Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Psychic" Sylvia Browne (1936-2013) vs. the Bay Area Skeptics

So-called "psychic" and Grief Vampire Sylvia Browne died in San Jose, CA on November 20, at the age of 77. I thought she was a reprehensible person, willing to tell any lie, no matter how emotionally disturbing, to get money from a sucker. In fact, she seemed to think that truth is "whatever Sylvia says." There was no need for her "facts" to correspond to the real world. If Sylvia said it, that made it true.

Bob Steiner and I founded the Bay Area Skeptics in 1982, one of the earliest local skeptics groups, and for quite a while the most active. We felt that our location in the Bay Area conferred a special advantage, as the most famous of WooMeisters were right in our area. Targ and Puthoff were still at SRI in Menlo Park, and we did what we could to challenge their claims about Uri Geller's supposed Magic Powers. Sylvia (then) Brown's home and "Foundation" was then almost right in my neighborhood, in Saratoga. (Brown became "Browne" when she divorced her husband.) At that time I was living in west San Jose, near the Westgate shopping center, and Saratoga Avenue. According to a story in the Huffington Post, Saratoga has the third-most expensive housing in the U.S., with an average home listing price over $1,582,000. (When Sylvia complains in a letter linked below about not being really rich because she lives on Johnson Avenue, she is calling attention to the fact that she is not in the highest-priced zip code in Saratoga. So her house might be worth "only" a million or so today.)

In the 1980s, Sylvia was well-known locally, but not yet nationally, primarily because of her regular appearances on local TV stations to "prognosticate."  Viewers ate it up, no matter how bad her record, or how stupid her statements. So naturally we went after her in every way we could, challenging her claims.

We wrote letters challenging her to test her supposed "powers," and she replied that she was far too elevated to be tested by the likes of us. She also had some rather colorful things to say about us. Apparently she had never run across a skeptics' group before. I have scanned these challenges, letters, and other papers relating to Sylvia Brown, and placed them on my historical page on The direct link is here. Rather than describing their contents here, I invite you to read for yourself this unique collection of Sylvia silliness. She was making stuff up then, and continued to do so right up until the end.

A welcoming committee for Sylvia Brown'e Las Vegas gig,  assembling at The Amazing Meeting 2012,
South Point Hotel (at the horse's ass). Note Randi on the left, Susan Gerbic with arms extended on the right.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Between a Beer Joint and Some kind of Highway Warning Sign: the "Classic" Cash-Landrum Case Unravels

I have always felt that the famous Cash-Landrum case of  December 29, 1980 was perhaps the most puzzling and vexing UFO case on record. If the events actually occurred as reported, then no prosaic explanation was possible. On the other hand, there was no solid independent evidence to substantiate the witnesses' claims, despite years of searching. As the skeptical Fortean Peter Brookesmith said, "To ufologists, the case is perhaps the most baffling and frustrating of modern times, for what started with solid evidence for a notoriously elusive phenomenon petered out in a maze of dead ends, denials, and perhaps even official deviousness."

Vickie Landrum (left) and Betty Cash

This is a very complex case (like B&B Hill, Roswell, Rendlesham, Travis Walton, etc.), and space does not permit it to be fully described here. As summarized on in its "best UFO case files," while the witnesses were driving about 9:00 PM near Houston, Texas,
They soon encountered a diamond-shaped UFO hanging over the road ahead. The two adults, Betty and Vickie, first thought that they were seeing a helicopter or airplane. [Colby, Vicki's seven year old grandson, was also in the car.] There were several airfields not too far from them. But this object was not like a helicopter, plane, or anything else they had seen before. The large, menacing UFO would from time to time shoot reddish-orange flames toward the asphalt road below.

Betty, though frightened, was somewhat fascinated by the other-worldly looking object. She was now out of her car, and watching the UFO as it hovered above and ahead of them. Suddenly, the skies were full of helicopters. Betty remarked: "They seemed to rush in from all directions... it seemed like they were trying to encircle the thing." 
The alleged UFO, surrounded by helicopters
Flames from the object were supposedly strong enough to make the car body too hot to touch. Reportedly, severe health effects began almost immediately, especially for Betty Cash. Wikipedia says,
That night, they all experienced similar symptoms, though Cash to a greater degree. All suffered from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, generalized weakness, a burning sensation in their eyes, and feeling as though they'd suffered sunburns.
Over the next few days, Cash's symptoms worsened, with many large, painful blisters forming on her skin. When taken to a hospital emergency room on January 3, 1981, [Jerome] Clark writes, Cash "could not walk, and had lost large patches of skin and clumps of hair. She was released after 12 days, though her condition was not much better, and she later returned to the hospital for another 15 days."
This has given rise to the common belief that the witnesses were exposed to some sort of "radiation," and suffered its ill effects. However, on closer examination this does not hold up. Brad Sparks, certainly no UFO debunker, wrote in 1999 that "it does NOT appear that the Cash-Landrum symptoms were due to ionizing radiation or "radiation sickness" for the reasons listed below. I reviewed this case for APRO in the early 80's but was not able to publish the results of my analysis for various reasons.  Radiation oncologist and APRO consultant Dr. Richard Niemtzow reviewed my findings and agreed that the symptoms did not match those expected for ionizing radiation syndrome." Skeptic Gary Posner, M.D., looked at the reported symptoms, and came to the same conclusion. If radiation were involved, according to Posner, the reported symptoms would have indicated a fatal dose. Since both women lived many years after the incident, and Colby is still living, nobody received a fatal dose of radiation, and the reported symptoms, if correct, must be caused by something other than radiation (see his letter on page 16 of the April, 1983 MUFON Journal).

However, Betty Cash's medical records have never been released, on grounds of "privacy." Fair enough, but you cannot simultaneously cite alleged medical symptoms as proof of a UFO encounter while refusing to release the medical records that might confirm or refute the claim. So long as the medical records remain "private," anecdotal accounts of what they contain are worthless.

