UFO Conjecture(s)

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

An Evaluation of Gilles Fernandez Airship “solution”

Copyright 2013, InterAmerica, Inc.
Gilles presents an acceptable, to skeptics, scenario for the 1890’s Airship wave(s) that we and Jose Caravaca have dealt with rather extensively in the past.

But looking at his and his team’s presentation, we note that the opening salvo is couched in psychological terminology, leading us (and others) to believe that the explanation for the Airship sightings noted would be explained by psychology perhaps.

But Gilles et al. dispense with their premise and end up citing Venus as the cause of the California sightings, abetted by California newspapers and illustrations therein, with the only psychological element being a kind of watered down use of Freud’s projection theory.

(I assume that the insert of the psychological terms, at the outset of Gilles’ presentation, was a kind of faux imprimatur to give credence to what follows. Gilles, after all, is said to be a cognitive psychologist of some note in France.)

While links to material supporting the Venus hypothesis with which Gilles wishes to explain the California airship wave and those that followed are provided, they are a solipsistic farrago.

Venus, as an explanation for flying saucer and UFO sightings, and now the Airships seen in the 1890s decade, doesn’t register as a methodological explanation for me and others who know from citations in The New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology [Hamlyn, London, 1959, Pages 57, 58, 63, 76, 144, 311, 313, 323, 324, 431, 438, 442] and Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, edited by Richard Cavendish [Rizzoli/Orbis, London, 1980, Pages 245, 248, 250, 251, 253] that Venus was perpetually seen as a planet or star by ancients and never once observed as a vehicle flying overhead and containing Gods or divinities despite, perhaps, the insinuations of the Ancient Astronaut theorists.

That Gilles and his cohorts, steeped in psychological maladies, present Venus as the observed Airships, exacerbated by newspaper accounts, which may have been bogus is interesting.

That would mean the observers were hallucinating or misperceiving in ways that could be etiologically explained, if one applied psychological methodologies to their observations. Gilles didn’t do that and couldn’t do that; unfortunately, no one has access to such observers (long dead), and one can’t get into the mind of the newspaper reporters and editors (also long dead) who provided the stories (which many think were creations to accrue readers and newspaper sales).

Let me provide this experience:

When I lived in Florida in 1970-71, there was an old man, in his 90s, an artist, Fred Hoertz in an apartment below mine, who claimed he saw an airship when he was a child. While his wife said it was difficult for him to recall details of his sighting, in the 1890s, he did note that it seemed to him to be a flying mechanical device. This was a man with keen vision and painterly acumen. Did he think what he saw was the planet Venus? No. And I certainly didn’t entertain any such idea, foreign to me even then, because this was an intelligent man who provided a brief statement of what he saw and thought it was.

If someone mistakes Venus for a UFO or the Airships that Gilles et al. proffer as an explanation for the 1890s Airship wave, that person should be noted for an hallucinatory episode, and studied from that perspective.

But too many persons saw the Airships under discussion, and Lucius Farish and Jerry Clark have provided exemplary reportage of those episodes, and we have, online here (which you can find via Google), a journalistic account of the sightings in a Midwestern magazine.

Nowhere does anyone presume to offer Venus as the cause of the sightings enumerated. The idea is silly on the face of it. And I’m surprised that Gilles and his cohorts have the temerity to present such an idiotic idea here or anywhere else.



  • It just goes to demonstrate that even the religious fervor of the rationally obsessed requires imagination as much so as the died in the wool believer of any old tale. In Gilles case, it takes a prosaic turn to come up with that old warhorse of Venus, that is the equivalent of the bendable metal of Roswell.
    Gilles was not there when it happened and such a weak almost threadbare blanket to be used to cover uncertainty is a sign of a obsessive sort of pathological mindset that must explain every exception to order in a way that is as loony as most conspiracy theories.
    If this is his conclusive argument then I must say I thought he could come up with an explanation that cast less doubt on his own common sense. An airship for Venus?
    Yes, an optometrist inserted into the 19th Century could have saved Gilles from his own misplaced positivism. I think not.
    Any single bullet theory to explain all sightings of these airships requires a more sophisticated approach and the planet Venus is a joke Gilles has played on himself, that reminds me of a bad tire patch. Looks good without further examination to the most gullible of skeptics.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • And the curious is that all these psychological problems (SocioPsychoCultural)have disappeared at present ... nobody has close encounters with UFO, when there is more information on the internet, film and television...


