Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Transcript of interview with Mrs Sylvester - Adelaide entity case - 1962

Hi all,

A few days ago I posted about an old Adelaide, South Australia, entity case from 1962. It is a classic case mentioned in such sources as "Flying Saucers - Serious Business" by Frank Edwards; "Flying Saucers Where Do They Come From?" Richard Tambling, and even in "Passport to Magonia" by Jacques Vallee.

A Sydney research associate has just forwarded me a case document published by the Australian Entity Study Group in 1977, which provides a transcript of a taped interview between UFO researcher Colin Norris of Adelaide, and Mrs Sylvester, also of Adelaide, recorded shortly after the event. As this is the best, original source material to be found on this case, I am taking the liberty, for posterity, of providing this transcript here.

The transcript:

(Note C is Colin Norris and S is Mrs Sylvester.)

C. What time of day was this?
S. Well it was about 7.30 in the evening.
C. You were travelling in your car to somewhere.
S. Yes. I was with my family and we were coming home to Adelaide that evening and we stopped and had a look at this strange phenomena because we couldn't understand what it was doing.
C. Who was in the car?

S. My three children. My son Michael, aged 9, at the time. Allison 8 and Julie-Anne 6.
C. When you sighted this craft were you upset?
S. Oh no, no. I quite expect to see them. I simply noticed a light where I haven't noticed it before.
C. Where were you travelling?
S. Travelling from Salisbury as a matter of fact.
C. Going up the north road?

S. Well, we had just come off the Two Wells Road and we were proceeding along the Salisbury-Elizabeth highway.
C. Where was this in relation to the car? To the left of you or to the right?
S. To the right of me, I suppose a 36 degree angle to the right of me.
C. That would be past the Parafield aerodrome?
S. Probably in that direction but further beyond. It was in the hills.

C. What sort of craft was it? Was this hanging in the air?
S. Well, what actually happened was that I was driving along and I noticed this orange light. I couldn't drive and at the same time watch it. So we pulled to the side of the road, and stopped and I asked my children to look and then my son said 'Mummy, an oval shape and its got four legs.'
C. It must have been sitting on the ground.
S. This was sitting on the ground. I said can you describe any more because he has very good sight and I noticed he can see things at a long distance. He said , it was 'Oval got four legs. There's a light on the top and five windows.' He said, "Oh, I can see two men inside.'

c. Were they square windows like a house?
S. No, round.
C. Round windows and what size do you think?
S. I'm not sure because it was a fair distance away.
C. When you say a fair distance, over a mile?
S. It must have been well over a mile. I think it was more like five to six miles away.

C. That's a long way to be able to see people in a craft.
S. Well, that's true. But as I say, I know that my son has excellently good eyesight.
C. That's true, but when you say this highway that you were on. I'm vaguely familiar with it. I think it cuts across from the Port Wakefield Road. I don't think that the distance to the Adelaide Hills would be five miles.
S. Well it mightn't be but then I'm not much of a judge of distance.
C. No. Now those windows.

S. They were round and they appeared to be strangely divided. Three to the left of the craft as I looked at it, then a space then two to the right.
C. That is very true. That's the Adamski type craft as we refer to them. In fact they have three together, a space then two then three round the other side.
S. Possibly but then I only saw the one side. Then having digested the information that there were two men inside, my son informed me that one was bending down and that the other was climbing out, down what appeared to be a ladder. He also described for me what he looked like, almost as though he was wearing a gas mask. That is what it seemed to me because it is familiar from the war.

C. Did it have any lights on?
S. A light on his helmet.
C. Like a miner's cap?
S. I imagine so, yes.
C. When he was looking around did he seem to be doing any repairs to it?
S. Yes, well. What it appeared to be was that one of the legs would not retract while we sat watching we noticed that the man or the being on the ground with the leg did something. Then the craft rose a little way and then came down again. Now this happened about four or five times.

C. Fascinating. This craft it has just come into my mind possibly why you should see them. Did it have a ray of light around it?
S. Well to me it was more or less a glow. I imagine why the orange colour of it, that they were trying to take off and couldn't because one of the legs wouldn't retract.
C. Could be quite so because when these craft do in fact finally tale off they do take on an orange colour. So I agree with you.

S. ...we watched it stationary for about half an hour. My other daughter Allison confirmed everything that Michael says. My youngest one informed me that she was getting a bit sick of the situation because (...) go up and come down she couldn't see what they were doing.
C. How (...) Why didn't you report this to the, did you know there was a society here in...
S. Yes, I knew but at the time I was busy with examinations at High School and I had so much to do that I really didn't find the time. Probably I was rather remiss, but..

C. That's our misfortune.
S. That's your misfortune, yes.
C. When the craft finally took off how did the people get back into it again, do you know?
S. Well I believe from what I remember my son telling me that the man that was on the ground climbed back in and then it sort of lifted and moved slowly I imagine northwards, because I started the car up and I said to the children well now, you watch it and I'll drive slowly along. We watched it I suppose for something like 6 or 700 yards and then all of a sudden it had gone.

C. It had gone. They do travel very quickly. These people, were they little green men like they're reported to be in our comics and reports, or were they tall or what?
S. I think it would be a bit difficult what height they were from that distance, but judging from what my son told me about what he saw, I would say that they were nothing like little green men that popular fantasy would have it.

C. Do you think they would be six feet or do you...?
S. This is something that they must have been because as far as I can remember, the head of a man that got out of the craft would have been on a level with the base of a craft.
C. Do you realise that on the 28th of October as you've just said here, that there was a sighting over Pine Point by a Mr and Mrs McGovern?

S. No, I didn't.
C. There was, and also there was a sighting over Adelaide at about 4.30am. This was on the 29th but it was still that night.
S. That's very interesting.
C. So it's quite possible that this craft was the same one.
S. Well I would say myself that it would probably have been a scout craft. It certainly wasn't big enough for a mother craft.

C. How did you feel about this Mrs Sylvester?
S. I felt rather thrilled to think that I'd seen it. I wasn't afraid of course. Had I been nearer I probably would have driven up to it and had a closer look. Incidentally there's one more point about this. When my son went to school the next day, he was talking to his teacher who had been out on a picnic in that area. he told my son that he had seen exactly the same thing, but when he took his binoculars to look at it, they were obscured by some means or other and he didn't see as much as we did although he was nearer.

