Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Hunting" UFOs

History matters. We can learn a great deal from the past, and anyone who thinks otherwise would be well served to keep the famous quote by Santayana in mind: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

On the other hand, one can spend too much time looking for answers to present problems in the past. The worst kind of general is the one who assumes that a current war is going to be fought like the last one - millions of men died from 1914 to 1918 because their leaders made assumptions like that.

So, where does that leave the study / investigation of the UFO phenomenon, which seems mired in the past, as UFO researchers continue to debate cases that are decades old? Is there a way to move forward, while at the same time building on the work that has come before?

Maybe, but the first thing that people are going to have to recognize is that the old model of after-the-fact investigation is inherently flawed, and will never lead to real answers. This method is based on eyewitness testimony which, while useful to a point, just doesn't provide enough reliable information upon which one can build a solid, working hypothesis, much less draw an irrefutable conclusion. No matter what UFO researchers will tell you, eyewitness testimony is always questionable. Stan Friedman likes to say that people are good observers, but poor interpreters of what they saw, but that's not true - most people aren't good observers, including pilots and police officers and military personnel, the three most oft-cited professions of quality eyewitnesses. There are exceptions, of course, such as the Santa Barbara Channel case of 1953, where you had two groups of very good witnesses seeing the same thing independent of each other, but these kinds of cases are rare.

What is needed is measurable data. What makes the RB47 case from 1957 so valuable is that you have not only eyewitness testimony, but multiple corroborative radar and electronic monitoring data. It still won't tell you what the UFO involved was, but it makes it impossible for anyone but the most fundamentalist of debunkers to claim with a straight face that there was nothing anomalous about the case that is worth investigation and consideration.

The problem is that UFOs don't appear on command. For sixty years the pattern has pretty much been that a sighting happens, i.e. people see something, and then investigators of varying degrees of competence show up after the fact to talk to them. Roswell epitomizes this flawed methodology in the worst possible way, given that the investigation didn't actually start until 30 years had passed.

UFO researchers can't rely on the government for their data either.

So where do they get it from?

I would suggest that the serious researcher take their cue from people who investigate ghosts and hauntings. I've worked with some good ones recently, and I'm engaged in investigations myself as we film our ghost investigation series. We're not trained scientists, but we can still gather data by actually going to the allegedly haunted site and setting up cameras and audio recorders and so forth. Upon review of one case we recently investigated, we discovered multiple instances of anomalous audio data that seems to corroborate an eyewitness story we were told, as well as what at the moment appears to be some very interesting video data which we're still analyzing.

A haunted house is a bit easier to cover than UFOs, of course, because it's one specific location, but the same general methodology could be employed in any area that is known to experience UFO sightings. MUFON, for example, could direct its resources towards the equipping of a rapid response field research team that could travel directly to an area in the United States (and perhaps Canada) that is in the midst of a UFO "flap" or "wave". Or it could set up a team in the New Mexico desert for a month or so to monitor the sky for any anomalous events. With alleged alien abductees, surely someone could set up a monitoring system over a prolonged period of time to see if anything really was happening. And so on.

There are plenty of bright people interested in the UFO phenomenon. If they really want to get some answers, however, it's time they re-thought the way that they approached the investigation of the enigma. In short, it's time they stopped fighting the last war, with outdated tactics, and looked to new ways of gathering useful data which may actually yield some answers.

Paul Kimball


jeff said...

I couldn't agree more.

Emma Woods said...

I am sure that monitoring alien abductees over extended periods of time would yield interesting results. I tried to do something similar myself for a year in 2004. I have had “alien abduction” experiences all my life, although I am agnostic about the possible causes of them. For a period of one year I kept a detailed record of everything that happened. I had a piece of paper and pen on my bed to record things during the night if necessary, and carried a notebook with me. I recorded physiological data, such as my ovulation cycles, blood glucose levels and sleep patterns. Once a month I took a pregnancy test to check the theory of “aliens” using women in a breeding program (all the tests were negative.) I also set up a video camera many nights to film myself while I was asleep.

I am still compiling the results of this study, and I will publish them on my website as I do so. Even with what I was able to do with limited resources, there were interesting results. I asked a gynaecologist for their opinion on my ovulation cycle data, and they said that for several months my ovulation cycle became “chaotic” but they did not know what the cause was. They took blood tests to see if I was premenopausal, but the tests showed that I wasn’t and they said that could not have been the explanation. During that same period I had frequent blood glucose results that were in the hypoglycemic range, but with no obvious reason why. There are a number of interesting correlations between that physiological data and other events. For instance, I took the pregnancy tests on the fifteenth of each month, and on six of those months (Jan, Mar, Apr, Jul, Oct, Dec) I found that there was an unexplained circular red mark on the side of my neck shortly before I took them. In one month (Jun) I found two similar circular red marks on my shoulder, and in two months (Jul and Aug) there were the circular red marks on my chest (in July there were marks on my neck and chest.) In all, there were unexplained circular red marks on my neck, shoulder or chest shortly before eight of the pregnancy tests.

