Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Imaging UFOs: Is It Even Possible?

OK. Back to work.

The filing boxes above are [WERE thankfully] filled with a backlog of UFO case information which managed to maintain Chaos Status due to all the house moving, archives creation, UFO Group get-together et al. All that's [largely] in the past now and good old fashioned Catholic Guilt arises --- GET AT IT!

Although that first picture doesn't look like it, there are about 250 different cases represented therein --- not full reports, but data to be added to files or new ones made. Above they are dominating the table and sorted into Hynek-like case category types, as a first stage ordering process. Now that this is at least started, where to go from here? I picked one pile......

The pile is the UFO "photo" pile. Due to modern technology I think that I have to change this name to "IMAGING" as there are movies with digital tech taking over. So my new imaging pile had 28 cases represented --- almost all older cases [this doesn't surprise me as the new cases, digital or not, tend to be unusable.] I color-coded the lines for my own convenience --- Red is "It Stinks", GreenBlue is "It's Good or very probably Good", Yellow is "I'm intrigued", and no color is "Meh."

So, a few comments .....

These things are two photos with essentially no information. I have vague bells ringing that I've seen them before, but maybe not. Intellectual honesty says that I say nothing as to their goodness without some facts, so here there are in all their vagueness. Maybe some of you know their stories.

This is an only slightly cropped version of an old [1952] photo by George Stock --- NO, it's not a UFO "Stock photo". But it IS intriguing to me. It seems to have come at a bad time for UFO investigation, and I have never heard much about it. I read a very much later interview with the photographer [by then an older man] and he seemed still humbly puzzled by what he'd seen. Is it feldercarb? I can't say. As with all these things, we bring prejudices to the game. If you reflect on your inner voice when you saw this image, you will locate some of yours. ".... streetlight ...."  ".... flying disk ...."  ".... lamp top ...." etc. The point is that without the case story, other witnesses, photo analysis investigation, we shouldn't automatically praise or ridicule this picture.

I know. It's hard.

I came across an original newsclipping of one of my favorite UFO imagings: the "Echo of Echo" picture taken by a lady who lived in Charleston WV probably at the same time that I was going to high school there [1955-1958 --- I was at Notre Dame when she took this 1960 picture.] LOTS of witnesses to this and one good lady photographer.

This picture was one of many similar imaging events taken in that time era --- example: all the MoonWatch stuff that boggled Allen Hynek's mind. Our satellite watchers AND our satellite scientists KNEW that these weren't our space stuff nor even loose boosters and debris.

.... and that gives me a proper lead-in for this report from The Land of Oz received from their government through their Disclosure efforts. I have no picture, but the released thumbnail of the event tells a similar MoonWatch-like story.

Small potatoes? I don't think so. Meditate. Our best near-Earth orbit watchers were seeing true unidentifiables at satellite height throughout the mid-1950s and early 1960s [and probably a lot more.] What group of people HAVEN'T seen UFOs is my question? If one objects that UFO pictures don't let you see inside the windows, then I can't help you at that level of demand.

This is about the famous Tremonton, UT movie film taken by the Navy photographer Newhouse.

Here is the classic test of the instant prejudice. When people see this film the first thing in almost everybody's head is "birds." And so they go merrily unconcerned down the street. That is really lousy UFOlogy.

One NEVER STARTS with the imaging element and immediately quits. One starts with the witnesses. Newhouse and his wife were good witnesses, good people. What did they say? They said that the objects were clearly disks when seen at their closest point, and the photographer had to get his camera out of the car and set up before attempting a sequence. Their story hangs together with its surroundings and what you see. THEN the analysis....

The paragraph above is from Ed Ruppelt's draft of his famous book --- I can assure you of that since it's right here in the archives with me. The "Z" is our favorite Air Force guy editing his draft, thinking that these words are too wordy. Well, big fella, you cut out something WILDLY interesting. The Navy photo analysts, Woo and Neasham, had talked personally to Ruppelt and told him what they found prior to the CIA Robertson Panel. Ed has mentioned that conversation in the part he "Z'd" out. Read what he says that they told him. The things that your mind calls "birds" were oval lights which rotated in three groups of four lights as if attached to great wheels. As these wheels turned, the lights would brighten or blink out signifying whether they were nearer or farther away. To the analysts at our primary photo-interpretation laboratory, these individual lights operated as if connected albeit by some non-visible entity or force. This was something that casual glancing at a screen could never determine --- only serious analytical work. Ruppelt and apparently Dewey Fournet both bought this analysis, but someone else did too.

