Monday, January 30, 2017

The Australian scientist who was a potent part of the UFO "Invisible College" - Dr. Michael Duggin (1937-2016) - a tribute

Dr. Michael Duggin (1937 – 2016)
Australian scientist, member of the original “invisible college” study of UFOs, a senior scientist with the US Air Force Research Labs at Kirtland Air Force Base.
(Source: USAF)
 I was saddened by the passing of Dr. Michael Duggin in December, 2016.  He was a scientist with a strong interest in the UFO mystery, who also worked as a senior scientist for the US Air Force Research Labs at Kirtland Air Force Base from 2001.

Michael Duggin, as a scientist, decided to look into the UFO mystery from about 1966.  By 1969 he was grappling with the notorious “scientific study” – the Condon Report - that sought to bury the mystery.  Intrigued by the significant number of unexplained cases therein he continued to examine the mystery focusing on physical evidence cases and working with like-minded scientists and competent civilian researchers. Mike Duggin’s trajectory through the UFO controversy curiously resonated with my own, namely my earliest interest was from 1966, 1969 was a major turning point and the 1970s saw me also focusing on physical evidence cases.  Dr. Duggin’s interest was therefore always of interest to me and I followed his fascinating career.


I first heard of Dr. Duggin in early 1971 when I was looking into reports of a strange ground trace about 7 miles east of Boggabri found during October 1970.  Media and locals were wondering if it was the result of a “flying saucer landing.”  As the Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales was reportedly involved I wrote to its nearest office and received a response from Mr. A.F. Clough.  In a letter dated 28 January 1971 he advised me that “an eminent scientist “ took an interest in the unusual find.  Mr. Clough described the site as “extremely unusual and there was no obvious explanation for its occurrence.”  He advised that the Soil Conservation Service (Gunnedah Office) was only involved in directing the scientist to the location. Mr. Clough added, “The scientist did not attempt to arrive at any conclusion, his purpose was to record details of the phenomenon, however, if one was pressed to explain the cause one could only conclude that it resulted from both a primary and secondary lightning strikes during the coinciding period of electrical storms.”
(source: Bill Chalker's clipping collection)
I contacted Mr. Clough by phone on 4/7/71 and he confirmed that the scientist was Dr. Michael Duggin and that he was a physicist with the CSIRO – the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation – Australia’s premiere science research body.

Years later through his friend and secret UFO research associate Harry Turner I would see Michael Duggin’s detailed field investigation report of the site.  In the early 1970s Turner was the head of the nuclear science section of the Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO – the forerunner of the Defence Intelligence Organisation).
Source: Dr. Duggin's site photo of the Boggabri site from Harry Turner's files

During 1973 while on a university holiday with a girlfriend at her family property near Boggabri I learnt from locals that they were still puzzled by the 1971 mystery, but some thought it was the result of a lightning strike.  That was also my conclusion as the most likely cause. My friend Dr. Michael Hough wrote a great paper – “Lightning strikes as the cause of some UFO ground traces” presenting it to a UFO conference in Adelaide in October 1981.  The article was published in Vladimir Godic’s UFORAN newsletter in the January –February 1982 issue.  Mike Hough described the Boggabri find as “clearly” fitting into the category of a lightning strike ground effect.
 Source: Dr. Duggin's site drawing of the Boggabri site from Harry Turner's files

Dr. Duggin’s detailed report (which Dr. Hough didn’t have access to) was less certain (and Dr. Duggin had examined it on site) and concluded, “It is unlikely that any of the conventional arguments mentioned (meteorite, lightning strike, practical joke, or burrowing animals) would explain the markings … so their cause is not known a this time.”  The ground trace “consisted of a ‘crater’ approximately 8 inches deep and about 6 ft in diameter.  Inside the crater were several holes, disposed apparently symmetrically about a central hole which was about 41/2” in diameter.” In a covering letter dated 18 November 1970, to Harry Turner, Mike Duggin concluded, “Although the markings don’t look like a lightning strike, they may not be evidence of a landing either.”


