Pigeon-holes of Science
The following words of the American philosopher William James have particular application to one of the main difficulties in UFO investigation- -the failure of the scientific community to recognize that a serious problem exists which should be explored by science:
"Round about the accredited and orderly facts of every science there ever floats a sort of dust-cloud of exceptional observations, of occurrences minute and irregular and seldom met with, which it always proves more easy to ignore than to attend to... Facts are there only for those who have a mental affinity with them. When once they are indisputably ascertained and admitted, the academic and critical minds are by far the best fitted ones to interpret and discuss them... but on the other hand if there is anything which history demonstrates, it is the extreme slowness with which the ordinary academic and critical mind acknowledges facts to exist which present themselves as wild facts, with no stall or pigeon-hole, or as facts which threaten to break up the accepted system... "
"Science means, first of all, a certain dispassionate method. To suppose that it means a certain set of results that one should pin one's faith upon and hug forever is sadly to mistake its genius, and degrades the scientific body to the status of a sect."*
The application of these words to the UFO mystery is not intended as an indictment of science. Much of the reason for the scientific disdain of UFOs is the aura of crackpotism which has enshrouded the subject. All sorts of "saucer cults" exist which, almost literally, worship UFOs. In much the same manner, however, some people worship automobiles or airplanes. This does not mean that automobiles or airplanes do not exist.
The UFO reports from pilots, radar men, FAA control tower operators and other reliable observers are wild facts with no
* William James; The Will to Believe, Longmans, Green & Co. Inc.
pigeon-hole. The Air Force, alleging the use of scientific methods, is attempting to find conventional pigeon-holes for each UFO report. It is highly debatable (1) whether the Air Force investigation is scientific and (2) whether the correct pigeonholes are being found. The important question is: Are UFOs something unconventional which need a new pigeon-hole? Are they something new to our experiences which are wrongly being forced to fit a conventional mold?
As far as the scientific community is concerned, it can make no claims about UFOs because it has not yet recognized and investigated them. Instead it has assumed, with little or no investigation, that nothing new or different is being seen. Only a very small handful of professional scientists have had anything at all to say publicly about UFOs, and then it has only been a matter of individual opinion, not scientific conclusion.
Dr. Donald Menzel, Harvard astrophysicist, is the most famous of those who have ventured opinions. His opinion is that UFOs are only the "rags and tags of meteorological optics" (i. e., rare and uncommon atmospheric phenomena such as "sun-dogs" and reflections of ground lights off of variably heated layers of air.) More recently he has called continuing UFO reports "saucer scares," and cases in which UFOs were said to have stalled automobiles he has attributed to "nervous feet." In short, he is a noted UFO-skeptic.
Dr. Menzel's temperature inversion theory, which was rejected by the Air Force, cannot account for the valid photographs and movies of UFOs, or the simultaneous radar-visual sightings. Inversion effects on radar are well-known to FAA radar men, who pay no particular attention to them as they guide airliners in for landings.
Although Dr. Menzel and the Air Force disagree on individual explanations in almost every case, it is interesting to note that both agree UFOs are nothing but a collection of various natural phenomena. It is this formidable team of debunkers which has carried so much weight in public opinion. Yet, the mere fact that the two parties find different explanations for the same case is an indication of the guess-work that goes on in regard to UFOs. Apparently it is all right to have discrepancies as long as it is agreed that UFOs are not something unique.
Today there is a sort of worship of authority or expertness in our society whereby the nearest "expert" is called upon to pass judgment on some happening single-handedly. A glowing light is seen in the sky, startling several citizens. Some enterprising reporter (acting for the public) calls up Dr. Smith at the local observatory and asks what the light was. "I didn't see it, but it was probably a meteor," says Dr. Smith. Satisfied, the reporter writes his story: "ASTRONOMER SAYS SKY GLOW WAS METEOR--Not Little Green Men From Mars." (The embellishment jazzes up the story.)
The authoritative opinion is then generally accepted as fact. Any other scientists who might read the story will give weight to the explanation because it came from a scientist and provided a proper pigeon-hole for the happening. They will also scoff at anyone--perhaps one of the actual witnesses--who questions the explanation. In a case like this, they will fall back on scientific "authority" suggesting that only scientists are competent to judge such things.
Scientists will seldom create new categories (or pigeonholes), even if it means questioning the sincerity and honesty of non-scientific observers. They will frequently demolish the report itself and deny its factual content rather than admit an uncatalogued fact. This has been demonstrated throughout the history of science, and throughout every branch of science. This skeptical denial of evidence, which I have called "linguism,"* is not reserved for non-scientists, however. New discoveries or unusual reports by other scientists often get the same treatment.
