There's been a lot of talk over at UFO Updates lately about the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) UFO photos taken by Rex Heflin four decades ago.
A re-examination of any evidence can be a useful exercise, particularly when there is newer, better, more advanced equipment which may be able to shed further light on the evidence - in this case, the Heflin photos. Often having a fresh set of "eyes" look at things can also help.
The problem is that the only useful exercise - re-examining the actual photos themselves, or top notch copies of them - is not in the cards at the moment, because the photos are held by researcher Ann Druffel, who refuses to let anyone look at them right now because she and some colleagues are in the midst of re-examining themselves.
As Druffel pointed out in a post to UFO Updates today, this is not as unreasonable as it sounds, as she and her team have a right to finish their work and publish first (a time-honoured tradition in science, by the way). Besides, it's not like we're talking about a cure for cancer here. The world will not come to a crashing end if folks have to wait a while to take a look at the Heflin photos and conduct their own independent analysis. Much of the carping about Druffel from some quarters frankly sounds pretty petty - patience, folks, is a virtue.
On the other hand, Druffel's statement that the originals, once her team is finished their work, will "be available to be viewed at my home" is not on, either. She wrote that she "promised Rex Heflin that I would preserve them for perpetuity for the use of the UFO community, so I could not let them out of my own archives, although they will be available for study, as Bob Wood says, under controlled conditions." Controlled conditions? As defined by whom? Druffel? That's hardly a recipe for an independent inquiry by someone else.
If she wants the photos preserved, then the proper thing is to turn them over to an independent institution upon the completion of her team's research, preferably one easily accessible to the public, like a university library, or perhaps the national archives. I'm sure there are libraries out there that would be happy to have the photos, could care for them better, and more securely, than Druffel - and would ensure that any researcher could have access to them without having to visit Druffel at her home, or obtain her permission.
Druffel has always struck me as a reasonable, fair-minded sort of person. Hopefully she'll do the right thing with the photos when her team is finished, and place them in the public domain.
In the meantime, researchers can speculate and hypothesize as much as they want. No harm there. With respect, however, I would suggest that anonymous posts and messages purporting to know the truth, or a portion of the truth, and attempts to recreate the photos, are of no evidential value. As Dick Hall and Martin Shough have noted, anonymous "testimony" is basically worthless in this case. So too are the attempts to re-create the photos, which are similarly of little evidential value.
At the end of the day, the question is not whether the Heflin photos could have been faked (I haven't heard anyone suggest that they could not have been faked), but rather whether they were faked. To answer that question, only an examination of the actual photos (or proper copies), and Rex Heflin's credibility, are relevant. The rest is sound and fury, signifying, more or less, nothing.