Tuesday, May 26, 2020

More History of 'Pentagon Woo' from Annie Jacobsen - Part 2

Continuing the Discussion of Annie Jacobsen's 2017 book Phenomena
Continued from Part 1

  • "The potential of prophecy as a military intelligence tool was also being investigated by the Defense Intelligence Agency under the Sun Streak banner," Project P (p. 336)! It was "a utility assessment initiated to determine a remote viewer's ability to function effectively in a purely predictive mode."
  • Another innovative project undertaken by Sun Streak was "Written Remote Viewing" (WRV, p. 340). Some remote viewers objected that this amounted to "channeling," which of course it did. But I don't see how you can maintain that spoken descriptions constitute valid "Remote Viewing," while written descriptions are bogus and mystical.
  • Project "Sun Streak" was later changed to "Star Gate," which would "identify people with 'talent'... The concept of Extraordinary Human Functioning developed by Albert Stubblebine and John Alexander in the early 1980s would be reintroduced" (p. 362).
  •  "In 2014, the Office of Naval Research embarked on a four-year, $3.85 million research program to explore the phenomenon it calls premonition and intuition, or 'Spidey sense,' for sailors and Marines... The Pentagon's focus is to maximize the power of the sixth sense for operational use" (p. 380). This description was published in 2017; did this program attain its goals by 2018? Was it extended, and still ongoing?
    A scene from the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats (to test using  'psychic powers' to harm enemy soldiers). This actually was done. Jacobsen mentions this only in an endnote, calling the book "satirical" (it was indeed funny, but also factual). She notes that the book and the movie "enhanced negative perception of remote viewing" ("deservedly," I would add).

  • "Starting in 2011, as part of a research program called Power Dreaming, soldiers plagued by PTSD-related nightmares have used biofeedback techniques similar to those studied by Colonel John Alexander in the Intelligence and Security Command's Beyond Excellence program, under Geneeral Stubblebine" (p. 382)
  • "The Pentagon currently [2017] supports more than fifty qigong-based programs for soldiers and veterans, the majority of whom suffer from PTSD" (p. 383). "Qigong" is based on "chi," an ancient Chinese belief in mystical energies that has no basis in science. I would think that soldiers and veterans deserve treatments based on solid medical science, not ancient quackery.
  • "Since 1985, Hal Puthoff has been chief scientist at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin, in Texas... The Institute's Research arm, Earth Tech International, manages thirty-two subcontracts, mostly military and intelligence related" (p. 388). One of the researchers at Earth Tech is astrophysicist Dr. Eric Davis, who formerly worked for Bigelow's NIDS, and stayed at the Skinwalker Ranch trying to study its supposed paranormal phenomena. Davis told reporter George Knapp that one time a poltergeist followed him home from Skinwalker Ranch! (I hate it when that happens.) Davis also also the author of five of the 38 papers on Weird Science paid for by AAWSAP, on subjects like "wormholes" and "anti-gravity."
  • "Sources at the Defense Intelligence Agency confirmed to me that Earth Tech International has for years maintained a Defense Department contract to investigate what are known as 'excess energy' claims" (p. 389). "Excess energy" is a euphemism for "energy from nothing," or "a perpetual motion machine." Puthoff says that the Defense Department comes to them to "disprove" extraordinary excess energy claims. "So far we have disproven all of them." I'm glad to hear that, but I don't see why the Defense Department needs to spend taxpayer money refuting such claims. But in any case, Puthoff is a big proponent of "zero-point energy," or 'free energy' from the vacuum of space. "To harness zero-point energy could, Puthoff posits, lead to a general theory about ESP and PK phenomena" (p. 390). Fortunately, Jacobsen also took the trouble to consult physicist and CSI fellow Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss, a well-known skeptic. Kraus told her (correctly, in my view) that "Zero-point energy is the lowest [energy] point in the universe. If you could extract energy out of it, there would have to be a lower point. There isn't a lower step on the staircase."  
  • The supposed "Atacama humanoid," which was identified by Dr. Nolan.
  • "Dr. Green teamed up with Nolan lab at Stanford University, run by Gary Nolan, one of the world's leading research scientists specializing in genetics, immunology, and bioinformatics" (p. 398). Gary Nolan was a member of To The Stars Academy's Advisory Board when it was founded in 2017. However, Dr. Nolan resigned in October of 2018, citing "conflicts" with his other work agreements. However, he added that he still is "fully supportive" of TTSA and its goals. Nolan also was responsible for the genetic analysis of the so-called Atacama humanoid, which was being promoted by Steven Greer as a likely ET. Nolan reported that, alas, this specimen, while deformed, was nonetheless a female human fetus
Jacobsen trveled to Detroit to do an in-depth interview of Dr. Kit Green. Much of this interview has been excerpted on her Blog by by Pauline Wilson. Those who are concerned about possible 'unauthorized secret medical experiments' at the Skinwalker Ranch need to read this interview. Green tells us exactly what he is studying:
Using the technology available to him. Green orders brain scans, specialized blood, DNA and endocrine test and compiles the results. At present he has more than one hundred active patients. His original hypothesis was that a majority of his patients had "been exposed to technology from black programs," he says, that is, advanced state-of-the-art, high-energy technologies developed in Special Access Programs. "Nonlethal weapons programs. Holograms. Cloaking devices. Drones. Twenty five percent of my patients die within five to seven years of my diagnosis, and I have no idea of how any programs I knew about years ago can do these things," Green says....In effect, Kit Green and Gary Nolan are searching for a gene for paranormality. Or, as Green prefers to say, "The genomics of supernormality" (p. 400).
"Supernormality," as in Uri Geller or Ingo Swann - what combination of genes supposedly convey psychic super powers?.

