Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Michigan Swamp Romp - Part 6 (Final)

The Michigan Swamp Romp - Part 5

The Michigan Swamp Romp - Part 4

The Michigan Swamp Romp - Part 3

The Michigan Swamp Romp - Part 2

The Michigan Swamp Romp - Part 1

Hillsdale, Michigan attained instant fame in March of 1966, when national headlines made much of UFO reports in the area. This very blog has featured press releases and personal letters from then-Congressman and House minority leader Gerald Ford regarding his comments about the Air Force investigation and the government's official attitude about the UFO subject in general.
Furor over the Hillsdale sightings precipitated a visit from astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek, at that time the Air Force's chief UFO investigator, and witnesses became outraged when Hynek suggested some activity was marsh gas -- an important semantic distinction, by the way, because to this day various sources list Hynek as saying "swamp gas." UFO researcher Wendy Connors (see her Faded Discs link in the margin) , in possession of audio recordings of Hynek's own statements at that time, shook the UFO research world recently when she offered Hynek's own words, and the words he used were "marsh gas." The erroneous swamp gas term, of course, is now commonly used in society to delineate subjects in a light vein or to foster ridicule.
Back in September of 1966, I received from Mr. William E. Van Horn, Hillsdale's civil defense director, his widely distributed report concerning the UFO sightings and Hynek's brief visit (during the "good old days" -- the report cost me 75 cents and Van Horn paid 10 cents for postage!). To say the least, he wasn't pleased with Hynek or the Air Force's discouraging position on the UFO reports. However, incidentally, it should be noted that Dr. Hynek at that time was still experiencing a significant turning point, a dramatic catharsis, relative to his opinions about the UFO phenomenon, with his formerly predominant skepticism influenced, if not trounced, by 1964's Socorro, New Mexico incident involving patrolman Lonnie Zamora's UFO encounter and resultant physical evidence on the ground.
You may know that I'm not very active with the UFO subject anymore, and I'm sure some of the visuals I put up on the blog are available at other web sites, perhaps even better copies, but I do what I can. Today, I'm going to start posting Mr. Van Horn's report, which comprises 30 pages. Unfortunately, some of the pages are quite faded with age, but I believe I can sharpen them enough to get by.
In 2008, I can easily report that I've come to despise the fade quality of mimeographed documents, though I fully understand the importance of this technology back in the fifties and sixties. Mimeographing was the standard method of printing elementary and high school papers handed out to students decades ago, and I suppose one could say that the best thing about the process was the pleasant odor of the chemical ink required -- and I suspect that a good many school secretaries who operated mimeograph machines day in and day out enjoyed the "buzz" acquired via the instant "high" created by the ink fumes. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure may also have caused illness or death. Talk about legalized drug sniffing. . .
I always must keep the question of copyrights and literary property in mind, and the brief statement on Mr. Van Horn's signed cover letter states that no part of the report is to be reproduced or used in any commercial manner without his consent. Because my blog is free, I don't believe "commercial" applies. Further, I believe Mr. Van Horn is deceased. Additionally, his next page indicates that the report is to be released to "Press, Radio and Television," so right there it appears we're talking "press release" incarnate, thus wide public dissemination appears to have been the civil defense director's intent from the start.
As is my general approach, I'm not commenting further as pages are presented because the reader may visit numerous other web sites, books and varied sources to "fill in the holes" and receive updated information on the Michigan sightings. Mr. Van Horn's statements are his own and subject to interpretation and revision by others who are in the know, now that more than 40 years have passed. Be aware that he may not have included all of the pages that members of the media received. Also note that Blogger sometimes posts visuals out of sequence, and if there is any confusion about which page follows which, I will label the jpegs with consecutive numbers for the readers' convenience.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Horse Feathers From The Peacock Network

I wrote a piece for Argosy UFO back in the seventies ranking the quality of UFO programs amongst what were then the three major TV networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC. In those ancient times, I thought ABC-TV had tried the hardest to offer reasonable UFO reports, while NBC came in second and CBS a very distant third. Tonight's (May 18) NBC Dateline report, "Ten Close Encounters Caught on Tape," unfortunately, did not raise the Peacock's stakes.

Where to start? The primary difficulty with this program was its stated reliance upon photographic cases. And who chose these cases? Far better that Dateline might have organized a panel of investigators familiar with UFO evidence, and presented instead a program serving up what may be the ten best UFO incidents on record, period. Forget the photos, stash the films and set the videos aside, because well-witnessed and detailed UFO reports generally eclipse fuzzy images which impress nobody -- unless, of course, NBC would care to somehow procure a good many military gun camera photos, confiscated pictures, films and other visuals reported on numerous occasions to be in government hands. Nevertheless, some of the world's best UFO events occur randomly and quickly, and frequently so unanticipated that thoughts of grabbing a camera simply aren't foremost in a witness's thoughts.

