Friday, February 8, 2019

Philip Klass on the Cash-Landrum UFO case


Philip J. Klass (1919 – 2005) needs no introduction to most buffs, as he was the most prominent debunker of the UFO topic. Klass was an engineer by profession who went on to become the senior avionics editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. In the mid-1960s Klass became interested in UFOs from a skeptical point of view, and in 1976 was a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, known today as CSI, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Klass became actively involved in the UFO topic, he attended conferences, was frequently quoted in the media, and wrote seven books on the subject. However he thought ufology was mostly filled with the gullible and frauds, promoters of pseudoscience.

In the early 1980s, the Cash-Landrum story was the biggest UFO case, so naturally it caught the interest of Klass. The American Philosophical Society was the beneficiary of Klass' files and it includes over 200 pages of his correspondence and news clippings and on the case. Klass wrote to investigator John F. Schuessler who considered the inquiries to be accusations, allegations, and harassment, so he seldom responded. However, the documentation shows Klass asked logical questions, no more invasive than if the case had been taken to court, just as Schuessler and the witnesses desired. Klass had a more mutually cordial relationship with other people involved, such as Lt. Col. George C. Sarran, who conducted the investigation for the DAIG and Peter A. Gersten, the "UFO Lawyer" in charge of the legal case for Cash and the Landrums.

Klass briefly discussed the Cash-Landrum case in his 1983 book, UFOs: The Public Deceived. He quoted how the editor of the MUFON Journal who had stated that “As a general principle, the more sensational the content of a UFO report is, the closer critical scrutiny it should receive.” Klass did not think that principle had been applied in this incident, and that John Schuessler’s investigation and MUFON’s reporting of it were derelict in not considering the possibility of it being a hoax:
The distinguishing feature of the Cash-Landrum case was the alleged physical after-effects, which should prompt a UFO investigator to begin by talking to the family physicians of the principals to determine if they had shown any of the symptoms... prior to the alleged incident... Although Schuessler has written several articles on the case over a two-year period, he has never included any details on the health of the two women prior to the alleged incident.
Klass was more direct about his opinion of the case in the 1985 HBO documentary, UFOs: What’s Going On?:

"I believe the story is a hoax. There is absolutely no evidence. The women’s story is supported only by the claim of Betty Cash that she had serious health problems after the alleged incident."

Shortly after the show aired, Christian Lambright interviewed witness Vickie Landrum at her home in Dayton Texas. She offered a rebuttal, "Phil Klass makes me sick."

A Conversation With Philip J. Klass

Klass continued to express his doubts about the case over the years. The following is the Cash-Landrum portion of a 1995 interview with him by Gayle Newsom. The AFU (Archives for the Unexplained) hosts the online collection of Houston Sky, “A Bimonthly Newsletter for Houston-Area MUFON Members and Others.” The entire interview can be found in Houston Sky No. 6, Aug./Sept. 1995.

Houston Sky No. 6, Aug./Sept. 1995


































A Conversation With Philip J. Klass
Mutual UFO Network 26th Annual Symposium, Seattle, July 7 and 8, 1995 
by Gayle Nesom

GN: What do you think happened in the Cash-Landrum incident?

PK: Well, shortly after it happened, I wrote John Schuessler to ask when we could see a statement of the ladies’ doctors about their medical conditions before the incident. His response was, "Read my next MUFON paper." When the next MUFON paper came out, there was nothing about their previous health conditions. So I wrote him again, and then he replied that they considered that very personal and an invasion of privacy. I said, wait a minute... If their health was excellent before and they are willing to discuss their ill health now... If it had been the reverse and you said, well, here is a report on their health condition before, which shows they were in perfect health for their age, but it's an invasion of privacy to ask about their health now - that I could understand. So until such time as John Schuessler and the people involved agree to release the medical records of their condition before the incident, I just can't waste time with it. That's my position.

GN: But that's skirting the issue.

PK: Supposing I was to charge that after this interview with you I came down with AIDS, or excess cholesterol, and sued you. Would your lawyer ask to see my medical records before our meeting to find out if I had high cholesterol or AIDS previously? Wouldn't that be rational?

GN: I still think you are skirting the issue because you can discuss aspects of the case without knowing all about these women. And they weren't the only ones who saw the object. There were other reports...

PK: I even saw the UFO from Washington, D.C. I was out that night, and I could see it way down in Texas.

GN: Okay, next question.

PK: No, that is a fundamental. If their health condition was excellent, then there is absolutely no reason I can see not to release the records. But, number two: 15 years have gone by. If these ladies were irradiated, I would presume they died of leukemia long ago. Are they still alive?

GN: They are, but neither one has worked since. And Betty Cash has had breast and skin cancer.

PK: Betty Cash had complained about hair falling out. If she had taken chemotherapy before the incident, that could well be explained.

GN: What you're saying is that she may have had chemotherapy a month or week before the incident - or six months before? One of the problems I have is that you try to undermine witnesses without addressing other aspects of the case.

