Thursday, December 23, 2010

More "Parachuting UFOs"

On October 27 I posted a Blog entry titled "Parachuting UFOs", describing "mysterious lights" seen over east El Past, Texas ( ). Well, it's happened again.

This time the location is Los Angeles, CA, on December 1. And the primary witness is San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili, who was in town to play the Clippers. Manu and others spotted glowing objects slowly descending in the sky. He posted this information to his Facebook page, where it attracted a lot of attention, and soon ended up on the website, that deals in celebrity news ( ).

In another classic example of Clueless "Expert" Commentary, the next day had "UFO Expert -- On Board with NBA Star's Theory." UFOlogist Robert Kiviat, the executive producer of "Alien Autopsy (Fact or Fiction?)," was suggesting that "one strong possibility is the UFOs were experimental military craft." Kiviat believes the objects were part of "some sort of military test and farther away from the area than they appear," a conjecture without any facts to support it.

Finally, four days after the "UFO" was first posted, reported, "TMZ has uncovered the truth behind the UFOs he spotted over L.A. earlier this month ... and turns out, Red Bull is to blame!!!" As the website explains, "A rep for the company tells TMZ ... a team of Red Bull Air Force skydivers took the plunge over Santa Monica at around 5:00 PM on December 1 -- the exact time and day Manu was caught on tape watching glowing objects descend from the sky. As for the glowing? We're told the skydivers were carrying powerful flares during their descent." On the website for the Red Bull Air Force, parachutist John de Vore writes, "I was watching the news and I see them reporting on 2 UFO sighting in Santa Monica.  The sightings were on Dec 1 & 8.  As soon as I saw the videos on the news I busted up laughing.  It was us jumping with our night flares." ( ). As in the case of the "Mystery Missile" of Los Angeles, the website has a full analysis of the photos, including the use of Google Earth to show precisely where the objects were, above the coast in Santa Monica ( )

But the longtime UFOlogist Jim Deardorff isn't buying any of it (see ). He still insists they were genuine unidentifieds.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Public Notice! The Beginning of Judgment Day and the Resurrection.....

"...will occur on May 21, 2011." So reads a full-page ad in the San Diego Reader of Nov. 18, 2010 (and probably other publications as well).

Some folks have gotten themselves all bent out of shape worrying about December, 2012. You optimists - if this Prophecy is correct, we won't even make it to 2012!!

Nobody's name is given to credit (or blame) for this prophecy, but we know it's Harold Camping, 89, of Oakland, CA. Not only is the prophecy familiar, but his organization Family Radio is credited. I wrote about Camping's prophecy in my Psychic Vibrations column in the Skeptical Inquirer, May/June, 2010. Camping, "whose  Family Radio  broadcasts  from  Oakland,  California, are carried on fifty-five radio stations in the U.S. and are translated into forty-eight  foreign  languages—says  he has scrutinized the Bible for almost seventy years  and developed  a mathematical  system  to  interpret  prophecies  hidden within it. He noticed that particular numbers appear in the Bible at the same time  particular  themes  are  discussed. This  led  him  to  conclude  that  certain themes are represented by certain numbers. For  example,  5  represents  “atonement,” 10 is “completeness,” and 17 represents “heaven.” His predictive formula involves  taking  the  date  of  Biblical events  and  adding  to  them  numbers derived from these themes...  the date  of Jesus’  crucifixion,  to  which  is added  (Atonement  ×  Completeness  ×Heaven), squared and multiplied by the number of days  in a solar year, gives us the year 2011! With a bit more tweaking we get May 21 of that year."

It's interesting that in the recent ad, the calculation of the date of the start of Rapture is entirely different, although he reaches the same conclusion: " 'one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.' So then 7,000 years from the 17th day of the 2nd month 4990 BC [the time of the Flood] is May 21, 2011 (or the 17th day of the 2nd month, 2011, of the Biblical calendar)." Note that this calculation doesn't involve "atonement" or "completeness", the date of the crucifixion, or the days in a solar year: only "heaven." Whatever. Either this guy is the greatest Biblical Numerologist who ever lived and has formulated multiple independent arguments leading to the same conclusion, or else he is just making this stuff up as he goes along.

