Monday, October 31, 2011

Rowell Investigation Dream Team

Tom Carey, (seen here signing a book at the Roswell festival in 2011) a UFO researcher living in Pennsylvania and one of the authors of Witness to Roswell, realized that there was a great deal of work left to be done on the Roswell UFO case. You might say that his dream was to pull all the information together, to locate and interview the witnesses who have yet to tell their stories, verify as best as possible the facts of the case, and write it all down in a coherent and rational analysis. To help with this project, Tom worked to bring together a team of researchers who understood this case. He succeeded in convincing both Don Schmitt and me to join him in his quest.

Don Schmitt had, in the late 1980s, realized there was still work to be done on the Roswell case. The surface had only been scratched by others. With the support of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, he began his research. One of the things he did was invite me to join him, believing that my military experience would be of help in understanding Army operations and in communicating with retired military personnel on their level.

As everyone who has been paying attention knows, Don (seen here are the Roswell Festival in 2011) and I had a falling out over some research techniques and matters unrelated to the investigation. While these seemed important then, it could be said that in time we reevaluated these issues. We reconnected after I returned from Iraq and it was as if no time had passed.

A couple of months ago Tom asked me if I was willing to join him in putting together what he thought of as the ultimate Roswell crash book. I was enthusiastic about the idea and readily agreed.

After Tom and I had discussed what we thought needed to be covered, Tom approached Don with the same idea. Don also thought it a good idea and the Dream Team was born (can I, as a participant, refer to it as a Dream Team?).

Although we are still, more or less, in the planning stages, we have already made some discoveries. I have learned of a doctor who might have participated in an autopsy of the alien creatures. True enough, we have heard this before, but the man is a doctor, was a doctor then, and is now willing to talk about what he had seen.

Also true, I have not verified all of what he said, but there are some indications that he is who he claims to be. I mention this only because it is one of the first things that we have learned.

We have also begun, again, to use FOIA in an attempt to learn more about the Air Force investigation of the Roswell case. This means, simply, that we have again gone to the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force to review documents that relate to their Roswell investigation. We wanted to know what transpired in the meetings, what was written in the memos, and what the internal reports might have said.

I tried this once before. I spent three years chasing this information, finally locating what they had at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. But all that was there was the results of that investigation and nothing about the internal operations of it (Air Force Roswell investigation files seen here. Instead there were video tapes of witnesses, most of them gathered for the Fund for UFO Research, a Court Martial of a doctor who was having an affair with a nurse in 1957 and completely irrelevant to the investigation, lots of reports on balloons and Mogul, but nothing that answered my basic questions. So now we’ve started that process all over.

What we want to do is distill the information. We want to eliminate the nonsense from the case, whether it is Air Force explanations or witness testimony that is irrelevant or untrue.

You might say that we are starting all over, on a cold case, reviewing everything related to determine what is important. Sure, we all believe that what fell at Roswell was alien, but we are going to take the path that leads to the truth. We will attempt to eliminate our personal biases in favor of determining what happened now nearly 65 years ago.

Periodically we will provide updates about the investigation, letting people know where we are going. We plan to pull it all together in a book that will answer the various questions as best we can. Yes, we know that we won’t be able to please everyone... what if we find a terrestrial explanation that actually works? Then the UFO community will be angry... And if we find that it was something alien, well, I doubt that the Skeptics will be satisfied.

So now we begin again, not from our own goal-line to be sure but somewhere down the field and this time we will find the answer and the proof to support that answer.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fact or Faked: The Paranormal Files

I watched Fact or Faked: The Paranormal Files today and had some questions. First, I enjoy the show and am all in favor of anything that brings a note of skepticism and research into these tales. But I sometimes wonder if they know the answer before they attempt their recreations.

Not all that long ago they aired some footage of a nighttime object falling that broke into three pieces before fading out. They interviewed a couple, here meaning a man and woman which I believe were mother and son, who had seen the lights and were puzzled by them. But they didn’t interview the photographer who took the video footage and who was known to them, about it.

