Wednesday, December 9, 2009

OUT PROCTOR: a balloonist's fantastic, frustrating, fragmented tale.

This will be a short post. It's so because I haven't a lot of solid information on the topic to present to you and I'm not into a lot of speculating, at least on this. This story will probably titillate you, due to the people involved, and drive you a bit nuts, due to the incompleteness of the tale. It has done so for me. Here goes.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The central figure in the story is Don Piccard of Ballooning"s "first family". Don Piccard has been described as the creator of modern hot-air ballooning with his relentless pursuit of adventure and thrills riding the winds. He was born in 1926 to Jean-Felix and Jeannette Piccard [chemists and balloonists] and served in the Navy during WW2. After the war he went to the balloon capital of the US, the University of Minnesota, but never graduated. Always up for wild experiences, he made the first post-WW2 free flight in a captured Japanese FUGO balloon [showing that his family had highly placed military connections]. In 1948 he organized the Balloon Club of America in concert with a club in the Cleveland area and one loosely associated with Goodyear in Akron. All this adventuring may have contributed to his dropping out of school, but it did nothing but raise his taste for ballooning higher. He kept tinkering around with balloons during the early 1950s and knew many Navy pilots in the Minneapolis area, as well as the General Mills engineering teams. In 1957, he piloted his father's design of the first plastic "Pleiades" cluster balloon as shown in the LIFE magazine spread at the left. Still, he didn't know where his life was heading with any real direction. Then, in 1958, the following fragmented tale happened.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The best that I can do is to tell you how what we know came out. In 1967, James McDonald was sweeping the country in his tornado-like fashion giving UFO talks to scientists and engineers of all stripes. On September 24th he was in Akron talking at Kent State University. That evening he had dinner with members of the local UFO organization associated with Goodyear Rubber Corporation [from WW2 onward the country's leader in blimps and lighter-than-air military craft]. The leader of the local group, a good UFOlogist named Larry Moyers, told McDonald that Don Piccard had been there and told him and others that he had an encounter in the New Mexico desert in 1958. This encounter was what we would call today a Close Encounter of the Third Kind. McDonald was always a conservative UFOlogist of the NICAP type, but this was a renown witness somewhat in McDonald's own field [atmospheric research], and Big Mac had also recently heard of the Betty and Barney Hill case. So...maybe. McDonald himself was fully occupied with dozens of UFO-related activities and did not get back to this until he was able to locate Piccard's current address the following summer. As usual, he phoned him. McDonald went into the call knowing only that Piccard claimed to have had some kind of "on-board experience" and that it had lasted three hours. Here's where it gets frustrating. All we have of McDonald's phone call are his notes. They are far from revealing though. I'll give you all I have. Piccard told McDonald that he was in New Mexico and had decided to drive off and blow off steam. At some [unnamed] small town he went into a bar. He swore to McDonald that he was not drunk and what happened had nothing to do with anything like that. While at the bar, someone, apparently a normal appearing bar attendee, came over to him and began to engage him in conversation. Ultimately he asked Piccard if he would like to see something interesting "outside". Always up for it, Piccard said yes and they left. At a place unspecified [even as to how far from the bar it was], Piccard had his experience of the "on-board" three hours. NO DETAILS OF THAT ARE IN MCDONALD'S NOTES. grrrrr. Piccard said that he was fuzzy about what happened afterward and couldn't remember how he got home and into bed. The next morning he awoke and thought "My God What Happened?"--that last is at least a direct quote. Boggled by this, he began doing what many UFO experiencers do: making up ridiculous "explanations". He wondered if someone had played a joke on him [an on-board three hour experience--right]. He also wondered if it had all been a dream--but he didn't really believe that as he told others about it and went on to speculate as to why "they" would want to single him out for such a thing. He wondered if these "people' were time travelers [probably --this is me B.S.ing-- a reaction if the entities looked exactly like us ]. McDonald quizzed him about UFOs and he didn't have much information about them. Most significantly he'd never heard of the Hills. McDonald then said this: "I told him a bit about it because it seemed to have some bearing on his own experience" [my emphasis]. This must mean that Piccard told McDonald MUCH more than is in the notes, and that "much more" bears some resemblance to the Betty and Barney Hill case. When McDonald wrote back to Larry Moyers on July 25th, 1968, he told Moyers that Piccard "in his frankness went into a good bit more detail than I feel free to elaborate on here, all of which underscored his reluctance to regard this as a profitable case for me to pursue". I cannot read this sentence without thinking of the things that Barney Hill said he underwent in his on-board examination and how embarrassing that was for him. Still, that is speculation. ....and that's where the substance of McDonald's notes end. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
There's little more that I can add. I asked my good UFO buddy, Bill Jones, if he could find out if anyone knew Larry Moyers and could corroberate the story. One person did. Also, UFO giant Barry Greenwood sent me a reference which said that Robert Wood had mentioned to McDonald that he had heard that an X-15 pilot had been "missing" for a time during a flight---I know nothing about that, and I doubt it seriously, but the relevance here is that McDonald suggested that the pilot, Gene May, get in touch with Piccard as their experiences might have things in common. Not until now do we know why McDonald would have suggested such a thing. Well, that's all I've got on this one, folks. It has just come to my attention that Don Piccard may still be alive. If so, why don't one of you get in touch with him and see if he'll deny the whole thing or instead spill the beans? Out Proctor with the great balloonist...but interesting. [[ I have to skip a couple of days now to sit back in a clear space and read Catherine Crowe, so that I have a chance of writing understandable and accurate things about her fascinating approach to the spiritworld manifestations. So, see you in a couple of days.]]

