Friday, July 18, 2014

JAL 1628: Capt. Terauchi's Marvellous "Spaceship"

A recent email circulating among certain UFO researchers asked, where is the best on-line statement of the skeptic's position on the famous JAL 1628 sighting by Capt. Terauchi on Nov. 17, 1986? Despite it being one of the most celebrated cases in the recent UFO literature, it turns out that there wasn't a lot. To remedy this perceived lack, I scanned all of the press clippings and other papers in my file on the case, and placed it on the Historical Documents page of my Debunker.com website. It contains original press clippings from when the case was first reported, a press release by CSICOP, FAA information, and a "Summary White Paper" about the case by Philip J. Klass. (Page numbers given refer to this PDF document.)
Capt. Terauchi (from People Magazine).
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on December 30, 1986, "The crew of a Japan Air Lines cargo jet claimed that a UFO with flashing white and yellow strobe lights followed them across the Arctic Circle in route from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Tokyo" (p.1). On January 1, 1987, that paper reported, "A veteran pilot whose UFO sighting was confirmed on radar screens said the thing was so enormous that his Japan Air Lines cargo jet - a Boeing 747 - was tiny compared with the mysterious object" (p.2). Feeling the heat, the FAA soon re-opened its investigation of the incident. "The reason we're exploring it is that it was a violation of airspace," said FAA spokesman Paul Steucke. "That may sound strange, but that's what it was" (p. 4).

The FAA reviewed its data, and found reasons to doubt its earlier statements. By Jan 8, the press was reporting,
The FAA has concluded that the unidentified object on radar now appears to be an unexplained split image of the JAL Boeing 747 and not a separate object .... The review of radar data indicates that no second object was present and represents a reversal of earlier FAA statements that a second object was confirmed on radar. "The bottom line is that this tells us that we don't have any radar confirmation of the object that the pilot said he saw," Steucke said (p. 5).
Philip J. Klass investigated, and soon CSICOP issued a Press Release, written by Klass (p. 7):
 At  the  time  the UFO incident began near Ft. Yukon, the JAL airliner was  flying  south  in  twilight  conditions  so  that  an extremely bright Jupiter  (-2.6  magnitude) would have been visible on the pilot's left-hand side, where  he first reported seeing the UFO, according to Klass. Jupiter was  only 10 degrees above the horizon, making it appear to the pilot to be at  roughly  his  own  35,000  ft.  altitude.  Mars,  slightly lower on the horizon, was about 20 degrees to the right of Jupiter but not as bright....Although  the  very  bright  Jupiter,  and less bright Mars, had to be visible  to JAL Capt. Kenjyu Terauchi, the pilot never once reported seeing either  -- only a UFO
 Many  of  the  colorful  details  of  the incident carried by the news media, largely based on the six-week-old recollections of the pilot of JAL Flight  1628,  are  contradicted by a transcript of radio messages from the pilot to FAA controllers while the incident was in progress. For  example, news media accounts quoting the 747 pilot said that when he  executed  a  360 degree turn, the UFO had followed him around the turn. But  this  claim  is contrary to what the pilot told FAA controllers at the time.
An interesting historical footnote: in the press release, Klass credits "astronomers Nick Sanduleak and C. B. Stephenson, of Case   Western   Reserve  University,  in  Cleveland,  for  their  valuable assistance  in  computing  the  positions  and bearings of bright celestial bodies relative to the 747 airliner at the time of the incident." In February 1987, the month after this press release was issued, southern hemisphere astronomers discovered Supernova 1987a, in the Large Magellanic Cloud. It was the brightest supernova seen from Earth since 1604, easily visible to the naked eye. Researchers discovered that the progenitor star (before the Supernova explosion) was a blue giant star known as  Sanduleak -69° 20. Yes, that Nick Sanduleak (1933-1990). He catalogued the stars of the Large Magellanic Cloud. He also discovered Sanduleak's Star, a very unusual object in the Large Magellanic Cloud, with a "giant, highly-collimated bipolar jet." In his spare time he attended CSICOP conferences, where I met him several times, a very friendly fellow. Unfortunately, he died of a cardiac arrest a few years after this.

The FAA issued an in-depth report, with primary references and interviews included. Unfortunately, the FAA charged $194.30 for the complete package, including all written records, photographs, and all tape recordings. It wasn't exactly a best-seller: not too many people were sufficiently interested to send in almost $200 for information about a UFO report. In fact, it sounds very much like the FAA constructed this expensive package to deter the many persons badgering them for information on the case. But that didn't deter Philip J. Klass.


Capt. Terauchi's UFO, as he reported it


Klass wrote an article in The Skeptical Inquirer, Summer 1987: "FAA Data Sheds New Light on JAL Pilot's UFO Report." It was reprinted in the book, The UFO Invasion (Prometheus Books, 1997), Kendrick Frazier, Barry Karr, and Joe Nickell, eds.