They eventually put together a scenario that made sense, that is, parachutists with flares strapped to their boots. They confirmed that members of the Army’s Golden Knights expert parachute team had been practicing in the area and had been using flares. Nothing faked here, but an explanation in the mundane.

Good for them... but I wondered why they hadn’t interviewed the cameraman. He worked for a local TV station and would have had access to all sorts of equipment. But they didn’t talk to him... or rather, we saw no footage of them interviewing him. I suspect it was because he knew what he had filmed. Oh, maybe not right away, but by the time the team from Paranormal Files arrived, I suspect he knew the answer.

I mention all this because in the latest episode they had footage of a UFO crash that was taken at White Sands Missile Range in 1996 or 1997. The bright object comes down, strikes the ground, skips upwards, falls and then crashes and explodes. They went to New Mexico to see what they could learn about this event.

They never made onto the White Sands Missile Range, or if they did, they showed nothing from that. Instead, they showed warning signs about the range, a long distance photograph of it, and a short interview with a UFO researcher who didn’t even know that the unit at Roswell was the 509th Bomb Group and not a squadron, let alone much about anything else... or rather the interview seemed to show that.

Then they were off to California where they conducted their experiments. They made some elaborate attempts, eventually using a model rocket fired at a low angle that did skip across the ground but did not explode. They suggested that if the object in the film was some of sort of missile test that got away from those at White Sands, it wouldn’t have been designed the way a model rocket engine is. In other words, the White Sands test might well have exploded.

While their last attempt does resemble the original footage, I still wonder why they went to New Mexico and didn’t do anything there. Why didn’t they hit the missile range and ask some questions. At worst, they would have been turned away at the gate. The last time I was there, I had to show proof of auto insurance to get on the base but had no trouble. I’m sure that someone in the public affairs office would have been delighted to speak with them. It just struck me as a hole in their investigation.

They did no better with the second segment which was of a ghost taped in a Tonopah, Nevada cemetery. The image that had been captured on tape was striking in the way that it appeared, moved across a short stretch of the cemetery and then disappeared.

They noticed that the appearance of the phantom seemed to coincide with the lights on a nearby highway. They set up an experiment to test this and were able to recreate the image on their equipment. The answer seemed obvious, but one of those reviewing the tape mentioned there had been many eyewitnesses to these apparitions. He was suggesting that there might be something paranormal there because of the multiple reports.

Not so fast. I had spent time at the site of the Joplin Spooklight and know there are hundreds of witnesses to it. But that doesn’t make it a spirit or ghost. It is quite obvious that the Spooklight is the result of light refraction from a nearby section of highway. So, a boatload of eyewitnesses does not mean the Spooklight is anything paranormal. It means that those people have seen an ambiguous light and identified it as something paranormal. The same would apply to the Tonopah apparition.

My point here is that I am a little surprised at the direction some of their investigations take. I’m surprised that they don’t interview those I would think would be critical to understanding what is being seen and photographed and taped. It seems to me that they leave out some steps... but eventually get to the correct answers... and that, I suppose, is the real point.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

We Have the Wrong Roswell Crash Site?

This one is so funny that I have to laugh. I got into a discussion with someone about the location of the debris field as described by Bill Brazel. I was told that I had the wrong location.

How can this be?

Bill Brazel took me there himself.

It was early morning and we, and by we, I mean Don Schmitt and I, meant Brazel at a café in Capitan. He was driving an old red pickup and we left my car at the café. As we drove out of town, Brazel asked us if we wanted a beer. Don said he didn’t and I thought that one of us ought to have one with Brazel so I said, “Sure.”

Ah, there is nothing I like more than warm beer at eight o’clock in the morning.

Anyway, we drove out toward Corona, taking the back roads and arrived at the location where the thing, whatever it might have been, hit.

Brazel got out of the truck and pointed to the ground at his feet... No, there wasn’t a bit of debris there now. He just said that this was where he’d found a couple of the scraps.

