Thursday, March 24, 2016

Guest Post: NEITH CONTEMPT by Martin S. Kottmeyer - Vallee's Zombie Moon of Venus?


This has begun to draw attention, and scrutiny, toward the book, and much of what is turning up is not pretty. Blogger Jason Colavito has written some extended critiques showing carelessness and errors in that book.

"(Vallee and Aubeck) launched an IndieGoGo campaign looking for $42,000 to publish 500 copies of a revised deluxe edition of Wonders in the Sky (2009), their demonstrably false and generally quite unreliable anthology of badly translated and frequently fictitious documents recording premodern UFO sightings....[Vallee] wasn’t able to sell more than 150 of the 500 future copies of Wonders in the Sky he put up for sale late last year." [Since that was written, Vallee and Aubeck have sold two more; there are now only 348 copies remaining for subscription.]

Colavito asks rhetorically: "Mr. Vallée, why did you repeat the same faulty translations, fabrications, and errors from Passport to Magonia in 1969 to Wonders in the Sky in 2009 until I finally caught you, all while holding yourself out as a scrupulous and rigorous investigator?

Kottmeyer remarks, "Did anybody not think it a bad omen to put on the cover an illustration of ufos seen during Alexander the Great's battles that reappears on p. 380 with a discussion showing the tale it tells to be a modern fraud?" 

And if "Neith," the "unidentified planetoid" allegedly orbiting Venus, is such a nothing-burger, why does it appear in the book nine separate times, like a Zombie rising from the dead?

Vallee said at the UFO Congress that this revised, deluxe book would be something he could present "to science" to show them that the study of UFOs must be taken seriously. How he could present it "to science" if only 500 copies will ever exist, all of them in private hands, he did not explain. So I doubt very much that the purpose of this "collector's limited edition," with its "facsimile commemorative coin" and "artistic beauty and scientific merit," is to widely disseminate information. In fact, in light of the recent near-avalanche of revelations of errors and bad scholarship contained within, if the book were presented "to science," it is likely that serious scholarship would laugh it away. Perhaps before long the book will be irreverently known as

 Blunders in the Sky.


NEITH CONTEMPT by Martin S. Kottmeyer

January 4, 1768, Copenhagen, Denmark
Unidentified planetoid orbiting Venus

Chris Aubeck and Jacques Vallee write, “Astronomer Christian Horrebow reported an observation of “a small light, that was not a star” which appeared to be in orbit around Venus. The object, named Neith by M. Hozeau (see final note) of Brussels Observatory, was never identified with certainty and was certainly not a natural satellite.”

Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck, Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times and their Impact on Human Culture, History, and Beliefs, Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin, 2010, p. 267; entry #355.
Kottmeyer's image of Venus at the time Horrebow was observing it

COMMENT: The above image was generated using Redshift 5 Planetarium software. It was set for Copenhagen, Denmark and January 4, 1768. I have magnified the image of Venus (magnitude – 4.35 at the time) and its vicinity to 1000 power magnification. I let the time function run and stopped at the closest approach of the star Theta Librae. That happens around 5:06 Universal Time. It is a star that shines at magnitude +4.13. On most evenings it is visible with the naked eye. Using a measuring tool that was part of the program, I determined the separation came within a mere 1 minute of arc that evening I trust it can appreciated in this image that Theta Librae looks quite like a moon should look, roughly how a moon of Jupiter or Saturn looks through a telescope. I trust that Horrebow was probably not using this amount of magnification, but any astronomy buff should be able to work out that Theta Librae would have been visible at any magnification simply because it is visible to the naked eye even with no telescope at all. On this particular evening, though, you might have needed a telescope to separate the two – a minute of separation is impressively close.

Aubeck & Vallee’s book includes 9 entries about Neith. The name was evidently taken from a goddess in Egyptian mythology. She was reportedly a fierce huntress and warrior, not too surprising given she was branded the “cow of heaven’. I will assert that using planetarium software I could generate plausible solutions for all the observations of the mystery satellite of Venus involving stars that pass rather close to Venus in those 9 entries. This would be re-inventing the wheel. Neith had been debunked in Nature magazine back in 1887. The Nature author looked into 33 observations / claims that Venus had a satellite. All but one had a good solution along the lines of either the positions of known stars or suspicions of optical ghosts and artifacts of the telescope lenses in use. The final one was guessed to be a minor asteroid passing near Earth. The Nature author did give precisely the solution I have presented here for Horrebow’s observation except he didn’t have planetarium software that could precisely generate this particular image. I personally don’t consider this information obscure. I first read of this solution in William Corliss’s Strange Universe series of books where he re-printed several articles about Neith he gathered in his trawling of scientific literature for anomalies. His books were quite well known among the Forteans when they came out and are still highly recommended. I had heard of it in other books by astronomers over the years as well.
Kottmeyer's second image showing Venus with respect to the horizon, at the time "Neith" was spotted.