PK: Let me ask a personal question. Have you ever told a lie in your entire life?

GN: Sure.

PK: Do you know anyone who could honestly say they have never told a lie?

GN: Probably not.

PK: So how can you explain that Richard Nixon did not know anything about the Watergate break-in and the Republican involvement until a year afterward? At least, that's what he first said. Now, if you had asked me to explain how the President could not know - well it turned out he was not telling the truth. So, anyone who believes that human beings never­ - or almost never - tell falsehoods... But let's come back to the 22 helicopters. Under those circumstances, if the story of the incident happened as they described, I would very much doubt that anyone would take the time to count the number of the copters. Number two and I am a bit foggy on details - it has been 15 years but in one of their early appearances, Betty Cash or Vickie Landrum reported seeing Jesus Christ.*

GN: Betty Cash was a fundamentalist Christian. That was her only explanation of what it could have been.

PK: Was that what she said she saw, or not?

GN: That's the way she perceived it, and that's what she reported.

PK: So maybe Jesus was flying a flying saucer. Are you going to start saying, "Well, we've got to interpret, we've got to change what they said? so, if these people were irradiated from 10,000 yards, then the crew of the helicopters must have died of radiation long ago. They were much closer. And if 22 helicopters, each with a pilot and co-pilot - to say nothing of other crew - if four people from a helicopter squadron all died, surely we'd have heard of it.

I don't dismiss the possibility that there is intelligent life elsewhere and that they may have nuclear bombs. But if this is true and the government knows, then as of 1980, I would have expected all-out government effort to develop defenses against UFOs, especially in the form of some high-energy lasers. But I know from having followed such programs that there was no such effort. I can only assume that if this was an extraterrestrial nuclear weapon and if the government knew, then we have many, many derelict officials of that government and every government.

(End of excerpt.)
. . .

Vickie & Colby Landrum in a re-enactment, The UFO Experience, 1983 
*Phil Klass was wrong about Betty or Vickie "seeing Jesus Christ." The witnesses claimed they thought they were experiencing the Biblical Judgment Day. What Vickie Landrum actually reported was that when comforting young Colby, who was frightened by the UFO, "I got back in the car and took him in my arms. I told him it might be Jesus coming after us. If he saw a Man not to be afraid, He would be coming to carry us to a better place."

There were no claims of an actual Jesus sighting, and at no time did the ladies characterize the object as a "flying saucer." According to their story, once they saw the helicopters pursuing the UFO, they rationalized the object as a military aircraft project. Aside from that, the rest of Klass' concerns and criticism of the Cash-Landrum case remains valid.

There was certainly a lack of transparency in the Cash-Landrum case, and part of that was explained by Schuessler as the need to guard evidence that would be presented in the legal trial. The case was dismissed in 1986 due to lack of evidence and no trial was ever held. Even after that the case information was withheld from independent review, which has done much to preserve the mystery and controversy surrounding the case.
. . .

For more information on the incident, the investigation and its documentation, visit our page:

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Cash-Landrum-McDonald UFO Incident of 1980



The Cash-Landrum case of December 29, 1980 is one of the best-known UFO stories, 
made famous in the media for the alleged radiation injuries to witnesses Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum and her grandson Colby. Shortly after the story became public, another UFO witness from that night came forward, but his testimony has been largely ignored. Jerry McDonald of Dayton, Texas, witnessed a low-flying triangle-shaped object, but earlier the same evening and miles away. All these years later, Jerry feels his story has not been told, so he contacted BBL to share his experience and his thoughts on the UFO’s origin. 

Before hearing his modern perspective, let’s first examine how his story surfaced in 1981.

The Original Interview

John Schuessler, then the deputy director of the Mutual UFO Network, also ran a Houston-area group, Project VISIT (for Vehicle Internal Systems Investigative Team), which began investigating the Cash-Landrum case Feb. 21, 1981 after getting a call from Betty Cash, then by visiting the sighting location a week later with Vickie and Colby Landrum.

Other than getting the witnesses’ story, the VISIT investigation produced nothing, so they turned to the power of the media. John Schuessler’s memo of March 20, 1981 states:
“Metro News Service carried a plea for witnesses to come forth. Jerry heard the plea on KIKK radio.” That was Jerry McDonald, and on March 23, David Kissinger of VISIT went to Dayton to interview him.

