Wednesday, December 31, 2014


The myth of radioactive UFOs? Part 2: Classic cases

Okay, so a UFO case that has very well-documented radiation effects may not be as mysterious as first thought. What about some of the other classic cases with radiation effects?

CH argued:

Chris Rutkowski, there are many more cases. Residual radiation is definitely a contender but the exhaust that blew out of the Falcon Lake vehicle left behind interesting additional clues. I'm not labeling the fuel/power source as Nuclear, merely pointing out evidence that there are properties that seem to be similar.

To which I replied:

Name the "many more cases." That's why I'm challenging this basic assumption in ufology. Rendelsham? Greatly disputed. Cash-Landrum? Nothing ever detected. And....?

And she said:

I was thinking of a Mexican farmer case, Brazil Cortez Island incident... Mexican man ended up dying, another Mexican suffered for many years...Cortez Island is a strong case!

I realized that the case in question was actually the series of events in and around Colares, Brazil. The most detailed description of the events there is at:

But again, although the UFO effects were thought to be “radiation,” there is no record of any measurement of radioactivity in the area.

Similarly, CC posted:

I've got plenty of questions myself! The 1957 Levelland case and 1958 Loch Raven Dam case are both supposed to have had big glowing ovoid UFOs that left the witnesses "sunburned." Unfortunately, we have no medical records or photos, just the stories...

And I said:

Exactly. CH may be thinking of Bob Pratt's investigations of injuries from UFOs in South America, but that's not what I was asking about. I'm looking for cases where radioactivity was actually detected and measured, not assumed because of physiological injuries.

Another poster, AS, suggested another classic case:

What of the radioactive "spots" left on the car in the Hill case?

To which I replied:

Those were never established as radioactive. In fact, the spots were initially thought to be magnetic anomalies because a compass needle deflected near them, but this was never properly documented, and even then the needle only did when Betty was holding the compass, not Barney.

SML noted:

An interesting exercise Chris. Sadly, so little instrumented research seems to occur in most cases. Certainly the vast mass of cases are mostly of an anecdotal nature… Of course I immediately think of the ground / vegetation effects in the Delphos case but again, I don't know for sure that there was actually any radiation detected by instrumentation.

The mention of Delphos again raised the issue of an assumed radioactive component, even though the ring found there itself may be adequately explained as bioluminescence, not radioactivity.

Poster RH, a longtime UFO investigator, noted:

[Radiation] was found and measured in a case I investigated in the early 70s. I believe many others like Socorro had this.

I have no idea what case he investigated, but Socorro is another classic that was rumoured to have radioactivity, but did not. James McDonald’s interview with Mary Mayes, the biologist who studied plant samples from Socorro, stated that there was “no evidence of radiation.”

JV posted simply: “Rendlesham Forest”

The summary from which states:

According to the manufacturers of the instrument that was used to take radiation readings in Rendlesham Forest in December 1980, the measurements were “of little or no significance”. From the evidence of the real-time tape recording made during the investigation, it is shown that the readings are simply background levels and do not support the claim that anything unusual happened in Rendlesham Forest. Onsite checks made within a few years of the incident revealed no unusual radiation at the site.

Next, a poster suggested the case of D.S. “Sonny” DesVergers, known as the Florida Scoutmaster Case of August 19, 1952. ( But although the site was checked for radioactivity, none was found. And besides, it’s almost universally agreed that it was a hoax.

GC then asked me about some local Manitoba cases that were said to have involved radioactivity:

Chris Rutkowski: Are you saying the CKY film landing site readings at the Roth farm were wrong?

And I said:

Not necessarily wrong, but perhaps inaccurate. I know that the readings taken by Ernst Speelman at that and the Halbstadt site were often questioned because they seemed to vary across the sites and were greatly dependent on the counter being in direct sunlight, and battery usage, and other factors. On at least one occasion, I saw the counter give a high reading one minute and then drop to nothing the next. It had been suggested to me that the counter itself might have been "wonky."

