Sunday, July 31, 2011

Another Medevac

Aside from the normal things going on this week, we also had a medical evacuation.  Someone needed to be evacuated from a container ship that was passing by.  We've also had a few more Laysan ducks become sick from botulism.  So far we've been able to cure them all with antitoxin and food.  We have to check for sick and dead ducks daily, since botulism can spread through maggots from an infected carcass. 
It's the quiet season around here now, until the albatrosses come back in October.  It's quite a bit easier to get around the island now that the birds aren't blocking the roads.  The birds are great, but it's nice to have a little break.  Just like with the seasons, you appreciate the summer a bit more after the winter.

 We're pulling away from the ship after picking up the patient.  It was a bit rough, but at least they had steps for the person to get down to our boat.

 Our fancy state of the art ambulance.

 There are few enough birds around now that the planes can land in the daytime.  The Coast Guard was nice enough to bring us a few supplies when they came.

 The heat waves coming off of the runway give a kind of cool effect on the photo.  You'll have to double click on the picture to make it bigger to see that.

 The brown noddy chicks are starting to hatch.

 Here's a convex crab I found out on the beach. These usually aren't out on land.

This Laysan albatross climbed up on a pile of marine debris.  Maybe it's climbing out of the verbesina to try to catch the wind.

This is the parade field now.  There are only a couple of albatrosses out there.

This was from almost the same spot back in April.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

'Cowboys & Aliens' reviews

The Spielberg-produced sci-fi western Cowboys & Aliens is now in cinemas across the U.S. and Canada (it will reach most other countries by August or September). On the whole, the critics are not impressed.

Friday, July 29, 2011

UFOs and Disney: new article, new information

UFOs and Disney: Behind the Magic Kingdom:

New article examining Disney's close ties to the U.S. national security apparatus and defense industry in the context of the company's production of UFO-themed entertainment.

This article includes newly-uncovered information relating to Disney's much-debated 1995 Alien Encounters documentary drawn from the first interview of its kind with the documentary's writer/director, Andrew Thomas.

Thomas also reveals in this same testimony that, prior to his work for Disney, he personally spearheaded the "special marketing" campaign for Spielberg's 1977 UFO movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. According to Thomas, this campaign involved bringing to a specially selected planetarium: 

"tens-of thousands of kids from all around the country on the pretence of seeing an educational planetarium show, but what they really got was a sophisticated message to explain to them that extraterrestrials and UFOs are real and what an encounter of the first, second and third kind actually meant."

The article also includes new revelations from the director of Disney's Race to Witch Mountain concerning his CIA-supervised trip to NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain facility, where he personally quizzed military top-brass on their knowledge of the 2008 Stephenville UFO sightings.

Read the article here.

UFOs and Disney: Behind the Magic Kingdom

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

The role played by Hollywood in shaping our notions of potential alien life has long been a subject of fascination and contention in the UFO research community. Although there seems to be a consensus among UFOlogists that big screen depictions of UFOs serve to acclimate the populous to the reality of the phenomenon, opinions diverge on whether this acclimation effect is the product of design (inferring the existence of a "Hollywood UFO conspiracy"), or is merely the result of a natural cultural process driven by generic trends and stemming from a simple recognition among Hollywood executives that, when it come to the box office, aliens sell like hotcakes. Within this ongoing debate concerning UFOs and Hollywood, the name of one studio consistently has rung out over the decades – Disney. The House of Mouse has overseen the production and/or distribution of numerous UFO and alien-themed movies in recent times, with the best known examples including Flight of the Navigator (1986) Signs (2002), Lilo and Stitch (2002), Chicken Little (2005), Lifted (2007), I am Number Four (2011), Mars Needs Moms (2011) and the forthcoming John Carter (2012). 

Once Upon A Time...

The Disney/UFO connection can be traced back to 1953 when the CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel recommended that the US government make efforts to strip UFOs of their "aura of mystery" through the exploitation of mass media including television and motion pictures. In this context, the panel highlighted Walt Disney Productions specifically as a potential conduit for its propaganda. The panel’s singling-out of Disney made sense given the animation giant’s then firmly established working relationship with the US government: during World War II Disney made numerous propaganda shorts for the US military, and in the 1950s corporate and government sponsors helped the company produce films promoting President Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" policy, as well as the retrospectively hilarious Duck and Cover documentary, which depicted schoolchildren surviving an atomic attack by sheltering under their desks.

That the Robertson Panel highlighted Disney is significant in that the Panel’s general recommendation to debunk UFOs through media channels is known to have been acted upon in at least one instance: this being the CBS TV broadcast of UFOs: Friend, Foe, or Fantasy? (1966), an anti-UFO documentary narrated by Walter Cronkite. In a letter addressed to former Robertson Panel Secretary Frederick C. Durant, Dr Thornton Page confided that he "helped organize the CBS TV show around the Robertson Panel conclusions," even though this was thirteen years after the Panel had first convened. In light of this case alone, it seems reasonable to assume that the government may at least have attempted to follow through on the Robertson Panel’s Disney recommendation.