Dr. Duggin would again come to my attention with a mainstream Australian science flirtation with the UFO controversy. On 30th 0ctober, 1971, at the campus of the University of Adelaide, the South Australian division of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) organised a one-day symposium to consider the UFO problem.

The symposium had about 300 attendees and, because of its prestigious backing, attracted widespread publicity.  Dr. Brian Horton's introduction to the ANZAAS symposium pointed out that while the UFO question was on the fringe of our current knowledge and indeed was often ridiculed, it should still be scientifically investigated.  He cautioned against forming opinions with incomplete information.

Dr, Duggin was the first speaker presenting a 10-minute “Statement of the problem.” He reviewed major UFO cases from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s as a way of giving a brief history of the UFO subject.  Dr. Duggin was critical of the Condon report’s recommendation to discontinue UFO study, principally because the report contained 34% unexplained cases.  He concluded, “I feel that there are many cases of reported UFOs which are not explained and feel that the implications, if even a few of these have the described characteristics of flight and maneuverability, warrant further study.”

Dr. Duggin's main paper, "The Analysis of UFO Reports", delivered in a 30 minute presentation, called for closer cooperation between UFO organisations and scientists, mentioning that the American organization APRO – the Aerial Phenomena Research Organisation – was “very credible as a scientific body”, stating, “I know and agree with the methods used.”  Having joined APRO I soon learnt that Dr. Duggin was a new scientific consultant in physics (APRO Bulletin, November-December 1971).  

Michael Duggin was at the time a senior research scientist at the Mineral Physics section of the CSIRO, Sydney.  He had obtained his PhD in physics at Monash University In Australia and in 1966 was a post doctoral fellow and assistant Professor in the Department of Material Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.  It was during this time he came into contact with Drs J Allen Hynek and Jacques Vallee and began his association with “the invisible college” formed by them.

Dr. Duggin had been secretly working with JIB scientist Harry Turner, sharing information and data.  Indeed Harry Turner attended the symposium despite the frustrations he had experienced over the years in his secret attempts to ensure that scientific investigations were undertaken at an official level in Australia.

Because of the lack of concrete action from existing official studies, Dr. Duggin felt it was up to individual scientists to form world-wide panels.  He indicated that they could expect to face ridicule from colleagues, but that the UFO phenomenon warranted attention.   Dr. Duggin covered some important cases and the state of UFO research in the United States.  He restated his criticism of the Condon report conclusion, but considered much of its data as valuable.  He pointed out, “If we read the report of the Condon Committee closely and ignore Dr. Condon’s conclusion, there is a strong argument for continued intense research.”

When the Condon Report became available I read through it myself in detail many times over several months via the hardback copy available via the local Grafton city library.  It wasn’t until January 1972 that I got my own copy and again analysed it in depth.  It was the major disconnection between the significant number of unexplained cases and Dr. Condon’s contradictory recommendations that ensured my own enduring scientific interest in the UFO mystery.  It was clear from Dr. Duggin’s comments at the ANZAAS UFO symposium that he had felt the same way.

The following motion was moved at the ANZAAS symposium: “The Symposium as a group feels very strongly that some action on the problem of UFO reports be taken.... (and) that the possibility of setting up a subcommittee for the study of UFO reports be considered by the Executive Committee of ANZAAS (S.A. Division).”
This motion was favoured by the divisional committee of ANZAAS in November, 1971.  They felt that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that there were sightings and evidence for phenomena that had not been adequately explained.  The committee concluded there was a need to investigate unexplained sightings and they constituted “an unsolved scientific problem as there were no answers under current hypotheses.”

Dr. Duggin advised APRO that the executive of the SA division of ANZAAS had agreed to “act as referee for research proposals, in the event of funds becoming available, for properly conducted research.”


Dr. Duggin's first striking introduction to UFOs on Australian soil was a daylight disc event in the Sydney suburb of Canterbury.  “Sisters hysterical at sighting.  WEIRD “SAUCER” OVER CANTERBURY” the Sydney Sun-Herald of March 8th, 1967 reported: “Two sisters described this week how they stood on a veranda together and watched a flying saucer hover over a Canterbury bowling green.  They said the saucer was a “strange round thing” and it made a “weird humming sound.”
“It came down to tree-top level and was less than 100 feet from where they stood.  The woman who first made the sighting is Mrs. D. Manhood, of Wairoa Street, Canterbury.  Her sister, Mrs. R. Coleman, joined her on the veranda seconds later and they watched the saucer’s flight for 10 minutes.”

