Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Chasing More Footnotes

I have complained in the past that I am becoming less than thrilled with the UFO community. The reasons for this are varied but come down to a couple of basic ideas. One of those is that no matter how often a case is proven to be a hoax, a misidentification, a misinterpretation, or an inability to recognize the mundane, there are those who will argue the point forever. A recent post was partially inspired by this. How many times do we have to delve into the Oliver Lerch tale when everything that can be found points to an invention of the tale rather than a real event?

The point here, however, is that part of the problem is that some people who claim to be researchers or investigators just don’t follow the path to its end. This is what lead to the chasing of footnotes because sometimes the footnote is simply inadequate. Sometimes the information is not complete.

Not to pick on Richard Dolan, but just the other day as I was looking for something else, I noticed a couple of problems. These sorts of things are not restricted to Richard because we all have
Richard Dolan. Photo copyright by
Kevin Randle
fallen into the trap. On page 16 of his UFOs and the National Security State, he reported on a sighting by railroad engineer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who saw ten shiny disks on June 23. His footnote leads us to a number of sources, which cover a number of sightings in that same paragraph. Unfortunately, the information about the Cedar Rapids sighting is wrong, as I have noted in an earlier posting. The report was not made until after the Arnold sighting, was apparently for the afternoon of June 24 rather than the 23, and the railroad man was not in Iowa, but in Joliet, Illinois. Among those who reported this information as Dolan had, were Dick Hall and Frank Edwards. I believe Hall got it from Edwards, who must have seen something in the Cedar Rapids Gazette about the sighting a couple of days after Arnold. Edwards, or those others, had not followed the story to the source, or they would have found the discrepancies.

As I say, not to pick on Dolan, but later, on page 25, he wrote about Bill Brazel and the finding of the metal debris from the Roswell crash. The footnote takes us to Stan Friedman’s Crash at Corona in which he quotes from an interview with Bill Brazel. The quotes are accurate, for the most part, but there is no footnote to explain how the information was gathered because Friedman supplies no information about that. The trail ends there.

However, I know how that interview was conducted because I had
Stan Friedman. Photo copyright by
Kevin Randle
arranged it, and Don Schmitt and I were there. I recorded it. The more accurate footnote would have taken us not to Friedman’s book, but to UFO Crash at Roswell, where the footnote explained the circumstances of the interview. In other words, the original source was that interview that Don and I conducted and not the information printed in Friedman’s book.

A side problem with this is that Friedman altered one portion of the interview without justification. Those who follow Dolan’s footnote to Friedman will get the inaccurate information… Friedman inserted the word “black” into the interview to describe one the sergeants who came to the Brazel ranch to collect the bits of debris Bill had found. Brazel made no reference to the racial identity of those four men but Friedman inserted the word to bolster the Gerald Anderson fairy tale. You can read the whole story here (if you are so inclined):

This problem is not confined to UFO research. I was looking for information for a post on the new version of the Treasure Quest show and found a couple of sites that provided what seemed to be accurate information. Reference was made to someone named C. H. Prodgers and in this day of the Internet, I thought I would find out what he had said about the treasure.

Twenty-five years ago, I couldn’t have gathered the information. True, one of the articles referred to Prodgers, but in the world today, I was able to find a copy of Prodgers’s book online. I didn’t have to rely on what others had written about it. I could read it for myself. And, I found that much of the information published, that referenced Prodgers, was incorrect. After all, they were quoting Prodgers as the source, but what Prodgers had written did not match what they were reporting. Could Prodgers have been making up the tale of the treasure? Sure. But that didn’t matter because he was the original source. He was writing from the point of view of having been there, lived the adventure, and there wasn’t much documentation that preceded him. The others were quoting him as their source.

That is, I chased the references to the ultimate source. I corrected the errors made by others who had used the same source, and came away unimpressed with the information. It reads more like fiction than fact and there really is nothing to back up the story. And now that the first season is over, we have seen a large number of problems with this treasure hunting quest.

So, now you’re wondering how all this relates to Ufology. It is about getting to the original source. In the past, the only way to do it was go to the location or find a library that had the proper resources in its collections. You had to read the microfilms and search endlessly for the articles. That is what I had done with the Cedar Rapids story. I could search the microfilm of the Cedar Rapids Gazette and I found the original article about the railroad man and his UFOs. Took about an hour. Had I lived elsewhere, I might not have found it… until I could make an Internet search.