A case in point is the discovery of a "missing link" between man and the apes in 1924, and the subsequent scientific skepticism which resulted from this claim. Near the end of 1924 a small skull was found in a lime deposit near Taungs, Africa, and sent to anatomist Raymond Dart in Johannesburg. Dart cleaned and studied it and promptly sent a paper off to London claiming the skull represented a being between higher apes and man. He called it Austra-lopithecus africanus.
When the paper appeared in 1925, "all English and American scientists who expressed an opinion were unanimous in declaring that Dart had made a serious blunder."** The skull, they said, was that of a chimpanzee. Later, anthropologist Robert Broom (who investigated) and noted paleontologist William J. Sollas of Oxford University (who had examined a portion of the
* Linguism: extreme scientific skepticism about unusual occurrences.
** The Apeman, by Robert Broom; Readings in Anthropology, Hoebel, Jennings & Smith, (McGraw-Hill, c. 1955)
skull) became allies of Dart and supported his claim. The argument went on for years, but most anthropologists were not convinced.
Finally, many years later, further excavations and discoveries in South Africa established beyond a doubt that a family of higher primates, practically human, had lived in the area for hundreds of thousands of years. Today it is generally accepted that Dart's original claim was correct, and that Austra-lopithecus was a being not quite ape and not quite human, but with features of both. Although there is some disagreement as to the exact place in the evolutionary scheme, scientific opinion is now unanimous that the skull represents an ape-man, definitely not a chimpanzee. [See Also: "Fossil Men," Boule & Vallois (Dryden Press, New York, c. 1957), p. 92.]
No one could have argued with the scientists if they had either reserved judgment or asked for more evidence. Instead... "Nonsense... Dart blundered... only a chimpanzee. “It is the attitude implicit in words like these which delay scientific progress by refusing, without paying too much attention to the facts, to even consider the need for new pigeon-holes of knowledge. It is a pretension, unbecoming to those who claim to be scientists, to think that modern science has already established all categories of knowledge for all time.
In the field of UFOs, the same unscientific habit is practiced. Critics will frequently state that there are no scientific observations of UFOs on record (the implication being that UFOs are therefore only embellishments, conscious or unconscious, of some routine happening.) Newspaper editors often treat UFOs as if they were some sort of popular summer madness. Actually, many scientists have seen UFOs and reported them to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). Some of these men, but not all, have insisted on remaining anonymous in order to avoid the sort of unthinking ridicule under discussion. They can hardly be blamed.
Dr. Donald Menzel, the noted UFO-skeptic, has provided a good example of the technique sometimes used to get rid of a "wild fact." That technique is the annihilation or distortion of evidence. One instance of this is his interpretation of a UFO report made by another famous scientist, Dr. Clyde Tombaugh. Dr. Tombaugh is best known for his discovery of the planet Pluto, but also has many other astronomical discoveries to his credit.
His achievements, and the list of scientific societies to which he belongs, are reported in "Who's Who." His UFO report, received by the author in the form of a signed statement, follows:
"I saw the object about eleven o'clock one night in August, 1949, from the backyard of my home in _____, New Mexico. I happened to be looking at zenith, admiring the beautiful transparent sky of stars, when suddenly I spied a geometrical group of faint bluish-green rectangles of light similar to the "Lubbock Lights." My wife and her mother were sitting in the yard with me and they saw them also. The group moved south-southeasterly, the individual rectangles became foreshortened, their space of formation smaller, (at first about one degree across) and the intensity duller, fading from view at about 35 degrees above the horizon. Total time of visibility was about three seconds. I was too flabbergasted to count the number of rectangles of light, or to note some other features I wondered about later. There was no sound. I have done thousands of hours of night sky watching, but never saw a sight so strange as this. The rectangles of light were of low luminosity; had there been a full moon in the sky, I am sure they would not have been visible."
Dr. Tombaugh's astronomical background, as well as his thousands of hours of practical observing experience, make him an expert observer. Naturally, any honest skeptic would feel obliged to account for his observation. Dr. Menzel discusses the case in his book, giving the following analysis:
"I can only hazard here the same guess I made about the Lubbock lights--that a low, thin layer of haze or smoke reflected the lights of a distant house or some other multiple source. The haze must have been inconspicuous to the eye, because Tombaugh comments on the unusual clarity of the sky." *
When I first read this explanation, I found it more amazing than Dr. Tombaugh's sighting. In order to account for a report of an unusual phenomenon, Dr. Menzel had to provide a haze layer even though Dr. Tombaugh "comments on the unusual clarity of the sky." But skeptics prefer to accept admitted guesses of this sort rather than credit the first-hand testimony of a trained observer. This is particularly true when accepting the testimony might mean accepting the need for a new pigeon-hole or category of knowledge--a new, unexplained phenomenon.