Among astronomers Neith had become a non-issue by the end of the 19th century. The sole reason 20th century nonspecialist readers ever became with this zombie moon was because Charles Fort gave a brief account of it his Book of the Damned. In a section of chapter 14 titled “Visitors to Venus,” Fort noted that Houzeau had collected 7 observations of large bodies seen near Venus and talked of them in a place called Science Gossip, plenty damning right there all should admit. Fort wrote Houzeau “accepted these observations and named the—world, planet, super-construction—"Neith." His views are mentioned "in passing, but without endorsement elsewhere. He remarks, “Houzeau or someone writing for the magazine-section of a Sunday newspaper—outer darkness for both alike. A new satellite in this solar system might be a little disturbing—though the formulas of Laplace, which were considered final in his day, have survived the admittance of five or six hundred bodies not included in those formulas—a satellite to Venus might be a little disturbing, but would be explained—but a large body approaching a planet—staying awhile—going away—coming back some other time—anchoring, as it were.”

Now a ufo buff must inevitably ask, what is Neith doing in an ufo book bearing a subtitle “Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times.” How is a zombie moon around Venus categorized as an aerial object? It is a particularly ditzy move to include such astronomical material if you are going to start comparing the ancient material to modern ufo experiences. Do any modern ufos periodically anchor near Venus? There is obviously a category error here and including 9 such irrelevant claims is not merely weird, but could be viewed as potentially mucking up any statistical comparisons they make towards the end of the book. Bad as that is, Neith is not the only ‘super-construction’ improperly used in Aubeck & Vallee’s ancient ufo database. We’ll talk about that in a separate post.


Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck, Wonders in the Sky: Unexplained Aerial Objects from Antiquity to Modern Times and their Impact on Human Culture, History, and Beliefs. Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin, 2010, p. 267 The Venus mystery satellite claims appear in entries #244, #300, #342, #344, #345, #350, #351, #355 (Christian Harrebow), #404

William Corliss, Strange Universe series, section AOV-013 gives the best discussion

See also Joseph Ashbrook, “An alleged satellite of Venus” The Astronomical Scrapbook: Skywatchers, Pioneers, and Seekers in Astronomy 1984 and Sheehan's Planets and Perception 1988.

Mr. X’s annotated Book of the Damned gives all the following references as Fort’s sources of what he knew about Neith: Martha Evans Martin. The Ways of the Planets. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1912, 140. The last report was made in 1791 by Montaigne, (not 1767). The other reports of this satellite were: in 1672 and 1686, by Cassini; in 1740, by Short, using two telescopes; in 1759, by Mayer; in 1761, during the transit of Venus, by Scheuten; in 1764, by Rödkier, Horrebow, and three others, at Copenhagen, and by Montbarron, at Auxerre. T.W. Webb. Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes. 4th ed. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1881, 61-2. A similar sighting, (possibly on May 22, 1823), was explained as being a star near Venus by a youthful Webb. T.W. Webb. "The satellite of Venus." Nature, 14 (June 29, 1876): 193-5, at 195.  
[I knew Mr. X, he used to attend Fortean conferences in the 1970s and 80s. He was a true Fortean nerd. - RS]

"The planet Neith." Hardwicke's Science Gossip, 22 (1886): 178.

C.A. Young. "The year's progress in astronomy." Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, 5 (May 17, 1886): 234-63, at 249. For more details of Houzeau's claims: "The problematical satellite of Venus.", Observatory, 7 (1884): 222-6.

A discussion about Neith on the web also giving mundane explanations:

A second Redshift image gives the positions of Venus and the constellation Libra relative to the horizon and the Sun below it at 5:06 Universal Time.

