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"Solving the 1965 Exeter NH Sightings"
Subtitled: The Myriad Things Mr. Robinson Neglected To Tell Us
As a UFO researcher, I consider myself a believer/skeptic. Although I write for the "believer's side," I am still basically open to any possible earthly, rational explanation to any claimed UFO event, if I think it makes honest sense to me. Therefore, I read Larry Robinson's "Solving the 1965 Exeter NH Sightings" with the hopeful expectation of finding a fresh solution to this well-known case.
Unfortunately, after thoroughly reexamining both the case and Robinson's report, and discussing it with other researchers, I discovered, to my great dismay, that his analysis had clearly demonstrated that he had either been ignorant of, or simply chose to ignore, any data which disagreed with his theory. As a matter of fact, the more I compared my data with his, the more examples I discovered and was finally forced to ask: "Were these omissions simply sloppy research or actually purposeful in intent?" I'll leave that up to the reader to determine for him/herself.
Some Brief Points at the Outset:
Concerning some confusion Mr. Robinson admitted to
and a simple overlooked solution.
Quote from: ROBINSON'S SIGHTING #3
"There is at least one error between two accounts I have,
which identify Bertrand and Hunt oppositely in stature. (1,2)"
J.C. Obviously, the account that identified them incorrectly was wrong and should, with that "red flag," be closely examined for other possible errors as well. Unfortunately, this does not seem to have been accomplished as Robinson does not appear to have been familiar with the original Look Magazine article (Outer-Space Ghost Story by John Fuller 2/22/66) where he would have found clear descriptions and pictures of the two officers therein.
Concerning Fuller's vs. Robinson's
It is also important for readers to be aware there was another difference between the investigation performed by the original author, John Fuller, and that performed by Larry Robinson. Fuller personally interviewed almost sixty witnesses from this case, first by phone and then after becoming intrigued, traveled to Exeter to record their interviews on tape in person. (which he then carefully studied after leaving) Also, since Fuller's analysis occurred much closer in time to the actual case occurrence, it is obvious to this researcher that he had more than a slight edge here; especially since by his own words Robinson admits;
"SIGHTING 6: ....snip.... "Some deductions are in order (I can't afford to travel to Exeter.)"
for the Exeter Sightings:
Now, having made these points at the outset, let's take a closer look at exactly "how" the various witnesses' personal observations relate (or not) to Robinson's proposed explanation for the Exeter sightings.
"fire balloons" were probably the cause
of the majority,
if not all, of the Exeter sightings.
Robinson's Complete Lack of Faith
in the Observational Powers of Witnesses
Mr. Robinson has asked us to believe:
Of the approximately 60 people living near or in Exeter N.H., who reported UFO sightings within that general time period, some of them at extremely close range, the majority (if not all) of them COULD NOT identify "fire balloons" as the source of their particular sighting. This, in spite of the fact that at least two of the witnesses in this prominent mass-witnessed case, were police officers, generally better trained than most, to keep their powers of observation in tact under various conditions of duress; high speed car pursuits, apprehension of dangerous felons under various conditions, etc. This researcher finds this a bit difficult to reconcile, especially with the resounding number of supportive, confirming details from various independent witnesses within their separate sighting events.
Related thought which came to mind:
It totally escapes me as to how at least *some* of the people who had a close-up sighting would fail, if it made any sense to them at all, to at least propose the "fire balloon" theory to themselves along the way, in an attempt to explain their sighting in a rational manner. Some, if not all, of them must certainly have read the reports in the newspapers concerning the pranks of college students during this general time period. However, after rereading Fuller's original "Incident at Exeter" several times, it seems obvious to me that the people who read those reports most probably rejected that very theory simply because what they saw did not truly fit Robinson's proposal.
To examine some of the testimony to which I am referring, click on the following and/or review sources from the bibliography below:
Small initial sampling of overlooked testimonies
The Pease AFB Report
And Robinson's Faulty "30 KNOT"
We have some statements from the Pease Air Force Base report, quoted by Robinson in his report. (From: Hynek, J. Allen . The Hynek UFO Report . paperback . Dell Publishing Co. 1977)
Section "G" of Pease Report
"G 1) weather was clear with no known weather phenomena."
