Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Paper UFOs

"[UFOs] were out of my reach of knowledge. I found the subject fascinating, as do a lot of people... That something is there, and that people see something, is unquestioned. I think, for me, it's best to leave it like that."
Did the CIA leave it like that?
"I assume not, no."
- Statements attributed to the late Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, former CIA Chief of Technical Services Staff, in 1997, as quoted by Hank Albarelli, Jr., A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments

In a recent blog post we explored a declassified NSA file containing a document that suggested a 1952 story of a crashed UFO was fabricated by the intelligence community. The saucer tale in question involved a disk supposedly recovered from the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen.

It might be noteworthy the story was apparently floated just five years after the Roswell Daily Record published an article about a retrieved flying saucer. The newspaper got the 1947 scoop compliments of a now infamous press release issued from the intelligence office of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force at Roswell Army Air Field. The press release didn't age well, to say the least, and exactly why that's the case continues to be the subject of intense study.

Guy Malone and Nick Redfern are among the many researchers who have taken deep dives into the topic, and suffice it to say their findings do not support extraterrestrial origins for the incident. Malone and Redfern recently made presentations at Roswell which will soon be available. Nick published his research in his new book, The Roswell UFO Conspiracy: Exposing a Shocking and Sinister Secret. I find their work on the topic interesting and worthy of consideration from several perspectives.

Further recommended is the work of James Carrion on the 1946-47 UFO scene. See Carrion's blog, Anachronism, where you may view relevant posts and download his book of the same name for free. 

Just two years after the Spitsbergen fiascothe CIA suggested to operatives in Guatemala via a 1954 telegram to consider fabricating a story about flying saucers as an option to distract public attention from Agency involvement in a coup. This was reported in a 2003 New York Times article somewhat amusingly titled, The C.I.A.'s Cover Has Been Blown? Just Make Up Something About U.F.O.'s. The original incidents notably took place during a time in history in which the Agency was up to its neck in the evolution of projects concerning behavior modification, or mind control. Operations such as Bluebird and Artichoke led to MKULTRA, formally run from 1953 to 1964.

During a recent discussion with Dr. Michael Heiser and his Peeranormal team, we considered several aspects of the UFO and intelligence communities. Among other items, we discussed how it stands to reason the IC would note the ways chains of events unfold, whether or not by design, and implement lessons learned at later dates as advantageous. 

Sidney Gottlieb and attorney, 1977
Declassified MKULTRA Subproject 84 documents, for example, describe a rigorous study of hypnosis which included long term investigation of trance phenomena. According to CIA personnel, this involved obtaining observational data compiled on attendees at Pentecostal churches. Such intelligence gathering should not be considered particularly out of the ordinary, and one could reasonably assume other communities of interest might receive similar scrutiny.

We may very well be witnessing the evolution of successfully engineered operations in the manners the UFO topic is exploited from one era to the next. Purposes and objectives would change from one instance to another, but a byproduct, if not an objective in some circumstances, should be clear: Researchers may become distracted from actuality while chasing entirely fabricated stories. Not only does this appear to apply with the general subject of UFOs and alleged aliens, but even in the more specific uses of memes of so-called crashed flying saucers, as may have arisen between the Roswell event of 1947 and the Spitsbergen story of 1952. In this post we will explore such circumstances. 

Please allow me to qualify and emphasize I am not suggesting there is necessarily nothing unusual of interest, or what we might term "paranormal," to be explored within the UFO subject. If there is, it's practically a different topic. I am suggesting the manners the overall subject has been manipulated and misrepresented by the IC, charlatans, and opportunists have deeply distorted public perception of the circumstances. I feel that needs to be more thoroughly understood than is currently the case. Incidents such as Roswell may very well have virtually nothing whatsoever to do with what any random member of the UFO community may have seen in the sky one distant yet memorable evening while traveling along a lonely highway. Unfortunately, incorrect information may be the primary influence in how people interpret those events.

Market Research? 
According to a Technical Report prepared by the Air Force’s flying saucer study, Project Grudge, in August 1949: "Upon eliminating several additional incidents due to vagueness and duplication, there remain 228 incidents, which are considered in this report. Thirty of these could not be explained, because there was found to be insufficient evidence on which to base a conclusion." Arguably, however, the most important and intriguing entry in the document appears in the Recommendations section. It’s one that many UFO researchers have not appreciated the significance of. It states: "That Psychological Warfare Division and other governmental agencies interested in psychological warfare be informed of the results of this study."
- Nick Redfern, The Aztec UFO and Psy-Ops

The 1948 Aztec, NM, alleged saucer crash has been thoroughly discredited by multiple researchers. Among them are Nick Redfern and Robert Sheaffer. The tale largely grew out of the statements of Silas Mason Newton, an individual, as Sheaffer reported, the FBI identified as a con man - and who was convicted of fraud.

