Physical Evidence Related to UFO Reports.
John Harney

From Magonia 64, August 1998.

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The recent report of a workshop on UFO reports, funded by Laurence S. Rockefeller and given administrative support by the Society for Scientific Exploration was, according to the New Scientist, “… funded by a little-known organisation which has published papers supporting such concepts as dowsing and reincarnation. What’s more, the panel included a physicist who ‘designs’ perpetual motion machines and an engineer who tries to move objects by concentrating hard.” (New Scientist, No. 2141, 4 July 1998)
This gives the impression that the findings of the panel are fit only for the sort of tabloids which bear headlines such as `World War II Aircraft Found on the Moon’ and ‘Space Aliens Turned My Son Into An Olive’. However, almost all of the ridicule which has appeared in the media consists of knee-jerk reactions from persons who have obviously not read the report and have no intention of doing so. The belief obviously subscribed to by such people is that those who waste their time studying UFO reports are, by definition, crazy.
This does not seem to be a very constructive or scientific approach, so let us have a look at the report itself. The purpose of the workshop was to consider physical evidence associated with UFO reports and it took the form of a number of UFO researchers presenting evidence to a panel of scientists. Considering that the panel was looking for good cases supported by physical evidence its members must have been disappointed with what was presented to them. It is admitted that the panel concluded that further analysis of the evidence presented at the workshop is unlikely to elucidate the cause or causes of the reports.
As I read the report I got two main impressions: nothing useful emerged from the presentations and discussions; and the ufologists presenting their data and findings seemed bent on blinding the panel with science, or pseudo-science (in this they appear to have succeeded).
Just because the panel members did not issue a report supporting the ETH or any other scientifically unorthodox explanation of UFO reports, it should not be thought that their deliberations were rigorously scientific. The ufologists obviously took advantage of the fact that the panel members had little time to examine their claims in depth.
One of the cases reviewed is the famous Coyne helicopter incident of 18 August 1973. Readers might wonder what the ufologists had to say about Philip Klass’s assertion that the helicopter crew was fooled by an Orionid meteor. The answer is – nothing. Maybe Klass’s explanation is incorrect, but it is so well known (to ufologists) that there seems to be little excuse for not mentioning it at all.
If you think I am being nitpicking about this, then you only have to look at the large amount of text devoted to the French government sponsored organisation SEPRA (formerly GEPAN). The panel members were so impressed by what they were told of this organisation’s work that they present them in their report as a shining example of what scientific UFO research ought to be.
The notorious Trans-en-Provence case is presented, as interpreted by GEPAN/SEPRA. The reader is referred to three papers by investigators who apparently believe the testimony of the only witness and apparently prefer to link the markings found at the site of the alleged encounter to the possible landing of a UFO. There is no consideration of the theory proposed by Michel Monnerie that the affair was a hoax that got out of hand, or of or of Eric Maillot’s detailed criticisms of the GEPAN/SEPRA investigation of the case. [1]
The panel members, as physical scientists, obviously tended to take much of the evidence at face value, whereas experienced ufologists are aware that many UFO incidents just did not happen in the manner described by witnesses and investigators. They obviously underestimated the enormous bias caused by investigators’ preconceived ideas as to what UFOs are or are not.

The panel’s conclusions included such stunningly obvious ones as “The UFO problem is not a simple one, and it is unlikely that there is any simple universal answer” and “Studies should concentrate on cases which include as much independent physical evidence as possible and strong witness testimony”.

They also recommended that there should be formal regular contact between the UFO community and physical scientists. Many of the larger UFO organisations already have physical scientists, some of them very experienced and highly qualified, among their members. Formal contacts already exist between, for example, amateur and professional astronomers, and amateur and professional meteorologists. However, there are very few professional ufologists.
One of the main points picked up by the media was that the panel would like funds to be made available for UFO investigations, with the wonderful French SEPRA as the model of how to implement this suggestion. Whether it would be worth while to pay scientists to go around investigating UFO reports in the hope that data leading to the advancement of science might eventually be acquired, is a debatable question. (There is also the problem of the gullibility of many physical scientists when presented with evidence said to be connected with a UFO event.)
The panel members would have done better if they had heeded the advice given by Dr Condon, who wrote in his report to the US Air Force: “Although we conclude after nearly two years of intensive study that we do not see any fruitful lines of advance from the study of UFO reports, we believe that any scientist with adequate training and credentials who does come up with a clearly defined, specific proposal for study should be supported.” [2]
References:

1. Maillot, Eric and Scornaux, Jacques. ‘Trans-en-Provence: Where science and belief go hand in hand’, in Evans and Stacy, (eds), UFOs 1947-1997, John Brown, London, 1997, 151-159.

2. Condon, Edward U. ‘Conclusions and Recommendations’, in Gillmor, Daniel S. (ed.), Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, Bantam, 1969.

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Search For Physical Evidence:
Part Four: The Charlton Crater
John Harney

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 4, number 6, Winter 1971

There have been relatively few cases of alleged physical evidence of UFOs in Britain, and of those few the Charlton Crater is by far the most notorious examlple. Serious attempts to provide rational explanations for the occurrence have been consistently ridiculed by the UFO enthusiasts who apparently prefer to believe that the phenomenon was produced by the landing of a flying saucer.

In July, 1963, a crater about 1 ft. [0.3m] deep, 8 ft. [2.4 m.] in diameter, with a hole in the centre about 3 ft. [0.9 m.] deep was found on the boundary between a potato field and a barley field at Manor Farm, Charlton, Wiltshire (near Shaftesbury, Dorset). The crater was discovered by farmer Roy Blanchard, according to Robert Chapman (1), or by a Mr Reg Alexander, according to Leonard Cramp (2). Take your pick.

It is not clear from the various accounts just how the crater came to receive such wide publicity and close scrutiny from military and scientific experts, journalists, ufologists, and assorted cranks and publicity seekers. The incident which seems to have attracted the attention of the national news media and Members of Parliament was the arrival on the scene of an Army Bomb Disposal Squad. These gentlemen found no bomb, but did detect metal, which was in fact magnetite, naturally occurring in the soil of that area.

Unfortunately the sensational publicity accorded to the affair did not provide a suitable atmosphere for rational, scientific investigation. A lump of iron ore recovered from the crater by the Army team was pounced on by Patrick Moore, who hastily pronounced it to be a meteorite.

The issue was further confused by the arrival on the scene of a gentleman calling himself Dr Randall, who purported to be an ‘Australian austrophysicist’. This character assured the gentlemen of the press that the crater was caused by a flying saucer weighing about 600 tons [540 tonne], with a crew of about 50, and originating from the planet Uranus. Still further confusion must have been caused in the minds of interested observers when the newspapers printed these inane drivellings of ‘Dr Randall’ apparently without taking the trouble to consult the appropriate reference books in order to determine his bona fides.

Questions in the House of Commons eventually established that the crater was not caused by a bomb or a meteorite and, so far as the authorities were concerned the matter remained unexplained. Ufologists immediately took this as a licence to indulge in wild speculations about flying saucers and their alleged electromagnetic effects and “G fields”. Much was also made of the fact that the magnetite in the soil in the immediate vicinity of the crater was found to have been magnetised. Much was also made of the alleged complete disappearance of potato plants at the site of the crater. (3)

The Charlton Crater, among other similar occurrences, attracted the attention of Alan W.Sharp who, as our readers well know, does not believe in spaceships from Uranus or in fairies or Father Christmas either, for that matter.

Mr Sharp at first thought that the crater may have been caused by subsidence, but later revised his opinion and suggested that it was probably caused by a lightning strike. This would explain the magnetic effects observed by investigators. In a review of Leonard Cramp’s Piece for a Jigsaw Alan Sharp wrote:

“A great deal of nonsense has been talked about the Charlton occurrence but in point of fact this was a classic example of the type of ‘crater’ ascribable to the strike of lightning on open ground. It displays radiating surface marks, removal of material and a central hole. It was preceded by a violent thunderstorm accompanied by strong winds and was in an area of considerable storm damage to crops. The lightning struck the ground where there was evidence of a local elevation of the water table and produced detectable magnetic effects in the magnetite bearing soil, similar to those recorded at Cockburnspath in Scotland.

“The strike occurred at a point on a previous field boundary where a large iron straining-post had once been embedded in the ground and secured by metal stays. The disappearance of plants was by no means complete, as had been alleged by one person, according to Mr Bealing, the Shaftesbury photographer whose photographs appeared widely in the Press at the time. Captain Rodgers of the Army investigation team, also reported the finding of plant remains at the site.” (4)

The lightning explanation certainly seems the most logical one in the circumstances, but it has been totally ignored by British ufologists, who prefer to indulge in bizarre speculations about flying saucers and their “anti-gravity” propulsion systems. The Charlton Crater affair is a particularly interesting case in that study of the literature on the subject shows up the irrational and unscientific attitudes which prevail among British ufologists, even including those who are intelligent enough to know better.

