Monday, April 23, 2018

Why I'm Beginning to Dislike the UFO Field - Part Four

I was going through old files with an eye to weeding out the nonsense, the useless, the outdated and the duplications. As I was doing that, I turned over a newsletter from December 1996 and on the back found a note that I hadn’t seen before. It explained that I hadn’t been invited to participate in the Roswell 1997 celebration because I had libeled someone. My first reaction was that is a strange barb to throw at me considering all the false allegations that had been tossed my way over the years, including some from those on the committee to invite the speakers to the celebration.

But, I got to thinking about this and wondered to what it could refer. Back in that era, 1997, I did a monthly column for the Roswell Daily Record about all things UFO. I was asked to provide the column and I received no pay for it. I just thought it was a good avenue to promote the UFO situation as I understood it and to expose some of the nonsense that lingered in the field.

At one point, in that time frame, I was in the newspaper office when one of the editors approached me saying that they couldn’t run the latest column. I had libeled Dr. Donald Menzel in it. I pointed out that I had libeled no one and what I had written about Menzel was true… an absolute defense in a case of libel.

He didn’t want to debate the point even when I said that I could offer the evidence. He didn’t care because he saw it as libel. I then said that you can’t libel the dead and that since Menzel was a public figure, the threshold for libel was much higher. He didn’t care about that either and I told him he was free to print the column or reject it but I hadn’t libeled Menzel or anyone else.

And then I wondered if this could refer to the stories told by Gerald Anderson, he of the Plains of San Agustin crash. He claimed as a small boy he had been on the crash site and told a wonderful story about it, giving us the name of the archaeologist who was there, Dr. Winfred Buskirk. We, and by we, I mean Tom Carey, located Buskirk so that we had the chance to interview him. Buskirk, of course, said that he hadn’t been on the Plains in July 1947 because he was in Arizona doing research for his Ph.D. thesis. When I talked to Buskirk, he said that he had been a teacher at the Albuquerque High School and according to the school records, Anderson had been in his archaeology class… We had now connected Buskirk and Anderson, not on the Plains of San Agustin in 1947 but in the Albuquerque High School about ten years later.

Anderson, of course, denied the connection and even produced a Xerox copy of his high school transcript to prove he hadn’t taken Buskirk’s class but the real point is that we had put them into the same school at the same time. When we asked for a copy of that alleged transcript to be sent directly to a disinterested third party for verification, Anderson absolutely refused. It was obvious to most of us that Anderson had modified the transcript to validate his claim and actually hadn’t been very clever about it.

So, I was telling people that Anderson had lied about his high school class and his high school association with Buskirk. It was obvious that he had forged this document (and I have other documents that he forged as well) and it was clear that his tale of seeing a crashed alien craft on the Plains was complete fabrication. I was calling him a liar in the hopes he would sue me for saying those things. In discovery, as part of the lawsuit process, I would be able to get an official high school transcript to prove that Anderson was in Buskirk’s class and Anderson knew that would happen.

While it could be claimed that I had, in fact, libeled those people, the truth was a little more complicated than that. As I mentioned, the truth is an absolute defense so that all I had to prove was that Anderson had lied, and I had the documentation to prove it. The real problem was somewhat deeper than that.

From the left, Don Schmitt, Walter Haut and Max
Littell. Photo copyright by Kevin Randle.
Around that same time, I was in the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell. Max Littell, one of the founding members along with Walter Haut and Glenn Dennis, came flying out of a back-office yelling that I was only in this for the money and that I wrote science fiction (I wonder where he had heard that?).

Truth be told, in all the various presentations I had made in Roswell, I always returned the honorarium to the hosts, taking only my expenses, except for the last time. I don’t know of any other researcher who has done this, and at the time Littell was shouting at me, I had not only donated money to the museum, I had arranged for a set of UFO magazines to be donated to them, which, of course meant that I had paid for them… and I never received a thank you for any of that.

But Littell had a bee in his bonnet about something and continued to make false statements. I think it all relates to the Jim Ragsdale tale that Littell began to push around that time. Ragsdale claimed that he had seen the object fall, had seen the bodies of the alien creatures, and had witnessed the military retrieval operation. Littell and Ragsdale entered into some sort of financial arrangement with an eye to developing the land where this alleged UFO fell. The trouble was that the site Ragsdale originally pinpointed was not the site that he and Littell were pushing at the time. I was a thorn in that idea because I knew what Ragsdale had originally said and had a tape of that interview. Later, it became clear that the Ragsdale tale was just that, a tale, with no basis in reality but in 1997 the financial rewards for Littell and Ragsdale were great. They had collaborated on a booklet about the case. Littell’s assault seemed to have grown out of that.

The point here isn’t all the nastiness involved, not to mention the false allegations about money or the suggestion that somehow writing science fiction disqualified me from UFO research (an allegation that only seems to apply to me because I had never heard any other researcher who has written science fiction to be disqualified by that same allegation).

The real point here is that you must toe the party line. You are not allowed to suggest that something might not be as accurate as thought and you must never question a witness story. You are required to believe it, all aspects of it, no matter how strange or ridiculous it has become. Deviate from that and you are a “debunker” whose mission is to divert attention from the truth, a pawn of the CIA, probably on their payroll, and to undermine the true stories being told that suggest alien visitation. Never mind where the evidence points, you are required to embrace it all whether it is crop circles, cattle mutilations, abductions, contact with the space brethren or any of the other sub-genres that can be appended to the UFO field.

I’m not sure who planted the story that I libel people, but I have a very good idea who it was. It was just another attempt to destroy my credibility because I didn’t happen to agree with some of his beliefs about UFOs.

As I mentioned earlier, this all began when I found that note on the back of a newsletter. I just thought I would mention it in the off chance that we all might be able to reduce the animosity in the field even if we disagree with one another, but I have little hope of that happening, given some of the emails I have received in the last few days… oh, I don’t take them seriously… I do read them and save them because you just never know when something said by someone in those emails will become important in proving a point at a later date. 


cda said...

People have different views on what constitutes libel. Also, what is libellous in the UK may not be in the US, and vice-versa. Newspapers get scared of columns that may be libellous because of the huge 'compensation' that may be awarded. I assume that this is usually far higher in the US than in the UK, even when the victim is nobody important. Certainly you cannot libel a deceased person, in either country.

As to UFO authors writing SF, Donald Keyhoe did write aviation fiction long before he ever penned any of his UFO books. I don't believe this ever disqualified him from expressing his strong UFO ideas upon the public. If anything it counted in his favour, at least in his first two books.

KRandle said...


Yes, the laws in the US are different from those in the UK. Yes, newspapers are afraid of lawsuits... but there was nothing libelous in the article I had written about Menzel, and since he was dead (and was a somewhat public person) he a. couldn't be libeled and b. the standard is much higher in those circumstances. My point was that the editor didn't wish to engage in a conversation about it, and that the rumor that I libeled people was untrue. (Well, I did call Gerald Anderson a liar since he claimed to be a Navy SEAL but was not... his name even appeared on their Wall of Shame... I showed a copy of this to Stan Friedman.)

My point was that there are those who have suggested that since I write science fiction and can invent imaginative scenarios, that my analyses of various UFO related cases can be ignored. I have never heard this applied to anyone else who have published books on UFOs and of science fiction including Nick Pope and Bruce Maccabee to name but two. I will note that many of the members of th Science Fiction Writers of America are well known and working scientists who have an interest in science fiction. No one suggests that because they write science fiction their work in their fields of science is somehow tainted.