The Hoaxers and the Hoaxed.

 David Calvert

Whether committed as a practical joke or serious fraud, hoaxing has been with us from the earliest times and nothing is sacred to its perpetrators. Great works of art, religious relics, literary works, and so on, have all come under the acquisitive gaze of the fraudster. In most instances they are  motivated by  financial gain, but in these more media-based times notoriety has become the by-word for such acts of wanton deception and the world of ufology has attracted more than its fair share of con artists.

From the birth of the modern UFO era in 1947, with the Kenneth Arnold sighting, a new breed of confidence tricksters emerged. They were to bring disrepute upon the then fledgling study of UFOs and undoubtedly delayed the serious scientific study of the phenomena with their, at times, outlandish claims.

George Adamski [1891-1965]

Adamski is perhaps the most famous individual to emerge from the contactee period. In November 1952 he claimed to have made contact with a UFO pilot from Venus. This claim has since been totally discredited, not least because we now know that Venus isadamski interview an inhospitable planet that cannot possibly harbour life of any kind, let alone intelligent humanoid life. Its surface temperature is hot enough to melt lead and its atmospheric pressure is 94.5 times greater than Earth’s.  This would cause any Venusian, not wearing heavily pressurised body armour, to explode the moment he set foot on our planet.

By looking at his earlier life it is possible to build a character profile of the Polish-born immigrant.

Throughout his twenties and thirties he had a variety of jobs. He served with the National Guard in Portland, Oregon, and was honourably discharged in 1919. He then turned his hand to philosophy in the 1930s, and styled himself ‘Professor George prohibitionAdamski’, founding a monastery in Laguna Beach, California. There he procured a license to produce wine for the monastery during Prohibition. However, much of it was sold on the black market, to the extent that he told two of his followers that he was ‘making a fortune’. Naturally, he was disappointed by the repeal of Prohibition and later commented that had it not been for the legislation of alcohol he would not have had to ‘get into this saucer crap’. This does not bode well for the encounter story he would later tell to the world.

He wrote two books on his encounters, the first, Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953),InsideTheSpaceShipsByGeorgeAdamski-web the second, Inside The Spaceships (1955). Undoubtedly, he was trying to cash in on the phenomenon that had gripped the public’s imagination. The final blow to his claims came in 1955 when four of the people who had been with him on the 20th November 1952 admitted that they had seen nothing of what Adamski claimed. Right up to his death on the 23 rd of April 1965 George Adamski continued to proclaim his accounts were true. There are a few ufologists however who still see merit in some of his claims.

Government cover-up (The Roswell Incident).


Even world governments are not beyond dipping their toes into the murky waters of Roswell crash depictiondeception. When it comes to UFOs and ‘national security’ issues they are arguably the supreme masters. An obvious example of this is the Roswell incident. On July 6th, ‘Mack Brazel, who operated the Foster ranch near the town of Roswell, New Mexico, turned up at Sheriff George Wilcox’s office with pieces of odd wreckage that possessed out of the ordinary properties. He had discovered them, and similar pieces, strewn across a 1-kilometre area of the ranch earlier. The sheriff informed the Roswell army base and spoke with Major Jesse Marcell, the Intelligence Officer for the worlds only atomic bomb unit. Marcell also checked the material and noted its very strange properties.

He informed Colonel William Blanchard, his base commander, of the find. Both Marcell, and Counter-Intelligence Officer, Sheridan W. Cavitt, were ordered to visit the site and collect the debris. Marcell later stated, after viewing the crash site, ‘It was nothing that hit the ground, or exploded on the ground. Its something that must have exploded above the ground, travelling perhaps at a high rate of speed’ … ‘It was quite obvious to me, familiar with air activities, that it was not a weather balloon, nor was it a plain or a missile.’ He and Cavitt filled their vehicles with as much debris as they could hold and made their way back to base.

The following morning, after sealing off the area, Col. Blanchard sent soldiers and military police to the ranch to make a detailed search. Meanwhile, back at the RAAF base, Press Officer, Lieutenant Haut issued a press release stating that a ‘flying disc’ had been captured. The news was heard on local radio and made the evening editions of the local papers. It was shortly after that the cover story came into effect.

Roswell Daily Record

By now Major Marcell had been instructed to take himself and the wreckage to Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) in Ohio. On the way he stopped off at the headquarters of the Eighth Air Force, Fort Worth. No sooner had he landed at Fort Worth when he was approached by General Roger Ramey and told, ‘Don’t say anything. I’ll take care of it’. He was acting on the instructions of Colonel Thomas Jefferson DuBose, the Chief of Staff at Fort Worth, who in turn was acting on the instructions of General Clemens McMullen, the Acting Director of Strategic Air Command in Washington who had gotten wind of the press release and had ordered DuBose to invent a cover story.

