2. Old UFO Cases
3. Old Cases Not on Record:
4. Emphasis on Current Reports:
5. The Early Warning System:
6. Investigation Capability and Philosophy
7. Types of Current Cases Studied
8. Remarks and Recommendations:
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Reports of UFO observations, elaborate in description as they sometimes are, are usually lacking information which would concretely define the nature of the object observed or the experience described. When specific information describing an unidentifiable object is presented, the reliability of that information must also be evaluated, and some corroboration or independent verification is necessary.
At its outset in November 1966, the information with which this project had to work consisted of old reports, some of which had been investigated quite thoroughly by official and private agencies, and press accounts of current sightings, in which the information was generally fragmentary. New information regarding sightings which had never been revealed to the public also occasionally came to our attention. In all cases, additional information, varying in nature for different cases, was desired. Field investigations were undertaken in an effort to obtain such information.
The project acquired copies of Project Blue Book and NICAP reports of UFO cases which had been discussed in popular UFO writings or which were regarded as having unusual scientific interest. Some of these reported sightings had been so extensively publicized that they have acquired the status of "Classic" cases.
In December 1966, early in the project history, we attempted to augment available information regarding one such case: the 1952 Washington, D.C., radar sightings (see Section III Chapter 5), by on-site
re-investigation of the case. While this inquiry provided valuable new experience in the problems of investigating UFO phenomena, it brought little or no new information to light.
In general, testimony of witnesses recorded shortly after their experiences can be considered more reliable than their re-telling of the story two to 20 years later, both because of failures of memory and because of a tendency to crystallization of the story upon repeated retelling. For this reason, re-examination of witnesses in "classic" cases was not considered a useful way for the project to invest time. Field investigation of classic cases was therefore limited to those in which existing reports contained a serious discrepancy which might be resolved.
In one classic case, field investigation was undertaken primarily to locate that portion of a strip of 16mm. motion picture film made in 1950 which, the photographer said, showed most clearly the structure of UFOs he had photographed (Case 47). The photographer had claimed that this portion had been removed from his film when he lent it to the Air Force for study before the film was returned to him by ATIC experts.
The results of the investigation emphasized the vicissitudes of memory and the difficulties of establishing a crucial fact some 18 years after the event. Rather than reducing the uncertainty in the case, the investigation created greater uncertainty because it revealed further discrepancies in accounts of the sighting.
The case also was of special interest because earlier photographic analysis by Dr. R.M.L. Baker, then of Douglas Aircraft Corporation, indicated that the photographed objects probably were not aircraft contrary to their "identification" in Project Blue Book records. Identification as other man-made or natural objects apparently had
been ruled out primarily on the basis of wind direction on the alleged date of the sighting.
Since a detailed account of this sighting is given in Chapter 3, Section IV, only that information is presented here which illustrates the difficulties arising in attempts to investigate an event which occurred years previously, even when the primary and most of the principal secondary witnesses are still available.
This writer visited the photographer seeking details that might confirm or disprove his claim that the Air Force had admitted confiscating part of the film. The photographer had asserted that he possessed a letter from the Air Force containing precisely such an admission. If the letter could be produced, it might then be possible for the project to recover the allegedly missing film for study. A first-hand account of the sighting also was desired. At Great Falls, Mont. where the film was made, residents who had seen the film before it was sent to the Air Force were interviewed, newspaper accounts were searched, and attempts were made to resolve discrepancies in these reports. The only other person who reportedly witnessed the filming was, at the time of the event, serving as secretary to the photographer. She was interviewed by telephone.
thought the aircraft explanation absurd. Nor did he recall that he had claimed in the documentary film, and in letters which are part of the Blue Book case file, to have seen two airplanes approaching Great Falls Air Base just after he took his UFO movies.
9 August and 18 August. According to the account of the UFO sighting, the photographer was at the base ball park to prepare for the game to be played that afternoon; if this general account of the conditions of the UFO filming is accepted, the 15 August date must be erroneous. The relevance of the landing of the particular airplanes to which official identification of the filmed objects was assigned thus became highly questionable. Weather data which indicated the objects were moving against the wind, and thus could not have been balloons, also became irrelevant.
Reexamination of the record, in view of this date discrepancy, shows some early uncertainty as to whether the movies were taken on 5 August or 15 August. Acceptance by the Air Force of 15 August as the sighting date, and explanation of the filmed objects in terms of aircraft in the vicinity on that date, seems somewhat careless, since the presence of the photographer in Great Falls on that date of the photograph appears improbable. There is no question that the film was made in Great Falls, Mont. An identifiable water tower located there appears on the film. The date the movie was made is entirely open to question, however. Elimination of a balloon explanation depends upon knowledge of wind direction and that knowledge is available only if the date is known. Information regarding the date, is not now available.
This limited field investigation of a classic case revealed more discrepancies in the file record reports than it resolved. It produced no firm evidence that part of the film had been retained by the Air Force, and no leads through which such film might be located, if it had been retained.
Other field investigations of "classic" sightings involving photographs were somewhat more productive of new information. In the Ft. Belvoir photographic case for example, the doughnut-shaped structure in the photos was unequivocally identified when Dr. Hartmann showed the photographs to Army experts at Ft. Belvoir (Case 50).
During review of other classic cases it was possible, in some instances, for project investigators to develop new, pertinent information. This information generally depended upon recorded data, such as weather data, which could be acquired by telephone, mail, or library reference. Knowledge of atmospheric conditions prevailing at the time of radar UFO sightings, for example, allowed analysis of sighting reports in the light of current knowledge of radar propagation. Thus, atmospheric information was useful in evaluating classic cases such as the 1952 Washington, D.C. sightings (see Section III, Chapter 5), in which on-site interviewing had contributed no new information. Since our experience generally showed that new interviews of witnesses in classic cases did not produce dependable new information, few onsite investigations of such cases were undertaken.
