The Phenomena of Dr. Menzel

Adamski, GeorgeAdamski, GeorgeLeslie, Desmond, 1953

In his recent book, "Fying Saucers", Dr. Donald Menzel, of Harvard University, has tried to convince us that flying saucers are simple, everyday, natural phenomena. Among other things, he explains how car headlights reflected upwards to a layer of cold air could cause the appearance of a moving disk in the sky. Possibly they could and do.

But then what about the days when there were no headlights; when the brightest artificial illumination on earth was an oil lamp ? What about the Byland Abbey saucer, for example, that occurred in broad daylight, presumably from the reflection of the abbey candles, burning in their glory on the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude ?

Meteors, he suggests, could be another cause of saucers.

Perhaps some of the sightings were meteors. Most meteors are observable for a brief second. They travel from about seven to forty miles a second, and are usually consumed by the friction of our atmosphere before they reach the ground. Meteors do not suddenly change direction; do not hover, do not amble along at velocities between a hundred to a thousand miles per hour.

Dr. Menzel explains the ‘Lubbock Lights’ and other formations quite simply. In his laboratory before the enraptured gaze of his Harvard students he pierced a vee-shaped formation of holes in a cardboard screen. When he shone a light through this on to water, a reflection was obtained that looked like the ‘Lubbock Lights’. Does not this rather suppose that in various parts of the earth, large cardboard screens have been set up at strategic points, and that powerful lights (borrowed no doubt from a neighbourly and obliging searchlight battery) have been directed through rows of holes cut therein on to a convenient local sheet of water, and that as a result we have our formations of flying saucers ?

It is rather puzzling that no one has yet discovered the cardboard screens. To produce an effect covering the whole sky that would mystify Professors Robinson, Oberg and Ducker, the cardboard screens must have been very large and the source of light extremely powerful. Surely they would have been noticed ?

Dr. Menzel and I agree, however, that some of the saucers sighted could have been high-flying balloons; but only those that moved in accordance with the prevailing winds at those altitudes. And in the days of the flying saucer Museum there were very few balloons at large; certainly none that could reach the upper stratosphere. Those who still insist that all flying saucers are skyhook balloons, and vice-versa, simply have not bothered to study the facts. To his credit, Dr. Menzel is not numbered among them.

And now the Doctor pulls out his trump card. In a mass of astrophysical jargon that sounds so convincing to the uninitiated, merely because it happens to be ‘scientific’, a patter which appears to mean much but in reality means little, he tells us how ionised air, at certain altitudes, could cause luminous disks or spheres to appear and to move silently around. With the aid of a bell jar and a vacuum pump and other scientific odds-and-ends a nice working example was produced in the laboratory.

I will not argue with him. Neither he nor I nave ever been up there to study the matter first hand at the moment an ‘ionised saucer’ was in the process of formation. It is more than likely that a number of so-called flying saucers have been caused in this, or in a similar way. But if Dr. Menzel is going to suggest that all luminous saucers that are not the refracted lights of cars or of stars are caused by ionised air, then I can only say that he is being scientifically dishonest. How does he explain the flying saucers that have dropped solid matter ? How does he explain the objects referred to in this book that passed low enough to be heard ? Not once but on many occasions the disks were described as making a noise ‘like a huge organ’, ‘like a hive of bees’, ‘like a vacuum cleaner’. Does ionised air make a humming noise ? 7

6/ Putnams, 1953.

7/ See Note 3, page 110.

And if the ‘ionised saucer’ can only occur at considerable altitudes, how, then, could it have caused the many saucers that have been observed at tree-top height ?

But let us be generous.

Supposing, for a moment, that all the objects Menzel discusses were due to some kind of natural phenomena causing a temporary luminous object to come into being, how in the name of Harvard Sophomore Physics can he explain the dark black flying objects seen by his colleagues in astronomy since 1762, when on 9 August in that year Professor de Rostan at Basle and Professor Croste at Sole independently observed an ‘enormous dark spindle-shaped object’ slowly cross the sun’s disk ? It must have been a very solid object to have made a silhouette against the sun.