"G 2) winds at Pease AFB (the winds were uniformly from the
west, low velocity near the surface to quite high about 10,000 ft.)"
"G 3) clear (unlimited)"
"G 4) 30 nautical miles"
An apparent problem
with Robinson's Assumption
"The Pease AFB report gives the wind as uniformly from the west, at about 30 knots. (7)"
After rereading the Pease Report in "The Hynek UFO Report" several times, I fail to find this anywhere therein. If he is referring to the "30 nautical miles" from the Pease AFB report, this most definitely refers to distance of clear visibility, not miles per hour.
Upon questioning Jean van Gemert regarding the Pease AFB report, Jean wrote:
"Jerry, this is AFR 80-17 reporting format.
"G3" gives 'ceiling' and'G4' is 'visibility.'
Also see Condon, page 824-25 for that section
(and if necessary the complete AFR 80-17 reporting format)."
Obviously, this would have a great bearing upon any researcher's analysis of the case. A "30 knot" wind would be a pretty stiff breeze and would certainly affect the movement of a balloon but, apparently none of the witnesses were conscious of this wind for the specific night(s) in question. It would seem reasonable that, if this was a factor truly worthy of note, mention of the wind would have appeared in at least some of their descriptions, somewhere. This did not occur.
Next, another omitted point of information
TYPE OF DARTING EXHIBITED BY OBJECTS
Quote: Look Magazine 2/22/66, p 38, col. 1
"The night was clear, moonless and warm.
There was no wind
and the stars were brilliant. Visibility was unlimited."
"Its movement was erratic defying all conventional
aerodynamic patterns. 'It darted' says Bertrand."
"It could turn on a dime. Then it would slow down."
To this researcher, what Bertrand was really saying was "It wasn't moving with the wind" (as we said, if there really was much at the heights witnesses reported), as we normally expect balloons, etc. to do. I also believe the word "darted" has extreme significance here.
I have personally met and interviewed a person from the New Hampshire area who, along with several other people, had a sighting similar to those reported in Exeter. She described the darting motion she witnessed at its departure as almost similar to that of a "humming bird." Therefore, the following questions came to mind:
a) "Was the motion the Exeter objects made consistent with that which a balloon would make if blown by the wind, or was it more of a "controlled" darting motion that would be made by "a humming bird." If the former, one could certainly propose wind as a possible causative; but what if it were the latter? (i.e. What if its movement were faster than the wind would normally blow something.)
Click here for supportive testimony regarding movement
b) And how was this "fire balloon" propelled in the manner described? A "steady low velocity wind" from the Pease AFB report, would certainly not account for "darting motions" of what police and Muscarello described as an "80-90" foot object. Objects that big don't normally "dart."
c) Also, in the "Smith family sighting," the object Smith and his family saw was said to have, at times, reversed itself in flight. Please see excerpts immediately below.
Smith family information basically ignored by Robinson
The following three statements taken from Mr. Robinson's report:
"PART 2: OTHER SIGHTINGS IN THE AREA"
"Accounts that fit the FIRE BALLOON explanation"
#3. Late September, 1965 - Near Kensington - Ron Smith, relatives
. . .
Robinson mentions the Smith incident above almost in passing. But the following are excerpts from the original, three-witness account presented in John Fuller's book, "Incident at Exeter" Berkley Medallion Book (paperback) G.P. Putnam's Sons 1966 . p64
Smith was riding with his mother and aunt at 11:30 pm
They saw an object: "Red light on top, bottom was white and glowed."
"It appeared to be spinning"
We could see that it wasn't a plane and we watched it
for the first time for about fifteen minutes
"It passed over the car once and when it passed over and got in front,
it stopped all of a sudden in midair. Then it went back over the car again."
"Then it headed over the car a third time and took off."
"It didn't make any real sound. Just sort of a humming noise,
like a cat when it purrs."
Questions that occurred to this researcher:
1) What kind of wind would cause this behavior?
