UFO Hunters: Book Oneby William J. Birnes
UFO Hunters® follows the team of bestselling author William J. Birnes, former NASA physicist Dr. Ted Acworth, and former US Army engineer Pat Uskert as they investigate UFO cases around the world. The team's access to UFO evidence is unparalleled—and their expertise allows them to quickly identify bogus claims. Together, they use eyewitness/i>
UFO Hunters® follows the team of bestselling author William J. Birnes, former NASA physicist Dr. Ted Acworth, and former US Army engineer Pat Uskert as they investigate UFO cases around the world. The team's access to UFO evidence is unparalleled—and their expertise allows them to quickly identify bogus claims. Together, they use eyewitness accounts, scientific experimentation, documents recently released through the Freedom of Information Act, and footage that has never been seen on television to piece together compelling—and sometimes chilling—evidence of UFO phenomena. This book is the companion to the popular HISTORY® series and contains previously unseen documentary evidence and case details.
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“UFO Hunters® was among the very best TV programs about the UFO controversy ever to appear. Here producer Bill Birnes distills the evidence so carefully and convincingly that the reader is bound to come away with a new vision of the modern world's strangest and most compelling mystery. It makes for chilling and thought provoking reading. Somebody is here. Somebody is watching us. Who are they? Why don't they reveal themselves? UFO Hunters® offers thrilling speculations and some provocative answers.” Whitley Strieber, New York Times bestselling author of The Grays
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By William J. Birnes
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2013 A&E Television Network
All rights reserved.
THE EPISODE THAT WASN'T: THE LAS VEGAS UFO
In the official schedule of UFO Hunters, season 1, the first episode was titled "The UFO Before Roswell" and concerned the Maury Island case and the Kelso crash. But that was not how the season actually started. It started on a hilltop in a dense national forest just outside Las Vegas and with special guest James Sanders, author of The Downing of TWA Flight 800 (Kensington, 1997), a book that actually prompted an FBI raid on New York publisher Kensington Books. Sanders and I have a penchant for getting into trouble, and this first episode of UFO Hunters set the pace for the series that wound out over three seasons. It captured on camera a UFO over Area 51; a bovine-human hybrid fetus C-sectioned from a mutilated cow lying along the side of a country road in Dulce, New Mexico; and an encounter with a federal police officer from the army base at Dugway, Utah, trying to confiscate our cameras and videotape by claiming — falsely — that we were filming on a military reservation without permits. Yes, we got into a lot of trouble during our three seasons, and it was this first excursion to Las Vegas that set the tone.
The story began in late summer 2007, even before we began planning the episodes for our first season, with an e-mail to UFO Magazine by someone calling himself Ben, or, alternatively, Colonel X, a United States Air Force officer stationed near Area 51. Colonel X sent us photos of what he called a "reverse-engineered UFO" simply hanging in space over the Nevada mountain ranges. He offered to meet us at a good location from where we could film the object and then reveal its existence to the world.
His report, which he submitted to UFO Magazine, located the object as viewable from the southeastern slope of Mount Charleston overlooking the Las Vegas strip. In his article for UFO Magazine, September 2007, he wrote:
Without revealing too much detail my about job which could lead the government to discover who I am, I am going to let you in on the scoop of the month. I am currently in Nevada, home to Area 51 and the best UFO hunting ground in the world. There are enough sightings here to keep most of the big organizations busy, but I just happen to know how and where to find a Roswell disc.
Of course its location is a secret. For those of you with a compass it can be found near the southeastern side of Mt. Charleston that overlooks Las Vegas. Since June I have been corresponding secretly with the Disclosure Project concerning its location. I have a high-level rank in the Air Force. It allows me to work in the Nellis Air Force range, which is really supposed to be clear of aliens. So, in late May when a disc showed up I wrote the big disc hunters to let them in on what was going on here.