C. At the same time?
S. I was surprised to notice that practically no one travelling that road appeared to have any interest in this at all.
C. Were there any other cars?
S. There were many cars, yes but no one appeared to have seen it.


1. Mrs Sylvester reports seeing only an orange light, whereas her 9 year old son (and 8 year old daughter) report, via Mrs Sylvester, a structured object.

2. The distance between the observers and the object is cited as "...well over a mile..."; and "I think it was more like five to six miles away." Given these estimates, it would seem to me, that observing the reported details on a structured object, namely legs, windows, "man" wearing a helmet etc would not have been possible at such distances. Either the distance to the object was much less than Mrs Sylvester estimates, or there is a strong possibility that the children were reporting details which were not actually there, given that Mrs Sylvester simply reports seeing an orange light. Even the pro-UFO researcher who conducted the interview says "That's a long way to see people in a craft."

3. Interestingly, and a point not followed up by interviewer Norris, is that after he asked "When you sighted the craft were you upset?" Mrs Sylvester responded "Oh no, no. I quite expect to see them..." It would have been of value to know why she expected to see a UFO?

4. Regretfully, the pro-UFO interviewer poses leading questions such as "Like a miner's cap?" where Mrs Sylvester responds with "I imagine so, yes." Also, in trying to determine the height of the "man", the interviewer asks "..do you think they would be six feet ..."

All in all, the above transcript, as opposed to various articles in UFO books and on the Internet, provides sufficient data points to strongly suggest to me, that this is not a "classic flying saucer case" and on the contrary, is of extremely weak evidential usefulness.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The full report of the 1970 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics subcommittee

Hi all,

I have been spending some time recently, thinking about the number of scientific symposia which have been held on UAP, over the years; and of the professional bodies which have reviewed the topic.
A sub-committee of the AIAA examined the topic between 1967 and 1970, before releasing a statement. Thanks to a Melbourne based research associate, I recently acquired a copy of the three page statement, and found it worthy of sharing with readers.

"UFO An Appraisal of the problem.
A statement by the UFO subcommittee of the AIAA.

To gain a fresh and objective perspective on the UFO problem, the UFO subcommittee of the AIAA from its inception in 1967, decided to place specific, well-defined questions to UFO experts of high scientific qualifications but strongly divergent views. Surprisingly, the factual answers the subcommittee obtained in a series of interesting interviews were strikingly similar. Differences occurred in certain quantitative estimates and in the degree of emphasis but not in principle.

It was at the next step where the views began to diverge: subjective judgement as to the scientific significance of the problem and the need to pursue and explore it. Obviously, such opinion depends on the criteria applied by the individual, and much of the discord appears to be due to a lack of analysis of these criteria. It is at this stage where guesses and speculation creep into the discussion and lead to controversy.

In the opinion of the UFO subcommittee, such speculations are entirely premature and no position is absolutely defensible at this point in time.

This applies specifically to statements that the extraterrestrial hypothesis ("ETH") is "the least probable" or "the least improbable" explanation. National Academy of Sciences' review of the "Condon Report"; James E McDonald's statements. There is no scientific basis for assessing such probabilities at this time.

The subcommittee was greatly perturbed by the paucity of thorough scientific and technological analyses applied to practically all observations before the Condon study. The few often courageous efforts by individuals to come to grips with this problem should be viewed more from an aspect of focussing attention on the problem rather than of solving it, since there is little doubt that it takes more than a personal effort to investigate fully a problem of such complexity.

In the opinion of the committee, the Colorado university study, "Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects", (the "Condon  Report, Bantam Books, New York, 1969) at this time represents the most scientifically oriented investigation published on the UFO problem. Attacks directed against the study seem to over look the almost insurmountable difficulties which a short-time, one-shot project of this type faces: building up the multi-disciplinary, unbiased talent, accumulating practical experience, collecting hard information, sorting out the signal from the noise, applying the best analytical methods and writing and editing a report in less than two years.

To understand the Condon report, which is difficult to read due in part to its organisation, one must study the bulk of the report. It is not enough to read summaries, such as those by Sullivan and by Condon, or summaries of summaries, on which the vast majority of readers and news media seems to rely. There are differences in the opinions and inclusions drawn by the authors of the various chapters and there are differences between these and Condon' summary. Not all conclusions contained in the report itself are fully reflected in Condon's summary. For example, the optical/radar chapter contains the following statement on the Lakenheath case (1956):

The apparently rational, intelligent behaviours of the UFO suggest a mechanical device of unknown origin as the most probable explanation of this sighting. However, in view of the inevitable fallibility of witnesses, more conventional explanations of this report cannot be entirely ruled out.

On Colorado Springs case (1967);

In view of the meteorological situation, it would seem that AP (anomalous propagation) was rather unlikely. Besides, what is the probability that an AP return would appear only once and at that time appear to execute a perfect practice ILS approach.

Condon's own conclusions have been widely misquoted. He says:

"...scientists are no respecters of authority. Our conclusion that study of UFO reports is not likely to advance science will not be uncritically accepted by them. Nor should it be, nor do we wish it to be. For scientists, it is our hope that the detailed analytical presentation of what we were able to do, and of what we were unable to do,will assist them in deciding whether or not they agree with our conclusions. Our hope is that the details of this report will help other scientists in seeing what the problems are and the difficulties of coping with them.

"If they agree with our conclusions, they will turn their valuable attention and talents elsewhere. If they disagree, it will be because our report has helped them to reach a clear picture of wherein existing studies are faulty and incomplete and thereby will have stimulated ideas for more accurate studies. If they do get such ideas and can formulate them clearly, we have no doubt that support will be forthcoming to carry on with such clearly defined specific studies. We think that such ideas for work should be supported.

Therefore, we think that all of the agencies of the federal government, and the private foundations as well, ought to be willing to consider UFO research proposals along with the others submitted to them on an open-minded, unprejudiced basis. While we do not think at present that anything worthwhile is likely to come of such research each individual case ought to be carefully considered on its own merits."

