Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Some Comments on the History Channel show "UFOs On The Record"

On Thursday, August 25 the History Channel premiered a UFO documentary titled "Special Access - UFOs On The Record." It was based upon the best-selling book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record by Leslie Kean. This is not intended to be a comprehensive commentary on the contents of that show. I have already written a long review of Kean's book  in the March / April 2011 Skeptical Inquirer, from which the show's content is taken. The review's title is " ‘Unexplained’ Cases—Only If You Ignore All Explanations." Most of the cases that Kean proclaims "unidentified" have already had explanations published. Kean deals with this problem exactly as her UFOlogical mentor, the late Budd Hopkins did: she simply ignores it. SI Editor Ken Frazier told me that I was way past the length of a book review, and he'd have to cut back. That's the way things are with magazines. Most of the omitted material is included here, where I can post as much as I want. This posting, and my review of Kean's book, together address most of Kean's major "evidence."

The 'strongest evidence' presented was the Belgian UFO wave. In my book review I mention the strange lack of photographs given thousands of reported Close Encounters in a densely-populated country, a lack for which Kean offers a weak apology. There was, however, exactly one photograph purporting to show a structured craft, a 35mm slide, said to have been taken at Petit-rechain in Belgium in April of 1990. Much is made of this photo, both in the book and the show. In the latter, Kean calls the Petit-rechain photo "one of the most convincing" pieces of evidence for the existence of UFOs.

Let us be charitable and assume that this show was filmed prior to July 26, 2011, which it probably was. Unfortunately for Kean and Co., the Petit-rechain photo is now a confessed hoax! I noted this in my Blog post of July 26. On July 26 the hoaxer appeared on Belgian TV, confessing that "The UFO of Petit-rechain is not a spaceship from a distant galaxy but a panel of painted styrofoam with three spots affixed." And what about those scientists with impressive university positions, who supposedly 'validated' the photo? Piffle!

Worse yet for Kean, the Belgian UFOlogist Patrick Ferryn, who is featured prominently on the program proclaiming the validity of the Petit-rechain photo, now acknowledges that it is a hoax. Ferryn also appeared on Belgian TV on July 26 to argue that the bogus UFO photo from Petit-rechain does not in any way invalidate the Belgian UFO wave that began in November of 1989. (True enough, but it does remove the sole supposed photographic evidence for thousands of reported sightings.)

No word from Kean yet on her reaction to having one of the main pillars supporting her edifice suddenly kicked out from under her (and it's been more than a month). If she's honest, she'll admit she was wrong, and disavow the photo. However, that kind of honesty is extremely rare in UFOlogy. When I talked to Stanton Friedman at the MUFON symposium last month, he still would not give up on the "Zeta Reticuli" Star Map, even though he agreed with me that the star positions in the new Hipparchos catalog are far more accurate than in the forty-year-old catalog used to create the famous Map (and whose supposed 'one-in-ten-thousand' matching is now blown to smithereens). What Kean will do about the Petit-rechain hoax, time will tell. One thing is clear: Patrick Ferryn is an honest investigator, who is willing to acknowledge an error.

At  the beginning of the segment about the Phoenix lights, it seemed to me that the program was deliberately confusing the two separate incidents, using photos of the flares dropping (Phoenix Incident 2) to support  claims of the sightings earlier in the evening (Phoenix Incident 1). For information about Phoenix I, see The Great UFO Cover-up by Tony Ortega. Later in that program segment, Kean acknowledges that Phoenix 2 was a flare drop, in which case the photos of them are completely irrelevant to supporting any UFO claim, unless the aim is to confuse the viewer with good photos of a bad UFO, in lieu of bad or no photos of a presumably better one.

Former Arizona governor Fife Symington is one of Kean's favorite witnesses (although exactly how he became a "former governor" is never spelled out). He now claims to have 'held back' UFO information, and now claims a UFO sighting of his own. How credible is Fife Symington? This news story tells you all you need to know: Arizona Governor Convicted Of Fraud and Will Step Down. Seven felony counts! Sure, I believe everything this guy says. He'd never make up a story for fun and profit.