That someone else was the chief photo analyst of the 50s and 60s Art Lundahl. Lundahl saw Woo and Neasham's analysis, and of course the best copy of the film, and agreed --- these things were flying technology. Lundahl became a secret UFO enthusiast for his whole life, slowly emerging from his "closet" in the late 1960s, when he served as chief UFO data-provider for an ad hoc White House study requested by Lyndon Johnson [I have that study here too; it was never published.] The Tremonton UT motion film might be the most significant UFO Imaging evidence that we have in public view. I'm constantly astounded by the arrogance and flippancy of modern nay-sayers on this, who seem for utterly impenetrable reasons to NOT want this to stand as evidence. ... almost gets my blood pressure up.

Well, let's try to get to a happier state of mind --- almost said "frame", but that would have been a pun. ... sorry, did it anyway.

The above guy is Ralph Rankow, NICAPs early photo analyst and a decent one. His role in today's blog is that he was somewhere between puzzled and angered by something which had deliberately been done to deface some photo evidence.

A publicity/sales photo of a B-57 was found to contain an odd discoid marking in it. As such, this is no more remarkable at first glance than any film flaw might be. Still, honesty and curiosity calls for a look-see. Rankow felt that the "disk" was uniform enough and the shading on it "legitimate" enough to entertain the hypothesis that the camera had caught an object of some size in the air in the vicinity of the plane. That, and that the provenance of the photo was top quality, meant that the potential object should be studied using the original film. {it was also true that the original examination of the film by USAF personnel at Edwards AFB excited them enough to launch another flight to patrol the area looking for the object.}

The first [military] photo analyst believed that the three black dots on the left of the image were film flaws but the "object" image was not. His view was that the negative showed a discoid object shaded appropriately for the illumination available. Rankow's own analysis, once NICAP was given the photo to work with, indicated no crude solutions like "paste-ups" had occurred. He found that the image contained all shades of gray, indicating that it was of an object which had depth/dimension. This increased interest.

Later copies of the photo obtained from Martin Corporation had increasingly been defaced. Why? Rankow and NICAP researcher William Weitzel separately sent inquiries to Martin. For months they were stonewalled. Finally Rankow's persistence squeezed out replies which included no copies looking like the original, but looking instead like the third version. Martin's final explanation of the film was filled with large areas of photodevelopment ignorance which stunned Rankow. He eventually was left to wonder what motivated Martin to remove the left half of the object making further analysis impossible. {A reader of Rankow's FATE article on this fiasco felt that he had solved the mystery by saying that parts of the photo were just falling off. Rankow indicated in his response why that was not true.}

So, what went on here? As to what went on in the sky, we will never know, although the people there at the first development of the film thought that this was an aerial object. What went on at Martin? It seems to me that they wanted to get rid of the problem and did so in time-honored heavy-handed fashion.

This one always intrigued me. My prejudice didn't like it "flying" on its side, but when I finally read the  witness interview, the orientation was explained within the context of the sighting. Ozzie UFO leaders at the time vouched for the photographer as he was a member of their Victorian UFO Research Organization and a respected/prominent member of the community. This is another unscientific prejudice: in order to have a credible UFO case you may never be interested in UFOs before or since. I myself haven't noticed that UFOs care much about the UFO interest level in their witnesses beforehand. And asking a person NOT to remain interested in an astounding event in their lives is a stupidity without defense.

This picture came to the USA to be analyzed by APRO. Their guy at the time [a college prof] decided that it was of two different pictures stuck together --- evidenced to him by a "jagged" line running roughly through the photo's middle. Thus people in this country decided that the photo was no good [even a friend of mine still believes this.] Ozzie analysts have looked into this in more recent times and found no evidence for that [strange and undetectable] claim of a jagged line whatever. Attempts to cut thick polaroid film paper and stick the halves back together also create huge messy joins. Another Ozzie analyst is quite adamant that the photo is no good, basing views on an extremely complicated geometric argument based [it seems to me] on some assumptions as to where the color on the object is coming from --- which the witness and the pro-photo people say is a roof just below the object [and not for instance that distant tower]. The anti-photo Ozzie seems rather thinly anxious to debunk the photo to clear it from the discussion about the famous Westall school case [which he supports]. Jim McDonald was also interested in this case, but I don't believe that he had a strong opinion about it.

