Letter to the Editor

Editor's Note: The following letter is a combined version of two e-mail letters.

Dear Editor:

Armchair observations and commentary are all very well and fine. Without same, I'd be virtually out of a job myself! Still, the armchair can only be rocked so far before it arrives, creaky and decrepit, somewhat short of its original intended destination. Specifically, I refer to Martin Kottmeyer's two-part "explanation" of the Exeter, New Hampshire, UFO case, which recently appeared in The REALL News (September and October issues) and which attributes same to a human hoax -- something along the lines of a Boy Scout-launched balloon or kite.

Snicker, snicker, my, aren't we superior!

The problem with such a facile dismissal of the case is pointed out in the two paragraphs which follow (originally addressed to Mr. Kottmeyer in person):

Exeter as a neighborhood balloon or kite? Mayhaps. But if a ground-controller were in charge of things, wouldn't the 60-degree angle change dramatically on at least those occasions when the kite was being purposefully and actively manuevered from below? Release tension on the top of the tail, in other words, and the whole would tend to go upright or perpendicular, wouldn't it? Similarly, jerk on the top, and wouldn't the whole tend to go parallel with the horizon? You can't have it both ways.

Either the slant was constant or it wasn't. If constant, then that doesn't sound like a balloon or kite jerking about in the wind to me, unless you (or Isaac Newton) can come up with some way to configure a constant 60-degree angle kite tail. (In fact, this is a theory you could have easily tried out in your own back yard before floating it in print.)

Alternatively, are you also seriously suggesting that someone ran two copper wires from a battery on the ground to the kite in order to power the onboard lights? Then how long would such wires have had to have been for the whole to disappear out of sight? (For that matter, wouldn't two such wires occasionally twist in the wind and short out?) I know from personal experience (a Yamaha 750) that even motorcyle batteries are inordinately heavy for their size, as in lead balloon/kite, which is why you postulate a ground-based battery yourself. Maybe you should shoot for four AAs? But if light bulbs were involved, then highway flares probably weren't -- unless you know some way to make flares (and/or candles) go on and off in sequence? On the other hand, if mere light bulbs were employed, then how explain the illumination that allegedly lit up the ground and caused the poor hoaxees (read: ignorant fools) to dive for cover? Pretty bright bulbs, even at a hundred feet in height! You'd think hoaxers everywhere would be using them by now, almost on a nightly basis, that Edmund Scientific would be carrying them as UFO Hoax Lights -- Cheaper by the Dozen!

Close, but no Cuban cigar. Note that I don't claim that Exeter was de facto extraterrestrial in nature. My remarks are simply addressed to Mr. Kottmeyer's own equally implausible solution. Obviously, I don't mind him noting that the Exeter object behaved erractically on one hand (i.e., bobbing about like a balloon or kite); what I object to is Mr. Kottmeyer wanting to have his cake and eat it, too, specifically by citing the 60-degree angle consistency in his favor. So which is it, Martin? Was the reported object consistent in flight or not? You can't argue it both ways simultaneously. Unless your armchair is bigger than mine -- and I live in Texas, where Surburbans are the state car.

One other thing .... As anyone knows who's ever flown a kite, they aren't necessarily silent at all. In fact, depending on factors like construction, wind speed, and of course proximity, kites can make all sorts of flapping and ruffling noises. Some can be particularly different to control, too, no doubt more so by night.

Dennis Stacy

Martin Kottmeyer responds:

I agree that the angle of the kite-line would alter during maneuvers. Are we sure it didn't? In saying the lights were always at a 60-degree angle, the witnesses need not have meant literally every second of the encounter. I could easily envisage myself in the same situation, saying the same thing, but failing to clarify that it changed angle when it dropped down towards me.

Their official statements were fairly brief and this could have been a way of emphasizing the difference between what they saw and explanations they had to parry like airplanes. I wouldn't expect every detail to be put in the statement; only those thought relevant.

I hadn't assumed bare wires. I have an old, used Kawasaki motorcycle gathering dust which I drove for a time in the Seventies. The battery is no heavier than a three-cell flashlight. The main reason I assume it to be ground level is that kites will crash and those batteries are not cheap to replace. Strobes are not mere light bulbs and are not cheap either. My guess is that the prankster had easy access to strobes and was around them so much that the idea to use them could come on impulse. Maybe he was connected to the Sylvania Miniature Lighting facility in Hillsboro, NH, some 50 miles away; maybe a science teacher at the nearby Philips Exeter Academy was into high speed photography experimentation and a student borrowed the strobes; maybe the guy was into photography himself. Doubtless there are many possibilities.

I'm open to alternatives; I work with the knowledge I have and there are always limits and gaps. If anyone else confronted with this same puzzle can come up with a better answer, I am waiting to see it. My current feeling is that the sequencing lights pretty much rule out any natural phenomena. The silence rules out anything motor-driven. The fluttering says it can't be massive. Balloons don't strike me as maneuverable enough. If not kites, what is left? Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs)? Lights on RPVs defeat their intent, as they are basically spy devices, and what around Exeter is there to use it on? Nothing else matches and that includes anything in the UFO literature. Unless I'm missing some vital clue, I don't see where else the facts could lead. I'll take best guess over no guess on principle.

David Bloomberg also responds:

Being the Chairman and a member of the Editorial Board, I get to see these letters before anybody else. I have a few of my own comments to add.

Nowhere in Martin's articles does he even hint that the Exeter sighting might have been a balloon. Yet Mr. Stacy mentions it several times as if he had. I fail to understand why he could not simply discuss the points Martin actually had made, rather than making up his own straw men to knock down.

Mr. Stacy does this elsewhere in discussing the lights and making the presumption that "hoaxers everywhere would be using them by now, almost on a nightly basis." Why? He is essentially saying that if one person created a hoax UFO, hundreds would follow. Of course, since they aren't, he presumes himself correct. This is another straw man argument.

Finally, Mr. Stacy says that the idea of a hoaxer is as "equally implausible" as an extraterrestrial craft? Did Mr. Stacy really mean to say that the idea of a person flying a kite with lights on it is as implausible as a ship piloted by alien beings flying vast distances in order to scare a few people in a remote town? Come now, Mr. Stacy.

Editor's Note:

At one point in the original article (Part II), the date of publication for The American Boys Handy Book was incorrectly given. That date was actually 1892, which shows how long this sort of thing has been going on.

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