Saturday, May 31, 2014

People Still Believe in Mogul

Yes, I know we’ve talked about this before but I’m still surprised when there are uncritical statements published about the nonsensical Mogul balloon explanation for the debris found by Mack Brazel. And, while I know it is beating the dead horse because we’ve gone over this multiple times, I just wish to respond to some of those who, without knowing all the details, spout the Mogul line.

The documentation is quite clear. Mogul Flight No. 4, the culprit in all this, was scheduled to be launched about dawn on June 4, 1947. According to the records it was cancelled. It was never launched.

That same record, created by the project leader, Dr. Albert Crary, said that they did fly a cluster of balloons with a sonobuoy attached. A sonobuoy is basically a radio transmitter and microphone. Its job, in this context, was to pick up the sound of high explosives detonated to test that capability. That was all it was. It had nothing to do with radar which some seem to believe it did.

We know, based on the documentation published by the New York University balloon project (which launched these balloons) that in June 1947, they were not allowed to fly them at night or into clouds. The huge arrays, six hundred feet long, could pose a threat to aerial navigation if hidden by the darkness or in clouds. The June launches were made at dawn or shortly thereafter.

There is no record of any data recovered from a Flight No. 4 and it is missing from the records. The next day, June 5, Flight No. 5 was launched and it is recorded as the first successful flight in New Mexico.

Charles Moore, who claimed the title of the man who launched the “Roswell” balloon, using winds aloft data, calculated the flight path of the mythical Flight No. 4, if it had been launched at about dawn. His calculations, based on that incomplete data, showed the balloon would have moved, more or less, toward the site of the Brazel debris field.

Here are the problems. First, a weather front moved through Alamogordo about dawn, changing the winds aloft data and suggesting a different direction for the mythical flight. To fix that problem, and using data obtained from a weather station near Orogrande, New Mexico that had better winds aloft data because of the proximity of the White Sands Missile Range (or Proving Ground in 1947, which I mention so that the nitpickers won’t harp on this), Moore changed the launch time to three in the morning… even though full arrays were forbidden to be flown in the dark by the rules under which they operated. It was the only way he could force the flight path into something that would move in the proper direction.

What this means is that Flight No. 4 was launched before it was cancelled… and if that was the case, then Crary’s diary and field notes would have mentioned it. Instead the sequence was the flight was cancelled and later in the day a cluster of balloons was flown.

Second, we know what the cluster of balloons was. It was not a full array, but three or four balloons carrying a sonobouy which means that this balloon cluster was relatively short and did not pose a hazard to aerial navigation. It fact, according to a letter written by Moore, they didn’t expect it to get out of the restricted area around Alamogordo. There would be no aircraft flying into it.

Third, we know, based on Flight No. 5, that there had been no rawin radar targets on Flight No. 4 because there were no radar facilities to track it, and a diagram of that array was published in the New York University reports. There was no diagram for Flight No. 4 because there was no Flight No. 4.

Finally, we know that the nonsense about these flights being highly classified is wrong. The name, Mogul, was used by Crary in a number of entries in his diaries and field notes. The ultimate purpose was classified, but the experiments conducted in New Mexico were not. In fact, there were newspaper articles showing the balloons and reporting on the location of the launches published in early July.

It really is time to retire this explanation. It doesn’t fit the facts, it doesn’t explain anything, and it is just a red herring, thrown out to convince people that something mundane fell on the ranch. Say what you will, this is not a viable explanation.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Reviewing Reviews - A Dangerous Game

Talking about book reviews is a tricky business. I very rarely respond to reviews of my books (I’ve done it twice), realizing that there is no way to please everyone when writing about a controversial topic. Sometimes an off-the-wall comment offends someone and a nasty review follows. Sometimes it is the conclusion with which they disagree, which is, of course, one of the purposes of the review. It is the opinion of the reviewer and he or she has the right to say whatever he or she wants. All I can do is hope that it is a fair review, even if negative.

