Preliminary Proposal for Subject Investigation

3 March 1969

Colonel George R. Weinbrenner
Commander, FTD
Wright Patterson Air Force Base
Ohio 45433

Dear Colonel,

I had by no means forgotten our agreement that I send you my ideas on how we might proceed with the pilot line study of a certain subset of UFO reports.  I have cooked up a rough draft of a possible task statement which I enclose.

In it I state that I have appended summaries of 25 typical cases. I have not yet brought these together so will forward them to you in a [illegible].  I thought it best to get the sense of this to you right away and to benefit from any suggestions you might have.

Sincerely yours,

J. Allen Hynek Director

Preliminary Proposal for Subject Investigation

J. Allen Hynek

There exist today a formidable number of reports from this and many other countries of a phenomenon of temporary car ignition failures under most unusual circumstances.  Because of the potential military* and scientific value of this electrical damping phenomenon, the nature of these reports and of the stimulus which gives rise to them should be studied without further delay. Although such reports reach back in some cases to more than a decade, they are random in nature, their reporting has been sporadic and unsystematic, and they frequently have been made by untrained personnel who although often visibly shocked and surprised by their personal experience with this phenomenon, have not been in a position to evaluate it scientifically, or even calmy because of the often traumatic nature of the experience.

As scientific consultant to the Air Force, I have compiled well over one hundred such reports from various national and international sources.  Brief synopses of 25 of these are presented as Exhibit A.  It is emphasized that these are reports of phenomenon; not descriptions of the phenomenon as it might have been observed by competent scientific personnel.  Yet the reports, made by witnesses of high credibility, as measured by everyday standards, exist beyond any question.  Relatively few are to be found in Air Force Project Blue Book files, yet even there we find enough to more than raise our scientific curiosity.  Unfortunately the full potency of the reported phenomenon is not evident until one examines the reports as a class for behavior patterns and then one is struck by the similarities in the time-motion sequence of events.

In all cases ignition failure and the damping or cessation of electrical operation of the car is sudden and temporary, lasting generally for not more than a few minutes.  It is always accompanied by a visual phenomenon, generally consisting of an extremely bright luminescence seemingly associated with a “craft” of some sort and not identifiable as any familiar aircraft.  The car engine stoppage is generally accompanied by dimming or the extinguishing of the car headlights, car radio interference or stoppage and by physical effects felt by the car occupants: these latter are most frequently described as a burning sensation, especially on the arms and soles of the feet.

Upon cessation or disappearance of the visual phenomenon, the car returns to normal operability and no permanent damage is reported.

It is interesting to note certain probabilities.  Clearly, cars do malfunction and one frequently sees cars stopped by the side of the road.  Generally the car remains thus until specific repairs are made.  It would be most unusual for a car to become completely inoperative for several minutes and then mysteriously “heal itself”.  But if we compound that small probability with the simultaneous occurrence of a most unusual and unidentified visual phenomenon, then we strain coincidence far beyond all tenable bounds.

We, therefore, must first ask, do indeed these reported things truly happen.  Personal interrogation of many witnesses to these reported events have not provided me with any cogent reason to disbelieve.

It is proposed, therefore, that an investigation into this reported phenomenon be undertaken in several phases.  The first is clearly one which brings together the available date, largely in the form of reports from all possible sources in this and other countries, and to conduct a full assessment of the existence of the phenomenon.  It should be clearly kept in mind that in this strange area of inquiry, one must differentiate between the existence of a phenomenon, and the nature of that phenomenon, if it exists.  In recognized areas of scientific inquiry, of course, this differentiation is rarely necessary; the existence of the phenomenon of pulsars or quasars, to take an example from astronomy, although entirely new and unexpected, was nevertheless established by recognized methods of observation and analysis, objective in nature.

In the present area, we must proceed as objectively as possible in an area which may be subjective, to determine the scope and reality of the reported phenomenon, devising such methods as may be appropriate to do so.

Only after it has been established beyond all reasonable doubt that the reported phenomenon exists should phase 2, that of the devising of experiments to observe the phenomenon at first hand, and to devise laboratory experiments leading to an understanding of physical principles capable of simulating the phenomenon, be entered into.

Procedures in phase 2 will be determined largely from what is learned in phase 1.  Methods of approach will undoubtedly be suggested by the course and progress of the first phase, but clearly if the results of phase 1 are positive, a major effort should be mounted to ascertain as quickly as possible the physical factors involved, and their application to practical problems.  It can be anticipated that if phase 2 is entered into at all, it will and must entered into as a major effort, calling for the deployment of the best scientific facilities of the Air Force and its contractors, and on a scale exceeding that of phase 1 by at least an order of magnitude.  For if the reported phenomenon is real, it is obviously in the national interest to gain an understanding of the phenomenon and its practical application before other nations, in which this phenomenon is also reported to occur, gain an advantage.  It follows that phase 1 should be entered into immediately on a scale consistent with the objectives outlined above.


*An Associated Press report of Nov. 9, 1957, datelined Washington, stated: “A device capable of disrupting the operation of motor vehicles or other mechanical equipment is one of the things the Armed Forces would like to see developed.  But Leonard Hardland, Chief Engineer of the National Inventors Council, said today in response to an inquiry that he does not know of any research in this country aimed at producing a device that could stall automobiles or cause radios to fade”.


