Say what you will about ufologists, just don't call them cautionary, a failing that has only been exacerbated by the exponential explosion of computers, digital imaging software and the World Wide Web. The most recent example of a hoaxed photo resuIting in an Internet tempest occurred in December of last year when Dr. Courtney Brown appeared on the Art Bell Show and announced his possession of a photo purporting to show a huge object several times the size of the Earth accompanying the comet Hale-Bopp. Brown, who heads up the Farsight Institute (http://www.farsight.org), said he received the picture on a roll of undeveloped 35mm film. (Shades of MJ-12!) The film came from a supposedly prominent astronomer who wished to remain anonymous. Reportedly, the astronomer said that radio signals had also been received from the comet's companion and were presently being analysed. A press conference was to be announced in about a week.
Meanwhile, Brown conducted his own analysis from afar. The Institute's remote viewers were asked to tune in on the companion object and report back, a remote viewer, in this case, being an alleged psychic, or "sensitive." Sure enough, the object turned out to be intelligently controlled, teeming with benevolent aliens and headed our way. It would arrive sometime early this year, the aliens would announce their presence, the world would change overnight, and so on. Whatever. Unfortunately for this already nonsensical scenario, Bell eventually posted the picture on his Web site (http://www.artbell. com), where it was soon recognized minus the bogus companion by the University of Hawaii astronomer who had originally taken it, Dr. David J. Tholen. (It had been posted on the WWW as early as September of 1995.) Brown was invited back on the show to explain the situation, along with Whitley Strieber, with whom Brown had also shared the doctored picture. Hoisted in part by his own overeager petard, Brown did what others have done in his position claimed that he was the victim of a well funded, highly organized "disinformation" campaign. By my calculations, I figure the cost of three rolls of film, postage, and an hour of someone's time on a computer in Photoshop would come to about $50. One might think, then, that Strieber himself would be a little suspicious of potentially sensational photographs received in the mail, snail or electronic, but apparently not.
The picture accompanying this article was recently posted on Strieber's Communion home page (http://www. strieber.com), accompanied by the following statement: "According to former NASA scientist Dr. Lee Shargl, this is a photograph taken via guncamera a few days after the Roswell UFO crash, of another craft of the same design. The photo was contributed by UFO researcher Bill Hamilton (http://members.aol. com/billh4608/newhome.htm). Mr. Hamilton has stated his conviction to me that this photo is genuine. Initial analysis on my part shows that it was not made by any ordinary digital means, and is to all appearances a genuine photograph of a solid object against a washed out sky. The grayscale is typical of faster films used in the forties and fifties. A detailed evaluation and further information will be posted as soon as it becomes available." "To all appearances"? First off, having watched my share of WWII dogfight documentaries, I can only say it's the clearest and steadiest pictured object I've ever seen that purports to come from a 1940 s-era guncamera. Secondly, how would anyone know that it is "another craft of the same design" as that of the one that crashed at Roswell? I thought the latter was shredded to smithereens? Even those alleged eyewitnesses who claim otherwise have never described a craft like this one. Finally, there's the matter of the washed out sky. While I wouldn't say it's impossible to get haze or clouds in New Mexico in July, I wouldn't say it's common, either.
But this is the World Wide Web. What we get first are the pictures. The analysis and facts come later, if they ever come at all.