Klass wrote,
The FAA data package reveals Terauchi to be a "UFO repeater," with two other UFO sightings prior to November 17, and two more this past January, which normally raises a "caution flag" for experienced UFO investigators. The JAL pilot is convinced that UFOs are extraterrestrial and when describing the light(s) Terauchi often used the term spaceship or mothership.
 During his January 2 interview with FAA officials, Terauchi said that he believed the "mothership" intentionally positioned itself in the "darkest [easterly] side" of the sky because "I think they did not want to be seen." This enabled the UFO to see the 747 "in front of the sunset and visible for any movement we make." In his report to the FAA, he expressed the hope that "we humans will meet them in the new future"... [On January 11] he again reported spotting unusual lights in roughly the same area while on a repeat flight from Paris to Anchorage...
[Terauchi] always failed to mention that two other aircraft in the area that were vectored into the vicinity of the JAL 747 to try to spot the UFO he had been reporting were unable to see any such object... [Flight Engineer Yoshio Tsukuba] "was not sure whether the object was a UFO or not"... When the copilot [Takanori Tamefuji] was asked if he could distinguish these lights "as being different" from a star, he replied: "No."


Bruce Maccabee has written a very long report (as is his habit) on the JAL 1628 UFO. If you want to read every detail of Capt. Terauchi's account, it is here. Maccabee wrote,
CSICOP was not finished with the case.  Evidently even Phil Klass could see that his Jupiter-Mars explanation had failed. In the Summer, 1987 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer he published a new analysis.  [Actually, Jupiter was still part of Klass' analysis, but the fainter Mars was not.] This time the lights were explained as reflections of moonlight from the clouds and “turbulent ice crystals.”   (Recall that the air crew reported thin clouds below them.)   According to Klass the turbulent ice crystals “could have generated flame-colored lights” and “this would also explain why the undulating lights would periodically and suddenly disappear and then reapper as cloud conditions ahead changed.  When the aircraft finally outflew the ice clouds and the initial ‘UFO’ disappeared for good (the Captain) would search the sky for it, spot Jupiter further to the left and conclude it was the initial UFO.”  Klass attributed the airplane radar sighting to “an echo from thin clouds of ice crystals.”
KLASS’s explanation verges on scientific garbage.  There is no reason to suppose that moonlight reflected off ice crystals in the clouds would generate “flame colored lights.”   Klass’ explanation certainly could not account for the heat which Terauchi felt on his face.  Nor would it explain the distinct arrays of flames or lights associated with two independently flying objects that appeared ahead of the plane and ABOVE for many minutes (the clouds were reported to be below the plane).
While I tend to agree that moonlight reflecting off clouds would probably not make a very good "UFO" display, there are so many sources for 'lights in the sky' (including 'lights on the ground,' which Terauchi agreed with the FAA was an explanation for his January 11 UFO sighting) that once the main "UFO" has been demoted from a giant "mothership" to 'unexplained lights,' it no longer impresses us as much of a mystery. Even J. Allen Hynek was dismissive of  'lights in the sky' UFO reports. The bottom line is, Terauchi's own flight crew saw only 'lights,' and other aircraft checking out the situation saw nothing unusual.

Artist's conception of Capt. Terauchi's UFO

The case merits a chapter (#22) in Leslie Kean's book, UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record. Written by John J. Callahan, he claims that Terauchi's crew "both saw it, too." Of course this is false - they saw only lights, not the giant spaceship that Terauchi reported. Callahan also claims that "it flew alongside his jet" after he turned, but (as Klass notes), this contradicts what Terauchi told FAA controllers at the time. Callahan ices the cake with his claim that the CIA has over 30 minutes of radar data confirming Terauchi's UFO, but they refuse to release it, to prevent public panic.

Kean is enormously impressed by pilot sightings, which she describes as “a unique window into the unknown.” She writes that pilots “represent the world’s most experienced and best-trained observers of everything that flies… these unique circumstances potentially transform any jet aircraft into a specialized flying laboratory for the study of rare anomalous phenomena.” Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the late USAF Project Blue Book consultant who Kean repeatedly cites as a respected UFO authority, came to exactly the opposite conclusion. On  page  271  of his 1977 book The Hynek UFO Report, he  wrote, “Surprisingly, commercial and military pilots appear to make relatively poor witnesses.” Kean actually quotes from other pages of that book, but makes absolutely no mention of Hynek’s low opinion of pilot sightings.

Re-reading Terauchi's own statements about the incident, I don't think that anyone could call him an unbiased or objective observer. 


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Looking for Mr. Goodape - The Sequel

While watching a film about hikers in the high Sierras, I was reminded of the time I went camping there with the late, great Cryptozoologist Erik Beckjord (1939-2008), perhaps best-known for his "paranormal Bigfoot" theories. Beckjord claimed to know the very spot where Bigfoot "lived" and was most likely to be seen, and that is where we camped. I wrote the story of this little adventure in my Psychic Vibrations column in The Skeptical Inquirer,  November/December, 1999. It is reprinted below. Some people might object that a posting about Bigfoot is out of place on a Blog called "Bad UFOs." I disagree. Bigfoot and UFOs have been linked together so many times that they seem to go together, like love and marriage, or a horse and carriage. (See, for example, the wild talk about Bigfoot and ETs given by Kewaunee Lapseritis at the 2014 International UFO Congress).

