This is not a review of the two UFO books making the rounds lately. I just bought Mark Pilkington’s “Mirage Men”, though it won’t actually arrive here in Brazil before the end of the month. Hurray for standard shipping. As for Leslie Kean’s “UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record”, I will wait a little while until it’s released on paperback. So, I don’t have either of the books on hand, nor have I read them. This is not a review.
But I just had to comment on them beforehand, because both books feature Brazilian cases, it seems quite prominently. Kean features a Trindade Island case photo right on the frontpage of her site. She also quoted (and published) Brig. Gen. Jose Pereira of Brazil regarding a famous local UFO scramble case in 1986. For his part, Pilkington deals with the Antonio Villas Boas abduction case. Or so I read on some reviews, especially the quick blurb by Andy Roberts and David Clarke on this month’s Fortean Times. Let’s start from there.
Along with the thesis of Mirage Men, Pilkington has one CIA operative, Bosco Nedelcovic, who claims to have been present at the Villas Boas abduction. This story by Nedelcovic first circulated a few years ago on UfoUpdates. His story was quite strange. He spoke about flying by helicopter over Pico da Bandeira, Serra do Espinhaço and Uberaba. Several hundred miles separate these locations, which does not make the trip impossible as it was not made in the same day, but it does seem strange to have a CIA operative flying that freely across the country to experiment “new forms of psychological testing”. The random mention of famous tourist attractions in Brazil however is what one would expect from a tall-tale.
Nedelcovic then claims they found while flying by helicopter “a person below who had been discovered by heat-sensing devices on board” and sprayed him with hallucinogenic chemicals. This man was, of course, Antonio Villas Boas. He even tells the detail that AVB fell face-forward and hit his lower jaw on the “helicopter ramp-rung”. Case closed?
The horror-comedy film “Evil Aliens” was inspired by some of AVB’s aliens
Again, I’m eager to read what Pilkington may have got from Nedelcovic, I hope it’s much more than what circulated a few years back. It seems quite unbelievable to me, because the AVB case becoming this famous owed a lot to happenstance.
Villas Boas first contacted journalist João Martins, who had been publishing flying saucer stories on the press for a few years already (and had been one of the responsible for the Barra da Tijuca hoax). Then, on February 1958, months after the event, they paid his travel expenses to Rio, where he was interviewed by Martins, along with Olavo Fontes. Now, here’s the thing: neither Martins nor Fontes believed AVB’s story. Fontes wrote about it for APRO, but it didn’t get published then.
It was only in 1962, when SBEDV, another UFO group, heard rumors of the story and went to AVB’s city to interview him directly and publish about it on their bulletin that the case reignited interest. Fontes would write about it for Flying Saucer Review in 1965. For context, remember that the Hill case happened in 1961, and that’s why although the AVB case occurred before, it was actually known afterwards. By 1965 AVB’s story was perhaps much more plausible to ufologists than it was in 1958.
Now, one could suggest this actually suggest that the CIA had been trying to promote fake alien abductions since the end of the 1950s, and only succeeded in the early 1960s. Perhaps. But to me, the evidence actually suggests AVB case almost went unnoticed, like some other cases that for one reason or another don’t resonate, while others become “classic”.
The key figure making Brazilian UFO cases “classics” was Olavo Fontes. He was the Brazilian doctor fluent in English publishing on the APRO bulletin about all the hot UFO cases down here. If CIA wanted to manipulate UFO interest, Fontes would be the man. But Fontes didn’t believe AVB’s story, and if it weren’t for SBEDV, it’s possible the case would have never become the “first modern alien abduction” case.
Nedelcovic claims AVB was not the only one they messed up with hallucinogenic drugs, so this could also be brushed of. But the bottom-line question is: do we have to consider hallucinogenic drugs for AVB to come up with his story?
As it turns out, in the early 2000s, researchers Cláudio Suenaga and Pablo Villarrubia-Mauso revisited the AVB case, visiting the place and interviewing locals. Mauso published some of his findings on the web. Suenaga published some articles on Spanish magazines, which he very kindly shared with me before leaving the field. The interesting thing that Suenaga reported (besides the fact AVB confessed that the alien was actually extremely ugly, destroying the more fantastic version) was the story told by relatives and locals that the area in which the alien abduction allegedly happened was actually haunted even before the events, with poltergeist events due to the fact it was over an Indian burial ground. Yes, you read that right. It’s the Poltergeist story. Did the CIA kept spraying hallucinogenic drugs over the area?
AVB would become a lawyer. He also made a model of the spaceship that abducted him, as well as the drawings, which suggest he had some creative and artistic skills. Perhaps a random person discovered by “heat-sensing devices on board” on a helicopter travelling hundreds of miles experimenting with new forms of psychological testing would have such characteristics. Again, they may have messed with many people, and only AVB’s case became famous. But this seems quite ineffective, as even the AVB case almost fell into obscurity.
