Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Classic" UFO Photo from Belgian Wave - the Hoaxer Confesses

For more than twenty years, UFO believers have been citing the 1989-1990 wave of UFO sightings in Belgium as an unexplained mystery. For a period of several months, people in Belgium were reporting sightings of a triangular-shaped craft. It was one of the major chapters in Leslie Kean's recent best-selling book, "UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record" (see my review of it in the March/April 2011 Skeptical Inquirer). Even Michael Shermer's review of Kean's book suggests that the Belgian sightings represent a "residue of anomalies" (Scientific American, March 28, 2011).

One big problem with the Belgian wave has always been the lack of photos or movies showing the object, despite hundreds of claimed sightings. Indeed, Kean seeks to dismiss the lack of evidence by noting that "twenty years ago, cell phones and relatively  inexpensive, consumer-level digital and video cameras were not yet in use"  (true, but film cameras were plentiful and widespread). Indeed, only one photo claiming to show this supposed 'triangular craft' has ever been seen (above). It was said to have been taken in  Petit Rechain, Belgium in April, 1990 by a twenty-year-old man known only as "Patrick," although it was not released until four months later. The Belgian UFO investigative group SOBEPS investigated the photo and found it to be authentic. So did many other "experts". Kean writes,
A team under the direction of Professor Marc Acheroy discovered that a triangular shape became visible when overexposing the slide. After that, the original color slide was further analyzed by Frangois Louange, specialist in satellite imagery with the French national space research center, CNES; Dr. Richard Haines, former senior scientist with NASA; and finally Professor Andre Marion, doctor in nuclear physics and professor at the University of Paris-Sud and also with CNES. (p. 30)
UFO skeptics have long supplied reasons why this photo is not credible. For one thing, it shows nothing in the background to allow its size or distance to be ascertained. It could as easily be a tiny model seen close-up as a giant hovering craft. In the 1990s the Belgian skeptic Wim van Utrecht showed that the photo could easily be reproduced using a small model. In a recent issue of Tim Printy's WebZine Sunlite, an article by Roger Pacquay notes several inconsistencies about the photo.

Now we have a confession. The Belgian news organization RTL is reporting that the hoaxer has given his "Mea culpa" and now "lifts the veil": The reporter interviewed "Patrick" in his home, where he showed them many slides and prints. "l’OVNI de Petit-Rechain n’est pas un vaisseau spatial venu d’une lointaine galaxie mais un panneau de frigolite peint et équipé de trois spots" ("The UFO of Petit-Rechain is not a spaceship from a distant galaxy but a panel of painted styrofoam with three spots affixed.")


"Patrick" explaining that once he showed his hoax photo to his colleagues, he could no longer hold back the photo's march all across the world.

"On arrive à tromper tout le monde avec une bête maquette en frigolite".
("One has managed to fool the whole world with a silly model made of styrofoam.")

[The formerly anonymous hoaxer is now known to be Patrick Marechal. See http://tinyurl.com/KeanBe ]


  1. Ah, a confession, by the person who did it. Proof that the confession was a hoax, and the UFO was real!

    Or that is how the True Believers will spin it.


  2. July 27: The head of the Belgian UFO group COBEPS acknowledges that the UFO photo from Petit-Rechain is a hoax. However, he says that this does not invalidate the rest of the sightings from 1989-90:


    True enough. Which brings us to the question, if UFOs were flying all around Belgium twenty years ago, why is there not a single authentic photograph or video of them?

    1. im not sure but i think it has to do with the fact that 20 years ago not everyone was walking around with a camera in their pockets

  3. This is a great story, Robert.

    I wonder if you saw my exposure of long time UFO author, Phil Imbrogno at notaghost.com?

    Lance Moody

  4. Hello,

    Auguste Meessen was on Belgian TV yesterday and today; and contrary to Patrick Ferryn (COBEPS president) he claims that the hoaxer is now lying and that the photo is genuine. As predicted above by Chris Booth. Not very surprising. Just frustrating that TV gives him so much space, and doesn't interview any skeptic on the subject...

    Skeptically yours,

  5. Sorry for random praising, but i just love this blog!

    Always good to have a sound opinion when you otherwise find so much uncritical material on the net.