Beckjord never publicly revealed the location of his Bigfoot site, to protect Bigfoot from "evil people." Get your GPS ready, I'm going to show you where it is.


* * * * * * * * * * * * 


Looking for Mr. Goodape (Psychic Vibrations, Nov/Dec, 1999)

Erik Beckjord poses with Bigfoot
Over a period of more than twenty years, veteran Bigfoot chaser Erik Beckjord of the Sasquatch Research Project has camped with other researchers at a remote spot in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains between Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe, at an altitude of 6,400 feet. He describes it as a “window site” where, he says, evidence of Bigfoot is almost routinely seen. “At this site we have obtained photos of weird aliens, bigfoot, gargoyles, etc that we never saw when we clicked the camera. We hear bigfootsteps. FIND BF tracks. Hear roars, wails, screams, some as close as fifty ft. Hear heavy breathing outside tents. Have strange shape-shifting ‘humans’ come by camp,” he claims on his website .


If this doesn’t sound like the kind of encounter you’d expect to occur in Bigfoot country, it is because Beckjord, unlike many Bigfootologists, maintains that “Bigfoot is not as simple as you think it is. Yes, it looks like an erect ape. It smells, sometimes, and it leaves tracks - sometimes. But it never dies... Bigfoot then, seems to be an alien shape-shifting being that may possibly be able to slip into alternate dimensions or worlds. We think.”

Beckjord, who operated the short-lived UFO Museum in San Francisco, has been proclaiming for years that all skeptics were too timid and closed-minded to actually go out into the woods and confront the Bigfoot evidence for themselves. Because I got tired of hearing this, and because I hadn’t been out camping for a while, I agreed to join the search. “Bring your lady friend,” Beckjord urged me. “Bigfoot loves women!” She unfortunately was not able to join us, but she was kind enough to loan me her Jeep.

When the time came to depart, Beckjord was hours late for our initial rendezvous. Indeed, all his planning for the big Bigfoot expedition seemed at best haphazard. Driving up to the mountains, we had to make frequent stops for him to purchase items he didn’t bother to get in advance.  By the time we finally reached the entrance of the Bear River Reservoir area of the El Dorado National Forest, darkness had overtaken us. Beckjord - who claimed to have been to the Bigfoot “Window Area” so many times he could find it in his sleep - led us around dusty, unpaved Forest Service roads for an hour and a half before reaching a dead-end and admitting that we had made some wrong turns. We camped the first night right where we found ourselves. The sky was clear and dark, the Milky Way spectacular. We saw an extremely brilliant reflection from an Iridium satellite that looked as bright as a magnesium flare, appearing much more spectacular than any I’d seen before because of the very dark skies. Beckjord says that he had observed an event like this while researching Crop Circles in England in 1997 but considered it a UFO. Before we retired, he loudly played a tape of a human infant crying (which sounds eerie in the wilderness!), claiming that is sometimes successful in attracting Bigfoot. He then set up two “Bigfoot detectors”, infrared sensors that beep if the signature of a person or a large animal is seen. The detectors were silent until he went out to turn them off the next morning.
 
With the help of daylight, we easily located Bigfoot’s paranormal “Window Site” (Beckjord doesn’t want me to disclose the exact location, lest “evil people” go there and cause unspecified harm). Finding the road leading into the site in even worse shape this year than before, it would obviously be accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles, which seemed to rule out taking in Beckjord’s 1978 Ford station wagon. While we are studying the obstacles between our vehicles and the site, we meet a friendly fellow with a four-wheel drive truck, who offered to carry Beckjord’s equipment past the impassable stretch of road. Afterward, Beckjord speculated in his email Bigfoot newsletter that perhaps the helpful stranger was not at all what he appeared to be:  “Sort of a Good Samaritan MIB but in jeans. Now, was he CIA, MIB, MIJeans, a shapeshifter, or a tulpa, complete with truck?” Apparently, these days shapeshifters have the capability to take on not only animate forms, but become motor vehicles as well. 
 
We set up camp right at the shore of Bigfoot’s pond, bypassing a more comfortable camping site a hundred yards away at the other pond because Bigfoot allegedly doesn’t show up at that one. Unfortunately, Bigfoot seems to have chosen to make his home in a low-lying area with nearby brackish water, probably one of the most heavily mosquitoed areas of the forest. This suggests the possibility that Bigfoot, if he exists, may be a lower form of life. We looked all around the site, but didn’t see or hear much except flies and mosquitoes. 
Even animal life is sparse around there because there is so little food in the high-altitude forest. Later, Beckjord decided not to allow the road obstacles to deter him from bringing his old station wagon to the site. He nearly made it over road holes, rocks, and streams until his car was solidly captured by a huge mudhole. I towed it out with the Jeep. 

Beckjord had arranged with a group of psychics to help us see Bigfoot by projecting their powers toward us one evening at 9:30 PM. We were instructed look for flashes of light on the horizon. The time came and went, but nothing happened.