Little has been written about the “Incursion at O’Hare Airport” on Nov. 7, 2006, which is a major case for Kean. Several employees of United Airlines reported seeing a “strange object hovering just under a cloud bank… the metallic-looking disc was about the size of a quarter or half dollar held at arm’s length.”  Unfortunately, no photographs exist of this supposed “metallic-looking disc” hovering over one of the world’s busiest airports in daytime, and nothing showed up on radar.  Even more surprising, we learn in the program that the UFO hovered over gate C-17 at O'Hare. Apparently it was not seen by anyone at Gate C-15, C-16, or anywhere else.

After approximately five to fifteen minutes, “the suspended disc suddenly shot up at an incredible speed and was gone in less than a second, leaving a crisp, cookie-cutter-like hole in the dense clouds. The opening was approximately the same size as the object [I would suggest that the opening was in fact the object], and those directly underneath it could see blue sky visible on the other side.”  She ridicules an explanation offered by an FAA spokesman that the observers saw a “hole-punch cloud,” an unusual weather phenomenon where a large, dramatic circular hole is formed in a cloud layer. She cites a report by NARCAP, a pro-UFO investigative team, showing that temperatures were too high for a hole-punch cloud to form at the 1,900 foot elevation of the ceiling, which is probably correct. (Kean has no difficulty referencing investigations by other researchers, so long as their conclusion agrees with hers.) But then she bizarrely suggests that “this just happens to fit the witnesses’ explanation of what they saw: a high-energy, round object very likely to be emitting some form of intense radiation or heat while cutting through the cloud bank.” Now, one cannot simultaneously argue that a hole-punch cloud could not have formed because the temperatures were above freezing, but a UFO formed one anyway. In any case, the low ceiling might easily have briefly opened up to reveal a much higher cloud layer, where a hole-punch cloud already existed. It is interesting that the photo used on a NOAA website to illustrate the phenomenon of the hole-punch cloud was taken exactly eight days after the O’Hare Field “incursion,” from nearby Wisconsin. Hole-punch clouds typically occur in cirrocumulous clouds, approximately 16,000 to 39,000 ft. elevation, not at 1,900 ft!

On the positive side, the program featured a short segment on the UFOTOG project of Douglas Trumball, the special effects wizard who worked on 2001 - A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and many other films. Putting serious money into state-of-the-art cameras to detect and record anomalous moving objects is exactly the right way for someone who believes that UFOs might be real to prove he is right. Should a clear image of an unknown structured craft appear in a consistent manner across several different instruments, there would be no 'splaining it away. Of course, that has never happened, and I suspect it never will. But I will applaud Mr. Trumbull if he is able to prove me wrong. And I would admit it, unlike Lesile Kean, Stanton Friedman, or Budd Hopkins.

Physicist Michio Kaku, who is well known for attempting to rationalize the physics of UFOs and of Time Travel, is quoted on the cover of Kean's book declaring it filled with “eye-opening information” that would “set the gold standard for UFO research.” Skeptics should note how easily Kaku has been dazzled by Fool’s Gold.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hilary Evans (1929-2011) Fortean author, "PsychoSocial" Theorist

Hilary Evans, a leading British Fortean author and researcher of “marginal human experiences,” died on July 27, 2011. He was the author of many books including Visions, Apparitions, Alien Visitors (1984) and Gods, Spirits Cosmic Guardians (1987). Evans was a founder of what is called the "psychosocial" hypothesis. It attributes the perception of anomalous phenomena such as UFOs, apparitions, etc. to a sort of psychodrama occurring inside the percipient’s head, shaped by society's expectations and beliefs. It is very influential today among British Forteans, many of whom are quite skeptical of the literal truth of paranormal claims.
Hilary Evans chats with Betty Hill

Evans and his late wife Mary operated the Mary Evans Picture library in London, a major repository of over one million images. Their private collection of esoteric books and of Victoriana was legendary, and Hilary’s knowledge of “anomalistic” subjects was extraordinary. He met frequently with colleagues, and was responsible for much sharing of information. I met Hilary at the Encounters at Indian Head conference in New Hampshire in 2000, organized to scrutinize the Betty and Barney Hill UFO abduction story. He compared the Hills’ novel (at the time) narrative to earlier accounts of otherworldly beings and religious visions, finding many common themes and formulations in both, and suggesting that a “life-crisis” of the percipient was likely the cause. Whenever the trite phrase “a gentleman and a scholar” is used, there can be no better illustration of that ideal than Hillary Evans.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Budd Hopkins (1931-2011) - Pioneering UFO Abductionist

