Dt: 1957 December 18
Lo: Sarasota, Fla.
Ty: Obj., wht;
S.A.: TV SET
So: UFO EVIDENCE (1964)
Dtl: TV set exhibt. interf. as obj. glided overhead
The minimalist verbatim text comes from a single index card wedged inside a metallic filing box large (or small) enough to contain a softball. Actually, there are two of these little boxes, each packed with so many index cards De Void doesn’t bother to count them all. Each card summarizes a single UFO case. Each case engages the same theme — how the local environment responds to electromagnetic field effects. The chronology begins with a U.S. warplane experiencing engine problems as it encounters a UFO over Burma in 1943. The final entry concludes on the evening of Jan. 3, 1991, near Barcelona, when a ground-level UFO apparently kills the lights and engine of an automobile.
The reason for revisiting the modest UFO archives of former NASA electrical engineer John Reiss is because the entire searchable database of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book is finally in the public domain in a no-fee and accessible format, thanks to John Greenewald at The Black Vault. You want to see if the Sarasota case, which occurred here nearly 60 years ago, was logged with the Air Force. A few simple clicks, a little scrolling and nope — not there. Which isn’t surprising. A UFO passes over a single house and messes with the antenna reception. So what.
De Void has briefly noodled around in the more cumbersome earlier versions of the declassified Blue Book files before, and found no reason to linger, given that most of the material is so colorless and convoluted it bored the snot out of me. Plus, as UFOs and Nukes author Robert Hastings is quick to point out, the 22-year Air Force study was largely a public relations scam:
“BB documents,” he states in an email, “are of potential value if one just focuses on the data collected — the sighting witness(es’) comments — and not on the recording officer’s conclusions. It is well known that, after 1952, BB’s marching orders were to debunk as many of the cases as possible, so as to keep the number of unknowns as small as possible. Both [astromer/military consultant Allen] Hynek and former USAF staffers have confirmed this. If a witness said the object ‘looked sort of like a balloon’ the BB conclusion was ‘balloon’ and so on, even though the witness may have also said that the object flew against the wind, performed maneuvers, and so on.”
Also consider the arbitrary nature of what sorts of incidents did and didn’t make it into the federal database. Like Blue Book, the late John Reiss, who contributed to planetary missions from Viking to Cassini at his Kennedy Space Center office, included not only American cases in his inventory, but fairly dramatic incidents abroad. Take two of his index cards from 1967. One occurred in Durban, South Africa; the other in Arbroath, Scotland. In both cities, temporary power outages and blackouts occurred as UFOs passed overhead. Neither example of apparent UFO electromagnetic effects made it into the official U.S. military ledger.
That said, for veteran researchers like Jan Aldrich, whose meticulously documented and often surprising Project 1947 website recently expanded its Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard archives of obscure encounters at sea, Blue Book’s more efficiently catalogued database could prove a windfall for organization and cross-referencing.
“It is a big deal for me,” Aldrich tells De Void in an email. “Easier to find material when it is on line. No more trying to find a microfilm reader. I have already used it quite a bit … When you put everything in one pile, things start to come together.”
Blue Book and its mind-numbing caseload of 12,618 events came to an end in 1969, decades before the digital age changed everything. This week’s announcement that those archives had slipped the paywall made me imagine John Reiss back in the day, an old Smith Corona at the ready, combing through multiple sources for piecemeal EMF data linked to The Great Taboo. There he is, positioning each and every little index card into the paper roller, twisting the platen knobs, tapping out pica-font keystrokes, flush left, flush left, cranking the carriage-lever return, adding card after card to the burgeoning stack of evidence. But to what end? He will keep his lonely mission to himself, never sharing his obsession over the mystery of the age with colleagues at KSC. He had no heirs. And he had no answers.
De Void suspects Reiss would be having a field day now, working the forbidding volume of online documents with relative ease, for whatever they can give him, for clues, for patterns, for insight into his own character maybe, amid the thankless tedium where curiosity itself may be the only reward worth chasing.