STATEMENT ON UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS
Prepared statement submitted to the House Committee on
Science and Astronautics,
[ PART 1 of 2 ]
STATEMENT ON UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS
submitted to the House Committee on Science and
James E. McDonald, Senior Physicist, Institute of
Prepared statement submitted to the House Committee on
I should like first to commend the House Committee on Science and Astronautics for recognizing the need for a closer look at scientific aspects of the long-standing puzzle of the Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). From time to time in the history of science, situations have arisen in which a problem of ultimately enormous importance went begging for adequate attention simply because that problem appeared to involve phenomena so far outside the current bounds of scientific knowledge that it was not even regarded as a legitimate subject of serious scientific concern. That is precisely the situation in which the UFO problem now lies. One of the principal results of my own recent intensive study of the UFO enigma is this: I have become convinced that the scientific community, not only in this country but throughout the world, has been casually ignoring as nonsense a matter of extraordinary scientific importance. The attention of your Committee can, and I hope will, aid greatly in correcting this situation. As you will note in the following, my own present opinion, based on two years of careful study, is that UFOs are probably extraterrestrial devices engaged in something that might very tentatively be termed "surveillance."
If the extraterrestrial hypothesis is proved correct (and I emphasize that the present evidence only points in that direction but cannot be said to constitute irrefutable proof), then clearly UFOs will become a top-priority scientific problem. I believe you might agree that, even if there were a slight chance of the correctness of that hypothesis, the UFOs would demand the most careful attention. In fact, that chance seems to some of us a long way from trivial. We share the view of Vice Adm. R. H. Hillenkoetter, former CIA Director, who said eight years ago, "It is imperative that we learn where the UFOs come from and what their purpose is." (Ref. 1) Since your committee is concerned only with broad aspects of our national scientific program but also with the prosecution of our entire space program, and since that space program has been tied in for some years now with the dramatic goal of a search for life in the universe, I submit that the topic of today's Symposium is eminently deserving of your attention. Indeed, I have to state, for the record, that I believe no other problem within your jurisdiction is of comparable scientific and national importance. Those are strong words, and I intend them to be.
In addition to your Committee responsibilities with respect to science and the aerospace programs, there is another still broader basis upon which it is highly appropriate that you now take up the UFO problem: Twenty years of public interest, public puzzlement, and even some public disquiet demand that we all push toward early clarification of this unparalleled scientific mystery. I hope that our session here today will prove a significant turning point, orienting new scientific efforts towards illumination of this scientific problem that has been with us for over 20 years.
SCOPE AND BACKGROUND OF PRESENT COMMENTS
It has been suggested that I review for you my experiences in interviewing UFO witnesses here and abroad and that I discuss ways in which my professional experience in the field of atmospheric physics and meteorology illuminates past and present attempts at accounting for UFO phenomena. To understand the basis of my comments, it may be helpful to note briefly the nature of my own studies on UFOs.
I have had a moderate interest in the UFO problem for twenty years, much as have a scattering of other scientists. In southern Arizona, during the period 1954-66, I interviewed, on a generally rather random basis, witnesses in such local sightings as happened to come to my attention via press or personal communications. This experience taught me much about lay misinterpretations of observations of aircraft, planets, meteors, balloons, flares, and the like. The frequency with which laymen misconstrue phenomena associated with fireballs (meteors brighter than magnitude -5), led me to devote special study to meteor physics; other topics in my own field of atmospheric physics also drew my closer attention as a result of their bearing on various categories of UFO reports. This period of rather casual UFO-witness interviewing on a local basis proved mainly educational; yet on a few occasions I encountered witnesses of seemingly high credibility whose reports lay well outside any evident meteorological, astronomical, or other conventional bounds. Because I was quite unaware, before 1966, that those cases were, in fact, paralleled by astonishing numbers of comparable cases elsewhere in the U.S. and the rest of the world, they left me only moderately puzzled and mildly bothered, since I came upon relatively few impressive cases within the environs of Tucson in those dozen years of discursive study. I was aware of the work of non-official national investigative groups like NICAP (National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena) and APRO (Aerial Phenomena Research Organization); but lacking basis for detailed personal evaluation of their investigative methods, I simply did not take their publications very seriously. I was under other misimpressions, I found later, as to the nature of the official UFO program, but I shall not enlarge on this before this Committee. (I cite all of this here because I regard it relevant to an appreciation, by the Committee, of the way in which at least one scientist has developed his present strong concern for the UFO problem after a prior period of some years of only mild interest. Despite having interviewed a total of perhaps 150-200 Tucson-area witnesses prior to 1966 (75 of them in a single inconclusive case in 1958), I was far from overwhelmed with the importance of the UFO problem.
A particular sighting incident in Tucson in early 1966, followed by the widely-publicized March, 1966, Michigan sightings (I, too, felt, the "swamp gas" explanation was quite absurd once I checked a few relevant points), led me finally to take certain steps to devote the coming summer vacation months to a much closer look at the UFO problem. Within only a few weeks in May and June of 1966, after taking a close look at the files and modes of operation of both private and official (i.e. Project Bluebook) UFO investigative programs, after seeing for the first time press-clipping files of (to me) astonishing bulk, covering innumerable intriguing cases I had never before heard of, and (above all) after the beginning of what became a long period of personal interviewing of key witnesses in important UFO cases, I rapidly altered my conception of the scientific importance of the UFO question. By mid-1966, I had already begun what became months of effort to arouse new interest and to generate new UFO investigative programs in various science agencies of the Federal government and in various scientific organizations. Now, two years later, with very much more background upon which to base an opinion, I find myself increasingly more concerned with what has happened during the past twenty years' neglect, by almost the entire scientific community, of a problem that appears to be one of extremely high order of scientific importance.
THE UNCONVENTIONAL NATURE OF THE UFO PROBLEM
To both laymen and scientists, the impressive progress that science has made towards understanding our total environment prompts doubts that there could be machine-like objects of entirely unconventional nature moving through our atmosphere, hovering over automobiles, power installations, cities, and the like, yet all the while going unnoticed by our body scientific. Such suggestions are hard to take seriously, and I assure you that, until I had taken a close look at the evidence, I did not take them seriously. We have managed to so let our preconceptions block serious consideration of the possibility that some form of alien technology is operating within our midst that we have succeeded in simply ignoring the facts. And we scientists have ignored the pleas of groups like NICAP and APRO, who have for years been stressing the remarkable nature of the UFO evidence. Abroad, science has reacted in precisely this same manner, ignoring as nonsensical the report-material gathered by private groups operating outside the main channels of science. I understand this neglect all too well; I was just one more of those scientists who almost ignored those facts, just one more of those scientists who was rather sure that such a situation nearly could not exist, one more citizen rather sure that official statements must be basically meaningful on the non-existence of any substantial evidence for the reality of UFOs.
The UFO problem is so unconventional, involves such improbable events such inexplicable phenomenology, so defies ready explanation in terms of present-day scientific knowledge, has such a curiously elusive quality in many respects, that it is not surprising (given certain features in the past twenty years' handling of the problem) that scientists have not taken it very seriously. We scientists are, as a group, not too well-oriented towards taking up problems that lie, not just on the frontiers of our scientific knowledge, but far across some gulf whose very breadth cannot be properly estimated. These parenthetical remarks are made here to convey, in introductory manner, viewpoints that will probably prove to be correct when many more scientists begin to scrutinize this unprecedented and neglected problem. The UFO problem is, if anything, a highly unconventional problem. Hence, before reviewing my own investigations in detail, and before examining various proposed explananations lying within atmospheric physics, it may be well to take note of some of the principal hypotheses that have been proposed, at one time or another, to account for UFOs.
SOME ALTERNATIVE HYPOTHESES
In seeking explanations for UFO reports, I like to weigh witness accounts in terms of eight principal UFO hypotheses:
1. Hoaxes, fabrications, and frauds.
2. Hallucination, mass hysteria, rumor phenomena.
3. Lay misinterpretations of
well-known physical phenomena (meteorological, astronomical,
4. Semi-secret advanced technology
(new test vehicles, satellites, novel weapons, flares,
5. Poorly understood physical
phenomena (rare atmospheric-electric or atmospheric-electrical
6. Poorly understood psychological phenomena.
7. Extraterrestrial devices of some surveillance nature.
8. Spaceships bringing messengers of terrestrial salvation and occult truth.
Because I have discussed elsewhere all of these hypotheses in some detail (Ref. 2), I shall here only very briefly comment on certain points. Hoaxes and fabrications do crop up, though in percentually far smaller numbers than many UFO scoffers seem to think. Some of the independent groups like APRO and NICAP have done good work in exposing certain of these. Although there has been a good deal of armchair-psychologizing about unstable UFO witnesses, with easy charges of hallucination and hysteria, such charges seem to have almost no bearing in the hundreds of cases I have now personally investigated. Misinterpreted natural phenomena (Hypothesis 3) do explain many sincerely-submitted UFO reports; but, as I shall elaborate below, efforts to explain away almost the entirety of all UFO incidents in such terms have been based on quite unacceptable reasoning. Almost no one any longer seriously proposes that the truly puzzling UFO reports of close-range sighting of what appear to be machines of some sort are chance sightings of secret test devices (ours or theirs); the reasons weighing against Hypothesis 4 are both obvious and numerous. That some still-not-understood physical phenomena of perhaps astronomical or meteorological nature can account for the UFO observations that have prompted some to speak in terms of extraterrestrial devices would hold some weight if it were true that we dealt therein only with reports of hazy, glowing masses comparable to, say, ball lightning or if we dealt only with fast-moving luminous bodies racing across the sky in meteoric fashion. Not so, as I shall enlarge upon below. Jumping to Hypothesis 6, it seems to receive little support from the many psychologists with whom I have managed to have discussions on this possibility; I do not omit it from consideration, but, as my own witness interviewing has proceeded, I regard it with decreasing favor. As for Hypothesis 8, it can only be remarked that, in all of the extensive literature published in support thereof, practically none of it has enough ring of authenticity to warrant serious attention. A bizarre "literature" of pseudo-scientific discussion of communications between benign extraterrestrials bent on saving the better elements of humanity from some dire fate implicit in nuclear weapons testing or other forms of environmental contamination is certainly obtrusive on any paperback stand. That "literature" has been one of the prime factors in discouraging serious scientists from looking into the UFO matter to the extent that might have led them to recognize quickly enough that cultism and wishful thinking have essentially nothing to do with the core of the UFO problem. Again, one must here criticize a good deal of armchair-researching (done chiefly via the daily newspapers that enjoy feature-writing the antics of the more extreme of such groups). A disturbing number of prominent scientists have jumped all too easily to the conclusion that only the nuts see UFOs.
The seventh hypothesis, that UFOs may be some form of extraterrestrial devices, origin and objective still unknown, is a hypothesis that has been seriously proposed by many investigators of the UFO problem. Although there seems to be some evidence that this hypothesis was first seriously considered within official investigative channels in 1948 (a year after the June 24, 1947 sighting over Mt. Rainier that brought the UFO problem before the general public), the first open defense of that Hypothesis 7 to be based on any substantial volume of evidence was made by Keyhoe (Ref. 3) in about 1950. His subsequent writings, based on far more evidence than was available to him in 1950, have presented further arguments favoring an extraterrestrial origin of UFOs. Before I began an intensive examination of the UFO problem in 1966, I was disposed to strong doubt that the numerous cases discussed at length in Keyhoe's rather dramatically-written and dramatically-titled books (Ref. 4) could be real cases from real witnesses of any appreciable credibility, I had the same reaction to a 1956 book (Ref. 5) written by Ruppelt, an engineer in charge of the official investigations in the important 1951-3 period. Ruppelt did not go as far as Keyhoe in suggesting the extraterrestrial UFO hypothesis, but he left his readers little room for doubt that he leaned toward that hypothesis. I elaborate these two writers' viewpoints because, within the past month, I have had an opportunity to examine in detail a large amount of formerly classified official file material which substantiates to an almost alarming degree the authenticity and hence the scientific import of the case-material upon which Keyhoe and Ruppelt drew for much of their discussions of UFO history in the 1947-53 period (Refs. 6 and 7). One of these sources has Just been published by NICAP (Ref. 7), and constitutes, in my opinion, an exceedingly valuable addition to the growing UFO literature. The defense of the extraterrestrial hypothesis by Keyhoe, and later many others (still not within what are conventionally regarded as scientific circles), has had little impact on the scientific community, which based its write-off of the UFO problem on press accounts and official assurances that careful investigations were turning up nothing that suggested phenomena beyond present scientific explanation. Hypothesis No. 7 has thus received short shrift from science to date. As one scientists who has gone to some effort to try to examine the facts, I say that this has been an egregious, if basically unwitting, scientific error - an error that must be rectified with minimum further delay. On the basis of the evidence I have examined, and on the basis of my own weighing of alternative hypotheses (including some not listed above), I now regard Hypothesis 7 as the one most likely to prove correct. My scientific instincts lead me to hedge that prediction just to the extent of suggesting that if the UFOs are not of extramundane origin, then I suspect that they will prove to be something very much more bizarre, something of perhaps even greater scientific interest than extraterrestrial devices.
