Estimate of the Situation: 2004

Francis Ridge

As we celebrate 48 years of monumental investigation and research by the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) and the 7th Year Anniversary of the fully authorized web site, I'd like to ponder where we are and how it use to be. I began my quest with NICAP in November of 1960 with the authorization of my seven-man NICAP Subcommittee team, Indiana Unit #1 at Vincennes, Indiana. We had no computers, no fax machines, no cell phones. All we had were old typewriters, bulky and expensive tape recorders, and pay-per copy Zerox copiers. Sighting data was recorded on a Form 97 and some attached notes, and primary data was kept on 3x5 cards. Reports were acquired by checking into news releases, and national and global incident information updates came four times a year in the form of the NICAP publication, The UFO Investigator. We were in a sighting lull and there were only sporadic local sightings for us to work with. By 1963 the car chases and low-level sightings began to be reported and we had a local sighting concentration in S. Illinois and S. Indiana, which included E-M effects. In 1964 the landings were being reported, beginning with the Socorro, NM case.

By August of that year I had to report for TDY (temporary active duty) with the U.S. Army at Fort Knox, KY. My basic training and AIT ended in December and I returned to my home town to serve out the 6-year hitch with the Army National Guard. While at Fort Meade, MD, the famous Pack River radar incident took place, but I didn't know about it until January. Sightings started to pick up. By 1970 we had portable cassette recorders and the MADAR detection unit I built in 1960 was operating round-the-clock. I had job transfers in 1971, 1972, and 1973, landing me in Mt. Vernon, IN right smack into the UFO wave that hit hard in the fall of 1973. Was I prepared? Not really. NICAP had declined and I had become a State Section Director for MUFON and I was a stranger in strange land. I had no local consultants or field investigators right after my job transfer. But armed with all that I DID have I logged preliminary incident reports on my Form M (Message Slip) from telephone reports submitted by citizens, airport tower controllers, and law enforcement. I took advantage of the media every chance I got. I was pro-UFO and you could tell it. I wasn't pretending, but I also think that's what it took to get the media and the public to cooperate.

By that time I had had 13 years in the field doing investigation and I had done onsite investigations talking personally to witnesses. I knew who was full of it and I knew when they were serious. I knew there was a lot of "noise" out there, but I also knew there was "signal". My experience began with one advisor in 1960 who had worked on Project Saucer (code-named "SIGN") and he was the one who helped me build the forerunner of MADAR, my magnetic anomaly detection and recording system. SIGN was aware that some UFOs produced electromagnetic fields. During those first years I investigated some incredible reports by credible people. Something was flying around in our skies and NICAP and MUFON knew they were not "ours". It wasn't until a few years later that many researchers were able to use the Freedom of Information Act and a deluge of documents were in our hands.

What had I learned by that point? Besides knowing that there was something operating in our skies that wasn't ours, the government was only giving us want they couldn't, or didn't need, to hide. I had seen jets chase UFOs and later had a close encounter of my own.

By 1985 I got caught up in the computer age and started putting what I had accumulated in 25 years into a useable database. Before it was over I had over 4,000 entries from six midwest states. I had also taken advantage of all the sources and newsletters all over the country to create a UFO Intelligence summary, a chronological listing of events for researchers to see what was going on and where. It was extremely helpful for the MADAR Project because the printout was my intelligence source, comparable to a printout of flight plans and conventional radar. When MADAR was triggered, I needed a sighting printout. It worked perfect and in 1977 we hit pay dirt.

In 1986 I became the State Director for Indiana and I trained over a hundred and fifty people, always having at least two dozen Field Investigators with all of Indiana's 92 counties covered. My personal contact with witnesses declined but my FI's were doing a great job. Indiana had its share of good reports, the best ones even before I came on the scene. Indiana had always been hot.

UFOs were more of a strange topic in the media in the 1950's and proponents were somewhat rare. But we were right. I got interested in 1956 when I read Captain Edward J. Ruppelt's book, "Report on Unidentified Flying Objects" and I was definitely hooked. But I still remember the groans of the skeptics and the Air Force. If you want to find out how bad it was, and how ridiculous the subject was treated THEN, just purchase some of the CDs Wendy Connors has amassed these last few years. We are much better off now than we were then. Today, most people believe UFOs are real. They just don't care, or better yet, they are not afraid of an invasion, even with all the abduction stuff that has come out in the last few decades.

But at the very beginning, the credibility or reliability of witnesses was the main point for attack. "If only we had sightings by reliable sources." We knew they had that, but it was years later before we had documents showing just how serious Project SIGN was and how the September 1947 conclusion "the reported phenomena are real", was reached. If you look at civilian reports all day long you will wonder all day long, and a few will make you sit up and take notice. We have over 150,000 such sightings on UFOCAT.

