Saturday, July 26, 2014

The James Stokes UFO Sighting, November 1957

As should be obvious, I have spent some time looking into the November 1957 UFO sightings, especially those in the desert southwest. I have been through what I can find, including the original reports that appear in The A.P.R.0. Bulletin, the NICAP UFO Investigator, the Project Blue Book files, and the skeptical end of these cases including Watch the Skies! by Curtis Peebles.

What I find interesting is how the Project Blue Book investigators seemed to miss basic facts, made allegations that were never corroborated (which is a nice way to suggest they just made up stuff), and wrote off cases based not on the evidence but on their own personal bias. The James Stokes case of November 5, 1957, proves the point.

What prompted this is what I read in Watch the Skies!. The information is right out of the Project Blue Book files, reported as if this was an unbiased search for the truth, the only credible source for information and dismisses Stokes as a liar. That allegation is based on trivia, much of it coming from the mistakes made by the Air Force which could have been corrected if they had cared anything for the truth.

The first point is the claim that Stokes, after his sighting and before he did anything else, called the media, in this case the Alamogordo radio station to describe what he had seen. But the evidence, available at the time, is that Stokes first called his superior, Major Ralph Everett, at Holloman Air Force Base to ask if he could talk about the case. When he received the affirmative, he didn’t call the radio station. He called his friend, Jim Lorenzen. But the radio station news director, Terry Clarke, having learned Stokes’ name from Everett, was looking for Stokes so that even if Stokes hadn’t called Lorenzen, who then called radio station, the story would have gotten out. So, Stokes story can’t be criticized for his the media contact.

Much is made by the alleged misidentification of Stokes as an engineer. The Air Force suggests that we can reject Stokes because of this resume inflation. But the idea that he was an engineer is again traced to Holloman and his superiors who identify him as such. Even the base PIO, in a statement released that is in support of Stokes’ credibility and is not part of the Blue Book file, identifies him as an engineer. Of this, Michael Swords in UFOs and the Government wrote, “the pettiness of part of this attempt at personality assassination is a little disturbing.”

From there we move into the real trivia. According to the Air Force, Stokes changed the number of cars along the side of the road from ten to several and finally settling on six. But in that first interview, in the radio station, Stokes didn’t give a number. He just said several.

Or the idea that he made contradictory statements. This apparently revolves around the “severe” sunburn that Stokes reported. Terry Clarke, in his December 1957 magazine article (written within weeks of the sighting) mentioned the sunburn, but didn’t call it severe. There are several newspaper clippings in which it is described as severe, but in the documentation from the time frame, and from Clarke’s description of it, the sunburn was mild. It had faded by the next morning and by the time the Air Force investigator arrived, there was no sign of any sort of burn. To the Air Force, this observation, days later, and the change from severe to mild is evidence of Stokes changing his statements. This is the second contradictory statement noted in the Blue Book file, the first being the number of stalled cars.

As those of you who visit here regularly know, I try to get to both sides of the controversy. I published information that refutes some very interesting Foo Fighter sightings based on evidence I found in the ship’s deck logs that do not confirm the sightings. I believe that Chiles and Whitted, who said they saw a cigar-shaped craft with a double row of lighted, square windows, saw a bolide, a very bright meteor. I have corrected inaccurate information with the latest data, and have taken heat for being a debunker and an anti-abduction propagandist…but the real search should be for the truth, whatever that truth might be.

But here, in the Stokes case, I say the skeptics have it wrong. Those who had looked at the case, used the Project Blue Book files as their source of information, ignoring other sources such as Clarke’s 1957 article (or probably not locating it during their research which isn’t quite the same as ignoring it) don’t have an accurate and complete picture. If we are going to learn anything about these UFOs, the very least we can do is make sure that our sources of information are accurate, that they are not biased, and most importantly, that these sources use the best information available. Repeating a conclusion created by someone else because you like it is not doing research, it is merely following the party line, whichever party line that happens to be.

Stokes deserved better than he got from his own government. He had served in the Navy for 24 years, he had served in World War II, and there is no evidence in the accounts gathered at the time that he changed his story, recanted part of his story, or that he invented it out of whole cloth. This doesn’t mean he saw an alien spacecraft, only that he saw something he couldn’t explain and reported that to his superior the first chance he got. But there is nothing to prove that he made the thing up for the publicity that he received and nothing to validate the claim that it was a hoax. This should have been marked “Unidentified” by the Air Force, not “Mirage and Psychological.” 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Air Force Character Assassination and On Bullshit

It seems that there are those out there who didn’t understand that when I mentioned “On Bullshit,” I was referring to a philosophical argument by a Princeton professor. They apparently didn’t read the article so that they didn’t understand that bullshit and lying were different and that with bullshit you could be telling the truth, part of the truth or none of the truth but the point seemed to be that the one slinging the BS just didn’t care. Such is the case with some Air Force explanations and investigations into UFOs and those who see them.