Clearly, Annie Jacobsen is a "believer" that there was value in the government investigations of PSI functions. She hints that a better-managed program might turn up something of real value. She mentions a few skeptics, always in an unfavorable light, especially James Randi and Martin Gardner. She depicts Randi as a rather closed-minded, spiteful person who has an obsession with Geller. I have known Randi for over forty years, and I can assure you that this is not true. Like many magicians, Randi was appalled to see the media attention - and even credulous scientific attention - given to Geller, who was obviously performing the same spoon-bending and other tricks that are the magician's staple. Jacobsen tells how she visited Geller in Israel, where he is  a big celebrity recognized everywhere, and asked to bend a spoon, which he usually does. She shows no skepticism about Geller's magic powers.

At the CSICOP Conference in Buffalo, NY, 1983: Standing, Philip J. Klass. Seated: Pip Smith and Dick Smith
of Australia; the author; John Merrell; Randi. Note that Randi's fork has mysteriously bent!

Here we see the big problem with the book - Jacobsen falls for Geller's spoon-bending tricks, and thus considers Puthoff, Green, etc. to be scientists on the verge of making great discoveries. Sorry, but I have seen too much of the 'other side' to find that convincing. I used to hang out a lot with the late Bob Steiner, magician and CSICOP Fellow. Steiner used to love to do impromptu magic tricks practically everywhere he went, and the old spoon-bending trick was one of his favorites (as it was with Randi, also a close friend of Steiner). I should perhaps note that time spent with Randi and Steiner was pretty much nonstop jokes and fun. Truly fine times!

Uri Geller did a show in San Francisco in 1984. The Bay Area Skeptics went out in force to observe, and take notes. We clearly saw him cheating. I have just now placed BAS' full analysis of Geller's performance on-line.
Steiner always used to say that there were plenty of ways to bend spoons, so he was reluctant to show people any one method. They might say, "But Geller didn't do it that way, so his powers must be real!" Nope.

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Not-So-Brief History of Pentagon Woo, With a Familiar Cast of Characters

Nearly all of the discussion about UFOology these past two and a half years has centered around Tom DeLonge and his "To The Stars Academy" (TTSA), The Pentagon's supposed UFO program AAWSAP/AATIP, with the supposedly "haunted" Skinwalker Ranch a distant second, but gaining fast. I have just finished reading Phenomena, a book about government funding of ESP, Remote Viewing, Psychokinesis, and other such miracles by Annie Jacobsen that was published in March 2017, just months before TTSA burst on the scene. And I found the book surprising for two reasons:
(Little, Brown & Company, 2017)

First, I knew that the Pentagon had funded research into ESP and Remote Viewing, but I had no idea that it was so vast in scope, and so long in duration. "For seven decades, the CIA and the Department of Defense have been actively conducting research on anomalous mental phenomena" (p. 377).

Second, we find many of the same people involved in Pentagon woo (a term used by skeptics to designate far-out woo-woo stuff - "woo" is a noun, "woo woo" is an adjective) that we now find prominently figuring in TTSA and Skinwalker Ranch. The same cast of characters, in a different comedy.

I realize that Annie Jacobsen has some credibility problems that continue to  pursue her. The "explanation" she published for the supposed Roswell UFO Crash - that it was a disinformation project involving Stalin and the evil Dr. Mengele - is simply Cukoo for Cocoa Puffs. And in 2004 she created quite a scare by claiming that a group of Syrian musicians on a cross-country flight were actually terrorists making a dry run at assembling a bomb on-board. The men were investigated by the FBI upon landing, and it was confirmed that they were in fact booked to perform as backup musicians for singer Nour Mehana at the Sycuan Casino Resort near San Diego two days after arriving in Los Angeles. "The passenger, later identified as Annie Jacobsen, was in danger of panicking other passengers and creating a larger problem on the plane, according to a source close to the secretive federal protective service."

