Thursday, October 20, 2022

Investigation of Skinwalker Claims Leads to Uintah County Offices

    The beginning of the latest article at Expanding Frontiers Research, titled 'Uintah County Paid Tens of Thousands to PhenomeCon Speakers':

    Financial records obtained from Uintah County indicate it spent over $133,000 on the 2022 PhenomeCon while raising about $124,000 in revenue, compiling a reported debt of some $9,000 for sponsoring the paranormal-themed conference. The inaugural 2021 PhenomeCon likewise tallied over $74,000 in payouts while collecting about $59,000 in revenue, finishing some $15,000 in the hole. Expenses for the two conferences, confirmed to be sponsored by Uintah County, include tens of thousands of dollars in payments to dubious speakers and catered “VIP” meals in which unsupported rumors were spread of dangerous paranormal phenomena. Payouts also include workshops promoting such topics as Remote Viewing and payments for rental car reimbursements. During the 2022 PhenomeCon, payments issued for speaking engagements, consultation services, and appearances at events totaled over $60,000, while hotel chains were paid in excess of $10,000, according to the financial reports.

Expanding Frontiers Research (EFR) obtained the information through public records requests submitted to the Uintah County offices of the Clerk-Auditor and Travel and Tourism. The requests were submitted as part of a joint effort between this writer and EFR Director Erica Lukes, who contributed substantial research to this article.

Monday, October 3, 2022

UFO Trail Projects

    Lots of interesting projects have been coming to fruition around UFO Trail headquarters! If you haven't yet heard, I helped launch Expanding Frontiers Research (EFR), a Utah-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. We're dedicated to sharing information and resources that most effectively embody best research practices. We also envision expanding on the archive work already undertaken by Erica Lukes and Barry Greenwood. 

You can view the EFR website and have a look around. Be sure and check out the blog as well, where I'm adding material, including the latest post, FBI Docs Offer Clues on NICAP President, Right-Wing Extremism. It explores declassified FBI material that offers further insight into Jack Acuff and his contacts. 

You might also be interested in a recent UFO Classified episode in which Erica graciously provided Emma Woods and me a venue to explore Emma's history. For those of you not entirely familiar, the case involved a number of unethical actions committed on the part of David Jacobs. We listened to actual recordings of audio clips made during long distance telephone hypnosis sessions conducted by Jacobs. Be advised the subject matter is mature and disturbing at times. It is brave of Emma to continue to address and speak out on the circumstances. The episode of UFO Classified is shown below.

Thanks for your continued interest in The UFO Trail and my projects! I look forward to lots more intriguing circumstances to explore.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

CIA Responds to FOIA Request on Jack Acuff

John "Jack" Acuff
     A Freedom of Information Act request submitted to the CIA on John L. "Jack" Acuff, Jr., the man instated as president of NICAP in 1970, received a September 9 response in which the spy network would neither confirm nor deny the existence of records that would reveal an unacknowledged or classified association with Acuff. Known as a "Glomar response," the Agency explained that the admission of the existence or nonexistence of such records is a fact that is exempt under the FOIA.

The Agency did, however, provide copies of two previously released documents that reference Acuff. The first is an intriguing, two-page, unattributed profile of NICAP as cited and explored in Wayward Sons. The second is a 24-page Robert J. Durant essay, Will the Real Scott Jones Please Stand Up?. The 1990s Durant work, widely known among researchers familiar with the latter 20th century saucers and spooks scene, apparently found its way into possession of the CIA for what may be a variety of possible reasons and came to be archived on its website.

Jack Acuff took charge of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena in the wake of the removal of Donald Keyhoe as director. Staffer Stuart Nixon was given Keyhoe's former position in what became known as the Acuff-Nixon era of the UFO organization. Speculation and accusations of hidden intelligence community agendas involving NICAP echoed throughout the UFO subculture and continue to be popularly accepted today among those familiar with the circumstances.

The two-page document carries the heading, "National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP)," and appears to possibly be a draft of a memo or report. The name of an author is not included and the specific purpose of the document is not clear, although it is apparent that NICAP structure and operating methods were the focus of the work. It places Nixon as director and Acuff on the Editorial Review Board, suggesting the date of the piece was the early 1970s. The two pages were apparently originally approved for release by the CIA in 2010.

The document goes on to break down the education and scientific backgrounds of select NICAP volunteers. "All investigators carry credentials identifying them as investigators for NICAP," the author informs the unknown intended audience.

From the document:

Will the Real Scott Jones Please Stand Up? takes readers through the shenanigans and misadventures of intelligence professional Cecil B. "Scott" Jones and a surrounding cast of dubious characters. Many of them have been explored on this blog, including Jones himself, who I interviewed by email in 2012.  

Acuff makes an appearance in the essay when author Durant quotes the work of Fawcett and Greenwood (Clear Intent). They explained how prior to serving as president of NICAP, Acuff "was the head of the Society of Photographic Scientists and Engineers (SPSE), a frequent target of Russian spying attempts and a group that had many members involved in Defense Department intelligence units, including the CIA."

Acuff was indeed but one NICAP officer of many with significant and direct ties to intelligence agencies. Stuart Nixon left NICAP in 1974, which was the same year Sen. Barry Goldwater joined the Board of Directors. Goldwater went on to chair both the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee.

In 1978, Acuff now-infamously sold the NICAP mailing list to a Toronto-based Nazi group. Twice. The purchaser, Ernst Zundel, aka Christoff Freidrich, was reportedly none too pleased because the list included 8,000 names of people who were physically dead (see pp1-3).  

The office of Goldwater was likewise not thrilled with the turn of events, at least due to the potential publicity problems, but relations between Acuff and the Senator apparently did not entirely go south. Although Acuff was replaced at president by Harry Cooper in 1978, he did not depart NICAP for good until 1982. This happened after he secured a four-digit cash settlement from the org for what at least one member reportedly described as holding its files ransom (see p14).

In a letter dated January 29, 1982 and shown below, Acuff notified Goldwater he was leaving the Board (see p21). Acuff thanked the Senator for the help he and his staff gave him. 


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Responsive Records on 'Coast to Coast' Relevant to Pending Law Enforcement Proceedings: FBI

     Material responsive to a FOIA request on Coast to Coast AM is located in an investigative file, an August 2 FBI response to the request stated. The Bureau added the responsive records are law enforcement records. 

"[T]here is a pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding relevant to these responsive records," the Bureau continued in the response, "and release of the information could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings. Therefore, your request is being administratively closed."

The FOIA request sought records cross-referencing or pertaining to Coast to Coast AM, a late-night fringe talk show that typically explores paranormal topics and conspiracy theories. The request was submitted at the suggestion of researcher, archivist, and host of UFO Classified, Erica Lukes.

From the FBI response:

Coast to Coast is no stranger to controversy, hosted from 1988-2000 by the late Art Bell. It was during Bell's time at the mic that such sagas as Heaven's Gate, Art's Parts, and the Area 51 Caller were broadcast to millions of listeners. 

C2C's George Noory
In more recent years, Coast to Coast host George Noory increasingly provided a platform to controversial rightwing figures and their talking points. His counterpart George Knapp uncritically promoted Skinwalker Ranch lore and defended sensational tales told by defense officials claiming knowledge of paranormal activity and nonhuman intelligences.

It should be noted the responsive records may be nothing more than mentions of Coast to Coast, such as references to guests appearing on the show, or similar asides. The significance of the records, acknowledged by the FBI to exist, cannot be established without examining the material.

In its August 2 FOIA response, the FBI cited Exemption (b)(7)(a) for withholding the responsive records. The exemption states records compiled for law enforcement purposes are exempt from disclosure under the FOIA, but only to the extent producing the records could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings. 