SOME REMARKS ON INTERVIEWING EXPERIENCE AND TYPES OF UFO CASES ENCOUNTERED
1. Sources of cases dealt with.
Prior to 1966, I had interviewed about 150-200 persons reporting UFOs; since 1966, I have interviewed about 200-250 more. The basis of my post-1966 interviewing has been quite different from the earlier period of interviewing of local witnesses, whose sightings I heard about essentially by chance. Almost all of my post-1966 interviews have been with witnesses in cases already, investigated by one or more of the private UFO investigatory groups such as NICAP or APRO, or by the official investigative agency (Project Bluebook). Thus, after 1966, I was not dealing with a body of witnesses reporting Venus, fireballs, and aircraft strobe lights, because such cases are so easily recognizable that the groups whose prior checks I was taking advantage of had already culled out and rejected most of such irrelevant material. Many of the cases I checked were older cases, some over 20 years old. It was primarily the background work of the many independent investigatory groups here and in other parts of the world (especially the Australian area where I had an opportunity to interview about 80 witnesses) that made possible my dealing with that type of once sifted data that yields up scientifically interesting information so quickly. I wish to put on record my indebtedness to these "dedicated amateurs", to use the astronomer's genial term; their contribution to the ultimate clarification of the UFO problem will become recognized as having been of basic importance, notwithstanding the scorn with which scientists have, on more than one occasion, dismissed their efforts. Although I cite only the larger of these groups (NICAP about 12,000 members, APRO about 8,000), there are many smaller groups here and abroad that have done a most commendable job on almost no resources. (Needless to add, there are other small groups whose concern is only with sensational and speculative aspects.)
2. Some relevant witness-characteristics.
By frequently discussing my own interviewing experience with members of those non-official UFO groups whose past work has been so indispensable to my own studies, I have learned that most of my own reactions to the UFO witness-interview problem are shared by those investigators. The recurrent problem of securing unequivocal descriptions, the almost excruciating difficulty in securing meaningful estimates of angular size, angular elevation, and angular displacements from laymen, the inevitable variance of witness descriptions of a shared observation, and other difficulties of non-instrumental observing are familiar to all who have investigated UFO reports. But so also are the impressions of widespread concern among UFO witnesses to avoid (rather than to seek) publicity over their sightings. The strong disinclination to make an open report of an observation of something the witness realizes is far outside the bounds of accepted experience crops up again and again. In my interviewing in 1947 sightings, done as a cross check on case material used in a very valuable recent publication by Bloecher (Ref. 8), I came to realize clearly for the first time that this reluctance was not something instilled by post-1947 scoffing at UFOs, but is part of a broadly disseminated attitude to discount the anomalous and the inexplicable, to be unwilling even to report what one has seen with his own eyes if it is well outside normal experience as currently accepted. I have heard fellow-scientists express dismay at the unscientific credulity with which the general public jumps to the conclusion that UFOs are space ships. Those scientists have certainly not interviewed many UFO witnesses; for almost precisely the opposite attitude is overwhelmingly the characteristic response. In my Australian interviewing, I found the same uneasy feeling about openly reporting an observation of a well-defined UFO sighting, lest acquaintances think one "has gone round the bend." Investigators in still other parts of the world where modern scientific values dominate world-views have told me of encountering just this same witness-reluctance, The charge that UFO witnesses, as a group, are hyperexcitable types is entirely incorrect. I would agree with the way Maj. Gen. John A. Samford, then Director of Air Force Intelligence, put it in a 1952 Pentagon press conference: "Credible observers have sighted relatively incredible objects."
Not only is the charge of notoriety-seeking wrong, not only is the charge of hyperexcitability quite inappropriate to the witnesses I have interviewed, but so also is the easy charge that they see an unusual aerial phenomenon and directly leap to some kind of "spaceship hypothesis." My experience in interviewing witnesses in the selected sample I have examined since 1966 is that the witness first attempts to fit the anomalous observation into some entirely conventional category. "I thought it must be an airplane." Or, "At first, I thought it was an auto-wrecker with its red light blinking." Or, "I thought it was a meteor - until it stopped dead in midair," etc. Hynek has a very happy phrase for this very typical pattern of witness-response: he terms it "escalation of explanation" , to denote the often rapid succession of increasingly more involved attempts to account for and to assimilate what is passing before the witness' eyes, almost invariably starting with an everyday interpretation, not with a spaceship hypothesis. Indeed, I probably react in a way characteristic of all UFO investigators; in those comparatively rare cases where the witness discloses that he immediately interpreted what he sighted as an extraterrestrial device, I back away from what is likely to be a most unprofitable interview. I repeat: such instances are really quite rare; most of the general population has soaked up a degree of scientific conventionalism that reflects the net result of decades, if not centuries, of scientific shaping of our views. I might interject that the segment of the population drawn to Hypothesis 8 above might be quick to jump to a spaceship interpretation on seeing something unusual in the sky, but, on the whole, those persons convinced of Hypothesis 8 are quite uninterested in observations, per se. Their conviction is firm without bothering about such things as observational matters. At least that is what I have sensed from such exposure as I have had to those who support Hypothesis 8 fervently.
3. Credibility of witnesses.
Evaluating credibility of witnesses is, of course, an ever-present problem at the present stage of UFO studies. Again, from discussions with other investigators, I have concluded that common sense and previous everyday experience with prevaricators and unreliable persons lead each serious UFO investigator to evolve a set of criteria that do not differ much from those used in jury instructions in our courts (e.g., Federal Jury Instructions). It seems tedious to enlarge here on those obvious matters. One can be fooled, of course; but it would be rash indeed to suggest that the thousands of UFO reports now on record are simply a testimony to confabulation, as will be better argued by some of the cases to be recounted below.
4. Observational reliability of witnesses.
Separate from credibility in the sense of trustworthiness and honesty is the question of the human being as a sensing system. Clearly, it is indispensable to be aware of psychophysical factors limiting visual discrimination, time estimation, distance estimation, angular estimation, etc. In dealing with the total sample of all observations which laymen initially label as UFOs, such factors play a large role in sorting out dubious cases. In the type of UFO reports that are of primary significance at present, close-range sightings of objects of large size moving at low velocities, or at rest, and in sight for many seconds rather than fractions of a second, all of these perceptual problems diminish in significance, though they can never be overlooked.
A frequent objection to serious consideration of UFO reports, made by skeptics who have done no first-hand case investigations, is based on the widely discrepant accounts known to be presented by trial-witnesses who have all been present at some incident. To be sure, the same kind of discrepancies emerge in multiple-witness UFO incidents. People differ as to directions, relative times, sizes, etc. But I believe it is not unfair to remark, as the basic rebuttal to this attack on UFO accounts, that a group of witnesses who see a street-corner automobile collision do not come to court and proceed, in turn, to describe the event as a rhinoceros ramming a baby carriage, or as an airplane exploding on impact with a nearby building. There are, it needs to be soberly remembered, quite reasonable bounds upon the variance of witness testimonies in such cases. Thus, when one finds a half-dozen persons all saying that they were a few hundred feet from a domed disk with no resemblance to any known aircraft, that it took off without a sound, and was gone from sight in five seconds the almost inevitable variations in descriptions of distances, shape, secondary features, noises, and times cannot be allowed to discount, per. se, the basically significant nature of their collective account. I have talked with a few scientists, especially some psychologists, whose puristic insistence on the miserable observing equipment with which the human species is cursed almost makes me wonder how they dare cross a busy traffic intersection. Some balance in evaluating witness perceptual limitations is surely called for in all of these situations. With that balance must go a healthy skepticism as to most of the finer details, unless agreed upon by several independent witnesses. There is no blinking that anecdotal data are less than ideal; but sometimes you have to go with what you've got. To make a beginning at UFO study has required scrutiny of such anecdotal data; the urgent need is to get on to something much better.
5. Problem of witness' prior knowledge of UFO knowledge.
In interviewing UFO witnesses, it is important to try to ascertain whether the witness was, prior to his reported sighting, familiar or unfamiliar with books and writings on UFOs. Although a strong degree of familiarity with the literature of UFOs does not negate witness testimony, it dictates caution. Anyone who has done a lot of interviewing at the local level, involving previously unsifted cases, will be familiar with occasional instances where the witness exhibited such an obvious enthusiasm for the UFO problem that prudence demanded rejection of his account.
However, in my own experience, a much more common reaction to questions concerning pre-sighting interest in UFO matters is some comment to the effect that the witness not only knew little about UFOs beyond what he'd happened to read in newspapers, but he was strongly disinclined to take the whole business seriously. The repetitiveness and yet the spontaneity with which witnesses of seeming high credibility make statements similar to, "I didn't believe there was anything to all the talk about UFOs until I actually saw this thing," is a notable feature of the interview-experience of all of the investigators with whom I have talked. Obviously, an intending prevaricator might seek to deceive his interrogator by inventing such an assertion; but I can only say that suspicion of being so duped has not been aroused more than once or twice in all of the hundreds of witnesses I have interviewed. On the other hand, I suppose that, in several dozen instances, I have lost interest in a case because of a witness openly stressing his own prior and subsequent interest in the extraterrestrial hypothesis.
Occasionally one encounters witnesses for whom the chance of prior knowledge is so low as to be almost amusing. An Anglican missionary in New Guinea, Rev. N. E. G. Cruttwell (Ref. 9), who has done much interviewing of UFO witnesses in his area, has described testimony of natives who come down into the mission area from their highland home territory only when they are wallaby-hunting, natives who could not read UFO reports in any language of the world, yet who come around, in their descriptions of what they have seen, to the communications-shortcut of picking up a bowl or dish from a nearby table to suggest the shape they are seeking to describe in native tongue. Little chance of bias gained from reading magazines in a barber-chair in such instances.
6. Types of UFO accounts of present interest.
The scope of the present statement precludes anything approaching an exhaustive listing of categories of UFO phenomena: much of what might be made clear at great length will have to be compressed into my remark that the scientific world at large is in for a shock when it becomes aware of the astonishing nature of the UFO phenomenon and its bewildering complexity. I make that terse comment well aware that it invites easy ridicule; but intellectual honesty demands that I make clear that my two years' study convinces me that in the UFO problem lie scientific and technological questions that will challenge the ability of the world's outstanding scientists to explain - as soon as they start examining the facts.
a) Lights in the night sky.
("DLs" as they are called by the NICAP staff, on the basis that the profusion of reports of "damnable lights" meandering or hovering or racing across the night sky in unexplainable manner are one of the most common, yet one of the least useful and significant categories of UFO reports.) Ultimately, I think their significance could become scientifically very substantial when instrumental observing techniques are in wide use to monitor UFO movements. But there are many ways that observers can be misled by lights in the night sky, so I shall discuss below only such few cases as are of extremely unconventional nature and where the protocols of the observations are unusually strong.
b) Close-range sightings of wingless discs and cigar-shaped objects.
