Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Issue #26: Balloons

Today is the eve of what I feel will be a mass sighting of mis-identified objects in the skies of Manhattan. Many will report that they saw what appeared to be famous cartoon characters flying through the sky above the streets, there will be crowds of people bearing witness, and it will all be televised to millions of viewers at home as well! But, in reality what they will be seeing will be nothing more than balloons. Sound familiar?

Yes, Thanksgiving is upon us, and the 12 year old that lives inside this body of mine naturally thinks right off the bat about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and all the famous balloons which so many people look forward to seeing each year. Which is a great time to talk about a topic, that believe it or not, is still relevant in the world of UFOlogy: Balloons.

It is widely know that the Air Force and debunkers everywhere have tried to pass off "weather balloons" as what many witnesses have seen throughout modern history. In fact that weak explanation has been used so often, that is commonly met with ridicule, even in the few cases in which that actually was the explanation that was uncovered after investigation. It ranks right up there with "swamp gas" on the 'ol chuckle-meter. So of course when reports surged over the internet concerning Googles "Loon Balloon", I thought it might be interesting to take a light-hearted look at one of the most amusing "weather balloon" explanations...none other than Roswell itself!

The really funny part about the Air Force's "weather balloon" explanation as what really crashed at Roswell, is the fact that there was so much debris that it had to be collected by a large group of soldiers, and then it took over 8 hours to crate it up for the flight to Wright-Patterson Airfield...since when is a weather balloon that big? Even more amusing is the Air Force's explanation that what people mistook as 3-4 foot tall aliens, was really 6 foot tall dummies, that weighed around 200 lbs.! Especially funny since the Air Force didn't start using them until 1952, five years later! Of course to an unsuspecting public who doesn't know any better, it sounds like a plausible explanation.

It is true that when a weather balloon gets to a certain altitude, there is less pressure outside the balloon than there is inside it, so it begins to take on a different shape, usually flattened out like a teardrop, larger on top and narrow on the bottom...or saucer-like if viewed from the right angle. These are usually easy to identify though after proper investigation.

So tomorrow morning when you're sitting in your living room enjoying the parade, and you see those balloons, delighting all the children in the crowd, give a thought to all the characteristics you see it demonstrate as it is being guided between the skyscrapers, carefully steered with guide ropes, and ask yourself if something so limited in it's ability to move could possibly be the same thing reported in case after case reported by witnesses, with movements usually described as beyond our ability to duplicate. Not likely.

I wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you so much for support over the last year...I am truly thankful for each and every one of you! Please don't eat so much that you can't come back next week for more!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Issue #25: The First Critical Steps

This last weekend I was part of a teleconference with Chuck Modlin, Fletcher Gray, Marc Dantonio, and a few of the other attendees to last October's "First Annual Field Investigator Boot Camp", in which we got to hear some much anticipated feedback on our training in the beautiful Arizona desert. This is probably the part of the whole experience that I was looking forward to the most. I was aware that a few mistakes were made, and I was anxious to hear what I could improve upon. All in all though, it must be said that everyone performed exceptionally and the main point of the exercise, which was to learn to work together as a team, was achieved with overwhelming success.

I would like to point out that no single team is guilty of any of the following errors...we all were. I think it will become evident as I go on that even the simplest of things can escape you when you are in the field, which is why I am going to mention not only the errors, but the correct procedure that should have been used. It is important to remember that you only get one chance to secure a scene and collect the evidence correctly. Anything done incorrectly can lose that evidence forever, and nothing you can do after the fact can bring it back, so the first critical steps are really very important.

So with that said, let me start with error #1: Gloves. To be fair, I know that it was discussed amongst the team I was on, and we came to the conclusion that if we demonstrated that we knew how to put them on once, that would suffice. Wrong. We should have gloved up at each site before approaching it. The proper procedure would be to double-glove as outlined in the manual, with the outside glove being taped to the sleeve, well before approaching the site to assess it the first time. Personally, I have a box in my investigation kit that goes with me everywhere, and another box in my "Go Bag". I also have a few spare pairs in my evidence kit. That way, no matter where I look I have them staring at me to remind me to glove up!

