Monday, July 2, 2012

Can you learn anything from UFO Pictures??, introduction.

The pictures above say a lot about the question asked. Some people have very unrealistic expectations or demands when it comes to UFO film evidence. I guess that I will say something unpopular, maybe even controversial, although it is one of the guidelines of UFO research carved into the Commandments of CUFOS: NO UFO PHOTOGRAPH IS WORTH ANYTHING EXCEPT WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE ACCOMPANYING REPORT. It is not only that film never proves anything; film is never the leading element in any UFO report.

Let me create a fictional scenario. Let's pretend that you were on a scientific expedition. Scientists and military people and top quality tech specialists. You are having a nice productive exploration when all of a sudden an apparent UFO begins coming over the sea directly at a nearby island. All manner of your team sees this thing coming and are wowed. The thing cruises in towards the island, takes a little turn around it, and flies away back to sea, having given your team a "friendly" little display of something very mysterious. Well, my goodness. Many highly credible witnesses. They describe a domed disk object clearly unlike our current flying machines. The government tries to close off publicity, but the story leaks out and they have to come clean about the event. High credibility. High strangeness. Great case.

Oh. By the way.... there were several pictures by the expedition's professional cameraman.

Hip readers will know that I am not writing fiction at all, but rather describing the Isle de Trindade case from the International Geophysical Year expedition in Brazil. What I'm trying to impress you with is: the pictures, great as they are, ARE ALMOST IRRELEVANT to the "goodness" of the case. The case rests upon the quality of the observers and their reports. The pictures make it a little easier for us to assent to the mind-expanding experience, but that is OUR hang-up not the real world's. We, as UFO researchers, must rely on the same two standards that Allen Hynek pointed to so clearly 60+ years ago: Credibility and Strangeness IN THE REPORT.

If one takes film evidence as potentially supportive of the basic report, then one's attitude and expectations about film evidence has a markedly different flavor... and despite nay-sayers, produces some rather different and positive opinions about certain film evidence than are usually granted.

.... .... .... .... .... ....

Since this is introductory and not specific case-oriented, I should say something else: readers of this blog realize that I believe the core UFO phenomenon to be the result of the presence of extraterrestrial devices, although many other mundane, semi-mysterious, and even paranormal things stick their noses into our UFO files, causing their confusion. Extraterrestrial Devices [ETDs for short] are at the bottom of many UFO reports, in my opinion, and these devices are employed in a mainly covert way [overt to some single or few persons at a time, but generally "culturally" covert]. In other words, the non-solvability of the UFO mystery is deliberate and well-executed. Looked at that way, one should say that one is surprised that there is UFO film evidence at all, let alone land-and-dance-in-your-face evidence [no matter how many cameras are around]. The filmable evidence would in "my" scenario be "teasers" not validators. Even with that, I believe that when many instances of the film evidence are looked at in proper context, you find that it has told you important things.... just not enough to immediately convince either high-academic deniers nor a comic-book-reading general public.

But let's go on a little further into the history today.

This is the ubiquitous illustration for the Foo Fighter phenomenon of WW2. It appears to be some kind of old photograph, but frankly I have no idea of what. For me at least [some of you may know this photo's story], this piece of film merely serves as visual entertainment to the text it accompanies. As far as I could see, it could conceivably be some legitimate representation of foo fighters, but it looks more like fighter planes with either flak bursts or film defects. The film is useless without the accompanying foo fighter report.

As an illustration it serves some mild purpose in crudely representing a real phenomenon. The foo fighter reality hit allied pilots in c.1944 in the German border area and there is utterly no question about the seriousness with which the US high command took the things. Hap Arnold, our air leader, and Carl Spaatz, our next air leader, received foo fighter reports in England and Washington and knew they had to respond to what might be a dangerous weapon. Arnold's scientific advisor, Edward Bowles of MIT [pictured above], was an expert in radar, radiation, guidance technology, and most-things-physics. He suggested that they needed a scientist on the spot to get better information to solve the riddle of these mischievously taunting balls-of [usually red-orange]-light. He knew just the high-risk-taker recent graduate for the job.

