George Adamski's photograph of a UFO

Can you fool all the UFOlogists all of the time?

Tim Printy June 2002

Updated November 2003

Credulity - Lack of doubt or skepticism; easiness of belief; readiness to believe without sufficient evidence. (Websters)

When it comes to the UFO evidence, credulity is something that one can best be used to describe many UFOlogists. Nothing gets a UFOlogists more excited than a photograph or video tape of a UFO. After all, such images are the next best thing to a real piece of an alien spaceship. However, are these images really good evidence?

Each day, photographers, both professional and amateur, are out with their cameras and capture many astonishing and unusual events. For instance, during a daylight fireball event in July 2001, a photographer in his backyard managed to capture this brief event (lasting only seconds) on film clearly showing the meteor. There are many other instances of brief and unusual events that are clearly captured by lucky photographers. However, UFO events are rarely recorded well, if at all. This even though (at least according to UFO databases), most UFO events last minutes and not brief seconds. Despite this advantage most UFO photographs are smears, vague images, or distant lights, which are open to interpretation. Add to this that many good photographs are often considered or discovered to be fakes. With so many fakes populating the good UFO photographs what does it say for the remaining photographs?

Hoax methods

Hoax photographs are created by many methods. Several early UFO hoax images involved taking a picture of a disc thrown through the air or a small model on a string. In some cases, the thread was easy to see but in others, it was more difficult. As technology improved, computers were called upon to reveal these hoaxes. Strings that were not seen before were now exposed in several cases but not in all. The possibility of these remaining few being hoaxed was reduced but not eliminated. Ironically, with the escalation in detection methods, there was an additional escalation in the ability to hoax images. Computers could now paste two images together and create a pretty authentic looking UFO picture. Any good hoaxer could make a rather authentic looking picture as Rob Irving did when he created a convincing image of a UFO in a hanger at the USAF base in Aviano, Italy. There are other methods of producing a fake UFO picture, which can not be easily detected by computer analysis such as double exposures. The method of hoaxing such images is varied and detecting each method is extremely difficult even when done by competent analysts.

Alan Hendry notes in his book, The UFO Handbook, that when it comes to UFO photographs, there are a significant amount of hoax pictures:

I noted earlier in examining the conclusions of the 1,307 UFO reports that hoaxes did not figure at all into the scheme of things--rather misperceptions of some existing stimulus were responsible. This situation is not the case, however, when it comes to cases involving photographs, where a significant population of deliberate fraud exists. The failure of photographs to serve as impersonal proof of the existence of UFOs up to now lay largely in the ease of fabricating fake photos of small models that couldn't be distinguished from the real thing. (Hendry 204)

Detecting hoaxes depends on the expertise of the hoaxer and the experience of the investigator. Photographic analyst William G. Hyzer once wrote:

In my opinion, fakery is virtually impossible to prove in a well-contrived image. If certain anomalies are detected, the best that any photographic analyst can do is to point them out as possible or probable artifacts of photographic fakery. (Hyzer Deceptive13)

Considered "Mr. PhotoInstrumentaion" in the February 1991 issue of Photomethods magazine, Hyzer's qualifications are above reproach and one should not take this statement lightly. The possibility of detecting a hoax is not clear-cut and may take a lot of work. How careful have some of UFOlogy's most treasured UFO cases been investigated and how likely is it that they were faked?

Movies in Montana: UFOs or fighter jets?

In August of 1950, general manager for the Great Falls, Montana baseball team, Nick Mariana, was out at the ballpark. Suddenly he noticed two bright disc shaped UFOs traversing the sky. He quickly obtained his 16mm camera and filmed the UFOs for some 15-20 seconds. The film showed two dots moving across the sky and then slowly disappearing after they passed from behind a water tower. While, the images are not clear as to what the dots were Nick states the USAF had removed the more impressive sections of the film, which according to him, clearly showed that the objects were disc-shaped objects and not just points of light. Nick had felt that he had recorded two UFOs on film but did he?

The USAF investigated the case and discovered that two F-94s landed at the base shortly after Mariana had filmed the UFOs. In the original news paper release Nick did not mention these jets but in accounts months after the event he suddenly makes it a point to mention seeing them. Was he aware by this time that the USAF was explaining the films as F-94s? He also claimed he had a letter from the USAF stating frames had been removed but when asked for the letter by Dr. Roy Craig of the Condon Study, Mariana stated the letter was lost during his move. Dr. Craig also questioned the one witness who was with Mariana that day, his secretary. When Dr. Craig asked her about the missing footage, she hesitantly replied, "What you have to remember in all this is ...ahh...that Nick Mariana is a 'promoter'" (Craig 231). Could it be that the films were simply of two F-94s that Mariana had initially thought were UFOs?

An in depth analysis of the film has been performed by Dr. R. M. Baker in the 1950s. He determined that F-94s would have to be within six and a half miles to equate to the top speeds of the aircraft. Additionally, Baker realized that the camera should have resolved the forty-foot aircraft at this upper limit, which the camera did not. Baker also felt that the sunlight could not have reflected off of the aircraft for the 16 seconds seen during the film. All of these are good points but have some basic flaws. First, the distance to the F-94s may not have resulted in the F-94s being resolved. In one of his test photographs, Dr. Baker recorded a 100-foot airliner from a distance of twelve miles. It looked a lot like the blobs seen in the film. So convincing was the image, that one of the Blue Book officers had drawn a note on this test image saying to compare this with the original film frames! Therefore, the resolution capabilities of the film are in doubt. On his other main point, Phil Klass points out that he assumed a linear path but if the aircraft were in a parabolic orbit, it would be theoretically possible for them to reflect the sun for this duration. In the Condon report, Dr. Hartmann shows a proposed plot of such a flight path and it appears that the reflection could have lasted as long as sixty seconds if conditions were ideal. Baker assumed that the total duration of the event was much longer than the film. Of course, this assumes that Mariana was accurate about the way the events occurred. However, if these were UFOs, wouldn't they also be subject to the laws of reflection as the aircraft? The images fade out so the idea that these were lit up internally by the UFOs themselves makes this hypothesis unlikely. The images appear to be reflections of something flying through the air but could they have been F-94s?

Baker's opinion was they could not have been F-94s. He has written several reports using his tests he made during the 50s. In one he wrote, "The photographs shown in Appendix II do seem to indicate that airplane reflections might possibly look like the images shown on the film" (Klass UFOs 157). However, in later years he stated, "...planes at the largest distances compatible with these speeds and the angular rate of the image would have been identifiable on film" (Sagan and Page 198). It seems that he dismissed the one photograph he had taken of an airliner from 12 miles away as an anomaly. Couldn't the F-94s also be recorded under the conditions that produced the same effect?

Dr. William Hartmann conducted more evaluation of the films during the Condon study. His conclusions were, "The data at hand indicate that while it strains credibility to suppose the these were airplanes, the possibility nevertheless cannot be entirely ruled out" (Condon 415). Hartmann uses the Mariana excuse for seeing the airplanes as well as the UFOs and the duration of the reflections as his principle reasons for not endorsing the F-94 explanation. As previously stated, the first seems to be a late addition after the fact by Mariana and the other seems to be possible even though it may have certain conditions. Hartmann's conclusions in this case are based partly on Marianna's testimony, which may not be accurate.

