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Stupid Explanations

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, DAILY STAR, 8 July 1947, Page 1

See "Flying Discs" By Concentrating

SYDNEY - (Reuters) - Prof. F. S. Cotton, professor of physiology at Sydney University, yesterday conducted a "flying saucers" experiment.

After discussing North American reports on "flying saucers," he led his class of 450 students into the open and told them to look at the clear sky and to concentrate their gaze on a fixed point while standing perfectly still.

Within 10 minutes, 22 students reported they had seen bright oval-shaped objects which moved rapidly sometimes following each other in a line and sometimes resembling a string of pearls.

Professor Cotton then explained that the students saw exactly what he expected them to see - the red corpuscles of the blood passing in front of the retina.

Sudbury, Ontario, DAILY STAR, 8 July 1947, page 5


New York, July 6 (AP) - Certain laws of human eyesight will explain much of what has been described about the flying saucers reported from many parts of the United States and some places in Canada.

At any distance which is close to the limit of how far a person can see, all objects appear round or nearly so. This law of sight covers both small things seen nearby and large ones at great distances.

Regardless of shape, the object near the limit of sight looks round. If the thing is silhouetted against a bright sky, as some of the flying saucers have been reported, then it is more likely to reveal its true shape.

If the thing is seen by reflected light, as in most cases reported, it is almost certain to be round, and if the reflections are sunlight, then the sizes reported are those which would be expected from distant light reflections.

The one outstanding fact about virtually all the saucers is that they had no structure - they seemed merely round and flat. That description fits exactly with the tricks that eyes play. This trickiness varies with differences in weather and lighting.

This writer has seen flying saucers over Long Island Sound, not only this year but in previous years. They were round, bright and moving fast. But they were no mystery because they were light reflected from the bodies of airplanes that soon identified themselves by changing course and coming near enough to be seen distinctly.

This writer saw one oval flying form which for a moment looked exactly like the photograph of the oval object taken by Yeoman Frank Ryman North, of Seattle, Wash. The Long Island oval turned into an airplane.

The one strangest fact is that no one has seen a flying saucer close up. In so many experiences, an occasional closeup would be almost inevitable.

Ice crystals forming little round clouds have been suggested. But these fail to fit in most cases because the ice crystals form at altitudes which are higher than most of the saucers reported.

Nothing published in science or atomic studies gives the slightest clue to flying saucers unless the objects are aircraft.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, DAILY STAR, 19 July 1947, Page 2

Say 'Flying Saucers' Are Secret Weapon

SANTIAGO, CHILE - (Reuters) - A British engineer living in Valparalso said today that "flying saucers," reported from many parts of the world, were a secret weapon and claimed he had promised a similar device to the British government in 1940, but it was rejected.

The engineer, W. H. Ashlin, asserted that the flying saucers are made of special metal and revolve at enormous speed. Centrifugal force enabled them to travel at fantastic speeds and friction with the air heats them to the point of ignition.

Such weapons, he added, would be capable of piercing any body and could be projected either from planes or from the ground.

Sudbury, Ontario, DAILY STAR, 7 August 1952, page 9

Scientists Claim Saucer Sightings Air, Electricity

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Evening Star said Wednesday that U.S. army engineers, working with a vacuum bell in a laboratory, have produced atmospheric phenomena which may explain the widespread reports of "flying saucers."

In a copyright story by W. H. Shippen, the Star says the experiments created airborne objects which "can speed up, hover indefinitely, or disappear and reappear in a flash."

It adds:

"The man-made saucers occasionally fly in formation. Moreover, they are believed to have substance enough to show up on the screen of a radar designed to track them."

What the experimenters did, the Star said, was use the vacuum bell as a tiny working-model of the stratosphere and reproduce "two forces - very low air pressure which is balanced against static electricity in a way to give off light."

"Experimenters in the research and development laboratory at Fort Belvoir (Va.) believe these two are the primary factors responsible for saucer sightings by competent observers."

During a night of rain Tuesday night radar screens, scanning the skies over Washington, showed a flurry of mystery objects.

In line with the theory that they are atmospheric phenomena, an air force spokesman noted that the radar sightings - tiny blips on a fluorescent screen - started about the time a thunderstorm hit the area.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, DAILY STAR, 15 August 1952, Page ?

