Tuesday, April 22, 2014

UFO Debunking 1953: Review of Flying Saucers by Donald H. Menzel

Here's a review of one of the earliest books on UFOs, Flying Saucers, a skeptical look at the topic by a prominent astronomer. It's an interesting look into the state of things while the field was barely its infancy.


Discovery: The magazine of Scientific Progress 
November 1953, Mr. William E. Dick, editor




Flying Saucers by Donald H. Menzel (London, Putnam & Co., 1953 , 319 pp., 21s.) 
 The 'flying saucerscare of 1947 was not the first of its kindbut no previous epidemic of this type of mass hallucination ever spread so far; 1947 provided a proof that modern mass media of communication can spread rumours as fast as they can spread true facts. Another reason for the difference was that in 1947 few scientists gave public utterance to what they knew to be the true facts of the case. In addition, the general public seemed to be rather more gullible in 1947 than on previous occasions; their their smattering of knowledge about aeronautical progress seems to have been associated with an attitude of mind which provided fertile ground for the pseudo-scientific belief in space travel, and even for the remote idea that the saucers were interplanetary space ships. Culmination of the affair was the report — a complete hoax which, however, many found quite plausible — that a wrecked saucer made of some unearthly metal had been found, and that this contained bodies of dwarf astronauts from Venus— described as "midgets wearing 1890 clothes" made of some untearable fabric!
There were, of course, some real flying saucers that gave rise to the fantastic rumours. As the author of this book says, these were as real as rainbows.

Dr. Menzel, astrophysics professor at Harvard, here provides full explanations of the different types of optical tricks which the atmosphere and its contents can play on human eyes and describes the optical phenomena which account for the flying saucers of 1947.  His account of these matters is excellent though he is far more entertaining when he is disposing of the various fanciful interpretations which people gave of those phenomena  He shoots to pieces the American book Behind the Flying Saucers [by Frank Scully] which was serialised in Britain and which did so much to propagate the hoax about the midgets from Venus.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

UFO Case Review presents: the Cash-Landrum Incident, 1980

UFO Case Review has been releasing a series of Youtube videos presenting excellent entry-level mini-documentaries on famous UFO events. Recently the creator discussed covering the Cash-Landrum case, and now it's finished it ready for viewing. As he posted online:

"I'm very proud to be keeping up with my goal of releasing one video every month, and uploading my review of the Cash-Landrum Case of 1980. Big thanks to ufologist Curtis Collins for reviewing my script and ensuring it was as accurate as could be!"
From the video description:
"Too often, the UFO phenomenon is dismissed for its supposed exclusive reliance on eyewitness testimony. However, there are numerous examples of UFO encounters that have left tangible traces of their presence in the physical environment, or on the witnesses themselves. The so-called Cash-Landrum Case of 1980 is a notable example of the latter, having left all three of its witnesses with symptoms of severe radiation poisoning following a late-night encounter with an unidentified object. It is one case, at least, that cannot possibly be dismissed as a fabrication, a misidentification, or a hallucination, and one that points to a possible connection between the UFO phenomenon and the U.S. government."



The video does a very good job of sticking to the original details of the case, and provides just the kind of background needed to draw attention to it and promote further study.

Be sure to check out the videos on other cases and share them with others- a great educational resource:




Sunday, March 30, 2014

UFO or Secret Terrestrial Vehicle? Comparisons to IFOs

If the UFO in the Cash-Landrum case was a secret terrestrial vehicle, what was it?
No vehicle similar to it has been declassified or discovered, and the only (known) things remotely similar were built several years later after the incident.

The Galaxy Invader   Moviecraft Entertainment  

The UFO

The Cash-Landrum UFO's size is not precisely known, but we do have estimates from the witnesses. It was compared in size to the tank of a water tower, but their guesses of figures varied:

Early sketch approved by the witnesses.

Vickie Landrum: Height: 25 ft Diameter: 12ft (1981)
Betty Cash:         Height: 50 ft Diameter: 25ft (1981)
Colby Landrum: Height: 100 ft Diameter: 50ft (2013)

To try reaching a better understanding of the size, mass and flight characteristics of the UFO, below are a few estimates of identified flying objects for caparison, not to suggest them as suspects.

The Space Shuttle

The US Space Shuttle

(Columbia weighed 178,000 pounds.)

