Wednesday, December 27, 2017

UFOs, the Media, the Military & Dreams of Discovery

All That Glitters

What does the disclosure of the UFO Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program really mean? It’s done something positive, managed to capture the interest of mainstream media and brought the topic of UFOs into general public discussion again. The Dec. 16, 2017 New York Times article by Helen Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean, “Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program,” presented some compelling information, at least at first glance.

The reaction has been interesting, a bit of a Rorschach test. Some have dismissed the UFO program as a waste of money, or even a politician’s favor for a billionaire contributor; however most readers seem to have found the story interesting, and they were left with the conclusion that there is compelling evidence to suggest “that aliens exist and that U.F.O.s have visited Earth.”

An enthusiastic segment of UFO proponents see this as “Disclosure,” the formal acknowledgement of the extraterrestrial presence by the US Government- or a big step towards it. One UFO commercial enterprise is using the slogan, “Now they know we were not crazy, we were RIGHT!”

It’s worth taking a closer look at what was actually said in the NYT piece, by whom, and if they have a vested interest in promoting anything. There's been some interesting UFO video evidence and associated testimony surface due to the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) story breaking. However, there's been no provenance shown and little transparency to the investigation. Almost everything that's been said about the Pentagon UFO program comes from people connected to the promotion of Tom DeLonge’s To the Stars Academy. They've succeeded in using the popularity of the video evidence to package and market their product, and many in the press and the public have not distinguished the claims made from the few facts that have been verified.

TTSA: Tom DeLonge, Chris Mellon, Luis Elizondo, Steve Justice, Dr. Harold E. Puthoff, Jim Semivan

Tom DeLonge’s October 2017 launch of To the Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences (TTSA) failed to receive the desired publicity. TTSA is a company with an existing entertainment branch that has produced UFO books, with plans to launch television, movie projects and associated merchandise. TTSA also announced plans to launch an aerospace division, and are soliciting investors to buy shares of the company in support of this enterprise. The team members of TTSA were introduced at the press conference, and the star attraction was supposed to have been Luis Elizondo, who claimed to have run the a Department of Defense’s “sensitive aerospace threat identification program focusing on unidentified aerial technologies.” However, most of the resulting coverage focused on Tom DeLonge’s involvement, his outlandish UFO claims and discussion of the financial structure of the company, including the pitfalls of investing in it.

Damage control came by way of UFO advocate Leslie Kean, who pitched the AATIP story to Ralph Blumenthal, who she’d worked with before on a big UFO story in the past. “UFO Caught On Tape Over Santiago Air Base” features many similarities to the new piece, a military study of UFOs, the appeal for a scientific study of the subject, and the presentation of video of UFOs interacting with military aircraft. Despite the reporters’ enthusiasm, the evidence did not hold up to study, and the “truly unexplainable unidentified flying objects” were revealed to be nothing but insects flying close to the camera. Kean defiantly rejected the explanation, but months later released a story saying that independent analysis produced “conflicting results” and concluded the piece with what seemed like an appeal to the reader’s faith, just short of asking us to clap your hands if you believe.
“It’s not clear what these videos show. At this point, each of us can form our own opinions about something that science cannot determine, or we can simply accept that we will likely never know.”
Leslie Kean’s approach in pitching the NYT UFO story was to minimize Tom DeLonge and his new TTSA UFO franchise, focusing on the newsworthy elements; the fact that there had been a secretive government $22 million study of UFOs, and to emphasize the involvement of the senators who supported it in order to portray the topic as serious and legitimate. The NYT piece also tied the story to a UFO video they credited “By Courtesy of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE." However, the video and the majority of the information in the story came from Luis Elizondo and his partners in DeLonge’s UFO franchise.

The other key ingredient was the participation of the NYT’s Pentagon reporter Helene Cooper, who was able to complete the package and present the story in the military and political context that would grab readers. However, in an interview on “The Daily” podcast from the NYT, Cooper made an interesting characterization in describing the AATIP: “The program is secret, and the people operating it tend to be true believers...”

The AATIP = Robert Bigelow

What's strange in all this is the involvement of Las Vegas billionaire Robert Bigelow from before the beginning. The AATIP is the first known instance of the US government funding a study conducted by ufologists. Merriam-Webster defines ufology as “the study of unidentified flying objects.” While “Ufologist” is a loosely defined term, and not a designation of accreditation, it’s generally taken to mean a researcher investigating the topic and pursuing the origins of UFOs. Robert Bigelow is more of an extraterrestrial visitation proponent, “absolutely convinced” in the belief that some of the UFOs are alien spacecraft from other worlds. His investigation into the so-called Skinwalker ranch and his funding of the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) project are important to understanding the minds involved in the Pentagon's AATIP, as many of the same players were involved, and some are now partners or participants in the TTSA franchise.