Jerry was an oil field worker, 23 years old at the time, and lived in Dayton in a house trailer with his wife Glenda and their baby girl. It was early Monday night, and Jerry was outside repairing the water line when he heard a rumbling noise. He looked up, maybe expecting to see the Goodyear blimp, but instead saw a strange triangular object flying above the 40-foot tall trees nearby. Jerry described and sketched the object as triangular, flying point first, the opposite side with white and blue lights near the corners, and two flaring lights that looked like the flame of an acetylene torch near the middle. In the center of the triangle, it had a brilliant red light. Jerry watched it for two or three minutes, estimating its size as 40 feet wide, its altitude at 130 feet, and it’s speed as 3 miles per hour.    
Drawing by Kissinger based on McDonalds's report.
Two days later, Jerry came down with the flu. Glenda hadn’t gone outside to see it, but she got sick too, but not their daughter. Two weeks later, on Feb. 14, Jerry was hospitalized for an air pocket in his lung which was treated by medication. An interesting detail surfaced during the interview. Glenda McDonald had also seen a UFO - two of them, but much later on the night of Feb. 14, and hers were a bit smaller, kite-shaped with lights at each corner. Kissinger closed his report by suggesting that they advertise on radio and TV to find other witnesses, and to notify the authorities about the public health hazard from the UFO. 

The problems making Jerry McDonald’s UFO with the Cash-Landrum case are numerous. He wasn’t able to pinpoint the time of his sighting, initially saying between 8 and 9 p.m., then between 7 and 8 p.m. to VISIT investigators. The Cash-Landrum sighting time is estimated at shortly after 9 p.m., so if the earlier time is correct, that’s a long while for a UFO to be prowling the Texas skies between Dayton and New Caney. Jerry reported the noise of  the UFO as a rumble that got made him look up, whereas Vickie Landrum described her object producing a roar like a hurricane. The most notable feature to Jerry was the lights on the UFO, particularly the single bright red on at its center, but Betty and Vickie described the object they saw as blindingly brilliant with no discernible features. Another big difference was the shape. Jerry’s UFO was a triangular flat wing about 40 ft wide, the Cash-Landrum object said to be a huge diamond-shaped object, more like a football shooting flame from the bottom pointed end. It’s difficult to believe they were describing the same object, but they were both UFOs, and that’s close enough for flying saucer science. 

In an undated follow-up, VISIT attempted to reconcile the different characteristics in the three UFO sightings described by Vickie and Colby Landrum, Jerry, and in his wife’s Feb. sighting. The letter included several pictures, suggesting the Jerry’s triangular pyramid UFO had really been a diamond-shaped craft viewed from below. 
The descriptions of the various witnesses have been reviewed. One of the possible configurations that fits all descriptions is given below. Please provide discussion of why and why it does not fit the object you saw.
VISIT sketch: "possible configurations"
 In other words, the investigators were trying to shape the testimony to fit the hypothesis that the UFO from all three sightings were the same object. The documents related to the McDonald interview are collected in a pdf: Project VISIT file on Jerry McDonald

Jerry’s sighting, along with Glenda’s and any other allegedly related UFO reports, were not given individual case files by VISIT or MUFON, just included within the Cash-Landrum material. Comparing that to a police investigation, it’s like dropping every crime in a city into a single folder and hoping for one solution for everything. Glenda’s sighting was completely dropped, but Jerry’s sometimes appeared in UFO literature, but just in an attempt to corroborate the original Cash-Landrum case. That's caused the McDonald sighting to be ignored, and missed by researchers investigating "black triangle" UFOs.

The Original Media Coverage

The most accurate reporting of Jerry’s sighting was the earliest one published, in The Houston Chronicle, p.1A., Sept 25, 1981, “State, private agencies probing claims of UFO encounter” by Cindy Horswell.

Jerry McDonald, 24, an oilfield roughneck, also witnessed something strange that night from his home in Dayton. “I heard a sound like a rumble, and I thought it was the Goodyear  blimp,” he said. “It was kind of triangular or diamond-shaped and had two twin torches that were shooting brilliant blue flames out of the back.” He said it also had two bright lights on it and a red light in the center as it  passed about 150 feet above him.”
In The Unexplained: Mysteries of Mind, Space and Time,  vol 9, Issue 107, 1982,
Orbis Publishing Limited (UK), “Blind Terror in Texas,” John Schuessler edited Jerry’s quote to remove the “triangular” description:
Oilfield laborer Jerry McDonald was in his back garden in Dayton when he witnessed a huge UFO flying overhead. At first he thought it was the Goodyear airship, but he quickly realized it was some unidentified object. "It was kind of diamond-shaped and had two twin torches that were shooting brilliant blue flames out the back", he said. 
It took The X-Files in the 1990s to get the media interested in UFOs again. “UFO Sightings” by Marty Racine was the cover story for the Houston Chronicle’s Texas Magazine, Nov. 11, 1996. It featured coverage of the Cash-Landrum case, including an interview with Jerry McDonald about his sighting, and printed his sketch of the triangle-shaped UFO.  
Fort the entire excerpt covering the Cash-Landrum story, see:
Houston Chronicle’s Texas Magazine, Nov. 11, 1996
The same evening about 15 miles away in Dayton, Jerry McDonald, an oilfield roughneck, was fixing a water main outside his trailer when a huge black triangular craft sporting a brilliant red light and belching twin flames passed 130 feet overhead."It was there, buddy, it was there. Blew my mind, it was going so low and slow. This was no blimp. This was something out of this world. I saw something that scared the death out of me."
Later in the article, it presented Jerry’s thoughts on the origin of the object:
McDonald now thinks his UFO was a Stealth Bomber, which was developed in the late '70s. ‘I think (the military) just got caught with their pants down."

