Thursday, August 20, 2015

Homeland Security UFO Video Analyzed

UPDATE: I made an error or two and have created a graph showing proper triangulation at the bottom of this page, with corrections, and with notes on conclusions!

A Puerto Rico "UFO" video has been making the rounds. I analyzed the video after it became a hot topic on Reddit, and posted about it there, but I felt I owed my readers analysis. You'll have to pardon my lazy writing here, because I'm already pretty talked-out about it as I write. Here is the video:

It looks weird, doesn't it? It's IR video, of course, so even a video of a human looks otherworldly in that context. Honestly, I was more than a little surprised the skeptics (some of them, at least) seemed flummoxed by this video. I'm not a skeptic, just an open minded investigator, and UFOs are not my thing, but still...

The video is from 2013 but this month the Science Coalition for Ufology released its lengthy 161 page report detailing their analysis of the video. Their conclusions were a bit surprising to me, since I immediately saw a problem with how they derived their numbers and concluded that this was an anomalous event - an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon. Now, as I said, I'm a bit talked out on this subject. I didn't want to get into it because it's just not my "thing," but since I saw some errors that nobody else seemed to notice, I felt compelled to point them out.  So pardon the fact that I will be copy-pasting some of my Reddit comments as part of this article, but I can't handle rehashing it. Sorry.

Claims are made about the bird traveling 86 miles per hour, and later flying through the water at a similar speed. I think there were too many assumptions involved. Just looking at the display, there was an attempted target lock at around 43 seconds into the video (the box that briefly pops-up around the crosshairs) - this fails. This is a clue in itself: The target had plenty of heat signature, and once in the crosshairs, the operator pulled the trigger, but the lock failed. This was an immediate clue that we were looking at a very small target; one below the threshold of the software for target tracking. We understand that. Mostly these IR systems are used to lock onto aircraft, or cars, or sometimes people. But you don't want them accidentally  locking on a very small target such as a bird. Now the lack of a lock is important, because it means that all the target readings on the lower right display were not about this target. Instead, they are a mean average for the ground. This means that the coordinates cannot be used to establish any speed estimates whatsoever. And We will address that further, because it led to a fundamental error on the part of the SCU investigators.

The aircraft was turning and climbing during this, starting out heading WNW (302 degrees) and ending up going SE when they lost the target. The target was North of the aircraft for this entire event. They increased their distance to the target throughout this. I think it was 2.7 nautical miles downrange on lock attempt, and they were 3.4 nautical miles down range as the bird crossed the shoreline, then 4.0 nautical miles downrange when the bird lands in the water.

IMPORTANT POINT: As alluded earlier, the coordinates shown on the video display are those of the far distant ground, not of the target - and I will conclusively prove that at the end of this commentary. Because the investigators used the coordinates of the land, they got a total arc of 2.2 miles, and that is where they came up with their ground speed. Furthermore, they used the moving ground coordinates to try to establish a movement speed "underwater" while viewing a stationary target. The coordinates continue to move as the airplane moves, however, they have NOTHING to do with any target you are looking at, unless the target is locked! But back to the video for the moment....

You really catch the shoreline at 1:55 in the video; aircraft is still turning left, now at 155 degrees. Target is estimated 16 ft above ground, 3.4 nautical miles downrange (but of course, that's the LAND not the bird). Right after this is when we zoom in, at 1:58. At 2:00 to 2:04, you can really make-out the shape of a pelican: big curved neck, long bill, and wings in that classic glide arc. Now we're 3.7 nautical miles down range. Some people have objected that you can't see wings, but you can - only at certain points. You have to remember that this is infrared video; it's reading heat signatures. Since wings are thin and have low vascularization, they have a very low heat signature. To infrared, they are almost invisible.

At 2::05 you see the bird land in the water. 2:06 they lose the target when the bird lands in the water (heat signature disappears, of course). 4 nautical miles down range: Target is North/northeast of the aircraft, but the aircraft is flying SE. Now we have some controversy as the operator supposedly tracks the target underwater, moving as fast as they thought it was moving in the air!

I don't see a bird flying underwater (or a UFO). I see a heat signature artifact that appears briefly on screen after the camera operator loses the bird (because it landed in the water and the heat signature disappeared). You'll notice it's no longer a heat signature (dark) at that point, but a cold signature (white). He does seem to spot a floating pelican momentarily but perhaps didn't realize that was what he was following to start with, so he zooms back out again, to hunt.. The changes in coordinates you see on screen are describing the visible sea area as the plane moves away and turns, that's all. I will restate yet again, that the ground coordinates, when there is no locked target, describe a mean average of the ground (or sea) being views, and they are constantly in motion because the plane is moving. These coordinates cannot be used to make a speed estimate. We proved that there is no target lock and the coordinates describe only the visible landscape/seascape. About the waves and speed: They seem to be moving really fast (all of the waves, you'll notice) but that's because of the aircraft speed and the foreshortening of the long telephoto lens, not because they are turbocharged ocean waves.

Finally, zoomed out, the camera operator (while panning) spots two birds taking off from the water at about 2:32 and he zooms in again. There is another important point here: who says one of these two birds is the same one as the camera guy followed to the water? Pelicans are ubiquitous in the area and there could be thousands of them out there; all invisible to the IR because their feathers are at water temperature. That assumption was another mistake, and it is one of the assumptions behind the alleged underwater flying, along with the the error displayed throughout the analysis: Thinking that the ever-changing coordinates described a target, which they do not..

