Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Jimmy Carter's UFO Sighting - Was it Venus, or a Space Cloud?

 A NASA rocket launch with a barium payload.

A UFO sighting was reported in 1973 by at-that-time future president president Jimmy Carter. It didn't attract much attention at the time. I began investigating the case in 1976, when Carter was running for president. However, there was no accurate information available to make it possible to find out what Carter saw. I began making various inquiries, looking for someone who might be able to provide some facts on the case. Finally, someone suggested that I contact Hayden Hewes, director of the International UFO Bureau, who had written a brief piece on the Carter sighting for Argosy UFO [Nov., 1976]. I reached Mr. Hewes by telephone at his home in Oklahoma City, and it was he who provided the first significant lead. When brief press reports appeared during the big UFO flap of 1973 to the effect that Governor Carter had previously spotted a UFO, the International UFO Bureau mailed a UFO sighting report to Carter at the State Capitol in Atlanta. Carter apparently filled out the form in some haste, his handwritten replies brief and not easily legible. He then mailed it back to Oklahoma. Mr. Hewes was kind enough to lend me a photographic transparency of the 1973 report in Carter's own handwriting.

It turns out that the sighting occurred in Leary, Georgia, about forty miles from Carter's home town of Plains, on the evening of January 6, 1969. (Carter mis-remembered the date as sometime on October, 1969, but I contacted the Lions Club headquarters in Illinois, which established the date as January 6). The future president was then the local district governor of the Lion's Club, and had come to Leary to boost the local chapter. While standing outdoors at approximately 7:15 pm, waiting for the Lion's Club meeting to begin, Mr. Carter reported seeing a single "self-luminous" object, "as bright as the moon," which reportedly approached and then receded several times. A reporter taped Carter's exact words in 1973 describing the UFO sighting. Carter said, 
There were about twenty of us standing outside of a little restaurant, I believe, a high school lunch room, and a kind of a green light appeared in the western sky. This was right after sundown. It got brighter and brighter. And then eventually it disappeared. It didn't have any solid substance to it, it was just a very peculiar-looking light. None of us could understand what it was. I've never made fun of people who've seen other things of that kind (From the documentary recording Factual Eyewitness Testimony of UFO Encounters, Chicago: Investigative Research Associates, Inc., 1978).
A copy of Carter's hand-written UFO sighting report, that I obtained from Hayden Hewes.
Although Carter reports that "ten members" of the Leary Lion's Club also witnessed the event, attempts to locate ten other witnesses proved fruitless. No one else seems to have paid much attention to the "UFO." While most Leary residents I interviewed did recall Mr. Carter's visit, even those who attended the meeting had no recollection or knowledge of any unidentified object being sighted.

I began making inquiries of various UFO researchers, looking for someone who might be able to provide some facts on the case. Finally, someone suggested that I contact Hayden Hewes, director of the International UFO Bureau, who had written a brief piece on the Carter sighting for Argosy UFO [Nov., 1976]. I reached Mr. Hewes by telephone at his home in Oklahoma City, and it was he who provided the first significant lead. When brief press reports appeared during the big UFO flap of 1973 to the effect that Governor Carter had previously spotted a UFO, the International UFO Bureau mailed a UFO sighting report to Carter at the State Capitol in Atlanta. Carter apparently filled out the form in some haste, his handwritten replies brief and not easily legible. He then mailed it back to Oklahoma. Mr. Hewes was kind enough to lend me a photographic transparency of the 1973 report in Carter's own handwriting.
Mr. Carter reports that his "UFO" was in the western sky, at about 30 degrees elevation. This almost perfectly matches the known position of Venus, which was in the west-southwest at an altitude of 25 degrees, azimuth 237 degrees. It was shining brilliantly at Magnitude -4.3, brighter than anything else in the sky. Weather records show that the sky was clear at the time of the sighting. Given the long history of Venus as "Queen of the UFOs," it seemed that we had the clear solution on hand. I wrote in  The Humanist magazine (then edited by Paul Kurtz), July-August, 1977 (p.46)

President Carter's "UFO" Is Identified as the Planet Venus

President Jimmy Carter's widely-reported "UFO sighting," which he made public while Governor of Georgia, was in fact a misidentification of the planet Venus. Several errors of identification within Mr. Carter's report demonstrate that the eyewitness testimony of even a future president of the United States cannot be taken at face value when investigating UFO sightings.

The incident occurred in Leary, Georgia, about forty miles from Plains, on the evening of January 6, 1969. Mr. Carter was the local district governor of the Lion's Club, and had come to Leary to boost the local chapter. While standing outdoors at approximately 7:15 pm, waiting for the Lion's Club meeting to begin, Mr. Carter reported seeing a single "self-luminous" object, "as bright as the moon," which reportedly approached and then receded several times. Mr. Carter reports that his "UFO" was in the western sky, at about 30 degrees elevation. This almost perfectly matches the known position of Venus, which was in the west-southwest at an altitude of 25 degrees. Weather records show that the sky was clear at the time of the sighting.

