Thursday, September 9, 2021

A "Professional Skeptic" Replies to Kecksburg Defense

On April 30, 2021 the normally serious New Yorker has dropped a very misleading article titled "How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously."  It was very long. Authored by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, a lot of it was about UFO promoter Leslie Kean, and what wonderful things she has done to bring the reality of UFOdumb to the masses.

On May 8 I wrote a reply to it on this Blog, titled "The New Yorker's Credulous Article on Pentagon UFOs." It was in three parts, so it was pretty long, but not as long as the New Yorker article. That Blog entry was reprinted in the Skeptical Inquirer, September/October, 2021.

David Bates' vision of Skeptical Gotterdammerung.
On September 6, on the Blog "On the Trail of the Saucers," David Bates wrote "A ‘Skeptic’ Aims at Kecksburg’s UFO and The New Yorker — and misses. Skeptical Inquirer ‘debunker’ Robert Sheaffer uses obfuscation and omission to dismiss an exhaustively documented UFO case." His piece is shorter than mine, largely because he concentrates mostly on one case, the famous Kecksburg, Pennsylvania "UFO crash" of 1965. But he promises more such articles, calling this one "Twilight of the Skeptics, Part 1."

This posting is my reply to Bates' article. It will hopefully be shorter than his.

Bates objects to my use of the term "hagiography" to describe Gideon Lewis-Kraus' write-up of Leslie Kean, a term generally used for religious books praising saints, although it frankly seems to me to be appropriate. He writes, 

If Sheaffer really wants to unpack hagiographical prose, the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of Skeptical Inquirer offers a smorgasbord: Remembrances of the late “Amazing” James Randi — a stage magician and scientific skeptic who frequently challenged paranormal and “pseudoscientific” claims in the magazine before he died in 2015.

The Amazing Randi prepares to bend a spoon non-psychically at the final Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas in 2015, as Ray Hyman looks on. (Photo by author.)

Apart from that fact that Randi died in 2020, not 2015, and that he hadn't been associated with CSI(COP) for about thirty years before that, I might accept Bates' description of the Randi tributes. But there is a huge difference here: Randi got things right, while Kean got a lot of important things wrong. Randi is best known for his debunking of Uri Geller's claims to have magic powers, and time has proven his skepticism correct. (Geller continues to flounder about seeking attention, but isn't having a lot of success. One of Geller's main investigators and proponents, Hal Puthoff, has moved on to work on the paranormal promotions of Tom DeLonge and Robert Bigelow.) Randi also exposed gullibility in a major parapsychology lab, and exposed phony "Faith Healers" like Peter Popoff. Randi was sometimes careless, and would occasionally make mistakes like the one Bates made above, but Randi made no major errors in his skepticism. He never tried to "debunk" anything that was actually true. Whereas Leslie Kean got a whole lot of big things wrong, although her followers seem either unaware of this, or else don't care. Here are a few:

There is also the fact that, unlike Randi, Leslie Kean didn't even have to die to get her hagiography! 😏 But she clearly doesn't deserve one.

Bates writes, "For now, we’ll focus on one of the lesser-known cases: the Kecksburg incident, sometimes referred to (with good reason) as Pennsylvania’s Roswell. The transparently disingenuous manner in which Sheaffer dismisses it as little more than a ufologist’s fever dream reveals a lot about how professional UFO “skeptics” get to where they want to go." OK, show me. He zooms in on the following quote from my article:

For another “really good” case, Kean selected an incident that occurred in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania, a rural hamlet southeast of Pittsburgh, on December 9, 1965, in which an object the size of a Volkswagen Beetle allegedly hurtled from the sky. According to multiple witnesses, the acorn-shaped bulk had been removed from the woods on a flatbed truck as service members guarded the area with guns.
Allegedly. The problem is, we know exactly what people saw in the sky near Kecksburg — and indeed, across the entire region. It was the Great Lakes Fireball of December 9, 1965, well documented in Sky and Telescope magazine (February 1966) and other astronomical publications. This has been pointed out repeatedly by skeptics for decades, but somehow the word doesn’t seem to have reached Kean.

He objects,

First of all, to declare that “we know exactly what people saw in the sky near Kecksburg” does not mean that the object, whatever it was, was identified. It was not identified. It was described as “a fireball” and presumed to be meteor.
Sheaffer does not (and, more to the point, cannot) direct readers to any museum or academic institution where one might gaze upon definitive proof that the Great Lakes Fireball was, in fact, a meteor — because there isn’t any.

Bates seems to think that every bright meteor seen in the sky is somehow recovered, then displayed in a museum or university somewhere! It might surprise him to learn that very few meteors actually reach the ground. And of course, not all of those that do are recovered.

Astronomers Von Del Chamberlain and David J. Krause of the Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University in East Lansing did an in-depth study of the reports of the Dec. 9th fireball from across a wide area of the U.S. and Canada. They published a scientific paper in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Aug. 1967- Vol. 61 no. 4, pp. 184-90). This object was in fact over a hundred miles from Kecksburg, "disappearing at a point over land some 15 miles south-east of Windsor [Ontario]". (Witnesses typically greatly underestimate the distance to brilliant fireballs such as this. See UFOs Explained by Philip J. Klass.)  "The usual rash of early reports gave 'landing sites' for the object ranging from western Michigan to Pennsylvania... Loud sonic booms were heard in the Detroit-Windsor region." Using photographs of the object's trail from two different locations, Chamberlain and Krause were able to calculate the orbit of the meteor before it entered the earth's atmosphere. You can retrieve the full article on-line here .

Chamberlain published a second scientific paper about the fireball: Chamberlain, Von Del, 1968: Meteorites of Michigan, Geological Survey Bulletin 5, East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan Department of Conservation, Geological Survey Division, pp. 1-5.

Another article about it, titled "Great Lakes Fireball", was published in the February, 1966 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine, page 78. (See part of the article here.) In it, G. W. Wetherill, a professor of geophysics and geology at UCLA who investigated the incident, is quoted:

The fireball was observed by many people in Ontario, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and to a lesser extent in neighboring states. In newspaper accounts, a great many supposed impact sites were reported, both in southwestern Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Fragments were claimed to have fallen in Ohio and Michigan.

