PART III: A PHILOSOPHER LOOKS AT UFOs
On the Physical Reality of UFOs
It has often been argued that scientific skepticism about the reality of UFOs is justified because UFOs are silent. Solid bodies rushing through the earth's atmosphere, savants say, would have to make noise, therefore UFOs are not real. As is commonly the case in skeptical arguments about UFOs, this one is based on a false premise. UFOs often do make noise. There is also a lot of other evidence indicating the physical reality of UFOs.
The sounds reported in association with UFOs have been of three general types; (1) motor-like, (2) explosive, and (3) sonic booms. From the accounts of what the UFOs were doing at the time these sounds were heard, it could be that these three types correspond to (1) motive power, (2) partial vacuum created by sudden displacement, and (3) breaking the sound barrier, respectively.
Before citing some of the cases of reported sounds from UFOs, it is necessary to take cognizance of the fact that there are certain natural phenomena in the atmosphere capable of creating sound. Meteoric fireballs are often mistakenly reported as UFOs, and bolide meteors can roar like a freight train, make a fluttering sound, and explode loudly. Aircraft, of course, are another cause of aerial sounds, but the roar of piston engines and the whine of jets are more familiar to the average observer. Sea gulls and other birds seen at night (sometimes not readily identifiable as such) can make odd fluttering sounds. These are the sound-making natural phenomena most likely to cause false UFO reports.
The reader can verify for himself the following reports of sound-making UFOs:
November 6, 1957; Varine Gilham (an iron worker) of Dugger, Indiana, watched a large object hover for about 10 minutes at an estimated altitude of 1,000 feet. Finally the UFO went straight up. As it left, Gilham heard a "whirring noise." As a result of the sighting, he was treated for inflammation of the eyes by Dr. Joseph Dukes. - -Hammond, Indiana, Times; November 10 and 13, 1957.
September 21, 1958; Mrs. William H. Fitzgerald, Sheffield Lake, Ohio, saw a large discoidal object hovering low over the ground. It circled the area and rose out of sight, making a "whirring noise." - -Cleveland Plain Dealer; September 22, 1958.
February 3, 1959; Joseph Klosinski (of the Venango Newspapers), Oil City, Penna., saw a circular object pass below a low cloud ceiling at a "tremendous rate of speed." He told the press: "The 'saucer' must have had a motor because there was a clear 'swish-wooshing' sound."--Oil City, Penna., Derrick; February 4, 1959.
Two examples of the thunder-like explosive sound, both of which occurred as UFOs accelerated rapidly upwards, are:
November 6, 1957; Lester E. Lee (Baptist Minister), Dunn, N. C., saw a bright circular object rise straight up, giving off a flash of light and making a sharp explosive sound. - - Winston-Salem, N. C., Journal; November 7, 1957.
October 26, 1958; Philip Small and Alvin Cohen, Baltimore, Md., saw a huge egg-shaped object hovering low over a bridge. It rose rapidly giving off bright light, a flash of heat, and making an explosive sound. - -Baltimore News-Post and Baltimore Sun; October 27, 1958.
The "swishing" sounds often reported in close-range observations could easily be rushing air, flowing over the surface of a solid body. The buzzes, hums, and whirring noises might be associated with motive power. Since most of these sounds have been reported only during close-range observations--usually sounds of low volume--it can be inferred that similar objects at a greater distance would be essentially silent. This is in accord with the typical UFO report.
One problem remains. Although not all UFOs have moved at high speed, a common factor to many reports is the amazingly high speed as estimated or calculated by observers. If the UFOs are solid objects, why haven't they broken the sound barrier causing sonic booms? There is some indication that they have. So-called "sky quakes" have mystified the populace over a long period of time, part of which predated the era of supersonic flight.
However, there are enough modern cases of "sky quakes" to prove the point. In fact, these tremendous aerial explosions are reported hundreds of times a year.