No other object generates as many UFO reports as the planet Venus. Venus is not as bright as the moon, nor does it actually approach the viewer, or change size and brightness, but descriptions like these are typical of misidentifications of a bright planet. Every time Venus reaches its maximum brilliance in the evening sky, hundreds of "UFO sightings" of this type are made. At the time of the Carter UFO sighting, Venus was a brilliant evening star, nearly one hundred times brighter than a first-magnitude star.

And for the most part, serious UFO researchers accepted this identification. After all, Jacques Vallee, who is certainly no debunker, had written,
No single object has been misinterpreted as a "flying saucer" more than the planet Venus. The study of these mistakes proves quite instructive, for it shows beyond all possible dispute the limitations of sensory perception and the weakness of accounts relating shapes and motions of point sources or objects with small apparent diameters. (Challenge to Science, 1966, p. 110).
The southwest sky as seen from Leary, Ga, at 7:15 PM January 6, 1969. The Bull's Eye shows the calculated position where a barium cloud might have been visible, quite close to Venus. (Sky chart generated using the free open-source program Cartes du Ciel.)

So there the matter stood for forty years. Then just a week ago, an associate of space writer and skeptic James Oberg contacted him, suggesting the possibility that what Carter might have seen was a bright barium space cloud from a NASA rocket, launched to study the behavior of the upper atmosphere. In fact, this possibility was discussed in episode 561 of the popular skeptics' podcast Skeptics Guide to the Universe on April 9, 2016, although neither Oberg nor I was aware of this. I was familiar with such launches, and even saw one in the 1970s when I was living in Maryland. (Frankly, the one I saw was not all that bright or spectacular.) 

James Oberg made this map, showing the location of Leary, Georgia, and the path of the rockets.
It turns out that there were in fact two rocket launches from Eglin AFB in the Florida panhandle on the evening of January 6 that might possibly have been seen from Leary. The first one was launched at 6:41 PM, and contained Barium, which would usually appear red. The second was launched at 7:35 PM, and contained Tri-methyl aluminum (TMA), which would appear white or blue. Each would have become visible about 3-4 minutes after launch, and might have remained visible for 30 minutes or more. Carter said that he was "Outside waiting for a meeting to begin at 7:30 PM." If that information is correct, it would seem to rule out them seeing the second launch. However, the cloud that became visible about 6:45 PM might still be visible at 7:15. And that cloud would have been right next to the brilliant Venus!

Supporting the Barium cloud hypothesis are Carter's statements that the object "Seemed to move tow(ard?) us from a distance - Sto(p?) move partially away Return then depart Bluish at first - then reddish - Luminous - not solid.

Against the Barium cloud hypothesis is Carter's statement that the object was "sharply outlined."

More research needs to be done before we can conclude that a Barium space cloud was definitely responsible for this famous sighting. But it seems an intriguing possibility.

For a lot more information on the Carter UFO sighting, see my book UFO Sightings - The Evidence (Prometheus, 1998) and my page on the Carter sighting on Debunker.com.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Leslie Kean's new Infrared UFO Video from Chile - Solved?

Leslie Kean is a well-known UFO writer, author of UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record (2010. See my review of it here).

In recent years Kean has been working with the CEFAA, an official organization within the Chilean Air Force to investigate UFOs (similar to the now-disbanded Project Blue Book in the U.S. Air Force). In 2012, she promoted a newly-released "UFO video" by CEFAA, asking provocatively "Is this the case UFO skeptics have been dreading?". In the end, the much-hyped "UFO" turned out just to be a fly buzzing near the camera, and all those Chilean Generals and Pilots and Government Officials who pronounced it authentic were full of baloney.

The now-retired blogger Kentaro Mori explained in 2011 that the CEFAA's supposed "world's best UFO photo" appears to be nothing more than a reflection on a car windshield.

This photo taken in 2010 near the El Yeso Reservoir is the "world's best UFO photo," according to the CEFAA.
After that embarrassment, for a long time one didn't hear much about Leslie Kean, or the CEFAA. In May of 2015, Kean announced another marvellous UFO video received from the CEFAA. She wrote
The CEFAA, a government agency investigating unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) within the department of civil aeronautics (DGAC) in Chile, has released a summary of its meticulous investigation into the relatively recent “AGA case.”  The acronym “AGA” refers to the prestigious Air Force War Academy (Academia de Guerra Aérea) in Santiago, Chile, which provides training for high level Air Force officers.

The sighting of unexplained lights in formation at the Academy was video taped on two cell phones. Due to technical problems, the videos are not accessible on the CEFAA website.
By "technical problems," she apparently means that none of the Chilean Generals, Pilots, or government officials could figure out how to upload a cell phone video to a website. However, since that video only showed indistinct lights in the sky, taken on a shaky camera, practically nobody else got excited about this case.

But now she is back, big time. The CEFAA recently released a new UFO video, some of it using infrared imaging, and it quickly became the #1 trending item on Facebook. In a January 5, 2017 article on the Huffington Post, Kean wrote
An exceptional nine-minute Navy video of a UFO displaying highly unusual behavior, studied by Chilean authorities for the last two years, is now being released to the public. The CEFAA - the Chilean government agency which investigates UFOs, or UAP (unidentified aerial phenomena), has been in charge of the investigation. Located within the DGAC, the equivalent of our FAA but under the jurisdiction of the Chilean Air Force, CEFAA has committees of military experts, technicians and academics from many disciplines. None of them have been able to explain the strange flying object captured by two experienced Navy officers from a helicopter.