Much of the supposed “Bigfoot evidence” at this site is photographic in nature. That is, even if you go there and don’t see anything, faint images of Bigfoot or other anomalous creatures allegedly turn up in the grain of photos you take. In previous years, a supposed Bigfoot had been glimpsed in photos, preferring to lurk under certain trees. I strolled around the pond to examine carefully the area under the Bigfoot trees. Alas, no evidence of anomalous apes was to be seen. We then climbed to the top of the ridge on the other side, where in previous years footprints and other “evidence” of Bigfoot activity had been seen. Alas, the proof still eluded us. 

During the whole four days I spent in the Bigfoot “window area,” nothing, alas, out of the ordinary was seen, heard, felt, detected, or smelled. This is not surprising: the presence of skeptics is known to have a serious dampening effect upon all manifestations of things paranormal. Another factor hindering Bigfoot activity was that fact that there was no woman in the party, at least during the time I was there. If we saw anything at all even a little bit unusual, it might have been several rocks that, by a stretch of the imagination (a big stretch), look like Bigfoot faces or skulls, when the viewing angle and the illumination was just right. Beckjord attributes this to shape-shifting tulpas that temporary inhabit the rocks and alter their appearance, in an attempt to communicate; I attribute it to the workings of an overzealous imagination.
 
 Beckjord relates how, years before, he persuaded a camera crew from CBS News to spend two days at the site. Absolutely nothing unusual was heard or seen during this time (the crew dutifully reported the search, nonetheless). But as soon as the crew had departed, “all hell broke loose” and Bigfoot was heard to scream, move about, break branches, etc. Therefore it was not surprising that it was only after I had left that Beckjord obtained what he claims is a photo of Bigfoot (or at least the shadow of one) on one of the Bigfoot trees across the pond. Not that it would have mattered even if I were there, since the “evidence” was not seen until later, when the film was developed. (My photos, on the other hand, show only bushes, trees, rocks, and leaves. Perhaps my imagination is insufficiently developed to discover the paranormal beings hiding within them.) 

Beckjord’s website now announces the return, “flushed with victory,” of “The Great Sierra Bigfoot Expedition 1999.” It proudly displays the photo of the shape of “Bigfoot” straddling a split tree trunk. He also announced the “preliminary finding” that the “half-Bigfoot” allegedly photographed at the site in 1978 (apparently its lower half never materialized) “was found to have been bridging a ten foot gap between two trees, resting on a dead 2 inch branch!” The significance of this finding is not explained. 
Beckjord's caption: "Note possible Bigfoot, with crossed arms and widespread legs, and a sort of
 Gumby-face, in center of photo.  BF not seen at the time, photo by Erik Beckjord.
  It is possible that this is of a spiritual Bigfoot being, rather than a flesh and blood model. "
As for me, I will do my best to contain my disappointment at not seeing anything paranormal. Maybe the best way to do so would be to get a T-shirt made up: I went on the Great Sierra Bigfoot Expedition of 1999, and all I found were mosquitoes.

* * * * * * * * * * * *  
Afterwards, Beckjord wrote,

 One skeptic, Robert Sheaffer, of CSICOP, did, to his his credit, spend five days there, but, as predicted, no activity was experienced, perhaps to due to the mind-set of skeptics, as broadcast mentally by the human brain. However, on that trip, 1999, a family group replaced Sheaffer onsite, and one of the children claims to have made a sighting of a Bigfoot type creature on top of a cliff, on the other side of a creek. Also, once the skeptic left, some photos were taken that produced a very tall humanoid image of marginal quality. 
 Skepticism repels Bigfoot every time! Beckjord mounted yet another 'expedition' to the site in 2004, in which he claims to have recorded more "paranormal" images of Bigfoot in the trees.
Beckjord claimed to have captured nine paranormal creatures in this photograph. Can you see them? I can't.
On July 22, 2008, Jon Erik Beckjord succumbed to cancer. He was sixty-nine. He was a "larger than life" figure, in a way that is difficult to explain if you didn't know him. He was the closest thing Cryptozoology has ever had to a Hunter S. Thompson. Physically imposing (some suggested that he was Bigfoot), there was his celebrated fistfight with the late conspiracy theorist Bill Cooper (and no, I don't know how it started, or who won). He was arrested and jailed at least once. There was the matter of the money he persuaded a rich girlfriend to give him to make a Bigfoot movie (but there never was a movie). His devotion to Bigfoot and the paranormal was nothing less than an obsession that drove his life. Yet he did not, so far as I'm aware, make stuff up. He could back up every claim he made with "proof," even if his "proof" was ridiculous.

It will do no harm if I now reveal the “secret Bigfoot site” to be at 38.538409 deg latitude, -120.193252 longitude. This is within the Bear River reservoir area of the El Dorado National Forest in northern California. The elevation is 6294 ft. The current photo on Google maps (presumably taken in the midst of the current California drought) looks much drier than when we were there. The campsite was at the edge of a shallow pond, but that area now looks dry.


Google Maps will even give you directions to get almost all the way to the campsite. You start out on CA route 88 going east from the Gold Rush town of Jackson, CA, heading up into the mountains, and turn into the Bear River Reservoir Area. Google can even tell you which little forest roads lead to it. Happy Bigfoot hunting! (And remember to bring mosquito repellent.)


