Monday, December 31, 2007

Is the Pope Authorizing Exorcism Squads?

According to a much ballyhooed article from the Daily Mail in the last few days

Each bishop is to be told to have in his diocese a number of priests trained to fight demonic possession.

The initiative was revealed by 82-year-old Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican "exorcistinchief," to the online Catholic news service Petrus.

"Thanks be to God, we have a Pope who has decided to fight the Devil head-on," he said.

"Too many bishops are not taking this seriously and are not delegating their priests in the fight against the Devil. You have to hunt high and low for a properly trained exorcist.

The PR office of the Vatican denies the account.

I suspect someone has spoken out of turn here, and that the denial is closer to reality. But the Vatican has shown renewed interest in the topic including introducing exorcism classes.

The inability to recognize the real

An interesting essay by Geoff Olsen at Common Ground uses UFOs as an example of how hard it is for many people to think outside of the box (to use a spent marketing term).

I don't fully agree with everything there, and I get so tired of the use of quantum mechanics to wave anything into possibility, but the core truth is that when faced with an even slightly deniable experience that fits outside of the expected, so many people will dive for the exits of convoluted but familiar explanations.

For me, I feel this effect in people the most with politics. Not just party politics but the bigger picture. You can present people with basic facts, and if they mean the world they know is slipping away or untenable, they won't flip out, they simply ignore it. It helps of course if there are billion-dollar companies that aid and abet in making it easy to ignore the world.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Spooky Paradigm Bookstore

I got tired of the limited space for books on the side of the blog page, so I added an aStore, a bookstore that orders through Amazon. But I have far more space to put up scads of titles and products.

For the most part, I'll only add books and other products that I am familiar with and can describe and give some guidance on. This will include noting a book's shortcomings if need be.

So far I've added about 20 volumes on UFO culture. That's pretty much most of what is out there, and I've noted the relative utility and topics of each. Categories I'll be adding soon will be case studies, ghost hunters, and Spooky Paradigm theory.

The address for the store, also found in the suggested reading sidebar, is

Feel free to browse.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Year of the Political UFOs: The Japanese Cabinet Minister UFO Flap vs. American UFO Politics vs. American Separation of Church and State

As you may have heard, Japan's government has become something of a laughing stock this week, after chief cabinet minister Nobutaka Machimura answered a question about UFOs at a press conference with an answer that he believes in them. After an initial 24 hours of excited stories and posts, it became clear that no one in the "debate" was being very serious. The eventual insertion of Godzilla into the dialogue was not the first clue.

Nonetheless, this has been the year of politicians talking about UFOs. As I noted in an update on my post concerning US presidents and UFOs, Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich says he saw a Black Triangle years ago, and in his discussion of that incident joked about Exeter, a location with a link to UFOs that is not common knowledge. I wonder if that's how he won over his wife.

When Kucinich's UFO story hit the press, Bill Richardson also noted that he considers the Roswell Incident and UFOs serious business, at least as tourism. He has promoted Roswell in the past, including providing a foreword for the book The Roswell Dig Diaries.

Earlier this year, Wonkette visited the issue, at least historically, concerning George Bush I, the CIA, Jimmy Carter, and UFOs.

I suspect some of this is of course chance and happenstance. But since the O'Hare case last year, UFOs have gotten more credibility in the large mainstream media than the issue has had since probably the 1960s, pre-Condon. All without, and I think not coincidentally, a major presence in the entertainment media. The more divorced the issue is from fantasy and entertainment, the more credibility it has.

Once again, I am reminded of George Carlin's take on this, with his comparison of the media portrayal of Christianity vs., for example, UFOs. Nifty.

And what reminded me of this? Mike Huckabee, a major contender for the Presidency of the United States (AKA the commander of the most powerful and planet-annhilating military in human history) and his conversation with his God in 2004.

Update: Looks like Hillary Clinton has followed in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan and her husband in invoking the (fictional) threat of alien invasion to promote global unity.

Inspired by Pharyngula

Monday, December 17, 2007

UFO Hotspot Map from CUFOS

Missed this back in November. Hotspot map from CUFOS, based on population, courtesy of strange maps

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Science, the Desire to Debunk, and the Credulous Style

R. Lee recently wrote about "The Desire to Debunk" where she criticizes what she sees as a compulsive need by some to debunk/skeptically inquire (!) accounts of the paranormal, strange animals, etc. She asks why people are compelled to debunk/attack the accounts of others.

I can't entirely agree with that point of view. If you do think that scientific inquiry is an important or the most important way of understanding reality, then these anomalies should be quite interesting. They should be examined, and if necessary, explained in ways different from the explanations offered by those that report the anomalies in the first place.

But where I agree with her is that too often, that isn't what debunkers/skeptics do. In many cases, a minimal amount of time is spent by the would-be debunker to basically say "Well, that's just obviously garbage and nonsense." Or to come up with a daft explanation that is as scientifically supportable as the original paranormal explanation (the Michigan swamp gas UFO explanation by Hynek comes to mind). Typically, such treatments are filled with scorn and hyperbolic "I wish I ran Something Awful" style humor (example: the Iron Skeptic, who is better known for his condescending and juvenile style than his increasingly thorough, though still at times lacking, research).

At that point, which is a common occurrence, I agree with R. Lee that such behavior borders on the pathological. Not all debunking falls into this category. Some is well thought out and takes on tough questions. A skeptical analysis can convincingly get to the core of a particular problem with precision and elegance. But where does the more scornful and less thoughtful approach come from, and why is it quite common?

It's an exercise in making the debunker feel better about themselves, in my humble opinion.

I would link it to what Christopher Hayes calls "The Credulous Style. In his essay "9/11: The Roots of Paranoia," he takes much of the 9/11Truth community to task for a failure found in other parts of the Spooky Paradigm: unfalsifiability. That some claims (in particular some of the engineering claims) about the destruction of the WTC do not hold up to testing, and yet they continue to exist and thrive. He concludes that the claims of that movement, or at least the more visible MIHOP claims, are without merit and wrongheaded.

But Hayes goes on to point out that a substantial amount of the reason for the existence of this movement falls on the authority-friendly attitude towards inquiry. Playing off of Hofstadter's famous "Paranoid Style," Hayes argues that the complete failure of the media and other institutions to question narratives from the government and other authorities has made the paranoid style a rational choice. As he puts it

So it's hard to blame people for thinking we're not getting the whole story. For six years, the government has prevaricated and the press has largely failed to point out this simple truth. Critics like The New Yorker's Nicholas Lemann might lament the resurgence of the "paranoid style," but the seeds of paranoia have taken root partly because of the complete lack of appropriate skepticism by the establishment press, a complementary impulse to the paranoid style that might be called the credulous style. In the credulous style all political actors are acting with good intentions and in good faith. Mistakes are made, but never because of ulterior motives or undue influence from the various locii of corporate power. When people in power advocate strenuously for a position it is because they believe in it. When their advocacy leads to policies that create misery, it is due not to any evil intentions or greed or corruption, but rather simple human error.

Simply put, the mainstream press has acted as the stenographer of the US government, and more specifically of the Cheney clique and their followers, not questioning some of the most ridiculous or sham announcements about "dangerous" enemies. In turn, authorities regularly throw around denigrating or sarcastic use of "conspiracy theorist" to smear anyone who questions even basic aspects of power relations and government actions.

At first glance, one sees the word "credulous" in "Credulous Style" and makes the connection to those who report or study/collect anomalies with a paranomal explanation. But I think the real connection here is between the credulous style and the most vehement and poorly researched debunkings. Just as a total lack of accountability in checking on government pronouncements by the media has made paranoia a rational choice, rank dismissive skepticism defeats itself in the long run. It makes science look less like a reasoned examination of the facts and application of hypothesis and theory, and more like a pissing contest where one's venomous tone is of more value than one's analysis.