David Griggs was the man. Very intelligent, adventurous, highly physics-trained in atmospheric science, AND A PILOT. Griggs leapt at the assignment. What Griggs found upon arriving at the airfields and flying [as passenger, I don't believe the crews ever let him pilot] several soirees, was a raft of case reports waiting to be told. Griggs gathered all this information and sent it back to Bowles and Arnold. The gist of it was: very real; very mysterious; apparently harmless. No explanation, but seemingly more towards the technological than the "natural". Griggs never believed that these incidents could be explained by some analog of ball-lightning nor St. Elmo's fire. Griggs transferred to the Japanese front, and found the same mystery there.

It seems EXTREMELY likely that someone in these crews photographed the phenomenon. I'd bet money that such photography happened MANY times --- this was not "fooling around"; this was military security. Yet to my knowledge no such photos have been released. This does not surprise me in the least. The mass of the files aren't yet "out" either, though a few are --- but none of Griggs' reports. Top Secret folks. Potential dangerous enemy technology. YOU [and I] have no need to know --- even today apparently

But notice: The foo fighters were real ... whether there were any pictures or not.

What about the Ghost Rockets of Scandinavia just after the War?? Same thing.

The picture above is the iconic illustration for the 1946 Ghost Rocket phenomenon, and the photographer is known and the picture seems just fine. In other words the credibility issue is no issue. Placed as it is in the midst of the Ghost Rocket flap, the whole context of the picture is solid.

But "strange" it "don't seem to be". It's possible that this could be a picture of some sort of rocketing technology, but it is far more likely that it is just a competent picture of a fireball. The Ghost Rocket flap is spread out pretty well across the year 1946 and contains many interesting reports, but the greater number of reports came in on two specific evenings. These evenings had flurries of reports of single fireball-like objects streaking linearly across the skies. And that's what those two clusters probably were: two instances of atmosphere-grazing fireballs. I don't have the dates all together here in WV, but the picture above could have been one of them.

But let's pretend for a moment that this picture IS of technology. It would not add much to our story, would it? The Ghost Rocket Mystery resides in the high-strangeness cases, not in the distant flyovers. To have a piece of film which in itself is strongly evidentiary, the photo[s] would have to be of a very close encounter. THAT doesn't happen. And it doesn't happen, in my opinion, because the "guys" controlling this phenomenon's interaction with us don't want it to. Manipulation... control... agenda.

But Ghost Rockets are a true mystery nevertheless. The Swedish [and American] military certainly thought so.

The Swedish military in 1946 naturally suspected these things to be Soviet/Nazi technology: "new" rocketry swiped from the Peenemunde German engineers [We got Von Braun and some of the eggheads, but Russia got most of the second-tier engineers]. Sweden had recovered an off-course Nazi V2 during the War and so why not the same old problem again? Some reports were distinctly non-rocket-like but many were [there were actually disks reported in the pile.]. The greatest intrigue were the "lake plungers". Objects were reported plunging/crashing into Swedish lakes multiple times... multiple like maybe five or more [I don't have the count in my head but it wasn't just two or even three. Well, perfect! A Soviet rocket goof lying at the bottom of a Swedish lake, ripe for the plucking. Except no trace of any of them has ever been found [unless you count some suspicious "slag" in a couple of cases]. Sweden tried, as evidenced by the picture above. Nothing. IF something plunged into a relatively-easy-to-search lake, but nothing was findable, then that's no fireball, even a very little one.

And it's no Soviet rocket either. But what? Sweden's equivalent of the Shag Harbor case?

I'd like to have photos of Ghost Rockets or Foo Fighters, but I don't. But they stand without them as full-blown mysteries. It was in 1948, I think [1948 or 1949 for sure] that a US Navy attache reported to the Pentagon that the "rockets" still occasionally flew, and that some of the analysts there were considering the extraterrestrial possibility.

Yep. I'd REALLY like a photo of an ETD being hauled out of Lake Kolmjarv. We'd be getting pretty close to evidential there --- particularly if it was Sweden's dedicated scientific and engineering team under Henry Kjellson doing the hauling.

'nuff for now. I'll get through this series at whatever pace life allows. Patience is a virtue, they say. Next time I'll try to take on some specific early post-WW2 [mainly 1947] pictures. Till then, Peace.


  1. Prof I don't know if I'm imagining it but your writing while actually very good usually has a sort of contemplative almost languid meandering style to it.

    This though's like you've recently acquired a surgical laser and you're really relishing paring everything down to the bone.

