Thursday, November 19, 2009


Discovery Channel - Original Air Date: 11/15/09

A former homicide detective, Ed Norris goes looking for Jack the Ripper and posits that Jack may have spent some time in America -- killing women -- after the crimes stopped in England.  He looks at the usual Jack evidence, and quickly dismisses some of the usual suspects (including Francis Tumblety, prime suspect in the recent MYSTERYQUEST show -- whom he says was someone who "really really sticks out" and would, therefore, have been hard to miss).  He reaches the conclusion that the killer was James Kelly, a man who escaped from a lunatic asylum and -- after the Ripper murders -- traveled to America, only to return to the asylum voluntarily at the end of his life, saying he'd been on "the warpath."  The contrasts between this and the last show point out why the Ripper murders have remained unsolved for so long: too many suspects, too many theories, not enough hard evidence.  (Ever wish we had DNA samples available?)  After each Ripper show I watch, I come away thinking, "That's the guy," and then the next show makes an equally compelling case for someone else.  Who done it?  Was Jack the same guy who killed women in America afterward?  I fear we may never know.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

MYSTERYQUEST - Jack the Ripper

History Channel - Original Air Date: 11/11/09

This show goes over most of the usual Ripper lore and then focuses in on two suspects: Mary Pearcey - known killer -- and "Dr." Francis Tumblety, an American scam artist who fled England shortly after the Ripper murders.  After examining various bits of evidence -- mostly circumstantial -- they eliminate Pearcey (too passionate in her known crime) and come to the conclusion that Tumblety, who kept a collection of women's uteruses, sorted by social class, fits the profile of Jack very well.  But, with over a century of speculation to date, the show doesn't come to any final conclusion.  Still, this MQ episode was an interesting take on two lesser-known Ripper candidates.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


History Channel - Original Air Date: 10/14/09

In case you hadn't figured it out, I won't be reviewing every MQ program, just the ones that fit my interests.  And I won't review shows where they seem to shoehorn supernatural stuff into normal mysteries, like the recent Alcatraz episode.  This episode starts with a reenactment of a UFO encounter -- though what the episode is, they don't really say at first.  They then talk of the government's history of covering up UFO stories, including Area 51.  Several "witnesses" claim that there are aliens all over the place in Area 51's underground complexes.  Much of this show's evidence seems to be based on the stories of John Lear and Bob Lazare -- and it turns out the reenactment at the beginning was Bob's "proof" to John that what he said about A-51 was true -- an encounter arranged by Bob.  (Or, a clever hoax?  The show doesn't mention that possibility.)  The show relates a lot of the standard Area 51 and government cover-up stories -- and includes some shots from the infamous Alien Autopsy.  They also mention a mysterious "skyquake" -- but don't explain much about it.  Is it a sonic boom?  Is it related to the semi-mythical Aurora aircraft?  They also speculate about an alien research network around the world.  One "researcher" contends that anywhere listed as a space shuttle emergency landing site is part of the A-51 network.  They also mention AUTEC as related to, or part of this network.

MQ sends a team to investigate and try to find out whats up with Area 51.  They set up camera traps near A-51, and quickly run afoul of the authorities -- but not so afoul as to stop their investigations.  They take a huge telephoto lens and cameras to a mountain overlooking the base.  Soon, the peak is circled by a jet and an unmarked black helicopter; the group believes they are being watched.  Their intent is to match what they see to existing satellite photos (thank you, Google) and discover if there's new construction, meaning the base is an ongoing project, not one winding down.  Why they don't use the big camera at night to look for some of the alleged UFOs, they don't say.  Their camera traps pick up a couple of things, but one turns out to be clouds and another headlights from cars.  No mysteries there.  As with many MQ shows, this one is long on story and short on science or evidence.