Because of the existence of our study, people told us of UFO sightings that had never previously been reported to any study group. A graduate student described three large craft which flew in 1956, slowly just above tree-top level, over a clearing in woods where, as a Boy Scout he and other Scouts were camping.
A U.S. Navy captain related such an unreported experience. In 1962, he and four members of his family saw what appeared to be an elongated cylindrical object silhouetted against stars. His brief account reads:
While returning from a movie at about 9:30 p.m., on Palatine Road about 5 mi. west of (location X), an object was sighted above the tree tops crossing from South to North at a slow rate of speed. At first it appeared like the lighted windows of a railroad passenger car, although on continued observation the lighted windows appeared in a more circular arrangement. We stopped the car and the entire family stepped outside and watched as it slowly moved away. There was no sound whatsoever. The night was warm, clear, and with no wind. The object (appeared) to be about 1000-2000 feet. in altitude on a level course.
The captain has served in the Navy for 25 years and had been a pilot for 26 years.
An Air Force major, on active duty at an air base described an experience he and his family had several years ago while driving across Texas. While stopped at a remote gasoline station just after dawn, the Major and his son heard and watched two strange conical vehicles. They rose from behind a small hill, crossed the highway near them, and soared off into the sky, according to the major's account.
The numerous reports of this type were extremely interesting, and often puzzling. Many incidents were reported by apparently reliable witnesses. However, since they had happened in the relatively distant past, these events did not offer the project much prospect of obtaining significant information about the objects apparently sighted. There was no possibility of finding residual physical evidence at the site, and, in the typical case, the date of the event was uncertain, making it impossible to locate recorded relevant information such as weather data.
One old case (Case 5) which was not on public record did seem to warrant investigation. Our early information, from an apparently highly reliable source indicated that radar scope pictures, electronic counter-measure graphic data, and U.S. Air Force intelligence debriefing records regarding the event should be in existence and available for our study.
The case came to our attention when an Air Force officer attending the project's conference for base UFO officers mentioned that he had encountered an unknown aerial phenomenon about ten years earlier. At the time of the event he reported it to Air Force intelligence personnel.
The incident involved the crew of a B-47 equipped with radar surveillance devices. The B-47 was operating from a Strategic Air Command base, and the report of the incident was thought to have been sent to Air Defense Command Intelligence. No report of the incident was found in Blue Book files or in the files of NORAD headquarters at Ent AFB. Lacking adequate information on an impressive case, project investigators sought to locate and interview members of the original B-47 crew, hoping to determine how the incident been officially identified and to trace AF reports on it.
The B-47 crew consisted of pilot, co-pilot, navigator, and three officers who operated special radar-monitoring equipment. The three officers most directly involved with the UFO incident were pilot, co-pilot, and the operator of #2 monitoring unit. Their descriptions of the 1957 experience over the Dallas-Ft.Worth area were in broad agreement. Details of the experience are given in Case 5.
The UFO encountered was a glowing ball of light, as "big as a barn," which apparently emitted or reflected electromagnetic radiation at both 2800 MHz and visible frequencies. For an extended period it maintained a constant position relative to the moving
airplane, at 10-mi. range. It disappeared suddenly and reappeared at a different location, both visually and on airborne and ground radars. Since visual and radar observation seemed to coincide, reflection of ground radar did not seem a satisfactory explanation. Other explanations such as airplanes, meteors, and plasma also seemed unsatisfactory.
At first glance, the case seemed ideal for investigation by the project, since B-47s engaged in such operations routinely wire-record all conversations within the aircraft and between the ground during missions and are equipped with radar scope cameras and devices for recording graphically electronic counter-measure data. The pilot believed that such records had been turned over to intelligence officers after landing at the air base. The co-pilot and radar specialist were interviewed, but they said that since this mission was only for equipment checkout, neither wire nor film was taken aboard, and no data were recorded. The three crew members agreed that a full account of the experience had been given to Intelligence personnel at the air base from which the plane was operating. The pilot recalled the crew's completing a lengthy standard questionnaire regarding the experience some days after the event. However, the other two crew members recalled only an Intelligence debriefing just after landing and believed it was not more than two days after this event that the entire crew left for temporary duty in England. Thereafter they heard nothing further about the UFO.
Efforts to locate an intelligence report of this event were made at our request by Aerospace Defense Command Headquarters. Neither intelligence files nor operations records contained any such report, according to the information we received. An inquiry directed to Strategic Air Command Headquarters elicited response from the Deputy Commander for Operations of the Air Wing involved. He said a thorough review of the Wing history failed to disclose any reference to an UFO incident on 19 September 1957.
UFO reports filed in Wing Intelligence are destroyed after six months. Since Project Blue Book, which maintains permanent UFO records, had no report of the event, we concluded the there existed No Air Force record that we could study.
The question of reliability of the crew's oral report remains. The individuals involved were trained, experienced observers of aerial events. None had encountered anything else of this nature before or since, and all were deeply impressed by the experience. Inconsistencies in the various accounts of the event itself were minor, and of a nature expected for recollection of an impressive event ten years past. There was serious lack of agreement regarding information recorded during the flight and events subsequent to landing. On the basis of criteria commonly applied, however, these observers would be judged reliable.
If the report is accurate, it describes an unusual, intriguing, and puzzling phenomenon, which, in the absence of additional information, must be listed as unidentified. In view of the date and nature of the mission, it may be assumed that radar "chaff" and a temperature inversion may have been factors in the incident. (See Section VI, Chapter 5). A temperature inversion did exist at 34,000 feet. The fact that the electromagnetic energy received by the monitor was of the same frequency as that emitted by the ground radar units makes one suspect the ground units as the ultimate source of this energy. Whether such factors are pertinent or coincidental to the experience of this B-47 crew remains however, open to debate. For a detailed analysis of this case see Section III, Chapter 5, pp. 203-207.