We’ve already talked about William Rhodes, the man who took those pictures in Phoenix, Arizona in July 1947. The Air Force had to know much more about the man than they let on, but focused their annoyance on his grandiosely named Panoramic Research Laboratory and that he said he had a Ph.D. They suggested he was a third-rate musician who lived off his wife’s earnings as a school teacher and wasn’t reliable as a witness.

Well, he did have a lab in his backyard and the letterhead said that he was the director of the Panoramic Research Laboratory. He did claim a Ph. D, which might have been the result of his work as a civilian in the Navy in World War II, according to what he said. (And in the fairness of full disclosure here, he apparently left that Navy position within weeks of the beginning of the war and no one seems to know why.)

It was also true that the only source of income found by the Air Force for him was his work as a musician and his wife did teach school. What they didn’t bother to mention, but should have been able to find easily, was that Rhodes held a number of patents, he was considered a genius by friends, and that he had something of an abrasive personality.

In the realm of bullshit, what we see here is the Air Force making much of those things that would discredit Rhodes as a source and never mentioning those things that would suggest there might be something to what he said. Their mission was to explain the pictures and that was exactly what they did, without regard to other pertinent facts or that Rhodes didn’t deserve the treatment he got.

Rhodes isn’t the only one subjected to this kind character assassination. Four soldiers at White Sands Proving Grounds (White Sands Missile Range today) faced the same sort of charges after they reported seeing a UFO on November 4, 1957. The Air Force noted they were all young, between 17 and 21, though the youngest was really 18 (though that is not much different) and that one of them was “ingenuous, na├»ve and impressionable,” which isn’t all that bad, though it calls his reliability into question, which was the point.

According to the Air Force, three of the witnesses had been interviewed by the press prior to the Air Force investigation and this had an adverse effect on their reliability. The Air Force investigator, Captain Patrick Shere, made it clear that he believed that the press interest in the case had “magnified [it] out of all proportion to its importance…”

The Air Force noted, “Sources very young (18 20) impressionable & on duty in a lonely, isolated desert post. Interviewer agrees statements were magnified out of proportion.” Or, in other words, these young guys didn’t see what they thought they did because they were young, impressionable and out in the desert. Because of that, we don’t really have to do anything else to understand what they saw. Case dismissed.

No, that’s really not a complete character assassination, but for this discussion, it is BS. The facts of their ages, their assignments, and their educational backgrounds which were also mentioned, suggest that they were not reliable observers and if such is the case, then their observations can be dismissed as unreliable. No further investigation warranted.

James Stokes, who saw something in that area, meaning White Sands, the next day, that is November 5, 1957, was not so lucky.  The Air Force went after him for a variety of sins including claiming to be an engineer, failure to correctly estimate the number of stopped cars on the highway, disappearance of sunburn-like effects on his face, immediate contact with the media and other bits of trivia.

Stokes said he had seen an egg-shaped craft and that the close approach caused his radio to fade and his engine to stall. He got out of the stopped car and, along with several others, watched the object as it flew overhead. Once it was gone, he was able to start his car and continued his trip to El Paso, Texas. When he got there, he checked with his boss in Alamogordo to be sure that there were no restrictions on his reporting the sighting but since Stokes was off duty and not on the military reservation, his boss told him to go ahead.

This he did, calling Jim Lorenzen of APRO and telling him about the sighting. Coral Lorenzen called the local radio station and took Stokes there for an interview. So, contrary to the Air Force, Stokes hadn’t called the media first, but called his boss first and then Lorenzen. He never did call the media himself.

Stokes had also mentioned that once he returned home, he found a slight sunburn. According to the Lorenzens, and to Terry Clarke of radio station KALG, when Stokes arrived at the station, he had a slight reddening of the face. So, there are witnesses to this, and by Tuesday morning, and by the time the Captain Patrick O. Shere, the Air Force investigator arrived to officially interview him, the reddening was gone. Noted in the Air Force report was a handwritten, “Hospital shows no traces of sunburn as alleged by Stokes.”

