Monday, May 18, 2015

Don Schmitt Back on Stage at MUFON PA

Don Schmitt's first public appearance since the Roswell Slides debacle and his apology for his role in it proceeded as scheduled, according to John Ventre of the Mutual UFO Network. Schmitt had been scheduled to speak at the May 16 Erie UFO Conference, backed by MUFON.

"Yes, Don spoke," Ventre, the state director of MUFON PA, replied in a May 18 email to a query about whether or not Schmitt appeared at the event. "He felt the need to explain the Roswell slide incident but the audience told him they weren’t too concerned with what happened and to just present the Roswell story. They appreciated his wanting to clear the air though."

An email was also sent to Don Schmitt offering him an opportunity to comment on the circumstances. He did not immediately respond.

Critics will no doubt question the value of research Schmitt and his slides colleagues have to offer, given their latest errors that, if their sincerity is to be believed, demonstrate them at best to be extremely biased investigators lacking objectivity and sound judgment. Some will feel it reasonable to be very skeptical of any information members of the slides team present, particularly more assertions absent conclusive verification. 

Meanwhile, beWITNESS promoter Jaime Maussan continued to champion the mummy depicted in the slides as an extraterrestrial being, recently taking to Twitter to offer a $10,000 reward to anyone who can produce the body. Outrage has been expressed about such actions and his ongoing rejection of the translation of the placard. He and the slide promoters have also been criticized for their general failure to address the numerous aspects of evidence that were promised to be revealed - but never presented - at the May 5 event in Mexico City.

His latest in a long line of grandstanding will no doubt fuel more animosity towards him, Adam Dew and Tom Carey, who continue to refuse to acknowledge the validity of the conclusive evidence published by the Roswell Slides Research Group which shattered their unsupported claims and arguably called motives into question. The skeptical group's findings were independently verified by multiple sources, including Frank Warren at 'The UFO Chronicles', who reported a lack of investigative cooperation from Adam Dew and Tom Carey in addition to confirmation the placard identified the corpse as a mummy.  

Richard Dolan appeared at the beWITNESS event, called the slides compelling and repeatedly vouched for the sincerity and research skills of the slides promoters. In the aftermath of the wheels coming off, Dolan emphatically stated the saga is over for him and suggested the community move on. 

While some UFO enthusiasts might choose to support Dolan's stance on the matter, others will question how a researcher such as he, that claims to be qualified to report on some of the most intricate and secret aspects of the global intelligence community, could have failed to accurately assess the slides fiasco as absurd from the start. Essentially, an argument could be made that it doesn't make much sense that Dolan couldn't figure out what virtually everyone else in ufology could surmise about the situation and the parties involved. 

Others, however, will likely not care, as long as they continue to get what they want from so-called ufologists, whatever that may be. For them and the ufologists, perhaps the show must simply go on.    

"His talk was very good," Ventre concluded about Schmitt's May 16 appearance.   

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Shot of B12 for Ufology

Dr. D. Ellen K. Tarr of Project Core has posted a worthy commentary on methodologies employed by FREE (The Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial Encounters), particularly concerning the group's statements about surveys it conducted. Her article, 'Commentary on the FREE Experiencer Research Study Preliminary Findings', was posted at her fellow Core team member Jeff Ritzmann's Paranormal Waypoint. 

Dr. Tarr considered the manners the FREE survey questions were constructed, as well as what keeps such efforts from being scientific, in spite of the frequent assertions they are just that. The immunologist also offered some suggestions about what researchers can do to improve their efforts and subsequent results.

A few more doses and
you'll be back on your feet
in no time, ufology!
Tarr and her Project Core colleague, microbiologist Dr. Tyler Kokjohn, have demonstrated a willingness to participate in ufology and weigh circumstances with an open mind. I interpret that does not mean, however, they will accept work without applying reasonable skepticism or believe every fish story without question. This is a shot of B12 for ufology, in my opinion, and I'd welcome a few follow-up treatments.

Project Core was a research initiative spearheaded by Jeff Ritzmann and Jeremy Vaeni. They enrolled the assistance of Kokjohn, Tarr and Dr. Kimbal Cooper in designing, conducting and analyzing surveys related to reported paranormal experiences. Learn more about the Project Core group, its findings and the personal perspectives of its members by listening to the latest episode of Jeremy Vaeni's 'The Experience' podcast on Whitley Strieber's Unknown Country.