* Flying Saucers, Donald H. Menzel, (Harvard University Press, c. 1953), p. 3b.
Since Dr. Menzel's analysis implied that Dr. Tombaugh had been fooled by a light reflection, I wrote to Dr. Tombaugh to ask whether he thought the UFO was solid and to get his opinion of Dr. Menzel's interpretation. Dr. Tombaugh replied on September 10, 1957:
"Regarding the solidity of the phenomenon I saw: My wife thought she saw a faint connecting glow across the structure. The illuminated rectangles I saw did maintain an exact fixed position with respect to each other, which would tend to support the impression of solidity. I doubt that the phenomenon was any terrestrial reflection, because some similarity to it should have appeared many times. I do a great deal of observing (both telescopic and unaided eye) in the backyard and nothing of the kind has ever happened before or since. "
Time after time throughout the history of science, scientists have scoffed at "wild facts," refusing even to consider the possibility that they might be real facts in need of explanation. The classic example of clinging to established pigeon-holes was the refusal of astronomers, until comparatively recently, to accept the fact that meteorites come from the sky. "Wild facts" of the past sometimes become mundane realities once they are examined fairly by scientists.
It is true that science does not have time to examine every "crackpot" notion that comes along. There is a huge assortment of junk which has been advanced as "fact." Nevertheless, when there is a long and continuous body of data for some phenomenon, when that phenomenon has been seen by expert observers, tracked on radar, and photographed, when it has caused a continuing controversy and affected the lives of thousands of people, science has an obligation to study it. UFOs are such a phenomenon.
Significant sightings of UFOs have been made by hundreds of competent persons, including a growing number of scientists. Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh and other scientists have, without fail, testified to the reality and unclassifiable character of UFOs in their accounts. The scientists who were fortunate enough to see examples of UFO performance for themselves have given their testimonies in a true open-minded scientific manner, recognizing the fallacy of trying to pigeon-hole their unusual observations within the traditional categories. A few such reports follow:
DETAILS OF OBSERVATIONS OF UNKNOWN FLYING OBJECTS
Date: Monday, August 11, 1958
Time: 9:15 to 10:30 p.m.
Location: Chautauqua Lake, New York
Observers: Fred C. Fair, Ph.D., and Gary Phillips
(Dr. Fair is a retired professor of Engineering, New York University)
Fred C. Fair and Gary Phillips were using a survey transit to observe the altitude and azimuth of certain stars.
(1) A white light was observed moving across the sky to the right and away from the observers. When the transit telescope was sighted on the moving light, possibly a minute had elapsed since it was first observed. At first only one white light was seen, then a second was noted, then a third and finally a fourth light, all four being more or less in line, and each separated by an angular distance of about 2 degrees. It is the opinion of both observers that when the first of the four lights was seen, that there were no other moving lights in the vicinity. Which does not mean that the objects were not in the sky, but that they were not emitting visible light at that time.
Shortly after watching all four lights with the naked eye, the third light became about ten times as bright as the others, becoming brighter than Jupiter which was in the same sky area. The other three lights at this time were about as bright as a second magnitude star. A few seconds later this third light rather suddenly dimmed until it was the faintest of the four lights.
Due to the narrow field of view of a surveyor's transit telescope, it is rather difficult to locate and follow a rapidly moving object. By the time that Gary made his first observation thru the telescope the moving lights had traveled from Northwest to Southwest, passing close to Jupiter. Gary made the statement that the objects were Flying Saucers, and that the telescope showed that what appeared to be a single light to the naked eye was several lights, and that there was a red light above the others. When Dr. Fair took his turn to observe the lights, three of the objects had already disappeared behind trees to the south. The very brief glance that Dr. Fair had showed several white lights, he thought there were five, and he observed a faint red light to the rear and above the white ones.
(2) Fifteen minutes later, while in a boat on Lake Chautauqua, while looking for meteors, a single white light was seen in the southeast sky traveling from south to north. The light slowly and continuously varied intensity, fluctuating from 5th to 3rd magnitude, but the time of the cycle was irregular, but of more than three-second duration per cycle. For several seconds the light appeared to be stationary and when it resumed its motion it was traveling in a direction opposite to when first observed. Total time of observation of this light was about five minutes. As it receded in the south it became too faint to be further seen.