In fact, I dug out my original report on the Carman, Manitoba, case, from May 13, 1975. It was a remarkable multi-witness, multi-site realtime investigation when a film of a bright flying object low over the fields was recorded as well as eyewitness observations. Here’s the relevant discussion about radiation:

The witness led investigators to the area where he believed the object had been at that point. After checking their bearings, the investigators took background readings with a radiation survey meter. The levels were negligible; basically background levels only. They then proceeded towards the suggested “landing site” and took readings every 100 yards. The average reading in the field was 20 mR.  After continuing on, they claimed to have found “a series of hot spots about 85 yards apart, each with a radius of approximately 25 feet.” Center readings were said to be 38-40 mR, falling off to about 25 mR at the edges. Soil samples were not taken. However, these readings are highly suspect. The team also found that passing a hand “between the suspected area and the instrument lowered the reading somewhat,” even though the meter was supposedly set to measure gamma rays, which are very penetrating. The same device had been shown to malfunction on other occasions.

The Halbstadt case of July 2, 1975, involved a similar “landing site,” although there had not been any associated UFO observed. Radiation readings were taken with the same meter, and it had found some varying levels there, too. (It’s interesting that a published account of the case quoted investigators as saying that not only were high radioactivity levels detected, but that there was some hazard to the public in the area because of the radioactivity.)

But I would argue that these cases all fall under the “disputed” category.

A few posters then got to the heart of the matter by stating:

[SJ] I think the idea that flying saucers were radioactive is simply a product of the times just like the saucers themselves. The times being the 1950s. Atomic energy was mysterious and brand new so speculating that saucers were man-made atomic powered craft or even ET atomic powered craft seems like the most obvious avenue.


[CC] Exactly, and the Chiles-Whitted sighting was what prompted the speculation of an ET atomic powered craft. It couldn't be our technology, so it must be from out there... unless the witnesses were fooled by a bolide.

And then Cash-Landrum was brought up. The assumption among most UFO buffs and believers is that Betty Cash and Vicki Landrum were burned by radiation.

Poster CC quickly countered the claim of radiation poisoning with the facts of the case, available at the detailed website devoted to the case:

One relevant detail from the site:

Department chief Russ Meyer spent a whole day… scouring a 10-mile stretch of open highway between Huffman and New Caney. “Our major purpose was to verify the presence of radioactive trace effects, but we found no evidence of that. The only conclusion we could draw was that there was no residual radioactive material in the area at the time.”

And finally, AC stated:

We have found radiation at several spots near Point Pleasant, WV, where UFOs and Mothman were seen. They are still hot today.

But no details on these have been presented.

So, having gone through the classic UFO cases that have been thought to involve radioactivity, and found them lacking solid evidence, where does that leave us?

Next in Part 3: The origin of the UFO radioactivity myth.


Sunday, December 28, 2014


The myth of radioactive UFOs? The case of Falcon Lake

It all started innocently enough.

I had been reading some of UFO groups on Facebook and in the MUFON group, there was much kudos for MUFON members who had attended a "boot camp" at which they refined their investigative skills. Among the things they were tested on was a simulated UFO landing site, at which they used a Geiger counter.

Which made me pause to wonder.

This was because this year, Geoff Dittman and Ashley Kircher and I finished our 25-year study and analyses of Canadian UFO reports. Since 1989, we had looked at about 15,000 reports of UFOs in Canada, from nocturnal lights to Close Encounters.

And none involved radiation. Well, more correctly, none involved physical traces that might have been radioactive. If there were any sites where radiation might have been present, I could have had the samples tested easily enough - and not just with a Geiger counter, but with more sophisticated equipment, even beyond a GeLi ionizing radiation detector. But no such sites were apparent in the entire list, over 25 years.

The absence of radioactivity at UFO "landing sites" is not a recent observation. It's been known for many years that the number of "trace cases" has been plummeting and hovering near zero, even worldwide. So the lack of radioactivity at any current UFO-associated site shouldn't be surprising.

But why? Isn't radioactivity a staple of ufology? 

(Of course, this is apart from any discussion about why UFOs would be leaking radioactivity to begin with, or why nuclear propulsion would be the aliens' choice of travel.)

