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1971 Costa Rican Photo Is Prosaic Object

From: Ray Stanford <dinosaurtracker.nul>
Date: Sun, 30 Jun 2013 03:16:05 -0400
Archived: Sun, 30 Jun 2013 10:10:08 -0400
Subject: 1971 Costa Rican Photo Is Prosaic Object

The much-touted 1971 Photo Of An Alleged UFO Over A Lake In
Costa Rica Actually Shows A Prosaic Object. See For Yourself

I decided to celebrate my recent 75th birthday anniversary by
sharing with you something I discovered years ago: The September
4, 1971 photo of an alleged UFO over Lago de Cote in Costa Rica
shows a prosaic object , not an anomalous one.

Thanks to Chris O'Brien's unsolicited comments on The Paracast
for bringing me out of the closet on this.

I hope you will consider this letter a positive thing and not a
negative one, because in scientific work, as in life, one must
filter 'noise' to better monitor 'signal'. Perhaps you will
agree after carefully studying what I have to say and present,
that the Lago de Cote photograph belongs only in the archives of
UFO studies as an example of how a photo that is a hoax and
therefore constitutes nothing but 'noise', can for a time become
esteemed by some as important evidence.

The Lago de Cote photo was discussed by Haines and Vallee in
Photo Analysis of An Aerial Disc Over Costa Rica, Journal of
Scientific Exploration, Volume 3, number 2, pages 113 - 131,
1989, so let's begin by looking at part of the authors'

"In summary, our analyses have suggested that an unidentified,
opaque, aerial object was captured on film at a maximum distance
of 10,000 feet. There are no visible means of lift or propulsion
and no surface markings other than dark regions that appear to
be nonrandom... There is no indication that the image is the
product of a double exposure or a deliberate fabrication"

To be fair and provide you access to both sides of the issue, I
suggest you study the whole paper at:


Please note the qualifier in the above text, "have suggested".
By saying "suggested", the authors provided a caveat that they
are not stating established fact.  Yet. some persons with whom I
have communicated have mistaken their paper to be totally
documented fact, perhaps because they have not read it carefully
and as a result  have mistaken a lot of measurements and the
authors' possession of Ph.Ds (and the fact that the authors are
well-known in 'UFO studies') as certification of a 'gospel' that
the authors surely never intended.

Unfortunately, the paper's title might lead to the presumption
that what was photographed was actually, "an aerial disc".

In reality, the authors come no where near showing that the
object was. "... an unidentified, opaque, aerial object
...captured on film at a maximum distance of 10,000 feet".

They clearly state that no shadow of the object is visible, but
they follow that with the suggestion that, "It should be
emphasized that if the disc was located at the earth's surface
one would not expect to find a significant shadow." Well, herein
I suggest that the real reason there is no shadow is that a
photographic image of an electric lantern (a large flashlight)
reflector image was superimposed (See below.), and I could
explain to the authors that there are several ways that could be
done, and with the superposition remaining undetected by their
study of film grain structure.

If the image source were an aerial object (as said in the
paper's title), by definition it would be in the air and not "on
the earth's surface", but can we 'have our cake and eat it, too'
-- that is, have an object on the ground (or lake's surface) and
in the air, too?

Also, shouldn't it concern a reader that even in the title the
authors take the position that what was photographed was, to
quote them, "An Aerial Disc" [My emphasis.].

"Aerial"? The authors certainly don't demonstrate that.

Is it really a disc? After careful; study, I am convinced the
photo image reveals something else. (See images below.).

Shouldn't that interpretation ["an Aerial Disc"] in the paper's
title more fairly have been posed as questions instead of stated
as fact?

Then, too, if we accept the authors' proposition that the photo
is of a real aerial object but that maybe it did not leave a
shadow because "it was located at the earth's surface", we must
presume that they consider the lake's surface as synonymous with
the earth's surface, since, if a real object between the
aircraft and the water was responsible for the strange image, it
absolutely is not on the ground but on the water.

Yet,if that is accepted as a ' given', one must presume it to
have zipped into position (the previous photo frame was taken
only twenty seconds earlier and the object is not shown
therein), stopped dead-still for its portrait, and then zipped
off before the next automatic photo, which doesn't show it

One would expect some rather dramatic kinetic after-effects on
the lake surface, even into the next photo. None are visible.
Surely if it were at the surface of the lake, we would see some
light-absorption-reflection differentials on the lake surface
near the object, due to the fast arrival and sudden stop (no
matter if it arrived from below the surface or from any
direction above it), but none are evidenced in the photo.  And
the authors admit there is no trace of a shadow.

So, whatever made the strange image was reportedly unseen b y
the photo-mapping crew.

It produced no shadow.

It seems more as myth than a physical reality.

That's highly strange, indeed, but it's not the class of high
strangeness that constitutes a good 'UFO' case.