About this time a jet trail, making an arc of about 180 degrees was observed in a tighter radius than that described by the first four objects, but following essentially the same course. At the head of the jet trail Gary saw a red glow, possibly the exhaust from the jet.
(3) Still later a different type of lighting was seen close to the horizon in the western sky. We were still out on the lake at the time. A bright, rapidly blinking red and white light moved rapidly from right to left. Soon a similar blinking red and white light was seen to the right of this light, moving from right to left. It was fainter than the other which could have been due to being farther away. When the two lights passed each other they were separated by a vertical angle of about 2 or 3 degrees.
(4) After returning to the transit on shore, star observations were resumed, but in a few minutes were interrupted to again observe a white light in the northwest sky traveling rapidly from west to north. The telescope showed this light to be similar to the first objects. Dr. Fair noted in particular that the five white lights were not arranged in a straight line, but appeared as though spaced on the circumference of an oval. (Italics added.) Again, a red light was noted above and slightly to the rear of the white lights. This was followed with the telescope until it disappeared behind some nearby trees. Gary who noticed this object first saw only two white lights. Probably fifteen seconds elapsed before Dr. Fair was sighted on the object and observed that there were five white lights.
No vapor trail was observed behind any of the sighted objects.
THE STORY OF THE STRANGE OBJECTS SEEN IN THE SKY,
STATE OF MICHIGAN, JULY 27, 1952.
(From notes made on the spot and at the time)
The following report was submitted to NICAP by Dr. Charles H. Otis, retired professor emeritus of Biology, Bowling Green State University:
Place of observation: 3724 Dexter Rd., R. D. No. 1, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan; a small acreage at the top of Lyon Hill, called Sleepy Hollow, situated about four miles west from Main Street (or the County Court House). Altitude at the road, about 975 feet (the place is easily located on the Ann Arbor quadrangle, topographical map, U. S. Geol. Survey), at the place of observation, in the hollow, probably 950 feet, or a little more. Along the west property line is a small woods and two low buildings. To the east is a wide expanse of sky.
Date of sighting: July 27, 1952. Time of observation, about 10:40 a.m. Conditions for observation, perfect; a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky (see an observation later); the sun at this time of day high in the heavens; no observable haze. Photographically speaking, conditions were probably those of maximum light for the year and suitable for the fastest exposure (only, no camera--what a picture, I think, could have been made, with a ray filter over the lens, and with telephoto equipment, either snapshot or movie--explanation will appear in the story).
The story: (apologies for the use of "I")
I was working on a lawns settee, giving it a coat of white enamel, in the shade of a walnut tree. My wife was sitting near by, reading, or whatever she was doing (the point is not important, except to state here that she became a spectator or witness to what took place). For some reason--perhaps my back was tired--I stood up, laid down my brush, stepped out into the sunshine and glanced up and to the east. I was startled by what I saw. There, in a pattern, were a number of objects, seemingly floating along, making no sound. My first thought was that something had been released from a plane that I remembered had passed overhead not long before (I refer to a noisy, 4-engined plane that makes its regular east to west trip at about this time of day, and to which we never pay any attention, although it usually passes over the house, both coming and going), and I called to my wife to come and then I realized that these objects were probably much higher than the plane was flying and that there was no connection with it (I mention these reactions because, so far as I am aware, the pilot of the plane
did not report on these strange objects, and, they might not even have been there at the time of his passing). It was my impression that the objects were as high as the highest fleecy white clouds, but it may be only an impression (later checking of the sky revealed only two small white clouds lying low on the horizon at the north, and there was nothing at the time to use as a gauge). I assumed that they were traveling over the city of Ann Arbor, as if a reconnaissance were being made; the direction appeared to be due south. They were traveling so slowly (but, of course, they may have been much higher than I supposed) that I told my wife to keep looking, while I ran to the house and seized a bird glass (magnification near 5X). From then on, with the glass, I studied the objects until they disappeared at my horizon.
When first counted, the objects number 15; and they were traveling in the form of an organized flotilla, the horizontal distribution being something on this order (but probably not an exact duplication):
For this reason, I will hereafter refer to the objects as "ships." The "ships" traveled so slowly that it seemed to me that I was able to study them for minutes (this may have been one of those times, however, when a minute may seem an hour; but, of course, they were going farther away all the time). Before they reached my horizon, one "ship," as if receiving a signal, left the flotilla and, describing what to me seemed to be a wide arc, disappeared with a burst of speed that seemed incredible. I had the glass on it, and then it was gone (this might explain the discrepancy in the count of 14, if the Battle Creek woman saw the same sight that I am reporting on, but after the disappearance of the one just mentioned). The mathematics has not been worked, but just after the episode the approximate angle of sight when first seen was determined to be 34° with the horizontal, using level and planimeter, and if we knew the height, it could be calculated.
