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The Ufology Handbook:
UFOs - the quest for proof.
Throughout its existence, the UFO study movement has been engaged in an earnest quest for incontrovertible evidence of UFO reality. Unfortunately, the UFO's transient nature excludes them from detailed analysis under laboratory conditions. Therefore, ufologists are mainly restricted to less direct forms of physical evidence; photographic images and RADAR detections of "UFOs".
UFO Photographs And Films:
Photographic images of "UFOs" are a valuable form of evidence, even through (in isolation) they cannot conclusively "prove" their reality. In cases where photographic evidence exists, researchers are freed from a total reliance on eyewitnesses testimony. Providing the UFO-image is not taken against a featureless sky-scape, a picture can aid the reasoned assessment of a sighting in a variety of ways. For example, the alleged time of a sighting can be verified (or refuted) through objective analysis, by examining the shadows and lighting present within a photograph. In the case of a series of pictures, prevalent lighting can also be used to determine how far apart in time they were actually taken. At the very least - once photographic defects and hoaxes are eliminated - a UFO picture indicates that something was physically present during a particular incident.
In regards to evidential value, a proven sequential series of still photographs are more useful to UFO research than a single image, with changes in a "UFO's" motion and viewing angle being apparent. Motion-picture evidence is even more cherished, with its ability to permanently and objectively represent a phenomenon's trajectory (potentially the most anomalous aspect of a UFO's behaviour). The introduction of camcorders in the mid-1980's resulted in many motion images of supposed "UFO's" being submitted to investigators. However, video tape lacks the fine resolution of even average-quality "still" film (the end result often lacking in definition). This is further compounded by the fact that most camcorders are not designed to record images of distant light-sources at night, as is often the case with UFO incidents. Other drawbacks are less obvious. For example, camcorder "auto-focus" settings often have difficulty in precisely resolving distant points of light; the image (as a result of incidental defocusing) assuming a spurious diffused circular or diamond shape.
The circumstances underlying many photographic incidents often conspire to markedly reduce their evidential value. Often, the "UFO" appears as a mere dot of light against a featureless sky. The virtual lack of spatial references in such a picture make reasoned assessment of it almost impossible. Furthermore, many nocturnal UFO photographs are often severely distorted by camera shake (involuntary hand tremor), causing the "UFO's" image to resemble an erratic, convoluted luminous swirl. Finally, it is commonplace for UFO pictures to be poor in photographic quality, the features within a picture being indistinctly defined. However, this is not automatically a point against its authenticity. It should be remembered that the majority of UFO pictures are taken by non-professional photographers at night, using quite basic equipment under stressful circumstances.
Contrary to popular opinion, most claimed UFO photographs are not hoaxes, but actuality depict IFO phenomena such as birds, meteors, missile tests, vapour-trails or weather balloons. Additionally, a host of equipment defects and effects can generate spurious UFO-like images. For example, an irregular white or dark "blob" may appear on a print during its development (either the result of minor chemical staining or dust contamination). Reflections of a bright light-source (i.e. a lamp or the camera's own flashlight) onto a window and lens flare (an off-angle reflection of the sun upon a camera lens) have both instigated a considerable number of spurious "UFO" photographic cases. This is also the case with accidental double exposure, where images from two different "shots" are superimposed onto one negative. This results from a photographer (or camera) not winding on the film after taking a picture. A good indicator that a photographic defect is potentially responsible is that nothing untoward was observed when the picture was taken (the anomalous image only discovered on the film being developed).
Hoaxing is also a notable source of false "UFO" photographs. Although less numerous than images of IFOs or photographic defects, they are featured more often within the UFO literature due to their more sensational appearance. Hoaxes may be perpetuated for financial reasons, but are more often simply attempts to "fool the experts" or gain publicity. It is relevant to note that many UFO photographic hoaxes have been perpetuated by children. A diversity of fabrication techniques are available to the would-be UFO faker. A crude - but often surprisingly effective - method involves photographing a background scene through a window (or other transparent medium), upon which a cut-out paper (or painted-on) "UFO" is placed. This produces a fairly convincing (if somewhat dark) UFO-like image. Small model UFOs are also employed in pictorial hoaxing attempts. A Frisbee, hat or hubcap thrown into the air, or attached to a (out-of-picture) support by thin wire can both produce fairly convincing still photographic images. These effects look convincing because a small model placed close to a camera has the same apparent angular size as that of a much larger (and more distant) object.
The photographic darkroom also provides a hoaxer with further methods of fabricating "UFO" pictures. Deliberate double exposures (superimposing the image of one film negative onto another) produces some of the most realistic-looking fake UFO images attainable. This process has become much simplified with the introduction of powerful, inexpensive personal computers. Certain graphic-imaging programs allow a realistic digitally-generated "UFO" to be superimposed onto an actual "background" shot. They are also capable of producing a totally synthetic picture; such as a "UFO" and landscape with shadow-features specifically composed to substantiate a hoaxed sighting account.
Fortunately, there are many ways of detecting all these hoaxing techniques. A "close-up" model will appear to be quite sharply defined, but the background will be somewhat out of focus. An unnaturally dark image also indicates the same situation (as less light falls upon it in comparison with an object a greater distance away). A cut-out UFO stuck onto a glass plate is nearly always surrounded by a noticeable whitish "halo" running round its edge. In regards to a double exposure originated "UFO" image, its "contrast" nearly always markedly differs with that of other features on the photograph (the UFO and the backdrop being shot under different lighting conditions). A good way to check for all kinds of hoaxes (in particularly superimpositions) is to examine the negative, to determine whether it shows any sign of tampering. If possible, the whole reel of film that contains the "UFO" image(s) is examined, both to determine if they appear in the order claimed by the witnesses and for comparison with the other (non UFO-related) exposures.