I also found it interesting in my research that the F-94s were jets landing only temporarily at the AFB. The AFB at the time was mostly used for transport aircraft. The jet was something new to the civilian public in 1950. The speed of such jets compared to slower propeller driven aircraft may have given Mariana pause to assume that what he was seeing was something unusual when he decided to film the event.

Could it have been F-94s? Dr. Baker seemed to indicate that there was a probability but ignored one of his own test shots. The key may be Dr. Craig's interview with the only other witness present. A possible scenario is that Mariana filmed the event not realizing what he was recording. He then presented the film as UFOs. When it was suggested the F-94s were the cause, he could only take two possible routes (assuming F-94s were the source). The first would be to "brass it out" and figure that nobody would doubt his word or the film. The other was to admit that he had made a mistake and filmed two jets getting ready to land and tried to pass them off as UFOs. For those that suggest this as good evidence of alien visitation, look at the film closely. There are no drastic maneuvers and no distinct images to indicate anything out of the ordinary. The coincidence of two jets (the same number of aircraft as the UFOs) making a landing around the time of the sighting makes one consider that this is a likely source for the images.

Oregon's best case ever: Actual UFO or just a truck mirror on fishing line?

In May of 1950, probably the most "authentic" UFO photograph to date was obtained. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Trent lived in McMinnville, Oregon and were outside one evening when they noticed something odd in the sky. The story that ran with the photographs described what happened:

It was getting along toward evening - about a quarter to eight," said Trent's wife, Evelyn. "We'd been out in the back yard. Both of us saw the object at the same time. The camera! Paul thought it was in the car but I was sure it was in the house. I was right - and the Kodak was loaded with film. Paul took the first picture (above left). The object was coming in toward us and seemed to be tipped up a little bit. It was very bright - almost silvery - and there was no noise or smoke. (Klass UFOs 146)

Years later this story seemed to change a bit. In one case, Mr. Trent was inside the house when the UFO appeared. In other cases, there are additional witnesses who later told the Trent's they had seen the same UFO. With such confusing details, only the basic core story can be considered accurate. That is, the Trent's had photographed the UFO twice during the evening of May 11, 1950. However, there were some interesting results produced from detailed analysis of the images.

Dr. Hartmann of the Condon study closely examined the images and initially concluded, from the brightness levels of the UFO's bottom, that it was of a physical object far away:

This is one of the few UFO reports in which all factors investigated, geometric, psychological,and physical appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disk-shaped, tens of meters in diameter, and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two witnesses. It cannot be said that the evidence positively rules out a fabrication, although there are some physical factors such as the accuracy of certain photometric measures of the original negatives which argue against a fabrication. (Condon 407)

Despite this potential endorsement, Hartmann also noted the possibility of fabrication. At one point he suggested that an object with a bright shiny bottom could have caused the photometric measurements:

There is one last possibility for fabrication which has not been ruled out. Suppose the object is a small model with a pale grey top and a bright white bottom (e.g. an aluminum pie pan sealed on the bottom with white paper). Could this account for the apparent lightness of the bottom, shaded side of the UFO? (Condon 407)

While Hartmann noticed that shadows in the picture indicated a different time of day than what the witnesses reported, he ignored the implications. It was Robert Sheaffer that wrote to Hartmann and discussed the meaning of these shadows:

The existence of the shadows in the photographs allows us to determine the time of day that the photos were taken, provided that we can accurately determine the solar azimuth...It can be seen that the shadow of the eave farthest right, on the very edge of the garage, has its shadow directly below it, on the extreme edge of the garage. This indicates that the sun is within a few degrees of being due east...A simple astronomical calculation shows that in McMinnville on May 11 the sun is in this position at about 8:20 AM, Pacific Daylight Time. Its elevation is then approximately 25 degrees. (Sheaffer Investigation)

This is in direct contradiction of the story told by the witnesses whom stated it was evening when the event occurred. Philip Klass pointed out that the Trent's may have changed the time of the event since this would explain why potential witnesses that were outside in the morning could have missed the UFO. Sheaffer also demonstrated that any oils/dirt/smudges on the lens would produce faulty photometric measurements. He concluded, "Of course, this does not "prove" that the photographs do not show an extraordinary flying object, but it has shown that there is no reason to believe that they do" (Sheaffer Investigation). When presented with this information Sheaffer, Hartmann agreed with the analysis, writing, "I think Sheaffer's work removes the McMinnville case from consideration as evidence for the existence of the disklike artificial aircraft" (Klass UFOs 150). Hartmann now felt that the pictures were not so convincing.

Dr. Bruce Maccabee completely disagrees with the model concept and Sheaffer's analysis. He has done his share of work on the Trent images since the mid-1970s and proposed that a bright eastern cloud could have reflected the sun's light back towards the house in order to explain the shadow problem discovered by Sheaffer. He even managed to photograph a wooden beam during the evening showing a shadow that was produced by sunlight reflected off of such a cloud. This could indicate that the photographs were taken during the evening. However, Sheaffer's research on weather data showed that there were no such clouds in the area and that such a reflection would not have duplicated the shadows seen in the Trent photographs. Sheaffer added:

What we skeptics want to see is not these shadows; we want instead to see the remarkable cloud causing them, that violated all normal laws of atmospheric optics. Unlike normal clouds and sunset conditions, whose contrast with the background sky diminishes to its lowest value of the day ... this one Super-cloud in the east (it must have been a single object of extremely compact angular size, and extraordinary brightness) got brighter and more contrasty as the sun went down in the west - a type of cloud never reported before or since. (Sheaffer Saucer Smear)

Maccabee does show a photograph of the cloud but if this cloud produced the effects, it was under unusual conditions since he was only able to photograph such a condition once. What would be the chances that a particular type of cloud under just the right conditions would be present that day to produce the shadows under the eaves? Maccabee's point is that unusual circumstances had to exist in order to explain a more likely scenario that indicated the Trent's were not being accurate in recounting what had happened.

Maccabee also puts a lot of weight on the photometric measurements. His conclusion is, "To echo Hartmann, the simplest interpretation of these photos is that they, indeed, show a distant object. However, simplicity does not necessarily imply truth. Further research will be necessary to resolve this case 'once and for all' " (Maccabee Trent). Maccabee, who has endorsed these images as authentic until proven otherwise, has challenged all information indicating that there was a hoax involved. Maccabee's analysis, while apparently thorough, seemed to be done in such a manner to downplay all data indicating a hoax may have occurred.