The famous UFO Abductionist Budd Hopkins succumbed to cancer in New York City on August 21, at the age of eighty (http://www.intrudersfoundation.org/inside.html ). The "UFO abduction" scenario changed significantly after the publication of Hopkin's book Missing Time in 1981. Prior to that time, UFO abductions were supposed to occur only when people ventured out to lonely, deserted places late at night, and encountered aliens (Betty and Barney Hill, Travis Walton). Hopkins' contribution was to entirely sever the connection between UFO sightings and UFO abductions. Hopkins wrote of a new "abduction scenario that is, if anything, even more disturbing to contemplate. Many people have simply been taken from their homes while they were either asleep, or engaged in some quotidian activity, like watching television or reading" (Missing Time, p. 79). Often the aliens, and their helpless prey, simply float through closed windows, or even walls. In such cases, the Law of Gravity and all of Newton's Laws of Motion seem to have been repealed. To explain why nobody ever sees or photographs somebody else being abducted, Hopkins suggested that the aliens have the ability to make themselves, and their abductees, invisible during this process.

Just watch the first part of this lecture, and you'll learn all you need to know about Budd Hopkins.

Hopkins was a member of the famous Troika of UFO Abductionists during Abductology's heyday in the early 1990s, along with Dr. John Mack, M.D., and Dr. David Jacobs (Jacobs is now the only survivor of the three). Hopkins was the founder and Executive Director of the Intruders Foundation, taking its name from his 1987 best-selling book Intruders, which in 1992 was made into a prime-time miniseries on CBS-TV. Hopkins was one of the organizers of the 1992 Abduction Study Conference at MIT, sponsored by physicist David Pritchard, which I attended.

I met Hopkins several times, and attempted to engage him in a substantive discussion. He would have none of it, and his attitude toward me was always hostile (just like David Jacobs, Walt Andrus, and many others). Hopkins was not one to discuss or debate. He was right, you were wrong, and you were probably stupid as well - it was that simple. His ex-wife Carol Rainey became disillusioned with his carelessness and duplicity, concealing flaws he knew about in cases he was proclaiming to the world as ironclad proof. She turned into one of his most severe critics. For more about Rainey  contra Hopkins, especially the Brooklyn Bridge Abduction ("Levitated Linda"), see my "Abductology Implodes" (Blog posting of Jan 19, 2011, expanded as "Psychic Vibrations" in the Skeptical Inquirer, May/June, 2011). "Levitated Linda" is in my "Psychic Vibrations" column of Spring, 1993, reprinted in the new book Psychic Vibrations (click on book icon, above).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just Published! My "Psychic Vibrations" - Skeptical Giggles from the Skeptical Inquirer

Just Published! My first new book in 13 years: Psychic Vibrations - Skeptical Giggles from the Skeptical Inquirer. So new that the review copies have not even gone out yet, so there are no reviews or reader comments yet. Be among the first to see it!

 At Last – A Skeptical Book that’s not just Informative, but FUN to read! For more than thirty years, Robert Sheaffer’s Psychic Vibrations column has been entertaining readers of The Skeptical Inquirer, while keeping them informed of weird developments in the “science” of UFOs, psychic research, Cryptozoology, etc. Those columns are gathered together here, organized by subject, to inform and amuse the reader. With 150 humorous illustrations by cartoonist Rob Pudim. But it's not "just humor." It’s all true (meaning that the author didn’t make it up).

You can download a Preview of Psychic Vibrations (PDF) at https://www.createspace.com/pub/community/give.review.do?id=1086247&rewrite=true 
The link for book information and for orders is here: https://www.createspace.com/3630764 . And if you enter the Discount Code UJR6KB8R your order will be 15% off.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Skeptic does the MUFON Symposium - Part 5 of 5

The Sunday afternoon session started off with Major George A. Filer (USAF Retired), MUFON's Eastern Regional Director, who says he worked as an Intelligence officer. His talk was titled "Mars the Living Planet." Filer is a well-known figure in UFOlogy owing mostly to his weekly Filer's Files, a "kitchen sink" compendium of UFO claims, where no claim is too absurd to receive a respectful hearing. Sometimes when I'm short of material for Psychic Vibrations (that doesn't happen too often), I know I can go to Filer's Files to find something entertaining to write about.

Filer says that when he was stationed with the Air Force in England, UFOs were seen on many of their flights. Sometimes fighter jets were sent up to look at them. However, the fighter jets often didn't return from this mission, so they sent up the tanker aircraft (in which he flew) instead. Because the tankers were unarmed, the UFOs didn't attack them.