The object and its "envelope," according to astrophysicist Luis Barrera.
UFOlogist Ted Roe is a member of NARCAP, the group that investigated the CEFAA's fly video and pronounced it to be an unknown object. Roe posted to a Facebook discussion of the current video, "Our experience w CEFAA has been pretty good. .. they've got a pretty strong college of experts and, at first glance, this case is provocative" (ellipsis in original). Apparently by describing his experience with the CEFAA as "pretty good," that means "we made fools of ourselves over this video of a fly." (Roe is currently embroiled in a nasty controversy concerning how he allegedly drove Isaac Koi, an outstanding researcher, out of UFOlogy.)
CEFAA caption: "The object moved away from the massize plume it ejected just moments earlier. "
In France, a group called IPACO specializes in "Analysis of photo/video documents of alleged ufos."  They investigated this video, and produced a sixteen-page report, completed November 26, 2015. They performed a highly technical analysis of the video. Their conclusion: "The object observed in the video was most probably a medium-haul twin jet airliner in a landing phase, flying ahead of the helicopter at a higher velocity, with a low altitude and a low velocity, in view of landing."

IPACO updated the CEFAA's map to show the calculated path of the presumed aircraft (blue). The red line shows the helicopter's path.
And now Mick West of Metabunk seems to have driven the final nail into the coffin of the great Chilean IR UFO video. After explaining how all of the aspects of the video are consistent with that of an aircraft, West writes
This looks like a plane, flying away from the camera considerably higher than the helicopter (somewhere around 15,000 to 25,000 feet), that briefly creates an aerodynamic contrail.

The plane that seems to fit best is LA330, a two engined A320, which was reported to be climbing through 20,000 feet at that exact visual position at 14:01:39. It was actually 65 miles away, not 35-50. This explain[s] why it was not seen on radar (the actual plane was on radar, just not where they thought it was)
As the French skeptic Gille Fernandez noted, we have a situation here where a major UFO case was solved by 'amateurs' in two or three days, after having been unsuccessfully investigated by "experts" for two or three years. The same thing happened with the "Roswell slides" in 2015

Leslie Kean doesn't agree with this at all. On January 7 she wrote on her Facebook page
There are many holes in this flight LA330 hypothesis. First and foremost is that the Chilean authorities would have easily determined this to be the explanation if indeed it were.
Those same Chilean "authorities" who gave us the El Yeso reflection UFO and the El Bosque fly UFO video? She has a lot more confidence in them than I do.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Recanting Roswell?

Recalling the previous posting about the dueling 70th Anniversary Roswell UFO conferences coming up in 2017, this would seem to indicate that the Roswell crash story's stock is rising. (Veteran Roswell researcher Kevin Randle reminded me that there were also two competing UFO conferences going on in Roswell for the 50th anniversary celebrations back in 1997. At that time there were two UFO museums operating in Roswell.)

However, the following would seem to indicate that Roswell stock is falling,  or perhaps has even itself crashed. In the British publication Fortean Times (issue 346 published October 2016), there is a review of Kevin Randle's latest book, Roswell in the 21st Century, written by Jerome Clark. (I've completely lost track of how many books Randle has written, fiction and nonfiction. He once told me that for a while he had his own Book of the Month club - that is, he wrote twelve books in twelve months!)

Kevin Randle (left) with the author in 1977. Weren't we young and handsome back them?!!
"Quest UFO" was a short-lived publication edited by Randle, intended to take an objective look at the UFO phenomenon..
Clark's review is titled "Recanting Roswell Certainty," a provocative title to say the least, especially as it concerns Randle, one of the most dedicated long-term promoters of the Roswell incident as an ET saucer crash. Clark says that
Roswell in the 21st Century, which never insults one's intelligence, is noteworthy for being the first recantation by a major figure in the controversy, now nearing its fourth decade.
"Recantation?" That's a pretty strong word.

In my Bad UFOs book, I quoted Karl Pflock's 2001 book Roswell – Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe. Pflock  demonstrated inconsistencies such  that of the just four people publicly identified as witnesses to alien bodies, “not one of the purported firsthand witnesses to alien bodies and a lone survivor is credible. Not one.” (Pflock, p. 118-120).

In this review, Clark continues:
Randle was initially taken with what seemed to be credible evidence. Eventually (as I did), he grew doubtful of that evidence, especially as it concerned the supposed recovery of dead aliens. Of the eight claimants (he spoke directly with all) who said they had observed such bodies, Randle writes, "not one [..] turned out to be telling the truth."
So Randle has raised the number of those who lied about seeing alien bodies at Roswell from four to eight, and there never were more than eight. This completely undercuts the need for bizarre ET or non-ET explanations for alleged alien body sightings at Roswell. Stalin and Mengele sent in deformed children in a Commie Nazi saucer: Annie Jacobs. The U.S. Army flew in dwarfish captured Japanese pilots in a bizarre craft: Nick Redfern. The Air Force dropped crash test dummies in the desert: U.S. Air Force. All of these highly implausible explanations are unnecessary, because there are no truthful accounts of alien bodies at Roswell to explain.