I came across Dr. Duggin’s report on the case during my access to the RAAF files during 1982 and started to become aware of Dr. Duggin’s deeper and more secret engagement with the UFO subject particularly with the so-called “invisible college.” My friend David Reneke, while he was a member of the local Sydney group UFOIC (known as UFOR(NSW) between 1976 and 1991 – not to mistaken for the group of that name that exists today) had undertaken a retrospective investigation of the case and concluded it was a very impressive close encounter event.

Dr. Duggin’s account of the 1967 Canterbury case included the following details:
“8 March 1967.
“At approximately 10.10 am Mrs. D. Manhood went outside to fetch her small daughter from the vicinity of the bowling green adjoining their residence, as it was raining.  At this time Mrs. Manhood observed the described object which came from the left and appeared to pass over the bowling green.
“There were no significant markings and the object appeared to change gradually from circular to elliptical: It was dark grey - black in colour.  It was thought to be the size of a small car at tree-top height.  If the estimate of size and distance was correct then its speed was less than 30 mph.  Mrs. Manhoods initial supposition was that it may have been preparing to land on the bowling green.
“It emitted a noise similar to that given off by a child’s humming top.  At the time when Mrs. Manhood left the house to enter the verandah, her sister, Mrs. Coleman, was telephoning Mrs. Manhood’s mother.  She joined Mrs. Manhood to tell her that the telephone had gone dead and witnessed the sighting.  However (this) could perhaps have been due to a technical fault (as) the PMG were working nearby at the time.
“After approximately 5 minutes, the object, travelling on a level and straight course, passed just over the railway embankment, just above the power lines (it appeared).  Three witnesses saw the object pass over the embankment - Mrs. Manhood, Mrs. Coleman and Mrs. Clavis.  After about 1.5 minutes, the object again appeared over the embankment and climbed at an angle of about 70 degrees to the horizontal at a fairly good speed.  It was observed by the above persons plus Mr. Manhood at this stage.  It appeared to become smaller and smaller as it climbed towards a break in the clouds and was finally lost to view after approximately five minutes.”

Dr. Duggin checked with the Weather Bureau, Mascot airfield and Mascot radar.  No confirmatory details were found, but a balloon was ruled out. Dr. Duggin concluded, “It is highly improbable that any balloon could (1) change its aspect from circular to oval or elliptical, (2) travel at a low altitude and suddenly climb again, and (3) It is virtually certain that no balloons were in the vicinity of Canterbury at the time of the reported sighting.”


Dr. Duggin forwarded his Canterbury UFO report to Dr. Allen Hynek.  Mike Duggin had recently joined Hynek’s informal international “invisible college” of collaborating scientists.  From Dr. Hynek Dr. Duggin had secured a letter of introduction dated 16 November 1966 on Dearborn Observatory, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois stationary.  It stated:
“Dr.M. Duggin is collecting information on UFOs and is part of an International effort to collate information on this phenomenon from several countries.  For many years I have acted as a scientific monitor on this scientifically vexing problem of UFOs, and a number of colleagues and I have agreed to act as a “clearing house” for the investigation of which Dr. Duggin is a part.  Any cooperation which may be expended to Dr. Duggin would be greatly appreciated.
“Sincerely yours, J. Allen Hynek, Director, Dearborn Observatory.”