The Air Force was also annoyed that Stokes was identified as an engineer, pointing out that he was only a technician. Although, and according to the Air Force, Stokes had two years of college, he was not an engineer. The trouble here is that even the officers at Holloman, including his boss, Major Ralph Everett, referred to him as an engineer.

But that isn’t the end of it. Stokes, who had been a GS-11 (a Government Service grade that is equivalent to a company grade officer in the military) was promoted and moved into the upper grades as a GS-12 only weeks after the event. His qualifications as an engineer seemed to be based on a combination of education and experience as applied by his employers and not a “resume” embellishment by Stokes. It seems he was employed as an engineer at Alamogordo rather than a technician.

On November 15, the Air Force issued a press release and in it suggested that the Stokes’ sighting was a hoax. Later they would decide, because this was high desert, that mirages were a possibility. Their official conclusion would become, “mirage and psychological,” which was their way of calling the sighting a hoax without using that word and that avoided branding Stokes a liar.

The Air Force was saying, in this case, you don’t have to believe Stokes because his first action was to call the radio station, he wasn’t an engineer, and we didn’t see the reddening of his skin. And they didn’t bother to correct their errors, or modify their statements about the case which would have been simple to discover had they actually cared about the truth rather than slinging BS.

Even worse was the treatment of First Lieutenant Joseph Long who reported that his car engine had been stalled while on the road in Nevada as I have noted in other writing. His report was described in the Project Blue Book files. It said:

He walked for several minutes until he was to within approximately fifty (50) feet from the nearest object. The objects appeared identical and about fifty (50) feet in diameter. They were disc-shaped, emitting their own source of light which caused them to blow brightly. They were equipped with a translucent dome in the center of the top which was obviously not of the same material as the rest of the craft. The entire body of the objects emitted the light, they did not seem to be dark on the underside. They were equipped with three (3) landing gears each that appeared hemispherical in shape, about two (2) feet in diameter, and some dark material. Source estimated the height of the objects from the ground level to the top of the dome to be about ten (10) to fifteen (15) feet. The objects were equipped with a ring around the outside that was darker than the rest of the craft and was apparently rotating. When SOURCE got to within fifty (50) feet of the nearest object, the hum, which had been steady the air over since he first observed the objects, increased in pitch to a degree where it almost hurt his ears, and the objects lifted off the ground. The protruding gears were retracted immediately after take-off, the objects rose about fifty (50) feet into the air and proceeded slowly (about ten mph) to the north, across the highway, contoured over some small hills about half (½) mile away, and disappeared behind those hills. As the object passed directly over SOURCE, he observed no evidence of any smoke, exhaust, trail, heat, disturbance of the ground or terrain, or any visible outlines of landing gear doors, or any other outlines or openings on the bottom. The total time of the sighting lasted about (20) minutes.
The solution of the Long sighting was handled in fashion similar to that of those others we’ve been talking about. According to a report dated February 11, 1958, and entitled “Analyst’s Comments Regarding Possible Reasons for Source Manufacturing Story, Captain George Gregory, then chief of Project Blue Book wrote:

…Officer has reserve status. Will be eligible for discharge in near future.

…His academic training and education appears to be speech, dramatics, etc. for TV work.

…It is assumed that upon completion of his prescribed “Reserve Tour” he will associate himself with TV work – either as a writer, editor commentator, etc.

…If he has kept his thumb on TV’s pulse, he knows the great public interest in “flying saucers” and “UFOs” – and the number of TV presentations on this subject.

…Interrogation brought out that he is familiar with names of prominent “saucer” and science fiction writers, authors which [sic] the average reader would not know. The arguments the Source gave on page 11 of IR [Intelligence Report] are almost word for word argument given by a number of these authors regarding “flying saucers” or their attempts to prove that they are not earth-made vehicles.

…SOURCE is therefore not considered to be unaware of the lucrative opportunity and the sensational interest in his suddenly appearing on a TV presentation as a commentator or observer (a la Kenneth Arnold), as a writer of a “flying saucer” eye-witness first person story, or as guest lecturer or star for Keyhoe, Davidson’s or other TV programs. He cannot be totally unaware that there would be no better way to enter his chosen civilian profession than with the dramatic announcement that he is only unimpeachable, completely reliable person, a qualified observer, an Air Force pilot to have seen and made an actually near contact with flying saucers – recently discharged from the service, etc. etc. ---

…Therefore there may be other motives for SOURCE manufacturing such a story, but on the basis of the above known facts, this is one motive that cannot be disregarded. Investigators broke a cardinal rule in handling this case…: although they went to great lengths and pains to interrogate source and obtain detailed statements and opinions, not a single check was made of all local facilities to determine if aircraft or operations were in the area at that time, as prescribed by par 5, AFR 200-2.