I wonder if Dr. Menzel has read of Dr. Fritsch, a Magdeburg astronomer who on 7 February 1802 saw a large dark disk cross the sun; or of the howling dark thing that flew over Palermo in 1817; or of the two dark bodies that crossed the sun in a pair in Spring of 1819 as reported by Astronomer Gruthison, or of the dark grey torpedo that swished to earth from the skies of Saarbrucken on 1 April 1826; or of the great black flying thing, seen by the naked eyes of astronomers Ritter and Schmidt on 11 June 1855; or of the black sky-torpedo ‘pointed at one end, rounded at the other’ which surprised Professor Dussort as it flew over Colmar with a low whistling sound on 6 April 1856; or of the 143 dark circular objects (one of them photographed) Bonilla saw through the telescope of Zacatecas Observatory, Mexico, on 12 August 1883; or of the slow-gliding black disk seen by a Dutch Astronomer named Muller on 4 April 1892 ?

I wonder if Dr. Menzel knows that the Smith Observatory reported that a dark circular object traversed the moon’s disk in four seconds on 1 July 1896; or that on 2 September 1905 an ‘intensely dark object’ flew over Wales at an estimated height of 10,000 feet; or of the great black torpedo that hovered over Burlington, Vermont, on 14 March 1907 with jets of orange flame issuing from holes down its side; to mention but a few; and, if so, how he can explain them ? I wonder how he can explain all those saucers that have ‘howled’, ‘hummed’, ‘buzzed’, ‘sounded like a great organ’, ‘like a bee-hive’, ‘a vacuum cleaner’, to quote from the witnessed reports; for I know of no natural phenomena that produce those sounds, or anything like them.

Menzel suggests, with the aid of a photograph, that these dark cigars are mirages. He shows a photograph in which the tops of distant mountains appear to be detached and to take the form of irregular cigar-shaped objects that look extremely like the tops of mountains ‘detached ‘by a mirage. How one of these could appear as a solid torpedo-shaped construction silhouetted against the sun, he does not explain. Even were the distorted mirage ‘solid’ enough to appear black against the sun, would not the sun be distorted, too ?

Nor does he give any convincing arguments against those experienced airline pilots who have seen saucers with glowing jets and portholes flying alongside their planes. Nor can he make us believe that lenticular clouds and the rest can satisfy those pilots and crews who have looked down upon formations of luminous flying saucers which, as soon as they rose above the pilots’ horizon, took on the appearances of dark, solid bodies, silhouetted against the sky.

No, it is all too easy to trot out a few facts wrapped up in a bit of highly scientific sounding mumbo-jumbo, to convince a great many simple, unquestioning souls to whom the very word ‘scientific’ is sufficient label to raise the whole matter to the realms of Hallowed Dogma where further dispute is out of the question.

Neither Dr. Menzel, nor the balloons, the illusions, the cobwebs, the locusts, the ionised air, the spots before the eyes, the flocks of high-flying cobwebs, high-flying geese, high-flying haystacks, practical jokers, secret weapons, refractions of the atmosphere, reflected light, cold air, warm air, and just plain simple hot air, account with any degree of satisfaction for more than a fraction of the 3,000 odd saucers seen since 1947, nor for the countless myriads seen, and barely recorded, from the time man first began to notice things and remember till the present day.

But whether one agrees with or dissents from Dr. Menzel, his book has achieved a good purpose. He has thoroughly explored the question of saucers-caused-by-natural-phenomena, and has added something to our knowledge of the blind alleys in which genuine flying saucers may not be found. He has proved that some of the sightings could have resulted from the causes he elaborates, and that these causes should always be taken into account when evaluating each new report. He has also proved, wittingly or unwittingly, that a great many flying saucers have been sighted that do not fit into any of these categories and whose origin must be sought elsewhere. It is with these that we shall now concern ourselves, for the answer to the flying saucers is not one but many. And the best that each new book on the subject can hope for is to present new probabilities, and proofs where possible, to the eye of the discerning enthusiast.