Film Flam

Bill Startup, with Neil Illingworth. The Kaikoura UFOs. Hodder and Stoughton, 1980.

The Kaikoura film is one of the oddities of ufology. Without it the sighting reports would have been considered automatically to belong to an 'astronomcal' category, by most 'ufologists. All the evidence pointed to astronomical phenomena distorted through temperature inversion. The first showing of the film left the editors of Magonia unmoved, The film looks like a distorted view of Jupiter, John Rimmer thinks it shows a speck of water on the lens.

At this point the troubles begin. Despite the unimpressiveness of the film it received wide media publicity, and instant answers were demanded. As to be expected, very little research was done, everyone 'knew' there was nothing in it, so reams of 'explanations' were trotted out. Some plausible, others quite absurd. The result of this was immediately to escalate the strangeness of the story -all these explanations could only mean a brush-off or a cover-up, the enthusiasts thought.

The next step was that the TV station which employed the people who made the film asked the defunct US group NICAP to analyse the film. They passed it on to Dr Bruce Maccabee, who startled everyone by saying that the film did show something unusual. Then the story grew and grew, with hints of time lapse, EM effects, invasion 'of the plane by mysterious 'presences', a feeling that the mysterious lights were 'sucking up souls', the invasion of reporter Fogarty's house by polts and so on ...

This account, ghost written for the plane's pilot, Bill Startup, is sober in comparison with some other accounts. It is significant that Messrs Fogarty and Crocket, the prime movers in the affair, get scant mention.

It is perhaps equally significant that Capt. Startup's wife was a firm believer in UFOs; that the tale of Valentich was hot news at the time; and that expectation was building up on that fateful flight, which set out for the express purpose of seeing UFOs. Of course, the witnesses deny that they could have misperceived conventional objects some of the arguments used to reject this possibility seem to suggest that 'trained personnel' are cold, inhuman, recording devices, which cannot get e~cited or feel fearful.

Strangely enough, despite this ballyhoo, even the main witness seems to have the impression that they were observing some atmospheric phenomenon, and the word 'spaceship' did not feature at all. It would be ironic if a genuinely puzzling atmospheric phenomenon were to be dismissed because the undesirable social label 'UFO' had been applied to it.

On the other hand, I would have been more impressed with the UFO film if it had been taken by different people in different circumstances. I delay further comment until until the case has been more thoroughly examined by people from outside the field of UFO research. - Peter Rogerson, Magonia 8, 1983.

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