This category is far more interesting. Many are daytime sightings, many have been made by witnesses of quite high credibility. Structural details such as "ports" and "legs" (to use the terms the witnesses have adopted to suggest most closely what they think they have seen) are described in many instances. Lack of wings and lack of evident means of propulsion clearly rule out conventional aircraft and helicopters. Many are soundless, many move at such speeds and with such accelerations that they defy understanding in terms of present technology. It is to be understood that I speak here only of reports from what I regard as credible observers.
c) Close-range nighttime sightings of glowing,
hovering objects, often with blinking or pulsating
In these instances, distinct shape is not seen, evidently in many cases because of the brilliance of the lights. Less significant than those of the preceding category, these nonetheless cannot be accounted for in terms of any known vehicles. Frequently they are reported hovering over vehicles on the ground or following them. Sometimes they are reported hovering over structures, factories, power installations, and the like. Soundlessness is typical. Estimated sizes vary widely, over a range that I do not believe can be accounted for simply in terms of the known unreliability of distance and size estimates when one views an unknown object.
d) Radar-tracked objects, sometimes seen visually
simultaneously by observers on the ground or
In many of these cases, the clues to the non-conventional nature of the radar target is high speed (estimated at thousands of miles per hour in certain instances); in others, it is alternate motion and hovering; in still others, it has been the unconventional vertical motions that make the radar observations significant. Clearly, most important are those instances in which there was close agreement between the visual and radar unknown. There are far more such cases than either scientists or public would guess.
Those four categories do not exhaust the list by any means. But they constitute four commonly encountered categories that are of interest here. Examples will be found below.
7. Commonly encountered questions.
As Mark Twain said, "Faith is a great thing, but it's doubt that gets you an education."
There are many questions that one encounters again and again from persons who have done no personal case-checking and who maintain a healthy skepticism about UFOs. Why don't pilots report these things if they are buzzing around in our skies? Why aren't they tracked on radar? Why don't our satellite and astronomical tracking systems get photos of UFOs? Why are they always seen in out-of-the-way rural areas but never over large cities? Why don't large groups of people ever simultaneously see UFOs, instead of lone individuals? Why don't astronomers see them? Shouldn't UFOs occasionally crash and leave clear-cut physical evidence of their reality? Or shouldn't they at least leave some residual physical evidence in those alleged instances where the objects have landed? Shouldn't they affect radios and produce other electromagnetic effects at times? If UFOs are a product of some high civilization, wouldn't one expect something of the nature of inquisitive behavior, since innate curiosity must be a common denominator of anything we would call "intelligence"? Why haven't they contacted us if they're from somewhere else in the universe and have been here for at least two decades? Is there any evidence of hostility or hazard? Are UFOs seen only in this country? Why didn't we see them before 1947, if they come from remote sources? And so on.
In the following sections, I shall show how some of these questions do have quite satisfactory answers, and how some of them still defy adequate rebuttal. I shall use mostly cases that I have personally investigated, but, in a few instances (clearly indicated), I shall draw upon cases which I have not directly checked but for which I regard the case-credentials as very strong.
8. Useful source materials on UFOs.
Hoping that Committee staff personnel will be pursuing these matters further, I remark next on some of the more significant items in the UFO literature. All of these have been helpful in my own studies.
One of the outstanding UFO references (though little-known in scientific circles) is The UFO Evidence, edited by R. H. Hall and published by NICAP (Ref. 10). It summarizes about 750 UFO cases in the NICAP files up to about 1964. I have cross-checked a sufficiently large sample of cases from this reference to have confidence in its generally very high reliability. A sequel volume, now in editorial preparation at NICAP, will cover the 1964-68 period. Reference 8, by Bloecher, is one of the few sources of extensive documentation (here primarily from national newspaper sources) of the large cluster of sightings in a period of just a few weeks in the summer of 1947; its study is essential to appreciation of the opening phases of the publicly recognized UFO problem. Reference 7 is another now-accessible source of extremely significant UFO documentation; it is unfortunate that no generally accessible version of Reference 6 exists, though the Moss Subcommittee, through pleas of Dr. Leon Davidson, has managed to get it into a status of at least limited accessibility. I am indebted to Davidson for a recent opportunity to study it for details I missed when I saw it two years ago at ?
The 1956 book by Ruppelt (Ref. 5) is a source whose authenticity I have learned, through much personal cross-checking, is far higher than I surmised when I first read it a dozen years ago. It was for years difficult for me to believe that the case-material which he summarized could come from real cases, References 5 and 6, plus other sources, do, however, now attest to Ruppelt's generally high reliability. Similarly Keyhoe's books (Refs. 3 and 4) emerge as sources of UFO case material whose reliability far exceeds my own first estimates thereof. As a scientist, I would have been much more comfortable about Keyhoe's books had they been shorn of extensive direct quotes and suspenseful dramatizations; but I must stress that much checking on my part has convinced me that Keyhoe's reportorial accuracy was almost uniformly high. Scientists will tend to be put off by some of his scientific commentary, as well as by his style; but on UFO case material, his reliability must be recognized as impressive. (Perhaps it is well to insert here the general proviso that none of these sources, including myself, can be expected to be characterized by 100 per cent accuracy in a problem as intrinsically messy as the UFO problem; here I am trying to draw attention to sources whose reliability appears to be in the 90+% range. )
A useful collection of 160 UFO cases drawn from a wide variety of sources has been published by Olsen (Ref. 11), 32 of which he obtained directly from the official files of Project Bluebook, a feature of particular interest. A book devoted to a single short period of numerous UFO observations within a small geographic area, centering around an important sighting near Exeter, N.H., is Fuller's Incident at Exeter (Ref. 12). Having checked personally on a number of features of the main Sept. 3, 1965, sighting, and having checked indirectly on other aspects, I would describe Reference 12 as one of the significant source items on UFOs.
Several books by the Lorenzens, organizers of APRO, the oldest continuing UFO investigating group in this country, contain valuable UFO reference material (Ref. 13). Through their writing, and especially through the APRO Bulletin, they have transmitted from South American sources numerous unusual sightings from that country. I have had almost no opportunity to cross-check those sightings, but am satisfied that some quite reliable sources are being drawn upon. An extremely unusual category of cases, those involving reports of humanoid occupants of landed UFOs, has been explored to a greater extent by APRO than by NICAP. Like NICAP, I have tended to skirt such cases on tactical grounds; the reports are bizarre, and the circumstances of all such sightings are automatically charged in a psychological sense not found in other types of close-range sightings of mere machine-like devices. Since I shall not take up below this occupant problem, let me add the comment that I do regard the total number of such seemingly reliable reports (well over a hundred came just from central France in the outstanding 1954 sighting wave in that country), far too great to brush aside. Expert psychological opinion is badly needed in assessing such reports (expert but not close-minded opinion). For the record, I should have to state that my interviewing results dispose me toward acceptance of the existence of humanoid occupants in some UFOs. I would not argue with those who say that this might be the single most important element of the entire UFO puzzle; I would only say that most of my efforts over the past two years, being aimed at arousing a new degree of scientific interest among my colleagues in the physical sciences, have led me to play down even the little that I do know about occupant sightings. One or two early attempts to touch upon that point within the time-limits of a one-hour colloquium taught me that one loses more than he gains in speaking briefly about UFO occupants. (Occupant sightings must be carefully distinguished from elaborate "contact-claims" with the Space Brothers; I hold no brief at all for the latter in terms of my present knowledge and interviewing experience. But occupants there seem to be, and contact of a limited sort may well have occurred, according to certain of the reports. I do not regard myself as very well-informed on this point, and will say little more on this below.)
It is, of course, somewhat more difficult to assess the reliability of foreign UFO references. Michel (Ref. 13) has assembled a day-by-day account of the remarkable French UFO wave of the fall of 1954, translated into English by the staff of CSI (Civilian Saucer Intelligence) of New York City, a now-inactive but once very productive independent group. I have spoken with persons having first-hand knowledge of the French 1954 episode, and they attest to its astonishing nature. Life and The New Yorker published full contemporary accounts at the time of the 1954 European wave. An earlier book by Michel (Ref. 14), also available in English, deals with a broader temporal and geographic range of European UFO sightings. A just-published account of about 70 UFO sightings that occurred within a relatively small area around Stoke-on-Trent, England, in the summer and fall of 1967 (Ref. 15) presents an unusual cross-section of sightings that appear to be well-documented. A number of foreign UFO journals are helpful sources of the steady flow of UFO reports from other parts of the world, but a cataloging will not be attempted here. Information on some of these, as well as on smaller American groups, can be found in the two important books by Vallee (Refs. 16 and 17).
Information on pre-1947 UFO-type sightings form the subject of a recent study by Lore and Denault (Ref. 18). I shall return to this phase of the UFO problem below; I regard it as being of potentially very great significance, though there is need for far more scholarly and scientific research before much of it can be safely interpreted. Another source of sightings of which many may ultimately be found to fall within the presently understood category of UFO sightings is the writings of Charles Fort (Ref. 19) . His curious books are often drawn upon for material on old sightings, but not often duly acknowledged for the mine of information they comprise. I am afraid that it has not been fashionable to take Fort seriously; it certainly took me some time to recognize that, mixed into his voluminous writings, is much that remains untapped for its scientific import. I cannot imagine any escalated program of research on the UFO program that would not have a subgroup studying Fortean reports documented from 19th century sources.
To close this brief compilation of useful UFO references, two recent commentaries (not primarily source-references) of merit may be cited, books by Stanton (Ref. 20) and by Young (Ref. 21).
Next, I examine a number of specific UFO cases that shed light on many of the recurrent questions of skeptical slant often raised against serious consideration of the UFO problem.
WHY DON'T PILOTS SEE UFOs?
This question may come in just that form from persons with essentially no knowledge of UFO history. From others who do know that there have been "a few" pilot-sightings, it comes in some altered form, such as, "Why don't airline and military pilots see UFOs all the time if they are in our atmosphere?" By way of partial answer, consider the following cases. (To facilitate internal reference, I shall number sequentially all cases here after treated in detail.)
1. Case 1. Boise, Idaho, July 4, 1947.
Only about a week after the now-famous Mt. Rainier sighting by private pilot Kenneth Arnold, a United Air Lines DC-3 crew sighted two separate formations of wingless discs, shortly after takeoff from Boise (Refs. 8, 10, 22, 23). I located and interviewed the pilot, Capt. Emil J. Smith, now with United's New York office. He confirmed the reliability of previously published accounts. United Flight 105 had left Boise at 9:04 p.m. About eight minutes out, en route to Seattle, roughly over Emmett, Idaho, Co-pilot Stevens, who spotted the first of two groups of objects, turned on his landing lights under the initial impression the objects were air craft. But, studying them against the twilight sky, Smith and Stevens soon realized that neither wings nor tails were visible on the five objects ahead. After calling a stewardess, in order to get a third confirming witness, they watched the formation a bit longer, called Ontario, Oregon CAA to try to get ground-confirmation, and then saw the formation spurt ahead and disappear at high speed off to the west.
Smith emphasized to me that there were no cloud phenomena to confuse them here and that they observed these objects long enough to be quite certain that they were no conventional aircraft. They appeared "flat on the bottom, rounded on top", he told me, and he added that there seemed to be perceptible "roughness" of some sort on top, though he could not refine that description. Almost immediately after they lost sight of the first five, a second formation of four (three in line and a fourth off to the side) moved in ahead of their position, again traveling westward but at a somewhat higher altitude than the DC-3's 8000 ft. These passed quickly out of sight to the west at speeds which they felt were far beyond then-known speeds. Smith emphasized that they were never certain of sizes and distances, but that they had the general impression that these disc-like craft were appreciably larger than ordinary aircraft. Smith emphasized that he had not taken seriously the previous week's news accounts that coined the since-persistent term, "flying saucer." But, after seeing this total of nine unconventional, high-speed wingless craft on the evening of 7/4/47, he became much more interested in the matter. Nevertheless, in talking with me, he stressed that he would not speculate on their real nature or origin. I have spoken with United Air Lines personnel who have known Smith for years and vouch for his complete reliability.
The 7/4/47 United Air Lines sighting is of historic interest because it was obviously given much more credence than any of the other 85 UFO reports published in press accounts on July 4, 1947 (see Ref. 8). By no means the most impressive UFO sighting by an airliner crew, nevertheless, it is a significant one. It occurred in clear weather, spanned a total time estimated at 10-12 minutes, was a multiple-witness case including two experienced observers familiar with airborne devices, and was made over a 1000-ft altitude range (climb-out) that, taken together with the fact that the nine objects were seen well above the horizon, entirely rules out optical phenomena as a ready explanation. It is officially listed as an Unidentified.
