Could many of the memories about seeing the UFO crash in 1947 be linked to a bright meteor? (Peekskill meteor video)


 By Timothy Printy 1999

In the early part of July, in the year 1947, Roswell residents report strange objects moving through the skies at night. Many of the Authors want everyone to believe that one or more "discs" were seen traveling near Roswell the night before one supposedly crashed. There are several potential witnesses but what they report is not clear and could very easily be explained away as meteors.

In the July 8, 1947 edition of the Roswell Daily Record, there is a reported sighting, which occurred on the evening of July 2nd. The story reads:

Mr. and Mrs. Dan Wilmot apparently were the only persons in Roswell who saw what they thought was a flying disk. They were sitting on their porch at 105 South Penn. last Wednesday night at about ten o'clock when a large glowing object zoomed out of the sky from the southeast, going in a northwesterly direction at a high rate of speed. Wilmot called Mrs. Wilmot's attention to it and both ran down into the yard to watch. It was in sight less then a minute, perhaps 40 or 50 seconds, Wilmot estimated. Wilmot said that it appeared to him to be about 1,500 feet high and going fast. He estimated between 400 and 500 miles per hour. In appearance it looked oval in shape like two inverted saucers, faced mouth to mouth, or like two old type washbowls placed together in the same fashion. The entire body glowed as though light were showing through from inside, though not like it would be if a light were underneath. From where he stood Wilmot said that the object looked to be about 5 feet in size, and making allowance for the distance it was from town he figured that it must have been 15 to 20 feet in diameter, though this was just a guess. Wilmot said that he heard no sound but that Mrs. Wilmot said she heard a swishing sound for a very short time. The object came into view from the southeast and disappeared over the treetops in the general vicinity of six mile hill. Wilmot, who is one of the most respected and reliable citizens in town, kept the story to himself hoping that someone else would come out and tell about having seen one, but finally today decided that he would go ahead and tell about it. The announcement that the RAAF was in possession of one came only a few minutes after he decided to release the details of what he had seen. (Brookesmith148 )

The estimates provided by the Wilmots were probably not very accurate. One of the first astronomers to investigate UFOs was Dr. J. Allyn Hynek. He states, in his initial report to Project Grudge: is obvious that it would usually be impossible for observers to make reliable estimates of the speed, distance, or size of such stimulus objects. It is not possible to estimate accurately the distance of small bright objects viewed against a clear sky, unless the object is identified first...It must be concluded, therefore, that most of the statements of speed, distance, altitude, and size are entirely unreliable and should be disregarded. This is doubly true of observations made at night. (Steiger 228)

Adding to the equation is the time lapse between the event and the reporting. Astronomer, Dr. Francis Drake performed studies of how individuals reported meteor events. He states, "The first fact we learned was that witnesses memory of such exotic events fades very quickly...after 5 days people report more imagination than truth" (Sagan and Page 248). Even more revealing are the observations made by astronomer Dr. William K. Hartmann during the Condon Study on UFOs. Dr. Hartmann described how witnesses made numerous misperceptions while observing the reentry of the Zond IV satellite/booster rocket in March of 1968. A significant fraction of the reports submitted were extremely inaccurate and made serious misjudgments in speed, distance, and size of the objects observed. Many of these same reports provided additional details that were highly erroneous, which included hearing sounds, seeing shapes behind the illuminated fragments and referring to these fragments as "windows" on the craft. Hartmann defines this as the "Excitedness Effect", which states, "...the excited observers who thought they had witnessed a very strange phenomenon produced the most detailed, longest, and most misconceived reports..." (Condon et al. 574)

There is a wealth of information available to indicate reports such as the Wilmots are not very accurate at all. In the words of the World War II intelligence expert, R.V. Jones, "...witnesses were usually right when they said that something had happened at a particular place, although they could be wildly wrong about what had happened." (Condon et al. 925)

It is highly probable that what the Wilmots saw was a meteor. Much of the description, is very similar to the manner in which inexperienced observers describe a brilliant meteor. The only possible reason to believe that the object was not a meteor is the duration of the event. While some bright fireballs have been recorded to last over a minute, the normal duration is no more than 15 seconds. However, one must also recognize the fact that the Wilmots were telling their tale five days later and did not accurately record the time duration during the event. What may appear to be 40-50 seconds to them could easily have been 10-20 seconds of actual time. After all, Dan stated the time duration was only an "estimate."

