Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The UFO Files - The Inside Story of Real-Life Sightings
A Review By Stanton Friedman

The UFO Files By Dr Davfid Clarke
By Stanton T Friedman

Stan Friedman     Perhaps my expectations for the 2009 book “The UFO Files: The Inside Story of Real-Life Sightings” were too high. Dr. David Clarke is one of the few UK academics to get involved in the UFO issue. He is a senior lecturer in Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University. His PhD is in English Cultural Tradition and Folklore from the University of Sheffield. He is one of the movers and shakers behind the effort to get the Ministry of Defense (MOD) in England to release its UFO files via the National Archives of the UK. The press in North America and elsewhere has made it sound as though the MOD was releasing TOP Secret UFO files. Technically this is false. One of the glaring problems with the book is the almost complete failure to make a distinction between material classified as Confidential or Secret, much of which has been released, and that material classified as TOP SECRET or TOP SECRET Code Word, most of which has not. In the USA the code word might be Ultra or Umbra. I can find no indication that Dr. Clarke has ever worked under security, for the government or in the military, which might account for this lapse.

I was once asked by the late Karl Pflock why I insisted the best UFO material would be at least TOP SECRET. I pointed out that when the National Security Agency (NSA—sometimes laughingly called No Such Agency or Never Says Anything) finally got around to releasing 160 UFO documents (all preceding 1980) from its files, they were all TOP Secret or TS plus and one could read only one or two sentences per page because white out was used very liberally to censor everything else . The excuse was that the redaction was used to cover information about sources and methods for intelligence gathering which is a legitimate justification. It hardly seems credible that 95% of the material applies to sources and methods as opposed to the information itself. It is not as though the Soviet Union was not aware during the cold war that the NSA was gathering all sorts of data about things in the sky. Furthermore when I finally, under Freedom of Information, obtained a number of TS CIA UFO documents (it took me 5 years), only a few were released and most were very heavily redacted with black ink. They, too, were TOP Secret code word. Some pages had only 8 trivial words that could be read. One has “Deny in Toto” at the top. Couldn’t even find 8 words to declassify!

The distinction between TOP SECRET and Secret seems to have escaped Dr. Clarke. Of course TS material cannot be referenced in documents of lower classification. A good example of the importance of the distinction is the comment made by General Nathan F. Twining (then head of the Air Materiel Command) about UFOs in his famous memo of Sept. 23, 1947, classified only Secret. He noted ”The lack of Physical Evidence in the shape of crash recovered exhibits which would undeniably prove the existence of these objects”. Some, including Clarke, interpret this as meaning that there was no crash of a flying saucer at Roswell. The fact is that there is every indication such information would have been Top Secret and could not have been referenced by Twining in a merely Secret memo. Clarke also never mentions the widely quoted statement by Wilbert Smith in charge of the Canadian UFO research effort that UFOs were the most classified subject in the USA even more so than the H-Bomb.

Another serious problem is the failure to even mention some of the most important large scale scientific studies of UFOs. Clarke mentions USAF Project Blue Book, but not Blue Book Reports 1 through 12 or, of much greater importance, Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14(Ref.1). After all it was unclassified, had more than 240 charts, tables, graphs and maps. Each of more than 3200 UFO reports was eventually categorized as aircraft, balloon, astronomical, psychological aberration, insufficient information, or the only ones we are really interested in, UNKNOWN. Each report was evaluated as to quality. It was found that the better the quality of the sighting the more likely to be listed as an UNKNOWN and the less likely to be listed as Insufficient Information. There was a statistical cross comparison (Chi squared analysis) between KNOWNS and UNKNOWNS showing on the basis of 6 different observables such as apparent size, color, speed, duration of observation, etc that the probability that the UNKNONS were just missed knowns was less than 1%. A full 21.5% were listed as UNKNOWNS completely separate from the 9.3% listed as “Insufficient Information”. The secretary of the USAF lied about these data. Yet in several instances Clarke quotes various reports indicating that although there were always cases that couldn’t be identified, it was just because there was insufficient information.. Certainly for the UFO studies in the US this simply wasn’t true and no evidence other than proclamation was provided to support this claim in the UK. In a typical example in a report to the Secretary of State for the RAF ”46 reports remained unexplained but“ these simply lacked information vital to their explanation” . It was also stated “there was nothing in any of them to suggest that the incidents they relate are any different in nature to those mentioned in the reports that have been explained.’ The reader can see why I mention the Chi Square statistical comparison from BBSR 14.

It is hard to believe that there is also no reference to the July 29,1968, Congressional Symposium on UFOs. Held in Washington DC and Sponsored by the US. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Aeronautics, twelve scientists provided either written or oral testimony all of which was included in Reference 2, having 247 pages. I was the only scientist of the 12 not having a PhD. Some of the employers of the 12 included such universities as Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, University of California at Berkeley, Northwestern, There was also Westinghouse Astronuclear Laboratory and General Dynamics, Fort Worth. Of particular importance was the presentation by Dr. James E. McDonald, Professor of Physics at the University of Arizona. His 71 page contribution (Ref.3 ) presents very impressive data from 41 separate cases which he had investigated in depth. These included multiple witness radar visual cases such as the hour-long RB-47 case of July 17,1957, which was also in an article in a scientific journal. There was also a paper by Astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Scientific Consultant to Project Blue Book for over 20 years. Clarke mentions Hynek 3 times, but nowhere mentions his book “The UFO Experience”(Ref.4) which has more than 70 unexplained cases. Clarke does mention the Condon Report,(5) but wrongly claims that its purpose was to review Blue Book Cases. They did their own investigations of other cases. He notes the approval from the National Academy of Science, but doesn’t mention that the NAS had done no investigations or that a special UFO subcommittee of the world’s largest group of Space Scientists, The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, found that on the basis of the data in the report one could come to the opposite conclusions from Condon’s(6). Any phenomenon with 30% unexplained is worthy of further investigation, they noted.