Without doubt, Computer imaging is the most powerful photographic analysis technique available to Ufologists. This a battery of separate assessment processes similar to those used by NASA to enhance pictures taken during their remote planetary survey missions. This technology, once very expensive and accessible to only a few, is now (with the advent of powerful home computers) becoming much more widely available. Initially, a UFO photograph is scanned and reproduced digitally, each pictorial element represented by a tiny graphic data "bit" called a pixel (a word derived from Picture [x] Cell). The resulting encoded image can then be easily enlarged, its ambient contrast altered or specific picture elements colour-coded (in order to better define features such as shading on a "UFO"). Edge profiles of images within a photograph can also be enhanced, a method useful in detecting the presence of wires associated with a fake "UFO". Furthermore, precise scalar (and other) measurements of pictorial features are made possible; it thus being able to determine whether a UFO appears to be "dulled" by atmospheric haze (which, if so, indicates it was a substantially-sized and fairly distant object).
In the late 1970's Ground Saucer Watch (GSW), an American UFO study group who pioneered the computer analysis of UFO photographs, examined 1100 alleged "UFO" pictures with these techniques over a period of six years. On the conclusion of this survey only 45 pictures from that sample were deemed to be authentic.
Early Photographs Of Aerial Anomalies:
Purported photographic images exist of all the notable pre-UFO era aerial anomalies. An alleged picture of the American "mystery airship", taken at Chicago on the 10th April 1897 was later admitted to be a hoax (involving a wire-suspended model), shortly after it was publicized by the newsmedia of the day. There are several alleged photographs of Foo Fighters on record, unfortunately none of which have been authenticated. The only known photograph of a supposed "ghost rocket" was taken in Sweden at about mid-afternoon on the 9th July, 1946. However, this incident (which was observed over a considerable area of that country), was probably instigated by a bright bolide meteor.
One of the first photographs of the modern "flying saucer" era was reportedly taken at Phoenix, Arizona USA at around 4.00pm on the 7th July 1947. The circumstances surrounding this image of a heel-shaped "UFO" (similar in form to that observed by Kenneth Arnold) are somewhat vague; the picture being neither validated or explained as a result.
Classic UFO Photographic Cases:
At McMinnville, Oregon, USA at around 7.45pm on the 11th May, 1950 a farmer and his wife claimed to have observed a silent, slow-moving shiny disc, with what resembled an off centre "pole" protruding from its top. Two pictures of this "UFO" were allegedly taken during the course of this sighting. The "UFO" shown in these photographs is similar to another "UFO" depicted in a picture taken at Rouen, France in March 1954. The McMinnville pictures were evaluated as authentic by Ground Saucer Watch during the 1970's. Their findings suggest that the UFO was around 20-30 metres in size and about a kilometre (or more) from the witnesses. Sceptics have questioned this conclusion, pointing out possible inconstancies in ambient shadow-features, suggesting the pictures were taken in the morning (rather than in the evening, as claimed by the witnesses). They feel the "UFO" is actually a small model suspended from a wire, who's diameter falls just below the resolution of the computer enhancement methods used to assess the photographs.
At about 12.15pm, on the 16th January, 1958 a Saturn-shaped UFO moving at high speed was reportedly observed - and photographed - from the deck of the Almirante Saldanha, a Brazilian Navy ship located in the South Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Trindade Island. The four photographs showing the "passage" of this "UFO" still remain unresolved (and highly controversial) to this day. These pictures were also deemed authentic by Ground Saucer Watch, but many still remain sceptical of their validity. The cameraman is known to have - quite openly - previously faked pictures for an article debunking some "UFO" photographs taken at Barra de Tijuca, Brazil in May 1952. This suggests that he was sufficiently skilled to have fabricated the Trindade island photographs via superimposition techniques. Furthermore, it is unclear whether this object was as widely observed by the Almirante Sladanha's crew as some reports infer.
Classic Cinematic UFO Incidents:
In regards to cine films of "UFOs", two originating from the early 1950's and one taken in 1978 still remain noteworthy to this day.
On either the 5th or 15th August, 1950 at Great Falls, Montana, USA at around 11.25am a motion-camera film was taken of two silvery reflective oval objects moving swiftly in a South Westerly direction. It is known that, at around the time of this incident, two aircraft were airborne on the 15th August in the sighting's vicinity. It has therefore been suggested that the film shows these aircraft, their appearance distorted by reflected sunlight. Although the main witness was uncertain of the precise date of this incident, he did claim to have seen aircraft in conjunction with the "UFO's". The situation is made more complex as it is known that no aircraft were airborne near that area on the 5th August (which subsequent research favours as the actual date of this event!). Despite this confusion, three separate examinations of the Great Falls movie all suggested it was authentic, that the objects were some distance from the observers and that their circular shape was actual, not the result of solar reflection effects.
The second classic "UFO-movie" was taken near Tremonton, Utah, USA, at approximately 11.10am on the 2nd July, 1952. It depicts around 10-12 white ovoids of fluctuating brightness "milling around" against a featureless sky (reportedly) over the eastern horizon. These "UFOs" (widely spaced apart in fairly close "groups "of two) were eventually lost to sight as they moved to the west. It is quite possible these "UFOs" were actually gulls reflecting sunlight, although (questionable) estimations of their speed range from 760 to 12,167 kph, depending on their assumed distance from the observers.
At Wellington, New Zealand, on the 30th December, 1978, a Australian journalist and his film-team joined the crew of an Argosy cargo 'plane, to make a short documentary on a "UFO" event experienced by those aboard it some nine days previously. Just after midnight on the 31st December 1978, whilst the aircraft was bound for Christchurch, strange, intermittently visible lights were initially spotted (and filmed), and continued to be seen for a further 50 minutes thereafter. The presence of seemingly unknown objects in the 'planes' vicinity were also tracked on RADAR at the same time. Following a refuelling stop in Christchurch, the aircraft took off again, bound for Blenheim. Several minutes into this flight (at around 2.15am) further unusual lights were again observed from the aircraft. At about 2.24am, a large luminous object described as resembling a "flying saucer" was sighted (and spasmodically filmed) for around eight minutes. Other unusual lights were seen almost until the aircraft touched down at Blenhelm at about 3.10am. Again, various RADAR systems (located on the ground and in the aircraft) had seemingly detected the presence of numerous unknown airborne "targets" throughout this "leg" of the flight.
