Thursday, July 5, 2012

Can You Learn Anything From UFO Photos, part two.

As a remark I believe worth making, we humans are pretty bad at relating to the actual circumstances in which others find themselves during incidents of all types. We sit in our 21st century armchairs and critique their behaviors as if it was we there with all our [current] detachment and, we feel, "proper perspective", and even "equipment". By Gum, WE wouldn't have done it that way!! I'll say just two things about real time UFO encounters: 1). "We" don't know how we'd respond, let alone another human being. The case files are full of reports where the observers are so in awe of what they are experiencing that the film-loaded camera "in the back seat" never comes to mind. 2). If the camera-in-the-back-seat DOES come to mind, WHAT sort of camera IS it, and in what condition? Is it even loaded with film at the moment? Does it take "an hour" to prepare for a good shot? It was somewhat late in the game that lightning speed point-and-shoot machines were available, and far later in the game when "everyone" was carrying them around. We need to be a little more open-minded about this "why are there so few UFO shots around, and why are they so poor?" issue. We have what we have. We will deal with that with as few assumptions as possible.

Case #1: June 1945, Burbank, CA: A good man had returned from the War. His family celebrated that. One day he was out with a favorite relative horseback riding at an urban stable, when the relative took several pictures of different scenes, one of which is above. The young man ultimately was given charge of all of these photos, noticing that this one was "mildly defective" [it wasn't] as it had a smudge or dust particle image marring it [it wasn't]. Years later, while revisiting the photos, the man-in-the-photo looked at the "smudge" closely and found that it was instead a structured object. In fact, at first glance it seemed like a flying object of some kind.

The thought then occurred: could this have been a UFO? If so, in 1945, this would be of added interest.

The trouble with the case is obvious: No one saw this while photographing it. While there is a nice and highly credible story behind the photo, and although the people involved are for all our information the finest sorts, there is no UFO experience here, and truly NO WITNESSES.

In a case such as this [and there are many], the only hope in adding anything to the larger UFO research story would be if the content of the photo was extremely "strange". Even then it would be of only marginal interest. But, in this case, the content of the picture is not particularly strange. This form, unfortunately for our romantic tendencies, is basically exactly that of line-hanging streetlamps of that era. Amazingly like them in fact. The only mystery still in this incident is: analysis of the film can see some lines from telephone poles but CANNOT detect any going to the object. This is a little puzzling, but without being at the scene and experimenting with light and contrast one should really accept the "streetlamp with wires matching the shading of the sky" as the strong primary hypothesis. I'm no debunker, but I am a proper skeptic, I hope. So this is an honest but non-UFO case for me.

An early photo of the summer 1947 wave came on one of the peak days: July 4th. So: case #2, Seattle WA, 7/4/47. There isn't much that I can say about this. It has a solid context, taking place in the heat of a big flap, particularly out on the west coast. Many people saw this particular incident, and the photographer seems to have been an OK fellow. Frank Ryman was a member of the US Coast Guard, when he and others saw a white elliptical object which to them seemed abnormal. The abnormality to them was that the object seemed to be moving across the direction of the wind.

Ryman got his camera which was equipped with a telephoto lens. He snapped the picture above. This was reported immediately to the papers and subsequently the Air Force became aware of the case. As you can see there is little information in the photo. What the photo does is confirm that Ryman and his associates were watching what they said they were watching. So, in that sense the photo is "good". The Air Force looked at this and couldn't make anything of it either. They decided to write it off as a weather balloon. They may have been correct in this, but one would have liked an analysis of the winds at the time [and heights] and confirm that the object was moving with the winds rather than across them as the witnesses thought. NICAP was more "scientific" in that it simply said that the photo lacked enough intrinsic information to make an identification. The USAF could have done a better job, but at that exact time they had their hands full with other cases that they thought might constitute territorial overflights by hostile technology. So, perhaps we can forgive them.

Above are two printings of the two "Rhodes Photos" [at different intensities] taken directly off Project Blue Book hard copies owned by Allen Hynek. We're about as close as we're going to get to the original scene on this one. Case #3: Phoenix, AZ, 7/7/47.

As you see, the alleged flying object is a dark shoeheel-shaped thing with some central lighter area of unknown configuration. William Rhodes, the photographer, said that he had time to get two photos before the thing flew away. I do not know at this moment whether we can claim any other witnesses. Rhodes did promptly take the pictures to the newspapers and they were printed the following day.

These photos interested the Air Force's Project SIGN [Blue Book version 1948] very much. The reason was that the scoop-backed thin-disk had an advanced design predecessor in the glider designs of the Nazi aero-geniuses Horten Brothers' last work. The Wright Field engineers felt that such designs COULD fly, were cutting edge, and just maybe the Soviets had gotten something like that to work. [The Horten Brothers disk glider is at the bottom of the collage above. William Rhodes, an independent engineer type, is the academic-looking gentleman top left].