It literally didn't take five minutes before NBC's very own space analyst and UFO "skeptic" James Oberg showed up to offer his explanation of case no. 10, the famous Paul Trent UFO photos, so I suppose we could all go paranoid and suspect that Oberg played a prominent role in the production of this offering; then again, how would we know, considering that the end credits didn't really offer sufficient clues to know who was truly behind this failed potboiler? Even the UFO special hosted by ABC-TV's Peter Jennings, for all its faults, displayed a comprehensive and lengthy list of contributors (many of them quite knowledgeable about UFO history) at the end.

True to the usual commercial television recipe where UFOs are concerned, Dateline called upon the usual debunkers to help lend "balance" to the program, and they don't really need to be named here. But we should point out that, while UFO proponents such as Dr. Bruce Maccabee and the others on the "pro" side of the issue would surely be forthcoming to agree that an obviously negligible UFO case is what it is, how many times do the debunkers lend any credence whatsoever to the legitimacy of a UFO incident? Try zilch, because they feel obligated to explain everything away -- and therein lies the fallacy of including these people for any kind of program balance. Debunker wolves dressed in skeptical sheeps' clothing don't like any -- any -- UFO cases, period.

Anyway, the whole show seemed designed to be a "they said/they said" affair, but maybe I'm just getting too old for the same old-same old televised shenanigans.

And, again, the cases served up on this show just didn't send me into performing cartwheels. The Phoenix Lights? I don't know. The 1966 Conrad/Gordon astronaut UFO case? Again, I don't know. Gulf Breeze? Um. Bruce Maccabee regarding Gulf Breeze? Hmm. I like Dr. Maccabee's UFO research and web site, but there was alleged to be some controversy in relation to that Gulf Breeze thing, so I will pass.

The Hudson Valley sightings and photography, starting in 1983? Maybe. That Mexican "oil flare" incident that Maccabee stands by? He may well be correct, that was a strange one from the beginning and the instrumentation was intriguing and well-covered in the literature. The Tinley Park cook-out featuring lights in the sky that evolved into a triangle? Interesting, yes. Stephenville, Texas, recently? Oh, I don't know (yawn). The Belgium triangle? Actually, a spellbinder, okay.

Number two on the list was 1978's New Zealand case, the in-flight UFO incident witnessed by journalist Quentin Fogarty and numerous witnesses, complete with video appropriate for news at eleven. I remember the international shock waves this footage caused as it was shown around the world, and when Fogarty wrote a book chronicling the event (Let's Hope They're Friendly was the title, as I recall years later) I reviewed it positively for the journal, Pursuit. However, again we must ask: Great, video, but of what? The facts, please, first the facts of the matter, and then the visuals are icing on that weird little cake.

In the end, I think I would have preferred that NBC spend the entire hour with producer James Fox, shown minimally, whose revelations and adventures in UFO documentation could have proven fascinating and coherent.

Did I like the NBC Dateline program? No, in the long run, no. It appeared hastily assembled, too wishy-washy and uncertain of its own reason for existence (ratings couldn't possibly be involved, duh. . .), and (surprise!) was apparently intended for. . .well, for exactly the audience for which it was intended. That's not a compliment, by the way.

Some veteran UFO researchers who have dealt endlessly with commercial TV networks have come to know them so well over the years that they typically refuse to make appearances anymore because they've tired of suffering the formula, the step-by-step claptrap resulting in video nonsense.

So, to ABC, CBS and NBC may I say: Decades after the invention of commercial television, all of you still owe your viewers a real, honest-to-goodness, yet unrealized UFO documentary presentation, unencumbered by attempts to balance via hindrance and obfuscation. Maybe next year, when pigs fly.

UFOs in Print: Some Older Literature

Here's just a random sampling to demonstrate the UFO subject's evolvement in various publications over the years.