It was investigator Joel Carpenter whom expanded the analysis of the photographs to a new level in the late 1990s. Joel analyzed the location of the camera and pointed out that it was very low to the ground. The type of camera used would have resulted in two possibilities. The photographer was either kneeling down to take the photograph or he was looking down through a small viewfinder that would have made centering the image difficult. Such a possibility that the photographer would use the worst viewfinder instead of standing up to go through the main viewer increases the probability that the images were obtained in an orderly setup fashion vice a hurried snapshot as described by the Trents. Carpenter writes:

Sparks argues that Trent remained rooted at the spot and must have used the waist-level finder due to his concern about stabilizing the camera. If this theory is correct, Trent actually used the viewfinder that was least likely to permit him to quickly frame the object and produce a stable exposure. Instead of moving toward the object and shooting the photos from eye level in the unobstructed front yard, he shot the two photos up, from a very low level, from the back yard. For reasons explained above, it seems likely that he actually used the viewfinder on the body of the camera while kneeling. The overall geometry of the positions and the attributes of the camera suggest that he was attempting to frame a nearby object in such a way as to maximize the amount of sky around it and enhance its apparent altitude. (Carpenter)

Even more interesting is that Joel noticed that the UFO had a resemblance to a side view mirror of an old truck. This works with Robert Sheaffer's observation that the UFO's center of axis on the "tower" was not in the middle of the UFO but slanted to one side. The use of a mirror would explain why the bottom of the UFO was so bright in the densitometry readings therefore destroying the best reason to believe that the object was far away. Joel also suggested how the UFO was suspended with fishing line using two weights and the line thrown over the overhead wires in the photograph. When one examines the images, the wires do appear to sag downward in the center of the picture near the UFO. Dr. Maccabee, always ready to defend his endorsements of UFO photographs, was dismissive of Carpenter's findings and considered that the likelihood of such a hoax was outside the Trent's ability.

Even though there seems to be no reason for the Trent's to have conducted a hoax, there appears to be sufficient evidence to suggest they did. It probably was a simple trick they tried and it got out of hand (as so many simple hoaxes do). You have to look at how the negatives were treated by the Trent's to realize how little importance they initially gave the pictures. When news reporter William Powell came to the Trent's house to initially obtain the negatives, he discovered that they were "on the floor under a davenport where the Trent children had been playing with them" (Klass UFOs 146). If they had taken an actual image of an alien spaceship, I would think they would have placed them in a safe area for keeping and not on the floor. The lack of care the Trent's gave the negatives indicate they were not that important at the time and, again, indicate the probability of a hoax.

These photographs have been intensely scrutinized by UFOlogists and Skeptics alike. All have presented their opinions/analysis over the years. UFOlogists often rely on the excuse that the Trent's were not smart enough or had no reason to produce such a hoax. Carpenter demonstrated the simplicity of the setup and investigators have known for years that people for reasons other than money or fame will generate hoaxes. Many just want to see if it can be done. In the case of the Trent's, when the images suddenly became big news outside their little community, they would not admit the images were hoaxed to prevent public embarrassment. What may be the best photographs of an unknown physical craft ever taken, may be nothing more than a simple hoax using a truck mirror and some fishing line.

Tremonton, Utah: Birds or extraterrestrial craft?

On July 2, 1952, Navy warrant officer Delbert Newhouse was driving in his car with his family when they noticed a dozen objects nearby. Newhouse describes the events:

Driving from Washington, D.C. to Portland, Ore., on the morning of 2 July my wife noticed a group of objects in the sky that she could not identify. She asked me to stop the car and look. There was a group of about ten or twelve objects - that bore no relation to anything I had seen before - milling about in a rough formation and proceeding in a westerly direction. I opened the luggage compartment of the car and got my camera out of a suitcase. Loading it hurriedly, I exposed approximately thirty feet of film. There was no reference point in the sky and it was impossible for me to make any estimate of speed, size, altitude or distance. Toward the end one of the objects reversed course and proceeded away from the main group. I held the camera still and allowed this single one to cross the field of view, picking it up again and repeating for three or four such passes. By this time all of the objects had disappeared. I expended the balance of the film late that afternoon on a mountain somewhere in Idaho (Condon 419)

The images on the 75-second film showed bright dots that fluctuated in brightness and moved about in a circular pattern. The witnesses heard no sound. With the UFO wave of 1952 near its peak, Newhouse supplied the film to the USAF "for whatever value it may have in connection with your investigation of the so-called 'Flying Saucers' " (Condon 420). Newhouse's film would become a controversial piece of evidence still debated today.

Investigation was conducted by the USAF, which concluded, "We don't know what they are but they aren't airplanes or balloons and we don't think they were birds" (Ruppelt 221). The Navy's photographic interpretation lab took over at this point and measured the angular velocity of the single object that Newhouse had tracked. The Navy felt the objects were intelligently controlled and appeared to moving at speeds well over the sound barrier measured in the thousands of miles per hour. The film appeared to be showing something extraordinary.

In January 1953, the Robertson Panel was asked to examine the films and had many questions. One of the scientists (apparently this was Luis Alverez, a future Nobel Prize winner), asked to watch the film several times and then offerred the opinion that they appeared to be sea gulls riding a thermal current. Only the navy's speed calculations seemed to indicate they weren't birds. A film was presented later on that showed birds soaring on such thermals. UFOlogist Dr. Michael Swords felt there was something sinister about having such a film so quickly available but Ruppelt readily explains, "We had thought of this possibility several months before..." (Ruppelt 222). They obviously had a film shot long before for comparison during their original analysis. It was no great leap to obtain the film when the question was again raised. There was nothing sinister at all about this bird film but UFOlogists are always willing to create a conspiracy out of nothing. After viewing the film and examining the Navy's analysis, the Robertson panel felt the reasons for the speed problem had to do with the photographer's panning motion during the film and the distance to the objects being overestimated. Ruppelt seemed to reluctantly agree when he saw a flock of birds when he was in Los Angeles,

... they were so high that you couldn't see them until they banked a certain way; then they appeared to be a bright white flash, much larger than one would expect from sea gulls. There was a strong resemblence to the UFO's in the Tremonton Movie. But I'm not sure this is the answer. (Ruppelt 222-3).

It became accepted that birds were the answer to this UFO puzzle but UFOlogists were not about to accept the answer and neither was Newhouse.

In 1955, Dr. Robert Baker conducted an evaluation of the film and also interviewed Newhouse again. Newhouse now added more information that seemed to disagree with his earlier testimony,

When he got out, he observed the objects (twelve to fourteen of them) to be directly overhead and milling about. He described them as 'gun metal colored objects shaped like two saucers, one inverted on top of the other.' He estimated that they subtended 'about the same angle as B29's at 10,000 ft.' (about half a degree i.e. about the angular diameter of the moon). (Condon 420)

In his earliest reports he stated he could not estimate size or distance, now he was able to do this as well as describe the shape. Newhouse suggests before filming they appeared overhead and then went off in the distance when he finally got the camera going. Newhouse, like Mariana with the F-94s, seems to have altered the story in order not to look foolish in misidentifying birds.

