Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Moon has an Alibi: A Saucer Smear Exclusive

Controversial player in the C-L saga

“The sky had partially cleared and the moon was visible in the night sky.
Because of the light of the moon and the helicopters’ running lights, 
the craft were clearly visible.”
Schuessler, J, Fate Magazine,  May 1984 (Volume 37, No. 5 Issue 410Clark Publishing Co. pg 32-36 

A Saucer Smear Scoop

The Cash-Landrum UFO encounter occurred around 9:00 p.m. near Huffman, Texas on the evening of December 29, 1980. Jim Moseley was deeply interested in the case and the plight of the witnesses. He wrote about it several times.
"If the same amount of concerted effort had been put into solving this case as was put into solving the Roswell Incident, the Cash-Landrum case would have been properly explained long ago." -Jim Moseley
James W. Moseley, UFO authority

Way back in 2012, Saucer Smear publisher James W. Moseley was on the trail of the controversy about the investigation of the Cash-Landrum case. As published, Feb. 15, 2012:

From the original letter to Jim, dated 1/6/2012

There’s a seemingly minor thing that is a big clue to how this case was handled. In MUFON Journal June 1986, there’s a letter from Scottish skeptic Steuart Campbell. Campbell cites an article by Schuessler “Blind Terror in Texas”, published by “The Unexplained” UK magazine in 1982. He says the witnesses mentioned seeing the Moon, and goes on to document that the Moon didn’t appear until after midnight, and supposing the event happened much later, analyzes what celestial objects the witnesses could have mistaken for a UFO.
Finding a copy of the Unexplained article in the clippings, I was able to read it for myself. The witnesses do not put the Moon in the sky, Schuessler does: 
"Light from the third-quarter Moon, supplemented an airglow from the lights in the surrounding area, made the sky bright and the visibility good."
I'm guessing he looked at an almanac and saw a 3/4 Moon listed and added it as a background detail. I got an astronomical program that recreates historical night skies from around the globe and checked the Moon position as seen from the area for Dec. 29, 1980, and Campbell seems to be right about the timing of the the Moon, it appeared at about 1:00 a.m.  
This mistake about the Moon may indicate that there could be other, bigger problems with wishful thinking around the way evidence was gathered and presented.
UFO Docu-fiction?

Dramatic License to Kill

Jim was a rascal in his extended youth and perpetrated some pranks and even UFO hoaxes. However, he had a serious side, and did much good work over the years in exposing some UFO phonies. For some reason, Jim had a surprisingly low tolerance for fiction mixed in with UFO reports. (His term for this was bullshit.)  He was highly critical of Donald Keyhoe's works, as the Major often created dialogue (and internal thoughts) for dramatic effect in his retelling of cases.

Gray Barker took Moseley's notes of his 1950s UFO investigations and ghost wrote The Wright Field Story (currently in print as The Astounding UFO Secrets of James W. Moseley ). Moseley took every opportunity to disavow this work, as he despised the fictionalized framework. Having compared it to Jim's original manuscript, I think Barker's literary license was acceptable. He just framed things with a (plausibly) fictional framework and recounted Jim's case files in flashback without gross exaggeration or distortion. History books often do worse!

Speaking of Dramatic License...

Let's get back to one of Jim's favorites, the Cash-Landrum case. What's all this about the MoonOn numerous occasions, John Schuessler presents the moon as a contributing factor in the visibility of the helicopters pursuing the UFO. (See exhausting list at bottom for full listing.)
In a UFO case, I'm told the initial step is in the investigation is to determine the astronomical landscape and eliminate heavenly bodies as suspects. I've scoured the literature (and television interviews) and have found no statements by the witnesses, referring to the Moon. 

I used the Stellarium astronomical software (endowed by MUFON) to recreate the night sky from the approximate location. No moon that night until about 1:00 p.m. By that time, the witnesses were said to be long home and sick in bed.

Not trusting the software, I checked with a Saucer Smear asset, Tim Printy, author of the SUNlite website (self-appointed heir to Phil Klass' Skeptical UFO Newsletter). Tim's typically curt reply:
"I have looked at some MUFON articles on the matter though. I am not sure where he got his information about the moon but you are correct.  The moon had not risen until after midnight.  If you want to verify it, go to the USNO website. They can give you the moonrise-set/sunrise-set for any location. "
It checked out. No Moon during the sighting.

Paging an Expert

Ian Ridpath knows about the Moon
photo by Max Alexander

Recently, Robert Sheaffer presented a piece on the case and the brilliant and charming Ian Ridpath weighed in with some comments. Being a college drop-out, I seek knowledgeable people when it comes to serious matters like dentistry and astronomy, so I sought his aid for a more definitive statement, a testimonial. Printed here with his permission:
"Any planetarium program, of which there are many now available, will tell you that the Moon, which was a day past last quarter, did not rise until about 01.15 on Dec 30 at that location. It rose almost due east and followed the bright planets Saturn and Jupiter by about 50 minutes.