These claims of harmful effects led Cash and Landrum to file a $20 million in damages against the U.S. government in 1981. They were represented pro bono by UFO lawyer Peter Gersten, who attracted much attention in 2012 by his announced plan to leap from Bell Rock in Sedona at the moment of the winter solstice Mayan apocalypse  (but fortunately he had second thoughts, and is still alive). The suit was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge in 1986 on the grounds that U.S. government involvement had not been demonstrated. It ought to be quite straightforward to trace a fleet of 23 Chinook helicopters flying over the United States. Much effort has been expended to trace such helicopters, to no avail. The U.S. military simply didn't have a fleet of that many Chinook helicopters in one place, nor did any private firm.

the Chinook helicopter; 23 of these are supposed to have chased the UFO
This case has received extensive media attention, on That's Incredible (ABC-TV), UFO Coverup Live, Unsolved Mysteries, Sightings, and UFO Hunters, to name just a few. The principal investigator of the case has always been John F. Schuessler, a well-known MUFON Director, also affiliated with several other UFO organizations. He wrote a book The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident.

Curt Collins is a UFO researcher who, for the past year or two, has been gathering as much information as possible on the Cash-Landrum case. He has shared this information on his Blog, Blue Blurry Lines. Collins was a "contributing editor" helping the late, great James Moseley put out his semi-legendary newsletter Saucer Smear.

Collins titled his Blog posting dated Nov. 12, 2013, "The Cash-Landrum Incident: The Suppressed Case Files." You will have to read it carefully to understand its significance. Collins wrote,
The physical evidence in the Cash-Landrum UFO incident is much of what makes it such a compelling and enduring case. Another key factor is the reputation and expertise of the case’s chief investigator John F. Schuessler who had the difficult jobs of seeking evidence, promoting the case and protecting the witnesses. The medical records have been long protected by Schuessler, citing the privacy of the witnesses as reason for withholding them. What is less widely known, is that there was other case evidence that Schuessler chose not to share.
After the women went to the Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin to file a complaint, the Texas Department of Health’s Bureau of Radiation Control did an investigation into the matter. Collins writes,
The TDH report revealed that there was no residual radiation found along the road, but they were not dismissing the case. They made an important offer: they were interested in continuing the investigation, starting with their doctors examining the medical records. There is no documentation of it in the TDH files, but Schuessler refused or ignored the State’s offer to help the witnesses.
Claimed physical traces from the incident seem to be among the strongest pieces of evidence supporting  the case. Collins writes, "When discussing the case, Schuessler told how the witnesses were able to return to the precise location, and that the scene contained some identifiable, distinct features:"
“It is interesting to note, that although neither Vickie or Betty had been back to the site since the incident, they both were able to take us to nearly the exact same location. The separate site visits verify the location of the incident for us.”  -The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident, page 54
“They were able to point out a spot on the road that indicated that it had been heated to an extreme level of heating. It was burned, and it was very clear to the naked eye.”-Unsolved Mysteries (NBC) February 6, 1991
“We had a very large flying machine that that came over the road that actually left marks on the road, so you know where it was exactly.”   -Sightings (Sci-Fi Channel TV Series): “Physical Effects” July 31, 1992
There are, alas, no photographs or other evidence to show us these supposed UFO marks on the road. One wonders why?

Document from Texas department of Health
In the newly-revealed document, Collins notes that Texas Department of Health investigator Charles Russ Meyer wrote,
“I then asked Mr. Schuessler if he had pin-pointed the location of the siting [sic]. Mr. Schuessler stated that due to the late hour and the ladies’ emotional state they could only state that they believed they saw the object on the straight portion of FR 1485 between a beer joint and some kind of highway warning sign.”
In other words, neither Cash, nor Landrum, nor Schuessler had any idea where this incident actually took place! Collins remarks,
The Meyer report documenting that Schuessler and the witnesses not knowing the precise sighting location does answer some troubling questions. Now we can understand why there are no photographs of a scorched road or trees, and why soil/pavement samples were never presented as evidence. The claim that the sighting location was found and investigated was the foundation of his case. If this claim was false or inaccurate, the entire case is tainted. It raises other questions about how evidence was presented and just how much of it can be verified.
In other words, it appears that Schuessler simply made up the claim to have identified, and investigated, the sighting location, and found evidence there.

There is also the puzzling question of why the proponents of this case remain so utterly opposed to releasing any of Betty's medical records, even after her death, and especially after so much anecdotal data about her alleged medical conditions has already been discussed publicly.  "Schuessler refused or ignored the State’s offer to [medically] help the witnesses." Why?

While we were discussing this case via email, Gary Posner wrote,
"I recall a photo being shown [on the April 1, 1982, edition of ABC-TV's That's Incredible] of Betty's arms, with discrete, round, sunburn-type rashes that immediately caused me to suspect that she had created them by covering her arms with a garment containing circular cutouts and then exposing herself to sunlight (or a sunlamp)." 
There is no way that such discrete, round patterns could be produced by radiation from a distant object. What Dr. Posner is suggesting is that, like religious zealots of yore who fabricated their own symptoms of  "stigmata," Betty Cash created the discrete, round "radiation burn" patterns on her arms to be able to display impressive symptoms to her doctors.

Medical science has a term for this kind of behavior: "M√ľnchausen syndrome is a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves." While not terribly common, it is far from rare. And assuming that Betty Cash's medical records contain the words "M√ľnchausen syndrome" or words to that effect, which seems quite likely, we now understand why the promoters of the Cash-Landrum case adamantly refuse to let anyone see her medical records. It would destroy all vestiges of credibility that this case ever had.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

FINALLY! All Issues of Klass' "Skeptics UFO Newsletter" (SUN) are On-Line!

Several years ago I pointed out to CSI(COP) that the collection of Klass' influential and significant Skeptics UFO Newsletter (SUN) hosted on their website was incomplete. I was assured that the librarian would get right on it, but that didn't happen.