Next on the list of hits...error #2: Respirators. Oops! Now how did we forget that in the middle of the Sonora Desert? I've written about this on numerous occasions, I'm sure that many of you are familiar with what happened in Coyame, Mexico. So why did this not even cross my mind, not even at the scene of the "crashed saucer"? I have to admit that I was wondering why respirators weren't included with the equipment we had at the site. And it's not like it was miles back to get what we forgot, all we had to do was walk back to the tables with the equipment. I think that what it boiled down to is that no one wanted to put on a face mask in the desert heat. In real life though, I'd choose the mask over suffocating on some unknown alien biological agent hands-down every time! The correct procedure (should you ever be lucky enough to be at the scene of a recent UFO crash) would be have your respirator on well before approaching a crash scene. One would have absolutely no idea what kind of contaminants would be in the air around it. I personally would be not only wearing one, but praying like mad that it worked!

Error #3 is one that is easy to overlook, but very important that you adhere to it every time...establish your boundary! As soon as you know the area that you are going to search, you need to tape it off. Always give yourself plenty of buffer space to move around inside your scene, so that you don't have to walk through the area of your search. Then once your perimeter is established, it is also very important that you control who comes into and out of that area. No one should be allowed inside your perimeter who does not have a duty on the site. You also do not want every team member trampling through your scene. Pick before hand who will be entering the search area, and establish corridors for entrance and exit, and limit your traffic to those areas.

Once again, you only have one chance to get these first steps right. It would not be a bad idea to make a check list for yourself, and get in the habit of going through it each time so that you know you have the best possible chance to collect as much evidence as you can, and you know you can rely on your evidence because you did it right!

Be sure to come back next week for more, and don't forget to share!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Issue #23: The First Annual Field Investigator Boot Camp

Last October, 25 of MUFON's finest (including yours truly) gathered together in Wickenburg, Arizona for the "First Annual Field Investigator Boot Camp". Friendships were made, sweat was lost, bandages were applied, but above all else knowledge was shared. Since everyone came from different backgrounds, everyone had their own unique talents and strengths, which became apparent during the course of the training exercise. Thanks to our great teachers Chuck Modlin, Fletcher Gray, and Marc Dantonio, we received some excellent training in everything from radiation detection procedures, to laying out grids to recover evidence. The setting was literally in the middle of nowhere in the Sonoran Desert, and at night we could see more stars than most people know exist! For me, it all began...

...SQUISHED beyond belief! Imagine if you took a can of sardines (go ahead and open one, take a good look!), held it sort of level, then threw it across the room. That was my flight to Phoenix. When did airlines start catering only to jockeys? I admit, I haven't flown since the 80s, but I'm pretty sure you could have fit two of these planes inside the last plane I was on before this, and still have had some leg room. But I digress.

After landing at Sky Harbor in Phoenix, I was met by the head of our STAR Team, Fletcher Gray, and my soon-to-be teammate, Arthur Goodrich. They drove me a group of us out to our hotel in Wickenburg, which was about an hour from Phoenix. We all stayed at the Los Viajeros Inn, which was a very nice place. I have to say that the town of Wickenburg is probably the cleanest little town I've ever seen! Everyone I met there was very nice too, and some were even interested in MUFON! Everyone else arrived over the course of the day, and we all went out to dinner together before retiring to get ready for the first day of boot camp.

Day One - Classroom instruction (Fletcher Gray in front of screen).