    Whoosh straight in there with the light sabre Skywalker!

    [If I was a Tibetan Buddhist I'd be saying this incisiveness's pure evidence your vajra energies're migrating from their side channels and hurtling towards your spine!].

    I differ with you on one slightly subtle point.

    "Manipulation... control... agenda."

    This does indeed go on but much if not all of it comes from sources trying to insert themselves into or obscure processes they only half understand (much like a well intentioned demonic jinn saying "Praise Jesus! Now where's the batismal font so we can drown this baby to him!"

  2. Rgeardin the Trindade photos, they quite probably were hoaxes. See this and other pages of this blog:

    1. No. The Trindade photos are not "probably hoaxes". That recent story "from a relative who says she heard something" is in my analysis bogus. I find it excruciatingly sad at how anxious people are to trash any of these incidents and, worse, the reputations of the observers. Note that it was happily reported that Barauna's niece confirmed the "hoax". The fact that she affirms that she DID NOT CONFIRM IT, is also happily NOT emphasized. Barauna's story fits smoothly into the rest of the documents of the actual case, regardless of salivating morons looking to trash it. Note AT THE LEAST that this observation was witnessed by MANY other persons on that ship... convenient to forgetomori them isn't it ?? Dammm that attitude grinds my bones......

      Note that I deleted my duplicate post below ... there was nothing in it not in this one, just a fumble-finger on my part. We'll address Trindade at the appropriate time.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. It's great to see someone with credibility "in the biz" clarify the relative (un)importance of photographic evidence.
    Unfortunately the internet is flooded with "pictures" of "UFO's", with almost no clarifying attestation to support them. The are apparently very popular if non-evidentiary.
    I've reread a bunch of John Keel's stuff this summer. Somewhere in there he mentions that he quit looking at all the photos of UFO's people were sending him. They'd go into the round file. He preferred sitting with a notebook/tape recorder at the persons kitchen table and actually get the story. Seems the only sane approach really.

  5. And every possibility its not:

    Lee Dines.

  6. I deleted another post. It griped about my labeling aggressive continual debunkers as "salivating morons". I'll agree that these are emotional words but this is my house.

    The real reason for the words is that they are directed not to skeptics [thoughtful skeptics are my tribe] but to debunkers --- people who are consistently attempting to trash everything, and demonstrate their unscientific and destructive natures by molding their debunking by inventing facts, not checking anything which fits their desires, spinning commentaries in deceptive ways, leaving out important elements of the cases, and in general having no regard for the search for truth. They are the anti-scientists.

    Often when they take their pleasures in their tasks with dollops of reputation smearing and wink-wink sarcasms and name-calling, well, they ARE salivating [meaning persons no longer engaging in any objective intellectualism] morons [ meaning persons enjoying some personal oneupsmanship kicks in violation of the good reputation of science], and in so doing smearing science itself in the minds of people reading their crap [who are not as stupid as they think].

    Again, this is my house. I have lived with these asses too long [71 years] to simply smile meekly at the damage they do.

    1. Censorship is wrong and whether or not this is "your house" is debatable!

      The post also did not "gripe" it made a valid point about so called "UFO experts" resorting to the playground to get their point of view across.

      "Often when they take their pleasures in their tasks with dollops of reputation smearing and wink-wink sarcasms and name-calling, well, they ARE salivating [meaning persons no longer engaging in any objective intellectualism] morons [ meaning persons enjoying some personal oneupsmanship kicks in violation of the good reputation of science], and in so doing smearing science itself in the minds of people reading their crap [who are not as stupid as they think".

      Go ahead and resort to the same name calling and petty arguments as your so called detracters, to be able to rise above your accusers makes you a gentleman and a scholar, to sink to the same levels only paints you with the same brush!