Condon's chapter "Summary of the study" contains more than its title indicates; it discloses many of his personal conclusions. Making value judgements was no doubt one reason why Condon was asked to handle the project. One is happy to obtain the judgement of so experienced and respected a man; but one need not agree with it. The UFO subcommittee did not find a basis for his prediction that nothing of scientific value will come of further studies.

In reviewing the material accumulated to date, the subcommittee found an exceedingly low signal-to-noise ratio, as illustrated by the statistics of the Air Force's Project "Bluebook" quoted in the University of Colorado study, which showed 3.3% unidentified observations (253 out of 7741 available at that time *) This figure is frequently disputed, but its order of magnitude (5%) appears to be correct, taking all available reports into account. The fact that the Condon study itself arrives at  a much higher percentage of unexplained cases -namely, at about 30% (35 out of 117) - is primarily due to the preselection of specific cases for investigation. The precise figure is hard to assess, for the Condon report does not lend itself easily to this type of analysis, the same cases being treated often in different sections and under different identifications. (*The final figure, according to our information appears to be 701 out of 12,618 or 5.5%.)

It has been variously estimated that the reported cases, approximately 20,000, represents only 5 to 15% of the total observations, since most observers do not go to the trouble of an official report or fear ridicule. In turn, various polls suggest that 3 to 5% of the US population claims to have seen UFOs. It follows, then, that the available reports which can be classified as "unidentified" represent a very small percentage of all UFO sightings on the one hand, but not a negligible number of observations.

It is interesting that, contrary to public opinion, the estimated percentage of "hoaxes" is likewise small (less than 5%) and that the great majority of UFO sightings can be explained by known phenomena (about 75%) while 15 to 20% contain insufficient data. In other words, what may appear to the untrained observer as strange and inexplicable is in most cases known and explainable.

Taking all evidence which has come to the subcommittees' attention into account, we find it difficult to ignore the small residue of well-documented but unexplainable cases which form the hard core of the UFO controversy. They represent only a small fraction of the 'unidentified' cases and are characterised by both a high degree of credibility and a high abnormality ("strangeness" in Hynek's terminology.) Although none of them offers to our knowledge quantitative recordings by calibrated instruments for permanent inspection, they are often called "hard cases."

The subcommittee has tried to explore the nature of this hard-core residue and found estimates to vary between 10 and several hundred cases; depending in part on a subjective judgement as to the criteria for a "hard case." High credibility is generally accepted for observations by multiple independent sensory systems (reporting by multiple independent operators) or both; high abnormality or strangeness, when no known natural phenomena whatsoever seems to fit the observation. It is clear then, that the hard-core residue represents less than 1% of the total available reports.

Those used to working under controlled laboratory conditions find it difficult to consider seriously any observation which is not available in recorded form for qualitative inspection. As a matter of fact, they make this a criterion for a 'hard case." On the other hand, there are those , including some members of the subcommittee, familiar with the intricacies of research in the complex and uncontrolled laboratory of the atmosphere, who find this less of a deterent. They discover parallels between the UFO problem and certain atmospheric phenomena which fall in the class of rare events. A rare event always involves at first a question of the reality of a qualitative observation. Later, scientific investigation, usually combining statistics and physics, resolves this question one way or the other.

Although the University of Colorado deals only with a small fraction of the existing observational material (less than 15%), it offers itself enough substance of the described sort, especially if additional information extracted by MacDonald is added to some of the cases. In fact, the subcommittee finds that the opposite conclusion could be drawn from its content, namely that a phenomenon with such a high ratio of unexplained cases (about 30%) should arouse sufficient scientific curiosity to continue its study.

Then issue seems to boil down to the question: Are we justified to extrapolate from 0.99 to 1.00, implying that if 99% of all observations can be explained, the remaining 1% could also be explained, or do we face a severe problem of signal-to-noise ratio (order of magnitude 10-2)?

In the opinion of the subcommittee this question must be asked critically and objectively in each individual case. In cases which do not fit the extrapolation alternative, the further question should be explored, "Do they evidence common attributes?" It appears to the subcommittee that the University of Colorado has made no serious attempt in this direction.

It is obviously difficult to reach a consensus on what constitutes a hard case, it appears even more difficult to find agreement on the advisability and importance of continued research. As mentioned earlier, it is at this point where the controversy often becomes heated because criteria for such assessment are not well-defined.

Earlier, Condon' statement was quoted that "Clearly defined, specific studies..should be considered and supported." In this conclusion he calls attention to "important areas of atmospheric optics, including radio wave propagation, and of atmospheric electricity in which present knowledge is quite incomplete. These topics come to our attention in connection with the interpretation of some UFO reports, but they are also of fundamental scientific interest, and they are relevant to practical problems related to the improvement of safety of military and civilian flying."

The subcommittee finds this statement of the Condon report a better criterion for support of UFO-related studies than the claims by some ETH proponents that UFO research deserves maximum support as long as there is a ghost of chance that UFOs are extraterrestrial  vehicles, or the opposite claim that proof for the ETH must be provided before serious consideration of the UFO problem is justified. Both opinions strike the subcommittee as unwarranted.

We have already expressed our disenchantment with arguments about the probability of the extraterrestrial origin of UFOs, since there is not sufficient scientific basis at this time to take a position one way or another. However, in view of the infancy of our scientific and technological knowledge (approximately one century), the subcommittee would agree with this statement by Condon "We must not assume that we are capable of imagining now the scope and extent of future technological development of our own or any other civilisation, and so we must guard against assuming that we have any capacity to imagine what a more advanced society would regard as intelligent conduct." On the other hand, we find no convincing basis for his statement, "It is safe to assume that no ILE (intelligent life elsewhere) from outside our solar system has any possibility of visiting Earth in the next 10,000 years." (When does the counting start?)

The question arises whether there is a need at all to speculate on a specific hypothesis such as ETH, in order to decide on the significance of a scientific problem, or whether any known phenomenon in nature is worth investigating. We think it is, but we recognise at the same time that the UFO problem may require expensive tools of technology. Therefore the question of cost, priority, and relative importance of this problem within the total spectrum of research cannot be overlooked.