This, however, is not about me. This is about a review written by Robert Sheaffer that appeared in Skeptical Inquirer about Tom Carey’s and Don Schmitt’s Inside the Real Area 51. No, I’m not going to quarrel with his analysis of the book because that is opinion and he is entitled to his. That he didn’t find the evidence in the book to be persuasive is a matter of how high you wish to set the bar, and how important some of the testimony is to understanding the UFO phenomenon. Robert sets the bar quite high and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

No, what bothers me is his use of events that are about two decades old and might have little relevance in discussing this book. He publishes excerpts from a letter that I wrote in the mid-1990s about a situation that developed as Don talked about what he did for a living. Is this important in understanding this book? I don’t know. People change and people grow and sometimes events from that long ago are not that important (but sometimes they do provide a yardstick for understanding what is being said today). In other words, Robert’s use of these events does go to the credibility of the book and it is for each reader to decide the importance of that information. Had Robert contacted me about this, I might have provided him with a different perspective (but, of course, a reviewer is not obligated to contact someone who didn’t write the book and whose letter is an unfortunate artifact from another set of circumstances and another time).

The real problem I have here is the use of a private communication that wasn’t sent to Robert, and one that should not have seen the light of day without my permission. The law, I believe, says that I’m the copyright holder on that letter, which was sent, in confidence to a third party who had agreed to the confidentiality. (And before we slide off into another arena, let me say that Robert’s quote from the letter probably falls under “fair use,” another legal term that I might be misapplying here.)

Is it relevant to the review?… well, sort of, but that overlooks the role that Tom played in the creation of the book, and I know that Tom did most of the writing. That fact is relevant as well but one that wasn’t available to Robert.

But my real objection is the use of that private communication, which is not used in context. I know in trials evidence that has not been properly or legally gathered is excluded, even when that evidence is relevant. In that artificial world of legal theory, such evidence does not exist. But we’re not in a court and all evidence applies. I just object to the use of a private communication written in confidence.

To me it seems unfair to use that in a review of a book. Shouldn’t the review be about the information in the book rather than opinions about events outside the scope of that book? Shouldn’t the book be judged by its contents? Should a letter written about other circumstances be included in the review?

This is a difficult call, made more so by the violation of a confidence. Robert Sheaffer should not have known about the letter… but since the information was out in a more or less public arena, should he have ignored it?

Here’s my take on it. I would have preferred not to be mentioned in a review of a book that I had no hand in creating. I was not involved and some of the events mentioned in the review should not have been mentioned. But, I fear, I think like this only because I don’t wish to be dragged into this.

But then, thinking about it, the credibility of the book lies in the hands of the writers of that book and if there is information that speaks directly to that credibility, should it be ignored given these specific circumstances? That is the call to be made by the reviewer and it is up to him or her to decide what is relevant and what is not.

What it boils down to here is that I object to the confidential information being used. There was other information, other evidence, that could make the same point without the continued violation of a confidence and please don’t think that Robert violated my confidence… he used information that was now publicly available… I simply wish he had avoided it. He could have made his case as strongly without it. But, as I say, that was his call and this is my opinion. I just wish he had gone in a different direction.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Portage County: The Close Encounters Chase

I have been recently looking at the Portage County, Ohio, UFO chase, which I think of as the Close Encounters chase. You know, the police cars chasing a UFO across the countryside, through a toll booth and beyond. It was featured at the beginning of the 1977 movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which is not to say that the real event perfectly matched the movie version (such as the toll booth, which didn’t happen and which I mention now so that I don’t hear about this later).

Anyway, I noticed something about this case, other than the ridiculous Air Force explanation and Hector Quintanilla’s attempt to browbeat the police officer witnesses into this way of thinking. Quintanilla, after demanding respect because he was an Air Force officer, tried to convince Dale Spaur and Wilbur Neff, the sheriff’s deputies, that they had seen a satellite and Venus. Given the testimony of these men, not to mention the other police officers involved at various stages, it was a ridiculous explanation. In statements taken within days of the events, they talked about the object being low enough that it lit up the surrounding fields as it passed over them.