The Space Shuttle must be launched by a booster or another craft, and is not capable of independent vertical flight. It provides the best example of 1980 technology to produce a space vehicle.

Harrier V/STOL Aircraft

Harrier Jet

Wingspan: 30 feet 4 inches
Length: 46 feet 4 inches
Height: 11 feet 8 inches
Weight: 31,000 pounds
A Harrier is designed to fly horizontally, but can take off and land vertically and hover for for brief periods.

Hot Air Balloon




A typical hot air balloon is 63 feet in height and 55 feet in diameter. 
The weight is 214 pounds for the envelope and 450 pounds for the entire system including fuel and passengers.

Hot air balloons lift off vertically, but horizontal flight depends on reaching a favorable wind current in the desired direction. 


DC-X, The McDonnell Douglas Delta Clipper


The McDonnell Douglas Delta Clipper


For comparison, here are the specifications on the Delta Clipper:
DC-XA; Delta Clipper-Experimental; Delta Clipper Experimental; SX-1; Clipper Graham. 
Status: Retired 1996. 
Gross mass: 16,320 kg (35,970 lb). 
Height: 14.00 m (45.00 ft). 
Diameter: 3.05 m (10.00 ft). 
Span: 4.10 m (13.40 ft). 
Thrust: 223.00 kN (50,132 lbf). 
Apogee: 3.00 km (1.80 mi). 
First Launch: 1993.08.18. 
Last Launch: 1995.07.07. 



The DC-X came many years too late to be a plausible candidate, but provides an interesting comparison because it is a close match to the average of the sizes reported and should approximate the mass of the UFO. If it was something the size of the Delta Clipper, that reduces the chances of it being a manned craft to near zero.

The DC-X film below provides an interesting visualization of what a real craft might have looked like in flight.





If the UFO was a man-made secret US military project as the witness believed, it is unlike anything produced at the time or since. That takes us back to the big question:


What was it, and just where did it came from?



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The 4th Witness, Betty Cash's Car

The Absence of Evidence…


A case file on "missing witness," the car involved in the Cash-Landrum UFO encounter, Betty Cash's 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass (2-door)
Length: 5022 mm / 197.7 in
Width: 1826 mm / 71.9 in
Height: 1350 mm / 53.1 in
Turning circle btw. walls: 11.4 m / 37.4 ft
http://www.automobile-catalog.com/auta_details1.php

Betty's 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass


Similar Cutlass


Betty's Cutlass, Feb 22, 1981



“Betty Cash’s 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme was a Christmas gift, and is still under warranty.”

“After the sighting, it began to run roughly and miss. The clock and radio now fail...”

“A lens cover appeared to have been affected by heat was removed for further testing.”

Hendry FUFOR Report 4/81
(There's no further mention of the lens cover anywhere in case literature.) 


The Dashboard

One of the strange things reported was the impression of Vickie's handprints to the dashboard during the incident.

Sample interior of a 1980 Cutlass supreme

"[Vickie] screamed for me to stop, and right where she put her hands, her fingerprints are still on my dash, it melted my dash in the car with her fingerprints imbedded."Betty Cash in Bergstrom AFB interview 8/17/1981

The image conjured by the description is often along the lines of handprints left in sand or cement.


Jimmy stewart's handprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre
As depicted on "Close Encounters" 
 "...inside the car it was so hot til my handprint is yet in the dashboard of Betty’s car."Vickie Landrum, UFOs: What's Going On?” September 10, 1985

Photographs of the genuine impressions are a bit less dramatic
Photo by Schuessler of Vickie's impression on the dash
The interior of Betty's car as shown in 1985 HBO documentary.

Betty demonstrating the placement of the handprints.

John Schuessler had his own version of how the handprints were made:
“As Vickie leaned forward to peer out of the front window, her hands grabbed the padded  dash area which molded into the shape of her fingers. The imprints are still there."                   -J. Schuessler, CUFOS symposium, Sept.1981
The emphasis placed on the handprints by the witnesses is significant. It may yield valuable insight into how the reality of the event differed from their emotionally charged memories of it.


The dashboard plays another small role in the story, it provided cover for Colby Landrum to view the object after retreating into he car. Vickie Landrum speculated that it provided him a better view of the object, allowing him to describe a shape for it.