References

1. Chapman, Robert. Unidentified Flying Objects. Arthur Barker Ltd., London. 1969.
2. Camp, Leonard G. Piece for a Jigsaw. Somerton Publishing Co. Ltd. Cowes, Isle of Wight, 1966.
3. Ibid., p, 184,
4. Sharp, Alan. Book Review, “Piece for a Jig–Saw” , MUFORG Bulletin, February, 1967.

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Tracing the Traces
Maurizio Verga

From Magonia 16, July 1984

Traces (i.e. imprints, marks and residues on the ground and/or vegetation) ought to provide physical proof of a tangible phenomenon interacting with our reality. Indeed, it is probably the one aspect of UFO study – with the possible exception of photographs – which has enabled the ufologist to refute an interpretation in purely psychological terms; for traces imply that the phenomenon is not something perceived subjectively, belonging only to the senses of the witness, but truly something with physical attributes.This physical ‘proof’ has been put forward by the ‘extraterrestrialists’ as support for their contention that material UFOs – ‘spacecraft’ – exist. The ETH is plainly on the decline, and its proponents rely heavily on physical trace evidence to keep its tenets alive.

Physical traces are often a very difficult problem for any conceptual theory. We have had, for example, the proposition of an ‘interdimensional entity’, able to assume physical characteristics; and the adoption of paranormal phenomena such as poltergeists and psychokinesis to explain the mechanics of trace creation. It is almost impossible to consider the phenomenon in terms of a hypothesis without taking account of the physical trace evidence.

Trace evidence is one of many aspects of the phenomenon with a clearly contradictory nature. These contradictions may be used as a basis to propose a multiple origin for the phenomenon; that is, several different manifestations as a specific function of specific conditions. It is enough in this context to consider those cases where a UFO is seen on the ground, and yet apparently leaves no traces – in practice certain UFOs leave physical traces, others do not. Even when we bear in mind that we are always dealing with witness accounts, often poorly investigated and without recourse to the psychology or perception of the event, it would still seem that the phenomenon (if objective) does not display strict or consistent criteria. On the contrary, its criteria are highly changeable, probably because of a completely unknown ‘something’, which may well be linked to the individual characteristics of the witness.#

Of course, if UFOs did have an entirely subjective origin, then the problem would immediately take on a new dimension. Apart from traces which were outright hoaxes, the remainder would presumably be made unconsciously, and absence of traces would be explicable in terms of witnesses inability to manufacture them, perhaps because unconsciously he is unaware of his need to give evidence of his subjective experience. This hypothesis is admittedly improbable, although the belief that UFOs do produce traces is deeply rooted in the popular belief.We can question the opinion that traces provide proof of the material nature of the UFO phenomenon in two ways: firstly by considering natural phenomena capable of producing traces, secondly by considering the facts and figures, as well as the standards of practice, of present day field investigations.In nature there are several causes able to produce remarkably strange trace marks under certain circumstances. These include fungi, plant and grass diseases, lightning, animal habits, whirlwinds and other weather conditions, helicopter slipstreams, defoliation and so on. Furthermore the action of man on the environment can also result in ambiguous traces – cars, carts, agricultural equipment, fires, etc. Discovering such a trace after a local UFO sighting can easily lead to their connection with ‘alien activity’. Even is situations where no UFO was seen, the appearance of a trace, especially when circular, can  reawaken distant memories in the collective conscious of stereotyped flying saucers and their alleged effects.

Both material (e.g. notoriety) and psychological (stimulation by a flap in the vicinity) factors may come into play. The existence of concrete evidence tends to make any case more credible, no matter how spurious it may in fact be. Traces often are unusual, even if quite explicable. The cultural belief systems and possibly emotional states can soon lead to the creation of abstruse hypotheses and speculation, even on the basis of naturally or artificially produced explicable phenomena.

These points are critical, and must be carefully borne in mind. The discovery of a   ‘trace’ tends to set the witness thinking in terms of a UFO; and of course, if there is a type-I sighting at the root of the discovery, he will often go to the area where he saw the UFO (either on the ground or low down) with a view to finding evidence of the reality of the experience. This is not only to convince others, but often to prove it to himself. This intense desire to find proof can easily lead him to discovering a myriad of insignificant anomalies – a broken branch, animal tracks, the remains of a fire) and relate them to the UFO. This is a typical scenario for a UFO seen in the distance, where often the exact location of the landing or near-landing is not known.

Less common is the deliberate false linking of spurious traces with a ‘genuine’ UFO in order to make the sighting more believable. Even so, in my view this latter scenario is quite feasible for many rational people who would not otherwise behave in this fashion.

The above possibilities must be taken very seriously when investigators do not follow up the ‘traces’, but merely rely on the word of the witness. When investigators do visit the site we should then expect them to validate or invalidate the traces. But the reality of the matter is often rather different.

Unfortunately, an investigator is usually on the same level as the witness, having the same unconscious needs and beliefs. He is usually unprepared in terms of scientific methodology. He may well have a strong desire to present a ‘classic case’ to his colleagues, or have a belief system which includes the material reality of the UFO phenomenon, thus anticipating trace evidence. All of these can lead to frequent and serious errors, if the investigator attempts to support his ‘ambitions’ and ‘needs’.

Obviously there are some truly strange and apparently unidentifiable traces, but their percentage is fairly low – even if it cannot be termed negligible. In any case, a number of doubts must remain. Natural phenomena or human activity could precipitate apparently inexplicable traces. If the circumstance is rare enough the possibility of identification is close to impossible, except in a few luck cases.

However, these possibilities are too important to overlook. The much extolled ‘physical evidence’ is based on a small number of baffling cases, and of these only a fraction (perhaps 25%) are investigated in sufficient depth. Most ‘incontestable proof’ actually stems from newspaper articles or nothing more substantial than the witness’s say-so.In other words, what we term the ‘trace phenomenon’ is but a small residue of well-investigated reports; about 3.6% of the total volume of reports according to data passed to me by Ted Phillips (Phillips’s TRA-CAT, an international catalogue of trace cases, actually now having more than 2 100 entries).

We must also not forget the outright hoax. Such frauds may be perpetrated for many reasons: financial, psychological, advertising, or merely as a joke, The number of trace cases determined to be hoaxes is actually quite remarkable, although not excessive – perhaps as a result of the inherent difficulty of proving a hoax. Some ‘mysterious’ substance placed at the site, coupled with a good recitation of a fabricated tale, and the gullibity of ufologists and journalists can produce but one result… fake evidence presented as proof of an alien technology. Only the exceptionally skilled or rational investigator (often with the aid of Lady Luck) can rescue the situation at a later date… but this certainly does not happen in many cases.

I believe that I have discovered two fundamental aspects of the traces question, giving us much cause to rethink our attitude towards it:

1. The explanation of most trace reports is to be found in terms of both natural and artificial origins. The range of these is so broad that their identification is often next to impossible.

2. It is impossible to accept some investigation reports as a basis for scientific data. Investigators too often are guilty of extreme subjectivity and emotional involvement. This makes identification of traces very difficult. Not being at the site oneself, one can only assign ‘possible’ or ‘probable’ identifications, which is to the detriment of serious research, although UFO fanatics can ‘easily turn it to their advantage by distorting the true situation.

This means that practically all of the so-called trace data is useless in terms of scientific evaluation. We are left with a residue that seems to be small, but not negligible; this seems to show the apparent physical reality of a seemingly unknown phenomenon (although unknown most certainly does not mean alien). But even so we must realise that the best of our investigation and research does not allow strict scientific determinations to be made. We can never totally exclude rare natural explanations. My future research will base itself upon this selected sample of high-strangeness reports – the apparently unknown residue. This is essential if one is to study the subject scientifically.

The conclusion I must reach is this: we cannot be certain that the UFO phenomenon has a physical basis. It is naturally difficult to accept this conclusion; but if we wish to develop a serious field of research then we must learn to accept the destruction of deep-rooted dogmas and common illusions. We need courage to re-think our basics, and understand what is wrong with them. Above all, we must search for understanding and not cling to belief. 

 

 

UFO Evidence in an American Reservoir.
Alan W. Sharp

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 6, number 1. July 1973

Alan W, Sharp takes a critical look at the classic Loch Raven Dam Case

On the evening of Sunday October 28, 1958 two friends* were out driving in the outskirts of the city of Baltimore, Maryland, at about 10.30 p.m.The winding road took them past Loch Raven Dam on an allegedly dark, moonless, clear and starry night, bereft of any bright planets. No wind eras reported so that calm conditions likely prevailed.

No information is given in the original report by Jacques Vallee concerning the existence of human habitations or street lights (except that staff in a ‘nearby’ restaurant heard an explosion at 10,45 p.m.) but of course there is always some light in the vicinity of any large town. Nor is any such information available in the more recent treatment by Hynek (2), who incorrectly places the reservoir in Delaware (Appendix I, p 239). Neither of these authors offers any explanation for the UFO sighting which the two friends Mr C and Mr S, then made as they approached the first bridge across the lake. The case is presented as yet another mysterious item of alleged UFO evidence.

