An Evaluation of Aime Michel’s Study of the Straight Line Mystery
(A lecture at Akron, Ohio, March 14, 1959, sponsored
by the UFO Research Committee of Akron)
I have chosen to comment on the recently published work of the French scientist, Aime Michel, Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery. * Before I enter upon this discussion I want to pay tribute to the non-profit research organization of New York City responsible for the English translation of this work from the original French, the Civilian Saucer Intelligence of New York (CSI). I am proud to be associated with this group as an honorary member and to publicly congratulate the Research Division of this organization for their significant contribution to the cause of truth in the study of UFOs.
There is much in this book by Aime Michel that deserves to be studied and analyzed with careful reflection from various angles. And I include in this remark also, reference to the "Appendix on the Latest American Sightings" by my esteemed friend and co-investigator, Mr. Alexander D. Mebane, of New York City. I therefore want it understood that my present remarks are more in the nature of a tentative evaluation of the book's content and also to represent but a partial study. The book is outstanding not only for its various analyses, especially of course in the thesis of the straight-line mystery, but it is also an excellent source book of information concerning the sightings in France during the late summer and early fall of 1954.
To Aime Michel, the historian of the development of UFO science must credit the discovery of orthoteny, a term suggested by the discoverer himself. Michel found that the localities in France from which UFO sightings were observed for a given day, when plotted on a map of France, had a very decided tendency to lie along a straight line. When sightings for a given day were unusually numerous, several such alignments could be
* Criterion Books, New York, 1958.
discerned. Michel also discovered that these alignments tended to meet at common points of intersection and that extraordinary sightings were associated with those localities where the alignments met.
Actually, as Michel points out in his book, there were thousands of sightings in France within a period of approximately 10 weeks. But for the purpose of his alignment study, precise data as to the date and time of the sightings were needed, as well as reports that bore various evidences of reliability. And so his analysis covers upwards of 300 selected sightings which are also described as separate incidents in the book. Through the use of maps showing the straight-line character of the observations the author presents an able argument to the effect that the geometrical pattern of the sightings not only proves the reality of the UFO phenomena, but that it also proves the presence of intelligent design back of these happenings. It would be quite difficult indeed to interpret these sightings in any other way.
Michel's careful analysis of these French sightings is so comprehensive that further effort at extensive analysis serves little useful purpose. But one might be pardoned in making a few additional observations. Taking data from three maps of the book labeled Numbers 4, 5, and 6, covering the week beginning September 23, 1954, and ending September 29, and plotting it in one consolidated chart produce a configuration of lines emanating from the vicinity of Rixheim in extreme northeastern France and fanning out westward over the entire country. As Michel points out, a huge cigar-shaped object accompanied by small satellites was observed at this focal area during the night of September 27-28. In this same connection it might be pointed out that Mebane's map of American sightings on November 6, 1957, shows a similar fanning out toward the east from a locality a little south of the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Michel's map No. 7, utilizing 31 sightings for a single date, October 2, 1954, shows a multiplicity of lines, actually nine orthotenic lines intersecting at Poncey, a little northeast of the geographic center of France. And again, as Michel points out, on the night of October 2 a vast illuminated cigar was observed at the intersection, at Poncey. It would seem to be a plausible interpretation of such unique geometric alignments that a well-organized program of exploration of features of the area of France were being carried out by some extraterrestrial intelligences.
Michel points out that "until October 10, almost all the observations fall on straight lines, " but that "after that date approximately,
the number of cases which fail to fit on a line increases every day. "This latter tendency could be construed to correspond to the needs of the concluding period of a survey, wherein incomplete data left over from the original systematic mapping program could be checked upon in a follow up program covering miscellaneous details. In short it would appear that these extraterrestrial scientists or engineers were bent on securing certain types of detailed information pertaining to the geography of France.
Just what type of information was being secured, of course, remains a mystery. That this particular survey appears to have been in the main unconcerned with the inhabitants of France themselves is substantiated by the unusually apparent indifference to the French people manifested by the occupants of the UFOs. In some 20 instances persons had seen and in two cases had experienced physical contact with the strange creatures associated with some of the UFOs which had actually landed.
But before discussing the intriguing subject of the contact incidents, two matters having to do with already recognized characteristics of these phenomena might be briefly, though significantly noted. I refer to two types of phenomena, both of which have been the subjects of studies published in issues of the Flying Saucer Review of London. One of these studies* had to do with the encountering of the so-called angel hair in connection with sightings; the other** summarized certain phenomena referred to as electromagnetic effects associated with the close approach of the UFOs.
The Flying Saucer Review study of angel hair lists 17 incidents of the appearance of this material. That article covers the period from October 17, 1952 to October 27, 1955, and refers to instances then known to the author, and occurring in various different parts of the world. In 14 of these listed cases; the angel hair was associated with the UFOs. In nine instances the material was described as volatile, usually evaporating with the warmth of the hand. Michel's book adds five more instances of the phenomenon of angel hair, which with the 17 above makes a total of 22. It should be noted, however, that since the publication of the original study, many other instances of angel hair phenomena from various parts of the world have been noted in addition to these 22. Thus this unexplained phenomenon of angel hair at times associated with UFO appearances becomes recognized as a reality, definitely a part of UFO sightings.
*November-December 1956, Volume 2, No. 6
**May-June 1958, Volume 4, No. 3
The Flying Saucer Review study of electromagnetic disturbances such as the stopping of automobile motors and the dimming of headlights associated with the close approach of UFOs notes 18 instances of this type of occurrence, 13 of which took place in North America between the dates November 2 and November 14, 1957. Michel's book lists 17 additional cases, bringing this total to 35. Those listed in the book include nine reported by Michel, eight of which were in France in 1954. The other cases were noted by Mebane including additional instances for November, 1957, not mentioned in the original study. This total of 35 cases, it should be pointed out, is far from being a complete listing. Thus there is again the establishment of a second phenomenon definitely associated with many appearances of UFOs, namely electromagnetic disturbances of various types.
Among the 300 sightings described by Michel are 20 accounts, including 19 in France and one in nearby Germany, in which reference is made to contacts with the occupants of these outer space craft. The contact reports are included within the time interval of 39 days between September 10 and October 18, 1954, and thus average one contact for each two days of that period. By reason of the unusual frequency of this type of sighting and their confinement to a geographical area relatively limited in extent, there is some logical basis for assuming that the phenomena as a group relate to the same mission from outer space. Being a single adventure, the group of extraterrestrial personalities involved in all likelihood belonged to the same race or type and originated from the same extraterrestrial source. Thus it would seem that an effort to glean from these 20 reports a sort of composite of this extraterrestrial being would be worthwhile.
The status of publicized accounts of UFO contacts is certainly the most confused of all UFO problems. It is therefore with some misgivings that the speaker addresses himself to a consideration of this probably most controversial field of one of the most controversial subjects of the day. However, the problem of identification of the very elusive intelligences that navigate these UFOs in the innumerous travels throughout terrestrial skies is one that continually haunts the thinking of students in this field. It is difficult to conceive of anyone who has conscientiously spent years in the study of the many well-documented cases available who is not convinced of the objective reality of these phenomena. Such an individual must ever be aware within his consciousness of the question of the identity of the super-scientific minds piloting and directing the marvelous movements of these outer space craft.
No doubt the greatest factor in producing this confusion in the public mind concerning the reliability of contact reports is the large volume of reports by misguided claimants. These claimants publish books, give lectures, appear on television networks, and, because a non-discerning public fails to note the many inconsistencies in their fantastic tales of intellectual contact with outer space personalities, enjoy lucrative profits in capitalizing upon their stories. Were the general public a little more informed on principles of elementary physical science there would be much less confusion and those whose claims are actually without valid foundation would have to resort to other less fantastic ways of earning a livelihood. Most of the misguided claimants the author has investigated devote large portions of their testimonies to elaborations of a pseudo-scientific character and in so doing commit themselves to obvious contradiction of well-known facts of astronomy and physics.
A very obvious basis by which a contact claimant could establish the truth of his claims would be the securing of some artifact or gadget from extraterrestrial sources. Or even the submission of some intellectual plan, a new scientific experiment or a new mathematical formula, in fact anything which by test by competent scholars could be shown to be new in this world, would serve to validate the claims of a contactee. Up to the present no evidence of this kind has been presented to competent terrestrial authority. Thus it is that there are few if any investigators of UFO phenomena of scientific background who recognize the claims of the present day crop of contact claimant businessmen.
This description of the typical profit-seeking contact claimant does not constitute a sweeping indictment of all persons who believe they have established intellectual contact. No doubt there are many sincere persons who of their experiences, real to them, if not to others, actually do believe that they have had intellectual contact with extraterrestrials. The difficulty is that such persons seem to have no way of proving the reality of their own experiences to others.
Before commenting in detail upon the descriptions of the extraterrestrials as revealed through the stories of the French contactees, I wish to quote from Michel's book his own summing up of the appearance of these beings. The typical extraterrestrial is described as follows:
“An apparently living being, about three and a half feet tall, described as dressed in a transparent or translucent ‘diving suit’; broad in body, walking with a swaying, waddling, or jerky gait. Those witnesses claiming to have seen the creature himself through his transparent covering spoke of a broad and low 'head' and of dark complexion. Some witnesses declared that, associated with this being or with the object [space craft]... or with both together, they saw another being, of human appearance and stature."
It should be borne in mind that it is entirely within the realm of probability that visitors from space could come from different places and be quite unlike in physical appearance. Moreover, visitors from the same locality in space could conceivably also be very different in appearance. Thus, the type of person encountered in Michel's book must not be thought of as being the only one existent.
The various possible types certainly do not exclude many human-appearing beings like ourselves.
In Michel's book:
- The observers of the UFO occupants, or more properly the contactees, comprise all together a variety of persons, ranging in age from young children to adults of all ages. They represent different walks of life, children of pre-school age, youths of various levels in school, men and women travelers, farmers, merchants, mechanics, and professional people. The contact experiences of all these persons were manifest surprises, as was clearly evidenced from the manner of their reactions to what they encountered.
- For the most part the contacts occurred at night in unlighted localities, away from populated areas. In 15 of the 20 instances the hours were between 6:30 p. m. and 10:45 p. m. There were no cases of contact within four hours before or after midday. Because of darkness the visibility was not good and clear description of the visitors was hardly possible. One could also surmise that the visitors might not have wanted to be seen. If they had tried to make contact one could conjecture that they would have appeared in broad daylight. Moreover, they would also have given evidences of effort to meet human beings. As a matter of fact the incidents gave every sign of being surprises to the UFO visitors themselves.
- The mental or emotional reactions of the persons encountered when description was given could be summed up as coming under the category of fear, varying from extremes of terror to stunned amazement. One wonders if these strong emotions of human beings could have been brought by some subtle attitudes on the part of the visitors which in some strange way conveyed to the contactees that in this out-of-the-world experience they found themselves in the presence of personalities of superhuman potentialities. Interestingly enough the least startled of all were the child contactees. The recorded accounts give no evidence in any case of fear emotions displayed by the visitors.
- Although the visitors did not display evidence of fear at the sight of human beings, they did respond at once in protective fashion to any attitude or movements on the part of the contactee that could possibly be interpreted as a threat. In six instances a temporary paralysis was inflicted upon the contactee. In the case of the metalworker who encountered two of the visitors at Quarouble on September 10,  when he tried to get hold of one of them he was blinded and paralyzed by a light. In the incident occurring on September 27 near Premanon where four children playing in a farmyard about 8:30 p. m. encountered two creatures, the oldest of the children, a boy of 12 years of age, shot a rubber-tipped arrow at one of them. The arrow seemed to have no effect. But when the lad then went up to touch the visitor, he was "flung to the ground as if by an ice-cold invisible force."
- On the matter of estimates of the heights of the visitors there is relatively good agreement in the stories. Five estimates of approximately three feet were given, and three estimates of the order of four feet. The other estimates were non-numerical but the descriptive terms used were "little," "small,” or the "height of children. " The two exceptions, "average" and "a little below average," probably referred to a different type of visitor resembling an ordinary human being.
- With respect to body proportions or general physical appearance, two types seem to emerge. The more common type is described in terms that suggest rather marked dissimilarities from the terrestrial human. Such terms as "wide in the shoulders"... "legs small in proportion to height"... "larger than human eyes"... occur. It should be noted, however, that descriptions of the physical appearance of the visitors were given in only six of the fragmentary accounts. As already noted, in two of the 20 instances the two visitors did not appear different from terrestrial humans.
- On the matter of garb or wearing apparel where such is described, the expressions "diver's suit"... "dressed like a diver"... or similar phraseology, appear in every instance. There are six such references. One could surmise from this consideration that the original home of these visitors is some locality having a different atmosphere from that of the earth. In fact, the probability of some foreign planetary abode being identical in physical environment to the planet earth is relatively small. The presence of "diver's suits" on these visitors in the Michel accounts is what one would expect to find. The usual publicized contact story does not describe any such garb.
- In enumerating features of these contact incidents the description would be incomplete were mention not made of two instances of gestures of friendliness. On September 17 not far from the town of Cenon a cyclist encountered a little, creature, much smaller than a man. It was 10:30 p.m. and quite dark and this stranger, appearing like a silhouette in the night, came toward the cyclist and touched him on the shoulder. He "uttered a sound" described as "unknown and incomprehensible,” then moved toward his space craft and "disappeared."
The other instance occurred on September 10 near the town of Mourieras in a wild and backward part of France. A farmer was on his way homeward about 8:30 p. m. and suddenly found himself face to face with a peculiarly dressed person of average height. The stranger approached the farmer making gestures that gave impressions of friendliness. He came forward with one arm above his head, the other arm extended, making low bows and peculiar gestures. He shook the hand of the farmer and pulled him right up to him, drawing his head against his helmet. The stranger made no reply to the farmer's words of "good evening." The stranger then left and the farmer presently saw his craft disappear into the sky.
- The lack of any semblance of intellectual contact is apparent in all of the instances related by Michel. This contrasts with the complete ease of communication experienced in the cases of most American contactee claimants. Could not one expect astonishing revelations of information of one kind and another from these representatives of an order of civilization of life centuries beyond us in advancement in fields of science, arts, and modes of living? When and if the human race ever becomes introduced to such knowledge, one could well judge it as being truly out of this world.
A final word of comment needs to be made with respect to the analysis attempted in the preceding paragraphs. It must be borne in mind that the subject itself is an elusive one. The reality of UFO phenomena is not yet accepted by the majority of the uninformed public. I use the adjective "uninformed" because I feel sure that any intelligent person with an open mind, who takes the trouble to thoroughly examine a considerable part of the generally recognized evidence, will be convinced of the reality of the phenomena. Now with the acceptance of the reality of sightings it requires but little additional understanding to realize that back of the many varied gyrations of these space craft there are directing intelligences. It would be strange indeed if among the literally countless numbers of well-reported sightings from every part of the earth there would not be a few instances of glimpses, as it were, of the personalities behind the scenes.