2. Case 2. Montgomery, Alabama, July 24, 1948.
Another one of the famous airline sightings of earlier years is the Chiles-Whitted Eastern Airlines case (Refs. 3, 5, 6, 10, 23, 24, 25, 26). An Eastern DC-3, en route from Houston to Atlanta, was flying at an altitude of about 5000 ft, near Montgomery at 2:45 a.m. The pilot, Capt. Clarence S. Chiles, and the co-pilot, John B. Whitted, both of whom now fly jets for Eastern, were experienced fliers (for example, Chiles then had 8500 hours in the air, and both had wartime military flying duty behind them). I interviewed both Chiles and Whitted earlier this year to cross-check the many points of interest in this case. Space precludes a full account of all relevant details.
Chiles pointed out to me that they first saw the object coming out of a distant squall-line area which they were just then reconnoitering. At first, they thought it was a jet, whose exhaust was somehow accounting for the advancing glow that had first caught their eyes. Coming almost directly at them at nearly their flight altitude, it passed off their starboard wing at a distance on which the two men could not closely agree: one felt it was under 1000 ft, the other put it at several times that. But both agreed, then and in my 1968 interview, that the object was some kind of vehicle. They saw no wings or empennage, but both were struck by a pair of rows of windows or some apparent openings from which there came a bright glow "like burning magnesium." The object had a pointed "nose", and from the nose to the rear along its underside there was a bluish glow. Out of the rear end came an orange-red exhaust or wake that extended back by about the same distance as the object's length. The two men agreed that its size approximated that of a B-29, though perhaps twice as thick. Their uncertainty as to true distance, of course, renders this only a rough impression. There is uncertainty in the record, and in their respective recollections, as to whether their DC-3 was rocked by something like a wake. Perception of such an effect would have been masked by Chiles' spontaneous reaction of turning the DC-3 off to the left as the object came in on their right. Both saw it pass aft of them and do an abrupt pull-up; but only Whitted, on the right side, saw the terminal phase in which the object disappeared after a short but fast vertical ascent. By "disappeared", Whitted made clear to me that he meant just that; earlier interrogations evidently construed this to mean "disappeared aloft" or into the broken cloud deck that ray above them. Whitted said that was not so; the object vanished instantaneously after its sharp pull-up. (This is not an isolated instance of abrupt disappearance. Obviously I cannot account for such cases.)
This case has been the subject of much comment over the years, and rightly so. Menzel (Ref. 24) first proposed that this was a "mirage", but gave no basis for such an unreasonable interpretation. The large azimuth change of the pilots' line of sight, the lack of any obvious light source to provide a basis for the rather detailed structure of what was seen, the sharp pull-up, and the high flight altitude involved all argue quite strongly against such a casual disposition of the case. In his second book, Menzel (Ref. 25) shifts to the explanation that they had obviously seen a meteor. A horizontally-moving fireball under a cloud deck, at 5000 ft, exhibiting two rows of lights construed by experienced pilots as ports, and finally executing a most non-ballistic 90-degree sharp pull-up, is a strange fireball indeed. Menzel's 1963 explanation is even more objectionable, in that he implies, via a page of side-discussion, that the Eastern pilots had seen a fireball from the Delta Aquarid meteor stream. As I have pointed out elsewhere (Ref. 2), the radiant of that stream was well over 90 degrees away from the origin point of the unknown object. Also, bright fireballs are, with only rare exceptions, not typical of meteor streams. The official explanation was shifted recently from "Unidentified" to "Meteor", following publication of Menzel's 1963 discussion (see Ref. 20, p. 88).
Wingless, cigar-shaped or "rocket-shaped" objects, some emitting glowing wakes, have been reported by other witnesses. Thus, Air Force Capt. Jack Puckett, flying near 4000 ft over Tampa in a C-47 on August 1, 1946 (Ref. 10, p, 23), described seeing "a long, cylindrical shape approximately twice the size of a B-29 with luminous portholes", from the aft end of which there came a stream of fire as it flew near his aircraft. Puckett states that he, his copilot, Lt. H. F. Glass, and the flight engineer also saw it as it came in to within an estimated 1000 yards before veering off. Another somewhat similar airborne sighting, made in January 22, 1956 by TWA Flight Engineer Robert Mueller at night over New Orleans, is on record (Ref. 27). Still another similar sighting is the AAL case cited below (Sperry case). Again, over Truk Is., in the Pacific, a Feb. 6, 1953, mid-day sighting by a weather officer involved a bullet-shaped object without wings or tail (Ref. 7, Rept, No. 10). Finally, within an hour's time of the Chiles-Whitted sighting, Air Force ground personnel at Robins AFB, Georgia, saw a rocket-like object shoot overhead in a westerly direction (Refs. 3, 5, 10, 6). In none of these instances does a meteorological or astronomical explanation suffice to explain the sightings.
3. Case 3. Sioux City, Iowa, January 20, 1951.
Another of the many airline-crew sightings of highly unconventional aerial devices that I have personally checked was, like Cases 1 and 2, widely reported in the national press (for a day or two, and then forgotten like the rest). A check of weather data confirms that the night of 1/20/51 was clear and cold at Sioux City at the time that a Mid-Continent Airlines DC-3, piloted by Lawrence W. Vinther, was about to take off for Omaha and Kansas City, at 8:20 p.m. CST. In the CAA control tower, John M. Williams had been noting an oddly maneuvering light high in a westerly direction. Suddenly the light abruptly accelerated, in a manner clearly precluding either meteoric or aircraft origin, so Williams alerted Vinther and his co-pilot, James F. Bachmeier. The incident has been discussed many times (Ref. 4, 5, 10, and 28), but to check details of these reports, I searched for and finally located all three of the above-named men. Vinther and Bachmeier are now Braniff pilots, Williams is with the FAA in Sacramento. From them I confirmed the principal features of previous accounts and learned additional information too lengthy to recapitulate in full here.
The essential point to be emphasized is that, shortly after Vinther Got his DC-3 airborne, under Williams' instructions to investigate the oddly-behaving light, the object executed a sudden dive and flew over the DC at an estimated 200 ft vertical clearance, passing aft and downward. Then a surprising maneuver unfolded. As Vinther described it to me, and as described in contemporary accounts, the object suddenly reversed course almost 180 degrees, without slowing down or slewing, and was momentarily flying formation with their DC-3, off its port wing. (Vinther's dry comment to me was: "This is something we don't see airplanes do.") Vinther and Bachmeier agreed that the object was very big, perhaps somewhat larger than a B-, they suggested to newspapermen who interviewed them the following day. Moonlight gave them a good silhouetted view of the object, which they described as having the form of a fuselage and unswept wing, but not a sign of any empennage, nor any sign of engine-pods, propellers, or jets. Prior to its dive, it had been seen only as a light; while pacing their DC-3, the men saw no luminosity, though during the dive they saw a light on its underside. After about five seconds, the unknown object began to descend below them and flew under their plane. They put the DC-3 into a steep bank to try to keep it in view as it began this maneuver; and as it crossed under them, they lost it, not to regain sight of it subsequently.
There is much more detail, not all mutually consistent as to maneuvers and directions, in the full accounts I obtained from Vinther, Bachmeier, and Williams. The dive, pacing, and fly-under maneuvers were made quickly and at such a distance from the field that Williams did not see them clearly, though he did see the object leave the vicinity of the DC-3. An Air Force colonel and his aide were among the passengers, and the aide caught a glimpse of the unknown object, but I have been unable to locate him for further cross-check.
The erratic maneuvers exhibited by the unknown object while under observation from the control tower would, by themselves, make this a better-than-average case. But the fact that those maneuvers prompted a tower operator to alert a departing aircrew to investigate, only to have the object dive upon and pace the aircraft after a non-inertial course-reversal, makes this an unusually interesting UFO. Its configuration, about which Vinther and Bachmeier were quite positive in their remarks to me (they repeatedly emphasized the bright moonlight, which checks with the near-full moon on 1/20/51 and the sky-cover data I obtained from the Sioux City Weather Bureau), combines with other features of the sighting to make it a most significant case. The reported shape (tailless, engineless, unswept aircraft of large size) does not match that of any other UFO that I am aware of; but my exposure to the bewildering range of reported configurations now on record makes this point less difficult to assimilate. This case is officially carried as Unidentified, and, in a 1955 publication (Ref. 29), was one of 12 Unidentifieds singled out for special comment. A contemporary account (Ref. 28), taking note of a then recent pronouncement that virtually all UFOs are explainable in terms of misidentified Skyhook balloons, carried a lead-caption: "The Office of Naval Research claims that cosmic ray balloons explain all saucer reports. If so, what did this pilot see?" Certainly it would not be readily explained away as a balloon, a meteor, a sundog, or ball lightning. Rather, it seems to be just one more of thousands of Unidentified Flying Objects for which we have no present explanations because we have laughed such reports out of scientific court. Bachmeier stated to me that, at the time, he felt it had to be some kind of secret device, but, in the ensuing 17 years, we have not heard of any aircraft that can execute instantaneous course-reversal. Vinther's comment to me on a final question I asked as to what he thinks, in general, about the many airline-pilot sightings of unidentified objects over the past 20 years, was: "We're not all having hallucinations."
4. Case 4. Minneapolis, Minn., October 11, 1951.
There are far more private pilots than airline pilots, so it is not surprising that there are more UFO sightings from the former than the latter. An engineer and former Air Force P-38 pilot, Joseph J. Kaliszewski, flying for the General Mills Skyhook balloon program on balloon-tracking missions saw highly unconventional objects on two successive days in October, 1951 (Refs. 5, 7, 10). Both were reported through company channels to the official investigative agency (Bluebook), whose report (Ref. 7) describes the witnesses as "very reliable" and as "experienced high altitude balloon observers." On October 10, at about 10:10 a.m., Kaliszewski and Jack Donaghue were at 6000 ft in their light plane, climbing toward their target balloon, when Kaliszewski spotted "a strange object crossing the skies from East to West, a great deal higher and behind our balloon (which was near 20,000 ft at that time)." When I interviewed Kaliszewski, he confirmed that this object "had a peculiar glow to it, crossing behind and above our balloon from east to west very rapidly, first coming in at a slight dive, leveling off for about a minute and slowing down, then into a sharp left turn and climbing at an angle of 50 to 60 degrees into the southeast with a terrific acceleration." The two observers had the object in view for an estimated two minutes, during which it crossed a span of some 45 degrees of the sky. No vapor trail was seen, and Kaliszewski was emphatic in asserting that it was not a balloon, jet, or conventional aircraft.
The following morning, near 0630, Kaliszewski was flying on another balloon mission with Richard Reilly and, while airborne north of Minneapolis, the two of them noticed an odd object. Quoting from the account submitted to the official agency (Ref. 7, Rept. No. 2):
The October 10 sighting is officially categorized as "Aircraft," the October 11 main sighting as "Unidentified." When I mentioned this to Kaliszewski, he was unable to understand how any distinction could be so drawn between the two sightings, both of which he felt matched no known aeronautical device. Clearly, objects performing such intricate maneuvers are not meteors, nor can they be fitted to any known meteorological explanations of which I am aware. Instead, these objects seem best described as devices well beyond the state of 1951 (or 1968) technology.
5. Case 5. Willow Grove, Pa., May 21, 1966.
Skipping over many other pilot observations to a more recent one which I have personally checked, I call attention to a close-range airborne sighting of a domed-disc, seen under midday conditions by two observers. One of them, William C. Powell, of Radnor, Pa., is a pilot with 18,000 logged flight hours. He and a passenger, Miss Muriel McClave, were flying in Powell' s Luscombe in the Philadelphia area on the afternoon of 5/21/66 when an object that had been first spotted as it apparently followed an outbound flight of Navy jets from Willow Grove NAS made a sharp (non-banking) turn and headed for Powell's plane on a near-collision course. As the object passed close by, at a distance that Powell put at roughly 100 yards, they both got a good look at the object. It was circular in planform and had no wings or visible means of propulsion, both witnesses emphasized to me in interviews. The upper domed portion they described as "porcelain-white", while the lower discoid portion was bright red ("dayglow red" Powell put it). It was slightly below their altitude as it passed on their right, and Powell pointed out that it was entirely solid, for it obscured the distant horizon areas. His brief comment about its solidity and reality was, "It was just like looking at a Cadillac." He estimated its airspeed as perhaps 200 mph, and it moved in a steady, non-fluttering manner. He estimated its diameter at perhaps 20 feet. Miss McClave thought it might have been nearer 40 feet across. Each put the thickness-to-diameter ratio as about one-half. After it passed their starboard wing, Powell could see it only by looking back over his shoulder through a small aft window, but Miss McClave had it in full view when suddenly, she stated to me, it disappeared instantaneously, and they saw no more of it.
