The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects - 13
Hoax or Horror?
To the military and the public who weren't intimately associated with the higher levels of Air Force Intelligence during the summer of 1952—and few were—General Samford's press conference seemed to indicate the peak in official interest in flying saucers. It did take the pressure off Project Blue Book—reports dropped from fifty per day to ten a day inside of a week—but behind the scenes the press conference was only the signal for an all-out drive to find out more about the UFO. Work on the special cameras continued on a high-priority basis, and General Samford directed us to enlist the aid of top-ranking scientists.
During the past four months we had collected some 750 comparatively well-documented reports, and we hoped that something in these reports might give us a good lead on the UFO. My orders were to tell the scientists to whom we talked that the Air Force was officially still very much interested in the UFO and that their assistance, even if it was only in giving us ideas and comments on the reports, was badly needed. Although the statement of the problem was worded much more loosely, in essence it was, "Do the UFO reports we have collected indicate that the earth is being visited by a people from another planet?"
Such questions had been asked of the scientists before, but not in such a serious vein.
Then a secondary program was to be started, one of "educating" the military. The old idea that UFO reports would die out when the thrill wore off had long been discarded. We all knew that UFO reports would continue to come in and that in order to properly evaluate them we had to have every shred of evidence. The Big Flap had shown us that our chances of getting a definite answer on a sighting was directly proportional to the quality of the information we received from the intelligence officers in the field.
But soon after the press conference we began to get wires from intelligence officers saying they had interpreted the newspaper accounts of General Samford's press conference to mean that we were no longer interested in UFO reports. A few other intelligence officers had evidently
also misinterpreted the general's remarks because their reports of excellent sightings were sloppy and incomplete. All of this was bad, so to forestall any misconceived ideas about the future of the Air Force's UFO project, summaries of General Samford's press conference were distributed to intelligence officers. General Samford had outlined the future of the UFO project when he'd said:
"So our present course of action is to continue on this problem with the best of our ability, giving it the attention that we feel it very definitely warrants. We will give it adequate attention, but not frantic attention."
The summary of the press conference straightened things out to some extent and our flow of reports got back to normal.
I was anxious to start enlisting the aid of scientists, as General Samford had directed, but before this could be done we had a backlog of UFO reports that had to be evaluated. During July we had been swamped and had picked off only the best ones. Some of the reports we were working on during August had simple answers, but many were unknowns. There was one report that was of special interest because it was an excellent example of how a UFO report can at first appear to be absolutely unsoluble then suddenly fall apart under thorough investigation. It also points up the fact that our investigation and analysis were thorough and that when we finally stamped a report "Unknown" it was unknown. We weren't infallible but we didn't often let a clue slip by.
At exactly ten forty-five on the morning of August 1, 1952, an ADC radar near Bellefontaine, Ohio, picked up a high-speed unidentified target moving southwest, just north of Dayton. Two F-86's from the 97th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Wright-Patterson were scrambled and in a few minutes they were climbing out toward where the radar showed the UFO to be. The radar didn't have any height-finding equipment so all that the ground controller at the radar site could do was to get the two F-86's over or under the target, and then they would have to find it visually.
When the two airplanes reached 30,000 feet, the ground controller called them and told them that they were almost on the target, which was still continuing its southwesterly course at about 525 miles an hour. In a few seconds the ground controller called back and told the lead pilot that the targets of his airplane and the UFO had blended on the radarscope and that the pilot would have to make a visual search; this was as close in as radar could get him. Then the radar broke down and went off the air.
But at almost that exact second the lead pilot looked up and there in the clear blue sky several thousand feet above him was a silver-colored
sphere. The lead pilot pointed it out to his wing man and both of them started to climb. They went to their maximum altitude but they couldn't reach the UFO. After ten minutes of unsuccessful attempts to identify the huge silver sphere or disk—because at times it looked like a disk—one of the pilots hauled the nose of his F-86 up in a stall and exposed several feet of gun camera film. Just as he did this the warning light on his radar gun sight blinked on, indicating that something solid was in front of him—he wasn't photographing a sundog, hallucination, or refracted light.
