The Lawton Triangles HOAX ("Sightings" : March, 2002 and May, 2002;
HOAX admission, Aug. 2, 2002)
Analysis of the UFO/HOAX reports by
NOTE: What follows is the report as presented on this web site with no changes, followed
by a special second addendum, NOW IT CAN BE TOLD which presents the "admission" of a hoax.
At the end of the initial report I wrote:
Hence, unless someone has a better idea, I would have to classify this as a True UFO
(TRUFO), which might be some sort of Alien Flying Craft (AFC) (or two such craft?)
In other words, either a hoax or the real thing!!
As suspected, someone had a "better idea, " it was a hoax.
Carl Wilson of Lawton, OK, indicated in a Usenet message how the photos were created.
Furthermore, he provided on his web site another nearly identical photo.
This is all described in the second addendum.
I am retaining the complete correspondence as presented in my original presentation
of this case so that the readers can see how this case developed.
Hoax must always be considered as an alternative, especially when digital photos
Evidently the hoaxer considered himself successful and was willing to brag about it to
That's how we got the proof of a hoax.
ORIGINAL REPORT OF THIS CASE (first photo and then the second photo):
On March 11, 2002 I received an email from Investigator Jim Hickman:
"I received a sighting report from near Lawton, OK this morning with a fairly strange
photo attached, of course I thought of you...lol! I will be getting more info from the witness
as soon as I can but I wanted to let you look at the photo and see what you think."
The witness, "J W.", who lives west of Lawton, had written to Hickman:
"I took the attached picture from my house on the west edge of Lawton just minutes ago. I
was returning from some late night shopping at the local Wal-Mart and noticed these objects in
the distance moving around the sky rather erratically. When I got closer to home I realized
these objects were moving in my direction so when I got home I ran inside and grabbed my digital
camera. When I ran back outside the objects were nearly overhead. I snapped only one picture
before they sped out of sight."
I asked for further details:
"There's really not much more to add. I only got to see them up close for a very short
period of time. I don't know if anyone else saw them at the wee hours of the morning when this
happened, but it sure had all the dogs in the neighborhood barking for awhile! I just wish I
had been able to get more than one picture. I just got the digital camera a few days ago and am
not real familar with it yet."
J W. filled out a questionnaire:
1. When did you see the phenomenon? "3-11-02"
2. Time of Sighting: "About 1:30 AM"
3. How long did you see the object? "About 5 to 10 minutes total"
4. Place- State/County -City/Town- Country : "Lawton, Oklahoma"
Describe the experience as best you remember it:
"As I was driving home (driving towards the west from downtown Lawton I noticed several
green lights and one larger red light near the western horizon. At first I paid little attention
thinking it to be aircraft lights when they began to move in an erratic way. The smaller green
lights seemed to be orbiting around the larger red light. It was then obvious that this
wasn't any normal aircraft! As I got closer to home I realized that the lights were heading in
my general direction. I pulled into my driveway and ran into the house to grab my digital
camera. When I ran back outside the objects were now much closer and nearly overhead. I just
recently got my digital camera, and not being very familiar with it only managed to get one
picture. At the time I took the picture the objects were moving but slowly. After I took the
picture I made the mistake of checking the display on the back of the camera to see if I got it.
In hindsight I should have spent that time taking more pictures as it then sped off to the east
while and was quickly out of sight. As a result I only got the one picture."
"I didn't notice any sound coming from the objects, but they did seem to
disturb all the dogs in the neighborhood which were barking until it
vanished from sight."
5. If possible indicate on a copy of a map where you were in reference to object seen.
6. How high was the object above the horizon when first seen? How high above the horizon when
was last seen?
"First seen about 20 degrees above horizon. At closest point about 80
degrees above horizon. When moving away to the east last seen about 45
degree above horizon."
6A. Indicate the direction to the object when first seen and the direction when last seen.
"First seen to the west. Last seen moving east"
7. What was the nature of motion of the object (Straight line, curved, zig-zag etc)?
"Objects moved erratically, but generally towards me at first, then directly away."