In the above discussion the particular source of information on contact cases is material collected by a French scientist. This material, in the opinion of the present author as well as in the expressed judgment of other conservative investigators, is the best available at the present time. It would, of course, be desirable to have data of a more objective character. But since that is not yet possible we simply do as well as we can with what we have on hand. The fact that Professor Michel was able to use this very same material to discover an important principle, named by him as orthoteny, lends some weight to the reliability of other deductions arising there from.
On this very elusive phase of a very elusive subject I have endeavored to extract some possible conclusions. The value of these might lie in the consideration that with the gathering of more facts of a similar character in the future on waves of sightings yet to reach us we will in time gradually, step by step, learn more about our visitors from outer space.
But--even though there is no basis yet known for such a prediction- -it is possible they will make themselves known to us suddenly at some moment of their own choosing!
C. A.M. March 1959
The New UFO Policy of the U.S. Air Force
Although a formal government project for the investigation of UFOs was not set up until September 1947, the United States Air Force has been vitally interested in sightings of these objects ever since June 24, 1947, the day Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine mysterious saucer-shaped craft travelling with tremendous speed in echelon formation over the Cascade Mountains between Mount Rainer and Mount Adams in the State of Washington.
On December 24, 1959, the Inspector-General of the Air Force issued a directive to Air Force personnel to the effect that "unidentified flying objects--sometimes treated lightly by the press and referred to as 'flying saucers'—must be rapidly and accurately identified as serious USAF business." In this directive instructions are given as to the manner in which this "serious business is to be handled at each Air Force base." A "specific officer" at each base is to "be designated as responsible." He is to have the "authority to obtain the assistance of specialists on the base." He is to be supplied with some simple scientific apparatus to be used in the detection and study of UFOs. The list of equipment is to include "binoculars, camera, Geiger counter, magnifying glass, and a source for containers in which to store samples."
From the above referred-to directive we are to conclude that it has taken the Air Force exactly twelve and one-half years to arrive at the conclusion that UFOs are real, and that the study of these phenomena does constitute "serious business."
Also in the directive is found the statement of the "Air Force concern" that "there's the inherent USAF responsibility to explain to the American people through public-information media what is going on in their skies."
From time to time within the past 13 years the USAF has given highly publicized statements with big headlines in the newspapers to the effect that the so-called flying saucers simply do not exist. For example, on October 26, 1955, the then Secretary of the Air Force stated "we believe that no objects such as those popularly described as flying saucers have over-flown the United States. " It should be noted that the Air Force Secretary based this statement upon a "study" made by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt concluded actually two years and one month earlier, and judged "worthless" by the man in charge of the study [Ruppelt] and other investigators who have taken time to analyze it.
About one year ago, on July 16, 1959, and preceding this latest directive by less than six months, the Air Force gave nationwide publicity to the following statement: "Investigation of unidentified flying objects has provided no evidence to confirm the existence of the popularly termed 'flying saucers' as interplanetary or interstellar space ships.”
Let it be pointed out that the USAF did not give any publicity to the content of its December 24, 1959 directive six months later, which officially recognized UFOs as "serious business" and which set up machinery for the ostensibly serious scientific investigation of these phenomena. It was the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), a nonprofit private organization with headquarters in the nation's capital, which gave the contents of this directive nationwide publicity.
Vice Admiral Hillenkoetter, NICAP Board member, made this comment in regard to this directive:
"Behind the scenes, high-ranking Air Force officers are soberly concerned about the UFOs.
"But through official secrecy and ridicule many citizens are led to believe the unknown flying objects are nonsense. To hide the facts, the Air Force has silenced its personnel through issuance of a regulation. Veteran airline pilots and other technically trained observers have been discredited. Hundreds of authentic reports, many confirmed by radar or photographs, have been labeled delusions or explained away by answers contrary to fact."
A good illustration of the USAF policy on the handling of UFO sighting reports over the years is to be found in the case of the UFO incident of February 24, 1959. One of the key observers of this phenomenon was Captain Peter Killian, a pilot for American Airlines. His plane was on a nonstop flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Detroit, Michigan, on the night of February 24.
When over Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania, at about 8:45 p. m. he observed three unidentified brightly-illuminated aerial objects trailing his plane. The plane was followed for 35 or 40 minutes by these objects, which were observed not only by the crew and 35 passengers of Captain Killian's plane, but by five other planes and numerous ground observers in the line of the trip.
Exhaustive details with respect to this incident are given in the 22-page printed report compiled by the Unidentified Flying Objects Research Committee of Akron, Ohio. NICAP also thoroughly checked the facts of this sighting, and so we have here an incident concerning which we have the most reliable information possible. The files of the Akron Committee contain the signed statements of several ground observers.
Concerning this sighting it can be reasonably concluded that the number and character of the witnesses establishes the validity of the incident beyond doubt.
Representatives of the Air Force made only the most superficial investigation of this incident, an investigation (if such a term could be used to dignify its semblance of effort) based on Captain Killian's brief preliminary statement made at the Detroit Office of American Airlines and upon a news report from the March 1 edition of the New York Herald Tribune.
The Akron Committee report states: "They (the Air Force) did not interview Captain Killian, the pilot, nor did they question co-pilot Dee, the stewardess, the passengers, nor the ground observers. As far as is known, none of these people were at any time contacted at ATIC (Air Technical Intelligence Center)."
Even though they had no first-hand information on this incident the Air Force issued official explanations of the sighting on three separate successive dates, all three explanations completely contradictory. These so-called explanations are as follows:
1. On the morning of February 28 the Air Force released to the press this official opinion: "Experts of the Technical Intelligence Agency said that they believed the pilots may have sighted stars, especially the formation Orion."
2. The March 1 edition of the New York Herald Tribune carried an official Air Force statement in direct answer to an inquiry about this sighting by six American and United Airline crews on February 24. Quoting the NICAP Bulletin, The UFGL Investigator, for February-March 1959: "Some [witnesses] were sarcastically labeled as persons who can't remember anything when they sober up the next day. The rest, implied the official Air Force spokesman, either were deluded by ordinary objects or were outright liars. "
3. Subsequent comments by the observers of this incident apparently disclosed to the public the errors of these judgments, and so, three weeks later, the Air Force offered an entirely different explanation, as follows: "The American Airlines sighting of February 24, near Bradford, Pennsylvania, was a B-47 type aircraft accomplishing night refueling from a KC-97 tanker."
In a statement to the Long Island Daily Press on March 24, Captain Killian said, "I don't care what the Air Force says; the objects I saw could travel at 2,000 miles an hour and were definitely not conventional aircraft."
"If the Air Force wants to believe that," he added (referring to the refueling operation explanation), "it can. But I know what a B-47 looks like and I know what a KC-97 tanker looks like; further, I know what they look like in operation at night. And that's not what I saw." Killian claimed that this was the Air Force's third explanation of his sighting, "all contradictory and none satisfactory."
Captain Killian is no longer discussing his sighting of the three unknown objects. After his initial comments in newspapers, exposing the obvious flaws in the Air Force's explanation, the muzzle was quickly applied. American Airlines, through Air Force insistence, was forced to silence Killian, their attitude being that good relations with officialdom must be maintained at all costs. Consequently, he was requested not to publicize "so controversial a subject.”
Captain Killian has commented: "I feel very deeply concerned with the loss of my own personal freedom." The first amendment of the constitution of the United States reads in part: "Congress shall make no law... prohibiting the freedom of speech or of the press."
While the silence order was imposed on Captain Killian, however, the same did not apply to Mrs. Killian. She remarked, "Although the Captain isn't talking, I can talk." She was asked if the Captain would be willing to go before the Space Committee hearings in Washington to relate his story. Mrs. Killian replied: "Definitely. In fact a Senator asked the Captain if he could come to Washington and tell his story. The Captain said “Yes, I would go, but you would have to subpoena me. Then, I could talk.'"
From the NICAP Bulletin of July - August 1959:
"In a recent development, the Air Force is now circulating a statement, allegedly from American Airlines, quoting Captain Peter Killian as saying that he had never seen jet refueling operations at night and that the UFOs he saw on February 24 could have been a jet refueling operation. The unsigned statement is in direct contradiction to the statements Killian made the NICAP Director, to the Long Island Daily Press, and in taped interviews. In effect, Killian's statements have been branded by the Air Force as lies, after they apparently requested American Airlines to silence him so he could not answer back. American Airlines had deliberately arranged some of Killian's early publicity before he was suddenly told to stop talking. Copies of the contradictory statements have been sent to several members of Congress."
On the night of November 6, 1957, about 11:30 p. m., Olden Moore, a plasterer, driving home from Painesville, Ohio, was startled by the sight of a disc-shaped bright object suddenly looming up in front of him, seemingly splitting apart, one section apparently disappearing, the other settling down in a field near the road. This locality is about 30 miles east of Cleveland. This incident is reported by George Popowitch, director of the Unidentified Flying Objects Research Committee of Akron, mentioned earlier. An account of the incident is published in the APRO Bulletin* of January 1958.
When the object landed, Mr. Moore shut off his car lights and pulled his car off the road. He got out of his car and watched the object for about 20 minutes. He noted a ticking sound, somewhat like the tick of a water meter.
At 11:30 a.m. the next morning his wife reported the incident to Geauga County Sheriff Louis A. Robusky. Later in the day Mr. Moore was questioned by various local authorities, United States Army representatives, and scientists from the Case Institute of Technology. Geiger counter readings taken in the middle of an area 50 feet in diameter where the object had landed, registered ten times normal background activity. At the perimeter of the area the Geiger counter readings were about 50 percent greater than normal.
It was learned that Mr. Moore had gone to Washington, D. C., in connection with this sighting of the UFO. On his return he indicated that he had talked to high officials and had been sworn to secrecy. Further details of the sighting were unavailable from Mr. Moore.
*Aerial Phenomena Research Organization: 4407. E. Linden, Tucson, Arizona.
This incident is given as an illustration to show a connection between the sighting of a UFO and the apparent great increase in background activity as registered by a Geiger counter in the vicinity of the sighting.
Let it be especially noted that the December 24 Directive of the Air Force specifically refers to the equipping of Air Force bases [UFO investigating units] with Geiger counters along with other scientific apparatus. The reason for providing bases with such equipment is, of course, obvious. The Air Force has information of many instances wherein UFOs have been observed visually and on radar, where Geiger counters in the vicinity of the sightings have registered the presence of greatly increased background radiation.
Captain Ruppelt, in charge of the Air Force investigation from early in 1951 until September 1953, in his book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, devotes an entire chapter (chapter 15) "The Radiation Story, " to relate the experience of government scientists who observed great increases in Geiger counter readings in connection with sightings of UFOs. Different groups of scientists in various locations in the United States encountered these phenomena, and determined by thorough and painstaking procedure that the great increases in background radiation associated with the sightings were in some way caused by the presence of the UFOs.
One of these groups became so interested in this strange type of coincidence that they began to develop elaborate arrays of scientific devices for the more thorough study of the phenomena. This promising scientific study came to the attention of high officials and was suddenly nipped in the bud. Higher-ups at Washington arranged for the transfer of the alert-minded Air Force colonel in charge of the project.
These same governmental authorities now at long last, without fanfare and without intentional publicity, have decided that UFOs are "serious business" and that the honest-to-goodness study of such phenomena should be undertaken by Air Force personnel. And so this December 24, 1959, directive was issued. Air Force personnel at the various bases are being supplied with apparatus and equipment which in competent and scientific hands could without doubt be used to gather valuable information concerning the nature of UFOs. One wonders whether or not Air Force personnel, lacking the rigorous training of experienced scientists, will be able to utilize such equipment to advantage
The problems presented by UFO phenomena are of such difficulty and of such tremendous significance that the study of them should be a wide-open worldwide program. The challenge presented by these navigated objects from outer space needs to be met by the world's best technological and scientific talent, unhampered by government restrictions, secrecy, red tape, and inefficiency.
C. A. M. October 1960
PART III: A PHILOSOPHER LOOKS AT UFOs
On the Physical Reality of UFOs
It has often been argued that scientific skepticism about the reality of UFOs is justified because UFOs are silent. Solid bodies rushing through the earth's atmosphere, savants say, would have to make noise, therefore UFOs are not real. As is commonly the case in skeptical arguments about UFOs, this one is based on a false premise. UFOs often do make noise. There is also a lot of other evidence indicating the physical reality of UFOs.
The sounds reported in association with UFOs have been of three general types; (1) motor-like, (2) explosive, and (3) sonic booms. From the accounts of what the UFOs were doing at the time these sounds were heard, it could be that these three types correspond to (1) motive power, (2) partial vacuum created by sudden displacement, and (3) breaking the sound barrier, respectively.
Before citing some of the cases of reported sounds from UFOs, it is necessary to take cognizance of the fact that there are certain natural phenomena in the atmosphere capable of creating sound. Meteoric fireballs are often mistakenly reported as UFOs, and bolide meteors can roar like a freight train, make a fluttering sound, and explode loudly. Aircraft, of course, are another cause of aerial sounds, but the roar of piston engines and the whine of jets are more familiar to the average observer. Sea gulls and other birds seen at night (sometimes not readily identifiable as such) can make odd fluttering sounds. These are the sound-making natural phenomena most likely to cause false UFO reports.
The reader can verify for himself the following reports of sound-making UFOs:
November 6, 1957; Varine Gilham (an iron worker) of Dugger, Indiana, watched a large object hover for about 10 minutes at an estimated altitude of 1,000 feet. Finally the UFO went straight up. As it left, Gilham heard a "whirring noise." As a result of the sighting, he was treated for inflammation of the eyes by Dr. Joseph Dukes. - -Hammond, Indiana, Times; November 10 and 13, 1957.
September 21, 1958; Mrs. William H. Fitzgerald, Sheffield Lake, Ohio, saw a large discoidal object hovering low over the ground. It circled the area and rose out of sight, making a "whirring noise." - -Cleveland Plain Dealer; September 22, 1958.
February 3, 1959; Joseph Klosinski (of the Venango Newspapers), Oil City, Penna., saw a circular object pass below a low cloud ceiling at a "tremendous rate of speed." He told the press: "The 'saucer' must have had a motor because there was a clear 'swish-wooshing' sound."--Oil City, Penna., Derrick; February 4, 1959.
Two examples of the thunder-like explosive sound, both of which occurred as UFOs accelerated rapidly upwards, are:
November 6, 1957; Lester E. Lee (Baptist Minister), Dunn, N. C., saw a bright circular object rise straight up, giving off a flash of light and making a sharp explosive sound. - - Winston-Salem, N. C., Journal; November 7, 1957.
October 26, 1958; Philip Small and Alvin Cohen, Baltimore, Md., saw a huge egg-shaped object hovering low over a bridge. It rose rapidly giving off bright light, a flash of heat, and making an explosive sound. - -Baltimore News-Post and Baltimore Sun; October 27, 1958.
The "swishing" sounds often reported in close-range observations could easily be rushing air, flowing over the surface of a solid body. The buzzes, hums, and whirring noises might be associated with motive power. Since most of these sounds have been reported only during close-range observations--usually sounds of low volume--it can be inferred that similar objects at a greater distance would be essentially silent. This is in accord with the typical UFO report.