An appeal was therefore submitted, requesting further review of the responsive records to ensure they are not part of a former investigation, or a once prospective investigation that is at this point not reasonably expected to proceed. Under such circumstances, as compared to an active investigation, the records may be subject to release. 

The appeal additionally presented for consideration that Coast to Coast AM attracts 2.75 million listeners per week across some 600 American radio stations plus international affiliates. The records therefore represent a potentially significant public interest. The appeal is in process as of this writing.

In other developments, the FBI executed a search warrant Monday at the Mar-A-Lago home of former President Donald Trump. The FBI reportedly spent the majority of the day at the location conducting a search related to the National Archives. National security analysts suspect the raid to be related to classified records Trump took with him from Washington to Florida after losing his 2020 re-election bid. More specifically, what he was doing with the information contained in those classified records may be more at issue than their unlawful removal. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Working the FOIA

    Earlier this year I submitted a FOIA request to the FBI for all records cross-referencing or pertaining to Ira Samuel Einhorn. The late Einhorn, dubbed the "Unicorn Killer," was convicted of the murder of his former girlfriend Holly Maddux. It is a tragic and somewhat complex saga that winds through the environmental activist community and an international trail of evading authorities.

The infamous Einhorn
Maddux disappeared in 1977 during a trip to gather her belongings from an apartment she and Einhorn previously shared in Philadelphia. A year and a half later her remains were found in a trunk in his closet. Einhorn fled to Europe and was assisted by supporters who he convinced of his innocence. He was not arrested until 1997 in France, and even then the extradition process proved complicated. 

Einhorn was eventually convicted in 2002, but not before taking the witness stand in his own defense and claiming the CIA killed Maddux. He asserted he was set up because he knew too much about the Agency's military paranormal research. The case resulted in researchers such as Mark Pilkington and Greg Bishop showing interest over the years. 

Einhorn died of reportedly natural causes in a Pennsylvania prison in 2020. For those wondering, he was called the Unicorn Killer because "Einhorn" apparently translates to "unicorn" in German.

So a few months ago some friends were discussing the case and I offered to submit a FOIA request to the FBI. The Bureau responded in May with 356 pages of records

However, the response indicated the Bureau was simply providing records which were previously offered in response to other requesters:

This means a thorough search was not actually conducted, but the request was filled by providing the material already offered in response to the same or similar requests. As once pointed out by John Greenewald, an effective means of having an additional search conducted is to promptly respond with a request for all records not included in the release.

I realize this sounds crazy. A FOIA request gets submitted for all records on XYZ, the agency responds, then the requester asks for all the records not included in all the XYZ records. Like, no, really, all the records. But this technique results in additional documents a rather surprising amount of the time. While it is indeed a little crazy, it makes a bit more sense when understood from the perspective the initial response was pretty much nothing more than giving the requester what was already provided to previous requesters.

In this specific instance, FBI notified me July 19 of an additional 4,473 pages of potentially responsive records not included in the initial response to my request:

A large number of additional documents does not always prove to be as interesting as it initially seems. For instance, sometimes 356 pages of XYZ may be stored in a much larger folder containing thousands of pages pertaining to similar cases as XYZ, perhaps from the same era or general topic. Nonetheless, one might indeed prefer to be made aware of such records and browse the material for them self. 

The quoted cost of a reproduction of the roughly 4,500 pages is $130 which may be delivered in pdf in nine monthly increments of about 500 pages each. I will probably order the material and post it as I periodically receive it.

In related FOIA news, I received 47 pages of previously released FBI records on George Hunter White in April. White was a Federal Bureau of Narcotics agent who parlayed his career underperformance into becoming a member of the MKULTRA crew. He ran houses of ill repute for the CIA where hookers dosed unsuspecting Johns in the name of national security and science. 

According to John Marks, the overindulging White once had a fender bender in the neighborhood of a CIA-sponsored brothel, resulting in the Agency paying cash for damages to the other driver in an effort to protect the cover of Operation Climax. He reportedly once used a gun to shoot his initials in the ceiling of a New Orleans hotel room. He's also the guy that released hallucinogenic chemicals on a New York subway for the Agency you may have heard about. Real charmer, this guy. 

In response to my request for all records not included in the initial response, FBI replied July 20 that additional responsive records were transferred to the National Archives:

I will post from my Twitter account as I learn more about the number of pages involved and as I obtain the files. NARA will advise of the circumstances in response to a request for the material.

As I discussed in WAYWARD SONS: NICAP and the IC, the FBI may offer insights into CIA personnel and activities that are not always accessible through the Agency. Director Hoover had his nose in virtually everything, and FBI files may reflect espionage investigations, background checks for security clearance, and any number of circumstances which provide more material than released by CIA.

Along those lines, readers of WAYWARD SONS will recall the significance of the Office of Policy Coordination, a 1948-1952 front for the CIA and State Department. From the book:


    In 1949 the OPC had a total of 302 personnel. By 1952 it had 2,812 with an additional 3,142 overseas contract personnel. The 1949 OPC budget was $4.7 million. Just three years later, in 1952, it was $82 million. By the time of its merge with the Office of Special Operations, OPC activities included worldwide covert missions conducted out of some 47 overseas stations. 

The previously cited 1973 CIA intelligence study and its assertion the Clandestine Services stepped up the pace thereafter could certainly be interpreted as significant, if not outright mind boggling. The study references a CIA-composed history of the OPC made up of five volumes, consisting of 722 pages plus three appendices and eleven attachments (To the best of my knowledge, the five-volume OPC history has not yet been released, although a partially redacted version of its introduction is contained in the referenced 1973 CIA Studies in Intelligence).

The OPC originally operated on the watch of Director of Central Intelligence Roscoe Hillenkoetter. Col. Joseph Bryan III was recruited and ran a psy warfare subdivision consisting of such notable characters as E. Howard Hunt. Both Hillenkoetter and Bryan were destined to play influential roles on the board of directors of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena.

Curiously, Hillenkoetter's CIA successor, DCI Walter Bedell Smith, expressed interest in the use of the UFO topic as a psy warfare tool. He wanted to know "what use could be made of the UFO phenomenon in connection with US psychological warfare efforts," according to the CIA itself. In 1950, DCI Smith took complete control of the Office of Policy Coordination from the State Department. Surrounding circumstances and the cast of characters are explored at length in WAYWARD SONS.

On July 21 the FBI responded to a 2021 FOIA request on the Office of Policy Coordination. All responsive material was withheld in full:

The cited exemptions involve privacy and security issues. I am in the process of appealing the FBI determination to withhold the material, most, if not all, of which is now over 70 years old.

I recommend those interested in studying the FOIA process (and particularly obtaining related resources) follow Beth Bourdon, a fulltime attorney and parttime FOIA activist. She maintains a Patreon which has proven valuable in furthering my understandings of FOIA appeals as well as related steps of effectively navigating the entire process.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Skinwalker Transparency and Burden of Proof

    The Uintah County Sheriff's Office (UCSO) issued a response to a records request that it shows no record or contact at the property popularly known as Skinwalker Ranch. Records are no longer kept on file that date earlier than 2007, the UCSO added in its response dated July 7. The request specifically sought all records cross-referencing or pertaining to Skinwalker Ranch, Sherman Ranch, Myers Ranch and/or the physical address of the property, which was provided in the request, with a date range of 1983 to present.

The inquiry resulted from a June Twitter exchange with Brandon Fugal, in which the current ranch owner and television personality alluded to law enforcement responses to the property reportedly taking place during the 1980s. Following requests for citations, Fugal provided a link to an interview of an apparent former Uintah County Deputy Sheriff, Kris Porritt. I indicated I was interested in original law enforcement reports resulting from any such police responses, as compared to witness testimony. Fugal then provided me with the contact info of an associate he suggested I contact for further inquiry. 

