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)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

UFO Faux Journalism

    I'm not a journalist. I write about stuff I find interesting.

Journalism is a profession consisting of skilled investigators and reporters. Many are educated in its disciplines, although its protocols are often undermined by hobbyists. I think calling myself a journalist would devalue the work invested and dues paid by those who earned the title through years of college and employment. I just like to conduct research and then write about my findings, and I have been fortunate enough to be able to spend some time pursuing the pastime.

The UFO subculture blurred the lines between not only professional journalists and amateur reporters, but also between journalists and what are more accurately described as UFO promoters. It's been happening and morphing for decades. Such promoters become enmeshed with their subjects of interest and even seem offended at times if they are not discussed as primary parts of the stories.

The 2022 UFO Researcher of the Year at -
wait, being told that's pro wrestling promoter Vince McMahon

In recent years and months in (what we might generously call) ufology, numerous self-styled journalists cropped up to assist the usual UFO promoters in making an absolute mess of anything that may have ever held any resemblance to objective reporting. This happens through a combination of shortcomings. Make no mistake, the sometimes sincere yet unequipped self-styled journos are manipulated in some instances. They lack the skills and tools they need to navigate increasingly complex situations. This can result in folding to the noise of the crowd and those who push them hardest. They typically have minimal mentorship and what little they get is often low quality.  

In other circumstances they're more willingly coerced, hoovering up and disseminating talking points they're given by what they perceive to be movers and shakers. Some simply don't care about accuracy and have any number of ulterior motives, ranging from believing ends justify means regarding their beloved Disclosure to their quest for heightened community status that results from "attaboys" gifted from those movers and shakers. If you're thinking that sounds a lot like a cult, you're right. It should also be noted there are actual journalists who often don't fare a whole lot better when caught between UFO storytellers, deadlines, and their needs to get work published. A lot of rationalizing goes on. 

I do not consider myself a journalist. I do however, respect and observe standards recognized by the professional research community. I try my best to remain in the framework of those standards, citing sources as applicable and obtaining comment as I think adds value to my offerings. This has guided me through some 12 years of blogging and two self-published nonfiction books. 

For what my opinion may or may not be worth, I think the two dynamics described below are primary reasons current UFO "journalists" are following in the long tradition of failure forged before them. These dynamics are not new to the genre by any means, but various aspects of technology and current day circumstances indeed further aggravate the dysfunction. UFO reporters fail to produce quality work when: 

- They mistakenly try to be friends with the subjects of their interviews and research, and

- Online screennames and concealed identities create an environment in which they don't know who they are talking to from one interaction to the next 

We will explore these two dynamics further below.


    Some UFO writers and podcasters get the idea that building a following must be contingent on being well liked. This goes hand in hand with wanting access to inside info and juicy gossip; it only seems to stand to reason you'll get more news tips and eyes on your work if people like you.

Unfortunately for them, this may well be the easiest type of person to manipulate. I often wonder if they're aware they transitioned from reporting to acting as someone's mouthpiece, and if they identify a particular point in time it happened.

Some of the manipulators are much more skilled than your average bear at transferring their talking points into someone else's platform. They may approach writers and podcasters in overly friendly manners, making it challenging to hold boundaries. They may then express disappointment and suggest they were hurt by the way a writer framed their statements or how a show host described their actions.

Is that gaslighting? You bet your ass it's gaslighting. They'll have you apologizing for accurately quoting them if you let them.

Another tool in their bag is dumping "off the record" remarks all over your inbox when you specifically requested comment for inclusion in a blogpost or book. In at least some instances, this is a direct attempt to influence your framing of a story without taking public responsibility for their statements: They are trying to persuade you to champion a cause but do not go on record for the simple reason they cannot prove the legitimacy of the tale they're selling. They want you to take the heat for it and be left babbling about how you can't tell anyone how you know it's true.

To the less experienced, I recommend bringing such exchanges back to focusing on comments to be published, and the sooner the better. You are outright being enrolled as an emotional support person or confidant without your permission, and in direct contradiction to the role in which you defined and presented yourself, a writer impersonally seeking comment for publication. 

It is simple manipulation. Recognize it, label it, and act accordingly.

Research and investigations should prioritize accuracy. We should seek to support or refute a given point. It's not personal. Keep it that way.


