Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Kean and Pilkington UFOs: Mirage Men on the Record


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

After seeing Leslie Kean on the Colbert Report, I immediately remembered this interview by Donald Keyhoe I commented a couple of years ago:

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’”.

contato et
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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Posted in Skepticism,UFOs | 10 comments

10 Comments so far

  1. Joe McGonagle September 9th, 2010 1:14 pm

    I haven’t read either book yet myself, but I have read reviews and a critique by James Oberg of Kean’s book, and a comment from Kean in response to Oberg’s critique.

    Oberg’s remarks at:


    are centred around Kean’s use of pilot reports, which Oberg convincingly argues are possibly _less_ reliable than reports from non-pilots. He is particularly critical of the chapter which refers to a NARCAP paper authored by Dominique Weinstein. The paper can be downloaded from:


    Oberg lists 10 examples of solved cases from the list at:


    one of which is covered (and explained) in a detailed article at:


    I had a cursory glance through the list, and was disappointed to find that one case which I had previously pointed out to Kean as having been resolved was included on the list. Not only that, but Kean used the same case to refute Oberg’s remarks in an article at:


    Kean apparently ignored information which I sent to her some time ago relating to the March 31st 1993 ‘Cosford Incident’ which I wrote about at:


    She also appears to have disregarded Martin Shough’s (and colleagues) thorough analysis of the Bowyer case in which he showed that there was no evidence of a radar track of Bowyer’s sighting.

    Yet again, ufology appears to be attempting to make a case based on corrupt data. Nothing changes.


  2. Craig York September 14th, 2010 1:16 pm

    My colleague, Miles Lewis, has read Mirage Men and
    reccomended it to me-I’ll be interested in reading your
    review when it appears. Just finished the late Mac Tonnies
    The Cryptoterrestrials which was more than a little
    disappointing. Its interesting as conjecture, but there isn’t
    a whole lot of substance.

  3. terry the censor September 17th, 2010 3:17 am

    I am concerned that in Kean’s rebuttable to Oberg, she lapses into smeary conspiracy mongering: “[Oberg] is a founding fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a group whose aim is to debunk UFOs and any other unexplained phenomena that challenge our familiar ways of thinking.”

    Kean insinuates that Oberg’s failure to mention this is some kind of concealment of a conflict of interest, though she does not explain why. But Kean also makes an omission in her pathetic attempt at “guilt by association” — she fails to mention this dastardly cabal of skeptics has had Nobel Prize winners and numerous PhDs as members.

    By why ruin a good conspiracy theory with facts?

  4. […] […]

  5. zoamchomsky September 20th, 2010 4:05 am

    Kean’s spinning the same fantasy-world “UFO” conspiracy yarn that Ray Palmer invented in 1947. And she’s using the very same method to do it: endless retellings of mostly insubstantial, unverifiable and completely inconsequential “UFO” reports–or more correctly, the myths that have been created about those reports by ufoologists–when there’s not one “UFO” case that hasn’t been debunked repeatedly.

    Only in the wacky world of the “UFO” delusion does a report of the failure to identify a visual stimulus, a negative, become a real thing, a “UFO” of some kind, a positive, and confirmation of existing belief.

    In the real world, this is fallacious reasoning, “assuming the answer” is the absurd basis of the “UFO” delusion. But innumerable, unverifiable, insubstantial and inconsequential reports of “unidentifieds” don’t equal even? one real “UFO” of any kind–much less a nuts-and-bolts aircraft–never has, never will.

    It appears to be completely inconsequential whether there are REAL “UFOs” of any kind or not, since after more than a century of “UFO” hysteria, nothing has become of it. Now what should that tell you?

    >> The Null Hypothesis for UFO reports, of which I am one of a handful of champions, states that no extraordinary stimuli are required to produce the entire array of public UFO perceptions in all their rich variety, wonderment, and terror. Known phenomena have produced all types of what is commonly known as “UFO reports”, including apparitions of flying disks, radar and radio interference, terrifying chases and “intelligent maneuvers”, telepathic messages, “missing time” and hypnogenic narratives, recollections of participation in military UFO retrievals, actual “secret documents”, and so forth. There seem to be no types of reports which have not been, on record, produced at some point or another by prosaic stimuli and/or circumstances.<< Everything's the same, there just aren't any REAL "UFOs," and there never were.


  6. UFOagnostic April 10th, 2011 9:06 am

    I haven’t read Kean’s book either, but am familiar with some of the major cases she cites, such as the Tehran 1976 incident, which by all accounts appears to be a legitimate UFO case with radar and visual sightings as well as physical effects (weapon systems becoming inoperative upon arming), and that the CIA and DIA took the case seriously.

    As for Oberg’s list of 10 solved cases, these appear to all be from a chapter by Dominique Weinstein, as Kean explains in the cited article of hers refuting Oberg. That said, obviously it detracts from her book by including sketchy chapters by other authors. Moreover, solving 10 out of 1,300 cases doesn’t imply that all of them are as easily explainable in prosaic terms.

