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Signals, Noise, and UFO Waves

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  • Jeroen Kumeling
    Signals, Noise, and UFO Waves By Richard Hall Over the past 50 years a seeming outbreak of UFO sightings has captured public and news media attention on
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 1999
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      Signals, Noise, and UFO Waves
      By Richard Hall
      Over the past 50 years a seeming outbreak of UFO sightings has captured
      public and news media attention on average about every five to eight years.
      Sometimes the sightings have been sufficiently spectacular that the
      publicity has led someone to attempt a scientific study, but these studies
      usually bog down in confusion and controversy, and the interest fades away.

      News media interest comes and goes, the press tending to treat UFOs as a
      �silly season� topic. Ufologists continue to compile data suggesting that
      UFO sightings tend to come in waves, but no particular pattern has been
      found that would even begin to bowl scientists off their feet. For whatever
      reasons, the UFO phenomenon�or attention to it�ebbs and flows over the
      years. A number of studies have been conducted on the so-called UFO waves
      (once called �flaps�) in an attempt to understand their significance.
      Relatively less examined is the sighting troughs between waves. During these
      slack periods when UFOs seem to go away (but really don�t), what happens?
      What, if anything, is different about UFO manifestations during the trough
      periods? Are there any characteristic types of trough-period sightings that
      might provide a useful clue about what they are up to? To study these
      questions, I first reviewed some literature to arrive at a good consensus on
      major waves, and on definite periods of low sighting frequency on an
      international basis. (See References and Notes at end of article.) As noted
      elsewhere, sighting waves are partly apparent and partly real; some mixture
      of a real upturn in sightings and the attendant publicity, or lack of it
      (Hall, 1988, pp. 213�224). Since it usually takes many years to flesh out
      the data and to uncover obscure cases, I have used the time period from 1947
      through the mid-1980s in this study rather than more recent time periods.
      The established consensus waves are indicated in Table 1 at the end of this
      article, in two categories: (1) pronounced waves (several countries on
      several continents) and (2) other concentrated periods of sightings on a
      somewhat smaller scale, located nationally or regionally. These waves are
      pretty well agreed upon by most researchers. >From a study of the Project
      Blue Book microfilms and three other references (Clark, 1998; Andrus and
      Hall, 1987; Hall, 1999) it was possible to derive four rather clear-cut
      trough periods between 1947 and the mid-1980s, each lasting three to four
      years:

      � 1948�1951
      � 1958�1960
      � 1970�1972
      � 1979�1981

      I can confirm from personal experience the 1958�1960 trough, a veritable
      drought, because those were my first three years at the National
      Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), in Washington, D.C. At
      that time NICAP was very much in the news, and people knew where to report
      sightings, but several objective measures confirm my impressions: sightings
      were scarce all over the world at that time (Hall, 1994). An examination of
      the UFO cases that occurred during these sighting troughs primarily confirms
      that there is no qualitative change in the reports. Exactly the same kinds
      of events were reported as at other times. They included disc- and
      elliptical- shaped objects, radar trackings, and vehicle encounters. In
      fact, a strong case for the reality of UFOs could be made by ignoring the
      wave period sightings altogether, and concentrating exclusively on sightings
      from the trough periods. For example, many classic cases occurred during the
      1948�1951 trough, including the 1948 Chiles-Whitted airline encounter,
      several significant cases at White Sands, New Mexico, and the 1950 Great
      Falls, Montana, movie film. (See Table 2.) After the November 1957 wave,
      UFOs once again seemingly disappeared�or drastically cut back activities if
      we are thinking in terms of visitors from space�for three years. But the
      disappearance was mostly from the pages of newspapers and the airwaves.
      After-the-fact historical research shows that there was a steady flow of
      sightings throughout 1958, with a slight increase in October. Not a large
      number, but plenty to demonstrate the continuity of the phenomenon.
      Similarly, throughout 1959 and 1960, a steady flow of absolutely typical
      UFOs were reported. Again, many highly significant and classic cases
      occurred during the 1958�1960 sighting trough. (See Table 3.) They included
      the Trindade Isle, Brazil, photographs in 1958; the 1959 Father Gill case in
      Papua New Guinea; and the Red Bluff, California, state police sighting in
      1960.