Mars, according to Filer, used to be teeming with life until it was mostly wiped out in a nuclear holocaust some 180 million years ago. He showed NASA photos of Mars that purport to contain tubes (possibly water pipes, or trains) that extend for miles, as well as underground cities. There are numerous faces on Mars, and some of them look similar to Egyptian Pharaohs. But some life still exists among the ruins. The green colors on Mars represent growths of moss and algae.

Kathleen Marden, Stanton Friedman, and yours truly

I spent some time chatting with the Flying Saucer Physicist, Stanton Friedman, who I hadn't seen in about fifteen years. Klass and I had a friendly rivalry with Friedman. He's a decent guy when you get to know him. Still he's way off base about those UFOs.

 At Friedman's table, before his talk, I asked him about the Marjorie Fish interpretation of the Betty Hill "UFO star map." ( I doubted, correctly it turns out, that I'd have the opportunity to try to nail him during his Q&A.) A detailed response to Friedman's standard lecture is in my Psychic Vibrations of September / October, 2009. Quoting from that piece:
 For at least thirty-five years, Friedman has been claiming that researcher Marjorie Fish’s supposed identification of the dots Betty Hill drew as being potentially habitable nearby stars proves the extraterrestrial nature of the Betty and Barney Hill “UFO abduction.” He has made the Fish Map one of the central points of his lectures and writings. The similarity between the Hill drawing and the Fish Map was actually never very good, but folks who were so inclined could point to a number of points of correspondence between the two. (For a detailed discussion, see my paper “There Were No Extraterrestrials”in Encounters at Indian Head).
 But today the Fish Map is no longer viable. In her research beginning in 1966, Fish made the wise choice to use the Gliese Catalogue of Nearby Stars, which was then the most accurate available. But that was over forty years ago, and science never stands still. Astronomical researcher Brett Holman recently checked out what the Fish Map would look like if it were built using the most accurate astronomical data available today. His answer is in his article in the British publication  Fortean Times (242, November 2008): “Goodbye, Zeta Reticuli” (the supposed home solar system of the UFOnauts). Holman writes, “In the early 1990s the Hipparcos satellite measured the positions of nearly 120,000 stars ten times more accurately
than ever before—including all of those that appear in the Fish interpretation." ... Fish excluded all variable stars and close binaries to include only supposedly habitable solar systems—but the new data reveals two of her stars as suspected variables and two more as close binaries. So there go four of her fifteen stars. And two more are much farther away than earlier believed, removing them comletely from the volume of space in question. Six stars of that supposedly
exact-matching pattern are definitely gone, excluded by the very criteria that once included them using the forty-year-old data. Goodbye, Zeta Reticuli.
 Friedman agreed 100% that the Hipparchos data is an order of magnitude more accurate. But of course Stanton wanted to have his cake, and eat it too. He agreed that the Fish map has problems, but he still claimed we have identified "the base": Zeta 1 and Zeta 2 Reticuli, even though the data that identification was based on is now known to be inaccurate. This is like Linda Moulton Howe Googling a misinterpreted character string, and finding the correct UFO Drone Conspiracy anyway.

Friedman's talk was titled "Are We Ready for Contact?". Much of it was the same tired old Friedman lecture of the past forty years. The "Cosmic Watergate" of a UFO coverup, and some jabs at Carl Sagan and Philip J. Klass. The supposed treasure-trove of authentic UFO cases in the 1954 Bluebook Special report 14, which he claims skeptics ignore. True, we skeptics do mostly ignore it, because it contains little of interest: see Tim Printy's comments at http://home.comcast.net/~tprinty/UFO/Bluebook.htm . There is other scattered commentary as well. J. Allen Hynek is supposedly ignored by the debunkers. I guess he's never read any of my writings, or those of Phil Klass.

Freidman claims that ET societies are peaceful, and regard Earthlings as a menace because of our warlike ways. "If you were an alien you'd probably worry about the people on that planet (Earth)". In his talk he showed the Fish Map briefly, but obviously it's been downgraded from the Prime Numero Uno status it once had. Friedman is big on nuclear propulsion for space ships, claiming that you can get close to the speed of light, that time will slow down for the travelers, etc. He does not provide any mathematics explaining how this propulsion will be accomplished, because when you work out the numbers the fuel requirements are absurd, even assuming 100% efficiency. See "The Physics and Metaphysics of Unidentified Flying Objects" by William Markowitz (Science 1967 Sep15;157 (3794): 1274-9). Friedman says that there's a movie soon to be made about him and UFOlogist Donald Schmidt (an odd couple indeed, since they're often been at odds concerning Holy Roswell). The movie will be titled Majic Men, and will be completed as soon as $10 or $20 million can be raised.