For the purposes of this discussion the case typifies one of the difficulties inherent in the investigation of older sighting reports:
The first information that the investigator receives leads him to believe that further inquiry may well adduce reliable records of a strange event, for example, recordings of intercommunication within the aircraft and between air and ground; photographs of radarscope targets; graphic data from other instrumentation; written reports
of crew debriefings. Yet the most diligent efforts by project investigators failed to disclose the existence of any record.
Such experiences convinced project investigators that field investigation should concentrate on current UFO reports. A properly equipped investigator might obtain accurate descriptive information about an unidentified object if he arrived on the scene shortly after a sighting, or during a sustained or repetitive sighting. Early in the study a few field trips had already been made to check current sighting reports, but the investigators had not been adequately equipped to gather quantitative data. In some interesting cases, the project had depended upon the reports of members of civilian UFO organizations who investigate UFO reports in their localities. In some instances their findings supplemented information from official Air Force investigation.
While the cooperation of private groups was helpful, objective evaluation of the sighting required obtaining as much first-hand information as possible. This could be done only when sustained or repetitive sighting situations occurred. In the case of isolated sightings, the project sought to send an investigator to the location as soon as possible, since the possibility of gathering meaningful data decreased rapidly with time, particularly when residual physical evidence was reported. For this reason, it was essential that the project receive immediate notification of any significant sighting.
Reports of apparently significant sightings usually reached us days or weeks after the event. Notification through official channels was inadequate because many sightings reported to news media apparently were not reported to the Air Force. Although Air Force Regulation 80-17A (Appendix B ) stipulated that Air Force bases were to submit all UFO reports to the project, few reports
were received from this source during the Spring of 1967. During this time Frank Edwards (1967) claimed that he and NICAP were each receiving some 100 UFO reports per week. Since many of these reports would not have been judged significant by any investigator, the project established an early notification network designed to filter out obviously insignificant reports and to notify us immediately of apparently significant sightings anywhere in the continental United States.
Our organization for providing early notification of UFO sightings utilized official and semi-official agencies, and private groups. Reporters and editors, although operating outside this structure, occasionally supplemented the system by telephoning us about sightings in their areas. The Federal Aviation Agency assisted by providing a mechanism (see Appendix F) whereby air traffic controllers were to report unidentified radar targets to us immediately, and several reports were received from this source. Similar assistance was extended (see Appendices G and H) by the U.S. Weather Bureau and by Region 2 of the U.S. Forest Service. Cooperation also was obtained from the Volunteer Flight Officer Network (VFON), a cooperative organization of more than 30,000 flight personnel of more than 100 airlines in about 50 countries. This organization, under the direction of Mr. H.E. Roth of United Airlines, transmits reports of sightings deemed to be satellite re-entries, whether or not the object observed is immediately identifiable. Arrangements were made with VFON for rapid transmittal to us of all unidentified aerial objects. Although few such reports were received from this network, its coverage of over 2,000,000 unduplicated route miles and its efficient system of communication promised monitoring of a large portion of the earth's atmosphere and quick reporting of observations.
A major component of our system for early notification consisted of a network of civilian observers distributed in carefully selected locations across the United States, and designated as the Early Warning Network (see Appendix I). Selected individuals were asked to serve as early warning coordinators for their areas evaluating UFO sightings in their vicinities, and immediately notifying us of apparently significant sightings. Most of the coordinators were recommended by NICAP or APRO, and the majority were associated with one or both of these organizations. Many of the coordinators were technically trained. All served without compensation, sometimes at considerable personal sacrifice. They were a major source of information received regarding current UFO sightings, and the project is grateful for their generous assistance.
Reports of current UFO sightings were received by telephone and details specified on a standard early warning report form (Appendix J) were immediately recorded. If the report seemed promising, additional checking by telephone was begun immediately. This generally included calling a law enforcement agency, air base, newspaper editor, or others to get independent descriptions of the local situation. When possible, witnesses were also phoned for additional information.
Since the aim was to have field teams at the site as quickly as possible, the decision whether to send a team to investigate had to be made on information available at this point. That information was often disturbingly incomplete. Rather than risk missing opportunities to get first-hand photographic, spectroscopic, magnetic, electromagnetic, or visual data, however, the project elected to err in the direction of dispatching a team even though the case might later prove valueless.
The decision to investigate was made by a standing committee of three or four senior staff members. The decision was based upon
the committee's evaluation of the expectation that significant information could be obtained through field investigation. This expectation was judged on the basis of the apparent reliability of the source and the nature of the reported event. If the event had been observed independently by different groups of people, was reported to differ markedly from known or expected phenomena, and particularly if the sighting was a continuing event or one that had recurred frequently, field investigation was undertaken. Special attention was given to events in which physical evidence, such as alleged landing marks, residues, or measurable alterations in properties of objects in the environment, might be discovered and studied.
By May 1967 teams of project investigators were available at all times for field investigations and were geared to reach a sighting location anywhere in the United States within 24 hours from receipt of the initial report. Equipment carried varied according to expected requirements. A standard field kit enabled the team to take 35mm photographs and 8mm motion pictures, check the spectrum of a light source, measure radioactivity, check magnetic characteristics, collect samples, measure distances and angles, and to tape record interviews and sounds (see inventory list, Appendix K). Special equipment, such as an ultrasonic detector (Case 20) and two-way radio equipment, was utilized in some instances. An all-sky camera was installed and used for one series of field investigations (Case 27). In this case, the investigator established a base of operations at a location from which UFO reports were generated, publicized his presence, and had an aide who received telephone calls and relayed UFO reports immediately to him in his telephone-equipped automobile. He surveyed the area in this manner for several weeks.
In some investigations, a single investigator was deemed sufficient, but most investigating teams consisted of a physical
scientist and a psychologist. Although each had his own area of special interest, they assisted each other in all aspects of the investigation. In a few cases, psychological testing of individuals who reported UFO sightings was done in the field (see, for example cases 33, 38, 42).