So why the self-defeating approach? In some cases, I think there may simply be substantial anger and frustration with what skeptics fear is a grave threat to scientific inquiry. Sagan's Demon-Haunted World. But I think in many cases, what is more important is putting the skeptic's opponent in place, and by a psychosocial Newton's second law, elevating the sarcastic debunker away from Crazy towards being Respectable.

Or as one of the comments for the Iron Skeptic says

"Sometimes we just have to do things because it makes others unhappy"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NASA to Investigate Kecksburg Crashed UFO Case

After a District of Columbia judge ordered NASA to produce documents on the 1965 Kecksburg UFO crash investigation, NASA had agreed to comply. While in the Roswell case, the official explanations were generally the same, if more detailed (weather balloon to Mogul spy balloon), the official explanations for Kecksburg are contradictory. The Air Force declared the case a meteor in 1965. NASA said in 2003 it could not have been a Soviet satellite, and then reversed itself in 2005 to declare the object a Soviet satellite, but the paperwork on the case had gone missing.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Conference on the Semiotics of Cryptids and the Flatwoods Monster

Loren Coleman recently attended a conference on text, code, cryptids, and the Flatwoods Monster case in ufology.

The cryptozoology papers sound interesting, though primarily of a sort that I'm not a fan of, trend-dipping. In such cases, as academics were doing a bit of in the late 1990s and early 200s, a topic is noticed to be of increasing interest in the pop culture. Semioticians, deconstructionists, and other folks interested in symbolism and meaning, then take the basic face-values of these terms, maybe do a small to moderate amount of research in the general topic, and then use the term to examine some larger societal trends of interest to to the author. This usually results in fair to good scholarship, but misleading as to the topic. For example, Jodi Dean's Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace, made several interesting and useful points about the American culture of space and the astronaut and arguing that conspiracism is a rational stance in the face of decentralization and proliferation of information production post-internet. But the author sheds little light on UFO culture, other than abduction to some degree (academics love abduction just as they love contactees). The papers in the SLSA conference sound interesting, so I don't want to judge them simply from Coleman's description.

The Flatwoods papers are primarily about Gray Barker, mythmaker. The paper outlined sounds interesting, though as Coleman points out, there is some sloppy scholarship involved. But while Coleman (and especially his readers, see comments) want to downplay the PoMo nature of the analysis, Gray Barker is an important figure in understanding the history of ufology. He is in many ways highly responsible for the intertangling, particularly through the proxy of John Keel, of high strangeness with what Keyhoe and others had fashioned as a nuts and bolts problem of aliens in metal spaceships. The Mothman would not be the figure it is today without Barker, nor would MiBs.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

World Magnetic Anomaly Map

The first global map of the world's magnetic anomalies has been produced (BBC story, project website). The notion that magnetic energy and anomalies could be responsible for paranormal events and sightings has existed for decades. A major strand of of parapsychology believes that ghostly activity has an electromagnetic component, or is even a "playback" of electromagnetically "recorded" past events stored in stones or bricks. Paul Deveraux and his Dragon Project argue that ancient European megalithics were built to interact with electromagnetic energy or ley lines. One aspect of this includes earthlights, which is similar to Michael Persinger's research into EM stimulation of the brain. Persinger has gotten more attention for his attempts to recreate alien abductions in the laboratory. But his initial work was on electromagnetic anomalies, earthquakes, earth lights, and UFOs.

So I suspect someone down the line in spooky studies will do something with this EM geography research.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spooky Coincidence: War of the Worlds Broadcast and Roswell

For Halloween, I cued up the infamous Orson Welles -directed radio play of The War of the Worlds. I had listened to it before, but I had not noticed one detail. To my surprise, the name of the farm owner who witnessed the first Martian cylinder crash outside of Grover's Mill, New Jersey is Mr. Wilmuth (transcript).

In earlier versions of the Roswell Incident, Mr. and Mrs. Wilmot are the only eyewitnesses to the flying disc before it crashes outside of Corona, New Mexico.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The CARET Drones - Music Video

Earlier this year, a series of videos created a flurry of activity on UFO-related websites. Headlined by the Coast-to-Coast radio program, the videos showed metallic "drones" flying and hovering near trees and other identifiable objects. Some observers in ufology called them out almost immediately as hoaxes, while many more seemed to agree but held their tongues and passed the videos and speculation along.

I thought about posting about the topic here, but couldn't find anything of interest about it. Now there is. After months of speculation that the videos were viral marketing for films and video games, that they were UAVs, that they were reverse engineered in a project called CARET, the drones have finally appeared in something interesting - a music video. For a band called Drone. Even if the music or images aren't your thing, let it run to about the halfway point when the CARET symbols are put down to the beat. It's nifty.

As noted by others such as Daily Grail and Forgetmori, the video puts to rest any notion that the original videos could not be CGI. The video also makes it clear once again that the boundary between ufology and entertainment is surpisingly thin. Then again, this thing did emerge initially from Coast to Coast, so I suppose we shouldn't be surprised.

UPDATE 11/18/07: Alienware computer manufacturers are now using the CARET drone symbols in its marketing.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Gigantopithecus in Upstate New York

I visited Hartwick College today, in Oneonta, New York. Or more specifically, the sculpture of Gigantopithecus, the largest primate ever. The sculpture was created by Kevin Andersen, as detailed on his website.

As you can see, the sculpture is huge (for comparison, I'm 6'2"). In fact, I think it is a little too big. Most estimates I've heard suggest that the ape was up to nine feet tall if it reared up on its hind legs. As you can see, the sculpture is that tall while resting on the knuckles of the arms. But it probably isn't far off.

Gigantopithecus is more famous than many fossil primates due to Dr. Grover Krantz and others who argued that modern stories of hairy men of the woods were actually living Gigantopithecines. Some, such as Sasquatch or Bigfoot or the other American hairy hominids are a bit far afield, but the Yehren and to some degree the Yeti have the advantage of being talked about and reported in roughly the area where Gigantopithecus teeth and jaw fragments (the only evidence for the genus) are found.

Other reconstructions, in part influenced by Krantz, depict Gigantopithecus as a bipedal creature looking a lot like stories of wild men and hairy monsters. On the other hand, the range and diet of these creatures suggests something more like an orangutan or even gorilla, and especially the panda, decidely less-Bigfoot-esque creatures in terms of behavior or locomotion. David Daegling discusses the issue of Krantz's reconstruction of Gigantopithecus and his identification of the genus as Bigfoot in Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend, available through Amazon by clicking on the thumbnail link on the right side of this page.

I should note that despite the expectation of Bigfoot stories and accounts being at home in the Pacific Northwest, they do occur in Upstate New York, as discussed by the authors of Monsters of the Northwoods.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Shag Harbor UFO Crash Festival

I finished reading the book Dark Object on the Shag Harbor crash of October 1967. I have no idea why this well-documented UFO crash story doesn't get more attention. Anyway, they're starting a festival in two weeks.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Glenn Danzig's Book Collection

This is pretty damn funny. Even moreso if you've seen him buy a pool of elf blood on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Anyway, the library of self-appointed "evil" rocker Glenn Danzig:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Indiana Jones and the Next Year of Fielding Questions

As discussed by Mayanist Marc Zender for MTV, crystal skulls and their lore will be the center of the next Indiana Jones movie, currently being filmed. Zender notes their ties to "New Age" (come on, you can say occult, you know) beliefs, UFOs, etc. Though he doesn't note that with the exception of the Mitchell-Hedges skull, many have been traditionally associated with the Aztecs and not the Maya.

