Article tres long, mais interessant car il détricote, pas tellement les évenements de Phoenix, mais surtout leur exploitation par un nombre limité de personnes, clairement orienté UFO et ....business...
Materiau brut à exploiter dans les futurs articles.
The Hack and the Quack
The "Phoenix Lights" made Frances Emma Barwood the darling of the global space-alien lobby. And it'stransformed computer geek Jim Dilettoso into a star in the UFO firmament.
Jim Dilettoso is playing a duet on a piano with a man who has a cross made of his own crusty, drying blood on his forehead.
On Dilettoso's own head is a mass of curly grayish hair. His mane dips and sways with the fluid rhythm he lays down, and his swaying locks, combined with his wire-rim glasses and the handsome seriousness of his face, evoke the eccentric genius and renowned UFO researcher he's rumored to be.
Plucking out a tentative melody on the higher keys, a moon-faced Giorgio Bongiovannibeams as he tries to keep up. With his tangled brown locks, Bongiovanni might be taken for a Deadhead if it weren't for the blackish dried blood decorating his forehead. Ridges of the finger-smoothed ocher make a crude cross a few inches wide; around the cross, a field of fresher, redder blood is smeared.
Bongiovanni's blood sources are hidden beneath fingerless gloves. Eight years ago, Bongiovanni claims, the Virgin Mary visited him, delivered a message about Jesus consorting with space aliens, and, after Bongiovanni offered to help carry Christ's message, the Virgin zapped his palms with lasers that came out of her eyes. He's been carrying his stigmata ever since, rubbing the blood coming from his palms, feet and other sites onto his forehead to maintain his cross.
The duet draws a swarm of photographers who block the view of the other 500 people sitting at tables in the ballroom of the Gold River Casino in Laughlin, Nevada.
It's the culminating Saturday-night banquet of the Seventh Annual International UFO Congress. There's a giant blowup space alien in the parking lot. Extraterrestrials and E.T. hybrids disguised as middle-aged white people sit among the Earthly guests munching on a lasagna buffet. In the hall next door, you can get your aura photographed.
Sitting at the head table, naturally, is Arizona secretary of state hopeful and former Phoenixcouncilwoman Frances Emma Barwood, who is scheduled to address the gathering.
"This is all new to us," Barwood's husband, Mike Siavelis, says sheepishly as the evening descends into surreality.
Barwood merely smiles.
Her tablemates include Stephen Bassett, Barwood's UFO political consultant who's paid to work the space-alien side of her bid to become secretary of state. He's busy introducing Barwood to the luminaries of the UFO community.
The man sitting across from Barwood, for example, Dr. Jim Harder, once taught electrical engineering at UC-Berkeley but today helps people, through hypnosis, recover memories of being abducted by aliens. Bassett speaks of Harder in hushed tones, clearly wanting Barwood to know that she's in the presence of UFO royalty.
Harder's wife, Cedar, leans over to make an even more startling revelation.
"My husband," she says, "he's an E.T."
"Did he tell you that?" she's asked.
"He didn't have to. I realized it by observation."
She should know. She reveals later that she recently recovered memories of being abducted by aliens herself.
Until Barwood's speech caps off the night, the UFO Congress will entertain itself with bad stand-up comedy, a "song for the future" by a woman who says she learned it by channeling aliens, and several group photos.
But the highlight is a tribute given to Shari Adamiak, who recently died. Rather than eulogize Adamiak with a description of who she was or what she accomplished, a severe woman chooses instead to tell a remarkable episode from Adamiak's life.
Adamiak had accompanied UFO researcher Steven Greer on an expedition into Mexico. There, in a remote area, the two were surprised by soldiers carrying AK-47 rifles. Suspiciously, the soldiers' uniforms carried no insignia. Adamiak and Greer figured they were dead, but they prayed ardently to space aliens. In obvious answer to their plaint, the two spotted a flying saucer overhead.
The craft had no sooner passed when the soldiers, remarkably . . . .