But that’s not my point today. It was the aftermath of the sighting that is interesting. Within six months, Spaur had left law enforcement and became a painter. H. Wayne Huston, who had joined the chase later and described for the Air Force what he had seen, resigned from the police force and moved to Seattle to drive a bus. Neff seemed to suffer from PTSD, and his wife said that he had been “through the ringer.” He had changed after the sighting. Neff, by the way, was an auxiliary deputy rather than a full-time officer.

This sort of thing isn’t found just in his case. Herbert Schirmer, who reported to have seen a landed UFO near Ashland, Nebraska (and who, under hypnotic regression reported an abduction), left police work not long after the event. Jeffrey Greenhaw, who photographed an alien (which many believe was a man in a fire retardant suit) said that his employers had attempted to get him to deny the report and was then harassed when he insisted that he had photographed something alien.

And such treatment extends beyond law enforcement. Captain Kenju Terauchi, of JAL Flight No. 1628, lost his flying job after the sighting was reported. Richard Haines and others managed to get him reinstated, but the point is he did nothing other than report he had watched strange objects from the cockpit of his aircraft.

Charles Halt, of Rendlesham Forest fame, also noted that he feared the UFO sighting would damage his career. He was quite leery of getting more deeply involved than he was for that reason. His perception might have been in error, meaning the UFO sighting didn’t seem hurt his career, but that was what he believed.

I could go on, with others who have seen their careers negatively affected by brushes with UFOs. Yes, I know the argument that if they’re seeing something that isn’t real, maybe we shouldn’t trust them in jobs that could jeopardize innocents. But I could argue they are seeing something real, it might be the interpretation that is in error, and sometimes that interpretation is made by others.

At any rate, the point here was simply to point out that there are many instances in which those who have reported strange things in the skies have seen their lives radically altered. They have been forced out of jobs, had their careers derailed, or been forced to change their stories (and yes, there are examples of this scattered throughout the UFO literature). I’m merely suggesting that this might create a situation in which those who do see something strange opt not to tell anyone about it. This is a sort of suppression of information (and again, yes, I chose that word carefully) that we don’t see in many other arenas (and yes, I can think of examples outside of the UFO field where that happens). I just thought that I’d mention it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Who Put the Roswell Press Release on the News Wire?

In the last day or so, I have been asked about the press release issued by Walter Haut concerning the discovery of a flying disk near Roswell. We can argue all day about what it was, but that term was used in the press release. The Roswell Daily Record reported that military had “captured” a flying saucer in the Roswell region. What is interesting now is that some are wondering if the Roswell Daily Record put the press release on the news wire and the source of that information is quoted as evidence is Philip Klass.

In his book, The Real Roswell Crashed Saucer Coverup, Klass wrote, on page 16 (of the hardback), “The newspaper sent its blockbuster story out over the Associated Press wire service, resulting in a deluge of inquiries.”

In a world where the slightest mistake that I have made, even those of more than 40 years, are broadcast today to prove I’m a sloppy researcher, those of the skeptics and debunkers are often overlooked. I point this out because, I’ll now give you the sequence of events and how the story made it into the national press (the term for media at the time).

After a staff meeting held at the 509th Bomb Group on Tuesday, July 8, 1947, the base public affairs officer, First Lieutenant Walter Haut, received a telephone call from Colonel William Blanchard, the Group commander. Haut would later say that he didn’t remember if he was given the details over the phone or if he went to Blanchard’s office. He didn’t remember if Blanchard gave him the completed press release or just the details with instructions to write it. He was then to deliver it to the four media outlets in Roswell, that is, the two radio stations and the two newspapers. In another relatively unimportant discrepancy to this basic story, Haut would say that he drove the release into town, or he would say that he used the telephone and dictated it to them. Either way, the press release went out to the media, and then was put on the news wire by Frank Joyce of radio station KGFL and George Walsh of radio station KSWS. Who got it on the wire first doesn’t really matter to us here because the point is that the Roswell Daily Record did not put in onto the Associated Press wire but we can answer that question as well.