Dr. Duggin contacted Squadron Leader Baxter of the RAAF in his initial attempts to get official cooperation.  In a 20 December, 1966, letter to Sqd.  Ldr. Baxter he wrote,

     “I would like to add a few details to todays telephone conversation.  Dr. Vallee, an astronomer at the University of Chicago and Professor J. A Hynek, whom I saw in Chicago a few weeks ago, are very interested in the UFO phenomenon from the point of view of a scientific investigation.  So am I and so are many other scientists in other countries.  These gentlemen have carefully documented files on many (about 6000) sightings in many different countries.  Many of these sightings are doubtful but there are a large number which it has not so far been possible to explain in terms of natural phenomena.  These are the cases of interest.
     “Dr. Vallee has at his disposal a computer program for an automatic question-answering system (which was originally developed for stellar astronomy).  He has asked Dr. O.  Fontes in Brazil, Professor (sic?) Michel in France,  myself and several other scientists in different countries to collect data on sightings and where possible interview those who originate the report in order to determine its reliability and so weight it for future statistical analyses.   This information will be coded, so that it can be punched onto an IBM card and later fed onto a magnetic library tape for use with the question-answering system.
      “Present investigations have indicated the existence of certain patterns in this phenomenon but unfortunately much more data is required before great reliance can be placed on the results of such an investigation.  Several reports from isolated observers, contiguous in time and consistent in description, would appear to suggest that perhaps some observations are made sequentially along great circle routes.  Again more data is needed.
     ““Landing” reports have been quite frequent in South America and, I believe, in the Southern hemisphere as a whole.
     “What is needed is information, (1) as soon as it is turned in, so that the case can be correlated with other information, if possible, at Dearborne Observatory, (2) results of the follow-up.
     “I would like to investigate cases myself where possible and would be very willing to be of any help I can.
      “Dr. Hynek is the scientific advisor on UFOs to the U.S. Air Force.  I am enclosing a letter from him to substantiate my request.  I stress that this is a scientific investigation and that although my interest is extracurricular,  I feel that it is very necessary to subject those unexplained phenomena to scientific investigation.”

The Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) reviewed Dr. Duggins request.  A Department of Air Minute Paper from Wg. Cdr. N.G. Marshall, D/DAFI (Ops) to DAFI addressed the issue:

      “You will note that one of the scientists involved in this UFO investigation is Dr.  Hynek who is stated to be the scientific advisor on UFOs to the United States.  Dr. Duggin, however is acting in an extracurricular capacity.
      “You will note that these scientists are mainly interested in the unexplained UFOs, but as far as I can make out they would like information on all sightings.  As you know, we already have an official arrangement with CSIRO whereby we can pass to them any report on which we would like their assistance, so it would really be only a question of stretching this arrangement slightly to pass them a copy of all reports.  However, Dr. Duggin’s interest is un-official as far as CSIRO is concerned and this may cause embarrassment.
      “These scientists, with all the documents and facilities available to them,  are obviously in a position to assist us in this matter,  and though I am not keen on releasing the details of the RAAF investigations or anything which may increase the interest of the general public in this field,  I think we should give these scientists the information they require.  However, although they would like the information as soon as possible,  I recommend that we stick to our present system for UFO investigations, i.e. the nearest RAAF Base investigates the report and passes it up through Command Headquarters to Department of Air.  If we change the system to allow CSIRO to get a copy of the report before it has completed the RAAF process, we may get two concurrent investigations of the same report.”
(ex RAAF Files)
Annotations to this minute paper indicated, “Seen by DAFI who agrees.”  Other file folios indicated that CSIRO were asked if all reports could go to Dr. Duggin and that the CSIRO agreed to Dr. Duggin acting in an unofficial capacity.

Thus Dr. Duggin’s report to Dr. Hynek on an impressive close encounter in 1967 was an extension of the process that had been put into play.  The RAAF were sanctioning, albeit sometimes in a token fashion, the activities of the “invisible college” in Australia.


Dr. Duggin continued to participate in the “secret college” activities in Australia. In May 1969, at Harry Turner’s suggestion a new RAAF UFO report form was devised which was intended to give a more scientific slant to the reports. At this time Turner was working with other scientists to set up a “rapid intervention” team to scientifically investigate cases of UFO physical evidence.   A firm proposal was developed with the team to operate within the Defence Science and Technical Organisation (DSTO). The team was to consist of 4 or 5 scientists, with its mainstay to be rapid intervention into UFO “landing” events, for which an aircraft was to be on standby.  Turner, in a memo dated November 8th, 1969, to the Director of JIB, indicated that he had Dr. Morton from ANU, Dr. John Symonds from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and Dr. Mike Duggin, then of the National Standards Laboratory.  George Barlow, of Defence Science and Technology (DST) had also offered the help of his group.  Turner indicated that Arthur Wills, then Chief Defence Scientist “had agreed to this.”  The plans for the scientific team had been almost completed and authorisation to proceed appeared imminent. However fate had already intervened.

