Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The 'Mirage Men' Meet Richard Shaver

In UFOlogy today, the term "Mirage Men" is understood to signify supposed shadowy government agents who, for inscrutable reasons, are allegedly tricking the public not by "debunking" UFOs, but creating belief in UFOs and the like. The title comes from a book by the British author Mark Pilkington, Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare, and UFOs

In 2013 the book was made into a movie of the same title, written by Pilkington, directed by John Lundberg,  Roland Denning, and Kypros Kyprianou. The movie's website describes it as:
How the US government created a myth that took over the world.
 UFOs: weapons of mass deception... For over 60 years teams within the US Air Force and Intelligence services exploited and manipulated beliefs about UFOs and ET visitations as part of their counterintelligence programmes. In doing so they spawned a mythology so powerful that it captivated and warped many brilliant minds, including several of their own. Now, for the first time, some of those behind these operations, and their victims, speak out, revealing a true story that is part Manchurian Candidate and part Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Mark Pilkington
Next was Mark Pilkington, whose book (now also a movie) Mirage Men purports to show how military and intelligence operators have shaped and exploited belief in UFOs. He called his talk "The Abuses of  Enchantment." I would have to say that Pilkington is not a man who gets directly to the point.

While I can agree that such involvement has been shown to happen a few times, including incidents outside the United States - for example, he cites a Rand Corporation paper on exploiting local superstitions - I don't see how this has any real significance for our understanding of the UFO circus. I had only a brief opportunity to speak to him afterward. I said I didn't think such instances were of much significance to the UFO scene as a whole, and he agreed. I think what he was saying was that military and intelligence involvement was responsible for shaping the public perception of a UFO cover-up, which is at least partly true. Like I said, he doesn't get directly to the point, but if you can figure out what he means he seems to be pretty skeptical. Somebody asked him about crop circles - are there any that are not of human origin? Pilkington's answer: no, except for a few simple ones which may be of meteorological origin. (Thus none are made by aliens.)
I would also suggest that, from my limited interactions with John Lundberg, and from knowing of his connection with the deliberately enigmatic Crop Circle makers, he is also "not a man who gets directly to the point." 

From the standpoint of the skeptic, these are interesting claims. There are no ETs, and government Spooks created belief in UFOs. The problem is that, upon close examination, their evidence is very "soft." It suggests a possible involvement of intelligence agencies in a few cases, but no clear motive behind it, and no solid proof that agencies led (or mislead) the public to create belief in UFOs.

Ironically, James Oberg has documented several clear-cut instances of government agencies encouraging public belief in anomalous celestial phenomena - but in the USSR, not here. For example, on September 20, 1977 thousands of people in northwest Russia and in Finland saw a brilliant object in the pre-dawn sky that came to be known as the "jellyfish UFO." He notes how a party-controlled periodical (there were no other kinds at that time) published an article by a chemistry professor, claiming that the people had in essence seen "swampsky gas," luminescent industrial effluvia. The Soviet leaders preferred to have the public believe that absurdity, rather than admit it was a rocket launch from a secret space facility that officially did not exist.

One researcher who has been promoting the Mirage Men concept in a big way is James Carrion, who served as the International Director of MUFON from 2006 to 2009. I heard Carrion give a talk in 2008, and spoke with him a bit afterward. I realized at once that he was very different from the typical MUFON leader. Not even willing to defend Holy Roswell as an E.T. event, he was far too independent a thinker to fit in well at MUFON. It was no surprise when Carrion and MUFON went their separate ways, with him proclaiming that the UFO phenomenon "is based in deception - of the human kind."  He cited several very interesting examples of such deception, although none of them involved official agencies (see my book Bad UFOs, p. 4).

After promoting the Mirage Men hypothesis on his blog for several years, on August 20, 2016 Carrion claimed  to have found a 'smoking gun' that demonstrates "Human Deception at Play during the UFO Wave of 1947". Carrion cites
James Carrion
A July 21, 1947 FBI memo from E. G. Fitch to D. M. Ladd, Subject: Flying Discs detailed how Colonel Carl Goldbranson (misspelled Golbranson) of the Intelligence Division of the War Department advised Special Agent S. W. Reynolds of the FBI’s Liaison Section that the War Department had received the following telegram:

New York, NY July 5 Major Paul Gaynor AAF Hqts Wash DC
“For Further Details Concerning Flying Disks Suggest Immediate Contact Of (blacked out) Illinois Who May Have Important Information Concerning Their Origin.” Unsigned.
In it, Col. Goldbranson
desired the Bureau conduct some investigation of Shaver to determine whether or not he has any information pertaining to the origin of the flying saucers.
This, says Carrion, "unequivocally documents the connection between US strategic deception planners and early UFO events by relating how Colonel Carl Goldbranson petitioned FBI assistance in investigating UFO events. Goldbranson was a WW2 member of Joint Security Control and one of its principal deception planners." Jack Brewer promoted Carrion's findings in a posting on his Blog The UFO Trail, titled "Mirage Men Conclusively Linked to UFO Summer of '47."