It was from below the dashboard that Colby watched the object.

Electromagnetic Effects?

In John Schuessler's original report, he stated that 
”Mrs Cash turned off the ignition and they got out...”
APRO Bulletin Vol 29, No. 8 (Coverage based on JS’s original case report)

But controversy arose when Betty Cash started saying otherwise:
Hendry interview FUFOR 4/2/1981 talking about the motor stalling
BC: “It just quit on its own

"I had not killed the motor on the car, I had put it park. The radio was
playing on low, but the car completely went dead. I mean, it was like somebody
had turned a switch off on it." BC in Bergstrom AFB interview 8/17/1981

This discrepancy was not addressed in Schuessler's reports, but he deftly sidestepped the issue in 1982:

“It is not clear whether Betty turned the car engine off, or whether it just died."
The Unexplained (UK) Orbis Publishing Limited, Vol 9, Issue 107

By the time of his book. He repeats testimony given by Betty Cash describing the motor stalling int he presence of the UFO and includes it in his narrative:
“But for the first time she realized the engine on the Cutlass had died.”
(JS narration of the scene following the UFO’s exit,) CLUFOI pg 13

The electromagnetic effects in the case would be a major point of interest, but due to the the initial report stating the witness stopped the car's engine, it can not be regarded as anything but an unsubstantiated later claim. When combined with a huge brilliant ovoid UFO, it certainly is reminiscent of the 1957 Levelland incidents in Texas, though. 

Vehicle stopped by UFO in Stephen Spielberg's  "Close Encounters"

No Escape 

“As Betty glanced to the side and then looked through the rear window, seeking some way to escape, but the highway was narrow and she was afraid of getting stuck in the muddy ditches if she tried to turn around.“Vickie, I can’t even see the sides of the road!”, she shouted, “I can’t turn around and I don’t dare back up.” The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident by John F. Schuessler page 78


Part of the reason for not turning the car around was that the shoulders were wet from rain earlier in the day. As seen in the auto's specifications, it had a huge turning circumference, and the road was approximately 18 to 20 feet wide. No mention was made of trying to restart the car to escape.




Another interesting detail is the height of the car, 53.1 inches. Vickie supposedly burned her hand from laying it on top of the car. She was short, five feet tall (60 inches). Unless she was standing on the threshold of the open door, it seems unlikely she could reach up to lay the back of her hand on the car's top. Even so, it would seem to be an uncomfortable position, more so that she was said to also be restraining and comforting young Colby during this time.

Getting Out of the Car

The sequence of events following the car stopping has been explained and second-guessed, as to who got out and for what reason.
“Then Betty got out of the car and started walking toward the object. It was as big as a water tank and about a half-mile up in the sky. It started getting real hot in the car, so I rolled the window down and stuck my head out to look at it."  Vickie Landrum Weekly World News March 24, 1981
“ they opened the car doors to stand beside the car and watch.”MUFON Journal April 1981 (Richard Hall’s case summary)
"The car heated rapidly, forcing them out into the open where the heat seared their skin and caused their eyes to burn."Schuessler, J. F. (1996). UFO-Related Human Physiological Effects

After interviewing Betty Cash for the for the first time in Feb. 22,1981, John Schuessler then examined her automobile:
"The car was a 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme with Texas license number VAS 217. I examined it for obvious damage andfound it to be clean and in good condition. The exterior paint andplastic parts were all found to be in good condition. The tires werelike new. The only visible anomaly was some very clear hand-shapedimprints in the padded dashboard on the passenger (right)side. A geiger counter was passed over every part of the vehicle,but no readings above background radiation level were found.Also, no unusual strong magnetic fields were found by using ahand-held compass as a detector. When started up, the engine didrun a little rough."

Betty later claimed that two unidentified military men tried to purchase the vehicle. Vickie told a similar Men-in-Black story that they approached Betty offering to replace the car's interior. Two other bits of trivia, the car's plastic steering wheel crumbled, leaving only the metal frame. Supposedly Betty saved the pieces for study, but nothing further is known. More dramatically, in the mid-80s while the legal efforts were churning, Betty was in the Houston area with her car for a recreation for Mitch Duncan of KHOU. When the spotlight lit the car, it shattered the windshield, something it should not have done. Fragments of the glass were saved for study. It could be that glass and plastic fragments lay forgotten among the belongings of Betty Cash.