8. Were you in a vehicle when you sighted object? What direction were you moving? "West"
How fast were you moving? "40 mph"
Did you stop at anytime while observing the object? "Only after I arrived home"
9. Describe the type of vehicle you were in and type of road, terrain or
body of water you traversed during the sighting:
"Late model Honda. Moving down a 4 lane street (Gore Blvd.)"
Were windows up or down? "up"
Describe traffic conditions if any: "Almost no traffic once I got into the residential area
Did you notice any other objects in the sky during your sighting? (moon,
star, aircraft etc.) if so, give details
"None. Cloudy skies with nothing else in sight."
10. Weather Conditions Give brief description of weather/sky conditions
at the time of your sightings.
A. Sky: "cloudy"
B. Weather: "breezy and cool"
11. Did the object... (Answer Yes, No, or Unknown)
Move in a straight line? "No" Change directions? "Yes" Hover? "No" Spin? "No"
Affect Radio, TV, Auto or Electricity or Electronics? "No"
Change color or shape? "No" Give off smoke? "No" Change Brightness? "Yes"
Disappear? "No" Flash or Flicker? " No" Make noise? "No" Affect human/animal? "Yes"
Flutter or Wobble? "No" Have visible occupants? "No" Attempt to communicate? "No"
Leave marks or traces on ground? "No" Break into pieces? "No"
12. What first drew your attention to the object?
"Erratic movement. At first thought the lights to be aircraft lights until erratic movement
13. How did the sighting end? "Objects moved off rapidly to the east while still moving
15. On a separate piece of paper draw a sketch of what you saw.
16. If you were to hold a match head at arm's length in front of the object, how much was
"Not much at closest point. When first seen in the distance a match would have covered most of
the larger red object and probably all of the green ones. After it got closer a match wouldn't
have covered much.
17. Was object viewed through glasses? "Yes" Window? "At first" Binoculars? (no)
Telescope? (no) Camera? "Yes" Night Vision? (no) Radar? (not known to witness)
18. Give your estimate of object's speed:
"When first seen to far away to give any good estimate. At slowest point while nearly overhead,
maybe 10 mph for a brief period of time. When moving off to the east very rapid. Probably
several hundred miles per hour."
19. Give estimate of distance to object:
"At closest point maybe a 100 feet or so. Hard to estimate distance while looking up into a dark
sky without references."
20. Have you seen this or similar objects before? "No"
21. Were there any other witness's to this sighting? If possible give names and addresses.
"None that I'm aware of"
22. Your Name(confidential)_______ Telephone (confidential)_______
Age: "44" Male
"I would rather not give out too many details about my name and address. I'm former military but
now work as a civilian at Fort Sill. My job requires that I have a high security clearance, and
I'm afraid that if any of this got out I'd lose my clearance and my job. Hope you understand my
A few days later Jim was able to interview the witness directly:
Witness "J W." states:
"On 3/11/2002 at 1:30am, as I was driving home (driving towards the west from downtown Lawton,
Oklahoma (90 miles sw of Oklahoma City), I noticed several green lights and one larger red light
near the western horizon. At first I paid little attention thinking it to be aircraft lights,
when they began to move in an erratic way. The smaller green lights seemed to be orbiting around
the larger red light. It was then obvious that this wasn't any normal aircraft! As I got closer
to home I realized that the lights were heading in my general directions. I pulled into my
driveway and ran into the house to grab my digital camera.
When I ran back outside, the objects were now much closer, and nearly overhead. I just recently
got my digital camera, and not being very familiar with it only managed to get one picture. At
the time I took the picture the objects were moving but slowly. After I took the picture, I
made the mistake of checking the display on the back of the camera to see if I got it. In
hindsight I should have spent that time taking more pictures as it then sped off to the east and
was quickly out of sight. As a result I only got 1 picture.
I didn't notice any sound coming from the objects, but they did seem to disturb all the dogs in
the neighborhood which were barking until it vanished from sight. At first thought the lights to
be an aircraft until erratic movement. Object's speed when first seen was too far away to give
any good estimate. At slowest point while nearly overhead, maybe 10 mph for a brief period of
time. When moving off to the east, very rapid, probably several hundred miles per hour.