We see in the paper a lot of measurements and poor-quality
descriptions -- such in where they try to describe the light and
dark patterns on the 'object' image --  plus a large dose of
what some might interpret as simply wishful thinking that an
aerial object was really there.

Perhaps due to a perceived need to add something --  Seemingly
anything! --  to bolster the severe paucity of substance to the
photo case, even in the abstract the authors drag in a purely
anecdotal report from about fifteen years later (October 25,
1986) of a "partially submerged object" (very dissimilar to
anything shown in the photo) reportedly seen in the same lake.
Only a true believer could feel that something of such
difference in appearance and separated by fifteen years could
have any relevance whatsoever.  Again, it looks more like
wishful thinking than science.

Both authors have demonstrated far better and more cautious
writing than we encounter in the Lago de Cote photo report, so I
prefer that we not regard either harshly for any problems in the
paper. The best of researchers can slip up from time to time.
Only the timid fail to make some guesses or take a chance on

And, as to the photo, itself, of course, even good writers can
miss something (like failing to recognize what actually created
a photographic image) that is obvious to a more visual type
person, and in my opinion that's simply what happened to their
analysis of that 1971 Costa Rica photo. Having read the above-
referenced paper several times, I could give a more in-depth,
point-by-point description of where and how, in my opinion,
their analysis went wrong, but this letter is not the place for

Perhaps if Haines and Vallee had taken a relaxed look at the
photo upside-down, they might have perceived the actual nature
of the image, but that didn't happen, so some UFO websites
around the planet have declared a photo that  only shows
something that definitely looks an electric lantern's dual-
reflector system to be one of the best photos of a (They
presume.) alien vehicle!

With that kind of wide-eyed faith in what one merely hopes is
there, 'UFOlogy' fails without the contribution of hidden

I am absolutely not referring to the authors of the paper, but
to those who extrapolate well beyond anything the paper says,
those who seemingly don't know how to discern what a paper's the
authors say, but, equally important, what they DON'T SAY.

Even persons who don't realize what's actually shown in the
September 4, 1971 photo often remark to the effect that
'something isn't right' with the image, but I believe that's
primarily because the legend connected with the photo has them
thinking they are supposed to be seeing a slope-flanged disc in
sunlight, instead of an electric lantern's larger reflector
illuminated from above by a two-tube fluorescent light fixture.

Reading the paper, one gets the impression that both authors may
be quite uninformed, if not actually naive, about what darkroom
techniques could have been used to imprint the image of concern
onto the mapping photo film, and, presuming for a moment that
the actual mapping photographer was not behind the hoax, even
how the image could have been deliberately put onto the film
that was to be used in the mapping operation before the film was
loaded into the camera.

Some personal background: I decided to get myself well-informed
on both photographic and darkroom tricks way back in the late
1950s, because beginning at age 15 -- for a few years during my
teens -- I was taken in by the photo hoaxes of George Adamski.
Well, I got, as I said at the time, "fed up with it",  and
learned things that compelled me to publicly expose Adamski's
fake photos and movies, as well as the ones of Daniel W. Fry,
and a lot of other photo hoaxes since then.  Those with the will
to believe based on nothing but wishful thinking are not  happy
with my to willingness to expose the 'noise' and well as  to
help discern the signal in AAO photographic claims.

In examining any alleged UFO image(s), it is advisable that we
not lean on the hope that we might be seeing, e.g., a 'metallic
UFO' (as some persons allege to be seen in the 1971 Costa Rica
photo), but simply look at the image with  objectivity, asking
ourselves what we might really be seeing and how it might have
gotten into the film, movie, or video. That is especially
important in a highly suspect case like the 1971 Costa Rica
photo, wherein it is said that NO ONE SAW THE OBJECT.

In some such 'didn't see it' photo cases, we must consider the
possibility that the claim is made to divert any possible
suspicion away from a hoaxing photographer -- especially in
cases wherein the alleged 'UFO' is so graphic that it clearly is
not a bird, balloon, or insect, etc., that just wasn't noticed
by the photographer.

I'm not at all saying that a bona-fide anomalous aerial object
couldn't show up in a photo, unnoticed at the time, and perhaps
due to any number of possible reasons. I'm just saying that as
researchers we must be very cautious about accepting the
objective reality of puzzling images, such as the one under
discussion, alleged to have been photographed, 'unbeknownst to
the photographer', regardless of how emotionally appealing to
our hope for photographic evidence an alleged image might be.

So, please carefully read and think about the images and all the
text you see below. Note that in my analysis, THE UNFOCUSED
CAMERA FOR THAT EDGE TO GET IN FOCUS, unlike the lake scene in
the photograph. Thus,we can deduce that the object in question
was separately photographed with a lens focus at inches-close
range (but with the front edge still out of focus because it's
so close), while the terrestrial scene was photographed with a
lens focused far out from the camera.