Randle doggedly pursued the Holy Grail of alien evidence at Roswell for more than thirty years. When he realized it wasn't there, he was brave enough to admit it.

But we should appreciate that Clark also shared Randle's gradually increasing wisdom:
Randle and I evolved, if separately, in the same direction: initial sympathy, growing doubt, at last a virtual certainty that whatever took place in New Mexico nearly seven decades ago, a crashed spacecraft did not precipitate it. Nor, for that matter, did a weather balloon.
He mentions his growing skepticism twice to make sure we get the message. Because to Jerome Clark, it's always about him. Let me remind the reader what Clark was writing during the heyday of Roswell belief. In the March 1991 issue of Fate magazine, Clark predicted that after the publication of two forthcoming books on Roswell by Randle/Schmitt and Friedman/Berliner, 

Major media - not just the usual tabloid papers and television shows - will pick up the story and recount their own investigations, which will confirm the ufologists' findings.
How did that prediction work out, Jerry? 😃

By a curious coincidence, if indeed it is a coincidence, soon after I read the Fortean Times review, Randle contacted me to ask if I'd like to be a guest on his new radio show. I happily accepted. He said we could talk about my new book, and I said I'd like to talk about his, as well. Here is the soundtrack of that show, recorded December 14, 2016 and first broadcast on December 17:

We discussed many things about UFOlogy. I won't take the time to summarize them, you can listen to the show above. Randle is pretty skeptical about alien abduction claims. I asked Randle if Clark is correct that Randle had interviewed all eight persons who claimed to have seen alien bodies, and found none of them were "telling the truth." He confirmed it.

I asked Randle, if he no longer thinks that the Roswell incident was extraterrestrial, what does he think it was? He said he really doesn't know. It wasn't E.T., but it wasn't a Mogul balloon, either. Randle then launched into a critique of skeptics being unskeptical because they insist that the debris found was from the once-secret Mogul spy balloon project, when the evidence supposedly proves that it was not. Thus skeptics are, he says, as illogical as the ET believers.

I recalled that there had been some claims that the specific Mogul flight cited as the source of the Roswell debris could not have landed where that debris was found, because of wind directions and such. But that was not what Randle was talking about. He insisted that Mogul's Flight 4 was never launched, because there is no official record of its launch, and a researcher's diary entry suggests that it was not launched. Now I had not been following the details of that argument and could not argue against it. I said that I did not insist that the debris must be from Mogul, if it could be conclusively shown otherwise. Randle himself had stated that balloons carrying radar reflectors were being launched all over the country, on a regular basis. I suggested that the Roswell debris could be from one of these. He insisted that it would have been immediately recognized if it were. Perhaps so, but perhaps normal objectivity might be lost in a time of Flying Saucer excitement.

After that show, the debate over Mogul Flight #4 generated considerable discussion among skeptics on Facebook. The point was that Randle's argument is based on a particular interpretation of conflicting notes and data concerning Project Mogul, and is by no means an ironclad proof that Mogul Flight #4 was never launched. Much hinges on the interpretation of whether a "cluster of balloons," that everyone agrees was launched at that time, describes a complete balloon array as was apparently found. For those interested in the details, Tim Printy gives the full, convoluted story about the disputed Mogul flight, "Crashology's Last Stand."   (scroll down to page 5). Randle has since written more about this. Be sure to read the comments for more debate on the Mogul controversy. In any case, it is far more likely that ambiguous record keeping has been misinterpreted and that Mogul Flight 4 was actually launched, than that some unknown craft of whatever origin crashed near Roswell.

Christmas presents might be a bit late this year - Santa's helpers had a little accident. Happy Holidays to all!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Roswell: Two UFO Conferences Coming Up in 2017 - SIMULTANEOUSLY!

2017 will be the 70th anniversary year of the so-called "Roswell Crash" (as well as the Kenneth Arnold sighting - and thus Flying Saucers themselves). And preparations are already underway to observe the anniversary in proper style. (Are they ever!).

Ad for this year's Roswell UFO Festival

For a number of years, the Roswell UFO Museum has sponsored a UFO Festival each year around the anniversary of the original "incident" in early July.   The 2017 program has not yet been finalized.  It is scheduled to run from Thursday, June 29 to Sunday, July 2, 2017. Speakers at the 2016 festival included (among others) Stanton Friedman, Kathleen Marden,  Donald Schmitt and Thomas Carey (in spite of their recent Roswell Slides fiasco), Ben Hansen, Derrell Sims, Yvonne Smith, and Travis Walton.

The theme of next year's Festival is, "70 Years Later: Modern Challenges to the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis," which sounds surprisingly skeptical.  Jack Brewer wrote in his blog The UFO Trail that he has been invited to speak at this conference, and that other confirmed speakers include Greg Bishop, Dr. Michael Heiser, Joseph Jordan, Guy Malone, and Nick Redfern.

