Monday, January 15, 2007

O'Hare: If Photos or Video Exist, Will We See Them?

Rumours abound that video exists of whatever was seen over O'Hare airport on November 7, 2006, taken by a pilot, and that it may be released soon. But some are wondering if we will ever see any footage or photos.

Over at the UFO Mystic Blog of my pals Greg Bishop and Nick Redfern, for example, one reader, in response to a comment of mine, asked:

You have to wonder, though, if pictures were taken by the pilots, would they be willing to come forward with them given the poor reception UFO reports made by pilots have been given by the airline industry historically.
My response?

I don’t wonder at all - of course they would bring the photos, or video, forward, unless perhaps the photos or footage actually showed something mundane, which would indeed make the pilots (and a lot of other people) look pretty silly. After all, these guys have already come forward and offered their witness accounts (i.e. they’ve taken the most difficult step) - surely offering photos or video that would potentially corroborate those accounts wouldn’t be much of a leap at all (and might actually make them some money, if it was really sensational stuff).

Everybody wants to be vindicated, after all. It's human nature.

Further, to my knowledge, there has never been a pilot fired for making a UFO report, or putting forward pictures. Indeed, if a pilot or other employee was fired for doing so (when the FAA itself states explicitly that any UFO sightings should be reported to organizations like NUFORC, or the police) they would have a pretty good case for unjust dismissal, particularly where they’re unionized.

If photos exist, therefore, I expect we will see them - unless, as I said, they show something that might indeed make the pilots et al look foolish, like… well, nothing anomalous.

However, if video or photos do exist that show something out of the ordinary, then they will be made public, and fairly soon - at which point things could get really interesting.

Paul Kimball

O'Hare: The FAA "Cover-Up"

A commenter here on a previous post wrote:

The fact that bothers me the most about this case/sighting, is that the FAA denied anyone reported a sighting until threatened with a Freedom of Information Act request. Only then did they admit that the sighting had been reported, without the request being filed. Why? Did their files have a memory lapse?
This is not on the face of it an unreasonable question, until you realize a couple of things (that Peter Davenport et al won't tell you). It deserves an answer, before the "cover-up" meme runs out of control, and becomes part of the story that is inseperable from the evidence of the sighting itself.

First, government is not some monolithic entity. Often, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is up to, or what information it might have. The FAA is a large organization. To expect everyone within it to know everything that has gone on everywhere is unrealistic. Further, "government" is staffed not by infallible robot drones, but by people - people who make mistakes, just like you, and me.

I speak from experience, having worked for government in the past. I recall once where a phone call was referred to me at the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation (a much smaller entity, to be sure, than the FAA), and a question asked, and I said, "nope, we don't have that information." Sure enough, we did - the person in the office (i.e. the Director of Marketing) next to me had it. That sort of thing happens all the time. If, instead of trying the Director of Marketing the caller had launched a Freedom of Information request, he would have gotten the information - and, no doubt, if he had been like Peter Davenport et al, he would have accused me of being part of a "cover-up".

Further, look at the FAA reporting guidelines. They state specifically that UFO reports are not taken by the FAA, but rather are to be directed to civilian groups or scientific bodies that study this sort of thing. Here is their policy:

9-8-1. GENERAL
a. Persons wanting to report UFO/Unexplained Phenomena activity should contact an UFO/ Unexplained Phenomena Reporting Data Collection Center, such as the National Institute for Discovery Sciences (NIDS), the National UFO Reporting Center, etc.

b. If concern is expressed that life or property might be endangered, report the activity to the local law enforcement department.

It is not unreasonable, therefore, for an FAA employee to mistakenly assume that there was no call to them about a UFO.

Finally, and this is the kicker, if there really was this deep, dark cover up to which Davenport and others have begun to allude, do you really think a simple FOIA request by a reporter would be enough to shake the tree?


The simple answer is almost always the right one in cases like this - the FAA employee who answered the initial inquiry (which was probably not a high priority item) made a mistake, and then, when forced to do some more thorough internal checking, the FAA rectified that mistake.