Description of a "ship":
The 15 "ships" appeared to be identical in size, shape, and other discernible characteristics. In the way in which they seemingly floated, one got the impression that they were of very light weight (unless someone has discovered some way to eliminate the force of gravity). There was no sound (even from 15 of them in a body). They maintained position in the flotilla perfectly. The body appeared to be elongated, but split at the rear; there were no wings. Nothing like a cabin could be discerned, nor windows, nor persons. The sketch shown here is a copy of one hastily made in my notebook immediately after the "ships" had passed out of sight.
Two items stand out conspicuously. In the "bow" end of each "ship" was a relatively large and exceedingly bright glow (brighter than a star, even in the bright light of the day; -- this might explain the reported "lights over Washington" episode, which occurred at night). Each "ship" also had, emanating from the "stern" portion, two "tails," seemingly streaming out horizontally, never changing in length, nor wavering. These "tails" had none of the aspects of vapor trails, and they cut off cleanly; i. e., they had definite ends. It was as if the "ships" laid down a caterpillar track, walked on it, but carried it along with them. They gave the appearance of the tail of a comet, like Halley's, which I once saw very beautifully one night (1910?), but in this instance, and strangely enough, in a bright sky. They gave somewhat the appearance of the Tyndall effect which the stereopticon beam gives in a darkened theater. But, if due to the Tyndall effect, why should the "tails" or "beams" have been visible in broad daylight? It is possible that the "tails" just described represent atomic or subatomic particles leaving the "ship" with terrific speed and with propulsive force, that they were luminous in themselves, and that they had a limited and short length of life (which could account for the definite length of the "tail" which has been mentioned previously). What other explanations are there which might account for the appearance and behavior of the "ships" upon which I am reporting?
s/ Charles H. Otis, April 5, 1958
Wells Alan Webb
B. S., M. S., Chemistry, University of California
Chemical engineer & Research Chemist
Provided Univ. of Calif, with deuterium source for cyclotron research.
Mars, The New Frontier, by W. A. Webb (Fearon Publishers, Calif., c. 1956) page 125:
"On January 30, 1953, at approximately 7:25 p. m. the author was riding in the back seat of an automobile in which Felix Gelber and Grover Kihorny, both of Los Angeles, were also passengers. The night sky appeared black except for stars. The desert air was clear and the stars and ground lights shone with brilliance. We were on highway 80, traveling west toward Yuma, Arizona, 7 miles away at the approximate rate of 60 miles per hour. While looking through the windshield the writer noticed a half mile ahead among a group of steady bright ground lights there was one light which flickered and danced. At about 15 degrees above the horizon stood the evening star. All of these lights, the steady, the dancer and the star, had approximately equal brilliance in the field of vision at that moment. As we approached the ground lights, they resolved into floodlights on twenty foot poles illuminating the hangar area of Spain Flying Field. We saw through the side window a single engine Army trainer standing in this area with a man working over it. The dancing light, now apparently higher than at first, hovered directly over the airplane at about twice the height of the floodlights. Suddenly, looking out the side, then the rear window, we became aware of the dancing light's rising motion. It rose slowly at first, then gathering momentum it lifted rapidly. The author strained at the rear window and watched the light blink repeatedly, then vanish among the stars at an altitude of at least 60 degrees. This was not more than about ten seconds after we had passed the flying field, still traveling at 60 miles per hour.
Gelber and Kihorney had also seen the light; their observation of the details had been the same as the author's, so the next morning the writer prevailed upon them to investigate the mysterious light. We returned to the place on the highway opposite the hangar. The airplane stood on the same spot as the night before. We paced off the perpendicular distance from the highway to the airplane. It was one hundred yards. Then we found a mechanic who said that he was the man who had been working on the airplane the evening before.
He had not seen the dancing light; there had been no sound to attract his eyes overhead. Therefore the light had not been on a helicopter. He referred us to the U. S. Weather Station, one quarter of mile eastward. There the weatherman said that he had released a lighted balloon at about the time we had seen our flickering light. He showed us one of the balloon lights, a very small flashlight bulb without reflector. It did not flicker, it burned steadily, the weatherman said, but its light was so faint that it could not be seen at a distance except with the telescope that he used. Certainly, he said, the balloon light could never appear to be of the same brightness as the glaring floodlights of the Spain Flying Field. Furthermore, the weather balloon had not hovered over the hangar of that flying field; at a uniform rate it had mounted steadily in the sky above the weather station. The weatherman proved this by showing us the chart he had plotted by taking telescope sightings of the altitude of the light at timed intervals.