Anyway, I expect people will be bugging me for the next year about this, since:

I'm an archaeologist
I'm a Mayanist (the Mitchell-Hedges skull was supposedly "found" at Lubantuun in Belize)
For most people I know, I'm the resident occult expert

At least it will be break from answering the 2012 question all the time, though that will probably just go along with it.

Update 4/16/08: Interesting article in Archaeology Magazine takes advantage of the upcoming movie to present the history of the crystal skulls, and how they swirl around one antiquities dealer in the second half of the 19th century.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I guess I left New Orleans too soon

The Haunted Mortuary

Mothman Festival this Weekend

Point Pleasant, West Virginia, is having it's 6th Annual Mothman Festival this coming weekend. Cryptomundo has the info.

Also, it apparently has a psychic fair.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ufology Unfalsifiable: A Review of The Roswell Dig Diaries

I'm a professional archaeologist, so it is a natural I'd read the SCI-FI Channel published report, The Roswell Dig Diaries, of the the 2002 archaeological project to investigate the "Roswell" debris field outside of Corona , New Mexico. The work was funded by the SCI-FI channel so that it could feature in a television broadcast in November 2002, The Roswell Crash: Startling New Evidence. Ufologists Donald Schmitt and Thomas Carey served as the Roswell UFO crash advisors to the channel, while the actual investigation was led by Dr. William Doleman, an archaeologist in the Office of Contract Archaeology at the University of New Mexico.

The book isn't a book as much as a semi-random series of emails, notes, and journals packaged with the final archaeological report, which stands out in contrast with the rest of the material.

The initial section of the book, the emails and discussions about how the project came to be, is interesting. If nothing else, the Bureau of Land Management proposal is an awesome read. The proposal was fairly ordinary, except for the lines like "All Native American and extraterrestrial artifacts will be cataloged ..." etc. On the one hand, it sounds ridiculous. Yet on the other, it is kind of exciting, and at least it is an attempt to actually apply established scientific and investigatory methods to a UFO problem.

So that section isn't bad.

The middle section, on the other hand, is an epic pox on ufology, in printed form. It consists of the diaries of various participants in the project. These were also placed on SCI-FI's website, so presumably they were designed by someone in the production team with the "confessional" bit from many reality shows in mind, where the game show contestants/avocational actors dish about their feelings and the other contestants/actors.

And man do they make this all look dumb. The two main figures with diaries are Bill Doleman, the archaeologist hired to head up the field excavation and coordinate with technical specialists, and Tom Carey. Doleman has gone on to star in a short-lived SCI-FI reality show that I have yet to see, but here he comes off fairly grounded and with a good showing. He does minimize some clear personnel difficulties (more on that in a bit) but otherwise comes across as professional and largely patient.

Tom Carey's diaries, on the other hand, sound amateur. They are filled with constant whining and griping about many, many things. Especially about Don Schmitt. Much complaining about Schmitt. And Schmitt's friend. Schmitt's driving. His comandeering of the car. And some of the volunteers. And the eyewitnesses that can't adapt to his schedule. And constantly being ditched. And bad hotel accomodations. And many other things. When not complaining, his diaries are often about which budget restaurant Carey ate at that night.

Schmitt's aren't much better. They are shorter than Carey's, as he is extremely busy and running around (something Carey complains about), but can at points also strike a patronizing tone.

Other diaries are kept. One is by the SCI-FI exec in charge of the whole shebang, who comes across as excited to be a part of it all, though I wonder whether either he or one of his employees was simply a good communications major in college. The volunteers (much of the excavation work was done by volunteers who got room and board for their efforts) also keep diaries, and like Carey they complain all the time, and several sound ridiculous the rest of the time. One in particular, one of several labelled "Independent UFO Investigator" constantly second-guesses Doleman, and is allowed to take over a portion of the excavation out of what seems to be frustration.

In the diaries as a whole, it is clear that while initially some interesting work was done, particularly the subsurface remote sensing, once the TV cameras showed up, everything turns to garbage. The television cameras dominate everything, including a huge and pointless distraction of using a helicopter that ends up having mechanical trouble (one wonders if it helped provide drama to the otherwise not very dramatic excavations).

Even Doleman gets into it. When the cameras are there, much of his caution gets dashed when he is clearly stressed out, and starts to get excited by what turns out to be a likely ephemeral feature in alignment with the remote sensing return for "the gouge" supposedly left by the Roswell craft. BTW, I'd just like to note that the gouge has grown slightly, and in this accounting is now five hundred feet long, a bit bigger than the 390 - 480' gouge described by Randle and Schmitt in 1991, though still in the same ballpark. The discovery of a supposed gouge in the profile and in the remote sensing is a major hook in the television show that aired in 2002, but in the book and in the included report, it becomes clear that feature was likely a side-effect of the backhoe that was brought in, or otherwise ephemeral. Likewise, Doleman gets very excited about another gouge, and the discovery of an unrelated weather balloon, all when the cameras are around. His caution returns when the cameras are gone, and he has time to think about all of this.

Overall, I'd make the following points

1.) The media aspect, in particular television, is highly disruptive and damaging, and I think this can apply to not just this case but ufology in a larger sense. Kudos to SCI-FI for paying for the work, and for publishing the report. And there doesn't seem to be any real effort on their part to "sex up" the work, in the sense of pushing or modifying the results.

But the estimated cost of the archaeological project, in the end, is about $30-35,000 (if you replaced the volunteers with hired labor, it would go up, but not even to the level of doubling). Not exactly pocket change, but not a lot of money in terms of a project, either. I know archaeology grad students who secured that much money to do their dissertation work, and even moderately sized projects work with much more. I could turn this around to echo the whine that there is no institutional support for ufology (though it should be noted that archaeologist Greg Fewer proposed a very similar research design [pdf] to the National Discovery Institute, unaware of the SCI-FI effort). But given the amount of money that pours into and out of Roswell on UFOs, the amount of money that is spent on books and DVDs, and the amount of interest there is in the topic, $35K to dig up and actually physically investigate probably the most famous UFO case of all time isn't exactly that much money. Sure, SCI-FI spent a lot more money on that, not on the work, but on the making of a TV show, selling the show, etc. Dolan's work clearly suffered from the tv crews taking over the project, from the emphasis of the "advisors" on taking yet more eyewitness testimony, from the need to base out of Roswell instead of much closer Corona, etc. Much of that wouldn't be present if the money was not part of the big swirl of media and market.

2.) Anyone can be a ufologist. According to his bio in the book, Thomas Carey has gone through CUFOS and MUFON, and has an MA in anthropology. But Schmitt's controversies over his background are well known in ufology. Between that and the "independent investigators," nothing looks very professional and so much is either caught up in dreaming emotion, or in managing the media circus (Schmitt's absence is in part because of family commitments, but the rest due to his role in managing the UFO giftshop-museum). There is some clear disconnect as the various "investigators" get fed up with Doleman's methods, and want results NOW.

3.) Hypotheses? What Hypotheses? The strength of the whole project is that Roswell is testable. Schmitt and Carey, using eyewitness testimony (which is all they seem interested in for the most part) are positive they have the Brazel debris field site. It is stated several times, and emphasized by Carey, that all the research basically boils down everything to either a balloon array, or something like a hard ship that left a gouge, described by eyewitnesses. The best evidence will of course be something unusual as an artifact that broke off the "ship." Doleman includes a brief discussion of the recovered artifacts, but they are generally easily identified as likely man-made and modern. But the other major piece of evidence would be finding that gouge, since a balloon won't leave a gouge. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a hypothesis. "If we find a gouge, it can't be a balloon." But the opposite does hold true "If we are in the right spot, and don't find a gouge, a non-balloon does seem less likely"

They don't find a gouge. The remote sensing detects an anomaly that might be a gouge. But it is then ground-truthed through excavation, and Doleman doesn't find evidence of a gouge. For the purposes of the TV show, there is a potential feature that might be a gouge, but by the time the analysis is done, it is clear that it isn't any gouge.