That's not the "sexy" story, but it's the one that makes the most logical sense.

Paul Kimball

Photos from concourse C at O'Hare

Here is some pretty nifty time-lapse photography done at one of the gates (10, I think) on concourse C at O'Hare.

Too bad this guy wasn't at O'Hare on November 7, 2006!

Seriously, I hope someone did get a photo, because without it, all you've got is just another witness case, better perhaps than some (or even many), but not as good perhaps as others (Kelly Johnson, 1953, as an example), of which there are literally thousands over the past several decades, none of which prove anything definitive in terms of the nature of what UFOs may be, and none of which have gotten the study of the UFO phenomenon any further along today than it was almost sixty years ago.

Unless, of course, you believe that the sheer number of reports alone proves something, in which case you should probably start taking witness reports of "miracles" seriously as well, because there have been far more of those over the course of human history than reports of UFOs.

Paul Kimball

Friday, January 12, 2007

Where is the O'Hare UFO Photo - Vol. II

Besides being an ace cameraman, my good friend and colleague Findlay Muir is one heck of a photographer. Like most people these days, he always has some form of camera nearby - unlike most people, he gets really, really good shots (most people settle for average shots).

For example, when he and I were in O'Hare in November, 2005 (sorry, no UFO), Findlay had his camera at the ready, and got all sorts of nifty shots, including the one above on the tramway between terminals.

Here's another one, this time from Blackpool, England, when he and I were there on a day off from filming Best Evidence back in June, 2006. I can guarantee you that pigeons move fast (you would be surprised) - but Findlay was faster.

If Findlay had seen a UFO at O'Hare, or anywhere else for that matter, he would probably have a picture of it - especially if it was hovering before it zipped off.

Now Findlay is a professional, so maybe he moves just a bit faster than your average person. But one look at YouTube, or Google Video, or Flickr, should be enough to convince you that non-professionals can move pretty quick these days, and get the shot. Indeed, we live in the video era.

So, I ask again - where are the O'Hare UFO photos?

Peter Davenport has been all over the media trumpeting this story (good, no doubt, for NUFORC's profile, at least in the short term). Surely he asked the witnesses if they had been quick enough to take a photo (if it was me, this would be the first question I would ask)?

In the two months between when the story was first reported, and when it broke last week, surely Mr. Davenport, or someone else, thought that maybe there should be a photo, and that this would be important, one way or another?

Did it ever cross his mind, before he went to the press, that maybe he should hold off until the story had been properly investigated?

Did it ever cross his mind that perhaps it would have been best to wait, and make sure all the "t's" were crossed, and the "i's" dotted, before making this a big cause celebre? Apparently not.

The O'Hare story, for good or ill, will now define how the public views the UFO phenomenon for the next few months, maybe even years.

Let's just hope that Mr. Davenport hasn't sold us a pig in a poke.

Let's hope he, or someone else, finds that photo that should be there.

Update: Stan Friedman was on the X-Zone this evening (you can catch it in the X-Zone archives). Rob McConnell asked Stan about why there were no photos, and Stan responded - I paraphrase - that it would have been impossible to get a good shot of a relatively small object at a height of 1,900 feet or so (although that appears to be the height of the cloud cover it "shot up through", so "it" must have been hovering at a lower height than that).

This is patently absurd. You can't have it both ways - you can't assert that people can make a perfectly good sighting of an "object" at somewhere under 1,900 feet, and observe details such as whether or not the "object" was rotating, on the one hand, and then say, "but it was too high up to get a decent photo." Especially when the supposed "object" was just sitting there for a prolonged period of time.

Paul Kimball

Where is the O'Hare UFO Photo?

When I was in Rendlesham Forest back in June, 2006, filming for Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Cases, my DOP Findlay Muir and I were suddenly buzzed by an RAF helicopter (I presume it was RAF) - we heard it coming a few seconds in advance, but because it was so loud, and because things echo a lot in the forest, even today (it is actually a pretty spooky place, even in the daylight), we had no idea which direction it was coming from.