The government wasn't keeping it in a hangar, like all the books say. There were too many officers looking for it in the buildings where it might be seen and photographed. They were keeping it over near the city limits where it could only be seen using a military surveillance radar. I thought about calling the police, but the only way to see it or prove it was there would be to use the military radar, which the base commanders were not going to allow. So who was going to believe me without evidence?
I took the problem to an engineering contracting firm off Tropicana. I asked if they knew of any way to target an "aircraft" without radar. I did not have any radar so how could I find a target if it was directly overhead? Their engineer pointed out a CCD imager called an ICX429AL EXView, Sony's top-of-the-line infrared sensor. The engineer said if it gave off infrared light and was within 100 miles, this chip could see it. It would not be a very big spot on the screen, but it should appear as a white-hot group of pixels. With a good lens you would be able to zoom right up to it once the CCD picked it up.
I never told him I was going to use the imager to target a Roswell disc. Not that it made any difference. The ICX429 was not a restricted technology and could even be purchased online. It took only 48 hours to have it sent to my office, and within a few days I was able to spot the saucer without too much difficulty.
Seeing it for the first time was breathtaking. It just sat there motionless. It did not move to the left or to the right. It did not even look like it was flying. It was a few minutes before I realized it was hovering. The darn thing was hovering! I could not believe it. I was imaging a hovering disc. You really had to see it to believe how it looked. It could hold its position better than any helicopter I had ever seen. I took some images and sent them to Richard Hall, Dennis Balthaser, and the Disclosure Project.
The first to respond was the Disclosure Project. After a little debate among the staff who monitor the organization's email, they sent everything over to Dr. Steven M. Greer. The images did not go to him right away. I guess they reviewed everything before it went to Greer. The first staff member sent the images to another staff member who then sent them to their big office. When Greer saw the shape of the saucer he wanted a meeting right away and anything I could get him.
Richard Hall had seen the photos and got Don Berliner to use a separate email at konsulting.com to begin correspondence. However, Berliner learned that Greer was involved and did not want to intrude on the find. I had thought that Berliner would have wanted his photo analyst ready to help the Disclosure Project with any technical expertise they might need, but he said, "Now that we know Dr. Greer is involved in your project, there will be no need to send us any further information and pictures." It was a finder's-keepers situation for them. If the Disclosure Project was first on the scene then that is who they wanted to handle it.
The Disclosure team arriving to view the saucer was from Phoenix. This had to be a dream-come-true assignment for them since Phoenix is where the first photographs of the suspected Roswell craft were taken. Those photos are referred to as the shoe-heel saucer photos or the William Rhodes photographs from July 7, 1947. Their appointment was for 2:30 P.M. and at 2:00 P.M. the photographer began setting up the imager while I waited nearby hoping the disc was still there. All I needed was for Greer's investigators to come all the way from Phoenix to what they would have to call a hoax if they did not get to see the disc.
When they first saw it at 2:40 P.M. they did not even ask if it was anything but the disc. They wanted a CD burnt of the event right there. They had just become the first investigators to see live hover flight under planned or predetermined conditions. The official term which was used to describe the saucer to Greer was "floating."
At UFO Magazine that August, when Colonel X's report and accompanying photos arrived, we were thrilled. Imagine the possibilities of featuring an issue with real Greer-approved photos of an actual unidentified floating object right over Area 51. But our publishing the Colonel X report did not go without a reaction from the Disclosure Project folks themselves, admonishing us for publishing his article without the Disclosure Project's official OK. In other words, the Disclosure Project made it clear that we were not allowed to disclose anything at the risk of blowing open their entire investigation.
UFO Magazine is just that, a magazine, and we don't take kindly to being told we can't publish a story simply because someone wants to jump on it first. Besides, Colonel X himself wrote the story that we published in the magazine, so we ran with it. At the same time, however, we were meeting at the UFO Hunters production offices in Santa Monica to set up the first episodes for the coming season, and we were looking for an interview that would start the season off with a brand new case. Because we were already in communication with Colonel X, I suggested we talk to him about going to his location to film the object and bring along some equipment to figure out what it was.
