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MAGONIA ETH Bulletin #4

From: The Duke of Mendoza <101653.2205@compuserve.com> [Peter Brookesmith]
Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 22:53:23 -0400
Fwd Date: Sat, 27 Jun 1998 10:53:47 -0400
Subject: MAGONIA ETH Bulletin #4


Forwarded with the compliments of the Duke of Mendoza, who
asks only that you do not shoot the messenger, because he
will only shoot back, and would remind you that he has
medals & spoons to prove he can do it better than you.

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MAGONIA ETH BULLETIN

No. 4, June 1998

Editor: JOHN HARNEY

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EDITORIAL

The main reason for the establishment of this modest
publication was to deal with the accusation by supporters of
the ETH that ufologists who favour the psychosocial
hypothesis ignore those cases that provide evidence of
extraordinary physical events and concentrate on those where
psychological explanations seem plausible. Unfortunately,
the ETH supporters often cite cases which have already been
explained. They are either unaware of these explanations or
they discount them because they cannot bear to see their
precious evidence gradually whittled away until there is
nothing left.

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PATHETIC CHEATS - THE UFO HOAXERS

Credulous ufologists

Of course, most ufologists think they are too clever to be
taken in by hoaxers. It is quite obvious to them which
reports are not to be taken seriously. Unfortunately the ETH
believers are so desperate for apparently good cases that
they are easily taken in by obvious hoaxes, so long as they
are not too much like the old-fashioned contactee stories.

The believers are particularly susceptible to cases
involving alleged physical evidence. A good example is the
business of the Ubatuba magnesium samples, which arrived on
the desk of a Rio de Janeiro society columnist in 1957 with
a note claiming that they had come from a flying saucer
which had exploded in flames over a beach near Ubatuba, Sao
Paulo. Some ufologists actually believed the story, but the
more scientific ones pointed to the fact that experts failed
to establish what method had been used to manufacture the
samples as evidence that they were of extraterrestrial
origin. Few of them wanted to write it off as a hoax after
all the time and money that had been spent on the case,
especially as physical evidence is so hard to come by.

ETH enthusiasts are equally reluctant to write off the
Trindade Isle photographs, despite the fact that they were
taken by a man with a reputation as a trick photographer and
the fact that the statements of the numerous other alleged
witnesses to the sighting remain suspiciously unavailable.

Jerome Clark continues to plug the Trans en Provence UFO
landing case (only one witness), despite the detailed and
devastating study of the alleged landing traces conducted by
Eric Maillot. Of course we all know about those awful French
sceptics, who make Philip Klass look credulous in
comparison!

When you wish upon a star

In his study of hoaxes and hoaxers, Nick Yapp writes:

We are often caught up in a hoax, because we leap at the
opportunity that a hoaxer seems to present to us. And once
we have leapt, there can be no twisting in mid-air and
turning back. And the further or the higher we have leapt,
the longer the hoax will run and the more helplessly we
shall be enmeshed in it. We all have our weaknesses and we
all have our dreams. We swallow what Jiminy Cricket tells
us, that when we wish upon a star our dreams will come true.
Hoaxers know this, consciously or sub-consciously. (1)

Experimental hoax

In 1970 an experiment, which demonstrated the truth of
Yapp's assertions about hoax victims, was carried out in
Warminster. An organisation called the Society for the
Investigation of Unidentified Flying Object Phenomena
(SIUFOP) devised a simple hoax with the intention of
assessing the competence and objectivity of UFO
investigators.

Warminster, in Wiltshire, was the location chosen for this
experiment because of its high density of skywatching
ufologists. The scheme was to provide those watching on
Cradle Hill with a simple visual stimulus, to introduce
photographic evidence inconsistent with the stimulus and to
observe the effect this evidence had on subsequent
investigation, recording and publicity. (2)

The experiment consisted of shining a 144 watt lamp, fitted
with a purple filter, in the direction of a group of
skywatchers on Cradle Hill, about three quarters of a mile
away. Four SIUFOP members were among the skywatchers. One of
them had a camera mounted on a tripod and pretended to take
photographs when the light appeared. There was also a fake
UFO detector, which had been synchronised to sound a buzzer
15 seconds after the light appeared. When the light
disappeared, the photographer took two genuine photographs,
which could be used for comparison purposes. The two
preceding frames had been previously exposed with UFO images
superimposed on the landscape as seen from Cradle Hill.

The earlier pictures had been taken from a different
position and the images of the UFOs did not correspond with
the light seen by the skywatchers. In these pictures two of
the row of street lamps shown in them were out, but they
were on in the two pictures taken just after the incident.

The next stage of the hoax was the one where it was likely
to fail, or at least to arouse strong suspicions among the
ufologists present. The photographer, Mr Foxwell, asked if
anyone could get the film developed for him. One of those
present actually agreed, without asking any awkward
questions, to have it developed. It was handed to him and
the pictures eventually appeared in Flying Saucer Review.