Powell flies executive transports for a large Eastern firm, after years of military and airline duty. I have discussed the case with one of his superiors, who speaks without qualification for Powell's trustworthiness. At a UFO panel discussion held on April 22, 1967 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors , Powell was asked to summarize his sighting. His account is in the proceedings of that session (Ref. 30). I know of no natural phenomenon that could come close to explaining this sighting. The visibility was about 15 miles, they were flying in the clear at 4500 ft, and the object passed nearby. A pilot with 18,000 hours flight experience is not capable of precise midair distance and speed estimates, but his survival has probably hinged on not commonly making errors of much over a factor of two. Given the account and accepting its reliability, it seems necessary to say that here was one more case of what Gen. Samford described as "credible observers seeing relatively incredible objects". I felt that Powell's summary of his sighting at the ASNE meeting was particularly relevant because, in addition to my being on the panel there, Dr. D. H. Menzel and Mr. Philip J. Klass, both strong exponents of meteorological-type UFO theories, were present to hear his account. I cannot see how one could explain this incident in terms of meteorological optics nor in terms of ball lighting plasmoids. Here again, we appear to be dealing with a meaningful observation of some vehicle or craft of non-terrestrial origin. Its reported instantaneous disappearance defies (as does the same phenomenon reported by J. B. Whitted and numerous other UFO witnesses) ready explanation in terms of present-day scientific knowledge. Powell reported his sighting at Willow Grove NAS, but it engendered no interest.
6. Case 6. Eastern Quebec, June 29, 1954.
A case in which I have not been able to directly interview any witnesses, but about which a great deal is on record, through contemporary press accounts, through the pilot's subsequent report, and through recent interviews by BBC staff members, occurred near Seven Islands, Quebec, just after sunset on 6/29/54. A BOAC Stratocruiser, bound from New York to London with 51 passengers, was followed for 18 minutes (about 80 miles of air path) by one large object and six smaller objects that flew curious "formations" about it. The pilot of the Stratocruiser was Capt. James Howard, a highly respected BOAC flight officer still flying with BOAC. At the time, he had 7500 flight hours. About 20 witnesses, including both passengers and crew, gave statements as to the unprecedented nature of these objects (Refs. 4, 10, and Associated Press wire stories datelined June 30, 1954).
The flight was at 19,000 ft in an area of generally fair weather, with good visibility, attested by Howard and by weather maps for that day. No obvious optical or electrical explanation seems capable of accounting for this long-duration sighting. The objects were dark, not glowing, and their position relative to the sunset point precludes sundogs as an explanation. Mirage phenomena could not account for the eighty-mile persistence, nor for the type of systematic shape-changes described by the witnesses, nor for the geometrically regular formations taken up by the satellite objects as they shifted positions from time to time. Just before an F-86 arrived from Goose AFB at Howard's request, First Officer Boyd and Navigator George Allen, who were watching the objects at that moment, said the small objects seemed to merge into the larger object. Then the large object receded rapidly towards the northwest and was out of sight in a matter of seconds. Such a maneuver of a number of satellite objects seeming to merge with or to enter a larger object has been reported in other UFO incidents around the world.
7. Case 7. Goshen, Ind., April 27, 1950.
Another early airline sighting that seemed worth personally crosschecking involved the crew and passengers of a TWA DC-3 on the evening of 4/27/50 (Refs. 4, 5, 10, 23). I have interviewed both the pilot, Capt. Robert Adickes, and the copilot, Capt. Robert F. Manning, and confirmed all of the principal features first reported in detail in a magazine account by Keyhoe (Ref. 31). The DC-3 was at about 2000 ft, headed for Chicago, when, at about 8:25 p.m., Manning spotted a glowing red object aft of the starboard wing, well to their rear. Manning sent to me a copy of notes that he had made later that night at his Chicago hotel. Quoting from the notes:
Although, in my interview, I found some differences in the recollected shape of the object, as remembered by the two TWA pilots, both were positive it was no aircraft, both emphasized its red glow, and both were impressed by its high speed departure. Manning remarked to me that he'd never seen anything else like it before or since; and he conceded, in response to my query, that the decreased number of airline reports on UFOs in recent years probably stems chiefly from pilot reluctance to report. Both he and Adickes, like most other pilots I have asked, indicated they were unaware of any airline regulations precluding reporting, however. I mentioned to Adickes that there is indirect indication in one reference (Ref. 5) that the official explanation for this sighting was "blast-furnace reflections off clouds." He indicated this was absolutely out of the question. It is to be noted that here, as in many other pilot sightings, an upper bound, even if rough, is imposed on the range to the unknown by virtue of a downward slanting line of sight. In such instances, meteor-explanations are almost automatically excluded. The Goshen case has no evident meteorological, astronomical, or optical explanation.
8. Case 8. Newport News, Va., July 14, 1952.
Another case in which experienced pilots viewed UFOs below them, and hence had helpful background-cues to distance and size, occurred near 8:12 p.m. EST, July 14, 1952. A Pan American DC-4, en route from New York to Miami, was at 8000 ft over Chesapeake Bay, northeast of Newport News, when its cockpit crew witnessed glowing, disc-shaped objects approaching them at a lower altitude (estimated at perhaps 2000 ft). First Officer Wm. B. Nash, at the controls for Capt. Koepke (who was not on the flight deck during the sighting) and Second Officer Wm. H. Fortenberry saw six amber-glowing objects come in at high velocity and execute a peculiar flipping maneuver during an acute-angle direction change. Almost immediately after the first six reversed course, two other apparently identical discs shot in under the DC-4, Joining the other six. I am omitting here certain other maneuver details of significance, since these are on record in many accounts (4, 5, 10, 11, 25). Although I have not interviewed Nash (now in Germany with PAA, and Fortenberry is deceased), I believe that there has never been any dispute as to the observed facts. Nash has stated to T.M. Olsen (author of Ref. 11) that one of the most accurate accounts of the facts has been given by Menzel (Ref. 25), adding that Menzel's explanation seems entirely out of the question to him. A half-dozen witnesses on the ground also saw unknowns at that time, according to official investigators.
The objects had definite edges, and glowed "like hot coals", except when they blinked out, as they did in unison just after the first six were joined by the latter two. When the lights came back on, Nash and Fortenberry saw them climbing westward, eight in line, north of Newport News. The objects climbed above the altitude of the DC-4 and then blinked out in random order and were seen no more.
Menzel explains this famous sighting as resulting from a searchlight playing on thin haze layers, an almost entirely ad hoc assumption, and one that will not account for the amber color, nor for the distinct edges, nor for the final climb-out of the objects. The rapid motion, abrupt course-reversal, and the change from negative to positive angles of elevation of the line of sight to the unknowns seem to preclude any meteorological-optical explanation, and there is, of course, no possibility of explaining cases like this in terms of ball lightning, meteors, balloons, or many of the other frequently adduced phenomena. Nash has stated that he feels these were "intelligently operated craft." This case is officially "Unidentified".
9. Many other pilot-sightings, both recent and old, could readily be cited. Not only civilian pilots but dozens of military pilots have sighted wholly unconventional objects defying ready explanation (see esp. Ref. 10 and Ref. 7 for many such instances). Thus, the answer to the question, "Why don't pilots see UFOs?" is; "They do."
WHY ARE UFOs ONLY SEEN BY LONE INDIVIDUALS,
It is true that there are more single-witness UFO reports than multiple-witness cases. But, to indicate that by no means all interesting UFO reports entail lone witnesses, consider the following examples:
1. Case 9. Farmington, N.M., March 17, 1950.
In the course of checking this famous case that made short-lived press headlines in 1950, I interviewed seven Farmington witnesses out of a total that was contemporarily estimated at "hundreds" to "over a thousand." (Refs. 5, 25) It became clear from my interviewing that the streets were full of residents looking up at the strange aerial display that day. It was not only a multiple-witness case, but also a multiple object case. My checking was done seventeen years after the fact, so the somewhat confused recollective impressions I gained are not surprising. But that unidentified aerial objects moved in numbers over Farmington on 3/17/50 seems clear. One witness with whom I spoke, Clayton J. Boddy, estimated that he had observed a total of 20 to 30 disc-shaped objects, including one red one substantially larger than the others, moving at high velocity across the Farmington sky on the late morning of 3/17/50. John Eaton, a Farmington realtor, described being called out of a barbershop when the excitement began and seeing a high, fast object suddenly joined by many objects that darted after it. Eaton sent me a copy of an account he had jotted down shortly after the incident. A former Navy pilot, Eaton put their height at perhaps 15,000 ft. "The object that has me puzzled was the one we saw that was definitely red. It was seen by several and stated by all to be red and traveling northeast at a terrific speed." Eaton also spoke of the way the smaller objects would "turn and appear to be flat, then turn and appear to be round", a description matching an oscillating disc-shaped object. No one described seeing any wings or tails, and the emphasis upon the darting, "bee-like" motion was in several of the accounts I obtained from witnesses. I obtained more details, but the above must suffice here for a brief summary.
This once-headlined, but now almost forgotten multiple witness case has been explained as resulting from the breakup of a Skyhook balloon (Ref. 25). Skyhooks do shatter at the very low temperatures of the upper troposphere, and occasionally break into a number of smaller pieces. But to suggest that such fragments of transparent plastic at altitudes of the order of 40-50,000 ft could be detected by the naked eye, and to intimate that these distant objects of low angular velocity could confuse dozens of persons into describing fast-moving disc-shaped objects (including a large red object) is simply not reasonable. However to check further on this, I contacted first Holloman AFB and then the Office of Naval Research, who jointly hold records on all Alamogordo Skyhook releases. No Skyhooks or other experimental balloons had been released from the Holloman area or any other part of the country on or near the date of this incident. A suggestion that the witnesses were seeing only cotton-wisps was not only unreasonable, given the witness accounts, but was in fact tracked down by a local journalist to comments casually made by a law enforcement officer and overheard by another reporter. From my examination of this case, I see no ready explanation for the numerous disc-shaped objects moving in unconventional manner and seen by large numbers of Farmington residents on 3/17/50.
2. Case 10. Longview, Wash., July 3, 1949.
Many of the UFO cases I am citing are drawn intentionally from earlier years, in order to illustrate that the evidence for the existence of a quite real and scientifically significant phenomenon has been with us for a disturbing number of years. I discuss next a case on which I hold copies of material from the official investigative files, copies that state that this incident was "observed by 150 other people at an Air Show", in addition to the reporting witness, Moulton B. Taylor. I have interviewed Mr. Taylor and have obtained strong recommendations of his reliability from a former superior officer, Adm. D. S. Fahrney, under whom Taylor served in Naval guided missiles work prior to the incident. Taylor is an aeronautical engineer, and was airport manager at Longview, in charge of an air show that was to be held on the afternoon of 7/3/49, the day of the incident in question. A skywriting Stearman was at 10,000 ft at 10:40 a.m., laying down "Air Show Today", and hence holding the attention of a number of the personnel already at the airport, when the first of three unidentified objects flew over at high altitude. Alerted by one of the persons who first spotted the object coming from the northwest, Taylor got on the public address system and announced to all persons at hand that they should look up to see the odd object. Many had binoculars, and among the over 150 persons present were police officers, city officials and a number of Longview's leading citizens, Taylor emphasized. The object was observed by a number of experienced pilots; and, according to official file summaries, all agreed that the object was shaped much like a discus. It seemed to have metallic luster and oscillated periodically as it crossed the sky from northwest to southeast until lost in mill-smoke. Taylor described the motion as "a sculling or falling-leaf motion rather than a movement through the axis of the disc." Its angular size he estimated as about that of a pinhead at arm's length, or about that of a DC-3 at 30,000 ft, both of which come out to be near 10 minutes of arc (one-third of moon's diameter).