However, this isn't the first time that Camping has cried "Rapture." Quoting again from my column, "He announced in 1992 that the date would be September 6, 1994. (,1259997&dq=harold+camping+1994&hl=en ) On that date, several dozen of Camping’s followers, Bibles in hand, gathered  in a hall  in Alameda, California, to await the Rapture." I would love to have seen the look on their faces as they slowly made their way home late that night.

I am also rather amused to see that Camping has chosen my birthday as the start of the Beginning of the End Times. That would be my last birthday for sure, and I won't have to worry about getting older!

If the Rapture does begin as Camping expects, I'm sure I won't be among those taken up. Not only have I been a lapsed Catholic since I was about eleven, but I'm quite sure that Jesus won't cut me any slack after what I wrote in my book The Making of the Messiah (Prometheus, 1991), and especially what I wrote about his mother. One of the chapters is titled "Immaculate Fornication," in which I nail down all of the reasons that "unless Mary's pregnancy is of supernatural origin, she is an adulteress." So it's obvious why they made up the Virgin Birth yarn, to solve the very serious problem of Jesus not having a proper father, not (as is often said) to make Jesus seem more like a pagan god. There have been several other proposed solutions to Jesus' paternity problem, as well. The Marcionite "heresy," very influential in the Second Century, taught that Jesus simply 'fell to earth,' like David Bowie. That would fix the problem, too.  If the followers of Jesus admitted that he had been born a bastard, there is no way they could then claim him to be the Messiah, who had to come from the illustrious line of David. So they make up a story claiming that Jesus comes from this line through Joseph, even as they tell us that Joseph was not actually his father. This makes no sense, but then logic never was one of the strong points of early Christianity. Remember Tertullian's famous dictum: credo quia absurdum est, "I believe it because it is absurd."

If any of my Christian friends do find themselves flying up into the air on May 21 next year, at least I'll know that they were right and I was wrong. I would then accept the Bible as the revealed word of God, on solid empirical evidence. But until that happens, I'll assume that the Second Coming and the Rapture are among the hundreds, if not thousands, of mythological beliefs from around the world. And I expect to be around not only on May 22, 2011, but also on Jan. 1, 2013.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Famous 1946 "Ghost Rockets" in Sweden - Were they Contrails?

The sightings of what were called "ghost rockets" in Europe, mostly in Sweden, in the aftermath World War II, is well-known to students of UFOlogy, if not to the general public. They were "ghost rockets" in the sense that people reported seeing objects they described as "rockets" or "missiles," yet no evidence of the actual existence of such objects has ever turned up. (See )  Some of the objects were reported to crash into lakes (why was it never a forest?), but despite numerous searches no rocket parts were ever recovered from any lake, or anywhere else.

While I was reflecting on the current epidemic of sightings of "mystery missiles", not only in California but elsewhere, it occurred to me that people were actually reporting "ghost rockets" today. After all, a "mystery missile" is no different from a "ghost rocket." Indeed, it seems likely that some future book about UFOs will contain a sentence along the lines of,  "Sightings of 'ghost rockets' began occurring in the U.S. and Canada around 2010." Thus far, all of these North American Ghost Rockets appear to be attributable to high-altitude contrails from jet aircraft.

Were there any high-altitude aircraft capable of creating contrails flying around Scandinavia in 1946? Large planes flying at high altitudes, such as the B-17 or B-29, will typically produce contrails when meteorological conditions are favorable. There is no need for them to be jets. A dispatch from the U.S. Naval Attache in Stockholm, dated Aug. 16, 1946 and formerly classified "Top Secret," talks of  "civilian observers reporting jet fighters, contrails and meteors as rockets" ( ) The U.S. used the high-altitude B-29 bomber for reconnaissance in the arctic following World War II, as well as in Europe.