At this point, the narrator halts, sensing that even in this atmosphere of abject credulity, her story is reaching ridiculous proportions. To make sure everyone gets the point, she says emphatically, as a challenge: "This is a true story."
. . . the soldiers, under the beneficent influence of extraterrestrials, walked to a van, dropped their AK-47s, picked up guitars and began strumming, enabling Adamiak and Greer to make their escape.
"True story," Bassett assures Barwood.
Truth by assertion: It's in abundant supply at the UFO Congress, where people are more interested in discussing the implications of aliens living among us than looking for hard evidence of actual landings or abductions. As Cedar Harder will say later, the conventioneers have "moved beyond talking about the nuts and bolts of UFO investigation."
Aliens are here. They are mating with humans.
And the lights that appeared over Phoenix last March couldn't possibly have been anything of Earth.
It's been a remarkable year since hundreds of Arizonans thrilled to lights seen over much of the state March 13, 1997.
When Barwood, then a councilwoman, asked the city to look into the sightings, she became a national media phenomenon and will no doubt bring much outside attention--and outside campaign donations--to her otherwise unglamorous race for secretary of state.
Jim Dilettoso's own star has risen as a result of his proclamations that the lights over Phoenix could not have been flares, airplanes or anything else manmade. His scientific-sounding claims have made him and his Tempe firm, Village Labs, a regular in television, radio and newspaper reports.
A recent edition of Hard Copy and upcoming specials on Japanese television, the UPN network, and A&E all feature Dilettoso and the spectral analysis he claims to do from videotapes of the event.
"These were not flares," he says with certainty.
For many, the assertions of truth are enough.
And for the media, such proclamations not only prove sufficient but make for good copy.
Perhaps no assertion has been as widely taken for proof that aliens visited Phoenix last March than Dilettoso's claims that his "sophisticated optical analysis" eliminates more prosaic explanations for the March 13 lights. From the Discovery Channel to the Arizona Republic to USA Today, Dilettoso has been advertised as an expert who can divine the nature of lights with his bank of computers. Not one of the publications or programs has described the scientific principles behind Dilettoso's claims.
With the arrival of the Phoenix Lights anniversary, news reports will no doubt mushroom, and Dilettoso and his techniques will receive more attention as reporters breathlessly tell the UFO story of the decade: how Phoenix has, in only a year, become the center of the UFO cosmos, the site of recurring visits by strange aliens, and home of a heroic political avatar.
What they won't tell you is that Dilettoso employs the language of science to mask that, given the tools he uses, he is incapable of doing what he claims to be doing.
So what? you say. Does anyone really care if a few oddballs gain notoriety from science fiction? Who are they hurting?
Dr. Paul Scowen, a visiting professor of astronomy at Arizona State University, cares.
"I become quite offended when people pull this sort of nonsense," Scowen says. "We in the science business make our living doing this stuff to the best ability we can, and applying all of the knowledge that humankind has assembled to this point in science to figure out what's going on. . . .
"Why should people care? Because it's been so high-profile and they've been told lies. That's why people should care."
Many Valley residents had gone out last March 13 looking for a spectacular event in the night sky. Comet Hale-Bopp was near its closest approach to Earth, and that night it could be seen in the northwest, as bright a comet as has been seen in 20 years.
About 8:30, however, something else appeared--a vee pattern of lights that traveled nearly the entire length of the state in about 40 minutes.
The witnesses included New Times writers. David Holthouse and Michael Kiefer both saw the pattern of five lights move slowly overhead. Holthouse says he perceived that something connected the lights in a boomerang shape; Kiefer disagrees, saying they didn't seem connected. Like other witnesses, both reported that the vee made no sound, and each saw slightly different colors in the lights. Both watched as the lights gradually made their way south and faded from view.
