Who to believe: UFO sightings

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | 1:14 p.m. CST; updated 7:09 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In 1952, in an attempt to cope with the public outcry concerning hundreds of reports of UFOs, the U.S. Air Force organized “Project Blue Book” whose primary objective was to collect and analyze citizen reports of UFO sightings. The chief scientific consultant for that project was a well-respected Northwestern University astronomy professor, J. Allen Hynek.

When Hynek first began his UFO research, he was very doubtful that the purported UFO sightings were of any real significance. In fact, during a 1966 congressional hearing on UFOs, he indicated that “the whole subject seemed utterly ridiculous,” and he thought the sightings were a fad which would soon pass. However, after decades of analyzing hundreds of UFO reports from airline pilots, military personnel, police officers, public officials, psychologists, astronomers and other scientists, Hynek said his opinion started to shift. He believed something was going on and serious research was needed to understand what it was. In a 1985 interview with Dennis Stacy, when asked what caused his change of opinion, he responded: It ... “was the completely negative and unyielding attitude of the Air Force. They wouldn’t give UFOs the chance of existing even if they were flying up and down the street in broad daylight.” In the late 1970s, Hynek also told a group of students and faculty at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale that his team fudged the data on “Project Blue Book.” He said they could explain only 80 percent of the sightings, and the 20 percent that could not be explained were often omitted from reports, and then used by the team for more in-depth research.

Many other well-respected Americans have also commented on UFO-related matters. On the Web site, which quotes the book “Disclosure” compiled by Steven M. Greer, Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar Mitchell said: “Yes ... there have been crashed craft. There have been material and bodies recovered. There has been a certain amount of reverse engineering that has allowed some of these craft, or some components to be duplicated. ... It has been a subject of disinformation in order to deflect attention and create confusion so that the truth doesn’t come out.”

Former CIA Director Adm. R.H. Hillenkoetter, in a statement dated Feb. 28, 1960, and reported by The New York Times, said: “It is time for the truth to be brought out in open Congressional hearings. Behind the scenes, high-ranking Air Force officers are soberly concerned about UFOs. But through official secrecy and ridicule, citizens are led to believe the unknown flying objects are nonsense. To hide the facts, the Air Force has silenced its personnel.”

Also on the Web site is a statement by former U.S. National Security Council staff member Col. Philip J. Corso concerning his viewing of a dead extraterrestrial being at Fort Riley, Kan., on July 6, 1947: “First, I thought it was a child because it was small. Then I looked at its head and all. The head was different. The arms were thin. The body was gray. So right at that moment I figured I don’t know what this thing is ...”

In his book “The Day After Roswell” Corso writes, “What I found was an intriguing Army intelligence document describing the creature as an inhabitant of a craft that had crashed-landed in Roswell, New Mexico, earlier that week and a routing manifest for this creature to the log-in officer at the Air Materiel Command at Wright Field and from him to the Walter Reed Army Hospital morgue’s pathology section ....”

Skeptics by the hundreds often dismiss statements such as those of the above cited government officials and military officers as either hallucinations, erroneous perceptions, or out-and-out lies. One skeptic, the highly respected astronomer Dr. Carl Sagan, when invited to participate in a 1995 Washington D.C.-based UFO conference called “When Cosmic Cultures Meet,” said: “Thank you for your interesting invitation. As we have, in my view, no even moderately suggestive evidence that humans are encountering or have ever encountered a non-primate technical civilization, it seems premature to plan a conference on the subject. As far as extraterrestrial civilization on planets of other stars are concerned, I think there is a quite compelling argument that any contact we make will be with a civilization immensely more advanced than we are, in which case this conference you propose would be tantamount to ants planning a meeting on what to do if they ever encountered humans.”

Given the conflicting observations of such respected Americans, what are we to believe? Clearly, additional research is needed.

For a listing of 863 past UFO sightings In Missouri, go here and click ndxzLocOut.

Bill Wickersham of Columbia is adjunct professor of Peace Studies at MU, and a member of Veterans for Peace.

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Elaine Teichgraber February 27, 2008 | 7:11 p.m.

Hi, I'm from British Columbia, Canada, and would like to participate in your discussion. Up until almost two months ago, I was a skeptic regarding UFO's. In fact, I really didn't know much about them, except that the subject was always made fun of whenever it was mentioned. All that changed when I watched Larry King's TV show regarding the Stephenville, Texas, UFO sightings. I was surprised that Larry wasn't making light of the topic. As I listened to the witnesses of those sightings and the Phoenix Lights sightings (March 13, 1997), I became intrigued. I went to the computer. Well, since that night, I've spent every spare moment researching, printing, going to government archives, watching videos, listening to press conferences, scanning photos, etc. I urge anyone who doesn't know much about the subject to start checking it out. I guarantee, you will have more questions than answers. I am currently reading the book mentioned in your article, Philip Corso's, "The Day After Roswell". I'd also like to point out that a former Canadian Minister of National Defense, the Hon. Paul Hellyer, has publicly said in regards to evidence of UFO's the "greatest and most successful cover up in the history of the world". He spoke at an Exopolitics symposium on September 25, 2005. The implications are awe-inspiring, but as a human being, I want the truth to be declared, the cover-up to stop. I believe we can learn so much. It's an exciting time in which there is hope for future of our world. I urge the average person to steal a few minutes in their busy day to check out just one tidbit of credible information, I guarantee you will be amazed.

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Andrew Sweeney February 28, 2008 | 3:31 p.m.

Bill Wickersham has misquoted Edgar Mitchell.

In an interview available on YouTube (, Dr Mitchell does say the first two sentences that Bill has quoted, but not the rest. Crucially, Dr Mitchell begins his comment by raising his eyebrows and saying, "Well, if the accounts are to be believed...", which Bill has left out, and which changes the sense of the quote radically. Evidently, Bill got his information secondhand and didn't check it.

As for Philip Corso, other researchers have demonstrated that his claims were contradictory, confused, and lacking factual detail. Bill leaves out these other perspectives.

Bill seems to be repeating what he's read in less-than-accurate sources. He doesn't seem to have checked his facts. I don't believe him for a second.

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