Then on October 23, 2013 UFO researcher and archivist Isaac Koi posted a plea on the UFO Updates mailing list, noting that
Luis R. Gonzalez (a Spanish researcher) has scanned his almost complete run of xerox copies of Klass' skeptic UFO Newsletter, and filled the gaps with the help of others. Only a small number of issues are currently available online, at the CSICOP website...  Perhaps CSI/CSICOP will give permission for me to share a link to a much more complete collection of SUN, as searchable PDF files, on a free file storage website; and/or (2) CSI/CSICOP may like to make this more complete collection available to download from its own website....I have yet to receive any positive answer to either of the above possibilities or any reasons for refusing the requests... If anyone has a good relationship with CSICOP then perhaps they could have a word with someone there.
As soon as I saw that I put together an email in support of Koi to the appropriate persons, and they began talking. Soon the matter was resolved, I think, to everyone's satisfaction. Koi has uploaded the complete collection of SUN #1 - SUN #76 to on-line storage, with a nice introduction and explanation here. He also links in a two-part YouTube video from 1987 by Ted Koppel interviewing Klass and Stanton Friedman. (You will note, to no one's surprise, that Friedman is given far more time to speak than Klass.)
SUN revealing the Gulf Breeze UFO photo hoax (Isaac Koi)
Soon after that, the full collection of SUNs was posted to the CSI(COP) website. Both of the scans appear to be searchable.

The on-line presence of SUN is a huge boon to serious UFO researchers of all stripes, as Klass was invariably the best-informed skeptical researcher, and the newsletter is filled with information concerning many famous (and less-famous) UFO claims. Klass was a meticulous researcher, and while you may not agree with his conclusions (even I do not agree with Klass 100% of the time), you can be confident that all of the facts he cites are correct and can be substantiated. You can then draw your own conclusions from that. "Write only what you know," Klass admonished me on more than one occasion. Don't state something as a fact unless you know that it is a fact, and can demonstrate it. 

Koi provides some nice examples above of what SUN contains. These searchable files are also a huge boon in making the skeptical viewpoint about UFOs available to interested persons.

I should mention that following in the footsteps of SUN today is Tim Printy's SUNlite, continuing Klass' tradition of meticulous and careful UFO investigation with a skeptic's eye. Tim puts out six issues a year, covering all manner of contemporary UFO claims and controversies.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Breaking Bad UFOs

Since the name of this Blog is Bad UFOs, it seems to me that anything whose name ends with "Bad" ought to have "UFOs" following it. (How many such names are there, anyway?) So in the spirit of Halloween, we now bring you: Breaking Bad UFOs. You can think of it, I suppose, as either "Breaking Bad" UFOs, or else Breaking "Bad UFOs."

If Walt doesn't get you, that UFO will!

Oh, no! The Mexican Cartel has built a spy drone!

Jesse doesn't believe in UFOs, so he's looking the other way.

Look out, Walt! That little bastard is going to steal your cash!

Neither rain, nor snow, nor alien invaders, stays these drug dealers from their appointed rounds.

The boys meet up with a new distributor - Mars needs methamphetamines!

The Martians didn't like it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

NASA's UFO-Related Correspondence - Mostly from Schoolchildren!

When the British government released the last of its UFO files in June, 2013 (all except for “copies of MoD papers, records or other information relating to internal discussion, policy and/or briefings in response to public statements made to the media and via the release of Open Skies, Closed Minds by Nick Pope during the period 1995-96,” that Pope insists must remain hidden), much was said about the apparently frivolous nature of much of the correspondence  from the public. For example, "A letter from a school child in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, to the MoD, dated January 2009, asking if aliens exist after she had seen some strange lights, and including a drawing of an alien in a UFO waving." At that  time I wrote,
When my name was included on a list prepared by NASA of people who might have information on UFOs (since they did not), I used to receive dozens of letters like this from school children requesting information. I would usually reply with just a page or two of skeptical materials, but I suppose that was not what they wanted to receive.
Now it's time to look at the correspondence I received when I was listed by NASA (along with several other groups) as a source of information about UFOs.  Each and every such letter I received was from someone who had written NASA, asking for information about UFOs. NASA replied that they did not have any such information, but here is a list of organizations that do. The time frame is mostly about 1978-1983. Unfortunately the box where these letters were stored was damaged in a flood, resulting in much discoloration, but most of them are still readable.
Many letters were received from Latin America, most written in Spanish or Portuguese. Brazil was among the most avidly interested countries. Other letters were received from Poland, Austria, the UK, and even India. The foreign letters seemed to be from somewhat older correspondents, apparently college students. Some of the letters were from adults, but in a business-related context, not a personal one. This one, for example is from a Public Relations firm in Japan anxious to make money by promoting UFO sensationalism:

I have uploaded a much longer collection of the NASA UFO letters to the Historical section of my website  

Why does this matter? We often hear UFO proponents advocating to have the government get back into UFO investigations and studies in one capacity or another. Supposedly this will lead to progress being made in finding out what UFOs 'really are.' Perhaps, but what we can be certain of is that a large part of the UFO Department's correspondence will look like this. And there will be a clamor for it to be released in full. Then accusations of a "coverup" when it is seen that the files contain little but trivial and foolish correspondence. If you were a government official, plugging away at your desk on some mundane administrative task, would you like to see your department plunged into the middle of this can of worms?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A "Bizarre Horror Show" at a UFO Conference

From August 9 to 11, 2013 "Contact in the Desert" was held at Joshua Tree Retreat Center, in Joshua Tree, California. Fortunately it was held indoors, because outdoors the temperature hovered around 110 degrees. Among the "luminaries" lecturing were George Noory, Steven Greer, Giorgio A. Tsoukalos [aliens!], David Wilcock, Jim Marrs, William Henry, Michael Salla, Jason Martell, David Sereda, Richard Dolan, and Travis Walton.

But not all of the heat was outside. A page on Unknown Country, the website of Whitley and Anne Strieber, has an article dated September 5, titled "William Describes a Bizarre Horror Show at a UFO Conference." It concerns William Henry, a promoter of woo who lectures about ancient Egyptian "stargates" and is a frequent guest on Coast to Coast AM and Ancient Aliens.
William Henry tells a horrifying story of imprisonment of the audience at the Contact in the Desert Conference August 9--11. He says that David Wilcock came with a bodyguard, and that Steven Greer arrived with a whole group of bodyguards, who proceeded to lock the doors and allow nobody in our out during his presentation. If this happened, it was illegal, and we urge all UFO conference attendees to demand that they not be imprisoned during any performance for any reason.