It is fairly clear from Gregory’s “analysis” that he has no respect for a “reserve officer,” and that Long’s college background, meaning his major area of study, suggests that Long might have invented the tale so that he would be able to find work in television after his discharge from the Air Force. Although Gregory writes about “known facts,” much of it is supposition on his part, based not on what Long might have said to the “interrogators” but because Gregory knew there are no “flying saucers” and therefore anything that suggested otherwise must be wrong. He postulated that Long would seek some kind of job in television and that Long might have hoped that this sighting would, if not secure a job outright, might put him in touch with the right people as he recounted the case for the newspapers, magazines, books and television. There is, however, no evidence that such was the case.

The case file, or rather the witness interrogation and statements were forwarded to a psychologist, who without benefit of speaking with Long wrote that:

Officer had a background and studies in Speech and related subjects for TV work.

Was familiar with names of well-known science fiction and “flying saucer” writers.

Advanced the same classic arguments of “saucer” believers that the objects were space ships, i.e. did not resemble any design known to him, etc.

He is a reserve officer, with the possibility that he may complete his tour of duty with the Air Force in the very near future, and would probably enter into TV work.

He just completed the very rigid USAF Survival Course at Stead AF Base the day before; left immediately, and drove all night enroute to Las Vegas.

Checks show no UFO’s or any report of unusual objects from radar, GOC, military and civil flight and other operations from that area. No reports from any other persons in the locality…

The case file was submitted to a well-known psychologist who had previously evaluated UFO sightings. His comments paralleled those of ATIC, but with recommendations that the officer be discreetly investigated with view of obtaining certain pertinent information to resolve the case. This would require the services of the OSI.

The damage and embarrassment to the Air Force would be incalculable, if, this officer allied himself with the host of “flying saucer” writers, experts, and others who barrage the Air Force with countless charges and accusations. In this instance, as matters now stand, the Air Force would have no effective rebuttal, or evidence to disprove any unfound charges.

What they had realized is that they couldn’t have an Air Force officer, even a reserve officer, saying that he had seen a landed alien craft. There wasn’t much they could do, but then he was only a lieutenant and would be off active duty soon. Rather than attempt to learn what he had seen, they decided that it was a hallucination that came about because he had just finished a rugged school and had been driving all night. These sorts of things happened all the time, as the psychologist noted in his report.

All of this points out a pattern in the Air Force that suggested that the best way to ridicule a case was to attack the witness credibility. If the source seemed to be unreliable, then anything he or she had to say could be dismissed. The facts for that dismissal didn’t have to be accurate. They just had to suggest there might be a problem with the witness’ reliability. That was enough.

In fact, there is an interesting article that was just published that seems to underscore all this. It explains how information is “massaged” to bring about a specific point of view, which is the point that I’m making here. Some information is simply left out of the reports so that a witness is deemed less than credible. Mark Chesney provided this link:

Additional information about this sort of propaganda, also provided by Mark, can be found at:

Say what you will about UFOs, this demonstrates that some of the information was manipulated to promote a specific point of view. It demonstrates that some of the attitudes about UFOs are based on faulty information. It suggests that maybe we should look at all this once again because we have been peppered in BS.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Bullshit and the Air Force

In the last posting about “Lies and More Lies” Larry suggested that it wasn’t actual lies the Air Force was spreading, but bullshit as defined by Harry G. Frankfurt. Larry wrote:

Back in 2005 there was a little (and I do mean little) book published by a retired Princeton Philosophy professor—Harry Frankfurt. The book was titled “On Bullshit” (which I will hereafter abbreviate as “BS”). It purported to be the first scholarly treatment of the subject of BS, even though the term BS is commonly utilized by everyone speaking the English language. If you haven't read it already, I would recommend getting your hands on a copy.