Hence, if the witnesses claim to have seen the Moon at the time of the event, there are a number of alternatives: 
  1. The event did not take place at the time they said
  2. The event did not take place on the date they said
  3. The event did not take place on either the date or the time they said
  4. The witnesses are in some way mistaken about what they saw
  5. The witnesses are making stuff up.
Given the circumstances, it would seem that they are unlikely to have been mistaken about the date or time, which leaves alternatives 4 and 5. That assumes, of course, that they really did mention the Moon, and it's not simply a piece of "color" added later by the investigator. 
I am sure that Robert S, no mean astronomer himself, will confirm my data.
I hope this is of use.
     All the best, Ian"
Let me repeat that for emphasis, just as Jim would have done in Smear:

"That assumes, of course, that they really 
did mention the Moon, and it's not simply 
a piece of "color" added later by the investigator."

Back to what I told Jim, 
"The witnesses do not put the Moon in the sky, Schuessler does"
Jerome Clark, UFO historian, and friend of Jim's, appeared on the radio program, The Paracast:
(August 26, 2012 -- Jerome Clark)

Listener's questions were solicited. As "Sentry", I posed the following question to Clark with Schuessler's Cash-Landrum embellishments in mind:
"A certain amount of dramatic license is expected in retelling a paranormal event, but some writers go too far. At what point does a dramatic portrayal become fiction?"
Jerome Clark's reply:
"When you start making stuff up."
I'll allow one of the witnesses to have the last word.
"...there's a lot of quacks, there really is, that's supposed to be big UFO dealers and wheelers, and they're not after hunting the truth, they after something, proving something that's unreal. What was up there was real. It hurt us. It wasn't (from) outer space either." -Vickie Landrum, interviewed at Bergstrom AFB, 1981

In Jim's honor, I had a few drinks during the assembly of this article.
A rehabilitated version may be published later. Or it may get worse.   (Version 6)

Old Smuggler

And as always, around this time of year, we like to say a word in 
the memory of our dear friend, Gray Barker.

Keep your eye on the sky!

- - -

Sex & Saucers: Hot chick version with Schuessler's Moon

Laborious Supporting Notes

THE MOON: References in Case Coverage

1981 CUFOS Symposium- Moon not mentioned as source of illumination.

MUFON Journal November 1981 (John Schuessler)
“Illumination from the glowing object clearly showed details of the helicopters even though the night was dark and the moon was in the third quarter.”

MUFON UFO Symposium...1982 (July 2, 3, 4) Toronto, Canada
"UFO's Canada - A Global Perspective" / edited by Walter H. 
Andrus and Dennis W. Stacy. 
Seguin, TX : Mutual UFO Network, 1982. - 104 s. : ill.
“Radiation Sickness Caused by UFOs" by John F. Schuessler, M.S.

MOON: Illumination from the glowing object clearly showed details of the helicopters even though the night was dark and the moon was in the third quarter.

MUFON Journal October 1982 (from the 1982 interview)
LL Walker: “...I looked a little bit closer and you could see some lower lights back off in the distance quite a ways back. I'd say about % of a mile — real good visibility that night...”

The Unexplained” UK magazine 1982 by John Schuessler: 
"Light from the third-quarter Moon, supplemented an airglow from the lights in the surrounding area, made the sky bright and the visibility good."

MUFON Journal September 1983 (John Schuessler)
The weather ranged from clear and hot to cold, damp, windy, and chilly. Houston, 
Texas air contains a lot of moisture which acts like little crystals that catch all light from the city, moon and cars and reflect it in an airglow manner that leaves the sky very light much of the time. A deep, dark night in the Houston area is unusual.  pg 5

The weather on December 29, 1980 was chilly. The witnesses reported the intermittent misty rain earlier in the day. By evening that had stopped. The clouds were high and broken and the moon was in the third quarter. The air was damp and full of moisture. The airglow of Houston was bright. The conditions were correct for being able to see helicopters flying at night. pg. 6

Fate Magazine, May 1984 (Volume 37, No. 5 Issue 410Clark Publishing Co. pg 32-36 (Victims of a Close Encounter by John F. Schuessler
MOON and helicopter visibility (2 mentions)
“The sky had partially cleared and the moon was visible in the night sky.”
“Because of the light of the moon and the helicopters’ running lights, the craft were clearly visible.”

