Published: Friday, October 30, 2009
Modern analysis supports notion that photos taken in 1965 were not faked.
By DOM ARMENTANO
The professor emeritus in economics at the University of Hartford, Conn., has followed the UFO controversy for almost 50 years.
UFO skeptics often allege that there is no authentic photographic evidence that UFOs exist. UFO photos are often featureless "lights in the sky," misidentified birds or airplanes, natural phenomena such as Venus or some peculiar-looking cloud, crude hoaxes (doctored negatives, string-suspended models, thrown hubcaps) or pictures and videos that have been computer-manipulated (Photoshop).
There are hundreds of UFO photos and videos on the Internet, but a safe bet is that a high percentage are completely worthless.
There is at least one exception, however, and it is a huge exception. Around noon on Aug. 3, 1965, near the intersection of what is today Walnut Avenue and Myford Road in Tustin, Rex Heflin, a 38-year-old highway maintenance engineer, snapped three close-up photos through the windows of his truck of a low-flying hat-like UFO.
(He also took a fourth picture; more on that later). The pictures Heflin took with the Polaroid camera he carried for work clearly show a round, hat-like object with a dark band around its raised superstructure.
The pictures of the object are unambiguously clear and present an immediate problem for skeptics: Either the photos are clever fakes or they are actual pictures of a very unconventional flying craft; there is simply no third alternative explanation.
Heflin initially told investigators that he believed that he had probably photographed an experimental aircraft from a nearby Marine base. As we shall discover shortly, however, there are several unique features in the pictures themselves that lower the probability that the strange craft was one of "ours."
Since pictures and photographic negatives can be touched up and doctored, all serious UFO photo analysis requires first-generation prints and /or original negatives. In the Heflin case, negative tampering was eliminated since his pictures were shot with a Model 101 Polaroid camera on 3000 ASA Polaroid film, i.e., no negatives.
And when high-resolution prints of the original Polaroid pictures themselves were reanalyzed 30 years later employing image digitization technology (See Ann Druffel, Robert M. Wood, and Eric Kelson, "Reanalysis of the 1965 Heflin UFO Photos," Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 14, No. 4, Winter 2000, pp. 583-622), there were no indications of tampering.
But could Heflin have faked the pictures by using a suspended model or, perhaps, by tossing some object into the air? Very unlikely. The latest computer analysis revealed no string or support-like structures in any of the photos. In addition, shooting convincing pictures of a thrown object would require dozens of trials (and pictures) and the help of a confederate; no evidence for either scenario has ever surfaced.
In short, the latest photo analysis appears to confirm Heflin's original account: that he snapped three daytime photographs of a wingless, hat-shaped object – approximately 20 feet in diameter and about one-eighth of a mile from his truck – and that the structured craft wobbled slightly before it stabilized and flew off silently toward the northeast.
The most controversial element of the Heflin story is his fourth photograph. When the UFO flew out of sight, Heflin claimed that he spotted a dark "smoke ring" in the sky where the UFO had been moments before, which he then photographed after stepping out of his truck.
Early investigators were troubled by the smoke-ring picture. They claimed that the clouds in the picture implied that the smoke-ring photo and the three other pictures could not have been taken on the same day. Several skeptics, doubtful of the authenticity of the smoke-ring photo, then labeled all of the Heflin photos a hoax.
However, the recent reanalysis of all four of the Heflin photos, employing state-of-the-art technology (obviously not available back in the 1960s) now concludes that the smoke-ring photo, rather than discrediting Heflin, actually appears to strongly substantiate him.
First, the latest photo analysis was accomplished with all of the original Polaroid photos and high-resolution first-generation prints and does, in fact, show similar clouds in all four of the photographs.
Second, computer enhancement of photo two shows a bright line (or light beam) extending out from the bottom center of the disc to its outer rim, which is exactly what Heflin claimed that he saw back in 1965.
And finally, computer enhancement of photo three shows something quite extraordinary: There appears to be a stream of "black particulate matter" trailing behind the UFO, which was not apparent under normal viewing.
This additional discovery is by far the most significant since the reanalysis of the smoke-ring photo shows that the ring appears composed of the same sort of black particulate matter seen trailing the UFO in photo three.
This similarity in two different photos strongly supports the veracity of Heflin's encounter. How any of these peculiarities could have been artificially manufactured over four decades ago (or can even be conventionally explained today) is extremely difficult to comprehend.
In conclusion, it would appear that Rex Heflin 1) photographed an odd-shaped and silent experimental aircraft that in the 44 years since has not been reportedly seen again or identified; 2) he perpetrated an amazing hoax that no one yet has unraveled; or 3) he was fortunate enough to have taken several clear pictures of a genuine unidentified flying object.