So, on November 26, 2014, I posed the following to the readers of the UFO Updates group on Facebook:

My thesis: "The assumption of radioactive traces found at UFO landing sites is largely a myth. With the exception of a small handful of disputed cases, radioactivity associated with UFOs has never been conclusively established."

It started one of the longest and most heated discussions in that group.

MD first replied:

Whatever energy emanates from the low-hovering UFOs/Saucers does radiate away from the object(s), affecting soil and plants as you and I know it.  As far as what type of energy that is...? No one has a clear idea...all we find are the side-effects that result from such energy numbing of the fingers...desiccation of the plant life....etc.

To which I answered:

Yes, but as for actually detecting this radiation, that's another matter...

JB opined: 

This isn't true. If you need proof, come to Sedona and bring your geiger counter. I will point out where witnesses saw UFOs land and you can do your own research.

That's an interesting offer. I wonder why Sedona ufologists haven't done exactly that.

But then CH pointed out that I've previously written about radioactivity in a well-known Canadian UFO case.

Taken right from your book, "Unnatural History True Manitoba Mysteries"(pg 19-26), the Stefan Michalak Falcon Lake incident.

To which I replied: 

Yes, an exception that is being disputed. And I always wondered why they brought Geiger counters with them.

You see, I have actually handled the radioactive silver bars found at the Falcon Lake site. I had a container of radioactive soil from the site for many years in a cinderblock "safe" in my garage. I had been loaned the materials for testing by the Michalak family (and had given them back when they requested). [NB: The materials have now been lost.]

As I noted in my published study of the case:

As a result of prompting by civilian UFO investigators, Michalak went to a radiologist on May 23, 1967. No evidence of radiation trauma was found. On May 30, 1967, Michalak was taken by a UFO investigator to the Whiteshell Nuclear Research Establishment, where he was given a whole-body count. Again, nothing above normal background readings was found.

So Michalak had not been blasted by a radioactive beam or gas or whatever aliens use against us pesky humans.

Despite this, 

Brian Cannon, a founder of CAPRO, reported to that group's membership that the healing of Michalak's burns was "a characteristic trait of radiation burns" (Cannon 1968).

In addition,

... Dr. Horace Dudley, a radiologist and APRO advisor at the University of Southern Mississippi, observed that Michalak's ...
 "... nausea and vomiting followed by diarrhea and loss of weight is a classical picture of severe whole body [exposure to] radiation with x- or gamma rays. I would guess that Mr. Michalak received on the order of 100-200 roentgens. It is very fortunate that this dose of radiation only lasted a very short time or he would certainly have received a lethal dose."

So there was certainly some disagreement over whether there was any associated radioactivity in the case.

In my chapter on radioactivity and the Falcon Lake case, I noted:

On June 30, 1967, Michalak traveled to Falcon Lake with Gerald Hart... They found a ring of debris, thought to have been made when the object lifted off. In addition, they found bits of Michalak's shirt and his tape measure which he had left behind. When they returned to Winnipeg, they informed the RCAF of their findings. On July 2, RCMP, RCAF and CAPRO investigators accompanied Michalak to the site, gathering samples and taking photographs. The RCMP analyses of the samples showed significantly high radiation readings. On their recommendation, consideration was given to cordoning off the area due to a possible health hazard.

This was noted in an Incident Report from an inspector with the RCMP Crime Laboratory in Ottawa, the result of tests on some samples sent by the RCMP to the Department of National Health and Welfare. They found:

"... a radiation value of .3 microcuries in the soil sample ... the radiation is from a radium source and is a possible serious health hazard." [RCMP 1967]

 Samples taken from the site by Michalak and Hart were eventually tested by the Radiation Protection Division of the Canadian Department of National Health and Welfare. They examined samples of "soil, burned shirt and steel tape for possible radioactive contamination." The initial gamma analysis showed significant levels of "Ra 226 or its equivalent."

