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Magonia Monthly Supplement 13

From: Mark Pilkington <m.pilkington@virgin.net>
Date: Mon, 05 Apr 1999 16:45:10 +0100
Fwd Date: Mon, 05 Apr 1999 13:26:15 -0400
Subject: Magonia Monthly Supplement 13

Magonia Monthly Supplement
 No. 13 March 1999

Editor: JOHN HARNEY


EDITORIAL

When I started this publication as ETH Bulletin, I hoped that
ufologists would point to cases they regarded as evidence for
the ETH. However, it was not to be, and the ETH continues to
weaken, particularly in Britain, where ufologists are becoming
clearly divided between those who wish to seek rational
explanations and those who find the ETH a source of lucrative
book contracts, appearances on TV chat shows, etc., rather than
a basis for scientific investigation.



SOUTHPORT UFO CONFERENCE

Having been unbolted from his armchair, your Editor attended the
Lancashire UFO Society's conference in Southport on 27 February.
The fairly informal proceedings were presided over by Tim
Matthews. He was wearing combat trousers, presumably to indicate
that he was ready to deal with any troublemakers, but this year
there was no hint of violence. The only disturbing event - or,
rather, non-event - was the failure of copies of his eagerly
awaited book to arrive at the conference hall as expected.
However, there were rumours of a copy having been sighted in a
bookshop in Manchester. (At the time of writing I have not yet
seen it.)

The first speaker was Jerry Anderson, of UFO Monitors East Kent
(UFOMEK), who, as far as I could tell, was the only southerner
present at this northern venue. Anderson started off with an
interesting close-encounter story from a man, now aged 84, who
had had his strange experience in 1954. Hearing strange noises
in the early mornings, he decided to investigate and encountered
a silver object suspended above trees, with four or five small
beings underneath it, collecting samples with tweezers and
putting them into what looked like jam jars. He got to within 20
feet from the object when the beings saw him and they got back
into their saucer, which went straight up and then took off at
great speed in the usual manner.

The main part of his talk concerned the Burmarsh incident of 8
March 1997 and its apparently endless ramifications. This case
concerns a UFO allegedly seen near the residence of the then
Home Secretary, Michael Howard, and the incident generated a
great deal of publicity at the time. One of the lines of
investigation pursued by UFOMEK was the usual one of writing
vexatious letters to the Ministry of Defence, and getting the
inevitable standard replies. This was accompanied by the usual
paranoid stuff, notably a fake letter and a recorded telephone
call. The fake letter, sent to Chris Rolfe, purported to be
written by a Wing Commander A.W. Ward of the RAF, and warned him
to cease his investigations into the Burmarsh incident.
Eventually UFOMEK established that this officer really existed
and managed to contact him. He wrote to Rolfe denying having
written the letter, but his signature was remarkably similar to
that on the fake letter. Make of that what you will.

On 9 February 1999, Anderson received by mail a tape cassette,
which he found to be a recording of a telephone conversation he
had had with Chris Rolfe in January 1998, concerning the
Burmarsh incident. He played part of the recording to us, and it
was obvious that it had not been made from a telephone tap, but
had obviously been made in the room where Anderson was making
the call. He admitted that BT investigators found no evidence of
a telephone tap. He called in an independent investigator
(unnamed), who suggested that the conversation had been recorded
from outside his house using a laser directional microphone.
This is possible, of course, but a simpler explanation would be
that he had his recorder running when he made the call, and the
tape somehow got into the hands of one of his associates, who
then decided to use it to hoax him. Who knows?

UFOMEK is also excited about a piece of security video footage
which is said to show a triangular UFO moving very slowly over
the Thames at Gravesend. According to the report published by
UFOMEK, it has been viewed by "independent analysts and experts
in aircraft recognition have viewed the footage... video experts
[unnamed] have said that it is a solid object . . ." The video
was shown to us. It was of rather poor quality, but to me the
object looked remarkably like a fractostratus cloud.

Just as Father Christmas appears in every big store in December,
Jenny Randles appears at almost every UFO conference (although
there are no reliable reports of her having been seen at more
than one conference at the same time). Jenny's talk was a
minutely detailed account of the investigations into the
notorious Peter Day film of January 1973, which concluded that
the moving light on the film was burning fuel ejected by an
F-111 jet which was in trouble and which later crashed.

During lunch time Tim Matthews discussed, for those who had
given up eating for Lent, some of the material from his book
concerning military aircraft mistaken for UFOs.