The many eyewitnesses have elaborated on this basic model: Some saw that the lights were not connected, others swear they saw a giant triangular craft joining them, some felt it was at high altitude, others claim it was barely over their heads and moving very slowly. All seem to be describing the same lights at the same time: About 8:15 the lights passed over the Prescott area, about 15 minutes later the vee moved over Phoenix, and at 8:45 it passed south of Tucson.
That's about 200 miles in 30 minutes, which indicates that the lights were traveling about 400 miles per hour.
An alert owner of a home video camera caught the 8:30 vee pattern on tape. Terry Proctor filmed the vee for several minutes. The quality of the tape is poor, and even under enhancement the video shows nothing joining the five lights of the pattern. However, the pattern of lights changes over just a few seconds. The lights clearly move in relation to each other, proving that the lights represent five separate objects, rather than a solid body. This is consistent with witness reports from Prescott, where one light trailed the others temporarily.
But someone got an even better view than Proctor and his video camera.
That night, Mitch Stanley and his mother were in the yard of their Scottsdale home, where Stanley has a large Dobsonian telescope.
He and his mother noticed the vee pattern approaching from the northwest. Within seconds, Stanley was able to aim the telescope at the leading three lights of the pattern.
Stanley was using a 10-inch mirror which gathers 1,500 times as much light as the human eye, and an eyepiece which magnified the sky 60 times, effectively transporting him 60 times closer to the lights than people on the ground.
When Stanley's mother asked him what he saw, he responded, "Planes."
It was plain to see, Stanley says. Under magnification, Stanley could clearly see that each light split into pairs, one each on the tips of squarish wings. Even under the telescope's power, the planes appeared small, indicating that they were flying high. Stanley says he followed the planes for about a minute, then turned his telescope to more interesting objects.
"They were planes. There's no way I could have mistaken that," he says.
The next day, when radio reports made Stanley aware that many thought they had seen something extraterrestrial, he told Jack Jones, another amateur astronomer, about his sighting. Jones later called both the Arizona Republic and Frances Emma Barwood. Neither called Jones or Stanley back.
Barwood says she passed on Stanley's name to Dilettoso's Village Labs, who didn't call the young man until New Times first reported his story in June.
Although hundreds of Valley residents saw the vee formation, the media have paid much more attention to a separate event that occurred later that night.
At 10 p.m., up to nine bright lights were seen to appear, hover for several minutes, and then disappear southwest of Phoenix in the direction of the Sierra Estrella. Video cameras at points across the Valley caught the string of hovering lights. All nine were visible from some locations, others saw fewer.
Mike Krzyston, from the yard of his Moon Valley home, captured all nine on video. "I hit pay dirt, finally!" he exclaimed as the lights appeared. "This is a major sighting!" said another videographer as he taped five of the lights.
In June, however, KPNX-TV Channel 12 reporter Blair Meeks filmed a drop of flares by military planes over the Air Force gunnery ranges southwest of Phoenix. The hovering lights looked remarkably like the 10 p.m. lights of March 13, and Meeks suggested it as a possible solution to that night's second event.
Within days, Tucson Weekly broke the news that the Maryland Air National Guard, in Arizona for winter training, had a squad of A-10 fighters over the gunnery range that night, and they had dropped flares. An Arizona National Guard public information officer, Captain Eileen Bienz, had determined that the flares had been dropped at 10 p.m. over the North Tac range 30 miles southwest of Phoenix, at an unusually high altitude: 15,000 feet. (Captain Drew Sullins, spokesman for the Maryland Air National Guard, says that the A-10s, which have squarish wings, never went north of Phoenix, so they could not have been responsible for the formation of planes seen at 8:30 p.m.)
Local UFO investigator Dick Motzer and others have shown that the initial appearance of the 10 p.m. lights, the number of lights seen from different elevations in the Valley, and the timing of the lights' disappearances all correspond well with flares dropped at high altitude beyond the Sierra Estrella.
But questions remain.
If Stanley saw that the 8:30 lights were airplanes, whose were they? And why did Tucson'sDavis-Monthan Air Force Base, where the Maryland Air National Guard's A-10s returned that night, initially say it had no planes in the air at that time?