Rounding a right-handed bend they approached the bridge from a northerly directions with a cliff on the left and the water to their right only to see, floating above the bridges a mysterious and alarming “egg-shaped” object about 100 feet in diameter and about the same in height at an estimated 75 to 100 feet above the superstructure of the bridge, a modified Pratt truss steel structure about twenty feet high at the top points of its two independent spans. Thus the UFO was, according to Messrs C and S, one hundred feet or more off the ground at roadway levels though it seems likely that this figure was an  overestimate.

On first noticing the hovering UFO the men were travelling at between 20 and 30 m,p.h. at a distance of some 200 to 300 yards from the bridge, but speed was immediately reduced to around 10 – 12 m.p.h, Eventually when the car was a mere 25 yards from the bridge it suddenly stopped, the engine went dead and all the lights went out, just as well, perhaps for otherwise the intrepid friends, who thought the object might have been some sort of ‘blimp’ (balloon) would have found themselves on the bridge more or less immediately under the UFO!

Turning the ignition on failed to energise the starter motor, and Messrs C and S were now “pretty frightened”. Nevertheless they contrived to observe the UFO through the windscreen (which must have been difficult in view of the UFO’s — by then –presumably highly elevated position) for an unspecified length of time before getting out of the car and running behind it for some protection. (How this position helped is hard to see if the object under surveillance was so close so high and so large as it was reported to be.)

After a further lapse of about half a minute during which they were now “terrified” (S) the UFO which had “been glowing with an irridescent glow” seemed to flash “a brilliant flash of white light”, (C )and seemingly gave off a terrifically bright light, (S) whilst “at the same time we felt a tremendous heat wave” (S) and both “felt
 heat’ on our faces” (C) -  but: “It didn’t seem like the heat of a burning object but something like an ultraviolet light or some kind of radiation”. (S)Concurrently with the flash of bright light there was a loud noise, described as a “dull explosion” by C and as a “tremendous thunder” by S. This was the sound heard by the other people in a ‘nearby’ restaurant. “Then very quickly, so that you couldn’t get the proper sequence of events the object started to rise vertically. The only different feature it had while it was moving was that it was very bright and the edges became very diffused so that we couldn’t make out the shape as it rose. It took from five to ten seconds to disappear from view completely. We were very frightened”.

The two men thereupon got in their car, which now functioned normally, and drove home poste haste to report their experiences to the police. They asked the policemen if they had noticed if the witnesses face’s were red but the police said they had not., Subsequently the two men went to a local hospital for a check-up and a doctor said C’s face was slightly red but S’s was not. Next day S said that his face was noticeably a little redder. He later remarked: “I hoped what I did see would add to the national interest or national information that would maybe help understand these things a little better. I do know there are at least such things now as UFOs”.’

The experience had become a UFO sighting of the ‘close encounter’ type and displayed a good many familiar, awesome overtones; putting these aside however, what did the sighting amount to?

Two men saw an unexpected object which they considered bore some resemblance to a Naval ‘blimp’ stationary a short distance above the ground. After a few minutes they witnessed a bright flash of light from the object and simultaneously heard the sound of an explosion. The object then quickly rose up and disappeared.’
The answer is simple. The UFO was a balloon, a large partly deflated balloon carrying a payload. The payload was jettisoned by the activation of an explosive charge (3) and the balloons lightened of its burden, quickly rose up out of sight. The battery on the balloon evidently run down, was unable to provide much current to the balloon’s light until after the severance when the light came on and illuminated the underside of the fabric.

No doubt the payloads which might already have been partially submerged, disappeared into the lake, probably. on the north side of the bridge judging from a photograph in Vallée’s book, but the men were too excited to hear any splash there may have been. Presumably this payload is still lying on the bottom of the reservoir. Someone should go and retrieve it, just out of interest. It might also be of some scrap value.

As far as the car electrical malfunctioning is concerned, if Venus can perform this feat from a distance of over twenty million miles why not a balloon from a hundred feet or so? One is reminded of the case mentioned by Craig on page 761 of the Condon Report (4) where a cylindrically-shaped balloon released from Boulder, Colorado, eventually found its way to the Azores where it was sighted – and stopped all the clocks! For some reason one never reads of the most likely reason for malfunctions of car electrics, namely loose or dirty contacts and run-down batteries. Such things are common sources of failure, especially in autumn and winter. Why do the cars (often) start again after a while? Because the contacts have improved and/or batteries recover sufficiently when relieved of load for a time.

My advice to ufologists? Do not take too much notice of ufological electrical failures in cars and, if you live within striking distance, go and recover the lost treasure of Loch Raven, provided the authorities haven’t beaten you to it. They may not have done so, however for the good reason that neither the USAF nor Project Blue book evaluated the sighting at the time and no-one (including Drs Vallée and Hynek) has been able to do do since.

References

  1. VALLEE, JACQUES and JANINE, Challenge to Science. Neville Spearman, London. 1966. (pp 191-194)
  2. HYNEK, J ALLEN, The UFO Experience; a scientific enquiry. Abelard Schuman. 1972. (pp 215, 221, 222)
  3. Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects. Bantam Books. 1969. (pp 755-760)
  4. Ibid,, pp 760-761

* The witnesses have subsequently been named as Philip Small and Alvin Cohen

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Roy Dutton responded to Alan Sharp’s article in the following issue,  August 1973

Whilst attempts to remove the elements of mystery from UFO stories are to be welcomed, in my view Alan Sharp stretches the bounds of credibility too far in his rationalisation of the Loch Raven Dam incident. (MUFOB 6.1)Alan Sharp’s first error seems to be his interpretation of the word ‘blimp’, used by the witnesses to describe the object. ‘Blimps’ were not merely balloons but non-rigid airships, used by the US Navy for coastguard and other duties as recently as the mid-1960s. Since these things patrolled the Eastern seaboard, one would expect residents in the Baltimore area to have been well acquainted with them, even at night.Familiarity with Navy blimps could account for the fact that the Loch Raven witnesses continued to travel on towards the object, despite its unusual location and unfamiliar appearance. From the description of the object, they probably interpreted what they saw as a three-quarters frontal view. It is my guess that initially they were eager to get as close as possible, because the opportunity

 to witness an airship some 280 feet long and having a mean maximum diameter of about 80 feet (typical dimensions for a USN blimp) can be guaranteed to draw a crowd anywhere in the world. Only when the car engine died and the sights went out would their excitement become anxiety, and by then they had approached too close to the object for comfort.
Assuming that the underside of the object was in some way illuminated, as the report implies, the witnesses should then have been able to discern whether the thing hovering virtually overhead had the necessary excrecences to qualify as a blimp – an underslung cabin, engine nacelles and, perhaps, large control surfaces at the rear. I suggest that when the witnesses finally clambered from, and crouched behind the car, they had become very convinced that the object was not what they had originally assumed it to be, and naturally felt extremely vulnerable with only the windscreen separating them from ‘it’.

From this point in the incident it must be conceded that the subsequent events were witnessed by two men in a state of near panic. The obsessional concern for their faces after the flash of the explosion and the subsequent facial reddening could be attributed to an induced state of hysteria. (This should not be interpreted as implying inherent emotional instability; it could happen to anyone after a traumatic experience of the kind described.)

Alan Sharp’s explanation of the explosion seems attractive at first, but it is difficult to believe that so much explosive energy would be required to jettison a payload package, even one of large proportions; and surely, an airship would jettison ballast (water) to gain height. Consequently, it is my view that although the jettison idea may be just compatible with the met. balloon theory, it is an improbable suggestion for an incident involving an airship, unless the craft involved had been conducting some clandestine military experiment.

Finally, I wish to deal with the subject of car electrics. During some thirteen years of motoring I have never known an electrical failure of the kind described in this report. The fact is that although such failures are not impossible, they are highly improbable.
Consider the case of the faulty or run down battery. From my own experience, as soon as the engine is running above tick-over speeds, which is usually the case when the car is moving and in gear, the dynamo will continue to supply power to all the electrical equipment, even when the battery has been completely flattened. Further, since it is possible to remove the battery altogether after starting the engine, loose or corroded battery terminals seem to be irrelevant in the context of the Loch Raven report.

I suggest that only a large induced back-E.M.F., a massive short circuit of the electrical supply (albeit for a short period), or an improbable sequence of faults and chance events could produce such a complete systems failure as the one described.To conclude, without the failure of the oar electrics it would be reasonable to believe that the witnesses had seen a USN airship in unusual circumstances, (The Wallops Island Naval weapons testing stationer is only 100 miles or so to the south of Baltimore, and this thought must have occurred to the Blue Book investigators) but as events stand, in my view the Loch Raven object must surely remain unidentified. 

