1967: THE OVERLOOKED UFO WAVE
RICHARD H. HALL
A major wave of UFO sightings occurred in 1967; even by official Air Force figures it was the 4th largest in terms of sightings reported, yet no one talks about it. The special significance of the 1967 wave is that it occurred during the one full year of investigations by the University of Colorado UFO Project, and everyone deferred to the project in looking for "answers." The only answer was the Condon Report. This study analyzes the wave and demonstrates that the Colorado Project had ample case material to investigate during its lifetime, yet failed miserably to accomplish "scientific investigation." At the same time, publicity about the project obscured the sighting wave.
The "Great UFO Wave of 1967" is not exactly on the tip of every one's tongue. Few people even know it happened. Even fewer have studied it in any systematic way. Ironically, the best financed independent study of UFOs undertaken to date was in full operation during 1967, and was alerted rapidly to potentially important new cases as they occurred, yet it totally failed to come to grips with the problem of investigating UFO reports. The Colorado UFO Project was extremely superficial in its examination of cases that occurred during the life time of the project. Exactly why it failed to address the problem meaningfully when presented with such a golden opportunity is a matter best left to sociologists, psychologists, and historians of science.
This study is confined to a sampling of the type of "hard core" UFO report that the Colorado Project could have investigated, plus some analysis of political and UFO events that coincided in time. In 1967, NICAP (1) received 3,340 UFO reports and the U.S. Air Force received 937. Bloecher and Webb have established that there were more than 100 reports of humanoid UFO occupants worldwide in 1967.
From this large body of raw reports, NICAP determined that 273 could fairly be labeled "substantial" cases after follow-up investigation; the Air Force labeled 19 of its cases as "unidentified." Figure 1 in Part II compares these measures of U.S. cases with fragmentary information from around the world to give some idea of serious UFO reports made worldwide in 1967.
Of the approximately 113 UFO cases discussed in the Condon Report (2), 59 (about 52%) occurred in 1967. However, the 1967 cases selected for study were by no means the strongest available and -- interestingly enough -- they did not include any of the 19 Air Force "unidentified" cases for that year.
The second largest UFO wave of all time --1,112 official cases -- occurred in 1966 and hundreds of substantial cases were still fresh when the Colorado Project began, yet it studied only 12 cases from 1966 (three of which it lists as "unexplained.") These and other curiosities of the Colorado Project are discussed in the following sections.
I. UFOs, Politics, and the Colorado Project.
An all-time peak of interest in UFOs was reached in 1967 when major institutions like the U.S. Congress, the news media, and the scientific community were engaged in open debate about UFO sightings. Major waves of Sightings from 1964 through 1966 had sparked new interest, and NICAP, APRO (3), and other groups had publicized important sightings while challenging the official view propagated by the Air Force that all UFOs could be explained as mistaken observations of stars, aircraft, and balloons. Two professional scientists, Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Dr. James E. McDonald, also had significant influences on 1967 events.
The infamous "swamp gas" sightings of March 1966 were followed by calls for a Congressional investigation advocated by (among others) Congressman Gerald R. Ford (R.-Mich.) Our current Secretary of Defense (then Secretary of the Air Force) Harold Brown was among the witnesses called to testify before the House Armed Services Committee on April 5, l966 (4). Secretary Brown used the hearings as a forum to announce what had already been decided in a series of behind-the-scenes moves by the Air Force beginning in fall 1965 and culminating in a USAF Scientific Advisory Board Ad Hoc Committee meeting on February 3, l966 (5) that "contracts be negotiated with a few selected universities to provide scientific teams to investigate promptly and in depth certain selected sightings of UFOs." In August 1965, Dr. Hynek had urged the Air Force to seek an independent review. (6)
The contract to the University of Colorado was announced in October 1966, and preliminary "briefings" of Project staff members were held that fall (including a session on November 28 with Major Donald E. Keyhoe and me, representing NICAP). The first serious case studies began early in 1967, which was the one full year of operations for the Colorado Project. I made two more trips to Boulder, the last in April 1967 as a paid consultant, and was in constant communication with project members by mail and telephone, as well as personal visits by them to Washington, until late in the year.
This paper is not intended to be a thorough-going rebuttal of the Colorado Project's final report (The "Condon Report"). A brief discussion, with references for those who wish to dig deeper, is included in Part IV.
