Sunday, June 30, 2013

More Pre-Arnold UFO Sightings

I have been chasing sightings that predate Arnold, but just those made in the months prior to that rather than in the years earlier. I’ve been looking for documentation that proves a sighting was pre-Arnold, meaning that it was published in some form before June 24, 1947. My luck has been sporadic. I’ve found some but there are more out there. The trick was to figure out where to look.

There are many cases that were reported after Arnold but that were made prior to him. For example, there is a report from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma dated May 17, 1947, made by Byron Savage who said that he, and his wife, had seen a round, flat object traveling nearly due north at a speed estimated at three times that of a jet. I have found nothing that documents this sighting prior to Arnold, but the Air Force accepted the date and listed it in the master index for Project Blue Book.

Another May sighting took place on the nineteenth at Manitou Springs [Colorado Springs], Colorado but wasn’t published until June 28 in the Denver Post. Dean Hauser, along with six other railroad workers, said that he and they watched a silver, metallic object fly in from the northwest, stop overhead and then maneuver erratically for some twenty minutes before it disappeared to the west-northwest in a cloudless, blue sky.

A similar case, dated June 12, 1947, came from Weiser, Idaho (with Weiser being redacted from the Blue Book master index for some reason). According to the information, Mrs. H. Erickson (identified that way as a convention of the time) said that she had seen two high-speed, round objects at a high altitude. They were flying in a trail formation and left a vapor trail that persisted from more than an hour.

All these sightings were by civilians, though Savage is described as a field engineer. I mention this simply because it seems that in early 1947, the military was much more interested in sightings by military pilots. And, since a military pilot, in late 1946 or early 1947 might be inclined to mention such things through military channels, those at ATIC would be aware of their sightings. This means that there was a mechanism for collecting the data on such observations, but nothing shows up in the Project Blue Book files.

There are many examples of these early sightings by military pilots. The first listed military sighting is from June 28, 1947 in Montgomery, Alabama. There was another civilian pilot sighting on June 14, 1947, but like so many others it was not reported until after Arnold. The witness, Dick Rankin, claimed some 7000 hours of flight experience, but was on the ground when he saw the “V” formation fly over. In a statement to the military, Rankin wrote:

My name is [redacted, but is Richard Rankin]. I am 47 years old and have flown since I was nineteen years old. I first soloed in an aircraft in1919 … I have accomplished 7000 hours in the air as pilot of both civilian and Military aircraft [though there is nothing in his statements to suggest that he had ever been a military pilot only that he had flown military aircraft]. I am well acquainted with most articles that one would see in the air and I feel that I am well qualified to say when I see articles flying through the air, although I would not attempt to say that I am infallible… The following is an account of what I saw on 14 June 1947 from the yard of my home at [redacted], Bakersfield, California.

At approximately 1200 noon on the 14 of June I was lying in the front yard of my home. There was a lad mowing the lawn at the time. I looked up into the sky and saw ten articles flying from South to th [sic] North at what I would judge to be 350 miles per hour. As I have stated before, I have done quite a lot of map work with the US Forest Service. I distinctly remember that at the time I saw the articles I mentioned it to the lad who was mowing the lawn at the time. I told the lad that the objects were in all probability some sort of Army or Navy test planes from the nearby test centers on the deserts of Southern California…. At the time I did not give the slightest thought to anything but that the objects were some sort of test ship for the Government Service. The objects resembled the pictures that I have seen of the XF5U-1, the so-called “Flying Flapjack” that the Navy is testing. After the objects disappeared I proceeded into the house and had my noon meal. At approximately 1415 [2:15 p.m.] I went back into the yard to sit and lie in the shade. At this time the objects reappeared going from North to South, although this time there were only seven of the articles. When I first saw the original ten objects they were flying in a “V” formation with one object straggling in the rear of the formation. When the objects appeared the second time they were still in the “V” formation although there was only seven of the objects at this time. I remember at this time that I told the lad, who was still working on the lawn, that probably three of the objects had proceeded back to their base on a different course. I actually thought that this was the case, that the other three objects had probably gone back to their base on the other side of the mountains from Bakersfield. A week later when I read of Mr. Kenneth Arnold claiming that he had seen articles flying through the air over the Cascade Mountains in Washington, I realized that the articles I saw were probably the same thing. I was still reluctant to mention this to anyone thinking that they would probably say I was crazy. After sometime I mentioned the incident to the editor of the “Oregonian”, a Portland, Oregon newspaper. At this time I was in Portland for the remainder of the summer…

The sighting is interesting because of the description of the objects, which match that given by Arnold. Had he told this to anyone prior to Arnold’s sighting, had there been any sort of documentation of it prior to Arnold, and had he not mentioned Arnold by name and location, suggesting that he was well aware of the Arnold sighting, this would be a wonderful bit of corroboration for Arnold.