I subsequently had a series of email exchanges with the individual, who initially offered to speak by phone. I advised that I may not require that much of their time and attention, further explaining I was seeking either law enforcement records or information to assist me in submitting a request for such records. They clarified they do not have any police reports. 

At my request, Fugal's associate helpfully provided additional information that would potentially support an effective records inquiry. It was after my email exchange with them that the request was submitted to the Uintah County Sheriff's Office. The person asked me to inform them of results, to which I agreed.

Saturday I emailed the individual a copy of the response from the UCSO and offered them an opportunity to comment for this blogpost. They responded that they respectfully do not wish to comment, nor do they give consent to use their name or any information they shared regarding the ranch. I opt to honor their request, curious as the circumstances may be. 

The irony of the turn of events is rather striking, given Fugal's consistent claims of transparency, combined with the fact it was he who recommended in the first place I consult his associate concerning my search for law enforcement records. In the event you're wondering, the information shared with me was not shockingly damning by any means, but suffice it to say neither did it strongly support urban legends associated with police calls to Skinwalker Ranch. 

It was after I provided both Fugal and his associate the UCSO response, and after I informed Fugal of aspects of the email exchange with his associate (in order to offer Fugal an opportunity to comment on the specific circumstances), that the individual - who initially offered to speak by phone - advised me of their request to neither be named nor quoted. We can only speculate exactly how that evolved.

Offered an opportunity to address the circumstances, Fugal responded in a long message that he spoke to his associate and indicated they are concerned I have a "clear negative bias." According to Fugal, they therefore do not want their name associated with an attempt to disparage witnesses. Fugal suggested he applauds what I do "relative to calling out people who are exploiting the phenomenon or spreading disinformation and lies," yet alternatively went on to state I give voice to people who hide behind a cloak of hypocritical skepticism or self-righteous critical thinking. Some, he stated, are clearly dishonest. He also stated he hopes I am honest and not a disinformation agent.

Fugal was obviously much less inhibited about commenting than the person who will remain nameless who he initially recommended I hit up for info. Directing our attention back to his original statements about law enforcement records, Fugal stated the lack of corroborating records "doesn't make the fact that [Porritt] went on record regarding the multiple events that occurred and his relationship with Ken Myers any less real or true. For instance, I have closed billions of dollars of transactions going back to 1991, but in countless cases couldn't give you the exact dates of groundbreaking events, transactions closing or key meetings with leaders structuring some of the most important business deals in the Intermountain West. My testimony and track record stands."

I'll let the reader decide the tenability of the argument. Fugal further asserted they have interviewed other law enforcement professionals who "recall responding to incidents in the area" that predate the Sherman and Bigelow era.

"Furthermore," Fugal continued, "we have an interview with a respected professional who had a firsthand experience coming on to the ranch in 1984, who did provide exact dates, who happened upon a freshly surgically dissected cow in the same area on the property that other strange incidents have occurred in the field just south of Homestead 1." 

The apparent respected professional and an accompanying friend were so disturbed, Fugal continued, they promptly reported the circumstances to law enforcement. Fugal hopes to obtain permission to release the account to the public, along with what he described as additional witness testimony, seemingly either ignoring or oblivious to the relative lack of value such material has to a more discerning research community not under the ether of Skinwalker lore. 

Similarly, Fugal explained how a member of his security detail interviewed many retired officers who attest to strange and disturbing activity. Their accounts go back many decades, he contends.

"Since I know you have a tendency to give weight and voice to the criticism of people with no credibility or credentials, I encourage you to continue to interact with people who actually know what they are talking about. My professional track record and history is unimpeachable, as is the case with my principal investigator/physicist, ranch manager, law enforcement & superintendent."

Fugal's remark about me giving a voice to criticism may be related to my willingness to explore the arguments of those which include James Carrion. Fugal has previously expressed disappointment to me specifically about my interest in Carrion's perspectives. I identify Carrion's criticism of the Skinwalker saga and television series as worthy of consideration, particularly in the context of Fugal's persistent suggestions the show portrays legitimate scientific study. Related posts may be found at Carrion's blog in addition to the example linked above.  

What would Fugal say to people who might feel he is attempting to stack the deck by suggesting he has documentation of law enforcement responses while no actual records of such responses, or what was originally recorded in them, is available?

"Transcribed interviews & testimony from former law enforcement stating they responded to incidents on the ranch in the mid-1980s constitutes documentation. We have verified that the people involved and cited were indeed acting in that capacity during that timeframe and have no reason to doubt their testimony or credibility. Although you were unable to obtain the actual records from the Sheriff’s office from that time period, you cannot say that the events did not occur."

Fugal directly denied he is trying to stack the deck, continuing, "My own firsthand experience (with multiple witnesses) coupled with countless events with data involving 3rd party experts has proven (so far) there is no conventional, prosaic explanation for past & present extraordinary events at Skinwalker Ranch. I respectfully request that you take a balanced view and appreciate you giving me the opportunity to respond & address your questions."

    There are a number of people in addition to James Carrion who challenge several aspects of Brandon Fugal's stated positions, and one of those people is Erica Lukes. The outspoken host of UFO Classified understands the winding Skinwalker saga and personally knows the players about as well as anybody who rolls the UFO dice.  

"When bold claims are made about a particular location having an excessive number of paranormal phenomena, the expectation for me is that they are not just narrative tall tales but are well-documented, testable events," Lukes responded. "Can the anomalous nature of these events be demonstrated beyond 'they came without warning and left without warning' that we always seem to get in such reporting? 

"If they can’t rise above the usual level of narrative story-telling, there is a presumption that errors can be introduced into the events. After all, the usual method of relating the details is done verbally from the mouths of human beings, a notoriously flawed means of recording transient events. It’s a mistake to accept verbal testimony at face value without extensive testing of that information by means of questions designed to assess the accuracy and consistency of the related information."

Some people don't see the issue as a matter of verifying claims, but suggest those who do not unquestioningly embrace the stories must be calling the supporters of those stories frauds. What would she say to them?

"No, not frauds, at least initially," Lukes explained. "Fraud comes from deliberate intent to deceive. Supporters of the claims can simply be accepting bad information by not exercising due diligence at considering all the more possible mundane explanations before opting towards the unusual, sensational ones."

What does Lukes think is most important for people to keep in mind when considering claims associated with the ranch?

"It's critical to understand that as with any extraordinary assertions, the burden of proof is on those making the assertions and not on those raising questions about them. That is real science."


    The lack of significant documentation of sensational Skinwalker claims continues to haunt the saga worse than a hitchhiking bipedal wolf. While a valid argument can be made that a lack of UCSO records does not completely negate the testimony of Porritt, the fact remains law enforcement visits to the ranch cannot be verified. More importantly, the extent anyone may have originally perceived the events as extraordinary cannot be verified. We are unable to examine descriptions of events and the interpretations of those involved as may have been entered into original police reports. This does not allow us to compare those reports to the possibly dramatic narrations recorded decades later for an entertainment-based television show. It seems the UFO subculture indeed often needs to be reminded the burden of proof is on the claimant.

As observable in various internet spaces, a concerning aspect of the online Skinwalker fan base and cast is their tendency to sensationalize until checked. They then encourage more patience for ongoing investigations, as if they have not been suggesting all along a supernatural presence is a foregone conclusion. They are promoting conclusions; many of them only deny it and urge suspension of judgment when called on it. 

Investigations, by definition, must include systematic examination. That is particularly the case if framed as scientific activity. 

