Dr. James E. McDonald and the UFO Problem

by Charles Lear

By coincidence, two UFOlogists who studied mass sightings by school children ended up dying an untimely death.  One was John E. Mack, an Ariel School sighting researcher who was hit by a truck in London in 2004 and the other was James E. McDonald who researched the Westall sighting in Australia and took his own life in 1971 in Tucson, Arizona.  Both were reputable scientists with careers in psychiatry and meteorology respectively and both suffered attacks on their credibility due to their pursuit of UFOlogy.  Due to different public attitudes towards UFO research during their times, Mack was able to withstand an investigation by the Dean of Harvard Medical School which threatened his position there and write best-selling books on the abduction phenomenon, whereas McDonald endured multiple threats to his career, funded his own research without book deals and was publicly humiliated at a congressional hearing.  Still reeling from this he received the blow of his wife’s request for a divorce, which seems to have led to his suicide.

McDonald, born May 7, 1920, was one of very few scientists of his time who were willing to go on the record and advocate for the extra-terrestrial hypothesis as an explanation for UFOs.  He had a PhD from Iowa State University, taught at the University of Chicago and then the University of Arizona where he helped establish a meteorological and atmospherics program.  His interest in UFOs started with his own sighting in 1954 while driving in Arizona with two other meteorologists.  What was seen was a less than dramatic distant point of light but the fact that three scientists who specialized in atmospheric observation were unable to identify it signaled to McDonald that there was a need for a focus on “the UFO problem” by the scientific community.  He began investigating on his own and joined the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomenon.  After interviewing between 150 to 200 witnesses from 1956 to 1966 in his home area of Tucson, Arizona he was, in his own words,”far from overwhelmed with the importance of the UFO problem.”  His attitude would change in 1966, sparked by a sense of betrayal felt by himself and many other investigators, witnesses, and members of the general public.  This was brought on by the growing realization that the U.S. Air Force investigation into UFOs had become nothing more than a public relations campaign designed to downplay and debunk as many incidents as possible. Read more

Gray Barker: UFO Prankster

by Charles Lear

Right at the very beginning of modern UFOlogy, researchers had to contend with hoaxes.  This has continuously been an issue and causes great indignity among serious researchers.  From the point of view of an historian, however, hoaxes and hoaxers have provided stories and characters that range from amusing to downright bizarre.  Motivations for hoaxing range from those of the practical joker to those of people with a penchant for making a dishonest living.  A person who was subject to both of those was Gray Barker, who was an early investigator of the Flatwoods Monster case and who had links to the introduction of the Men In Black and the Philadelphia Experiment into the literature.  Barker’s associates included legendary researchers from the fifties and sixties including Ivan Sanderson, Jim Moseley, Morris Jessup and John Keel.  All of these people were writers trying to make a living in a tough market and if there was a scale for measuring truth in journalism, Jessup followed by Sanderson and then Keel would be on the side of truthful whereas Moseley followed by Barker would be towards the opposite.

Gray Barker first became prominent in the world of UFOlogy with his investigation of the September 12, 1952 Flatwoods Monster case which was reported in his native Braxton County, West Virginia. He arrived on the scene just after Ivan Sanderson and both interviewed primary witnesses as well as many residents of the area.  Sanderson was preparing an article for True while Barker was commissioned by Fate.  Barker seems to have been earnest in this early investigation and this is reflected by his recollection of it in his classic 1956 book, “They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers.”  After the Flatwoods case, Barker wrote articles for Space Review, which was a regular publication of the International Flying Saucer Bureau run by Albert Bender and later became IFSB’s chief investigator.  In his book, Barker relates that Bender claimed to have solved the mystery of UFOs but was forced into silence by higher powers and visited by three MIBs.  This is the first mention of MIBs in UFO literature but the story originated with Bender.  Bender abruptly ceased his IFSB activities and Barker seemed to have been impressed that there was a genuine element to the story, which can be discerned from his archived correspondence with Morris Jessup.

Read more

Good Old Fashioned UFO Photo Analysis

By Charles Lear

  From the early days of Project Sign to the final days of Project Blue Book, photographs played an important part in the Air Force’s UFO investigation.  On July 4th, 1947 just weeks after Kenneth Arnold’s June 24th sighting, a woman in Seattle took a picture of a UFO and this would be the very first photograph that the Army Air Corps soon to be Air Force received.  It was identified as a balloon, and perhaps it really was, but at the time, personnel assigned to the project were still figuring out how to actually approach their investigations.  They were soldiers trying to think like scientists and photo analysis in the military was historically focused on reconnaissance.  Analysis of UFO footage has different challenges and these were met by private researchers who continued investigation after the end of Project Blue Book in 1969.

