Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Know What I Saw

History Channel - Original Air Date: September, 2009

This show brings together eyewitness reports of UFOs -- supposedly the most compelling accounts available.  James Fox starts his documentary with the Phoenix lights, which doesn't help with credibility in my book, as the major event of that night (the lights over the city) have been convincingly debunked. (See my partial review of UFOs Over Phoenix.)  He then states that 95% of this stuff is crazy, but it's the other stuff that interests him.  I agree, and like the Mayor of Phoenix, I agree that the craziness makes it difficult to take a serious look at what's going on.  Fox then shows the famous Phoenix footage, and notes that some experts have said it is flares -- but what was the earlier, "boomerang-shaped" craft?  There is some shaky footage, and some footage of something similar, but no one knows what it is.  (If I had to guess, I'd say secret military aircraft -- but, then, I don't believe in aliens from outer or inner space.)  Clips of a National Press Club briefing featuring experts -- many aviators or ex-military -- follow.  After that, we get some history of sightings from Foo Fighters, to Kenneth Arnold, to the Washington DC flap, the Life magazine article, Dr. Hynek, and so on.  The show also features numerous famous photos, at least a few of which look like natural phenomena or fakes to me.  The show also goes to a DC meeting of UFO witnesses to collect some more stories.

Next, an expert on symbols looks at some witness drawings of symbols seen on UFOs, but Fox admits his interpretation is merely speculation -- though the symbols do look something like the Voyager glyphs we sent to the edge of the solar system.  The show then looks at the US air base in England reports (Rendlesham Forest) from 1980.  And then Japanese flight 1628, which encountered a UFO in 1986.  From there, we go to Fox's appearance on CNN, during this DC conference -- in which a skeptic suggests that UFOs are modern mythology.  Fox asks where the myths come from, and then plays clips of the media ridiculing UFO witnesses (one of whom is Congressman Dennis Kucinich).  Fox follows this with clips of more witnesses, including a former Belgian Air Force commander, and more pilots.  Fox's point seems to be that the witnesses aren't as silly as portrayed in the media.  Indeed, the ones he trots out all seem very reasonable and credible (but that doesn't mean the UFOs are space aliens). Moving to the Stephenville sightings (type Stephenville into the search bar of www.howlsandgrowls.com for related stories), where Angela Joiner, reporter, notes that if something of the reported size moved at the reported speed, it would leave a sonic footprint on the ground like a tornado.  So, how could that be?  Fox says he has no idea, and then interviews more witnesses, one of whom claims to have studied the craft at close range through a rifle scope for 3 minutes, before it disappeared.  Fox then shows a radar image of something in the area accelerating to 532 MPH in 30 seconds (not an absurd speed).  The miliatary denies any knowledge (big surprise).

Astronaut Gordon Cooper (Mercury program) claims to have seen a UFO when station at Edwards AFB.  While filming (?!) a precision landing, they sighted a saucer which landed on 3 legs and was filmed before taking off.  Cooper claims the film was sent to Washington and never seen again.  Cooper claims to have had no contact with anyone involved in the intervening years, not even the cameramen.  (Why not?)  Astronaut Edgar Mitchell (Apollo program) claims to have talked to many people about flying craft, but doesn't know why investigators are being stonewalled.  Former President Carter is next on the hit list, but when asked about what he was told when President, he says "Nobody knows or has proof of things."  The show then (pointlessly) speculates why UFO info would be covered up.  Fox then meets with a French general and gets even more stories, and a UFO picture accidentally taken by a "mapping camera."  The French think the best explanation is that these objects are extraterrestrial in origin.  France has since posted all its UFO files online; the release doesn't seem to have caused any panic.  More speculation ensues, including the supposition that UFOs must be "real" because there are so many sightings.  But, while seeing may be believing, seeing is not scientific proof.

Sadly, in the end, these stories -- however compelling -- are just stories.  The fact that credible people say them doesn't make them true, and, even if they are true, it doesn't mean that their perceptions are not leading the witnesses astray.  Certainly, people see strange things -- from UFOs to ghosts to goblins to the Loch Ness Monster -- and maybe someday we'll understand what these things are, or at least why we see them.  Stories, though, are not proof.  You can take that from me, as someone who's made a living by telling stories for most of my adult life.  But, by all means, we should keep looking and keep investigating -- scientifically.

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