Saturday, December 27, 2014

Lighting a Candle for the Cash-Landrum UFO Case

The December 29, 1980 Cash-Landrum UFO event is one of best known, thoroughly documented cases in UFO history.  This is due in part to the investigation led by John F. Schuesller, then deputy director of MUFON. The other reason is the dramatic story itself, with the apparent credibility and sincerity of the witnesses, Betty Cash, Vickie and Colby Landrum. On the anniversary of their encounter, last year, I posted this memorial:
Remembering Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum

This year, the discussion is about how the event itself is remembered.

As time passes, the Cash-Landrum UFO event is in danger of having its significance and place in history forgotten. Its important to remember the era in which it occurred. There was a change in the fabric of the UFO experience. 

The Dark Side

Things were getting darker. Reports of alien abductions were beginning to be taken seriously and there were reports of cattle mutilations and sightings of mystery helicopters. The story of a UFO Crash at Roswell, New Mexico was being circulated, with a massive US Government cover-up, a “Cosmic Watergate.” Paul Bennewitz reported seeing UFOs and contacting the aliens, who told him of battles in secret underground military bases, and of an alliance where they provided the  US with atomic-powered delta-shaped ships.

“The 1980s saw a revival of interest, at least among American ufologists, both in the extraterrestrial hypothesis and in the issue of alleged official cover ups… Speculations about space visitors and government concealment gave birth to the dark side movement, a subculture which fused unrestrained paranoia and far right conspiracy theory into a nightmarish vision of a malevolent Washington in collusion with sinister extraterrestrials and a plot to enslave the human race.”Jerome Clarke, The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial, 1997

The Cash-Landrum event was folded into this lore, and the whatever was behind the mystery of the event was seen as something sinister.  The case itself was co-opted and turned into a dark conspiracy parable. The people and the truth of the events were getting lost in the myth.

Shedding some light

Some regard this as an old and cold case, but it’s not too late to learn more about it and from it. Much of value can be learned just from studying the event’s investigation alone. Preserving the evidence and stripping away the layers of apocrypha can help let us examine the truth in this case.  Whatever secrets lie at the heart of this mystery, they have value to other UFO cases past and present. 

The passage of time closes some doors, but others may open. Betty Cash died in 1998, and Vickie in 2007, leaving only Colby Landrum remaining as a primary witness.  The helicopter personnel who would have participated in the operation are at retirement age and could now discuss this case without the fear of risk to their military careers. Others who may have been involved could still be alive, and it is possible that once-secret government documents could now be available. 

The privately held MUFON case files also need to be opened for whatever cold leads it may provide. There is still hope that the curtain of secrecy can be parted to reveal what the witnesses fought so hard to find - answers.

Cash-Landrum UFO Case: Slideshow

Thursday, December 11, 2014

TV takes on the Cash-Landrum UFO case

UFO Conspiracies

(Updated 12/11/14)
The National Geographic UFO series aired in the UK as UFO: Alien Invasion, but in most other countries as Invasion Earth. It was produced by Pioneer Productions for National Geographic Channels and Science, and was broadcast in the US as UFO Conspiracies starting November 19, Wednesday (10 PM - 11 PM) on Science Channel.

In the UK
In non-English thinking countries.

Here's a link to summaries of the 8 episode series:

I'm only concerned with their coverage of the Cash-Landrum story, featured in episode 4,  "UFO Swarm" which aired in the US December 10. It's the final third of the program, a segment about thirteen minutes long:

“Witnesses in Texas claim their confusing physical illnesses are the result of a massive, fiery object and in the skies above Brazil, jet fighters play cat and mouse with unknown lights.”

Vickie, Colby & Betty, as portrayed by actors.

Дело денежных Ландрум НЛО

I'd originally seen the Russian-language version of the episode featuring the C-L case, but have  updated this article after hearing the show in English. It's mostly a review of the case, but with a few new elements and discussions. Archival footage of Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum telling their story from the 1985 HBO show, UFOs: What’s Going On? is used.  The treatment of the case is serious and respectful, and the production values are good. The re-enactment scenes fairly tastefully done, the big clunker being the awful wig that would have embarrassed Vickie Landrum. 

Not bad, but a little too close.

The portrayal of the UFO is disappointing, but in some shots, not so bad. The scale of the object is good, but it seems to placed be a bit too low, and close to the car, about half the distance reported in the case (but not bad for TV). The flames are pitiful in comparison to description, and should have been about equal to the UFO’s width.

