22 March 2015


Larry Holcombe. The Presidents and UFOs: A Secret History from FDR to Obama. Foreword by Stanton Friedman. St Martin’s Press, 2015

Can UFOs Advance Science? A New Look at the Evidence. SUNRISE Information Services, 2015.

Among the vast plethora of UFO books that I read in the 1970s was one called UFOs, Past, Present and Future by Robert Emeneger (Ballantine Books, 1974), based on a TV documentary. What distinguished this otherwise reasonable run-of-the-mill book was a fictional presentation of a future alien landing. Years later UFO-lore started to claim that this story was an actual event; a real life UFO landing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico in 1964.
Although that was later changed to 1954, and the president that met the aliens was Eisenhower not Johnson. Needless to say no actual evidence was ever presented to back up this tale or tales.

This tale is now being resurrected along with a good many more pieces of ufological apocrypha in Larry Holcombe's book, which purports to document how US presidents dealt with the 'UFO problem'. Contemporaneous documentation is notable in large part for its absence, instead we have fake documents such as the notorious MJ12 memos, alleged memories, various rumours presented as fact and so on. Of course also included is the hint that President Kennedy was murdered (by whom?) because he was about to reveal the 'truth' about UFOs.

We now have more alleged 'documents' claiming that an alien spaceship or spaceships was/were shot down or otherwise crashed during the Second World War and that FDR (who clearly didn’t have enough to do) set up a top secret investigation. He was succeeded by Harry Truman, who knew how to keep a secret because the US military is good at keeping secrets - tell that to Julian Assange or Edward Snowdon - as witness the Manhattan project (not exactly a secret to Stalin); or indeed for the most important secret of all, the details of the D-Day landings, which were so secret that they ended up in a Times crossword, compiled by a group of schoolboys as a punishment.

As has frequently been pointed out (by me among others) that secrecy only works when you are in charge of the situation. What would have been the point of secrecy if an alien spaceship crashed at Roswell? How would they know that the aliens would not land on the White House and demand the wreckage back (that’s what the US military would have done), and why would any politician keep schtum about the greatest story in human history and not spin it for maximum political capital? That secret would have to be kept by every leader of every country in the world for nearly 70 years.

Apparently the president who was going to reveal the truth about the UFOs was Richard Nixon. We know this because the widow of the comedian Jackie Gleeson tells us so. Obviously Gleeson was in the possession of the secrets that 'They' shot John and Bobby Kennedy to protect. I can just about imagine that Tricky Dicky might have been tempted to create a UFO contact story in some last desperate bid to hang on to power, but either got cold feet or was stopped at some point.

Of course we are told that Donald Menzel the noted UFO skeptic was in the dreaded MJ12 and was a personal friend of John Kennedy (or so we are told). That was before James Jesus Angleton had Kennedy assassinated to protect the secrets of MJ12. That was after bumping off Marilyn Monroe for the same reason. It is not clear what Menzel thought about that. All of this will be familiar to viewers of the old Dark Skies TV series, but that was at least advertised as fiction.

What is clear is that American ufologists’ now think investigating actual UFO reports is below their dignity, playing political activist and hunting out imaginary conspiracies is clearly far more fun, at least for those who are not playing at being psychotherapists. The sub title of this book should read 'fantasy history' rather than 'secret history'

The short answer to the question posed in the title of the second book under review is 'maybe', but not by the methods adopted in this anonymous book, which consist of a few poorly and uncritically presented UFO cases, none of them new or original, and lots of idle speculation, much of it centred around the anti-gravity theories of the late Thomas Townsend Brown. Brown was the original founder of NICAP, the well-known American UFO group, only to be booted out and replaced by Donald Keyhoe after about a year. As with much of these theories, most of the last century of physics is ditched.

Needless to say despite chapter headings 'Are we dealing with a secret man-made experiment' and 'Are we dealing with ball lightning' these suggestions are dismissed and we are back to good old fashioned nuts and bolts ETH.

The mysterious organisation which has published this book is described as an 'Australian owned private research centre', aimed at creating what it calls 'stable core knowledge' which will eventually explain everything in a simple way and will act as a sort of religion; indeed the acronym stands ‘Search for a Unified Religion in Information for Social Equality‘. Information that is not provided on its website or in this book is the names, qualifications and background of its members. You might think that when people hide behind anonymity it means they have something to hide, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Of course the idea of a search for a 'stable core of knowledge', which is presented as a quasi- religion may appeal to authoritarian and uninspiring school teachers but is antithetical to real science. If this book is anything to go on it is also unlikely to have more than a superficial resemblance to the science taught even in the dullest and most out of date textbooks, even at your local free school. -- Peter Rogerson.