The Flying Flapjack
There is another document in the Project Blue Book files about this, and it is a “Memorandum for the Officer in Charge.” The military was apparently attempting to find Dick Rankin in California, and ran their check through various Palm Springs agencies including the police, the newspaper, Chamber of Commerce but could find almost no record of him there.

On July 11, 1947, according to the Memorandum, the Postmaster in Palm Springs was asked if a person named [redacted, but obviously Richard Rankin] had ever lived in Palm Springs. Ryland M. Gorham said that he, Gorham, had lived there for 14 years and he didn’t recognize the Rankin’s name, which isn’t all that surprising given the large transient population in the area, not to mention the fact that in 1947, Rankin lived in Bakersfield. The problem was the newspaper article, which seems to have generated the investigation mentioned, “He [Rankin] now operates a string of auto courts, spending his winters at Palm Springs.” That same article mentions that Rankin has seen the objects over Bakersfield, which would suggest another avenue for investigation as well.

What makes this disturbing, considering all that has transpired here in the last few days (meaning the NSA monitoring of nearly everything in the name of National Security) is the following from that Memorandum:

A check of General Delivery records revealed a letter addressed to Mr. [redacted, but so poorly done that the last name Rankin can easily be deduced], Palm Springs, mailed from Cicero, Indiana, postmarked at Cicero, Indiana July 1947, at 5 p.m. The return address on the envelope was listed as the Gospel Tract Worker, Route 1, Cicero, Indiana. Mr. Gorham permitted the contents of the envelope to be examined inasmuch as the contents was [sic] 3rd Class material and the envelope not sealed. The records were of a religious nature concerning the sad plight of American non-church goers, the second coming of Christ and etc. Superintendent of Mails was contacted by Mr. Gorham and stated that there was a Mr. [redacted, but Rankin] who are received mail through the general delivery office of the Palm Springs Post Office, but that the last mail, other than the letter mentioned above, came through the Post Office approximately two years ago. The Superintendent of Mails seem to have a very uncanny memory and recalled where the mail coming for [redacted… Rankin] had been addressed to. This mail was addressed to [redacted but is Richard Rankin] in care of a trailer camp located in Palm Springs. On calling the trailer camp office, it was found that Mr. [redacted… Rankin] had lived in the camp but departed approximately two years ago and left no forwarding address. Investigation is continuing in an effort to locate Mr. [redacted… Rankin] and obtain a statement from him.

Clearly they finally succeeded in finding Rankin and getting a statement. Interestingly, his return address, though mostly redacted, showed that he was in Portland, Oregon. I’m not sure why it was such a task for them to find him, given the information in the newspaper which said, “Rankin, who plans to spend the summer here at 834 N. E. Simpson street [sic]…”

Arnold's original drawing of the object for the Army.
This sighting can be seen as extremely important. The description of the UFOs, that they looked like the Flying Flapjack, matches that given by Arnold. And, it matches that of the photographs taken by William Rhodes, about two weeks after the Arnold sighting was reported in the newspapers.

To look at all this from the perspective of someone who accepts the idea of extraterrestrial visitation, this information is important. First, those earlier sightings show that something was happening before Arnold. Second, Rankin’s report reinforces Arnold because Rankin described an object that resembled the objects Arnold saw. Third, the Rhodes photographs further reinforces Arnold because it is another sighting from another part of the country that resembles what Arnold saw. None of these men knew one another and each reported his sighting independently of the other. The timing is interesting because all the sightings were within a month of each other, suggesting that they were seeing something real. Each of these sightings seems to support the other, and then add in those sightings from May and early June and a very interesting and realistic picture emerges. Everything suggests that what is
The Rhodes Photograph, July 7, 1947
being seen is something that was not created on Earth.

But, looking at all this from the other side of the spectrum, that is from the skeptical side, we must note that Rankin didn’t make his report until after Arnold. Rankin, in fact, mentions Arnold which means that he was aware of Arnold’s sighting and Arnold’s description of the objects. Rhodes’ photographs were taken over two weeks after Arnold’s sighting, which means, if they were faked, Rhodes had the information about what the objects looked like. While none of the men knew each other, the Arnold sighting was reported around the country. It is clear that Rankin know about it before he made his report, and Rhodes, coming after Arnold, certainly could have been influenced by it. While it is true that neither man knew the other, it is also true that those following Arnold could easily have drawn their descriptions from him.

