Yet another of a long line of books about the United Kingdom's 1980 Rendlesham Forest affair.
Previous books include:
Butler, B; Street, D; & Randles, J. 1984. "Skycrash."
Randles, J. 1991. "From Out of the Blue."
Randles, J. 1998. "UFO Crash Landing."
Bruni, G. 2000. "You Can't Tell the People."
This one is titled "Encounter in Rendlesham Forest: The Inside Story of the World's Best-Documented UFO Incident." 2014. The authors are Nick Pope, with John Burroughs and Jim Penniston. Pope is an English UFO researcher, while Burroughs and Penniston are Rendlesham witnesses. The publisher is Thomas Dunne Books. New York. ISBN 978-1-250-03810-4. There is a good index, but the book lacks a listing of the names, ranks etc. of the individuals written about in the book. With so many individuals being written about, I suspect many new readers will quickly lapse into confusion about who was who, and where they fitted into the scheme of things.
Here in one place are the detailed accounts of two of the central witnesses who say they were involved in a close encounter with "something" which left them deeply affected. Nick Pope provides details of official investigations ( or cover-up according to how you read it). For someone new to our subject, this book does provide a good overview of the events. However, for those already versed in the case, there are, in my opinion, some troubling aspects with the book.
A starting point:
The book makes some debatable claims, starting with: "Simply put, the Rendlesham Forest incident is by far the best-documented and most compelling UFO incident ever to have taken place." (p.xvi.) Some readers might disagree with this suggestion, citing Tehran (1976;) Socorro (1964;) the JAL case (1986;) or the Belgium flap of 1989/1990. I would suggest that the documentation on some of these cases is equal to, or exceeds that of, Rendlesham.
Another quote is "What follows is the inside story of a UFO incident that's bigger than Roswell..." (p.xix.) I would respectfully suggest that Roswell proponents will totally disagree with this statement. The Roswell saga proponents will say that there is more witness testimony; wider evidence of a cover-up, and with Roswell you can throw in stories of"alien bodies."
A third example is, "Ufologists ( as they label themselves) fall into two broad camps: true believers and die-hard debunkers." (p.89.) Researchers such as Eddie Bullard would disagree with this statement, having described a much broader ranger of views within the UFO research community. A question which arises in my mind is, which camp does UFO researcher and author Nick Pope, put himself in? A true believer or a die-hard debunker?
"Facts" not confirmed or sourced:
On several occasions the authors fail to provide a source for their statements. One example of this is the talk of "missing time" for Burroughs and Penniston. "The fact is our watches were behind and the shift commander said we were missing for 45 min." (p.10.) This "shift commander" is not named at this point, and I can find no evidence in the book that the shift commander was ever interviewed by Pope, and if so, did the shift commander confirm this 45 minutes? It was only 9 pages later that there is mention of a shift commander named Captain Mike Verrano. Again there seems to be no confirmation by Verrano that there was a loss of time to Burroughs and Penniston.
Another example is "...Staff Sergent Coffey recalls "My blotter was pulled and classified SECRET by the Base Commander" (p.146.) Yet I cannot find, in the book, a citation for this interview, e.g. Pope/Coffey 21 Aug 2010; or Burroughs/Coffey 27 Dec 1980 etc. There is no follow up comment as to how this piece of information was obtained.
The book contains numerous occasions when the authors qualify the information they provide, with statements, in the first 26 pages, such as:
"While there's some confusion over the exact time..." (p.3.)
"There's confusion about who arrived first." (p.5.)
In relation to floodlights which were ordered to be brought in, and why they malfunctioned: "There's confusion about this." (p.24,) with differing witnesses offering different accounts.
Regarding Halt's tape recording made at the time" "...as is the case with almost every aspect of this extraordinary story, there's controversy here..." (p.26.) Halt in 1999 referred to holding 4-5 hours of tape recordings, compared with the 18 minutes in the public domain.
By "confusion," I take it to mean that different people have provided different versions about a specific aspect of the events. In my opinion, the authors needed to detail and analyse these differences, for us, in order to reconcile the varying accounts, where possible.
By "controversy" I take it to mean that different people hold different interpretations of aspects of the events.
It appears that some pieces of information are missing, such as "Somebody in the control tower checked the radar...The key piece of information that came back was that a "bogey"...had been tracked around fifteen minutes previously..." (p.4.) There seems to be no specific source cited for this piece of critical information that there was radar confirmation of the event. There was apparently an anonymous "somebody" involved.
From what is provided in examples such as this, I cannot tell whether the information is simply not known after an investigation; or whether no one had conducted an investigation at all.
I'd like to pick one specific aspect of the case, in order to demonstrate a difficulty I have in bold statements that the authors make. The specific aspect relates to whether or not, the medical records of Burroughs and Penniston are held in the classified-records section of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
On page 253, Burroughs himself states "I was shocked...my medical records were classified..."
On page 256, the authors write: "We know that military medical records for John Burroughs and Jim Penniston are lodged in a classified-records section."
Yet, on page 224, in a section written by Mississippi attorney Pat Frascogna, there is "Evidently, John's records are classified..."
Yet again, on page xviii, "Burroughs's and Penniston's medical records appear to be held by a little-known classified-records section in the Department of Veterans Affairs."
Note the use of the differing words, "were classified;" "are lodged;" "Evidently," and "appear." Which, if any is correct? What is the original source of this information? The Frascogna quote comes from Burroughs; which states that a US Senator, Kyl, "...told him they felt my records could be located in the VA classified-records section..." (p.253.)
My reading of this aspect, is that Senator Kyl's "could" has been translated into "were classified;" "are lodged;" "Evidently;" and "appear" depending on who is telling the story.
There is no mention, that I could find, which tells me that anyone other than Burroughs checked with Senator Kyl to directly confirm that "could" is the correct interpretation.
For the reasons I outline above, I was disappointed with this book. Time and time again there were pieces of information, which had no sources cited; facts given that were not independently checked with the person that they attributed to, and it felt to me, that Pope, particularly, had failed in these areas.
Perhaps the most important issue for the ETH proponents of this case, is exactly what the two witnesses to the "close encounter" believe they experienced. ETH proponents have always lead us to believe that the case was a classic UFO. However:
"...in one sense Penniston is as cynical about aliens as he is about police cars, light houses...he talks about alien visitations not in terms of what was being covered up but in terms of it being the cover story..." (p.119.)
"Burroughs, too, talks about aliens in terms of a cover story: "I believe the alien part was planted by both governments at the beginning, to cover up what was really going on, both by people who know what they were doing and people who did not." (p.119.)
If the two central witnesses do not believe it was an extraterrestrial visitation, why should we?