David Wilcock is a psychic and best-selling author of loopy books on Consciousness. He claims to be the reincarnation of Edgar Cayce. UFO mega-celebrity Steven Greer needs no introduction (if you aren't familiar with Greer, enter his name into the search box at the top of the page).

I know someone who attended that conference, so I asked him if this was true and if he knew anything about it. Short answer: yes, it's basically true. He doesn't want his name mentioned, but here is what he wrote:
Have you seen the movie "Bruce Almighty?" Do you remember Morgan Freeman playing God where he was dressed in an all white suit? Well Wilcock came out wearing the exact same thing with his "holier than thou" attitude ( which, by the way, including him shoving aside a young woman who was merely asking for his autograph on his own book....I bet she won't buy another one of his books again). Anyhow, I got sick of hearing his bologna during his lecture so I walked out. Now here is where I may be wrong or Streiber is wrong but I believe it was Wilcock speaking when this incident happened: I'm outside talking to a friend at the coffee vendor when I hear some loud arguing with a familiar voice. The normally soft spoken Henry was livid & was walking from the side of the hall to the front with someone trying to restrain him. He banged on the door & a security guard opened the door & he went crazy yelling at the guard for not letting his wife outside to get some air. Apparently she has a condition of some sort & also was extremely hot yet the guards didn't open the door to let her out. The yelling lasted for a few minutes & as Henry walked away with his wife, he was still yelling back at the guard, loud enough to where just about everyone in the vicinity heard. He said everything from it being illegal to lock people in, a big lawsuit can arise if anyone gets hurt, etc...all valid points. One more thing I might add: Greer showed up with armed guards with "black ops security" written on their shirts. Wilcock not only had guards, he had a bomb-sniffing  dog with him!! Can you believe that? Anyhow, it was truly a fiasco....every bit of it.
Interplanetary Peace and Love at the Conference

I asked him how, if the doors were locked, did he manage to walk out of Wilcock's lecture. He replied,
It's weird what security was doing. When I was standing outside, I saw people grouping together at the door to get in rather than going in as they pleased. Apparently the security was only allowing people in at 10 minute intervals. When I was inside, I just so happen to be walking out toward the main entrance as they were opening the door for the others to come in. So you could say that had I not been coincidentally at the right place at the right time, they would have refused me leaving for up to 10 minutes. Also, I never saw Greer's lecture indoors (he did something outdoors too which they obviously couldn't control that but his armed "black ops security" guards were on stage with him). So it definitely was Wilcock's lecture that William Henry flipped out on although it's possible they used the same protocol for Greer (although Wilcock seemed to be the craziest one with his bomb-sniffing dog.....)

So apparently they were only letting people out when other people were being let in!

Here is a brief video my friend took showing Greer walking up to the stage at his outdoor event, flanked by his "Black Ops Security" guards. If you watch this carefully, full-screen, you can just make out the words "Black Ops" I seriously doubt that people who work in Black Ops wear shirts that say "Black Ops" on them. That sort of defeats the purpose of a Black Op, doesn't it?

[Added Sept. 23:]

On YouTube I found Steven Greer's lecture (indoors) at the Joshua Tree conference center on Aug. 11, 2013.
Greer's security men guard the exit doors

We can actually see three of his security men, wearing yellow hats, positioning themselves in from of the exits, and they remain there for the duration of the lecture. I have never seen security guards do this at any other conference! At first we see two security men in front of the exit on the right. At about 1:42 into the video, one of the men crosses quickly and (apparently) takes up a position in from of an exit at the far left. We see him (I think) ever-so-briefly at about 12:58.

Greer repeats the allegation that he was offered $2 Billion (not million!) to join the Conspiracy. He had made this allegation in previous lectures.

Greer's talk continues past the end of this video at 26:32, so we don't know if any security issues came up (like somebody trying to leave).

Anyone else who has first-hand knowledge of this matter, please share it with us. And surely somebody, somewhere, must have taken a photo of Wilcock's bomb-sniffing dog in action? I'd love to see that!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Aircraft-Carrier Sized UFO Filmed by Two Cameras in Melbourne, Australia

At 05:23 on Sept. 2, 2013, YouTube user Lou20764 of UFO Australia was photographing the International Space Station (ISS) pass in the pre-dawn sky over Melbourne. Then about twenty minutes later, at 5:47, he noticed part of the sky light up, and then saw and recorded a huge, glowing object high in the sky. It seemed to be pulsating and changing its shape. He had two separate cameras running, and both recorded the same thing, which makes the possibility of a hoax much less likely.

Lou posted the video to YouTube, where in a few days it was viewed over 100,000 times. A thread was started on the conspiracy-oriented website Above Top Secret, which attracted the usual mix of intelligent comment and wild speculation.

Noting the similarity of this event to previous rocket fuel dumps, space author and skeptic James Oberg suggested that a Chinese rocket launched just 30 minutes earlier was a likely candidate. Satellite expert Ted Molczan, who confirmed the identity of the "Top Ten" 1996 Mothership UFO sighting in the Yukon, confirmed that it was indeed the Yaogan 17 rocket, whose launch can be seen in the video below. The Chinese rocket was passing over Melbourne exactly where the object was recorded.

Molczan writes, "The fuel dump by the CZ-4C upper stage that launched China's third NOSS-like triad was seen over Australia, and a long video was made by Lou20764, from Melbourne. The event occurred on 2013 Sep 01 about 19:49 UTC (Sep 02 05:49 local time)." In other words, this is a reconnaissance satellite for the Chinese military, similar to ones that the U.S. Navy has been using for decades.

Oberg and others posted this information to Lou's YouTube page containing the video, but he promptly removed them. Lou wrote, "Not putting up with a organized attack by trolls anymore - I just took out the garbage and I feel good about it." To Lou, anyone who threatened his prized UFO video by providing a rational explanation is simply a "troll." Of course, he left up adulatory comments even if their statements are inaccurate or false. Molczan wrote, "Lou20764 seems to believe he saw some sort of ET craft, and so far has been refractory to other ideas. When Jim Oberg posted a congratulatory note on his having captured the fuel dump and requested some technical details, Lou20764 deleted his messages and blocked him from making further comments. Unfortunate behavior, but it should not prevent us from enjoying the latest fuel dump imagery."

