Saturday, July 21, 2012

Can We Learn Anything From UFO Photos, part seven?

The USAF was at one time just about desperate enough to employ a scheme like that pictured above. To my knowledge, their idea to place diffraction-grating-equipped cameras in interceptor aircraft never paid off with a single shot. With UFOs "Simple Logic" often fails.

Barra da Tijuca, Brazil, 1952... yep, that one. Why bother ye wise persons may ask?; and I often ask myself the same question. But I'm allegedly going down through my UFO film case files and this is certainly one of the more famous. AND it's one which I haven't looked at closely at all, always swallowing the general cant that this is a hoax. I've finally looked at it. It is far from obvious to me what its status should be. Well, let's tell the story and you can decide.

Two guys, relatively well-known media guys in Brazil, were after a story when something showed up unexpectedly in the sky. Since they were on the hunt of news, one of them had a loaded camera. One guy yelled at the other to shoot the film, rousing him out of his stunned inaction, and the photographer took five pictures. By the way, this is a good spot to dismiss one piece of negativist garbage which is on the net about this. It has been said that wasn't it convenient that Keffel had only five negatives in his camera? ..."that should tell you he was planning a hoax right there". This remark is another of those pure lies that people put out. Keffel had a full roll in his camera and all the film was shot except for the last five frames when the thing showed up. Keffel shot all the frames he could. [there is actually a description of what was on the previous frames on the web]. This doesn't mean that these pictures are good UFO pictures by a long margin, but it says "go carefully, honest seeker of the truth. There are nasty people out there."

Ed Keffel and Joao Martins took their story and the yet undeveloped film to the news magazine O Cruzeiro and the editors published it. Since Martins and Keffel worked for the magazine, the film was not considered theirs, and they got nothing but their normal wages out of it. Before the story broke, the magazine, or perhaps the first newspaper, alerted the Brazilian Air Force and naturally the Brazilian government was interested. They were having several strong encounters involving their own military at the time, and were not indisposed towards giving alleged pictures an open hearing.

This is an interesting picture. It shows Joao Martins at the left, a Brazilian Air Force officer at the right, and in the middle, the USAF Air Attache, Colonel Hughes. The American military was being called in on this almost immediately, and the picture above is from the very next day following the sighting and the rapid return home by Keffel and Martins. [Brazil at the time was trying VERY hard to be "best friends" with the US military, as there was an arms race of sorts going on in South America, particularly as regards Argentina, and Brazil was looking forward to being given high-performance US aircraft]. [On a note of near irrelevancy: I've blotted out the bold initials of some UFO organization who insists on degrading all these photos even though they have no copyright... thus the funny-looking "photo splotch" you see Hughes looking at].

It is also interesting to see Martins there. If he's hoaxing, he's hoaxing both his government AND the United States, right in their faces. A Brassy move. Keffel and Martins are said to have taken their negatives to their Air Force and, perhaps at this very meeting, Hughes himself accompanied them to the darkroom to oversee the development. Both Hughes and the Brazilian Air Force said that the photos looked good at first analysis at least.

These are the five photos on the film strip. I think that I have them in the correct order, but...? The thing flew quite an arc while Keffel was trying to get off his shots, and he had to turn his body significantly to follow its path. The object also flew in, then backed out, during the flight. The last three photos have greater clarity than the first two, and much hullaballoo has been made of shadows. Because this thing flew a significant arc, the Sun angle will change picture-to-picture, something not paid attention to very well by some analysts. Such analysis would properly be done only by going to the site with the witnesses and getting precise directions. Picture four is by far the most famous, both for clarity of the UFO, and for being THE main battleground about these photos.

Let's dispense with another really trivial thing now. Humans are nearly hopeless in their instinctive biases. One of these I've come across consistently in regards to UFO pictures. People will instantaneously take a position of sympathy or disregard just on the first impression that the photo makes on them. UFO photos have the worst task of overcoming such bias that I've witnessed. If the photo is too clear, it is a fake. If the photo is too dim or fuzzy, "it could be anything". There is almost, to my hearing, no middle ground wherein a photo can make a good first impression.