Karl T. Pflock
Redfern is among those who cite the intriguing claims of the late Karl T. Pflock, a former CIA officer and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense turned UFO researcher. Pflock claimed to have obtained knowledge in 1998 that Air Force intelligence was monitoring Newton back in the day, paid him a visit, and with complete understanding his crashed saucer story was entirely false, encouraged him to keep telling it.

Mark Pilkington offers further info of interest in his book, Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare, and UFOs. The author described a 1950 lecture at the University of Denver in which 90 science students were initially asked to attend a presentation on flying saucers. News of the event spread and the hall was filled by the time an anonymous speaker explained flying saucers were not only real, but some had been obtained by the U.S. Air Force. This included mention of one purportedly retrieved from Aztec. 

"In what sounds more like a market research experiment than an academic lecture," Pilkington wrote, attendees were asked after the presentation whether they believed the unnamed speaker. A reported 60 percent responded affirmatively, and some were later questioned by Air Force intelligence officers. Follow-up questionnaires were administered, and the ratio of believers still reached 50 percent, far above the national average at the time. As Pilkington explained, the then-anonymous lecturer at the University of Denver turned out to be Silas Newton.

Nothing Up Their Sleeves
"What do you mean, Admiral, on page 6 of your testimony when you mention projects using magician's art? How do magicians get into the spook business?"
- Senator Richard S. Schweiker to Adm. Stansfield Turner, Director of Central Intelligence, 1977 Senate Hearing on MKULTRA     

As sincere and thorough explorations of the topic of UFOs bleed into human rights issues, so do comprehensive examinations of human rights abuses lead researchers into the UFO genre. This is very apparent in the work of Hank Albarelli, Jr., A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments.

Magician and CIA man John Mulholland
Albarelli wrote how in 1956 and again in 1957, CIA Technical Services Staff chief and MKULTRA point man Sidney Gottlieb asked magician John Mulholland to examine and render an opinion on UFO sightings (A Terrible Mistake, p265). Agency consultant Mulholland previously composed a 71-page CIA manual in 1953 titled, Some Operational Applications of the Art of Deception. He also wrote the Agency manual, Recognition Signals, according to the CIA. Gottlieb specifically asked Mulholland to discreetly investigate the now famous 1955 UFO incident occurring at the Sutton family farm near Kelly, KY, among other cases. 

"Unfortunately," Albarelli explained, "there are no known documents that reveal Mulholland's investigation, findings or any report by him on the Kentucky incident."

Albarelli continued that, when asked about the case, Gottlieb stated he could not remember ever hearing anything about it. Some readers will recall Gottlieb's selectively poor memory as demonstrated during Congressional hearings of the 1970's. Gottlieb repeatedly claimed he was unable to recall details and often basic aspects of various MKULTRA subprojects, including personnel and what even took place within some of the projects. 

In 1957 more reported UFO events apparently attracted CIA interest. Among them were the November 2-3 sightings of Levelland, TX. According to Albarelli, magician Mulholland visited the area in the weeks following the incident.

"Clearly there is far more research to be accomplished to understand the full extent of Mulholland's work for the CIA," Albarelli concluded, "as well as the CIA's venture into the paranormal realm."

All Aboard

Former CIA director and NICAP
board member Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter
The same year, 1957, the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) assembled a board of experienced CIA officers, or the CIA assembled a board of UFO enthusiasts, depending on how ya wanna look at it. According to the late researcher Richard Hall, the NICAP Board of Governors in 1957 consisted of 16 members and notably included Vice Adm. Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, USN (Ret.), a former director of the CIA; Maj. Dewey Fournet, Jr., USAFR, a "former Pentagon Monitor of Air Force UFO project"; and Col. Joseph Bryan III, USAF (Ret.), who was "later discovered to be a former naval officer and CIA employee, psychological warfare specialist."

Four years prior, a now publicly available report issued by the covertly CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel referenced a presentation given to the Panel by the above mentioned Maj. Dewey Fournet, Jr., destined to become a board member of NICAP. The Robertson Panel 1953 joint statements consisted of concerns about possible propaganda efforts conducted by hostile states, including Russia. It was particularly noted:
The Panel took cognizance of the existence of such groups as the "Civilian Flying Saucer Investigators" (Los Angeles) and the "Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (Wisconsin). It was believed that such organizations should be watched because of their potentially great influence on mass thinking if widespread sightings should occur. The apparent irresponsibility and the possible use of such groups for subversive purposes should be kept in mind.