One might get the idea the faithful would never tap the brakes if their claims went entirely unchallenged. When challenged, a typical response is to act as if a request for proportionate evidence is unreasonable, as if anything less than extending limitless patience and unquestioning belief is a disrespectful personal attack. All of this without so much as forming a hypothesis, identifying a sustained research objective, or proposing how progress will be measured. We're in for a long wait under such conditions. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Timing Is Everything

    A self-described journalist recently published a story about a scientist who is a participant in the intelligence community as well as a television personality prone to making dubious statements. It was revealed the scientist at the least contributed to the UAP Task Force. That contribution may have been substantial.

He makes his living on the evening news
It should be noted that same reporter was apparently aware of the Advanced Aerospace Weapon Systems Application Program for years prior to running with the story. When the light apparently finally turned green to grace the public with the news, the reporting included a series of unsourced documents frequently implied to verify things that actually were not established in the material at all. That same reporter went on, for rather inexplicable reasons, to co-author a self-published book on the AAWSAP and its sensational urban legends, the timing of which remains unclear.

Other reporters - journalists, they like to be considered - who were credited with breaking the AAWSAP story fully acknowledge its context was spun for optimum acceptance by the public. Selective omission was standard operations. One of these reporters, who at one point asserted he was purposely misled by his otherwise informed sources, is appearing with said sources at a UFO conference, moderating what is billed as a government secrecy panel.

Unfortunately, these are not isolated events, but arguably make up the bulk of some of the most popularly embraced aspects of news pertaining to the Pentagon UFO program. In yet another instance, a complaint apparently filed on behalf of a self-described UFO project VIP to the DOD Office of Inspector General was quoted by a reporter for months - without publishing the document. 

More recently, the complaint was published with redactions. It was not accompanied by a chain of custody, explanation for the redactions, or any info about how decisions were reached to previously withhold and eventually release the document.

Besides what should be the obvious concerns about the reliability of information that is inherent to circumstances as described above, it should also be considered that the timing of the news drops is likely not arbitrary. There seems to be a process, whatever it may be, that dictates how and when reporters select to omit and provide information. They are almost entirely not reporting that process, which should not go unnoticed.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

UFO World from the Cheap Seats

    A lot of what happens in UFO World is cyclical and repetitive. Sometimes it overlaps with the rest of society, and the circumstances are inevitably indicative of a variety of agendas among the most prominent players. Lots of layers of motives. It's not as if politicians effectively hide that's the case, but people still want to argue that if some Senator or Congressperson says something, that makes it more valid. It doesn't necessarily, and there is no substitute for observing universally recognized standards of evidence. It takes continuous conscious decisions to be committed to objectivity through recognizing the importance of standards of evidence, and UFO World, if nothing else, offers an abundance of opportunities to strengthen that practice.

The late Sen. Reid
From the best I can tell, we have a situation where Sen. Reid saw to it that Robert Bigelow received funding. The purposes of the work conducted under the grant award seemed to be misrepresented to the DIA. That gets a little murky, as these things do, but then the funding was clearly discontinued. The circumstances were eventually egregiously and willfully mischaracterized by Kean and others in their reporting.

Any way one slices it, a public relations campaign was successfully executed by Mellon, Elizondo, and TTSA. It appears at that point they had favor with select politicians who saw it beneficial to champion their story, and these politicians had abilities to make hearings happen. This has all happened before, but that's not really my point, deserving of mention as it may be.

Now here we are, post-hearings, with little to nothing more than we started with because much of it was built on unverified stories and exaggerations in the first place. As I see it, there really is no way to have Robert Bigelow in a story or chain of events without the story being suspect. One just has to ignore too many circumstances to frame it otherwise, and I think writers and researchers do a disservice to their readers who ignore the history of his ethical failings. Same for the gross miscalculations, conflicting statements, and general buffoonery out of his camp for some 30 years.

Meanwhile, we continue to await circumstances of scientific merit to be presented by these people who claim to have been conducting scientific investigation. Where is the substance, the reports demonstrating systematic and careful investigation? You know, the science? 

A number of people and outlets enabled the lapse in prioritizing standards of evidence, many of which are actually taken advantage of by those who perpetually fail to produce all this big evidence that never seems to make it to the light of day. Unfortunately, in UFO World it is not just a lapse. It's a feature, not a bug.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Hall, Keyhoe and the FBI

    Richard Hall served as Donald Keyhoe's assistant in the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. He is credited as the driving force behind The UFO Evidence, a 1964 report embodying some 750 of what NICAP deemed its most compelling cases. The organization compiled over 5,000 UFO reports by that point in time. 

Hall largely ran day-to-day NICAP operations with a typically understaffed office. Keyhoe is remembered as an off-site manager, perhaps most effective at pursuing public relations and appearances. This provided Hall opportunities to organize projects, conduct research, and coordinate the growing number of NICAP subcommittees, the structure of which he is credited with designing. 

It was Hall holding down the fort at NICAP headquarters on Connecticut Avenue in Washington when the CIA came calling in 1965, as explored in a recent blogpost and WAYWARD SONS: NICAP and the IC. He loaned materials to officers dispatched from the CIA Contact Division for what a now-declassified Agency document indicates was delivery to its Office of Scientific Intelligence. The OSI was composing an evaluation of UFOs at the request of DCI John McCone. The declassified documents do not support the NICAP narrative of an orchestrated CIA and Air Force cover-up.

FBI files on Richard Hall show he was a quick study of Maj. Keyhoe. Hall quickly picked up the technique of requesting Director Hoover clarify FBI official policy on investigating UFOs, circumstances Hoover repeatedly addressed and minimized. The official FBI position probably reflected that Hoover sincerely had no interests in UFOs, at least not until the topic would bleed into areas for which the Bureau considered itself responsible.

Hall got wind of FBI agents reportedly taking an interest in a photo from a case in Flint, MI. Part of his resulting and inquisitive 1960 letter to Hoover:  

The above linked records obtained from the FBI pertaining to Hall do not include a response from Hoover to the above inquiry. I speculate that may be because Hoover did not respond and ignored the query, other than having the letter from Hall placed in his file of correspondence.

This is a throwback to previous exchanges between Keyhoe and Hoover. A 1958 letter written by the major to the FBI chief included the following questions (see page 5):

Keyhoe further requested "an interview with an FBI official acquainted with the facts, and with the FBI policy which may be involved." I guess one could admire his determination if nothing else.

In Hoover's 1958 response (see pages 2-3), he explained to Keyhoe the FBI did not investigate UFO sightings and did not issue instructions not to talk about them to those who report sightings. It was not a function of the Bureau, Hoover continued, to make character investigations of UFO witnesses. The FBI had no information concerning UFOs which could be released, which did not imply it had information which could not be released. 

In closing, Hoover acknowledged Keyhoe's request to interview an FBI official. "Since this Bureau's policy in connection with unidentified flying objects has been fully set forth above," the FBI director concluded, "you may feel that the requested interview is not now necessary.": 

Hall's correspondence with the FBI included apparent efforts to offer assistance to the Bureau. In one instance in 1962, Hall supplied Hoover with a NICAP report compiled on Frank Stranges (view FBI files compiled on the good doctor of divinity). It had come to NICAP's attention, Hall explained to Hoover, the Bureau had investigated Stranges, so NICAP wished to provide the FBI an overview of its experience with Stranges and offer further information as requested. 

Pamphlet by "Former Special
Investigator" Stranges
Hall and Keyhoe often seemed to take exception to individuals exploiting the UFO topic such as Stranges, who launched the story of Venusian Valiant Thor. Hoover did not seem to share such concern. I don't think Hoover cared in the least about honesty and integrity in the UFO subculture. The FBI director took interest if and when such behavior became criminal or, in the case of Stranges, came to stretching the truth about relationships with the FBI. 