The two pilots broke off the intercept and started back to Wright-Patterson when they suddenly realized that they were still northwest of the base, in almost the same location they had been when they started the intercept ten minutes before. The UFO had evidently slowed down from the speed that the radar had measured, 525 miles an hour, until it was hovering almost completely motionless.
As soon as the pilots were on the ground, the magazine of film from the gun camera was rushed to the photo lab and developed. The photos showed only a round, indistinct blob—no details—but they were proof that some type of unidentified flying object had been in the air north of Dayton.
Lieutenant Andy Flues was assigned to this one. He checked the locations of balloons and found out that a 20-foot-diameter radiosonde weather balloon from Wright-Patterson had been very near the area when the unsuccessful intercept took place, but the balloon wasn't traveling 525 miles an hour and it couldn't be picked up by the ground radar, so he investigated further. The UFO couldn't have been another airplane because airplanes don't hover in one spot and it was no atmospheric phenomenon. Andy wrote it off as an unknown but it still bothered him; that balloon in the area was mighty suspicious. He talked to the two pilots a half dozen times and spent a day at the radar site at Bellefontaine before he reversed his "Unknown" decision and came up with the answer. The unidentified target that the radar had tracked across Ohio was a low-flying jet. The jet was unidentified because there was a mix-up and the radar station didn't get its flight plan. Andy checked and found that a jet out of Cleveland had landed at Memphis at about eleven-forty. At ten forty-five this jet would have been north of Dayton on a southwesterly heading. When the ground controller blended the targets of the two F-86's into the unidentified target, they were at 30,000 feet and were looking for the target at their altitude or higher so they missed the low-flying jet—but they did see the balloon. Since the radar went out just as the pilots saw the balloon, the ground controller couldn't see that the
unidentified target he'd been watching was continuing on to the southwest. The pilots didn't bother to look around any more once they'd spotted the balloon because they thought they had the target in sight.
The only part of the sighting that still wasn't explained was the radar pickup on the F-86's gun sight. Lieutenant Flues checked around, did a little experimenting, and found out that the small transmitter box on a radiosonde balloon will give an indication on the radar used in F-86 gun sights.
To get a final bit of proof, Lieutenant Flues took the gun camera photos to the photo lab. The two F-86's had been at about 40,000 feet when the photos were taken and the 20-foot balloon was at about 70,000 feet. Andy's question to the photo lab was, "How big should a 20-foot balloon appear on a frame of 16-mm. movie film when the balloon is 30,000 feet away?"
The people in the photo lab made a few calculations and measurements and came up with the answer, "A 20-foot balloon photographed from 30,000 feet away would be the same size as the UFO in the gun camera photos."
By the middle of August, Project Blue Book was back to normal. Lieutenant Flues's Coca-Cola consumption had dropped from twenty bottles a day in mid-July to his normal five. We were all getting a good night's sleep and it was now a rare occasion when my home telephone would ring in the middle of the night to report a new UFO.
But then on the morning of August 20 I was happily taking a shower, getting ready to go to work, when one of these rare occasions occurred and the phone rang—it was the ATIC OD. An operational immediate wire had just come in for Blue Book. He had gone over to the message center and gotten it. He thought that it was important and wanted me to come right out. For some reason he didn't want to read it over the phone, although it was not classified. I decided that if he said so I should come out, so I left in a hurry.
The wire was from the intelligence officer at an air base in Florida. The previous night a scoutmaster and three boy scouts had seen a UFO. The scoutmaster had been burned when he approached too close to the UFO. The wire went on to give a few sketchy details and state that the scoutmaster was a "solid citizen."
I immediately put in a long-distance call to the intelligence officer. He confirmed the data in the wire. He had talked briefly to the scoutmaster on the phone and from all he could gather it was no hoax. The local police had been contacted and they verified the story and the fact of the burns. I asked the intelligence officer to contact the scoutmaster and ask
if he would submit to a physical examination immediately. I could imagine the rumors that could start about the scoutmaster's condition, and I wanted proof. The report sounded good, so I told the intelligence officer I'd get down to see him as soon as possible.