As a final note, Aubeck & Vallee spell Houzeau without the first ‘u.’ Fort spells it with a ‘u.’ This notice in The Observatory agrees with Fort.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Skeptical Look at the 25th Annual International UFO Congress (Part 6 - last)

Merrill Cook

Merrill Cook is a former two-term Congressman from Utah who participated in the mock Congressional hearings, Citizens Hearing for Disclosure in 2013. The title of his talk was "UFO Disclosure," in which he would be discussing "how he would handle UFO disclosure as a former congressman as well as his experience at the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure. He will tell us about what he heard there, and the testimony from witnesses and researchers which showed him how deep this conspiracy can go."
Cook rambled on about sightings, and lamented  government skepticism. He called, of course, for real Congressional hearings on 'disclosure.' He cited the French COMETA report as an example of strong evidence for UFOs. However, John Alexander (who is certainly no UFO skeptic) has described the COMETA report as “an embarrassment… unsubstantiated data from questionable sources” in his book UFOs Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities

Jacques Vallee
Lee Speigel, who writes Weird News for the Huffington Post, introduced and hosted the speaker that many had been waiting for, Jacques Vallee, one of the best-known UFO authors for more than 50 years, and one who seldom attends UFO conferences or other public events.

Vallee's talk largely related to the content of the book he co-authored with Chris Aubeck in 2009, Wonders in the Sky, which describes reports of unidentified objects in the sky before the modern era. He related tales of such sightings from very credible astronomers and scientists in the 17th to 19th century, including Cassini, Leverrier, etc.

Vallee was soliciting subscriptions for the re-publication of an updated (might we say, "corrected"?) version of that book. Blogger and archaeologist Jason Colavito had this to say about it last October:
 (Vallee and Aubeck) launched an IndieGoGo campaign looking for $42,000 to publish 500 copies of a revised deluxe edition of Wonders in the Sky (2009), their demonstrably false and generally quite unreliable anthology of badly translated and frequently fictitious documents recording premodern UFO sightings....Let me say that again: $42,000 for 500 copies. That’s $84 per copy, for a book they are selling for $200 per copy.... What I’d like to point out, though, is a basic fact: Jacques Vallée is a very wealthy man. He is a venture capitalist, and according to, he is a general partner in SBV Ventures, a firm that operates more than 70 companies and has vast real estate holdings. He is also the managing partner of Runway Capital Partners LLC, a general partner of Astrolabe Ventures, and a partner at Red Planet Capital, a firm he founded in 2006. He sits on at least three corporate boards of directors. And here he is asking his fans to give him cash to print a book, money that someone in his position ought to simply have sitting in the petty cash drawer.
At the UFO Congress, Vallee said that there were still 350 copies of this book remaining to be signed up for. The week after the UFO Congress, Colavito was incensed that a "Publicist for Jacques Vallee Asks Me to Help Spread the Word that Vallee Wants You to Give Him Money", especially since

Aubeck told me via email that many of the revisions in the new edition are based in part on criticisms and corrections I offered on my blog. At the time I was fairly upset that the clearly wealthy Vallée was asking his fans to pay him to produce the revised book, and I was even more annoyed that Vallée was planning on what seems to be tens of thousands of dollars in profit based in part on work he and Aubeck are borrowing from my efforts to correct their countless mistakes, including mistranslations and fabricated texts borrowed from unscrupulous ufologists. Just to remind you, Aubeck said of my criticisms and corrections that “I have found [them] extremely useful while making a totally revised 2nd edition (thank you!).”....
[Vallee] wasn’t able to sell more than 150 of the 500 future copies of Wonders in the Sky he put up for sale late last year. Sadly, in order to tell [publicist] Garano how insulting it was to be asked to help a wealthy man make money off of my unacknowledged work, I had to turn down the offer of repayment in the form of an interview with Vallée. I can’t imagine how that would have gone: “So, Mr. Vallée, why did you repeat the same faulty translations, fabrications, and errors from Passport to Magonia in 1969 to Wonders in the Sky in 2009 until I finally caught you, all while holding yourself out as a scrupulous and
rigorous investigator?” I’m sure that would have gone over well.
One of the few talks with any worthwhile content was that by Marc D'Antonio, MUFON's chief photo/video analyst, and special effects guru Douglas Trumbull, famous for his work on many major films. Their talk was titled "Light Years To Earth":
Marc D'Antonio
Marc Dantonio and Douglas Trumbull provide an overview of the latest Exoplanet finds as motivation and reason why we should be looking for signs at home (Earth) of another civilization using advanced propulsion to visit us. Such signs we call the skidmarks of an advanced race.

Marc and Douglas also provide an overview of their system called UFOTOG II which will remotely scan the skies using a variety of instruments, looking for these skidmarks which are actually the indirect physical and instrumental evidence we can  detect of an advanced race using advanced propulsion in our universe.
Douglas Trumbull
D'Antonio asked, Could someone else find us? We think they already have. We have plenty of circumstantial evidence, but no tangible proof.