Estimated distance from object at closest point was 100 feet or so.
I would rather not give out too many details about my name and address. I'm former military but
now work as a civilian at Fort Sill. My job requires that I have a high security clearance, and
I'm afraid that if any of this got out I'd lose my clearance and my job. Hope you understand my
Investigator's note: the witness was able to show me on a map the exact
location he was at in relation to the "UFO" and I have this info on
file. I checked the weather that night and it was partly cloudy, breezy
and cool. Lawton is the home of a huge military base, Fort Sill and
Altus Air Force base is about 35 miles to the west.
I can't help but notice a few similarities between this case and the
Hudson valley sightings back in the '80's. i.e.; A large object hovering
overhead, multicolored lights, slow speed, then fast exit, altitude 100'
or less, no sounds, animals affected, etc.
As a side note; I was involved in a UFO incident near Lawton myself back
in '83 where a huge triangle shaped object hovered overhead, (I was able
to see structure), and then followed my vehicle for over 20 miles. This
sighting was verified by the Kiowa County Sheriff's office who's
dispatcher saw the object as I was in radio communication with him, and
by Altus Air Force base, who sent up an aircraft to investigate. I have
written a full account of that evening in my next book, I call that
story "Encounter at Lost Lake".
Author, "5000 years of UFO's"
MUFON Research Specialist for Media Operations
I asked the following question about the camera:
What is the shutter time when the camera is looking into darkness? Perhaps the camera
specifications tell this. If not we will have to come up with a reasonable
experiment. I presume the shutter is electronic(gating the CCD chip) rather than mechanical as
with an "analogue" camera. Probably the shutter time is set by the amount of light in the scene.
J W. responded:
"According to my manual the camera changes shutter speed automatically
from 1/2 to 1/1000 second."
I also asked J to take a picture of a yardstick at 30 feet in order to obtain and
angle calibration in degrees or radians per unit length on the film. I also asked him
to take pictures of stars, moon and streetlights so I could determine how well the camera
portrays lights at night.
Later, J responded:
"I just finished taking the picture of the yardstick at 30 feet as requested. The sky is
clearing, so I'll also try to see if I can get pictures of the stars or moon tonight as well as
the streetlight pictures. I'll email them as soon as I get them all tonight."
On March 16 I received the calibration photo. Note the angle vs image size calibration:
0.00088 radians per pixel.
2) For comparison, J took a picture of a streetlamp at 50 meters, at 100 meters (approx) and
a picture of Jupiter through thin, high clouds. The picture of Jupiter, below, is blown
up as compared to its original image size. Note the large halos around the bright lights.
FIGURE 4 Streetlamp at 50 m
FIGURE 5 Streetlamp at 100 m
The photo below shows the effect of extreme brightness (the size of the image of the
overexposed streetlamp is much larger than the image would be if not overexposed) and
the effect on images of illumination by a brief flash vs illumination by a steady light
when the camera is not mounted on a tripod (image smear).
FIGURE 6 Jupiter (blowup)
I asked the following question: You say the evening was cloudy.... how cloudy? Is it likely
that a direct view of the stars was not possible due to clouds in the direction that you were
J responded: "It was probably 80% or more overcast that night. A few stars were visable near
the western horizon, but most of the sky was cloudy. Here's the picture of the moon you
FIGURE 7 PHOTO OF THE HALF MOON
Below is a direct image of the moon and an "emboss" image to show the outline.
Notice that the image is much larger than expected for the moon based on the
angle calibration determined by the yardstick photo above. The expected (geometric)
size and shape of the moon is illustrated - approximately - by the dark line
half-moon shape drawn inside the emboss image of the moon.
I asked about the camera and any zoom capability:
"Camera is a Olympus D-100. It does have a zoom (2X) but it wasn't used."
I also asked if he used the flash when he took the test photos of the streetlight, etc. (above).
"Yes, except for the picture of Jupiter. The camera has an auto focus
feature, and it wouldn't allow me to take pictures of the street light
unless I used flash. According to the book, if the auto focus can have
trouble in poor light without flash when trying to focus on objects not at
the infinity setting. This wasn't a problem when imaging Jupiter since the
focus was at infinity.