In the closing session, MUFON demonstrated its brand-new smart phone App. It has three main functions. Two allow the user to stay in tough with MUFON messages and its database. The third, however, is potentially more interesting. It allows the user to receive real-time notifications whenever anybody in the same area reports sighting a UFO. This opens the possibility that large numbers of people might be notified of a UFO visitation, and provide additional witnesses and photos. If there is such a thing as a "real UFO," this app should help identify it. More information at www.UFOconnect.com .

Next year's MUFON Symposium will be in northern Kentucky, across the Ohio river from Cincinnati. For me, I'm thinking that's too far to go.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Skeptic does the MUFON Symposium - Part 4 of 5

(See Lee Speigel's Huffington Post article on the MUFON Symposium )

The next speaker Sunday morning was Ted Loder, PhD, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of New Hampshire, whose title was "The Science of Tomorrow." He talked about the efforts of the UFO group CSETI to "contact" ETs using flashing lights, lasers, etc. He played "crop circle tones," sounds recorded from inside crop circles and played back greatly amplified. None of this is new, CSETI has been doing it since the mid-90s. They see a light in the sky that they think is a UFO. They shine a light at it, and if it appears to flash or wink back, that is "ET contact." He also showed pictures of "falling flashes," which I think most people would call "meteors," and told of seeing bright flashes from a stationary source, apparently geosynchronous. Since nothing in geosynchronous orbit would flash, or be that bright, he suggested this was a true UFO. After his talk, I told Loder about Geosync Flashers, out-of-control satellites in near-geosynchronous orbit whose tumbling causes them to flash when the sun angle on their solar panels is just right. The brightest of them is Superbird A (NORAD 20040), a tumbling Japanese communications satellite that flashes brightly with a period of about 12 seconds for a few minutes each day when it is above the horizon at your location.
Travis Walton
One interesting vendor was none other than Travis Walton himself, who was supposedly abducted by a UFO back in 1975, and was "missing" for five days. His case was made into the Hollywood movie Fire in the Sky.  Philip J. Klass investigated this case extensively, and found a lot of evidence suggesting a hoax (see Klass' UFOs The Public Deceived (Prometheus, 1983). I have a Walton Abduction page on my website.) Walton seemed to attract very little interest among the MUFON participants, almost as if they did not know (or care) who he is. UFOlogically speaking, Travis Walton is a "one trick pony," even though his "trick" was a mighty big one, one of the biggest in UFO history. But it was 36 years ago, and (apart from the promotions and debunking of it), nothing has happened since then. I have always felt uncomfortable around Travis Walton (our paths have crossed a few times), and he apparently with me as well. We did chat just a bit, but nothing of substance. What's the point? He knows that I call his case a hoax on my website. He and I both know perfectly well that his "abduction" was staged, apparently with the help of his friend Mike Rogers and his brother Duane, and that he was hiding out (likely at a property in the woods) while he was supposedly "missing." I can comfortably discuss UFOs with a MUFON investigator who, in my opinion, is seriously mistaken, but I can still respect him as a person of integrity. That is not so easy with Travis Walton.

As I was standing near Walton's table, one fellow, tall, thirtyish, dressed in a nice suit, came up to tell how he had evidence of a UFO crash in Idaho, with lots of debris scattered over a large area. He didn't just see the debris, he saw the UFO crash. He had photos, all kinds of proof. Can we see it? "The photos are on a flash drive. I left it in the other hotel when I came here in the taxi." At first his story was that all that was needed was to go back in a taxi to get the photos and bring them here. But soon he was objecting that he was going to be writing a book about it, and he didn't want anyone to steal his discovery. The objections came swifter and stronger. It felt strange for me to be joining Travis Walton in critiquing a preposterous claim, but that's what happened. Apparently Mr. Idaho Crash told his story to a lot of people there, but offered absolutely no proof. I reflected to myself, "Why does this man crave attention so desperately to keep telling a story like that?"