There then followed a photo session in which Marcell posed with bogus wreckage of a weather balloon and radar reflector made of foil and wooden sticks.

The press were then told that a mistake had been made and that it was not a flying disc that had been recovered, but a radar reflector. This cover story went out at about 5 pm, central time, and Marcell was sent back to Roswell and forbidden to speak to anyone. Claims that army personnel also discovered alien bodies and the main body of the UFO at the site began to circulate.

More recently a counter-claim that it was Brazel and several others who discovered the remains of four extraterrestrials has come to light. If this were true Cavitt and Marcell would have been informed of this by Brazel prior to their inspecting the crash site.

The military has changed its story as to the provenance of the so-called alien bodies on occasion. At one point they claimed they were rhesus monkeys, used as part of a military space-travel experiment, which later changed to artificial human crash test dummies, dropped from high altitudes in human endurance experiments. The latter story certainly isn’t true as test dummies were not used until the 1950s, nor, would they account for the small stature of the alleged creatures found at the ranch.

It is beyond dispute that the military were, and still are, trying to keep secret what crashed that night at Roswell. Some researchers believe that they may have been telling the truth when they said the debris was from a balloon, even if the wreckage shown was not from the actual balloon that crashed. At the time the US Navy and the CIA were involved in the Moby Dick programme, which sent high-altitude balloons over the Soviet mainland on spying missions. There was good reason to keep this secret. However, the stumbling block to this theory doesn’t fit the description of the size or disposition of the debris field described by Marcell who, as we will recall, stated that ‘It was nothing that hit the ground, or exploded on the ground. Its something that must have exploded above the ground, travelling perhaps at a high rate of speed’ … ‘It was quite obvious to me, familiar with air activities, that it was not a weather balloon, nor was it a plain or a missile.’

The Alleged Socorro UFO Hoax. [24th April 1964]


zamora2It has taken 46 years for this revelation to emerge, regarding the Lonnie Zamora sighting in Socorro, New Mexico. Was the landed UFO and its occupants witnessed by Zamora nothing more than an elaborate school prank?

While pursuing a speeding car, police officer Lonnie Zamora heard a loud explosion. He thought that it might have come from a nearby dynamite shack and broke off the pursuit to investigate. He saw a cone of flame travelling over a hill and followed it. It led him to a strange-looking craft and two figures, dressed in “white coveralls” walking around it. He pulled up about 100 ft from the landed, 20 ft “aluminium-white” oval object resting on structured “legs”. As he climbed from his car he bumped his head and his glasses fell off. On approaching the object the figures suddenly jumped out of sight. Shortly after a flame appeared beneath the craft and it roared off over the hill. There was a high-pitched whine and then silence.

On close inspection of the landing site, four “landing impressions” were discovered along with areas of burnt bush, near to where the craft had sat. When asked by an officer, whom he had radioed, what the craft looked like he said, “It looks like a balloon.”

Socorro soon became embroiled in a media circus, including officials from the US Air Force’s Project Blue Book and NICAP. Zamora’s story received not only the attention of the national media, but also the International media. To-date, it is still one of the most celebrated cases in UFO history.


letter-from-lp-to-colgate-6-19-1968In 1968 a letter to Dr. Stirling Colgate -President of New Mexico Tech –  from his friend and multiple Nobel Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling landed at his door. In the letter he claimed to be researching the Socorro-Zamora landing case and was writing to see if Colgate knew anything about the incident. Colgate’s response leaves little doubt that the incident was the work of tricksters.

In 2009, UFO researcher and author, Anthony Bragalia – a regular contributor to the UFO Iconoclast(s) – contacted Dr. Colgate, a world-famous astrophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, to see what his current thoughts were on the Socorro incident and to see if he could shed any further light on the incident. In his email to the then 84-year-old Colgate he attached the 1968 Pauling letter containing the handwritten notes Colgate had written at the time.

It took several days before Colgate replied to the author’s communiqué. His answers to the questions posed were sparing and cryptic. To the first question, ‘Do you still know this to be a hoax?’ he answered, ‘Yes’.

The second question asked if he could expand on what he wrote to Pauling about the event. He replied, ‘I will ask a friend, but he and other students did not want their cover blown’.

Thirdly, when asked how the hoaxers did it, Colgate simply replied, ‘Will ask’.

To the query, ‘Have you ever publicly commented on this?’ he replied, ‘Of course not’.