Baker's analysis suggested the closest the objects could have been, if they were birds, would be 2000 feet. This makes the speeds not thousands of miles per hour but in the tens of miles per hour. The speed problem had been tentatively answered. However, Baker was not that convinced and later wrote:

A rather appealing explanation is that these objects were birds. On the other hand, this motion is not what one would expect from a flock of soaring birds; there are erratic brightness fluctuations, but there is no indication of periodic decreases in brightness due to turning with the wind or flapping. No cumulus clouds are shown on the film that might betray the presence of a thermal updraft. In addition, there is the soft data question of why a person would be so struck by a flock of birds milling about that he would go to the trouble of photographing them ... I have never seen bird formations so striking that I would not recognize them as birds, or so unusual that I would film them. The motion pictures I have taken of birds at various distances have no similarity to the Utah film. Thus, to my mind, the bird hypothesis is not very satisfying and I classify the objects as anomalistic observational phenomena. (Sagan and Page 200-1)

Baker's statement about never seeing birds appear in the same manner seems to contradict the testimonies of Ruppelt and Alverez, who stated they had. Baker was convinced that these were not birds but his opinion seemed more firmly rooted in a "gut feel" than by scientific reasoning.

Dr. Hartmann, of the Condon study, analyzed the films in the late 1960s. His conclusions differed from Bakers and agreed with the Robertson Panel,

In favor of the hypothesis that the Tremonton objects were birds, probably gulls, we have the following arguments: (1) White gulls are known to be present in the area. (2) Bird-sized objects at a distance of 2,000 ft. would be on the limits of visual resolution, moving at about 45 to 55 mph east to west, with relative motions up to 9 mph; (3) Such motions are independently supported by the testimony that the objects overtook and were first sighted from a moving car traveling toward the NW. The objects were kept in sight until the car was stopped, and nearly a minute and a half of film exposed. (4) Baker points out that the departure of a single object from the group is typical of a bird seeking a new thermal updraft. (5) Variations in motion and brightness suggest wheeling birds. (6) The bulk of informed opinion among those who studied the film, both in and out of the Air Force, is that birds were the most probable explanation.

Arguments against gulls include the following: (1) The distances and velocities cited are on the margin of acceptability. If the gulls were slightly closer, they should have been clearly identified since their angular size would exceed 3 min. of arc; if they were slightly further away, their velocity would become unacceptably high. This argument is considerably weakened by noting that somewhat smaller birds could be unresolvable but slow. (2) Arguments have been raised that the weather conditions would not be conducive to thermal updrafts that would allow long, soaring flights of birds. This is not a strong argument, however, since there is insuffient data concerning weather conditions. (3) No clear, periodic flapping is observed on the film. This is not critical, since there are erratic brightness fluctuations, and since the objects were evidently below the limits of resolution. (4) The strongest negative argument was stated later by the witness that the objects were seen to subtend an angle of about 0.5 and were then seen as gun-metal colored and shaped like two saucers held together rim to rim, but the photographs and circumstances indicate that this observation could not have been meaningful.

Although I cannot offer an expert ornithological opinion, it appears to me that the Tremonton objects constitute a flock of white birds. The data are not conclusive, but I have found nothing in the detailed Blue Book file incompatible with this opinion. The objects are thus provisionally identified as birds, pending any demonstration by other investigators that they could not be birds. There is no conclusive or probative evidence that the case involves extraordinary aircraft. On 23 August 1968 after completion of the above report, I had occasion to drive through Utah and made a point of watching for birds. The countryside near Tremonton is grassy farmland with trees, streams, and meadows. It was within 30 mi. of Tremonton that I noticed the greatest concentration of bird activity. A number of large gulls were seen, some with white bodies and duskytipped wings (rendering the wings indistinct in flight) and some pure white. About 10 mi. south of Tremonton and again about 20 mi. north of Panguitch (in southern Utah) I saw flocks of white or light birds at once distinctly reminiscent of the key witness's films. The birds milled about, the whole group drifting at about 20 or 30 mph. (I noticed no surface wind) and subtending 10 to 20. The individual birds (in the second case) were not quite resolvable, yet appeared to have some structure. Sometimes pairs would move together and sometimes individuals or pairs would turn and fade out as others became prominent. As suggested by the key witness they appeared to require a telephoto lens for photography. They were not prominent, but distinctly curious once noted - a group of white objects milling about in the sky. (The only proof that my second group of objects, which I observed from a considerable distance, were indeed birds, was that I saw them take off.) These observations give strong evidence that the Tremonton films do show birds, as hypothesized above, and I now regard the objects as so indentified (sic). (Condon 425-6)

Despite the protests of Baker, it seems that Newhouse had filmed a flock of birds and later altered his story to make it appear they were something else.

UFO over Trindade Island: Scientific evidence or trick photography?

The above link will take you to my in depth evaluation of the Trindade Island photographs.

Adamski and Villa: Contactees with a keen eye for photography

In the 1950s and 1960s, many people claimed to be in contact with aliens from another world. Two of the most prominent were George Adamski and Paul Villa. Both provided photographic evidence of their encounters and almost all UFOlogists have since rejected their images. We find the following concerning Adamski's photographs in NICAP's, The UFO evidence:

Because of Mr. George Adamski's background as a self-styled "professor" of oriental mystical philosophy (later espoused by his "spacemen") and at least one claim of his which was conclusively proved false by NICAP investigators, his photographs are considered dubious. NICAP Board Member, Frank Edward, (an experienced photographer) considers the Adamski pictures hoaxes. Mr. Adamski refuses to submit his negatives for analysis. (Hall 89)

Interesting to note that in the same compilation, NICAP presents a sketch of flight characteristics for satellite objects that looks remarkably like Adamski's photograph of a mothership and satellite UFOs. It makes one wonder about how NICAP truly felt about Adamski's images.

Paul Villa took his pictures from New Mexico between April-June 1963 and claimed to have met aliens from the constellation of Coma Bernices. Analysis by Project Blue Book clearly identified these as hoaxes and in later years, Ground Saucer Watch performed computer analysis of the images. Their evaluations indicated that the images were faked using small models. Even though major UFO groups have rejected these images, one can still find books and websites presenting the same images as authentic. Are these UFOlogists simply ignorant of the image's histories or are they just way too credulous?

The Condon Study gets a picture

During the Condon Study, several photographs were submitted that supposedly showed actual UFOs. They were evaluated for authenticity and many of them got the "FBI treatment" as Hynek would describe it. One of these seemed to be of an authentic UFO and was quite impressive when first examined. The person (called major Y) submitting the photograph stated he had taken them while flying as a pilot shortly before he retired from the USAF. Further investigation by the team revealed inconsistencies that exposed the hoax. Dr. Roy Craig wrote the following concerning the investigation:

The pictures were beautiful. And the man who took them was apparently of the highest reliability. There were, however, disturbing weaknesses in the story. One was his failure to report his sighting, as required by Air Force regulations... Adding to the difficulties, the numbers stamped on the slide mountings were not consecutive. In addition to the processing date of December 1966, the mounting of the blurred slide carried the number 14 and the second slide number 11. Had the pictures actually been taken in reverse order, and two additional pictures taken between the two we had?.... Mrs. Y seemed offended that the authenticity of the photos would be questioned... Major Y swore that his photos were of a real flying saucer seen under the conditions he described... Mrs Y appeared with ten additional slides. She said these were from the same roll, but she could not find the others... Slides which numbered 1 through 8 showed scenes of the post retirement drive across the mountains. Numbers 9 and 10 were of the October snowstorm... we removed Major Y's twelve slides from their mountings to examine the frame numbering on the film itself...Alas, these numbers showed the same sequence as indicated in the mountings. The mountain trip and snowstorm pictures were taken in the order that the Y's said they were taken. However, the UFO pictures had been taken after the snowstorm, which was several months after the major's retirement. They were not taken by him from a C-47 while he was in the Air Force - nor was the one slide taken immediately after the other. Any hopes that these pictures could be used to support a contention that flying saucers inhabit Earth's skies had been quenched even before the photos themselves had been analyzed...Major Y had appeared to be the most reliable of witnesses...His present and past associates considered him honest, reliable, and credible. He remains among the set of anonymous people who have not photographed a real flying saucer. (Craig 86-93)

Despite having the most impressive credentials, it did not prevent this individual from conducting a hoax. There was also no apparent reason for him to do so, yet he did. What does this say for all the "reliability" remarks that UFOlogists often make about photographers of UFOs?

Heflin and the "Top-hat" UFO

In 1965, a man named Rex Heflin took a series of photographs showing a UFO taking off and flying away near Santa Ana, California. The sequence of four images showed a "top-hat" type UFO that seemed to have just lifted off and began to fly away. Did Heflin photograph an extraordinary craft?

Unfortunately, Heflin's original photographs were "lost" resulting in copies being the only source for analysis. He seems to have had his images taken from him but those that took them managed to allow him to make copies first. Shortly after the event, the local Marine base sent out investigators who took three of the originals for analysis. A few weeks later they were returned but, shortly thereafter, two mysterious men from NORAD came and took three of the photographs. The fourth photograph was given to NICAP, which also seems to have "lost" the image. With such an interesting history, it is no wonder these images have been subjected to much analysis over the years.

Analysis by the USAF indicating the images were hoaxes to which NICAP (almost always taking the opposite stance) promptly disagreed. Meanwhile, Heflin continues to claim to have been visited by several military personnel including another officer from NORAD, whom he named. This name did not check out but this did not stop Heflin from making more claims about his phone being tapped and military men visiting his home when he was away. There seemed to be a grand conspiracy to hide the truth that Heflin was revealing with these photographs. When Heflin's other claims did not check out, it began to look like his photographs were the product of a hoax.

This all added up to one big mess when Dr. William Hartmann, from the Condon study, analyzed the pictures. His analysis focused on the weather for the day and revealed discrepancies that indicated the photographs were not taken at the time the witness indicated. Additionally, Hartmann writes,

In the course of my study I was able to simulate effectively the first three photographs by suspending a model by a thread attached to a rod resting on the roof of a truck and photographing it (Plate 47). Without assuming the truth or untruth of the witness's story this has led me to conclude that the case is of little probative value...The evidence for the reality of the UFO is not sufficiently strong to have probative value in establishing the existence of extraordinary flying objects. The strongest arguments against the case are the clouds in photo four and the inconsistent early records regarding the "NORAD" visitors. The photos themselves contain no geometric or physical data that permit a determination of distance or size independent of the testimony. Thus the witness's claims are the essential ingredients in the case. The case must remain inconclusive. (Condon 454)

Hartmann felt there were so many problems with the case that it was useless as evidence for UFOs being physical craft.

The Heflin case has had many supporters and detractors over the years. Kevin Randle reports in his book, Scientific UFOlogy that the originals were eventually returned to Heflin (although he does not go into any details). According to some accounts, he was told to search a mailbox and found his photographs there. This brings into question the story about the strange NORAD men, who supposedly took them. Why send them back if you are trying to cover-up the existence of UFOs? GSW conducted further analysis using copies of the originals in the 1970s and concluded they were fakes based on an apparent thread holding up the UFO. However, others have since pointed out the analysis showed an artifact that had been introduced by using second generation copies. Again, the analyses of these images were inconclusive. The controversy can never be resolved to either conclusion. When one examines the cumulative effect of all the inconsistencies and apparent "tall tales", the probability of this case being a hoax is high.

Warminster: An experiment on gullibility in evaluating UFO photographs

In March of 1970, the group, The Society for the Investigation of Unidentified Object Phenomena (SIUFOP) decided to create a UFO hoax in order to evaluate how good UFOlogists were in examining the evidence for the phenomena. The stage was set by a series of UFO reports and apparent "trace evidence" being reported by UFOlogists in the vicinity of Warminster, England. As a result, observers began to keep an eye out for unusual phenomena in the area. On one evening a "sighting" was staged by using a purple light on a distant hill. Amidst the group of UFO watchers was a member of the team, apparently taking pictures of the phenomena. The film had already been exposed but the team member acted like he was taking pictures of the UFO. He also had a "UFO detector" in use to detect magnetic fields whenever a UFO might appear. He activated the alarm when the light showed up to add to the "strangeness" of the UFO. Once the event was over, he mentioned to those around that he had obtained the photographs and wondered where he might have them developed. A local UFOlogist gladly accepted the film to see it developed and evaluated under "controlled" conditions. These photographs quickly gained international attention as images of UFOs.

In order to make it easy for the UFOlogists to discover the hoax, the following items were purposefully introduced into the images:

In the first frame the UFO was montaged above the (invisible) horizon and approximately 22 degrees south of the position of the purple light. The second frame showed the UFO still further south by about 8 degrees, below the horizon, fainter and blurred. Neither frame included the location of the purple light. The UFO image was made cigar-sectioned, horizontal and with a circular blob above and below centre. This design was created on an oscilloscope using Lissajous figures.

Headlamps of cars (about three miles away) driving westbound along the main road into Warminster are momentarily visible to the right of Battlesbury Hill when viewed at night from Cradle Hill. Therefore time-exposure photographs taken in this direction often show a white line traced by the movement of cars during the exposure. It was ensured that the background scene used in each montage showed different lengths of line consistent with time-exposure photographsof a few seconds.

Shortly after the purple light had been finally extinguished and the UFO detector had been switched off, Mr Foxwell took two genuine pictures that included, as comparison photographs, part of the aforementioned street-lamp scene. This was to provide future photographic investigators with the following significant clues that the UFO photographs were at least of a dubious nature. Firstly, the images on the prepared negatives were magnified over 10 per cent more than the genuine ones - individual street lamps were easily identifiable and measurement of the distances between them highlights this inconsistency. Secondly, the background scenes used were photographed many months before March 1970 and showed gaps in the street-lamp pattern where two lamps were not working. When the genuine pictures were taken (minutes after the purple light incident) these street lamps had been mended. These inconsistencies had been deliberately used to see if ufologists would critically examine the photographic evidence. (Simpson Experimental)

With such obvious clues, it was hoped the investigators would proclaim the images as hoaxes shortly after closely examining them.