June, 1947 issue - published just before Kenneth Arnold's "flying saucers" burst upon the world

On Aug. 23, I posted the following comment on Carrion's Blog:
Goldbranson "desired the Bureau conduct some investigation of Shaver to determine whether or not he has any information pertaining to the origin of the flying saucers."

So, am I correct in understanding that Col. Goldbranson was asking the FBI investigate Richard Shaver to see what he knows about the origin of the flying saucers? Shaver, the guy who claimed that underground robots are fighting in caves?

This marks Goldbranson as an obvious crank.
Carrion seems not to have noticed that Goldbranson was in essence asking the FBI to investigate the "Shaver Mystery," a well-known series of crackpot stories about all kinds of impossible things. In his classic 1952 book Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science [Chapter 5], Martin Gardner explains : 
drawing on his "racial memories," Shaver described in great detail the activities of a midget race of degenerates called "deros" who live in huge caverns beneath the surface of the earth. By means of telepathy and secret rays, the deros are responsible for most of the earth's catastrophes - wars, fires, airplane crashes, shipwrecks, and nervous breakdowns.

Carrion replied to my comment,

Robert...I don't think you can describe the guy who planned the D-Day deception plans as well as the deception plans for the invasion of Japan a "Crank". Actually, your logic is nonsensical. For example, during WW2, the allies recruited an astrologer to try and influence Hitler and went to great lengths to have this astrologer's predictions "come true" to bolster his credibility. That did not make the deception planners cranks. The deception planner's goals cannot be diminished to simple guilt by association, just because you don't understand the overall goals of the deception plan.
 To which I replied,
If Goldbranson actually thought that Shaver's writings were anything other than 100% fiction, then he was a crank. Or thought that the FBI could learn anything worthwhile from Shaver.

So, is this the entire "proof" of "how Colonel Carl Goldbranson petitioned FBI assistance in investigating UFO events"? That he asked the FBI to interview the wacko Shaver?

Anyway, if nobody knew about this request, it wouldn't be any good as a "deception".
On August 25, Kevin Randle's blog A Different Perspective published a guest post by researcher Brad Sparks, questioning Carrion's conclusions. Sparks wrote,
[Carrion's] "proof" is what is now his central figure in the entire plot, a "Col." Carl Goldbranson, and an FBI memo of July 21, 1947, released decades ago.  But Carrion has so far failed to prove that Goldbranson did anything more than ask the FBI to investigate a notorious character who supposedly knew the origin of flying saucers and whose location and timing supposedly coincided with certain incidents in early July 1947.... Carrion apparently missed the fact that it was the infamous Richard Shaver whose name got through the document censors in one place of the FBI memo.  Yes, the Richard Shaver of the lunatic Shaver Mysteries, full of "deros" or "deranged robots" -- the so-called robots who were not actually even robots (how deranged is that?!?) -- and Lemuria tales.

Carrion has failed even to prove that Goldbranson was continuing his wartime deception duties 2 years after the war, in peacetime, in the face of his FBI memo placing Goldbranson in the wrong agency (Army Intelligence), not on the deception staff (Joint Chiefs).

But Goldbranson did not even ask the FBI to perpetrate any deception!  How is asking the FBI to investigate someone amount to carrying out a deception??  Does any of this deceive the Soviet intelligence agencies?  And into believing what?  That a marginal character like Richard Shaver of the Shaver Mystery stories and the "truth" about underground worlds and Lemuria, was a credible bearer of intelligence about flying saucers being US secret weapons??...
Right now, Carrion has not even proved that his crucial proof, Goldbranson, even worked on deception operations in 1947.  Maybe he did, but no such proof is given, it's just hinted at, and insinuated, Goldbranson "would" have been perfect to "fill that billet."  But did he? Carrion makes a crucial mistake in misreading Goldbranson's rank as of mid-1947 (his source seems to say G was a Lt. Col. and not full Colonel until December 1948).  This means Carrion has the wrong guy on the wrong staff of Joint Security Control even by his own argument. 
Carrion published a reply to Sparks later that same day, but I don't think it adresses Sparks' main points.

In my view, those hunting for Mirage Men supposedly promoting the Flying Saucer phenomenon are themselves chasing a mirage.


  1. Gentlemen: I always thought that Albert Bender invented the whole MIB meme. But apparently he was not the first one to come up with this idea...

  2. A fairly simple answer to your "how is asking someone to investigate someone else a deception?" would be that purely by giving Shaver the publicity of an FBI investigation would be, in some way, an approval of his theories. When someone dismisses Shaver as a crank, he can turn round and say "well, the FBI investigated me, they didn't think I was a crank" (not sure it worked in this instance, but this is just one of many).

    Pilkington's book is well-argued. It appears from your post that you've not read it, and while I've criticised many things without reading them, it might be worth in this instance having a flick through it to see what you think, at least. He's very much a skeptic.

    Re: the whole controversy stirred up by this unearthed information about Goldbranson and Shaver, I'm not sure what your point of view is, really. While I don't think there's one smoking-gun cause for the entirety of the UFO phenomenon, Pilkington makes as good a case as can be made, given the classified nature of any documents that would prove it one way or the other.