As part of their investigation, the team traveled to East Braintree, Manitoba, near the Whiteshell, where hazardous waste from the Manitoba Cancer Institute was buried. The reason for this was the suggestion that someone had "seeded" the landing site with commercially produced radium. If it had not come from a radium watch dial, they reasoned that it must have come from a nuclear waste disposal site. Again, the seriousness with which the case was regarded is evident. Tampering with a nuclear waste disposal site is a very grave matter. No indication of tampering was found, however. The team also visited Michalak's place of employment to see if it used radium in any of its products. They then visited Michalak at his home to check for radiation in the samples he had in his basement. 

"A survey of the basement showed no evidence of any loose contamination. Radiation fields were detectable coming from the plastic bags containing soil and the remnants of Michalak's burned shirt...  

Stewart Hunt, of the Safety Assessment Branch, along with investigators convinced Michalak to visit the site again with them, and they found:   "One small area was found to be contaminated. This was located across the crown of the rock. There was a smear of contamination about 0.5 ' 8.0 inches on one side of the crack. There was also some lichen and ground vegetation contaminated just beyond the smear. The whole contaminated area was no larger than 100 square inches. All water run off areas were checked for possible contamination, but nothing was found." 

After examining the site, he felt there was "no serious health hazard involved." The fact that only a small area was radioactive conflicted with the fact that Michalak's steel tape measure was radioactive, yet it was found "40 paces" from the site. The explanation offered for this was that everything taken from the site had been left together in a pile in Michalak's basement, so that unaffected items could have become contaminated after the fact.
 In an undated Department of National Defence Minute Sheet, an official in the office of the Chief of Defence Staff in Ottawa noted:
 "There is some doubt that the soil samples did in fact contain "226" or pure radium. This question of doubt is a scientific evaluation beyond this investigation. The quantity of "226," namely 0.5, is equal to approximately 1/3 of that associated with an average wrist watch. However, the quantity, although pertinent, does not explain how this "smear" got on the rock at the alleged landing site. This is what is bothering the scientific people." [Canadian Department of National Defence 1967?]

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the "radium seeding" scenario was Hunt's visit to the provincial Environmental Sanitation Laboratory in Winnipeg:

"Samples from [the] UFO site and those taken from Michalak's residence were checked under a UV light... . The samples taken from the UFO site gave an indication that they were contaminated with Radium luminous paint. The samples from Michalak's house did not respond to the UV light." 

This was puzzling. If Michalak or Hart had seeded the radium, then they would surely have had some luminous paint in their own radioactive samples. Yet this was present only in the later samples.

Further confusing details were found when Hunt visited the home of Barry Thompson, the APRO investigator. Hunt checked some soil and vegetation samples Thompson had in his possession. Thompson had been given the samples by Michalak when he accompanied him during a separate visit to the site on July 17, 1967. One sample:

"... proved to be radioactive. Levels up to 1mR/hr were detected ... The sample was sealed in a plastic bag. A contamination check was made of the area where the samples were, using the UV light. The area was extremely cluttered with photographic equipment and a great deal of junk. Several areas responded to the UV light, but these did not prove to be areas of contamination, probably photographic emulsion splashes. Thompson appears to be a very sloppy worker." 

This raises the possibility that "emulsion splashes" were also the cause of the luminosity found in the RCAF samples from the landing site. Hunt learned that Thompson had given some samples to George Dyck, a technician at the Nuclear Medicine Department of the Winnipeg General Hospital. On his own time, Dyck had tested the samples using his department's standard laboratory equipment. One sample was said to have shown a "1.4 MeV peak" and two other weaker peaks.

So there's no question there had been some radioactive materials at the "UFO landing site." But there seems to be a good possibility that it was commercial radium!

But that's not the radioactive material that had everyone puzzled. It was what was found later.