Walsh remembered that Haut had telephoned the press release to him “about mid-day.” He copied the press release exactly or almost exactly, as Haut read it to him over the phone. According to what Walsh told me, he in turn called it into the Associated Press in Albuquerque. From there the release was put on the AP wire and that story was published in a number of newspapers.

Joyce, on the other hand, told me that Haut had brought the press release to him at the radio station. He said that he put it on the United Press news wire and he kept the press release. Fearing that someone would return to confiscate it, he hid it but to no avail. It has since disappeared.

Art McQuiddy, who was the editor of the Roswell Morning Dispatch told me, “I can remember quite a bit about what happened that day. It was about noon and Walter brought in a press release. He’d already been to one of the radio stations, and I raised hell with him about playing favorites.”

Unfortunately for McQuiddy, the Dispatch was a morning newspaper, so there wasn’t much for him to do with the story. He said, “By the time Haut got to me, it hadn’t been ten minutes and the phone started ringing. I didn’t get off the phone until late afternoon… The story died, literally, as fast as it started.” MQuiddy’s timing is slightly off as we’ll see later.

There is a document, created in 1947, that provides the exact times for some of this and helps us understand what was going on. According The Daily Illini, the first of the stories on the Associated Press wire appeared at 4:26 p.m. on the east coast. That would mean that the stories went out from Albuquerque, sometime prior to 2:26 p.m.

The Associated Press version, as it appeared in a number of west coast newspapers said:

The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc through the cooperation of one of the local ranchers and the sheriff’s office of Chavez County.
The flying object landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the sheriff’s office, who in turn notified Major Jesse A. Marcel of the 509th Bomb Group Intelligence Office.
Action was immediately taken and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home. It was inspected at the Roswell Army Air Field and subsequently loaned by Major Marcel to higher headquarters.

At 4:30 p.m. (EST), there is the first “add” to the AP story, which mentioned “Lt. Warren Haught [Walter Haut],” who was described as the public information officer at Roswell Field. This new information suggested that the object had been found “last week” and that the object had been sent onto “higher headquarters.”

The original United Press bulletin, which went out fifteen minutes later, at 4:41 p.m. (EST), according to newspaper sources, said:

Roswell, N.M. – The army air forces here today announced a flying disc had been found on a ranch near Roswell and is in army possession.
The Intelligence office reports that it gained possession of the ‘Dis:’ [sic] through the cooperation of a Roswell rancher and Sheriff George Wilson [sic] of Roswell.
The disc landed on a ranch near Roswell sometime last week. Not having phone facilities, the rancher, whose name has not yet been obtained, stored the disc until such time as he was able to contact the Roswell sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office notified a major of the 509th Intelligence Office.
Action was taken immediately and the disc was picked up at the rancher’s home and taken to the Roswell Air Base. Following examination, the disc was flown by intelligence officers in a superfortress (B-29) to an undisclosed “Higher Headquarters.”
The air base has refused to give details of construction of the disc or its appearance.
Residents near the ranch on which the disc was found reported seeing a strange blue light several days ago about three o’clock in the morning.

Here’s what all this minutia tells us. Walsh put the story out first with Joyce following by fifteen minutes. The Roswell Daily Record had nothing to do with that. There are two versions of the story that differ enough to suggest that Haut dictated them over the telephone to Walsh and Joyce. What we don’t know is how long the vetting process took, meaning simply, that the time of the two press releases does not reflect the time they arrived in the news wire offices. McQuiddy could be right about the time Haut got there, but it wasn’t all that long after the stories arrived that they were put on the wire.