* * * * *



Saturday, May 31, 2014

Welcome, Space Brothers! - Unarius Hits the Cinema

The headquarters of the Unarius Academy of Science in El Cajon, CA.

The Unarius "Academy of Science" is well-known in UFOlogy as one of the few survivng institutions from the Contactee glory days of the 1950s. It was founded in 1954 by Ernest L. Norman (1904-1971) and his wife Ruth E. Norman (1900-1993, sometimes fondly known as "Spacecraft Ruthie"). Wikipedia says,
The organization purports to advance a new "interdimensional science of life" based upon "fourth-dimensional" physics principles...Since Ruth Norman's death in 1993, the organization has struggled, particularly since 2001, when a space-fleet landing prophesied by [her successor] Charles Spiegel in 1980 failed to occur. Unariuns believe in immortality of the soul, and that all people have past lives. They also believe that our solar system was once inhabited by ancient interplanetary civilizations. The aliens are said to be “human beings” who have lived on Earth and on other planets outside our solar system. They are said to be more advanced than humans, spiritually and scientifically.
Ernest L. Norman claimed to be a psychic, and to channel cosmic messages. After his death, his wife concentrated on the show-business aspects of spreading the message of Interplanetary Peace and Love.


Ruth Norman, in full interplanetary regalia

But lest you think of Unarius as an irrelevant relic, let us point out that now there is a Unarius Film Festival going on in Los Angeles this weekend, and it is reported to be selling out!
Bootlegged and coveted by collectors for decades, these films have never before been presented as works on the large screen — until now. This full-immersion weekend includes core Unarius members onstage for live Q&As, the world theatrical premiere of Unarius’ 1979 16mm masterwork The Arrival, highlights from their massive archive of public access videos — plus a Unarius costume exhibit, pop-up reading room, workshops, and tea house on Cinefamily’s back patio.
 There is talk of repeating the Unarius festival in other cities.

Unarius is conveniently located just a short drive from where I live. I'm also conveniently close to the Museum of Creation and Earth History in Santee, CA. It's a very "enlightened" neighborhood! I took some photos at a Unarius ceremony in a park in El Cajon in 2005:

A Majorette leads the procession of Interplanetary Ambassadors







Friday, April 18, 2014

UFO, or Satellite Re-Entry? Finally, a List!

As "UFO Realists" (meaning, those of us who think that facts matter when it comes to evaluating UFO claims), we all realize that at least some dramatic UFO reports are misperceptions of objects burning up upon entering (or, in the case of satellites, re-entering) the earth's atmosphere. We know, for example, about the Zond IV re-entry in 1968, widely seen across the United States, and widely reported as a UFO, with "impossible details" added to what was actually visible.

Ted Molczan of Toronto, Ontario, is perhaps the world's leading civilian authority on observing earth satellites, and calculating their orbits. He is a principal contributor to the SEESAT list, the principal on-line forum of the world's serious amateur satellite watchers. Whenever observers disagree about which satellite has been seen, a pronouncement from Molczan will usually settle it. 

Supposed "Mothership" UFO, Yukon Territories, Canada, December 11, 1996
In April, 2012, Molczan was consulted about the famous Yukon "Mothership UFO" reports of December 11, 1996, which were touted as a "Top Ten" UFO case, and strongly promoted by Stanton Friedman, the "Flying Saucer Physicist." Molczan discovered that it matched perfectly with the flaming re-entry of the second stage of the rocket that had launched the Russian satellite Cosmos 2335 earlier that day. I wrote a Blog entry about this, with emphasis on the spurious details that had been added to the reports.

Previous to this, Molczan had little interest in, or exposure to, UFO reports, although a few of us skeptics had been in occasional contact with him. But this incident piqued his curiosity,  and he began to investigate: how many other reported UFO cases can be tied to satellite re-entries? Apparently, the answer was, "lots," and the result was this list, the first of its kind. It hopes to list every natural satellite re-entry (a naturally-decaying orbit, as opposed to controlled re-entries) that has been visually observed, and reported. It now runs to 20 pages of reports. Not all of the observations are taken from UFO reports. Many are from scientific observers, or press reports. Also, it does not include meteor sightings, no matter how spectacular. So famous bolide sightings like the Great Lakes Fireball of December 9, 1965 (a.k.a. the "Kecksburg UFO Crash") are not in the list.

Molczan has promised to keep the list updated, as new information becomes available. The latest copy will always be here:




Molczan recently wrote, 
I identified three more 1980's sightings just last night, all of them unsolved Australian UFO cases. That brings to 54 the number of UFOs I have identified as re-entries, beginning with the 1996 Yukon case nearly two years ago.