The Air Force Project Blue Book  closed down in 1969 with 701 "Unknowns" still listed. The NICAP site has a list that comprises 564 of those cases so 137 are missing. However, as Brad Sparks has pointed out, "they are not actually "missing". We just don't know for sure which ones they are of the IFO ("Identified") cases in the BB files. Project Blue Book's last director, Lt. Col. Hector Quintanilla changed a lot of the old historical UNK's into IFOs without updating the old stats. By going through the BB files in his research, Sparks found more cases to add to the actual unknowns he had already culled, making the total over 1500 cases, twice as many as the Air Force came up with.

The sightings that impress me the most are close encounters rather than distant ones, but Nocturnal Lights and Daylight Discs (objects beyond 500') can be important evidence when used in conjunction with good close encounters or radar cases. But these are not reported enough with incontrovertible witnesses to satisfy my desire for good scientific evidence.

In my research studies and data printouts I converted the eleven MUFON Form numbers for special evidence cases (whether they were actually used or not) into two-digit computer code numbers, to catalog the types of UFO sightings in a  computer database.

My main thrust for data on the NICAP site, and scientific evidence for supporting serious research into the subject, is the sightings by pilots from aircraft. These were Category 11, since that supplementary form number was the one used by MUFON in addition to the primary questionnaire, Form 1. (NICAP's form was a #97). Major Keyhoe's books and the NICAP UFO Evidence are full of aerial encounters, and that's what got me into this business in the first place. Pilots up where UFOs are, and sometimes with the objects between them and the ground, with witnesses knowing their environment, far outweigh distant ground sightings by average civilians. Over 3,000 sightings have been catalogued by Dr. Richard Haines. Dominique Weinstein has catalogued over 1400 such cases. It is hard for me to select one case as an example because there are so many good ones and you have seen some of them at one time or another. Needless to say the history of UFOlogy is full of extremely interesting aircraft cases. The NICAP site houses over 200 incidents.

Cat 10 events are those involving nuclear radiation, and these are, as one would expect even if we are dealing with ET, extremely rare. Right after I set up the NICAP site my interest in special cases led me to the ones that had a possible nuclear connection. When I set up the Nuclear Connection Project I had Larry Hatch run a search on his vast "U" database and he was able to  "flag" over 200 incidents. So Category 10 now includes the most interesting incidents yet, cases where UFOs shut down Titan missiles or overflew nuclear facilities. One such case investigated by Dr. James McDonald was witnessed by two tower controllers at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. Interesting enough, the object was an inverted egg about the size of a small sedan and right over the runway. But guess what?  That case laid in the files for decades. But thanks to NCP researchers we noted that the object had over flown Manzano Mountain, a major weapons and missile storage area. The UFO flew right-to-left along the East-West runway, then turned SW toward the tower, stopping near the nuclear weapons storage area for about a minute. McDonald mentioned that the UFO stopped near the Kirtland "Drumhead Area" where the B-58 operated. If the object hovering near a WSA (Weapons Storage Area) didn't get your attention, the B-58 Hustler was a week away from a nuclear qualification run, and not far from where new weapons of mass destruction were moved  by aircraft to the bomb test sites.

In regard to Category 10, very briefly, soon after we dropped two atomic bombs on 200,000 people and then started working on new delivery systems from captured German V-2's, the UFO waves began. According to documents secured under the FOIA, the sightings occurred over secret bomb design and production facilities, then shifted to bomb storage areas. In the summer of 1947, in a six week period, there were thousands of sightings in the United States (Ted Bloecher catalogued 853 cases and about half were daylight disc sightings) that came to a sudden halt with the reported crash of a UFO a Roswell, New Mexico.

At some point right after the UFOs began being reported, somebody said "if somebody would just pick up one of these things on radar...." Some of the best cases we DO have are radar cases, Category 9. There are over 500 cases reported, many of them well-documented. I had complied a list of over a hundred from the UFO Evidence and further research, but there are now over 230 listed on the NICAP site. Skeptics demanded radar cases with visual back-up. Plenty of those were documented too, and Dominique Weinstein has over 76 radar/visuals onsite. One less dramatic incident was written off by the Air Force as inexperienced radar operators, followed by T-33 pilots chasing a balloon. Our researchers found documents and evidence abound that proved the object, a domed disc, was a bonified UFO. The updated, upgraded, Fort Monmouth, NJ case was a major discovery that laid dormant for 50 years and written off by almost everybody, skeptics and UFO proponents alike.

Category 8 incidents are those involving photographic evidence, sometimes motion pictures. This list now includes videos. My latest report from top photo researcher, Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos, and the Anomaly Foundation which developed FOTOCAT ( a world-wide catalog of UFO and IFO photographic cases) was that as of of July 1, 2004, FOTOCAT had reached the number of 4,770 cases on file.