Some of the "ghost rockets" were surely meteors, especially those seen at night, described as fast-moving and only seen for a few seconds. Still others were probably astronomical objects, described as bright lights hovering in the night sky. People tend to scrutinize the heavens more than usual when they have heard that unusual objects are zipping about. But other "ghost rockets" were described as moving much more slowly, and flying horizontally. These sound much more like contrails. The single "classic" photo of a Swedish "Ghost Rocket," seen in the Wikipedia article, is usually attributed to a meteor, but looks very much like a high-altitude contrail. Notice the cirrus clouds above it. "Contrails are a form of cirrus cloud," reminds us. Indeed, the meteorological conditions that produce contrails are the same as those producing cirrus clouds. If cirrus clouds cannot be produced, then neither can contrails.
The "classic" 1946 photo of a "ghost rocket" in Sweden. Isn't this a contrail? has several very interesting incidents of contrail hysteria in the U.S., going back as far as 1950. ( ). That's getting awfully close to 1946.

It has often been suggested that the Swedish "ghost rockets" of 1946, reports of which were carried worldwide, played a role in creating the "flying saucer" excitement that broke out over Kenneth Arnold's sighting the following year. And thus, in creating the entire UFO scenario. So, what I'm suggesting is that the "ghost rockets" excitement of the present year seems to be a replay of the earlier Swedish excitement. We know from present experience that jet contrails can fool even some very sophisticated people into believing that they are seeing rockets or missiles, and this in a time when contrails are already a very familiar sight.

Thus it seems very likely that the main stimulus behind the "ghost rockets" of 1946 was the presence of contrails in the sky, in a time when that phenomenon was new and not at all familiar. World War II had ended just the previous year, and it was known that the U.S. and the USSR were both frantically pursuing missile development, using captured German rocket scientists. Everybody knew that the Cold War could turn into a "hot war" at any moment, and on several occasions it nearly did. Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia were literally in the middle of it, between the allies US/UK/France, and their adversary, the Soviet Union. It is no wonder that, in such an atmosphere, people in Sweden, seeing the unfamiliar new phenomenon of high-altitude contrails, sometimes perceived them as menacing rockets launched by one great power or another.

Those in the U.S. and Canada today, however, who make up conspiracy stories in the same vein, even in situations where "ghost rockets" would have to have been fired on land, do not have the extenuating circumstances that the Swedes had sixty-four years earlier.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Conspiracy Theorists Continue to Flog "Mystery Missile"

The so-called "mystery missile" photographed off Los Angeles on Monday (see previous Blog entry) was quickly identified as an aircraft contrail by responsible investigators, but apparently it has morphed into a "mystery" that's too good to give up. No matter that has explained the phenomenon in great detail, no matter that earlier instances of "contrails scares" have been identified and explained not only in California, but elsewhere in the world, going back as far as 1950, no matter that the exact flight responsible for the contrails has apparently been identified - it was UPS flight 902 from Hawaii to the Ontario Airport in California (see - an earlier hypotheses that it was U.S. Airways Flight 808 from Honolulu to Phoenix doesn't match the track as well as the UPS flight), no matter that a nearly-identical contrail from that same daily flight was recorded exactly 24 hours later on a webcam in Newport Beach - irresponsible and irrational conspiracy theorists simply will not let the "mystery" die. This story has apparently reached critical mass, so like Roswell, the JFK assassination, etc., it no longer matters what the facts are. The facts are out in plain view for all to see. But conspiracy theorists reject facts that are public and demonstrable, and substitute their own.

For example, an article in today's conspiracy-oriented publication The Los Angeles Times proclaims "Puzzling lack of answers to 'Mystery Missile' " (,0,1077349.story?page=1 ) . In a piece worthy of Erich von Daniken, the Times reports "Military and aviation authorities deny any knowledge of a scheduled launch off the coast of L.A. The Pentagon says only that it is looking into a report of an 'unexplained contrail' left by an aircraft." Well, if the Pentagon says only that it might be a jet contrail, then they're obviously covering something up. "Some aerospace experts who reviewed the footage said the size of the plume hinted that it was a government operation." (More uninformed "experts" blubbering nonsense.) "It can't belong to anyone but the military," said Marco Caceres, an analyst with Teal Group Corp., a Fairfax, Va.-based aerospace research firm. The appearance of such a massive rocket contrail near military bases that are known for regularly testing missiles is unlikely to be a coincidence, Caceres said."