They literally made the UFO a diamond...

The worst is when it's shown to be a literal giant diamond. The witnesses used the diamond description, but just for the outline. It was not described as four-sided, but more ovoid with a bulging midline. Other shots show a big lighted shape that isn't so distinct, which was much better. The only attempt to portray the Chinook helicopters was a short shot of the UFO surrounded by spotlights.

Just pretend those are CH-47 spotlights.

The worst problem was the fact the incident was simplified for television. The case is complex enough it would need at least a full episode to do it justice, but it just gets a hit-and-run treatment. All that is featured in the reenactment is the initial encounter of the UFO and they do not examine the sightings from later locations or the movement by it or the helicopters the witnesses described.

Cash-Landrum UFO, as seen on TV.
They leave out some key elements of the story, such as Betty's account of burning her hand on the door handle as she returned to the car. The actress was wearing a sweater instead of the leather jacket Betty used to open the door.

Presentation of Medical Evidence

Radiologist, not.

Far too much time is given to Dr. Bryan McClelland, the family physician who treated Betty Cash starting in 1983.  McClelland is sometimes misrepresented in the media as a radiologist, or Cash’s original physician or both, and in this program, it’s implied he treated her immediately after the incident. McClelland mentions that he began treating Betty Cash after she moved back to Alabama, but does not say that it was later than that, about 1983. He claims that her symptoms followed the pattern to exposure to radiation exposure. He also said that he'd that he taken a biopsy from Betty Cash and tested it, and insists that she was exposed to radiation that led to her health problems. (This is his opinion, and it is unsupported by any documentation.)

If you don't know, make something up.

Fictionalized wounds on the actor portraying Betty Cash are placed on her face, collar and arms.

Expert Commentary

Nick Pope is prominently featured in the series. Here, he is introduced as having studied the case for fifteen years, and he offers some commentary and speculation on the nature of the UFO, and discusses the charges of a government cover-up. He suggests that the UFO was a nuclear-powered prototype, possibly an unmanned  black project.

Chris Pocock, editor of Aviation International News offers comments on the secrecy regarding the testing of military projects and the locations where they are generally tested. He finds the secret test vehicle scenario unlikely, pointing out that such vehicles are not tested in populated areas.

Jim Thurston is captioned as “Medical Radiation Specialist.” He’s the head of Radiation Protection and Dosimetry at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. He discusses the effects of radiation and the dosage, and points out that a dose of ionizing radiation capable of producing the symptoms so rapidly would have been a lethal one. He dismisses radiation as the cause of injuries and points that exposure to chemicals could have produce the same symptoms.

There’s a discussion of some skeptical theories.

Dr. Robert Bartholomew is captioned as “Medical Sociologist,” and he’s written on UFO and paranormal topics, and believes most witnesses are sincere. He discusses that witnesses may be truthful, but be mistaken in interpreting what they’ve seen. Bartholomew points out that our memories do not playback what happened, but a reconstruction based on our interpretation. He also suggests that the stress of an encounter could produce psychosomatic physical problems such as rashes, headaches and vomiting.

Prof. Randy Cerveny, captioned as “Extreme Weather Expert,” is a professor of geographical sciences at Arizona State, and the author of two books on freakish weather. He discusses the possibility that the UFO was a superior mirage, possibly the reflection of the column of flame of a nearby oil refinery. 

Light pillar is too fancy, just say mirage for TV.

I have a source inside the film making industry, we'll call him PK. He tells me that shows like this shoot segments with "experts" where they talk about different topics, which are edited into bits of several different shows. That's what's happened here, and some of the comments are so generic they could have been used for most other UFO cases. None of their experts had any specific relation or familiarity with the Cash-Landrum case. Some of it is very good, but it lacks depth.

It's not over until the segment's over

The attempt by the witnesses to file a legal claim against the United States is very briefly discussed. They show a made-for-TV army document, then some of the case paperwork, including one from the Texas Department of Health (first published here at Blue Blurry Lines!) The implication is that officials lied under oath to cover up the events.

TDH document from BBL!
They tell the basic story, superficially deal with the pros and cons, and then seem to shrug, and leave it in the “who knows?” category.