Many UFO newsletters and journals have come and gone, of course. Veteran UFO researcher Lee R. Munsick began distributing his UFO Newsletter in the fifties, and by 1958 had incorporated other publications into his own. I don't believe it was uncommon in those early years to find the reality of the UFO phenomenon combined often with the stories of science fiction writers because various aspects of each seemed to enjoy uncanny relationships. Weird facts and weird fiction, each complemented the other in these early writings.
Also in 1958, Robert J Durant issued The Fitzgerald Report, the results of a comprehensive investigation of a UFO sighting involving several witnesses. The report only comprised 19 pages, but the print was small and there were illustrations including charts and scientific data, and witness letters to and from the Air Force and other government officials were quoted extensively. One of the strengths of The Fitzgerald Report was its emphasis on solid investigation, as opposed to the wild tales of the contactees, whose "personal accounts" of encounters with extraterrestrial entities, who looked amazingly like us, were popular in the fifties.
My older readers may remember a regular classroom distribution of the magazine, Senior Scholastic, a freebie available mainly to students in the higher grades. Here's the cover of the September 16, 1966 issue containing a well-publicized photo from the UFO "flap" hitting the USA at that time. The accompanying article, "Flying Saucers. . .Fact or Fancy," actually labored soberly to give all opposing views. I particularly liked the editors' approach to presenting evidence and opinions in a carousel fashion, going from one to the next, and NOT -- like so many TV shows and magazine articles intent on debunking in an undercurrent -- giving the "skeptics" the last word, as if everything preceding their proclamations had suddenly become irrelevant. Nowadays? Good luck trying to find a school where UFOs are even mentioned, let alone discussed in conjunction with the evidence.
Finally today: The Reference for Outstanding UFO Sighting Reports was one of the earliest attempts to computerize and offer UFO evidence. Published in 1966 by the UFO Information Retrieval Center, Inc. of Maryland and edited by Thomas M. Olsen, M.S., information from 160 of the best known UFO cases was displayed "with techniques which simplify the necessary task of periodic revision and republishing."
Further quoting from the introduction: "With the information medium of punched cards, we utilize the automated services provided by modern high-speed data processing machines. Essentially clerical tasks are done rapidly, efficiently and accurately..."
Obviously, that sounds rather dated now, but much has changed in 40-plus years with UFO reports computerized routinely in intricate detail all over the globe. But for their time, Olsen and UFOIRC's published compilation of data-processed report information (all in caps), maps and other visuals was a superb pioneering effort.

A Little More CYA at the Vatican?

We've heard rumblings before about the Catholic Church and its interest in extraterrestrial life, of course, but last week's international news stories about the Vatican's chief astronomer seem to have hit some people hard. I guess so -- for the faithful to learn that the Church astronomer believes the concept of intelligent life and (gasp!) aliens on other planets is within the realm of possibility, and that God's universe might therefore be populated with far more intelligent beings than just our sorry lot, must be a spine-tingling realization.

I'm no more an expert on religion than any other area, but it seems to me that in this instance the Vatican is merely playing CYA (cover your a**). Even while instilling traditional religious values and teachings amongst their flock, surely Church officials haven't failed to notice the UFO controversy (don't everybody scream out, "The Miracle at Fatima" at the same time, we've heard that one before, and if anybody lays Ezekiel's Wheels on me one more time, I may burst into flames) and its chilling aspects. But if anybody expects a palingenesis here, they may be disappointed.

Uncommon common sense should tell us that the Vatican, like any other governing body on this planet, knows the score about the UFO issue and likewise realizes it must deal with the growing body of scientific evidence indicating abundant life throughout the known universe. What better course of action, then, to slowly make cautious statements. . .just in case the evidence comes to a head. For all that's holy (!), be assured that this Church is not about to be caught with its icons down when the ultimate proof of UFO intelligence and/or higher extraterrestrial life becomes known. Like the rest of us, religious institutions would prefer to say, see, we knew it all the time, it's all right here in our teachings. They couldn't very well say, "Sorry folks, we never saw THIS one coming. . ."

As always, I recommend that we keep an eye open whenever a religious institution, built upon centuries of dogma and steadfastly inculcated with the refusal to change with the times, seems a bit too open-minded. Church hierarchy may indeed focus momentarily upon the idea that other planetary civilizations exist, but concurrently I've little doubt that its sacred places still harbor those who long for the good old days of The Inquisition, and who hunger voraciously for the opportunity to have another rough go at that impertinent historical figure, Copernicus. Sun's up, dude.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Situation of the Estimate