One of the main ideas (and the relevance to this posting) is that BS is a category of behavior distinct from lying. In lying, there is at least respect for the distinction between truth and fiction. In BS, there is contempt for this distinction; the motive is to get the one receiving the BS to form a particular opinion about the one dispensing the BS in some way. This is why we often associate BS with, for example, politicians. It is a common perception that politicians will say anything to get elected. I think that the Air Force Blue Book operation was—technically speaking—BS. The whole idea was to get the public to believe the message: “we’re not worried folks—no national security issues here!” They would put forth any statement that advanced that meme—sometimes even the truth.
Which is an interesting position to take on all this. So I looked this paper up and found it on line at:

Although this is a somewhat esoteric argument to make, it seems that what is being said is that the Air Force wasn’t engaging in lying so much as it was engaged in bullshitting. Frankfurt wrote:

What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent. The bullshitter may not deceive us, or even intend to do so, either about the facts or about what he takes the facts to be. What he does necessarily attempt to deceive us about is his enterprise. His only indispensable distinctive characteristic is that in a certain way he misrepresents what he is up to.
Or, when we look at what Hector Quintanilla said about certain UFO cases, or when he offered explanations that don’t seem to fit the facts, he wasn’t necessarily lying to us. He was bullshitting us. Frankfurt is telling us that Quintanilla’s (or any other UFO spokesman) aim is to impress us with words that are favorable to his position with no regard to the truth.

And what I find interesting in all this is that the person spreading the manure isn’t even worried about the tales remaining consistent with what they have said, what they are saying or what they might say in the future. He just doesn’t care about any of that. Quintanilla, when he offered multiple explanations, or when any of those in the Air Force offered multiple and sometime contradictory explanations, they didn’t care as long as there was an explanation floating around out there that someone would believe.

This little discussion gains us nothing in the long run. All we really have done is engage in semantics. Is the person lying to us or engaging in bullshit? In this particular case, that is the Air Force and UFO explanations, the ultimate purpose is to convince us to expend our time and effort in another arena and let the Air Force worry about UFOs… or to not worry about them as they would have us believe today. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lies and More Lies

In an earlier posting I purposely and deliberately said that the Air Force lied about sighting solutions in the Project Blue Book files. I said this because they knew, based on their own files, that the satellite solution for one aspect of the Portage County Chase did not work. They, which is to say Hector Quintanilla, knew the truth. As the man in charge, he owns the ultimate responsibility here and he had, naturally, complete access to the Project Blue Book files.

Let’s look at something that I have found in the Air Force file on the Las Vegas UFO crash of April 1962. A New York civilian had written to the Air Force and asked if fighters had been scrambled to intercept the object, whatever that object might have been. Major C. R. Hart of the Air Force Office of Public Information wrote back and said that no fighters had been scrambled. Other evidence showed that jets had taken off from Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, but nothing came from Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. Did Hart lie in the letter?

No, I don’t think so. I believe he was answering the question honestly based on the information he had and based where he was located. He was not part of Project Blue Book staff but assigned to Air Force public affairs. He didn’t know of the attempted intercepts so when he wrote that none had been tried, he was telling the truth as he knew it.

The difference here is that Quintanilla knew the truth about the Portage Country chase and knew that part of the solution didn’t work. The memo for the record that mentioned that the Echo satellites were not visible in northeastern Ohio at the time was in his file, in his office and he should have seen it. I don’t believe that he ever thought the UFO files would become part of the public record or that we would ever see that memo, so that any solution provided was just fine with him.

And yes, I can provide other examples where the Air Force mislead the public about their UFO information. They say that only 701 sightings remained unidentified at the close of Blue Book but that isn’t exactly true. Overlooking the fact that some cases were labeled as identified when that identification can be shown to be untrue, there were some 4000 sightings labeled as “insufficient data for a scientific analysis.” That means that more than thirty percent of the sightings were labeled as “insufficient data,” which isn’t an identification at all but keeps that sighting off the unidentified roles.

We can reduce it to single cases as well. In Levelland, Texas in 1957, witnesses at thirteen difference locations reported that their engines had been stalled, their headlights dimmed, and their radios were filled with static as a glowing UFO landed near them or flew over them. The Air Force concluded that ball lightning was responsible.

But ball lightning is very short lived and there are no cases in which a dozen or more displays of ball lightning are seen over a limited geographic area within a couple of hours of each other. Ball lightning is small, eight inches to a foot in diameter. They sometimes roll along the ground and “pop” out of existence. They in no way match the descriptions provided by the witnesses, but in the world in 1957, the Air Force didn’t care about that. They just wanted a solution and ball lightning, to their minds, fit the bill.