Terry the Censor said...

> Foreword by Stanton Friedman

He seems quite content to attach his name to useless UFO conspiracy books these days.

cda said...

Larry Holcombe (whose photo shows him in a cowboy hat) is a frequent contributor to at least one of the popular UFO blogs, so I suppose it is possible he will respond to the above review. He strikes me as a sort of moderate guy in his postings. Obviously I judged him wrong.

As for Stanton Friedman, I read somewhere that he was about the only one left who still took the MJ-12 papers as genuine official documents. Obviously I got this wong too.

Ross said...

There are still American ufologists (MUFON "field investigators," etc.) investigating actual UFO reports. Of course, "skeptics" make fun of them, also.

"As with much of these theories, most of the last century of physics is ditched." Of course, even when ufologists attempt to rationalize UFO phemonena in terms of the "new physics," skeptics make fun of them

Conclusion: ufologists are damned if they do and damned if they don't. What a predicament.

Terry the Censor said...

> There are still American ufologists (MUFON "field investigators," etc.) investigating actual UFO reports.

Are they invited to speak at UFO conferences? Seems we only get conspiracy mongers and people who want to complain about skeptics.

> skeptics make fun of them

I think it was Hynek who said, "Whining is not part of the scientific method."

Something like that.

Ross said...

I don't attend UFO conferences or other such gatherings, so I won't comment on who speaks at them. It has nothing to do with the point I made.

"Whining is not part of the scientific method." Neither is spewing non-sequiturs. I wasn't whining, I was pointing out that no matter what approach ufologists take, it won't satisfy the "skeptics." Only a liar would deny that.

Terry the Censor said...

Ross, the substance of both your comments is nothing more than you standing up strawmen skeptics so you can knock them down. (By acting hurt, you probably think your attack was in self-defence!)

Ridicule can be earned. Congratulations.

Terry the Censor said...

> no matter what approach ufologists take, it won't satisfy the "skeptics."

Find a spaceship. That would do it, yes? Only a liar would deny that.

Terry the Censor said...

The New York Post has had a look at the Holcolme book:


Ross said...

I corrected Rogerson. Big deal. He's not bothered (evidently); why are you?

No, I wasn't setting up "strawmen skeptics"; I offered an accurate description of the type. You leapt to your brethren's (and your own) defense.

I'm not a ufologist, so I wasn't hurt, and my "attack" wasn't "self-defence." I just don't like to see people (including ufologists) treated unfairly. It's clear that even when they attempt to do sober investigations they won't be taken seriously. (And I'm not referring to "conspiracy theorists" here.)

"Find a spaceship. That would do it, yes?" And until a spaceship is found, ufologists can expect nothing but scorn? That doesn't exactly enhance efforts to find said "spaceship," does it? And not all ufologists are sold on the extraterrestrial hypothesis, are they?

Save your terrifying "ridicule" for your little sister; it's wasted on me.

Anonymous said...

Peter Rogerson replies
No Ross you have not “corrected” me in any way. All we need to know about MUFON can be found here;
Those with long memories know that censorship and suppression is nothing new in MUFON, as witness the ejection of those who dared question Mr Ed’s obviously faked photographs, or their ejection of Dennis Stacy from the editorship of its journal for allowing some mildly critical comment.
It is clear that you like Jerry Clark use the word “skeptic” (or debunker or pelicanist or whatever) to designate anyone who does not attribute puzzling UFO reports to the activities on non-human intelligences of one sort or another, or indeed anyone who critically analyses UFO reports.
You are perfectly free top “believe” in aliens or whatever as a matter of personal faith, but discussion of non-human intelligences of unknown nature and powers lies in the field of theology not science.
The various UFO propulsion theories are not even late 20th early 21st century science let alone 30th century science (which by definition is unknowable) but usually pre-Einsteinian, or baring no relationship to modern science at all.
If supporters of the ETH are correct, then any attempt to understand the workings of “ET” “craft” would be as fruitless as any attempt Aristotle might have made to understand the workings of an ipod.

This piece, from someone you would label as a skeptic, might suggest a way forward , or how far from its possibility UFOlogy has drifted

Magonia said...

Peter, that URL seems to be defunct. To access the article just use the first part: http://fotocat.blogspot.com.es

cda said...


"Find a spaceship. That would do it, yes?".

It probably would 'do it', but it might not. I believe Arthur C. Clarke used a similar phrase in a UFO book review. The problem is - it depends on the spaceship. doesn't it?

