Types des cas actuels étudiés

Craig, R.

Enquête typique

Bien que les équipes d'enquêtes sur le terrain soient entrées dans une large variété de situations et aient souvent été capable d'établir des identifications fermes, une situation courante fut celle où la manque d'éléments rendit l'enquête totalement non concluante.

Près de Haynesville (Louisiane), par exemple (cas 10), une famille had reported observing a pulsating light which changed from a red-orange glow to a white brilliance which washed out their car headlights and illuminated the woods on both sides of the highway. The driver had to shield his eyes to see the highway. About 0,6 miles farther down the highway, the driver reportedly stopped the car and, from outside the automobile, watched the light, which had returned to its original glow. The light was still there when he stopped observing and left the area about five minutes later.

Although our investigating team made an aerial survey of the area and watched for reappearance of the phenomenon, and the principal witness continued to search the area after the team left, no revealing new information was discovered, and the source remains unidentified.

In another case (39) a lone observer reported that his car had been stalled by an UFO he observed passing over the highway in front of his car. While the project generally did not investigate single-observer cases, this one presented us with the opportunity to check the car to see if it had been subjected to a strong magnetic field. Our tests showed it had not. Lacking any other means of obtaining additional information, the investigators left with the open question of what, if anything, the gentleman had actually experienced.

A series of sightings around Cape Ann (Massachussets) (cas 29) offered testimony of numerous witnesses as evidence of the presence of a strange object, described as a large object with numerous lights which lit and disappeared in sequence. The investigating team was convinced, after interviewing several of the witnesses, that they had indeed seen something in the sky. The team was not able, at the time, to identify what had been seen. The chairman of the NICAP Massachusetts Subcommittee, M. Raymond E. Fowler, continued the investigation and subsequently learned that an aircrew from the 99th Bomb Wing, Westover AFB, had dropped 16 white flares while on a practice mission about 30 miles au NE de Cape Ann. The flare drop coincided in time and direction with the observed "UFO." As M. Fowler suggested, the "object" enclosing the string of lights must have been constructed by imagination.

In this case as in others, the key to the solution to the puzzle of a previously unexplained sighting was discovered. Additional cases probably were not identified as ordinary phenomena merely because of lack of information. Hence the label "unidentified" does not necessarily imply that an unusual or strange object was present. On the other hand, some cases involve testimony which, if taken at face value, describes experiences which can be explained only in terms of the presence of strange vehicles (voir, par exemple, le cas 6). These cases are puzzling, and conclusions regarding them depend entirely upon the weight one gives to the personal testimony as presented.

Farces et canulars

For varying reasons, UFO-related pranks are commonly perpetrated by the young, the young at heart, and the lonely and bored. Our field teams were brought to the scene more frequently by victims of pranksters than by the pranksters themselves.

Dans un cas, (Cas 7) the individual chiefly involved expressed serious concern that this project might conclude that flying saucers do not exist. Whether or not this concern was a factor in production of his photographs, this gentleman, would, by normal standards, be given the highest possible credibility rating. A recently retired military officer, he now holds a responsible civilian job. He is a man in his mid-forties who is held in high regard in the community. According to Air Force records, he served as an officer for 16 yr. and was rated a Command Pilot. He logged over 150 hr. flying time in C-47's in 1965. He presented two 35 mm color slides of a flying saucer asserting that he took the photographs from an Air Force C-47 aircraft he was piloting. The object photographed was clearly a solid object of saucer shape. He claimed the pictures were taken in 1966, while he was off flight status and piloting the plane "unofficially" when he was aboard as a passenger. It was because of this circumstance, he claimed, that he did not report the UFO incident to the Air Force.

While the latter argument seemed reasonable, it was puzzling that no one else on the plane apparently reported the UFO. According to the officer, the co-pilot who remained in the cockpit was unaware that he had taken the UFO pictures. The reason the officer had not been taken off flight status was never revealed, but the Air Force Office of Special Investigations informed us that there was nothing on file in his medical records to cast doubt on his veracity.

In spite of the Officer's apparent reliability, investigation disclosed that the photographs were probably not taken at the time or place claimed. While he asserted that he barely had time to snap the two photographs through the window of the C-47, the numbers on the sides of the slide frames showed that the two slides had not been taken in immediate sequence. Comparison of these numbers with the numbers on other slides from the same roll of film also showed the UFO photographs to have been made after the officer retired from the Air Force and had moved to a new community. While the frame numbers stamped on mountings of the slides might conceivably have been erroneously stamped, as the officer claimed, such an error would not account for discrepancies in the frame numbers on the film itself, which are present when the film leaves the factory. The officer did not know that the film itself was prenumbered.