..Bob, the other half of udebunked despite the fact that he never writes anything, commented to me the thing I was thinking: This seems like  a very inexperienced IR operator. Perhaps his first-ever field work? Birds are seen on IR all the time. Everybody knows that the wings are hard to see when looking down from above with a warm (high heat signature) land background. Everyone knows their movement profile. What was this person's problem? We'll probably never know. This is part of the real mystery: If you believe the SCU report, nobody in the Homeland Security service or Air Force could figure it out... so they just gave it to UFO people. Yeah, that's believable... (wiping smirk off face) as in not believable at all. With the Air Force's IR profile database, the match could have been made by computer in like a tenth of a second. So then the real mystery is why some bird footage was proffered to UFO groups by the government..what were they up to? Some kind of test? If so, the UFO people failed that test. Maybe that is what the government wanted. But I digress....


Personally, I don't see any indicators of high speed at all. The heads-up display is misleading people into thinking the bird is covering a huge distance, but it's not a locked target so we're getting coordinates of distant ground. Those coordinates are always in constant motion, even when viewing a stationary but unlocked target. Don't believe me? Look at the first part of the video, before the operator starts chasing a bird. The ONLY way you can arrive at a speed estimation is to find a stationary ground target with a known width, and use that to triangulate vertically and horizontally, to establish a speed.. When you do that, it doesn't look fast at all.

Then we get to the landing in the water, which we actually see at 2:05, followed immediately by the loss of heat signature (and the white artifact) at 2:06. Again, no speed really. The waves look fast, because of foreshortening by the enormous zoom (remember the aircraft is now over 4 nautical miles away, so that's like equiv. 2,000 millimeter lens) and the effect of the aircraft making a left turn, which means the waves (like the bird) are being videoed in a moving arc, with the aircraft's speed being added to the apparent ground and wave speed. You could calculate how much apparent speed the aircraft is adding to the bird by tracking the turn of the aircraft throughout the video (goes from WNW around to the SE and finally to the NE in the same short time slice) - doing a sight line and tangent analysis - but I'm too lazy to do that, and it would be highly problematic anyway because altitude of the target would be a critical factor (and we don't have that).

The ground arc is a total of 2.2 miles, but much of that is accounted for the the turning aircraft and the fact that those coordinates are of the far distant ground (and constantly in motion because of the aircraft), NOT the bird.

 * ... To give an example of this: Bird crosses a two lane highway (airport runway) at 1:14 to 1:16 -  (coordinates 18 29 51N 67 07 04W ) to 18 29 54N 67 07 08W Google map, (THIS IS HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT EVIDENCE, as you will see) which shows that is a distance of 294ft. 294 feet covered in 2 seconds - IF the bird were flying at 0 feet above the ground and we were viewing the road from directly above - that's the only way their measurements would work!

But we know that isn't true: the bird is in the air and being viewed from 2.1 nautical miles away from an altitude of 2100 FT (corrected in graphic), and the road (airport runway) is seen at a very oblique angle, which tells you that the bird is closer to the aircraft than the coordinate estimates would imply. Applying a little trigonometry, it appears that the bird is covering about 65 air feet (corrected in graphic) in that same two seconds, yielding a lazy speed of 22.36 mph (corrected in graphic). So yeah, the speed and turn of the aircraft, the long-distance view and foreshortening of the zoom lens is giving a very misleading impression. Also note that while the road can be checked to confirm it is 294 feet, the displayed coordinates travel almost 500 feet as the bird crosses that road. Again, the coordinate motion, when there is no locked target, includes the relative speed of the aircraft.

Note on speed: You have multiple points which can be triangulated. You must use stationary ground targets of known width. Alternatively, as I said, sight line and tangents give you another way to get at a number, but they are again enslaved to the inaccurate coordinates and therefore problematic. The runway above has a known width. The aircraft had a known position when the bird was observed crossing in front of that road (airport runway). The aircraft was  2.1 nautical miles from the road (12760 feet) and 2100 feet in altitude. With that, application of Pythagorean theorem gives us the unknown side of the vertical triangle: 12932 feet. We will need that late for the speed calculations. Now we determine the horizontal triangulation: the space through which the bird actually flies, as you can see in the video. So we take the 12932 feet (Corrected in graphic) from aircraft to target (the ROAD, remember) and the width of the road (easily obtained from Google maps) which is 294 feet, and get our other side. Now we have a horizontal triangle, which is 294 feet wide at ground level, and makes a point at the aircraft. In other words, the width of the triangle gets smaller as we approach the aircraft.  Finally, we have to estimate the height of the bird. That's  a little fuzzy, but since elsewhere you see clearly the tops of buildings with the bird far above, you know it isn't skimming the land. I chose 100 feet. It was probably higher. If you go with 200 feet, the bird is traveling a little even slower, and if you go with 800 feet - then we're down to a walking speed. It isn't going 86 miles per hour, that's for sure.  So then we find our vertical height lines on the vertical triangle, and that gives us a new base for the horizontal triangle. I arrived at a 65 foot window that the bird crossed, as I said. There's fuzz here, but the fuzz factors are altitude and angle passing through the viewing area. At their ends, a perpendicular passage will give you 15 MPH at their suggested height, diagonal passage gives you 44 MPH and diagonal and diving from altitude gives you 72 MPH (however, in that case we would have to see our bird moving parallel to the lines of sight, which is not what is happening. I only mention this to illustrate that there is an outside speed that can be derived, which is still far lower than the SCU report estimates).. Nothing higher than that. Sorry, guys.

 ABOUT THE PROOF of the coordinates error: As you see from the Google map, plugging those coordinates into Google maps lands you directly on the road which is off in the distance and only seen obliquely, as you can see. Plug in the coordinates shown at any point, and you'll get the objects seen in the far distant background. THIS conclusively proves my original point that the coordinates shown are of the far distant background land, not the bird (otherwise those coordinates would put you on land in between the aircraft and the road, and not the road). Furthermore, you  can observe in this case that the moving ground coordinates always show a greater distance than we know is involved. The road, for example, being a known 294 feet but the ground coordinates reporting a much greater distance. The erroneous speed estimate was based on those land coordinates, yielding 2.2 miles covered/86 mph-ish, but the bird is between that far-distant land and the aircraft camera, and and probably flies under 3/4 mile in that same time frame. SCU used ground coordinates to establish speed, but we've already proven that these are useless for this process. I'd say that this is pretty much conclusive. Sorry, though, I'd rather it be something more interesting!