Product Contains Less Than 1% Blue Blurry Lines 

I was in contact with Paola Desiderio, Pioneer’s Archive Assistant Producer, and exchanged a series of correspondence helping with getting them images, and putting them in touch with John Schuessler. Besides shopping BBL for ideas, they used some photos from this site, transformed to black and white. In the closing  credits, under Stock Footage, they list John Schuessler for the use of his photographs, but it’s his only acknowledgement in the show. Using my work without credit is forgivable, but Schuessler deserved far better.

I'd like to forget all the little people...

There were also negotiations with other parties to provide material on this case never before broadcast. Why those failed, I don’t yet know, but it gives me hope that it can yet be presented in a more thorough examination of the case. The key item of interest is the audio recording of the witnesses giving a statement to officers at Bergstrom Air Force Base in 1981. When the deal fell through to get the new interviews and materials, they should have just moved on to covering another UFO case.

There are two other programs coming in the near future that will discuss the Cash-Landrum case, NASA's Unexplained Files, and Hangar 1: The UFO Files. Investors are warned that, “past performance does not necessarily predict future results.” In the case of television, I think it does, and that these programs, too will botch the story. 

The best that can be hoped for about these UFO shows, is that people will hear about these cases and be prompted seek out more accurate information on them. Don't laugh. We can dream...

If National Geographic can’t get the Cash-Landrum case right, TV should just give up on it.

Television, you can’t handle the truth.

It's good to try new things, but stick to what you do well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Photo Fakery: Washington, DC Flying Saucers 1952

The DC Deception (Last Updated 9/18/21)

The flying saucers reported over Washington, DC in July 1952 is one of the most famous events in UFO history. Objects were tracked on radar, and Air Force planes were sent out to investigate, and reportedly, UFOs were seen by at least one pilot and radar operator. 

It's an important historical event, worthy of examination, but...
There are rumors and myths too, such as it being widely witnessed by panicking citizens or that photos exist of the event.

Weird Science-Fantasy #26 from EC, 1954 

If you need a recap, it was covered at the time in the August 4, 1952 issue of LIFE magazine

It was also covered in a NBC television broadcast, "We the People," which featured interviews with the radar operator witnesses. See The Saucers That Time Forgot: UFOs on TV: The 1952 Washington, DC Saucer Flap.

Had there been a photograph of UFOs during the incidents, Life Magazine would have been happy to publish them. None surfaced despite this being among the most heavily publicized cases in US history.

The Fake

In 1965, over a decade after the events, a photograph was published, and ever since has appeared in almost every discussion and article on the Washington, DC, case, from books, to the internet, documentaries, and television shows. The trouble is, it's a phony.

Well, the photo itself is real, but it is misrepresented and fraudulently used, then accepted and repeated as genuine by people who should know better. It was taken several years after the event, and instead of UFOs, it depicts the reflection of the Capitol's lamps - lens flares.

Many versions exist, cropped in color...

black and white for a more "historical" look...

tweaked with photoshop and so on...

Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos reports:
FOTOCAT's input follows:
Event date: July 19, 1952
Location: Washington, D.C. (USA)
Date information: Non-event (actually dated 1965)
Event is filed as: Lens flares
Time: Between 23:40 and 06:00
Photographer: Unknown

The first known publication of the picture is in Ray Palmer's Flying Saucers No. 81, Summer 1973

This time, Flying Saucers are not real.

Exposed and Forgotten

As seen on the magazine cover above, it's often cropped to remove the lamps, the source of the "UFOs." It was exposed long ago, in a detailed analysis by Colman von Keviczky that was published in Official UFO Magazine #9, July 1976. A summary by Dr. Bruce Maccabee :
This picture which shows the Capitol dome and lights at the left side is, I believe, just a fraction of the total picture which shows the whole Capitol building, parking lot lights in front of it and numerous "UFO" lights in the sky at both the left and right sides of the dome. Colman von Kevicsky, years ago, showed the "UFO" light images were actually lens "flares"....reflections within the lens of the bright streetlights and parking lot lights in front of the Capitol. 
Reconstruction of the Official UFO Magazine analysis,
showing how the "UFOs" correspond to the lamps as lens flares.

UFOs: The American Scene by Michael Hervey, 1976.
“Jacket photograph: UFOs over the Capitol, Washington, D.C."

