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The Presidential UFO sighting topic keeps on keeping on, with the latest news being former President Jimmy Carter’s refutation of rumours about his UFO sighting. During an interview with ‘The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe’ (free podcast available), Carter said that he has never believed that his sighting was of an extraterrestrial craft (because he believes interstellar distances are too far to travel), and he dismissed claims that former intelligence chief (and later President) George H.W. Bush had prevented him from looking into the UFO topic in more detail.

Excellent to hear these things from the “horse’s mouth” so to speak, giving us more concrete facts to work with. It’s worth noting though that this press release from ‘The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe’ is a bit misleading on some other points. For instance:

Former President Jimmy Carter, speaking candidly on a recent episode of “The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe,” flatly dismissed claims that in 1969 he witnessed an alien spacecraft. Though he did see a mysterious light in the sky, Carter described it as a UFO only because “it was unidentified, it was flying, and it was an object.”

“Only because”? I’d imagine that’s the best possible reason for describing something as a UFO? There is no debunking of his sighting in that fact…apart from the Straw Man of insinuating that ufologists claim he saw an alien spacecraft.

Dr. Steven Novella, president of the New England Skeptical Society (NESS) and host of the “The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe” said, “UFO stories like these are almost always the result of mundane astronomical events.” He went on to explain that Former President Carter may have witnessed the planet Venus under unusual atmospheric conditions.

If anyone listens to the interview, they’ll find that Novella actually brought this question up, to which Carter emphatically said “No, no, no…all of us were outdoorsmen, we were thoroughly familiar with Venus…it was not Venus.” (probably based on the fact that he said the UFO was the apparent size of the Moon, and that he thought it came to within 300 yards of him). Interestingly, the skeptics have more support on this fact from some senior ufologists, rather than Carter himself, such as Jerome Clark, author of The UFO Encyclopedia. So much for the alien spacecraft fraternity.

Also of note was that Carter surmised that the light may have been related to military testing at Fort Benning, which lies about 70 miles NNW of where the sighting occurred. Carter explicitly says in his 1973 report that there are no military installations in the area, so this must be a later observation, suggesting he has continued to consider other explanations.

Lastly, one thing you won’t find in the press release is that during the show, Carter mentions the strangest thing he has experienced is when the U.S. government used a psychic to find a downed aircraft in Africa – and the psychic found it. I can only imagine this is referring to the Stargate remote viewing program (at Carter’s time, going under the name ‘Grill Flame’). Remote viewer #1 Joe McMoneagle writes of this incident in his book The Stargate Chronicles (Amazon US and UK):

Given the square miles involved, and the difficulty of the terrain, it was difficult finding the aircraft even with the aid of overhead surveillance and photography. Search after search failed. It was brought to the Grill Flame project [an earlier name for the Stargate project] as a target.

This would be the perfect test. If no one else could find it, it would take some extraordinary means to locate the remains of the wreckage.

Mel, Ken, and I placed the aircraft in a specific area of Zaire, our three locations overlapping a thirteen-kilometre circle. A location given by one of the remote viewers at SRI [Stanford Research Institute] also put it within that circle. Search teams were sent into the area and the plane was located within a kilometre of the location given by the SRI remote viewer. All locations were within 8 kilometres of the crash site…

…This one case was publicly known to have reached at least a presidential level of interest. It also belies later CIA claims that remote viewing information was never used as standalone information, or used at national levels of intelligence importance.

Somehow I’ve made it from a 1969 UFO sighting to a remote viewing success a decade later, all in one post. Hope you’re still with me…