      There is every possibility the Trindade encounter may be fake and i would have thought that in your 71 years maturity and common sense would be at the fore, it seems there is no future for the "UFO comuunity"

      Benjamin "Benny" Hawkshaw. UK

    2. I will analyze the Trindade case in its time. As to that: Brazilian military documents clearly state that the objects were observed by at least 8 persons on board. They clearly state that a Caravel Captain took the unexposed film and went directly to a makeshift dark room to have Barauna and an assigned helper from the ship develop them. They clearly state that Barauna handed the developed prints still dripping directly to the Caravel captain, while apologizing that he didn't think he had succeeded in getting good images. They clearly state that the captain then examined the prints and pointed out to Barauna that the images were in fact there. They clearly state that the images were then shown to the other witnesses who had just observed the phenomenon, who verified that the images matched the thing that they had just seen in the sky. THIS is what I am complaining about --- the apparently willful disregard for the majority of the documented information on the case. If that sort of willful disregard for the facts does not move you to anger [and I have had a long history listening to this anti-scientific talk], then I can't help you.

      What you seem not able to relate to is how much damage this does to people's feelings about "science" and "scientists". These deliberate debunkers clothe themselves in holier-than-thou "scientific" claims and believe that they can say any @#$# thing and not be called on it for what they are doing.Everyday people listen to the put-downers and get an instinctive dislike for such alleged scientists whether they believe any part of what they say or not. I found this rampant in the college classroom.

      Cheapshot negative comments, especially without regard for what is actually in the record are ridiculously easy to make --- real analysts would waste their entire lives answering any shallow thing these people come up with. I'm basically wasting some of mine right now, and perhaps that is your intent [because either you know the facts stated above or you do not. If you know them you realize that the latest debunking completely ignores them, which would be intellectual dishonesty. If you do not know them then you should be keeping your own extreme criticism in you pocket, while admitting that maybe you don't know enough about this situation].

      As to whether it's debatable that my own blog is "my house", Watch me, Mr. Hawkshaw. This is no public chat room. And you have no concept of what's gone on in my many years of putting up with trolling obstructionists like Philip Klass and his ilk. Spare me your superiority.

  7. Hi, Professor,
    (Yes, this is completely off topic, but I can't figure out any other way to communicate with you off-list. Some blogs have a button you can click to reach a neutral e-mail address, but apparently not this one.)

    Is there a way that I could email you a report for your archives? It's not a UFO report, but it does have paranormal implications, and I think you'd find it of interest. Or perhaps you'll have a scientific explanation which would solve a decades-old mystery. I would post it on your blog, but it's a couple pages long. Thanks in advance, C

    1. There is a simple way to do this while not opening up either your or my personal e-mail to knee-jerk "public" usage [though it probably wouldn't be very hard to get my address anyway]. The way we could do this semi-privately is for you to arbitrarily pick an old posting [something a month or more old] and post your own e-mail there. The way this technology works is that "old" responses don't go immediately on the site, but I have to look at them. No one would, therefore be looking at your address. When I check the site, it tells me if there are any old responses 'needing moderation" --- and I do this most days. I'd then see your address, copy it, and delete it from this site entirely with just myself having read it. Then I can contact you, and you then back to me, by regular e-mail communication. This keeps your address private and I don't have to field any more random impulse messages than necessary.

  8. > To have a piece of film which in itself is strongly evidentiary, the photo[s] would have to be of a very close encounter. THAT doesn't happen.

    I made the observation previously that UFO sightings seem to fall into two distinct categories:

    1) small or distant objects with little or no detail, sometimes witnessed by many people, often photographed or filmed
    2) large or near craft with clear and distinct detail, rarely seen by more than one person, never photographed or filmed

    I agree with you that these images are rather useless and I'm glad someone serious has said it so clearly. I used to spend a lot of time on youtube and in the MUFON database, but I gave it up as an enormous waste of time (there are a lot of seagulls on the MUFON servers). If we start getting good images of category two, with multiple witnesses, then everything changes.

    In the meantime, a reasonable person could interpret this category problem as a result of human error/ignorance/folly rather than alien conspiracy. Human and their problems are well-known, aliens are not.

    Ufology for some reason doesn't have the equivalent of Patterson-Gimlin.

    1. Yes. A reasonable person COULD interpret the pile of UFO film that way, if they took nothing else into account. BUT: the point of this series of posts is NOT that one simply discards the film because IT ITSELF does not prove things, but that the film is taken as an auxiliary element of the whole case report. The case will stand strong or not depending upon the "normal" elements of the case regarding Credibility and Strangeness, not the film. When taken in that light, it then becomes NOT "reasonable" for reasonable persons to reject all cases which happen to involve film as category problems of human error/ignorance/folly.