  6. Some will say that this fake brings ufology into disrepute. My response is on the lines of those UK professional footballers who now and again bring the game into disrepute, which is:
    "How can a disreputable sport be brought into disrepute?" The same applies to ufology.

  7. While the Belgium sightings are not necessarily invalidated, this confession would certainly seem to decimate the long-standing interest in them. Absent that (seemingly) astounding key photographic evidence, this becomes simply another mysterious flap.

    It will be interesting to see how long this photo continues to crop up on the internet as an authentic proof of UFO reality. Like the mythical hydra, the self-perpetuating aspect makes such entrenched stories remarkably hard to kill.

    Best wishes.

    Tyler Kokjohn

  8. How do we know this confessor is not a confession hoaxer trying to get attention? Photo is still probably a hoax but why would he confess after so much time? Doesn't make sense to me.

  9. Call me crazy, but if I were to do a photo hoax and reveal it twenty years from now, I would make a "this is how I made it" report, with photos and videos and the original ufo model from those days. This is what I don´t believe this "hoaxers" with just a phrase "Yeah, I did it".

  10. MOÑACO, that is what he did. See the video from the Belgian TV. (Somehow I'm not getting any sound when I play that excerpt.)It's not just "Yeah I did it."

  11. http://www.rtl.be/info/belgique/faitsdivers/812149/le-mystere-du-celebre-ovni-des-annees-90-elucide-une-supercherie This video?, well I don´t understand spoken french but that video shows nothing, if not that link, could you please tell me which one is?

  12. If the photo is a hoax it makes little difference, more then 13,000 people witnessed this incident with more then 2,000 filing reports. The Belgium AF scrambled two F-16's to check it out and the 12 police confirmed 8 different sightings. Now and "anonymous" guy Patrick steps forward after 20 years and the mainstream media, jumps on the bandwagon as it is all a hoax! The skeptics say helicopters or "mass delusion". Where is the common sense in this skeptical reasoning!

  13. It makes a difference. The photo put that image into the minds of millions of people, some of whom later reported triangles craft whenever they saw multiple lights in the sky. If this is a hoax, it's possible that thousands of UFO reports are simply social constructions.

  14. When an "anonymous witness" steps forward after 20 years of silence really makes no difference. If I stepped forward, "anonymously" and said Terry the Censor was caught in a sexual act with a minor, would you believe it, would you print it, would you take it as gospel. On the other hand would you say this witness, may be no witness at all and his/her story does not deserve serious consideration or publication. Anonymous stories should stay anonymous unless there is irrefutable verification.

  15. According to the original reports the F16s took photographs,and film in which case this was not the only material evidence. I'd be more interested in seeing the Belgian airforce pictures than in this easily faked photo.

    Since when is the word 'Belgium' and adjective, by the way?

  16. Richard,

    The formerly anonymous hoaxer is now known to be Patrick Marechal. See http://tinyurl.com/KeanBe . In fact, he is even joining in the discussion of the photo (although his command of English is rather weak).

    I agree, however, that comments that are fully "anonymous" should be given little credence. But even before Marechal went public with his full name, he was known to certain UFO investigators and journalists in Belgium, so that's not entirely "anonymous."

  17. It's interesting that Richard brings up child sexual abuse. (Classy move, Ricky.)
    Millions of Americans had a false image of a triangle UFO put in their heads, and consequently many Americans falsely reported triangle UFOs (see youtube for tens of thousands of nighttime plane flights incorrectly labeled as UFOs).
    Similarly, back in the 1980s, millions of Americans had a false fear or rampant childhood sexual abuse put in their heads by therapists, self-help authors and preachers, and consequently many American adults falsely reported childhood sexual abuse for which they had no memory or evidence of any kind.
    Are these two things comparable?
    Ask the kids who get hypnotised by UFO investigators because their idiot parents think aliens are here abducting people.

  18. I am not buying this "hoaxer" at the moment. After reading this article I have searched for more details and to be honest there isn't much more than what you have presented.

    This is not to say I still don't think the photo may have been faked in some way, but I am not sure it was by this guy. If he really wanted to prove himself over 20 years he should have given some sort of demonstration, video, detailed explanation of motives...something that would be more convincing.

    As of now, believing that this man is an actual "hoaxer", based on the very little evidence and proof, is akin to believing what the Ufologists believe with the amount of data they have. Posting this and then believing it really makes the two sides the same. Waste of time.