Robert Bigelow’s interest in flying saucers began in his childhood, and as an adult he created NIDS in 1995. The mission statement of the organization’s (now defunct) website described them as “a privately funded science institute engaged in research of aerial phenomena, animal mutilations, and other related anomalous phenomena.” Bigelow was the president, Dr. Harold Puthoff was the chairman of the board and Dr. Colm Kelleher was the administrator. Shortly afterwards, the creation of Bigelow Aerospace in 1999 was undoubtedly making demands on his time and energy. NIDS published a number of reports on its site, but failed to live up to the high expectations of a UFO/paranormal study backed by a committed billionaire. In 2004, Bigelow closed the institute, citing the lack of cases worthy of investigation:
“We have labored long and hard, coming to the conclusion to place NIDS in an inactive status. ... It is unfortunate that there isn't more activity, as there was in the past, that warrants investigation. ...Should substantial activity occur with a need for investigation then NIDS will be reactivated with new personnel.” NIDS site, archived Oct. 8, 2007

Senator Harry Reid and the book that launched the AATIP 

In 2005, Hunt for the Skinwalker was released, written by NIDS’ Colm Kelleher and George Knapp, a book about the Uintah County, Utah ranch that’s supposedly a hotbed of paranormal activity. Apparently, Nevada Senator Harry Reid became interested in the topic after Knapp gave him a copy of the book. Reid was friends with Bigelow and that led to the UFO study. The NYT story reports that: “Contracts obtained by The Times show a congressional appropriation of just under $22 million beginning in late 2008 through 2011. The money... went to Mr. Bigelow’s company, Bigelow Aerospace, which hired subcontractors and solicited research for the program.” We're told that somehow the Skinwalker ranch owner Robert Bigelow submitted the best contract to study phenomena at his own property, along with the subject of his life-long fascination (or obsession), extraterrestrials and UFOs. Bigelow created a division of Bigelow Aerospace to deal with NIDS unfinished business in UFO research:
Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS), a sister company to Bigelow Aerospace, is a newly formed research organization that focuses on the identification, evaluation, and acquisition of novel and emerging future technologies worldwide as they specifically relate to spacecraft. Bigelow Careers archived Aug. 8, 2009

Senator Reid has justified the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program as a national security issue, making sure the USA was not vulnerable to superior technological aircraft. George Knapp reports that, “At its peak, the study had 46 scientists working at the Nevada facility, writing reports and analyzing data that came in from the military. Rapid response teams were dispatched to the scene of UFO events.”

In 2009, Bigelow attempted to outsource that rapid response team, using field investigators he subcontracted from MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network. The program was called STAR Team for “Strike Team Area Research,” and it was celebrated at the 2009 MUFON Symposium in Denver, Colorado. Canadian UFO researcher, Chris Rutkowski was there as a guest.
At the 2009 MUFON Benefactors' reception: (l to r) Clifford Clift; Tom Whitmore; Robert Bigelow; 
Nick Roesler; John Ventre; Chris Rutkowski; Robert Wood; Rob Swiatek. 
Inset: James Carrion presenting an award to Robert Bigelow. Photos courtesy Chris Rutkowski.
“Late in the afternoon, I was asked to show up at the benefactors' reception. I knew very few people in the crowd that was composed mostly of longtime MUFON members. However, Stan (Friedman) introduced me to billionaire Robert Bigelow, the aerospace developer who is now underwriting the STAR team of MUFON investigators. Seemed like a nice guy. He later showed up at my table and talked with me briefly.” Ufology Research, Aug. 7, 2009
Bigelow’s interest during the AAPIT contract reached beyond the US borders. I asked Chris about meeting Bigelow and what he recalled of their conversation: “he wanted to talk with me, so we found a quiet part of the hallway and talked a bit. Bigelow never offered me any kind of contract for participation in his UFO-related venture. It was a verbal agreement to share with him details of ‘really good’ Canadian reports as they came in, and he would send his team in to investigate. I recall that he wanted to be ‘first on the scene.’ After our initial meeting, at MUFON 2009, I dealt with one of his assistants whose name I don't recall. They called me from time to time asking about Canadian cases. The trouble was that during those next several years, no Canadian cases of substance or with associated evidence were reported, so nothing really fell within his criteria and I didn't pass along any tips at all.”

Bigelow had another tactic to collect Canadian UFO reports. Brian Vike, writing about the HBCC (Houston British Columbia Canada) UFO Research site: "I did own and operate it at one time, but I sold my 5 domain names to Bigelow Aerospace back I believe in June of 2009." The site is no longer active, but here's an archive HBCC UFO Research from 2010, under BAASS management.

This seems to indicate Bigelow as a contractor deviated from the program's national security mission, and his involvement was a continuation of his life-long interest in UFOs as aliens in space ships.

(For more on the history of Robert Bigelow’s interaction with MUFON and ufology, see “UFO-Pentagon Story Reflects Fundamental Problems” by Jack Brewer.)

Robert Bigelow's Hangar 18? 

Ending UFO Secrecy

It's interesting and commendable that there was enough scientific curiosity by government officials to initiate a UFO program. But why was it necessary? Many UFO proponents have long believed the US government already had the UFO answers- along with hidden concrete evidence. If there was a Hangar 18 with ET bodies or a MJ-12-type UFO control organization, there would have been no need for another program to be created in 2007.

The disclosure of the rise and fall of the AATIP seems a confirmation that the government didn't know much, and after $22 million and 5 years of the AATIP, they couldn't find out much more than researchers in the private sector. According to the less flattering Politico story, their AATIP inside source told them they “compiled ‘reams of paperwork’” but little else.”And it may have actually made things worse.