Hoover discovered that those attending the lectures of Stranges and reading his literature were often left with the incorrect impression he was a former FBI agent. This seemed to be what Hoover was concerned about, and instructed agents in 1962 that Stranges "should be admonished" to cease implying an affiliation in any way.

As explored in a recent blogpost, FBI agents were similarly dispatched in 1954 to pay pulp writer and editor Ray Palmer a visit to clarify the Bureau's displeasure with being granted a starring role in his sensational saucer stories. The misrepresentation and exploitation of the FBI was Hoover's concern, as compared to the ethical shortcomings of writers and UFO investigators as NICAP seemed to have tried to urge the director to monitor and patrol. 

J Edgar Hoover
It could also be interpreted Keyhoe and Hall tried less successfully than they hoped to build bridges with the FBI by framing themselves as honest saucer brokers. Hoover was diplomatic but wasn't biting and, frankly, NICAP probably greatly overestimated Hoover's commitments to honesty and integrity.

Further example of NICAP efforts to build bridges with the Bureau may be observed in a 1957 letter of congratulations Keyhoe wrote to Hoover about the FBI work on the "Trip to Venus" swindle. Career conman Harold J. Berney was arrested after using a UFO-inspired story about his travels to Venus to separate a woman from $38,000. Factoring inflation, that's approaching 400 grand. 

A resulting article stated Keyhoe congratulated Hoover for exposing the fraud and offered full NICAP cooperation in securing evidence of other false UFO claims (see pages 184-185). It's a bit difficult for me to envision Keyhoe was not being obtuse when he emphasized potential FBI interest in the false UFO claims of the Berney case as compared to financial extortion perpetrated by a career criminal. I suspect Keyhoe was attempting to capitalize on potential advantageous public relations while simultaneously encouraging Hoover to get in the business of UFO fact-checking, or at least Keyhoe's version of it. The article went on to explain Hoover diplomatically yet carefully responded to Keyhoe, "I have received your letter of May 29, 1957, concerning our activities in the 'Trip to Venus' case and I want to thank you for your thoughtful congratulations."    

The above linked FBI records were obtained over the course of writing and conducting research for WAYWARD SONS. In January 2021 the FBI advised a document yet to be processed for the FOIA and potentially responsive to my request on Richard Hall was in the possession of the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA. FBI identified the document as 100-HQ-359927 Serial 41. I subsequently filed a FOIA request to NARA.

In recent months NARA provided what proved to be the 3-page document, which contains two pages of a 1961 FBI memo from the Washington Field Office to Director Hoover on a William Francis Johnston. It appears the FBI was trying to determine the activities and interests of Johnston, particularly including his interaction with NICAP:

Hall was apparently interviewed by Special Agent Fisher, who determined Johnston, of Long Island, submitted a NICAP "Membership Subscription Application" in 1959:

SA Fisher further discovered Johnston sought assistance from Keyhoe and NICAP to secure a speaker for a civic group. Keyhoe and Hall each indicated they were unable to specifically recall Johnston or if they supplied a speaker, while office notes provided by Hall to FBI suggested they offered to help, which was essentially part of the NICAP mission.

Curious to see what else the file contained, earlier this year I requested NARA provide FBI file 100-HQ-359927 in its entirety. NARA advised in an April 13 email that William Francis Johnston was the subject of the requested records, compiled as part of a domestic security investigation created between March 1942 and January 1972, consisting of about 400 pages.  

The estimated time to process the file under the FOIA is 39 months. Current cost for a reproduction, or pdf in my specific circumstance, is 80 cents per page, or about $320. It should be noted it is not necessary to pay to have files processed and, once processed, they may be viewed for free at the NARA facility in College Park, MD. I am therefore of the opinion the first step is to have the material made available for release, then worry about how to obtain and view it, thus I proceeded with the request.

Perhaps Mr. Johnston was involved in some type of employment requiring security clearance. Perhaps he was an asset of the FBI, or maybe he was of interest for any number of other reasons, or all of the above. It could nonetheless be considered interesting his path intersected with 1959 NICAP. I look forward to eventually reading more about William Francis Johnston and the FBI.  


Recommended further reading:

Cold War Cash, Politics and Saucer Stories

Ongoing NICAP Research: FOIA Request Lands FBI File on Counsel Services Co-Founder

Monday, May 16, 2022

Pulp UFO Writers and the FBI

     Ray Palmer was an editor and distributor of pulp magazines during the mid 20th century. He got in my sights while I was researching and writing WAYWARD SONS: NICAP and the IC. Palmer distributed pulp fantasy and sci-fi on a wide scale and is considered to have significantly contributed to the public perception of flying saucers and conspiracies during his era. Suffice it to say Palmer was not overly concerned with accuracy in his magazines as compared to getting eyes on the pages.

Maj. Donald Keyhoe, who became the face of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, was a widely published author before his run as the most high profile UFO activist of his time. His writing included contributions to the fantasy genre, as Palmer was popularizing. Keyhoe's work once made the cover of Weird Tales, pictured right. 

FBI records on Keyhoe indicate the Bureau was not a fan of his articles. A 1958 FBI memo on Keyhoe quotes Bureau Assistant Director Nichols as describing Keyhoe's writing as flamboyant and irresponsible. 

An example is cited of a 1941 piece co-authored by Keyhoe and published in Cosmopolitan. It apparently reported Adolph Hitler had a plan to seize the Merchant Marines and went on to assert the FBI possessed documents to that effect. The memo stated the assertion "was completely false." From the 1958 FBI memo:


There was no doubt media was a valuable tool in shaping public sentiment, and the FBI had keen interests in all phases of the process. That included Palmer and his distribution of pulp magazines, in addition to keeping an eye on what was coming out of the typewriter of Donald Keyhoe.

A 1953 report contained in an FBI file obtained on Ray Palmer lists five publications he operated at that point in time. Among them was Fate, with a reported circulation of 65,000. Several former publications were mentioned in the report as well, such as Amazing Stories, which gave rise to some of Palmer's most widely known sensations. 

The FBI file indicates an investigation was launched on Palmer in 1953 after the Bureau received a tip he was publishing Communist propaganda. Palmer would have seemingly been in a minority if he wasn't accused of Communist sympathizing, and the investigation found nothing of concern, at least not about Russians. There were other aspects of the resulting reports authored by Special Agents that caught my attention, however.

Not unlike the actions of Keyhoe, writers and opportunists numbered among those who worked the FBI into their narratives. One was a Paul Vest, published in Palmer's Mystic Magazine. This was the kind of thing that tended to get Director Hoover's attention, and in 1954 agents were dispatched to Palmer's location in Evanston, Illinois. They were equipped with instructions from Hoover to make it clear the FBI did "not appreciate having the name of the Bureau used in fantastic stories appearing in his publication to add credence to his stories and articles." 

The Vest piece was titled, catchily enough, "Venusians Walk Our Streets!". The author claimed in the story that FBI labs were in possession of a steel plate that just such a Venusian had marked with a half inch deep streak with no more effort than passing his fingernail over it. This also obviously suggested the Bureau was aware of said Venusians walking among the population. Hoover subsequently investigated to his satisfaction there were no FBI personnel at any such labs spreading stories as published and subsequently sent agents to make Palmer well aware of the fact. 

The creatively resourceful
Ray Palmer
In a memo dated July 22, 1954, a Special Agent in Charge at the Milwaukee Field Office advised Hoover contact was made with Ray Palmer. Palmer reportedly apologized for the misrepresentation of the Bureau and described it as an oversight on his part. This is where it gets a bit more interesting.