      The UFO evidence
      In preparation for my new volume of The UFO Evidence, I conducted an
      extensive literature survey and compiled data on UFO sightings for the
      30-plus years since the cut-off date of the original 1964 report. Using
      those data, I have studied the 1970�1972 and 1979�1981 sighting troughs
      fairly intensively, looking for anything different, possibly a scientific
      clue of some kind.

      The major difference in UFO manifestation during this period, obviously, was
      the eruption of the abduction phenomenon. However, typical UFO sightings
      continued to be made. Again, there was no qualitative difference between the
      waves and the troughs as far as UFO sightings were concerned. Were there any
      �unusual� or different activities during the troughs in addition to typical
      UFO sightings? Sometimes yes, and it may be in this area that we need to
      focus in the search for clues. Each major sighting wave has tended to
      introduce or to intensify some startling or attention-getting feature. In
      1952 it was the radar-visual and jet interception cases. The 1957 wave
      featured a rash of electromagnetic effects on vehicles. In 1966 and 1967,
      vehicle encounter cases multiplied. The 1973 wave brought us a rash of
      humanoid encounters. But what about during the troughs?

      Unusual events during troughs
      Let us examine each trough period in turn for relatively unusual occurrences
      that may or may not have later become more common. During the 1948�1951
      trough (see Table 2):

      � UFOs interacted with test vehicles at White Sands Proving Grounds, New
      Mexico, in 1949 circling a missile in flight and in 1951 circling a Skyhook
      balloon.

      � At least three military pilots in scattered locations engaged in intensive
      �dogfights� with glowing UFOs (in one case a clear-cut disc), also seen by
      independent observers in two of the cases.

      � The mysterious and still unexplained green fireballs appeared, primarily
      over New Mexico, observed by many scientists in November 1951, just before
      the colossal 1952 sighting wave began. Also notable in these events is the
      concentration over sensitive military and scientific installations in New
      Mexico. This fact was commented upon in at least two Air Force documents
      (Hall, 1988, p. 200). One, an OSI report from New Mexico in 1950, expressed
      concern about �the continued occurrence of unexplained phenomena of this
      nature in the vicinity of sensitive installations.� During the 1958�1960
      trough (see Table 3), there were an unusual number of �blatant display�
      cases for this early period of UFO history. Though the displays were not
      unprecedented, they did not become more common until much later. They were
      unusual for that time:

      � A large number of Air Force officers at Strategic Air Command headquarters
      at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, in 1958 observed a cigar-shaped UFO with satellite
      objects.

      � In the last quarter of 1958 there were at least three cases in which oval
      or elliptical UFOs hovered within plain sight, then accelerated and shot
      upwards out of sight at incredible speed.

      � On February 4, 1959, a reddish object sped back and forth in the path of a
      Pan American Airways airliner, then disappeared rapidly upwards. � Father
      Gill and others in Papua New Guinea watched a disc with humanoid figures
      visible on it. The figures seemed to respond to gestures by the witnesses.

      � On August 13, 1960, in Red Bluff, California, an important but underrated
      case with highly credible witnesses involved an astoundingly maneuverable
      elliptical object which behaved �intelligently� (Hall, 1964, p. 61).

      What these cases have in common is their obviousness and closeness to the
      witnesses, and their long duration. Few (if any) conventional explanations
      come even close to accounting for them. Cases of this type, however, became
      common in the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1970�1972 trough (see Table 4),
      humanoid sightings and vehicle encounters continued, but nothing that we had
      not heard before. During the 1979�1981 trough (see Table 5), several strong
      physical evidence cases occurred. Once again, no scientific clues are
      immediately obvious.

