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 a 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. "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.