Oberg provides these links for more information on previous sightings of fuel dumps resulting from space activities:

 1983 – FATE magazine: Giant UFO Over Two Continents [Europe and South America]

Worldwide UFO reports sparked by human space activity

 ‘Mystery Cloud’ Appears Over Eastern U.S. And Canada

 The Great East Coast UFO of August 1986

 “Smoke Rings” over Africa and Europe

 Satellite fuel Dump

Monday, September 2, 2013

Just Published: never-seen Philip J. Klass papers on MJ-12 and the Condon Report.

Philip J. Klass (photo by author)

I have just placed on my Historical documents page on some newly-scanned "white papers" and correspondence by the influential skeptic Philip J. Klass (1919-2005) concerning the supposed MJ-12 papers, and a pre-publication critique of the Condon report.

In November, 1968, Klass wrote an advance critique of the not-yet-published Condon Report (University of Colorado study of UFOs), and circulated it to only a very few persons (fortunately, I was one). He notes that the persons involved in the study were supposed to be uncommitted on the the question of UFOs, but several were already UFO believers.


Supposed Harry Truman MJ-12 document, with a photocopied signature

Here are Klass' "White Papers" and other correspondence on the supposed MJ-12 papers (first series only. Even Stanton Friedman is reluctant to defend the MJ-12 papers of the second series!). He explains why they are hoaxes.  The discussion involves William L. Moore, Stanton Friedman, Peter A. Gersten. (57 pages)

Here is Klass' explanation of the $1,000 wager that he lost to Stanton Friedman.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Listening to The Great Debate

In my last Blog entry, I wrote about the Great Debate coming up between myself and "flying saucer physicist" Stanton T. Friedman. An audience of 100,000 people were reported to have listened to it live on August 8 (although some suggest, based on past audience claims, that that number is inflated). A thread was created about it on AboveTopSecret, a conspiracy-oriented website (which often has useful content, nonetheless.) The debate is now available on the YouTube channel of Third Phase of the Moon, embedded below.
Somehow the debate was titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?", a position that I have never maintained. I explained that, given the vastness of the known universe, I consider it a virtual certainty that there are other intelligent beings 'out there' somewhere. But there is not, I maintained, any credible evidence that extraterrestrials have ever visited earth.

What was the result, from my perspective? First, that they allowed Friedman to talk far too much. My time to speak was much shorter.  Also, Friedman kept interrupting me while I was talking, and seldom let me finish making a point. Here are a few of my observations:
  • I brought up the Yukon "close encounter" UFO sighting in 1996. Friedman has spoken about this case as one of the all-time best. Ted Molczan and other satellite experts have unambiguously identified this as the fiery re-entry of a Russian rocket booster launched less than 24 hours earlier. Friedman refused to accept this: "No way, Jose!" I asked him if he believed that the fiery rocket booster, and an alien spacecraft, were both in the same place at the same time. Perhaps the spacecraft was obscuring the rocket reentry? I used this to illustrate the argument that "reliable witnesses aren't."
Was this the result of the debate?

  • I said that when people see something in the sky that they can't identify, they should not jump to the least-likely hypothesis - that it is an alien space craft. Friedman insisted that this was the most likely hypothesis!!
  •  He argued that the Bluebook Special Report 14 shows that the "unknown" cases are of a higher quality than those that could be explained. I read some of Alan Hendry's critique of BBSR14 from his book The UFO Handbook, accusing them of invalid statistical procedures.
  • Concerning the so-called "Truman Forrestal memo" of MJ-12, I noted that it is fake because the supposed presidential signature is a photocopy of one on a genuine document. Stanton claimed President Truman signed so many documents that it's inevitable that two signatures could be found that are identical!
  • When I brought up the lack of an Archive Registration Number on the supposed "Cutler-Twining memo" of MJ-12, allegedly discovered in the U.S. National Archives, Stanton tried to bait-and-switch, insisting that it had a proper document number on it. But the two are not the same: the copy number of a controlled document is not the same as the number that would be assigned to it when it was registered into the archives. I could not get him back on the subject. And no archive registration number implies that it was planeted in the archives for somebody to supposedly "find." Freidman claimed that all of the
    Or was it this? (cartoons by "torsion" on AboveTopSecret)
    arguments against the original MJ-12 "documents" are answered in his book MAJIC.
  • I brought up the famous "Fish Map," the supposed 'extraterrestrial star map' of Betty Hill that has been a major part of Friedman's UFO lectures for about forty years. Recent astronomical data shows that the star catalog on which the map was originally based contained some major errors concerning the stars involved, and that the special sun-like properties that all its stars supposedly had is not correct. Friedman was of course not willing to say "Sorry folks, I've been steering you wrong for the past forty years. I'm afraid that the Fish map is not valid." So he again danced around the obvious, claiming that the map's Zeta1 and Zeta2 Reticuli are "very special," without explaining what that is supposed to mean. I countered that it doesn't mean a thing. Of course, now that the map's foundation has been knocked out from under it, the two Zetas are irrelevant to any ETI argument. I asked Stanton if he was still promoting  the Fish map; he replied that he is still "promoting her work," for which he expressed great admiration. "She built more than twenty models," which, of course, has nothing to do with whether the map is correct. Should we give her an award, I asked? Freidman kept bringing up irrelevant points and dancing around the fundamental fact that the Fish Map is now, as I said, "dead."
  • He praised the "skill" and experience of the Hills hypnotist, Dr. Benjamin Simon. But Dr. Simon did not believe the "abduction" story, and considered it a fantasy.
  • Because Friedman has frequently promoted nuclear fusion as a technique for interstellar travel, I pointed out physics Nobel Laureate Edward Purcell's calculation that, to accelerate one unit of matter to 99% of the speed of light ( Friedman proposes to travel even faster than this in his essay on UFO Propulsion Systems) would require 1.6 * 10**9 units of fusionable hydrogen (1.6 billion), even if it could be done with perfect efficiency, which of course is never possible. Friedman insisted that this was in error, that Purcell made certain assumptions about technological limitations that were not correct. I replied that he is wrong: Purcell calculated nothing more than the amount of hydrogen fusion required to release enough energy for the acceleration, without worrying about how it could possibly be performed or controlled. Friedman insisted that we could use gravitational assist to fling ourselves to the stars. But this works only in our solar system, I replied; the orbital velocity of the fastest planet, Mercury, is only about 30 miles/second, utterly negligible when you're trying to speed up to almost 186,282 miles/second.
  • The last 8 minutes were supposed to be "closing statements" from both of us. However, Friedman talked on and on for six minutes, leaving me very little. I was not timing him, I assumed that the host would. I wanted to close with Philip J. Klass' UFO Curse, but I was cut off before I could. Here is Klass' UFO Curse:
    "No matter how long you live, you will never know any more about UFOs than you know today. You will never know any more about what UFOs really are, or where they come from. You will never know any more about what the U.S. Government knows about UFOs than you know today. As you lie on your death-bed, you will be as mystified about UFOs as you are today. And you will remember this curse."
When the time was up, the host asked Friedman and I if we might want to do this again sometime. I said that I'd be willing, after some time had passed. But not Stanton - he proclaimed himself too occupied to ever debate again. I think he realized that his evasions did not  go over well, and the stuff he has been defending is too flimsy to be defended in a debate. And I was told that Third Phase had considerable difficulty finding any pro-UFOlogist who was willing to debate me; several turned them down before Friedman agreed. If I ever do debate Friedman again, I will insist on strictly-monitored time segments: he talks for five minutes and I stay silent, then it's my turn. Otherwise Friedman just jumps in and tries to steer the discussion his way, using irrelevant arguments and "red herrings."