Bigelow previously had participants of his own NIDS UFO/paranormal studies sign nondisclosure agreements, and was already secretive before this government project. Bigelow’s contracted work may also be exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests, allowing documentation of the investigation to remain sealed. The result may be that the UFO data that was secretly collected during the AATIP years was prevented from reaching the public, now harder to obtain than if there had been no government study.

It's puzzling why Bigelow's company would have been awarded the contract, given his prejudice of the ET verdict for UFOs. It's a bit like having a contract to evaluate the benefits of air strikes go to a munitions manufacturer. The fact that the US government conducted a study of UFOs is interesting, but there’s ample evidence to show it was seriously flawed.

The Reporting and The Evidence

To the Stars Academy has a commercial agenda that is founded on exploiting the public's interest in the notion of interplanetary spacecraft visiting the Earth. TTSA is attempting to capitalize on the reputation of the Pentagon study, but is any of the new evidence or documents produced from the AATIP any better than what we've already seen from the last 70 years? I don't think so. They are just pitching more straw on the haystack.

In the NYT article the authors present the AATIP as if it were credible, but in effect it was a continuation or renovation of Bigelow's NIDS project, with some of the same players, some of whom are in TTSA now. If team Bigelow was in charge of evaluating evidence, then the likelihood of it having been as an objective scientific study are remote. Bigelow has clearly demonstrated his pro-ET agenda in the past and more recently directly (and defiantly) stated it on a nationally televised interview, saying, “There has been and is an existing presence, an ET presence.”

The sensational Pentagon disclosures were not. In essence, all the Pentagon disclosed was that yes, we used to have a program that studied unidentified aircraft. All the exciting stuff was said by Luis Elizondo or other TTSA players, not active US Government sources. The videos seem to have come from Elizondo, too, and they may be legitimate. The media is bundling all this together in a way to make everything seem credible based on the sensation of the videos and the perceived Pentagon pedigree. Whether intentional or due to a lack of understanding, this confusion produces something akin to a stage magic act, an illusion sold by misdirection, persuasion and the power of suggestion.

The story states,
“Working with Mr. Bigelow’s Las Vegas-based company, the program produced documents that describe sightings of aircraft that seemed to move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift.”

That’s worth reading a few times, just to try finding anything verifiable. My interpretation: Under contract, Bigelow supplied the AATIP with reports of sightings similar to hundreds of flying saucers seen since 1947.

UFO "metal alloys and other materials" rain on Maury Island.
Shaver Mystery Magazine Vol.2 No. 1, 1948 

The TTSA Tease?

If there was a scientific method and discipline behind the AAPIT study, or a system of checks and balances, it's not been disclosed. We know that there's been the claim of recovered exotic materials, but it's all so vague. The NYT story reported that, “Under Mr. Bigelow’s direction, the company modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Mr. Elizondo and program contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena.”

That is an indirect statement, hearsay at best, and relies on the opinion of Elizondo and Bigelow “program contractors.” They say they have something somewhere, from something, but it’s secret. The UAP non-description could mean anything from meteorites to flying saucers. It's also hauntingly familiar, dating back to the famous 1947 flying saucer hoax, the mysterious molten metal recovered from Maury Island, revealed to be nothing but slag. Many UFO hardware claims have been made in the years since, and all have been as disappointing. This new exciting claim from TTSA’s Director of Global Security & Special Programs seems like a teaser, or a cliffhanger, part of a campaign to get the customers to return for another exciting chapter.

Conclusions belong at the End

There are valid UFO cases to study - genuine mysteries. Having the AATIP or TTSA claim to have documents, videos or testimony doesn’t mean much, and chances are it’s not superior to the other evidence we’ve seen so far. Elizondo's excitement over “I don't know where it's from” doesn’t make any of it extraterrestrial. That’s just insufficient data. Computer programmers coined a term for bad input leading to bad results; GIGO - for garbage in, garbage out. But that’s not the only cause of poor outcomes. The cancelled AATIP, in effect, had a bad processor, Robert Bigelow.
Robert Bigelow and Dr. Edward Condon

Long before the the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program there was another Government-contracted UFO study conducted by civilians, and it had some similarities to Bigelow’s involvement in this recent one. It was the 1966-68 University of Colorado study directed by Professor E. U. Condon. Both studies were led by biased men who set out to prove their forgone conclusions about the nature of UFOs. Researchers have found that once you get past the introductory anti-UFO summary by Condon himself, there is much of value in the Colorado study itself. Perhaps the same will prove true of team Bigelow's and the AATIP’s findings, if we are ever allowed to see them.

The Pursuit of Dreams

The response to the NYT’s story has been huge, and shows there’s still an interest in UFO mysteries, especially if packaged with some Government intrigue. The topics of extraterrestrial life and UFOs are exciting, and more exciting still if it turns that they are proven to belong in the same discussion.

Through the ages, some explorers chasing dreams have managed to discover - or invent - wonderful new things to change our understanding of the world around us. Stories of such wondrous discoveries outnumber the genuine achievements, but the real ones have made history - and few of them required you buy a ticket or shares in the franchise before the goods were delivered.

We should continue to study the skies and whatever lies beyond them. We must be prepared to put aside our expectations and follow wherever the evidence takes us.

. . .

