Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kathleen Marden - Commonalities Study Final Report

I received an email from Kathleen Marden (which is not to say that it came just to me, but one that she had sent to many of us interested in UFOs), niece of Betty Hill, about a statistical study she and Denise Stoner had been working on. “The Marden-Stoner Study on Commonalities Among UFO Abduction Experiencers,” as it is called, was a multiple-choice survey of those who believe they have been abducted by aliens, and a core of non-abductees as a control group.

Kathleen Marden
According to Marden, “Nearly a year ago, Denise Stoner and I met to discuss the commonalities that alien abduction experiencers share. As longtime abduction investigators/researchers, we were aware of certain repeating patterns of information and characteristics. The pertinent literature, the academic social science studies and the works of David Jacobs, PhD, Thomas Bullard, PhD, and the late Budd Hopkins, John Mack, MD, and others had identified several commonalities among abduction experiencers. But we had not been able to locate an academic study that was specific to our particular interests.”
This is something that should have been done years ago, after it was clear that something was happening to these people. It is not necessarily alien abduction, but there is something going on there. When Russ Estes, Bill Cone and I conducted our research in the mid-1990s, we had noticed some trends and wondered if there was any significance to them. If a trend could be spotted, then we might learn something that would help understand this aspect of UFOs or, at the very least, the people who were reporting it.
As Kathleen noted, other abduction researchers had also noticed some of this, but there had been no attempt to gather statistics about it. Although a long time in coming, this is the sort of scientific research that needs to be conducted, and it seems that Kathleen has the background to attempt it, based on her academic and work experience.

The study, as it stands, has had about 50 participants, and some of those are self-reported. She wrote, “Participants for our study were solicited via the MUFON UFO Journal and several alien abduction and UFO oriented websites. We also appeared on several radio shows and invited listeners to participate. Last, there were questionnaires at my vendor table at several UFO conferences and at Denise’s meetings. I posted the questionnaires, a letter of explanation, and an informed consent notice on my website at We communicated to participants that all questionnaires would be kept in a locked and secure location and destroyed at the end of the study. All personal identifying information that was volunteered would remain confidential. As a cautionary measure, we advised all potential participants that they should only complete the questionnaire if they could do so without feeling uncomfortable.”
After analyzing the data, there were a couple of interesting conclusions drawn. Marden wrote:

The vast majority was revisited—some more than 10 times—and was taken from their homes to an alien craft. Often the abduction experiencers sensed an impending visitation by alien entities before it occurred. The mode of communication between alien entities and humans is almost entirely telepathic. A new psychic awareness has emerged in the majority of experiencers and about half have found that they now have new healing abilities.
Immediately before or soon after a visitation they become aware of paranormal activity in their homes, such as light orbs, objects flying through the air or from walls, doors opening and closing without assistance, etc. The majority noticed malfunctioning electrical equipment, appliances, watches, computers, TVs, radios, cameras, etc.
Slightly more than half developed a new sensitivity to light and now crave salt. They feel a foreign object in their body and are fearful of being abducted again. Most have difficulty falling asleep and remaining asleep throughout the night. Those who have resolved their fearfulness are more likely to sleep restfully.
Finally, we want to express our sincere gratitude to those who participated in this study. It wasn’t an easy task. We asked them to visit my website and copy the 45 question or 16 question form. Then we requested that they fill in the multiple choice questions and add their comments and accounts of their personal experiences that would elucidate us regarding their specific information. They were then asked to mail their questionnaires to me or to return them via email. Although it required some effort on their part, it reduced the possibility that hoaxers would intentionally sabotage the study. In the end, we were very pleased with the knowledge we gained and the opportunity it gave us to support abduction experiencers and expand the UFO research community’s knowledge of the alien abduction phenomenon.
Those who wish to read the entire report, who want to see the statistical breakdown and the questions addressed, should visit her web site, address noted above. It is under the tab labeled “Commonalities Study Final Report,” directly under the banner (at the end of a list of places on the site). It is an interesting read.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Aztec Incident - Review by Jerome Clark

(Blogger’s Note: This review was written by Jerome Clark and appeared in a slightly different form in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26, 3 (Fall 2012) pp. 707 – 714. Reprinted with permission. And a thank you to Jerry Clark as well.)

Reviewed by Jerome Clark

The Aztec Incident: Recovery at Hart Canyon by Scott and Suzanne Ramsey, Dr. Frank Thayer and Frank Warren. Mooresville, N.C.: Aztec 48 Productions, 2012.  217 pp. $24.95 (paperback). ISBN 978-0-9850046-0-6.