Sonic booms which break windows and knock dishes off the shelves are a common phenomena today--and they are usually attributed to jets breaking the sound barrier. In many or most cases, this is undoubtedly true. The B-58 "Hustler" and many operational fighters are capable of going supersonic in level flight, and other planes can do so during dives. Theoretically pilots are not supposed to fly at supersonic speeds over cities, but the Air Force has officially recognized the problem of damage in cities caused by sonic blasts, and has set up claims offices to pay for the damages. Pilots have been ordered to report if they accidently break the sound barrier. But in spite of all precautions, the blasts continue.
The fact is that very little is known about the physics of sonic booms since the study of them has barely begun. It is suspected that atmospheric conditions play a large part in determining the pattern of shock waves from the blasts, but the many unknown factors make the effects unpredictable.
In a given case of property damage caused by a sonic boom, it is frequently impossible to determine whether the blast was, in fact, caused by a jet. This uncertainty was reflected in a bill introduced in the House of Representatives on February 4, 1959 (H. R. 4058; 86th Congress, 1st Session) "To authorize the payment of claims resulting from sonic blasts." The bill provides "That for the period ending two years after the date of enactment of this Act, any damage, loss, injury, or death resulting from glass breakage caused by a sonic blast from the noncombat operation of an aircraft or guided missile, shall be presumed to have been caused by a military department. "
Many times after terrific explosions have rocked cities and roused citizens from their homes, the blasts have been disowned by all military bases in the area, which deny that their planes could have been the cause. It is understandable that an erring pilot, in spite of the orders, might not report breaking the sound barrier accidently. Nobody volunteers for trouble. But it is also possible that aircraft did not cause the sonic boom in some cases, and that the cause lies elsewhere.
One of the logical fallacies indulged in by UFO skeptics is: "Natural phenomena cause many UFO reports, therefore natural phenomena cause all UFO reports." This is usually assumed without any investigation of the evidence for other-than-natural
UFOs. The parallel argument about "sky quakes" is: "Jet aircraft cause many sonic booms, therefore jet aircraft cause all sonic booms." Actually, the evidence available is insufficient to say with finality that UFOs either have or have not caused sonic booms. On the other hand, "sky quakes" cannot be invoked as evidence of UFOs.
Some cases are on record of UFOs having been seen at the same time that a "sky quake" occurred, which would tend to support the association with UFOs; but these cases are rare and the data are incomplete. One such case was reported in the New Zealand Evening Post, March 22, 1954. At 2:35 p. m., Mr. P. S. Berkett, a farmer of Whangamoa, heard "zooming" noises and saw "a round, flat object of a whitish colour" pass overhead just as loud aerial explosions were heard over a wide area. It could have been a daytime meteor, but these are also rare.
Some more typical "sky quake" cases, in which no culprit was found, follow:
May 21, 1957; Los Angeles, California--A "gigantic sonic boom" roused citizens out of their houses at 8:40 p.m. "All military services with supersonic aircraft based in this vicinity disclaimed blame for the blast. Aircraft companies building and testing jet planes for the armed forces also denied that any of their flights could have sent out the mighty sound wave. "--Los Angeles Times; May 23, 1957.
May 23, 1958; St. Louis, Mo. --A loud booming noise was heard and a shock felt at about 3:30 p. m. McDonnell Aircraft said none of their planes broke the sound barrier. St. Louis-Globe-Democrat; May 24, 1958.
August 11, 1958; Southeast and Central, Louisiana.--A thunderous boom shook houses and broke windows over a wide area about 11:00 a. m. No Air Force planes were known to be in the area. An England Air Force Base officer said "we have figured out what it is." This statement was later denied by the Base Public Information Officer. - - New Orleans Times-Picayune; August 12, 1958.
April 9, 1959; Selma, Alabama--"An explosive noise that caused the earth to quiver and buildings to shake at 11:34 a. m. this, morning is thought to have been a sonic boom, but checks with air authorities have failed to find any supersonic aircraft in this area. "--The Selma Times-Journal April 9, 1959.
April 1, 1959; Seattle, Washington--A series of blasts between 7:00 and 10:00 p. m. "shook houses and rattled dishes" in the city. Paine AFB said none of their planes were in the area.