Since only direct observation and experiment can establish positively that the reported phenomenon truly exists, the objective of the first phase must be to established a probability greater than 0.9 that the reported phenomenon is real and to seek out repeatable patterns in the reported phenomenon.  Under what conditions, meteorological, seasonal, geographic, and temporal, does it occur? Is there a set pattern of occurrence?  It is, of course, conceivable that the reported phenomenon does occur but that it has a natural and simple explanation, not calling for new principles.  Such a conclusion, however, must also be established beyond all reasonable doubt, and not be arrived at by default, so to speak, adopting the conclusion that the reported phenomenon must have been caused by a combination of normal engine malfunction and hallucination on the part of the witnesses only because no recognized well known factor is at hand to explain it otherwise.

It is proposed, therefore, that phase 1 be undertaken immediately, and that it consist of the active seeking out of reports of the phenomenon, of the upgrading of the original data by adequate interviews of witnesses, using the technique of “re-enacting the crime“ with the witness at the actual locale of the occurrence, seeking out of hidden witnesses to given cases, and the use of psychiatric and medical assistance, with the full consent of the witness, if this is deemed necessary to establish the validity of a given case.  It is conjectured by the proposed principal investigator, based on much past experience, that the thorough investigation of as few as 25 cases will suffice to arrive at the objectives of this pilot line study (phase 1).

It is proposed that in the initial phases the principal investigator be given free hand to be guided by his past considerable experience in these matters and that he be given relatively modest funds for the following:

1.  One chief scientific assistant to participate in field investigations and conduct telephonic interviews.

2.  One graduate technical assistant to help in data computation and computer analysis.

3.  One administrative officer to manage program.

4.  An adequate but reasonable travel budget and telephone budget to be used largely in data gathering.

5.  It is assumed that this project will be separate from Project Blue Book and therefore a consulting fee for the principal investigator would be included in this project.

The great reluctance of witnesses to talk freely of their experience makes it mandatory that the project come to them, so to speak, and gain their confidence, impressing them the scientific importance of the subject and assuring them full protection from publicity and attendant ridicule if they cooperate.  In addition, full and complete personal access by the Principal Investigator to Blue Book data of all degrees of classification is essential to this program.

It is estimated that phase 1 can be completed in a six month period, with a major part of the work done during the summer of 1969 when the principal investigator can devote full time to the project.

This is to be considered entirely apart from Project Blue Book.

J. Allen Hynek, Director
Lindheimer Astronomical Research Center
Northwestern University
Ivanston, Ill. 60201

March 14, 1969

Statements by Dr. J. Allen Hynek (Official UFO Consultant to the U.S. Air Force)

Excerpt from statement on Dexter and Hillsdale, Mich., UFO sightings:

“I have recommended in my capacity as Scientific Consultant, that competent scientists quietly study such (UFO) cases when evidence from responsible people appears to warrant such study. There may be much of potential value to science in such events.”

Shortly after the March, 1966 Michigan sightings and in relation to the UFO phenomenon, Dr. Hynek said: (Reported by United Press International):

“All too often it has happened that matters of great value to science were overlooked because the new phenomenon simply did not fit the accepted scientific outlook of the time.

“Any phenomenon that has been with us for such a long time – 20 years – deserves study.”

An article by Dr. Hynek in the 2 Feb. 1966 edition of The Cape Argus (Capetown, South Africa), excerpt:

“But for each truly but temporarily mysterious (UFO) case," said Hynek, "there remain one or more equally mysterious unsolved cases.”

An article by Robt. C. Cowen (Natural Science editor) in the 3 Sept. 1965 edition of The Christian Science Monitor quotes Dr. Hynek saying:

(a)  “The fact that people continue to send in reports still is an inadequately explained phenomenon of our times.”

(b)  “Social scientists might find it very interesting to study the kind of people who make (UFO) reports and why they make them. They will find, by and large, that these people are not crackpots.”

(c)  Hynek further stated that he would give priority to “upgrading the data”.  “The very first thing I would do would be to train a number of special investigators, skilled in trying to learn as much physical information as possible about each case.  Then I would send them to places where saucers are seen within 24 hours of the sighting report – not weeks or months later.  We need very much to upgrade the original data (the reports).”

On a Chicago TV program “Your Right to Say It,” Nov. 1965, Hynek was quoted by the Associated Press as stating:

“What seriously puzzles me is that the (UFO) reports persist, with the Air Force getting better than one UFO report a day – and not from crackpots, but solid citizens – even technically trained men.”

In an article in the April, 1953 edition of the “Journal of the Optical Society of America,” by Dr. Hynek, the official UFO Consultant said.

“If... no natural phenomenon are involved (in UFO reports), then an obligation exists to demonstrate explicitly how... specific reports can be explained in terms of balloons, mirages, or conventional aircraft.”

In another of his articles (“Flying Saucers I have Known,” from the April 1963 issue of “Yale Scientific”), Dr. Hynek states:

a.  “The surprising thing is that the level of intelligence of the observers and reporters of UFO's is certainly at least average, and in many cases, decidedly above average.  In some cases, embarrassingly above average.”

b.  “We have a spectrum in the flying saucer domain... At one end we find military personnel, trained pilots, and often trained observers in other fields, rather diffidently and cautiously reporting something which honestly puzzles them, and at the other end of the spectrum we have the “credulity boys” who have made a tossed salad of personal religious views and a totally uncritical acceptance of bizarre stories, all thoroughly mixed with quantities of wishful thinking.  It is these people who give flying saucers a bad name!”