I immediately called Colonel Dunn, then chief at ATIC, and gave him a brief rundown. He agreed that I should go down to Florida as soon as possible and offered to try to get an Air Force B-25, which would save time over the airlines.
I told Bob Olsson to borrow a Geiger counter at Wright Field, then check out a camera. I called my wife and asked her to pack a few clothes and bring them out to me. Bob got the equipment, ran home and packed a bag, and in two hours he and I and our two pilots, Captain Bill Hoey and Captain David Douglas, were on our way to Florida to investigate one of the weirdest UFO reports that I came up against.
When we arrived, the intelligence officer arranged for the scoutmaster to come out to the air base. The latter knew we were coming, so he arrived at the base in a few minutes. He was a very pleasant chap, in his early thirties, not at all talkative but apparently willing to co-operate.
While he was giving us a brief personal history, I had the immediate impression that he was telling the truth. He'd lived in Florida all of his life. He'd gone to a private military prep school, had some college, and then had joined the Marines. He told us that he had been in the Pacific most of the war and repeated some rather hairy stories of what he'd been through. After the war he'd worked as an auto mechanic, then gone to Georgia for a while to work in a turpentine plant. After returning to Florida, he opened a gas station, but some hard luck had forced him to sell out. He was now working as a clerk in a hardware store. Some months back a local church had decided to organize a boy scout troop and he had offered to be the scoutmaster.
On the night before the weekly scout meeting had broken up early. He said that he had offered to give four of the boys a ride home. He had let one of the boys out when the conversation turned to a stock car race that was to take place soon. They talked about the condition of the track. It had been raining frequently, and they wondered if the track was flooded, so they drove out to look at it. Then they started south toward a nearby town to take another of the boys home. They took a black-top road about 10 miles inland from the heavily traveled coastal highway that passes through sparsely settled areas of scrub pine and palmetto thickets.
They were riding along when the scoutmaster said that he noticed a light off to his left in the pines. He slowed down and asked the boys if
they'd seen it; none of them had. He started to drive on, when he saw the lights again. This time all of the boys saw them too, so he stopped. He said that he wanted to go back into the woods to see what was going on, but that the boys were afraid to stay alone. Again he started to drive on, but in a few seconds decided he had to go back. So he turned the car around, went back, and parked beside the road at a point just opposite where he'd seen the lights.
I stopped him at this point to find out a little bit more about why he'd decided to go back. People normally didn't go running off into palmetto thickets infested with rattlesnakes at night. He had a logical answer. The lights looked like an airplane crashing into the woods some distance away. He didn't believe that was what he saw, but the thought that this could be a possibility bothered him. After all, he had said, he was a scoutmaster, and if somebody was in trouble, his conscience would have bothered him the rest of his life if he hadn't investigated and it had been somebody in need of help.
A fifteen-minute radio program had just started, and he told the boys that he was going to go into the woods, and that if he wasn't back by the time the program ended they should run down the road to a farmhouse that they had passed and get help. He got out and started directly into the woods, wearing a faded denim billed cap and carrying machete and two flashlights. One of the lights was a spare he carried in his back pocket.
He had traveled about 50 yards off the road when he ran into a palmetto thicket, so he stopped and looked for a clear path. But finding none, he started pushing his way through the waist-high tangle of brush.
When he stopped, he recalled later, he had first become aware of an odd odor. He couldn't exactly describe it to us, except to say that it was "sharp" or "pungent." It was very faint, actually more like a subconscious awareness at first. Another sensation he recalled after the incident was a very slight difference in temperature, hardly perceivable, like walking by a brick building in the evening after the sun has set. He hadn't thought anything about either the odor or the heat at the time but later, when they became important, he remembered them.
Paying no attention to these sensations then, he pushed on through the brush, looking up occasionally to check the north star, so that he could keep traveling straight east. After struggling through about 30 yards of palmetto undergrowth, he noticed a change in the shadows ahead of him and stopped to shine the flashlight farther ahead of him to find out if he was walking into a clearing or into one of the many ponds that dot that particular Florida area. It was a clearing.