But this year there will be a rival event. The town's newspaper, the Roswell Daily Record, is sponsoring an event, The Roswell Incident, running from Friday, June 30 to Sunday, July 2. This is a special event to commemorate the 70th anniversary. Among the speakers will be Nick Pope, Lee Speigel, Alejandro Rojas, and Race Hobbs.

Quite frankly, I am unable to think of any other instances where there were two simultaneous, and potentially rival, UFO conferences in the same city. (And Roswell isn't much of a city!) Will there be enough eager conference-goers to successfully fund both events? Will these two groups be able to coexist without feuding? (I'm told that relations between them are quite cordial, even cooperative, at least so far). And more importantly, will anybody at either of these conferences come up with any credible new information about the Roswell incident that has any significance? Or will it be just more of the same old, same old - extraordinary claims with little or no proof? Whichever it is, this will be interesting!

And hold the presses: MUFON has just announced,
We are pleased to announce the 2017 MUFON Symposium July 21-23,
at the beautiful JW Marriott in Las Vegas, NV

Our Theme will be "The Case for a Secret Space Program"

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The 'Mirage Men' Meet Richard Shaver

In UFOlogy today, the term "Mirage Men" is understood to signify supposed shadowy government agents who, for inscrutable reasons, are allegedly tricking the public not by "debunking" UFOs, but creating belief in UFOs and the like. The title comes from a book by the British author Mark Pilkington, Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare, and UFOs

In 2013 the book was made into a movie of the same title, written by Pilkington, directed by John Lundberg,  Roland Denning, and Kypros Kyprianou. The movie's website describes it as:
How the US government created a myth that took over the world.
 UFOs: weapons of mass deception... For over 60 years teams within the US Air Force and Intelligence services exploited and manipulated beliefs about UFOs and ET visitations as part of their counterintelligence programmes. In doing so they spawned a mythology so powerful that it captivated and warped many brilliant minds, including several of their own. Now, for the first time, some of those behind these operations, and their victims, speak out, revealing a true story that is part Manchurian Candidate and part Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Mark Pilkington
Next was Mark Pilkington, whose book (now also a movie) Mirage Men purports to show how military and intelligence operators have shaped and exploited belief in UFOs. He called his talk "The Abuses of  Enchantment." I would have to say that Pilkington is not a man who gets directly to the point.

While I can agree that such involvement has been shown to happen a few times, including incidents outside the United States - for example, he cites a Rand Corporation paper on exploiting local superstitions - I don't see how this has any real significance for our understanding of the UFO circus. I had only a brief opportunity to speak to him afterward. I said I didn't think such instances were of much significance to the UFO scene as a whole, and he agreed. I think what he was saying was that military and intelligence involvement was responsible for shaping the public perception of a UFO cover-up, which is at least partly true. Like I said, he doesn't get directly to the point, but if you can figure out what he means he seems to be pretty skeptical. Somebody asked him about crop circles - are there any that are not of human origin? Pilkington's answer: no, except for a few simple ones which may be of meteorological origin. (Thus none are made by aliens.)
I would also suggest that, from my limited interactions with John Lundberg, and from knowing of his connection with the deliberately enigmatic Crop Circle makers, he is also "not a man who gets directly to the point." 

From the standpoint of the skeptic, these are interesting claims. There are no ETs, and government Spooks created belief in UFOs. The problem is that, upon close examination, their evidence is very "soft." It suggests a possible involvement of intelligence agencies in a few cases, but no clear motive behind it, and no solid proof that agencies led (or mislead) the public to create belief in UFOs.

Ironically, James Oberg has documented several clear-cut instances of government agencies encouraging public belief in anomalous celestial phenomena - but in the USSR, not here. For example, on September 20, 1977 thousands of people in northwest Russia and in Finland saw a brilliant object in the pre-dawn sky that came to be known as the "jellyfish UFO." He notes how a party-controlled periodical (there were no other kinds at that time) published an article by a chemistry professor, claiming that the people had in essence seen "swampsky gas," luminescent industrial effluvia. The Soviet leaders preferred to have the public believe that absurdity, rather than admit it was a rocket launch from a secret space facility that officially did not exist.

One researcher who has been promoting the Mirage Men concept in a big way is James Carrion, who served as the International Director of MUFON from 2006 to 2009. I heard Carrion give a talk in 2008, and spoke with him a bit afterward. I realized at once that he was very different from the typical MUFON leader. Not even willing to defend Holy Roswell as an E.T. event, he was far too independent a thinker to fit in well at MUFON. It was no surprise when Carrion and MUFON went their separate ways, with him proclaiming that the UFO phenomenon "is based in deception - of the human kind."  He cited several very interesting examples of such deception, although none of them involved official agencies (see my book Bad UFOs, p. 4).