19 March 1969

Colonel George R. Weinbrenner
Commander, FTD
Wright Patterson Air Force Base
Ohio 45433

Dear Colonel:

The following is a brief synopsis of some 25 cases of reported stalling of automobiles under most unusual conditions.  The first 7 cases all have to do with activity in the Levelland, Texas,area; all occurred within hours of each other and there is little likelihood that there was any communication between the various witnesses prior to their individual experiences.  Project Blue Book received only a few of these reports and dismissed them as possible ball lightning.  I regret I was partially responsible for this analysis since when Captain Gregory called me at Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was literally submerged in artificial satellite observations, (the Levelland events began almost precisely one hour after Sputnik II, which carried the dog Laika, was launched and my duties as head of the worldwide network of optical tracking stations didn’t give me any time to worry about UFO reports) and I concurred with the suggestion of Captain Gregory that it might be ball lightning since I was misinformed that the weather conditions at that time were conducive to such a phenomenon.  Later checks with the weather bureau indicated that this was distinctly not the case.  Thus, the original Project Blue Book evaluations can be discounted.  But on to the cases themselves.

Case 1;  November 2, 1957, Levelland, Texas.  Location, 4 miles west of Levelland on Route 116.  Two witnesses.  Motor died and lights of truck went out when torpedo shaped, brilliantly illuminated, object with bluish-green glow passed so close over the truck that one witness jumped out of the truck and hit the dirt out of fear.  Loud sound was heard and heat was felt.

Case 2;  One hour later, after Case 1.  Location, four miles east of Levelland on Route 116, one witness.  Car engine failed and lights went out as his car approached a brightly lit, egg-shaped object, reportedly about 200 feet long, sitting in the middle of the road.  Headlights came back on and he had no trouble starting the car after luminous phenomenon rose to about an altitude of 200 feet and then disappeared.

Case 3;  A few minutes after Case 2.  Location, Whitharral, Texas, (11 miles north of Levelland) on Route 51.  The engine of witnesses car stopped and headlights went out as witness approached a luminous phenomenon ahead of him on the road.  A few seconds later the luminescence rose swiftly into the air and car returned to normal operability.

Case 4;  November 3, 1957, 12:05 A.M.  Location Smyer, Texas, on Route 116, approximately 9 miles east of Levelland.  One witness, a freshman at Texas Tech.  His car engine began to sputter, his ammeter jumped to discharge, then back to normal, and motor began running down like it was out of gas.  Car rolled to a stop, then the headlights dimmed and several seconds later went out.  As the baffled boy got out of his car and raised the hood to check the motor, battery, and wires, (he found nothing wrong) he noticed an oval-shaped object, flat on the bottom, sitting on the road ahead of him, and glowing with a bluish-green light.  The witness got back in the car and tried frantically to get it started, but couldn't.  After several minutes the “object” rose into the air almost straight up, veered to the north and disappeared very rapidly.  He then turned the ignition key and found the car to be working fine.

Case 5;  Ten minutes later after case 4.  Location, Kermit, Texas.  One witness, phoned police station from phone booth in the Witharral area at intersection of Route 51 and a dirt road, about 9 miles north of Levelland, that his car lights went out and motor stopped as he approached a rolling object that was pulsating on and off.  (The witness stated what might be an important clue; that each time the object's glow came on, his headlights went out and vice versa; on the other hand this could easily have been due to the brightness of the object causing headlights to appear to dim or go out.)  A few minutes later, witness stated, object rose vertically, very swiftly, and when it reached an altitude of 300 feet its lights abruptly disappeared and the car's headlights immediately came back on and the car was started with no difficulty.

It is interesting to note that these reports all came into one officer, Officer Fowler of the Levelland Police Station who by shortly after midnight was beginning to realize that something was not right, having received several calls from totally independent witnesses.

Case 6;  Withing [sic] the hour of Case 5, one witness driving a truck west of Levelland had his truck “gonk” out and headlights die as he observed a large orange ball of fire hovering in the sky and then landing softly on the highway.  The glow ahead of him was brilliant enough to light up the cab of the truck, which it did for approximately one minute, and then made a vertical ascent.  It glowed, was round in shape, and about as wide as the paved portion of the highway.  The rest of the story is the same as before.

Case 7;  Location, northeast of Levelland on the Oklahoma flat road.  At 1:15 A.M., a call from a terrified Negro truck driver from Waco, Texas, gave Officer Fowler still another account to reckon with.  His engine and headlight suddenly failed as he approached a brilliantly glowing egg-shaped object of approximately 200 feet in diameter.  It reportedly glowed intermittently like a neon sign.  Officer Fowler stated that of all witnesses he heard from that evening, this particular witness seemed to be the most upset by his encounter, and was described as extremely excited when he called.

Case 8;  July 10, 1967, Lizelia, Mississippi.  The witness was a golf professional.  His car suddenly coasted to a stop and the radio went silent.  As he had taken several steps to the rear of the car in preparation of exploring the trouble, he states, “an object of excessive size passed forward of my position and perhaps two to three hundred feet overhead”.  This was a daylight sighting of only 3 to 5 seconds duration and “it resembled the cymbal attached to a drum set”.  After the object departed, the radio started to play and the witness was able to start the car.

Case 9;  October 26, 1958, Loch Raven Dam, Delaware. Two witnesses. Engine went completely dead, and lights went out when very bright glow was observed over bridge.  The two witnesses reportedly suffered burns.  One of the witnesses is a graduate chemist from the University of Maryland.

Case 10;  December 8, 1966, Oklahoma.  A graduate of an aeronautics school, his wife and son, experienced a complete electrical and motor failure for several minutes and became extremely frightened at a very brightly glowing object that momentarily hovered over their car.  As in other cases, when luminescent phenomenon disappeared, car became completely operable.