Meanwhile, the comments on various internet Blogs, forums, etc. weighs in heavily in favor of the "they won't tell us the truth" persuasion. The favorite explanations are an "accidental launch" from some U.S. ship, or else a Chinese or North Korean submarine. Here's a high-octane conspiracy page about the supposed "mystery missile":

And in the classic manner of UFO-contagion, Contrail Hysteria is now spreading to New York City. A CBS helicopter there filmed a "bizarre, glowing red-hot streak in the sky — right at sunset Wednesday — moving briskly behind the Manhattan skyline." ( ). And that one isn't even very impressive, as it's horizontal not vertical, but hey, it's glowing a fiery red color at sunset -ooooh!  Soon, "Mystery Missiles" will be sighted everywhere, and conspiracy tales about them will abound.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mystery Missile Launch near Los Angeles - or an Aircraft Contrail?

This morning the news media are filled with reports of a "mystery missile" fired off the California coast near Los Angeles. At this moment, the Drudge Report headline screams "MYSTERY MISSILE FIRED OFF CA COAST; PENTAGON 'NO CLUE'.  CBS News in Los Angeles is reporting, " A mysterious missile launch off the southern California coast was caught by CBS affiliate KCBS's cameras Monday night, and officials are staying tight-lipped over the nature of the projectile. CBS station KFMB put in calls to the Navy and Air Force Monday night about the striking launch off the coast of Los Angeles, which was easily visible from the coast, but the military has said nothing about the launch." 

Here is the news video of the object:

It certainly looks like a missile launch! But is it? The Pentagon denies all knowledge of any possible launch, and if a foreign country were to fire a missile so close to our shores, it would be an act of war.

Well, as surprising as it may sound, the object seems to have been simply an aircraft contrail, with tricks of perspective making it look like a missile flying away from you, when in fact it was an aircraft flying toward you! This is not the first time such a thing has happened. On Dec. 31, 2009, much the same excitement occurred off the coast just south of Los Angeles in Orange County. This blog from lays it all out with impeccable logic:

First, it depends on an effect of perspective. The aircraft's path must be directly toward, or away from, the  observer. Second, even though the contrail is five miles above the ground, as it recedes into the distance it appears to touch the ground, because of the curvature of the earth. As shown by the daytime photo of the vertical contrail on ContrailsScience, we know that the aircraft that made it was not flying straight up like a rocket, but when seen directly straight-on, that is what it looks like. And for viewers a few miles away, getting a different perspective, all they see is an ordinary-looking slanted contrail.

Nor is the California Coast the only place where this same illusion has been sighted, and reported. As I wrote in my Psychic Vibrations column (Skeptical Inquirer, July/Aug., 2010), in January, 2010 residents of the tiny Canadian coastal town of Harbour Mille, Newfoundland reported seeing exactly the same 'mystery missiles' as was photographed near Los Angeles yesterday (see ). One Canadian politician went to far as to blame the French for launching missiles so close to Canadian territory. But the French replied that they had not launched anything on that day. But the Finnish UFO investigator Bjorn Borg explained how the Newfoundland "missiles' are simply contrails seen at just the right angle (see ). "Every year this comes up in the news," he said.

And the award for Best Pompous Pontification by an Uninformed Ass goes to former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Robert Ellsworth, also a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, who was happy to appear on TV and speculate that, because President Obama is in Asia, "It could be a test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile from a submarine … to demonstrate, mainly to Asia, that we can do that." As if anyone in Asia seriously doubted that the U.S. could launch missiles from a submarine! Ellsworth added that ICBM testing was carried out in the Atlantic to demonstrate America's power to the Soviets during the Cold War, but he says doesn't believe an ICBM has been tested by the U.S. over the Pacific. I have two words for him: Vandenberg and Kwajalein. Such ICBM tests over the Pacific occur on a regular basis (see ). So much for seeking "informed comments" from a former Deputy Secretary of defense.

(Be sure to also see the following post, "Conspiracy Theorists Continue to Flog 'Mystery Missile' ".

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Denver's "Extraterrestrial Affairs Comission" Loses Big!