    I realize I am replying to an old thread; however, I just came upon it. I’m also surprised that there hasn’t been more follow up on it. I would have thought at least that curator of this site would have since discussed the two books after having read them, and posted the reviews on this page or at least linked to them (I acknowledge that I am new to this site and haven’t perused all its pages yet, so there may be said reviews elsewhere).

  7. zoamchomsky April 17th, 2011 11:28 pm

    >>…the Tehran 1976 incident, which by all accounts appears to be a legitimate UFO case with radar and visual sightings as well as physical effects (weapon systems becoming inoperative upon arming), and that the CIA and DIA took the case seriously.<<


    This often-cited "best" case or personal favorite due to its imagined strangeness was merely the end of a typical "UFO" flap or scare that had begun a month before as scattered reports by villagers north of Tehran about a "large bird" or a "strange helicopter." It is completely lacking veracious documentation.

    A telex composed of paraphrasings of NEWSPAPER REPORTS was sent as part of routine intelligence gathering by a Col McKenzie at the US Embassy in Tehran. Why did he send such a telex? Because it was his job to report what people were talking about there.

    When asked by reporter Bob Pratt for his sources, Col McKenzie said, "from the newspapers." Assembled newspaper stories from English-language papers contain all the details and even the phrasings of Col McKenzie's telex to the Pentagon of the "UFO" event. A copy of the telex went on to a Major Evans at the DIA as a matter of routine. None of that means that means very much.

    Col McKenzie never talked to anyone involved, he read it all in sensationalist and unverifiable newspaper stories. Some source.

    Newspapers have always had a major role in the propagation and perpetuation of the "UFO" myth and collective delusion. "UFO" stories sell papers, and the more people are exposed to these report, the more reports are generated. The very first "UFO" report in 1896 was of a crashed airship on a hillside behind a saloon in San Francisco. For a week the saloon did a brisk business and a lot of newspapers were sold. It was a hoax of course, but from late 1896 into 1897, newspapers across the US and Canada carried similar airship tales. There were airship sightings, crashes and fallen parts in practically every state. Honest, sober people reported seeing the airships, saw their lights, heard their motors and the crews voices in the night.

    Believing is seeing. There never were any airships of any kind.

  8. UFOagnostic April 22nd, 2011 8:13 am


    I’m aware that there had been a UFO “flap” going on for a month, and there were reports of some “bird” or what not. This, however, was a particular sighting in which:

    1) The object was seen by multiple witnesses from different locations (land and airborne)

    2) The credibilit­y of many of the witnesses was high (an Air Force general, qualified aircrews, and experience­d tower operators)

    3) Visual sightings were confirmed by airborne radar.

    4) Electromagnetic effects were reported by three aircraft

    5) There were physiological effects on some crew members (i.e., loss of night vision due to the brightness of the object).

    6) An inordinate amount of maneuverability was displayed by the UFOs.

    You say that the only investigator was Col. McKenzie and that he received all his information secondhand via newspaper articles, according to Bob Pratt. Well, at the below site:


    is Bob Pratt’s report (or so the web page says). I suggest you look at it; it isn’t that long. It reports that there was a USAF Lt. Col. Mooy who sat in on the debriefing of one of the Iranian F-4 crews. It also quotes a Gen. Azarbarzin, who said that information was forwarded directly from the Iranian AF to the USAF or government, and that the two countries had an established protocol for exchanging UFO information. Given our alliance/relationship with Iran under the Shah, it seems like this would be de rigueur.

    As for Col McKenzie’s quotes on his sources, you seem to be leaving out a bit. McKenzie said how he got his information:

    “Well, we read the newspapers, we talked to various people around town, other attachés.” The colonel goes on to acknowledge that he obtained some information from non-newspaper sources, but was cagey in the way he described these. His report, according to Pratt, says, word for word, what was written in an AF “Memorandum of Record” by Lieutenant Colonel Olin R. Mooy, the U.S. Air Force executive officer for MAAG. He was one of two U.S. Air Force colonels who sat in on the debriefing of First Lieutenant Jalal Damirian and Second Lieutenant Hossein Shokry, the crew of the second F-4 Phantom jet (similar to the one shown here) that went up that night.

    Now I acknowledge I found this report by Pratt on the web, so I can’t guarantee its veracity; however, you don’t cite any source for your discussion of Pratt’s news story. Can you provide one?

    Moreover, given the USAF’s predilection for publicly pooh-poohing all UFO reports, doesn’t it stand to reason that Col. McKenzie wanted to play down this sighting as much as possible by not giving out publicly all the details of his sources?

    As for the dubiousness of what one finds in newspapers: sure, you can’t believe everything you read and papers have a motive to sensationalize; however, they also have been the medium of factual record for several centuries too. Your citing an 1896 UFO newspaper account as a hoax is but a straw-man argument. Sure, some (if not most) UFO reports are hoaxes and/or misidentified more mundane aerial phenomena. But there are cases such as this Tehran sighting that have far more meat to them.

