Showing posts with label Evidence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Evidence. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The 4th Witness, Betty Cash's Car

The Absence of Evidence…

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

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

Betty's 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass

Similar Cutlass

Betty's Cutlass, Feb 22, 1981

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

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

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

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

The Dashboard

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

Sample interior of a 1980 Cutlass supreme

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

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

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

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

Betty demonstrating the placement of the handprints.

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

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

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

Electromagnetic Effects?

In John Schuessler's original report, he stated that
“When the group met the UFO they stopped the car - it did not fail on its own.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Escape 

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

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

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

Getting Out of the Car

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

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

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

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

Another lost Cutlass

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MUFON vs. APRO, Allegations, Accusations & Countercharges

The Cash-Landrum UFO Case Backstage Drama 

"I am concerned that Betty Cash and Vicki and Colby Landrum may be merely pawns in some kind of game." - Coral Lorenzen

This historical correspondence released here needs an accompanying UFO politics and history lesson longer than I can provide.  So, I’ll try to give it a basic and informal introduction instead. 

In the days when giants roamed the Earth, there was a feuding, territorial situation with rival groups trying to stake claims on UFO cases. Jim and Coral Lorenzen founded APRO (the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization) in 1952 and for years it endured while other UFO organizations came and went.  MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network) was formed in 1969 by some discontented members of APRO over a difference in policies. Jim and Coral Lorenzen saw Walt Andrus, John Schuessler and his upstart MUFON group as traitors who’d led a mutiny. Publicly, however, there was a stated shared goal that UFO groups would cooperate and share data. 

Jim and Coral Lorenzen of APRO

When the Travis Walton case hit in 1975, APRO tried to own it and there was some controversy over how they handled the case, and to strain their dysfunctional relationship further, MUFON labeled the Walton affair a hoax. In 1981 when the Cash-Landrum case surfaced, APRO couldn’t effectively investigate it due to the distance involved, so they passed it on to a small independent research group called Project VISIT (Vehicle Internal Systems Investigative Team) chiefly because they were based in the Houston Texas area and near the witnesses.  John F. Schuessler, while MUFON’s Deputy director, was also the leader of Project VISIT, but VISIT was not MUFON.

Initially, it was a VISIT case, but soon became soon a MUFON property, prominently featured in their journal and annual symposium lectures.  The reporting of the case almost came almost exclusively through Schuessler, but at first he shared case files with the other major UFO groups including APRO. When the Lorenzens had questions about the evidence, their inquiries went unanswered, causing them to seek answers elsewhere. The resulting APRO column ignited a feud between APRO and MUFON, or at least between Coral Lorenzen and John Schuessler. The feud had the Cash-Landrum investigation squarely in the center, and the battle was fought in scathing letters which were distributed to a circle of UFO insiders and associates.

John F. Schuessler of MUFON

The exchange is a fascinating look behind the scenes, an emotionally charged swap of allegations, counter-charges, mud slinging and rumors. Along the way, a few factual case matters were discussed, too.

APRO Bulletin article firing the first shot.

Some highlights:

APRO insinuated that Andrus, Schuessler and Hynek had ties to the US intelligence community.

A rogue member of APRO intercepted the story and sold it to the Weekly World News.

Schuessler was unaware of any road repairs to the UFO incident scene until 1982.

Bill Moore was circulating a story that the UFO was a secret USG nuclear-powered vehicle.

APRO made bold charges in print that the UFO was definitely a military test craft.

APRO stated that by Schuessler promoting the event as a UFO, he intentionally or not, was allowing the USG to disavow it as their project.

APRO accused Schuessler of withholding case details including medical records.

APRO charged that MUFON was desperate for a good UFO case and was milking it for publicity.

In response to APRO’s US secret project allegations, Schuessler told Lt. Col. Sarran to question them.

Schuessler rejects their charges and accusation, accusing APRO in return of being sensationalistic.

Schuessler denied allegations that the US is paying Betty Cash’s medical bills (but does not disclose  they are partially covered by Medicare). 

APRO charged that by presenting the UFO as ET,
Schuessler was aiding the USG in a cover-up.

John Schuessler's annotations, correcting and refuting APRO.

Many of the topics mentioned branch into other complex areas which will be discussed later. Grab your favorite beverage, a notepad and dig in. Previously only seen by the UFO elite!

