Monday, February 22, 2016

A Little Help with Norma Gardner

I have spent too much time recently looking for a specific report and thought that maybe someone here could help out. I think I have found a case of one witness co-opting the testimony of another.

In UFO Crash at Roswell, we wrote about Norma Gardner (not to be confused with Mary Ann Gardner) who told of her experiences cataloging UFO debris. Len Stringfield was the one who supplied this information that appeared in his paper, “Retrievals of the Third Kind,” at, I believe, the 1978 MUFON Symposium. He wrote:

Mrs. G worked in the Foreign Materials Division with a top security clearance rating at Wright-Patterson AFB in the 1940’s and 1950’s, before her retirement in 1959 for health reasons. Charles Wilhelm, who as provided me with some first hand reports, got this one from Mrs. G. in 1959. She had known Charles very well as a teenage on two counts: he was a good honest working in performing yardwork for her, and for his intense interest in UFOs. When she developed cancer, and knew of her impending death, she decided to relate to him some startling information about her secret duties at Wright-Patterson and what she saw in the performance of these duties.
In 1955, according to Wilhelm, she was assigned to a post to catalogue all incoming UFO material, during which time approximately 1,000 items were processed. These included items from the interior of a recovered UFO brought to the air base. All items were photographed and tagged.
In her cataloguing duties, Mrs. G. also was witness to the conveyance, by cart, of two dead humanoid bodies from one room to another. The bodies, preserved in chemicals, were four to five feet tall, had generally human features except that the heads were large relative to their bodies, and their eyes were slanted. There was no word as to whether or not the bodies were brought from a recent crash or had been at the base morgue from an incident occurring in previous years.
After telling Charles Wilhelm some of the barest facts she knew, she commented, “Uncle Sam can’t do anything to me once I’m in my grave.” Six months later Mrs. G. passed away.
Len suggested that these were important, he said, “Vital,” facts and that he accepted the story told by Wilhelm who had believed in Mrs. G. I’m not going to argue that point for two reasons… First, this is second hand at best and second, that’s not the point here.

Sometime in the last few months I have read a similar story about someone having a high level security clearance and having to catalog the remains of a UFO crash. The details stuck with me but it wasn’t until I revisited the story told by Norma Gardner (have you all figured out that Mrs. G. is Norma Gardner?) that I remembered that similar tale. I can’t seem to find it and thought maybe someone else might have come across it and could supply the name of that other witness.

If nothing else, if that other account exists and we can find it, and if it was told after Len’s paper was published and after UFO Crash at Roswell was published, then we probably have a case of contamination if not outright confabulation. We then could eliminate that later tale from our databases so it doesn’t confuse an issue that is already confused.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Darwin Rasmussen and the Roswell Bodies

In keeping with my series on Chasing Footnotes, I have found a subtopic that is almost as interesting (well, it is to me) which is finding original sources (which, of course, is sort of the same thing). Not all that long ago I ran across an analysis of the Roswell case in which it was claimed that Captain Darwin Rasmussen (later Colonel) had assisted Major Jesse Marcel in recovering the alien bodies. I have never heard anything like that and it puzzled me because, as far as I knew, only Stan Friedman and I had interviewed Rasmussen’s cousin, Elaine Vegh.

Now that you all are thoroughly confused, let me explain. Back in 1990, I learned of Elaine Vegh whose claim to fame in this arena was that her first cousin, Darwin Rasmussen, had been a career Air Force officer who was stationed in Roswell in 1947. According to her, she had been standing near her father when Rasmussen reportedly said, “…never doubt that there is a cover up here. We did pick up bodies and the Air Force does have them.”

She also said, “He had seen what was picked up. He had seen the craft.”

First, before the skeptics all go nuts, let me point out that this is a second-hand story of an overheard conversation that had taken place at least a decade and a half prior to that. As evidence of anything, it isn’t worth very much. Elaine Vegh was probably relating the story as best she could remember, but see didn’t see anything herself and her memory of this is somewhat clouded… I’ll get back to this.

