Monday, February 19, 2018

A Skeptic at the 2018 UFO Congress, Part 1

So, once again I am attending this year's International UFO Congress in Fountain Hills, Arizona, near Phoenix, sometimes billed as the world's largest UFO conference (although Contact in the Desert seems to have overtaken it). I won't necessarily discuss every speaker, or every movie shown, just the more interesting ones.

T. L. Keller

The first speaker on Wednesday, the first day, was T. L. Keller, who worked as a computer systems analyst at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. His talk was titled Spacecraft Carriers – Extraterrestrial or Terrestrial? Assuming, of course, that Spacecraft Carriers (like Aircraft Carriers, but much larger) actually exist. His "research" is based on such credible sources as George Adamski, Michael Salla of Exopolitics, Bill Tompkins, Steven Greer, and Felix Dzherzinsky. (Keller said that he had reservations about Adamski's claims of UFO contact, but British author Timothy Good assured him that Adamski's stories are substantially true.) After all, the UFO that abducted Travis Walton was itself a "spacecraft carrier," by his own account. Keller showed a number of blurry and dubious photos, in addition to Adamski's photos, and the Petit-Rechain hoax photo from Belgium. His hypothesis: Both E.T. and human Spacecraft Carriers exist, using anti-gravity technology. There are human bases on the moon, and on Mars.

Cheryl Costa
The next speaker was MUFON's Cheryl Costa, who started out with an informal presentation of dubious and mostly blurry UFO photos. As for shapes of UFOs, she showed that there are dozens of them. Statistics have shown that the number of UFO reports in recent years has been going up, up, and up. She presented statistics broken down by states and counties. It appears that leisure time and temperate weather correlate with a greater number of UFO sightings (which should not come as a surprise). One result of her statistical analysis is that UFOs are not hanging out around nuclear reactors.

Cheryl said that she talks regularly with Ralph Blumenthal (co-author with Leslie Kean of the New York Times story about "Glowing auras" and the Pentagon UFO business), who promises that there is much more info coming.

Great Big Alien

Dr. Bob Gross
Dr. Bob Gross spoke next. His main claim is that the Kecksburg "crashed UFO" was supposedly an errant film canister from a just-launched Corona spy satellite. It supposedly was maneuvring all around changing direction, and dropped hot debris that started grass fires. He heavily relies on Ventre and Eichler (2015), who had a similar wacked-out theory about an errant missile launch.  Unfortunately for Gross, the once top-secret Corona project files, declassified and released after about 30 years, completely contradict all of his claims. Both of the film buckets were recovered in the Pacific Ocean two days later (and not in a forest in Pennsylvania). But Gross has a ready answer for this: the files were all faked. And of course, no way would the film bucket have sufficient propulsion to enable it fly thousands of miles off-course, and zig-zag all about. The zig-zagging is deduced from eyewitness accounts, which Gross calls "direct evidence." Gross, a relative newcomer to UFOology, has a lot to learn about "reliable witness testimony"!

He says that a "nuclear experiment" was on board, and implies that it was radioactive and dangerous. He already knows that's not true, because we went over this argument a few months earlier. The experiment was a "nuclear emulsion," which is not itself radioactive. It is just a film plate sent up to try to capture cosmic ray strike images. He also claimed that the earth had an artificial radiation belt created by nuclear testing, which would come as a surprise to most space scientists.

 Hollywood writer and producer Bryce Zabel, who spoke to the UFO Congress in 2012, spoke about "Fear and Loathing on the Trail of the Saucers." It was his personal account of 25 years of making many UFO and alien themed programs for movies and TV, including Dark Skies on NBC (1996). His main "bombshell," such as it was, was to reveal the name of the government official who reportedly confessed to working in an a secret underground lab near Washington, DC where aliens are kept. This confession was revealed 30 years ago to Zabel's colleague and partner Brent Friedman, and the name of the government official reportedly was - ta da - John S. Herrington, former Secretary of Energy in Ronald Reagan's second term. Apparently Mr. Herrington is still living, although I was not able to find an email address to contact him for his version of the story. Perhaps some enterprising researcher will be able to contact him to confirm or deny this.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Book Notes: "Belgian UFO Photos" and "The Children of Roswell"

BELGIUM IN UFO PHOTOGRAPHS. Volume 1 (1950-1988)

This is a new book by longtime researchers Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos of Spain and Wim Van Utrecht of Belgium examining photos of purported UFOs from Belgium prior to 1988. One never would have thought that there existed so many UFO photos in a small country like Belgium, but here they are!
Analysis of "light pillars" seen in the sky
The authors' release note states,