Palmer offered to publish a retraction, according to the FBI report, refuting Vest's claim about the FBI. Palmer further informed the agent he regularly supplied the CIA in Chicago with saucer reports mailed to him that he thought were most feasible, adding he was advised the Agency was interested in flying saucer reports. 

The FBI agent wrote Palmer explained, that in the next issue of Mystic Magazine, "he would be glad to insert an article agreeable to the Bureau." From the 1954 memo:


Was this Ray Palmer attempting to secure an advantageous relationship with the FBI? It could also be interpreted he was suggesting he already had such an arrangement with the CIA, and that perhaps the Bureau would find it mutually beneficial to be in the loop.

Whatever might be read between the lines, it was indicative of the niche Palmer carved out for himself, and a certain amount of power it wielded. It also signaled the beginnings of a tumultuous and unsteady alliance between certain writers and their intelligence agency contacts on the topic of UFOs. Those precarious relationships would persist to this very day.


See also:

UFO Activism and Congressional Hearings, 1960s Style

Friday, May 13, 2022

UFO Activism and Congressional Hearings, 1960s Style

    Below is an excerpt from Chapter 10 of WAYWARD SONS: NICAP and the IC. The excerpt explores the efforts of Maj. Donald Keyhoe and his National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena to generate Congressional hearings on UFOs during the 1960s. There are many similarities to events happening in today's overlap of politics and UFO advocacy. While Keyhoe's efforts may have initially appeared successful, his lobbying may arguably serve as more of a cautionary tale than cause for celebration. 

    NICAP files contain reference to what the organization considered “educational work” conducted in 1962. During the first quarter of the year, “special material” was sent to 62 students and teachers for what was described as use in preparing term papers, science projects, research reports, and so on (NICAP_Educational_work.pdf, p1). Such material included “a bibliography, source material, back magazines, etc.” More shipments for the fall were reportedly being processed. 

Similar efforts to “educate” Congress were also undertaken, as indicated in a 1962 form letter apparently authored by Keyhoe (NICAP_Educational_work.pdf, p9)

We can observe Keyhoe's tactic of declaring UFOs represented a national security threat. This would hold obvious significance to elected officials and intelligence agencies. Perhaps, however, applying the term “UFO” to such potential threats was not as relevant as UFO proponents might prefer the public believe. Beyond groups like NICAP using the issue as a public relations ploy, it's not clear how the armed forces should do its job any differently if it called air incursions UFOs instead of radar returns. Similar circumstances may be observed today. 

Keyhoe previously ran into resistance on such matters. Rep. Joseph Karth, in a 1961 letter to Keyhoe, addressed Keyhoe's proposal for a Congressional hearing. Karth wrote (NICAP_Keyhoe_Karth.pdf, p3): 

Rep. Karth expressed disappointment in Keyhoe's apparent intention to focus on Air Force secrecy as compared to presenting substantial evidence of UFOs. It has since become an all too standard part of the ufologist tool kit to plead their cases based on the obstruction of evidence rather than its presentation. 

Furthermore, Karth suggested he questioned Keyhoe's arrogance and hypocrisy concerning national security and secrecy. The Congressman appeared perturbed Keyhoe seemed oblivious to the sensitivity of classified material, referring to it as “minor items,” while expecting to be granted the luxury of withholding information as he saw fit. This of course became a staple of the UFO genre, and it continues today. Such concealed details frequently obstruct fundamental aspects of the universally recognized fact-finding process. The double standards try the patience of the more discerning members of the community at large. Rep. Karth was apparently in the “put up or shut up” camp, and saw the irony in Keyhoe reserving the right to remain silent while demanding answers from men charged with protecting national security. 

Richard Hall
Nonetheless, as noted in the above 1962 letter penned by Keyhoe, The UFO Evidence was on its way. It was destined to be considered among NICAP and editor Richard Hall's most significant contributions to the study of UFOs. From a July 1, 1964 NICAP press release (NICAP_papers_mixed_years.pdf, pp32-33): 

    “A documentary report charging Air Force censorship of unidentified flying objects was submitted today to Congressman John McCormack, Speaker of the House, and Senator Mike Mansfield, Majority Leader. The report is based on a 7-year investigation by military and technical experts of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). 

“The 184-page document, titled 'The UFO Evidence,' contains hundreds of verified UFO sightings by airline and military pilots, aerospace scientists and engineers, and other experienced observers. 

“NICAP, a private fact-finding organization, includes on its Board of Governors and Advisers: Army, Navy and Air Force officers, scientists, veteran pilots, and other specialists... 

“The charge of official secrecy was backed by a majority of the Board and Advisers, including Colonel J. Bryan III, USAFR (Ret); Admiral H. B. Knowles, USN (Ret); Dr. Leslie K. Kaeburn, biophysicist, University of Southern California; and Dr. C. P. Olivier, President of the American Meteor Society... 

“The NICAP Report covers approximately 750 cases selected from over 5000 on file. The documented cases include numerous reports by Air Force pilots, and incidents of UFOs which made close approaches to aircraft... According to NICAP, the large majority of these cases are totally unsolved. Although Air Force analysts claim to have explained some of the cases, NICAP says counter-to-fact answers have often been given to Members of Congress and the press... 

“After the current outbreak of UFO sightings, the Air Force admitted it had 910 unsolved cases out of 8128 - approximately 11%. Heretofore the Air Force had insisted it had solved all but 1 or 2%. The most recent unexplained sighting, according to the Air Force, is the April 24 observation by a police officer in Socorro, N.M., who saw an egg-shaped UFO take off from a gulley. Imprints and scorch marks were found at the site. 

“The NICAP report states ' is a reasonable hypothesis that the unexplained UFOs are real physical objects... artificial... under the control (piloted or remote) of living beings'... Many of the NICAP Board Members and Advisers have gone further, contending that the UFOs are extraterrestrial devices observing the earth. Among these are Col. J. Bryan III; Admiral H. B. Knowles; Prof. C. A. Maney; Dr. Leslie K. Kaeburn; and Capt. William B. Nash. 

“Verified cases in the report show speeds and maneuvers beyond the capabilities of any earth-made machines, often confirmed by radar... In addition to the massive U.S. evidence, NICAP reports dozens of foreign cases from trained observers which confirm the observations of high performance objects and lead to the same conclusion. 

“In order to reduce the dangers of accidental war caused by misidentification of UFOs on radar screens, and to educate the public to the realities, NICAP advocates a sweeping review of government policies on the subject by Congress. Speaker McCormack and Senator Mansfield have been asked to request UFO hearings. Many Members of Congress in recent years have gone on record in favor of open hearings... 

“In releasing the document, NICAP warned that crackpot groups might try to take advantage of it by claiming it supports their views. The Committee disowned any claims that UFOs proved any particular religious or philosophical views currently being expounded by UFO cults. NICAP stated it had not found verification of a single claim of communication with space men.” 

    NICAP would indeed eventually see its hopes come to fruition for a Congressional hearing on UFOs, but before that happened, CIA officers paid a visit to NICAP headquarters. A now publicly available CIA memo dated January 25, 1965, reflects Agency interest in obtaining materials, including UFO reports, from NICAP for delivery to its Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI). The memo further states OSI desired the information to assist in preparing a paper on UFOs. 

The CIA Contact Division met with Richard Hall on January 19, 1965, at which time he loaned the dispatched officers material and UFO reports for review. It was noted in the January 25 CIA document there was a strong feeling on the part of NICAP officials that the Air Force tended to downgrade the importance of UFO sightings. Hall apparently told the CIA officers there had been instances where the Air Force attempted to intimidate witnesses and get them to sign false statements. 