In 1948 did the Air Force produce an "Estimate of the Situation" indicating official consensus that UFOs are likely interplanetary spacecraft? Apparently, yes. This was confirmed not only by Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt, former Project Blue Book chief, in his own book, but also by such in-the-know Air Force officers as Maj. Dewey J. Fournet, Jr., who monitored the official UFO investigation. However, we are told that an Air Force general's disdain for the extraterrestrial conclusion resulted in all copies (and we mean all -- though one continues to wonder about that) being destroyed before acceptance and release publicly.
"The Estimate" has always been a touchy subject for the Air Force, and internal befuddlement could hardly be demonstrated more efficiently than by examination of the three letters displayed here.
In 1958, legislative liaison Major General Fisher informs a researcher that there has "never" been an Air Force conclusion that "flying saucers" are interplanetary spacecraft. "The alleged 1948 document. . .is non-existent," he promises.
Six years later, USAF public information officer Maj. Maston Jacks (my favorite PIO of all time, incidentally, because his 1965 letter to me described the 1964 Socorro UFO as a "vehicle" -- way to go, major!) attempts to answer several issues with standard government-issued poop. For instance, Jacks' assertion that NICAP's "The UFO Evidence" report was baseless regarding the possibility of extraterrestrial visitations is ridiculous. NICAP's (and Richard Hall's) document remains one of the best accounts of intelligence behind UFO maneuvers ever published, and the things described appear to cry out the words, "from someplace else."
The Kinross case was certainly not attributable to a Canadian aircraft as the evidence accumulated, and to this day the American F-89 and two crew members remain among the missing after pursuit of and apparent merging with something very large per radar images. Jacks also mentions the Washington, DC sightings of 1952, and his assurances that a temperature inversion was the obvious and definite culprit are far from being the last word.
And of course, according to Maj. Jacks, "The alleged 1948 ATIC (Air Technical Intelligence Command -- rb) document that 'concluded that UFOs were interplanetary vehicles' is nonexistent." Uh huh.
How very refreshing, therefore, to skip ahead three years, where Lt. Col. George P. Freeman, Jr., yet another Air Force officer, responds to another researcher's letter about "The Estimate." This time, Capt. Ruppelt himself is quoted and the document's existence is revealed, even down to the point where Freeman laments, ". . .it was completely declassified and relegated to the incinerator. I am sorry, but we have no copies of this document."
Sometimes, we just have to laugh over the official bungling, even when it tragically involves the truth we need to hear from our government. The Temple of Nevermind probably never worked harder to keep the American people as ignorant as it did when "The Estimate of the Situation" estimated that we aren't quite as alone as we thought. All copies were burned? All? Uh huh.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Debunking in the Darkness: Throwing the Energy Baby out with the UFO Bath Water