For two years the UFOlogists examined the images looking for specific details. However, instead of finding the clues, they proclaimed them authentic. Only a few months after the incident, a photograph consultant to The Flying Saucer Review, wrote, "Let me say at the outset that there is nothing about these photographs which suggests to me that they have been faked in any way " (Simpson Controlled 36). Within six months, Dr. Pierre Guerin, Director of Research at the Astrophysical Institute of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, had analyzed the images and made some very interesting observations and conclusions. In the November-December 1970 issue of The Flying Saucer Review, he wrote:

In my opinion there is no question of the object photographed being in any possible way the result of faking. The question that arises is why the appearance of this object on the photographs is so different from its appearance to the eye according to the descriptions of the witnesses...Consequently the interpretation of this divergence between what the witness 'saw' could be quite simple: namely, that the object photographed was emitting ultra-violet light, which the eye does not see. Around the object however, a ruby-red halo, probably of a monochromatic colour and doubtless due to some phenomenon of air ionisation, was visible only to the eye and in actual fact has made no impression on the film. (Simpson Controlled 36)

This scientifically trained individual was now making excuses for why the images did not match what the witnesses reported. Instead of questioning what happened and what was recorded, he managed to convince himself there was a more complicated reason for problems with the photograph. With so many warning flags available, it is amazing that a scientist of such stature could have been taken in by a simple hoax.

The story did not end at this point and each follow-up article in the magazine drew more and more exotic conclusions. Simpson writes how another photographic expert wrote "a three-page article discussing erroneously the effects of ultraviolet radiation on photographic emulsions" (Simpson Controlled 37). This had the signs of being a UFO classic case and if it were not for the hard fact that this was setup in advance, one might still be reading about the case today as a good example of an unsolvable case.

Dr. Guerin's desire to believe that the images were authentic interfered with his critical skills as a scientist. John Shaw, a photographic expert for BUFORA, noted this problem, "Sadly, many people interested in the subject will accept evidence on face value if it supports their case" (Spencer and Evans 215). David Simpson noted, "...the enthusiasm and credulity of many commentators hinders the scientific appraisal of UFO phenomena" (Simpson Experimental) and, "Regrettably, my experiences in the UFO field have shown that the investigator incompetence demonstrated by this particular experiment, far from being exceptional, is typical" (Simpson Controlled 37). Even scientific training can not shield somebody from wanting to believe so much that they dismiss information indicating their beliefs are unfounded.

Simpson's revelation that science took a backseat to a desire to believe in this case demonstrates the problems with UFO photographic analysis by UFO "experts". He expounded:

Scientific evaluation requires that inconclusive, suspicious, or self-contradictory evidence be classified as such and subsequently shelved. Unless this is done we are left with either a hypothesis made weak and unconvincing by disreputable evidence, or a hypothesis based on myths which add nothing useful to the understanding of our environment. The Warminster Photographs provided a group of ufologists with the opportunity to use such a classification. The inbuilt flaws were easily detectable had the negatives been subjected to a critical analysis. The vast amount of literature published leads one to the conclusion that the pictures were considered very significant by UFO researchers, yet despite this and their impressive list of consultants, the investigators concerned did not analyse the evidence critically. Not once did they interview Mr Foxwell, yet without his photographs the sighting would have been insignificant. Their statements and actions were often not those of people trying to understand a strange event, but those of people prepared to ignore relevant criticisms in order to support a cause. In the eyes of many a UFO case takes on an aura of credibility when endorsed by someone of high professional standing like Dr Pierre Guerin. It is therefore disappointing that Dr Guerin should apparently be unaware of the ease with which perfect fake photographs can be manufactured. It should be stated that FSR was not singled out for this experiment: its involvement was pure chance... It is therefore unfortunate that when presented with a UFO case of such potential importance, so little was achieved. The sighting took place in England, the photographer lived near London, and his negatives yielded what many considered to be the most convincing pictures of an unidentified flying object ever taken. Knowing this, investigators failed to learn the geographical layout of the sighting area, they failed to interview the photographer and they failed to discover the substantial inconsistencies introduced into the negatives. The other UFO cases published in FSR often originate in distant parts of the world and are rarely corroborated with scientific data. Is it likely that they have been reported or investigated more competently than the Warminster Photographs? I doubt it. (Simpson Experimental)

The experiment clearly demonstrated that these UFOlogists were not skeptical enough to find clues of a hoax. How many UFO photographs are often accepted as genuine that contain clues to a hoax, which are dismissed?

Billy Meier: Fakery in Switzerland

Beginning in the 1970's, a one-armed swiss contactee began to taken dozens of photographs of UFOs from the open cluster of the Pleiades. Billy Meier was the subject of a book called, UFO...Contact from the Pleiades Volume I. Of course, his photographs were the highlight of this journal, which was produced by Genesis III productions. Genesis III involved the UFOlogists Wendele Stevens, Brit and Lee Elders, and Thomas Welch. For over a decade Billy entertained everyone by recounting his contacts with the aliens, spaceship rides, movies and photographs. Meier made numerous claims that seemed extraordinary but were readily accepted by many! According to Kal Korff, Billy claimed over seven hundred contacts and had over one thousand photographs. Did these stories check out?

Kal Korff wrote one of the definitive books on the matter called, The Billy Meier Story: Spaceships of the Pleiades. To do so, he had to go "undercover" and make an attempt at finding the truth about Billy Meier. He demonstrated that there are suspect strings in many of his photographs and claims to have successfully duplicated other images/movies that were supposedly not reproducible. Korff also exposed Jim Dilettoso (the photo analyst for Genesis III) as a fake. Billy Meier took in credulous UFO investigators despite the numerous warning flags that should have indicated to them that the stories were not truthful. As Kal Korff stated, "UFOlogy is overloaded with people willing to take advantage of the gullibility of others" (Korff 413). Billy was the source but it was the con-man nature of Elders, Stevens, and Dilettoso that presented these obviously hoaxed pictures in a way to indicate that Meier was actually in contact with aliens from the Pleiades.

The Incredible Mr. Ed

The above link will take you to my in depth evaluation of Ed Walters, who many consider to be a prankster and a hoaxer of UFO photographs.

Belgium: Is it really an actual photograph of a flying triangle?

During the 1989-1990 UFO wave in Belgium, there were several videos and images produced of UFOs. Investigation revealed that all but one were of aircraft or crude hoax images (one video that keeps showing up on the Internet turned out to be a video of a landing aircraft). This was a photograph taken by a young worker in the Petit-Rechain area of Belgium, which is near the large city of Liege. The image was taken using a 200mm zoom lens (apparently set at 100-150mm) F4 lens and ISO 200 film with an exposure time of 1-2 seconds. Despite the slow shutter speed, the photograph shows very little vibration that one would expect even if the photographer used a nearby post to steady his aim. The major problem in analyzing this image is that it is highly cropped and shows no objects for scale. Add to this that the exact date of the event is not known and we find that the photograph is almost impossible to analyze. The object could easily have been a close-up of a model or a balloon with lighting. Indeed, Wim Van Utrecht was able to recreate the image using simple materials bringing into question the authenticity of the image. As with the Trent images, the photographer had simply thrown his slide in a drawer until a journalist convinced him that it was "important". If he had actually photographed an alien spaceship, wouldn't he have considered taking more care of the slide? Again, if he had conducted a hoax and was not satisfied with the results, the image would have ended up being mishandled as this slide was. Perhaps it was the publicity surrounding the UFO events in November 1989, which prompted the young man to attempt a hoax photograph of an "authentic" Belgian triangle. The Belgian UFO wave's only good photographic evidence evaporates under close scrutiny as a likely hoax.  

