Monday, August 28, 2006

UFO Photo Hoaxes

Things today are so much easier for the folks who seem to enjoy faking all those UFO photographs we see in books and speculative magazines. With the advent of photoshop and computer generated images, pretty much anyone can take an ordinary photograph and insert (or generate) a UFO in the foreground or background. No fun. Back in the 1940's through the 1970's, people had to be a slightly bit more industrious in order to try and have a few laughs (or a major ego stroke) from conning the public.

In the 1940's, UFO’s entered popular culture through the famous aircraft story where a fighter pilot claimed to have been chasing saucer shaped objects. While there were no reports by the public from 1900-1947 of UFO's at all (as in ZERO), 1951 alone saw 1,000 plus reports. The public had been captivated by possible visitors from outer space visiting the world. A large part of the captivation had a lot to do with the development of the atomic bomb. It seems the public was quicker to accept science fiction when the bomb became a reality.

So, with so many people opting to look out for as many flying saucers as possible, the occasional huckster would snap a picture and sell the photographs to whatever media outlet would be willing to publish what were clearly altered photographs or trick photography pictures. The way the photographs were manufactured was fairly simple.
A person would stay outside with a camera and his friends would throw an object high in the air. Usually the object would be something sophisticated like a garbage can lid. When the object was tossed high in the air, the person would snap the photo.

Yes, this was not exactly a sophisticated science, but in those days, the public did not so much look at the media with a critical eye. Granted, the vast majority of the people who saw these photographs knew they were a fraud simply by reason of applying common sense and logic to the absurdity of undetected flying saucers skimming across the world. What people did not know, however, was the way in which these phony pics were produced. Again, for the vast majority of people, it did not matter as they were not interested in weighing the issue. They photos were goofy looking and people who bought it were rubes.

However, the photographs were (and remain) fun to look at and speculate about. In a way, what is more interesting is not how the photographs were faked, but why someone would go to the trouble of committing a hoax? To try and apply logic to the mind of the typical hoaxer will leave even the most steeled individual with a migraine headache. That is mainly because people try to understand the reasons why someone would go to great lengths to create a hoax. There is an inaccurate attempt to try and define 'reasons' by financial or monetary gain. Most of the time, the reasons behind the hoaxes deal more with ego and a certain strange gratification that comes along with knowing that one has pulled the wool over others eyes.

Then, of course, there is the public that seems to enjoy trying to figure the mystery out. Most of the time, the public plays along with the hoax as a game, mildly curious about the subject matter. Then, there are those who can be dubbed "true believers" because they assume the hoax is real and are unwilling to change their minds to anything that is not what they have accepted to believe as reality.

So, the photographic hoaxes have a tendency to put a visual image with the picture that can exist as "proof" that such things exist. (Or, clearly, proof people like to pull pranks)
The photos then take on a life of their own as they help perpetuate and create the myth of the UFO mythology.

If there is any lesson there it is to never underestimate the power of photography and what it can instill in people’s minds. While there has been lots of controversy recently about the faked Reuters Beruit photos, the fact remains such slight of hand has been practiced for a long time. All one has to do is pick up a UFO magazine from 1955 and one can see it there.

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