Friday, March 30, 2012

Response (of sorts) to Reflections

I rarely respond to reviews of my books because there really is little point to it. I am often astonished on how widely the reviews can vary from someone who loves a book to someone who hates it. In one case a reader (of a different UFO book) was outraged that the book had my name at the top of every other page, complaining that I had such a monestrous ego that I had to see my name on each page... except I had nothing to do with the page layout, the design of the page or what would be at the top of each page. An artist at the publisher had made all those decisions without consulting me.

But with my book, Reflections of a UFO Investigator, there is one point that seems to have appeared frequently and I’m not sure that it is a fair criticism. It has been noted that about a third of the book was devoted to my Roswell investigations, and they did take up a great deal of my time and money, so you would expect a large chunk of the book to deal with that.

That’s not the real problem. It is this idea that I seem to be well grounded in the other aspects of my research. I have offered solutions for many UFO cases, understand that the alleged witnesses sometimes lie for no real reason, that sometimes memory plays tricks on the mind, and that there is no overwhelming evidence for the Roswell case other than limited documentation and a whole bunch of credible eyewitnesses.

These reviewers seem to think that if I applied my methodology to Roswell with the same vigor that I apply it to other cases, why then I would realize that Roswell is explained by Project Mogul...

Makes no difference to these reviewers that Mogul is totally inadequate, that it is based on false assumptions and Air Force maneuvering. Makes no difference that some of it is based on decades old memories or that some of those who claimed it was Mogul had other agendas when they began spouting this solution.

Nope... I’m just too blind to see the forest for all the trees... or maybe too blind to see the balloon debris for all the claims of strangeness attached to it.

But let’s turn this around on them. First, we have Flight #4 which, according to the documentation was cancelled. Charles Moore told me that when that happened, they stripped all the equipment but let the balloons go because they couldn’t put the helium back in the bottles.

So, there was no Flight #4...

Not so, say the proponents, because Dr. Albert Crary’s diary suggested some sort of a launch which was not a real flight, but one to test the equipment since they couldn’t do anything else that day. Some sort of launch with a sonobuoy so they could listen for the radio signals and test the tracking using a B-17.

We know this because Charles Moore said so... even though he is recalling events that took place decades earlier and there seems no reason to remember this particular flight. Nothing extraordinary happened during it, but Moore remembered it anyway.

Then, we have the flight path of the balloons. We don’t know where it went because, well, it wasn’t a real flight and those records were either lost or never made. That doesn’t matter because Charles Moore said that he remembered losing track of the flight near Arabela, which suggested it headed off to the northeast, more or less in the direction of the Brazel (yes, I know the ranch was owned by the Fosters at the time) ranch, where Brazel found it some time later.

Now, this flight was made on June 4 and Brazel supposedly didn’t find it until June 14, or sometime after that, and then didn’t bother to mention it until the July 4 weekend. Never mind that, according to Bill Brazel, the section of the ranch where the debris was found was an important one because it was where the sheep were watered. They checked it out, if not every day, every other day, so the balloon and its debris would have been found much earlier, if that was the source of the debris.

We can discount what Bill said because his memories were decades old and he was confused. Even though he had found some of the debris and his descriptions fit, sort of, that of a balloon remains, though they seemed to be much tougher than anything on a balloon. Yes, he said it was like balsa, meaning light and not very dense, but it was also something that he couldn’t cut with his pocket knife, but hey, those memories are decades old and we can ignore them.

Charles Moore, using winds aloft data that I supplied to him, which, eventually he conveniently forgot (and yes I even have a letter from him asking for additional charts) used that data to postulate the path of his Flight #4, which he said was last seen near the Brazel ranch. Never mind that the winds aloft data was often incomplete and only went to 20,000 feet in 1947 anyway, he was able to tell us what the balloons would do when they reached 80,000 feet.

And guess what, the balloons were heading in the direction of the Brazel ranch. We know this because Moore said so, and he could be believed. His memory was solid and he had the calculations based on incomplete data and his speculations.

