Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rex Heflin, 1965: a Classic UFO Photo, now in 3-D!

The first of Rex Heflin's UFO photos
         In Santa Ana, California on August 3, 1965, highway worker Rex Heflin got three photos of a supposed UFO out the window of his van, using his Polaroid instant camera. This series of photos has long been touted as a “classic” by NICAP and many prominent UFOlogists. This object supposedly flew right over the Marine Corps El Toro Air Station, plus the Santa Ana freeway (Interstate 5) in broad daylight, but no one else saw it. (Sheaffer 1998, p. 91-93). In these photos, distant objects are hazy because of the Los Angeles smog, while the UFO is not, probably because it is tiny, and very close to the camera. For many years the original prints could not be investigated, because Heflin claims that they were confiscated by an investigator who came to his house, flashing an ID supposedly from NORAD. At least Heflin did not claim that the Men In Black came for his prints, or that the dog ate them. He blamed NORAD. So all we had left were copies made from the originals. The Air Force's Project Bluebook listed the Heflin photos as a "hoax."  However, "In 1993, Heflin’s Polaroid originals surfaced unexpectedly under mysterious circumstances." Heflin died in 2005. 
Dr. William K. Hartmann replicated Heflin's photos for the Condon report (case 52), using a suspended lens cap.
  Skeptics have argued that Heflin’s UFO appears to be a tiny model, just a few inches in size, hanging from something like a fishing pole propped up over the cab of his van. 
Enkidu created this stereo pair from Rex Heflin's UFO photos
However only in 2006 did a still-anonymous person, using the alias Enkidu, make an extremely important finding. In a discussion thread on the conspiracy-oriented website AboveTop Secret, Enkidu argues that Heflin unintentionally created a 3-D photo of his UFO. Assuming that the UFO was attached in some way to the truck, by moving the camera a few inches between the exposures, Heflin has produced a near-perfect stereo pair, as can be seen in stereo viewers. The photos above are reversed by Enkidu to allow easier viewing of the 3-D effect without a stereo viewer by simply crossing one’s eyes. And when you do that, the UFO is seen to be tiny. It’s clearly farther away than the truck’s mirror, but much closer than the roadside vegetation, or the distant trees. Responding to criticism, Enkidu writes, “Yes, it's possible that the UFO moved between the time the first photo was taken and the second. But it would have to move exactly horizontal to the way the camera moved, because there's no apparent difference in the size of the top part of the ship. It could only tilt forward. It didn't go up or down, and it didn't get nearer or closer. The odds of that happening are pretty slim.” Great work, Enkidu! (I think I have figured out who Enkidu is - we've corresponded before. But don't worry, Enkidu, I won't "out" you!)

Enkidu also created this Red-Blue stereo image for viewing using Red-Blue 3-D glasses


  1. Luckily, I had a pair of 3-D glasses nearby! Interesting, but I'd like to see a similar experiment to see how large an airplane would appear in a similar photo.

    1. If you review the Heflin case closer, you know that he called and turned the photos over to the military (NORAD), somebody setting up a hoax with his background would not do such a thing, not unless he was looking for trouble on his job. Also they did not return his originals only copy’s, why would military do that unless they were up to something to hide.
      Also, what most never mention, if you look at the ground of the 1st photo you see a small disruption on the ground which has been mentioned by physicist that can happen with a craft using anti-gravity propulsion. Lastly what’s missing in the series of photos is the final photo taken that shows a smoke ring that was left behind which has also been mentioned in other UFO cases from time to time. So in theory this is in my opinion a genuine UFO sighting. ALL do more effective research to be sure you’re making a proper decision before ruling a hoax.

    2. "a small disruption on the ground which has been mentioned by physicist that can happen with a craft using anti-gravity propulsion"

      This is from their experience with "anti-gravity propulsion" I take it.

      Incidentally, why would such propulsion leave behind a smoke ring?

  2. In the first photo, bottom right-hand corner, is that a shadow of a stick extending horizontally? Or perhaps a urine trail?
    Also, I wonder why the craft wobbles so much while holding position.

  3. Terry,
    Sharp eyes. I don't know what it is. If there were a stick (probably a fishing pole) atop the van, where would its shadow fall?

    You could not use this technique to get a 3D photo of an airplane, because the plane would be moving between the exposures. If one of those Marine helicopters were hovering in view, and a stereo pair was taken, the helicopter would be seen to be quite distant, compared to the truck mirror and the vegetation.

  4. The sky is so fuzzy in the photos, it's hard to tell where the sun is (if it were a grey yet bright day, the light could be dispersed).
    The shadow could be from a telephone pole if it were not much past noon and the shoulder a bit irregular, however, none of the other poles seems to throw shadows. It could be a pole held vertically if its midday or the sun is behind the truck. Or it could be someone got out of the truck and took a leak before the object appeared.
    I'm comfortable saying "I don't know."
    But the wobbly orientation of the object makes me think it's a small, light-weight object dangling from a line. The wobbles just look stupid. I'm not speaking from a scientific perspective, but from an audience POV: it's just not persuasive evidence at all, I am not compelled to give my assent.