The images taken that night by the film crew were subject to an extensive examination by (among other technical experts) atmospheric physicist Bruce Macacabee, who came out strongly in favour of them being inexplicable aerial phenomena. From the time it was first revealed, various theories have been proposed to account for the New Zealand film. It is variously proposed that the "UFOs" were mundane terrestrial light sources, squidboats, the planet Venus or mirages (either of astronomical objects or ground features). The RADAR images are explained as spuriously returns induced by atmospheric refraction effects, or returns from the ground mistakenly perceived as airborne sources during the excitement of the diverse "UFO" observations. None of these "solutions" have yet to be conclusively proven, but all still remain potentially viable.
IFF's : Infamous Flying Fakes:
Not surprisingly, Ufological history is littered with examples of probable or suspected hoaxed photographs. What follows is a brief worldwide run-down of the more notorious faked UFO pictures.
The image of a domed saucer-shaped "UFO" appearing in five daylight photographs taken at Barra de Tijuca, Brazil on the May 7th, 1952 are strongly suspected to have been fabricated via superimposition. Six photographs taken in New Jersey, USA on the 29th July 1952 are thought to show a hat tossed into the air. Deliberate superimposition techniques were probably also responsible for a "UFO" picture from Taormina, Sicilly (taken in the summer of 1954), showing several people "watching" two inverted aerial domed-discs.
Many of the 1950's "contactees" used photographic "evidence" to substantiate their entity encounter claims. These range from (often unimpressive-looking) images of flying saucers to (equally unimpressive) images - such as that taken by Howard Menger in 1953 - of a shadowy figure standing before a supposed "spacecraft". The most prominent of the contactee photographs were those taken by the first of their ilk, George Adamski. Some of them are claimed to predate his alleged 1952 encounter with an entity from Venus. This includes a photograph of a dark cigar-shaped "mother-ship" surrounded by several luminous blobs. But his most renowned pictures were a series of close-up shots purporting to show a "Venusian scout-ship", taken just after his 1952 "contact". This image of a bell-shaped "UFO" with an undersection comprising of three small inverted "domes" located around a larger central "bulge" has since become famous throughout the world. Whatever the truth behind Adamski's numerous (and highly dubious) claims, UFOs closely resembling his "scout ship" have been allegedly observed (and photographed) by other independent, non-contactee witnessess.
Four photographs of a hat-shaped "UFO" taken at Santa Anna, California, USA on the 3rd August 1965 were once highly regarded within ufology. However, investigators from the University of Colorado UFO Project were able to duplicate them fairly closely, using a small model hung from a wire. About 10 years later these pictures also failed a computer enhancement test conducted by Ground Saucer Watch. On the 9th January 1966, at Lake St. Clare, Michigan, USA two teenage boys claimed to have photographed a dark lenticular "UFO" with an antenna protruding from its rear. Again, they were widely believed to be authentic. In the 1970's the "witnesses" later confessed to fabricating them, using a model hung from a thread. Much less convincing were three photographs depicting a hat-shaped UFO taken by an Ohio barber on the 13th November, 1966. Almost from the onset, UFO investigators noted major inconsistencies in the pictures frame-numbers (when compared with the order they were reportedly taken), and shadow-features which were inconsistent with the incident's claimed time of occurrence. Several pictures of a white tub-shaped object taken on the June 1st 1967 at San Jose de Valderas, Spain were, some years later, proved to be a model suspended from a wire (via the use of computer enhancement technology).
In comparison with hoaxed pictures, fewer IFO-based photographs have assumed the status of "classics" (mainly due to their less impressive appearance). The "Fortune Photograph", taken on October 16th 1957 near Alamogordo, New Mexico, is now commonly accepted to show a lenticular cloud. A picture of a group of four luminous ovals taken at Salem, Massachusetts on the 16th July 1952 are probably ceiling lights reflected onto a window pane.
The Uncertain & Unconfirmed....
There are also many UFO photographs that remain unresolved to this day, due to the various uncertainties which surround them. A luminated form photographed by a 14 year-old boy at Tulsa, USA (but reportedly witnessed by others) on the 2nd August, 1965 look interesting, but show a somewhat indistinct image against a featureless sky. Another (taken around 1954 near Edwards Airforce Base, USA) of a small disc located behind the tailfin of a B-57 bomber is more clearly defined, but the circumstances surrounding its taking (and the identities of those who photographed it) remain unknown to this day.
Sometimes, confusion can result from inconsistent photographic testing results. On the 3rd July, 1967 at Calgary, Alberta two pictures were taken of a disc reportedly observed by several witnesses. Monochrome prints of these photographs passed a Ground Saucer Watch examination conducted in 1976. In 1977 GSW discovered that the Centre Of UFO Studies possessed colour versions of the Calgary pictures, and (as a result) that organization sent GSW copies of them for computer analysis. The colour print of the first picture passed their scrutiny, but GSW described the second as being "the crudest attempt at a hoax" they had ever seen. Later, these conflicting findings were explained as resulting from the print of the second picture being accidentally blurred during copying (and also to them being separated and assessed at two different locations). This example shows that, for all its advantages, computer enhancement techniques are not absolutely foolproof.
A photograph taken near St. George, Minnesota USA of a UFO (said to have been witnessed by five people) at around 6.10pm on the 21st October 1965, is one example of how several elements of uncertainty can work to the detriment of a UFO picture. Although this image of a fuzzy luminous disc looks quite convincing, again it is taken against a (near) featureless skyscape. Furthermore, the photographers' statement regarding the UFO (which describes a physical, metallic object) appears inconsistent with what is actually depicted in the photograph. Controversy also still rages whether two luminous blobs located just below the "object" are stars, satellites or just incidental marks on the film.
UFO Photographic Cases In The British Isles:
There are a substantial number of alleged British UFO photographs, but few have gained the status of "classics" (due predominantly to most UFO books being written from an American perspective). The vast majority of these, sadly, are proven or suspected hoaxes.