At the same time we were meeting, I also received a call from my old friend Jim Sanders. Sanders, who had written a number of books about the misdeeds of the U.S. government concerning POWs from previous wars and about the shooting down of TWA Flight 800 in 1996, had called to say that there was a strange, very bright star hanging just over the downtown Las Vegas horizon every night. It wasn't Venus, he said, because the object didn't move. Also, he could see Venus at the same time. It wasn't the moon. He didn't know what it was and invited the newly formed UFO hunters to come out for a look.
With the possibility of meeting Colonel X and of seeing something that fit the bill of a UFO from Sanders's house, we loaded the cars and Pat, Ronnie Millione, and I drove off to Las Vegas from Los Angeles in our first convoy with crew and producers. Believe it or not, the trip to Vegas back in 2007 was the first time I had ever seen a GPS plot a route, talking to us as we drove through East Los Angeles and into the intense triple-digit heat of California desert. Although you might think that taking this trip was a no-brainer — we were following up on a great photo spread in UFO Magazine to see a floating object that we might capture on television — our ability to organize it was actually in question. What I didn't know as we set up the episodes for that first season was that budgets didn't allow us the freedom to change schedules and insert trips into the preplanning shooting scheme. Therefore, it took a lot of negotiating with time and schedules to fit this trip in. Also, we wanted Colonel X to meet us on-site so we could get an interview with him as well. We needed to go right from Las Vegas to Vashon Island in Washington State for our next episode about the Maury Island and Kelso incidents, and we needed to do this as expeditiously as possible. But it didn't work out that way.
The initial problem we had was setting the meeting and location with Colonel X. As a network crew, we couldn't just pull up in a van, unload, and set up the equipment and begin shooting. We had to have location permits and be able to show them to the network before anything was allowed to be broadcast. Networks and motion picture studios are very strict about this because of the high liability they can incur by capturing something on camera and broadcasting it without permission. Shooting permits are just that, permission from the property owner or municipality governing the land that allows images of that property to appear on television or in a movie. Therefore, we had to have someone give us permission to shoot at the location Colonel X was talking about. Also, because the story was coming from Colonel X, we really couldn't use his name and cite him as an authority without his permission. But Colonel X was telling us that he was afraid his identity would be revealed and that he would wind up in a pack of trouble. Moreover, he said he was doing this without the permission of his superior officers. In the end, he said he wasn't going to show up for the interview, but that if we had the right equipment, we could go to the location he suggested and capture the object on camera for ourselves. We had committed to going to Las Vegas at a cost of $10,000 a day, which meant we had to get something or a head would roll. Mine, actually.
Our backup was the Jim Sanders interview. He said we could see the object from his driveway in the front of his house, hanging low over the horizon and brighter than any star. Sanders is not given to fantasy. If anything, he is more a skeptic than anything else, especially when it comes to being given stories from official sources. Here's an example, the example that launched the two of us from the comfort of our living room couches to subpoenas coming over our fax machines at daybreak from the FBI and a date in federal court on Long Island.
It began on a hot summer night in July 1996, when Sanders was watching a breaking news feed from CNN about the crash of a TWA 747 heading from JFK to Paris. The plane, according to the news report, exploded over Jamaica Bay and fell into the ocean. All on board were presumed dead. Liz Sanders, Jim's wife, was at the point of tears. She was a senior flight attendant for TWA and had personally trained much of the flight crew on that jet. Sanders was also in shock until he heard a strange comment from the news reader. The navy, Sanders heard, was denying reports that a missile, a U.S. Navy missile, had brought down the jet. Wait a minute, Sanders said to himself, why would the navy deny that one of its missiles had brought down the jet when nobody reported that a missile had brought down the jet. The story for him had just taken another turn.