And there is another thing: "That just doesn't look right to me". This means: that's not what a UFO should look like. In the case of Barra da Tijuca and others, I have had persons doubt their validity for reasons like "that's too flat". Concerning Barra da Tijuca, I'll just present the flat aspect of the Stealth bomber above. Even though it's triangular and Tijuca is round, edge-on they present very nearly exactly the same aspect. Unless something is REALLY ridiculous, we need to dump the prejudices.

Because it was judged that these could be "good" UFO photos, the Brazilian Air Force got a team of photographers/analysts to try to see if they could be faked. One of these photographers was regularly employed by the Brazilian government: Almira Barauna. Hip readers will recognize him as the photographer of the later Isle de Trindade encounter. The team tried to simulate the photos by throwing models into the air. Because the pictures taken by Keffel show so much "air" between the object and the ground vegetation, and because the apparent diameter of the object is significantly different from frame to frame [matching the witnesses statements of approach and flyaway], you could calculate how big/small a model would have to be to account for the five shots, and therefore minimum distances that you'd have to throw the thing. It became obvious pretty quickly that this could not be done with human arm strength, leaving the only viable "hoax" hypothesis a photo montage. Because this is the only viable hoax hypothesis, you will see debunkers state this flatly as the explanation, although no proof of that exists at all. It's another one of those: it can't be real, so it must be ...X.

While the Brazilian photographic team worked fruitlessly to explain the photos, Colonel Hughes ultimately wrote a mainly negative report back to Washington. The case became simply a hoax. Why did he say what he did on his report, when he admitted that the negatives looked good to both the Brazilian authorities and to himself?

These are Hughes' reasons as taken from his report to the Pentagon:

1). "The fact that the object was first seen looking almost directly into the Sun seems unlikely". What a weak statement! This is further disregarded as the first shot is clearly NOT looking anywhere near the direct line of sight of the Sun.
2). "That there were no other observers and the photographer evidently did not look for others seems peculiar". First of all: who says that there were no other observers? Secondly, Martins and Keffel specifically say that they made some attempts to find other observers in the very article which is appended to Hughes' report AND TRANSLATED!. Good grief!
3). "That no satisfactory supported reason for the photographer to be at this particular place further causes doubt". The same article describes exactly what they were doing at that spot on assignment from the magazine. You really wonder what's going on with some of these people.
4). NOW THE BIG DEAL. "And finally, $25,000 is being asked for the world-wide rights, which indicates that profit is more desired than verifying the identity of the object".

This last statement needs some commentary. Let's dispense with one thing immediately. Keffel and Martins were working on assignment for O Cruzeiro. Under that relationship, the photos were not theirs, but the magazine's. Martins said in later years that he never sought anything from the photos, and in fact continuously agreed to give free talks about the subject. So if Keffel and Martins could not "sell" the photos, what was biting Hughes?? Hughes wanted to get the negatives or at least "first" copies to ship back to the Pentagon for analysis. O Cruzeiro's appetite for selling this new windfall blocked that. When you read his quote above, you can see that this is exactly what he's talking about. Also, there is his phrasing: "verifying the identity of the object". It is difficult to read that as saying anything but that HE DOESN'T KNOW what the object is --- which would be perfectly in concert with the situation at the time of his Air Intelligence Report.

Hughes is upset at O Cruzeiro and searches for any reason to label the photos hoaxes. What he comes up with are three almost embarrassing bonehead comments and an unsubstantiated allusion to profit-making. If that latter played in the story, it would have meant that O Cruzeiro higher-ups were in on an organizational hoax which only included Keffel and Martins as the low-level operatives. I guess one can imagine that but it's a bit of a stretch with no evidence.

So, the photos stood there as disregarded hoaxes at least in the US view when APRO led by its Brazilian UFO-Knight, Olavo Fontes, went to bat for them. In my judgement, at this moment the photos should have been looked upon as very intriguing potential UFO evidence. Along then came the elite saucer debunker Donald Menzel. Menzel decided that the pictures looked phony. He felt that the sun-angle in some was off [that's no good due to the turning arc of the photographer though] but most importantly the Sun shadow in picture four did not match the shading on the tree below. Voila! said he, the thing is a photomontage!. Well, I've got to give him credit. He at least had come up with a reasonable theory of fakery based upon some actual element of the case. Other people jumped on board this hypothesis for the exact reason. This continued right on up to the Colorado Project and today.

