Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Skeptical Look at the 2017 UFO Congress - Part 4

Ben Hansen: The former host of Fact or Faked presented an "Analysis of Recent Presidential UFO Comments." He mostly dealt with the body language of presidents and presidential candidates on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, when asked about the government and UFOs. 70% of communication, he said, is non-verbal. Drawing upon his background in law enforcement, and using techniques that investigators typically use in crime investigations, Hansen analyzed body language and gestures to try to divine what the subjects really are thinking.

The big guy, Ben Hansen, with yours truly (2016 UFO Congress).
Hansen found that former president Clinton displayed "significant apprehension" when Kimmel asked him about aliens, although the cause of that apprehension is, he emphasized, unknown. When President Obama was asked a similar question by Kimmel, he displayed extremely rapid breathing, about four times the normal resting rate. Obama said "I can't reveal anything," which is "no actual denial" of aliens, according to Hansen. When Kimmel asked Hillary Clinton about aliens, she said that she wants to look into that question again, implying that the question has significance and has not be properly answered. Hansen noted that Hillary's choice of John Posesta, a well-known UFO believer, as her campaign manager was a risky move for Hillary, as it could open her up to potential embarrassment over his UFO pronouncements.

Hansen reached no firm conclusions, but this exercise was a lot of fun.

Richard Dolan spoke on Media Bias in UFO Coverage. "The mainstream media is not your friend," he said. The mainstream media literally "makes us sick." While we can probably all agree that media bias is something very real, each medium to its own bias, I wouldn't go as far as that.
Richard Dolan

Dolan reviewed some examples of media coverage of flying saucers in the 1940s and 50s, illustrating what he called "the ridicule factor." He told how the National Enquirer began serious coverage of UFO incidents in the 1970s. The paper's owner, Generoso Pope, had worked  in Psi Ops, or psychological warfare, with the CIA in the 1950s.

The New York Times, he said, publishes CIA and Air Force "disinformation." But, according to Dolan, the mainstream media is influenced by more than just the CIA. "Control is international." (By whom? The Illuminati?)

Somebody was displaying outdoors supposed '5,000 year old artifacts' allegedly found in graves in Mexico. I'm quite sure they are of much more recent vintage than that, especially given the alien motifs.

Col. Charles Halt
Col. Charles Halt (ret.) spoke on "Bentwaters Revisited". He repeated his usual claims, some of which we saw in the panel the previous day. He claims that he saw three triangular nocturnal light UFOs from the Air Traffic Control tower. He said the object they saw was red, and the Orford Ness lighthouse does not shine red light onto land. (This is in reference to the hypothesis that what they saw at one particular time in the forest was, in fact, the rotating beam of the distant lighthouse. For a full explanation of this, see Ian Ridpath's Rendlesham pages.) Halt made certain that we knew that airman Larry Warren is lying in his rival version of Rendlesham UFO events, repeating this a number of times.

Dr. Erling Strand is the director of Project Hessdalen in Norway, where people reportedly see all manner of strange light phenomena, especially at night. ("dalen" is pronounced like "dalek", so it's like Hess-dalek).  Many of these lights appear to hug the mountain ridge-line, or the horizon, suggesting they could be phenomena of meteorological optics, mirages and such. Others are the usual wiggly-camera blurfos, and some frankly suggest that some of the local folks are doing their best to give the sky watchers something to look at.
Dr. Erling Strand

Strand founded Project Hessdalen in 1983 to study the phenomenon, and they have been at it ever since. I thought to myself, they have been studying this thing diligently for thirty-four years, and haven't gotten to the bottom of it yet? They are studying the alleged phenomenon with cameras, diffraction gratings, and other equipment, measuring, and recording the objects. About the only thing they didn't seem to be doing was using telescopes or binoculars to get a better look at them. Now they have a "science camp" at Hessdalen each summer, as students (and others) gather to see and phototograph the lights.
The most famous of the Hessdalen photos, caused by a moving, wiggly camera? French investigator Dominique Caudron suggests that "this pseudo trajectory is only a shake effect, which reaches nearly 10 °"

Later I spoke with Dr. Strand, asking him if the Hessdalen Project has any telescopes, or binoculars. Yes, we have them, he replied, but we don't use them much. It's too hard to keep the objects in view when they keep moving. (Not so hard if you use binoculars, though.) I reminded him that he had shown us a photo of an 'anomalous' object (looking to me like a mirage image of a very distant mountain peak) that was visible for four hours. To me it is inconceivable that a supposedly anomalous object could just hover in plain view for hours at a time, and no "researcher" puts a telescope on it. Other objects reportedly remained still, or moved slowly, for many minutes. Dr. Strand was not interested in discussing the matter further. I was left with the suspicion that Strand and his crew do not want this "mystery" to be explained, for then the excitement would be over.