One of the earliest English UFO photographs was reportedly taken by a 13-year old boy at Coniston, Cumbria on the 15th February, 1953. It shows a blurry image bearing a very close resemblance to George Adamski's "Venusian scout ship". As a result, most Ufologists dismiss the photograph as a hoax, but the witness (when questioned in 1995) still maintained it was genuine. The book "Flying Saucers From Mars" (detailing a supposed February 1954 encounter between a Mr. Cedric Allingham and a "Martian" in the Scottish highlands) features several (very unconvincing) pictures of the entities' domed-saucer shaped "spacecraft". These images are, in all probability, extreme close up shots of a small model.
In February 1962 a 14 year-old boy claimed to have photographed a hovering formation of five domed discs at Mosborough, Yorkshire. A decade later the "witness" admitted to hoaxing this picture by photographing an outdoor scene through a glass plate, upon which the group of "UFOs" had been painted. In the evening of the 29th August 1965, at Warminster, Wiltshire (during a "wave" of UFO reports focused around that town) a 19-year old male reportedly photographed a fast-moving domed disc against a featureless sky. The authenticity of this picture remains a matter of notable controversy, although the photographer still claims it to be authentic. Two women at Cappoquin, Eire, claimed to observe a glowing elliptical "UFO" at about 3.15-3.30pm on the 26th December, 1965. One of the witnesses managed to take a photograph of the phenomenon just before it was lost to sight. Its veracity remains undetermined to this day. At Conisborough, Yorkshire, around 8.30pm on the 28th March 1966, a young boy (with four other members of his family) reputedly photographed a "throbbing" hovering orange light. When developed, the resulting picture did not show a luminous body, but a formation of 3 dark domed discs. Today, most British Ufologists agree it is a fake, involving "cut-out" UFO's stuck onto a transparent surface and then photographed.
Approximately 12.00pm on the 26th October 1971 at Enstone, Banbury Oxfordshire, an Anglia Television camera crew (in the course of shooting a countryside documentary) observed a stationary round silvery object, which suddenly ejected a "contrail" as it moved away towards the East. It was later discovered the "UFO" had been observed over a considerable area by other independent witnesses. This event is now believed to been instigated by a high-altitude aircraft (illegally) dumping aviation fuel. The static phase is attributable to the 'plane coincidentally traversing along the witnesses' line of sight.
On the 11th January 1973 a luminous orange sphere was filmed 6.5 kms S.W of Thame, Oxfordshire at around 9.05am. The same "object" was also seen by some primary school children and a teacher located several kilometres away at the villages of Chilton and Shabbington. Near the time and location of these sightings it is known that a malfunctioning F-111 aircraft had been incinerating "dumped" fuel with its afterburners, prior to a planned (but later aborted) emergency landing. The UFO incidents are therefore attributable to the ignited plume of aviation gas then being emitted by this aircraft (which eventually crashed at 9.46am, some 30km away, near what is now Milton Keynes). Another film, taken in October 1977 close to the Stonehenge Neolithic monument probably show flares (the region around this ancient site being heavily used for military exercises). However the witnesses have disputed this explanation, alleging the lights caused severe effects on themselves and upon various electronic and mechanical devices.
On the morning of March 16th 1981, at the village of Cracoe, North Yorkshire, several individuals (including two police officers) witnessed a static grouping of three intense white lights, situated by the side of a distant, craggy fell. Six photographs of the phenomenon were taken during the course of this almost 1 hour-long incident. Several years later these "lights" were found to have resulted from solar lumination reflecting off exposed damp quartz-bearing rocks. More recently, on the 5th August 1987 at around 5.00am, a slow-moving dark domed-disc UFO was reputedly photographed in Barnsley, Yorkshire. Photographic analysis from several individuals and organizations (including Ground Saucer Watch) indicates this picture probably shows a cut-out image stuck onto a window. However, this evaluation is disputed by the photographer.
In March 4th 1989 (due to a wave of "UFO" sightings in NW London and SW Hertfordshire mainly instigated by the Virgin Airship) Hertfordshire police redirected a traffic monitoring video camera situated near Junction 6 of the M-1 motorway. On four separate occasions during this period the camera recorded images of unusual moving lights, and also two static aerial light-sources that were continuously visible in the distance. The stationary lights were subsequently identified as Mars & Venus. The moving lights are thought to be aircraft, shuttling to and from Heathrow aerodrome. Around 7.44pm at Corby, Northamptonshire, on the 7th May 1994, a family observed (and filmed with their camcorder for almost five minutes) a hazy, slow-moving silver & black coloured elliptical object with "round bubbles" located around its outer rim. A subsequent investigation discovered the "UFO" was probably a cluster of birthday-party balloons.
The widening and growing sophistication of the Internet over the past 10 years has created a further medium for relatively cheap audio-visual expression, The appearance of so-called "social sites" such as "Youtube" has resulted in the appearance of numerous short digital format movies - depicting everything from supposed aircraft gun-camera footage of a "flying triangle" to footage taken by lunar astronauts (in one instance attributed to "Apollo 20"- a lunar landing which never happened in actuality, given that the real Apollo program terminated with Apollo 17). The general consensus is that such "evidence" is only proof of the considerable CGI skills of their various makers; which will surely produce even more stunning hoaxes as such techniques improve with time. Even more so than ever, claimed UFO footage is only as good as its supporting witness testimony.
"UFO Entity" Photographs Worldwide:
A genuine "UFO entity" photograph would be a major step in proving the physical reality of such beings. Surprisingly, quite a substantial number of supposed UFO entity photographs do exist; unfortunately most (if not all) are probable hoaxes.
The first "UFO entity" photographs originate from the early 1950's, allegedly showing dead (or captured) "aliens" in the presence of one or more humans. One (which first appeared in a April 1st, 1950 edition of a German newspaper) depicts a single-legged "alien" with a bulbous cranium being "escorted" by two American soldiers. This photograph is a proven hoax, involving (somewhat crude) airbrush doctoring of a pre-posed image. The other (said to originate from an early 1950's UFO crash occurring near Mexico City) shows a tiny humanoid being held by two trench-coated men, with two women standing behind them. It is almost certainly a hoax (again perpetuated by a German newspaper), the "alien" probably a image superimposed onto some people grouped around a pram.