15 comments:

  1. That was entirely refreshing. Geez, haven't seen a UFO related article this good in a very, very, very long time. Anxiously awaiting a follow up.

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  2. I guess I should have explained my comment about "follow up". I'm hoping that someone with further information comments here.

    I know a James McDonald buff, I'll inquire.

    Change 'buff' to 'fantatic'.

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  3. The man in the picture with me, sitting in the RAVEN S-40 hot air balloon seat, is a writer for Popular Science or Popular Mechanics, NOT the late Ed Yost. If it is of interest, I could look up the magazine. It is from about 1963. That was just before my "Mirror" encounter with the WLTAS members in Akron referred to.

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  4. P.S. My visit to Akron and meeting McDonald was in 1963, before Zamorra saw the balloon at Zoccoro. I always wondered if he was put up to it and who would have. Don Piccard www.N6US.com

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  5. To: Trueoriginal--thanks. I hope we get accurate info somehow too. -------------------------------------------------------------To: "Don Piccard". Forgive me if I remain "open-minded" as to who this is who has commented here. What would be more interesting is a straight up commentary on the story as related in the post. For example, McDonald says he did not personally meet Don Piccard about this but only phoned him. And the date stated [1963] is all wrong. Both Zamora and Socorro are misspelled. I'm willing to "forgive" a lot in a witness due to the passage of many years, but if this is not THE Don Piccard, please don't mess with the rest of us--it is not really funny. The anomalies have a very difficult time acquiring accurate data and the workforce is small and the hours are few. If you are the great balloonist, then I honor your life's work, and would only ask for some detailed clarification of your encounter as alleged.

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  6. I'm not sure if the notes you are referring to Professor relate to the paper included in the McDonald collection at ASU entitled 'Psychological Effects: Don Piccard'. If not, it might be a worthwhile read. Googling the paper's title should take you to the archives page it's listed on.

    FWIW, Piccard's email and phone # can be found at the www.N6US.com link. I would sure like to hear "The rest of the story..."

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  7. Jonah, my source is a first copy of those notes and two other references in different places in the McDonald/Arizona archives. I, plus Loren Gross, Jan Aldrich, Jerry Clark [three UFO heavyweights] read the originals ourselves when we made a team expedition to read every page of McDonald"s files. I mention this here not as braggadocio but to indicate to all the folks reading that I am trying to give you solid information based on the best primary documentation available whenever I can. I'm taking my duty to "you-all" very seriously. Having said that, please continue to tell me about possible good information and resource areas--I very much appreciate that. You would probably be pleased to see what my basement resource center, what I call "The Cave of the Mysteries", contains, and it's a shame that I can't welcome all of you true seekers into it so you could explore on your own.

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  8. Sorry about my sloppiness. Your picture of McDonald looks familiar. I recall that there was at least one non member actually at the Akron meeting, but you are probably correct that I did not meet McDonald in person - just by phone. But I am sure it was either 1963 or 1964 while I was still working for Raven as I passed by Akron with a Raven S-40 hot air balloon. Raven had a civilian sport balloon program. I am quite sure they also had some sort of clandestine operation but my work was civilian and my security clearance that I had at Schjeldahl was not transferred or maintained, naturally. So while I may have been a cover foil and may have operated for the benefit of the cover operations I really don't know the basis or reasons for much that was done. I was not part of the operation at Soccoro regardless of any stories at the time.