Here’s another example. As I point out in another post, Don Keyhoe, in writing about the 1948 Mantell case, got some bad information and therefore some of his conclusions wrong. He didn’t have access to the documents available to us online today. He assumed that the timing of the events fit into a specific sequence. He assumed that the times given in various reports was when the object was seen over that specific town. What this means that the sighting of the object from Madisonville, Kentucky, wasn’t of an object overhead as Keyhoe believed, but of one to the northwest. The claim that the object was over the Godman Army Airfield tower as Keyhoe believed, is not true. The documents in the Blue Book files proved that the men in the tower saw the UFO somewhere to the southwest at the very limits of human ability to see it. Given those two facts, Keyhoe’s estimate of the speed was way off. That’s not Keyhoe’s fault. He was relying on information that had been reported to him orally rather than seeing what the documents said. He couldn’t have reviewed those documents easily until 1976.

Those who cite Keyhoe’s estimate of the speed have not followed up on the information which was published in the early 1950s. Had they done so, they would have realized that his claim the object was moving at 180 miles an hour was badly flawed. Information available today gives us a much clearer picture. This isn’t to fault Keyhoe because he was relying on the information he had, but to fault those who haven’t bothered to update the information when they began their research.

What all this means is that in the world today, we can look much deeper into the past. We have access to nearly all human knowledge through the Internet. We can study newspaper files in cities hundreds or thousands of miles away (though some services require a subscription). The files of Project Blue Book are on line for all to review… and there are other sources of information about Blue Book that we have today that Keyhoe and others in the 1950s and 1960s didn’t have.

There is then, no real excuse for continuing to report information that is out of date or inaccurate. We can clear up these things by taking our research to the next level, which has always been the real point of chasing footnotes. This isn’t about “gotcha” but about cleaning up the information so that we can come to the proper conclusion. It isn’t about making someone look bad, but about searching for the answers to the mystery, whatever that mystery might be.

While I find chasing footnotes to be fun, I guess there are those who can’t be bothered with following the trail. They already know the truth so there is no need to search any further for it. Why clutter up a good UFO report with a lot of facts that provide us with an identification? Sometimes, however, we do learn something important about a case, which is why I do what I do. I just wish that there wasn’t a constant fight inside Ufology, protecting the sacred cows, when the facts take us somewhere else. 

I can cite examples here. Tales that are told and retold by those who are enthusiastic about their favorite cases. They ignore facts that don’t fit into their view of the world. They know the “truth,” and the facts be damned.

The airship crash in Aurora, Texas, in 1897 proves the point. The evidence and documentation shows that the story was invented by a stringer for a Dallas newspaper. Other documentation, in the form of histories of Aurora or Wise County where Aurora is located, that were published within a couple of years of the alleged crash mention nothing about it. Had such an event taken place, even if it didn’t involve a craft from another world, these histories would have contained some information about it. There is none. But we still have to listen to tales of the Aurora, Texas, UFO crash and put up with television documentaries in which they are digging “for the truth.” Of course, when they’re done, they have not advanced our knowledge. They have just added another level of nonsense to the tale.


vonmazur said...

Well, You have nailed it...Years ago I wondered why there were multiple versions of the same story..

Unknown said...

Very well stated - so much of the UFO community is caught up in a need to "believe". It borders on religious fanaticism. Healthy skepticism along with an open mind in conjunction with the scientific method would clear the decks of a lot of tired old cases.

John Steiger said...


QUERY -- How are "healthy" skepticism ALONG WITH an open mind not a contradiction in terms?

Is there such a thing as "healthy" skepticism?

And, if so, how can it coexist with an open mind?

KRandle said...

John Steiger -

Because an open mind allows you to examine evidence without a preconceived notion, and skepticism means simply that we question the facts to see where they lead. We don't reject them because we don't like them nor to we accept them because we do.

So, yes, there is such a thing as healthy skepticism, and yes, it can coexist with an open mind.

Unknown said...

Hi Kevin,

You mention R.Dolan in your piece and he just did another Youtube, this one about crash retrievals.


Dolan says he thinks there have been up to 20 actual retrievals.

Just curious to know how many, if any, retrievals you think might have occurred.


John Steiger said...

Dr. Randle (Kevin):

Thank you. I appreciate your answer very much.

To me though, skepticism implies doubt. Not to belabor the point, but I am having a hard time reconciling the existence of a truly open mind along with the presence of any doubt at the point of initiation of an inquiry into a set of facts.

Is it not biased to have the presence of doubt (skepticism) BEFORE or PRECEDING the initial factual inquiry and examination of the evidence? [Please note: I am not stating that doubt or skepticism should not come into play, but I question at what juncture in the process of evidence examination is it fair for doubt (skepticism) to first arise].

Byron Weber said...

There are terms that describe this phenomena you address that were presented from an historical perspective by Julia Galef in a TED Talk. She states scientists call it "motivated reasoning." Essentially, she says each of us have unconscious motivations she refers to as a "mindset," relating it to war and distinguishing the difference between the mindset of the soldier and the scout. The scout cannot have a preconceived mindset in gathering information. Conversely, the soldier does have a preconceived mindset, that the enemy is the bad guy, and so she calls it the "solder's mindset," that translates to a needed survival mechanism motivated by fear. Sometimes we slip into the solder's mindset just simply due to the unconscious fear of being wrong, and so, we do not always chase the footnotes. Most are solders, Kevin and a few others are the scouts.