The major engineer assigned to Project SIGN, and the main USAF player in researching UFOs in these early days, was Alfred Loedding. He is shown above working on his own thin-disk flying machine patent. Loedding was absolutely sure that these lenticular objects could fly, especially if given enough of a power source. The Rhodes photos were possible proof of that. He and an Air Force Colonel personally interviewed Rhodes and confiscated the photos. Loedding felt that Rhodes was a bit of a character [he seemed to want to be felt very "professional" --- like he was trying a little too hard --- despite being a small time engineering consultant], but that generally Rhodes was OK. Rhodes stayed interested in UFOs and SETI for quite a while afterwards, and seems not to have made anything out of his photos. So, probably he WAS "OK".

But what about the photos?? The USAF had an early scientific advisory board containing real heavyweights in many fields. One was the Nobel Prize winning physical chemist, Irving Langmuir. I have no idea as to why Langmuir's talents applied to USAF aero-tech issues, but Langmuir was one of those WW2 scientists held in awe, as if he could do anything. Loedding, during 1948, was traveling on Air Force business near Langmuir's GE establishment, and made a customary stopover to consult the "great man". He showed him the Rhodes photos. BIG mistake.

Langmuir was one of the earliest of those debunkers who had no time whatsoever for what he regarded as "Pathological Science", a term that he invented to conduct howling mockeries of things like parapsychology. His pamphlet on Pathological Science which accompanied such lectures could be viewed as the original seed for the anti-scientific plague today called CSICOP. By 1948, Langmuir had added UFOs to his list of pathological diseases. This is the man to whom Loedding showed the Rhodes photos. Langmuir brusquely dismissed them with a glance as "blowing paper". He also seems to have reported Loedding to the USAF higher ups, as Loedding later wrote that his "stock had never been lower in the Pentagon".

So, what were the Rhodes photos?? We don't know. The Air Force didn't know. Langmuir sure as heck didn't know. Loedding THOUGHT that they were genuine and represented flying disk technology, but we see that he had preconceived prejudices.

What were the Rhodes photos?? Maybe something mysterious. Just not really much there.

Except interesting history about our own prejudices.

Case #4: Norfolk, VA 7/8/47. This case has its mild interests. The photographer, a 14-year-old [red caution flags at highest pinnacles], photographed the thing[s] after a summer school session. The intrigue in the case is that he refused to go along with the "typical" description in the press about flying saucers. He said that the big object was more like a spinning revolving "football" in shape and the little two that followed didn't look like saucers either. He claimed that the object wobbled as it flew and was gray, dark almost to black. There was a glitter around it and it seemed to trail dust or a sort of "white mist". He says that he called to his sister to witness it, but she ignored him.... if there was any sort of competent investigation here, we'd know if that was true. And if he HAD tried to get her to come and look, it would cast a much more favorable light on the case. He had the film developed immediately, but only one of three shots was any good. The newspaper photographers said the film looked good/untampered. The FBI seems to have entered the case in early August, and interviewed the young man. What the FBI investigator seemed to discover was that the objects moved directly over the photographer's house, and that the photographer felt that this was the way that the wind was blowing too. This, of course, seems never to have been checked.
So, it's a "possible", but it's also a "possible balloon". And the main thing for us is the printing message on the newsclip above: No One Else Saw It.

I could have these two cases reversed in time --- this is probably 7/7/47, though some confusion exists. Lets go with Case #5: Louisville, KY, 7/7/47. The photographer here was the staff photographer of the Louisville Times, so he knew his art. Several local residents reported UFO activity that evening, but it's not known if any of the reports were simultaneous, or, therefore, probably the same thing. The photographer, Al Hixenbaugh, stated that he could not tell the exact shape, but that their apparent size was about that of "half an aspirin tablet" [at arm's length, supposedly]. They appeared to be fiery balls with short tails which flew in tandem horizon to horizon. From nearby Paris, two adults and their daughter saw two bright objects that they described as "disks" in the sky that night. This could have been the same event.

All we then know about this is: the case is credible but not necessarily strange. Although parallel "flying" fireballs are a bit rare, they certainly could happen.

Case #6: Morristown, NJ, 7/9/47. This case is from another professional newsman and photographer. I haven't my file on this [for reasons to be mentioned later], so I'll go with memory and a bit of internet support. The picture above shows four objects --- Janssen says that there were six in total, but four was all he got in the picture. Why? He was flying his plane when it happened. Not ideal circumstances to take pictures suddenly. Although the photo shows spherical light blobs, Janssen says that each of these looked to the eye like circular craft with a rim around the middle which was dotted with what could have been "portholes". Needless to say: astonishing if true.