Additional objective, critical review of methodologies employed during investigation of such reported experiences could include considerations of an article published in January of 2015 by the Association for Psychological Science. 'People Can Be Convinced They Committed a Crime That Never Happened' contained info on a study in which research subjects were surprisingly easily led to construct memories and narrations of events that never actually took place, yet the subjects nonetheless believed to be true. The study concluded that wording of questions was key, as were the manners the questions were presented and explored.

"All participants need to generate a richly detailed false memory is three hours in a friendly interview environment, where the interviewer introduces a few wrong details and uses poor memory-retrieval techniques," psychological scientist Julia Shaw reported.

The implications to investigators of alleged alien abduction (and most anything else, for that matter) should be obvious enough. My point is that objective, qualified professionals should be consulted for purposes of creating and interpreting surveys, interviewing witnesses and similar investigative activities. Additionally, the resulting narratives and suppositions must be independently corroborated before accepted as indicative of objective reality, particularly when the investigators are biased and/or not trained professionals in the first place. 

Such poor investigative procedures and resulting unsubstantiated assertions have long plagued ufology. Here's to hoping more people will take note of Ritzmann and Vaeni's efforts to enroll qualified help, and then offer those objective professionals chairs at the table when they're willing to sit down.  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Skeptic

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious website of UFO lore -
It was on them I was learning of the many and concerning,
The many and concerning hoaxes from the days of yore;
Dreams and schemes of con men from forgotten days of yore, mostly that and little more.

For better or for worse, I recalled a famous curse
Cast by an avid skeptic who ufologists called a bore.
The curse that bears repeating told ufologists of the beating
They would take however desperately they hungered to learn more.
They would never, ever, ever understand the mystery's core, simply stumped and nothing more.

My laptop battery ran low and the screen cast dancing shadows
'Cross my darkened study walls and down upon my office floor,
As I viewed a blurry photo likely from some ol' time sideshow,
But shamelessly promoted as an alien from before,
Promoted as an alien found upon the desert floor, to be famous evermore.

I was rather unimpressed but I really must confess
There were loose ends of the story which I'd wanted to learn more.
Loose ends such as emails and origins of tall tales
Indeed inspired my interest in what next might be in store.
I wondered if such aspects would be more clear than before, merely this and nothing more.

Perhaps I had been nodding when the shadows started prodding,
Prodding me to hear a sound I had not heard before.
Gently there was tapping, faintly but yet rapping,
Rapping just across the room upon my office door.
Prob'ly just some stray cat scratching at my office door, prob'ly this and nothing more.

I very soon discovered it was not a kitten's mother,
But a skeptic friend who stopped by to discuss the photo more.
The skeptic, he was burning with the disgust he was yearning,
Yearning to express about the mess of Roswell lore.
He quickly flipped a switch, adding, “You need some light in here, for sure.”

We talked about deception and the negative impression
Of the widely panned reception of the slides that was so poor,
But the loose ends were inspiring me still into inquiring
Of his thoughts about the questions left unanswered from before.
I wondered of the details, perhaps for evermore.

There's Rich “Two Sides to Every Mouth” Doughlan, who's really quite a showman,
And data that the sliders lacked intentions to explore,
And what about the long ways the story came from the days,
The days in which Rich Reynolds blogged of geologists seeking ore?
Can the blog of Richard Reynolds be relied on as a source? Quoth the skeptic, “Nevermore.”

Reynolds wrote of a Bureau handler and an evil email wrangler,
And criminal investigations he later begged us to ignore.
Can there be some resolution to his hints of a solution,
A solution linking Lady Ray to con men from before?
Can we expect some answers? Tell me, tell me, I implore. Quoth the skeptic, “Nevermore.”

And what about the evidence made up of merely happenstance
And yet to be explained of how the slides had all been stored?
Was there evidence explaining many questions still remaining
Of how the Rays made Kodak slides amid security galore?
Could Dew verify his story while purveying mythic lore? Quoth the skeptic, “Nevermore.”