Le Cas 23 est un exemple of a simple prank by the young at heart. A pilot, about to take off from an Air Force base in an airplane equipped with a powerful, movable searchlight, suggested to his co-pilot, Let's see if we cant spook some UFO reports. By judicious use of the searchlight from the air, particularly when flashes of light from the ground were noticed, the pilots succeeded remarkably well. Members of the ground party, hunting raccoons at the time, did report an impressive UFO sighting. Our field team found, in this case, an interesting opportunity to study the reliability of testimony.

A common prank is the launching of hot-air balloons, with small candles burning to keep the air heated. Instructions for making such balloon using plastic dry-cleaners' bags and birthday candles have appeared in newspapers and magazines across the nation.

UFO reports frequently result from such balloon launchings. The lights are reported to go out one by one, and sometimes the UFO drops brilliant streams of light as burning candles fall from their balsa-wood or drinking-straw mountings. Les Cas 18 et 45 are examples of this type prank.

L'événement décrit dans le cas 18 fut un vol de 3 sacs plastiques au-dessus de Boulder (Colorado) le 1er avril 1967. The date is probably significant. They were observed and reported as UFOs by students, housewives, teachers, university professors, and a nationally prominent scientist. A newspaper reported one student's claim that the telephone he was using went dead when the UFO passed over the outdoor booth which housed it. Although plastic bags were suspected as the explanation, we were not certain of this until several days after the event. Because of unexpected publicity given the UFO sightings, the students who launched the balloons decided to inform the project of their role in the event.

Cas 45 is noteworthy as an example of extreme misperception of such a balloon. One adult observer described this 2 ft. x 3 ft. plastic bag floating over a building in Castle Rock, Colo., as a transparent object 75 ft. long, 20 ft. wide, and 20 ft. high, with about 12 lights in a circle underneath. He thought the object was about 75 ft. away. According to his description, the lights were much brighter than his car headlights; although the lights did not blind him, they lit up the ground near by.

While this observer may still believe he saw something other than the plastic balloon bag, such a balloon was launched at the time of his observation and was observed by others to rise over the same building.

The last three examples mentioned are ones in which the UFO observer was the victim of pranksters. We conclude that in similar cases the prank is never discovered, and the UFO report remains in the "unknown" or "unresolved" category. Undiscovered pranks, deliberate hoaxes, and hallucinations, were suspected in some other field investigations.

Farces dépassant leurs auteurs

What starts out as a prank occasionally develops a notoriety so widespread that the prankster becomes enmeshed in a monstrous web of publicity from which he can no longer extricate himself. One elderly security guard (Cas 26) on lonely, boring, pre-dawn duty in a waterfront area, fired his pistol at an oil drum used as a waste container. He was within the city limits of Los Angeles, but the site was isolated. Invention of an UFO, either to "explain" his illegal firing of a weapon within the city limits or to generate a bit of excitement, would be understandable under such circumstances. His tale of a 90 ft., cigar-shaped UFO, against which his bullets flattened and fell back to earth, where he picked up four of them, was a sensation. This gentleman was bewildered by the reaction to his nationally broadcast story. He and his wife were harassed by phone calls from coast to coast. The police, civilians, and Colorado project investigated. Even after admitting to police that his shots had been fired at the steel drum which bore bullet-size holes and dents, he could not disconnect himself from the widely publicized UFO version of his story.

In any instance in which commitment to an apparently faked story seemed so strong that hoax or ignorance could no longer be admitted without serious psychological sequence, project members considered it neither desirable from the individual's standpoint nor useful from the projects standpoint to pursue the case further.

Erreurs d'interprétation naïves

Unfettered imaginations, triggered into action by the view of an ordinary object under conditions which made it appear to be extraordinary, caused reports of UFOs having such impressive features that our field teams investigated. Such a case was 15, in which the observer reported evening observations of a green light as large as a two-story building, sometimes round and sometimes oblong, which landed several times per week 5-20 mi. to the west of his house. He reported having seen through binoculars two rows of windows on a dome-shaped object that seemed to have jets firing from the bottom and that lit up a very large surrounding area. The motion was always a very gradual descent to the western horizon, where the object would "land" and shortly thereafter "cut off its lights." Our investigators found this gentleman watching the planet Venus, then about 15&Deg; above the western horizon. He agreed that the light now looked like a planet, and, had he not seen the object on other occasions when it looked closer and larger, he would not have known it was really an UFO.