With this in mind, consider the case of the Oscar-winning Disney animator Ward Kimball. Best known for creating iconic Disney characters such as Jiminy Cricket and The Mad Hatter, Kimball also worked as Directing Animator on Disney classics including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938) and Pinocchio (1940). While at a MUFON symposium in 1979, Kimball claimed that the United States Air Force (USAF) had approached Walt Disney himself in the mid-1950s to request his cooperation on a documentary about UFOs that would help acclimate the American public to the reality of extraterrestrials. According to Kimball, in exchange for Disney’s cooperation, the USAF offered to furnish the production with genuine UFO footage. Kimball claimed that Disney accepted the deal and – ever faithful to Uncle Sam – began work immediately on the USAF project. It wasn’t long, however, before the USAF reneged on its offer of UFO footage. When Kimball challenged the USAF Colonel overseeing the project he was told that "there was indeed plenty of UFO footage, but that neither Kimball, nor anyone else was going to get access to it." The Kimball case, though, seems to be at odds with the Robertson Panel’s recommendations, which were to debunk UFO reality through media channels, not promote it. But perhaps another faction within the military-intelligence community – one with a UFO acclimation agenda – had similarly recognised Disney’s propagandist potential? We can only speculate.

Disney’s Alien Encounters

A tantalising case of alleged Disney/government UFO collusion is that of the 1995 documentary Alien Encounters from New Tomorrowland, which officially was produced with the sole purpose of promoting Disneyworld’s then-new ‘ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter’ ride. Yet, the content of this curious "promotional" documentary was viewed with suspicion by UFO researchers for the following reasons:

 - Throughout its forty-minute run-time, the documentary’s presenter/narrator, Robert Urich, makes numerous declarative statements to the effect that UFOs are one-hundred-percent real and extraterrestrial in origin. Such statements include: "For nearly fifty years, officials have been documenting routine alien encounters here on earth; "More than one alien craft crashed and was recovered for secret U.S. military research. The most famous case took place in July of 1947 just outside the community of Roswell, New Mexico"; and "Indications are that government, military and scientific leaders will soon release nearly a half-century of official documentation of ongoing alien encounters on earth."

- The documentary tells us of alien microbes found in meteorites in Antarctica that had been analysed by NASA. At the time the documentary was televised in 1995, NASA was indeed analysing a Martian meteorite recovered from Antarctica, and had indeed reached the tentative conclusion that it contained fossilised microbial alien life. The inclusion of this information in Disney’s 1995 documentary is intriguing, however, as NASA did not make a formal announcement about its findings until August of 1996 – 17 months after the documentary was televised.

- The actual ‘Alien Encounter’ ride received very little screen time, with the vast majority of the documentary’s content being focused on UFOs and extraterrestrials as a factual reality. The ride itself seemed like an afterthought.

- The documentary was aired in only a handful of US cities at seemingly random times on selected dates in February and March, 1995, with no advance notice – a rather odd marketing strategy considering its purpose was to promote a major theme park ride for families.

For the reasons cited above, many in the UFO research field felt that Disney’s Alien Encounters documentary was an effort by the powers that be to prepare us for Disclosure – a subtle test of public reaction to an official declaration that we are not alone. But in the sixteen years since the documentary was produced, not one UFO researcher has attempted to contact the film’s writer and director, Andrew Thomas, in order to learn the truth of the matter. So, in February 2011, I decided to do just that.

In an hour-long telephone interview, Thomas revealed to me that he had been selected by Disney for the documentary project based on his background in reality television, having been the original producer of the phenomenally successful TV show, Cops: "Making things exceptionally real was the line of work that I was in at the time," he said. The other key factor was Thomas’s previous position as head of "special marketing" for Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) in the mid-to-late 1970s. Regarding Close Encounters, Thomas explained that marketing executives at Columbia Pictures were concerned that Spielberg’s chosen title for the film made it sound "suspiciously like a pornographic movie, because no one had any reference to what that vocabulary meant." This was where Thomas came in:

"Eighteen months before the film [Close Encounters] was going to premiere... before we’d even sold it to audiences, we had a campaign to introduce that vocabulary and make it part of the vernacular, so when the film opened-up everyone would know what was being discussed, and there wouldn’t be any question. So what I did was I worked with a planetarium to create a planetarium show that was about twenty-minutes long... you sit down and a UFO shoots across the planetarium dome and then the audience is trained on how to figure out whether that was a meteor, a comet, or actually an extraterrestrial. We managed to bus-in tens-of thousands of kids from all around the country on the pretence of seeing an educational planetarium show, but what they really got was a sophisticated message to explain to them that extraterrestrials and UFOs are real and what an encounter of the first, second and third kind actually meant."

Clearly, then, Thomas was a natural choice for Disney’s Alien Encounters documentary, the entire purpose of which, according to the director, was to promote the ride itself. Thomas told me that Disney had requested a documentary "about the history of mankind and aliens. Not a film history, but more of a realistic approach... a special about the history of UFO sightings," with Disney’s only stipulation being that "the last five minutes had to focus on the ride." Thomas confirmed to me that, instead of giving the documentary network time, Disney’s plans from the outset were to "seed it into independent television stations across the country."