There is even evidence to suggest that the meteor could have come from several meteor radiants active at the time of the sighting (although the data is not very conclusive). The Sagittarid/Alpha Scorpid streams (which has numerous sub-radiants/associated minor showers) often produce bright meteors that travel from out of just as the Wilmots describe. The International Meteor Observers Handbook provides the following description: "The activity period ends in early July with a very diffuse and complex radiant located near the ecliptic in Sagittarius. Despite the very low rates, brighter members of these streams may sometimes prove quite spectacular" (Roggemans 119). The culprit could also have been the Ophiuchids, located in the same region of the sky, which "...seems to produce a large number of bright meteors and fireballs" (Kronk 103). While neither of these meteor showers reaches maximum on July 2, they are diffuse streams, which last over a period of several weeks, which includes July 2. Even if it were not one of these shower members, there are also the occasional random meteor that enters the earth’s atmosphere. Many brilliant meteors are not even associated with meteor showers and can produce a spectacular display.

Another observation of a celestial event involves a man named William Woody who reports that he saw a brilliant meteor on July 2, "described as white with a red tail streak across the sky, falling to the horizon" (Randle and Schmitt, UFO 199). Because of Woody’s recollection that he and his father went looking for the meteorite that weekend, Randle and Schmitt alter the date to July 4 in their second book, The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell. Even though Woody described it as a meteor, the author’s feel that it could not have been one because it was the "wrong color" and "it was brighter than any of those other meteors" (Randle and Schmitt, Truth 4). The authors also suggest that Woody saw the object fall to the ground. Unfortunately, Randle and Schmitt are taking serious liberties with their interpretation. Just because something disappears beyond the horizon does not mean it reached the ground. One can compare this to a ship that disappears over the horizon. Just because one sees the ship slowly blend into the ocean with the masts disappearing last does not mean the ship has sunk.

Woody’s observations indicate that he saw a brilliant object moving across the sky and do not indicate that it was a spaceship of any kind. His observations are comparable to the Wilmots and are, more than likely, observations of a brilliant fireball meteor. One must consider that he was a young boy at the time of the event and did not record the date in any sort of diary. Randle and Schmitt are working based on a memory over forty years old. It is highly likely that his observation may not have even been made in the month of July! The whole scenario is full of speculation. As for the meteor being the "wrong color" or "too bright," then they also have never seen a brilliant bolide at night. I have viewed many and they often cast shadows on the ground. There can be more than one color depending on the observer’s perceptions. It is highly likely that Woody probably just saw a brilliant meteor that went beyond his optical horizon.

The next set of witnesses professing to see something during this time period are two nuns, Mother Superior Mary Bernadette and Sister Capistrano, who, while working at Saint Mary’s hospital in Roswell, saw "a brilliant light plunge to earth, due north of their location" (Randle and Schmitt, Truth 4). According to the author’s they recorded this in a logbook and felt it was a disabled aircraft. The time is listed as between 11:00 and 11:30 PM on July 4 (Randle and Schmitt, Truth 4). However, in the book Beyond Roswell, the time is listed as between 11:15 PM and 1:30 AM (Hesseman Mantle 15)! If their logbook was so precise, why don't we get a more exact time and why do two different sets of authors give us differing time periods? As for the claims that these nuns were making notations of events in the night sky, one has to wonder what their duties were in the hospital. Why weren’t they taking care of their patients instead of stargazing?