Sadly, the car was not retained as evidence, and Betty drove it for many years afterwards. Ken Storch located the car in the late 90s, somewhere in south Mississippi, but was unable to obtain funding to investigate further. Chances are, no further information could be retrieved, but still, what a relic!


Another lost Cutlass



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Skeptic Proclaims the Cash-Landrum case was a "Crude Hoax"





When Robert Sheaffer covered the story about my publication of Texas Department of Health’s report on their Cash-Landrum investigation, it began a hit and run debate on his site that has continued to spill over to other discussions. The most objectionable comments were made by zoamchomsky who has made accusations (laced with insults) against Betty Cash of causing her own injuries. I wrote a piece on this, which contains a link to Sheaffer’s article and reprints one of zoam’s charges:


I’m eager to discuss the Cash-Landrum case here, and have presented new and reprinted articles discussing it from many perspectives, including skeptical analysies of it. I’d hoped to contact him to get a guest article, but received no response.  Somehow the topic was stirred again in a discussion of Sheaffer’s article,  The 2014 International UFO Congress, Part 5 (last):


zoamchomsky's online face

zoamchomsky
March 8, 2014 at 3:45 PM
That's why it's called a myth and delusion, deano, you and others believe these stories are true when there's no good reason to think that they are. There's certainly no evidence. Even the best "UFO" stories are mere anecdotes, and all of the "evidence" ever presented by Believers is really crummy.
So you see the problem? You believe in the existence of some extraordinary thing based only on highly fallible human perceptions and their subjective narrative creations. These stories consist of the teller's failure to identify an ambiguous visual stimulus, and the details are mostly confabulated afterwards according to a culturally supplied generic "UFO" script as it has grown, evolved and mutated over decades.
You know, like Betty Cash's attention-seeking simple-minded mashup of the Maury Island hoax and the Hills' flying-saucer "abduction" fairy tale. Both Bettys had read a lot trashy flying-saucer magazines and watched a lot of science-fiction movies and television. Or Terauchi's laughable "spaceship" scare over Alaska and the "UFO" myth and delusion-supplied and completely imaginary "scout ships" and the "giant mothership." Terauchi was so totally steeped in "UFO" mythology that he admitted to thinking of a famous "UFO" case even while his silly "UFO" scare was occurring!

Like you, they all had some level of difficulty distinguishing fiction and fantasy from our one scientific reality where "UFOs" of any kind do not exist and never have. No rational adult believes a bit of this nonsense, deano, the totality of real-world facts are incongruent with the existence of "UFOs." The idea that there could be unidentified objects of any kind haunting our atmosphere and nearspace and all the world not know it is absurd.
Even the best "UFO" stories are fundamentally unsound; the process of "UFO" reporting is questionable with ambiguity resident in every step; and the very idea of "UFO" reporting--that a failure to identify is worthy of consideration--is itself the very core of the absurd "UFO" delusion.

Please study this monograph and begin to help yourself out of your juvenile false belief about the world--your "UFO" delusion.
http://debunker.com/texts/black_box_approach_to_ufo_perceptions.html

Peter Brooksmith asks him a few questions about his comments, but we are focusing on Cash-Landrum here, an excerpt:

The Duke of MendozaMarch 9, 2014 at 2:54 PM
Zoam he say: “Both Bettys had read a lot trashy flying-saucer magazines and watched a lot of science-fiction movies and television."If that’s the case with Betty Cash, (a) I haven’t heard of it, which isn’t necessarily significant :-) and (b) where did you get this fact(oid)?
Just stories?

That’s where I came in,
Curt Collins March 10, 2014 at 4:19 PMZoam, I too would like to know more about where you heard about: "... Betty Cash's attention-seeking simple-minded mashup of the Maury Island hoax and the Hills' flying-saucer "abduction" fairy tale. Both Bettys had read a lot trashy flying-saucer magazines and watched a lot of science-fiction movies and television."

I've looked for any evidence to support prior UFO interest and haven't found it. If events were fabricated, I feel it more likely they'd be working from "Close Encounters" or TV's "Project UFO" as source material. Also, I don't understand why you need to have Betty injure herself. Wouldn't it make as much sense to invent the story around the illness?