UFO landing at Carp: Too good to be true?

In 1989, the Canadian UFO Research Network (CUFORN) received a package from a mysterious "guardian" that stated a UFO crash had occurred near Ottawa. Initial response was that it appeared to be a hoax but some locals did investigate and determined where the possible landing/crash site was. For about two years it remained that way when more packages appeared, one of which contained a video of the crashed UFO. The images are not that impressive and appear to be some large object that is lit with flares nearby and a flashing light on top. However, this video began to make the rounds in the UFO community as something authentic. After the winter of 1991-1992, CUFORN began to investigate the case. An American Ufologist, Bob Oechsler, became involved in the investigation because he also received a version of the tape, which he showed to Dr. Bruce Maccabee. Both felt a UFO was present and needed investigation. Oechsler's behavior during the investigation of the area seemed suspect. The Canadian UFOlogists were amazed at how Oechsler seemed to know his way around and then managed to find the location of the video shoot while they decided to go to a restaurant to get a bite to eat. Oechsler then proceeded to find witnesses of the incident. Apparently, the UFO crashed in 1989 and, in August 1991, there was a subsequent landing that was recorded in the same area.

While Oechsler was busy looking for evidence of the UFO crash/landing, CUFORN began to investigate the more likely case of this being a video of a landed helicopter. Even though they could not find any helicopter landings that had occurred during the time period, CUFORN still was skeptical about the video. Back in the United States, Bob Oechsler had set up the television show "Unsolved Mysteries" to air the video bringing more people into the case. At one point, Dr. Maccabee referred to it as the "best footage of a landed UFO he'd ever seen" (Brookesmith 101). Maccabee's and Oechsler's opinions began to differ with those who were closely investigating the case.

Over the next few years, Oechsler's qualifications began to become suspect and Dr. Bruce Maccabee's connection with the case indicated he was either duped by Oechsler or that his analytical techniques were less than satisfactory. According to Tom Theofanous & Errol Bruce-Knapp:

Bruce Maccabee's motive and actions throughout the course of Oechsler's investigation are highly suspect and we feel that Maccabee owes an explanation to all those in our field who have trusted his judgment over the years.

The question is, is Maccabee being manipulated by Oechsler? Is he being conned or have his judgement and analytical capabilities become desperately impaired?

...Oechsler used his manipulative ability to build a story even though he knew of the circumstances and exactly what was going on and together with Bruce Macabbee, intentionally misled the public, the media and ufology using unethical means, and bad judgement in order to benefit financially and personally. (Theofanous & Bruce-Knapp):

With these closing remarks it was clear that Maccabee and Oechsler's opinions no longer mattered to people closely involved with the investigation of this case.

CUFORN/MUFON Ontario continued their investigation and began to seriously doubt the eyewitness stories. They began to suspect that the vehicle in the video was a truck with lights on top and the day-glow type wiper blades extended. Apparently, the nephew of the witness owned this type of vehicle. Further investigation revealed that the "guardian" might have been a friend of the family. The case began to unravel and the conclusions of CUFORN/MUFON Ontario were that the witness, the nephew, and friend were all involved in the hoax. In writing about the video, the MUFON Ontario bulletin stated, " That the Guardian video of a 'UFO landing' has, after analysis, proved inconclusive and likely is either a pick-up truck or (according to the RCMP investigation) a helicopter." (Theofanous & Bruce-Knapp). The case was rightly declared a hoax even though several prominent UFOlogists wanted to maintain the opposite opinion.

Mexico City: The best video on the planet of an actual flying saucer?

In 1997, a new piece of photographic evidence surfaced from the home of the latest UFO wave, Mexico in the form of videotape. Despite the fact that the wave had been precipitated in 1991 by videotapes of the planet Venus during a solar eclipse, many UFOlogists continued to believe that there was a hotbed of UFO activity here. A video was produced which showed a disc rising above the city moving behind a building. The images were so clear, warning flags were quickly raised by many in the UFO community. Television show host and UFO investigator, Jaimie Maussan began his investigation of the matter. He soon uncovered several witnesses who had seen the UFO, including a young girl. With such witnesses, Maussan assumed the video must have been authentic but other UFO groups felt the tape was too good to be true

Within a few months, MUFON photo analyst Jeff Sainio had completed his analysis of the tape. One of the telltale signs of a hoax involved the smearing of the building when the videographer panned to follow the UFO while the UFO did not smear. According to Sainio, "This indicates the UFO wasn't in the video when the camera was shaking, but was added later" (Klass Sainio 5). Other signs were the relationship between the video and the buildings as the cameras viewing angle changed and attitude changes in the UFO in relation to the buildings in the frames. It took a frame-by-frame analysis to reach this conclusion, confirming William Hyzer's conclusions that it would be impossible, if not difficult, to prove a hoax in something that is well planned. The hoaxers in this case used computers to insert the UFO into the film of the buildings. Sainio's analysis demonstrated that it would take sophisticated techniques to detect sophisticated hoaxes.

It was interesting to note that Sainio was able to identify the hoax in this case since he was involved with some of the Gulf Breeze analysis done by Maccabee. He has endorsed Ed Walters photographs, which some UFOlogists consider to be fake (as stated in the previous section). However, in this case, nobody seemed to pin much of an endorsement on the tape other than Maussan. With no prominent UFOlogist to champion the images, it was easy to reject the video since nobody was going to argue with the analysis.

Lawton, Oklahoma 2002: Westminster 1970 American style!

In March of 2002, UFOlogist Jim Hickman received a digital photograph of what appeared to be a triangular formation of lights with a bright red UFO nearby. Hickman contacted Dr. Bruce Maccabee to help analyze the photographs. The witness was somebody simply identified as "J.W." in order to prevent him from losing his job, which required a security clearance. Hickman was enthusiastic after interviewing J.W. and stated:

I can't help but notice a few similarities between this case and the Hudson valley sightings back in the '80's. i.e.; A large object hovering overhead, multicolored lights, slow speed, then fast exit, altitude 100' or less, no sounds, animals affected, etc. As a side note; I was involved in a UFO incident near Lawton myself back in '83 where a huge triangle shaped object hovered overhead, (I was able to see structure), and then followed my vehicle for over 20 miles. This sighting was verified by the Kiowa County Sheriff's office who's dispatcher saw the object as I was in radio communication with him, and by Altus Air Force base, who sent up an aircraft to investigate. I have written a full account of that evening in my next book, I call that story "Encounter at Lost Lake". (Maccabee Lawton)

Dr. Maccabee seemed equally impressed after analyzing the image:

What could this have been? It certainly doesn't seem to be any military device or any type of object normally in the sky. Internally lighted blimps seem like very strange objects at night, but they have a distinctive shape. (There was a rash of blimp sightings and videos back in the early 1990's, so we have video "data" on the types of images they make...nothing like this.) Hence, unless someone has a better idea, I would have to classify this as a True UFO (TRUFO), which might be some sort of Alien Flying Craft (AFC) (or two such craft?) (Maccabee Lawton)

The images stood this way for several months, with little progress or attempt to further analysis.