In the middle of 1969 a major flap broke out in Western Australia, centred in Perth. One of the reports included an impressive radar visual event at Cloverdale and tracked on Kalamunda radar on May 23rd. The Director of Air Force Intelligence felt that things had gotten out of control and made an appeal for the Defence “intervention” group to assist. Unfortunately the group had not been finalised, and Harry Turner was seconded to help out.  Turner found the radar case intriguing. As a physicist and analyst for the JIB, he concluded, “Neither the Kalamunda radar observation nor Mrs. C__’s sighting can be readily explained by conventional objects or phenomena.”  His report also in part criticised the DAFI system for handling UFO reports, in particular referring to the lack of assistance given to the Air Force Intelligence officer “on the spot.”    

Dr. Duggin conducted a detailed investigation of a controversial UFO photographic case during the same 1969 West Australian UFO wave – the Spackman photo case that occurred on 5 July – and copied Harry Turner.  They were working closely together in secret and exchanged extensive correspondence on a range of cases, mainly physical traces or ground markings, such as near Bogabbri (1970) and La Perouse St. Michaels Golf Club course (June 1969).  Dr. Duggin developed a detailed report on the latter case, but like the Bogabbri site there was no explicit UFO connection.


The Spackman photo case was more confronting and controversial.  Jacques Vallee in a 15 November 1969 letter to Mike Duggin injects a note of caution likening the photos to the notorious Paul Villa photos:
“The photographs: the blurring does seem to indicate a genuine physical object was involved, but the similarity between the scene shown here and the celebrated AFSCA hoax (printed as a colour postcard series some years ago) makes me a bit uncomfortable.  As you may recall, this also showed a parked car with an open door in the foreground, and an object behind some trees.  We should try to get more details on the witness and the circumstances of the event.”

Some of the Paul Villa photos including the on edge shot
 (similar to the orientation captured in one of the Spackman photos) 
and the open car door shot

The Australian public were introduced to part of the Villa photo series, as black and white reproductions in Richard Tambling’s 1967 Horwitz paperback “Flying Saucers – Where do they come from?”   The open car door Villa photo was not included but the Villa disc on edge shot was.  This seemed similar to the main Spackman photo which showed the UFO as a disc on edge with the Spackman vehicle in view with the door open.

Dr. Duggin sent his report on the Spackman photos to Harry Turner on 3 November 1969 and asked him to see if some reliable person could contact Spackman.  It seems he had also sent the report and copies of the photos to Jacques Vallee, hence the comments above.  Turner had concentrated on the Cloverdale radar visual case during his WA investigations. 

In his report Dr. Duggin indicated:

“Mr Peter John Spackman and his wife report seeing and photographing a UFO near Roylstone, in the Darling Ranges, W.A.  This suburb is about 20 miles E.S.E. of Perth.
“The sighting was made at 4.40 pm, and last 40 minutes….
“Three photographs were taken with a Polaroid camera, all of which are of rather poor quality.  The first shot shows about 2/3 of the object and is quite distinct.  The second photograph is of poor quality and is burned where a cigarette was dropped upon it by Mr Spackman in his haste.  The third photograph is blurred but useful.
“The weather was dry with scattered cloud and the object appeared solid and sharply outlined.
“The object was in front of the clouds but did disappear into them twice during the sighting.  It did stand still and then suddenly speed up and rush away …. The object emitted no sound at any time, was silver, metallic and rough on top.  It was highly reflective.  Part of the observations were made through binoculars, part with the naked eye and part through the viewfinder of the Polaroid camera.  Mr. Spackman’s wife corroborates the sighting.”

Peter Spackman's drawing in Dr. Duggin's report (via Harry Turner's file
The 3 Spackman photos (the first 2 are from low quality photocopies) (via Harry Turner's files)

In his report in RAAF files Peter Spackman indicated he “was terribly conscious of weight and power of the craft.  He stated that it appeared as if it were out of place in the sky and should not be capable of light.”