(to be continued)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Skeptic does the MUFON Symposium - Part 3

Following John Alexander, I forgot to mention Joe McMoneagle's talk, titled "How Will Full Contact Impact our Science and Society." He calls himself "Remote Viewer 001 of the U.S. Army Star Gate Program." His talk started out as a very boring one explaining supposed "remote viewing," so I didn't stay to hear the rest of it. I still don't know how "full contact" would impact us, and I suspect that McMoneagle doesn't, either.

The final speaker of Saturday evening was Jim Sparks to tell people "Time Travel is Fact." He claims to have had well over 100 ET abduction experiences since 1988, some of which involved time travel. The aliens showed him "holograms" of various historical (and pre-historical) eras, in which he claimed to see himself. For me, a talk of this kind is among the most boring and annoying kind, because it consists entirely of Content-Free Confabulation. The man has been given seventy-five minutes to simply spew out whatever fact-free delusions may exist within his imagination, and so we hear seemingly endless prattle about how the aliens did this, then they did that, and so on. Other talks at least tell of the experiences of different people, and of events that may be distorted or even imaginary, but at least it comes from something other than the speaker's rich imagination. Lord deliver us from speeches whose only content is the free-form recitation of the speaker's own delusions.

New Age Minister and Herbalist Kat King shows off a photo of an ET that was peeking through the trees in her back yard
The talks ended at 10:00 PM, and people leaving the room were somewhat furtively handed a slip of paper from a "Committee to Reform MUFON" to meet in a suite upstairs. Actually, I'd gotten mine earlier. I was asked if I was a member of MUFON, I replied no. "That's OK, you can come anyway," I was told. I went up to hear what this was about. It consisted mostly of MUFON investigators, state and regional directors, etc. The complaints were fairly typical from what I'd heard in any other organization I'd ever belonged to. MUFON's international director, Clifford Clift, only took over the job in February of 2010 but he has already alienated many of the people MUFON depends on, specifically those in that room. His actions are seen as arbitrary, appointing and removing officials at whim (I knew that already), and it was (endlessly) debated whether MUFON members ought to vote for officials and by-laws, instead of only the Board. They didn't like the way cases were sometimes handled in the MUFON database. Some cases seemingly disappeared soon after being entered, causing some to worry that government agents were hacking into the database. But others hinted that certain MUFON officials had removed some cases for unspecified reasons, and didn't tell anyone.

ET Art on display
The first speaker on Sunday morning was UFO journalist and Linda Moulton Howe, on "ETs, Time Travelers and Self-Activating Machines." She was Miss Idaho way back in 1963, and still looks really good. She began with her standard talk about the cattle mutilations she investigated mostly in Colorado and Wyoming. The aliens supposedly use lasers to remove body parts from the dead animals, but for some reason they seemingly remove only soft tissues like the lips, udder, etc. No alien laser has yet been seen to slice through bone. As she was describing this pattern, it occurred to me that this probably tells us less about the aliens' scientific research than about their culinary preferences.

The "Classic" drone photo allegedly from Capitola, CA

Howe next got started on the famous UFO "drone photographs," spindly highly-implausible looking things that for a time in 2007 were turning up (always anonymously) in a number of places, but nearly all in northern and central California (see my Psychic Vibrations of January/February 2010 ). When I first saw a drone photo, I  thought that somebody had dismantled an old fan, and stuck some radio parts on it. But when I saw on YouTube an admittedly faked "Drone UFO" looking just like the "real" ones, not just as a still frame, but rotating and flying, I realized that all the Drones are pure CGI. Somebody Howe was working with managed to supposedly decipher some symbols along a drone's wing, starting with a number 7. They then Googled that string, which brought up a network address on some internal NASA page from the Clementine lunar orbiter project. This is perfect for a nice conspiracy, because Clementine was a joint project between the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization ("Star Wars") and NASA. Better still, Clementine failed after completing only part of its mission - but maybe it didn't fail, and it was actually spying on alien activity? So Howe was suggesting that the Drones had something to do with Clementine, although she ultimately determined that the "7" wasn't really a "7", or any of the others supposed ASCII-represented characters. They were alien symbols. So they googled the character string that wasn't a character string, and found the correct Conspiracy, anyway. Hmmmm.

