The UFO Iconoclast(s)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Egregious actions and blunders?

UFO Report magazine [August 1976] had an interview with J. Allen Hynek by Timothy Green Beckley [Page 18 ff]. This clip is from Page 20:

hynek1a.jpg

Hynek’s “marsh gas” or “swamp gas” explanation was for the Ann Arbor/Dexter/Hillsdale sightings in March of 1966, not April 1967.

This kind of inattention to detail is what has undermined Hynek by any serious UFO investigator or maven.

Adrian Vance provided an article for that same UFO Report magazine [August 1976, Page 36 ff]: Vanishing UFOs: A Dimensional Dilemma.

In Vance’s piece he related that Edward U Condon destroyed all the Colorado Projects UFO materials right before his death.

condon18.jpg

And in a following paragraph, Mr. Vance tells how Hynek mislaid some UFO photos and negatives that he (Hynek) took of a UFO himself.

hynek18.jpg

Click HERE to see that portion of Mr. Vance’s article.

Can anyone substantiate the Condon and/or Hynek actions?

If either actually happened, it represents behavior that is egregiously unscientific and sickening, as Mr. Vance indicates.

Condon was a security risk, who should not have had access to any materials from the Air Force or any other government agency. We went after Condon’s security status right before he was handed the Colorado Project and you can read about our efforts here in a very early posting – the second one in the archive:

Condon's Security Woes

Hynek was just scatter-brained.

Is this any way to do science?

Is this why the UFO phenomenon is a joke?

Are UFO hobbyists investing their productive lives in a topic that is so befouled by past and present stupidities that they (the hobbyists) can be maligned for wasting their lives?

I ask you…

RR

29 Comments:

  • The rest of the paragraph makes it clear that this author was mistaken (to put it kindly).

    He mentions destruction of the "negatives" of the Heflin pictures. There were none, these were Polaroid photos and Heflin's story was that someone took the photos (they were much later returned). Condon never had them, if I am remembering this all clearly. He also mentions the Trent negatives being destroyed. I believe these are in the possession of hack UFO zealot "analyst" Bruce Maccabee.

    Lance

    By Blogger Lance, at Sunday, September 18, 2011  

  • Lance:

    Heflin, allegedly, lost the original polaroids he took, right?

    And Robert Sheaffer has "corrected" Maccabee's analysis of the Trent photos.

    Maccabee belongs in that litany of muckers whom newbies and dopes think have cachet as UFO investigators and/or researchers, like the obtuse Ray Stanford.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, September 18, 2011  

  • I believe that Heflin (whom I interviewed briefly) told a story that someone from the government took the photos and never returned them. Then many years later, they supposedly turned up again in his mailbox.

    If I am not mistaken Sheaffer's analysis preceded Maccabee's.

    Stanford is one of the worst of the still living UFO personalities. He does not/ cannot back up his claims.

    Lance

    By Blogger Lance, at Sunday, September 18, 2011  

  • Heflin's photos, if fake, are pretty good.

    The Trent photos too.

    But no one has really taken the photos to the extreme in analysis.

    Jeff Ritzmann says one needs the originals.

    I contend that copies have elements that can be analyzed, obviating the need for the originals, although having the originals would be very helpful for the real researcher.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, September 18, 2011  

  • I think Jeff might agree with me that there is only so much one can do with photo analysis. Despite the greatest effort, a fake might not reveal any artifice and a real photo might seem to show signs of fakery.

    The problems with the Trent photos are well known and serious (if disregarded by the faithful) but there is no absolute proof that they are fakes. I tried to interview Mrs. Trent and just happened to call on the very day she died. Maccabee did an exhaustive analysis but I don't trust anything he says since he is on record as authenticating known fakes.

    Helfin's photos likewise show signs of skullduggery (particularly the way he hid that 4th photo at first) but have not been "proven" to be fake. The GSW analysis was not reliable (working from prints not originals) and cannot be trusted. They supposedly found signs of a string.

    Lance

    By Blogger Lance, at Sunday, September 18, 2011  

  • Klass's take on the Trent film development, online here a few posts earlier than this one, makes me see the photos as unauthentic.

    Heflin's behavior also brings into question his photos.

    Anything can be analyzed, with caveats of course, and that includes copies of photos.

    And information from the photographic milieu, not the photos themselves, can be enlightening, as Sheaffer shows.

    But UFO research is half-ass, and always has been.

    Hynek's evaluation of the 1966 Dexter sighting by Frank Mannor and the concomitant sightings by the Hillsdale college coeds too, was lousy.