However, Phenomena appears to be solidly sourced, most of it based on interviews with the persons directly involved, or on government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. Those pursuing FOIA documents in UFOlogy might want to carefully check out what she has obtained; useful tidbits of information are bound to be found in them. I did spot a few things that look like mistakes in the book, but they are minor ones (like calling Harry Blackstone Sr. "Henry Blackmore, Jr." (p. 93.) Page numbers refer to the Bay Back paperback edition of the book. (Emphasis has been added to a few statements).

Here are some of the interesting things Ms. Jacobsen tells us:
  • The celebrated Dr. J. B. Rhine of Duke University (1895-1980), well-known as a pioneer of the study of parapsychology, "was working on numerous classified ESP research programs with the Deaprtment of Defense... Declassified documents reveal that in 1952 the Army initiated a secret program with Rhine's Duke University Parapsychology Laboratory involving ESP and animals. Army commanders wondered, "Could dogs locate land mines buried underwater, under conditions that gave no normal sensory clues?" " After some initial reported success, apparently they could not. (p. 42-43).
  • Dr. Andrija Puharich (1918-1995) is best known as the man who "discovered" Uri Geller and brought him to the US for study. "Classified documents indicate that [Puharich] worked on a  research program described as an effort "to locate a drug that might enhance ESP" " (p. 44-45). Puharich apparently is credited with being the first to actually identify the hallucinogenic "sacred mushroom" used by certain sects in Mexico, having made several field trips to investigate, some with the "psychic" Peter Hurkos (p. 48-49).He was described as "The once-brilliant medical doctor and research pioneer whose Puharich Theory had set the CIA and the Defense Department's psychic research programs in motion in the early 1950s." Puharich's Theory was that "extraterrestrials were trying to send messages to humans through psychic people, and that extremely low frequency, or ELF, waves were responsible for the sicknesses of the age" (p. 372).
  • The CIA was very interested in the alleged super-powers of "psychic" Uri Geller. However, for various reasons the CIA didn't trust Puharich enough, and so "[Dr. Kit] Green would soon become Uri Geller's handler" (p. 99). Kit Green has played a major role in matters concerning AAWSAP, Robert Bigelow's NIDS, Skinwalker Ranch, as well as the SERPO Hoax. "The decision to test Geller was a decision made by CIA director Richard Helms," said Green (p. 99). In 1975 when Geller was tested at the Lawrence Livermore Labs in California, "Kit Green served as the contract monitor for the CIA" (P. 178).
  • The well-known tests of Uri Geller's supposed powers by Dr. Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ at SRI in the 1970s were, in fact, paid for by the CIA. Puthoff is, of course, now a major player in TTSA and AAWSAP, as well as also being involved in the SERPO hoax. "Green supported Puthoff and Targ in their conclusion as physicists, in what the CIA called in memos the Swann-Geller effect" (referring to Ingo Swann, another alleged psychic and Remote Viewer, p. 148).
  • Because the CIA considered Puharich to be "unsavory,"  a "shell entity needed to be created through which Geller-related funds could flow and Puharich could be paid - ideally an organizarion or a person of solid repute. Puharich knew exactly the right person. His name was Edgar Mitchell, the astronaut and Apollo 14 crew member," the sixth person to walk on the moon (p. 99). Mitchell (1930-2016) famously attempted an ESP test from space, scoring at chance level (p. 116).
Ray Hyman does a card trick for
CSICOP, 1983.
  • "An ARPA [Advanced Research Projects Agency] project manager named George Lawrence, accompanied by two civilian psychologists, Robert Van Castle and Ray Hyman, traveled to SRI to test Geller on their own. Their conclusion, later reported in Time magazine [March 12, 1973], was that anyone who believed Geller's powers was falling for the "ridiculous." " (p. 145). Ray Hyman is a founding member of CSICOP (now CSI), a psychologist, magician, and a longtime critic of parapsychology. 
  • "One day in late April 1973, [Ingo] Swann was eating lunch in the SRI cafeteria with a colleague of Puthoff's, a computer scientist and astronomer named Jacques Vallee" (p. 152). Of course, Vallee is and has been one of the best-known names in all UFOology, for more than fifty years. Vallee suggested to Swann that remote viewers needed "an addressing scheme," similar to network addresses. Thus the idea of coordinate-based remote viewing began. Jacobsen wrongly states that Vallee worked with Dr. J. Allen Hynek on the Air Force's Project Blue Book. While Vallee and Hynek were close friends and colleagues, Vallee was not involved with Blue Book. 
  • Ms. Jacobsen notes that in 1973, Geller had "recently been unable to demonstrate psychokinesis on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show" (p. 174). But she does not inform us why that happened. It was because Carson, himself a onetime magician, enlisted his friend James "The Amazing" Randi, to supervise controls in the studio, to prevent Geller from cheating. As described in this account of "10 Epic Magic Trick Failures, "when Geller was due to perform on the Tonight Show in 1973, Johnny Carson asked Randi to help make sure that Geller couldn't use misdirection in his act. Randi kept all of Geller's people away from the set before the performance, and without their help, Geller's act was a flop. During his segment, you can see Geller hedging as his tricks go awry on live television. He left humiliated."
  • Joe McMoneagle worked with Puthoff and Targ on Remote Viewing. He was sent to SRI for training, then he was sent to Ft. Meade, Maryland to do experiments for Army Intelligence. He was reportedly successful, and he was designated "Remote Viewer 001" (p. 232). Nowadays, McMoneagle is mixed up in a lot of far-out stuff, as described in the book "Remote Viewing UFOs." It tells "Joe McMoneagle and Ingo Swann’s views on Remote Viewing Extraterrestrials." There is also a chapter on "The Carlos Diaz Photos." I know who Carlos Diaz is. He is one of the biggest phonies I have ever met, and to call him the "George Adamski of Mexico" would be pretty accurate. The ETs are his friends.
    John B. Alexander (left), with UFOlogist Lee
    Speigel at the 2014 National UFO Congress.