The aim of the field investigation was always to obtain useful information about UFO phenomena. We did not consider it our function to prove beyond doubt that a case was fraudulent if it appeared to be so. When an investigation reached the point, as sometimes happened, that the reality of the reported experience became highly doubtful, there was little to be learned from further inquiry. If unlawful or unethical practice were involved, we considered obtaining proof of this outside the realm of our study.
Although field teams entered a wide variety of situations and were often able to establish firm identifications, a common situation was one in which the lack of evidence made the investigation totally inconclusive.
Near Haynesville, La., for example, (Case 10) a family had reported observing a pulsating light which changed from a red-orange glow to a white brilliance which washed out their car headlights and illuminated the woods on both sides of the highway. The driver had to shield his eyes to see the highway. About 0.6 mi. farther down the highway, the driver reportedly stopped the car and, from outside the automobile, watched the light, which had returned to its original glow. The light was still there when he stopped observing and left the area about five minutes later.
Although our investigating team made an aerial survey of the area and watched for reappearance of the phenomenon, and the principal
witness continued to search the area after the team left, no revealing new information was discovered, and the source remains unidentified.
In another case (39) a lone observer reported that his car had been stalled by an UFO he observed passing over the highway in front of his car. While the project generally did not investigate single-observer cases, this one presented us with the opportunity to check the car to see if it had been subjected to a strong magnetic field. Our tests showed it had not. Lacking any other means of obtaining additional information, the investigators left with the open question of what, if anything, the gentleman had actually experienced.
A series of sightings around Cape Ann, Mass. (Case 29) offered testimony of numerous witnesses as evidence of the presence of a strange object, described as a large object with numerous lights which lit and disappeared in sequence. The investigating team was convinced, after interviewing several of the witnesses, that they had indeed seen something in the sky. The team was not able, at the time, to identify what had been seen. The chairman of the NICAP Massachusetts Subcommittee, Mr. Raymond E. Fowler, continued the investigation and subsequently learned that an aircrew from the 99th Bomb Wing, Westover AFB, had dropped 16 white flares while on a practice mission about 30 mi. NE of Cape Ann. The flare drop coincided in time and direction with the observed "UFO." As Mr. Fowler suggested, the "object" enclosing the string of lights must have been constructed by imagination.
In this case as in others, the key to the solution to the puzzle of a previously unexplained sighting was discovered. Additional cases probably were not identified as ordinary phenomena merely because of lack of information. Hence the label "unidentified" does not necessarily imply that an unusual or strange object was present. On the other hand, some cases involve testimony which, if
taken at face value, describes experiences which can be explained only in terms of the presence of strange vehicles (see, for example, Case 6). These cases are puzzling, and conclusions regarding them depend entirely upon the weight one gives to the personal testimony as presented.
For varying reasons, UFO-related pranks are commonly perpetrated by the young, the young at heart, and the lonely and bored. Our field teams were brought to the scene more frequently by victims of pranksters than by the pranksters themselves.
In one instance, (Case 7) the individual chiefly involved expressed serious concern that this project might conclude that flying saucers do not exist. Whether or not this concern was a factor in production of his photographs, this gentleman, would, by normal standards, be given the highest possible credibility rating. A recently retired military officer, he now holds a responsible civilian job. He is a man in his mid-forties who is held in high regard in the community. According to Air Force records, he served as an officer for 16 yr. and was rated a Command Pilot. He logged over 150 hr. flying time in C-47's in 1965. He presented two 35mm color slides of a flying saucer asserting that he took the photographs from an Air Force C-47 aircraft he was piloting. The object photographed was clearly a solid object of saucer shape. He claimed the pictures were taken in 1966, while he was off flight status and piloting the plane "unofficially" when he was aboard as a passenger. It was because of this circumstance, he claimed, that he did not report the UFO incident to the Air Force.
While the latter argument seemed reasonable, it was puzzling that no one else on the plane apparently reported the UFO. According to the officer, the co-pilot who remained in the cockpit was unaware that he had taken the UFO pictures. The reason the officer had not been taken off flight status was never revealed, but the Air Force Office
of Special Investigations informed us that there was "nothing on file in his medical records to cast doubt on his veracity."
In spite of the Officer's apparent reliability, investigation disclosed that the photographs were probably not taken at the time or place claimed. While he asserted that he barely had time to snap the two photographs through the window of the C-47, the numbers on the sides of the slide frames showed that the two slides had not been taken in immediate sequence. Comparison of these numbers with the numbers on other slides from the same roll of film also showed the UFO photographs to have been made after the officer retired from the Air Force and had moved to a new community. While the frame numbers stamped on mountings of the slides might conceivably have been erroneously stamped, as the officer claimed, such an error would not account for discrepancies in the frame numbers on the film itself, which are present when the film leaves the factory. The officer did not know that the film itself was prenumbered.
Case 23 is an example of a simple prank by the young at heart. A pilot, about to take off from an Air Force base in an airplane equipped with a powerful, movable searchlight, suggested to his co-pilot, "Let's see if we cant spook some UFO reports." By judicious use of the searchlight from the air, particularly when flashes of light from the ground were noticed, the pilots succeeded remarkably well. Members of the ground party, hunting raccoons at the time, did report an impressive UFO sighting. Our field team found, in this case, an interesting opportunity to study the reliability of testimony.
A common prank is the launching of hot-air balloons, with small candles burning to keep the air heated. Instructions for making such balloon using plastic dry-cleaners' bags and birthday candles have appeared in newspapers and magazines across the nation.
UFO reports frequently result from such balloon launchings. The lights are reported to go out one by one, and sometimes the UFO "drops brilliant streams of light" as burning candles fall from their balsa-wood or drinking-straw mountings. Cases 18 and 45 are examples of this type prank.
