Monday, March 31, 2008

The latest UFO flap begins

Someone using the name Raji claims to have taken this photo on May 16 in Capitola, Calif. "I have no clue what this thing is so I'm putting it out there to see if anyone else saw it," he wrote when he posted it online. Soonafter Raji vanished and closed his e-mail account.

As news spread about the unidentified object, others came forward on the Web to say they had also seen it. Videos and other images of what soon became known as the “California Drone” were published on the Internet.

Then came a call in January to private detective, T.K. Davis, a former Santa Clara County sheriff deputy. An unidentified woman from Open Minds Forum, a group specializing in “UFOology,” was willing to pay him $100 an hour to investigate the sighting.

Davis doesn’t believe in UFOs, but he took the woman seriously and has been on the case with a partner, Frankie Dixon, ever since. What does Davis think now? For one, he believes the object in the photo is too intricate to be the work of a Photoshop scam artist. He’s searched high and low to determine what it may be, and talked with many doubters, but has yet to find a logical answer.

Davis has even talked to the local power company to try to determine where the telephone pole in the photograph is located. Before vanishing, the person who claimed to take the photograph e-mailed the woman from the Open Minds Forum saying the image was shot outside his fiancee’s parents home. If Davis can find the telephone pole, he believes, he can find the person who took the photo.

An article published in the Los Angeles Times about the photographs last week has sparked more interest in the UFO sighting, but Davis says he still doesn’t have any solid evidence on whether or not the photographs are real. “The more research we’ve done, I’m leading towards believing,” he told the San Jose Mercury News. “I’m not a skeptic anymore.”

Many bloggers on UFO sites have called the images a hoax, claiming they have been digitally altered. Others have contacted Davis saying they had seen a UFO in Capitola several years ago. One person, a man named Isaac that Davis found through the Mutual UFO Network, claims the strange object bears a similarity to crafts that were built as part of a U.S. government project he worked on in Palo Alto in the 1980s.

Davis has investigated this too, but can’t confirm the project ever existed. Speculation continues to run rampant, but until Davis speaks with Raji, the person who took the photos, he says it will remain a mystery.

Our friend Fits over at Shooting the Messengers ran this story with some comments that were less than supportive of the UFO buff's cause and has been getting some grief about it.

In the interests of taking some of the heat off Fits and in helping out those who may be in doubt about the authenticity of this picture let me make the following statement.

This is a photoshop. The person who produced this was inspired by the "space probe" in the video game Homeworld (PC Gamer's 1999 Game of the Year). The method of disseminating the photograph is the classic method of a hoaxer. Put the photo up from a throwaway account and then vanish, depending on the gullibility of the UFO believer community to take it viral.

There are real UFO's, that is objects which are in the air (flying) and whose identity cannot be positively determined. However this isn't one of them.