I've only briefly browsed Schmitt and Carey's new book, with the Haut "affidavit." But from what I saw, there is little to no discussion of their archaeological project that didn't find a gouge.

When you actually have something testable, say like an archaeological site, and your hypotheses go against the answer you want, you need to deal with that. Not just forget it, and write another book based on eyewitness testimony. Otherwise, why did you do the science in the first place? Oh, right. You did it for tv.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

One Last Mystery From New Orleans

I'm leaving New Orleans soon, to do some archaeology in New York. I'll blog again soon, though perhaps not until after the move. Though if I run into any Fortean or otherwise interesting things on the road, I'll post them here.

But here's one last conspiracy story with some bizarre bits, from New Orleans. With corruption comes conspiracy theories, and Louisiana is known for its corruption (and this week, for its family-values senator getting outed for visiting at least one prostitute). The story combines the intrigues surrounding Jim Garrison's infamous New Orleans investigation of the JFK assassination, an unsolved grisly murder thirty years ago in New Orleans, and an an attempt to kill Castro. But it then stretches into territory much further afield with a conspiracy to cover-up a massive medical disaster that, in my opinion, feels almost bolted onto the rest.

The article is from local paper Gambit Weekly. The link is to their current cover story, so after this week you may need to find the story in the archives, which shouldn't be hard.

An excerpt

Official reports about the murder pointed to stab marks on her body that indicated a link to an alternative lifestyle -- and an apartment fire. The problem, Haslam says, is that one of her arms and rib cage had been incinerated, which could not have occurred in an apartment fire that did little damage to the room. He also learned that the degree of damage could only have been caused by extremely intense heat -- even higher than the 3,000 degrees used in cremation. He believes it was caused by a device called a linear particle accelerator. Such a device was being used to radiate monkey viruses to help develop a vaccine for soft-tissue cancers that could result from the contaminated polio vaccine administered to millions of school children in the 1950s and '60s and/or to develop a super cancer-causing virus that could be used to assassinate Fidel Castro. Haslam found evidence that such an accelerator existed at the U.S. Public Health Services (USPHS) hospital in New Orleans in the 1950s. He even found a witness who claims to have worked there.

Here the story takes a wild turn.

Haslam says Sherman actually worked on a monkey virus project at the secret, government-funded USPHS laboratory under the direction of famed New Orleans doctor Alton Ochsner. She worked alongside David Ferrie, one of the main characters in former New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's ill-fated investigation into the JFK assassination, and Lee Harvey Oswald, named by the Warren Commission as the lone gunman who killed Kennedy. The author believes Sherman's arm and ribcage were incinerated during an accident at the lab and that she later was stabbed in the heart, a wound that actually killed her, then stabbed in other places post-mortem to establish a cover story.

More at

Update: I went to the book signing today and picked up a copy, if nothing else as a guide to one of the more famous spooky chapters in New Orleans history.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Evolution of the Crashed Saucer Legend, Part 8: Aftermath and Bibliography

Please start at the beginning if you haven't yet

The Aftermath of a Saucer Crash

Government Secrecy

Even as far back as 1897, there is a relationship between stories of unidentified flying objects and government secrect (Clark 1998:141-159). But it is after 1947 that secrecy becomes one of the enduring hallmarks of the saucer era and later ufology. From the beginning, a vocal part of ufology has blamed a lack of good UFO information and public interest on “silence groups” in the American government. Probably the most influential of these researchers was NICAP czar Donald Keyhoe, who wrote about “Project Saucer” (actually called Projects Sign and Grudge [Swords 2000]), and continued to rail against government secrecy (Peebles 1994:44-48). In particular, throughout his ufological career, Keyhoe’s number one priority was pressing for open Congressional hearings. According to long-time ufological prankster and social historian James Moseley in his memoirs Shockingly Close to the Truth! (2002:46-47), Keyhoe’s persistence actually increased secrecy on the part of the U.S. military.

Jim Moseley signs copies of his memoirs after a lecture at the IUFOMRC. According to his semi-monthly 'zine Saucer Smear, Jim is apparently not welcome for a return performance.

Congressional action and the University of Colorado “Condon Report” (Gilmour 1969) from 1966-1968 silenced this cause to a large degree, but with the 1990s came an increase in popular interest in the concept of UFOs and government conspiracies. This has led toa focus on government documents obtained by the Freedom of Information Act, most notably The Black Vault, as well as the branch of ufology called "exopolitics," a topic I will not get into at this time.

At the heart of the Roswell legend is the issue of a government cover-up. Though the UFO issue has had an edge of paranoia about the American government since the 1950's, conspiracy theories and the belief that government officials are hiding information about UFO's have grown over the last two decades along with the Roswell legend. The most successful of these concepts has been that of the “Majestic” (also known as Majestic-12, MAJIC, and MAJIC-12) group formed to deal with saucer secrecy in the wake of the Roswell crash. Majestic came to public knowledge in 1987 with the release of the Majestic documents by William Moore, Stanton Friedman, and filmmaker Jaime Shandera. Shandera says he received the documents on anonymously-sent film. The debate about the validity of the Majestic documents is too lengthy to go into at this time, but as of 2003, many ufologists and critics believe the documents to be fake (Klass 2000), though several in this group support the existence of one or another group similar to Majestic with some cosmetic differences. A smaller number, led by Friedman (1992), hold to the validity of the original documents. A larger number of additional documents have appeared, which have even less support than the originals. On my reading list for the summer is Greg Bishop's book Project Beta: The Story of Paul Bennewitz, National Security, and the Creation of a Modern UFO Myth. This book touches on, but is not directly about the MJ-12 documents, but instead documents Air Force disinformation against ufo resarchers, and some of the players in the Bennewitz affair are involved in the release of the Majestic documents.

Despite the direct links to Roswell, Majestic is able to cross between different narrative threads. Roswell researcher Kevin Randle has generally shied away from, or flat out attacked, the Majestic documents. And yet, a dramatic sequence of scenes based directly on the Majestic documents provides the major climax of the 1994 film Roswell, largely based on the work of Randle and co-author Schmitt. Furthermore, while the film relies heavily on Majestic, it ignores the crash site championed by the highest-profile Majestic proponent, Stanton Friedman. The International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell follows the film’s lead, and marries a narrative similar to that proposed by Randle and Schmidt to exhibits about Majestic. This melding of sources is reminiscent of some of the elements of Walter Haut's affidavit, released in 2007.


In addition to looking at the specifics surrounding narratives of airship, saucer, and UFO crashes, we must consider the aftermath posited after these wondrous machines fall from the heavens. Only in a few fictional accounts is a flying saucer revealed to the public after a crash. Typically, the remains of the saucer and its crew are crated up and shipped off to one or more secret locations. As early as 1897, human-piloted airships were tied to (as originating from, not going to) secret military bases in Illinois and Colorado (Bartholomew 1998). By the saucer age, alien bodies and crashed saucers started to be hidden at places like Wright Field (later Wright-Patterson AFB) in Ohio. The history of the relationship between Wright Field and crashed saucers is still murky (though it seems to go back until at least the 1960s), but the base was home to Project Blue Book starting in the 1950s, and before that Project Sign and E.T.-friendly Air Force investigator General Nathan Twining. It should come as no surprise, then, that after the release of the Majestic documents, nearly all later Roswell and many crashed saucer stories would designate Wright-Patterson and its infamous Hangar 18 as a resting place (if not a final one) for bodies and debris.