Sugarraytaylor said...

Another strong entry in your Chasing Footnotes series, Kevin.

Unknown said...

I’m using the term “skeptical” as in approaching any given case agnostically. Ultimately the evidence has to speak for itself. Any other approach introduces irrational bias. Gut feelings and beliefs have no place in a scientifically grounded investigation. Being open minded requires one to be prepared to accept all potential eventualities.

KRandle said...

Byron Weber -

I call it belief structure. A person tends to identified an ambiguous stimuli in terms of his or her belief structure. If you believe in alien visitation, then the identity of that stimuli is alien spaceship. If you believe in ghost, then ghosts is the answer. Just thought I would mention it.

KRandle said...

John -

Skepticism is about questioning everything until the evidence is in. Too many times, a UFO investigation begins at the point where the researcher believes that the UFO was a spacecraft and looks for confirming evidence. Skepticism suggests that alien spacecraft might be the answer, but searches for the evidence that will help to solve the riddle. I believe that a true skeptic will look at the accumulated evidence and if there is no solid answer will say, "I don't know what it is." The believe says, "Since I can't find an answer in the mundane, then alien spacecraft." The debunker (as used in our arena) says, "There is no alien visitation therefore anything that suggests otherwise is in error."

Or, at least that is what I think. I also think that we should approach every UFO investigation as a skeptic and I believe that it is right for skeptics to search for answer in old cases to see if our modern technology provides an answer that wasn't available decades ago.

KRandle said...

hetz -

I have said for a long time that I thought there might be five... but I think Las Vegas was, in fact, a bolide, which removes it. Shag Harbour was not a crash, but a forced landing, if Chris and Don are right.

The other thing is that even 20 suggests the UFOs are falling out of the sky... and at this point you'd think that one would have crashed out in the open where it could not be concealed. Richard is wrong about the number.

Adam S. said...

Great post Kevin; it is always nice to see a UFO researcher discussing this!

This is why in academia there is something called Peer Review and it would be refreshing to see this actually applied to a published UFO work.

Then again, how do you set up a review panel in a subject where anyone and everyone can become a so-called expert? Who would sit on the review board? The guy wearing a robe with a collection of crystals around his neck, the woman who claims to be the reincarnation of Cleopatra, maybe the dude who hypnotized himself by staring into a mirror for too long.

I hate to be pejorative but in the current state of things, I do wonder...

John Steiger said...

Mark: Thank you very much for your Oct. 19 response. I appreciate it.

Dr. Randle (Kevin): Thank you also very much for your response as well. I really needed some clarification on this, so consequently I am very appreciative of it.

John Steiger said...

Dr. Randle (Kevin): Since you have provided an answer to hetz as to how many UFO crashes there MIGHT be (= 5), can you please identify them?

Eliminating Las Vegas, leaves me with just Roswell (which you now doubt) and Kecksburg (which I believe you also doubt).

Thank you very much for providing this EXTREMELY IMPORTANT clarification. John

Brian B said...

I find it interesting that we are discussing “the number of actual UFO crashes” (or call them saucers, spaceships, ET craft, or whatever) in light of a conversation about “chasing footnotes” and using healthy “skepticism” with an open mind.

While the “number” of actual crashes is thought to be perhaps five(?), I’ve got to point out there is NO definitive PROOF of these so-called “crashes”. Speculation? Yes. Circumstantial evidence that something may have crashed? Perhaps.

But in coming up with a specific number of actual saucer crashes without having first any conclusive evidence seems to be just what this article is suggesting people NOT do. If a person is determining a specific number of ET crashes without having any proof of them, then isn’t that doing exactly what must be avoided? Using your bias that aliens exist and therefore at least some small number of crashes must therefore represent the actual “crashing” of an alien spacecraft when in fact it’s unprovable with what we know at present?

Wouldn’t it be better to say at least X number are “theorized” based on what we currently know instead of concluding they really DID occur?

Paul Young said...

John Steiger...
Until the Kecksburg "thing" is publicly displayed then, by definition, it is a crashed "UFO" that has been retrieved.

KRandle said...

Paul Young -

I would disagree here. At the risk of offending my friend Stan Gordon, and since you labeled it a crashed UFO that had been retrieved, I say that it is not those things. We have a story of something falling near Kecksburg, but we have no solid evidence that anything did. On the other hand, there is documented evidence that a bolide did fall over that area at about that time. Photographs of the train and material from the meteor were recovered in Canada (if I remember correctly...). So, until the thing is displayed, we really don't have much of a sighting here, and I'm not sure we have anything such as a retrieval.