One problem remains. Although not all UFOs have moved at high speed, a common factor to many reports is the amazingly high speed as estimated or calculated by observers. If the UFOs are solid objects, why haven't they broken the sound barrier causing sonic booms? There is some indication that they have. So-called "sky quakes" have mystified the populace over a long period of time, part of which predated the era of supersonic flight.
However, there are enough modern cases of "sky quakes" to prove the point. In fact, these tremendous aerial explosions are reported hundreds of times a year.
Sonic booms which break windows and knock dishes off the shelves are a common phenomena today--and they are usually attributed to jets breaking the sound barrier. In many or most cases, this is undoubtedly true. The B-58 "Hustler" and many operational fighters are capable of going supersonic in level flight, and other planes can do so during dives. Theoretically pilots are not supposed to fly at supersonic speeds over cities, but the Air Force has officially recognized the problem of damage in cities caused by sonic blasts, and has set up claims offices to pay for the damages. Pilots have been ordered to report if they accidently break the sound barrier. But in spite of all precautions, the blasts continue.
The fact is that very little is known about the physics of sonic booms since the study of them has barely begun. It is suspected that atmospheric conditions play a large part in determining the pattern of shock waves from the blasts, but the many unknown factors make the effects unpredictable.
In a given case of property damage caused by a sonic boom, it is frequently impossible to determine whether the blast was, in fact, caused by a jet. This uncertainty was reflected in a bill introduced in the House of Representatives on February 4, 1959 (H. R. 4058; 86th Congress, 1st Session) "To authorize the payment of claims resulting from sonic blasts." The bill provides "That for the period ending two years after the date of enactment of this Act, any damage, loss, injury, or death resulting from glass breakage caused by a sonic blast from the noncombat operation of an aircraft or guided missile, shall be presumed to have been caused by a military department. "
Many times after terrific explosions have rocked cities and roused citizens from their homes, the blasts have been disowned by all military bases in the area, which deny that their planes could have been the cause. It is understandable that an erring pilot, in spite of the orders, might not report breaking the sound barrier accidently. Nobody volunteers for trouble. But it is also possible that aircraft did not cause the sonic boom in some cases, and that the cause lies elsewhere.
One of the logical fallacies indulged in by UFO skeptics is: "Natural phenomena cause many UFO reports, therefore natural phenomena cause all UFO reports." This is usually assumed without any investigation of the evidence for other-than-natural
UFOs. The parallel argument about "sky quakes" is: "Jet aircraft cause many sonic booms, therefore jet aircraft cause all sonic booms." Actually, the evidence available is insufficient to say with finality that UFOs either have or have not caused sonic booms. On the other hand, "sky quakes" cannot be invoked as evidence of UFOs.
Some cases are on record of UFOs having been seen at the same time that a "sky quake" occurred, which would tend to support the association with UFOs; but these cases are rare and the data are incomplete. One such case was reported in the New Zealand Evening Post, March 22, 1954. At 2:35 p. m., Mr. P. S. Berkett, a farmer of Whangamoa, heard "zooming" noises and saw "a round, flat object of a whitish colour" pass overhead just as loud aerial explosions were heard over a wide area. It could have been a daytime meteor, but these are also rare.
Some more typical "sky quake" cases, in which no culprit was found, follow:
May 21, 1957; Los Angeles, California--A "gigantic sonic boom" roused citizens out of their houses at 8:40 p.m. "All military services with supersonic aircraft based in this vicinity disclaimed blame for the blast. Aircraft companies building and testing jet planes for the armed forces also denied that any of their flights could have sent out the mighty sound wave. "--Los Angeles Times; May 23, 1957.
May 23, 1958; St. Louis, Mo. --A loud booming noise was heard and a shock felt at about 3:30 p. m. McDonnell Aircraft said none of their planes broke the sound barrier. St. Louis-Globe-Democrat; May 24, 1958.
August 11, 1958; Southeast and Central, Louisiana.--A thunderous boom shook houses and broke windows over a wide area about 11:00 a. m. No Air Force planes were known to be in the area. An England Air Force Base officer said "we have figured out what it is." This statement was later denied by the Base Public Information Officer. - - New Orleans Times-Picayune; August 12, 1958.
April 9, 1959; Selma, Alabama--"An explosive noise that caused the earth to quiver and buildings to shake at 11:34 a. m. this, morning is thought to have been a sonic boom, but checks with air authorities have failed to find any supersonic aircraft in this area. "--The Selma Times-Journal April 9, 1959.
April 1, 1959; Seattle, Washington--A series of blasts between 7:00 and 10:00 p. m. "shook houses and rattled dishes" in the city. Paine AFB said none of their planes were in the area.
"McChord AFB said planes from there were on training missions, but had no report of any sound barriers being broken."--Seattle Post-Intelligencer; April 3, 1959.
Although it is impossible to conclude that there is a definite relationship to UFOs, it is possible to conclude that some of the many unexplained aerial explosions could have been caused by UFOs. The skeptical argument is therefore on uncertain ground. It is reasonable to assume, on the basis of other evidence pointing to the solidity of UFOs, that they probably have caused some of the blasts.
In close-range observations of UFOs, it is also true that smells have been reported. * These have usually been unpleasant; Sulphurous, or acrid like ammonia. Probably the best guess is that these are associated with the motive power of UFOs, perhaps being exhaust fumes.
It may surprise some readers to learn that there are authenticated reports of UFOs touching down or landing, and leaving impressions or other physical evidence on the ground. I am not referring here to reports of alleged contact with space men and alleged physical evidence which never materializes. There have been other cases in which investigators were able to examine the physical evidence allegedly left by a UFO. Although the possibility of hoax remains, it is unlikely that so many similar false reports would be made from far-flung and independent sources. In these cases, too, there has seldom been any reason to suspect a hoax. The witnesses usually have not made any sensational claims, and have submitted freely to investigation.
On July 31, 1957, a boy in Galt, Ontario, Canada, reported watching a UFO hover and finally land. A later check by newsmen and other investigators revealed definite markings on the ground where the object had been. There were several disconnected burned patches and two deep impressions in the ground. **
Another type of marking which has been reported from several countries including the United States, France, and Brazil, is an oval or circular marking on the ground where a UFO had been seen to land. A recent case of this type occurred on the morning of September 7, 1959, near Lexington, Ky. This time a NICAP investigator was able to reach the scene and check the story. Walter Ogden, a rural mail carrier, known in his community as an honest and reliable man, reported seeing an elliptical UFO which hovered low over the ground. The object finally took off vertically, emitting a blast of "flame" which touched
* See "Shapes In the Sky," by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, Fantastic Universe, January, 1958.
** For story and picture see Galt Evening Reporter; August 3, 1957.
the ground. A search party later discovered a stained ring on the ground (not scorch marks) measuring 12-13 inches wide, and enclosing a circle about 13 feet in diameter. Hundreds of people later viewed the markings, and the incident was investigated by the Air Force and FBI. *
As of this writing, a chemical analysis of some of the soil samples is being made for NICAP by a testing laboratory. A Geiger counter test made about two weeks after the date of the incident proved negative. However, it should be possible to determine the chemical composition of the staining substance.
Physiological effects, including burns, have been inflicted on witnesses by UFOs in many cases. ** In two very similar instances, people sustained minor facial burns while watching elliptical UFOs. James Stokes, a White Sands engineer, was burned as he watched a UFO maneuver over a highway near Alamogordo, N. M., on November 4, 1957. (Associated Press, Lubbock, Texas, November 5). Both witnesses to the October 26, 1958, UFO hovering over a bridge near Baltimore, Md., reported the same experience. (See above.)
According to a story in the San Diego, Calif., Union, February 21, 1958 (AP, Albuquerque, N. M., February 20), two women near Espanola, N. M., received skin burns when they saw an unidentified object in the sky giving off bright flashes. A Geiger counter test is reported to have shown possible radiation burns.
In a few cases, the inflictions have been more serious. During the rash of UFO sightings in November, 1957, Mrs. Leita Kuhn, of Lake County, Ohio, watched a brilliant glowing object hover low overhead. In a letter to NICAP she emphasized the brilliance: "The top was brighter. I couldn't look at the top. My eyes burned so I closed them--orange sparks seemed to glow every time I closed my eyes. "
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 27, 1957, reported that Mrs. Kuhn had been injured as a result of the sighting: "According to Kenneth Locke, Lake County Civil Defense director, Dr. E. D. Hudgens of Madison, after an examination, said that her appearance suggested the possibility of radiation damage, or damage by ultraviolet light to her eyes, and that she also suffered shock." In further correspondence with NICAP, Mrs. Kuhn confirmed the after-effects and that she had been under
* For picture and story, see the Fleming Gazette, Flemingsburg, Ky., September 17, 1959.
** See "Shapes in the Sky, " by C S. I., Fantastic Universe, July 1958. Also Flying Saucers and the Straight Line Mystery, by Aime Michel, (Criterion, c. 1958, "Physiological Effects.")
medical care since the incident. She was troubled with a rash, and her eyesight had been affected.
On November 4, 1957, two sentries at the Brazilian Fortress of Itaipu, at Sao Vicente, Brazil, also received serious injuries when a brilliant luminous object darted down, hovered, and engulfed them, in a wave of heat. According to Dr. Olvo Fontes, a surgeon in Rio de Janeiro who investigated, the two men received first and second degree burns of more than 10 per cent of their body surface. * The two sentries were flown to the Army Central Hospital in Rio de Janeiro for treatment. Dr. Fontes was able to interview one of the actual witnesses and to confirm that two soldiers from the fortress were at the hospital under treatment for bad burns. Strict security prevented him from talking to the patients or their doctors.
On at least two occasions, pilots felt intense heat as they attempted to approach UFOs in the air. Carlos Alejo Rodriguez, a noted Uruguayan pilot, was flying near San Carlos, Uruguay, on May 5, 1958, when he encountered a brilliant aerial object. The UFO neared his plane and appeared to hover about 700 yards away. It was dazzling bright, and no details could be seen. At that moment the pilot felt an intense heat and was forced to open his cockpit and remove some clothing. When he tried to close in on the UFO, it darted away toward the sea and disappeared. NICAP obtained a full report on the incident from C. I. O. V. I., a responsible UFO organization in Uruguay.
A similar case had occurred during an active Air Defense Command intercept over the United States in 1954. On July 1 an F-94 was scrambled from Griffis Air Force Base in New York to chase a UFO which had been seen over a wide area of the state. The pilot saw the object and attempted to close in, but a wave of heat filled the cockpit and he was forced to bail out. His fighter plummeted to earth and crashed into the town of Walesville, N. Y. **
In addition to the effects experienced by human beings, the effects of UFOs have registered on practically every instrument man has devised to extend or improve his "seeing." *** Skeptics may point out that the evidence for these claims is spotty and incomplete, but that is not surprising considering the fact
* For full story, see: APRO Bulletin, September 1959.
** Flying Saucer Conspiracy, By Donald E. Keyhoe, (Holt, c. 1955), p. 174.
*** A possible exception is radio telescopes, which depend on the transmission of radio signals for detection.
that no active attempt to gather scientific data on UFOs with instruments has ever been made. However, the circumstantial evidence is such that a full-fledged effort should be made to use more instruments and less skepticism in investigating UFOs. It will take a scientific investigation to settle the question, and scientific skepticism proves absolutely nothing. It is absurd to suggest, without any investigation, that all of the people who have reported these phenomena are mentally disturbed, lying, or deluded.
Radar has tracked UFOs hundreds of times. Late in 1958, John Lester of the Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger polled CAA (now FAA) radar operators who man the Ground Control Approach radar at airports around the country. At least 500, he disclosed, said they had tracked UFOs.
In regard to radar sightings, skeptics commonly point out that spurious signals are often picked up. In deference to them, I will stick to cases in which visual confirmations of the radar trackings were made. However, it is again absurd to suppose that experienced radar operators are not capable of recognizing the blips of solid objects with a high degree of accuracy. If they are not, and spurious signals commonly mislead them, radar would be a worthless device.
A good example of a combination radar-visual UFO sighting was reported by the former Chief of the Air Force Project Blue Book UFO investigation. *
On August 12, 1953, two Air Force F-84 jets were scrambled one after the other to chase a UFO which had been seen as an unidentified light in the sky giving a return on ground radar. Each pilot pursued the object and saw it in front of him fleeing at high speed. The second pilot also got a target on his gun sight radar at the same time that the ground radar showed both his jet and the UFO.
An unclassified Air Force intelligence report in NICAP possession describes a similar incident which occurred in the Far East in December 1956. An Air Force jet pilot had a UFO blip showing plainly on his radar, and chased it at high speed, finally closing to within five nautical miles. Then he saw a large circular object which shot up and away leaving the jet far behind.
During the famous Washington, D. C., sightings of July, 1952, there were many radar observations of unexplained objects over
* The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, by E. J. Ruppelt, (Doubleday, c. 1956), p. 303.
the nation's capital. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, the Air Force has attempted to pass these off as temperature inversions. Inversion effects on radar are well known to radar men, who don't pay any particular attention to them. Harry G. Barnes, Senior Air Route Traffic Controller, whose call had sent Air Force jets screaming into the area, had this to say: "Before notifying the Air Force, our technicians had carefully checked the equipment to make certain that it was operating perfectly... There is no other conclusion I can reach but that for six hours on the morning of the 20th of July there were at least 10 unidentifiable objects moving over Washington. They were not ordinary aircraft."
Barnes also asked airline pilots in the area to keep a lookout for the objects. A Capital Airlines plane had just taken off, and the pilot, Capt. S. C. Pierman, in direct touch with Barnes, saw six objects which showed up exactly where Barnes advised him they should be.
"In my years of flying," Pierman said, "I've seen a lot of falling or shooting stars--whatever you call them--but these were much faster than anything like that I've ever seen.” His co-pilot F/O Charles Wheaton, added: "Now I feel I have actually seen some active strange objects which defy explanation."
Another skeptical argument is that if UFOs were real, they would have been photographed clearly by this time. There are many alleged pictures of UFOs, but the majority obviously is inconclusive, showing only vague blobs of light. Many of these could easily have been faked.
In some cases, though, the integrity of the photographers is beyond question, and their pictures show distinct unexplained objects. It is this positive evidence that counts. One of the finest examples of this is the Trindade Isle, Brazil, photograph (see frontispiece) taken in January, 1958. This picture of a distinct discoidal object, also seen by several reliable witnesses on board an IGY vessel, was authenticated by the Brazilian Naval Ministry.
Another good example is the famous Utah film, taken by Navy Chief Photographer Delbert C. Newhouse, on July 2, 1952, and shown in the documentary film "UFO."* The film shows a group, of about 10 circular objects milling around at high speed. **
* A United Artists picture produced by Green-Rouse Productions.
** For the full story, see: Flying Saucers from Outer Space, by Donald E. Keyhoe, (Holt, c .l955), Appendix II, p. 304.
When Newhouse visited the NICAP office recently, I had an opportunity to discuss the film with him. He and his wife had observed the UFOs for some time at closer range before he was able to unpack his camera equipment from the trunk of his car. I questioned him closely about the visual observation. The Brazilian photograph was posted on the bulletin board, and I asked him if it was the same as what he had seen.