Probably you've seen the recent news stories about "Denver initiated Ordinance 300," an initiative to "require the creation of an extraterrestrial affairs commission to help ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver residents and visitors in relation to potential encounters or interactions with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles, and fund such commission from grants, gifts and donations." This proposal is even crazier than it sounds. On the website for Yes on 300 , we find many astonishing claims, such as that NASA routinely removes images of UFOs from its space photos, that the U.S. government not only covers up evidence of UFOs, but also of  "clean energy technologies of extraterrestrial origin, that could replace fossil fuels." And by way of a FAQ, the measure's chief promoter, Jeff Peckman, offers a new Ebook in which an "extraterrestrial being answers fifty questions," channeled "neuro-biologically  via tele-thought communication" by one Lavendar,  "a master astrologer" as well as "a Pleiadean contactee, emissary and scribe"( ).

Perhaps it will restore your faith in human reason to learn that this whacked-out measure has lost big, approximately 84% against vs. just 16% in favor. Or perhaps it will cause you concern to learn that approximately one in six voters thought this "extraterrestrial affairs" twaddle had substance. I suspect, however, that many voters - espacially younger ones - voted "Yes" on this measure largely as a joke. Let's hope that's all it was.

The movement for an "Extraterrestrial Affairs Comission" has its roots in "The Disclosure project," a group of conspiracy-oriented UFOlogists headed up by physician Dr. Steven Greer. It began with a big press conference on May 9, 2001 in the National Press Club in Washington, DC, with twenty persons making sensational UFO claims. No doubt Greer and his pals thought that the red-meat journalists inside the Beltway would jump on these sensational claims of government cover-ups and secrecy. But none of the speakers had any proof of what they were claiming, and seasoned reporters largely ignored them. Surely Greer's claims about "super-luminal" (i.e., faster-than-light) UFOs being reverse-engineered in the U.S. serve as a red flag for all sane persons to ignore him. But the Disclosurists did snag one reporter in their UFO net - just one - Leslie Kean, best known for her work on KPFA, Radical Public Radio from the Peoples' Republic of Berkeley, and now the author of a best-selling pro-UFO book, "UFOs On the Record". I'll have much more to say about her, but later.

Now "Disclosure" is slowly morphing into "exopolitics," and this is precisely what Ordinance 300 is about. The idea behind exopolitics is simple: Since extraterrestrials are obviously here, we should do our best to make friends with them. A noble sentiment, to be sure, but one resting on a highly dubious premise. I've written quite a lot about Exopolitics in my Psychic Vibrations column. Every time you turn around, exopolitics has some hilarious new absurdity, such as Alfred Webre's claim that people are being teleported back and forth to a secret American base on Mars. Ordinance 300 was essentially an attempt to implement the concerns and goals of Exopolitics within the existing political framework.

Speaking of Dr. Greer, from Oct. 2-4 his organization CSETI held a seminar in Rio Rico, Arizona, where for $495 (room fees not included) he promised to teach conference registrants his techniques of how to signal ETs to be contacted. (Greer is not a popular figure within establishment UFOlogy. They think he's giving them all a bad name, which he is.) According to one participant, the contact sessions were supposed to take place from 8:00 to 12:00 nightly, but the ETs failed to show. One might think that such embarrassing failures would make it hard to get people to sign up for future seminars, but Greer has confidently scheduled another seminar in Joshua Tree, California for Nov. 7-13. He knows that there's one born every minute.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Parachuting UFOs

On October 15, TV viewers in the area around El Paso, Texas were titillated with the following video: Mysterious Lights over East El Paso, News Channel 9

TV news reporters described seeing a bright light that suddenly broke into three pieces, then four, and then seemingly hovered in the air. Comparing the El Paso lights (at night) with the balloon UFOs seen (midday) over Manhattan shortly before (see previous Blog entry), their 'triangular patterns' were described as "eerily similar." (Hint to UFOlogists: any three points define a triangle, unless they are all on a straight line.)