2) By what means was the object propelled?
3) Smith indicated that they watched it for approx. 15 minutes before it buzzed his car the first time. (p65) How could three people watch something for even five minutes and not get a clue it might be a "fire balloon"
His aunt "saw it was oval and didn't have any wings on it."
"It didn't seem to be completely round."
"It was right over the car."
"And it tilted. It tilted and you
couldn't see any wings or anything."
"It was a very clear night"
"It was kind of flat, but it wasn't completely flat"
"Sort of like an upside-down plate."
Smith said he was familiar with planes like B-52's. When asked to compare its size to same, he said:
"It was bigger. It was huge. You couldn't get it mixed up with a B-52, or a B-47."
JC: This certainly would be a rather large fire balloon if Robinson were correct in his hypothesis. However, Robinson's explanation makes no real sense considering Smith's description. And, are most people capable of making the size comparison indicated by Smith? I believe they most certainly are. If the object appeared bigger because it was actually lower than a person thought, he/she would then certainly have the opportunity to view it in more detail.
Robinson's problem with sizes and distances
of objects, and a fallacy in his thinking
From: (Robinson, Other data are suspect; 5 & 6)
Robinson says that the witnesses in SIGHTINGS #3/4 (Muscarello/Bertrand/Hunt) couldn't really tell how large the object was "unless the object passes directly in front of or behind a known object." Yet, "B 4)" of the Pease report clearly states, that is basically what occurred in at least one instance.
Omitted statement from the Pease AFB report:
"B 4) the object was erratic in movement and would disappear behind houses and buildings in the area. It would then appear at a position other than where it disappeared. When in view, it would act as a floating leaf.
We know Mr. Robinson was familiar with the report since he quoted from it, therefore, why did he choose to omit this information? One must admit under the conditions reported above, the witnesses could certainly be more accurate in their size or distance estimates than Robinson would have us believe.
Click here for some corroborating size estimates,
noted by Fuller
Fuller's discussion with Mrs. Pearce
Also, from Fuller's discussion with a Mrs. Pearce, we learn an object was observed right over her car as she was driving some teenagers home from a dance. It was also witnessed as such by her son who was in another car near them. The relative size of the object was noted therein.
Click here for "Fuller's meeting at Mrs. Pearce's house
More on ignored testimony
and Robinson's demeaning of witness credibility
And if it isn't enough that the Pearce discussion is totally ignored and Mr. Robinson would have us believe Smith, his mother and his aunt couldn't tell a B-52 from a balloon or an object of the size Smith indicates flew over his car not once but rather three times; we are also told that two trained police officers, in their personal separate sighting, were no better at doing this either. However, once again, for whatever reason, Robinson neglects to present us with the following information gleaned from the same source Robinson had quoted in his footnotes.
Not Mentioned in
The Robinson Report, Sightings #3 & 4
(The following from: Hynek, J. Allen . The Hynek UFO Report)
Dr. Hynek presented a letter sent by officers Bertrand and Hunt to Major Quintanilla, then head of Air Force's Project Blue Book, on December 2, 1965. In it the police officers stated:
"... (Patrolman Bertrand) was in the Air Force for four years, engaged in refueling operations, with all kinds of military aircraft; it was impossible to mistake what we saw for any kind of military operation, regardless of altitude. It was also definitely not a helicopter or balloon."
and from another letter they had written again on December 29, after receiving no reply the first time.
"...In addition, as we mentioned, we are both familiar with all the B-47's and B-52's and helicopters and jet fighters which are going over this place all the time."
"...It is important to remember that this craft that we saw was not more than one hundred feet in the air and it was absolutely silent with no rush of air from jets or chopper blades whatever. And it did not have any wings or tail. It lit up the entire field, and two nearby houses turned completely red. It stopped, hovered, and turned on a dime."