That was really all she said to me. Her cousin had been part of a retrieval team; he had seen bodies and the wrecked craft. She had nothing in the way of evidence, there are or were no family letters or documents, and according to Vegh, Rasmussen said, “I was there… but we were told to forget what we saw…”

Well, Rasmussen’s picture is not in the Yearbook, but that doesn’t matter. I have a copy of the Roswell base telephone directory published in August 1947, and his name is in there. That puts him in Roswell at the right time. I also found his name associated with a 509th flight crew.

Second, this little tale has not been used very often. Friedman seems to have ignored it, and given everything, I’m not overly surprised. It is second hand without any corroboration. Rasmussen died in 1975 and Vegh’s father died in 1983. No one else heard the conversation and there wasn’t much in the way of detail.

Yes, I used it in UFO Crash in Roswell and Tom Carey and Don Schmitt used it in Witness to Roswell, interestingly without providing credit for the interview. Their footnote just mentioned an interview in 1990 (March 1, 1990 to be precise) but failed to mention that I conducted it, taped it, and supplied a copy to Don. Anyone reading their book might conclude they had conducted the interview.
There was a reference to Rasmussen and what he had seen at:

In this case, it was suggested that Rasmussen had seen four bodies and Vegh did say that he, Rasmussen "... had first hand knowledge of four beings and their craft..." Here Rasmussen is described as the Operations Officer for the 715th Bomb Squadron which was part of the 509th. The referenced sources here are both UFO Crash at Roswell and Witness to Roswell. In Witness to Roswell he is described as a flight operations officer and in UFO Crash at Roswell as an Operations Officer (and unfortunately the organization is misidentified as the 718th). I have since located some records that showed he was assigned to an aircrew as a radar officer for Operation Crossroads. That information, which does not relate to Roswell, can be seen here:

Another reference found retold the story, clearly from UFO Crash at Roswell, but the text does identify the source, and it comes back to me. It adds nothing to it until that recent note that injected Jesse Marcel into it by someone else.

I can find nothing to explain where the idea came that Rasmussen had mentioned Marcel. Tracing the tale to the source, which is probably me given that Friedman didn’t use it, I know that Vegh did not say that to me. The conclusion that I draw is that someone somewhere just assumed that Marcel would have been involved and injected him into a tale in which his name had not surfaced. In Witness to Roswell Carey and Schmitt argue that Marcel had to have seen the bodies so it is not a large step to Marcel and Rasmussen being together at some point. This, I believe, is an assumption made by them but is not based on any testimony.

And finally let’s talk about that clouded memory. Vegh had said that she had overheard the story when she was 10 or 12. In 1990, and I’m sure she would be annoyed for me saying this, she was 62. She also said that she had graduated from high school in 1945… which means that, if she had the timing right, this had nothing to do with Roswell…

That’s a point she figured out later as we discussed this. I mentioned that the crash was in 1947 (is that such a big secret that I should have kept it to myself… and oh, she had seen the Unsolved Mysteries broadcast before we spoke so I wasn’t giving away anything and we had talked about the date throughout the interview) she said, “I graduated high school in 1945 so I must have been little older.”

So, we see that her original memory was of her overhearing this when she was younger was inaccurate, and I’m not sure that’s the real problem here. Misremembering her age seems fairly trivial in the overall scheme of things. The real problem is the lack of corroboration for the story. True, her cousin was in Roswell at the right time, and since he died in 1975, this would have been before all the Roswell information came out (she didn’t mention it until 1990 remember) but there is just nothing here we can prove. It is a story with almost no real foundation, told by a sincere woman who clearly believes it, but it is also told by a woman who did not accurately remember her age at the time. This tale is one of those little bits of trivia that seem to dot the Roswell landscape.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Roswell Update: Jay West and Lieutenant Colonel Duran

I have often wondered why it was that Karl Pflock went after me in his anti-Roswell book. I have often wondered why there are those who quote from it as if it had been written in stone but ignored the mistakes he made in it. I have wondered why the fourth note on the map included on the inside covers of the book said, “The ‘revisionist’ Randle – Schmitt/first Ragsdale/ ‘true’ Kaufmann crash site,” when it was, in fact, the first site that Ragsdale identified. Wouldn’t the new site, out by Boy Scout Mountain and championed by the late Max Littell, be the “revisionist” site since it came after our interview with Ragsdale and his identification of the site we mentioned?