In John Schuessler’s 1998 book, The Cash-Landrum Incident, the appendix includes copies of Kissinger’s interviews of the McDonalds, and on page 78 he gives a summary of Jerry’s sighting, portraying it as a closer match the C-L UFO. 
Jerry McDonald was working in his yard between 7 and 9 p.m. when he saw an object as large as the Goodyear blimp overhead... It continued on over the vacant football field and out of sight to the west, in the direction of Huffman.

The Cash-Landrum case was examined in UFO Hunters “Alien Fallout” episode from Jan. 14, 2009. It featured a short interview with Jerry McDonald and showed him making a sketch of the object he'd seen, a clip just intended to show that someone else had seen a UFO.

Jerry McDonald Speaks Out

Those brief appearances are about the extent of the coverage of Jerry’s sighting in the media, but 
Dec. 8, 2016, BBL published the piece, Cash-Landrum UFO Case Updates: Witness Reports,” which closed with a call for new witnesses to come forward. That evening I received an email:
My name is Jerry McDonald I am the silent witness that has was not named in the lawsuit... I believe I know what I saw that night now, and I need to tell somebody.
When I called Jerry, he said that he was the “silent witness” of the lawsuit, that he had been asked to be part of it but declined, otherwise it would have been known as the Cash-Landrum-McDonald case. He said at the time he was young and a bit scared - unwilling to miss work to testify - and afraid of reprisals by the government. Jerry said Dayton Dayton police detective Lamar Walker, whom he described as a good friend, was someone who the attorney had intended to call as a witness. He mentioned that Walker had seen the helicopters, but not the UFO, which was just the opposite of Jerry’s sighting. Jerry said the lawsuit was thrown out due to lack of evidence, which is accurate. 

In reviewing his sighting, McDonald described the location, saying that there's now a Walgreen’s where his trailer was located in 1980. When he was filmed for the UFO Hunters segment, they went to an adjacent property to represent the location. He pointed out that UFO literature is in error when they say he was out in his “garden.” Instead, he was outside at the time to repair a broken PVC water pipe to his trailer, and was covered in mud. McDonald described his UFO sighting, saying that the object was triangular, about 100 - 150 feet in the air and it sounded like a blimp and he imitated the sound that it made, a humming or rumbling noise. He mentioned how the Goodyear Blimp was frequently seen at Christmastime, and that they had Santa Claus’ sled and the reindeers displayed on the side (animated by its lights). His description of the experience was consistent with his original testimony, but I tried to get a sense of the kind of impression it made on him. When I asked him about its size, he said that it was not all that big, and that it was flying low and slow (so low, he said he could have shot it down.) 

Two of examples McDonald sent of UAVs resembling his UFO. 
The main reason McDonald wanted to reach me was to  express his present day thoughts on the origin of the UFO. He has come to believe that what he witnessed was an early flight test of an unmanned aerial vehicle being test flown in Texas. He told me he had found a picture online, a Lockheed Martin UAV on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, a triangular-shaped drone that resembled the object that he had seen in 1980.  “This is a prototype of unmanned drones that you will never find - the government has covered this paperwork up because of the lawsuit. These ladies are dead of their injuries and never got compensated for it, and I know exactly what I saw I know exactly what it looked like.” He is convinced the same object he saw was the Cash-Landrum UFO, and went on to say it was “jammed full of radar” and that's what had caused the “radiation burns”in the witnesses. 

The NBC show, That's Incredible!, filming in Dayton, Texas, July 1981.
In the left photo, Jerry McDonald, center, on the right, Colby Landrum at the camera.
In returning to some of the points he had made earlier in the conversation, I asked him about knowing the witnesses. He said that he and Colby Landrum still talk, and that he had seen him recently at funerals. Colby is mad and blames the Government, his phrase was, “mad they killed his grandmother.” He mentioned that when in 1981 when ABC's That's Incredible! came to Dayton film, he’d taken pictures of the crew with Colby. McDonald was also supposed to be interviewed for the show, but he got too nervous and his part was canceled. Jerry has tried to talk to Colby about his idea that the UFO was a drone prototype, but Colby is mad about the situation the entire experience, and that he wants no part of it. 

McDonald feels that he's not had the opportunity to be heard, even locally, that they “will not let the story get out." Jerry thought that UFO Hunters might have been taken off the air, because "they were getting too close." He mentioned that the show had taken core samples on Farm-to-Market Road, but wasn't sure what the results of the analysis revealed (nothing but repaving over the decades). Regarding secrecy in the Cash-Landrum case, he said that the helicopters had been out there, and that it had been covered it up in the middle of the night. 