The boy scouts in the car had been watching the scoutmaster's progress since they could see his light bobbing around. Occasionally he would shine it up at a tree or across the landscape for an instant, so they knew where he was in relation to the trees and thickets. They saw him stop at the edge of the open, shadowed area and shine his light ahead of him.
The scoutmaster then told us that when he stopped this second time he first became consciously aware of the odor and the heat. Both became much more noticeable as he stepped into the clearing. In fact, the heat became almost unbearable or, as he put it, "oppressively moist, making it hard to breathe."
He walked a few more paces and suddenly got a horrible feeling that somebody was watching him. He took another step, stopped, and looked up to find the north star. But he couldn't see the north star, or any stars. Then he suddenly saw that almost the whole sky was blanked out by a large dark shape about 30 feet above him.
He said that he had stood in this position for several seconds, or minutes—he didn't know how long—because now the feeling of being watched had overcome any power of reasoning he had. He managed to step back a few paces, and apparently got out from under the object, because he could see the edge of it silhouetted against the sky.
As he backed up, he said, the air became much cooler and fresher, helping him to think more clearly. He shone his light up at the edge of the object and got a quick but good look. It was circular-shaped and slightly concave on the bottom. The surface was smooth and a grayish color. He pointed to a gray linoleum-topped desk in the intelligence officer's room. "Just like that," he said. The upper part had a dome in the middle, like a turret. The edge of the saucer-shaped object was thick and had vanes spaced about every foot, like buckets on a turbine wheel. Between each vane was a small opening, like a nozzle.
The next reaction that the scoutmaster recalled was one of fury. He wanted to harm or destroy whatever it was that he saw. All he had was a machete, but he wanted to try to jump up and strike at whatever he was looking at. No sooner did he get this idea than he noticed the shadows on the turret change ever so slightly and heard a sound, "like the opening of a well-oiled safe door." He froze where he stood and noticed a small ball of red fire begin to drift toward him. As it floated down it expanded into a cloud of red mist. He dropped his light and machete, and put his arms over his face. As the mist enveloped him, he passed out.
The boy scouts, in the car, estimated that their scoutmaster had been gone about five minutes when they saw him stop at the edge of the clearing,
then walk on in. They saw him stop seconds later, hesitate a few more seconds, then shine the light up in the air. They thought he was just looking at the trees again. The next thing they said they saw was a big red ball of fire engulfing him. They saw him fall, so they spilled out of the car and took off down the road toward the farmhouse.
The farmer and his wife had a little difficulty getting the story out of the boys, they were so excited. All they could get was something about the boys' scoutmaster being in trouble down the road. The farmer called the Florida State Highway Patrol, who relayed the message to the county sheriff's office. In a few minutes a deputy sheriff and the local constable arrived. They picked up the scouts and drove to where their car was parked.
The scoutmaster had no idea of how long he had been unconscious. He vaguely remembered leaning against a tree, the feeling of wet, dew-covered grass, and suddenly regaining his consciousness. His first reaction was to get out to the highway, so he started to run. About halfway through the palmetto thicket he saw a car stop on the highway. He ran toward it and found the deputy and constable with the boys.
He was so excited he could hardly get his story told coherently. Later the deputy said that in all his years as a law-enforcement officer he had never seen anyone as scared as the scoutmaster was as he came up out of the ditch beside the road and walked into the glare of the headlights. As soon as he'd told his story, they all went back into the woods, picking their way around the palmetto thicket. The first thing they noticed was the flashlight, still burning, in a clump of grass. Next to it was a place where the grass was flattened down, as if a person had been lying there. They looked around for the extra light that the scoutmaster had been carrying, but it was gone. Later searches for this missing flashlight were equally fruitless. They marked the spot where the crushed grass was located and left. The constable took the boy scouts home and the scoutmaster followed the deputy to the sheriff's office. On the way to town the scoutmaster said he first noticed that his arms and face burned. When he arrived at the sheriff's office, he found that his arms, face, and cap were burned. The deputy called the Air Force.
There were six people listening to his story. Bob Olsson, the two pilots, the intelligence officer, his sergeant, and I. We each had previously agreed to pick one insignificant detail from the story and then requestion the scoutmaster when he had finished. Our theory was that if he had made up the story he would either repeat the details perfectly or not remember what he'd said. I'd used this many times before, and it was a good indicator
of a lie. He passed the test with flying colors. His story sounded good to all of us.