Little Men Discounted
(London Free Press)

It seems that the scientists have solved the mystery of the flying saucers. Instead of being visitors from space they are no more than fire-balls caused by low air pressure balanced against static electricity. Physicist Noel Scott working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, having experimented with molecules of ionized air in a bell jar with partial vacuum, has produced colored fireballs, discs, "mushrooms," "ice cream cones" and the shapes which have become familiar to watchers. These masses of illumined air have sufficient substance to be picked up by radar and moved at fantastic speed when a magnet was moved into the jar.

The army engineers, however, are not altogether satisfied that this is the whole answer, though they admit Dr. Scott's work seems to draw the curtain from most of the mystery. But there are many theories. Dr. Donald H. Menzel, Harvard professor of astrophysics, experimenting at the request of the U.S. Air Force, comes up with a theory based on the phenomenon of mirage. Mirages are created when a beam of light bends as it passes through media of a different density - such as sharply contrasting layers of warm air at the earth's surface and cool air above. During heat waves such as occurred over Washington, D.C., when there was such a tide of flying saucer reports two weeks ago, "temperature inversion" often occurs. This, says Dr. Menzel, is responsible for projecting images of lights on earth against the sky.

There is a school of thought which declares that these strange lights are simply forms and variations of lightning - ball lightning to be specific. There is a long record of this sort of light moving over the earth's surface, horizontal or vertical. These balls are said to possess sufficient density to be "visible" on radar.

Thus, it would appear that the physicists have exploded the theories of those who, allowing their imagination free scope, wondered whether the flying saucers were not visitors from space. The scientists are most likely correct, and it is a relief to know at least that they are neither Russian scouts nor optical illusions. The observers really did see something after all, if it was only a mirage.

Sudbury, Ontario, DAILY STAR, 2 July 1954, page 1

Says Space Ships Only 'Inversions'

LONDON (CP) - Those flying objects over Labrador were slightly deflated today. A science writer said they are nothing more than "inversions."

Thursday, an experienced Canadian pilot reported seeing a formation of seven aircraft-shaped objects - a "mother" ship and six satellites - near the Quebec-Labrador border about 170 miles southwest of Goose Bay. The pilot, 33-year-old Lee Boyd of Fillmore, Sask., said he was sure the things came from another planet.

Today, science expert Chapman Pincher of the Daily Express said what Boyd saw was probably just a reflection of the aircraft from a wavy layer of air. This is Pincher's theory:

"At various levels in the atmosphere there are regions called inversions where the air temperature suddenly changes. Boundaries between layers of warm and cold air are such good mirrors that they cause mirages in the desert."

"Because of the turbulence of the atmosphere, the boundary is sometimes rippled and breaks up an image into several parts which, after reflection, can be seen at eye level."

Pincher supports his argument by noting that the flying objects accompanied Boyd's aircraft for 80 miles, travelling at the same speed and at the same distance, could not be picked up by radar, and repeatedly changed their shape and size the way reflections do on ripply water.

Sudbury, Ontario, DAILY STAR, 22 September 1954, page 27

'Saucers' Now Balls Of Lightning

HAMBURG (Reuters) - A German astronomer, Hans Haffner, has put forward the theory that "flying saucers" - apart from those which can be classed as hallucinations or reflections in the air - are balls of lightning at great heights.

In a article in a West German weekly newspaper, Haffner said "the flying saucers are definitely a natural phenomenon within the layer of air surrounding the earth."

Haffner, professor of astronomy at Hamburg University, said all flying saucers seen so far could be classified in four groups:

1. Hallucinations, which are more frequent than commonly believed.

2. Illusions. Alleged photographs of flying saucers are reflections often observed when pictures are taken against the sun.

3. Weather balloons.

4. Truly "unknown flying objects."


All the objects in group four could be explained by what is known about balls of lightning. These, he said, occur rarely and photographs exist of only two or three. They are "remarkably similar" to the reports of flying saucers, Haffner maintains.

Most balls of lightning occur at heights of less than 600 feet and have a diameter of between eight to 40 inches. But because more energy is released if lightning occurs at greater heights, balls occurring at high altitudes are naturally bigger. Balls with a diameter of 750 feet have been observed at a height of six miles.

Haffner said that because they rotate, balls of lightning are often flattened out. Reports about flying saucers have spoken of cigar or disc-shaped objects. These reports also stated that the flying saucers were rotating.

Balls of lightning are liable to change shape and direction within a split second - as do flying saucers. The changes in the direction of balls of lightning are easily explained by the influence of electrical fields and by the effect when one side of a ball cools more quickly than the other.