Chain structures in meteorite fragment ALH84001
But why did Thomas’s documentary take such a strong stance in favour of UFO/ET reality? He summed-up his approach as follows:

"I figured... instead of asking people to question ‘could it be possible?’ to just adopt the point of view that this [alien visitation] has been going on for 50 years, everybody’s known about it... And I thought it fit with the hyperrealistic nature of the ride that we were eventually trying to promote... I did it really kind of naively – I said to myself 'okay, I’m going to believe this right now, and I’m going to believe everything and I’m going to collect all this stuff and construct what would be a documentary if we all just had a consensus that it [the UFO phenomenon] was real...' We didn’t make up anything, but it certainly surprised the people at Disney."

Somewhat disappointingly for conspiracy theorists, Thomas claims to have written the script in just a few hours while flying back from Florida to his home in Los Angeles. "There was nothing to it," he said, "it just kind of came out, it was easy." Furthermore, Thomas claims to have conducted the vast majority his research at the National Archives and stressed that, beyond these archival visits, "there was no direct government contact" on the production. "I didn’t get any special access from anybody," he said.

But how did Thomas come to acquire his information about the NASA meteorite? "I found it on the Internet," said the director, matter-of-factly:

"It wasn’t a big secret. NASA had been doing that – they’d been getting meteorites... and inside I believe they were finding some complex amino acids, some material that could only be produced organically, that sort of thing, so it was an easy jump [in logic]. And the reason that NASA released the information months later is because they take their time. They don’t find something and release it. They find it and they study it."

Thomas’s meteorite information did raise a red flag at Disney, however: "They called me in and they said ‘we’re really concerned about this thing about NASA exploring rocks in Antarctica.’ I told them it was absolutely true and to let me go back to the office and I’ll get the material [sources] so they can check my facts... no big deal. So it wasn’t any big secret, it was just that the official [NASA] announcement came later."

Former Disney CEO, Michael Eisner
There were aspects of the Alien Encounters project, however, that even Thomas considered strange – not least of all was the fact that Disney CEO Michael Eisner took a direct interest in the documentary, personally vetting its content and even filming his own introduction for the piece:

"I thought it was really odd because to me this was kind of a minor marketing project, but they [Disney] put a lot of weight into it. I mean Eisner doesn’t have to stop walking down the street to pick up a twenty-dollar-bill – it’s not worth his time. But they had him look through this. And he filmed this intro to the show. I didn’t do that. He had his own film crew take him out to a sound stage and film his own intro, which I thought was just really surprising."
Also surprising to Thomas was Disney’s inexplicable TV scheduling for the documentary, which he described as "completely counter-intuitive," because "it played on independent stations in the afternoon at like 2 o’clock or 3 o’ clock, or some horrible time when no one would be watching it."

Overall, Thomas’s testimony punches serious holes in the theory that Disney’s Alien Encounters documentary was a government-sponsored UFO acclimation effort. Yet questions remain; indeed, some of Thomas’s statements only add fuel to the fire: why was Michael Eisner so personally invested in what – on the surface at least – was a minor TV marketing project? And why the bizarre and "totally counter-intuitive" TV scheduling for the documentary?

Indulging the conspiratorial interpretation of events for a moment: if powerful UFO-related interests were involved in the documentary – perhaps having recommended Thomas knowing what he would produce based on his sophisticated work on Spielberg’s Close Encounters – then Thomas himself would likely be oblivious to this fact. He would have been a pawn in a much larger game, so to speak. I’ll be the first to admit that this interpretation sounds farfetched; but it is not entirely beyond the realms of possibility. Certainly, during the time the Alien Encounters documentary was produced in the mid-1990s, Disney was working closely with the Pentagon on two separate pro-establishment Hollywood movies: In the Army Now (1994) and Crimson Tide (1995), both of which received generous production support from the Department of Defense in the form of expensive military hardware and on-set advice from DoD personnel. Indeed, Disney’s continuing willingness to support establishment power structures was effectively demonstrated more recently when it released the TV movie The Path to 9/11 (2006), which was heavily skewed to exonerate the Bush administration and blame the Clinton administration for the 9/11 attacks – provoking outraged letters of complaint to Disney from former high-level Clinton Administration staffers. The nature of Disney’s output makes sense given the company’s historical ties not only to the US defence department, but to the arms industry also. Even now, a long-time Directors Board member of Disney is John Bryson – also a director of The Boeing Company, one of the world’s largest aerospace and defence contractors.

President Obama with Disney/Boeing director, John Bryson
Despite Disney’s demonstrably cosy relationship with secretive institutions, however, and putting aside a couple of unanswered questions regarding the documentary’s personal vetting by Eisner and its curious TV scheduling, there simply is no direct evidence to suggest that Alien Encounters was ever anything more than marketing project for a theme park ride. However, a much more compelling case for Disney/government UFO collusion recently has come to light.

Race to Witch Mountain

Directed by Andy Fickman – a self-confessed "UFO buff" born and raised in Roswell, New Mexico – Disney’s Race to Witch Mountain (2009) depicts the arrival on Earth of two blonde-haired, blue-eyed, human-looking extraterrestrials (UFOlogy’s ‘Nordics’) and their plan to save their own dying planet from total atmospheric degradation. In a September 2010 interview, Fickman explained to me how he had sought to ground his movie as firmly as possible in UFOlogical reality by personally schooling his cast in UFO history: "I would spend time with my actors literally just going through ‘UFO 101’ – we’d watch every DVD that was out there, every documentary; I would give them book, upon book, upon book."