The use of photography for reconnaissance didn’t become practical until cameras became small and portable following the invention of film in 1885 by George Eastman.  Aerial photography over enemy lines was the dream but with highly vulnerable balloons and kites being the only available means of flight at the time, truly effective aerial reconnaissance would have to wait.  Two inventions in the early 1900’s would change things.  The first was the well-known 1903 invention of the airplane by the Wright brothers.  The second, lesser-known invention was the pigeon cam patented in 1907 by German apothecary, Julius Neubronner.  The pigeons and the planes were both used in World War I and the planes proved more effective as they were guided by a human as opposed to pigeon brain.

By the end of the war, military planning was rarely done without photo reconnaissance.  Analysis was primarily done through the use of magnification and enlargement in concert with ground surveillance.  Accurate interpretation came from education and experience and it was often that many lives depended on it.  By the end of World War II, photo analysis had become quite sophisticated and would continue to play a part in the cold war with the advent of spy planes and long-range cameras. Read more

Maury Island Madness

by Charles Lear

June 21, 1947, three days before Kenneth Arnold had his historic sighting, a man named Harold Dahl and his crew allegedly saw six one hundred foot diameter donut shaped craft while on a salvage mission in Puget Sound near Tacoma, Washington.  According to the claim, as they approached the shore of Maury Island, one of the craft seemed to experience mechanical troubles and the other five circled it and appeared to be aiding it in some way.  The craft then rained molten metal on Dahl’s vessel, injuring his son and killing his dog, before all six objects flew away.  The case was investigated by Arnold himself as well as the US Army Air Corps and Dahl claimed that a Man In Black also poked his nose in.  The story made headlines when the plane that was to carry the Air Corps investigators back to their base with a box full of saucer slag caught fire and crashed.  The papers noted that a cover-up might have been the reason.  A case with the very first saucer and Man In Black report is exciting and the fact that it comes before Arnold’s seems to add credibility to it because no one had heard of “flying saucers” before a reporter covering Arnold’s sighting coined the phrase.  It seems like a good case until one looks into the characters involved and, in particular, a man named Fred L. Crisman.  To say that Crisman was colorful is quite an understatement and that he ends up involved in the Kennedy investigation/conspiracy circus adds a red nose and fright wig to his persona.

The story was originally dismissed by a local reporter but came to light through lovable strange tale publisher and truth boundary stretcher, Ray Palmer, publisher of Amazing Stories.  Palmer was having a good run with a series of “true” stories written by Richard Shaver, involving detrimental robots, “deros” that lived inside the earth and flew through tunnels in disc shaped craft.  Palmer received a box with some metal fragments in it and an account of Dahl’s sighting from Crisman who had previously written Palmer a letter claiming he’d fought with deros himself in a Burmese cavern during World War II.  Crisman also offered to go to a cave in Texas to retrieve dero machinery if Palmer would provide $500 to cover his expenses.  In spite of his doubts, Palmer enlisted Arnold, with whom he now had a relationship, to go to Tacoma and investigate.  In addition to working for Palmer (for which he was paid $200) Arnold also seemed to have made arrangements with a local paper, the Boise Statesman in his home state of Idaho, to provide them with a story as well.

Read more

UFOs and the Scientists Who Love Them

by Charles Lear

Scientific study of the UFO phenomenon has had a sporadic history for the last 70 plus years for reasons ranging from lack of funding to the fear of the loss of standing within the scientific community.  There have been government funded studies and academics brave enough to research, but politics and rejection out-of–hand by peer reviewed journals have impeded the production of researchable literature that could lend credibility to a subject of study languishing in the realm of pseudoscience.  As a result, many researchers with academic credentials have moved to form their own study groups as a means to research and publish.  While there have been and are some admirable groups out there, what amounts to self-publishing bypasses the review process.  The review process is important in that it demonstrates that an argument has stood scrutiny by disinterested parties.  Work that has not undergone this is the poorer for it.  A solution would be to have reputable scientists, interested in the subject, establish a journal with peer review that publishes the work of outside contributors.  Are there scientists willing to risk their reputations in order to do this?  Apparently there are because a journal exists today that is staffed and supported by scientists with serious cred that was created specifically to give a voice to real research on subjects considered too out there for mainstream science, UFOs included. Read more

UFOs and School Children

by Charles Lear

Remember that UFO sighting by all those school children some years back?  That was in Australia, right?  No, it was Florida… or was it Wales?  Perhaps it was in Africa?  The answer is that there were incidents of significance in all four locations. All were similar enough to cause confusion but the reactions by school and public officials involved were strikingly different.