Sudbury, Ontario, DAILY STAR, 23 June 1960, page 2

Flying Saucers Only Imaginary

PENTICTON, B.C. (CP) - Flying saucers are figments of the imagination of uniformed minds, say many of North America's leading astronomers and space experts.

"Every sighting of a flying saucer can be explained rationally," said Dr. J. V. Oake of California's Mount Palomar Observatory. He is a native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

"We hardly ever hear of flying saucers any more," said Dr. J. F. Heard of Toronto, director of the David Dunlap Observatory. "I guess the fad has worn off for a while."

The scientists are here for a conference following the opening Monday of the nearby White Lake Observatory which houses Canada's largest radio-telescope. They made their comments in interviews.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, DAILY STAR, 24 March 1966, Page 19

Explain 'Flying Objects'

YORK, Pa. (UPI) - A Pennsylvania man has offered an explanation for the unidentified flying objects which stirred residents of two Michigan communities this week.

Alfred Dickens, a maintenance man for the York County Gas Co., said Wednesday the "objects" could be gaseous formations emitted from marshes in Hillsdale and Ann Arbor.

Dickens said he witnessed similar phenomena when he was a boy on his parents' farm in McAlester, Okla.

"We used to see these things quite often," he said. "We called them 'Jack-O-Lanterns' and my brother and I would chase them through the swamps and thresh them about with sticks, breaking them into smaller shapes."

Dickens said his father told them the balls of light were caused by "damp gas" seeping upward from swamps and marshy areas in the spring.

"Actually, it was a formation of luminous gas from decaying leaves which dropped to the ground the previous fall," Dickens said. "The rising gas would form a big ball of light and sometimes it would float through the woods on soft air currents, often changing color as it hovered about three or four feet above the ground. It would bounce around if there was a slight breeze and sometimes it would travel for a mile or more."

Dickens, who lived on the Oklahoma farm until he was 17, said the "spooky" looking objects appear only in swampy areas when it is very calm and the weather is warm.

"I would bet if you would check what the weather conditions were Sunday and Monday in Michigan where the objects were sighted, you would find it was warm and still, which is an ideal condition to cause the gas formations," he said.

Sudbury, Ontario, STAR, 21 September 1966, page 19

Has New Theory on Unidentified Objects
'Swarms of Flying Insects That Glow'

DENVER, Colo. (AP) - An amateur scientist thinks it's highly possible that some of the unidentified flying objects recently sighted over some sections of the United States are flying ants or other insects with a "glow" on.

Norton T. Novitt, whose hobby is the study of the electric properties of insects, says the insects are not necessarily those with a built-in glow, such as fireflies, but insects which have somehow attracted an electric charge so great that they give off lights.

In 20 years of UFO sighting reports, other scientists have said the shiny-bodied insects might be mistaken during daylight for flying saucers.

But the glowing insect theory is original with Novitt, a scientific illustrator with the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver. He believes it may account for a small part of the seven per cent of UFOs which the U.S. Air Force admits it can't explain.

It all started with Novitt three summers ago when he was a member of a Denver moonwatch team, one of the groups of volunteers around the country who help the National Aeronautics and Space Administration keep track of some of the large artificial satellites.


Novitt had set up a telescope in a vacant lot to see if he could spot a satellite during daylight. He picked up a bright object travelling too fast to be a satellite. It soon was joined by a second object. Fascinated, he watched the two objects descend until they nearly reached the ground. Taking his eye from the telescope he was startled to find that the apparent landing site was the front of a garage a short distance away. He hurried to the spot and found two winged ants.

He surmised the bright light he had observed was sunlight glinting from their iridescent bodies.

Research produced the fact that at certain times of the year male and female ants sprout wings to take part in an airborne mating ritual. The winged ants gradually group together into giant swarms, some estimated to contain 37,000,000, to set up new ant colonies.

He wondered what these giant swarms would look like at night if they could glow. Perhaps ants could pick up enough static electricity to make them give off light.

To find out he glued 24 ants around the outside of a ping-pong ball. A static electric generator was connected to the ball with a thin wire. The ball was suspended from the ceiling of his home laboratory with threads.

Sure enough, when he cranked the generator the entire ball seemed to glow with a dim blue light. The bodies of the ants were discernible as brighter specks of light as the electricity drained off them into space.

"It's simply an emission of electric corona light," he explained.