As the skeptic sat beguiling this cynic into smiling,
News came via laptop of the saga just explored.
It would seem the bold assertion may have been the final curtain
That the focus on the placard simply could not be restored.
Could not or would not, be the issue to explore. Quoth the skeptic, 
“That's for sure.”

So with the saga closing, the questions I am posing
Likely will remain unanswered, by and large ignored,
But the skeptic did refrain, and his curse in tact remains,
Just as the shadows from my laptop persist upon my floor.
Shall the curse be ever lifted, shall ufologists learn the score? Quoth the skeptic, “Nevermore.”

Monday, May 4, 2015

High Standards More Than Justified for UFO Investigation

As we move on to new highs and lows of what the UFO community will accept as reasonable research methodologies and presentations, let's consider why some of us have become so jaded in our willingness to entertain such proceedings. It's not as if the skepticism is not justified.

Richard Doty laid some heavy deception on Paul Bennewitz and Linda Moulton Howe. Alejandro Rojas at Open Minds has a good summary of what the USAF is and is not willing to acknowledge about Doty's actions.

Then there's Serpo and the MJ-12. The guys over at Reality Uncovered did some pretty good work on those. They thought Doty was linked to Serpo, and Ryan Dube thought John Alexander may have been involved in the distribution of the MJ-12 docs, particularly after interviewing the colonel. 

Speaking of Reality Uncovered, Andy Murray and the rest of that crew did a great job getting to the bottom of the "Source A" hoax. Then there was the drone hoax and the great work contributed by various Internet personalities.

And there was the story about the UFO crash in the Great Lakes that James Carrion bird dogged but the alleged dive company fell off the face of the earth. And the Casselberry, FL alleged crashed UFO case that I pursued, only to establish that anonymous "witnesses" were misrepresenting the circumstances, including submitting a photo to NUFORC that was actually taken in Texas, not Florida, and not a single first hand witness came forward related to the claims on the radio and Internet about a gov-secured crash site.

There's the mid 20th century memos Carrion cited, one that documented FBI agents discussing the likelihood UFOs were intel deceptions and another in which the USAF advised the Bureau that the AF could attach disks together by wire and release them at high altitudes. Carrion has since conclusively demonstrated an element of deception involved in the ghost rocket saga. A 1954 CIA memo suggesting assets in Guatemala fabricate a big UFO story is also interesting.

There's Romanek, Hopkins/Cortile and the ET-human hybrids that Barbara Lamb claims to know but fails to facilitate documentation of their physical conditions. I'd go as far as to confidently suggest abduction cases in which the "investigators" and interested parties exaggerate and misrepresent the circumstances are the rule, not the exception.

There's the iconic photo of the Belgium triangle that apparently wasn't and the corporate UFO hoax perpetrated by a planetarium in Vancouver. And let's not forget the flying saucer that wasn't following Hale-Bopp that involved a bogus photo, an alleged but unnamed astronomer and dubious claims of remote viewing, all propped up on Art Bell's show before being conclusively demonstrated to have been a hoax prior to the Heaven's Gate cult mass suicide.

If conclusive IC involvement in such circumstances is of particular interest, learning more about Project Palladium is a must. It was a joint CIA, NSA and DoD operation that involved projecting false radar paints onto radar screens while simultaneously releasing unusual aerial objects into the paths of what were referred to as the ghost aircraft. Some operations apparently shared many characteristics of rather typically reported UFO sightings by military pilots, including losing radar contact at the point in which the pilot was preparing to fire upon the bogie.

There are lots of hoaxes and deceptions that are interesting and relevant, and the above are just a few. Learn more by searching this blog or, of course, the Internet. There is no shortage of UFO hoaxes and obfuscation, both with and without the intel community. Reasonable skepticism and holding self-proclaimed investigators to high standards when presenting alleged evidence are more than justified.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Binnall of America

Join me live Thursday, April 16 at 9pm ET on the popular podcast, Binnall of America LIVE Audio. Host Tim Binnall and I will be having a frank discussion on the state of UFO research and troubling stories that 'mainstream' ufology chooses to ignore.