Today and Beyond

We’ve had intermittent contact since, and Jerry recently sent me several articles and photos on UAVs that resemble the aircraft he saw that night. I asked Jerry about the color of the craft, but he was unsure of it, the lighted portions of it were most prominent in the night sky. The drawing from his initial interview lists the body as black, but can’t be sure.  Jerry thinks it could have been a joint program between that Lockheed Martin and NASA conducted from the Johnson Space Center. The published history of the development of UAV’s does not agree with Jerry’s prototype scenario, but it’s worth considering. What I feel is most import about Jerry’s story is his description of what he witnessed, a very unusual aircraft. He makes no fantastic claims about what he saw, but his testimony is just as important as that of any UFO witness. His description of the event remains unchanged, and when he sent me the copy of his 1996 triangle illustration, he said,  This is my original drawing and I stand by it.”

Jerry remains convinced that the UFO was really a US military UAV prototype, and that by investigating it, the truth about the Cash-Landrum incident might be revealed. “My resolve is strong, now I have clarity and that’s what they were experimenting with that night and got caught with their pants down... I’m telling you brother they think these people are dead and gone and not coming back from the grave, but I’m still alive to tell about it. This was truly a government cover-up.”


Friday, December 7, 2018

Skeptoid Challenges the Cash-Landrum UFO Incident



On December 4, 2018 Brian Dunning presented an episode of the Skeptoid Podcast,  The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident, a skeptical evaluation of the case. Dunning does a fair job of examining the case, and he’s clearly done a lot of reading on the case. The printed version of his program includes a list of Dunning’s sources, which includes documents hosted at Blue Blurry Lines.

Brian Dunning reaches the conclusion that the medical problems reported by the witnesses were not due to radiation poisoning from a UFO, and he suggests the witnesses were made some false or exaggerated claims. He also charges the primary UFO investigator of the case, John Schuessler, with cherrypicking data presented as evidence, saying he included “the bits of reports that supported his thesis... and ignored the bits of reports that did not...” Dunning’s argument is worthy of an examination, and a response.

Dunning’s summary of the sighting by Betty Cash, Vickie and Colby Landrum itself is good, as it reflects how the case initially presented. He stumbles a bit when describing how the witnesses reported the case, but that’s understandable. It’s an interesting detail, and the delay in the start of the investigation may be the reason behind why evidence and answers are so elusive in the C-L case. A short summary of how it began:

 Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum said they didn’t immediately connect their illness with the UFO, and were afraid of being called crazy, so they didn’t report their sighting.  At the end of January 1981, once the UFO story had been revealed to Betty’s doctors, Vickie Landrum reported the story to her neighbor, Dayton Police Chief Tommy Waring. It took Waring two or three days to locate the number for the the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) in Seattle, Washington. Vickie reported the sighting on Feb. 2 to Robert Gribble, who passed the information on to UFO organizations, but problems arose, and it was several weeks before an investigation began. John Schuessler, then the deputy director of the Mutual UFO Network, also ran a Houston-area group, Project VISIT (for Vehicle Internal Systems Investigative Team). Schuessler began investigating the Cash-Landrum case on Feb. 21, 1981 after getting a call from Betty Cash, then by visiting the sighting location a week later with Vickie and Colby Landrum. 

Photos of witnesses displayed on Hangar 1

Photograph of Betty Cash's back, showing cellulitis.
Dunning next discusses the alleged radiation injuries, and talks about how Dr. Gary Posner had seen the C-L case presented on the 1981 episode of NBC’s That's Incredible! 
where “Betty's arms [showed] discrete, round, sunburn-type rashes...” Dunning says Schuessler never mentioned these particular injuries in his book, but that’s not unique. Betty Cash’s alleged radiation burn to her finger beneath her wedding ring was not mentioned by Schuessler in the book, and not in the hospital reports reproduced there or anywhere else. Dunning’s right though, about the hospital diagnosis. While Betty’s combination of symptoms did seem to puzzle her cardiologist and the Parkway Hospital doctors, the diagnosis was of earthly ailments.
See the BBL report, Betty Cash’s Medical Records for further details.

Weekly World News, March 24, 1981
Dunning also mentions Vickie Landrum’s complaints, and notes that her hair and fingernail loss were not documented with photographs. That’s true. There are drawings of Vickie’s fingernails, but no photos, and the pictures of her closest to the incident do not reflect significant hair loss. 

Dunning also cites the letter from Dr. Peter Rank to John Schuessler, stating:
I think it is important to assure Betty that on the basis of the medical information you have provided me, that there are no signs of serious injury to date. You may also reassure Vicki that her cataract was probably a pre-existing condition and not necessarily related to her incident.  
Dunning’s use of the quote by Dr. Rank is damning, but it cuts both ways. Yes, Dr. Rank was a radiologist, and Schuessler’s primary source supporting radiation burns in the case. However, Dr. Rank only examined Betty Cash’s medical records and looked at photos of the witnesses, he never conducted a physical examination of Betty Cash, or of Vickie and Colby Landrum.