At around 9.30am in 31st July 1952, eight photographs were reportedly taken in the Bernina Mountains, Italy of a landed domed-disc shaped "UFO" and an adjacent space-suited "entity". These pictures are generally accepted to be a hoax, involving a scale model backdrop, "UFO" and "Alien". A white-suited figure (not seen by anyone present at the time) appeared in a photograph of a young girl taken in Cumbria, England on the 23rd May 1964. A recent examination of this picture have found indications of the unseen figure having been deliberately placed within it by superimposition techniques. However, the photographer strongly denies having fabricated this image.
In October 17th 1973 (following an alleged landing of a UFO just outside Falkville, Alabama USA), a police chief took four pictures of a silver-suited figure, which then reportedly ran away at incredible speed. These images have never been conclusively explained, but could depict an individual attired in a protective fire-proof outfit. Another picture (first surfacing in the 1970's) is said to show a dead entity inside a downed "UFO". In reality it probably depicts a badly-burned human air crash victim; a quite terrestrial-looking pair of spectacles being visible to the left of the body.
At around 7.45am on the 1st December, 1987, a male walking on Ikley Moor, West Yorkshire, England reportedly photographed a green-coloured "entity" scrambling up a hill, to a "UFO" reportedly just hidden behind an adjacent knoll. The resulting image is intriguing, but is notably underexposed. Following this observation, the witness claimed to experience a period of "missing time" of just under 2 hours. Additionally, a magnetic compass reputedly on his person at the time was later discovered to have permanently reversed its polarity. In the course of a later hypnotic regression, the witness recounted an UFO entity contact experience, occurring during the interval of "missing time". Some researchers suggest the picture shows an insurance salesman known to have regularly walked the moor on visits to local clients. The case's main investigators reject this explanation, on the grounds that the salesman was not present at the sighting location during the time and date of the incident.
Since the 1990's several photographs of "dead aliens" have surfaced, most notably in Russia and Japan. All these images (to date) are known to show human-sized manikins, speculative reconstructions of deceased extraterrestrial beings supposedly retrieved from UFO crashes. One supposed UFO entity film - the so-called Santilli Movie - caused a minor media sensation on its first public showing in May 1995. Raymond Santilli, (then managing director of the Merlin Group, a producer of videos, music tapes and books) claims to have accidentally discovered it in 1993, while in America seeking early footage of rock and roll giant Elvis Presley. What is commonly termed the "Santilli movie" is, in actuality, said to comprise of around 20 silent black and white motion film-reels. They were purported taken by an ex-military photographer, who somehow managed to keep the original (undeveloped) film-canisters in his possession for 46 years. They are reputed to show the examination of alien bodies and artefacts recovered from a UFO crash occurring near Roswell, New Mexico, USA in July 1947.
One alleged section of this footage, the first seen by independent Ufologists, show two men in white coats (with one person in the background) inside a poorly lit tent or cabin. They appear to be taking tissue samples from a partially-sheeted body lying on a table. Two other sets of footage seemingly depicts the autopsy of a large-headed humanoid entity with six fingered hands, conducted by 2 men dressed in biological/radiation protection suits. During the course of the "dissection", black "membranes" are removed from the entities' eyes, its torso, abdomen and skull are opened up and various (unrecognizable) organs removed. A further section of footage allegedly shows wreckage taken from the entities crashed UFO. This comprises of irregular slabs of metal (indented with several life-size impressions of a six-figured hand) and "I-beam" like fragments adorned with hieroglyphics.
This footage is generally suspected as being a recent fabrication by many UFO researchers. A number of studies have concluded the "alien" bodies are likely to be custom-made latex manikins derived from a body-cast, with hollow internal sections filled with organic-looking matter to render a convincing "autopsy" effect. The film of the "UFO" fragments are deemed equally questionable; the displayed wreckage being totally unlike that described by the witnesses of the "actual" Roswell debris. Suspicion is further aroused by a shot of an "I-beam" section, upon which are depicted "hieroglyphics" closely resembling the English words "Video TV".
In 2006 a comedy movie called "Alien Autopsy" (sanctioned by Ray Santilli) reputedly told the true story of this footage. This film (and subsequent interviews) claims Santilli did indeed discover a movie depicting the recovery and examination of "alien bodies" from Roswell; footage which deteriorated rapidly soon after he had acquired it. This reportedly inspired him to fake sections of footage in his London flat, to replace the damaged sections, by using many of the methods previously cited by critical commentators - namely a special effects dummy filled with offal acquired from Smithfield Meat Market. Nonetheless, Santilli claims the film presented to the general public in 1995 contains some surviving sections taken at Roswell in 1947 - although he can no longer recall which portions are the authentic ones. While this facile explanation satisfies some, many others remain unconvinced, being more willing than ever to totally dismiss the "alien autopsy" movie as a complete fabrication.
RADAR and UFO's
Some Basic Principles:
RADAR (the acronym of RAdio Detection And Ranging) is a remote sensor system which first entered use during the late 1930's. In grossly simplified terms its mode of operation can be described as follows. A rotating transmitter broadcasts a narrow stream of radio waves, a proportion of which are reflected back to the transmitter by any sufficiently solid object falling within that units range. This return signal, or echo, is then received by the RADAR system and shown as a dot-like blip upon a display unit called a Plan Position Indicator or Scope. By measuring the delay between the transmission of the radio signal and the receipt of the echo, an object's distance from the RADAR dish (and other data such as its speed) can be precisely determined. A "blip's" brightness depends on the strength of its echo, which itself is governed by the composition of the detected object. So-called "Stealth" aircraft utilize materials (and surface configurations) that produces a much smaller RADAR "signature" than is typical for an object of its size.
Despite its great value as a defensive, navigational and research tool RADAR has several inherent deficiencies. To begin with, it can only show actual structural details of objects much bigger than an aircraft (which themselves only appear as a small, anonymous dot upon a RADAR scope). Furthermore, at some ranges, a group of objects at the same distance (but at slightly different altitudes) will be shown as a single large blip, until they move a greater distance apart.