"Not exactly," he replied. "It's similar, but the ones I saw didn't have the central ring."
He went on to describe lens-shaped objects (i. e. discs). Several frames of his movie, showing objects with elliptical outlines, bear this out. The more distant shots of the ringed Brazilian object appear almost diamond-shaped in outline.
Professor Maney's article on electro-magnetic effects reported in association with UFOs indicates another whole field of physical effects apparently caused by UFOs--effects in which human devices were interfered with.
I also recall a report from the documentary film "UFO," (made in cooperation with former Air Force personnel) in which a UFO struck a balloon in the air and damaged it.
To attribute all of these effects to "imagination" is to ignore the evidence of the senses. To call them all "coincidences" is to strain coincidence to the breaking point. The least unreasonable explanation is that the real UFOs are solid, unexplained objects. From all indications, they are capable of stalling cars, interfering with radio and TV signals, and inflicting burns on observers. They are therefore a physical phenomenon worthy of serious, scientific investigation.
The Semantics of Flying Saucers
In studying "flying saucers" it soon becomes apparent that some of the knottiest problems encountered are purely human in origin. Accordingly, it is appropriate to begin with a comment by an anthropologist. In his book The Human Animal, * Professor Weston LaBarre of Duke University neatly epitomizes the age-old human problems of communicating intelligibly in two consecutive chapter titles: "Man Starts Talking," (Chapter 10) "And Gets All Balled Up in His Grammar" (Chapter 11). In my opinion the terminology used in discussing "flying saucers" has become so balled up that there is widespread confusion as to just what we are talking about.
What is a "flying saucer?" What is a "UFO?" Are we asking the same question in both cases? That, of course, depends entirely on what the people using the two terms intend them to mean. Words and languages are uniquely human tools, but all too many human beings are awed by their own creations and act as if words have some intrinsic, inviolable meaning. Often there is confusion between words and the objects referred to by them. To use Professor LaBarre's example: An American farm-boy serving in the Army in Germany had a large equine animal pointed out to him as a "Pferd." "Well, “the soldier protested, "it may be called a Pferd, but it sure as hell acts like a horse!"
Lewis Carroll, a pioneer semanticist, had his fairy-tale characters express the view of modern logical empiricism, by contrast to the naive view of the soldier above. Humpty Dumpty, at least, did not let words lead him around by the nose.
* University of Chicago, 1954.
"When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less.”
"The question is, “said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master--that's all." (From "Through the Looking Glass.")
Though words may mean whatever we choose them to mean, they will not communicate anything unless we make it clear to our readers or listeners what meaning we have in mind. No two people, it seems, mean exactly the same thing even when they use the one term "flying saucer." Two of the leading non-believers in "flying saucers," for example, have their own special definitions thereby making it uncertain whether they disbelieve the same thing. These two are Dr. Donald Menzel of Harvard, and the U. S. Air Force.
Dr. Menzel at least used language consistently (i. e. in conformity with his own definitions) in his book on "flying saucers." In so doing, he has provided an excellent negative example of how to control and use language rather than be controlled and used by it. In my opinion, however, his logical arguments are virtually devoid of factual content relevant to the best UFO reports. By presupposing that nothing truly unique is being seen, Dr. Menzel is able to treat each case as some misidentification caused by a trick of nature. Then he can guess at the mechanics of the trick and find something that seems to account for it.
In the preface to his book, we immediately learn from Dr. Menzel that to the question "What are Flying Saucers?" "No single answer suffices, because the apparitions stem from not one but many dozens of causes."* Clearly he uses the term "flying saucers" to mean "apparitions." The phrase "true flying saucer" he reserves for the cases referred to by the Air Force as "unknowns." These, he admits, are real--real natural phenomena.
The Air Force, whose language has been more flexible than consistent, at least set a good example in the usage of its Project Blue Book. "UFO" was the term for reliably reported objects which had no immediately obvious explanation. It was a temporary classification until an investigation could be made. The object would then either be identified or else become an "unknown." If a report lacked detail and could not be thoroughly
* Menzel, Donald H., Flying Saucers, (Harvard University, 1953,) p. vii.
checked, it fell into a category called "insufficient information" and was doomed to remain a "UFO" forever.
A UFO report accepted for study by the Air Force had, therefore, three possible fates: (1) identified, (2) inexplicable ("unknown"), (3) not enough data to pass judgment ("insufficient information"). Note that both of the first two categories supposedly did have enough data to allow thorough investigation. In the Blue Book report* it will be found that all "unknowns" are classified as "certain." So to the Air Force a "UFO" is an unanalyzed report; an "unknown" is one which has been analyzed and found "with certainty" to be inexplicable on conventional grounds. Air Force spokesmen, however, are in the habit of misusing their own terminology. For example: "Even the unknown three per cent (referring to reports during the first few months of 1955-Author) could have been explained as conventional phenomena or illusions if more complete observational data had been available."**
Air Force Secretary Donald Quarles, author of this statement, spoke as if there were no difference between "unknown" reports and "insufficient information" reports--two categories which, in fact, are mutually exclusive. "Unknowns" are objects or phenomena that have been definitely classified as of unknown nature; they are not vaguely reported objects that might have had conventional explanations.
As for "insufficient information" reports, these serve no purpose in any scientific study except to show statistically the great number of poor reports received. It is completely unscientific to treat such poor and useless data equally with good data as the Air Force seems to do. "Unknowns" are converted to "insufficient information" reports by spokesmen, then "insufficient information" reports are used to bolster the "identified" category by hints that they "... perhaps, could have been one of several known objects or natural phenomena."** Which all goes to show, allegedly, that there is nothing mysterious about UFOs. The three possible fates have thus been telescoped into one actual fate: More or less identified. (1) Identified (2) "unknowns" which "could have been explained if more complete data available" (3) "insufficient information" cases which "perhaps could have been known objects." One could argue with more validity that these categories should read: (1) identified as probable natural objects
* Davidson, Leon; "Flying Saucers; an Analysis of the Air Force Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14,"(White Plains, N. Y., 1956). This document contains photostatic copies of the text, and many of the tables, of the original Air Force report.
** Davidson, op. cit., p D-5
(2) "unknowns" for which mere is no ready explanation (3) "insufficient information" cases which we will throw out. But the Air Force has never seen fit to be that straightforward about it.
Characteristic of Air Force statements on UFOs is this quotation attributed to Mr. Quarles from an Air Force News Release, October 25, 1955:
"On the basis of this study we believe that no objects such as those popularly described as flying saucers have over flown the United States." (My italics --author.) Perhaps he intended to say "flown over." At any rate, this statement pretends to say that no unexplained objects have flown over the United States. Taken to mean what it seems to say, the statement flatly contradicts the Blue Book study. Of course, it all hinges on what Mr. Quarles meant by "objects such as those popularly described as flying saucers." He could not possibly have meant either "UFOs" or "unknowns" because USAF pilots have pursued those over every part of the country. * Heaven only knows what he did mean.
The American public is so used to hearing phrases like "our cigarette tastes better... " and "laboratory tests prove. .. " that it is hardened to such gobbledygook and doesn't bother to question and analyze it. What do the cigarettes taste better than? Did the "laboratory tests" really prove anything worth mentioning, or are the ad-men merely seeking to clothe themselves in the prestige of science, laboratories and doctors?
The same abuse of language prevails among those who pretend to explain UFOs. There is a minimum of clear, candid argument and a maximum of attempting to sell an idea with the use of meaningless catch phrases. So we find Dr. Menzel "proving" with "laboratory tests" that saucers are merely apparitions. Air Force says "our investigation was better, "and it "proved" that "flying saucers" do not even exist, without ever saying what is meant by "flying saucers."
If, just once, either the commanding general of the Air Force or the President would state publicly: "We are convinced, on the basis of careful and serious investigation, that no controlled alien objects (either from a foreign country or from outside the earth's atmosphere) have flown through our airspace, " it would be difficult not to accept it as an honest statement. But clear, unambiguous language of this sort just does not occur in Air
* See Ruppelt, Edward: Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, (Doubleday 1956), for some of the details.
Force statements on this subject. Rather it is the overwhelming authority of the Air Force, reinforced by skeptical statements from Dr. Menzel and others, which carries the day and forestalls a deeper probe into their parody of a scientific investigation.
For those who would dig deeper, the question remains. Are the terms "flying saucer," "UFO," and "aerial phenomena" to be used interchangeably? If so, the vocabulary of UFOlogy is drastically limited. To illustrate the point, I will trace briefly the history of these terms. The word "flying saucer, "originally applied in 1947 to flat, skimming aerial objects, was almost immediately used by headline-writers to refer to objects of any shape or flight characteristics--in fact to anything in the sky, seen by anyone under any sighting conditions. Accordingly it soon became inexact and non-descriptive. Through a fortunate accident, it was originally quite descriptive since the objects seen in 1947 were mostly saucer-like both in appearance and motion through the air. The result of this carelessness with words was the lack of intelligent attention to the well-substantiated sightings; they could all be tagged with a funny name and treated as jokes.
In view of the supposedly undignified connotations of "flying saucers," the Air Force, in deciding on a name for the alleged mysterious objects, coined the term "Unidentified Flying Object," abbreviated "Ufob" or "UFO." This term was not intended to be applied to any and every aerial occurrence, but only to what appeared (to such observers as experienced pilots) to be unusual, solid, controlled objects. It is obvious that "UFO" like "flying saucer," is today being used in a broader sense than that originally intended. It is also becoming a general catch-all word to tag on anything puzzling in the sky.
The term '"aerial phenomena, " also in wide use, is clearly an extremely general term--"phenomenon" probably being close to the most general word in the English language. The use of this term was prompted by a desire for a neutral vocabulary, but unfortunately it leads to the intrusion of an endless array of irrelevancies into the mystery. Meteors, auroras, cloud formations, birds, "Fortean" falls of ice and living things, unidentified objects, etc., all properly come under the classification of "aerial phenomena. " Certainly this is a broader field than the
* Davidson, op. cit., Table IV--p. 45; Table-- p. 48.
one we are primarily concerned with in a study of the strange aerial objects under consideration. Most of these aerial phenomena are already in competent scientific hands, while the objects of our inquiry are not. To treat all of these aerial phenomena in one package is to make the uncritical assumption that all mysterious aerial events are somehow connected with UFOs (the apparently controlled, generally circular objects which have caused all the furor.)
So we see that the three terms most commonly applied to the objects in question are so general and all-inclusive that we are left without any really specific name for the objects of our inquiry. Clearly, the crux of the mystery lies in the category that the Air Force designates as "unknown." The objects we are really interested in are those which are observed in some detail, investigated carefully, and which defy explanation--both because of their unusual appearance and their unusual actions. In spite of Air Force statements which try to slur over its significance, the term "unknown" is a great deal more meaningful than "UFO" or "flying saucer."
Once attention is focused on the "unknown" category, it is a matter of record that the largest single category within the class of "unknowns" is that of elliptical-shaped objects. This is true even though Air Force analysts, for reasons that are not obvious, have refused to class "lenticular" objects with "elliptical" ones. Instead the familiar "lenticular" or disc-shaped objects are lumped in with "tear drop" and "conical" objects. There is good reason to suspect that many "elliptical" objects were, in fact, discoidal or lenticular objects seen in perspective. If this assumption were made, there would be an even more obvious pattern to the "unknowns."
These ellipses and/or discs, I submit, are the prime objects (if any) of our concern. What should we call them? The fact is that we have no specific name for them! Calling them "UFOs" or "flying saucers" won't do because those terms are, as we have seen, too inclusive. Imagine how enlightening it would be to a little girl at the zoo who asked her father the name of a certain cat-like beast with stripes, if he could only answer: "That, my dear, is an animal."
I have no simple solution for this problem. It is one thing to suggest logical and unambiguous terminology, and another to persuade most people to use it consistently. My own preferences are as follows:
Aerial phenomena--a general, all-inclusive term referring to unusual or mysterious aerial events such as UFOs, ice-falls, aerial explosions, etc.
UFO--temporarily unexplained aerial object, reported in some detail by reputable observers, which maneuvers as if controlled intelligently.
Unknown--UFO which remains unexplained after careful and thorough investigation, because of its actions and/or appearance.
Flying saucer--flat, circular UFO.
The "unknowns" may or may not be space ships, but they are something requiring an explanation. The UFO mystery is frequently mistranslated into such questions as: "Are space ships possible?" Or, "Are most people who report UFOs fooled by conventional objects or natural phenomena?" The obvious answer to both of these questions is "yes." But the objective question which remains unanswered is: "What are the unknowns?" That there is a residue of well-reported, carefully investigated, unexplained objects showing definite patterns can no longer be doubted.
At the present rate of progress, the UFO mystery may be talked to death by irresponsible people unless precise language is used to shear away the nonsense that has been uttered about UFOs. On the one hand we have indisputable evidence of an unexplained phenomenon, and on the other a collection of semantical evasions. We agree with Humpty Dumpty: "Which is to be master, that's all."
Science and the Unexpected
"If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it; for it’s hard to be sought out and difficult." --Heraclitus (circa 500 B. C.)
Have you ever seen a "ghost?" If so, take my advice and never mention it to anyone. Other witnesses or physical evidence would not make any difference. Your plea for a hearing would soon be drowned out by cries of "nonsense," "absurd," and "ridiculous." If you see a "flying saucer," you had better forget that too. Claim to have seen one and you will get approximately the same results. A good term for these skeptical outbursts would be "linguism," since it is choice of language rather than any question of evidence which causes the reactions.
Today we find certain individuals saying, in essence, "UFOs (flying saucers) are Ships from Venus carrying the Space Brothers on a mission of peace and fellowship to earth." Naturally enough, most scientists throw up their hands in horror upon hearing this. It does not take a scientist to note that the earthly contacts of the Space Brothers are fitting supposed facts into their preconceived ideas about how the universe should be run. Instead of presenting logical arguments based on facts, they are distorting facts and presenting them in a package with their pre-established mystical world order. The resulting "Linguismic" reactions effectively delay a scientific study of the real, serious evidence. Many other scientists are persuaded to avoid the subject which has been condemned by their colleagues. The result is that most scientists do not reserve judgment. Instead of saying of the wild claims they hear, "this is
ridiculous; show me some factual evidence;" they tend to say, "this is ridiculous, therefore the whole idea of UFOs is ridiculous."
There is an old saying that "the wheel that squeaks the loudest is the one that gets the grease." This is true of the Space Brother faction in more ways than one. Those who have made the wildest unfounded claims have always received the most money to pursue their activities, and the most attention from the press and skeptics. When the loudest claimants of an unusual or new phenomena use vague, mystical sounding language in talking about the phenomenon, most scientifically trained people seem to adopt a sort of "either-or-ism." Either all of mysticism is true, or there is nothing to the alleged phenomenon. Once committed to a choice between only these two alternatives, they find no difficulty in rejecting the phenomenon. Instead of being used to examine the evidence for or against the phenomenon, scientific energy is dissipated in the eternal struggle between two antithetical philosophies--Mysticism and Science. As has happened in the case of UFOs, the third party, those who are attempting a factual study of the situation- -are either ignored or mistakenly lumped in with the mystical philosophers. The scientists who react in this way are doing a great disservice to science. Their violent reactions bear little resemblance to the "calm, dispassionate" examination of evidence which, according to the text-books, is the scientific way of doing things.