Nonetheless, I had my old (six years) digital camera out - it's hardly cutting edge technology, and there is a pause of a second or so when it takes a photo. Still, as the helicopter flew overhead, literally appearing from the treeline, I managed to get a shot before it flew off (it eventually came around again and again - they were seemingly conducting landing exercises on the nearby airstrip).

Findlay, who had his very large, unwieldy and heavy Beta Camera on his shoulder, also managed to get some footage of the quick-moving chopper.

Now, if we could manage this, where are all of the photos from the O'Hare UFO sighting back on November 7, 2006? Remember, unlike our helicopter, which was moving fast (we only has a few seconds to react), the O'Hare UFO apparently hovered for a while, in plain sight, in front of witnesses, at one of the world's busiest airports.

The story is all over the news. And yet not one photo has surfaced.

Perhaps one will - but until it does, I'll go with the official explanation, because if Findlay and I can get a good photo and footage of a fast moving object in the middle of a forest, I find it impossible to accept that no-one got a good, clear photo or footage of a hovering UFO at O'Hare International Airport.

Paul Kimball

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Alien Abduction Cult

I've met both David Jacobs and Budd Hopkins at different UFO conferences. They seem like nice enough people - witty, even charming, until you realize that they, and other "abductionologists" like them, have spent decades spouting absolute nonsense about "alien abductions", and in the process have caused very real trauma to very real people (and created, by the way, a nice little cottage industry for themselves).

Budd Hopkins has written [Witnessed: The True Story of the Brooklyn Bridge UFO Abductions]:

"Everything I have learned in twenty years of research into the UFO abduction phenomenon leads me to conclude that the aliens' central purpose is not to teach us about taking better care of the environment. Instead, all of the evidence points to their being here to carry out a complex breeding experiment in which they seem to be working to create a hybrid species, a mix of human and alien characteristics."

All of the evidence?

What "evidence"?

Memories induced by hypnosis?

I've written about the usefulness of hypnosis as an investigative technique before, particularly when it's done by self-taught amateurs (see: The Abduction Phenomenon and Hypnosis).

Here's the uncomfortable truth - the abductionologists, feted at UFO conference after UFO conference, are the problem, not the solution. It isn't little green / grey men from some other planet that are causing pain to the people "studied" by Hopkins et al - the pain, the damage, is being caused by the "investigators" themselves, feeding questions, and then answers, to people who may have real problems.

Disagree with me? That's your prerogative, of course, but before you start wailing, and crying "foul", do me one small favour - show me the hard evidence that supports the claims made by the abductionologists.

How about a photo? Let's start with that.

I mean, we have UFO photos - most fake, but some, like McMinnville, perhaps authentic - so why not photos of an abduction?

How about witnesses to an abduction - not hypnotically regressed ones, mind you, but independent witnesses who actually saw an abduction happen.

Where are they? I mean, we have myriad UFO cases with multiple independent witnesses.

Why not abductions?

Kevin Randle, Russ Estes and William Cone got it right in The Abduction Enigma when they wrote, at p. 359:

"Here's what it all comes down to. There is not a single shred of physical evidence that alien abductions areaking place other than the tainted testimony of the abductees. The physical evidence to support the claims is nonexistent. What has been offered as proof has been eliminated through testing by objective scientists or additional research by unbiased investigators. The scars, the missing fetus, or the implants do not carry the proper medical documentation to make a strong case, and in fact, suggest something else altogether."

I'll go further than Randle, Estes and Cone, who confined their critique to stating that the abductionologists had simply not proven their case. In my view, this has become an Alien Abduction Cult (of personality), aided and abetted by some in ufology who should know better. The abductionologists themselves are beyond irresponsible - they are dangerous, causing real pain and suffering to people who in at least some cases no doubt need real help.

Perhaps it's high time that the proper authorities take a closer look, not at "alien abductions", but rather at those who claim to be investigating them, because, with one or two notable and courageous exceptions like Kevin, "ufology" has proven itself wholly unwilling to confront the creators and purveyors of the Alien Abduction Cult.