Mistake 1: Misunderstanding and failing to acquire the public information available about how the IR display rangefinding works. If they had done this, they would have understood that the lower right coordinates do not refer to a target, unless the target is locked. THE TARGET WAS NEVER LOCKED. Therefore, the numbers are constantly in motion even when looking at things like houses on the ground (which obviously aren't moving) because the aircraft is moving. Those number always show motion. They cannot be used to make speed calculations. All of this could have been avoided by simply sitting down with any experienced military IR operator: It would have taken 30 seconds for him/her to say, "It's a bird," and none of us would have had to go through this tedious and unfortunate process.

Mistake 2: Having misconstrued the readings, they then used those readings to estimate speed of the bird. And they used their wrong estimate to rule-out the fact that this is a bird. Speed estimations can only be made using stationary ground targets with known widths, and triangulating on those, using the altitude and distance of the aircraft. Once again, an experienced air-to-ground IR operator would have stopped this train wreck before it ever happened.

Mistake 3: When the bird lands, because they didn't understand the meaning of the display, they misinterpreted the target as still moving. Again, that data is always in motion unless there is a locked target which is stationary ...which never happened in this case.

Mistake 4: The investigators of SCU conflated a later sighting of two birds with the original bird sighting. They did this probably due to confirmation bias, since they had already set the idea in their heads that stationary targets were actually moving, due to their erroneous interpretation of the display information, then thinking that the same bird later emerged from the water further down range made sense to them and confirmed their wrong assumption about the motion and speed of the target..

Verdict: Debunked. The SCU report concluded that this was an Unknown Aerial Phenemon and an "Unknown Submerged Object" based on misunderstanding and misinterpreting the on-screen data. Once a proper speed analysis is done, there's nothing left to hang that UAP hat on, and once one realizes that they conflated two unrelated sightings to get the "submerged" moniker, there's nothing to left of that, either. It's probably a bird, and in that case, almost certainly a pelican. The investigators who analyzed this video assumed that the on screen coordinates were of the bird or related to the speed of the bird in some way, but I've proven that they are of the land in the far distance and show a constant motion factor even on stationary targets, because there is no target lock. The error of using target coordinates where there was never a locked target simply led to a cascade of errors, and all the mistakes which followed. Does anyone know how many pelicans there are in that area at that time of year??? Nobody checked, I bet. With the coordinates, the analysts could have just plugged the coordinates into Google and found out that they were not of the target but of the far distant land, but they didn't think of it.

In other words, despite issuing a lengthy scientific-sounding report, the investigators didn't really do their homework and didn't employ proper investigation procedures, nor did they apply accepted, appropriate analysis techniques.

The SCU investigators didn't know  how the coordinates displays work when there is no locked target. They didn't understand infrared heat signatures and their limitations. They probably didn't look up information about pelicans in the area and they certainly did not do the triangulation of stationary ground targets  necessary to determine the actual air speed - and we know that for a fact: The speed numbers they stated can ONLY be derived from the ever-changing coordinates (run the math and see for yourself) and those coordinates were of the distant ground not the bird, and were always in motion even when viewing stationary targets because of the actions of the aircraft. Proof that they did not use a triangulated ground target distance measurement. Even when they note in their report that they thought the coordinates were of the distant ground, they still used those ground coordinates to estimate speed instead of triangulating known, identifiable stationary ground targets.

You could still call it a UAP, of course. It looks like a pelican but that's subjective! I think the innocent mistakes in interpreting on screen data just messed you up and caused you to rule-out the likelihood that this was a bird from the get-go. I'm really sorry, guys! Stuff happens....

We all make mistakes. But next time, check out the details instead of assuming so much. I'm just an ordinary person, not an important scientist, but even I could immediately see where you went wrong. Mistakes were made. Someone (me) noticed. And that's the end of the story.


Here is the 2:02-2:04 part of the video where you can see that it is a pelican:

And here is a zoom-in of the same time sequence. Use the square on the lower right to go full-screen, and the circle on the lower left to repeat... and repeat, until you get it. :)

General video timeline (of the YouTube video):
  • 0.22 - bird flies into frame at upper right, with the brief appearance of apparent flapping.
  • 0.23-25 First opportunity to see wings flapping. Yes, wings are hard to see in IR, particularly when viewed from far above and at great distance, but try harder!
  • 1:14-1:16 - Bird crosses identifiable road. This was the critical data point: The coordinates entered into Google map prove that the tracking is of the far distant ground, not the bird. We can then get the width of the road and create X and Y triangulations to estimate the bird's distance from the plane and actual speed, which is far lower than the estimates created from taking the coordinates, erroneously assumed to be those of the bird.
  • 1:27-1:28 Bird crosses another road in the far distance. Yet another set of triangulation points and proof that the coordinates are of the far distant land, not the bird.
  • 2:05 - bird lands in water. IR artifact (white) remains on screen for a moment after this.
  • 2:11-2:13 - Bird is briefly spotted, floating. Note again that coordinates continue to (with the clearly unmoving bird) only because they are readings of the sea level, being read in an arc as the plane continues to turn. We've already proven that these are not measurements of the target. No point in trying to claim that they are otherwise.
  • 2:21 - bird head barely visible here and there, just before operator zooms out at 2:22. I don't know how many times one has to say: You can see the target is not moving (other than bobbing up and down in the waves), the ground coordinates continue to change because the aircraft is now 4 nautical miles down range and the visible seascape is changing with the arc of the airplane's turn. There's nothing more to it than that.
  • 2:22 - Operator zooms out and begins panning.
  • 2:26 - You can see a bird in the air, near the sea level, to the right of the crosshairs.This bird continues to fly and the operator follows it. The bird becomes more clear as it flaps its wings and develops more heat signature at 2:33.
  • 2:36 - Operator zooms in and you can now see that there are actually two birds. Probably neither is the same bird as we see in the first part of the video. There is an illusion of fast motion caused by 1) the foreshortening due to zoom lens usage, which makes the waves seem to be moving fast, even though you can see the target is not, and 2) the ever changing coordinates on the lower right, changes which match the changes of the aircraft coordinates as it turns and moves away, represent reciprocal values of each other. Once again, those numbers are not about the target, because there is NO locked target; they describe the area of sea being looked at, and that is all.
UPDATE: Graphic of proper triangulation!  I did make an error in the blog, which is corrected in the graphic. Sadly, it does not help SCU any. Bummer. I even went with their 40' height estimation for the bird, which seems too low but whatever...