Part of the reason for these common reactions to claims of mysterious occurrences is probably the psychological desire to conform to current ideas. There is an order (call it metaphysical or whatever) which each of us accepts as a framework of understanding. If some fact seems to attack our order, we must either defend against it, ignore it, or absorb it. As frequently happens, the fact may only seem to attack our order, and a closer examination might show that it is actually entirely compatible; but it is fear that the fact might undermine our order which leads us to react emotionally to it.
Modern science, a small but very important world order today, is theoretically supposed to give way to facts, forming in the process more all-embracing concepts. Unfortunately there are many unscientific scientists who, for emotional reasons, refuse to examine "wild facts, with no stall or pigeon-hole," as William James put it. "Facts," he said, "which threaten to break up the accepted system."
While defending the scientific order, it is perfectly legitimate to question facts and to try to determine how solidly they are established, because the very successful concepts of modern science cannot be discarded lightly on the basis of vague evidence. But to explain away or ignore a fact because it seems to be an enemy is an odd sort of defense--an ultimately self-defeating one in my opinion. It is just as foolish, and possibly as fatal, as ignoring the shadowy figure of a man blocking your exit in a dark and lonely alley. It is more natural, when flight is possible, to run from the unfamiliar than to pretend that it does not exist and to fail to take account of it. Nevertheless, it is the task of science to clarify and explain the unfamiliar, and flight is therefore only an expedient.
Although an observer who has seen something strange may be reporting an actual event in a reasonably objective manner, he will frequently find critics more interested in examining his police record or sanity than in examining any evidence he might have. This will undoubtedly happen should the observer chance to use an "unscientific" word--that is, a word which no scientist would be caught dead using except in tones of ridicule.
A casual observer may very well find himself at a loss for words in attempting to describe something which to him is a brand new experience. In order to communicate what he has seen, he will find it necessary to fall back on existing words which affect different people in different ways. Thus an honest person who sees a nebulous human-like figure might, in describing what he has seen, call it a "ghost." This will delight spiritualists, to whom "ghost" means "discarnate spirit," and appall scientists, to whom "ghost" means "superstitious nonsense." Though there may be a perfectly logical and scientific explanation for what he has seen, our honest friend will undoubtedly become a victim of linguism, and a real happening will be ignored by science.
Lest there be a misunderstanding, I am not arguing for the existence of ghosts. Linguism--extreme skepticism about unusual phenomena--can occur equally well when there is nothing unique or important about the reported phenomenon, or when it is actually a case of mistaken identity. If this is so, however, linguism will have been a lucky guess rather than a scientific conclusion. In some cases it may not be a recurring happening which is amenable to scientific investigation.
Chances are, however, that the use of the word "ghost" would automatically satisfy most scientists that nothing important had happened.
The parallel between ghosts and UFOs does not lie in the objective facts of the matter (or lack of them), but in the reactions to the reports. (I disagree completely with the physicist at Cal Tech who once advised me to study ghosts in preference to UFOs, because the evidence for them was of the same type but had a longer history. He was most likely under the spell of linguism and had no knowledge of the evidence for UFOs.) In any case of a verbal report, whether or not there is any supporting evidence, there are four usual reactions by those hearing the report: (1) the observer is lying. (2) the observer is sincere but imagined it. (3) the observer actually saw something but misinterpreted it. (4) the observer saw essentially what he said he saw. The first three of these categories are generally overworked in application to the unexpected or unusual.
A recent example of linguism at work in science was the report, in November, 1958, that a Russian scientist had seen an "eruption" on the moon. The event can be classed as unexpected and unusual because the moon, by current theory, is supposed to be a "dead" body. Without concerning themselves with the evidence, many astronomers immediately called the report "nonsense." One British astronomer said "Don't believe anything they say," the clear implication being that the Russians were lying. Others were ready to admit that "something" was seen, but not an eruption. The general tone of the reactions was that the report had to be wrong because the moon is dead. At least one prominent astronomer rushed out a complex speculative explanation for the "eruption" which would preserve the current theory, but which was not based on any solid evidence. To their credit, several American astronomers acted like scientists and said something of this sort: "Interesting if true, but it will take more evidence to overthrow current ideas about the moon."
Since they are based on the best evidence to date, well-established theories cannot be cast aside at the first sign of a seeming disconfirmation. Again, it may not actually be a disconfirmation, and a fear of being found wrong might cause scientists to overlook an important bit of evidence. It is essential in science that scientists not be so enamored with a theory or hypothesis that they refuse to consider evidence which is prejudicial to it.
It is utterly unscientific to reject a report on the sole grounds that it contradicts a theory; yet, the rules of acceptable evidence are all too often slanted to rule out evidence which would controvert current theory.
Linguism is an attitude, not an explanation. Linguism has historically been the way in which science has handled the unexpected, until the unexpected has by sheer force of numbers become the familiar. Until the unusual has battled its way to acceptance by refusing to believe scientific statements that it is non-existent; by recurring in spite of scientific ridicule. In the 16th century the Church fought the unexpected and alien ideas of Copernicus, who suggested that the earth was not the center of the solar system. In more recent times the table has been turned, and science has in turn fought against ideas which seemed to endanger its system. The fact that Copernicus turned out to be more nearly right than the Church, did not destroy religion. The discovery of the fact that meteorites do fall from the sky, which scientists did not want to accept at first, did not undermine any scientific laws.
Linguism is a symptom of a return to Authority as a means of settling problems. Scientific authority employs a weapon as effective in its way as the Inquisition, namely, ridicule. Once the scientific guns of ridicule and skepticism have been leveled on a subject, few will dare to stand up and be counted in support of that subject. This would not be so bad if scientists were more in the habit of reserving judgment until the facts have been examined.
With many historical precedents to judge by, science should have learned by now that the crackpots and opportunists who attach themselves to all mysteries are irrelevant to the facts of the matter. Linguism only causes unnecessary delay, and compounds the confusion, in providing solutions for unexpected problems. The delay and confusion, in turn, leave an open field for the very enemies that science had intended to defeat. If science would concern itself more with an immediate and honest appraisal of the factual evidence, the truth about new and unexpected happenings would not be so "hard to be sought out and difficult;" for dishonesty and false reasoning cannot flourish when science is functioning as it should.
The Manipulators of Fear
At large in the circus-like arena of UFOlogy are certain ringmasters, who are not above embellishing the facts to thrill their audiences. They seem to feel that a few "white lies" are justified as long as they can put on a good show and sell tickets. Manipulating the emotion of fear in the crowd is the ringmasters' specialty. They know that people like to be led to the edge of the pit, and then pulled back.
The UFO-manipulators are currently employing three spiels in particular: (1) that the earth will soon tilt on its axis (2) that man will bring disaster on himself through the reckless use of A and H-bombs (3) that dark, mysterious terrorists are on the rampage, silencing anyone who discovers "the truth" about UFOs. Although these themes are not at all crucial to the objective case for UFOs, they do recur throughout the writings of UFOlogy.
Man has always seemed to enjoy misreading the facts until they do, without a doubt, appear horrifying. Then, to make certain that a pleasant "truth" ultimately saves the day; he has proceeded to put a protective coating of myth over the distorted facts. It is no different with UFOs. The UFO-manipulators are all too willing (for reasons of personal gain) to provide both the desired "facts" and the saving "truth" for those who are either unable or unwilling to face reality.
One of the most common spiels in UFOlogy, which illustrates this sort of manipulation at work, is that some cataclysmic natural disaster is imminent. It is nothing new for mystics to be predicting the end of the world. In spite of a long history of disconfirmations, it continues to be one of their favorite pastimes. The manipulators seize on the mystical speculations and distort current scientific findings so they will appear to verify the speculations. It works something like this:
The recent worldwide scientific investigations of our environment for the International Geophysical Year revealed that the polar ice-caps apparently are melting and that there is a crack in the earth's crust on the ocean floor. These discoveries, blown up by journalistic enthusiasm (actual headline: "Earth Is Cracked"), are then attached to the old mystical theme of impending doom.
It does not matter that the crack in the ocean floor, on the planetary scale, is but a superficial scratch, and that its only immediate significance is its apparent relation to the world's earthquake belts. Rather than show science at work attempting to learn more about the causes of natural disasters, the manipulators draw attention to themselves by blaming science for the ills of the world. They find it profitable to do so.
Neither are the melting polar caps pictured in the perspective of geological history. Evidence from the past indicates that glaciers have advanced and receded, and that climates have changed. This has occurred slowly, over very long periods of time. In their efforts to portray science as the mystics prefer to see it, the manipulators forget to mention that it is the business of science to predict what effects such geophysical changes will have, and to find ways of controlling them.
In the past, fiery comets were urged as objects of fear and omens of impending disaster. Tomorrow it will be something else used by the manipulators to frighten people into refusing rational inquiry. Today they use the geophysical "facts," among other things.
Once they have stirred up enough people who begin to fear that some cataclysm is about to occur, the manipulators promptly drag in UFOs, portraying them as vehicles bearing saviors from space. A variation on the theme is that atomic explosions are responsible for the coming disaster, and the "space men" are here to warn us of self-annihilation unless we adopt interplanetary brotherhood forthwith. Clearly the "space men" are being created in the desired image, and are (at the appropriate time) made to say nice things.
The dangers of the nuclear age are very real. It is this obvious fact which contributes to the human desire for a simple,
iron-clad solution such as the manipulators are happy to provide. Instead of space men, however, it has been such great human beings as Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell who have warned us about nuclear warfare, and pointed up the choices we must make. Their exhortations, based on science and logic, are worthy of careful thought and deliberate action. Since mystical (anti-scientific) thought could not credit scientifically oriented earth-men with humanitarian concern, "space men" are made to voice it.
There is a danger, however, that a "leave-it-to-the-space-men" attitude will lull a good share of the populace into a false sense of security. "Don't think," the manipulators urge in effect, "these advanced beings from other planets will prevent us from self-destruction, so concentrate on berating science for causing all the trouble."
It can not be determined by wishful thinking whether the possibility of nuclear destruction on earth concerns beings on other worlds. At present, this is a question impossible to answer. If we grant that UFOs are space ships, it remains highly speculative what the motives and purposes of their pilots might be. The possibilities are infinite. They include colonization, neutral exploration, and even "peaceful intervention" as the contact stories picture. The actual truth of the matter must await better evidence, at least some of which is probably now in military hands.
At any rate, this kind of speculation should not compete with the UFO mystery per se, for the main reason that it obscures the fact that UFOs are a well-grounded scientific mystery. As Confucius said, "To be certain of what we know, and of what we do not know, that is true knowledge." Obviously the story of what we do know for certain about UFOs is in a very confused state. Confused, quite often, with what we do not know, such as why UFOs are here.
Another oft-told story is the doings of the alleged silencers who are said to terrorize UFO investigators into inactivity. The moral sounds familiar: "Don't think. Don't investigate." And also, "Don't worry, boys, somebody higher up knows what it's all about."
It is sometimes implied that evil international or supranational interests (or even non-earthly agents) are responsible for these visitations.
As usual there is only vague evidence hinting at something to be feared. If there are any such men, it's a safe bet that they are either self-appointed manipulators or agents or government performing routine duties. Many citizens, unfortunately, do not know their rights and might be frightened by a badge.
All of these fears, it seems to me, are symptoms of a much more general underlying fear in the world. The fear of following wherever the facts might lead us and facing up to reality. The fear of what we might find out. In short a fear of the unknown. Those who fear enlightenment (the "pleasant truth" seekers) and those who profit by darkness (the manipulators) will always be in opposition to scientific investigations.
The irony of the situation in UFOlogy is that distortions of fact are introducing false fears which lead many to accept the savior interpretation of UFOs. This interpretation, in turn, blinds its adherents to the definite possibility that UFOs themselves might be harmful. There is no overwhelming evidence that such is the case, but it is a possibility. Plato said long ago that courage was the knowledge of what to fear, and of what not to fear. By this definition, we could use more "courage" in the world today.
No matter what the truth might be, mankind would almost certainly benefit from the rational, scientific study of UFOs which is impeded by the actions of the manipulators. At the very least, false fears would be eliminated and manipulators exposed.
In over ten years of UFO history, there has been more harm done verbally by human beings than physical harm from UFOs. The only real thing to fear so far is the damage which has been done by the manipulators in frustrating our attempts to increase human knowledge.
Although UFOlogy has a definite function to perform, it is not a science, and should not have to be a science to perform this function. The fact is that few so-called UFOlogists are scientists, and few have sufficient knowledge of scientific techniques to enable them to provide scientific conclusions. What UFOlogy is, and what it should be, can best be determined by examining the reasons for its existence at all. Once this is done, it will be easier to note the chasm between what UFOlogy is and what it should (or could) be. Then ways and means for bridging the chasm can be worked out.
Why is there a groping study of UFOs which goes under the name of "UFOlogy?" One reason which appears to be common to all schools of thought within UFOlogy is dissatisfaction with "Official" investigation and its conclusions. The individual reasons for dissatisfaction, however, are as varied as the personality types represented. Some are dissatisfied because their pet "theories" are not considered proven beyond a doubt by UFOs. These "theories", for the most part, correspond to the preconceptions of the individuals who hold them. Others, on more rational grounds, are dissatisfied because they detect the prejudices of the "official" investigators and the unscientific nature of the "official" investigation.
How, then, do UFOlogists attempt to alleviate this dissatisfaction? What form does the attempt for satisfaction take? UFOlogy might accurately be called a protest movement, since protest is the factor common to all schools of thought which are loosely bundled under the one name. However, it is my contention that "UFOlogy" is a misnomer as long as rabid, anti-scientific elements remain under the same roof.
To be sure, there are many schools of thought within a given science, but all these schools have in common the use of scientific methods in gathering, analyzing, and theorizing about evidence. Disputes about particulars are inevitable, but the use of scientific methods is basic, and only evidence allegedly obtained through scientific techniques is admitted to the arena at all.
As it now stands, UFOlogy does not even meet this basic requirement of a science. UFOlogy is largely a collection of small, unorthodox newspapers which (on the whole) turn out "scientific" conclusions quite arbitrarily; weird "reform" organizations which insist that UFOs mean we should prepare for the end of the world, a "new age, " a cataclysmic upheaval, or what-have-you; and small groups, clubs, and units of people who sit around discussing UFOs as if they were something to be worshipped rather than studied. This aggregate can scarcely be called a neo-science. The "membership" includes religious fanatics and psychopaths as well as astute critics and professional scientists.
UFOlogy exists in its present form primarily because science and officialdom have failed to do their jobs. It is a stopgap movement in protest against this failure, and against the underlying reasons for the failure. A good case can be made for the claim that scientific and bureaucratic orthodoxy, in making paternalism and secrecy the keynote of public information policy, are behind the present confusion about UFOs. The increasing entanglement of science with government is causing science to tend fearfully away from democratic practices, as paradoxical as this may sound.