      By the way, none of my business but why refer to oneself as "The Censor"? Seems like a title which no one would like to restrict their mental outlook nor investigative approach into. Certainly gives a bad initial impression. Why not "An explorer"? But, as I say... none of my business.

    2. When I wrote, "I agree with you that these images are rather useless," I should have added "of themselves," but I thought it redundant as that was your point. Sorry if that was unclear.

      > it then becomes NOT "reasonable" for reasonable persons to reject all cases which happen to involve film as category problems of human error/ignorance/folly

      I wouldn't reject sightings that produced images just because they produced images. That would be strange and I don’t think I said that. Rather, it's my observation -- and it seems yours -- that so far the images haven't helped much. That’s odd, don’t you think? If the photo and video technology used commonly and reliably to document Congress, wars, sporting events, weddings, etc., can't unambiguously document alien craft -- after 60 or 70 years of trying -- it is reasonable to consider the possibility that UFO nuts-and-bolts literalism is wrong. That’s not a conclusion, but it’s an idea that should be considered, especially in light of the fact...

      > The case will stand strong or not depending upon the "normal" elements of the case

      ...that case reports haven't provided much either. No one has led us to a ship, probe, or alien base despite innumerable reports of unidentified flying objects. This isn’t a trivial point, yet I don’t see much discussion about it online. Likewise, I don’t see anyone publicly wondering why no one has produced an alien being (or even a good image of one) despite over 9300 humanoid reports (see IUR, v 32, #4, p 5). That’s an astonishing number that makes one wonder at the complete absence of credible occupant images.

      That’s why I brought up Patterson-Gimlin. No one has produced a Bigfoot after a century of reports, but there is an impressive film. Is it really Bigfoot? I don’t know, but it’s reasonably clear, detailed and nearby -- it doesn’t fit into either of my two UFO categories. It’s either Bigfoot or a hoax, not some misidentified bear or a hunter in a hooded jacket or such. The film is rich with information and it’s pretty much impossible to tell if the creature is real or not -- and that is awesome (in the sense of inspiring awe, not in the sense of “I only know four words and one of them is ‘awesome’”).

      I have to wonder why ufology hasn’t produced something comparable. It is not credible to say aliens are hiding. Those 9300 humanoid reports speak against that. But why haven’t these reports produced anything meaningful, led us to any confirmation of any kind? Again, looking at the evidence, it is reasonable to wonder if the ETH is wrong.

      That could change tomorrow. Good evidence might appear.

      In the meantime, it’s refreshing to have someone serious and informed like yourself speak in a candid and non-partisan way about the photographic evidence.

    3. [part 2]

      > none of my business but why refer to oneself as "The Censor"?

      When I started looking into UFO information online, Google alerts drove me to youtube, where there are thousands upon thousands of UFO videos that were clearly airplanes (look up “fake planes” for the delusional extreme of this phenomenon). I found myself wagging my finger (figuratively speaking) repeatedly in the comments sections, chiding people for their blatent dishonesty. Tongue in cheek, I chose a handle that matched my online persona. I was thinking of the Roman censors who went about making a list, checking it twice, finding out who was naughty or nice. And I’m an ironist: these youtube crybabies were always claiming the MSM or PTB were censoring their paradigm-shattering proof, so I put “censor” right in my handle (I also thought such an “in your face” handle would immunise me from being called a government agent, but idiots did so anyway). But the true irony was that Terry the Censor was blocked from many, many youtube channels, often for making one-word comments such as “airplane” or “bird.” I kid you not!

      If I had started my online career hanging with the grownups, as I pretty much do all the time now, I think I would have chosen Terry the Ironist (here I am thinking of good old Socrates, who did not profess knowledge except perhaps a generalised moral kind, and who liked to gently ridicule those who thought they did possess The Truth). I think an ironist would fit well between the believers and skeptics, ridiculing their frequent excesses. I have considered switching my handle but it looks difficult to impossible to migrate my emails from an old to a new account (I am not tech-wise).

      > Why not "An explorer"? But, as I say... none of my business.

      Terry the Explorer brings to mind Dora the Explorer. It might also sound a little New Agey.

      > thoughtful skeptics are my tribe

      Let me ask this: if I were Terry the Skeptic, would that give a bad initial impression?

      (If you see Terry the Ironist in the next few months, that means I outwitted Google.)