A few weeks later, Janssen was again confronted in the air with two of these things, and at that time experienced engine failure [he also believed that his plane was actually halted in flight by the disks]. When they left, his engines restarted. Janssen thus reports one of the earliest CE2em engine interference cases [this is why I don't have my file --- I shipped the Photos file drawer and didn't think to dip into other drawers where mixed effects might be stowed].

Janssen's two reports are fascinating at a minimum. But where's the investigation? What can we believe? NICAP apparently didn't want to risk saying anything about this case at all, and skipped it entirely from Hall's UFO Evidence.

Case #7: Tulsa, OK, 7/12/ 47. Maybe I shouldn't have included this one, but it was in the files. And the case DOES have several witnesses [at least four named], but with one mediocre shot, and local photographers already claiming that it would be easy to fake it, maybe it's a tough sell. The most intriguing thing to me was that there was the claim that one of the other witnesses testified that he had seen the photographer raise his camera up and take the shot.

This occurred right at the end of the intense Summer of 1947 flap period. Shortly afterwards not only did UFO reports plummet but quickly thereafter the earliest Pentagon information-gatherers on UFOs [Colonel George Garrett and FBI liaison SV Reynolds] noticed a weird silence from very high authority [translation: they were being really pushed hard on UFOs, and all at once it was as if the switch flipped and eery nothing from upstairs. Garrett said: it was as if the top boys had become informed as to what this phenomenon really was, and it was time to back off or shut up.]

The Tulsa case could in fact be a good one due to the multiple witnessing part of this. Regardless of that, Tulsa adds little to our understanding.

Case #8: Harmon Field, Newfoundland, 7/10/ 47. This is a little out of date sequence too, but it's on purpose --- a better case/story to end the day on. The situation here was that air technicians were on break when they saw a disk-shaped object ploughing through the cloud cover, effectively splitting it. It seemed to leave a purplish exhaust behind. One of the technicians, after the event was over, went into the nearest hangar, I believe, retrieved a camera and made one color slide photo of the remaining trail. Everyone then reported to base authorities and filled out formal reports.

What you see above are prints from the original slide. ... the ACTUAL original slide. One day while "having fun" going through Dr. Hynek's personal case files, I found the original Harmon Field slide stapled to the back of the case forms. I am willing to be called a UFO geek at this point, but that moment was a WOW! to me. To hold UFO history right in your hand. Well, Mark Rodeghier and I got Rob Swiatek to take the slide and make some good prints from it and there they are.

The one below is also originally due to Rob [despite the alleged copyright fantasy--- this has been taken purely from CUFOS by whomever that is --- happily we don't care as we honor sharing of information freely. Note also that this photo is ultimately US Government property --- sheez what some folks do]. Anyway, Rob has boosted the contrast heavily to bring out the trail.

So, what do we have here? This is in itself no UFO, it's a trail of an alleged UFO. Some folks have said that it's just a cloud-cutting fireball trail. The Air Force didn't think so. Combined with the witness testimony, they thought that it was just what the witnesses said : a flying disk which either left a powered exhaust trail, or which affected the air to leave the visual trail. This object was said to come into the clouds, split them, and retreat away up through the clouds. The slide seems generally to support the witness testimony.

The Air Force viewed this at that time as potentially of extreme importance. They saw in this case the possible footprint of a Soviet weapon. Wright-Patterson intelligence officers were scrambled to Harmon Field and immediately to report to the Pentagon. It set off a whole series of speculations as to how the Soviets might pull off such an invasion of our airspace. Ultimately the issue cooled down as little could be squeezed from the case.

This is, nevertheless, a photo which is on the verge of providing useful evidence despite it itself not being much of a jaw-dropper. The photo verified a good case report by credible observers [note: multiple] and at a minimum began a debate as to whether a mere fireball could match the characteristics of the total report.

I'm quitting now.... backaches, sweating in 90+ degree heat... miserable "work" conditions. No let-up in the near future here either. I'll try to get onward with this topic as I can. Maybe I'll even get to that picture above [which I thought I'd cover today]. Oh, well, I didn't know what I was talking about it anyway. Take care in the excessive heat, folks.


  1. the photo at harmon field, is that the same as mentioned by keyhoe in his book "flying saucers are real"?

    quote "Secretary Johnson admitted they had some pictures--we'd heard about a secret photograph taken at Harmon Field, Newfoundland. The tip said this saucer scared hell out of some pilots and Air Force men up there."

    that region seem to experienced many anomalies, didnt the bethune gander ufo encounter alo happened near these arreas ?

    1. re: Keyhoe comment --- I think he is referring to this, but one can't be certain.

      re: Bethune --- yes, generally. Bethune was well out over the Atlantic.



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