UFO-Forschung - Buchtip: The Belgium FOTOCAT spreadsheet (1950-1988)


UFO-Bücher gibt es ja reichlich, nur wenige sind jedoch für den Interessierten von großer Hilfe um einen Durchblick zu erhalten. Um so wichtiger ist es Bücher zu haben welche den Anspruch "gelesen und zur Weiterempfehlung" gerecht zu werden. Mit BELGIUM IN UFO PHOTOGRAPHS ist ohne Frage unseren Kollegen Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos & Wim van Utrecht mit ihrem tiefgründigen Recherche-Potenzial ein solches Buch gelungen, welches auch ein Hinweis auf zeitaufwendige Untersuchungen gibt. Auch zeigt es wie aufwendig manche UFO-Fälle sein können und gerade eben "man es sich einfach macht und wegerklärt" wie es gerne die Hardcore-Ufologen zur Rettung ihrer UFO-Gedankenwelten bezeichnen und sich in ihrer UFO-Welt verlieren. 

CENAP hat die Erlaubnis bekommen Auszüge aus dem Buch übernehmen zu können und so wollen wir gerne das Vorwort von James Oberg hier veröffentlichen der die  Qualiätät des Buches trifft!




By James Oberg (*)

The 70th anniversary of humanity’s encounter with the ‘UFO Mystery’

has recently passed, and anniversaries are good waypoints in time to assess

the current state of understanding of this mass cultural phenomenon that

may also hint at a world-shaking scientific revolution. If the most imaginative

theories turn out to be true it will be the greatest human discovery in history,

and if none of the extraordinary theories turn out to be true, it then would

‘merely’ be one of the grandest cultural delusions in human history. Either

way, it deserves serious attention.

Without taking sides on selection of explanations, Vicente-Juan

Ballester-Olmos and Wim van Utrecht have been practicing a methodology of

research that—were it far more widespread—could help determine the better

theories from the more extreme ones. They are looking at, and recording, the

raw data, in painstaking detail and depth, to provide current and future

researchers with the rarest and most valuable resource in any mystery,

authentic clues.

Their basic assumption, which I share, is that there are potentially

important processes and events that are today hopelessly mixed into the

soup of misidentifications, mistakes, occasional hoaxes and delusions, that

comprises the ‘UFO data base’. To focus in on the potential pearls, to identify

them and describe them to the detail required to test theories against them,

they have generated catalogs of reports covering decades of human

perceptions. Unlike most Internet databases, they expend great effort in

going beyond ‘cataloguing existing catalogs’ by quoting from other existing

sources and books, passively relying on assumptions of diligence and

competence by often anonymous (or, if known, occasionally dubious)

previous investigators.

Over the decades, thousands of ordinary citizens fascinated by the

possibilities of this mind-stretching phenomenon have labored, usually in

private, to collect, assess, and record events in their immediate vicinity. They

did so in the trust that someday the fragments of the puzzle would

accumulate a mass and shape from which an explanation (or several

explanations) would become discernable. If and when that happens, these

enthusiastic volunteers will deserve a lot of the credit.

An example of documentation work done by Ballester-Olmos and

directly applicable to my own investigations (space and missile related events

and reports) deals with the Canary Island sightings of the 1970s and 1980s.

The sighted phenomena turned out to be top secret missile tests by

American submarines. In many substantial ways the witness reports showed

the same features of reports from other events around the world also sparked

by missile launches.

There is a significant value to such ‘solutions’, far beyond the

satisfaction of merely ‘solving’ a famous story. Most ‘ufologists’ are quite

adamant that when a case is shown to not be a UFO, but an ‘IFO’ (Identified

flying Object), it is no longer of interest to the study of UFOs and ought to be

deleted from existing data bases. Ballester-Olmos and Van Utrecht, like me,

believe that just the opposite is true; that such ‘IFOs’ have lessons to teach

‘ufologists’ that are crucial to making sense of cases that remain in the ‘true

UFO’ databases.

Here’s why: our understanding of the process between raw perception

and ultimate memory formation and recollection remains very shaky. The

concept of a ‘trained witness’, or of assigning veracity of a witness to their

intellectual, academic, or professional level, remains dominant in the ‘UFO

Studies’ universe. The report of a pilot or an astronomer (or a movie star or a

politician) is given heavier weight because of their status.

So when a medical doctor on the Canary Islands reports seeing a

transparent craft a few hundred meters from him, one evening after sunset

on a road through a local forest, with two humanoids inside working on

control consoles, the presumption is that such a visual manifestation actually

existed as described.

But when Ballester-Olmos’s meticulously documented case files show

that many people on the island were at that same date and time, and in the

same direction, were seeing the sunlit ascent plume of an American

submarine-launched rocket rising above the horizon, there is confusion and

disbelief. The two sightings must be coincidental because nobody—

especially a medical expert!—could possibly misinterpret one for the other. If

it happened only once, it would be hard to claim it WAS such a perceptual

error, but the written record of IFOs show that it is, in fact, a common pattern.

