, in effect, pulled the trigger that ended McDonald's life. But to go into that would certainly be way off topic.

Alfred Lehmberg said...

Wow! 1983?! No, apart from spirit and a still thoroughly nasty PJK, I'm well trumped.

Odd, though, that it floated as a deathbed statement at the time... without a hint or an admonition of how old it was...

Too, it was that outrageous at the time and caused a kerfuffle. The death of the toadstool king? There was some attention to the the curse I recall. Where was the curse's proclaimed provenance, then, I wonder?

Alfred Lehmberg said...

Oh, and full marks for having Moseley on a hot line! Rofl!

KRandle said...

Lance -

I have a question. We all agree that Klass questioned the ONR about McDonald investigating UFOs while working on their (or under) their contracts. ONR audited and found nothing inappropriate in McDonald's activities. But Klass kept the investigation going for 18months.

Just what was he alleging? Shouldn't he have been satisfied when the ONR reported that the audit was complete and McDonald had fulfilled his contract appropriately?

In other words, once his questions were answered and the audit completed, shouldn't that have been the end of it? What allegation was he making that continued the pressure?

Just wondering.

Lance said...

Hi Kevin,

I think Klass was alleging that taxpayer funds were being used for UFO research.

He saw that as improper and I am inclined to agree with him.

Did he pursue this out of pique? Possibly. But saying that he did it for 18 months sort of overstates things-did he write a letter every day?

Should he have just accepted the answers given to him and just shut up? He got several answers and some of them were untrue. It turned out that he was right and I am sure this spurred him on.

Should we have accepted the Intelligence Community's report that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and just shut up, too?

The thing that Klass knew (and I think the higher ranked folks at the ONR knew) was that the public would not have approved of McDonald's ad hoc use of their funds to support what was essentially his hobby.

I think McDonald was in the wrong here and knew it (and there is evidence that shows that he knew it). The fact that his contract monitors absolved him really doesn't tell the whole story. If they had alleged something more serious, they themselves would have also been at least partially responsible. It was to their benefit to make the story go away.


So any love for my questions about the Socorro mayor and his land?



Anonymous said...

Lance: "Is is possible that the land that was fixed up for tourists and called the landing site (even if it wasn't really) belonged to the Mayor?"

Link 18 (a pdf) in the wikipedia article on Lonnie Zamora.


Can you document there is or was a phony site on land that was owned by the mayor?



Lance said...

Thanks Christopher,

I had read the first link earlier (I think that is where Kevin got the info for his earlier excellent blog post on the matter).

There seem to be 2 landing sites: the original "real" one and one that the city fixed up circa 1966.

The second site is about a quarter mile away from the original one and I have seen no reference as to who owns it. It very well may be owned by the city (giving them the right to fix it up for tourists) but I don't know. The links we have so far don't make this clear.

I was suggesting that in this rather confusing situation that Klass could have been confused about what site was being discussed and not "lying" as is alleged above.



Lance said...

Don, sorry I meant to thank you instead of Christopher (although always happy to thank CDA!)


David Rudiak said...

I'll state outright that I'm not familiar with the nitty-gritty _details_ (if there were any) of Klass' charges against McDonald that he misused research grant money fund from the Navy. However, if there were were no details and it was nothing more than a sweeping indictment, then chances are there was nothing to it.

From my observations when I did scientific research at the university level, professors who obtained military grant money _routinely_ used the money for side research. As long as the main contract was being fulfilled, then the military doesn't care if other related research was being carried out that might have nothing to do with the contract.

E.g., one lab carried out eye-tracking research, related to how to organize instruments and train pilots in the most efficient way to utilize those instruments. The same equipment and group of grad students might also be used to do eye-tracking or pupil research having nothing to do with training pilots.

Misuse of funds? I think not. The military actual understands and _supports_ this. The grant money has a primary objective, but they are also helping to train a new generation of grad students and supporting research that might not otherwise get carried out because of lack of funding from civilian grant agencies, such as NIH.

So McDonald would have had to grossly misuse funds before the Navy would care. E.g., taking an unrelated surfing trip to Hawaii on taxpayer funds would have been misuse. But going there because it was necessary for the research he was doing for the Navy, or maybe there was a conference there on atmospheric physics where he was giving a presentation, and while he was there he also investigated a UFO incident, there really isn't a problem. Maybe the Navy even wanted him to do some UFO research for them on the QT, because the AF wasn't cooperating with them. (Keyhoe even wrote about the AF stonewalling the Navy on some UFO incidents.)

So I would want to see the actual details of the allegations hurled against McDonald before passing judgement. Again, if it was anything like what I routinely observed in various university science labs funded by the military, there was probably nothing to it--just people harmlessly doing side research, while the contract research remained on track.

David Rudiak said...