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The Search for Physical Evidence: Maury Island. John Harney

Introduction

Since 1947, the hypothesis that UFOs are spaceships from other planets has been popular. Accordingly many ufologists have devoted much time and effort to attempts to obtain physical evidence of such visitations. Physical evidence can take many forms and, unfortunately for the protagonists of the interplanetary spaceships theory, can be subject to many different interpretations. In this series an attempt is made to review some of the physical evidence and alleged physical evidence which has come to light during the past twenty years. There is no doubt that during this period, ufologists have come across a certain amount of physical evidence during their researches – but physical evidence of what?

The Types of Evidence to be Considered

In this series we will confine our attentions to the following types of evidence real or alleged:

  1.  Substances or objects said to have been jettisoned by, ejected by, or fallen from, UFOs.
  2.  Reports of captured UFOs and their occupants.
  3.  Markings on the ground, damage, etc, allegedly caused by UFOs.
  4.  Physical injuries to witnesses allegedly caused byUFOs.

The Maury Island Case

Strangely enough, as in several other aspects of the UFO mystery, we must consult Arnold’s account of his investigations of the alleged Maury island sighting of 1947 (1) to find the precedent for subsequent reports of physical evidence of UFOs.

The main physical evidence in this case was described as locking like slag, and was said to have been seen falling from a UFO. Some of this material was given to Kenneth Arnold and he kept it in his hotel room during his stay in Tacoma for his investigation of the incident. During his investigations Arnold, who had already called in his friend, Captain Smith, an airline pilot, to assist, felt that he was getting out of his depth with all the mysterious incidents which were, apparently occurring and he called in Lieutenant Brown and Captain Davidson of Military Intelligence.

Brown and Davidson saw the fragments, but, according to Arnold, seemed to suddenly lose interest, after one of the witnesses in the case, Fred L. Crisman offered to go home and get a box of fragments from the ‘UFO’ to present to the officers. The officers insisted that they had to get back to their base at Hamilton
Field California and Arnold pleaded with them to stay the night, especially in view of the fact that they were both obviously tired.

Just as the transport arrived to take the officers back to their aircraft at McChord Field, Crisman arrived with a cardboard box full of chunks of material which, Arnold noticed seemed to be somewhat different from the fragments in his hotel room. The fragments were handed over to Brown and Davidson and they drove away.

maury-paper

The next morning Kenneth Arnold and Captain Smith were horrified to learn that Brown and Davidson were dead. Their aircraft had crashed some twenty minutes after take-off from McChord Field.  Two other men who were in the aircraft had parachuted to safety. One of the survivors told how Brown and Davidson had loaded a heavy cardboard box on to the plane. When one of the engines caught fire and the extinguishing device failed to operate, Lt. Brown ordered him and the flight engineer to jump.

It is said that the survivors watched the burning plane for a period of from nine to eleven minutes during their descent This observation has naturally caused much speculation as to why Brown and Davidson did not jump out. A local newspaper, the Tacoma Times, published a sensational report of the tragedy, containing suggestions that the plane had been sabotaged in order to prevent the shipment of flying disc fragments to Hamilton Field.

The next major development, so far as the physical evidence is concerned in the tortuously complicated story of Arnold’s adventures in Tacoma came when Captain Smith went to McChord Field to consult Major Sander of S-2 Army Intelligence, and brought him back to the Tacoma hotel to see Arnold. After hearing everything from Arnold and Smith, Sander remarked that he was positive that the two men were victims of a hoax.

Major Sander then made a remark about the fragments, which were lying on the floor. He started to pick up a few of them and told the two men that he would take them for a drive and show them thousands of tons of the stuff. However, he said that Arnold’s fragments would have to be analysed “for the sake of being thorough”. He then began to gather the fragments together and insisted that all of the pieces should be handed over to him.

Sander then placed the fragments in the boot of his car and drove Arnold and Smith to a place which was apparently a dumping ground for slag from blast furnaces. The slag looked somewhat like the fragments, but Arnold felt sure that it was not the same sort of material, and Sander did not offer to compare it with the pieces in the boot of his car. Arnold thought that the slag was more like the material he had seen Crisman giving to Brown and Davidson.

Ruppelt refers to the Maury Island case in his book,  The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects.(2) For some obscure reason he gives fictional names to the characters involved, and refers to Arnold as “Simpson”. He gives the impression that he believes that Ray Palmer who sent Arnold to investigate the incident for a fee of 206 dollars was a party to a hoax devised by Crisman and his colleagues Dahl. The official Air Force report on the incident concluded that it was merely a hoax.

Apparently, Palmer had already obtained samples of the original material in question in this cases as well as a sample of the slag. He published analyses of both substances in the book, The Coming of the Saucers, but, strangely, although he gives a detailed analysis of the slag only a vague indication of the make-up of the other substance is given, merely indicating the metals said to be present.

After the lapse of over 21 years it is doubtful if we shall ever know the full and true story behind the events at Tacoma but the fog of confusion created either deliberately or unintentionally and the peculiar actions of the people involved together with the failure to publish a proper analysis of the material in question is typical of many reports which followed

……………..

References:

1. Arnold, Kenneth and Ray Palmer. The Coming of the Saucers. Privately published by the authors, 1952.
2. Ruppelt, Edward J. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. Ace Books Inc. New York.

 

UFO Crashes: An Emergent Pattern. Gareth Medway

From Magonia Supplement, June 2001

I have come to doubt whether it is possible to draw any conclusions from individual UFO reports. It may be, however, that a group of reports considered collectively can reveal something significant. As briefly as possible, I shall try to show this with the example of UFO crash stories.

It was on 14 June 1947 that William Brazel, a farmer near Roswell, New Mexico, found a lot of silvery wreckage on his land.(1) At first he did nothing, but on 8 July, following news reports of flying saucers in the area, it occurred to him that this might be one of them, and he reported it to the sheriff, who passed it on to the Air Force, who told the press that the mystery of the flying discs would now be solved. According to the official report, however, when they got there it proved to be merely a balloon. This they declared at a press conference, and the incident was totally forgotten for over thirty years. Their initial announcement suggests that, if they had captured an alien spacecraft, they would have said so.

Nonetheless, persistent rumour, at least in California, had it that a saucer had indeed crashed and that the Air Force were busily learning the secrets of its technology: a 1949 memo by Meade Layne of the Borderland Sciences Research Foundation (an organisation mainly devoted to recording channelled messages from “The Etherians”, as they called the ufonauts) reported that two scientists, one of them “Dr Weisberg, a physics professor from a California university” had seen a crashed disc with six dead occupants.

The source of Layne’s information is unclear, but soon people started to talk. In February 1950 Barney Barnett of Socorro, New Mexico, told some visiting friends that when working near Magdalena, New Mexico (nowhere near Roswell) he had chanced across a crashed metallic disc, 25 to 30 feet across, with dead bodies of small humanoids around it. Some archaeologists also saw it. Then the military turned up and ordered them all away.(2) This sequence of events was the template for many subsequent stories.

silas nwtonOn 8 March 1950 a lecture was given to students at the University of Denver, Colorado, by a mysterious man who claimed that a saucer had crashed at Aztec, New Mexico (hundreds of miles from both Roswell and Socorro), in the spring of 1948. The man was later identified as Silas Newton (left), and his testimony was used as the basis for one of the first UFO books, Behind the Flying Saucers, by Frank Scully. Silas Newton was a partner with one “Dr Gee”, who claimed that later two other saucers had crashed in Arizona, and that he had been privileged to examine all three. The first two both had a (dead) crew of sixteen, the third only two. He believed they came from Venus. Dr Gee claimed to be a magnetic scientist, though what he said on the subject (“there are 1,257 magnetic lines of force to the square centimetre”(3)) was utter drivel.

denverpostScully also described how Gee and Newton had developed a magnetic device which could detect underground oil deposits. Two years later, this led to their arrest on a charge of fraud. They had been trying to sell their device for $800,000, but according to police it was “a worthless piece of war surplus equipment” that they had bought for $4.50.(4)

In the spring of 1952 one Bill Devlin was told by a soldier he met on a train from Philadelphia to Washington that he had been one of three drivers who took the remains of a saucer, along with “sixteen or so” small bodies, from Aztec, New Mexico, to Fort Riley, Kansas.(5) This is the other main type of crash story, the military man who was there after the civilians were cleared away, and who is sworn to secrecy by frightful penalties, though willing to violate it to casual acquaintances. His story of a saucer at Aztec with sixteen small bodies is consistent with that in Scully’s book, though since this had become a bestseller, it is hardly independent confirmation.