OK. I have to slow down or I'll never finish this blogpost.

Above are three images from a sequence filmed by an Ozzie MD in 1987. Credibility seems sky high [two witnesses, one scientifically trained, plus their young son]. In this case, the battery pack for the camera ran right out during filming, although fully charged previously.

Yungay, Peru 1967. VERY extensive report by Richard Greenwell on this case and pretty positive to the events. Richard had to undergo a lengthy and convoluted detective project to locate the photographer of these things, as they were never published or "pushed" in any way --- only coming to his attention by a wild accident of a schoolboy bringing a copy of one to school for show and tell [despite it being only a random photo in an album of his father's who had nothing to do with the case.] In every arena Richard tried he was stonewalled --- this included at Kodak Peruana where some first prints existed --- even Allen Hynek couldn't pry them loose. Ultimately legal hurdles were cleared and Greenwell got two of these first prints and gave them to APROs consultant.

There this story ends without a punchline. The photographer received a name but never was located for a personal interview. The photos were analyzed [allegedly] by APRO but I do not have any information as to what that analysis said {APRO was notoriously bad at this.} Still, what we have is a case which stands as curiously interesting especially in that it was "buried" as if never to be utilized in any way by the photographer. He was quoted by his camera-lender as saying that he had seen an odd technical air machine while hiking the mountains and had photographed it. He handed over the borrowed camera at that time with the undeveloped film still inside [which was then sent to Kodak Peruana].

What were the Yungay objects?

This is a computer mock-up and study by Dr. Irina Scott who photographed a UFO in the presence of her sister in 1968. Visually they saw a disk with several windows. The camera filmed a blinking object at distance. Dr. Scott, a close colleague of friend of CUFOS and myself, Bill Jones, is convinced that this was a "good" solid photo/film case.

This horrible photo is from the Project Blue Book files and represents one of a handful of stills taken with a Brownie camera in Covington IN in 1967. The following comments will be more frustrating for me than you, as I am sure that I spent some time fussing with this case and cannot find those notes. I will try to give you an accurate set of comments.

Two married adults were getting set to retire when the wife saw an odd light. She informed her husband and he got his camera saying that he wondered if he could get anything at all on film. He took several shots and two reference shots, one of the Moon and another of a star. The shots were of the final of two diamond arrays of lights, the leading light being significantly brighter. In one case, one of the smaller lights left the formation and seemed to enter [or merge with] the larger. Naturally boggled and interested, they wondered what these things were, but the wife especially did not want to get bad publicity and they shut up for a while.

Now here's the part of this tale that I can't locate but think that I once knew --- so, caveat emptor: We had a meteor-detection network set up in the mid-west nicknamed the Prairie Meteor Network [locations of all-sky cameras shown on the dots.] There was an ace semi-legend project manager [a guy who checked every station to make sure it was functioning properly and set up correctly] whose name [forgive me, I think that this is right] was Captain Don Arrington. At the time of the Covington IN case, he was in the Illinois station of the network and for some reason was brought into contact with this report in Covington. He was asked [by a mutual friend?] to help the witnesses out, and met them and did so, becoming the liaison between them and Wright-Pat.

Arrington was interested both in their photos AND a video taken by his Illinois location around [but not exactly] the same time. He corresponded to Blue Book on both situations [and thus there is confused blundering in Blue Book's records.] The bottomline line here is that Blue Book said that they couldn't say much about the Covington fellow's prints and doubted that his camera could pick up the lights at all even of the Moon --- Arrington went over there and proved that it could. They also stated that the Prairie Network video was just a meteor fireball despite it being sent by our "we know what a fireball is" experts. These two cases are loaded with credibility, but just not quite enough strangeness --- although the visual report of the Covington witnesses is quite strange enough. The other thing that it shows is that everyone "official" has been lying when they have said that there has never been a filming of a UFO by anything like the Prairie camera Network.