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this post or blog is meant to suggest that the supernatural or paranormal does not exist. The fact is, I don't know. All I can do is look at the evidence to see if it stands up to the test of very simple scrutiny. If it passes, yay. If it fails, oh well... there's always next time. Investigators are human. I'm human. We all make mistakes. My pointing out the mistakes that others make should not be taken to imply that they are wrong in general, or that the things they investigate are only the product of imagination.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The EVP as Scientific Evidence

People love electronic voice phenomena (EVP) for personal validation of paranormal activities. I don't know any ghost hunting teams that don't use them, because you can get an EVP just about anywhere, any time. What is done in every case I've seen is quite unscientific - fortunately, I'm going to offer a remedy for that situation.

My biggest issue with EVP recordings is the captioning of ambiguous environmental sounds: It could be the person's fingers moving on the body of the recorder (which with digital models, that is really loud!), it could be the person's own subconscious vocalizations, or stomach gurgling or joints creaking... or a person speaking in another room or outside the building. Captioning (or otherwise telling someone what to listen for) just triggers the brain's natural pareidolia function: It finds meaning, even when meaning isn't really present. To get a better handle on this, you must read my post about the use of Spirit Boxes, EVP recordings and the like.

We're not talking about hoaxing, here. There is plenty of hoaxing to be found, too, especially on YouTube. We're talking about sincere attempts to find evidence of paranormal activity. Mostly, it's just audio pareidolia - something the human brain does by its nature. And here we come to the crux of the problem: In order to rule-out pareidolia, we have to show that there are scientific controls going on (such as recording in a soundproof room or box). Nobody does that, although I'd like to help rectify this issue.

On another page, I've written about how audio pareidolia may still have a paranormal component, but having said that we must also admit that if it is paranormal at this level (psychic) then it still isn't scientific evidence; just more personal validation. And with normal EVP procedures as presented to us, we have only personal validation.

There's nothing wrong with personal validation, of course, it's  just that it isn't scientific evidence. Yes, you are sure you heard something. Do other people hear the same thing without you telling them what to listen for? Is it just your fingers brushing the body of the recorder? Did you breathe-in at that moment, thus making a sound? Did your clothes rustle a bit? Did your joints creak? Did a floor board pop? Did your stomach growl? Did someone say something in another room or outside the building?  Don't know? Of course you don't know - nobody can say for certain what a sound might be, when you make open room recordings.

There are all kinds of sounds going on - even in a "quiet" room - of which you may be consciously unaware. When you play back the recording, those sounds you didn't notice while you were making the recording will suddenly seem paranormal - but only because you didn't notice them when they happened.

I'm proposing that we stop playing ghost hunter and start developing scientific controls so that IF we get something on a recording, it is no longer mere personal validation but actual evidence. It can be done...

The Pagani Controlled EVP Experiment

What you will need:
  • Two identical digital recorders
  • A carry-able soundproof box with a door and battery powered light in it.
  • A video camera on a tripod.
  • Computer software that can put two audio tracks side by side for comparison. I am currently using the Acoustica MP3 Audio mixer program. It allows for side by side synching of tracks without changing them, and you can amplify any interesting points within the program, also without changing the original audio. There are probably other programs that do this, too.

You might search "How to build a sound proof box" here. That's a start. You need a box small enough to be carried by two people (or one) but not tiny. You'll want to make it as soundproof as you can, but also realize that nothing is perfect, which is why we have a control mechanism (the second recorder).

I'd put a battery powered light in the box, because I want to make it as friendly as possible. - and of course a digital recorder set on maximum quality. Note: Always set digital recorders to maximum bit rate, otherwise you get compression artifacts.

You will be taking the box an all of your equipment to a proposed haunted location. Hopfully, you will thoroughly scout out the location in advance and determine a relatively quiet area within the proposed haunted zone to place your box.

Experiment Procedure:
  1. Set-up the box near the center of alleged haunting activity, if you can. Hopefully, it's fairly quiet, but you will have a control recording to help you sort out environment noise from possible EVP activity.
  2. Place the video camera at a location opposite of where you intend to stand and start the video.
  3. If there is a particular item that is associated with the haunting, or an item belonging to the suspected spirit at that location that is small enough to fit in the box, place that item inside and turn on the light.
  4. Have both recorders in your hand and start them simultaneously. Place one recorder inside the box, and announce, "I'm placing recorder 1 inside the box."  Close the door, and announce "I'm closing the box door."
  5. Walk away from your set-up, as far as is possible in the room, while still in range of the video recorder.
  6. Announce your intentions.Something as simple as "I want to communicate with anyone present, and I've placed a box with a device in it to help."
  7. Ask questions!  I might begin by asking, "Are there any spirits present?" And "Do you wish to communicate?"
    • "Please enter the box, if you can, and see what is inside."
    • "Please answer my questions using the device inside the box."
    • If you have an item in the box, say so. "There is an item inside the box in the room, can you identify it?"
    • "Are you associated with the item inside the box?"
    • "What is your name?"
    • "Why are you here?"
    • "Do you need help?"
    • "Do you have any messages you would like to give us?"
    Add any questions germane to the situation. Allow plenty of time between questions for answers. When you are done, thank the spirit for their help. It doesn't matter if you think maybe there's nothing happening: There MIGHT be, and being polite is appropriate even when you don't know if anyone is there.
  8. Announce that you are going to close the session. Walk back to the box and announce when you open the door. Announce when you are removing the recorder. Stop both recordings simultaneously.

