The Klassical Sceptic

Philip J. Klass. UFOs; The Public Deceived. Prometheus Books, 1983.

Philip Klass delivers sceptical counterblasts against various UFO cases, with differing degrees of success. He quite effectively demolishes stories of the fabulous hoard of ufological secrets held by the CIA. In a fit of pique after they got taken to court by Ground Saucer Watch, the CIA released a veritable mountain of trivial bumf onto ufologists. This did not deter the ufologists from seeking a missing 200 pages, wherein, they hope, the 'secret' may be found. Klass argues, quite reasonably, that some of these documents may contain genuinely sensitive information about the location of radar and communications centres.

The 'phantom helicopter' which plagued several strategic Air Command bases in November 1975, and the notorious 1976 Iran case are given quite convincing explanations in terms of misperceived planets. But as the book progresses, the explanations tend to run thin, and the cry 'hoax' is raised rather too often. In the case of Travis Walton, or the Delphos Ring, this accusation doesn't seem too unrealistic. But in the case of Deputy Val Johnson, no evidence for such a conclusion is presented (other than stress) and the refusal of Johnson to take the notoriously unreliable polygraph test.

The other cases dealt with at length include the Coyne helicopter case and the New Zealand film. A great deal of space is devoted to the Walton case, with rather inconclusive results. There is no doubt that Klass has seriously damaged the credibility of the case, but has not rebutted some of the counter charges made against him or GSW by APRO.

Though Klass affects a superior, scientific attitude to ufologists, he betrays a marked predilection for show-biz and grand but meaningless challenges. His closing chapters reveal less the voice of the unbiased researcher and more that of the evangelist for rationalism. This, along with his tendency to take comments out of context to make people look ridiculous, tends to detract from the many serious points he makes in his study of individual cases. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 16, July 1984.

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