Dr Duggin in his preliminary report assessed the situation, “Mr Spackman appears to be genuine and sincere and has suffered from adverse publicity.  He has little to gain from a hoax.  The photographs are Polaroid shots and are therefore of real objects.  It is of interest that all of the photographs show an apparent object angular diameter of 2° of an arc.  The burned photograph gives a ring of sincereity, coupled with the fact that on the first shot, development of the part of the photograph not containing the object was incomplete.  This is consistent with a man in a strange situation, overexcited and slightly uncoordinated as a result of this.  A careful hoaxer would make several dozen photographs of a man-made object, select the best and use those as evidence.  My feeling is that this is not a hoax.”

I had seen the “Current Affair” coverage of the story soon after the original incident.  I was both intrigued and puzzled with the inadvertent (?) burn marking of the second photo, precisely where the UFO was captured, making me somewhat suspicious of the story.

The RAAF were contacted by an apparently independent witness, a Mrs. Diane Martin, who may have seen Peter Spackman and the UFO.  She claims to have driven past the sighting location, almost running over a man who came out the scrub on the side of the road while she observing the UFO.  She was also aware of other cars passing during the incident.  She said her observations were only fleeting, losing sight of the object, as she was unable to stop.  She also states she went back to the site and found black polaroid backing material – Spackman’s?  Mrs. Martin described the object as “mushroom shaped but contoured underneath with a short cubic stem.” However apart from some limited follow-up on this aspect by the RAAF, researchers did not appear to have fully investigated this potentially critical aspect of sighting corroboration.  RAAF Flying Officer B.J. Gardiner in his “unit evaluation” wrote, “May have been a hoax but if so was one of great size size and complexity” (referring to Mrs. Martin’s apparent confirmation).  He reported that he closely examined the original Spackman polaroids and stated, “There does not appear to be any doubt that it is a genuine photograph of what the observer saw (and he saw Mrs. Martin’s sighting as) additional evidence that at the time on the date stated, an unusual aerial object was present in the Roleystone district.” 

Diane Martin's report from RAAF file

Even though I had concerns about the case I tried to follow up the case in the 1980s but was unable to locate the Spackmans or Mrs. Martin.  Maybe both parties might respond to this article or others who may have investigated the case or were involved in some way could come forward to help illuminate this fascinating event (Peter Spackman would be 71, his wife’s age was unstated in the material I have seen and Diane Martin would be 81) – a potential multiple and independently witnessed and photographed close encounter?


The 1969 WA UFO wave was fascinating and extraordinary.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing, however at the time the DAFI “empire” was under threat. The Air Force did not take kindly to criticism, particularly when it came from what DAFI saw as an “outsider” a JIB scientist. The upshot of this was that Harry Turner’s access to the DAFI UFO files was withdrawn. This sorry turn of events occurred despite the lack of interest that the then Director of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) Gp Capt R.S. Royston had in the subject.  Royston’s attitude was described in a July 1971 memo: “Although I am directly concerned with any possible threat to Australian security, I am not particularly interested in the subject of UFOs, even though my directorate devotes valuable time to this problem.  I accept the US assessments without question and consider that it would be a complete waste for we here in Australia to spend valuable time and money in further detailed investigations.  However, should the Department of Supply wish to undertake such studies the records of this directorate would be freely available.  It would have to be pointed out to Supply, however, that the RAAF could provide no additional assistance in the matter and Supply would have to undertake all the facets of the further investigations.”

After this time the RAAF/DOD “scientific” flourishes were very limited.  Harry Turner continued worked in secret with Dr. Duggin.

