Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Recanting Roswell?

Recalling the previous posting about the dueling 70th Anniversary Roswell UFO conferences coming up in 2017, this would seem to indicate that the Roswell crash story's stock is rising. (Veteran Roswell researcher Kevin Randle reminded me that there were also two competing UFO conferences going on in Roswell for the 50th anniversary celebrations back in 1997. At that time there were two UFO museums operating in Roswell.)

However, the following would seem to indicate that Roswell stock is falling,  or perhaps has even itself crashed. In the British publication Fortean Times (issue 346 published October 2016), there is a review of Kevin Randle's latest book, Roswell in the 21st Century, written by Jerome Clark. (I've completely lost track of how many books Randle has written, fiction and nonfiction. He once told me that for a while he had his own Book of the Month club - that is, he wrote twelve books in twelve months!)

Kevin Randle (left) with the author in 1977. Weren't we young and handsome back them?!!
"Quest UFO" was a short-lived publication edited by Randle, intended to take an objective look at the UFO phenomenon..
Clark's review is titled "Recanting Roswell Certainty," a provocative title to say the least, especially as it concerns Randle, one of the most dedicated long-term promoters of the Roswell incident as an ET saucer crash. Clark says that
Roswell in the 21st Century, which never insults one's intelligence, is noteworthy for being the first recantation by a major figure in the controversy, now nearing its fourth decade.
"Recantation?" That's a pretty strong word.

In my Bad UFOs book, I quoted Karl Pflock's 2001 book Roswell – Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe. Pflock  demonstrated inconsistencies such  that of the just four people publicly identified as witnesses to alien bodies, “not one of the purported firsthand witnesses to alien bodies and a lone survivor is credible. Not one.” (Pflock, p. 118-120).

In this review, Clark continues:
Randle was initially taken with what seemed to be credible evidence. Eventually (as I did), he grew doubtful of that evidence, especially as it concerned the supposed recovery of dead aliens. Of the eight claimants (he spoke directly with all) who said they had observed such bodies, Randle writes, "not one [..] turned out to be telling the truth."
So Randle has raised the number of those who lied about seeing alien bodies at Roswell from four to eight, and there never were more than eight. This completely undercuts the need for bizarre ET or non-ET explanations for alleged alien body sightings at Roswell. Stalin and Mengele sent in deformed children in a Commie Nazi saucer: Annie Jacobs. The U.S. Army flew in dwarfish captured Japanese pilots in a bizarre craft: Nick Redfern. The Air Force dropped crash test dummies in the desert: U.S. Air Force. All of these highly implausible explanations are unnecessary, because there are no truthful accounts of alien bodies at Roswell to explain.

Randle doggedly pursued the Holy Grail of alien evidence at Roswell for more than thirty years. When he realized it wasn't there, he was brave enough to admit it.

But we should appreciate that Clark also shared Randle's gradually increasing wisdom:
Randle and I evolved, if separately, in the same direction: initial sympathy, growing doubt, at last a virtual certainty that whatever took place in New Mexico nearly seven decades ago, a crashed spacecraft did not precipitate it. Nor, for that matter, did a weather balloon.
He mentions his growing skepticism twice to make sure we get the message. Because to Jerome Clark, it's always about him. Let me remind the reader what Clark was writing during the heyday of Roswell belief. In the March 1991 issue of Fate magazine, Clark predicted that after the publication of two forthcoming books on Roswell by Randle/Schmitt and Friedman/Berliner, 

Major media - not just the usual tabloid papers and television shows - will pick up the story and recount their own investigations, which will confirm the ufologists' findings.
How did that prediction work out, Jerry? 😃

By a curious coincidence, if indeed it is a coincidence, soon after I read the Fortean Times review, Randle contacted me to ask if I'd like to be a guest on his new radio show. I happily accepted. He said we could talk about my new book, and I said I'd like to talk about his, as well. Here is the soundtrack of that show, recorded December 14, 2016 and first broadcast on December 17:

We discussed many things about UFOlogy. I won't take the time to summarize them, you can listen to the show above. Randle is pretty skeptical about alien abduction claims. I asked Randle if Clark is correct that Randle had interviewed all eight persons who claimed to have seen alien bodies, and found none of them were "telling the truth." He confirmed it.