UFO Exist! by Paris Flammonde, G.P. Putnam´s, 1976, featured a large photo section in that center that included the photo, but did not present it as genuine. The caption stated it was a: “supposed UFO formation… a reoccurrence of the classic 1952 case.”

UFO Exist! by Paris Flammonde, 1976

The photo was included in April 1979 Omni magazine issue in "UFOS: A Gallery of Photographs," the Lee Spiegel article, "First Contact." The tiny caption describes the picture:
"famous UFO formation over Capitol thought by many to be a reflection in camera lens."
Omni, April 1979

The Omni article prompted skeptic James Randi to include the photo in his 1980 book, Flim-Flam!, where he included a diagram demonstrating how the lens flares reflected the lights at the base of the building.

Here's another photo analysis from 2009. 1952 Washington DC UFO (Capitol Building) photo:

Motion Pictures?

Nevertheless, once a fake gets into the UFO bloodstream it lives forever. The internet and television assured its immortality. There are even phony motion pictures of it.

Disney's Alien Encounters from New Tommorowland, 1995 features a clip 
of animated UFOs over the Capitol at 10:26.

a different animated version of the photo.

Breakdown - 1952 UFOs Over Washington DC Video
explaining the phony film version

Also recycled for Unseen Alien Files, where astonishingly, 

it was labelled a reconstruction.
Recycled in Stephen Greer's 2013 Sirius,
b&w to make it look "authentic!"

Steven Bassett used the same phony animation in Paradigm Research Group's 2013 in 
promo video for the Citizen Hearing on UFO Disclosure.  
MUFON's Hangar 1: The UFO Files featured many imaginative recreations.
Here, they imitate EC comics,

Hangar 1: Presidential Encounters from 2014

National Geographic produced UFO Conspiracies 
aka Invasion EarthTheir recreation from 2014.

Baloney Indicator

A Google Image search returns many, many versions.

2016 Update:

Jan Harzan, the director of MUFON, used this fake photo on a 2016 UFO lecture, saying, "These are visual photographs of the actual objects."
Jan Harzan, Oct. 29, 2016, lecture at the Explorers Club event Space Stories in New York.
These are just a tiny fraction of the appearances of the photo. By gathering some of this data, maybe this will show up alongside the search returns, and people can get some better information on the history. We've not seen the last of this one, but just remember that whenever you see it, you are looking at a lie, ineptitude, misinformation or disinformation on the part of whoever is presenting it. 

The DC deception's inclusion as an indicator of a high baloney content. It shows that they're not a trustworthy source. 

2018 Update:

The Italian UFO group CUN hosted a presentation in Rome on Oct. 27, 2018 by Tom DeLonge on the To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Luis Elizondo on the AATIP.  Elizondo discussed some UFO history, including the famous 1952 Washington, DC saucer event saying:
"In the early 1950s, the United States had another very significant event over our nation’s Capitol. Once again, these objects were identified both with the naked eye and again on radar, and unlike Roswell, many people had cameras and were able to take photographs. And what you see here are real photographs, along with the story - the headline story that came out."

"real photographs"

Elizondo's picture came from the internet, a YouTube preview image for the video, "UFO Sightings over Washington D.C. and The White House in 1952," by FindingUFO.

It is composed of two images:
1, a frame from a CGI-animated version of a picture of lens flares from UFO's: The Secret Evidence, and
2, a b&w version of an image from the 1954 comic book, Weird Science-Fantasy #26 found in the files of Project Blue Book.

Luis Elizondo published an update on the Facebook page of To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science on Nov. 1, 2018, which stated in part:
"While providing general background, I indicated that one particular slide contained real photographs of UAPs over Washington DC. It did not. The slide was intended to be illustrative but was presented as factual and with the help of a few individuals, I quickly realized the error. I acknowledge the misstatement and sent an immediate 'mea culpa' note to my TTS Academy team... it was an oversight on my part, and it will not happen again."

2021 Update

James Fox's documentary, Phenomenon was shown in by the Travel Chanel in their “Shock Docs” series about paranormal encounters as The UFO Phenomenon. 

While labeled "Artistic Rendition," Fox's use of it perpetuates the legitimacy of the phony saucer photo, which matches nothing that was witnessed or photographed.

This fake UFO photo is like Dracula in the movies. It rises from the grave again and again.

. . .
Thanks to Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos, Nab Lator, Gilles Fernandez and the others mentioned above for helping straighten out the fact from fiction in the DC picture.