After promoting the Mirage Men hypothesis on his blog for several years, on August 20, 2016 Carrion claimed  to have found a 'smoking gun' that demonstrates "Human Deception at Play during the UFO Wave of 1947". Carrion cites
James Carrion
A July 21, 1947 FBI memo from E. G. Fitch to D. M. Ladd, Subject: Flying Discs detailed how Colonel Carl Goldbranson (misspelled Golbranson) of the Intelligence Division of the War Department advised Special Agent S. W. Reynolds of the FBI’s Liaison Section that the War Department had received the following telegram:

New York, NY July 5 Major Paul Gaynor AAF Hqts Wash DC
“For Further Details Concerning Flying Disks Suggest Immediate Contact Of (blacked out) Illinois Who May Have Important Information Concerning Their Origin.” Unsigned.
In it, Col. Goldbranson
desired the Bureau conduct some investigation of Shaver to determine whether or not he has any information pertaining to the origin of the flying saucers.
This, says Carrion, "unequivocally documents the connection between US strategic deception planners and early UFO events by relating how Colonel Carl Goldbranson petitioned FBI assistance in investigating UFO events. Goldbranson was a WW2 member of Joint Security Control and one of its principal deception planners." Jack Brewer promoted Carrion's findings in a posting on his Blog The UFO Trail, titled "Mirage Men Conclusively Linked to UFO Summer of '47."

June, 1947 issue - published just before Kenneth Arnold's "flying saucers" burst upon the world

On Aug. 23, I posted the following comment on Carrion's Blog:
Goldbranson "desired the Bureau conduct some investigation of Shaver to determine whether or not he has any information pertaining to the origin of the flying saucers."

So, am I correct in understanding that Col. Goldbranson was asking the FBI investigate Richard Shaver to see what he knows about the origin of the flying saucers? Shaver, the guy who claimed that underground robots are fighting in caves?

This marks Goldbranson as an obvious crank.
Carrion seems not to have noticed that Goldbranson was in essence asking the FBI to investigate the "Shaver Mystery," a well-known series of crackpot stories about all kinds of impossible things. In his classic 1952 book Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science [Chapter 5], Martin Gardner explains : 
drawing on his "racial memories," Shaver described in great detail the activities of a midget race of degenerates called "deros" who live in huge caverns beneath the surface of the earth. By means of telepathy and secret rays, the deros are responsible for most of the earth's catastrophes - wars, fires, airplane crashes, shipwrecks, and nervous breakdowns.

Carrion replied to my comment,

Robert...I don't think you can describe the guy who planned the D-Day deception plans as well as the deception plans for the invasion of Japan a "Crank". Actually, your logic is nonsensical. For example, during WW2, the allies recruited an astrologer to try and influence Hitler and went to great lengths to have this astrologer's predictions "come true" to bolster his credibility. That did not make the deception planners cranks. The deception planner's goals cannot be diminished to simple guilt by association, just because you don't understand the overall goals of the deception plan.
 To which I replied,
If Goldbranson actually thought that Shaver's writings were anything other than 100% fiction, then he was a crank. Or thought that the FBI could learn anything worthwhile from Shaver.

So, is this the entire "proof" of "how Colonel Carl Goldbranson petitioned FBI assistance in investigating UFO events"? That he asked the FBI to interview the wacko Shaver?

Anyway, if nobody knew about this request, it wouldn't be any good as a "deception".
On August 25, Kevin Randle's blog A Different Perspective published a guest post by researcher Brad Sparks, questioning Carrion's conclusions. Sparks wrote,
[Carrion's] "proof" is what is now his central figure in the entire plot, a "Col." Carl Goldbranson, and an FBI memo of July 21, 1947, released decades ago.  But Carrion has so far failed to prove that Goldbranson did anything more than ask the FBI to investigate a notorious character who supposedly knew the origin of flying saucers and whose location and timing supposedly coincided with certain incidents in early July 1947.... Carrion apparently missed the fact that it was the infamous Richard Shaver whose name got through the document censors in one place of the FBI memo.  Yes, the Richard Shaver of the lunatic Shaver Mysteries, full of "deros" or "deranged robots" -- the so-called robots who were not actually even robots (how deranged is that?!?) -- and Lemuria tales.

Carrion has failed even to prove that Goldbranson was continuing his wartime deception duties 2 years after the war, in peacetime, in the face of his FBI memo placing Goldbranson in the wrong agency (Army Intelligence), not on the deception staff (Joint Chiefs).

But Goldbranson did not even ask the FBI to perpetrate any deception!  How is asking the FBI to investigate someone amount to carrying out a deception??  Does any of this deceive the Soviet intelligence agencies?  And into believing what?  That a marginal character like Richard Shaver of the Shaver Mystery stories and the "truth" about underground worlds and Lemuria, was a credible bearer of intelligence about flying saucers being US secret weapons??...
Right now, Carrion has not even proved that his crucial proof, Goldbranson, even worked on deception operations in 1947.  Maybe he did, but no such proof is given, it's just hinted at, and insinuated, Goldbranson "would" have been perfect to "fill that billet."  But did he? Carrion makes a crucial mistake in misreading Goldbranson's rank as of mid-1947 (his source seems to say G was a Lt. Col. and not full Colonel until December 1948).  This means Carrion has the wrong guy on the wrong staff of Joint Security Control even by his own argument. 
Carrion published a reply to Sparks later that same day, but I don't think it adresses Sparks' main points.