I asked Randle, if he no longer thinks that the Roswell incident was extraterrestrial, what does he think it was? He said he really doesn't know. It wasn't E.T., but it wasn't a Mogul balloon, either. Randle then launched into a critique of skeptics being unskeptical because they insist that the debris found was from the once-secret Mogul spy balloon project, when the evidence supposedly proves that it was not. Thus skeptics are, he says, as illogical as the ET believers.

I recalled that there had been some claims that the specific Mogul flight cited as the source of the Roswell debris could not have landed where that debris was found, because of wind directions and such. But that was not what Randle was talking about. He insisted that Mogul's Flight 4 was never launched, because there is no official record of its launch, and a researcher's diary entry suggests that it was not launched. Now I had not been following the details of that argument and could not argue against it. I said that I did not insist that the debris must be from Mogul, if it could be conclusively shown otherwise. Randle himself had stated that balloons carrying radar reflectors were being launched all over the country, on a regular basis. I suggested that the Roswell debris could be from one of these. He insisted that it would have been immediately recognized if it were. Perhaps so, but perhaps normal objectivity might be lost in a time of Flying Saucer excitement.

After that show, the debate over Mogul Flight #4 generated considerable discussion among skeptics on Facebook. The point was that Randle's argument is based on a particular interpretation of conflicting notes and data concerning Project Mogul, and is by no means an ironclad proof that Mogul Flight #4 was never launched. Much hinges on the interpretation of whether a "cluster of balloons," that everyone agrees was launched at that time, describes a complete balloon array as was apparently found. For those interested in the details, Tim Printy gives the full, convoluted story about the disputed Mogul flight, "Crashology's Last Stand."   (scroll down to page 5). Randle has since written more about this. Be sure to read the comments for more debate on the Mogul controversy. In any case, it is far more likely that ambiguous record keeping has been misinterpreted and that Mogul Flight 4 was actually launched, than that some unknown craft of whatever origin crashed near Roswell.

Christmas presents might be a bit late this year - Santa's helpers had a little accident. Happy Holidays to all!


  1. If Randle is so keen on dismissing the crashed spaceship explanation, what does he think it was? For some reason he has taken a rather one-sided interpretation of the NYU documents that are not 100% accurate. I discussed this in SUNlite 5-5, as you mentioned. The things that Randle wants to ignore are that there are some indisputable facts that support the MOGUL explanation. They are:
    FACT 1 - The NYU team was present in NM in early June launching balloon arrays with multiple balloons
    FACT 2 - Mac Brazel reported finding large quantities of rubber and, what appear to be, remnants of ML-307 reflectors on his ranch in mid-June. This sparked the whole Roswell event.
    FACT 3 - The photographs from Fort Worth of the Roswell debris show at least one ML-307 target and remnants of balloon debris that had been out in the sun for some time (see my balloon tests in SUNlite 4-4 and 4-5).
    FACT 4 - The NYU team did use ML-307 reflectors.

    These facts are the basis of why skeptics believe the flight #4 explanation has merit. The only problem appears to be how one interprets the vague statement by Crary in his journal of the clouds causing no flight on June 4 followed by the entry that they did flight "a cluster of balloons with a microphone" on the same date. Randle interprets this to mean that the full flight was canceled, the reflectors and other items removed and then, many hours later, the remains of the flight were launched. The skeptics interpret it to mean that the flight, which was planned very early in the AM to coincide with Crary's detonations at midnight (as Crary had stated in his journal a few entries before), was delayed because of clouds. When the sky cleared, they then launched the balloon flight. It is too bad that Crary's journal was not more specific but it was not an official record. They were just a collection of his field notes transcribed into a journal.

  2. UFO researcher Curt Collins posted the following information to Facebook:

    "Roswell Incident" co-author William Moore bailed out in 1997.

    “I wish to advise anyone who might be interested that I no longer am of the opinion that the extraterrestrial explanation is the best explanation for this event.”

    Saucer Smear newsletter, Aug. 5, 1997

  3. That's what I love about skepticism.
    I quote Gordon Bonnet, host of the blog called 'Skeptophilia':
    "If the truth (my conclusions based ONLY on the evidence), turns out to be different than I thought it was, then my viewpoint on the subject MUST alter/change to reflect this, that is the skeptic's code".
    This reminds me of much of the skeptical wisdom that I gained from Kevin Randle's writing in some of his books.