UFO HUNTERS - Dark Presence

History Channel - Original Air Date: 10/29/09

According to Bill, UFO reports of orbs are increasing worldwide.  The show plays some video, but it's the usual blurry lights in the sky -- and some seem to behave like flares.  A guest investigator, Ted, rules out "earth lights" because of the duration of some sightings at "Site X."  He believes the orbs can harm plants, livestock, and perhaps even people.  He also thinks they have malicious intent.  The team gets the usual type of witness stories from cops and other people.  They bring in a UFO light expert, who opines that some video is not flares or other known lights.  From Phoenix, they go to Kokomo, IN, for more orb reports.  A MUFOn member says orange balls of light (OBOL) have been seen for years; he believes the balls are intelligent.  A witness describes seeing orbs and then having them haunt her dreams.  The group and a local paranormal group set up IR cameras to try and catch something - theorizing orbs give of IR and therefore may be attracted by it. (?!) They claim to have caught "orbs from the spirit realm" with this technique previously.  (Seeing their examples, I think they need to become better acquainted with the limitations and quirks of their photographic systems; which is to say, I ain't buying.)  But all they find during this stakeout is dust, stars, and aircraft.  No surprise there.

After gathering many stories, the UFO-H team goes to Phoenix for more poking around.  A woman named Christine believes orbs are dark presences that lurk around archeological sites; she's photographed some.  But her "orb" photo in a thunderstorm looks like another camera glitch to me - probably some kind of reflection.  She also claims to have heard voices when she saw an orb.  (For me, this does not add to her credibility.)  She woke up on her couch, believing it to be a dream until a neighbor reported seeing the same thing.  Jeff Willis feels he has a relationship with the orbs he photographs; the show describes him as one fo the best known UFO videographers in the US.  But his orb photos look like flares and balloons (as in the Mexico hoax -- see UFOs Over Earth), to me; I find anyone with such frequent encounters suspicious.  When Jeff's footage is analyzed, the "expert" thinks that some lights are generated by a single triangular craft; but the analysis makes me doubt this "expert's" objectivity and expertise.  He suggests connecting the orbs to local petroglyphs.  They head out with the publisher of Ancient Times -- which sounds like another pseudo-science magazine -- to look for connections at local ruins.  This "expert's" analysis of the glyphs quickly convinces me that he knows little of archeology or art history; he seems just another buff of the supernatural, looking for science to hang his theories on.  He believes the orbs are extra terrestrials and were misinterpreted as divine by the native Americans.

Kevin points out that there are a lot of theories here, but no science; he hopes that in the next 50 years, we may figure out this phenomena.  He explains the increase of videos and pictures because of the increase of people having cameras with them (as in phones).  Bill concludes that events are "quickening," and we had better shape up and pay attention or face the consequences.

One of the consequences, it seems, might be the cancellation of this show (see note about the "wrap up" in the "Area 52" episode).  If this is the end, I suspect it will be because week after week, this show has presented very similar stories but very little actual evidence or investigation.  Ghost Hunters is pretty much the same from week to week, but at least they have a set of pseudo-scientific standards that they apply to the evidence they gather -- rather than just jumping to the wildest conclusions, which has been this show's forte.  Though I signed a petition to save it, I won't be surprised if UFO Hunters has crashed (somewhere near Roswell) at last.