According to conversations I had with Ray Stanford on the true Socorro landing site, the city set up a phony landing site to preserve the original landing site and to keep any curiosity seekers from trampling the original. It's a little bit like the Foster ranch debris field site, where a plaque has been placed about a mile away from the true site. Even so, not a lot of people bother to go out there.

Socorro isn't exactly a huge tourist destination to begin with, more of a small town you drive through on your way between Albuquerque and El Paso or Las Cruces. Traffic is sparse. Even back then, I doubt if one in a hundred people driving through either knew or cared about the landing incident there in 1964, so much so that they would take time off from their travels to go try to find the landing site.

If you were going to try to develop a tourist trap, one of the first things you would do would be to pave the road out to the site, and throw up lots of signs, like billboards along the Interstate with arrows pointing to the famous Socorro alien spacecraft landing site.

Never happened.

Anonymous said...

Ok. The Chamber of Commerce site. Whew. For a moment there I thought there was a third site, Mayor Bursum's. I stop looking at cases if there are more than two sites.

The Bursums go back a ways in Socorro and so maybe owned a fair amount of land. I don't know, but it should be easy to find out if anyone wants to. Land ownership in NM is not straightforward, often enough, so whoever does ought to run what they find, if anything, past a NM real estate attorney.



Lance said...

Thanks to Dr. Rudiak,

I don't disagree with your thoughts on the educational/government contracts. I would not be surprised if things are just as you say.

The gist of what Klass was alleging (actually he never seems to allege anything, he just asks questions) was that McDonald was using some of his contract money for UFO research.

And he was.

And even if this was accepted by those directly monitoring the contract (as was apparently the case), it would not look good to the public.

In my opinion, that could easily be seen as misuse and I'll bet that the ONR ultimately saw it that way, too.


Whether the tourist trap dreams of the Socorro mayor ever came true seems irrelevant. Obviously there were those in town who thought there might be a chance since they DID fix up a site specifically for that purpose.

You guys have actually convinced me that Klass' idea might not be as dubious as I first thought. If the city owned the land for the tourist landing site, then that EASILY explains why Klass might have confused the difference between the Mayor owning it and the city owning it--which obviates Dr. Rudiak's discussion of good journalism, etc.


Anonymous said...

"If the city owned the land for the tourist landing site, then that EASILY explains why Klass might have confused the difference between the Mayor owning it and the city owning it--which obviates Dr. Rudiak's discussion of good journalism, etc."

No, it doesn't. He could have "EASILY" researched it and not remain "confused"...and we still don't know who owned it.



Anonymous said...

"My first major investigation was in 1966 when I visited Socorro, NM. Two years earlier, a policeman -- Lonnie Zamora -- had reported witnessing an egg-shaped UFO land, two ETs in coveralls briefly scurry around, and then the UFO blast off like a rocket. Now at that time, I suspected that some glowing UFOs near high-tension power lines might be freak atmospheric phenomena which I called "plasma UFOs," similar to ball lightning. And I knew that the Socorro area frequently suffered intense thunderstorms. So, I suspected that Zamora might have seen a plasma. Dr. J. Allen Hynek had already briefly investigated this case for the Air Force's Project Blue Book and had rejected the possibility of a hoax, so that thought hadn't even entered my mind when I went down there.

But that began to change when an atmospheric physicist at the New Mexico Institute of Technology in Socorro told me that he hadn't even bothered to take the few minutes drive to the site. He explained to me how the town was economically depressed and that city officials were trying to attract industry, and urged me to "nose around" a bit. I soon learned that the local newspaper ran a box in every issue saying that the most efficient way to attract new industry is to first attract tourists. When I interviewed a man who lived right near the landing site, and had been working in his garden when the UFO supposedly blasted off, he told me that he hadn't heard a thing, and that when he visited the site soon afterwards he saw no physical evidence to support Zamora's story and suspected that it was a hoax. When I interviewed the police radio dispatcher who had taken Zamora's call for backup, he recalled that, strangely, Zamora had not requested a fellow police officer or someone from the Socorro sheriff's office, but instead asked that a specific state trooper be sent. And I found out that Socorro's mayor owned the "landing site" property and the town's only bank, and earlier had sought approval to build a new road to the UFO site for the benefit of tourists. So, when I wrote UFOs: Identified, I was confident enough to suggest that this case might be a hoax. And by the time my second UFO book, UFOs Explained, was published, I did unequivocally characterize the case as a hoax, as I've done subsequently regarding a number of other highly suspicious cases.

Skeptic: But the Socorro "tourist trap" was never built.

Klass: Yes, but the plan had been initiated. On the first anniversary of the "landing," a newspaper article quoted a city official as saying outright that they intended to use it as a tourist attraction, and it reported that the road to the site had recently been upgraded. It also mentioned that a movie about UFOs had recently shot some scenes in Socorro. Perhaps when members of the City Council learned the truth, they opted not to proceed any further with the plans."