The instance described in case 18 was a flight of three plastic bags over Boulder, Colo., on 1 April 1967. The date is probably significant. They were observed and reported as UFOs by students, housewives, teachers, university professors, and a nationally prominent scientist. A newspaper reported one student's claim that the telephone he was using went dead when the UFO passed over the outdoor booth which housed it. Although plastic bags were suspected as the explanation, we were not certain of this until several days after the event. Because of unexpected publicity given the UFO sightings, the students who launched the balloons decided to inform the project of their role in the event.
Case 45 is noteworthy as an example of extreme misperception of such a balloon. One adult observer described this 2 ft. x 3 ft. plastic bag floating over a building in Castle Rock, Colo., as a transparent object 75 ft. long, 20 ft. wide, and 20 ft. high, with about 12 lights in a circle underneath. He thought the object was about 75 ft. away. According to his description, the lights were much brighter than his car headlights; although the lights did not blind him, they lit up the ground near by.
While this observer may still believe he saw something other than the plastic balloon bag, such a balloon was launched at the time of his observation and was observed by others to rise over the same building.
The last three examples mentioned are ones in which the UFO observer was the victim of pranksters. We conclude that in similar cases the prank is never discovered, and the UFO report remains in the "unknown" or "unresolved" category. Undiscovered pranks, deliberate hoaxes, and hallucinations, were suspected in some other field investigations.
What starts out as a prank occasionally develops a notoriety so widespread that the prankster becomes enmeshed in a monstrous web of publicity from which he can no longer extricate himself. One elderly security guard (Case 26) on lonely, boring, pre-dawn duty in a waterfront area, fired his pistol at an oil drum used as a waste container. He was within the city limits of Los Angeles, but the site was isolated. Invention of an UFO, either to "explain" his illegal firing of a weapon within the city limits or to generate a bit of excitement, would be understandable under such circumstances. His tale of a 90 ft., cigar-shaped UFO, against which his bullets flattened and fell back to earth, where he picked up four of them, was a sensation. This gentleman was bewildered by the reaction to his nationally broadcast story. He and his wife were harassed by phone calls from coast to coast. The police, civilians, and Colorado project investigated. Even after admitting to police that his shots had been fired at the steel drum which bore bullet-size holes and dents, he could not disconnect himself from the widely publicized UFO version of his story.
In any instance in which commitment to an apparently faked story seemed so strong that hoax or ignorance could no longer be admitted without serious psychological sequence, project members considered it neither desirable from the individual's standpoint nor useful from the projects standpoint to pursue the case further.
Unfettered imaginations, triggered into action by the view of an ordinary object under conditions which made it appear to be
extraordinary, caused reports of UFOs having such impressive features that our field teams investigated. Such a case was 15, in which the observer reported evening observations of a green light as large as a two-story building, sometimes round and sometimes oblong, which landed several times per week 5-20 mi. to the west of his house. He reported having seen through binoculars two rows of windows on a dome-shaped object that seemed to have jets firing from the bottom and that lit up a very large surrounding area. The motion was always a very gradual descent to the western horizon, where the object would "land" and shortly thereafter "cut off its lights." Our investigators found this gentleman watching the planet Venus, then about 15&Deg; above the western horizon. He agreed that the light now looked like a planet, and, had he not seen the object on other occasions when it looked closer and larger, he would not have known it was really an UFO.
Light diffusion and scintillation effects (see Section VI, Chapter 4) were also responsible for early morning UFO observations, and Venus was again most frequently the unknowing culprit. Case 37, as initially reported to us, was a particularly exciting event, for not only had numerous law enforcement officers in neighboring communities observed, chased, and been chased by an IJFO of impressive description, but, according to the report, the pilot of a small aircraft sent aloft to chase the UFO had watched it rise from the swamp and fly directly away from him at such speed that he was unable to gain on it in the chase. Both the light plane and the unidentified object, according to the initial report, were observed on the local Air Traffic Control radar screen. According to the descriptions, the object displayed various and changing colors and shapes. Appearing as big as the moon in the sky, it once stopped about 500 ft. above a police car, lighting up the surroundings so brightly that the officers inside the car could read their wrist watches. As indicated in
the detailed report of this case, supporting aspects of the main sighting report fell apart one by one as they were investigated, leaving us again pointing to Venus and finding the law enforcement officers surprised that she could be seen at mid-day near the position in the sky their UFO had taken after the early morning chase.
One case impressed us not so much because of the description of the UFO as because of official information given to the observers by Air Force representatives. The Air Force not only failed to correct the observers' misinterpretation but by giving erroneous information, caused the proper interpretation to be withdrawn from consideration. Details of the case are reported by project investigator James E. Wadsworth in Section IV, Case 28 The discussion presented here is designed to serve as a basis for comment regarding the failure to recognize and reveal misinterpretations of known phenomena.
A series of recurring sightings by multiple witnesses was reported from near Coarsegold, Calif. Coarsegold is in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of Fresno. The sightings were of special interest because they had been recurring for several months and remained unidentified after preliminary investigation by NICAP members in the area. These sightings offered the project the unusual opportunity of observing, photographing, and studying an object or objects which were being reported as UFOs.
Dr. Franklin E. Roach and Mr. Wadsworth were sent by the project to conduct the investigation, NICAP members on the scene furnished results of their preliminary investigation and names and addresses of principal witnesses. The witnesses had organized a loose network for UFO surveillance using Citizens Band radio for communication covering an area of about 80 mi. radius. They not only had observed strange lights in the sky over several months, but also had photographed them and recorded the dates and times of their appearance and descriptions of their motions.