Fictional film versions of UFO silence groups and UFO crashes began to presage as early as 1971 the next major geographical center in crashed saucer stories. Though not dealing with a UFO, the novel and film (1971) Andromeda Strain depict the analysis of an alien life form within a secret underground government facility under Nevada. Six years later, a multinational silence group (backed up by the U.S. military) seal off a section of Wyoming so they can meet with UFOs and their occupants near Devil’s Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg 1977). In 1980, a crashed UFO is transported from Arizona to a lunar landing facility at Wolf AFB in Texas in the film Hangar 18 (not located at Wright-Patterson in the film). Each of these films depicts a secret government base used for making contact with E.T.s or their material culture, located in the arid American West.

A "mysterious" black, or at least dark, helicopter (Stillings 1989), hovering over the center of the Very Large Array (a not very secret government research facility, located on the Plains of San Agustin in western New Mexico). The helicopter took off, hovered for a few minutes, and landed while I watched. A later visit to the VLA website mentions nothing about a helicopter, crew, or facilities. Secrecy in action?

By the mid and late 1980s, ufologists and others would turn their interest to a secret military facility in central Nevada, referred to as Groom Lake by many insiders, but most famous as Area 51 (Patton 1998). It became a geographical focal point where Cold War paranoia and secrecy, environmental activism, concerns about government overstep, belief in UFO's, and the nascent cyberculture mixed in the 1990s. Glenn Campbell's (aka Psychospy) Desert Rat journal of his activities as an activist at Groom Lake, and the general doings around the site, provide a great historical source for understanding this weird chapter in the history of American distrust of government. A wide variety of stories have grown up in and out of the subculture of Area 51 observers, and several reference the Roswell crash as the seed for alien technology or craft tested and developed at the base. Area 51 doesn’t appear as quickly in Roswell narratives in large part because of the focus on the events in 1947, which predate the establishment of Area 51. The UFO Museum and Research Center has a substantial exhibit on Area 51, but the base does not figure in a major way in most non-cinema versions of the Roswell or other crashed saucer stories. Interestingly, an argument could be made that while these fictional prototypes for Area 51 predate stories about the site, this differs from crashed saucer stories, which typically predate fictional analogs. Area 51 has followed in the footsteps of Roswell in becoming the inspiration for a musical play.

Once a research center is established, the material and crew undergo analysis, which can yield great benefits for society, though in most cases these are hoarded by the secret group in question. A small but persistent thread of ufology links Nazi Germany and flying saucers, and in a couple of crash stories, Nazi scientists are able to study saucers, possibly the origin of many of the German “wonder weapons.” (model below on display at the IUFOMRC).

The concept of reverse engineering to create advanced technology (particularly aircraft) is more commonly applied to the U.S. and Roswell. The most developed version of this thread is Corso’s (1997) The Day After Roswell, within which Corso claims to have been personally responsible for seeding technology from the Roswell crash to defense contractors, and thereby playing a part in the “creation” of nearly every major technological advance in the later 20th century.

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Berliner, Don, and Stanton T. Friedman
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Berlitz, Charles, and William L. Moore
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Bishop, Greg
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Mack, John E.
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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Evolution of the Crashed Saucer Legend, Part 7: The Military Response

If you haven't yet, you should start with the first installment of this article

The Military Response

As part and parcel of crash accounts that involve military radar tracks, a military recovery team leaves soon after the radar-tracked crash, usually at sunup the next day (Berlitz and Moore 1980; Randle and Schmitt 1994). This concept has been present throughout the accounts of the Roswell Incident, especially in relation to a second crash site on the Plains of San Agustin, though it is not limited to those accounts. Typically, the second, more important, crash site with bodies or a saucer is found by the military at the same time or immediately after discovery by engineers, campers, or an archaeological research team. In these accounts, the coverup may already be underway when Brazel informs the Roswell sheriff of his discovery a few days later.

Though not as exciting and action-filled, the narrative thread of the Roswell story concerning Army involvement with the Foster Ranch debris site reported by William “Mac” Brazel is more complex. Most versions agree that soon after Brazel brings debris to Roswell Sheriff Wilcox’s office on July 6, 1947, the military shows up. Specifically, Jesse Marcel accompanies Brazel to his home, stays there overnight, and examines the debris field on the morning of July 7. However, with the exception of the initial July 8, 1947 press release and the 2002 International UFO Museum and Research Center timeline, other accounts of the Roswell story mention that a second military man in plain clothes accompanied Marcel to the debris site. As the Roswell story built steam after 1980, this man was clearly identified as Army counterintelligence agent Sheridan Cavitt. By the early 1990s, this man becomes more anonymous, and is either simply described as a counterintelligence agent (Randle and Schmitt 1991), or as a man in plain clothes (Pflock 1994). The 1994 film Roswell renames him Sherman Carson, but increases his role in the coverup, especially regarding Jesse Marcel. The decreased interest in Cavitt’s specifics may have a lot to do with the fact that Cavitt agreed to describe what he saw in July 1947, and his accounts support the finding of a balloon device, not an extraterrestrial craft, on the Foster Ranch.

The grassroots essence of ufology is reflected in the ample use of personal accounts and affidavits as exhibits in the IUFOMRC.

Relying on Jesse Marcel’s son, Jesse Marcel Jr., as a significant witness, Randle and Schmitt (1991) specifically mention that Marcel brought some of the debris home to show his family in the early morning hours of July 8, 1947. First introduced in 1991, this element plays an important emotional and narrative role in the film Roswell, and has been preserved in the International UFO Museum and Research Center’s presentation in Roswell.

Depending on the discovery of a second site in the particular Roswell narrative, Colonel Blanchard orders a more thorough cleanup of the Foster ranch site and informs his superiors of the debris on either July 7th or July 8th before going on leave. These events are linked to a change in the travel plans of a military inspection group led by Lt. General Nathan F. Twining, who would play a major role in military interest in UFOs in the next few years. The group, including other high-ranking officers, flies to Alamogordo instead of their original planned inspection of a Boeing aircraft on July 7th (Friedman 1992; Randle and Schmitt 1991).

The make up of the gear and personnel of military recovery teams typically include trucks, area lighting for night work, and specialists. The 1973 account of a crashed saucer in Arizona echoes Scully’s informants, specialists flown in to advise on recovery and analysis (Clark 1998:119-141). The 1973 account also foreshadows the stories of specialist transport to Area 51 in the late 1980s, where specialists are flown on private non-descript airplanes, and then loaded onto busses with blacked out windows. In the case of the 1962 Nevada UFO/bolide crash, Project Blue Book flew in its director Lt. Col. Robert Friend and scientific advisor Dr. J. Allen Hynek (Clark 1998:119-141).

In the case of Roswell, the military recovery team becomes more detailed in 1988, as the Majestic documents describe the use of aerial reconnaissance, and by 1991 (Randle and Schmitt 1991) witnesses describe the placement of an MP perimeter to keep out civilians and other unauthorized personnel. The 2002 version of the IUFOMRC website descibes a several day cordon while the site is cleaned up. Few other accounts describe the use of special equipment and biohazard suits as in Corso’s (1997) account.

The debris begins to fly out of New Mexico soon after discovery. Most accounts have some debris flown to Ft. Worth, Texas on July 8 for further analysis, in many cases under armed guard. But Randle and Schmitt (1991) have debris flying out as soon as July 6.