As we transition back to 1957, please consider, as reported by Mark Pilkington in Mirage Men, a Dr. Olavo Fontes developed an interest in UFOs and joined the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization recommended to "be watched." Dr. Fontes indeed had a date with UFO destiny, and it revolved around events leading up to the case of Antonio Villas Boas. The work of such researchers as Pilkington and Redfern on the topic is definitely thought provocative and worth some time (see Redfern's Contactees and various blog contributions).

The Villas Boas incident occurred on a farm in Brazil the evening of October 16, 1957. As many readers are certainly aware, the farmer was plowing with a tractor when a dramatic story unfolded of a flying object, strange beings, and what he claimed to interpret as him having sex with a creature resembling a human female.

Antonio Villas Boas
If we are to give the late Villas Boas the benefit of the doubt and hypothetically accept his claims as sincere, at least as he recalled the events, a number of intriguing aspects of the story arguably suggest a more nefarious, earth-bound explanation than one from the heavens above. Those aspects include:

- Villas Boas and his brother reportedly witnessed an unusual light flying about the sky two nights prior to the now famous encounter.

- Villas Boas became physically ill for weeks following the event, reportedly including symptoms of nausea, eye irritation, and lesions.

- Unethical experimentation was conclusively conducted by the intelligence community during the era, and included testing the effects of both drugs and radiation on involuntary human research subjects.

- The young man reportedly found the battery wires unscrewed on his tractor after the encounter, seemingly lengthening the amount of time it would take him to reach others. 

And then there was the Rich Reynolds story. Pilkington, Redfern and others wrote about how UFO blogger Reynolds explained that Bosco Nedelcovic told him in 1978 that the Villas Boas event was perpetrated by the CIA. The now deceased Nedelcovic was apparently employed by the Agency in Latin America during the time in question. The CIA, according to statements attributed to Nedelcovic, staged UFO events all over the world, and he essentially claimed to be present with a psy ops team during the Villas Boas incident. 
The gist of the story involved an alleged psychological warfare operation consisting of a helicopter, a qualified crew, and powerful drugs administered via aerosol and/or airborne delivery systems. 

While we would be wise in exercising caution before fully accepting such stories without conclusive verification, the point is still valid that it's intriguing that Nedelcovic's apparent claim, as related by Reynolds, was ever made at all; such events as the Villas Boas incident tend to draw a host of people and statements that stir the pot. That's the case whether it's done intentionally by the intelligence community, individuals acting alone for what might be a variety of reasons, or other demographics - which brings us back to Olavo Fontes, a medical doctor. 

In what Pilkington referred to in Mirage Men as "Maury Island, Brazilian Style," Dr. Fontes read a newspaper column in September of 1957 about a fragment of material allegedly from a UFO. Strikingly similar to the Maury Island case of 1947, a witness claimed to have seen a "flying disc" while fishing and subsequently retrieved some associated metallic material from the water. Fontes seemed to find the circumstances fascinating, as he made arrangements to have the material tested at the National Department of Mineral Production in Brazil's Agricultural Ministry. Samples were also sent to the U.S. Air Force through the American Embassy. Nothing conclusively significant came of the tests. The samples were mostly magnesium, but the case reportedly brought significant public attention to Dr. Fontes and his investigation.

In early 1958 Fontes met Antonio Villas Boas. Just a matter of days afterward, in February of the same year, according to Pilkington, Fontes was visited by two Brazilian Naval Ministry intelligence officers. They reportedly claimed to want to discuss the samples of alleged flying saucer material. 

The intelligence officers proceeded to warn Fontes to stay out of matters that did not concern him, and went as far as to rather incredibly explain that the world's governments were aware of the extraterrestrial presence - and they wanted to keep a lid on it. Some of the information could not even be shared with the Brazilian president, they reportedly stated.

The retrieval of crashed saucers was apparently discussed, including the mention of one from Scandinavia. In his accompanying footnotes, Pilkington particularly considered the possibility the reference by the officers to a saucer retrieval from Scandinavia could have been related to the Spitsbergen misinformation story. I would agree that is a potentially interesting correlation, all circumstances considered. Was it a case of the Spitsbergen story being applicably implemented as an appropriate tool for the job at hand?