Leftovers: Related Thoughts and Scraps

STAR Team footnote
The closest direct comparison to Bigelow’s use of MUFON’s STAR Team is when the University of Colorado's Government-funded study lead by Professor E. U. Condon contacted the Early Warning Network which drew on the volunteer manpower of UFO groups APRO and NICAP to investigate sighting reports. Bigelow arranged for something similar with MUFON, having a rapid response team STAR. The similarities seem to end there, since Bigelow and his team were responsible for analyzing the data.

“To supplement Air Force reporting, we set up our own Early Warning Network, a group of about 60 active volunteer field reporters, most of whom were connected with APRO or NICAP. They telephoned or telegraphed to us intelligence of UFO sightings in their own territory and conducted some preliminary investigation for us while our team was en route. Some of this cooperation was quite valuable. Scientific Study Of Unidentified Flying Objects (1969) by Dr. Edward U. Condon & Walter Sullivan, page 33.

Sidebar on Botched Mainstream UFO News

The last UFO story to get this kind of major media attention was in 2011, Annie Jacobsen's account in Area 51 of the Roswell incident being a Soviet propaganda attack, a fake space invasion with the crash of a Nazi “flying saucer” piloted by “a crew of grotesque child-size aviators for Stalin.”

Other less spectacular and equally inaccurate stories were in 2015,with the announcement that the UFO files of Project Blue Book had been released “for the first time,” but the files had been out on microfilm for decades and online since 2005.

In Jan. 2016, the CIA recycled some of their UFO files, labelling it “Take a Peek Into Our ‘X-Files,’” with the result that the mainstream media erroneously reported it as a new declassification of UFO documents. A bit closer to the truth was a year later in Jan. 2017 when new documents were released, but the bulk of those were on the CIA’s psychic research, not UFOs- although many of the same players were involved.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum and their UFO Report

December 29 is the anniversary of the Cash-Landrum UFO case, also sadly of the death of Betty Cash. At the end of each year, we take a moment to remember the witnesses and their story.

Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum

After their lawsuit against the US government was dismissed in 1986 without going to trial, UFO witnesses Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum were left without much hope. A new opportunity arose when they were invited to appear on the October 14, 1988 television special, UFO Cover-Up? Live to tell the story of their experience. Afterward, Betty began a crusade for a Congressional hearing prompted by the show's phone poll for a new government exploration of the UFO topic.  The Times Daily (Alabama) on Feb. 18, 1989 reported that, “She said that Sen. Howell Heflin, D-Ala began working to obtain a congressional hearing after calls of support came in during an October television special that featured her and others claiming to have been hurt by UFOs.”

The petition failed to produce results, and there's scarcely any mention of it found today, but it seemed to renew Betty and Vickie's efforts. They became more involved with the UFO community, and they even explored another attempt to sue the US government for the health problems they associated with their UFO sighting. 

Betty Cash's daughter Mickey Geisinger got involved in the cause, writing to Jenny Randles, in a letter published in UFO Times, published by BUFORA, the British UFO Research Association, in their May 1990 issue.

It was during this time, Betty and Vickie attended the MUFON Symposium held in July of 1990, "UFOs: The Impact of E.T. Contact Upon Society," held in Pensacola, Florida. This was during the heyday of the publicity around Ed Walter's Gulf Breeze UFO sightings. Thanks to Michael Christol for sharing a photograph.
MUFON director Walt Andrus, Jeanne Andrus, Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum
at the 1990 MUFON Symposium in Pensacola Florida.

Betty Cash's Newspaper Obituary

Betty Cash's death was reported in the Alabama newspaper, The Anniston Star, Anniston, on Wednesday, December 30, 1998, on page 5A. An interesting point is that Betty's occupation was listed, "She worked for many years as a private nurse." However, according to John Schuessler's 1998 book on the Cash-Landrum story, Betty "never worked a single day since the encounter because of poor health."  

The obituary mentions Betty's children, but her daughter's name, Geisinger is misspelled. Betty's son, Toby was supposedly the first person to examine her physical problems after the UFO encounter, but after that, he vanishes from the story. Here, his name was given as Bill Howard, and he lived in Oxford, Alabama, as did Betty in her final days.

Below is a clipping of the article, followed by a reproduction of the text.

The Anniston Star, Wed. Dec. 30, 1998


 OXFORD - Graveside services for Betty Cash, 69, of 2311 Nancy Drive will be Thursday at 11 a.m. at Oxford Memorial Park Cemetery with Douglas Wells officiating. The family will receive friends Thursday from 9 a.m. until time of services at Miller Funeral Home. Mrs. Cash died Tuesday at Regional Medical Center. 
Survivors include a daughter, Mickey Giesinger of Irving, Texas; a son, Bill Howard of Oxford; three sisters, Lois Green of Lincoln, Shirley McNair of Fort Worth, Texas, and Midge Helms of Birmingham; a brother, Charles Collins of Kansas City, Mo.; and three grandchildren. 
Pallbearers will be LeFair Willingham, Sonny Gunnells, Robert Eden, Joey Giesinger and Richard Green. 
Mrs. Cash, a native of Birmingham, had lived in Oxford for the past six years. She worked for many years as a private nurse.
Vickie Landrum passed away on September 12, 2007. Please see the previous BBL article,   Remembering Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum  for more on her and Betty's final resting places.