Index of Documents (26 pages)

1 Cover letter from Coral Lorenzen  to Robert Barrow 7/19/1982
2-3 APRO Bulletin Vol. 30, # 6 Cash-Landrum Case by Coral Lorenzen
4-8 J. Schuessler to APRO 6/29/1982
9-14  C. Lorenzen to J. Schuessler, 7/6/1982
15 Attachment: Vickie Landrum letter to APRO, 10/31/1981
16 Attachment: APRO’s letter to VISIT (case transfer) 2/20/1981
17 C. Lorenzen  to Robert Barrow  status report, 7/27/1982
18 J. Schuessler to C. Lorenzen, 8/15/1982
19-20 C. Lorenzen to J. Schuessler, 8/24/1982
21-26 J. Schuessler annotated Cash-Landrum APRO Bulletin articles.

A note about the image quality: These scans were made from second-generation or later copies, sometimes of old carbons. In cases of the worst images, attempts were made to adjust for clarity.

PDF link to documents: 

APRO letter dated 2/20/1981 transferring the C-L case to Schuessler & VISIT.

A special thank you goes to Robert Barrow for furnishing the missing pieces of this documentation. 
Also check his blog about the classic film,  UFO: The True Story of Flying Saucers 

Additional document sources were the collections of Philip J. Klass, and Dr. R. Leo Sprinkle.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Flaming UFO: An Examination of the Cash-Landrum Original Testimony

UFO Fire: Flames or Glow? Separating the Heat from the Light

"… more glowing than on fire…"   -Colby Landrum, 2013

“In addition to lighting the whole area like daytime, the UFO periodically belched flames downward. Each time the object would shoot flames downward it would rise. As the flames stopped it would drop in altitude. The intense glow, however, never changed.
-John Schuessler, MUFON Journal November 1981
MUFON Journal April, 1981 illustration of the UFO,

Whatever it was, one thing that seemed definite about the Cash-Landrum UFO is that it "belched flames downward." When investigator Chris Lambright shared the transcript from his 1985 interview with witnesses Vickie Landrum and Betty Cash, it became apparent that there were problems with the details circulating about the UFO's description and characteristics. Examination of the case documents shows that there is much confusion in separating the UFO itself from the light, and the flame-like effects it produced. When Colby Landrum appeared on Martin Willis’ Podcast UFO, he was questioned on specific details about the object: 
“To me, it was like a diamond shape with flames coming out the bottom, not just massive flames, the whole thing looked [like it] radiated bright orange and it actually looked like it was more glowing than on fire. As a kid, that seems to stick in your head... a lot of things I don’t remember, but this particular thing about the object I do remember.”
Colby Landrum, Podcast UFO, Dec. 4, 2013
Identifying this pyrotechnic characteristic could prove to be a vital clue in either identifying or eliminating a terrestrial craft as a suspect for the UFO. This prompted me to review the records, with emphasis on the earliest reports with direct statements from the witnesses. What did the witnesses originally say about the fire, and did it change over time?

(Note: Abbreviations used, VL= Vickie Landrum, BC= Betty Cash, CPL= interviewer Chris Lambright.)

First reports: the best evidence

“a deal came down and it was like fire was coming from it.” (Referring to Betty’s illness) “...could it have had anything to do with that thing that we stood and watched, ‘cause we were close enough to it that we felt a fire from it."
VL’s call to Robert Gribble at NUFORC Feb. 2, 1981
“It was bright, the lights were bright. And there was a lot of heat coming from this object.”  (No mention of fires or flame.)
BC - Parkway Hospital Tape Early Feb. 1981
"The whole road ahead and around it glowing as if by fire. I believe it was fire because it glowed down and let up a little."
VL- Parkway Hospital Tape Early Feb. 1981
“this bright object that made the sky just split up & it looked like the world was coming to an end, it was a very bright red.”
BC’s handwritten account of the encounter, Parkway Hospital, Feb. 7, 1981 
There is a gap in the record from February 8th until the 21st. During this time, the case was being managed by Bill English (a rogue member of APRO), who sold the story to the tabloid Weekly World News, providing them with Betty's and Vickie's taped statements from Parkway Hospital.