In another report which Ballester-Olmos discovered, and shared with

me (I had NEVER seen it) because he intuitively suspected its significance,

the same pattern was displayed. Certain kinds of unusual once-in-a-lifetime

stimuli were reported in similar misperceived forms. This case, a nearly

horizontal fireball swarm over Kiev, USSR, in 1963, had more than a hundred

witness reports and drawings. About half showed various configurations

recognizable as a swarm of meteors, but the other drawings showed not

scattered fireballs but one enormous structured object covered with lights or

rocket thrusters.

The fireball swarm was caused by the atmospheric reentry of satellite

rocket, as it disintegrated in flames about 100 km high moving at 8 km/sec.

Soon it became clear that other particularly large satellite reentries, under

good nighttime viewing conditions, were sparking almost identical

misperceptions all over the world (France, Estonia, Zimbabwe, Yukon,

Florida, all over). People of all ages, cultures, education and professional

levels, all were seeing a documented prosaic event (for the first time in their

lives) and many of them were coming up with interpretations of uncanny


The implication of this is startling, in that people’s minds jump to quick

conclusions about startling sights based on evolutionary shaping and on

personal lifetime experiences. But this interpretation depends on the

reliability of the detailed reports that had originally been written based on

witness interviews near the time of the events.

The existence of such data, and its ready accessibility via smart

indexing schemes, was crucial to the development and validation of this

profoundly important insight. The theory remains controversial among serious

UFO investigators. But that it exists at all is a tribute to the original

chroniclers AND to the kind of data gathering and documentation that this

current book demonstrates.

The newfound power of combining GOOD records keeping with

Internet tools and search engines can be seen in specific cases discussed by

the authors. The Faymonville photos (pages 99-113), together with witness

testimony and post-event questioning, is a good example.


Note this comment 

by an early investigator: “The object, which was several hundreds of meters

away when the sighting began, approached the witnesses at a constant pace

following a SSE-NNW trajectory… slowly heading in their direction.” An

immediate warning signal is to note how the witnesses jumped to a

conclusion about distance to the object when there were NO valid clues to

how far away it actually was. Such premature interpretation of visual stimuli

often leads witnesses to subconsciously edit subsequent perceptions and

recollections to ‘fit’ a hypothesis that was unjustified. The current report

proposes an astronomical explanation that is plausible in the cultural context

that surrounded this period in the country.

But such explanations are not ‘proven’ either, except to the degree

required to demolish the common pro-UFO argument that “there is no

OTHER possible explanation” aside from an unknown stimulus, perhaps

alien visitors. THAT theory is not disproven but in terms of scientific proof is

shown to be unnecessary to account for the testimony and photos. So it fails

to attain confirmation.

I was also impressed with similar dogged investigations and plausible

reconstructions of other sightings and photos [such as the PAGEOS balloon

over Mariakerke (pp. 154-162)], where previous investigations had

erroneously eliminated prosaic explanations based on inaccurate

assumptions as well as unfamiliarity with common perceptual errors when

observing stars and moving objects high in the sky.


Particularly impressive

was the authors’ description of brief distraction leading to transfer of

reference point from a nearby star to the moving object and the misleading

misperceptual consequences. In 1974 while observing a known satellite,

EXACTLY the same experience struck me so vividly I was overwhelmed with

vertigo and stumbled, almost falling to the ground.

In case after case, the authors apply wide knowledge of geometry,

optics, meteorology, human perception, and human cultural context (they

recognized one impressive-looking UFO photo as actually taken from a

popular French science fiction movie), to illustrate that plausible explanations

often are found not by dogged cookbook methods but by inspiration and by

accident. No wonder, then, that not ALL such prosaic explanations can be

found, however dedicated and diligent may be the amateur investigators.

The question of alien visitors [who could remain as detectable or not,

as they desire, or even disguise themselves as weather balloons as needed]

remains unresolved, but the satisfaction of seeing good detective work is

worth the reading. The implication of this work is that the body of existing

reports and photographs does not unambiguously require the existence of

ANY new phenomenon. But there are plenty of HUMAN and natural

phenomena of great interest to science, to national security, to psychology, to

sociology, that are wrapped up in these reports which makes them worth

studying, and they deserve study at the level of this book.

As such, the approach shown by Ballester-Olmos and Van Utrecht

should serve as an example and as an inspiration to other ‘citizen scientists’

who have played, and will continue to play, a crucial role in providing the

resources that will allow theorists with more data and wider insight to

someday make more sense about what lies behind this mysterious




The Belgium FOTOCAT spreadsheet (1950-1988) can be consulted by accessing the

following link:




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