- Ufologists tend to be deadly grim people,
sour, dour, never cracking a smile. At first blush that would seem odd,
because there is plenty of UFO-related humor out there. Much of it appears
in the newspaper accounts of sightings, where reporters who can't find
an outlet for their creativity in stories about dog shows or zoning meetings
can let loose a barrage of witticisms about "the silly season."
After a while it gets boring if you happen to care about the topic, and
of course as a serious student of UFOs you are either directly or tangentially
the butt of the joke. So the ufologists don't grin.
- One unfortunate result of this mind-set
is that we fail to identify the truly creative ufological jokester on the
rare occasions when he appears in our midst. This is the case with the
humorist J. Bond Johnson. Even his name is funny, the J. standing for James.
- He's pushing 80, and after a very full
life, he finds himself sitting around worrying that the world has forgotten
him and all his accomplishments. Senility is not the only deficit brought
about by age. One also loses the companions of yesteryear who would listen
to the stories, and laugh and laugh, sharing the mirth. So J. Bond has
done the natural thing, which is to seek another audience for his exceptional
- In 1947 J. Bond was working at the Fort
Worth, Texas Star-Telegram as a photographer and reporter. One day he was
sent to the office of Brigadier General Roger Ramey to photograph some
material thought to be a "flying disk." A previous press release
from the Roswell Army Air Field had proclaimed the capture of same, causing
an uproar. Johnson arrived, Speed Graphic in hand, took the photos and
delivered them to the newspaper. That was all he did, or at least that
is the sum and substance of what he told Kevin Randle during three hours
of taped telephone conversations 42 years after the event.
- Along with a great mass of other photographic
material, the original Ramey office pictures were donated by the newspaper
to the University of Texas, which maintains a huge photo archive. The University
has supplied prints to anyone willing to pay the nominal copying fee. In
this way Roswell researchers and even the U.S. Air Force, and through them
the CIA, got these famous shots, and were able to study them with care.
- J. Bond's first foray into ufological
leg-pulling came about when he teamed up with another jokester, William
Moore. That's the fellow who stood up at a MUFON symposium and admitted
-- or claimed -- that for many years he had been cooperating with government
agencies to furnish them with UFO data and to help spread disinformation.
Moore has written much on Roswell, and in a refreshingly open self- assessment
of his book he said it is "...a disgraceful hodgepodge of fact and
- Moore and J. Bond teamed up, which is
not surprising, given their mutual merry- making interests and proclivities.
For years the two proclaimed that the Ramey office photos showed the "real"
debris, meaning the material found on the Foster ranch, and described in
detail by various awed witnesses.
- The literal-minded ufologists did not
get the hint, missed the nudge and the wink. They studied and studied those
photos. So did the Air Force, when it undertook to review the Roswell matter,
even enlisting the photographic analysis facilities of the CIA for the
purpose. But the photos show only a battered radar reflector. Always have,
and always will, because that -- and that alone -- is what was on Ramey's
floor. Even J. Bond eventually conceded, but only after much smoke had
been blown in many eyes. (Moore has long since dropped from sight.)
- Now suddenly, after a long absence from
the scene, J. Bond has returned to pull more legs, yank more chains. This
time he has no partner, just the Internet. He composed a "press release,"
written as if it issued from some neutral reporter, and in this way sprung
his latest joke. The major claim is the old one, slightly amended: the
photos are of a radar reflector, but in the foreground, thus unnoticed
by myriad observers, is some of the "real" debris.
- J. Bond's "press release" begins
this way: "It has been announced by the University of Texas at Arlington
that on June 1, 1998, a special exhibit will open in the Special Collections
Section of the Main Library featuring super-enlargements of the more than
half-century old famous Roswell UFO crash photographs. In making the announcement,
Dr. Gerald D. Saxon, Associate Director for Special Collections, Branch
Libraries and Programs, University Libraries, stated that the special exhibit
will be offered in response to an unprecedented demand by the public to
view at close range details of the newly enhanced photographs of the most
famous and controversial UFO wreckage, which was 'captured' by Unites States
military forces near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947."