Re-investigation of many of these cases has turned up some real gems. The Trent (McMinnville, Oregon) case was even declared so by the University of Colorado. But the real surprise was the Trindade Island case. What was usually depicted as a grainy and blurry saturn-shaped object in thousands of UFO pulp magazines, when viewed in the original plates, turns out to be a blockbuster. The distant object when blown up, gets better and better. What a lot of people don't know is that the IGY ship had over 200 people on it, and 60 of them (or more) saw the object themselves as it approached the island, circled and left. Thanks to Wendy Connors we now have the recording of Barauna (the primary witness and photographer), interviewed by none other than Dr. J. Allen Hynek. Fifteen minutes before the structured saucer with a dome arrived it was tracked on the ship's radar. Very few people in the UFOlogical community knew this. And if that's not enough, the ship's power went off when the object approached and was restored after it left.

The NICAP site spends less time on Category 7 simply because of priorities, but this group of incidents represent UFO reports involving humanoids or entities, which includes many abduction cases. David Web has investigated hundreds of such cases and published reports on them.

Category 6 is extremely interesting because it involves over 5600 Physical Trace Cases (CUFOS). This group of Close Encounters (also referred to as CE-II) tell us that many objects are about 30' in diameter, the number that keeps coming up in size estimates from sightings all over the world. 4104 of that old list involve UFO sightings, not just ground traces. Cat 6 include the vast Roswell file and almost everyone is convinced that something very strange happened at Roswell, and almost no one believes the object was any kind of balloon.

Category 5 is one that takes in other categories as well in some cases, and is one of the groups much neglected, again because of priorities. Out time is limited and other categories demand more attention. Category 5 represent Medical cases, Psychological or Physiological, and involve illness or injury due to UFO encounters. A lot of Cat 5's are really Cat 7's, abduction reports.

Category 4 is a once-neglected group. Animal Effects are very important evidence for several reasons. The effects themselves are worth noting, but the fact that animals don't hallucinate and react to the same stimulus as humans is important evidence. An extremely capable and dedicated woman by the name of Joan Woodward is an authority on such cases and has compiled hundreds of animal reaction incidents, many of which are already on the NICAP site.

Cat 3 events have been a primary interest of mine from the beginning because they involve Electromagnetic Effects (E-M). One hundred and six cases were listed in the NICAP UFO Evidence report in 1964. Later, Mark Rodeghier of CUFOS compiled a list of over 500 cases. And Dr. Richard Haines has over 185 cases listed among his 3,000 sightings from aircraft. The early list compiled by NICAP was enough to convince me there was an urgent need to set up a detection station. And I had the perfect man to help to do it, the scientist from Project SIGN. The site now lists 250 cases.

The MUFON Forms 1 & 2 were used for investigation and computer input, respectively. So I converted these numbers into computer classification codes for what I had left. Simple distant objects (Daylight Discs and Nocturnal Lights) became Category 1. Simpler close encounters (ones that didn't require the special evidence forms mentioned above) were Category 2.

For those who say we don't have anything, they are either not looking or they are looking in the wrong place or at the wrong data. This extreme minority isn't made up of die-hard skeptics. They are some of the best people we have in the field. They just have their shield set too high. A very good, level-headed friend of mine, who has a lot of respect for me, does not believe in UFOs. If he would see one of the more high-strangeness or normal UFO types, he would merely write them off as something we just don't understand, or something normal seen under unusual conditions. If he saw an actual domed flying saucer, 500 feet away, that hovered and then shot off at high speed, he would say, "Now, that's one of our babies". In other words, if it is nebulous, it's nothing. If it's real, it's ours. ET's are impossible for these types of people. Well, somebody is/was flying machines whose performance we still can't duplicate to this day, over 60 years ago. Even before that.

So, we have people who look at 60 years of UFO sightings and the last half of that period being very poor with less-detailed incidents, and those who study the best cases we had before the lid went down in 1953 when the CIA wrecked the UFO investigation. Some of these  people haven't conducted a great deal of personal field investigation. Many have spent considerable time looking at documents, however, and they are experts in their field and we appreciate all that they have done. This is a vast, time-consuming, inquiry. But I don't believe we have gotten below the tip of the iceberg. If this is something real, and I for one am sure that part of it is, nothing that proves this is going to get released or be easy to find. It is understandable that if this is all as big as it now appears, we only have what somebody wants us to have.  We might even find out that forcing it out might be a big mistake. Our desperate need to know may not be justified in this very unstable world we live in. But some of us have peeked through the keyhole and simply walking away just doesn't work. The implications for the human race are just too big. We're not alone.

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