These imagined happenings arose from the impossibility of estimating the distance of an object in the sky. Almost everyone who saw the fireball thought it was much closer than it really was. When it disappeared behind a house or a tree many people thought it had fallen only a few hundred yards beyond (emphasis added).

The people of Kecksburg were not the only people who wrongly thought that the Great Lakes Fireball had crashed in their vicinity. Skeptic Tim Printy has compiled an excellent list showing that many other people in the region made that same mistake. Quoting from news stories:

Near Lapeer, Mich., 40 miles north of Detroit, police will again search a swamp where a sheriff's deputy, Lenny Tolly, found shredded foil Thursday. "It looks like it may have come from the deal (the fireball)," said Tolly. He said the foil was made of lead and shredded in strips one sixteenth of an inch wide.

In Michigan, several children found strange metallic-particles which may have been thrown off by the disintegrating fireball as it plunged through the air Thursday night. Brian Parent and Larry Jones, Mich., both 11,of Livonia, Mich said they picked up a piece of lightweight grayish fused metal about the size of a baseball which fell into a field. Smaller chunks of similar material,' were found by children in Warren, Mich.

Near Jackson [Michigan],13 -year -old Roy Root found a 15 -pound metallic object in a field near his farm home at Concord. He told newsmen the object was in a hole two feet deep and was still hot when it was discovered.

The Coast Guard in Detroit got a report of an airplane down in the river that separates Detroit and Windsor, Canada. Boats searched and found nothing.

Raymond Wallings, a pilot of Painesville [Ohio] even reported that "he saw a flaming chunk drop into Lake Erie"

In Toledo, where the fireball was first reported, residents saw a blinding flash of blue-white light in the sky northeast of the city. Switchboards lighted up almost instantly, most of the callers believing a plane had exploded.

A boy reported seeing a flaming object fell from the sky into the woods near his home on the outskirts of Cleveland, but sheriff's officers dispatched to the 'area near the village of North Eaton found nothing.

Mrs. Steven Ferency, 154 Longfellow St. {Elyria, Ohio], who was walking on North Logan St at 4:40 PM saw an "orange ball with a white streak behind it" streak to the ground near some Cleveland St. homes.

In Elyria, Mrs. Ralph Richards, 2301 West River Rd. North, reported seeing a fireball " the size of a volleyball" plunge into the woods across from her home. It was apparently the fragment which caused the fires.

Lt. Jack Trumbull of Elyria said the concentrated pattern of the fires led him to believe they could have been touched off by a fireball or meteor which shattered as it hit the ground.

A group of children playing near a school in Lorain reported another chunk dropped into a schoolyard.

The threesome with a sudden awakened interest in Astronomy and meteorites are twins Joe and Mike Kovacs, 11, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Kovacs, 629 Hilliard Rd [Elyria, OH] and Bryan Schue, 10,son of Mr and Mrs Charles Schue, 618 Hilliard Rd... The three boys, all students at Spring Valley School, found the 10 pieces in their yards. The fragments weighed approximately six ounces apeice In color they are metallic blue, at first glance resembling 'clinkers" from a coal furnace Closer examination reveals unusual gaseous-formed bubbles on the surface and extending into the heart of the material. The pieces were still warm when picked up the boys reports and had "a smokey smell" about them. Joe Kovacs found the first piece in the backyard at his home before going to school yesterday morning. He launched his search after hearing radio reports about the fireball he explained.

Eight-year old Nevin Kalp near Kecksburg saw the fireball and reported it to his mother. She stated, " looked like a flaming star. It left a trail of flames behind it and fell in the woods." Mrs. Kalp commented that she saw some smoke but it eventually turned cloudy.

This last one was, of course, the sighting that set off all the excitement in Kecksburg. Printy concludes this section,

The smoke Mrs. Kalp reported was in the direction of the woods and she reported it to the local radio almost two hours after the event. Mrs. Kalp was then beseiged by phone calls and it took intervention by the operator for the state police to get a hold of her. The search for the fragments would eventually take on a carnival-like atmosphere with the media, state police, and, eventually, the US Air Force racing towards this sleepy part of Pennsylvania.
So we see that authorities were called out to search for supposed debris from the Great Lakes Fireball allegedly crashing nearby in

  • Lapeer, Michigan
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Elyria, Ohio
  • Kecksburg, Pennsylvania
And likely in other places that we haven't yet heard about. All of them, false alarms. David Bates would have us believe that all of those other claims of debris from a crashing fireball, and searches by authorities were mistaken, except for the one from Kecksburg. Presumably, Bates would have us believe that a mystery UFO appeared at the exact same time as the Great Lakes Fireball, moving in the same direction, and crashed in Kecksburg, even though the fireball itself appears to have disintegrated over southern Ontario or nearby Lake Erie. That would be an astonishing coincidence!

Unless he wants to argue that the Great Lakes Fireball was really the same object that supposedly crashed near Kecksburg. But then he has a bigger problem that the breakup of the fireball, as determined by its direction as seen in many widespread places, occurred far north and west of Kecksburg. The object never made it as far east as Pennsylvania.

Bates is correct that I ignored the supposed eyewitness accounts of military retrieval of an acorn-like object near Kecksburg. Tim Printy offers a good explanation of why we should ignore them:

In the late 1970's, Kecksburg resurfaced in UFO lore. This time UFOlogists were interested in making this into a major crashed Spaceship story. As early as 1980, efforts were being made to find witnesses to the event that would attest to a crashed spaceship being recovered. A Pittsburgh radio program hosted by John Signa had presented UFO investigator Clark McClelland, who discussed the events of that evening based on what he had found. As a result, several of the witnesses called including Robert Bitner and James Mayes to tell the story about the Military retrieving something from the woods. This was the beginning of the Kecksburg legend.