In February 1954 President Eisenhower went on a golfing holiday in Palm Springs, California. On 20 February he went off leaving his entourage behind, and the press corps started speculating wildly as to where he might have gone. In the evening a press secretary explained that he had had to make an emergency trip to a dentist. This did not satisfy the rumour mongers, who quickly put it about that that the President had secretly gone to Edwards Air Force Base to view a crashed flying saucer. Sure enough, three months later Meade Layne received a letter from a man named Gerald Light, who claimed to have visited the base himself and seen no fewer than five different alien craft that the Air Force was studying.(6)

silphoBadly piloted UFOs kept on crashing, so it was said, in among other places Arizona, California, Montana, Pennsylvania, British Heligoland, Spitzbergen, Mexico, Sweden and Brazil. Invariably the local military picked up the pieces, except in the case of a four-foot saucer (left) that fell on Silpho Moor near Scarborough, Yorkshire, which was bought from the finder by a civilian and put on display in a local fish and chip shop.(7) Though such stories went out of fashion in the sixties, in the seventies Leonard Stringfield renamed them “retrievals of the third kind”, and, having thus put the subject on a scientific basis, began a collection of anecdotes: he learned for instance of a room in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, “in which several small humanoids were preserved in a glass case”; two disc-shaped craft at Wright-Patterson, with four small bodies preserved in chemicals; and the 1953 crash of an oval object near Kingman, Arizona, in which was a dead four-foot tall alien.(8) By the end of the decade he had accumulated nineteen retrieval stories, all different.

According to one tale, in the late 1940s, the photographer Nicholas von Poppen (d. 1975) had been flown to ‘Los Alamos’ airfield, where he was paid to photograph a flying saucer, 30 feet in diameter, which still had four dead aliens, dressed in shiny black one-piece outfits, in their seats in front of a control board. The only problem is that there was no air base at Los Alamos; obviously, he was told that was where he was as part of the cover-up.(9)

The problem, for the rigidly scientific ufologist, was that the witnesses did not fully confirm each other’s stories. In general terms they agreed that alien spacecraft had crashed and come into the possession of the military; but the crash sites were all different, the bodies (varying in number from one up to sixteen) and the wreckage were supposed to be stored in a variety of Air Force bases and other places, and where dates were given they did not match up. Yet soon this was to change.

Jesse Marcel, one of the officers who had picked up the wreckage from Brazel’s farm, used to talk about the incident, stating that he believed that the object had indeed been an extraterrestrial spacecraft. When Stanton T. Friedman was interviewed on TV in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on 21 February 1978, to promote his lecture tour “Flying Saucers Are Real”, a friend of Marcel’s who worked there mentioned him. Friedman often heard “Stories of acquaintances who claimed to know someone who worked with a guy who said he knows where the bodies of a ‘flying saucer’ crew are stored”, but was always unable to follow them up.(10) This was different, a real man who had handled the wreckage.

Later that year Friedman also heard about Barney Barnett. He passed both stories on to William Moore, who then needed a subject to form a sequel to the bestseller he had co-written with Charles Berlitz, The Philadelphia Experiment. A crashed UFO was suitably sensational. Asked in an interview by Gray Barker if he was investigating saucer crashes, Moore was reticent, but said: “If I were working on this, I would take one particular rumor, one of the more persistent ones, and devote all my investigative efforts to that one case.”(11)

Though the original newspaper reports, and an interview with Marcel, were not nearly enough to fill a book, they were padded out with crashed saucer rumours generally, glossing over the discrepancies with regard to dates and places. They were able to bring in Barney Barnett’s claims by suggesting that the saucer had exploded over Roswell, leaving the wreckage that was found on Brazel’s farm, but that most of it travelled another 125 miles to crash near Socorro. (Or perhaps, in a variant of the urban legend, there were at that time only two UFOs in the whole of the New Mexico airspace, and they collided with each other.) Eisenhower’s 1954 disappearance could have been to view the Roswell saucer, they suggested, failing to explain why it was seven years before the President took an interest.

The Roswell Incident was indeed a bestseller, so much so that the subject has dominated ufology ever since. Suddenly, lots more witnesses (and people who had heard the confessions of witnesses since deceased) came forward with their Roswell, 1947, stories, which none of them had ever felt the need to tell before, enabling the publication of a whole series of subsequent books. Frankie Rowe said her fireman father told her he had been on the way back from a fire when he came across the crash, and saw “two little corpses and one person running around”. Iris Foster, of Taco, New Mexico, said one “Cactus Jack” had told her of seeing a round object and four little bodies. More than one archaeologist, who had been out looking for evidence of early American settlements, testified: “I was there and saw everything.” Jim Ragsdale, who was there with his girlfriend, saw the craft and several small beings, but, “While observing the scene, we watched as a military convoy arrived and secured the scene. As a result of the convoy’s appearance we quickly fled the area.” So did the others.(12)

If all these people are telling the truth, then we have to assume that a flying saucer crashed in a semi-desert region, and for four weeks no one chanced to go near it but the farmer on whose land it was. Then, suddenly, a whole crowd of people, who were in the vicinity for a variety of reasons, archaelogists, courting couples and so on, all happened to converge on the wreckage by pure accident. Just then the army arrived, preventing them from getting any proof. Such synchronicity would be a remarkable anomalous phenomenon in itself.

In 1979 Sergeant (as he had been in 1947) Melvin E. Brown read the Daily Mirror’s review of The Roswell Incident, and told his family – he had married an Englishwoman and lived in the UK – “I was there. Everything in the article is true.”(13) This would be rather more compelling if he had told his family the story before it had appeared in a national newspaper. It will have been observed that, whilst no pattern emerges if one takes the alleged dates of these crashes, there is a definite pattern if one takes the dates on which the various stories are first known to have been told.

The different accounts still do not agree: most say that the craft was a disc, but Frank Kaufmann (who claimed to have detected the crash on radar from White Sands) claimed it was wedge shaped, and that there were four corpses and one living being – others say three corpses, two corpses and one alive, three corpses and one living, and so on and so forth.

Space does not permit me to deal with the claims of Philip Corso and others to have been employed to ‘back engineer’ the wreckage, but I have often wondered at a technology that enables the Greys to navigate safely across nine trillion miles of void from Zeta Reticuli, only to smash into the ground on arrival. Perhaps at this very moment American saucers, built in Area 51, are crashlanding near military bases on the aliens’ home planet.

———————————–

References

1. Roswell Daily Record, 9 July (evening) 1947, quoted by Klass, Philip J., The Real Roswell Crashed Saucer Coverup, Prometheus Books, 1997, 20-21. The date of the initial discovery is often given, wrongly, as 5 July.
2. Berlitz, Charles, and William Moore, The Roswell Incident, Granada, 1980, 97-98, 57-63
3. Scully, Frank, Behind the Flying Saucers, Victor Gollancz, 1950, 163
4. Jacobs, David Michael, The UFO Controversy in America, Signet, 1976, 51
5. Berliz and Moore, op. cit., 108-109
6. Good, Timothy, Alien Liaison, Century, 1991, 56-58
7. Randles, Jenny, UFO Retrievals, Blandford, 1995, chapter 4
8. Stringfield, Leonard H., Situation Red: The UFO Siege, Sphere, 1978, 190-195
9. Berlitz and Moore, op. cit., 99-101
10. Berliner, Don, and Stanton T. Friedman, Crash at Corona, Marlowe, New York, 1997, 9
11. Gray Barker’s Newsletter, issue 9, December 1979
12. See for instance Hesemann, Michael, and Philip Mantle, Beyond Roswell, Michael O’Mara Books, 1997, 42-50
13. Ibid., 50-51

 

In Search of the Real UFOs. John Harney


From Magonia 49, June 1994


At a very early stage in the investigation of UFO reports it became generally accepted that if a significant number of verified reports remained unexplained after exhaustive investigation then these UFOs must be interplanetary spacecraft. Some people argued that there were no really good cases and that the whole business was just a manifestation of human irrationality and gullibility. Students of the subject thus became divided into believers and sceptics. This made for lively debate, but it did little to advance scientific research on rare or unexplained phenomena.

The reason for this state of affairs lies in the use of the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) by UFO enthusiasts as a blanket explanation for all unsolved UFO cases. The problem with the ETH is not that it is absurd. It is, indeed, perfectly rational. Many scientists have devoted a great deal of effort to setting up radio equipment and monitoring the output to see if they can detect signals from other civilisations which may or may not exist elsewhere in the galaxy. Why, many ufologists might ask, do they not simply study the best UFO reports, then they might learn something about the ETs?

The reason is that if they discovered signals which they could demonstrate were coming from a source umpteen light years away and that these signals were artificial, then that would be positive proof of extraterrestrial intelligence. This reasoning does not apply to UFOs, as no one sees where they go to or where they come from. The ETH is not a scientific theory, as applied to UFOs, because it can account for all reports for which conventional explanations are not easily found. A theory which so easily explains everything explains nothing. If you say that such and such a UFO was an alien spacecraft then you don’t have to bother investigating any further.

It is rather like a man who watches a conjuring act. He can’t imagine how the effects are achieved, so he comes to the conclusion that the conjuror has amazing paranormal powers. This saves him the effort of studying the literature on magic to discover how the tricks are actually performed.