To date, no records of the conversations between the witnesses and English or the tabloid have surfaced. It was during the tabloid involvement that the definite descriptions of fire begin to appear.
The light  from it was glowing, lighting up the whole road like it would set it on fire.
 VL- The Courier (Conroe TX) Feb. 22, 1981
"It looked like the whole sky had split and fire was coming down almost to the road.”
VL- Weekly World News March 24, 1981
"this fire was coming out of the bottom of it. And it wasn't just one little streak.'' 
VL- Feb. 28, 1981 interview, The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident by J.F. Schuessler
“a bright silver... an aluminous thing. It was diamond-shaped with fire coming out of the bottom,” flames produced “air brakes” sound, but louder. Asked if flames were like a rocket, “That’s the way it was, but it didn’t fly off.” No smoke was noticed. Flames produced a roar compared to tornado, big winds, big engine, “air brakes” sound, but louder.
BC- 1981 undated interview, The Cash-Landrum UFO Incident by J.F. Schuessler
“ ... fire was shooting out the bottom of it ... and then it would let up, when it would let up... it made... I don't know what kind of sound to tell you it was making, it... similar to air brakes... or?... a whooshing sound.”
BC- Bergstrom AFB Interview, Aug. 17, 1981
“... it was hanging up, you know, over the trees... when the fire'd comedown, it would lift up, and when the fire'd let up, you know... when the fire'd kinda go away... that's when it would come back down... and finally when big gust of fire came down and the sound was so shrill, that's when it lifted to where it would get up and go away.. the flame come down, you know? ... just like, just like a rocket” 
VL- Bergstrom AFB Interview, Aug. 17, 1981
Night rocket launch.

1985 Interviews of the Witnesses

July 10, 1985, Chris Lambright interviewed Vickie Landrum in her Dayton home, seeking further details. He tried to determine when and from where the object emitted the glowing light.

Vickie Landrum from 1985 interview with Chris Lambright
CPL: Were the flames coming down all the time? 
VL: No, no. They would let up and then come back down.
CPL: How could you see it if the flame went out?
VL: It didn’t go completely out. It went up and then it would come back down. It was like something, like a motor or something that was in trouble. And finally, when the flame come whooshing down, there was a loud noise…the loud noise it made…it lifted slowly.
CPL: Was the flame more or less constant, or did it just cease?
VL: It never did just completely cease. It was permanently…It was just a big light. It was glowing over the road so much we saw the object.
Two days later, Lambright followed up by talking to Betty Cash by telephone.

Betty Cash compares flame to blowtorch.
Blowtorch flame, warming up and in operation.
CPL: When the light came out, it came out only from the bottom?
BC: That is right. 
 Lambright asked for clarification on the color and characteristics of the light.
BC: I have described it on several occasions myself as a blow torch light. You know, a welding light…they don’t all come out one color…you can look at them and they are different colors. 
CPL: Are you talking about an arc-welder?
BC: Well, one of them welding torches that shoots flames out. A propane torch.
CPL: Right, a blow torch cuts a nice sharp flame and it’s real brilliant bluish color. 
BC: Yes, and if you will look you can see the yellow and white…you know. 
CPL: Did you notice anything about the flame itself that would have made it look very red, so you would have described it as red? 
BC: Well…not really as a red. But there was a reddish-yellowish looking color. 

Chris Lambright detail. Different versions attempting to show witness descriptions of object and lighting.

As a boy, Colby Landrum was rarely quoted at length in the press coverage, and he later withdrew, refusing to discuss the events. In his first television appearance as an adult, he described the object.
”It was a bright red, glowing object. Kind of looked as if you took a piece of metal and heated it up with a torch. It kind of looked like it was on fire, but it was kind of floating.”
Colby Landrum, UFO Hunters, “Alien Fallout” aired January 14, 2009


Betty Cash, who witnessed the encounter the most closely, did not mention fire or flames in the earliest two reports, just heat and light. Vickie Landrum initially said the object produced heat and was glowing as if by fire  As they were asked to repeat their story, it appears the glow and the heat may have combined into a description of “flames.” Admittedly, it’s a bit unclear and confusing, as are many details reported in the case. Often, eyewitness testimony can become unintentionally contaminated by external influences or just grow in the retelling.

In the interview at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Vickie and Betty included details of John Schuessler's investigation in their description of events, such as the measurements of the UFO's position and size. Colby was the only witness who could originally describe a shape for the object, Schuessler emphasized the diamond shape in his initial report. The witnesses absorbed the report, and this new information was incorporated into their story.