Supposed alien symbols from Project Caret

Then somebody sent Howe (again anonymously) some supposed documents from Project Caret, a supposed alien research project being carried out in top secret in Palo Alto, CA. It also is drone-related. It purports to tell of several different alien "sources" (races) behind all the UFO activity. I am really impressed with the effort that the hoaxer did to create all this stuff. Since all of the Drone-related photos and documents originate from northern and central California, I suspect that just one individual is behind the entire Drone/Caret hoax. Just one very talented, very patient, and very bored individual. If he is reading this (and I suspect he will), I'd love to hear from him. It was a big story when the Belgian hoax photographer recently confessed. This should be a bigger story still.

Howe closed her talk with an extremely implausible claim from a man who says he checked out the 1962 book "Ancient Greek Gods and Lore Revisited" from a library, and who was visited soon afterward by Government agents demanding that he surrender the book. Apparently the ancient Greek gods had something to do with aliens, and this all needs to be covered up. It's even more dubious because the only pages I can find mentioning that book also mention Howe and Drone UFOs, so it looks like government agents have been extremely successful in covering it up.

(to be continued)

(to be continued)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Skeptic does the MUFON Symposium - Part 2

I'd say that the most interesting talk was the first one on Saturday afternoon, retired Army Colonel Dr. John Alexander. He is among the most skeptical of UFO believers, and because of this he excited (or more properly, inflamed) the audience more than anyone else. His heresy was not that there are not real ET UFOs, but merely that there is no government coverup, or secret UFO-related program. Alexander stated that "disclosure has already happened," pointing to a few mostly-ambiguous statements by world leaders (such as Jimmy Carter, or Prince Philip) that suggest a belief in UFOs. Alexander claims that the government already knows that UFOs are real and interplanetary, but they simply don't care. They have so many more pressing problems - the economy, wars and terrorism, health care, etc. - that they simply have no time or inclination to deal with UFOs.

Mostly, Alexander's talk was a recital of what he does not believe in: Alien Reproduction Vehicles, MJ-12 papers, antigravity drives, underground UFO bases, and (worst of all) no Grand Coverup, no 'secrecy police' (Men in Black). Even the Holy Roswell Crash was doubted. To those who claim to have been harassed or silenced because of UFO sightings, Alexander said, "come to me, I will protect you and defend your case." According to Alexander, "the UFO community" has become its own worst enemy, and it is necessary to make the study of UFOs intellectually respectable.

In case they come across a crashed UFO, MUFON investigators are totally prepared with this "Evidence Collection Kit."

The next talk was by Dr. Paul LaViolette, on "Secrets of Antigravity Propulsion" and "Superluminal Space Travel" (faster-than-light). He has invented a Unified Field Theory called "Subquantum Kinetics." This is a better theory than Einstein's, because it explains more things. It embraces Anti-gravity and Free Energy. It's based in part on the theories of T. Townsend Brown, a strange 20th century physicist who claimed to be able to prove that electric fields can overcome gravity (and who later founded the influential UFO group NICAP). Brown, like Tesla, is a favorite icon in the woo-physics of today. Using Brown's electro-gravitics, one could travel to Mars for just $25 worth of energy. LaViolette acknowledges that electrogravitics violates Newton's Third Law, but does not seem too concerned about that. His most interesting theory is that Pulsars are artificial beacons, set up by ETs for use during their superluminal travel.

During dinner break, the options for food weren't terribly good, so I ended up in the bar munching appetizers and nachos and chatting up some New Age types. In situations like this, one must always remember (as Phil Plait would say) "DBAD". I tell folks "I'm skeptical, but I've come here to see if there might be anything to it." Mostly they're OK with that. Strictly speaking that is a true statement, but after 40 years as a skeptical UFO researcher (I started young), I have virtually no expectation of finding any "good" ET-UFO evidence, and especially not in a place where the likes of Richard Dolan or Linda Moulton Howe are taken seriously. Still, keep reminding myself that I could be wrong.
UFO Abductionist Barbara Lamb (left) with New Age astrologer Linda Berry of San Diego MUFON

The first evening talk was by the UFO Abduction researcher Barbara Lamb. She has been a regular speaker at the International UFO Congress for many years. With the recent setbacks for the traditional leaders of UFO Abductology (see my earlier Blog posting, Abductology Implodes) and with Budd Hopkins now reported to be seriously ill, Ms. Lamb is sort of the Last Woman Standing among "serious" UFO abductologists.

