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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2012 > Apr > Apr 4

Re: Exeter Case 'Solved'

From: Martin Shough <parcellular.nul>
Date: Wed, 4 Apr 2012 12:41:30 +0100
Archived: Wed, 04 Apr 2012 07:59:52 -0400
Subject: Re: Exeter Case 'Solved'

>From: Peter Davenport <director.nul>
>To: <post.nul>
>Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2012 14:58:54 -0700
>Subject: Re: Exeter Case 'Solved'

>>From: Martin Shough <parcellular.nul>
>>To: <post.nul>
>>Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2012 11:37:30 +0100
>>Subject: Re: Exeter Case 'Solved'

>>>From: Don Ledger <dledger.nul>
>>>To: <post.nul>
>>>Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2012 13:43:13 -0300
>>>Subject: Exeter Case 'Solved'

>>>Apparently those super-sleuths James McGaha and Joe Knickell
>>>from the Skeptical Enquirer have solved the Exeter case.

>>>Apparently the 60 to 100 foot wide, blood-red object that
>>>eighteen-year-old Norman Muscarello and Police Officer Eugene
>>>Bertrand saw arising from the trees a few hundred feet away
>>>be easily explained by the director lights on a refuelling
>>>tanker at twenty thousand feet.


>>>Source: CSICOP.Org


>>>November/December 2011

>>>Special Report
>>>James McGaha and Joe Nickell
>>>Volume 35.6, November/December 2011

>Martin, et al,

>I vaguely remember hearing about the McGaha/Nickell article,
>when it was first published, but today was the first time I took
>the time to read it. I'm sorry I wasted the time necessary to do

>The contents of the article make it, in my opinion, little more
>than a classic disinformation piece, hardly worth the time to
>read it, and certainly not worth the time to write a long,
>detailed analysis of the many flaws, oversights, and omissions
>the article exhibits.

I answered Peter's post and Don's response on another List
without realising they had also been posted to this list (I've
been travelling and not receiving mails properly) so I ought to
quote here what I said there:

I sympathise with Peter's feeling that my critique of N & McG is
"not worth the time" but I disagree insofar as others have
considered N & McG's effort of sufficient interest to cite it. I
also disagree with the implication that Peter's own list of
refutations is a waste of his and our time. I think it's always
important to challenge influential tosh. And I think it's always
valuable to test theories by examining limit cases in a
quantitative way if possible because this puts a back-stop
behind possible interpretations of "soft" testimony that people
like N & McG may want to try to exploit. Buty I'm travelling at
the moment and don't have the time to justify this rationale in
any detail. Suffice to say that Tim Printy found my critique of
sufficient interest that he proposes to link to it in a
forthcoming SunLite as counterbalance to his mention the N & McG

>The notion that the lights seen by the
>three witnesses were some type of "marker lights" on a piston-
>driven military transport aircraft is the pinnacle of
>absurdity!! It seems clear from the article that neither of the
>two writers ever interviewed any of the witnesses to the event,
>or those who were involved in its investigation. McGaha may have
>been too young, at the time; Nickell may already have left for
>Canada, during his draft-dodging stint up north, at the time the
>incident occurred.

Interviewing witnesses is a valuable part of case investigation
but does not absolve the rest of us (or the interviewer) from the
responsibility for analysing and evaluating objectively the
information collected, and this is the ongoing part of the
investigation where theories are tested. There is nothing
whatever wrong with N & McG testing a theory in 2011 against
original information collected by someone else in 1965. This is a
very respectable and valuable part of the process and ought not
to be sneered at, as those who were "there" often tend to do.
What N & McG did wrong was fail to get a grasp of the information
collected in 1965 and then fail to apply sufficient care to their
theory testing. That's why they made a pig's ear of it, not
because they didn't interview anyone (and note that
_re_interviewing decades after the event, even had that been
possible or practical, would have been guaranteed merely to dump
a ton of mud into waters already less than perfectly limpid.)


>There are many flaws and oversights in the McGaha/Nickell
>article, but let me address a few, which I hope will lay the
>issue to rest, once and for all:

>"When Muscarello burst into the office of the Exeter Police
>Department, Desk Officer Reginald Toland was concerned for
>Muscarello's welfare, given Muscarello's disheveled appearance.
>Muscarello had mud-stained clothing, and I believe that he
>appeared to have mild laceration wounds to his arms, which may
>have been bleeding. It was, in part, predicated on Muscarello's
>appearance that caused Officer Toland to radio to the
>department's two patrol cars, at the time being driven by
>Officers Hunt and Bertrand, that there was an individual in the
>Exeter Police Station, who was claiming to have been followed,
>and approached, by a flying saucer."

>The mud and lacerations were the result of Muscarello's having
>dived under a bush alongside the road he was walking on, in
>attempt to get away from, and conceal himself from, the object.
>Muscarello reported to me that when he hid under the bush, the
>object slowly moved above him, it seemed to tip forward, and it
>suddenly illuminated him brightly with what he said was the
>brightest light he had ever seen. He stated that it "seemed to
>hit its high beams." Hardly the result of "marker lights" on a
>transport aircraft at altitude!