Crash dummy. In 1997, the U.S. Air Force suggested that the recovery of dummies used in testing may have inspired reports of alien bodies (McAndrew 1997). Of course, the IUFOMRC is all to happy to point out that these tests did not begin until several years after 1947.

From the beginning, however, all accounts are unanimous that the U.S. military decides to cover-up the accident, typically to prevent panic ala Orson Welles' 1938 radioplay of War of the Worlds (Cantril 1940), though in some cases looking ahead to the potential for reverse-engineering advanced technology. While fictional accounts of contact between humans and aliens or their material culture utilize more exotic cover-ups such as left-over weapons from WWII (Film Quatermass and the Pit 1967), epidemics (Film 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968), and nerve-gas disasters (Film Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977), the Roswell story has consistently been laid at the feet of a balloon, first a weather balloon in 1947, and then by the mid-1990s a train of balloons to support audio equipment used in the Mogul spying program. This element first arises in the office of General Ramey in Ft. Worth Texas during a press conference on July 9, 1947. By 1991, it is reasoned that the debris in Ramey’s office was switched with that from a weather balloon, and that Marcel was ordered to lie or stay quiet about this act. In the last few years, there has been some interest in attempts to either find real saucer debris in the pictures from this press conference, or to reconstruct a message on a piece of paper photographed in Ramey’s hand that proves there really was a saucer crash.

Citizens are sworn to secrecy as early as 1973 (Clark 1998:119-141), but beginning with Randle and Schmitt’s 1991 account of the Roswell crash, civilians have been threatened with reprisals from the U.S. military if they don’t keep quiet about what they have seen. Saler, Ziegler, and Moore (1996) go into some detail about the various rank and location changes of an angry red-headed Army officer and his African-American enlisted sidekick. Intimidation in crashed saucer accounts usually comes from military sources, and not the shadowy Men in Black that haunt other parts of UFOland (Keel 1991; Rojcewicz 1987). Concerning the use of violence to enforce the cover up, fictional accounts raced ahead of other versions, such as in the case of the ominous Men in Dark Suits that chase astronauts investigating a crashed UFO in the film Hangar 18 in 1980. William “Mac” Brazel is picked up by the military at some point soon after his July 8th radio interview, and is sequestered by the Army for anywhere from one to three days. During this time, he is allowed to make his July 9th statement that he did not find a flying saucer, and in some versions is bribed with money for a new pickup truck and refrigerator shed on his property (Corso 1997; Randle and Schmitt 1991; Film Roswell 1994).

“Mac” Brazel is not the only civilian cajoled into silence by the military in Roswell. Though many researchers today reject his claims, starting in 1991 (Randle and Schmitt) Roswell mortician Glenn Dennis describes being consulted by Roswell Army Hospital about obtaining four small child-size caskets, and about techniques for preparing a body for storage. When he goes to the Roswell Army Hospital to check on the situation, he is escorted off the premises and physically threatened by military men. Dennis also describes talking to a friend of his the next day, a nurse who witnessed alien bodies in the hospital. Prior to 1991, bodies had been associated with the stories involving archaeological teams on the Plains of San Agustin or near Corona, but Dennis’ story puts them in Roswell itself. The nurse, named Janet, is killed in a military plane crash a short while later. This is another dramatic scene in the film Roswell, though as in the case of the counterintelligence agent, Dennis’ real name is not used and is replaced by a sound alike name (one character attempts to remember the mortician’s name and comes up with several possibilities that sound like Dennis). And despite a lack of confidence about Dennis in the later 1990s by most Roswell researchers, the story is still presented (2002) by the International UFO Museum and Research Center. A very similar tale is retold in Corso (1997), but instead of a mortician, the ejected civilian is plumber Roy Danzer.

Continue to the conclusion, The Aftermath

Evolution of the Crashed Saucer Legend, Part 6: Discovery and the Civilian Response

If you haven't, should start with the introduction of this article

Discovery and the Civilian Response


Typically, civilians either stumble upon crashed saucers, or mistake the crash event for that of a conventional plane. On the other hand, from the beginning, fictional saucers have been found by the military, on purpose or by accident, and in later incarnations of the Roswell story, some crash sites are found by the military first. The luck of military search and rescue teams improves through time and begins to mirror the success of their fictional counterparts, though in the 2002 fictional television miniseries Taken, civilians get to find the Roswell sites, but the military makes its own crash site at a later date.

In the case of Roswell, rancher William “Mac” Brazel is usually credited for finding the debris field near Corona. With the exception of his public apology on July 9, 1947 for creating such a stir (Brazel explains he waited several weeks between finding the debris on June 14th and bringing it into town), in most versions Brazel finds the debris field the morning after the crash occurs. In the July 9, 1947 tale by Brazel, he is accompanied by his eight-year old son Vernon, but according to website and the timeline handed out at the International UFO Museum and Research Center in July 2002, he was actually accompanied by another little boy, Dee Proctor, the seven-year old son of Brazel’s neighbors. The presence of a young boy with Brazel mirrors the relationship between Jesse Marcel Jr. and his father’s revelation about Roswell debris in accounts after 1991 (Randle and Schmitt 1991). By 1991, Brazel’s sheep refuse to cross the debris field, perhaps because they sense something otherworldly about the shiny metal?

Since the publication of The Roswell Incident (Berlitz and Moore 1980), the main ship crash site is usually found by an archaeological survey team. There can be minor variations in the specifics (the team may have been geologists, or have included a civil engineer). Peterson (1991) argues through a content analysis of “respectable” and “non-respectable” media that anthropologists are generally associated in the public eye with the strange and unusual. Anthropologists are more commonly represented in the tabloid press (and I would say from a purely anecdotal survey, more commonly in strange fiction such as horror or science fiction) than in the mainstream press. Initially associated with the discovery of a ship on the Plains of San Agustin, the concept of an archaeological team on-site has become a part of the Roswell Incident, though perhaps because of the lack of interest in the Plains of San Agustin crash site (across the state from the town), this team neither shows up in the versions of the story available in Roswell itself, nor in the film Roswell. Of the six versions of the Roswell story analyzed by Ziegler (Saler, Ziegler, and Moore 1997), only one, the original Majestic documents, does not mention an archaeological team, only civilian witnesses that were debriefed.

Speaking of Anthropologists: That's me, seated wearing the white shirt in the middle ground. I'm inside the headquarters of Alien Resistance, a Christian anti-UFO group. Their beliefs and mission are available in more detail on their website, but simply put, they believe "aliens" to be a new guise for an ancient evil, entities referred to as the "Sons of God" in Genesis, who mated with humans and created giant Nephilim. They further believe that modern interest in these creatures is dangerous, most particularly because they are "seeking worship, sacrifice, and some even claiming to be our creators, according to most UFO cults." This stance makes the event in this picture difficult to understand. A representative of the Rael Movement, a religious group based in Canada, was to give a presentation on Saturday, July 6, at the IUFOMRC. At the last minute, this event was cancelled, it appears at the request of the IUFOMRC. Alien Resistance, across the street from the Museum, hosted the event instead. Yet the Raelians are probably the biggest example of a "UFO cult" in existence, and during his talk, the representative laid out a belief system completely in conflict with the stated beliefs and mission of Alien Resistance (Palmer 1995). So bully for the AR guys for letting the other side speak. I would like to thank G. Noel Gross for the photo. He also visited Roswell during the 2002 UFO Festival, where he obsessively retraced the scenes in Six Days in Roswell. Seriously, his site on the festival is amusing and thorough, covering a number of places and events that I didn't visit.