    All the best,

  4. Jerry Clark's phraseology about the controversy "nearing its fourth decade" is a bit off the mark. Taking 1980 as the year of the first book on Roswell, 2016 would be over half-way through its "fourth decade", i.e. some 36 years old.

    Nitpicking? Perhaps, but I do agree that Kevin has, in effect, shot himself in one foot at least, and is now in a sort of suspended, neutral, position of being neither pro or con. This is quite a turnaround from his previous books which were all very much pro-ET.

    He may lose a few friends because of this, but that is a risk one takes in ufological debates. Karl Pflock did a partial turnaround with his two books, his second repudiating much of his first. Bill Moore seems to have recanted long ago. Is there anyone left (Stan Friedman or David Rudiak maybe?) who can revive this Roswell ET corpse, or is it time to finally cremate it?

    So there are to be two 70th anniversary Roswell conferences next summer. An 'Emerald Wedding', as it were (a bit like the Queen and Prince Philip next November).

    Consider: perhaps the greatest scientific discovery of all time, namely that other intelligent beings exist in the universe and have visited the Earth in recent times, is still classified Top Secret, known only to a select few in one country. What lucky guys.

    Roswell has had its ruby, its golden, its diamond and soon its emerald 'wedding', but still the great secret remains. Marvellous, isn't it?

  5. More on the Mogul controversy: French skeptic Gilles Fernandez publishes a document about Mogul that says, "The table is adopting a revised numbering system: Only the flights in which an attempt was made to control the altitude are included in the summary. The flights excluded are flights made to test special gear and launchings which were not successful."

    So if no attempt was made to control the altitude of the flight, it did not get recorded. That dopes not mean it wasn't launched.

    So it looks like Randle's argument that Mogul #4 was never launched is not valid.

  6. If there is agreement that Roswell doesn't involve a crashed spacecraft or pickled aliens, does the incident warrant much further attention?

    This has gone from a Cosmic Watergate to 1940s ballon identification. If it was Mogul, we have misidentified sky trash. If it's not Mogul, we have someone else's misidentified trash. There's not much to be gained by either side in winning this debate.

  7. - A balloon cluster was inflated in preparation of Mogul flight #4.
    - Because of thick cloud-cover, flight #4 was cancelled.
    - This leaves an unused, inflated balloon cluster.
    - Charles Moore was still in the process of experimenting with radar reflector signals since arriving in Alamogordo in early June using the existing V-2 rocket radar in NM.
    - Instead of wasting the balloon cluster intended for Mogul 4, Moore used the opportunity to attach three or more reflectors continuing his experimentation and launched them.
    - Not wanting to waste an already-inflated cluster seems to be further supported in Cracy's diary entry: "Flew regular sono buoy up in a cluster of balloons."
    - The flight was deemed expendable and not worthy of recovery because it didn't contain Mogul equipment.
    - The cluster crashed on the Foster ranch leaving behind remnants of multiple radar reflectors and balloon material.
    - The material was left exposed in the desert for a month and dragged across the property with subsequent storm(s) creating a larger area of debris.
    - Described by the first witness Mac Brazel: "A large area of bright wreckage made up on rubber strips, tinfoil, a rather tough paper and sticks."
    - Described by Marcel as: "many bits of metallic foil's a cloth-like material, but it was also metallic... (small) balsawood rectangular beams" and "There was so much of it."
    - BOTH men share the same description of the material: strong silver material, small sticks, and a large area of debris.
    - The material above and amount describe what would have been launched by Moore and his crew on June 4th, instead of Mogul #4.
    - What had been found previously by Brazel and Marcel were typical weather balloons with one or two balloons and a single radar target attached. These were usually found more or less intact.
    - The debris that crashed near Roswell would have been ripped apart and 3 to 4 times the size of weather balloons and targets found both men previously and unusual because of that.

    Highly unlikely that an alien race also happened to be using the exact same construction method and materials foil/sticks/rubber for their own spacecraft coincidentally crashing during the exact time period where this material was being used 80 miles away launching on balloon clusters, some of which had crashed in the area of Roswell. A ridiculous suggestion that people have bought into since the story was brought forward by Stanton Friedman in 1978.


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