Wednesday, July 17, 2013

R.I.P., Marjorie Fish and her Star Map

Most followers of the UFO scene are familiar with the supposed 'alien star map' that Betty Hill drew after her alleged UFO abduction, and of Marjorie Fish's purported identification of (some of) the stars on the map as nearby solar-type stars. Stanton Friedman, the self-styled "Flying Saucer Physicst," has been promoting that map as a supposed 'proof' of extraterrestrial visitations for more than forty years.

The famous Fish Map
On July 7, 2013, UFO and star map researcher Steve Pearse sent an email to a number of UFO researchers, informing them that Marjorie Fish had died in a nursing home in Oak Harbor, Ohio almost three months earlier, on April 8. She was 80, and had reportedly been suffering from Azlheimer's disease. Apparently none of those receiving the email, including Kathleen Marden and Stanton Friedman, knew that Fish had died. A link was provided to a memorial page for Ms. Fish created by a local newspaper. The obituary contains this rather startling statement:
Marjorie Fish
As one of her hobbies, Marjorie made an investigation into the Betty Hill map by constructing a 3-D star map in the late 1960's using several databases. She found a pattern that matched Mrs. Hill's drawing well, which generated international interest. Later, after newer data was compiled, she determined that the binary stars within the pattern were too close together to support life; so as a true skeptic, she issued a statement that she now felt that the correlation was unlikely.
However, nobody seems to know anything about any such statement made by Marjorie Fish. Marden sent email to that same list, saying she knew nothing about any repudiation by Fish of her map, and doubted that Fish ever did so.
[A statement from Fish's niece casts doubt on Fish's supposed repudiation.]

Separately, Steve Pearse has written an open letter to MUFON, titled "Should Stanton Friedman Renounce Marjorie Fish?" In it he says:
In the December, 2012 issue of the MUFON Journal (No. 536) Stanton Friedman wrote a two page rebuttal article in his regular monthly column ‘Perceptions’ aimed primarily at his arch rival Robert Sheaffer, a well known UFO debunker... This wasn’t a draw, split decision, or a knockout by either one of them, but it is time to settle this issue once and for all.
He objects to my descriptions of how Betty and Barney shared their accounts before the hypnosis sessions with Dr. Simon, thereby compromising their independence. He also objects to me calling certain individuals "UFOlogists" when they were engineers and whatever. Well, what should we call people who spend a full twelve hours interviewing a supposed UFO witness - "UFO fanatics?"

However, Friedman must endure even worse from Pearse:
Robert Sheaffer is correct! .... When you remove the lines-it’s very obvious that there is no match. You have to ask the question: Why was this ignored?... I have to side with Robert Sheaffer on one major topic and that is the invalidation of Marjorie Fish’s controversial Zeta Reticuli Interpretation, it’s become even more controversial because Friedman is fully aware of the fact that the triangle in Fish’s star map doesn’t exist. Two of her stars are outside of the boundary of her working model that claimed that all the stars were with 55 light years of Sol/Earth looking in the direction of Zeta Reticuli. All that he’s willing to say is that there is better data now. 
Of course, Friedman, and MUFON, will ignore that letter. This will surely lead up to a fascinating exchange when I have a two-hour debate with Stanton Friedman on the Revolution Radio Network, currently scheduled for August 8 at 5PM Pacific Time (8PM Eastern Time). Then, Friedman will not be able to ignore the problems with his precious Fish Map.  I wonder how Friedman can possibly defend his continued promotion of the Fish Map, given that we now know how utterly implausible it is.

But wait, there's more: one reason that Pierce is so eager to discard the Fish map is that he thinks there is a better one! He has written a book titled Set Your Phaser to Stun, in which he describes another alleged indentification of Betty Hill's sketch. His email user name, HR3951 (an entry in the Yale Bright Star Catalog) gives us a clue. One of the giant globes representing the aliens' alleged home star is supposed to be HR3951 = 20 Leo Minoris = SAO  61808, a totally obscure star in an obscure constellation. At magnitude 5.4, it is barely visible to the naked eye under excellent dark sky conditions. (If there is any constellation more obscure than Reticulum, it is Leo Minor. Why can't the aliens choose more interesting places to come from? At least Billy Meier's aliens came from the Pleiades - that's a lot more interesting!)

I have not had time to study the details of the Hill-Wilson map. However, it is supposed to be an earth-based map, yet one of the giant globes is supposed to represent our Sun. How do you map the sun in a position among the stars if you are on earth?