The first occurrence was April 6, 1966 at Westall High School in Clayton South, a suburb of Melbourne, capital of Victoria, Australia.  Around 11:00 am a student ran in from the school sports field (the oval) shouting that there was a flying saucer outside.  The teacher whose class had been interrupted demanded his students remain seated until the recess bell, at which time, students and teachers flooded the oval and over 200 people were witness to a silvery disk.  At the time, 5 light airplanes were attempting to get near the craft and it displayed extraordinary flight characteristics in evading them, which were described by teacher, Andrew Greenwood, to a fellow teacher arriving late to the scene.  Another teacher, Barbara Robbins, was reported by student witness, Graham Simmonds, to have been taking photographs of the object.  The object then flew to a wooded area called, “The Grange” where it landed and the students followed it.  By the time most of them caught up with the object it had lifted off but one student, “Tanya”, possibly had arrived early enough to see it landed.  The object flew off and the spot where it had been was reportedly marked by a swirled patch of grass. Read more

My Conversation with Lue Elizondo (Hint: It was not easy)

by Martin Willis

Glowing Auras and Black Money Curse?

What is one to think when everything goes wrong with a most important interview?

Martin & Lue, Cherry Hill New Jersy, 2018

Lue, as he likes to be called, is a non-condescending, intelligent, easy going kind of guy. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the MUFON convention in Cherry Hill last summer. We ran into each other in the hallway at the hotel and started chatting. As we got into a nice talk, he asked me about my background (in fine art & antiques) and that led to so many great discussions about collecting all kinds of things. After about 30 minutes into our discussion, Jan Harzan came looking for him, and he had to go. I realized afterwards that UFOs had never come up at all, which I found humorous. That was last July and the last I had spoken to him.

Starting last early December, I began working with a publicist for the HISTORY Channel, Kirby Dixon and it has been a great experience. I felt lucky that I was granted conversations with Project Blue Book’s creator, David O’Leary, and the two Hynek sons, Paul and Joel.

Kirby connected me more recently with Anthony Lappe’, the Executive Producer from the new series, Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation, which features Luis Elizondo and that was another wonderful conversation. She then contacted me a few days ago, asking if I wanted to interview Lue Elizondo, I told her without hesitation that I was in! I changed my schedule to make sure I would be home, had show  graphics created, and put some questions together for my interview. She told me to wait until she got the 100% go on it, and confirmed it on Thursday. I knew my good friend Alejandro Rojas was interviewing Lue on Friday as well, so I compared my questions with Alejandro’s. By his request we wanted to make sure that there would be no or little redundancy. Alejandro and I wished each other good luck and did a virtual high-five.

I happily posted my YouTube live stream upcoming interview with Lue in my email newsletter, and all over the place. It was getting some real traction on social media, I was emailed potential questions from listeners everywhere. Needles to say, I got quite excited about the whole event.

Then, the unimaginable happens

While I was driving to a restaurant, a dreaded email popped up on my iPhone from Kirby: “Martin — I am so sorry, but it has just been brought to my attention from TTSA that Lue’s schedule has drastically changed and he is, unfortunately, no longer available for this interview tomorrow. As a result, we will need to cancel this interview and possibly reschedule. Should his schedule change in the coming weeks, I will certainly let you know as relayed to me by the TTSA team.” Read more

Show Listener, Joe & I Agree to Disagree about Bob Lazar

The following is a point and counterpoint on the subject of Bob Lazar

I am an avid UFO U-tube viewer of your show.
I have watched/listen to your program and have found them to be very enlightening, entertaining and thoughtful hence my move over from Fade to Black and related shows.
You have been very verbal about your skepticism about Bob Lazar which I respect. I do question how adamant you and Stanton Friedman are based upon one issue only, and ignore all the other facts/proof provided.
I watched a debate between Stanton Friedman and Jeremy Corbell about BL which was chaired by Alajandro. Jeremy got carried away and as a result he did not present the facts which he does in other interviews which to me are quite significant:
1]. BL had 4 lie detector tests conducted by an experienced person which he passed
2]. Jeremy has a scientist in the movie who states and remembers BL working at the Los Alamo  company and this scientist was apparently being constantly contacted by Stanton talking about the MIT issue only.
3] The Secret Service came to raid BL during the period the movie was being produced….30 years after the incident…

Read more

Trust Me, This Is Science

by Charles Lear

UFOlogy is a subject of study that exists in the middle of a struggle between science and pseudoscience.  For those who are just looking for some entertainment in the form of reasonably plausible science fiction dressed up as reality, there is a plethora of material out there to while away your days of unemployment.  This is pseudoscience and its adherents include the cast of “Ancient Aliens”, and many of the speakers who are out there on the UFO lecture circuit.  Again, this is entertainment but what sort of damage it does to peoples’ minds and the culture at large is something to consider.  How do you tell the difference between the quacks and the sincere and careful researchers?