To be fair, the Air Force did get some of the solutions right. In the Chiles – Whitted case from 1948 in which the two airline pilots thought they saw a cigar-shaped craft with windows on it, the Air Force suggested a “bolide.” Most rejected this idea, but when the Soviet rocket Zond 4 re-entered the atmosphere in 1968 there were some who described a cigar-shaped craft with windows. It became obvious that this sort of illusion was possible. In today’s world, with hundreds of meteor falls recorded and displayed on YouTube, it is possible to see this illusion. As the meteors break up, it does look as if there is a structured craft with windows on the side. When the witness only manages a split second sighting, this sort of explanation becomes even more likely.

The real point here, however, is that the Air Force, as their investigation continued was not interested in investigating UFO sightings, they were only interested in explaining them. If that explanation sounded “scientific” that was even better. But as we review the files, we see how some of those “scientific” explanations fail, and we see where the Air Force bent the facts to propose some ridiculous explanations. And, as noted, in a few cases their solutions were contradicted by the facts they had gathered themselves.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Stephenville and the Men in Black

There are times when there simply is no inspiration for writing this blog and other times when inspiration fills the air. I’ve been in something of a drought lately, but as I was looking at some of the information I had gathered on the Stephenville, Texas sightings of 2008, I found something interesting. Ricky Sorrells, who told the media including the Associated Press and CNN that he’d seen a huge, solid object during one of those sightings, also said that he had been intimidated by the military.

According to newspaper reports, including one of those filed by Angelia Joiner that was published in the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, Sorrells said that a man identifying himself as an Air Force lieutenant colonel had called and practically demanded that Sorrells allow him to come out to interview him (Sorrells, in case the various pronouns have become confusing).

Sorrells, according to what he told Joiner, was less than enthusiastic about that and that’s when the discussion became heated. The caller, whoever he was, said, “Son, we have the same caliber weapons as you do but a lot more of them.”

Then, according to the newspaper and Joiner, Sorrells said, “So, I said if he was who he said he was, why didn’t he stop flying over my air space with all those helicopters. And he informed me that it was not my airspace – it was his. He told me if I’d quit talking about what I saw he would stop the helicopters.”

While I’m skeptical that the man who called was, in fact, an Air Force officer, and I found his overblown rhetoric somewhat offensive, I don’t know what to make of the next incident. Sorrells said that he had been in bed, asleep, when his dogs began to bark, which they didn’t do unless someone entered Sorrells’ property. Looking out his bedroom window, he saw a man standing at the top of his driveway.

Sorrells told the newspaper (meaning, I will assume here, Joiner) that he could see the man clearly, that he was in his late twenties or early thirties and he was wearing a heavy, “parka-like coat.”

Sorrells said that with the dogs making so much noise that the man must have known he’d been seen and then Sorrells thought that was exactly the point. The next day, Sorrells went out and searched the area. He found a bullet that was shiny, meaning that it hadn’t been out in the elements for very long and might have belonged to the man seen the night before.

There was speculation that what was involved here was Operational Security or OPSEC. This is a military term used to suggest that classified plans and missions stay classified until that mission has ended. Here, it would suggest that there had been something going on in the Military Operation Area near Stephenville, which is a fancy term to say the flight corridors used for military training. Personally, I can’t see any OPSEC priorities here. The mission, whatever it might have been was over and for witnesses to talk about what they had seen wouldn’t compromise much of anything. If the man who called Sorrells was actually military, and the man standing at the end of the driveway was military, then all they did was call attention to the sighting. Their best course of action was to ignore it and not bother the witnesses.

Was Sorrells called by someone who identified himself as military? I have no reason to doubt this, meaning he got the telephone call but not that he was military or acting in any official capacity. I will note that it is strange that only Sorrells had this experience. If he’d seen something different than the others had seen, then such action only called attention to it. Not the best way to keep the secret.

Was there a man at the end of his driveway in the middle of the night? Again, I have no reason to doubt this either. Was he military? I sincerely doubt it, for the same reasons as mentioned above.

There is one other aspect of this that bothers me. Sorrells said that he shined a light into the cockpit of one of the helicopters that had been bothering him since the sighting and the pilot threw up his hands to block the light. This doesn’t seem right to me. I would have thought the pilot would have turned the aircraft, raised the nose, dived, something other than putting his hands in front of his face. Why? Because he would need both hands to fly the helicopter and Sorrells didn’t mention a second pilot in the aircraft.