            One scarcely knows where to begin.  Perhaps with this quote from a June 19, 1951, letter – reprinted in these pages (90-91) – written by San Francisco Chronicle editor Paul G. Smith to Variety entertainment columnist and author Frank Scully: “Frankly, I recall that when I first saw your book I thought you were merely having fun with your readers.”  The book, the already notorious Behind the Flying Saucers, which Henry Holt had issued the previous September, was a marketplace success but a disaster in every quarter that did not involve commerce.  Even so prominent an early UFO proponent as Maj. Donald Keyhoe, the first outsider to investigate Scully's claims of a 1948 saucer recovery near Aztec, New Mexico, rejected them as absurd and fanciful.  When I read Scully's book in junior high school, my impression – even as a naive adolescent -- was the same.
Scott Ramsey
Photo courtesy Paul Kimball
            In fact, though they circulated freely through the larger society, because of the Scully taint rumors of UFO crashes were spurned by mainstream ufologists until the late 1970s.  Around that time, a respected colleague, the late Leonard H. Stringfield, began collecting what he called “crash/retrieval reports” from mostly anonymous sources with whom he privately communicated.[1]   In 1980 the first major book on the subject, The Roswell Incident by Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore, saw print.  Other books, mostly though not exclusively focused on Roswell, followed (and an Air Force refutation followed them in the late 1990s, succeeded by refutations of the refutation, and so on in continuing loop to the present). 

            Inevitably, Scully's tale – at least in a cleaned-up version that did not incorporate the dead Venusians of the original – would get a second look.  The first book-length treatment was William S. Steinman and Wendelle C. Stevens's UFO Crash at Aztec (1987), a work notable only for its levels of paranoia (high) and coherence (low).  The second is the new The Aztec Incident, based on what we are told is a $500,000 investment in research expenses and more than two decades' worth of inquiry.

            First, so that future authorial references will be clear, the crowded by-line is courtesy of a writing novice's error that no experienced author would have committed.  There is only one author – Scott Ramsey – who refers to himself in the first person throughout.  The other three, who participated in one way or another in accumulating the material that made the book possible, ought to have been cited in the credits, and not represented as co-authors.    Thus, in what follows, I refer to the real author in the singular. 

            Since there is much to pan and little to praise in the comments that follow, let's start on the most positive note circumstances render available.  Aztec Incident reprints some of the private correspondence, never before seen as far as I know, of the principal figures in the episode.  As one who has written at length on the history of the UFO controversy in all its dimensions, including its less lucid moments, I like that.  The off-stage voices, I have found, are illuminating. 

            Here, however, the revelations are modest. One never imagines for a moment that Scully appreciated the efforts of investigative reporter J. P. Cahn (who memorably uncovered the confidence swindle behind Behind in a couple of hard-hitting, entertainingly documented True articles[2]), but it is interesting to read this record of his personal complaints about Cahn's hard-charging approach.  And who can blame Scully?  Though as late as 1984 Cahn observed that he had always liked Scully personally, clearly the affection was not destined to be reciprocal.  At the end of the job, Cahn had exposed Scully as -- in the most charitable interpretation -- a fool.

            Unfortunately, one thing Incident does not address – cannot address by its very purpose, which is to turn dross into gold – is to what degree Scully was a party to the hoax.  To his death in 1964, Scully professed his confidence in what his informants, whose probity he endorsed in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence, had told him about the crash in New Mexico along with others, less detailed, in Arizona, Maine, and elsewhere in the late 1940s.[3] My supposition, for which I make no larger truth claim than I can glean from observation of his behavior over the years, is that Scully was initially gulled into acceptance of the yarns, then grew eventually to perceive that he'd been bamboozled.  By that time, he was sufficiently invested in the bamboozlement that he felt he could not disown his silly book and the attendant controversy; if it took whopper-forging to sustain his otherwise untenable position, then smalltime grifter Leo A. GeBauer – top magnetic authority “Dr. Gee” in BFS – would become, years later, a composite figure representing not GeBauer but some of the leading magnetic scientists in America.  (In reality, a waitress had given GeBauer the nickname “Dr. Gee,” according to GeBauer's widow, and Scully merely borrowed it for the book.)  In other words, Scully was complicit in the hoax.  The only remaining question is if that complicity happened sooner or later.

            Obligingly, Ramsey devotes an eye-glazing chapter (4: Dr. Gee and the Mystery Men)  to profiles of eight leading magnetism-studying scientists of mid-century America.  “Without a doubt,” he insists (p. 51), “they possibly knew or worked with Silas Newton, a man of science himself.”  Only a book as rhetorically hapless as Incident could cram “without a doubt” and “possibly” into the same pronouncement without betraying the faintest cognitive dissonance, and then proceed to characterize lifelong swindler Newton not only as a “man of science” but as a major one at that, sharing his purported colleagues' access to the U.S. Government's classified extraterrestrial bodies and technology. Having declared as much, Ramsey feels no obligation to provide a fragment of actual evidence that links these eminent scientists to Newton.  For that matter, he fails even to document his repeated assertion that Newton was an imposing figure in the oil industry.

             It is Newton who was the intellectual author, if that's the phrase, of the Aztec legend.  His stories would almost certainly have been forgotten months after their concoction if not for Scully.  In the consensus-reality version, here highly condensed and necessarily incomplete, is how BFS came to be:

            The print record – no prior press references to the described event, said to have taken place on March 25, 1948, have ever been located and are almost certainly nonexistent – begins with Scully's Variety column of October 12, 1949, where he reports having learned from unnamed “scientists” of two saucer retrievals, one in the Mohave Desert, the other in the Sahara.  The latter vanishes from the story hereafter, but in Scully's account the scientists examined the American ship (intact but for a small hole in a port window), presumed to be from Venus and housing 16 humanlike midgets – all dead and “charred black” – clad in 1890s-style clothing.  The ship, it turned out, flew along “magnetic waves.”  All of its dimensions are equally divisible by nine.