"McChord AFB said planes from there were on training missions, but had no report of any sound barriers being broken."--Seattle Post-Intelligencer; April 3, 1959.
Although it is impossible to conclude that there is a definite relationship to UFOs, it is possible to conclude that some of the many unexplained aerial explosions could have been caused by UFOs. The skeptical argument is therefore on uncertain ground. It is reasonable to assume, on the basis of other evidence pointing to the solidity of UFOs, that they probably have caused some of the blasts.
In close-range observations of UFOs, it is also true that smells have been reported. * These have usually been unpleasant; Sulphurous, or acrid like ammonia. Probably the best guess is that these are associated with the motive power of UFOs, perhaps being exhaust fumes.
It may surprise some readers to learn that there are authenticated reports of UFOs touching down or landing, and leaving impressions or other physical evidence on the ground. I am not referring here to reports of alleged contact with space men and alleged physical evidence which never materializes. There have been other cases in which investigators were able to examine the physical evidence allegedly left by a UFO. Although the possibility of hoax remains, it is unlikely that so many similar false reports would be made from far-flung and independent sources. In these cases, too, there has seldom been any reason to suspect a hoax. The witnesses usually have not made any sensational claims, and have submitted freely to investigation.
On July 31, 1957, a boy in Galt, Ontario, Canada, reported watching a UFO hover and finally land. A later check by newsmen and other investigators revealed definite markings on the ground where the object had been. There were several disconnected burned patches and two deep impressions in the ground. **
Another type of marking which has been reported from several countries including the United States, France, and Brazil, is an oval or circular marking on the ground where a UFO had been seen to land. A recent case of this type occurred on the morning of September 7, 1959, near Lexington, Ky. This time a NICAP investigator was able to reach the scene and check the story. Walter Ogden, a rural mail carrier, known in his community as an honest and reliable man, reported seeing an elliptical UFO which hovered low over the ground. The object finally took off vertically, emitting a blast of "flame" which touched
* See "Shapes In the Sky," by Civilian Saucer Intelligence, Fantastic Universe, January, 1958.
** For story and picture see Galt Evening Reporter; August 3, 1957.
the ground. A search party later discovered a stained ring on the ground (not scorch marks) measuring 12-13 inches wide, and enclosing a circle about 13 feet in diameter. Hundreds of people later viewed the markings, and the incident was investigated by the Air Force and FBI. *
As of this writing, a chemical analysis of some of the soil samples is being made for NICAP by a testing laboratory. A Geiger counter test made about two weeks after the date of the incident proved negative. However, it should be possible to determine the chemical composition of the staining substance.
Physiological effects, including burns, have been inflicted on witnesses by UFOs in many cases. ** In two very similar instances, people sustained minor facial burns while watching elliptical UFOs. James Stokes, a White Sands engineer, was burned as he watched a UFO maneuver over a highway near Alamogordo, N. M., on November 4, 1957. (Associated Press, Lubbock, Texas, November 5). Both witnesses to the October 26, 1958, UFO hovering over a bridge near Baltimore, Md., reported the same experience. (See above.)
According to a story in the San Diego, Calif., Union, February 21, 1958 (AP, Albuquerque, N. M., February 20), two women near Espanola, N. M., received skin burns when they saw an unidentified object in the sky giving off bright flashes. A Geiger counter test is reported to have shown possible radiation burns.
In a few cases, the inflictions have been more serious. During the rash of UFO sightings in November, 1957, Mrs. Leita Kuhn, of Lake County, Ohio, watched a brilliant glowing object hover low overhead. In a letter to NICAP she emphasized the brilliance: "The top was brighter. I couldn't look at the top. My eyes burned so I closed them--orange sparks seemed to glow every time I closed my eyes. "
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 27, 1957, reported that Mrs. Kuhn had been injured as a result of the sighting: "According to Kenneth Locke, Lake County Civil Defense director, Dr. E. D. Hudgens of Madison, after an examination, said that her appearance suggested the possibility of radiation damage, or damage by ultraviolet light to her eyes, and that she also suffered shock." In further correspondence with NICAP, Mrs. Kuhn confirmed the after-effects and that she had been under
* For picture and story, see the Fleming Gazette, Flemingsburg, Ky., September 17, 1959.