Light diffusion and scintillation effects (voir Section 6, Chapitre 4) were also responsible for early morning UFO observations, and Venus was again most frequently the unknowing culprit. Cas 37, as initially reported to us, was a particularly exciting event, for not only had numerous law enforcement officers in neighboring communities observed, chased, and been chased by an IJFO of impressive description, but, according to the report, the pilot of a small aircraft sent aloft to chase the UFO had watched it rise from the swamp and fly directly away from him at such speed that he was unable to gain on it in the chase. Both the light plane and the unidentified object, according to the initial report, were observed on the local Air Traffic Control radar screen. According to the descriptions, the object displayed various and changing colors and shapes. Appearing as big as the moon in the sky, it once stopped about 500 ft. above a police car, lighting up the surroundings so brightly that the officers inside the car could read their wrist watches. As indicated in the detailed report of this case, supporting aspects of the main sighting report fell apart one by one as they were investigated, leaving us again pointing to Venus and finding the law enforcement officers surprised that she could be seen at mid-day near the position in the sky their UFO had taken after the early morning chase.

Erreurs d'interprétations soutenues par informations erronnées officielles

1 cas ne nous impressionna pas beaucoup because of the description of the UFO as because of official information given to the observers by Air Force representatives. L'Air Force non seulement faillissait à corriger l'erreur d'interprétation des observateurs mais donnait des informations erronées, caused the proper interpretation to be withdrawn from consideration. Details of the case are reported by project investigator James E. Wadsworth in Section 4, cas 28. The discussion presented here is designed to serve as a basis for comment regarding the failure to recognize and reveal misinterpretations of known phenomena.

A series of recurring sightings by multiple witnesses was reported from near Coarsegold, Calif. Coarsegold is in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of Fresno. The sightings were of special interest because they had been recurring for several months and remained unidentified after preliminary investigation by NICAP members in the area. These sightings offered the project the unusual opportunity of observing, photographing, and studying an object or objects which were being reported as UFOs.

Le Dr. Franklin E. Roach et M. Wadsworth furent envoyés par le projet pour mener une enquête, NICAP members on the scene furnished results of their preliminary investigation and names and addresses of principal witnesses. The witnesses had organized a loose network for UFO surveillance using Citizens Band radio for communication covering an area of about 80 mi. radius. They not only had observed strange lights in the sky over several months, but also had photographed them and recorded the dates and times of their appearance and descriptions of their motions.

One to six UFOs had been sighted per week, sometimes several during the same night. About 85 % of the sightings followed a recognizable pattern: Orange-white lights above the valley at night moved, hovered, disappeared and reappeared, and occasionally merged with one another. Other sightings were of varying nature, and some seemed to warrant separate investigation. Most of the observations had been made from a ranch 1800 ft. above the valley floor. Several others often in radio communication with the ranch owner, had witnessed the same events, and the witnesses were of apparently high reliability. The ranch owner, for example, had a background of police and military investigative experience.

After interviewing primary witnesses, looking at photographs, and listening to tape recordings of descriptions of previous sightings, the project field team joined the ranch owner and his wife in night watches. At 10:30 p.m. on the second night of observation, a light appeared low in the southern sky traveling W to E at approximately 1° of arc per second. After about 10 sec. more detail became visible. The source of this light was identified as a probable aircraft with conventional running lights and anti collision beacon.

At the same time, another light had appeared to the east of the presumed aircraft, moving W to E at about the same rate. It appeared as a dull orange light, showing some variation in intensity as it moved. No accurate estimates of distance could be made. Although this light was not manifestly on an aircraft, the possibility that it was could not be ruled out. The rancher, however, said that this was exactly the sort of thing they had been observing frequently as UFOs. He was disappointed that this one had not appeared as close and bright as on other occasions.

After about 15 sec., the UFO seemed to flicker and then vanish.

The original object continued eastward, disappearing into the distance in the manner of an ordinary aircraft. Duration of observation less than a minute. Photographs of the unidentified light were taken by the project team on a high-speed Ektachrome film.

Dr. Roach withdrew from the investigation taking the camera containing the exposed film to the Eastman Laboratories at Rochester, N.Y., for special processing, film calibration, and color analysis of film images. Mr. Wadsworth continued the investigation. The next night, he and the rancher observed UFOs at midnight and again at 12:42 a.m.