Case 11;  December 8, 1957.  Ephreta, Washington.  According to the police reports, six cars were stalled at one time along a sparsely travelled highway (Highway 7 between Coules City and Soap Lake).  Primary witnesses were two carloads of individuals who stated their cars had stalled and the headlights flickered and went out as a huge fiery object passed overhead from north to south.  The experience was traumatic to several witnesses.

Case 12;  November 2, 1957, Highway 51 between Seminole and Seagraves, Texas, 5:30 P.M.  Two or so hours before the Levelland, Texas, cases occurred, an anonymous man told Sheriff V. S. Flennikin his car engine died and headlights went out, and he simultaneously saw the same mysterious lights on the road ahead of him.  A few seconds later the lights rose swiftly into the sky and the car became operable.  This case was reported in the Hobbs, New Mexico News-Sun for November 5, 1957.

These first 12 cases were from the United States.  We now sample a few from European and South American countries.

Case 13;  October, 1954.  St. Quirinen-Moselle, one-half mile from village of Turquenstein in the forest of Turquenstein.  Witness's car motor went dead and he suddenly felt paralyzed with his hands “frozen to the steering wheel”, all of this accompanied by a sensation of increasing heat through his body.  After a few seconds the luminous body flew away and both the witness and his car returned to normal.

Case 14;  October 16, 1954 a single witness was driving along a route N-134 southeast of Diepre.  He observed 4 bright lights in the sky at an altitude estimated at about a thousand feet.  Objects moved at moderate speed – one above the other.  One object left the formation and descended in a zig-zag line until it was directly in front of the witness's car.  When he was less than 100 yards from the object he felt an electric shock and at the same instant the car engine died and the headlights went out, the car rolling to a stop just as the UFO landed on the road.  The witness, who was a veterinarian, suddenly found himself unable to move a muscle.  His lights ahead of his car went out and nothing was visible in the darkness.  After several minutes, during which witness remained unable to move, and no sound was heard, car headlights came on, and in their beams the witness was able to see the object moving swiftly away to the north, skimming the ground along the roadside embankment.  The witness was now able to move again and had no trouble restarting his car.  This case was investigated in detail by Aime Michel, the well-known French investigator whom I visited personally in Paris for discussion and have since kept in correspondence with.

Case 15;  October 14, 1954.  A motorcyclist on the road from St. Romain-Sous-Gordon to Brosses-Thillot suddenly found the motor of his motorcycle conked out for no apparent reason.  As he got off to investigate, a bright light burst out in front of him and revealed a circular object which witness stated looked like a plate turned upside down.  Witness turned back walking and pushing his motorcycle.  A few moments later he was able to re-start his vehicle.

Case 16;  At about the same time as case 15, two witnesses driving back from Clessy to Gueugnon on Route D-25 saw a “sort of reddish fireball” fly over their car and suddenly their motor stopped and the lights went out.  After only a few seconds, however, the headlights came back on and when the driver pushed the starter the motor once again began to turn over.

Case 17;  October 11, 1954.  A milk truck driver, crossing the mountain south of St. Etienne on his daily milk collection at 4:15 A.M. when his truck's engine suddenly died and his headlights went out.  He put the engine into set the handbrake and got out to inspect the ignition.  Immediately after getting out he noticed overhead, flying under an overcast cloud cover, and at right angles to the road, a glowing multicolored object.  After watching for a minute or two, and recovering from his amazement, he saw that his headlights were shining again and when he climbed back into the truck and tried to start it, the engine turned over normally and he continued on his way.

Case 18;  This occurred just fifteen minutes later than Case 17.  Location, 150 miles north of the location of Case 17, in Clamency.  Two witnesses, grain merchants, felt something like an electric shock go through their bodies and simultaneously their motor stalled and the lights went out.  They were paralyzed, and unable to move, but as they sat there and watched they saw about 50 yards away from them, a round object or machine which soon flew off rapidly.  Almost at once their headlights went on again and they lost their paralysis and could start the engine.

The above is merely a sample of many French cases which occurred, among others, during the great 1954 French UFO experience.  Now let us take two cases from Brazil, and one from Peru, and then return to this country.

Case 19;  November 15, 1957, Santa Cruz, Brazil. The source of information is a ham radio operator who reported that many cars stalled a certain distance away from a strange object that was seen hovering above the city at 2:00 P.M., an object which appeared to be metallic and had an orange glow.  The car-stopping occurred as numerous witnesses drove toward the object to get a better look at it, but all attempts to approach it failed because every car stalled when it got near to the strange device.  After the object left, climbing vertically and making no sound, cars returned to normal operation.

Case 20;  February 24, 1958.  Three witnesses, government employees, driving between Nazare and Salvadore [sic], Bahia State, Brazil, at 3:05 A.M. when their car engine began coughing and missing and then finally stopped dead.  When the 3 men got out of the car to locate the trouble, they found nothing wrong with the car.  They decided to sleep at the edge of the road and tend to the car in the morning.  They shortly noticed a huge luminous object approaching them in complete silence.  It descended with a wobbling motion and situated itself at less than 12 feet above the road.  The luminous object then rose to an estimated altitude of 600 feet, described a tight circle in the sky, its luminous focus on the ground rotating around itself.  Finally, the three men went back to their car and tried to get it started and it did so quite easily.  They had no further trouble with their car.

Case 21;  January 30, 1958.  Location, Pan American Highway between Arequipa and Lima.  Three witnesses, one a lawyer, were driving along at 11:45 P.M. and suddenly they all felt an electric shock.  Several seconds later the car's headlights began to flicker and in a moment the headlights died and the car stalled.  Witnesses pulled off the road, stepped out to examine the motor, whereupon they saw an incandescent red-colored object, shaped like an inverted mushroom descending until it stopped and hovered at an estimated altitude of 150 feet, for a full eight minutes.  During this 8 minutes a truck and a bus approached the stalled car and both additional vehicles experienced the same electrical failure as that of the first car.  It is reported that the passengers of the bus and truck also reported a momentary electric shock.