Trumbull noted that when he was five years old, he was taken to McMinnville, Oregon, home of the famous "classic" UFO photos of Farmer Trent. He saw an unidentified object, looking very much like the one in the photos, while he was there. He also told of discovering an "artifact" at the Airport (I'm not sure if this was still when he was five). However, it turned out to be just some concrete slag. (A concrete "artifact" is supposed to be very significant at the site of the alleged Aztec, N.M. "UFO crash.") These comments seem to suggest that Trumbull has been a UFO buff since at least age five, and apparently not a very discerning one.

Trumbull talked about some of his movies, which include  2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, The Andromeda Strain (original version) and The Tree of Life. Theaters are now in decline, he said, a statement with which my son, who manages a large multiplex theater in the San Francisco Bay Area, strongly disagrees. He sees their business booming, especially among the younger folk.

Both speakers talked about their UFOTOG I which was built, and UFOTOG II, which is planned. It is a multiple sensor device that will look for anomalous objects not only visually, but with magnetometers, gravity meters, spectroscopy, gamma ray and other detectors. Large numbers of them will be manufactured to get the costs down, and they will be placed on top of poles in areas where UFOs are being reported. Communicating via cell phone towers, their detection of radiation or magnetic events associated with anomalous objects might confirm that UFOs are “punching in” or out of other dimensions, as permitted by controversial theories in 'new physics.' While I seriously doubt that UFOTOG II, if built, will discover any such objects, you have to give them credit. This is clearly a Testable Hypothesis, a true rarity in UFOlogy. I wish them well.

Trumbull remarked that Jeff Bezos,  the billionaire founder of, is "knowledgeable" about UFOs and is "open to" them, suggesting that Bezos might contribute to such a project.
Dr. Ron Westrum

Sociologist Dr. Ron Westrum, another researcher who has been active in UFOlogy for more than forty years, spoke on "Hidden Events":
When an event is widely experienced but seldom reported, we can refer to it as a “hidden event.” Many anomalous events, including UFOs, by appearing to violate common sense or scientific paradigms, fall into this category. My talk considers three types of hidden events: meteorites (18th century), the battered child syndrome (20th century), and UFOs (current).
He complained that science is too rejecting of "hidden events." He didn't seem to appreciate that if science were to be too accepting of such claims (which are "legion"), it would merge into voodoo. When he got to UFOlogy, Dr. Westrum listed three unreliable sources:
  1. Science
  2. the Military
  3. the Press
He left out #4, the most unreliable of all : UFOlogists and others who make extraordinary claims.

The last scheduled event was a panel discussion on "Mainstream Attitudes Toward UFOs." Dr. Westrum noted that certain subjects are effectively "taboo." He said that the late Cryptozoologist Dr. Roy Mackal told him that he realized he could never be promoted to full professor at the University of Chicago because of his pursuit of  Nessie and other dubious beasts.

The question was raised: why are UFOlogists so hostile to SETI? My answer is: because SETI hopes to provide evidence of alien intelligence someday, far out in space, while UFOlogists claim that the aliens are already here, but hiding.

Somebody mentioned a journalistic UFO hoax, and Lee Speigel remarked, "I hate it when fellow journalists just make up crap!"

Next year's UFO Congress will be in the same location, February 15-19, 2017.

Look who won the raffle at the Banquet for the lovely painting of "star people" by a Native American artist  - it's Leda Beluche!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Skeptical Look at the 25th Annual International UFO Congress (Part 5)

Promoting the movie, The Phoenix Incident

The movie The Phoenix Incident was being promoted, big time, at the UFO Congress. Dr. Lynn Kitei, the major 'Phoenix Lights' promoter, isn't at all happy about this. By mixing in purely fictional elements of the story with actual photos and accounts, the filmmakers are "muddying the waters" concerning the incident. She and I agree about one thing: This movie will just add to public misinformation and confusion about the 'Phoenix Lights.'

After sunset on Friday: While the conference goers were indoors watching the shaky "found footage" of The Phoenix Incident, the Air National Guard was dropping flares again.

The movie received its premiere public showing at the UFO Congress at the close of the Friday session. It's mostly shaky, dark "found footage," left behind by guys who were eaten by aliens. The plot is: as Comet Hale-Bopp passes Earth, it is followed by a companion object, a UFO, which falls to earth and lands in Arizona. Out pour scary aliens, looking somewhat like the creatures in Alien, who start to eat people. Somehow the military covers it all up. The irony is this: while everyone was inside watching the premiere of this silly movie, the Air National Guard was busy dropping flares again over the Barry Goldwater range. And we didn't see them. Most of the people I spoke with afterward did not think the movie was very good, and doubted that it would have much long-term effect on the public perception of this incident.