In my view, those hunting for Mirage Men supposedly promoting the Flying Saucer phenomenon are themselves chasing a mirage.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Kenneth Arnold and Pelicans

There have been various explanations suggested for Kenneth Arnold's very first sighting on June 24, 1947 of what came to be known as "flying saucers" (owing to a famous error, since Arnold described boomerang-shaped objects, not saucer-shaped ones).

The Harvard astronomer and skeptic Donald H. Menzel had several rather unconvincing explanations for what Arnold allegedly saw. According to Wikipedia:
  1. In 1953, Menzel suggested that Arnold had seen clouds of snow blown from the mountains south of Mt. Rainier. According to Maccabee, such snow clouds have hazy light, not the mirror-like brilliance reported by Arnold. Further, such clouds could not be in the rapid motion reported by Arnold, nor would they account for Arnold first seeing the bright objects north of Rainier.
  2. In 1963, Menzel proposed that Arnold had seen orographic clouds or wave clouds; Maccabee says that this conflicted with testimony from Arnold and others that the sky was clear, and again can't account for the objects' reported brightness and rapid motion over a very large angular region.
  3. In 1971, Menzel said that Arnold may have merely seen spots of water on his airplane's windows; Maccabee says that this contradicts Arnold's testimony that he had specifically ruled out water spots or reflections shortly after seeing the nine UFOs. For example, the early Bill Bequette article of June 26 in the East Oregonian has Arnold saying he at first thought that maybe he was seeing reflections off his window, but "he still saw the objects after rolling it down."
The late Philip J. Klass suggested that Kenneth Arnold probably saw Meteor Fireballs. 

The British researcher James Easton was the first to suggest that what Arnold actually saw was a flock of American White Pelicans, the largest birds in North America.  The object depicted above does look somewhat bird-like. But Jerome Clark and many other UFOlogists mocked that conclusion, calling it "Pelicanism." The British Fortean writer John Rimmer defiantly began using the pen name, "the Pelicanist."

The reason I am writing about pelicans now is that I just found out that, unlike many species, white pelicans habitually soar on thermals, like hang gliders, especially when they are traveling long distances in search of food (hat tip to Barbara Graham). And when pelicans are soaring, their wings do not move. Indeed, the author of this YouTube video writes how a "white pelican flock rides the wind over Bayou Corne for 10 minutes and never once flapped their wings."

Another aspect of Arnold's sighting was an unexpected "flash" of light that caught his attention. He said, "they seemed to flip and flash in the sun, just like a mirror.

A fact that few people seem to know is that a flock of pelicans, when soaring, appear to "flash" when their white bellies are turned toward the observer, then fade again as their dark wingtips are turned toward the observer once again. In the YouTube video above, we see the pelicans appear to "flash" at about 57 seconds, then again at about 1:20, 1:42, and 2:00.

Pelicans soaring above Lake Tahoe (www.tahoeculture.com).

Compare the shape of these pelicans soaring over Lake Tahoe with the shape of the object Arnold drew. Remember that when pelicans are riding thermals, their wings do not move.

An amazingly long and detailed investigation, The Singular Adventure of Mr. Kenneth Arnold (147 pages), by the Scottish UFOlogist Martin Shough - tells everything you ever wanted to know about the Arnold sighting. He concludes that the objects Arnold described could not have been birds or other prosaic objects, but does not suggest what he thinks they were.

Compare with Kenneth Arnold's boomerang-shaped object
Starting from Shough's investigation, Martin Kottmeyer wrote Joining Shough's Singular Adventure (see page 28), suggesting that Arnold just might have seen Pelicans after all. (Kottmeyer's interpretation of the term "echelon" is acknowledged to be incorrect). Some of Arnold's statements made the objects sound very much like a flock of birds:
Arnold has been telling us all along that the objects reminded him of birds, but we didn't seem to be listening, with our minds fixated on something else.
 In these interviews with reporter Bob Pratt, Arnold gives us good reason to doubt his credibility. He talks about "mystery submarines," says that his phone line has been tapped, that UFOs may be alive, and they seem to be able to read his mind. He  says he has spotted UFOs "seven or eight times."

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A New Investigation of the 1994 Ariel School Case

It's not very often that you allegedly have 62 witnesses to a supposed UFO landing. As described in UFO Evidence,

On 14th September, 1994, a UFO streaked across the sky over Southern Africa. Two days later, something landed in a schoolyard in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, with three or four things beside it, according to journalist Cynthia Hind. This was witnessed by 62 schoolchildren, who had little or no exposure to TV or popular press accounts of UFOs. Cynthia Hind interviewed them the day after the encounter and made them draw pictures of what they had seen.

The case has since gone on to become something of a classic. The Harvard psychiatrist and UFO abductionist Dr. John Mack (1929-2004) came to Zimbabwe two months after the incident, and spent two days at the school interviewing the children, and the school staff. Interestingly, according to Headmaster Colin Mackie, while there were about 250 children playing outside at the time, only 62 claim to have seen it. However, not all 62 children were interviewed by Hind or Mack.