            BFS, published 10 months later, mentions two Arizona crashes but provides few details beyond the allegation that the bodies were identical to those found at Aztec and that the alien mathematics appeared nine-based. 

Hart Canyon Crash Site
Photo Courtesy Paul Kimball
             It developed that Newton and GeBauer had imparted these tales on to Scully in August 1949.  GeBauer had shown Scully parts from the saucer, among them a tubeless “magnetic radio.”  It is generally assumed that the location for the story has its origins in a trip GeBauer took early that same month to Hart Canyon near Aztec – a small town in the northwestern Four Corners part of the state – to demonstrate his alleged oil-detection device (the sort of thing known derisively in the industry as a “doodlebug”) to locals.  Hart Canyon would evolve into the location where the ship came down and was recovered.

            As Cahn and – much later and in considerably more detail – ufologist William L. Moore[4] would determine, Newton and GeBauer had devoted their lives (the smart and polished Newton more lucratively than the relatively slow-witted GeBauer) to various confidence scams, many involving oil-finding schemes.  Characterized wryly by Moore as “the type of character best avoided by anyone with money in his pocket,” Newton got into trouble in the 1930s in New York, Kansas, and California for assorted shady dealings.  “Newton's tactic in every case was to suck in additional investors,” Moore wrote, “and pay off the complaining  party with the money raised – in exchange, of course, for the dropping of charges against him.”  When he died in Los Angeles in 1972, Newton had 40 legal claims filed against him based primarily in fraudulent oil and mining schemes.  Two years earlier, he had been indicted for grand theft.

             The saucer story was intended to draw the interest of the well-heeled, who would soon learn that GeBauer's doodlebug (the “magnetic radio”), in reality made up of ordinary mechanical parts (as Cahn determined), was a product of extraterrestrial technology.  In other words, if not for Scully's broadcasting the story to a national and international audience, it would have been no more than another of Newton/GeBauer's ephemeral efforts to separate fools from their hard-earned.

            In attempting to rehabilitate the Aztec “case,” Ramsey falls into the fatal tactical error of defending the indefensible, namely Scully, Newton, and GeBauer, rather than conceding their manifest flaws and drawing up an Aztec episode that is not so fundamentally dependent upon their being who they clearly weren't..  From one way of viewing it, Ramsey's approach is ill considered.  From another, his book wouldn't exist without BFS and all it brought into the world.  There's little else outside Scully's pages, and even there, there isn't much. One thinks of Woody Guthrie's famous words: “That stew was so thin even a politician could have seen through it.”

            Ramsey's defense is unlikely to sway any but guile-free readers.  To any critics Ramsey responds with the self-serving, unverified words of Scully, Newton, and GeBauer, presented as the equivalent of divine revelation standing unshaken against the darkly driven contrary assertions of Cahn, portrayed relentlessly as pursuing a “petty vendetta” motivated by pure “envy,” or else – and what else? – doing the dirty work of some sinister official agency.  To any sensible  observer, Cahn emerges as an old-fashioned, aggressive shoe-leather reporter of a type sorely missed in this era of celebrity journalism.  If Moore is mentioned, it is so briefly that I missed it in the extensive notes I took during multiple readings of Incident.  The back pages that should have been devoted to an index are taken up with irrelevant photographs of historic Aztec.

            Affirmation of unswerving faith in Scully's severely flawed sources is not quite all of Ramsey's book, however.  After half a million dollars and more than two decades, he has his own evidence to put forward.  That evidence, he boasts, makes the Aztec recovery “true beyond argument.”  Or maybe not.

Aztec, New Mexico
Photo Courtesy Paul Kimball
            First, however, it must be stressed that for as long as they have been interviewed on the subject, Aztec residents have with virtually one voice denied that anything like a UFO retrieval happened there on March 25, 1948, or any other date.  That includes the man who was newspaper editor during the period, the 1948 county sheriff, the son who succeeded him in that office (all of whom actively sought out local informants without success), the family that owned the property, and other longtime residents.[5]     They first heard of an extraordinary UFO incident through the publicity surrounding Scully's claims or its revival in subsequent decades.  This contrasts tellingly with residents of another New Mexico town, Roswell, to whom an incident many tied to the crash of an unknown object – however conflictingly interpreted -- was widely known.  No one has to prove that something happened in the Roswell area in July 1947.

            The book opens with Ramsey's two claimants to first-person experience at the site.  Both contradict the original – Scully – account in notable ways.  Newton's drawing of the craft, shown to a University of Denver class to whom he lectured sensationally on March 8, 1950, depicts, in researcher Joel Carpenter's words, “a bizarre contraption that … resembled a can on top of a [spinning] saucer.”[6]  The alleged witnesses, on the other hand, speak of a disc with a dome on top and a corresponding one on the bottom. In Scully's account as related by Dr. Gee, it took a team of scientists two days to break into the craft, where as in Ramsey's version it took a few hours for locals to gain entry well before the arrival of official personnel.  (In both stories a pole poked through a small porthole opening manages to push a door handle, exposing the craft's interior.) 