Sharing the Story

Betty and Vickie fought hard to have their story told. Strangely, the UFO files on their case have not been made available. Here's the case file, a PDF of the original 35-page report to MUFON by John Schuessler and Project VISIT, dated March 4, 1981.  

There are plenty of things to say about the content, but the analysis will be covered separately in a later BBL piece. My index of the report:

Cash-Landrum Original Case Report (35 pages) by John F. Schuessler, unless noted otherwise.

1 - 2 MUFON form: “UFO Sighting Questionnaire- General Cases (Form 1)” with location, sketches of UFO and event data. Name of Investigator, “John F. Schuessler,” “Witness: Vicky Landrum.” Dated March 3, 1981 (“4-3-81”). 2 pages.

3 - 13 Cash/Landrum Case “On-Site Investigation Report, Date: 28 Feb 1981,” Interview with Vickie and Colby Landrum. Handwritten, 11 pages. (Page one on VISIT letterhead.)

14 MUFON “UFO Sighting Questionnaire - Computer Input (Form 2)” “Vicky Landrum”
(Basic information on location of sighting and witness data).

15 MUFON “UFO Sighting Questionnaire - Computer Input (Form 2)” “Betty Cash.”

16 -23  Report of meeting and interview with Betty Cash dated 22 Feb. 1981. Handwritten, 8 pages. (Page one on VISIT letterhead.)

24 - 27 Alan Holt, report of (2/28/81) interview with Vickie and Colby Landrum. Handwritten, 4 pages. (On VISIT letterhead.)

28 Al Holt memo: “Conversation with Bill English,” undated. (English of APRO was the first investigator to speak to Vickie Landrum.) Handwritten, 1 page. (On VISIT letterhead.)

29 - 30 Al Holt: “Helicopter Investigation,” 3/10/81. Handwritten, 2 pages. (On VISIT letterhead.)

31 - 33  21 Feb. 1981, 1 pm: “Betty Cash called collect from Dayton, TX” (Phone interview: first witness contact.) Typed, 3 pages. (Page one on VISIT letterhead.)

34 - 35 1st MUFON Cash-Landrum case contact: 20 February 1981,  by phone from reporter Cathy Gordon. “Caller: Kathy Gordon, Conroe Daily Courier...” Typed, 2 pages. (Page one on VISIT letterhead.)

The link again:

 The original 35-page report to MUFON by John Schuessler and Project VISIT, dated March 4, 1981.

The analysis and transcript of the original case report has since been published:

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Cash-Landrum UFO: The Original Case Files

Since I began reviewing the 1980 UFO experience of Betty Cash, Colby and Vickie Landrum, in 2011, I’ve been searching for original reports, documents, photographs, even the earliest media coverage, the best collection of primary sources on the case. The story, early on, was transformed almost into a fairy tale or fable, and most accounts read like a story book tale. To get past the legend, to the facts of the case, I wanted to begin with the Mutual UFO Network original report, but no one seemed to have it. Or if they did, were unwilling to share it.

In pursuit of it, I located other files and correspondence from UFO organizations that had participated the investigation of the case, the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), The Fund for UFO Research (FUFOR), and investigators ranging from the super-skeptic Phil Klass to the wide open minded Dr. Leo Sprinkle. I’ve put most of those files online in the section of the BBL site, The Cash-Landrum UFO Case Resource Guide. However, the original case report filed to MUFON eluded me- until now. and it came with a lot of company.

On November 11, I received a batch of documents from a former MUFON Mutual UFO Network officer, nine folders containing over 700 pages on the Cash-Landrum events, including case files, news clippings, magazine articles, manuscripts of MUFON articles and symposium lectures, correspondence, witness interviews, legal filings and more. There is some duplication from one file to another, often from a document being forwarded as part of correspondence, but that’s interesting, too as it shows how the information on the case was shared- or restricted.

The first week was spent reading and indexing the file collection to isolate the portions that were new to me. Doing so, I took note of what was missing from the files. There was little reflecting the efforts of organizations other than MUFON, and there were also curious absences in the media coverage and conspicuous gaps in the case files themselves, missing primary documents, transcripts of interviews that were quoted elsewhere. It should be noted that there were no medical records of any kind, just summaries and correspondence discussing the health of the witnesses. The file collection, though very large, is incomplete.

A key point of interest in the files are the documents released to reporter Billy Cox in response to his 1983 Freedom of Information Act request. I filed a FOIA for these same information in 2011, but was told the “records are no longer available for retrieval.” The contents of that file (along with some other documents) show a different picture of the military’s involvement with the case than the portrayal in UFO literature. Instead of a cover-up, there are numerous instances of government officials expressing interest in the case, military personnel cooperating and sharing information. The FOIA material does not support the witnesses’ account of a UFO and helicopter near Houston Intercontinental Airport, and much of it has effectively been suppressed, ignored by ufologists chronicling the story.

Having become familiar with the new material, I am now in the process of incorporating the new material in chronological order and incorporating it into my existing case documents. After that, a re-examination of the case files will be necessary to see how the new material fits, if inconsistencies are found (yes, there are some noticed already) and to identify and follow up the cold leads. Also, there’s some further information about the meddling the case by William Moore and Richard Doty, their promotion of rumors of a secret experimental US craft powered by alien technology, and their manipulation of APRO and the UFO community to this end.

