From Magonia Supplement 54, February 2005
THE MAN who recently faked government bonds from the 1930s worth a trillion dollars, made various mistakes such as ‘Dollar’ for ‘Dollars’, and using zip codes, which were not introduced until the 1960s. The point to notice is that whilst nobody is perfect, so that the ‘Dollar’ error just might have been made on a real bond, no one, in the 1930s, could have included something which did not then exist. In the same way, looking through the literature on MJ-12. I found that only some of the features that have been suggested as evidence for a hoax are truly suspicious.
For instance, on the memorandum dated 24 September 1947, the numerals were out of alignment with the letters, indicating that they were typed at different times. (1) The only reason that I can think why this should happen is that the typist accidentally omitted the numbers, noticed their absence after removing the paper from the typewriter, and then reinserted it to add them. But this could just as well happen with a genuine document as a spurious one.
Leading UFO conspiracy theorist George C. Andrews states that sceptics “were dealt a major blow” when Dr Roger W. Westcott, a stylistic expert, pronounced the signature of H.R. Hillenkoetter on the first MJ-12 document to be genuine. (2) Likewise, Stanton Friedman drew attention to the similarity of the signature on the Truman letter to that on an indisputably authentic Truman memo. But it was then pointed out that they were not merely similar, but apparently identical, implying that the second was merely a photocopy of the first.
Now, it is normally easy enough to distinguish a real signature from a photocopy, but only if you have the original. It cannot be done from a photograph of the page, the only medium on which the MJ-12 papers are available. There is one original piece of paper, the Cutler-Twining memo, but that is unsigned!
It is noticeable that the briefing document does not give away any real information: it says, for example: “A special scientific team took charge of removing these bodies for study. (See Attachment “C”.) … Numerous examples of what appear to be a form of writing were found in the wreckage. Efforts to decipher these have remained largely unsuccessful. (See Attachment E)” These supposed attachments have never surfaced. Dare one suggest that this may be because they proved too difficult to forge?
I would say that these features are suspicious but not conclusive. Christopher Allan agrees that there is no definite proof, though he does note a number of highly suggestive features, such as Hillenkoetter supposedly giving his own naval rank wrongly, which is highly unlikely. I should like to know his authority (stated in his review of Stanton Friedman’s book a few years ago) (3) for a letter of Hillenkoetter’s showing that he hardly knew Menzel, as this is just the kind of giveaway that a hoaxer cannot avoid.
Karl T. Pflock, however, has risen to my challenge to find an anachronism. The Eisenhower Briefing Document says that: “On 06 December, 1950, a second object, probably of similar origin, impacted the earth at high speed in the El Indio-Guerrero area of the Texan-Mexican border after following a long trajectory through the atmosphere.” This evidently refers to a story told by Todd Zechel from the 1970s, which was later exploded by Dennis Stacy and Tom Deuley: “At the 1999 National UFO Conference in San Antonio, Texas, Deuley gave a talk in which he presented evidence demonstrating that what had evolved into a 1950 flying saucer crash was actually the fatal shoot down of a US Civil Patrol plane late in World War II.” This seems conclusive, but no doubt any MJ-12 believer would simply reject the findings of Stacy and Deuley.
Dr David Clarke has drawn attention to a later MJ-12 paper, the ‘Annual Report’ of 1952, which stated that: “On August 21 1915, members of the New Zealand Army Corps’ First Field Company signed sworn statements that they saw the One-Fourth Norfolk Regiment disappear in an unusually thick brown cloud which seemed to move and rose upward and vanished. There were no traces of the regiment nor their equipment.” – the implication being that they were abducted by aliens. As Clarke points out, though three men did make a statement to this effect, they only did so at a reunion half a century later, in 1965, thirteen years after this alleged report. “It seemed that whoever had faked the MJ-12 papers had failed to do their homework and had based their dossier not on official files but the contents of paperback books on UFOs published in the 1960s.” (4)
Something that puzzled me for quite a long time was what might have been the motive behind the creation of MJ-12. Now, I agree with John Harney, who says that motivation is usually irrelevant: “The scientific question is not Why? but How? The forensic scientist doesn’t want to know why the burglar opened the safe, he wants to know how he did it.” Anyone might be motivated to create a UFO hoax, just as anyone might have a motive for cracking a safe, but one cannot accuse people of being UFO hoaxers or safe crackers on that basis alone.