Dr. Claude Swanson
Theoretical physicist Dr. Claude Swanson gave a very sciency talk on "What the Science of the Torsion Field Can Teach Us About UFOs." According to Dr. Swanson,
a new force was discovered in the 1950’s in Russia called “torsion,” and a research program was carried out over several decades which confirmed that it is a real force and it needs to be included in modern physics. It can explain many of the puzzles facing modern science, including the levitation of UFOs, paranormal phenomena and faster than light travel. Dr. Swanson’s book Life Force-The Scientific Basis describes some of the evidence for this force.

The torsion force, he said, explains the human Aura. Dr. Swanson's talk also touched on Qigong (which kills cancer cells), orbs (which are probably living beings), acupuncture, remote healing, and remote viewing. It's all in the spin of the electron. Woo-hoo!
Emily Trim

Luigi Vendittelli is a UFO researcher from Montreal. He told of an incident where a woman in Montreal has photographed "beings" at close range. For some reason the Montreal police have the photos, but won't release them. Vendittelli introduced Emily Trim, who in 1994 was one of the schoolchildren involved in the famous Ariel School 'UFO landing' incident in Zimbabwe. 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 super-villain on South Park., "Reality."

The audience liked Ms. Trim's talk so much that they gave her a standing ovation. As for me, I'm too much like that super-villain on South Park, "Reality." I'm sorry, I'm sure that Ms. Trim really believes this rubbish, but there is no "reality" in this. You cannot take seriously the account of someone who is in such a highly emotional state, and relates an impossible story. Powerful emotions obviously override all critical thinking and judgement. Accounts like hers belong to religion, not to science.

(to be continued)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Skeptical Look at the 25th Annual International UFO Congress (Part 4)

Leda Beluche interviews me for one of her Girlie Vegan videos on YouTube.
John Greenewald spoke on " Inside The Black Vault: A 2 Decade Journey into the Declassified World of Government Secrecy," referring to his website that is the repository of vast numbers UFO-related documents, many of them released by government agencies. He described how he first began requesting UFO-related documents from government agencies twenty years ago, when he was just fifteen! Greenewald argued that blacked-out sections of released NSA documents pertaining to UFO reports indicate that the government continued to investigate UFOs long after Project Bluebook was closed. I was thinking, "never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence or over-zealousness."
John Greenewald

He noted that 100% of released CIA UFO-related documents were newspaper stories, from all around the world. Some investigation - a CIA newspaper clipping service! In any case, you will find far more interesting UFO stuff in The Black Vault than in Hangar 1

Nick Pope
Nick Pope, who worked for the British Ministry of Defence for 21 years, has built a career as a major UFOlogist based on the fact that for three of those 21 years, he worked on the MOD's UFO desk. His talk was titled "Disclosure: Who, What, Where, When, Why?" In the UFO community, "Disclosure" is an expected event that is viewed much the same as the evangelical Christians see "The Second Coming": it's inevitable, it's coming soon, it will change the world - but when? Pope noted that one factor discouraging Disclosure is that the government would in essence be admitting, "We've lied about this for over seventy years." He also noted that governments "over-classify like crazy" and that "redaction" is typically arbitrary and somewhat capricious, points relevant to my comments on Greenewald's talk above.

Pope spoke of many hypotheticals concerning so-called "Disclosure." He even called his own talk "speculative," and I fully concur. He talked a bit about Rendle-sham (probably his top case), showing us a sketch by Jim Penniston of the supposed "craft," and promoting his forthcoming book, The Halt Perspective.

There was a panel on the Alien Abduction Agenda featuring Barbara Lamb, Dr. David Jacobs, Dr. Joe Lewels, moderated by abductionist Yvonne Smith. This panel really brought out the differences between Jacobs' apocalyptic vision, and the others' view of the aliens as Sweetness and Light. Jacobs said he wished they could have this nice, happy, harmonious abduction community, but the "reality" of the aliens' agenda is shocking.

Lewels said "thank God" that the alien hybrids are here, and not a minute too soon. We are all "hybrids" created by aliens long ago. Receiving new hybrids into our midst is like a "software upgrade." It will make humans less violent, and more loving.

Jacobs said that if you think you are an alien hybrid, you almost certainly are not. If somebody cannot easily read your mind, then they are not a hybrid. This invasion of "hubrids" is the most important thing that has ever happened to humanity.