OK. I'm done. Great relief, eh?

I know that you want to see Constable's aerial space animals [again] so here they are:

As Dr. Who would say: "Anything's possible ... well, almost."

We are never going to prove ET-UFOs by imaging evidence, but that doesn't mean that we should stop taking pictures of them. Film or digital evidence is one element of a potentially good report --- it supports the narrative, not dominates it.

So keep your cameras ready. You can never tell what's sneaking up on you.



  1. Please don't spell it "Ozzies", mate! It's "Aussie" despite how it is pronounced!

    Other than that, great article. ;)

    1. I have no problem spelling it "Aussies" and used to do so until I saw "Aussies" themselves referring to "Ozzies" and being from the ":Land of Oz." Do you also have objection to calling Australia "OZ"?

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This was a fascinating post and I spent quite a while reading it and studying the photos last night.

    As a former advertising person, though, I have to say that the Martin B-57 saga amused me. Taking such a photo had to be tremendously expensive (two planes) and then...that pesky UFO showed up in the corner!

    If only the saucer were a little higher--the photo could merely have been cropped. Unfortunately, as anyone can see, the position of the UFO precluded any kind of proportionate sizing. I can only imagine the conversation around the advertising office!

  3. Professor:

    You mention an ad hoc study done for Lyndon Johnson. Was this the study done by VP Humphrey's aerospace advisor, Frank Rand, because of the badgering of Dr. James E. McDonald? You mention that Art Lundahl was involved in the study as was I believe, Kelly Johnson, of Lockheed. I thought this study had never been seen by investigators, but you said you had a copy. If it's something you don't want to remain confidential I would certainly like to see it. It's my understanding that McDonald never knew of it.

    I find your work on "UFOs and Government" brilliant and I cite a number of issues from your book in my own book "The Presidents and UFOs" (St. Martin's Press). Lundahl fascinates me as I think he became close to JFK after the Cuban Missile issue. I spent a couple of days in the Johnson Library archives in Austin and one issue I tried to locate was information on the Rand-Johnson UFO study. I was not successful so you can understand my interest.

    1. Hello, Mr. Holcombe [forgive me if I have met you previously, but my old mind isn't registering that, thus the formality.] The answer to your inquiry about the Lyndon Johnson ad hoc never-published study is mostly "yes", but not precisely "yes". I'll explain. Frank Rand met John Timmerman at one of John's traveling UFO exhibit weekends in Oregon, I believe. John, being the world's friendliest and most trustworthy man, impressed Rand and he wanted further contact with him. This happened via telephone and letter. Rand wanted to write an autobiographical narrative about episodes of his life and intuited that the UFO study stories would be the thing that the narrative would best hang around. He asked John if CUFOS would be interested in helping him publish it. John said yes. He sent a draft. It didn't contain the exact study done for Johnson, but it did contain lots of details about that and [with coaxing by me] a detailed list of the conclusions that the team drew.

      I read three successive drafts of this thing and feel that it was a real retelling of the "action" and that Rand was honest in his restatement of what the group's deductions were. This is the grounds for me saying that I have the study. I do not have the semi-official/unofficial report that Rand's team gave to LBJ, but I have his drafts of his unpublished UFO-biography that describes the study.

    2. Hello Professor:

      I appreciate what you say about your old mind as I have a year or two on you and can attest that mine doesn't work as it did in years past. However, unfortunately we have never met but I hope that may change at some point as I do admire your work.

      Your explanation of the Rand-Timmerman matter is understandable and fascinating as it adds to a better understand of LBJ's interest in the UFO subject. I will probably go back to the LBJ Library this fall as the archivist told me that 800,000 previously classified documents would be released late last year. You are not likely to find a smoking gun but I have gotten some timeline data and bits and pieces to add additional dots of info that help in the connection of dots on various issues. As an example I found letters between J. Allen Hynek and Donald Rumsfeld when he was Chief of Staff to Gerry Ford. Rumsfeld had requested Hynek to send him any new UFO data that CUFOS came across. This was interesting because Ford was quite vocal and active as a representative during the 1966 Michigan UFO flap but was mum on the issue when president.

      I do hope we have a chance to meet in the near future.


