There are two principal investigators into the events, who originally posted their data. The first is the MUFON field Investigator, Bill Hamilton and the other is NUFORCs Peter Davenport. Peters role is mainly a data-gathering head for NUFORC and never went to Arizona to further investigate the situation. However, Bill Hamilton spent a lot of time asking questions of the witnesses and investigating the story. Unfortunately, Bill Hamilton demonstrated some gross errors in data gathering. His data was sketchy at best in his reports. The most glaring errors are:
- There are no exact locations for witnesses
- There are no angular size estimates by the witnesses. He often uses terms such as "big as a 747" or "1/4 mile wide". The best data would have been angular size like "ten moons across" or "as big as my fist at arms length" (To his credit, Peter Davenport did this a few times).
- He made no effort to estimate the angular elevation and azimuth of any observations. If he did, he discarded this as meaningless data, has not used it and did not report this. I will demonstrate how he does not use vital information later on (especially with witness Mike Fortson).
Instead, he relied on the witnesses to provide the data. A witness who states that the object was 100-150 feet overhead was accepted as being truthful. The fact of the matter is that witnesses are not very reliable in estimating such values at night. One must be careful on estimates by individuals who are not experienced in making nighttime observations. All one has to do is look at the Zond IV sighting of March 3, 1968. Observers seeing a reentering booster rocket reported seeing "windows" and estimated the height at tree top level. Their data was not all that reliable. In the case of the Phoenix sightings, we run into misinterpretation of events seen and conclusion drawing by the witnesses. Philip Klass note in "UFOs Explained", ten principles of UFO investigation. Bill Hamilton violates principle #1:"Basically honest and intelligent persons who are suddenly exposed to a brief, unexpected event, especially one that involves an unfamiliar object, may be grossly inaccurate in trying to describe precisely what they have seen." (Klass, 303)
Bill Hamilton takes all this data and creates a rather extravagant scenario. In a 14 August 1997 posting in the UFO Updates Internet website he states,
The update on the Phoenix Lights (or should I say, Arizona Lights) is the fact that with a review of eyewitness accounts that Michael Tanner and I have concluded that there were at least 10 events that occured on the night of March 13th. We have reviewed nearly 100 reports to date.
The irony of this is that what we are labeling "Event 2" was an unlighted object, a large black triangle, that traveled over Scottsdale and Mesa around 8:40 PM. This same triangle may have been seen (on the same trajectory) at about 8:50 PM in Chandler, south of Mesa, then sporting lights. These lights were amber and round. They could detach from the triangle and appear elsewhere. We now believe the lights that we videotaped were these orbs deployed by the triangle.
Event 1 was the big V. A couple in Prescott reveals that the configuration of the V changed when it passed over their house to a semi-circle of white lights. Then the white lights turned red and the object or formation which was traveling at very slow speed accelerated at rocket speed toward Phoenix.
Event 4 were desribed as spinning tops on the west side.
Event 5 were large luminous globes on the east side.
There was a second triangle with a cut-out V in its trailing edge that passed west to east over the north of Phoenix between 10:30 PM and 10:45 PM.
A pilot saw a large cluster of lights in a roughly rectangular formation around 10:30 PM.
The triangle variation-2 re-appeared around 2 AM on the 14th and was witnessed by a Wackenhut guard.
It looks like it might take a small book to detail the events and reactions to the events.
From good eye witness descriptions, I would have to conclude that many of these objects seen that night remain unidentified and do not fit any conventional category of flying object. Not one of these objects made any engine sounds and several exhibited both slow and rapid movements.
Tim Ley and his family who witnessed Event #1 swears that he was no more than 100-150 feet under the passing object and that it was immense, had structure, and was totally silent as it glided through the sky at about 30 knots.