  • Major Ed Dames was also a Remote Viewer for Army Intelligence. Dames loved to talk about "space aliens and UFOs," according to one of his Army colleagues (p. 301). "Dames began sending viewers to what would become known as anomaly or chimera targets... places like 'alien bases' beneath the desert in Phoenix or on Mars" (p. 328). Dames also asked his remote viewers to search for Atlantis, and the Ark of the Covenant (p. 338), and he believed that "a group of extraterrestrials called the Supreme Galactic Council of Aliens was working to control Earth." In recent years Dames has appeared on late night Coast to Coast radio, offering training seminars for remote viewing, and warning about a solar "Killshot" that would "end life as we know it on earth in the near future." But if you learn remote viewing, somehow you can avoid the disaster.
Here is an email ad I received in 2013 from Ed Dames, warning about a solar "Killshot" threatening earth.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

New: Panel Discussion/Debate - Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Sheaffer, and Ivan Stang (1991).

I have recently posted to YouTube a panel discussion/debate I did with the late Robert Anton Wilson, well-known science fiction author and longtime gadfly to the skeptics; and Ivan Stang, founder of the satiric religion, the Church of the Subgenius, whose deity Bob promises to give you "slack." (Wilson was fondly known as "Pope Bob" in that Church.)  This panel took place at Phenomicon, Atlanta, Georgia, in November, 1991. 

Stang, Wilson, Sheaffer

Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007) was the author of many popular books, including The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Schr├Âdinger's Cat Trilogy, and Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati. He also wrote plays: Wilhelm Reich in Hell (Wilson believed Reich to be a victim of Inquisitorial zeal by the Establishment), and his plays Cosmic Trigger and Illuminatus were adapted from his books. Wilson served as an associate editor of Playboy Magazine from 1965 to 1971, where he edited the Playboy Forum letters section. He was friends with Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Alan Watts, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.

While Wilson often wrote about conspiracies and conspiracy theories, he was not exactly a believer in them. He used them as examples of different ways of thinking, different "reality tunnels," and he obviously appreciated them for their humorous angles. But neither was he a complete disbeliever in such conspiracies, either. He claimed to be a "skeptic," but for him this meant being as skeptical of science as of pseudoscience. A believer in many far-out things, he wrote a book proclaiming the skeptics' group CSICOP to be a "New Inquisition" (which I reviewed in the Skeptical Inquirer, Fall 1989). He referred to skepticism as "Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science."  Wilson's hatred of James "The Amazing" Randi ran deep and profound, even though I'm pretty sure they never met.

I had been pretty much the only skeptic to engage Wilson and his rather absurd criticisms, which were nonetheless widely read and cited by his supporters. My review of Wilson's attack on CSICOP, The New Inquisition, will provide some background on our disputes. Wilson proclaims himself to be a "guerrila ontologist," and on the panel we discuss what that means, and whether or not that makes him a "terrorist"? ­čśĆ  From my review:
Should you catch Wilson in an embarrassing howler, he just laughs at you, hinting that the part you object to was not supposed to be taken seriously. Apparently Wilson operates on the principle that all claims should be treated as equals, whether prosaic or bizarre, and that only the dogmatic discriminate against something merely because it makes no sense. If you doubt literal rains of frogs, or sightings of a centaur, it is only because you are blinded by the conventions of your "reality tunnel." Tune in, turn on, and believe all manner of things; you might even see a "man with warty green skin and pointy ears, dancing," as Wilson did on the day following one of his "trips" on peyote.

