Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Casselberry July 4 Case: Anatomy of a UFO Rumor

By
Jack Brewer
Originally published July 1, 2013

UFO that wasn't: Police dashcam image of meteor in Texas
was submitted to NUFORC as Florida UFO
Residents of greater Orlando were trying to celebrate in spite of the rain on July 4 in 2004. As dark fell, something unusual took place. Exactly what it was continues to be debated nine years later.

Some said it was a crash of a UFO in the suburb of Casselberry, and that NASA orchestrated a cover up. Others suspected it may have been some kind of unusual weather or atmospheric phenomena, possibly involving a meteor of some type. Yet others scoffed, suggesting it was nothing more than lightning and a strong clap of thunder.

I made an attempt to piece together what happened, or, at the least, to accurately separate verifiable information from unsubstantiated rumors. Following is what was discovered.

July 4, 2004

Casselberry residents and those of neighboring communities reported that as 9 p.m. approached on July 4, 2004, a very bright light momentarily filled the sky. The flash was followed by a shockingly loud and long rumble. Witnesses recently informed me that the event briefly lit the night as if it were day. Others claimed to have been knocked from their feet by the force of the impact.

Back in July of 2004, locals expressed suspicions that some type of meteor may have exploded or crashed that holiday evening. However, officials and police officers stated there was no particular reason to think that was the case. Fireworks were ruled out due to such factors as the large, several mile area effected by the occurrence, as well as a lack of corroborating circumstances such as reported explosions or fires.

Extraordinary reports began to surface. Stories quickly spread that witnesses saw some kind of object falling or crashing to earth. Others said they knew of a secured apparent crash site where onlookers were quickly ordered to leave. In more extreme cases, stories included claims that vehicles with NASA logos were seen racing about Casselberry, government personnel acted in threatening manners and residents became ill, all apparently having something to do with an alleged crashed UFO. A local radio station aired accounts that added to public concerns, and activities of station staff continue today to be cited as evidence among those who believe something otherworldly plummeted to earth that rainy summer night in 2004.

Facts

Archived weather observations were obtained in March from the National Weather Service. Readings conducted at surrounding airports on July 4, 2004, from 8-10 p.m. indicated thunderstorms with over an inch of rainfall.

I obtained a copy of a report on March 13 from what was the extremely cooperative and helpful Casselberry Police Department. A “suspicious incident report” filed July 4, 2004 at 9:37 p.m. by Officer Michael P. Mulderig stated:
“At approx 2050hrs a large flash was seen outside the front windows of the [police] station, then a large boom was heard and the bldg vibrated. Subsequently numerous calls from Summerset, Camelot, Sunset Oaks, Duck Pond and other areas came in saying there was a large boom and shaking of windows. Also, we rec'd several busn alarms at the same time as the other calls, possibly related due to the rattling of glass pains that would be caused by such a large concussion. Unk where it came from or if it was just an incredibly large thunder clap.”
Obviously, something happened, whatever it may have been. Reasonable questions would include how and why it was put in the context of a UFO crash, and by whom. Answers to such questions were found, at least in part, on UFO websites and discussion forums. 

UFO Websites

A report was submitted July 12, 2004, to the Mutual UFO Network by an individual who stated they lived in Casselberry. They described residents suffering from illness and suggested that fantastic accounts were aired on the radio. It was claimed in the report that NASA “quieted the town and the radio station involved.” The individual noted that although they did not witness the event, “it is on a thread at another site.”

A number of related reports were submitted during the same time frame to the National UFO Reporting Center, or NUFORC, directed by Peter Davenport. One report stated that NASA vehicles were “everywhere,” and that the FBI was present following what the witness described as an “explosion.” The witness also referenced what were apparently rather popular radio reports of such alleged goings ons.

Another report submitted to NUFORC explained that the witness and their companions “felt it when it hit the ground.” The witness added in the report, “All the kids in the neighborhood said they saw a fireball fall from the sky.”

Yet another NUFORC report suggested a “craft” had been downed. The report contained a link to a photo allegedly retrieved from a police dashboard cam, but the link no longer functions.

A thread on the UFO Casebook forum contained discussion of the Casselberry circumstances. In reply number four of the thread, moderator and researcher DrDil helpfully posted some NUFORC reports, including the one referencing a downed “craft.” At the time DrDil made the post, which was Jan. of 2009, he could apparently access the linked dashboard cam photo and seemed to have posted it.

