High Strangeness: The Un-UFO

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Un-UFO

Things have been a mite slow on the Certified UFO Field Investigator front, but suddenly I have two cases pending that have curious similarities.

Both cases involve photographic evidence! Normally I'd be pretty excited by that, but, alas, the photographic evidence in both cases is so inconclusive that it might as well not exist at all. Oh, excuse me, did I say "inconclusive?" I meant to say "crap."

The first case is dated as taking place last October in a town a few hours north of me. The person who filed the report noticed anomalies in some pictures taken on his or his daughter's iPhone. Suspecting an alien presence, he filed a report with MUFON and included the photos:
"I was going to delete landscape photos taken by my daughter months earlier... something looked peculiar so I blew up area of photos that had these things and can't explain what they are so I'm sending them to you. They were taken with iPhone 4S they two photos with orbs in sky and one in grass in day time and another rectangular cloud like or silver box shaped evervesent with antennae"
That's where I came in. I read the report, I looked at the photos and I was immediately suspicious. The pictures were taken on a bright, sunny day with only a few wispy clouds in the sky, and all three were taken with the camera pointed directly at the sun. Who takes pictures pointed directly at the sun? More to the point, who takes pictures pointed directly at the sun and then is surprised to see lens flares in the photos? Moreover, there was absolutely no information given by the "daughter" about why and when and how she took the pictures or what else she may have noticed or experienced at the time.

The "silver box" looks oddly like the Caribou Coffee logo.
I talked to the gent on the phone and he was adamant that I not make up my mind about the pics until I had looked at them on an iPhone or iPad. I thought this was a curious thing to insist upon, but I decided he must work for Apple, so I played along and looked at them on my iPad with the "retina display." They didn't look any different than they had on my Windows 8 computer; just a bunch of pictures of the sun glaring down over a nondescript cornfield. Two photos show "orbs" in the sky, seemingly hovering a few feet off the ground but definitely directly between the sun and the camera. One of the "orbs" is translucent enough that you can clearly see the foliage through it, while the other is in the sky and so has nothing showing through it. The third photo, with the "silver box shaped evervesent with antennae," is harder to explain. It is light blue, not silver, but it is indeed "box shaped," if they've started to make crooked, lopsided boxes that look like galloping blue caribou. As for the "antennae," I have no idea what he's talking about, because they looked like the caribou's antlers to me. In any case, the caribou/box appears amidst some swirling clouds in the sky; nothing actually shows through it, and it has no clear border or outline...

If I were to file my report today I would classify this under "insufficient data" or "flying caribou" and call it a day. But I wanted to give the guy a chance, so I wrote to him and told him that I couldn't come to any conclusions until I could talk to his daughter. So far, no response.

The second case is only slightly less bothersome. Here's the report, such as it is:
"Was travel king north on CTY hwy X and saw it hovering over a commercial farm so I pulled over and it wiped off to the horizon and then came back right over head and then ziped back to the horizon all the wile I was takeing pics with my phone"
This person included seven photos, but two of them are complete blurs so they don't count. The other five photos show something in the sky, perhaps a mile or two in the distance, just above the tree line. All that shows in the photos is a tiny black dot; in a couple of the pics it's in one location, and the others it's in a slightly different location. It only actually looks like anything in one of the photos, but all it looks like is a slightly bigger black dot in the sky.

Still, hats off to the guy for actually pulling over and observing the dot! A lot of people would have just said, "Oh, it's a dot," and kept right on driving.

This could potentially be something interesting, but I am suspicious of the comment that the object was "right over head," because none of the seven photos show it being anywhere within a mile of the witness. He does say elsewhere in the report that the object "was over head then a mile away than came back super sonic speeds," so I guess I could excuse the guy for not getting a shot of something zooming overhead at supersonic speeds, if there was more detail to the story...