- "Dr. Saxon stated that photographic
exhibits at the library usually are scheduled at least two years in advance,
but that this special photo exhibit has been arranged on very short notice
due to world wide attention once again being focused on the UTA Library
following a recent announcement that it has finally been established that
the photos are of portions of the actual crash debris."
- Of course, the "recent announcement"
also emanated from the smoking word processor of J. Bond Johnson, but the
reader is cleverly steered away from that fact.
- A call to the UTA Library revealed that
yes, they have received many calls about the photos subsequent to J. Bond's
"recent announcement." Yes, they are making the photos available
to walk-through visitors. Contrary to J. Bond's breathless claims, the
UTA "special exhibit" consists only of the four Ramey office
photos in 16 by 20 inch format, the largest they make. These are under
plastic and laid out on a table. No special security precautions are being
taken, simply because none are required.
- The Library hasn't a clue about what
J. Bond means by "super-enlargements." Nor do they know what
he is talking about when he claims the pictures show "portions of
the actual crash debris." They are concerned that their public service
function is being turned into a circus. It appears that the librarians
are just another group that has missed the point of J. Bond's humor.
- Elsewhere, J. Bond has claimed that when
the Air Force studied the Roswell issue in 1994, they engaged in a hot
dispute with the UTA Library over the photos, apparently demanding that
the originals be transferred to the U.S. government. I asked the Library
to comment on this claim, and received the following reply from Dr. Saxon.
- "Jane Klazura, a staff member in
the Special Collections Division of the UT- Arlington Libraries, forwarded
me your undated letter re the Roswell negatives/photos held by UTA. I wanted
to answer your questions so that there is no mistake as to what we have
done in the past with the negatives/photos.
- "You mention in your letter that
Mr. Johnson has said that an agency of the U.S. government engaged in a
"dispute" with UTA re these photos. That simply is not true.
There was no dispute. A few years ago the Air Force wanted to analyze the
Roswell negatives, and we provided high quality copy negatives for them
to use. As a matter of policy and archival practice, we do not send out
original negatives to anyone or any institution. The Air force was pleased
with the quality of the copy negatives and used them in their analysis
and subsequent report.
- "For your information I am speaking
from firsthand knowledge of this because I was in charge of Special Collections
at the time. Our staff member in charge of the Star- Telegram Photograph
Collection at the time, Betsey Hudon, has since retired. The Roswell negatives/photos
are a part of the Star-Telegram Collection, which has close to one million
images in it."
- One would suppose that J. Bond would
tell us just a bit more about the means by which the photos have recently
been magnified or enhanced, revealing the "real" debris that
all others have failed to spot. Despite repeated requests for elucidation
on this vital point, his responses have been extremely obscure. Michael
Lindemann interviewed him, and wrote that the process consisted of using
a xerox machine to "blow up" the photos in many steps!
- Lindemann didn't catch on, and I suppose
that out of desperation to get a rise out of the ufologists, J. Bond came
up with what he thought would be the unmistakeable give-away. He started
saying that the "enhancement" work was done at Staples, an office
supply chain. According to this version, Staples provides a service in
which a photo or document is "digitized" and transferred to a
computer disc. The "digitized" image can then be magnified almost
infinitely. Professionals familiar with image enhancement know how ridiculous
all this is.
- But once again, we failed to take the
hint -- when J. Bond said he did it at Staples, that should have been the
occasion for a big belly laugh, not the intense furrowing of brows that
afflicted the hopelessly literal ufologists.
- I paid the U of T 24 dollars each for
the seven photos they offer, in the 16 by 20 inch format. Once again, the
joke is on me. A careful examination with a magnifying glass revealed none
of the exotic stuff J. Bond talks about.
- Then a friend has used some sort of (real,
not Staples) computer enhancement to magnify the photos about sixty-fold.
Still nothing. My friend, who is in touch with J. Bond, has passed the
bad news on. J. Bond, ever the jokester, replied by angrily claiming that
my friend must be blind.
- R. J. Durant 10 June 98