Our first day began at 8:00 A.M., with some classroom instruction from Fletcher Gray, Chuck Modlin, and Marc Dantonio. Chuck taught us a little bit about the three different types of radiation we might be likely to encounter on an investigation, and how to safely approach the situation, and collect any evidence. Fletcher showed us some very helpful Apps to use in the course of investigation, and Marc gave us some excellent tips in photo analysis, and different ways to use Google Earth, and Google Street View. Also some great tips on Stellarium, which is an App a lot of us use for determining what is in the night sky. After a full day of classroom instruction, we all went out to dinner again at The 7's Bar & Grill, home of Wickenburg's finest steaks, then off to rest up for our first actual day out in the field. 

Day two saw us all meeting in the Lobby of our hotel, where we loaded up into two vans for the long ride out to our top-secret training location. I guess I have to amend the top-secret part since unbeknownst to us, the Air Force had already scrambled a couple of jets to fly over our "mock UFO crash site". I guess it must have looked like the "real deal" to them (snicker, snicker). Since they came in hot at low altitude with afterburners, one can only assume that they were loaded for bear as well, but of course...the Air Force doesn't investigate such things...yeah, right. I think we have first-hand proof that the Air Force DOES investigate "this sort of thing", and apparently very seriously. You can read all about that encounter on my friend Alejandro Rojas' Open Minds website. Alejandro was also out there, and in fact interviewed Fletcher Gray while he was there. Thanks for all your help Alejandro!

So our second day found us all out in the Sonoran Desert, participating in four different scenarios, which we were told fit together somehow. We were divided into four different teams, and each assigned a different scenario to start with. Each team would choose a different leader for each scenario, so that everyone could get some experience as team leader. The team I was on assumed the name "Field Team Six", and was comprised of: Arthur Goodrich, Russell Azbill, Harold Shepard, Roger Moore, Craig Lang, and myself. Our first scenario was a "historical" crash site, that had supposedly occurred 10 years previously. A farmer had seen a bright light, which appeared to come down in his field. When he went to investigate, he found a crashed saucer and it's occupants, who he fired at and thinks he hit one, although he never found any traces of the occupants. We first assessed the scene, took pictures from cardinal coordinates, performed a radiological survey, and then went over the area with a metal detector to see if there was any pieces of the wreckage left behind. All hits were marked with both number cards that had photo scales on them, flagged, and then photographed. A grid was then constructed, and a sub-grid laid out wherever evidence was flagged. Anyone who thinks that what we do is easy should give this exercise a try one afternoon. I guarantee you will have an all new appreciation for just what is involved in an investigation. Each step was carefully noted, evidence tagged and bagged, properly logged and the chain of custody notated. On to the next one.

I should add that the first scenario was by far the hardest, and the most time consuming. By the time we were on our second scenario, it was late in the day so we only had enough time left to assess the site, take our readings, mark out the evidence, take biological samples, and then secure the scene. Little did we know that when we got to town we would be seeing our current scenario in the news!

The now famous "mock UFO crash site".

When we first saw the story on the Open Minds website we of course all had a good chuckle, but then we kind of realized that we had just proved something contrary to the Air Forces public statements. I would really have loved to have been back at that base to hear the debriefing! With smiles on our faces we turned in for the night, exhausted but satisfied.

By day three the desert had taken it's toll. One of the ladies had injured her wrist and so was out for the day, and another person dropped out completely over some personality issues. That's what boot camp was like in the Army too. Being out in the field during training is not for everyone. There is a physical, as well as a mental toll on a person. That is why leaders like to take to their teams out into the field for they can be assessed under the conditions and strains that they are likely to encounter, and can be better prepared for the different problems they could run in to. It is also where the participants learn that all the knowledge in the world won't help you if you can't work together as a team.

Field Team Six finished up our scenario with the mock-crash, then moved on to our next scenario...a landing site complete with burn marks, circular depressions in the soil in a triangle pattern, and detectable levels of radiation! Before anyone gets too excited, we didn't have a nuclear fuel rod or anything like that laying around. For the purposes of training we were able to use a common test source consisting of Alpha radiation, which is the most common and the safest. In fact your household smoke detector has them built in, which is where they were liberated from for the exercise.
In this exercise we had to check for radiation, decide what kind of radiation, find any debris, and take a cast of the landing marks depressed in the soil. Again a very time consuming, painstaking process involving lots of photographs, measurements, and of course a log of every step. My hat is off to Russell Azbill of Arizona, who was our Secretary so to speak, and took notes of everything we did, and filled out all the paperwork for our team. Great job Russ!

