Two of Australia's biggest UFO mysteries are in the news this week with new revelations; the 1966 Westall UFO landing, witnessed by hundreds of students and school staff, and the 1978 disappearance of pilot Fred Valentich. Both incidents will also be discussed at the Victorian UFO Action's 'Age of Reason' conference in Melbourne on September 6th. I've got my ticket, but I'm two friends short of making up the Lone Gunmen, so if you're interested in UFOs and honest research, come along.
In 1966, over 200 students, teachers, and locals in suburban Melbourne watched a UFO hover above a paddock, land, and take off again at lightning speed. Many of the witnesses were soon visited by military personnel (some wearing American uniforms) requesting they remain silent, nothing to see here, move along. Almost 50 years later, local researcher Keith Basterfield has discovered documents that may suggest the UFO was part of a secret program to monitor radiation fallout from the Maralinga atomic test grounds. Yep, you guessed it, the UFO was a high-altitude weather balloon.
The documents detail the HIBAL program, a joint US-Australian initiative monitoring atmospheric radiation levels using high-altitude balloons between 1960 and 1969. They also detail a runaway balloon, flight 292. “What is strikingly missing is a memo reporting on the actual four launches for April 1966, one of which was scheduled for 5 April 1966, the day before Westall. So we have no knowledge of where flight 292 went.”
I think Keith has a very solid argument, but a few questions remain. The launch location, Mildura, is 540km northwest of Melbourne. This would require certain weather conditions which (to my local knowledge) would be unusual in April. Witnesses describe the UFO landing and then taking off again in a northwesterly direction -- the direction from which the balloon was originally launched.
Another researcher Shane Ryan has been investigating the Westall case for many years, interviewing scores of witnesses, and producing an excellent documentary about the incident. Shane, and many witnesses, aren't quite convinced by Keith's theory. For an interesting discussion, definitely have a read of Keith's blog and the relevant comments.
Prolific Australian UFO researcher Bill Chalker has also been following Keith's work, so definitely bookmark Bill's blog and keep up to date on developments and discussions.
You can also read the original documentation for yourself at Keith's blog.
Keith strikes me as a very open-minded, honest researcher. By his own admission, this explanation is a working hypothesis, with many anomalies still to be explained. But the documents paint an intriguing picture, and it's a theory worth considering no matter how much we want to believe.
To commemorate the 1966 Westall UFO sighting, there is now a UFO-ET themed playground at the site where hundreds of witnesses saw a UFO land and take off. I haven't had a chance to visit the park yet, but when I do the local kids will have to wait their turn while I pretend I'm Ethan Hawke in Explorers.
The above photo is of an unidentified object, taken off Cape Otway 20 minutes before pilot Fred Valentich disappeared during a UFO encounter. Now a Victorian UFO Action group researcher has uncovered new information, a possible sighting by a farmer in South Australia who observed a plane matching Valentich's stuck to the side of a UFO.
The Fred Valentich UFO case is exceptional for the recorded radio transmission between Valentich and air traffic control. Valentich, an experienced pilot, was flying over Bass Strait, south of Melbourne, when he encounted a UFO. Contacting air traffic control, he gave a running commentary of the encounter before he completely disappeared. Neither Valentich or his plane has ever been found.
NASA scientist and UFO researcher Richard F. Haines investigated the Valentich case with the Victorian UFO Society's Paul Norman. They published an exhaustive report, concluding Valentich most likely crashed into the ocean. The UFOs reported by Valentich, and observed and photographed by other witnesses, remain a genuine mystery.
We sure live in interesting times. Advances in the processing power of commercial computers, combined with faster Internet connections and freely available content provided by public institutions, have prompted the emergence of the armchair space researcher: Individuals who are willing to commit all their free time scouring through thousands of images released by Nasa, taken by the satellites surveying the distant surface of Mars, as well as our own pockmarked natural satellite, the Moon.