I’ve provided three trusted colleagues with copies of the files for safekeeping, and to demonstrate the authenticity of the documents. The work on the files continues, and my plan is to eventually share them, all or in part, in the documents section here. Before that happens, redactions like addresses and phone numbers will have to be made in order to protect the privacy of the living individuals involved in the correspondence. This entire process is going to take some time, but I hope to provide updates along the way.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Hocus Pocus: The Roswell Slides Return

A mainstream media piece by The Guardian from the UK is worth a look for it's portrayal of one of ufology's biggest embarrassments. The Curious Case Of The Alien In The Photo And A Mystery That Took Years To SolveWritten by Les Carpenter, a sports journalist, it sympathetically presents the Roswell Slides story from the POV of the promoter of the events, Adam Dew. There, Dew finally names and discloses the role of his silent partner, Joseph Beason. I'm not sure just why the story was newsworthy at this late date, but it does contain a few new bits, chiefly quotes from the perpetrators, and is the first interview with Dew since the events.  It's a nice piece, but there are a few things that need to be clarified, and a few errors that need to be corrected. 
Slidebox Media: Joseph Beason & Adam Dew

I was struck by the lack citation of sources in the article, or links to the source material, but the narrative is more accurate than not. The coverage of the deblurring of the Slides is shortchanged and there’s a only a brief mention of the Roswell Slides Research Group and Nab Lator (who is called Neb). Instead, the story is all about how Adam Dew was drawn into the circus, and how two Roswell ufologists let belief lead their investigation.

Hocus Pocus?

The ufologists in the story, Tom Carey and Donald Schmitt, look bad, making unsubstantiated accusations that they were victims. “It was a very sophisticated hoax,” Carey says. “Dew manipulated the slides. The one clue we couldn’t figure out was the placard, but they played hocus pocus with the placard. We were given something that had been altered.” The story says, “Humiliated, Carey and Schmitt apologized to the Roswell Slides debunkers.” No. RSRG member Tim Printy responded on Facebook, saying, 
“It states that Carey and Schmitt apologized to the Roswell slides debunkers. I don't remember that apology. If it was given, it was some vague comment they made with little meaning. I also see that Carey and Schmitt still believe that the slides were altered by Dew. This is a lie and they are just fooling themselves. Rudiak claimed he could deblur his placard and we know that we could deblur Bragalia's. The problem with Carey and Schmitt is they believe they were too smart to not figure it out. Instead, they were just stupid UFOlogists stuck in the will to believe in the myth they created.”
Printy is correct. Carey and Schmitt’s claim that they received deceptive, manipulated versions of the scans is false. On the April 20, 2015, KGRA show, Fade to Black, a few weeks before BeWitness, Tom Carey said he was sent a high resolution version of the two Slides, and he describes both pictures in detail, the placard and the man and woman seen behind the body. (In other words, the museum setting was pictured.)

Video: "Ep. 241 FADE to BLACK Jimmy Church w/ Tom Carey, UFO Roswell Slides LIVE on air" 
Carey, on receiving the Slides by email: 131:30, describing Slides images: 137 and 140.

Portions of those same scans were sent to David Rudiak and Anthony Bragalia in an attempt to read the placard. After the RSRG deblurred the placard, those scans were made public, and they could be deblurred and read just as easily. The charges of digital manipulation of the slides against Dew and Beason are false. However Dew pleads admits to exploitation being "guilty of not discouraging the talk [of it being alien]. It was good for the project.”

 Accusations, Trolls and Rewriting History

Beason's accusations of the RSRG faking the deblurring with Photoshop. 

The story confirms that after the deblurring, it was Beason who the RSRG was corresponding with, not Dew and Beason who posted at Slidebox Media the RSRG were "internet UFO Trolls" hoaxing the placard. It was later toned down, and proven to be false, but no apology from Beason was offered. The Slidebox site,, is now dead, but the YouTube account remains. It's reported that "Beason has moved on."

BeWitness, Dew's clip of the Nov. 2013 meeting in Chicago
The most glaring distortion in the Guardian itself is the claim that the show was a last-minute 2015 decision made as a last resort: 
"By early 2015, Beason and Dew knew they had no choice but to reveal the slides. The pressure to do so was extreme and Dew needed money to fund his documentary... The only appealing proposal came from Jamie Maussan, an investigative journalist based in Mexico City."
This is inaccurate. At BeWitness, Dew showed a clip documenting how the deal  deal was brokered in November 2013, with Carey, Schmitt and Maussan traveling to Chicago for the signing the partnership arrangement.

Old Dogs, Old Tricks

The best quote in the Guardian story is how the investigation went off the rails. The pictures looked alien to them, and after pursuing details on Hilda Blair Ray's past, Dew said, “You start to fill in the blanks." Those blanks were filled with wishful thinking instead of evidence.