UFO HUNTERS - First Response

History Channel - Original Air Date: 10/29

Is the military pursuing UFOs and attempting to bring them down?  That's the question posed at the beginning of this episode.  There is a history of UFO-military encounters stretching back at least until 1954.  Kevin points out that it's possible that these encounters are escort flights for top-secret government aircraft.  The UFO-H team interviews people, including a woman, Patricia, who claims to have seen helicopters in pursuit of a UFO on March 17, 2009, in Longbeach.  Fortunately, she used a digital camera and tripod to capture her encounter -- using 8 second exposures, as well as 1/30th of a second exposures.  The UFO she saw looks different, clearly, from the helicopters pursuing it.  But, her house is sitting amid a cluster of military bases and testing centers.  Were the copters searching, attacking, or escorting?  Patricia also gathered other witnesses in her neighborhood to back up her story.  (She's one of the best witnesses I've ever seen.)  On the same day, another witness, "Mike" from Corona, who works with a DOD contractor, has a video of a glowing, ring-shaped object moving through the sky.  It's impressive, but doesn't look that fast -- certainly no faster than the Balloon Boy UFO -- which makes me wonder if it could be an illuminated balloon of some type.  The next night, he saw and photographed the object again.  The day after that, his wife said helicopters circled his house; a month later, he was fired.  Kevin remains skeptical of the connection, and the craft's alien origin -- after all, Mike, too, lives near several military bases.  Kevin does some calculations, and concludes that Mike and Patricia probably did not seem the same object.  A photo analyst doesn't think Patricia's photo is a conventional aircraft or helicopter.  The analyst believes the ring craft is a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) with a ring of lights -- and the show even has a picture of one.  So, the ring of light photos seem solved; it was a hoax seen by Mike.  (No wonder the shots were so good.)

Meanwhile, out in Lake Havasu, NV, around the same time, a witness with experience with military aircraft saw a boomerang-shaped craft -- which he estimates at 3-400' wide.  (Though we all know how unreliable size estimates of flying objects are.)  The object was "chased' by several fighter jets.  He has fuzzy video, but there's no way to tell the object's size or true shape.  (Even the pursuit jets are fuzzy.)  Bill tries to connect these sightings to the UFO "crash" in Needles, nearby, in 2008 which also featured military copters "searching."  A show military expert says, of the boomerang-shaped craft, that if it were as large as reported, it is larger than any known aircraft -- including the Spruce Goose.  He also opines that the formation of jets they present to him, would be suitable for attack.  Bill, then, uses those opinions to draw his own conclusions: that the jets were in attack formation and acting aggressively toward the UFO (as opposed to escorting it).  Keven agrees that, in this case, something odd was going on.

With better pictures and recent cases, this was an above-average UFO-H show.  However, Bill still takes case facts and draws the most extreme conclusions from them; he's completely bought into the alien invasion mythology.  Myself, I'd like to see more investigation after the team has talked to witnesses, and less hasty "conclusions."

MONSTERQUEST - Abominable Snowman

History Channel - Original Air Date: 10/25/09

Can it be that MQ hasn't done a Yeti show yet? Guess so, 'cause this episode tackles the beast from page one - relaying all the usual stories and legends. Considering how many people claim to have seen the beast or its handiwork, it's amazing that there isn't better evidence -- though one scientist suggests that the Himalayan brown bear is the basis for the legend. MQ sends a team out to look. The Himalayas are beautiful, but treacherous in both landscape and weather. The team tramps around and sets the usual camera traps. They spot what they think is a line of tracks, but it turns out to have been formed by rolling snow. They send up a helium balloon with a camera to try and capture movement in the vast landscape. But all their explorations turn up only a small monkey skull. Footprint casts examined by experts show mostly known animals, while others are inconclusive. Hair from a "yeti scalp" turns out to be from a deer or antelope. Though the show concludes the area could support a great ape, they have no evidence of one. They do point out that bears probably account for many of the reports. Not much new here, but not a bad place to start if you don't know the standard yeti myths.

Friday, November 6, 2009

DESTINATION TRUTH - Chullachaqui & Bermuda Triangle

SyFy - Original Air Date: 10/14/09

First, up, the Josh & the DT team go to look for a gremlin like creature, the Chullachaqui, in the jungles of Peru.  They take Rob & Dustin from GHI with them in an apparent "investigator exchange."  In the jungle, the locals are definitely afraid of the creature, and one even claims that the creature killed his friend. Naturally, the team hears noises in the night jungle -- a jungle filled with snakes and big cats.  They don't catch, and their camera traps have only blurs.  Teeth and prints they find turn out to be from wild pigs -- which Josh speculates may be the source of some of the rumors.