They appeared as bright orange lights, showing no extended size but varying in intensity. They hovered, moved horizontally, and vanished. The rancher said that these were good, solid sightings of UFOs. M. Wadsworth thought they might be the lights of low-flying aircraft whose flight path produced the illusion of hovering when the plane was flying along the observer's line of sight. The presence of planes in the vicinity at the time, however, was not established.

The next morning it was learned that at least two other persons observed the UFOs at midnight and 12:42 a.m. The rancher telephoned the UFO officer at Castle Air Force Base about 30 mi. west of Coarsegold. The officer declared that no aircraft from the base were aloft at the time of the sighting and promised that the sighting would be investigated and appropriate action taken.

Since the presence of aircraft as a possible explanation of UFOs had been denied by the local air base, Mr. Wadsworth arranged to observe the UFO activity from the vantage point of the highest fire lookout tower in the area. The tower afforded an excellent view of the valley area below. The observers were equipped with cameras, binoculars, compass, and other field-kit items, and maintained two-way radio contact with the rancher for coordination of observations.

At midnight one orange light after another appeared over the valley. The lights, observed simultaneously by the project investigator and a NICAP member at the tower and by the rancher at his house, appeared to brighten, dim, go out completely, reappear, hover, and move back and forth. Sometimes two lights would move together for a few moments and then separate. Only point source lights were observed, and there was no sound. The visible paths of the lights were not continuous. The lights would repeatedly go out, to reappear elsewhere or not at all. At times they became so dim as to be almost impossible to follow with binoculars. At other times they appeared to hover, flare up, then go out completely. The rancher believed the lights flared up in response to signals flashed at them with a spotlight, and it was true that many times when he flashed there followed a flare up of the UFOs. M. Wadsworth felt, however, that this was a coincidence, since the lights exhibited frequent flare-ups independently of signals. This behavior continued for about 1.5 hr.

From the higher vantage point of the tower it was possible to determine a general pattern of movement that was not apparent from below, since the pattern's northern most end was not within the ranchers field of view.

Mr. Wadsworth concluded that these lights, and the similar ones of the previous night, not withstanding assertions to the contrary from the base UFO officer, must be aircraft operating out of Castle Air Force Base. Careful observations through binoculars of the extreme northern end of the pattern had revealed lights moving along what must have been a runway lifting off, circling southwards, and following the behavior pattern previously observed before returning to land at a northern location coinciding with that of Castle AFB.

The rancher was skeptical of this identification. The following night he drove with Mr. Wadsworth toward the air base. En route, more orange lights appeared as before, but through binoculars these could now be identified as aircraft. As they approached the base, they could plainly see landings and take-offs in progress.

Subsequently it was learned that most of the night-flying at Castle AFB involved tankers and B-52s in practice aerial refueling operations. Castle AFB is a training center for mid-air refueling with 400 to 500 sorties launched from the base each month, both day and night. Flight schedules from the base, obtained later, showed planes scheduled to be in the air at the times the UFOs were observed. The planes carried large spotlights which were switched on and off repeatedly. This accounted for the observed flare-ups and disappear-reappear phenomena. The apparent hovering was due to the fact that part of the flight pattern was on a heading toward Coarsegold. Closings followed by separations were the actual refueling procedures. The absence of sound was accounted for by distance, and the color variation, orange to white, by variable haze scattering of the light.

Maps obtained from Castle AFB show flight patterns for these operations wholly consistent with the sightings. Descriptions of lighting configurations of the tankers and bombers also were consistent with this identification.

While these sightings were not particularly impressive individually, being essentially lights in the night sky, the frequency of reports was sustained at a high level for nearly a year, and the observers had noted the UFOs occasionally since the fall of 1960. Observations were widespread and attracted much attention. The phenomenon seemed strange to the observers, defying simple explanation. Although the stimulus was conventional aircraft, the aircraft behavior, lighting, and flight paths presented an unconventional appearance to witnesses who were not familiar with inflight refueling practice.

Avant l'enquête du projet Colorado aucun des observateurs n'avait conduit jusqu'à la base aérienne pendant que les observations avaient lieu pour vérifier l'hypothèse des avions. Ce fut vrai en partie car le fermier avait appelé la base aérienne par plusieurs fois pour signaler des observations, et avait reçu des informations trompeuses plusieurs fois avec l'effet que les observations ne pouvaient être expliquées par des avions de cette base. En une occasion, M. Wadsworth prit le téléphone pour entendre cette information transmise au fermier.