The fact of the matter is that, for a so-called democratic society, there is very little information available from governmental sources on any subject. The "fact sheet" approach, familiar to those who have written the Air Force about UFOs, is common practice; and the so-called "fact sheets" ordinarily contain little but useless generalizations reflecting the policy line of the current administration. Since a large share of modern science in this country is governmental, science has, unfortunately, tended to adopt information policies and practices of a similarly secretive nature. The resulting dearth of vital information is intolerable, and in the sense that UFOlogy is a fight for freedom of information, it is a very democratic movement.
The present existence of UFOlogy can be traced, ultimately to a breakdown in the scientific spirit, and a political tendency away from democracy; hence the political and philosophical overtones to the writings of UFOlogy. The enemies of the scientific spirit have found a popular subject which enables them to deliver their anti-scientific tirades, and to advocate various mystical doctrines as the answer to all problems, including UFOs. The advocates of the scientific spirit, appalled by the politicalization of science and the resurgence of mysticism, find themselves the numerical and spiritual underdogs, fighting for the continuance of scientific enlightenment. In some cases the gripes about undemocratic practices are being perverted by those of other political persuasions to gripes against democracy itself, and we find "UFO" organizations advocating something akin to the Communist line through the medium-ship of "space men.
In my opinion the function of UFOlogy is to advocate the scientific spirit as the only feasible approach to UFOs. In order to progress beyond its present stage it will have to draw the battle lines clearly, either eliminating unscientific elements from the fold, or completely dissociating itself from the present connotations of "UFOlogy" and taking a new name altogether. It should oppose, with equal fervor, both the bastardization of science in government and the ghosts of the mystical past which have arisen to haunt the subject. Neither the glib mystical solutions nor the misleading official announcements should be tolerated.
Although the ranks of UFOlogy contain the seeds of a science, it should not now pretend to be a science but a popular movement advocating scientific investigation. It can do (and has done) some laying of foundations for scientific study, especially in the fields of data-gathering and classifying. It should (and could) clarify and present the factual evidence in a manner designed to encourage a true scientific investigation which would make use of all the techniques and facilities available to science today. Until UFOlogy has as its image the scientific spirit, it will not attract scientists. Until it attracts scientists, it will not be a science. Until it is a science, it will not provide the answers about UFOs. If UFOlogy is unable to become a science on its own, it has to persuade orthodox scientists to investigate UFOs. In either case, it must eliminate the unscientific elements which have obscured the issue.
The UFOs and Proof
What constitutes proof...? "This is the provocative question asked by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, former chief of the Air Force UFO project. This is the essence of the UFO controversy and the main stumbling block preventing a conclusive answer. Time after time, as Ruppelt reported, pilots and other good observers have reported UFOs which could not be explained. Twice the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC), home of the UFO project, concluded that UFOs were real objects. The second time, in 1948, ATIC further concluded that UFOs were interplanetary space ships. * When higher echelons demanded proof, however, the ATIC investigators got cold feet. Through some strange logic the conclusion was reversed so completely that UFOs suddenly did not exist at all!
One of the most popular pastimes indulged in by all sorts of people who have not examined the evidence for UFOs is to attribute all UFO reports to the psychological make-up of the individual observers. Even professional psychologists have been prone to slough off UFO reports lightly as hallucinations and delusions. In an age of psychoanalysis and psychology for the masses, these explanations have been popular with the press. Newsmen, on the whole, have willingly parroted any explanation for UFOs emanating from professional authorities regardless of the fact that very little study preceded the authoritative explanations.
If psychological explanations are to be applied to the serious side of the UFO mystery, psychologists should begin by examining the ups and downs of the Air Force investigation and ease
* E. J. Ruppelt, Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, (Doubleday, 1956) p. 62.
up a bit on serious observers like pilots who--so some would have us believe--are constantly being deluded by other airplanes, birds, clouds, and familiar objects which have always been a part of their everyday experience. It is much more plausible, even without the documented facts about the conduct of Air Force UFO investigators, to suppose that the strange actions of these responsible for investigations of UFOs are a more fitting subject for psychological examination. What psychological reasons are there for the fluctuations of the Air Force all across the spectrum of explanation from "non-existent" to "space ship" and back again? Clearly there is more to the problem than a question of weighing factual evidence when the Air Force and its alleged scientific investigation can not make up its mind from year to year whether the phenomenon it is supposed to be studying even exists.
"Proof" is nothing more than conviction based on factual evidence and logical argument. If the evidence is examined and found to be valid, and the logic is sound, a statement or claim is "proved." It is not quite that simple, however, when the claim is as complex as the assertion that "UFOs are space ships" or "UFOs are common objects which have deceived the observers." The Air Force has, for at least 10 years, attempted to prove the latter. In doing so it has had to rely heavily on psychological explanations both to account for the many deluded observers and to debunk the notion of extraterrestrial visitors as wishful thinking.
There are those of us who find the Air Force explanations glib and insulting, and who would prefer to see an open scientific investigation attempt to prove that UFOs are real. On the basis of circumstantial evidence it is not unreasonable to accept this as a possibility worthy of further study. If this attempt failed after an honest effort were made, UFOs would lose by default. If it succeeded, it could be one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time.
In application to UFOs, the academic question of proof must be settled on two levels: (1) What constitutes proof that UFOs are a unique phenomenon rather than many different misidentified conventional objects? (2) If UFOs are unique, unexplained objects, how can we prove what the objects are? The Air Force has continually jumped back and forth between these two levels.
First UFOs are space ships (which implies that they are unique objects of a single type), then UFOs are not only not space ships, but also not unique objects of a single type. The logic appears to have been that if you can't prove these disc-like objects are space ships, you have to prove they are not disc-like objects. This odd set of alternatives was also expressed by Captain Ruppelt who said in 1954; "If they're real, they're interplanetary."* Whether or not you accept these alternatives, it is important to obtain proof or disproof on the first level without getting involved in the emotional morass surrounding the question of what UFOs might be if they are real.
One thing is certain. If UFOs are disc-like objects, they are not birds, balloons, or any of the other 57 Air Force varieties. They may not be space ships, but they are unexplained disc-like objects. This argument, when used in conjunction with a series of reliable reports of flying discs, has (at least for the moment) converted a few skeptics. Not to a belief in space ships, however. With breathtaking suddenness the skeptics have made the same logical leap of telescoping the 57 varieties into one --"Oh, they're probably some sort of secret U. S. device." This is at least an acceptance of the first level; but it leads immediately to a whole new argument of whether, considering the history of UFO reports, UFOs could be secret devices.
Circumstantial evidence so far favors the establishment of the first level of proof--that the real UFOs are unique disc-like objects. There is a consistency of the best reports in regard to general shape and flight characteristics. What conventional objects are circular, capable of hovering, making sharp turns, and accelerating at speeds which astound veteran pilots, scientists and other experienced observers? One professional astronomer reported a UFO sighting, stating that its "remarkably sudden ascent convinced me (it was an) absolutely novel airborne device. ** He had watched an object elliptical in outline, which was first hovering.
What conventional objects evidence curiosity by pacing airliners, leading jets on cat and mouse pursuits and tantalizing the pilots by remaining just out of reach, and darting down to hover near airports and other installations? *** This "proof" that we are dealing with something which has not been explained, and which is worthy of scientific investigation, is all documented and easily verifiable by anyone interested enough to look at the reports. There are thousands of such reports from good
* Ruppelt, "What Our Air Force Found About Flying Saucers." TRUE. May 1954.
* LIFE; 7 April, 1952. *** Ruppelt, op. cit.
observers which can not be dismissed by spouting generalities about the psychological aberrations of human beings.
Even the Chief Scientific Consultant to the Air Force, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, (Northwestern University astrophysicist) has pointed out the consistency and the need for further study. "On the assumption that the majority of these reports, often made in concert, come from reputable persons... it becomes a matter of scientific obligation and responsibility to examine the reported phenomena seriously, despite their seemingly fanciful character...,” he said. "It appears that those reported phenomena which do not admit of a ready and obvious explanation exhibit fairly-well defined patterns and that these are worthy of further study." *
To reach the second level of proof--as to the nature of the UFOs--it must first be accepted that there is no more debate on the first level. For the sake of argument, we shall assume we are now dealing with a unique type of circular or discoidal object which is being seen in our atmosphere. The second proof, at least in theory, is now relatively simple. Objects of geometrical design which are controlled (i. e. which hover, turn, rise and fall, follow, and flee when pursued) could only be the products of intelligent creatures. Ruling out the possibility that some UFOs might themselves be intelligent creatures (which would also be sufficient reason for a scientific investigation), the choice is clear. UFOs are either devices manufactured on earth, or they are the products of extraterrestrial intelligence.
If we go so far as to accept UFOs as mechanical devices, there is a proof available to settle the question of origin. It is the reductio ad absurdum (reducing one of two alternatives to an absurdity, thereby proving the other alternative.) If UFOs are not earthly devices, it follows that they are extraterrestrial devices. The government, in all probability, would know of any earthly devices which had been in existence for over 12 years; so it would know whether we have visitors from space as soon as the first level of proof were settled. It may already know. Maybe Captain Ruppelt knew what he was talking about when he said, "If they're real, they're interplanetary."
The eagerness with which the Air Force tries to prove that all UFOs are misidentified familiar objects might be caused by three things: (1) an honest conviction that UFOs are not a unique reality (2) a fear, based on pre-knowledge that UFOs are not
* Journal of the Optical Society of America, April 1953.
secret devices, that to prove UFOs are a unique reality would present a situation over which we had no control--visitors from space in superior vehicles and with obviously superior science. (3) a smoke screen to hide the known fact that we do have visitors from space.
Regardless of why this is so, the Air Force is (at least publicly) explaining UFOs away instead of examining the crucial reports for signs of consistency and intelligible patterns. Independent studies have shown that these patterns exist; but, it will take a full scientific study to prove anything. The question is: When is the phase of glib explanation going to end, and an attempt to obtain scientific proof begin?
Pigeon-holes of Science
The following words of the American philosopher William James have particular application to one of the main difficulties in UFO investigation- -the failure of the scientific community to recognize that a serious problem exists which should be explored by science:
"Round about the accredited and orderly facts of every science there ever floats a sort of dust-cloud of exceptional observations, of occurrences minute and irregular and seldom met with, which it always proves more easy to ignore than to attend to... Facts are there only for those who have a mental affinity with them. When once they are indisputably ascertained and admitted, the academic and critical minds are by far the best fitted ones to interpret and discuss them... but on the other hand if there is anything which history demonstrates, it is the extreme slowness with which the ordinary academic and critical mind acknowledges facts to exist which present themselves as wild facts, with no stall or pigeon-hole, or as facts which threaten to break up the accepted system... "
"Science means, first of all, a certain dispassionate method. To suppose that it means a certain set of results that one should pin one's faith upon and hug forever is sadly to mistake its genius, and degrades the scientific body to the status of a sect."*
The application of these words to the UFO mystery is not intended as an indictment of science. Much of the reason for the scientific disdain of UFOs is the aura of crackpotism which has enshrouded the subject. All sorts of "saucer cults" exist which, almost literally, worship UFOs. In much the same manner, however, some people worship automobiles or airplanes. This does not mean that automobiles or airplanes do not exist.
The UFO reports from pilots, radar men, FAA control tower operators and other reliable observers are wild facts with no
* William James; The Will to Believe, Longmans, Green & Co. Inc.
pigeon-hole. The Air Force, alleging the use of scientific methods, is attempting to find conventional pigeon-holes for each UFO report. It is highly debatable (1) whether the Air Force investigation is scientific and (2) whether the correct pigeonholes are being found. The important question is: Are UFOs something unconventional which need a new pigeon-hole? Are they something new to our experiences which are wrongly being forced to fit a conventional mold?
As far as the scientific community is concerned, it can make no claims about UFOs because it has not yet recognized and investigated them. Instead it has assumed, with little or no investigation, that nothing new or different is being seen. Only a very small handful of professional scientists have had anything at all to say publicly about UFOs, and then it has only been a matter of individual opinion, not scientific conclusion.
Dr. Donald Menzel, Harvard astrophysicist, is the most famous of those who have ventured opinions. His opinion is that UFOs are only the "rags and tags of meteorological optics" (i. e., rare and uncommon atmospheric phenomena such as "sun-dogs" and reflections of ground lights off of variably heated layers of air.) More recently he has called continuing UFO reports "saucer scares," and cases in which UFOs were said to have stalled automobiles he has attributed to "nervous feet." In short, he is a noted UFO-skeptic.
Dr. Menzel's temperature inversion theory, which was rejected by the Air Force, cannot account for the valid photographs and movies of UFOs, or the simultaneous radar-visual sightings. Inversion effects on radar are well-known to FAA radar men, who pay no particular attention to them as they guide airliners in for landings.
Although Dr. Menzel and the Air Force disagree on individual explanations in almost every case, it is interesting to note that both agree UFOs are nothing but a collection of various natural phenomena. It is this formidable team of debunkers which has carried so much weight in public opinion. Yet, the mere fact that the two parties find different explanations for the same case is an indication of the guess-work that goes on in regard to UFOs. Apparently it is all right to have discrepancies as long as it is agreed that UFOs are not something unique.
Today there is a sort of worship of authority or expertness in our society whereby the nearest "expert" is called upon to pass judgment on some happening single-handedly. A glowing light is seen in the sky, startling several citizens. Some enterprising reporter (acting for the public) calls up Dr. Smith at the local observatory and asks what the light was. "I didn't see it, but it was probably a meteor," says Dr. Smith. Satisfied, the reporter writes his story: "ASTRONOMER SAYS SKY GLOW WAS METEOR--Not Little Green Men From Mars." (The embellishment jazzes up the story.)
The authoritative opinion is then generally accepted as fact. Any other scientists who might read the story will give weight to the explanation because it came from a scientist and provided a proper pigeon-hole for the happening. They will also scoff at anyone--perhaps one of the actual witnesses--who questions the explanation. In a case like this, they will fall back on scientific "authority" suggesting that only scientists are competent to judge such things.
Scientists will seldom create new categories (or pigeonholes), even if it means questioning the sincerity and honesty of non-scientific observers. They will frequently demolish the report itself and deny its factual content rather than admit an uncatalogued fact. This has been demonstrated throughout the history of science, and throughout every branch of science. This skeptical denial of evidence, which I have called "linguism,"* is not reserved for non-scientists, however. New discoveries or unusual reports by other scientists often get the same treatment.
A case in point is the discovery of a "missing link" between man and the apes in 1924, and the subsequent scientific skepticism which resulted from this claim. Near the end of 1924 a small skull was found in a lime deposit near Taungs, Africa, and sent to anatomist Raymond Dart in Johannesburg. Dart cleaned and studied it and promptly sent a paper off to London claiming the skull represented a being between higher apes and man. He called it Austra-lopithecus africanus.
When the paper appeared in 1925, "all English and American scientists who expressed an opinion were unanimous in declaring that Dart had made a serious blunder."** The skull, they said, was that of a chimpanzee. Later, anthropologist Robert Broom (who investigated) and noted paleontologist William J. Sollas of Oxford University (who had examined a portion of the
* Linguism: extreme scientific skepticism about unusual occurrences.