The photo appeared to contain a meteor-like fireball, even though the individual who submitted the report seemed to suggest it was a craft going down in Casselberry. The work of DrDil to apparently post the report in its entirety, including the photo, would later prove key.

The same UFO Casebook thread contained posts suggesting the crash site was located in an area previously under construction and now known as Legacy Park. That correlated with other accounts suggesting the general vicinity of the alleged impact was near the intersection of Hwy. 17/92 and Dog Track Rd., as is Legacy Park, but descriptions of alleged crash sites varied from one report and website to the next. The online descriptions of alleged crash sites were typically quite noticeably absent of what should have been easy to include details of an exact location.

An individual using the screen name chetty mo posted a video, allegedly capturing the event to some extent, on YouTube. Chetty mo stated the video was taken in Casselberry during the time in question. Some found the video less than convincing of anything more than lightning, while chetty mo and some others expressed disagreement during a discussion on UFO Casebook.

Virtually across the board, witnesses rejected explanations related to lightning. They commonly offered accounts of bright light, jarring impacts and frightening rumbling sounds, very much as described by Officer Mulderig, but remained convinced they had not witnessed lightning – at least not as they had ever seen before. A very strange sky was also described by an individual.

Browsing online reports and Internet forums might have led one to suspect something – even if it was a meteor - fell from the sky that Fourth of July in Casselberry. One might have even felt justified in suspecting some were aware of the site of the impact or crash. A bit closer review, however, might have raised quite different suspicions.

Lack of Primary Witnesses

I was unable to directly locate a single witness claiming to have actually seen anything specific in the sky, such as a meteor, fireball or what might have been interpreted as, by definition, a UFO, that July night in 2004. Neither was a single witness located who claimed to have personally observed anything as reportedly took place at an alleged crash site during the days following the incident.

Locals were consulted, people who reside in the specific area in question were contacted and requests for contact with witnesses were posted online, but no one emerged claiming to be a direct witness of events as described in the extraordinary reports submitted to MUFON and NUFORC. Facebook and Peter Davenport's access to the NUFORC reports were additionally tapped in the search for alleged witnesses of significant circumstances, but to no avail. While it is not being claimed that all resources were completely exhausted, it was indeed deemed reasonably apparent that the alleged abundance of witnesses to extraordinary occurrences simply did not exist, at least not to the extents implied in the online reports and typically suggested by people choosing to believe a UFO crashed.

Many secondary witnesses, or people who observed the flash and aftermath, were easily locatable and claimed to know someone who was a primary witness, or know someone that knew a primary witness, but not a single attempt was successful to coordinate direct contact with any such individual. As a result, no photos, videos or even firsthand accounts were obtained from the time of July, 2004, of any alleged UFO, crash site, NASA vehicles, FBI agents dispersing crowds or similar such previously claimed situations or occurrences.

Mr. Davenport of NUFORC was very cooperative in corresponding about the Casselberry event and the reports submitted to his organization. His efforts were appreciated.

I requested comment on the Casselberry case from MUFON Executive Director David MacDonald, Director of Investigations Marie Malzahn, Florida State Director Morgan Beall and former Florida Chief Field Investigator Denise Stoner. Each were asked to comment on the status of any investigation conducted, any conclusion that may have been reached and any related information available for public release. Multiple requests were emailed to the MUFON personnel and no replies were received from any of the four.

Lack of Confirmation of Airborne Object

Freedom of Information Act requests were submitted to NASA, the Air Force, FBI and CIA. No documents were obtained concerning incidents occurring July 4, 2004, in the vicinity of Casselberry, Fla., or as described in the MUFON and NUFORC reports. No files of downed or retrieved aircraft, satellites or similar such objects were available for release, and no files were obtained concerning official personnel in the area during the 2004 Fourth of July holiday or following weeks.

An informal data inquiry was submitted in March to the Federal Aviation Administration. Information was requested that might be available concerning unusual airspace conditions and activity over Casselberry and the surrounding county from 8-10 p.m., July 4, 2004. Information was specifically requested as might relate to circumstances as described in a 2004 Orlando WESH-TV news report about the incident that was submitted with the inquiry. The FAA promptly replied that it had no information related to such an event. 