On the video recordings a number of apparent anomalies were captured. This included two unexplained bangs in my room that woke me up, and on another occasion a loud clear voice saying something that sounds as though it is in a foreign language (I do not recognize the language and no one I have played the tape to can identify it.)

A neighbour and I have had someone knocking on our doors in the middle of the night for several years, but if we go to the door there is no one there. During 2004 I put the video camera in my front window for a period to try and catch whoever it was on the recordings. On one occasion, my neighbor told me in the morning that he had heard heavy footsteps coming up the front stairs to our apartment building and then there had been knocking on his door. I found that the camera had gone off by itself about an hour before the knocking and then come on by itself again around the time it happened, presumably just after the person had left as they were not on the recording. Later, in other recordings, I got the sound of the knocking on the audio but there is no one visible on it.

From my own experience of doing this, I have a sense that whatever the phenomenon is, it interacts with us in some way as we try to study it. I would not be surprised if any long term monitoring study on abductees encountered unexpected interruptions, such as equipment failures, materials disappearing, people not remembering to do things that are basic, people feeling like they should not be doing it, and so on. Perhaps it could be fruitful to use that possibility in designing a project. If one part of a project were designed to obtain straight-forward data, and another part of it prepared in such a way as to record how the phenomenon under observation interacts with the equipment, materials and individuals involved (both the abductees and the researchers), that could provide a very interesting view of it.

Marilyn said...

I have to agree with you.
I can't understand why some serious scientists don't get involved here.
It is so strange that the most interesting and innovative field of research is ignored as if it didn't exist.
I Cant quite understand it.

Paul - I have looked for an email address for you all over but couldn't find one - could you please contact me via my email or blog?

Red Pill Junkie said...

I agree that the field needs to re-think its methodology.

But I also think we should re-evaluate what 'useful data' means. Is it only video recordings? Because some UFO groups have already conducted investigations and UFO watchs during flaps, such as the one in 1991 over Mexico; they got some interesting videos, but did that convince anyone except the enthusiasts?

So what other kind of 'useful data' could we get, and what kind of equipment/instruments would it take to obtain it?

Also, even if we assume this hypothetical team could get some interesting stuff, you know as well as I do that if there isn't among them a Scientist who can validate their protocols about how the data was obtained, no serious organization would dare to look at the info, no matter how interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I'm tired of hearing about Roswell, "discussions" about Roswell, etc. Let's investigate the contempory issues and opportunities. Mumbley

rutkows said...

In my latest book that just came out (A World of UFOs), I made the observation that "UFO investigation is dead." It was for slightly different reasons, but I share your concerns.

It does seem that there is a focus on old cases. I may be a bit guilty of that as I've been going through gov docs and finding some real gems in there that need to surface. However, my main concern is that a lot of current reports go directly to a plethora of websites through online posting widgets, where they appear on a front page and then disappear into a hard drive archive. "Investigation" consists usually of a few emails and in rare cases some phone calls, but onsite investigation and detailed analysis is virtually unheard of (and in most cases impractical).

My main research, however, focuses on current UFO report investigation, so I'm not as much into the "old case" bag. I get reports every week from witnesses, from mining UFO buffs' websites and through various agencies. I post most of these on blogs or other research sites, or add them to the database we use for the annual Canadian UFO Survey, making the raw data available for anyone to look at.

As for "UFO hunting," this is what we used to do in Manitoba in the 1970s. Grant Cameron's unpublished manuscript on his UFO hunting days is available on his website, I think, and it shows how it was done "in the good old days."

Department47 said...

Hey Paul - there actually was an effort like you describe called Project Hessdalen. Take a look at the link here:

Glad to hear from you again. Any updates on your promised follow-up of Best Evidence?

Joe Harvat

Anonymous said...

"What makes the RB47 case from 1957 so valuable is that you have not only eyewitness testimony, but multiple corroborative radar and electronic monitoring data"

Show me the radar and monitoring data then. If you cannot show me, how do you know it exists?

Anonymous said...

The fact you are too scared to post my simple questions about the validity of the RB47 incident indicate you are not the honest type.

enigma said...

I do agree. UFO investigators have really being data collectors, interviewers of witnesses. It's time to go to hot spots with a considerable number of instruments and scientists to observe, record, and later analyze all the material obtained. An example: Hessdalen.

If you are seriously interested on these issues take a look at