But none of this is overly relevant to the purpose here, and that is to clarify another short group of quotes that is not exactly accurate. These concerned two witnesses Don Schmitt and I had named in our earlier books, which Pflock seemed to believe were misrepresented at best and confabulated at worst. Jay West and Lieutenant Colonel Albert Lovejoy Duran were the men named and Pflock said he couldn’t find them. He wrote:

Also included is Jay West, purportedly in 1961 a United Press International Stringer working in Alamogordo. According to Randle and Schmitt, West “became friendly with the base [presumably, Holloman Air Force Base, formerly Alamogordo Army Air Base] [brackets in original] public information officer. The PIO had found a file that mentioned the Roswell crash that included a map. The PIO got a topographical map of the crash site. According to West, they made trips out to try to locate the crash. West described the map as showing the debris field and then, two and a half miles to the east, a second site.
Curiously, other than the above, which appears in the timeline section of the UFO Crash at Roswell, and the entry in the list of interviewees (“conducted in person, Nov 1989”) [parens in original], West and his story appear nowhere else in the book, including the index [which for those of you keeping score at home neither Don nor I constructed], and he is given similarly short shift in Randle and Schmitt’s second book, The Truth about the UFO Crash at Roswell. Yet, clearly West could be the key to the Roswell mystery, the lever needed to pry the lid off the crashed-saucer cover-up.
Early on, Fred Whiting of the Fund for UFO Research and I sought to learn more about West from Randle and Schmitt. The answers we got were vague and rather evasive. Meanwhile with the help of a friend with extensive experience in New Mexico, and national journalism, I attempted to track down Jay West. We came up completely dry, rather like Glenn Dennis’s nurse.
A few years later, on August 3, 1999, I received an email message from Kevin Randle asking, “Did you talk to Frank Lovejoy Duran [previously mentioned alleged witness to alien bodies] [brackets in original]? This was a source that Schmitt developed and seemed to be quite impressed with.”
Replying in the negative, I took the opportunity to once again bring up Jay West. The next day, Randle replied, “Jay West was a guy Schmitt met in Florida (if I remember the story correctly [and in listening to the tape again, they were in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the time]) while he was down there interviewing either DuBose or Rickett. West provided him with the information but no documentation. We did search the files at White Sands and I took a FOIA request to Holloman….” Presumably with negative results, although Randle did not tell me that explicitly.
While all this is the truth, it is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Starting with Jay West, I will note that I have a tape of the interview that Don conducted. It sounded like they were at an indoor swimming pool for the interview because of the level of noise in the background and the noise sounded like that when I was on the swimming team in high school. There are points where it seems that you can hear the life guard’s whistle reinforcing the idea of an indoor pool.

West spends a great deal of time talking about his experiences at White Sands watching the missile launches and mentioned, specifically, the anti-missile missiles. After a strange gap in the tape, he finally got around to talking about their attempts to find the crash site. He had a map that was found at Holloman AFB and the base PIO was involved in the search. They traveled around New Mexico attempting to find the location.

West said, “So we went back to Roswell… and I’m not talking about the road maps, I’m talking about the topography maps and what they had were little ‘Xs’ all over the place and what [appeared] to be crossed lines… [What we saw during our searches] they could have been gouges… they could have been tire tracks… We walked around for a couple of hours and tried not to step on any snakes…”

He then launched into an explanation of what the map was. A huge topographical map which sounded to me as if he was talking about the kind of map we used in Army Aviation. Not really an aeronautical chart, but something that contained the surface features such as rivers, ravines, mountains, hills, elevations and that sort of thing. He finally said that it was like a military land navigation map.