So, for those who believe I simply did not review the Roswell data with the same critical eye as I did other investigations, I say, you missed the boat on that one. I say that you have offered no alternative explanation for the debris that was collected under such strict security that some will still not talk about it. I say you should use the same critical eye on the Mogul explanation that you have used on the whole of the Roswell case and ask if you haven’t, just maybe, leaped to the conclusion that you want rather than another that you have constantly ignored.

But here is the difference between the reviewers who make these claims and me. I’m not so locked into one explanation that I won’t look at others. I’m not so locked into the witness stories that I won’t keep attempting to verify what they had said (I think I was one of the first to expose Frank Kaufmann after we had the proof, and to expose Gerald Anderson when we had the proof, and a couple of others who were less than honest... and yes, I know that other researchers called these people liars first but they had no evidence of it. I waited until I knew for certain and yes, I was premature in releasing some of that data).

But say one thing about Charles Moore and the gloves come off. His memories were intact. He had the proof. He was able to identify the Roswell debris when so many others failed...

And I won’t even mention Sheridan Cavitt and his laughable interview with Colonel Richard Weaver.

(Now let’s all start repeating the same things over and over without listening to the other side at all...)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Roswell Minutiae

Hoping to infuriate the anti-Roswell crowd, I thought the following might do it. This involves much that has them annoyed from the mere mention of Roswell, to the fact that there is a new investigation going on.

A noted, we suggested that the Team would be looking at the case as if it was “cold,” which meant a reexamination of what had gone on before. I expected us to learn some things that had gone unnoticed and have found a couple of new facts.

I’m not sure exactly how the question came up, but one of the Team wondered when the Yearbook had been printed. If it was early in the year, then many of those pictured might have rotated out of Roswell by July. Later in the year, then we might have a good snapshot of the personnel at the base.

Going through the Unit History, which is available on microfilm, I learned that the military police had suffered a 60% turn over from May 22 until the end of July, 1947. It is mentioned that many of those who had been sent in were untrained and were undergoing “on the job training.” This is an interesting statistic that might have nothing to do with the crash, whatever it was, but it does suggest that one of the units had seen a high number of its personnel replaced during this critical time.

But, I was searching for the answer to the production of the Yearbook. Since it was a large project, I thought there might be something about it in the Unit History. Here is what I learned in the August history:

"Throughout the month, much work was accomplished on the book of the base. Due to many people being on leave, on flights, and off the base for other reasons, work had been slow on this publication. It is now in the hands of the publisher and should be delivered by 1 November at the latest."

True, this isn’t a staggering find. It is part of the Roswell minutia, but it does answer the question. The book was sent off sometime in August and was expected back by November 1, 1947.

Yes, I know what you all are thinking... this really isn’t much and it’s really not very important. It is, as I say, minutia. But I wanted to make the point that we were learning some things. We’ve made a few other discoveries, but are waiting for corroboration before releasing that information. What I’m saying here is more to come with a much higher degree of relevance.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Roswell and the World in 1947

In the course of reading the newspaper clippings from July 1947, I have made a couple of interesting discoveries. None of them really affect the Roswell research as we’re carrying it out.

From the Roswell Daily Record of July 8, 1947, “Lt. Col. Harry W. Schaefer of the Wisconsin civil air patrol announced in Milwaukee his group planned to conduct a series of mass flights in hopes of learning something about the flying objects.”

This was in addition to the patrol mounted by the Army National Guard in Oregon with five P-51's over the Cascade Mountains, which is the area where Arnold made his sighting, but they found nothing. According to the AP story, a sixth fighter circled over Portland in contact with the others and all carried photographic equipment.

At Manhattan Beach, California, another fighter searched for two hours but found nothing. It’s not clear if this was a military aircraft, or one of the many surplus planes that had been sold to the public. The pilot, A. W. McKelvey said that he had cruised at 35,000 feet without results. He told reporters that he hadn’t seen a thing.

At Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base), a P-80 jet fighter was on stand-by in case any of the flying disks appeared. Apparently it never left the ground.

It was also on that weekend that Captain E. J. Smith of United Airlines said that he spotted one of the saucers coming straight at him. The co-pilot, Ralph Stevens, reached down to blink the landing lights. Smith asked what he was doing and Stevens said that another aircraft was coming at them.