It should have been simple enough for representatives from Castle AFB to explain to inquiring citizens that the sightings were of practice refueling operations, and to identify the UFOs as aircraft from their base. Why was this not done? Was the Public Information Office at Castle AFB actually not aware of the activities of its own base? Was misinformation released deliberately? If base representatives investigated the reports of UFOs and were not able to explain the sightings, the UFO report should have been sent to Project Blue Book at Wright-Patterson AFB and to the University of Colorado. The project had received no such report. Had Project Blue Book? If not, why not?

It is Air Force practice not to investigate reports of UFOs which are described merely as lights in the sky, particularly lights near an air base, and such reports need not be forwarded to Blue Book. In the Coarsegold sightings, however, according to the rancher and his wife, their reports had been investigated by officers from Castle AFB and the UFOs had remained unidentified. Thus, the reports should have been forwarded to Blue Book.

Blue Book files yielded a single report on this series of sightings, describing the Castle AFB officers' interview with the ranchers wife after the rancher had reported numerous sightings by himself and neighbors during the two week period starting 9 octobre 1966. (The rancher was absent when Castle AFB officers investigated his report.) The report to Blue Book stated, Officers who interviewed Mrs. _____ can offer no explanations as to what those individuals have been sighting. Descriptions do not compare with any known aircraft activity or capability.

The file also carried a notation that Castle AFB was to forward to Blue Book information required in AFR 80-17, but this information had not been received; therefore, the case was being carried as "insufficient data." There was no evidence of any follow-up or further effort to get the information.

What were the UFO descriptions which did not, in the view of investigating officers, compare with any known aircraft activity or capability? The housewife's description of what she and others had seen, as recorded by the interviewing officers, referred to pulsating and glowing lights varying between shades of white, red and green occasionally remaining stationary on a nearby ridge and capable of moving in any direction at greatly variable speeds, generally exceeding that of jets observed in the area. In particular, she once noted a vertical ascent at a very rapid speed. On one occasion, her husband was able to distinguish a rectangular-shaped object with very bright lights at the corners.

The description contained other references to appearance and motion. However, it is obvious that, when taken literally and without allowance for common errors in perception and cognition and without allowance for subjective interpretations, the descriptions, as the officers stated, did not conform with aircraft capability. Failure to make such allowance left the sightings unidentified.


Two types of non-events received brief attention of our field teams. One involved predicted events revealed to us by persons claiming special psychic and communication powers. The other involved claimed UFO events at Air Force bases.

Predictions of UFO landings and close appearances were received from several sources (e.g. cas 19). One or two such psychic predictions were checked. The predicted flying saucer failed to materialize.

One non-event of the second type is presented as cas 30. Others were recorded only as internal project memoranda, and are not presented as case reports. In each instance, conflicting information was received, by this project. The initial information that an UFO event had occurred sometimes reached us as a rumor. A phone call to the Air Base UFO Officer or to the reported internal source of the information yielded confirmation that an event that should be of interest to a UFO study had occurred, but further information would have to be obtained through official channels. Unless such confirmation was obtained, the information, although received from a source which was usually reliable, was rejected as rumor.

Dans le cas 30, a civilian employee at an air base in California, contacted by telephone regarding a rumored sighting, confirmed that an UFO event had occurred at that base, and that a report of the event had passed across his desk and had been sent on to proper authorities. Those authorities, contacted with difficulty by telephone, insisted that no UFO event occurred at that base on or near that date. The employee, when contacted again later for additional information, replied only that he had been told to "stay out of that."

Conflicting information regarding a fast-moving radar track which was claimed to be unidentified and later "classified" similarly leaves nothing for study when official notification is received that there was no such event at the given time and place.

In one instance, the base UFO officer had no knowledge of a supposed UFO alert at his base on a given date and time. According to our information, jet interceptors alerted to scramble after a UFO were rolled out armed with rockets, taxied to the runway, but did not take off. The UFO officer, however, realized that such an event would have involved fighter craft at his base which are under a different command than the SAC command which he represented. Air Defense Command personnel could have an UFO report, the officer indicated, without telling SAC personnel about it. He then checked with the fighter defense squadron stationed at this SAC base, talking with people who were on duty at the time of the rumored event. He reported to us that there was an alert at the indicated date and time and that fighters were deployed to the runway ready to scramble. This action was taken on orders from the squadron's headquarters at another base. The alert to scramble was said to be definitely not UFO-related but any other information regarding the cause of the alert would have to come from that headquarters. Further inquiry, through Pentagon channels, elicited only a denial that there had been an alert to that particular fighter squadron on the given date. In the absence of some independent source of information, we had no means of determining whether or not there was an alert and, if so, whether or not it was in fact triggered by the report of an unidentified flying object.