It took a lot of tries to get that picture (of Jupiter). Most of the time I was too
shaky to get anything at all, or it came out as a dim blob. Finally I
rested my elbows on the hood of a car to get a descent, steady picture.
J also answered some more pointed questions about the sighting directions and the
relationship of the green lights to the red light/object:
"I was facing towards the south when I took the pictures. The angular elevation was nearly 90
degrees I presume. I'd estimate at least 80 degrees angular elevation. The green dots appeared
to be separate objects that moved about in the vicinity of the larger red object."
I also asked J to try to take pictures of other stars, such as in the belt of Orion and
Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. He sent me a photo of Sirius on March 26. It looks
very similar to that of Jupiter, but about 1/2 the size. He also tried to photograph the
belt of Orion but they didn't make any images.
"I couldn't see the stars of the Orion constellation through the viewfinder as they don't seem
to be bright enough for this camera."
He then asked, "Do you have any idea what these objects might have been?
I've spend many a night out under the stars while in the military, and have seen all sorts of
military craft, but never anything like this. I've dabbled in amateur astronomy for a few years,
so I'm pretty familiar with the sky."
I told him I appreciated the fact that he had experience looking at the sky, therefore, was
better educated than the person with no such experience who looks up and thinks everything
a UFO. I also said that I don't know that the objects were and he responded:
"That makes two of us then. Seeing something like this is exciting, but also
I asked if there an apparent connection between the large red "thing" and the
green lights that make the triangle?
He responded: "There seemed to be. While they didn't seem to be physically connected to
the red thing, they moved along with it, but with erratic movements. One
second they'd be moving along with the red thing, keeping the same position
relative to it, then suddenly dart to a new location and once again keep the
same position relative to the red thing for awhile, then repeat the process.
ANALYSIS OF THE PHOTO
According to this report several lights/objects were moving through the sky in a related,
perhaps physically connected, way, at a nominal speed. When the witness realized that the
motion of the lights, with the green lights seeming to rotate about the red light, was unlike
anything he had seen before he reacted by deciding that it was quite strange and he should get a
picture. He grabbed his digital camera and took a picture. Not being thoroughly familiar with
the camera he looked at the "instant replay" screen to be certain that he had a picture. By the
time he was ready to take another it was gone. So, what can we make out of this picture?
Assuming that this was taken under the conditions we are told, and I have no reason
to believe otherwise, then this is a truly bizarre picture. The small groups of single green
(apparently) lights are unusual because aircraft have only a single green light. But what
is really "astounding" is the "red car" image (closest comparison I could come up with!). One
might expect to see a red light or several red lights in the sky (attached to an aircraft, e.g.,
anticollision beacons), but not a red glowing surface in the sky.
Consider, now the following images. The first shows a slight enhancement of the photo. The
second is another "emboss" type of picture showing the outlines of the images with comments
regarding them. The third image below shows the angular spacings of the green lights and the
angular size of the "red car."
FIGURE 8 Enhanced Version of the Photo
FIGURE 9 Emboss Version of the Photo
FIGURE 10 Angular Sizes of the Triangle and "Red Boat"
Looking at Figure 8 one sees that there are a couple tiny red dots in the area to the left of
and above the "red car" image. These are not tiny UFO lights. They are bad pixels (a camera
flaw) that appear in the nighttime shot of the moon, etc. Beneath the upper right group of four
(smeared) green lightimages there is a small greenish area. This is probably not a greenish
glowing surface but rather is more likely to be a faint lens flare caused by the presence of 4
green lights, the images of which are overexposed. The same is probably true of two other, much
fainter, greenish regions (which tend to form a triangle with the first greenish region).
One notes that the lights which make up the left side of the triangle are both green and red.
Using a blowup it appears that there are three red lights, two of which are very close together,
as well as the three green lights. Standard aircraft lighting requires green on one side and
red on the other, not red and green on one side.