The craft, which looked to be flat on the bottom and irregularly shaped on the top, followed them for ten or fifteen minutes. When it disappeared, four more objects approached them on the left side of the aircraft, and they seemed to be larger than a DC-4.

I mention this only because, in the Roswell Daily Record of July 30, 1947, I saw that Captain Charles F. Gibian, of United Airlines, reported that he had seen a flying saucer that he said was “going like hell.”

This wouldn’t be much different than a hundred other UFO reports made during that July, except that Gibian had taken over flying the route that Smith had been flying some weeks earlier... and you thought there was no connection.

Gibian said that he believed the object to be a military experiment and that they should keep them away from the commercial airways. He said that his co-pilot had seen the disk, or whatever it was, too.

He said that it was round and that they thought it might be another airplane until they saw how fast it disappeared. It might have been 40 miles away when they saw it which would suggest that it was huge but there seemed to be no other reports, and it doesn’t seem that Gibian told the military about his sighting.

As I say, as looking for something else, as I was researching a specific aspect of the Roswell case, I came across these two items which were interesting only in the way they related to other UFO sightings. The CAP out in an aerial search for the flying saucers, and the pilot who took over the route once flown by Smith seeing something in the sky.

I will note here, so that no one needs to get all bent out of shape about it, that neither of these stories suggest that UFOs are extraterrestrial in nature, they add nothing, really, to our knowledge of the subject, but they are interesting because they relate to other cases that were more widely reported.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Philip Klass, Travis Walton and Steve Pierce, Part Two

Once again Philip Klass has stirred controversy and he didn’t even have to do anything himself. All of this started, for me, with a column by Billy Cox in which he mentioned the story that Klass had offered Steve Pierce, one of the witnesses of the Travis Walton abduction, ten thousand dollars to say the case was a hoax.

Some have been angry at me for accepting the story. As I mentioned then, my first reaction was to reject it, but then I remembered some of the other things that Klass (seen here with his fans) had done in his efforts to debunk everything UFOlogical (yes, it is hyperbole, but what the heck, it’s not the first time that one side or the other has engaged in hyperbole).

I took a stroll over to “Bad UFOs: Skepticism, UFOs, and the Universe” hosted by Robert Sheaffer so that I might read the other side’s take on this (though saying the other side here is something of a misnomer since I’m not a big fan of tales of alien abduction).

First, (well not first in his article but first in this piece) Sheaffer seemed so outraged that he wrote, “So, because of Travis Walton’s slanderous new charges against Philip J. Klass, I have performed a major Document Drop of papers in my files on Travis Walton...”

Slanderous new charges...?

More hyperbole. I just wanted to point out that both sides often engage in hyperbole and we, who are more or less outside of the particular debate, must be aware of this.

But then we do get to the meat of Sheaffer’s response. He points out that on a “website promoting the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina as a UFO ‘hotspot,’ Sky Ships Over Cashiers, there is a page titled Debunker’s $10,000 bribe to stop UFO truth.”


Walton then replied, according to Sheaffer, “Yes, it is true. I even mentioned this in the 1996 edition of my book. But all I knew then was that Deputy Click had taken Steve the message when Steve still lived in the area. I didn’t know that Klass had also flown to Texas and spent hours taking Steve out to dinner and trying to get him to accept the bribe. And followed Steve to another state or two. Very curious... All this strongly supports the belief that Klass was a paid government disinformationist.”

Well, nearly everyone in the UFO field gets branded with that label regardless of what side you come down on. I have been accused of working with Hector Quintanilla and Project Blue Book, though I was in high school when Blue Book neared its end and was in the Army in Vietnam in the few weeks before it was finally closed. I have been accused of being a CIA agent and even a member of MJ-12. Stan Friedman suggested that I was a government agent attempting to divert attention from the crash on the Plains of San Agustin, so Walton’s allegation doesn’t really mean much in the greater scheme of things. You might say its just par for the course and an indication you have arrived in UFOlogy.

In fact, Klass often said he was a government agent. Oh, I know his tongue was firmly planted in his cheek and his claimed ten million dollar a year salary suggested that he was much richer than his lifestyle showed... and no, I don’t believe any of that, but the point is that Klass made the claim himself. I doubt he would worry about the allegation today, if he was alive to comment on it.