Lamb has hypnotically regressed almost 800 supposed UFO abductees. She has found that ETs enjoy having sex with earthlings, and not necessarily just in a saucer. Indeed, we heard much about some peoples' fantasy sex lives involving these latter-day incubi and succubi.  She has been researching the matter of ET-human "hybrids," many of whom according to Lamb are already living amongst us. Indeed, she has interviewed some of them (many do not realize they are hybrids, and still think themselves human). Others embrace their ET heritage as a sort of badge of distinction.

Why are the aliens doing this? There is some suggestion that they are a dying race, possibly polluted by nuclear energy, and they need our genes to survive. The early-stage hybrids look very much like ETs, and cannot live on earth, although they may pop through the wall for a brief visit. Medium-stage hybrids possess a greater mixture of human DNA, and might more readily pass as human, but they still cannot live on earth for long periods of time. However, late-stage hybrids can live on earth and pass for being fully human, except for their odd, somewhat angular appearance. She showed many pictures of glamorous fashion models, mostly female, whose odd expressionless face and angular features suggest to Lamb not anorexia, but extraterrestrial ancestry.

(to be continued)

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Skeptic does the MUFON Symposium - Part 1

MUFON's 2011 International Symposium was held in Irvine, California, not so far from where I live in San Diego County, after several years of being held in Colorado.  I hadn't been to a UFO conference in about eight years, and had never been to a MUFON Symposium, so I decided to go up there to see it. Phil Klass used to attend the MUFON Symposium regularly, so I figured that somebody has got to do it.

I didn't hear the Keynote Speaker on Friday night, veteran astronaut Story Musgrave. Last year he had been quoted in some news stories making wild UFO claims, but he had been badly misquoted. Musgrave's message was, I was told, that "the universe is very, very big," and so extraterrestrials must exist somewhere. However, he does not believe that there is any evidence that they have arrived on earth. Or as Musgrave earlier told reporter Billy Cox, “Life is everywhere in this universe, there is no evidence that it has visited earth.”

One of the first things I saw upon entering the hall Saturday morning was a vendor table peddling a lot of amazingly dubious stuff. Glenn Steckling is the coordinator of the George Adamski Foundation. I expressed surprise that anybody was still interested in the fables of Adamski, who claimed to be good friends with the people from Venus, and took lots of cheesy, fake-looking UFO photos. Steckling said that there was a lot of interest in Adamski, and that he had known Adamski personally. Knowing that Adamski had been dead for 46 years, I told him, "you must have been just a kid when you knew him." "I was," he replied, "I have been doing this all my life. My mother and father also knew Adamski." It's good to keep it in the family, I suppose. At the same table, Maurice Osborn (below, wearing glasses) was providing lots of useful information, like "Alien Abduction resistance" and "Beware of the Grays and Human Slavery."

Glenn Steckling promoting the books and fables of George Adamski

The first speaker of Saturday was Richard Dolan, author and TV producer who has been keeping a pretty high profile lately. His talk was titled, "A Secret Space Program : From Rumor to reality After Disclosure." (Read my earlier Blog posting on "World Disclosure Day", the UFOlogical equivalent of the Second Coming, fervently rumored and eagerly anticipated but never occurring.) Dolan gave the audience what it wanted to hear: lots and lots of wild, unsubstantiated claims, mostly about UFOs in outer space. Like UFOs supposedly following the space shuttle missions STS-96, STS-106, and STS-111 - little blurry blips of light that might have been anything. There is lots of alien activity going on on the Moon, says Dolan,  but NASA airbrushes its photos to keep them hidden.  Those objects that astronomers call "shepherd moons" that keep Saturn's rings sharply-defined are actually UFOs, too. Frankly, I felt that Dolan was scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of the credibility of his claims, but later on Linda Moulton Howe and George Filer gave him some very serious competition in that regard.

The next speaker, Dr. Ted Peters,  asked "Will ET Contact End World Religions?" He and a colleague did a survey of many different religious groups concerning a possible ET religious crisis. The short answer is, practically nobody said that an official announcement of the existence of ETI would cause them a serious crisis of faith. MUFONers consider this very good news, because one common argument against "Disclosure," possible social upheaval from the breakdown of religion, appears to be a non-problem. Interestingly, Peters found that religious non-believers, however, seemed convinced that ET disclosure would cause religious believers to lose their faith!

(To Be Continued)

This fellow was bored by all those long-winded speakers.