As illustrated in Figure 9, the green light images are elongated, a result of camera motion
during the photo. Since the camera was not on a tripod it was undergoing hand vibration. Since
the photo was taken into the dark night sky the shutter time was probably 1/4 to 1/2 second or
so. During that time hand vibration can move, or actually turn, the camera a considerable
angle. From that point of view it is lucky that there wasn't more image smearing. Anyway, the
nearly linear smears of the green point-of-light images provide a "calibration" of the amount of
image smear and the direction of image smear. This calibration can be applied directly to the
"red car" image. As illustrated in Figure 9, the left and right edges of the image are probably
true representations of the actual left and right sides of the light/object. However, the smear
has made the image too wide. I have indicated the probably actual width of the "red car" image.
The "headlights" of the "car" image, (at the lower end of the image) are overexposed
(and smeared). As pointed out in Figure 5, images of bright lights are larger than they
"should" be. An image of an object should be determined by the equal angle rule: the angle
made by the size of the object divided by its distance is the same as the angle made by the
size of the image divided by the focal length. For small angles the following ratio is
equivalent to equality of the angles (in radian measure): W/D = I/F, where W is the object
width (a dimension measured perpendicular to the line of sight), D is its distance, W/D is the
angle made by the size of the object divided by its distance, I is the corresponding width of
the image and F is the focal length. Whenever this equal angle rule hold we have "geometric
imaging." Thus, for a streetlight of size about 1 foot when photographed at a distance of 100 m
or about 330 ft, the angle is W/D = 1/330 = 0.003 radians. The calibration of the camera
angular size vs. image size has been given above as 0.00088 radians per pixel. If we divide
0.003 radians by 0.00088 radians per pixel we find the geometric image size to be between 3 and
4 pixels. However, the actual size of the overexposed region in Figure 5 is about 20 pixels.
If one starts from the image size, 20 pixels, and assumes geometric imaging one calculates a
size of the light of about 1.8 m or about 6 ft. In other words, if one uses the width of the
overexposed image and assumes geometric imaging, one calculates a size that is about 6 times too
great. (Something similar occurs with the moon image in Figure 7.) Noting that the images of
the "headlights" of the red "car" and the green lights are all overexposed to varying degrees,
one can only say that the lights sources were small, but exactly how small cannot be determined
from the images. The "car" image itself, however, is not overexposed. Hence it's image size
is the geometric size. This fact is used below to estimate its actual size.
Figure 10 provides the angular distances between the lights in radians. For angles this small
an approximate size or distance can be estimated simply by multiplying the angular size in
radians by a known or assumed distance to the object. In this case distance is not known, so
one must assume a distance and calculate the resulting distance or size. For example, if we
assume 1,000 ft from the camera up to the objects/lights, then the sides of the triangle are
1000 x 0.25 rad = 250 ft, 1000 x 0.27 rad = 270 and (the third side) 280 ft. If the distance
were less, say 100 ft, then the spacings would be less, say 25 ft, 27 ft and 28 ft. On the
other hand, if the distances were greater, then the spacings would be proportionally greater.
Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), if these were all attached to a single object, it
was quite large.
The same can be said of the "red car." The "car" image is not overexposed. It appears to be
something (an object) with a red glowing surface of some considerable size. Using the method
described above for estimating size, with an assumed altitude of about 1000 ft the "car" would
be 126 ft long by 63 ft wide (after removing the increased image width due to camera
What could this have been? It certainly doesn't seem to be any military device or any type of
object normally in the sky. Internally lighted blimps seem like very strange objects at night,
but they have a distinctive shape. (There was a rash of blimp sightings and videos back in the
early 1990's, so we have video "data" on the types of images they make...nothing like this.)
Hence, unless someone has a better idea, I would have to classify this as a True UFO (TRUFO),
which might be some sort of Alien Flying Craft (AFC) (or two such craft?)
