UFO Conjecture(s)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The 1948 Chiles-Whitted sighting per Kevin Randle

Our friend Kevin Randle has a posting at his blog [KevinRandle.blogspot.com] which is a follow-up to his attempt to clarify skepticism and pseudo-skepticism.

The current posting is about the July 1948 Chiles-Whitted encounter/sighting of a rocket-like object or cigar shaped UFO.

Mr. Randle has come to the conclusion that the pilots, Chiles and Whitted, mistook a meteor for a craft, Mr. Randle relying on the misperception of the March 3,1968 re-entry of the Russian spacecraft Zond IV.

It seems some witnesses of that re-entry saw the glowing shower of pieces as a cigar-shaped craft with windows, much as Chile and Whitted described the “thing” they saw.

Mr. Randle further finds the afterward statements of buffeting that Chiles and Whitted reported as an addendum that has no validity.

(However that may be, psychologists and cops know that witnesses often provide additional material after an event, subsumed by the major event, and forgetting or dismissing other details they think are unimportant in the first rendition of what they observed or experienced, but coming to realize perhaps, that their remembered detail might be important after all.)

Mr. Randle’s acceptance of the bolide explanation is not irrational; actually it makes sense.

But I’m of the persuasion, again, that people report, rather accurately, what they see or experience, even as they often mess up minor details; the major observation or experience is pretty much accurate, unless we’re dealing with neurological or psychological malfeasance.

Chiles and Whitted were experienced pilots, often seeing meteors and perhaps some bolides.

And seeing something while flying an airplane offers a clearer view than what one sees from the ground, as was the case with the Zond IV sightings.

I’m leaning, and always have, that pilots Chiles and Whitted reported what they saw accurately and rather precisely.

To dismiss it as a misperceived observation of a meteor seems to me to be intellectually wanting.



  • I think it was Menzel (perish the thought) who pointed out that several amateur astronomers had seen the same object(s) that night in that general vicinity, and they were satisfied it was a bright meteor. However, you may still be correct that the pilots DID see and report the object accurately. On balance I would go for the bolide answer on the grounds that they are a rarity, even to pilots (as opposed to a simple meteor).

    The Condon Report gives, to me, a pretty persuasive answer on this case. There was a much earlier case from Canada, in Feb 1913, also with the so-called 'airship effect'.

    By Blogger cda, at Friday, January 22, 2016  

  • I think Menzel made things up, CDA......"several amateur [!] astronomers..."?

    Yes, Chiles and Whitted may have mistaken a bolide or meteor for a cigar-shaped thing, but that seems so unlikely. I could see one pilot misperceiving and maybe (as Tim Hebert might allow), the other coming to see it the same way, in a folie à deux.

    But it's easier, for me, to see the pilots reporting what they saw, rather accurately.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, January 22, 2016  

  • Menzel was serious over this. There were, and are, many more amateur observers of the sky than professionals. In fact nowadays I wonder whether professionals bother to look at the sky at all. It is all computers and endless screen viewing now.

    I believe Dr. Hynek also swayed from one side to the other over the Chiles-Whitted affair. I don't think he ever came clear and clean over it. A case of various 'could be' ideas, which doesn't help much.

    By Blogger cda, at Friday, January 22, 2016  

  • I always liked the case as the two pilots struck me as eminent witnesses, CDA, like Lonnie Zamora (in the 1964 Socorro event).

    I have no idea what Chiles and Whitted saw but I think, as you note, that they reported, honestly and accurately, what they saw or thought they saw.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, January 22, 2016  

  • Rich -



    There are other cases in which the witnesses obviously saw a bolide and reported the crashing of an object... airliner... UFO...

    Look at the compilation of meteor videos on YouTube to see the effect.

    Sure, Chiles and Whitted reported honestly what they thought they had seen, but look at the drawings which generally match, but not very close.

    Hynek, I believe, at first thought they had seen a meteor but the case was eventually labeled as unidentified. There are questions in the Blue Book file as to why the meteor explanation was rejected.

    Say what you will, but there was nothing churlish in what I wrote.

    By Blogger KRandle, at Friday, January 22, 2016  

  • I was having some with your take on the case Kevin.

    It's an interesting account, whether a misperceived sighting of a bolide/meteor or a spotting of a strange aircraft.

    You, as a helicopter pilot know that when you're aloft your senses are particularly keen and your awareness of what's going on acute.

    Chiles and Whitted would have been in that state I think and raptly aware of a strange artifact flying near them.

    Comparing their account to those who mistook the Zond re-entry is "churlish" which wasn't meant pejoratively.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, January 22, 2016  

  • Rich -


    "'churlish' which wasn't meant pejoratively."

    Churlish = mean spirited
    Churlish = impolite
    churlish = lack of civility
    churlish = rude
    churlish = ill-natured

    How can it not be pejorative?