In examining the original testimony, the witnesses reported seeing the brilliant light and feeling heat produced by the unidentified flying object. The more dramatic description of fire and flames may have been a later interpretation.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kevin Randle on Cash-Landrum: A Military Perspective

Kevin Randle on the Cash-Landrum UFO case

As part the discussion of the Cash-Landrum UFO case, we'll be inviting others who have examined the case to share their opinions.

Author  Kevin D. Randle

In Kevin D. Randle's 1998 book, Project Moon Dust: Beyond Roswell-- Exposing The Government's Covert Investigations and Cover-ups, chapter 11 was a ten page analysis, titled, "December 29, 1980: The Cash-Landrum UFO Encounter." Kevin Randle is a retired Lieutenant Colonel, and his service and his experience as a helicopter pilot should aid in the understanding of the military involvement in this case.

Chapter 11: Cash-Landrum UFO Encounter

One resource that Randle had that most others did not, was the file on the case from the Center for UFO Studies. This allowed Randle to note the discrepancy in the account of Betty Cash as to whether she stopped the car's engine or it stopped on its own, apparently due to the proximity of the UFO. This detail was discovered in April 1981 by CUFOS investigator Allan Hendry, but went unmentioned until Randle's book. In Project Moon Dust, he does an excellent job of summarizing the case history based on materials available at the time, and also offers some analysis and commentary, a portion of which appears as the closing remarks for this entry.

Kevin Randle had occasion to discuss the case again in 2011, on his blog, A Different Perspective.
Reprinted here, with the author's kind permission.

Cash Landrum and Crash Retrievals 


One of the strange things about writing a book is that sometimes the comments or criticisms come in a short period of time.

What do I mean?

My book, Crash: When UFOs Fall from the Sky was published in May and in the last week or ten days I have heard from several people who wished I had included the Cash-Landrum case in the book. That is an interesting case and I believe John Schuessler did a very comprehensive study of it which has been published.

The problem for me is that I don’t view the case as a crash/retrieval. I see it as something that might have been an emergency close approach, or just a close approach without the emergency, or some kind of terrestrially-based test, but not a crash of an extraterrestrial vehicle. For that reason, I left it out.
Cash-Landrum not included
What I know about the case is what everyone else knows and is based on the research of those who studied it in person. I have never spoken to any of those who were originally involved, though I do know John Schuessler. He is one of those who has devoted a great deal of time to the study of UFOs and this case took place almost in his backyard.

It was December 29, 1980, when Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum and Landrum’s seven-year-old grandson, Colby saw the strange object as they returned from dinner. Thinking that it was an airplane heading to a nearby airport, they thought nothing of it. But as they rounded a curve on the rural road, they saw the light approaching them at treetop level.

Fearing that they would be burned alive, Landrum screamed for Cash to stop. The road was narrow and Cash was unable to turn to car so that they could escape. But there was no other traffic, so Cash got out, walking to the front of the vehicle. Landrum also got out but her grandson so upset she got back in.

They could feel heat from the diamond-shaped object that was about 100 feet away. The car became too hot to touch and Landrum put her hand on the dashboard and left an imprint. Cash needed to use part of her leather jacket to protect her hand so that she could open the door.

There was a final blast of heat and the object ascended slowly. As it cleared the treetops, helicopters appeared from all directions. The object and the helicopters then disappeared from sight.

When her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Cash started the car and they began to head home. As they rounded another curve on that same road, they saw the object again, and Cash counted 23 helicopters near it. Landrum thought there were 25 or 26 of them. Cash was able to pull off the road. When the object and the helicopters were again out of sight, Cash then drove home.

Schuessler depiction of the UFO
Later that evening Cash became sick, the symptoms like that of radiation poisoning, at least according to some. She was hospitalized twice for treatment. The Landrums were also sick, but not to the same degree as Cash, which might be as simple as Cash being outside the car longer and her exposure greater.

The case was, of course, investigated. Cash eventually sued the government for 20 million dollars alleging that her illnesses were caused by the close approach of the craft. She was eventually treated for various cancers 25 times and had undergone two operations. The helicopters were obviously US government and they should have been protecting her. The case was dismissed in 1986. Cash died some twenty yeas later.