Our last scenario involved a car that was abandoned in a field. There were no tire tracks leading in on either the front or rear of the car, the tags were a year out of date, it had a "Military Personnel" sticker on the windshield, a bloody handprint smeared along the right rear quarter panel, and magnetic anomalies on both the trunk and hood...mysterious! Of course by this point I had a few different ideas forming about how all these scenarios fit together, as I'm sure some of you reading this do as well. In either case, it doesn't look good for the humans involved, does it?

The First Annual MUFON Field Investigator Boot Camp Participants

I'd like to thank everyone involved with this fantastic training experience, ESPECIALLY our hosts, Chuck and were the best! Special thanks are due as well to Marc Dantonio for the best skywatch ever, and a lesson in just how deceitful drones can appear! GREAT JOB MY FRIEND!

I hope you all enjoyed this little taste of our adventure. We all had a great time out there, and made some great friendships. I would very much recommend this training to all FI's, as it's an experience you will never forget. Be sure to come back next week for the next installment!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Issue #22: Google Street View Catches UFO At San Simeon

In this day and age, many people rely on the assistance from some form of navigation device, be it a stand-alone navigation system, or an app on a smartphone. The most popular by far is the Google Maps app, and Google Street View. There have been many anomalies reported by users of Google over time, and of course there have been quite a few reports to MUFON based on anomalies spotted in these images. In fact, I have a case right now that I am investigating thanks to the sharp eyes of an individual who wishes to remain anonymous.

As with a lot of the images used by Google Street View, this particular set of images was taken back in 2008. The area where the photos were taken was San Simeon State Park, just north of Moonstone Beach in Cambria, California. I followed the directions supplied in the report by the witness, and I was fairly surprised at the images that I saw.

The first image shows an object at a relatively low altitude, directly over the area of Highway 1, and is visible when using Google Street View by placing your point of view at the end of the State Park Leffingwell Landing parking area, then turning back to face inland. If you then place the cursor at the bottom of the Street View and click so you move forward one position, the object is no longer in front, however if you rotate the view to the northwest the object appears heading out to sea, as seen in the second photo.

I was intrigued by these images enough that I decided to take a drive up the coast to Cambria, and take a photo using my Theodolite app so I could get an idea of the altitude of the object. Since this is not an area with normal air traffic, I wanted to know if it was possible that this was an errant private aircraft that was captured.

Although the above photo is a pretty good rough estimate of the estimated position of the object, it is a rough guess, but pretty close for my purposes. The data in the photo shows that I was standing at an altitude of 4 ft. above sea level, and the cursor is place in the approximate location of the object in the photo, which would give it an angle of 12.6%, which would mean that the object was in the neighborhood of 120 ft. above sea level when caught on camera, well below any approved altitude in this area.

I also wanted to know the interval between when the first image was captured and the second one. I was pretty amazed when I found out that the camera for Google Street View uses a frame rate of 10 FPS, which means quite literally that the object in question moved from the position in the first picture, to it’s position in the second picture in 1/10th of a second. Not quite anything that small aircraft around here can do.

While the possibility exists of Google being hacked, and the image being artificially inserted into the picture, I see no outward evidence of this being the case. Furthermore, when I enlarge the photo I do not see a tail section where I would expect one to be if the object in the picture was an airplane. While I’m sure that there are a number of artifacts that could easily explain this objects appearance, and in fact MUFON’s own Marc Dantonio thinks it’s a reflection artifact, but I’ve yet to find one that actually fits and makes sense given the two distinct photographs. If any readers have any insight into another explanation for the images, I would appreciate you contacting me. I can be reached at:, or through the website;