Sheaffer wrote, “In Bill Barry’s 1978 book about Travis Walton, Ultimate Encounter, it says, ‘According to Mike Rogers, ‘Steve told me and Travis that he had been offered ten thousand dollars just to sign a denial. He said he was thinking of taking it.’” (p. 160)

Sheaffer noted, as do I, that the accusation did not originate with Pierce, but was made by Mike Rogers, who Sheaffer described as “Travis’ best friend” (and I have no reason to doubt that... I have seen them traveling together) “and future brother-in-law.”

Sheaffer then wrote that Klass wrote, “...had Barry checked with me, I would have assured him that I never made such an offer to [Deputy] Click or to anyone seeking to ‘buy off’ a member of the Rogers’ crew.”

And while this piece is meant, mostly, to show the other side’s opinion on the Steve Pierce suggestion, I will note that Klass didn’t take his own advice. From his SUN Newsletter of November 1993, page 3, Klass wrote, “Kevin Randle has contracted to author a new book which will be a compendium of crashed-saucer tales dating back to the ‘Mysterious Airships’ of the 1890s and also include the 1908 Tunguska incident in Siberia. Publication in soft-cover is expected in the fall of 1984 [sic]. Randle recently told a friend that he received ‘a great deal of money’ from the publisher.”

Had Klass checked with me, he would have learned that I didn’t receive a great deal of money from the publisher... though I wish I had. I suppose Phil was suggesting a financial reason for writing the book, and a financial incentive for filling it with tales of crashed saucers with little interpretation or investigation. The point here is that Phil repeated the tale without checking with me, which is what he suggested Barry should have done with him.

Sheaffer then launches into the reasons he thinks the Walton abduction story is a hoax and I have no problem with his analysis or his conclusions. There are problems with the Walton abduction and like so much else in the world of UFOs, there really is no consensus. Hardcore UFO believers think the case is a hoax and Karl Pflock, something of a skeptic on much in UFOlogy, after a short analysis of the case, wrote, “I hasten to add that, while I think a hoax is possible, I have not yet made up my mind.”

As for the idea that Klass hounded Pierce, that too is a tough call, given Klass’ attacks on both James McDonald and Robert Jacobs (see Phil Klass and his Letter Writing Campaigns published here on September 11, 2011).

Klass apparently called Pierce on July 20, 1978, which can hardly be called hounding. According to the tape of that conversation, Pierce told Klass, “Uh, well, I thought it was something a deer hunter, you know, rigged up. You know, ‘cause it was deer season, you know, so you could see. You know? And, uh, but I couldn’t see the bottom or a top or sides, all’s I could see was a front of it, you know. You couldn’t tell if it had a bottom to ir or, you know, or a back to it or anything...”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the UFO, given by one of the witnesses to the abduction. This doesn’t read like the experiences of someone who was there making observations, but someone who is confused by what he saw and not sure what to make of everything that went on around him that night. It leaves the door wide open for various interpretations.

Sheaffer wrote, “Klass says that when he told Pierce that he believes Walton’s story to be a hoax, Pierce replied, ‘Me too. If I could ever prove it a hoax I’d damn sure do it.’”

So, the Pierce story of the attempted bribe is not as black and white as it has been made out to be by many of us. I will say here again, I don’t believe it beyond Klass to attempt something like this, given what he had done in the past... but, I will also say that the evidence that he did is extremely weak. Given all that, we’d have to conclude the tale is not true, unless and until we could find something stronger.

Over at his blog, Bad UFOs: Skepticism, UFOs, and The Universe, found at:

you can find a link that will take you to some of the documents that Sheaffer believes should be reviewed before anyone makes up his or her mind about all this.

As I say, this is, sort of, the other side of this debate. I will note that Klass’ personal attitude has influenced this debate. Some of his activities were highly questionable (such as writing letter to the employers of UFO witnesses as noted in that earlier blog posting), which means that many of us see the idea of his attempting to bribe Pierce as a reasonable extension of these other activities.

But, as I said, the evidence to prove it seems weak and the various tales told about it are contradictory. Yes, I believe Klass might have tried something like this but I don’t think we have any proof that he actually did it.