I took a couple of pictures with Don and Bill standing there (which might be the only pictures of one of the prime witnesses on the actual debris field... and the pictures have been copyrighted, reproduction is prohibited.)

Brazel then explained where it had hit, how it had scraped along the ground, leaving a narrow neck that widened to about ten feet and then tapered again as if it had skipped. The ground was scraped to about a foot or so deep and Brazel said that it had taken a couple of years to grass back over.

No, I really don’t want to discuss all the variations about this and how Jesse Marcel never said anything about a gouge... Though “Reluctant,” Karl Pflock’s witness who was really Walt Whitmore, Jr., talked about an area of disturbed ground he had seen in one of his versions of events.

Anyway, it was Bill Brazel who showed me the site so I figure that I must have it right. (Please note these are two different pictures, though taken about the same time.)

When CUFOS did their archaeological site survey out there, we planted those little “utility” flags along the ground in a line about a half mile long where it seemed that Brazel had said the thing skipped. When we left, we pulled up all those flags, not wanting to leave anything behind that would annoy the ranch owners who had kindly allowed us to make the survey.

Archaeological dig on the ranch..

Sometime after that, Bud Payne, a Lincoln County judge who said that he had seen the military out there doing something, took us, meaning Don, Paul Davids, Robert Hastings, and me out to the site. As we got out of the truck, I looked down and saw one of the flags we had missed.

In other words, Bud Payne put us on the same stretch of New Mexican desert as did Bill Brazel. That would seem to confirm the location as given to us earlier.

Tommy Tyree, who worked for Brazel, told us of riding the range with Brazel when he pointed down into a sinkhole that had water in the bottom. Floating on it was a bit of debris... and before you ask, no, we didn’t find the sinkhole, Tyree didn’t know precisely where it had been, and the water would have been long gone (and the hole probably filled in). But he gave us directions out there and it was on the same bit of range as that shown to us by Bill Brazel.

(Off on a tangent, because I know people are going to start asking all sorts of questions... We were unable to locate the sinkhole and figured the sides had collapsed in the forty years or so before we got there. When we did the site survey, we dug around the roots of plants that looked old enough to have been there when the crash happened... We looked into animal burrows, hoping to find a scavenger that had found a bit of the debris... We used metal detectors and even tried an aerial survey in a rented plane... and no, we had no success in any of that.)

The real point here is that I’m certain we were in the right place because it is the place the witnesses took us to... independently of one another. True, there could have been some discussion over the years about the location among these various witnesses, but the point is Bill Brazel showed it to Don and me. I am not aware of him showing it to anyone else (though he certainly could have, I’m just not aware of it).

So, when people tell me I’ve got the wrong place, I wonder what is the source of their information. It didn’t come directly from Bill Brazel as did the information that I have. It didn’t come from a first-hand source, as did my information. It might have been derived some something that was told to me, or something that I, or Don, said, or from people we took out there said, but as far as I know, the two of us are the only two Brazel took out there. We have the right place.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Where Have the UFOs Gone?

The late Karl Pflock and I used to talk about why there were no more really good UFO sightings. We weren’t getting the kind of reports that had been so prevalent at the beginning of the modern era. Nothing as robust or as interesting as those over Washington, D.C., or at Levelland, Texas. In today’s world, it seem as if the UFOs stayed up in the air, usually away from the witnesses, and did nothing other than cross the sky in a straight line. 
Karl Pflock (right) and me.

We can point to all sorts of interesting sightings in the past, some of which had mundane answers and some of which are still puzzling today. There was, of course, the Arnold sighting. He believed he saw a number of objects that he timed as traveling at 1800 miles an hour, or much faster than anything flying at the time, other than rockets and missiles, and they didn’t fly in formation.