Smith asked the audience, "How many feel an urgency," that something is coming soon (like the New Age or something). A lot of them did.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!
- West Side Story

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Skeptical Look at the 25th Annual International UFO Congress (Part 3)

For the past few years, Ben Hansen, formerly the star of the show Fact or Faked? on the SyFy Channel, has been representing a vendor of very expensive night vision optics  On Thursday evening, Ben held a night vision skywatch, as he did in several previous years. Unfortunately, the sky was mostly cloudy, although the moon and Orion peeked through the clouds briefly. Ben's commentary about what we are seeing has always seemed correct to me; he does not hype airplanes or satellites as UFOs. I brought my portable telescope, but there wasn't much to see. Some news crew that had been filming Hansen saw me with my telescope, and they filmed me, too. That video might have been shown somewhere, I have no idea where.

Yours truly with the Big Guy, Ben Hansen.
As I have written elsewhere, the use of expensive night vision optics (like, $6,000 each) is becoming a popular thing in UFOlogy. What people don't realize is that these image intensifiers and IR viewers were not made for astronomy, and are not suitable for viewing objects in the skies. No astronomer uses these devices. They are designed for surveillance and military applications, to spot people hiding in the bushes. UFO enthusiasts love night vision devices because of their frequent false positives. Every bird, airplane, satellite, etc. that crosses your field of view is magnified to a big white (or maybe green) blob. What you gain in sensitivity, you lose in resolution. If you think that UFOs are flying overhead, unseen, you should buy a really good pair of binoculars to look for them. 

The next day Ben and I spoke at some length about astronomy. He is interested in adding telescope viewing of astronomical objects to the occasional skywatches he arranges. He isn't familiar with the features of today's high-end amateur telescopes, and we discussed getting started using them. I told him how, as a member of the San Diego Astronomy Association, we hold frequent public observing sessions, and invited him to join us.
Yours Truly with Chris Rutkowski

Christ Rutkowski spoke on "UFO, eh?: Canada and UFOs." There have been many significant UFO sightings and events in Canada. Canada had the honor of having the world's very first Crop Circle in 1967. He spoke about the strange case of Steven Michalaka in Falcon Lake, Manitoba (known as "Mr. A," in Case 22   of the Condon report). The man suffered burns, which he attributed to a UFO encounter.The somewhat strange conclusion reached by the Condon Report investigation was:
If Mr. A's reported experience were physically real, it would show the existence of alien flying vehicles in our environment. Attempts to establish the reality of the event revealed many inconsistencies and incongruities in the case, a number of which are described in this report. Developments subsequent to the field investigation have not altered the initial conclusion that this case does not offer probative information regarding inconventional craft. 
Rutkowski also spoke about the famous Yukon, Canada sightings of December 11, 1996, which until recently was one of the best cases in Canada, or anywhere else. Then Ted Molczan (another Canadian) demonstrated that this sighting coincides almost perfectly with the fiery re-entry of the second stage of the Russian rocket that launched the Cosmos 2335 satellite earlier that day. I almost felt sorry for Rutkowski, having to insert caveats into his discussion of this once-solid case. He seemed to be saying that some of the observers saw the rocket re-entry and reported it, while others, whose descriptions were much more dramatic, may have seen something else. He apparently could not make up his mind about this question.

Rutkowski posted to Facebook "Ten things I have learned so far at the International UFO Congress:". One of them was, "Robert Sheaffer is the devil incarnate. At least that's what I'm told by people who saw me talking to him."

MUFON's Director of Research Robert Powell gave "A Detailed Analysis of an Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon Captured in a Homeland Security IR Video."  On April 25, 2013 a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft flying over Ahuadilla, Puerto Rico captured an object on infrared video that Powell said was the best UFO video he had ever seen. Working as part of a group calling itself the Scientific Coalition for UFOlogy, they have produced a 161-page analysis purporting to show that the object appears to possess a technology unknown on earth. The most interesting part of their report is the claim that the object, moving at close to 100 mph, went into the water and continued at that same speed underwater for several seconds when it emerged. Their report, and the IR video, are found on the SCU website.