Krzyston and others who taped the 10 p.m. event insist that the 10 p.m. lights hovered in front of, not behind, the Estrella, where the gunnery ranges lie.
Most publicized objections to the 10 p.m. flares hypothesis have come from Jim Dilettoso, who claims that sophisticated tests performed at Village Labs show that the lights filmed by Krzyston and others could not have been flares--whatever caused the 10 p.m. event, Dilettoso claims, was like no source of manmade light.
Local and national media alike have found his statements irresistible.
While careful to tell the mainstream press that he makes no claims about extraterrestrials, that his research simply eliminates the possibility of flares, Dilettoso is perhaps feeling more bold as an increasing number of reporters seeks his opinions.
With all of the seriousness he could muster, he recently told Hard Copy: "These could be the most important events in 50 years."
Dilettoso is needlessly conservative. If the lights of March 13 were of otherworldly origin, it would be one of the most significant events in human history.
That's been the holy grail of a movement spawned decades ago that shows no sign of abating. But research into UFOs has changed considerably, much to the chagrin of investigators who still insist on a scientific approach to unexplained sightings.
Interest in "flying saucers" exploded in post-World War II America, prompting the Air Force to hire an astronomy professor, J. Allen Hynek, and others to investigate. For more than 20 years, Hynek and the rest of the Air Force's Project Blue Book examined UFO sightings, the vast majority of which were easily explained as natural phenomena.
The military ended Hynek's contract and Project Blue Book in 1969, and four years later Hynek, by then head of Northwestern University's astronomy department, created theCenter for UFO Studies. The center examined UFO claims scientifically and tabulated its results. In its initial studies, the center found, for example, that 28 percent of sightings were simply bright stars or planets (in 49 of those cases, witnesses estimated that the celestial objects were between 200 feet and 125 miles away).
Of 1,307 cases which the center examined in the early 1970s, only 20 seemed unexplainable. The center stopped short of claiming that those 20 were caused by alien spacecraft.
UFO investigator Philip J. Klass, in an article about Hynek, points out that few present researchers apply the same kinds of rigorous study to the subject. For today's "investigators," the slightest mystery is obvious proof of an extraterrestrial presence.
Hynek died in 1986 in Scottsdale. By then, the field he helped pioneer was changing radically.
Jim Marrs is a good example. Author of the best-selling Alien Agenda, Marrs is touted as both an expert on UFOs and the John F. Kennedy assassination (and, incredibly, connects the two in Alien Agenda, suggesting that Kennedy was killed for his knowledge of U.S.-space alien contacts). Oliver Stone mined Marrs' 1990 book Crossfire for his conspiracy-minded film JFK.
Today, Jim Marrs is giving a sermon.
He's a featured speaker at the Seventh Annual International UFO Congress. His message: There's no question aliens are among us. The real question, he asserts, is what their "agenda" is.
"I feel like I'm preaching to the choir. I don't think I need to explain anything to you," he says in his Texas twang.
Marrs preaches about our moon, for example, asserting that it is "the original UFO," and a great mystery. Marrs asserts that, unlike other celestial objects, the moon travels not in an ellipse but "in a nearly perfectly circular orbit."
No one objects to this falsehood. In fact, the moon moves in a very respectable ellipse which can change its distance from Earth up to 50,000 kilometers.
To Marrs, the sum of this and other effects--which include several basic errors of astronomical knowledge from a best-selling author who claims to be an expert--lead to only one, unavoidable conclusion: It is obvious that an ancient, extraterrestrial race parked the moon in a perfect orbit around Earth.
No one in the audience laughs.
"I don't have to explain this. You all believe this, right?" Marrs asks, and he gets a resounding "yes" from the choir.
Meanwhile, two women ignore Marrs as they talk about why aliens are abducting so many people. One says aliens want to create a hybrid human-alien race which will be able to operate the advanced technology aliens plan on bestowing us.
