Thursday, April 11, 2013

Historical UFO Research

After reading the article about the research into the June 23, 1947 Cedar Rapids UFO sighting, a few suggested that maybe we should do that for all these older sightings. I think that the idea might be more trouble than it is worth. Here’s why.

The Cedar Rapids case was important because it was alleged the sighting of a disc took place prior to Arnold and more importantly, it was documented prior to Arnold. Granted, the documentation was in a newspaper, but if the witness said that he had seen a disc-shaped object and it was reported before Arnold, it became important. It would suggest that the Arnold description didn’t have the influence that some have since claimed.

Now, as I explained, I looked at several sources, including Dick Hall’s The UFO Evidence. Some sources suggested the sighting was published in newspapers but I could only find a single footnote and it didn’t reference a newspaper article as the source. Instead, it cited Frank Edwards in a 1956 speech.

So I began the search which eventually revealed the sighting was not made on June 23, but on the 24th, it didn’t happen in Cedar Rapids or Iowa, and it wasn’t published until sometime after Arnold. It became just another single witness sighting of something in the sky that did nothing to advance our knowledge of UFOs.

Many of these early sightings have nothing in them to help us. Many of the 1947 sightings that preceded Arnold were reported after Arnold. If there is no documentation to support the date, meaning something dated before the Arnold sighting hit the streets (meaning when it was published), then it does nothing for us. There are many of these, but in every case I have looked at, they were noted after Arnold.

I went back through Keith Chester’s marvelous Strange Company, looking for sightings of Foo Fighters that were described as disc shaped. The trouble was all of the sightings he collected were told to him long after Arnold had told his tale. That doesn’t mean that they were no good or were confabulations; it just means that they couldn’t be documented prior to Arnold.

This all came about simply because I wanted to document disc-shaped craft before Arnold… and there is very little to do that. Yes, I know that John Martin used the term in the late 19th century but it was a description of size rather than shape.

Yes, I know that we can track through sighting reports from the early 20th century and find some. But these are all prior to 1940. What I wanted to find was some disc-shaped craft reported between 1940 and Arnold in June 1947.

All this is a long-winded way to suggest that looking into the sightings that were reported after Arnold but claimed to have been made before Arnold isn’t going to help in what I wanted to do. Some of these sightings are of no real scientific value no matter when they were published. They were single witness and any evidential value they had has long eroded.

There is one thing that could be done. Everyone can do what I did with the Cedar Rapids sighting. Chase it down. If you live in a town with one of these old sightings, you might want to see if you can get to the original story and not the one that is currently being reported. If you find the information is accurate, so much the better… but I’ll bet that it has been skewed somehow. I don’t know how many times I have tried to chase a sighting to the original source only to find it is significantly different or even worse, was never reported. Someone made it up long after the fact.

The point is that some sightings are just of no real importance… others should be taken to the original source and see how that stacks up with what we see today… and finally there are some very important sightings that should be stripped of the rumors so that we can concentrate on the facts.