    I was there. And the research by Hynak was worse than pathetic,

    Ronald Mannor, who was with his father when their UFO appeared, has been contacted by a film-maker and will confirm my observation that Hynek really screwed the pooch with that sighting or series of sightings.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, September 18, 2011  

  • What I found surprising about the Hynek UFO image was his apparently blasé attitude to misplacing negs and photos. Perhaps he was philosophical considering the 'polterzeitgeist' nature of disappearing UFO evidence?

    His one-time secretary, Ann Eller, has described how he was a poor player when it came to keeping his files in order and organising mail. No doubt some of us can identify with this element of his personality? If her descriptions were accurate, it's less surprising that the evidence went West.

    I could be mistaken, however I think I read a news article where Hynek later expressed remorse for his actions (perceived or otherwise) relating to the Frank Mannor/ Dexter sightings.

    In Vallee's 'Forbidden Science,' a phone call is noted wherein Hynek recommended the report for further scientific study (p176). The direction such a study might take isn't mentioned.

    Is it possible that the UFO field is such a small community that 'egregious actions and blunders' are magnified by all parties? Chances are his image would be neither here nor there if not for the provenance, although he seems guilty of withholding evidence from the discussion. Mannor's heartfelt regret for ever bringing his sightings to light may well explain Hynek's reluctance to come clean?

    I'm not trying to keep him on the pedestal, who would? The point I'm trying to make is that the number of times when ufology has dropped the ball could be the same as any other area of study. Science has the Nobel Prize and the igNobel Awards, but what does ufology have?

    I'm not sure any of us could even agree on a Top 5 list of ufology's best researchers.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Sunday, September 18, 2011  

  • Hynek did nothing when it came to the Hillsdale/Dexter/Ann Arbor thing, seen by many credible witnesses.

    When I was in the area for the Detroit NEWS, hysteria was rampant.

    Even me and my photographer, plus a brother, when we pulled into a driveway to turn around, the car lights hit a fying saucer's antenna, scaring the bejeesus out of us.

    It was a Japanese Beetle Trap.

    At the Mannor farm, which was a real farm -- one ufologist has called the place a non-farm, a hovel -- Mr. Mannor and his son were conversational and sane.

    Hynek dismissed them and called their account a misperception of something they were familiar with: the glow of marsh gas during the transition from cold weather to warm.

    On the face of it, Hynek's adjudication was more insulting than silly.

    The press corps even scoffed openly, but Hynek didn't budge.

    That was fine with me, as he had a job to do -- cover the sighting with subterfuge.

    That he didn't gather material from the site or give the Mannors and students from Hillsdale a fair hearing was the real crime.

    Hynek was cavalier, as he was in Socorro, and elsewhere,

    This set the bar pretty low for others who thought of themselves as researchers or UFO investigators, and that lame imprimatur remains to this day.

    Suggesting that Ann Arbor be pursued diligently, after the fact, added injury to insult.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, September 18, 2011  

  • What were your thoughts about Mannor's sighting? Did you witness any of the ridicule he described in the TV news broadcast?

    I'm quite fascinated because his demeanour and sentiment strikes a chord whenever I see that segment. It's quite moving.

    To my mind, he embodies the elements, good and woeful, of ufology.

    On a personal level, friends and I saw a typical UFO and were met with outright laughter and dismissal by other friends. This experience lends greater resonance to Mannor's angst and an insight into how ridicule is applied to no greater claim than simply seeing an unknown object.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Sunday, September 18, 2011  

  • Kandinsky:

    Frank Mannor was a good ol' boy, much like Hickson was; a true blue good man, who had an experience that was bizarre.

    He wasn't met by rudicule from his Dexter neighbors.

    It was the dismissal by Hynek of Mr. Mannor's observation that was hurtful.

    The press was sympathetic.

    After all, a contingent of nice young women in Hillsdale saw the same or similar thing, and neither they nor Mr. Mannor were spoofing anyone for a moment of attention.

    The ridicule that Mr. Mannor was upset about was the patina of ridicule from Hynek's interpretation, not the kind of ridicule that Tocqueville wrote about in Democracy in America, where nonconformists are shunned.

    I always wanted to reconnect with Mr. Mannor, but other things got in the way.

    However, putting a film producer in contact with Ronald Mannor has had a salutary effect, and I have Ronald's address and phone which I may use to get a statement from him about the real aftermath his family suffered (or experienced).

    The farm has long been sold -- a housing development replacing it, as I noted in an earlier post here or at the RRRGroup blog.

    Now tell us more about your "bad" experience.

    (I started a Flying Saucer club in high school, that got accredited, so for me, flying saucers were never a cause for ridicule, at least not to my face. People, young and old, in my circle, took the view that flying saucers were an interesting topic to talk about and something bewilderingly strange and real.)

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, September 18, 2011  

  • It wasn’t so much a ‘bad’ experience as surprising.