The UFO subcommittee feels that the ETH, tantalising though it may be, should not be dragged into this consideration as it introduce an unassessable element of speculation; but the subcommittee also strongly feels that, from a scientific and engineering standpoint, it is unacceptable to simply ignore substantial numbers of unexplained observations and to close the book on them on the basis of premature conclusions.

There is an interesting parallel between the history of the UFO problem and the history of weather modification ("rainmaking"). After almost 20 years of taboo by the scientific community, weather modification has now achieved scientific recognition due to the fact that some courageous high-caliber scientists entered the arena. This has resulted in a revision of the viewpoint of the National Academy of Science.

The immediate question is how to attack the UFO problem without the pitfalls of past attempts. There is little doubt that the short-time, one-shot approach of an ad hoc team is neither promising nor economical. This is especially true if the study team decides - as the University of Colorado group did - to concentrate on current rather than past observations. As the UFO statistics show, this results in the devotion of precious time to investigate the noise, rather than the signal. It was mentioned earlier that the Colorado University study faced formidable obstacles because of the short duration of its contract. If the recommendation of the O'Brien committee to negotiate multiple contracts for continuing investigations had been followed, this difficulty would perhaps have been avoided. There is also little hope to expect a solution of this extremely complex problem by the efforts of a single individual.

The subcommittee sees the only promising approach as a continuing, moderate-level effort with emphasis on improved data  collection by objective means and on high quality scientific analysis. This would eliminate the difficult problem of witness credibility. An economic and technically sound approach involving available remote sensing capability and certain software changes will require some thinking on the side of the aerospace engineering community.

Proposals along this line are already in the hands of the subcommittee. The financial support should be kept at a moderately low level. (It is estimated that a small fraction of the cost of the University of Colorado study would be requires initially) until re-evaluation of the situation allows another assessment. Without such an effort the controversy can be expected to suffer further polarisation and confusion.

The subcommittee feels that s strictly scientific technological review of the UFO problem leads to this conclusion and that, for a technical committee, there is no need to stress the public and social aspect of the UFO controversy, which may have subsided only temporarily and will continue to clammer for a more conclusive and convincing answer. The subcommittee is aware of several books to be published in the near future. What is needed now is a moratorium in the UFO discussion - with an objective, wait-and-see attitudes on the part of the scientific and engineering community, the government and the public.

The approach recommended by this subcommittee require not only the attention of the scientist and engineer, but also a readiness of government agencies to consider any proposals in this field without bias or fear of ridicule and repercussion- or, as Condon expresses it "on an openminded, unprejudiced basis." This perhaps is our most important conclusion.

Finally the subcommittee believes the decision by the Air Force to divorce itself from the UFO problem should be completed by allowing the files to be archived by a civilian agency, either government or university, after proper safeguards for the protection of witnesses and their names as well as full declassification procedures.

The subcommittee intend to publish additional information on the UFO problem in the AIAA journals to give the members of AIAA an opportunity to form their own opinion. This information will include typical examples of the so-called "hard-case residue" and some potential engineering approaches to a solution of the controversy.


To me, the key points of this reports are:

1. There is a small residue of well documented, unexplained cases.

2. The best criterion to support UFO related studies is the possibility of advancing our knowledge of some atmospheric optics and atmospheric electricity.

3. Don't waste precious time on the noise - hone in on the signal.

4. We need improved data collection and higher quality analysis of this data.

The French 3AF SIGMA2 technical group has recognised point three by stating they will focus on "unsolved cases", e.g. GEIPAN type D.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"This is one of the most remarkable cases of a flying saucer..." Adelaide - 1962

Hi all,

As readers of this blog will be aware, I always try and locate original source material on an incident, where ever possible.

One case which has appeared in numerous magazines and on the Internet, is the October 1962 report from a Mrs Sylvester of Adelaide, South Australia. The details which I recorded in one of my Australian case catalogues, is as follows:

28 Oct 1962  Salisbury  SA  CE3  1930hrs  40mins Sylvester   (34:56, 138: 36)
A high school teacher and her three children were travelling back to Adelaide, by car, along a highway. They were turning from a southerly direction to an easterly one, facing the Adelaide hills. On the lower level of the hills, at an angular elevation of 45 degrees, they reported seeing an orange coloured, oval shaped object. Her 9 year old son first saw it. “It appeared to have landed on the earth on a level piece of ground.” It sat on three “legs.” It had round windows and the son reported seeing people inside it. He said one of them came down steps to the ground. After a while the object began to move, to the north at incredible speed.

Australian Saucer record:

While recently in the State Library of South Australia, I made time to locate a copy of the "Australian Saucer Record" Volume 9 Number 1, dated March 1963, pp13-14. In this issue I found the best documentation yet, on this incident. I'd like to share it here for other researchers to be aware of it.

"A Flying Saucer lands near Adelaide.

This is one of the most remarkable cases of a flying saucer observed so close and having been seen 'landed' so near to a city, at least in Australia. However, the integrity of the witnesses, particularly the mother of the children, leaves us in no doubt at the reliability of the evidence, and the actual incident being a very factual one.

Mrs Ellen D Sylvester, the mother, is a high school teacher, and indeed her ability to give evidence places her in the class of a first class type of witness. The following account is an abbreviated one taken from the actual tape recording of the interview, made by our special investigator Colin Norris, whose work in the field over the past twelve months has been one which calls for commendation which we like to register here.

Mrs Sylvester is a resident of one of the close suburbs of Adelaide and the date on which this occurred was October 28th 1962, a memorable date for sightings as this was the evening of the sighting which caused a stir to the police when an object was observed at Pine Point, across the gulf a few hundred miles distance away from the observation and we consider it is very possible it was one and the same craft.

The time was 7.30pm and the sighting was made as Mrs Sylvester and her family of three children were travelling back to Adelaide along a highway. They were turning from a southerly direction to an easterly one which brought them into a position which faced the hills surrounding Adelaide.

It was on the lower level of these hills that the object was first observed. The whole actual observation lasted about 40 minutes and therefore was one which could hardly be classified as an optical illusion or an hallucination. The elevation was about 45 degrees. The object was oval and orange in  colour to the outline of the sky and Sun setting reflections.