He then said, “Over here there was a circular object… [here meaning an area on the ground].”

Don said, “There are a lot of sinkholes in the area.”

West replied that it wasn’t a sinkhole or anything like that. He seemed to be suggesting that it was some sort of circular area on the ground but the quality of the tape is so bad that I’m not sure. He could have been talking about some kind of a burned area, or a place where the sand had fused into glass. None of that is particularly significant because this could have been the result of a lightning strike at some point and there was nothing said that would tie it directly into Roswell except for the file in which the PIO said the map was found.

West said, “Now I don’t have… aside from the fact that was circular and the scale wasn’t all that big…

Don asked, “Where would this area have been in relation to…

West interrupted to say that he didn’t know. That he’d have to see a map but that the map they had been using was a photocopy of a larger map. He said that north was not to the top.

He began to describe the area. It looked as if someone had used a bulldozer and that “it looked like the whole area had been vacuumed.”

But the problem was, of course, even though he said the map had come from a file that had been labeled “Roswell,” and he had been out there seeing terrain that varied from that which had not been manipulated, when all was said and done, he had been out there in 1961, at least according to what he said, and he was now talking about this in 1989 or nearly thirty years later. While this had the potential to provide some corroboration for the Roswell crash, and he had said he still had the map, which would, of course provide some documentation, he never produced the map. This was a lead that went nowhere.

We tried to follow up and I spoke to people at the White Sands Missile Range, but they said they knew nothing about this. I hand carried a FOIA request to Holloman AFB and to the PIO office, but again, this was now more than thirty years after the fact, and the request produced no results. I had thought, and still think, that it should be possible to learn who was assigned to the PIO office in 1961 (though my recent attempts to follow up have gone nowhere and there had been no answers to my questions) … though such records might have been moved more than once and determined to be of no importance today. We never did not learn who the PIO was that had talked to West.

So, when Pflock noted that the information about West only appeared in the timeline of our first book, part of the reason was that we had found nothing to corroborate the story. That didn’t mean it was untrue, it simply meant that we were somewhat dubious about it. Had the tape been easier to understand, had we been able to learn the name of the PIO, had we found anything to establish that this was a more important part of the Roswell case, we would have given it a more prominent place in the book. As it was, here was a story that had been told to us, one of which we had no reason to reject, but then, little reason to feature because it provided nothing more than a map we hadn’t seen, file that no longer existed and a description of a site that we couldn’t find.

There were reasons for the somewhat vague answers to Pflock’s questions. I had given him everything that I knew and while we couldn’t prove the information useful, I did have a tape which proved we hadn’t invented it, though that seems to be something implied, vaguely, in Pflock’s book.

There was something else operating here and it was that I had read Roswell in Perspective, that is, Pflock’s report on Roswell to the Fund for UFO Research, some years earlier and realized that I was often the target. To complicate matters, when he had completed that project, I had sent him a carefully worded note congratulating on the completion of a long task but he immediately began telling people that I had agreed with his conclusions. There was nothing in the note to support that claim and I issued a statement explaining that my intent was to note a colleague’s completion of a task but had said nothing about endorsing his conclusions.

Here’s something else that seemed to have been ignored. Pflock never identified this “a friend with extensive experience in New Mexico, and national journalism.” While I suspect that might have been Jason Kellahin who had been one of the reporters sent from Albuquerque to Roswell in 1947, I don’t know this. We don’t have the person’s identity which means we don’t even know if it was a man or a woman, and there is no way to confirm the person’s expertise or to confirm Pflock’s conclusion on this. In other words, this unknown person with unknown credentials adds nothing to our knowledge at all but is used to suggest something nefarious on the parts of Schmitt and me. West might not have been who he claimed to be, but the information provided by Pflock does not allow us to evaluate West’s claim and does nothing to discredit it.

