The Trindade Isle Case

October 26, 1958

Mr. Richard Hall
National Investigations Committee
On Aerial Phenomena
1536 Connecticut Ave., N.W.
Washington 6, D.C.

Dear Mr. Hall:

Thank you for your letter of October 19.  With reference to the second paragraph on your letter, I maintain that it is the responsibility of those who assert that the flying saucer reports are unique and different to establish this fact beyond question.   The people who make such contentions are either non-scientists or amateurs who do not possess the scientific background for such evaluations.  I do not know of a single scientist who maintains that there is some inexplicable scientific phenomenon, involved, in particular that of flying saucers from outer  space as Major Keyhoe contends.  I have not, a priori, assumed that there are no new scientific phenomena present in the universe.  I am sure that we still have things to learn about the aurora borealis, lightning, and perhaps even mirages.  But I do maintain that I have made a scientific effort to determine whether it is necessary to call upon some unexplained phenomenon in view of the various reports of flying saucer sightings.   And, within the range of the somewhat scanty and sometimes hysterical reports, can see no evidence to support Major Keyhoe‘s conclusion that flying saucers come from outer space.

The dictionary defines a "ranting" as a noisy, excited, and extravagant declamation.  Although I have referred to the written rather than the spoken word, I believe that Major Keyhoe's writings fall in this category.  Talk about postulate! On the very first page of his book: "Flying Saucers from Outer Space, "Keyhoe jumps to the conclusion that flying saucers are "weird machines.  He goes on to build up this disaster to the British Comet.  And then attributes it to the impact with a flying saucer. The answer to the comet mystery is now well known.  Metal fatigue, internal stresses, low external air pressure, etc., caused the ship to explode.

I find Keyhoe's description "noisy, excited, and extravagant. In effect, a "ranting."  And the same goes for his other descriptions.  He simply does not have the knowledge or background to evaluate data in a scientific manner, no matter how hard he tries.

I realize that many of his reports are factual and, at least up to a point, a fair reporting of what actually happened or what was seen, except for his bombastic style that emphasizes what he wants to emphasize.

And I am not impressed by your statement that NICAP does have the services of competent professional and amateur astronomers.  The name you cited [*Halstead] and the name that Mr. Keyhoe mentioned are not impressive.  And if you have other professional astronomers in your group whose names must be "kept confidential,"    I am sorry to say that I shall withhold judgment until these people are willing to stand up and be counted.  I would not join any organization, let alone NICAP, if I were unwilling to have my association unknown.  Until the evidence comes in to the contrary, I am forced to assume that your so-called professional astronomers would not pass the muster.  And, in any event, I would not admit that amateur astronomers would, merely because they are astronomers or amateurs, be qualified.

I admit that you are in a difficult position.  You can hardly do what you wish to do, namely apply scientific logic to UFO’s, if you have no competent scientists on your staff.  It is doubtful indeed that any competent scientist would want to join your group.  But if you do have competent professional scientists in your panel, then do not let them hide under a mask of anonymity.

I have read with interest the case you report, that from Brazil, the sighting of February 22, 1958.

Like most UFO reports, many significant data are omitted, such as the apparent bearing of the UFO.  I am not impressed by the "boiler plate, " which is usually added to make every UFO sighting more impressive to the public.  It is an old device to have someone declare a film "authentic."   I wish to know by what tests they declared it authentic.  Was the camera itself tested?  Was it determined that internal lens reflections could not produce an out of focus image from such bright multiply reflected light source outside the field of view?

Nor does the fact that the President of Brazil released it to the press carry any particular weight. Did the object in the photograph actually resemble the object that was seen?  All too many times a person attempts to photograph something that was seen and gets a lens defect that is far more spectacular than what he attempted to report.   What kind of a lens?  What sort of magnification?  What focal length?   Was the sun shining?

With reference to the last one I would judge that the sun was shining, although perhaps those dark mottlings in the sky are clouds.  When they report "phosphorescent light" and "glow" were they ruling out reflection from sunlight?  Were they implying that it was a glow from some sort of engine or exhaust?  If so, how could they distinguish?  What does "maneuvering around the area at variable speeds" mean?  All too often, people have judged the speed of a UFO by apparent changes in brightness.  This can be done, for example, from a plane or other material object in the sky, which is presenting a variable reflecting area to the sun, so that it changes its apparent shape.  Sometimes it reflects brilliantly, mirror fashion.   Then suddenly the plane will tip and the plane completely disappear.  People judge that it has "speeded up".  Was the motion tangential as well as radio?  Did it always appear in the same bearing?   If it moved tangentially, did anyone estimate how many degrees per second or per minute?