There have been sporadic sightings since then including sightings of the variation-2 triangle. Nothing as spectacular as that night. (Hamilton Re:Phoenix)
However, on March 24, 1997, he stated, "Sometimes the formation (or huge object) traveled at "blimp" speed or hovered and at other times MUST HAVE BEEN (My Emphasis) dashing through the sky to make its next destination." (Hamilton The Phoenix Lights)
The investigators decide to make the object "hyperjump" to new locations however, nobody seems to have actually witnessed this. To explain this, they change the story to include numerous objects that night. The fact remains that the observers did not synchronize their watches and have the exact times. One has to follow this up with the fact that many did not tell their stories until weeks or even months later. Despite being some form of exotic event, the memory will not be as accurate and the time frames can shift as much as 30 min or even more. Unless these individuals wrote down their observations after the event, we have to wonder how accurate their recall is. An old Chinese proverb states,"The palest ink is better than the best memory." When observing astronomical events like bright meteors, Dr. Francis Drake found out that witnesses became less reliable as time faded. He reports that, "The first fact we learned was that witnesses memory of such exotic events fades very quickly." He later adds, "...after 5 days people report more imagination than truth" (Sagan 248). To take the data given in the eyewitness reports and consider them to be absolute fact is folly. To quote the Condon study on UFOs, witnesses were usually right when they said that something had happened at a particular place, although they could wildly be wrong about what had happened. (Condon et al. 925)
Most of Hamilton's "triangles" all appeared to be flying in the same direction only a few minutes apart. It appears they were all observations of the same set of lights but interpreted differently by the observers. Couple this with inaccurate times and we get the "multiple objects" theory. Recently Village Labs posted their analysis of the events on the WEB and arrived at similar conclusions. However, one must realize that Hamilton and Village Labs were working hand in hand and not independently. Village Labs has done nothing to provide us with any more information. These investigative techniques are questionable and unverifiable.
Looking at Bill's web page, I find he is a believer of UFO abductions. With this belief, I am curious as to his motivations for investigation into these events. Is it a method to satisfy a need to verify his claims?
Hamilton's conclusions are at odds with Arizona MUFON and I am not the only who notices his rather slanted view on some of the events. Richard Motzer stated, "In the May issue of the MUFON UFO Journal, there appeared a very misleading article by Bill Hamilton on the Phoenix Lights of March 13, 1997. That at-tide represented a biased judgment of events and incorrect facts." (Motzer)
Hamilton has since responded and stated that Motzer did not have the qualifications to be an investigator! Apparently, Hamilton left MUFON to be become one of the senior members of SKYWATCH INTERNATIONAL. This is UFOlogys downfall. There are too many egos and not enough common sense. Those with common sense and a critical thinking method are ridiculed by the fringe elements as being too "skeptical".
Hamilton defends his "research" in a posting on June 25, 1997, "These explanations have nothing to do with the scientific process which involves gathering all of the data, analyzing the data, and formulating a carefully crafted hypothesis to account for the data. This process takes time and effort." (Hamilton Re: The Big Hanger)
The scientific process would have used angular sizes, angles of elevations, and azimuth values for the analysis of data. Also, this data would be revealed with the reports/papers. Instead we are fed minuscule data and not all of it. There are no locations (even major intersections nearby would have sufficed) and no way to follow up on his conclusions the way scientific analysis does. Hamilton has done little towards scientifically investigating this event. Instead he has determined the event to be extraterrestrial (as have many of the witnesses) and has formulated his conclusions based on this. To even suggest that he is being scientific indicates that Hamilton is as big a charlatan as his running mates at Village Labs (Delittosso and Tanner). Although it sounds like scientific research, it is not. It is revealing of only facts that he wants the believer to read. The believer, not being skeptical at all, automatically accepts the Hamilton/Village Labs version. It is up to Hamilton/Village labs to produce the evidence for their conclusions. As of the most recent update for this site, I have yet to see them produce any evidence to back up their claims.
Had Bill Hamilton read Allan Hendry's The UFO Handbook, a more informed approach at resolving the issue would have been made. Allan Hendry, was a UFO investigator for the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) in the late 1970's. He personally investigated over one thousand UFO sightings and was able to explain a great deal of them. However, his explanations came after significant hard work and, in some cases, luck. Allan's candid observation of UFOlogy was:
...for a field that is composed of individuals who profess to be intrigued by aerial anomalies, there is widespread ignorance about even the most basic characteristics of sources like meteors, ad planes, and balloons. This ignorance is likely to be a deliberate SUPPRESSION by each UFO researcher, for reasons that are reflected int eh motives they demonstrate for their involvement with UFOs. Many UFO researchers became intrigued with the sure and certain hope that they would be led to a source of PERSONAL EXCITEMENT. This emotional predisposition inevitably proves to be a poor framework for the objective handling of raw sighting reports. Another demonstration of motive lies in the degree of the pretentiousness adopted by many with regard to their work. A UFOlogist, most of the time, is an amateur investigative journalist...myself included. Thus I wince when I see words like "scientific" and "research" freely affixed to any menial investigative effort in an anecdotal "witness-oriented" field where science has a hard time manifesting itself in ways that aren't purely sociological. (Hendry 272)
In Peter Devenport's case, we have someone who has managed to collect some data that can be read by all interested in seeing the information. Tony Ortega used this data quite readily in his analysis of the event and I found the reports very interesting. However, Peter quite readily chose to manifest these reports into a major UFO event without looking close enough as we shall soon see.
The investigators place a lot of weight on the witnesses being very accurate but how accurate were they?