In closing, the report stated a security clearance was being requested on Hall. There are various accounts and anecdotes around the UFO community about Hall's interactions with intelligence agencies, often framed as Hall having a rather nonchalant attitude about them. A generally accepted consensus is Hall was never issued a security clearance and did not develop a significant relationship with the CIA, and I have not discovered any particular reasons to suppose otherwise. 

A now declassified OSI memo is dated January 26, 1965. You will note it was apparently composed the day after the above memo was written. The OSI memo was sent to the Director of Central Intelligence from OSI Assistant Director Donald F. Chamberlain. It was written in response to a request from DCI John McCone for an assessment on UFOs. The materials borrowed from NICAP contributed to findings reported by Chamberlain in the memo, according to the CIA

Chamberlain summarized some then-recent UFO reports, adding no evidence was revealed UFOs were of foreign origin or were a security threat to the United States. He clarified OSI monitored UFO reports, including those investigated by the Air Force, and concurred with Air Force conclusions. 

Ironically, while Keyhoe and his supporters were convinced an orchestrated UFO cover-up was being perpetrated by the CIA and Air Force, the two agencies were apparently actually in agreement there was not even a threat, at least not from unknown airborne objects. Threats of propaganda and espionage were another story, as suggested previously by the Robertson Panel. An argument could be made such concerns, and the resulting minimization of the topic for what may have been considered in at least some instances the public's own good, contributed significantly to the perception of official UFO secrecy. 

Similar might be said about the intelligence community's aversion to publicly addressing UFOs due to reasons that included its own manipulation of the topic in an offensive capacity. Uncle Sam obviously did not want to address his own covert use of the UFO subject. 

There was additional irony in the way UFO enthusiasts tended to interpret CIA interest in NICAP. For instance, NICAP and Keyhoe chose to withhold certain information because they did not want to divulge sources of reports and documents. They subsequently feared the CIA was snooping around to infiltrate their lines of communication. That may have been true to some extent, but not for the reasons NICAP chose to believe, which hinged upon the perception the CIA was scrambling to keep the existence of an extraterrestrial presence from becoming publicly revealed. 

In a manner of speaking, NICAP activities and subsequent CIA responses served as a self-fulfilling prophecy for NICAP. Intelligence community actions often seemed to be interpreted to confirm what UFO investigators chose to subjectively believe, and that largely continues to be the case in the UFO genre today. 

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Gordon Lore
    Gordon Lore explained it was during this point in time he began working at NICAP. In his book Flying Saucers from Beyond the Earth, Lore stated he had taken a job as a writer-editor in Washington, D.C. In addition to writing, the future NICAP assistant director was also a musician who played the guitar at night at a local coffee house. 

Richard Hall was in attendance during one of Lore's performances in the summer of 1965, Lore wrote. He accompanied Hall and a group of friends back to Hall's apartment where they hung out and Lore entertained some more. Lore told Hall about his interest in UFOs, and was hired to join NICAP by the end of the night. He soon submitted his resignation at what he described as a subsidiary of U.S. News and World Report and was on his way to work with Keyhoe, Hall and NICAP.

“It was to become a dream job,” Lore wrote, “mixed with more than a little anxiety about keeping the organization afloat during the next five years.” 

In 1966 a series of dramatic UFO sightings began in Michigan. The widely reported events included dozens of witnesses, as well as police officers giving chase to whatever they were seeing in the sky. Renowned UFO investigator J. Allen Hynek infamously suggested swamp gas as a feasible explanation. 

Then-House Minority Leader and future-President Gerald Ford took interest. As an elected official of Michigan, he was among those supporting calls for a Congressional hearing on UFOs. The House Armed Services Committee soon conducted just such a hearing, although it was relatively brief. While there wasn't much in the way of substantial information getting revealed, a chain of events was by that point in motion that would forever shape the timeline of UFO World. 

The Air Force announced a forthcoming independent review of Project Blue Book and related UFO evidence. It was titled the University of Colorado Scientific Study of UFOs, conducted by what was known as the Condon Committee due to the lead researcher, physicist Dr. Edward U. Condon. 

Richard Hall described events of 1966 and how they influenced NICAP in his previously referenced 1994 paper, The Quest For The Truth About UFOs: A Personal Perspective On The Role Of NICAP. With a little help from the UFOs, Hall explained, NICAP was thrust further than ever into the media spotlight. As a result of all the buzz, NICAP was deluged with mail, routinely receiving hundreds of letters a day. Public interest in UFOs, and subsequently NICAP, produced a degree of financial stability previously unknown to the organization. 

Don Berliner reported that by early 1967 NICAP grew to some 14,000 members. The Committee then employed nine full-time staff, which, Berliner noted, was more than could be said for the Blue Book payroll. 

Hall wrote that NICAP worked diligently to provide Dr. Condon and his staff with the best evidence possible to assist in compiling its report. NICAP understandably saw the UFO study undertaken at the University of Colorado as significant, or, as Hall put it, that their dreams were coming true. The help was enrolled of Dr. James E. McDonald, an outspoken UFO proponent and atmospheric physicist at the University of Arizona. Many UFO proponents probably fully anticipated a desirable outcome, at least initially, because they sincerely believed the evidence did indicate an abundance of interplanetary craft. Intelligence agencies and other scientists, not so much. 

In his 1973 book, Aliens From Space, Maj. Keyhoe stated NICAP eventually compiled some 9,300 UFO cases, 2,000 of which he suggested were top notch. I guess he was suggesting there were aliens all over the place. Perhaps it did not occur to Keyhoe that overwhelming Condon and the public in endless stories might not be as effective a tactic as he hoped. 

Hall wrote NICAP “worked on a massive project of copying files for the Colorado scientists.” This went on for over the course of a year and included “hundreds of strong cases,” as well as NICAP subcommittees sending Condon new reports perceived as potentially important. 

Keyhoe further wrote that almost right away Condon and the project administrator, Robert J. Low, began indicating to the press they did not anticipate arriving at conclusions supporting anything overly significant about UFOs. The two were quoted as speaking favorably about Air Force investigative efforts, as well as suggesting the government should get out of the UFO business. Such positions were of course in conflict with stances held by NICAP. 

In spite of the statements, Keyhoe and NICAP tried to stay the course. That might have particularly been due to repeated assurances received from Condon and Low the study would be conducted objectively, according to the writings of Keyhoe and Lore. Dr. Condon and Robert Low reportedly minimized the significance of their published remarks when asked about them by Keyhoe. 

The final straw came for Keyhoe when he learned of what came to be known as the “Trick Memo.” It was a leaked Condon Committee memo written by Robert Low in which he described an operating strategy for the UFO study. The committee would consist of scientists, Low explained, who could not possibly prove a negative result, even though they might indeed publish an impressive body of evidence suggesting there was nothing extraordinary about UFO observations. Low then added, “The trick would be... to describe the project so that, to the public, it would appear a totally objective study, but, to the scientific community, would present the image of nonbelievers trying their best to be objective but having an almost zero expectation of finding a saucer...” (Lore, Gordon. 2018. Flying Saucers from Beyond the Earth. BearManor Media. (p124))

Keyhoe and his organization, when they got wind of the memo, responded with an April 30, 1968 press release, “NICAP Calls Colorado UFO Project Failure” (NICAP_incorporation_papers.pdf, p31). The release stated NICAP sent a report to the president of the United States, containing evidence of “grave deficiencies” in the University of Colorado UFO project. It was further stated NICAP broke relations with the project after 17 months of cooperation. Reasons listed for the break included Condon had never conducted a field investigation of a UFO sighting or interviewed responsible witnesses, although named as chief principal investigator. 