Wilson had something of a rockstar quality to his followers. Stang has posted a related video of Wilson preaching about "Bob" at this same conference, which shows the atmosphere, and the adulation Willson inspired in certain cirtcles. Search YouTube, and you will find a great deal of Robert Anton Wilson there.

Since none of the other skeptics bothered to engage Wilson or his criticisms, I naturally became the target of his accusations of closed-mindedness. In Cosmic Trigger II (1991), Wilson wrote,
A man from the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal [meaning me] recently complained that when he tells people some things in my book are batshit crazy, they tell him he lacks a sense of humor. I fear somebody in the CIA is also going to have that problem, because the CIA reality-tunnel is as rigid and paranoid as that of CSICOP (p. 234).
Wilson often used the example of the CIA as the pinnacle of establishment closed-mindedness. But the irony here is, we now know that the CIA, and other Defense Department agencies, secretly experimented with ESP and Remote Viewing in a big way. The CIA funded the testing of Uri Geller at SRI, with Kit Green, now prominent in UFOlogy because of his involvement with Bigelow, AATIP, and the Skinwalker Ranch, as the CIA's "handler" for the Geller contract (see Phenomena by Annie Jacobsen for an in-depth account from now-declassified documents of how the Pentagon and the CIA and the NSA dived into such woo).

And this one, too. I think he wanted me
to denounce it!

Wilson sent me his latest book, in 1990.

Remember this nonsense? Ivan Stang invented it.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Microwaves, Dead Cows and Light Pillars - "The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch."

So, the "History" Channel has now allowed free streaming of the first episode of "The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch," in which the new owner of the Ranch, Brandon Fugal, participates to sing the wonders of the  property he has purchased, the Skinwalker Ranch (tm). The show jumps right into presenting its evidence, starting off with a dead cow. The participants were warned not to touch it "until we see if it's radioactive or not."

One theory set forth to explain the supposed "phenomenon" is that the Ranch (and indeed, all of the state of Utah) was downwind from the atomic testing near Las Vegas in the 1950s, and so supposedly there is lots of radioactivity remaining in the landscape. (Except that there obviously isn't, or else the whole state would need to be evacuated.)

Another theory set forth is that because the Ute tribe supposedly used to hold Navajos as slaves, the Navajos cursed the Utes, and loosed Skinwalkers and other shape-shifting supernatural beings upon them. But this does not appear to be historically correct. According to one tribal history, the Utes "Stole women and children from Paiutes and Goshutes and sold them to the Spanish and Mexicans for slaves."
Mr. Fugal thinks that his "light pillar" is something paranormal. In fact, it's a
well-known meteorological phenomenon.
In the above screen shot from the program, we obviously see a photo of a Light Pillar, a well-known if uncommon phenomenon in meteorological optics. It's clear that not only does Fugal know nothing about such optical phenomena, but (like his counterparts in TTSA) he failed to consult anyone who does. This does not inspire confidence in the quality of his "experts," or his "investigations."

Speaking of Fugal's "experts," the one receiving top billing is Travis Taylor, PhD, billed as a "physicist" and "Astrophysicist." However, as Jason Colavito has noted,
We cut back to May 2019 to introduce our investigators, starting with Travis Taylor, who identifies himself as a scientist with decades of scientific and engineering experience. The show omits the fact that he is also a talking head from Ancient Aliens who has spouted inane drivel about aliens’ secret lunar colonies and other nonsense, or that is a former Curse of Oak Island guest looney who imagined the island to be a representation of the constellation Taurus. 
An ad for Ancient Aliens shown during the Skinwalker show. Astrophysicist Travis Taylor
also appears as an "expert" on this show.
Like good little Ghost Hunters,  Taylor and the others use electronic devices to look for spooky stuff. Using a Trifield EMF meter, he not only detects strong microwave energy, but proclaims it to be at "dangerous levels."

Perhaps the most surprising development was Fugal's directive to his staff, "No digging!" He said, "Once we commence digging, it opens up a whole Pandora's Box." Apparently, digging "triggers the phenomenon," and probably releases demons or something from the Underworld. (New people arriving on the ranch also seems to trigger the phenomenon, we are told.) After digging a hole, ranch supervisor Tom Winterton reportedly suffered a strange, unexplained "goose egg" swelling on his head that required hospitalization, although no medical records were released to substantiate this claim. If someone is going to claim medical effects resulting from a 'paranormal' cause (Cash-Landrum, anybody?), it's just hearsay until the full medical records are released. 