In May of 2002, witness TJ came forward to show his photograph of the same UFO arrangement taken near Lawton. The witness was again anonymous because he was associated with the military. Without any sort of confirmation, Hickman and Maccabee suggested that these two photographs were good evidence and dedicated web space to these images and their investigation. Maccabee is on record as stating:

"WOW! Got to pull out all the stops on this one! A rare event, two photos of the same (apparently) thing! The numbers of lights at the corners may agree (do agree at two corners) and the shape of the red "car" is as I had predicted (the left and right outlines of the "car" in the Lawton photo would be the actual shapes of the left and right sides of the red UFO image if photographed without camera smear)." (Filer)

Despite declaring that he had to pull out all the stops, Maccabee later would admit he only dedicated a few hours in researching this case! By August, he would not have to dedicate any more time because the real source of the images was revealed.

On August 4, 2002, Dr. Maccabee received word that there was a disturbing posting on USENET from skeptic Bruce Hutchinson. Carl Wilson revealed that he created the images by using a digital photograph of his optical mouse and some lights around his computer area. Needless to say, Dr. Maccabee seemed to have egg on his face and quickly published his response:

The hoaxer failed to prove what he intended, but he did do something else: he provided a warning to the UFO community that there are people willing to take the time to provide a sort of "disinformation." He proved that there are people willing to take the time to create photographic evidence and, of more importance, to follow through by creating a plausible sighting story and allowing themselves to be investigated. In doing so they waste their own time and the time of the investigators, time that that could be better spent investigating the sightings reported by honest people. (Maccabee Lawton)

Of course, Maccabee's interpretation is that Wilson was wasting everyone's time by creating such a hoax. On the contrary, Wilson exposed the same problem that was exposed in Warminster 1970. The credulous nature of UFOlogists makes them susceptible to hoaxes. Dr. Maccabee did expose several cases as hoaxes (Mexico) or misidentifications (Phoenix 1997). However, he needs to apply such "skepticism" to all his investigations. The first thing that comes to mind is his "involvement" with Ed Walters and the Carp case both documented in this article as likely hoaxes. Hickman's gullibility is noted by his interpretation of re-entering space debris as a UFO shootdown by military jets. Perhaps Maccabee and Hickman should re-examine their process to prevent being taken in by such fabrications.

As for Carl Wilson, he seemed satisfied with the results but disturbed by the response of the UFOlogists. He noted that Hickman reported him to the police for filing a false UFO report! Clearly, Wilson's expose' was more than a minor irritation to Hickman (One can find Wilson's web page on the matter at The only fault with Wilson's hoax is that he exposed it too soon. Had he waited a year and/or presented a few more photographs as evidence, I think there would have been some more solid endorsement of these images by Maccabee and others. There may even have been a repeat of the Warminster experience with UFOlogists finding all sorts of details in the photographs that weren't there.

The Lawton Triangle hoax again exposed the credulity of UFOlogists. If UFOlogists can not identify a hoax 100% of the time, what does it say for all these UFO photographs/films described as being good evidence of a TRUFO?


It seems the camera is not as foolproof as UFOlogists want everyone to believe. John Shaw, a member of the British Institute of Professional Photographers and the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA), wrote, "... it must be remembered that photographs on their own are very poor evidence... The camera has one lens, one viewpoint and a fixed field of view - a fact relied upon in the still and movie industries to record images in a particular way." (Spencer and Evans 217). It is also the fact that is relied upon by hoaxers to create images that appear to be "authentic" photographs of actual UFOs. What motivates the hoaxer? There are a variety of reasons. Some possible factors are money, publicity, or, as Dr. Frank Drake put it, "... a desire to pull the wool over other people's eyes and to do it very cleverly for surprising reasons" (Sagan and Page 257). With hoaxes being the source of most UFO photographs, what can it say for the remainder? Is it possible, as Mr. Hyzer noted that they are simply good hoaxes that have yet to be or can not be exposed as such? When one looks at the photographers and the events surrounding the images, it becomes apparent that even the best UFO images are suspect.

Works Cited

Berliner, Don, Marie Galbraith, and Antonio Huneeus. UFO BRIEFING DOCUMENT: THE BEST AVAILABLE EVIDENCE. Dell Publishing, New York, NY. 1995

Brookesmith, Peter. UFO: The Government Files. New York: Barnes & Nobles, 1996.

Carpenter, Joel. The McMinnville Photos. No longer Available On line Part of the document is available at

Clark, Jerry. The UFO Book. Detroit: Visible Ink Press 1998.

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Craig, Roy. UFOs: An Insider's View of the Offfical Quest for Evidence. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1995.

Filer, George. "Oklahoma Photos". Filer's files. May 29, 2002. Available On line

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Hendry, Allan. The UFO Investigators Handbook. London: Sphere Books Ltd. 1980.

Hynek, J. Allen. The Hynek UFO Report. New York: Barnes & Nobles, 1997.

Hyzer, William G. "More Deceptive Imagery". Photomethods. September 1991 12-13

Klass, Philip. UFOS Explained. New York: Random House, 1974.

-, "Sainio's Analyis Shows Mexico City UFO Video is a Hoax." Skeptic's UFO Newsletter, Nov. 1998.

Kodak Verichrome Pan film technical publication F-7. Available On line

Korf, Kal. The Billy Meier Story: Spaceships of the Pleides. Amherst New York: Prometheus Books, 1995.

Maccabee, Bruce. The Trent Farm Photos. Available On line

-. The Lawton Triangles Hoax. Available On line

Ruppelt, Edward. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. New York: Doubleday 1956.

Sagan, Carl, and Thornton Page, eds. UFO's: A Scientific Debate. New York: Barnes & Nobles, 1972.

Sheaffer, Robert. An Investigation of the McMinnville Photographs. Available On line:

- Letter Saucer Smear. 5 November 1999. Available On line:

Spencer, John and Hilary Evans eds. Phenomenon: Forty Years of Flying Saucers. New York: Avon, 1988.

Simpson, David I. "Experimental UFO Hoaxing." MUFOB New Series. 2 March 1976. Available On line

- "Controlled UFO Hoax: Some Lessons Learned". Skeptical Inquirer. Spring 1980 32-39.

Smith, Willy. "Trindade Revisted" International UFO Reporter. July/August 1983. Available On Line:

Theofanous, Tom & Errol Bruce-Knapp. "The Carp Case - The MUFON Ontario Version". The MUFON Ontario Newsletter. March 1994

Websters Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged Encyclopedia Edition J.G.Ferguson Publishing Company. Chicago 1977.

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