    Online discourse, research communities, and virtually every other aspect of internet interactions in the UFO subculture is in a state of dysfunctional paralysis. A leading reason is we simply do not know who we're talking to from one interaction to the next. This virtually cripples podcast hosts who rely heavily on social media for interacting with potential guests, as well as researchers who make themselves available for a variety of purposes. 

Let's say Podcaster A invites you to their show to discuss your take on the UFO research climate. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, how do you know they're not one of those anonymous trolls that posted an inappropriate and vulgar photoshop of someone's profile pic? And how sure are you they're not one of those people sending you unsolicited direct messages, asking you what you think about 'this' or 'that' about one person or issue or another? And why do people that just want to discuss this or that have to hide who they are?

A UFO researcher, podcast host, or
Luis Elizondo. Gets hard to tell which.
If you consider yourself a researcher and you're not willing to post your identity at an online venue, maybe you shouldn't be dabbling at that venue. Maybe it's more than you bargained for and you should give that more consideration. What does someone honestly think yet another anonymous voice can functionally contribute to this mess in a research capacity? If they feel their employment, community status, or similar circumstance prohibits them from sharing who they are, there's a pretty good chance they shouldn't be mixing it up with spooks and sociopaths who congregate to UFO websites in the first place. 

Moreover, screennames and hidden identities stand in direct contradiction to the very research process certain individuals and venues claim to pursue. In my personal experience, I considered publishing my real name to be part of making the decision to launch this blog in 2010. I did not see how I could undertake the things I intended to do without offering such a show of good faith. There are exceptions to what I have described here, but they are not the rule, and they certainly do not apply to people operating god only knows how many accounts to hide behind across multiple websites. We should all be sincere enough to differentiate between the spirit of rules and their intentional misuse and exploitation.

The bottom line is aspects of the UFO research community have largely paralyzed themselves again, as has always been the case. The means and technologies evolve, but self-styled reporters frequently find ways to waste time and attention instead of presenting meaningful material. That's no coincidence. It's likely in some instances by design and intentional manipulation, often to distract you from the fact promises of forthcoming revelations and claims of paradigm-shifting knowledge remain so utterly unfulfilled and empty. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Debate or Advocacy?

     There are different kinds of arguments. Some have the potential for resolution while others do not. 

Arguing opinions provides opportunities to express ourselves and widen our horizons through the consideration of perspectives held by others. Often, however, debating opinions that contradict one another does not result in any type of resolution, particularly pertaining to circumstances surrounding UFOs. It just goes in circles, as has been the case since the dawn of the modern UFO era.

Maj. Donald Keyhoe, a UFO advocate who
presented himself as an objective researcher
In contrast, the inventorying of facts during a debate stands to resolve the accuracy or inaccuracy of any given point presented. Arguing facts offers resolution; arguing opinions does not. Arguing with people who do not demonstrate a knowledge of the difference, whether out of simple ignorance or bad faith, is an exercise in futility. Whatever their motives, they are advocating rather than sincerely seeking information to support or refute any given point.

It has been aptly observed that people often think they are objective, whether or not that is the case. A symptom of bias can be not knowing we're biased. 

Other times, people seem much less sincere. Not everyone you offer facts is interested in resolution and arriving at a fact-based conclusion. They may be more motivated to promote a preconceived agenda.

A rational conclusion simply cannot be reached if parties involved in a discussion do not recognize and respect standards of evidence. If we don't agree on how facts are established or what they are, we cannot jointly determine what facts indicate. We are destined to hold conflicting opinions and conclusions.

Perhaps one individual is thoroughly convinced adequate evidence has been presented to determine UFOs are material craft piloted by a non-human intelligence in at least some instances. They base this judgement on what they feel is an overwhelming amount of evidence, much of it put forth by scientists with impressive credentials.

Someone may challenge their point of view, asserting the conclusion is not supported by facts. Such facts, they argue, indicate those scientists with impressive credentials talk a lot but do not actually present any work that can be peer reviewed to the extent of supporting their often sensational interpretations; decades of extraordinary stories may be evidence but not good evidence; and blurry videos does not a non-human intelligence make.

The first individual thinks they are arguing facts that the second party refuses to recognize, while the latter understands they are respecting universally recognized standards of evidence. One is presenting their opinion as fact, for whatever reasons may motivate them to do so. There is little chance of resolving the argument.

A talented songwriter once observed, "It takes a lot to change your plans and a train to change your mind." In UFO circles, it often takes a whole lot more than a train. Pack a lunch or, better yet, choose your battles wisely.