Sanders had been down this road before, dealing with government denials before there was anything to deny. First, you deny a story so as to turn any news agency away from reporting the story you already denied. Then, evidence pops up showing that you are culpable. Next, you deny it again, pointing out, with due annoyance, that you already denied this, so why raise it? Should a reporter pursue the story in the face of your denials, you simply ban that reporter from your circle of access. Access journalism at its best.
In his previous books, Sanders had stood in the face of withering denials from the government: he presented evidence showing that the military had left POWs behind in Southeast Asia after the Paris peace talks ended the Vietnam War. He also showed that the military had left POWs behind in Soviet hands at the end of World War II. Sanders also faced a tirade by Senator John McCain when Sanders asked him questions about his involvement in the savings and loan scandal that marked the U.S. recession of the early 1990s. Yes, Sanders had been there and knew when a cover-up was in the making. Therefore, when he heard the navy denials, he knew that there was something the government didn't want Americans to know. And it was that something Sanders had to learn.
A year after that night, Sanders had discovered not only that it was most likely a missile that had brought down TWA Flight 800 but that tests he had conducted on one of the seat backs from that plane — tests indicating the seat had residue on it from a solid-fuel rocket engine — had been falsified by the government in an attempt to debunk him. In fact, more than thirteen years after the crash, the FAA still hadn't been able to prove that the explosion of the center wing tank was the cause of that crash. I actually saw the FAA's test plane at a lab in New Mexico, where we filmed a segment for UFO Hunters. And I asked the technician directly whether they developed any proof that it was the center wing tank. The technician just rolled his eyes and said that it was no accidental explosion that brought the plane down. Thus not only was Sanders the guy who could smell a rat from the other side of town, he was usually right when it came to stories over the edge. Sanders's reputation and past experience meant to me that if Sanders saw a bright object hovering over the horizon that wasn't a planet, a star, or a satellite, then something was indeed there, and we were on our way to Las Vegas to see it with our own eyes.
This was our first trip together as a brand new crew as we caravanned across the desert through the small towns along the interstates on our way to Las Vegas, chattering from car to car by walkie-talkie. It was a trip many in our crew had made before, and we talked about other famous travelers who took this route, including Sam Kinison, who was killed in a car crash as he returned to Los Angeles from a performance gig in a Las Vegas club. Sam had called me from the road, hours before his fateful encounter, because we were planning a meeting to talk about a book we wanted to write together about his life and his comedy.
Interstate 10, the Lincoln Highway, which runs from the Pacific coast, across the United States, and right to the Atlantic, is the first freeway you take on the way to Las Vegas. From our office in Santa Monica, the 10 takes you past downtown LA, past East LA, and into the desert, the landscape changing from the yuppie corporate towers of downtown to the glass and steel urban landscape of East LA to what Southern California and the inland valleys really are: cactus, scrub brush, and chaparral.
As the caravan wound east, SUVs holding the cast, minivans holding the crew and production staff, and the huge van holding the cameras and equipment, it was just setting up on rush hour, when downtown empties in all four directions. Downtown LA is a commuter's town, fed by a metro subway and light rail, bus lines, and endless freeways. Along the way, driving is like an obstacle course as frenzied drivers battle for every inch of a lane, the bigger the SUV, the more aggressive the driving.
Excerpted from UFO Hunters by William J. Birnes. Copyright © 2013 A&E Television Network. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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Meet the Author
WILLIAM J. BIRNES is the New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Day After Roswell and The Haunting of America. He is the lead host and consulting producer of the UFO Hunters® series, and guest host of Ancient Aliens® series, and the guest expert on UFOs and American history on the America's Book of Secrets®, all of which air on HISTORY®.
William J. Birnes is the New York Times bestselling co-author of The Day After Roswell with Lt. Col. Philip J. Corso. Birnes is the publisher of UFO Magazine and Filament Electronic Books and was the editor of the UFO Encyclopedia and the McGraw-Hill Personal Computer Programming Encyclopedia. Birnes lives in Los Angeles and New York with his wife, novelist and editor, Nancy Hayfield.
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