On 24 August 1973 both Turner and Duggin attended a Department of Defence Directorate of Air Force Intelligence meeting with Dr. J. Allen Hynek.  Dr. Hynek was visiting Australia for both astronomical and UFO reasons, and also promoted his book “The UFOs Experience – A scientific Enquiry.”   The meeting was described as “an unofficial meeting…in an endeavour to expand the scientific relationship to the problem.”  A DAFI file note “DAFI suggested that CSIRO or the Dept of Science (but preferably the former) seemed to be logical agencies to conduct greater in depth investigation in Australia. DAFI agreed that a selection of reports (mainly those which were unanswerable and scientific in context) could possibly be made available to CSIRO for further study and computerization.”
                                                                                 (ex RAAF files)
Given the history of the RAAF’s myopic dance with the UFO problem nothing seemed to come of these attempts to get a real UFO science going.  Harry Turner would retire from his head of nuclear intelligence section JIO role by the mid 1970s, finally giving up on his secret war within military and scientific intelligence community to establish a credible scientific investigation of UFOs. 

Mike Duggin pursued the “invisible college” agenda for some time in the United States, while working as an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering, Division of Engineering, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, Syracuse, USA, but his career and scientific focuses largely limited his UFO interests. 

It was during that time (16 January 1993) I managed to interview him by phone about the secret attempts to do UFO science in Australia.  He was working at State University and was focusing on computer modeling and image processing.  He highlighted in his recollections the Boggabri and golf course trace cases as well as the 1978 Valentich affair.  Indeed Dr. Richard Haines’ 1987 book “Melbourne Episode – Case Study of a missing pilot” acknowledges Dr. Duggin’s involvement but the nature of his contribution was not described in the book, apart from, like me, being listed as a “UFO investigator,” as were Paul Norman, Keith Basterfield, James Kibel, Alan Tasker, Paul Jackson, Rocky Wood, Roger Thornwell, D. Anderiesz and Erling Jensen.  Duggin in 1978 was at the Minerals Research Laboratories of the CSIRO at North Ryde, Sydney.

Mike Duggin told me in 1993 he felt the same way as Jacques Vallee, Harry Turner and Allen Hynek.  He also indicated he stayed with Allen Hynek in Chicago soon after the famous Pascagoula “alien abduction” case and listened to the Pascagoula interview tape. While Jacques Vallee’s “Forbidden Science” journal Volume 2, covering the 1970s, describes the Pascagoula milieu, he only records 2 separate visits from Mike Duggin:

18 October 1971:
“Mike Duggin, Australian scientist and UFO expert, came to see me at the Electronic Labs … I demonstrated by full-text landing catalogue to him.  Duggin has just completed a tour of the U.S. during which he met with the leaders of both NICAP and APRO.  The last time I saw Duggin was in Chicago (November 1966).  Olavo Fontes was with us that day: so many passing faces, and hopes that led nowhere …”

12 April 1974:
“I had lunch in Menlo Park with Australian researcher Mike Duggin, who gave me a well-documented picture of the UFO phenomenon there.  They have a rich history of sightings, good investigations and some troubling photographs.”

Although unstated I suspect one of the troubling photos would have been the 1969 Spackman polaroid photos.  In my 1993 interview with Mike Duggin he said his approach was conservative.  He mentioned he had met Peter Spackman in person.  Spackman wanted his photos back.  He seemed approachable, started showing interest, but with more questions he clammed up.  Duggin was a little suspicious and felt the Spackman incident and photos were “inconclusive.” 

Mike Duggin told me he never had any problems with his UFO interest while at the CSIRO.  He couldn’t understand “why it was unfashionable to look at it.  Speculation would have been unscientific.”  He was cautious because of the “wild eyed” approach he encountered in some of the people attending the public 1971 ANZAAS UFO symposium. He particularly remembered “one guy who was bizarre, full of bizarre obsession and unbelievable stories.”  He thought, “logical pursuit was eclipsed by pursuit or desire.”  Dr. Duggin shrank away from this, but not from his UFO interest.  Here it may have been long time UFO researcher Colin Norris he was referring to.  Colin Norris had actually given a talk at the symposium describing “some reported characteristics of UFO sighting around the world.”

When I told him I had examined the RAAF UFO files in detail between 1982 and 1984 and that was how I found Harry Turner, Mike Duggin told me he had not looked at the RAAF files.  So it appeared that the 1967 agreement by the RAAF/Dr. Duggin/CSIRO to share files was apparently limited and apparently short lived.  He and Harry were intrigued by James McDonald’s research and Dr. Duggin had approached his widow who agreed to allow him to copy, in particular the radar files her husband had collected.  Dr. Duggin preferred to focus on investigation of cases.   He gave me permission to quote from his material. 