Regardless, Dr. Fontes indeed descended into the UFO community, gained some notoriety, mingled with government agencies, and was subsequently approached by intelligence officers who relayed supposedly classified information under the remarkable guise of keeping it quiet. Pilkington wrote:
Fontes was left puzzled but unbowed by the visit. He may even have asked the same questions that we should: why, if the UFO matter was so secret that even the president couldn’t be told, had so many of the Navy men's revelations already been printed in popular books and magazines? And why were they telling Fontes, who immediately shared the information with Coral and Jim Lorenzen, APRO’s directors, confirming similar rumours that they had heard form other sources? Was it because somebody wanted Fontes and APRO to believe these tales, and to share them, in the same way that Silas Newton had been encouraged to keep spreading his crashed saucer stories back in 1950?

A Terrible Mistake

Author Hank Albarelli, Jr. extensively explored the case of Frank Olson and Cold War unethical chemical experimentation conducted on human beings in his book, A Terrible Mistake. Olson, a bacteriologist and biological warfare scientist, worked in a chemical division of Camp Detrick, delving deeply into such experimentation. He died a controversial death in 1953, nine days after he was covertly dosed with LSD by Sidney Gottlieb.


Frank Olson
Albarelli became convinced Olson was murdered by the CIA. Reasons include Olson's possible involvement in the infamous 1951 Pont-Saint-Esprit incident. Albarelli quite interestingly documented Olson and other Camp Detrick scientists were in France at the time of the tragedy (A Terrible Mistake, p357), among other items of note. A summary of Albarelli's work may be read in his 2010 blog post, CIA: What Really Happened in the Quiet French Village of Pont-Saint-Esprit.  

A Terrible Mistake contains a substantial amount of intriguing information, and some of it is of potential significance to UFO researchers. The famous Pascagoula alleged encounter is referenced, among other UFO cases, and numerous formerly classified projects which may be relevant are addressed.

Albarelli reported in his 2009 book that over the course of a decade he was contacted by various people sharing theories that Frank Olson was killed due to his knowledge of UFOs and aliens. The government did not want the knowledge revealed, it was suggested to the writer. Albarelli explained at least one such story included particular mention of UFO crash sites.

"One person, who seemed quite knowledgeable about Camp Detrick," Albarelli wrote (A Terrible Mistake, p700), "claimed that 'definitive evidence proving alien contact with Earth' had been removed from UFO crash or landing sites by the government. This evidence was allegedly transported for study to Camp Detrick and other military installations. That several of the key CIA and Army participants in Olson's death were involved in the government's UFO research in the 1950's is certainly interesting."

Had he not become convinced Olson's death involved other reasons, Albarelli continued, "some of these theories may have been much more provocative." The dynamics become complicated and the stories may very well contain varying shades of truth and fiction. However, the fact remains Albarelli was questionably encouraged to aim his lines of research in the direction of likely nonexistent crashed saucers, as has apparently now befallen researchers for decades. The fact also remains, as Albarelli observed, select Agency personnel have indeed perpetually been active in projects consisting of - at best - unclear objectives while the individuals simultaneously maintain influence in the UFO community. The implications are both intriguing and concerning.

21st Century Paper UFOs

As suggested by Albarelli, promoting stories of crashed UFOs is by no means limited to distant yesteryear. That is the case whether or not the promoters are affiliated with the IC, and the dynamics remain relevant to both the UFO community and our culture at large from any number of perspectives.

In 2013 I published an article, Casselberry July 4 Case: Anatomy of a UFO Rumor. It explored an alleged 2004 crash in the Orlando suburb of Casselberry. The story received significant attention in the Central Florida UFO community. Everybody, it seemed, knew somebody - or knew somebody that knew somebody - who was a key witness to the event.

Closer scrutiny, however, revealed that not only was there no compelling reason to think anything of unusual origin fell to earth, but there was no evidence any airborne craft was involved at all. Quite the opposite, actually.

Image of Texas meteor misrepresented as Florida UFO
In the aftermath of the alleged event that 2004 summer, several dramatic reports were filed to UFO organizations, containing completely unsubstantiated claims of a crash site secured by government agencies. Residents were allegedly falling ill. One report went as far as including a photo, represented as an alien spacecraft crashing to earth in Casselberry, which proved to actually have been a shot taken in Texas of a meteor. The extent the story was cultivated was rather extraordinary in itself. 

Further complicating matters, I interacted with a number of Central Florida residents who I feel were completely sincere about their perceptions surrounding the event. Many locals indeed believe something extremely unusual took place, and some of them seem to believe other residents witnessed much more than they, but attempts to locate and interview such other residents were repeatedly unsuccessful. I was unable to find any individuals who claimed to have seen a flying object or observe activity allegedly taking place around a crash site, although reports containing such claims were easy to find on UFO websites. Notably, such reports consistently omitted a physical address or detailed description of an alleged crash site. Photos of the site and its alleged accompanying government agents were also noticeably absent. Nonetheless, the unsubstantiated claims seemed to significantly increase the certainty among UFO enthusiasts that their suspicions of an orchestrated cover-up were justified.