Case 22;  September 14, 1965, West Mersea, Essex, England.  Witness on a motorbike and doing 40 miles per hour with his engine sounding a healthy note.  The engine on his bike began to sputter and miss, then it stopped dead and his lights went out.  This occurred just after he became conscious of a blue flashing light.  Witness felt spellbound as the flashing light became so intense that it was painful, and witness felt himself tingling all over, as if he were experiencing an electric shock.  At this point another scooter bike approached, its engine coughed, stopped, and its rider dismounted and stood petrified, staring at the blue light.  In this instance, the original witness was able to start motorbike before the light disappeared.

Case 23;  September 16, 1965, Pretoria, South Africa.  Two constables patrolling the Pretoria area experienced car engine failure when they came across “a sea of flame in the center of the tar road ahead of them”; their cars, of course, started after the luminous phenomenon disappeared.

Case 24;  In concluding this sample of cases of temporary engine failure and simultaneous occurrence of visual phenomenon, I include a case which occurred near Calgary, Alberta, on October 11, 1967, the witness of which I personally investigated when in Calgary.  The story is monotonously the same: the driver is driving along quite unconcernedly and the lights dim, then go out and the engine stops upon encountering a luminous phenomenon and the car becomes operable again when the phenomenon disappears.  I found the witness extremely matter-of-fact and levelheaded and the account free of contradictions.

Case 25;  April 3, 1968, 8:00 P.M., Cochrane, Wisconsin.  The witnesses were a school teacher and her son who were thoroughly frightened by this experience.  The woman, however, described in graphic detail the sounds her starter made when she tried to get her car going to get away from the apparition and succeeding shortly after the luminous glow rose into the sky.

The printed accounts of these encounters do not do justice to the cases.  In my opinion, it is necessary to talk with and observe the witnesses at first hand, observing their reaction and, of course, trying to catch them in contradictions and being on the lookout for evidences of deliberate prevarications.

The results of such interviews leave me, as the interrogator, utterly puzzled and not a little frustrated.  I am puzzled by the very existence of such reports in a rational world among rational people. Such reports simply should not exist.  Yet they do, as in the famous and grossly neglected Levelland, Texas, cases in which several witnesses reported essentially the same thing from an area of many square miles while the witnesses could have had no communication with each other.  It is frustrating that a case like this was never properly investigated and I feel that it should be reopened even at this late date.

It is both disappointing and frustrating to recognize that the Condon report hardly touched on this type of case and yet were able to come to the conclusion that further scientific effort on the UFO problem is worthless.  This conclusion is clearly not based on an examination of facts, in my opinion.  I would like to hope, therefore, that a quiet investigation of our own, free of publicity and carried out in a proper scientific atmosphere might really be able to determine whether there is anything of value here. I think this would be a most worthwhile effort and should be undertaken without delay.

Sincerely yours,


J. Allen Hynek


1.  The Problem.  This proposal concerns itself with observations of unusual phenomena that have been reported during the past twenty years and in particular that subset of these reports which have so far resisted all efforts at explanation.  Within this subset may well be phenomena of the greatest scientific and general interest.

The principal investigator is intimately acquainted with the kinds of reports that have been generated and with the people who have made them, since for [sic] eighteen years he has been regularly invited in as consultant to the Air Force Project Bluebook [sic], the name by which the current AF investigation team in known.  He has assisted in identifying hundreds of reported objects by finding convincing astronomical or related explnations [sic].  At the same time, he has seen gradual accumulation of reports of quite a different nature, reports which seem to describe happenings which, if factual, would excite the interest of any scientist.

In the past few years, the accumulation of these “special” reports has reached a number which begins to make statistical treatment possible.  Because they are concerned with unusual events, the reports tend to become at times bizzarre [sic] and the untrained interpretations of the witnesses to go far beyond the actual information at hand; nonetheless one can detect patterns of similarity which strongly suggest existence of some real phenomenon behind the varied wording of the reports.  Added to these patterns is the fact that the witnesses themselves do not seem to difer [sic] in any easily noticeable characteristics from any random collection of people; many of the unexplainable reports have come from highly reputable people including scientists, engineers, educations, and doctors, and of course all other strata of life are represented as well, including the raving crackpots.  Clearly one cannot attribute the type of report to the type of person making it, as no group seems either over- or under-represented.

These facts, together with an apparent change of climate of opinion among scientists and the public in general, have led to this proposal: this is a proposal that a thorough scientific investigation be conducted through Northwestern University and its Department of Astronomy, for the purpose of analyzing available data on unusual aerial phenomena and for establishing appropriate scientific procedures for the treatment of new data.  It is the considered opinion of the Principal Investigator that a calm and open-minded approach to this subject will ultimately lead to reliable and defensible conclusions concerning the physical aspects of the UFO phenomenon.

The Data

The Air Force has in its files now about 10,000 reports; [stricken: screened]{inclusion of} records of foreign sightings would raise the total to around 15,000.  As may be expected, most of the reports are of little interest, because they involve observations of satellites, balloons, airplanes, or other known objects (or may/quite reasonably be supposed to be of that nature) or because even though the sightings remain unexplained there is nothing about the behavior or the appearance of the reported objects which could yield any information about their origin or nature.