             There are two, and only two, named persons who tell the story from what is supposed to be first-hand experience  One, Doug Noland, was interviewed by Ramsey after a “series of strokes.”  The other, Ken Farley, since deceased, was “dying of a respiratory disease.”  Ramsey has their alleged experiences occurring on the Scully-approved date of March 25, 1948, without ever explaining how they remembered it with such precision decades after the alleged fact.  One can only suspect an editorial insertion into the narrative, hardly the first one.

            Even as these narratives would have us believe that dozens of civilians congregated at the site, independent testimony to that effect is hard to come by.  Ramsey's rhetoric is slippery enough to mislead a careless reader, one who notices other names appearing in the testimony and is lulled into thinking they amount to verification.  A police officer said to be present has “since been identified as Manuel Sandoval” – even in the absence of any testimony from Sandoval (presumably dead or otherwise unavailable; clearly, he was never interviewed) pertaining to the event.  Noland's friend Bill Ferguson “died long before we got involved in our research” (p. 5).  Later (p. 201) Ramsey casually remarks that Ferguson “revealed his Aztec knowledge to very few people” while offering no reason, in the first instance but for Noland's testimony, that Ferguson possessed such “knowledge” and, in the second, that Ferguson told anybody at all.

            Two other informants claim to have participated in aspects of the recovery operation.  One is identified only as “George,” for whom Ramsey vouches, which – all else considered – does not  reassure.  In any event, his story of a large operation run out of Roswell's Walker Air Force Base lacks any supporting evidence.  Such supporting evidence, Ramsey notwithstanding, certainly does not come from Fred Reed.

             He writes that in April 1948 – take notice of the date – Reed's military “team was dispatched for a 'crash clean-up' as Fred would describe it to me years later [in 1999].”  The clean-up, at the Hart Canyon site, was to be of anything tied to the craft (which he later learned was a UFO) and to a subsequent military presence at the site.  But this was not the story – as Ramsey does not inform his readers – that Reed provided in a strikingly different account just a few days before he faced questions, perhaps seriously leading ones, from the “investigator.”  Here are Reed's words as expressed in a March 27, 1999, letter to the Aztec newspaper: 

Today, my wife and I … went out to the site of UFO crash in late 1948 [note: not March 25] in Hart Canyon..... The aliens had built stone cairns marking the path from the oil field road to the crash site.  These cairns are             still in place today.  The trees around the crash site open to the south, which is a typical distress signal for extraterrestrials. 

The area looked basically as it had in 1948 when the OSS [Office of Strategic Services, which disbanded in 1945] sent our group there.... We had heard rumors that a UFO had crashed there.  But it did not look like     a crash site.  And we had heard that army personnel had rushed in there and cleaned up the site.  But it did        not look like a clean-up site either....

So what it boiled down to was this: No UFO crash.  Instead, the UFO landed there for some specific intent to place (bury?) some instrument or thing there.  Then they got into their saucer and flew away.

            While failing to mention that his “witness” (whose eccentric beliefs about aliens and their ways also go missing)  had flagrantly contradicted the testimony he solicited from him, Ramsey effects his own (unacknowledged) clean-up.  Knowing, one infers, the OSS reference to be unsupportable, he revises Reed's resume so that “he had worked for the OSS … back in the early 1940s, [and] was now working for the military.”  In Incident everything that fails to serve the narrative either undergoes revision or gets dropped into the memory hole.

            Among other reported witnesses is a pastor who allegedly confided to a church officer and his son that he had witnessed dead aliens and a saucer at Hart Canyon on (Ramsey would have it, again without justification) on March 25, 1948.  Ramsey located the minister son's, also a pastor, who remarked that he had never heard his father talk about such an experience, though he had expressed interest in press accounts of the Roswell event at the time.  An Air Force man who supposedly participated in the Aztec cover-up in 1948 confided it to a fellow Air Force member, an Aztec native, in England in the 1960s.  The informant, Donald “Sam” Bass, cannot be found.  Experienced investigator Kevin D. Randle learned that the claim related here that Bass was killed in an accident while serving in Vietnam cannot be verified in military records.

            In Ramsey's judgment of his own work, he has established that an Aztec recovery occurred and nobody can any longer argue otherwise, unless I suppose on the payroll of a sinister intelligence agency.  Ramsey's credulity is awesome and bottomless.  In a passing aside (p. 203), he outs himself as a member of that small army of far-right cranks who discern a conspiracy to  conceal President Obama's birth certificate, apparently to protect his true identity as a Kenya- born socialist Islamic jihadist.  In fairness, Ramsey is not always impossible to take seriously. Earlier in the book (p. 31) he acknowledges that in high school he “was never a superior student” and that he has always been “disappointed in how history is taught.”  To those assertions, if to no others, The Aztec Incident offers compelling testimony.

 I would like thank Kevin Randle and Joel Carpenter for their generous assistance in the research on which this review draws.