The ball hovered, moved erratically as pulses of static electricity drained off with differing intensities from the ants. It also gave off a crackling sound. Novitt said a swarm of several million ants would emit a very loud, humming or buzzing noise.

He said the same is true of gossamer, the networks of cobwebs that float in the air during spider migration seasons.

The Denver experimenter believes there are at least four ways in which ants apparently can pick up a glow:

Individual ants become charged on the ground and then join a swarm, creating a mass of many different electrical charges.

Ants fly upwards through successively more highly charged layers of air.


Ants create their own static electricity by rubbing together in flight, much like a person does when he shuffles across a rug.

Ants often swarm right after a thunderstorm which has left the air saturated with a different kind of charge than there was just before the storm.

"The theory," he said, "logically explains many of the characteristics of the (UFO) phenomena such as materialization and disappearance, hovering and departure, glowing and pulsating lights of various colors, apparent high-velocity rotation of the objects, varieties of shapes and sizes, humming noises, pitting of ground surfaces, scorching of vegetation, residues of chemical substances, seasonal appearance in late summer and Indian summer, and lack of communication with the airborne objects."

Sudbury, Ontario, STAR, 4 October 1966, page 7

Just a Gas

WASHINGTON (AP) - Hundreds of unidentified flying objects sighted in recent years probably were gas clouds called plasmas, Aviation Week and Space Technology reports. The magazine's avionics editor, Philip J. Klass, said he reached this conclusion after analyzing 746 sighting reports listed by the national investigations committee on aerial phenomena.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, DAILY STAR, 1 March 1967, Page 1

Flying Objects Identified As Reflections off Clouds

The sighting of an unidentified flying object over the Sault and area Wednesday evening has been solved . . . it's all done with mirrors.

Well, not exactly. Would you believe reflections off sulphur clouds from the Algoma Steel Corporation and McFadden Lumber Company in Blind River?

This is the opinion of a radio operator at the Sault's federal airport.

He told The Star this morning that such clouds form layers above the city during certain atmospheric conditions.

It's his belief that the red and green lights on aircraft in the area reflect off these clouds, giving the appearance of some strange object in the sky.

"It works on the same principle as when you point a flashlight into the sky at night and its light reflects off the clouds," he said.

"You only have to move your hand a couple of inches to have the light move 50 or 60 feet."

The radio operator feels that the red and green lights on the aircraft and the landing lights on an airfield have caused the optical illusion spotted Wednesday night by people from Blind River to the Sault.

"The aircraft itself could be below the horizon so that you couldn't see it, but it would still cast a reflection," he said.

The operator said he had noticed such sulphur clouds over the city last night and again this morning.

Local police were swamped with calls Wednesday night from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. by people who had spotted a strange object in the sky.

Blind River police chief James Collins also reported seeing a light in the sky, but it was moving away from him at the time, so he was unable to get a good look at it.

He said, however, that his next-door neighbor had watched an object with red and green lights on either side of it and a long fluorescent light in the middle for some time.

"He and his family first spotted it sometime around 8:30 last night and watched it for awhile before it began moving west towards Sault Ste. Marie," he said.

City police received eight calls reporting a round object which, according to police spokesman, had red, green, yellow or blue lights on it.

Sudbury, Ontario, STAR, 24 November 1981, page 3

UFOs: Precursor of earthquakes?
By GISELE PAGEAU of Laurentian University

Many people think they see UFOs (unidentified flying objects) even though they are not suppose to exist. If they exist are they earth-bound or earth-made?

Dr. M. A. Persinger, professor in the psychology department at Laurentian University has a data base theory on luminosities or UFOs.

While analysing data from the 20th century, he found a striking relationship between increases in UFO activities and increases in seismic activity in the general region. This generated a series of hypotheses that were checked against contemporary data. It was found that there is still a systematic increase in UFO reports, months to weeks before increases in earthquake activity in many regions.

The basic source of his UFOs is the strain that builds up in the earth before an actual earthquake occurs. Once the strain gets to a certain level, the actual fracture takes place.

However, prior to the earthquake, there is a tremendous build-up of strain and this strain is the first component of the basic theory.

With this, one can predict, in general, where UFOs should occur and what conditions will trigger them.

The second component is the actual event, the UFO itself. The single event is a transient, highly localized electromagnetic-like phenomenon. This means it has varied electromagnetic-like fields associated with it.

If it passes near a car, there is radio interference. If it passes over a house, the lights may blink on and off or compasses fluctuate wildly.