Clarke mentions the Betty and Barney Hill case and John Fuller’s 1966 book “The Interrupted Journey”(7). However, he, while mentioning Boston Psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Simon, doesn’t mention that Simon had treated literally thousands of WW II veterans for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Nor does he mention that Betty was a Social Worker and a Supervisor in the Welfare Department of the State of New Hampshire and that Barney was on the Governor’s Civil Rights Commission. They did not seek publicity and had far more to lose than to gain. He also likens the experience to Betty’s Dreams. I was frankly quite surprised the he made no reference to the 2007 book “Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience” Ref.8 ,and Kathleen Marden’s very important comparative analysis of the dreams vs what came out under hypnosis. Clarke says they had a tour of the spacecraft which is simply untrue. He doesn’t mention the Star map work. He repeats some silly statements by Royal astronomer Martin Rees about the unlikelihood of two civilizations being close enough to be in contact.. Naturally not even a suggestion of colonization or the feasibility of interstellar travel is noted. Distances are noted as “vast”. Certainly the 2+ million light years to Andromeda is vast compared to 39.3 to Zeta Reticuli.

Clarke to his credit was the one most responsible for getting the formerly Classified Condign Report finally released five years after its completion and is reasonably critical of its findings. The author’s name still hasn’t been released. A particularly questionable notion related to the conclusion that major causes of UFO reports were various Plasma Phenomena. There is no doubt that much of the universe consists of plasmas such as the ionosphere, the Solar Corona, etc. However, the author seemed to be totally unaware of the work done on the question of Plasmas and UFOs by Jim McDonald whose specialty was atmospheric physics and who had shown that Philip Klass’ earlier plasma explanations could not be justified from a physics viewpoint. I also discussed plasmas and UFOs in my congressional testimony .A particularly striking omission in the report is any mention of the October 20, 1969, memo by Air Force General Carroll Bolender which resulted in the closure of project Blue Book. It included these two statements “Reports of UFO s which could affect national security are made in accordance with JANAP 146 or Air Force Manual 55-11 and are not part of the Blue Book System... As already stated reports of UFOs which could affect national security would continue to be handled through the standard Air Force Procedures established for this purpose”. I suspect that the situation is similar to that in many countries. The national security related cases are handled outside the publicly ACCESSIBLE channels.

The book does have some interesting UK UFO cases, but at only 160 pages SIMPLY doesn’t do justice to the subject.

1.”Blue Book Special Report 14” October 1955,From UFORI, POB 958, Houlton, ME 04730-0958 (260 p 8.5x11). $25.00 including S.H.

2. “Symposium on UFOs” House Committee on Science and Astronautics, July 29, 1968.. see internet

3.McDonald, James E. Testimony to Congressional Hearings on UFOs, July29, 1968, 71pages, $10. From UFORI including and H.

4.Hynek, J. A. “The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry” Henry Regnery, Chicago 1972

5.Condon,Edward U. “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects”, Bantam Books, 965 pages, 1969

6. AIAA UFO Subcommittee “UFO: A Scientific Appraisal of the Problem”, Astronautics and Aeronautics, 8:11, 1970 p. 49

7. Fuller, John G “The Interrupted Journey” Dial Press, New York, 1966

8. Friedman, Stanton T. and Kathleen Marden “Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience”, 2007, New Page Books Div. of Career Press, Franklin Lakes, N.J. 2007. $18.99 from UFORI Includes S and H and autographed by both authors


  1. As far as I can see the only words in this review that are relevant to the actual content of my book are "the book does have some interesting UK UFO cases" (final paragraph).

    My brief was to write a book about the contents of the UFO files released by the British MoD, which is what (I hope) I did.

    The MoD's position is that it does not hold any Top Secret UFO files (apart from the Flying Saucer Working Party and Condign reports), so I cannot write about or speculate about files that either do not exist or which I have no access to. That's the bottom line.

    Again, the brief was to write about British files and British investigations. With a 60,000 word limit, it was impossible to include anything but a brief mention of Blue Book, Condon report or the minutiae of any other foreign UFO projects.

    The content of these have been covered in-depth elsewhere, by Stan and other writers far better qualified than I to comment. Why waste space repeating what we already know?

    Again as these were not directly related to British cases or files, there was no reason why I should have covered them in any depth -other than to the detriment of British content.

    Gentle readers, don't let Stan Friedman put you off. Should you invest a few dollars in my slim volume I can assure you that you will find lots of "interesting UK UFO cases" (which is what it says on the tin!).

    Dr David Clarke

  2. I agree with David - this is less a review by Stan than a recitation / rehash of his own basic talking points. It has virtually nothing to do with David's book (which is what a review should be about, after all). Readers interested in finding out what "The UFO Files" is really about will have to look elsewhere. Perhaps they should start with David's book.

    Paul Kimball


Dear Contributor,

Your comments are greatly appreciated, and coveted; however, blatant mis-use of this site's bandwidth will not be tolerated (e.g., SPAM etc).

Additionally, healthy debate is invited; however, ad hominem and or vitriolic attacks will not be published. Please keep your arguments "to the issues" and present them with civility and proper decorum-FW