Civilian Response to the Crash

Civilian audience for Stanton Friedman's lecture at the IUFOMRC, July 2002

As stated above, civilians are apt to find more crashed saucers than are military forces, who eventually come along after civilians contact them. In the Roswell case, William “Mac” Brazel waits from one to three days (with the exception of the three week gap he describes in his July 9, 1947 interview) after discovery to contact Sheriff Wilcox in Roswell. In some versions he takes some of the material to the neighboring Proctor household. Most published versions of the Roswell Incident have Brazel contacting George Wilcox on July 6. As earlier versions anchored the crash date to the Wilmot sighting on the evening of July 2, this leaves a three day window between Brazel’s discovery of the material and his contact with Sheriff Wilcox and the Army.

Early versions describe how after finding the debris, he gathered some up and brought it with him on July 5 while taking some wool into Corona. It is here (or on a July 3 visit to his neighbors) that Brazel hears about flying saucers for the first time, including the possibility of a reward for finding one. He then makes a special trip into Roswell the next day with some of the debris, and the chain of events leading to the July 8 press release begins. In these accounts, Brazel is able to show the debris to his family and to neighbors during this time. Starting in 1994, the reassignment of the crash date to July 4, 1947 presumes a much busier Brazel, immediately recognizing the strange qualities of the crash debris (and the gouge in the debris field) and visiting Roswell the day after he discovers the material. Brazel’s own July 9 statements say that he waited several weeks to report the wreckage he found in the middle of June, though this is considered a lie by most Roswell researchers (Berliner and Friedman 1992; Randle and Schmitt 1991, 1994). The exhibits in the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell hint at, but not definitively, a July 4 crash date, though the timeline handed to visitors in 2002 follows the July 4 time sequence.

Brazel himself makes a July 8, 1947 appearance on KGFL radio in Roswell, but at some point is whisked away by military authorities, and coached on lying for his July 9th interview saying he was sorry for causing such a fuss. The exact amount of time that Brazel is in military hands varies in different accounts.

Continue with Part 7: The Military Response

Friday, July 06, 2007

Analyzing Haut's Roswell Affidavit

As you may know, Walter Haut's affidavit on the Roswell crash legend has been making a big stir in the news in the last week. Here's an example

The actual affidavit can be read here. It is reproduced in Tom Carey and Donald Schmitt's new book, Witness to Roswell. I am not going to reproduce it, but I do refer to specific points in the text below.

I have compared the affidavit of the late Captain (at the time of the incident, first lieutenant) Walter G. Haut to other versions of the Roswell Incident. Most of it is pretty standard, but one part sticks out like a sore thumb: the presence of General Roger Ramey in Roswell on the morning of July 8. Below are my general notes on Haut’s affidavit, and then my conclusions.

First off, I should note that almost nothing in Haut’s affidavit squares at all with the infamous story told by the late Colonel Philip J. Corso (Corso and Birnes 1997). Many of the dates simply do not fit, the description of the debris isn’t even close, and the sort of activity Corso has occurring in and around town does not jive at all with Haut’s testimony or other Roswell narratives. I don't consider this a problem, as Corso's story doesn't really agree with any of the others very well.

The Date and Location of the Crash(es)

Haut’s affidavit states in point (5) that he spent July 5 and 6 at his home on the northern edge of town. In point (6), he states

“I was aware that someone had reported the remains of a downed vehicle by midmorning after my return to duty at the base on Monday, July 7. I was aware that Major Jesse A. Marcel, head of intelligence, was sent by the base commander, Col. William Blanchard, to investigate.”

The phrasing here is ambiguous, but lets assume that he became aware by midmorning of the report, not that the report happened during the morning of July 7. This would agree with the standard story of the crash, that rancher “Mac” Brazel brought wreckage to the Sheriff’s Office, that Col. Blanchard sent this wreckage up the chain of command, setting in motion the eventual cover-up of the entire affair.

Presumably, Haut as the base Public Information Officer, is out of the loop of these activities, and only hears about them when he returns to work Monday morning on the 7th.

What this would not agree with, however, are some of the more dramatic stories. As alluded to above, Corso’s story does not jive with Haut’s at all. Corso has the military on high alert, military intelligence officers arriving in Roswell in early July, radar at the Roswell base tracking UFOs starting on July 1. This was at one point (2001) echoed on the IUFOMRC website when it had a more detailed narrative of the incident than is currently on their site. Furthermore, Corso has major civilian rescue and recovery operations, and very major military operations (including the discovery of a spacecraft and aliens), occurring north of Roswell in the early morning hours of July 5. If something of this magnitude was going on, we would except Haut might have been called back to duty, might have noticed all the commotion in a small town, and certainly the base would have been in more of a state of activity than he suggests on the morning of July 7.

Again, I don't see this as a problem, as the best researched and most complete narratives also do not agree with these dramatic set-pieces.

From 1980 to 1992, the UFO crash or crashes in New Mexico were reconstructed as having occurred in the night of July 2, with the debris field discovered by William “Mac” Brazel on July 3 (Berlitz and Moore 1980; Berliner and Friedman 1992, 2004; Randle and Schmitt 1991). By 1994, these dates were pushed farther back to the night of July 4, and discovery by Brazel on July 5 (Randle and Schmitt 1994). This date is used by the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell. It is not concrete in their current website narrative, but it was the date on previous versions of the website, and on a timeline handed out at the museum in 2002, as well as in exhibits at the museum. Corso (Corso and Birnes 1997) also has this date, but rather than the two day process of Brazel bringing word to Roswell, the fiery crash north of town brings the fire department, other civilians, and a major military force within hours. Brazel himself would later claim to have found the debris in June, only deciding to bring it to Roswell in early July, though advocates of a cover-up suggest Brazel was coerced into changing his story.

A crash date of July 2 or of July 4 would work with Haut’s affidavit, so long as the crash does not involve in immediate major recovery operations, but instead an investigation starting on the afternoon of the sixth. Most accounts have military recovery begin on July 7, though not all (Berlitz and Moore 1980; Corso and Birnes 1987; earlier version of the IUFOMRC website). On the seventh, in point (7), Haut says that as the day progressed, he learned of a second crash site reported by other civilians. The idea of a second site and of other civilians goes back to the original book on the topic, initially focusing on a crash site in the western part of the state (Berlitz and Moore 1980; Berliner and Friedman 1992).

Haut’s affidavit, however, places the second site forty miles north of town, an area first brought into the literature in 1994 (Randle and Schmitt 1994) but echoed in a number of other narratives. Civilians, most famously an archaeological crew, are responsible for discovering this site, and in various accounts recovery begins by the end of July 7. It is at this second site that the main craft and occupants are found, and not at a site closer to the Brazel/Foster Ranch debris field, as discussed in other versions, including the original Majestic documents (Berliner and Friedman 1992; Randle and Schmitt 1991).

An interesting point emerges in Haut’s testimony at this point. In point (7), he notes that he heard of these reports, but that he heard little more for the rest of the day and continued about his duties at least into the late afternoon. This suggests that if recovery of a crashed UFO and alien bodies was going on, and large numbers of personnel from the base were involved, it was not apparent enough for Haut to notice. Haut later notes in point (12) that the craft he views in the afternoon of July 8 had “just” been recovered, though there are no further chronological details. In other words, if a major recovery is going on, one that has been at least partially compromised by civilian eyewitnesses, Haut was not needed either in his role as the Public Information Officer, nor simply as additional manpower in the recovery.