One to six UFOs had been sighted per week, sometimes several during the same night. About 85% of the sightings followed a recognizable pattern: Orange-white lights above the valley at night moved, hovered, disappeared and reappeared, and occasionally merged with one another. Other sightings were of varying nature, and some seemed to warrant separate investigation. Most of the observations had been made from a ranch 1,800 ft. above the valley floor. Several others often in radio communication with the ranch owner, had witnessed the same events, and the witnesses were of apparently high reliability. The ranch owner, for example, had a background of police and military investigative experience.
After interviewing primary witnesses, looking at photographs, and listening to tape recordings of descriptions of previous sightings, the project field team joined the ranch owner and his wife in night watches. At 10:30 p.m. on the second night of observation, a light appeared low in the southern sky traveling W to E at approximately 1° of arc per second. After about 10 sec. more detail became visible. The source of this light was identified as a probable aircraft with conventional running lights and anti collision beacon.
At the same time, another light had appeared to the east of the presumed aircraft, moving W to E at about the same rate. It appeared as a dull orange light, showing some variation in intensity as it moved. No accurate estimates of distance could be made. Although this light was not manifestly on an aircraft, the possibility that it was could not be ruled out. The rancher, however, said that this was exactly the sort of thing they had been observing frequently as UFOs. He was disappointed that this one had not appeared as close and bright as on other occasions.
After about 15 sec., the UFO seemed to flicker and then vanish.
The original object continued eastward, disappearing into the distance in the manner of an ordinary aircraft. Duration of observation less than a minute. Photographs of the unidentified light were taken by the project team on a high-speed Ektachrome film.
Dr. Roach withdrew from the investigation taking the camera containing the exposed film to the Eastman Laboratories at Rochester, N.Y., for special processing, film calibration, and color analysis of film images. Mr. Wadsworth continued the investigation. The next night, he and the rancher observed UFOs at midnight and again at 12:42 a.m.
They appeared as bright orange lights, showing no extended size but varying in intensity. They hovered, moved horizontally, and vanished. The rancher said that these were good, solid sightings of UFOs. Mr. Wadsworth thought they might be the lights of low-flying aircraft whose flight path produced the illusion of hovering when the plane was flying along the observer's line of sight. The presence of planes in the vicinity at the time, however, was not established.
The next morning it was learned that at least two other persons observed the UFOs at midnight and 12:42 a.m. The rancher telephoned the UFO officer at Castle Air Force Base about 30 mi. west of Coarsegold. The officer declared that no aircraft from the base were aloft at the time of the sighting and promised that the sighting would be investigated and appropriate action taken.
Since the presence of aircraft as a possible explanation of UFOs had been denied by the local air base, Mr. Wadsworth arranged to observe the UFO activity from the vantage point of the highest fire lookout tower in the area. The tower afforded an excellent view of the valley area below. The observers were equipped with cameras, binoculars, compass, and other field-kit items, and maintained two-way radio contact with the rancher for coordination of observations.
At midnight one orange light after another appeared over the valley. The lights, observed simultaneously by the project investigator
and a NICAP member at the tower and by the rancher at his house, appeared to brighten, dim, go out completely, reappear, hover, and move back and forth. Sometimes two lights would move together for a few moments and then separate. Only point source lights were observed, and there was no sound. The visible paths of the lights were not continuous. The lights would repeatedly go out, to reappear elsewhere or not at all. At times they became so dim as to be almost impossible to follow with binoculars. At other times they appeared to hover, flare up, then go out completely. The rancher believed the lights flared up in response to signals flashed at them with a spotlight, and it was true that many times when he flashed there followed a flare up of the UFOs. Mr.Wadsworth felt, however, that this was a coincidence, since the lights exhibited frequent flare-ups independently of signals. This behavior continued for about 1.5 hr.
From the higher vantage point of the tower it was possible to determine a general pattern of movement that was not apparent from below, since the pattern's northern most end was not within the ranchers field of view.
Mr. Wadsworth concluded that these lights, and the similar ones of the previous night, not withstanding assertions to the contrary from the base UFO officer, must be aircraft operating out of Castle Air Force Base. Careful observations through binoculars of the extreme northern end of the pattern had revealed lights moving along what must have been a runway lifting off, circling southwards, and following the behavior pattern previously observed before returning to land at a northern location coinciding with that of Castle AFB.
The rancher was skeptical of this identification. The following night he drove with Mr. Wadsworth toward the air base. En route, more orange lights appeared as before, but through binoculars these could now be identified as aircraft. As they approached the base, they could plainly see landings and take-offs in progress.
Subsequently it was learned that most of the night-flying at Castle AFB involved tankers and B-52s in practice aerial refueling operations. Castle AFB is a training center for mid-air refueling with 400 to 500 sorties launched from the base each month, both day and night. Flight schedules from the base, obtained later, showed planes scheduled to be in the air at the times the UFOs were observed. The planes carried large spotlights which were switched on and off repeatedly. This accounted for the observed flare-ups and disappear-reappear phenomena. The apparent hovering was due to the fact that part of the flight pattern was on a heading toward Coarsegold. Closings followed by separations were the actual refueling procedures. The absence of sound was accounted for by distance, and the color variation, orange to white, by variable haze scattering of the light.
Maps obtained from Castle AFB show flight patterns for these operations wholly consistent with the sightings. Descriptions of lighting configurations of the tankers and bombers also were consistent with this identification.
While these sightings were not particularly impressive individually, being essentially lights in the night sky, the frequency of reports was sustained at a high level for nearly a year, and the observers had noted the UFOs occasionally since the fall of 1960. Observations were widespread and attracted much attention. The phenomenon seemed strange to the observers, defying simple explanation. Although the stimulus was conventional aircraft, the aircraft behavior, lighting, and flight paths presented an unconventional appearance to witnesses who were not familiar with inflight refueling practice.
Prior to the Colorado project investigation none of the observers had driven to the airbase while sightings were occurring to check the aircraft hypothesis. This was true in part because
the rancher had called the air base on several occasions to report sightings, and had received misleading information several times to the effect that the sightings could not be accounted for by planes from that base. On one occasion, Mr. Wadsworth took the telephone to hear this information conveyed to the rancher.