After elimination of such uninteresting sightings, which can be readily accomplished by use of formal screening procedures, somewhere between 1000 and 3000 reports remain which appear to demand careful consideration.  The number in indeterminate for two reasons.

First, the cutoff criteria which divide the important sightings from the rest are partly a matter of definition of the problem one wished to study.  If there exist, for example, many reliable sightings involving apparent landings by objects, then one would have to include some other sightings in the study which involved very similar descriptions even though the quality of the report were not impressive.  Some types of sightings, however, are so very unusual in content that one would tend to retain only the very best ones, particularly if they were a type which had received wide publicity and hence would be likely to have many imitators.

Second, there is considerable doubt as to how to treat the evaluations attached to a rather large number of reports in the Air Force files.  There are cases marked as "solved" in which the sighted object was identified as a star or planet which was not even in the sky at the time of sighting – at least, the evaluation should be reviewed and the proper celestial bodies substituted, or perhaps the evaluation itself should be completely reconsidered. In addition, the “solved” category includes the categories, "possible airplane", “possible balloon,” “possible astronomical” and “insufficient data”, each of which is sufficiently ambiguous in it meaning to warrant at least a critical reexamination of the official evaluation, particularly if the sighting involves a type of event which is well-represented among the residue of unexplained sightings.

In order to make as clear as possible the meaning of the term “significant sighting”, there is including in this proposal a set of three appendices, containing some carefully-selected reports which we consider to be representative of those having the highest reliability within the group that has not been explained.  A few words about these appendices may help to show in what way we consider them significant.

[stricken: has covered, and that have been used to “prove” Air Force secrecy by some UFO groups, are not even included in what we would call the "basic" sightings.  So that our meaning might be perfectly clear, we have included in this report a carefully-selected set of reports.  There are many others of equal quality, but these represent these types that are of particular interest in any evaluation the phenomenon as a whole.]

The first group (Appendix A) consists of reports that were made by professional scientists.  This group is of importance for two reasons.  First, its very existence demonstrates that even highly reputable people are not always afraid to say that they have seen something they cannot explain; under the circumstances, a lack of explanation after direct observation by a scientist or any highly-trained person is especially significant.  Second, it is very interesting that the kinds of sightings reported by these professional people do not differ in any important respects from many made by housewives, children, or bartenders – in a sense, this initial group offers important support to others whose credentials are not so impressive.  The scientists report nothing that has not also been reported by laymen; this includes even the photographs.

The second group (Appendix B) is a collection of reports by numbers of the armed forces concerning sightings that occurred in the course of duty.  These are especially important from the standpoint of showing that there is a definite need for some scientific investigation of the sightings; the Air Force cannot take action based on unsupported theories, so since these most interesting occurrences remained unexplained (or were given explanations so trivial as to amount to no explanation) it is clear that the Air Force does not have a sufficien [sic] [stricken: understanding of] {information about} what was happening to take any decisive action in any direction.  It is up to scientists to provide the understanding that is needed.  We do not discount, of course, the possibility that in some cases there may have been a need for secrecy in handling the reports, but in the cases listed here, neither the nature of the report nor the USAF reaction to the sighting indicates that anything in the nature of a military secret was involved.

Appendix C contains a few reports typical of the “better” ones which are submitted from time to time by American civilians.  In each of the cases cited, the witness or witnesses have been given excellent character references; otherwise the reports are quite typical {of what we have come to call “good” (which does not imply “factual”) reports.}

Assets and liabilities of various approaches.

{The Air Force Investigations}

The fact, mentioned above, that some of the evaluations in the Air Force files are clearly incorrect and many others are suspect should not be taken as a blanket indictment of the Air Force's handling of the UFO data.  While no operation can persist for eighteen years without some human errors being made, we feel that by and large the Air Force people have done a creditable job in carrying out their primary task, which is fundamentally military.  One can go through a large number of reports without every coming across an evaluation that raises questions.  The evaluations that scientists have considered {unacceptable} are far outnumbered by those which are quite acceptable.  There is a good reason for this mixture of {quality} which is pertinent to the approach being proposed here.

In general, the acceptable evaluations involve sightings which are explained by the use of information which one would expect a non-specialist in the Air Force to have.  Within the Air Force a great amount of information can be obtained on the flight patterns and characteristics of airplanes of all types, the kinds of operations which might give peculiar appearances such as night high-altitude refueling operations involving floodlights.  Weather information is available in great detail, including not only winds aloft and cloud conditions, but often details about the appearance and probable paths taken by weather balloons.  Radar data is available to qualified personnel, at least concerning objects flying at sufficient speeds that they would not be private airplanes, birds, and the like.  Information can readily be obtained on missile launchings, tests of drones, night photography missions, and in general the use of special equipment which might cause some unusual effect.  With the help of the Principal Investigator, Bluebook personnel even became reasonably proficient in determining the apparent positions of the brighter artificial satellites so that these could be checked accurately against reports.

When some definite information was available of the types mentioned above that correlated with the content of a report, the results were completely acceptable.  The dubious evaluations always arose in the minority of cases in which such definite information could not be found.

This, of course, is precisely the kind of situation where a scientist is needed, because it calls for experienced judgements about the sufficiency of evidence in support of one theory rather than another.  Few of the bad evaluations actually involve such ordinary bluders as picking stars that are invisible; most of them are simple cases of mistaking a plausible theory for a factual explanation; even here the degree of error is variable, ranging from trivial to complete.

