Monday, November 28, 2011

When did the RAAF start investigating 'flying saucers'?

Hi all

You could be forgiven for thinking that to answer this question, all you would have to do would be to look at the official Australian government UFO files and find the date of the earliest material.

The two earliest files related to 'flying saucers' as UFOs were called, in those days, discovered by the Disclosure Australia Project were:

(1) File series B5758 control symbol 5/6/Air Part 1 - dated from 21 Aug 1950. RAAF HQ Training Command.
(2) File series PP474/1 control symbol 5/5/Air - dated 29 Oct 1951. RAAF base Pearce, Western Australia.

So, we know that the RAAF had begun collecting material on 'flying saucers' at least from 21 Aug 1950.

In addition, in 1954 when he was preparing a report on flying saucers for the RAAF, Melbourne University physicist, Harry Turner (file series A703 control symbol 554/1/30 part 1) was given two files belonging to the Director of Air Force Intelligence. The date of the earliest report mentioned in Turner's report was from 1950.

It therefore came as a surprise when looking through digitised newspapers in the Trove collection of the National Library of Australia to come across the following:

"Melbourne - The RAAF has been investigating flying saucer reports since 1947, a high ranking officer revealed..." (Barries Miner (Broken Hill) Saturday 9 January 1954 page 5.)

" In Melbourne yesterday, a high ranking RAAF officer said that he personally believed 'objects seen in the sky over Melbourne have an interplanetary source.' The officer revealed that the RAAF had been thoroughly investigating flying saucer reports since 1947." (The Argus, Melbourne, Saturday 9 January 1954 page 5.)

So, did the RAAF commence investigating flying saucer reports as early as 1947, as the newspaper  articles state? All we can say for certain is that none of the thousands of pages of RAAF or other government agency flying saucer/UFO files, supports a 1947 start date. That is not to say that the newspaper articles are incorrect, merely that the date of 1947 cannot be independently corroborated.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Men in Black

Dear readers

A beautiful spring day here in Adelaide. Blues skies and mid 20's C.

I always look forward to reading a new book by Nick Redfern. I thoroughly enjoyed his work "Contactees" and recently reviewed "The NASA conspiracies." Part of the pleasure comes from his use of  Freedom of Information requests to uncover delicious titbits of information that no one else has found.

Another 2011 new book by Nick is titled "The Real Men in Black-Evidence, famous cases and True Stories of these Mysterious Men and their Connection to UFO phenomena." Published by New Page Books. Pompton Plains, NJ. ISBN 978-1-60163-157-2.

The book is divided into two parts; case files, and various theories about the MIB.

Case files:

I was aware that the concept of the MIB started with a man named Albert Bender, but Redfern's chapter on Bender revealed much of which I wasn't aware. As Redfern states, "It was Bender, in fact, who almost singlehandely ushered in the plague of the Men in Black..." (p.23.)

I didn't for example know that Bender's paranormal interests started with the 5 December 1945 vanishing aircraft squadron of flight 19. Nor was I aware of his obsessive-compulsive-disorder symptoms. Redfern paints a detailed picture of Bender's UFO life, which came to an end in 1953 following a visit by three men in dark clothes. He closed his International Flying Saucer Bureau.

Another player, Gray Barker, in his 1956 book "They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers" indicated that Bender's visitations were actually from FBI agents. Redfern discusses this possibility, then notes that "The FBI subsequently noted that its files contained 'no information pertaining to the hush-up of Bender.' (FBI 1958.) This official, internal statement specifically denying any FBI involvement in the silencing of Bender strongly seems to imply that whoever Bender's mysterious visitors were back in 1953, they were not agents of the FBI..." (p.45.)

From here, we encounter Brad Steiger; Tim Beckley; John Keel and their accounts of UFOs, poltergeist activity and MIB tales.

Redfern traces MIB accounts through the 1970's where we read of a former FBI employee, who after a UFO sighting, was warned "You will stop investigating flying saucers." (p.73.) The classic MIB visit in 1976 to Dr Herbert Hopkins is related in detail.

Into the 1980's we hear of Colin Bennett's observation of a green light which transformed into a stationary Lancaster bomber then into a triangular shaped object. This bizarre sighting was followed by a visit from a man in a "Smartly cut jet-black suit with neat black tie and white shirt." (p.98.)