Next, the team brings their high-tech gear to bear on the well known mystery of the Bermuda Triangle.  They decide to fly a charter plane through known points where people have vanished previously.  Josh brings gear to measure EMF, so he can chart and then re-fly through any anomalies.  Near Bimini, they get strange EMF readings and trouble with their compass.  Tagging 3 spots on the island, they set out on foot to investigate.  Finding nothing, come nightfall, they head out on the water -- and experience strange malfunctions of their electronic gear (and even the boat motor).  Then, one of the crew gets lost.  Eventually, he turns up, but Josh concludes that strange things happen on Bimini, and perhaps there's something to the Triangle.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


History Channel - Original Air Date: 10/29/09

History broadcast 4 new episodes of this show on one day. This one followed the one on MIB, and picks up the Dougway Proving Grounds-UFO connection.  The premise is that Dougway is the new home of the UFO-back-engineering that used to be at Area 51 (before it was outed).  The base is now equipped for a Space Shuttle (alternate) landing.  One former worker tells of strange lights in the sky.  UFO researchers claim to have been intimidated when staking out the site from public land.  As they talk near the base, Dougway reps come out and tell them not to film - despite their permits.  A Public Relations officer says Dougway is the nation's chem-bio testing facility, and they test protection equipment for military and civilian applications -- but she won't discuss any private contractors on the base.  She says the no-overflight airspace is to assure privacy -- but she knows of no UFO technology at the base.  (She seems amused by the question, and says she's been asked that before.)  After hearing more tales about the base, the UFO-H team decides to sneak up to it on mountain bikes, to try and get closer to the gates without being noticed.  They see some destroyed vehicles, but nothing unusual.  Another witness, former cop, claims to have seen a circular UFO, followed shortly thereafter by military jets.  He also says he found decapitated horses in the area - which the show connects to either UFOs or secret laser weapons.  Another witness, Alien Dave, has pictures of a strange glow at the base, perhaps a laser or other beam weapon - followed by UFOs.  He also claims to have seen planes vanish in mid flight, and invisible vehicles kicking up dust.  Kevin concludes that there's not enough evidence to show area 51 has moved here, or that there is any alien technology.  Bill and Pat disagree.  Then, oddly, the show wraps up with a recap segment of the whole series that makes it seem like the end of the show (though History played 2 new shows that night).  Did the series probe the truth about UFOs, as they claim, or did it merely reinforce 21st century myths?

UFO HUNTERS - The Silencers

History Channel - Original Air Date: 10/29/09

This episode looks into Men In Black (MIB) and includes witness interviews with people who make various strange claims. One claims the MIB shot his son, another claims to have a single picture of one.  (Looks like a guy in a suit.)  Another claims to have been intimidated numerous times by alien-like MIB - though his artist's sketch looks like an Asian-American.  That witness has passed lie detector and stress tests -- but does that make his story true?  Another believes that there is a network of underground bases for reverse-engineered near the Grand Canyon.  Another claims that MIB researchers die early and mysteriously.  (At least Kevin points out that people do die from seemingly innocuous causes.)  Another man, Dave, claims MIB came to his house and demanded he remove info from his web site after he posted info about military projects at (or near) Dougway Proving Grounds. (The Wayback Machine has a numerous versions of Dave's site archived here -- but I'm not about to sift through to see if what he claims is in the archive.)  Others claim to have been visited by MIB after poking around the same area.  As the UFOH team talks to these folk in the desert, several "black" helicopters fly nearby. They also observe a man dressed in black get into a truck on the restricted compound. Kevin points out that these "encounters" are merely chance, the military going about their usual business.  Bill, naturally, sees conspiracy.  And, as usual, the rest of the stories in the show seem to be taken on face value, with very little investigation.  Perhaps this series should could be more accurately called "UFO Believers."