What’s all this prove? Very little, really. We have been able to assemble, from various documents and newspaper stories, a timeline for the release of the information. Doesn’t mean it was a flying disk from another world, only that we have been able to trace, to a fair degree of accuracy, the sequence of events.

We haven’t been able to learn if Haut met with Blanchard in person or talked to him on the telephone. We don’t know if Haut wrote the release or if Blanchard dictated it to him. I’m not sure that these questions are important today because we do have the release as it appeared in two forms in the newspapers and we do know that it originated with the 509th Bomb Group… Oh, and we know that Philip Klass made up the comment about the Roswell Daily Record putting it on the news wire.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Encounter in Rendlesham Forest - A Review

In December 1980, there were a series of sightings of lights in the Rendlesham Forest near two USAF airbases located in England. American personnel assigned to those bases, RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge sighted strange lights and requested permission to investigate. Now Nick Pope, with John Burroughs and Jim Penniston have written a book, Encounter in Rendlesham Forest, dealing with their inside knowledge of the workings of the British UFO desk in the Ministry of Defence and their service with the Air Force during those sightings.

We get the perspective of the sightings from Burroughs who was first out of the gate and into the forest. Penniston, senior to Burroughs, arrived later. Both moved deeper into the woods, and as Burroughs stopped, away from a structured craft, Penniston walked forward and touched it. Both men later said that they became somewhat obsessed with the sighting. Penniston, unable to sleep in the days to follow, eventually wrote a series of ones and zeroes in his notebook that looks suspiciously like a binary code. He also felt compelled to return to the landing site where he found deep impressions in the ground. He made plaster casts of them.

Little of that has been discussed. It was the next night that involved Burroughs and the deputy base commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, that has received the most attention. Halt, leading a group of men, entered the woods, moving toward the lights. Halt made a tape recording of what was happening and what he was observing as they worked their way toward the lights. Later, at the request of his chain of command, he would write a memo that eventually made its way into the public arena. That memo, written within several days of the event, seemed to underscore the strange nature of the event.

Nick Pope, who ran England’s Ministry of Defence UFO project, learned of the case through his work there. He was able to provide an interesting take on how the two governments, British and American, seemed to pass the problem of the sightings off on each other. Both denied jurisdiction over the case suggesting that the other had responsibility. Pope’s insights into that adds a note of credibility to the case.

The one problem I had with the book was its journey into material that while interesting did nothing to advance the case. As but a single example, there was a chapter Beyond Rendlesham that examined briefly, some a few semi-related cases, but not in enough detail help in our understanding of the Rendlesham case. The death of Captain Thomas Mantell while chasing a UFO over Kentucky is reduced to a single paragraph.

But the book shines when it discusses the Rendlesham report. There is new information found through the detailed memories of Burroughs and Penniston, and the information from Halt. Questions about the case have been answered, many for the first time. Skeptical arguments are examined, and according to Pope, do not explain anything. They merely get in the way of attempts to learn the truth.

For those who wish to understand more about this case, who want to see what has been reported by those involved, who wish to read the first-hand accounts of the men involved, this is the book. Others might suggest they were there. Others might suggest that they know more about the case, but it is here that we hear the voices of the men who experienced the UFO landing and the subsequent events.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

UFO Crash in Pennsylvania

As I was looking at a case in the Project Blue Book files, I found a two page letter stuffed between that case and the one that followed. It was labeled as “Information Only,” which meant that the Air Force didn’t investigate it but had retained the information in their files. This was not an uncommon practice for them. Nearly every month there were cases labeled that way. But since it suggested there had been some sort of crash recovery, and because I didn’t find it listed on any of the various web sites that report such things, I thought it interesting enough to mention here.