We then move onto Lieutenant Colonel Albert Lovejoy Duran. Pflock didn’t do much with this, other than a vague suggestion attributed to me that Schmitt had found the witness and was impressed with him.

I’m not sure why Pflock would ignore Duran almost completely if he was convinced we had done something that was unfair. We had relegated Duran to a single footnote in the first book and never mentioned him again. This, by itself, would suggest that he was not a source that we had done much with given the facts. Pflock provided no new information about Duran and apparently was unable to find any record of the man, though Pflock did mention the Army Records Center in St. Louis in his attempts, or others attempts, to find the nurses from the base in 1947. Apparently Pflock’s attempt to verify Duran’s military service failed, which is not to say that Duran had not served in the military only that Pflock had failed to confirm it.

The information came to us after a lecture in Alamogordo. A friend told us that her friend, Juanita Valenzuela, whose father had been in the military and who was currently living in Utah, said that he had been assigned to a unit at White Sands Proving Ground (which became the White Sands Missile Range) that had been sent into the desert north of Roswell. She suggested that bodies had been found at that location. Because of this information, which seemed to corroborate part of the Frank Kaufmann story, we had put it in a footnote, naming the name. We had confirmed his military service. I will note here that since Valenzuela didn’t know about Kaufmann, this was independent information which should not be judged by the failure of the Kaufmann testimony.

And, here's why we didn’t do much else with this. We were able to confirm his military service and retirement at the rank provided. Duran was apparently an alcoholic, who eventually moved to Colorado. A friend, Sergeant Arne Oldman, who was assigned to White Sands at the time (meaning early 1990s) attempted to interview Duran, but Duran’s cirrhosis of the liver made that problematic and Duran died before Oldman could meet with him in person though he did talk to him over the telephone conducting a somewhat preliminary interview. After he died, Don did talk to the daughter one more time and she stood by the tale she told. Because all this, and our failure to get Duran on tape, we let go of the story.

However, since someone brought this up on this blog, assuming, I believe because of Pflock’s failure to identify Duran (and his failure to locate West for the matter) that we had fudged the information. No one seemed to think that Pflock might have stopped his search when he had gotten the answers he wanted, spun that information the way he wanted, and made it sound as if we had invented these guys or their stories.

But there was a problem for Pflock and that was he didn’t know anything about Duran, and if he attempted to run the name by the Army in St. Louis, and he didn’t supply something other than the name, he might not have found the guy. On the other hand, I used a government publication, one printed every year, looking for any mention of Duran and found his name in it, confirming that he had retired as a lieutenant colonel. This does not mean the story he shared with his daughter, especially when he had been drinking, was true, only that the man existed and that he had retired as a lieutenant colonel.

This then, should answer all the questions about Jay West and Lieutenant Colonel Albert Duran. They are real people, West was interviewed on tape, and evidence proving Duran was a military officer has been found. They fell out of “favor” when there was no corroboration for what West said and when repeated attempts to interview Duran in person failed. Moving to higher standards of evidence was another of the reasons that they weren’t mentioned. But the claims of Pflock were not proven and while his dismissal of them was understandable, some of the reasons given were as nebulous as the stories told by these two men.

As I have said so often, these two tales, because they are now part of the Roswell case should be relegated to footnotes (which is basically where you can find them). Since they are part of the Roswell story, they must be addressed, but they added nothing significant to the case.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Curse of Oak Island -Season 3 Final or "Why I decided to come back next year when I haven't found anything yet."

Well, we’ve had the season finale and we now know more than we did which is not to say that the episode wasn’t disappointing or that we learned much. (Spoilers Ahead) We got the final report from the diver who made what I think was an incredible journey down the Bore Hole 10 X to stand on semi-solid ground. He wandered around down there, telling us that the ground was “silty” and that it was uneven. He said that he saw no marks on the walls to suggest it was man made and said that the roof was uneven as well as the floor. It was his impression that it was a natural void they had tapped into when they drilled 10 X and that he found nothing down there to suggest human activity other than that which had happened after they bored the hole.