On Above Top Secret, "carddown" said "Friedman brought very little new to the debate, mostly just a performance in part of his Cosmic Watergate lecture. Sheaffer brought up many good points, and I thought he really scored with the Canadian UFO/booster reentry and the Fish map flop. (Did you notice how Friedman had to retreat on the map by saying eyewitnesses are unreliable?) "

If you have any comments on the debate, please share them with us below. Please keep them polite and civil, however tempting it might be to do otherwise. Thanks.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Before the Great Debate: My Review of "The Aztec Incident"

The time of the Great Debate Approaches! On Thursday, August 8, 2013 I will debate the self-styled "Flying Saucer Physicist" Stanton T. Friedman, who has been a major UFO proponent for almost 50 years. The debate is sponsored by Third Phase of the Moon (a well-known UFO advocacy site, the leading UFO channel on YouTube), and carried by the Revolution Radio Network. The time is 5:00 PM Pacific Time (8:00 PM Eastern Time). To listen, go to and click directly on the unlabeled "play" icon for Studio A on the left. At some point the host will open up phone lines for questions. When that happens, the call in number is 818-923-1713.
Stanton Friedman

One of the subjects sure to come up in the debate is the supposed "Aztec, New Mexico UFO Crash" of March 25, 1948, "eight months after Roswell." Long considered a hoax by the great majority of UFOlogists, a new book The Aztec Incident by Scott and Suzanne Ramsey now has Friedman being very impressed by the so-called "evidence." He wrote a Foreward to the book, in which he apologized for his earlier skepticism about the case. Friedman said:
This is a very important book setting new standards for investigation, persistence, and the casting of a very wide net to locate witnesses. There will certainly be shrieks of distress from both noisy negativists and pro-UFO types who have been unwilling to maintain the Aztec story in their "gray basket." It is not gray anymore. It proves there were more than a few crashes.
 In the November/December 2012 issue of The Skeptical Inquirer, I wrote a very detailed critique of the Ramseys' new book. I want listeners to the debate to be able to read that review, so they can see for themselves what a loopy tale it is that Friedman now endorses:

from The Skeptical Inquirer, November/December, 2012. Revised August 5, 2013
  Aztec Saucer Crash Story Rises from the Dead?
The Aztec Incident by Scott and Suzanne Ramsey
Dr. Frank Thayer and Frank Warren, researchers.
Foreword by Stanton Friedman
(Mooresville, NC: Aztec.48 Productions, 2012. 221 pp, $24.95)