Post-Experiment analysis.

  1. Download both recordings to your computer while preserving them on the devices. The preservation part is important in case any questions about sound sources arise.
  2. Line up the two recordings in your audio software so that you can compare tracks.
  3. Look for sounds from the box recording that do not appear in the external control recording. 
  4. Amplify as necessary but do not apply additional filters. Everything you do must be logged and the original recording must be preserved. This means that any amplification work you do will be saved as a separate file.
  5. Document everything!
  6. If you get something, share it! Save a separate file of your evidence and play it for several people, one at a time, without giving them clues as to what to hear. Do they hear a message? Do they generally agree as to the content of the message? The video of the session will provide supporting evidence in that case. Don't be disappointed if nothing happens, though. There are so many possibilities: For the skeptic, the only answer is that spirits don't exist, but for more open minded people we realize that it might be difficult for any spirit to understand your instructions or use the equipment provided. And we're not even mentioning willingness to communicate!  If you get nothing, nothing is proven. Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack; there are too many variables. All you can do is keep trying and keep your controls tight.

So there you have it, the first EVP experimental method with scientific controls. It's not perfect but it's a whole world away from what everyone else is doing. And yes, it is a lot of work, but think of it this way: You might be the first researcher to provide scientific evidence of hauntings.  That would be worth all of your trouble, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Roswell Slides Alien is Just A Mummified Child

UPDATED! The original article on the Roswell Slides alien from the night of the big show appears below. Following that there are two updates, the last of which is conclusive. This author turned out to be right about everything...not that anyone noticed. I was particularly disappointed with some big name paranormal podcasters (who will not be named here- changed my mind, at bottom) who got a heads-up on this the night of the pay per view, but waited several days for people like Nick Redfern to finally get a grip on the information before coming out with it. Congratulations on backing the celebrities over the little people, guys.

Yes, I admit it, I got suckered into watching the live event known as Be Witness! In my defense, how else am I going to write about happenings in the paranormal world? So this is what the hype was all about: After more than a year-long build up to a pay per view event in Mexico City, the infamous Roswell Slides were revealed. And what you see above is what we got. The image appears to be a child, maybe two years old, turned into a desiccated mummy. The museum card on the glass case is conveniently unreadable (but WOULD BE READABLE ON THE ORIGINAL SLIDE! see below), but a quick web search finds several examples of child mummies, and you'd be hard pressed to find any difference.

Just as an example of a mummified child:
Licensed from Getty Images

But you can find many other examples on the web. You may look at several below before you decide that yes, this is indeed a mummified child. And well before the big over-hyped reveal, enough had leaked out that others had written about child mummies, suspecting that this was the case. For example.

For the "alien" mummy of the Roswell Slides caper, a  simple increase of brightness and contrast reveals a mummy in a double museum case:

You can see the white bracket runs up the middle of the double museum case. The child mummy is in the foreground, while in the other case on the far side of the bracket you see an animal head and two snakes.

Now the build up in the pay show was endless.... they retold every tale of aliens and speculative ideas about them that they could think of, droning on for hours.  I was impressed that the audience didn't start booing at some point, because it was rather clear they were stalling.

When the reveal finally came, we saw what you see in the first image at the top of this page: It looks to be a mummified child in a glass case in a museum. There's nothing particularly weird about it. Oh, that didn't stop them from making something weird out of it though....

Expert after expert appeared to point how how the proportions were all wrong for a human .... ... adult male. That's the ONLY comparison they made. It looks like a child, but they never once made that comparison. Instead, over and over they would show us the skeleton of an adult male human and point out that the "alien" was so different from that. Yeah, it is - because it's a kid, not an adult male!

The stupidest one was when they brought up the guy who pronounced this "alien" to be some type of reptile!  Yeah... I couldn't make this shit up. He said it couldn't' be a mammal, like us, because it lacks mammary glands.  ...It also lacks skin, eyeballs and internal organs, so that probably means it came from outer space too, right?  (The Getty  photo from a museum above also "lacks mammary glands" and for the same reason).  Maybe all these mummies are reptiles then, and we just thought they were human mummies.

Okay, maybe the guy who said the child mummy was some kind of  lizard because he couldn't see mammary glands on the shriveled corpse wasn't the stupidest one. Maybe it was the anthropologist who said it had more ribs than a human. Not because you can count extra ribs, but because he inferred ribs you cannot see, based on (AGAIN) the proportions of an adult male human and that therefore some of that mummified flesh must have more ribs under it, etc.

Let's be real here: They went out of their way to avoid comparing their evidence to a mummified child. Didn't come within a mile of that, in fact. They only compared it to an adult human male. Period. To me, this strongly suggests that they knew very well that it was a mummified child but were hoping their audience wouldn't notice that. ...And that's almost criminally scummy, in my opinion.

VERDICT: Nothing to see here. Except maybe scam artists at work. The slide is a real and old, but it doesn't show anything weird or unusual - just a visit to a museum that had a mummy. The two "alien" slides came from a pack of slides taken on the original owner's vacation. To their credit, these hucksters admitted that much. So normally there wouldn't be any reason to see this as anything other than another souvenir of that trip - until you insert promoters of crap into the picture.