                                                                                                            JEROME CLARK
                                                                                                            Canby, Minnesota

[1]    Stringfield died without ever revealing their identities.  To the extent that subsequent investigations were possible, none seemed to lead anywhere, leaving only speculation about the informants' motives.
[2]    “The Flying Saucers and the Mysterious Little Men” and “Flying Saucer Swindlers,” September 1952 and August 1956 issues respectively.
[3]    A  secret diary/memoir allegedly composed by Scully informant Silas Newton professes uncertainty about  Scully's true attitude.  The late ufologist Karl T. Pflock claimed to have examined it under peculiar circumstances, though no one else has seen or been able to verify its existence.  See Pflock's  “What's Really Behind the Flying Saucers?  A New Twist on Aztec.”  The Anomalist 8 (Spring 2000): 137-161.
[4]    See Moore's “Crashed Saucers: Evidence in Search of Proof,” esp. pages 133-154, in Walter H. Andrus Jr. and Richard H. Hall, eds. MUFON 1985 UFO Symposium Proceedings. Seguin, TX: Mutual UFO Network, 1985.
[5]    See Moore, p. 147-148.  Also Mike McClellan, “The UFO Crash of 1948 Is a Hoax,” Official UFO, October 1975, pp. 36-37,60-64, and William E. Jones and Rebecca D. Minshall, “Aztec, New Mexico – A Crash Story Reexamined,” International UFO Reporter, September/October 1991, pp. 11-15,23.  Ramsey says that the son of the owners of the Hart Canyon property in 1948 refused to speak with him (p. 199), but in 1991 that man, Jack Dunning, told Jones and Minshall that, in their paraphrase, “his father [the now-deceased Harold] knows nothing about such a crash, though they are both aware of the rumors, having met [Aztec crash advocate William] Steinman when he came to Aztec” (p. 15).
[6]    See Cahn, 1952, p. 19, for the similar drawing Newton later provided for the True writer.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Roswell Minutia - Negative Investigation

As the Roswell investigation spreads, we come upon some strange information. I was told, not all that long ago, that the negatives of Ramey, Ramey and DuBose, and Jesse Marcel, in the Special Collections at the University of Texas – Arlington, had been sold. It was suggested that someone at Microsoft had bought the negatives but to make it worse, those negatives were now gone. They had been lost.

This was big news because it is on one of the negatives of Ramey and DuBose that the message clutched in Ramey’s hand could be seen and partially read. Over the years, as technology improves, those negatives were scanned again and again, attempting to get a better and clearer image. Who knows what the current technology might reveal, or what new technology might find when applied? If the negatives are gone, leaving us with only prints of the pictures, then the original source, and therefore the best source, would be lost.
The conspiracy implications were evident. If someone had bought the negatives and then “lost” them, there would be no additional information found. It could be suggested that someone, afraid of what might appear as our technology improved, made the pictures, disappear. The government at work.
I sent a letter to the Special Collections, giving them the various codings used there, along with the title of the pictures, asking about them. I was sent a quick email saying that they weren’t sure which pictures I wanted, but did send small prints and a price list. These were the pictures in question, and I thought I had the information.
But, thinking about it, I realized that they could make scans from the photographs. I do it all the time, and see little in the degradation of the original. We all have scanners that do that sort of thing and those scanners of professional quality certainly would be better than the one I have.
So, I sent an email and asked specifically. Are the negatives there at the University of Texas?
I got a short reply.
“Yes, we have these negatives.”
End of story.
End of conspiracy.
I have no idea how this story started but it is untrue. So, if our technology improves to a point that we can decipher the blurs on the Ramey Memo, we might have an answer to what it says. At least the potential for universal acceptance of what the memo says is still there. No one bought and then lost the negatives.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

John Alexander - "UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities"

(Blogger's Note: A slightly different version of this review appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of the Journal of Scientific Exploration.)

UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities by John B. Alexander. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2011, 305 pp. $25.99 (hardback). ISBN 978–0–312–64834–3 

It is said that the truest test of a man’s intelligence is how much he agrees with you, and I find that Dr. Alexander and I share a great number of opinions. I looked first at the chapter about Philip Corso, who claimed an inside knowledge of the Roswell UFO crash and the government plans to exploit the find by seeding recovered material into American industry. Here Alexander writes not only from his experience in the Pentagon and classified operations, but as a friend of Corso. He spoke with him in the weeks prior to Corso’s death. But Alexander found many holes in the stories spun by Corso and in the end, while acknowledging Corso’s long military career, did not truly believe him. Here Alexander and I agree.
John Alexander
What was more fascinating was Alexander’s discussion of Congressional hearings about UFOs, and what disclosure would accomplish. Writing as an insider who has experience in this arena, Alexander suggested that neither hearings nor disclosure were going to happen for many reasons he carefully laid out.

One of those reasons was what almost any of us have observed ourselves. UFOs are a third rail in politics (though Alexander suggests they are tarlike), meaning that almost any expression of belief is the same as admitting to a belief in Easter Bunny. He provided examples of what happened after UFOs were mentioned in a debate with former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. From that point on, while commenting on Kucinich’s political ideas and theories, pundits found they had to remark about UFOs, always in a derogatory way. The UFO connection might have nothing to do with Kucinich’s political statements, but they were brought in anyway, as a means to discredit him.