      Remarks
      First of all, it is clear that the amount and kind of general news media
      reporting on the UFO subject at the time of a wave serves as a sociological
      filter factor in some way, its main effect being to give a somewhat
      misleading impression of what is really going on. The reporters do not
      attempt to distinguish solid, carefully investigated reports (�real� UFOs)
      from trivial IFOs. This often makes it seem that a veritable invasion is
      going on, whereas in reality the noise level is high.

      Waves that were not centered in the United States, or did not have some
      highly publicized U.S. UFO cases, tend to be unknown here. Some pronounced
      non-U.S. waves have occurred, but they went essentially unreported by our
      news media. Examples are 1969, 1977�1978, and to some degree the early 1980s
      concentrations in Europe and South America. This journalistic failure, in
      and of itself, ought to be of interest to serious scholars. UFOs apparently
      do put on spurts of activity from time to time, and new features
      occasionally do appear. But how much reliance can we place on the wave and
      trough numbers we currently have to be an accurate reflection of wave
      magnitude? Several lines of anecdotal evidence suggest that the fundamental
      underlying causes of apparent waves and troughs are sociological and
      psychological in nature and that waves are not nearly so pronounced as they
      appear to be.

      When public funding of an independent study of UFOs at the University of
      Colorado was announced in 1966, an astounding number of scientists and
      academics emerged from the �UFO Underground� to express their support for
      scientific study, and public interest soared. Probably not by coincidence,
      one of the largest UFO sighting waves of all time occurred in 1967. However,
      this wave cannot be explained by misperceptions on the part of people who
      desired to see UFOs. Instead�at least for the moment�UFOs were respectable,
      witnesses knew they would be taken seriously, and they knew where to report
      the sightings because the investigating agencies were much in the news.

      Once the University of Colorado Project failed, rent by internal divisions,
      political pressures, and confusion over proper methodology, UFOs were once
      again debunked. The scientists and academics then vanished once more into
      the underground. Anyone with his finger on the UFO pulse knows that this
      underground movement still exists and is substantial. Due to their caution
      and conservatism, however, these scientists and academics surface only when
      it is (politically and otherwise) safe to do so. The message is that
      ridicule is a powerful factor in suppression of objective UFO reporting and
      investigation. This despite the fact that, as J. Allen Hynek stated,
      �ridicule is not part of the scientific method.� Clear documentation exists
      to show that important groups of people are inhibited by the ridicule factor
      from reporting their sightings or participating in open scientific study of
      UFOs. Airline pilots, at times, have been restricted by their companies from
      talking about the subject. Individual pilots on their own, with good reason,
      have concluded that it would be professional suicide to talk openly about
      their sightings. Military service career-ists often experience the same
      pressures.

      Charles I. Halt, Colonel, USAF, retired, recently acknowledged in a public
      talk that he feared for his reputation and career when he went out into the
      field expecting to find a simple answer for the �lights� that were spooking
      his men outside of Bentwaters AFB, England, in December 1980, but instead
      personally experienced some mystifying events which he felt obliged to
      report up the chain of command. Later, the senior enlisted men involved
      confided in Halt that they, too, had held back on reporting all that they
      had experienced for fear of damaging their professional careers. When all
      the evidence is pieced together about the Bentwaters event, it can be
      clearly seen as a pivotal case in the effort to unravel the UFO mystery.
      Overwhelming credible testimony is out there, if we could only get past the
      misleading and confusing speculation that so dominates the field.

      In order to do that, we must first penetrate the ridicule curtain. The
      ridicule factor has a powerful net effect in inhibiting some of the best
      potential witnesses from fully reporting their experiences, so that
      persuasive testimony and important evidence are lost and UFOs fail to
      receive the scientific attention they so badly need. Most veteran UFO
      investigators will have encountered bitter and cynical UFO witnesses who
      swear they will never report another sighting to anyone, however
      spectacular, because of the ridicule and the negative effects on their lives
      and careers. Next time a news reporter asks you, �Why is it that only little
      old ladies in tennis shoes report UFOs?� you may want to suggest that maybe
      they are the only ones naive enough to do so. News media, in general, serve
      only to perpetuate the stereotypes. Little in the way of vigorous
      investigative reporting has been applied to the subject, largely because of
      the scientific disdain and the prejudices of editors. Television news shows
      usually report UFOs only as their light story of the day: �Now let�s all
      have a big laugh about the latest flying saucer story.� In the final
      analysis there is no question that many hundreds, perhaps many thousands, of
      sightings by competent and credible witnesses are suppressed because of the
      ridicule, and the failure of our major institutions to address the subject
      squarely.