The suit was dismissed, according to the ruling, because there was no evidence that the diamond-shaped craft was any type of government test vehicle and they were hard pressed to find witnesses to the formation of helicopters. A few witnesses were found who said they had seen the fleet, but no physical evidence or documentation was ever located.

I will point out here, based on my experience as a helicopter pilot, that I find it difficult to believe they could hide an air operation of this magnitude. The helicopters would have had a crew of three and maybe four meaning almost 100 men (and given the date of this, I wouldn’t expect any women in the flight crews), not to mention the logistical support necessary. You’d have to supply a refueling point, as well as other considerations but no trace of any of that was ever found or documented. Something like that, on that scale, would be impossible to hide.

Nearly everyone, skeptics and believers alike, suggest that the illnesses sounded like radiation sickness. One of those who doesn’t is Brad Sparks. He presented a number of reasons including the rapid onset of the symptoms and the lingering nature of them as reason to suspect another cause. Philip Klass was interested in the health of the three victims prior to the encounter.

The bottom line for me, and my book on UFO crashes, is that there is no hint of a crash here. A close encounter of the second kind, meaning a close approach of a UFO, but not a crash. For that reason, I didn’t even consider this case for my book.
  _ _ _

Kevin Randle's Conclusion

 Lt. Col. Kevin D. Randle. ret.

Randle closes the chapter on the Cash-Landrum story in Project Moon Dust, with a summary of the problems in evaluating the case.

"There is nothing to prove that the three were in perfect health prior to the events and that those events caused an erosion of their health. Betty Cash's cancer may have been a pre-existing condition, though there is no record of it prior to the events. A comprehensive search by military officers and civilian researchers has failed to produce any evidence that the sighting took place.  
Once again we are left with nothing except our beliefs. Was the craft extraterrestrial? Was there any craft at all? Or was it some kind of elaborate hoax invented by the women (though neither has a history of creating practical jokes)? Without more data, we just can't answer any of these questions satisfactorily."

A special thanks to Kevin Randle for permission to reprint his column.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Miracle of Fatima: Photographic Proof Part II

Photographic Fiasco: Finding the Source

In the piece, The Miracle of Fatima: Photographic Proof from the Vatican and LIFE magazine?,
we saw how a photo was erroneously presented as evidence. What was not discussed was how an error of that magnitude came to be. Luckily others knew where to look for answers.

Gilles Fernandez, is a scholarlly French skeptic s that corresponds with me, and he was very helpful in tracking down further details on the origin of the Fatima photo fiasco.  Gilles contacted Marc Hallet, who has an excellent history of the Fatima Miracle itself at his French language site.
The second of three bad photographs published in the book by Viscount Montelo

Gilles told me (summarized, retranslated):
Marc provided  a copy  of the "picture" from the first book it was in, by Vicomte de Montelo, (circa 1930) who described the picture as "Le phénomène solaire, 2°aspect" (the solar phenomenon, second aspect).
The book was
As Grandes Maravilhas de Fatima by Canon Manuel Nunes Formigão under the pseudonym “Vicomte de Montelo” Uniao grafica, 1927 (Note: Some references use the spelling "Montello," preserved here.)

Les Grandes Merveilles de Fatima Éditions du Pélican (1931)

Manuel Nunes Formigão aka 
Vicomte de Montelo

It must have been forgotten, because when about twenty years later finding copies of the photograph launched international news:

Marc Hallet provided an excerpt from MICHEL DE LA Ste TRINITE: "Toute la vérité sur Fatima" (The Whole Truth about Fatima),  St-Parres-Lès-Vaudes, Ren.cath., 1986, T.III, p.252-253.