RADAR is utilized for a variety of tasks. RADAR systems using specific radio frequencies are used to detect clouds, rain-belts, birds and insect swarms (who's echoes are less defined on units designed for air traffic control purposes). These differing RADAR systems all possess there own unique range and coverage characteristics, and are prone to specific sorts of spurious targets and atmospheric effects.
For Ufologists, the most important RADAR systems are those used for aircraft flight management. Airport Control Towers monitor aircraft within their designated airspace (or Terminal Control Area (TMA)) passing them onto Air Traffic Control Centres (ATCC) once they move out of their jurisdiction. Air traffic activity on the average TMA/ATCC RADAR scope is such that a controllers' attention must be confined only to commercial flights. Those "returns" of no concern to them are ignored, unless they violate flight-zone regulations, move in a highly anomalous manner or trigger off a conflict alert by moving too close to another aircraft.
Modern air-traffic control RADARs are equipped with an data processing "filter" called a Moving Target Indicator (MTI). When activated, an MTI removes all non-relevant returns - or Clutter - (such as elevated ground features) from a RADAR display. A RADAR system reverts to a Primary setting when the MTI is switched off, resulting in all detectable objects appearing upon a units scope. Secondary RADAR depends on Transponders; a specialized radio transmitter carried by all commercial (and most private) aircraft. This device broadcasts the aircraft's call sign, altitude and destination to a RADAR unit, which then displays this data on its Plan Position Indicator.
It is well known that anti-ICBM defence RADAR systems, such as those utilized by NORAD, often register "unknown" returns (termed UCT's, or UnCorrelated Targets). As far as is publicly known, no work has ever been conducted to determine their actual identity. Officially, they are deemed to be generated by mundane objects such as meteors, satellite re-entries and launches.
Most Ufologists prefer RADAR cases where an "anomalous" return is noted in conjunction with a visually observed "UFO". This is because RADAR can be "fooled" by a variety of atmospheric conditions (or even malfunctions within the RADAR mechanism itself). Under certain atmospheric conditions anomalous propagation can occur. This effect (induced by temperature inversions) causes ground features not normally detectable by a RADAR set to temporarily appear on its scope. On some RADAR sets, a "ghost" signal of an already "ranged" object is sometimes "detected" close to the originating "target", precisely mimicking its motion(s). Angels are the semi-official term for a specific class of natural RADAR return. Typically, this phenomenon manifests on an RADAR scope as an erratically moving and intermittently visible "return". They are variously thought to be caused by moving "pockets" of air (who's temperature differs to that of the surrounding environment), swarms of insects or electrically-charged atmospheric particulates.
The existence of all these phenomena emphasize the need for apparent RADAR detections of UFO's to be associated with a visually-observed stimulus. Even in those instances, the possibility of a false "return" always renders this form of UFO evidence open to some doubt. There are many cases where a "UFO" is not detected by an adjacent RADAR unit (such as was the case with the 1991 Manchester "UFO air miss"). The reasons for this are potentially manifold. For instance, a "UFO" could be (for some reason) a poor reflector of RADAR waves. If so, it could not comprise of electrically-charged gases (such as is the case with a conventional "plasma"), as these produce very clear RADAR returns. More prosaically, the UFO's presence could be effectively "deleted" by RADAR "filter" systems, or it could be much further away than it appears. Even with all the technical advances over the past 50 years, the human operator remains the key element of any RADAR system. In order to judge the "outlandishness" of any "unusual" return, an operator must be both well versed in the equipment he or she is responsible for, and be acquainted with how local conditions commonly affect a given RADAR unit.
Why are RADAR-UFO cases so important to UFO research? As with photographs, a validated RADAR detection of a "UFO" goes a considerable way to proving its material nature. Secondly (and more importantly) they provide an objective assessment of a "UFO's" speed and trajectory. The motion attributes of "UFOs" in the more notable RADAR-UFO events are identical to those reported in "conventional" visual sightings; sustained or sudden bursts of rapid speed, long-duration hovering, and swift tight-angle turns. Thereby, such instances go some way in demonstrating that these UFO motion aspects are actual, and not attributable to subjective factors. In the 1960's the Director of Blue Book was asked to state (under oath) whether the project had any unexplained RADAR cases on record; he replied that it did not. It is true that most RADAR-UFO events in the Blue Book files (such as the Lakenheath/Bentwaters incident) are listed as resolved. However, the explanations cited for some of these cases (again, such as with the Lakenheath/Bentwaters event) have been deemed highly unlikely by several notable RADAR experts.
On the 19th-20th July, 1952, around the vicinity of Washington D.C, USA, RADAR units located at Washington National Airport and Andrews Airforce Base detected anomalous targets performing a variety of manoeuvres (hovering, flying in formation, as well as a rapid 90 degree turn). Several lights were seen in association with the RADAR returns, but F-94 jets sent to investigate them found nothing on reaching the area. RADAR detected another unknown target in the same region a week later. Again, an aircraft was sent to investigate. The pilots involved observed a light in the region originating these RADAR returns. However, shortly on being observed, it appeared to move away from this vicinity at very high speed. These events are now held in lesser regard by Ufologists than they once were, it now being generally accepted that the RADAR returns are explicable in terms of anomalous propagation.
At West Freugh, South West Scotland, on the 4th April 1957, an anomalous target was plotted by three widely separated RADAR systems. Initially stationary, the target then seemed to rise vertically and (after making a very sharp turn) moved to the South East, appearing to gather speed as it did so. As this juncture, two RADAR units noted the alteration of this single "blip" into four distinct targets (each estimated to be comparable to a ship in apparent size). An official report into this incident concluded they were "five reflecting objects of unidentified type and origin...unlikely to be conventional aircraft, meteorological balloons or charged clouds". Although an important RADAR-UFO case, the fact that no visual UFO's were observed makes viable a diversity of potential natural explanations.