Although the vast majority of the film’s UFOlogical content came from Fickman, at least some of it was the result of CIA input. In a highly unusual production arrangement Fickman claims he was closely assisted by an active employee of the CIA whose advice extended so far even as to designing the alien writing seen in the UFO during the film’s climactic scene. Fickman is unwilling to name this advisor, but claims he is an Air Force Colonel with a background in Technical Intelligence, that he had been "very active in Hollywood" and "had a lot of connections in the computer world and experience in satellite imagery." Fickman said of his CIA advisor:

"All of the on-camera alien language in terms of their spaceship and everything – that was all designed by him in the sense [of what] the mathematics of communication would be, so you know... there would be a similar mathematical equation that the government probably has if they were to ever come across an alien race. So a lot of the things we ended up using were things he was bringing to me... and the next thing you know, that’s what I had on screen."

While on-set, Fickman took the opportunity to ask his CIA man some probing questions: "In typical ‘can’t confirm, can’t deny’ manner," said Fickman, "no matter what I would personally ask him about anything from ‘who killed Kennedy?’ To ‘what happened at Roswell?’ He always played it with a nice smile that implied 'I don’t think you have the security clearance for me to talk to you about anything.'" The CIA advisor also recommended that certain UFOlogical content be removed from the script: "there were things we got rid of in the script that he was just trying to follow logic on from a protocol standpoint," said Fickman, although he would not elaborate on the nature of the changes made.

Andy Fickman, director of Race to Witch Mountain (2009)
Fickman further claims that he was afforded a visit to NORAD’s sensitive Cheyenne Mountain facility in 2008, where – accompanied by his CIA advisor – his team spent 12 hours taking photographs and talking with on-duty military officers, including the heads of NORAD. "We wanted our Witch Mountain to resemble what NORAD and Cheyenne Mountain look like inside," he said. "We took a thousand photos and then by the time they released us into the wilderness maybe we had three hundred that had been approved for us to somewhat copy [for production design purposes]."

Incidentally, Fickman’s Cheyenne Mountain visit took place just a few weeks after the high-profile Stephenville Texas UFO sightings. Remembering that witnesses had described seeing fighter jets in pursuit of the Stephenville UFO/s, Fickman raised the incident with NORAD officers: "I asked the question of all the NORAD people point blank: ‘so, what about those jets – did you guys release those jets?’ And after a kind of thoughtful pause, the guy in charge said ‘hypothetically, if something had invaded US airspace, we would have responded in kind. I have no indication one way or another that jets ever pursued any unknown object at the time you’re referring to.’" Fickman found NORAD’s ‘non-denial denial’ to be "very telling."

The CIA, for its part, claims to have had no involvement in Race to Witch Mountain. In an email to the author, Paula Weiss, Media Spokeswoman at the CIA Office of Public Affairs, said: "We have no knowledge of any CIA officer having assisted with this film…It’s very easy for outsiders, including Hollywood film people, to assume any US intelligence officer is CIA when in fact he could be from DIA, NSA, NGA, etc. Sorry I can’t resolve this for you based on the available information."  

Fickman was puzzled by the CIA’s denial. When I asked the director whether or not the CIA man could have been retired from the Agency and had been acting in a private capacity (as is the case with a number of ex-CIA operatives in Hollywood, including Robert Baer, Milton Beardon and Chase Brandon), he replied: "there’s no way we would have had what we had, had he not been an active CIA employee..." Indeed, throughout the NORAD visit, Fickman claims he relied heavily on the influence wielded by his CIA man: "Nothing happened at NORAD without him flashing his card and making his calls."

Fickman believes it was due in large part to the fact that his military and intelligence advisors were secured "through back door channels" that his production was granted such extraordinary access to the inner-workings of the national security apparatus, but he insists there was no hidden agenda behind his government’s uncharacteristic generosity in this regard: "All of a sudden I was in places that I don’t know I would have been had I gone through normal channels. I don’t think there was anything abnormal about what they were doing, I just think it was [that] phone calls were being made and doors were sort of opening."

Fickman’s claims carry with them the weighty implication that the CIA may be operating in Hollywood beyond the dry remit of its media liaison office, which is to provide "impartial advice on matters of accuracy and authenticity" in relation the CIA’s image while on set, and certainly does not extend to accompanying a director on a private trip to NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain facility, nor designing fictional alien language for a feature film in which the CIA itself is not even depicted.