From Harry Turner I secured copies of files he kept of his collaboration with Dr. Michael Duggin.  They revealed a fascinating picture of two scientists trying to get to the bottom of the UFO mystery.

Upon learning of Michael Duggin’s passing I contacted Dr. Jacques Vallee.  He told me he had only limited contact with him and was unaware of Dr. Duggin’s next big vocational move where he joined DARPA in 2002 serving as a senior scientist in the Space Vehicles Directorate, at the US Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, USA.  Kirtland has been the focus of a number of controversial UFO affairs, particularly the bizarre and tragic Bennewitz saga, described in Greg Bishop’s 2005 book “Project Beta.”  Christian Lambright’s intriguing 2011 book “X Descending” engages with Paul Bennewitz’s controversial films over Kirtland in very interesting ways including the work of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The Bennewitz saga played out in the late 1970s before Mike Duggin had joined the AFRL. 

Examining some of Dr. Duggin’s work during his Kirtland career from 2002 to 2016 some intriguing connections emerge.  He participated in imaging research and the titles of some of his papers he collaborated in make one wonder: “Modeling the effects of solar cell distribution on optical cross section for solar panel simulation” (2012) and “A Study of the effects of material type and configuration on optical cross section” (2011-12), which re-engaged with his enduring focus on imaging of objects in the atmosphere and space.

Amongst the condolences and tributes to Michael Duggin I noticed one from Major General W. Neil McCasland USAF, (the head of AFRL) where he stated Dr. Duggin “brought a welcome scientific depth to our AFRL team, and the results of his research contributions continue embedded in new operational capability of vital US National Security space systems. His Australian good cheer rubbed off on all to.”

Maj Gen McCasland has been reported as involved with Tom DeLonge's "disclosure" activities. I also noted that  Jacques Vallee had written a forward to a follow-up non-fiction book in DeLonge’s “Sekret Machines” series, due out in March 2017: "Gods, Man, & War - An Official Sekret Machines Investigation of the UFO phenomenon" by Tom DeLonge with Peter Levenda.  Tom DeLonge seems an unlikely front man for this and the possible military involvement invites thoughts of Jacques Vallee’s perspectives in his "Revelations – Alien Contact and Human Deception” (1991).  I asked Dr. Jacques Vallee whether he saw these recent developments as having more substance than the "mirages", "missteps" and "misdirections" that litter the history of this controversy.  I mentioned his own "Forbidden Journals" told a story that seemed rooted in frustration in the efforts to get a credible and enduring “scientific ufology” effort up and running in a serious way.  Jacques Vallee kindly replied,  “Dear Bill, my decision to write a foreword to Peter Levenda's book was based on the fact that his analysis seems quite valuable to me, and worthy of being called to the attention of researchers. It had nothing to do with Tom Delonge's project, which is much more ambitious as you know. I am interested in the direction "To The Stars" will take, however, and I am impressed by the energy and vision of Tom Delonge. Beyond that, I have no connection to his current plans. With warm regards, Jacques.

Given Peter Levenda’s writing focus it may be that his 3 part non-fiction contribution to the Sekret Machines project may be of an occult conspiracy nature (for example his 3 book series “Sinister Forces – A Gimoire of American Political Witchcraft” which feature coverage of the UFO subject, and The Dark Lord – H.P. Lovecraft, Kenneth Grant and the Typhonian Tradition in Magic.”).  Occult approaches were never an apparent feature of Michael Duggin’s UFO work.

I am left wondering if in Michael Duggin’s “sub rosa” years with DARPA/AFRL he re-engaged with a mystery he sort to examine in a serious scientific way since the 1960s. Perhaps time will tell. But now here I give a sincere appreciation to a life well lived which for a long time engaged with a mystery that has also fascinated me most of my life.  I thank him for both aspects of a great life and his indirect mentoring of my own engagement with the UFO mystery.


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