The object that streaked across sky the sky of southern Africa two days earlier has since been identified: it was the re-entry of the rocket that launched the Cosmos 2290 satellite. And it generated a great deal of UFO excitement. Cynthia Hind, who was editor of the journal UFO Afrinews, wrote fourteen pages about sightings from that incident.

One of the childrens' drawings of what they supposedly saw.
Relatively little critical analysis has been given to this case - until recently. The French skeptic Gilles Fernandez, who has a PhD in Cognitive Psychology, writes the French-language Blog, Sceptiques vs. les Soucoupes Volantes (Skeptics vs. the Flying Saucers). On June 26, 2016 he published the results of his latest investigation of this case. Crediting skeptic "Nab Lator" and unnamed participants of other forums, this is the culmination of work begun in 2010 ( "thanks to Nab Lator who did 95 % of the work on the sources, ufologiques resources (articles, videos, web archives) key passages, and much more"). Nab Lator did an earlier analysis of the case in 2011 on the forum Reality Uncovered, making many important observations that Fernandez builds upon. (Nab Lator was also the one who successfully de-blurred the placard next to the body of the supposed "alien" in the Roswell Slides.) Viewing one of John Mack's interviews with a child, Lator writes,
The boy is coaxed to imagine a rationale, then transpose it into the real world in the next question. A manipulation that is hidden by the editing of short sequences in the video. John Mack is caught red-handed encouraging the child to confabulate, integrate imagination into reality. JM knew that there was no verbal communication, so why did he suggested so heavily a different type of communication? What else than telepathy could it have been? The children did not make up the telepathic message, JM did. It became a "compelling" element of the story, fully validated by the famous Harvard psychiatrist.
Fernandez' article is in French, but Google provides a readable translation of it. He writes, "it is particularly interesting (and telling) to see how the protection and ecology of the planet "appears" in the testimonies of the children when Mack questioned, while this theme was not present in the narratives collected by Cynthia Hind." This strongly suggests that Mack was "leading" the children to create narratives matching Mack's own beliefs and concerns.

Cynthia Hind, and Dr. John Mack

Fernandez also notes that
Interviewing children has been the subject of numerous scientific papers and experiments, adaptations and creations of interview standard protocols, in psychology or criminology, to well avoid or minimize biases that occur when such interviews (or questionnaires) "pollute" the evidence. Cynthia Hind's interview methodology with children is very far from these standards.... Cynthia Hind and an adult (Headmaster?) debrief and discuss "other planets", "space travel", etc. while children are in the room and hear everything ...
He notes that the children were not being interviewed individually, but instead all together:
The child must be interviewed individually (again following proper procedure). Now, in the video-recorded excerpts above, it is striking to see that children are interviewed in a "line" from four to six. Sometimes other children are in the background and listen to another child being questioned. The adults talk to each other or "debrief" while the children are still very close and present ... Also, children hear what others say (including adults), and therefore are likely to influence each other. Even worse, a child who has seen very little or nothing, sees his classmates details and that this is something that greatly interests adults (verbal and non-verbal rewards). This could encourage them to participate in the "game" ...

These collective sessions have therefore enabled children to hear each other and even to copy each other, caught in a game where they see adults and a nice lady interested in the narratives. We must therefore deliver in our turn, not be excluded or unwelcome in this "game" that took place. This potential participation or having participated give a certain homogeneity to the stories and therefore reported details ...
Also, Cynthia Hind conducting the interview is constantly interrupting the children and not allowing the free narrative. We must also wonder if the fact that the interviews as drawings sessions were held in the school, this did not lead them precisely, encouraged or "biased" them to make what would be compilations of stories ... kinds of school events, where, for example, the child thinks he must absolutely answer questions, produce a drawing, the adult (or authority here) will be waiting for answers and therefore it happens.
Then, as if the problems in the interrogation technique were not bad enough, Fernandez notes
Finally, and this is rarely mentioned or noticed, there was also a session where the children were invited [by Hind] to draw on the board this time around-and not just on paper. Again, this does not back it literally "to send the child to the table"  ? And it is still in my opinion a methodological error: the child is placed as in a school exercise status, "forcing him to produce" adult authority and waiting for something (and "authority" that the reward verbally or non-verbally) ... John Mack also, two months later, again invited children to draw ...
 I wrote earlier about Emily Trim, who was one of the witnesses to the incident in 1994. She spoke to the International UFO Congress in February, and gave an extremely emotional account of her experience:
Emily Trim
She spoke on "E.T. Contacts and the Ariel School Incident." Her talk was highly emotional. She was crying as she spoke of encountering ETs floating above the ground. She said that she fell to her knees before one such being, whose face kept changing between that of an alien, and that of a lion. She has also had a conversation with a magic butterfly. The audience liked Ms. Trim's talk so much that they gave her a standing ovation.
Fernandez notes that Ms. Trim was only in Third Grade at the time of the incident. Thus she was among the youngest in the school at that time, and she is never quoted by Cynthia Hind or John Mack.