** See "Shapes in the Sky, " by C S. I., Fantastic Universe, July 1958. Also Flying Saucers and the Straight Line Mystery, by Aime Michel, (Criterion, c. 1958, "Physiological Effects.")
medical care since the incident. She was troubled with a rash, and her eyesight had been affected.
On November 4, 1957, two sentries at the Brazilian Fortress of Itaipu, at Sao Vicente, Brazil, also received serious injuries when a brilliant luminous object darted down, hovered, and engulfed them, in a wave of heat. According to Dr. Olvo Fontes, a surgeon in Rio de Janeiro who investigated, the two men received first and second degree burns of more than 10 per cent of their body surface. * The two sentries were flown to the Army Central Hospital in Rio de Janeiro for treatment. Dr. Fontes was able to interview one of the actual witnesses and to confirm that two soldiers from the fortress were at the hospital under treatment for bad burns. Strict security prevented him from talking to the patients or their doctors.
On at least two occasions, pilots felt intense heat as they attempted to approach UFOs in the air. Carlos Alejo Rodriguez, a noted Uruguayan pilot, was flying near San Carlos, Uruguay, on May 5, 1958, when he encountered a brilliant aerial object. The UFO neared his plane and appeared to hover about 700 yards away. It was dazzling bright, and no details could be seen. At that moment the pilot felt an intense heat and was forced to open his cockpit and remove some clothing. When he tried to close in on the UFO, it darted away toward the sea and disappeared. NICAP obtained a full report on the incident from C. I. O. V. I., a responsible UFO organization in Uruguay.
A similar case had occurred during an active Air Defense Command intercept over the United States in 1954. On July 1 an F-94 was scrambled from Griffis Air Force Base in New York to chase a UFO which had been seen over a wide area of the state. The pilot saw the object and attempted to close in, but a wave of heat filled the cockpit and he was forced to bail out. His fighter plummeted to earth and crashed into the town of Walesville, N. Y. **
In addition to the effects experienced by human beings, the effects of UFOs have registered on practically every instrument man has devised to extend or improve his "seeing." *** Skeptics may point out that the evidence for these claims is spotty and incomplete, but that is not surprising considering the fact
* For full story, see: APRO Bulletin, September 1959.
** Flying Saucer Conspiracy, By Donald E. Keyhoe, (Holt, c. 1955), p. 174.
*** A possible exception is radio telescopes, which depend on the transmission of radio signals for detection.
that no active attempt to gather scientific data on UFOs with instruments has ever been made. However, the circumstantial evidence is such that a full-fledged effort should be made to use more instruments and less skepticism in investigating UFOs. It will take a scientific investigation to settle the question, and scientific skepticism proves absolutely nothing. It is absurd to suggest, without any investigation, that all of the people who have reported these phenomena are mentally disturbed, lying, or deluded.
Radar has tracked UFOs hundreds of times. Late in 1958, John Lester of the Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger polled CAA (now FAA) radar operators who man the Ground Control Approach radar at airports around the country. At least 500, he disclosed, said they had tracked UFOs.
In regard to radar sightings, skeptics commonly point out that spurious signals are often picked up. In deference to them, I will stick to cases in which visual confirmations of the radar trackings were made. However, it is again absurd to suppose that experienced radar operators are not capable of recognizing the blips of solid objects with a high degree of accuracy. If they are not, and spurious signals commonly mislead them, radar would be a worthless device.
A good example of a combination radar-visual UFO sighting was reported by the former Chief of the Air Force Project Blue Book UFO investigation. *
On August 12, 1953, two Air Force F-84 jets were scrambled one after the other to chase a UFO which had been seen as an unidentified light in the sky giving a return on ground radar. Each pilot pursued the object and saw it in front of him fleeing at high speed. The second pilot also got a target on his gun sight radar at the same time that the ground radar showed both his jet and the UFO.
