Not Quite the Best

Illobrand von Ludwiger. Best UFO Cases Europe, National Institute for Discovery Science, 1998.

This illustrated A4 document presents a number of UFO cases both old and new from Europe, but one cannot say that they are the 'best' cases; most are simply reports of lights in the night. It is possible that some of these may be poorly understood atmospheric phenomena, but my gut feeling is that most if not all would resolve into very conventional IFOs if subjected to detailed, critical investigation. Of course the Belgian triangles and Trans-en-Provence get the obligatory look in.

There is a physical evidence case, a mysterious lump of metal found after an alleged UFO sighting, in Sweden in 1956, first actually investigated, it would appear, some 22 years after the event, though this is difficult to work out. The results of analysis showed that it was made from pulverised tungsten carbide and cobalt, and had nothing special about its manufacture. It comes as no surprise that ufologist von Ludwiger takes the line that until the exact manufacturer and use of the block can be found, it must be assumed to have come from a flying saucer. In other words, assume everything is paranormal until you can prove otherwise. There is one more interesting case, a CEIII from Lake Constance in 1977, but even there I suspect that the main UFO sighting would turn out to be an IFO, and the occupant report a fantasy.

The report also features introductions from representatives of the American UFO establishment, Messsrs Maccabee, Schuessler and Haines, the last devoting the space to his own quarrel with the Sturrock committee rather than discussing the work in hand.

Compared with UFO research in the English- and French-speaking worlds, UFO research in Germany has a distinctly cultic character, being largely staffed by disciples of the maverick physicist Burkhart Heim, and von Ludwiger is no exception. It is unclear whether Heim has any influence outside the ranks of ufologists and paranormalists.

Von Ludwiger's own explanation of the UFO phenomenon is that it is time travellers, though why time travellers would want to draw attention to themselves is anyone's guess.

This work is yet another example of how ufologists are their own worst enemies. The summaries do not give actual reports, merely the ufologists' interpretations of what is happening; basic details are missing; there is little of evidence of genuine open-minded inquiry; there is the credulity and the resort to out-of-date and fringe science, and frank science fiction speculation. It is clear that ufologists as a class have no idea at all as to what constitutes scientific evidence, or scientific inquiry, or even basic public relations. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 37, October 2001.

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