Of Disclosure, the idea that the US government has many classified UFO documents to release, Alexander noted that there was nothing to actually disclose (an idea reinforced by a recent White House announcement that the government held no classified UFO files). The official investigation of UFOs by the Air Force had been released decades ago and a great number of the files and records from the now closed Project Blue Book are online, available to everyone.

Alexander scoffs at the idea of MJ-12, that is, the super-secret committee supposedly created by President Truman after the Roswell UFO crash. Unlike so many others who suggest the documents are faked based on analysis of the documents themselves, Alexander attacks from the way they entered into the public consciousness. Using Watergate as an example, he notes that the Watergate investigation was built on solid evidence from sources known to the reporters while MJ-12 is built on anonymous documents sent to an obscure movie producer. In leaks of real documents, those documents can be examined, the sources verified, and the information corroborated. With MJ-12, there are no original documents, there are no sources, and the information seems to be a hodge-podge of real data taken from historical sources rewritten to include references to MJ-12. Here again, Alexander and I agree.

And we certainly agree with his analysis of the Air Force sponsored University of Colorado study of UFOs known to many as the Condon Committee. He chides science for its refusal to look critically at the results of the study, which he describes as badly flawed. He notes scientists continue to use of the study to prove that nothing of scientific interest could be learned from a true examination of UFOs, when the contrary is true.  He suggests that many of the case studies cited by the Condon Committee were cursory at best and certainly inadequate for a true scientific analysis. Although he doesn’t mention it, one of the cases in Condon Committee report was concluded suggesting that it was caused by a phenomenon so rare that it had never been seen before or since. They don’t bother to identify that phenomenon. Alexander suggests that scientists actually read the report before relying on it to prove there is nothing of value in UFO research.

Where we part company is his analysis on the Roswell UFO crash case. He writes that he now subscribes to the Project Mogul answer. According to him, “While the Air Force report, Case Closed, provides conflicting information regarding classification, most of those involved agree it [Project Mogul] was both Top Secret and strictly compartmented.”

But this is simply untrue. While the ultimate purpose, to spy on the Soviet Union, was classified, the project itself and the equipment used by it were not. For the launches in June, 1947, the balloons were standard neoprene weather balloons and the radar targets were foil-covered devices known as rawins. The name of the project, contrary to what has been said many times by many other sources, was not classified and appeared in Dr. Albert Crary’s unclassified diary published in the Air Force study. Announcements of the launches were required by the CAA (forerunner to the FAA) because the balloon arrays could be a hazard to aerial navigation. Pictures of the balloon arrays were published in newspapers around the country on July 10, 1947. So much for a highly classified project.

What struck me most about this short segment of the book was how he let the sources get away from him. In other places, he carefully named those sources and their credentials. As an example, when writing about an intercept of a UFO by an American pilot stationed in England, he told us it was Lieutenant Milton Torres, who eventually earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering, that Torres taught at the university level, and he was a very credible source who had been sworn to secrecy about his UFO encounter. We learn all that we need so that we might verify what Alexander has written if we feel the need to do so.

With Project Mogul, we are not so blessed. In writing about the strange symbols reported by Jesse Marcel, Jr. (whose credentials are also carefully laid out for us by Alexander) Alexander said, “What was learned was that on the reflecting panels had been placed a specially designed code that could only be read by the people with access to the key. More important, it was stated that this code was not alphanumeric as are most that are frequently employed, but entailed the use of glyphs.”

In all my discussions with project engineers and others associated with Mogul, including Charles Moore who claimed he had “launched the Roswell UFO,” this was never mentioned. The best the Air Force could do was suggest that a flowered tape from a novelty company had been used to reinforce part of the rawin targets, but they produced nothing to prove it. If I wanted to verify Alexander’s new claim, I could not. Alexander did not provide the source for this unique bit of information.

For me, this discussion of Roswell was the big disappointment here. While Alexander chastised others for accepting much of the nonsense published in the UFO field including those scientists who make statements without bothering to learn the facts, this seems to be what Alexander has done in the Roswell case. He accepted the story of glyphs without proper analysis.

That said, this is a book that needs to be read and understood by all those inside the UFO community and by everyone who has an interest in these topics. Yes, he is going to annoy everyone regardless of personal beliefs with his opinions about UFOs. His insider status, his knowledge of how things work in both the world of congressional hearings and in the world of the military classification provides an interesting insight that those pushing for congressional hearings and full disclosure should read.

For the most part his use of names, dates, sources and personal experiences lend an even stronger note of credibility to his work. While he doesn’t use footnotes, he provides the source material in the text. It is clear that he knows what he is talking about and that he had, for the most part, the sources and data to back it up.

Here is a book about UFOs that is a must read for everyone. And if we disagree about the Roswell case, well then, we disagree about Roswell.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Eddie Bullard's "The Myth and Mysteries of UFOs"

(Blogger’s Note: A slightly different version of this review ran in the Summer 2012 Journal of Scientific Exploration.) 