      On top of that, many cases never are carefully and thoroughly investigated.
      Under these circumstances, we cannot be at all sure about the frequency of
      real UFO sightings. Those seeming tidal waves, truth be known, may be more
      like ripples. But those ripples are portentous.

      Table 1. Consensus UFO Sighting Waves
      1952: radar-visual sightings and jet interceptor pursuits, UFOs over
      Washington, D.C., Utah movie film.
      1954: pronounced world-wide wave with pilot sightings, humanoid encounters
      in France and Italy.
      1957: primarily U.S. and South America, electromagnetic effects on vehicles,
      humanoid encounters.
      1960: relatively high sightings in several countries, not particularly in
      the U.S.
      1966-1967: very large wave, innumerable CE1 and CE2 reports.
      1973-1974: pronounced world-wide wave, Charles Hickson abduction, Ohio
      helicopter encounter.
      1977-1978: pronounced world-wide wave, concentrations in Australia, New
      Zealand, Chile, Italy, and the Middle East.
      1982-1985: relatively high sightings in several countries.

      Table 2. Sightings During 1948-1951 Trough
      07/23/48-Montgomery, Alabama. Chiles and Whitted. Airline encounter with
      cigar-shaped object.
      10/01/48-Fargo, North Dakota. F-51 pilot. Dogfight with highly maneuverable
      ball of light.
      10/15/48-Japan. F-61 night fighter. Radar-visual encounter with elongated
      object.
      11/18/48-Andrews AFB, Maryland. USAF pilot. Dogfight with glowing, highly
      maneuverable disc.
      04/24/49-Arrey, New Mexico. Balloon tracking crew. Theodolite observation of
      high-speed UFO.
      06/10/49-White Sands, New Mexico. Two round, white objects maneuvered around
      a missile in flight.
      08/49-Las Cruces, New Mexico. Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. Sighting of
      window-like rectangular
      lights.
      03/20/50-Little Rock, Arkansas. Circular disc with portholes maneuvered
      above an airliner.
      05/11/50-McMinnville, Oregon. Trent. Photos of daylight disc.
      05/20/50-Flagstaff, Arizona. Meteorologist Seymour Hess. Sighting of
      "powered" disc.
      08/15/50-Great Falls, Montana. Mariana movie. Film of two discs.
      01/16/51-Artesia, New Mexico. Two discs circled Skyhook balloon, observed by
      balloon trackers.
      8/25/51-Lubbock, Texas. "Lubbock Lights" photographs.
      10/10/51-Minneapolis, Minnesota. Two sightings of UFOs by balloon trackers
      in aircraft.
      11/51-New Mexico. Mysterious "green fireballs" observed by numerous credible
      witnesses, including scientists and technicians.

      Table 3. Sightings During the 1958-1960 Trough
      01/16/58-Trinidade Isle, Brazil. Clear photographs of Saturn-shaped daylight
      disc.
      04/2/58-Columbus, Ohio. Cigar with row of portholes or windows.
      040/4/58-Santa Monica, California, Cigar with windows, rapid vertical climb.
      05/05/58-San Carlos, Uruguay. Airborne encounter with brilliant object,
      pilot felt heat.
      05/17/58-Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Light reaction
      case; UFO sped away when light was shone at it.
      09/08/58-Offutt AFB, Nebraska. Numerous USAF personnel observed cigar-shaped
      object with satellite objects.
      09/21/58-Sheffield Lake, Ohio. Disc hovered near ground.
      10/07/58-Nantucket, Massachusetts. Oval object hovered, climbed away at high
      speed.
      10/26/58-Baltimore, Maryland. Hovering ellipse flashed, shot up out of
      sight.
      12/20/58-Dunellen, New Jersey. Police saw red pulsating ellipse approach,
      hover, shoot straight up out of sight.
      06/27/59-Papua New Guinea. Father Gill case. Humanoid beings on top of
      hovering disc.
      7/13/59-Blenheim, New Zealand. Domed disc with beings descended, illuminated
      area in green light.
      09/24/59-Redmond, Oregon. Disc hovered near airport, ascended into clouds as
      jet interceptors approached.
      03/04/60-Dubuque, Iowa. Three glowing, blue-white objects in formation.
      04/25/60-Plymouth, New Hampshire. Bright red cigar-shaped object hovered,
      sped away.
      08/13/60-Red Bluff, California. State police saw highly maneuverable
      elliptical object, red light beams.
      10/03/60-Tasmania, Australia. UFO with satellite objects.