    My analysis has dealt with the facts of the case, based on the statements provided by the pilots in the hours after the sighting and on the psychology of perception. It is based on other reports in which a body falling through the atmosphere as it is breaking up gives the impression of a cigar-shaped craft.

    It seems to be a reasonable explanation to me... but it is not churlish.

    By Blogger KRandle, at Saturday, January 23, 2016  

  • Kevin:

    Note the adjective preceding "churlish."

    I meant it to indicate a rude intellectual consideration, not that you were rude, mean or anything pejorative.

    I thought your observation and thinking was rude, in a metaphorical sense.

    I assumed you'd see it that way.
    Geez, am I going to have dumb down my inclination to be academic?

    Again, your comparing Chiles and Whitted's observation to people (not pilots) on he ground mistaking Zond's re-entry for a space craft with windows was a stretch, and as a pilot I thought you'd get what I was driving at.

    Churlish in the Oxford Dictionary, which I use religiously, means grudging. I don't know what dictionaries you're using but try to keep up with me here.

    If I lose you as an intelligent reader of my postings, I might as well give up the ghost of blogging/


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, January 23, 2016  

  • Oh, and Kevin....

    I've taken out the word "churlish" and put it "wanting" to accommodate you.

    I hope this assuages your distress.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, January 23, 2016  

  • Rich -

    I would never desert you...

    However, might I suggest you look at a longer post I did that suggested meteor falls for some of the other UFO cases which also include photographs of meteors as they break up in the atmosphere. You can look at them here:


    Oh, and I understand now what you meant... Sorry to have raised the issue.

    By Blogger KRandle, at Saturday, January 23, 2016  

  • Kevin....

    We shall always remain friends, as you tolerate my nonsense and I respect your long-leavened UFO research and writing.

    I noted that your view about Chiles and Whitted wasn't without merit, but was disturbed by your seemingly cavalier dismissal of their testimony.

    Yes, meteors are often seen, by the rabble, as something other than what they are. But, like Zamora, one of ufology's best witnesses, Chiles and Whitted seem exemplary to me as witnesses of something odd. That's all.

    To group them with the Zond witnesses and other meteor observers (who see the falling debris as space craft) caused me alarm.

    I hope you aren't letting those vibrant skeptics who traverse your blog get to you.

    They wouldn't accept a UFO as a UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) if one stood still in the sky and performed acrobatics of an intelligent-like kind.

    Chiles and Whitted saw something extraordinarily strange. If it was a bolide/meteor it was almost unique. If it was a space craft from somewhere (even the depths of Boeing), they got a good glimpse.

    Either way, I think their observation is special.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, January 23, 2016  

  • RR:

    As a boost to your case you can point out that it was included in the Battelle Institute study as one of their 12 'best unknown' cases. See Project Blue Book Special Report 14. This was written in 1953 and finally made public in 1955. But bear in mind that Battelle never investigated one single case of all those they studied. Every one was based purely on the info in the USAF files at that point. Their team evidently decided it was one of the best. However, later researchers/writers decided otherwise.

    By Blogger cda, at Saturday, January 23, 2016  

  • Thank you Christopher...

    Battelle was in on a lot of things, and had access to stuff that hasn't been made public even now.

    I like the case as it is anchored by two respectable pilots and supports my inclination to like cigar-craft (which has been cemented by the allegedly phony photos of same by Adamski, that have never been duplicated or explained as to how he made them).


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Saturday, January 23, 2016  

  • I pointed out to Mr. Randle that according to testimony in the early 1970s film, "UFOs - It Has Begun," the passenger *did* see the same object that the pilots testified as having seen. From the response I posted: "In the section of the film covering the Chiles/Whitted sighting, the passenger clearly states he saw a cylindrical object with windows and a cherry-red flame coming out the back. I'm quoting almost verbatim."

    I also suggested, however, that if the passenger later changed his story to match the sighting of the pilots--and if the pilots themselves had added details to their sighting over time--then that, to me, is a suggestion of confabulation the part of the witnesses. The logic runs thus: if a witness sees something which he/she perceives to be very unusual and even shocking in nature, something which is both disturbing and exciting, and upon reporting such a sighting, the witness or witnesses are confronted with skepticism, is it not very much human nature to inflate the significance of the sighting, and add to details to it, in order to make it harder for skeptical criticism to attack? I think so. I think a witness becomes enamored of an unusual experience, particular if it brings a degree of attention and notoriety to him/her. By the same token, if the notoriety is unwanted, it can still be defended on the basis of not wanting to appear a fool when the sighting itself is questioned. In other words, here we have two professional pilots who report a very unusual object, and in so doing they come under attention and scrutiny, something which is not always a positive for men of their profession and position. Their sighting is questioned and skeptically "explained," however loosely. Not wishing to appear foolish or unprofessional in reacting so excitedly to a natural phenomenon, they may have begun to conflate and play up their sighting, to add details to the experience which would make it less likely for skeptics to be able to successfully attack it or explain it away. In a different tack, enjoying the notoriety and the feeling of having experienced something highly unusual and unique, both pilots and the "civilian" witness might have subconsciously (or even intentionally) altered their stories to match the most unusual of the three experiences (my recollection is that both pilots also initially reported seeing different things---Chiles, I think, saw the object proper, a cylinder with lighted windows and a flame at the back, while Whitted reporting seeing a rounder object and, I think, did not report the windows).