Debunkers. You know who you are and, even better, we know who you are. You're the folks who consistently gather before an anxious public every time a UFO sighting occurs because you want to flash your impressive credentials. Because you firmly believe your professional status gives you license -- lacking even the bare minimum of facts about a case -- to tell people they're only seeing meteorites or birds or balloons or clouds or sun dogs or conventional aircraft. Or unconventional conventional aircraft. Your status as self-proclaimed UFO explainers-away feels good, doesn't it?
The evidence never matters, but it surely must feel self-inspiring to tell sighting witnesses they're mistaken, though you have my sympathies because some of you are forced to go to the most absurd of absurd lengths to invent instantaneous explanations. The Big Guns amongst your kind unfairly pursue and destroy witness integrity in order to gain fodder for that next book condemning all things UFO.
Other debunkers, more often than not, appear in the guise of "amateur astronomers," consulted by local media as "experts," invariably turning out to be ill-informed about UFOs and offered before the TV cameras with gloating smirks. Besides, what's an astronomer going to tell us about a UFO they didn't even see, an unlikely event anyway since both professional and amateur astronomers frequently spend hours looking at a teeny-tiny fraction of the sky at any one time? And never mind that UFO history actually shines with accounts by astronomers of their own unexplained sightings.
Yet, UFO encounters continue to be reported by solid, concerned people all over the world, despite the debunkers' efforts.
The trouble is, this debunking claptrap has had an effect -- not on sighting witnesses, and not even on the general public. But a lot of folks in the professional sciences and government, busy with other matters, have bought into the UFO no-no crowd's dogma, unaware of the evidence highly suggestive of substance behind the UFO enigma.
Guess what? There are consequences when debunkers and their negativist colleagues deny science its duty to investigate matters of importance.
Those of us who considered the UFO question very seriously as far back as the sixties -- as did those who preceded us, doubtless, in the fifties and even the forties -- would always marvel at the incredible quantity of energy, some kind of energy, involved routinely with major UFO incidents. In the 1960s, for example, UFOs were observed on occasion to hover over power lines, as if poised to extract the electricity right out of them (with instances of power interruptions or failures reported by area residents at the same time). However, far more impressive were displays of high energy noted by sighting witnesses when multiple car engines and electrical systems would temporarily fail as UFOs approached, or when people experienced weird sensations of burning or tingling on their skin. And the intensity of the lights associated with strange objects was often described as overpowering. Electromagnetic effects of a sort only science fiction novels might conjure were commonplace beginning at least with UFOs reported in the fifties and on, all over the world.
And what constant did many of us, the UFO researchers, try desperately to convey during those frequent occasions when we wrote our members of Congress, other government institutions, universities and a wealth of likely sources about the UFO issue? We said, look, whatever else might be learned about UFOs with a proper scientific investigation, consider the immense benefits of discovering their source of such remarkable energy, the inescapable something that allows these objects to buzz, hum, assume instant speeds tracked on radar at thousands of miles an hour, light up like the sun, explode like fireworks -- only to reorganize their shape within seconds -- and, in essence, to perform amazing feats and maneuvers of flight or some process resembling flight of which we can only dream.
But the skeptics say it's all nonsense. Well, they aren't really skeptics because they aren't skeptical of a damned thing, they just know in their hearts that UFOs are impossible, simply bad fiction in the telling. Skeptics question with open minds, whereas debunkers are rabidly intent upon defeating the UFO issue with derision, distortions, and anything to protect legitimate scientific avenues from getting dirtied up with such improbable foolishness. Anything to keep Congress little more than amused by the subject of UFOs. Anything, by George. By hook or by crook.
So the energy crisis is upon us. It's been lurking for years, of course, but now even the previously unsuspecting, beer-guzzling, TV-hypnotized masses who anticipated absolute safety and excess from cradle to grave are beginning to understand what looms, or what might loom.
Yet, the UFOs continue to astound, whether one calls them UFOs, unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) or sky thingies, and they continue to demonstrate rather interesting powers. What's the source? Do they rely on our own atmosphere to produce high energy levels, or has some form of energy still unknown to us been brought from somewhere else?
Today's visuals include a double-sided NICAP publicity sheet from 1965, plus significant portions of updates issued twice in 1966. And what a potential scientific energy-related gold mine we have in the sample UFO reports listed! Patrolman Lonnie Zamora's UFO ascends with a "roar," leaving imprints and scorched areas in 1964; in Georgia, a motorist encounters a UFO that inflicts a burning sensation on his skin; in New Jersey a round red object descends into the woods and leaves scorch marks and damaged vegetation; in Maryland the Navy tracks two UFOs on radar at speeds approaching 5,000 miles per hour.
In 1965, Japanese airliners chased by an object note electrical equipment interference; the famous Exeter, New Hampshire UFO furor which sired John G. Fuller's book, Incident at Exeter, involves very bright lights of a power source unknown; in Wanaque, New Jersey police and officials observe UFOs over a reservoir (UFOs seen near water sometimes appear to be having some sort of interaction with the substance).
There's overwhelmingly abundant energy involved with them-thar UFOs. We don't know their identity, but one thing's for sure: They have a power source that kicks butt, any butt on the planet. When something strange can fly in, hover and disable billion-dollar military weaponry systems effortlessly and flawlessly, we're not talking about something patched together at your local electronics shop.
Theoretically, if the University of Colorado UFO study had been handled more scientifically, rather than politically with Dr. Edward Condon's self-interests at the forefront, and if congressional hearings had been conducted far more seriously -- and if the debunkers had been excoriated publicly and widely once the media realized in so many instances that their "explanations" were tragically in error -- one wonders if an aggressive scientific UFO project that might have been initiated no later than the sixties could have reached energy milestones by now, boasting of discoveries to rival any breakthrough of centuries past. Whatever UFOs are, their propulsion, speed, sounds, radiated energy and brilliant lights originate from something, somewhere, and finding that special energy treasure might just be vital to our survival as a civilization.
To those who would suggest the governments of the world already operate highly classified projects to determine UFO essentials, we could respond that science in this instance might function so much more efficiently if conducted in the open with public support -- though that requires something akin to disclosure in the first place, of course. The debunkers certainly want none of that.
As energy problems soar, let's all keep a special place in our hearts for the ignorant and the debunkers, for they are often one and the same and proud of it. In the meantime, there's something up there in that sky, flitting in and out of our lives, seemingly utilizing vast powers fit for mythological gods, and tapping into and comprehending that extraordinarily bizarre mystery might be as important to us as free and plentiful energy itself. In the meantime, let's not forget to turn off the archaic lights in the house when we make our twice or thrice-weekly runs to an outmoded gas station, where we fill up our rusting gas tanks with that old-timers' stuff called gasoline. It's no accident that it's called a "fossil" fuel.