In any case, the new map now takes its proud place as Star Map #6, the sixth proposed identification of what Betty Hill drew. (There may be others I'm not aware of.) The six are:
  1. Betty Hill's Pegasus Map, in The Interrupted Journey
  2. Fish Map
  3. Atterberg Map (nearby stars, see my book UFO Sightings)
  4. Koch-Kyborg Map (planets and asteroids)
  5. Yari Danjo Map (nearby stars)
  6. Hill-Wilson Star Map (stars seen from earth-based view).
Adding to the uncertainty over any star map are Betty Hill's own comments, in a letter to Marjorie Fish. Skeptical researcher Kitty Mervine has been studying Betty Hill's papers which are now housed in the Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham NH. In a letter dated only "October 12" (1969?), Betty Hill wrote
As for the 8 background stars - I really do not know if they exist and in that position, or if I added them to try to show that the other stars were seen on the sky map in the background. I know I added them to show that stars were in the background; however, as to their position on the original skymap, I am not sure.
So even Betty Hill herself was not so sure about the unconnected stars - one of which is sometimes claimed to represent a star that 'had not been discovered yet' at the time the map was made.  Kitty suggests, "We should be focused on Betty Hill's original drawing, not attempted matches.  If you are starting with bad information, you will never have a match." And if even Betty Hill says she was "not sure" about the stars she drew, I can't imagine why anyone else should be.


  1. Thank you for including my comment Robert. It isn't which map is correct, it's is Betty's original information correct. Even supposing she was abducted by aliens, and she did see a map, it would have to be of amazing accuracy to be good enough for someone to find the "correct stars". My own account of Fish is found here,
    I admire her very much for her art skills and the time and effort she put into making her star map model and identifications. She did work with astronomers, and her model was displayed at an observatory in Delaware, Ohio. Fish should be commended for her dedication. What happened later, and the obituary was written by a family member (this was confirmed by the newspaper), is still open to debate.

  2. If I considered myself any kind of serious UFO researcher, I would do everything in my power to maintain distance from the concept of a "star map." A two-dimensional drawing valid only from one vantage point along the route (and most likely not a regular stop, at that) is way beyond ludicrous, and needs a new word to describe.

    Three-dimensional navigation among the stars would almost certainly take place only by reference to other stars as 'anchors,' since there would be no fixed point of reference or orientation. This would be different at every point in the 'route,' and would change rapidly along the way as stars moved from parallax (we have even used parallax while stuck here on this planet because Earth's orbit, tiny as it is in comparison, makes minor changes to the position of the closer stars at different times of the year.) As such, the anchors would be distant background stars undergoing only fractional arc-second changes in parallax with a multi-lightyear trip. The anchors would also, very likely, be chosen for their distinctive emission spectra, to prevent any mistakes.

    We already use this, by the way - it's how orbital telescopes like Hubble are aimed, even as they sit in a fixed plane of reference. And you can see what is meant by parallax, and the effect it has, with the computer-generated animation of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image at (this demonstrates star position changes with a multi-lightyear trip, but not the concept of anchor stars.)

    So a "star map" like all of the examples provided is a child's view of space, nonsensical even to amateur astronomers. But we're going to keep seeing them, because UFO proponents aren't interested in considering science, only in finding new straws to pursue.

    1. this is why a UFO researcher like myself, needs the help of astronomers. It always has to be a team effort, with sharing of information. It's perfectly fine for a UFO researcher to say "This would be impossible to match." It doesn't mean Betty and Barney Hill were not abducted by aliens, but it certainly does not mean they were. Right now the Fish model and other maps are being used as "evidence" they were abducted. Proving it wrong, or impossible to model, just means they should drop using it as "proof".

    2. Kitty, for the most part, no argument, and please don't get the impression I was aiming anything at you in particular. I use the term "UFO proponents" to define those who only see positive evidence regardless.

      However, there is one thing I'd like to address, where you said, "It doesn't mean Betty and Barney Hill were not abducted by aliens." This approach is bass ackward, and presents so many problems in the field.

      Law courts in most countries operate on the "innocent until proven guilty" concept, for obvious reasons - I could challenge you to prove you were not peeking in my window on the evening of May 17th, 2003, and your inability to prove this does not lend any weight to the idea that you were. UFO research should proceed on the concept of, "ordinary until proven extraordinary," yet it rarely does. No one should have to prove the Hills did not have an alien encounter - that should be the default state. Curiously, most of the people who follow this approach are considered, "debunkers" ;-)

      Now, another perspective. Believe it or not, the star map actually does lend weight to the disproof end, because such a thing is what an inexperienced person might imagine would be used for stellar navigation, while being preposterous from a physics angle. I can't remember if Betty Hill claims to have been told by her abductors the nature of the illustration, or if it was just inferred on her own - if the former, that's another nail.