Fontes and APRO were having none of it. Fontes pointed out that the offending tree had broken branches and it was these which gave the out-of-place shadows... some skeptics have actually credited this observation with explaining some but not all of the "bad" shadows. Jim Lorenzen simply said: that tree and the surrounding vegetation create a complex Sun/Shade situation from which you cannot derive simplistic deductions. Well, that's sort of correct too. Other skeptics have given thumbs down to the pattern of shadows on the "craft" as it flies, saying that these admit of no feasible Sun position. The Brazilian photo analyst, however, presented one which he felt worked just fine.

Well, what have we got here? I'm trying to be honest about this. I don't see that any of Colonel Hughes' bullet-points to the Pentagon have anything going for them at all. Menzel's point did, but there is at least a reasonable counter. Same thing with modeling the Sun angle. If we'd just have had an independent witness.

Maybe we did.

When Olavo Fontes passed away relatively young, Brazil needed a replacement. The great early triumvirate of Simoes, Perriera, and Faria were not coming out of retirement, so it was left to someone new. That someone became the Grand Lady of Brazilian UFOlogy, Irene Granchi. She ultimately assumed much of Fontes' role and his causes. Those causes included the two spectacular photo cases of Barra da Tijuca and Isle de Trindade. Granchi used to blister when she would hear commentators making light of either case. She was in the US attending an APRO convention [1971], when she heard a speaker waving off the case. Angry, she returned to Brazil, re-interviewed Keffel, Martins and the Brazilian analyst. This firmed her opinion that the case was good. She then gave a talk in Lima in 1973, which led to a letter-to-the-editor correcting a bungled coverage of the talk. Two weeks later, she received a completely unexpected surprise: a letter from a Barra da Tijuca witness.

She passed the substance of the letter [and the witnesses' names, to be treated anonymously] on to Coral Lorenzen who published it in the APRO Bulletin of July/August 1973. The witnesses, a doctor and his wife-to-be, saw an object hovering and then moving rapidly in the same area as Keffel and Martins' experience. It was stunning enough to be quite memorable at the time. Within that week they read of the case and noting the location realized that the photos had correlated "to the date and the hour" to what they'd witnessed. Moreover, the object was heading towards the very hill showing in some of the photos when they saw it disappear. Coral said that the doctor's reputation is "good" implying that perhaps Ms Granchi had checked that... but we don't know.

What to say? If that late-coming corroboration of the case is solid, then the photos are solid. If not, they are still at least in the graybasket. I haven't seen any grounds on which to go to the dumpster in this case [though, actually, I'd been biased against it, and thought that I would reject this one when I started this].

Stay loose, my friends.


  1. If you go through your APRO Bulletins (or maybe APRO symposia?) you'll find evidence that the shadow on the tree trunk, supposedly showing that the sun is in the wrong place to shadow the structures on the disk as they are shadowed, is actually cast on the trunk by a broken branch (or frond). Shadowing of the mass of folliage in the lower areas is way beyond my powers of analysis, and I disremember if there was viable contention over that.

    Frank John Reid

    Frank John Reid

    1. Yep, correct Frank. That's what I was alluding to. Like you, this is a subtlety which I can't honestly take a side on, as it seems to demand a really good photo. But it indicates that there is at least an arguable case out there, and if the independent witnesses are good, then the debunker position is in a heap of trouble.

  2. 'Keffel had only five negatives in his camera? ..."that should tell you he was planning a hoax right there"'.

    But if Keffel'd taken a full reel of shots...

    'Keffel didn't take shots of anything else with that reel? ..."that should tell you he was planning a hoax right there"'.

    'it can't be real, so it must be ...X.'

    That in a nutshell's the entire skeptical argument (though I quite like the variants that translate "They've got to be lying because it's perfectly obvious if aliens really existed the first person they'd reveal themselves to's me.").

    1. There was a scientist in the Condon Project era who was so out of touch with reality or anything resembling common sense, who said that the only acceptable UFO report would be one which happened to an outstanding scientist. I don't believe in eugenic manipulation to improve the quality of the citizenry, but I may have been tempted to vote for the firing squad for that guy.

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    1. I deleted a spam post for tattoos of all things.