The story grew at least in part out of a jarring sound, possibly a rather enormous thunder clap following a flash of lightning. The approximately 25-second long rumble was captured on video by YouTube user chetty mo.

FOIA requests filed to multiple agencies offered no info to corroborate the beliefs of UFO enthusiasts or the sensational claims posted at UFO websites. The Casselberry Police Department provided a copy of a report filed the evening in question. It substantiates a loud noise occurred which set off alarms and prompted calls from concerned residents, but in no way validates a UFO crash story. 

The weather service, airports and similar sources revealed nothing of interest, and went as far as clarifying nothing out of the ordinary was detected by radar in the skies over Casselberry that night. There was simply no verifiable reason to suspect anything particularly extraordinary occurred, outside the manners the story influenced public perception and resulting beliefs. 

Two years after the Casselberry event, in 2006, the "Great Lakes Dive Company," or GLDC, joined the steeplechase. The GLDC created a stir in the UFO community when it claimed to have found a USAF F-89C Scorpion that disappeared in 1953 over Lake Superior while pursuing a UFO. GLDC doubled down, adding that a mystery object was resting a couple hundred feet or so from the aircraft at the bottom of the lake. James Carrion and Frank Warren were among researchers who went about investigating the remarkable claims. 

Carrion wrote how efforts to authenticate the existence of GLDC suggested its alleged spokesperson, Adam Jimenez, was less than forthright. Attempts to find public records on the company - or people who knew anything about it - also hit dead ends, as did efforts to validate alleged sonar images offered as evidence of the claims.

Continuing investigation revealed suspicious aspects of the GLDC website. Also revealed was an alleged Associated Press article posted at UFO UpDates List that was in all likelihood never composed by the AP at all. In the end, the nonexistent Great Lakes Dive Company receded back into a ufology void from whence it came, and "Adam Jimenez" ceased responding to emails or phone calls.

What I think all of this means to the average and sincere member of the UFO community is the extreme importance of forming beliefs wisely. The UFO topic has clearly been manipulated by a variety of demographics for a number of purposes from the 1940's forward. The opportunities continue to appear ripe for the picking, including use of the saucer crash meme. To fail to understand this is to fail to have a working knowledge of how lines of research and resulting UFO-related beliefs have often been built upon faulty premises in the first place. The antidote to ignorance is knowledge, and dedication to truth and accuracy must surely be on the path to unmasking mysteries of the universe, shedding light on exploitation perpetrated upon the UFO community, and more clearly understanding ways it all overlaps.   

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Crashed Saucer Misinformation

Spitsbergen
Time recently spent in Roswell gave me the opportunity to talk UFOs with some people quite knowledgeable on the topic. Among them was Nick Redfern. Aware of my interest in the overlapping of the UFO and intelligence communities, Nick shared his thoughts on several such cases. This included an alleged saucer crash supposedly occurring in 1952 on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. 

Nick blogged about the Spitsbergen case in 2012, explaining how it consisted of a few different tellings, depending on which intel agency or news publication one chose to consult. Basically, a story was passed around that a flying saucer (with no occupants) was retrieved from the island. As late as 1985 researchers were still trying to substantiate the story, which had grown to include comparisons to flying disks allegedly seen by military personnel around the Arctic. The origin of the alleged Spitsbergen saucer was suggested to be both Russian and outer space at different times, and the case was called both a hoax and a matter of utmost importance, depending on the agency and era. 

The part of the story Nick found most intriguing involves a file at the NSA. It's titled, Department of State AIRGRAM - Subject: Flying Saucers Are a Myth

The file contains a 1968 airgram message from the American embassy in Moscow to the U.S. Department of State. The purpose of the message is to provide the State Department with an English version of a then-recently published article debunking UFOs and authored by Villen Lyustiberg, Science Editor of the Novosti Press Agency.

Lyustiberg's piece contains a paragraph addressing the Spitsbergen case. The paragraph has been circled and identified as a "plant," presumably by someone employed at an American intelligence agency at some point in time.


Intriguing notation added to Russian article on UFOs and contained in NSA doc











 

Author David Clarke addressed the alleged Spitsbergen saucer in his nonfiction
book, How UFOs Conquered the World: The History of a Modern Myth. He described the above document as shared with him by Nick Redfern, and went on to explain the work of Bill Spaulding of the U.S. group Ground Saucer Watch.