We talked for about another hour, discussing the event and his background. He kept asking, "What did I see?"—evidently thinking that I knew. He said that the newspapers were after him, since the sheriff's office had inadvertently leaked the story, but that he had been stalling them off pending our arrival. I told him it was Air Force policy to allow people to say anything they wanted to about a UFO sighting. We had never muzzled anyone; it was his choice. With that, we thanked him, arranged to pick up the cap and machete to take back to Dayton, and sent him home in a staff car.
By this time it was getting late, but I wanted to talk to the flight surgeon who had examined the man that morning. The intelligence officer found him at the hospital and he said he would be right over. His report was very thorough. The only thing he could find out of the ordinary were minor burns on his arms and the back of his hands. There were also indications that the inside of his nostrils might be burned. The degree of burn could be compared to a light sunburn. The hair had also been singed, indicating a flash heat.
The flight surgeon had no idea how this specifically could have happened. It could have even been done with a cigarette lighter, and he took his lighter and singed a small area of his arm to demonstrate. He had been asked only to make a physical check, so that is what he'd done, but he did offer a suggestion. Check his Marine records; something didn't ring true. I didn't quite agree; the story sounded good to me.
The next morning my crew from ATIC, three people from the intelligence office, and the two law officers went out to where the incident had taken place. We found the spot where somebody had apparently been lying and the scoutmaster's path through the thicket. We checked the area with a Geiger counter, as a precautionary measure, not expecting to find anything; we didn't. We went over the area inch by inch, hoping to find a burned match with which a flare or fireworks could have been lighted, drippings from a flare, or anything that shouldn't have been in a deserted area of woods. We looked at the trees; they hadn't been hit by lightning. The blades of grass under which the UFO supposedly hovered were not burned. We found nothing to contradict the story. We took a few photos of the area and went back to town. On the way back we talked to the constable and the deputy. All they could do was to confirm what we'd heard.
We talked to the farmer and his wife, but they couldn't help. The few
facts that the boy scouts had given them before they had a chance to talk to their scoutmaster correlated with his story. We talked to the scoutmaster's employer and some of his friends; he was a fine person. We questioned people who might have been in a position to also observe something; they saw nothing. The local citizens had a dozen theories, and we thoroughly checked each one.
He hadn't been struck by lightning. He hadn't run across a still. There was no indication that he'd surprised a gang of illegal turtle butcherers, smugglers, or bootleggers. There was no indication of marsh gas or swamp fire. The mysterious blue lights in the area turned out to be a farmer arc-welding at night. The other flying saucers were the landing lights of airplanes landing at a nearby airport.
To be very honest, we were trying to prove that this was a hoax, but were having absolutely no success. Every new lead we dug up pointed to the same thing, a true story.
We finished our work on a Friday night and planned to leave early Saturday morning. Bob Olsson and I planned to fly back on a commercial airliner, as the B-25 was grounded for maintenance. Just after dinner that night I got a call from the sheriff's office. It was from a deputy I had talked to, not the one who met the scoutmaster coming out of the woods, but another one, who had been very interested in the incident. He had been doing a little independent checking and found that our singed UFO observer's background was not as clean as he led one to believe. He had been booted out of the Marines after a few months for being AWOL and stealing an automobile, and had spent some time in a federal reformatory in Chillicothe, Ohio. The deputy pointed out that this fact alone meant nothing but that he thought I might be interested in it. I agreed.
The next morning, early, I was awakened by a phone call from the intelligence officer. The morning paper carried the UFO story on the front page. It quoted the scoutmaster as saying that "high brass" from Washington had questioned him late into the night. There was no "high brass," just four captains, a second lieutenant, and a sergeant. He knew we were from Dayton because we had discussed who we were and where we were stationed. The newspaper story went on to say that "he, the scoutmaster, and the Air Force knew what he'd seen but he couldn't tell—it would create a national panic." He'd also hired a press agent. I could understand the "high brass from the Pentagon" as literary license by the press, but this "national panic" pitch was too much. I had just about decided to give up on this incident and write it off as "Unknown" until this happened. From all appearances, our scoutmaster was going to make a fast buck on his experience. Just before leaving for Dayton, I called
[paragraph continues] Major Dewey Fournet in the Pentagon and asked him to do some checking.