Meanwhile, the ultimate irony for anomalists is that, should there really be a paranormal element to a few of these "abduction" cases, the Alien Abduction Cult has so muddied the waters with their bunk that it will be almost impossible to ever chart a different course.

Paul Kimball

Monday, January 08, 2007

Clouding The Issue

You'll often hear ufologists dismiss out of hand the possibility that some UFO cases might be misidentifications of clouds. Indeed, on your average day, should you glance up at the sky, you'll see average clouds, and think to yourself, "well, no-one could ever mistake those for a UFO."

And you would probably be right.

But what about a cloud like the one pictured below, perhaps seen from a distance?

Lenticular clouds like this one (and others you can see at this really nifty site - a few remind me of Cylon baseships!) can indeed be mistaken for a UFO - particularly of the very large, slow moving "mothership" kind.

Does that mean that all UFOs are clouds?

Of course not. It just means that the idea that some UFO's are clouds is not as silly as it might at first seem.

Addendum: By the way, New Scientist had a short article with the same title, about the same subject, back in October. I didn't know that when I first posted this - a weird synchronicity.

Paul Kimball

November, the Midwest United States, Weather, Holes in the Sky, and UFOs

For those who have quickly dismissed the weather explanation for the November 7, 2006 O'Hare UFO sighting, that is all the rage these days in the world of ufology (and has even made a mark in the mainstream media), you might want to have a look-see at this, which was sent to me by a pilot friend of mine. You can see plenty of "fallstreak cloud" pictures here.

You can go here as well.

And here.

And here - scroll down to the question "how do holes form in clouds?" Note the answer, and then consider where the UFO was sighted on November 7th.

An interesting analysis can be found here (scroll down to January 3rd).

Again, I don't know if what the O'Hare witnesses saw was a weather phenomenon, but before one brushes aside official explanations in favour of aliens, or whatever, one should at least wait to hear from meteorologists and other experts, and examine all the evidence - including what appear to me to be sharply conflicting witness reports (6 feet in diameter to 24 feet in diameter, spinning / rotating vs. not spinning / rotating), which are always problematic.

Or is it too much to ask people to just calm down, and proceed rationally?

Meanwhile, I hear that Dr. Richard Haines is quietly investigating the O'Hare case, as opposed to popping up all over the media like Peter Davenport, making unsubstantiated claims of a cover-up. Indeed, all this media coverage is hardly conducive to convincing witnesses to come forward.

There is a right way and a wrong way to proceed with a proper investigation.

Paul Kimball

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Singularity & ET - Is "It", and are "They", near?

If even ten per cent of what Kurzweil predicts happens in our lifetimes, we're in for a wild, wild ride!

As it relates to UFOs, however, given where we may soon be going (or we may already be there), do you really think aliens hundreds, or thousands, of years more advanced than us are visiting Earth as biological entities?

It just doesn't make sense. AI? Possibly. Biological beings? Hard to believe.

In the end, it might not matter. But consider this - in terms of "contact", what if the "aliens" are simply waiting for us to take the leap - not into space, but into our own future, where we become like them?

The more one stops to think about it, the very notion of extraterrestrial biological entities visiting us borders on the ridiculous when compared with the prospect of some form of AI.

Food for thought.

Paul Kimball

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 Zorgy Awards

"Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite, there will be a show tonight..."
- John Lennon & Paul McCartney

Ladies and gentlemen, aliens, extra-dimensional creatures, cryptoterrestrials, temporal travellers, and ultraterrestrials, welcome to the 2006 Zorgy Awards presentation ceremony.

The votes have been cast, over a two month period, and the results are in. Thanks to the hundreds of people who popped by to vote.

There were no hanging chads, and the Supreme Court of The Other Side of Truth (where Kal Korff has never testified as a witness) has certified the results. You, the people, have spoken. Without further ado, I know turn proceedings over to Rear Admiral Zorgrot.

Hello earthpeople - Happy New Year (well, it's a new year for you at any rate - back on my planet, it's the middle of what you would call summer).