Learn more at the Binnall of America website about the many topics Tim has explored and the guests he has hosted. Previous shows may be accessed in the archive.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the April 16 show along with a summary of the discussion: 

Here is the archive of the Tim Binnall show, Binnall of America: Audio: 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

David Jacobs and Insults to Intelligence

A couple of posts were recently published at the blog of Alfred Lehmberg in which he raised legitimate concerns about the so-called work of retired historian, investigator of alleged alien abduction and hypnotic regression advocate Dr. David Jacobs. In addition to the points raised in the posts, I also appreciated comments submitted by microbiologist Dr. Tyler Kokjohn. I interpreted the comments to be a welcome reminder of how professional research is conducted at institutions which actually value the welfare of human research subjects and adhere to industry standards of obtaining informed consent. Such dynamics seem to chronically elude Jacobs and those who make excuses for failing to follow such protocols. 

Alfred -
If I may offer one point of clarification...
Although I agree completely that acquiring and analyzing samples from alleged hybrids is essential, it is not possible for me to work with Dr. Jacobs. The rules regulating research conduct at my institution would prohibit that collaboration.
Defending himself from the accusations of improper conduct leveled by Emma Woods, Dr. Jacobs took refuge in the claim that he was not actually conducting any research. Instead, he stressed he was only taking oral histories.
Here is the problem from my perspective - the ambit of oral history taking certainly does not include collection of biological samples and their analyses. Moreover, since Dr. Jacobs explicitly stated he was not doing research (biomedical or otherwise), it seems unlikely he provided his subjects with sufficiently detailed informed consent documents to allow for sample collection. In order to obtain permission from my institution to collaborate on any research involving human subjects, it would be necessary to provide full documentation of the research scope, all informed consent documents and plans for dealing with any adverse events that might be foreseeable. After all the necessary documentation has been reviewed, investigators must receive formal approval or an explicit declaration of exemption from the Institutional Review Board before any work may proceed. These requirements are non-negotiable and approvals can never be obtained retroactively. 
But what if Dr. Jacobs, now working as an independent investigator, decided to finally do some real research and collect samples under the aegis of acceptable informed consent rules? Even if the new work met every standard for the ethical and safe conduct of human subject research, I would still refuse to collaborate with him. The events and information regarding the Emma Woods debacle all convinced me I want nothing to do with Dr. Jacobs.
Tyler Kokjohn

It is not unusual for me to be asked my thoughts on various aspects of alleged alien abduction, including the actions of David Jacobs. I have identified his work to be so extremely poor and misrepresented to contain evidence it actually does not that it has become increasingly difficult for me to express my views about it in what I feel are proper proportion to its lack of validity. There is so much ineptness that it is actually challenging to adequately cover it. 

I will offer a few points for consideration below, but please allow me to emphasize that the possibility some people may experience phenomena representing genuine mysteries does not hinge upon the competency or authenticity of David Jacobs and his peers. The fact such researchers could reasonably be interpreted to have made fools of themselves does not equate to necessarily nullifying Fortean topics as a whole. 

The subjectivity and shameless promotion of unsupported beliefs contained in the statements of typical abduction-researchers virtually negates their efforts in and of themselves. The lack of rationality has become so prevalent that at this point I seriously doubt many of them sincerely believe their claims and pro-ETH stances, as compared to simply promoting an agenda they view as advantageous. 

Concerning David Jacobs specifically, I find the following points and contradictions to be relevant:

- In 2011 the False Memory Syndrome Foundation reported that, in response to the accusations leveled by Emma Woods, Temple University asserted Jacobs was only collecting oral histories, not conducting research.

- Contradicting the Temple stance, Jacobs claimed in 2012 to have facilitated DNA-related tests and conducted such research.

- Jacobs further stated the tests in question provided no conclusive results, yet he failed to revise his hypotheses or make details of the tests available for public review. Issues of informed consent and related concerns may apply.

- During a 2014 presentation, Jacobs asserted that he does not conduct hypnosis with alleged alien abductees, but uses relaxation techniques. This is in direct contradiction to the facts he has frequently discussed hypnosis as an investigative tool during his presentations, repeatedly written about its implementation as a memory enhancer, claimed to have been composing a book on the use of hypnosis with abductees and, earlier in literally the same presentation, stated that he began doing hypnosis in 1986. 