I expect a really advanced technology would (after a short period of study & analysis) eventually be shown to be, by default, an alien spacecraft. But this is not necessarily what would happen. Theoretically the Roswell debris, primitive as it was, COULD still have come from a spaceship (e.g. by being only a small portion of a much larger, sophisticated, mothership).

What I am saying is that 'finding a spaceship' might present more problems than we think. Scientists may need to argue the issue for months or years before reaching a consensus. As I say, in a way it depends on the 'spaceship'.

Terry the Censor said...

> What I am saying is that 'finding a spaceship' might present more problems than we think.

But I think we agree that UFO proponents should take that risk.

> Scientists may need to argue the issue for months or years before reaching a consensus.

Your scenario is a definite improvement on what we have now: the petulant whining of the self-pitying UFO proponent, who wants to blame their failures on mean old skeptics and paradigm-clutching scientists.

Ross complains that ufologists can't get respect for trying to do science. I say they can't even do rhetoric right. Blaming others for one's failure will not convince these same others that you are succeeding.

Unknown said...

Come Celebrate World UFO Day Festival in Memphis, Tennesse, home of Elvis Presley - the coolest alien of them all.

There are several reasons why this day has found it's way into the world. One of the first and foremost reasons is to raise awareness about the undoubted existence of UFO's and with that intelligent beings from outer space. This day is also used to encourage governments to declassify their knowledge about sightings throughout the history. Many governments, the US government for instance, are believed to have gained exclusive information about UFO's through their military departments. A subject that still raises a lot of curiosity is the Roswell incident in 1947 when a believed UFO crashed in Roswell New Mexico.

Ross said...

Yes, I did correct you, as the Carrion piece YOU linked demonstrates. To quote him: "MUFON is not scientifically studying UFOS, it is collecting data and has been doing so for over 40 years...". That proves my point: you are wrong in saying that American ufologists do nothing but propound conspiracy theories and engage in political activism. They do collect data on UFOs, interviewing witnesses and so forth. Carrion may regard such activity as unscientific because it has not generated hypotheses or conclusions, but that's a separate issue.

I use the word "skeptic" because that's what they typically call themselves. You're living under a rock if you're not aware of that. They even organize proudly under such titles.

Also, I don't "believe" in the ETH. Stop assuming that anyone who dares to criticize you is an Ashtar devotee.

I don't trust your knowledge of physics, be it pre-Einsteinian or 30th century.

It's strange that someone such as yourself, who doesn't believe in the ETH, claims expertise on what humans cannot know about ET craft.

Magonia said...

Who says American ufology is unscientific?

cda said...

I understand that the Roswell truth is finally to be revealed (via some Kodakchrome slides) at a large conference in Mexico City on May 5. At least that is the intention. I hope the UK elections two days later are not unduly influenced by this, but we shall have to wait and see.

In view of this, the said 'World UFO Day Festival' in Memphis appears to be redundant. But again, we shall have to wait and see.

Anonymous said...

Peter Rogerson replies

So Ross you have never heard of hyperbole. Yes MUFON collects folklore (not data, Carrion is being too kind, but no one rates it sufficiently to put it into books. Instead they are filled with the same old stories and endless conspiracy theories.

Do you really think that Aristotle could understand the workings of an ipod then. Do you really think you could, by observation work out the nature and properties of a 40th or 100th century "technology"

Whoever said that supporters of the ETH believed in Ashtar

Ross said...

Yes, your mind is already made up: accounts of UFO witnesses are, by definition, "folklore," and can yield no meaningful data.

The Ashtar remark was intended humorously.

Ross said...

I'm very familiar with hyperbole. Quite insidiously, it often comes to be taken for fact.

Anonymous said...

Peter Rogerson replies

On the contrary, when I can call UFO accounts "folklore" I am making no assumptions whatsoever about their ultimate truth or falsehood, A proportion of them, by detailed, critical investigation, may indeed be turned into "data".

I would clearly like to visit the alternate reality in which MAGONIA published the "Rogerson Lectures on Physics", it certainly isn't mine! I make no claims to any special expertise in physics, other than what I have picked up through reading over the years. It is not me who is claiming to be second guessing mainstream physics. If, as a lay person I am going to chose as my guide to physics is it going to be the likes of Stephen Hawking or some guy in a garage, or indeed some anonymous guy who wants to dumb down the whole of science, so that even I am "entitled" to know some maths free, difficulty removed, grand synthesis physics presented as a religion. With same applied to art, literature, history, music etc no doubt.

I have no idea what a 30th, 40th or 1,000th century "science" might be like, expect that large chunks of it would as incomprehensible to us as an Ipod would be to Aristotle.