      Finally, something I'd like to see but won't hold my breath over. For any given case, what information on ET intelligence does it, can it, impart? The map might have been nice if it could have pointed to stars we should pay attention to, but its ambiguity nixed that. Humanoids? Oxygen-breathers? Again, what we'd tend to expect, based on popular media, while being extremely unlikely given what we know about the development of life. UFO proponents almost always seek only vindication of their beliefs, while providing nothing that would actually add to our knowledge base at all. Even if there were no holes in the Hill case (heh!), it still wouldn't be a step forward for science.

  3. Was again reading "Mr. (and Mrs.) Hills' Wild Ride" yesterday. The flying-saucer fairy tale of two fantasy-prone personalities under stress, steeped in "UFO" mythology, deprived of sleep and seeing the Cannon Mt light, began two days later with Betty's sketchy report of seeing a bright light. And over the next TWO YEARS of coaching by "UFO" investigators--alerting Betty to her "missing time," first Barney undergoing analysis for anxiety and Betty's "saucer" nightmares, then telling friends and groups their strange story for attention, then both of them under the care of Benjamin Simon, continued the creation of their confabulatory flying-saucer narrative based almost entirely on "Invaders From Mars" with WC's Kabuki-mask "Eyes that Speak" thrown in by Barney at the last minute. Two years is a lot of practice.

    A complete and utter fairy tale. And not even a very original one. But it didn't have to be, it merely needed someone stupid and desperate for attention enough to present it as reality.

  4. Few people know of Betty Hill's OTHER Star Map.
    Researchers have found in her archive a brochure titled:

    "Map of the Extraterrestrial Movie Stars"

    The brochure,in part,reads...

    Welcome to Hollywood and thank you for choosing Extraterrestrial Movie Star Tours!.
    Our bus tour will take you to your favorite Hollywood alien film star's homes. Your tour guide will be the famous Klaatu. Feel free to ask him any questions.

    (Please note: DO NOT bring up the subject of Nuclear Disarmament with Klaatu. This may result in world wide power outages. Thank you.)

    Here are just few of the star's homes you will be seeing:

    This home is nicknamed the "ET Phone Home".
    Custom built in the Fifties, the previous owner was The Blob.

    Mr. Spock
    Live long and prosper, and that he did!
    Did you know Spock's swimming pool is shaped like a pointed ear?

    Ming the Merciless
    If your're lucky, you might see Mr. Merciless outside mowing his lawn!

    Nanu Nanu! See Mork's REAL home, not the fictional one in "Boulder Colorado"!

    May the force be with you, and what a force Yoda was!
    Known as a notorious Hollywood playboy, Yoda hosted some wild parties here in the '70s!

    For Self-Guided tours:
    Go east on Boulevard of Dreams.
    Turn left on Hallucination Avenue.
    Right on Outer Limits Street.
    You can't miss it.

  5. Real aliens capable of interstellar travel would probably have holographic or 3D images of some kind. And, yes, they would have use the "fixed" stars in the background as a reference. I think Betty and Barney were just dazed and confused. Hopefully, with the proliferation of PDA's, maybe the supposed "abductees" of the future will take pictures....

  6. You can have many takes on the Hills' experience (whatever else it was, it was certainly that). To answer a couple of points above: Betty at some point said that the map she saw when aboard the UFO was three-dimensional—thus putting 'anchor' stars etc in their proper place—and that this crucial "fact" had largely been overlooked. I have a memory that Betty told me this herself. What is not clear is when she *first* said it. It would be handy to have a timeline of what Betty said and when so that possible/probable backformations of her memorates could be mapped. This may not be such a backformation, but one would like to know.

    Nearer the point of Roberto's post—it would be nice, wouldn't it, to have that "statement that she now felt the correlation was unlikely"? (And good for her, for saying so, if so.) Does anyone know or can anyone find out when she issued this?

    All of which leaves by the wayside the simple truth that Betty drew her map as the result of hypnotic suggestion (not under hynosis) and that seeing such a map would fit, wouldn't it, the legend of alien abduction, even in the genesis of the legend. Walt Webb got it right first time when he suggested in his NICAP report that the Hills' account was an answer to the question "What if....?"