ADDENDUM: A SECOND PHOTO
In a rather amazing occurrence, several months later another photo was taken by another person
that shows what is apparently the same, or at least similar, object(s). During the evening of
May 20, 2002, a witness who is in the military, "TJ," was at a location (confidential) which is
basically several miles north of Lawton. He reported that he saw
"the strangest objects in the sky that I ever saw! The nature of my job requires that I carry a
camera in my vehicle for documenting accidents and incidents (near Lawton, OK) so I was able to
get a picture of the objects. "
"When I got home, I started searching the web trying to figure out who I should report this to,
since I'm definitely NOT going to report this to the military. If I did I'd probably end my
career real fast. When I came across (the MUFON) website I almost fell out of my chair! The
Lawton Triangle picture is almost exactly like the objects I saw, and Lawton is just south of
where I saw these objects! Is this bizarre or what?!"
"I first spotted the objects through some some trees. At first I thought they were just vehicle
lights or something. Then all of a sudden they shot straight up in the air and just hovered! I
shot a picture, and then they shot straight up in the sky and disappeared! This is really
weird, and even weirder that someone else saw the same thing in the same area just a few weeks
TJ made the above report the same evening as the sighting. Several days later at my request
he elaborated a bit. I asked what kind of of camera. He responded that it was a Canon
powershot A10 , digital camera (1.3 megapixel). He said that, although the camera has 3X
zoom capability he was not using zoom. This means that the magnification factor (or field of
view) of this second picture is comparable to that of the first. He, furthermore, stated that
the picture recording was set for "standard quality." He further stated,
"I was looking west when the sighting began. I first spotted the objects low to the ground
behind some tall trees. At first I thought they were the lights from (ground) vehicles. Then
suddenly these lights shot straight up in the sky and just hovered for a minute or so. I just
sat there dumbfounded for a moment when it suddenly dawned on me that I should take a picture.
Then they suddenly shot straight up in the sky at very high velocity and were out of sight
within a second or so. "
Below is a comparison between the photos. They have been scaled to show images that are
approximately the same size and the "gamma" of each photo has been increased to bring out the
fainter images. Note the similarities in the numbers and locations of the lights.
The red "car" image is much clearer in this new picture which was only very slightly smeared
by camera motion during the exposure. The left and right edges are virtually identical to the
left and right edges in the March photo.
This is a rare event, having two photos, taken by different witnesses on different days at
different locations of apparently the same object or objects.
SPECIAL ADDENDUM: NOW IT CAN BE TOLD
On Aug. 4, 2002 I received from Bruce Hutchinson the following message
>Came across this on the Usenet tonight. I remember the "Lawton
>Triangle" case as one that you mentioned several times in
>postings to the List.
>Sent: Friday, August 02, 2002 3:23 AM
>Subject: Re: How to Fool a Saucerhead, Part 4
>From: "Carl Wilson"
>> On Tue, 30 Jul 2002 03:51:21 GMT, "John Baker"
>> >Step 3:
>> >Choose a background. Anything will do, just don't make it too
>"busy." Use the
>> >Lasso Tool to crop out your edited "UFO" image. Cut and paste
>it onto your
>> >background. Use the Move Tool to position it where you want
>>>the layers using the "flatten image" command. Use the Rubber
>Stamp Tool to
>>>blend your "UFO" in with the background. This part takes a bit
>of care and
>>>patience. Finally, use the Lasso Tool and the mask tool to
>>>"UFO." Apply a bit more gaussian blur to the "UFO" only, *not*
>>>background. Voila! There you have it. A "UFO" photograph
>guaranteed to give
>>>any saucer geek a woody. LOL!
>> Actually, you don't even have to do that much work!
>> Step 1: Get a digital camera
>> Step 2: Turn off all lights in the room where your PC is
>> Step 3: Take a jiggly picture of the front of your PC/DSL
>> Router with the flash turned off.>
>> Step 4: Submit resulting picture to Saucer Head Web shite of
>> Or, if you want to be a bit more creative:
>> Step 1: Get a digital camera
>> Step 2: Turn off all lights in the room where your PC is
>> Step 3: Take a picture with the flash turned off of the front
>> PC/DSL Modem/DSL Router *and* the bottom of your optical
>> Step 4: Submit to "UFO expert" for "analysis>"
>> Step 5: Repeat same process a few months later using a
>> (Picture of "Lawton Triangle" with the flash turned on)
It was fortunate that Mr. Hutchinson chose that particular day to visit USENET.