The only argument to the contrary would be something along the lines of: If these were part of that trip (and they were) then why did the old lady hide them in the box lid?  This seems fairly straightforward: The mummy picture is the only photo that polite conservative society of the 1950's might find objectionable/gross. She probably hid them because she didn't want to show them to visitors but didn't want to throw them away because her husband took them. Everyone has vacation pictures they'd rather not have others see. What's the big deal? Nothing.... except (again) for the insertion of pecuniary purveyors of hucksterism into the story. And that is a story unto itself.
Here are some more mummified children aliens. Yeah...

And last and probably least, once again, the "Roswell Slides alien" mummy child:

By the way, there IS information on the museum card. I did a little Photoshop curves and channel isolation. I can't read it because the highest resolution version online is still pretty small at only 1200 pixels wide (a bit less than ~1Mpx), but those who have the original slide can do so. At 1200 pixels, the letters on the card are only 1 to 2 pixels wide - not enough to read anything, but the slide will have about 24Mpixels of data, making the card quite readable. And I'm guessing they probably did read it (because anyone with a little Photoshop knowledge can enhance to this level), but didn't want you to know about it. Or put it another way; they know exactly what it is and where it is/was - and chose to hide the truth. In my opinion.

UPDATE May 7, 2015: Well, this stuff has now been reproduced everywhere using other methods and analysis, but I still see defenders, vainly trying to hang on to the illusion. These all revolve around experts who looked at the low res photo and made judgments about its structure (compared to an adult male). I've covered that and won't repeat myself. The only additional points I've seen are along the lines of, "Yeah, but the alien has giant eyes!" ... No it doesn't. The promoters' graphic illustrations and animations have giant eyes, but look again at the photo. There is no justification for that in the photo. It has normal child-sized eye sockets. Seriously, look at it!

And this brings me back to the fact that the museum card would readable with a full resolution scan of the slide. Are you seriously telling me they put all that time and money into having CGI animations done - animations in which they gave the skeleton giant eyes and gray-blue skin without any justification in the source material - but they didn't bother to have a full resolution scan made? Seriously? That lacks even a shred of credibility, unless you say they didn't have a full resolution scan made because they knew they would be able to read the museum card and that would have spoiled the fun. That I can believe.

As I predicted, you have the usual debunkers calling the photo a fake - because they are misreading it. I knew that was going to happen because I too had trouble interpreting the visual data at first. Once I realized it was a double case with a center support bracket, it all fell into place. But for the debunker crowd, who always assume everything is fake, there is little interest in accurate analysis. Tl;dr it's not fake, just a relic of a couple's vacation where they visited a tourist trap and saw a mummy. That's all.

UPDATE May 13, 2015:  Thank you to Greg Bishop of Radio Misterioso for his show about the solving of this mystery. (ADDITIONAL: here is the iTunes podcast link since we're currently slamming his web site into non-existence)I listened to the podcast last night  and was delighted to hear my predictions come to fruition, thanks to a team of much more dedicated UFO researchers. The show itself was pretty messy with lots of people talking over other people, but it's worth listening to, if you want to learn about how the mystery was solved - and also how beneath contempt the promoters of the Slides have been.

I was the first to cover the event, but I lost interest in pursuing what was obviously a museum mummy. But others did not, and they got a better image than the one offered to the general public, and they read the museum card. As I predicted would happen.  At the time it was photographed, the mummy was in the possession of the National Parks Service at Mesa Verde National Park. The card says "MUMMIFIED BODY OF TWO YEAR OLD BOY" on the title line. The bottom line says that the the mummy was donated by a  Mr. Palmer of San Francisco, California in 1938. He had originally removed it from a historical site but was now returning it. It's a mummy of a 2 year old boy. A HUMAN CHILD. Well, I got everything right - EVERYTHING - (and first) but kudos to those who took this home. They did their work despite threats and accusations of fraud hurled by the shameless and scummy promoters of this hoax. I'm glad they did that because the threats and vicious attacks probably would have stopped me from going further, had I had any inclination to do so. You can read all about their work at The Roswell Slides Research Group.

The group explains how anyone can read the card posted on the scammer's own web site using Smart Deblur. I just used Photoshop to enhance a bit. Try their method and figure it out for yourself.  Here's my slide card using just the Smart Sharpen filter with motion blur setting in Photoshop (you have to do it twice for X and Y axes, but Photoshop will do it), and taking the yellow channel and some adjustments, because some color channels are less blurry than others!. Thank you again to the Roswell Slides Research Group people. Good job, man.

I'm glad the hoaxers lost this one. I'm sure they planned to make a good living for years to come off of their hoax. But now the truth is out there.  Honestly, though, it's not over. The promoters will continue to make money off of their hoax (just maybe not as MUCH money as they were going to make) and true believers will continue to shower them with cash and keep them in business. It's just human nature; people want to believe so much that they are willing to ignore conclusive proof. So there's nothing to cheer for, here. Congratulations to those who dug up the facts, and shame on the con men who foisted this upon us - but the hoax machine will grind on, because that's just a sad part of human nature. Another sad part is how all the podcasters and bloggers held back on this information, waiting for it to be endorsed by celebrity UFO speakers instead of just confronting the facts head on. That celebrity-worship is yet another sad fact of human nature. It might help you get those celebrities on your shows...maybe... but you might not be providing the best service to your audience. I'm still glad that the Roswell Slides group did what they did. I would never consider going on radio shows or fighting the fight with the true believers. That's not my thing. I don't even like blogging about this stuff. It was a dirty job and they stepped up to the plate and did it. For that, I am immensely grateful.