Also a comprehensive summary of all the UFO events of 1967 would require an encyclopedic work. The cases I have summarized are based on narrow selection criteria, and are intended only to be a strong, representative sample of "solid object" cases (those showing distinct structural features, as opposed to "lights in the sky" reports). This designation emerged from discussions with Robert J. Low, Coordinator of the Colorado Project, as a name for the critical cases bearing on evaluation of UFOs as representing something extraordinary (possibly spaceships) which, he said, the Project should focus on. Whenever possible, reports showing equal "strangeness" of behavior and a range of reported side effects (in addition to "strangeness" of appearance) were included.
Many dozens of other cases could have been added that contained a high degree of "strangeness" in terms of behavior and side effects, but I arbitrarily elected to exclude reports of UFOs that appeared only as light sources or blobs of light. No special effort was made to incorporate strong samples of the numerous humanoid occupant, photographic, radar, or other special effect cases reported in 1967. Although these cases are worthy of detailed study in their own right, I chose to illustrate only that a significant number of UFOs displaying geometrical form, "domes," "windows," "antennae," and other structural detail, were reported and not satisfactorily investigated.
II. UFO SIGHTINGS IN 1967
According to Air Force statistics (see appendix B) 1967 ranks as the 4th highest in terms of total UFO reports (exceeded only by 1952, 1966, and1957, in that order). These, however, are raw and unevaluated reports, figures that are not indicative of "strangeness," or of how puzzling and credibly reported individual cases are. A number of measures are available that indicate something about both the numbers and quality of UFO sighting reports made during 1967. The chronology of "structured object" cases indicates that at least 179 reports of that type were made during the year.
In 1967, NICAP received 3,340 raw reports, 273 of which could be labeled as "substantial" cases (see appendix B). For the same period the Air Force received 937 raw reports, 19 of which were categorized as "unidentified". Independent research by Bloecher and Webb (7) has established that there were at least 108 humanoid occupant cases worldwide observations of more-or-less human-like beings seen in association with UFOs (see appendix B). From this rich collection of 1967 observations, the University of Colorado UFO Project selected 59 cases for discussion in their final report.
It appears that in 1967 UFO sightings also were numerous in other countries, though it is difficult to obtain exact figures. The following statement appeared in a book about Eastern European and Soviet Union UFO sightings: "...(1967) appears likewise (as was 1966) to have been a busy one for UFOs in the Soviet Union, and at the beginning of 1968 Soviet Weekly published an article that in the previous year in South Russia alone there had been more than 200 reliable reports of UFO observations." (8) A 1968 British publication by amateur astronomers (9) summarizes 70 UFO cases that occurred in England during the summer and fall of 1967. Official British Defense Ministry figures indicate 362 cases for 1967 with 46 labeled as unexplained. (See Figure 1.)
Since there is little if any overlap between the NICAP, USSR, and English samples, these figures indicate a minimum of 500 hard-core UFO cases world-wide in 1967, with the true total more likely to be on the order of several thousand cases considering the many countries not heard from. That is an average of nearly 50 cases per month of reports with truly puzzling phenomenology (not merely lights in the sky), and cases that survived screening processes from much larger totals of raw reports.
Additional data and references on 1967 UFO sightings appear in appendix B.
"Solid Object" Cases
"Solid object" cases (or reports of UFOs displaying structural details and other indicators of physical reality) were the ones that the Colorado Project originally intended to focus on. My consultant ship to the Project was for the purpose of assembling a Case Book of this type of report, the best and most complete examples from the most credible observers. By December 1967, in a change of emphasis, Bob Low (Project Coordinator) was describing the intention of the project to study the "most puzzling sightings...... at once the strangest and the most credible." This is arguably a less meaningful concept since there can be highly credible reports of light sources gyrating strangely in the sky, yet such reports generally do not lend themselves to detailed study and do not constitute very good evidence of an important UFO mystery in the way that reports of structured objects with observable or measurable side effects do.
For these reasons, and to focus attention on the category of "structured UFOs," I have not included all of the cases that could be considered as among the "hard core" or that contain legitimately puzzling features.
A statistical breakdown of cases in this structured object category appears below. There it will be seen that subjectively reported "close encounters" are supported both by the amount of detail observed and by the high frequency of associated physical effects. Sound also was heard, typically a buzzing or humming (or "whirring" or "whining") in 26 percent of the cases, a feature usually absent in sightings of more distant UFOs.
All the testimony that one might expect in support of more normal occurrences is present to support the hypothesis that some UFOs (at least) are machines or devices of unknown origin, or reasonable facsimiles thereof. When humanoid beings also are observed in proximity to what, for all the world, appear to be machines, the number of viable hypotheses to account for the observations is reduced to very few.