The glowing component appears to be something similar to a plasma ball which is a piece of very hot, ionized gas very much like a piece of the sun. This hot, glowing gas is the visible component of the UFO.

When a large UFO becomes very bright it also becomes very dangerous - it can be very deadly and certainly could kill if you got too close to it. It would emit a large variety of radiations and also generate a lower radio frequency that would jam radios. If the luminosity was sufficiently dense it would show up on radar because of the microwave reflection.

More UFOs would emerge primarily from the earth. Where they emerge, some radioactive residue would remain because of the nature of the UFO formation.

As it emerges from the ground the UFO would burn the surrounding area and potentially melt the component rocks. This is what some people call a "saucer nest."

The third component of the theory involves the contribution of the observer's brain. What people do not realize is that the human brain also works upon electromagnetic principles.

Your experiences and your thoughts are primarily correlated with electromagnetic patterns. The UFO event itself is very electromagnetic-like. Consequently, if a human being comes very close to the intense electromagnetic source, there is the possibility of direct influence upon the brain.

If the electromagnetic patterns of experience and thought are directly modified then the person will experience things that seem very real but do not exist. They will be as real as any other experience because the effect is directly on the brain itself.

Many of the experiences will be bizarre and will be influenced by what has been associated with those electromagnetic patterns in the person's past. The actual details of the experience will reflect whether the person believes in religion or alien beings.

It just so happens that the most unstable part of the brain, the temporal lobe, is associated with memory and dreams. When this part of the brain is stimulated, vivid fantasies can be released into consciousness.

When the person thinks these fantasies are real - he or she is not really lying. These are real experiences for the person. The brain is being modified, but there is no way the person can know this by using personal experiences only. Memory will also be influenced adversely. In fact, one of the most typical effect of close encounters is amnesia of the event. The amnesia lasts for hours and is filled with confabulation.

The confabulation is heavily influenced by what the person is told after the event. Very often you find that the story of the close encounter person changes depending upon the kind of questions asked after the event. These people have difficulty distinguishing between what has happened in the past and what is happening now. They confuse the present with the past and assume the questions you are asking now actually happened in the past.

Not everyone has a vivid experience near UFOs. Distance and size of the luminosity appears to be important. As the observer approaches the luminosity, the experiences change from tingling sensations to feelings of paralysis (as more current is induced within the body), and finally to a full blown convulsion. Some people would be killed, but the effects would look like a massive electrical assault on the nervous system.

UFOs are like many multivariate problems that face modern scientists. A multivariate problem occurs when you have a bunch of different, unusual things in the environment, but because of ignorance, they are all called the same thing.

When it comes to UFOs, we may be dealing with dozens of different classes of phenomena. The data indicate that the majority of luminosities can be accounted for by the theory. But, as with any multivariate approach, there is always the possibility of other sources. In fact, some sources may occur only once.

Persinger has been collecting data on UFOs for the past 10 years. He says he is interested in the prediction of unusual events in general and UFOs in particular. When asked if he believed that alien or extraterrestrial UFOs existed, he replied: "I don't know. There are no data indicating that they exist, but you cannot refute the possibility totally. However the alien explanation is an empty theory; it doesn't help you predict when and where UFOs will occur next."

Sudbury, Ontario, STAR, 24 June 1997, page B7

UFO sightings linked to test dummies

WASHINGTON (AP) - A UFO skeptic says a new U.S. air force document will report that space aliens supposedly sighted in the New Mexico desert in the 1940s were actually dummies used in high-altitude parachute drops.

The document scheduled to be made public today concerns reports of alien bodies at a crash site near Roswell, N.M., in 1947.

Philip Klass, publisher of a UFO skeptics newsletter, said the air force document concludes that people actually saw dummies used in air force drops in the 1950s.

He did not explain the discrepancy in dates.

Klass said he saw the report. The air force refused to discuss its contents in advance, although word of the conclusions circulated widely in the network of UFO buffs.

Karl Pflock, a UFO researcher who does not believe alien bodies or a spaceship were found in Roswell, questioned the theory that people could have been so confused about the dates.

People claimed to have seen crash debris and alien bodies in 1947. The dummy parachute tests took place as long as 10 years later.

Pflock said Monday he had not read the report.

November 26, 1968
News clippings courtesy of The Sault Star, The Timmins Daily Press, The Kirkland Lake Northern Daily News, The North Bay Nugget and The Sudbury Star.