When all of the facts about the light , Gelber, Kihorney and the writer had seen were laid before the weatherman, he said that ours must have been a UFO, that such things were a great mystery but had nevertheless been seen frequently in the neighborhood by the personnel of the Weather Station and also of the nearby Air Force Fighter Base."
Mr. Webb's second UFO sighting was on May 5, 1953. Time: 9:45-10:00 a.m.
"It was a clear sunny morning; the author was standing in a field near the Vacuum Cooling Company plant, not far from Spain Flying Field, and about a mile north of the Yuma Air Force Fighter Base. His attention was drawn by the buzzing of jet fighters taking off in quick succession, passing directly overhead traveling northward. As he scanned the northern sky the author's attention became fixed upon what at first appeared to be a small white cloud, the only one in the sky at the time. The author was wearing Polaroid glasses having a greenish tint, and as was his custom when studying clouds he took the glasses off and put them on at intervals to compare the effect with and without Polaroid. The object was approximately oblong with the long axis in a horizontal plane. It floated at an elevation of about forty-five degrees.
During the course of about five minutes the object traveled approximately 30 degrees toward the east. Then it appeared abruptly to turn and travel northward; at the same time its oblong shape changed to circular section. As a circular object is rapidly became smaller as if receding. While receding, the object did not noticeably lose any of its brightness. In about thirty seconds of this, its diameter became too small for the author to hold in his vision.
During the first period the writer had not noticed a change in the oblong nor in the field of view about it as a result of putting on and taking off his Polaroid glasses. But during the second period several uniformly spaced concentric circles appeared around the now circular object. The circles were distinct dark bands which enveloped the silvery disc. The largest of these circles was, perhaps, six times the diameter of the central disc. When the writer removed his polarizing glasses the silvery disc remained but the concentric rings vanished. When the glasses were put on again, the rings reappeared. The writer repeated this several times, each time with the same result. The rings with glasses on faded to invisibility before the disc became too small to see. "
Former Curator of Darling Observatory,
University of Minnesota
Mr. Halstead and his wife saw two UFOs while crossing the Mojave Desert on a Union Pacific train in 1955.
"It was the first day of November, 1955. We were on our way to California--about 100 miles west of Las Vegas when it happened. My wife Ann was sitting next to the window and she called my attention to an object which she saw--something moving just above the mountain range. Our train was running parallel to this range of mountains and this object was moving in the same direction as the train, just above the mountains. I first thought the thing was a blimp--you know--one of those cigar shaped dirigibles. That's what I thought it was at first. But as I watched it I realized that it could not be a blimp--they are only about 200 feet long. And this thing was gigantic. It was about 800 feet long. I could estimate that because it was so close to the mountain ridge where trees and clumps of trees were visible for comparison.
While we were watching the cigar-shaped thing for four or
five minutes as it paced the train, we noticed that another object had joined it. This second object appeared very suddenly--in back of the first one. It was a disc-shaped thing. Both of them were very shiny we noticed. But this second one was disc-shaped. If my estimate of size on the cigar-shaped thing was correct then the disc-shaped object would have been about 100 feet in diameter, flat on the bottom with a shallow dome on top.
My wife and I watched them for another two or three minutes. They were moving at about the same speed as the train and they were very close to the top of the ridge, not more than 500 feet above it, I should say. Then they began to rise, slowly at first and then much faster. In a matter of seconds they had risen so high that we couldn't see them anymore from the train window.
All over the world credible witnesses are reporting experiences similar to mine. Holding these people up to ridicule does not alter the existing facts. The time is long overdue for accepting the presence of these things, whatever they are, and dealing with them and the public on a basis of realism. "
(As told to NICAP Board Member Frank Edwards.)
Walter N. Webb
Chief Lecturer on Astronomy, Hayden Planetarium, Boston, Mass.
Former member of Smithsonian Institutions' Satellite Tracking Program.