An unclassified Air Force intelligence report in NICAP possession describes a similar incident which occurred in the Far East in December 1956. An Air Force jet pilot had a UFO blip showing plainly on his radar, and chased it at high speed, finally closing to within five nautical miles. Then he saw a large circular object which shot up and away leaving the jet far behind.
During the famous Washington, D. C., sightings of July, 1952, there were many radar observations of unexplained objects over
* The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, by E. J. Ruppelt, (Doubleday, c. 1956), p. 303.
the nation's capital. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, the Air Force has attempted to pass these off as temperature inversions. Inversion effects on radar are well known to radar men, who don't pay any particular attention to them. Harry G. Barnes, Senior Air Route Traffic Controller, whose call had sent Air Force jets screaming into the area, had this to say: "Before notifying the Air Force, our technicians had carefully checked the equipment to make certain that it was operating perfectly... There is no other conclusion I can reach but that for six hours on the morning of the 20th of July there were at least 10 unidentifiable objects moving over Washington. They were not ordinary aircraft."
Barnes also asked airline pilots in the area to keep a lookout for the objects. A Capital Airlines plane had just taken off, and the pilot, Capt. S. C. Pierman, in direct touch with Barnes, saw six objects which showed up exactly where Barnes advised him they should be.
"In my years of flying," Pierman said, "I've seen a lot of falling or shooting stars--whatever you call them--but these were much faster than anything like that I've ever seen.” His co-pilot F/O Charles Wheaton, added: "Now I feel I have actually seen some active strange objects which defy explanation."
Another skeptical argument is that if UFOs were real, they would have been photographed clearly by this time. There are many alleged pictures of UFOs, but the majority obviously is inconclusive, showing only vague blobs of light. Many of these could easily have been faked.
In some cases, though, the integrity of the photographers is beyond question, and their pictures show distinct unexplained objects. It is this positive evidence that counts. One of the finest examples of this is the Trindade Isle, Brazil, photograph (see frontispiece) taken in January, 1958. This picture of a distinct discoidal object, also seen by several reliable witnesses on board an IGY vessel, was authenticated by the Brazilian Naval Ministry.
Another good example is the famous Utah film, taken by Navy Chief Photographer Delbert C. Newhouse, on July 2, 1952, and shown in the documentary film "UFO."* The film shows a group, of about 10 circular objects milling around at high speed. **
* A United Artists picture produced by Green-Rouse Productions.
** For the full story, see: Flying Saucers from Outer Space, by Donald E. Keyhoe, (Holt, c .l955), Appendix II, p. 304.
When Newhouse visited the NICAP office recently, I had an opportunity to discuss the film with him. He and his wife had observed the UFOs for some time at closer range before he was able to unpack his camera equipment from the trunk of his car. I questioned him closely about the visual observation. The Brazilian photograph was posted on the bulletin board, and I asked him if it was the same as what he had seen.
"Not exactly," he replied. "It's similar, but the ones I saw didn't have the central ring."
He went on to describe lens-shaped objects (i. e. discs). Several frames of his movie, showing objects with elliptical outlines, bear this out. The more distant shots of the ringed Brazilian object appear almost diamond-shaped in outline.
Professor Maney's article on electro-magnetic effects reported in association with UFOs indicates another whole field of physical effects apparently caused by UFOs--effects in which human devices were interfered with.
I also recall a report from the documentary film "UFO," (made in cooperation with former Air Force personnel) in which a UFO struck a balloon in the air and damaged it.
To attribute all of these effects to "imagination" is to ignore the evidence of the senses. To call them all "coincidences" is to strain coincidence to the breaking point. The least unreasonable explanation is that the real UFOs are solid, unexplained objects. From all indications, they are capable of stalling cars, interfering with radio and TV signals, and inflicting burns on observers. They are therefore a physical phenomenon worthy of serious, scientific investigation.