Lastly, Betty's narrative of the story was sketchy, so you should be considering Vickie Landrum as the architect of your hoax scenario. She had a more active role, and a developed narrative of the scenario from the beginning, and she was the one to contact police and NUFORC.
He had a brief reply that I considered a non-answer, and I challenged him to produce facts, or at least a hypothesis that matched the facts. I thought it was fading away, but he responded in greater detail.
zoamchomsky feels there were media precedents to the C-L case.

zoamchomsky March 14, 2014 at 3:41 PM Since Curt has devoted himself to C-L and wants us all along on his misery trip:
"We thought it was the end of time." --Betty Cash
"If you see a man it's gonna be Jesus." --Vickie Landrum
Curt; If you don't see the unintentional hilarity--and self-exposing tell--in those unnecessary details added to this flying-saucer fairy tale for pure effect, then you might be just a bit too... credulous!
Exactly like the ridiculously stupid and impossible details of heat and radiation, which--if true--would have burnt them immediately and killed them in days! And the very same is true of every other bit of their fantastic celestial, and horribly noisy, event over northeastern Houston that somehow tens of thousands failed to observe, an event that--if real--would have made LIVE TV news but didn't!
"...over toward Crosby and Intercontinental Airport was the way they were."--BC Yeah, right, Betty! And let's hear that East-Texas drawl again: "We thought it was the end of time."

Curt; Most if not all of the skeptics here, Gary Posner and Phil Klass think C-L was a hoax, none or very little of their story is true or that it could not possibly have happened the way they tell it, and that their superficial injuries were self inflicted. Now, how is what I've said about this crude hoax substantially different?
And how can determining that it was a crude hoax and none of it ever happened be comparable to credulously believing that it all happened as they say and the flaming object the size of a water tower was a nuclear-powered black project? That doesn't make sense. It's Betty's simple fairy tale that has ZERO evidence.
As I said about flying-saucer fairy tales that offer photos as "evidence." Once the hoaxed photo is exposed it becomes real evidence that the saucer story is a lie. Without real-world corroborating evidence of any kind--no possibile helicopters--their injuries become real evidence of only one thing: Hoax for attention and with the hope of monetary gain--always the main motivators for dumb "UFO" hoaxes.


Repeating here, so you have an opportunity to address points unanswered:
And for a sketchy, hackneyed, scripted "UFO" fairy tale for which there is not a single bit of supporting evidence, and that real-world knowledge, experience and circumstances indicate not only the high implausibility of a real event but hoaxing by the purported "witnesses," what can be the only logical determination, Curt?
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In logic, probability, and in real-world practical skepticism, the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. So evidenceless "UFO" stories aren't simply unproven, they're rightly dismissed as having never occurred. "Feelings" about some truth to the story are irrelevant.
You want science? The default position for any proposition/claim is the negation of that claim, the Null hypothesis. Show how any part of Betty and Vickie's highly implausible story--an utter and complete negative factually--could be true, okay?
Now insult me more, call me names on your blog for bothering to speak with you about your obsession over what was never anything more than a crude hoax for attention and money become inconsequential tabloid trash in 1981. Belief that it was more than that and obsessing over the details thirty years later is pointless.
- - - 





Curt Collins, on the C-L case

I thank zoam for taking the time to outline his thoughts more clearly. Well, I have to admit it would be more fun to insult him and call zoam names, but I need to get back to work on the case. Buried between his barbs, he does make several interesting points. My focus has been on reexamining the facts in the case, and in doing so I’ve uncovered some apparent (trying to be diplomatic here) inaccuracies in the details reported in the investigation. While I am concerned about the veracity of the original claims, finding out how a botched investigation led to the international publicity and legal action against he U.S. government is even more fascinating to me. What I’m trying to say, is that the case is important from several standpoints whether it is based on a hoax or not. 


I had hoped zoamchomsky had something solid to back up his allegations of hoax. There are some nagging inconsistincies beyond things the investigator may have inserted while trying to jazz up the case. The witnesses do make some inconsistent statements, and there are a few plot holes in their story, but I’ve found no evidence of a hoax. Still, it would be interesting to have all the “inconvenient facts” gathered in a presentation to see what mosaic picture forms. Working from memory, I don’t think it will line up to match zoam’s accusations, but we will see where this road goes