England's prime RADAR-visual UFO encounter event occurred at Lakenheath, Suffolk, on the 13th-14th August, 1957. Over a period of several hours (commencing at around 9.30pm), very fast moving echoes were detected by RADAR systems located at both USAF/RAF Bentwaters and Lakenheath. They were seen (by several independent observers) in association with rapidly moving bright white lights, who's motions closely matched the RADAR returns. Many sceptical investigators (including those associated with the Condon Project) consider this event to be significantly anomalous.
Few RADAR-visual UFO cases are reported today. Some researchers believe this is due to improvements in RADAR systems, resulting in modern units producing fewer spurious returns. Others state that more recent RADAR-UFO events are deemed to be classified information. The main reason for this secrecy could be that any indication of the range, sensitivity and coverage of a specific RADAR set-up (especially those used by the military) would be of considerable use to any potential hostile power. Despite this, it is not uncommon for "leaked" rumours to circulate within ufology of comparatively recent RADAR/UFO incidents (from supposedly semi-official sources).
Direct Physical UFO Evidence:
Physical matter originating (or resulting) from a "UFO" manifestation is probably the most highly desired form of UFO evidence. Unfortunately, no example of such "proof" presented to date has resulted in the conclusive validation of extraterrestrial visitation (or other anomalous event).
Angel Hair is a very rare form of alleged UFO-related discharge. It reportedly manifests as a white fibrous substance seen to fall from airborne UFOs, sometimes in great quantities. Especially puzzling is its inclination to dissipate into nothingness a few moments after being handled. It has been proposed that "Angel hair" (and any associated "UFO") may be natural in origin, either the result of "balloon-spider" migrations or industrial discharges. Other researchers feel a less mundane solution is required to account for some instances. They propose that bona-fide "angel hair" is composed of matter liberated from the atmosphere and bound together by UFO-generated ionizing/electrostatic processes.
Direct Physical UFO Evidence.
The first claim of a UFO supposedly generating direct physical evidence reportedly occurred near Maury Island (a peninsular 5 kilometres from Tacoma, Washington USA). At this location on the 23rd June 1947, a formation of 6 silver doughnut shaped "UFOs" were purportedly observed, one of which discharged light metal "flakes" (and later rock-like slag) directly onto a boat containing two men, a boy and a dog. During this "rain" of debris, the boat was reputedly damaged, the boy injured and the dog killed. Those who saw examples of the metal "recovered" by the "witnesses" stated it resembled scrap material derived from surplus WWII aircraft (quite commonplace in that era). The slag may have been naturally occurring rock or (as stated by UFO researcher John Keel) radioactive material illegally dumped from the air.
In September 1957, metallic fragments supposedly originating from a disc-shaped UFO which exploded over a beach at Ubatuba, Sao Paulo, Brazil, were sent (with a letter detailing this event) to a Brazilian newspaper columnist. Initial examinations of this metal suggested it was a totally pure form of magnesium. But a later examination by the University of Colorado UFO Project found it to be no more purer than other test batches of magnesium made during (or even before) 1957. Other examinations of the Ubatuba fragments were conducted after this date, some which suggested the metal was unusual, others that it was fairly mundane in composition.
A few claims have also been made concerning the "recovery" of small "UFO"-like artefacts. One of the best documented instances relates to the discovery of an unusual object reportedly seen falling to earth near Silpho Moor, Scarborough, Yorkshire, on the 21st November (or the 1st of December) 1957. This 46cm diameter disc-shaped construct weighed 16 kilograms, and had a "hieroglyphic" inscription running around its lower section. When cut open, it was found to contain a copper tube which itself held 17 thin copper sheets adorned with further "hieroglyphic" writing. A supposed translation of this text relayed a message from the disc's extraterrestrial creators, describing how and why it had been dispatched to Earth. On examination, the object was found to be constructed from copper and lead; the composition of both being terrestrial in nature. Needless to say, this case is widely dismissed as a hoax today. It is claimed (but not irrefutably documented) that the hoaxers responsible for constructing the saucer later confessed to their involvement in this affair. In some ways this case shares some similarities with an elaborate student hoax perpetuated in September 1967, involving several small flying saucer models placed in a line spanning a considerable portion of Southern England.
There is reference in the early UFO literature to a substance termed "space grass", which some researchers suggested was associated with UFO activity. This was, in actuality, Chaff; thin metal strips dumped from aircraft in order to "spoof" RADAR systems during military exercises. Similar claims were also made in relation to small spherical RADAR calibration targets, occasionally discovered by those unfamiliar with their true nature. One of the most unusual forms of alleged UFO physical evidence were several pancakes supposedly given to a witness by UFO entities encountered in April 1961, at Eagle River, Wisconsin, USA. An examination by the American Food & Drug Administration revealed them to be terrestrial in composition; comprising of a mixture of fat, buckwheat, bran and soybeans (but notably lacking in salt).
Recovered Implants & "Black Light" Marks.
Many UFO abduction narratives involve claims of its participants being inserted with "implants" during their experience (mostly in the nose and head region). In addition, there are also allegations of suspected "implants" coming to light during X-ray, MRI or CAT scans. Few of these instances are associated with a subsequently retrieved artefact. Of those implants which are supposedly recovered, few such instances have been adequately documented. The majority of "implants" are claimed to "dissolve" or suddenly turn to powder when removed from the body, and those located by MRI/CAT scans have a tendency not to appear on later examinations.
In 1989, an "implant" was recovered from the genital region of a long-term abductee (who claimed repeated entity encounters dating back from his childhood). This item (and several others recovered shortly afterwards) was elongated in form, about 4mm long by 1mm wide in size, and composed of a brownish non-metallic translucent material. A detailed examination of these "implants" revealed them to be composed of a combination of calcified human skin cells and cotton fibres.