He thus found information that confirmed earlier suspicions.
A visit to the kook-watch site reveals that photo ufo.jpg is essentially identical
to the two previous photos. Only the "shape" of the camera jiggle, as recorded in the
right angle bend in the elongated images of the lights, is different. Thus Mr. Wilson has
provided proof of a hoax.
Hoax was initially considered as a possibility. However, direct communications with
the photographer "JW" indicated that he was cooperative and there was no proof of a hoax.
(The photo itself was weird, outside the "UFO norm", but the unusual nature
of the lights/images was not, by itself, proof of a hoax in the UFO context which
includes numerous reports of variously shaped objects, including triangular objects.)
The appearance of the second photo seemed to add support to the first photo.
However, there was a very suspicious aspect to the second photo: the triangle and
the "red thing" were oriented in a manner that matched quite closely the orientations
(relative positions) of the similar images in the first photo. This was a very surprising
coincidence if the photos were real and taken outdoors as an object was passing by; not so
surprising if a hoax. Nevertheless, the report of the second photo was written as if it
supported the first photo while I waited to see if something would "turn up."
Now something has turned up!
A skeptic/debunker might have written off the first photo immediately because "UFOs
don't exist" and therefore any photo must be a hoax. This sort of reasoning, however, gets
us nowhere. The skeptical but non-debunking ufologist must give the witness the benefit
of the doubt unless and until evidence is found to the contrary. If the case has no clear
proof of a hoax built in, then it can be proven a hoax only by confession of the hoaxer.
It appears that in some photo cases in the past, cases which seem to have been hoaxed, the
perpetrator has not come forward, with the result that the truth of such cases is
indeterminate. However, in other cases the hoaxer comes forward, in this case in a
It is obvious why he did it: to show that ufo-believers/ufologists are all kooks and
nuts and ready to believe anything. Of course, this claim is not news. Some newspaper
stories during the 1947 flap implied as much. The editor of Applied Optics in 1979 said
almost exactly the same thing in a letter to me. Nevertheless, the editor published my
analysis of the New Zealand sightings of Dec. 1978 (posted on this web site).
Did the hoaxer prove his point? No. Ufologists are not undiscriminating and ready to
believe anything. I have rejected probably more sightings than I have accepted,
including some which I have spent a lot of time analyzing (e.g., over 100 hours on the Mexico
City, Aug 7, 1997 video of an object that appears to go behind a building). (I spent only
than a couple of hours on this Lawton case.) The hoaxer only demonstrated that
ufologists tend to assume at first that the witness is telling the truth as he/she understands
it and proceed along that line of investigation, at least until some inconsistency turns up.
The Lawton investigation has been presented as a series of messages and analyses in "real
time" so the reader can see how I arrived at the conclusion that "unless someone has a better
idea" a real UFO was involved. In other words, either a hoax or the real thing. Now we
know for certain it was a hoax.
The hoaxer may also have been trying to prove that there are no true UFOs because
people who study "that stuff" are all stupid/gullible/whatever. In this regard he has
failed miserably. One digital photo case proved to be a hoax after it was published on a
couple of web sites is less than a drop in the bucket as compared to over 50 years of
sightings collected and analyzed by various military, government and civilian organizations.
If someone is trying to prove that there are or have been no true UFOs because all sightings
can be explained (as was this Lawton Triangle "sighting"), then he/she should not waste
his/her time and the time of others by perpetrating a hoax. He/she would do better
to spend his/her time proposing well-thought-out explanations for sightings that have been
thoroughly investigated and which do not involve hoaxes (multiple witness, professional
observers, military one duty, etc.) There are many, including some on this web site, which
defy explanation as conventional phenomena.
The hoaxer failed to prove what he intended, but he did do something else: he
provided a warning to the UFO community that there are people willing to take the time to
provide a sort of "disinformation." He proved that there are people willing to take the time
to create photographic evidence and, of more importance, to follow through by creating a
plausible sighting story and allowing themselves to be investigated. In doing so they waste
their own time and the time of the investigators, time that that could be better spent
investigating the sightings reported by honest people.