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Red Bluff, California: Comments By Dr. James E. McDonald

Source: Dr. James E. McDonald, UFOs: Greatest Scientific Problem Of Our Times?
Original Source



Dr. James E. McDonald:
A rather detailed account of this sighting can be found in reference 3 (see pp. 61, 112, and 170). I have interviewed one of the two California Highway Patrolmen who were the principal witnesses and have spoken with two other persons who were involved in the incident. CHP officers C.A. Carson and S. Scott, driving east at 2300 hours on a back road south of Red Bluff, suddenly sighted what they first took to be an aircraft about to crash just ahead of them. Pulling their patrol car to a rapid stop and jumping out to be ready to render whatever assistance they could, they were astonished to see the long metallic looking object abruptly reverse its initial steep descent, climb back up to several hundred feet altitude, and then hover motionless. Next, it came silently towards them until, as Officer Carson put it to me, "it was within easy pistol range". They had their pistols ready and were debating whether to fire when it stopped. Attempts to radio back to the nearest dispatcher failed due to strong radio interference, which recurred each time the object came close to them during the remainder of this 2 hour long sighting.

Huge bright lights at either end of the object swept the area. Carson stated to me that one light was about six feet in diameter; other smaller lights were also discernible on the object. After some initial minutes of hovering only 100 to 200 feet away from them and at about the same distance above the ground, the object started moving eastward away from them. They then contacted the Tehama County Sheriff's office that handled their night dispatching work, and asked for additional cars and for a check with Red Bluff Air Force Radar Station. Then they began to follow the object.

The full account is too involved to relate here (see reference 3), but it is important to point out that a number of witnesses confirmed the object from various viewing points in the county. A call to the AF radar unit brought confirmation that they were tracking an unknown moving in the manner reported by Carson and Scott.

However, when Carson and Scott went the following day to talk with personnel at the Red Bluff radar base, they were informed that no such radar sighting had been made. Their request to the officer in charge to speak with the radarman on duty at the time of the incident was denied. The Bluebook explanation that came out after a few days attributed this very detailed, close range sighting of a large object, seen by two experienced officers to "refraction of the planet Mars and the two bright stars Aldebaran and Betelgeuse".

NICAP referred the question to one of their astronomical advisors, who found that none of these three celestial objects were even in the California skies at that time. Bluebook then changed the explanation to read Mars and Capella. Capella, the only one of those celestial bodies that was even in the sky at 2300, was nowhere near the location of the sighted object, and could not, of course, give the impression of the various movements clearly described by the officers.

Carson subsequently stated, "No one will ever convince us that we were witnessing a refraction of light." Carson remarked wryly to me on the Bluebook explanations, "I'd sure hate to take one of my cases into court with such weak arguments." Dr. Menzel (reference 9, p. 254) concurs with the Air Force explanations and speaks of this being a night of "fantastic multiple inversions of temperature and humidity", such that he would have expected many more reports of UFOs. I should like to know what radiosonde data Dr. Menzel is citing, since the data I obtained does not fit that description.

Any such casual putting aside of the details of the basic report has no scientific justification in the first place. If Menzel and Bluebook think California Highway Patrolmen draw their .44s in uneasiness over looking at a refracted image of Capella, and misinterpret it as a 100 foot object with huge bright lights, I am afraid I cannot share their readiness to so easily discredit and discount reliable witnesses. When I spoke with Carson a few months ago, I found him still deeply impressed by this incident six years after it occurred. "I've never seen anything like it before or since."

Article ID: 109


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