More mysterious stuff is promised in subsequent episodes. My first impression after seeing this show is that Fugal is setting up an organization that is in many ways similar to Tom DeLonge's "To The Stars Academy": He gathers a team of supposed "experts" (who seem surprisingly unprepared to carry out serious investigations) to eagerly charge off and investigate supposed "mysteries." But nothing is ever really resolved. Fugal and DeLonge now have dueling "mystery" series on the "History" Channel. May the best man win.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The New Owner of "Skinwalker Ranch" Steps Forward, and He's No Stranger to Weird Stuff [Updated March 13]

A secretive company called Adamantium Real Estate bought the supposedly haunted "Skinwalker Ranch" from Robert Bigelow in 2016. The company was named for a fictional metal alloy in Marvel comic books that was indestructible, and nobody knew who was hiding behind that impenetrable corporate shell. Well, now we know. His name is Brandon Fugal, and (as might be expected), he is no stranger to weird things and weird claims.

Fugal steps forward in an interview just published in Vice by M. J. Banias, "This Is the Real Estate Magnate Who Bought Skinwalker Ranch, a UFO Hotspot." Cynics suggest that Fugal revealed himself only because of the forthcoming series "The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch"  on the "History" Channel on March 31, and wanted to take full advantage of that publicity.

Fugal's bio from the website of the Ancient Historical Research Foundation

We read in Banias' article,
Fugal’s journey to Skinwalker Ranch began in 2010. He and several other investors launched a project focused on testing gravitational physics theories involving exotic propulsion and renewable energy. In really simple terms, it was an attempt to create a gravitational reduction device that could produce clean energy. Fugal admits it was a shot in the dark.

“It was a challenging time. Admittedly, we were all governed by this childlike wonder. We were filled with excitement and gut-wrenching frustration at every turn,” Fugal said.
Do you care to hazard a guess who it might be that Fugal teamed up with in that dubious undertaking? Here is a hint: Who else lives in Utah, and is trying to build an anti-gravity device? That's easy: Joe Firmage. I wrote about this last year. That ill-considered venture has now resulted in the "Anti-Gravity Lawsuit" that TV producer Robert Kiviat has filed against Firmage and some of his associates, alleging that he didn't get paid for his work on their anti-gravity systems. Brandon Fugal is mixed up in that Anti-Gravity lawsuit, and will be called to testify.

Joe Firmage with his Anti-Gravity device (from his video).
Banias asked Fugal, "People have speculated that you are trying to develop a ‘paranormal retreat’ or a tourist destination." His reply:
Really? That isn’t going to happen. The ranch isn’t some place for ghost hunters to get their jollies. It's a serious scientific endeavor that requires patience and humility, and I have committed significant resources dedicated to discovering the truth of what is really happening. What a silly idea.

There is zero intention to monetize it in any way, although we do have traditional ranching activities such as raising cattle.
Fugal's answer doesn't seem to mesh with the Trademark filing he made for "Skinwalker Ranch," which lists the purpose of the venture as "Providing recreation facilities; Arranging and conducting special events for social entertainment purposes; Entertainment..." Hmmmm.

As researcher Tom Mellett has noted, Fugal is listed as a director of the Ancient Historical Research Foundation, an organization dedicated to investigating dubious claims about the "hidden history" of ancient civilizations that are described in the Book of Mormon. Another director of that organization is the physicist Dr. Steven Jones, well known as a "9-11 Truther," who suggests that the WTC buildings were destroyed in a controlled demolition.

A recent lecture sponsored by the Ancient Historical Research Foundation  told how "Sixty years ago in Central Utah, John Brewer discoverd a cave of stone boxes, ancient records and giant mummies."

[UPDATE March 13: Brandon Fugal now says that his association with AHRF ended in 2005, although that website still listed him as a Director until a few days ago. He also says that he does not believe that 'anomalous archaeology' stuff.]

Brandon Fugal was a Director of the Ancient Historical Research Foundation, which researches "Giant Mummies"
and stuff like that..

Saturday, March 7, 2020

'British UAP Sightings Now Online' - Another Facepalm for To The Stars

Oh, really?
TTSA writes, "British #UAP sightings dating back from 1950s to 2009 will be shared publicly for the first time, according to the British Royal Air Force. This recent Interesting Engineering feature details what can be expected." The posting links to an article claiming, "British UFO Sightings Will Be Published Online for the First Time Ever," and is illustrated by a fake photo of a flying saucer hovering over London's Tower Bridge.  In it we find the omnipresent Nick Pope, who claims to have once run the "MOD UFO Project,"

I knew that couldn't be correct. I had written back in 2013 that 
Dr. David Clarke
In fact, the sightings were first published on 4 December 2007. Somehow TTSA didn't get the word. As I have said before, DeLonge, Elizondo, and their crew are Babes in the Woods in matters of UFOlogy and UFO history.