The Myth and Mysteries of UFOs. By Thomas E. Bullard. Lawrence Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 2010. 417 pp. ISBN 978-0-7006-1729-6

UFO books run the gambit from slapped together pulp jobs with little thought to accuracy to Ph. D dissertations that rely on scholarship without a thought to style. Thomas (Eddie) Bullard’s book, The Myth and Mysteries of UFOs, is one that walks the fine line between over the top scholarship and the bottom of the barrel trash. His is a book that belongs on everyone’s shelf because of the scholarship and the readability. 

It was, for me, confusing at first. I wasn’t sure where he was going with his scholarship. He wrote about sightings that most of us inside the UFO community knew about, but he often answered the questions about their reality. Or maybe I should say about their extraterrestrial nature. Clearly something had happened, but Bullard seemed to provide us with answers for those strange cases. 

The massive sightings of March 3, 1968, in which a number of witnesses described a cigar-shaped UFO with windows on the side, for example, was explained as the re-entry and break-up of the Zond IV spacecraft launched by the Soviet Union. This has become an accepted explanation throughout the UFO community and one not without merit. 

The case is interesting because, as Bullard notes, while some thought of alien craft, there were those who recognized the sighting for what it actually was. Bullard suggests that the reason there weren’t more reports of this with the proper answer is because those who properly identified it felt no compulsion to report it. Those who thought of it in terms of an alien craft did.  

But the real importance of the sighting was how it applied to other, similar reports. In 1948 two airline pilots saw something that they described as cigar-shaped with square windows. This was, of course, the same thing said about the Zond IV reentry. A cigar-shaped craft with square windows. Of course there was no returning space debris in 1948, but there were bolides, very bright meteors, that could give the same impression and often do. 

Bullard looks at the UFO phenomenon through the eyes of a folklorist who is studying the legends and myths of the human race. He notes that humans, from the very first, were reporting the strange apparitions in the sky that we now call UFOs or flying saucers. He looks at the history of those myths.

But he is not telling us that all UFO sightings can be explained with such a study, only that science might learn something about human nature, about how we view the world as opposed to how our ancestors viewed the world, and that there is something real happening. Some of the sightings aren’t based only on our perceptions, but on something concrete and tangible flying, or floating, through the sky. 

He acknowledges many of the answers for what people have seen, but also makes it clear that these answers do not cover everything that is seen. It is impossible to write off a UFO sighting that was witnessed by dozens, especially when the object, or objects, are detected by radar or have been photographed or leave traces on the ground.

In other words, Bullard sees something of value in the study of UFOs. There is science that can be applied, and science has been negligent in what they have done with UFO reports. Rather than be intrigued by them, science simply ignored them. 

This is a book that has been needed since 1969 when the Air Force sponsored study at the University of Colorado, popularly known as the Condon Committee, rejected the idea of UFOs. They found that not only did UFOs not pose a threat to national security, one of the Air Force’s requirements, but more outrageously, nothing of scientific importance could be learned by studying them. Skeptics have cited this investigation as if it is the final word on UFOs since it was released. 

Bullard’s book, however, is the important and long needed counterpoint. He’s not arguing that UFOs are extraterrestrial, though it appears in some places he has reached this conclusion. No, he’s arguing that some UFOs demand scientific study. They might not led to alien spacecraft but they will certainly add to our knowledge of the world around us. While national security might not be an issue, scientific understanding of our world is. 

While alien abduction might not be extraterrestrial creatures taking humans into their craft for examination, neither is it explained by sleep paralysis. While sleep paralysis may, in fact, explain some abduction tales, it does not explain them all.  

Bullard’s argument here, then, is that UFOs deserve academic study. Hufford’s study of the Old Hag, as outlined in The Terror that Comes in the Night, which is about bedroom visitation, led us to a more complete understanding of the phenomenon related to sleep paralysis. The study of the UFOs might lead us to an better understanding of our psychological make up. 

With that said, Bullard is also suggesting that there are UFO sightings that are sufficiently strange, sufficiently documented, with sufficient eyewitness testimony, that demand study. This might lead us right into the extraterrestrial.  

Bullard is suggesting that we stop dismissing UFOs by saying the witnesses were drunk, uneducated, unsophisticated, or simply of below average intelligence, and apply our science to them. He looked at the UFO phenomenon with the eyes of a trained folklorist and found much that required study. He is saying that other sciences, both physical and social, might benefit from a similar academic analysis. 

Ridicule is not a way to learn something new. Ridicule is a way to dismiss something without having to know anything about it. Bullard tells us that now is the time to stop ignoring UFOs and actually try studying with the same sort of academic precision that is devoted to other types of anomalies. Now is the time to begin the real science and not the pseudo-science that has gone before.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Roswell vs. Circleville

It has been suggested that a find of a weather balloon sometime prior to July 5, 1947, is similar to that made in Roswell a few days later. A story, headlined, “Flying Disc Believed Found on Pickaway [Ohio] Farm,” published on July 5, 1947, in the Circleville Herald, is similar to that published on July 8 by many newspapers around the county including the Roswell Daily Record. It is believed that this is, in a similar sense, the Roswell story and how the same explanation can be applied in Roswell that was applied in Ohio.