It seems to me, however, that the commonest UFO hoaxes are those perpetrated by sceptics, in order to demonstrate, if only to themselves, that ufologists are gullible. Other hoaxes are created by people who intend to write books on the basis of them. Very occasionally they are done as part of a confidence trick, as when ‘Dr’ GeBauer, who sold alleged magnetic devices to detect oil deposits, claimed to have been present at two UFO crash retrievals in New Mexico, simply so that he could say that his latest oil-detecting device worked from back-engineered flying saucer technology. None of these explains the MJ-12 papers, which originated in ‘believer’ circles, and about which the only book is that of Stanton Friedman, who clearly believes that they are genuine and therefore cannot possibly have been involved in creating them; nor, so far as I know, have they been used to part anyone from their money.
Considerable light may be shed on this question by Philip J. Klass’s Skeptics UFO Newsletter for March 1997. Klass relates how, in 1983, William L. Moore had told Brad Sparks that his efforts to locate people involved in retrieving the wreckage of the Roswell saucer “had run into a dead end”. He went on to suggest that ” … counterfeit government documents containing crashed-saucer information could be used to induce former military personnel to speak out and ignore their secrecy oaths”. Later, when the first MJ-12 papers had become public, and discussed in the New York Times among other places, Moore gave a talk about them at the 1987 MUFON conference, concluding with the words: “Now that it is in the papers, if there is anything to it, others will come forward and say: ‘Well, now that it has been published in the New York Times, now we can talk.’ We’ll see. There have been a couple of hints so far that maybe somebody will say something.” (5) Unsurprisingly, this did not happen, and Moore seems to have faded from public sight since then.
Christopher Allan concludes that, if we can’t prove MJ-12 a hoax, we can certainly ask why, if the events described therein did occur, there is no proof. I agree: if the Roswell story had been genuine, then confirmation would have come to light by now, just as Moore anticipated. It has not done, so claims about it can be dismissed.
One other question before (I hope) leaving the Roswell issue: why is it that UFO crashes were most common in 1947-1954, going into decline thereafter, with none at all since the 1970s? (Note: it is true that some alleged cases have only come to light recently, but these were claimed to be old. For example, the Cannock Chase crash was first publicised in Nick Redfern’s Cosmic Crashes, 1999, but it had supposedly occurred in 1974.) This is despite there being a continued avid interest in UFO ‘retrievals’. It is possible, of course, that the Zeta Reticulan government became appalled by the high accident rate among their interstellar spacecraft, and started demanding a higher standard of proficiency before they would issue pilots’ licences, but I doubt it.
More likely, the change has been cultural. During the early post-war flaps, the most popular theory was that UFOs were secret weapons; and secret weapons often crashed. If a wreck proved to be one of your own the military would hush it up, and they often did so with enemy craft as well, so Roswell was the sort of thing you would expect to happen. The commonest alleged crash site was New Mexico, which in reality contained the White Sands missile proving ground, and where in the 1930s (in fact near Roswell) Robert Goddard had conducted many of his experiments into liquid fuelled rockets: so, it was the very state where crashed secret weapons would have been most common. Even those who thought UFOs were interplanetary regarded them as just a little more advanced than terrestrial craft, and so subject to the same failings. Expectations have changed with the years, and the aliens’ technology is now supposed to be much more advanced. If the greys can suck abductees through walls, they are unlikely to crash in New Mexico.
- Joe Nickell, ‘Majestic 12 (MJ-12) Documents’, in Ronald Story, The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters, Robinson, London, 2002, p. 388
- George C. Andrews, Extra-Terrestrial Friends and Foes, IllumiNet Press, Lilburn, Georgia, 1993, p. 31
- Magonia 59, April 1997, p. 15
- Dr David Clarke, ‘UFOs and the Battalion that Vanished’, UFO Magazine, March 2004, p. 27
- Philip J. Klass, Skeptics UFO Newsletter 44, March 1997