One such individual, who goes by the handle Jasenko on Youtube, found a rather puzzling anomaly by using Google Moon: Something that resembles a gigantic human silhouette, casting a shadow over the lunar terrain. The image was subsequently posted on a video clip, through the channel of a guy using the alias wowforreeel. As of today, the video has received more than a million views on Youtube.
wowoforreeel included the coordinates one can use in the Google Moon program to find the anomaly --27°34'26.35"N 19°36'4.75"W-- and sure enough, after you type them it will take you to the location of the 'anomaly.'
But the first thing one realizes is that even with the total lack of scale, the distance marked by Google Moon would indicate this 'Man on the Moon' is impossibly large --hence why The Examiner decided to call it a 'Colossus'.
But the search of weird anomalies on the grainy archived photos released by Nasa goes way earlier than Google Moon, though: Ever since George Leonard published the book Somebody Else Is on the Moon in 1976 --which used to be nearly impossible to acquire, but now luckily a new reprinted version is available on Amazon [US] [UK]-- the idea that artificial constructs which could be discarded remnants left behind by some advanced alien expedition (or maybe even by our own human ancestors, following the hypothesis of long lost civilizations that reached a technological level comparable or superior to ours) has captivated the imagination of many UFO enthusiasts.
Through the association of James Sylvan & Richard Hoagland, features known as 'the Shard', 'the Cube' and 'the Castle' were popularized on even a larger scale, just when the world wide web was starting to spread its tendrils across the Earth.
Unfortunately, Hoagland's more recent work has caused many to wonder whether all the 'anomalies' he keeps finding littering the surface of Mars, are actually the result of Pareidolia & the will to believe...
But another researcher who has been studying lunar phenomena for several decades is Don Ecker, former head of research for UFO magazine, which used to be run by him & his wife Vickie. Back in November of 1995, Don interviewed a man named Vito Sacchari on his long-running radio show UFOs Tonight, and who had a fascinating story to say: Sacchari was a petrochemical engineer, and back in 1979 his employers asked him to act as a chaperone for one of their business clients, a man working for an American firm conducting oil exploration in Venezuela, and take care of him while he was visiting them in Houston.
This man had read Leonard's book, and was very interested in finding out if there was any truth to it, so for the next 3 weeks he & Sacchari tried any trick they could come up with to try to gain access to the original Nasa lunar photos. According to Sacchari, their perseverance paid off, and what they ultimately found was, in every possible sense, out of this world:
Vito: The great majority of what we saw looked like excavation-type or construction activity. Coming from the petrochemical industry, we were familiar with building refineries. In the photos, there were pipelines, pipe fittings, what looked like construction equipment. I can’t say these were comparable to a bulldozer, but it was earth-moving, or moon-moving type of equipment. These things really were huge! The back of the photos had correlating data that would enable you to calculate the sizes of structures in the photos: height, sun angle and so forth. It was simple high school trigonometry to figure it out. But you can’t do that in your head! We didn’t have paper, pencils or calculators. We had to take Leonard’s word for the size of these things. We saw cracks in the lunar surface, like the Grand Canyon, with bridges spanning them, several miles apart. We saw large rectangular structures filling the insides of circular craters, that looked like they were under construction or very ancient. We saw pipelines running over crater rims.
Don Ecker: Were the craters named?
Vito: I believe so, but there were so many of them, and we couldn’t copy them down. I can’t remember from 16 years ago. Believe me, there was no way not to see these things. There were many of what Leonard called “X-drones” in these photos. It reminded us of a circular saw, shaped like an “X.”
You can listen to this amazing interview in its entirety, by clicking here.
So even though the 'lunar giant' image were to be explained away as a digital aberration or some other trivial explanation, that doesn't mean we should close ourselves to the possibility that sometime in the future, future lunar colonists could find an artifact of unknown origin buried under the powdery regolith, just as the Brookings report alerted to Nasa in 1960.