I am proud to lend my name to these august awards... well, not really, but Earthman Kimball paid me, so here I am. After all, an alien explorer has to eat!

Here are the results:

Best UFO / paranormal website

2006 Zorgy Winner
Sub Rosa - 251 votes (59%)

Book of Thoth - 98 votes (23%)
UFO Review - 76 votes (18%)

Best UFO / paranormal
website [forums]

2006 Zorgy Winner
Book of Thoth - 149 votes (65%)

Binnall of America Forums - 43 votes (35%)
UFO Planet - 36 votes (16%)

Best UFO / paranormal website [news summary]

2006 Zorgy Winner
The Daily Grail - 319 votes (76%)

The Anomalist - 57 votes (14%)
UFO Review - 41 votes (10%)

Best UFO / paranormal blog

2006 Zorgy Winner
Posthuman Blues (Mac Tonnies) - 69 votes (46%)

A Different Perspective (Kevin Randle) - 47 votes (32%)
The Orange Orb (Regan Lee) - 33 votes (22%)

Best UFO / paranormal radio show

2006 Zorgy Winner
The X-Zone (Rob McConnell) - 255 votes (58%)

Coast 2 Coast (Noory, Bell, Punnett) - 147 votes (34%)
Strange Days... Indeed (Errol Bruce-Knapp) - 35 votes (8%)

Best UFO / paranormal "Trouble-Maker"

2006 Zorgy Winner
Alfred Lehmberg - 91 votes (49%)

Nick Redfern - 62 votes (34%)
"Arthur" - 32 votes (17%)

Best UFO Podcast

2006 Zorgy Winner
Binnall of America - 96 votes (45%)

The Paracast - 87 votes (41%)
Jerry Pippin Show - 28 votes (14%)

Best UFO / paranormal publication (print)

2006 Zorgy Winner
Fortean Times - 104 votes (56%)

UFO Magazine - 49 votes (26%)
Saucer Smear - 33 votes (18%)

Best UFO / paranormal research website

2006 Zorgy Winner
The Black Vault - 79 votes (54%)

The Project Blue Book Archive - 58 votes (39%)
Project 1947 - 10 votes (7%)

Best Ufologist

2006 Zorgy Winner
Stanton T. Friedman - 122 votes (53%)

Linda Moulton Howe - 62 votes (27%)
Nick Redfern - 47 votes (20%)

The Pelicanist of the Year Award

2006 Winner
Michael Shermer - 50 votes (45%)

Rod Brock - 24 votes (22%)
John Rimmer - 15 votes (14%)
Aaron Sakulich - 14 votes (13%)
John Harney - 4 votes (4%)
Tim Printy - 3 votes (2%)

The George Adamski Memorial Award

2006 Winner
Richard C. Hoagland - 68 votes (40%)

Dr. Steven Greer - 46 votes (27%)
Michael Horn - 21 votes (12%)
Dr. Michael Salla - 21 votes (12%)
Dr. Richard Boylan - 16 votes (9%)

There it is folks - your 2006 Zorgy award results. Congratulations to the winners, and well-played by the rest of you.

I now return you to Earthman Kimball!


Rear Admiral
A few final thoughts:

The closest vote was for the Podcast award, between the early front-runner BoA, and newcomers The Paracast. I expect that both shows will be nominated again next year.

The folks at The Daily Grail / Sub-Rosa and the X-Zone are the Karl Roves of the paranormal world, i.e. they know how to get the vote out. Impressive.

Exopoliticians might get a lot of ufological press, but Hoagland, the "science advisor" for Coast 2 Coast, still rules. George Adamski would be proud (who knows - maybe George dropped off the robot head on the moon during one of his visits).

Alfred Lehmberg won the "Trouble-maker" award. Is that good or bad? Depends on how you define "trouble-maker", but for me it means the person who stirs things up, and gets under people's skin. You could easily substitute "agitator" for "trouble-maker". Regardless, Mr. Lehmberg is a deserving winner - and I mean that, more or less, in a good way!

And that's it, folks. Thanks again to everyone who voted, and we'll do it all again a year from now!

Paul Kimball