A son 9 years old first drew his mother's attention to the object and it was very clear to all the party. It appeared to be landed on the earth on a level piece of land fully observable to the party. It had three legs upon which it stood. It had windows round in shape and the lad remarked that he could see some people in it. Then one of the occupants got out and came down some steps to the ground and appeared to be doing something to one of the landing legs.

Mrs Sylvester says she thought that he seemed to have some trouble in making it retract which finally he overcame. Evidently some adjustment had to be made to it  as it was on this portion of the craft he worked all the time he was being observed.

The distance from the observers was, Mrs Sylvester said, a few miles away. She said had she been closer she would have gone up to the object. She had no fear, merely amazed wonderment. The person from the craft was about six feet tall she thought, as best as she could determine from the distance, as his head reached the outer fringe of the craft in height.

He wore a helmet more like a description to a gas mask of the war type so Mrs Sylverster said, and a drawing is given below as done by the son.

The craft had a light around the centre rim. Weather conditions were admirable fine and very clear.

After the mechanic had attended to the landing gear he returned to the craft and it began to move at first slowly away, then terribly fast and disappeared incredibly swiftly away to a northerly direction.

Mrs Sylvester stated herself that she could not understand why other people had not reported it as there must have been people closer to it than they, as well as traffic was passing along the two main highways close at hand. It seems she said that because they were not facing the actual object but travelling north and south with the object in the east, may have been an explanation in that to see it they would have had to take their eyes off the road and look directly away from their driving direction. Also the speed travelled on these highways would not give a good point of view unless the attention was drawn to it as their's was by turning and facing directly east.

Asked is she believed in such things and if she considered that a craft could have been from space she answered positively in the affirmative and added that it could not have been an earthly craft  its speed was too terrific. Also that she had never seen any known craft of this size and description as belonging to earth.

She ridiculed the idea of anyone classifying the man from the craft as a little 'green man' saying in her opinion such belongs to the fantasy world of the science fiction writers and the press. It was here that she was able to tell us the height by comparing the man's height with that of the craft. She was positive that it was not any known object normal to earth.

A press man was present at the interview and appeared to be very impressed by the evidence given.
Upon questioning as to the headgear of the man she added that there were two lights on either side of his helmet and there was a  form of breathing apparatus coming from the helmet down to his chest. This made it impossible for them to determine any facial features of the man, or the color of his skin, as he was clothed in a uniform which gave no clues to this."

My comment:

Having now obtained the above, detailed description, a large number of questions come to my mind. Not least is Mrs Sylvester's estimate that the object was "a few miles away." How would it be possible to see the fine details she reported, at such a distance? The fact that the event occurred in 1962 prevents us from any further analysis. Best perhaps, to simply record the above details and move on to other things.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Just a dot in the sky, but what was it at 50,000 feet?

Hi all,

Recent blog readers  may recall my 29 July 2014 post titled "Condensation trails passing in the moonlit sky." This told the story of two commercial flights, which had reported seeing a mystery object leaving a condensation trail, above their flights, in the early hours of Monday 29 November 1982, near Derby, Western Australia. The estimated height of the object was some 37,500 feet. The object was never identified.

State Library search:

On a recent visit to Melbourne, I paid a quick visit to the State Library of Victoria, and browsed through their copies of "The Australian UFO Bulletin." I located  a parallel case from 1980, except this time, the incident occurred in daylight. The source of the Bulletin's story, was Russell Boundy of UFO Research (Far North Queensland) and excellent researcher.

At about 1300hrs EST on 7 August 1980, a TAA jet aircraft, flight 534, left Cairns, Queensland, on a flight to Darwin, via Gove. It was flying domestic route AVOCADO.

When it was about 120 miles north-west of Carins, and at 30,000 feet, Captain Willinczyck reported to a Cairns Flight Services Officer, that he had sighted an unknown object above his own aircraft.

At an estimated height of 50,000 feet, it was headed north-west, the same direction as the TAA aircraft. It was visible for five minutes until it was lost to view in the distance. It was seen as a dark dot with a normal looking condensation trail. The sky was totally clear.

Checks made:

A check revealed that there were no other civilian, or Australian military aircraft in the area at that time. Even the US embassy was checked for US aircraft, but with negative results.

Russell spoke with the Cairns FSO, who told Russell that the pilot seemed disinterested in speaking further on his observation. Russell did write a letter, to the pilot, with a series of questions. However, the pilot never responded.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

More on the little known 1980 Smithsonian Institution UAP symposium

Hi all,

In reviewing a number of scientific symposia on UAP, I mentioned the little known 1980 Smithsonian Institution event. My Sydney research associate provided me with two sources of further information about the event.

Jerome Clark;

The first source is Clark, J. 1989. "The UFO Encyclopaedia." (2nd. ed.) Omnigraphics. Detroit. ISBN 0-7808-0097-4, pp 854-855. One of my reasons for reviewing the several symposia that I have posted about, was to see if our knowledge of the subject has advanced since they were held. I will, therefore, reproduce Clark's piece in full.

"Smithsonian UFO debate.

On September 6 1980, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, UFO proponents and debunkers squared off for a day-long debate on the merits of the case for UFOs - a debate for which debunkers had long lobbied, convinced that it would show up the weaknesses of the ufologists' case.

Proponents were Bruce Maccabee, an optical physicist employed by the US Navy; J Allen Hynek, Northwestern University astronomer and former Project Blue Book consultant, and Allan Hendry, chief investigator for the Center for UFO Studies (Now the J Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies).

The debunkers were Philip J Klass, aviation journalist and head of the UFO subcommittee of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal; James E Oberg, aerospace engineer and science writer, and Robert Sheaffer, writer and Skeptical Inquirer columnist. The debate was moderated by Frederick C Durant.

During morning and afternoon sessions advocates and antagonists repeated arguments familiar to those who had maintained more than a passing interest in the subject. The former cited the persistence of the UFO phenomenon and the puzzling nature of the best reports. The latter charged that there is "no scientifically credible evidence" (Klass) and that UFOs "seem to behave like fairies and ghosts" (Sheaffer). Some of the debate concerned the relevance of polygraph tests to a UFO investigation, with Hendry citing studies indicating their unreliability and Klass asserting "I'm prepared to take a polygraph test on everything." Hynke said, "Reading a good UFO report is like reading Agatha Christie - except there is no last page to turn to."

