If you’ve heard about something, anything, in connection with UFOs, chances are History Channel’s Project Blue Book will do an episode on it at some point. Season 2 started out with a two-parter on the Roswell crash, with an Area 51 chaser last week. Hey, at least this one was actually contemporaneous.
Obviously, not all the information about secret aircraft testing at Area 51 is readily available, but it’s thought the Groom Lake facility was established in 1955 for the CIA’s Project AQUATONE, which developed the U-2 spy plane flown over the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and Cuba during the Cold War. This was followed by Project OXCART, a precursor of sorts to the SR-71 Blackbird. Project Blue Book did eventually end up attributing many UFO sighting reports to tests of those aircraft, once they were allowed to check flight records.
But forget all that. Despite the February 4-airing episode being titled “Area 51,” the whole thing is really about a case with so little evidence of having actually occurred, you’ve probably never heard of it.
As the story goes, when collecting debris from a missile test in 1956 at New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base (not even Area 51), Major William Cunningham heard Sergeant Jonathan Lovette scream from behind a sand dune, only to see him being snaked up into a flying saucer by some kind of tether. Cunningham was accused of murder and an unbelievable cover story until Lovette’s corpse turned up three days later, 10 miles from where he disappeared, drained of all blood and with his tongue, anus, and penis precisely removed.
Jesus Christ! You’d think that would be the one to blow the lid off the whole story, but even avowed UFO buffs don’t take it seriously. Kevin Randle, one of the original Roswell popularizers, writes that the incident was supposedly documented in something called “Blue Book Special Report #13,” which no one has ever actually seen. Except apparently for Bill English, the only person to ever tell the tale. Too bad he was never in the Army Special Forces, as he claimed.
It’s clearly bunk, but the “mutilated abductee” story would be additionally suspect since the first reported American UFO abduction wasn’t until that of Betty and Barney Hill in 1961, and the famous “cattle mutilations” didn’t become a known thing until around 1967. And despite people swearing up and down that predators couldn’t be responsible for those, that’s exactly what most farmers, veterinarians, and scientists think is going on, along with dehydration and the behavior of scavengers like flies. Check out the laundry list of normal explanations on Wikipedia.
“Area 51” was topped off with a pair of helicopters chasing off a UFO, reminiscent of the Cash-Landrum encounter of 1980, proving once again that not only is there no evidential threshold something must reach to be included on Project Blue Book, but there aren’t any temporal limits, either. Just throw it all in the blender and drink it down.
Every February, to help celebrate Darwin Day, the Science section of AIPT cranks up the critical thinking for SKEPTICISM MONTH! Skepticism is an approach to evaluating claims that emphasizes evidence and applies the tools of science. All month we’ll be highlighting skepticism in pop culture and skepticism of pop culture.