  19. First let me stress that I am neither a believer nor a skeptic

    Anyway I did a little more research about the picture being questioned. It is funny that a blog about being a skeptic and priding itself in reasonable scientific research, would instead resort to the same exact tactics that Ufologist use to acquire their believers.

    For one, the post above is completely misleading because the picture in question is not the picture shown above. It a different, less famous picture that is being called a hoax now. I will give you the article below that shows the actually picture in question.

    There really isn't much for me to say besides if you want to be a skeptic, do thorough research. Otherwise you are exactly like the true believers, just on different sides.


  20. Pugnax,

    As I posted three weeks before your complaint, "The formerly anonymous hoaxer is now known to be Patrick Marechal. See http://tinyurl.com/KeanBe . In fact, he is even joining in the discussion of the photo (although his command of English is rather weak)." Plus a former major promoter of that Petit-Rechain photo, UFOlogist Patrick Ferryn (COBEPS president), who interviewed Marechal when the photo was new, has accepted the validity of the confession from when it was first made. I can't imagine what more "evidence" you require.

    Your comment displays typical UFO logic:

    A. Somebody has a blurry photo of something supposed to be an interplanetary spacecraft: "Wow, that looks authentic! It's probably true."

    B. The guy confesses that he faked the photo: "I don't believe that confession! I need to see absolute proof!"

    UFO logic, or Occam's Razor blunted.

  21. The supposed hoaxer's correct Facebook account is to be found here: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1482613054

  22. Let me tell you this. 1.Yes he did it (I know him; I was an investigator at the time).
    2. There are other pics and video of the "object" , but none so precise and distinct as the Patrick's pic. Many people took pics of the huge "object" (also professional photographer): but they all were very surprised to see only a little light on the pics when developed.
    3. The triangle was seen BEFORE the pic was taken and shown. That's why Patrick made it look like a triangle with three lights ACCORDING TO THE WITNESSES. Witnesses didnot "copy" the pic!!! The triangle object was seen FIRST !
    R.P. (investigator at the time).

  23. Are you trying to say that 13,000 Belgians are delusional? Also they saw the UFOs FOUR MONTHS BEFORE this picture came out.

    Why were Air Force Jets sent to intercept something? The
    RADAR was delusional and picked up ghost signals and "interpreted" it as aircraft?

    Why doesn't the Belgian AF release RADAR images and photos of the UFOs which I am sure the F-16 must of taken?

    Plus what about all the acceleration and deceleration of the target craft, the locking on and the lock-break due to high g maneourves (I can never get the spelling of this French word right)?

    You mean to say the F-16 pilots, GCI, everybody was delusional ?

    The Skeptics are increasingly seen to adopt ad-hominem attacks.

    Calling witnesses delusional is not science. Science is to accept observational inputs and then try to explain it, the explanation can be terrestrial, it does not have to be extra-terrestrial but to call witnesses delusional because it does not fit established scientific theories is bad science.

  24. Now if they were aliens (it is only a hypothesis), we do not know yet, I think the logical place to be would be Belgium because NATO headquarters is located in Brussels.

    The earth's most powerful military organization is headquartered there.

  25. What about this video ? Is the AF chief is lying on TV? I am not saying it was an ET, but it was not of terrestrial origin.


  26. It's our government's TR-3B spaceship of some sort. Am so f*cked up now.

  27. Photo hoax or not, this blog is shit...it's true most UFO reports are bullshit but that means nothing in regard to the possibility of ETs visiting Earth. Fermi's statement that"...if there's ETs out there, then why haven't we seen them? This means they do not exist" is complete rubbish (yes...I paraphrased).

    Look at it this way...you're an ET on the planet Htrae (Earth backwards pronounced "huh-tray") and you've never seen an earthling...so do we not exist?

    Bottom line, the absence of concrete evidence proving the existence of some thing does not equate to the thing's non-existence - it means we don't have the evidence - THAT'S IT!!!! The scientific method be damned!!!!

    Critical thinking people - use the brain that was likely engineered by the ETs!!!!