So, where does this leave us? I believe Sorrells, but I don’t believe that the caller, or the man at the end of the driveway were military. There is no reason for them to be there and no reason for them to attempt such intimidation. I do know of other cases in which others made these sorts of harassing calls and who made these sorts of appearances because they didn’t like what a witness was saying. I have found little evidence that such happens, except in a very few, notable cases. Here, I just don’t see it.

This is just another of those bizarre incidents that dot the UFO landscape. Maybe this was just another manifestation of the Men in Black, maybe was the Air Force trying to keep Sorrells away from the media, or maybe Sorrells just made it up for some reason. I favor the idea that it was some crank having a little “fun.” Anyway, it didn’t seem to spread out from there, and no real harm was done.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Levelland, Texas Revisited

In an earlier post I had suggested the Air Force lied about some of the information hidden away in the Project Blue Book files. I had been going to expand on the comments about the Portage County UFO chase, but then remembered some of the things I had read about the Levelland, Texas UFO landings and EM Effects case of November 2, 1957.

What struck me as I read the file in years past was that the Air Force and Donald Keyhoe, at the time the Director of the civilian National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), were engaged in a publicity war, each suggesting the other was lying. The Air Force said there were only three witnesses but Keyhoe said there were nine. Well, both couldn’t be right so I thought I would take another look at what appears in the Blue Book files.

In a document from those files, I found the following statement. “Contrary to Keyhoe’s and Washington Press reports only three, not nine persons witnessed the incident.”

But later in the file, there is another document that said, “A mysterious object, whose shape was described variously as ranging from round to oval, and predominately bluish – white in color was observed separately by six persons near the town of Levelland.”

In a separate document which was apparently part of a newspaper account of the Air Force investigation, the reporter wrote, “The investigators said further (note the plural) [which is a parenthetical comment in the document] that they could find only three witnesses who actually saw the object.”

This could explain the discrepancy inside Air Force file which is to say that only three saw the object but the others were involved in the incident. This would mean that the Air Force, while not telling the whole story was only slightly shading the truth.

Except, in another part of the file, that included newspaper reports, it is clear that more than three saw an object as opposed to a streak of light. For example, the sheriff, Weir Clem, is reported to have said, “It lit up the whole pavement in front of us [he and a deputy] for about two seconds.” He called it oval shaped and said that it looked like a brilliant red sunset.

This brings up a separate issue, which is the color of the object. The Air Force focused on the blue-white light, suggesting that this was related to lightning, supposed to be flashing in the area at the time. But in several of the cases the witnesses talked about a bright red and if that was accurate, then the Air Force explanation fell apart or partially fell apart.

The Air Force eventually explained the case as ball lightning, a phenomenon that science was still investigating in 1957. Those descriptions found by the Air Force claimed it was a bright blue-white and ball shaped. What the Air Force didn’t bother to mention was that ball lightning was short lived, just seconds, and that it was extremely small, something on the order of eight or nine inches in diameter. The witnesses suggested something much larger.

This newspaper quote about the sheriff seeing something larger and oval from the time seems to corroborate statements made by Clem’s wife some forty or forty-five years after the fact. According to a report by Richard Ray of FOX News 4, Oleta Clem, the sheriff’s widow said, “Well, he just said he’d seen a thing that lit down in that pasture with lights all around. It come down and then it went back up as fast as it come down.”

So, we have Clem describing, in 1957, an oval-shaped object and we have his wife saying, in 2002, that he had seen a thing with lights all around. She is telling us he was closer than the Air Force gave him credit for and we had him, making statements in the public record in 1957 that says the same sort of thing. Is this good proof? Not really, but it is interesting testimony and it does suggest that the Air Force was playing fast and loose with the facts.

The Air Force file contains newspaper clippings that have the names of many of the witnesses, statements made by them about what they saw and what happened to their vehicles, and giving the hometowns or locations of these witnesses. Without too much trouble, it is possible to come up with the names of more than three people who saw an object, all available in the Project Blue Book files which negate the Air Force statements about the case.

And yes, I would agree that these newspaper reports are not the most reliable source of documentation, but it would have provided the Air Force investigators, if there had been investigators, a place to begin. Instead, they noted in the file that they hadn’t interviewed one of the primary “sources” because he didn’t live in Levelland, but outside the town… and as an aside, there was but a single investigator who spent most of a day attempting to find and interview witnesses rather than investigators.

