Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Classic" UFO Photo from Belgian Wave - the Hoaxer Confesses

For more than twenty years, UFO believers have been citing the 1989-1990 wave of UFO sightings in Belgium as an unexplained mystery. For a period of several months, people in Belgium were reporting sightings of a triangular-shaped craft. It was one of the major chapters in Leslie Kean's recent best-selling book, "UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record" (see my review of it in the March/April 2011 Skeptical Inquirer). Even Michael Shermer's review of Kean's book suggests that the Belgian sightings represent a "residue of anomalies" (Scientific American, March 28, 2011).

One big problem with the Belgian wave has always been the lack of photos or movies showing the object, despite hundreds of claimed sightings. Indeed, Kean seeks to dismiss the lack of evidence by noting that "twenty years ago, cell phones and relatively  inexpensive, consumer-level digital and video cameras were not yet in use"  (true, but film cameras were plentiful and widespread). Indeed, only one photo claiming to show this supposed 'triangular craft' has ever been seen (above). It was said to have been taken in  Petit Rechain, Belgium in April, 1990 by a twenty-year-old man known only as "Patrick," although it was not released until four months later. The Belgian UFO investigative group SOBEPS investigated the photo and found it to be authentic. So did many other "experts". Kean writes,
A team under the direction of Professor Marc Acheroy discovered that a triangular shape became visible when overexposing the slide. After that, the original color slide was further analyzed by Frangois Louange, specialist in satellite imagery with the French national space research center, CNES; Dr. Richard Haines, former senior scientist with NASA; and finally Professor Andre Marion, doctor in nuclear physics and professor at the University of Paris-Sud and also with CNES. (p. 30)
UFO skeptics have long supplied reasons why this photo is not credible. For one thing, it shows nothing in the background to allow its size or distance to be ascertained. It could as easily be a tiny model seen close-up as a giant hovering craft. In the 1990s the Belgian skeptic Wim van Utrecht showed that the photo could easily be reproduced using a small model. In a recent issue of Tim Printy's WebZine Sunlite, an article by Roger Pacquay notes several inconsistencies about the photo.

Now we have a confession. The Belgian news organization RTL is reporting that the hoaxer has given his "Mea culpa" and now "lifts the veil": The reporter interviewed "Patrick" in his home, where he showed them many slides and prints. "l’OVNI de Petit-Rechain n’est pas un vaisseau spatial venu d’une lointaine galaxie mais un panneau de frigolite peint et équipé de trois spots" ("The UFO of Petit-Rechain is not a spaceship from a distant galaxy but a panel of painted styrofoam with three spots affixed.")


"Patrick" explaining that once he showed his hoax photo to his colleagues, he could no longer hold back the photo's march all across the world

"On arrive à tromper tout le monde avec une bête maquette en frigolite".
("One has managed to fool the whole world with a silly model made of styrofoam.")

[The formerly anonymous hoaxer is now known to be Patrick Marechal. See http://tinyurl.com/KeanBe ]

Friday, July 8, 2011

Happy World UFO Disclosure Day!

As you may have heard, UFO activists have declared today, July 8, as the first-ever "World Disclosure Day". This date was chosen because it's the anniversary of what they see as the beginning of the  supposed Roswell crash cover-up. According to AOL Weird News, Stephen Bassett is "a registered lobbyist who runs the Extraterrestrial Phenomena Political Action Committee, an organization that since the late 1990s has been demanding Congress release information about the presence of aliens as soon as possible." He says "There was an arms race, a space race, and now we have a disclosure race. There are a dozen or so countries that might well effect disclosure tomorrow. It is hoped the Obama administration will become aware of this and take action." However, the Big Oil companies are pressuring the government to keep secret the free energy that alien technology offers us. So here we are, sixty-four years later, and the U.S. government still has not "disclosed" the presence of aliens all around us.

In honor of Disclosure Day, let me quote a few of the optimistic "disclosure" predictions of the past:

  • " It is my analysis that the ending of the official government's UFO cover-up began August 7, 1996... we may expect further announcements related to UFOs and extraterrestrial life, after the November 5 election." UFOlogist Dr. Richard Boylan, http://www.qtm.net/~geibdan/newsb/boylan.html 
    • “Before the year is out, the Government perhaps the President—is expected to make what are described as 'unsettling disclosures' about UFOs” - U.S. News & World Report, April 18, 1977.
    • “Aliens... will begin trans­mitting their secrets to us no later than August, 1977” - Jeane Dixon, 1976.
    • “We predict that by 1975 the government will release definite proof that extraterrestrials are watching us.” - Ralph and Judy Blum, in Beyond Earth: Man's Contact with UFOs (1974).
    • “The time is getting near when the U.S. Air Force will have to end its longstanding tactic of concealment.” - Syndicated columnist Roscoe Drum­mond, 1974.
    • “FLYING SAUCERS—THE REAL STORY: U.S. BUILT FIRST ONE IN 1942. Jet-propelled disks can outfly other planes ... By choosing which [jet] noz­zles to turn on or off and the angle of tilt, the pilot could make the saucer rise or descend vertically, hover, or fly straight ahead, or make sharp turns… a big advance in the science of flying... No official announcements are being made yet, but about the only big secret left is "who makes them." Evidence points to Navy experiments... ” - News “scoop” in U.S. News & World Report, April 7, 1950.

    Happy World Disclosure Day! (But don't hold your breath waiting for it.)