Monday morning the machete went to the materials lab at Wright-Patterson. The question we asked was, "Is there anything unusual about this machete? Is it magnetized? Is it radioactive? Has it been heated?" No knife was ever tested so thoroughly for so many things. As in using a Geiger counter to check the area over which the UFO had hovered in the Florida woods, our idea was to investigate every possible aspect of the sighting. They found nothing, just a plain, unmagnetized, unradioactive, unheated, common, everyday knife.
The cap was sent to a laboratory in Washington, D.C., along with the scoutmaster's story. Our question here was, "Does the cap in any way (bums, chemicals, etc.) substantiate or refute the story?"
I thought that we'd collected all the items that could be analyzed in a lab until somebody thought of one I'd missed, the most obvious of them all—soil and grass samples from under the spot where the UFO had hovered. We'd had samples, but in the last-minute rush to get back to Dayton they had been left in Florida. I called Florida and they were shipped to Dayton and turned over to an agronomy lab for analysis.
By the end of the week I received a report on our ex-Marine's military and reformatory records. They confirmed a few suspicions and added new facts. They were not complimentary. The discrepancy between what we'd heard about the scoutmaster while we were in Florida and the records was considered a major factor. I decided that we should go back to Florida and try to resolve this discrepancy.
Since it was hurricane season, we had to wait a few days, then sneak back between two hurricanes. We contacted a dozen people in the city where the scoutmaster lived. All of them had known him for some time. We traced him from his early boyhood to the time of the sighting. To be sure that the people we talked to were reliable, we checked on them. The specific things we found out cannot be told since they were given to us in confidence, but we were convinced that the whole incident was a hoax.
We didn't talk to the scoutmaster again but we did talk to all the boy scouts one night at their scout meeting, and they retold how they had seen their scoutmaster knocked down by the ball of fire. The night before, we had gone out to the area of the sighting and, under approximately the same lighting conditions as existed on the night of the sighting, had reenacted the scene—especially the part where the boy scouts saw their scoutmaster fall, covered with red fire. We found that not even by standing on top of the car could you see a person silhouetted in the clearing where the scoutmaster supposedly fell. The rest of their stories fell apart
to some extent too. They were not as positive of details as they had been previously.
When we returned to Dayton, the report on the cap had come back. The pattern of the scorch showed that the hat was fiat when it was scorched, but the burned holes—the lab found some minute holes we had missed—had very probably been made by an electrical spark. This was all the lab could find.
During our previous visit we repeatedly asked the question, "Was the hat burned before you went into the woods?" and, "Had the cap been ironed?" We had received the same answers each time: "The hat was not burned because we [the boy scouts] were playing with it at the scout meeting and would have noticed the burns," and, "The cap was new; it had not been washed or ironed." It is rumored that the cap was never returned because it was proof of the authenticity of the sighting. The hat wasn't returned simply because the scoutmaster said that he didn't want it back. No secrets, no intrigue; it's as simple as that.
Everyone who was familiar with the incident, except a few people in the Pentagon, were convinced that this was a hoax until the lab called me about the grass samples we'd sent in. "How did the roots get charred?" Roots charred? I didn't even know what my caller was talking about. He explained that when they'd examined the grass they had knocked the dirt and sand off the roots of the grass clumps and found them charred. The blades of grass themselves were not damaged; they had never been heated, except on the extreme tips of the longer blades. These had evidently been bending over touching the ground and were also charred. The lab had duplicated the charring and had found that by placing live grass clumps in a pan of sand and dirt and heating it to about 300 degrees F. over a gas burner the charring could be duplicated. How it was actually done outside the lab they couldn't even guess.