It is this sort of attitude that has resulted in the neglect of some interesting reports. The question which arises is: Are there any good UFO reports for which a convincing physical or psychological explanation has not been found? Now there are some really stunning reports but few of them can stand up to critical examination. What we need are reports with the following characteristics, and I won’t spell out the reasons for them because they should be fairly obvious:

(1) Independent witnesses separated from one another;

(2) Reports made with all relevant details to a responsible person or organisation shortly after the event;

(3) No significant internal inconsistencies in the reports;

(4) No obvious explanation of the phenomena reported.

I will start by looking at three reports from the literature. I have chosen them because they are very different from one another and because one of them, which seems at first an excellent and baffling reports, unravels into a string of misidentifications.

St. Louis, Missouri, 14 July 1954

The incident occurred in the driveway and car park of the Propulsion Laboratory, McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis. An object described as an irregular rectangle, 18 18 8 inches, pale milky white, and having the consistency of cotton candy or spun glass was seen. It approached from the east, descending from 30 feet to the ground. It stopped on the ground, then rose to 4 feet, made a right-angle turn to the north, advanced about 75 feet to an 8-foot cyclone fence, rose over it and eventually disappeared into the overcast. It was in view for about 3-5 minutes. It travelled at a speed of 3-8 mph. Five observers reported it, and it is believed that there were about 10 witnesses altogether. The farthest witness was about 200 feet away, but one witness followed it at a distance of only 5 feet. The wind at the time was south-east, about 2-6 mph.

The Blue Book explanation was debris in wind . Dr J. Allen Hynek rejected this explanation in view of the very light wind. (1) If the incident really happened as described it is very difficult to explain. If the object were a piece of lightweight packing material, such a light breeze might have been able to move it along the ground, but hardly seems enough to waft it into the clouds. As the sky was overcast there would have been no thermals which could send small objects soaring upwards. The Blue Book conclusion certainly seems to be at odds with the reported details of this case.

Gatchellville, Pennsylvania, 8 March 1977

Eleven witnesses in six separated groups saw a red ball of fire which was like a second moon in the sky at 7.30 p.m. It moved against the wind in a left-to-right wobbling motion for about 2-5 minutes, a few hundred feet above the ground. It was then seen to drop down towards the lawn of a house. A few minutes later someone called the fire department to deal with a grass fire,but when they arrived it had already gone out. Investigators found a burned patch of grass 100 30 feet with a hole of 1 foot diameter 132 feet to the south-east. It seems that the lawn grass itself did not support combustion (presumably too moist). Tests failed to show any traces of any combustible substances. The soil was said to have been burned black to a depth of 3 inches, as if it had been subjected to intense heat. Within the burned patch were three holes, 1 inch in diameter and nearly 3 inches deep forming a triangle 54 52 72 inches. The field investigator (from the Center for UFO Studies) did not reach the site until several days had passed, so these holes could have been made by some mischievous person after the event. (2)

The obvious explanation which suggests itself is ball lightning but this is itself a phenomenon which is still a mystery, as no one has been able to develop a coherent theory as to how the energy of a lightning ball could be contained. (There are still some sceptics who refuse to accept the reality of ball lightning.) From the description of this incident it seems that a very large amount of energy was released when the object hit the lawn. Ball lightning is a very complex phenomenon, and there are apparently a number of distinct varieties of it. There is no doubt a more detailed account of this case available, but my reference does not give any details of the weather at the time of the incident.

Rapid City, South Dakota, 12 August 1953

Shortly after dark, the Air Defense Command radar station at Ellsworth Air Force Base, just east of Rapid City, received a call from the local Ground Observer Corps Filter Center. A woman observer at Black Hawk, about 10 miles west of Ellsworth had reported an extremely bright light low on the horizon to the north-east. The radar scanner was turned to cover this part of the sky and a well-defined, bright target was seen in the direction in which the light had been reported. The height-finding radar was then turned on the object and it was found to be at 16,000 feet.

The controller arranged to be put through to the GOC observer and together they compared notes on the object. The observer noticed that it was starting to move towards Rapid City. This was confirmed by radar. The controller sent two men outside to look and they saw the object. It made a wide sweep around Rapid City and then returned to its original position.

The controller then called on the pilot of an F-84 to intercept it. The UFO began to move when the pilot got within about 3 miles of it. The pilot chased it about 120 miles north, then had to turn back because he did not have enough fuel. He had gone beyond the range of the radar, but his blip reappeared a few minutes later, followed at a distance of about 15 miles by the UFO. Another pilot was sent up to intercept it and the same thing happened; this time the UFO went north-east.

When the object went off the radar scope it was heading towards Fargo, North Dakota, so the controller called the Fargo Filter Center. A short time later they called back to say they had reports of a fast-moving bright light.

The above account is a condensed version of the report given by Ruppelt. (3) However, Menzel explained the radar contacts as false images caused by a temperature inversion, and the visual sightings as the star Capella. (4) He had little but Ruppelt’s summary to go on, and his explanation was too simple, as we can see from the Condon report. (5) Hynek thought that the stars Capella, Arcturus and Betelgeuse, the planet Jupiter, and at least one meteor were involved in the visual sightings. The investigators agreed with Menzel’s theory about the radar echoes. The description of the sightings given in the Condon report gives a very different impression from that given in Ruppelt’s account.

Discussion

I have chosen these reports in an attempt to demonstrate that not all serious UFO reports obviously point to the ETH as an explanation, even when they remain unexplained, and that the only thing that most UFO reports have in common is a belief by the witnesses in the ETH or a desire, often subconscious, to believe in it.

A factor which might tend to weaken the first case is that the witnesses delayed for some time before making an official report. It thus seems likely that they would have compared notes in order to present mutually consistent accounts. It is also likely that the witnesses were all well known to one another, as they worked at the same place. It might be argued that they must have underestimated the wind speed and possibly failed to appreciate the local effects on wind speed and direction caused by nearby buildings.

The second case seems rather stronger. The height of the object was calculated by comparing the reports of the different groups of witnesses. The object seems to have contained far more energy and lasted much longer than the average lightning ball. It certainly seems worth adding to the list of possible or probable ball lightning reports. A number of good cases of ball lightning have no doubt been lost to science because they were reported as UFOs and published in the sort of book or journal which is unlikely to be available in most science libraries.

The Rapid City case is a good example of what can happen when people are predisposed to consider the ETH as a possible explanation for some UFO reports. A sighting of a bright star near the horizon by a Ground Observer Corps volunteer triggered off a series of visual and radar sightings of what appeared to those involved to be a single, puzzling UFO because of an unusual combination of circumstances on that particular night.

If the idea of extraterrestrial UFOs was not available to the witnesses to excite their imaginations it is most unlikely that two aircraft would have been sent chasing after stars.

Another lesson from this case is that accounts of UFO incidents, even in books by such authoritative writers as Ruppelt, can be very misleading and always need to be cross-checked with other sources.

Conclusions

The effects on witnesses of the ETH should always be considered when reading or investigating UFO reports. The ETH strongly distorts many reports of unusual phenomena, or normal objects seen in unusual conditions. Some good reports may be sightings of rare and poorly understood natural phenomena. Although it is desirable for there to be multiple independent witnesses, they are no guarantee that anything really strange or unusual has taken place.

In rejecting the ETH as a blanket explanation for all puzzling UFO reports it is important not to substitute another blanket explanation, such as mirages or ball lightning. In comparing new reports with cases described in the literature it should be realised that many of these are highly inaccurate summaries of the original reports, and some of them are totally false.

It is only by separating the ETH from the UFO that any progress is likely to be made in obtaining reliable information about the unusual natural phenomena which probably generate some of the more interesting UFO reports.

References

  • 1. Hynek, J. Allen. The Hynek UFO Report, London, Sphere Books, 1978, 149-151
  • 2. Hendry Allan. The UFO Handbook, London, Sphere Books, 1980, 120-121
  • 3. Ruppelt, Edward J. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, New York, Ace Books, 1956, 304-308
  • 4. Menzel, Donald H. and Boyd, Lyle G. The World of Flying Saucers, New York, Doubleday, 1963, 167-170
  • 5. Thayer, Gordon D. Optical and radar analyses of field cases , in Gillmor, Daniel S. (ed.), Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, New York, Bantam Books, 1969, 132-136

 

The Search for Physical Evidence: The Ubatuba Magnesium. John Harney


This article, part three in a series The search for Physical Evidence, appeared in Merseyside UFO Bulletin, Volume 4, Number 2, June 1971.


The Ubatuba Magnesium Sample

Take a fragment of metal, preferably a not-too-common sample, and launch it on to the UFO world, accompanied by a story alleging that it is a piece of a flying saucer. Then sit back and await results. Either it will merely provide, for a short while, material to bolster the fantasies of some of the more credulous ufologists or, with a bit of luck, it will attract more serious attention.