In 1989, Robert Barry hosted a show on a WGCB-TV that included mentioning the Kecksburg recovery. Now NASA was involved as well. According to Robert Young:
Barry says that years ago he was told by an unnamed NASA informant that the Kecksburg UFO had been tracked...Barry also reported , citing Stan Gordon as his source, that a 1965 member of the Kecksburg Fire Company claims it had been contacted by NASA before the UFO crashed and asked to keep the public away from the area.
By this point in time, Stan Gordon, of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and the Pennsylvania Association for the Study of the Unexplained (PASU), had taken over the case and even produced a video about the events. What resulted was a tale that mimicked the infamous Roswell case. Individuals suddenly appeared with privileged knowledge about the case, which included covert military convoys, military threats, and, of course, a crashed UFO.

Stan Gordon - UFOs and Cryptids-R-Us.
n Gordon is well-known in paranormal circles, and is considered the primary researcher on the Kecksburg "UFO crash.". He not only promotes UFOs, but also sightings of Bigfoot and other "cryptids." (I bet you didn't know that Bigfoot and other Cryptids live in Pennsylvania? They do. Just look at Stan's website.)

So the reports of military involvement and retrieval are "me too" accounts surfacing many years later, at the urging of dedicated mystery-mongers. This often happens in the wake of highly-publicized UFO claims. We have seen this in the Roswell case, Pascagoula, Phoenix Lights, etc., etc., etc. If a corroborating story or photo involving a major case suddenly 'turns up' years later, and only after major publicity has been given the incident, then it should be ignored.

So we see that the so-called Kecksburg UFO Crash is not nearly as credible as Bates, Leslie Kean, and their pals would have us believe (even though most of them will completely ignore this explanation).

We will gave the last word on the Kecksburg "UFO Crash"  to the venerable Zippy the Pinhead. The mention of a "Soviet rocket" refers to an early hypothesis that the Great Lakes Fireball was caused by the re-entry of a damaged Soviet spacecraft, Cosmos 96/Venera. But the astronomers' analysis of the fireball's path rules out that possibility, and further analysis suggested that the orbit of the Cosmos 96 had already decayed by the time of the Fireball.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Case of the Missing Fetus, Starring Travis Walton

 In another startling development in the unraveling of the Travis Walton story,  Travis was the guest on August 7 on the Theory of Everything podcast, hosted by Curt Jaimungal, a mathematical physicist. His podcast is affiliated with that of Brian Keating, who is a Distinguished Professor of Physics at the Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences in the Department of Physics at University of California, San Diego. While I understand and applaud a scientist's curiosity to explore the unknown, I cannot imagine why scientists like them would take someone like Travis Walton seriously. A hint to scientists dealing with claims of the 'paranormal': do a little historical investigation to learn why Nullius In Verba, "Take Nobody's Word for it," became the motto of the Royal Society of London, the world's first scientific society in the 17th Century. Words themselves count for nothing, in the absence of evidence or experiment. This is how the Royal Society was able to extricate itself from  the morass of Alchemy, Witchcraft, Demonology, Astrology, etc. that were so prevalent in their time.

Travis said pretty much the same things he always says, but some really interesting new stuff came up. At about 5:40 into the podcast,  Curt Jaimungal asked him,

Q: Do you have PTSD from it?

I think so. Yes, I was surprised at the degree to which I do. You know, having this other sighting, that we sort of alluded to earlier, coming back from a MUFON meeting in Burbank, California. Heading up the 5, this giant black triangle came, stopped right over the top of the car, turned, and headed off to the west. An incredible ability to decelerate and accelerate, it was still something that I wouldn't ever have brought up in an interview or anything like that. [Except that he just did]. Except that I was able to find out that it was seen by about fifteen other people, or at least reported by that many people by the next morning. So certainly over a highly populated area like that, there were many many more people who saw it, but just didn't know where to report it.

Now, this is very interesting. Unfortunately, Travis gives us no hint how he found out about all those other supposed witnesses, or how we can check their stories out. I would be very interested to learn that. 

I previously wrote a Blog posting titled, "Travis Walton Saw a Giant Black Triangle UFO, but Apparently forgot to mention it." Travis was briefly interviewed in a Fox News piece about UFOs on May 22, 2019. Asked whether he had had seen anything since the aliens grabbed him for five days in 1975, Travis replied,

It was February 19, 2014. A giant black triangle came over, stopped right over the top of us. Rotated 90 degrees, and shot off toward the ocean. It was quite amazing because I didn't believe anything that big could actually fly.
Actually, Travis apparently did mention this sighting a few times, but he kept it pretty low-key. One Blogger writes,
Ken Peterson is one of the other witnesses to Walton’s encounter in 1975. He has hinted at further encounters and transformative experiences following the 1975 incident too. Not to mention that Walton himself has had an additional sighting that he discusses from time to time involving a black triangle that stopped mid-flight and changed trajectory. Ironically, that event occurred as he was leaving a MUFON meeting in Burbank, CA a couple of years prior to 2015.

This sounds like the same sighting we just heard about. Doing a little research, I found out that there was indeed a meeting of the local Los Angeles chapter of MUFON in Burbank, California on Sunday evening, Feb. 23, 2014, at 7 PM. Travis' account was off by four days, but let's postulate that this is within the margin of error. This appears to be the meeting that Travis was referring to. The speaker was Stephen Bassett, whose mantra seems to be, "Disclosure is coming any day now!" Bassett's most recent email missive assures us that we are witnessing "the last weeks and months of the Truth Embargo unfold." So it won't be long now!

I cannot confirm whether or not Travis actually attended this meeting. It certainly seems odd that he would come all the way to California to attend a local MUFON chapter meeting, not to be confused with MUFON's large annual Symposium. It is especially odd that Travis would come when he was not the featured speaker, and that he would bring his pregnant girlfriend with him, not to mention his son. Even more odd is the idea that all three of them would drive all the way back to Snowflake, Arizona that same night. Google Maps tags that journey as approximately 8 hours, 40 minutes. Assuming that they left Burbank when the meeting ended around 10 PM, were they really planning to drive straight through to Snowflake, arriving about 7:40 AM, Arizona Time? If so, it would be an automobile marathon reminiscent of Mr. and Mrs. Hills' Wild Ride.

