WASHINGTON -- The Coast Guard today released a photograph of four brilliant white lights snapped over its Salem, Mass., air station several weeks ago.
The picture, taken by a 21-year old Coast Guard photographer, was the latest episode in the nationwide outburst of "flying saucer" mysteries.
It clearly shows four ragged edged round objects in V-formation. Each appears to have two identical shafts of light extending across its center and protruding fore and aft like a ghostly wing.
A spokesman said the negative has been examined by Coast Guard photography experts who are satisfied "there is no retouching or fakery involved."
"We don't know what the objects are," a Coast Guard officer said, "but that boy's camera caught something."
A United Press reporter was allowed to see the negative which was flown later today to Dayton, O., where it will be examined by Air Forces investigators.
The negative shows no sign of retouching, even under an enlarger which presumably would show up any faking.
The photographer was Shell Alpert, a Coast Guard enlisted photographer. He said he made the picture at 9:35 a.m., July 16, through a screened open window of the air station's photo laboratory.
Alpert said he was preparing to clean a camera when he looked outside and noticed several brilliant lights in the sky. He called another coast guardsman, Hospitalman 1-c Thomas E. Flaherty, who also said he saw the lights.
Alpert said the lights dimmed somewhat, then brightened. He grabbed a camera, held the shutter wide open and snapped a picture.
Coast Guard officials who released the picture for publication, said Alpert was questioned for hours by naval intelligence officers but held to his story that he had not superimposed the lights or otherwise faked the picture.
Alpert told investigators that July 16 was a "very hot day" and that the lights may have been some sort of refraction of ground reflections.
That has been the official Air Force explanation for many so-called "saucer reports."
Only Thursday Air Force chief of staff Hoyt S. Vandenberg scoffed at the saucer reports and voiced hope "mass hysteria" over them would soon pass.
- - - - - - - [Note: Another version of this national newswire story, as published in the Benton Harbor, Michigan News Palladium the same day stated...]
Flaherty told authorities, "I actually could not say it was anything. It could have been reflections from passing cars or from the ocean."
Alpert said he was unable to determine the size of the lights, their number, altitude, speed, direction or shape. He said he heard no sound. He added that because it was an extremely hot day "perhaps some sort of refraction or ground reflections could possibly have accounted for the lights, but in my estimation this is an improbable explanation."
Alpert said his 4x5 camera was set at infinity, 1/50 of a second at F4.7.
Experts in photography said the negative shown to newsmen here showed no evidence of touching up. The negative was clear and unscratched.