Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Great UFO Hoax of 2009

The following is from this Newsweek article: UFO
If you prefer to keep a little magic in your life—by which I mean believing in the possibility of UFOs—then read no further. For I am going to tell you about the latest UFO hoax.

You may remember the sightings of a UFO over Morristown, N.J., in January, which was blogged about and even captured on video that has been posted to YouTube as clips from TV broadcasts. Here is an example:

and an amateur astronomer

It was all a hoax, as the perpetrators reveal in this month’s issue of eSkeptic.Here is the link to the article: Hoax

Last November, write Joe Rudy, who describes himself as “an avid reader of Skeptic magazine” who teaches science and gives private music lessons, and Chris Russo, who works in sales and says he “intends to continue his quest to spread reason and truth, one pseudoscience at a time,” the two 20-somethings were sitting around discussing pseudoscience and the many people who believe one or another form of it. “We had always had a strong interest in why people were so easily fooled by such irrational superstitions as psychic ability, spiritual mediums, alien abductions, and the like,” they write. So they “set out on a mission to help people think rationally and question the credibility of so-called UFO ‘professionals.’”

They cooked up a spaceship hoax “to show everyone how unreliable eyewitness accounts are, along with investigators of UFOs.” They used 5 feet of fishing line to tie flares to each of five 3-foot helium balloons and launched them from a field on January 5, 2009. “Once all five balloons were ready for takeoff (with our fingers on the verge of frost bite),” they write, “we struck the 15-minute flares and released them into the sky in increments of fifteen seconds,” filming the UFOs as they floated away.

Media coverage was extensive. A lot of it featured Paul Hurley, a pilot, and his family, who appeared of several news broadcasts describing the strange lights they saw in the sky. (For some reason, reporters find pilots’ UFO sightings especially believable.) Rudy and Russo repeated the performance four more time, gaining media coverage for each. Conspiracy websites and radio shows covered the sightings, but “the icing on the cake came when the popular History Channel show UFO Hunters featured the Morristown UFO as their main story one week,” the duo recall. “Bill Birnes, the lead investigator of the show and the publisher of UFO Magazine, declared definitively that the Morristown UFO could not have been flares or Chinese lanterns.”

This was the pair’s main quarry, exposing the foolishness of UFO “investigators.” They write, “are UFO investigators simply charlatans looking to make a quick buck off human gullibility? . . . If a respected UFO investigator can be easily manipulated and dead wrong on one UFO case, is it possible he’s wrong on most (or all) of them? Do the networks buy into this nonsense, or are they in it for the ratings?”


How We Staged the Morristown UFO Hoax, Part 1: The Setup

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