It also remains to be seen if the irruption of private interests in space exploration would allow us to have more cameras pointed at the Moon, along with drones & other forms of robotic telepresence. Maybe it will be Elon Musk --instead of Dr. Heywood Floyd-- the first man to put ever his gloved hands on the slick surface of an alien sentinel.
...Or maybe, just maaaybe, what we discover on the Moon will be far more fabulous than a boring black monolith.
- Biblioteca Pleyades: Somebody Else Is on the Moon
- Don Ecker: Long saga of lunar anomalies
- Don Ecker: The time to ask again … Is somebody else on the moon?
Following the suggestions of one of our members, I went back to Google Moon, rotated the image 90° to the right:
I then decided to rotate it another 90°, so now we have completely switched the image upside-down:
From this POV, the 'colossal shadow' looks more like a crack or rift on a side of the mound. The most likely explanation for the anomaly, IMO. Thanks to WriterSP for his input.
Ten years ago, the European Space Agency launched the Rosetta space probe on a ten-year mission to 'hunt' Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Over the last few days, Rosetta has finally closed in on its prey, and today ESA scientists put it into 'orbit' around the comet (not a natural gravitational orbit yet, but a triangular, thruster-assisted orbit). It will slowly edge closer over coming days and weeks, before eventually deploying the Philae* lander to drop on to the comet itself.
But as part of the celebrations today, the ESA released the amazing image above of the comet (click for higher resolution), taken a few days ago from a distance of around 300km (today Rosetta is only around 100km away). It's a gnarly looking beast, almost dumbbell shaped with many house-sized boulders visible on its surface (the entire comet is around 4km in diameter). Not to mention that shadowy bit on the end looks like it could easily house an exogorth...
With Rosetta in 'orbit', the ESA are now updating their website fairly regularly with new images as they are downloaded from the probe...keep an eye on the Rosetta blog and the Rosetta mission image gallery for updates, and what are sure to be jaw-dropping pictures of another world.
* Both Rosetta and Philae are named after the Rosetta Stone and its place of discovery
If you were to conduct a poll about who is the most important UFO researcher in the world, the name of Jacques Vallee would rightfully appear among the highest rankings in the list. His books remain as provocative & influential today as when they were fresh out of the printers, several decades ago; and his proposal to regard the phenomenon as a 'control system' instead of merely the occasional visits of interplanetary interlopers, helped catapult UFOlogy into a whole different level.
As we all know, Jacques is no longer an active figure in this wacky field polluted with self-promoters, hoaxers & unaware disinformants —which, frankly, speaks volumes about his sanity— so it was an incredibly pleasant surprise to find that our friends at Open Minds had posted a recent e-mail interview with Vallee, conducted by a group of French UFOlogists who were kind enough to translate it into English. In the lengthy Q&A monsieur Vallee offers plenty of valuable insights —along with caustic criticism!— not only about the nature of the phenomenon and the current state of the field in general, but also how the undeniable existence of UFOs should move us to question the very nature of Reality itself.
Below are some of my favorite portions of the interview:
Q5: Do governments (and especially the USA) hide information about Ufos on the public (according to you and your experience)?
There are two levels to that question: (1) governments (and not only the USA) keep some information they think most sensitive, especially reports which come from the military. It seems that since 1947 this policy has been viewed as legitimate, in the interest of populations and in the hope of discovering technological breakthroughs. (2) The most difficult question is to know if breakthroughs have actually taken place. To my mind, the phenomenon has probably resisted all analysis, classified or not. The issue of opening all the files is going to arise again but it’s not as simple to understand the Ufo phenomenon as to dismantle a MIG or to secretly copy the space shuttle.
Q6: What advice would you give to the ufology community?
I don’t think I have personal advice to give. It is obvious that we won’t make real progress in an environment of petty squabbling. It would be best to avoid accusations that discourage researchers from working together. The phenomenon is accessible at a local level, so the possibility of field study and fast exchange of data is wide open. That would be more useful than speculating on inaccessible, hypothetical secrets in the drawers of governments.