"Solid object" cases do not lend themselves readily to interpretation solely in terms of astronomy, meteorology, psychology, or any of the other overworked and misapplied fields so often invoked simplistically by skeptical scientists. The collective testimony and associated physical evidence indicating that solid objects are really there is overwhelming, and there is no simple, conventional explanation for them. Short of denying the validity of the data, one is forced to the conclusion that they are either spaceships, or something very much stranger than that. (Editorial Note: The chronology of UFOs displaying structure -- "solid object" cases -- is 28 pages in length. In the interest of conserving space, it is deleted here and only the resulting statistics are reported. The full chronology either will be published separately, or will be made available to interested researchers).
A sample of "solid object" cases totaling 179 was summarized by date, location, time, duration, environment of occurrence, witnesses, and special features, plus brief case abstract and citation of sources. These were typically UFOs displaying structural features such as domes, "portholes," projections, body lights, and distinct geometrical configurations. Statistics from this sample are shown in Tables 1 and 2.
Representative sketches of the "solid object" cases are included in appendix A.
III. STATISTICS & THE "MODEL" UFO
Students of UFO history are familiar with the section in Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14 (10) entitled "The 'Flying Saucer' Model." Under contract to the U.S. Air Force to study accumulated UFO sightings through 1952, Battelle Memorial Institute conducted various statistical tests, and included a section in the report attempting to derive a model from patterns of appearance among the unexplained sightings. Through the use of peculiar nomenclature and logic, they failed. However, "standard model" UFOs are depicted in their sketches: ellipses, dome , and saucer-shaped objects. Some of them, in fact, bear a striking resemblance to sketches of the 1967 UFOs included in the appendix of this report.
The patterns among UFO sightings are obvious -- no other word applies. From the present sample of close encounters with structured objects, discs (often with domes), ellipses, and dome or saucer-shaped objects almost exclusively predominate. Another salient feature of the 1967 sightings is the large number of cases in which the UFOs had various combinations of steady and flashing body lights, typically around the rim or edge of the object, and sometimes portholes or windows (square or round) in addition to the body lights. "Antennae" or other protuberances also are common.
The data in the chronology of "solid object" cases illustrates reports of more substance and puzzling detail than many cases that bear the label "unidentified" in Air Force files, or that the University of Colorado UFO Project chose to investigate. During parts of the year there were stretches of several consecutive days when such structured objects were reported somewhere (e.g., February 11 through 17, then February 19 through 23, March 5 through 10, October 23 through 28). These reports averaged month for the year, indicating what sorts of in formation was to be investigated by the Colorado Project. Of the 179 cases in the chronology, the Condon Report discusses only seven.
Startling occurrences such as vehicle encounters (average 3 per month), landings or near landings -- below tree-top height (average 4 per month), and audible sound (average 4 per month) were reported with such regularity that they cried out for thorough investigation. Also once or twice a month, on the average, humanoid beings, light beams, electromagnetic effects on vehicles, physical traces, and physiological effects were being reported. Considering the narrow selection criteria applied in developing this chronology, the regularity and recurrence of these features is rather remarkable. Quite often in cases of less clearly observed or less obviously structured UFOs, the same effects and features have been noted. Thus the "model UFO" is a geometrical, structured, vehicle-like object that physically impinges on the environment with great regularity in patterned ways. With each new wave of sightings, these features and patterns recur.
IV. THE COLORADO UFO PROJECT
The University of Colorado Project began in October 1966, continued operating into 1968, and issued its final report early in 1969. Its one full year of investigations was 1967 from which 52% of its case studies were drawn.
Of the approximately 113 cases reviewed in the Condon Report, 59 occurred during 1967. This narrow sampling might have been a defensible approach if the Project had (as it stated it would do) concentrated on "solid object" cases or the "most puzzling" and "most credible" cases. Instead, many of the cases selected for study were vague reports of lights, and several (e.g., Cases 19, 20, and 32a) were non-events, not even UFO reports. At the same time, hundreds of much more substantial, detailed, credible, structured object reports were ignored.
Although the Condon Report disguises exact dates and locations, a curious scientific procedure that inhibits checking the validity of the conclusions, the 1967 cases reviewed in the Condon Report are reconstructed in Tables 3 and 4 insofar as possible, from other sources. By comparing the Condon Report cases with the chronology of structured object reports it may be seen how little of the serious available date were investigated by the Colorado Project.