The second woman says that the hybrid race would be pandimensional, capable of disappearing into the fourth dimension.
Lights in the sky. Bizarre dreams. Objects whizzing by in video shots which look just like bugs out of focus. Memories of alien abductions "recovered" by suggestive hypnotherapists.
The movement barely resembles the field of inquiry taken seriously by the late Hynek.
With a heavy dose of New Age influence, the UFO movement increasingly grows less like a science and more like a religion. Some investigators point to an early case that marked this shift: the elaborate claims of a one-armed Swiss farmer named Eduard "Billy" Meier.
Since 1975, Meier has claimed to have had more than 700 contacts with aliens from the Pleiades star cluster. In most of those contacts, a female alien named Semjase has appeared to Meier, allowed him to photograph her spacecraft, taken him on rides in the craft, and even whisked him into the past to meet Jesus Christ, who was duly impressed with the advice Meier gave him. He has taken more than 1,000 photographs of Semjase's craft (which Semjase only reveals to Meier when he is alone), as well as photos of alien women, closeups of famous celestial objects, and even the eye of God. Meier claims that he is the reincarnation of Christ and that his teachings, based on what Semjase tells him, will save mankind.
Arizonans were instrumental in promoting Meier-mania. Beginning in the late 1970s,Wendelle C. Stevens, a Tucson UFO enthusiast, and others began touting and publishing Meier's photos (while playing down the messianic stuff).
Looking at Meier's photos, it's hard to believe he was ever taken seriously. Yet several Arizonans assured the UFO-hungry public that they had tested Meier's photographs and had found them to be genuine.
One of these investigators included a young man who claimed that he had used computers to verify the authenticity of Meier's photographs.
His name was Jim Dilettoso.
Kal Korff is one UFO researcher who believes Jim Dilettoso is a poseur.
Korff became interested in UFOs and began corresponding with Wendelle C. Stevens in the late 1970s. The two swapped UFO photos, and Korff studied the Billy Meier phenomenon. When the normally open Stevens refused to discuss certain aspects of the Meier case, Korff grew suspicious.
His doubts led him to write two books, one in 1980, the second in 1995, debunking the Meier case. In 1991, Korff traveled under an assumed name to Switzerland and inspected many unpublished Meier photographs. Korff's investigation, revealed in his book Spaceships of the Pleiades, showed that Meier's outer-space photographs were actually crude snapshots of TV science programs.
One photo is of two out-of-focus women who Meier insisted were aliens. In a tape-recorded interview with Korff, Jim Dilettoso claimed that the photo was authentic because the woman in the foreground had elongated ear lobes. But Korff showed that a clearer, unpublished photo taken by Meier revealed that the elongated ear lobes were actually lengths of the woman's hair.
In one of Wendelle C. Stevens' books of Meier photographs, futuristic-looking (for 1979) computer enhancements of the spaceship photos are accompanied by captions which purport to describe tests that authenticated Meier's photos.
De Anza Systems, a San Jose company, was credited with providing the computers to do the analyses.
In 1981, Korff interviewed De Anza employee Ken Dinwiddie, who confirmed that Dilettoso had brought the Meier photos to his shop. But Dilettoso and another man had simply asked that De Anza make some sample enhancements of the photos as a demonstration.
"They came to De Anza under the pretext of wanting to buy our equipment. We demonstrated it, and they snapped many pictures and left. We made no data interpretations whatsoever," Dinwiddie told Korff in the presence of two other investigators.
"What about the captions which appear in the [Meier] book under each photo? Are they correct?" Korff asked Dinwiddie.
"Those are their interpretations, not ours. Nothing we did would have defined what those results meant."
It was clear to Dinwiddie, Korff writes, that Dilettoso and Stevens dreamed up the impressive-sounding captions despite that they had nothing to do with demonstrations De Anza had performed.