James Fox
James Fox spoke on "the Phoenix Lights After 20 years." Much of what Fox said in his talk was a repeat of what he had said in the earlier Phoenix Lights panel, especially concerning Governor Symington, so I won't repeat it here. Joining him were two women who had witnesed the 'flying triangle,' and they spoke at length on their recollections of it, and their reactions to it. 

Fox said he was told, by somebody who presumably was in a position to know, that "We went to Defcon 3" that night. In other words, that the Phoenix Lights UFOs triggered U.S. air defenses to a war-ready state, which is quite absurd. There would have been enormous consequences following such a development, instead of the several-month "yawn" until UFO enthusiasts could build up sufficient interest in this incident to get the media reporting it. Fox noted that this incident was the same night that President Clinton seriously injured his knee while visiting golfer Greg Norman in Florida.  He speculated that perhaps, because of the alleged Defcon emergency, the Secret Service was in such a hurry to rush the president off to a safe place that he was injured in the process?

Fox and others kept mentioning queries about the incident made to Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, which denied having any planes in the air at the time. They were telling the truth. All of the planes involved in the Phoenmix Lights incidents, the triangle and the flare drop, were Air National Guard planes from Operation Snowbird, flying out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. The Air Force and the Air National Guard have completely different command structures, and neither knows much about what the other is doing.



  1. There are those logic problems in puzzle books where so-and-so tells the truth some of the time, someone else always lies, someone else is always truthful and so on.

    Rendlesham is getting a bit like this. So I now put this whole incident as a kind of 'logic problem'. Can anyone solve it?

    1. Indeed, cda, Rendlesham has grown and been twisted by some to keep it in the arena of notable ufological events.
      In this way it reminds me of 'The Westall '66 UFO' which has been covered thoroughly by the 'Skeptoid' site, who looked at the case mostly from the original reports published at the time, then advises us to keep our heads together as we try to assess the grander, later claims.
      The best summary of the Rendlesham scenario I have read was given by Peter Brookesmith.

      Stay rational brother, all the best,

  2. Hilarious. Dolan, who was a "star" in Hanger one and part of the Roswell slides debacle, is trying to tell us it is a conspiracy that the UFO subject is ridiculed by the media! Sometimes people are blind to the obvious.

  3. "Fox said he was told, by somebody who presumably was in a position to know, that "We went to Defcon 3" that night."

    So much for fourth or fifth levels of anecdotal hearsay. Being familiar with DEFCON levels, I can say that during my time with SAC, 1981-1989, we were at a "higher" DEFCON level on a day to day basis. During my time with Systems Command, 1989-1993, it was the same. But with the subsequent dismantling of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact the DEFCON level shifted back to a normal DEFCON 5 level which made world-wide news. Our nuclear ICBMs were for all purposes shifted off of active alert status. This also made world wide news.

    Given the time period of of the Phoenix sightings we would have been in DEFCON 5. To move straight into DEFCON 3 would have been internationally palpable. You could not have "hidden" such a jump in levels with the necessary corresponding DOD actions/responses.

    So, an interesting anecdote, but a BS one to boot...

  4. > "the ridicule factor"

    It seems UFO proponents are unfamiliar with Socrates, who effectively used ridicule in his examination of knowledge claims, long before we had a scientific method.

    What UFO buffs seem not to accept is that ridicule can be earned.

  5. > '5,000 year old artifacts' allegedly found in graves in Mexico

    Robbed from graves, perhaps?

    1. Some of those 5,000 year old alien artifacts look amazingly like contemporary marijuana pipes! Perhaps the stoners have adapted ancient alien technology???

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. [reposted after confusing typo corrected]

    > About the only thing they didn't seem to be doing was using telescopes

    Or moving themselves closer to the apparent source of the lights.

    Robert, did Strand ever discuss trying this, or do they always set up far away -- and stay away?