Genuine faked photographs

The photographs were examined by FSR's experts who
pronounced them genuine, as they totally failed to spot any
of the deliberate inconsistencies and made a number of
glaring errors in their attempts to interpret them.

David Simpson and Ken Raine of SIUFOP attended a meeting of
FSR experts in September 1970. Although they gave them some
hints which would probably have enabled them to detect the
inconsistencies, their suggestions were ignored and the hoax
remained intact.

In SIUFOP Newsletter No. 19 (January 1971) David Simpson
published an article about the Warminster UFO photographs
entitled The Hoax of 1970? . In this he criticised the
investigations carried out by FSR consultants, giving his
reasons. He also asked why no one had bothered to interview
the photographer. However, FSR failed to take these broad
hints. The only visible effect of them was a brief comment
by editor Charles Bowen: "By mid-January, 1971, news had
reached me that there had been a little lightweight
criticism of the Cradle Hill photographs." (3)

Pathetic cheats

The hoax lasted for two and a half years and was ended when
Mr Foxwell confided in a friend who also happened to be a
friend of Carl Grove, who happened to be a contributor to
FSR. Charles Bowen was furious and denounced the hoaxers as
pathetic cheats.

In his summary of the experiment Simpson wrote:

The vast amount of literature published leads one to the
conclusion that the pictures were considered very
significant by UFO researchers, yet despite this and their
impressive list of consultants, the investigators concerned
did not analyse the evidence critically. Not once did they
interview Mr Foxwell, yet without his photographs the
sighting would have been insignificant. Their statements and
actions were often not those of people trying to understand
a strange event, but those of people prepared to ignore
relevant criticisms in order to support a cause. (4)

Of course, most UFO hoaxers never confess, so their not
unwilling victims are kept pleasantly mystified
indefinitely.


References

1. Yapp, Nick. Hoaxers and their Victims, Robson Books,
London, 1992, 204

2. Simpson, D.I. Experimental UFO Hoaxing , MUFOB New Series
2, March 1976.

3. Bowen, Charles. Progress at Cradle Hill , Flying Saucer
Review, 17, 2, March/April 1971, 11 4. Simpson, op. cit.

------------------------------------------------------------

THE FADING ETH

There seems to be some misunderstanding about our attempts
to analyse reports which are believed by some to constitute
evidence in favour of the ETH. Our theory is quite simple.
The null hypothesis is that not one of the available UFO
reports represents a genuine sighting of an extraterrestrial
spacecraft. Some reports remain unexplained because of
insufficient or inaccurate data.

It is already becoming clear that, when faced with
conflicting evidence or testimony about a case, ETH
supporters reject or suppress evidence which indicates a
mundane explanation in favour of that which points to an
alien spacecraft. There is also a tendency to believe that
when the sceptical explanation doesn't fit (some sceptics
are rather too keen on force-fitting explanations), then one
is justified in accepting the ET explanation, rather than
looking for another likely solution to the problem.

The one great weakness of the ETH is the notion that it is
supported simply by failing to find satisfactory
explanations for puzzling UFO reports. This means in
practice that ETH supporters are often reluctant to consider
mundane explanations. Anyone who explains any of their
cherished cases is simply labelled as a debunker. For
example, serious ETHers tend to pick out radar-visual cases
as strong evidence to support their cause, because these are
obviously neither hoaxes nor hallucinations. Jerome Clark
thinks that the RB-47 case of 17 July 1957 is a good
example. Yes, but hasn't Philip Klass, after a great deal of
research, provided a detailed explanation for the incident?
Hasn't Clark noticed? Of course he has. His comment is:
Despite a convoluted reinterpretation by debunker Philip J.
Klass, who speculated that a complex series of radar errors
and the fortuitous appearances, consecutively, of a meteor,
the star Vega, and an airliner were responsible for the
event, the incident remains as puzzling today as it was in
the early morning hours of July 17, 1957. (1)

Here we have a clue to the mentality of ETH proponents. If
it's explainable, then the explanation must be simple and
obvious. A convoluted explanation won't do, especially if it
is provided by a debunker.

Clark's principal, often repeated, objection to the
psychosocial hypothesis (PSH) is that it is merely an
exercise in literary criticism as opposed to the scientific
study of multi-witness reports and hard evidence by ETH
ufologists. Yet, when we ask for details of those reports
allegedly ignored by the literary critics and armchair
ufologists, what do we get? Nothing, apart from a few very
old cases, nearly all of which were satisfactorily explained
years ago.

In fact, Clark doesn't like dwelling on particular cases, as
they always fall apart when subjected to careful, critical
examination - literary or otherwise. He prefers to rely on
the cumulative effect of hundreds of reports which, if taken
at face value, tend to suggest that the ETH might be a
rational explanation for them. He also praises the work of
Michael D. Swords who argues that the existence of
space-travelling ETs is possible. I entirely agree that it
is possible, but is it actual? What we need is hard
evidence, not scientific speculation.