    There was a party in Eastbourne and I went with 3 of my best mates from Uni. The house was a 5 minute walk from the beach so we went down there to see the sea. A number of others were there doing the same thing. It’s mainly a pebble beach, but a nice place with views across the English Channel. I noticed something bright that was moving against the tide and, like you do, we threw a couple of stones in the direction thinking it was fish or something naturally luminescent. Whatever it was didn’t scatter and carried on moving slowly.

    At this point, Pete swore and pointed to the North. As we all looked, a red object came zig-zagging across the night sky and vanished from sight behind the southern horizon towards France. It crossed the sky in four seconds at the most and was seen by the folk down the beach because they were also swearing in amazement. It had been starry clear apart from some wispy cirrus clouds and the thing covered 160 degrees of sky, allowing for the Eastbourne sky-line behind. My impression was that it was extremely high up although there’s no way of knowing. If our atmosphere was a solid glass sphere, it was like a shooting star ricocheting point-to-point off the insides.

    So far, so good? This was 2003/4 and it had been years since I’d had any interest in UFOs and none of the others cared either. We went back to the party and told everyone we’d seen a UFO. Not a soul believed us. They laughed at us (in a nice way), or rolled their eyes and put it down to our having had a beer. Some thought we’d made it up. I can’t describe how odd it was to get that reaction from them and the louder we insisted, the louder they laughed…

    In 2006 I began looking for witness reports and explanations and caught the UFO bug again. It’s nowhere near the experience of Frank Mannor, but I can appreciate what he felt to have known what he saw and be dismissed so casually by people who weren’t there. Unlike Frank, it was a good experience to have as it opened my mind to the phenomena and lent insight into what used to be called the laughter curtain. It's not simply hearsay or reports because I know for a fact that UFOs are as described.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • Thanks, Kandinsky...

    But the "problem" lies in your trying to excite people, at a party, in something non-party.

    No one wants to have their party intruded upon by reality or "other-reality."

    It's throwing water on the festivities; the venue was wrong for your observation, that's all.

    You weren't pilloried, just politely "told" not to bring your party-buddies down.

    I hope you weren't scarred for life.

    It was an eye-opener though, wasn't it?

    Read Tocqueville on how Americans treat their fellow citizens; this back in the 1860s but still applicable: Democracy in America.

    You'll be enlightened but not surprised.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • Oh, Kan...I do know you're a Brit, but Tocqueville still works for the "civilized" side of the ocean.

    (He was French as you know.)

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • "Jeff Ritzmann says one needs the originals.

    I contend that copies have elements that can be analyzed, obviating the need for the originals, although having the originals would be very helpful for the real researcher."

    There may be elements that can be analyzed, but the resolution will have been degraded, and each additional process introduces artifacts which must be identified as not being pictorial elements.

    The difference between the original negative and a jpg of a scan from a book or magazine is significant. Even a first generation paper-print is degraded in resolution compared to the negative.

    Compared to the original negative, the reproductions are only "hearsay", sometimes 3rd or 4th hand.

    Regards,

    Don

    By Blogger Sourcerer, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • Don:

    I agree.

    However....however!

    There are elements in photos that have nothing to do with degradation; i. e., location, items that can be questimated for size, shadows, et cetera.

    Geez, even you photo guys don't get it.

    Looking for original negatives or photos is a cop-out, a way to slough off examining something because it would be easier to work from an original than a copy.

    If Conan Doyle told us anything, it was that clues are everywhere, for the person who exerts the effort to find them.

    UFO people are so goddam lazy; slackers, as I see it (which is what got Ritzmann pissed at me).

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • Rich: "Geez, even you photo guys don't get it."

    I agreed there are things that can be analysed in reproductions. But if the issue is a blotch on a wire that someone claims is the support tie for a saucer hoax, taking say an 8x scope to the negative placed on a light table is the only way to test the opinion.

    I'm not thrilled with any of the Trent analyses because no one made the effort to confirm whether the film is orthochromatic or panchromatic. They render to greyscale very differently, and both types of film were common consumer films at the time. Maccabee notes that, but doesn't take it into consideration.

    So, if something in the image renders dark or light, and that is significant for one's opinion, whether the film was ortho or pan might be significant. Not knowing which introduces doubt regarding the opinion.

    Regards,

    Don

    By Blogger Sourcerer, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • Don:

    The emulsive base is important but not the essential element about the photos, as I see it.

    I raise the question of how the disk is still rather close to the Trents, even after 31 seconds of flight.

    How fast was it going, or was it just lumbering along in the sky?

    And I've attacked the tilt of the "craft" from an aerodynamic stance in another, earlier posting at this blog or one of our others.

    Those are aspects that have nothing to do with the original negatives or film-type.

    Why do UFOers get sidetracked by details that are not essential to sightings? Essential is the word I wish to accent.

    Red-herrings abound in ufology I'm sorry to say.....