Oberg, taking note of tabloid tales of aliens on the moon not ordinarily mentioned in serious arguments for the existence of UFOs, declared ufology a "failed science." (Rohrer, 1980.)

The most heated exchange occurred between Klass and Hendry. Klass accused Hendry of "withholding data" which would have led to a prosaic explanation for a case Hendry had investigated the year before, an incident in which Marshall County, Minnesota, Deputy Sheriff Val Johnson reportedly saw a UFO shooting down a deserted country highway toward his patrol car. Johnson suddenly passed out. When he awoke he discovered his vehicle had been damaged and his eyes injured. (Hendry, 1979.)

"I would agree there are only two possible explanations to this case," Klass said. "It could not have been Venus. It could not have been a weather balloon. It could not have been an hallucination. Either it was a spaceship, or Deputy Val Johnson did it himself because he likes to play practical jokes, especially in the late evening when he gets a little bored, as I learned -Hendry did not - by talking to some of the people who have worked with him and know him very well. I also discovered that he once talked about setting up a UFO patrol to go out looking for UFOs. Yet, according to Hendry, this was a deputy who...prior to his sighting 'was rather indifferent to the UFO subject'..."

"I would wish that Allan Hendry...had taken the final step and said, 'Val Johnson, will you take a polygraph - a lie detector test given by a very experienced examiner? Let's see what the results are.'"

Hendry responded, "We've already heard from Philip Klass today a perfectly excellent illustration of why it would be difficult to ever convince the skeptics based on the facts." Hendry said that Klass' penchant for digging up irrelevant episodes in UFO witnesses' past and using them as evidence that their testimony should be rejected amounted to "character assassination." Hendry cited another case, the alleged abduction of Travis Walton (...) in which polygraph tests had come to conflicting conclusions, as had two polygraph experts who later reviewed the charts. "Thus," he said "you begin to understand why I did not feel that the final step in an examination of Deputy Val Johnson necessarily rests on a polygraph examination."

He added, sarcastically, "Actually, I'm inclined to agree with Klass, I think that Val Johnson is such a practical joker that he deliberately injured his eyes - as judged by two doctors - and he deliberately entered a phony state of shock for the benefit of the ambulance driver who removed him from the scene of the accident." (Clark, 1981.) Hendry remarked that Johnson's casual talk of a "UFO patrol" reflected a belief, widely held in rural America at the time, that there was a link between UFOs and seemingly mysterious cattle deaths..."

As an effort to settle the UFO controversy, the Smithsonian debate was a good public spectacle, settling nothing and changing nobody's  mind. No one suggested a sequel."


Clark, Jerome. "Phil Klass versus the 'UFO Promoters." Fate 34, 2. (February 1981): 56-57.

Hendry, Allan. "Minnesota CEII: The Val Johnson story." International UFO Reporter Pt 1. 4,3 (September/October 1979); 4-9. Pt II 4,5 (November 1979):4-10.

Rohrer, Stuart. "Tempest in a saucer." Washington Post. (September, 8, 1980).

MUFON Journal:

The second source provided to me by my Sydney research associate, was found in the MUFON Journal number 152, of October 1980 pp.3-4. In an article titled "Smithsonian UFO Symposium" author Richard Hall provided an overview of the event.

Hall's piece included the facts that

* "A large crowd (400-500) filled the Baird Auditorium of the National History Museum."

* The moderator was Frederick C Durant III.

* Dr Hynek probably summed it up best in a comment at the University of Maryland the night before. "I don't know of a single scientific problem that was ever solved by debate, only by hard work." He added, however, that a debate in such a prestigious forum could help to stir up the interest that would allow the hard work to be done."

* "Klass acknowledged that UFOs could not be anyone's secret weapons, but also said they could not be spaceships since the US radar network is all-encompassing and they would not go unidentified. Nor could the US government keep a secret for over 30 years."

* "Sheaffer then proceeded to give the most irrelevant talk of the day, linking ufologists with people who study fairies, witchcraft, astrology and a long list of other borderline sciences or pseudo sciences."

* "Oberg...believes that UFO reports do deserve scientific attention of reasons of serendipity, if nothing else, and that if they are something real, they would clearly be of great import."

Hall summarised "The major impression of this observer was that the level of dialogue has changed little in 30 years, that minds are made up, and that too much time is wasted arguing about 'pop ufology' rather than about the hard core cases...Due to the visible public interest, the Smithsonian is considering publishing the  proceedings."

Monday, September 15, 2014

The 1980 Smithsonian UAP symposium

Hi all,

This is the last in a current series of posts about scientific meetings devoted to the topic of UAP. I have been able to find out very little about this particular symposium, other than the facts below.

The Smithsonian Institute sponsored a half day UAP symposium on 6 September 1980, in Washington, DC, USA.

Six speakers presented papers. These were:

* J Allen Hynek (click here.)
* Allan Hendry (click here.)
* Bruce Maccabee (click here.)
* Phillip J Klass (click here.)
* James E Oberg (click here.)
* Robert Sheaffer - his paper is available online (click here.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

2013 symposium on official and scientific investigations of UAP and UFOs

Hi all,

Continuing my series on scientific symposia, which have been conducted over the years.

On 29 and 30 June 2013, a UAP symposium was held at Greenboro, North Carolina, USA.

It was organised by Kent Senter. Following a 1985 sighting, he founded the North Carolina chapter of MUFON. After being diagnosed with incurable cancer he decided to organise and host this symposium.

Speakers were:

* Dr Richard Haines - "UAP and Flight Safety: There is a Relationship." (Click here.)

* Charles Halt - "Incident at RAF Bentwaters." (Click here.)

* Leslie Kean - "Government and UFOs." (Click here.)

*Nancy Talbot - "The science of crop circles." (Click here.)

* Alexander Wendt - "Militant agnosticism and the UFO taboo." (Click here.)

* Ron Westrum - "Hidden events." (Click here.)

* Wilfried De Brouwer - "UAP wave over Belgium." (Click here.)

* Jose Lay - "The official UAP agency in Chile." (Click here.)

* Xavier Passot - "GEIPAN: The official French bureau for UFO investigations." (Click here.)