To begin with you need to understand what science actually is and to do that it helps to actually immerse yourself in a particular discipline.  Say you have an interest in dinosaurs.  When coming across a news article regarding dinosaurs, which often follow a published discovery, look for a link to the paper the article is based on.  Often you’ll be able to access the full paper and learning how to read these is invaluable to understanding the scientific method and also to being able to sense when someone’s trying to push an idea with shaky evidence.  A thing to look out for is excessive use of esoteric language in an attempt to beat the reader into submission to the writer’s genius.

Read more

UFOs In My Back Yard

by Charles Lear

Linda Zimmermann, who specializes in UFO sightings reports from New York’s Hudson River Valley, has often mentioned her amazement at how much activity there was in her “own back yard.”  That got me to wondering what there was in my back yard.  I live in Queens, so Hudson River Valley is my north 40 and my backyard is Long Island.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this area, Manhattan is across the Hudson River, east of New Jersey and Brooklyn and Queens are across the East River east of Manhattan on the western tip of Long Island.  It turns out that Long Island is a great place to be for someone with an interest in UFOs, with plenty of sightings and a lot of craziness.

A very old classic case reported Sept. 12, 1880 in The New York Times involved not a flying object but a flying man. The article begins, “One day last week a marvelous apparition was seen near Coney Island. At the height of at least a thousand feet in the air a strange object was in the act of flying toward the New Jersey coast. It was apparently a man with bat’s wings and improved frog’s legs. The face of the man could be distinctly seen, and it wore a cruel and determined expression.”  It goes on to speculate as to who the mystery flyer might be and settles on a “Mr. Talmage.”  Alex Wallach, who writes for untapped cities, investigated and concluded that the person referred to was probably Thomas Dewitt Talmadge, a notorious preacher in Brooklyn Heights known for his “acrobatic” preaching style, who was trained in gymnastics and promoted physical fitness.  There are articles from the time period mocking him in various ways and when reading the entire New York Times piece with this in mind, it seems that this is one of those and that the flying man was an invention by the writer to this end.

Read more

UFOs and Making Money

By Charles Lear

Let’s imagine that you’re a young person with a passionate interest in UFOs. You’ve devoted a lot of time to study and research and have developed some expertise and maybe even a specialty.  Now it’s time to get out of your parents’ house and into your own apartment.  You need to find a job and you’re determined to follow your bliss so, where do you look?

Backing up a little to UFO study, you can actually get a PhD in UFOlogy online from The Institute of Metaphysical Humanistic Science for as low as $1325.  Will this help you?  Probably not, but being able to put “Dr.” in front of your name for that price is pretty cool.  IMHS suggests that a degree in UFOlogy “is excellent for students who desire to conduct paranormal and/or UFO investigations and research, start and lead a paranormal investigation team, write books on paranormal topics, present lectures and talks in the paranormal field, and more.”  Let’s take this statement, look at each suggestion separately and examine the individual income potential.

In order to make money conducting UFO investigations and research you need to be involved with an organization that will pay you.  MUFON, with a membership of over 4000 people paying yearly membership fees from a minimum of $59.88 to as much as $299.88, does not pay their investigators and neither do any of the other investigative organizations.  In fact, you can’t be a MUFON investigator without being a member, so you pay them.  You could get paid doing clerical work but not as an investigator.  The only guaranteed way to get paid as an investigator/researcher would be to join an Air Force with an active UFO program (four exist in South America) or find your way into a DoD black program.

Read more

A Tribute to the Iconic Stanton T. Friedman, 1934-2019

I heard the rumor of Stan Friedman’s passing upon waking today through a Facebook message, and immediately called his close friend, Kathleen Marden in Florida. She had not heard anything, but had been expecting to hear from him yesterday.

She later wrote me that Stanton had indeed passed away in Toronto on his trip home from a speaking engagement with George Noory in Ohio. The family has asked people to honor their privacy. She was also asked to speak to the media for the family.

Besides doing several shows with Stanton, I met him many times. He was always very kind to everyone and made himself totally approachable. It is truly a sad day in the UFO field and there will never be another to replace such an icon as Stanton.

Thank you Mr Friedman for all you have done, for giving such credibility to this field,  you will be sorely missed by all.

Click HERE to watch a tribute show with Alejandro Rojas & Martin.