What I didn't realise was that MIB accounts continued through the 90's an 00's. Redfern outlines MIB like reports from researchers Peter Hough and Irene Bott of the UK; author Marie Jones in the USA, and Oregon based researchers Regan Lee.

Chapter 12 "Women in Black" reveals that there are a few accounts around of visits by females. In this case, not in the field of UFOs, but legends involving King Arthur. The woman who arrived at a researcher's house knew many details of his research, although he had actually kept most of his research to himself.

The theories:

What are we to make with the MIB? Surprisingly, there are far more ideas about their origins than I ever knew. In part two of the book, Redfern covers the possibilities of hallucinations, hoaxes, Tulpas and vampires, tricksters, civilian investigators, G-men, time travellers, and demons and the occult. Quite a roundup of possibilities.

In the G-men chapter we learn that a 1960 Grand Blanc, Michigan incident involving "...two mysterious, dark-suited men..." (p.197) turned out, thanks to access to declassified FBI files, to really have been a visit by FBI agents. In the UK, declassified files revealed a 1962 visitor was an employee of the "British Royal Air Force's elite Provost and Security Services." (p.206.)

Conclusion:

In his concluding chapter, after acknowledging the existence of mistaken identities and hoaxes, Redfern writes;

"But for the most part, when it comes to the Men in Black we are dealing with phenomena that are far, far stranger and much more terrifying than any government agent come to silence witnesses." (p.235.)

"As we have seen, there may well be several points of origin for the Men in Black. Some MIB, such as those experienced by Albert Bender, may have been borne out of nothing stranger than repeated misfirings of the man's brain...But out of the sheer potency of this MIB imagery a horrific birth was given to Tulpas of three shadowy men...(p.236.)

Redfern then suggests that "...it seems safe to conclude that their link with the occult is also a valid area of research." (p.236.)

Finally, that "...some of the Men in Black may originate from a point far in our own future..." (p236.)

Redfern concludes his work with a warning. "If you decide to pursue the MIB and you one day receive that dreaded slow knocking on your front door...let it remain firmly locked and unopened..." (p.237.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"The NASA conspiracies"

Dear readers

My local library has quite a good range of books on the UFO phenomenon. A recent addition is Nick Redfern's "The NASA conspiracies." The Career Press. 2011. Pompton Plains, NJ. ISBN 978-1-60163-67949.

Astronauts:

Redfern initially takes a look at the views held by a number of US astronauts, e.g. Gordon Cooper. "...Cooper claimed profound UFO encounters of his own, expressed a solid acceptance that aliens from outside of our solar system were among us, and even delivered noteworthy statements on the UFO controversy to prime and influential movers..." (p.22.)

Kecksburg:

One suggested explanation for the 1965 "crash" near Kecksburg, Pennsylvania was satellite debris. NASA released Kecksburg-based material in 2003. This was followed, in 2007, by legal action against NASA looking for all records they held on Kecksburg. However, the result was "NASA's curiously absent documentation on Kecksburg." (p.41.) The parallels with the total absence of official documentation on the Australian 1966 Westall case are obvious.

Area 51:

Chapter 5 relates the account of an alleged ex US intelligence contract worker, given the name "John," who claimed to have worked at Area 51. John is said to have been "...given an initial briefing by three men, all displaying official NASA credentials." (p.60.) His role was to maintain historical UFO files, which, of course, he read.

Later chapters:

Then follows chapters which concern "...research into specific rumours that NASA had undertaken classified research into potentially lethal alien viruses" (chapter 6); "Firm evidence of the fact that NASA personnel during the early to mid 1970's, were deeply interested in seemingly bona fide UFO encounters" (chapter 7); and the fact that NASA was the recipient of US State Department telegrams on an object which 'landed' in Bolivia (chapter 10.)

Further chapters relate to "...a woman named Sharon, who presently works in a secretarial position at NASA's Kennedy Space Center" and who "...claimed multiple encounters with the Grays (chapter 12); "...a number of official reports that NASA has on file, which relate directly to the UFO controversy tell startling and illuminating stories - particularly those that occurred in the mid to late 1980's and mid 1990's. (chapter 14.) Edgar Mitchell's view "...that the evidence for alien contacts was without doubt overwhelming." (chapter 15.)

Finally, the account of British hacker Gary McKinnon's foray into a NASA "...top-secret space based program in place about which the public and the media know absolutely nothing at all." (chapter 17.)

