UFO Conjectures

Monday, March 26, 2012

Kenneth Arnold's Distorted Experience?

Copyright 2012, InterAmerica, Inc.


Spanish UFO researcher Jose Antonio Caravaca finds a January 1947 magazine article [Popular Science] about Northrop Aircraft’s new Flying Wing, and proposes that the article may have stimulated Kenneth Arnold’s iconic sighting of June 24th, 1947, within the parameters of Señor Caravaca’s Distortion Theory.



We, the RRRGroup, have postulated, in the past here, that Arnold very likely saw a Navy prototypical jet airplane flight.


Jose Caravaca raises the issue of a chimerical sighting, however.

Whatever Kenneth Arnold saw, the configurations of his seen “flying saucers” rarely showed up afterward, in the immediate time-frame, but did appear in witness reports after this drawing appeared in news media:


The mind-induced explanation for some UFO sightings isn’t meant to castigate all UFO sightings, but can be applied to those where strange entities appear and act out bizarre scenarios.

The UFO phenomenon (or more correctly: phenomena) has always gotten short shrift from UFO researchers and investigators, and that lapse continues today. But a new breed of UFO aficionados are attempting to provide cold-case forensics to sightings (new and old) to see what may explain the ongoing enigma.

Jose Caravaca’s Distortion Theory – outlined at his blog, The Caravaca Files – is an interesting hypothesis. And we are open to other hypotheses, if they are presented in an academic manner, footnoted and fleshed out with examples and test protocols.



  • Martin Shough's 'The Singular Adventure of Mr Kenneth Arnold' must be the most extensive and detailed analysis available.

    At one point, he makes these comments on the number of explanations the report has attracted...

    'It is tempting to suppose that the probability of scoring an explanatory hit is proportional to the number of conjectural shots fired, in the sense that if so many explanations can be conceived then, surely, one of them must be right? But it would be less unreasonable to infer that the longer the history of serial failure then the stronger the null hypothesis that no successful explanation is likely to be found.'

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Monday, March 26, 2012  

  • Kandinsky...

    Martin Shough has done and continues to do exemplary exegeses of UFO materials

    I just wish he was rather more pithy and succinct.

    I guess as we get older we all want to purge ourselves of the wit and wisdom we've accumulated.

    Mr. Shough is making the attempt.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, March 26, 2012  

  • Good theory but it fails on one important point... all the flying wings were grounded in June 1947 because of trouble with the gear boxes. When Karl Pflock proposed this idea as an explanation for the Roswell crash (one of the many he thought of) I did some extensive research into the history of "tailless" aircraft and learned far more about the flying wing than I cared to know.

    A crash of a flying wing being tested killed Captain Edwards... Muroc AAF was renamed for him.

    Besides, in June 1947, I don't think they had nine that could be flown, even if they hadn't been grounded.

    By Blogger KRandle, at Monday, March 26, 2012  

  • Thank, Kevin...

    Jose will appreciate your comments and research.

    The idea was iffy but not outrageous to me.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, March 26, 2012  

  • Actually till Kev popped up I'd pretty much accepted this explanation - my only hesitation being as to whether their surfaces'd be reflective enough to produce the dazzling effect and their speed.

    By Blogger alanborky, at Monday, March 26, 2012  

  • KR and RR,

    You forget that Caravaca's theory isn't dealing with an actual Northrop airplane or sighting so the history of what happened to the plane has nothing to do with what Ken Arnold thought he saw.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, March 26, 2012  

  • I regret to say Mr. Randle, who has not read it correctly the post, nor understood the concept advocated by the theory of Distortion. I do not think Kenneth saw 9 flying wings, if not the image of that aircraft, was the caused, to distortion mental, as defined by my theory.


    By Blogger jacarav@ca, at Tuesday, March 27, 2012  

  • Arnold saw prototype aircraft?
    In which case they ought to have been identified very quickly.

    Reason? If 9 planes are flying about in formation, someone somewhere knew they were airborne and their approximate position. There were 9 pilots for a start. There would have been several others aware of their presence in the sky.

    No records, no knowledge of these flights? Or were they early unpiloted drones?

    Why no identification? Did everyone simply 'forget' these craft were airborne?

    Pelicans suit me better than planes in this case. But, please, don't tell Jerry Clark.

    By Blogger cda, at Tuesday, March 27, 2012  

  • CDA:

    Jose Caravaca proposes that Arnold thinks he saw nine flying saucers, the vision inculcated in his mind from the magazine article and an influence not yet clearly defined; an influence that I think is neurological but Jose thinks is something more "otherworldly."