On page 221, the authors tell us, puzzlingly, that "...the
entire image is in sharp focus..." As anyone can see in the
images below, that is absolutely incorrect, unless one wishes to
serve some faulted concept of 'analysis' that only wants to
accept the clearest details of the object.

That wouldn't be science, but it is wishful thinking.

Some wide-eyed believers have stated that the near edge (the
lower edge in the photo as published) of the object is
indistinct because that part of the object is in the water, but
there is no sign of any lake-surface turbulence that would
surely result (and be visible due to the bright sunlight) from
such a situation, regardless of whether the object is
hypothesized to be entering, or leaving, the lake.

Instead of such unsupported speculation, discovery is better
served via unexcited, objective analysis, divorced from any fear
whatsoever that we might be crumbling some believer's cookie --
be that 'believer' outside ourselves or internal to ourselves.

The following combination of images with text is not intended to
be a scientific paper (That would be far more detailed and in-
depth.), but it's just an illustration I've quickly done to
explain and show you what I feel confident was photographed, but
without going into the several technical methods that could
easily have been used to impose the image over the mapping photo
of the lake area in a way that Haines'  and Vallee's examination
would have failed to detect. (Keep in mind that the 1971 photo
was made back in the days of emulsion-film photography, so we
are not involved with a 'PhotoShop job'.)

Please attentively read what the text says, paying special
attention to where I point out that the cut-out black 'mask' [in
the dashed-white-line ellipses and at the turquoise-colored
arrows in the illustration at right] fails to match the
curvature of the larger reflector, and that the black mask is so
close to the camera on the lower - near - side as to not be in

[Image at:



Well, there you have it. I trust that if you don't have greatly
impaired, uncorrected vision, now that you are being shown the
object image 'upside-down', you should be able to see for
yourself that the object in the Costa Rica 1971 photo was
amusingly prosaic.

Even the light reflected off the thing is in contradiction of
the direction of sunlight clearly evidenced in the 'mapping
photo' background.

If you are offended, instead of appreciative, because of my
explanation of the photo as showing a common object, and are
thinking I'm just anti-UFO, you simply don't know me. I am very
positive concerning the existence of truly anomalous aerial
objects, which I prefer to call AAOs, and certainly one can
photograph them. I'm confident of that because various persons,
including personnel in my AAO hard-evidence project and I, have
done so.

Could it be that some researchers have been well-trained to
measure, measure, and again measure certain things, but have in
so doing lost (or at least temporarily neglected) the ability to
simply sit back, relax and simply LOOK, allowing both sides of
the brain to work together to correctly interpret and understand
what one is really seeing?

From what is known of human perception, that seems quite

Very correctly, the Haines-Vallee paper said (as quoted more
fully at the beginning of this report), "There are no visible
means of lift or propulsion..."

Of course we can all easily see that it's true, and one wouldn't
expect anything so prosaic as an electric lantern reflector,
illuminated as described, to show any such effects.

Indeed, quite aside from what one can recognize as a the prosaic
object in the photo under discussion, there are still an
abundance of other things about the photo that inform certain
colleagues, and me, that the object is not an AAO. I refer to
the total absence of specific sets of physical phenomena
(including propulsion-related effects) which are
photographically recorded in association with genuine AAOs in
flight. That subject can be addressed at other times.

Concerning the AAO subject more generally: In my opinion, the
study of AAOs has been hampered by its own all-to-heavy reliance
upon anecdote (even with witnesses of high reliability), instead
of the search for, and analysis of, diagnostic hard evidence. Of
course, that approach wouldn't sell as many books, but
credibility among physical scientists and aerospace engineers
would likely result.

I do not know Douglas Trumbull personally, yet it seems he has
the right approach. See:


Scientific credibility and insight concerning AAOs will likely
come only from physical hard-data such as Trumbull is seeking
(as contrasts with the purely observational) and via the science
that examines it, not from politics. One might reasonably
conclude that a Bassett has for years now been barking up the
wrong tree.

BTW: If you'd like insight into my involvement in a very
terrestrial subject (dinosaurs), click on the following link to
my February 1, 2013, presentation to the NASA Goddard Space
Flight Center's Scientific Colloquia Lecture Series. It's
titled, Life in A Dinosaur-Dominated Environment , and, believe
it or not, it's NOT about politics in Washington, D.C.  If click
on that link, when you see the world turning with the NASA logo
over it, put your cursor down toward the bottom-right, and a
button will appear enabling you to enlarge the presentation to
full screen.  If you find important, new dinosaur discoveries
intriguing, you will likely enjoy watching the whole
presentation.  Don't expect talk of AAOs though.  My subject was
literally down-to-earth, even though delivered at the Goddard
Space Flight Center.  NASA has long had a serious interest in
earth science.


Ray Stanford
author of the 1976 book on the Socorro CE III case

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



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