  5. The article you highlight presents a good case for the photos being of a genuine UFO. On the other hand someone on "UFO Updates" 2 or 3 years back identified the object as a wheel from a toy train (he even gave the model name). Where does that leave things? Was NORAD involved at all? And exactly how and from whom did the original photos suddenly re-emerge? I expect the one guy who could answer this is Heflin himself and nobody else. Too late now.

  6. You're not going to get any kind of accurate 3-D effect from those two images, since they were taken at different distances inside the truck - note the image in the mirror. 3-D will only work with a stereo pair aligned perpendicular to the lens axis (or almost so - convergence defines the focal point.)

    Also, if the dark line seen in the first image was the shadow of the stick, one would expect to see the shadow of the object as well somewhere in the frame.

    The specular highlights visible not only on the object in the first image, but on the mirror in the other images, indicates a pretty strong light source, certainly not overcast as is being argued elsewhere - at worst, bright hazy conditions. The direction indicated is roughly 4-5 o'clock from the lens axis (first image) and about 2 o'clock in the images with the mirror. The wide range of brightness/contrast visible from the object in each image is curious. Note that the road, medium grey and low reflectance, appears much brighter than the darkest portions of the object, and even the telephone poles barely get that dark. I get the distinct impression of a reflective black object. It's this contrast, more than anything else, that tells me the object is close; contrast drops with distance not only through atmospheric haze, but through 'focal scatter' for want of a better term. Notice in the mirror shots how the vegetation close to the truck is higher in contrast than that in the fields.

    So, are the high-res scans available anywhere?

  7. > if the dark line seen in the first image was the shadow of the stick, one would expect to see the shadow of the object as well somewhere in the frame

    Maybe we do.

    Remember, if the object is hanging from an extended pole, the object would be straight down from the pole (I presume windy conditions would have spoiled the shot). If the line were fastened to the very end of the pole, the object would be directly under the end of the pole. So if the sun were almost directly above, the shadows of the object and the pole would be on top of each other, with the object producing a slight bulge at the very end of the shadow.

    I think that's what we see in the first photo.

    I can test this. For the first time in this discussion, I am looking up the time of day the photograph was taken. Let me quote the very first source I've consulted: The Encyclopedia of UFOs by Ronald Story (1980, p 165):

    "Heflin photos. Shortly after 12:30 P.M. on August 3, 1965, Rex Heflin...took three photographs of a metal-looking disk..."

    (Heck, I'm good!)

  8. The shadow is from a power line pole. It has a distorted "T" shape with the top cross-piece running parallel to bottom of the picture and the upright pole at about a 10-15% angle. Also you can see the right side of cross-piece shadow just above the bush that the pole shadow runs through. You can also see the shadow of the next pole if you enlarge the photo enough.

  9. The Heflin photos are a fake - the saucer is a model train wheel and its held up by black thread attached to the top of the car door. Don't care what people think I know the truth by fact. Do not wish to discuss this matter further.

  10. It's his photo's are a fake, how does one explain the ground debris being blown around as though a helicopter was hovering in the same spot? He could not have faked that.

    1. 1) You can see debris blowing around? And in still photos?
      2) If so, can you think of a natural process that could blow around debris?

  11. The "UFO" is the wheel of a model train. He fooled a lot of people for a long time.

  12. And miraculously his flying saucer looks identical to a model train wheel (which he had in his basement). Maybe the aliens visited Earth one time, abducted a model train, studied it's wheels and then realized they had been doing it wrong all this time. They used the train wheel to design their new & improved flying saucers and that's what Rex captured on film.

  13. Keep in mind that there are other photos Heflin took outside of the vehicle, which clearly could not have been done using an kind of pole and line. Focusing on just the two he took inside of the vehicle don’t give a clear indication of the object he took, nor of the conditions under which he photographed them.

    The original negatives were subjected to intense scrutiny by Robert Nathan from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, working with first-generation prints and copy negatives made by the newspaper that printed them. No string was found at that time. If there had been any kind of string dating from 1965, it would assuredly have been found by those investigators. And the “smoke ring” left behind by the object also showed clear signs of being at distance, and not close up. This would have easily been caught if the smoke had been created b Heflin or an accomplice near the vehicle, but it was determined by the same experts that it was at some distance from the oberver.

    The "model train wheel" suggestion is made the same way that the planet Venus was introduced by government deniers in the 1948 Mantell P-51 event, in order to cast aspersions on the event and the witness (though in the Mantell case, Venus was in the wrong part of the sky at that time, and the object Mantell chased was spotted by multiple members of at least one airport tower crew).

    And the ground disturbance is interesting. Those who suggest that Heflin waited for just such a perfect opportunity to pose his fake object when there was a dust devil right below where his suspended object appeared to be, while coincidentally having his truck in the perfect position to capture both the suspended object and the dust devil at the same moment, are clearly unaware of how astoundingly difficult it would have been to coordinate all those elements into one clear photo.

    The taking of the original negatives by someone claiming to be from NORAD is backed up by the release of a document by Lt. General Hewitt Wheless, who specifically mentioned this case in a 1967 letter to all Air Force investigation officers:

    This is one of those events where negatives at the time were examined carefully by experts and were concluded to be genuine, then shadowy government figures intruded to muddy the waters, and later skeptics tried to find some kind of way to explain away what was a photo of both a physical object that also had observable effects on the ground.

    Further background on the case can be read here:


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