"Out of the many observations I've made over the years of assorted aerial objects and phenomena, both normal and unusual, I am fairly certain that at least two sightings were of genuine unusual objects that may have been UFOs but because they were visible for such a short duration, it was impossible to explain or classify them. I have placed three of these sightings in a "possible UFO" category. And then there were several things I witnessed that I believe do not belong in the UFO category but yet were so exceptional as to remain unexplained. At least two of these objects were probably of celestial origin, and therefore I would prefer to exclude this latter group from the discussion below. As yet, I have not had the good fortune of seeing a UFO close enough to discern shape and detail clearly. However, I have personally investigated other reports where the size and shape of the UFO's were plainly visible to the observers.
Although these observations are far more interesting and dramatic than mine, I have limited the paragraphs below to my own personal experiences.
THE UFO SIGHTINGS (2)
It was on the night of August 3, 1951, that I witnessed the first UFO. That summer I was a nature counselor at Camp Big Silver, the Toledo (Ohio) Boys' Club camp on the shores of Silver Lake in southern Michigan, three miles south of Pinckney. It was a clear, moonless night. I had been showing two boys various celestial objects through my 3 1/2-inch reflecting telescope and pointing out constellations. The time was about 11 p. m. or midnight. Suddenly I noticed a glowing yellow or yellowish-red light moving in an undulating path (but on a straight course) over the hills south of Silver Lake. As the object traveled slowly westward in this peculiar manner, the three of us watched in fascination. It was at such a low elevation that its regular wave-like course caused it to dip behind the hills a few times. At first I frankly didn't realize that I might be seeing anything unusual and thought the object was a plane light. But something was disturbing about that flight path and by the time it dawned on me that planes don't fly on wavy paths, the thing was about to vanish for good behind trees in the foreground. I swung the telescope toward the hills, but it was too late.
I had seen something strange in the sky that I could not explain. No known object I could think of followed a path like that. The remote possibility that the UFO might have been the reflection of a moving ground light from a rippling inversion layer was quickly rejected. An inversion reflection would appear as a hazy spot of light in the sky much reduced in brightness when compared with its original light source. My UFO appeared to be a bright, glowing object moving in a regular wavy pattern. It is impossible for an inversion layer to produce a smooth rhythmic reflection. A turbulent rippling layer of air would be required, and such a condition would not be capable of producing any image at all.
Another time, on February 26, 1954, a friend Don Lund and I were warming ourselves in my house in Alliance, Ohio, following an unsuccessful search for a telescopic comet. At 9:40 p.m., as we stepped outdoors again, we spotted a strange cluster of yellow lights high in the west moving northeastward.
I quickly ran inside the house, called my parents, picked up my binoculars, and dashed out to the street. All four of us then observed the object, or objects, which emitted a sound similar to a jet aircraft but not as sharp a noise. Through 6x30 binoculars I could see what appeared to be a forward cluster of lights and a triangle of pale-colored lights to the rear.
Don and I headed for the hill where our telescopes were located. When we reached the top of the hill, we turned and looked toward the north. In place of the original group of lights, we saw a yellow light which suddenly flared up brightly and then faded to its original size. Looking through our telescopes (3 1/2" reflector and 3 1/4" refractor) at the hovering object which was now beginning to move, we saw the cluster as before, watched it completely reverse its direction, move in an arc around the northern sky, and finally disappear from view over the southwest horizon. We observed the lights telescopically for about 10 minutes.
It was difficult to say whether we were observing a single vehicle or a group of them but I had the impression all the lights belonged to one craft. One might argue that we were fooled by helicopter or advertising blimp, but the steady jet-like sound, speed, the fact that it stopped absolutely dead for a few moments with no attendant rocking motion (as with a helicopter), and the abrupt reversal of direction led us to believe that we had seen something quite unconventional.
POSSIBLE UFO'S (3)
On the late afternoon of August 23, 1953, Don Lund and I had finished hitting golf balls at the Ken Stone Driving Range on U. S. Route 30 near East Canton, Ohio. We were driving east along Route 30 between East Canton and Minerva and approaching the top of a hill when we simultaneously saw a white round object crossing slowly above the road ahead from north to south. Unfortunately, the time of observation was short because of the narrow field of view created by steep banks on both sides of the road. Just as we hoped for a better view, a car turned in ahead of us and blocked our vision. When we finally came into the open, the object which had been moving only a 100 feet or so above the road had vanished. We were both convinced that what we--as well as the driver in front of us, undoubtedly--had witnessed was not a balloon. Its straight horizontal course as if
powered or controlled and its mysterious disappearance were puzzling. I might add that this sighting occurred during a period of UFO activity in Ohio (summer of 1953). Two weeks later on September 5 a similar white sphere was seen by the member of a movie crew, as it passed through a notch between two rock formations in Castle Valley, near Moab, Utah (APRO Bulletin, Sept. 15, 1954).