    The suggestion in the posting goes to Jose Caravaca's distortion theory, not an actual sighting...

    Although I do like the pelican idea and have written about it in a very early posting here at this blog and elsewhere -- despite opprobrium from the stiff-necked Jerry Clark.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, March 27, 2012  

  • Jose Caravaca brings to our attention that:

    (From Wikipedia)

    Arnold began Great Western Fire Control Supply in Boise, Idaho in 1940, a company that sold and installed fire suppression systems, a job that took him around the Pacific Northwest.

    And the Popular Science cover (shown above in the posting) was about fire fighting, which prompts Jose Caravaca (and me) to infer that Kenneth Arnold may very well have read the magazine, stumbled upon the flying wing piece and incorporated the image(s) in his psyche, which showed up in his June 1947 sighting.

    I think his sighting was neurological in nature; Jose thinks it was induced as specified by his Distortion Theory, which posits some interplay beween Arnold and other players, other presences, per his theoretical conjecture.

    The magazine's cover story and the flying wing conjoin to provide substance to Jose's hypothesis, as I see it.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, March 27, 2012  

  • If I understand José's basic premise, he's speculating that something unknown had somehow data-mined Arnold's psyche and presented itself as something he (Arnold) was familiar with.

    In a wider perspective, the Distortion Theory postulates that encounters have been drawn from the culture from which the percipient was immersed in. As such, whatever way the brain of each percipient interprets the experience, it will be loosely referent to generally recognisable imagery.

    I posted Martin Shough's passage as recognition that, despite the number of attempts at explaining the report, none so far provide an explanation amenable to a consensus.

    Shough uses a careful analysis to show that Arnold's description of his sighting conforms, in detail, to a physical sighting. He doesn't extend this to *assert* Arnold saw what he said he saw.

    He addressed what the report could not be rather than going out on a limb and speculating what it might have been.

    In summary, Arnold's account was as accurate in detail as if it had really happened and we're no closer to explaining it, in prosaic terms, as the day the claim was made.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Tuesday, March 27, 2012  

  • Kandinsky...

    Can you point us to Shough's exegesis of the Arnold sighting?

    Arnold's sighting, in its purest form, can be attributed to prosaic manifestations: pelicans (yes!), prototypical aircraft (yes!), mirage anomaly (yes!), and the neurological intrusions created by an external agent with the complicity of Arnold's fevered brain (Caravaca's theory) or an hallucinatory scenario caused by any number of things Arnold was afflicted by but never asked about by newspaper people or investigators at the time (drug use, alcohol, medicine, food intake, et cetera).

    Shough is an ET believer and looks for evidence to bolster that belief.

    His activity with Aubeck at Magoniax is exhaustively presented like all of Shough's meanderings.

    He's brilliant in his way but biased because of subliminal mental accretions and his forwardings for UFO buffs must be taken warily.

    His subtle propagandistic offerings have to be weighed diligently by readers who are drawn to him.

    Objectivity is hard to come by.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, March 27, 2012  

  • To CDA, RR, and any other supporters of "The Pelican Hypothesis:"

    Here's my own opprobrium, posted to the original pelican suggestion:


    The two salient points that I recall from Mr. Arnold's sighting that rules out both the semi-ludicrous "pelican" theory, as well as your back-up military flight theory, are these:

    1) The objects RELATIVE speed appeared many times faster than Arnold's own plane. His estimate, based on clocking them as they flew in and out of the peaks at 10,000 foot elevation, suggested a speed in excess of 1200 MPH, or around Mach 2. This is something no bird could do, even with the aid of a temperature inversion. (:^D)

    BTW: At what altitude do pelicans migrate? If you had your choice, would you fly over a mountain range, or around it?

    2) The objects dipped and fluttered like skipping pie plates, something that no military flight could do, not at that time, nor now.

    There's also the fact that Arnold re-flew the route he observed the objects fly, and was able to double-check his estimates of speed and altitude by noting the landmarks of cliffs and peaks they had neared.

    To continue to suggest theories that don't fit the situation -- pelicans today, guided missiles in 1947 -- suggests an attempt to disregard the facts behind the original event. You're free to do that, of course: you can claim Mr. Arnold simply lied about what he saw. But to claim that the elements of what he saw somehow fit a theory that isn't at all accurate suggests an attempt to misdirect those unfamiliar with the case.

    In this respect, I feel a new phrase should be coined by those who wish to apply such inaccurate theories to the stated evidence:



    It's interesting to note: when UFO supporters (of which I remain respectfully neutral) suggest an hypothesis that covers some of the evidence but not all, skeptics are quick to castigate them for an incomplete theory.