The crowd's attention to events in the sky did not lapse when the first object was lost from view, and, about nine minutes later, someone spotted a second object, whereupon the event was again announced via the public address system. Still a third object was brought to the attention of the crowd in the same manner at 11:25. The second object came out of the north, the third came from almost due west. In the third case, someone thought of timing the oscillation frequency (all three exhibited the same unconventional oscillation, with sun-glint perceptible in certain of the instances of tipping, Taylor mentioned). The oscillation frequency was clocked at 48 per minute. In the official report are height estimates and some disparate comments on color, etc., from several other witnesses, as well as remarks on other sightings in the same area on the same day. Full details cannot be recounted here, for reasons of space limitation. Taylor, in his statement submitted to official investigators, said:
The official explanation for this case is "Balloons". I obtained information on upper winds over that part of Washington on that day (700 and 500 mb charts), and the flow aloft between 10,000 and 20,000 ft was from the southwest. The objects, all reported as about the same angular size, came from three distinctly different directions, all within a period of less than an hour. This immediately casts very strong doubt on the balloon hypothesis, as does the flipping motion, the sun glint, and, above all, the fact that no pilot balloon stations were located close upwind of Longview. Furthermore, a typical pilot balloon of about 1 meter diameter could be no higher than about 2500 ft altitude to subtend as large an angle as 10 minutes of arc. Taylor report (official files) gave transit times of 2-3 minutes for the unknowns to cross the Longview sky, and, during such a time interval, the normal ascent rate of a pilot balloon would carry it up by 1200-1800 ft. To then fit the angular-size requirements would clearly require that the balloon have been released at some nearby location, which fails to match known pibal-station locations at that time. Furthermore, surface winds were from the west, and winds a short distance above the ground were southwesterly, as indicated by pulp mill smoke-drift described in Taylor's report. This, plus the previously cited upper-flow directions, contradict the balloon hypothesis for all three directions of arrival, particularly those coming from north and northwest. To hypothesize that these were, say, Skyhook balloons coming from three different (unknown) sites, at three different high altitudes, but all so arranged that the apparent balloon diameter came out at about the same 10 minutes of arc each time is scarcely reasonable. In all, I can only regard the balloon explanation as untenable.
Disc-shaped objects have been sighted in dozens of instances, including Arnold's 6/24/47 Mt. Rainier sighting. In many, though not all, the odd flipping or fluttering motion has been described by witnesses (Refs. 8, 10). What the dynamical significance of this might be is unclear. We know no more about this in 1968 than we knew in 1947, because such observations have been ignored as nonsense -- or misidentified balloons.
3. Case 11. Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 2, 1961.
A midday sighting of a lens-shaped object involving one airborne witness and seven witnesses on the ground became headline news in Salt Lake City (Ref. 32). Accounts of the incident have been summarized elsewhere (Refs. 2, 10, 13, 25). A private pilot, Mr. Waldo J. Harris, was taking off on Runway 160 at Utah Central Airport at almost exactly noon on 10/2/61 when he noted what he at first idly viewed as a distant airplane. He noted it again in the same area just after becoming airborne, once more after gaining some altitude, and then became somewhat puzzled that it had not exhibited any appreciable change of position. About then it seemed to tilt, glinting in the noonday sun, and exhibiting a shape unlike any aircraft. To get a better view, Harris climbed towards the southeast and found himself at its altitude when he was somewhat above 6000 ft. By then it appeared as a biconvex metallic gray object, decidedly different from conventional aircraft, so he radioed back to the airport, where eventually seven persons were taking turns viewing it with binoculars. I have interviewed not only Harris, but also Jay W. Galbraith, operator of the airport, who, with his wife, watched the object, and Robert G. Butler, another of those at the airport. As Harris attempted to close in, he got to a minimal distance that he thought might have been approximately two or three miles from the object, when it abruptly rose vertically by about 1000 ft, a maneuver confirmed by the ground witnesses. They indicated to me that it took only a second or perhaps less to ascend. Just before the abrupt rise, Harris had been viewing the object on an essentially dead-level line of sight, with distant Mt. Nebo behind it, a significant feature of the case, as will be brought out in a moment.
Before Harris could close his distance much more, the object began moving off to the southeast at a speed well above his light-plane top speed. It was soon an estimated ten miles or so away, but Harris continued his attempt to close. However, after seeming to hover a short time in its new location , it began rising and moving westward, at an extremely rapid speed, and passed out of sight aloft to the southwest in only a few seconds. Some, but not all of the ground witnesses, observed this final fast climb-out, I was told. Military jets were called, but the object had gone before they arrived.
Both Harris and the ground observers using binoculars attested to lack of wings or tail, and to the biconvex side view. Harris said he had the impression its surface resembled "sand-blasted aluminum", but his closest view was about 2-3 miles away, and its estimated size was put at about 50-60 ft diameter (and only a tenth as thick) so the impression of surface texture must be regarded as uncertain. All witnesses confirmed that the object "wobbled" during its hovering. Jay Galbraith said that, when Harris' Mooney Mark 20A was only a speck, they could see the disc rather easily by naked eye, suggesting that its size may have been substantially larger than Harris' estimated 50 ft. Galbraith's recollection of its final departure was that it climbed at a very steep angle, perhaps within about 20degrees of the vertical, he thought. Butler also recalled the final departure and stressed that it was a surprisingly steep climb-out, quite beyond any known jet speed. All remarked on 10/2/61 being a beautifully clear day.
Once again we deal with observed performance characteristics far beyond anything of which we have present knowledge: a wingless device that can hover, shoot straight up, and move fast enough to pass out of sight in a matter of a few seconds does not correspond to any known terrestrial craft. The official explanation was originally that Harris saw Venus. From astronomical data, one finds that Venus was in the Utah sky at noon in early October, but lay in the southwest, whereas everyone's line of sight to the southeast. Furthermore, Harris' statement that at one stage he viewed the disc against a distant mountain would contradict such an explanation. Finally, it is well known to astronomers that Venus, even at peak brilliance, is not very easily spotted in daytime, whereas he had no difficulty relocating it repeatedly as he flew. Menzel (Ref. 25) proposed that it was merely a sundog that Harris and the others were observing, and this was subsequently adopted as the official explanation. But sundogs (parhelia), for well-known reasons, occur at elevation angles equal to or slightly greater than the sun, which lay about 40 degrees above the southern horizon at noon in Salt Lake that day. Such a solar position would imply that a sundog might have lain to the southeast (22 degrees to the left of the sun) , but at an elevation angle that completely fails to match Harris' dead level viewing (against a distant mountain, to further embarrass the sundog hypothesis). Finally, to check the witness ' statements about cloud-free skies, I checked with the Salt Lake City Weather Bureau office, and their logs showed completely clear skies and 40 miles visibility. Sundogs cannot occur with out ice crystal clouds present. The only weather balloon released that morning was sent up at 10:00 a.m.; but, in any event, one would have to write off almost all of the observed details to propose that this incident was a misinterpretation of a weather balloon. As I see it, the 10/2/61 Salt Lake City sighting is just one more of the hundreds of very well-observed cases of machine-like craft exhibiting "flight performance" far beyond the state of our present-day technology.
4. Case 12, Larson AFB, Moses Lake, Washington, January 8, 1953.
NICAP's recent publication of long-inaccessible official report summaries (Ref. 7) makes readily available to interested scientists a large number of fascinating UFO reports. Many are in the multiple witness category, for example, the dawn (0715 PST) sighting at Larson AFB where
This green disc, moving against the wind below an overcast and seen by over sixty witnesses, is an official Unidentified.
5. Case 13. Savannah River AEC Plant, Summer, 1952.
A rather illuminating multiple-witness case was called to my attention by John A. Anderson, now at Sandia Base, New Mexico, but in 1952 working as a young engineer in the Savannah River AEC facility near Aiken, S.C. After a considerable amount of cross-checking on the part of both Anderson and myself, the date was inferred to be late July, 1952, probably 7/19/52. The circumstance giving a clue to the date was that, at about 10:00 a.m. on the day in question, Anderson, along with what he estimated at perhaps a hundred other engineers, scientists and technicians from his group were outside watching a "required attendance" skit presented from a truck-trailer and commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the DuPont company, July 18, 1802. Anderson indicated that someone less than absorbed in the skit first spotted the unidentified object in the clear skies overhead, and soon most eyes had left the skit to watch more technically intriguing events overhead. A greenish glowing object of no discernible shape, and of angular size estimated by Anderson to be not over a fifth of full-moon diameter, was darting back and forth erratically at very high speed. Anderson had the impression it was at great altitude, but conceded that perhaps nothing but the complete lack of sound yielded that impression. It was in view for about two minutes, moving at all times. He stressed its "phenomenal maneuverability"; it repeatedly changed direction abruptly in sharp angle manner, he stressed. The observation was terminated when the object disappeared over the horizon "at apparently tremendous velocity."
Anderson said that the event was discussed among his group afterwards, and all agreed it could not possibly have been a conventional aircraft. He remarked that no one even thought of suggesting the unreasonable notion that it was an hallucination or illusion. Despite searching local papers for some days thereafter, not a word of this sighting was published, and no further information or comment on it came from within the very security-conscious AEC plant. He was unaware of any official report.
Months after hearing of this from Anderson, in one of my numerous rereadings of Ruppelt's book (Ref. 5), I came across a single sentence in which Ruppelt, referring to the high concentration of reports in the Southeast around September of 1952, states that: "Many of the reports came from people in the vicinity of the then new super-hush-hush AEC facility at Savannah River, Georgia." Whether one of those reports to the official investigative agency came from within Anderson's group or other Savannah River personnel on the 7/52 incident is unknown. If not, then we may have here a case where dozens of technically-trained personnel witnessed an entirely unexplainable aerial performance, yet reported nothing. Anderson knew of no report, and was unaware of any assembling of witness-information within his group, so the evidence points in the direction that this event may have gone unreported. If, as Anderson is inclined to think, this event was on July 19, 1952, it occurred only about twelve hours before the famous Washington National Airport radar-visual sightings; but this date remains uncertain.
6. Case 14. Trinidad, Colo., March 23, 1966.
A daytime sighting by at least a dozen persons, in several parts of town, occurred near 5:00 p.m. on 3/23/66 in Trinidad, Colo. Following up a report in the APRO Bulletin on this interesting case, I eventually interviewed ten witnesses (seven children of average age near 12, and five adults). This case came just a few days after the famous "swamp gas" UFO incidents in southern Michigan, which made headline news all over the country. As APRO noted in its account, the Trinidad case seems in several respects a distinctly better case, yet went essentially unnoted outside of Trinidad. (Press reporting of UFO sightings leaves very much to be desired; I concur in the cited APRO comment. However, press shortcomings in the UFO area are only secondary factors in the long failure to get this matter out into the open.)
The witness-variance that skeptics like to cite is fairly well illustrated in the results of my ten interviews. I wish space permitted a full exposition of what each witness told me, for it would not only attest to that well-known variance but would also illustrate the point made earlier, namely, that despite those bothersome differences in details, there nevertheless comes through a consistent core of information on observations of something that was of scientific interest.
Mrs. Frank R. Hoch paid no attention when her son first tried to call her out to see something in the sky. Knowing it was kite season, dinner preparations took precedence, and she told the 10-year-old boy to go ride his bike. The second time he was more insistent and she went outside to look. Two objects, domed on the top but nearly flat on the bottom, shaped like a cup upside down, having no rim or "sombrero brim", she said, were moving slowly westward from Fisher's Peak, which lies just south of Trinidad. Her son, Dean, told her he had seen three such objects when he tried to get her to come out earlier. (Mr. Louis DiPaolo, a Trinidad postman whom I interviewed, had also seen three objects.) Interestingly, when Mrs. Hoch saw the objects, one was between her and the ridge, the other just above the low ridgeline. The ridge is about a half-mile from the Hoch residence. A photo of the ridge, with roughly-scaled objects sketched on it, suggests an angular diameter of perhaps a degree (object size of order 100 ft), in disagreement with her earlier angular estimates. It was clear that Mrs. Hoch was, as are most, unfamiliar with angular-size estimating. The objects, Mrs. Hoch said, moved up and down in bobbing manner as they progressed slowly westward along the ridgeline. Occasionally they tilted, glinting in the late-afternoon sun as if metallic. No sound was mentioned by any witness except one young boy whose attention was drawn to the object by a "ricocheting sound", as he put it. DiPaolo's observations were made with 7x35 binoculars; he also described the objects as metallic in appearance and shaped like a saucer upside down. His attention had been called to it by neighborhood boys playing outside. Mrs. Amelia Berry, in another part of Trinidad, evidently saw the objects somewhat earlier, when they were farther east, circling near Fisher's Peak, but she was uncertain of the precise time. She saw only two, and remarked that they seemed to "glitter", and she described them as "saucer shaped", "oblong and narrow". Mrs. J. R. Duran, horseback-riding with a 12-year-old son on the opposite (north) side of town also saw two objects, "flat on the bottom, and domed on top, silvery", when her son called them to her attention. She described them as "floating along slowly, bobbing up and down, somewhat to the west of Fisher's Peak. She, like the other witnesses, was positive that these were not airplanes. No one described anything like wings or tail. A number of witnesses were so close that, had this been an unconventional helicopter, its engine-noise would have been unmistakable.