The comprehensive set of web pages that I intend to be the final product of this research will include general information on the science of re-entries and reports on selected individual sightings. A working prototype of the latter is the identification of David Biedny's childhood UFO sighting in Venezuela in 1974, which he and his brother disclosed on the Paracast in 2006: http://satobs.org/reentry/1974-060B/1974-060B.html
So at least 54 "UFOs" have become "IFOs," thanks to Molczan's efforts. And that "working prototype" page is pretty darn impressive! So if you are researching a historical UFO case,  you'd do well to check this list, to see if Molczan has anything about it. And a hearty cheer for Ted Molczan, for all this great work!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Carl Sagan, Laurance Rockefeller, and UFOs


 UFO researcher Shepherd Johnson of Virginia was researching Carl Sagan's papers at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.


He found a fascinating attempt by Laurance Rockefeller to draw Sagan into his pro-UFO advocacy (Johnson posted this to the Facebook group UFO Updates). The American billionaire Laurance Rockefeller (1910 - 2004) was the son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and the brother of Nelson Rockefeller. His UFO "disclosure initiative" is well-known in UFO circles. According to Wikipedia, 
 In 1993, along with his niece, Anne Bartley, the stepdaughter of Winthrop Rockefeller and the then-president of the Rockefeller Family Fund, he established the UFO Disclosure Initiative to the Clinton White House. They asked for all UFO information held by the government, including from the CIA and the US Air Force, to be declassified and released to the public. The first and most important test case where declassification had to apply, according to Rockefeller, was the Roswell UFO incident. In September 1994, the Air Force categorically denied the incident was UFO-related. Rockefeller briefed Clinton on the results of his initiative in 1995. Clinton did produce an Executive Order in late 1994 to declassify numerous documents in the National Archives, but this did not specifically refer to UFO-related files.
There are still conspiracy theories going around about Rockefeller's UFO "disclosure initiative" being suppressed by shadowy powers.

In addition to funding UFO research, Laurance Rockefeller also funded research into Crop Circles, and ESP.



SETI has no data, says Rockefeller's argument, but UFOlogy does. Sagan's reply was brief and pointed:


"A million reports that the Earth is flat has no veridical value on the shape of the Earth." - Carl Sagan.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

More Museum Shenanigans

Back on Sept. 6, 2012 I wrote a Blog entry, Smithsonian-Affiliated "National Atomic Testing Museum" Promises UFO "Secrets" Revealed. It is still getting a lot of web hits - currently it's my third most-viewed entry, in spite of being a year and a half old. One would hope that in that intervening time things would have gotten better, owing to the bad publicity they received over this. Unfortunately, things seem to be getting worse.

I was at the recent International UFO Congress near Phoenix, Arizona, and so was the National Atomic Testing and UFO Museum of Las Vegas, and its director, Allan Palmer. In the dealers' room, nestled in with the Adamski Foundation and other New Age and UFO organizations, the Museum set up a table to promote itself to the UFO aficionados. Among their offerings was a discount coupon, exclusively to attendees of the UFO Congress, for entry into their exhibit on Area 51, which presumably still includes an "authentic alien artifact" from Russia, given to it by George Knapp, a frequent guest host of the all-night paranormal and conspiracy radio program Coast to Coast AM. As I wrote in my Psychic Vibrations column in the Skeptical Inquirer,  January/February, 2013, about a pro-UFO panel discussion at the museum:
 During the question and answer session, Las Vegas skeptic John Whiteside asked about the supposed “authentic alien artifact” in the Area 51 exhibit. The moderator referred the question to reporter George Knapp, in the audience, who (scandalously) was the source of that “artifact.” Knapp has made a career out of reporting on weird stuff like alleged saucers at Area 51, Robert Bigelow’s Haunted Ranch in Utah, etc.  Who had verified that supposed artifact? The Russians, and others. Who exactly? No answer.


The table of the National Atomic Testing and UFO Museum, at the 2014 International UFO Congress.

Allan Palmer (right), with Lee Speigel of the Huffington Post.


At the conference, I had the opportunity to meet the Executive Director and CEO of the museum, Allan Palmer. He is a personable sort of fellow,  and, I thought, much more of a showman than an educator. (Earlier, when he was the head of the San Diego Air and Space Museum, he brought in the exhibit The Science of Aliens.) I thought that he perhaps might be upset concerning what I had written earlier about his museum, but that did not seem to be the case at all. It's "write anything you want, as long as you spell my name correctly," I suppose.

As we discussed that controversial panel of pro-UFOlogists who presented dubious UFO claims at his museum (see my earlier Blog posting), Palmer explained the difficulties he had with the Smithsonian over his museum's use of the tag "Smithsonian-affiliated." They didn't like his use of that label when the subject matter is UFOs.

But, he replied to them, you have presented a program on UFOs yourself! And he reminded them that on Sept. 6, 1980 the Smithsonian Institution sponsored a half-day UFO Symposium in Washington, DC. 

It was held in the large lecture hall of the Museum of Natural History. Six leading UFOlogists, pro and con, were invited to participate. On the "pro" side were the late J. Allen Hynek, Allan Hendry (who at that time was CUFOS' chief investigator), and Bruce Maccabee. On the skeptical side were the late Philip J. Klass, James E. Oberg, and myself. If you're going to have a panel to discuss UFOs, that is the way to do it! (The UFO Panel at Palmer's museum consisted solely of UFO proponents.) We each gave our presentations, and took questions in writing from the audience. My presentation is on-line here. (One member of the audience who was furious at not having been selected as a panelist was Stanton T. Friedman, a professional UFO lecturer who bills himself as the "Flying Saucer Physicist." Throughout the presentations Friedman could be heard, muttering and loudly declaiming comments, whenever any speaker said something with which he disagreed.)