Behind the Scenes

The real reasons for the CIA adopting an "advisory" role on Disney’s Race to Witch Mountain (as well as on numerous other Hollywood productions) were pointed to in a solitary comment by former Associate General Counsel to the CIA, Paul Kelbaugh. Whilst at a College in Virginia in 2007, Kelbaugh delivered a lecture on the CIA’s relationship with Hollywood, at which a local journalist was present. The journalist (who has since requested anonymity, but who is known to me) published a review of the lecture which related Kelbaugh’s discussion of the 2003 Disney-produced thriller The Recruit, starring Al Pacino. The journalist noted that, according to Kelbaugh, a CIA agent was on set for the duration of the shoot under the guise of a consultant, but that his real job was to misdirect the filmmakers: "We didn’t want Hollywood getting too close to the truth," the journalist quoted Kelbaugh as saying. In a blunt email to my colleague Matthew Alford, however, Kelbaugh denied having made the public statement and claimed that he remembered "very specific discussions with senior [CIA] management that no one was ever to misrepresent to affect [film] content – EVER." The journalist stands by the original report, and Kelbaugh has refused to be drawn into further discussion of the matter.

As a closing thought on Disney’s establishment ties in relation to the UFO question, in January 2011, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) staged its 5th Annual Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) – a major International business convention which this year featured keynote speeches by the likes of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Intriguingly, this year’s GCF event also featured a special panel discussion entitled: "Contact: Learning from Outer Space," in which names such as Stanton Friedman, Jacques Vallee, Nick Pope and Professor Michio Kaku addressed the wide-ranging implications of UFOs and potential extraterrestrial life. How is this relevant to our topic? Well, it might not be, but the primary sponsor of the GCF event was Boeing – a company highlighted by Disclosure Project witnesses as being a key player in UFO-related ‘deep black’ programmes and which you’ll also recall is linked at a directors-board-level to the Walt Disney Company – and a key note speaker at the event was none other than Chairman of Walt Disney International, Andy Bird. UFOs, Disney, Boeing, even former heads of state – all under one roof, so to speak. It proves nothing of course, but is nevertheless worthy of mention in that it brings to mind what the famous ex-CIA operative Robert Baer once told me regarding the Hollywood/Washington relationship: "All these people that run studios – they go to Washington, they hang around with senators, they hang around with CIA directors, and everybody's on board." Certainly, Disney has long been "on board" with supporting government and military power structures; as to whether or not this support extends to an involvement in some indefinable "Hollywood UFO conspiracy" is impossible to say. For now, at least, all we can do is weigh-up what little evidence is available to us and each draw our own conclusions as to precisely what UFO secrets – if any – might lie behind the Magic Kingdom. 

Copyright © 2011, Robbie Graham

This article was first published in UFO Matrix magazine: Vol. 2, Issue 1: Summer, 2011.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

'Battleship' trailer

Silver Screen Saucers

The movie adaptation of the classic board game will dock at cinemas in Summer 2012.
View the trailer over at Empire. Surely a contender for the Best Picture Oscar?

Official Battleship banner. Picture source: 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest blogger exclusive #7

In the seventh instalment of the Silver Screen Saucers guest blogger mini-series, veteran conspiracy writer Kenn Thomas turns his attention to an overlooked chapter in the history of the interplay between the national security state and the entertainment industry - a chapter in which the Kennedy assassination, UFOs and sci-fi TV bizarrely intertwine. It's a story worthy of Hollywood. Read on...

Guest blogger: Kenn Thomas



By Kenn Thomas

Fred Lee Crisman witnessed the Maury Island UFO in 1947 and was later subpoenaed as part of the 1968 investigation of the JFK assassination. The prosecutor of that case, Jim Garrison, thought that Crisman was the infamous grassy knoll shooter, the actual trigger man. When Hollywood last turned its full attention to JFK, with Oliver Stone's 1991 movie, it was about that case, although Crisman's name never comes up in the film. Perhaps the UFO angle added a credibility burden to a movie already challenged on that score by many critics, although few people remember Maury Island. Garrison's case and the movie centered on the figure of Clay Shaw, the man Garrison felt he had the most on to bring to trial, and many peripheral figures fell by the wayside.

However, the director's cut of JFK includes scenes of Garrison attempting to show a photograph of Crisman to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. Carson would have none of it, of course, and cut to a commercial. Garrison had a well-known photo of three hobos being arrested in the railyard behind the grassy knoll. One of them Garrison suspected was Crisman--but that was as close as it got to letting a national television audience in on it.

Jim Garrison
Or was it? Garrison's appearance on the Tonight Show happened on January 31, 1968. Since the preceding January a television show about UFOs, conspiracies and covers-up had been appearing weekly on the ABC television network. The Invaders had as its premise the episodic adventures of a man who knew about a secret alien invasion trying to convince others of it, including the government. The protagonist, architect David Vincent, failed every time. 1967-68 was a time of heroes failing on TV. Another program called The Prisoner had a secret agent, played by the same actor who starred in the Secret Agent series years before, who failed to escape an island prison every episode.

Fred Crisman thought that the man in The Invaders was him. In correspondence with UFO investigator Gary Leslie from August 22, 1967, someone writing as Crisman's fellow Maury Island witness Harold Dahl had this to say: "There is a TV series running now that I swear is based in the main on the life of F. Lee Crisman. I know him better than any living man and I know of some of the incredible adventures he has passed through in the last twenty years. I do not mean that his life has been that of this TV hero on The Invaders show...but, there are parts of it that I swear were told to me years ago by Mr. Crisman...and I know of several that are too wild to be believed...even by the enlightened attitude of 1967." The real Harold Dahl had long stopped discussing Maury Island and UFOs after a visit from a Man In Black brought him to bad fortune, so many suspect that Crisman wrote this letter himself. Another such letter, signed "F. Lee" commented that Crisman had received "a copy of one of the current TV series "The Aliens' [sic]" suggesting the connection but that "it was my understanding that Mr. Crisman was not disturbed or angry." Again, the letter seems likely to have originated from Crisman.