The real highlights of the conference were the lectures by Dr
David Clarke and Andy Roberts. Dr Clarke described the Howden
Moor incident of 1997 when police and rescue teams spent about
=9C50,000 of public money searching for a non-existent crashed
aircraft, and all because the Ministry of Defence refused to
admit that one of their aircraft had illegally broken the sound
barrier while flying at a low altitude over the area. He pointed
out that the case never involved any suggestion of UFO activity
until some dubious characters started spreading fantastic and
unfounded rumours. However, there were a few loose ends,
including a low flying light aircraft, which was videotaped.
Attempts to identify this aircraft were unsuccessful.

Andy Roberts stunned the few believers in the audience with his
neat demolition job on the Berwyn Mountain case of 1974, which
some of the nuttier (or more mercenary) ufologists have been
touting as the British Roswell. Some ufologists are not pleased
with his investigations; he said that Nick Redfern accused him
of being a disinformation agent.

Roberts demonstrated how the story had developed from the
misinterpretation of real events on the night in question. At
8.30 p.m. on the evening of 23 January 1974 there was a loud
explosion, accompanying an earth tremor, centred in the Bala
area. Also on that evening, at least three bright meteors were
seen, including a particularly spectacular one at 9.30 p.m.

Much is made by sensationalists of the story of the nurse who
drove up into the mountains thinking there might have been a
plane crash and that maybe she could help. Roberts found that
this story was true, except for the bit about her being turned
back by soldiers. She had encountered no one on the mountain.
The persistent story about people being turned away from the
mountain probably arose from confusion with an incident in 1982
when an RAF plane crashed in the area and the crash site was
sealed off until the wreckage was cleared up.

The strange lights seen by the nurse were not from a grounded
UFO, but were caused by a confrontation between police officers
with torches and poachers using powerful lights attached to
their car. Roberts had carefully checked this using maps and
official documents. An RAF Mountain Rescue team checked the area
the day after the incident and found nothing unusual. Let us
fervently hope that we will hear no more nonsense about the
Berwyn Mountain incident.

The conference ended with an informal session in which members
of the audience were invited to air their views. The first
speaker was a man with a Liverpool accent and a voice too loud
even for your deaf old Editor. He deplored scepticism and
declared that all the more fantastic UFO theories were true. As
he rambled on, there was much consulting of watches as people
decided it was time to head for the car park or railway station.



BOOK REVIEWS

Alien Investigator: The Case Files of Britain's Leading UFO
Detective Tony Dodd, Headline, London, 1999. =A316.99

It all began on a night in January 1978, when Sergeant Tony Dodd
of the North Yorkshire Police had a close encounter with a UFO
when driving across the moors with a colleague. When he
eventually retired from the police force, Dodd began to devote
himself full time to UFO research. He claims to use his police
experience "to tackle the subject in a hard-headed, disciplined
manner". Presumably this means not believing everything that one
would like to believe and being able to distinguish between
facts and fantasies, as well as demanding sound evidence to back
up extraordinary claims.

It is all too obvious, though, that if Dodd had conducted his
police work in the same way that he pursues his UFO research,
his career would have not lasted long. He believes that people
who have close encounters are specially chosen and that the
aliens communicate with him telepathically. These are the good
aliens, of course. There are also the bad aliens who mutilate
animals. In fact, there are several different lots of aliens
buzzing around the Earth, and Dodd obviously has a hard time
trying to sort out which lot is which.

Being so active in ferreting out UFO secrets, Dodd is plagued by
the activities of secret agents who tap his telephone, follow
him around, and generally hassle him. One would think that an
experienced police officer would have ways of dealing with this
sort of treatment, but Dodd never takes the obvious actions. For
example, he is followed around by a car and uses his knowledge
of the local roads to get on its tail. This is where he can get
its registration number and have it checked out. But he makes no
mention of attempting to identify its owner. At a UFO conference
in Tucson, Arizona, he was approached by "two dark-suited men"
who told him they were from the US government, and proceeded to
warn him about the line of research he was pursuing. Strangely,
he makes no mention of asking for evidence of their authority to
question him.

Perhaps the most amusing stories concern Dodd's interest in
alleged UFO incidents in Iceland. His contacts there gave his
phone number to Icelandic trawlermen who took to ringing him up
and telling him fantastic stories about UFOs going in and out of
the sea. Dodd apparently takes all these reports at face value,
apparently blind to the probability that they are pulling his
leg.

I could write a much longer review of this book, but I am sure
that there are other British ufologists busily dissecting it. I
eagerly await their comments.