      Table 4. Sightings During the 1970-1972 Trough
      01/07/70-Imjarvi, Finland. Humanoid beings confront skiers, apparent
      abduction.
      08/13/70-Haderslav, Denmark. Egg-shaped object over police car, E-M effects.
      04/14/71-Callery, Pennsylvania. Disc with windows, humanoid beings visible
      within; light beam upwards.
      05/24/71-Mendoza, Argentina. Saturn-shaped UFO, darting motions, rapid
      acceleration.
      08/09/71-Minas Gerais, Brazil. Airliner paced by glowing orange disc.
      11/02/71-Delphos, Kansas. Glowing object hovered just off ground, animal
      reactions, strong physical traces.
      06/09/72-Cadiz, Spain. E-M effects on car, pulsating yellow oval object
      visible on road ahead.
      08/19/72-Colby, Kansas. Luminous disc brightly illuminated ground, departed
      upwards at high speed.

      Table 5. Sightings During the 1979-1981 Trough
      01/03/79-Mindalore, South Africa. Mother and child saw craft on ground,
      humanoid encounter.
      03/06/79-Westminster, South Carolina. Low-level dome-shaped object
      illuminated area, up and down motions, light beam.
      08/04/79-Canoga Park, California. Two beings visible through dome of large
      glowing disc.
      4/2/80-Pudasjarvi, Finland. Car drove into "fog," headlights deflected,
      abduction, physical examination.
      05/07/80-Valdese, North Carolina. Domed disc maneuvered near car, E-M
      effects on radio.
      09/30/80-Victoria, Australia. Top-shaped object with body lights landed,
      strong physical traces.
      12/27/80-Bentwaters AFB, England. Military police encounter with landed
      craft, radioactivity and physical traces.
      12/29/80-Huffman, Texas. Spindle-shaped object blocked highway, strong
      physiological effects, mystery helicopters.
      01/08/81-Trans-en-Provence, France. Disc-shaped object landed, physical
      trace evidence investigated by official agency.
      07/04/81-Lake Michigan. Airliner crew saw silvery disc-shaped object ahead
      of plane.
      10/08/81-Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Daylight disc
      photograph.
      11/24/81-Marshall, Texas. Domed disc hovered, beamed light onto truck.

      References and notes
      Andrus, Walter H., Jr. and Richard Hall, eds. MUFON 1987 International UFO
      Symposium Proceedings

      (Seguin, Tex.: 1987). Sighting data presented by international panel of
      speakers. Clark, Jerome. The UFO Encyclopedia: The Phenomenon from the
      Beginning

      (Detroit, Mich.: Omnigraphics, 1998). UFO sighting waves. Hall, Richard. The
      UFO Evidence

      (Washington, D.C.: National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena,
      1964). Hall, Richard. Uninvited Guests

      (Santa Fe, N.Mex: Aurora Press, 1988). Hall, Richard. �The Quest for Truth
      About UFOs: A Personal Perspective on the Role of NICAP.� In MUFON 1994
      International UFO Symposium Proceedings

      (Seguin, Tex.: 1994), pp. 185�222. Hall, Richard. The UFO Evidence: Volume
      II
      (in production, 1999).



      Jeroen Kumeling
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