In November of last year, I received email from Lee Speigel, who writes Weird News for the Huffington Post. He said he was going to be giving a talk at the National Atomic Testing and UFO Museum the following month, and wanted to know if I had any photos or other information about the Smithsonian UFO Panel. (Speigel attended that panel, which is where I first met him.) I replied by sending him the picture you see below, the only one from the event I currently have, plus the link to my presentation.

Sept. 6, 1980: Yours Truly (left), with the late Philip J. Klass, and the late Michael Dennett
(UFO and Bigfoot skeptic). Photo by John Timmerman.


Armed with that information, Palmer apparently went back to the folks at the Smithsonian, and filled them in on their own forgotten chapter about UFOs. After which, he said, they told him 'do anything you want, just don't put our name on it.' So you will notice that, on the flier for the talk to be given at the Museum by Stanton T. Friedman, the "Flying Saucer Physicist," the words "Smithsonian-affiliated" do not appear. A small victory, I suppose. Very small.

(On April 19, 1978, the Smithsonian had presented a debate on the existence of ESP, between the celebrated Joseph Banks Rhine, and skeptic and humanist Paul Kurtz, which I attended. Again, a perfectly-balanced discussion by experts. Apparently the transcript of this debate was published by the Smithsonian Institution Resident Associate Program as "Key Issues in Science Today - The Paranormal: Science or Pseudoscience?" Where might we get a copy of this?)


The Museum is now sponsoring a talk by The Flying Saucer Physicist himself.

I was interested to see in the March/April, 2014 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, a short News and Comment piece, "Pseudoscience Creep: Science Museums, Universities Host Pseudoscience" by Jessie Haynes. In it, she notes how in 2005, the Smithsonian Institution hosted the screening of an anti-evolution film by the Discovery Institute, in return for a $16,000 contribution from that organization. She also notes other dubious presentations by museums and schools, concluding "Pseudoscience is rampant in museums and schools across the United States, and unfortunately the media and likewise the public don't seem to care."

The entrance to the National Atomic Testing and UFO Museum


A coupon for discount admission to the Area 51 Exhibit, for UFO Congress attendees only.



Thursday, March 13, 2014

MUFON Jumps the Shark

From the Urban Dictionary:  
To jump the shark: The precise moment when you know a program, band, actor, politician, or other public figure has taken a turn for the worse, gone downhill, become irreversibly bad, is unredeemable, etc.; the moment you realize decay has set in.


MUFON, the largest UFO organization in the United States, presents itself as being dedicated to the scientific investigation of UFOs. Its website describes "MUFON's Use of the Scientific Method":
In the reporting and investigation of UFO sightings, MUFON strives to use the scientific method....In order to augment scientific research into the study of the UFO phenomenon, MUFON created a Science Review Board (SRB) in 2012. The SRB consists of 8-9 scientists with backgrounds in electrical engineering, physics, chemistry, geology, biology, computer science, and astronomy.
MUFON has just debuted a TV series on the cable channel H2 (History Channel #2, placing it in the august company of shows like Ancient Aliens and The UFO Hunters), and in it the Scientific Method is nowhere to be seen. The series is called Hangar 1 the UFO Files, where "Hangar 1" is supposed to be the place MUFON's supposedly vast collection of UFO data (or UFO stories) is kept. Since MUFON does not exactly own buildings or anything, and its headquarters keep moving as its directors change, some folks are quite skeptical that there even is such a place as "Hangar 1" (think of that huge storage building at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.)