UFO Crash Landing? Friend or Foe? Jenny Randles, Blandford,
London, 1998. =A39.99

By her own confession Jenny Randles says she is obsessed by the
Rendlesham Forest mystery. What were UFOs and aliens doing there
during the Christmas of 1980? Has there been a cover-up? What is
being covered up? Who is telling the truth?

Like most aspects of ufology, a fog of confusion surrounds this
case. Randles gives most credence to the sightings on the
evening of 25 December and early morning of 26 December. Over
the same period Cosmos 749 and 1226 re-entered our atmosphere,
and were viewed throughout Britain. From this Randles speculates
that a project named Cobra Mist, based at Orford Ness, had used
some form of electrical beam energy weapon to shoot at these
satellites.

Another possibility is that a Soviet satellite's nuclear motor
might have been recovered at Rendlesham, or that a secret USAF
plane had crash landed. Then again it could have been an
extraterrestrial visitor, or some form of natural phenomenon.
Randles likes to keep her options open and her conclusions as
slippery as a tin of grease!

Such events would necessitate a cover-up, but if one was needed
why would USAF officers blab needlessly to personnel at RAF
Watton about a UFO landing? More to the point, why did "Steve
Roberts" tell Brenda Butler, only a week after the events, that
aliens had communicated with USAF personnel through sign
language, and were protected by armed guards whilst they
repaired their craft? This account is similar to Larry Warren's,
yet his testimony is disputed by those who were in Rendlesham
Forest at the time in question. Furthermore, Steve Roberts's
post on the base was later found to be connected with public
affairs.

The actual evidence itself is not that great either. There is
Halt's memo that mentions "unexplained lights", the infamous
tape recording made during the sightings (which even Randles
notes, compares well with sightings of the Orford Ness
lighthouse beams), landing marks in the ground and
radioactivity. Unfortunately, the site itself was quickly
destroyed and its exact location is so confused that Randles
wonders if a false landing site was created to put people off
the scent. No substantial documentary evidence has been
discovered, and the testimony of the eyewitnesses is
contradictory or just plain ludicrous.

This whole saga is mainly a great laugh at the gullibility of
ufologists running around chasing their own tails/tales. In
comparison Roswell seems like a sensible case to believe in.

Nigel Watson



LETTERS

The pieces in Supplement No. 12 raise some interesting points.
Martin Kottmeyer's points out the role of Betty Hill's fears of
radiation in the construction of her dream narratives. There
were very good reasons why radiation poisoning would have been
on Betty's (and many other people's) mind at that time. On 1
September 1961 the Soviet Union had ended its nuclear testing
moratorium and exploded a giant 50+ megaton nuclear bomb, with
further tests on the 4th and 5th, and on the 16th the US
retaliated by resuming its nuclear testing. Radiation was in the
air that weekend in more ways than one. Is Jerry Clark really as
naive as his letter suggests, or is this just a rhetorical
device to initiate a Socratic dialogue with Magonians? Sorry
Jerry, but the problems of misperception have nothing to do with
the witnesses being American, but everything to do with them
being being humans and not Vulcans. Magonia's views on this
topic are based on studies of the perceptual processes by real
scientists rather than populist political correctness. Modern
theories of perception stress that it is much more a creative
than a recording act (see for example the new book by Donald
Hoffman, Visual Intelligence: How we create what we see, Norton,
1998, or the works of Richard Gregory). Far from being some sort
of pathology, these misperceptions may be giving us some
important clues as to how the human perceptual processes work.
That being the case, it doesn't seem so surprising that many
cases of "powerful searchlights" turn out to be accounts of
bright stars and planets.

David Hufford's point was that the hag stories were based on
real experiences of aware sleep paralysis episodes, and were not
just a literary tradition. He was not, I think, arguing that the
hags were really beings in external space. It's a moot point
whether the hag experience is entirely hallucinatory or, as
Ronald Siegel suggested, on analysing his own hag experience,
constructed from ambiguous sensory stimuli (the sound of his own
blood, shadows, etc.). Most, but by no means all, UFO stories
are based on real experiences, but that doesn't mean that folk
interpretations of these experiences in terms of flying saucers
or airships are correct.

With these problems of perception, detailed scientific studies
of "persistent ufological objects" are very important. Perhaps,
therefore, Jerry could give us the precise bibliographic
references to the articles in mainstream, peer reviewed,
scientific journals where the Jet Propulsion Laboratory report
on the video tape he mentions can be found, and to the
subsequent correspondence. To help us poor, ignorant Brits,
maybe he could fill us in on exactly what the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory does, what particular aspects of its day-to-day,
bread-and-butter work give it particular expertise in analysing
video recordings of lights in the sky, who exactly at the JPL
undertook this research, and on contract from whom, what exactly
his or her particular expertise in this field was; whether the
work was done by the JPL as a corporate body, or by one or more
employees as a personal project, what the results of any other
analyses were, etc., etc. No doubt asking questions like that is
a good way for me to end up being branded a trouble maker or
even Torquemada.