(Entire text of letters included in Ray Fowler's original transcript is displayed both in the Hynek Report and in John Fuller's "Incident at Exeter," in the final section of the book)
Robinson's Intense Focus
on Distances to Town
Causes Him to Overlook Some
Really Important Considerations
(from Sighting #2 - Robinson Report)
SIGHTING #2: the woman in a car who claimed she was trailed by a huge, silent airborne object
"..from the town of Epping, approximately 9 miles away."
and it "kept within a few feet of her car"
Robinson contests the distance he claims are given from Epping by various sources and eventually arrives at "7 miles." (a two mile difference from that found in Hynek's presented version of the case.)
However, assuming for the moment that Robinson is correct in his distance calculations, he neglects to examine or perhaps even think of the following points:
Robinson asks us to believe:
a) the "fire balloon" got caught either in the airstream of her car, or on the car itself (or was tied on), and trailed her for approx. seven miles.
b) during the length of time it took to travel the distance, whatever speed she was going, the woman got absolutely no hint or clue that the object trailing her car was the proposed "fire balloon."
With all due respect to both Mr. Robinson and the observational powers of this woman, Robinson's explanation just doesn't make sense. It would seem to me that somewhere in this seven miles, the woman would catch on. If the woman was traveling 60 mph, that's still 7 minutes of observational time. If she was doing 30 mph, that's 14 minutes of observation. How could she fail to figure this out in all that time? Also, if she was panicked and speeding, how could the balloon remain attached to the car all that time at the higher speed without being noticed as flailing violently in the airstream?
If the object was merely "in the wind," it apparently kept perfect pace with her car for that entire distance. How likely is this to occur?
As previously demonstrated, other people in the Exeter area also reported objects that "buzzed" their automobiles (while moving.) What is the probability of so many balloons getting "caught" on various vehicles in the same general area and time vicinity? One must admit, this is certainly an abnormal occurrence of extremely low probability. Could anyone miss a lit "fire balloon" that was tied on beforehand? This researcher doubts this.
.....and we really do not know whether the object trailed the woman the entire distance or whether it ever came alongside or above her vehicle as she was driving, and for how long. If it had come alongside her vehicle for any length of time, this would certainly tend to void the "dragged object" theory.
And this part quoted by Robinson:
"When she reached the overpass, it suddenly developed tremendous speed
and soon disappeared among the stars."
J.C. A question arises concerning the manner in which Mr. Robinson's claimed "fire balloon" detached itself and sped away to "disappear among the stars." Again, Robinson's offered theories don't make any real sense. The woman didn't say either "it floated up to the stars" or "it floated rapidly up to the stars," as a balloon should have done even in a brisk wind (which we've shown didn't exist.) But rather, she said "it suddenly developed tremendous speed and soon disappeared among the stars."
This researcher believes there is a marked difference in these statements which should definitely affect how one perceives what she was attempting to describe.
Obvious Attempt by Robinson
To Impugn Muscarello's Character
Statement from Robinson; Sighting #3
Mr. Robinson states that when Norman Muscarello ran to the Russell house and knocked on their door (14) they thought he was drunk.
JC: Exactly what purpose does this statement serve, other than to attempt to demean Muscarello's character? Obviously, Bertrand and/or Toland didn't think he was drunk. Policemen are trained to detect this; it's their job. Officer Bertrand would have never driven Muscarello back to the Dining farm (SIGHTING 4: 1) if he had even the slightest hint that Muscarello might possibly have been drunk. They most probably would have tested him or simply ignored him.
On Robinson's "Directional Analysis"
of "Sighting 3/4"
In attempting to deny that the case exists basically as originally stated, Robinson examines conflicting narratives from various sources regarding directions UFOs were reported flying, the locations of various objects, sites, towns; disputes the direction people were facing at the time of the sighting (thereby inferring that the policemen didn't file their reports accurately and didn't know what direction they were facing when the incident occurred) and discovers that "7. No such sites show up on U.S. Geological Survey maps. (8)"
JC: By similar logic, I suppose Robinson might also have us assume that the two policemen were totally incompetent and perhaps their report on the police blotter for the day in question didn't exist either. Robinson has offered us no real grounds for us to accept any of these theories.