    I would be more comfortable with a witness report if it did not change materially in aspect from initial testimony to later description. To me it signals the strong possibility of confabulation, however unintentional it may have been.

    By Blogger Randall Hess, at Monday, January 25, 2016  

  • To Randall Hess:


    The ideal situation would be if the two pilots were in separate planes and reported more or less exactly the same thing in separate interviews. The 'passenger' (maybe on the ground) reported an identical sighting also. In other words, three independent witnesses.

    Alas, no such luck. Thus we are left with the inevitable contamination and confabulation possibility.

    But that is what we are stuck with - unfortunately.

    By Blogger cda, at Monday, January 25, 2016  

  • CDA, do you and Randall really think that the pilots confabulated, consciously.

    I don't know about the passenger but Chiles and Whitted were exemplary citizens and pilots, were they not?


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, January 25, 2016  

  • RRRGroup: No, I never meant to imply that I believe any of the witnesses fudged this story consciously (though, let's face it, exemplary citizens/pilots or not, people are people, and they do such things sometimes, for their own reasons). Not *overtly* consciously at any rate.

    Look, it's clear that all three witnesses (and I believe the pilot of a second plane) saw something unusual that night. And they knew it was unusual. However, it's also true (as I understand it) that their descriptions of *what* they saw did not match up. Never mind the pilot of the second plane--he was at a great distance away and I think only saw a strange light or something along those lines. But as for Chiles and Whitted, the pilots---I believe it was originally reported that Chiles described the object as cylindricaal, whereas Whitted saw something more spherical. (Someone please correct me if this is not the case). What the passenger originally claimed to have seen, I'm not sure--I only opened with the true statement that in "Ufos: It Has Begun" he claims to have seen exactly the same thing as Chiles--20+ years after the fact. And it's strange, to me, that these three men's descriptions should end up agreeing in nearly every detail years later, when initially they didn't match up well at all.

    I don't take that at all as evidence of a hoax. I think it's clear that these men saw something strange. But it seems likely to me that, not being sure (originally) of what they saw, all three of them may have eventually ended up subconsciously cleaving to the most "out there" description---which was Chiles'. And they may have done this as a defense, partly, against skepticism. Not by agreement, not by collusion. Just due to human nature.

    I don't discount the possibility that Chiles MAY have given the most accurate description---he may have actually seen some kind of strange, otherwordly craft. But the bolide explanation does raise doubts, and offers the basis for a misidentification by three entirely sincere witnesses.

    By Blogger Randall Hess, at Tuesday, January 26, 2016  

  • Randall....

    We are in agreement, pretty much.

    I think Chiles and Whitted were exemplary witnesses, and their observation should not be compared to persons on the ground who mistook the Zond re-entry for a spacecraft.

    The pilots saw something odd, but did not mistake a meteor/bolide, in my estimation......but that's only an opinion.

    It's an interesting case/sighting....no matter what.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, January 26, 2016  

  • RRRGroup:

    Very interesting case... but whether we'll ever actually know what they saw that night... well, sadly I doubt it.

    I think we would agree further on this; to wit: my problem with the bolide explanation is that Chiles, an experienced and presumably sober and professional individual, would see windows and other physical details in a fireball--however bright and unusually large it may have been. It bothers me that Whitted did not see the *same* thing (according to his initial testimony anyway) and that the passenger witness, McKelvie, certainly did not, despite his later claims. But this only supports the idea that knowing they'd seen something strange, they eventually ended up deferring to the "best" witness (Chiles) in a subconscious effort, perhaps, to support him as well as shore up the story overall. But this doesn't mean the story was at all false. WHAT Chiles actually saw... well... if it WAS a bolide... okay. One can only say, that must have been some meteor. On the other hand---nature is strange and sometimes delivers strange surprises to us.

    And I agree, there is little useful parallel to be drawn between the Zond re-entry sighting and this one. That's a reach.

    By Blogger Randall Hess, at Tuesday, January 26, 2016  

  • There is a similarity between Chiles-Whitted and another pilots' sighting, with the rocket-cylindrical shape and 'portholes'. This was over Florida on Aug 1, 1946. The report was sent to Donald Keyhoe by one of the pilots, Jack E.Puckett, some years afterwards. I do not know if it ever appeared in the newspapers, but obviously it was a year before the UFO era began, so I assume there was no official investigation of it. Naturally Keyhoe thought it made a good support for the Chiles and Whitted case.

    By Blogger cda, at Wednesday, January 27, 2016  

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