During the Q&A period, I noted that there is a different group called the Puerto Rico Research Review (PRRR), consisting of many of the same people who worked on the Roswell Slides Research Group, that has been analyzing that same video, and coming to quite a different conclusion. (Most importantly, the object never enters the water. It is closer to the camera than the SCU estimates, and not traveling as fast. The optical aspects of an object seen in thermal infrared are quite different than if seen in visible light.) Because the PRRR group has been working only from the YouTube version of the Aguadilla IR UFO video, which is lower resolution, I asked Powell if he would be willing share the higher-resolution video that he has been working with. He was. After his talk, I obtained a copy from him, and shared it with the PRRR group.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Skeptical Look at the 25th Annual International UFO Congress (Part 2)

Alejandro Rojas

(Continuing from the last posting) Alejandro Rojas was the  Master of Ceremonies for the Congress, introducing the speakers and making announcements. He spoke about several interesting but implausible "Strange Alien Encounters," in many different countries: the U.S., the UK, Italy, Chile, Poland, Japan, and others. The famous Kelly-Hopkinsville "goblin encounters" in Kentucky, in 1955. An alleged encounter  with extraterrestrials by a maintenance man on the estate of Lord Mountbatten (Prince Philip's uncle) in 1955. Desmond Leslie was Mountbatten's friend, who related further ET contact claims by this maintenance man. (It wasn't mentioned that Leslie was a close associate of and co-author with George Adamski).  Perhaps the most interesting story was that of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who served as president of the Republic of Kalmykia for 17 years and for 20 years as the head of the World Chess Federation. He claims to have been abducted by aliens, and even claims that the game of chess was invented by space aliens.

Barbara Lamb (left), with one of her Alien Hybrid friends
Longtime UFO abductionist Barbara Lamb's talk was titled "Meet the Hybrids - ET Ambassadors on Earth." She explained that when she goes to UFO conferences (she goes to pretty much all of them), she meets women (mostly) who claim to be alien "hybrids" born to earth women. Some claim to have Reptilian paternal ancestry, while others' fathers are Mantis beings. She has a completely different view of the alleged hybrid invasion than does Jacobs, who sees it as our greatest existential threat - she sees it as all Sweetness and Light. She actually said that the aliens' whole reason for being here on earth "is to serve humanity." Perhaps she is not familiar with the episode of the Twilight Zone in which the alien comes to earth with a book titled "to serve man" - and everyone is delighted until it's discovered that this is a cookbook. In any case, she quickly added, "in a beneficial way."

In her rambling, unfocused talk, Lamb asserted "we are all one," aliens and earthlings alike. She called up her six "hybrids" to speak, one by one. Five of the six are women. As the first one rambled on, taking far more than one-sixth of the remaining time, it occurred to me that Barbara Lamb seemed unaware of the Second Law of UFOlogy: Whenever a New Age "experiencer" has an opportunity to speak to an audience about her paranormal adventures, she will continue to do so until someone loops a cane around her neck and pulls her offstage. These various Hybrids claimed to be 5th dimensional beings, and spoke about their hybrid children aboard that UFO. They are here to "raise the frequency" of earth, as well as to help the animals.
Dr. Joe Lewels

Dr. Joe Lewels has a PhD in journalism, and is a certified hypnotherapist. His subject was "Forbidden Science - UFOs and Religion." He asserts that UFOs are the "missing link" for understanding the miracles of the Bible. All that talk about Ezekiel's Chariot and the Burning Bush and such are just "Biblical terms for UFOs." He concluded that "UFOs inspire religious beliefs." Amen, brother!

David Hatcher Childress is well-known as the co-star of Ancient Aliens on the History Channel, and styles himself as "the real life Indiana Jones." He spoke on "Ancient Aliens and Megalithic Construction." He explained how all of these ancient megalithic sites are so wonderful that they could have only been built by aliens. 

Even after his talk, Childress showed himself to be a veritable dynamo of energy as he held the attention of assembled crowds at his literature table and elsewhere, dispensing off-the-cuff wisdom about ancient aliens and such.
Childress at his literature table, taking the Name of Science in vain. 
Animated and energetic, he wows the assembled crowd.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, who has the largest UFO conference of them all? According to the Guiness Book of World Records in 2015, the International UFO Congress near Phoenix is supposed to be the largest. Its auditorium, sometimes filled or nearly so, seats 1200 people. Add in a few hundred more milling about, and you've got maybe 1500 people attending. But according to press reports, last years Contact in the Desert UFO Conference drew over 2,000 people to the Mojave Desert at the end of May. What is their draw? It certainly was not the amenities, with much of the conference taking place outdoors in the summer desert heat, or under tents. Probably it's because of the "even more fringe" orientation, including the likes of David Wilcock, Georgio Tsoukalos, and even Erich von Daniken himself.
A scene from "Contact in the Desert," 2015. Attendees enjoying the nice, warm 100-degree desert summer sun.
 (to be continued)

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Skeptical Look at the 25th Annual International UFO Congress (Part 1)

Once again this year, I attended the International UFO Congress at the We-Ko-Pa Resort, Conference Center, and Casino, near Phoenix, Arizona. It looks much the same as last year, except for the really ugly bright orange bags we were all given. There are not as many plastic alien statues as last year, but there still are a few scattered about.