The conclusions concerning the Air Force's approach seem clear.  While Bluebook operated within the realm of known events there was no problem, and on reflection one must say that this means that the Air Force team was in fact carrying out quite adequately its specific mission of determining quickly whether any proof of threat to security {or existence of advanced technology} existed.  All their best evaluations involved cases in which proof was available.  Where proof is not available, one can have only theory, and the Air Force clearly cannot spring into a defensive posture in response to theories.  Where proof is not available, the problem is scientific, not military; science must provide the definitions of facts from which military judgements involving defense can be drawn.

If the work involved in this proposal reveals any new facts, these can be absorbed into the body of data available to Bluebook, for any use or action the Air Force determines to be appropriate.  It should be emphasized here that it is not the business of Bluebook to conduct {a program of} scientific research {concerning UFO theories by the same token, the scientific attack on the UFO problem does not imply that scientists should become responsible for national security.  Bluebook should most definitely continue, establishing thorough cooperation with the scientific effort, but maintaining its necessary role as evaluators of the military situation.  The advantages of the Air Force's vast network of communications and other support facilities for the scientific effort are obvious; it is hoped that the scientific results will likewise benefit the Air Force.

Current Scientific Approaches

While there is not organized scientific investigation into UFOs at present, there has developed among some small groups of scientists an approach to the UFO situation that is somewhat surprising, and surely must have misled those who are not personally acquainted with the body of reports.  Publicity and the efforts of some enthusiasts have, of course, charged the UFO phenomenon with all kinds of emotional superfluities and have encouraged {many} hasty and ill-considered reports.  Nonetheless, despite the apparent justification, it is somewhat disturbing to hear a reputable scientist offer what is obviously an untested theory as if it were an adequate explanation of a sighting.  Such facile explanations can only discourage serious investigations and postpone understanding, because they create the general impression that far more is known than is really known, lessening the motivation for study, and because they establish an atmosphere in which any scientist who values his reputation must hesitate to follow his interests.  When there is a general impression that something has been explained, the scientist who insists on reopening the investigation may well be considered a die-hard or a fanatic unwilling to accept “the facts.”

It is no more scientific to attribute a sighting to reflections of headlights from an inversion layer without making tests to see if such an event would produce the required effect than it is to attribute it to intelligently-controlled vehicles from outer space when one has no evidence for the presence of intelligence and nothing indication the origin of the sighted object.  Both kinds of “explanations” reveal only one thing, that the persons offering them have a preconception that they are trying to support.

Scientists who reveal their biases through the issuance of casual theories are few in number, and perhaps the time has come when they no longer constitute an important factor.  There is another body of scientific opinion, however, which does not involve any obvious mishandling of scientific methods, but which nonetheless has produced a distortion of scientific opinion in general.

Several times, the Air Force has requested that a small panel of scientists convene to consider whether UFOs are anything tangible that might constitute a threat to security.  These meetings were one-day sessions, during which the panelists were presented with some condensed reports for consideration.  The content of the reports {for} at {least} one of these meetings is known to the Principal Investigator; they were definitely among the group that any preliminary screening process would reject as non-significant.  Furthermore, the original reports by the witnesses were never heard; all that was presented was the extracts which are preserved in the central files.  It is not surprising that scientists, under the impression that they were seeing complete and representative sample of the UFO phenomenon, might conclude that the whole affair was highly overblown and that there was obviously nothing of it. The reports which were issued with respected names attached must have influenced many scientists to believe that the UFO question had finally been settled.

A scientific investigation conducted with all the information in as near to its original form as possible is the only way in which scientists can be given the opportunity to judge the overall significance of the problem.

Approaches by Private UFO Groups

This discussion must at least acknowledge the existence of the tens of thousands of citizens who belong to organizations formed for the study of UFO's.  An investigation that is to be conducted with public money should not, we believe, ignore a sizeable portion of the public that is intensly [sic] interested in UFO's, no matter what opinion we may possibly hold concerning some of the theories involved.  The leadership of some of these groups has been extremely critical of both Air Force and scientific attitudes in the past; perhaps nothing can be done to “ease tensions” in such cases.  There are some such groups, however, which demonstrate no sins worse than a hope that UFOs are from outer space, and which have shown themselves capable of conducting a creditable investigation which would provide usable information for any study.  Also, judging from commentary received by us in letters, the general public has an interest in UFOs which on the whole is encouragingly reasonable and even objective – there are many criticisms, of course, resulting from the general lack of organization discussed previously, but it is also quite evident that what most people want is an explanation that a reasoning person could bring himself to accept.  While writers accuse scientists of “covering up,” they appeal at the same time to scientists to do a real job on the problem.

We propose no publicity campaign, nor any exchange of diplomatic recognition with private UFO groups, but it would seem reasonable to allow liason [sic] to develop naturally with laymen who offer their help, an eventuality which is rather to be expected.  Such a policy may well have an effect on the investigations, by means of cooling the UFO fever which seems to develop whenever the issue of secrecy or scientific snobbery is played up.

Research Methods and Objectives

Of primary importance in undertaking any study of the UFO phenomenon behind one or more types of reports.  While it is unlikely because of the nature of the phenomenon that the investigators will have the opportunity to examine it directly, there is much that can be done by statistical treatment of a large box of data.  If any class of report concerning flying objects, for example, refers to real objects, then the number and distribution of the sightings should follow objective laws: visibility, which can be determined for most sightings, can, be correlated with reported distances and number of witnesses.  Duration of a sighting should correlate positively with number of witnesses, and also with number of details reported.  If the phenomenon is completely psychological, there should be a positive correlation between population density and “sighting density”; we have preliminary analyses indicating that this correlation is negative.  There are many other possibilities, all based on the premise that a real phenomenon must be affected by objective physical and geometric considerations.  From such an analysis as this we should be able to determine whether one may reasonably suppose the phenomenon to have physical existence, and for which classes of reports this is true.