** The Apeman, by Robert Broom; Readings in Anthropology, Hoebel, Jennings & Smith, (McGraw-Hill, c. 1955)
skull) became allies of Dart and supported his claim. The argument went on for years, but most anthropologists were not convinced.
Finally, many years later, further excavations and discoveries in South Africa established beyond a doubt that a family of higher primates, practically human, had lived in the area for hundreds of thousands of years. Today it is generally accepted that Dart's original claim was correct, and that Austra-lopithecus was a being not quite ape and not quite human, but with features of both. Although there is some disagreement as to the exact place in the evolutionary scheme, scientific opinion is now unanimous that the skull represents an ape-man, definitely not a chimpanzee. [See Also: "Fossil Men," Boule & Vallois (Dryden Press, New York, c. 1957), p. 92.]
No one could have argued with the scientists if they had either reserved judgment or asked for more evidence. Instead... "Nonsense... Dart blundered... only a chimpanzee. “It is the attitude implicit in words like these which delay scientific progress by refusing, without paying too much attention to the facts, to even consider the need for new pigeon-holes of knowledge. It is a pretension, unbecoming to those who claim to be scientists, to think that modern science has already established all categories of knowledge for all time.
In the field of UFOs, the same unscientific habit is practiced. Critics will frequently state that there are no scientific observations of UFOs on record (the implication being that UFOs are therefore only embellishments, conscious or unconscious, of some routine happening.) Newspaper editors often treat UFOs as if they were some sort of popular summer madness. Actually, many scientists have seen UFOs and reported them to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). Some of these men, but not all, have insisted on remaining anonymous in order to avoid the sort of unthinking ridicule under discussion. They can hardly be blamed.
Dr. Donald Menzel, the noted UFO-skeptic, has provided a good example of the technique sometimes used to get rid of a "wild fact." That technique is the annihilation or distortion of evidence. One instance of this is his interpretation of a UFO report made by another famous scientist, Dr. Clyde Tombaugh. Dr. Tombaugh is best known for his discovery of the planet Pluto, but also has many other astronomical discoveries to his credit.
His achievements, and the list of scientific societies to which he belongs, are reported in "Who's Who." His UFO report, received by the author in the form of a signed statement, follows:
"I saw the object about eleven o'clock one night in August, 1949, from the backyard of my home in _____, New Mexico. I happened to be looking at zenith, admiring the beautiful transparent sky of stars, when suddenly I spied a geometrical group of faint bluish-green rectangles of light similar to the "Lubbock Lights." My wife and her mother were sitting in the yard with me and they saw them also. The group moved south-southeasterly, the individual rectangles became foreshortened, their space of formation smaller, (at first about one degree across) and the intensity duller, fading from view at about 35 degrees above the horizon. Total time of visibility was about three seconds. I was too flabbergasted to count the number of rectangles of light, or to note some other features I wondered about later. There was no sound. I have done thousands of hours of night sky watching, but never saw a sight so strange as this. The rectangles of light were of low luminosity; had there been a full moon in the sky, I am sure they would not have been visible."
Dr. Tombaugh's astronomical background, as well as his thousands of hours of practical observing experience, make him an expert observer. Naturally, any honest skeptic would feel obliged to account for his observation. Dr. Menzel discusses the case in his book, giving the following analysis:
"I can only hazard here the same guess I made about the Lubbock lights--that a low, thin layer of haze or smoke reflected the lights of a distant house or some other multiple source. The haze must have been inconspicuous to the eye, because Tombaugh comments on the unusual clarity of the sky." *
When I first read this explanation, I found it more amazing than Dr. Tombaugh's sighting. In order to account for a report of an unusual phenomenon, Dr. Menzel had to provide a haze layer even though Dr. Tombaugh "comments on the unusual clarity of the sky." But skeptics prefer to accept admitted guesses of this sort rather than credit the first-hand testimony of a trained observer. This is particularly true when accepting the testimony might mean accepting the need for a new pigeon-hole or category of knowledge--a new, unexplained phenomenon.
* Flying Saucers, Donald H. Menzel, (Harvard University Press, c. 1953), p. 3b.
Since Dr. Menzel's analysis implied that Dr. Tombaugh had been fooled by a light reflection, I wrote to Dr. Tombaugh to ask whether he thought the UFO was solid and to get his opinion of Dr. Menzel's interpretation. Dr. Tombaugh replied on September 10, 1957:
"Regarding the solidity of the phenomenon I saw: My wife thought she saw a faint connecting glow across the structure. The illuminated rectangles I saw did maintain an exact fixed position with respect to each other, which would tend to support the impression of solidity. I doubt that the phenomenon was any terrestrial reflection, because some similarity to it should have appeared many times. I do a great deal of observing (both telescopic and unaided eye) in the backyard and nothing of the kind has ever happened before or since. "
Time after time throughout the history of science, scientists have scoffed at "wild facts," refusing even to consider the possibility that they might be real facts in need of explanation. The classic example of clinging to established pigeon-holes was the refusal of astronomers, until comparatively recently, to accept the fact that meteorites come from the sky. "Wild facts" of the past sometimes become mundane realities once they are examined fairly by scientists.
It is true that science does not have time to examine every "crackpot" notion that comes along. There is a huge assortment of junk which has been advanced as "fact." Nevertheless, when there is a long and continuous body of data for some phenomenon, when that phenomenon has been seen by expert observers, tracked on radar, and photographed, when it has caused a continuing controversy and affected the lives of thousands of people, science has an obligation to study it. UFOs are such a phenomenon.
Significant sightings of UFOs have been made by hundreds of competent persons, including a growing number of scientists. Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh and other scientists have, without fail, testified to the reality and unclassifiable character of UFOs in their accounts. The scientists who were fortunate enough to see examples of UFO performance for themselves have given their testimonies in a true open-minded scientific manner, recognizing the fallacy of trying to pigeon-hole their unusual observations within the traditional categories. A few such reports follow:
DETAILS OF OBSERVATIONS OF UNKNOWN FLYING OBJECTS
Date: Monday, August 11, 1958
Time: 9:15 to 10:30 p.m.
Location: Chautauqua Lake, New York
Observers: Fred C. Fair, Ph.D., and Gary Phillips
(Dr. Fair is a retired professor of Engineering, New York University)
Fred C. Fair and Gary Phillips were using a survey transit to observe the altitude and azimuth of certain stars.
(1) A white light was observed moving across the sky to the right and away from the observers. When the transit telescope was sighted on the moving light, possibly a minute had elapsed since it was first observed. At first only one white light was seen, then a second was noted, then a third and finally a fourth light, all four being more or less in line, and each separated by an angular distance of about 2 degrees. It is the opinion of both observers that when the first of the four lights was seen, that there were no other moving lights in the vicinity. Which does not mean that the objects were not in the sky, but that they were not emitting visible light at that time.
Shortly after watching all four lights with the naked eye, the third light became about ten times as bright as the others, becoming brighter than Jupiter which was in the same sky area. The other three lights at this time were about as bright as a second magnitude star. A few seconds later this third light rather suddenly dimmed until it was the faintest of the four lights.
Due to the narrow field of view of a surveyor's transit telescope, it is rather difficult to locate and follow a rapidly moving object. By the time that Gary made his first observation thru the telescope the moving lights had traveled from Northwest to Southwest, passing close to Jupiter. Gary made the statement that the objects were Flying Saucers, and that the telescope showed that what appeared to be a single light to the naked eye was several lights, and that there was a red light above the others. When Dr. Fair took his turn to observe the lights, three of the objects had already disappeared behind trees to the south. The very brief glance that Dr. Fair had showed several white lights, he thought there were five, and he observed a faint red light to the rear and above the white ones.
(2) Fifteen minutes later, while in a boat on Lake Chautauqua, while looking for meteors, a single white light was seen in the southeast sky traveling from south to north. The light slowly and continuously varied intensity, fluctuating from 5th to 3rd magnitude, but the time of the cycle was irregular, but of more than three-second duration per cycle. For several seconds the light appeared to be stationary and when it resumed its motion it was traveling in a direction opposite to when first observed. Total time of observation of this light was about five minutes. As it receded in the south it became too faint to be further seen.
About this time a jet trail, making an arc of about 180 degrees was observed in a tighter radius than that described by the first four objects, but following essentially the same course. At the head of the jet trail Gary saw a red glow, possibly the exhaust from the jet.
(3) Still later a different type of lighting was seen close to the horizon in the western sky. We were still out on the lake at the time. A bright, rapidly blinking red and white light moved rapidly from right to left. Soon a similar blinking red and white light was seen to the right of this light, moving from right to left. It was fainter than the other which could have been due to being farther away. When the two lights passed each other they were separated by a vertical angle of about 2 or 3 degrees.
(4) After returning to the transit on shore, star observations were resumed, but in a few minutes were interrupted to again observe a white light in the northwest sky traveling rapidly from west to north. The telescope showed this light to be similar to the first objects. Dr. Fair noted in particular that the five white lights were not arranged in a straight line, but appeared as though spaced on the circumference of an oval. (Italics added.) Again, a red light was noted above and slightly to the rear of the white lights. This was followed with the telescope until it disappeared behind some nearby trees. Gary who noticed this object first saw only two white lights. Probably fifteen seconds elapsed before Dr. Fair was sighted on the object and observed that there were five white lights.
No vapor trail was observed behind any of the sighted objects.
THE STORY OF THE STRANGE OBJECTS SEEN IN THE SKY,
STATE OF MICHIGAN, JULY 27, 1952.
(From notes made on the spot and at the time)
The following report was submitted to NICAP by Dr. Charles H. Otis, retired professor emeritus of Biology, Bowling Green State University:
Place of observation: 3724 Dexter Rd., R. D. No. 1, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan; a small acreage at the top of Lyon Hill, called Sleepy Hollow, situated about four miles west from Main Street (or the County Court House). Altitude at the road, about 975 feet (the place is easily located on the Ann Arbor quadrangle, topographical map, U. S. Geol. Survey), at the place of observation, in the hollow, probably 950 feet, or a little more. Along the west property line is a small woods and two low buildings. To the east is a wide expanse of sky.
Date of sighting: July 27, 1952. Time of observation, about 10:40 a.m. Conditions for observation, perfect; a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky (see an observation later); the sun at this time of day high in the heavens; no observable haze. Photographically speaking, conditions were probably those of maximum light for the year and suitable for the fastest exposure (only, no camera--what a picture, I think, could have been made, with a ray filter over the lens, and with telephoto equipment, either snapshot or movie--explanation will appear in the story).
The story: (apologies for the use of "I")
I was working on a lawns settee, giving it a coat of white enamel, in the shade of a walnut tree. My wife was sitting near by, reading, or whatever she was doing (the point is not important, except to state here that she became a spectator or witness to what took place). For some reason--perhaps my back was tired--I stood up, laid down my brush, stepped out into the sunshine and glanced up and to the east. I was startled by what I saw. There, in a pattern, were a number of objects, seemingly floating along, making no sound. My first thought was that something had been released from a plane that I remembered had passed overhead not long before (I refer to a noisy, 4-engined plane that makes its regular east to west trip at about this time of day, and to which we never pay any attention, although it usually passes over the house, both coming and going), and I called to my wife to come and then I realized that these objects were probably much higher than the plane was flying and that there was no connection with it (I mention these reactions because, so far as I am aware, the pilot of the plane
did not report on these strange objects, and, they might not even have been there at the time of his passing). It was my impression that the objects were as high as the highest fleecy white clouds, but it may be only an impression (later checking of the sky revealed only two small white clouds lying low on the horizon at the north, and there was nothing at the time to use as a gauge). I assumed that they were traveling over the city of Ann Arbor, as if a reconnaissance were being made; the direction appeared to be due south. They were traveling so slowly (but, of course, they may have been much higher than I supposed) that I told my wife to keep looking, while I ran to the house and seized a bird glass (magnification near 5X). From then on, with the glass, I studied the objects until they disappeared at my horizon.
When first counted, the objects number 15; and they were traveling in the form of an organized flotilla, the horizontal distribution being something on this order (but probably not an exact duplication):
For this reason, I will hereafter refer to the objects as "ships." The "ships" traveled so slowly that it seemed to me that I was able to study them for minutes (this may have been one of those times, however, when a minute may seem an hour; but, of course, they were going farther away all the time). Before they reached my horizon, one "ship," as if receiving a signal, left the flotilla and, describing what to me seemed to be a wide arc, disappeared with a burst of speed that seemed incredible. I had the glass on it, and then it was gone (this might explain the discrepancy in the count of 14, if the Battle Creek woman saw the same sight that I am reporting on, but after the disappearance of the one just mentioned). The mathematics has not been worked, but just after the episode the approximate angle of sight when first seen was determined to be 34° with the horizontal, using level and planimeter, and if we knew the height, it could be calculated.
Description of a "ship":
The 15 "ships" appeared to be identical in size, shape, and other discernible characteristics. In the way in which they seemingly floated, one got the impression that they were of very light weight (unless someone has discovered some way to eliminate the force of gravity). There was no sound (even from 15 of them in a body). They maintained position in the flotilla perfectly. The body appeared to be elongated, but split at the rear; there were no wings. Nothing like a cabin could be discerned, nor windows, nor persons. The sketch shown here is a copy of one hastily made in my notebook immediately after the "ships" had passed out of sight.
Two items stand out conspicuously. In the "bow" end of each "ship" was a relatively large and exceedingly bright glow (brighter than a star, even in the bright light of the day; -- this might explain the reported "lights over Washington" episode, which occurred at night). Each "ship" also had, emanating from the "stern" portion, two "tails," seemingly streaming out horizontally, never changing in length, nor wavering. These "tails" had none of the aspects of vapor trails, and they cut off cleanly; i. e., they had definite ends. It was as if the "ships" laid down a caterpillar track, walked on it, but carried it along with them. They gave the appearance of the tail of a comet, like Halley's, which I once saw very beautifully one night (1910?), but in this instance, and strangely enough, in a bright sky. They gave somewhat the appearance of the Tyndall effect which the stereopticon beam gives in a darkened theater. But, if due to the Tyndall effect, why should the "tails" or "beams" have been visible in broad daylight? It is possible that the "tails" just described represent atomic or subatomic particles leaving the "ship" with terrific speed and with propulsive force, that they were luminous in themselves, and that they had a limited and short length of life (which could account for the definite length of the "tail" which has been mentioned previously). What other explanations are there which might account for the appearance and behavior of the "ships" upon which I am reporting?
s/ Charles H. Otis, April 5, 1958
Wells Alan Webb
B. S., M. S., Chemistry, University of California
Chemical engineer & Research Chemist
Provided Univ. of Calif, with deuterium source for cyclotron research.