It should have been simple enough for representatives from Castle AFB to explain to inquiring citizens that the sightings were of practice refueling operations, and to identify the UFOs as aircraft from their base. Why was this not done? Was the Public Information Office at Castle AFB actually not aware of the activities of its own base? Was misinformation released deliberately? If base representatives investigated the reports of UFOs and were not able to explain the sightings, the UFO report should have been sent to Project Blue Book at Wright-Patterson AFB and to the University of Colorado. The project had received no such report. Had Project Blue Book? If not, why not?
It is Air Force practice not to investigate reports of UFOs which are described merely as lights in the sky, particularly lights near an air base, and such reports need not be forwarded to Blue Book. In the Coarsegold sightings, however, according to the rancher and his wife, their reports had been investigated by officers from Castle AFB and the UFOs had remained unidentified. Thus, the reports should have been forwarded to Blue Book.
Blue Book files yielded a single report on this series of sightings, describing the Castle AFB officers' interview with the ranchers wife after the rancher had reported numerous sightings by himself and neighbors during the two week period starting 9 October, 1966. (The rancher was absent when Castle AFB officers investigated his report.) The report to Blue Book stated, "Officers who interviewed Mrs. _____ can offer no explanations as to what those individuals have been sighting. Descriptions do not compare with any known aircraft activity or capability."
The file also carried a notation that Castle AEB was to forward to Blue Book information required in AFR 80-17, but this information had not been received; therefore, the case was being carried as "insufficient data." There was no evidence of any follow-up or further effort to get the information.
What were the UFO descriptions which did not, in the view of investigating officers, compare with any known aircraft activity or capability? The housewife's description of what she and others had seen, as recorded by the interviewing officers, referred to pulsating and glowing lights varying between shades of white, red and green occasionally remaining stationary on a nearby ridge and capable of moving in any direction at greatly variable speeds, generally exceeding that of jets observed in the area. In particular, she once noted a vertical ascent at a very rapid speed. On one occasion, her husband was able to distinguish a rectangular-shaped object with very bright lights at the corners.
The description contained other references to appearance and motion. However, it is obvious that, when taken literally and without allowance for common errors in perception and cognition and without allowance for subjective interpretations, the descriptions, as the officers stated, did not conform with aircraft capability. Failure to make such allowance left the sightings unidentified.
Two types of non-events received brief attention of our field teams. One involved predicted events revealed to us by persons claiming special psychic and communication powers. The other involved claimed UFO events at Air Force bases.
Predictions of UFO landings and close appearances were received from several sources (e.g. Case 19). One or two such psychic predictions were checked. The predicted flying saucer failed to materialize.
One non-event of the second type is presented as Case 30. Others were recorded only as internal project memoranda, and are not
presented as case reports. In each instance, conflicting information was received, by this project. The initial information that an UFO event had occurred sometimes reached us as a rumor. A phone call to the Air Base UFO Officer or to the reported internal source of the information yielded confirmation that an event that should be of interest to a UFO study had occurred, but further information would have to be obtained through official channels. Unless such confirmation was obtained, the information, although received from a source which was usually reliable, was rejected as rumor.
In Case 30 , a civilian employee at an air base in California, contacted by telephone regarding a rumored sighting, confirmed that an UFO event had occurred at that base, and that a report of the event had passed across his desk and had been sent on to proper authorities. Those authorities, contacted with difficulty by telephone, insisted that no UFO event occurred at that base on or near that date. The employee, when contacted again later for additional information, replied only that he had been told to "stay out of that."
Conflicting information regarding a fast-moving radar track which was claimed to be unidentified and later "classified" similarly leaves nothing for study when official notification is received that there was no such event at the given time and place.
In one instance, the base UFO officer had no knowledge of a supposed UFO alert at his base on a given date and time. According to our information, jet interceptors alerted to scramble after a UFO were rolled out armed with rockets, taxied to the runway, but did not take off. The UFO officer, however, realized that such an event would have involved fighter craft at his base which are under a different command than the SAC command which he represented. Air Defense Command personnel could have an UFO report, the officer indicated, without telling SAC personnel about it. He then checked with the fighter defense squadron stationed at this SAC base, talking with people who were on duty at the time of the rumored event. He reported to us that there was an alert at the indicated date and time
and that fighters were deployed to the runway ready to scramble. This action was taken on orders from the squadron's headquarters at another base. The alert to scramble was said to be definitely not UFO-related but any other information regarding the cause of the alert would have to come from that headquarters. Further inquiry, through Pentagon channels, elicited only a denial that there had been an alert to that particular fighter squadron on the given date. In the absence of some independent source of information, we had no means of determining whether or not there was an alert and, if so, whether or not it was in fact triggered by the report of an unidentified flying object.
Instances in which there was less than full cooperation with our study by elements of the military services were extremely rare. Our field teams invariably were cordially received and given full cooperation by members of the services. When air bases were visited, the base commander himself often took personal interest in the investigation, and made certain that all needed access and facilities were placed at our disposal.
Field teams observed marked difference in the handling of UFO reports at individual air bases. At some bases, the UFO officer diligently checked each report received. On the other hand, at one base, which we visited to learn what a local Air Force investigation had revealed regarding a series of UFO sightings in the area, we found that none had been conducted, nor was one likely to be. Sighting reports received at the base by telephone, including one we knew to have been reported by the wife of a retired Naval officer, resulted in partial completion of a standard sighting form by the airman who received the call. This fragmentary information was then filed. The UFO officer argued that such reports contained too little information for identification of what was seen. He insisted that the information was insufficient to warrant his sending them to Project Blue Book. There was no apparent attempt to get more
information. In this instance, what the woman had seen was later identified by interested civilians as a flare drop from an Air Force plane.