It is sad to see Jerry reduced to this kind of ranting and arm
waving (enlivened, no doubt, with the occasional piece of
grammatical nit picking) instead of reasoned argument. Dare one
suggest that this is because Jerry knows he has lost it, and it
is that amalgam of intellectual laziness and superstition which
seeks explanations of scientific puzzles in terms of non-human
intelligences of ill-defined natures and powers (whether ET or
boggart matters not a jot) which actually stands rightfully
accused of "explaining everything" and therefore nothing.

Of course, in the interest of fairness and balance, it is
equally dismaying to see Philip Klass relying on a phone
conversation years ago with someone whose name he can't remember
as his evidence for the light aircraft theory. Gossip isn't
evidence.

Peter Rogerson, Manchester

Reference Jerome Clark's letter (in your February issue) about
the "Hudson Valley UFOs" which involved many night-time reports
of a giant boomerang-shaped UFO observed in 1983-84. Clark
seemingly rejects the idea that most if not all of these UFO
reports were triggered by half a dozen daredevil private pilots
flying in close formation.

The September/October 1983 issue of Clark's own International
UFO Reporter (IUR) published an article by Philip Imbrogno and
two other investigators which stated: "Although a part of the
mystery has been solved . . . in some cases a group of pilots
were apparently deliberately conducting close flight formations
in small planes . . . there is as yet no explanation for the
slow moving, silent, and at times hovering "Boomerang" . . . On
July 14, I staked out the area of the Stormville [NY] airport
and verified that some of the [UFO] reports were the result of
these planes flying in formation." This was an embarrassing
admission for Imbrogno whose article in the previous issue of
IUR suggested that there was no possible prosaic explanation for
the boomerang UFO reports. Several months later an article in
the Poughkeepsie Journal quoted Imbrogno as saying: "The
aircraft theory explains perhaps 75 percent, but it does not
rule out a great deal of the remaining reports."

By that time, Imbrogno had decided to write a book about the
Hudson Valley boomerang UFOs, in partnership with Dr J. Allen
Hynek, then head of the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). In the
November/December 1984 issue of IUR, Hynek wrote an editorial
which criticised a recent issue of Discover magazine for its
report on its on-site investigation which indicated the Hudson
Valley reports were generated by the daredevil pilots. In
Hynek's editorial he posed the question: "Can it be established
[i.e., proven] that all of the UFO sightings are due to
slap-happy pilots?"

No it can't. But consider the alternative - that the ETs in some
distant galaxy decided to design and build a new type of
spacecraft, shaped like a giant boomerang. And they chose to
send it to the Hudson Valley in 1983 where daredevil private
pilots were then flying in a boomerang-type formation to create
bogus UFO reports. If any of the boomerang-shaped UFOs were ET
craft, how very strange that they repeatedly returned to the
Hudson Valley area where the pilot-hoaxers were operating and
did not visit other areas of the US, or other countries. (One
possible explanation is that ETs also were fooled by the
daredevil pilots and thought their boomerang was another ET
craft.)

Clark should know that eyewitness reports of
lights-in-the-night-sky type UFOs are often inaccurate. For
example, when CUFOS's chief investigator Allan Hendry
investigated 1,024 such UFO reports submitted to CUFOS in the
mid-1970s, all of them turned out to have prosaic explanations,
as Hendry reported in his book, The UFO Handbook.

As for the reports that the boomerang UFO seemed to hover, if
Clark will stand in the small park in front of our Condo complex
and watch airliners approaching to land at nearby Reagan
National Airport at night, he will be able to swear under oath
that the airliners appeared to hover for 5-10 seconds.

Philip J. Klass, Washington, D.C.



MAGONIA Monthly Supplement is available on the Magonia web site,
with printed copies sent to the favoured few. Please send all
articles, letters, etc. direct to the Editor: John Harney, 27
Enid Wood House, High Street, Bracknell, Berkshire RG12 1LN UK



ETH Bulletin / MMS index




Mark Pilkington

"A heathen perhaps, but not, I hope, an unenlightened one."
Lord Summerisle
------------------------------------------------
Magonia Online

http://www.magonia.demon.co.uk

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