BeWitness promoter Jaime Maussan didn't get much coverage in the article, and it’s almost sad that "World-famous researcher" Anthony Bragalia who dreamed up much of the Slides narrative was not even mentioned.
If at first you don't succeed...
Jaime Maussan has never given up on the Slides and continues to promote them, and has since used some of the same “experts” to promote a series of Peruvian mummies as alien bodies. The enterprise was was heavily promoted and exploited by the subscription-based video service Gaia, that bills itself as “a member-supported conscious media company.” For further details, see The Atlantic's article, The Racism Behind Alien Mummy Hoaxes by Christopher Heaney, Aug. 1, 2017

The new Guardian piece closes by saying that Dew intends to complete his documentary, Kodachrome, but otherwise life goes on. Of Carey and Schmitt, Dew says, “They got their hopes up,” but “will never get the answers they are looking for.”

There’s an interesting question that may not have been asked. Let’s assume Beason was sincere in approaching Carey and Schmitt,  asking “I want you to help verify” the Slides. If so, doesn’t  Slidebox Media, LLC have a case against Carey and Schmitt for failure to perform the contracted duty? None of the evidence produced in support of the Slides as alien turned out to be accurate.

- - -

For an insider's look of the story of the investigation and exposure of the BeWitness fiasco, there's my  essay on the Roswell Slides Research Group in UFOs: Reframing the Debate, "What's Wrong With This Picture?"Further details on that in a previous article, UFOs: Reframing the Roswell Slides Fiasco.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

UFO Origins: Saucers That Time Forgot & The Outer Limit

There's a companion blog to Blue Blurry Lines, one exclusively focused on the forgotten history, folklore and origins of ufology, The Saucers That Time Forgot.

A five-part series was just completed, at STTF, an examination of "The Outer Limit" by Graham Doar, a science fiction short story from 1949 that deals with an interrupted journey, the test flight of an experimental rocket plane, and features now-familiar UFO case elements, put together for the first time:

A close encounter with a UFO, an alien abduction, missing time, contact with an advanced benevolent extraterrestrial race, telepathic communication, and a dire warning to the Earth about the use of Atomic weapons. At least one adaptation of the story includes the use of hypnotic regression to recover memories of the encounter. It's a prophetic tale of a credible witness of a relatively incredible event, but the colonel in charge chooses not to believe, and there's the strong suggestion that the UFO report will be the subject of a cosmic cover-up.

The series starts with the historical setting of the late 1940s, A-bombs and the arrival of the flying saucers, introduces the story itself, and shows how the tales was further spread through popular culture by being adapted into several radio and television programs, and how it was absorbed into ufology through George Adamski and the Contactees. The finale examines how it was imitated in several movies ranging from The Day the Earth Stood Still to Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space, and even echoed in much more modern films.

The complete collection, linked for your convenience:

Flying Saucers, the Atomic Bomb and Doomsday: The Outer Limit (Part 1 of 5)
The Outer Limit by Graham Doar: The UFO Parable (Part 2 of 5)
Radio, Television & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 3 of 5)
Ufology & The Outer Limit Legacy (Part 4 of 5)
UFOs, Hollywood & The Outer Limit Legacy (Finale)

Other articles focus on weird, warped, and sometimes fraudulent UFO cases that were newsmakers in their day, but lost through the cracks of time, forgotten- or perhaps even suppressed- by UFO historians.  STTF is written by Curt Collins, with the support of Yvan Defoy, backed by the input of UFO buffs- and sages- both known and unknown, of this world and perhaps others.

Fight the UFO cover-up. Read each and every installment of The Saucers That Time Forgot.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Cash-Landrum UFO Prime Suspect: The CH-47, Army Chinook

 “They were far away but yet they were low enough and we set there and watched them 'till they got over the car because I wanted to make sure if it was airplanes or if it was helicopters, which it was helicopters. I counted 23 of them. I don't know what color they were, I can't say. But I do know that they had a double deal on the top, propeller-like thing. And I could hear 'em just as plain as if they were right ready to land"
Betty Cash, from a taped statement made at Parkway Hospital, Feb. 1981
Witnesses, Betty Cash, Vickie and Colby Landrum described large helicopters with two rotors on top, which they assumed to be military. Later they were shown photos by investigators and identified the CH-47 as a match. Identifying the type of helicopters seemed to be a big break, since the CH-47 was primarily used by the US Army. Here's a look at some CH-47 data from (helicopter history site)

CH-47 specs.
The Boeing Chinook is a tandem rotor, heavy-lift helicopter that meets tactical and combat support mission requirements for military forces around the world. The Chinook is one of the world’s most reliable and efficient transport helicopter, capable of handling loads up to 28,000 lbs with a maximum gross weight of 54,000 lbs. (24,494 kg), greater than its own empty weight. Its tandem rotor configuration also provides exceptional handling qualities that enable the CH-47 to operate in climatic, altitude and crosswind conditions that typically keep other helicopters from flying. 
The first fully equipped U.S. Army Chinook designated the CH-47A first flight Sep 21th 1961 and entered service in August 1962 with a gross weight of 33,000 lbs. (14,969 kg). 
First flight:Sept. 21, 1961
Model number:Vertol 114
Classification:Military helicopter
Length:51 feet
Gross weight:33,000 pounds
Top speed:150 mph
Range:200 miles
Maximum payload:More than 7 tons
Power:2,220-shaft-horsepower Twin Lycoming T55-L-5 turboshaft engines, two 3-bladed rotors
Accommodation:3 crew, 33 troops or 24 litter patients and attendants