Surprisingly, the witness says in the report that he is a "scientist" with a "Master's Degree." I was actually pretty excited when I saw that, because that meant that whatever he said was automatically true. Sadly, though, he's not a real scientist; he's a "political scientist." So that gets us nowhere.

I'm hoping to talk to him soon, but for now this one is "insufficient data" as well.

12 comments:

Lutheran Lexor said...

Interesting:

"...it wiped off to the horizon"

"...then ziped back to the horizon all the wile I was takeing pics..."

I will assume the writer meant "zipped off," "zipped back," "while," and "taking pics" in the two sentence fragments above.

I wonder if any linguists or etymologists have studied the potential relationship between poor spellers and any analytical correlations to having a fantasy-prone personality or similar psychological profile?

There are 4 spelling, grammar, and/or syntax errors in the first witness's report excerpt, and a total of 6 language errors in the second witness's partial report. That seems disproportionately high, relative to the average or "norm."

I suspect there may be some kind of correlation between poor English language skills and, shall we say, some people seeing things that may or may not really be there. Possibly.

Of course, correlation is not necessarily causation, but I'd like to know if there are actually any studies of this question.

On the other hand, of course, I'm the kind of person who wonders about all kinds of odd things quite often, the how and the why, and now I'm wondering what kind of personality profile would apply there?

It's Bohmian (involuted and enfolded) turtles all the way down... ;-D

Lexigraphical Luthier said...

Oh, crap -- look out now! There's a "travel king north" right "over head"!

Now where did I put my camera?

Snarf.

Mark OC said...

I put it down to the fact that the person filing the report is doing so in a state of high excitement and isn't paying attention to grammar and spelling the way they might in an ordinary email. They're focused on getting the story out, and that's it; form and style are irrelevant.

Double Nought Spy said...

Some of the most articulate people I know also believe some of the silliest crap I've ever heard. Religious nonsense, political bs, lame conspiracy theories. A lot of people I've known and worked with who are very good at their jobs (including jobs that require excellent perception and interpretation skills) are bad spellers and produce some painful compositions. As much as I am annoyed and turned off by caps lock, no caps, random sprinkling's of apostrophe's and such like, I don't see anything to be gained by taking an elitist attitude. It's probably even counterproductive.

Seeing something that is not really there? Indeed.

Mark OC said...

Amen to that, Double-Naught.

Terry the Censor said...

@Lutheran Lexor
> correlation between poor English language skills and...people seeing things that may or may not really be there.

To my surprise, the MUFON database is a repository of illiteracy, credulity, and a basic inability to describe first-hand experience in a meaningful way. Roger Marsh had to rewrite just about every MUFON report he blogged about.

When UFO proponents pontificate about witness reliability, clearly, they haven't slogged through the MUFON database.

Terry the Censor said...

I found the three photos attached to the MUFON report. The caribou image is hilarious -- perhaps one of Santa's reindeer migrating north for the winter? The other two have orbs as you describe.

Even George Filer knows one shouldn't point a camera at the sun: "If possible block the sun with a tree, post, roof or even your hand to prevent lens flares."

http://www.nationalufocenter.com/artman/publish/printer_524.php

Double Nought Spy said...

Mark, I think you should just go straight for the credit ratings of witnesses. A whole industry already sorting people in terms of their "worth". No fooling around judging them on their writing ability, or even their occupations. It's a great way to select politicians too.

Lute Horlx said...

@00Spy:

1 of 2:

Read the gist of what I actually said:

"I suspect there may be some kind of correlation between poor English language skills and, shall we say, some people seeing things that may or may not really be there. Possibly.

"Of course, correlation is not necessarily causation, but I'd like to know if there are actually any studies of this question."

Then read what Mark reported about this witness, and his credibility, subsequently, and upon further exchanges with the witness in his blog post, "MIB Magnet":

"... what he told me had some major differences from what he initially reported: his report mentions flashing lights, but when I talked to him he did not say the object had any lights at all; he told me that the object made his truck engine die twice, but he never mentioned that in his initial report. Furthermore, I had him go over parts of the story two and sometimes three times, and the details about the object's appearance and behavior kept changing. When I would stop him and ask him to reconcile something he said with something different he had said previously, he uniformly stuck with the new version and showed no recognition that he had just changed his story. He continually interpreted the object's behavior as being somehow connected to him or directed at him."