Conclusions:

Redfern's conclusions include an acceptance that the Apollo moon landings "...did go ahead just as NASA has always claimed." (p.203._

"On certain other out-of-this-world controversies however NASA might not be so in the clear as it would undoubtedly prefer to be:  the Kecksburg, Pennsylvania affair of 1965, the Bolivian event of 1978, the Roswell-connected words of Apollo astronaut Dr Edgar Mitchell, the issue of lethal alien viruses, and the strange saga of NASA and the chupacabra, some would argue are all prime evidence that NASA may know far more about UFOs and extraterrestrial activity than it cares to publicly admit." (pp203-204.

Comments:

While I suspect that some of the accounts advanced by some of Redfern's informants, do not hold water; I do like the fact that a lot of his documentation is sourced to files located under FOI.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who were the "security police" who investigated early Australia flying saucer reports?

Hi all

During the early days of investigations into "flying saucer" reports within Australia, one of the puzzling activities of the authorities of the day, was reported in The Melbourne Argus newspaper dated 6 May 1952. An article, in part, read:

"A Security Police spokesman said they were investigating certain reports. A Civil Aviation Department request to set-up a special section to collate facts on 'flying saucers' was refused. Mr R M Seymour, Superintendent of Air Traffic Control said yesterday that he had been told: "It is a matter for the Security Police."

The Barrier Miner newspaper, of Broken Hill, dated 6 May 1952, advised "Melbourne- Commonwealth Defence and Security Officers will investigate reports of flying saucers over South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. They are making a file of newspaper reports and when it is complete they may interview some of the eye-witnesses."

The Cairns Post newspaper of 6 May 1952, provided a date for these reports, speaking of them being at the weekend, i.e.  Saturday 3 May and Sunday 4 May.

Disclosure Australia:

At the time of the Disclosure Australia Project, it was unclear just what these reports from the three states were. However, now with the digitising of newspapers by the National Library of Australia, it is possible to deduce just what these reports were.

3 May 1952

1. Sydney, NSW - 23 people reported an object at about 6am. "It appeared to have no wings, was cigar shaped, many times the size of an aeroplane, and had two sets of very bright lights at each end." It flew into clouds and disappeared. (The Argus Melbourne. 5 May 1952 page1.)


 2. Sydney, NSW - A silent, cigar shaped object, with lights on, travelling very fast was reported by multiple people between 6 and 6.17am. (The Sunday-Herald 4 May 1952 p1.)

3. Sydney, NSW - At about 6am, eleven people saw a cigar shaped object, much larger than an aircraft leaving a blue trail. (The Canberra Times 5 May 19521.)

4. Parkes, NSW - A white object, flat at one end and pointed at the other flew over at 6am. It was silent, and seen for two minutes. It disappeared into clouds. (The Sydney Herald 4 May 1952 p1.)

5. Berowa, NSW - An object was seen at 6.17am travelling due south at a high speed. It was well lit and sparks were seen at its rear. (The Sunday Herald 4 May 1952 p1.)

6. Benalla, Victoria - At 3am two people reported an object which had rows of lights on each side, travelling at high speed. (The Canberra Times 5 May 1952 p1.)

4 May 1952

1. Nowra, NSW - A bright glittering object shaped like a cigar was reported by a motor cyclist. (The Canberra Times 5 May 1952 p1.)

2. Canberra, ACT - The Chief Assistant Astronomer "sighted a bright meteor with a persistent trail at 5.15am. (The Adelaide Advertiser 6 May 1952 p3.)

3.  Adelaide, South Australia- An engineering student saw "a small dead-white disc over the city at 12.16pm. It quickly went southwards. (The Argus Melbourne 5 May 1962 p3.)

Now we have dates for the reports, did any of the Australian government UFO files located and examined by the Disclosure Australia Project relate to the events of this weekend, and could they throw some light on who the security police were?

One file did. File series A11066, control symbol 5/1/27 part b, is a file titled "Eastern Area Headquarters Intelligence Report on Unusual Sightings 3/5/1952."

The file consists of 17 pages. There are numerous newspaper clippings of sightings for that date. However, the main item on the file is a report of interviews conducted by Flt Area  Intelligence Officers and Squadron Assistant Provost Marshalls. The conclusion of the report was that the 6am silent fast cigar was a meteor.