The pillar or post that had been seen on the sonar was apparently some of the debris left by modern men in their attempts to discover what was hidden down there. Or, in other words, it seemed to be a length of pipe that fell down and stuck in the mud. The body was an impression in the floor of the void and the box was a large rock that had one side with a nearly perfect right angle on it. None of the things that they believed were down there, and kept them coming back, turned out to be what they thought they were. Wishful thinking and an interpretation formed by their preconceived notions caused them to see things that weren’t there. To be fair, the video that had been made, what, forty or so years before, wasn’t very good anyway. No matter how often they aired it with their overlays to show us the various artifacts and body it didn’t change the outcome. Those things were not there.

Next the Lagina boys were visited by three McGinnis sisters who were direct descendants of one of the boys who originally found the “money pit” (I put that in quotes because I don’t think there is any money down there but all these treasure hunters have thrown a great deal of money into the pit). They certainly had a story to tell. First they mentioned a family legend that neither they nor anyone else in the family had ever revealed. According to them, the three boys found three chests with treasure in them. Each of the boys got one of the chests. Think of all the time, money and lives that could have been saved.

Here’s why I’m dubious of that story. In 1803, those boys, along with others, formed the Onslow Company and invested more time and money into digging deeper in the pit. If the boys had already removed three chests, they might have gotten it all and there would be no reason to look any deeper. Oh, I know what you’re thinking. If they found the chests buried each one deeper than the last, they might believe there was a fourth or a fifth, but to this point there is no evidence of that…

Which makes me think that tablet found at the 90 foot level was a hoax created by one of the land owners to increase the value of his land or by an investor to keep people interested in providing more money and coming back to the island. That tablet no longer exists though there are pictures of it but no photographs.

Second, the sisters had a small wooden box they kept in what looked like a velvet bag. Inside the box was a small golden cross that was said to be part of the treasure found by McGinnis so long ago. The Lagina boys thought that this was the first tangible evidence that there was treasure hidden in the “money pit” but all it really proved was that someone in the family had this cross that had been handed down through a couple of generations. There was nothing to attach it to the “money pit” other than family legend which could have been nothing more than family legend… or in other words, we don’t really know that it was found in a box of treasure removed from Oak Island. The Lagina boys didn’t seem to consider this. They accepted the story at face value but given their reactions to other important discoveries that isn’t much of a surprise.

After the sisters left the war room, the Lagina boys and their pals returned to the hole they had bored a couple of weeks earlier and by that I mean it was a couple of weeks for the show but might have been more time for them. Anyway, they brought out a guy with a small, HD video camera that he used to inspect pipes for damage. They lowered the camera into the hole and into the void their drilling had found. In the end, they saw some glints in the murky water that seemed to have a golden glow to it. This, they thought, was evidence of treasure down there, in the original “money pit” that had been buried too deep for the boys with only shovels to get in 1795 or too deep for the others who had been digging there because of the water that suddenly flooded the pit at about the 90 foot level.

And let’s not forget that when they drilled this hole they pulled up a bit of metal that excited them but looked more like a tiny piece of shrapnel than anything else. It didn’t seem to be made of a precious metal. Just a tiny bit of debris that could have easily been the result of other attempts to find treasure.

In the end of the show and the end of the season, they were sitting in the war room, trying to decide if it was worth the effort and money to attack the main money pit. They talked about throwing in the towel, but why do that when History was ready to fund another season. Although they tried to draw out the suspense but to no one’s surprise, they all voted to return next season… I mean next year to dig up the money pit. It is a fun summer vacation and you have the bonus of being on TV. What I don’t understand is why they wasted all this time and effort to explore Bore Hole 10 X when the treasure was allegedly in the “money pit.” Well, it did make for some dynamic television if nothing else.