Without doubt the weightiest and most prolonged controversy concerning alleged flying saucer fragments began in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1957.

Briefly – as the story has been told at length elsewhere – [1] the evidence came to light when a Rio society columnist, Ibrahim Sued, reported in the newspaper O Globo that he had received a mysterious letter. The unnamed correspondent wrote that he and some friends saw a flying saucer which exploded in flames over a beach near Ubatuba, Sao Paulo. It disintegrated into thousands of fiery fragments, which fell into the sea. Some fell close to the shore and were collected by the witnesses. Some of these fragments were sent to Sued with the letter. This story attracted the attention of the renowned UFO researcher, the late Dr Olavo T. Fontes.

Fontes obtained these samples and submitted them to the Mineral Production Laboratory, a department of the Brazilian Agriculture Ministry. The material was given a spectrographic analysis and the report merely indicated that this showed the presence of magnesium (Mg) of a high degree of purity and absence of any other metallic element . Dr Fontes was not satisfied with this report and attempted to obtain a more detailed analysis. A second spectrographic test confirmed the first result. Other samples were later analysed using more refined techniques. Eventually, after studying the reports of the analyses and relevant technical data on the industrial methods used in refining magnesium, Fontes came to the conclusion that the magnesium was of a higher degree of purity than could be obtained by any refining processes known at that time. In his report, published by Coral Lorenzen, he went on to speculate about flying saucers made of magnesium.

The argument used by Fontes and repeated by other supporters of the ETH was that as the magnesium was purer than any that could be manufactured on earth, it must have been produced by a superior civilisation on some other planet.

The Colorado Project members, in their search for physical evidence which might tend to support the ETH, obtained samples of the Ubatuba magnesium fragments and had them analysed by the National Office Laboratory, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division, Bureau of Internal Revenue. The method chosen was that known as neutron-activation analysis. For comparison, a sample of triply sublimed magnesium was acquired from the Dow Chemical Company. The sample was similar to samples which that company had supplied on request for at least 25 years.

Both samples were found to contain very small proportions of impurities, but the pattern of impurities in each sample was rather different. The Ubatuba magnesium contained about 500 parts per million of zinc, as against 5 in the Dow sample, and 500 p.p.m. of strontium, which was not detected in the Dow sample. However, according to the Condon Report, a check was made of Dow Metallurgical Laboratory records and revealed that the company had made experimental batches of magnesium containing various proportions of strontium. As early as 1940 it had produced a 700 gm batch of magnesium containing nominally the same concentration of strontium as was observed in the Ubatuba sample. The Project’s conclusion was that there was nothing unique or unearthly in the composition of the Ubatuba fragments and there was thus no reason to suppose that they were of extraterrestrial origin. (2)

One scientist who disagreed with the Project’s findings was Dr David R. Saunders, who was sacked from the Project by Dr Condon for incompetence , in the wake of the famous Low memo affair. Saunders devoted a chapter to the Ubatuba samples in his book about the Condon Committee. (3) In this he argues that the significance of the Ubatuba magnesium lies in the impurities which it does not contain. Saunders wrote:

If the fragment were ultrapure terrestrial magnesium one would expect to find one of four conditions existing.

However, a sample containing 500 p.p.m. each of zinc and strontium can hardly be described as ultrapure when compared with the Dow sample, which contained no more than 5 p.p.m. of any of the 8 impurities listed in the table comparing the samples in the Condon Report. Saunders does not mention the Dow sample. Saunders went on:

  • If the sample were a terrestrial alloy of magnesium, it might have contained aluminium or copper or both. There was no aluminium and only a trace of copper.

According to the Condon Report, no aluminium was detected in the Dow sample either and this sample contained only 0.4 p.p.m. of copper, as against 3.3 in the Ubatuba magnesium.

  • If someone had made a serious effort to purify the sample, the element most difficult to remove would have been calcium. There was none.
  • If someone had done an unusually fine job of removing the calcium, he would almost certainly have done it using a quartz vessel. This would have introduced minute amounts of silicon into the sample. The FBI tests showed that no silicon was present.
  • Calcium and silicon are not mentioned in the Condon Report account of the analysis.
  • If someone had used the best techniques available to purify magnesium in 1968, he would have employed repeated sublimation of the metal under a very high vacuum. A mercury vapour pump would be required to produce this vacuum, resulting in mercury contamination of the product. There was no mercury in the Ubatuba sample.

According to the Condon Report, no mercury was detected in the Ubatuba magnesium, but 2.6 p.p.m. was detected in the Dow sample. Roy Craig, the author of this section of the Condon Report, makes no comment about the absence of mercury from the Ubatuba sample, so presumably he and his advisors did not consider this to be of any great significance.

Saunders deduces from his arguments, particularly the one about the absence of mercury, that the sample can be said to be 100.0 percent pure, because there is nothing in it by accident . However, apart from the absence of aluminium and mercury, the Ubatuba sample has greater proportions of each of the other six impurities listed in the Condon Report than has the Dow sample.

The layman may perhaps be forgiven for supposing that, as the Ubatuba sample contained no mercury and a different pattern of impurities, and larger amounts of impurities than the Dow sample, then it must have been manufactured by some other chemical company, by a different process.

Apart from the technical discussions concerning the composition of the magnesium samples, the Ubatuba case has been kept alive over the years by means of unwarranted assumptions as to its origin. For example,the Lorenzens write: (4)

That the material is not 100 percent pure magnesium does not lessen the impact of the case, for we still have to explain how that magnesium got to a remote beach area at that time. What manner of machine was the shiny disc-shaped object that exploded?

We do not, in fact, have to explain anything of the sort, as there is no convincing evidence that the samples came from a flying disc, or that they were picked up from a beach, at Ubatuba, or anywhere else. The samples first came to light in the office of a Rio society columnist, where they arrived through the post. The writer of the letter accompanying the samples and his alleged fellow witnesses to the UFO sighting have never been traced.

The more rational conclusion in this case is, plainly, that the Ubatuba affair was a hoax. It must be regarded as one of the most successful hoaxes in the history of ufology, in view of the time and money spent and the amount of technical expertise lavished on it.


References:

  1.  Fontes, Olavo T. A report on the investigation of magnesium samples from a UFO explosion over the sea in the Ubatuba region of Brazil , published as a chapter of The Great Flying Saucer Hoax, by Coral E. Lorenzen, William Frederick Press, New York/APRO, 1962
  2.  Gillmor, Daniel S. (ed.) Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, Bantam Books, New York, 1968
  3.  Saunders, David R. and Harkins, R. Roger. UFOs? Yes! Where the Condon Committee Went Wrong, Signet Books, New York, 1968
  4.  Lorenzen, Coral and Jim. UFOs, the Whole Story, Signet Books, New York, 1969

Craters: Their Origin and Classification. Alan Sharp

  • In the early 1960s British ufologists were much concerned about mysterious craters which appeared in various parts of the country. Alan Sharp, a keen amateur astronomer and geologist, was convinced that they were all natural formations and had nothing to do with flying saucers.

    • This article appeared in the Merseyside UFO Research Group Newsletter No. 2, June 1965.

The following article was specially written for the Newsletter. Some of the suggestions contained in it were referred to very briefly in the March-April Flying Saucer Review, but here you will have an opportunity to study them in greater detail. The article does not necessarily reflect MUFORG policy.


 

 

During the vast span of geological time, the forces of nature have caused holes to appear on the Earth’s surface, varying in size from minor cracks and crevices to rift valleys and volcanic craters. Generally speaking, the term “crater” is reserved for such of these holes as have a certain regularity of shape, i.e. are more or less circular or oval in plan rather than linear or sub-linear.

In geologically very recent times indeed, man has added craters of his own making to those of natural origin, the former being classified as artificial and being due to such things as the use of explosives, mining subsidence and the occasional descent to ground level of Earth satellite fragments, rockets, etc. From such considerations, a start can be made on a table of crater classification:

  • A. NATURAL
    1. Natural impact
    2. Natural explosion
    3. Natural subsidence
  • B. ARTIFICIAL
    4. Artificial impact
    5. Artificial explosion
    6. Artificial subsidence

Grouping these into classes, we have the following causative agencies:

  • A.
    1. Meteorites
    2. (a) Volcanic explosions (b) Lightning
    3. (a) Volcanic subsidence
    (b) Collapse of cavities of subterranean erosion, the burrows of animals, caves and similar voids
  • B.
    4. Artificial meteorites
    5. Bombs, shells, blasting
    6. Mining and tunnelling. Excavation generally, if of crater form

In addition to these, one must add the strange human category collectively known as the “hoax”, which may be subdivided into the hoax for amusement, the hoax malicious and the hoax for gain, not to mention sundry disturbances of the soil which scarcely merit the appellation crater.

Bearing this classification in mind, it becomes immediately apparent that many UFO craters fall into the latter category and should not be described as craters at all. This appears to apply to the Dufton Fell case, for instance, although here the geological context may still be significant.