*Timothy Good - "Need to know: UFOs the military and intelligence." (Click here.)

For further information please click here and here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A 1997 scientific UAP review panel

Hi all,

I have been recently posting about scientific groups who have reviewed UAP over the years. Today's post concerns a 1997 scientific panel review, undertaken in the USA. I draw my information from "The UFO Enigma" by Peter A Sturrock; Warner Books, New York, 1999. (Click here.)

How did the panel come about?

"...in December 1996, Mr Laurance Rockefeller (click here), a distinguished and influential citizen and chairman of the LSR fund, invited me to review with him our understanding of the problem posed by UFO reports. We agreed that the problem was in a very unsatisfactory state of ignorance and confusion. I expressed the opinion that the problem will be resolved only by extensive and open professional scientific investigation, and that an essential prerequisite for such research is that more scientists acquire an interest in this topic." (p.61.)

"...therefore conceived of a meeting at which prominent investigators of UFO reports would meet with a panel of eight or nine scientists with wide-ranging interests and expertise." (p.61.)

Investigator group:

* Dr Richard Haines (USA) (Click here.)
* Dr Illobrand von Ludwiger (Germany) (Click here.)
* Dr Mark Rodeghier (USA) (Click here.)
* John F Schuessler (USA) (Click here.)
* Dr Erling Strand (Norway) (Click here.)
* Dr Michael Swords (USA) (Click here.)
* Dr Jacques Vallee (USA) (Click here.)
* Jean-Jacques Velasco (France) (Click here.)

The review panel:

* Dr Von Eshleman, Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. ·Radiowave propagation and radar.) (Click here.)
* Dr Thomas Holzer. (Space sciences.)
* Dr J R Jokipii, Regents Professor of Planetary Sciences and Astronomy at the University of Arizona. (Geophysical phenomena.) (Click here.)
* Dr Charles R. Tolbert. (Observational astronomy.) (Click here.)
* Dr Francois Louange. (Photographic analysis - France.) (Click here.)
*Dr H J Melosh, Professor of Planetary Science at the University of Arizona. (Geologist.) (Click here.)
* Dr James J Papike, Head of the Institute of Meteoritics. (Upper atmospheric phenomena.) (Click here.)
* Dr Guenther Reitz. German Aerospace Center. (Radiation injuries.) (Click here.)
*Dr Bernard Veyret. Bioelectromagnetics Laboratory at the University of Bordeaux, France. (Plant biology.) (Click here.)


David Pritchard (click here) and Harold Puthoff (click here) served as moderators.


The venue selected was the Pocantico conference centre at Rockefeller Estate in Tarrytown, New York."  The group convened on 29 September 1997, for three days.

Presentations by investigators:

* Dr Richard Haines - Photographic evidence.
* Dr Jacques Vallee - Luminosity estimates.
*Jean-Jacques Velasco - radar evidence.
* Dr Erling Strand - The Hessdalen Project.
* Dr Mark Rodeghier - Vehicle interference.
* Dr Richard Haines - Aircraft equipment malfunctioning.
* Dr Michael Swords - Apparent gravitational and.or inertial effects.
* Jean-Jacques Velasco - Injuries to vegetation.
* John F Schuessler - Physiological effects on witnesses.
* Jacques Vallee - Analysis of debris.

Panel's response:

Pages 120-122 present the "Panel's conclusions and recommendations." Among these were:

"It was clear that at least a few reported incidents might have involved rare but significant phenomena such as electrical activity high above thunderstorms ( e.g. sprites) or rare cases of radar ducting." (p.121.)

"On the other hand, the review panel was no convinced that any of the evidence involved currently unknown physical processes or pointed to the involvement of an extraterrestrial intelligence." (p.121.)

"It may therefore be valuable to carefully evaluate UFO reporters to extract information about unusual phenomena currently unknown to science." (p.121.)

"It appears that most current UFO investigations are carried out at a level of rigour that is not consistent with prevailing standards of scientific research." (p.121.)

"Studies should concentrate on cases which include as much independent physical evidence as possible and strong witness testimony." (p.122.)

"Some form of formal regular contact between the UFO community and physical scientists could be productive." (p.122.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science - UAP symposium 1971

Hi all,


Having recently posted about the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics UAP study committee (click here) (1967-1970); and the American  Association for the Advancement of Science 1969 UAP symposium (click here), this post takes us closer to my home, in Adelaide, South Australia. This is because in 1971, the South Australian Division of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) (click here), held a one day symposium, in Adelaide, on 30 October 1971. I doubt if many blog readers have ever heard of this symposium, so I thought it would be useful to write a little about it.

Invitation to RAAF:

Interestingly, we can gain insight into the aims of the symposium from correspondence to be found on National Archives of Australia file series A703, control symbol 554/1/30 Part 2, the RAAF's UAP policy file.

On 16 April 1971 Dr B H Horton, the symposium convenor, wrote to the Australian government's Department of Air. This body was the official Australian government agency charged with the responsibility for UFO research. The letter read:

"The committee of the South Australian Division of ANZAAS is convening a one day symposium on the topic of "The Unidentified Flying Object Problem." It is our feeling that there is a certain amount of unhealthy speculation on this subject which tends towards belief in obstruction by scientific and officials and an almost religious attitude.

Our aim is to look at the field and include the hypothesis that the phenomena are related to extraterrestrial life forms and examine this from a number of scientific viewpoints.

As an introduction a representative of a UFO organisation will speak. We then hope that a spokesman for the Department of Air would explain the processing of reports. This approach would repute, in the eyes of the public, the idea of deliberate suppression by officials of such reports.

I would be grateful if you could arrange for a member of your Department to address our symposium on this topic. The period of the talk would be 25 minutes with the option of joining a panel to discuss audience questions at the end of the day. The date of the symposium is 30th October 971. I am enclosing a first draft of a program for the symposium for your information.

Trusting you can assist us in this venture."

Radio station switchboard jammed:

The attachment to this letter reveals the thinking behind the symposium, and its origin.

"During a recent discussion program with listeners' participation on a commercial radio station in Adelaide, the station switchboard was jammed one minute after opening and remained so for the one hour duration of the program.