Following intensive FOIA work, Spaulding apparently came to believe that crashed saucer lore was actually promoted and in some cases deliberately fabricated by the U.S. government. Clarke reported that Spaulding found no evidence the CIA had any knowledge of such crashed saucers, but the Agency indeed considered advantageous uses of spreading belief in UFOs for psychological warfare purposes. As Clarke wrote, "One [CIA] memo put it this way: 'A fair proportion of our population is mentally conditioned to the acceptance of the incredible. In this fact lies the potential for touching-off of mass hysteria and panic.'"

In 1990 Clarke obtained comment from Spaulding on such documents, to which Spaulding explained in part, "There are some good official UFO documents. But they do not show the existence of saucers as spaceships. Rather, they show a deliberate trail of misinformation about saucers, a ruse to cover-up high tech testing." 

We might give such circumstances deeper consideration when contemplating stories of alleged downed alien spacecraft. We might also consider the perspective promoted by Science Editor Lyustiberg, some 50 years ago, was to discourage belief in flying saucers among the Russian public. It does not go unnoticed by this writer that the author of the above referenced airgram pointed out to the State Department that Lyustiberg's position was in contradiction to other Russian publications; the embassy employee briefly summarized Russian stances on UFOs for the recipient at State before attaching Lyustiberg's article. 

It should be a forgone conclusion at this point that the UFO topic was exploited by the global intelligence community for a variety of purposes from one operation and era to the next. The consequences might indeed be significant and far-reaching.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Casselberry July 4 Case: Anatomy of a UFO Rumor

By
Jack Brewer
Originally published July 1, 2013

UFO that wasn't: Police dashcam image of meteor in Texas
was submitted to NUFORC as Florida UFO
Residents of greater Orlando were trying to celebrate in spite of the rain on July 4 in 2004. As dark fell, something unusual took place. Exactly what it was continues to be debated nine years later.

Some said it was a crash of a UFO in the suburb of Casselberry, and that NASA orchestrated a cover up. Others suspected it may have been some kind of unusual weather or atmospheric phenomena, possibly involving a meteor of some type. Yet others scoffed, suggesting it was nothing more than lightning and a strong clap of thunder.

I made an attempt to piece together what happened, or, at the least, to accurately separate verifiable information from unsubstantiated rumors. Following is what was discovered.

July 4, 2004

Casselberry residents and those of neighboring communities reported that as 9 p.m. approached on July 4, 2004, a very bright light momentarily filled the sky. The flash was followed by a shockingly loud and long rumble. Witnesses recently informed me that the event briefly lit the night as if it were day. Others claimed to have been knocked from their feet by the force of the impact.

Back in July of 2004, locals expressed suspicions that some type of meteor may have exploded or crashed that holiday evening. However, officials and police officers stated there was no particular reason to think that was the case. Fireworks were ruled out due to such factors as the large, several mile area effected by the occurrence, as well as a lack of corroborating circumstances such as reported explosions or fires.

Extraordinary reports began to surface. Stories quickly spread that witnesses saw some kind of object falling or crashing to earth. Others said they knew of a secured apparent crash site where onlookers were quickly ordered to leave. In more extreme cases, stories included claims that vehicles with NASA logos were seen racing about Casselberry, government personnel acted in threatening manners and residents became ill, all apparently having something to do with an alleged crashed UFO. A local radio station aired accounts that added to public concerns, and activities of station staff continue today to be cited as evidence among those who believe something otherworldly plummeted to earth that rainy summer night in 2004.

Facts

Archived weather observations were obtained in March from the National Weather Service. Readings conducted at surrounding airports on July 4, 2004, from 8-10 p.m. indicated thunderstorms with over an inch of rainfall.

I obtained a copy of a report on March 13 from what was the extremely cooperative and helpful Casselberry Police Department. A “suspicious incident report” filed July 4, 2004 at 9:37 p.m. by Officer Michael P. Mulderig stated:
“At approx 2050hrs a large flash was seen outside the front windows of the [police] station, then a large boom was heard and the bldg vibrated. Subsequently numerous calls from Summerset, Camelot, Sunset Oaks, Duck Pond and other areas came in saying there was a large boom and shaking of windows. Also, we rec'd several busn alarms at the same time as the other calls, possibly related due to the rattling of glass pains that would be caused by such a large concussion. Unk where it came from or if it was just an incredibly large thunder clap.”
Obviously, something happened, whatever it may have been. Reasonable questions would include how and why it was put in the context of a UFO crash, and by whom. Answers to such questions were found, at least in part, on UFO websites and discussion forums. 