Fred Crisman
The provenance of these letters supports the notion that Crisman was a con man and a publicity hound as his critics often claim. He disappeared into the military after Maury Island, however--a WWII vet reactivated for Korea--and otherwise had stayed out of the limelight prior to 1968. His assertions in these private letters happen at the same time Jim Garrison was coming after him as the grassy knoll killer, making it certainly not the best time to seek publicity. The CIA maintains claim on over 300 JFK assassination files that it says still would threaten national security if released. This even long after Oliver Stone's movie started an effort that resulted in the release of the majority of such files. A former Washington Post reporter is now suing for the release of these documents, which cover the anti-Castro Cuban milieu that Garrison thought Crisman belonged to, and to which obviously Crisman would not want to bring attention.

So the show business and saucer business connection is mixed up also with the parapolitics of the JFK assassination. Another mystery wrapped within an enigma. Did it exist anywhere other than in Fred Crisman's imagination? Quinn Martin Productions created The Invaders. Producer Quinn Martin rose through the TV ranks first working for Desi Arnez in The Untouchables, a "procedural" crime show like Dragnet only with violence. The best known Quinn Martin Production was a procedural called The FBI. After the death of a man named Mark Felt, now known as "Deep Throat" in Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate investigation, his job as a consultant to The FBI series became known. So it was true that spooks like him were connected to shows like that. That may seem like a weak argument but it was buttressed later when it was learned that Felt held a job with the real FBI in the late 1940s overseeing background checks for applicants at the Hanford nuclear plant in southeastern Washington state. Fred Crisman's job application at Hanford is among the documents on him recovered through Freedom of Information Act requests. So Mark Felt does have a documented connection to both the production company of The Invaders and to Fred Crisman.

The Dealey Plaza hobos
Crisman's story should be made into a movie itself, right? After all, the Maury Island incident involves a sighting of six saucers, one of which spewed a weird substance that fell on witnesses. The celebrated Kenneth Arnold was hired to investigate. Two Air Force investigators died in a fiery crash of their plane after loading it with samples of the weird substance given to them by Crisman. And Jim Garrison believed that Crisman shot from the grassy knoll at the behest of an aerospace military-industrial complex distraught over JFK's handling of the TFX, a tactical fighter. The TFX eventually was sold to Australia via a funding corridor that helped create Pine Gap, the downunder Area 51. Lee Harvey Oswald's life had many interconnects with the U2 spy plane, developed at the original Area 51. A better, more true-to-life science fiction story has yet to make it to the silver screen.

Kenn Thomas wrote JFK & UFO: Military-Industrial Conspiracy and Cover-Up from Maury Island to Dallas, recently published by Feral House. An excerpt can be found here: Thomas can be reached via his web site at Steamshovel Press also has a facebook account and page. Thomas has written a number of books on various conspiracy topics, including NASA, NAZIS & JFK and The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro.

Monday, July 25, 2011

'Cowboys and Aliens' writer alleges UFO cover-up

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Roberto Orci (right) with Alex Kurtzman
Roberto Orci - co-writer with Alex Kurtzman of Cowboys and Aliens, the first two Transformers movies and the TV series Fringe - stated his belief to the press yesterday that U.S. government secrecy surrounding the issue of extraterrestrial life is more than just science-fiction.

When asked by Hollywood news site The Wrap if aliens exist, Orci replied: “I think the evidence clearly indicates that the government's lying about what the hell’s going on.” The Wrap seems to think Orci was joking, however.

It is perhaps worth noting that Orci (along with his writing partner Alex Kurtzman) has worked closely with Super 8 director J.J. Abrams for over a decade on numerous national security-themed projects and in recent years has formed a hugely successful working relationship with self-proclaimed "UFOlogist" Steven Spielberg. Orci's Alias TV show was enthusiastically supported by the CIA and his alien-themed scripts for Transformers 1 and 2 were formed in collaboration with the Pentagon's Entertainment Liaison Office.

One would assume, then, that Orci at least will have given thoughtful consideration to the question of UFOs and government secrecy during the course of his career. Was his recent public statement on the issue a reflection of a genuine belief in a UFO cover-up? Or was it merely a neat but hollow soundbite for the red carpet press?

I'll be writing more about Orci, Kurtzman and Abrams here at Silver Screen Saucers in the coming weeks and months. Their thematic preoccupation and extensive professional interactions with the U.S. national security state are intriguing indeed...


This week we did a little bit of good.  The volunteers did a great job of getting rid of a lot of invasive plants, planting some native ones, finding two ducks sick with botulism (which we rehabilitated with antitoxin and food), and a few random other things.