MUFON Symposium 1984: no moon mention

MUFON Journal June 1986: Steuart Campbell
Dear Editor,
My attention has recently been drawn to the UFO report made by Betty Cash and Vickie  Landrum (after an alleged incident near Huffman, Texas, on 1980 Dec. 29). My source of information is John Schuessler's article "Blind terror in Texas" in The Unexplained 9(107) 2121-25, (1982). 
Looking for an astronomical explanation I noticed that the given time (9 p.m.) could not be correct; the witnesses reported seeing the Moon, but the Moon did not rise until just after 1 a.m. Nor is it likely that, after dining out, they were returning home as early as 9 p.m. A more likely time is near midnight. : Just after midnight Canopus, the second brightest star in the whole sky
(magnitude -0.71), lay at only 7° altitude directly south (180°). Highway FM 1485 runs in a dead straight line almost due south for 4 miles on a slight downward gradient (1 in 621 on average). With forest on either side of the road, this would have given the travelers a headon view of Canopus if they were on that road at the time Canopus was lined up with it. At that low altitude, the light from Canopus would have been both refracted (into spectral colors) and distorted (with streamers to the ground). The description given is consistent with other accounts of stars
seen at low altitude. The conclusion must be that Cash and Landrum, not knowing that they were loking at a star, concluded that it was a UFO, ideas about which influenced their perception. Their conclusions that the car became hot and that they suffered burns must be the result of hysteria. One would have liked to know how much alcohol they had consumed and what UFO lore they had already absorbed. One would also have liked to know whether or not the road surface (where they imagined the UFO to be) was affected by heat. I predict that no such damage will have been found. Although it is alleged that the object later moved "away over the tree tops" it must be concluded that this later object was not Canopus, which would have disappeared behind the forest. It is not clear from Schuessler's article exactly where subsequent objects were seen, but Jupiter (at magnitude -1.8) later rose in the west (accompanied by- Saturn in close conjunction). The witnesses may have thought that Jupiter was the same UFO.
Yours faithfully
Stcuart Campbell

(Betty Cash Replies)
Just a note to thank all of you for your very hard and time-consuming work that you have done for Vickie,
Colby (Landrum) and myself. Without each of you, I really don't know what we would have done.
Please accept my apologies for such people that you have to listen to such as Steuart Campbell. People like
that are to be pitied. He said he even doubted our credibility — well I doubt his mentality. All I can say is that it is such a shame it was us. It should have been him and then we would see if he would have said it was a star. Just one day of what we have suffered would have been too much for him — not even speaking of the years.
May God bless each and everyone of you for your great work.
Betty Cash

MUFON symposium 1986- no moon mention

The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident- Minor moon references only in text, reprints MUFON Journal article from Nov. 1981.
Quote from secondary witness, police officer LL Walker, describing visibility: “ it was close enough just their running lights and everything and enough starlight and everything and moon and everything that I could tell what they were by the outlines and everything.”
(Note: Walker claims to have witnessed the copters 3 or so hours after the UFO event. It is plausible the Moon was up during his story.)

UFO Hunters: Alien Fallout 2009
L.L. Walker references starlight and moonlight as illuminating the helicopters

Bonus Feature:

Jim replied by my "Moon" letter by postcard:
Dear Curt-                         You have convinced me!  Schuessler should not be a "sacred cow". That item you sent about the Moon is too clear-cut to pass up, the more I think about it. That part of your 1/6 letter will appear in our next glorious issue!
- J.M. (Ret.) 
Jim Moseley postcard dated 1/16/12

C . 2013 Curtis L. Collins


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Tim, I'm generally neurotic about answering without sources, but I'll take this on the fly. Remember, these were the pre-internet days and information flowed more slowly. Betty lived about 668 miles away and had less direct contact with the unfolding investigation. We can't be sure how well-informed the witnesses were of the material presented in UFO journals and lectures by their "rabbi", J.F. Schuessler. (Another possibility is that they wed just grateful for any coverage that didn't portray them negatively.)

    Chris Lambright interviewed Betty by phone, and Vickie twice in person in 1985, one of the few non-Schuessler UFO interviewers. Both ladies claimed they were kept informed, but were surprised when Chris told them Schuessler was peddling their sighting as that of a huge "Close Encounters"-style glowing UFO ringed by blue lights. When Chris questioned Vickie more pointedly about the misrepresentation, she said something like, "you know how things get blown out of proportion", and shrugged it off.

    Chris seems to feel they developed a dependency on Schuessler due to the authority of his NASA position and the fact he seemed to be the only one in authority who cared.

    I can't mind-read the players, and hesitate to guess their motives, but:
    I'm of the opinion their trust may have been misplaced. Not due to sinister intent, but perhaps because they just had similar, but widely divergent goals. Schuessler was hunting ET and operating under the Keyhoe doctrine. Everything he saw, he shoe-horned into that doctrine.