And what exactly does MUFON serve up from its precious archives? Some of the most preposterous, unsubstantiated stories in the UFO literature. I was going to write up a long review of all of the nonsense in just the first episode of this clunker, but there is no need to. UFO blogger Jason Colavito has described the absurdities and fabrications quite nicely.  Some highlights: 
 Seriously: This is the absolute worst H2 “documentary” I have yet seen. It actually makes America Unearthed look responsible and Ancient Aliens seem accurate. Hangar 1 S01E01 “Presidential Encounters” opens with a note that the “following incidents are taken from real case files.” This reminds me of the opening the Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which claimed to be based on true events; however, I have no doubt that “these are actual UFO investigations” as the next slide informs us. That doesn’t make them true, of course... It seems, too, that this show has its own catchphrase: “MUFON files suggest…” This is almost as good as “ancient astronaut theorists believe…” from Ancient Aliens, but not quite...
The dateline is February 20, 1954: Palm Springs, California. Dwight Eisenhower vacations in Palm Springs “for no reason,” according to MUFON official John Ventre. Apparently MUFON official is this show’s version of “ancient astronaut theorist” on Ancient Aliens. A UFO historian tells us that Eisenhower “disappeared” for twelve hours during which time he allegedly met with aliens at Edwards Air Force Base. Dwight Equitz does not believe the official story, given out the next morning, that the president had emergency dental surgery even though the dentist himself made an appearance. Equitz has a self-satisfied smirk when he reports that the Air Force base was shut down to outsiders during Eisenhower’s trip to Palm Springs. He does not present the obvious: that it was shut down because of the President’s trip, perhaps as a secure retreat zone for the presidential party, or to house the presidential aircraft. Instead, he insinuates that the shutdown was to allow for aliens to land...
Here’s the MAJESTIC-12 language attributed to “Chapter 5: Extraterrestrial Biological Entities” of the Group Special Operations Manual dated April 1954, reformatted on this show to fabricate a “1 March 1954” memo, by computer, in Times New Roman. I quote from Stanton Friedman’s Top Secret/Majic, an unimpeachably pro-UFO source: “Any encounter with entities known to be of extraterrestrial origin is to be considered to be a matter of national security and therefore classified TOP SECRET. Under no circumstances is the general public or public press to learn of the existence of these entities. The official government policy is that such creatures do not exist, and that no agency of the federal government is not engaged in any study of extraterrestrials or their artifacts. Any deviation from this sated policy is absolutely forbidden.” This is the same text Hangar 1 uses, but they excerpt only some sentences from the MJ-12 manual in crafting their own fake memo. The whole thing we see on screen appears to be a complete fabrication from this passage of the fictional MJ-12 documents, and no one on this show acknowledges or addresses the deception involved in creating this fake document as an “illustration.” I’m sure as far as the show is concerned, it’s just another “reconstruction” like reenactments featured during the show, but they present it as though it were true, quote from the fake document as real, and give a fake date not supported by the “actual” files in the MUFON archive.
Read that carefully: MUFON has fabricated documents to look like genuine secret government UFO documents, and presented them in Hangar 1 as if they were authentic, with no explanation or disclaimer. If that isn't downright dishonesty, I don't know what else to call it.

Curt Collins' take on Hangar 1
In a sense this is nothing new. When the notorious Gulf Breeze UFO hoax photos first surfaced in 1987, MUFON's director Walt Andrus embraced them wholeheartedly, resulting in the resignation of some of MUFON's best-known investigators. Andrus was so protective of that hoax that when some of MUFON's most respected investigators checked it out it first-hand and declared it a hoax, Andrus' reaction was to fire the investigators, and keep the hoax (see my book Psychic Vibrations, p. 60, also see "Gulf Breeze" in index). And the reason was obvious: these dramatic but hokey photos were enormously popular with MUFON's subscribers, who wanted to see more "red meat" in UFOlogy. And propelled by the momentum of the Gulf Breeze hoax, MUFON grew significantly.

Unfortunately, given the success of such trashy cable TV shows like Ancient Aliens, Hangar 1 probably will be a commercial success. It gives viewers what they want - exciting stories about alien encounters that sound credible because they are presented in an extremely biased and inaccurate way. And it probably will be successful in bringing new members to MUFON, who will demand more UFOlogical "read meat" lest their attention wander. So look for plenty more such absurdities to follow. Such is the dynamic at work in "Retail UFOlogy": Numerous, uncritical followers gather around a person or organization that gives them the UFOlogical "red meat" that they crave. (See, for example, Steven Greer, or Whitley Strieber.) More cautious organizations, for example, MUFON under James Carrion, do not excite and retain their followers nearly as well, and tend to lose membership. They don't want to hear about caveats and uncertainty. But when the organization follows the spotlight and ignores proper skepticism, it defines itself as fringe, "crackpot" organizations, and is laughed at by anyone who understands science.

What is really interesting is that the people who seem to be the most upset about the absurdities of Hangar 1 are not skeptics, who expect pro-UFO organizations to act irresponsibly, but instead the group I call skeptical believers: those who believe that some UFO incidents might represent genuine mysteries beyond science, but who recognize that the great bulk of UFOlogy consists of error, exaggeration, and humbug. And the "skeptical believer" is just as ready to denounce humbug as is any skeptic. After all, the only way to convince science that the UFO phenomenon is worth studying would be to toss aside all of the accumulated humbug, and accentuate the (hopefully) solid cases. So when MUFON gives itself over to humbug without reservation, it destroys all hope of presenting a convincing pro-UFO case to the skeptical scientific world. So much for the "scientific method!" In a very real sense, the skeptical believers, along with skeptics, are allies who can be characterized as realists - those who care very much what the facts are about UFO cases and try to stick to the facts as best possible - as opposed to unrealists who are ready to embrace any absurd UFO tale if it is exciting, and ignore all facts to the contrary.

There are still some fine investigators in MUFON, who do not make claims beyond what the data will allow, and who are ready to denounce hoaxes and humbug wherever encountered. People like these cannot possibly be happy about MUFON's plunge into tabloid sensationalism, and can scarcely afford to have their names associated with such trash.

And finally, we learn from John Ventre, a MUFON state director and one of the "stars" of Hangar 1, that the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was abducted by extraterrestrials. What is MUFON coming to?