Korff showed Dinwiddie a caption below a Meier photo that purports to show a hovering spacecraft: "Thermogram--color density separations--low frequencies properties of light/time of day are correct; light values on ground are reflected in craft bottom; eliminates double exposures and paste-ups."
"No, we put those colors in the photo!" Dinwiddie exclaimed. "Jim [Dilettoso] said, 'Can you make the bottom of the object appear to reflect the ground below?' I said yes, and we performed the operations that they asked for."
Added Dinwiddie: "My impression of Jim Dilettoso is that he freely chooses to use whatever descriptive text he enjoys to describe things. He is not particularly versed in computer technology. He's a pretty good piano player, though."
Korff says that since his book was published in 1995, Dilettoso has made no efforts to dispute its contents.
Dilettoso tells New Times that he didn't write the captions, but that they aren't misleading. "If you talked to Ken Dinwiddie today, he would say we didn't do this."
New Times did talk to Ken Dinwiddie last week, and he remembers things the way Korff describes them.
Dilettoso has applied even more questionable methods in his "validation" of UFO photographs.
In 1987 and 1988, he worked for an Arizona affiliate of NASA; his work involved helping NASA technology get to the private sector, he says.
But he admits that he wasn't working for NASA in 1991 when he provided Wendelle C. Stevens with a seven-page analysis of UFO photographs taken in Puerto Rico. On NASA stationery, Dilettoso writes that "this is not an official project," but concludes that the photos of a flying saucer encountering an F-14 Tomcat are authentic.
Puerto Rican UFO investigator Antonio Huneeus says the case involved a man namedAmaury Rivera who claimed he was abducted by aliens on his way home from work in 1988 and managed to get a picture of their spacecraft as it left with three Tomcat jets in hot pursuit. Huneeus says that UFO enthusiasts who were convinced of the truth of Rivera's story early on now dismiss it as a hoax after, among other things, a photographer named German Gutierrez admitted that he had helped Rivera fake his snapshots.
But Huneeus points out that the case has still played prominently in Mexico, Germany,Hungary, Japan, Argentina and Taiwan, always with the startling revelation that NASA had confirmed the authenticity of Rivera's photographs.
Dilettoso admits that he was no longer working for NASA when he gave his analysis to Stevens, but he says Stevens had lost the analysis he had done three years earlier when he had been employed by the space agency.
"He came into my office and asked me to write the letter and, you know, I did," he says. "An Air Force colonel coming to me and asking for that letter, I at least took pause and said ahhh, all right, but this is not an official project," he says.
So Dilettoso did the favor for Stevens, who indeed is a former Air Force colonel. He's also an ex-convict. Department of Corrections records show that he pleaded guilty to child molestation and spent five years in prison. He was released in 1988.
Jim Dilettoso is asked to explain how he can look at videotape of the March 13, 10 p.m. event and, using image analysis, declare that the lights are not flares.
He begins by explaining that the electromagnetic spectrum includes x-rays, infrared radiation, visible light.
And musical notes.
It's one of the least preposterous things Dilettoso says during a two-hour interview.
He's sitting in the conference room at Village Labs. In the next room, there's a bank of computers which has become a fixture in television footage filmed at the Tempe firm. On the walls and spread out over the large table are charts and diagrams which suggest that complex work happens here.
Dilettoso has finished his explanations about music as a form of electromagnetic energy (it isn't, of course, but it seems rude to interrupt), and he's now explaining how a camcorder can, even from miles away, record the finest details of a light bulb, such as its glowing filament, if you just know how to extract that image from the recorded blob of light. His computers can do just that, Dilettoso says.
If this were possible, astronomers and other scientists would gladly beat a path to Dilettoso's door. Unfortunately, there's something that prevents a camcorder from recording such detail.
It's called physics.
The power of a camcorder, telescope or other visual device to resolve a distant object is limited by its optics. The larger the mirror or lens used, the greater the power to resolve faraway things. That's why astronomers crave bigger and bigger mirrors for observatories--the bigger the mirror, the farther into space a telescope can resolve details.