Commenters on the website of KTSM-TV, Channel 9 in El Paso, made comments like "I saw then thinking it was an airsho[w] drill, but planes cannot stay still that long and then a fourth one appear. This is the stuff government won't tell us," or "Planes of any kind, we would have been able to see then. Definitely UFO's!!" ( ). Somebody made the obligatory (and utterly irrational) comment "This universe is far and beyond! What makes us think that us humans are the only ones here?" (The universe is indeed vast, but just because ET intelligence probably exists somewhere does not mean that they must be here right now!) Then the same fallacy surfaces a second time: "Amazing footage! But to say their [sic] airplanes....c'mon! I don't believe anyone is going to buy into that. It's selfish to believe that we're the only one's in existence. Fact of the matter is, it's a UFO."

Sorry folks, but we know exactly what this "UFO" was. The Golden Knights is the Parachute Team of the U.S. Army, that does performances at air shows all around the country.Team member Rachel Medley wrote "Black Team performed a night jump last night into the Amigo Air Show evening social event, then did two mass formations with the beautiful desert and mountains as a backdrop." ( ) She added, "I was actually on that jump as the team videographer and have performed many night jumps as a member of the Golden Knights. We are commonly mistaken as UFOs or meteors," because they jump out of airplanes with pyrotechnics strapped to their ankles. Many people refused to believe that they could have been seeing pyrotechnic parachutists, but Ms. Medley simply replied by inviting them to witness forthcoming shows by the Golden Knights elsewhere in Texas.  

So the moral of our story is: when you're looking skyward, all that glitters is not UFOs.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Again, a "UFO" Closes an Asian Airport - Venus Once Again?

Probably most of you have seen the story about how on July 7 the airport in the Chinese city of Hangzhou was closed because a UFO was allegedly hovering over its runway (see ). I wrote about this in my Psychic Vibrations column in the just-released issue of Skeptical Inquirer (Nov/Dec, 2010). And I suggested that the "UFO" that concerned them may well have been Venus. The explanation of all this is in the column, I won't repeat it here.

I also noted in that column how in January of 2001, the Siberian airport of Barnaul was also closed for an hour and a half because of a "UFO." And how the French UFO investigator Eric Malliot discovered that the position of the reported UFO matched exactly the known position of Venus.

Well, now we have a third incident where a "UFO" has closed an airport, and once again, Venus is a prime suspect. The incident occurred on Sept. 11 in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, but wasn't reported until several weeks later. As reported in The Telegraph (U.K.), "An airport in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, was forced to shut to prevent passenger jets crashing into a UFO, according to reports. Starting around 8 PM, three flights to Baotou from Shanghai and Beijing were reportedly forced to circle the airport until the UFO disappeared. Two other flights were diverted away from Baotou and to the nearby cities of Ordos and Taiyuan. The airport was shut for around an hour "to guarantee safety" according to a spokesman." . Also see

 On Sept. 11, Venus was setting about 1 hour 20 mins after the sun, from the latitude of  Baotou, Inner Mongolia. Notice that the airport was closed for "around an hour" until the object disappeared. 

We cannot say with certainty that the "UFO" was Venus, because we do not have information about the object's apparent elevation and direction. But past experience creates the suspicion. At first it might seem impossible that educated and sane people would mistake the bright planet Venus, then near maximum brilliance, for a hovering UFO, but it has happened over and over again, all over the world. As the well-known pro-UFOlogist Jacque Vallee wrote in his book Challenge to Science back in 1966, "No single object has been misinterpreted as a 'flying saucer' more often than the planet Venus. The study of these mistakes proves quite instructive, for it shows beyond all possible dispute the limitations of sensory perception and the weakness of accounts relating shapes and motions of point sources or objects with small apparent diameters."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Breaking News - Balloons Seen over Manhattan!!!

Perhaps you saw the news stories: "A mysterious shiny object floating high over Manhattan's West Side set off a flurry of reports and wild speculation Wednesday that a UFO was flying over the city. Police and the FAA said they began getting flooded with calls starting at 1:30 p.m. from people reporting a silvery object hovering high over Chelsea."
"It's been hovering there for a while. I'm just kind of baffled," said Joseph Torres, 49, of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, who spotted the object after leaving a movie. "How can it be ordinary? There is something going on."

Come on, folks. Have we been fed so many UFO promotions that every time we see some little thing in the sky, we immediately jump to the conclusion that it's some mysterious phenomenon?