What we have here is a clear case of the Air Force pretending to investigate a major sighting and then writing it off as ball lightning when everything argues against that explanation. There were multiple sightings of an object made by more than three people in separate locations, and who made the reports independently to various agencies including the Levelland sheriff and the news media.

The other thing that caught my attention was the NICAP investigator who showed up, one James A. Lee of Abilene, Texas, and said that he had been studying these things for twenty years. Since this was 1957, that would mean he started his investigations in 1937. I would have liked to know what sparked this interest. Had he seen something? Had he read Charles Fort? Did he know of the Great Airship of 1897, or one of the other airship waves that had happened? Or was this some sort of hyperbole to show his long and deep interest in UFOs? I don’t know, but found the qualification, mentioned several times, interesting.

The point here, however, is simply the nonsense of an argument over the number of witnesses rather than an attempt to interview them. Had this happened in 1957, in the days that followed the sightings, we might have learned something about UFOs, electromagnetic effects and a possible landing trace case. Instead we have a file labeled as “ball lightning” and witnesses who were not interviewed in 1957. Everyone dropped the ball.

Monday, June 23, 2014

America Unearthed and the Smithsonian

As sometimes happen, I was just cruising around the TV dial (remember when there were dials on televisions?) and came across an episode of America Unearthed. They were looking at a stone covered in runes that suggested Vikings had made it to the new world and had actually gotten as far south as New England long before Columbus. Examining the stone, the guy said that because of the type of stone, he couldn’t tell if it was weathered enough to be from the proper time frame.

Now I believe that the Vikings reached Canada… that evidence seems to be solid. I believe that a group of Europeans, from southern France arrived about 2000 years ago and remnants of their settlement have been located in Florida. It also seems that the Clovis people, who might also have been related to those in Europe, have been found in Virginia, suggesting that these Europeans arrived much earlier than Columbus.

And, there seems to be evidence turning up in Oregon that suggests the Chinese arrived there some seventy or eighty years before Columbus. Or, in other words, a lot of people from a lot of different places arrived long before Columbus, and I haven’t even mentioned the people that all those others found when they got here.

But that’s not the point. It was something the geologist said after he asked the owner of the stones if she had contacted the Smithsonian. She said she had but their response was to ask her to donate the stones to the museum for display.

His response to her suggested that he didn’t think the stones would be displayed. He thought they would have disappeared into one of the warehouses holding all those things there were not on display. In other words, he thought they would be swallowed up and never seen again because, and here I’m speculating, the stones suggested an alternative to our accepted history.

That set me to thinking. How many other discoveries, how much other evidence has been submitted in good faith only to be hidden away by those who believe they know best? How much evidence has disappeared into classified files, been buried deep in an archives, how much has vanished into files and locations that are misnamed, and how many documents have been destroyed to keep those secrets?

There is some corroboration from the academic arena. During the “Dinosaur Wars” of the late nineteenth century, Edward Drinker Cope and his nemesis, O.C. Marsh, fought over the discoveries, the fossil beds, and even stole discoveries from one another. Marsh had the majority of his fossils confiscated by the government with them then being given to the Smithsonian. Ahh, nothing like having the federal government getting involved in science research and determining who would be the recipient of their generosity.

 Yes, I know that the confiscation of fossils and then giving them to a museum is not the same as hiding the information away in their basements, but it certainly does suggest a precedent. It does suggest that information that should be in the public arena might be stored away where no one can ever see it, and if they can’t see it (or study it) then the status quo can be maintained.

I could apply some of what we know about the history of UFO research to this. There are some disappearing files that might have given us some interesting answers. As I noted in Government UFO Files, the U.S. government collected information on the Swedish Ghost Rockets, but those files disappeared when the official investigation began in 1947. There are hints that they existed once, but they are gone now, lost in the great bureaucracy that is the U.S. government.

This all was sparked simply by the suggestion that had the Viking runes been donated to the Smithsonian, they might have disappeared into the basement. Maybe the Smithsonian would have put the runes into a public display. I don’t know. I just thought it an interesting observation by a fellow who had worked with the Smithsonian in the past. I thought of it as an interesting way of hiding alternative history without having to deal with the problems such history caused. I thought of it as a way of maintaining written history as we all have been taught it was rather than updating it when we learn something new.

(And as a side thought, the Smithsonian probably would have attempted to vet the runes and certainly wouldn’t have displayed them if there was any doubt to their authenticity… which is not a bad thing.)

(Update -  I have been given the real name of the series... as I say, I caught it as I was cruising around the cable. Thought I would make the change.)