“Dr. Condon summarily discharged two Project scientists,” the news release continued, “for revealing written proposals by Project Coordinator Robert J. Low that the Colorado Project be represented to the public as 'totally objective', when in fact it would be constituted almost entirely of non-believers, with 'an almost zero expectation of finding a saucer'.” 

It was further alleged Condon and Low “both refused, in writing, to answer NICAP questions as to whether the Project was being conducted in a biased and negative manner.” Condon, it was asserted, “refused to guarantee he would examine any of the hundreds of NICAP-investigated UFO reports, submitted at the Project's request.” 

Keyhoe and NICAP took measures to prepare for public response to what was clearly going to be, from their perspectives, an unfavorable report from Condon. Their efforts included a second Congressional hearing, organized by NICAP supporter Rep. J. Edward Roush, an Indiana Congressman who chaired the House Committee on Science and Aeronautics. He held the Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects on July 29, 1968. 

While a few qualified scientists and NICAP representatives attended and provided testimony, the event was limited in scope. It did, however, mark the historic occasion of a second Congressional hearing on UFOs. 

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    The Condon Report was published in January 1969. The general conclusion stated nothing had come from the study of UFOs that added to scientific knowledge. It was additionally reported, “Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby.” 

The issue was addressed in the document as to what, if anything, the federal government should do about UFO reports received from the general public. “We are inclined to think that nothing should be done with them in the expectation that they are going to contribute to the advance of science,” the Condon Committee wrote. 

If the implications were not clear enough as to what the group collectively recommended about operating government UFO research projects outside normal military channels, it explicitly clarified its stance. “It is our impression that the defense function could be performed within the framework established for intelligence and surveillance operations without the continuance of a special unit such as Project Blue Book, but this is a question for defense specialists rather than research scientists.” 

The Condon Committee made its position clear: The study of UFOs was producing nothing of scientific value and Blue Book should be discontinued. 

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    The report, eagerly anticipated by the public, was now actually published. Gordon Lore wrote a memo to the NICAP office in the aftermath. The January 27, 1969, memo declared the organization and the UFO subject were facing perhaps their most critical period. Refuting the Condon Report was crucial and would require cooperation and hard work on the part of NICAP, Lore suggested (NICAP_Condon_reaction.pdf, p1). Time would show the goal was not to be achieved. 

Challenges included quarrels among the staff and a declining membership. If the negative Condon Report wasn't bad enough, it had now been over two full years since the Michigan sightings. People were tired of waiting for answers, or at least the answers they wanted to hear. What's more, a growing number of NICAP supporters' patience was wearing thin about attacking the Air Force. 

As explored earlier, it is difficult to tackle the UFO subject without drawing lines in the political sand. This was not only true in Keyhoe's day, but was the case for years to come. As I write this, current news cycles are more likely to include statements about UFOs from Pentagon spokespersons, Senators, and bureaucrats than from scientists. We should take that into deep consideration when forming our assessments. We might also question what practical contribution Congress might even make to the topic of UFOs. In hindsight, much of it seemed to be performative and in pursuit of a mixed bag of agendas. 

Maj. Donald Keyhoe
In the case of Keyhoe, he seemed to have come to believe lobbying elected officials and leveling demands at intelligence agencies was UFO research. At the least, it appears he considered it the most likely way to produce substantial results. If his actions were indicative of his beliefs, and he truly thought he was pursuing the most productive path, he was simply wrong. He gave it a hell of a try, though, for what that may or may not be worth. 

Many at the time seemed to believe the Condon Report was part of an orchestrated cover-up to deny the reality of UFOs and ultimately the extraterrestrial presence the reported craft were often believed to indicate. More than a few still think so, at least among those in UFO circles who are aware of the Condon Committee. Frankly, I doubt many people could tell you why they believe the study was a sham, the idea just took on the quality of one of those “everybody knows” kind of things. 

I strongly suspect very few people could articulate such circumstances as the Trick Memo and offer specific reasons why they believe the Air Force and Condon Committee conspired to deceive the public and cancel Project Blue Book. In most circumstances, the primary reason for such beliefs seems to be because UFOs were not confirmed to be sensational, thus there must have been a government cover-up. 

Perhaps there actually were more deceptive motives at play. It's possible, for any number of reasons. It's also possible the Air Force came to conclude chasing UFOs was a waste of time much more often than not, and Condon and Low were subsequently identified as good candidates to arrive at such a conclusion. 

It's a reasonable likelihood Air Force officials sincerely found UFOs and the related controversies to be an unproductive drain of resources, and believed objective scientists would concur – as had often been the case up to that point. The powers that be may therefore have identified a somewhat “fixed” study as the best way out of the problem. It may not have been they were trying to rig the study as much as they were trying to ensure it did not fall under the care of overly enthusiastic saucer fanatics. 

It could even have been the intent, at least in part, for the Condon Committee to upstage NICAP, and create an alternative group of respected scientists and researchers. The alternative group would, of course, reach different conclusions than those promoted by NICAP. In the process, it would ease the Air Force burden of answering questions about UFOs and constantly finding itself in the crosshairs of Donald Keyhoe. 

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    Richard Hall did not seem to subscribe to conspiracies about the Condon Committee. That was the case even though he was admittedly bitter over circumstances surrounding his August 1969 final departure from NICAP. He described negotiations as long and contentious with Board members Col. Joseph Bryan III and Joseph B. Hartranft, Jr. Hall wrote the conflict was over back salary issues and stated the negotiations ultimately went nowhere. 

Hall extensively supplied information to the Condon Committee, as well, which stood to substantially increase his disappointment about the resulting report and overall circumstances. Nonetheless, he did not promote the Condon cover-up angle. 

“Was the Colorado UFO Project a conspiracy to debunk the subject?” Hall wrote in 1994. “Another 'front' operation to sweep the UFO problem under the rug? Many UFOlogists today write it off in that way, assuming that it must have been a put-up job from the start. However, there is a much simpler and all too-human explanation for what happened.” 

Condon and Low were simply not interested in UFOs, Hall suggested. Hall wrote that during one briefing he attended, Condon fell asleep. 

In another instance, Hall explained he personally hand-carried to Condon what he felt was an impressive and thick investigation report on a 1966 UFO case. When the Condon Report was later released, Hall was astonished to find no mention of it at all. 

“It had never occurred to me,” Hall explained, “that he would simply ignore it.” 

In his previously referenced 2018 book, Gordon Lore reflected, “Following the public release of the Condon Report, the prospects for NICAP continuing as a viable UFO organization quickly took a downward spiral. Adding fuel to the fire, unfortunately, was Keyhoe himself. Being an organizational and money manager was not his cup of tea. Some had even compared him to 'a second Townsend Brown.' 

“In a secret meeting on December 3, 1969, the NICAP Board with Colonel Joseph Bryan III presiding, fired both Keyhoe and myself. It soon became apparent that I had to be terminated as a convenient 'scapegoat.'” (Lore, Gordon. 2018. Flying Saucers from Beyond the Earth. BearManor Media. (p237)) 

And like that, the Keyhoe years were over. 

Staffer Stuart Nixon became director, and John “Jack” Acuff was soon appointed president. Ted Bloecher recalled the circumstances in a letter written to Richard Hall in approximately 1973. He was initially referencing his own business disagreement with Nixon, as compared to those concerning Keyhoe and Lore, when he wrote, “I have underestimated the lengths Stuart is capable of going to. But then, he's the one who fixed it so Major Keyhoe and Gordon Lore got axed. The shame of it is, I went along with it.” (NICAP_Bloecher_Report_1947.pdf, p5)