As soon as we got the lab report, we checked a few possibilities ourselves. There were no hot underground springs to heat the earth, no chemicals in the soil, not a thing we found could explain it. The only way it could have been faked would have been to heat the earth from underneath to 300 degrees F., and how do you do this without using big and cumbersome equipment and disturbing the ground? You can't. Only a few people handled the grass specimens: the lab, the intelligence officer in Florida, and I. The lab wouldn't do it as a joke, then write an official report, and I didn't do it. This leaves the intelligence officer; I'm positive that he wouldn't do it. There may be a single answer everyone is overlooking, but as of now the charred grass roots from Florida are still a mystery.
Writing an official report on this incident was difficult. On one side of the ledger was a huge mass of circumstantial evidence very heavily weighted against the scoutmaster's story being true. On our second trip to Florida, Lieutenant Olsson and I heard story after story about the man's aptitude for dreaming up tall tales. One man told us, "If he told me the sun was shining, I'd look up to make sure." There were parts of his story and those of the boy scouts that didn't quite mesh. None of us ever believed the boy scouts were in on the hoax. They were undoubtedly so impressed by the story that they imagined a few things they didn't actually see. The scoutmaster's burns weren't proof of anything; the flight surgeon had duplicated these by burning his own arm with a cigarette lighter. But we didn't make step one in proving the incident to be a hoax. We thought up dozens of ways that the man could have set up the hoax but couldn't prove one.
In the scoutmaster's favor were the two pieces of physical evidence we couldn't explain, the holes burned in the cap and the charred grass roots.
The deputy sheriff who had first told me about the scoutmaster's Marine and prison record had also said, "Maybe this is the one time in his life he's telling the truth, but I doubt it."
So did we; we wrote off the incident as a hoax. The best hoax in UFO history.
Many people have asked why we didn't give the scoutmaster a lie detector test. We seriously considered it and consulted some experts in this field. They advised against it. In some definite types of cases the lie detector will not give valid results. This, they thought, was one of those cases. Had we done it and had he passed on the faulty results, the publicity would have been a headache.
There is one way to explain the charred grass roots, the burned cap, and a few other aspects of the incident. It's pure speculation; I don't believe that it is the answer, yet it is interesting. Since the blades of the grass were not damaged and the ground had not been disturbed, this one way is the only way (nobody has thought of any other way) the soil could have been heated. It could have been done by induction heating.
To quote from a section entitled "Induction Heating" from an electrical engineering textbook:
A rod of solid metal or any electrical conductor, when subjected to an alternating magnetic field, has electromotive forces set up in it. These electromotive forces cause what are known as "eddy currents." A rise in temperature results from "eddy currents."
Induction heating is a common method of melting metals in a foundry.
Replace the "rod of solid metal" mentioned above with damp sand, an
electrical conductor, and assume that a something that was generating a powerful alternating magnetic field was hovering over the ground, and you can explain how the grass roots were charred. To get an alternating magnetic field, some type of electrical equipment was needed. Electricity—electrical sparks—the holes burned in the cap "by electric sparks."
UFO propulsion comes into the picture when one remembers Dr. Einstein's unified field theory, concerning the relationship between electromagnetism and gravitation.
If this alternating magnetic field can heat metal, why didn't everything the scoutmaster had that was metal get hot enough to burn him? He had a flashlight, machete, coins in his pocket, etc. The answer—he wasn't under the UFO for more than a few seconds. He said that when he stopped to really look at it he had backed away from under it. He did feel some heat, possibly radiating from the ground.
To further pursue this line of speculation, the scoutmaster repeatedly mentioned the unusual odor near the UFO. He described it as being "sharp" or "pungent." Ozone gas is "sharp" or "pungent." To quote from a chemistry book, "Ozone is prepared by passing air between two plates which are charged at a high electrical potential." Electrical equipment again. Breathing too high a concentration of ozone gas will also cause you to lose consciousness.
I used to try out this induction heating theory on people to get their reaction. I tried it out one day on a scientist from Rand. He practically leaped at the idea. I laughed when I explained that I thought this theory just happened to tie together the unanswered aspects of the incident in Florida and was not the answer; he was slightly perturbed. "What do you want?" he said. "Does a UFO have to come in and land on your desk at ATIC?"