Q1: In your books, you propose the hypothesis that manifestations of the Ufo phenomenon could correlate with a learning program for humanity. This system could be the same type as psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner’s training process. Would you explain this hypothesis and show that the manifestations of the Ufo phenomenon follow a program?
This hypothesis comes from data processing compilations made during the 60s and 70s, which lead to a frequency curve of the phenomenon which looks like a learning program (a “schedule of reinforcement” according to Skinner), that is to say, a sequence of stimuli which is pseudo-periodical. According to Skinner, such a program leads to irreversible learning. It is also difficult to detect unless we study a long series of observations.
Let’s notice at the same time that military studies like the US Air Force Blue Book Project, or academic analyses like that of Professor Condon at the University of Colorado have always treated Ufo cases one by one, without any global perspective, which obviously hides such a program if it exists. The often-recycled statement in the declarations of governmental agencies that Ufos are not a threat, has never taken into account the structure of the global evolution of the phenomenon.
To prove or disprove that hypothesis, we should review recent data and update former cases in order to expand the study in a longer period. I have had the opportunity to talk it over with computer scientists from CNES. It is possible that many hypotheses would converge within such an analysis.
Q2: What is your opinion about current evolutions of quantum physics ? According to you, would we be close to discoveries which can help partly to explain some phenomena related to Ufos?
The question is legitimate, especially as reliable researches about psychic functioning are facing the same problem. From the non-locality principle, we must wonder whether thought is not transmitted immediately (rather than electromagnetic waves, as in Soviet researches from 1930 to 1940 or French and English scientists’ works in the beginning of the last century with the “mental radio” concept). If so, it might be theoretically possible to get into contact with other forms of consciousness, while beings capable of moving in space might influence us at a distance, or even make us perceive imaginary scenes.
However, to tell the truth, it seems to me that in their enthusiasm some researchers use quantum physics a little bit too much: since these mechanisms remain mysterious, they can be stretched to explain a lot of phenomena in an exaggerated way. I am more interested in new ideas on the physics of information, as I said earlier. If space and time are a side effect of our consciousness and a physical illusion, we should face the problem of phenomena related to Ufos in a more fundamental way.
Link: Interview with UFO researcher and author Jacques Vallée
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In 1960, a young astronomer by the name of Frank Drake pointed the Green Bank radio telescope at the stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani…and listened for the sounds of an alien civilization. Drake's little experiment marks the official beginning of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Since that time, SETI has continued to scan greater parts of the sky, listening over wider and wider bands of the radio spectrum, but the silence has been deafening. While many have taken this as a likely sign that the cosmos is largely empty, it may be more likely that SETI's search has been far too restricted in its scope, relying on just one particular 20th century technology that is already fading in use. As the psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna once dryly noted, "To search expectantly for a radio signal from an extraterrestrial source is probably as culture bound a presumption as to search the galaxy for a good Italian restaurant".
To broaden the search, other technologies of transmission have been suggested, such as lasers. But even those ideas seem limited to our cultural ideas of an 'advanced', artificial technology - but which seem likely to be considered as quaint just a century or two into our future. What if, however, aliens had already left a message for us, 'hidden in plain sight', since the dawn of history? What if we only had to look within ourselves?
A paper published last year in Icarus, the prestigious journal of planetary science, asked if it was possible that terrestrial life on Earth had been 'seeded' from beyond the Earth - and if so, does the building block of that life, DNA, contain any sort of message from our alien creators. Using mathematics, the authors of the paper - "The "Wow! signal" of the terrestrial genetic code" - looked for evidence of a statistically strong 'informational' signal in the genetic code, with surprising results:
Here we show that the terrestrial code displays a thorough precision-type orderliness matching the criteria to be considered an informational signal. Simple arrangements of the code reveal an ensemble of arithmetical and ideographical patterns of the same symbolic language. Accurate and systematic, these underlying patterns appear as a product of precision logic and nontrivial computing rather than of stochastic processes (the null hypothesis that they are due to chance coupled with presumable evolutionary pathways is rejected with P-value < 10–13).