Rank, P. "Personal correspondence to John Schuessler." The Cash-Landrum UFO Case Document Collection. Blue Blurry Lines, 29 Apr. 1981. Web. 29 Nov. 2018. https://app.box.com/s/zvelar3gubgiee5zwgi3
Drawing signed by Betty Cash & Vickie Landrum
Dunning discusses Betty Cash telling the Air Force that the helicopters she had seen carried military markings, while in earlier interviews she said she had seen none. When interviewed as Bergstrom AFB on August 17, 1981, Betty was asked to draw a picture of the UFO, and write out the markings she claimed to see on the helicopters. She printed the words, "United States Air Force." Interestingly, the Bergstrom interview is downplayed by Schuessler, and only mentioned in a negative way, that the witnesses were treated unkindly and mocked. The transcript of the interview does not reflect that, and instead has value as direct testimony from all three of the witnesses away from UFO investigators. 

Dunning does not try to tackle the issue of the UFO itself (or the associated helicopters), and I can’t fault him too much for that. In fact, he was a bit too soft. Despite the claims that the sighting occurred in a remote area, it was by no means unpopulated. There was at least one trailer home nearby, and there were other homes down the road in both directions. After the initial sighting, the witnesses drove by a fishing camp, a church, then thorough Huffman, and claimed to be able to see the UFO and helicopters from several points along the way. With the sights and sounds they claimed, it’s difficult to understand how many more people were not alarmed.

Map of the Cash-Landrum sighting route
In his conclusion, Dunning seems sympathetic to the witnesses, and allows that they may have indeed seen something that night, but does to believe it to have been extraordinary, just another of many sincere, but mistaken reports of UFOs. It’s his opinion that they wrongly connected their health problems with the experience, and sincerely believing they were wronged, exaggerated their story. And he includes the possibility they went further, such as faking sunburn from the UFO.

It could be. Having a UFO terrifying experience could have been so stressful that it worsened existing health problems in the witnesses. If we want to examine a hoax scenario, a more plausible scenario might be that Betty Cash was genuinely ill and that Vickie Landrum faked her injuries in order to support her friend and try to get her help, including financial support. Betty Cash was a cardiac patient, she’d had surgery a few years before and was taking several medical prescriptions to manage her health. She’d recently been divorced, and as she told the officers in the Bergstrom interview, her business had failed and was closed. Before the UFO, Betty Cash was going through a very rough patch. 

Brian Dunning noted that “Most of what's known about this story stems from the efforts of John Schuessler,” and that’s been the cases’ biggest asset and liability. Schuessler campaigned to get the story covered by the media and supported the legal case suing the US government for damages related to its alleged involvement in the UFO incident. Due to Schuessler’s role as the gatekeeper of the case, he shaped the information released and took a central role in how newspapers and television shows portrayed the story. It caused a simplified, one-sided version of the story to be told one with heroes and villains, the witnesses as poor victims, the government as the evil keeper of secrets, and the valiant UFO researcher bravely fighting for justice. As Dunning says, “a legend.”

The documents presented here at Blue Blurry Lines are intended to strip away the mythology of the Cash-Landrum case and allow for an unbiased examination of the events. We may never know exactly what happened, but we can at least get closer to the truth. 





Wednesday, October 24, 2018

UFOs and Alien Monsters from Outer Space

(Originally published May 29, 2018 at Adventures In Poor Taste as "UFO monsters: 10 species of terror.")
Soon after the first report of flying saucers in June 1947, Unidentified Flying Objects took the place of Sea Serpents as the the great mystery of the unknown. The belief spread that UFOs were spacecraft from other worlds, and shortly thereafter, people began reporting encounters with their occupants. Most of the aliens were described as being spacemen, not all that different from humans, however, some of the reports sounded more like the bug-eyed monsters of early pulp science fiction.

At The Saucers That Time Forgot, we usually look at the weird stories and events of UFO history, but here we’ll look at some of its myths of those extraterrestrial creatures.

Mars Attacks

1897: Planet Earth
Long before there were flying saucer reports, there were stories of creatures from other worlds, and the most famous and influential one was H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. His invading Martians were inhuman, octopus-like creatures. The story had a huge influence on UFO lore as did Orson Welles' 1938 radio adaptation of it for Halloween. The War of the Worlds set the industry standard, and its imitators from - print to motion pictures - almost always presented space aliens as invading monsters.


The Deros of the Shaver Mystery

March 1945: Beneath the Earth (and in the pages of Amazing Stories)
Before the Flying Saucer wave of 1947, Richard Shaver was telling tales of abductions by Deros, the hideous dwarfed degenerate offspring of ancient extraterrestrials. They lived beneath the surface of the Earth, and used their alien technology to torment and torture mankind from ancient times to today. Shaver’s Deros were said to be the basis for legends; witches, goblins and the monsters of myth - and perhaps Satan himself.