Then some people remembered an obscure prediction by retired Air Force officer Stanley A. Fulham, who predicted that huge ships would be seen hovering over cities worldwide on Oct. 13, and began tweeting this sighting widely. Obviously, balloons seen in the sky = a fleet of spaceships.

On one of the videos posted of the object, an observer can actually be heard saying repeatedly, "they're balloons." And balloons indeed they were, according to
"A Westchester elementary school believes the puzzling orbs floating over Chelsea were likely a bundle of balloons that escaped from an engagement party they held for a teacher... A parent was bringing about 40 iridescent pearl balloons to the school for language arts teacher Andrea Craparo when the wind spent a bunch away around 1 p.m."

But some commentators, like this guy on, aren't buying the balloon explanation: "I was there. It was very unsettling to watch. There’s no rational explanation to that spectacle in the sky. They stood together, in the same relative position to each other – you could call it a formation – and in the same spot in the sky, with very minimal movement for a long time. Small bright perfectly formed dots, against a perfectly blue sky. Surreal."

 And remember the First Rule of UFOlogy: any time you see something in the sky that you can't immediately identify, assume it's an alien spaceship until conclusively proven otherwise.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Welcome to my Blog, Bad UFOs.

Hello, and welcome to my new Blog. In the skeptical spirit of Bad Astronomy, Bad Science, and Bad Language, I bring you - Bad UFOs!

my photo of a UFO made from a cottage cheese container and an aluminum plate

My name is Robert Sheaffer, and I'm skeptical about UFOs. I have been a fellow of CSICOP (now CSI) since 1977. I have been a regular contributor and columnist for their magazine, The Skeptical Inquirer, since its second issue of publication (Spring/Summer, 1977). I have also been a member of Mensa for over ten years.

My photo of a UFO made from two aluminum plates

I have been interested in UFOs since I was a child in the 1960s. Reading the widely-published misinformation of authors such as Donald E. Keyhoe and Frank Edwards, I was persuaded that 'there must be something to it.' When I became older and a little wiser, I read other, more skeptical, UFO authors such as Dr. Donald H. Menzel. I realized that the UFO proponents were not being careful, reliable, or accurate in their statements on the subject. I began to correspond with the late Philip J. Klass in 1968, and we met the following year. We've been good friends until Phil passed away in 2005. I first met James Oberg in 1975. I met Gary Posner in 1977, and James McGaha in 1987.

 When I attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, I majored in mathematics, and also took many astronomy classes. I got to know the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek (1910-1986) quite well, I found him to be a most interesting character. He was the U.S. Air Force's chief astronomical consultant for the celebrated Project Bluebook . While a man of great personal integrity, he was also gullible in the extreme. He believed himself able to determine the sincerity, and even the reliability of an individual, simply by his intuition as he listened to their story. He was valuable to Northwestern for fundraising in his role as Astronomy Department Chairman. Hynek's skills were primarily political and personal, rather than scientific. He did not generally teach advanced-level astronomy courses, he made few if any tangible contributions to the science of astronomy during his decades  at Northwestern, and was primarily known for his interest in UFOs. His presentations and media appearances on the subject of astronomy were first-rate. Hynek was a great popularizer of astronomy. However, he was not greatly esteemed by his fellow astronomers - in fact, he was frequently the butt of their private jokes. Hynek envisioned himself as "The Galileo of UFOlogy", (see, for example, Newsweek magazine, Nov. 21, 1977, p.97.) but unlike the original Galileo, Hynek had no demonstration that could be made to believers and unbelievers alike to allow them to evaluate his claims. If the original Galileo had no more solid evidence to offer than did the Galileo of UFOlogy, his name would be forgotten today.

my triple-exposure UFO photo

My skeptical website is at  . I have a page with a lot of UFO information at . My first UFO book was The UFO Verdict in 1981, significantly revised and expanded in 1998 and published as UFO SIGHTINGS - The Evidence (Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, cloth, 1998, $25.95. ISBN 1-57392-213-7).

I've said enough about myself, so enjoy this blog. I intend to keep it interesting, chatty, and informative. I won't have all the answers, but I hope to discuss all the right questions.

My photo of a UFO made from a banana-split dish and modeling clay (from UFO Sightings)