    The famous Roswell Saucer Crash claim was born, and died, in the span of about a twenty-four hour newspaper cycle in July of 1947. The story was dead and forgotten for about thirty years, even among those few who believed in saucer crashes, until brought back to life by the book The Roswell Incident by Charles Berlitz and William Moore. Since then, the Roswell story has reached Critical Mass, and thus will never again be forgotten or ignored, no matter what the facts about the case have been shown to be.
    A second saucer crash is supposed to have occurred in New Mexico, at Aztec, in 1948. The source of that story was the 1950 book Behind the Flying Saucers by Variety columnist Frank Scully. That claim had a somewhat longer run, until 1952. That was when San Francisco journalist J.P. Cahn convinced the editor of True magazine that the Scully saucer crash story was either the greatest event of modern times, or the greatest hoax. The editor agreed, and the result was a long investigation culminating in two lengthy and devastating articles in True. Cahn proved that Scully’s sources, Silas Newton and Leo Gebauer, were con men who made a living swindling people by claiming to have devices for finding oil and minerals in the ground.
    In fact, so successful was Cahn’s demolition of the Newton/Gebauer story, that claims of  “saucer crashes” were ignored until at least the mid 1970s. In 1987, UFO researcher William Steinman published UFO Crash at Aztec, trying to legitimize that claim. It got very little “respect” - even Stanton Friedman didn’t buy it (for which Friedman here apologizes, blaming his earlier rejection of it on absurd statements made by Steinman’s co-author, the late Wendelle Stevens). In 1998, the first annual UFO Conference was held to benefit the Aztec Public Library. The last one was held in 2011; there wasn’t enough interest to continue. The Aztec crash seemed to be a hoax, and that was the end of the story.
    Not so fast! say Scott and Suzanne Ramsey. Having spent over $500,000 of their own money over a period of 25 years, traveled to 27 states and collected over 55,000 documents, the Ramseys claim that there are first and (mostly) second-hand witnesses to the crash retrieval operation, and that the honest and successful oilman Silas Newton was pretty much framed by J.P. Cahn, to discredit the crash story, and especially to discredit Frank Scully.
    “Eight months after Roswell,” on March 25 1948, some oil workers went out to battle a supposed brush fire near a company site, and supposedly discovered instead that “a very large metallic lens-shaped craft sat silently atop the mesa.” They found that there were at least two dead bodies inside it, beings that were small but otherwise entirely human. Soon there was a military helicopter hovering overhead, and soldiers arriving. Eventually there were up to 200 persons involved in the recovery effort that lasted two weeks, a few miles outside this town of a few thousand people. However, no word leaked out to the local press or community leaders, probably because, as one man explained, “we were threatened with our lives if we ever spoke out about this.”  
    One of the government scientists who supposedly studied the crashed saucer was a mysterious “Doctor Gee” (obviously Gebauer despite his and others’ denial), who let his friend, oilman Silas Newton, in on the secret as they were driving around trying out a magnetic device for detecting “microwaves” supposedly emitted by oil in the ground. Dr. Gee claimed to be a “master of magnetic energy,” and to have worked on a device called a magnetron that “knocked out as many as 17 Japanese submarines in one day.” The saucers, according to Newton, probably originate on Venus, and use “magnetic” propulsion, traveling along “Magnetic Lines of Force which originate in the sun and revolve around their planets and their moons, keeping the universe in magnetic balance.” The Ramseys don’t seem to realize that these statements are pseudoscientific gibberish.
    For some reason, the magnetic prospectors drove directly to Frank Scully’s house in Hollywood (Newton also lived in Hollywood, and had been in contact with Scully), where they regaled him with tales about saucers, including the one that crashed in Aztec.
The book that started the Aztec Crash story
Newton, according to the Ramseys, has gotten a bum rap from Cahn. His supposedly “questionable” business deals were “nothing new, as the oil business always has a high level of risk… Newton’s investors were, in the main, all quite happy, as court records show.” (Of course, con men like Newton typically use money from new “investors” to pay off earlier “investors” who threaten to complain to the law.) When Scully refused Cahn’s fervent offer to buy the whole story for the San Francisco Chronicle, say the authors, Cahn set out to destroy the Aztec crash story, and also Newton, Gebauer, and Scully. The authors claim that Cahn’s accusations made to the FBI “resulted in the malicious prosecution of Newton and his friend Leo Gebauer – a prosecution based in envy and a relentless vendetta.”
The FBI, however, takes a different view. Official government records at contain “the FBI’s investigations into Newton’s fraudulent activities between 1951 and 1970.” According to the FBI, “Silas Newton (1887-1972) was a wealthy oil producer and con-man who claimed that he had a gadget that could detect minerals and oil.” Newton’s first arrest was as far back as 1931, with many more arrests following. In 1970 Newton pleaded guilty in Los Angeles to illegal securities sales (but was allowed to withdraw that plea after making restitution to the investor), and was also under investigation for an alleged mining fraud in New Mexico, two years before his death at age 85. And the Ramseys state, “the FBI is still withholding over 211 pages concerning Silas Newton.” Would you buy a used saucer from that man? (By comparison, so far as I am aware J.P. Cahn has never been in trouble with the law.)

In Frank Scully’s Private and Confidential Memo on J.P. Cahn, dated June 15, 1952, and forwarded to the attorney for Newton, some inflammatory accusations were made. Scully claimed that Cahn was “trying out blackmail on me, for size… he even confessed that he had gone in for some larceny to strengthen his case…. He proved himself a louse in the blouse of journalism, a dangerous man.”
However, this Memo was almost certainly dictated by Scully under the direction of his attorney. Thus it must be read not as “here is what happened,” but instead “here is what we’ll say in court, if the matter lands there.” It cannot be taken as unbiased fact. The next time you are in a courtroom, note that while witnesses are placed under oath, the attorneys never are, and thus are under no real obligation to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
I knew Cahn during the 1980s and 90s. I can agree that he had a brash and self-promoting personality, and I can well imagine the verbal battles between the caged combatants Cahn and Frank and Alice Scully as they made the slow drive from Los Angeles to Palomar Mountain to see George Adamski. (The Scullys were Adamski supporters). Cahn wanted Scully to admit that he had been duped, and write an article admitting it. “The fact is, Frank, the information you accepted and passed on to your readers in good faith is not what you were led to believe it was. Gebauer is not one of the nation’s ‘top scientists’”.  Cahn was urging Scully to protect his reputation and admit he had been hoaxed. But in Behind the Flying Saucers we find Scully surprisingly unconcerned about his reputation: “It is generally believed that to be any party to a hoax spells ruin, once the hoax is exposed. Nothing is further from the facts.” Scully remarks that he formerly wrote for the sensationalist New York Sun, which expired with great “notoriety,” about which he seems rather proud. Read all of Behind the Flying Saucers (available as a free E-book from and you will realize the obvious: Scully was a “true believer” in flying saucers, as well as a dedicated follower of Charles Fort, and probably no evidence to the contrary would ever change his mind.

Was Cahn motivated by “envy and a relentless vendetta?” I absolutely do not think so. I always felt the suspicion that old Jape was fond of Scully and went too easy on him.  Cahn always emphasized that Scully was not himself a hoaxer, but had been hoaxed. My web page contains a lot of in-depth information on the Scully controversy, including what is probably the only recording of J. P. Cahn discussing his investigations. The Ramseys have misrepresented Cahn’s feelings about Scully. Cahn told the Bay Area Skeptics “Frank [Scully] turned out to be an absolutely super guy.” (part 1 about 8:15), “And he was outraged, absolutely outraged, that I would question this” crashed saucer story. An honest man telling a hard-to-believe tale expects to meet with incredulity, but a scoundrel is outraged at encountering reasonable doubt.

Whether or not you agree with the authors’ conclusions, you have to admire their zeal for investigation. This is one of the best-documented UFO books I have ever seen. There are documents from the FBI archives, Air Force archive documents, news clippings, and most important, the documents from the Frank Scully Collection at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming (that no researcher previously realized existed!). They even found a transcript of the interview of Denver radio ad salesman George Koehler, an associate of Newton, by two Air Force Office of Special Investigations men, a recording that Scully boasts of having erased to thwart those he calls the “Pentagonians.” In 1950, the Air Force was clearly still concerned that flying saucers might represent something real, and wanted to find out.