EDIT June 1, 2015. On second thought, I'm going to name the podcaster culprits who kept this information from their listeners: The guys of Mysterious Universe. I used to like them. I used to be a Plus subscriber. When I did this analysis the night of the event, I posted it to their web site and a day later to their Facebook page. They DELETED both my posts. Deleted! I later noticed that they had also blocked me from ever posting again on the FB page. TAKE NOTE: They deliberately kept their listeners in the dark until Nick Redfern was ready to come on their show and talk about the whole thing, springboarding off of the Roswell Slides Research Group's work. Un-fucking believable. I consider this unforgivable and proof that they don't really care about facts, just entertainment. Needless to say, I am no longer a subscriber. The Mysterious Universe guys should be ashamed of themselves.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Stop The Bigfoot Madness, Please

It amazes me that TV producers can create a show about hunting for Bigfoot. It's not like Bigfoot sightings have the bulk or evidence behind them that other paranormal-type phenomena have. So I don't know why other shows about the paranormal feel they need to include Bigfoot "experts," unless it's because these guys write books and so they are willing to come on shows. We've also heard the latest twist: Bigfoot is actually an inter-dimensional being! Why? Backward logic: We've never found a shred of physical evidence that Bigfoot is real, so we're going to explain that away by saying Bigfoot comes from another dimension and therefore doesn't have to eat, leave crap lying around, or die. I can't address that one; it seems like a last-resort kind of thing. "Sure we don't have any evidence, and yeah, a real forest ape kind of creature would need a breeding population of thousands to exist and we'd find dead ones, so since we've already decided Bigfoot exists, it must be interdimensional."  Whatever. I'm only going to address Bigfoot as a real, evolved creature of *this* world...

Bigfoot sightings, at least as far as real flesh and blood (not interdimensional) creatures,  fall into two categories: Bears that are misidentified, and hoaxes. That's it. If decades of nothing but hoaxes, misidentification and no actual evidence for their existence can't convince you, I don't know what will, but we'll go over some of the facts anyway...

A) Nobody has ever found a dead Bigfoot. This is not insignificant. There is no real, living animal that hasn't had a body turn up here and there. This is often the way we find out that some obscure animal we thought was extinct is actually still around. Everything that lives, dies. If there are no dead Bigfoot creatures, it's only because there are no Bigfoot pseudo-apes that are alive, either.  It's important to note, I suppose, that basic biology requires several thousand animals to maintain a breeding population. Apparently there are Bigfoot creatures all over America - and the world - but nobody has found a dead one or a family group. It's always one-off sightings by panicky city folk who haven't spent enough time in the woods to know what they're looking at.

B) All the videos are hoaxes. All the "scientific" evidence, like claims of finding DNA or hair or feces,  are hoaxes. People have confessed to them or have been caught and exposed, and we know that's true.If Bigfoot existed, getting a clear video wouldn't be a problem. Anyone can go in the woods and get videos of bears. Heck, you can get them in most cities, or at least the suburbs. Finding Bigfoot turds (and DNA with them)  wouldn't be a problem, either. A giant animal that would have to consume tons of food and leave tons of waste behind? The forests should be covered ankle-deep in Bigfoot crap ... unless the animal doesn't really exist, of course.

C) Bigfoot sightings that aren't hoaxes, are bears. It's the illusion of high strangeness that makes Bigfoot reports seem credible to some. Think of it this way: in a county of hundreds of millions of people, some of them are going to have close encounters with bears - every single day. For almost all of them, the story will be; "I was driving down the road and a bear ran out in front of me, and I almost hit it!" ..And that's the end. You'll never hear that one on the news. But all it takes is one person ..maybe one out of a hundred thousand bear encounters, to say "Hey a Bigfoot ran across the road in front of me!" - and now we're supposed to think this is what really happened.

MOST people know a bear when they see one, and so you never hear about their encounters. The rare person who lets their imagination and predisposition construct a cryptid encounter in their minds - they are the ones you hear about.

What's wrong with these people? Nothing, basically. Some of them may have overactive imaginations. Some of them may just harbor a deep longing to see a Bigfoot, or anything that's strange. If they said they saw a leprechaun instead of a Bigfoot, they probably wouldn't have the instant support group gathering around, telling them that what they thought they saw was the real deal. If a person longs to see a fairy, they might talk themselves into seeing one but they will be more likely to (correctly) question their memories and assessment of the situation, due to the lack of a supportive network of people who will rally around them..

Beyond that: apparently some people are expecting bears to look like cartoons or what you see in the zoo. There are lots of bear encounters all over the world, so it is probably only a tiny minority of people who misread the situation. That's all it takes, though..

The diversity of wild bears is amazing. They can be tall and skinny or short and fat, and everything in between. They can have tiny ears, short muzzles. If you can think of it, there are bears that have it. In fact, we should probably break down some things most people don't know about bears:

  1. Bears in the wild are not like zoo bears. They can be fat or very thin, short or long muzzled. It's just the genetic variation that is natural in the wild.
  2. Bear coats are often uneven in color. Especially around shedding time, it's not unusual to see a bear that is brown on top and black around the waist. It makes it look like it's wearing pants. This is just a difference between top coat and undercoat color, though.
  3. Yes, bears do walk around on hind legs, and they do look ape-like when they do that. For bears, it is easier to go around on all fours most of the time, but when they have an injured front paw (common because bears fight each other ) they will spend extended periods walking and even running on two legs.
  4. Bears kill stuff. Yes, even black bears where people swear up and down they just eat berries. That's not true. Black bears like berries a lot but they will kill and eat small animals as the opportunity arises.
  5. An injured bear screams like a human being. Perhaps it's Hollywood's fault that people think bears sound like Godzilla. Their voice range is very similar to an adult human  voice range. This is very cringe-inducing if you encounter an injured bear - or you hunt them.
  6. Bears sometimes lose their ear shells in fights, or to frostbite. Bears also can go bald. The same diseases that cause racoons and coyotes to lose their hair and be mistaken for Chupacabra can give bears a bald face, head, or even whole body. There aren't a lot of bears with baldness or no ears, but they have the maximum likelihood of being misidentified. Not that you need that much: As I pointed out, of the many bear encounters every day,  it only takes a tiny percentage of panicky, crypto-minded people to keep the Bigfoot myth alive.
When you know this stuff, you can readily see how bears get mistaken for forest apes on a regular basis. I think the only reason it doesn't happen more often is because only a minority of people are of a mind to think a big hairy beast is a Bigfoot. Misidentification is just too easy, and the difference between "I saw a bear" and "I saw a Bigfoot" comes down to mindset and expectations.