The interview continued with Curt saying to Travis,   

7:00 Q: I recall that you have had an experience with a UFO somewhere on highway I-5, and it had to do with a pregnant girlfriend at the time? Do you mind recounting that?

Yes, it's the same sighting. And yes, she was with me, and so was my son.

Q: And what happened?

Well, um, in her estimation there was missing time. You know, it seemed to take a lot longer to get home than it should have. You know, accounting for time differences and the whole thing. But, again, I've always tried to avoid reporting things I can't corroborate, everything has to be documented.

Q: Was there missing time on your part, or only she reported that to you?

Well, I agree with her. You know, with her estimations and comments about it. By itself, it doesn't constitute proof, and it's just something we find very interesting.

Q: And your son? Also had an experience in missing time? Or time dilation?

He doesn't disagree. He's just, you know, how would you know? On a long drive like that, all the way from Burbank to Snowflake, Arizona, how do you know for sure?

Q: Was there something about, your girlfriend at the time was pregnant, and then after the sighting she became not pregnant, and it was because of alien interference?

Boy, that is something that I don't really bring out that much. Because, you know, she works in a government facility, you know, has a security clearance. I really don't have her permission to talk about that, or name her, or whatever. But, yeah, she had a mark across her stomach. I went into the gynecologist's office with her. I observed on the ultrasound, that there was a placenta, a cord, and the fetus had just disappeared.

Q: Why do you think that is?

I don't know. One speculation is obviously that the baby was taken by, you know, some alien technology. Another alternative is, medically speaking, some kind of a thing where they claim that a baby can be re-absorbed. But if that were really true, you would think that would affect the cord and the placenta, too. Wouldn't it?

Q: I know that you have intuitions or feelings that these beings were being helpful toward you, given that, do you think...


Q: I'm just wondering, how is the removal of a fetus positive, unless the baby would have been born cancerous or have some other issue?

Obviously, the theory is, we conjecture, that the baby is alive somewhere, that it was taken for a more nurturing environment. With really super-super high tech I guess the woman's body is not absolutely necessary. That's the theory.

Q: How far along was she in the pregnancy?

In days, I don't know. I don't have that on the tip of my tongue.

Q: Was that within a month, or was within six months? Plus or minus a month?

It was a very large amount of development. Loose clothing, she probably could have disguised the fact that she was pregnant.
So, we are left with that astonishing account, and no further details.

Much later in the interview, Travis says,

1:31:00 I'm familiar with tools and some medical instruments. I was actually, eventually, certified, as an EMT. I took the state test on midwiffery. It was offered by the state of Arizona to bring all of the lay midwives, many of whom had been practicing under doctors for years, into an official licensing situation. So, the offer was, come in, take this test, and, it was just a spur-of-the-moment thing. I didn't plan it, I only heard about it a couple of days before the test. Went in, and I got the second-highest score out of the whole group. But, maybe it's a genetic thing, I don't know. My father was a doctor. Actually, an obstetrician.

Charlie Wiser has a Twitter thread about this. She writes, "Travis Walton is a midwife now!". 

What is the relevance of that? How did Travis' midwife skills contribute to his obtaining, and preserving, the placenta and umbilical cord of the missing fetus? That is a question for the next Podcast host to ask Travis, assuming he or she won't be grossed out by the answer.

Toward the end of the interview, some listener submitted a statement by Kelly Waldrip, who was a close friend of Travis when they were both in Middle School. It had been posted as a comment on Michael Shermer's website.  Travis did not deny that he and Kelly had been close friends in school, and also did not deny that the two of them sometimes talked about pulling off a UFO hoax. But Travis added,

1:49:00  [Kelly] has got some amazing tales, himself. He was my best friend, and it was actually his idea to put up a hot air balloon or something. But he became an FBI agent, and the only contact I've had with him was years ago, when he was describing how he was basically ducking and dodging around the planet to avoid being assassinated in connection with his previous work, his previous job. I don't know, maybe it's true. Sounds kind of wild, though. But he's definitely exaggerating anything that was said between us.

So, yes, we talked about hoaxing a UFO sighting, but it was his fault, not mine.

Meanwhile, Mike Rogers, the guy who was driving the truck when Travis supposedly ran out and was "abducted," posted on his Facebook page on August 13,

EVENTS in the last few months have changed everything between Travis and I. Suffice it to say . . . I no longer believe anything Travis says. Steve Pierce and Ken Peterson are with me on that. John Goulette is a 'maybe', and his other 2 witnesses are gone. Travis Walton is quickly loosing his support.

Mike claims that  "Travis Walton owes me a great deal of money by signed and notarized CONTRACT," i.e. his share of the proceeds from the promotion of the story. According to Celebs Money, Travis Walton's net worth is between $100,000- 1,000,000, although it's impossible to say if that is accurate. So Mike's claim sounds good, but so far he apparently hasn't even consulted a lawyer to see if he has a valid case.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Some Thoughts on the new Galileo Project


By now, most readers have heard about The Galileo Project for the Systematic Scientific Search for Evidence of Extraterrestrial Technological Artifacts,   headed up by Professor Avi Loeb, Harvard Astronomy Department Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian. "Daring to Look Through New Telescopes" is how they describe their focus. Dr. Loeb, who has excellent credentials as an astrophysicist, brings a lot of credibility to a subject that has frankly lacked credibility in most of its endeavors.

What will the Galileo Project do? On its "Activities" page, the Project lists three "major areas of research". Let's look at each one.

1. "Obtain High-resolution, Multi-detector UAP Images, Discover their Nature."

A picture is worth a thousand words. For example, a megapixel image of the surface of a human-scale UAP object at a distance of a mile will allow to distinguish the label: “Made in Country X” from the potential alternative “Made by ETC Y” on a nearby exoplanet in our galaxy. This goal will be accomplished by searching for UAP with a network of mid-sized, high-resolution telescopes and detector arrays with suitable cameras and computer systems, distributed in select locations. The data will be open to the public and the scientific analysis will be transparent.
As if you can just set up telescopes and get good, clear photographs of UFOs (or UAPs). Excuse me, Dr. Loeb, but you have no idea how many other people already have automated cameras pointing at the sky. Most are for astronomy, but some are for UFOlogy. And so far, none of them have turned up any objects that are both clearly seen, and yet unidentified.