Colgate indicated to Bragalia that he would make further enquiries into the event, but as yet he has not received any communication from him, leaving him to speculate as to the reason why.


New Mexico Tech

From the mid 1970s to the early 90s Dr. Frank T Etcorn was a Psychology Professor at New Mexico Tech. He had an interest in the Socorro UFO event some ten years before his tenure at the College. Anthony Bragalia became aware of his interest and contacted him to see if he had discovered anything about the sighting or had gleaned any new information about what had really happened. Etcorn related to him that in the mid 1980s a young student of his had examined the case as a project. She had contacted alumni who were at Tech during 1964. She claimed she had found one of the students who had been involved in the hoax. Though he did not give details concerning the hoax and refused to have his name mentioned, he nevertheless confirmed that it was a hoax. Interestingly, she also discovered through records that on the day of the sighting a rear projection device had been stolen from the campus.

Etcorn and Bragalia went on to speculate as to how the student ‘Techies’ may have pulled off the stunt. Their ideas were not beyond the abilities of the ‘smart Techies’ to create. They included:

  • A large helium balloon resting on the desert floor with landing struts attached, to be released on cue.
  • The use of explosives, pyrotechnics, model rockets, thrown flares or a flame device to simulate the ‘roaring’ or ‘whining’.
  • Small students dressed in white lab coats acting as ‘aliens’.
  • The ‘landing depressions’ were probably dug out by hand.
  • The creosote bushes were torched deliberately.
  • Surrounding soil and rock area ‘salted’ with silicon or trinitrite from the school’s geology lab.
  • Zamora was probably lured to the site by another student, whose car he had been chasing.


Collis was a freshman at New Mexico Tech. In 1965, a year after the Zamora sighting, he and some friends intended to carry out a ‘paranormal’ prank and shared his idea with a trusted Professor. Tellingly, the Professor told him that the Tech had a long history of pranking  and that one of them was especially notable. He then confided to Collis that the Zamora sighting was a hoax, done by Techie students. Collis, who is a pyrotechnics expert, said that it had always surprised him that they didn’t seem to realise just how ‘terrestrial’ the Zamora UFO seemed to be in the first place. The name of his Professor still remains a mystery.


In this instance it would appear to be revenge. The Socorro police didn’t have a very good relationship with the students back then. Zamora in particular had a reputation for harassing the Techie students for no apparent good reason, ergo their motive for getting back at him.


Whilst this author does not discount the possibility of a hoax being committed, there are a few disturbing questions that require answers, namely:

  • Zamora’s glasses: We are told the officer’s glasses fell off as he climbed from the car. Yet strangely there is no mention of them being put back on immediately. Could it be we are being subtly led into believing that this is why Zamora did not see the ’UFO’ for what it really was? Furthermore, an article, written by Patrick Huygue in the Anomalist, No 8, Spring 200, reveals that Zamora lost his glasses when he ran from the UFO as it took off , and not as he got out of the car to take a look at the craft. This explanation seems more credible than the former.
  • Colgate’s silence: Why did Colgate really cease communications with Bragalia?
  • Project student and discovered hoaxer: What is the name of the female student who examined the case in the 1980s and that of the self-confessed hoaxer she had uncovered?  Surely the hoaxer has nothing to fear by coming forward after all these years.
  • The ‘trusted Professor’: had apparently been at the College for many years, so why does his identity still remain a mystery?
  • The balloon: Zamora claimed that when the UFO took off it travelled very fast over him. This does not sit well with the flight capabilities of a balloon, unless there was a very strong wind blowing that day.
  • The mysterious figures: Bragalia would have us believe that the two humanoid figures seen next to the craft/balloon and wearing ‘white coveralls’ jumped out of sight when Zamora approached them – presumably behind the so-called balloon. However, when the object took off they were nowhere to be seen. Having looked at images of the landing site taken at the time, I could see no possible place where they could have concealed  themselves.
  • The young student who, in the mid 1980s, allegedly discovered the identity of one of the hoaxers also claimed she had discovered, through campus records that a rear projection device had been stolen from the campus. If, as Bragalia and Etcorn speculated, a large helium balloon, explosives, pyrotechnics and model rockets were used in the elaborate hoax, then why weren’t they also recorded as stolen in the campus records?

For this author the case still remains open. There are far too many unanswered questions to arrive at a firm conclusion. I therefore remain open-minded on it until such time as conclusive evidence is produced, one way or the other.

© David Calvert 2011

Please note that at the bottom of each blog page there is a “Comments” box and a “Like” button, should you feel inclined to use them. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s