And, he wants us to take all this seriously after making the following two statements, the latter mentioned previously:
1) "Evaluation of the data and problems found with it:"
"Reconstruction of the Dining Farm scene remotely in space and time is hard:"
2) "SIGHTING 6: ....snip.... "Some deductions are in order (I can't afford to travel to Exeter.)"
J.C. It most certainly would be hard, if you haven't been there to examine it personally. From what has been demonstrated herein, it appears Mr. Robinson has tried his best to invalidate the case by insinuating by any means possible, "It can't be, therefore it isn't." However, the various reported events, as a totality, stubbornly refuse to acquiesce.
Re: Air Force Handling of
The Muscarello/Betrand/Hunt Event
(also not discussed by Robinson)
Incidentally, also not mentioned was the fact that the Muscarello/Bertrand/Hunt event was examined by the Air Force which issued statements totally ignoring available pertinent information of which the two policemen had twice notified them in writing. The Pentagon released its findings *before* Blue Book should have submitted its final report to them in its entirety. The Air Force finally admitted it couldn't identify the object(s) seen, but never publicly revised its original conclusion.
And was the Air Force so incompetent not to have thought of "fire balloons" as a possible source of the sightings? This does not seem likely since this type activity was reported in the newspapers.
Summation of the Problems
I Had with Robinson's Report:
Having accomplished the previous thorough comparison of Robinson's report with the rest of the original, prime case data, this researcher will now summate the deficiencies noted therein.
1) omitted any data which didn't fit in with his hypothesis
2) tended to present insignificant arguments which obscured other really important considerations of case details
3) showed obsessiveness in his religious "lack of faith" in the
observational powers of "various witnesses" to the point of
omitting important testimonial data from additional witnesses which would tend to support those other witnesses' credibility and observations.
4) allowed himself to take a cheap shot at a witnesses' character, and likewise two police officers' professional abilities, by hinting the witness might have been drunk. (Even after the witness has obviously passed the policemen's character analysis prior to being driven back to the sighting area.)
I am confident that even professional UFO ET skeptics will see Robinson's efforts for what they really are; a less than adequate study of a case that still defies most serious researchers' (skeptics & believer's alike) best attempts to resolve it.
Additionally, if Robinson's report on "Exeter" is an example of the type of effort he generally puts into "researching" his cases, the rest of his analytical endeavors should most certainly be thoroughly examined for similar defects. This would apply to any analyses Robinson has previously performed. I suspect that anyone accepting those endeavors at "face value" might be easily led to erroneous judgments of their own.
jc 3/28/2010: For the record, Mr. Robinson's website has moved to a different location. When one does find it through a Google search (Hoodwinked by UFOs), one will note that his analysis of the Exeter case has now been revamped.
Original Report being rebutted
Robinson, Larry "Solving the 1965 Exeter N.H. Sightings"
Materials used in the Rebuttal
Hynek, J. Allen . The Hynek UFO Report . paperback . Dell Publishing Co. 1977
Hynek report on the Exeter case: Located within "The Hynek UFO Report" and reproduced at:
Exeter/Hynek (part 1)
Exeter/Hynek (part 2)
Review small sampling of overlooked testimonies from "Exeter"
Additional testimonial samplings extracted from:
Fuller, John G. . Incident at Exeter . Berkley Medallion Book . G.P. Putnam's Sons .
Distributed by Berkley Publishing Corporation
Look Magazine, New York . 2/22/66 . Fuller, John G. "Outer Space Ghost Story"
Pease AFB report: Located within the "Exeter" section of the Hynek UFO Report
Author: Oberg/Cooper rebuttals
Please see : Rebuttal to Martin Kottmeyer regarding the 1965 Exeter sightings.
Please see: Loy Lawhon's investigation and comments regarding Philip Klass'
ball lightning or corona discharge explanation for this case at:
Please see: Author's Select Cases "Exeter"
And also: Important Topics in UFO History (#15 & 16)
and, an excellent file on Exeter at MUFON. (pdf file - Adobe Reader needed)
Link repaired: 7/3/2012
Page from the website of: CohenUFO.org
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