Regardless of what flaws might or might not have existed in the characters of Newton, Gebauer, Cahn, and Scully, many problems remain: there is no physical or documentary evidence of any extraordinary object landing near Aztec in 1948; the “scientific” theories expounded by Newton and Gebauer are pseudoscientific claptrap (no real scientists were the source of this information, thus Gebauer is lying about working as a top government scientist); and Newton’s claim to operate an electronic device he would carry around the desert to locate oil and minerals was likewise fraudulent, because such devices do not exist. Anyone who wants to rehabilitate the claims of a saucer crash at Aztec needs to explain why we should believe obvious liars like Newton and Gebauer before worrying about who squabbled with whom over publication rights.

It's interesting to note that I'm not the only one writing a critical review of this book  UFO proponents Kevin Randle and Jerome Clark have each written their own reviews of that book, and while the three of us might agree on little else, all three reviews agree that The Aztec Incident: Recovery at Hart Canyon is not credible or convincing. What's amazing is that there is virtually no overlap in the approaches taken in the three reviews. Three entirely separate lines of investigation lead three very different UFO theorists to the same conclusion. We should also note that Frank Warren, credited as a researcher on the book's cover, also expresses serious reservations about the authors' conclusions. Practically the only well-known UFOlogist who takes The Aztec Incident seriously is Stanton Friedman. (I'm sure that, in the debate, he will trot out one or two others.)

Monte Shriver grew up in Aztec, NM, moving there in 1947, and graduating from Aztec High School in 1952. His mother lived in Aztec until her death in 2006. He has written a long, three-part article on Kevin Randle's Blog demonstrating problems with the "saucer crash" claims in the Steinman and Ramsey books. Despite the claims of military retrievals, harassment, surveillance, roads closed, etc., not one of the local residents ever mentioned anything about a supposed "saucer crash" in Hart Canyon (where Shriver went camping as a Boy Scout). Had there been anything out of the ordinary going on in a town as small as that, it would have been the main topic of conversation for years! He cites local history references to demonstrate many errors concerning roads, rivers, mountains,  etc. in both saucer books.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

John G. Fuller Warns Betty Hill Not to "Jump to Conclusions"

Betty Hill (1919–2004), who with her husband Barney was allegedly "abducted' by a UFO back in 1961, is an extremely well-known figure in UFO circles. We know her from the book The Interrupted Journey by John G. Fuller, by countless media articles and appearances, and from her appearances at UFO conferences. The conventional wisdom is: she was a serious and credible person who reported an incredible experience, but in later years became somewhat fantasy-prone because of something akin to a post-abduction syndrome, worsened by ther husband's sudden death. A more realistic appraisal would be: Mrs. Hill was a fantasy-prone person, who nonetheless succeeded in convincing a lot of people she was credible before the weight of evidence made it obvious that she wasn't.

A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, after her death Mrs. Hill's papers were donated to her alma mater, and now are available to researchers at the Milne Special Collections, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH. Skeptic Kitty Mervine has been studying these papers, and has made some extremely interesting findings.
We did see some slides of a group of Indians in Antarctic who resembled these humanoids very much- both of us were very shocked by this. They had fatty layers of tissues around their features to protect them from the extreme cold of their environment – a warm day is 40 below and they go swimming.
From this Betty concluded that the aliens must have originated on a very cold planet. Betty didn't explain how the natives find liquid water when it's 40 below.

Kitty also found Betty's margin notes concerning her regular visits to a supposed "UFO landing spot" near Exeter, NH, which she visited two or three times a week for at least six years, and saw six or eight UFOs each night. This is the spot where, according to the UFO proponent John Oswald, on the evening he went there with her, Mrs. Hill couldn't "distinguish between a landed UFO and a streetlight." In her notes, Betty scribbled details and descriptions of her UFOs in the margins. Concerning one friend who came to see this miraculous event, Betty wrote,
So now when he comes to visit, he brings his mother and we have great times together. When they were here in October, we went out to my area and counted 12 UFOs in thirty minutes.  His mother was amazed!
Betty Hill with "Junior" and UFO promoter 
Timothy Green Beckley, who took pictures at the "UFO landing spot."

However, one visitor to the "UFO landing spot" was not so easily impressed: John G. Fuller, the  author of the book The Interrupted Journey that made the Hills famous, who regularly wrote for major magazines such as the Saturday Review and Look. (Remember when people used to read magazines for news and current events?) Fuller was a firm believer in UFOs, ghosts, and other paranormal claims, but he could not stomach the UFO claims being made by Betty Hill after her supposed "abduction."

Fuller visited the UFO landing site with Betty. She was attempting to persuade Fuller, and the editors of Look magazine, to publish an article about the UFOs that she was seeing there. But Fuller, the author of numerous loopy books about ghosts and psychic surgery, wasn't buying it at all. In a letter to Betty dated January 8, 1974, Fuller wrote,
during the evening we went out with you, there was nothing that appeared that could not be identified as planes on a normal traffic pattern for either the Boston airport, the Pease Air Force Base, or the traffic route for overseas passenger jets. Yet you had a tendency to feel that some of these were misinterpret aviation traffic as the [unidentified] objects does not help your case.
Regardless of the intensity of your belief, it must still be backed up by cautious and competent witnesses or it works against you very seriously...
Because your first encounter was so well documented, it served as very good evidence of the existence of UFOs. Unless you can back up any current happenings with equal caution, you can seriously harm your position, and that of those who found your original evidence so interesting because of your reserve and caution. Hate to speak as a Dutch uncle like this, Betty, but it is very important to do so, if only for protecting your own reputation.
very best regards,   John
In another note (undated), Fuller admonishes Betty to, "never extrapolate, always re-check and look for natural explanation first." That is so un-Betty! "It's so easy to jump to conclusions, and when you do, you can weaken your position drastically.

In other words, Fuller warned Betty: 'don't be so crazy. You are damaging your own credibility, and mine, too.'