According to the report, Bob Barry, the News Director at radio station WMNS in Orlean, NY, wrote that he had received information about a UFO crash from a respected local citizen, the Chief of Police, George Finger sometime during the week of March 17, 1958. The Chief asked Barry if he had ever heard of an incident that happened sometime between September 1949 and January 1951. Finger said that an object was “supposed to have crashed in the vicinity of Coudersport and Emporium, PA and it sheared off the tops of trees. I [Barry] was also told that the US Army came into the area (a hilly section away from any main roads) with Army trucks. They roped off the area, loaded the object on trucks, and drove away.”

That interested Barry enough so that he began his own investigation. According to him:

I learned that several people in the area were supposed to have seen the object shortly before it crashed. One of them was a Reserve Officer of the U.S. Army who lived in Emporium and who worked at the Sears Roebuck & Co. at Emporium at the time. He was supposed to have seen an Army truck pick up the object and haul it away. The Reserve Officer figured the Army knew what the object was, and he thought the Army truck he saw was from Baltimore, Maryland. He allegedly was told to keep quiet concerning what he saw! I learned that the Cameron County Press Independent in Emporium supposedly carried the story.
If that was true, then the case entered a new arena. Unlike some of the alleged crashes that had no corresponding UFO sightings reported in the newspaper, here was a chance for some confirmation. A story in the newspaper doesn’t prove that it was a UFO crash; merely that it was something of enough importance to land in the newspaper.

Barry called the editor of the newspaper, James Kiles. Kiles said that he would check on it and call back. Keeping his word, he did call and told Barry that the only thing he found was that on October 13, 1950, a weather balloon had been recovered. Two hunters, Gene Kreitner and Clifford Stuckey, hunting near Keating Summit found the object. They said that the object had six panels and was covered with aluminum or lead foil (yes, that’s right, a lead balloon), and the panels had two small batteries and a light bulb. The equipment was turned over to the Air Force.

Some might have given up at that point but Barry continued the search. He contacted a reporter, Bert Freed, who suggested that Barry contact Katherine Dorfeld. Barry interviewed her and learned that the object had some printing on it that said to return it to the U.S. Government. She also said that someone from the government did show up, rope off the area and “closed all news sources on the event.” Which, of course, doesn’t sound like something they would do for a balloon, no matter how important that balloon might have been.

After making a few more telephone calls, and writing a letter or two, Barry gathered additional information. Barry wrote:

Through a series of phone calls, I picked up the fact that a witness allegedly heard a noise while working on his farm. He then heard an explosion and started running to the vicinity of where the noise came from. This man’s name is Joseph E. Phelps, and at the time he lived near Emporium. Since that time Mr. Phelps has moved and through a friend of his (Mr. Carl Reidy, an attorney in Emporium), I obtained his present address…. Phelps told Mr. Dorfeld [husband of Katherine, but Barry failed to get his first name] that the object was made of metal. Two boys were supposed to have been playing in the vicinity, and they got to the object before Phelps. Phelps allegedly was told by Government officials or the U.S. Army to be quiet about the story…
Barry wrote to Phelps, providing the facts as he knew them but he didn’t receive a reply. He tried a second time and Phelps sent the following:

Dear Bob [Barry]:
In so far as my stating this object was metal or any of the so-called Army suppression is bunk. Most of what you quote me as saying is hearsay. I was in the crowd at Keating Summit but there were dozens of people there before and after I left. Go see Cliff Stuckey at the General Store in Keating Summit. He should be able to give you plenty of information. If I had anything worthwhile I would be more than glad to give it to you, but I do not. There is just a chance that I may be in a bad spot as I work for a firm which is doing a job for the [Army] Signal Corps and I may get fired, but that wouldn’t matter should I know anything worthwhile. I do not think you want to be a boob. I’m sure I do not want to be one either.
Joe Phelps
Barry offered an analysis of the letter at the end of his article about the case. He wrote:

Well, that’s the story to date. You will remember that Cliff Stuckey is one of the men who is said to have found a weather balloon on Oct. 13, 1950. What puzzles me is why Phelps didn’t straighten me out on what was supposedly quoted wrong to me by Mrs. Dorfeld in regard to the conversation Mr. Dorfeld and Joe Phelps had together concerning this object, at the time the incident occurred. Why didn’t Phelps tell me what he did see? He admits he was in the crowd, so he must have seen or heard something.
Barry’s questions weren’t the only ones I had. Reading through this, we have two hunters finding a weather balloon in the field, one that sounds somewhat like a rawin radar target and a light that would allow tracking at night. But then there are two boys who found it first, a farmer (Phelps) who was involved and a crowd of people who were standing around when the authorities, most probably the Army, made the recovery. This simply doesn’t sound like a weather balloon, no matter how exotic the debris might have been. I can’t think of a situation in which a fallen weather balloon would draw a crowd, unless, of course, there was some sort of unnecessary recovery operation.

Phelps’ letter makes little sense and is filled with contradictions. He doesn’t know anything but he suggests that his job might be in jeopardy if he talks. He said that he was misquoted, or more accurately, the information attributed to him is hearsay, but fails to say what information was wrong. He suggests there is nothing of interest there, but talks of crowds. He never explains why the crowds were drawn to the area, which they wouldn’t be for a weather balloon.

If there is someone in that area of Pennsylvania who wishes to follow up, all the information is here. I suspect since the date of the crash is 1950, or almost 65 years ago, the witnesses, if any are left, are probably in their 90s. Although I suspect the answer is something mundane, there are enough questions left to make it an interesting topic for a little additional research. I don’t think we really know what was recovered and I don’t think the Army would waste time recovering an ordinary weather balloon. At this point we simply don’t know what fell.

Friday, May 09, 2014

UFOs and Science Fiction Theater

So, I’m watching the old Science Fiction Theater on YouTube… (Science Fiction Theater was a 1950s half-hour drama that alleged that there was some science in their stories). I remembered seeing reruns in the 1960s as a kid and all this would be irrelevant to us here, except that I remembered one particular episode in which there was a flying saucer. The title, I learned, was “Are We Invaded?” I remembered that the scientist in the tale explained the UFO sighting as a temperature inversion by using chemicals that didn’t mix. The thing that struck me was that it seemed to be the same explanation Donald Menzel had used as one of his explanations of the Lubbock Lights and he even showed a light bouncing off chemicals in a fish tank.

Even that wouldn’t be of much interest, except in the beginning, Truman Bradley, the series host, said that there had been more than 2000 UFO sightings but that no one had been injured by UFOs. The copyright of the show is 1955, so this was after Mantell, after Kinross and even after Walesville.

Yes, in today’s world I believe most of us think Mantell was chasing a balloon and not Venus, and not Venus and a balloon, and not Venus and two balloons, as the Air Force claimed. But at the time, he was chasing a UFO, and in 1955, there was not a good explanation for it. My thinking is that here was a case in which someone was hurt.

In Walesville several people were killed when a fighter plunged into a neighborhood did involve a UFO report. The pilot of an Air Force fighter, who had been in an active air defense mission, reported that his cockpit filled with heat as if the aircraft was on fire. He, and his radar officer, bailed out. The aircraft crashed into a residential area, burst into flames, and killed four people. This case is sometimes linked to a UFO sighting from the day before, but this seems to be an aircraft accident rather than a UFO incident, but in 1955, it was believed that a UFO had caused the aircraft cockpit to fill with heat.

Kinross is a UFO sighting and two pilots disappeared while attempting to intercept the UFO. They had been scrambled to identify the object. Radar operators watched as the two blips, the fighter and the UFO, merged, but never separated. The aircraft and the pilots disappeared. This is case has never been satisfactorily explained and the result was the loss of the pilots.