    For the record, my moniker is an accurate description of my thoughts regarding UFOs. I am not a “true believer” who buys into every UFO story. I try to take a critical eye to all reports. For example, I don’t buy the Roswell UFO story, given what I have been able to ascertain, and I even suspect that the Kenneth Arnold sighting may have been with a flight of Northrop flying wings (he saw 9 craft and the AF had exactly this number of these craft and had them at that time). That is why I am interested in this website (and stay away from the nuttier UFO sites).

    I don’t, however, buy the view of some skeptics of this case, that he saw a flight of pelicans; that beggars belief. And I find some of the UFO debunkers’ explanations of the better UFO sighting cases to fall into this category.

    I’m also curious what your take is on the 1986 JAL1628 sighting, in which there was ground and air radar contact, extended visual contact by the pilot and corroboration by the crew, and then two similar incidences with equally credible witnesses in the following days in the same region. Note also that the pilot of JAL flight 1628 was grounded for a year, so I don’t think he cavalierly made his sighting report.

    Hope to hear back from you — or others versed in these two cases.

  9. zoamchomsky April 22nd, 2011 1:54 pm


    The 1976 Tehran “UFO” case is nothing more than unsubstantiated National Enquirer material. As with most “best” cases, it’s the myth that’s been created by advocates about the events that are repeated in the “UFO” delusion-promoting and pepetuating media. So that’s what most people accept–even though it never really happened. Here’s an exchange that makes what I’ve said clearer:


    Ken Arnold’s story was a Ray Palmer hoax–based on the amazing Shaver Mystery–to launch his new FATE magazine. And the pilot of JAL 1628 had reported not “UFOs” but flying saucers several times before and after his 1986 hysteria. The crew saw nothing.

    More on those later, if you wish. And FYI, “agnostic” does not mean “undecided” but “having no knowledge, so no interest in.”

  10. UFOagnostic April 23rd, 2011 7:40 am


    I’ll address your points in reverse order as the latter two are most easily dealt with.

    With respect to the word “agnostic”, there are several shades to the definition (and one can choose one’s favorite shade of meaning). Here is one closest to my meaning: a person who claims, with respect to any particular question, that the answer cannot be known with certainty — World English Dictionary. I’d just modify that by saying the answer presently is not known. Seems a person who feels this way about the existence of ET UFO’s can call himself undecided on the question as well. But enough on semantics.


    I never heard anyone before claim that the K.A. story was a hoax involving the Shaver Mystery (and I only learned about the S.M. last night perusing Mori’s site some more). I would be most obliged if you would provide a link regarding this.

    Similarly, I hadn’t heard anything about the JAL 1628 captain having reported other UFO sightings, and I did read and hear that other crew members corroborated his story (one of three other crew members did not), and that several similar sightings — by USAF and another commercial liner — occurred in the days and weeks that followed. Again, any links or other sources to back up your claims would be much appreciated.


    Thank you for the link, which I perused it a bit. Amongst other things, it seems some of the skeptics are making some presumptions, such as who were the “likely source” and “likely sub-source” in McKenzie’s write-up/teletype, and that all the information in this report was newspaper derived. They also make their cases citing problems with Maccabee’s report.

    I going by what Bob Pratt evidently wrote (I cited this in my previous comment), not by Maccabee’s report. There is much that Pratt reported that is not addressed in the thread you cite, as well as a bit of disputation of some of what he wrote, including which Iranian pilot was in which plane (amongst other things). I am curious if you accept most or all of Pratt’s report on the case.

    I don’t have any desire to get into a point by point argument with you regarding the specifics of this case, but I do want to make a couple of points.

    According to Pratt, this Iranian general Azarbarzin said that the Iranian and US AF’s exchanged UFO information directly. This seems very likely to be the case. I would imagine McKenzie’s report was, in part, based on such information. In fact, I find it incredible that he would base his report solely on newspaper articles when he would clearly have access to the Iranian military, he being a US military attache’. Sure, this is purely supposition on my part, but it seems very likely.

    Reading Pratt’s interview of him, he dances around answering the question of who/what were his sources; he acknowledges that more than newspapers were involved, but fails to be specific. Hence, I believe that McKenzie’s report is based on more reliable sources than just some local Iranian newspapers and perhaps an air traffic controller. It may have included interviews with the crew of the second F-4 as well, i.e. the purported Memorandum of Record by a Col. Mooy (I acknowledge, however, that this record would appear to be hearsay as there doesn’t seem to be a copy of it available — a point made in the link you provided).

    I’d also just reiterate that the US government doesn’t seem to be too forthcoming with all UFO information it has — as it is about a lot of issues. Thus, it seems quite likely that the USAF has more extensive information on this case than it has released, and that Col. McKenzie downplayed his sources in his interview to Pratt. Sure, this is speculation, but it is not unreasonable speculation. I could provide you a litany of examples in which the US military has lied about the facts of various matters (in this I am not being a conspiracy nut), so I assume its entirely capable of hiding facts about UFO report details as well.

    With all that said, do I believe the Tehran case is prima facie evidence of ET UFOs? No, but I do believe it is one of the most compelling cases that does suggest this POV. Of course, without full access to all Iranian and US documents on the case, it is impossible to know for sure — that is, one must remain agnostic on the issue.

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