Catalina Sky Survey -

The Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) is a NASA funded project supported by the Near Earth Object Observation Program (NEOO) under the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO). We are based at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Lab in Tucson, Arizona.  Our mission at CSS is fully dedicated to discover and track near-Earth objects (NEOs) in an effort to meet the congressional mandate to catalogue at least 90 percent of the estimated population of NEOs larger than 140 meters, some of which classify as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs) which pose an impact threat to Earth. Longstanding success of the project is attributable to our comprehensive sky coverage, continued development and application of innovative software and our NEO detection pipeline, and the inclusion of near real-time human attention to the NEO discovery and follow-up process.
Designed to hunt for asteroids in the earth's vicinity, it has been very successful. But it hasn't yet turned up anything of alien manufacture.

Sloan Digital Sky Survey -  Starting in 2000 and continuing today, it has obtained many, many thousands of images of stars and galaxies, covering a large portion of the entire sky. All of these images are publicly available. Where are the UFOs?

Starlight Xpress Oculus All-Sky Camera
w/ 180 Degree Lens. $1,100.

Miscellaneous All-sky Cameras: Many private observatories operate all-sky cameras that show what is happening in the sky, via the internet. In fact, a major astronomy dealer sells an all-sky camera, in case you think you will find something worth recording. Yet with all these cameras in operation, UFOs still somehow manage to avoid them.
Meteor tracking cameras:  Scattered across the entire globe are networks of cameras to record meteors, which are very successful. Successful at recording meteors, but for some reason not "UAPs".
Special effects guru Douglas Trumbull and Marc D'Antonio of MUFON  announced plans to set up the UFOTOG project.  UFOTOG I was built, and UFOTOG II, was planned. It is a multiple sensor device that would look for anomalous objects not only visually, but with magnetometers, gravity meters, spectroscopy, gamma ray and other detectors. Large numbers of them will be manufactured to get the costs down, and they will be placed on top of poles in areas where UFOs are being reported. Apparently, it didn't happen.

Then there is UFODAP - the UFO Data Acquisition Project. "The technical focus of UFODAP is to apply current methods of science and technology to recognize, track and record anomalous objects while simultaneously collecting data from multiple sensors. It is our goal to expand a growing network of these sensor systems to other hot spots around North America and then the world." 

Sky Hub UAP Tracker

The Sky Hub UAP Tracker,  an "open source citizen science project.. we have a growing community with 1500+ members."

Join the Science Based Pursuit of UAPs. A world wide search for UAPs using a global network of machine learning, smart cameras and sensor arrays, open-source software for the largest observational science project in history.

Nor are all such proposed UFO camera programs are relatively recent, like these are. An article in LOOK Magazine, "Hunt For The Flying Saucer" (July 1, 1952) described the  special cameras that would soon be looking for UFOs:

Under ATIC direction, a physicist at the University of California at Los Angeles [unnamed] is developing and testing a special camera to photograph flying saucers.  Key to the new apparatus is a defraction grid consisting of a piece of glass etched with infinitely fine lines.  Placed over the camera lens, this grid breaks down the image into slivers from which scientists can determine its composition.  If the saucers prove to be bodies which glow, the grid will record the material they are made of.  If their light comes from a fuel supply or a reflection, the grid will identify the light.

Among the first to be tested will be Dr. Menzel’s theory that saucers are, in reality, lights bounced upward from the earth’s surface.  As Dr. Menzel independently suggested, the first defraction-grid cameras will be located in the southwestern U.S., which has had a concentration of saucer sightings.  Two hundred cameras will be built and distributed to atomic-plant guards, airbase tower operators and radar men.  Pictures will be sped to scientists who will then be able to give the world its  first incontrovertible word on flying saucers.

So, almost seventy years ago there was a serious government proposal to build special cameras to study UFOs. But so far as I am aware. no such cameras were ever deployed, probably because it was realized that there was no way to force UFOs to come and have their picture taken. 

What I would like to ask Dr. Loeb is: given the already large number of automated cameras pointing skyward, with more planned to follow, what makes you think you can get good, clear images of "UAPs" when nobody else has recorded much of anything interesting? What will you do differently? Where will you position your cameras? 

And why will notoriously shy UAPs reveal themselves to your cameras, but not to the many others?

 2. Search for and In-Depth Research on ‘Oumuamua-like Interstellar Objects 

The Galileo Project research group also will utilize existing and future astronomical surveys, such as the future Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST)[1] at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory (VRO), to discover and monitor the properties of interstellar visitors to the Solar system.
We will conceptualize and design, potentially in collaboration with interested space agencies or space ventures, a launch-ready space mission to image unusual interstellar objects such as ‘Oumuamua by intercepting their trajectories on their approach to the Sun or by using ground-based survey telescopes to discover interstellar meteors.
Actually, this sounds quite worthwhile, although I suspect it greatly overlaps with current and planned research activity. When new interstellar interlopers are discovered, there is no doubt that they will be studied by the best available earth-based telescopes, with or without Project Galileo. Even if the objects are not artificial, which they almost certainly are not, they are nonetheless worthy of careful study. (My previous posting explains why it's extremely unlikely that 'Oumuamua is artificial.) And having a "a launch-ready space mission to image unusual interstellar objects" is an excellent idea, although it will require the cooperation of NASA or some other space agency. After all, we have already sent missions out to intercept known asteroids and comets, and it would not be any different to rendezvous with interstellar ones (although interstellar objects will be traveling faster than objects orbiting the sun).  So we'd better be ready to launch whenever they show up.