Notwithstanding differences in the witness accounts (more of which would emerge from a more complete recounting), the common features of the observers' descriptions would seem to rule out known types of aircraft, astronomical, meteorological, and other explanations.
7. Case 15. Redlands, Calif., February 4, 1968.
A still more recent multiple-witness case of great interest was well documented by three University of Redlands professors shortly after it occurred on the evening of 2/4/68. APRO plans a fairly detailed summary report. Dr. Philip Seff kindly sent me a copy of the witness-testimony he and his colleagues secured in interviewing about twenty out of an estimated hundred-plus witnesses to this low-altitude sighting in a residential area of Redlands. Because I understand that Dr. Harder will be giving a fairly detailed report of this case to your Committee, I shall give only a much-abbreviated version. At 7:20 p.m., many persons went outdoors to investigate either (a) the unusual barking of neighborhood dogs, or (b) a disturbing and unusual sound. Soon many persons up and down several streets were observing an object round in planform, estimated at perhaps 50-60 feet in diameter, moving slowly towards the east northeast at an altitude put by most witnesses as perhaps 300 feet. Glowing ports or panels lay around its upper perimeter and "jet-like" orange-red flames or something resembling flames emanated from a number of sources on the undersurface. A number of odd physiological effects were remarked by various witnesses, and the animal-reactions were a notable feature of this case. The object at one point rose abruptly by some hundreds of feet before continuing its somewhat "jerky" motion to the east. It then hovered a short time and moved off with acceleration to the northwest.
The Redlands University trio inquired concerning radar detection , but were informed that the nearest radar was at March AFB, Riverside, and the beam clearing intervening ridges could not detect so low a target over Redlands. An interesting aspect of press coverage of UFOs, a very characteristic aspect, is illustrated here. The local Redlands-area papers carried only short pieces on the event; beyond that no press coverage occurred, as far as I have been able to ascertain. Evidently even the state wires did not carry it. (I think this fact deserves very strong emphasis. One has to see national clipping-service coverage, drawing upon many small-town papers, to gain even a dim glimpse of the astonishing number of UFO reports that occur steadily, but go unreported on state and national wires so that none but very diligent UFO investigators have any appreciation of the true frequency of UFO sightings. This is no "press clampdown", no censorship; wire editors simply "know" that there's nothing to all this nonsense about UFOs. A local story will be run simply for its local interest, but that interest falls off steeply with radial distance from the observation site.) Thus, we must confront a situation, developed over 20 years, in which over a hundred citizens in a city of about 30,000 population can see an utterly unconventional aerial machine just overhead and, almost by the time the dogs have stopped barking, press and officialdom are uninterested. Dr. Seff told me just last week that he had encountered a Redlands University coed who had seen the object (he hadn't interviewed her previously), and she seemed still terrified by the incident. I believe that your Committee must recognize an unfilled scientific obligation to get to the bottom of such matters.
8. Many other multiple-witness cases could be cited, some from my own interviewing experience, far more from other sources within this country and abroad. An October 28, 1954 sighting in Rome was estimated to have been viewed by thousands of people, one of whom was U.S. Ambassador Clare Booth Luce (Ref. 10) with her embassy staff. Mrs. Luce said it had the shape of a silver dollar and crossed the skies in about 30 seconds. A now-famous group of sightings of June 26/27, 1959, near Boianai, New Guinea, was observed by several dozen witnesses, the principal one of whom I interviewed in Melbourne, in 1967, Rev. Wm. B. Gill. Bloecher (Ref. 8) describes a number of mid-1947 incidents where the witness-totals ranged from dozens up to well over a hundred persons. Hall (Ref. 10) cites more recent instances. Many other sources could be cited to show that the intimation that UFOs are never seen except by lone individuals driving along some remote back road (a frequent setting to be sure!) does not accord with the actual facts. Multiple-witness UFO cases are impressively numerous.
WHY AREN'T UFOs EVER SEEN IN CITIES?
One cannot study the UFO problem long without being struck by the preponderance of reports that come from somewhat remote areas, non-urban areas. Similarly, one cannot escape the conclusion that more UFOs are reported at night than in day; For the latter, luminosity and its obvious effect on probability of chance visual detection may go far towards explaining the diurnal variation of UFO sightings (though I suspect that most students of the problem would conclude that there is a real excess of nighttime occurrences for quite unknown reasons). Why, some ask with respect to the geographical distribution, don't the UFOs, if real and if extraterrestrial, spend most of their time looking over our cities? That's what we'd do, if we got to mars and found huge urban complexes , some skeptics insist.
It is surprising to find scientists who do not see through the transparency of that homocentric fallacy. If it were true that we were under surveillance from some advanced civilization of extraterrestrial origin, the pattern of the observations, the motivation of the surveillance, and the degree of interest in one versus another aspect of our planet could be almost incomprehensible to us. Aboriginal natives under anthropological observation must find almost incomprehensible the motives behind the strange things that the field-teams do, the odd things in which they are interested. But the cultural and the intellectual gulf that would separate us from any intelligent beings commanding a technology so advanced that they could cross interplanetary or interstellar distances to inspect us would be a gulf vastly greater than that which separates a Harvard field-anthropologist from a New Guinea native. And, for this reason, I think one must concede that, within the argumentation carried out under tentative consideration of an extraterrestrial hypothesis for UFOs, incomprehensibility must be expected as almost inevitable. Hence there is more whimsy than good reasoning in queries such as, "Why don't they land on the White House lawn and shake hands with the President?"
Nevertheless, the evidence affords a fairly definite answer to the skeptics' question, "Why aren't they ever seen over or in cities?" They are.
1. Case 16. New York City, November 22, 1966.
A report in a 1967 issue of the NICAP UFO Investigator (Ref. 33) reads as follows:
When an incident such as this is cited to the skeptic who asks, "Why no UFOs near cities?", I find that his almost invariable retort is something like; "If that had really happened, why wouldn't hundreds to thousands of persons have reported it?" There are, I believe, two factors that explain the latter situation. First, consider the tiny fraction of persons on any city street whose vision is directed upwards at any given moment. In absence of loud noises aloft, most urbanites don't spend any large amount of time scanning the skies. In addition to infrequency of sky-scanning, another urban obstacle to UFO detection is typically restricted vision of the full dome of the sky; buildings or trees cut down the field of view in a way not so typical of the view afforded the farmer, the forest ranger, or a person driving in open country. Finally, in UFO studies, it is always necessary to draw sharp distinction between a "sighting" and a "report". The first becomes the second only if a witness takes the step of notifying a newspaper, a law enforcement office, a university, or some official agency. It is abundantly clear, from the experience of UFO investigations in many parts of the world, that psychological factors centering around unwillingness to be ridiculed deter most witnesses from filing any official report on a very unusual event. Again and again one learns of a UFO sighting quite indirectly, from someone who knows someone who once mentioned that he'd seen something rather unusual. On following such leads, one frequently comes upon extremely significant sightings that were withheld from official reporting channels because of the "ridicule lid", as I like to term it, that imposes a filter screening out a large number of good sightings at their source.
Returning to the 11/22/66 New York City report, I must say that, between the information NICAP secured from the witnesses and my own direct conversations with Leick, I accept this as a quite real sighting, made by reliable observers under viewing circumstances that would seem to rule out obvious conventional explanations. When the object left its hovering location, it rose straight upward rapidly, before heading east, Leick said. Although he and his colleagues may well have erred in their slant-range estimate which put it over the UN Building, their description of its shape and its maneuvers would appear to rule out helicopters, aircraft, balloons, etc.
2. Case 17. Hollywood, Calif., February 5-6, 1960.
A still more striking instance in which entirely unconventional object: were observed by many city-dwellers, where low-altitude objects hovered and exhibited baffling phenomena, is a central Hollywood case that was rather carefully checked by LANS, the Los Angeles NICAP Subcommittee (Ref. 34). The two incidents occurred just after 11:00 p.m. on two successive nights, Friday 2/5/60 and Saturday 2/6/60, over or near the intersection of Sunset Blvd. and La Brea Ave., i.e., in the heart of downtown Hollywood. I have gone over the site area with one of the principal investigators of these incidents, Mrs. Idabel Epperson of LANS, have examined press accounts (Ref. 35) that dealt (very superficially) with the event, and have studied correspondence between the LANS investigators and official agencies concerning this case. The phenomenology is far too complex to report in full detail here; even the 21-page single-spaced LANS report was only a digest of results of all the NICAP witness-interviewing carried out to substantiate the events. The LANS report summarizes object-descriptions given by eight witnesses Friday night and eighteen witnesses Saturday night, several of them police officers.
Cars were stopped bumper-to-bumper, according to employees of several businesses on the Sunset-La Brea intersection in the midst of the main events, with people gaping at the object overhead. Persons on hotel and apartment rooftops were out looking at the bright "cherry-red, circular light" that figured in both incidents, On the two successive nights, the red object first appeared at about 11:15 p.m., and on both nights it stopped and hovered motionless for periods of about 10 minutes at a time. The angular estimates of the size of the red light varied, but seemed to suggest a value of one-fourth to one-third of the lunar diameter, say 5-10 minutes of arc. Almost all agreed that the light was sharp-edged rather than hazy or fuzzy. The usual witness-variances are exhibited in the total of about two dozen persons interviewed, e.g., some thought the light pulsated, others recalled it as steady, etc.), but the common features, consistent throughout almost all the testimony, bespeak a quite unusual phenomenon.
On Friday night, the red light was first seen directly overhead at Sunset and La Brea. Two service-station attendants at that intersection, Jerry Darr and Charles Walker, described to LANS interviewers how, "... hundreds of people saw it -- everybody was looking" as the light hovered for at least five minutes over a busy drive-in there. Ken Meyer, another service station attendant a third of a mile to the north, estimated it hovered for about 10 minutes. Harold Sherman, his wife, and two others watched it in the later phases (also described by the above cited witnesses) as it resumed motion very slowly eastward. After proceeding east for a distance that witnesses roughly estimated at a block or two, it veered southeastward and passed out of sight. (It is not clear whether it was occulted by buildings for some witnesses, or diminished in intensity, or actually passed off into the distance.) No sound was heard over street-noise background.
The following night, an object which appeared to be the same, to those several witnesses who saw both events, again showed up overhead, this time first seen about one block farther east than on Friday night. Triangulation based on estimates of angular elevations as seen from various locations was used to approximate the height above ground. LANS concluded that, when first seen, it lay about 500-600 ft above the intersection of Sunset and Sycamore. A number of witnesses observed it hovering motionless in that position for about 10 minutes. Then a loud explosion and brilliant bluish-white flash was emitted by the object, the noise described by all witnesses as unlike any sonic boom or ordinary explosion they had ever heard. The sound alerted witnesses as far away as Curson and Hollywood Blvd., i.e., Tom Burns and two friends who asked LANS interviewers not to use their names. Condensing very greatly here the descriptions given to the interviewers by independent witnesses who viewed the "explosion" from various locations scattered over a circle of about a 1-mile radius yields a summary-description as follows: What had, just before the explosion, looked much "like a big red Christmas ball hanging there in the sky", was suddenly the source of a flash that extended downward and to the west, lighting up the ground all around one interviewee (Sone Rosi) on La Brea Ave. A "mushroom-shaped cloud", with coloration that impressed all who saw it, emerged upward and soon dissipated. Concurrently, as the red light extinguished, an object described by most, but not all, witnesses as long and tubular shot upwards. Angular estimates implied an object a number of tens of feet long, 70 ft from Harold Sherman's rough estimates. Clearly, it is difficult to explain how an object of such size could have materialized from a light at 500 ft elevation and subtending an angle of only 10 minutes of arc, unless it had been there all along, unseen because of the brilliance of the red light beneath it. Or perhaps the angular size estimates are in error. Some witnesses followed only the tubular ascending object, others saw only something that "spiraled downwards" beneath the explosion source. No witness seemed certain of what it was that came down; some spoke of "glowing embers"; no one gave indication of following it to ground.