    Don Piccard, www.mesAsphere.com

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  9. To clarify: the meeting I attended at Akron was a meeting of balloonists, not UFO folks althoug there was a cross over and some UFO interested parties were there. Hence the discussion. I was prinarily there to demonstrate the new Raven sport hot air balloon. Hot air balloons were still a rarity at that time and we often were reported as UFO's. I think a prime function was to publicise the sport so that other activities could be passed off as sport. A lot of smoke and mirrors, maybe.

    Don

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  10. hmmm...still don't know how to respond to this...would you be willing to affirm or deny that you made statements to McDonald about a strange experience that you may have had [his notes say you indicated late 1950s] which seemed to possibly involve an "on-board" experience, even if today you no longer believe that this actually happened to you and was perhaps some kind of strange dream or other ununderstandable circumstance? I'll happily agree to an earlier date [1963 or whatever] for a mention of the "event" to a group at Akron, which accidentally included Larry Moyers. That part of the story is not the crux of the matter. Also, Socorro has nothing to do with the post; it's never mentioned there so I have no idea why it's being brought up. Is the connection that you're making that 1) you misremembered and told McDonald the wrong date frame, and it was circa 1963 instead?; and 2) you suspect that the "event" was related to Socorro as some kind of precursor to what Lonnie Zamora saw [i.e. a balloon project unknown to the USAF operating in the NM desert] ? If that's what you're telling me, then how'd you get the impression that you "went on Board" if it was some hot-air balloon easily understandable, especially by you? I'm afraid that this still does not make sense to me. If you are really interested in clearing this up, maybe you could do so by having some responsible UFO researcher visit you for a real interview. At the least this would set aside the question of whether we're talking to the real Don Piccard, and I'm sure any good field researcher would be honored to meet you.

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  11. Prof.,
    I can recall three meetings. at least, that I have had with the WLTAS at Akron. One was surely in 1963 when I was touring with a Raven S-40. One was earlier, probably when I was with Schjeldahl (Echo, Balloon, Ghost Balloons, Polaris Missle doors, etc.) before joining Raven and another was when we demonstrated a Piccard AX-6.
    I think the UFO conversation was while I was at Raven and hence 1963 era. During that time there were cover stories for what I assume were hot air balloon silent entry operator insertions behind enemy lines by clandestine operators.
    I am confident that the Raven sport balloon programe was to provide public press on hot air balloon work so that the government activities woould not attract attention. Some of the disinformation related to secret balloons uncovered being ascribed to UFO's, space aliens and the like to discredit the observers.
    So it apparently went both ways: balloons called flying saucers and other things being called balloons.
    As I have said, I did not have my security clearance while I was in charge of the sport balloon programe at Raven, but I did cooperate with other company employees that had other agendas. I do not feel at liberty to elucidate on those activities.

    I'd be glad to verify my identity and talk with you.

    Don

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  12. On a different vein, I would heartily reccomend the new book "Empire of Peace" by Don L. Johnson, ISBN : 978-0-615-29674-6

    Don

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  13. Professor...thanks for the clarification wrt source

    Don...thanks for engaging w/the Professor. Hopefully more "out proctor" comes of it.

    I'm not sure, but I think your book recommendation speak volumes (no pun intended) as to "psychological effect". I'll assume so unless otherwise corrected. Thanks for the heads up.

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  14. This is a fascinating story with the potential for the missing details to emerge (which is a chance often lost to us with older cases). It should be easy enough to clarify if he is who he says he is through his site and I'm sure I speak for other people when I urge you to pursue this. As well as the core incident I, for one, would be very interested indeed to hear more on "cover stories for what I assume were hot air balloon silent entry operator insertions behind enemy lines by clandestine operators" too if lines of communication are opened.

    Good luck and keep us informed of progress.

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  15. To "the emperor": I'm going to disappoint everyone by saying that I'm not going to pursue this [although everyone should free to do so themselves]. My reasons stem from my experiences with my UFO buddies who get themselves mired in these long, and impersonal, tantalizing claims and then do not get back to the work that they were trained to do best to push the field forward. In my case this is documents research and putting together what really happened in UFOlogy, particularly on the intelligence agencies [mostly USAF] side of the mirror. I'm an old man with only half my former energy and this blog takes a fair bit of that. Believe me when I say that no matter what happened in this case, it is of small significance compared with what I and the UFO History Team [the 12 of us] are putting together about the government's role in this travesty of information management. I can't get deflected from that, so if "Don Piccard" won't give me simple straight answers to simple straight questions on this site, then I can't use rare valuable time to make long-distance outreach. What this single issue needs is someone to meet with him personally and conduct a UFO history type interview. That's not me. Hopefully it's you.

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