    By Blogger jacarav@ca, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • Hello,

    It is a pity there is nothing to seriously counter-argument of this "rebuttal" -sic-: full of strawman and misrepresentations of the initial article, ad hominem attacks.

    In other words, thank you for this good example to create the illusion of having refuted my article and "my" hypothesis/approach/position/proposition regarding the 1896/97 Airships wave, and replacing it with a superficially similar one (psychological maladies, hallucinating and so many other things totaly absent the original article), without ever having in reality refuted my original position and elements, evidences proposed/presented.

    Bruce have already precursed what the use of your "straw man rethoric" predicts: "the false victory is often loudly or conspicuously celebrated". ;)

    Best regards,


    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • Gilles,

    You really have to quit writing that I'm engaging in "ad hominem" attacks.

    You don't seem to know, with all your education, what "ad hominem" means.

    I'm not attacking you personally but your ideas.

    Please use ad hominem correctly.

    There are no strawman arguments in my evaluation.

    I've taken on your presentation in itself.

    You seem not to understand debate or counter-intuitive remarks.

    I find that surprising, with you academic credentials.

    Take apart, critically, any part of what I've written or said, in error, about your presentation.

    Don't make sweeping generalizations that are off the mark and errant.

    It's beneath intellectual contempt.

    If you can prove that the observers of the California Airships mistook Venus for those Airships, do so.

    Venus seems not to be the culprit as Larry and Dominick show.

    Lance may help you.

    But, again, I implore you to quit using "ad hominem" incorrectly.

    It's a cowardly way to try and diffuse an argument without addressing the points being cited.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • Personally, I see no practical basis for a counter-argument as it would be as productive as one refuting the extraterrestrial hypothesis behind Roswell to some other unnamed individuals. Again, this is simply revisionism based on a un-testable hypothesis based on a archivists interpretation, A versus B, or C since there are no flying airships presently floating around.
    One sidelight to this moribund topic is that the Chicago Historical Society has in it's archives, a representation of said or similar airship wafting through the skies that was based on a photograph that has yet to be found in said library. as I recall this example of early photography as it was represented in an etching drawn from the same image, anyone with a modicum of common sense would be hard pressed to consider that if these representations abutted by witness testimony have an resemblance to what was seen, Venus is a laughable proposition. Despite arguments to either side, neither side in provable regarding misconceptions versus actuality which makes this subject an idle exercise not worth serious argumentation toward. Whats the point when none can be reached other than by circumstantial evidence?

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • An UFO or Flying Saucer for Venus?
    It have never happened...
    Nobody have misinterpret Venus for a craft, alien or not. That's debunkery to state it!

    José wrote: nobody has close encounters with UFO, when there is more information on the internet, film and television...

    RR3/RR4 or abduction in 80's (Kathie Davis), 90's (Kelly Cahill), 2000's (Francis Abductions, Clayton and Donna Lee) and so MORE are non-existant...

    Each day or each week/month, in UFO forums, medias, newspapers, there are none of such " close encounters".

    Seriously José... How "common" or already present it is in our days to read narratives about close encounters...

    Strange argument you offer (again).

    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • Yes, Rich.

    I think the problem is oversimplification.

    The factors that get combined and conflated are numerous. UFO supporters make the pretense that the data was collected and protected without any other influence.

    But this isn't how it happens.

    The main tale gets retold (often "improved"). It gets retold by the reporter of the tale. And the tale itself suggests to other witnesses a possible explanation for their own sightings, which they often remold to fit what they are hearing.

