Thursday, January 19, 2023

Chasing Footnotes - The Kevin Randle Edition (Sort of)


Well, this isn’t exactly chasing footnotes but it comes close. Curt Collins sent me an email about a photograph that had accompanied a magazine article that I had written in the 1970s. This was a time when there were half a dozen magazines that were devoted to UFOs and I was writing articles for them to, at first pay my college bills, and later to earn a living. Curt wrote:

I'm hoping you can answer a question, hopefully an easy one. Your article, "The Truth about the 1957 UFO Flap," Official UFO, March 1977, labeled as being by Kirby. 

Your article, "The Truth about the 1957 UFO Flap," in Official UFO, March 1977, labeled as being by Kirby. I suspect this is a photo from somewhere else, but if it is from Kirby, can you verify it and tell me where you found it?


Two of his photos were submitted to the Air Force, and as far as I know only one has ever been published. I came across an ad that stated there were 6 photos by Kirby. So, if this is one of the others, I'd love to know about it.


I looked at the picture and had no memory of having submitted it. I did recognize some of the other pictures with the article. They had come from the Project Blue Book files. I believe now that the editor of the magazine, or one of the other staff members, had found the picture and included it with my article.

The magazine picture that began the hunt.

I did remember, however, that I had seen the picture before. In my mind, I could see that it was on the cover of a magazine. I don’t know why I had such a clear memory of it and it took me about ten minutes to find the magazine. It was in a file of random UFO magazines, meaning simply that I only had an issue or two of the magazine, rather than the number I have for others such as UFO Report or UFO.

I scanned the cover and emailed Curt a copy of the cover and the title page that provided information about the publisher, which, I suspect, was of little help. Other than learning that the picture was in a magazine for 1968, this did little to make an identification.

Not long after that I received an email from Curt that said he found the original story. It said:

RCAF pilot Childerhose Canada 1956 Photo over the Canadian Rockies near Ft. MacCleod, Alberta by Canadian Air Force pilot R. J. Childerhose.

A Royal Canadian Air Force pilot while flying in a 4 plane formation at an altitude of about 11 km on 27-Aug-1958 [sic], saw and photographed a bright disc, that was remaining stationary between the clouds.

From a letter to Philip Klass: “I had the object in good view for upwards of 45 seconds. It was stationary, with sharply defined edges. Looked like a shiny silver dollar sitting horizontal. The light emitted was much brighter than the existing sunlight and overexposed the film causing the blurred edges in the picture… It neither moved nor changed shape while I had it in sight.”

From a letter to Dr. James McDonald: “the photo of the bright object doesn’t represent quite what appeared to the naked eye. When I first saw the object it appeared as a very bright, clearly defined discoid, like a silver dollar lying on its side. The photo makes it look like a blob of light, the result of light intensity. It appeared much brighter than that (sic) of the sun which, of course, was setting behind the clouds up ahead. What appears in the Kodachrome slide is a disappointment, really.” It was in good view for some minutes because I looked at it trying to figure out what I was seeing and I called the attention of the formation to it before remembering that I had a camera in my leg pocket.”

That wasn’t the end of it for me. Curt supplied the photographer’s name and provided the information from a story about the picture. I used that and learned more about Childerhose. It turns out that the pilot held several aviation records and was a respected airman. Dr. Bruce Maccabee investigated the photograph several years ago and published a paper about what he had learned. You can read the paper here:

Included in that paper was an affidavit completed by Childerhose about the event. Rather than retype it here, following is that affidavit.

I will note that this is an interesting case now that we have more information about it. It’s the sort of case that AARO would investigate if it happened in today’s environment. And think about it. A multiple witness sighting that has a photograph for additional support. Information could be derived from the photograph that could improve our overall knowledge.

Anyway, I will note that the cover of the magazine doesn’t provide us with the best look at the photo, but it does give us a clue about the case. Given that the picture was taken nearly 70 years ago, there isn’t much we can do with it today. And had it been taken today, there is so much more we could have done with it. Here, however, is the journey I took to get to this point, sparked by Curt Collins and my memory of seeing the magazine cover.


Curt Collins said...

Kevin, thanks again for your help identifying this picture. The J. G. Kirby photo was also from 1956, and I'm guessing the magazine editor just grabbed the wrong picture by mistake. Faulty "footnotes" like this can make things very confusing decades later.

KRandle said...

Curt -

You're probably right about the editor put the wrong caption on the picture. I can't count the number of times that an editor, not overly familiar with the topic made simple errors.