In Houston, Texas, USA an examination of several alleged UFO abductees conducted in late 1995 resulted in "implants" being discovered within their hands and feet. On removal, these artefacts were found to comprise of a dark metallic "core" enveloped by a dense organic "membrane". When this "membrane" was scrapped away, these "cores" were revealed to be two separate (but tightly joined) t-shaped objects, just under 5mm in size. Furthermore, it was claimed that there were a greater number of nerve endings in the flesh surrounding them, and that a gauss meter exposed to one of these "implants" reacted wildly to its presence. To date, independent evaluation the Houston "implants" have yet to be conducted.
Neither of these examples involve objects of a proven extra-terrestrial origin. Indeed, in one instance their composition was very strikingly mundane. Some researchers suggest that the "aliens" responsible for UFO abductions are able to create sophisticated "implants" from any material. Sceptics point out that such speculative thinking places these claims beyond scientific validation.
In the mid-1990's some American UFO researchers began to report finding strange markings upon the skins of some UFO abductee claimants. These patterns (sometimes stated to be highly elaborate in configuration) are visible only under the lumination of a ultra-violet lamp (which is known as "Black Light" in the United States). Its common attributes are currently unknown, as no systematic examination of this phenomenon has yet been conducted. Little has been written of this effect in recent years.
CSI comes to UFOlogy - the use of DNA sampling and other forensic techniques
The scope of forensic science has been markedly expended since the discovery of the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) technique in 1983. This method utilises bacteria to reproduce strands of DNA on a large scale; offering a means by which genetic material can be recovered from crime scenes and victims in order to identify perpetrators. The potential of using this and other similar forensic methods to retrieve evidence has not escaped the notice of UFO researchers. While the expense of such techniques precludes it's commonplace utilisation, several attempts have been made to employ these methods to acquire proof of UFO events. During the late 1990's the 500 year-old malformed skull of a 5 year-old child of possibly central American origin became widely discussed in the UFO literature. This so-called "Starchild skull" has been advocated as evidence of pre-Columbian alien contact involving supposed human/alien hybridization. In 2006 mtDNA (or mitochondrial DNA - which indicates maternal origin) was successfully recovered from this skull; the results of nuDNA ("nuclear" DNA, which indicates paternal linage) is presently being conducted. In regard to abductions, one element of the Australian "Khoury encounter" (a series of events mostly involving a single witness spanning the 1970's up to the 1990's) involved the recovery of a strand of hair associated with a sexually-charged entity reportedly encountered in the witnesses' bedroom in July 1992. Subsequent mtDNA analysis discovered this hair was associated with a rarefied Asiatic and Celtic DNA profiles, while an attempt to recover nuDNA was unsuccessful. DNA analysis has also recently been attempted on the dress worn by the late UFO abductee Betty Hill reputedly during her 1962 experience. Other comparable use of "forensic" style methods also includes the Mass spectroscopy analysis of the small desiccated body of an alleged "alien" corpse found in Israel in 1997. This examination (funded by BUFORA) determined this body was, in actuality, a terrestrial amphibian.
Undoubtedly, the ultimate form of direct physical UFO evidence would be an actual "UFO" itself. Rumours of crashed flying saucers recovered by governmental agencies (termed "Retrievals" by some UFO researchers) have been a part of ufology almost since its inception in the late 1940's. The first widely publicized retrieval claim was featured in a book entitled Behind The Flying Saucers, first published in 1950. This work (authored by Frank Scully) gave details of the supposed recovery of three spacecraft (and their dead alien crew) by the United States Air Force. Two of these saucers had allegedly came down near the town of Aztec, New Mexico, the another close to Phoenix, Arizona. In September 1952, True Magazine publicly exposed this claim as being a hoax perpetuated by two notorious confidence tricksters. It is thought that the hoaxed 1950's "dead alien" photographs from Germany (discussed previously) were inspired by this allegation. A later (but lesser known) retrieval relates to the "recovery" of a crashed saucer and several charred crewmen discovered at Spitzbergen Island (located approx. 420km North of Norway) during the middle part of 1952. Again, this is thought to be a hoax derived from Scully's book.
Much later, during the mid-1970's, veteran American UFO researcher Leonard Stringfield authored a series of articles and papers detailing several new UFO retrieval allegations originating from the United States. The testimony relating to these events were often anonymously submitted (or came from third-hand sources) and were unsupported by any material proof. However, these claims set the stage for the return of a once-forgotten retrieval event that would eventually take on major importance within Ufology.
An alleged 1947 "UFO crash" near the town of Corona, New Mexico was quickly forgotten following a USAF press conference which "explained" the recovered debris as originating from a weather balloon. However, new interest in the case was ignited in 1980 by a book called The Roswell incident, authored by Charles Berlitz and William Moore. This was eventually followed by numerous reports, books, documentaries and films covering the various claims associated with this event.
This affair began at the Foster Ranch, a farm located 48kms from the town of Corona, New Mexico, USA (and some 120 Km from the town of Roswell). On the 3rd uly, 1947 (or, according to some sources, the 14th June) the ranches' foreman, William W. ("Mac") Brazel, came across diverse fragments scattered widely around a field. These reportedly comprised of unusually strong shiny "foil", threadlike material, "I-beams" and tape decorated with "hieroglyphics". Personnel from the Roswell Army Air field eventually visited the site and recovered the fragments, which were then flown to Fort Worth Airbase for examination. A short time later (after some notable press excitement) the military claimed the debris were actually pieces from a weather balloon. Great controversy remains over whether the pictures of the fragments released to the media show the material actually recovered from the Foster Ranch. Rumours and first-hand claims surfaced many years later stating that a more complete section of the "UFO" (along with several "alien bodies") was discovered a few kilometres from the main "debris site".
Due to pressure within American government circles for full official disclosure concerning the Roswell incident, The US General Accounting Office (GAO), conducted an enquiry into this event, issuing a report on their findings in 1995. This enquiry found no evidence for a cover-up and discovered no new major documentation relating to the event. It further suggested that a formerly secret military reconnaissance balloon programme called Project Mogul was the source of the Foster Ranch debris. The findings of this report are rejected by those who are convinced the incident involved a crashed UFO, who state its negative findings are based on incomplete data. Sceptics point out the report uncovered nothing to refute a down-to-earth solution for the event, and actually strengthened the case for one.
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