  4. Just one question prof , whats your guts told you about the Constable photos ? grey basket or straight to trashcan ?

    1. I rarely completely trash anything unless I see the explanation very clearly or know that the thing is a hoax. Constable's photos are EXTREMELY unconvincing and border on the straight foolish, but don't meet my severe criteria for intellectual waste --- so, just barely out of the trash bin. I have zero confidence in his THEORIES about these alleged "whatevers", but I just don't know how the images ended up on his film --- most look like flares and development errors.

  5. G' day Professor thank for the read you said, "Catholic Guilt" it has puzzled me for a very very long time that in the world of Ufology someone (I know are Catholic) hoaxes/fakes a photo then spends the rest of their life saying "it's for real" as a Catholic how do you right that with your maker? As I understand you can confess to one off porkies that you have told over the years but this is an ongoing lie that you are going take with you, (you know to the other side) as you are a Catholic wouldn't it be in your best interest to clear the slate in this life? Right the wrong so to speak. I am sincere I would like to know your opinion on the subject because I am very confused, I'm missing something Yours sincerely Les

    1. sounds like an overt and patronizing attack on my religion. Thank you so much for that courtesy.

      All claimed "Catholics" aren't Catholic. They don't subscribe to Jesus' New Testament Gospel of Love. If they did they wouldn't be acting like self-centered assholes and being unrepentant.

      Asking me what I do to right "that" with my maker [note no capitalization as a sign of disrespect for my views by you], I'd say that I've never hoaxed anything in UFOlogy nor published anything which I knew to be untrue, so what's the point? You apparently are assuming that I have --- probably you are only using lousy uncommunicative verbal structures.

      My "Catholic" GOD is a GOD of Love and forgiveness. That GOD wants me to pay attention to the Gospel of Love and when my selfish human-ness goes rogue, admit my errors, meditate on them, and try to do something to restore harmony to the results of my bad behavior. This applies to ANY sinful act.

      Everybody fails. If GOD wasn't a GOD of Love and Forgiveness we're ALL screwed. We are like sort-of housebroken puppies who knock over lamps and muddy the carpets. Fortunately GOD is amused by well-meaning puppies and tolerates them unless they get violent.

      "Catholic Guilt" is by the way an inside joke for Catholics, as we have been entrained to feel guilty about never doing enough. This isn't healthy, but rather an over-the-top consequence of Catholic school education. Pope Francis is a wholly human loving guy, however, who is bringing a lot more joy and overt kindness back into Church Administration ... as it should be.

      Though the phrasing of your "challenge" makes me doubt your claimed sincerity, I should thank you for the opportunity to stand up for my beliefs in public.

  6. G' day Professor it was you humour and openness regarding your faith and your interest in Ufology that inspired me to ask for your opinion, my badly worded post could also say that I'm genuine I don't have a belief and so it has always puzzled me why people of "a" faith create a hoax that they have to take to the grave with them I mean maybe they didn't think it through or lying isn't as big a deal as I think, you say "bad behavior or any sinful act" I just wanted to know where lying was "rated" (sorry can't think of another way of saying it) that was all and I wasn't referring to you at all that came as bit of a shock when I read that (I'm getting old I shouldn't rush a post), didn't mean to offend Cheers Les.

    1. Well, thank you for the response. What non-Catholics don't experience is the continual amount of crap that people "enjoy" laying on us during our lives. {this is a little bit like being a UFOlogist}. Although it shouldn't make a difference to me, it has, and I'm sensitive about all my "rejected abnormalities." As I've grown older, I've not just sat quietly and taken the crap anymore --- and don't believe anyone should; people shouldn't get a free pass when they verbally hit someone in the face. I am very happy to note that this was not your intention, and that we therefore should both have a better day.

  7. Hello Professor,

    Would it be possible for you to share your unpublished Frank Rand manuscript(s)? It would really help with a research project I am working on and I would greatly appreciate it! It seems to really be an under discussed part of UFO history.


  8. Can't do it. Main reason is that it isn't "my" manuscript --- surely you know that. I imagine someday I'll convince some trusted friend with those drafts, and he/she will decide when/if it is long enough in the past (Rand was writing Timmerman and I just in the 2000s) to use them in some historical piece. To my (possibly failing) memory, I don't even know you. That's a double-hard ask.



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