UFO Websites

A report was submitted July 12, 2004, to the Mutual UFO Network by an individual who stated they lived in Casselberry. They described residents suffering from illness and suggested that fantastic accounts were aired on the radio. It was claimed in the report that NASA “quieted the town and the radio station involved.” The individual noted that although they did not witness the event, “it is on a thread at another site.”

A number of related reports were submitted during the same time frame to the National UFO Reporting Center, or NUFORC, directed by Peter Davenport. One report stated that NASA vehicles were “everywhere,” and that the FBI was present following what the witness described as an “explosion.” The witness also referenced what were apparently rather popular radio reports of such alleged goings ons.

Another report submitted to NUFORC explained that the witness and their companions “felt it when it hit the ground.” The witness added in the report, “All the kids in the neighborhood said they saw a fireball fall from the sky.”

Yet another NUFORC report suggested a “craft” had been downed. The report contained a link to a photo allegedly retrieved from a police dashboard cam, but the link no longer functions.

A thread on the UFO Casebook forum contained discussion of the Casselberry circumstances. In reply number four of the thread, moderator and researcher DrDil helpfully posted some NUFORC reports, including the one referencing a downed “craft.” At the time DrDil made the post, which was Jan. of 2009, he could apparently access the linked dashboard cam photo and seemed to have posted it.

The photo appeared to contain a meteor-like fireball, even though the individual who submitted the report seemed to suggest it was a craft going down in Casselberry. The work of DrDil to apparently post the report in its entirety, including the photo, would later prove key.

The same UFO Casebook thread contained posts suggesting the crash site was located in an area previously under construction and now known as Legacy Park. That correlated with other accounts suggesting the general vicinity of the alleged impact was near the intersection of Hwy. 17/92 and Dog Track Rd., as is Legacy Park, but descriptions of alleged crash sites varied from one report and website to the next. The online descriptions of alleged crash sites were typically quite noticeably absent of what should have been easy to include details of an exact location.

An individual using the screen name chetty mo posted a video, allegedly capturing the event to some extent, on YouTube. Chetty mo stated the video was taken in Casselberry during the time in question. Some found the video less than convincing of anything more than lightning, while chetty mo and some others expressed disagreement during a discussion on UFO Casebook.

Virtually across the board, witnesses rejected explanations related to lightning. They commonly offered accounts of bright light, jarring impacts and frightening rumbling sounds, very much as described by Officer Mulderig, but remained convinced they had not witnessed lightning – at least not as they had ever seen before. A very strange sky was also described by an individual.

Browsing online reports and Internet forums might have led one to suspect something – even if it was a meteor - fell from the sky that Fourth of July in Casselberry. One might have even felt justified in suspecting some were aware of the site of the impact or crash. A bit closer review, however, might have raised quite different suspicions.

Lack of Primary Witnesses

I was unable to directly locate a single witness claiming to have actually seen anything specific in the sky, such as a meteor, fireball or what might have been interpreted as, by definition, a UFO, that July night in 2004. Neither was a single witness located who claimed to have personally observed anything as reportedly took place at an alleged crash site during the days following the incident.

Locals were consulted, people who reside in the specific area in question were contacted and requests for contact with witnesses were posted online, but no one emerged claiming to be a direct witness of events as described in the extraordinary reports submitted to MUFON and NUFORC. Facebook and Peter Davenport's access to the NUFORC reports were additionally tapped in the search for alleged witnesses of significant circumstances, but to no avail. While it is not being claimed that all resources were completely exhausted, it was indeed deemed reasonably apparent that the alleged abundance of witnesses to extraordinary occurrences simply did not exist, at least not to the extents implied in the online reports and typically suggested by people choosing to believe a UFO crashed.

Many secondary witnesses, or people who observed the flash and aftermath, were easily locatable and claimed to know someone who was a primary witness, or know someone that knew a primary witness, but not a single attempt was successful to coordinate direct contact with any such individual. As a result, no photos, videos or even firsthand accounts were obtained from the time of July, 2004, of any alleged UFO, crash site, NASA vehicles, FBI agents dispersing crowds or similar such previously claimed situations or occurrences.

Mr. Davenport of NUFORC was very cooperative in corresponding about the Casselberry event and the reports submitted to his organization. His efforts were appreciated.

I requested comment on the Casselberry case from MUFON Executive Director David MacDonald, Director of Investigations Marie Malzahn, Florida State Director Morgan Beall and former Florida Chief Field Investigator Denise Stoner. Each were asked to comment on the status of any investigation conducted, any conclusion that may have been reached and any related information available for public release. Multiple requests were emailed to the MUFON personnel and no replies were received from any of the four.