If we look at the UFO literature we can see that the few
good books are written by those who favour the PSH. Some
potentially good books are badly flawed and rendered
practically worthless to serious students of the subject
because they have had the ETH clumsily grafted on to them,
simply because that's what the punters want to read. (For
those who can't read too well, there are usually lots of
silly sketches and the usual ludicrous fake photographs of
UFOs, and even more ludicrous photographs of ETH ufologists
at silly conferences.)

However, there are signs that this sort of thing is at last
on the way out. The American UFO Magazine announces that is
broadening the scope of its coverage , which means, in
practice, that it is gradually being changed to just another
magazine which tediously rakes over the details of the
X-Files, Star Trek, and other science fiction TV series and
films. In Britain, similar things are happening to Alien
Encounters, which is also devoting lots of space to SF films
and computer games. British UFO magazines have always had
difficulty in filling their pages, because most British ETH
proponents are either semi-illiterate, or as mad as hatters,
or both. The few sane and literate ones are only pretending
- not very convincingly - to support the ETH in order to
sell their books to the credulous hordes.

American ETH enthusiasts appear to be much better educated
and more intelligent. This means that they can retail their
lies, fantasies and pseudo-scientific gobbledygook more
smoothly and effectively. However, I suspect that the
American public are beginning to become bored with their
absurd posturings and intellectual dishonesty.

With the gradual and inevitable demise of the ETH, ufology
will fade into obscurity and become a subject of interest
only to a handful of psychologists and folklorists.


Reference

1. Clark, Jerome. The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the
Extraterrestrial, Visible Ink, Detroit, 1998, 507

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LETTERS


Re hoaxing and why do Walton's gang keep it going after all
this time. Money plays a part - i.e. there was always the
prospect of a film, a TV show and so on. Without re-reading
the case, I don't know how much police involvement there
was, and whether it constituted a significant waste of
police time/resources.

With the passage of time persons involved in a hoax are less
likely to admit to it, since the public tend to forget about
the original case. Who would care that much if the MJ-12
forger were to admit it now? Also, ufology being what it is,
a confession after a long lapse of time will likely not be
believed (the usual he was forced to say this by the
authorities argument). Also, what would the other hoaxers
say were one of the party to own up? Would they all defend
their original position or not? Would they risk being sued
for fraud (making money from the publishers, film company,
etc.)?

In November 1952 six people claimed to witness a desert
contact between Adamski and a man from Venus. All signed
affidavits to this effect. That was 45 years ago, yet not
one, to my knowledge, has ever since recanted and admitted
the said event never took place. And who would care now if
one did? Would Adamski diehards even believe any such
admission now? I doubt it.

Christopher D. Allan, Stoke on Trent

----

Whatever the solution to the Travis Walton story, we should
not overlook the obvious fantasy elements in it. Such as
meeting the hazel-eyed, sandy-haired, dark-skinned human
being who escorts him through a sort of air lock into a huge
room, where they descend down a short, steep ramp. In this
room is the craft in which they arrived and two or three
other flying saucers, oval craft 45 ft in diameter, rather
smaller than his which was 60 ft in diameter and 16 ft high
(The Walton Experience, pp 121-124). This is not too
different from George Adamski being led from the scout ship,
down some steps into the landing bay of the mother ship.
Walton has added some 1970s touches to the story and fleshed
it out, but the plot is the same. George is led into a room
where he meets other crew members, including women. Travis
is led into a room where there is another man and a woman.

Then there is the episode just before that when Travis plays
with the controls and sees the stars whizzing around.

We should not take the descriptions of what happened the
night of Travis's disappearance too literally; the guys in
the truck were obviously scared out of their wits and it
seems like human nature to envisage them making the light
ever more concrete and menacing as they talked excitedly on
the way back. The scarier the light was, the more they could
excuse themselves for running away and leaving poor Travis
to his fate.

Travis's story, which only covers a brief period, reads like
a dream, perhaps even a nightmare he had the night he got
back. Perhaps he didn't wander around, but in some sort of
fugue state got into a motel somewhere and holed up for a
few days, till his senses returned.

If there is a solution, it probably lies in the notes made
by the law enforcement authorities, reporters and others at
the time, not in books written two or three years later,
when the ufologists, news persons and ghost writers had
woven the story into a neatish narrative.

Peter Rogerson, Manchester

Note for paranoid ufologists: This letter arrived unsealed.
Although it had a first-class stamp, was correctly addressed
and was postmarked 15 June, it was not delivered until 19
June.

------------------------------------------------------------

For readers who do not already subscribe to or exchange with
our quarterly journal Magonia, full details may be obtained
from the Editor:

John Rimmer, John Dee Cottage, 5 James Terrace, Mortlake
Churchyard, London SW14 8HB UK.

e-mail johnr@magonia.demon.co.uk

------------------------------------------------------------

MAGONIA ETH Bulletin

This is available on the Magonia web site and only a limited
number of printed copies are available. Please address all
correspondence, articles, etc. to the Editor:

John Harney
27 Enid Wood House
High Street,
Bracknell
Berkshire RG12 1LN
UK




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