- While claiming to believe Emma Woods was being assaulted on an ongoing basis by sexually deviant ET-human hybrids, David Jacobs suggested as a partial solution that he could send her a chastity belt. He became familiar with the device, he explained to her, at a sex shop specializing in bondage dominance that he frequented quite often. Suffice it to say that is not standard protocol for providing functional support to the sexually abused. Neither is it indicative of sincere concerns for the woman or suggestive of authentic belief in dangerous hybrids. 

- Jacobs claimed to believe electronic messages originating from the computer of "Elizabeth," an alleged alien abductee, were composed and sent by a menacing ET-human hybrid, not Elizabeth. When pressed to explain why forensic evidence of the circumstances could not be obtained, Jacobs stated, among other dubious excuses that actually did not make sense, Elizabeth had curtains over her windows and one could not see inside.

There is much more, but if you require more than that to have your intelligence insulted, I don't know what to tell you. I've been thoroughly insulted for quite some time now.   

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hypnosis, the Placebo Effect and Human Experimentation

It has been said that hypnosis and the placebo effect are so heavily reliant upon belief and suggestion that it would be hard to imagine how a placebo control could ever be devised for a hypnotism study. I would fundamentally agree with that. Let's consider the placebo effect and how it relates to the UFO community staple, hypnotic regression.

The American Cancer Society describes a placebo (pluh-see-bow) as "a substance or other kind of treatment that looks just like a regular treatment or medicine, but is not." It's a harmless medicine or procedure prescribed more for psychological benefit than physiological effect. It has no therapeutic value and is used as a control in testing new drugs; the drugs must demonstrate substantially better measurable results than the placebo being administered to the control group.

A primary factor of how medication makes
people feel may be their expectations
As we might envision, a great deal of speculation and rather fascinating questions surround the placebo effect. A researcher named Ted Kaptchuk made legitimate attempts to put a yardstick to some of the dynamics. While most studies focus upon the results of the drugs being tested, Kaptchuk was more interested in the placebos.

Harvard Magazine reported Kaptchuk's work was met with both praise and criticism but, take it or leave it, he raised valid questions. In some circumstances, it was difficult to discern if drugs had any particularly different subjective effects at all from placebos. Kaptchuk indicated that even when physiological benefits could be measured among patients given respiratory medication, they reported similar subjective interpretations of their physical conditions, or how they felt, as those given placebos. Observations were also made about patients desiring to be helpful to the researchers and deliver the results anticipated.

What I'm getting at here with hypnotic regression and the placebo effect is that there is virtually no difference between the two. If people believe that investigators of alleged alien abduction have the power to put them in trance states and clarify memories of encounters with extraterrestrials from years gone by, there is little way to validate or invalidate that belief. Slippery slopes.

Moreover, qualified professionals tell us that hypnosis subjects tend to assign more validity to hypnotically retrieved memories - and reject the notion the memories might be inaccurate - than other memories. They also tend to defend the accuracy of their memories more than their peers who have not used techniques designed to supposedly enhance memory. Hypnosis subjects tend to cling to belief in the retrieved memories even when the material is conclusively demonstrated to be inaccurate and false. 

The work of Ted Kaptchuk further showed us the potential value of a good bedside manner. Patients given positive attention ("I’m so glad to meet you"; "I know how difficult this is for you"; "This treatment has excellent results") experienced, or perceived, significant results. Suffice it to say I would fully expect to find that dynamic prevalent among relationships between clients and their hypnotists who present themselves as friendly, charming and empathetic of the trials and tribulations of alien abduction.

Injections reportedly induce stronger
placebo effects than achieved via pills
On a related note, studies are suggesting – and the American Cancer Society indicates – that different means of delivering the placebo come with effects of varying value. An injection works better than a pill, for instance, and a big pill is more effective than a smaller pill.

A 2009 document released by the Department of Defense reported detainees at sites such as Guantanamo Bay were interrogated while drugged. In at least one circumstance, the DoD revealed, a detainee was the subject of a "deliberate ruse" in which interrogators injected him with what he was led to believe was "truth serum." The report also included reference to a 2002 meeting attended by Defense Intelligence Agency interrogation personnel and mental health specialists in which it was noted, "Truth serum; even though it may not actually work, it does have a placebo effect." A 2010 white paper subsequently published by the Physicians for Human Rights called for further investigation and suggested human experimentation was taking place.

I will be presenting more on these topics and several related areas of interest in an upcoming book. It is on track for completion and release in a few months.