The NUFORC sighting report cataloged by DrDil on UFO Casebook forum that included the image of what looked like a meteor-like fireball, but was described in the report as a “craft” going down over Casselberry, actually turned out to be from a different night in a different city. The image that seemed to originate from a police dashboard cam and looked very much like a meteor blazing through the atmosphere was indeed both, just not in Casselberry. Further research revealed the photo was actually shot in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, on July 7, 2004, according to a 2004 Orlando Channel 6 News report that was located. Comparing the image, apparently from the report submitted to NUFORC claiming to be about the Casselberry incident, with the image reported by Channel 6 to have originated in Texas, left no doubt they were the same photo. The supposed Casselberry "craft" was actually a Texas meteor.

Given that discovery, nothing whatsoever more than hearsay remained supporting an alleged airborne object in the case, much less a downed UFO. There were no reports of plane crashes, relevant radar reports, photos, video or other such tangible items of evidence available to support the idea that some kind of flying object had been involved. There were not even anecdotal narratives from witnesses, at least not accessible witnesses. What's more, the lone photo seemed to have been completely misrepresented by the individual who submitted the report to NUFORC.

Conclusions

It would be rather unreasonable to support a conclusion involving a crashed UFO, given the narrow range of available evidence. Unusually intense lightning and thunder seems a likely candidate for a potential explanation for the flash and rumbling noise. Some type of meteor, possibly exploding in air, might also be a reasonable theory, pending further information. A definitive conclusion, however, is simply not currently available.

A UFO, its crash and the unsubstantiated claims of a cover up, preferable as they may be to some, simply cannot be accepted without significantly more supporting evidence. It would seem that, at best, judgment must be suspended in the event that much more convincing evidence of the extremely extraordinary might one day be revealed. There is simply not currently sufficient reason to suspect any such extreme circumstances occurred, but perhaps further information will one day suggest otherwise.

It might be deemed noteworthy that multiple reports initially submitted to MUFON and NUFORC suggested an abundance of primary witnesses, yet closer scrutiny was unable to reveal the whereabouts of any such witnesses or even if they ever so much as actually existed. It might also be noted that one such report was shown to apparently contain blatantly false and misleading information in the form of a photo from Texas. Perhaps the Casselberry alleged UFO crash, like many other cases, once again demonstrated that circumstances entirely different from those popularly discussed and commonly perceived are likely to be found when researchers drill down through the available information surrounding reported UFOs.

Perhaps the Casselberry July 4 case also serves as a reminder that interesting circumstances need not always be measured by a presence or absence of extraterrestrials. While such a measuring stick might be commonly used by both believers and non-believers within the UFO community, a more practical perspective might include understanding that limiting the significance of any given UFO report to whether or not aliens were involved makes one oblivious to a multitude of additional - and interesting - possibilities.

And what about those reports on the radio?

The much discussed radio reports revolved around talented and popular talk show host, Jason Bailey, known to local listeners as Buckethead. The Buckethead Show, dubbed the BS, currently airs afternoons on Real Radio 104.1.

Back in July of 2004, Mr. Bailey was employed by a different Orlando radio station and, as reported, seemingly demonstrated an interest in the Casselberry incident. His activities, according to Clyde Lewis of Ground Zero, included taking on-air telephone calls from self-described witnesses during the days following the incident. Lewis also wrote that Bailey had an intern who covered the unfolding events on location in Casselberry, resulting in the intern making some rather dramatic on-air claims about being ominously instructed to vacate a rumored crash site.

I contacted Bailey in April and offered him an opportunity to share his perspectives on the Casselberry chain of events. He was also offered an opportunity to comment on the legitimacy of the circumstances involving the intern.

“Thanks,” Mr. Bailey replied, “but I'm not interested.”

2 comments:

  1. Good work, Jack. We live in a UFO-besotted world now and we are the worse for it.

    I read your piece in Robbie's book and quite liked it. You are far more optimistic than I am that the various folks involved in the UFO game could ever accomplish anything approaching a critical treatment of the topic.

    And yet you do it here.

    Unfortunately, there are not very many of you by my count.

    Thanks,

    Lance

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lance. I appreciate that. I try.

      Delete