    4. Terry [The Explorer]: Your comments are fine [AND "reasonable"]. What many posters, for understandable reasons, don't take into account is that exchanges of commentary on a blog are not private conversations but public ones read by many people. I MUST respond with a bit of "concreteness" in my voice when I think that other readers might get the wrong impression from something that they just popped in to see. If the prime blogger "let's something go", it is as if he agrees with the sentiment as it seems to simply stand.

      Re: Terry [The Skeptic]--- if you and I lived in a world of true exploration and open-mindedness, we would all be labelled "skeptics" and it would be not only honorable but simply expected behavior. I am a skeptic. I swallow nothing [PRO or CON to a hypothesis] unless there seem VERY good reasons for doing so. That mindset is why my "graybasket" is so large. Things for me have a more-or-less-probable character, and I, as you know, proudly push alternative [even Out Proctor] hypotheses out there. "Out Proctor" Itself is a conversational device meant to liberate us to imagine extremely improbable, but not a priori impossible, hypotheses and openly talk about them. But today's world has taken the perfectly honorable and intellectually necessary word "skeptic", and smeared it into the dishonest concept "debunker". So, no, it probably wouldn't make a good first impression as your handle... but on the other hand, "grown-ups" would cut you enough slack to give you the chances to show to them that you were a true skeptic and not in fact a debunker.

    5. P.S. It will surprise you to know that my most probable hypothesis for the Patterson-Gimlin film is "hoax". Ummm... Skepticism: Thou art No Fun.

      And I'm just going to have to let that depressing "analysis" of the famous film sit there without further explanation as of now. No time to unravel an extremely complex story at the moment. But there is hope: almost everything, including this, is in the Graybasket.

  9. Just as an aside, when I was in junior high Bob Gimlin was a friend of the family, and as his ranch was close to my best friend's home at the time we would often stop in when wandering by while hunting or just messing around the country side. I lost contact with Bob before the film incident so never had an opportunity to discuss it with him. Part of the reason Bob was always a great guy to be around is that he had a great sense of humor and wasn't above a little mischief. He also had a love of wrangling horses in the mountains so there wasn't anything odd about him being where he was that day either...

    While his encounter took place elsewhere I believe, at this time we all lived within the boundaries of the Yakama Indian reservation which has a couple of things related to topics of interest here on your blog.

    One is that the northern boundary of the reservation is the Yakima river which runs east to the Columbia right into Hanford territory. One of the things that anyone who spent anytime driving along the river in the evening, especially around Prosser in Benton county, east of Yakima county, would see was a orange spherical light noiselessly floating westwardly up-river - this happens to be counter to the prevailing winds. Couldn't even guess at the altitude because it is difficult to focus on an orange light at night with no idea of its size. About all I can say is that if you held your arm outstretched your thumb would probably block it. It maybe moved thirty or fifty miles an hour, and tended to drift to one side and then to the other. Everyone just figured it was something to do with Hanford and ignored it which sounds strange but that's the way it was. I couldn't tell you how far up river it went as I never trailed it, except to say some people around Granger would see something like it now and then, only usually it was apparently much closer to the ground and was said to be bigger than a car, and often was maneuvering instead of just steadily flying above the river. Didn't know anyone who ever saw it headed down river either.

    The Yakima river eventually turns north; however, the foothills that form the southern ridge of the lower valley the river runs in, continue west to the Cascade range. This ridge is of some interest because in the summer the fire watch towers are manned by members of the Yakama tribe and many of them have stories of watching all manner of UFOs pass by generally east to west along the ridge line. These craft vary from the large cigar shaped ones to all manner of smaller ones including the classic discs. Again most feel there is a connection to Hanford.

    The other item which relates here is that many Yakama believe in BigFoot, although I can't off the top of my head remember their name for them. The stories I remember most have to do with sightings in the winter, which seemed a little strange to me I guess since I always figured they would hibernate like bears as there isn't much in the way of food up in the mountains during the winter. Anyway one story a friend told me was of seeing a huge snow covered hairy face peering in a window of their cabin during a storm storm - it was not a bear. They say you generally know they are around by the whistling noises they make - seems the name they use is connected with the whistling but it just escapes me...

    Well, nothing like rambling anecdotal stories is there...

  10. I find almost any of the innumerable stories associated with Yakima fascinating.



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