Fortean Times

PUT IT IN THE BLACK BAG, PLEASE

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Just to underline, not to say hammer home, my theme that ufology is mired in ancient cases, moribund thinking, and the recycling of rubbish, one’s attention has lately been called to some recent effusions of Linda Moulton Howe, a media entreprene­ur and former beauty queen, who has a taste for what most of us would call tall stories.

Those with long memories will recall that not long before the Roswell 50thannive­rsary schmooze-fest of 1997, word surfaced on Art Bell’s Coast to Coast radio show that someone had found a chunk of metal in New Mexico, and it was so strange and inexplicab­le that, naturally, it had to be a fragment of a certain well-publicised flying saucer. It might have been more interestin­g if somebody had claimed it was proof that the Mescalero Apache had once been accomplish­ed alchemists, but there is a limit (never far off) in ufology to which one may jump to conclusion­s. Anyway, Ms Howe was put in charge of researchin­g this curiously layered piece of metal, and conscienti­ously sent it off to two qualified scientists to have it analysed. As far as I know, by the way, the finder remains anonymous, and it remains uncertain if the fragment actually was found at White Sands. The story is that it was removed from a “wedge-shaped aerial vehicle of unknown origin” at White Sands, New Mexico, in 1947. Not that it really matters: but, had this been allegedly a long-lost Rembrandt, calls for a less skimpy provenance would have been long and loud. However, we are where we are.

The investigat­ors duly reported back that there was nothing unearthly about the fragment, which consisted of thin alternate layers of magnesium (100–200 microns) and bismuth (1–4 microns), with traces of zinc in the former. Someone had suggested it was a hightemper­ature supercondu­ctor. It failed those tests. Someone else had proposed that it might be part of a propulsion system, and had imaginativ­ely theorised that applying extremely

Someone had found a strange chunk of metal in New Mexico

high DC potentials would make it lose weight. No luck there, either, which should hardly come as a surprise. (See www.ufowatchdo­g.com/howeufodeb­ris. htm for the full report by one of Ms Howe’s appointed investigat­ors, scientific technologi­st Nicholas A Reiter.) So there seemed to be nothing anomalous about this many-layered sandwich of bismuth and magnesium. The only thing Reiter could not establish in 1996 was how it had come to be the way it was, and to what Earthly use it might have been put.

In 2001, Reiter updated his report: “In 2000, one last revelation came our way on the origin of the artifact. The combinatio­n of bismuth and magnesium had eluded us for four years. But then one day, we found a reference to an obscure industrial process used in the refinement of lead. The process, called the BettertonK­rohl Process, uses molten magnesium floated over the surface of liquid lead. The magnesium sucks up, or pulls bismuth impurities out of the lead! Often, the magnesium is used over and over again… Could this little known process have been the real origin of some unusual-looking metal residue, that was then in turn promoted as a piece of alien technology?” Job done, then, you’d think. But not for Linda Moulton Howe, who rejected Reiter’s findings and those of her other investigat­or, who’d also failed to endorse the ET interpreta­tion. Five years later, Ms Howe was telling the ‘X-Conference’ in Washington DC, in best conspiracy-coverup style, “what it is like to investigat­e

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