I've got a few good links for you too. There's a great article about the tsunami, written by one of our vistitors that was here during the tsunami (Connie Toops).  I had a photo of her digging out an albatross back in March, and she put a picture of me with an albatross that I had just dug out.  Here's the link for the article in National Wildlife Magazine:

Chris Jordan and his crew (Jim & Joe) are back on Midway working on their film about Midway and taking some photos.  Chris is just back from Kenya after winning a prestigious photography award, the "Prix Pictet Commission", which sent him to Kenya to photograph sustainability issues in local Africa populations.  They have a new trailer for the film at  I wish I could see it, but our internet is way too slow out here.  From the first 9 seconds of music I can hear, it sounds great!  If you didn't check out their blog site before, that's worth a look too:  And the last thing I'll mention is Chris' gallery page.  This is a direct link to his Midway photos, but that is only a small part of his portfolio: 

The verbesina is going crazy on Eastern Isalnd after the tsunami spread the seeds around.  It killed all of the live plants, but it looks like it also germinated the seeds.

 A Laysan duck and her 4 ducklings are swimming in one of the seeps on Eastern Island. 

 This is another Laysan duck female with 2 ducklings on Eastern Island.  The other one is a bit out of frame.

Here's a photo for those who like to see some of the historical things.  This is the old gun emplacement next to the cemetery.

This is the cemetery.  Most of the graves are for doctors who died on Midway.  What I was told is that the doctors would normally be the ones who embalmed any bodies or those who died, but if the doctor died, no one was around to embalm them, so they were buried here.  The gun emplacement in the previous photo is just in back of the shrubs behind the cemetery.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

'The Darkest Hour': story details, artwork revealed

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers
Artwork for The Darkest Hour. Source:

The post-apocalyptic alien-invasion movie The Darkest Hour began its publicity campaign in San Diego yesterday adjacent to Comic-Con. Crowds were shown the first trailer (expected online in the coming days), as well as stills and artwork for the movie.

Filmed on-location in Moscow, The Darkest Hour follows a group of survivors battling an invading extraterrestrial force which has already conquered most of the planet.

According to

Artwork for The Darkest Hour. Source:
“The aliens of the film are electricity-based and tend to be invisible unless they're attacking. The one clue to knowing when they're approaching is that power returns to the immediate vicinity, leading the band of survivors to gather light bulbs to use as signals.

Though the aliens take control of the planet immediately, depleting the world's energy resources, a band of resistance fighters springs up, using scientific technology to combat the invaders. The group meets a Russian scientist (Dato Bakhtadze), who has devised a mobile form of a Faraday cage (a real-world device that prevents electricity from doing harm to an individual). In his apartment, he's even applied the principle to his cat and manages to build versions of the device for Russian freedom fighters to use in combat. (One piece of production art has a soldier on his horse, both making use of the device).

When the aliens do manage to attack, they literally shred people to pieces. Though all we see is yellow/orange energy, it's hinted that we'll learn a lot more about what the aliens look like and where they come from before the end of the film.”

The movie's story was co-written by Leslie Bohem, who wrote Spielberg's UFO miniseries, Taken (2002). It has also been revealed that the film will be released in conjunction with a spin-off comic book, which will show how the alien invasion/occupation unfolds on a global scale, beyond the confines of Moscow.

The Darkest Hour is due for release in 3D and 2D on December 23, 2011.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ridley Scott talks 'Prometheus', first official image released

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

The first official image from Ridley Scott's Prometheus (2012)

Ridley Scott has revealed more details about his forthcoming Alien prequel, Prometheus, which is inspired by the 'Ancient Astronaut' theory of UFOlogy. Speaking at the 2011 Comic-Con via satellite link-up from Iceland, Scott said of Prometheus:

"What I want to do is scare the living shit out of you. It shares one piece of DNA with the original Alien but that's all." It involves a space exploration mission that finds a "civilisation that is home to some very uncivilised behaviour."

Asked why he had not returned to the sci-fi genre since his 1982 classic, Blade Runner, Scott responded:

"I was too busy doing other movies and exploring other genres, so frankly I never thought about science fiction until I started to realise that there was something in the first of the Aliens that no one had ever asked the question about, and in the next three there was no exploration of that question, and I thought that could be the centre of what we’ve just completed. That said, that’s the only link to the original Alien. But in the last few minutes of the movie you’ll understand what I’m talking about."

Meanwhile, attending the Comic-Con event in person, Charlize Theron - the star of Prometheus - shed some light on the character she'll be playing:

"She’s very different from anything I’ve done. She’s a suit, essentially. She’s kind of the machine that runs the machine that takes this mission into space. At first she comes off very cold and frigid and like it’s about the economics for her – she’s not a scientist, not a believer, and she runs a very tight ship. But you can tell that she’s going to be a problem. What I love about Ridley is that we layered her: you think you know what she is but then you realise that she’s mysterious. Ridley had me lurk in corners all the time so she’d seem suspicious. But the really exciting thing is that in the third act you strip her to her skin and see what that’s really about."

Prometheus is scheduled for a June 2012 release.

Retro aliens for 'Men In Black 3'

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Men In Black 3 banner at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con. Picture credt:

Legendary monster make-up artist Rick Baker made an appearance yesterday at the 2011 Comic-Con in San Diego where he spoke enthusiastically about about his latest alien creature designs for Barry Sonnenfeld's forthcoming Men In Black 3.