The article at Global Security discusses  the modifications made in 1980:
Prior to the introduction of the MH-47D and MH-47E, US Army special operations aviation units had used 12 CH-47Cs modified to allow for the use of night vision goggles (NVGs). These aircraft, assigned to Task Force 158, the predecessor to the 160th Aviation Battalion (which subsequently evolved into the 160th Aviation Regiment), came from the 101st Airborne Division in 1980 and entered active service in 1981. Their primary mission was to provide forward-area refueling operations in austere environments. Upon assignment to TF 158, the 12 aircraft received modifications that included radar altimeters (specifically added for safety during night-vision-goggle flights); long-range navigation and communication equipment; and 4 metal internal auxiliary fuel tanks (taken from M49C 2 1/2-ton fuel trucks).” 
With the extra fuel tanks, CH-47s could fly 330 miles without refueling. But the problem was always: Where did they come from, and where did they go? Part of the popularity of the C-L case in the 1980s was the mystery of the helicopters, since choppers were part of the emerging cattle mutilation lore, overlapping with "black helicopters" in sinister Government conspiracy theories of all persuasions.

The Choppers - and the Choppers: Mystery Helicopters and Animal Mutilations by Tom Adams

An Expert Opinion on the Cash-Landrum Copters

In 2014, I interviewed a veteran helicopter pilot, Russ Hunter, who was a Senior Instructor pilot, in Task Force 160 at Fort Campbell Kentucky. He joined a few years after the Cash-Landrum incident, but served alongside original members of the team and flew the same helicopters said to be involved in the UFO story. Russ assumed the witness testimony was genuine, but found many problems accepting the details of the story. The reported helicopter activity didn't match with the way the actual equipment used even in emergency situations. He tried to make the details fit by assuming the number of 23 helicopters was exaggerated, but even twelve CH-47s would have been detectable on radar and produced enough noise to have disturbed people for many miles around the Huffman area.

Report on the Cash/Landrum New Caney CEII Case by Allan Hendry

Part of the problem was the incident took place during the period between Christmas and New Year's Day, which would leave any military base understaffed for a massive helicopter operation. In early 1981, the Fund for UFO Research contracted Allan Hendry of the Center for UFO Studies to conduct an investigation into the origin of the helicopters in the Cash-Landrum case. His report was completed in April 1981 and delivered to FUFOR. Hendry’s turned up a lot of valuable information on the case, but he found no evidence to support the helicopters reported in the case:
"In closing,  the claim made by all three witnesses in the Cash/Landrum group implicitly implicates a large number of helicopters. This claim cannot be 'objectified' independently." At the time of Hendry's report, there were no additional witnesses to the helicopters, but following media attention, others were produced.

A link to a file containing Hendry's FUFOR report can be found at this link:

The DAIG Investigation of the Cash-Landrum UFO Incident

Due to the publicity from television coverage  of the case, (That’s Incredible!), Oregon Representative Ron Wyden launched an inquiry as to whether U.S. helicopters were involved in the incident. This resulted in the investigation by the Department of the Army's Inspector General’s office, conducted by Lt. Col. George C. Sarran. Concluding his report, Sarran stated, 
"Through the course of inquiry the DAIG investigating officer tried to concentrate on any reason or anyone in or organization which might have been flying helicopters that particular evening in the general area. There was no evidence presented that would indicate that Army, National Guard, or Army Reserve helicopters were involved."
Sarran stated in an interview with Florida Today reporter, Billy Cox, that he also had investigated possible classified operations, but found negative results. Col. John B. Alexander participated in the DAIG investigation in an advisory role and confirmed that no Government helicopters were involved.

USS New Orleans
MUFON's John Schuessler held on to the secret helicopter hypothesis, suggesting that they were temporarily based on an aircraft carrier, the USS New Orleans. An imaginative solution, but once again investigation proved it implausible

If Not Helicopters?

Despite many efforts from UFO investigator, journalists law enforcement and the US government, there was nothing tangible to support the presence of helicopters of any kind. UFO researchers found the witnesses credible, but faced with the evidence, some of them turned to some unconventional ideas. Dr. J. Allen Hynek was interviewed in the February 1985 OMNI magazine, and he considered some paranormal possibilities:
"Let us suppose that a very, very advanced civilization has, as a part of its everyday technology, the ability to project a thought form that, like a holographic image, temporarily assumes three-dimensional reality." 
 Referring to the Cash-Landrum case in particular he said,
"Where would twenty-three helicopters come from? First of all, it was Christmas week, and people at the bases said they would never conduct military exercises at a time like that... But perhaps Cash and the Landrums saw a holographic image of the helicopters. I could buy that more than I buy twenty-three solid, physical helicopters from some unknown base, when no baseman will admit seeing so many helicopters of that particular kind."

An alien projection? It's unlikely, but Hynek conceded that the helicopters were not real. Since the helicopters were reported initially only by the witnesses, and did not interact with the environment, Hynek's notion of a projected holographic image becoming three-dimensional reality is not necessary. It could be more like mental projection, with the advanced civilization transmitting the images telepathically. The helicopters may have been in the witnesses' minds.

 The helicopter trial goes nowhere, but the UFO case remains. John B. Alexander states, "I am 100 percent sure it happened. However, it defies explanation..."