The signal displays readily recognizable hallmarks of artificiality.
(For counter-comments against the claims of the paper, see this Pharyngula blog post).
Interestingly, this was not the first time that Icarus had featured a paper entertaining the idea of 'biological SETI'. In 1979 the journal - under editor Carl Sagan - published a paper titled "Is bacteriophage φX174 DNA a message from an extraterrestrial intelligence?", written by Japanese biochemists Hiromitsu Yokoo and Tairo Oshima. Given how crazy the idea sounded, Sagan asked a young protégé, David Grinspoon (now a prominent astrobiologist in his own right), to check out the paper to assess whether it was legitimate. Here's how Grinspoon describes the paper in
One of the long-running stories in ufology touches on UFOs allegedly seen by astronauts on the Apollo Moon missions, with one of those being Buzz Aldrin's supposed confession that he saw a UFO outside the Apollo 11 spacecraft on the way to the Moon. The legendary American astronaut participated in a Reddit AMA yesterday, and during that question and answer session clarified what the 'UFO' likely was:
On Apollo 11 in route to the Moon, I observed a light out the window that appeared to be moving alongside us. There were many explanations of what that could be, other than another spacecraft from another country or another world – it was either the rocket we had separated from, or the 4 panels that moved away when we extracted the lander from the rocket and we were nose to nose with the two spacecraft. So in the close vicinity, moving away, were 4 panels. And i feel absolutely convinced that we were looking at the sun reflected off of one of these panels. Which one? I don’t know. So technically, the definition could be “unidentified.”
We well understood exactly what that was. And when we returned, we debriefed and explained exactly what we had observed. And I felt that this had been distributed to the outside world, the outside audience, and apparently it wasn’t, and so many years later, I had the time in an interview to disclose these observations, on another country’s television network. And the UFO people in the United States were very very angry with me, that i had not given them the information. It was not an alien.
Link: Buzz Aldrin Reddit AMA
After the US Air Force used the conclusion of the Condon Report as an excuse to officially close down its involvement in the investigation of UFOs, Blue Book abandoned all concerned citizens wishing to file an official report of a sighting. That void was unevenly filled by civilian organizations like MUFON, and more recently with social channels like Youtube, which allows the almost instantaneous dissemination of audiovisual content purportedly showing anomalous objects in the sky. The convenience & ubiquitousness of the Internet has turned into a double-edge sword, though: Even if the photo or video doesn't appear to be a blatant hoax, if the poster doesn't bother to include pertaining information about the circumstances of the sighting --location, date, duration, etc-- barely nothing of true value can be learned from it.
But some countries still take UFOs seriously, and they have even established official agencies in charge of gathering & analyzing all reports of unidentified aerial phenomena occurring within their national territory. Such is the case of CEFAA (Commitee of Studies of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena), the Chilean agency subordinate to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC). It's mission statement according to their webpage, is to study such cases "through a serious, scientific and objective investigation, with the purpose of determining if the security of aerial operations has been compromised, thus contributing to aviation safety in Chile" [My translation].
The latest case CEFAA investigated --which has received a lot of attention from the Spanish-speaking media this week-- was a series of 2 photographs taken during the mid of April of 2013 at the Collahuasi mine in the north of Chile, located 4,300 meters above sea level. The images, taken by a digital Samsung camera model Kenox S860, show a silvery 'flattened disk' of approx. 5 to 10 meters in diameter at an altitude of around 600 meters, which was observed by several witnesses (35 technicians & mine workers) performing a series of aerial maneuvers --vertical & horizontal displacements, showing sometimes the disk as a lenticular object, other times as an ovoid-- for a span of 1 to 2 hours, denoting some sort of intelligent control or predetermined flight.
A meteorologist concluded the object could not have been a lenticular cloud, and after an expert analyzed the photographs using a series of filters, the official conclusion of the agency is that the object is a real UFO --which does NOT mean they're saying the disk is an interstellar alien ship; it simply means the object is not a conventional aeoronautical craft, nor a known meteorological event.