It would therefore appear that the 'security police' mentioned in the newspaper reports were in fact from the RAAF's own internal police force, being Provost Marshall staff, and that the "Commonwealth Defence" officers were RAAF Area Intelligence Officers.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review panel on physical evidence

Dear readers

In a previous post (click here) ) I wrote of Wendt and Duvall's thoughts on a systematic science of UFOs. One of the three things they thought such a science needed was a focus on collecting objective physical evidence.

I am currently re-reading "A Tale of Two Sciences: Memoirs of a Dissident Scientist" by Peter A Sturrock (click here). (2009. Exoscience. Palo Alto, CA. ISBN 978-0-9842-6140-6.

On page 115 Sturrock writes that in 1996 he was asked to meet with a group led by Laurance S Rockefeller. "It was and is my position that we will make little progress until we can get the attention and interest of the scientific community and that, in order to get that attention, it will be necessary (but not sufficient) to demonstrate the existence of physical evidence. Hence, my proposal was for a review of such evidence."

Sturrock therefore organised a review panel approach which took place at the Pocantico conference centre in New York. A group of UFO researchers presented "...evidence on physical properties and effects related to UFO events..." to a group of scientists "...with the relevant expertise for assessing this information." (p.116.)

"The charge of the panel would be simply to determine whether further investigation of such physical evidence would be likely to lead to improved understanding of the UFO problem." (p.116.)

The review:

What types of physical evidence were reviewed? Richard Haines looked at photographic; Jacques Vallee covered both optical luminosity and physical traces.; while Jean-Jacques Velasco (GEPAN/SEPRA) covered ground traces; and  Illobrand Von Ludwiger, radar cases.  Mark Rodeghier examined electromagnetic effects; Richard Haines also tackled pilot observations. Michael Swords presented reports apparently broaching our understanding of gravity and inertia. Finally, John F Schuessler detailed physiological effects on witnesses.

Outcomes:

Sturrock writes "The panel considered that a few reported incidents might have involved rare but significant phenomena such as electrical activity high above thunderstorms (eg sprites) or rare cases of radar ducting, and that a few cases might have their origins in secret military activities, but the panel was not convinced that any of the evidence involved currently unknown physical processes or pointed to the involvement of extraterrestrial intelligence." (p.135.)

However, they also stated "It may therefore be valuable to carefully evaluate UFO reports to extract information about unusual phenomena currently unknown to science. However, to be credible to the scientific community, such evaluations must take place with a spirit of objectivity and a willingness to evaluate rival hypotheses." (pp135-136.)

Like Wendt and Duvall, the panel suggested an emphasis on examining new cases, rather than older cases, in order to gather new data. (p.136.)

It also noted that "The GEPAN/SEPRA project...[has] provided a valuable model for a modest, but effective organisation for collecting and analyzing UFO observations and related data." (p.137.)

In summary, the panel "...did present...the view that further investigation of physical evidence would be likely to lead to improved understanding of the UFO problem." (p.138.)

Comments:

It has now been 14 years since he review panel. Richard Haines, in the interim went on to create Narcap ( click here) to focus on aviation related UAP reports. Mark Rodeghier continues to lead CUFOS (click here) . GEPAN/SEPRA made its UFO database publicly available. Jacques Vallee has continued to contribute important work. However, despite all this, science as a whole has continued to ignore the UFO phenomenon. Perhaps one exception has been in the area of abduction reports, where a number of academic articles have been published. Sturrock and others founded the Society for Scientific Exploration (click here) in 1981, which continues today.

A couple of questions arise in my mind.

Wendt and Duvall thought that looking at individual case studies was not particularly useful, especially older cases. The review panel also emphasised examining new cases. I know that my co-blogger, Keith Basterfield, is of the view that re-examining old cases is useful, particularly if a diligent review adds new data, which can either strengthen or weaken a particular view as to the cause of that case. So, my first question to readers, is "Are individual case studies of value?"

My other question concerns methodology. Wendt and Duvall suggest looking for patterns in large number of reports. However, if you do not examine individual cases to decide if they are IFO or UFO, is there any meaning in the patterns you would detect in large volumes of cases?





The full version of the Western Australian Police Department UAP file

Background Between 1951 and 1975, the Police Department of the West Australian government kept a file titled 'Unidentified Flying Obj...