Overall, this looks like the USAF trying to explain Roswell alien bodies as alien dummies from Project Excelsior. It may look plausible, but the origin of such stories is actually more nuanced and may be without any basis in reality at all. You don’t have to have LSD or anthropomorphic dummies for people to come up with stories of strange aliens. They come up with those stories on their own. They have been coming up with those stories long before LSD or crash test dummies were invented.
The central thesis of Mirage Men and the article Pilkington wrote for Fortean Times look very interesting, and there are certainly more solid cases like the one involving Paul Bennewitz. But the particular story by Nedelcovic regarding Antonio Villas Boas, it stinks. Let’s hope the book clears the air. I will write an actual review after I read it.
Which takes us to the book I haven’t even bought yet.
History repeats itself
That’s a Mike Wallace interview, 1958. I seriously recommend you to see it in full, the three parts: part 1, part 2 and part 3. Much has changed in half a century, but a lot has not. Kean has “Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record”. Back then, Major Keyhoe was insisting that:
“People who are qualified to see these things. … A list of 800 witnesses, some of the big names of aviation including up to the rank of colonel in the Air Force. … It should convince many people because of the names involved. … The most important part is the weight of evidence from hundreds of competent people.”
In 2010, Kean is an “agnostic” on UFOs, though she also claims to present “irrefutable evidence that unknown flying objects – metallic, luminous, and seemingly able to maneuver in ways that defy the laws of physics – actually exist.”
Back in 1958, when asked where does he thinks flying saucers come from, Major Keyhoe answered:
“I don’t know. There is an indication that they could be using Mars as a base.”
The Mars bit may sound dated now, but Kean’s comment about flying objects defying the laws of physics is an equivalent.
Kean says the issue should be officially investigated. Back then, UFOs were still being officially investigated, and when asked what he would like to see done, Keyhoe said:
“I think the American people should write to their congressmen and insist that open hearings be held by the Senate Committee.”
Back then, Mike Wallace ended the interview stating that “The flying saucer controversy is deadlocked in contradictory statements and interpretation of facts.”
Half a century later, little has changed on that regard. And this, after decades of official UFO investigation by the US government. After two formal hearings on UFOs in the US. One of them resulted in the Condon Report. The other, held in 1968, had the statements by Hynek, McDonald and Sagan.
What makes people think this time it will be different? One can always hope, but from the start, it seems Kean presents basically the same arguments and evidence from “qualified people” Keyhoe presented half a century ago. Even if they managed to get a formal hearing, even if by sheer popular pressure the US government reactivated an official UFO investigation project, would things work out differently? The controversy was deadlocked in 1958 when Keyhoe answered very tough questions by Wallace. It was deadlocked a decade later when the USAF ended its official UFO investigation project. It is deadlocked now that we enter the second decade of the new millennium.
Does Kean’s evidence and testimony amount to something quite different from what Keyhoe had? Perhaps. I will have to read it. But we may soon present more evidence Trindade was a hoax and that the Navy investigation was perhaps as faulty as the Air Force officers who endorsed the Barra da Tijuca hoax. You see, the Brazilian military do not have a good track record of uncovering UFO hoaxes. One Air Force Minister fell for an “Uranus” hoax. And as for Brig. Gen. Jose Pereira comments regarding the 1986 UFO scramble in Brazil, we already quoted a 1991 official Air Force statement to the effect that “all the military air defense apparatus was mobilized without any visual contact that justified the presence of such ‘plots’”.
Brazilian UFO mag promoting Jesus Second Coming
Is Pereira speaking based on inside knowledge and evidence? Or is the official BAF statement just a smokescreen? Well, Pereira supports the Brazilian UFO magazine as a serious endeavor. This is the same magazine which announced the return of Jesus in a fleet of flying saucers. The official BAF statement may still be a smokescreen, but I wouldn’t take Pereira’s statements with that much confidence. He may have evidence he isn’t able to share to base his statements on. But then, he may have not.
UFOs, a private interest
I’m not defending UFOs should not be investigated. On the contrary, I’m all for UFO investigation. I spend my time and money on it. But does government UFO investigation help? Not much the way it has been done, and I doubt one could overcome the obstacles to change it. Is the problem with UFO research one of funds? In a way, obviously so, but then, simply throwing money on the subject does not guarantee any great leap forward, as NIDS may have proved.
Private investigators may be extremely effective even with severe lack of funds. Just look at the work of Martin Shough. Perhaps he is secretly funded by the CIA and flies around in a helicopter spraying hallucinogenic drugs in this spare time, but I think he has contributed more for the advance of the field than NIDS and all their money and experts. Perhaps NIDS should not be taken as a reference for good investment of money, but I had to choose one source of funds to criticize and definitely be blacklisted on. I won’t list any others. By the way, if you have money to invest on private UFO investigations, I repeat: I’m all for UFO investigation myself.
If you brave reader ventured this far, I thank you for your patience and would very much welcome your comments to this non-review of two books I haven’t read, including one I haven’t bought yet.
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