As one who assisted the project, both officially and unofficially, to obtain strong cases representative of the truly puzzling hard-core of the UFO mystery, I was dismayed by their non-investigation. From 1958 through late 1967, I was active at NICAP as Assistant Director and finally Acting Director. We kept detailed statistics of the case references that we referred to the project. From January through August of 1967, when we broke off relations with the project, we submitted 448 cases (nearly half of all those indicated on the Project's computer print-out for that period). Only 30 of those (3% of the 8-month total) were investigated. This fact, in conjunction with a steady stream of negatively biased public statements by Dr. Condon, was the primary reason why NICAP ceased to cooperate with the Project. (As one measure of the "truly puzzling" cases we referred to them, nine of the 30 cases which the Condon Report labels as unexplained were submitted by NICAP).
The non-investigation extended to most of the outstanding cases from earlier years too, most glaringly such cases as the April 24, 1964, Socorro, N.M. landing and the April 6, 1966, Ravenna, Ohio incident in which police from separate jurisdictions chased a low-flying, structured UFO for 85 miles. A thick investigation report on the latter case, compiled by William B. Weitzel, was personally hand-delivered to Dr. Condon -- and totally ignored.
Click here for Table 2 - Other Statistics of
Solid Object Cases
(NICAP web site note: GIFs of the original full charts are provided at active links. Only the "decoded" dates & locations are given below for use with the NICAP GSID site search engine)
(x = unexplained; * = radar cases discussed by Gordon D. Thayer, Section III, Chapter 5; # = photographic cases discussed by W.K. Hartmann, Section IV, Chapter 3)
Table 4 - 1967 Cases Discussed in the Condon Report (Below)
(Note: There are numerous ambiguities and equivocations in the case discussions as to which were considered unexplained. However, see the index of the Condon Report under "Sightings: Unexplained." Of the 59 1967 cases discussed, 15 are listed as unexplained).
Figure 1, Part II
For the reader who wishes to pursue independent evaluations of the Condon Report, a bibliography of pertinent references follows (references 2-18)
COLORADO UFO PROJECT REFERENCES
1. Gilimor, Daniel S. (Ed.); Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects (New York: Bantam Books, 1969). -- The "Condon Report."
2. Saunders, David R. and Harkins, R.R.; UFOs? Yes: Committee Went Wrong (New York: Signet Books, 1968)
3. Sturrock, P.A.; Evaluation of the Condon Report on the Colorado UFO Project (Stanford University Institute for Plasma Physics Report No. 599, October 1974)
4. Keyhoe, Donald E. and Lore, G.I .R. Jr. (Eds.); UFOs: A New Look (NICAP, 1969)
5. Science and the UFO (Transcription of UFO discussion August 22, 1969, Supplement to the Proceedings of Third Nationwide Amateur Astronomers Convention, Denver, Colorado)
6. Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects. (Hearings before House Science and Astronautics Committee, July 29, 1968).
7. McDonald, James B:.; A Dissenting View of the Condon Report (talk/ paper presented to DuPont Chapter, Scientific Research Society of American, Wilmington, Delaware, February 12, 1969)
8. McDonald, James B.; UFOs -- A Challenge to Observation (talk/ paper presented to Symposium on Meteorological Observations and Instrumentation , Washington, D.C., February 13, 1969)
9. McDonald, James B.; UFOs and the Condon Report: A Dissenting View: (talk/paper presented to Pacific Missile Range Section, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Pt. Mugu, California, February 18, 1969)
10. McDonald, James B.; What You Won't Read in the Condon Report (talk/paper presented to Arizona Branch, Reading Reform Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona, May 6, 1969)
11. McDonald, James E.; Some Pennsylvania UFO Cases and their Bearing on the Condon Report (talk/paper presented at Mansfield State College, Mansfield, Pa., May 15, 1969)
12. McDonald, James E.; A Very Creditable Effort? (talk/paper presented to Sacramento Section, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, May 28, 1969)
13. AIAA Committee Looks At UFO Problem, Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA Journal, Vol, 6, No. 12, December 8
14. UFO: An Appraisal of the Problem, Aeronautics and Astronautics (Nov. 1970)
15. Sagan, Carl and Page, Thornton (Eds.); UFOs -- A Scientific Debate (Cornell U. Press, 1972)
16. Page, Thornton; Review of the Condon Report, American Journal of Physics (Vol. 37, 1071-2, October 1969)
17. Boffey, Philip M; UFO Project: Trouble on the Ground, Science, Vol. 161, July 26, 1968
18. Jacobs, David M; The UFO Controversy in America (Indiana University Press, 1975)
Source: MUFON 1978 UFO Symposium Proceedings, pages 51-74.
This web page was created by Francis Ridge for the NICAP web site.
The paper was the work of Richard Hall and copies of the Proceedings were
generously made available by John Schuessler.