    On the other hand, when skeptics (whose camp I am happy to be excluded from) suggest a partially inclusive theory, they appear blissfully unaware of their own theory's shortcomings.

    Caravaca's "Distortion" approach is at best a Bandaid (™) answer to an overwhelming phenomena that has been present long before "FATE Magazine" and other such possible influences. At worst, it introduces the concept of unconscious deception into the entire UFO debate.

    By handpicking certain events, and trying to back-engineer an explanation, Caravaca attempts to denigrate a valid sighting made by an experienced pilot. This immediately casts doubt upon all such first-person sightings. Whether this is his intention or not, it is an undeniable result.

    This is not to say that some, perhaps many, of the "contactees" out there haven't been hallucinating. But when multiple people experience the same event, it's difficult, almost impossible, to label it mass psychosis.

    It's also interesting to note Mr. Arnold never claimed to see these nine craft again.

    That's one very selective hallucination.


    By Blogger TemplarScribe, at Wednesday, March 28, 2012  

  • TS:

    You take too seriously CDA's and my sarcastic fun about the pelican theory.

    Also, your assumptions about Arnold's sightings and statements are covered, maximally, by Martin Shough in his paper, which you would do well to read.

    While Mr. Shough doesn't heed the suggestion that "less is more," he does, as usual, cover all the bases, and I mean ALL the bases.

    That said, the Arnold sighting is iconic, as I keep repeating, but it doesn't take us anywhere.

    It's just one more -- admittedly the first notable one -- UFO account among a plethora of others, all of which do not offer an explanation for a visible and real phenomenon.

    Now TS, try to grasp the (arguably) witless humor that some of us attempt in these comments.

    It's, as French researcher Gilles Fernandez often reminds us, just ufology.

    And not a search for a cancer cure or remedial action for other worldly woes.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, March 28, 2012  

  • TS is wrong to say Arnold never saw the 9 objects again. True, he never saw those 9 exactly, but he did have another sighting in late July when he flew to Tacoma to investigate the Maury Island affair (what a shambles THAT proved to be!). This later sighting involved multiple 'saucers' but never got the same publicity his original one did.

    No I don't really accept the pelicans answer, although it was a good try. I think it was first proposed by the Scottish ufologist James Easton, in the Fortean Times in August 2000, only to be shot down by Maccabee and others soon after. Easton did quote another press UFO story of 1947 that was indeed due to pelicans (again with very little publicity).

    It is easy to shoot down these 'pelicans' as it is to shoot down the 'aircraft' and 'missiles' explanations, but what are you left with? Not much. Mirages? Leave these to Menzel and his ilk.

    Yes they could have been spacecraft. Trouble is: no such things exist either then or now, apart from our own of course.

    One thing I am not going to do is speculate whether Arnold had an hallucination, was drunk, was asleep for approximately 2 minutes, had been reading too much forteanology, science fiction, was out for publicity, or anything else.

    So as far as I am concerned, it can stay unknown.

    By Blogger cda, at Wednesday, March 28, 2012  

  • Alexander Mebane of New York's Civilian Saucer Intelligence, an early no-nonsense, fact-oriented "UFO" report investigation group, has said Arnold's story was a Palmer-engineered FATE promotion hoax; cyberpunk science-fiction writer John Shirley arrived at the same conclusion independently--as did this "UFO" debunker. I had heard Klass's meteors explanation, Kottmeyer's swans and Easton's reinterpretation of it as pelicans. All well intended certainly but all too literal when there is a much better explanation that considers all of the evidence and in its proper historical context.

    By Blogger zoamchomsky, at Friday, March 30, 2012  

  • CDA wrote: "It is easy to shoot down these 'pelicans' as it is to shoot down the 'aircraft' and 'missiles' explanations, but what are you left with?"

    I think there is one more or less conventional object that hasn't been considered. I'll keep it close for the moment because I haven't gotten anything yet substantial enough to make it worth discussing. It does involve an object used by both the USAAC and the RAF (as well as other air forces) in the era.

    Of course, the problem of it being conventional, including 'experimental', is that it could not have the performance characteristics Arnold described. What we need is an impartial expert witness. Someone who has often flown Arnold's route in a similar aircraft and is familiar with it, who can critique Arnold's estimates.

    What I need to do is find a photo or official description convincing enough re Arnold, to encourage collaboration on the matter.



    By Blogger Don, at Friday, March 30, 2012  

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