Samuel Maranto
The very first speaker was Samuel Maranto, MUFON's Illinois State Director, to speak about "Mass Sightings" in his state. Unfortunately, most of his photos and videos only showed featureless 'lights in the sky,' which could have been a lot of things, like lighted balloons (which suggestion he rejected as "complete and utter nonsense"). I did not realize that when the celebrated early morning sightings occurred in southern Illinois on January 5, 2000, the state was already having a decent-sized flap of UFO sightings, and sightings occurred in that same area the previous evening. So people were well-primed to see unidentified objects. He also spoke about the now-famous 2006 UFO sighting at O'Hare Field Gate C17 (and apparently nowhere else).  There are no photos of it, and it did not show up on radar. However, he showed a photo that depicted a round, fuzzy cloud, and said this was what the observers said it looked like. I spoke with Sam quite a bit afterward. He is a very friendly guy, and is not dogmatic.
Paul Davids

Paul Davids is a writer and producer of movies and TV shows. He was the producer and co-writer of the Showtime film Roswell in 1993. He spoke on "Marilyn Monroe, the CIA, and UFOs." He made much of the FBI Hottel Memo that talks about an alleged UFO crash, not bothering to explain how it has been shown to be just a re-hash of the well-known (and bogus) claim of Silas Newton.As for MM, she was killed by the same people who killed JFK the following year. During the evening film festival, Davids presented his 96 minute documentary movie, Marilyn Monroe Declassified. I saw part of the movie, and found it entertaining, just like his talk, but based on gossip and conjecture. I also had some interesting conversations later with Paul. He says his interest in UFOs began when he and his family had a Daylight Disc sighting near Los Angeles in 1987.
Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern, who has written three books about the MIB in the past few years, spoke on "Men In Black: History and Mystery." He went into the well-known history of the Men in Black: Albert K. Bender, Gray Barker, John Keel, Tim Beckley. Brad Steiger, said Redfern, reported an MIB encounter. Since Steiger confessed to me when we met, decades ago, that nothing he wrote should be taken seriously, he knows it's nonsense, I doubt that Steiger's "MIB encounter" actually happened. 

Redfern suggested that the MIB could be (in addition to government agents) ETs, Time Travelers, Demons, or perhaps related to Vampires. He also suggested that in "They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers," Gray Barker tried to understand Bender's MIB as best he could. When I had a chance to speak with him later, I explained that I knew Barker, who always treated this book as a joke, as did James Moseley, who according to the book was one of the victims of the MIBs' "silencing." (Moseley lived for 55 years after being "silenced," and was one of the least-silent people in all of UFOdumb.) Perhaps Redfern, having found a comfortable niche in UFOlogy as the MIB-man, has become protective of his prime assets. He certainly knows his MIB lore, even the obscure stuff.
David Jacobs

Longtime UFOlogist and abduction-finder David Jacobs gave one of the most interesting talks, "Understanding the Abduction Phenomenon," which pretty closely followed his latest book, Walking Among Us. That means aliens, or specifically human-alien hybrids, which he calls hubrids. And they are literally taking over our planet, slowly and methodically. This alien enterprise, he says, probably began either in the last quarter of the 19th century, or the first quarter of the 20th.  These abductions are a thing that her never happened on earth before that. Alien abductions are global, clandestine, and intergenerational - they run in families. There is no evidence that aliens have ever made contact with governments. The goal is apparently "planetary acquisition," which they are doing for their own benefit, not ours.

Hubrids aged in their late teens through early 20s are moving into apartments in groups or 2, 3, or 4, although a few of them live alone. (I have seen them, too, but thought they were college students.) The aliens and their hubrids are all telepathic - if someone claims to be an alien hybrid but can't read your mind, then they're not. Since Jacobs says that this alien incursion is the "greatest existential threat" to humanity, it is extremely strange that he and his followers have made no effort at all to identify these invaders, and expose them.

Jacobs says that when he begins hypnosis sessions with a new "abductee," the subject says all kinds of things that just are not true, especially in the first few sessions.  Subjects often "confabulate." But after a few more hypnosis sessions, Jacobs' subjects apparently learn which details are 'correct' and which are not, and tell stories that are much more 'correct.' This conformity among accounts is then cited to "prove" that the abduction stories are real.

(To be continued)