To be sure, I contacted Dr. David Clarke about TTSA's claim. Clarke is a former reporter and currently course leader and senior lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University teaching media law and investigation skills. His Ph.D is in Folklore from the National Centre for English Cultural Tradition, University of Sheffield. From 2008-13 he acted as consultant and curator of the MoD UFO files project with The National Archives.

Dr. Clarke replied that "The story is complete nonsense," and referred me to his Blog entry of January 29, 2020, where we read:

Self-styled ‘former head of the [non-existent] British government UFO project’ Nick Pope is quoted by the MailOnline as saying he is pleased the public are going to be given an insight into ‘our work on these real-life X-files‘.

Sadly nothing could be further from the truth. As the MoD have made clear on numerous occasions, no work has been done on these ‘real life X-files’ since the admin office that logged calls was cut in 2009. ....  there is definitely nothing remotely ‘top secret’ being hidden away within these records and, as this link to MoD UFO reports 1997-2009 proves it is also not the first time – as incorrectly claimed – the UK MoD has made this type of material available online.
Clarke added:
There is nothing remotely top secret in the records it's just a list of FOI requests and emails from people reporting lights in the sky. Nick Pope has made a tidy living out of hyping this kind of story and then promoting himself to the media as a former British government UFO investigator. He was just a desk officer who answered letters about UFOs for three years during the '90s and was never in charge of anything There was never any such thing as a 'British Government UFO project'.

He included the following document drafted by the MOD, in response to an inquiry about UFOs from a Member of Parliament. It states, "The MOD has never operated anything described as 'The UFO Project'," adding "Mr. Pope elected to describe his position as the "Head of the MOD's UFO Project," a term entirely of his own invention."

Friday, January 24, 2020

Newly-Available: "Alien Autopsy" Debate with Ray Santilli, Robert O. Dean, and Robert Sheaffer (1995)

I was a guest on the "Town Meeting" show on KOMO (ABC) Seattle, recorded Nov. 9,1995, and broadcast on Nov. 12. The subject was the supposed "Alien Autopsy" film - "Reality or Hoax?" - with Ray Santilli, the owner and promoter of the film, interviewed via a satellite link. Another guest in the studio was the well-known UFO fabulist, the late Robert O. Dean (1929-2018). So far as I know, this debate has not previously been available.

Why are we still talking about this film, widely recognized as a hoax?  It shouldn't surprise us to learn that the AA film still has its vociferous defenders. As I wrote last June,
Ray Santilli admitted in 2006 that the famous Alien Autopsy film was a contemporary re-creation, but one supposedly based on a genuine alien autopsy film. But not everyone is convinced of the hoax - the AA film still has its defenders today, in spite of Santilli's confession that it was a "re-creation."
To read some of these defenses, see the Facebook group Alien Autopsy Analysis.

In the KOMO debate, Santilli plainly states that there are two autopsy videos (around 8:00), as well as some "debris footage" and "there's a whole lot of scrap footage." Santilli said that he got 22 reels of film from the cameraman (who he did not name, but Dean identified as Jack Barnett ).

A screen grab from the show, showing the now-iconic rubber alien. Note Santilli's claim of copyright in 1995.

While we were in the Green Room waiting to go on, Dean said to me in conspiratorial tones, "I know that Santilli's film is a hoax, because I've seen the real Alien Autopsy film!" I was also on some other show with him, but don't recall exactly which one that was. Dean was a gentlemanly fellow, even though most of what he said about UFOs was pure poppycock. On camera, Dean was undecided whether Santilli's film was authentic, but he asserted that other, genuine alien autopsy films exist. He later went on to show photos of highly-bogus supposed NASA UFOs from the Apollo missions, which he claims were given to him by the Prime Minister of Japan. Why NASA gave those Super Secret photos to the Prime Minister of Japan was never explained, nor why the Prime Minister would give them to Dean.

From the KOMO "Town Meeting" show.

Several UFOlogists make "cameo" appearances speaking from the audience. We see Kal Korff around 23:00, Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center around 42:30, and Marilyn Childs of MUFON around 46:00.

The controversial forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril H. Wecht was interviewed by telephone about the AA film. Wecht gained national fame for his analysis of the assasination of President John F. Kennedy, criticizing the conclusions of the Warren Commission. Like Dean, Dr. Wecht was noncommittal about the AA film, saying it could be real, or it could be a hoax.

Robert O. Dean, and Yours Truly.

Santilli made a lot of claims, like ""by now, millions of dollars has been spent worldwide" to investigate his film. I challenged him on that. I gave it to the journalists, he said, and the journalists had it investigated.