That short article in the Ohio newspaper and later picked up by other media said:

One of the flying discs puzzling aviators all over the United States was believed Saturday to have been found on a Pickaway County farm.
Sherman Campbell who lives on Westfall Road in Wayne Township, near the Pickaway-Rose county line reported the finding of a star-shaped silver foil covered object which he believed is one of the mystery “flying saucers.” While working in the field he spotted a strange object. He described his find as 50 inches high, 48 inches wide and weighing about 2 lbs. He said the silver foil was stretched over a wooded frame. The star-shaped object had 6 points.
He said there was a balloon attached which had deflated and there was no way of knowing how big it was. Discovery of the object was the first reported in the country. A Coast Guardsman on the West Coast reported photographing one from a distance, but no one has seen a flying disc close.

It is quite clear from the article that Campbell recognized it for what it was when he found it, meaning that he knew that it was a balloon-borne device, and he had the balloon. He was not talking about anything else and the original description, meaning the first reporting of it, is quite clear. He thought that when airborne, the six-pointed star, if spinning, could give the impression of a disc shape in bright sunlight.
Contrast this to the press release that was put out by Walter Haut, on orders from Colonel Blanchard. Here too, it is claimed that they had recovered a flying disc, but they believed, it seems, that a balloon and radar target did not explain it.
The Associated Press version, as it appeared in a number of west coast newspapers said:

The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chavez County.
The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Major Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office.
Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.

There is no clue here that any of those involved, the rancher, Brazel; the sheriff, Wilcox; the intelligence officer, Marcel; or the base commander, Blanchard, knew it was a balloon or balloon-borne device. By the time we get to Ramey’s office, and we have photographs of the alleged debris, it is quite clear that it is a balloon and radar target. The blackened balloon can be seen in the picture as well.
Campbell knew what it was when he found it, and according to later articles, the sheriff knew what it was when he saw it, and later the object found in Ohio was displayed in the newspaper office. They didn’t notify the military, and although the story was widely reported in Ohio, no military officers, no FBI agents, and no local authorities arrived to take charge of the debris. It was eventually returned to Campbell, at least according to what his daughter told me twenty some years ago.
The other report from Roswell, that is the original United Press bulletin, said:

Roswell, N.M. – The army air forces here today announced a flying disc had been found on a ranch near Roswell and is in army possession.
The Intelligence office reports that it gained possession of the ‘Dis:’ [sic] through the cooperation of a Roswell rancher and Sheriff George Wilson [sic] of Roswell.
The disc landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher, whose name has not yet been obtained, stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the Roswell sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office notified a major of the 509th Intelligence Office.
Action was taken immediately and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home and taken to the Roswell Air Base. Following examination, the disc was flown by intelligence officers in a superfortress (B-29) to an undisclosed “Higher Headquarters.”
The air base has refused to give details of construction of the disc or its appearance.
Residents near the ranch on which the disc was found reported seeing a strange blue light several days ago about three o’clock in the morning. 

Again, the contrast is startling. In Ohio, there was a description of the object found, and there is no one confusing it for something more than it is, or was. In Roswell, though many had examined the debris, there is no clue that this might be a balloon and radar target. Just several people, including many who should have known better, unable to identify what turned out to be, if we accept the cover story, a weather balloon.
Photo of balloon and rawin from
the Circleville newspaper.
You have to ask yourself, how is it that those in Ohio knew that it was a balloon and those in New Mexico did not? Isn’t it interesting that both stories talk of the balloon debris being found “last week,” though in Roswell that was eventually changed to “three weeks ago”? Isn’t it interesting that eventually, the balloon and radar reflector are displayed in Fort Worth, but not in Roswell? And if our old friend Sheridan Cavitt is to be believed, he knew the instant he saw it what it was, but made no attempt to inform either Marcel or Blanchard. Why did he remain mum, when he was with Marcel out in the field, or when he, with Marcel and some of the wreckage were examined by Blanchard in his office on the morning of July 8?
You might ask yourself (and I do, risking the wrath of the skeptics), did those in Roswell, who might well have known about the Circleville case, take a cue from there, changing the storyline so that it mimicked that in Ohio to hide the facts in New Mexico? Did they change the narrative so that reporters, and civilians, would not be inclined to ask the difficult questions that were then never asked?  
The two storylines are interesting, to say the least. Of course the spin put on them takes you in a direction that you might wish to take… that is, they are so similar that Roswell is clearly a balloon… or they are similar to a point, but there is no mention of the balloon debris in the first of the Roswell stories. You might say that the Ohio report seems to underscore the mundane nature of the debris found in Roswell. The two stories are the same… and yet, they are not.
But the real question… the real difference…  is the reaction of the military to these two events. At Circleville they ignored it. Clearly it is a balloon and posed no threat. The day after the press release in Roswell, both the Army and the Navy begin to suppress stories of the flying saucers. Why would they do that? What is the difference here? Why, suddenly, on July 9 do they care that people are seeing flying saucers but they had not cared prior to that?