Lance said...

Ok Don,

As someone who has written for a living, I understand it. I noted above that Jerome Clark also says that the Mayor owned the property.

I would guess that he gets a pass on it in these parts.


David Rudiak said...

What Jerry Clark wrote in his UFO Encyclopedia was:

"Drawing on innuendo rather than on specific evidence, Philip J. Klass speculated that Zamora had conspired with Mayor Holm Bursum, Jr. (who owned the property on which the UFO landing reportedly occurred), to manufacture a UFO incident to attract tourists to town. No such commerical exploitation ever too place, and there is no reason to take Klass's theory seriously."

Clark gets a pass because, quite unlike Klass, Clark does not accuse anybody of fraud based on erroneous information. Instead he dismisses the charge of fraud as little more than innuendo if not outright ridiculous.

I'll bet Clark assumed Klass had done his homework as a journalist and actually established as a matter of fact that the mayor owned the property, and thus repeated the statement, which later turned out to be false. Klass had apparently done no such thing, though he could have tottered down to the hall of records to make sure.

Instead Klass used this false information as the lynchpin of his typical character assassination and accusations of lying and fraud against Zamora, also insinuating that Zamora's backup, Sgt. Chavez, who arrived at the scene only a minute or two later, was also part of the hoax. (Note how Klass insinuated this, by saying the dispatcher thought it strange that Zamora asked specifically for Chavez, a state trooper instead of one of the Socorro police. Actually there was nothing "strange" about it, since Chavez was a mentor to him and he trusted him completely.)

I'm surprised Klass didn't accuse the entire police department and town of being in on the hoax. As I wrote on Kevin's blog a year and a half ago:

"The hoax angle was worked to death by Hynek and the Air Force. They could never come up with a single credible piece of evidence to suggest a hoax. Quintanilla and Hynek both agreed that the only way Socorro could have been a hoax was if Zamora, all the police involved, and even the FBI agent Byrnes were in on the hoax. They would have all had to lie about the absence of track evidence and hoaxing paraphernalia at the site, or conspired to clean it up..."

David Rudiak said...

Incidentally, in the Klass Socorro quote that Sourcerer just provided, it is interesting to note the following:

Klass: "But that began to change when an atmospheric physicist at the New Mexico Institute of Technology in Socorro told me that he hadn't even bothered to take the few minutes drive to the site. He explained to me how the town was economically depressed and that city officials were trying to attract industry, and urged me to "nose around" a bit."

Now this was supposedly how Klass got the idea that it was a hoax to attract tourism, after Klass said he initially hadn't even considered the idea because Hynek had completely dismissed it.

Now who was this "atmospheric physicist" at N.M. Tech who gave him the hoax idea? My guess is none other than the ubiquitous Charles Moore of Mogul balloon and Roswell infamy, but that's just a guess.

Also, whomever the atmospheric physicist was, it is also interesting to note how he conducted his "investigation". He couldn't be bothered to actually drive down to the site to investigate says Klass. How typical of most skeptics--lots of opinions based on nothing but armchair "investigation". (Thought I'd throw a little red meat out there.)

Anonymous said...

And was the land and the site being referred by the atmospheric physicist, a man who lived right near the landing site, and the land the mayor is supposed to have owned -- is what is being referred to, according to Klass, the real or the phony site?



Lance said...

Dr. Rudiak,

Just to be clear, we don't know yet that the info was false. If Klass was referring to the town's tourist site, then he was right.

Not knowing yourself, it seems premature spread all the vitriol especially since, if Klass had used the same kind of rhetorical devices, you would also be complaining about that!



Anonymous said...

Lance: "If Klass was referring to the town's tourist site, then he was right."

If the site being referred by Klass' atmospheric physicist, a man who lived right near the landing site, and the land the mayor is supposed to have owned, is the phony one, then there is no way to connect Zamora with it since that is not the site Zamora reported. Klass may have intuited something fishily hoaxy about the chamber site but that is evidence against Zamora being in on the hoax, unless Zamora vouched for the chamber site.



Lance said...

Hi Don,

Klass's theory was unproven--I readily admit that.

I just read Klass' account and he doesn't present it as proven--he just wonders about it. As I suspected, he never accuses Zamora or the Mayor of hoaxing anything, he just muses upon the tourist trap idea as a possibility--the same kind of musing that is done ad infinitum here by many of the above correspondents like those who suggest all manner of nefarious lying by those involved in the Roswell case without any proof.

By the way, that chapter only spends a small amount of time on this part of the case. Klass mentions lots of other problems with the Socorro case.

The town CERTAINLY planned to make the site a tourist trap. Here is a headline from the 4/24/65 El Paso Times: "Socorro to Use Flying Object as Tourist Catch".

Apparently the road to the faux site was graded and improved for this purpose.