In her best-selling book UFOs: Generals, Pilots & Government Officials Go on the Record --the kind of book you need to keep a copy in your library, in order to shut the mouth of lazy debunkers claiming the phenomenon is not taken seriously by anyone other than woo woo peddlers-- Leslie Kean included the testimony of General Ricardo Bermúdez Sanhueza (ret), who was the director of CEFAA from 1998 to 2002. In it, Bermúdez stated that of all the cases analyzed by the agency, approximately 4% remained unexplained. He also went as far as to affirm that although there wasn't sufficient evidence to support the Extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) in his opinion the possibility should not be discarded beforehand "just because it may sound harebrained."
In this age of Photoshop & digital manipulation, photographic evidence is barely evidence of anything. Yet it is still comforting to know there are still researchers out there, committed to apply scientific rigor in the analysis of an image showing what very well may be a truly extraordinary phenomenon. Even more comforting, is knowing there are nations not willing to let the United States dictate them what is or isn't of significance to their national security; and if the USA wishes to retain their position as leaders of the world perhaps they should start by getting their head off the sand and acknowledge that, no matter how much they refuse to look up, the UFOs are not going anywhere.
They should also improve their performance at the World Cup, while they're at it --I mean, srsly guys.
Link: Ovni visto en Chile; científicos confirman autenticidad
Original CEFAA file: Informe Caso Collahuasi (Power Point)
UPDATE: Leslie Kean wrote about the Collahuasi photos for the Huffington Post. He also contacted Ret. General Bermúdez for comment, along with veteran UFO researcher Bruce Maccabee:
"This is clearly not a normal thing seen in the sky (bird, plane, cloud, etc.)," added Dr. Maccabee in an email. "That makes it either the real thing - UFO - or a hoax, and it doesn't appear to be a hoax, although the inability to question witnesses does reduce the credibility. Certainly this case is worthy of further study."
Cryptozoology legend Loren Coleman informed me today of the concerning news that well-known ufologist Stanton Friedman suffered a mild heart attack last Friday night. Thankfully, Stan survived the emergency and is making good progress. Here's the latest update from one of his close friends Kathleen Marden, with whom he has co-authored multiple books:
I spoke with Stan Friedman this morning and am very pleased to report that he is feeling strong and chipper. His heart enzymes have declined, so he has turned the corner. He wants me to make it clear that he will be transported to a larger hospital, only because his local facility doesn't have the equipment to do a dye test and an echo cardiogram. This will probably occur today or Wednesday, as July 1 is a national holiday in Canada.
"Well wishers can send cards to Stan at P.O. Box 958, Houlton, ME 04730. He appreciates everyone's thoughts and prayers.
Stan's medical issues will sadly stop him from attending this year's Roswell UFO Festival, but hopefully his good medical outcome will allow him to spend many more future years there. We send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to him.
A new low in UFO debunkery from The Economist, with the chart above suggesting that UFO sightings are simply a function of people drinking too much alcohol.
[T]he National UFO Reporting Centre, a non-profit, has catalogued almost 90,000 reported sightings of UFOs, mostly in America, since 1974. It turns out that aliens are considerate. They seldom disturb earthlings during working or sleeping hours. Rather, they tend to arrive in the evening, especially on Fridays, when folks are sitting on the front porch nursing their fourth beer, the better to appreciate flashing lights in the heavens (see chart). The state aliens like best is Washington—a finding that pre-dates the legalisation of pot there. Other popular destinations are also near the Canadian border, where the Northern lights are sometimes visible. UFOs tend to shun big cities, where there are lots of other lights, and daylight hours, when people might think they were just aeroplanes.
The numbers obviously have nothing to do with the fact that 'drinking hours' strangely coincide with the time of day that most people would notice something in the sky (night-time), but are not yet asleep. I totally expected that the highest number of sightings of things in the sky would be when people are asleep in their bedrooms... (/snark).