Glossing over other details bearing on this "explosion" at an estimated 5-600 ft above Sunset and Sycamore, witnesses next became aware that the just-extinguished red light had evidently reappeared in a new location, about a block to the west. Police officers Ray Lopez and Daniel Jaffee, of LAPD, located at the corner of Sunset and La Brea, heard the explosion and looked up, seeing the light in its new location "directly overhead", as did many others at that intersection who then watched the red light hovering in its new location for about 8 minutes. (Space precludes my giving all pertinent information on time-estimates as set out in the 21-page LANS summary. For example, a good time-fix on the explosion came from the fact that E.W. Cass, a contractor living almost a mile west, was just winding his alarm clock, looking at it, when flare-like illumination "lit up the whole bedroom", just at an indicated time of 11:30. He went out, watched the hovering red light in its new location, and added further details I shall omit here. Others took their time clues from the fact that 11:30 commercials had just come on TV when they heard the peculiar explosion and hastened outside to check, etc.)
The red light, now over Sunset and La Brea, was roughly triangulated at about 1000 ft up, a figure in accord with several witness comments that, when it reappeared some 4-5 seconds after the "explosion", it lay not only somewhat west of its first location, but noticeably higher. After hovering there for a time inferred to be eight minutes, it began slowly drifting eastward, much as on the previous night when much less spectacular events had occurred. Larry Moquin, one witness who had taken rather careful alignment fixes using rooflines as an aid, remarked that, at this stage, La Brea and Sunset was filled with watchers: "Everybody was standing outside their cars looking up -- cars were backed up in the streets -- and everyone was asking each other, "What is it?".
After moving slowly but steadily (observers mentioned absence of bobbing, weaving, or irregularity in its motion) for about a block east, to its first location, it turned sharply towards the north-northeast, accelerated, and climbed steeply, not stopping again until at a very high altitude well to the north. From crude triangulation, LANS investigators inferred a new hovering altitude of over 25,000 ft, but it is clear from the data involved that this estimate is extremely rough.
Although I have done no personal witness-interviewing to date in the 2/60 Hollywood case, I can vouch for the diligence and reliability with which, the LANS group pursues its case-studies. The large number of interviews secured and the degree of consistency found therein seem to argue that some extremely unusual devices maneuvered over Hollywood on the two nights in question. Unless one simply rejects most of the salient features of the reports, it is quite clear that no meteorological or astronomical explanation is at all reasonable. Nor does any conventional aircraft match the reports.
The question that arises almost immediately is that of a practical joke, a hoax. However, the resources required to fabricate some device yielding the complex behavior (stop motionless, move against wind, explosively emit secondary devices, and finally, in the 2/6 event, climb to rather high altitude) would scarcely be available to college pranksters. The phenomena go so far beyond the gas-balloon level of hoaxing that one must have some much more elaborate hoax hypothesis to account for the reported events. Balloons must drift with the winds, and the LANS group secured the local upper-wind data for both nights, and there is no match between the reported motions and the winds in the surface-1000-ft layer. And, in any event, the alternation between hovering and moving, plus the distinct direction-shifts without change of apparent altitude, cannot be squared with balloon-drift. This would mean that some highly controlled device was involved, capable (in the 2/6 incident) of hovering in an almost precisely stationary position relative to the ground (Moquin sighted carefully, using structural objects to secure a fix when the red light lay right over La Brea and Sunset, and perceived no motion for many minutes). Yet the Weather Bureau was reporting 5 mph winds from the southwest at 1000 ft (triangulated altitude when hovering there). Only if one hypothesized that this was an expensively elaborate experiment in psychological warfare could one account for financial resources needed to build a device capable of simulating some of these phenomena. Such a hypothesis seems quite unreasonable in the 100-megaton age where ever present realities of weaponry pose more psychological strains than Disney-like pyrotechnics.
In fact, UFO sightings with equally peculiar phenomenology are so much a part of the total record that this Hollywood incident is not as unparalleled as it might first seem. In Hobart, Tasmania, I interviewed an electrical engineer who, along with a fellow engineer also employed by the Tasmanian Hydroelectric Commission, observed phenomena occurring in broad daylight over and near the River Derwent at Risdon that have the same "absurd" nature that one meets in the Hollywood case. The wife of a Texas rancher described to me an incident she witnessed in Juarez, Mexico, with about the same absurdity-quotient. We simply do not understand what we are dealing with in these UFO phenomena; my present opinion is that we must simply concede that, in the Hollywood case, we are confronted with decidedly odd UFO phenomena, in a decidedly urban locale.
There appears to have been no official investigation of these striking events (Ref. 35), and local newspapers gave it only the briefest attention. In the New York City case cited above, the particulars were phoned to a large New York paper, but the paper was not interested, and no account was reported. Similarly in the 2/4/68 Redlands case, the local papers felt it warranted only an extremely brief article. This pattern is repeated over and over again; newspapermen have been led to believe that UFOs are really no more than occasional feature-story material. On rare occasions, for reasons not too clear to students of the UFO problem, some one case like the Michigan incident of 1966 will command national headlines for a day or two and then be consigned to journalistic limbo. This, in company with scientific rejection of the problem, plus official positions on the matter have combined to keep the public almost entirely unaware of the real situation with respect to frequency and nature of UFO incidents. For emphasis, let me repeat that I do not see design in that, nothing I construe as any well-planned attempt to keep us all uninformed for some sinister or protective reason. The longer I reflect on the history of the past handling of the UFO problem, the more I can see how one thing led to another until we have reached the intolerable present situation that so urgently calls for change.
3. Case 18. Baytown, Texas, July 18, 1966.
Baytown, Texas, on Galveston Bay, has a population near 30,000. Several persons evidently saw an interesting object there at about 9:00 a.m. On 7/18/66. My original source on this case was an article that appeared in the 10/8/66 Houston Post from NICAP files. The article, by Post reporter Jimmie Woods, represents one of those rare UFO feature stories in which fact is well blended with human interest, as I found when I subsequently interviewed one of the principal witnesses, W. T. Jackson, at whose service station he and assistant Kelly Dikeman made the sighting. Both were inside the station when Jackson spotted the object hovering motionless about 100 yards away. (The Post said 1000 yards, but Jackson pointed out that Woods interviewed him while he was waiting on customers at the station and the reporter didn't get all of it correct.) Jackson explained to me that the object "lay right over the Dairy Queen." He described it as a white object that "looked like two saucers turned together with a row of square windows in between", and he thought it might have been 50 feet in diameter. He called Dikeman over, and they both looked at it for a few seconds and then simultaneously started for the door to get a better look. Almost at that moment it started moving westward. Dikeman was at the door before Jackson and had the last view of it as it passed over a water tower, beyond buildings and a refinery and was gone, "faster than any airplane." Jackson described it as pure white, and definitely not spinning, since he saw clearly the features that he termed "windows." Jackson kept the incident to himself for a time; when it got out, two nurses who were unwilling to give him their names because "they didn't want to be laughed at" stopped at his station and told him they had seen it from another part of Baytown.
"Swamp gas" explanations were then still featured in press discussions of UFOs, and Jackson volunteered the comment that there are no swamps nearby and that it was "too high for any gas formations" he knew of. "It damned sure wasn't no fireball," Jackson told the Post reporter, and also commented, "Feller, when you set there and count the windows it ain't no damn reflection." I received similar salty commentary on various hypotheses when I spoke with Jackson. No sound was heard, yet, as Jackson put it, "if it had been any kind of jet, we'd have been deafened." As in many other cases, a distinctly machine-like configuration, definite outlines, secondary "structural" features here termed "windows", add up to a description that does not suggest any misinterpreted natural phenomenon. That it hovered within a city of moderate size with only a total of two declared and two other undeclared witnesses is not entirely difficult to understand when one has interviewed large numbers of witnesses for whom the likelihood of ridicule was an almost sufficient deterrent to open reporting.
4. Case 19. Portland, Oregon, July 4, 1947.
In the course of cross-checking a sampling of the 1947 cases that went into Bloecher's study (Ref. 8), the numerous daytime sightings in central Portland on 7/4/47 seemed worth checking, especially because many of the reports came from police and harbor patrolmen. Here again, we deal with a case for which there are so many relevant details available that space precludes an adequate summary (see Ref. 8). I spoke with Sheriff's Deputy Fred Krives who, along with several other deputies, had seen some of the many objects over Portland from the Court House across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Wash. Krives recalled that over half a dozen deputies were outside looking at what they estimated to be about 20 disc-shaped objects in several subgroups racing across the sky at an estimated height of perhaps 1000 ft, heading to the southwest.
Both from contemporary press accounts and my own checks, it became evident that more than one formation of discs flew over Portland that day. Harbor Patrol Capt. K.A. Prehn, whom I located by telephone, told me that he had been called outside by another officer who spotted objects moving overhead towards the south. Their speed seemed comparable to that of aircraft, their outlines were quite sharp, and they looked metallic as they flashed in the sun. They occasionally wobbled, and their path seemed to be slightly irregular. Other officers with whom I spoke sighted discs from other parts of the Portland area; one of them, Officer Walter Lissy, emphasized that he recalled them as zig-zagging along at "terrific speed." Another officer, Earl Patterson, told me of seeing a single object that "made sudden 90-degree turns with no difficulty." I also obtained letter accounts from others in the Portland area who saw disc-like objects that day. Here was an early instance of unidentified objects maneuvering in full daylight over a major city.
The July 4, 1947 sightings (for which Bloecher gathered press accounts for more than 80 from various parts of the U.S.) were made the subject of a good deal of press ridicule, as Bloecher's study makes clear. However, after interviewing a number of the witnesses to the Portland sighting concerning their recollections of what they saw that day, I see no basis at all for rejecting these sightings. The official explanation for the Portland observations is "Radar Chaff", based evidently (Ref. 6) on a report that some aircraft had made a chaff-drop in that area sometime on that day. "Chaff" is metal-foil cut into short strips, typically a few inches in length, ejected from military aircraft to jam radar. The strips float down through the air, intercepting and returning the radar pulses. To suggest that numerous police officers would confuse strips of foil, so small as to be invisible beyond a few hundred yards, with maneuvering disc-like objects seems unreasonable. I doubt that anyone who had talked directly to these officers could have seriously proposed such an explanation. Herein lies a difficulty: In an overwhelming majority of cases, official explanations have been conceived without any direct witness-interviewing on the part of those responsible for conceiving the explanations.
5. Perhaps, for present purposes, the foregoing cases will suffice to indicate that there have been significant UFO incidents in cities. Many other examples could easily be cited. Elsewhere (Ref. 2) I have discussed my interviews with witnesses in a case at Beverly, Mass., on the evening of April 22, 1966, where three adult women and subsequently a total of more than half a dozen adults (including two police officers) observed three round lighted objects hovering near a school building in the middle of Beverly. At one early stage of the sighting, one of the discs moved rapidly over the three women, hovering above one of them at an altitude of only a few tens of feet and terrifying the hapless woman until she bolted. This case was quite thoroughly checked by Mr. Raymond E. Fowler, one of NICAP's most able investigators, who has studied numerous other UFO incidents in the New England area.
I interviewed witnesses in a most interesting sighting in Omaha in January 1966, where a stubby cigar-shaped object had been seen by a number of persons on the northwest side of the city. Urban UFO cases in other parts of the world are also a matter of at least journalistic if not yet scientific record. To sum up, though non-urban reports are definitely more numerous, urban reports do indeed exist.
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