    What wasn't predictable, I suggest, was that "being abducted" would become so fashionable some quarter-centruy later.

    Peter B

    1. "You can have many takes on the Hills' experience (whatever else it was, it was certainly that)."

      Did the Hills have an extraordinary experience of any kind, or did a fantasy-prone couple simply confabulate a flying-saucer fairy tale over more than two years of repeated attention seeking and reward?

      People had been telling alien-encounter stories for over fifty years in 1961 and taking rides to Venus and Mars all during the 1950s. So how is Betty's utterly evidenceless and wholly inconsequential flying-saucer confabulation any different--and not merely one episode in a century of alien-encounter stories that treaded the usual aesthetic path from the naive to the bizarre?

  7. The map looks analogous to the invasion of Normandy map that was displayed at her place of work at the time.

    1. Very interesting suggestion. I was not able to find your earlier Blog posting to which you refer, the source of that map. How do we know that it hung in her place of employment at that time?

    2. Hi Robert,
      I somehow happened to come across this association awhile back and I did a google search a few days ago and found this blog. I'm not sure about the accuracy of whether this map was hanging at her workplace or not. Try:
      and search Betty Hill.

    3. Crockaduck, I believe this is the page you are looking for:

  8. Kathleen Marden has sent the following comment from Marjorie Fish's niece, who wrote the obituary quoted above. In the following comment Stanton Friedman (naturally) felt he had to chime in:

    " Regarding the obituary of Marjorie Eleanor Fish

    When I wrote Aunt Marj’s obituary, it was a short statement for the local community. The pastor who officiated at the funeral only met with us once and got some of the basic facts turned around, but since only the family attended and I thought he would no longer be involved, I did not correct him. Someone at the funeral home offered to send an announcement of Marjorie’s death to organizations he thought she had been involved in (from some of the various printouts we had shared from the internet). I have not inquired what was sent to whom. After being ignored by the public as a person for so many years, I did not think Marjorie’s short obituary would receive such interest or provoke a word-for-word examination.

    Marjorie’s work on Betty Hill’s map is still viable and worthy of consideration. To clarify what I was referring to, I remember Marj talking about a binary system that would not allow for the development of life – the source was not a newly issued star catalog. While working on the obituary for Marjorie, my father recalled that Marj wrote a letter/statement to the effect that new data indicated that a system could not support life so her matching of the Betty Hill map was incorrect. Perhaps she and/or the recipient(s) realized that the published interpretation of the data was in error – not Marjorie’s work. In any case, Marj did not tell my father who was not involved anyway. If one wishes more details, please see the attached notes from Stanton Friedman. Our current knowledge allows for planets and possible life where Marjorie had indicated.

    The larger point, that Marjorie was a true skeptic willing to let go of projects she was deeply involved in if the evidence was to the contrary, also remains. We will see how many people using my obituary for Marjorie to say her work is “debunked” will make corrections to their sites, etc.

    Of course, Marjorie built more than one three-dimensional representation of our stellar neighborhood. She started her quest with one, built another with more data, others as newer star catalogs became available, ones with selected data, and so forth. I built the first of the type using suspended beads (1968). I would like to make clear that Sol is in a lonely position between two clumps of like (type G – yellow) stars: our system is of interest.

    Marjorie suffered the worst end for a person of her intellect and her life-long cultivation of knowledge and artistic skills. Alzheimer’s disease stole more than a decade of her life, her memory, and her brilliant yet loving mind. Playing the piano was one of the abilities she retained the longest. Many of her former students (first and third grade) shared with us their memories of how she started each day playing patriotic songs (on her own tiny piano) for them to sing. Later she worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory where it was left to her to make sense of data from disparate sources and methods. Her only sibling, my mother, had slipped away from us earlier, also due to Alzheimer’s disease. The constant, continuing loss of a loved one’s essence is painful. The final end is more so, even the second time.

    ConiAnn (Lowien) Limpert
    Eldest niece of Marjorie Eleanor Fish

    1. I met Marjorie while she was working at Oak Ridge National Lab. She gave a guest talk at the local ORION chapter (Oak Ridge Isochronous Observation Network). She described the mathematics behind her work and I saw the actual model she made. Her data analysis skills were recognized by her employment in that capacity at ORNL. She was sincere.