    This has been my pet peeve with people taking pictures or videos of UFOs. A few years ago a fellow posted to YouTube a very short, grainy video of what he claimed were two UFOs landing two fields away. I asked if he walked across the fields with his camera to make the greatest discovery of all time. He said no, he had been too busy!

    1. In most cases I don't think it would be easy to move closer to the lights. They are mostly seen along distant ridges, or down in the valley.

      However, I would say this: anyone who claims to be investigating 'anomalous lights,' and who does not have a pair of decent astronomical binoculars wrapped around his or her neck (and whose first act when a light is seen is to get it in the binoculars), is playing a game, not doing serious research.

  8. > In most cases I don't think it would be easy to move closer to the lights

    That's only true if the light is actually Venus or a star. If these lights appear in a regular spot, and are a reasonable drive/helicopter ride away, investigators can arrange this.

    Failure to do so greatly weakens the investigation. (Falsifiability, and all that.)

  9. Regarding Hessdalen, there is a parallel with the oddly behaving lights, some seen allegedly close-at-hand with humanoid occupants aboard (!), seen over a mission in Papua in the summer of 1959. At one point a large stationary UFO was seen in more or less the same position for several hours on 3 consecutive nights. On one occasion the priest in charge (Rev William Gill) went indoors to have dinner with the big UFO hovering outside a few hundred feet above him!

    No cameras or binoculars were available. A few hundred feet, or maybe 30 million miles. Take your pick.

  10. Indeed ,cda. Let us remember that the 'rev' is a Reverend and that devout religious belief creates magical experience and a feeling of 'knowing' with serious misinterpretation at its core, as strong if not stronger than any other involving strange reactions to intense situations.
    It's not that I think that explanations of reported events are necessarily doomed by the magical, divine, beliefs of the claimant, but still, it can be taken into account by those seeing if they can reach a rational and natural explanation.
    Like all good skeptics, if natural explanations are not making the grade, we are the first to admit so.
    Therefore, serious believers can stop hyper-ventilating for a moment and allow us to rationally assess our own research.


  11. Re Hessdalen: years ago I read that Strand and his team were investigating all sorts of sophisticated-sounding and highly improbable explanations for the lights – see the Wikipedia entry for some examples. It sounded scientific but I suspected it wasn't. One obvious possibility was not mentioned: mirages. I emailed to ask if they had considered these. Never got a reply. As Wikipedia notes, some sightings have been positively identified as misperceptions of astronomical bodies, aircraft, car headlights, and mirages, but you wouldn't know this from listening to Strand.


  12. They are using still cameras,video cameras,radar,lasers, diffraction gratings etc measuring, and recording the things in the air.
    And have been doing so, for quite a few years.
    They have not found the cause of the lights..but keep on seeking it.
    Thats how science works.
    Many of the lights seen are above the ridge line.

    “..They are studying the alleged phenomenon…”

    If something can be recorded using an “instrument” as well as be witnessed by multiple observers, all at the same time, then it “exists”.
    Thats a way we judge what we call reality.
    To argue otherwise, might attract some form of psychiatric label.

    “…Not so hard if you use binoculars, though….”

    see under Date: 11.08.2000 Time: 00:30 AM Place: Hessdalen south

    “…wiggly-camera blurfos…”

    If they are dealing with an exotic form of atmospheric plasma like phenomena, what else would you expect ?

    “…some frankly suggest that some of the local folks are doing their best to give the sky watchers something to look at.…”

    And the un-named “some” have evidence that the local folks have access to high tech equipment, to make the light phenomena, appear..even above the ridge lines..?
    No need to be feign a philosophical attitude about being “suspicious”of scientists, with instrumentation, when they cannot explain something.
    Thats how science can and should work.
    What would you suggest other than scientists with instrumentation..?
    I really like web site and articles on this field..
    Thanks for your time..


Keep your comments relevant, and keep them civil! That means no personal attacks will be allowed, by anyone, on anyone. Commenters are welcome to disagree with me, or with other comments, but state your arguments using logic, and with a civil tone. Comments in violation of these rules will be deleted, and offenders banned.

Comments should be in English, although quotes from foreign-language sources are fine as long as they're relevant, and you explain them. Anonymous postings are not permitted. If you don't want to use your real name, then make up a name for yourself, and use it consistently.