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • Rich, did the Trents say anything about the apparent speed of the object? I haven't read up on the incident. It is well within the observed performance characteristics of the time that disks hover, retrace, travel slowly, and tilt. So, unless the Trents report the disk moved swiftly and linearly, I'm not sure what the issue is.

    31 seconds between shots. Using the camera I own that is closest to what Trent used, it took me 10 seconds to advance the film, bring the viewfinder to my eye and release the shutter. Of course, I wasn't attempting to locate a small object in the sky. That would take up some more time -- maybe 5 seconds? 31 seconds seems a long time.

    Was it determined whether Trent used the eye-level or waist-level viewfinder. Using the waist-level finder would result in a lower-angle photo and also, imo, take longer to place the object in the finder.


    Regards,

    Don

    By Blogger Sourcerer, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • Don:

    The Sheaffer and/or Maccabee evaluations should provide the information you seek.

    I mentioned the 31 seconds as it was in the letter that Maccabee sent to the magazine. That was the first time I had seen a time estimate for the phototaking.

    The time element derived from the Trent's account of their observation has always troubled me:
    Mrs. Trent saw the object, called to her husband, who had to go into the house, find the camera and return to snap the two shots.

    The Trent UFO had to be snoozing along for the Trents to be able to do all that and get two shots of the thing.

    This troubled Klass too, as noted in his evaluation, seen in a previous post here, a few days ago.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • Additionally, although you will rarely see it mentioned, the Trents changed their story of the circumstances of the taking of the photos many times.

    Also the Trents were repeaters--also almost never mentioned in pro-UFO circles.

    Lance

    By Blogger Lance, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • Yes, Lance, the Trents were not evil persons, but their story and photos do not add up, as far as I'm concerned.

    Just as with Travis Walton, the whole Trent story raises caveats that I'm not going to invest a lot of time trying to resolve.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • I don't think Hynek was scatter-brained. Based on his comment in the clipping, it seems more like he simply fell in love with being a celebrity, then spent the rest of his life courting celebrity (the pinnacle being his cameo in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind").

    By Blogger purrlgurrl, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • You are being kind, PG.

    Hynek was the stereotypical absent-minded Professor.

    A good guy, just not a brilliant thinker.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, September 19, 2011  

  • Some time ago, maybe on UFO Updates, I mentioned the fact that Heflin was known to be a skilled model maker. He was also a keen photographer.

    This fact has hardly ever come up during discussions about the case, by believers or even by skeptics. I first learned of it in 1968 after a UK TV program on this and other cases. Why has this been so ignored? It is of course not proof of fakery but it is powerful evidence in support of it (similar to Barauna's Trindade photos; he was a known photo-faker as well).

    The Trents of McMinnville were repeater sighters, as has been pointed out. Again, this is not proof of fakery, but it certainly does help to cast doubts.

    Let's face it; the main, perhaps only, reason why both the Trent Heflin photos have attained the lofty status they have is that they were passed as genuine (or at least stood up to examination) by the Condon Committee.

    When Condon explained a UFO sighting, the UFO promoters tried to disprove the explanation. But when they pronounced one as likely genuine, it raised the given case to a special status.

    Menzel & Taves spent a whole chapter of their book explaining the 'unknowns' of Condon. What happens? Ufologists then spend more and more time trying to de-explain Menzel's explanations. And so on. The pros and cons continue, indefinitely.

    By Blogger cda, at Tuesday, September 20, 2011  

  • Christopher:

    What you outline is the essence of the problem with UFO mavens: they never dig deep enough, or drill down, into events, when quirks in stories even slap them in the face.

    It's that old saw about the "will to believe."

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, September 20, 2011  

  • I commented earlier about the indescribable beauty of the Trent photos. They sum up the whole saucer story in one go: a wistful lonely glimpse of something wonderful, just out of reach.

    And then Mr. Trent put the mirror back on the truck and the spell was broken!

    Seriously, on the truck mirror thing. There used to be a page where someone had researched that and supposedly found an exact match. But it is a dead link now--anyone know any details?

    Lance

    By Blogger Lance, at Tuesday, September 20, 2011  

  • Those capricious Trents, fooling us all for so many years!

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, September 20, 2011  

  • Someone identified the Heflin model as a wheel from a toy train, even giving the model name. It was on Updates several years ago.

    I assume his story about secret 'agents' confiscating the photos is phoney. But it adds a bit of intrigue and confuses the genuine investigator.

    By Blogger cda, at Tuesday, September 20, 2011  

  • Christopher...

    We have that toy train wheel explanation online here, in an earlier blog posting.

    Googling Heflin UFO train wheel will provide, I think, the site where the astute analysis resides.

    It's a good one, with pictures.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, September 20, 2011  

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