The statistical analysis depends heavily on having the existing data in readily accessible and condensed form, suitable for processing with high-speed computers.  Some reports are already in condition for such treatment, buy many thousands more must be reduced to standard format.  A large part of the effort proposed here must consist of the devisement and implementation of coding and classification procedures.  Some efforts in this direction have already been accomplished in fact, initial results from such attempts at classification were the principal impetus that has culminated in this proposal, for the mere fact that some kind of phenomenon exists.  One does not find definite categories of phenomena amond the ravings of scattered lunatics.

There is no indication that the rate at which reports are generated has slowed; the general phenomenon goes on today essentially as it did in 1947, an even earlier with far less publicity.  One reason that we must rely so heavily on statistical methods is the fact that past reports in general leave much to be desire, both in initial acquisition of information and in subsequent preservation of details.  Because of uncertainties in data and loss of information, one must handle a far larger number of reports to obtain any conclusion then is probably necessary where the reports are really complete.  In some cases, the fact that several reports from different towns concerned one and the same object was not suspected until analysis ten years later.  This would not happen if all reports had contained clear information concerning geographical coordinates, correct dates, and exact times.  If problems such as these, and worse, are to be avoided in the future, current reports must be handled in a much better fashion than in the past.

There are two ways to approach the improvement of reports. One approach is to intensify the investigation for reports which seem to show promise of yeilding [sic] significant information – conduct in-depth interviews, seek background information and corroborating witnesses, conduct thorough searches of the appropriate areas, and so on.  Certainly the quality of such reports would be considerably above any now available, and in some cases a really thorough going investigation might turn up an explanation where none seemed possible.  This sort of investigation, however, if it is not to become a highly expensive and highly publicized mass attack, will be able to cover only a very limited number of sightings: in one recent proposal to the Air Force by an invited scientific panel, $250,000 was to be spent to investigate just 25 sightings per year.

It is very questionable whether such an all-out approach to such a small number of sightings would, in the end, be of great value. Ten sightings is a borderline statistical sample of even the most carefully-selected “good” reports.  If all 25 proved explainable, the results would be in doubt because of the inadequacy of the sample; if any significant number remained unexplained, the situation would be worse, few one would have to return to the statistical treatment with only a few additional good cases to add to the grand total, which in the meantime would increased by eight hundred or a thousand cases investigated inadequately.

On the other hand, the alternative, and attempt to obtain some standardized minimum quality of information about all cases, with none investigated in depth, would lead to superficial results: one must have a certain proportion of well-investigated cases to provide background for the rest to uncover possible explanations of a more unusual and hard-to-find sort which could in themselves dispose of many cases.  This presents somewhat of a dilemma, which cannot really be resolved without expenditure of what seems to us an unjustifiably large amount of money.  What we propose is to ask considerable sum for travel expenses, larger than the usual scientific proposal would involve, and then to work out as the first years effort proceeds the best distribution of the travel money, in terms of a choice between many brief trips to obtain “just the facts,” and fewer more protracted trips which would yield a greater depth of information.  This is not a simple choice, and we must be guided both by experience and by the nature of the new sightings that are reported.

We are greatly concerned, finally, about one possible very bad result that could come from over-concentration on a few cases. [stricken: It is unfortunately true that in the past, the scientists who have been asked to investigate sightings for the purpose to evaluating the UFO phenomenon as a whole had never seen any first hand reports, and in fact had not even seen condensed reports except a selected, and very non-representative set during the period the panel was sitting.  The reports that were considered were literally trivial, none being of a type that would pass any reasonable screening process such as we propose to employ. The “explanations” of these sightings therefore did not seem very important, and certainly were not offered in a form which would satisfy the readership of any scientific journal.  There has grown up, perhaps as a result of these unfortunate beginnings, a tendency among scientists to offer plausible hypotheses as if they were proven to have held true for the particular sighting being considered, when in fact they had never even been tested just because the subject matter was held in bad repute.  One may certainly suppose that an inversion layer in the atmosphere could reflect lights, and that such a reflection might give rise to precisely what a witness reported in good faith, but that is quite a different matter from demonstrating by suitable expert men to that such an inversion layer could in fact exist and would in fact give the required effective.  Any in-depth investigation conducted along these lines would almost certainly end with a set of plausible guesses, unless it were explicitly determined beforehand that any explanation would itself have to be supported by experimental or other evidence.  If such a determination was not made, neither the investigation nor the conclusions could be scientifically acceptable.

[stricken: What we are saying, in short, is that} The concentration of great effort on a few cases could lead to the unwelcome and unforseen [sic] need for rather extensive amount of background experimentation to test proffered explanations, and while there is no doubt that such added experiments would be of value, the results concerning the UFO problem could well get lost as one new experimental difficulty after another arose.  [stricken: And so far there is little indication that such background experiments conducted by those unfamiliar with the field]

The enormous advantage of the statistical treatment is that one is never put in the position of having to defend or attack any single case.  A single case, in the approach we propose for the initial year, would have no significance in itself, but would be only one bit added to a large array of cases, its presence or absence making only the slightest difference.  Once statistical patterns have nee established, then and only then does it make sense to look into individual cases with the idea of evaluating them in isolation, for without the statistical background, one cannot tell whether the is dealing with wildly aberrant instance or an example of "normal" sighting.  This is the essence of the approach we intend to take, and we feel that it will be sound, financially justifiable, and productive of useful results no matter what the outcome of the study.

     Document transcription courtesy of Andrea Nick

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