The Retrieval and Cover-Up

Haut’s testimony picks up again in point (8) the next morning at 7:30 AM, July 8. The standard staff meeting is held, but in addition to Roswell personnel, General Roger Ramey and his chief of staff Colonel Thomas J. Dubose are in attendance, having traveled the 415 miles from Fort Worth, Texas. As far as I know, no other version of the Roswell incident suggests DuBose or Ramey were in New Mexico. Instead, they are in Fort Worth on the eighth for Marcel’s infamous photoshoot with balloon wreckage. The primary topic of discussion is a briefing by Marcel and Cavitt on the Foster Ranch debris field, investigated during the course of the day on the seventh. Other testimony suggests Marcel did not arrive back in Roswell with debris until 2 AM on July 8, and that he did not brief Blanchard until 6 AM, who then calls the Army Air Force headquarters sometime on the eighth (Randle and Schmitt 1991). There is also a preliminary briefing, by Blanchard, on the second site, forty miles north of Roswell, which is already considered more important. We do not know if Haut is told about a crashed craft or bodies at this point.

This is possibly the most interesting part of Haut’s affidavit. If Ramey is present, it cannot be in response to Marcel’s report to Blanchard at 6 AM (the B-29 could conceivably make the run in just under 1.5 hours at high speed, but accounting for organizing the flight and getting Ramey on a plane makes this pretty unlikely). Instead, Ramey would have to be present because of the importance of the second site, and that importance must have become clear during the recovery efforts late on the seventh or in the early morning hours of the eighth. But this would then again raise the question of a major recovery operation going on at this time.

Ramey is not mentioned as being in Roswell in other accounts. His role is instead in Texas, and largely confined to providing the weather balloon explanation, humiliating Jesse Marcel. By contrast, General Nathan Twining is not mentioned in Haut’s testimony, though there is some suggestion that he cancels previous plans and goes to Alamogordo on July 7 because of the crash (Friedman 1992; Randle and Schmitt 1997). In Haut’s affidavit, Twining’s role is instead played by Ramey, who travels to Roswell, relays the plan to draw attention to the Foster Ranch site and away from the second site, and then the same day flies back to Texas to debunk Marcel’s debris … which has been sent to Texas for inspection by DuBose and Ramey (Berliner and Friedman 1992; Randle and Schmitt 1991).

This is strange, but it does limit the number of main players in Haut’s testimony to those most iconically involved in the various versions of the Incident. By contrast, Twining is well known to ufologists because of the Twining memo written in September 1947 (Dolan 2002: 43 – 44), but doesn’t play a very visible role in Roswell narratives.

At this meeting, Haut and the other staff members handle some of the debris, presumably recovered by Marcel. Haut describes thin but strong metal foil, which was mentioned from Jesse Marcel’s testimony on (Berlitz and Moore 1980: 72 – 74), though no mention of the memory metal aspect focused on by Marcel’s son in his testimony. Foil of course also goes back to the debunking press conference in Ramey’s Office on July 8, 1947, and Mac Brazel’s second interview on July 9, but normal foil as part of a radar reflector array. The recovery of unusually strong materials from saucer crashes first appears in print in Scully’s (1950) Behind the Flying Saucers, but even if this is discounted as a hoax, strong and light materials make sense if one is describing the materials used to build an advanced spacecraft. Haut also discusses unusual markings along the length of more solid pieces, echoing the discussion of hieroglyphs and I-beams that again goes back to the testimony of the Marcels in the 1970s and 1980s. Haut does not comment on whether the solid debris was lighter than expected. No wire or string, a persistent element of descriptions of Roswell material, is mentioned by Haut.

Later on the morning of July 8, according to the affidavit, Haut’s main role in the Roswell incident occurs when Col. Blanchard gives him the famous press release announcing the Army’s capture of a flying disc. According to Haut, this was part of General Ramey’s (or his superiors) plan to draw attention away from the second site. Haut releases the news in the afternoon, and after some time being bombarded by international media interest, Haut goes home on Blanchard’s suggestion.

The Debris and Bodies

But before he does, Blanchard shows Haut a large piece of wreckage and alien bodies recovered from the second site. This is where Haut’s new testimony differs radically from his previous affidavit. Haut gives little description of the bodies, seen at a distance, other than to note that they were roughly four feet tall with large heads. Not all descriptions of the Roswell bodies note larger heads, but most do. Likewise, the height is the most commonly accepted (Berlitz and Moore 1980; Randle and Schmitt 1991). The bodies are stored in a temporary morgue on base, bringing Glenn Dennis (who is no longer considered a trustworthy eyewitness by many Roswell researchers) to mind.

But while the bodies don’t get much description, the wreckage or craft does. Haut says the craft is egg shaped, if it is a craft and not just a part of one. With the exception of some no longer trusted testimony in the mid 1990s (Corso and Birnes 1997; Randle and Schmitt 1994) that suggested the Roswell craft was a delta-wing, descriptions of the ship are hard to come by. Popular depictions usually include a disc-shaped ship, as do some eyewitness testimonies. The object haut describes is also small, only about five meters on a side and two meters tall. This could be the small reconnaissance craft mentioned in the original Majestic briefing documents, but size measurements for the ship are not common in Roswell narratives.

After viewing the bodies and wreckage on his way home, Walter Haut largely exits the Roswell Incident. He does note that Jesse Marcel was angry about having the debris he recovered be substituted in Forth Worth for balloon debris, and to be publicly ridiculed. Haut goes on further to note that he did visit the crash sites to help ensure the recovery of any additional material.


What do we make of this?

Content-wise, Haut’s story is fairly similar to the general Roswell narrative that has developed since the late 1970s, to the point of causing some problems. Haut claims to be in the know about bodies and wreckage, and is a knowing part of Ramey’s cover-up on the morning of July 8. Yet Marcel’s activities get nearly as much attention as does the more important and earth-shaking second site. In the larger literature and history of the Roswell Incident, Marcel has loomed large as the first major eyewitness of the modern era, the man who recovered the materials actually mentioned in the press, and the man humiliated in Ramey’s office when his flying saucer becomes a weather balloon. Marcel was used as the focus of the narrative in the 1994 film Roswell for this reason.

Since Haut is a knowing part of the conspiracy according to his affidavit, it makes dramatic sense to have him in the same room with Ramey, but since we know Haut wasn’t present in Ramey’s office with Jesse Marcel (he was in Roswell, dealing with the press release), Ramey comes the 415 miles to Roswell, and then immediately leaves to get back to Fort Worth to humiliate Jesse Marcel. I can’t say for certain that Roger Ramey wasn’t in Roswell that morning, but given that no one else has ever mentioned this, given the fact that debris was being repeatedly sent to Ramey in Fort Worth, and given Ramey’s public appearance in Fort Worth that afternoon, an account of his presence in New Mexico is highly suspicious. But it makes for a tidier story than bringing in Nathan Twining, who is also a more difficult character (he’s not a villain like Ramey is in the Roswell narratives, as Twining in turn becomes an advocate for the idea that UFOs are extraterrestrial).

A secondary issue is the nature and scale of the recovery on the evening of the seventh. If such dramatic finds are being recovered to bring Ramey to Roswell (when a phone call could otherwise do), would we expect the air base and the town (remember, civilians are involved at this point, and as Haut says, so is the press) to otherwise be going about its business enough that Haut (who would be called on to deal with the public in this matter) would be able to call it a day on the seventh, rather than to also be pressed into dealing with a time-senstive operation? I don't know, but it does seem somewhat strange.

Paul Kimball believes that Haut’s affidavit doesn’t amount to much, in part due to his support for fraudulent witnesses in the past, and possibly due to the continuing financial interests Haut’s family has in the UFO business in Roswell. In addition to any of those reasons, the strange presence of General Ramey makes me highly suspicious of Haut’s testimony.


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Berlitz, Charles, and William L. Moore
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Corso, Philip J., and William J. Birnes
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