It is worth remarking here that meteorite craters may contain virtually no meteoritic material if the energy released at impact is sufficient to vaporise the impacting mass. Drillings in the Arizona meteorite crater, for example, have not been successful in locating a large body of meteoritic material.

Swallow holes and solution cavities in limestone and other calcareous rocks are not the only results of underground erosion by water, since the normal effects attributable to surface erosion can occur where underground streams run through the enlarged cavities – such as faults – in non-soluble rock.

Percolating water can remove the “cement” from arenaceous rocks such as sandstone, producing a crumbly residue with marked lack of grain adhesion. Sand itself is subject to the phenomenon of slumping due to changes in the interstitial water content. This is true of most unconsolidated sediments.

From the above brief summary, it can be seen that there is plenty of scope for crater formation without having to introduce UFO intervention and indeed none of the British examples which can fairly be described as craters (UFO variety) need an otherworldly explanation, Niton included.

To take specific examples, Niton is quite clearly a case of subsidence into a smooth-sided cavity of subterranean erosion. This explains naturally the apparently miraculous disappearance of a large volume of earth and rock. It was not there in the first place!

The recent Berkshire craters have been diagnosed independently (Reading University) as due to subsidence into solution pockets in the chalk sub-stratum.

The Charlton crater exhibited a symmetrical pattern of surface indentations which accords well with drainage into a central cavity. Here again, as at Niton, we are near the contact between the Upper Greensand and the Chalk.

Flamborough Head, another crater locality, is also a prominent Chalk feature, whilst Dufton Fell, near Penrith, lies in the famous Alston lead mining district in the local Carboniferous Limestone and adjacent strata. Mines in this area have been worked since Roman times and Dufton itself was intensively prospected much more recently than that, at a time when the Lake District was a hive of metalliferous mining industry.

The Carboniferous Limestone everywhere, from the Mendips to Scotland abounds with mine workings, pot-holes and caves, many of which are world famous.

However, with forty sheep lost at Dufton, the possibility of a little rustling seems on the cards!

In Scotland, Sanquar lies on the fringe of the Leadhills mining district, also worked by the Romans, and, in addition, marks the southernmost limit of the Scottish coal mining area. The Lammermuir Hills, to the north-east of Leadhills, comprise crater locality in similar geological formations to those of the Sanquar district.

The sum of coincidence is too great to be ignored and, I suggest, the British craters must be seen in their true geological framework rather than in the enchanting context of visitations from outer space.

Alan Sharp changed his mind on the causes of some of the craters during 1965. The following item appeared in the December 1965 issue of MUFORG’s newsletter.

CHARLTON: A NEW THEORY

In the last issue, you may remember, we published an article on the origin and classification of craters by Mr Alan Sharp. This is how two of our readers reacted to the views expressed in the article:

“I found Mr Sharp’s article very illuminating. I accept his generalisations. One small question I do ask is: how many of the craters he mentions has he actually visited? I am particularly thinking of the Charlton crater, and am not too happy with his comment about drainage.” Lionel Beer, Vice-Chairman and Publicity Officer, BUFORA.

“I almost agree with Sharp’s crater analysis, but must draw the line at the Charlton one. Was he there? Has he forgotten the mass of substantiating evidence in favour of a more “enchanting” cause?” Michael Whitford-Walders, Welsh UFO Research Organisation.

These are typical of the comments received. In fact it seems that the majority of readers find it difficult to accept the swallow hole explanation.

We are now able to report that Mr Sharp has also rejected this explanation, but he still firmly refuses to believe that the crater was caused by a UFO. After visiting the farm at Charlton, testing soil samples taken from the area, questioning local inhabitants, and making a careful study of all the available evidence, he concludes that it was caused by nothing more mysterious than a flash of lightning. Here is his report:

“With reference to my article on craters, I have since conducted an exhaustive investigation of the mainland British examples, which is nearing its conclusion. As a result, and somewhat to my surprise, I can say with reasonable certainty that most are due to lightning and only two cases, those at Niton and in Berkshire, are attributable to geological subsidence; with the exception of Dufton, where surface movement took place as a result of heavy rain. Nevertheless, the geological line of attack has proved most fruitful, especially at Charlton where the soil abounds with ferruginous material.

“In all cases attributable to lightning there was a prehistory of severe storms in the locality, and in general the electrical discharge produced local magnetic effects, again as at Charlton. The work, though arduous, time-consuming and expensive has been very interesting and rewarding.”

In volume 4, number 6 (winter 1971) of Merseyside UFO Bulletin we published a short account of the Charlton crater affair, as part of a series on physical evidence.

THE CHARLTON CRATER

John Harney

There have been relatively few cases of alleged physical evidence of UFOs in Britain, and of those few the Charlton crater is by far the most notorious example.

Serious attempts to provide rational explanations for the occurrence have been consistently ridiculed by the UFO enthusiasts who apparently prefer to believe that the phenomenon was produced by the landing of a flying saucer.

In July 1963, a crater about 1 foot deep, 8 feet in diameter, with a hole in the centre about 3 feet deep was found on the boundary between a potato field and a barley field at Manor Farm, Charlton, Wiltshire (near Shaftesbury, Dorset). The crater was discovered by farmer Roy Blanchard, according to Robert Chapman, (1) or by a Mr Reg Alexander, according to Leonard Cramp. (2) Take your pick.

It is not clear from the various accounts just how the crater came to receive such wide publicity and close scrutiny from military and scientific experts, journalists, ufologists, and assorted cranks and publicity seekers. The incident which seems to have attracted the attention of the national news media and Members of Parliament was the arrival on the scene of an Army bomb disposal squad. These gentlemen found no bomb, but did detect metal, which was in fact magnetite, naturally occurring in the soil of that area.

Unfortunately the sensational publicity accorded to the affair did not provide a suitable atmosphere for rational, scientific investigation. A lump of iron ore recovered from the crater by the Army team was pounced on by Patrick Moore, who hastily pronounced it to be a meteorite.

The issue was further confused by the arrival on the scene of a gentleman calling himself “Dr Randall”, who purported to be an “Australian astro-physicist”. This character assured the gentlemen of the press that the crater was caused by a flying saucer weighing about 600 tons, with a crew of about 50, and originating from the planet Uranus. Still further confusion must have been caused in the minds of interested observers when the newspapers printed these inane drivellings of “Dr Randall” apparently without taking the trouble to consult the appropriate reference books in order to determine his bona fides.

Questions in the House of Commons eventually established that the crater was not caused by a bomb or a meteorite and, so far as the authorities were concerned, the matter remained unexplained. Ufologists immediately took this as a licence to indulge in wild speculations about flying saucers and their alleged electromagnetic effects and “G fields”. Much was made of the fact that the magnetite in the soil in the immediate vicinity of the crater was found to have been magnetised. Much was also made of the alleged complete disappearance of potato plants at the site of the crater. (3)

The Charlton crater, among other, similar occurrences, attracted the attention of Alan Sharp who, as our readers well know, does not believe in spaceships from Uranus, or in fairies or Father Christmas either, for that matter.

Mr Sharp at first thought that the crater may have been caused by subsidence, but later revised his opinion and suggested that it was probably caused by a lightning strike. This would explain the magnetic effects observed by investigators. In a review of Leonard Cramp’s “Piece for a Jig-Saw”, Alan Sharp wrote:

“A great deal of nonsense has been talked about the Charlton occurrence but in point of fact this was a classic example of the type of “crater” ascribable to the strike of lightning on open ground. It displays radiating surface marks, removal of material and a central hole. It was preceded by a violent thunderstorm accompanied by strong winds and was in an area of considerable storm damage to crops. The lightning struck the ground where there was evidence of a local elevation of the water table and pronounced detectable magnetic effects in the magnetite-bearing soil, similar to those recorded at Cockburnspath in Scotland.

“The strike occurred at a point on a previous field boundary where a large iron straining-post had once been embedded in the ground and secured by metal stays. The disappearance of plants was by no means complete, as had been alleged by one person, according to Mr Bealing, the Shaftesbury photographer whose photographs appeared widely in the Press at the time. Captain Rodgers of the Army investigation team also reported the finding of plant remains at the site.” (4)

The lightning explanation certainly seems the most logical one in the circumstances, but it has been totally ignored by British ufologists, who prefer to indulge in bizarre speculations about flying saucers and their “anti-gravity” propulsion systems. The Charlton crater affair is a particularly interesting case in that study of the literature on the subject shows up the irrational and unscientific attitudes which prevail among British ufologists, even including those who are intelligent enough to know better.

References

1. Chapman, Robert; Unidentified Flying Objects, Arthur Barker, London, 1969

2. Cramp, Leonard G.; Piece for a Jig-Saw, Somerton Publishing Co., Cowes, Isle of Wight, 1966

3. Ibid., 184

4. Sharp, Alan; book review, “Piece for a Jig-Saw”, MUFORG Bulletin, February 1967