The Saucer and the Scoutmaster

August 19, 1952: Palm Beach County, Florida
D.S. DesVergers, “Sonny,” was driving three Boy Scouts home when he stopped to investigate strange lights. Armed with a flashlight and a machete, he headed alone into the woods where he encountered a UFO. He said the hatch opened and blasted him with a ball of fire singeing his cap, arms, and a patch of nearby grass. Afterwards, pressed by reporters for more details, he said, "It's better for me not to go any further for the public good because it might cause panic." In an exclusive interview the next year for The American Weekly, DesVergers admitted he had seen a “creature” inside the saucer, but refused again to go further, giving the distinct impression that the alien was just too horrible to describe.

The Little Men
March, 1948: Aztec, New Mexico When flying saucers started appearing in 1947 and people speculated about the occupants, some thought they might be men from Mars. But not like Wells’ Martians. Men, not monsters. But since the saucers appeared to have little headroom, they must be small. Frank Scully wrote the 1950 book Behind the Flying Saucers, based on Silas Newton’s story of the military's capture of a crashed flying saucer and the alien bodies inside. The little men from Venus were identical to humans, just smaller, “Dr. Gee says they measured between 36 and 42 inches and were 30 to 40 years old. Otherwise he found nothing unusual about them.” The story was proven to be a hoax, but decades later, ufologists salvaged it by retconning and recycling it into the Roswell crash story.

The Visitor from Venus

November 20, 1952: In the California desert near Mount Palomar George Adamski became known as the first “Contactee,” but since the late 1920s had been preaching a variant message of Theosophy until the flying saucers entered the picture. He retooled the message with space men at the center of it, which helped draw believers, but he topped that in 1952 by making first contact. Adamski told how he encountered a landed flying saucer and met a man from Venus who sounded more like an angel than a monster. The alien was a bit shorter than average, but not a “little man,” about five feet, six inches in height with flowing blonde hair. Adamski said, “The beauty of his form surpassed anything I had ever seen.” The Venusian brought a warning of how Earth would destroy itself unless we renounced our atomic bombs and warlike ways. Curiously, the message was ideologically identical to what Adamski had been teaching for decades. Adamski had many imitators, but he was the first, and most famous Contactee, the number one ambassador for the Space Brothers, sharing their platitudes of peace and love.

The Flatwoods Monster

September 12, 1952: Flatwoods in Braxton County, West Virginia
The Charleston, West Virginia Gazette reported that after seeing a fiery object seem to come down in the hills, a group of seven people, mostly kids, went to look for it. They saw flashing lights and smelled a horrible sulphur odor, then saw a "10 to 12-foot tall monster with a face of fiery red, protruding eyes, a green body and a spade-like tail." They fled in terror and notified the police, who investigated the scene, finding “a strong, sickening burnt metallic odor still prevailing, but there was no sign of the monster.”

Hairy Dwarfs Attack

November 29, 1954: Petare, Miranda, Venezuela
Gustavo Gonzales and his employee, José Ponce, were on a pre-dawn business drive when they saw a large metallic or luminous sphere hovering above the road. Stopping, they saw a hairy dwarfish being, 3 feet tall, with claws and glowing eyes, approaching. Gonzales took hold of it picked it up, but found that the alien dwarf was strong and fought fiercely back. Gonzales pulled a knife and stabbed at it, but his blade glanced off its tough hide. During the fight, Ponce ran to the police station for help. Two more of the creatures appeared, and one blinded Gonzales with a bright light before they returned to their craft and flew away. Gonzales went to the police station, where he found Ponce trying to bring help. No evidence was left behind except for a deep scratch in Gonzales’ side from the fight.  

The Goblins from Outer Space

August 21, 1955:  Christian County, Kentucky
As the story goes, one of the family at the Sutton farmhouse saw a mysterious flying object land in the woods nearby. There were about a dozen people at the house, and when he tried to show someone the direction of it, they found that “little men with big heads and long arms were approaching the house… having huge eyes and hands out of proportion to their small bodies...” Fearing an attack, they returned to the house and armed themselves with a shotgun and a pistol. The creatures approached the house and the Suttons fired on them, but their shots didn’t seem to harm the aliens, only knocked them down. The siege went on for hours, but during a lull, the family piled into to two vehicles and reported the attack to the police in Hopkinsville. Checking it out, the police saw the evidence of gunfire, but no intruders. After the cops left, the goblins returned in the early morning, but retreated for good before daybreak. In later retelling the aliens were little green men, but were not described that way by the original witnesses.