So, I guess my surmise, only a suggestion by the way, was correct in its essentials.

Mark initially offered that perhaps the ineptitude with the English language might have had something to do with the "excitement" the witness might have been experiencing, but there's no specific indication as to how much time transpired between the alleged sighting (and which became rather more elaborate and repeatedly changed upon Mark's recontact with the witness) and when the initial report was filed, so that can only be an assumption.

How much time did elapse between the sighting and the first report, btw?

Mark noted: "I put it down to the fact that the person filing the report is doing so in a state of high excitement and isn't paying attention to grammar and spelling the way they might in an ordinary email. They're focused on getting the story out, and that's it; form and style are irrelevant."

I beg to differ: form and style, and effective communication about the details of such an "anomalous experience" do matter, and in fact are rather important in order to better judge the credibility and acumen of the observer involved. They are not at all irrelevant, as subsequent contact between Mark and the witness clearly shows.

Lute Horlx II said...

2 of 2:

Further, double naught, where you said: "Some of the most articulate people I know also believe some of the silliest crap I've ever heard. Religious nonsense, political bs, lame conspiracy theories," that has nothing to do with what I was explicitly referring to.

Being verbally articulate and believing weird things has nothing to do with the basic stylometric analysis of a reporter's use or misuse of the English language in communicating effectively. It is a red herring, of sorts. Bon appetit. Will you take mustard sauce with that?

More relevant, though, is where you say: "As much as I am annoyed and turned off by caps lock, no caps, random sprinkling's of apostrophe's and such like, I don't see anything to be gained by taking an elitist attitude. It's probably even counterproductive.

"Seeing something that is not really there? Indeed."

Review the above, double zero. Read the subsequent blog post details.

I was not expressing an "elitist attitude," but an objective one, which turned out to be basically correct, in terms of the witness's own credibility and objectivity, which is sorely lacking, as evidenced by his own words and actions, and as documented by Mark.

"Counterproductive"? No, not really. Empirical, indeed, and in fact.

So much for "seeing something that is not really there" eh?

Maybe looking more closely at what really is there, rather than ignoring it or attempting to rationalize it away would be more productive. ;-)

Mark OC said...

There's a surprising lot of food for thought here.

For my part, I innately resist any reasoning that says "Witness X had 3 spelling errors and 4 grammatical errors in his/her report, therefore he/she is unreliable." That can certainly be a factor in evaluating a witness' credibility, but to me it's not a major factor. I can't judge a witness' reliability based on his/her ability to express him- or herself in a potentially stressful situation.

Just look at the 1955 Kelly-Hopkinsville case; the members of the Sutton clan were uneducated and inarticulate, yet their testimony was unshakeable and no one has ever been able to disprove their story. Same with Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker, who experienced a CE3K in Pascagoula, MS in 1973. Rolling Stone magazine crucified the witnesses for their thick southern accents and lack of education, but couldn't prove they were lying. Then look at the Ballester-Guasp evaluation tool that MUFON uses as part of its case reporting system; This is the supposed gold standard for evaluating the reliability of a witness, and yet it does nothing to measure or evaluate how articulate a witness is, or how well a well a witness can spell, capitalize or construct a sentence.

We also have to consider that in the era of online communications, capital letters, proper spelling and correct sentence structure are quickly becoming entirely optional. Lie it or not, Twitter is re-inventing our language and re-defining acceptable language skills.

Then there's the inescapable fact that a lot of Americans simply can't spell or punctuate or capitalize or put a logical sentence together.

Mark OC said...

How 'bout that, I just made a spelling mistake: "Lie it or not" should read "Like it or not."