I was a bit surprised to see "using ground-based survey telescopes to discover interstellar meteors," because there is as yet no evidence that interstellar meteors actually exist. I see no reason they could not exist, but they would be rare, and given the large number of meteoroids in our solar system, finding the interstellar one would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. But astronomers using sky survey photos of meteors taken from multiple locations (see above) already derive orbital parameters showing where the meteoroid had been before it encountered the earth. If that orbit happens to be a parabola and not an ellipse, then that meteor came in from interstellar space. Looking for such rare hypothetical meteors in a slew of ordinary ones will keep a lot of researchers busy for a very long time.  

 3.  Search for Potential ETC Satellites:

Discovering potential 1 meter-scale or smaller satellites that may be exploring Earth, e.g., in polar orbits a few hundred km above Earth, may become feasible with VRO in 2023 and later, but if radar, optical and infrared technologies have been mastered by an ETC, then very sophisticated large telescopes on Earth might be required. We will design advanced algorithmic and AI/DL object recognition and fast filtering methods that the Galileo Project intends to deploy, initially on non-orbiting telescopes. 

This sounds good. But "The United States Space Surveillance Network detects, tracks, catalogs and identifies artificial objects orbiting Earth, e.g. active/inactive satellites, spent rocket bodies, or fragmentation debris. The system is the responsibility of United States Space Command and operated by the United States Space Force."

How small an object in earth orbit can the Space Surveillance Network track? "The SSN typically tracks space objects which are 10 centimeters in diameter (baseball size) or larger."

So, the proposed Galileo tracking network will be looking for possible unseen alien surveillance satellites that are up to ten times larger than those usually detected by  the Space Surveillance Network (and thus having a hundred times greater radar cross section). This is reassuring: so if the SSN, which typically detects orbiting objects down to baseball size, happens to keep missing all those orbiting alien satellites of beach ball size, fear not! Galileo will find them!!

Friday, July 30, 2021

Travis Walton - The Empire Strikes Back!

As we have seen in the past few postings, the 45-year old "UFO abduction" story of Travis Walton ("Fire in the Sky") is suddenly under scrutiny as never before. On Friday, July 23 producer Ryan Gordon once again appeared on Erica Lukes' program UFO Classified. He had almost four hours for himself, unlike the two hours he had the previous week, when he followed Mike Rogers, the woodcutters' crew chief. Gordon went over much of the same material as he did the previous week, but with better organization, more time, and more detail. Host Erica Lukes, and guest Barry Greenwood, seemed very impressed. It was difficult to argue with what Gordon was saying (which is why Walton's defenders typically misrepresent what he said).

This poses a serious problem for what one might call Retail UFOlogy, those who derive their income from TV programs, lectures, conferences and workshops, etc. If a skeptic picks off a modest UFO case here and there, it does them no serious harm - even they admit that there are many phonies out there, but you can rest assured that anything these experts put forward as genuine absolutely is! 😏 But the powerful assault on Travis Walton's classic tale, which won surprisingly strong support very quickly, is sending shock waves throughout UFOlogy - so much so that the 'Pentagon UFO report' that dominated the news for many months is scarcely even being mentioned. Something must be done to save Travis Walton!

The Empire Strikes Back

The first major blow from the UFO Empire striking back came on the Webcast "Meanwhile Here on Earth", hosted by Peter Robbins on July 26. Robbins was a close associate of the late UFO abductionist Budd Hopkins, and was affiliated with Hopkins' Intruders Foundation, promoting the idea that 'UFO abductions' are real, and in fact rather common. The subject of that show was "The Travis Walton Contorversy" (!!), and it contained a hodgepodge of misinformation.

Robbins, who has long had an association with Walton, began by saying that he had never before done a show with "an adversarial content," but circumstances dictated this. He compared the attack on Travis to the assassination of JFK, or John Lennon. Worse yet, he said that an attack is waiting in the wings to bring down Betty and Barney Hill! Aux armes, citoyens! Formez vos bataillons! Robbins claimed that all seven of the woodcutters were lifelong friends, and grew up together in Snowflake, AZ. Nope! Only Travis and Mike fit that description: the other guys grew up elsewhere, and they hardly knew each other.

Kathleen Marden, neice of the late Betty Hill, who uses hypnosis to uncover UFO abductions, is very upset about all this. So is Denise Stoner, who was abducted along with her family in 1982 in the area of South Park, Colorado (the very place where the aliens gave Cartman an anal probe in Episode 1 of Series 1 of that famous show. Aliens must love South Park.). She and Marden are collaborators in UFO abduction research, and have written a book together, The Alien Abduction Files

Charlie Wiser and her NSA handler.

James E. Clarkson is a UFOlogist with a background in police investigations. He is an expert in UFO crashes, and we're not talking about just Roswell, or Kecksburg. There are several other UFO crashes that the government is covering up, and Clarkson can tell you about those.  He talked about Charlie Wiser, the pseudonomyous Australian woman whose website, contains a detailed debunking of the Walton story, as well as that of Barney and Betty Hill (hence their obvious worries about defending that story next). Clarkson said that Charlie might be a "cover story" for some sinister government agency. She might be a "unit" in the NSA. Clarkson claimed that when Travis returned, his mental and physical condition was so deteriorated that he was in the hospital for five days. Wrong! As Charlie later noted on Twitter, "Travis was at bro’s house in Phoenix. By day 3 he was in a hotel paid for by the Enquirer. By day 4 he was failing their polygraph."

 Jennifer W. Stein is the producer and director of the documentary film Travis, about you-know-who, so you'd think she would know the story well. However, she was a font of misinformation. She claimed that the loggers were not driving on Rim Road where the tower is, despite abundant testimony that they were. She said that all six woodcutters saw the UFO disappear. Comments from viewers would sometimes appear on-screen, and Charlie Wiser managed to get a single comment through - that according to Travis' book, only Mike saw the object disappear - before she was blocked. Can't have anyone bringing up inconvenient facts!

Everybody joined in to attack the mental state of Mike Rogers, the former crew chief who has of late had some seious disagreements with Travis. Mike is claiming on his Facebook page that Travis owes him tens of thousands of dollars because of agreements they had, but Travis won't pay him a dime. Mike is mentally ill, they all agreed, and it's unethical for people to take advantage of him (i.e., repeat what he says about Travis).