Afterwards, the noted UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass wrote about this show in his Skeptics UFO Newsletter (SUN), January 1, 1996, Vol 37, and analyzed Santilli's claims.  (Issues of  Klass' SUN are hosted by CSICOP/CSI on its website.)
Television viewers in the Seattle area had the opportunity to see and hear “Alien Autopsy’s” Ray Santilli when he participated in an hour-long talk show, via satellite link, on station KOMO on Nov. 12. The show was hosted by a somewhat skeptical Ken Schram. At one point in the program, Santilli acknowledged that his company has “made some money” from the sale of TV rights and home videos. But he added: “We are not into any kind of profit and we won’t be until the film is proved to be genuine.”

When host Schram and skeptical panelists asked why he had not accepted the offer of Eastman Kodak to have its scientists evaluate a several-inch-long sample of the autopsy film, Santilli replied: “Film with image—and not leader tape—has been given to Fox and to Bob Shell, who’s an independent film expert. Kodak has film. The film has been given to the English broadcasters, to the French broadcasters...and if we keep giving away film there will soon be very little left.” (The 22 rolls of film Santilli says he acquired would be 2,200 ft. in length.)

During the closing moments of the KOMO-TV show, host Schram asked Santilli “why you haven't gone to every length to get this film authenticated....Do you feel you've done everything you can and should?” Santilli responded: “I've given it to the broadcasters and I've asked them to investigate it. They've got the money and the resources to do it.” (Earlier Santilli claimed that “Millions of dollars world-wide has been spent on investigating the film and the film still maintains its integrity.”) When Schram asked, “Why not submit this to Kodak?” Santilli replied, “It has been submitted to Kodak by the broadcasters.”

Eastman Kodak’s Response To Santilli’s Claim
SUN decided to check out Santilli’s claim with Kodak on Nov. 30 and talked with Jim Blamphin in the company’s public affairs office. He said that the only film that had been submitted to Kodak was a “two- inch section of solid white leader, which serves to thread a film into a projector, whose edge-coding indicates it was manufactured in 1927, 1947 or 1967.” Blamphin said that Kodak’s British affiliate had offered to conduct a detailed chemical analysis to determine approximately when the “Alien Autopsy” film had been manufactured and processed if Santilli would provide a 10-in. strip of film and pay $8,000. “But we've not heard further from him,” Blamphin said.

When we informed Blamphin that Shell had earlier told SUN that a Kodak movie film specialist in Rochester, named Tony Amato, had agreed to test the Santilli film without charge if Shell would provide a two- inch long sample from the autopsy film [SUN #35/Sept. 1995], Blamphin said he would talk to Amato to confirm such an offer. Several days later, Blamphin confirmed Amato’s offer.

Shell told SUN during our Sept. 7 interview that Santilli had agreed to provide the two-inch strip of autopsy film. But when SUN next talked with Shell, on Oct. 6, he reported that Santilli’s financial partner, a German named Volker Spielberg—who, reportedly, had stored all of the original autopsy film in a Swiss vault—had flatly refused to provide the two-inch strip that Kodak needed. Shell explained that because Spielberg had put up the money to acquire the film, he “owned it” [SUN #36/Nov. 1995].

When Santilli had appeared on a British radio talk show on Aug. 21, a panelist said he hoped the original film was safely stored “in a big vault somewhere.” Santilli responded: “Yeah, I was going to say, Switzerland in a safe....Some went back to the cameraman. And some is still with us.” Seemingly, Santilli had a sufficient surplus of film such that he opted to return some of it to the 80+ year old cameraman. Yet it never occurred to him to send a several-inch-long-strip of film to Bob Shell to submit to Eastman Kodak for chemical analysis.
In SUN #36, (November, 1995), Klass raised the matter of the wall telephone with a coiled cord we see in the AA film, which appears to be of a much later vintage than 1947:
The “Alien Autopsy” movie, which purports to show a 1947 autopsy of an extraterrestrial creature recovered from a flying saucer that (allegedly) crashed in New Mexico, could not possibly have been filmed before 1956.
Klass checked with experts, and found that the phone appeared to be a Dreyfuss-designed wall telephone (including coiled phone cord), which did not make its debut until 1956. I raised that point in arguing for a hoax. However, in the next issue of SUN in January, Klass noted that he had erred: there were a few wall phones, and a few phones with coiled cords, in 1947, although none were in widespread use, and the odds of finding both together in 1947 was remote, although it was not completely impossible.

As for the latest controversy concerning the Alien Autopsy film, there is an ongoing copyright dispute between Santilli and Spyros Melaris, who claims credit for having created the film. Santilli, however, claims to have obtained a copyright release from the original cameraman. None of this would matter, of course, if no significant money was being made off the film, as Santilli claimed.

For those interested in the recent history of the Alien Autopsy controversy, Alejandro Rojas provides a nice summary.