    The number of witnesses is nowhere near as important as the way the tale got distributed. If you want to pretend that witnesses are reliable, then please tell me where I might find the still living Elvis?


    By Blogger Lance, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • Lance:

    Witnesses are, generally, unreliable when it comes to facets or details of anything, but they do, generally get the essence, of what they observed, right: a bright light, a moving object that makes noise, a thing in the sky that is bigger than Venus could possibly be, even when in perigee, et cetera.

    I give Gilles' "solution" a possibility, but that's because I feel sorry for the lack of imagination in the explanation.

    It reminds me of Menzel, who was being duplicitous when he suggested Venus as the core of UFO sightings.

    Offering Venus as the thing Mantell saw was ludicrous on the face of it, and it turned out not to be so.

    That watchers of the 1890s Airships were duped by newspapers is possible, and they hallucinated the things with Venus being the stimulus is okay with me too.

    But Gilles insists that they were not hallucinating or neurologically disturbed, just normal people taking Venus for a large, ship cruising noisily overhead.

    Had Gilles proffered an hysteria (mass or individual) or cases of hallucinatory impulse -- his field of study -- I could accept that.

    But he chose, with his colleagues, to adopt the idea that the newspaper accounts (and maybe Jules Verne's Robur the Conquerer) were the key factors for persons seeing Venus as an Airship. That is what is loony.

    The fact that Venus has never been seen, historically, as a air vehicle but becomes one in 1896 because of a picture in the area newspapers, stretches credulity.

    Bruce Duensing see the lunacy of such an idea, Jose Caravaca also. And me...

    Gilles doesn't make his case.

    Larry and Dominick don't see Gilles exegesis as sensible but for other reasons.

    I find that what people think they saw is what they really saw, with mitigating circumstances and psychological/neurological caveats.

    Mass hysteria? Maybe. Hallucinations? Also, maybe.

    Ships flying above ahead of their time? Maybe also....but what were they?

    Not misperceived Venus surely.

    That's a dunce-view and lame skeptical explanation, but still a possibility -- a remote possibility but one within the realm of psychological misfitness or optical disease.

    Gilles would have been wise to take one of those as his anti-UFO whipping theme.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • The fact that Venus has never been seen, historically, as a air vehicle but becomes one in 1896 because of a picture in the area newspapers, stretches credulity.
    The credulity is probably yours, aka not taking into account what middle/late 19th century have imported as cultural/popular imagery and technology of "flying machines", including "flying boats" and then explaining/corroborating what such cultural imagery may generate "elaboration, transposition and transformation" concerning a conventional celestral stimulus (Venus, Mars, Moon) at this period (1896/97).

    But in your sad rebuttal -sic-, never you have adressed or invalidated this point. You didn't care.

    BTW: they are misinterpretations for air vehicles before 1896/97 in Europe. For a next time ;)

    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • We all await your explanations for other UFO, Airship, and flying saucer sightings, Gilles...

    They provoke debate, which is what we're looking for here.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • Rich,

    My earlier message was terribly written (as will be this one, I'm afraid) but my point is that it isn't JUST Venus.

    Venus is presented as a possible starting point. What happens from that starting point is complex but sometimes it ends up in stories like these. After all of the filters I mentioned earlier are applied, Venus (or whatever stimulus) is pretty inconsequential.

    People don't see Elvis (anymore). But people believe they see Elvis.


    By Blogger Lance, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • Yes, Lance, I understand....

    The stimulus provokes an extrapolation, one that becomes mythical almost.

    This is the germ of the Roswell incident as you see it I think; balloons and a imaginative press release creating the impetus for a later (1978) provocation (Friedman) that brought on the Roswell tale (or mythos) we are now stuck with.

    The newspaper accounts of 1896, in conjunction with Venus or a mind-set brought about the subsequent Airship wave (or craze perhaps).

    But I contend, with my supporting anecdote about artist Hoertz, that something more ornate than Venus was seen, and not just by those inclined to be hysterical.