Bradley, in his opening monologue, then, provided inaccurate information, but he always made it clear that his story was not necessarily true but based, sort of, on the science of the day. I objected to his comment about no one having been injured by a flying saucer because it wasn’t true.

The irony here is that after the UFO sighting from the show, after the actor trying to prove that there was something to UFO sightings, and seeing all his evidence evaporate with the Menzel-like demonstration, we learn that there might be something to the UFO stories. The man who had tried to prove that UFOs were alien had been handed a picture to give to the scientist. When they looked at it, they saw that it was the solar system, but the picture had to be taken from space. (Remember this was early in the 1950s, and we didn’t have photographs of the solar system taken from space).

Oh, I know what you’re thinking… what does this have to do with UFOs? It’s science fiction. I thought it was interesting, given the timing of the show, and that it was about flying saucers, and I had remembered the demonstration from it for something like forty years. Every time I saw the picture of Menzel with his light and formation of UFOs, I thought of this show. It was good to see it again, see how it was all put together, and see the obvious twist at the end.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Last of the Roswell Witnesses

Just the other day I saw or read something that suggested that the Roswell investigation has transitioned into a new phase with the recent and untimely death of Jesse Marcel, Jr. It was suggested that he was the last of the first-hand witnesses, having held the metallic debris and having heard about the find on the Brazel (Foster) ranch from his Army Air Forces intelligence officer father.

But I realized that this isn’t true. While I know that this will generate discussions that have little to do with the posting (I mean look how far afield some of the others have roamed), I would suggest that there are still some first-hand witnesses alive.

The first one who springs to mind first is Frankie Rowe. As a twelve-year-old girl during that July of 1947, she had the opportunity to handle a piece of metallic debris found by a state police officer. She also heard the story of the crash from her father who had driven out to the crash site on his own… which explains why there was no record of the Roswell Fire Department involvement. And please remember that this was confirmed by a member of the Fire Department in interviews conducted by both Tony Bragalia and me (and no, we really don’t have to go through all that again, this simply means that whatever you think of the tale, Frankie didn’t invent it, which also doesn’t mean it was grounded in reality… I’m just trying to prevent the round robin arguments that this can generate.)

I also think of Sally Tadolini, daughter of Marian Strickland, who handled a bit of material recovered by Bill Brazel. Brazel had brought it by and showed it to a number of people. Tadolini signed an affidavit about this, including a description of the debris that when fully read doesn’t suggest something of an earthly manufacture. And yes, I know that signing an affidavit doesn’t make it true, but it does provide us with a concise description of the event. There really should be little dispute about this. There is no indication that Tadolini is not telling the truth… the dispute is about the origin of the material that she saw.

Both of these women were shown bits of metallic debris and both are still living. True, they didn’t see anything quite as dramatic as that suggested by Jesse Marcel, but they did see something that was different enough and exciting enough that they remember the event. We can argue about the reliability of now more than sixty-year-old memories later.

I will note that in the last year or so Tony, Tom Carey and I have talked with a number of the men who were stationed at Roswell in 1947 and who were lower ranking which, in many cases simply meant younger. One of them, who was 87 when I talked to him told me that everything was, “Hush hush. They told us to keep our mouths shut.”

He also said, “Everything was highly classified.”

Which, of course, could mean many things and he provided no new information. We were talking about the crash and the like, so I can say with some confidence that his comments were related to that. But learning only that something was highly classified, especially at the only atomic strike force in the world at the time, doesn’t move us any closer to learning what happened.

Other interviews have contained the same sort of information. We can conclude that something happened and the soldiers were warned about talking too freely. Others said they remembered nothing or heard nothing and weren’t involved.

The point is simply that with the loss of Jesse Marcel, we see the end of the road. The numbers of witnesses to the events are slipping away and we are left with the descendants who heard the stories from those first-hand witnesses. We haven’t reached the end of that road yet, but time is not on our side. I just wanted to correct that statement that we have no one left.