As parts of the movie are set in the past - 1969 to be precise - Baker has been able to indulge his passion for retro alien beasties. Baker told his Comic-Con audience:

Rick Baker (far left) supervises one of his alien creations during the
filming of Men In Black (1997)
“Right from the first movie, I was always saying to Barry [Sonnenfeld], ‘Let’s do aliens that look like aliens we’ve already seen... Let’s say that Paul Blaisdell, who did the effects for Invasion Of The Saucer Men, actually had a real encounter with an alien and tried to recreate it on film, so there are saucermen in the Men In Black headquarters. And let’s have E.T. in there, operating the phone.' Barry didn’t like any of those ideas, he thought they were stupid. But when Men In Black 3 came along and I heard about the time-travel element, I said, ‘Okay, it’s set in 2012, so we’ll have aliens that look like 2012 aliens in that part of the film. But when we go back to 1969, wouldn’t it be cool to have retro aliens? Big brains, bug eyes, stuff like that?’ I thought they should have a totally different, retro feel. And they agreed to it, thank God. So I got to make a whole bunch of cool stuff.”

Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Men In Black 3 has been a troubled shoot so far. It is tentatively scheduled for a May 2012 release.

For more details on this story, head on over to Empire.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Another Blog to Check

There was nothing big going on at Midway lately.  Just the usual warm, sunny days.  It's been a bit breezy, so a lot of the albatross chicks have fledged, but there are quite a few around.  We've been doing are usual weekly checks of albatross plots, red-tailed tropicbird plots, and Laysan duck surveys.  While I was over on Eastern Island, I found some pits that a female green sea turtle had dug.  These didn't look like actual nests, but just pits to check out the sand.  We've only had a few verified nests on Midway so we're always hoping to find more.
I forgot to mention that the coral reef researchers from UCSC (Univ. of California Santa Cruz) came out here while I was gone.  Kristin and Anne have been coming out here every summer for a few years now.  Kristin has been studying black-lipped pearl oysters.  They aren't very comon around here, but she's finding a few.  She also does a blog from here that you can check out for a slightly different Midway perspective.  Here's the link and a link to their research, too: 

 The sooty terns are still nesting over on Eastern Island and still flock around when people walk there.

 Some of the sooty tern chicks are starting to get feathers.  A lot of the birds are still on eggs.

This is the caterpillar of the white-lined sphinx moth feeding on the native Boerhavia repens.

 This is the adult white-lined sphinx moth.  Since the boerhavia is doing so well, there are a lot of these moths right now.

This is something I haven't seen before.  An old white tern chick shading a tiny white tern chick.  I hope that the big one doesn't steal the little one's food.

This is a frigatebird flying above a dead heliotrope tree.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

'The Thing' trailer

The trailer for The Thing prequel has arrived...

Though by the looks of it, it's not so much a prequel as it is a straight remake.

Hollywood to explore Mars in 2012

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Walt Disney's forthcoming sci-fi/fantasy John Carter will follow the adventures of a 19th Century American Civil War veteran who is mysteriously transported to Mars, which he discovers to be a thriving and diverse planet populated by 9 ft tall, green, four-armed warriors called Tharks, as well as more human-looking "red" Martians.

According to Empire, "The film combines location shooting, studio sets, live action and digital creations in one of the more complicated productions you’ll ever see."

John Carter is due for release in March 2012. View the trailer here:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

'The Thing' prequel poster

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

The prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 sci-fi/horror masterpiece, The Thing - also entitled The Thing - is due for release in the U.S. this October.

The new film's plot will not differ significantly from that of the 1982 version, which saw a group of American scientists at a remote research outpost in the Antarctic stumble across a parasitic alien with the ability to mimic any living creature. The prequel will show what happened at the neighboring Norwegian research outpost shortly prior to the events of Carpenter's movie.

The sense of dread and paranoia conjured by Carpenter in his original The Thing arguably has not been matched since in the genre (or, indeed, in any genre), so this winter's offering - directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead - has much to live up to.

Monday, July 11, 2011

UFO movie box-office update, plus 'Space Invaders'

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

The public's fascination with the idea of alien visitation continues to be evidenced this week as three alien/UFO movies occupy top-ten positions at the worldwide box-office.

Currently topping the charts, Transformers: Dark of the Moon has now taken a massive $557.3m. Meanwhile at #7, the Spielberg-produced Super 8 has pulled in $166.4m; and, at #9, the alien-themed comic book movie Green Lantern has managed a slightly less impressive haul of $143.0m. Naturally, these figures will continue to rise in the coming days and weeks. Indeed, due to staggered release schedules, Super 8 has yet to hit cinemas in at least 14 countries (including the UK, France, Spain, Mexico and Brazil), and Green Lantern has yet to arrive in at least 24 countries (including Italy, Germany and Japan).

In just a few weeks time, the box-office is set to be stormed by yet another UFO movie - Cowboys and Aliens.

In other news, Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura is to oversee the Hollywood adaptation of the 1970s video game, Space Invaders, which required the player simply to use their tanks to defend against an advancing alien hoard. This sounds almost as imaginative as the forthcoming board game adaptation, Battleship.