Last week's planned testing of NASA's flying saucer lookalike, the 'Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator' (LDSD, pictured above), has inspired a few news stories discussing the iconic nature of the alien saucer image (see for example the BBC's "The Lasting Allure of the Flying Saucer"). On Sunday The Atlantic joined in with "The Man Who Introduced the World to Flying Saucers", a look back at the seminal Kenneth Arnold sighting in 1947 and the idea that the flying saucer mythos has its origins in a misquote:
On June 25, Arnold ended up at the offices of the East Oregonian, a Pendleton newspaper. He told reporters about his sighting. He emphasized the “unidentified” as much as the “flying objects.” He described their movements, saying that they flew “like a saucer if you skip it across the water.”
...Arnold himself, however, would say that he was misquoted — or, at least, taken out of context. Some argue that the entire idea of a flying saucer was based on a reporter's misunderstanding of Arnold's "like a saucer" description as describing a saucer itself—making it "one of the most significant reporter misquotes in history." A 1970 study reviewing U.S. newspaper accounts of the Arnold UFO sighting concluded that the term had been introduced by an editor or headline writer, since the bodies of the early Arnold news stories didn't mention "flying saucers" or "flying discs."
...Was it a "historical misquote," or the second thoughts of reluctant source? (Just after the sighting, on June 27, Arnold would tell reporters that "I haven't had a moment of peace since I first told the story.") More than a half century later, it's even more difficult than it was back then to determine the lines between phantom and fact. The first draft of history can be a rough one.
What is clear, in retrospect, is that, starting on June 26, the flying saucer—as an idea, if not an object—was introduced to Americans. Newspapers began using the terms "flying saucer" and "flying disk" (occasionally: "flying disc") to describe the objects Arnold had seen. And the concept spread; once the idea had been planted in people’s minds, they, too, began seeing saucers.
Readers of our Fortean anthology series Darklore would know that this 'debunking' of the Arnold flying saucer story is itself a bit of a myth. In "Return of the Flying Saucers" (in Volume 5 of Darklore, also available as a free PDF download on the DL site), Martin Shough examines the history of the sighting in detail and comes to the conclusion that Arnold probably did see (or at least, thought he saw) something disk-shaped - though not perfectly circular - on that day:
Arnold himself used both “saucer like objects” and “saucer-like discs” as shape-similes in his own original Air Force report typed by his own hand on or about July 08 1947. Once again, just as important as the fact that Arnold uses these phrases is the conspicuous fact that he does not use these terms in the context of any motion simile.
The Oregon Journal, June 27, said that Arnold “clung stoutly to his story that he saw nine shiny crescent-shaped planes”, but these words are not in quotes from Arnold, they are the writer’s. Where Arnold is actually quoted in the same article he says, “They were
half-moon shaped, oval in front and convex on the rear. I was in a beautiful position to watch them...they looked like a big flat disk [emphases added].” This describes the sort of shape Arnold drew for the Army Air Force, a flat plate with a trimmed off or tapered rear edge, and the “half-moon” clearly plays the same role here as the
“half pie-pan” in the description used by Arnold elsewhere: “half a pie-pan with a convex triangle in the rear”. The shape in Arnold’s drawing suggests that he may have had in mind a gibbous moon, i.e. between half and full; howsoever the reporter has interpreted “half ” to mean “crescent” (in some people’s imaginations “moon” and “crescent” might be almost synonymous) and neglected the rest of the description.
Shough argues that the morphing of Arnold's memory of the objects into 'boomerang-shaped' may have had its origin in a meeting with military officials a month after his sighting:
On July 31 1947 Army CIC officers Brown and Davidson exposed Arnold to what they called a “flying wing” photographed by William Rhodes in Phoenix, intimating that it was “genuine”. Arnold’s reaction is consistent with a tendency to seek the endorsement of conservative military authorities.
It's certainly a story that can be interpreted in various ways, but Martin's essay in Darklore 5 I think is one of the most authoritative histories available.