Unfortunately, Muscarello's evident fear and alarm are only
suggestive. Strictly speaking they prove nothing about what he
saw, even if they do tell us something about what he _thought_
he saw. It is relevant secondary evidence, but not strong
primary evidence that would over-rule facts suggestive of a KC-
97 for example (if there were such facts).

The uncomfortable truth is that witnesses to mundane phenomena
have often had strong, even extreme psychological reactions. For
an example anyone can check from a respected CUFOS source, look
at the phrases used by witnesses in  Hendry's UFO Handbook, The
IFO Message, p.99-100, where people are scared, crying,
screaming. shaking. shouting, praying and running their cars off
the road etc because of sighting advertising planes, stars,
Venus etc.

>"Officers Bertrand and Hunt accompanied Muscarello into a
>triangular-shaped field, over which Muscarello had last seen the
>mysterious, disc-shaped object. As they were walking back to the
>two police cruisers, the three of them suddenly were illuminated
>from behind. They quickly whirled around to face the source of
>the light, and witnessed a craft that apparently had risen from
>behind a knoll, or from behind a row of trees, in the distant
>corner of the field. Officer Bertrand reported to me that during
>the first few moments that they were being illuminated from
>behind, he noticed that the shadows that were being cast ahead
>of the three witnesses were visibly getting shorter, so he knew
>that the object behind them was either rising, and/or getting
>closer to them. It was at that moment of panic that he whirled
>around to face the source of the light, during which time he
>moved to un-holster his sidearm. Seeing Bertrand act to draw his
>sidearm, Officer Hunt cautioned Bertrand not to brandish his
>weapon at the object, a recommendation that Bertrand consented
>to, and he returned the sidearm to its holster."

This detail of the shortening shadows on the red-lit ground is a
good example of a very impressive circumstantial detail which,
if completely reliable, would be of itself sufficient to exclude
the high-altitude B-47s/KC-97 type of explanation as a class.
But it would not seriously dent a case based on other facts
suggestive of a B-47/KC-97 lighting (if there were such facts)
because again it can be argued that experience proves witness
accounts of an exciting event are often more colourful than the
truth (were it known) would sanction, therefore it is not a

The best qualitative defence against this type of counter-
argument is always to go to the earliest available record in the
witness's own written or spoken words, or the earliest signed
statement. In this case the NICAP forms in the file which were
completed and signed by Bertrand and Hunt on Sept 11 1965 (the
day after Peter's interview) do not refer to any illumination of
the surroundings at all. Neither do the short narrative witness
statements in the file by Bertrand, Hunt and Muscarello. But
these are not dated. Other early sources such as newspaper
articles, sometimes claiming to be (like Peter's) based on
interviews and/or direct quotation, do refer to the brightness
of the lights lighting up the field and buildings, but I have
not yet found any other very early primary source that records
the shortening shadows in Bertrand's or Muscarello's or Hunt's
own words.

Now I personally find it impressive that Bertrand gave this
detail to Peter within about a week of the event, and had I been
in Peter's situation hearing it from the officer;s own lips no
doubt I would have been even more impressed. Still, for purposes
of combating a strongly sceptical argument it would be
reassuring to have this striking observational detail
consistently recorded in Bertrand's own original written words,
and we don't have it. This leaves the detail vulnerable to the
criticism that Bertrand, like any of us in similar
circumstances, might have felt the temptation to elaborate his
memory a little in the ensuing days. Of course there is no proof
that this is so, but it something that we know people do, and a
determined cynic could take refuge in this fact in order to
claim that the detail weighs little in the balance against other
facts suggestive of B-47/KC-97 lighting (if there were such

This is why it is valuable to test the N & McG theory in its
quantitative limits. If the facts and arguments supposedly
suggestive of B-47/KC-97 lighting can be shown to fail on
grounds of gross internal logical and physical inconsistency,
then the theory no longer has weight in the balance, and the
qualitative details such as those highlighted by Peter then
become _more_ interesting. IMO this type of approach pours the
proper foundations to take the weight of a case for an 'unknown'
whereas merely re-echoing witness claims will never do this.

>NOTE: One contributor to the list has suggested that Bertrand
>had served in the U. S. Air Force, but my recollection of
>Bertrand's military service record is different. During my
>interview of Bertrand, he informed me that he had served with
>the U. S. Marines, and that he had served in Korea during the
>Korean conflict. Had he said that he had served in the U. S. Air
>Force, I believe I would have made a clear mental note of that
>fact, given that at ages 14 and 15 years (1962-63), I had lived
>with a U. S. Air Force family in Ethiopia.