The Hypnotic Aliens of Betty and Barney Hill

September 19, 1961: near Lincoln, New Hampshire
Betty and Barney Hill saw a UFO on a long drive home and afterwards had recurrent fearful nightmares. When hypnotized by a psychiatrist, they told a story of being abducted and medically examined by short men with big eyes. The Hills had been treated by a medical professional, Dr. Benjamin Simon, and that gave their story added credibility, which helped their case become famous, the subject of a best-selling book, and later a 1975 TV, movie, The UFO Incident. The Hill’s story served as a transition between the Contactee stories and the nightmarish abduction encounters that took their place.

The Alien Robots of Cisco Grove
September 4, 1964: 28 year-old Donald Shrum was bow hunting in Cisco Grove, California, but got lost in the woods. When the signal fire he set to attract help seemed to attract a UFO instead, he took refuge in the lower branches of a tall pine tree. Two silvery-clad human-like beings approached, strange men with bulging eyes, no necks, and they came after him, trying to dislodge Shrum from the tree by shaking it. Then it got weird. A third alien, a robot, joined the attack. Shrum fired arrows, hitting the robot once, which momentarily stopped it. After that, the robot released a noxious gas or vapor from its mouth, causing him to black out temporarily. Shrum recovered, climbed higher, and strapped himself in with his belt. He fought back throughout the night, throwing objects, lit matches and burning pieces of his clothing at the aliens. A second robot appeared, and Shrum was gassed again, but when he awoke in the early dawn, he was alone. Despite Shrum being able to produce a dented arrowhead as evidence, the Air Force investigators considered the incident a hoax.

The Winged Monster of Point Pleasant

November 12, 1966: Point Pleasant, West Virginia
This famous case involved a year-long series of sightings of a large menacing bird-like creature, part of many strange happenings. Gray Barker covered the story in his book,  The Silver Bridge, but its best-known from John Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies. The Mothman is not really a proper spaceman from a UFO, it's more a part of the school of ufology that connects all weirdness to the paranormal. The frustration over the lack of physical evidence for flying saucers prompted some ufologists to look elsewhere for answers.

Bigfoot, UFOs and the Paranormal

October 20, 1967: Bluff Creek, California (filmed)
Bigfoot has seldom seriously connected with UFOs, but presents the same problems in regards to physical evidence. This has lead to some people hunting Bigfoot to put their faith into the paranormal instead, suggesting that the creatures are of a magical or inter-dimensional origin. For an exploration into the paranormal side of Bigfoot, there’s probably no better or worse book to mention than, The Psychic Sasquatch and Their UFO Connection by Jack Lapseritis. It's just one of many novel theories, but perhaps the most entertaining explanations was found in The Six Million Dollar Man 1976 two-part episode, "The Secret of Bigfoot.” Without spoiling the entire story, it’s revealed that Bigfoot was created by aliens to serve as their guardian.

The Abduction of the Fishermen

Oct. 11, 1973: Pascagoula, Mississippi
Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker had their night fishing trip interrupted when they were caught by aliens. There were three of them, about five feet tall and bipedal, but otherwise nonhuman, and the creatures didn’t walk, but floated through the air, ghost-like. Their bodies seemed to be covered with pale gray wrinkled skin, and they had very long arms with crab-like pincers for hands, and their stocky legs ended in elephant-like feet. There was no neck, and the heads were bullet or dome-like, no eyes were visible in the wrinkled faces. In the place of a nose and ears, they had short pointed carrot-like protuberances, and where the mouth should be, there was only a small slit. They took the fisherman aboard their oval-shaped ship, examined, then released them unharmed. After reporting the terrifying experience, the witnesses came to believe that their captors had been some kind of robots, and Hickson thought they were controlled from afar by some peaceful alien intelligence.

The Greys and Alien Abductions

In the 1950s, the Contactees went on joyful saucer trips with angelic aliens, but that fell out of fashion in the 60s. UFO researchers began to using the hypnotic regression on witnesses as an investigative tool to search for hidden memories. Unlike in the famous 1961 Betty and Barney Hill case, often these attempts were conducted by amateurs, not physicians. These untrained hypnotists were able to produce stories from their subjects, and more often than not, the nightmarish stories echoed that of the Hill’s; being helpless, and at the mercy of a medical examination by small humanoid aliens. In the 80s, those big-eyed little men came to known as “the Greys,” eventually taking over as the industry standard of what UFO occupants were expected to look like.

The Changing Faces of the Aliens

Descriptions of aliens have changed over time, from men, to monsters and angels, and back again. There have always been stories of weird and wonderful things, but we tend to pay more attention to those that match our expectations - or seem to confirm what we think we already know. The middlemen who usually bring us the stories, such as UFO investigators and media reporters, serve as editors or filters. For the most part, they are telling us what we want to hear, and reinforce stereotypes. The final factor is the role of emotion and imagination influencing the witness at the moment of the experience. Someone awestruck with wonder may come away from a UFO encounter with a tale of a benevolent visitor, while a terrified witness may tell the story of a horrible invading space monster. Much of it comes down to what's in the mind and the eye of the beholder.

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