SOURCE: Outdoor person, here. I grew up in the woods of the Pacific Northwest (where Bigfoot is supposed to be common), and have hunted bear for food. That was my old life. Even though I don't do it anymore, I am an expert tracker and hunter. Everyone I knew, growing up, hunted. I've seen dozens and dozens of bears in the wild, including way too up close and personal, including bears with patchwork coats and semi-bald ones - and many walking/running on two legs. But not one Bigfoot. I think Bigfoot experts are mostly armchair outdoorsmen who haven't spent enough time in the woods to know a bear from some cryptozoological character. Even when you get a story where someone is called an "experienced outdoorsman" - when you read the story you find out that the guy's vast "experience" consists of going on weekend camping adventures a couple of times a year. People who really live in the woods and have spent their lives there never see a Bigfoot. And that fact alone should convince you that Bigfoot does not exist, at least as far as it being a literal forest ape of some sort..

A bald bear - it happens
There is much more, of course, like the fact that this imaginary creature doesn't fit anywhere in the food chain. Are they predators? What do they kill? Are they herbivores?  Why aren't they seen grazing? There's just no place you can fit them that makes any sense. In the meantime, actual apes and chimps - some varieties of  which are quite endangered and have low population densities - can easily be found in their natural habitat, in part because we know what they eat so we know where to look for them. Everything has to eat. If Bigfoot existed, it would be eating something... LOTS of something, since they're supposed to be huge. Even a low population density of Bigfoot animals would be consuming tons of whatever it is that it is supposed to eat - and thus would be easy enough to find.

And finally, if you have a weird sighting, why on earth would you jump to a cryptozoological character as the explanation? It's like; all the Chupacabra sightings where there were photos or the creature was found, have turned out to be raccoons or coyotes with mange. The people who took the photos or found the creature swore up and down that it was Chupacabra, but the evidence proved them wrong. At some point you have to say, "okay, witness testimony is unreliable, and we have solid evidence that they're just plain wrong with these reports."  But no, we keep jumping to the weirdest explanation possible.

I've already pointed out the fact that these are bears. Bigfoot is never seen except in areas with bears. No bears = no Bigfoot sightings. But even if you were to insist that it wasn't a bear, but an ape-like creature, the next logical explanation would be an ape that escaped from a circus or zoo. A supernatural cryptid would be the absolute bottom of the list, yet that's where Bigfoot believers go first.

VERDICT: Debunked. Debunked over and over again. Bigfoot is a mythological creature, like the unicorn. The only differences: 1) Bears exist and people mistake them for apes when they're running around on two legs, and 2) Bigfoot hoaxers abound. People seem less interested in hoaxing unicorn sightings, but knowing human nature, I wouldn't be surprised to find that becomes a thing in the future. All that is actually needed is a supportive community of people (especially people who write books) to say that unicorns are real, and they will gain the same level of respectability as Bigfoot.

After decades of Bigfoot hunts, big rewards for evidence of Bigfoot's existence, and an almost endless parade of hoaxers, the verdict is undeniable. If you keep believing in Bigfoot, you must be getting something out of it. But there are plenty of real mysteries out there to explore and research, where your high strangeness affinity might be more productive. Or, you know, go shoot a unicorn and have your picture taken with it. Bigfoot or Unicorn: The odds of success are the same.

Bottom Line: There are many people who make a living off of promoting the existence of Bigfoot and other cryptozooids. Without the professionals hawking their books and lectures, Bigfoot would be considered as real as unicorns and leprechauns. Alas, there will always be cynical people lining up to fleece the public, and we just have to live with that.

I should also note that Bigfoot is not in the same class as other phenomena like ghosts, apparitions, and hauntings, because we know what people are seeing with Bigfoot sightings. There is a huge pool of paranormal experiences related to spirit hauntings, and their cause is hard to pin down or explain -  but the pool of Bigfoot sighters is very small[1], easy to explain, and they fall into just two categories: Hoaxers and people who don't know a bear when they see one...Unless you want to go to the latest fallback position that Bigfoot is an interdimensional being. I don't even know how to calculate the odds of that being true but if that were the case then people are wasting their time hunting for them because they would pop in and out of our reality on a random basis.

[1] How small is the pool of sightings keeping the Bigfoot myth alive? According to several sources, there have been a total of 3,313 Bigfoot "sightings" in North America in the last 92 years as of this posting. That's just 36 sightings per year, on average. To put that in perspective: The Bigfoot myth is being kept alive by just 0.000001 percent of the population. Bigfoot sighters are rarer than people who think they are in constant telepathic communication with Venusians, or people who claim they can fly using the power of their minds. In contrast there are millions of encounters with bears in North America every year.

Other sources of information:
Why Bigfoot is unlikely, if you know what unlikely means
10 Reasons why Bigfoot's a Bust

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this post or blog is meant to suggest that the supernatural or paranormal does not exist. The fact is, I don't know. All I can do is look at the evidence to see if it stands up to the test of very simple scrutiny. If it passes, yay. If it fails, oh well... there's always next time. Investigators are human. I'm human. We all make mistakes. My pointing out the mistakes that others make should not be taken to imply that they are wrong in general, or that the things they investigate are only the product of imagination.