You simply have to have answers to questions like this.

What was the angular rate of speed, if it was moving to the side?  What was the distance to the mountain range?  What was the exposure time and the type of film used?  Am I correct in assuming that the sun was shining and that the foreground is in sunlight.  If so, then probably the sun came from behind the observer and somewhat from his left.

From the quality of the picture and from the fact that it presumably was taken from shipboard, I judge that this was either taken with a telephoto lens or represents a very great enlargement of an original picture.  If it is the latter, what is the apparent resolving power of the original lens? How would a picture of a distant light appear as taken with a lens and enlarged to the same amount?

In view of the fact that I am not supplied with these answers, if I am, to make any evaluation at all, permitted to make any reasonable assumption about the above answers.   If it should turn out that I have made wrong assumptions, then I would have to correct my answers accordingly.

There are several possibilities.  It could be simply a distant jet, the peculiar banded appearance could be an effect of the wings and a jet trail. I have in my possession a clear photograph of a plane in flight, enveloped in a cloud of jet trail close to the fuselage and with the wings projecting.  You would scarcely know that it was a plane at all, except for the fact that the picture was unusually clear. But from a distance it would have appeared almost a duplicate of this picture.  Add to this the reflection from a plane that is maneuvering slightly, and I think you have a complete explanation within the data supplied.

There is, however, no evidence to support that this UFO is really at a great distance.   It could be something much nearer, despite the fact that other residents had seen a UFO.   It is an assumption that it was the same one.  There are many material objects that could give a similar effect, when viewed in the air.  We do not know anything of the condition of the wind.  Was there any attempt to view the object through a telescope?  We are not told whether the observers saw or thought they saw a peculiar Saturn-shape of this picture.   Or whether they only remembered this after they had seen the photograph . There have been many such instances in history, where someone has later seen a photograph and then his memory supplies details that were certainly not observed at the time.  On none of these facts are we assured. And yet these are the kind of question that a careful, scientific, and honest investigator would have asked?   The fact that the Air Force files contain so many incomplete and unevaluated cases is due, in large part, to the fact that the investigators were incompetent and unscientific.

I could also make out a good case, within the limits of the observation, for a balloon, although I would be forced to manufacture some sort of ad hoc hypothesis to account for the dark line across the bag.

Somewhat more likely is the possibility that this is not the object that the person was trying to photograph at all, but a multiple reflection of the sun in a lens.  I have taken many pictures, even with good lenses, in which peculiar distortions of the sun’s image show up as flying saucers. And the flying saucer books are full of such illustrations.

You will note that I have assumed, with you, that this report is not a hoax.    But until we have a fair evaluation of the quoted press photographer, we cannot even rule out the possibility that he may have made a hoax.  There are all kinds of ways of doing it and I know of no test that would prove the films "authenticity."

This report that you have sent me is like most of the ones I have investigated.   So incomplete that the only conclusion we can draw are uncertain.  The trouble with the UFO boys that plump for flying saucers from outer space is the fact that they turn back on the scientists and say "prove that this is not a UFO from outer space."  Or, if on the basis of the evidence, as in this present excellent example, we conclude that UFO is an "unknown" they claim that the statistic proves their contention that there is this highly important two percent (or whatever figure you make it) of unexplained objects, that forms the basis for a real belief in the UFO’s.

In Major Keyhoe's writings, everyone who agrees with him is "an authority", a "distinguished scientist" and so on.   And those who disagree with him, like myself, are careless and misguide, even though honest. And he even sometimes questions my honesty, by implying that I could be a tool of the Air Force, suppressing the all-significant news that the government is trying at all cost to keep from the world, that there are such things as flying saucers from outer space.

On the basis of the evidence you have presented, I see nothing to warrant your statement that "this case is strong circumstantial evidence."    However, I do agree that the type of UFO represented has been reported by good observers.  And if you can enlighten me on any of the points I have brought up, which would help me sharpen the details, I would be glad to have them.  May I keep the photograph at least until I have heard from you again, so that I may make additional measures if you can supply me with the significant data.  In particular, I would like to have any information you can supply concerning the apparent angular diameter of the alleged UFO.

And, in the future, if you wish to send me any information about a UFO, please supply me with all the data available, good as well as bad, so that I will not have to spend all my time trying to figure out the additional questions that must be answered.

Sincerely yours,

Donald H. Menzel


*NOTE: Some but not all grammar, typing and spelling errors have been corrected from the original letter.

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