On May 19, 1968, Michalak again visited the site with a friend. In his report to the Condon Committee, Roy Craig said Michalak found:

"... massive pieces of radioactive material in a fissure of the rock within the "landing circle." This ... consisted of two W-shaped bars of metal, each about 4.5 in. long, and several smaller pieces of irregular shape. These items were said to have been found about 2 in. below a layer of lichen in the rock fissure... . the two fragments each consisted of a central massive metal portion which was not radioactive. One of these was 93% and the other 96% silver. Both contained copper and cadmium, and had a composition similar to that found in commercially available sterling silver or sheet silver. The metal was coated with a tightly-adhering layer of quartz sand, similar to that used as a foundry sand. This also was not radioactive. The radioactivity was contained in a loosely-adhering layer of fine-grained minerals containing uranium. This layer could be removed readily by washing and brushing. The minerals were uranophane and thorium-free pitchblende, characteristically found in vein deposits." [Condon 1969: 323]

In his own teletype to headquarters, RCAF Sgt. Bissky said that when he examined the metal pieces at Michalak's home:

"All shown objects were subjected to civilian Geiger counter and majority of readings at same level as that of the dial face of a service wrist watch in same counter."

A number of institutions performed analyses on the metal pieces. Biospace Associates apparently had some samples tested through Colorado State University. They noted that:

"This particular alloy is made of silver, with no metallic impurities detectable by the x-ray fluorescence analysis." In a note from the UFO Research Institute, located in Pittsburgh, Dr. J. Roesner reported that:
 "The gamma spectra were complex; 15 distinct energies ranging from 0.11 MeV to 2.57 MeV could be resolved. The three major contributors to the total gamma radioactivity had energies of 0.61 MeV, 1.10 MeV and 1.53 MeV and decayed with half-lives of ~14 days, 8 days and 21 days, respectively... . A semiquantitative chemical analysis ... showed that 95 percent of the specimen is silver. The amount of copper in the specimen was determined to be 0.5 percent... . The energies and half-lives of the gamma rays emitted by the specimen do not agree with the expected decay of silver activation products formed in an (n, g) reaction on natural silver." 

In his report to the Condon Committee, Craig quoted the conclusion of R. J. Traill, head of the mineralogy branch of the National Research Council of Canada, who reviewed the WNRE findings:

 "I would interpret the specimen as pieces of thin sheet silver that have been twisted, crumpled, partly melted and dropped into or otherwise placed in contact with nearly pure quartz sand while still hot. They have subsequently been covered with loosely adhering radioactive material which consists of crushed pitchblende ore, much altered to uranophane and containing associated hematite." 

The matter becomes more curious when one considers the results of reanalyses by the Ufology Research of Manitoba (UFOROM) during 1977 to 1983. Soil samples allegedly from the Falcon Lake site were provided by a former CAPRO representative and tested for UFOROM at the University of Manitoba. The samples showed natural uranium activity but no radium signatures. This suggested that earlier indications of the presence of radium were in error.

In an internal Whiteshell Nuclear Research Establishment memorandum, lab analyst J.D. Chen reported on the analyses of "chared [sic] fabric," native silver, mineral fragments, twig fragments and jack pine needles. He wrote that:

"The gamma spectra showed an abnormally large 190 KeV photopeak which was thought to be due to enrichment of U 235. However, chemical extraction for uranium of the 100 mesh sample and subsequent mass spectrometric analysis indicated the samples containing uranium were of natural U 235 content. Experiments are being continued to identify the cause of the large 190 KeV photopeak."

A further analysis of a soil sample was done in 1994 by UFOROM associate Greg Kennedy of Montreal. Gamma-ray spectroscopy found four radionuclides: U235, Pb214, Bi214 and Cs137. The cesium was probably due to fallout from nuclear weapons tests. Again, no enriched uranium was found, and no metal particles.

The soil was simply naturally high in uranium, a typical finding in the Whiteshell region. The original soil samples retrieved from the site contained only natural radioactivity. However, radium 226 was detected by some investigators. It is not clear whether or not this was an error.

So, as I stated in my original thesis statement: 

With the exception of a small handful of disputed cases, radioactivity associated with UFOs has never been conclusively established.

The Falcon Lake UFO case, although it is a prime example of one in which radioactive materials were examined and tested, is still much in dispute. 

So, if there's some doubt as to whether there really was any abnormal levels of radiation in this case, for which radioactive materials have been easily available and tested repeatedly, including by major nuclear research establishments, what about other UFO cases that have been said to have some kind of radioactivity?


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