Mars, The New Frontier, by W. A. Webb (Fearon Publishers, Calif., c. 1956) page 125:
"On January 30, 1953, at approximately 7:25 p. m. the author was riding in the back seat of an automobile in which Felix Gelber and Grover Kihorny, both of Los Angeles, were also passengers. The night sky appeared black except for stars. The desert air was clear and the stars and ground lights shone with brilliance. We were on highway 80, traveling west toward Yuma, Arizona, 7 miles away at the approximate rate of 60 miles per hour. While looking through the windshield the writer noticed a half mile ahead among a group of steady bright ground lights there was one light which flickered and danced. At about 15 degrees above the horizon stood the evening star. All of these lights, the steady, the dancer and the star, had approximately equal brilliance in the field of vision at that moment. As we approached the ground lights, they resolved into floodlights on twenty foot poles illuminating the hangar area of Spain Flying Field. We saw through the side window a single engine Army trainer standing in this area with a man working over it. The dancing light, now apparently higher than at first, hovered directly over the airplane at about twice the height of the floodlights. Suddenly, looking out the side, then the rear window, we became aware of the dancing light's rising motion. It rose slowly at first, then gathering momentum it lifted rapidly. The author strained at the rear window and watched the light blink repeatedly, then vanish among the stars at an altitude of at least 60 degrees. This was not more than about ten seconds after we had passed the flying field, still traveling at 60 miles per hour.
Gelber and Kihorney had also seen the light; their observation of the details had been the same as the author's, so the next morning the writer prevailed upon them to investigate the mysterious light. We returned to the place on the highway opposite the hangar. The airplane stood on the same spot as the night before. We paced off the perpendicular distance from the highway to the airplane. It was one hundred yards. Then we found a mechanic who said that he was the man who had been working on the airplane the evening before.
He had not seen the dancing light; there had been no sound to attract his eyes overhead. Therefore the light had not been on a helicopter. He referred us to the U. S. Weather Station, one quarter of mile eastward. There the weatherman said that he had released a lighted balloon at about the time we had seen our flickering light. He showed us one of the balloon lights, a very small flashlight bulb without reflector. It did not flicker, it burned steadily, the weatherman said, but its light was so faint that it could not be seen at a distance except with the telescope that he used. Certainly, he said, the balloon light could never appear to be of the same brightness as the glaring floodlights of the Spain Flying Field. Furthermore, the weather balloon had not hovered over the hangar of that flying field; at a uniform rate it had mounted steadily in the sky above the weather station. The weatherman proved this by showing us the chart he had plotted by taking telescope sightings of the altitude of the light at timed intervals.
When all of the facts about the light , Gelber, Kihorney and the writer had seen were laid before the weatherman, he said that ours must have been a UFO, that such things were a great mystery but had nevertheless been seen frequently in the neighborhood by the personnel of the Weather Station and also of the nearby Air Force Fighter Base."
Mr. Webb's second UFO sighting was on May 5, 1953. Time: 9:45-10:00 a.m.
"It was a clear sunny morning; the author was standing in a field near the Vacuum Cooling Company plant, not far from Spain Flying Field, and about a mile north of the Yuma Air Force Fighter Base. His attention was drawn by the buzzing of jet fighters taking off in quick succession, passing directly overhead traveling northward. As he scanned the northern sky the author's attention became fixed upon what at first appeared to be a small white cloud, the only one in the sky at the time. The author was wearing Polaroid glasses having a greenish tint, and as was his custom when studying clouds he took the glasses off and put them on at intervals to compare the effect with and without Polaroid. The object was approximately oblong with the long axis in a horizontal plane. It floated at an elevation of about forty-five degrees.
During the course of about five minutes the object traveled approximately 30 degrees toward the east. Then it appeared abruptly to turn and travel northward; at the same time its oblong shape changed to circular section. As a circular object is rapidly became smaller as if receding. While receding, the object did not noticeably lose any of its brightness. In about thirty seconds of this, its diameter became too small for the author to hold in his vision.
During the first period the writer had not noticed a change in the oblong nor in the field of view about it as a result of putting on and taking off his Polaroid glasses. But during the second period several uniformly spaced concentric circles appeared around the now circular object. The circles were distinct dark bands which enveloped the silvery disc. The largest of these circles was, perhaps, six times the diameter of the central disc. When the writer removed his polarizing glasses the silvery disc remained but the concentric rings vanished. When the glasses were put on again, the rings reappeared. The writer repeated this several times, each time with the same result. The rings with glasses on faded to invisibility before the disc became too small to see. "
Former Curator of Darling Observatory,
University of Minnesota
Mr. Halstead and his wife saw two UFOs while crossing the Mojave Desert on a Union Pacific train in 1955.
"It was the first day of November, 1955. We were on our way to California--about 100 miles west of Las Vegas when it happened. My wife Ann was sitting next to the window and she called my attention to an object which she saw--something moving just above the mountain range. Our train was running parallel to this range of mountains and this object was moving in the same direction as the train, just above the mountains. I first thought the thing was a blimp--you know--one of those cigar shaped dirigibles. That's what I thought it was at first. But as I watched it I realized that it could not be a blimp--they are only about 200 feet long. And this thing was gigantic. It was about 800 feet long. I could estimate that because it was so close to the mountain ridge where trees and clumps of trees were visible for comparison.
While we were watching the cigar-shaped thing for four or
five minutes as it paced the train, we noticed that another object had joined it. This second object appeared very suddenly--in back of the first one. It was a disc-shaped thing. Both of them were very shiny we noticed. But this second one was disc-shaped. If my estimate of size on the cigar-shaped thing was correct then the disc-shaped object would have been about 100 feet in diameter, flat on the bottom with a shallow dome on top.
My wife and I watched them for another two or three minutes. They were moving at about the same speed as the train and they were very close to the top of the ridge, not more than 500 feet above it, I should say. Then they began to rise, slowly at first and then much faster. In a matter of seconds they had risen so high that we couldn't see them anymore from the train window.
All over the world credible witnesses are reporting experiences similar to mine. Holding these people up to ridicule does not alter the existing facts. The time is long overdue for accepting the presence of these things, whatever they are, and dealing with them and the public on a basis of realism. "
(As told to NICAP Board Member Frank Edwards.)
Walter N. Webb
Chief Lecturer on Astronomy, Hayden Planetarium, Boston, Mass.
Former member of Smithsonian Institutions' Satellite Tracking Program.
"Out of the many observations I've made over the years of assorted aerial objects and phenomena, both normal and unusual, I am fairly certain that at least two sightings were of genuine unusual objects that may have been UFOs but because they were visible for such a short duration, it was impossible to explain or classify them. I have placed three of these sightings in a "possible UFO" category. And then there were several things I witnessed that I believe do not belong in the UFO category but yet were so exceptional as to remain unexplained. At least two of these objects were probably of celestial origin, and therefore I would prefer to exclude this latter group from the discussion below. As yet, I have not had the good fortune of seeing a UFO close enough to discern shape and detail clearly. However, I have personally investigated other reports where the size and shape of the UFO's were plainly visible to the observers.
Although these observations are far more interesting and dramatic than mine, I have limited the paragraphs below to my own personal experiences.
THE UFO SIGHTINGS (2)
It was on the night of August 3, 1951, that I witnessed the first UFO. That summer I was a nature counselor at Camp Big Silver, the Toledo (Ohio) Boys' Club camp on the shores of Silver Lake in southern Michigan, three miles south of Pinckney. It was a clear, moonless night. I had been showing two boys various celestial objects through my 3 1/2-inch reflecting telescope and pointing out constellations. The time was about 11 p. m. or midnight. Suddenly I noticed a glowing yellow or yellowish-red light moving in an undulating path (but on a straight course) over the hills south of Silver Lake. As the object traveled slowly westward in this peculiar manner, the three of us watched in fascination. It was at such a low elevation that its regular wave-like course caused it to dip behind the hills a few times. At first I frankly didn't realize that I might be seeing anything unusual and thought the object was a plane light. But something was disturbing about that flight path and by the time it dawned on me that planes don't fly on wavy paths, the thing was about to vanish for good behind trees in the foreground. I swung the telescope toward the hills, but it was too late.
I had seen something strange in the sky that I could not explain. No known object I could think of followed a path like that. The remote possibility that the UFO might have been the reflection of a moving ground light from a rippling inversion layer was quickly rejected. An inversion reflection would appear as a hazy spot of light in the sky much reduced in brightness when compared with its original light source. My UFO appeared to be a bright, glowing object moving in a regular wavy pattern. It is impossible for an inversion layer to produce a smooth rhythmic reflection. A turbulent rippling layer of air would be required, and such a condition would not be capable of producing any image at all.
Another time, on February 26, 1954, a friend Don Lund and I were warming ourselves in my house in Alliance, Ohio, following an unsuccessful search for a telescopic comet. At 9:40 p.m., as we stepped outdoors again, we spotted a strange cluster of yellow lights high in the west moving northeastward.
I quickly ran inside the house, called my parents, picked up my binoculars, and dashed out to the street. All four of us then observed the object, or objects, which emitted a sound similar to a jet aircraft but not as sharp a noise. Through 6x30 binoculars I could see what appeared to be a forward cluster of lights and a triangle of pale-colored lights to the rear.
Don and I headed for the hill where our telescopes were located. When we reached the top of the hill, we turned and looked toward the north. In place of the original group of lights, we saw a yellow light which suddenly flared up brightly and then faded to its original size. Looking through our telescopes (3 1/2" reflector and 3 1/4" refractor) at the hovering object which was now beginning to move, we saw the cluster as before, watched it completely reverse its direction, move in an arc around the northern sky, and finally disappear from view over the southwest horizon. We observed the lights telescopically for about 10 minutes.
It was difficult to say whether we were observing a single vehicle or a group of them but I had the impression all the lights belonged to one craft. One might argue that we were fooled by helicopter or advertising blimp, but the steady jet-like sound, speed, the fact that it stopped absolutely dead for a few moments with no attendant rocking motion (as with a helicopter), and the abrupt reversal of direction led us to believe that we had seen something quite unconventional.
POSSIBLE UFO'S (3)
On the late afternoon of August 23, 1953, Don Lund and I had finished hitting golf balls at the Ken Stone Driving Range on U. S. Route 30 near East Canton, Ohio. We were driving east along Route 30 between East Canton and Minerva and approaching the top of a hill when we simultaneously saw a white round object crossing slowly above the road ahead from north to south. Unfortunately, the time of observation was short because of the narrow field of view created by steep banks on both sides of the road. Just as we hoped for a better view, a car turned in ahead of us and blocked our vision. When we finally came into the open, the object which had been moving only a 100 feet or so above the road had vanished. We were both convinced that what we--as well as the driver in front of us, undoubtedly--had witnessed was not a balloon. Its straight horizontal course as if
powered or controlled and its mysterious disappearance were puzzling. I might add that this sighting occurred during a period of UFO activity in Ohio (summer of 1953). Two weeks later on September 5 a similar white sphere was seen by the member of a movie crew, as it passed through a notch between two rock formations in Castle Valley, near Moab, Utah (APRO Bulletin, Sept. 15, 1954).
Another brief but interesting sighting happened on May 7, 1956. I was working at my desk at home in Alliance and happened to look out the window over the desk (faces north). Time was about 3:15 p.m. (EDT). A shiny, silvery, metallic object was moving westward in the north-northwest sky. I could not be certain of its shape, but it was large and probably oval or roundish. I shifted my position slightly to make sure it wasn't a reflection in the window, removed my reading glasses, put on my regular pair, and looked again at the object. Deciding it was really something worth investigating; I raced down two flights of steps, grabbed my binoculars, ran outside, and looked toward the sky. The object was gone! I had seen it for only 3 or 4 seconds from the window and had rushed outdoors in what I estimated to be between 10 and 15 seconds--yet the object was now gone. If it had been an airplane reflection, the plane should have still been in plain sight. For the same reason a balloon was discounted (the wind was out of the north, at least at ground level). I continued to watch the sky for 25 minutes more, but all I saw were airliners and private planes. A visit to the local Ground Observer Corps post produced negative results.
Almost exactly one year later, on May 13, 1957, about 8:50 a. m. (EDT), I was walking north on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and approaching the corner of Mellen Street (just two blocks from where I live). I looked up at the sky, as I frequently do, and spotted two silvery objects high in the west moving slowly southwest against a blue sky. At first I thought they were planes but then quickly observed that they seemed to have no wings or tail and traveled too slowly, almost floating. It was difficult to make out their true shapes without optical aid, but my best guess is that they were round. They looked translucent to me and reminded me of two delicate soap bubbles or a silvery box kite drifting high in the air.
They appeared to be very close together, one below the other, and one of them changed position slightly during the observation. The objects caught the early morning sunlight a few times and sparkled. (They were not plane reflections. I cannot honestly rule out the possibility that they were balloons although pairs of balloons are rarely seen. I had the impression at the time that the objects' flight was controlled.) I crossed Massachusetts Avenue and continued to watch until the objects grew too small to see. How I wished I had had a pair of binoculars!"
Professor Seymour L. Hess, Head
Department of Meteorology
Florida State University
"I saw the object between 12:15 and 12:20 p. m. May 20, 1950 from the grounds of the Lowell Observatory. It was moving from the Southeast to the Northwest. It was extremely prominent and showed some size to the naked eye, that is, it was not merely a pinpoint. During the last half of its visibility I observed it with 4-power binoculars. At first it looked like a parachute tipped at an angle to the vertical, but this same effect could have been produced by a sphere partly illuminated by the sun and partly shadowed, or by a disc-shaped object as well. Probably there are still other configurations which would give the same impression under proper inclination and illumination. I could see it well enough to be sure it was not an airplane (no propeller or wings were apparent) nor a bird. I saw no evidence of exhaust gases nor any markings on the object. Most fortunately the object passed between me and a small bright cumulus cloud in the Northwest. Thus it must have been at or below the cloud level. A few seconds later it disappeared, apparently into the cloud.
Against the sky it was very bright but against the cloud it was dark. This could be produced by a grey body which would be bright against the relatively dark sky, but dark against the bright cloud. Alternatively, if the object were half in sunlight and half shadowed the sunlit part might have had no detectable contrast with the cloud while the shadowed part appeared dark.
I immediately telephoned the U. S. Weather Bureau (2-3 miles S. W. of the Observatory).
They were estimating the cloud to be 6000 feet above the ground. Now estimates of cloud heights are rather risky, so I obtained their observations of temperature and dew point, and from the known lapse rates of these quantities in a convective atmosphere, calculated the cloud base to be at 12,000 feet. I believe this latter figure to be the more accurate one because later in the afternoon the cumulus clouds thickened but at all times remained well above the tops of our nearby mountains. These are about 6000 feet above us.
Thus, having some idea of the object's elevation and its angular diameter through the binoculars (about equivalent to a dime seen at 50 feet with the naked eye), I calculated its size to be 3 to 5 feet for a height of 6-12 thousand feet, and a zenith angle of about 45 degrees. This size estimate could easily be in error by a factor or two, but I am sure it was a small object.
The clouds were drifting from the SW to the NE at right angles to the motion of the object. Therefore it must have been powered in some way. I did not time it but for that elevation I would estimate its speed to be about 100 miles per hour, perhaps as high as 200 m. p. h. This too means a powered craft. However, I could hear no engine noise. "
Seymour L. Hess
Note: This is a copy of the account Mr. Hess set down within an hour of the sighting.