The topic discussed, which produced such interest, was Unidentified Flying Objects. The listeners' contributions ranged from a personal report of sightings to statements of disbelief. Explanations of the sightings by a physicist on the program in terms of physical phenomena was more educated guesses than sound science. The basic reason for this is that few persons with scientific knowledge are willing to consider the problem seriously. Thus when the topic is discussed with the public, which is definitely interested, scientists appear unknowing and disinterested.

The Committee of the South Australian Division of ANZAAS felt that such an image does very little for the scientific community and, a one day symposium titled "The Unidentified Flying Object problem," to be held in Adelaide on October 30th 1971.

Format of symposium:

The form planned for the symposium is as follows"

(a) A statement of reported sightings by a senior member of the "Flying Saucer Research Group."

(b) A coverage of the treatment of such reports by official bodies given by a responsible member of such an organisation.

(c) A reasonably detailed discussion of the various physical phenomena usually described loosely by non specialists in a number of published explanations.

(d) In view of a largely held belief UFOs are extraterrestrial observers examination of this hypothesis should be considered. The first topic suggested is a study of compatibility of the form of sightings with known satellite observation techniques and foreseeable developments in this field.

(e) If UFOs are extraterrestrial, where is their place of origin? What are the chances of there being other planetary systems in the galaxy. e.g. are there theories relating to the angular momentum of stars and the possible existence of planets. What ranges of radiation fields, temperature conditions, atmospheres, would be expected.

(f) If other planetary systems exist, what conditions would support molecular structures of the complexity necessary for a sentient being capable of constructing surveillance vehicles. What atoms have properties capable of forming complex molecules. Are there examples of such structures. What is the probable form of an extraterrestrial being? How long would it take too develop? Is there a limit to the period that such a species would remain viable.

(g) Given hypothetical distribution of possible planetary systems in the galaxy, and hypothetical development and stable periods for a species what are the chances of space-time coincidence of two space capable technologies with foreseeable and conceptually possible transport systems.

(h) A final paper by a recognised scientist who regards the whole problem as real and worthy of serious attention by the scientific community in view of the observational material available and the often undermanned investigation of this material.

(i) A period in which some or all of the speakers form a panel to comment on points brought out in audience participation discussion."

RAAF response:

Digital page 39 of the file, is a minute from Group Captain R S Royston, Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) to the Director of Public relations, dated 11 May 1971.

"1. Reference folio 43. It is suggested that you might reply advising the committee of the South Australian Division of ANZAAS that it would not be possible for a member of this Department to attend the symposium on 30 Oct 71 to discuss "The Unidentified Flying Object Problem."

2. It is suggested you might forward Dr Horton a copy of the summary of Unidentified Sightings that you hold in your directorate."

On this minute there are hand written notes, dated 12 May 1971 from the Director Public relations to Assistant Secretary, Air.

"DAFI has recommended that no member be made available to attend the above mentioned symposium. But I do not know whether this will be the departmental attitude. The attached address by Mr R G Roberts will be sent as a useful contribution. The ANZAAS body is a reputable one."

On 26 May 1971 A Sec A wrote to DAFI:

"I agree that a member of this Department should not attend this symposium. I also consider that the suggestion by S Air SS as a footnote to folio 44, that a description of our method of processing reports be provided in lieu of a speaker should be adopted. We might also include reference to our interest in Unidentified Flying Objects and the limits of this interest. A reference to the Condon Report would also be appropriate."

On the 17 Jun 1971, the Secretary, Department of Air, responded to Dr Horton:

"It is regretted that it will not be possible for a member of the Department of Air to attend the symposium on the topic of "The Unidentified Flying Objects Problem" to be held on 30th October 1971. It is hopped however, that the following information may be useful to your society during discussions.

There is no evidence that UFOs have landed in Australia, or, in fact, anywhere on earth. Naturally, however the Department of Air is concerned with any possible threat to Australian security and in that context all reported sightings of UFOs are investigated by RAAF officers. When a sighting is reported to the RAAF, an officer from the nearest RAAF unit interviews the person making the report. The interviewing officer records all pertinent details on a pro forma which is subsequently forwarded to the department of Air where it is processed and summarised. Summaries are held by the Director of Public relations who will provide them to members of the public on request. The summary of sightings is at present being brought up to date and a copy will be forwarded to you within a few weeks.

You may or may not be aware that the United States until late 1969 had a team of scientists investigating the possible presence of UFOs in the American region. Under the direction of Dr Edward Condon, the University of Colorado carried out an exhaustive study. Their report concluded that little if anything had come from the study of UFO reports over a period of 20 years and that further extensive study is not justified. The findings of this investigation were published by Bantam books in a paperback titled "The Condon Report."

Attached for your use is a summary of an address given by Mr B J Roberts, a member of the Department of Air to the Ballarat Astronomical Society at ballast in 1965. It is hoped this will be of value to your discussion."

The Symposium is held:

The symposium went ahead, in Adelaide, South Australia, on 30 October 1971, with an audience of about 300 people in attendance. The program presented was:

1. Dr Brian Horton. Introduction to the topic.
2. Colin Norris. UFO researcher. A history of UFOs and selected reported sightings. (Click here.)
3. Dr Bill Taylor. Read the RAAF Roberts paper.
4. Dr M Duggin. "The Analysis of UFO Reports."

5. Lynn Mitchell. Deputy Director, SA Bureau of Meteorology. Meteorological phenomena of relevance to UFO reports.
6. Dr Peter Delin. "Psychological Aspects of Belief and Disbelief."
7. Dr Don Herbison-Evans. Among other things, described diffraction gratings and their value to gathering spectra of lights in the sky. (Click here.)

A motion was agreed by those at the symposium:

"The symposium as a group feels very strongly that some action on the problem of UFO reports be taken...(and) that  the possibility of setting up a subcommittee for the study of UFO reports be considered by the executive committee of ANZAAS (SA Division.)"

No such subcommittee eventuated.


In looking for a copy of the proceedings of this symposium, I located a copy in the National Library of Australia, but failed to find one in the State Library of South Australia. I would welcome hearing from anyone who may have a scanned copy of this document, via an email to me at keithbasterfield@yahoo.com.au

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