While Air Force cooperation with our field teams was excellent and commendable, the teams frequently encountered situations in which air base public relations at the local level left much to be desired.
Official secrecy and classification of information were seldom encountered by project investigators. In the few instances when secrecy was known to be involved, the classified reports were reviewed and found to contain no significant information regarding UFOs.
Reviewing the results of our field investigations, one must note the consistent erosion of information contained in the initial report. Instead of an accumulation of evidence to support a claim of the sighting of an unusual flying vehicle, erosion of claimed supporting evidence to the vanishing point was a common investigative experience. As shown by examples in the above discussion, this was true of both current and older cases. As an investigation progressed, the extraordinary aspects of the sighting became less and less dominant, and what was left tended to be an observation of a quite ordinary phenomenon.
Current sightings which we investigated and left unresolved were often of the same general character as those resolved. The inconclusiveness of these investigations is felt to be a result of lack of information with which to work, rather than of a strangeness which survived careful scrutiny of adequate information. In each current report in which the evidence and narrative that were presented were adequate to define what was observed, and in which the defined phenomenon was not ordinary - that is, each observation that could be explained only in terms of the presence of a flying vehicle apparently representing an alien culture - there were invariably discrepancies, flaws, or contradictions in the narrative and evidence which cast strong doubt upon the physical reality of the event reported.
Of the current cases involving radar observations, one remained particularly puzzling after analysis of the information, since anomalous propagation and other common explanations apparently could not account for the observation (see Section III, Chapter 5 and Case 21).
While the current cases investigated did not yield impressive residual evidence, even in the narrative content, to support an hypothesis that an alien vehicle was physically present, narratives of past events, such as the 1966 incident at Beverly, Mass., (Case 6), would fit no other explanation if the testimony of witnesses is taken at full face value. The weight one should place on such anecdotal information might be determined through psychological testing of witnesses; however, advice given us by psychologists at the University of Colorado Medical Center indicated that such testing would be of questionable significance if done as long as a year or two after the event. Since we had no such impressive cases among more recent sightings, the opportunity for significant psychological testing of witnesses in such cases was not presented. Depending upon the weight given to old anecdotal information it permits one to support any conclusion regarding the nature of UFOs that the individual wishes to draw.
If UFO sighting reports are to be checked and studied, this should be done as soon as possible after the event, before witnesses' stories become crystallized by retelling and discussion. Such field investigation, undertaken on any scale for any purpose, should be done by trained investigators. The Coarsegold incident described above exemplifies the futility of an investigation which does not take into account subjective and perceptual considerations, as well as knowledge of events occurring in and above the atmosphere. The experience of seeing the planet Venus as a UFO that trips a magnetic UFO-detector, chases police cars at 70 mph, flies away from aircraft, changes size and shape drastically, lands about ten mi. from a farmhouse, and descends to 500 ft. above a car and lights up the inside of the
vehicle; of seeing a plastic dry cleaners' bag, of sufficient size to cover a single garment, as a UFO 75 ft. long and 20 ft. wide when only 30 ft. away; of seeing rows of windows in planets and in burning pieces of satellite debris which have re-entered the atmosphere, of seeing the star Sirius as an UFO which spews out glowing streams of red and green matter; seeing aircraft lights as flying saucers because the observer could not believe there are that many airplanes flying around her town; or other experiences of this general type are ones with which an effective investigator must be familiar.
It is obvious that not all UFO reports are worthy of investigation. What kinds of reports should be investigated? Persons who have lengthy experience working with UFO reports give varying answers to this question. NICAP discards unsubstantiated tales of rides in flying saucers, on the basis that their investigators have found no evidence to support these claims but have found considerable evidence of fraud (NICAP 19). Air Force practice is to neglect reports of mere lights in the sky, particularly around air bases or civil landing fields, for experience has shown the UFOs in such reports to be lights of aircraft or other common lighted or reflecting objects. Both Dr. J. Allen Hynek, scientific consultant to the Air Force on UFOs, and Dr. Peter M. Millman (1968), who is presently in charge of the handling of UFO reports in Canada and has had an active interest in UFO reports for nearly 20 years, have said they do not favor any field investigation of single-observer sightings because of the difficulty in deriving useful scientific information from such reports.
Such policies and recommendations have grown out of much experience and practical considerations. Their authors are very much aware of the fact that a rare event certainly might be witnessed by a single observer. It also is obvious that if an extraterrestrial intelligence were assumed to be present, there is no logical reason to assume that it would not or did not make contact with a human being. Yet those who have worked with UFO reports for decades with
a conscious attempt to be objective have encountered so many nonproductive reports Of certain types that they have concluded that those classes of reports are not worth the effort of field investigation.
Our own field experience leads this writer to question the value of field investigations of any UFO reports other than those which
If there were an observation of a vehicle which was actually from an alien culture, the report of this observation certainly would deserve the fullest investigation. Our experience indicates that, unless the sighting were of a truly spectacular and verifiable nature, such a report would be buried in hundreds or thousands of similar reports triggered by ordinary earthly phenomena. While a large fraction of these reports could be discarded after establishment of the earthly cause, the report of interest would remain buried in others which contained too little evidence for identification, and the report itself probably would not be distinguishable from them. For this reason, this writer would not recommend field investigations of routine UFO reports if the intent of that investigation is to determine whether or not an alien vehicle was physically present. A verifiable report of a spectacular event, such as an actual landing of an alien vehicle, conceivably could thus be missed by neglect; however, this is unlikely, since such a report would probably be so unusual in character as to attract immediate attention.
Edwards, F. Flying Saucers Here and Now, Lyle Stuart: N.Y., 1967.
Hall, R.H. The UFO Evidence, NICAP, publication: Washington D.C., 1964.
Kohl, Mrs. L. Reference Librarian, Great Falls Public Library, private communication.
Millman, P.M. Personal communication dated 8 July 1968.