There is a possibility that another man, Fred Johnson, saw the same objects about the time that Arnold lost sight of them. He reported that his compass spun wildly while the objects were overhead, but when they disappeared, the compass settled down. You can argue, and I’m sure some will, that the Johnson sighting isn’t related to that of Arnold, or that it is a hoax based on the Arnold sighting, or if related, doesn’t really add much to our overall knowledge.
But the point is that there are two sightings that seem to go together to create a nice little anomaly. Arnold might have been fooled. Johnson might have been inventing the tale. Or maybe they both witnessed something unusual that provided interesting descriptions and even one of the first cases with electro-magnetic effects.
Or take the Washington Nationals from late July 1952. Here was a series of sightings spread over two Saturday nights in which airline pilots, jet interceptor pilots, people on the ground, and radar operators reported strange lights and strange blips over Washington, D.C.
I talked to both Al Chop and Major Dewey Fournet, both associated with the official UFO investigation in 1952, and who had been in the radar room on that second Saturday. They told me there had been one intercept that had gotten “hairy,” meaning dangerous. According to them, and they were watching in the radar rooms at Washington National and listening to the interceptor pilots talking to one another, as they Air Force attempted to catch the UFOs the interceptor pilot found himself surrounded by the lights. It was all tracked on radar. What the pilot, William Patterson said over the radio, the men in the radar center could see on the scope. Patterson decided to break off the intercept at that point.
It doesn’t matter here if you believe that Patterson intercepted and the radar showed alien craft. What matters here is the nature of the sighting, meaning it was robust. There were those in radar centers who watched it all on the scopes, there were the pilots seeing the objects where the radar said they were. The sightings lasted for hours, though not continuously, and there were many witnesses.
True, the Air Force eventually wrote the sightings off as temperature inversions, and it does seem that temperature inversion was responsible for some of the radar returns, but that doesn’t explain the lights in the sky and it doesn’t square with what the controllers, who saw the blips, said. They told investigators that they were familiar with the way weather phenomena were displayed on the radar scopes and these blips didn’t look like that.
In today’s world, we get nothing as interesting. Nothing with multiple chains of evidence, with literally dozens of witnesses. We have one or two people seeing a light, or we get a cell phone video that doesn’t do much to increase our knowledge. Just some image that could be almost anything but that has fooled the person who recorded it.
Karl and I tried to figure this out. I suppose you could say that people today don’t have the imagination of those fifty years ago. I suppose you could say that people today are more familiar with what is in the sky around them. I suppose you could say that we are all more in tune with our environment.

Or maybe you could say that the aliens, from wherever they came, have now gone home to study the data they collected. Think of it as our exploration of the moon. In 1969, and for the next couple of years, if you were living on the moon, you would have had lots of UFO sightings, including landings. But, since 1972, there hasn’t been a whole lot of activity. We gathered our samples and went home.

Oh, sure, the analogy breaks down when you say, “But we left physical evidence behind to prove we were there... and it was only the landings of astronauts that have ended. Other moon missions have been lost.”
But then I say, “Yeah, but the robust sightings have ended.”

Yes, there have been some interesting sightings. There are those from Bentwaters and, of course Belgium, but these are the exceptions. The older sightings have more witnesses, more data, more evidence than those of today, with rare exception.
Karl and I never really came to a conclusion about this, other than collecting more sighting reports wouldn’t expand our knowledge much. We never really found a satisfactory answer for the change. We agreed that older cases were more interesting than newer case but we didn’t really know why.
Oh, Karl believed that the Hills had been abducted, but I disagreed. I believed the answer would be found in the terrestrial. Neither of us thought much of the widespread claims of abduction, though it might have supplied part of the answer. Too many research assets were diverted into abduction research without much in the way of tangible results.
I suppose I could say the same thing about crop circles. These had once been called UFO landing sites, or UFO nests, but evolved into crop circles, which were another subset of the UFO phenomenon.
And I know the number of sightings has increased recently, but these are sightings, often with pictures that don’t add much to the case. Sometimes it’s clear that the pictures are lens flares, clouds, or other natural phenomena, and some times the cases are simple hoaxes.

The point, again, is that the sightings aren’t nearly as exciting as they were forty or fifty years ago, and I have no explanation for that. Maybe it’s all just a matter of perspective.