Author/investigator Stanton Friedman attempted to locate this log but could not verify the story. Karl Pflock attempted to do the same but writes, "To date (1994), the actual log entry has not been made public" (Pflock 38). The fact that the document has never been produced to the best of my knowledge indicates that no such log exists or it is a potential hoax document. If there is such a log and if the sighting is as listed, one must wonder if it too was not just a meteor. The description can easily fit into that category.

The last report comes from a Corporal Pyles who saw a meteor like display from south of Roswell. He reports seeing what appeared to be "a shooting star, but larger", which "arced downward" (Randle and Schmitt, Truth 4). His description adds that there was an "orange glow" around the object with a "halo near the front" (Randle and Schmitt, Truth 4). Since Pyles felt it was near the weekend, the date of July 4 is added to the description.

Again, we are faced with a report made 40 years after the event, which sounds very much like a meteor. Inexperienced observers often confuse brightness with size. The brightest objects in the sky (the moon and the sun) are larger than the stars and thus many people will often state the meteor "was as big as the moon." However, when questioned about what they mean by this, they often state they meant the object was as bright as the moon. However, during his investigation, Karl Pflock states Pyles could not remember the date and only recalled it happening during the summer of 1947. Pflock also stated that Woody could not even recall which direction the meteor was traveling.

While all these reports appear to be observations of meteors, author/investigator Kevin Randle suggests otherwise: "We have a bright white object low in the sky (Below 20,000 feet) that fell to Earth and, based on the data available, it seems to be the object that was recovered outside of Roswell" (Randle 263). His conclusion that the object was below 20,000 feet has no basis in fact. The observers give vague references to direction and elevation in the sky but he seems to conclude that these observations indicate an object being relatively low in the atmosphere. Many of these witnesses could not recall dates much less precise information needed to determine altitude. The fact that the object was seen over a wide area and in the same general area of the sky indicates otherwise and again suggests a meteor and not an alien spaceship streaking across the sky.

All of these "observations" of crashing discs could very easily be bright meteors streaking across the sky. In some cases, it is possible that they may have even seen the same meteor. Although, Karl Pflock could find no astronomical records of a bright meteor, there are also no records of astronomers seeing a falling spaceship either. One must remember that the time period was during a full moon. Many amateur and professional astronomers choose not to do any observations during this time because the moon's glare is an interfering factor. Couple this with the fourth of July weekend and one can understand why there were no reports made by astronomers. Because of the full moon (which nobody ever seems to mention in his or her testimony, which would fix the date more exactly), the meteor would have to have been very bright to be seen and certainly would have been of fireball status (magnitude -4 or brighter). The witnesses remember this event as spectacular because it was an unusually bright meteor and not because it was some alien spacecraft streaking through our atmosphere.

Works Cited

 Brookesmith, Peter. UFO: The Government Files. New York: Barnes & Nobles, 1996.

 Steiger, Brad, ed. Project Bluebook. New York: Ballantine, 1976.

Condon, Edward U., et al., eds. Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects. New York: Bantam, 1968.

Friedman, Stanton. Top Secret: MAJIC. New York: Marlowe & Company, 1997.

Hesemann, Michael and Philip Mantle, Beyond Roswell: The Alien Autopsy Film, Area 51, and the US

Government Cover-up of UFOs. New York: Marlowe and Company, 1997.

Kronk, Gary. Meteor Showers. New York: Enslow, 1988.

Pflock, Karl. Roswell in Perspective. Mt. Rainier: Fund for UFO Research, 1995.

Randle, Kevin. Conspiracy of Silence. New York: Avon, 1997.

Randle, Kevin and Donald Schmitt. The Truth About the UFO Crash at Roswell. New York: Avon, 1994.

---. UFO Crash at Roswell. New York: Avon, 1991.

Roggemans, Paul. Handbook for Visual Meteor Observations. Cambridge: Sky Publishing, 1989.

Sagan, Carl, and Thornton Page, eds. UFO's: A Scientific Debate. New York: Barnes & Nobles, 1972.


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