The book is a documented history of four decades’ worth of UFO incidents that we have investigated, weighing the evidence for real anomalies that might be occurring in our atmosphere. Though only a small country in Central Europe, Belgium’s rich UFO heritage serves as a representative sample of UFO phenomenology worldwide, as any UFO student will quickly realize. The analyses to be found in this volume will perfectly fit to cases from other regions of the planet.
The book has over 400 pages, 366 illustrations (pictures, diagrams, maps, sky charts, etc.) and, in addition to case stories, investigation and image forensics, it contains a statistical review of the cases that were studied. This is FOTOCAT Report #7 and, like the rest of the series, it is available free online at the following link:
Especially for book collectors, printed book lovers and libraries, a softbound, large format edition in full color has been published by UPIAR (Turin, Italy). It can be purchased through the publisher’s website at:

The printed book costs 40 Euros. There is a Forward by James Oberg, who writes,
Without taking sides on selection of explanations, Vicente-Juan Ballester-Olmos and Wim van Utrecht have been practicing a methodology of research that—were it far more widespread—could help determine the better theories from the more extreme ones. They are looking at, and recording, the raw data, in painstaking detail and depth, to provide current and future researchers with the rarest and most valuable resource in any mystery, authentic clues.
I think that Oberg has nailed it here. The most impressive aspect of this volume is its painstaking methodology. Even if you're not interested in little-known retro UFO cases in Belgium, the book is worth looking into just to see how the authors go about their investigations. Van Utrecht explained to me that 84 photographic cases were investigated in the first volume, and 92% of them could be explained as conventional objects or hoaxes. The remaining 8% "could not be properly assessed because of lack of information." We read about a streetlamp UFO,  ice pillars, mosquito pillars (!), and other unusual phenomena, as well as hoaxes.
Investigation of a purported UFO by a Belgian youth

Note that the photos covered in this book, Volume 1, go only up to 1988. The famous "Belgian UFO Wave" began in 1989, and is planned to be written about in the next volume. That one will get a lot of attention, I am sure!

CHILDREN OF ROSWELL by Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmidt
(Wayne, NJ: New Page Books, 2016)

This book came out right on the heels of one of the biggest fiascoes in the history of UFOdumb, the so-called "Roswell Slides" in 2015, where Carey and Schmitt tried to convince the world that two photos of a body in a glass case showed a dead alien from Roswell. Within days of the photos being released to the world, skeptics showed that it was, in fact, the mummified body of a two-year-old Native American boy. If Carey and Schmitt had any integrity, they would have apologized profusely, covered themselves in sackcloth and ashes, and in any future UFO-related writings they would have explained what mistakes led to that fiasco taking place. Instead they mumbled something in their defense, and slinked away. Many people were curious to see what they would say in this book to perhaps justify their spectacular mistake. We now have the answer: nothing whatsoever. They say nothing in this book about their role in the recent "Roswell Slides" fiasco, and pretend it never happened.

One of the two "Roswell Slides" promoted by Carey and Schmitt
The government's great Roswell Conspiracy, according to Carey and Schmitt, is much bigger and more sinister than you ever imagined. In the original version of the story, as told by Berlitz and Moore, when rancher Mac Brazel brought some debris he found into town, nobody knew what it was, and the Army Air Base sent two officers out to gather more samples.

But in this latest telling of the fable, the government conspiracy has grown to be much larger and more sinister than before. Before Brazel brought the debris into town, he gave samples to some of his neighbors. Soon everyone and his little brother in the town of Corona had crash debris samples. They were even placed on display at a Fourth of July rodeo, where they "stole the show." Souvenir hunters went out to gather up their own samples. "Neighbors hid their bounty in caves, in water tanks, under floor boards, in sacks of feed, in fruit sellers, and even inside jars of canned peaches." Wow!

Somehow the government found out about this alien debris, and went into panic mode. "The White House resembled a war room, as unscheduled meetings continued to express the utmost concern for what had fallen out of the sky in New Mexico," a statement that seems to have no substantiation except in the authors' overheated imagination.

The government allegedly decided to make an all-out effort to recover every last piece of it, including those that had been hidden away in private hands. Civilians were reportedly told, "If you say anything, you will be killed. And your entire family will be killed as well." TV host Ben Hansen, who should know better, writes about the book: "We now know that the American government stooped to the lowest level of humanity by going so far as to issue death threats to child witnesses." But just because somebody makes a claim of government harassment doesn't mean that it's true.

Carey and Schmitt even go so far as to claim that skeptical Roswell investigators Robert Todd and Karl Pflock were part of the government coverup - "standard procedure within the U.S. government's 'damage control' phase of containment." If you like your conspiracy stories big and bold, this book is for you.