I raised this issue in my original post as follows:

'It is not irrelevant, either, that Officer Bertrand had 4 years
in the Air Force working on "refuelling operations with aircraft
of all types" (letter) although it is not exactly clear what
this means. Bertrand's experience with KC-97's is mentioned
specifically by Fuller, who described Bertrand as "an Air Force
veteran during the Korean war, with air-to-air refuelling
experience on KC-97 tankers" (p.10). But Bertrand talks about
working "right on the ramp with the planes" (p.58) suggesting
perhaps that his experience was not of refuelling by KC-97s in
the air but refuelling (and perhaps other maintenance) of KC-97s
and "aircraft of all types" on the ground. Howsoever, such
experience does count for something in this particular case.'

It doesn't seem to me that Peter's recollection clarifies this

>The three of the witnesses then proceeded to the two cruisers,
>where they stood for an estimated 8-10 minutes, while watching
>the object dart around the adjacent field, and over nearby

>"During my interview of Bertrand, he commented that the object
>occasionally moved so rapidly and abruptly that the human eye
>could not track it. It would drift slowly and silently for a
>short period of time, and then suddenly "jump" across the field
>and appear almost spontaneously in another location. Obviously,
>a KC-97 is not capable of such movement.

This is an inadequate objection as it stands, since the human
eye/brain combination _is_ capable of suggesting the
_impression_ of erratic jumping motion even when the true motion
is a steady angular translation, and experience shows that this
is especially likely to occur with flashing light sources in a
dark sky. Any investigator or any skywatcher who has ever
tracked an aicraft strobe with the naked eye at night will know
this illusion. It is not possible to sink this counter-objection
merely with qualitative witness statemernts, because we know
that witnesses _can_  and _do_ describe such illusory motions in
a similar way when the object is a misidentified aircraft.

Again, check Hendry, UFO Handbook, p.95, 'The IFO Message', case
numbers 628, 788, 1109, 1144 involving identified advertising
planes (Ad Airlines and others) and Air National Guard planes.
These planes "stopped", made "angles that an aircraft can't
make", threatened to crash into trees, jumped "straight up " and
in one case identified as a formation of three Cessnas at 2,500
ft the object seemed to "suddenly whip across the road over the

This does not mean that Muscarello, Bertrand and Hunt saw a
plane or planes, but it does mean that you cannot robustly argue
that their reported impressions of erratic motion rule out the
possibility. To start to do that you need to go beyond words and
impressions and extract some implied numbers to set physical

>The object hovered over a one of the houses nearby, exhibiting
>a peculiar pattern to its flashing lights. Officer Bertrand
>described to me in detail how four of the five lights on the
>near edge of the craft would be illuminated, while only one of
>the lights would be extinguished, and that the extinguished
>light would cycle back and forth along the near edge of the

It is interesting that Bertrand described this to you in such
detail, Peter, because it is frustratingly inconsistent with
what the same officer wrote in his statement in the Air Force
file. There he said the exact opposite. Instead of one light
being off at a time he said that they "flashed _on_ one at a
time", matching Muscarello's claim on his own statement in the
same BB file to the effect that "only one light would be on at a
time. They were pulsating 12345 54321".

>"Hunt, Bertrand, and Muscarello were aware of nearby horses
>making a ruckus, and those horses, I was informed by Peter
>Geremia, ultimately broke through the corral fence. I did not
>know that the horses had escaped their corral, at the time I
>interviewed the witnesses, and I did not interview the owners of
>the animals, as I recall. I seem to recall that they were not at
>home when I knocked on their door. I was never able to reach
>them for an interview, is my recollection."

Again this is interestring but inconclusive because we all know
that animal reactions have been reported in IFO cases. To cite
CUFOS's Hendry again, he illustrates this (p.163) with ten IFO
cases identified mainly as ad planes and other aircraft plus a
scintillating star or two, where witnesses reported the object
caused noise and distress from animals including dogs, cows,
chickens, cats and a parakeet.

>I could cite a number of other significant 'diversions' from
>known fact about this case, which appear in the article by
>McGaha and Nickell, but I believe the points I have made above
>should be sufficient to illustrate just how misdirected their
>article is. It is clear that they did not conduct any primary
>investigation of the incident, and that their representations in
>the article are little more than conjecture. Their approach to
>the case is to create a seemingly plausible scenario, which
>ignores the bulk of the facts that are known about the incident.
>God only knows what their motivation may be, but it is difficult
>for me to imagine that two people would write such a foolish
>piece, if there were not some concealed agenda to their actions.

The Nickell and McGaha case is weak because it relies only on
qualitative witness statements that can be made to sound similar
to some aspects of their suggested KC-97 tanker lights. This is
a very loose and lazy proceedure that impresses the type of
person who is impressed by loose similarities and qualitative
arguments and who sniffs at detailed quantitive and physically-
based analysis. We ought to try to do better, not flounder
around mud-wrestling in the same pit of qualitative ambiguity
where both combatants are covered in the same crap and no person
of sense will ever be able to see who is winning.

IMO a rudimentary check on the implied numbers and fine detail of
the N & McG scenario is a more effective proof that it is


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