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.