“Mysteries and Monsters”

April 24, 2013

On April 21, the popular MSNBC-TV show Caught on Camera aired an episode titled “Mysteries and Monsters.” I assisted in the research for the six segments and appeared on camera in three of them. Here is a brief synopsis of the entertaining show, together with some additional comments. (The segments are given in order, with an * indicating the ones in which I appeared.)

  1.  *The Oklahoma junkyard ghost case—investigated by Vaughn Reese, Tom Flynn, and I—got rather short treatment, but I devote a future blog to the case.
  2.  The Oliver’s Castle video purports to be the Holy Grail of cereology (after Ceres the Roman goddess of vegetation)—as the field of crop-circle studies is known. The 1996 video shows two orbs of light circling an English grain field when, suddenly, a crop-circle formation magically appears. Alas the video has “hoax” written all over it. (See, for example https://www.robertschoch.net/ accessed April 22, 2013.) 
  3.  The 1997 Phoenix Lights phenomenon is celebrated widely by UFOlogists, even though the event turned out to have been caused by flares—dangling from parachutes—that were released during a confirmed military exercise. This case is an example of eyewitnesses who cling to a belief long after the event has been credibly explained.
  4. *As to the 1995 “alien autopsy” film, this was the case that launched my “Investigative Files” column in Skeptical Inquirer (November/December 1995). The film caused a stir at the time, but the evidence clearly established it as a hoax, which has since been admitted to. Its creator Ray Santilli, however, now claims the 1995 film was a re-creation of genuine footage that had become damaged. Only the most pathologically credulous, I think, will believe him. 
  5. Tim Dinsdale filmed his 1960 controversial Loch Ness Monster encounter from a distance of about a mile. Although “Mysteries and Monsters” featured Steve Feltham, the world’s only full-time Loch Ness Monster hunter, and Adrian Shine, naturalist and monster skeptic who hails from The Loch Ness Exhibition Center in Drumnadrochit, the show treated Dinsdale’s “creature” with some ambivalence. In fact, it was identified by film analysts from the Royal Air Force’s Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Center as a probable motorboat. (See my Entities, 1995, 242.)
  6. *Finally, having saved the best for last, the show focused on the infamous 1967 Roger Patterson Bigfoot film. The segment featured Phil Morris, magician and costumer, who told how he had sold Patterson a gorilla suit (which the hoaxer subsequently modified using extra faux fur he purchased from Morris). Bob Heironimus has identified himself as the man inside the costume. I pointed out that family and friends of Heironimus saw the Bigsuit in the trunk of his mother’s Buick in late 1967. (See my Tracking the Man-Beasts, 2011, 68–73.) The segment (and show) ended with my reference to Smithsonian primate biologist Dr. John Napier’s famous comment on the creature, “I could not see the zipper.”