After the show, Charlie Wiser precipitated a Twitter storm (some have called it a "typhoon"), pointing out errors in what these "experts" said. She concludes with,

Peter is infuriated with Charlie Wiser.
Oh, that’s me.
Peter, instead of fretting about who I am, deal with the evidence.
Also, don’t trample on strawmen. They have pain receptors because quantum physics and also it’s a sucky way to argue.
I know I'm snarky. This case makes me angry. A stupid hoax spun out of control and the perpetrators did not come clean. This moral failure ruined innocent lives.
You like Travis, therefore his story is true?
“Use your critical thinking.” - Peter Robbins.

Then immediately following Robbins' show, Jimmy Church hosted Travis Walton for three hours on his show "Fade to Black". Church, who previously was a big promoter of the "Roswell Slides," began by thanking Peter Robbins, apparently for helping out the 'defend Travis' cause. As for the Travis trolls, he said, I'll block you immediately. Church instructed his call screener, "Anybody named Wiser, kick 'em out."

On the previous show, Jennifer Stein had said that the woodcutters all knew the area around the Gentry tower, and would not be fooled by it. But here Travis threw in an unexpected curve: “I’ve never been to that tower, never seen it - would not be normal for us to drive past Gentry ... it’s actually the first I’ve ever seen of what that tower looks like.” So much for that argument.

Charlie Wiser started another Twitter thread, to deal with the misinformation on  this show. 

Church: “Did anybody search for you near Gentry Tower? How far out did the search perimeter go?”

Travis: “Well I don’t know, but I’m sure it was as thorough as they thought it needed to be.”

Charlie:"Here, I’ll help:" And she produces a quote from the APRO Bulletin (November, 1975) saying that about 40-50 men searched a 2 1/2 mile radius. Which, centered on the false "abduction site", near Turkey Springs, does not extend as far as Gentry. 

One common point of confusion: When Rogers guided searchers to look for Travis, of course he took them to a bogus site, reportedly just 300 yards from the work site at Turkey Springs, instead of the actual site, the Gentry tower. This is where Travis and Mike tell people the incident occurred, so people don't go to the actual site, and become curious about the tower.

(The story continues.)

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Travis Walton and Ryan Gordon Chat Like Old Friends

Travis Walton, whose claim of a famous UFO abduction in 1975 is increasingly under scrutiny as a hoax,  has been publicly saying bad things about producer Ryan Gordon ("one guy out there who wants to make a movie is making all of it up"). Podcast host Jimmy Church, who will be hosting Travis on his next show (July 26), says "anybody out there commenting, in any fashion, whether they are a wanna be movie maker, show host, "researcher", or just someone in the community that wants to talk some smack, has NOT spoken to Travis... I have... at length, TODAY."


Travis wrote on Mike Rogers' Facebook page (July 19), "I have never personally met Mike's partner Ryan Gordon." The following conversation with Travis Walton, recorded by Ryan Gordon on July 21, 2021, shows what a lie that is. It clearly shows that they have wroked together previously.


Ryan, in the call: "I want to sincerely thank you for the time that we were able to spend together.".

Here is a selection from the transcript of that call:

Ryan: Right! Thank you, thank you for defending me because that's - I mean, again you and I have always got along just fine. So, the intent of this call is to say you were right. You were right, I was wrong.

Travis: It’s not just me making these observations [about Mike Rogers]. Just about everybody who knows him -
Ryan: Yeah, you're right on that as well. I know that the way that I met him [Mike] out there at the site there in Turkey Springs, was bizarre. I mean, I was out there with a film crew, he's out there with some MUFON thing, which I think I've already told you before, he shouldn't be doing that anyway. I mean, he's under contract. He can't be out filming with a competitive source, but whatever. That's what he was doing. I have consistently said to Mike, “Leave Travis alone. Leave him alone.” Like, what is - ? He's constantly after you. He was after me for quite - I dunno, about a week, ten days or whatever.

Travis: Yeah.

Ryan: But I feel your pain. I emailed you twice, I think, yesterday and the day before, because - you remember the email that you sent me, where you said, “Were you at my house at six in the morning?” Remember that?

Travis: Yeah, yeah.

Ryan: I thought, what the hell, Travis? Why are you asking me if I’m at your house?

Travis: That was a paranoid delusion that Mike said, you know.

Ryan: Yeah.

Travis: “So, what was Ryan Gordon doing what your house at six a.m.?”

Ryan: Right. So I told you, Travis, what the hell am I gonna go to your house for? That's stupid. I'm down in the valley. I’m gonna sit in front of your house?

On Mike Rogers' Facebook page, July 20.

(Next posting in the Travis Walton thread)

Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Travis Walton 'UFO Abduction' Story - Meltdown!

Forest Service CL-100 lookout tower (same model as Gentry Tower in Apache-Sitgreaves Natl. Forest)

My, how quickly things have been happening! On July 3,  I wrote about how "Crew Chief Mike Rogers Confesses the Travis Walton Hoax!," which contains a recorded confession of the hoax by Rogers. Normally, you'd think that would settle the matter, but that's not how things work in UFOOLogy. Soon, Rogers was claiming on his Facebook page and elsewhere that documentary producer Ryan Gordon, who made the recording, had digitally altered it, to fake his statements. Of course Gordon objected to this, noting that it accused him of a felony, which was quite injurious to his reputation. Mike agreed to retract the accusation, provided that Ryan acknowledged that Mike retracted his 'confession'. Both agreed, and peace was restored, temporarily.