  28. there are several videos and photos of the wave of 89-91 the Petit-Rechain was the clearest. The others were affected via infared radiation causing a dimming affect. That the hoaxed photo did not allways seemed strange to some. For the author of this article to state that this was the only photo of the whole wave shows how little time he spent investagating the facts of this case. Some may twist the truth to serve thier own ajenda

    1. > there are several videos and photos of the wave of 89-91

      Where are they? I can find two photos: one is an admitted hoax and the other looks just like it. Where are the videos?

  29. You know, I am interested also in what the skeptics think happened, just explain what it was without boring me to death. All you do is wave around a hoaxed picture and call witnesses into question. I've never seen anything unexplained myself and if I saw the thing and knew it was helicopters in formation, I'd be saying it was helicopters in formation and this is why. Your fact or faked stuff does nothing to show what these people were actually looking at.

    1. this is true, due to the fact i have seen that craft my self for 1 minute and 30 seconds at low altitude,,so naw sayers can be just that,if they totally disregard UFO's then i just laugh cause i know other wise, but it now makes sense to me why the picture didnt look right to me if it was the same

  30. Does the fact that this photo was faked discount the hundreds of thousands of reports by credible people all around the world? You can't take a single example and use it to undermine all the other sightings around the world by pilots, military personnel, police officers, government officials, and regular citizens. Something is going on, and I'm certain that someday it will be revealed. I certainly can't discount what happened to me while camping on my sister's property in a large open field, when I went into my tent to go to sleep a circular light about 4 or 5 inches in diameter appeared on the roof of the tent as if it were coming from the outside above me, and it moved around in a machine like movement, no shaking, just a smooth and precise machine like fashion, as soon as it disappeared, I got out of the tent and looked up only to see nothing but a clear star filled sky and nothing around me in that large open field. I won't go as far as saying I definitely had an alien experience, but I've never been able to figure it out.

  31. styrofoam? the belgian air force chased this thing

  32. the fact that this picture was fake doesn t discredit the Belgian UFO wave in the least1)there are countless testimonies 2)UFOs flew over two police officers3)two jets were scrambled and locked on target.......Suffice it to say that if the hard core evidence of UFO reality were to be weighed by a grand jury,there is no doubt that an indictment would be handed down!....The fact that the scientifict community remains uninterested and scornfully dismissive of the phenomenon is a real shame on the part of the very people that should keep an open mind.Science wa often proved wrong in the past .Consequently ,they should be more subdued and realize that what they say is not always gospel!

  33. Regardless of whether this photo is proven to be a fake or not, the simple fact of the matter is that it's completely irrelevant to much of the discussion presented above. The photo didn't surface until four months after the event took place, so the argument stating that the masses were somehow influenced by the craft in the picture doesn't hold water. Also, one photograph doesn't nullify thousands of eyewitness testimonies, some of which came from Air Force personnel. The object was radar tracked, seen from the ground and also viewed in multiple locations by multiple groups of people. The issue here isn't that the Belgian event didn't happen - the fact that it did is undeniable. The issue here is the authenticity of a photograph. Using this single item of dubious origin to make an attempt to 'debunk' the entire historical account isn't skepticism, it's idiocy.

    I'm no 'True Believer', and I'm certainly no 'Skeptic'. My personal stance is this: 95% of the entire UFO phenomenon is nothing more than lies, ignorance & disinformation, which serves to divert attention away from the real, undeniable, objective truth. There IS something going on. We ARE being lied to. How many of you would have believed in the NSA's mass surveillance program before Edward Snowden blew the whistle? I'm sure the Skeptics would have loved to label anyone presenting such a claim as delusional and paranoid. If they can hide the truth about that, then what else are they hiding? Personally, thinking about it keeps me up at night...

  34. I'm skeptical of most claims but this case is one of the most interesting. The photo was a hoax yes but the fact of the matter remains that not only did the intial sightings on the 30 of March 1990 come from police officers the objects were tracked but both ground and plaane based radar performering sudden accelerations of 25g. 25g is not something that any plane in 1990 was capable of. As for the lack of photos the fact is that this occured during the darkest part of the night 23.00-0200, the witnesses only described lights flying in formations which isn't something your typical film camera will be able to get a picture of without a long exposure which is rather difficult to do when the object is moving fast. Any Astronomers will be able to vouch for how difficult that was even with something as slow moving as a planet. As for the mass delusion I can believe that later incidents could be attributed to that but the radar and other instrumentation readings wasn't something the operators and pilots imagined as it was recorded.


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