Another brief but interesting sighting happened on May 7, 1956. I was working at my desk at home in Alliance and happened to look out the window over the desk (faces north). Time was about 3:15 p.m. (EDT). A shiny, silvery, metallic object was moving westward in the north-northwest sky. I could not be certain of its shape, but it was large and probably oval or roundish. I shifted my position slightly to make sure it wasn't a reflection in the window, removed my reading glasses, put on my regular pair, and looked again at the object. Deciding it was really something worth investigating; I raced down two flights of steps, grabbed my binoculars, ran outside, and looked toward the sky. The object was gone! I had seen it for only 3 or 4 seconds from the window and had rushed outdoors in what I estimated to be between 10 and 15 seconds--yet the object was now gone. If it had been an airplane reflection, the plane should have still been in plain sight. For the same reason a balloon was discounted (the wind was out of the north, at least at ground level). I continued to watch the sky for 25 minutes more, but all I saw were airliners and private planes. A visit to the local Ground Observer Corps post produced negative results.
Almost exactly one year later, on May 13, 1957, about 8:50 a. m. (EDT), I was walking north on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and approaching the corner of Mellen Street (just two blocks from where I live). I looked up at the sky, as I frequently do, and spotted two silvery objects high in the west moving slowly southwest against a blue sky. At first I thought they were planes but then quickly observed that they seemed to have no wings or tail and traveled too slowly, almost floating. It was difficult to make out their true shapes without optical aid, but my best guess is that they were round. They looked translucent to me and reminded me of two delicate soap bubbles or a silvery box kite drifting high in the air.
They appeared to be very close together, one below the other, and one of them changed position slightly during the observation. The objects caught the early morning sunlight a few times and sparkled. (They were not plane reflections. I cannot honestly rule out the possibility that they were balloons although pairs of balloons are rarely seen. I had the impression at the time that the objects' flight was controlled.) I crossed Massachusetts Avenue and continued to watch until the objects grew too small to see. How I wished I had had a pair of binoculars!"
Professor Seymour L. Hess, Head
Department of Meteorology
Florida State University
"I saw the object between 12:15 and 12:20 p. m. May 20, 1950 from the grounds of the Lowell Observatory. It was moving from the Southeast to the Northwest. It was extremely prominent and showed some size to the naked eye, that is, it was not merely a pinpoint. During the last half of its visibility I observed it with 4-power binoculars. At first it looked like a parachute tipped at an angle to the vertical, but this same effect could have been produced by a sphere partly illuminated by the sun and partly shadowed, or by a disc-shaped object as well. Probably there are still other configurations which would give the same impression under proper inclination and illumination. I could see it well enough to be sure it was not an airplane (no propeller or wings were apparent) nor a bird. I saw no evidence of exhaust gases nor any markings on the object. Most fortunately the object passed between me and a small bright cumulus cloud in the Northwest. Thus it must have been at or below the cloud level. A few seconds later it disappeared, apparently into the cloud.
Against the sky it was very bright but against the cloud it was dark. This could be produced by a grey body which would be bright against the relatively dark sky, but dark against the bright cloud. Alternatively, if the object were half in sunlight and half shadowed the sunlit part might have had no detectable contrast with the cloud while the shadowed part appeared dark.
I immediately telephoned the U. S. Weather Bureau (2-3 miles S. W. of the Observatory).
They were estimating the cloud to be 6000 feet above the ground. Now estimates of cloud heights are rather risky, so I obtained their observations of temperature and dew point, and from the known lapse rates of these quantities in a convective atmosphere, calculated the cloud base to be at 12,000 feet. I believe this latter figure to be the more accurate one because later in the afternoon the cumulus clouds thickened but at all times remained well above the tops of our nearby mountains. These are about 6000 feet above us.
Thus, having some idea of the object's elevation and its angular diameter through the binoculars (about equivalent to a dime seen at 50 feet with the naked eye), I calculated its size to be 3 to 5 feet for a height of 6-12 thousand feet, and a zenith angle of about 45 degrees. This size estimate could easily be in error by a factor or two, but I am sure it was a small object.
The clouds were drifting from the SW to the NE at right angles to the motion of the object. Therefore it must have been powered in some way. I did not time it but for that elevation I would estimate its speed to be about 100 miles per hour, perhaps as high as 200 m. p. h. This too means a powered craft. However, I could hear no engine noise. "
Seymour L. Hess
Note: This is a copy of the account Mr. Hess set down within an hour of the sighting.