  9. Statement by Stanton Friedman:

    "I think it might be useful if I chimed in on this discussion. My first contact with Marjorie was at the request of Coral Lorenzen, Director of the Aerial Phenomenon Research organization in the early 1970s. Marjorie was looking for a scientist who might be able to assist some in her search for truth about the Betty Hill Star Map. I had already met Betty and Barney and was intrigued. I was lecturing a lot and managed to visit her in Ohio, besides our letters. I also was present at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago when she made a presentation to Dr. J. Allan Hynek and Dr. David Saunders as well as at a MUFON Conference in Akron, Ohio. I was part of the team that interviewed her in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for my documentary "UFOs ARE Real" which also included an interview with Dr. Mitchell, Chairman of the Ohio State University Astronomy Department. Dr. Mitchel had helped her gain access to star catalog data and testified on camera to the accuracy of her work. With Bobby Ann Slate Gironda, I prepared and published the first article about her work which appeared in SAGA Magazine. I also instigated an investigation by Terence Dickinson then editor of ASTRONOMY Magazine whom I had previously met. His article The Zeta Reticuli Incident" in Astronomy had more response than anything else they had ever published.

    It came as quite a shock when Allan Hendry chief investigator for the Center for UFO Studies, claimed in a Fate Magazine article that recent scientific work had shown that Zeta 2 Reticuli was supposedly a double star as opposed to the single one Marjorie had thought it was along with the other pattern stars. Allan's comment was based on an unpublished footnote to a journal article. He hadn't contacted the authors. My associate Robert Collins did and was told "Our last observations by speckle Interferometry fail to confirm the close companion of zeta 2 Reticuli discovered in 1980. Furthermore a long and critical analysis of some strange results from autocorrelations of known single or binary stars gives us the conviction that the so called companion is spurious. It is due to an artifact in the diffraction pattern of the telescope... called "mickey's ears". (Daniel Bonneau , April 19th, 1988,Observatoire du Calern, France)

    I should add that I considered Marjorie one of the most objective investigators I have ever encountered, though I have worked with many hundreds of engineers and scientists in my years in industry. She focused on facts and data, basing her conclusions on them not on bias. I am certain she did not renounce her conclusions, but would have been ready to if the data warranted it

    Stanton T. Friedman, August 8, 2013"

  10. They are here from ancient times.It gave us a boost to the right path..they the cause of our evolution.The Government of the United States know that they cooperate with them. this is the beginning.President Kennedy wanted to tell the world about u.f.o.For this killing.There is a government within the government itself.President Carter had wanted to speak also about them.But he was afraid to end up being like what happened with Kennedy.This shows that the President has no right to speak..In the end
    History is nothing but a lie agreed

  11. When I read debunker explanations, I'm reminded of high school geometry. I once completed an assignment and turned it in. I got 19 of the 20 answers correct, but I was given a D.

    When I questioned the teacher, he informed me that I may have gotten the answers right, but I hadn't followed all the necessary steps.

    The right answer or the truth is only ancillary to how you get there in the mind of a debunker.

    Not credentialed? Then you're not really entitled to an opinion no matter how much research you've done.

    Credentialed and reach the wrong conclusions like Stan Friedman? Your data must be wrong even though, as Friedman points out, I haven't checked it.

    Dead UFO witnesses and researchers are the best. Now, I'm free to modify their words and claim deathbed retractions and who can argue?

    As Friedman has said many times over the years, it's a case of "Don't bother me with the facts, I've already made up my mind."

    Betty Hill? Here's a woman with no background in astronomy and yet she drew a map from memory (I know she really didn't) that many scientists and a lot of research does show correlates with known stars in our vicinity. That's pretty amazing. She's not debunked because different scientists come up with different maps.

    Of course, if you believe FTL is an absolute myth and so her experience never happened, you're only going to look for steps missed in the proof, even if someone gets a right answer...that the Hills had an amazing experience and walked away with a tantalizing map that gets the "wrong" answer.

  12. @The Affirmation Spot

    I have no idea what you are talking about. Anything specific a so-called debunker got wrong? I would be interested to know.

  13. Like all debunkers, you offer no facts, just hearsay claims of dissenting opinion. That's quite a debunking (not!). I'm not saying the Hills or Fish were telling the truth - only they know; but the science I've seen provides for the possibility they were telling the truth MORE than it does that they were lying. And typical of debunkers, you never have a logical, data-based leg to stand on. If you want to truly debunk something, the burden of proof is on you - anything else is purely conjecture.


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