  3. The FBI did, from time to time, interview a few oddities we would call 'cranks'. Adamski was one, Ray Palmer was another, Shaver was obviously another. I dare say anyone who, in the opinion of the FBI, published something cranky that might have some effect on the security of the US was a suspect, and therefore a risk. Hence these occasional interviews of eccentrics. If Carrion wants to attach high importance to such FBI investigations he is entitled to do so, but his conclusions are entirely his own.

    At some point Carrion wrote that the Swedish ghost rocket wave of 1946 was likely due to the actions of certain 'deception planners' from the US, and that the intended 'victims' were the Russians. This is in direct contrast to US and Swedish officials in Sweden at the time, who believed that the originators of these 'rockets' were most likely Russian rocket scientists operating out of the captured German V-2 rocket base at Peenemunde.

    Thus the ghost rockets have progressed from one extreme to the other!

    A far more satisfactory & convincing answer is given in "UFOs and Alien Contact" by Robert Bartholomew & G.S.Howard, chapter 8.

  4. Let me cover skeptic Pilkington's "Mirage Men" witnesses, Carrion and Hastings together:

    Hastings makes the fundamental logical error of appealing to the authority of a few individuals who are sympathetic to, if not unwitting victims of or outright believers in the "UFO" myth and delusion. And he thinks that presenting the testimonies of such people on video somehow makes a case for some extraordinary something. It doesn't.

    Tim Hebert, I and many other completely competent people have examined all the evidence and found it sorely lacking any extraordinary component. Surely, if there were such a component in all the evidence, we intelligent people would be able to see it. We haven't.

    Again, simply, Hastings, as Carrion and other conspiracy-mongers do elsewhere in books and films, mistakenly believe that having victims of the myth and delusion "witness" to their bizarre and demonstrably false beliefs--ET "UFOs" at various nuclear installations, or "mirage men," black helicopters, and cattle mutilation--demonstrates something extraordinary.

    Their premises are juvenile, the darkly paranoid stuff of the Shaver mystery and its reiterations; and their manners of argumentation are laughable--this could never make a case for anything! It's all just really stupid.

  5. I've had a copy of "Mirage Men" for about two years I suppose and finally watched it because this blog covered the idea. It's mostly the sad Bennewitz and Doty story.

    Bennewitz was just a mentally-ill person and Doty was merely a military policeman doing his time and learning an occupation, and afterwards he is nothing but an ordinary NM state policeman of course and a big "UFO" liar and fraud.

    And that nutty-as-a-fruitcake LMH and her "cattle mutilation" schtick has to be the one of the strangest diversions in the entire history of ufoolery.

    Watching the video I was transported back twenty years at least to the days of "black helicopters" and "underground bases," Area 51, the sad sagas of Bob Lazar, Bill Moore, Bill Cooper, John Lear, and the "alien abduction" fraud and hysteria. It was horrifying. But no, I never even asked myself, "How did anyone ever take one word of this putrid crap seriously?" I had asked myself that at the time, I knew the answer.

    Admitted "crop-circle" hoaxers Lundberg and Pilkington's thesis--true to their Magonian PSHer associations--appears to be that belief in a fiction precedes the manufacture of a cargo-cult "reality."

    With this, they, somewhat ironically, have recreated Ray Palmer's original idea behind the creation of FATE magazine: the Amazing Stories of the Shaver mystery are Reality! And the Shaver-mystery social phenomenon became flying-saucer hysteria when Ken Arnold reported that he had seen something real but unexplained. Could he have seen the spacecraft of the DERO as Palmer suggested immediately and repeatedly?

    And as many times as the mythery is busted by world events and Scientific reality, the fundamentals, the archetypes of Shaver's "racial memory" remain. And instead of understanding the world as it is, the juvenile, fantasy-prone minds of the world and of conspiracies recreate the myth endlessly. The hollow earth of the DEROs is recreated as Area 51, Dulce, Hanger 18, and in the many missile-base "UFO" yarns. [ Larry Warren even claimed there was a complete base under Rendlesham inhabited by aliens. And now Penniston is receiving telepathic binary code messages from the future! ]

    And in a particular expression of this: First he heard a rumor about flying saucers over nuclear missile installations and coincident systems shutdowns, and then it actually happened, and then again elsewhere. And then there was a giant red and green spacecraft, much like the fictional Starship Enterprise, but it was sitting on the prairie! And as the years go by he remembers more and more about the "reality" of ET spacecraft over nuclear missile installations--even though none of it ever really happened.

    Will these "wonders" never cease? Believing is Seeing. Or "remembering" or just making it up, there's no difference. Fiction is still fiction.


Keep your comments relevant, and keep them civil! That means no personal attacks will be allowed, by anyone, on anyone. Commenters are welcome to disagree with me, or with other comments, but state your arguments using logic, and with a civil tone. Comments in violation of these rules will be deleted, and offenders banned.

Comments should be in English, although quotes from foreign-language sources are fine as long as they're relevant, and you explain them. Anonymous postings are not permitted. If you don't want to use your real name, then make up a name for yourself, and use it consistently.