That the returns on this investment never amounted to much doesn't mean anything in relation to the story.


David Rudiak said...

The flip side of the very high evidenciary bar of "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence" is the super-low evidenciary bar of the debunker that "extraordinarily bad explanations demand extraordinarily little evidence".

Socorro and Klass' lame tourist trap theory is a good example. What have we so far? Well _maybe_ the mayor had _other_ land, that Klass erroneously claimed was the actual Zamora site, that _maybe_ afterward _maybe_ some in town thought could be developed into a tourist trap, only it never happened, for sure.

From this Klass insinuated that the mayor and Zamora conspired in a hoax to draw tourists to town.

Never mind that there is literally ZERO evidence to support Klass' hoax theory. Even if we assume the mayor did own alternate land and there was indeed a push afterward to exploit Zamora's sighting on the mayor's land, this still is not real evidence of any kind to support the accusation of hoax for profit. Try arguing this before a judge and watch yourself get kicked out of court in under 2 minutes.

Also never mind that it doesn't fit the actual facts of the case, the very reason people like Hynek and Blue Book's chief debunker Quintenella rejected the hoax theory. It would have required a massive conspiracy among the town folk to pull it off, including most of the Socorro police department.

It wasn't just Zamora's character and say-so as a policeman that made Socorro such an outstanding case. There was plenty of _fresh_ physical evidence on the ground that something material had just been there, and also an absence of physical trace evidence pointing to hoaxers planting such physical evidence, i.e., no footprints, tire prints, equipment, chemical residue, etc.

Within minutes of Zamora's encounter, most of Socorro's police department was on the scene and reported the ground and bushes still smoldering and moisture in the bottom of the four rectangular landing indentations, as if the soil had been freshly penetrated.

And again, no other footprints, tire prints, etc., indicating that somebody had just been there to plant the physical evidence.

How exactly do you hoax something like this? It would have required a conspiracy amongst the policemen to cover-up any evidence that there had been a hoax. It would take some time to prepare the physical evidence, such as digging the landing holes, somehow making them appear to have been formed by something of great weight bearing down on the soil, in one case crushing a rock at the edge of the impression, making sure there was moisture in the bottom when back-up arrived, freshly burn the soil and hard-to-burn creosote bushes, cutting one cleanly in half, etc., etc., somehow causing the burns without leaving traces of a chemical acclerant (according to AF samples reported afterward).

Then you have to make sure you clean away away any evidence of having planted the evidence, which is also where the conspiracy amongst the Socorro police comes in, including maybe the FBI agent who was at the scene within 2 hours.

But let's just ignore all these little problems. Klass' theory must still be treated as viable because any theory, no matter how stupid or lacking in evidence, is preferable to "UFOs are real, unconventional craft not made by us".

Lance said...

Dr Rudiak,

We are being chided elsewhere for discussing these old cases so I will be brief.

Let me just say that (as I have mentioned), that Klass didn't present this theory as proven in his chapter on Socorro. He simply showed that it might be a possibility.

Now I would love to be a debunker so why is it, using your suggested low standards for us skeptic lowlifes, that I also can't accept Tony Bragalia's recent hoax theory for Socorro?

To my way of thinking, neither Tony nor Klass proved their theory. Indeed, can you show me any skeptic who has said that the Klass or Bragalia theory WAS proven?

On the other hand, I can show you plenty of believers who accepted Mr. Bragalia's CONFRIMING theories about various Roswell matters even though they contained the same evidentiary problems as he had in the Socorro case.

Perhaps you might see why I am suggesting that your premise is flawed?


Terry the Censor said...

> His evidence was not extraordinary.

Wasn't it EXTRA-ordinary? He found EXTRA-ordinary rocks. Compare this to much of abductology, where the scant physical evidence of the EXTRA-ordinary usually also has an ordinary cause: scratches, stains, anxiety, bad dreams...

Redoubt said...

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Isn't it amazing how this little saying has commanded so much undeserved respect and fear over the years? It was almost as if it was accepted as being some major discovery in itself, rather than a particularly narrow view from a concept that had no real basis in fact.

The very word, 'extraordinary', suggests that some things can be more than ordinary. But when you take a step back and study it for a moment, you realize that even the word has no particular meaning because, nothing that exists is anything at all except ordinary.

Nothing unreal can exist and so nothing real is out of the ordinary.

What there actually is, is what is known and that which is still unknown. The whole thing pivots on contemporary understanding of our universe.

And then there is the evidence.

What makes one piece of evidence ordinary and the next, extraordinary? If evidence is extra... or out of the ordinary then, what value does it hold? We seek what exists and is ordinary in every respect except... in our lack of understanding.

We seek to discover that which we suspect, but do not know exists. If we discount the drive to discover because we do not already know of it, we will never discover a thing.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence? One wonders how Galileo might have approached this problem.