The final point here is that the government investigators on this case pawed through Rankin’s mail. While I suppose, since it was third class mail and the envelop was unsealed it was legal for them to look at it, that still doesn’t mean they should have gone through it. I suppose the legal definition would be no expectation of privacy because of the classification of the mail and the open envelop.

For those interested, the Air Force finally determined that Rankin had seen birds. To me, it seems ridiculous that a pilot with 7000 hours of flight time would be fooled by birds. If he was unfamiliar with the sky and what to expect, had he seen the birds under unusual conditions, then it might be conceivable. But there was nothing in the weather reports to suggest that viewing conditions would have obscured birds to the point where the Rankin would be unable to identify them.

At any rate, this is one of the sightings made before Arnold that appears in the Project Blue Book files. For those keeping score at home, in the great AMC analysis of these early sightings, this is Incident No. 29. I don’t know how the sightings were assigned numbers. Arnold was Incident No. 17.

Although this is another of those pre-Arnold sightings, it wasn’t reported until after Arnold. Had there been documentation for it prior to Arnold, it would be a valuable observation. After Arnold, it is interesting, but nowhere as important.


Anthony Mugan said...

It is fascinating the read about these very early cases. Best wishes for your ongoing efforts in this regard.
The challenge is, as always, in the evaluation of this sort of evidence. In terms of the Rankin sighting, for example, we don't seem to have any data that would allow a reasonable estimate of altitude to be made. This makes it difficult to rule out the birds hypothesis, however unlikely such a misidentification may seem (stranger things have happened).

We shouldn't be too distressed by this. We know that very few cases happen to occur in such a way as to have really good quantitative data attached to them. We must also allow for the fact that it is perfectly reasonable that the Arnold case would have encouraged people to report similar experiences, with serious studies all tending to show the incidence of actual hoaxes as being quite low. The major problem is the mis-identification issue, and the tendency for observers to radically misjudge things like distance, speed, elevation etc without some assistance from landmarks or equipment etc to give a frame of reference.

It would be really amazing if a sighting of a disc definitively prior to Arnold and with enough data to rule out alternative possibilities could be found at this distance in time. Very best wishes for your efforts in this direction

Kurt Peters said...

Very thought-provoking. Thank you.

....I must confess to a little worry that simply since there is no actual published media evidence predating the Arnold sighting, we should discount any post-Arnold timeline claims of pre-Arnold sightings. As this subject is SO not totally understood, I wonder if Dave Saunders postulated statistical 'Remarkability' concept might be of use here...

KRandle said...

Kurt -

It would be nice to have some documentation for those sightings prior to Arnold in some form from that period. I'm not advocating that we reject, out of hand, those sightings, only suggesting that some things might have been contaminated because of Arnold. That's why I mentioned that the Air Force accepted the dates of those sightings as real.

The thing is, I know that some sightings would have been forwarded to ATIC because they would have been made by military pilots and given the circumstances, inquiries would have gone up the chain of command. We find hints to that stuff in the records, but the sightings themselves seem to have disappeared.

Anthony Mugan said...

The short answer is no.
Statistical treatment of UFO data set has been done a number of times with interesting results. It needs a large data set and other conditions to be met. It isn't suitable for studying individual cases or small groups of cases. At first sight if something is reported that seems really odd the most likely explanation is an error in perception.

Wade said...


I may be out in left field on this, but while I'm not sure about ETH, the problem I have with sceptics is their assumption that EVERY anomalous sighting is either a hoax or an error in perception, regardless of reliability of witnesses or the circumstances involved.

For me a lot of skeptics (not all) are like academics who will absolutely blast a new theory in their field without addressing it's particulars. Occasionally, the new theory becomes the new paradigm.

I find UFOs/UAPs endlessly fascinating, and I don't fully understand the skeptic mentality. What do they get out of their constant, aggresive sniping and bashing?

I guess it does make comment sections either exciting or appalling, depending on point of view.

At times I wonder if there is a skeptics point system that they keep score with. Perhaps there is a skeptics fantasy troll league.

Kurt Peters said...


..yes I understand your point.

I also recall that Dave Saunders was hired by Condon to be part of his USAF Blue Book review contract, and that after working in that environment Saunders became a whistleblower, releasing the infamous "the trick would be" Low Memo that demonstrated the fraud perpetrated on US taxpayers by USAF contract managers and University of Colorado administrators....