    What that was remains unknown but I'm not going to jump on the mundane or prosaic bandwagon, as my experiences (seeing UFOs, as noted in a comment here the other day) allow me to think that something truly odd and out of the ordinary shows up, in the skies or on the ground occasionally, and observed by normal people using Cartesian reasoning to explain or, rather, describe the thing seen.

    Gilles' foray into the Airship wave was academically cavalier for my taste.

    I know you support his skeptical stance, even when it is lame or silly, as his Airship scenario was, but be careful.

    You have skeptical cachet and Gilles doesn't, in some quarters here in the States.

    That's why I put his pieces online here, so he can get a foothold as a competent skeptic.

    But his Venus enthusiasm this time around makes the job harder.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, November 05, 2013  

  • Hello,
    Two other "silly" and "idiotic" -sic- articles concerning the SocioPsychological & Cultural approach of the UFO Phenomenom.

    The Rising and the Limits of a Doubt by my friend Jacques Scornaux http://archive.is/4QKwO
    UFOs: The Psychocultural Hypothesis by Neuroscientist Steven Novella

    Best Regards,


    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Wednesday, November 06, 2013  

  • PS:
    There is this other ones too (many typos sorry).

    Questioning the ‘Real’ Phenomenon by
    Claude Mauge


    Of course, as I wrote here or there already, these texts (at least two of them) are from the 80's. I wanted to share them because in English. I mean the "SPH" approach is more elaborated today, even if it is again perfectible ;)

    That's all... for the moment.



    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Wednesday, November 06, 2013  

  • Going back into my pre-retirement mode as a former project engineer and examining the aspects of the airship flap as if it were a actual aeronautical craft, that scenario is fraught with issues that are nearly impossible to overcome.
    In that era, as a matter of prototyping a craft, this would require flight testing and due to the nature of this craft, I cannot imagine this regimen escaping notice.
    The predominate fuel then was coal and just the enormous volume of water required for reciprocating steam alone, let alone coal would mean A. The weight of fuel and a cast iron boiler would have been a huge if not impossible hurdle. B.Due to A, if this lifting body used a very small engine, the weight of the fuel would make it a short range vehicle requiring a lot of designated fueling locations. C. The maneuverability of this craft would be extremely difficult if not impossible.
    That being said, there is one bizarre aspect to this affair and that is the nasty habit of these visions being just one step ahead of what was technically possible, almost to the point that this being simply a coincidence is difficult to swallow.
    Moving forward in time to the 50's and 60's, this bizarre trait was moved forward with the nature of radar returns, etc. Stealth technology and the nullification of radar returns is now common. The splitting of one target into several is now a prosaic technique.The airship concept followed into reality , just as the impossibly guided rockets or foo fighters of WW2 are now can be seen in drones or Cruise missles. Physical invisibility to appear and disappear from sight is now accomplished through the development of invisibility "cloaks" being developed for ground forces..which could eventually be adapted to aircraft.
    At times I wonder if we have the same uncanny parallel to the works of Jules Verne, technology being seen or described before it is perfected.Certainly, the Texas account was copied nearly whole cloth from an English account to make a name for this town in the middle of nowhere..
    Now we have for lack of a better descriptor, directed energy plasma with the advent of directed energy weapons aka star wars etc. From airships to rockets, to flying disks like B2 flying wings, to guided rockets, to directed energy not requiring a pilot, we have a sort of Jules Verne creating futurism made manifest in advance of their material perfection by observation..What compounds this observational weirdness is the nature of the witnesses accounts in relation to their knowledge of technological advances, on the horizon which was nil. So, is all this accountable to the planet Venus? I think a compounding issue was identified by George Hanson in the parallel path of tricksterism that always follows actual anomalies like a virus.There is a cycling in these evolving models of advanced avionics appearing prior to their perfection that is certainly strange..The issue with an either / or thinking in all this is simply reductionist at worst.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Wednesday, November 06, 2013  

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