Lack of Confirmation of Airborne Object

Freedom of Information Act requests were submitted to NASA, the Air Force, FBI and CIA. No documents were obtained concerning incidents occurring July 4, 2004, in the vicinity of Casselberry, Fla., or as described in the MUFON and NUFORC reports. No files of downed or retrieved aircraft, satellites or similar such objects were available for release, and no files were obtained concerning official personnel in the area during the 2004 Fourth of July holiday or following weeks.

An informal data inquiry was submitted in March to the Federal Aviation Administration. Information was requested that might be available concerning unusual airspace conditions and activity over Casselberry and the surrounding county from 8-10 p.m., July 4, 2004. Information was specifically requested as might relate to circumstances as described in a 2004 Orlando WESH-TV news report about the incident that was submitted with the inquiry. The FAA promptly replied that it had no information related to such an event. 

The NUFORC sighting report cataloged by DrDil on UFO Casebook forum that included the image of what looked like a meteor-like fireball, but was described in the report as a “craft” going down over Casselberry, actually turned out to be from a different night in a different city. The image that seemed to originate from a police dashboard cam and looked very much like a meteor blazing through the atmosphere was indeed both, just not in Casselberry. Further research revealed the photo was actually shot in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, on July 7, 2004, according to a 2004 Orlando Channel 6 News report that was located. Comparing the image, apparently from the report submitted to NUFORC claiming to be about the Casselberry incident, with the image reported by Channel 6 to have originated in Texas, left no doubt they were the same photo. The supposed Casselberry "craft" was actually a Texas meteor.

Given that discovery, nothing whatsoever more than hearsay remained supporting an alleged airborne object in the case, much less a downed UFO. There were no reports of plane crashes, relevant radar reports, photos, video or other such tangible items of evidence available to support the idea that some kind of flying object had been involved. There were not even anecdotal narratives from witnesses, at least not accessible witnesses. What's more, the lone photo seemed to have been completely misrepresented by the individual who submitted the report to NUFORC.

Conclusions

It would be rather unreasonable to support a conclusion involving a crashed UFO, given the narrow range of available evidence. Unusually intense lightning and thunder seems a likely candidate for a potential explanation for the flash and rumbling noise. Some type of meteor, possibly exploding in air, might also be a reasonable theory, pending further information. A definitive conclusion, however, is simply not currently available.

A UFO, its crash and the unsubstantiated claims of a cover up, preferable as they may be to some, simply cannot be accepted without significantly more supporting evidence. It would seem that, at best, judgment must be suspended in the event that much more convincing evidence of the extremely extraordinary might one day be revealed. There is simply not currently sufficient reason to suspect any such extreme circumstances occurred, but perhaps further information will one day suggest otherwise.

It might be deemed noteworthy that multiple reports initially submitted to MUFON and NUFORC suggested an abundance of primary witnesses, yet closer scrutiny was unable to reveal the whereabouts of any such witnesses or even if they ever so much as actually existed. It might also be noted that one such report was shown to apparently contain blatantly false and misleading information in the form of a photo from Texas. Perhaps the Casselberry alleged UFO crash, like many other cases, once again demonstrated that circumstances entirely different from those popularly discussed and commonly perceived are likely to be found when researchers drill down through the available information surrounding reported UFOs.

Perhaps the Casselberry July 4 case also serves as a reminder that interesting circumstances need not always be measured by a presence or absence of extraterrestrials. While such a measuring stick might be commonly used by both believers and non-believers within the UFO community, a more practical perspective might include understanding that limiting the significance of any given UFO report to whether or not aliens were involved makes one oblivious to a multitude of additional - and interesting - possibilities.

And what about those reports on the radio?

The much discussed radio reports revolved around talented and popular talk show host, Jason Bailey, known to local listeners as Buckethead. The Buckethead Show, dubbed the BS, currently airs afternoons on Real Radio 104.1.

Back in July of 2004, Mr. Bailey was employed by a different Orlando radio station and, as reported, seemingly demonstrated an interest in the Casselberry incident. His activities, according to Clyde Lewis of Ground Zero, included taking on-air telephone calls from self-described witnesses during the days following the incident. Lewis also wrote that Bailey had an intern who covered the unfolding events on location in Casselberry, resulting in the intern making some rather dramatic on-air claims about being ominously instructed to vacate a rumored crash site.

I contacted Bailey in April and offered him an opportunity to share his perspectives on the Casselberry chain of events. He was also offered an opportunity to comment on the legitimacy of the circumstances involving the intern.

“Thanks,” Mr. Bailey replied, “but I'm not interested.”