BUT.... all that aside, Saunders tried to find a way to evaluate low sample size information. (His finding that sighting reports followed NOT a local time pattern, but rather Absolute Sidereal Time is certainly interesting)

So allow me to simply rephrase my concern that the approach you suggest is akin to throwing out the baby to keep the bath water....

RobertIII said...

Kevin: overall, after reading most of the CUFOS reading list and quite a few of your books, I find that I agree with a skeptical approach (not a dismissive or debunking one). As I have been pondering this topic for nearly a year, filtering and vetting reports, something not done in the more sensational books and publications is critical to even getting to the point of a hypothesis of any sort. False data corrupts a hypothesis.
After my reading, I came to the following conclusion - that single witness reports and any report from anyone even remotely unreliable just have to be dismissed. Examples per your books are "repeaters," con artists and magicians (Gulf Breeze as an example), and those who are familiar with UFO literature, etc. Overall, your books do this quite well and add some authority.

I read Leslie Kean's book and did some further searches on JAL 1628 and discovered via web search that the pilot had UFO literature contamination, refused a fighter escort due to the Mantell incident here in KY, and wrote a book afterwards. The book is fact, but again due to the nature of the subject, the other pieces could be dis-info published by a debunker or contaminated as a joke, etc.
It makes it a tough subject, and these early, single-witness sightings, even tougher.
At present, my leading historical favorites come from Ruppelt and Blue Book (F-94 intercept over Michigan, with Pilot and Radar Operator visuals, ground radar and fighter fire control radar contact) and the Coyne Huey incident in Ohio.

Cheers and keep it up / Robert

Daniel Transit said...

Good luck, RobertIII with finding any human being on this planet who everyone agrees is not "remotely unreliable." Given the often-mentioned changes between the two editions of Ruppelt's book, some will (I do) consider him to be at least "remotely" unreliable as a source of information.

As far as equating "repeaters" with con artists and magicians goes, I recommend any doubter of the fact that multiple UFOs can be honestly witnessed by the same person or people familiarise themselves with Project Identification. See:

RobertIII said...

Daniel: have been looking for the Rutledge book for some time and am interested in reading it.

Again and again, you run into the possibility of iffy data and the requirement to filter it. And finally, the primary problem with UFO's - that individual sightings are essentially not repeatable and thus cannot be duplicated. I remain interested : )


Anthony Mugan said...

Wade and Kurt
Hello..I do tend to agree that all to often very good evidence is disregarded. A good example is the Colorado Commission treatment of the Ellsworth / Bismarck case. On the other hand I would argue that at at time were ufology has to establish itself yet as a credible area of study this issue is less in loosing what may be valid cases through too stringent a set of criteria for evaluating evidence, but rather the reverse. The challenge is to extract the baby from bath water, or to extract a signal from the noise.
It is very counterproductive to not heavily discount cases in which alternative conventional explanations can not be effectively ruled out. This is undoubtably a very stringent filter and not many cases pass it, understandably as we are dealing with whatever data was coincidentally captured at the time. There are enough that do pass,in my opinion, to establish a primae facie case that 'something is going on' and we can then look at wider patterns
The more extreme sceptical position is a different matter and will not be affected by any amount of evidence ( and you can usually find some reason for disregarding almost any piece of data) but in terms of moving our understanding forward the noise in the current data set is lamentable.

Anthony Mugan said...

Must admit I am far more impressed by the Japanese Airlines case than yourself. I am not convinced that exposure to UFO literature makes one unreliable. Everyone in this discussion, from all perspectives, would fall into that category and many millions of people will own UFO literature. It is not therefore surprising to find such people represented in the group of UFO witnesses. I am also not sure if turning down fighter escort ( wasn't aware such an offer had been made,although I haven't read Terauchi's book... Do you have a primary source for that?) diesn't strike me as odd...UFOs tend not to be an actual threat. As to writing a book... who wouldn't after such an experience
Conversely we have hard radar data with expert analysis thanks to John Callaghan which is consistent with visual observations by three credible witnesses from the aircrew. I think this classes as an interesting case. If it turns out to be some natural phenomena, an extraordinary coincidence of different events or something more solid I can not yet say with any confidence.

opit said...

I shouldn't be surprised to find the first response to a story like this would qualify as a 'troll' trying to discredit reasonable assessment. Rather than outright denial, I suspect what is in operation is a procedure of shifting perception of what is reasonable.
This is analogous to 'push polls' where people can be pressured by false perceptions of peer review to accept rather outrageous theories.