Let the howls of indignation begin (no, Paul, not from you but from all those who believe three was a retrieval).

Paul Young said...

I've no doubt that a bolide did hurtle to Earth around that time. (Wasn't it estimated to have landed in Canada somewhere?)

...but I'm talking about that thing (some witnesses say) was able to slow down in mid air and adjust its own flight path (20 degree turn?) before making a relatively gentle landing...and then, seemingly, being carted away by the military.
This wasn't a meteor.
It was something, hitherto unidentified, that was capable of controlled flight in our atmosphere, crashed, and was taken away by the military, never to be made available for public viewing in the 54 years since.
In other words, "A UFO crash retrieval".

John Steiger said...

Paul Young: I agree with you (and Stan Gordon) and respectfully disagree with Dr. Randle about Kecksburg.

Brian Bell: I merely made a public request to Dr. Randle for a list of his POSSIBLE UFO crashes which have not been conclusively eliminated as non-UFO. A true list of such would be severely winnowed down, yet even this you cannot let be. Instead you mount a general attack pointing out the unproven nature of any and all UFO crashes across the board.

This is unhelpful where searching for the truth is concerned. Each alleged UFO crash is an individual event and should be assessed on its individual merits or lack thereof. First we need to determine the list of remaining possibilities and then examine each and every one of them thoroughly before coming to a general conclusion as you have jumped to.

Frank Adams said...

I'll defer to LTC Randall here, but there are certainly plenty of open minded skeptics. Most better Scientists (Einstein, Feynman, Kepler) and engineers/inventors (Franklin, Edison, Moore) are naturally skeptical but always keep an open mind about what they're trying to figure out or build.

Its the big difference between Science and faith, Science requires falsifiable hypotheticals, if you can't prove or disprove a claim using evidence or observation or accept that your claim has been falsified then your claim is based on faith alone. Feynman called that "Cargo Cult Science" and it's an apt description. It goes through the motions but it's not scientifically rigorous usually because the ideas can't be falsified.

Which is my big problem with a lot of UFOlogy, we're supposed to accept certain things unquestioningly when they've either been totally falsified or there's simply not enough evidence either way and the UFO orthodoxy cant stand it when people act in a way they see as heretical. It's akin to the pre-reformation treatment of heretics by the Church.

Personally, I believe in the ETH, but it won't be proven until there's absolutely airtight irrefutable proof and that has not happened yet. And relying on the records of US Government and Armed Forces security and intelligence programs for that proof is a fool's errand, but that's a whole different topic there.

Brian B said...

@ John Steiger

Well you did say “might” exist so I’ll give you that.

My cautionary remark is just a reminder to not follow through with emphasizing that there ARE actually five (or more) “ET crashes” that exist. We don’t know that.

They are not ET until that’s proven, and so far no conclusive evidence has been brought forward to confirm that these crashes were spacecraft of some sort.

Is there witness testimony? Sure. There are some first-hand witnesses and also some who claimed to be, but who we know actually fabricated their testimony or were plain mistaken.

And haven’t these supposed crashes already been investigated John? I mean these aren’t new cases. In fact there aren’t any new cases.


I doubt that whatever crashed at Kecksburg, if anything did actually crash, was an alien spaceship.

I do recall witnesses claiming that the military was involved, and that they were seen that evening in Kecksburg and also at the supposed crash sight.

But we have nothing else to really go on in this case. Just various observations which may or may not lend credence to the fact that something might have crash landed.

Without documents, debris, photos, military reports, etc. we can only relegate this case to the most obvious likely explanation — people saw a bolide and mistakenly believed it was piloted into a controlled landing.

Byron Weber said...

I hate to be a spoiler, but I must comment. An advanced civilization with the ability to travel light years or through dimensions does not waste the resources, time and whatever money they possess, to go to an alien planet (earth in this case) and crash. The only exception might be to provide technology? The idea is absurd. We are a child civilization, maybe 8k years old. Imagine a civilization 10's of thousands or millions of years old. Come on, what the heck are we talking about? How can anyone believe aliens crashed a spaceship or probe on earth?

KRandle said...

Byron -

I would say that any technology, no matter how advanced, is subject to technology failures or sentient mistakes... maybe once, but these nearly endless lists of two, three hundred crashes, is absurd.

I also think that any advanced civilization, that discovers another, especially on the verge of stepping into space, would be interested in observing that developing race as a matter of curiosity. That would suggest alien visitation, though certainly not on the scale that is claimed, unless travel of interstellar distances has become, for them, a ridiculously easy proposition.

However, I tend to agree with you about rarity, which is to say, the near impossibility that there have been crashes. There is a possibility, but it is remote, and evidence for it must transcend the testimonies of those involved in the retrieval... in other words, we need something much more tangible.