Then the 45-year-old Walton yarn received another body blow recently when Charlie Wiser, a woman in Australia who nobody in UFOlogy seems to have heard of until about two weeks ago, put together a website demonstrating a prodigious amount of research and attention to detail, as well as a saucy sense of humor. It's called ThreeDollarKit, and it's only a few months old. Only two cases are covered in detail: Betty and Barney Hill, and Travis Walton

Drawing upon maps and photographs provided by Ryan Gordon, she convincingly argues that Travis and Mike, assisted by at least one or two confederates (probably including Travis' brother Duane), used the existing Gentry fire tower along Rim Road in the forest to first, simulate a UFO, with a powerful searchlight to "zap" Travis, and second, hide Travis away for five days while he was supposed to be on board a "saucer". (There is an apartment inside the tower, for the watcher to stay during his shift, which apparently was five days!) The other five woodcutters had no idea what was going on - but Travis needed them to be there as witnesses. Charlie writes,

She goes through a whole lot of details, to explain pretty much all of the Travis Walton yarn. If you're interested in this case, I recommend going through it carefully. It's very credible.

Show of July 16, 2021.

But then on July 16, the Travis Walton story suffered probably its greatest meltdown yet. Mike Rogers agreed to be interviewed by Erica Lukes on her weekly show, UFO Classified. He was supposed to appear via video, but for some reason he didn't (Rogers has done video interviews in the past). Poor Erica had to hold her cell phone, using its own speaker, up to the microphone. She also invited Travis Walton to comment or join in, but received no reply (Walton has previously appeared on her show).

Erica holds her cell phone to the mic for Mike.
It started out pretty slow. She asked Mike to talk about himself, his family and his background, etc. Gradually guiding the conversation back to the incident, Mike repeated the familiar story as it has always been told. He affirmed "one hundred percent" that there was no hoax. However, he later added "I didn't actually see Travis abducted," which leaves him quite a bit of wiggle room. Then he said, I used to believe Travis, but now I'm starting to have my doubts. That started about ten years ago.

The revealing part of the podcast was when Mike began to badmouth Travis Walton, his friend for lo these many years. Earlier, when asked on his Facebook page whether Travis was telling the truth about the 'abduction,' Mike gave him this ringing endorsement: "I have no connection to what Travis Walton says or doesn't say. He is on his own with whatever he says" (July 6).
Mike complained that Travis has been trying to keep him 'out of these things' (i.e., the profit from the abduction story) 'for the last thirty years.' The "rift" happened in the year 2000, he said (which was, of course, only 21 years ago). Travis, he says, has an agreement with him to give him 35% of the proceeds in book sales. But "he hasn't paid me a cent!" Mike's sister Dana married Travis decades ago, although they are no longer together. She left him nine years ago. My sister Dana owns the house Travis lives in, said Mike, and if I took Travis to court, I would win, and I'd take his house.

On the subject of that house, Mike began to talk about how the house and its yard are now filled with trash, because Travis is a terrible hoarder. (This is indeed true. I have jokingly suggested that Travis should have an episode about him not on a UFO series, but on Hoarders.)  Mike decried the terrible state of that property, adding that it never looked like that when Dana lived there. (The following day, Mike posted photos of Travis' junkyard-house on his Facebook page, shaming the resident without naming him. This confused many people.)

Mike, who is 74 years old and walks with a cane, nonetheless boasted about his pugilistic abilities. He told how some Mexican guy came up to him speaking Spanish, and was allegedly on drugs. I belted him, Mike boasted. "I've never lost a fight."

The program then went on for another two hours. "This is the longest interview I've ever done," said Erica. Ryan explained the story behind Mike's once-disputed (and now retracted) "confession," showing texts preceding it that leave no doubt as to its authenticity. Asked by Erica if he thought any of the persons involved would ever confess making a hoax, Ryan replied, "If my checkbook was big enough." The purpose of the hoax, he explained, was to try to win the National Enquirer's $100,000 prize for proof of alien life. They did not win that, but they did win the Enquirer's Best Case of the year award
Walton was hoping to win the National Enquirer's $100,000 reward, later increased to $1 million. (July 13, 1976.)

Ryan then showed maps, and photos he had taken of the area involved the incident,  including dramatic drone footage. He showed how Rogers misled the searchers, bringing them to a site near the Turkey Springs work site, about five miles from Travis' actual location in the tower. I won't try to summarize everything Ryan said here, I strongly encourage interested persons to listen to all two hours of the interview with Ryan.

Less than 24 hours after that podcast, it is still making waves and generating a lot of comment. I predict we will be hearing a lot more on this matter in the near future.


Saturday, July 3, 2021

Crew Chief Mike Rogers Confesses the Travis Walton Hoax!


For almost forty-five years, many UFOlogists have held up the Travis Walton “five day UFO abduction” story, the subject of the 1993 movie “Fire in the Sky,” as solid proof of a ‘UFO abduction.’ For many reasons, skeptics like me have never found the story convincing, but there was no actual proof that it was a hoax. The Walton story has been told so many times that, even in the midst of the current UFO media frenzy, production companies are uninterested in doing anything more about it, unless some new angle could be revealed. Now Ryan Gordon, who is planning to produce a documentary to reveal a new angle on this famous case, presents a side of the case that has never been seen before – to not only show that the Walton “abduction” is a hoax, but using information obtained from Travis and Mike themselves, to show exactly how the hoax was accomplished. (Hint: Philip J. Klass’ speculations on how it was done were not correct.)


Mike Rogers, Travis Walton, and Dana Walton (Mike's sister), with the actual truck from the incident.

 Gordon has a recorded confession from MikeRogers, and he has given permission to post the transcript of the relevant portion here.  (This was not a formal interview. Ryan Gordon had been in talks with Mike Rogers and Travis Walton beginning in June 2020. Ryan was driving when Mike called him out of the blue. This was not uncommon for Mike to do. When Mike started to tell Ryan that the event was hoaxed, Ryan pulled his truck over and put his phone on speaker and recorded the call with his Apple Watch pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3001. The date of the call is April 30, 2021. )


Mike H. Rogers to Ryan Gordon

Recorded April 30, 2021

Copyright Ryan Gordon 2021

MR = Mike H. Rogers

RG = Ryan Gordon


RG: Yeah


RG: Yeah


RG: Well, basically so...


RG: What you’re saying and Travis..together...hoaxed this?


RG: I believe that


RG: Yeah


RG: I know...that was really….that was really bizarre.


(More developments in this story)