Link to PDF of French text

Gilles was kind enough to translate the relevant passage:

The Whole Truth about Fatima (Fatima photograph history extract)

What happened? In December 1957, in the Portuguese Jesuit review “Broteria “, Professor Agostinho Veloso s.j., explains the origin of this lamentable error:
“The Chief of the Protocol of Portugal Foreign Ministry, Doctor João Mendonça found in the house of his parents four negatives that his brother Alfredo, already dead, had photographed. He thought that they were from Fatima and, the respective positives were published in one book of Dr. Formigao, under the pseudonym of “Vicomte de Montello".
“When Cardinal Tedeschini came to Portugal, again with the same good faith, Dr. Mendonça gave him enlargements of these pictures, as photographed at noon/midday, 13 October 1917. After, the “Osservatore Romano” published them, also in good faith”.
“However, the author of this notice [Veloso] had had the occasion to make some research and he verified that the pictures were not photographed at Fatima, nor at 13 October 1917, but in Torres Novas, 5P.M., 13 June 1925. Coming from Fatima, and he saw an astronomical phenomenon that he believed to be a repetition of the Fatima Miracle […], Alfredo Mendonça photographed it. Later, he died. And his family, discovering later the negatives, were mistaken concerning the date and place, and it is how the error was spread.”
This benevolent explanation, accepting without discussion the justification provided by those first responsible of this lamentable affair is maybe not the most plausible. Because the of the incredible carelessness of Dr. João Mendonça, granting by writing the authenticity of the pictures, without any serious evidence and without research nor verification, is for us very suspect. And the behavior how the anticlerical medias and Franc-Maçons – and “Le Monde “ newspaper the first one – was advised of the deception only several months after the publication of the pictures by “Osservatore Romana” is not less suspicious. If Dr. Mendoça was able to discover that the photographs he offered to the Cardinal Tedeschini, as authentic photographs of 13 October 1917 Miracle, were in reality photographed at 5 PM, 13 June 1925, in Torres Novas – what precision! - how can he have ignored it before? And how is it that opponents of the church were the first to know?
When we know how the Bourgeoisie of Portugal remained in great part liberal, skeptic, anticlerical and secretly affiliated to the Freemasons, another hypothesis, less benevolent, but likely has come to our mind: A trap, a deliberate deception whose victim was Cardinal Tedseschini, and following him, Osservatore Romano”.
from Toute la vérité sur Fatima by Michel de la Ste Trinité 
The first photo.

In Marc Hallet's book, Les Apparitions de la Vierge, he attempts to clarify things. Below is a mechanically transited passage.

In 1931, in the key work he devoted to the apparitions of Fatima under the pseudonym Viscount Montello, Canon Formigao published without too many comments three poor quality photographs purportedly showing the three phases of the solar miracle. These illustrations went long unnoticed until they resurfaced, November 18, 1951, in the Osservatore Romano where they were presented as photographs "absolutely authentic."  Meanwhile, in 1944, in the book he devoted to Fatima, Jesuit H. Jongen had already written, but without providing any evidence, that the solar miracle had actually been photographed. November 21, 1951, following the article from the Osservatore Romano, the Parisian newspaper Le Monde claimed that the photographs were false and the press organ of the Vatican soon issued a denial of them. On March 14, the Osservatore Romano belies the words in the French daily, and reaffirmed that the published material came from a trusted source. Careful, however, he added that even if they were found to be false, this does not belie the miracle of 1917 occurred " in front of tens of thousands of witnesses."
On 15 March, returning to this case, Le Monde wrote that Osservatore Romano admitted the possibility that these documents were false. It was not until December 1957 to find the key to the riddle. It was published in the journal of the Portuguese Jesuit. The Chief of Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal found four negatives taken by his late brother Alberto. As they were published in the book of Canon Formigao, he thought they had been taken at Fatima.  When the Portuguese Cardinal Tedeschini came, he offered enlargements of these photographs in good faith. And so they found themselves in the Osservatore Romano with the estimate  of a "reliable source." In fact, the pictures were taken on June 13 1925 17h at Torres Novas, while Alberto observed meteorological phenomenon that seemed to replicate the miracle of Fatima. Such, at least, now is the official theory (though little known) which obviously does not satisfy everyone. Another hypothesis is that there was a conspiracy to undermine the credibility of the Vatican. And here would not have been a coincidence, of course, if the enemies of the Church (it is here Le Monde) were aware of the fraud even before the Vatican.
The third photo.

I'll leave the conspiracy hypothesis alone, and focus on the historical information. The basic idea of seeing something like the photographs, and attaching significance to based on cherished notions has plenty of precedents and antecedents. When there is a will to believe, miracles will be found.

Marc Hallet's book (The Apparitions of the Virgin) at Scribd:

Les Apparitions de la Vierge et la Critique Historique by Marc Hallet 

Thanks again to Gilles Fernandez and Marc Hallet for their contributions!